FOXWOOD--Bed & Breakfast

_by Van © 2008

Chapter 9

To see the actresses I would cast in HHH:THE MOTION PICTURE,

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The next couple of weeks passed quickly.  The building inspection took a few days, but Hannah only required Alice's technical assistance for the first two.  After that, a great deal of crawling through the foundations and up into attic spaces was involved.  Foxwood's new Resident Artisan was pleased to discover nothing she could call a problem.  The foundations were deep, solid, and dry, the tile roof wouldn't need replacement for at least another twenty years, and the plumbing didn't show any signs of trouble.

As far as detail work was concerned, the only thing that cried for Hannah's immediate attention was the replacement of several wooden, louvered covers over the heating vents in several of the guest rooms.  Artifacts of the recently renovated heating system, they were stock items from a building center, and they didn't match the existing paneling in stain color or finish.  Hannah fabricated a prototype replacement in the workshop with the appropriate joinery and hand-tooled appearance that matched the Keep's existing style.  With a little experimentation she found the appropriate stain, then, with Jillian's blessing, established a replacement schedule.

The Keep's electrical service was more than adequate.  In fact, all the wiring ran in either galvanized or PVC conduit, exceeding code requirement.  Also, the installation of Alice's alternative energy enhancements had been equally professional, and all the various modern elements of the wind, water, and solar systems were either cunningly concealed or camouflaged as medieval technology.

A case in point was the infamous "Wench-Winch" exercise machine.  Located in a half-basement built into the side of the Mill House, it was like a giant hamster wheel constructed from seasoned timber.  The treads of the interior track, between the massive, wagon wheel-like outer spokes, were each about eight feet long and a foot wide, and were covered with braided microfiber mats for added traction.  Standing on the track, a person of Hannah's height had to lean forward to keep the central hub from bumping the back of their head.  The wheel turned on stainless steel bearings and mounts, but they were completely hidden behind wooden collars and the entire apparatus looked authentically weathered and rustic.

In addition to the wheel itself, a massive, complex, wooden gear train, with interlocking hardwood pegs as teeth, linked the Wench-Winch to the main shaft of the Mill's waterwheel.  Again, all the gears turned on hidden, stainless steel bearings and mounts. The two large shafts could be disengaged completely, or a lever could be thrown, causing the waterwheel to make the Wench-Winch turn.  A system of chainfalls, hanging counterweights, lever arms, and friction brakes acted as governors.

Despite the Wench-Winch's apparent complexity, its operation was quite simple.

A chain attached to a heavy wooden lever arm disengaged the treadmill and waterwheel when a counterweight reached a certain point, but this mechanism would only advance if the treadmill was turning at a faster rate than the waterwheel.  In other words, the counterweight's gears would engage only if a person walked the track with sufficient effort.  Then, gradually, link-by-link, the weight would fall, and eventually the shafts would disengage.  But, if the person chose not to walk, the waterwheel gears would turn the track under their feet and the counterweight mechanism's gears would slip.  Duration was handled by adjusting the initial position of the main counterweight, and a friction brake with a variety of settings controlled the force required to make the treadmill turn.

Trudging on the Wench-Winch was either voluntary or was enforced by manacles and shackles linked by chains to large rings that slipped on the treadmill's central hub as it turned.  Motivation to continue walking was threefold:
  1. The desire to burn calories and transfer the energy (however trivial the amount) to Foxwood's storage batteries.
  2. To avoid tripping on the track as it turned under your feet.
  3. To prevent the optional nipple-clamp and crotch-belt chains from being repeatedly tugged, vibrated, and then released by an eccentric gear linked to the waterwheel shaft.
Hannah was only forced to experience the Wench-Winch once, as part of her continuing indoctrination.  Naked, in shackles, her wrists manacled behind her back, a chain linking her restraints to her collar, and a hardwood bit-gag tied between her teeth, she clinked and clattered in place for one hour, with Sydney "supervising".  The time passed with the "Evil Baroness" comfortably reclined on a stack of grain sacks, strumming a small lute and singing to herself, smiling her irritatingly smug (and beautiful) smile, and being Sydney.

It had been humiliating, but only mildly arduous. With the main friction brake on its first setting, the Wench-Winch was adequate exercise, but running on Foxwood's trails was better.  Anyway, it was clear the main purpose of the device was, in fact, humiliation, to make the captive feel like a beast of burden, and it worked.  At least Hannah's red-haired instructor/tormentor had foregone the motivational nipple clamps and crotch chain.

This was the only session of Hannah's "special indoctrination" Jillian scheduled during this period.  The remaining ordeals hung over Hannah's head like a collection of Damoclesian swords, since the others wouldn't tell her exactly what was waiting for her on "The List".

