The Healing Pool

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Another erotic story from the FLOGMASTER!

Copyright 1985-2016 by the Flogmaster. All Rights Reserved. Free distribution via electronic medium (i.e. the internet or electronic BBS) is permitted as long as the text is _not_ modified and this copyright is included, but _no_ other form of publication is allowed without written permission. This document _may_ contain explicit material of an ADULT nature. ***READ AT YOUR OWN RISK!*** Anything offensive is your own problem. This story is for **entertainment** purposes only, and it does _not_ necessarily represent the viewpoint of the author or the electronic source where this was obtained. All characters are *fictional* -- any resemblance to real people is purely coincidental.

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*** Author's Note ***
I wrote this story this summer, but in rereading it to post, I must confess I amazed myself. There is something powerful at work here -- an elegance I have rarely seen in my work. Truly, in all modesty, this must be one of my best stories. It certainly is a favorite.

It is a gentle tale, almost mild in the midst of its viciousness, and it is much more introspective than many of my recent pieces. Those of you looking for a simple story of discipline will be disappointed. But those of you looking for something beautiful will find it. It takes some time to build, but anticipation is ninety percent of emotion. Give it a chance. I'd love to hear what you think!

Still reeling,

Frank
The Flogmaster
***

The Healing Pool
Part One

(*****, MF/FF, Severe, cons whipping)

A lonely, depressed woman, haunted by a terrible secret, searches for the elusive 'Healing Pool' she hopes will cure her ills. (Approximately 8,180 words. Originally published 1997-09.)

It was a ferocious night. The wind howled through the alleyway and Belinda shivered and wrapped her coat even more tightly around her body. It was so dark in this deserted portion of the city she couldn't see the concrete wall right next to her.

"Why am I here?" she moaned to herself, cursing her stupidity. The man obviously wasn't coming. Belinda was positive she'd be raped and murdered, her naked, strangled body found floating in the bay in the morning.

Actually, the thought didn't frighten her much. A part of her was attracted by the concept. At least Richard would have some convenient excuse to be rid of her. It wasn't death Belinda feared. It was life. She worried that perhaps she'd only be mugged or maimed.

The face came out of the darkness like an eerie wraith and Belinda jumped. The man was dressed in black, wearing a hooded cape. His face was sunk in black and she could see nothing but the glow of his eyes.

"Come," he whispered, and though she was afraid, Belinda followed. They walked further into the filthy street, and the young woman was shocked to see moving bodies amidst the heaps of garbage.

"People are living here!" she gasped in horror, nearly overcome by the foul stench of rot and decay that permeated everything. The black man walked on, seemingly oblivious to the human wreckage they passed. The New York woman hurried after him, choking back her urges to vomit.

They reached the end of the alley and began a complicated zig-zag though street after street until Belinda was utterly confused. She knew if she lost sight of the man in black she'd die here, abandoned in the cold, wet, slums of darkest Africa. "Wait for me!" she cried out, desperate to catch up with the man who walked so hurriedly. She walked slower, her high heels making her pace difficult.

The man paused and waited, silent as death. "You should have dressed more appropriately, Madame Ryce."

"I didn't know I'd be tramping around through garbage!" snapped the woman, her fear turning into anger.

The man didn't answer but began to walk again. Belinda hesitated and then followed. Hell, he might be a rapist himself. But it was better than standing out here.

A new smell came to Belinda's nostrils. It was the fresh smell of the sea, salty and fishy. It tickled her nose. They had to be near the ocean. As she walked on she became aware of sounds: distant foghorns, ringing bells, creaking ropes, splashing water. The harbor must be very near.

They came upon it suddenly, exploding from an alley neared choked shut with trash, the man in the black cape nimbly leaping up and over the mound like it was a staircase. Belinda followed, every instinct inside her telling her to run the opposite direction. She closed her eyes and nose to the smells and sights and tried to ignore the squishy feelings beneath her feet. At the top of the heap she paused, astonished.

They were at the edge of the harbor, directly in front of a small black fishing boat. There was a light on in the cabin, and the man in black was waving at a companion. The harbor was quiet this early in the morning. Fishing boats by the score and huge freighters were all silent and still. Belinda was guided forward and onto the low-lying fishing vessel.

"Are we going somewhere?" she asked the man in black.

"Isn't this what you wanted?"

"But I thought--"

"The Pool is not in Dar es Salaam, Madame. It is on an island, a private island in a secret location."

"Oh. But my things..."

"You will have no need of them. They will be here when you return. Now you must go, quickly, before the light comes."

It was like a dream. Belinda couldn't have explained to anyone, even herself, why she cooperated. Perhaps she was so tired and she had traveled so far she could no longer resist. Perhaps it was the confidence of the dark man whom she could not even see. His voice comforted her, made her relax. Besides, Belinda had nothing to lose, not any more. She took off her wet coat and laid down in the bunk provided, pulling the soft wool blankets over her body. In minutes she was asleep.

