“I’ll take care of Ravier,” Lady Sabine said to her Security. “He is dangerous mainly because he is impulsive. I will direct his impulses.” She smiled, Jenna grinned, Jacob’s face stayed impassive but his stance became slightly more relaxed. She wanted her Security alert but not anxious. Having an armed group visiting always caused tension and Ravier’s team came with a reputation for being aggressive and demanding.
“Jacob, I want you and your team to contain Ravier’s men. There won’t be many of them in a transport that size and that will make them nervous. Keep them relaxed. Let them feel that they are getting away with things. Don’t use force unless they go where they should not. Even then, use finesse and avoid lethal measures.”
“Jenna, you will help me with the ceremony. Remember you are a handmaiden while this group is here. Try to find them intimidating. Do not use force unless I tell you to.”
“What about the girl,” Jenna asked, “is she a threat?”
Jenna never took anything for granted.
“She is not a threat to us,” Sabine replied.
Jenna showed interest at the response but asked no more questions.
“Oh and please look surprised when they arrive. Remember we have no idea that they are coming.”
Sabine looked around at her team one more time. Everything was ready. “Let’s go and meet our guests.
To Sabine’s surprise, Ravier was first out of the transport. She knew his Security would not be pleased at that. Dressed in his riding leathers, Ravier looked out of place against the gleaming hull of the transport; like a throwback to a more primitive time, before mankind had spread amongst the stars.
Sabine knew that, in many ways, Ravier was the man the Founder had wanted to create: assured in his strength, exercising his will, independent of technology, dominant over women. He was magnificent, Sabine thought, but he was also useless, a biological and social dead-end. Men like Ravier could never build the technology or manage the commerce that supported their lifestyle. They were like peacocks, so enamoured by the magnificence of their tail feathers that they saw nothing beyond their own display. No, peacock was the wrong image. It didn’t convey the constant threat that Ravier and his kind posed. Watching him now, standing tall, stepping lightly, ready to pounce, Sabine realised that his every movement screamed predator. Ravier, she decided, was a lion that has been fed too long and too often by the females in his pride and was now convinced he was a great hunter. He was still useless, but he was also dangerous.
Ravier’s men, armed with swords and crossbows, scrabbled after him out of the transport. Sabine smiled as she considered how poorly these fierce men would fare against the illegal off-world weapons that she had secretly supplied to her own Security. She pictured the look of surprise Ravier would have on his face if he had to watch his men slain at her command. It was a pleasant picture, but Sabine banished it from her mind. She was a Courtesan; it was an article of her faith that finesse was better than force.
When Rachel stepped down from the transport, every male head, including those in Sabine’s Security, turned toward her. Sabine watched Ravier’s response and suddenly she knew why he had been first into the fresh air. The man could barely contain himself. The impact of Rachel’s pheromone-charged presence in the small craft must have been palpable. Ravier and his men were literally pumped up with excitement.
“My Lord Ravier,” Sabine said, sweeping forward, her Security moving on either side of her, “what a pleasure it is to see you again.”
Ravier tore his gaze from away Rachel and watched Sabine approach him. She recognized the look of fascination on his face when he finally looked at her. It was one thing to know that someone had had rejuve; it was another to be confronted with the reality. Ten years had past since they had last met face to face and in that time she had literally not aged a day. Ravier’s fingers went to his own face; unconsciously tracing the lines time had imposed upon him.
“Lady Sabine,” he said, moving to kiss her hand, “the pleasure is all mine. Court has quite lost its sparkle since you absented yourself from us.”
There was no trace of envy or irony in his voice, but Sabine could see the hunger in his eyes. Ravier was a larger, more solid man now than the boy she had taken to her bed years ago but even then he had been hungry, wanting to take life by the throat and worry it until it yielded everything it had.
Boy that he was, he had already had one kill to his name and was building a reputation as a dangerous loner. His appetites were voracious and his stamina enviable but he lacked control. At his father’s request, Sabine had helped the young Ravier to tame his anger without losing his passion. It had taken her the best part of a year to mould him into someone who could survive in the Brotherhood. Ravier had cooperated, sometimes enthusiastically, sometimes reluctantly. By the end of the year she had built his confidence and helped him to restrain the part of him that he always referred to as The Wolf but which she always thought of as The Selfish Little Boy.