Also during this period, there was a party of special guests, but Hannah wasn't involved in whatever happened during their brief visit, and it was Foxwood Protocol not to gossip about guest activities.  Hannah kept to her work and continued to settle in.

Regarding the initial room-by-room inspection of the Keep, Hannah was mildly surprised (and maybe a little relieved) to learn that her guide, Sydney, had exercised a great deal of poetic license in her description of the unvisited chambers of the Stone Tower.  It wasn't really a small-scale prison with facilities for the incarceration and "entertainment" of dozens of distressed damsels.  Most of the "special" chambers weren't "special" at all.  Every room in the Tower was "authentic" (and not in need of "medievalization"), but there was not a large inventory of Diabolical Torture Devices awaiting Hannah or anyone else unfortunate enough to need "indoctrination".  Most of the spaces were being used as storerooms.  The lower dungeons did include the "Horse" Sydney had shown her, of course, as well as a bondage chair called "The Throne of Woe" and a rather nasty "Spanish Rack", but that was it.  Sydney had been exaggerating, for Hannah's "benefit".

And what about Sydney?

The red-haired Sword and Rope Mistress still didn't exactly warm to Hannah, but they settled into a relationship that was not hostile.  Jillian's attempted matchmaking remained a barrier between them and was not discussed; but they came to enjoy each other's company.

During weapons practice Sydney revealed herself to be a patient teacher, imparting the fundamentals of theatrical fencing, ax wielding, and archery in just a few sessions. 

Hannah learned to parry and thrust a sword without being dangerous to herself or her adversary, but while maintaining a martial appearance.  She started with a broadsword, then was introduced to the more rapier-like longsword.  Sydney promised to teach Hannah to "fight" with two blades at once, sword and dagger, but only after she was deemed ready.

Archery was actually fun, and Hannah began practicing on her own.  She became adept at plunking most of her "clothyard shafts" in the bull's-eye in just a few days.  Field archery was another matter.  Judging range and deflection in the forest was not something one picked up immediately.  In any case, at Foxwood, Robin Hood tournaments might be elements of some of Scholar Connie's scenarios, but arrows were never loosed in "combat".  In fact, after teaching Hannah the proper technique of the Mediterranean or English release, she spent an equal amount of time teaching her a false release, how to draw the bow while keeping the arrow's nock free of the bowstring.

The ax was different.  Sydney taught Hannah how to swing and flourish both a hand ax and a long-handled bearded ax; but they never sparred, not ax-against-ax, or sword-against-ax.  It was simply too dangerous for a beginner.  She did teach Hannah the "housecarl's weave", the technique of keeping the ax swinging in a continuous, full-force, unpredictable pattern of circles and figure-eights.  It was a highly effective tactic, making it nearly impossible for a swordsman, with or without a shield, to thrust or slash without exposing an arm or shoulder.  It was also very tiring, which was why the Danes and Saxons had used it only in groups.  They would step from behind the shield wall of their comrades, engage the foe, then step back and let another take their place when they needed to rest.  In any case, the solo weave made for a good show, so she learned the drill.

Hannah started getting good as a theatrical warrior, and her relationship with Sydney slowly changed from polite tolerance to mutual respect―but intimate friendship remained out of the question.  Sydney had her pride, and Hannah wasn't about to start fawning after anybody (no matter how strong and attractive they might be).
--- Tales of the Foxwood B&B: HHH Chapter 9
Several days after the conclusion of Hannah's building inspection, Jillian called a meeting to discuss the finishing of the "oubliette", the two-tiered space under the Stone Tower's patio.  The Resident Artisan and the Engineer were officially invited, but the Scholar insisted on attending as well.  Apparently, there was an ongoing argument about what to do with the place―or at least what to call it.

"Words have meanings," Constance insisted.  "The only access to an 'oubliette' is through a trapdoor in the ceiling, or it isn't an oubliette."  She was dressed in her usual granny-glasses, gown, and robe; the Mistress of the Keep and her cousin were in their usual gowns; and Hannah was in her Artisan/Thrall costume of leather boots, kilt, bra-top, collar, and blond braids.

"Oubliette, boobliette," Alice said with a dismissive wave of the hand.  "A nasty new dungeon is what we want, and it doesn't matter what we call it."

"Words have meanings," Constance reiterated.

"How 'bout 'The Pit of Horror'?" Alice suggested.

"It isn't a pit," Constance responded.  "Are you as careless with your calculations as you are with semantics?"

Hannah and Jillian exchanged an amused glance over the rims of their coffee mugs.

"Well," Jillian said, "I've always liked the idea of Foxwood having an 'oubliette', even if we have to stretch the definition to have one."

