The Damsel and the Tiger

Gospodin and gracediamondsfear

The Mountain Retreat

The Mountain Retreat

The promise of a yoga retreat in the mountains is effortless transcendence. The landscape is bait for the work-weary, the exercises a lure for women who are just beginning to miss the vitality of youth. Images of placid groups holding graceful asanas before picturesque vistas slip right past cynical defences and immediately start chatting up aspiration and hope.

What a retreat’s brochures will never show you is the conference centre where it is held. There are no glossy photographs of grey fluorescent-lit hallways, of hastily-scrawled name tags with dusty curling edges, of panicked instructors struggling to make a printer work. The picture of the magnolia floating in water will give no hint as to the oily smell of the concrete car park. The sun-glazed buffet shot never reveals the sad, slightly-wilted salad greens. The pool is never as large as it looks in the centrefold.

The mind tries not to dwell on these nerve-jangling reminders of the tense urban life that hope tried to leave behind for a spell. The instructors were skilled, and the meals were more about the company and conversation than the food anyway. The mountain air and sun, even through central heating and a picture window, did feel somehow restorative, didn’t they?

Three days into the week-long retreat, and it felt like any other routine. Everyone knew each other, the music tracks had all become familiar, and the less experienced had mostly caught up with the rest of the class. There was a sense of unity, and the cares of the week before felt distant.

Of course, a sense of unity does not mean that everyone fits into the crowd. The one obvious outlier was the man of the group. He kept a respectful distance, remained quiet most of the time, and seemed to be quite practised at the discipline. He was rarely found around the hotel after hours, and his quiet scarcity made him the topic of every gossippy conversation.

“I heard he was an instructor for a competing retreat.”

“Sue said she thinks he’s getting over someone.”

“Do you think he’s gay?”

“What do you suppose he does on his own all night?”

The instructors felt the need to protect him, and occasionally could be seen chatting with him in the halls. No one could read lips, but his smile was gracious and warm. His languid feline grace was matched equally by his cat-like aloof aspect. He was there for stretching and sunbeams, not the attentions of the women in attendance.

But some of those women saw that as a challenge. There was the table at lunches where everyone had started to wear makeup to class, touching it up between sessions. They wore tighter exercise outfits, let thongs peek up over low-riding yoga trousers, and gave pigeon-toed giggles when he smiled.

“I hear she found his room number and sneaked in after housekeeping.”

“I hear she pretended to use the men’s showers by mistake.”

“Well can you blame her?”

“I don’t know what you see in him anyway. It’s not like he’s that attractive!”

“Well then why do you keep flashing that tantra book of yours when he’s around?”

And so the hens preened before the rooster, but they were a small clique. The attendees who ate alone had their own theories and opinions about the man, which they mostly kept to themselves.

Holly Forrester, practicing yoga.

Holly Forrester

Holly practices yoga because it makes her feel…different. Like perhaps she has a skill or a talent that others don’t simply because she can fold perfectly into pigeon pose, her hip and knee flat to the ground, her chest high, spine long. Maybe…and she would never say this to anyone…maybe she even feels beautiful in certain poses. Warrior, Gate, even standing tall in Mountain pose.

It’s probably too early in her life for a midlife crisis. Maybe it’s a 1/3 of life crisis. Maybe she’s just someone who thinks too much. After all, not everyone has their whole life together at 33, right? It’s not essential to be married with children and an established career. But she doesn’t even have a boyfriend. She doesn’t even have a lover. She doesn’t have anyone. And at times she feels so lonely that it aches like a sickness. There have been men in her life. And while they’re out having dinner they’ve told her she’s pretty. They’ve taken her to bed and gone through the motions of love making, jumping up to shower or check on their phones when they’re done, a quick kiss on the forehead and “I’ll see you around”.

She knows.

She knows she’s not strikingly beautiful, not exotic or breathtaking. Her long brown hair is usually pulled back into a messy knot or a ponytail and she doesn’t wear a lot of makeup or jewelry. She’s not overly brash or sassy, she doesn’t say shocking things or tell dirty jokes. She’s smart and well read, polite and observant. Holly blends into the background.

Maybe the retreat called to her, she thought, as she was shown to her room in the lodge. This is where she was supposed to go. Go find yourself in the mountains. Nature was always where she was happiest. She loved swimming and hiking, the mountains and the ocean, towering trees and rushing rivers. If it was meant to happen she could find herself there. What did that even mean though? How does one find themselves? What if she didn’t like what she found? What would she do then?

After unpacking and changing, splashing some cool water on her face freshen up after her long flight, she wanted to get outside.

A bland hotel dining room

Food for Thought

“You may not know it yet, but you’re a Seeker.”

Holly nearly dropped her fork. Reading at the table was always forbidden growing up, so Holly tended to fill mealtimes with a novel or magazine. She locked her phone with a guilty look on her face, and put it face down on the table.

“Ah, hello…”

She felt uncomfortable under his gaze. He had a look of concern, as if he were considering whether Holly knew how serious his point was. It was the patient expression of a man who was willing to judge her, but was kind enough to step back and give her the first word. It reminded her of a teacher she’d always struggled to impress when she was seven.

The rest of the hotel restaurant was watching, as well. The eyeliner table looked over shoulders and gossipped and giggled. The instructors whispered to each other, nodding sagely. Everyone was being just courteous enough not to interrupt. Holly wasn’t sure whether to be thankful or not, just as she wasn’t sure whether she was glad that she’d sat far enough away that nobody could hear her conversation with the man.

“You’re very good at being who you are, but you’re still looking for who you want to be.” He reached his arms across the table in a gesture that looked as though he were about to place his hands on Hollys, had hers been there.

“Okay…” Holly didn’t want to have this conversation, whatever it was, but she was too polite to excuse herself so soon. “And, what do I want to be, then?”

He let his tented palms collapse on the table and sat upright again, sliding his forearms back along the tablecloth. His head tilted in a smile of kindly bewilderment that somehow still seemed authoritative.

“That’s just it. Only you can find that out. But,” Victor brought his hands to cover his heart, “I want to help you find out.”

Holly grinned nervously out of one side of her mouth, trying not to giggle. “Me?” Her eyes darted around the room, feeling the scrutiny of the pretty girls’ table. “I mean, why…Why me? Why would you…?”

He grinned wide, eyes half closing as he shook his head in amused disbelief. “Those women, they already know who they want to be. They’re very good at letting you know that. Everything they do is to impress you with their confidence. And that’s why they’re here, really. They need other people to experience that confidence and reflect it back to them, to make them feel like their choices were the right ones. I’m not interested in that any more; I’ve grown past that long ago.”

Holly’s suspicions grew, but she could not hide the blush that rose up her cheeks.

“I mean it. You have a journey ahead of you, and I don’t think it’s with these people. I do think you came to the right place, though. It’s just that this whole…” he looked around as if searching for something on the ceiling, “…event…It misses the point in some ways.”

He stopped suddenly, and raised his hands as if to apologise for rambling.

“It’s just absurd, is all. Everyone came here in an air-conditioned car, got out in an enclosed car park, and spends their days walking hallways from room to room. We’re in some of the most gorgeous country on Earth, and we waste our time in a glass box.

“I want you to come with me and walk out through that front door that nobody uses any longer. I want you to sneak out of here and follow me to a riverbend where the wildlife can look you in the eye. I’d like you to come camping with me, and then I will show you what I think I can teach you.”

Holly’s indecision


Holly looked at him with her head tilted a bit to the side, as if she were studying his features. He was very different from the other staff, the smiley, fakey, “how are you enjoying the serenity” staff of perfect women and men with perfect bodies telling everyone to embrace their flaws. He barely smiled at all, and when he did it was a bit lopsided but genuine. It sunk into her skin. She felt herself blushing and she didn’t know why.

“Camping?” she finally asked. “Is that…I mean, what about the seminars and the group classes tomorrow? They’ll notice that I’m not there, won’t they?”

But even as she said it she knew it wasn’t true. She wasn’t someone who was noticed. Her plain brown hair and gray blue eyes were easily forgotten. She was passed over in crowds, counted as one of a group of “others”. Nothing about her stood out. She could probably walk out the front door of the lodge playing the trumpet and five seconds later the dining room would return to its normally scheduled conversations.

“You paid for this vacation, didn’t you?” He said. “What you experience here is up to you. YOU are the one who came to find yourself.”

“I don’t even really know what that means,” she said, shaking her head. “How will I know when I’ve been ‘found’? When I’m who or where or what I’m supposed to be? I don’t…I don’t know much about listening to myself.”

Finally he reached out and covered one of her hands with his own. His fingertips were callused but warm, his touch heavy and assured, as if holding her in place.

“Do you feel comfortable here in this room?” He asked. “With these women in their spandex and their forty dollar eyeliner? Do you feel like anyone here cares about you? How you feel? What you want out of life?”

She shook her head, a bit embarrassed to admit that she was feeling unbelievably tense, self conscious and scrutinized at a yoga retreat. But somehow, he knew that.

“When you find yourself, Holly, when you become who you’re supposed to be, you’ll feel like…like you’re home, that everything is exactly as it should be, you’ll be so sure of yourself that you could strip naked and run down the street and nothing would stop you. You’d know it was ok.”

She drew her hand back at that and tucked a lock of hair back behind her ear before folding her hands in her lap.

“Well,” she said, lowering her eyes. “I doubt that will ever happen, but I see what you mean.”

The clock on the side wall told her that in fifteen minutes everyone would be up and shuffling around for their next session. She would lose him in the shuffle, or he would move on to help someone else. He’d asked her a question and she hadn’t answered him. But she wanted to feel what it was like to be home.

“OK,” she said, lifting her chin and giving a tiny smile. “I’ll do it. What do I need to bring?”

The Front Door

The Front Door

Victor was already waiting by the old oak door when Holly arrived. She carried her little day-bag slung over one shoulder, and gripped the strap tightly as if for comfort and reassurance. Truth be told, she appreciated having something to do with her hands, lest she fidget like a nervous teenager.

“I’m glad you came.” Victor’s smile was beatific, like a grandfather’s pride. “How do you feel?”

“Oh, fine…” she lied, her voice betraying her.

Victor seemed not to pay attention, “Did you pack as I asked? Everything on the list?”

Holly took a quick breath and nodded, holding up her little backpack. “Water, sunblock, sunglasses, towel…I didn’t bring a raincoat so I rolled up some garbage bags like you said. Um…fresh change of warmer clothes…these are the best outdoor shoes I’ve got…Oh, and for my–”

Victor held up his hand. “No, don’t tell me. I asked you to bring whatever means most to you. It should mean nothing to me. Keep it a secret, for now.”

Holly bit her lip and nodded, tucking her bag under her arm again and looking at the floor. This whole thing seemed overwrought to her, somehow. He’d asked her to pack any medications she needed, in case they met trouble and were stuck out there for longer than expected.

He’d insisted she leave her phone behind, and anything printed with words. This had included all her money, her ID, and some of her clothing. She’d snipped off the washing instruction tags and labels with manicure scissors, as he’d instructed. She felt ridiculous doing it, but there was a feeling of lightness at leaving words behind.

The only exception to this rule had been the “personal item” he’d asked her to bring. One thing that meant the most to her, one object she felt obliged to take with her everywhere. One thing that felt most personal. This was kept intact, but wrapped in a black bin liner and tied off with rubber bands. She hoped she’d chosen properly.

“Are you ready to do this? You seem tense.”

Yes, of course she was tense. She was about to head out alone with a stranger, for pity’s sake. She felt like she’d taken leave of her senses, but while she packed the night before she’d been wondering if she was doing it to his standards. She felt like a little girl again, trying to please a teacher when his real desires were something of an alien mystery.

“No! That is, well…I’m a bit…” Holly stopped herself, shook her head as if to shake out the cobwebs, and took a quick ujjayi breath. “Well, you promised a relaxation session, and maybe that’s a good idea.”

Victor nodded, considering. “Then you don’t want to back out, head to this morning’s sessions in the ballroom? It is up to you.”

“No! No…” Holly set her teeth and twisted her face into an optimistic smile. “I’ve been looking forward to this, really.” She looked to the heavy oak door before them. “So, how do we open this thing? Is it locked?”

Victor smiled and turned the handle.

The sunlight streamed in through the open doorway, unmediated by UV-filtering windows. Holly fumbled in her bag’s outer pocket to get her sunglasses, tugging clumsily at zippers. When she looked up, Victor was standing silhouetted in the doorway, hands on hips. He looked every bit like a king surveying his kingdom from the parapets. He was a ferocious power ready to make his mark on the world below.

He turned and reached his hand out to Holly. The power channeled to kindness, an invitation to share in its glory. Come and ride this tiger.

Together, they walked unnoticed out the front door, and out into the forest.

Fresh Air

Fresh Air

Just being outside was enough to soothe her jangled nerves. She was always better outside, away from recycled air and electric light. Once they made their way down the stairs of the compound and off the gravel path that tried to guide them towards the parking lot and the road that lead to civilization, she hung back and let him lead the way. He walked towards the edge of the forest where there was no trail, no signs, just sunlight through the trees.

He kept a few steps ahead of her, pushing branches and shrubbery out of the way so she could follow, only looking over his shoulder once or twice to make sure she was still with him. He didn’t seem like someone to go for small talk and she didn’t want to attempt it anyway. For some reason she felt like it was time to be quiet, to meditate, to listen…for what she had no idea. In the distance a bell rang. The others would be gathering for morning classes, journals in hand, ready to take notes and study how to be free. She crunched over the forest floor behind Victor and smiled to herself.

