"I'M GETTING COLD," SWIRL complained. It was becoming monotonous, standing along the side of the ice, watching H'raak rape Noah. It seemed like both of them were well past the point of feeling anything. They were just going through the motions, and she was starting to get the goose bumps she hated.
"Perhaps," the Keeper said, "it's time for a break. Unless, of course, you would like to do something to warm yourself up?"
"Maybe." She took one of the blade guards and slapped it across Noah's shoulders a couple of times. But he was beyond responding. He had drifted into a daydream, safely sheltered from the pain. Soon, he thought, very soon, it would be over. Each thrust from the Keeper seemed as if it was working its way inward, battering more, crushing more. Who was it he had read about, Dracula, Vlad the Impaler? That was what was happening to him. Eventually something vital would be damaged beyond repair, and he would be released at last.
"He's useless," Swirl grumbled, giving him a couple more swats, each hard enough to raise a nasty looking welt, but there wasn't even a groan to acknowledge them.
"Yes, my dear," H'raak replied. "There is a limit to everything. We need to let him recover. Briefly. I believe there are refreshments available out in the lobby. Hot cocoa, perhaps?"
"That sounds really good. Can we get anything for you?" She added, pulling Noah's head up by the hair, but he did not respond. "Oh well, I guess not. Don't go anywhere. We'll be back."
Of course, his elbows and knees were still laced together underneath the bench, but for good measure H'raak took the free end of the string that was wrapped around his balls, the end that Swirl had been tugging every once in a while, just to get his attention, and looped it around his neck, tightening it so that he could not raise his head up without ripping off his testicles.
"Do you really think that is necessary?" Swirl tugged on Noah's hair to see how tightly everything was bound together.
"One can never be too careful."
"I don't know. Maybe we should stop?" Swirl was worried. This little game was getting away from her. It seemed like it had taken forever for H'raak to worm his way into Noah, not that there had been any attempt at resistance, but the Keeper was so enormous. That much she had observed without any particular sympathy. She still remembered that session when she had been bound side by side with her sister, head to toe so they could see what was happening to the other one, mirrors everywhere so that they could see what was happening to themselves, their mouths gagged open, and H'raak taking a little systematic tour, hole to hole, as if they were some sort of golf course. How many strokes at her butt? Took a ten there, let's try Sarah's mouth while we're right there -- oops, three butted that one, back to Swirl's proper orifice for a couple of thrusts just to be polite, and then over to the other end of the room to repeat the whole thing, over and over again. The monster! And now, once he was inside Noah, it was the same thing, just a relentless, methodical pounding. If H'raak was deriving any pleasure at all from it, it was not apparent. Noah had actually come a couple times, in the beginning, but he was long past that now.
"Maybe you should stop," she repeated, "before it's too late."
"I am not accustomed to stopping," H'raak snorted, "while they are still alive."
"If you kill him," Swirl began.
"We kill him," H'raak corrected.
"If we kill him," she conceded, "we are never getting out of here. We need him to get me pregnant, remember? Besides," she added chillingly, "why use him all up on the first day?"
"Excellent points, my dear, very well put indeed. Very admirable. You are the first woman I have met, since my dear mother passed away, who truly seems to understand things."
"Not Karen?" She was asking as they passed through the doors. Noah was cut off from the reply as the other two exited into the lobby.
He had thought that nothing could be worse than having H'raak ram into him mercilessly while Swirl taunted him, flogging him occasionally, yanking that damn shoe lace tighter and tighter around his testicles. "You're not going to be able to get pregnant by me, if you keep doing that" he had warned her, at one point, and she had backed off, a little, enough that the blood had flowed back into his balls, awakening them with a tingling pain that was sharper than anything else either she or H'raak had been able to inflict. Nothing could be worse. But kneeling alone at the edge of the ice rink, shivering, gradually growing colder and colder, bound, unable to move, that was worse, worse by far. Die, he thought, I'm going to die now. He was ready for it, more than ready. It was going to happen soon, but not soon enough.
