The Way of the Courtesan : Chapter 1 : Riding the Courtesan’s Pony

“Tell me about Rachel,” Ravier said.

“You will be Assessing Rachel personally, my Lord? We had not expected an Assessor of your rank”

The Abbess was younger and prettier than Ravier had imagined but this did not excuse the impertinence of her statement. At Court, such a comment would have been seen as a challenge to his judgement. Punishment would have followed.

Ravier allowed himself to smile as he pictured the pretty little Abbess spread-eagled on the pain-bench, waiting for his whip to teach her some manners.

Perhaps sensing the anger in Ravier’s eyes, the Abbess strove to recover from her mistake. “We are of course, honoured by your presence at Leyston Abbey and will offer every…”

Ravier put his finger to his lips.

The Abbess blushed and fell silent-

Ravier let the silence swell before finally piercing it with one word: “Rachel.”

The Abbess broke eye-contact with Ravier,  pulled a file from off her desk and started to read it aloud.

“Rachel’s potential was first identified by the test routines in the peasant screening programme, administered after her first menses, She scored in the upper decile for both intelligence and libido. Naturally, she was immediately adopted by the Brotherhood and placed here, in our Protected Education School so that…”

“You could ensure her mental development, her physical purity and educate her in the opportunities her gifts might make her heir to,” Ravier said.

It was a direct quote from the Abbey’s Charter. Ravier hoped the Abbess would feel slighted by the interruption and surprised by the extent of his research. The Abbess remained outwardly calm. Ravier decided to push her further.

“One of the great benefits to the Brotherhood, of allowing the peasants to breed outside of the managed stud plan, is the occasional gem their random procreation produces. Don’t you agree Abbess?”

“Yes, my Lord”

“Is it not wonderful how even the freedom to fuck can be made to serve the will of the Founder?”

“Indeed, my Lord,” the Abbess said, bowing her head, perhaps to hide the slight blush the word “fuck” had produced.

Ravier wanted to laugh. If this made her blush then her reaction to the Assessment should be well worth seeing.

“And did Rachel live up to her potential, Abbess?”

Ravier already knew the answer. His presence here was testament to the outcome. He wanted to hear how the Abbess would tell the tale.

“She was a model student. She will graduate at the top of her class, and has won promotion to the rank of Chatelaine in the Brandt Corporation.”

The phrases were terse and factual but the Abbess’ pride in Rachel’s achievement shone through

“You must have been delighted, Abbess, at having your peasant pupil recruited to the most prestigious of the cloistered female corporations. Yet it seems Rachel was not excited at her new opportunity. She had been told, I assume, that her new rank would bestow upon her the honour of producing two male offspring?”

“Yes, my Lord.”

“Ah, to have such an honour without the trouble of actual maternity. It would be unseemly for a Chatelaine to sweat under the weight of a man and then stagger for months carrying his offspring in her bloated womb don’t you think?”

The Abbess took refuge in polite silence.

“Still it must be strange to have one’s eggs harvested like grapes and ripened in some peasant’s womb. But perhaps Rachel was more troubled by the fact that Chatelaines are forbidden contact with men? Do you think that could be so?”

“It appears so, my Lord”.

“I have been told that many women manage quite nicely without men. Is it true that the Sisters ensure that their charges are well schooled in masturbation techniques?”

“Some tuition is given.”

The Abbess was flushed now. Ravier liked pale skinned women who went scarlet when stimulated. He leaned forward, looked the Abbess in the eye and said, “I understand that they are also taught how to please each other. Now that would be a class worth attending.”

Ravier let the silence that followed drag on. Poor little Abbess. Did she really think the Brotherhood was ignorant of what the Sisters got up to?

“Are you disappointed that your star pupil has turned down the Brandt Corporation, Abbess?”

“Rachel has deferred her acceptance pending your Assessment, my Lord.”

“My Assessment of her suitability for the rank of Courtesan. Do you think she will make a good Courtesan, Abbess?”

“That is not for me to say, my Lord.”

“No, Abbess, it is not. I will see Rachel now.”

The Abbess eagerly accepted the opportunity to absent herself and left to collect the girl.

Ravier put his teasing of the Abbess to one side. She was not important. His visit to the Abbey was.