She’d always felt freedom in following. It wasn’t that she couldn’t do things herself, or solve her own problems or make her own choices, but when she allowed others to do it for her, people she trusted, everything fell into place somehow. She’d always liked being a student, being instructed. And of course she’d loved being a child, being taken care of. She was terrified of storms, even now as an adult. But when she was small, her mother would stroke her hair and hold her close and tell her to sleep, that there was nothing to worry about, she was being protected. And being protected meant she was worth it. She was valued, like a rare gem in a velvet box.

“Careful now,” Victor said, breaking the silence.

They were at the edge of a stream, crystal clear, bubbling over the rocks. Suddenly she was thirsty, parched. She knew the water would be clean and cool so she rushed ahead of him and crouched down, filling her cupped hands, splashing it on her face. She loved the water.

“You can drink,” he said. “But not too much. Just wet your tongue.” He demonstrated, cupping his own hand and pulling a dripping sip up to his lips.

To keep from staring at his wet mouth she sat back on her heels looking out at the forest ahead of them, then looked up at her guide, holding a hand up to her eyes to shade the sun.

“Do you do this a lot? Take other…students…camping?” She was going to say women, but it sounded strange, as if she were jealous. Maybe she was. Maybe she wanted to feel singled out.

“No. Not a lot. Something has to catch my eye. I have to see something inside them.” He looked down at her then and smiled. “I have to see potential.” He held his hand out to bring her to her feet. “You have potential.”

But he didn’t say for what.

The Great Outdoors

The Great Outdoors

The clouds passed between the sun and the two figures stretched out on the grassy outcropping over the river. The cool mountain air gave a chill to flesh made sweaty by the high-altitude sunlight, and then the shadow of cloud passed and glowing warmth came once more.

The two held their asanas in peace and stillness, without instructors to lead or the limitations of hourly schedules or regimented soundtracks. Instead of recordings of Tibetan bowls or reedy synthesiser drone, they soaked in the white noise of the burbling river below, and the occasional screech of a hawk only gave a sense of the space all around them.

Holly thrilled in a way that could not be called excitement. She did not grin or want to punch the air or laugh. She felt the hope and relaxation she’d come for, and the result was satisfaction. This was what the brochures had promised, but it wasn’t until she’d played hooky from the yoga retreat that she’d finally found it.

Somehow, wordlessly, the two found themselves in a crocodile pose, breathing together. Holly could not stop thinking about the river water she’d tasted before they started. “Wet the tongue; don’t fill the belly.” Victor had advised, but now she was thirsty again.

Holly pushed herself up into the Lion, and then just knelt and took in the view. “The mind loves to hear itself speak,” Victor had said while they hiked, “We need to reassure it that not everything is a choice it needs to make.”

Satisfaction. Like an hour of truce in the midst of a long war.

He took her down to the river, and they drank from the slow waters. Holly watched as he un-self-consciously stripped bare and waded through the little delta. She noticed for the first time that he was a proper redhead.

A thicket of ginger curls drew her eyes toward his crotch in a way she assumed must be like the magnetic attraction that cleavage had for men. Finer wisps of amber lay flat against his chest, but not with any volume. Atop his head the hair had darkened to auburn, save for shocks of grey at his temples and the close-trimmed sideburns that still shone orange.

As he tracked the fish that swam around him, she found the effect catlike, as if some old ginger tom had traded away eight of his lives to walk the Earth as a man.

“Hold very still.” he whispered, putting almost no force of breath behind his words. Around the pair, fish swam curiously and more confidently. Holly wondered if they would nibble at her knees. She began to feel conspicuous for not having stripped naked as Victor had, her yoga trousers rolled up awkwardly to her thighs and constantly in danger of falling down again.

Victor’s catlike grace held as he reached down slowly into the water, the surface barely rippling. As a fish swam past his arm, he tickled its belly gently, encouraging it to slow down. Once he had it resting in his hand, up came his arm and the fish sailed onto the embankment, flopping in the suffocating air.

Holly tried to follow his instruction, but her hands were not the tiger’s paws that Victor’s were. She helped to gut the fish and pack them for the next leg of the hike. As she cut, she noticed that her hands no longer trembled or fidgeted.

Fish knife

Gutting the Fish

She was surprised at what she’d done, and how easily she’d done it. Before she’d plunged the thin flexible knife into the gut of the fish it had been flopping and flipping on the rocks, its glassy eye looking up at her as its mouth and gills gaped for air. Perhaps it was a mercy killing, or survival instinct, but it was the first time she’d actually…taken a life. She’d never been a hunter or a fisher, even spiders in the house she trapped in cups and brought them outside. It was because the guilt got to her. She couldn’t inflict pain. It hurt her to see others in pain. But Victor had caught the fish, threw it to the shore and told her to gut it and she did. There was something in the tone of his voice that let her know he expected his instructions to be followed without question.

He’d held the knife out to her in an open palm and for a brief moment she was sick with fear. It was the way the blade glinted in the sun. She was out here alone with him. She hadn’t told anyone where she was going. If he…if he brought her out here to kill her, there was no one coming to her rescue. There was no one who would care that she was gone.

“I don’t…I’ve never…” she looked up at him from her knees feeling entirely helpless, the dying fish in its final throes on the rock in front of her.

Without a word, just a nod, he crouched behind her and put his arms around her from behind, putting the knife in her palm and showing her how to first remove the scales, holding the fish still in one hand.

“There’s no hope for this one, I’m afraid,” he said, and she could hear the smile on his face. His lips were close to her ear as he continued, “this is how it is in real life.”

Once the fish had gone still, her hands were steady as they sliced the fish open and by the end he’d let her go and she was skimming off the fillets in slow, easy strokes.

“We have to keep moving,” he said, getting dressed. She had nearly forgotten his nakedness, even when he was pressed against her. “We’ll have to find a place to camp for the night. It’s going to be a cold one.”

She nodded at him, her mouth dry, her heart suddenly beating a rapid rhythm against her ribs. This WAS real life. And he hadn’t told her to pack her own tent. And yet there was something about the fear, the unknown, the wondering, that made it all thrilling. Her body surged with adrenaline.

The sun was going down slowly, casting longer shadows between the trees. She rolled down her yoga pants and put on her zip up hoodie, hoping it would stop her teeth chattering.

“You’re starting to look a bit worn,” he said. “That’s what the fresh air does to you, cleansing, relaxing. We’ll build a warm fire, have a good meal and you’ll sleep like a baby.”

She nodded and hitched her bag up onto her shoulder, once again falling in step behind him, not knowing where they were meant to go.



To say that Victor had a long back might be a polite way of pointing out his short legs. Holly wondered how she kept falling so far behind him, held up by logs and awkward climbs over rocks.

She watched him climb a rocky set of ledges beside a waterfall, his body flowing up the mountain as easily as the water ran down. He stalked up the stones, all shoulders and spine. Holly realised she was staring when he reached the top and turned to watch her ascent.

The whole journey went like this: Victor would bound ahead to lead, and then turn and patiently wait while Holly picked her way after him. He never called out to her or doubled back to help; but occasionally that broad, soft smile would betray his appreciation for her determination in following on.

Holly felt less and less panicked each time he darted on like this, and more and more accomplished each time she caught up with him. The struggle to follow this infuriatingly quiet guide felt worth every effort, if only because of the warm glow of approval in his eyes every time she made the distance.

As she hauled herself over the top of the ledge by the waterfall, breathless, Victor grabbed her upper arms and helped her to her knees. It was the first time he had helped her in any way since they left the riverbend, and the sudden physicality of it startled her. The feeling of his hands by her shoulders and the one arm across her back gave a thrill that even the brushing of his nude body hadn’t managed before. A congratulatory hug, was it?

The campsite was in a small ravine where water from one fall gathered before spilling over the cliff they’d just climbed. It was isolated, protected, and after the roar of the cataracts they just passed it was remarkably silent.

It took Victor almost no time to build a fire and produce everything needed for the fish to cook. Holly sat by the ring of stones that served as a fire pit, and gazed into what flames could be seen in the daylight. Her eyes kept looking to the beck beside them, and then on up to Victor, wordlessly begging for permission.

After an age, he met her gaze and nodded slowly. “Remember: wet your tongue, but don’t fill your belly.”

Holly exhaled, realising she’d been holding the air in only then, and crawled to the stream, lapping water up with her hands and cooling a dry throat. She longed to prostrate herself and bury her chin in the flow and just swallow until it had no more to give; but she was the guest on this journey, and she stopped and sat beside Victor again.

“If you don’t mind, I like to open meals with a bit of ceremony.” Victor offered, taking the pie tin of meat off the coals. When Holly nodded in awkward agreement, he reached into her bag and pulled out the towel, folding and then rolling it into a long belt of cloth.

He knelt behind her and drew the towel over her eyes, tying it in back. As he did so, he whispered, so that Holly strained to listen and consequently didn’t react to being blindfolded.

“This meal was not easily given.” Victor intoned, “The fish had to choose us and be chosen. It had to be taken from its customary waters with nothing but our own hands. It was cut by hands that had never taken the task before, and the meat carried from the lush gentle slopes of the mountain to the hard cliffs.”

Victor delicately placed his finger on Holly’s chin, and her jaw relaxed. She held the open breathing practice he had shown her earlier, and kept her tongue down and her teeth parted. Air filled her chest in rhythmic sleep-like swells. Her scalp shimmered with a tingling sensation, as if each hair were floating free from its neighbour to let in a radiant new form of relaxation.

The heat of the fire warmed her cheeks and throat as she relished the spell that washed over her, and she heard Victor’s movements as he picked up a piece of the cooked fish.

“Easy victories are hollow, and leave us hungry.” He continued to whisper, “For any human endeavour to nourish our spirits, it must be worked for. A connection with Nature isn’t something you can buy with airfare and a hotel booking. When you tame Nature, you must take on some of her wilderness. When you surrender to the wilderness, you will be shown her tame places.”

Holly smelled hot food being held in front of her face, and had to fight to resist reaching out and taking it. But she kept her breathing regular, hands on her knees, eyes closed behind the towel. She knew she could keep her composure, just as she could when drinking at the beck.

“You have done well today. Your wildness brought you outside, and your tame nature allowed you to be led to this spot. And having brought you this far…” Victor placed the warm fish on Holly’s tongue, the mild flavour hitting her senses with alarming force. He touched the bottom of her chin, closing her mouth as she chewed and savoured the food.

“…I am ready to accept you as my disciple.”


In Darkness

She’d felt something like that before. The tingling, the sudden euphoria that overtook her once he’d had her blindfolded. She couldn’t put her finger on when exactly, or what had triggered it, but it was a rare occurrence, one she always remembered. Something flipped in her stomach as she sat on her heels listening to the fire crackle, water rushing beside her. She was listening to what he was doing, trying her best to understand the meaning behind his words, but all she could really do was feel. In the darkness, with no distractions, her heart once again started thumping with fear…but also something else.

He was proud of her. Just as he’d briefly held her in a hug once she’d made it over the rocks, he was now pleased with how she’d gutted the fish for their meal. It was such a tiny, simple task. One that millions of people do every day in order to survive, but somehow he knew that for her it was more. For her it was breaking through some sort of wall within her. She’d been sheltered for so long. Her life had been so easy. Opportunities and success and reward were just laid at her feet. And they meant nothing to her. How many times had she ordered fresh fish at a restaurant, eating only a few bites and then pushing it away to continue a conversation. Now she knew..she knew that the sacrifice of the fish, the work it took to build the fire and to cook it were what made the tender meat on her tongue delicious. She understood now why he’d brought her out into the wilderness.

And yet, after she’d eaten the first bite he said nothing more, nor did he offer any more food or take off the blindfold. She knew better than to reach up and take it off herself, instead craning her neck, listening for a cue or a word of encouragement that never came. The fire snapped.

His disciple? What did that mean? She’d learned the lesson his hard fought hike had intended to show her, wasn’t that all there was? His conclusion confused her, and now the silence began to frighten her. It was going to be dark soon, dark enough that she wouldn’t need the cloth over her eyes to be lost among the rocks and cliffs and rushing water. He wasn’t beside her anymore. Or in front of her. She couldn’t feel him or hear his breathing. She was still hungry and still thirsty and suddenly exhausted. Tears stung her closed eyes as she reached out her hand, hoping to feel him nearby. Her lip started quivering, but she held back, she wouldn’t cry. She was an adult, crying would get her nowhere. Instead she did her best to cycle her breathing, to bring it down to her belly and up out of her lungs in long circular rhythms, to keep calm. Had he abandoned her? Was this a trick? Did she need to find her own way back?

After a moment, she heard the crack of a stick, as if a step had been taken.


Fairy Pond

A Different sort of Hike

Hands grabbed Holly’s biceps, bringing her elbows back to her sides, gently. She had still only heard the one footstep, but from the touch and smell she knew it had to be Victor. He slid his grip down to her forearms and pulled her hands behind her.

Holly kept her breathing, but her mind ached to solve the mystery. She wanted to know the significance of this moment, and find the key to just what sort of disciple he expected her to be. Victor placed her palms on her elbows behind her back, which was an unfamiliar position for Holly. Even the more elaborate twisting asanas used some sort of anchoring to the ground. What could this be?

Had she not kept her rhythm of breathing, she would have started when he placed the flat of the knife upon her teeth and lower lip. Gentle touch of fingertip to chin closed her bite upon it, so that she held the blade like a pirate climbing the rigging. The thrill of danger posed by the sharp edge so close to her tender tongue and lips released butterflies in her stomach, but her breaths only sounded their ragged flutter for a few draws, and she found her centre again.

Now Victor worked with something that hushed like cloth, and she felt him work something thin around her forearms. He held the back of his hand against her arm, and a long slow rubbing sound played out. Quickly, he braced one arm across the front of her chest, above her breasts, and carefully laid the thin rope beneath them. Victor then played out more of the rope through the loop behind her back somehow and brought another line above her breasts.