Hannah frowned in thought as she refilled her mug from a stoneware carafe.  "Is there any reason we have to use that particular space?"  She refilled Jillian's mug as well, then offered the carafe to the others and was politely declined.  "We aren't exactly strapped for dungeon space.  Can the finishing of the patio foundations wait?"

"What do you have in mind?" Jillian asked.

"The elevator shaft," Hannah responded.

"What?" Alice asked.

"Brilliant!" Constance enthused.

"Wait, the elevator shaft?" Alice demanded.  "How can we use the elevator shaft?"  The Keep had a service elevator to move furniture and the like from floor to floor, but its doors were either camouflaged behind sliding panels or were in service areas not visited by guests.

Hannah flipped to the appropriate sheet of the Keep's plans, and pointed to a void between the Stone Tower and the main guest wing.

"Oh, the guest elevator shaft," Alice nodded.  "It's walled off, isn't it?"

"I never liked the idea of an elevator for guests," Jillian said, "and having it operate with 'Elven magic' stretched suspension-of-disbelief beyond the breaking point.  That's why, once we added the guest rooms on the ground floor and could legally do so, I had it decommissioned.  In fact, I had the entire elevator mechanism―car, rails, counterweights, and motor―removed and sold for scrap.  But to answer your question," she told Alice, "it's not walled off.  The elevator doors on the guest wing side are simply hidden behind the paneling, and on the tower side they're behind false dungeon doors.  It was cheaper and easier than actually walling up the entrances... and now I'm glad we didn't."

"I still don't get it," Alice sighed.  "It's so tiny... nothing like the size of the oubliette―I mean the patio foundations," she added quickly, preempting yet another correction from the scholar.

Jillian smiled.  "To use a pair of clichés slightly out of context, 'it's the thought that counts', and 'size doesn't matter'."

"The space for the elevator car is..." Hannah leaned over the plans. "...about six-by-eight; but the run for the counterweight and space for the equipment at the bottom of the shaft add another five."

"So..." Constance said, leaning close as well, "after we face the walls with stone, it would be... something like eight-by-eleven?"

"Depending on how we do it," Hannah nodded.  "Probably a little smaller."  She shifted her gaze to Jillian.  "We could use tumbled blocks with interlocking keyways, matching the dry-fit look of the rest of the Stone Tower.  I'm pretty sure I can find some landscaping blocks that would work.  We could flag the floor, or leave it as packed dirt―your call―and go up two stories from the sub-basement."

"Meaning the oubliette's floor would be on the same level as the torture chambers?" Alice asked.

Hannah nodded.  "With the access two stories above."  She pointed to the disguised entrance to the elevator on the main floor of the Tower.  "We make the fake dungeon door real, face the concrete walls, lay a set of timber joists and planks for the floor, and put in a trapdoor for access."

"A real oubliette!" Constance squealed.  "It would be like being at the bottom of a large, deep well!  No way out at all!"

"Sounds like a lot of work," Alice objected.

"No more than facing the walls and ceiling of the entire patio foundations," Jillian said, then focused on Hannah.  "Good idea, Artisan!  How would we handle getting the prisoners in and out?"

"Rope, pulley, and windlass," Alice answered, "or I could design a sliding ladder."  The diminutive engineer was warming to the idea.  "Hmm... eventually, I could come up with a platform then lowered into the cell, then retracted and became the bottom of the trapdoor.  I'll think about it, and consult by books on medieval engineering... but we'd start with a rope or ladder."

"Excellent!" Jillian beamed.  "What next?"

"I conduct a detailed survey of the space," Hannah responded, "to make sure there aren't any problems, like brackets or beams that'll have to be cut away or factored in.  Also, I'll start looking on the internet for the appropriate concrete blocks.  Then, we draw up the final plans and go to work."

"Time frame?" Jillian asked.

"If you want this done immediately," Hannah answered, "oh... a couple of weeks for the planning and maybe as much as a month for the prep, depending on what it looks like in there.  Once the blocks are delivered... maybe three months?  It all turns on the final plan, how many hands are available, and whether the guest schedule gets in the way."

Jillian nodded.  "We'll proceed with deliberate speed.  There's no need to rush, and I do want it all done without any disruption for our guests.  Above all, I want it done right."

Everyone nodded.  "Agreed," Hannah said, and they all clinked coffee mugs.  Hannah smiled at Constance.  "Satisfied?"

"Very!" Constance grinned, then patted Alice's hand.  "Disappointed you won't be getting a Royal Apartment under the patio, Princess?"

Alice smiled at Constance.  "Not in the least.  I'm thinking about what a wonderful place the new oubliette will be for dumping know-it-all pests."

