Not quite Scotland
It was a land of shadows and ice.
Of gray. And grayer. Of black.
Deep in the shadows lurked inhuman creatures, twisted of limb and hideous of countenance. Things one did well to avoid seeing.
Should the creatures enter the pale bars of what passed for light in the terrible place, they would die, painfully and slowly. As would he-the mortal Highlander imprisoned within the columns of sickly light-should he succeed in breaking the chains that held him and seek escape through those terrifying shadows.
Jagged cliffs of ice towered above him. A frigid wind shrieked through dark labyrinthine canyons, bearing a susurrus of desolate voices and faint, hellish screams. No sun, no fair breeze of Scotland, no scent of heather penetrated his frozen, bleak hell.
He hated it. His very soul cringed at the horror of the place.
He ached for the warmth of the sun on his face and hungered for the sweet crush of grass beneath his boots. He would have given years of his life for the surety of his stallion between his thighs and the solid weight of his claymore in his grip.
He dreamed-when he managed to escape the agony of his surroundings by retreating deep into his mind-of the blaze of a peat fire, scattered with sheaves of heather. Of a woman's warm loving caresses. Of buttery, golden-crusted bread hot from the hearth. Simple things. Impossible things.
For the son of a Highland chieftain, who'd passed a score and ten in resplendent mountains and vales, five years was an intolerable sentence; an incarceration that would be withstood only by force of will, by careful nurturing of the light of hope within his heart.
But he was a strong man, with the royal blood of Scottish kings running hot and true in his veins. He would survive. He would return and reclaim his rightful place, woo and win a bonny lass with a tender heart and a tempestuous spirit like his mother, and fill the halls of Dun Haaken with the music of wee ones.
With such dreams, he withstood five years in the hellish wasteland.
Only to discover the dark king had deceived him.
His sentence had never been five years at all, but five fairy years: five hundred years in the land of shadow and ice.
On that day when his heart turned to ice within his breast, on that day when a single tear froze upon his cheek, on that day when he was denied even the simple solace of dreaming, he came to find his prison a place of beauty.