At the realisation that what she was feeling was the sensation of being bound in rope, Holly’s breath halted. Her teeth bit the knife a little harder, and her fingers tensed around her elbows. Being tied up wasn’t nearly so terrifying as the realisation that it had already been happening without your knowing.

Victor sensed the moment of shock, and paused in his work, holding the rope taut around her chest. He reached up and tenderly traced the back of one finger against Holly’s cheek, and then placed his hand atop her head.

The gesture was so tender, and brought back memories of being held close by her parents as a little girl. It was exactly the sort of comforting gesture that she needed to regain that warm tingling glow that brought the warmth of the fire into her skull again. Her breathing regained its rhythm, stomach drawing in air to flush out the butterflies.

Victor resumed his weaving, building a macramé prison for her arms and breasts. The rope must have been incredibly long, as he wrapped it around her body several times, tugging it over and under earlier loops, and hauling runs together to even out the sensation of tightness and immobility.

Holly knew in her head that she should feel trapped and frightened, but the electric spell in her scalp dulled the fear. The ropes could have been a bedsheet tucked in tight by a loving parent, or an extension of Victor’s approving embrace. Besides, she had the knife, not him.

Apparently satisfied, Victor tucked a bottle of water under the web of cord between Holly’s arms. The weight of it made her sit straighter, and it magnified the tension of every strand of the rope. She heard him stand, and put out the fire.

He never let go of the rope’s end, though, and holly felt herself tugged gently toward the pit as he piled dirt atop it. Soon he hauled up on the line, as if to raise her to her feet like a marionette. The sensation felt like an ill-fitting brassiere cutting into the bottom of her breasts and squashing them from the sides and top, but she found that the harness of rope took her weight on her arms and shoulders, so she used that leverage to rise to her feet.

Victor passed the end of the rope between her legs and drew it upward, forming a new pressure against the seam of her yoga trousers. Two silent, quick tugs and she realised she must know where those butterflies went. A new sensation of clenching uncertainty made itself known below her stomach, but this one came with its own tingling warmth to drive out doubts.

Hesitantly, Holly took an uncertain step forward. Her bare foot tapped the ground nervously a few times before she dared shift her weight to it. The tension on the rope between her legs did not let up, and she took another. Soon she was stumbling after victor through the narrow valley, blindfolded and silenced by a sharp knife, her arms bound helplessly behind her. And yet she was proud, for she kept her breathing.

They did not walk far–they could not: the valley was too small. But Holly heard Victor clearing away the heather that lined the rock wall. They passed inside somewhere, and Holly smelled damp stone and cool air. Her blindfolded eyes registered no change in the light, but she realised they must be in a cave.

“Now,” Victor whispered, and she realised how short the rope end must be for him to be so close. “it is time for you to enter the Mystery.”


Mystery of Prey

Holly’s anticipation was beginning to coil, like the winding cord around her body. Victor had said something about anticipation, after catching the fish. What was it? Something about excitement, and anxiety.

She felt the wall of the cave with her right elbow and the fingertips of her left hand as she was dragged slowly onward. She tried not to think about anxiety, and kept her breathing as normal as possible given the uneven strain between her legs.

The pressure on her crotch was an uneven patter of intensity, relaxation, and chafing. Every throb of pain was followed by just enough release for her to realise how much arousal flowed from it. Every time she squirmed in her rope harness, the run of the lead tightened against her. Every time she fell behind in her steps, every time he decided to give an extra tug on the end.

Holly realised as they made a sharp turn that she’d lost track of the wall some time ago. She suspected that he was trying to confuse her, and that they’d made more than one complete 360° turn at one point. He needn’t have bothered.

At length, Victor stopped, and Holly heard him scraping something at the wall before them. The tension of the crotchrope hit a peak, held, and then relaxed a little. Holly realised he must have tied it off to something high on the wall in front of her. She could hear the echo of her breathing off the wall, and smell the damp stone by her face.

Victor took his head in her hands, disturbing neither the towel that blinded her nor the knife blade she gripped in her teeth, and bent her down to place a gentle kiss upon her forehead. Despite the strain of her bondage, Holly felt the tingling wave wash over her scalp once more. It caused her to relax again, and her reduced squirming helped endure the pressure of the rope.

Victor bent down to whisper directly into Holly’s ear.

“No more games,” he growled. “Your journey begins here. Right now.”

And with that he let go of her head, and his footsteps echoed away into silence.

Holly stood dumbly, relishing the spell that Victor’s tender attentions had cast. She didn’t know how long she stayed there, her forehead to the wall, not even trying to keep the leash-line slack.

Eventually it occurred to her that she needed to see to get out, so she rubbed her face against the wall to work the bulky blindfold up off her head. It took rather more rubbing and standing on tiptoe than she expected, and when she finally got it off she blinked her eyes for several seconds before realising the obvious.

The cave she was in was pitch black.

Holly moaned, and pressed her forehead into the wall. Her jaw ached from gripping the knife in her teeth for so long, but she dared not drop it now. The towel that had fallen to the floor may as well have vanished for all she could get to it now.

Nosing around, she soon found what she was feeling for. Set into the wall somehow was some kind of metal hook or loop, and the end of the rope was tied through it. If she pulled her hips back far enough and bent forward, she could just about reach the knot with her chin. She pulled even tighter, and turned her head to work the tip of the knife into the fibers, and began to cut away at them.

The work took hours, and thanks to the vibration of her sawing away at the cord she found a tingling wave threatening to spread upward from her loins. Several times she had to stop and calm down, or stifle a gasp lest she drop the blade that was her only key to freedom.

Holly tried not to think about that possibility, but there were precious few distractions. If she managed to lose the knife, would Victor come back for her? How long would she have to wait for that? Did she want him to? God, she felt so thirsty…

Her racing thoughts were arrested suddenly by the snap of a rope, and with the sudden loss of resistance her teeth lost their grip on the knife. Her breath caught short as she heard the metal ring out on the stone floor. She tasted the blood on her lips as she cautiously felt around with her toes. Finally she had to admit that it was gone.

With her eyes and mouth unencumbered, Holly began to cry. Leaning her forehead on the stone wall, she pressed her face into the ring. When Victor had wrapped her in this weave of rope, he’d folded the cord double in a way that spread the tension more evenly. With one of the lines to the ring gone, the pressure on her groin was twice as acute, but unless she freed both she wouldn’t be able to wriggle out.

Out of futility, she pressed her chin against the knot and hauled back with her body. The line cut up into her between her legs, and she felt what she thought was a sort of squirming movement in the knot around the ring. If she could just slip it out…

She threw her back into it. She saw stars and felt wet in turns as she forced the rope to bite into her in hopes of working the knot free. As with all painful ordeals, time dragged out to sadistic lengths. Her only consolation was that between the excruciating tugs, her body rewarded the attentions with a confusing flood of relief and arousal. Each time she pulled, it started out as rough frottage.

As suddenly and surprisingly as the first, the second run of rope snapped free, sending Holly tumbling to the floor in the darkness. As luck would have it, she caught one leg underneath her, and fell back onto the bottle of water that was tucked between her shoulder blades. Despite this, Holly was winded by the fall.

Few people ever find themselves truly winded, in our polite society. A hard fall on the tailbone can “knock the wind out of you” in a very real way. Holly found the shock of the fall robbed her of the power of breath, and her lungs burned. No amount of willpower could force her body to take what it was clearly telling her she so desperately needed. She wondered if she’d die on that spot, suffocated by the fall.

But in time her diaphragm obeyed, and she dragged in a hoarse gasp that left her throat sore. It took too long for her body to let her take a second one, but after a few minutes she had caught her breath enough to begin to wriggle out of her bondage.

Fumbling around in the dark, she wound the rope into a sloppy bundle. She folded the knife and the rope into the towel, and tucked it into one arm as she drank the bottle of water in one desperate pull. Once empty, she screwed the cap back on and tucked the bottle into the towel with the other items.

Having been a bookish girl, she’d long ago learned how to find your way out of a labyrinth. Choosing one wall and following it would take a long time, but had to lead you out eventually. And since she had no way of even seeing where she was going, it was the only option she had. Tucking the bundle in her left arm, she reached her right hand out and began to feel her way out of the cave.

An hour later, she blinked her eyes to make sure she wasn’t imagining the gentle glow of sunlight on the rocky walls in front of her. Hugging the towel to her chest in both arms, she jogged out of the cave and into the morning sunshine.

The trill of birdsong filled all sound. She was not in the dale where Victor had cooked the fish, but must have come out some other exit. She could see across a rocky expanse to the greener faces of the mountains on the other side of the valley. At her altitude, she spotted what looked like a ski chalet surrounded by trees.

But what startled her was that on the ground not five metres in front of her was her own backpack. She scrambled over to it and picked it up, feeling it somehow lighter than before. Pulling the zipper open, she found it was empty save for what looked like a white handkerchief.

Holly pulled out the cloth and opened it up, revealing one word written in blotchy stains on the linen square:


Dark forest path


Holly scrambled through the forest, unsure of which was frightening her more: the man she was running from, or the wilderness before her. She stopped briefly under a fallen pine trunk to shove the things she’d brought out of the cave into her bag, then reached back in and pulled out the fishing knife.

She ran with the blade in her fist, as if Victor could jump out from any tree and she’d need to strike. By and by she climbed above the treeline to see if she was getting any closer to the chalet on the other side of the basin. It never seemed to be any closer than before, but she kept on.

At one point she came to a gap in the hills joined by a rope bridge. Cautiously, she packed the knife in her bag and crossed the ravine. She gripped the handhold ropes nervously, walking slowly so as not to increase the swaying too much. The firm ground on the far side was just one more short moment of relief in her ordeal.

As she opened her bag to get the knife back out, she chanced to look back the way she’d come. Immediately, she froze.

Victor was on the other side of the bridge, crouched down on one knee, poised like a sprinter on his mark. Holly swallowed, willing her feet to move but no motion would come. Separated by the gorge, his spell still had its hold on her.

Without warning, he leapt forward, running across the bridge that had been almost too much for Holly to crawl over. The sight of him leaping from board to board broke her paralysis, and she dove off the path and into the trees below.

Holly crashed through ferns and brambles, scrambling over logs and high-stepping over the roots of trees. She did not hear Victor behind her, but she was making so much noise she couldn’t be sure. Her own gasping breaths and pounding heartbeat alone were enough to drive out the noises of the forest.

As she came into a sort of clearing, she glanced up to see the chalet above her. It was no longer quite so far away, but she’d run downhill so far that she would need to climb upward by a good distance to reach it.

The sight of the building distracted her enough that she slipped on a patch of mud and moss and slid down an embankment. Holly rolled at the bottom, and crawled on hands and knees under an upturned stump, the roots snarling out overhead like angry tentacles.

Resting for a moment, she felt the fatigue burning in her muscles. She needed rest–no, she needed sleep. She’d spent all night standing tied to the wall of a cave, and her body needed a chance to regain its strength. Her mind needed a chance to recover as well.

She opened her bag and fumbled for the knife, pulling it out and holding it like a ward against her predator. Leaning back in the shelter of the tree stump, she waited. Her eyelids began to droop.

A sudden slap hit the back of her hand, and the knife flew off into the bushes. Startled back to alertness, Holly sat upright again just in time to see Victor pounce upon her. The two rolled in the dirt, but Victor was soon on top and pulling the backpack off of her shoulders. She hadn’t even had time to scream.

Victor wasted no time tugging the towel and rope out of the bag. Sitting on Holly’s waist as she lay face-down in the moss, he grabbed her elbows and pulled her wrists together, binding them in loops of doubled rope before cinching them off. Once these were secure, he rolled off of her back and pulled her ankles up and back, using the same doubled-up length of rope to lash them to her wrists in a hog-tie.

Once this was knotted off, he placed one arm across her chest and another across her thighs, and heaved her closer to the tree stump. Once he’d set her down on a patch of dense moss, he used what was left of the length of rope to tie her off to the roots.

Holly’s moans and gasps and kicking had gone out of her once Victor had sat on her back, but now she had enough will to moan out one word.


Victor knelt down beside her and lifted her head to rest on his lap.

“All right, little kitten. All right.” He cooed softly and ran his hand over her hair as she sobbed. Taking the towel, he pulled it out and tied a knot in its center. He dabbed one corner at Holly’s face, and then shoved the knot between her teeth, evoking a wail that was muffled the moment it came out. He tied the gag around Holly’s head and then resumed stroking her hair.

“You’ve done so well, my dear.” Victor’s voice was honey-coated gravel, purring like an engine. “You’ve passed through the Mysteries now, and are ready for the next step in your journey.”

Victor fell silent and petted the squirming girl’s hair for a few minutes, letting the cacophonous quiet of the forest fill the time until he spoke again.

“But for now, you’ve earned a rest. There’s nothing more you need to do right now. Just sleep. Sleep… Sleeeeeep…”

Holly rose to consciousness slowly, like a jellyfish pulsing toward the light. Breath quickened from sleep-regulated rhythm to conscious inhalations. Closed eyes squinted tighter, and she swallowed once or twice.

Moving one hand to scratch her nose, she felt the weight of sleep still on her arm. But the sound that accompanied the movement was impossible to place. It was like marbles being rolled across the pavement, or glasses shifted down a bar. How could one hand gesture make the floor rattle like Venetian blinds?

When she finally opened her eyes and turned her head, she saw the heavy links of chain running from her wrists and ankles, and understood.