"Or for getting rid of spoiled, self-important Royal Brats," Connie agreed.

Hannah and Jillian smiled.  As Jillian was well aware and Hannah had come to learn, the diminutive brunette and redhead "bickered" like this constantly, but were the best of friends.
--- Tales of the Foxwood B&B: HHH Chapter 9
Several days later...

Hannah woke, performed her morning toilet, and dressed in her "uniform": boots, leather kilt, leather bra-top, collar, and Saxon braids.  Technically, she didn't need to "dress" in her collar, of course, as it had remained locked around her throat since her first official indoctrination session with Sydney.  She was now quite used to the thing, and hardly noticed it was there.  She'd also become quite adept at braiding her own hair, although she was more than happy to let one of the others do it for her... especially while they relaxed in the Roman Bath... naked and reclined on the stone benches... simmering in the hot tub... or baking in the sauna.

The basics of her costume were unchanged, but these were not the "loaner" boots, kilt, and top she had first worn.  Her custom-fitted outfits had begun to arrive, and while her new boots more or less matched the originals in style, they fit her feet like the proverbial gloves and had steel toe-caps.  In fact, they were OSHA approved work boots, despite their medieval appearance.  Her kilt, one of several now hanging in her closet, had subtle, Saxon-style tooling around the hem and belt loops, and the belt buckle was an authentic Saxon replica.  Finally, her top was decidedly more elaborate in its workmanship than the original.  Rather than a simple bra of pieced together rawhide scraps, it was more a combination harness and bandeau.  It closed in the front by means of a short, vertical run of rawhide lacing.  The breast cups were dark, very thin suede, with darts stitched with narrow, thread-like thongs to hold the required shape, and the top's shoulder and torso straps were wide, flat ribbons of elaborately braided leather.  Leather bracers on her wrists and the ring of keys dangling from her belt completed the outfit.  Her "authentic" tool box, full of either replica or modern hand tools cleverly "medievalized" and rusticated, waited in the Keep.

Hannah climbed the Forest Path to Foxwood, enjoying the dawn.  She passed through the gate, and was surprised to find its lantern glowing amber, designating a "special day".  She continued up the trail until the Keep came into view, and found the rust-orange banner flying from the Main Tower.  She'd checked Foxwood's intranet calendar before leaving the Outer Mews, and no guests were scheduled for the rest of the week.

The Mistress of the Keep, Baroness Sydney, Princess Alice, and Scholar Constance were already in the Common Room when the Resident Artisan made her entrance.

"Good morrow to all," Hannah said, and the others returned her greeting.  "Why the special banner?" she asked Jillian as she pulled out a chair and accepted a mug of coffee from Alice.

"Sydney's request," Jillian answered, smiling at her sister.

Sydney, locked eyes with Hannah.  "Nothing pressing on your schedule, according to what you told Her Ladyship last night, correct?"

Hannah nodded.  "Nothing that can't wait.  Why?"

Sydney's smile turned somewhat sinister.  "Meet me at the North Trailhead an hour after breakfast."

The trailhead in question was the start of most of the hiking and jogging trails that led into the valley below and up the hill.  "Why?" Hannah asked, again.  She wasn't nervous.  (Well, maybe a little.)

"Your introduction to alfresco bondage," Sydney explained.

"Another indoctrination milestone," Jillian clarified.

Hannah focused on Constance.  "Should I be worried?" she asked.

"Oh, you know the Baroness," Alice giggled, preempting an answer from the scholar.  "She'll drag you out into the wilderness, tie you to a tree, and leave you for the bears.  No worries."

Constance frowned at the princess, then smiled at Hannah.  "I'm sure that whatever The Baroness has in mind will be horrible beyond words," she said with mock seriousness.  "You can tell us all the juicy details tonight."

"Just in case any bears do show up," Sydney said to Jillian, "you may recover our remains at the Summit Clearing."

The Summit Clearing was not quite at the actual summit of Mount Foxwood, the forested hill that sheltered the Keep.  Its only improvement was a rustic fire pit, but it offered a magnificent view of the valley and made a terrific picnic site.  Hannah had been through the clearing before, as the trail up and back made for a challenging run, but she'd never lingered.  Apparently, today she would get her chance.
--- Tales of the Foxwood B&B: HHH Chapter 9
At the appointed time...

A reassuring Kayley-Kiss still wet on her lips, Hannah exited the Kitchen and made her way to the North Trailhead.  She'd left her keys on a peg, and the only other change in her costume (ordered by Sydney) was the replacement of her "medieval work boots" with her "medieval trail-runners".  More gifts from Jillian, the running shoes in question were, in fact, modern running shoes, with athletic arch supports and treaded soles, but the uppers resembled dark suede slipper-boots.  They closed with velcro straps, then flaps covered the modern elements and were secured with leather thongs.

