The officer led his superior proudly to the restricted prison hold, waving aside the guards there in indication that he'd take the general personally to the prize prisoner. The general fought to hide the smirk as he watched the officer walk haughtily ahead of him. If he thinks this is the best part of winning a war, he's sorely mistaken. I wonder if he knows yet the pleasures that torture brings to a man. If not, he'll learn... They all do. He almost sighed that last thought...

They paused again at another door and the general waited patiently as the officer keyed in another password. Ron nodded to himself - all the necessary precautions had been taken to make sure she would not escape...

And a few more containments later, they stood outside her cell.

Ron took a moment in silence to look at the spectacle in front of him. The room that held her was a stark, blinding white. She herself hung almost suspended from the ceiling, chains encircling her wrists and drawing her up in the center of the room, her feet just barely touching the floor underneath her... Her chin lay on her chest, her neck and head too weary to hold itself up. The only sign of life that came from her was the slow rise and fall of her chest - slow and pain filled breaths filled her lungs and kept her alive for now.

Pity for the woman filled Ron's chest and he sighed a little. "Thank you, officer. I'd like a moment with her, if you'd please."

"Of course, sir. Just give me a moment to open the conversation box-"

"No, I'd rather actually go inside myself and have a little time with her in private."

The officer's eyes went wide. "Pardon me, sir, but she is a very dangerous prisoner. I'd really advice against that."

"Thank you for the advice, officer," he answered with just enough emphasis on the rank to remind the man of whom he was talking to. "I believe that I can hold myself against a single, unarmed woman for a time. You can invite a few of the officers to come and maintain watch just outside the cell along with yourself if that will make you feel any better. I will wait."

Startled, the officer actually did as he was told and when there were five such individuals flanking him, the officer finally keyed in the password to open up the wall to her cell.

Ron waited until the door was locked behind him again before saying anything to the woman.

"You cannot kill me here, Joselyn. There are armed individuals just outside this room and throughout the complex that will prevent you from escaping should you be so foolish to even try."

Silence greeted him for a moment... And then she sighed. "Threats mean nothing to a woman who has nothing to live for anymore, general," she replied, not lifting her head more than was necessary to reply.

Again, pity welled up in Ron's chest. He whispered a few words underneath his breath then, putting a spell on the room that prevented outsiders from hearing what else would be said. This conversation would be a private one - no doubt he'd be questioned to no end about this afterward by his own fellow officers, but this courtesy he knew he owed the woman. He stepped forward then and reached up to undo the chains that bound her wrists, wrapping an arm around her to hold her up as her arms fell to her sides and her legs gave way underneath her. "Would you like a chair?"

"I'd prefer to sit on the ground with the wall against my back, thank you."

He nodded as he gently carried her to one wall and propped her up. Disregarding the officers just outside the room, he sat down in front of her and took her wrists in his hands, gently massaging the ugly bruises. He muttered a few more words and the bruises eventually left her wrists - he was healing the abuse that had befallen her since the last time they'd met...

"You can't heal me, Ron," she said flatly, even as the bruises disappeared and she felt life returning to her hands. "It won't matter. As soon as you leave, I'll be left here, strung up from the ceiling until they let me die."

He remained quiet for a moment, still holding her hands in his as he thought of how to respond. "It matters to your daughter," he finally said, not seeing how else to get to the point of his being there.

If he had been hoping for a reaction of any kind - anger, sadness, pain, defeat - he got none of it. It was almost like she knew... "You found her."

"You knew we'd stop at nothing until she was found."

She only nodded slightly.

"She's to be wed to one of the officers in a few weeks."


"She would like her mother to give her away."

Finally, a reaction. Something akin to bitterness swept across her face. "What would you have me do? Walk her down the aisle in chains and surrounded by your guard's elite? What a happy sight that would be," she spat at him sarcastically, drawing her hands away from his and turning her body away from his. "Why do you torture me, Ron? I told you already. There's nothing more to this woman. You've destroyed me, crushed my dreams, taken my daughter... I'm an empty shell. Just leave me be and let me die." She drew her body close and clutched her hands in her lap, wringing them with a sudden burst of intensity that intrigued him.

She had thought she'd cried her tears, that there were no more tears to be shed, but tears threatened now. Only this man would be able to do that to her. She was nobody, nothing in the eyes of any other person, but he had a way. She suspected that if she'd been reduced to a pile of bones, he'd come along and grind her even further, not letting her be until she was a pile of dust to be scattered by the wind. She bit her tongue and wrapped her arms around her legs, resting her head on her knees and rocking herself to keep herself from crying in front of him even as a sob escaped her mouth.

Ron lifted a hand and gently started patting her head, rubbing her back and letting her cry as she needed. They'd both known when they'd initially met that he'd be the end of her... He had hated the idea that he could hurt her and had fought tooth and nail to let it be not so... Time had shown otherwise however, and they were at the point where no matter how much they loved each other, the pain was just too much for them to bear. "Does this have to go on?" he asked, more for his sake than hers.

Still, she knew what he meant. She always did. "You know it does," she answered when she was able. "There was never an 'us.'"

He blinked. There had been no bitterness there. She's accepted it then... For Ron, that was a hard pill to swallow. He'd always hoped that even in the end, somehow... Somehow, there had to have been a point to it all.

Haltingly, unsure of himself, he took his hand from her back and cupped her chin. Still hesitating, he slowly turned her head so he could finally look into her eyes for the first time this meeting.

Weary eyes still a little red from crying looked into his own. The life, the energy that had drawn him to her their first meeting was gone. Years of fighting in vain hopes of defying the odds, of pain and torture, of being slowly and surely beaten down had emptied her of that life she once had, drawing fine lines on her face not from laughter but from heartache and bitterness.

He suddenly noticed her hair - years ago, it had been the blackest of black, thick and full and reaching down past her waist. Now, her hair was a mix of black and white - more white than black, the years of stress and burden had weighed heavily on her.

She was but a shadow of the beauty she'd been in her youth and still he loved her, this stranger in front of him.

"You knew I was general now," he said, drawing his hand away.

She turned her face back away and closed her eyes wearily. "It only took time."

The chasm separating them seemed to stretch further, despite the fact that they still sat there in that room next to each other. He wanted so desperately to reach out to her again, grasp what they once had...

Instead, he drew himself up off the ground and took a step back from her. The time for reconciliation - if that was truly what he wanted, he wasn't sure - had long since passed. He looked down at her hunched body and turned towards the cell opening and signaled for it to be opened. He exited the room and three men rushed in. He heard rather than watched as they dragged his love to her feet and encircled her wrists again with those horrible chains so she could hang from the ceiling. Even as his heavy steps drew him further away from that cell, he could hear the whizzing of a whip and hear its sharp crack as it lashed against her back. Only soft groans escaped her now.

Death would come for her that night, he would see to it. One of them deserved rest.