Sample The Courtesan

The Courtesan - Part One, by Nikki Blood

XXX Erotica

For those who like or need more substance with their hot and naughty, I present to you the serial story of a slave no more.
Alana is a house slave in the Crimson Palace, when she and nine others are chosen for the life a courtesan, a court whore, to serve the Loran Temple and the goals set for her and her kind for over a hundred-thousand years.
A disturbing yet sensual adventure deep into the heart of the Blood Empire, and those concerned with the Skull Throne.

Novel and Cover Illustration Copyright © 2016 Nikki Blood. All rights reserved.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is entirely coincidental. The scanning, uploading and distribution of this book via the Internet or any other means without the permission of the author is illegal. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.

The Courtesan - Part One

Chapter One

“Life is continuation,” Mistress Cali said, “yet life never assures a means of survival. Life is not fair, always a struggle of some sort, and if you were ever told otherwise . . .”
With those words my life as a house slave within the Crimson Palace was over, and my education as a court whore began. Only, there was more to my training than I could imagine. What I didn’t know then, Mistress Cali was interested in exceptional intelligence, as well as exceptional talent.
“Wealth and skill aid survival,” she continued, “but we, the female of the species, supply continuity. We do that in two ways.”
Mistress Cali then paused, allowing us, her ten female students, time to consider the intent behind her words. Then she asked Willow what was meant by her statement.
Willow was uncertain, I could see it in her eyes, but she had to say something.
“You are speaking about our possible children, Mistress.”
“Is that your full answer?” Mistress Cali returned.
“Yes, Mistress.”
“Your answer is only half correct. Does anybody know, or think they grasp the full essence of my statement?”
Silence met her inquisitive gaze. A moment or three that wore at her patience.
“Do you understand what was said, Alana?”
“Our male children,” I replied, “the skills and knowledge we pass on, permitting them to prosper, Mistress.”
“Good enough,” she said. “The male children you tomorrow beget might sit at a Noble’s table, even if you will not. One of these male children may even sit on the Skull Throne itself, with the Blood Emperor soon to be fathering heirs. Consider that you are less concubines, and more the chains that hold this empire together. Your intelligence is paramount, and I will settle on nothing less than your best in all endeavors.”
Palace slaves were not permitted to breed, so we had never entertained such interesting concepts.
“If you succeed here,” Mistress Cali continued, “you will become courtesans. The true heart and soul of the empire. That is the training you will receive, beginning this very day. If you cannot master the basics, you will either rejoin the household staff without your tongue, or take your place alongside those who work the mines. After a certain point you fail the training, you will be put to death.”
With those words Mistress Cali stressed the seriousness of this venture, and we stood ready to pay our full attention.
“Now a choice needs to be made that is yours alone to make,” she added. “Leave now, and you may attend to your routine duties without consequences, or, you may stay. Know this: That after this one choice is made, there will be no turning back, with only me and my judgment to keep you with tongue in mouth, or alive.”
With that said she turned her back to us.
This moment was our only opportunity to survive with certainty. To rejoin the household, forever slaves. Nothing more, nothing less.
We girls looked at each other, examining the implications as we perceived them, but knew none would exit. Courtesans, as we understood them, earn their freedom, and enjoy superior status within the empire.
To stay wouldn’t be without considerable risk, and for my freedom, my only chance to become more than a slave, I was willing to take that risk.
As to why the palace laundry was a silent, foreboding place, and the men and women who worked there hesitant to meet our eyes, her statement answered those unasked questions.
Mistress Cali once again faced us, but her face did not betray her thoughts. She looked each of us in the eye, perhaps assessing our resolve.
“Men marry,” Mistress Cali said after several long moments, “and to be married is to have a faithful wife, one who attends to the needs of her house. A wife is also expected to attend her husband’s needs without question, but that is rarely true. Men can sometimes demand too much of a wife, and are quick to anger when denied. Men also grow bored with just one female in their lives, but can rarely govern two. There are rules for such things, and we are the keepers of those rules. We council harmony.”
Men’s eyes wandered, and they strayed like cats through back alleys. Men also enjoyed themselves as much as they enjoyed their women, releasing their seed indiscriminately, in whatever direction they happened to be pointing. As palace slaves we were not permitted to notice such things. See them, certainly, but not acknowledge them.
The ladies of the court were no better, for we knew of a few Noble’s wives who enjoyed the palace eunuchs whenever discretion allowed, knowing the palace eunuchs ingested large quantities of Saffara tea in order to perform as a man should, and satisfy.
It was dangerous for those wives to have another man’s child. If discovered to have birthed such, both mother and child would unceremoniously be put to death. Hence the usefulness of eunuchs, and Saffara tea.
“As far as the male of the species is concerned,” Mistress Cali said, “girls are considered suitable as wives when they begin menstruation. However, not all girls are emotionally ready to become wives. It is their interest in sex and children that ultimately determines marriageability. Whether they want to see a hard cock when being seduced, hold one firmly, stroke it, kiss it, or suck said cock and swallow the man’s seed, as expected by most men, but not by all. They must have an interest in caring for children as a mother should. These are the determining factors. Only girls who are emotionally ready, marry.”
Courtesans, I knew, were involved with these decisions, because their blessings were eagerly sought by Noble and peasant alike. Yet, I was now sure courtesans were more than just involved.
“Some men wish to see the seed of their possible progeny spread about a pretty face, kneaded into breasts, or dripping off the female’s holes. These deviations will be discussed, but not today.”
Her words were blunt. She studied us in surprise and asked, “Is this shocking news to you? Men are allowed all manner of perversions. If a potential wife is ready, we guide them in the erotic arts, see that they are skilled in the temperamental ways of a husband, house, and bed. We do this for the good of the empire.”
We all knew within the Farvahl culture, dominant throughout the Blood Empire, primarily with the Nobles, marriages were arranged. Power gained, not shared. A game of thrones in the truest sense of the words.
Within the peasantry, marriages could be arranged based on one’s standing, or possible business advantages. Keeping the wealth, livestock, and land within one’s family was always preferable. An unspoken rule: wealth precedes beauty in the selection of wives.
The parents determine who will wed, yet others determined when. Dowries given might include jewels, slaves, or livestock. Only between adults of little standing is it permissible to marry for the sake of love.
Girls considered unusually ugly and un-marriageable, would, most likely, be made to become sterile, then sold into prostitution. It is even permissible to attend a father’s perverse needs, or the sexual needs of any unmarried brothers still within the house. Those options being acceptable alternatives to death.
Those women who choose to serve the household they were born into eventually become spinsters, no better than slaves. Some are asked to leave their homes, and end their lives as beggars. Soon after asking for coin or food they are put to death by their families as a stain on the community. An honorable death in the eyes of all.
None of those options would shame a family, if they had more than one daughter.
I knew there were many unspoken truths society must abide by, be them Noble, peasant, or slave. Now these truths were being spoken aloud to us for the first time. We would sometimes be asked a question on the subject we had just learned, and to answer incorrectly might end our training.
“A toad on a hot rock hops less than you, Nalla,” Mistress Cali then said. “Do you need a break?”
“Yes, Mistress,” Nalla returned. “I need to pee.”
“Then this is to your first real lesson in the art of a courtesan. Step forward and remove your robe.”
Nalla did so, letting the fabric fall around her ankles, and stood uncomfortably nude in front of us all.
“You will now sit on the very edge of this chair,” Mistress Cali said, “lean back, and spread you knees wide apart.”
Mistress said this so matter-of-fact that Nalla, with little hesitation, did just as she was told, but had to close her eyes to our shocked but curious stares.
“Knees wider,” Mistress Cali said, “Now use two fingers, the forefinger on each hand, and open your slit as wide as possible, and pee for us all. Class will not resume until you have done so.”

