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Innocence and Justice by Sophie
There is a sequel to this story which can be found at :
Heaven Sent


Part 6

There was a faint feeling of surprise which hung at the back of Richie's mind as he came round; it drifted through the dull ache of old pain that occupied his body and held back the clearing of his thoughts. He was alive, that wasn't what should have happened. Slowly, as thoughts came back on line, the question as to why he was still alive pushed into his consciousness. Weak breath on his lips, the young man lifted his head and opened his eyes. As reality hit fully, he groaned and considered that oblivion was a better place.

Patrick's story of the young Immortal he had rescued came to mind as the youth became aware of his situation, and he felt sick. An attempt to stretch strained, throbbing muscles came up against leather and metal; with something near horrified disbelief, the young man gathered that he was bound by buckled straps at ankle, knee, waist, elbow, shoulder and wrist. The constraint held him against a backboard a few degrees off vertical, his legs slightly apart, his arms in a crucifix position. His shirt, whatever had been left of it, had been removed, but he was relieved to find that his blood- stained jeans were still in place.

Still disoriented, but his instincts telling him this was not a good place to be, the young man struggled against the imprisonment, but the leather would have held the strongest man. His muscles in his arms flexed, but didn't even strain the material, instead the rough edges cut into his flesh. Only as red welts began to appear on his skin did the young man give in, and relaxed into the position into which he had been forced with a reluctant curse.

With little else to do, the youth examined his surroundings; the place was dim and damp without windows, and for the second time that day, Richie realised he was being held below ground. The walls were earth held back with wooden slats, and there was a strong smell of peat that filled the room. The floor beneath his bare feet was also earth and cold on his soles. There was a table in front and to the left, what lay on it sent a chill down the young man's spine: there was a wide variety of blades, from his own sword through small throwing knives to a large, serrated edge hunting knife; the cross- bow and its six nasty looking bolts conjured images the youth would rather not have considered; a whip would have been the last of his worries had it not been for the collection of metal spikes on its tip; Richie breathed hard when he recognised a hard-headed hammer; there were also several implements the prisoner could not identify, and their cruel appearance caused him to labour against his manacles anew. Dying in battle was one thing, but tied and helpless made the young Immortal angry and scared; this wasn't how his kind were meant to meet their end. His situation was a severe bending of the rules, and a sense of injustice was better that abject horror.

The maddened captive was breathless and sweating when his soul told him he had a visitor; as the shiver of knowing ran through his body, he complained, his sound coming out as a cry of fury. The helpless youth reacted to the presence of his adversary with a voicing of his opinion of Hemar's policy.

"You bastard!" he yelled at the composed, almost elegant figure of his captor who appeared within his vision. "Let me out of this and we'll finish this now."

The blond figure laughed, a cold, victorious sound that caused a rise in his hostage; the young man flexed, an incoherent cry on his lips, and the backboard nearly moved, groaning at his attack. Hemar raised an eyebrow, impressed by the pot of rage within, but his reply to the defiance was plain, "Oh, but it is finished, Ryan, you died, I beat you, now I will finish you in my own time."

Richie growled madly at the leather-clad form which approached him, picking up the whip on his way past the table. The young man hung onto his anger, his eyes blazing, as the plaited hide was used to shove his chin upwards; nose to nose with his abductor the powerless creature was determined not to show any fear.

"You caused me a lot of discomfort today, Richard," the other disclosed, and there was seething anger in his visage, "I don't forget things like that. Maybe I would have killed you there and then if you had not deceived me, after all, you must know that I had other business to deal with. Now, you will suffer. When I finally take your head, you will be begging to die that one final time."

"Don't count on it, Asshole," was the outwardly definite hiss of response; inside, Richie was not quite so sure about his tolerance.

His retort was punished with a thwack across the face with the coiled whip, and the German turned rapidly away from him. His stride was slow and sure as he walked a little way back from his captive, and there was something silky warm in his tone as he carried on his taunt, "I've been doing this a long time, Boy, and I've broken better men than you. When I amused myself with mortals, I had to be so careful with them, they do break so easily. I can draw out pain so that the moment of death lasts so long a war-hardened knight offered his own sister if I would just let him die. You, on the other hand, have many lives which we will traverse over the next few days, or weeks, depending on how soon I become bored. You will lose track of time, then you'll begin to lose your mind, until by the time I remove your head from your neck, you will no longer even be sure of your own name."