Sydney was waiting, resplendent in her Evil Baroness costume of olive tights, rust-brown shirt, and leather jerkin.  A sheathed broadsword rode her hip, the strap of a leather satchel was over her right shoulder, and a coil of faux-hemp, microfiber rope was in her left hand.  "It's about time," she growled, even though Hannah was not actually late.  "Hands together in front."

"Hello to you, too," Hannah said, with a wry smile, and offered her hands, as ordered.

Sydney dropped the satchel from her shoulder, and began tying Hannah's wrists.  "Watch my technique," she said, as she cinched the initial half-dozen bands, then tied a square knot away from Hannah's hands and between her wrists.  "There's no way you can reach that knot."

"Agreed," Hannah said.

"And note how I take the short free end and pull it through the cinch," Sydney continued.  "Now you can't even twist the knot out of shape."  She pulled a turn of rope around Hannah's waist, then took a hitch in the rope and tightened it over her wrist bonds, pinning her hands at the level of her navel.  She then threaded the remaining two or three yards of rope through the ring in the front of Hannah's collar, and took a similar hitch around the base of the ring.  "And now you can't reach the knot with your teeth."

Sydney leaned close as she made a show of checking Hannah's bonds.  "Don't look now," she whispered, "but the 'Bobbsey Twins' are watching us from around the base of the Stone Tower."

Hannah chuckled as Sydney tugged on her wrist ropes.  "They were whispering together all during breakfast.  I assume we're going to have an audience."

"That may be their plan," Sydney muttered, "but I have something very different in mind."  She shouldered the satchel and took the end of Hannah's rope in her right hand.  "That should hold you, thrall!" she said, in a loud voice, then continued in a whisper.  "The Princess helped Cricket clean up after breakfast, something she never does, unless it's her turn to wear Kayley's collar."

"Clearing the deck for a morning of skulking and leering?" Hannah suggested.

"Exactly," Sydney agreed, then tugged on Hannah's leash.  "No talking!" she barked, "or I'll gag you with your own loincloth!"  She then led Hannah towards the start of the trail to the summit.
--- Tales of the Foxwood B&B: HHH Chapter 9
As soon as the Keep was hidden by the trees, Sydney began untying Hannah's bonds.  "Keep walking," she ordered, "but watch your feet so you don't trip."

"Turn ahead," Hannah noted, and Sydney suspended her efforts while they rounded a switchback.  In short order, Hannah was completely free.

"Coil this for me and take the satchel, would you?" Sydney asked, then handed Hannah the tangle of rope and unshouldered the satchel.  As they continued walking, Sydney unbuckled her sword belt, made adjustments that lengthened its straps, then slung the sword behind her back with the hilt at her right shoulder.  She tightened the main buckle, then reached for the satchel.

Meanwhile, Hannah had coiled and slung the rope over her left shoulder and was settling the satchel's strap over her right.  "I got it," she said, waving away Sydney's hand.  "What now?"

"Now, we run," Sydney answered.  "We want to get to the clearing waaay ahead of the Twins."

And run they did.  Both were in excellent shape, of course, and the satchel wasn't much of a burden.

Several strenuous minutes later, the Summit Clearing was only a hundred yards ahead.  Sydney pointed to a minor side-trail as they jogged past.  "They'll go that way," she huffed.  "It leads down the back of the hill, but right at the start it has a turn that overlooks the main clearing.  They'll hide in the trees to watch, but... surprise, surprise."

"We won't be in the clearing," Hannah suggested.

Sydney grinned.  "We'll be in the trees above their overly curious little heads.  You see, today's lesson isn't about being captured in the woods.  It's about doing the capturing."

Hannah grinned back.  "And here I thought this was going to be a bad day."

"Just follow my lead," Sydney chuckled, "and be ready with the rope."
--- Tales of the Foxwood B&B: HHH Chapter 9
Alice and Cricket crept to the side of a switchback in the side-trail and towards the edge of a downslope.  The Summit Clearing was near, no more than fifteen or twenty yards below.

"Be quiet," Alice whispered.

"Oh, thanks for the advice," Cricket whispered back.  "I was about to jog back to the Keep for a pair of cymbals."

"I mean," Alice continued, "Syd may be tying Hannah to one of the trees on this side of the clearing, so be quiet."

"Yes, Your Worshipfulness," Cricket giggled.