The man before her now, dressed his speech in courtly manners, but the steel of his will still glinted through. Sabine knew that Ravier would always be just a heartbeat away from violence and rage.
There was a moment of silence when they just looked at each other, acknowledging what they knew and would not publicly voice about their relationship.
A flash of gold at Sabine’s side caused her to look away from Ravier and break the mood.
“And who is this young beauty?” Sabine asked, getting her first close look at Rachel.
She looked so very new in the world, it seemed strange to Sabine that this small girl could hold hopes of so many.
“Lady Sabine, may I present Rachel, Supplicant Courtesan,” Ravier said.
“Supplicant? She has been assessed but not yet Blessed?”
“I have brought her to you so that the Blessing can take place, my Lady.”
“Well, my Lord Ravier, I am indeed honoured, but I shall need time to prepare. There is much to do. Perhaps early next week we can…”
“I would like the ceremony performed today, my Lady, if it pleases you.”
Grinning inwardly at Ravier’s urgency, Sabine bowed and said, “It always pleases me to serve you, my Lord. We shall hold the ceremony tonight by torch light.”
“Thank you, my Lady.”
Sabine placed her self on Ravier’s right, one hand up on his shoulder, her breast resting gently against his arm, her hip touching his, and looked at Rachel.
Rachel stood demurely, hands folded over her sex, her breasts pushed forward and slightly together, her head bowed, displaying the soft strength of her neck, one foot forward, stretching her sarong over her hip. She was a delightful mixture of modesty and provocation and, best of all; she seemed to be behaving completely naturally.
Ravier was totally absorbed in watching Rachel. Even in his current state of obvious arousal, he seemed unaware of Sabine leaning against him, his focus solely on the young girl.
“I have a treat for you, my young wolf cub,” Sabine whispered into Ravier’s ear.
Ravier moved, snapped out of his pre-occupation by the use of the nickname he felt he had outgrown. Before his frown could spread, Sabine clapped her hands and said, “Jenna, attend us!”
Jenna’s long hair hung free, reaching down past her waist. Her sarong was designed to emphasise the curves of her breasts and hips and distract from the muscle her training gave her. She stepped forward from Sabine’s group and knelt at Ravier’s feet, her eyes never reaching above his waist.
“Jenna is my handmaiden. She will prepare you for the ceremony, my Lord. I’m sure you will enjoy her expertise.”
Ravier bent forward and lifted Jenna’s chin until he was looking in her eyes. He ran his thumb over her lips. Jenna suckled it gently but with obvious pleasure, keeping both of her hands on her knees, but leaning forward slightly to display her cleavage.
“She will do,” Ravier said, letting go of Jenna, his gaze returning automatically to Rachel.
“Come,” Sabine said, putting her arm through Ravier’s and leading him forward past Rachel and the still kneeling Jenna, “let us prepare for the ceremony.”
“If you’re hymen isn’t intact, now is the time to tell me. It won’t spoil the ceremony, we can always arrange for a little blood.”
“Thank you, my Lady, but the blood will be real. It’s not that I am so pure, more that my opportunities were so few. The Sisters seemed to know how strong my desires were. They watched me closely to help me preserve my purity. Of course, I was allowed to play the kissing games and to pleasure myself gently under supervision. The Sisters said that it was important for my health for me to find release regularly.”
Rachel spoke quietly and without embarrassment. Sabine was brushing Rachel’s hair; soothing her while the servants used a vegetable dye to draw symbols sacred to the Brotherhood on the girl’s smooth flesh.
Sabine had chosen to perform this rite in a courtyard so that she would be less affected by the pheromones that Rachel produced. It was one of Sabine’s favourite places, a perfectly proportioned space with white walls, blue tiles, water-rills to soothe the eye and ear, and blossom trees to spice the air. She came here mostly to watch the dawn. Today they would witness the sunset.