Richie remained silent, the depth in the other's voice keeping him in almost invisible dread. He kept his face straight as he watched the triumphant figure turn on his heel, an unpleasant smile on his lips; he knew that anything he did now would only fuel the abomination's fire. His eyes followed blankly as the torturer played absently with the instrument in his hands. The man was good at what he did as he proceeded to give the impression of looking right through his captive's soul. The youth wasn't sure if his tormentor gauged exactly what would intimidate him the most, or whether it was that he was using a well-practised technique, but there was a confidence about the snake that ran Ryan's blood cold. His throat was dry as he listened as passively as possible.

"I find the reaction is always so much better when I explain what I am about to do," the Immortal gloated, his eyes sparkling with sordid intent. "We will begin with a tantaliser, my gentle introduction to the age-old art of torture. This whip has been with me for almost a hundred years. I took it from a trapper who crossed my path in 1897, he didn't have any use for it once I'd practised my skills on him. It was very ordinary when I acquired it, but I made a few modifications to make life, or rather death more interesting. The steel blades on the end slice through cloth far more effectively than the original design, so you can imagine what it does to flesh."

The words were chosen carefully and the thoughts that ran through Richie's mind weren't pleasant. Yet the condescension which surrounded his captor was something which incensed the young man. His fight was still very much intact, and it came out in his usual flair for words. If this animal was going to hurt him, the youth reasoned, defiance his only defence against the cold dread that sat at the back of his mind, then he was going to cut right back.

"What is it you get out of this, Hemar?" he questioned mockingly, "Is it a substitute `cause you can't get any?"

The rest of his breath rushed out of the prisoner's lungs as he held back a cry; he heard the crack of the whip after he felt the sharp needles rip through his ribs and the shock sent a shiver through his body. He glared at his harrasser in silent rage, but his eyes showed the disbelief that the sadist had actually gone through with his threat. This was not something for which Duncan had prepared him, and the young Immortal realised as the surprise hit him that he had still been hoping that this was all some elaborate game which would end in his release and the `proper' fight to the death. The German smiled at him and grinned evilly as he read his subject perfectly.

"Yes this is real, Richard," the beast disclosed almost whimsically, "I do intend to make you pay for the indignity of this afternoon with interest, not because I'm temporarily unhinged, but because I enjoy it. I have had people call me mad, cruel, and since the word was invented, sadistic, and maybe I'm all of those, but I do so love my work.

Now, we are going to continue with my prelude until I am satisfied that I have heard you scream long and hard enough for you to have accepted that."

Richie wasn't sure which scared him the most, the look in the man's eyes at that moment, or the idea that this was just the beginning; whatever, he couldn't stifle the whimper that escaped his lips as the whip struck again, tearing through his jeans.

Hemar was not a careful walker, he seemed as destructive in stride as he was in description, and where he had entered the clearing was a mess of broken grass and flattened bracken. Duncan smiled to himself as the trail became visible and his pace became swifter. Silent, dedicated to the search, the Highlander loosed his limbs and trotted smoothly onward.

His body was taut, his torso flecked with blood from deep gashes all over his battered flesh, but Richard Ryan's face was set in a grimace of determination, and nothing but controlled breath came through his clenched teeth. There was a stubborn streak in the young Immortal, and his tormentor's words had become a challenge as the metal sliced over and over. The pain was familiar, it had come and dulled away so many times, and it was becoming a kind of mantra to a meditation of denial. Hemar, his face black with effort and frustration was on the outside, separated by a protective shield. The barrier was so strong that it took the young man a few seconds to realise that the blows had stopped. He blinked wildly as his torturer's swift stride to the table across his vision brought him back. His skin tingled with the unnatural ability to heal itself even as the more recent cuts still twinged mercilessly, and the young man let out a breath of release; had he won the first battle? From his adversary's mood, it was at first sight a positive answer to the mental question; eyes blazed with hatred and temporary defeat as he spun on his prisoner, a bag in hand. Ryan tensed as the large form moved on him, but he was not prepared for the other's answer to his lack of `co-operation'.

The captive screamed helplessly as searing agony shook his body; Hemar stood close, his hand firmly over a large slice which crossed his victim's chest. Small white grains slipped from between his fingers where a few missed their target, but most of the vicious salt stained red as it contacted with vulnerable flesh. Richie trembled, his struggle against the bonds, which held him, confused and disoriented. The world danced with spots of bright light as his being fought the shock, but his will was not strong enough to beat this one. Unable to contain the torment with his cry, the youth was forced into retreat. As the throes peaked, the hopeless scream cut out and the drained prey's eyes rolled in his head; the blackness that came was a welcome respite.

