ALTERNATE TIMELINES: historical speculative fiction with diverse characters by Dusk Peterson
Historical fantasy. Alternate history. Retrofuture science fiction. Diversity.

HOME | New stories | E-books & free fiction | Awards | Historical research for fiction writers | Historical research for fiction writers | Story lists and tags | About me | Contact me

THE ETERNAL DUNGEON: a Turn-of-the Century Toughs series ¶ By Dusk Peterson

In a cool, dark cavern, guarded by men and by oaths, lies a dungeon in which prisoners fearfully await the inevitable. The inevitable will be replaced by the unexpected.

The Eternal Dungeon is an award-winning speculative fiction series set in a nineteenth-century prison where the psychologists wield whips.

The series is part of the Turn-of-the-Century Toughs cycle. Companion series: Dungeon Guards.


Click on the linked titles of stories to read the online versions, where available. (Information about my online fiction.) For the bookstore versions, click on the appropriate links. Multiformat e-books are free.



The Eternal Dungeon: a Turn-of-the-Century Toughs omnibus

In the Queendom of Yclau lies an underground royal prison that embraces the worst of the past and the best of the future. The Eternal Dungeon is old-fashioned in its equipment and ahead of its time in its treatment of prisoners, seeking to put their best welfare above all else. Torture is part of the process of assisting the prisoners.

The High Seeker, Layle Smith, embodies this contradictory institution: a man of deadly impulses, the head torturer binds himself strictly by the dungeon's code of conduct. His efforts to maintain this delicate balance are altered, though, by the introduction into his life of Elsdon Taylor, a vulnerable prisoner who is coming to terms with his own darkness.

A winner of the 2011 Rainbow Awards, this 2016 edition of the omnibus is 460,000 words long, containing the first four volumes in the Eternal Dungeon series, as well as the prelude novella The Unanswered Question.

Does not include Sweet Blood (volume five of the series, in progress) or the other side stories.

     ¶ Download the free multiformat e-book (single file)Dusk's storeSmashwordsDusk Peterson's books at other stores | Approximate sizes of the e-book files: doc 6 MB; epub 1.7 MB; html 1.6 MB; mobi 6 MB; pdf 7.1 MB.
     ¶ Download the free multiformat e-book (multiple files)Dusk's store | For readers who prefer to download each of the volumes separately.
     ¶ Borrow the e-bookScribd24symbols
     ¶ Buy the e-book for 99cSmashwords
     ¶ Data: 460,000 words | Publication history.
     ¶ Reviews (may include spoilers): Goodreads | LGBT Fantasy Fans and Writers | Scorching Book Reviews.
     ¶ Honors: See Honors and Reviews, just below.

Honors and Reviews


Honored in the Rainbow Awards 2011 in three categories, for the novel omnibus The Eternal Dungeon:

"A deeply moving philosophical work . . . The characterization is very good and even bold, and the world building, while narrow, is solid and hints at a vast and real world that exist beyond the confines of the story. The overarching plot development is excellent, and is an extensive metaphor for the major themes of the book. The writing is eminently readable, and the author's decision to intersperse in-story historical analysis alongside the events taking place works beautifully." —One of the Rainbow Awards judges.


"It takes really hard subject matter, and a character that in most books would be the major villain, and makes you love every single word. . . . If you want oh my god world building, read this." —LGBT Fantasy Fans and Writers.

"This is the most engaging and absorbing [series] that I have read in a very long time. . . . Think detail and in-depth fantasy world creations of J. R. R. Tolkien novels, combine with the morality questions posed in the T.V. series Lost, sprinkle some good ole' fashioned medieval politics . . . and then add whips . . . and a rack." —Amazon UK (Ancient Galaxy).

"I can easily think of a dozen authors who would have taken this kind of premise and made it tasteless, tacky, over the top, offensive, and much worse. . . . These books are none of that. . . . I cannot fangirl enough all the little details and nuances that really make [this series], how it's not all sparkles and light and yet just when it seems like it can only go south, you find yourself smiling instead. " —Megan Derr.

"If you fear reading [these stories] because the physical manifestation of torture doesn't appeal, you'll miss a truly great read. The Eternal Dungeon is in essence the story of psychology. It's a story about the mind, not the body. It's a story about madness and sanity. It's the story about love given unreservedly to one who feels undeserving of that love. It's a story about sacrifice on every level." —Goodreads (A. B. Gayle).