Alice was in one of her Boy-Who-Never-Grew-Up/Princess-of-Thieves costumes: pointed slipper boots, leaf-green tights, a faded brown linen shirt, and a saddle-brown leather jerkin.  A pointed cap, green felt with a brown feather, was perched on her head at a jaunty angle.  Her copper-red curls were plaited in a French braid ponytail and trailed down her back.  Finally, she wore the added accessory of a light, hooded cloak.  It was a patchwork of rough-woven, linen squares of several different sizes and dyed in various earth tones.  Its wear was not necessitated by the decidedly clement weather, but it was excellent forest camouflage.

The Cricket was in a variant of her basic thrall's costume: sandals, cross-laced to her knees, faux-burlap knee pants and short tunic, rope belt, and iron collar.  She was also cloaked, but it was a very fine cloak, completely at odds with the her rough, servile costume.  It was also totally different in style from her companion's.  Its fabric was woven in a swirl of leaf and branch-like shapes, half Celtic knot pattern, and half Art Nouveau presentation of a tangled thicket.  The colors were natural, and it was excellent camouflage.  On close inspection, one noticed cute little hand-embroidered (actually machine embroidered) details, like ladybugs and lacewings crawling on the leaves, and the faces of strikingly realistic birds and small animals peering through the foliage.  It was fully-functional as a garment and as camouflage, and was an exquisite work of art.  In other words, it was Elven.

"I can see Sydney's satchel," Alice whispered, as they peered around the base of a cedar at the clearing below, "but I don't see them."

"Nope," Cricket agreed.  "Let's get closer."

"We can't get any closer," Alice objected.  "I don't think they're there."

Suddenly, two figures dropped from the tree, behind their backs.  The skulkers were seized and held close as they scrambled to their feet.  Their arms were pinned to their sides, under their cloaks, and at the same time, hands clamped tightly over their mouths.  Their captors were Hannah and Sydney, of course.  The Saxon Maiden had her fellow thrall in a tight embrace, and Sydney was easily controlling the squirming efforts of Alice to escape.

"There and gone, dear cousin," Sydney said as she stuffed a rag of soft cloth into Alice's mouth, "with more than enough time to sneak up here and set an ambush."  She forced Alice first to her knees, then onto her stomach, then settled her weight on her back.  With the cloak and her captor's knees pinning her arms, Alice was helpless to resist as Sydney tied a narrow bandage over the wadding, giving the prisoner a tight cleave-gag.  Sydney then reversed position, pulled Alice's hands from under her cloak, and bound her wrists behind her back.  Next, she dragged Alice to her feet and took a grip on her now tousled hair.  Alice's cap had fallen in the dirt during her capture, and Sydney stooped, picked it up, and planted it on her own head.  "Quit squirming," she ordered, tightening her handful of red curls, then focused on her fellow attacker.

Hannah and Cricket had watched the process of Alice being bound and gagged with rapt attention.  Cricket squirmed and struggled and whimpered through Hannah's hand-gag, but she wasn't really trying to escape.  Hannah held her tight, nonetheless.

"That's how it's done," Sydney said, with a gloating smile.  "Note how I gagged her first.  This increases the level of difficulty, but several of the scholar's outdoor scenarios involve capturing the damsel without alerting nearby guards or companions, so it's necessary.  Care to give it a try?"

"Seems easy enough," Hannah chuckled, released her hand-gag and reached for the rags tucked in the belt of her kilt.

"Help!!" Cricket wailed.  "Let me go-rrrf!"

"Ha!" Sydney laughed.  "Not so easy, is it?"

Hannah had the wadding in Cricket's mouth, and was securing the cleaving bandage.  She could tell Cricket's "distress" was entirely theatrical, although the little pixie now seemed to be doing her very best to squirm free.  Following Sydney's example, Hannah forced her "victim" to the ground and tied her wrists.  "Without these cloaks, this might have been more of a fight," she muttered as she tied the final knot.

"Yes, it was nice of them to wear them for us," Sydney chuckled.  "Now, back to the clearing."

--- Tales of the Foxwood B&B: HHH Chapter 9
Peeling the already bound and gagged prisoners out of their clothing was a laborious task, as they continued the resistance expected of any diligent distressed damsel, but the issue was never in question.  Eventually, the diminutive pair were lying on their sides, bound hand and foot, tightly gagged, and completely naked.

Hannah and Sydney bundled the captives' costumes in their cloaks, then turned to gaze at the helpless, wide-eyed captives.

"So..." Sydney said, "I suppose I could just teach you the proper technique for binding the elbows, knees, fingers, and toes.  Then, we could put them in tight hogties and leave them under some bushes for either Jillian, Kayley, or the fairies to find..."  Her smile turned evil.  "Or, we could have some fun."