Chapter Two

To see Nalla naked, exposed, vulnerable, her reddish-pink pussy open for all in the room to scrutinize, was a lesson we would not soon forget.
Modesty, you see, is practiced among the palace slaves. We, the palace workforce, always challenged with our personal survival, insist on appropriate behavior at all times, no matter the circumstances. Infractions meant possible death, or certain death in the mines. Only a choice few were ever given a second chance.
Such overtly lewd behavior by the lords or ladies of the court was to be ignored, no exceptions, while exiting whatever chamber we found ourselves attending as quickly as possible. As long as we slaves were discreet, the palace proclaimed we were not to be touched. To disobey meant sanctions of title, or land.
It was not improbable to find the palace lords or a visiting governor or wise man in a compromising situation, or position.
We house slaves always worked in pairs to insure our safety, knowing the palace wine strong.
Seeing how shamed Nalla was, her knees wide, her cunt held open, asked to perform an act considered best done in one’s own company, I felt embarrassed for her, but did not want to look away.
Nalla’s asshole twitched, and then the delicate flesh around her piss hole and fuck hole bulged slightly as she finally let loose her pungent stream.
I felt myself becoming moist and itchy, and needed Nalla to open her eyes. To see me watching, and want to seek the nasty part of my soul, shining out of my lustful eyes.
Slave or not, I was coming into my own, like all girls must. I could feel a new lust stirring within my secretive heart.
Nalla finished, stood, and slowly robed, yet we would all have a turn before the day ended, with Mistress Cali evaluating each performance.
When my turn came, I bravely disrobed despite the dewy nature of my inflamed sex. My juice slowly dripped down the length of my inner thighs.
I positioned myself on the chair, spread my knees wide, opened my slickened slit, and searched for a set of eyes, the eyes I most wanted to see. Nasty eyes, seeking eyes, eyes that needed to watch.
I saw those eyes in the head of Mistress Cali, and let loose with my piss, draining my bladder without any start-and-start-again hesitation.
I stood, slid my robe on, and her now eyes and manner betrayed nothing as I reclaimed my place.
The verbal lessons then continued. I found it hard to concentrate with my hard little clit, needing to be rubbed and rolled between my eager fingers.
“Wealth is the seat of royal power,” Mistress Cali said, “and power is the floor that seat rests on. Power is a willingness to kill unhindered by remorse for safety or gain. Wealth is the primary goal of every Noble, yet those pursuits are rarely balanced with life’s more pleasant endeavors. Courtesans counsel that balance. We should all seek a balance between what we want, need, and acquire. The royal houses take what they want regardless, and they seem to need more than they can use. We try to calm their overt hostility, but to stay their greed is futile. It is said between Nobles that one’s character holds the strength to accomplish much in this world. I will determine what strength you students hold.”
Were we strong enough? Would the days ahead temper us, like a blacksmith tempers steel into swords? Only time would tell.
We slowly learned the mind-set behind the throne, but, as Mistress Cali cautioned us, “We slaves must have a different set of scruples in order to prosper. Courage and self-control allow us serenity, and a long life. In other words, we use our intelligence to survive.”
On and on she went with her lecture, a pendulum of us and them, compelling the differences to take root within our minds, asking her many questions to ensure those roots grew deep.
When she had finished we were released for the day, and for our evening meal. A meal we were to partake in strict silence. Punishment would be inflicted to those who broke Mistress Cali’s command.
House slaves, of course, eat separately from the rest of the staff, only we now had a small dining room for us ten alone, guarded by two eunuchs. Today’s menu consisted of fried noodles, with mixed vegetables sautéed in a sweet and sour sauce. Elaine liked to mix the two together before she dined, and so did I.
I was but a child when our small farm was overran, my father killed in front of us all, the rest of my family herded onto the slaver’s carts.
We were fed just enough, did not thirst, and as the days and nights on the road passed, my mother could only comfort us with soft-spoken words, gentle touches, or the occasional song.
Mother liked to sing.
The slave pens of Carvhal were massive, fear-filled pits of despair. We were separated according to our supposed usefulness. My mother and two brothers were gone, never to be a part of me again, and likely died in the mines or foundries of the Blood Empire.
I was found to be an exceptionally lovely child of strong yet lean limb, so was made a house slave. A girl young enough to properly train.
I had been sold many times before I became a member of the palace staff. I was, after all, an unblemished and un-spoilt child of pleasant sight and sound. I learned quickly, and remembered what I was taught. I was taught to be obedient.
Because I learned well, I commanded a high price from each new owner, and from each new owner a new skill-set was learned.
I remember the day I was sold to the palace. The outer staff tended the gardens and grounds, but I was made part of the inner staff. I was chosen to care for those who ruled the Blood Empire. A proud day for me.
House slaves are taught many things. We were taught numbers by empire scholars, the written and spoken languages of the empire itself, and the art of the trade.
We knew that house slaves were the mortar of the Crimson Palace, and we were above the merchants of the city. In some ways it was like being free. For that we were always grateful.
Above the house slaves were the priests of the Loran Temple, with their many seers, and those healers whose arts were passed down from The-Before-Time.
Above the priests, seers and healers, were courtesans. A courtesan of the Loran Temple was to be the pinnacle of our success. We were now novices in training.
The wise men, or sorcerers of the empire, were a secretive lot, and rarely mixed with others.
We were the keepers of Royals and Nobles, attending to their educational and entertainment needs. We would share our blessings among the men, women, and children of the empire, and the other educators of the palace in their scholarly pursuits.
To be a courtesan of the Loran Temple is to be adept in the arts of love, dance, and so many other things as I did not know, yet would now have a chance to learn.
Men as well as women were considered courtesans, though men were not labeled as such, and both sexes trained in song, dance, musical instruments too, if they had the talent to do more than mimic. True composers among us were rare. Perhaps I had the heart and ear for music?
The end of this training day saw me thinking about the requirements for the morrow. We were to dance naked for her next evaluation.
It was later that night when I had a gentle knock at my door, though I was afraid to answer it. When the door opened to Mistress Cali, I didn’t know if I should feel more afraid, or less.
“You need not fear this visit,” she said. “Tomorrow all of you will dance for me without robes. Contemplate that later this night. Now, I want to ask what you felt this day. Not about the lectures I gave or questions asked, but what you were thinking about, your first real lesson of a courtesan.”
When we disrobed and pissed for all to see. I said truthfully, “I wanted to watch and be watched, Mistress.”
“Bluntly put. An answer I expected of you, Alana. You have the soul of a diplomat. However, I saw a sadness come over you at one point, during your evening meal. Please share this sadness with me?”
She had been watching?
I had no choice but to continue my honesty with Mistress Cali, even if that honesty meant my death.
“I was thinking about my journey to the slave pens,” I said, “and the small child I once was. I found guidance in the houses I was sold into, and am grateful to be here, attending the palace’s needs.”
“The overseer looked at you when you tugged his jerkin. Something stopped him that day from swatting you like a pesky bug, and I called him over to ask him what stayed his hand. Do you remember that?”
I did! I remembered walking up to him, and tugging his leather vest. I remember he stared at me for a time before he was called to speak to the occupant of a small enclosed carriage.
“I see that you do,” Mistress Cali said. “He told me your eyes stayed his hand. The intelligence behind them. He said you had possibility. A rare thing for any slave master to say. How fortunate I was there that day. I sent you to be trained in the duties of a house slave, and you learned well. Your first owner said you had intelligence, and a willingness to use that intelligence. I saw to it you learned from each new owner what the palace needed. Here you are. Does that surprise you?”
“It does, Mistress,” I said. “Thank you for seeing me here. May I not disappoint.”
“You will only disappoint me if you fail to answer my next question correctly. Tell me what you think I want from you, given this training?”
“I see a courtesan a significant influence over the empire, to be truthful, yet that influence is covert.”
“On the morrow, then. Dance well, Alana.”