"I've read The Eternal Dungeon twice, and both times, I finished with the feeling of having left a real world behind. It draws the reader from story to story, leading you on with deeper insights into its characters, and plot twists that take you completely by surprise." —Amazon (Catana).

"The reader is immersed seamlessly into another world filled with lush characters. The world building is intricately woven into the narrative, creating the framework of politics, religion, and culture that gives the story substance and the characters background." —Amazon (Caethes Faron).


Rebirth (Volume 1 of The Eternal Dungeon)

Elsdon Taylor, a prisoner accused of committing a terrible murder. Layle Smith, a torturer with a terrible past. Their meeting in the Eternal Dungeon appears certain to bring out the worst in both men.

Yet neither man is quite what he appears. As the prisoner and his torturer begin to be drawn toward each other, the ripple effects of their meeting will have a powerful impact on other inhabitants of the Eternal Dungeon: Layle's faithful guard, struggling to contain his doubts. A younger guard determined to take any shortcuts necessary to ensure that his life follows the path he has already chosen. An old love from Layle's past, still sorrowing. And most of all, a prisoner who has not yet arrived at the Eternal Dungeon, but whose fate will depend on how Layle handles Elsdon Taylor . . . and on how Elsdon handles Layle Smith.

     ¶ Download the free multiformat e-bookDusk's storeSmashwordsDusk Peterson's books at other stores | Also available in: The Eternal Dungeon: a Turn-of-the-Century Toughs omnibus.
     ¶ Borrow the e-bookScribd24symbols
     ¶ Buy the e-book for 99cSmashwords
     ¶ Data: 130,000 words | Publication history.
     ¶ Reviews (may include spoilers): Goodreads | Hearts on Fire Reviews| Hearts on Fire Reviews interview (with major spoilers) | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Outrageous Heroes (with major spoilers) | My Fiction Nook | Elaine White / Divine Magazine. Rebirth #1: Amazon | Goodreads | Smashwords | Solace in Another World. Rebirth #2: Goodreads.


The Breaking (Kindle edition). The prisoner knew that the Eternal Dungeon was a place where suspected criminals were broken by torture, and he was prepared to hold out against any methods used against him – except the method he could not anticipate.

Love and Betrayal. As a torturer learns the art of questioning prisoners, he discovers that the word "love" can have a darker meaning than he had supposed.

First Time. One man seeks to heal from abuse. The other man dreams of abusing. Now they're in love.

In Training. Unexpected danger reveals to a young torturer the dark mystery of his love-mate's past – as well as unpleasant revelations about himself.

As a Seeker. If the head torturer wants something, no power in life or death will hold him from taking it. What he wants now has brought danger to the Eternal Dungeon.

Tops and Sops. The torturer was young, inexperienced, and lacking in knowledge of the world. The prisoner was tough, worldlywise, and had an infallible plan that would give him escape from this place. So why did the prisoner feel as though the torturer had the edge?


Transformation (Volume 2 of The Eternal Dungeon)

The Eternal Dungeon, a royal prison where criminals are transformed, has lost its leadership. The duty of returning the dungeon to normal falls on two Seekers (torturers) who are already burdened with their own problems. One Seeker is struggling to understand why an old love affair continues to gnaw at him. The other Seeker is faced with his greatest challenge: whether to risk the man who is most precious to him in order to save his own abuser.
     ¶ Download the free multiformat e-bookDusk's storeSmashwordsDusk Peterson's books at other stores | Also available in: The Eternal Dungeon: a Turn-of-the-Century Toughs omnibus.
     ¶ Borrow the e-bookScribd24symbols
     ¶ Buy the e-book for 99cSmashwords
     ¶ Data: 110,000 words | Publication history.
     ¶ Reviews (may include spoilers): Goodreads.


Deception. He thought she had come to change his workplace. He found she was there to change his life.

Twists and Turns. Only the loyal presence of one man has kept him alive. Now that man's loyalty is about to be tested.

A Prisoner Has Need. A mysterious prisoner. A chance to begin again.

The Consultation. He has come from the Eternal Dungeon to offer his services to another prison's head torturer. The only trouble is that the head torturer likes him too much.

