Sunday, 18 May 2008

Dungeons & Ducks: the Durulz Penal System

(I'd have liked to do this in-character, but have far too much on at the mo' to do it justice. Hopefully some day I can revise this into a little story.)

Male wereducks can possess somewhat peculiar notions in regard to attentiveness to duty. Combine this with their natural affinity for all things wet and muddy, and conjured mental images of their gaols look distinctly unappealing. Sadly, that's about as good as it gets.

For those durulz living along the shores of the Upland Marsh, a typical gaol takes something of the following pattern. Bound wooden cages, made from a variety of (often poorly) treated local woods and usually about four- to six-foot square, are sunk into the dank, swampy waters. The degree to which the cages are submerged varies: anything from six inches to two feet of 'air room' might be allowed, and is usually dependent on such factors as local subsidence, sedimentation and the strange ebbs and flows of that unholy mire.

The end result looks much like those part-submerged prisons in Flash Gordon (1980) and The Deer Hunter (1978). [I never thought I'd mention those two in the same sentence...]. A single hatch in the top allows access, and cages are usually fixed by ropes or stilts (though not a few come adrift). A dungeon may consist of but one cage, or up to half a dozen, spread over an area fifty to a hundred feet in diameter. As wereducks can swim, there is usually no easy land route to the gaols.

As many as a dozen or more individuals can be thrown into these foetid prisons, and they can be quite cramped. Combined with the filthy, freezing water and the Marsh's menagerie of slithering, biting and buzzing pests, this all adds up to a pretty miserable experience. Or so one would think.

Wereducks, however, seem to be able to survive these gaols for long stretches. Their natural affinity with the Water rune, smallish size, buoyancy and the smelly natural oils excreted through days of incarceration, make them better able to weather the conditions. Furthermore, for durulz, there's food aplenty. From grubs and eels to pondweed and subaqueous fungi, there's always plenty to stave of starvation, and usually enough to support a rather adequate diet.

Indeed, this is a problem for incarcerated non-ducks, particularly humans, as the wereducks don't feed their prisoners. At all. As wereducks can subsist (un)happily, they really don't consider anyone else. Of course, in a full cage trolls can dine quite contentedly for a while! The squawks of angry fear as a troll is prodded along to the gaol are deafening, as each cage shouts that it's full and protests that the troll would be much better housed elsewhere. Drinking water is usually provided by the rain, caught by some bowl or bucket given to each cage.

Considering that the inhabitants of these dungeons are banged up in isolated cages, set amid various natural and unnatural dangers, and surrounded by swamp on all sides, they have a remarkable tendency to retain and/or acquire various items of contraband. From a sodden, half-smoked cigar (to be cut into eighths, elevenths or whatever denomination, naturally) to an old bottle of rotgut Lunar gin, it's remarkable what can be found.

The gaolers are rarely seen, except when bringing a new prisoner or (less frequently) dragging one out... dead or alive. The most frequent visitors are zombies, carnivorous giant toads and crocodiles. When the gaolers do come, it's usually to joke at the prisoners' expense and prod them with spears to make sure everyone's requisitely miserable. Or to negotiate various bribes, usually on behalf of the prisoners' acquaintences and nestfolk, who are substantially more liquid than their gaoled friends are.

You've never known hell until you've been stuck in a cold, wet, cramped cage submerged in a swamp, with naught but a posse of murderous, stinking, filth-ridden wereducks--squabbling over grubs, beaking your clothes for lice and fantasizing over naked Dancers of Darkness--for company.