If you’ve read the books, you know that the biggest danger of being a prisoner in the Dungeon of Enbed is the possibility of turning vacuous. In A Prophecy Forgotten, I hint at what goes on there:
Davian watched the mornachts dragging twenty gnomes dressed in sky blue and gray chained together in a line. The gnomes trudged along with dazed eyes and bleeding backs. One fell to the ground. The mornacht nearest him sent a whip into his back, picked him up, and forced him to continue…. A Morvenian commander shouted something to one of the guards. The guard nodded. Davian heard a loud clang and a metallic creak. Then to his surprise, the side of the mountain opened to reveal a hidden fortress.
The gnomes immediately shook off their exhaustion and began to fight. They pushed and shoved and wriggled in a desperate attempt at freedom. Some even tried to kill themselves with whatever sharp objects they found. For better or worse Davian did not know, but the Morvenian guards kept most of them alive and dragged them into the mountain, right before the mountain slammed shut, leaving Davian and his unit alone with the original two guards.
Davian wondered what the gnomes knew about the goings on inside the mountain, which also made him wonder about the thousands of cherubian soldiers Elysia had never found after battle. The thought that the mornachts might have taken them to this dungeon made his stomach churn.
–A Prophecy Forgotten – Chapter 12: The Dungeon of Enbed
In Out of the Shadows, I had to figure out what went on inside the walls knowing I would be putting Davian there. I figured that the mind would probably just “check out” after prolonged torture and work and lack of sunlight. I’m sure that Pavlov’s experiments (they weren’t all about bells and food) filtered into it. In my mind, I saw the prisoners as having lost all their personalities from the unspeakable horrors they would have endured both day and night. –kind of like zombies except not dead. I called it “turning vacuous” and made the process irreversible. Davian begins to succumb to it in Out of the Shadows:
A row of gnomes filed past. Not one trembled at the sound of the whip. Not one cowered when a mornacht struck him. Not one turned when another fell to the ground in exhaustion. They were vacuous: soulless walking bodies devoid of personality and will, a condition Davian knew was incurable. When he first entered Enbed, he watched the vacuous prisoners in horror. Now he gazed upon them with envy. None of them felt the whip’s sting. None of them endured the mine’s toil. Davian felt his mind begging to block out the stimuli…. Davian felt something hit his forehead. He looked down to see a piece of sulfur that had fallen in front of him. I can’t feel anymore.
“No!” Davian cried out, hoping the words might stimulate his senses. His yell sounded faint and far away. He stood up. I won’t let them win.… He stared at [a] gnome, who seemed to be shouting, but Davian heard only a muffled sound. He fell to the ground, groped for his shovel, and grasped its neck, intending to ram the spade into his throat.
I will not become like them.
–Out of the Shadows – Chapter 5: Flickering Candles
Memories of the The Dark Crystal in my early childhood helped me develop my own concept of turning “vacuous.”. For me, the scariest part of that movie occurred when the Skeksis drained the essence from the podlings so they could drink it and ward off old age. The podlings who had been drained walked around as slaves with no real will of their own. The eyes of the drained podlings were especially frightening. Those were the subconscious images I saw in my head when I wrote my vacuous scenes.
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Fantasy, steampunk, and paranormal novelist M. B. Weston is the author of The Elysian Chronicles, a fantasy series about guardian angel warfare and treason. Weston is also the hose of The Final Cut In Movies radio show that airs on TMV Cafe Monday nights at 8:00 EST. For more information on M. B. Weston, visit www.mbweston.com. To receive notification of M. B. Weston’s book releases click here to subscribe to Dark Oak Press & Media’s e-newsletter.