Merlin wakes to soft skin pressed against him, a bare white thigh flung over his, a strand of long brown hair in his mouth. He can't free his hands to brush it away, so he has to lie there until she shifts and turns over, scarlet lips and slumbrous eyes, her hand sliding between his thighs to rouse him erect.
The cat-o-nine-tails stitches pain across Merlin's back, leather-tailed, silver-tipped and he gasps with the shock of the blow on his bare skin. Everything's suddenly sharper - his senses strung tight with the pain.
"Does it hurt?"
It would be pointless to lie to the lilting voice behind him. "Yes," he gasps, and yelps as the next strike of the flogger lands just above his buttocks, on the sensitive skin of his lower back. "Morgana, I'm sorry."
Another web of pain tingles across his flesh, sharp silver biting into him, flaying him raw.
"Sorry isn't enough, Merlin."
He wakes up one morning to Morgana riding him, heated dreams in hot sunlight that spills over the rumpled bedclothes. His body thrusts, barely under his control as she takes him like a spoil of war. She touches herself roughly - breasts, flanks, thighs, cleft, and Merlin bucks beneath her as her eyes glow with more than just magic.
He can feel the cold stone of the floor under his soles, but that's the only contact he has. There's no wind or sound, no wall that he can reach, nothing that he can see in the impenetrable, absolute black.
His voice doesn't echo in the silence, and he frowns and whispers to the emptiness, "Bryne."
Nothing happens. No flame, no light, no fire.
Louder this time. "Baerne!"
He lifts his hands and face to the empty darkness that must be above him and cries, "Astrice!"
And the answer comes, not in blinding light, but in a lightning blow.
Merlin sprawls on hard-packed dirt, cold and empty, and velvet skirts brush his cheek, caressing enough to make him shudder, even as she slaps his face - the sharp and the soft in vivid contrast. "Now you know," she says softly, "what it feels like to be helpless."
He's not sure where pain becomes pleasure. When the splinters of wood in his skin become a badge of honour; when the scars heal over and are wealed anew by her flogger in the bright sunlight of her solar, painting him scarlet beneath the gold and green and blue of the stained glass windows.
When he kneels before her on cold stone and can't think beyond the musky taste of her in his mouth - and the bite of her nails in his shoulder.
"You let me believe I was the only one in Camelot with magic," she says from behind him. "You let me think I was evil just because I had magic!"
"I was wrong, okay?" Merlin cries out when the tails crack across his shoulders. The pain yanks him back into his body, flayed nerves screaming, his arms stretched wide as he hangs from the chains. "I should have told you..."
"Yes," she says, and the tails crack through the air. Merlin arches against his bindings, feeling his cock thick and stiff between his thighs. She can do this to him somehow; like lighting a candle with a thought. "You were wrong. You let me believe I was evil."
"You-- Ah! What you're doing now." He pants for a moment as he hangs, his legs unable to hold him, letting his shoulders take the brunt of his weight. "You don't think that's evil?"
She laughs then, brief and unamused. "Coming from someone who tried to poison me, Merlin? I think this is the repayment of a debt."
He shivers in the chains as her fingers slide down the crack between his buttocks, caressingly light.
Then screams as lightning seems to crackle up his anus and through his body, a sweetly vicious pain that sears through flesh like it could leave scars.
But when it ends - the sweet relief of not-pain that's almost an agony in and of itself - Merlin dangles limply from the chains while his phallus stands erect and knows the truth: he owes her this.