Chapter Three

It seemed I survived this first visit by Mistress Cali by using my wits to answer what I saw as a hidden truth in her teachings. I would count my blessing at a later date. I had a dance to think about.
House slaves were quartered above the combat training grounds in single rooms, and we were allowed one window. On those rare days where I had only myself to worry about, I observed many a lesson in combat. Long sword, short sword and shield, and several forms of unarmed combat.
Knowing I would be sentenced to immediate death if caught, I spent many a night emulating what I had seen in the dirt below.
My thought now was to turn what I had seen into a dance of sorts, for what little I have seen of the dancing of courtesans reminded me of the training on the ground beneath my small window. Common sense stopped me from mimicking a weapon in hand, or killing thrusts.
I sometimes thought that the men below were like the animals I saw around me, for sometimes the men mimicked their movements. That gave me an idea I would explore to its fullest.
I also reasoned I should move in ways that would allow my audience to see my sex, if only briefly.
Though a woman, my cunt resembled that of a young girl’s; full outer lips with the barest hint of down above my slit. My inner labia small. I felt I could use that fact to my advantage.
Slowly but freely I began to move my arms and legs, allowing the casual observer to see my holes as I worked my body in small circles, thrusting my hips, crouching, or lifting a leg.
First an improvised warrior’s stance, allowing my pretend audience a clear view of both holes, with my hands giving flight to the falcon on a hunt. The bird high in the air, circling as I circled the floor, then downward, keeping his wings tucked next to his body, only to spread them as he snatched his prey, rising triumphant. These movements I practiced several times, perfecting them, giving them a name.
Warrior-bird hunts.
Next was an exaggerated unarmed movement, only to become a feline on the prowl, ass high in the air, ready to pounce in play.
Some of my improvised movements seemed too awkward, but those I considered tolerably graceful, I named. That way I could and would recall them when it became my turn to dance.
I practiced them for some time before I felt compelled to stop for the night, and my bed beckoned.
I finally fell asleep with one hand gently fondling my soaked slit, the other softly tugging at my nipples, going over the movements of my dance in my mind, knowing my holes would be masterfully viewed by all.
The next day the dancing was coarse at best, embarrassing at its worst. Strange, even laughable, though our giggles were frowned upon. Mistress Cali saved me for last, though at the time I hadn’t a clue or a care. I was simply enjoying the day for what it was.
When it was my turn, I summoned the names for the movements I had choreographed the night before, and danced as if none were watching.
Slowly, carefully, mouse kicks at cat.
Cat wheels to the side and traps mouse.
Mouse escapes, and cat saunters off dejected.
Each movement allowed me to give my audience carefully timed access to my butt hole, my pussy hole, or both.
After the falcon’s flight, prey in talon, I stopped my movements to a stunned room. All eyes remained on me, some of those watching with mouths open.
I took my place with the rest of the students, and waited.
“A courtesan,” Mistress Cali began, “is the keeper of ancient traditions, most older than the empire we serve. We are devoted to the gods and goddesses of wisdom and preservation. We provide a wisdom passed down through the ages, giving the empire its bones. Yes, we provide pleasure, but there is so much more to life than pleasure.”
Mistress Cali saw that our attention needed to be recaptured, so asked a question. “What did you think of Alana’s dance, Kari?”
“I found it beautiful, Mistress.”
“As did I. I also found purposeful meaning in her movements. Alana wanted you to see her, and each movement she made was designed to enhance the view of her sex. Well thought, Alana. For the rest of you, to give with that view, and to take from them their gaze, is to master the many dances you will later learn. You see, each of our dances has meaning, and serves a seductive purpose.”
The lectures continued until we were released for the midday meal, which would be the last one served by the kitchen staff. Again this meal was in silence, remembering the palace laundry was a quiet, yet busy place.
Quiet was not our normal state of being, for the house slaves of the Blood Empire have always been allowed our gossip. We know many a secret about those we serve. Information traded between slaves for a reason. That knowledge is what helped us house slaves stay alive.
As we ate, we thought it wise to pay this last meal particular attention, though I continued to be stared at in awe.
After the midday meal we returned, shed our robes, and again were lectured to and asked questions of.
“Think about the wealth of the Blood Empire,” Mistress Cali said, now preferring her lectures to touch on the finer points. “Overt wealth means little when it can be murdered away from you. Hidden wealth means little if you spend your life a miser.”
I had been surrounded by wealth of all types, yet had considered myself wealthy with health, and that I had my life. I never considered gold, jewels, or the fine trappings they provided.
“Gold means nothing when dead,” Mistress said. “The dead need not a thing, not even their names. In death we are all equals. The true wealth of the empire is the knowledge passed down from scholar to student, mother to daughter, father to son.
“Our wealth is also knowledge, yet those we entertain or council may give us trinkets of gold or jewels. We never flaunt our personal wealth in public venues, yet are expected to adorn ourselves for our more private performances. We might wear what we were given, only with those who gave to us a particular trinket, and do that to show our proper appreciation.”
Wealth was not always material. Mistress Cali hinted that the greater wealth of the empire was in favors traded. How the art of the trade was really put to use.
“Now think of a song,” Mistress Cali said. “On the morrow your voices will be tested. Dress, and leave. In the morning you will be hungry, as no meal will be served this night, and you will learn to cook.”
As we were about to depart, one of the eunuchs pulled Tisane to one side. We said nothing, but feared for her, and rightly so.
I entered my quarters that night hungry, and in a dark mood. Tisane hadn’t the skill to dance. That much was obvious. She had fallen several times, and moved about stiffly. Altogether without grace. I had the feeling the palace laundry was about to gain another silent maiden.
Still, I had a song to think about, and how I should sing it. The song I chose was one my mother would sing to me when I was young, and I decided to sing it softly, as I was sung to by her, riding in the slaver’s carts.
I again saw the faces of those who listened as my mother sang, and how, on some, tears fell freely.
I realized then my mother (along with the others) knew she would die soon, worked like a draft animal in the mines, while my brothers would find themselves in the empire’s foundries.
She sang to me about a flower, how it felt as it grew, and when that flower bloomed, it was lovely, and sweetly scented. That flower brought joy to all who saw it.
She was giving me hope with that song, and I only now understood what her hope for me was. I vowed I would not squander her last remaining hope.
The morning began like all the others, but for one difference. This day, one of the palace cooks came into our small dining hall, and began teaching how to cook elaborate meals on a small grill called a ’Bachi, used by Nobles and courtesans in intimate situations.
“Food should be pleasing to look at,” the cook said. “Food should smell tempting. Food should also taste wonderful. This is what you will learn from me. Pay attention. I will make regular progress reports to Mistress Cali.”
The grills were to be assembled, and there was a proper way to light them, and a proper way to use them. And so this phase of our training began, and would last until we were masters.
We had in front of us a pile of raw ingredients for this meal only. We were also told that cooking a tasty meal was only one of the ’Bachi’s functions, and that Mistress Cali would complete the second half of this training, after we had mastered the cooking aspects.
I took that as, first we must learn to cook the food and have it remain edible, and then we would learn to do so in an alluring fashion, and serve it in an enticing manner.
We assembled our ’Bachies, and that was not as difficult as I first thought, for there were only four pieces. The base, the fuel pot, and the two cooking surfaces.
Ingredients were then explained, and we were shown how to prepare them. The lighting of the ’Bachi was next, after a short blessing to the goddess Tani’tua. Some of us were familiar with flint and steel, striking one against the other to produce a spark, lighting the fuel the ’Bachi contained.
Since we were the cooks, we were to see to the ’Bachi’s maintenance, keeping it in perfect working condition, ready to use at a moment’s notice.
We cooked our meals as shown, we ate, we cleaned the ’Bachi and refueled it. Then to class to sing.