The chains were heavy and dark. As if they were well worn antiques from the seventeenth century. Just trying to right herself resulted in torture; the tight shackles cutting, the thick links of metal biting as they slid across her skin. She was naked. Entirely. And her hair was damp, combed straight, not a single tangle, falling like a slick ribbon down her back as if it had been washed. The rope harness was gone but it left memories, burns and welts, a soreness between her legs that ran deep, an ache from the rope and from it rubbing against her, the way it sent jolts of arousal up her spine, the familiar clenching of muscles between her legs. At least now she could move. The chains, heavy as they were, afforded her some relief in that regard. She could switch position if she was uncomfortable, but the room was small, dimly lit, and cold. Cold enough that there were goosebumps on her skin, and her nipples were hardened to the point of pain.

But that was the point, wasn’t it? He wanted her in pain. This had never been about teaching her to find herself, to become something more, to teach her about who she was truly meant to be. It was about a psychopath wanting to kill her. Kill her after doing god knows what. Who knows what he’d done when she was asleep. Her nose stung and her throat tightened as she felt herself starting to cry. She rattled her chains in frustration, trying to pull them from the eyebolts in the wall, but it only punished her further, the metal collar around her neck nearly strangling her as she thrashed.

“COME BACK AND LET ME OUT OF HERE,” she screamed, her voice weak, raspy. “PLEASE. Please let me out. I don’t know who you think I am, but no one’s going to pay you a ransom.”

There was no answer but the echo of her own words off the walls. And the walls. They were…beautiful. This was no moss covered cave, dank and musty, smelling of iron. It was a room in a house somewhere…covered in tiles, tiny jewel toned tiles in an elaborate pattern, different on each surface. Like the sauna at her gym, the room had different levels, platforms, like benches built into the walls, but covered in tile. She could walk a few steps to the middle of the tile floor, and up on the first platform of the wall she was chained to. She could sit on the floor and pull her knees up to her chest. She could wrap her arms around herself and hide in her own skin…but these were all the defenses she had.

The longer she sat, the more her eyes adjusted to the lighting, the more she could see. Her throat was dry and scratchy, her stomach cramping with thirst and hunger. In the dark she could hear a dripping sound. Not rain. Not constant. A very slow drip…torture. But it meant there was water somewhere in this windowless prison. She looked to the walls, near the ceiling and finally found the source. Ice. There, protruding from the tile wall was a icy…cock. It was thick, long, made of crystal clear ice, dripping from the head as it very slowly melted. She knew, of course, that this was all he would give her. She could either suffer her dehydration, or humiliate herself like he wanted her to. As another drop fell to the ground she licked her lips. It was almost too high for her to reach. But as she went up on her tip toes and stretched out her tongue, she heard something. Clicks and hinges, something turning. She scrambled back down to the floor, far away from the sound, making herself as small as she could with her arms wrapped around her knees.

And then, as if by magic, one of the tile walls slid away and he stood in front of her. This wasn’t Victor, the soft spoken, kind hearted yoga instructor, partial to organic cotton tunics and linen trousers. He was dressed all in black, smartly tailored pants with a black leather belt and a button down shirt, clean shaven, his hair combed back neatly, damp like hers. He stood in the open doorway with his arms crossed over his chest, just smiling at her, waiting for her to speak first.

“Where are my clothes?” She asked, still keeping herself tightly wrapped in the corner. Her teeth chattered when she wasn’t speaking, but it wasn’t from cold.

“I’m afraid they were unable to be salvaged, kitten. You know how it is with stains…” His mouth quirked up into a crooked, wicked smile and she felt herself flush. The rope between her legs. It had been so perfectly placed, brushing against her with even the slightest tug. Whether she’d wanted it to happen or not, she’d been wet.

He moved into the room, closer to her, then crouched down in front of her, running his hand over her hair, smoothing it behind her ears.

“I’m sure it goes without saying that you’ll be here for a while. And it’s a very simple arrangement. If you behave, your stay will be much more comfortable. Quiet your mind, just as you did with your yoga practice,” he said, his eyes locked on hers. “Give yourself over to what I instruct you to do and you won’t suffer…quite as much, yes?”

She nodded, nearly paralyzed with fear and he stood up. After a moment she did the same, dragging her chains up with her, standing close to him, standing up to him although he still towered over her tiny form.

“I’m thirsty,” she said, attempting to be firm, to hold her chin high although the collar was heavy around her throat. “And I want a proper water bottle. I’m not going to…I won’t…suck on that.”

For just a moment they were both silent and she thought maybe he was considering a solution. But soon enough she knew she’d made her first mistake.


Good Girls Deserve Rewards

Victor dropped suddenly to one knee, his face immediately mere inches from her own. The shock of it made Holly start; and with that jerk of her body and the sound of the clattering chains on the floor, she realised how much she was shaking. She’d never felt fear like this for so long a time, before.

“Want…” Victor whispered, as if considering the word. His smile was a patronising grin now. “That, little kitten, is what truly imprisons you.”

Holly’s lip quivered, shaken by the uncontrollable rocking of her jaw. “P-p-p-lease!”

Victor’s grin sharpened and she caught the glint in his eye for the half-second before he’d lunged. It was over so quickly that she didn’t fully appreciate the way in which she was now pinned to the floor for some moments. Her chains were long enough to give her freedom of movement around much of the room, but they also gave her captor enough tether to pin her down and hold her body without even touching her.

Victor slid his fingers up the back of her scalp, gripping her hair by the roots and holding her face just off the floor. She hadn’t even yet felt the cold tiles on her stomach.

“I enjoy it when you beg, kitten,” Victor’s voice came from above and behind Holly now. She realised that the chain on one of her ankles was pulled taut somehow, and he’d shoved one of his knees between her thighs. “so I am going to permit you to lick your water off the floor.”

Holly squirmed, more out of instinctual panic and resistance than any seriously considered attempt to escape. It was only then that she understood how he’d gathered the chains from her wrists in his other hand: her right arm was pinioned behind her back, and the other held close to her shoulder so that she could only hold her chin a short way off the ground.

Victor shook her head by the hair, and the lack of balance or control left her a bit dizzy. “Lick. That is an order.”

Helplessness and fear won out over any reason to resist, and with ragged breaths that verged on sobs she slowly stuck her tongue out over her lower lip and ran it along the tiles. What water dripped from the ice-phallus at the wall tended to form neat rivulets down the grout between tiles before spilling into the central drain, and the material rasped her tongue as she lapped at the meagre moisture the floor held.

“Good girl,” Victor cooed, his fingers now massaging her head through her hair. “That’s it, now. Wet the tongue, but don’t fill the stomach…”

Holly wondered whether her dampened tongue could even begin to make up for the tears trickling down her cheeks, or for the sweat from her run through the forest. But talk of her stomach reminded her how long it had been since she’d been allowed to fill it. Or how long had it truly been? She could not know much beyond the fact that she was as hungry as she was thirsty.

Victor hauled on Holly’s wrist chains with one hand, his other lifting her up by the collarbone. Despite the general discomfort of her situation, Holly’s first observation was the increase in pressure of his knee between her legs. Her back arched as he pulled her up until the back of her head rested on his shoulder.

“I think good girls deserve to be rewarded, don’t you?”

Holly’s face flushed at this question, and she cast her eyes as far down and away from Victor as she could given the circumstances. His condescending tone was almost more humiliating than being forced to lick water off the floor.

“I said don’t you?” He shook her once, drawing out a short gasp, but nothing more.

After a short pause, Victor traced a line down from her collarbone to her cleavage, cupping one breast. His thumb and index finger lay gently to either side of her nipple, which stood erect.

“I asked you,” Victor pinched the nipple tight, “a question!” He twisted hard, and Holly’s scream echoed off the mosaic tile walls. He hung on to her as she thrashed as much as she was able, her hands uselessly forming fists and stretching open as if grasping for relief.

Once Holly’s resistance had shifted from screaming and flailing to hissing and groans through clenched teeth, Victor quickly let go and began slapping the underside of Holly’s breasts one at a time.

“I…slap…asked…slap…you…slap…a…slap…question!” He continued to slap as Holly squirmed again to try and move away from the stinging strokes.

“Okay! Okay!” Holly shouted “Yes! Yes, okay! Yeeeees!”

Victor did not stop hitting her. “In a complete sentence!”

Holly was so confused that she simply squirmed under the repeated blows for a few seconds before blurting out “Goodgirlsgetrewarded! Please, oh please stop!”

To her relief, he did. He even relaxed the pull on her arms a little so that she could kneel straight or even slump forward a little. She panted, catching her breath in choked sobs.

Victor reached up, and with one finger traced around her face, drawing loose hairs behind her ears. She flinched.

“Exactly. And as you’ve been a good girl, I think you deserve a reward now.” He traced the back of one finger down a tear-stained cheek. “Now, there are so many basic desires we can satisfy….”

Victor placed his hand on Holly’s thigh, and shifted his knee up a little to press a bit harder against her pubis. “Of course there is sexual desire…” He slid his hand up her thigh until he reached her waist, and then ran his palm across to press just above her mound. “Or, perhaps we could satisfy a more literal hunger.”

Holly’s jaw was set again. Every movement this man took around her body made her wince with anticipation at what was to come, now. It was no longer fear, but a kind of certain readiness for some new form of discomfort.

“So which will it be, kitten? Food or sex?” Victor cupped one of her reddened breasts, massaging it tenderly as if to alleviate the burning afterglow of their earlier punishment.

“F-food.” Holly spat out, sounding not nearly as defiant as she’d wanted to.

Victor immediately brought his thumb and forefinger to either side of her sore nipple again. “Ah-ah-aah! Manners, kitten!”

“Food please!” she moaned, the memory of the pain now something like a reflex.

“Food please, sir.” Victor corrected, gently increasing the pressure of his grip.

“Food please, sir!” Holly whimpered, throwing her head to the side as if looking away from the inevitable suffering that was to come.

But with these words Victor moved his hand to her cheek and placed a gentle kiss upon her forehead that lingered after he’d laid her down on the tiles and stood to leave. Holly hugged her arms around her chest, curling on the floor with her eyes closed.

Some time later, Victor returned with a platter covered in a silvery dome, as if this were a fancy restaurant or a hotel’s room service. He placed the tray on the floor near one of the father walls, and lifted the cover, revealing a stainless steel dog bowl filled with something orange-brown.

At first Holly’s gut clenched, knowing that she was indeed hungry enough to eat dog food. But as she watched, she noticed that the bowl was steaming as though it were something freshly-cooked. Soon the aroma of nuts and spices and fragrant herbs reached her nostrils, and she crawled on all fours over to the dish.

Her wrist chains snapped taut just before reaching the bowl, but as she stood on hands and knees before the tray, her head was just above it. Inside, she could see that it was some sort of fish curry, and it reminded her of something she’d had in a Thai restaurant once. The smell was overpoweringly delicious, and her mouth watered all out of proportion to the amount she’d had to drink that day.

“Bon appetit, kitten.” Victor called, and stood to watch her eat.

Holly didn’t need to ask to know that he wouldn’t permit her a knife and fork. He’d measured out the room perfectly, and she knew that the pet bowl was a sign she was to eat like an animal. At this point, she didn’t mind, and she dove her head down to bite at the squares of fish fillet that poked out from the pile.

She’d heard stories of rough meals after long periods of hunger being “the best meal of my life” before, but had never fasted enough to experience the sensation herself. The powerful flavours swelled up in her, and she felt a light happiness and satisfaction in her heart that washed away all of the terror and anxiety of the past day.

She ate with appetite, with gusto, and it was only after she’d licked the bowl clean that the slowly-building curry spice truly began to burn. Holly sat back on her haunches, scooting enough that her wrist chains had enough slack to wipe the sauce from her nose and chin. As she swallowed uncomfortably against the growing heat at the back of her mouth and tongue, she looked to Victor with alarm on her face.

He stood up, walked over to the now mostly melted prong of ice along the wall, and swapped it out for a fresh one. He then put the old stick of ice in the dog bowl, covered the tray, and carted the whole thing out.

Before he closed the hidden doorway in the tile wall, he turned back to Holly and shook his head. “Ungrateful…Didn’t even thank me.” He frowned down at Holly as she creased her forehead in despair, swallowing hard against the spice burn that made her eyes water.

“We will have to do something about those manners.”

The door closed, leaving Holly alone with the ice, her chains, and her pain.



As soon as the door closed behind him the lights in the room dimmed until Holly could just barely make out the shape of her hand in front of her face. Still the water dripped from the fresh ice that hung above her.

“Please!” she screamed, her voice weak, her throat burning. “I’m sorry!” It was a unique sort of pain, the fire in her throat, one that grew instead of faded, became more acute with time, concentrated. Again she felt tears pooling in her eyes. “Please don’t leave me alone in the dark!” Then, thinking about it, she spat out “SIR!” at the top of her lungs.

Of course there was no answer. Her only outlet was to rattle her chains, to scream and thrash, all of which did nothing but exhaust her. And still the burn settled deep into her lips and tongue. As another drop of water hit the tile she regretted on thanking Victor for the food. She wasn’t stupid. He wouldn’t have let her off the hook anyway. He wanted to humiliate her, to teach her a lesson.

Unable to take the pain any longer, she gave in. Climbing onto the first tiled platform, she stood on her toes in front of the crystalline ice dildo and stretched her neck so that her lips touched the tip of it. It relieved the burn for a moment and she sighed with relief, but the collar around her neck dug into the skin of her throat as she strained, the chain between her legs pulled taut up against her cleft. Everything hurt. Every cell in her body alert and on edge, and yet just touching the ice to her lips wasn’t enough, and she knew it.

“Fine!” she yelled at no one, but knowing that somehow, he was watching every move she made. “You want me to SUCK YOUR COCK?” She knew he wouldn’t like her language, how unrefined and coarse she was.

Straining forward a bit more, she wrapped her lips around the icy rod, loudly slurping up the melting ice. She could only just reach it, the first couple of inches, her shoulders burning in their sockets. Accelerated by the warmth of her tongue, the cool water ran in rivulets from the corners of her mouth, down her neck, between her breasts. She tried to break a piece off with her teeth, but the ice was thick, solid, with a metal spike down its center.