The Clansman rested on his haunches as he paused and surveyed a split in the path from which his quarry had broken to face Richie. This was not a well-trodden path, being more of an animal track than a human one, and the sign of man was not difficult to distinguish from his wild companions, but moonlight was not quite so easy as sunshine. The tracker scoured the way ahead for the tell tale marks of man-made clothing. What he wanted was highlighted silver against the black earth; a small twig totally crushed by a solid sole not a soft pad, or a hoof. A quick examination to make certain of the first assessment, and Duncan was on his trail once more.

The youth coughed and gasped in a deep lung full of air as cold water hit his face and forced him from his release. His muscles spasmed once as the pain of the salt was still with him, but it was a remembered hurt and he calmed. Squinting through the drips of liquid which ran from his hair, Richie stared fixedly at his oppressor. Relinquishing an empty bucket, Hemar rested himself against the heavy table displaying his tools. His features held a contemplative look about them as his eyes ran over the selection of weapons.

"I think you're going to prove something of a challenge," he admitted warmly, nodding distractedly to himself as his fingers played over several blades. "I misjudged you in the woods this afternoon, and I seem to have done so again. I thought you might fail quickly, but there's an obstinate side to you, but then again, that's why I run my little marathon, to see just how much a man will take."

The younger Immortal watched without a sound as his abuser's grasp finally came to rest on his own sword. He'd never disliked his blade, it had almost become part of him, an elegant piece of craftsmanship which had saved his life on more than one occasion; yet, in Hemar's hand, it became ugly, the aura exuded from the sadistic monster corrupting its beauty. Richie swallowed as his captor tested the weapon for weight and balance.

"An impressive example of its kind," the German complimented, but it came out more like a jealous sneer. "You know, I was considering breaking it in front of you, since you shattered my second best blade when you pushed me off the edge, but then I decided that it was too good for such pettiness. I'm going to keep it, and maybe I'll use it to remove your head. An interesting irony, taking an Immortal's Quickening with his own sword, I quite like the idea."

The prisoner relaxed a little, passive at the threat; the experiences of the last minutes had set his mind firmly on the present, and considering what was between him and final death, the information seemed almost irrelevant. If the weapon was not going to be used in the near future then he wasn't interested in philosophising about it. He closed his eyes, a momentary admission of the sickness he felt within at the madness without, but nerves snapped them back open as the torturer continued in a manner that would have more suited idle chit-chat.

"You're my first subject here," he breathed waving a hand proudly around at the black chamber. "I was planning for it to be Lyonaise, but the fat pig refused to let me get a death swipe in anywhere, but at his neck."

"He was not a pig!" Richie seethed in a hoarse snarl, his emotions rising in defence of his friend.

Hemar smiled to himself, a private victory in his manner as he stood in response, replacing the sword with a shorter blade. He walked over to the bound form, knife raised, and crowed, "So you still have a voice. I was waiting for a little show of spirit, I do like to know how well I'm progressing. Now we're going to see how much of a pretty pattern I can carve on you before you start to heal."

Ryan started, a gasp in his throat as cold steel was laid against his bare chest; the captor's gaze held his own, almost hypnotic in its depravity as the moment of tension was strung out. If he hadn't been sure before, the hapless creature knew now that he was faced with an expert as his feelings were drawn into a knot of tight abhorrence. There was a coolness about the impressive figure, but it could not be mistaken for separation from his work; it was clear that the twisted individual revelled in his task, and his job satisfaction made the horror of it all the more terrible. The knowledge drained his spirit as surely as if a tap had been opened and it was water running down a plug-hole.

The pain was largely immaterial this time; it was the helplessness, frustration, degradation, that his victim felt as he was used as a source of cruel, pointless experimentation, of which the German drank. Despite this thought in his mind, the youth could not control the anguish in his soul as he was so used. Hopelessly, he closed his eyes and tried to take his being to another place. However, Hemar knew exactly what he was doing; each nick caught the demoralised form's attention, inspiring tense spasms more of emotion than physical hurt. There was no control about him except the ability to keep most of his sentiment hidden from the gloating satisfaction, but there was no real doubt as to what the young man was feeling. Richie was not a good liar, and his front crumbled slowly: first a heavy sigh as the strokes continued and he felt his flesh shift to heal itself; then a whine as mocking laughter greeted the answer to the senseless test; finally almost a sob at the humiliation that filled his soul. His sound was animalistic as he gasped back the tension even as he realised that it was too late, his wretchedness had been revealed. In despair, he squeezed shut his eyes and hung his head as Hemar's laughter became stronger; he was ashamed of his weakness despite knowing it was how he was designed to feel. The calculation behind his emotional state made no difference to its effect.