Chapter Four

“The virtues of a courtesan are many,” Mistress Cali said. “Each skill mastered by all, practiced by all, is perfected by only a distinguished few. Song, dance, music, art. Mandalas of prayer or good fortune. We craft all our props, and all our clothes. We scent ourselves with our own creations, bejewel ourselves with our own creations, or sometimes with a favored bauble given us. We cook, and make and serve wonderful concoctions. We scribe for our charges at times, spew imaginative tales when asked, provide wise council, and so much more. Sing for me, Tiral.”
Tiral did, and the sounds were pleasant enough, the words pleasing, but I saw no real intent behind her song. Nothing befitting what we were learning. It wasn’t enough to do the things required of us, one had to do them and mean them. The intent had to be present.
Naked, each of us stood to sing, and once again I was last. I think I now understood why, but would have to wait to be proven right. Now was to give them all a show they wouldn’t soon forget.
I gently lowered myself down into a crouch, and gave voice to a simple flower, shaping it with my hands and emotions as if I was my mother, singing to her young daughter. Singing and shaping a flower I couldn’t then see. I was singing to the me I once was.
I wanted them, my fellow students, to feel how I felt, listening to those simple words of hope, embodied within its lovely petals and sweet scent.
As my song ended, I realized there were tears on my cheeks, and on the cheeks of the others. I stood again, faced the class, and then took my place alongside the other girls.
“Our eyes convey emotion,” Mistress Cali said. “Our movements display intent. Our voices have meaning. Alana, you did very well, but you will never again sing that song for others, or aloud to yourself. Not a question asked. You will simply do as I say. The rest of you will think about the performance, and forget that the song had been sung or forfeit your lives.”
“Yes, Mistress Cali,” we said in unison, surprised, and also frightened.
“You should all think about Alana’s recent performances,” Mistress then said, “and how much of herself, her heart and soul, she put into them. But, there is another side to that coin. What we share here in this room is only for our eyes and ears.”
Given that courtesans were a secretive lot, we nodded our understanding.
“As a courtesan,” Mistress Cali continued, “everything we do or say has meaning. Everything. It is here you will learn a level of self-control unparalleled throughout the realm. Each movement or word in the company of others, in the course of our duties, is appraised. We take the measure of any action, or reaction. We understand and manipulate cause and effect. We magnify or diminish emotion, adding significance to those emotions, in order for us to define those emotions and control them. As a courtesan you will learn only to display what you want others to see and comprehend.”
She looked each one of us in the eye, and we nodded our understanding.
This, in truth, was the first real lesson I was to take to heart as a courtesan in training. I was to be in control of myself at all times. Never was I to falter.
This was nothing new to me, not really, being a house slave in the Crimson Palace. The rules of the palace were many. The rules governing how we went about our duties unspoken, yet followed. Now it seems I was to regard that as child’s play. For us as adults, we twist the rules to our favor.
Now I was sure. A courtesan was to be a superior being; above all in the Crimson Palace and beyond; above even the emperor.
The evening meal was a repeat of the midday meal, and that of the morning meal. Strips of meat, simply spiced, never overcooked or undercooked, served with butter-sautéed mushrooms and onions, accompanied by a yeast-flour flat bread also cooked on the ’Bachi. We would repeat this meal until we conquered that one simple dish to the satisfaction of the master chef.
Each night alone in my room I would dance, always naked, always aware of my breasts, my cunt, and my asshole. Who in the audience was favored with the sight of me, and what emotions that peek might spawn.
With my songs I had to think about the passion I wanted to convey, and the response I sought, but for this practice I sang only the songs of the empire.
I continued to practice the combat training I had learned on my own, killing without regret imaginary enemies. Enemies I might have, if I was not careful.
Each night in my bed I would finger my asshole, my pussy hole, working over my clit and nipples. The more I played with myself, the more I wanted to be played with.
One finger up my butt became two, and it hurt at first, until I learned to gently push against my fingers, and maintain that slight pressure, opening myself up. I was, after all, a court whore. A courtesan in training. I would have to be able to perform in a bed, and not just the stage a few floor tiles would make.
I could feel the tickling itch develop that would make my pussy drip with sweet-scented juice. When it became too much for me, I would cram two or three fingers into my pussy hole, and rub my lips and clit with the heal of my hand.
Spent, smelly, dirty, I would sleep each night content within the knowledge I would be a desired courtesan.
Each morning I would be clean myself from top to bottom, inside and out, and gently scent myself as any proper house slave or courtesan in training should. Each morning I would dress in a clean robe, and take my soiled clothes and bedding down to the silent maidens that inhabited the laundry.
I again saw Tisane, scrubbing sheets with tub and board, and even though she knew I was there, she would never turn to acknowledge me. I left, nodding to the other slaves who were doing like me, attending their daily needs.
In the dining room that morning I noticed two more sisters had vanished from our ranks, only this time I knew for certain the laundry hadn’t gained these silent maidens. I could only conclude them dead, or soon to be dead. Muted slaves, compelled to work the mines or foundries, and silently I grieved for them.
I noticed the remaining sisters were keenly aware of our numbers, and that they, much like me, had doubled their efforts. Breakfast was yet another plate of spiced meat and flat bread.
Each morning in class our day began with us dropping our robes, and we would display our sex for a brief yet thorough visual inspection by one or more of the eunuchs. Sometimes they would smell us, and those who did not pass this inspection were sent out to properly clean and scent themselves. Only rarely did this happen twice to a sister, and never with me. For whatever abuse I heaped upon myself, none here would know. My secret to keep.
The other sisters learned quickly to emulate my performances, what emotion and intent I put into them. Their dances began to take on a provocative glimmer, their songs lovely, filled with actual emotion. I still hadn’t the sense that they were aware of themselves as I was aware of myself, yet given time that might change.
“A story,” Mistress Cali said. “That is what you will hear from me this day. This is the only time you will ever hear it. I suggest you pay attention.”
We stood in rapt attention, for this was an unexpected if not welcomed departure from our daily lectures. Only, we didn’t expect to be released from any possible questioning after the story concluded, knowing our answers consequential.
“Before this world,” she began, “there was another. We are the second confirmed intelligence to rise up from the ashes of death. The first world was amazing and complex. Instant travel the world over, instant communication the world over, and instant gratification. Cities that could cover this inner kingdom, with millions of people in them. Yet, for all their marvels, this world and all in it were obliterated by greed, by war, and by stupidity. They destroyed almost all life to ever exist, everywhere, and what little survived that age of darkness, became us.
“We are not without our flaws. At first, like all animals should, we lived in harmony with nature, but once again greed crept into our hearts and souls, and where greed reins, so does war follow. The stupidity of our species is to repeat the mistakes of the past, not learning from them.
“One man from before, in one book, he told the story of what was before, and what would happen to his world, and what was to come after the age of darkness. He knew this darkness would last several thousand years, and his children would always be there, so he gave them, his children, a task.
“With this narrative told, if you fail the training, you will be put to immediate death, for this is the story of us.”
Her story was something we had never heard before, to be sure, and her matter-of-fact threat told us her story was real.
“Primary to this story is the greed that had filled his world, and greed’s affects on the burgeoning populace. Just as it was then, he discovered those that have, always want more, and those that have nothing will kill to obtain something, anything, if it is their survival at stake. He called this unfortunate truth the sorrowful side of the human condition.
“We, us, here, now, we know this world is round, that this world circles our sun, and the moon in the sky circles us. We know this world has many lands across the mighty oceans around us, and that this man saw the world for what it was. He knew his world, and as widely traveled as he was, the truths he recorded were few. Now you know a hidden truth, information yet to be discovered or confirmed. We are the only people who know these things for certain, and we will always keep these secrets to ourselves. We will kill ourselves before we reveal these truths.
“With so many peoples choking the lands of this entire globe, he knew that this world would die, was dying, but also that this world would be reborn. That a new breed of people, shaped by their new and strange environment, would inhabit this new world.
“There were few voices of reason in the old world, but he also knew one man, working alone and in secret, could make a difference. His planet, being suffocated by this never-ending greed and the shameless stupidity it caused, gave rise to his silent hope. And so, he wrote a book. One book. One book passed down through the ages, through the dark times, through to our times, one book carefully studied by us. We are his children. We are courtesans.
“This one man ensured his progeny would survive, and of the women in this family, only the intelligent would keep the ideas within his book alive. Passed down from mother to daughter were the edicts of the courtesan. For we are the secret guardians of this world.
“For one-hundred-thousand, three-hundred-two years now, the words of this one book survived intact, carefully read and copied when needed by those who came after, not altering even one letter. Not adding to, or subtracting from any page. Not one word changed since it was first penned, and left in the care of his only granddaughter.”
Mistress Cali’s story went on for some time. How this one man decided to entrust the women in this world to come with its safekeeping, and use the weaknesses inherent in all men as their tools.
I learned our world, once any population reached a certain number, was subject to war. Laws could only govern those who were willing to live or die by those same said laws, but the elite, without exception, they always felt themselves above the law, and that was where greed entered the heart.
Cause, and effect. An endless circle that had but one chance to be forever broken, and we were that chance.
That night, after our nightly meal, I sat in my room to digest all Mistress Cali said, for she hadn’t asked a question of us.
If I survived this training, I was to become a weapon. One fit to save the world, and all those who lived in it.
That night my dreams were full of dancing and death, and I was not ready for the morning.

