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 stood at the bar, wearing his usual stetson and black button-down with colourful flowers, smiling at the two ladies with him. Octavia wore a burgundy ballgown reminiscent of Jessica Rabbit, and Artemis was dressed in a perky yellow dress with a Hogwarts logo stitched onto it.
"The mechanic that makes all the weapons disposable really irritates me," Octavia muttered while absentmindedly redoing her long braid. "I want to play the entire game with my favourite weapon."
Artemis shrugged, her long hair hanging loose over her shoulders and down her back. "It encourages creative thinking. Sometimes you see an explosive barrel, and you think: how can I blow it up to damage all those enemies and save my weapons?"
"Are you sure that's an appropriate topic to be talking about here?" A bearded man in clad in black with a leather vest came sidling up to them.
Octavia smiled at him but it was a cold smile. "Hey, Richard. I don't see why videogames would be taboo. They can be a great inspiration for a scene."
Dan seemed to react to the cold smile, stepping forward to stand by her side, facing Richard.
"Can I ask a question? About hypnosis?" Richard made himself comfortable at the bar.
"Always." Octavia said as she petted Dan on the shoulder.
"Now I've been a Dom for over twenty years, but I don't know if I believe in this hypnosis thing. You hear things, you know?" He gave Octavia an inquisitive look. "So can a hypnotist make someone do things they don't want?"
Artemis sighed and buried her face in her hand, while Dan bit his lip, looking uncomfortable.
Octavia folded her hands together. "I know hypnosis has a certain reputation in the tabloids. I didn't think you'd go in for stories like that. Are you asking whether hypnosis impairs the ability to consent? How can you simultaneously doubt whether hypnosis really works, and worry that it impairs the ability to consent? Maybe we need to answer one question at the time."
"Ok…" Richard crossed his arms. "Show me that it works."
With a sly smile, Octavia asked: "Would you like to be hypnotised?"
"No. I want to see it from the outside." Richard guffawed. "Besides, I am too strong-willed to be hypnotised."
Dan and Artemis gave each other a meaningful look.
Octavia inhaled deeply and began to lecture Richard. "Did you know that going into trance is a skill, not a weakness? The reason why it looks so easy when I play with Dan publicly is because he's so skilled and intelligent. Not to mention imaginative. But I'm sure you didn't mean to insult Dan or Artemis, who both get hypnotised very often, and are both very good at it."
Richard coughed uncomfortably. "I didn't mean to insult anyone…"
"You just implied that Dan and Artemis are not strong-willed. And perhaps other things." She drew up close to Richard. "What are you expecting from us?"
"Just a demonstration." Richard laughed to ease the tension. "You promised to give demonstrations."
"I might. If you ask the right questions." Octavia turned back to Dan. "I think we could all use a glass of water."
"Yes, My Lady." Dan nodded and went behind the bar to serve everyone some water.
Richard seemed to think for a moment and then asked. "So, could you hypnotise me?"
Artemis glanced at Richard and said: "It's technically possible, but you just said no. So there's no consent."
"Just like bondage, hypnosis requires the bottom's cooperation, at the very least." Octavia added.
Richard stuffed his hands in the pockets of his vest. "There are a number of things a skilled Dom could do to overpower an actively struggling sub."
Octavia gave him a piercing look. "But you wouldn't do that without extensive negotiation about the meaning and the practice of consensual nonconsent, correct?"
Dan stared at Richard as he offered him the glass of water.
"Indeed, correct." Richard quickly took a large gulp from the glass. "So basically you're saying you can hypnotise someone against their will?"
Artemis quietly sipped her water. "Hypnosis is just as fraught with consent issues as other kinks are. Someone who is in subspace is just as impaired as someone who is fractionated."
"Fractionated?" Richard frowned.
"Someone who has been repeatedly hypnotised in a short timespan," Octavia explained.
Dan returned to his place by her side and offered her a glass as well. Octavia absentmindedly stroked him as she drank her water.
Richard's frown intensified. "So if you only hypnotise people into doing things they enjoy doing anyway, how do you know for sure that the hypnosis works? That they're not faking it?"
Artemis put her glass down on the bar. "When you're having sex with someone, and they orgasm, how can you be sure they..."
Octavia pressed a finger to Artemis' lips and her voice died in her throat. For a moment, Artemis tried to continue to speak, silently mouthing words, but then she just crossed her arms.
Octavia turned to Richard. "Besides the fact that I trust that their submission is genuine, Richard, I know the hypnosis works. I have seen it work time and time again."
Richard waved his hand. "That's a tiny parlour trick. How can we check that she really can't talk?"
Octavia handed her glass off to Dan and drew up close to Artemis. "Are you ok with a bigger demonstration?"
The girl nodded in reply, and drew her hair back, baring her shoulder and neck to Octavia.
"Thank you, lovely." Octavia embraced Artemis and as she ran her fingernails over the back of her neck, she started to passionately kiss her neck.
Artemis' mouth was open, moving, but no sound came out, not even a gasp. Artemis quivered in her arms, and her facial expression left no doubt about how much she was enjoying the kisses, but the scene was entirely silent.
Dan blushed and smiled as he put the glass down on the bar, but also kept an eye on Richard.
Richard leaned back, with a look of disbelief.
Without pausing the kiss, Octavia raised one finger in the air so the men could see, and then pressed it against Artemis' lips. Immediately, breathy moans erupted from her as Octavia continued to kiss her neck.
Dan covered his mouth with his hand and blushed even deeper red. Meanwhile, Richard smiled, enjoying the show.
And then Octavia raised her finger, and used it to silence Artemis again. The quivering intensified, as even her breathing became entirely inaudible. Octavia's hand crawled up Artemis' neck and into her hair. She made a fist and pulled her head back, and finally ended the kiss. Artemis was reeling when Octavia let go of her to turn and look at Richard.
Dan scurried up to help Artemis steady herself.
Richard nodded slowly, pursing his lips. "Impressive. But I bet she really likes that."
Octavia closed her eyes and licked her lips. Without turning to face Dan and Artemis, she said in a loud and clear voice: "Dan, where is Mr. Giggles?"
For a second, Dan's eyes grew wide with shock. Then he clutched his sides and collapsed on the ground in a shaking laughing fit. The uncontrollable laughter continued for a good thirty seconds, and then stopped as suddenly as it had started. With an incomprehensible grumble, Dan rose to his feet and composed himself.
Artemis leaned against the bar, watching silently.
Octavia beckoned with her hand, and Dan stepped up, looking expectantly at her.
"Did you enjoy that, Dan?" She asked.
"No, my Lady." He replied. "I really don't like being tickled."
Richard leaned closer, examining Dan. "Then why do you let her do that to you?"
Dan shrugged, his eyes cast down with a bashful smile. "It makes me feel helpless and controlled."
Richard chuckled, thinking for a moment. "Nah, I'm still not convinced."
Artemis silently mouthed a swearword and then threw her hands up in the air and turned away.
"I'll tell you what," Richard said to Octavia. "I'll believe it when you do the same thing to me that you just did to Artemis."
Octavia put an arm around Dan and led him away, back towards Artemis. "No." She said over her shoulder.
Richard did a double take. "I beg your pardon?"
"I said no, Richard." Octavia gave him a cold look. "You have given me no reason to want to top you. Perhaps if you had treated me and my loved ones with a modicum of respect, but not like this. I don't care if you believe their submission to me and the scenes we have together are somehow 'not real'. I'm not going to spend my precious attention on you."
Richard slunk away into the dungeon without another word.
Octavia put her finger on Artemis' lips, and immediately, she said: "You showed him."