When Belinda awoke she was painfully aware that the world around her was heaving up and down. She struggled to her feet and remembered she was on a boat. Rushing up the wooden ladder she opened the hatch door to blinding light. Glorious fresh air assaulted her lungs, air so rich and clean it hurt. She blinked in amazement and saw only blue-green water as far she could see.

The boat heaved just then, and Belinda's stomach went the opposite direction. She staggered to the edge of the boat and bent over the side. White foam churned up along the side of the boat beneath her face as her stomach rejected her last meal. She spat out the last of the Chicken Dior and wiped her mouth with her arm, sinking to the deck and feeling weak and yet somehow grateful.

"Morning, Miss!" roared a voice from high above, and Belinda turned around in bewilderment. It was the craggy face of an ancient sailor that spoke to her, half his near toothless mouth gripping a cracked wooden pipe and the other sporting a friendly grin.

"Where-where are we?" muttered Belinda, getting to her feet. She gazed around her as though she could recognize some landmark.

"Tis the Indian Ocean, Miss. And a right beautiful day."

"Where's... the other man, the one in black?"

"Oh, Giles? He doesn't come with us. Only you."

Belinda gulped and studied the man before her. He was standing above her in the bridge, manning the wheel. He seemed harmless, though he looked like he was about eighty. Belinda saw the narrow staircase along the port side that led upward to the bridge. She mounted it, coming around behind the old man. The sight of the blue ocean surrounding them was indeed beautiful. Belinda relaxed a little. She marched up next to him, standing with her feet wide apart so she wouldn't fall over.

"How long until we get there?"

The man shrugged. "Depends on the weather. If it's nice like this shouldn't be more than a couple days." He grinned. "Ready for some lunch?"

Belinda shuddered. "No, thank you. I think I can wait until we reach land."

The Captain cackled and giggled, his voice far too loud for casual conversation. He was a man used to the shouting necessary at sea, a man unused to the close confines of four walled rooms or the etiquette of dining in public.

The voyage passed quickly for Belinda. It was a nice change of pace. Out on the deserted ocean, it was as though time did not exist. For the first time in years, Belinda relaxed and slept through the night. She awoke each day refreshed, her body coursing with health and vigor she hadn't felt in years. After the first day she was eating, and though the food was modest -- canned sardines and bread -- it tasted like heavenly manna to her.

The sight of the island caught her by surprise, and with it a twinge of disappoint and alarm. Finally, her journey was at an end. For over six months she had been seeking this place, spending several fortunes in the process, and now she had finally arrived. Was it nothing but a myth or was it real? Belinda could scarcely dare hope.

Walking on land again felt strange. Earth was hard and immoveable. Belinda helped the Captain drag the small rowboat high onto the sandy beach and whiled he tied it to a tree, she examined the island.

It was paradise. Just the beach was amazing. Belinda thought the sand looked so clean and fresh it was nearly edible. She wiggled her toes in it as was glad she had left her shoes on the boat. She wanted to sink down and roll in the sand. Her body craved a bath -- she still wore the same long sundress she'd put on in the hotel in Dar es Salaam several days ago. It felt like years. But there was no place to bathe here, except for the ocean, and Belinda had not brought her suit. She had brought nothing, in fact. She felt dirty and naked without her makeup and she knew her hair was most likely ruined by the salty wind on the boat.

But despite all these inconveniences, Belinda felt good. Her body was tanned from the sun and she felt safe warm and healthy. It was strange. She would have died rather than have any one of her friends in New York see her like this, but here it didn't seem to matter. She was actually eager to meet the people of the island and didn't really care what they thought of her appearance.

"So what now--" Belinda started to ask the Captain, but turned away with a deep blush on her face as she saw he was busy stripping off his sweat-stained clothing.

"I've had these dang rags on for nearly two weeks," he growled in excitement. "Oh, it feels so good to get them off!"

Belinda couldn't stop blushing but she couldn't stop looking either as the Captain ran unashamedly past her and into the woods. He paused at the edge, his old body bony and hard. "Aren't you coming?" he cried. "Get that silly cloth off and come to the waterfall. It's the best bathing spot on the planet!"

Startled by his suggestion, Belinda slowly followed, listening to the man crash through the green underbrush as he headed God knew where. Suddenly Belinda heard splashing. She pushed through the leaves in front of her and the dirt beneath her feet vanished. She screamed in terror as she realized she was falling, but saw a glimpse of a beautiful pond and just managed to close her mouth before she plunged under water.

The water was wonderfully cool and when Belinda broke the surface she realized how badly she'd needed this. It made her feel like a child. She giggled and splashed playfully, and saw the Captain swimming and diving a short distance away.

The pond was surrounded by greenry on all sides except for one, and there loomed a large rocky cliff from which tumbled a glorious stream of water from about ten feet up. The source came right out of the cliff-face, and Belinda didn't even need to taste it to know that it was the freshest, cleanest water she'd ever drank.

"Worth the trip here just for this!" shouted the Captain, and Belinda saw he was standing on some rocks beneath the waterfall and opening washing his entire body. "Come on up, don't be shy. No one's shy on Uterra."