Chapter Five

I cooked my morning meal, and was finally given a passing grade. I would learn a new dish at the midday meal, and would have that to eat three times a day until I perfected the dish.
I was learning to measure ingredients and spice by sight and touch, and enjoy a meal that was as delicious as any we ever had before in our lives. The trick, as I understood it, was to make the process look effortless.
A new courtesan was introduced to us that day, an older mother by the name of Mistress Serrin, and she was to teach us proper dancing techniques. She wore a costume that fit her form, while we continued each day nude.
“Rain falls from the sky,” Mistress Serrin said, “it gathers and forms streams, and streams form rivers, and rivers form oceans. Such is the world as we know it. From water comes all life to inhabit this world. That is the name of, and the dance you shall learn today. Waters of Life. Though little can be gained from its name, we know this circle of life is to be maintained at all costs. Even if it costs us our lives. Certainly it will cost the lives of others. When we dance our dances, we remind ourselves that we are nothing more than humble guardians of a small planet once called Earth.”
She then danced for us, and as the rain fell, her legs would stay close together, her steps small, and this made her breasts jiggle, and her backside wiggle.
“These movements,” Mistress Cali lectured, “have proven to entice even the most feminine of males. The idea is to be the rain as it falls. See it in her movements. A gentle, nourishing shower.”
We were sitting in a circle, as was expected at any formal gathering of Nobles. I could see how she watched each of us, and would give each of us a front or back view, her dancing in small circles. I’m sure this was done intentionally, and then Mistress Cali confirmed it.
“She has now studied each of you, and has given each of you what you desire most to see. Her first pass around the floor she studied where you were looking. If you looked at her breasts, her eyes or hands, or her pussy. If you looked at her eyes or hands on the first pass, then on the second pass she showed you her rear. If you looked at her breasts, she made sure you got a better look on the second pass. The same with her cunt. Her legs opened a little wider on the second pass, and you caught a glimpse of her full slit.”
“Now the rain becomes a stream,” Mistress Serrin said.
This time she danced our circle faster. I could not help but to keep my eyes on her. She moved so gracefully, and she exposed more of her cunt, and more of her ass, and more of her breasts. Looking at the other sisters I noticed their undivided attention on her movements, and their breathing had intensified.
“Now the stream becomes the uncertain river,” Mistress Cali said. “Calm one moment, a raging torrent the next.”
Now, for each one of us, her movements took on a measured yet fevered quality. Several sisters had to lean backward as she passed, a frenzy of movement, or a calm step or two, as she was reading the wants of each sister, and then her passionate movements stopped. It seems the river had reached the ocean, and like with my first dance, she was sure to show each sister what was desired. A good long look as she slowly moved around the room.
Mistress Serrin took her leave, and we were questioned about the dancing. Some of the sisters had noticed what I had noticed, and I found a thrill that they had started down the road of intelligent thought.
They saw how Mistress Serrin, in her first pass, had studied us, read our desires, and endeavored to seduce us on each subsequent pass as she became the rain, the stream, the river, and the ocean.
“Each dance is different,” Mistress Cali said, “depending on the courtesan performing it. Each audience is different, and one must seduce all members. That is a necessity. Each seduction is our path into the lives of the Nobles, their families, and how each of us gains knowledge of the inner workings of the empire. It is that information that allows us to achieve our goals. Think about my words as you begin another discipline.”
Many of us were taught to mend clothing, but our stitches lacked true finesse. The afternoon was spent learning anew how to sew.
Here the fabrics were of the delicate sort. Another courtesan, Mistress Senna, almost as old as Mistress Cali, would slowly circle the room, guiding each of us as we learned how to sew with tiny silver needles the most delicate of fabrics, with small but strong stitches.
The colors of the fabric were different for each sister, based on her complexion and the color of her eyes. The color of her hair played into it, too, but was not a major factor. Clothes were worn against the skin.
I’ll admit to feeling overwhelmed at times, as well as under-slept. Mistress Cali visited me a second time that very night, announcing herself with a soft knock, only this time that knock was answered.
I bowed slightly as she entered, as I would bow when holding a door open for any of the palace Nobles.
“I now see fear on your face as you comprehend my lectures, Alana.”
“I do not mean to embody fear, Mistress. I simply don’t know if I can attain your desired level of perfection.”
“Rarely will I wear my emotions on my sleeve, and when you do see any, ask yourself what is real.”
“I don’t understand.”
“I believe you do, but you have yet to master your own emotions. I see lust in your eyes, weariness in your days, and a love of dance. All I ask from you is that you listen, think, and learn. With time and practice, you will do well.”
“Yes, Mistress Cali, I will try harder.”
“Alana, you move carefully, slowly until comfortable, and you learn your lessons well. I see no reason to fear.”
“There are now seven of us. I fear for the fourth.”
“As do I, because this night will only leave six sisters to teach. You must know by now I never make selections thoughtlessly. The knowledge I pass on is too important to this world, and to this empire, and I’ll do what I must to protect both. Remember, I voiced this risk, and then offered all a choice. Stay, or leave. None chose to leave.”
“Mistress . . .”