How had he wound up in this position? Not this one specifically. Some remnant of reason assured him that eventually, not soon enough, but eventually, they would release him. But Swirl could intimidate H'raak with her powers. H'raak could overwhelm him with sheer size and strength. He was low man on the totem pole, bottom of the food chain Rock smashes scissors. Scissors cut paper. Paper covers rock. He remembered the choosing game from his childhood. Okay, he had some advantage over Swirl. What was it?
I'm smarter, he thought ruefully. Yeah, he certainly seemed a lot smarter, trussed up, asshole a bloody wound for all he knew, slowly, too slowly, freezing to death. Perhaps, now that she had evened things up, they would go back to being friends? Maybe. More than likely, not. Stay awake. But he was so tired, so very tired. Dimly, he heard the two of them laughing out in the lobby. He had been shivering, but now he lacked even the strength to do that. He didn't feel cold any longer. A strange, comforting warmth was engulfing him. He was slipping away, he realized with a numb sense of relief. His body was releasing him from any further torment. Another near miss, some part of him was thinking. This time he had found his love, he had married her, but how brief, how bitter, that marriage had been. Time to try again. He did not notice when the end came.
He awoke, and the pain was gone, the cold was gone. It took him a while to realize that his body was still intact. He remembered all too well his wife's descriptions of her interment in hell. She had been tormented by her phantom self, unable to scratch limbs that no longer existed, unable to purge a bladder that was only a memory. But he was sure he could feel his heart beating. He could not move his limbs, he could not even open his eyelids, explore his mouth with his tongue, or wiggle his fingers. Intensive care. He had seen Sarah once like this, floating in stasis, paralyzed, tubes running into her through every orifice. I'm not supposed to be conscious. He was floating, suspended in zero gravity, limbs spread apart and tethered to keep him in place. There was an extra cord, he sensed dimly, attached to the center of his body, but he could not reach down to investigate it.
Noah. There was a voice in his head. He was just talking to himself. He was going insane, on top of everything else. Noah, the voice repeated, it's Swirl. She was talking to him, mechanical soul to mechanical soul.
Where am I? Where are you?
In the black hole. On the platform. In the hospital. Next to you.
Next to me? With immense effort, his eyes opened, but he could not look around. His head was tethered also. He was wearing some kind of necklace or collar, like a suppressor, except that it seemed to have rings in it that allowed it to be anchored. Right or left? Not that it made any difference.
Behind you. I've got a great view of your butt.
The walls of the isolation chamber were slightly reflective, and he realized that he could see a dim image of her straight ahead of him. She was floating, anchored the same way he must be, wrists and ankles, one attached mysteriously to her groin, and three into a collar to keep her neck immobile. Each opening of her body seemed to be penetrated by a tube. His own must be violated in the same way. Almost, he was beginning to feel them. A sudden panic tried to grip him, but his body would not react. His heartbeat remained slow, calm and steady, even as he tried to scream.
It's okay, she assured him. Don't worry.
What are we doing here?
H'raak got impatient. He decided to fix us up fast. Noah, you've got to help me. She's asleep, but she's going to wake up soon.
Noah, don't fuck me, don't get me pregnant. If she gains powers…
She? Who is she?
No one. The answer was chilling. Even though he could not move a muscle, he could feel his neck tingling, he could feel the hair on his back standing up on end. Nightmare. It was the nightmare, the full moon, the deep, rippling lake, the abyss. The Great Goddess! Sarah was the Goddess, but Sarah was warmth, love, motherhood, passion. This was what was left, the cold, relentless vacuum that swept all life into its vortex. The evil queen, he remembered, from the cartoon, but that caricature had not captured the overwhelming power of that icy mind.
Swirl! He tried to call aloud, but his voice would not cooperate. He sent his thoughts as hard as he could. Goddess! It was a curse, but there was an immediate, amused reply. Was this truly what he had yearned for, what he had pursued lifetime after lifetime? Was this what truly lay beneath that unattainable beauty?
Not what you expected? She was laughing at him, laughing as she devoured him.
Kali, she was Kali!
I have many names, the answer came. Come, my husband, let us give birth to a race of gods. You are the King of the Wood. You are Shiva.