Amongst the leadership of the Brotherhood it was widely, but quietly, acknowledged that the biggest threat to the social order the Founder had gifted to them was sexual ennui. When one can have almost any woman one wishes, when one is surrounded by accessible beauty, it is too easy to become jaded. Absolute power can bore absolutely.

Some men reacted to their growing ennui by withdrawing into a routine of mechanical gratification provided by interchangeable bed-mates. They engaged in sex with much the same attitude as an over-fed man presented with a finger food buffet, driven more by habit than need.

The young increasingly sustained their interest by taking part in sport-fucks, but if truth were told, they were as concerned with their league-table points (how many, for how long in how many positions or combined with how many partners simultaneously) as they were with the acts themselves.

In mid-life, many men found themselves needing to prop up their desire by focusing on fetishistic practices.

To Ravier, sexual ennui was a cancer eating at the heart of the concept of manhood upon which society was based. Real men should relish their dominance over women. It was their duty to look into the soul of a woman and shape it to their will.

Yet, if that victory came too easily, men became lazy. If it met with too much resistance, men became cruel and abusive. Either way, the men ceased to be men.

In Ravier’s view, Courtesans were the blades with which this cancer could be excised. The Brethren needed women who could provoke them into being the real men they should be; women who could inflame men’s desire and stretch men’s minds while still accepting their own natural place in the world.

And yet, just at the time when the Brotherhood needed them most, it seemed that fewer and fewer women were being produced who could follow the Way of the Courtesan. Ravier had made it his personal mission to seek out those who had the potential to serve and set them on the right path.

Thinking of his mission always filled Ravier with energy. He paced the room, his eagerness growing as he let himself consider the importance of his task. He stopped in mid-stride when the Abbess returned with a novice at her side.

“This is Rachel, my Lord,” the Abbess said.

The novice bowed her head and knelt before Ravier.

Her face was hidden behind a veil that revealed only her eyes. Her posture was demure. She did not flirt. And yet she excited him.

Ravier circled her twice, came to rest in front of her, and said, “Look at me.”

Behind Rachel’s eyes a passion burned that was so luminous, Ravier felt as if he had already seen her naked.

He was exultant. The young girl had talent and he, Alain Ravier, would have the honour of helping to achieve its true potential and shaping it to the service of the Brotherhood

Ravier hid his excitement. He did not want the girl to know that for him the Assessment was already over. Certain forms of behaviour were expected. And besides, he wanted to teach the Abbess a lesson in the reality of the Brotherhood’s power.

“Do you understand the nature of the Assessment, Rachel?”

“Yes, my Lord.”

“Explain it to me.”

“You will set me tasks that allow me to demonstrate the three main virutes of the Courtesan: obedience, arousal and intelligence.”

The wording was precise; a nice balance between deference and independence.

“Tell me why you wish to be a Courtesan, Rachel.”

The girl was silent for a moment. “I believe it was the role for which I was born for, my Lord.”

“How can you know this?  Have you ever been with a man?”

“No, my Lord.”

“Then how can you know that being a Courtesan is your destiny?”

“If it is not, my Lord, then the passion that I feel at the thought of it, the song that my blood sings in the lonely reaches of the night, the nameless urges that make my pulse race, are without purpose.”

“And if you fail the Assessment?”

“Then I will serve as a Chatelaine to the best of my abilities, my Lord.”

Perfectly done: obedience, arousal, intelligence. Even at Court, Ravier had not seen such a display from one so young. If her body’s performance matched that of her mind, Rachel would be a rare prize for the Brotherhood.

“Abbess,” Ravier said, “is everything ready for the examination?”

“Yes, my Lord.”

“Please assemble the rest of Rachel’s graduation class in the examination chamber.”

“Are you sure, my Lord? That is most unusual.”

“Are you questioning my instructions, Abbess?”

The Abbess had the good grace to turn pale and the good sense to say nothing further. The haste with which she left the room pleased Ravier.

Ravier knew that the Abbess had a point. Assessments were normally conducted in private. When observers were allowed, they were almost always male and they were certainly not young girls who had yet to emerge from Protected Education.

Rachel was still kneeling in the centre of the office. She had not been given permission to stand. Ravier circled her, thinking about the risk he was going to take. He wanted to push Rachel just a little harder than was usual and he wanted to discomfort the Abbess in the process. If that meant taking a risk, so be it. Taking risks was an essential part of being a man; it tempered his character and reminded him of what it was to be alive. Risk always made Ravier hard; what more proof did he need of its value?

