She pulled on her bonds, but to no avail, the ropes held fast, as did the branches to which they were secured. Thick, sturdy branches, rooted deep into the earth.
It was a prayer, a desperate plea to God, to gods, to the mother goddess or any other deity whose power she could beseech. It didn’t have to be like this, others didn’t feel these things, didn’t need these things. Others could enjoy the clear night calmly, cozy between the warmth of a fire and the warmth of a lover. Laughing and cuddling and whispering sweet nothings until returning to their cabin for the night, or else scampering playfully in the moonlight. She struggled anew at the ropes, yet they only dug more harshly into her wrists and ankles, keeping her from her vision.
For a moment, she closed her eyes and allowed herself to dream her wish was granted, the ropes snapped, her limbs returned to her. She was free, free to. . . to what?
She felt his hand caress her face, sweeping away the hair from her forehead and gathering it into his fist. She lifted her chin when he pulled, obeying and yet resisting just enough to feel the tension, to feel his will exerting itself over her.
“Release me,” she gasped again. The tension vanished and in its absence her head snapped back down and her eyes flew open.
The first things he saw was him, a dark figure silhouetted by the fire. His smile, cruel and compassionate, calming her. “Release you? Of course. When you are ready.”
He walked behind her, and she stared into the fire, it’s raging flames echoing her own thoughts.
She heard the crack of the lash well before the pan registered, but when it did she screamed her displeasure, the only form of resistance she could manage while tied in place.
The fire warmed her font as the lash warmed her back until the glow from each side reached her heart. She no longer cried out, absorbing the pain, letting it course through her, rinsing away what it would. Time, agony, no longer existed for her, as she allowed her lover to carry her off, mind drifting away even as her body remained firmly tied.
When she returned then they were side by side, lying next to the fire. Limbs entwined just as she imagined. Warmth of her fire sated by that of her lover, or perhaps stoked into something entirely different.
And though her limbs were free, she was still his, bound by love more securely than any rope.