Sanjay slowly trudged down the cobblestone alley, the gloomy sky above neatly mimicking his mood. He looked at every door for the mark, occasionally taking take to glance over his shoulder. In the past 7 months, nobody had followed him, at least none that he'd seen.
The marked door turned out to be the back entrance to a dentistry parlor, tucked neatly behind some stacked crates. With a final glance to the side, Sanjay knocked on the door.
A slit above the doorknob opened up. "What's yer business?"
Sanjay swallowed. "To tell a whisper, not a secret."
With a clank, clunk, and clink, the door was opened. Stepping iside, Sanjay stopped to take in the sights and smells. The room was a cluttered one, with broken chairs mended with parts broken off from the tables. A makeshift counter had been constructed from the same type of crate he'd seen outside, crudely painted black. The smell of cooked vegetables permeated the air. The few other patrons had already settled in their corners, making their coversation. Sanjay heard a few snippets as he headed to his usual spot.
"… heard that Grigori got with the meateye…"
"… think of what actual Cabbage would be like?"
"I heard Damien tried some, and lost his head."
"Bah, nobody loses their heads. S'only a rumor they spread to discourage vegetarianism…"
Sanjay settled in the lefthand corner table, the one with the 3rd wobbliest leg. When the surly server came to take his order, he got the steamed cauliflower and stumproot. Sometimed he'd order the eggplant, or the carrot, but he wasn't feeling as adventurous today.
Eating vegetables in a seedeasy wasn't exactly Sanjay's idea of the best time, but it was a good time nonetheless. Here, nobody would pester him to eat more meat, or try and ask why he had the scratches. He needed the veggies, to keep the scratchies away. Just had to eat, and not think.
His thoughts were interrupted by a loud knock on the door. The trickling of conversation seemed as though someone had turned the faucet off. There was nobody else scheduled to come in…
Then, like a surge of floodwater, Elrian militiamen burst into the room from all sides. Screaming in the name of the king, they brought their broadswords down on any who tried to run. Sanjay dived into the crate pile, but it was too late. A militiaman grabbed him by the scruff of his neck, and slammed him with the hilt of his sword.
As everything went black, Sanjay struggled to hear the men.
"Good bust, Mcanny. That's one lest seedeasy in Elra."
"Verily. What'dwe do with the rat pack here?"
"Send 'em to Biffy, in dungeon five. We haven't had a good losin' head game in awhile."
"Alright. Tell him to wait up fer me, would'ja?"
"Heh, I will, don'tcha worry…"
and then everything went black.
The first thing Sanjay could feel was the cold stone pressing on his face. It was a bit dusty, a bit grimy, with a hint of ancient history. All the classical signs of castle dungeon masonry. It all came rushing back to him… the black carriage that had pulled up to his house, full of royal thugs in their cabbage-emblazoned militia uniform.
Groaning, he picked himself up from the distinctive floor. It seemed to be your average prisoner cell, with the putrid foodstuff dumped by the corned and a small pit in the corner for business time. Sanjay shook his head. Why had they come for him? He had committed no crimes against the crown.
As he pondered this, he suddenly became acutely aware of the sound coming from outside his imprisonment. It sounded like… applause? Frowning, Sanjay put his ear up to the moldy wooden door, and listened…
"Now, lets meet our next contestants!"
The door swung open, and Sanjay was grasped mid-fall by leather-gloved mercenaries. Before he could even gather his wits, he found himself seated at a brown, beat up wooden desk. On either of his sides were two equally scared looking men, staring at him pleadingly.
A booming voice echoed from the front of the chamber "WELCOME, SANJAY BUMSAH… TO ELRICH's HOTTEST DUNGEON GAME "DON'T LOSE YOUR HEAD!"
Sanjay squeezed his eyes shut and grimaced as the cheering from hundreds of executioners washed over him. When he opened his eyes, he saw a bulk of muscle, leather, and a smiley face mask. His name tag read "Biffy Beefam."
"Now, these three lucky contestants will have a chance to win the grand prize, of not being decap-attacked by our good friend, execution grand master Dmitri Vllkjdk!"