Richie hung on desperately to what was left of his self-esteem as the intrusive noise cut at his soul. He would not break, this would not be the victory. Very suddenly the ridicule stopped, as with resolve built on anger, the youth opened his eyes and spat at his oppressor. It was a small sign of defiance, which received a harsh slap of punishment, but Hemar backed off once the blow was delivered, disquieted and thrown off track. The moment interrupted, there was no point in continuing the torment; Richie relaxed again, letting the pain ease away as it unfailingly did, alone in his own mind as his enemy regrouped for another attack.

The tracker was almost invisible as he stood tall, and still on the edge of the break of cover; not even nature recognised his presence as night animals walked within feet of his immobile form. Something had called him to a halt here, an instinct, a request for patience from his spirit. Within this sphere, Duncan MacLeod was at his wildest, a form working on intuition and innate qualities that were bred into his kind. There was only part reason behind the momentary repose, the path spread wide here, where all the plant-eaters came to feed, and his senses need time to pick out the trail; yet mostly it was the feeling in his gut that told the Clansman to wait a few moments and let the world move toward him.

The spontaneous urge bore fruit.

If he'd been moving, the Highlander wouldn't have heard the faint whimper of young human fear that slipped through the breeze into his range. There was no doubt it was a child's sound, and immediately, his quick eyes scanned the pasture and he turned his head to try and assess direction. The noise was almost so quiet that the shifting of his own hair against his shirt drowned it out, but a hiccup as a small throat choked back terror gave him what he wanted. Duncan took a careful step off to his left, toward a thicket of bushes on the edge of the open space. The man made barely a sound, but the hidden body was on alert, and there was a rustling as they panicked. The Immortal felt the rush of energy as his being sensed another, and there was a scream of horror from a small, dark shape which attempted to dart out of cover. The Scot pounced with the efficiency of a stalking cat, but his aim was not to hurt, and he landed rolling with the tiny body cradled protectively in his arms.

Annie kicked and screamed anew as they came to rest on the soft turf, her helpless form trembling with dread. She was no match for the huge man who held her, and Duncan sat up, trying to abate her fear with as gentle a hold as possible.

"Easy, easy, Annie," he soothed, rocking her as a buried memory of his `mother' showed him how, "I won't hurt you. I'm Duncan, Richie's friend."

Distraught sobs came from the toddler as his words seeped through her panic; she was still afraid, but she wanted so much to believe him. It took a few moments, but as another feeling led him and the man relaxed his embrace, the child turned of her own accord and grabbed desperate hold of his shirt. MacLeod wrapped the bundle in as much comfort as he could as his heart went out to the pain in her soul; he truly understood the look in Richie's eye last he had seen him as he gave succour to the helpless. He had felt the tingling in his skull, and his substance knew the truth of what he held close; the Highlander experienced a painful rage. There was the fury at what could have brought a child to such terror, but also there was a stirring in his essence as to the very nature of the little girl.

It felt better to focus on the more explainable part of his emotions, and Duncan quickly turned to the urgent task at hand. Still swaying smoothly, the Highlander asked quietly, "What happened, Pumpkin?"

"Dada broken," the plaintive voice wailed in despair. "Rich-ee cut."

"There, there," Mac pacified as best he could, but couldn't stifle a sense of inadequacy about any support he could offer.

Nothing he could do would ever be enough to heal the hurt he perceived flowing through the weary girl. There was still a lot to do, and with an effort the Immortal convinced himself that he could not dwell on Annie's condition if he was to help his tutee. Regretfully, he eased the small body away from his, and stood her up until she gazed blearily up into his face. He did not hide any of his concern as he spoke carefully, "Richie's in trouble, and you and I have to help him, Penelope-Anne. I need you to show me where he is."