For a moment, Belinda hesitated. She dog-paddled in the water and began to consider it. The fading remains of dress clung to her awkwardly. She could feel it tangling embarrassingly between her legs. She ached to be free of it, to feel the silky water across her bare skin. But -- well, Belinda wasn't a prude, but she wasn't an exibitionish either. At just over thirty years old she was conscious that she was still desirable, that her body was still curvy and attractive. But only a few men had seen her naked, and those had been lovers. She smiled to herself at the thought of the Captain as a lover, his wrinkled skin next to hers... it was silly, of course. The man was old enough to be her grandfather. He was harmless.

Belinda swam to the edge of the pond and climbed out. Bravely she stood on a rock across from the old man and began to strip. She practically had to rip the dress from her body it was so wet and clingy. She threw it over some bushes and quickly undid her bra and slipped off her underpants. The latter she considered keeping, but then changed her mind. After all, she was on a secret island in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Who was there to see?

Naked, Belinda turned and dove into the water. The water caressed her skin like warm hands and Belinda nearly orgasmed the sensation was so delightful. She emerged near the rock where the Captain stood. He stepped aside and she climbed up near him, burying herself in the showery spray of the waterwall. The water was cold and fresh and woke up every part of Belinda's body. She yelled out loud in delight and turned to face the Captain.

"This is incredible!" she screamed. He grinned back at her, his old black eyes darting downward at her body. Belinda didn't even care but stepped away from the shower, exposing more of herself. It felt good to be lusted after, especially by a gentleman like the Captain.

She pushed her naked body against his, loving the way her pointed nipples rubbed against his muscled chest. She saw he still had the damn pipe in his mouth, so she kissed him on the cheek instead.

"Rrrrrr," growled the old man, and before Belinda could move he had wrapped his paws around her back and sunk his fingers deep into her ass. He lifted her into him then, so quickly and effortlessly it was as though he had been planning it all along.

It had been so long... Belinda couldn't believe it, but she did not resist. Something hard was pressing inside her and she felt her entire body welcome it. The next few moments passed like an eyeblink, and suddenly Belinda was roaring louder than the waterwall and the Captain was grunting like a rooting pig then there was a splash and silence, as the couple, still entwined, tumbled into the pond.

Belinda came to the surface stunned and astonished, her body tingling with amazing sensations. She had never been made love to like that. It was so raw, so passionate, so... animal. It blew her away. She could not focus, couldn't think. Part of her was repulsed by the ancient body of the Captain, an odd mixture of sea-hardened muscles and paunch, but another, deeper part of her, found comfort and strength in those experienced arms.

"Having fun?" said an amused voice, and a chill passed through Belinda. Her arms darted to cover her chest and she kicked her feet furiously to stay afloat. A tall man stood at the edge of the water.

"How long--" Belinda started to stay, frantically wondering if he'd seen... but then her eyes saw that the man was naked. He was close by -- perhaps ten feet away -- and she saw that though his face was wise with years, his body gleamed with the health of a twenty-year-old.

"I'm Jon Ericsen," said the man, bowing. "Welcome to Uterra."

* * * * *

Belinda was embarrassed. Her dress, bra, and panties were gone. She knew where she had left them, but they were not there. She wondered if Mr. Ericsen had taken them, but he gave no sign.

"Most likely the monkeys stole them," he said, waving his arms at the trees. He seemed unconcerned. Belinda saw that there were numerous monkeys chattering and hopping about above their heads. She hadn't even noticed them coming in.

"And I thought we were alone," she thought with another blush. She followed Mr. Ericsen -- Jon -- through the underbrush until they came to a small path where the going was easier. The Captain had stayed at the pond, wanting to finish his bath before he left. He would be gone by morning. That thought made Belinda nervous, but she felt it was probably for the best, considering what had just happened between them. Going back on the boat with him now... that would be really embarrassing.

Ericsen didn't appear the least embarrassed as he guided Belinda through the forest. She couldn't take her eyes off his naked form as he walked before her, and though he chatted casually and pointed out various plants and animals as they passed, Belinda wasn't paying attention. He led her to what appeared to be a series of small bungalows nestled at the base of a rocky mountain. It apparently was another side of the same mountain that held the cliff-side waterfall.

As Belinda and Jon approached, a bead doorway fluttered open and a honey blonde stepped out. She was the most beautiful woman Belinda had ever seen. Her face and skin were flawless, her magnificent blue eyes like glittering jewels. She smiled, her curved lips revealing perfect white teeth. Belinda felt a quiver in her belly. She wanted to kiss those silky lips, to let her hands stray over those delicate mounds of breasts, to caress the woman's sleek belly and hips, and --

Belinda shook herself away from her fantasy. The woman was speaking. "I'm Elanna," she said, her smile inviting Belinda into a warm place. "Please, our home is your home." The woman's hands reached out and took Belinda's and drew her inside the bungalow. Belinda followed eagerly, ready to be led into the bowel of a flaming volcano by this beautiful woman.