No, he thought, I have no powers. I can't even light a cigarette.
There was a dim humming in the distance, almost a scolding sound. A monitor had analyzed his brain waves; it had determined that he was not just dreaming. A tube that he had not been aware of was active now. He could feel it, cool against his skin. A drug, it was pouring a drug into his blood, something to put him back to sleep. Swirl! Swirl! He called out with his last thread of consciousness, but there was no answer.
The next time he awoke, he was lying in a soft bed, no tubes, no restraints. He was still wearing the collar, a suppressor, he suspected, not that it made any difference, and thick bands around his wrists and ankles, made of some tough, rubbery substance, each with a little metal ring. But they were no longer attached to anything. His body felt, perfect. No itches, no aches, not even the tiny pangs of digestion. He wasn't hungry, he wasn't horny, he wasn't sleepy. His muscles did not ache from exercise or complain from inactivity. I'm dead, he thought, I must be dead. But as he got out of bed he stubbed a toe. The pain, gushing through his nerves, was almost enough to make him faint. Thank God! God, not Goddess. He was afraid now, of the dark, consuming power that he had sensed. No wonder his ancestors had turned to the sweet hope of salvation, the comfort of the gentle shepherd.
Go now, the thought came to him unbidden, and sin no more. That would be good for about five minutes, he thought ruefully. The wages of sin ... His thoughts returned to the little chapel in the hotel lobby, to the woman mourning for her beloved husband. And he, he had stolen the man's love away from her, or at a minimum at lot of affection. At least, he calculated quickly, a hundred orgasms, three hundred hours of conversation, a thousand laughs, probably an equal number of kisses. Not to mention an amount of money that had kept her and her daughter living shabbily, while he wallowed in obscene luxury. And that was just a fraction of the damage he had done. He had used his beauty for self indulgent evil.
"If it hadn't been you, it would have been someone else." Swirl had entered the room, so quietly he had not heard her. His thoughts had been so loud, she had picked them up.
"Maybe," he sighed.
"You might as well have the money, you might as well have the pleasure." Swirl was repeating the mantra of the Academy, the words that Mary used to justify her life, their lives. "At least," she added, "that's what I've always believed."
"Me too," Noah said. "Have you ever met the family of one of your clients?" He should have been asking how she felt, she should have been asking him the same thing. But this was suddenly more important.
"I did a couple once or twice," she said. "Sometimes guys would bring their sons along."
"That's not what I meant. Ones that didn't know."
"Karen," Swirl said, "well, of course she knew, but her kids didn't. I'm not even sure she did. She knew about Sis, of course. But I'm not sure she ever made the connection with me. You know her kids used to call me Aunt Swirl?"
"They would be older than you now."
"How are you feeling?"
"I'm better," Swirl replied. "Everything is healed up. No scarring, that I can see." She pulled off the little hospital robe that she had been wearing. "See, my boobs are fine, nipple is fine, that one welt Dr. Cass was worried about didn't scar."
"Maybe a little," Noah ran a finger along a place where the skin seemed a bit rougher.
"That will fade," she said.
"What about your back?"
"Take a look," she turned around, so that he could admire the soft smoothness of her skin. "Good as new. How about you?"
"I don't know," he answered. "Everything seems to be okay. What's with these little adornments?" Swirl was sporting a collar also, and the same little ankle and wrist bands.
"Suppressor," Swirl sighed. "H'raak was afraid we might have nightmares or panic attacks, while we were in the isolation chambers."
Nightmare! Surely that had only been a dream, but Noah's hair was standing on end again.
"A safety measure." A deep voice, deceptively apologetic, broke his reverie. H'raak had come to visit them. "This is a confined space, a very fragile environment that sustains us. It would be better to avoid incidents rather than to regret them."
"You think Swirl is going to lose her temper and blow everything up?" Noah asked. She had given up her advantage. Why?
"My dear," H'raak simpered, "that is her destiny. That is what she was born and bred to do. And, eventually, her day of fulfillment may come. But I would prefer to postpone that eventuality for the time being."