“I know the difficulties you face. Have I not faced them also?”
Each lecture had another layer of meaning, and that layer dictated my real duty as a courtesan.
“You have, Mistress Cali. I will endeavor to serve our cause well.”
“I know you will, Alana. I simply wanted to calm your fear. The other girls now look to you for guidance, yet only a few will rise to serve the Loran Temple as a courtesan. I’m sorry to tell you this, but truth, with us, is to be faced at all times. The truth serves us well.”
I only knew my truth, and now I knew another’s truth. Or, thought I knew. Time would tell.
“On the morrow,” Mistress Cali said, “I will ask you to pose for the sisters. To be aware, seductive, even child-like in some ways. Think hard. Those seeking eyes, you have seen them before, many times in your life. What were these eyes staring at? A child at play? A slave not aware of her body as she went about her work? Sexual desire leads their eyes to seek satisfaction, and you will have a chance to provide that. Good night, Alana.”
With that said, Mistress Cali left me to my thoughts.
I remembered seeking eyes my whole life. It seemed like eyes would latch on to my ass whenever I would bend over, or lean over while sitting. Whenever I would find myself on my back, or whenever I spread my legs for whatever reason, it felt like the eyes of many around me desired to see inside my cunt. Up my asshole. Now I was asked to encourage this, and lead the others in proper technique.
That night, like so many now behind me, I danced my many dances, practiced the ones we all had learned, and fought my own private war with weapons I did not possess. I also thought about what Mistress Cali said, and started to picture each pose in my mind.
The innocence of a child, this is what I deemed paramount in each pose portrayed. Their innocence in work, play, at rest. Not yet aware of themselves and their affect on others around them.
I went to sleep that night, and slept well. Without fear. I would do as asked, and I would try to do well.
The morning I noted Janice gone. We would all mourn in silence, and retrieved our cooking implements.
Another meal down, my ’Bachi clean and stored, I waited for this day to begin, seated in the instruction hall.
“There are many positions for having sexual intercourse,” Mistress Cali said, entering the room, “and that will be taught another day. Today, like a child unashamed and unaware, you will crawl, sit, think about, and emulate the innocence of your youth. Today . . . you will pose.”
I had spent the night thinking about the needs of this day, and what I should provide the others in way of instruction. Mistress Cali would expect me to emulate what I could remember of those lecherous eyes, and encourage that hunger.
“Pose for me, Alana,” Mistress Cali said.
As an infant we learned to expose ourselves unashamed. To lay on our backs and bring our knees to the outsides of our shoulders while we are cleaned. So that is what I did.
I brought my knees to either side of my chest, and watched my cunt rise high in the air. I could feel my asshole enjoying the same freedom as my slit. Both were there to be seen.
An infant then learns to roll over onto their stomach, so that was what I did next. I then spread my legs, and raised my ass up, knowing that one hole would remain hidden, yet my slit would be easily seen.
I brought one knee around as if to start a crawl, and enjoyed how exposed my cunt was, and now my asshole was visible.
“Men’s secret desires are betrayed by their eyes,” Mistress Cali said. “A child in their innocence does not realize the affect their movements have on those around them. Each of you have seen these poses and more in the children you may have cared for, but as you think about each pose, think also about the desires you might have seen from the eyes of those around you. How their eyes betrayed their thoughts. Learn the silent language of those eyes.”
I began to crawl. I did so slowly, taking my time, and stopped and dropped down as if to examine an insect, ass high. This action exposed both holes, and I could hear my sisters breathing quite loudly. I stood, and then squatted, as a child would at play.
“Men’s emotions are given to us without words by their eyes,” Mistress Cali said. “You can see their thoughts as clearly as the sun in the sky on a cloudless day, and you will learn to use this skill as we progress.”
I sat, my legs crossed. I then drew my knees to my chest, and added space between my feet, keeping my knees together.
As I moved from pose to pose, I was aware of what could be seen by each sister, what the Mistress could see, and what the eunuchs could see.
With each pose I studied the eyes of the room, and many emotions, thoughts, and desires were evident from my sisters, but nothing could be read from Mistress Cali’s eyes, or the from the eyes of the eunuchs.
So be it.
In arching the spine up, like the tortoise’s shell, my cunt and asshole remained hidden. By pushing the spine down, toward the floor, my ass would rise high in the air, and both holes could be fully explored by their seeking eyes.
I then pushed myself back into a sitting position, still with my spine arched as if toward the floor, feet apart. When I felt my cunt touch the cold stone I stopped, and enjoyed the delicious chill against my inflamed flesh.
I moved my cunt around on the stone, teensy, tiny, tight little circles, working my clit until I came. Not my first orgasm, and certainly not my last, but the first time I let myself masturbate (using the stone floor of all things) in front of another.
As an older child we would learn to walk, and then run, and then we would play. I laid on my back, brought my knees up, but my feet hadn’t left the stones. I then pushed my back and ass up, hands and feet on the floor, spreading my knees apart, and stirred my slit in the air. I wanted them to see me wet and inflamed.
I had nothing left to show them, and had done my best. I then sat with my legs crossed, letting myself cool down, and still nothing was said.
Nobody that day had joined me on the floor to demonstrate poses of their own. We sewed until it was time to eat our evening meal.

