The soft lighting up against the vaulted ceiling made the dungeon look cosy. Quiet music could be heard whenever the whips and floggers paused or were put down. Someone in the room moaned and gasped.
Dan adjusted his elegant black stetson and smiled in the general direction of the moaning sound. He wore a black button down shirt with dark red and blue flowers on it, and he seemed content to be just standing at the bar with a drink.
Anton was almost two feet taller than Dan and was dressed in a plain white shirt that stretched too tightly across his chest, and jaunty purple striped slacks with matching suspenders. He seemed to be looking around the room, as if he was nervous for someone to arrive. "What time is it?" He asked Dan.
Dan produced a shiny silver pocketwatch and flipped it open. "Quarter past." He patted Anton on the muscular arm. "Don't sweat it."
Anton hung his head and stared into his drink. "I know, I know…"
Khalid came swaggering over from the other side of the dungeon in his tan suit. His dark green bow tie hung undone around his neck and he was smiling as he carelessly carried a bag with a number of coils of rope visible inside it. "My dudes!" He greeted them. "What's happening?"
Dan tipped his hat. "We're just waiting."
Khalid laid the bag on a chair and reached over the bar to pour himself a glass of water. "For?"
"Octavia…" Anton inhaled deeply and looked around the room again.
Khalid gently shook his head. "A lady worth waiting for. Mind if I join you?"
"She's amazing, isn't she?" Dan gave Khalid a smile.
Khalid twirled the tip of his moustache. "Tell me something, Dan."
Dan perked up and blinked at him with his big, brown eyes.
"When she took your hat and dropped you in front of everyone, was that rehearsed in any way? Was it a hypnotic trigger?"
Dan bowed his head and sighed. "No. That's just how well she knows how to handle me."
"Impressive…" Khalid sipped his water. "Do you know if she's going to give more classes?"
His question hung unanswered in the air, because Anton jumped for a second, and then tried to compose himself quickly. "There is she is!"
All three men turned to look towards the entrance, where a lady in a floorlength deep turquoise gown had appeared. She paused there for a second to take in the room, and then strode in a straight line towards them. Frozen like a deer in headlights, Anton wiped some sweat off his brow, while Khalid and Dan followed her with their eyes in a more calm manner.
Dan closed his eyes for a moment and bowed his head. "Good evening, My Lady."
Octavia held out her hand to him, and he gratefully leaned in to kiss it. She looked at Anton and Khalid in turn as she folded her hands together. "Gentlemen. How is the party?"
Anton smiled as he stared into her eyes. "Better now…"
She grinned at him. "Patience, big man. Patience."
"Can I pick your brain about something, Octavia?" Khalid asked as he put down his glass. "If you're not busy?"
"I have time." She smiled at Anton.
He swallowed and folded his massive hands behind his back, as if standing to attention.
She turned to Dan. "I'd like a glass of water."
Dan trotted off behind the bar to pour her a glass of water and bring it to her.
"What's on your mind, Khalid?" Octavia asked as she sipped her water.
"Hypnosis seems like such a complicated process when you first learn it." His eyes examined Dan and Octavia in turn. "I feel like I've only just scratched the surface, but all the ways to hypnotise a person seem to take a lot of time and effort. Yet you make it look so quick and easy. So how does that work?"
Octavia shook her head. "When I started out as a hypnotist, I started with the Elman induction, just like you. And the progressive relaxation induction. They are as good a place to start as any." She drained the glass of water and held it out in front of her.
Dan took the glass from her and brought it back to the sink behind the bar. As he returned to his place by her side, Anton and Khalid were both staring at him.
"That was not hypnosis, was it?" Octavia smiled mysteriously. "Nor did I tell him what to do, did I?"
Khalid frowned. "No. But what does that have to do with it?"
Octavia held up one finger, as if she was asking him to wait. She turned to Dan and took the hat off his head. Dan's eyes sparkled with anticipation, as Octavia handed the hat to Anton. "Can you hold onto this for a second?"
Anton nodded silently and carefully took the hat into his hands. His eyes were wide and there was a sheen of sweat on his shaved head.
Khalid and Anton both gasped when Octavia grasped Dan by the hair on the back of his head. Dan's arms hung limp at his sides as his eyes and mouth opened. She pulled his head back and up slightly until his legs were trembling. "Pay attention, love. Focus on me. Focus. And freeze now." She let go of him, gently laying her hands on his shoulders. The trembling stopped. The eyes remained open but the mouth closed. Dan stood there, motionless and frozen in place.
Octavia turned to Khalid with a smile. "Just like with the glass, I never told him what to do, nor did I prepare this. He just knows me. He knows what I like to do with him. He infers from the context what is expected of him, and he obeys to the best of his abilities, because I have never given him a reason not to obey me, and I have always rewarded him for his obedience."
Khalid nodded slowly, awestruck.
Anton stepped closer and waved the hat in front of Dan's glassy blank eyes. No reaction. "Fffuck…" He shot Octavia a look full of amazement.
She held his gaze for a moment. "I'm not saying I can do this to you immediately. Dan is a very experienced sub. But many things are possible."
