DUSK PETERSON: Historical speculative fiction on friendship, romantic friendship, and romance

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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 alternate history series on romance, friendship, and family, set in a nineteenth-century prison where the psychologists wield whips.

The series is part of the Turn-of-the-Century Toughs cycle.


Honors and Reviews

=== HONORS ===

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.

Honorable Mention in the Rainbow Awards 2017 for the novel Sweet Blood:

"The world-building in this story is phenomenal, and the fact that it's inspired by historical events is even more exciting." —One of the Rainbow Awards judges.

Four honors in the Rainbow Awards 2016 for the novella The Unanswered Question, as part of the collection Risk:

=== REVIEWS ===

"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).


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 2018 edition of the book bundle is 600,000 words long, containing the five volumes of the Eternal Dungeon series.

Honors: Three honors in the in the Rainbow Awards 2011: 2nd Place, Best Setting Development. Winner, Best Gay Fantasy. Honorable Mention, Best Gay Novel/Book.

The omnibus is currently unavailable. The individual volumes remain available; see below.



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.

Honors: As part of the omnibus The Eternal Dungeon: Three honors in the Rainbow Awards 2011: Honorable Mention, Best Gay Novel/Book. Winner, Best Gay Fantasy. 2nd Place, Best Setting Development.



The Breaking. 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.

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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.

Story bundleGoodreads

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

Story bundleGoodreads

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.

Story bundleGoodreads

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.

Story bundleGoodreads

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?

Story bundleGoodreads

Side stories set before or during the events of Rebirth.


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.

Honors: As part of the omnibus The Eternal Dungeon: Three honors in the Rainbow Awards 2011: Honorable Mention, Best Gay Novel/Book. Winner, Best Gay Fantasy. 2nd Place, Best Setting Development.



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

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

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

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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.

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Side stories set during the events of Transformation.

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.

Honors: As part of the omnibus The Eternal Dungeon: Three honors in the Rainbow Awards 2011: Honorable Mention, Best Gay Novel/Book. Winner, Best Gay Fantasy. 2nd Place, Best Setting Development.



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

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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?

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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.

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

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

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Side stories set during the events of The Balance.

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.

Honors: As part of the omnibus The Eternal Dungeon: Three honors in the Rainbow Awards 2011: Honorable Mention, Best Gay Novel/Book. Winner, Best Gay Fantasy. 2nd Place, Best Setting Development.

ScribdAmazonSmashwordsArchive of Our OwnGoodreads

Side stories set during the events of On Guard.

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?

Honor: Honorable Mention in the Rainbow Awards 2017.



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

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

Archive of Our OwnStory bundleGoodreads

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

Archive of Our OwnStory bundleGoodreads

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

Archive of Our OwnStory bundleGoodreads

Truth and Trust. 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.

Archive of Our OwnStory bundle

Side stories set during or after the events of Sweet Blood.


Side stories

Set before or during the events of Rebirth:

The Unanswered Question

No weapons, no allies, and no guarantees that he will survive the test.

A killer has arrived at the palace of the Queendom of Yclau, ready to make an offer that the Queen may not be able to refuse. But this is a killer with a difference. For the young foreigner who struggles to fetter his own darkness is about to enter the queendom's Eternal Dungeon, where idealistic torturers strive to transform the hearts of their prisoners. Surrounded by great-spirited men who are determined to put him to the test, the young foreigner may be the only man who can recognize the flaws in the dungeon's ethical code.

Prelude novella to the Eternal Dungeon series.

Honors: As a former part of the omnibus The Eternal Dungeon: Three honors in the Rainbow Awards 2011: Honorable Mention, Best Gay Novel/Book. Winner, Best Gay Fantasy. 2nd Place, Best Setting Development.

Additional honors: As part of the collection Risk: Four honors in the Rainbow Awards 2016: Honorable Mention. Finalist. Winner, Best LGBT Alternative Universe/Reality. 3rd Place, Best LGBT Book.

Archive of Our OwnStory bundleGoodreads


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.

Crossover story for the following series: The Eternal Dungeon / Life Prison / Commando / Michael's House / Waterman.

Archive of Our OwnStory bundle


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.