Bending forward, she kissed Rachel on the forehead, “There is nothing impure about losing your virginity, Rachel.”
She let her fingers trace a line along Rachel’s jaw. “You were born with the ability to give and receive great pleasure. You should relish that. Impurity arises only when the sex becomes mixed with other things: fear, greed, guilt, anger. For many men, sex is always mixed with these things. They see them as threads in the same cloth. As a Courtesan, you can create a space that is purely and simply about pleasure for its own sake. Once you take a man to that place, he will always want to return and each time he visits he will change, becoming more human and less afraid. This is the gift you bring to the Brotherhood.”
Sabine realised that everyone in the courtyard was looking at her. Perhaps it was the sincerity in her voice. Perhaps, for those who knew her better, it was the hint of regret that tinged her tone. Once she had believed that she could change the Brotherhood simply by showing men how to be better. She found that she still wished she thought it was true.
She broke the silence by saying, “But today is about you and your thoughts, Rachel, not about mine. Tell me why you want to be a Courtesan. Tell me the real reason, not the confection that you were coached to feed to Ravier.”
Rachel looked around at the servants and replied, “My answer to Lord Ravier was honest, my Lady, my passions are strong and I wish to serve.”
“Nothing you say here will be repeated, Rachel. Speak freely.”
Sabine returned to combing Rachel’s hair. The servants busied themselves drawing spirals on Rachel’s thighs. “Partial truth is the best kind of lie, Rachel; you were wise to use it with Ravier. Now tell me what did you not share with Lord Ravier.”
Rachel breathed in deeply and relaxed. It was a pleasant sight to watch, Sabine thought, one of those naturally graceful movements with which domestic animals tighten their grip on our hearts.
“I want to understand why men behave as they do,” Rachel said. “I have searched the Book of the Brotherhood and read the chronicles of our early years on this world and still I don’t understand what it is that makes men so… insecure. They fight and they betray and they compete when they could gain so much more by just…”
“Being more like women?”
“YES! And yet it was men who founded our world and men who rule it. I knew that if I joined a Cloistered Corporation I would never see for myself how this comes to be.”
“So you want to be a Courtesan so that you can study men?”
“Yes, my Lady.”
“Be careful never to let them know that.”
Sabine was surprised by Rachel’s answers. She had expected a more physiological motivation, an urgent need for adoration from men. The plan called for that, depended on it even. Ironically, the women behind the Courtesan project had behaved just like men, seeing only Rachel’s physiology and neglecting to consider how she might use her intellect.
This needed thinking about. It could put the plan at risk or it could move things forward even faster. Soon Sabine would have to decide how much to tell Rachel about her heritage and her purpose.
“Why did Lord Ravier choose you for the blessing, my Lady?”
The question caught Sabine by surprise. It was the first sign of real curiosity that Rachel had displayed. The Courtesan who presided over the blessing had a responsibility to coach the new Courtesan and make her successful. It was unusual to choose a woman who had allegedly retired.
“Are you unhappy with his choice, Rachel?”
“No, my Lady. I think I am already a little in love with you.”
The smile Rachel gave her made Sabine want to hold the girl close. It also filled her with guilt.
“It’s just that it’s unusual to choose a Courtesan who has retired to preside over the Blessing. You will be able to come to Court with me and help me learn won’t you, my Lady?”
“I will be there Rachel, but there are some things you need to know. There are factions at Court who believe that Courtesan’s have too much power. They have been taking steps to reduce that power. When I became a Courtesan there where half a dozen Grande Courtesans, each of whom kept two or three new Courtesans in their household. Most members of the Synod regularly spent time at these Houses. Now I am the last of that generation. Today, no Courtesan owns her own House at Court; each is under the protection of a member of the Synod. Lord Crowley and his faction are claiming that society has developed to the point where Courtesans are a dangerous anachronism that the Founder would undoubtedly have abolished if he was still here.”