When her lips were numb and the position hurt too much she fell back and slid down the wall to sit in the corner. Her eyes stinging with tears.


Again, there was no answer. The chain that hung from her collar dangled down between her legs, the links of cool metal brushing against her tender, exposed skin with every movement she made. Not unlike the pressure of Victor’s knee when he held her tightly on his lap, whispering into her ear.

She was angry. Not only that she’d been tricked, that she’d been so easily lured and captured without an ounce of resistance, but that her body betrayed her. The man who had stripped her, chained her to a wall, who forced her to lick water from the floor, could raise goosebumps on her skin by running his fingers through her hair. The touch of his fingertips over her jawline as he spoke to her sent shivers out through every nerve. His hand, heavy between her legs, resting on the dark tangle of hair as he gave her the choice.

“Food or sex?”

What a strange question. Sex had never been a need for her. She’d never ached for it, suffered for it, longed for it like one would food or water. It had just…been there. If he was expecting some sort of woman of the world, a well-versed concubine to serve his twisted whims, he was in for a big surprise. Not that she was a complete innocent. There had been boys…men…a few here or there who took her to bed and moved inside her for five minutes and then fell asleep beside her. But there had never been anyone who made her scream, who made her sweat, who made her beg for more then collapse in exhaustion. It had never been like she’d seen in the movies. But nothing ever was.

Was it?

She pulled her knees up to her chest and wrapped her arms around them, curling herself into the corner. With a full stomach and the darkness, her eyelids were starting to grow heavy again. Sleep was a comfort. An escape. When she slept she was home, or outside, she was back at the retreat, bored sick inside a conference hall. But it also left her vulnerable. And as frightened as she was for what he expected from her, her body softened against the tile and she fell asleep.

Tibetan bowl

Morning Exercises

Holly was starved for sleep. Her body was exhausted from the extended periods of panic, and her mind craved the escape that sleep can give. But between the hard floor and her troubled dreams, she woke regularly to thrash against her chains.

She suddenly remembered a joke one of her girlfriends had told after a messy breakup, “Oh I’m sleeping like a baby: I wake up every couple hours and cry.” She giggled a little, despite herself. Then she felt bad for laughing given her current situation. It felt like she’d said the wrong thing at a party, alone though she was.

During her fitful bouts of insomnia, she’d explored every inch of the tiled room that her chains would permit. To her left the mosaic shelf on which she sat contained a toilet, built flush so that fittings protruded. Holly used this once, the ankle and collar chains stopping her short so that she had to bend double just to aim her privates over the basin. Fortunately there were sanitary wipes protruding from a slot, and her wrist chains didn’t prevent her from reaching her backside while she sat.

On the wall to her right was the fitting from which the ice phallus protruded. She could reach this on tiptoe, but to lean forward and take it into her mouth put strain on the chain that led to her neck. The ice was almost gone except around the base; and as she’d uncovered the metal tube at the center, tapioca had spilled out. It was degrading, but she had been past caring, at that point.

The fourth side of the room continued the tiered level structure, and rose up into two or three more as the odd teardrop shape of the space continued. Somewhere on that wall was the door Victor had used to enter and leave, but it was all academic to her at the moment: her wrist chains went taut long before she reached the first shelf, and she couldn’t even touch it with her toes when lying on the floor.

After what Holly supposed had been a few hours, the lights had slowly dimmed. With little to entertain her, she studied the recessed lips and crevices of the wall, where the recessed lights seemed to glow through glass bricks and reflect off white inlay. Nightfall took ages for her to watch, and when it was finally dark she wished she’d had more time with the lights on. Darkness left her feeling even more vulnerable as she lay naked against the cold tiles. Every drag of the metal chains against the floor echoed suddenly and noisily off the hard walls. Sleep was almost impossible.

And so it was startling for her to wake up in the light, to the sound of trickling water. Lifting her head slowly against the weight of the collar, she blinked against the glare to see Victor on the raised platform by the hidden door. He sat Siddhasana, eyes closed.

Holly nervously lifted her head up and stared. He had some Tibetan bowls next to him, and one of those Japanese bamboo fountains that fills with water until it tips. She listened to the quiet trickle punctuated by hollow knocking, and watched him.

Victor held his arms as straight as cello strings, but his aspect was unshakeable serenity. He formed a perfect triangle, as still as stone with the water pouring and splashing beside him. Holly had rehearsed in her head the screaming fit she’d throw when he came back for her, but now to break the quiet seemed impossible.

After several minutes of mute observation, she rolled herself upright and tried to sit cross-legged. It was difficult at first, with the chains getting tangled, but soon she realised that she could grab her own ankles by the chain to lift them into position. After some effort, she managed a Sukhasana that did not cause her ankle cuffs to dig into her legs as much. Laying the backs of her wrists on her knees, she tried to emulate Victor’s calm strength.

The pair sat in meditation, the sound of water the only thing between them. Their breathing synchronised, and the cares and worries of a kidnapper and his captive melted into the stream. Time faded, and the weight of steel circlets vanished. The chains no more held Holly now than her own body did. She felt as though she floated in the center of the room, halfway to the ceiling.

A hollow bell sounded, and Holly realised it was time to come back down. She resigned herself to it as the gentle wind-chime gong rang out again, and when it struck a third time she was already taking a deeper breath than usual. She felt fully present in her body once more, aware of its position and form but also of the five rings and their tethers to the ground. Holly opened her eyes to see Victor staring back at her, one hand ringing out the Tibetan bowl a fourth and final time.

He rolled forward and worked his feet beneath him, bent double. Slowly he rolled upright, unfurling like a fern leaf. Once straight, he gestured for Holly to rise, which she did with nowhere near the grace he’d shown. After a few knocks of the bamboo fountain, he held out his hands as if cradling a beach ball before his stomach, and then he began.

It took holly a few moments to realise that she was meant to follow his movements. He went slowly, as he had for her by the river, but this time he did not stop. The poses he moved through were like a combination of ballet and t’ai chi, and Holly noticed that her chains didn’t seem to interfere with any of it. She wondered how long he had spent crafting a routine that could be performed by a prisoner locked in this room. Had he tried it with the chains on, himself? Was she the first?

Victor’s eyes flared when she missed a cue, and she stopped her wandering thoughts to focus on the forms. They were repeating the whole set now, and she remembered a few of them enough to match his moves. She lifted her arms up, curtseyed down in a glacial genuflect, swung her body down with hands on elbows behind her back, lifted up on tiptoe, cupped her palms in offering. The knots in her back and neck slowly loosened their grip as she twisted and stretched.

After four repetitions, she matched Victor through the whole set, and he finished by lowering himself into the Hero. Holly knelt down as he did with her heels to either side of her hips and her backside on the floor, and blushed at his proud smile.

“Good girl.” he purred, “You will practice these forms every morning for me.”

Holly swallowed nervously, feeling the cold tiles between her legs. The sound of his voice and the cool pressure on her labia stirred up butterflies in her gut again. She waited, hoping he’d leave her soon.

“Hm.” he grunted, “Still have a problem with manners, I see. Well, we’ll deal with that later. For now let’s get you cleaned up.”

Brush and razor

The Rasp of the Blade

Holly had expected a shower, or perhaps a bucket of water and a sponge. Instead Victor brought out a rolled-up towel and had her lay back so that it rested between her shoulderblades. A second towel propped up her head.

She’d been led to lay down on her back just far enough that the wrist chains were taut, and Victor had hooked her legs over her arms as in the Tortoise asana. He’d then used carabiners to join the links in her ankle chains so that she could not leave the pose even if she’d tried. Holly realised that she really was as helpless as a turtle on its back, now.

“Wh–what are you going to do to me?” The way the pose exposed her pubis to the room had her second-guessing Victor’s motives. Perhaps he’d limbered her up so he could finally…well…take her. She’d been thinking about the possibility since he’d invited her along, and still wasn’t sure what she thought about the idea.

Victor brought over a tray of items from behind the doorway and laid it next to Holly’s head. She smelled iris perfumed soap and heard the rumbling hiss of an electric kettle that’s still settling down from reaching a boil. Victor knelt beside her and his face was pure compassion. He bent down and used a finger to trace stray hairs away from her face. He placed a gentle kiss between her eyebrows and leaned down to whisper in her left ear.

“Anything I want.”

He poured hot water into one of the Tibetan bowls, and began mixing something with a large badger-haired brush. The smell of irises intensified, and Holly’s fingers squirmed and tugged at the chains coming from her wrists. Her breaths became panicked sobs and gasps again, but Victor took one of her hands in his and kissed her fingertips.

“If it helps work out your nerves, that’s fine; but I recommend you hold still for this. If you make any sudden moves, the consequences could be rather severe. Just remember your breathing.”

Holly looked him in the eyes as he stirred up foam in the bowl, and with her eyebrows knit she slowly began to get her breaths back into the calm cycle once more. She knew that panic was counterproductive, as helpless as she was. No amount of adrenaline would get her off her back or close her knees, and she just needed to survive one more piece of her captivity. In with the good air, out with the bad.

Victor took out what looked like an electric hair trimmer with scissor handles instead of a motor assembly. He ran it briefly over Holly’s mound, letting the short curls fall to the tiles. Mopping up with a damp flannel, he began to paint the stubble with the foam from his bowl.

The warmth of the suds startled Holly, but soon the pleasant heat helped her relax into the breathing exercise once more. She knew what was coming next, but the sight of the razor stopped the air in her throat. She gulped, as if it could swallow time itself and stop the future from coming.

Victor made a flourish of opening an heirloom straight razor, of the sort men shaved with in the 19th century and before. He pulled out a long leather strap and clipped it to one of the carabiners on Holly’s leg chains. He dragged the razor up and down it rapidly, honing its edge to ensure it was as even as it was sharp.

He then held it up in the light, and the gleam hit Holly straight in the eyes. Victor held it for a time so that the glare of the reflection cast a stripe of light across her pupils, knowingly blinding her with the effect. The blade was no longer steel, but a strip of light and colour that flooded out everything else. Holly’s breathing resumed the correct cadence, and with a single motion Victor brought it down and shaved a swath bare.

Holly only realised that it had happened when her eyed adjusted again and she saw him wiping the mixture of foam and stubble onto the flannel. She did not feel any new panic as he reached down to reap another bladeful. The man was terrifyingly swift and accurate, but at this moment she felt that it was preferable to a clumsy oaf chopping at her nethers.

Her breath did take in a sharp extra as Victor moved downward. Not all of her hair was in the neat triangle on top, and the more intimate regions felt the scrape of the blade with increased sensitivity. But in very little time at all he was putting everything away and rubbing a clear and fragrant lotion over the whole area.

As Victor stood with the tray, Holly realised that with her legs splayed the way they were he’d just run his fingers over her inner lips and clitoris. The way he’d done it so matter-of-factly stunned her a little. She’d assumed he’d tie her to something and just start pounding in at some point, but the way he’d slathered the salve on had been so…clinical.

Victor left the room with everything he’d brought in but the carabiners on his tray. It was only after the hidden door had ratcheted shut behind him that the gel between Holly’s legs began to tingle.

Her breathing soon turned to gasps and moans of frustration.

Biting lip


Nothing angered Holly like confusion. So this was Victor’s greatest weapon, she supposed. Unwilling to give his true self away he changed at every turn, at once kind and nurturing, then pushing her face to the floor to make her lick the stones. He soothed her when she was afraid, then scared her to death. Then he stripped her bare (in every sense), chained her to a wall and…left her there.

Now the chains were her voice. Screaming did nothing, crying had no effect. So she rattled and scraped her heavy chains across the stone floor as best she could while she struggled in her position. He’d left her on her back after shaving her, and he’d done…something else. It wasn’t just his touch that she still felt between her legs. It wasn’t the memory of his low voice in her ear that made her hips roll and buck helplessly. It wasn’t the cool air from the vents blowing over her exposed skin. And yet somehow, he’d left her in agony.

The lotion, the oil, whatever he’d touched her with was making her writhe with need. It was as if all the blood in her body rushed to the folds of delicate skin between her legs. Heat, heaviness. Her muscles spasmed and clenched as she tried in vain to close her thighs, to squeeze her legs together for some sort of release. That would be ok. It would be ok for her to come on her own. It wouldn’t be as if she’d allowed herself to respond to this maniac, to let her captor bring her off, to make her so maddeningly wet and restless. It wouldn’t be as if she wanted him to touch her.

Arching her back off the floor she twisted her hips, the arousal becoming too much to bear. Nothing helped and yet her body continued to betray her. It built and built, aching. Exhausted, she went still. She focused her breathing, just like Victor would tell her to. She wouldn’t need to squeeze her thighs together, she could just think herself to orgasm. But all her brain would give her was him. Every time she closed her eyes she saw him, felt his fingers running through her hair, his hand heavy on the back of her neck, forcing her face to the floor, the quiet buttery tone of his voice when he whispered in her ear. She whined and thrashed as the ache grew worse.

“Fuck! Why are you doing this? Please! Please come back! Victor!”

She closed her eyes and imagined the rope. The rope that he’d captured her in, wrapped her so carefully and lead her through the cave by. She imagined the rope between her legs, taut and pulling upward when he wanted her to move.

It only took a moment more and her orgasm washed through her in powerful waves, pulling at her hips and shoulders, arching her back. She cried out more in pain than pleasure, more with relief than ecstasy and then went limp with exhaustion feeling sweat on the back of her neck and tears in her eyes.

Which will it be, kitten? Food or sex?

He’d asked her that and she’d nearly laughed. She’d never known the release of sex to be a need. Until now.

But perhaps she could use it herself. She was her own bargaining chip. If he wanted her so badly she would give herself to him. And then he would let her go.