Chapter Six

“I will ask you all to think about what you saw yesterday,” Mistress Cali said. “Think about all you have seen in the past, growing up a female, and the eyes you noticed. Think hard. Mistress Senna has joined us again, and will answer questions on sewing only. Begin.”
I did not mind that I was being used to teach the others, for I could see a sister or two struggling. We were being taught so much in such a short time. I wondered if I was the only sister to see the implications behind Mistress Cali’s lectures. I could feel the odd eye as I rummaged through the fabric given me, and began to sew tiny yet strong stitches.
I also thought of the story she told us. How one man could see the world to come so well. His story was our guidebook. A tome for not repeating the mistakes of the past. His past, maybe to be our future.
He was saying that no man or woman could be trusted with power. Not even the Blood Emperor himself could be trusted to wield his power for the good of the empire, or its people. Yet, here we were, courtesans, with the power to shape empires, or see them ground to dust. We held the power to shape worlds.
It must have been hard for this one man to see the truth. How, in his future, he would see a blight coming that would decimate his world. A blight created by the hands of his own race, created by ignorance and greed, destroying almost all life on his green Earth.
Upon his death he knew the beginnings of this blight would take root, but by then his granddaughter would be a young mother herself, and would have chosen the most thoughtful of her offspring to train in the ways of the thoughtful assassin. Train in the ways of a humble and hidden protector of the planet, and let the roots of the courtesan grow deep.
By the end of that day I imagined much about this one man’s legacy.
I sat on the edge of my bed, mentally exhausted, and my fingers hurt from the thousands of tiny stitches I had sewn.
I answered the knock at my door unafraid, and bowed to Mistress Cali.
“It seemed as you sewed . . . you were lost,” she said, “even to yourself.”
“One man spent twenty years writing one book,” I said, “and yet this one book can and will save us all?”
“Yes. The past, his past, saw many empires rise and fall, but it was in his time that he saw the world become one truly global civilization. Instantaneous communication, where with a simple device one could speak to another anywhere on the planet. Less than a day to circle our planet, meaning travel was virtually instantaneous. Information everywhere. Millions of books on every subject imaginable at his beck and call, and pictures that moved.
“Such a wondrous time he had lived, but he also saw the outcome of his time, and the greed that led to the blight he knew was coming. He saw how a few evil men and women, those completely corrupted by power and greed, how they led the people of this, our Earth, into the fires of what he called Hell. It took a long time for this planet to cool enough to let life again grow on its surface.”
He knew the truth, but at the same time seemed powerless to stop it. This is what I didn’t understand, and said so.
“Could a mine slave halt an empire?” Mistress asked. “He was not a mine slave, but he held no real power. He could, however, see to it that his children’s children held positions of power, and did so. They strode through their world with a hidden purpose.”
“I see so many things wrong with our world,” I said, “and wonder how, through the efforts of those before me, things are better.”
“Those who survived to see the sun rise on a cooling and healing planet, they worked to give this planet back its life. Let what had survived on its own, thrive. There used to be millions of different animal species everywhere on this planet, in the oceans, in the skies, and what you see now counts for so little. But that same corruption and greed did not die with the old world. As you see all around you, it is if we humans have a hole in our hearts that cannot ever be filled.”
For the first time I saw in her eyes she seemed tired, worn to the bone and then some.
“Tomorrow is another day,” Mistress Cali said, turning toward the door. “I’m sorry to say there will be one less sister. However, those that are left, these are the students I will see become proper courtesans.”