It took Belinda a moment to adjust her eyes to the dimness inside. Then she saw that the bungalow was nothing but an entryway, that it covered the entrance to a cave. Inside the cave it was warm and clean. Belinda was led through what appeared to be numerous rooms, all furnished with modern beds and furniture, lights, and decorations. The place was somehow both more elegant and more modest than Belinda's penthouse suite in Manhatten.

Elanna eased herself onto a long davenport, guiding Belinda beside her. Belinda curled her legs up under herself and sighed with pleasure. She felt warm and loved here, and no longer afraid. Tears sprang to her eyes and before she could stop herself, she began to cry.

Ericsen stepped forward. "Ms. Ryce?"

"Shhh," said Elanna. "Let her cry. She needs it." And she hugged Belinda to her, nestling the woman's cheek against her bosom. Belinda felt the soft flesh against hers and it felt so warm and wonderful she felt all the years of pain swell up inside her and she began to weep uncontrollably.

It was a long time before she stopped. When she had finished, she saw Jon was gone. Elanna was smiling at her. "You have been putting that off for too many years," she scolded gently.

Belinda nodded, and smiled weakly. "I don't know what came over me," she started to apologize, but Elanna pressed a finger to her lips.

"Say no more. Never apologize for what you feel, my love. Emotions cannot lie. You are what you feel. It is time to stop lying to yourself. Live what you feel. Be free and be alive."

Belinda stared at the woman as though seeing a ghost. She shook her head finally, overcome with amazement. "You seem so young, so beautiful, but I am nothing but a child to you."

"It is the Pool," whispered the woman. "It keeps us young."

Irrationally, an image of the pond came to Belinda's mind, interrupted by the tall presence of Jon Ericsen. She had forgotten about him. This woman belonged to him. That made Belinda sad. But it did not matter. She was here for healing, not for sex.

"The Pool... it's real?"

"Of course. You swam in it, didn't you?"

Belinda was confused. Surely the swimming pond was not the Healing Pool she had traveled three continents to find! "You mean the waterfall--"

"Yes. That's the Healing Pool."

"But I don't understand. I don't feel any different. I'm not better. Nothing's changed!"

"Are you sure?" Elanna's blue eyes bored into Belinda's dark ones and the girl began to hesitate. She did feel different, but it wasn't the Pool. It was the voyage, the culmination of months of searching, of being alone for so long.

"But I'm not better," said Belinda. "I-I feel a little strange, but I still hurt inside."

"You expect it to work instantly, with no will on your part?" Elanna's voice was chiding and sharp, and Belinda shrank away, chastised. "The Pool is not magic, my child. It does its work slowly, over time. It takes months, even years. You must bathe in it every day. You must let it heal you, allow it into your most secret and vulnerable places. It is not easy, but the healing power is there. You must work very hard for it to work."

"Oh," whispered Belinda. "I didn't know."

"Of course not," said Elanna, her voice friendly and compassionate again, and Belinda knew she had been forgiven. She hugged the woman tightly.

"I'm sorry. I'll work very hard, every day, like you say."

"I know you will. You have much pain, many injuries. Tomorrow we shall begin to heal you. Jon and I will be there to guide you."

"Thank you," whispered Belinda, but she felt herself drifting away. She was aware of Elanna getting up and leaving, then covering her with a delicate fur blanket. Belinda hummed in contentment and slept.

*** Author's Note *** This is one of my best stories, but it can only be properly read in the correct order. Please do me and yourself the favor of reading Part One first. Thanks!

Frank The Flogmaster ***

Part Two

(*****, MF/FF, Severe, cons whipping)

A lonely, depressed woman, haunted by a terrible secret, searches for the elusive 'Healing Pool' she hopes will cure her ills. (Approximately 8,180 words. Originally published 1997-09.)

At dawn Belinda was shaken awake by Elanna and led outside. Jon was standing near an open fire and he brought Belinda a plate of sizzling meat and eggs. Belinda suddenly realized she was famished. She sat on the ground and Elanna gave her a mug of warm milk and Belinda ate and drank as though she hadn't eaten in years. She didn't know what kind of meat it was, but she didn't care it was so delicious. Jon and Elanna sat nearby and ate. Only after her breakfast was gone and Belinda looked around at the beautiful scenery did she realize that all three of them were completely naked. It seemed perfectly natural, however, and in minutes Belinda had forgotten about it.

After breakfast the three of them headed for the pond. Belinda was excited, knowing that now she would begin her healing. When they reached the water, Belinda made to get in but Elanna stopped her.

"Wait. You must be prepared before you enter the water." Belinda nodded and stepped back, wondering what was going to happen. "Please, sit here," said Elanna, seating herself on a large rock and patting the space next to her. "Close your eyes and listen."

Elanna and Jon exchanged glances, and then Jon began speaking. His voice was soft and gentle like a massage, and Belinda felt her body relax. She closed her eyes and listened carefully.