Archive of Our OwnStory bundleGoodreads


The Eternal Dungeon's youngest torturer has a special talent. He's about to discover what it is, at the worst of moments.

Archive of Our OwnStory bundle


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

Winter solstice begins the sacred season of Hell's Fast, when Hell's worshippers sacrifice food for the sake of the underworld god. But the High Seeker of the Eternal Dungeon in in no fit mood for holy rituals; duty has deprived him of the presence of his new love-mate.

Then comes trouble, in the form of an invader to the High Seeker's privacy and comfort.

Archive of Our Own

In Hot Water

They are two of the most talented prison-workers in the world. It's a pity their skills don't extend to dishwashing.

When the kitchen laborers of the queendom's royal prison refuse to clean dishes until their demands are met, the High Seeker and his love-mate must figure out how to accomplish simple housework that elite men such as themselves never condescend to do. It seems an easy enough task. But hidden between the two men lie memories and secrets that will turn a simple task into something much more.

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Return to the volume index.

Set during the events of Transformation:

Prison Food and Fondness

"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."

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Return to the volume index.

Set during the events of The Balance:


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.

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Commoners' Festival

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

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Green Ruin

Three guards and a mysterious substance provide a temptation too great to be missed . . . especially when two torturers add their skills to the mix.

Soon three very different men – a married man who is committed to respect and honor, a bachelor harboring secret desires, and a soldier with an unfulfilled ambition – will find themselves caught in a trap. Their rescue will come from an unexpected quarter.

Archive of Our OwnStory bundleGoodreads

Tax the Dungeon

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

For a century and a half, the royal prison of the Queendom of Yclau has protected its prisoners against the wrath of the Queen and her officials. The dungeon workers have remained determined to learn the truth of accusations against their prisoners, regardless of how high in rank the men and women are who place charges against the prisoners.

But now a new threat has fallen upon the Eternal Dungeon: a threat of financial ruin. Faced with the danger of the dungeon closing down, the High Seeker and his love-mate must race to identify the thief who has been stealing money from the royal treasury. If the two men fail to find the answer in time, the result will not only be the destruction of the dungeon. Failure could mean the death of their own relationship. . . .

Archive of Our Own

Return to the volume index.

Set during the events of On Guard:


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.

Archive of Our OwnStory bundleGoodreads

Return to the volume index.

Set during the events of Sweet Blood:

The Whipping Post

Ten minutes left to contemplate what lies ahead, before the end begins.

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Open-Soul Surgery

He expected death. What arrived was worse.

Archive of Our Own


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

After seven years of enduring trouble from the guards of the Eternal Dungeon, the royal prison's only female Seeker is determined to bring matters under her control. But how can she do so when nearly every man in the dungeon thinks she shouldn't work there?

Archive of Our Own

Set in alternate-history versions of the series:


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 in 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.

Crossover story for the following series: The Eternal Dungeon / Life Prison.

Archive of Our OwnStory bundleGoodreads


What would happen if a technophobic torturer was plunged into the twenty-first century?

Archive of Our OwnStory bundleGoodreads

Set after the events of Sweet Blood:

Dungeon Guards

In the Eternal Dungeon, there are only two types of guards: skilled guards or dead guards. But one guard has been both.

Dungeon Guards is an alternate history series about nineteenth-century prison workers who seek love and companionship as they fight together against danger.

Companion series.


The capital city of the Queendom of Yclau has a restless population of oppressed commoners, a queen determined to keep control of the rabble, and a hidden killer stalking the streets.

It's an explosive combination. Into this world will come a man nobody expects, least of all himself.

Upcoming. To receive notice of e-book publications and free fiction, subscribe to Dusk Peterson's e-mail list or blog. See below for a progress report on upcoming fiction in this 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 October 2019. All titles and ordering are tentative at this point.

Forge (postlude volume).

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

[ Dungeon Guards ]

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Creative Commons License: Some Rights ReservedThis text, or a variation on it, was originally published at duskpeterson.com as part of the series The Eternal Dungeon. Copyright © 2002-2019 Dusk Peterson. Some rights reserved. The text is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License (creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0). 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 (duskpeterson.com/copyright.htm).

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The Shining Ones has been moved to a companion series.