"What about these?" Noah held out his wrists to show the rubber cuffs. There was no obvious way to remove them.
"Ah," H'raak said, "the eight rings of submission."
"Eight?" Noah felt the collar. It had three rings attached to it. That and the wrists and ankles made seven. He remembered suddenly how he had seen Swirl tethered by her groin.
"Really?" Swirl laughed, "you haven't noticed it?" She reached under his penis and tugged -- not on his balls, but just above them. There was a piercing there, a little ring to match the ones on his wrists and ankles. Well, he had had an ornament in that spot for a while, a relic of his days as a Wanderer. He had not realized that it had been replaced by something more sinister. "Me too," she added, and she parted the skin between her thighs to reveal a ring, just where her sister had the ankh that marked her as a Wanderer.
"Submission?" Noah echoed. "Like we're slaves?" He had read about such things, although the Order had banned those practices; at least Mary had not condoned them. "That's bullshit. These are medical restraints."
"Ah," H'raak said, "but so convenient for other purposes. So appropriate."
"Appropriate?" Swirl was getting annoyed. "Wouldn't we need to put them voluntarily, for them to have any significance?"
"You assume," H'raak answered, almost purring, "that you have a choice. My friends, my lovely guests, you are missing the point. This is my domain. Small as it is, limited as it may be, it is still my place of power. Absolute," he smiled chillingly, "power."
"That is such pompous bullshit," Swirl fumed. "I should just blast you now and get it over with."
"My dear," H'raak sighed, "first, let me point out that my cooperation, as well that of Noah, is required if you are to gain the powers you so urgently desire."
What? What's going on? The hair on Noah's neck was starting to stand up again.
"That's no reason," Swirl grumbled, "to put up with this crap. Get these stupid cuffs off of me, and this stupid collar."
"Ah, my dear, the collar. I'm afraid that it will have to remain in place, at least for the time being."
What happened next caught Noah completely by surprise. Swirl vanished in a blur, then, almost as quickly, H'raak vanished also. By the time Noah could react, by the time he could think to call up his assassin training, it was over. Swirl was lying on her bed. There were short posts on all four corners, and the rings on her cuffs were hooked into fasteners on each of them.
"That's amazing," Noah said. Swirl might not be as good as Sarah, she certainly wasn't as good as Paula, but she was good, a lot faster than he was. And she had attacked, without warning. There was no way H'raak should have been able to defend. But he didn't even look flustered. Swirl, on the other hand, looked very, very frightened. In addition to being subdued, her cheeks and breasts were bright red from stinging blows that H'raak had delivered, and her nose was bleeding.
"Lie down on your bed," H'raak snarled. It was an order to Noah. "Don't make me force you," the Keeper added. Noah thought about his options. "On your stomach," H'raak added. "Now fasten yourself to the posts."
"Don't do it!" Swirl cried out. There was a sharp slap, and a shriek, followed by some sobbing. That wasn't like Swirl. It took a lot to make her cry. Noah turned his head to see what was going on, and was rewarded by a stunningly hard blow across his buttocks.
"Fasten yourself," H'raak snarled. "Don't look. Each time you disobey, she will be punished. Do you understand?" The Keeper moved away, and there was another shrill shriek from Swirl, followed by tears that were becoming hysterical. "Hurry up!" H'raak snarled again.
"Goddess! No!" Swirl was shrieking, then sobbing. "Do it! Do what he says!"
It was difficult to see how the rings on his cuffs were attached to the poles. There was some sort of clip, but the ring was turning away as he tried to force it in. He used his left hand to attach his right, then, by a lucky flail, got the left hand to snag. But there was no way he was going to get the ankles done. Too late, he realized that he should have done the ankles first, while he had the use of his hands. "Hurry up!" H'raak snarled again, and there was another blow to encourage him.
"I can't do it!" Noah whimpered. Swirl screamed again, and he dared to look over to see what had happened to her. Her breasts were bloody, and two huge rings were straining against her nipples. H'raak must have inserted them, forcing the blunt ends through her flesh. That would explain the first set of screams. But what was happening now was even more terrifying. There was a large hook over her bed, and dangling from it three little elastic cords. One was hooked into each of the new nipple rings, and the third into the ring through her clitoris. The hook was moving upwards, very deliberately, slowly stretching out the cords.