The Balance

The Balance (Volume 3 of The Eternal Dungeon)

The Seekers (torturers) in the Eternal Dungeon have always expressed contempt toward the Hidden Dungeon in the neighboring kingdom of Vovim, whose torturers abuse prisoners without restraint. But the balance between mercy and hell is not so clear as might be thought in either dungeon, and now that balance is about to tip. Only the strength of love and integrity will determine the paths of two Seekers whose fortunes are bound together.
     ¶ Download the free multiformat e-bookDusk's storeSmashwordsDusk Peterson's books at other stores | Also available in: The Eternal Dungeon: a Turn-of-the-Century Toughs omnibus.
     ¶ Borrow the e-bookScribd24symbols
     ¶ Buy the e-book for 99cSmashwords
     ¶ Data: 90,000 words | Publication history.


Truth and Lies.When you're a prisoner, having a torturer who's mad can be an advantage. Or maybe not.

Barbarians. Vovim was renowned for its strong monarchy, for its love of the theater, and for its skill in the art of torture. In other words, it had all the qualities needed to become a civilized nation. But would anyone be willing to defy Vovim's tyrannical king? And if they did, would they survive?

Hidden. He had been given the kindest, gentlest torturer in the dungeon. The prisoner was left with only one hope: that he could teach his torturer how to be cruel.

Death Watch. Death lurks everywhere in the Eternal Dungeon . . . even in a torturer's bedroom.

Balladeer. Sometimes it takes an outsider to point out the obvious.

On Guard

On Guard (Volume 4 of The Eternal Dungeon)

A bloody knife from a crime scene becomes a mystery to be solved and a foreshadow of trouble to come.

The ties forged between the noble-minded Eternal Dungeon and an abusive foreign dungeon have set off an unpredictable chain of horrific events, in which the love between two of the Eternal Dungeon's Seekers (torturers) will be tested to the straining point. Caught in the middle of the struggle are Barrett Boyd and Seward Sobel, loyal guards who will find themselves questioning their most fundamental beliefs about the royal prison's ideals.

Barrett must help his Seeker determine whether their mild-mannered prisoner is an attempted murderer. His friend Seward has pledged to guard his own Seeker against an assassin . . . or should Seward be protecting the dungeon inhabitants against his Seeker? But when the guards' two Seekers fall into a lovers' quarrel, that is when the real danger begins.

     ¶ Read the book onlineArchive of Our Own
     ¶ Download the free multiformat e-bookDusk's store |SmashwordsDusk Peterson's books at other stores | Also available in: The Eternal Dungeon: a Turn-of-the-Century Toughs omnibus.
     ¶ Borrow the e-bookScribd24symbols
     ¶ Buy the e-book for 99cSmashwords
     ¶ Data: 90,000 words | Publication history.

On Guard

Sweet Blood (Volume 5 of The Eternal Dungeon)

The Eternal Dungeon has been split by a civil war, with the division clearly marked by a quarrel between two Seekers (torturers) whose faithfulness to each other has already become legendary. Into this explosive situation arrives a new Seeker, one who is determined to see that past evils do not continue in the dungeon. But can he keep control of himself when assigned a prisoner who falls in love with him?
     ¶ Download the free multiformat e-bookDusk's storeSmashwordsDusk Peterson's books at other stores
     ¶ Borrow the e-bookScribd24symbols
     ¶ Buy the e-book for 99cSmashwords
     ¶ Data: 180,000 words | Publication history.


Bonds. A prisoner meeting his fate. A torturer meeting his demons. And between them, a man whose bonds are on the point of shattering.

Searching. Walking into a trap may be the only way to create one.

Split. It was his duty to transform the prisoner's soul. But which one?

Checkmate. The Eternal Dungeon is no longer a prison. It's a battlefield.

Truth and Trust (currently serializing). He has ten days to prepare for his performance in the Eternal Dungeon's first play. He may have fewer days than that to fight for his career and to save his prisoner's life.

Side stories

The Unanswered Question (prelude novella to the series, published in Risk and The Eternal Dungeon: a Turn-of-the-Century Toughs omnibus). No weapons, no allies, and no guarantees that he will survive the test.

Open-Soul Surgery. He expected death. What arrived was worse.