Standing behind Rachel, aware of, but not touching his own erection, he allowed himself a Wolf-moment. He set aside his civilised, educated, persona and gave himself up only to his hungers and his strength. He took a step closer to Rachel, closed his eyes, lowered his head towards hers and breathed deeply. Ah… girl-scent. Wonderful. She smelled young and clean and… yes already aroused. His tongue moved over his lips. His erection pulsed. His hands ached to grab and spread and tear. Almost, he could feel the heat of her flesh, the moist embrace of her sex, the taste of her blood in his mouth.

Ravier opened his eyes. He made the Wolf leave him; forced himself to become a civilised man again. He would control his arousal. He would not let his arousal control him.

When he was sure of himself, placed a hand on Rachel’s shoulder. She trembled but she did not move or speak. He let himself savour the heat of her flesh through the thin fabric of her robe, pleased at his ability to refrain from ripping away the cloth and close his hand around the meat of her breast.

“Stand up, Rachel and take me to the Assessment Chamber.”

Rachel did as she was bid, without looking back. Ravier walked behind her, studying the way she moved. Her step was light and her stride uninhibited. It was the walk of neither lady nor slave but of untroubled youth. Yet she was more than just a girl; there was an unconscious sexuality to her that snagged at his senses like the aroma of unseen food.

“We are here, my Lord,” Rachel said, halting at set of double doors and turning to face him.

He met her eyes once more. Her gaze reached out to him like a caress.

“Listen to me, Rachel. Once we are inside, stand in the centre of the room and remain silent. You are under my authority now, and no one else’s. Obey my instructions and be yourself and all will be well.”

“Yes, my Lord,” Rachel said, bowing her head.

Ravier had not intended to be so encouraging with the girl. Instructions should not have been necessary. He allowed himself a mental shrug of the shoulders. It was only natural that he should want the girl to succeed. Her success was his success. There was no more to it than that.

Ravier pushed open the double doors and swept into the chamber. Rachel’s class, fifteen novices, indistinguishable in their modest robes, were standing in a semicircle, staring at the device that Assessors call, ‘The Courtesan’s Pony’. It was a leather saddle, wide but not high. A woman straddling it would be spread but would still be able to touch the ground with her feet.

As Ravier strode forward, the novices stepped back, as if some dangerous beast had just entered the room. Ravier bowed to them, amused to see them all struggling to curtsey while still moving backwards in disarray.

“Abbess,” Ravier said, “I need the services of whichever of these young ladies is second in Rachel’s Class.”

The Abbess looked more nervous than ever but she led a tall young woman forward by the hand. The girl’s fingers were gripping the Abbess’ hand fiercely.

“This is Celia, my Lord. She will become a Chatelaine with the De Marco Corporation.”

Those words carried a warning. The De Marco Corporation was prone to litigation in protection of its property, be it inventions and or personnel. The Abbess was truly being a shepherd to her sheep. Ravier decided it was time that this shepherd learnt what it was to encounter a wolf.

“Please remove your veil, Celia,” he said.

As an Assessor of the Brotherhood, Ravier could demand such things. He could, if he wished, divert the young Celia’s career in a quite different direction. There would be consequences and, eventually, De Marco would come looking for her, but in the meantime she would have had an experience that she would never forget.

Celia removed her veil and looked downward, modestly. Ravier lifted her head. The girl could not quite hide her indignation at being touched, but she had the discipline not to pull away from him. He studied her as he would study a horse at market. She was beautiful in a slightly fragile sort of way and her mouth showed promise, but her eyes lacked the passion that shone so clearly in Rachel. Ravier ran his thumb over the smooth skin of Celia’s cheek and was rewarded with a blush.

Celia bore a resemblance to the Abbess that made him wonder about her origins. Like the Abbess, her skin was very pale and she blushed easily. An image of Celia, flushed beneath him, with the Abbess at her side, pushing her tongue into the girl’s mouth, flashed across Ravier’s inner-eye. He found it a pleasant picture; one that he could easily choose to make into a reality.

Celia trembled beneath Ravier’s touch. Ravier smiled, released the girl and turned to address the flock of girls standing in a semi-circle around them.

“Thank you, Celia. I need your help to demonstrate the device that your classmate will soon be using. Please place your left hand flat on the centre of the saddle and tell the class what you feel.”