Begging for Sex

Victor returned an hour later, and Holly heard him drop a pile of something soft on the floor by the secret entrance. Bound and stretched out as she was, she could not lift her head up enough to see just what he had brought, but she was sure by now it would be part of yet another torment.

“Please, Victor…” she mewed, trying to make her voice as breathy and arousing as she knew how, “It still–it still tingles. Victor please…I need–”

“You need to remember your manners, kitten!”

Holly bit her lip to keep from groaning out in anger and frustration. She’d resolved to seduce him, and that meant playing along. It was degrading, but the memory of the way he’d treated her breasts last time made her flinch involuntarily. Her chains rattled, and she felt her already erect nipples harden even more. Focus, Holly.

“Sex please, sir.”

“What’s that, kitten? I can’t quite hear you.”

A deep breath, this time. “Sex please, sir.”

Victor stalked lazily over to where Holly lay stretched against the ground. He dropped to one knee and slid his hand around her throat, cradling her jaw so that his thumb and fingertips pressed against the tendons just beneath her ears. Holly could feel her pulse mixed with his, and the hazel-green of his eyes swelled to fill her world. Her breath caught.

“My little kitten,” Victor’s voice was taking on the condescending sing-song tone of an adult gently mocking a child. “Are you begging?”

Holly’s eyelids fluttered, and her stomach moved to match. This felt so preposterous. He could see through her front, surely. She had to put on a perfect performance for this to work. He liked her to beg, was that it? Swallow hard, deep breath.

“Y-yes sir,” she bit her lip. “Please sir, please…fuck me? I beg of you…”

Victor smiled that kindly smile again that Holly had grown to dread. He reached up and ran his hand through her hair. He drew little arcs and lines over her forehead, and the tingling in her scalp joined the lingering effects of the gel between her legs. She felt her muscles loosen slightly, only then realising just how tense they’d been.

“I brought you some food.” Victor turned and dragged some sort of bag toward him. Reaching in, he pulled out a banana. He peeled it completely, and then pressed something he’d hidden in his palm. Three somethings–were they pills? Holly almost didn’t care.

“Now, if you’re a good girl, and swallow this whole, then you can have some real water to drink today. But if you can’t do it, then it’s back to the ice. Is that clear?”

Holly nodded her head as much as she could against the rolled-up towel that was her pillow. She knew her face had been flushed red for quite a while, but it felt hot with shame in a way she felt must radiate out into the room. Now she was worried that she couldn’t pass this test. What would it mean for her plan to seduce him? No, she had to do it.

Victor traced his thumb across Holly’s lower lip, and she parted her teeth slightly. Slowly he slipped a finger up over her bottom teeth and ran it back and forth against the tip of her tongue. He slid along and back, pressing her tongue down like a doctor inspecting her throat. Holly fought the urge to resist it, and allowed her tongue to be flattened against the bottom of her mouth.

Victor’s eyes were locked on Holly’s once more, and her breathing matched his. She kept the cycle he’d taught her, relaxing, letting the details of her body melt into a singular focus on air moving. She marvelled briefly at how she’d never known this sort of calm before being held captive in chains.

And then he slipped the tip of the banana between her teeth. It was ripe and soft, and the smell and taste of it overwhelmed her senses briefly. She closed her mouth slightly to bite off a piece, but Victor’s finger kept her jaw open. Instead she merely gave it a bit of a kiss with the top and sides of her lips.

The banana slid down her tongue, replacing Victor’s finger. He pulled back and instead held her jaw open by her cheeks. She felt the pressure of his fingers against her bottom gums, and realized what a firm grip he had on her. Still he pushed the fruit down to the back of her throat.

He breathed in more slowly, and stopped. Holly realised she had stopped with him as she began to feel the gag reflex kick in. She felt his hand leave her jaw for a moment and trace two lines down the front of her throat, and she began to swallow instead. Victor pushed slowly, and then she felt it filling her throat entirely.

The next few moments were otherworldly. Holly’s eyes locked on Victor’s, the feeling of fullness and helplessness and hunger and arousal removing all thought or planning. There was just sweet fruit and Victor’s gaze and the need to keep swallowing and swallowing.

But even the relaxed and controlled breath couldn’t be stopped forever. Holly felt her lungs cry out for air, and her brows kit as she struggled to swallow. Victor’s finger pushed in past her teeth and down her tongue, and then he withdrew and pushed her jaw closed. With a final struggle of her tongue and a brief burning sensation in her œsophagus, Holly gulped down the last of the banana and gasped in a violent breath of air.

Victor’s eyes had not blinked even once, and now he threw his palms to the floor to either side of Holly’s head and knelt above her. He was positioned as if ready to lower his trousers and thrust into her. He growled with a vibrato that made Holly feel as if his desire dwarfed her own.

“Good girl,” he purred, his nose lowering to just beside holly’s, his breath mingling with hers. “And now it’s time for your reward.”

Holly’s lips opened, ready for the kiss, but it never came. Instead, Victor stood up, pulled the bag away from her, and turned a knob on the side of the wall she couldn’t reach. Cold water rained down from the wide shower head above.

“Enjoy your drink, kitten.” Victor grinned as he watched her thrash and scream under the jets. “You’ve earned it.”


Holly’s Shower

Before leaving, before turning on the water, Victor had at least been gracious enough to unhook her ankles, finally allowing her to stand. And although every movement was agony, she brought herself up on her feet beneath the icy rain. The water was so cold that it took her breath away but she tilted her head back and let it pour down her throat where she could still feel the stretching heft of the thick banana that he’d forced her to swallow as if it had bruised her from the inside.

Remembering her mission she stood in the middle of the tiled room and let the water run over her body, guiding it downward with her palms, smoothing over her cold skin, her hardened nipples, the soft, newly shorn patch between her legs, still slick with oil. She wasn’t practiced in the art of seduction, but these were the things she knew men liked - she thought. Filling her cupped hands with water she slicked her long hair back from her face and down her back before looking up towards the only light, where she assumed his camera must be, where he watched her.

“Victor…sir. Please come back. Please. I’m sorry. I’m sorry for being rude, for arguing with you. Please come back and let me show you…sir.”

The cold shower continued, the light kept burning into her eyes. No response. So after a moment she sat down on the low tiled platform, teeth chattering, her whole body shivering, and neatly arranged the heavy chains so she could sit in cobbler’s pose, her knees bent, soles of her feet touching, her hands on the floor behind her hips to keep her spine long. And while she waited for him she breathed. She would do this and she would get out of this room. And even if it meant fucking him once, it would be worth her freedom. How bad could it be? It was just sex. She repeated it to herself like a mantra, retreating so far into her mind that she barely noticed when the shower stopped. It’s just sex, it’s just sex.

“Meditating, kitten?”

Her eyes flew open to find him standing in front of her, barefoot on the wet floor in his black pants and black leather belt. His crisp button down shirt was undone, untucked, like a family man just home from a day at the office. What did he do all day anyway? Did he work? Who was he?

Swallowing her fear she stood in front of him, her back straight, feet together with her shackled hands folded behind her back, pushing her breasts forward. After giving him a small, tentative smile she bowed her head, her wet hair falling over her shoulder.

“Like I said, I’m sorry sir…for everything,” she said quietly.

“Oh?” he crossed his arms over his chest, a hint of amusement in that one word.

“I should have thanked you for the food and water…and for…shaving…me…you’re right. My manners were lacking.”

“To say the least.”

He smelled like the forest he’d pulled her from, like cedar and fresh dirt and leather, like he’d sprung up fresh from the earth.

“I want to let you know that I’m going to behave,” she said, finally looking up to meet his gaze. He looked tired, almost bored, but he ran a finger along her cheek just the same.

“Good girl, I’m so happy to hear that.”

She unfolded her hands and reached out to touch him, his warm chest where his shirt was unbuttoned. With her hand flat, her fingers splayed out like a starfish, she leaned in closer to him, feeling his even breathing on her scalp. Her voice dropped to almost a whisper.

“That lotion, the oil you put on me. You left me here, aching. I was so wet and frustrated and alone.”

“I seem to remember you taking care of that problem yourself, and fairly quickly, too,” he said, but she could hear the change in his voice, it was softer, dreamy.

She moved to touch his face, his stubbled jaw, to run her fingertips over his lips.

“By thinking of you,” she said.

In a flash Victor grabbed her hand and pinned both of her wrists tight behind her back, their chests pressed together, lips a breath apart.

“So just what is it you want, kitten?”

She smiled, feeling the hard length of him against her hip. Men. Always lead around by their dicks. She knew that she had him.

“I want you, Victor,” she said, kissing his jawbone, brushing her lips over his. In response his grip on her tightened, keeping her close.

“You want me to what?” He asked, working his knee between her thighs. “Let me hear you say it. Let me hear you beg for it, pretty girl.”

“I want you to fuck me. Please.”

Drawing up all of her courage she pressed her lips to his, teasing him with the tip of her tongue. With a growl of approval from low in his belly he kissed her back, his tongue slipping over hers, hot and deep in her mouth. The tightening coil of lust in her stomach surprised her and with a whimper she broke the kiss in order to catch her breath.

“Not here though,” she said, her lips still tingling. Part of her wanted to kiss him again, to see if it was just as electric. He was smiling down at her, his knee grinding into her. “I can’t stay down here anymore. Please. I hate the dark, I’m freezing. Show me your bedroom,” she said, kissing the hollow of his throat, his collarbone. “Take me upstairs and fuck me in a proper bed. I promise I’ll be a good girl and do whatever you want.”

He released her wrists then, brushing the damp hair from her face then running his fingers down the front of her neck before closing his hand tight around it.


“Y…yes. Anything,” she repeated, ignoring the sudden chill down her spine, the way her teeth started crashing together.

“Hmm..” he said, letting go and pushing her backwards so that she fell back to the floor. “Then maybe I’ll see what I can do. Be patient and I’ll be back for you kitten,” he said, pressing the button that was somehow hidden from her view. The door slid open revealing only darkness and before leaving he turned back to her and said. “But you should always be careful what you wish for, girl.”



He left her alone for what seemed like hours. She sat in the corner and counted the links in her ankle chain. The problem with the dark and the silence was that her thoughts ran wild. If she put her fingertips to her lips she could feel his kiss again, the pressure of his mouth on hers, the way his tongue slipped so easily between her open lips. Having her scalp prickle and feeling a sudden rush of heat between her legs was not part of the plan. This was all just a means to escape, a way to get him at his most vulnerable and run. Feeling anything at all wasn’t part of the plan. He was a criminal, a kidnapper, a sadist.

“You don’t look very happy Kitten.”

He had a way of appearing without her noticing, slipping in without a sound. He was wearing expensive looking shoes now, and a beautiful black suit jacket to match his pants. His shirt was tucked in neatly to his trousers but still unbuttoned part way.

“Are you sure you want to come upstairs with me girl? You don’t look nearly as eager as you did a few minutes ago.” The crooked grin on his face let her know that he was on to her.

“I do,” she said, standing up. “I said I would do anything and I will.”

He nodded and dropped a shiny red shopping bag at her feet.

“Well you can’t go upstairs like that. It would be scandalous. Put this on.”

Seeing his “formal” dress, Holly was expecting a gown of her own. Instead the bag was heavy with different pieces of lingerie and equipment, including a pair of black pumps with higher heels than she’d ever seen and a heavily boned corset, black satin with gold embroidery and thick gold laces. As she pulled the pieces out, Victor bent down and, producing an antique looking key from his front pocket, unlocked the shackles on her ankles and wrists. In an instant she felt like she would float away, weightless. The irons in such a short time had become a part of her, an extension. How was it that she felt so naked without them? Finally he stood and reached behind her head to loose the heavy collar, letting it clatter to the floor at her feet. She was free. Entirely. He saw the flash of ambition in her eyes as they flicked over his shoulder to the open door behind him. Without a hint of anger he put a firm hand on the back of her neck and said,

“I outran you once. Don’t make me do it again.”

She swallowed audibly and nodded, turning back to her bag. His eyes were locked on her as she slipped into the tiny black lace panties that sat low on her hips, the soft fabric felt delicious on her bare, sensitive mons. Then she sat and pulled on the black thigh high stockings, smoothing them over her calves, straightening the seam that ran up the back. When she was finished Victor held up the open corset and wrapped it around her torso from behind. His voice was raspy, dark with arousal.

“Have you ever worn one before?” he asked. She heard the swish of the laces as he threaded them through the eyes with a practiced hand.

“No,” she said, her own voice faltering. He clucked his tongue.

“What a shame. Curves like yours should be accentuated.” Without warning he yanked the restraints tight, making her gasp. “Be still kitten,” he said, adjusting the laces before pulling them taut again. Her breasts were pushed up and out, nearly spilling over the stiff cups and her breath came short. She couldn’t fill her lungs like he’d taught her to do when she was scared. As if reading her thoughts he asked,

“Can you breathe, kitten?”


He pulled the laces again and she cried out in surprise, emptying her lungs completely, afraid she’d never get a chance to fill them again. Now her breasts were just barely contained, making them look three sizes larger than usual, but what amazed her was the perfectly smooth plane of her stomach, the part of her body that she hated (and hid) more than any other. It was beautiful and flat now.

Victor tied off the laces and ran his hands over the newly defined hourglass shape of her narrow waist and rounded hips ending with a light, almost playful slap on the exposed skin of her ass. She very nearly smiled.

“It’s still you underneath,” he said. “But the pain you endured enhances the beauty, even the beauty you see in yourself, don’t you think?”

She had no answer but to nod and begin teetering forward on the impossible shoes. He grabbed her wrist to stop her.

“Your bag isn’t empty yet, kitten.”