"Stop it!" Noah yelled, and he was rewarded with another sharp slap on his buttocks.
"It will stop," H'raak simpered, "when you have properly obeyed me."
"Goddess! Noah! Hurry up!" Swirl's breasts were pulled up tight now. She was trying to lift herself up off the bed with her pinioned limbs. She could hold that position for a few minutes, but not for long.
"I can't do it!" Noah sobbed, kicking his legs futilely against the posts at the bottom of his bed.
"Would you like me to help you?" H'raak asked, very considerate now.
With deceptive gentleness, the Keeper placed each ankle in its clip. There was another one of those elastic cords at the head of the bed, with a hook at the end of it. A common looking thing, Noah had seen them on the trash cans on the golf course, holding the lids tight against marauding squirrels that had somehow found their way to Eden. But now H'raak took that hook and secured it to one of the rings on Noah's collar, pinning his face to the mattress.
"What are you doing to him?" Swirl asked. Not that she had too much sympathy. The hook had stopped its ascent, it had even slacked off a bit, but it was still at the point where she had to strain upward to keep it from tearing off the rings. But she felt ashamed of how she had lost control, how she had begged Noah to submit. Now she was worried what the consequences were going to be.
"You should be more concerned," H'raak simpered, "about what I am about to do to you."
Noah strained to get his head turned to see what was happening. "Stop that!" H'raak snarled. Instead of a blow this time, he tried to impale the young man with his huge penis. It caught Noah by surprise, he wasn't ready, and the Keeper was thwarted by the inner sphincter. But he didn't want it to work, he wanted it to hurt. A few hard thrusts, enough to make Noah cry out, and he turned his attention back to Swirl.
"What are you going to do?" She whimpered. The muscles in her back were starting to cramp, she was losing her battle to ease the tension on the rings that were tearing at the most delicate parts of her flesh. She fully expected him to fuck her next, and she was sure that his weight would tear the rings right out of her, probably taking her nipples and clit along with them. But instead, he knelt down along the side of the bed. He put some of his weight on the mattress, making it sag beneath her, taking away the last hint of support. It was only her arms and legs, thrust out against the posts that were taking any weight at all off of the rings. She was losing her struggle. Then, miraculously, he lowered the hook, not much, but enough to stave off immediate disaster.
"What are you doing?" She repeated, able to breathe, for the first time in a long time.
The hook rose up again, just a little, so that her breasts were strained almost to the breaking point. And he began to lick them, delicately lapping up the blood, savouring it, squeezing the wounds around each piercing to draw out a little more. He was suckling at her breasts, suckling her blood. And she liked it! Goddess, it was turning her on! She was starting to tremble, and the trembling made the rings tug more, and that was better. She stopped straining up so hard, she fell back so that the rings were tugging even harder, and that was better, it was better.
He had finished with her breasts, he was moving down further, licking where the third ring was inserted, and she began to convulse more wildly.
"Careful, my dearest," H'raak paused to warn her. "You don't want to damage yourself. Karen got a little carried away, one time."
"One time?" Swirl could not help asking.
"Actually, the only time," H'raak replied.
"She tore out the piercing," Swirl exclaimed.
"Yes," H'raak mused. "Let that be a warning."
He began to lick further back, letting her own tugging stimulate her clit and nipples, using his tongue to probe her other sweet spots. She wasn't quite sure when or if she came. There was a flood of sensation that was more intense than an orgasm, but without the release. It just compelled her to want more, need more, to force it to go on forever. Then, abruptly, he stopped. Just like that, he stopped licking, he got off the bed, he released the hook; he even undid her wrists and ankles. She lay on the bed sobbing, not because it had hurt, not because she was still bleeding, a little, not because she had been frightened out of her wits, but because it had stopped. She wanted more, she needed more. She had never felt that way before. Never, a voice whispered within her, in a thousand years. She would, she realized, do anything to feel that way again.