DISCLAIMER: This is a fan fiction story for non-profit purposes using characters that belong to someone else. But what happens to those characters is entirely my own doing.
STORY: Mostly based on Chapter 1 of the story "Darkest Hours", this is what would have happened if the Orcs had reached Venger's Keep. (See AN at the end)
THANKS: This would seem like the perfect time to heap multitudinous thanks upon Evil Overlord and Rana Kane for the reviews across at adult ff. Thank-you.
Hours in Darkness
The door of the dungeon swung open silently on well-oiled hinges, and Venger walked in, an Orc Captain following at a respectful distance. The room was dark, lit by the two flaming torches above the single door. It was small, and warm by virtue of its proximity to the Keep's furnaces, and smelt strongly of Orc sweat.
An evil smile spread across the Arch-Mage's face as he looked at the immobilised and blindfolded young human before him. This time the Fates had been kind; when the Cavalier fell from grace, it was into his waiting arms.
How tempting it had been to kill him and be done with it, and that was Venger's first thought when the injured boy had been brought to his castle. But no. Destroying the Cavalier may give a fleeting pleasure, but it would serve no purpose.
In fact, it had taken Venger two whole days to decide how to proceed, during which time, the boy had barely moved from the corner he'd crawled into the instant the Orcs had dumped him in his cell. He'd said nothing; no smart comments (which was highly surprising) and just stared at the wall, cradling his broken arm.
To begin with, Venger had been pleased. Not only did he have one of those accursed pupils in his power, but the child seemed to have given up any pretence at resistance. Then the blank stare had started to worry him. There was no satisfaction in keeping a prisoner who wanted to be kept.
Slowly, the triumphant pleasure turned to anger. Shadow Demon had reported what had happened, how the Cavalier had been taken, and Venger realised he had been wrong to leave the boy alone. It was what the Cavalier wanted. He had been stabbed in the back by the Ranger; left to be captured without so much as a backwards glance. The shock, and the pain in the boy's heart had forced him to turn inwards, ignoring the peril of his situation. Venger could not allow that to continue.
And then it had come to him. There was a much more amusing way of entertaining his guest that was so delicious and so perfect that he could not let the opportunity pass. Not only would the other weapons fall into his hands, but it was such a fitting way to make the old Dungeonmaster suffer as well.
Venger had waited a long time for this: the chance to turn one of Dungeonmaster's star pupils into a servant of Evil.
But it wasn't enough to make him a slave; after all, anyone could pay lip service to Evil if they had to. The boy had to want it, he had to lust after Evil in the same way Venger did. Only that would a suitable revenge.
But it was not going to be easy. The pureness of his heart (yes, even this flawed Cavalier had a pure heart) would still shine through. What was needed? What else could he do? What was vile enough? What was base enough to shatter his fragile spirit?
Immediately, Venger had thought of the Orcs. They would love the opportunity to despoil this human. It didn't matter how or what. They fucked, well, like Orcs. What else would a species with such a limited capacity for entertainment do, if not indulge in such excess? And there would be a long queue for this one.
Yet Venger had dismissed the idea. It would be too quick, too terrible and certainly not enough to dim the brightness in his soul.
He could do the deed himself. But that was so distasteful; he had not resorted to such measures before, never in his whole reign of terror had he approached anyone unworthy of his attentions. And this human was not the exception.
The other way to break the soul of this boy would take time, and preparation, and a large amount of skill to get the desired effect. It was vital that the damned Cavalier did not understand what was happening until it was too late. And, inevitably, he would have to suffer.
For the first time in many minutes the Arch-Mage turned his attention back to the helpless young man in front of him. The Cavalier had been taken from his cell a few hours ago, stripped and blindfolded, then fastened securely to the ropes by the Orcs. They had left him in the middle of the room, standing like a four- pointed star, to await the Arch-Mage.
Venger walked up to the Cavalier slowly, looking at him, drinking in the fear. He smiled, knowing his plan would work. It was exactly as he had hoped.
This boy, struggling on the cusp of adulthood, was perfect. This one had always been the vulnerable one within the group. Sarcastic, annoying, inconsiderate; the list of unpleasant traits was almost endless but, even in the brief times they had interacted before, the Arch-Mage could see the potential within him. Venger had only the vaguest memories of what being mortal was like, he had only the whispers of forgotten emotions to guide him. But youth such as this would be a churning caldron of needs and impulses. All it needed was direction, and since their meeting in the City of Darkhaven, Venger had known this boy's weakest point: his friends.
He had been willing to lay down his life for the others that day, in spite of everything. He relied on them for their trust and loyalty, even in the face of the torrent of sarcasm. And now, finally, that bond was broken.
Venger watched the prisoner for a while long, listening to the boy's staccato breaths. He looked at the lines of the Cavalier's body, the taut muscles of his arms and torso. There had been a time when Venger would have considered such a sight as beautiful, the human body contorted to its extremes.
And as he watched, he let the dark thoughts grow again; the raging desire to hurt this boy and make him pay for the mistakes of others. His skin was like a blank parchment, pale and unbroken, waiting for the crack of a whip to teach him the true meaning of Evil.