"Belinda, you are in great pain. You mask it well, but you are as fragile as glass. You have come here to these waters expecting healing. Like many, you have heard the rumors, heard the tales of the Healing Pool. But you are not certain you believe it. You want to believe it, you need to believe it, but you still harbor doubts in your heart. Is this not so?"

"Yes, my Lord," answered Belinda, wondering why she was being so formal. But it felt right, given the atmosphere. Jon and Elanna were indeed like Lords above her. She felt small in their presence, honored by their treatment of her. They seemed so wise, she so foolish. It felt so good to trust someone they way she knew she trusted them.

"You must believe, Belinda. You must trust us. Open your eyes."

Belinda opened her eyes and gasped in horror, for there stood Jon, the huge gleaming blade of a steel knife in his hand. He stood above Elanna, who was kneeling at his feet. Her right arm was stretched above her head and he held it by the wrist with his free hand.

"Watch, Belinda. Do not move!" said Jon sharply. Belinda nodded, too frightened to budge. She screamed as the knife approached Elanna's open palm and tried to cover her eyes at the sight of bright red blood flowing down Elanna's arm. Elanna did not utter a sound. Perhaps it was this that made Belinda keep still.

Suddenly Jon drew the knife away and released Elanna. Like a graceful seal she slipped off the rock and into the pool. The splash seemed to swallow her up and there was a sudden and pronounced silence. Belinda didn't know what to think or do. She stared at the water and saw nothing, no movement, no body. Jon sat calmly, his eyes closed, the knife gone.

Then the pool exploded and Elanna burst through the water's surface. She swam to the edge near the rock and in a few seconds had scrambled up. Belinda was there, frantic with worry. "Are you all right?" she kept saying. "Please tell me you are all right!"

Elanna only smiled softly and held out her hands. Belinda gripped them tightly by the wrists and stared. She could not tell which one had been cut. She thought it had been the left one, but there was no mark, not even a trace of any wound.

"Do you believe now?" asked Elanna. Belinda's eyes were wide and frightened and she nodded vigorously.

"Yes! I do believe. I don't understand, but I believe."

"Good," said Jon from behind her. "Then we are ready to begin."

The three gathered in a circle on the rock and held hands. Jon spoke: "No one knows how the Pool works, Belinda. It just does. Those who trust it can feel it healing them and see the results. Those who doubt inhibit the healing power. Very little can happen without trust."

"I trust," said Belinda, tears shining from her eyes.

"Do you trust us?" asked Jon.

Belinda nodded. "With my life."

"There are two kinds of pain: physical and emotional. The Pool can heal both kinds, but at a cost: each pain is the inverse of the other. Emotion feeds the body, and the body feeds the soul. That is simply the price of healing. But for any healing to occur, you must allow the Pool access to your soul. You must free your mind, free your heart, free your emotions. You must lose all inhibitions, Belinda. This is why we choose to live naked -- we have nothing to hide from anyone. Our bodies are as open as our hearts."

"I understand."

"Understanding is easy, Belinda. Doing it is very difficult. Trading emotional pain for physical pain is difficult to do willingly. But Elanna and I want to help. Would you like our help?"

"Yes."

"Are you sure? I must warn you, it is going to be painful."

"Please, I just want my life to go away. I want to forget, to be at peace. I cannot live like this any longer. My heart--"

"Shhhhh." It was Elanna. She pressed her body against Belinda's, letting their nipples rub. Belinda opened her eyes in fear and Elanna shut them with her hand. "Close your eyes, baby. Let it all go. Relax. Feel. Feel your body, feel the pain."

What began then was something Belinda would have never have thought herself capable of participating in. It was something dark and forbidden, like an orgy, except it was shameless in the broad daylight. It was something powerful, so deep and heavy, it was beautiful. In her confusion Belinda began to weep.

She felt hands caressing her body, squeezing her flesh, pinching her nipples. Wet tongues lapped at her lips, sucked on her neck and breasts, licked her arms. All around her were the sweet perfumes of male and female, and though she feared it, Belinda began to lose control. Her body began to act without her consent. She felt her legs spreading wide at the slightest touch to her rear. Her lips eagerly sought out any body part she could find, and once she had it, she sucked and lapped as though it contained the secret to eternal life. All around her hands massaged her, fingered, tickled, and pinched her. It was overwhelming. Her body was nothing but animal sensations.

Then suddenly it was gone. Only Elanna was still there, but she held Belinda at bay. Belinda whimpered and moaned, clawing desperately for another taste of her friend's sweet body, but she was denied.

"You must earn it," said Elanna softly, nodding behind Belinda. Belinda turned and saw Jon standing behind her, a monstrous multi-tailed leather whip dangling from his hand. Belinda felt her heart beat faster, but she wasn't afraid. She was excited.

"My God he wants to whip me!" she thought, and she thought she ought to be afraid. Instead she turned to Elanna, questions in her eyes. Elanna smiled and nodded, and kneeling before the girl, spread her legs wide. Belinda dove forward, spreading her own legs behind her, knowing how vulnerable this left her and not really caring.

