Hatach, the young scribe, was summoned again the following day to read to the princess. If he had known how little she listened, he would have given up as soon as he started. He, however, was blissfully unaware of her distracted state of mind and read heartily along in the selected story.
The princess could not get the dungeon out of her mind. It drew her with some inexplicable force. She tried to reason it out, to uncover her reason behind this interest, but she gave up. It simply had to be. She had to see her own dungeon for herself. She had to see what it was like, if it was real, and who it was that lived there.
That evening, the princess had her dinner with the king and queen. The banquet table was set with gold-rimmed plates and gold goblets. The very finest meal to be found in all the kingdom was served to the royal family. The princess could not help but wonder if there were prisoners far below her feet at that very moment. She wondered what sort of meal they were eating. Perhaps they roasted rats.
“Father,” she said, suddenly, interrupting her parents’ debate over the best age of duck for the finest meat.
“No, no, I am quite certain that duck should be harvested at one year of age,” the king answered his wife.
“Father,” the princess called again.
Her father blinked a couple times and stared at her. He had quite forgotten she was there. “Oh, yes,” he muttered. “Well, you’ve been very quiet this evening.” He took another bite of his duck, which must have been at least 2 weeks too old for harvesting, and waited for her to continue.
“Have we a dungeon?” she asked.
The king coughed in surprise. That was the last question he expected to hear from his daughter.
“A dungeon?” gasped her mother. “What brought that to mind?”
“Have we?” the princess repeated.
“That is an interesting question to be coming from a young lady,” the queen reprimanded primly, raising one eyebrow.
The king cleared his throat. “Yes, well, she has a bit of her father’s blood in her as well and cannot help but be a bit curious-minded,” he reasoned. “However, you had best listen to your mother and put all thoughts of dungeons out of your head.”
“Who do we have in our dungeon?” the princess asked.
“Criminals, traitors, the worst sort of men,” her father began to explain.
“Pardon me for interrupting,” the queen interjected, “but this is hardly a discussion for the dinner table.”
“Do you visit the dungeon often?” the princess queried.
“Certainly not! A dungeon is no place for a man of royal blood. We live in peaceful times. I haven’t been down there for fifteen or more years,” the king answered. “Oxstan, chief of the palace guards, keeps track of those sorts of things.”
The queen took another bite of the roasted duck. “Perhaps a different sauce would make the duck more to your liking,” she suggested.
“No, no, no,” the king disagreed. “It is most certainly a harvesting error.”
And that is all that the young princess was able to get out of her parents on the subject of the mysterious dungeon.