Venger finally turned to the Orc Captain that waited obediently by his side all this time, and nodded. This was the part the Orc's always delighted in; their pleasure was in destruction and pain. That was why they were so useful. This Orc was one of his oldest and most seasoned servants, and could be trusted to inflict maximum pain for the minimum effort and mess. It moved forward, taking a short, but broad, riding crop from its belt and gave it a practice swing while it moved into position.
The Cavalier heard the swish of the whip, and stiffened in anticipation. Even in the dim torchlight, Venger saw the boy shaking.
The Orc knew what it had to do, this had happened many times before to many different prisoners; twenty stokes of the whip, each in a different place and each to leave a definite mark. The creature smiled as it lifted the whip, and struck the Cavalier.
One. Two. Three.
With each stroke, the boy cried out, struggling like a trapped fly against the thick ropes that secured him. His injured arm had been roughly braced for the duration, but it obviously still caused him pain. The Orc didn't rush, but gave enough time for the stinging pain to subside to a dull ache before using the whip again.
Four. Five. Six.
The Orc was concentrating hard on its work, striking the Cavalier's body with the precision borne of practice. It was admirable to see an Orc so diligently employed, it had been a long time since Venger himself had deigned to supervise a whipping. Listening to this prisoner's cries of pain would never bore him, and he wondered why he had not been down here for so long.
Seven. Eight. Nine.
The Cavalier's cries were getting quieter, muffled by the pained gasps for air. His head had drooped forward, but the Arch-Mage could see the boy bracing himself for the next blow.
The cries also took longer to subside now, and the Orc slowed, examining the end of the crop after each blow, using its spit to make sure the leather remained supple. Venger was surprised that that they had even passed ten. Most prisoners had started to plead by now. But the Cavalier still hadn't said a word. The boy was holding out better than Venger had anticipated.
This time the cry of pain was choked back as the prisoner struggled to breathe. The Orc circled, examining its whip intently, waiting again until the Cavalier recovered.
The Cavalier moaned with each blow now, shock taking over from fear. His whole body would be ringing with pain. The Orc flexed its shoulders and gave a predatory growl, wiping the sweat from its eyes.
There was hardly a large area left without a white weal and a darkening bruise. The Orc paused, taking its time to walk round the Cavalier twice, examining its victim carefully, before deciding where the next precision blow would fall.
The Cavalier's body hung limply from the ropes, and he took short, rasping breaths. It was difficult to tell if he was sobbing or not, but Venger suspected so. That would, at the very least, be progress.
The boy still hadn't spoken. At first, he'd tried ineffectually to shield himself from the attack, but when he realised that was doomed, he'd given up struggling. Perhaps the broken arm was causing more problems than Venger thought it would. The Arch-Mage shrugged off the thought. However he'd managed it, the Cavalier was taking this better than Venger could have possibly have hoped. Perhaps more than twenty would be needed.
It was almost over; just one more left. The Orc paused to growl before swinging the crop down with all of its strength. The smile on its face told Venger that it had been saving this one.
Twenty. The Orc slashed the whip down along the boy's broken arm.
And the Cavalier finally screamed. It was beautiful to Venger, the sound of pain and desperation that he'd waited a long time to hear from one of those children.
The Arch-Mage waited for a few minutes, letting the Cavalier hang there in limbo, gasping for breath, and letting the Orc circle the prisoner, admiring the results of its work.
The Orc looked pleased, there was not a single drop of blood anywhere. Venger dipped his head, acknowledging the skill it had used. It would have to be rewarded.
'Again,' he said, his voice a growl like the Orc's had been. For a second, he thought he heard the Cavalier sob. But the boy still didn't speak.
The Orc gave a tusk-filled smirk, and lifted the crop once more. It repeated the whipping, following the order it had used before, making sure that each blow was almost but not quite exactly on top of the previous one. It used more force too, slicing the whip down with a deliberate malice that brought the Cavalier's blood to just below the skin. The boy cried out as before, only this time the cries were much quieter, as if he no longer had the strength left to respond.
It came to the final blow, and Venger signalled the Orc to wait.
Was that not enough? The Cavalier was stronger than he'd thought. Not once had he said a single word, not even to plead with Venger to stop and it had slowly grown to be infuriating. This was no longer just about revenge; it was a battle to see who would give up first. Was the Cavalier really going to just hang there until he passed out? That was not part of the plan at all!
The Orc was eyeing the Cavalier's injured arm with an evil smirk. Venger could see exactly where its was going to strike next. The Cavalier seemed to guess too, even though he couldn't see, since he tried to pull away from the Orc's rumbling breaths. And, finally, he spoke for the first time in two days.
The Orc looked sharply up at its master, disappointed but hoping it would have its way regardless. Under other circumstances, Venger would not have hesitated to let the Orc continue. But there was more to consider than just his slave. The Cavalier had capitulated. He, Venger, had won, and the Cavalier had started down the path to destruction.