"How much fun?" Hannah demanded, with a wry smile.  "Fun for all, or for just you?"

"Oh, for all," Sydney responded, "I promise."  She picked up Alice, slung her over her left shoulder in a fireman's carry, then walked towards a stand of young alders at the edge of the clearing.  The naked captive squirmed weakly and mewled halfhearted complaints through her gag.  "C'mon.  I'll teach you the proper way to tie a damsel to a tree or upright post," she told Hannah, then indicated Cricket with a wave of her free hand.  "But keep an eye on the little elf.  Make sure she doesn't wiggle free while you're watching me."

Hannah grinned down at the "little elf" in question (who winked at her), then strode after her instructor.

Alice's shoulders and spine were placed against the trunk of a sapling, and Sydney hitched a rope around her throat and the slender trunk.  She then freed the captive's wrists, pulled them behind the tree, and tied them again.  Next, she untied her ankles, splayed them to either side of the base of the trunk, and lashed them in place.  She pulled more rope from the satchel and set to work, binding her cousin in place from the shoulders down.  "Note how I'm careful to place the knots where she can't possibly reach them," she lectured, "and by anchoring the rope around the tree at the top and bottom, all the hitched bands stay exactly where I place them, no matter how she struggles."

In short order, a neat, symmetrical web of single strands criss-crossed and dimpled Alice's flesh from ankles to shoulders.  The little redhead could barely squirm.

Sydney motioned for Hannah to join her behind Alice's tree.  "This is very important," she said, gently pressing Alice's right thumbnail.  "There, you see?  The quick goes pale when I press, then the color returns when I release.  Her circulation is normal.  Very important.  Too tight and the hands go numb.  You can even cause nerve damage."  She touched the side of her own wrist.  "You can pinch the brachial nerve."

Hannah nodded.  "Better too loose than too tight."

"And by positioning the ropes so they pin her arms and lock her elbows," Sydney continued, "she can't twist her wrists more than a few degrees.  As long as the ropes aren't too loose and her fingers can't reach any knots..." she stepped back to the front and locked eyes with her cousin, "...she'll be against that tree for as long as I decide to leave her there... for hours... or even days."  She spun on her heels and walked towards Cricket.

Hannah gave Alice a sympathetic smile, then hurried after Sydney.  "We aren't really going to leave her like that for hours, are we?"

"What you mean 'we', Saxon thrall?" Sydney laughed.  "Remember your place."

"Allow me to rephrase," Hannah responded.  She grabbed Sydney's arm as they stood over Cricket's prostrate, helpless form.  "We're not going to leave Alice like that, not for hours."

Sydney gave Hannah an appraising look.  "Well," she said, after several seconds, "that's another passing grade for your report card.  This is role-playing, Hannah.  Dire, gloating threats are expected from the villainess, but we're not sadists."  She glanced down at Cricket.  "Isn't that right?" she asked, and Cricket nodded, her eyes smiling above her gag.

Hannah shook her head.  "Okay," she said, "but I'm confused.  Is this part of one of the scholar's scenarios, or what?"

Sydney laughed.  "A little drama, a little instruction, and an excuse to put a pair of giggling snoops in their place."  She nudged Cricket's side with her right boot.  "You think you'd like to try a box-tie on this one?" she asked Hannah.

Hannah smiled.  "Sure, why not."

"Don't worry," Sydney purred.  "I'll walk you through it.'
--- Tales of the Foxwood B&B: HHH Chapter 9
Several minutes later, Crickets arms were folded behind her back with neat, symmetrical strands of rope pinning her arms to her sides and yoking her shoulders.

"Good job," Sydney said.  "Now, get the remaining rope, pick her up, and follow me."

Hannah pulled the last coil of rope from the satchel, slung it over her shoulder, then knelt over Cricket.  "You okay?" she asked, quietly.

Cricket nodded.  The irrepressible little pixie's eyes were still smiling.

"You're incorrigible," Hannah muttered, and was answered with a snorting, gag-muffled giggle as she heaved Cricket over her left shoulder and followed Sydney to Alice's tree.

"Face-to-face and tit-to-tit," Sydney ordered, pointing at the helpless Alice.

"Yes, M'Lady."  Hannah heaved Cricket off her shoulder, planted her feet with her toes touching the base of the tree and between Alice's spread feet, then pushed the bound prisoners' bodies together.

"Perfect," Sydney nodded.  "Just like that, nipple-to-nipple and boobies squashed."  She pulled the coil of rope off Hannah's shoulders, shook it out, and threaded one free end through ropes knotted at the nape of Cricket's neck.  "Would this be a good place for the first key knot?" she asked Hannah.