Reaching down she found a tangle of chains and locks. Although he’d removed her iron collar, there was a new one waiting. Shining stainless steel, much lighter, much thinner than the one on the floor. Victor took the open collar from her hands and, brushing her hair away from her neck, secured it around her throat; noticing that as he did so she stood a bit straighter, taller, without even noticing it. To the ring on the back of the collar he fastened a thin silver chain that was cool against her spine, then pulled her wrists behind her back and locked them together in two black leather cuffs that hung from the bottom of the chain.

“You don’t have to lock me up like this,” she said, a hint of defeat in her voice. “I told you I would do whatever you wanted.”

He took her by the elbow, leading her from the tiled room.

“Oh I know you will kitten. I just don’t trust you yet.”

A small flight of tiled stairs lead them up and away from her prison, but before he opened the heavy wooden door at the top he looked down at her, his eyes piercing into hers as she tried to stop shaking.

“Are you afraid, little girl?” He asked, the corner of his mouth turning up into a smile, but not one intended to comfort her.

Holly licked her bottom lip and closed her eyes in order to compose herself. Then, holding his gaze to make him sure of her sincerity she answered,


His grin, once wicked and teasing, faded just a bit and he looked away from her without a word. Had he not wanted her honesty? With a heavy push of his shoulder, the wooden door opened.

It was night, but there was a full moon that flooded the ski chalet with milky blue light as they walked through what must have once been an impressive grand center room. A dormant stone fireplace stood sentinel against the far wall, framed on each side by floor to ceiling windows that revealed the mountains in the distance. There was no sound but their clicking heels on the stone floor as he lead her past covered furniture, their white sheets making them look like a safari of ghosts, even the paintings on the walls were shrouded.

“This is beautiful,” she said, unsure of whether she was allowed to speak, or if he was even interested in any kind of small talk. In response he only shrugged as if her observation was obvious. “Is all of this yours?”

“Yes, but I only use parts of it,” he said, leading her through a crowded and dusty library then down a short hallway to an ancient elevator, hanging open like an iron bird cage, complete with a leather covered bench and an ornate brass light fixture that gave off the slightest amber glow, lighting only their faces. He sat her down on the bench and stood in front of her, locking the cage shut, his legs straddling her knees. “Are you still cold?

“No,” she said, her eyes darting around as the elevator rose.

“You’re still trembling,” he said, tipping her face up to trap her gaze. “Not quite so desperate to get fucked any more, are you girl?” He hit the word hard, echoing the harsh nature of her pleas earlier in the day as if he had found it distasteful.

“I’m just nervous,” she said, wrenching her face away from him. He nodded, allowing her rudeness to slide. For the moment.

When the elevator opened it was as if they were in a different world. The top floor honeymoon suite was brightly lit and lavishly decorated with newly upholstered furniture and a king sized bed that looked like a cloud; sumptuous dove grey linens, a mountain of white pillows. Her eyelids grew heavy just imagining the feeling of falling asleep beneath the white duvet, warm and cocooned.

Victor lead her to a vanity table and let her see herself at last, although she was nearly unrecognizable in her new lingerie. The heels made her legs look longer and thinner, flexing the muscles of her calves, and the corset of course made her feel voluptuous and ravishing. She smiled in spite of herself, turning to see how the gold lacing criss crossed up her back. He tugged her chain to make her stand straight and she saw that the cuffs and collar improved her posture immensely. The choker itself accentuated the soft curves of her shoulders and collarbones, the length of her neck.

“Very nice,” he whispered against her hair, and she felt her whole core surge with heat, her cheeks and chest flushing red in an instant.

Victor sat her down on the upholstered seat and before uncuffing her wrists he bent back her knees, securing her ankles to the back legs of the bench, her thighs spread wide. In front of her was an array of brushes and combs, jeweled pins and clips, lipsticks, powders and creams.

“I have some things to get ready for you. Why don’t you prepare yourself for me,” he said, walking away towards the other end of the suite.

“But I don’t…”

“Just do what you think I would like,” was all he offered before disappearing behind a door.

She picked up a brush and after clearing the snarls, swept her hair up into a knot, securing it with two onyx studded combs, exposing the length of her neck. There were five crystal atomizers with different perfumes lined up on the table. After smelling each one she misted her wrists and throat with one that smelled like a dark, spicy musk, just a hint of vanilla. The woodsy smell of it reminded her of their hike through the forest and his naked body trapping fish in the river. Looking in the mirror again she saw that her cheeks had gone pink, her pupils wide and dark. She realized that he wouldn’t want any makeup at all. He would just want to see her skin.

Touching her fingers to the collar she closed her eyes and drew in a deep breath. If she did what he asked, endured it just for one night, he would let her go. He would see that she wasn’t the ‘disciple’ he wanted, that she was just another girl out of hundreds he could choose, far from some experienced woman of the world with a wardrobe of corsets and garter belts. She would make him see that. She would make him let her go. Licking the pads of her fingertips she smoothed one last lock of hair back behind her ear. Then, folding her hands in her lap she called out to him,

“I’m ready sir.”

And she waited.

Taming of the Shrew pillory bed

The Four-Poster Bed

Holly sat before the vanity for quite some time, suspecting that Victor had heard her the first time and was merely playing with her. The makeup lights around the mirror showed her torso in a bright rosy halo, but behind her she could see mostly shadow. Victor bustled about in the comparative darkness moving heavy furniture and fumbling with bundles that clinked or made wet slapping sounds when dropped.

She focused on her own image and realised she had been chewing on her lower lip. For the first time Holly really appreciated why it was considered sexy by some. Reaching up experimentally, she brushed the backs of her fingers against her collarbone and throat, passing over the cool steel band.

It seemed so…delicate, if she were to contrast it with the heavy iron circle she’d worn around her neck for the past…day? In the bright lights of the makeup table she could see the red marks where the old collar had rubbed against her, and where the heavy iron cuffs had chafed her wrists. She knew they would fade, and she could grow accustomed to this new steel necklace.

Her fingers traced back down her chest to dangle against the cleft of her breasts, squeezed together by that garment that is built to do nothing but squeeze–and yet it added to the image of delicacy with its finely upholstered form. It reminded her of solid oak furniture wrapped in fine embroidery. Firm curves under soft skin.

Holly’s other hand ran down the front of the corset, the one-sidedness of the sensation novel to her. Her fingers could feel every bump and smooth patch, but her stomach barely noticed the vibration. She followed one spring steel bone all the way from just under her breasts to the seam above her hip. From there the straps from the garter belt disappeared under the lace of her knickers, pulling them away from her skin when she wasn’t standing straight.

Her hand kept going, fingering the welts of the silk stockings, and rubbing over the taut fabric. She finally realised what people meant when they said silky. How could anyone ever go back to nylon again?

Holly tried to shift her weight to adjust which part of her legs pressed into the sides of the chair, but the stiffness of the corset made that difficult. She rubbed the inside of one thigh, in that brief patch of exposed flesh, and began to wish she could bring her knees together. She nudged a garter strap, and then without meaning to a finger brushed against the central seam of her panties.

The suddenness of the thrill was not expected. She’d never been so tightly wound, and the experience of her newly-shaved pubis being touched through the thin lace…Holly glanced up at the shadows moving about behind her and knew she shouldn’t take the risk, but she thought she could get away with it if she was careful.

With her left hand she began to fuss with her hair, preening idly to make herself look busy. Her right hand dove under the hem of the lacy pants and began to rub wide circles. The feeling was pure heaven, and she resolved to keep herself bare once she got away. She felt her juices begin to leak, and slid a finger down to try and stop them.

With that it was all over. She hooked her middle and ring fingers up and pressed in against herself. She chewed on her lip again, eyebrows knitting in concentration, and her breathing quickened to a pace that made her feel light-headed as her chest swelled up dramatically against the cups of the corset. She was making excellent progress toward her goal when she was snapped back to the present by the whooshing zip sound of a riding crop swinging trough the air just in front of her face.

Holly started, ripping her sopping hand out of her pants. Her other hand, she now realised, had two fingers hooked through the ring on the front of her collar, and she had been pulling on it in response to the surges of her exploration. Her sudden yell would have summoned the staff, had the hotel still been in operation.

Victor laid the crop across Holly’s lap, and grabbed her rubbing arm by the wrist. “Is this the kind of preparation you thought I wanted?” He clicked his tongue with disapproval. “Now kitten, let’s get you cleaned up and ready for your fucking.”

Holly resisted more out of confusion than anything else as Victor drew her wet fingers to her lips. But the smell of the stuff was–oh god it was her but it was sex and it was her sex and she needed sex and he had his hand on the back of her neck and his breath on her ear and she needed sex and he was going to fuck her and she was so ready that she let him guide her fingers in to the second knuckle. When they came out with a wet pop, they were only covered in saliva.

“Good girl.” Victor purred, his nose brushing Holly’s temple. “But if you try that again, I will lock you in a box so dark that touching yourself will be the only thing you can do.”

“I–” Holly stammered, “I…I..”

“So egotistical!” Victor snarled, and then in a sing-song voice he intoned “Yes, Sir!”

He had to shake Holly once before she blurted out “Y-yessir!”

“Thank you for the discipline, Sir!”

“Thank you, sir.” Another shake. “Aa! For–for the discipline. …Sir!”

“Good enough for now. Let’s see if we can keep these fingers out of trouble.” Victor closed the ratchets of a gleaming pair of old-fashioned handcuffs over Holly’s wrists. With one fist he held the chain between them while he unfastened her ankles with the other. He then helped her to her feet, and she took a few steps to loosen her leg muscles enough to walk where he led. Dragging her arms out in front of her, so that she bent forward a little as she walked, he pulled her toward the high four-poster bed.

Holly could tell before they got close that the sheets were every bit as luxurious as her stockings. The thought of just curling up in the satiny folds to sleep was every bit as appealing as her promised sex. She did her best to keep from stumbling in the heels, but her knees threatened to fold beneath her.

“Is this what you had in mind?” Victor did not wait for her appraisal of the bed, spinning her around to press her back against one of the posts. From the drapery he fished out a length of chain that dangled from the cross-beam above, and fitted it to the ring in her slender collar with a small padlock. While he stepped away to wheel a room service cart closer to the bed, Holly reached up and gave her tether an experimental tug.

Victor pulled a dangling length of chain off the cart handle and wrapped it around Holly’s nipped waist, joining it in a circle with a padlock that included the chain between the handcuffs. Holly experimented carefully, discovering that the chain gave her enough slack to reach up to her chest but not her throat, and down far enough to cover her mound but not actually touch her clitoris.

After a minute or two of squirming, grunting, and rattling chains, she looked up to find Victor grinning at her. Swallowing hard against the gentle tension of the collar, Holly blushed and looked at the ground. Her hands shifted back down to cover the view of her shaven pelvis, and she clenched her teeth. Something about the way he watched her struggle felt electric, as though he knew something inside her was growing into the experience.

After a moment avoiding his gaze, Victor stepped forward.

“There now,” he whispered, “a proper bed for my little kitten…” His nose was again almost close enough to brush Holly’s, and his breath made her skin tingle where it puffed gently over. Even bound in steel with her stomach cinched tight, the delicacy and attention made her eyes lose focus and her head wash over with warmth. She was, at that moment, enchanted.

“Good, keep your breathing regular…” Victor cooed into her ear, “Don’t rely on deep breaths, but make the shallow ones last. In slowly… out slowly… and a little more out before the next… Good girl.”

He pulled his head back and looked down into Holly’s eyes. She looked up at him, her lips parted now, radiating expectation and vulnerability the way an iron radiates heat. The spell continued.

“Now, my little kitten…” Victor reached up and traced Holly’s collarbone and shoulders with the barest touch of his fingertips. “You asked me for something, downstairs. You asked me to take you to a real bed, and…” He paused, letting his eyelids droop slightly, and then he tilted his head down and sideways, bringing his mouth closer again to hers. Holly pursed her lips slightly in anticipation of the kiss, but he kept moving, bringing his cheek parallel to her own and whispering straight in her ear.

“…fuck you.” Holly bit her lower lip, feeling as though talking about it too much could change her mind. How much longer could she wait? Was it because she wanted to leave, or because she wanted…him?

“I am prepared to grant your wish, kitten.” His voice was honey and rustling silk, keeping the spell alive. “I would be honoured to provide this to a loyal disciple, and I think you are ready to show me that that is what you are.”



The cups of the corset unlaced and folded down like iris petals, leaving Holly’s nipples erect in the chilly air of the vast bedroom. Her instinct to cover herself took over, but the handcuff chain around her waist only permitted her fingertips to reach. This quickly felt like she was playing with herself, so she dropped her hands down between her hips again in defeat.

Victor lifted the metal cover from the platter on the room service cart, revealing a spread of surgical instruments: scalpels, needles, forceps, and even a hacksaw gleamed with stainless steel menace. Holly caught her breath for a moment, but Victor put his hand on her throat, thumb and fingers pressing against the tendons behind her jaw, and turned her to look him in the eyes.

“You’re in the cave.” A pause, and then he shook her head. “Say it! You’re in the cave!”

Holly swallowed hard against the pressure of the metal collar and her captor’s grasp. “I’m in the cave…”

“You’re bound, and you’re helpless.” A meaningful look was all that was required now.

“I’m b-bound, and helpless.”

“You’re led deeper into the darkness, but you don’t try to get away. Why?”

Holly paused for a moment, unsure if she was meant to repeat the words or answer the question.

“You allow yourself to be led into the darkness because the ropes arouse your womanhood. Straining against their intimate pressure woke a part of you that is willing to be present and enjoy all of your sensations.”

“Wha? I–” Holly blustered as if to protest, but he took his hand off her neck and grabbed a breast, rolling the nipple between thumb and forefinger.