There was still distress in the young feature's, but the child seemed to calm at the urgency in his tone. Richie was a hope, one of few she had left in the darkness of her fear; his need swiftly became her stamina. Her face grave, a hiccup in her being as she tried to quell her horror, the little girl turned and pointed smartly straight across the brush. A nod of appreciation, and a brief smile of encouragement, and the Clansman swept the toddler into his arms. She was light in his hold as she wrapped herself around his waist and neck; once more en route, the Immortal struck up a fit pace.

The scraping of wood on wood caught in Ryan's senses and drew his attention away from the stillness for which he had been reaching out. His body and mind ached in unison as he raised his head and watched his captor bleakly. The large man was picking up his cross-bow; there was a sneer of expectation on his lips. There was no need to read minds, it was obvious what type of scenarios were running through the diseased brain, and still there was a slight, protective disbelief sitting at the back of the young man's thoughts as he wondered disgustedly at a being who could take pleasure from such acts.

Hemar had been silent for a good few minutes, only the tread of his heels as he paced the earth floor had split the pensive atmosphere. The youth's show of rebellion had been enough to upset the insanity's train of thought, and the pause had been for him to think, but it had inadvertently served the purpose of allowing the barbarity of the situation to sink into Richie's soul. As he had fought the intimidation and torment, he had done so with a will born out of desperate instinct, and that had kept out the cold to which the quiet forced access. It was a repugnant, parasitic feeling which began from the abhorrence of his position, and each beat of his heart had drawn it further through the helpless man's spirit. The ice made him tired; the injured being healed without, but he could not reach the meditative state within that would mend his psyche. Each soft thump of boot on soil reminded him of where he was and what was happening.

The bleak hurt halted a while as the torturer's actions unwittingly drew his prisoner away from the internal rot. The distrust of reality also dissipated as the troubled mind found focus once more. The effort at cracking the whip had dishevelled the smart appearance of the German; the disorder of his blond locks and the rumples in his clothing made more sense than the spotless figure that had first arrived. There was a truth about the maniacal Immortal that defied denial.

Gervace was well aware that he had his victim's full attention as a heavy gaze fell on him. There was still a wall between him and victory, that showed in the strength of the stare, but a barrier had been broken. The shell that every spirit caries around itself in order to interact with society had been cracked; there was no front left around Richard Ryan. The desperation in his soul as he fought the pain within was plain, unhidden. Any pretence at bravado was gone, Richie's lip had failed him. Any reaction would be open to scrutiny from now on, and the abuser smiled with satisfaction.

"You're beginning to understand now, aren't you, Richard," the silky smooth tones taunted, as his long-practised fingers slid a shaft into place blind. "It is no use trying to pretend with me, I know what effects my attention have. Our relationship will become closer as we continue, I might even describe it as intimate. I will be inside your soul before it becomes mine."

There was a sickly sweetness hanging about the man's manner, even as he prepared for more horrors. Hemar was happy, content in his work; Richie watched with morbid fascination as the master attended to his task, checking the details of the weapon. The dedication he witnessed was quite absorbing, a perverse admiration in a terrible ability that somehow soothed the ache within. The illogical ease sank into numb loathing as the gaze hardened and was levelled on its prey.

"Target practice," was the clipped disclosure from the poised body as the bow was aimed.

A whistle danced across the still room. The crunch of bone and the definite thud of power contacting with wood was jarring after the delicacy of the first sound, and made little sense. For a second, the youth felt nothing, his senses protecting him with shock; yet reality came. Ryan's left leg erupted with agony, and then the young Immortal cried out without reservation Spasms ran through his body as it fought the destructive hurt, but this time he did not pass out. Instead, the youth's vision swam, distorting the face of evil before him into a mask of worse proportions.

"Monster!" the helpless captive screamed, frantic with hatred of the being whose nature was more aptly described in his tangled view.

Another bolt flew as it was loaded and fired with proficient ease.

"Pervert!" Richie yelled, finding defence of his suffering in the disclosure of the fact he experienced.

His eyes rolled as blood oozed from the wound made in his side, but they came back to rest waveringly on the bow-man. The shot by itself would have eventually been fatal, the young man could feel the draining of his life. Yet Hemar was loading again. The image of the weapon pointed at him was at least in three as it shifted in and out of focus, but there was a set to the features behind it that would not be denied by even his vision. His captor meant to kill outright.

"Evil," the young man breathed wearily, his lungs running short of capacity; his last syllable was clipped as the final bolt sliced through his heart and he tensed involuntarily against an ending.

His torturer's distorted visage in his mind, Richard Ryan gave in to blackness.

End of Part 6