Belinda was lost in ecstasy when the first blow of the whip caught her. It was light -- even she knew that -- but it stung her buttocks terribly. It came again, a soft THIWCK! that sent chills running up and down her spine. She could feel her bottom humming with warmth and excitement and her sex grew moist. With a cry, Belinda threw herself forward into Elanna, licking and sucking with all her might. Behind her the whip did its fearsome work, lashing and stinging, faster and faster, the strokes now leaving vivid red weals in their wake. Belinda didn't care. She welcomed the pain. This was the price she needed to pay. She accepted it. She relished the stinging pain and thrust her buttocks up higher and spread her thighs wider, and as the pain grew more and more intense, she worked her way deeper and deeper into Elanna, burying herself in pleasuring her friend.

How long this lasted Belinda could never have told. Seconds, minutes, days, weeks, years... it all blended into one continuous feeling of regaining lost hope. For that was what it seemed like to Belinda. She had thought her life was over, that there was nothing left to live for, that life had lost all sense of meaning. But now there was fresh hope, and burgeoning inside the young woman was a renewed sense of purpose, of desire, of hope.

She dove from the rock and swam deeper and deeper into the pool. Light faded and there was nothing but peaceful silence. The cool water brushed across her blazing skin and Belinda smiled. It felt so good. She felt clean again, cleaner than she'd felt in years. Every pore of her body felt the touch of that water, and for a few moments Belinda actually believed she too could feel what every pore felt. It made her feel all-knowing, wise, and solemn. She saw how foolish she had been. In a dreadful flash saw the drugs, the alcohol, the failed attempts at suicide, the divorce, the car striking Mikey and the terrible sound of the crunch of his bones under the wheels. Tears poured from her soul but this time she didn't weep for poor Mikey but for herself. For the first time she saw that it was she who had lost something, she who had to go on living. It was all so clear. She had thought her life had fallen apart but it wasn't her life, it was _her_. She had fallen apart. It was time she faced the truth, accepted her guilt, and forgave herself.

"Nooooo!" she cried, weeping without control. She could never be forgiven, not for something like that. Even Richard -- it had never been the same after that. There were words, but there was always that look in his eyes, that question. With despair Belinda knew it would never been over, never stop haunting her. Her lungs ached and she wished she had the will to stay at the bottom of the Pool forever, but already the surface was calling her, pulling her. She broke through and gasped wonderful mouthfuls of fresh air and began to cry.

Elanna and Jon were there, pulling her to shore and spreading her out on the rock. Belinda was barely conscious. Her body ached all over and she felt like she'd been locked in a washing machine on spin cycle.

"Rest," whispered Elanna. "Just rest. Go to sleep. It's draining, the healing process. You need sleep."

"But it didn't work!" Belinda tried to say, but the words didn't come out. She laid back and closed her eyes, panting. It wasn't fair. All this. She had felt so close, so much better, and then -- it hadn't worked. She felt worse than ever now. All that pain was right on the surface. She had spent years burying it and here it was, right back in her face. She wanted to die.

* * * * *

It was evening when Belinda awoke. She was back in the cave, asleep on a comfortable bed with down pillows. She got up slowly. She felt better, but shaken. She thought of Jon and Elanna and blushed hotly. "Did I really..."

At that moment there was the brush of a curtain and in came Jon. He was carrying a tray with a glass of liquid. "Ah, I see you are up. Elanna and I were going to have dinner. We planned to let you sleep, but if you'd care to join us...."

"I'd love to," said Belinda, searching his eyes for any sign of shame at their previous activity. There was none. Perhaps she'd only imagined it. She took the glass from the tray and put her arm through Jon's, allowing him to escort her outside. She sipped at the glass and discovered it was the fresh-squeezed juice of some fruit, wonderfully sweet and delicious. A table and chairs had been set up and Elanna was seated, waiting. She smiled happily at Belinda.

"Oh, you look so pretty! I'd swear you are ten years younger. You must have slept wonderfully."

Belinda smiled half-heartedly. It was true that she had slept better than she had in a long time -- even better than on the boat coming here, but it didn't mean anything. Her problems were more real than ever.

Jon grinned mischeviously at Elanna as he sat down opposite her. "Methinks someone doesn't feel very healed."

"Jon!" scolded Elanna, but she was smiling and looking at Belinda. Belinda blushed and looked away. "Come on, dear. Let it out. Tell us what you are feeling. Don't you feel any better? Didn't today help?"

Belinda shook her head violently. "I don't know. I-I feel so confused. Everything is bubbling out of me, things I haven't thought of in years. I'm so afraid!" She burst out crying and hugged Elanna, sobbing on her shoulder.

"But Belinda, dear, that's exactly what's supposed to happen! Don't you remember I told you the healing takes time? Months, even years?" Belinda stopped crying and nodded reluctantly, sniffing and wiping her eyes with the back of her hand. She felt like a child going to Mommy for comfort. "Well, this is how it works," continued Elanna. "The feelings can't be healed if they are buried inside you. They have to come out. You have to examine them, accept your guilt, if necessary, and let them go."

