and the Tortured
A dungeon. Two candles on opposite sides of the dank chamber produced faint illumination. Various instruments of torture rested against the walls, the floor, or on the small wooden table near the heavy iron portal. A large machine with an iron winch was set up on the far side of the room, its outer parts covered with rust. The very feeling of the place was unsettling.
Edward Magnus pulled the torn black gloves off of his tired, worn hands, dropped them on the dusty table by the door, and cracked his knuckles, groaning from exhaustion. His shoulders ached from pulling the winch on that rusted iron machine. The accused had not been truthful with him; He had required nearly an hour of torture, during which the man’s body had been stretched until every bone in his arms and legs had snapped and his skin had nearly been torn off. After that, the man had finally admitted to his crimes. Magnus had had to send for a doctor to carry the crippled man to the prisons.
The hard, strong ones always took more work. Magnus wished that the citizens would simply stop breaking the law, so that he wouldn’t have to work in the smelly, lonely chamber every day. Edward didn’t mind torturing others; He had long been accustomed to the horrific screams and the sound of snapping bones. However, operating those machines of terror was hard work for a forty year old man. His entire body would be sore after the end of a long day. The interrogator realized it was perverse to complain of the pain in his body when his sole job was creating pain in others, but his job in the dark, ghastly confines of Castle Leoch made him no less of a mortal than anyone else in the town.
Magnus’ thoughts were interrupted by the opening of the portal, which made a harsh grinding that assaulted his eardrums. A voice called his attention: “Magnus. John.”
“Hello, John,” said Magnus to the warden. Edward had worked with John for over six years. Every day, John would bring a lawbreaker to him for interrogation. “What did this fellow do?” Magnus couldn’t see the prisoner, as John was blocking the doorway, but he knew the man—or woman, or child—was there, handcuffed, behind the warden, like they always were.
“This one stole something from a dainty. Won’t admit to it.” John’s voice was hard, and tired.
“He will admit to it after a time on the rack. Let us finish this quickly.”
John turned around, pulled out his keys with a rattle, and turned back around with a set of handcuffs in his hands. “Get in there,” he said to the prisoner.
The prisoner looked to be young, about sixteen; It was hard to see in the dim light. He was around five and a half feet tall, his stature was stooped and defeated. His head was hung low, and Magnus couldn’t see his face.
The boy began to mumble something, and Magnus kicked him in the knee harshly. “Shut your mouth, boy. I don’t care about what you have to say. You’re going to the rack, and you have no choice in the matter.”
When he whined again, Magnus kicked him more strongly. The boy cried out. “I said shut your mouth! You should have thought about the consequences of your actions before you stole something from a citizen of Leoch! Now come over here!” Edward pulled the boy to the machine. The boy moved without resistance.
Concentrating on his task, Edward did not look at the boy’s face. He didn’t want to see another one, remember another victim. He was tired of the memories. Magnus wanted to do his job, and go home. He fastened iron manacles around the boy’s arms and legs. These manacles were connected by chains to the winch, which would tighten the chains and stretch the boy’s appendages farther out. Magnus, with finality, grabbed the leather thong that would hold the victim to the device and stretched it around the boy’s stomach, where he hooked it on a metal loop on the other side of the body. The boy was shaking uncontrollably now with the fear. Sobbing helplessly, hopelessly. “Stop that,” snapped Magnus, wondering why he suddenly felt guilty, even though he had done this hundreds of times before. He hardened his heart. To do less would be to forsake the justice he had given those who had came before. “It’s not my fault you broke the law.”
Edward Magnus turned his back on the boy and walked towards the machine winch. He looked at John. The man nodded, frowning as usual. John would be there to take down the words of this boy for the courts, who would undeniably sentence him to death. Such was the price of justice. “Let us get this over quickly,” Magnus repeated, and turned around to grip the handle of the winch.
It was then that he saw the face of the boy, the boy who was hanging by his arms on the torturer’s rack, battered and bruised, the hope bled from him by the cruel grip of reality, just as his blood had been drank by the streets of Leoch. It was then that he looked into the face of his son, and he began to weep.
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