Metal ring shirt

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This metal ring shirt in the East Exhibit Room of the River's Rest Museum, tells of the toll that administering torture can take on a person.


At first glance this appears to be a shirt of very flimsy chain mail.  Further examination, however, reveals the garment could never have been intended to protect the wearer.  The small metal rings which comprise the shirt are much too thin for that.  Nor would it have been possible for the wearer to don the shirt alone.  Oddly-shaped metal clamps line the back of the shirt and the backs of both sleeves.

A tag attached to the metal shirt says, "This is Lingba's Shirt.  In 4605 M.E., during the First Elven War, a number of local smugglers, elven patriots and elf sympathizers secretly aided the Elven Nations in their war on the Turamzzyrian Empire.  One of the sympathizers was said to be the daughter of Lingba the Tailor.  She was captured and interrogated under torture by Emperor Krellove's personal Inquisitor.  She died on the third day of interrogation.

Late in that year, the Inquisitor was captured by elven sympathizers.  Lingba constructed this shirt and, according to legend, forced the Inquisitor to wear it for nearly thirty days.


Your song moves in rhythm with the beating of your heart.  Another rhythmic sound joins in...a liquid sound.  The sound of oars propelling a boat through the wate.  As your vision becomes more clear, you become aware of a wide, moonlit river.  A smuggler's wherry, its oars muffled, moves almost silently through the river shallows.  A half dozen cloaked figures man the oars.  In the stern, a short figure stands, one hand on the tiller, his eyes searching the shore.

At a signal from the man in the stern, the oarsmen ship their oars.  The sternsman guides the wherry into some reeds, where it disappears from view of anybody who might be traveling on the river.  While one man secures the vessel, the other oarsmen gather around a large bundle in the stern.  They lift it onto their shoulders and scurry into the night.

Darkness enfolds you as you sing to the metal ring shirt in your hand.  The smell of mold and mildew mixed with the primal stink of a salt marsh fills your nostrils.  As darkness shifts to murkiness, you realize you're in a smuggler's boathouse...a dark combination of dock and bunker.  The cloaked men all stand around the bundle, which lies on the floor.  The short sternsman steps forward and unties the bundle.

The bundle wriggles and jerks until a face is revealed.  A terrified face, gagged with a filthy rag.  The sternsman pulls the cloth off the man.  He is as firmly bound as smugglers are capable of binding.  The sternsman reaches down and removes the gag.  "Please, please," the bound man pleads in a parched, croaking voice.  "I'll pay any ransom you ask.  I'm a wealthy man.  Just don't harm me."

In a calm, soft voice, the sternsman says, "We want no ransom."  "Information, then," the bound man says.  "You want information.  I can give it to you, I can tell you anything you want to...."  "We want no information," the small sternsman says.  "I'm an important man," the bound man says, weeping.  "The emperor will search for me.  If you release me now, no harm will come to you.  I've not seen your faces.  I don't know your names.  I'm no danger to you if you release me."

The small sternsman removes the hood of his cloak.  He leans forward so the light shines fully on his grim halflings face.  "My name is Lingba," he says quietly.

The smell of mildew and salt marsh is now cut with the scent of sweat and terror.  The man from the bundle is now clad only in a pair of stained breeches.  His arms are outstretched, tied with strips of leather to ringbolts normally used to tie up boats.  Once again, his mouth is gagged.  His eyes, however, are still able to scream.  The halfling Lingba carefully dresses him in the metal ring shirt and begins to fasten the clamps in the back.

"I made this shirt for you," Lingba says.  "For the Imperial Inquisitor.  For the man who tortured my daughter to death.  She was a good child, my daughter.  She cared nothing about the elves or your war with them.  She cared only about accompanying the man she was to marry, an honest smuggler trying to earn a living.  For three days you tortured her.  Three days."

The inquisitor pleads with his eyes and tries desperately to speak around the filthy rag in his mouth.  Lingba watches him coldly, then tightens the clamps on the back of the shirt.  "You notice how your bare flesh bulges through the small metal rings," Lingba says quietly.  "It's important to tighten the shirt just enough...not too tight or too much flesh protrudes, not too loose or there's not enough flesh."  Lingba looks up at the inquisitor's  face.  "Not enough flesh for what, you wonder?  For this...."

Lingba takes a small fishing knife from his belt.  He begins to slowly scrape off the flesh that bulges through the metal rings.

The smell of mildew, the stink of the salt march, the scent of fear have all been washed away by the cloyingly sweet smell of blood.  The inquisitor is still strung up between the boat rings.  He appears to be wearing a fuzzy red shirt.  The small metal rings of Lingba's device are hidden in bloody tissue.

Lingba, standing on a small crate, pours runny gruel into the inquisitor's mouth.  The halfling's face is drawn and grim, his eyes bloodshot and nearly lifeless, his cheeks grizzled with a new beard.  He puts down the gruel bowl and leans in close to whisper in the ear of the inquisitor.

"Three days you tortured my daughter," he says, and his voice bears little resemblance to the soft voice heard earlier.  "Today is your eighteenth day.  You must eat your gruel because we have twelve more days to go.  Ten days for every day you hurt her." 

He slowly gets down from the crate, walks behind the inquisitor, and carefully tightens the clamps on the shirt.  Raw flesh bulges through the small rings.  Blood oozes slowly down the inquisitor's breeches.

Lingba stares long and hard at the fishing knife on the counter.  Almost against his will, his hand reaches out for it.

The only sound you hear as you resume your song is an annoying buzzing.  Green-headed flies swarm the smuggler's boathouse.  Most of them churn around the bloody hulk of a figure strung between two boat rings.  The others are clustered around the body of a small halfling man hanging from the boathouse rafters.