'Leave him,' ordered the Arch-Mage.
The Orc gave a surly nod, then ran the tip of the whip-handle hopefully against the curves of the Cavalier's body, still looking at its Master. The leer was back on its face.
'No,' said Venger. 'There will be no sport. Just release him.'
The Orc was surprised and disappointed, and yet it did not argue, just unclipped the prisoner from the chains.
The boy collapsed onto the ground with a whimper, and the blindfold was removed. He didn't look at the Arch-Mage, but curled up on the ground, trying to hide his nakedness and cradle his arm.
'So, Cavalier,' said Venger calmly. 'What do you have to say to me, your Master?'
When there was no reply, the Orc lifted the whip again. The Cavalier raised his uninjured arm to protect his face.
'No!' Venger snapped at his servant. 'Leave us!'
The Orc looked crestfallen, but bowed and shuffled backwards out of the door.
'So, Cavalier,' repeated Venger. 'I cannot believe that you, of all people, have nothing to say.'
There was a whisper from the prisoner that the Arch-Mage couldn't make out.
'Say it louder, Cavalier! Say it to my face!'
The boy looked up. His eyes were tinged with red, and there was the ghost of a sneer on his face.
Venger laughed, making the prisoner cower back to the ground.
'I think, maybe, that I have underestimated you,' said Venger. 'Perhaps I was wrong to stop the Orc when I did.'
The Cavalier shuddered, making Venger smile all the more widely.
'Of course, the Orcs pleasure is not just in causing pain, young man,' said the Arch-Mage with a deadly smirk. 'They take get pride in the way they entertain themselves.'
It took a few moments for the Cavalier to understand what he was saying, but eventually a look of total disgust crossed his face, and Venger knew he'd understood what fate might still be in store for him. He was shuddering once more.
Venger raised an eyebrow and looked round at the room, pretending not to be interested in the Cavalier's reactions.
'I know what you must think, Cavalier,' he began. 'That somehow your friends,' he gave that word a particular emphasis, 'will get here in time to help. However, I regret to inform you that they are still many miles away, encamped beside the Locked Portal. I do not think they will come.' The Cavalier looked up, distinctly pale in spite of the deep red whip-marks.
'I…' he started. 'They…'
It gladdened the Arch-Mage's heart to see the Cavalier unable to form a proper defence for his friends.
'You do not have to believe me. They are not here.' He waved his hand round the dark dungeon, to demonstrate the Cavalier's lack of friends. 'And, as you can imagine, that makes me very disappointed. And angry.'
Venger watched with pleasure as a whole suit of disturbing possibilities pass through the Cavalier's mind. This boy was so easy to manipulate; the thought that he was stuck here, in the clutches of their furious archenemy was obviously beyond terrifying.
'I am exceptionally surprised,' continued Venger with a forced sigh. 'I had not thought they would abandon you so easily.' At the word "abandon", the Cavalier made a quiet choking sound. Inside, the Arch-Mage felt like gloating more, but he restrained himself. This was just the start. 'Even after you led them to victory against the Darkling, they seem more intent on getting home than on helping you.'
Again, the Cavalier gave a half-stifled sob, raising one hand to cover his eyes. The Arch-Mage let the boy cry quietly for a minute before saying:
'I had not imagined they would turn on you so quickly. I, too, have lost.' The boy glanced up once more, a faint look of disbelief on his face. 'You were my chance to gain the weapons, I had thought the others would come here after you. I was wrong.' He paused for a second, then went to the kill. 'I had assumed that the Ranger would never abandon one of his friends.'
It worked. At the mention of the Ranger, the Cavalier winced, those words obviously hurting him more than the whipping had done. In that instant, Venger could see into the Cavalier's heart, and he liked what he saw there: anger and betrayal, and the desire for vengeance.
He wanted to say more, to tell the Cavalier exactly how far the Ranger had gone, but he held his tongue. Now was not the time, and it would be so easy to spoil the effect. And the Cavalier must not suspect anything. The Arch-Mage turned to the door.
'Baruc! Come here!'
The Orc Captain appeared quickly with an evil gleam in its eye. The Cavalier pulled back, expecting either to be strung up once more and whipped, or to be given to the Orc for "entertainment".
'Take this boy back to his cell. Clothe him, and provide some food and water.'
The Orc looked so crestfallen that, for an instant, Venger regretted denying it its perverse amusement. But the look on the Cavalier's face was reward enough. Now he was sure.
Time was all he needed.
On Recurrent Themes.
This is not the only story to have Eric the Cavalier on the receiving end of a whip. "No Regrets" by Day Dreamer is one, "Lambs among Wolves" by Victoria Bishop is another. It makes me wonder what it is about him that makes us writers want to abuse him so.
This was written as the counterpoint to Hank's POV in "Darkest Hours". It seemed like a good time to be really cruel, especially since Hank had got Eric into this situation in the first place. But I realised that it would was going to have to turn into an epic story just to get them into the same room as each other, and that wasn't the direction I wanted DH to take. So Eric never made it to Venger's keep… and that's probably just as well.