The crowd roared with approval.
"You know the rules, folks! Our lucky contestants will each have chances to answer mega-tastic trivia inquiries, to prolong their inevitable doom! But watch out, getting one question wrong makes you lose your head! Lose every head, and the game is over!"
The man on Sanjay's left burst into tears.
"NOW! LET THE GAMES BEGIN!"
With a massive roar from the crows, six panels dropped from the ceiling, labeled "Assassinations, "Alchemy", "Canomancy", "Vegetables", "Heretics", and "Hanging." As soon as they had dropped completely, Biffy lept to the man quivering on Sanjay's left. Wrapping his arm around the man, he pointed a ridiculously muscular arm at the panels.
"Choose your category!" he exclaimed, grinning broadly.
"Please…" the man begged, with a hoarse whisper. "I haven't seen my family in two weeks. I'm so hungry… please don't kill me…"
Without missing a beat, Biffy slammed his fist into the man's nose, shattering it in six places. "Please, choose a category!"
Sputtering on the river of blood now pouring from his ruined nose, the man managed to choke out "Vegh…Veaghables…"
The "Vegetables" panel flipped down, revealing a picture of a bright orange carrot. Biffy bounded towards the pane, and jabbed his finger to the illustration.
"Can you identify this vegetable?"
The man, sputtering on the geyser of mucus and blood gushing into his mouth, was unable to produce more than a few gurgling sounds. After a few moments, a bell rang out from somewhere above them. It was a church bell, and the solitary ring bellowed throughout the chamber.
"I'm sooooo sorry, but you've run out of time. Looks like this unlucky contestant…"
The crowd finished his sentence. "LOSE HIS HEAD!!!"
Amidst a deafening roar, Biffy grabbed the man's hair and dragged him towards Vllkjdk's stone execution block. A deafening mixture the man screaming, the crowd roaring, and Vllkjdk hefting his axe was silenced by the thwack of it being brought down.
"Now… he may have lost out on fabulous prizes, but I'm sure our other contestants can beat his record!" Biffy lept back over to them, this time grabbing the man on the left.
"Are… you… ready!?"
Trembling, the man nodded, and pointed to the "Hanging" panel. It plopped open, revealing a small compartment with a hangman's noose.
Biffy made an exaggerated frown. "I'm sorry friend, but you've picked the DAILY EXECUTION BONUS! Lose one of your heads, but gain fifty extra points on the next question!"
The man paled. Biffy snatched the rope out of the box, tugging it all the way to the man's position. "Any last words for our audience at home?"
"Please, you d-"
"ALL RIGHT!" Biffy bellowed, facing the crowd again. "WE ARE LEFT WITH ONLY ONE LUCKY CONTESTANT. CAN? HE? WIN?"
The crowd went wild. "NO!"
Biffy grinned, turning to face Sanjay. "We shall see…"
In a moment, Biffy was upon Sanjay, his muscular, crushing arm wrapped around his shoulders. "Now, lucky contestant, do you have a category to pick?"
Sanjay's eyes darted across the panels, before settling on "Assassination."
"I'll t-take… assassination." he stuttered.
"ALRIGHT! HERE IS YOUR QUESTION!"
Another panel flopped down, with the words "what is the average lifespan of a Revelan President?" painted in crude yellow
Sanjay gulped. "12?"
For a moment, Biffy only looked at them. Then, with a painfully forced show of disappointment, he turned to the crowd.
"OOoooh, looks like he blew it, folks. I guess that's the end of our show."
Sanjay froze. No, this couldn't be happening. Even as the masked thugs grabbed his arms, his mind was racing. Every sound around him seemed to fade together… the crowd… the man… the bells…
Sorry, Sanjay… here's what you could've… wooooon….
The axe was in hand
a neeewwww…. caaaaaahhhriiiiaahhhgeeee
It was hefted
tweeeeeeentyyyyy gollld pieeeecesssss
It was thrust
annnnd of coooouuuurse… your heeead!