“But the Book of the Brotherhood states…”
“Any man can use the Book of the Brotherhood to prove their point, Rachel. I suspect it was either deliberately written that way or it has been edited since. And I mean it when I say any MAN can quote the Book of the Brotherhood. A woman who quotes the Book to win an argument will be seen as an agent of subversion. Firstly she should not dispute with a man in public. Secondly she should accept that her Lord is better equipped than she is to understand the Book’s meaning. I know there is heresy in what I say, Rachel, but there is also truth.”
It was growing dark. Servants were lighting torches around the courtyard. Looking in to Rachel’s dark eyes, Sabine could see the flames reflected there, she could also see the light of intelligence in those eyes and she felt a rush of affection for the girl. For a moment Sabine wondered if perhaps Rachel’s biochemistry was influencing her judgement, but that under-estimated the power of the girl’s personality. Sabine decided that it would be better to share information with Rachel than to leave her to discover it. She wanted Rachel to turn to her for guidance when they were at Court.
“There are two reasons Ravier selected me. The first is pragmatism. I am the last of the generation of Courtesans who lived independently of a Synod sponsor so I am the only person he could bring you to without having to choose which Synod member to align with.
The second reason is more personal. Ravier’s father sponsored me when I was a Supplicant Courtesan. He took an interest in me throughout my time at Court. This House was a gift from him.”
“What is he like?”
“He is dead now, assassinated ten years ago.”
“Is that why you left Court?”
“It was one of the reasons.”
“Did you love him?”
“Courtesan’s do not love, Rachel. And neither do members of the Synod. But we… respected each other.”
“You took him to that pure place?”
“Tell me how it was with him, please?”
Rachel’s body was now fully decorated. The red and green dyes on her skin were flecked with mica that glinted in the torchlight. It only remained to place the wreath upon her head and she would be ready.
“You should be contemplating the coming ceremony, not getting history lessons”
Rachel turned to face Sabine and then knelt in front of her.
“I am ready. This is preparing me. Please tell me about him as you place the wreath on my head.”
Sabine found it impossible to deny the kneeling girl. She suspected that most people would find it impossible to deny her. She wondered what to tell Rachel about the man who had played the dominant role in her life, the man who had granted her rejuve and promised to stay with her for centuries. The man whom Crowley had had killed.
“Jean-Michel, was a master of control. He controlled the lives of all around him, but most of all he controlled himself. He was unusual for a Lord of the Brotherhood because he was both a zealot and a thinker. He was a power in the Synod not just because he was ruthless and focused but because he saw patterns that others did not. He told me he had me promoted to Courtesan because he thought I would also be able to see patterns and act on them.
When he first took me to his bed I was young and inexperienced and he controlled me completely. He would bring me to orgasm time after time, only allowing himself to come when I lay exhausted beneath him. Afterwards we would play chess and discuss politics. It was a month before I realised that he preferred the chess games to the sex and that my naive comments on politics amused and refreshed him. He made me consider what a Courtesan is really for and why a man like him might want one. As time passed, the sex changed. First he let me please him without taking pleasure myself; he had no further need to show that he could flood my brain time after time. He let me keep my mind clear so that I could use it. In our best times it became impossible to distinguish the sex from the chess and the talk. All three would be happening at once. Every move on the chess board was an act of seduction, every caress was a move in our game, and every political analysis was a moment of intimacy.”
“It sounds wonderful.”
“Some of the time it was wonderful and that is all we can hope for. Now stand, compose yourself and prepare to be blessed.”
Sabine took Rachel’s hand in her own and led her towards the main courtyard where the blessing would be held. Rachel’s skin was warm and dry; there was no sense of tension or nervousness coming from her. Sabine wondered how the girl could be so composed, given what was going to happen next. At her own blessing, Sabine had been trembling with excitement laced with a fear that something might go wrong. Before they met, Sabine had thought she knew everything there was to know about Rachel. Now she realised she had much more to learn.
Just before they passed through the arch that would bring them into public view, Rachel lifted Sabine’s hand and kissed it.
“I’m sorry for your loss, Sabine,” she said. Then she let go of Sabine’s hand and walked confidently, naked and alone towards the dais and her Blessing.
© Mike Kimera 2001 All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without written permission from firstname.lastname@example.org
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