New to Quest Five?
The stories are best enjoyed when read in order beginning with May 1, 2009.

Welcome To Quest Five
Allison Beaumont is having trouble finding a job after college until one day the wealthy and powerful Joseph Candle offers her a job at his rather unusual corporation, where mistakes can lead to bare bottomed spankings. Adopting the alias of Virginia West, she joins four highly skilled colleagues, racing around the globe in search of mysterious treasures, but wherever she goes, trouble is sure to follow.
Note: Some stories contain scenes of a sexual nature, corporal punishment, non-consensual corporal punishment, and strong language which some reader's may find offensive. If you feel this material might be inappropriate for you please move on to another blog by clicking the next blog link at the top of the page.

November 22, 2009

Casting Shadows: Friends & Enemies

In the silence and darkness someone flipped a switch and machinery creaked itself back to life after some unspecified length of rest. The hook above me began to lift higher in the air and with it went the chain connected to my arms. Slowly, painfully, my feet were lifted higher and soon not even my toes brushed against the prone man's form. The machinery stopped when I was dangling so high in the air, there was no longer any possibility of touching or being touched by any person below.

Abruptly, a cold stream of water hit me in the legs and then stomach. The light redirected its spotlight to illuminate me for all below to see and in turn blinded me to anything but the stream of water attacking me and the darkness beyond. My body started to swing a little again but without any significant momentum I was unable to do anything more than sway, helplessly high above the platform below and cry out in pain.

The water was nothing after the initial impact. Its cold spray caused the unbearable movement straining my shoulders and arms but the water itself was numbing after a few moments in any one location. I wished it would douse my arms and shoulders in the hopes it would provide the same numbness to them as it had already done to my legs and abdomen. Unsurprisingly, I was not that lucky.

"I need to know what you found on the longship," The man of shadows said.

I remained silent. The words describing the map on the ship's mast seemed alluringly innocent and the temptation to share what had been useless information was nearly overwhelming. Of course if this man was willing to torture me to learn about the map, then it was quite possibly not as useless or innocent as it seemed. I suffered through wondering if anyone was trying to find me and more importantly, if they were anywhere close to succeeding.

Drops of water slipped down my skin gathering into larger drops at my toes until their own weight was sufficient to free fall through the air only to spatter on the platform far below with a soft patter reminiscent of rain falling. The sound was soothing to my exhaustion, helping me to slip peacefully into a state of mind not hampered by pain or cold. As the numb detachedness began to settle over me, my long moment of deliberation came to a sudden end.

I fell. Whatever force had been keeping the hook and therefore me, elevated was released without any warning and the sound of free sliding cable wall all I had to cling to as I plummeted toward the platform in a free fall certain to end with broken bones and the intense pain of collision. I had just enough time to realize what was happening before the fall was brought to an abrupt stop. It was almost like time slowed to a crawl as I stared up at the suddenly stationary hook. The slackness of the chains attached to my arms transitioned back to taunt tension with a jingle of tightening links. My arms jerked upwards and I felt a tearing in my shoulders, shuddering through my body like the echo of a reverberating chord.

My head snapped upward before coming to rest down against my sternum. I watched my toes drift only inches above the platform almost precisely where I had been before my rise to new heights. The switch flipped again and I moaned realizing I about to be hoisted up once more, not that the proximity to the platform below had been any respite for my aching. If the man of shadows had any mercy, he was clearly unprepared to show it to me. With my arms being pulled back into the air and the fire burning in my shoulders I lost hold of any hope at numb detachedness while I waited for rescue. In truth, hope of rescue was all I had and deep down I did not believe a rescue was likely to happen anytime in the near future.

"The longship," The man of shadows said.

"It was fake," I said, with a pleading tone in my voice.

He laughed as if I had just told him the funniest joke he had ever heard. I dangled above waiting and hoping something would bring the pain to an end. Tears streamed down my face and I realized I was crying, no, sobbing uncontrollably, completely beyond the rationality of my situation. It was then I knew why he was laughing; He had won.

"Whatever would make you say that?" He asked.

"Dr. Michaels," I said, between gasps for breath and sobs.

"The fool," He said. "Tell me, what did you find?"

"Let me down," I said, begging for relief or mercy or anything he might grant me.

"We are not negotiating. Tell me what you found," He said.

