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Please note that GLBT Bookshelf -- the community wiki which was the parent to this fiction blog -- went offline on May 31, 2016, after seven years' service to members.

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Transformation (The Eternal Dungeon) by Dusk Peterson


The Eternal Dungeon, a royal prison where criminals are transformed, has lost its leadership. The duty of returning the dungeon to normal falls on two Seekers (torturers) who are already burdened with their own problems. One Seeker is struggling to understand why an old love affair continues to gnaw at him. The other Seeker is faced with his greatest challenge: whether to risk that which is most precious to him in order to save his own abuser.

This historical fantasy series explores dark aspects of erotic life and includes themes of gay love. But the series goes far beyond that by considering the deeper issues faced by all those who find that their friendships and desires are in conflict with their duties.


The common room was filled with dozens of Seekers and guards, all trying to avoid looking at the man in the back of the room.

Weldon Chapman, pausing at the doorway to check that the face-cloth of his hood was properly closed, surveyed the scene. The ploys that the men in the room were using to disguise their interest were various: a cup of beer held before the face, an absorbed study of a chessboard, and of course, in the case of the Seekers, the device they used with their prisoners – they simply kept the face-cloths of their hoods down, as their duty required.

Weldon doubted that the man at the back of the room was fooled by any of this. Indeed, even Weldon, without that man's skill, could see the tension in the onlookers' bodies, the flickered glances, the tight gestures, and the occasional twitch from someone who had let his nightmares become too vivid.

Weldon sighed, and then turned his attention to the one man in the room who was making no pretense of being interested in anything except the figure in the back. As Weldon watched, Elsdon Taylor flung down the playing cards he had been holding, said something to the other junior Seekers sharing his table, and left amidst their nervous laughter.

He did not, as Weldon had expected, go straight to the man in the back; he simply lifted his hand toward that man. The man, who was resting with his face turned upward toward the sunlight that filtered through the crystalline ceiling of the common room, and who gave every appearance of being asleep, raised his hand in exchange. Around the common room, there was a visible shudder at this evidence of the High Seeker's skill.

"There is something particularly frightening about having a genius go mad."

Weldon tore his eyes away from Layle Smith in order to look over at the High Seeker's love-mate, Elsdon Taylor. The skin around Elsdon's eyes was smudged with darkness – Weldon wondered how many months it had been since Elsdon had received a full shift's sleep – but otherwise the young man looked less weighed down than he had since his present trials began.

Weldon took hope from the that, and from Elsdon's dark jibe. He knew better than to worry the High Seeker's love-mate with questions, though, so he simply said, "I was trying to decide whether I should bother him with work."

Elsdon glanced over his shoulder at the man lying motionless in his chair. "Do," he said, in the same soft voice with which he had spoken before. "If anything would make him go mad again, it's having nothing to do except documentwork. If you have a challenge for him, he'd welcome it."

"He ought to be back at work with the prisoners."

Elsdon sighed. "So I tell him. So the Codifier tells him. So the Queen tells him. Honest in my heart, Weldon, if the torture-god of Layle's native land came and threatened to rack him eternally unless he returned to work, Layle would simply repeat that he is not yet ready to place the prisoners at risk."

"Mm." Weldon stared down at the papers he was holding in his hand. "Perhaps I can persuade him otherwise. Are you leaving for bed now?"

Elsdon shook his head. "Not till he does. He doesn't yet trust himself that much."

Glancing once more at the men in the common room – who were now dividing their time between casting nervous glances at the High Seeker and casting curious glances at his love-mate – Weldon thought to himself that nothing could have made more apparent to the world the seriousness of Layle Smith's illness than the fact that the High Seeker felt the need for a chaperone. The fact that no such chaperone was necessary could not be known by the others. Weldon frowned.

"What your love-mate needs," he says, "is a stiffening of the backbone. He needs to be reminded that he is not a child, and that he owes responsibilities to the dungeon he runs."

Elsdon gave a crow of such pure delight that every head in the room swivelled to look at him. Elsdon ignored them, thumping Weldon on the back. "Oh, brave one," he said. "You should have been a soldier. I'll watch the battle from a distance. From a safe distance," he added with a grin in his voice.

"Fortunate man," Weldon muttered and walked toward the man at the back.

Whether or not the High Seeker's acute hearing had picked up the gist of the conversation, Weldon could be quite sure that Layle Smith knew from Elsdon's cry of joy that an attack was about to begin. The High Seeker gave no sign that he was about to strike back. Of course, he never did. Many a prisoner had learned that, when it was too late.

The common room was a newer room in the Eternal Dungeon, built at a time when one of Layle's predecessors had grown so tired of his confinement within the bleak walls of the underground cave that he had ordered a leisure place built that would provide sunlight to the Seekers who were otherwise deprived of daylight for the remainder of the lives. Weldon, whose own vow as a Seeker had come relatively late in life, nevertheless felt his limbs relax as the warmth of the early morning sun fell upon his shoulders. It was midsummer now – he knew that from the calendar posted by the dungeon's Record-keeper for the sake of Seekers who might otherwise forget what season it was. Summertime always made Weldon remember the last time he had been in the lighted world. The joy he had felt on that final day – the knowledge that he was about to receive a privilege that any prison worker in the queendom of Yclau would have envied – had been as pure and unadulterated as the blue sky above him.

He had met Layle by that time. He sometimes wondered whether the joy he had felt at becoming a Seeker had been connected with the knowledge that he would be able to speak daily with a talented young Seeker by the name of Layle Smith.

That was thirteen years ago. Now Layle was thirty-seven, Weldon was forty-seven, and the High Seeker lay motionless in his chair, as though dead.


Transformation (HTML e-book).

Dusk Peterson at GLBT Bookshelf.
Love in Dark Settings Press at GLBT Bookshelf.

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