Shifts. Midwinter's god is as cold as cruelty and as warm as a loving heart.

Ma'am. The guards who serve under her are mocking her. In other words, it's an ordinary workday.

Tax the Dungeon. Nothing in life is certain but love, death, and taxes. But what if all three should converge?

In Hot Water (Kindle edition). They are two of the most talented prison-workers in the world. It's a pity their skills don't extend to dishwashing.

Prison Food and Fondness (Kindle edition). "All she needed to gather were the ingredients for the meal. This she tried to explain on one summer morning, standing by the outer dungeon's exit while confronting two guards who had their daggers pointed at her."

Commoners' Festival (Kindle edition). The Eternal Dungeon is celebrating the Commoners' Festival, and all the elite are feasting. Including a man who is secretly a commoner.

Green Ruin (published in Lockup; also published by The Slash Pile in the PDF anthology Wanderlust: A Travel Anthology). Three guards and a mysterious substance provide a temptation too great to be missed . . . especially when two torturers add their skills to the mix.

Hunger (published in Lockup). Some hungers can only be satisfied by reaching out. As a prisoner struggles to find the right path, a foul-mouthed guard and an uncommon torturer will open a door . . . but stepping through a doorway with blackness beyond requires courage.

Wax (published in Lockup). The Record-keeper of the Eternal Dungeon has always prided himself on his skills in procuring any object needed by his employers. But when the head torturer makes a seemingly innocent request for wax, the Record-keeper goes in search of a very special supply.

Never (published in Lockup). She was attending the ball at the palace to dance. That was all. Which made it annoying to face a proposal of marriage from a guard who was distinctly not the sort of man she would ever consider marrying. Certainly not.

The Whipping Post (published in Lockup). Ten minutes left to contemplate what lies ahead, before the end begins.

New-Fashioned (published in Lockup). The Eternal Dungeon's youngest torturer has a special talent. He's about to discover what it is, at the worst of moments.

Broken (published in Lockup). What would happen if a technophobic torturer was plunged into the twenty-first century?

Torture (The Eternal Dungeon / Life Prison; published in Lockup). When the High Seeker of the Eternal Dungeon visits a foreign prison, he discovers that his dark reputation has preceded him. So has the dark reputation of his dungeon. The host is eager to show him that matters are run very differently at Mercy Life Prison. The High Seeker has his suspicions about what he will find in that prison, but even so, he is not prepared for what the prison has to teach him about man's nature . . . and his own nature.

Rain (The Eternal Dungeon / Life Prison / Commando / Michael's House / Waterman; published in Lockup). Five boys. Five rainy days. Five opportunities for trouble. In this cycle of five short stories, five young men in troubling situations must make choices that will change the path of their upcoming lives . . . and the path of the societies they dwell in.

The Shining Ones has been moved to a companion series.

Maps and series resources

Maps for this series and related series.

Turn-of-the-Century Toughs, a cycle of historical speculative fiction series that includes this series. This page includes resources such as a chronology of major political events in the cycle.

Eternal Dungeon research. Blog entries by the author on research for the series.

Bibliography for the series:
Masculinity, Crime, and Everyday Life in Victorian and Edwardian Times.

Shared Universes: Works set in the Eternal Dungeon world by other authors and artists.

Progress report: status of upcoming stories

Updated January 2017. All titles and ordering are tentative at this point.

Sweet Blood (Volume 5).

Forge (postlude novel).

Next series in the Turn-of-the-Century Toughs cycle:

[ Dungeon Guards ]

[ HOME ] [ E-mail ]

Creative Commons License: Some Rights ReservedThis text, or a variation on it, was originally published at as part of the series The Eternal Dungeon. Copyright © 2002-2017 Dusk Peterson. Some rights reserved. The text is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License ( You may freely print, post, e-mail, share, or otherwise distribute the text for noncommercial purposes, provided that you include this paragraph. The author's policies on derivative works and fan works are available online (

E-bookstore logos are provided for the sake of identifying e-book links and are not intended to indicate affiliation with the e-bookstores.

Dusk Peterson is an Amazon Associate.

Permission is granted for the reposting and reprinting of the banner, covers, and story summaries for the purposes of providing information on Dusk Peterson's writings. Please link to if possible.