QSFer Dusk Peterson has a new Alternate History book out:
“He was skilled by now at making innocuous remarks in the presence of the Shining Ones. Nobody had even guessed that he knew what they were.”
The Eternal Dungeon is filled with prisoners who shine like the sun.
No one knows this except Barrett Boyd, a guard notorious for having survived a disciplinary punishment that should have killed him. He is also notorious for his rebellion against the authorities of the royal prison. At a pivotal time in the Eternal Dungeon’s history, when abusive practices of the past may finally be abolished, Barrett finds himself drawn to the mystery of a younger guard, Clifford Crofford, who claims that he and Barrett are love-mates.
Barrett has no memory of this. He has no memory of anything before his punishment. What does the past matter, compared to Barrett’s determination to protect the prisoners? But Barrett cannot ignore his bond with Clifford, and the closer that Barrett comes to Clifford, the more the danger arises that Clifford will question Barrett’s sanity. . . .
This novelette (miniature novel) of disability and love can be read on its own or as a side story in The Eternal Dungeon, an award-winning speculative fiction series set in a nineteenth-century prison where the psychologists wield whips.
The Eternal Dungeon series is part of Turn-of-the-Century Toughs, a cycle of alternate history series (Dark Light, Waterman, Life Prison, Commando, Michael’s House, and The Eternal Dungeon) about disreputable men on the margins of society, and the men and women who care for them. Set between the 1880s and the 1910s, the novels and stories take place in an alternative version of America that was settled by inhabitants of the Old World in ancient times. One of the series in the cycle, Waterman, combines elements of the 1910s with retrofuturistic imagery from the 1960s.
During the first few weeks after the 101 strokes, his only awareness had been of pain and anger. He knew dimly that the anger was not merely for his own sake. Others here had suffered needlessly. Others here needed to be protected. His own pain had come from an attempt to protect. No one here was to be trusted, except those he had sought to protect.
His first sight of a prisoner after he rose from his sickbed nearly blinded him. Leaving his male nurse nodding off to sleep, he had departed the healer’s surgery and had curiously explored one of the dungeon corridors. Several dark figures that he passed tried to speak to him; he ignored them. He was more interested in the iron doors that led off the corridor. He sensed that treasure lay behind those doors, but he couldn’t envision what that treasure might be.
A door opened, and through it came the sun.
He threw himself to his knees. The dark figures, mistaking the cause, tried to pull him up with their coffin-cold hands, but he threw them off, blind with the glory of what he had seen. He heard someone say, “Take the prisoner away.” That was how he knew what he had seen.
He let the dark figures persuade him back to his sickbed. He needed time to think. As the days passed, he took more and more illicit forays through the Eternal Dungeon, both the inner dungeon where the prisoners and Seekers were kept and the outer dungeon where laborers worked and guards lived. He was aware of carefully swept floors, neatly painted walls, entranceways to further corridors. But it was always the iron doors that fascinated him. He waited one day, in the shadow of a corner, to see whether it would happen again.
It did. The door opened. This time, the Shining One did not emerge. He was bound to the wall, being beaten by a dark figure.
Barrett’s first impulse was to kill the dark figure. But he was still weak in body, and he remembered the consequences of the last time he had tried to help one of the Shining Ones. He would not survive another 101 strokes. Should he sacrifice himself for the Shining Ones now, or should he wait for a more important occasion to do so? He forced himself to return to the surgery and think.
The next day, the High Seeker visited. There had been many dark figures calling upon his sickbed, among them a junior Seeker named Elsdon Taylor, who claimed that Barrett had worked under him in the past. Barrett ignored them all. But Barrett knew who this latest visitor was. He was the man who had laid raw stripes across Barrett’s back.
For an attempted murderer, the High Seeker seemed exceedingly mild-mannered. He suggested that, if Barrett was well enough to rise from his bed on occasion, he might wish to visit the dungeon’s library in order to educate himself about the world in which he lived.
It was good advice, despite the source. The next day, Barrett went to the library, accompanied by his nurse. Barrett’s primary purpose for the visit was to learn what the Shining Ones were. It was already clear to him that he was the only man in the dungeon who could see the prisoners as they truly were.
If he told other people what he had seen, perhaps they would think he had gone mad; perhaps he would be locked up in an asylum. During the previous week, a mind healer had carefully quizzed him to check if the 101-stroke beating had damaged his brain, which left Barrett momentarily uncertain whether he was actually seeing what he thought he saw.
Fortunately, the library revealed the truth. He spent every waking hour there for weeks, chasing threads, until he found what he was seeking, in the very oldest books.
The ancient ones had known the Shining Ones.
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Honored in the Rainbow Awards, Dusk Peterson writes historical adventure tales that are speculative fiction: alternate history, historical fantasy, and retrofuture science fiction, including lgbtq novels and other types of diverse fiction. Friendship, family affection, faithful service, and romance often occur in the stories. A resident of Maryland, Mx. Peterson lives with an apprentice and several thousand books.
Dusk Peterson is the author of Turn-of-the-Century Toughs, a cycle of alternate history series (Waterman, Life Prison, Commando, Michael’s House, The Eternal Dungeon, Young Toughs, and Dark Light) about disreputable men on the margins of society, and the men and women who care for them. Set in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the novels and stories take place in an alternative version of America that was settled by inhabitants of the Old World in ancient times. As a result, the New World retains certain classical and medieval customs. A few of the stories include retrofuturistic science fiction imagery from the 1960s. Mx. Peterson has also written The Three Lands, a fantasy series inspired by conflicts between nations during the Roman Empire and the Dark Ages.