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Crucible of Vengeance

Captivity breaks the will of some, but for others, it ignites embers of determination that are nursed into a inferno against their captors. Suspense / Thriller 
Crucible of Vengeance

Darkness.

It was his only companion in this cold prison that had become his whole world.

He could scarcely now remember the outside world, could not recall the sight of sunlight peering through a stained glass cathedral window, the smell of flowers in a summer garden, the hushed peace of a winter's snowfall. He no longer remembered the taste of wine, the feel of silk, the sound of laughter. He tried desperately to cling to his memories of such things, to the faces of friends and the warmth of their companionship, but these things seemed to be deserting him. He could feel his spirit fading with each memory lost.

Damp earthen walls surrounded him on three sides. Slick clay made up the floor while solid rock composed the ceiling a scarce six feet over his head. Rusted iron bars formed the remaining wall of his cell, enclosing him into a space barely seven foot square. The floor sloped down a bit in the far corner where the water that channeled down the walls collected in a small, stagnate pool.

With no daylight, there was no way to judge the passage of time. He had no idea how long he had been here; it seemed to have been a multitude of lifetimes. In the first few days of waking in this level of hell, he had painstakingly searched every square inch of his cell, seeking the slightest give in the bars or any loose depression in the earth that could be exploited to free himself. He found nothing. Now he did not have the strength to use such an escape even if he could find it.

All around him was only stifling, constant, cloying, choking, darkness. With the absence of light his hearing had grown sharper and more sensitive to the few sounds that could be picked up above the ringing silence—the scurrying feet and occasional squeaks from rats; the constant, slow and steady echo of dripping water somewhere further away; an occasional rattle of falling dirt dislodged by the settling of the earth. His sense of smell had grown keener as well, sharpening the musty odor of the walls, the metallic tang of the iron, the stench of his own long-unwashed body.

Discomfort had long ceased to bother him. His body no longer chilled from the constant cold, his stomach no longer clenched in hunger, his tongue no longer craved even the foul water in puddle of his cell. He simply lay on his side on the floor now, his only movements the shallow rise and fall of his chest and the occasional slow blink of his eyelids. His nails were split and cracked and encrusted with dirt; his hair and beard were filthy and brittle and grown long and wild. His frame had become skeletal with only a pale, thin layer of papery skin to shield his bones from the manacles that enclosed his wrists and ankles. The iron collar that choked him when he swallowed had ceased to register on his mind—indeed little did beyond concentrating on breathing in and out.

There were times when he would feel the clawed feet and occasional nip of rats on his bare chest or the scurrying of roaches across his cheek. He was not always sure if what he felt was real or only the ghost sensations left by previous encounters, but it didn’t matter; he no longer had enough energy to swipe them away.

Suffering had been the only constant in his life other than the darkness. Whoever they were, they were experts in the arts of torment, using techniques ancient and modern that achieved heights of agony which even the Romans would have been envious. The tortures had been done to him over and over in a systematic, cold manner meant to draw the suffering out, to maximize it to its fullest potential before allowing his release in death. But death was the worst affliction of all for one who could not remain in the oblivion of decease. He would later revive, every time chained in this tiny cell with only the darkness for comfort as his body re-knit itself in a process that was a torture all its own.

His jailors remained silent, refusing to answer his demands for a reason for the torment they did to him. Was it revenge against him for past transgressions? Payment for his sins? Malice against him for who and what he was?

He had fought at first as an animal in a desperate bid for freedom, but his efforts had been to no avail. Gradually, his physical strength waned, his hope died—but never his will. His humanity, his dignity had been taken from him, but not his will to survive. They could not force that from him. Survival was his basest of instincts, the very thing that defined his existence, the drive that had guided him even as nations rose and fell to dust at his feet.

It no longer mattered what they did to him or even why. They had burned the heart out him and beaten warmth completely from his soul. They had removed the layers of restraint that he had painstakingly built around himself, the facets that he had cultivated to become a civilized person. But even with all their torments, they had not destroyed the man underneath, the person that he had been and had renounced—and that man would survive this, as he had survived before.

He would bide his time and wait for his opportunity. His chance would come, and when it did, he would show them what barbarianism truly was. They would learn why nations had feared him, why his name had been whispered in horrified tales told round campfires, why even the most stout warriors of kingdoms had fled in terror from before him.

Death would ride again and even the gates of hell would tremble at his fury.

He would have his vengeance.
 
Author notes
I wrote this years ago, meant as the prologue of a Highlander fan fic. This particular part is dark, but the story itself, which was never finished, was meant to end on a hopeful note as the immortal's friends gave him reason to return to the light and turn from the darkness. Maybe one of these days, I'll figure out how to turn the idea into something original. Meanwhile, I always kind of liked how this turned out, so why not share it here?
Story length
short story

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