“I feel a long thick ridge with a bulge at either end. The ridge is covered with small, randomly positioned nodules. The ridge is finished in calf-skin, possibly over a silicon base.”

“Well done, Celia; a very clear description. The De Marco Corporation has chosen well I see.”

Celia started to straighten up. Ravier stopped her with a gesture.

“Patience, Celia, patience. Please keep your left hand where it is and place your right hand around the saddle horn. Hold it gently. Tell us what you find.”

“The horn,” she stumbled a little over the word, “is moulded into a pistol grip. It appears to be some kind of triggering device.”

Celia was bent over at the waist, facing her class; her left hand resting on those mysterious ridges, her right hand gripping the horn. Ravier was certain that the soon-to-be Chatelaine knew what would happen next.

“Stay just as you are Celia. Squeeze the horn until I tell you to stop.”

As Celia squeezed the horn, a buzzing noise came from the saddle. The harder she squeezed the louder the noise became. Celia’s left arm visibly vibrated. Even her modest clothing could not hide the movement of her left breast beneath her robe. Ravier silently counted to ten while he watched Celia struggle not to remove her hand. The device clearly offended her.

“Stop now please, Celia, and describe to your class what you have just discovered.”

“The ah, horn, controls the rate of vibration of the ridge in the saddle.”

She seemed relieved to have gotten through this description, but Ravier was not yet done with her.

“Please describe the vibration, Celia.”

Celia flushed, “Describe it, my Lord?”

“Tell us what it felt like. Pleasant? Unpleasant? Stimulating? How did it make you feel Celia?”

“I found it jarring and unpleasant, my Lord.”

Ravier moved to stand next to Celia. He was very close to her when he asked, “And what do you think the ridge is for, Celia?”

The girl made no reply.

Ravier turned towards the class and said, “Come now, Celia, you are going to be an engineer, share with the class your professional insight into the purpose of these ridges.”

“I think it is intended as a stimulator, my Lord,” she said, quietly.

“Speak up Celia. Face the class. Tell them what would be stimulated.”

Celia spoke to the class as if she was presenting an assignment.

“My Lord, from the positioning of the bulges, I imagine that the front bulge is designed to part the labia without penetrating the vagina. Moving away from the front bulge would press the anus against the smaller bulge at the rear. Moving forward would press the clitoris against the bulge. Staying in the centre would stimulate the anus and the labia simultaneously.”

“Thank you for a very accurate description. Tell me Celia, would you like to ride the saddle?”

Her eyes widened in horror at the suggestion. She managed to say, “No, my Lord. I would not choose to ride this.”

Ravier decided that the De Marco Corporation and Celia deserved each other. The girl had a good brain and no fire in her belly. It was time to move things along.

“Celia, I would like you to…”

The pause amused Ravier. The Abbess looked ready to leap to Celia’s defence. The girl herself was frozen in place.

“…rejoin your class.”

“Thank you, my Lord,” she said and rushed back to her classmates like a startled fish heading for the safety of the shoal.

“Ladies,” Ravier said, executing a deep bow, “today you will have the privilege of watching your classmate, Rachel, being assessed for progression towards the rank of Courtesan. Please give her your full attention.”

Ravier beckoned Rachel to come forward. He positioned her so that she was standing next to him, facing towards her class.

“Rachel, please take off your clothes.”

Rachel neither replied nor hesitated. She removed her headdress, revealing a train of thick black hair that hung to the middle of her back.  It shone in the light and looked heavy and soft. Ravier wanted to weigh it in his hand. Rachel was still dressed and already she was an incitement, a provocation.

Next Rachel removed her veil. Her face was broad, regularly featured, with a strong chin, high cheekbones, and a wide mouth set beneath a straight nose. Ravier had seen her genotype many times before; it was pleasing, but not outstanding.

As Rachel’s hands reached up to undo the ribbon at the top of her shift, she looked into Ravier’s eyes and smiled. The smile illuminated her whole face. Ravier knew that men would compete to be the cause of that smile.

With an elegant shrug of her shoulders, Rachel was naked. She held her hand out to Ravier, ostensibly to steady herself as she stepped out of the shift that was now pooled around her feet.

Ravier admired this move. It allowed her to offer herself, while at the same time giving her the initiative. She had chosen when and where he would get to touch her for the first time. She had also made him complicit in her disrobing.