Anton swallowed and slunk backward against the bar.
As Khalid opened his mouth to speak, Octavia held up one finger again. "Give me just one moment, will you?"
She turned back to Dan and took his face into both her hands. "Look at me, love. Focus on me. Come back. You did so well."
A shiver ran through Dan and he closed his eyes, resting his chin in Octavia's hands. "Thank you, My Lady."
She ran her fingers through his beard for a second and then stepped back to give him more space. "Maybe you should have a glass of water."
Dan nodded and went around the bar to pour himself some water.
Octavia turned back to Khalid. "As I said, Dan is very experienced. If he feels like I am asking him to go into a hypnotic trance, he will. He has done it many times, so he knows how it works. No fancy words necessary. Clear intention is enough."
Khalid seemed to be thinking. "But if that's true, then why learn hypnotic techniques at all? Why not focus on communicating that intention more directly instead of by asking them to open and close their eyes and say convoluted Ericksonian shit to them?"
Octavia smiled and turned her head to Dan. "Give me your watch for a moment."
Dan gulped down the glass of water and hurried over to hand her his shiny, silver pocketwatch. She thanked him and he quietly stood at her side, waiting.
Octavia took the chain in her hand and let the watch dangle down as she lifted her arm up into the air. "Indulge me for a moment, Anton."
The big man's shoulders tensed visibly under his shirt and suspenders. "Me?"
"Yes. If you will. Just look at the watch." She swung it back and forth in front of his face and he apprehensively followed it with his eyes. In silence. Octavia didn't say another word, and after a few moments, pearly drops of sweat rolled down Anton's face. He awkwardly loomed towards the watch, being much taller than Octavia, and desperately tried to follow it with his eyes, but it swung too fast for him, it seemed.
"I'm sorry... " He cringed and hung his head. "I don't think it's working."
She patted him on the arm. "Of course it isn't. You don't know what to do. And I didn't tell you. I didn't use any of the hypnotic techniques or gave you any instructions to follow. I only communicated my intent to hypnotise." With a grin, she pointed with her thumb at Dan, who was swaying on his feet, his eyes focused on the watch, just as blankly as when he was frozen.
Khalid started to slowly clap his hands. "Bravo. Bravo, my lady."
She shook her head at him as she lowered the watch. "You don't get to call me that." And then she took the hat from Anton and tenderly placed it back on Dan's head. "Thank you, love. You did so well."
Dan snapped back to reality and after a moment of confusion, he nodded at her with a smile. She gave him back his watch, which he put into his pocket.
Anton let out a long sigh of relief and wiped his forehead.
"My apologies…" Khalid mumbled.
"It's quite alright. I can see how it can be tempting to use the same words as someone else is using. But these are not just words." Octavia crossed her arms.
Khalid nodded and lowered his eyes. "No, I get it. I didn't mean to overstep."
"The same goes for you, big man." Octavia said to Anton. "I am not your lady. I'm just a friendly hypnoDom showing you a good time."
Anton nodded and stood to attention again. "I understand."
Khalid seemed to think for a moment. "So, if I understand you correctly, Octavia, the hypnotic techniques exist for both the hypnotist and the subject, to help them both complete the process. And once both are sufficiently experienced, they can be dispensed with?"
"Not dispensed with," Octavia explained. "They exist because they work. These are proven methods you can use to induce hypnotic trance and create hypnotic effects, even if you are inexperienced at hypnosis. When Dan and I are together, sometimes I will use something technical, because it is the most appropriate method for that situation. It's just that the showy stuff doesn't actually require much skill."
She walked up to Khalid, who was still looking thoughtful, and laid her hand on his shoulder. "There are no shortcuts. But once you find someone you love to practice with, it becomes less of a chore. With regular practice, it takes only a few months to become good. Just like with rope. Mind you, that goes for both partners."
He nodded. "That makes sense."
"Perhaps Dan would like to practice with you and give you some pointers?" Octavia turned to look at Dan.
He blinked for a moment. "I mean, if Khalid would like that, then yes."
Khalid walked up to Dan. "Do you think you could pay attention to the moments when I trip up and help me correct it?"
Dan nodded. "Yes. No problem."
The two men started to chat about hypnosis things they could try together, and Octavia stepped up to Anton and touched his chest.
"It's time, big man." She smiled at him and beckoned him with a small movement of her head.
Anton swallowed again and touched her hand. "Octavia… What if I can't do this?" He hung his head. "What if I'm not smart enough? What if I'm just too ADHD to go into trance? What if I'm just too nervous?"
Her hand reached up to touch his chin and make him look her in the eye. "Do you trust me? Do you want me to hypnotise you?"
A sigh. "Yes, please, Octavia."
"Then I will make sure that we will succeed. I will find ways to help you go into trance for me. I will give you all the instructions. All you need to do is follow me." With a smile, she took his hand and led him away from the bar.
Anton looked back at the other two as she led him away, and they both gave him looks of approbation. It seemed to settle his nerves and he followed Octavia out of the room, grinning with anticipation.