I tried to utter the words he required from me, but they stuck in my throat. I argued with myself, reasoning the maps were no longer a secret from him. He had the crystal and its map after all, what could the other map provide that he did not already have? It was all very logical and no one could blame me for talking under the circumstances, but I knew that was not strictly the truth. I could not tell him what he wanted to know because in his desperation to get the seemingly unimportant piece of information he had let me know it was not what it seemed at all. Everything was connected and relevant, I had said it myself to Tom, and while I had known it for fact at the time, it was only there, dangling in the cold air, I understood what those words truly meant; The objects were only important so far as they pointed us toward the next piece and it was that information, that connection, which was valuable.

She appeared, walking on air to greet me with a supportive smile. Looking at her, trapped in a ghostly child's body, I saw for the first time the older soul residing inside her ethereal eyes. I wondered if her appearance was signifying some new disaster about to befall me or if she had simply arrived to attempt to bolster my resistance. Was it selfish desires bring her before me or empathy and compassion? I wanted to think there was more to her than selfishness, but I had little doubt her visit had less to do with me and more to do with the man in shadows below.

"You have to hold on," She said. "Just a little longer, I promise."

"I don't seem to be able to do anything else," I said, not caring if the man below thought me crazy.

"Your choice is simple," He said, apparently thinking my words had been meant for him. "Tell me about the longship or endure more pain."

My sobs turned to laughter. Maybe I had gone a little crazy hanging on my hook. The idea that there could be anything more painful than what I was already feeling seemed both frightening and ludicrous. If I could hold out from him with what I was already going through then there was nothing he could reasonably expect to do which would ever cause me to tell him that which he wanted to know. The girl might have brought me to the point of understanding it as simple as it truly was, but I realized the strength was all my own. Amidst all the pain, I clung to the simple pleasure of denying him.

"Tell me!" He demanded, frustration creeping into his monotonous voice.

"They're here," She said and disappeared as quickly as she had appeared.

Below me, an alarm blared. Boots clanged on the metal platforms and stairs, echoing in the largeness of the open darkness. The man in the shadows moved to meet the approaching footsteps, undoubtedly concerned about the alarm. I smiled, giddily realizing it all added up to the one thing I wanted the most, although I had nearly lost hope it would ever happen.

"We lost contact with two perimeter teams and we've just verified the perimeter has been breached," A man's voice explained.

"Evacuate," The man of shadows said, "Get everyone out."

"What about her?" The another man asked.

"Secure her for transport and make sure she's out for the entire flight," He ordered.

I heard the switch flipped once more, only this time instead of being pulled higher the hook started lowering me down toward the platform. It was a relief and a worry all at the same time. I definitely did not want to go with them, wherever they were going, but I had no illusions of having any control over the situation. It was all out of my hands.

As the light readjusted and the hook lowered me down, I could see the other men had left, including the man of shadows and all I was left with were two men, one of which had kicked and stood atop his head not too long before. In particular, he did not look like he had forgiven me yet, or in fact ever would. I suppose I could say I felt much the same toward him, he had whipped his leather strap across my buttocks more times than I was able to count and they were in fact, while slightly numb, still sore from the punishing treatment received at his hands.

When my feet finally touched the ground I nearly started to cry again. The relief in stress on my shoulders and arms was immediately liberating. The pain would no doubt, last for days but the relief was almost enough to make me ignore the lingering pain in its entirety. I looked around hoping my eyes would spy something to help me avoid taking a trip with the men, but they came up empty with most of the area still shrouded in darkness.

A cold blast of water hit my legs from behind. It knocked my feet out from under me and sent my crashing down to knees on the platform, much to the amusement of the two men waiting on me. They moved in quickly while I was down, although I had no intention of getting up, and unfastened the leather cuffs from my wrists, freeing my tired arms to fall useless to my sides. I tried to lift them, to fight off the men who were picking me up, but they did not respond to my desires at all. My fingers barely twitched in response to my efforts.

From the darkness, I could hear the sounds of lots of people running and orders being shouted out to direct traffic. I had assumed there were only a few people with us in the place, but as I listened to the clanging footsteps and echoing voices, I realized the operation was many times larger than I had thought. The man of shadows seemed to have an entire army with him. For a moment I pondered why he would even bother running away when he clearly he had the advantage of numbers, but then I remembered Jack showing up with a naval fleet last time I needed rescuing and wondered if there was a battalion of troops on their way to me.

An explosion rocked the platform beneath me and nearly sent the two men to their knees in its wake. No sooner had the sound of the blast faded than the sound of rapid, automatic gunfire replaced it. The two men exchanged looks of concern, obviously not having expected to come under attack so soon. I smiled, hoping it was good sign for me, but the man I had kicked, grabbed my arm and jabbed a needle into my arm.

"Ouch," I said.