“Thank you, my Lord,” Rachel said, releasing his hand and curtseying. Her combination of modest behaviour, graceful movements and complete nakedness was calculated to beguile.

Rachel turned to face her classmates. She stood with her legs slightly apart, her hands behind her back and her head held high. Suddenly it seemed as if all the other women in the room were overdressed. With apparent serenity, Rachel waited for further instructions.

Ravier assessed Rachel’s body calmly. It was pleasant to look at. Her skin was the colour of liquid honey, her small round breasts where topped with cinnamon coloured nipples that pointed upwards at an angle that seemed like an invitation. Her buttocks were firm, almost boyish. Her legs were unspectacular, but the eye was drawn to the garnish of glossy black curls that nested at the base of her belly. It was a body that avoided extremes and so would have a wider appeal. It was, Ravier thought, an adequate foundation to build upon.

“The Founder taught us,” Ravier said, addressing the class, “that it is the role of woman to serve man with her body, her mind and her skills. Some women are called to serve as bed-mates or breeding stock, others as child-rearers, cooks, cleaners and teachers. A talented few nurture their gifts in the Cloistered Corporations, offering the fruits of their labours and their wombs to the Brotherhood. All these forms of service were blessed by the Founder, but perhaps the most valued service of all is offered by those who follow ‘The Way of the Courtesan.'”

Ravier was a sincere follower of the Founder, but he was not above using the Book of the Brotherhood for his own purposes. He knew that by placing teachers below cooks and chatelaines below courtesans he had insulted the Abbess. What he was about to do next would humble her.

Ravier stood behind Rachel and placed his hands on her shoulders. Her skin was warm and inviting. She leaned back into him. He pulled her shoulders backward a little and was pleased by the way that her breasts rose. Rachel closed her eyes and smiled.

“As you can see, Rachel is proud to offer herself in the service of the Brotherhood. Abbess, I know you too are proud of Rachel. Please join us.”

The Abbess came forward, not meeting Ravier’s eyes, looking instead at Rachel.

“The test Rachel is going to take is about arousal. Her capacity for arousal and her ability to provoke arousal in others,” Ravier said to the class. “Before we begin, Abbess, I would like the class to note Rachel’s current level of arousal. Would you be so kind as to check for me?”

After a heartbeats pause, the Abbess bowed her head in assent. Rachel opened her eyes and calmly watched the Abbess move towards her.

Silently the Abbess placed the palm of her hand over Rachel’s left nipple and moved it in a circle, keeping the nipple in the centre of her palm. Rachel rose on the balls of her feet and pressed her breast fully up against the Abbess’ palm.

“Rachel’s nipples are stiff, my Lord, and seem to be fully erect,” the Abbess said.

The Abbess was very close to Ravier now. Only Rachel separated them. He could see what a struggle it was for her to keep her composure.

To Ravier’s surprise the Abbess leant forward, bringing her head close to his.

“Please, my Lord Ravier,” the Abbess whispered, “Do not do this, not in front of my students.”

Ravier smiled at her and nodded. She looked relieved. Ravier allowed three seconds to pass. Then he said, “Please continue your examination, Abbess.”

He could not have hurt the Abbess more if he had slapped her. She looked away from him and started to kneel in front of Rachel but Ravier forbade her. He made the Abbess step very close to Rachel, so that their bodies were touching, and then waited as she slipped her middle finger into Rachel’s sex.

The silence in the room was palpable.  The novices seemed to be holding their breath, unsure how to respond to the sight of the Abbess and their classmate touching so intimately and so publicly. Rachel moaned softly and leant back against Ravier.

The Abbess withdrew her finger, which glistened in the bright light of the chamber. The scent of sex spread through the air like blood dropped into water. The Abbess was blushing now and there was sweat on her forehead but she dutifully made her report.

“Rachel’s inner and outer labia are engorged and her sex is well lubricated, my Lord. She seems to be fully aroused.”

“She does indeed,” said Ravier, stepping around Rachel and placing his arm around the Abbess’ shoulders.  She flinched at his touch but did not move away. Ravier wondered how long it had been since the Abbess had felt the weight of a man. Too long, he decided.

Ravier own lust was starting to rise. It was time for him to be a man and to commit himself to risk. The Abbess was holding up the glistening finger that had provoked Rachel’s desire; looking at it as if it no longer felt belonged to her. Ravier grasped the Abbess’ wrist and took the finger inside his mouth.

