Introduction of Deacon Ryce, a dangerous man in the steampunk tale Ashlands, a WIP.
| The New World was not a perfect one, despite all effort and intention. No matter the progress achieved since the Great Wars, mankind continued to demonstrate the need for institutions such as Elam.
The State had established Elam Prison in the proverbial middle of nowhere, at the bottom of a barren, carved out pit that had once served as a quarry. Many of the institution’s structures, isolated in the center of this wide depression, stood tall enough to be seen above the quarry walls and from a reasonable distance gave the impression of nothing more sinister than an industrial complex. It was an ideal location that allowed offices and guard towers along the edge above, with steel walkways and bridges the only means of entrance into the prison itself.
Elam was considered one of the finest detention centers ever created, certainly suitable for the class of inmate sentenced to ‘The Pit’. It served as permanent home to criminals the State considered especially dangerous, incurably insane or otherwise incorrigible. It was curious that Deacon Ryce should find himself imprisoned there.
As inmate number 50701, Ryce had been a resident for seven years since he was transported from Tuckary Wards following the infamous Winterlock Riot. A number of deaths were attributed to a small group of prisoners who claimed Ryce had been their leader. It was not beyond the realm of possibility though never officially proven; 50701 was exceptionally bright, among other things.
He had been incarcerated at fifteen for breaking into a laboratory and being responsible for the death of a watchman. The experience left Ryce badly injured, landing him in an infirmary for specialized treatment. However, after his years in Elam, some questions arose regarding justification of continued detention.
It was a difficult matter for the Warden and Directing Board to address; Ryce had been a model prisoner under their care, and perhaps more amenable than many trustees. It was learned that several of his previous acquaintances at Tuckary recanted their accusations, and as his original sentence had been fulfilled, an emergency hearing was held.
So it happened that in the early thaw of ’85, Deacon Ryce was released.
He said his farewell to the guards and staff, Warden and officers, assuring all that he harbored no ill will against them. Squinting in the sunlight, he crossed the Terminus Bridge from the towers of Elam, and passed through the final gate. Tall, fair-haired and walking with an air of confidence, Ryce gave no indication that he had spent more than half his life as a guest of the State. He climbed into an awaiting carriage and never looked back.
His release was nothing if not timely. A few weeks following his departure, a series of minor explosions in the quarry floor opened fissures which began gushing water. Most of the inmates drowned in their cells before measures could be taken for rescue.