The world began to spin a little and I felt like I was suddenly disconnected from my body. The sounds in the darkness became muffled as if heard under water and the lines which should have defined the boundaries of the men and myself began to blur and swirl with the air between us. I leaned downward, moaning and grasping at my churning stomach as the burning taste of bile tickled the back of my throat. My arms were forcefully grabbed by the two me and I was hauled unwillingly to my feet.

They pulled me into the darkness and my eyes struggled to adjust to the lack of light. All I could make out was the rusty metal below my dragging feet and square railing beside the path we followed. The gunfire seemed to be coming from everywhere around us, but the two men were not looking for cover so I assumed we were safe. They rested moment when we arrived at a staircase leading both up and down. I could hear the sound of someone climbing the steps, nearing our location and although I hoped it was a friend of mine, I expected it was more like a friend of my foes.

The source of the sound soon came into view and I recognized it as Olivia. She was stark naked save for a pair of black combat boots and a handgun, held loosely in her right hand. Vivid red stripes seemed to be pulsing out from her buttocks and legs and I briefly wondered what my own backside looked like in comparison. The two men smiled, clearly enjoying seeing her toned, naked body and quite probably the results of the punishment she had received. Olivia smiled at them and then raised her gun.

For an awful moment I thought I was dead once again. She pulled the trigger twice and the gun roared with the expulsion of a bullet each time, but it was the men escorting me who dropped dead to the ground and not me. Olivia stared hard at me for a moment with the gun as the only thing between us. I swayed, unstable on my feet without support and tried to make sense of what she had done and why, but with the effect of whatever drug had been pumped into my veins, I could barely think at all.

"Don't think this makes us friends," Olivia said.

I wanted to ask her why, but she turned and was gone before I could open my mouth or even formulate the thought into a question. My legs gave out and I collapsed to the floor next to the bodies of my former escorts. The effort to keep my eyes open required more energy than I had left. The fight going on elsewhere in the place continued to echo around me and I knew I should be worried that the wrong side might find me, but my willpower was insufficient to counteract the effects of the drug or the exhaustion, or both.

How long I laid there, motionless on the metal floor, I do not know. A noise behind me, startle my senses back to a slight level of alertness but I could not bring myself to lift my head and look. A strong rough hand gripped my arm and turned me over so I was looking up. A bright smile spread across my face as I recognized the grim face staring back down at me; Tom Clark.

"You're alive," I said, slurring the words like a drunk.

He scooped me up in his arms and carried me up the stairs to where the others were all gathered. Kyra draped a drab blanket over me as if my modesty mattered any more. The warmth was nice though and I pulled it tight around me. Dr. Michaels found a folding chair for me to sit on and despite the slight, or not so slight, discomfort, I sat down, thankful for a resting spot.

Jack paced the floor in front of me, looking angrier than I had ever seen him. Tom caught his eye a couple of times but neither said a thing to the other. I gathered there had been disagreements and something told me Jack had lost, but I wondered if there was something more than that as well. The look on his face told me there was more going on than I knew. We were all silent though, lost in our own thoughts and apparently waiting for something.

Everyone's attention was drawn behind me when the clang of approaching footsteps interrupted our silence. I was too tired to glance over my shoulder and so I just waited for the approaching person to come into view. The others gathered closer to me and I almost felt like they were protecting me from something. The footsteps came to a stop and I was staring at shiny black oxfords.

"The area has been secured," Mr. Candle said. "Ms. Stratford and her people got away."

I looked upward from the shoes, following the perfect seems in the black trousers to the waistline where a black belt was fastened through the loops with a small silver buckle, inlaid with an intricate design at its center. I shuddered and stood up, backing away from them all. I looked up into Mr. Candle's charming innocent face and wondered if my first instincts about him had always been right. Was he the man in the shadows?


  1. Ash,

    First gotta say good title...this chapter turned out good had some good in the shadows, interesting.

  2. Ashley, you do this very well, poor old V. I hope she gets a damn good bonus, she's earned one.
    Warm hugs,

  3. It does seem like V deserves some more vacation time now. Hopefully this kidnapping showed her the lengths that the shadow man's team will go to in order to get information. Maybe someone in the company should spring for a team of bodyguards.

  4. Al, I liked the title too, but let me tell you sometimes finding the right title is like pulling teeth. The man in the shadows will have to stay in them for a little bit, but he'll be revealed in time and all I'm going to say is his identity will put things in a new light.

    Paul, I agree, V needs a good bonus check for all that swinging and stinging. lol

    Ace, V definitely could use some down time. Unfortunately for her, she's not going to get much. She definitely has a few things to learn still and I think it's safe to say her kidnapping experience has taught her some of it.

    Hugs to all,
    Ashley J