“Please, my Lord,” the Abbess murmured, she sounded lost and confused.

Ravier lead the Abbess by the wrist until she was standing next to the saddle, then he pushed down on her  shoulder, making her kneel. Rachel’s class looked stunned. This was not how the world was supposed to work. Ravier smiled at them. One of the girls started to cry softly.

Keeping his hand on the Abbess’ shoulder, Ravier turned to Rachel. Her eyes were on him. Looking into those eyes he could believe that they were the only two people in the room. Not a second of her attention was given to her distressed classmates or to the kneeling Abbess; she was focused on him completely. Ravier found that he did not want that focus to change. Her power was amazing, all the more so because she seemed to be unaware of it.

“It is time, Rachel,” Ravier said, “mount the machine.”

Rachel turned when she reached the machine. She made eye contact with Ravier as she placed her hand on the saddle horn. She smiled at him and then swung her leg over the saddle. She looked small and vulnerable spread across the width of the saddle. The sight of her instantly made Ravier hard. He wanted to stretch out his hand and touch her. Instead he tightened his grip on the Abbess’ shoulder.

“Squeeze the horn, Rachel. Ride the machine until I tell you to stop,” Ravier said.

“Thank you, my Lord”.

Rachel settled herself squarely onto the ridges of the saddle and then grasped the horn. Ravier sighed as he imagined what those long slim fingers would feel like wrapped around him.

Rachel tightened her grip on the horn and the saddle ridges quickly reached their maximum speed. She closed her eyes, chewed on her lower lip and seemed to wait. The room waited with her. Seconds ticked by. Rachel was sweating. Her back was straight and her hips were grinding into the saddle. Then her head tipped back, her hair bounced against her buttocks, and a low groan echoed through the room.

Ravier licked his lips. She was good; very good. The air was permeated with sex. The effect of her orgasm rippled through the novices. Fingers where furtively moving beneath robes. Girls were leaning against one another. The Abbess was carefully looking only at the floor. Ravier wanted to shout his joy.

Then Rachel opened her eyes. When she was sure she had his attention, she took her feet off the floor until her heels touched her buttocks. Now all her weight was on the saddle. She looked as if her legs were bound.

Ravier found himself unable to look away from her. It was as if her eyes were reeling him in. Then her eyes moved down his body to his crotch and stayed there.

“Please, my Lord,” Rachel said, “may I see you?”

Ravier shivered. She was perfect, absolutely perfect. Naked, spread, sweating, displayed on a fuck-toy in front of her classmates and still she was in control.

“Abbess,” Ravier said, “I need your assistance.”

The Abbess’ eyes were blank. It was as if she wasn’t there. She reached into Ravier’s trousers and released him. Ravier moved the Abbess’ hand backwards and forwards on his shaft. When he let go, the Abbess continued, working him as if she were a machine.

Rachel stared at his erection as if it were the most important thing in the universe. Her free hand moved up to her breast and started to knead it. She leaned forward on the saddle, as if she were pulling herself towards him by her breast. Then she started to chant softly, “Please, please, please, please.” in time to her fingers opening and closing on her breast. There was no doubt what she wanted.

Some of the novices where kneeling now, with their hands between their legs. They were rocking in time to Rachel’s chant. The Abbess copied the rhythm as she moved her hand backwards and forwards. The whole room was locked into a prayer for sexual release.

Ravier was no longer an Assessor. He was a man, surrounded by women rocking with need. He was rampant. He was hard. He was going to come and come and come. He threw back his head and howled. His seed sprayed out of him with tremendous force and the world became nothing but pleasure.

When he could see again, Rachel’s black hair was streaked with his seed. She was slumped over the saddle, her chin resting on the horn, her legs spasming. Her chant had changed to, “thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Ravier pushed the Abbess away from him and stepped towards Rachel. He lifted her chin. Her pupils were fully dilated. She had bitten her lip. A thin crimson line traced its way along her chin and then dropped unnoticed onto her breast.

“You can stop now, Rachel.”

“Thank you, my Lord. Thank you.”

Ravier pried Rachel’s fingers away from the horn and then lifted her into his arms. He carried her, still naked, out of the Assessment Chamber and towards her new life.

Behind him the Abbess raised her head and allowed herself a small smile of triumph.

© Mike Kimera 2001 All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without written permission from

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