"But--"

"But what?" It was Jon, his voice strong and confident, very real. It dashed the last of the doubts from Belinda's mind.

"I guess you're right. But I feel so terrible. I don't want to live through all this pain again."

"Shhh. Don't think of it right now," said Elanna, grabbing a bowl and heaping it with spoonfuls of thick stew. She placed it in front of Belinda and began another one for her husband. "Now eat up, and forget your problems. The time for thinking of your troubles is in the Pool, not during supper. Trust me -- problems as deep as yours don't heal overnight."

A chill went through Belinda and her cheeks went pink. "What... just what do you know of my problems?"

Elanna paused in serving herself. She looked at the girl and her eyes were bright and clear. "Why, nothing. Absolutely nothing. Except I can feel your pain, and believe me, it goes deep. You have enormous hurt inside you. I can't understand how you survived as long as you have."

Belinda nodded. "I didn't want to. I -- I tried to kill myself several times," she confessed. "Pills, mostly. They didn't work."

"Obviously," said Jon in a dry tone, and suddenly everyone laughed. Even Belinda smiled and then giggled. She felt warm and safe again, her trauma from the painful memories fading.

"I don't know how to thank you," she said. Tears came to her eyes. "I feel... I feel if there was someone I could share my problems with it would be the two of you."

Elanna smiled, tears brimming in her own eyes. "That is thanks enough, dear. Now eat your dinner before it grows cold."

* * * * *

Over the next few weeks Belinda made daily trips to the Pool. The others didn't always accompany her. Sometimes she and Elanna went alone. Once she and Jon went together, but if he saw that Belinda wasn't comfortable he never showed it.

Each time the Pool was a new experience. Belinda began to personify the Pool, and had conversations with her. It really was as though the Pool was a living being. It always seemed to know what Belinda was thinking and feeling, and it was always ready with the appropriate response. When Belinda was feeling afraid, it comforted her. When she was cold, it was warm. When she was hot, it felt cool and refreshing. It was always what she needed, whenever she went there.

At first Belinda didn't say anything to either Elanna or Jon about that first day at the Pool. Neither of the others mentioned it, and Belinda had almost convinced herself that she had imagined it, but during a visit with Elanna the woman began to caress Belinda's body and Belinda knew her memories were accurate. For some reason making love didn't bother her after that -- she did it with Jon or Elanna, or even by herself, squatting under the waterfall, letting the splash of the water arouse her.

There were more whippings. Not every day, but two or three a week, at least. Belinda didn't understand why these didn't bother her -- they hurt like hell. One day when she was swimming in the Pool she saw Jon watching her. He was holding the whip and without a word Belinda climbed out of the water and laid down on the rock for her whipping. It was one of the worst she'd ever gotten, but she never complained. Afterward, deep underwater, it seemed to make more sense to her. She knew she deserved it, and she could almost feel the exchange of emotional and physical pain taking place. She couldn't explain it to save her life -- but she understood it the way she understood her own body, and she couldn't explain that either.

Even Elanna whipped her. For some reason these affected Belinda more deeply than those from Jon. They weren't as severe, at least to judge by the marks, but they were somehow more powerful. Belinda always wanted to believe she was being betrayed, receiving such pain from her friend and lover, but she knew in her heart that that wasn't true. No, Elanna loved her deeply, she knew that. She also knew that she deserved to be beaten, and so she accepted the welts with as much dignity as she could muster.

Elanna didn't restrain her whippings just to Belinda's ass, either. She freely whipped Belinda's thighs and legs, her breasts and belly, and, on occasion, Belinda's pussy. These whippings were slow and methodical, lasting for hours. Elanna made Belinda turn and offer each body part up for the strokes, knowing how much this cost the girl.

And when at last the punishment was over and Belinda tumbled into the release of the Pool, it was pleasure like nothing she had ever imagined. Her troubles floated away from her like so much chaff in the wind and Belinda was laughing hysterically when she broke through the surface. There was a celebration at dinner that evening, and Elanna said that Belinda was making wonderful progress. Belinda said she hadn't felt this good in ten years. Perhaps twenty years. It was incredible.

Belinda had spoken very little of her past, and the others did nothing to pressure her. It was her life, her choice whether she told them or not. It did not matter. They could do nothing to help her anyhow -- it was the Pool that needed to hear her story.

One day, after Belinda had been on the island for nearly two months, Elanna turned to Belinda as they stood on the rock before the Pool. "Here," she said, and she handed Belinda the whip. She then laid down on the rocks, leaving her bare back and buttocks exposed. "Make it good."

Belinda stared at the woman in astonishment. She felt she knew Elanna better than a sister, and yet this action took her totally by surprise. She had seen the whip and expected to feel it, but now everything was turned around. "Elanna," she said. "I can't whip you."

"Of course you can. Now hurry up. We've got a long day ahead of us."

"But Elanna--"

Elanna rose on her elbows and her eyes flashed flames. "Belinda, you will do as I say. Now take that whip and use it, and use it good, or I'll blister your pussy so bad peeing will hurt!"