Chapter Seven

Months had passed, our training had become more intense, and we remaining sisters more contemplative, if not a touch competitive.
“Our tongues give pleasure,” Mistress Cali said. “Our hands soothe. Our sex is our gift. We pleasure men and women alike, and they surrender themselves to us, heart and soul.” Her exaggerated emphasis on the last three of her words was meant to imbue their importance. “This much you are sure of, and yet we are to become weapons of silent destruction. How do we become this? By understanding the complexities of our world. Noble Lord Shal secretly seeks to expand his army. There is purpose here, and it is you who must figure this out. Use what you know. Willow? Speak freely.”
“Obviously he seeks more power,” Willow said. “There are several lesser Nobles within his domain, but he cannot war with one without weakening himself. He seeks to war without weakening himself.”
“Does it matter which Noble is to fall?” Tiral asked.
“Yes,” Mistress Cali said. “One Noble will help another in instances as this, which is not as uncommon as it seems. Noble Lord Shal may face two or more armies, yet he still seeks to add warriors. Why?”
“He has the approval of others within his domain to dispose of a weaker opponent in his game of power,” Tiral then said. “Each has been promised a share of the spoils. This makes sense to me. Now, who is weakest within Noble Lord Shal’s domain?”
“I don’t think it’s a question of who is weakest,” I said. “It is more a question of gain. There must be a lot to gain if they are to divide the spoils.”
“Each Noble Lord has a function he fulfills to the Blood Emperor’s satisfaction,” Mistress said. “Would not this war be noticed by the Blood Emperor, who then might take action of his own? What then is to be gained by the removal of this Noble?”
We were now allowed to speak to each other, during and after our training, but only within the confines of the training room.
Our days had been partitioned. Today we made our morning meals, worked on our various costumes, and learned more about poisons. Before we would be released for our nightly meal, we would discuss the empire at large, so we could understand its inner workings and its frequent turmoil.
Each Noble had a function within the empire, but there was something we young sisters didn’t yet understand. War depletes resources, brings disease, interruption of goods and services. It was then I heard a noise from Nalla, and when I looked, she wanted, I think, to say something on this, but she also seemed afraid.
“Say what you think,” I softly prodded. “We will never be punished for our efforts. Only for our failures.”
“Correct, Alana,” Mistress said. “Speak your mind, Nalla.”
“I would serve Noble Lord Shal when he visited the palace,” Nalla said. “There was no love lost between him and Noble Lord Phen. He considered Noble Lord Phen a weak fop. Never did I hear another opinion from him in private, or when he entertained other Noble Lords of his domain. This is his target.”
“Nalla is correct,” Mistress Cali said. “I have researched this, have spoken with other courtesans on this subject, and we all agree this is the situation the empire faces. One . . . simply wants to be rid of the other. However, the resources wasted and time spent recovering would be detrimental to the overall well-being of the empire. How could this predicament be solved without war?”
“Kill one or the other,” Willow volunteered. “But I don’t see what killing both would accomplish, other than alerting others to our presence.”
The lesser of two evils. Perhaps that is the true function of a courtesan.
“Killing both is out of the question,” Mistress Cali said. “You are correct, Willow. One Noble is strong, the other is weak. One has generous resources at hand, the other scrapes by. To see the history of the situation is to see the truth. I will tell you now that Noble Lord Shal is the one who scrapes by, so enlisting the help of the other Nobles is wise on his part, quietly adding their soldiers to his ranks, having no real choice but to divide the spoils, ultimately receiving the smallest share. This is how I see the situation. What say you now?”
“We now see but one side,” Elaine said, “yet we should see both sides to this possible conflict.”
Five sisters were left. Willow, Elaine, Nalla, Tiral, and me. Each of us reaching for our own understanding.
“I’ll tell what I have observed about Noble Lord Phen,” Nalla began. “He does draw the other Noble’s scorn by being too effeminate. In his most private moments I’ve seen him fancy young boys. Yet, he has a strong wife, two daughters, and one very young son who seems sickly. I think the boy favors the father.”
“And of Noble Lady Phen?” Mistress Cali asked. “Opinions?”
“I’ve seen Noble Lady Phen guide her husband on matters of state,” I said. “More than once. I think he sought her advice, and because she was well informed on matters within the empire, he was more apt to take her advice than not.”
“Some men show little regard to their women,” Mistress Cali said. “Some men enjoy the fact they can ask the opinion of their women. Noble Lady Phen is more than just an advisor. Noble Lord Phen has trained her for the life of a warrior since she was a little girl. He considers her his secret weapon. I consider her a treasure and a resource. With these new facts, what is to be done?”
My sisters, myself, none of us were willing to answer Mistress’s question. We were weighing options.
“Consider what was said this day,” Mistress Cali stated. “Enjoy your evening meal, and I may speak to one or more of you before this night is over.”
Mistress Cali left the room, and the evening meal was still an hour away.
“We talk this out amongst ourselves,” Willow said. “Who would die if we had our choice in this matter?”
“Noble Lord Shal makes reckless decisions,” Tiral said. “Anyone can see the rise of men in his ranks. He fools none and worries all. I think he should die.”
“Our goal,” I began, “is to end this situation without war. Yes, he should die, but not at first. Let us look at all the key players.”
“You have something in mind, Alana?” Willow asked.
“Our world does not favor the weak,” I returned. “Noble Lord Phen, he will always be considered weak by all who encounter him. He is foppish, effeminate, and in any social situation these are the traits he excels in. Lots of gossip from the other Nobles about him, none of it good. I’m surprised it has taken this long for another Noble to move against him.”
“Noble Lady Phen is strong,” Nalla said. “Much like we are to become. If Noble Lord Phen is to be killed, I see her also greeting death. His domain thrown into turmoil. Yet if Noble Lord Shal dies, I see several strong sons rising to take his place. I see them acting for the good of the empire, at least at first.”
“The good of the empire,” Elaine said. “This is what we must think of. Greed and stupidity destroyed this world once, should we let this happen a second time? Noble Lord Phen has wise council with Noble Lady Phen by his side. Their decisions have allowed him to prosper.”
“If only he had a strong son,” Tiral said.
My idea was that he could have a strong son, if one not of his blood. I said this, and asked the other sisters to consider the implications. Noble Lord Shal had three sons, and of those three, one might prove a suitable substitute. It would be in the best interest of the empire to forge strong ties between the two houses. What stronger ties than blood?
We sisters discussed this problem for a while longer, but didn’t draw a conclusion.

To be continued . . .

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Richard Edwards grew up an orphan. He spent a couple of tours in Vietnam. He became a die‑hard biker, and never married. Now in his late fifties, something has found him and wants him dead. Something has found him and wants him alive.
The truth behind faith and reality are about to collide, and the fate of the universe is at stake.

Lonely Hero Thing - The Chronicles of Ian Duncan ‑ Book One - Urban fantasy.

Ian Duncan. Millionaire. He owns a brew pub and a restaurant. He’s also Earth’s paladin. A man with a named sword, magical powers, and a little voice in his head only he can hear.
Beneath the deepest roots of Des Moines, Iowa there exists a city of the dead and damned. In this necropolis is a child yet to be born. This child’s blood, once shed, will open the gates of Hell.

Ancient, Evil, Hungry - The Chronicles of Ian Duncan ‑ Book Two - Urban fantasy.

The action never stops in this thriller second installment of The Chronicles of Ian Duncan. Avatara. The Earth Father. An immortal soul in a mortal shell.
Old Ones have appeared in the city, Sheena is still healing, Olympian gods and goddesses are thrown into the mix, and the baby needs a name. That’s when Fate appears, bringing with him Pukey the cat. His daughter’s cat. It always has been, and always will be her cat. Is there such a thing as a cat god?
Did Lovecraft have it right? Are we doomed?

Burnt Offerings - A collection of 20 short stories—15 previously published in print and online, 5 original to this volume—bridged together by a larger narrative.

"I thought this novel would work out well if I could find the perfect vehicle to drive my characters. Would a hospital psych ward do?"
From Native American legend, urban detective, science fiction, to magic and love; alongside vampires, barbarians, presidents, elves, and (walking talking) toys. A little something for everyone.

And Jesus Wept - Horror.

Judas Iscariot, two-thousand-years cursed to walk among us for his betrayal of the Christ, is about to get his second chance. He receives for the second time in his long lonely life thirty silver coins. Thirty possibilities to save the living universe itself.
Judas must walk west, from New York to central Iowa, the small town of Eisais. At each stop along his journey he gives someone a coin. Thirty conscripts in the war to come. One coin, though, chooses its possessor. Lovely sixteen-year-old Tamera Ditters. Profoundly autistic Tamera, a little girl with the living universe in her head.

The Pre-dead Saga - Horror, fantasy, science fiction. Two novels as one.

Ripley King’s Burnt Offerings is a collection of 20 short stories, bridged together by a larger narrative. And Jesus Wept is the stand-alone sequel. Read together, in order, they tell a powerful story of good vs evil. Ordinary people caught in the deadly crosshairs of extraordinary events.
One must live, and one must die. The trick is to accomplish both, all without lifting a finger. It’s as simple as one angel’s task, becoming one man’s burden.

Earth Improvement Day - Crime thriller.

Jacob Hard is a man obsessed with one idea: Revenge over the biker gang that killed his wife and son, leaving him for dead. Parallel him, Homicide Detective Mark Hauer.
Two axes to grind, and one stone to grind them on.

5 Omnibus Edition - Mixed genre.

Immortality. Paranormal private investigators. Revenge. Then add in vampires, and so much more. The heart of darkness beats strong here with twenty-five (25) of the best short stories from Ripley King.

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