"Seems like it to me," Hannah answered.

Sydney nodded, then tied a knot and began taking tight loops around the tree and both naked captives, pausing to thread the rope through their existing bonds as she worked her way down to their ankles.  "Pretty as a picture," she purred, as she tied the final key knot through Cricket's ankle bonds.  She stood and took a step back.  "Squirm for us, you two, so we can verify the tightness."

Cricket giggled and complied, but Alice simply locked eyes with her cousin and glared.

"Hannah," Sydney said with a chuckle, "find a hazelnut or hawthorn with some thin, straight shoots and cut me a switch, would you please?  About a yard long.  I think they need encouragement."

"You can't really get at much of the Princess with them tied like that," Hannah noted.

"No," Sydney agreed, "but the Cricket's rump, thighs, and calves are very vulnerable."

Alice sighed through her gag, and began struggling against her bonds.

Hannah watched as Alice's pale, freckled skin and Cricket's tan, smooth skin slipped and slid under the ropes and against each other.  A thrill rippled through her sex and up her spine at the erotic spectacle.

Sydney stepped forward and released the knot of Cricket's cleave-gag, leaving only a single cinch.  She then did the same for Alice.  The helpless pair started tossing their heads and working their jaws, trying to loosen the cleaving bandages even further and expel the stuffing from their mouths.  "C'mon," Sydney said to Hannah, and started back across the clearing.

Hannah smiled at the squirming, grimacing captives.  "Ladies," she said with a bow, then followed Sydney.

Meanwhile, Sydney had shouldered the now empty satchel and was picking up Alice's bundled clothing.  She pointed at Cricket's rolled cloak, and Hannah picked it up.  "Let's get back to the Keep," she suggested.  "There are some flagons of ale with our names on them."

"Good idea," Hannah agreed.

"We'll wait an hour," Sydney continued in a whisper, "than hike back up here, untie Cricket's wrists, and split.  By the time they squirm out of the rest of the ropes, we'll be long gone."

"And they get to walk back to the Keep naked and barefoot," Hannah whispered back.

Alice had finally succeeded in spitting out her gag.  "I'll get you for this, you little twerp!" she shouted.

"Oh, I very much doubt that!" Sydney shouted back.

Cricket succeeded in spitting out her gag.  "It's a fair cop," she giggled.  "We were caught spying.  Kiss me."

"That's your answer to everything, isn't it?" Alice huffed.  "Mwff!"

Hannah and Sydney watched as Cricket thrust her tongue into Alice's mouth.  After a few seconds of futile resistance, Alice began returning the kiss with gusto.
  There was also a great deal of squirming, writhing, and attempted hip-grinding, but Hannah and Sydney's tight ropes were putting a serious cramp in their style.

Hannah glanced at Sydney.  The redhead's attention was still on the action across the clearing.  Her blue-green eyes were shining, and the gloating smile curling her lips was...  Beautiful, as always, Hannah thought, then made a decision.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained.  "You know," she said, quietly, "I think I know a good way for us to get back at Jillian for trying to fix us up."

Sydney turned to glare at Hannah.  She started to say something, then her frown faded.  "What?" she asked, quietly.

"We pretend it worked," Hannah continued.

Sydney snorted in derision.  "We pretend."

Hannah dropped Cricket's bundled clothing, pulled the startled Sydney into a tight embrace, and kissed her lips.

Sydney's eyes popped wide... then she dropped Alice's clothing and returned the embrace and the kiss.

Their lips puckered and their tongues wrapped as they kissed.  Several seconds later, they came up for air.

"We have an audience," Sydney whispered.

"That's the idea," Hannah whispered back, and the kiss resumed.  She opened her eyes, looked to the side, and could see Alice and Cricket staring at them, wide-eyed, from their tree.

"We are pretending, right?" Sydney mumbled into Hannah's mouth.

"Of course," Hannah mumbled back.  "We're pretending."

They kissed for several more seconds, then Sydney stepped back.  "As long as we're pretending," she said, with apparent gravity.  "C'mon, let's get that ale."  She picked up the bundle at her feet, and started towards the trail back to the Keep.

Hannah grabbed her bundle and followed.  "We can pretend some more, later," she suggested in a whisper, "just for practice."

"Don't push your luck, thrall," Sydney muttered.

Alice and Cricket watched their captors disappear down the trail and into the forest.

"Well, watcha know," Cricket giggled.  "The Ice Queen has thawed.  You think Hannah knows what she's in for?"

"Not in a million years," Alice sighed.  "Now," she growled, "shut up and get back to work."

They kissed again, and for some time to come.

Tales of the Foxwood B&B:
Chapter 9

Chapter 8
Chapter 10