Trembling, Belinda began to cry as she lifted the whip and began to punish her friend. She did not want to do it. It confused her. She did not understand it. At first her whipping was feeble, and Elanna chided and teased her.

"Come on, one of those damn monkeys can whip harder than that!"

Gradually Belinda became more confident and the strokes were harder, leaving pink lines across Elanna's asscheeks and drawing grunts of praise from her. Soon Belinda was flaying the poor woman, beating her as hard as she could. Elanna encouraged it, moaning and raising her ass to receive the whip, and reminding Belinda of people who had hurt her.

"Your ex. What was his name? Richard? Pretend I'm him. Come on, let him have it. Thrash his ass. Really let him feel how much he hurt you!"

And Belinda complied, going into a blurred frenzy of anger and bitter resentment. She whipped Elanna for Richard, for her father and mother, her airhead sister, her old boyfriends, the old socialite friends that had abandoned her when Mikey died... correction: when she'd run over Mikey.... Yes, most of all Belinda whipped Elanna for herself, realizing it clearly for the first time how much she hated herself. She whipped and whipped and whipped, and it was only when her arm hurt so badly she could scarcely lift it that she looked up and realized what she had done: she'd nearly beaten her friend senseless.

Screaming in agony, Belinda fell to her knees and gathered Elanna in her arms and begged for forgiveness. The beautiful woman's body was nothing but bloody, welted flesh. Belinda felt a grief so like one she'd known before, guilt so sharp it seemed to cut her in two.

But then Elanna was speaking. She was giggling, and telling Belinda that the girl had better go to whipping school if she ever expected to learn how to whip properly, and Belinda cried and knelt over her friend and kissed her on the mouth, knowing she was forgiven. Elanna cried too, and together, holding hands, they leaped into the Pool.

It was like the cave -- dark and silent. It felt ancient and timeless. Belinda felt Elanna next to her and it felt wonderful and right. Together they swam deeper and deeper until it seemed all light had gone away. It was then that Belinda saw what Elanna had taught her. For years Belinda had been hating and blaming others. She knew she shouldn't, but she did anyway. It was easier than hating herself. But the guilt of that hatred, legitimate as some of it was, had nearly consumed her. It had grown like a cancer inside her conscience, slowly taking over everything inside. Now, for the first time, Belinda had been able to free herself of that hatred, to let it escape, to free herself from that guilt. Sure, others had hurt her. Sure, she had hurt others. But it was done. She had learned from her mistakes and she could only hope the others had learned from theirs. And in that cool water, as she swam with her friend, Belinda silently forgave all those who had injured her.

* * * * *

They had finished breakfast when Jon suggested they all go to the Pool. Belinda was a bit surprised. Jon hadn't gone to the Pool in at least a month. But it was fine. She watched to see if he'd bring the whip but he didn't, and Belinda felt disappointed. The whip, painful as it was, seemed to enhance every other sensation.

When they reached the Pool, giggling and talking rapidly, Belinda was startled by the sounds of deep, throaty singing and splashing. She stared at the others in alarm but Jon only smiled and took her hand and led her forward.

At the crest Belinda looked down and saw the familiar figure of the Captain, dancing naked under the waterfall. Her eyes went to Jon and then to Elanna and she began to cry.

It was over. Belinda couldn't believe it. The three months on the island had seemed like heaven. She didn't want to go. And yet -- Belinda knew an inner peace she had never known. She was, in fact, healed. She was no longer the timid, hopeless, broken person who had arrived here -- she was a real being, alive and full of hope and potential, and she had dreams of making a difference with her life now. She'd start a program, help disadvantaged kids or something. Use all that money Richard had left her for something good.

It saddened Belinda's heart but she knew it was time to go. She looked at Elanna and Jon and couldn't express her thanks. "I'll never forget you two," she whispered. "I owe you my life a hundred times over."

They both nodded, and Elanna wiped a tear from her eye. Even Jon seemed moved, the man who was always in control growing misty as he hugged Belinda good-bye. "Go with God," he whispered huskily. "You're a special one."

Belinda nodded and turned to go. She reminded herself that she must be brave, use her newfound sense of control to be mature. But it was very difficult. At the edge of the forest she paused.

"What about the money?" she asked. "I only put down the deposit."

"Don't worry about it," said Elanna gently. "We've been paid."

"The deposit's all there ever was," said Jon with a soft smile. "We only ask for the rest to see if you are really committed."

Tears came to Belinda's eyes. She didn't want the money any more. It felt wrong to keep it. "I'll donate it to charity," she thought. "Perhaps a foundation in their names." She turned to say a last word and saw that the forest was empty, only the chattering monkeys and singing sailor disturbing the peace.

With a heavy sigh that was at once filled with sadness and hope, she dove into the Pool from the forest edge, swimming deeper and deeper into paradise. God, she'd miss this place.

But in the clarity of the Pool she began to wonder: was the Pool really healing or had that been something she'd done on her own, with help from her two friends? She'd never know.

The End

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