“Oh no, my lusty kitten. Don’t spoil this by lying to me.” He squeezed, gently at first, and then firmer and flatter as he spoke. “You are bound and helpless, descending into the darkness. But you are not alone. I bind you and control you, leading you through the deep.”

Holly tried to control her breathing as the attention to her breast grew harder to ignore, but she wasn’t able to keep in the little squeals and yelps and gasps. Her face burned as she knew how it sounded, but soon she wailed in pain and looked down to see what he’d done.

As she panted as if from exertion, she saw that Victor had clamped one of the metal forceps over her nipple. The rubber pads inside were gone, but her nipple was squashed flat vertically and the steel ring stretched the skin taut. It wasn’t until she saw the metal scissor-handles dangling before her that she finally let the fear and pain wash out in a wailing rush of tears.

“Good, good. That’s it, kitten. A sudden peak of sensation, and then release.” He leaned forward and kissed a tear off of Holly’s cheek. Standing upright, he licked his lips to savour the salt. “Mmmm, yes. The first of many to come, tonight. I have, after all, yet to fulfill my promise to you, kitten.”

“Puh-le-he-heeeeease!” Holly sobbed, her ragged breaths echoing inside the steel boned cincher, pounding back at her from all sides. Her fingers groped for the dangling handles of the forceps, clumsily clutching to release the catch and free her tormented nipple.

She stopped short when Victor began rubbing the metal tip of another steel clamp against her slit.

“If you don’t like it, we can always move it to more sensitive areas…”

Holly froze, letting go of the forceps. She kept her fingers splayed open in surrender, not letting herself blink.

“Perhaps I’ll put this other one down here,” Victor lazily rubbed it up between her legs, eliciting a squirm as it mashed against her clitoris. “Or perhaps if you’re a good girl, and clean it off, and beg for me, I’ll just put it on the other nipple.”

“Oh please no! Please, just fuck me Victor! Just–Ow!” Victor twisted her unadorned nipple with his free hand while he wrenched the stem of the forceps up against her clit.

“Call me Sir when you beg, kitten!”

“S-sir! Sir! Sorry, sir! Sir! Please! Sir! Please!” Holly was babbling now, and as Victor barked corrections into her ear she burbled out a breathless litany of pleas. “Clamp my tit and fuck me! Sir! Please Sir! Fuck my tits! Sir! Sir, my tit, clamp! Aa! Fuckme! Fuckmyclamp…”

When the steel closed over her nipple, she let out a wail and then threw her head back against the bedpost, hissing through clenched teeth and then melting into sighs of relief from exertion. Her eyes focused on a point far beyond the wall she stared at, and her arms hung limp against their chains.

When her breathing had slowed enough that she could swallow again, she closed her eyes and straightened up again to restore some slack to the collar chain.

“Please, Sir…” she croaked.

“Yes, kitten?”

“Why? Why won’t you just…” Holly swallowed once more and took a breath in through her nose that seemed to put a damper on the panting. “…do it?”

Victor reached forward and gently took Holly’s hand in his, stroking her cheek with the other. Slowly, he bent forward and pressed his lips to hers, and all the suffering and exhaustion melted into a kiss that deepened steadily. He pressed his body into hers, pushing her against the bedpost, driving his knee between hers, exploring her teeth with his tongue.

When at last he broke off the kiss, Victor pressed his forehead and nose against Holly’s and gave a satisfied sigh.

“Ah, my little kitten,” he murmured, unrolling a clear plastic bag over her her head, “You breathe too much.”



Holly’s composure shattered as the crinkling plastic enveloped her head. The material clung to her lips and nostrils as she gasped fruitlessly for air, only managing to pull the bag deeper into her mouth. Her only relief was for the brief moments when she exhaled what weak pressure she’d retained, blowing a gap through which she could take in a short breath before the suction closed off her air supply once more.

This one plastic bag left her more helpless and panicked than anything else Victor had done to her in her captivity. Her chest burned for air and her throat strained as she fought desperately to breathe. She could no longer plead or beg. Her fingers scrabbled wildly in the air between her clamped breasts to try in vain to pull the plastic from her mouth. There was absolutely nothing to be done, and no way she could endure it any longer.

“Shhh, kitten, my pet…” Victor hummed into Holly’s ear, and slipped one finger between her legs, rocking it back and forth against her labia. “Pride suffocates you! If you are to become my disciple, you must remember my teachings even in moments of your greatest distress.”

Holly’s eyes bulged, darkness creeping to the edges of her vision, the world outside the bag feeling like another planet. Even Victor’s voice sounded far away through the plastic at her ears.

“If nothing else, kitten, what have I taught you about breathing?” He reached up and slipped his free hand under the bag and pulled it gently away from her chin.

The result was a sound so loud and inhuman that at first Holly thought it was a seal’s bark or the beams of the roof caving in. It was only after her third rasping gulp that she realised it was her own body sucking in air. Victor held the way open and the return of oxygen slowly brought clarity back to her vision and control back to her body.

“Good girl, get your rhythm back. There, even and shallow… We’ll try again.”

“No please, I–” Holly stopped short as the plastic fell back to her mouth and nose, knowing that she could not bear going through that again. Instead, she focused on the breathing exercise, seeping air through the crack between face and bag. Never taking a breath that was too greedy, and keeping herself calm and centered. She was just as helpless as before, but at least now she wasn’t desperate.

“A reed before the wind lives on, while mighty oaks do fall.” Victor recited. “Remember this lesson well. As my disciple, you will regularly be put into situations where resistance will bring you harm, and submission will bring enlightenment.”

He fell silent for a while, just working his fingers up against Holly’s clitoris while she stood as still as she could to avoid shaking the plastic too close to her mouth. All she heard was the hissing of her own breath echoing around her head, and the crinkling response of the bag as it subtly expanded and contracted around her. She thought on what Victor had just said, and decided to let the sounds guide the rhythms of her breathing. Victor’s own fingers seemed to already be following the pulse of the bag.

“And of course, it seems the lack of air has…” he crooked his finger into Holly suddenly, reaching up into her vagina and pressing hard. “…made you desperate for something else as well.”

Holly swallowed, doing her best not to pant with surprise and arousal. He was inside her now, even if only with his fingers. She wanted to moan, to buck, to ride him to climax, but the bag punished her every gasp or shift by grabbing hold of her lips and threatening to not let go.

She was focusing so intently on keeping control, that by the time she felt his fingers in her mouth she hadn’t yet realised that he’d taken them out of her and pulled the bag up over her nose. She sucked hungrily, cleaning them but also enjoying the fresh air between swallows, free for the drinking in. The rush of oxygen made her feel as if weights had been removed from her body.

“The look in your eyes right now is gorgeous, you know. Rapturous, alive…” He pulled his fingers from her mouth again, satisfied that she’d licked all of her juices from them. She swallowed and cast her eyes to the floor, embarrassed but still grinning from the compliment and the rush of arousal.

“All beauty,” Victor reached to the tray and picked up what turned out to be the old fishing knife, “comes from suffering.” He twirled the blade, running the flat of it over Holly’s breasts, tracing light whorls and loops with the tip, never breaking skin. He flipped it from hand to hand so quickly that Holly lost track of it with her eyes, shock and surprise bringing the fear back into the pit of her stomach.

Victor flipped the knife back in his fist and used the remaining fingers to pick up some cotton buds from the tray, and wet them with a bottle of some topical disinfectant. He then reached up and began to swab Holly’s nipples around the clamps liberally, leaving an acrid mustard-coloured stain around her areolae.

“Oh no!” Holly sobbed, “No, please. Please, Sir. I’ll–I’ll be good. I promise. Please don’t! Please, please Sir! Please do–”

Victor reached up and pulled the bag down over Holly’s mouth again, “Hush now, kitten. You know this knife is your friend. You used it to gut the fish, and then to free yourself from the cave. If you wish to become my disciple, then you must let it lead you from darkness.”

Holly stuttered against the bag, puffing the plastic away from her lips with irregular bursts, while a high keening sound came through her nose. Victor ignored her and tucked the handle of the knife into the top of her corset, letting the sharp blade stick up between her breasts. Then he reached over to the tray and picked up more objects.

“Do you see these?” He held two needles up for Holly to see, and she nodded slightly. “These will mark you as my disciple. One through each nipple, through the holes in the forceps. Your suffering will bring about beauty you can be proud of, kitten.”

Holly shook her head, not caring how risky it was. Her exhalations were little pleas of “Puh!” “Puh!” “Puh!”, and the keening grew louder. Victor raised the plastic over her mouth again, and she gasped for air, incoherently begging him not to do it.

“Oh don’t worry, kitten. I won’t.” He pulled the bag down again and stretched a rubber band down over her head to snap around her neck and seal it to her, and then placed one of the needles in her hands.

“You will.”

Holly felt the bag leave her skin almost entirely as she exhaled this time, but her next breath in brought the plastic tight around her whole head. She shook and twisted, but it did not come off. She held her stale breath for as long as she could, and then inflated the clear balloon until it fogged.

“Noooo!” Holly howled, throwing the needle to the ground. “Air! Pleeeeease!”

Victor shook his head and placed another needle in her hands. “Do you know what makes someone a serial killer?” He pulled the knife from her corset and began playing with the blade against the skin of her thighs, stopping her from squirming quite suddenly.

Holly felt her vision begin to dim again, stars competing with darkness before her. How foolish was it to resist him? She was captured in an abandoned mountain hotel, bound in steel and completely at his mercy. There was only one way out.

“A serial killer kills people one after the other.” Victor held up the knife and admired the blade.

“But you,” he went on, marvelling at the idea, “you’d be my first.”

Sucking in the bag of spent air again and pulling the plastic into a tight hood once more, she reached up with her fingers, found the hole in the clamp, and pushed the needle through. New pain shot through, adding to her collection.

The moment the needle came out the other side, Victor reached up and grabbed her by the throat. With his other hand he raised the knife high over his head and plunged it down into hers.

Time stopped. Holly had precious few seconds of air, but the ordeal had already felt like it was never-ending. Now the ticks of the second hand between raising and thrusting the knife each took an hour.

Holly saw the knife withdraw, and Victor’s arm lower, and heard the horrible croaking death rattle. It was a rasping barking sound, like a seal or…

She was on her third laboured breath before she realised that Victor had merely punched a slit in the bag just in front of her mouth. It was not enough to breathe freely, and it still inflated when she exhaled, but it was enough to take in good fresh air once she’d sucked it back to her lips.

Victor watched to make sure she was recovering, and then opened a sterile packet containing surgical steel barbell jewelry and threaded it through after the needle, cleaning up the site as he did so. Then he picked up another needle and placed it in Holly’s hands.

Holly glared at him through the bag. The relief of being still alive, of breathing air again, however laboured, was wearing off. Now she was just furious at him for this little game. But for all the fire in her eyes, some of it was a different kind of strength. She knew she could do this, now. She knew she could just poke the needle in, get through the pain, and come out passing his test. He couldn’t scare her twice with that serial killer routine.

Reaching up, she grabbed the forceps handle in one hand and brought the needle to the hole in the clamp with the other. Sucking good air in after bad, she held her breath and tightened her grip, and…exhaled, unable. The needle lowered.

She tried again, but couldn’t. Her eyes dropped away again, unable to look at Victor as she failed once more.

“I know, pet.” Victor kneaded her shoulder reassuringly, “The second one is harder, isn’t it?”

She looked up at him, looked into his eyes, crinkling and hissing like a leaky piston. She searched for pity, for mercy.

“You need help to obey this command, don’t you? Something to take away the burden of choice. You can do it if you must, but freedom makes a weakling of you.” Victor cupped her cheek for a moment while she inhaled, and then held the back of her head with both hands while she inflated the bag once more.

“Don’t worry, kitten. That is why you are becoming my disciple. Under my discipline, you will be strong.” Victor waited until she inhaled again. “Now, with this kiss, take my strength.”

He bent forward and turned his head, placing his lips over Holly’s and plunging his tongue through the gap in the bag, stretching it wider. He breathed calmly through his nose, but Holly’s was now trapped inside, sealed off in the clear hood. Victor’s tongue was drawn in with the force, and he made use of that to probe deeply.

It did not take long for Holly to suffocate enough to drive the other point through. But Victor did not see, and he stayed locked onto her lips until she reached forward and grabbed his belt. He broke off, eyes ablaze, and tended to the piercing as he had the other.

After the needles were in the sharps container and all fluids had been cleaned up and sites sterilised, he grabbed Holly by the head and laughed with manic glee.

“Good girl!” He cried out, “And now, it’s time for your reward!”

Reaching up, he unhooked the collar’s chain from the top of the bedpost, and dragged holly around to the side of the bed. He picked her up bodily by the waist and threw her onto her back in the middle.

Victor tore off his clothes, and rolled a glistening black condom over his erection. Satisfied of the fit, he leapt atop the mattress on his feet, and pounced onto her. He growled low and soft, tracing his nose over her skin and exploring her flesh with his tongue.

“ffffft Please sir! puuuuuuuuh…ffffft Take off the bag please!”

Victor clamped a hand over Holly’s mouth. “No more requests! It’s time!”

He aimed true, and slid himself in, working slowly as he had done with his fingers before. Holly gasped and worked her hands in and out of fists as he pumped. Soon she realised he was timing his thrusts to get a certain number in each time she took a breath through the hole in the bag.

As her breath quickened, of course, it became more difficult. But likewise he increased his pace, bringing her closer and closer to the edge. Holly tried to buck her hips and increase the pace but between the corset and the way he had her pinned it was useless. She heard the involuntary wails come from her throat before she felt the coming wave.

Just as orgasm approached, Victor reached up and released the catches on the forceps, sending them clattering to the bed. The surge of pain as the blood returned to her nipples was worse than the piercing had been. Yet through the throbbing, the sore chest, the light head and the squashed stomach, Holly came long and loud.