Jezebel is tempted in the empty hours of the night.
The cabinet drawer was ajar. A thin line of black running along the rich polished auburn of the aged desk, calling out to her, tempting her in this most perilous of places.
She should be above such enticements. She wasn’t some low-born whore devoid of restraint, run as much by her passions as the men she emptied. No, Jezebel was a courtesan, an attendant of only the most influential of clientele. Those who lived beyond mortal whims, in power struggles far beyond the daily grind of the common man - A cheap roll in the sheets was far from their appetites.
For as long as her mind could recall, she’d existed not as a woman, but as only the most expensive of accessories. In the light of day a flourishing flower of the most exquisite nature, to be shown and adored by friends and rivals both. At night a guilty pleasure of the depraved to be devoured in primal joining. But above all she was security, a repository of any and all secrets carelessly unveiled.
That was the difference. Beautiful, talented, and intelligent when required of her, Jezebel was everything her client demanded. Of course, draped in the indulgent riches of her Brothel, any woman could successfully delve the blatant pleasures of her patrons.
Madam Kortell’s was different. The coffers didn’t overflow simply because the women were of a higher quality. Jezebel carried such a price tag for her unique ability to be human and soulless all in one; a burning cage of fervour to contain the passions of the client whenever their hungers demanded, yet an inhuman possession uncaring and unfazed by the depths of their ‘business ventures’. Jezebel held secrets that could topple Kings and she must never care. To care was to incite removal.
Yet here she was. The old geezer was gone, his wrinkled, pockmarked body called away on important matters so essential he’d defied his grisly cravings and left his treasure alone. Alone in possibly the most significant office in the Capital, and her curiosity was trembling - deep down in that place she forced all emotions. She should be above this. Secrets sickening in their brutality already stained her soul just by shear proximity. What darker intrigues were hidden in the drawer that had always before been locked?
She didn’t need her inner warnings to tell her. Whatever state secret lay just beyond her reach could serve no purpose. It was sheer idiocy! Jezebel was handed amongst the nobility like gold travelled a bazaar. She could tell no one. If she ever did, even to the political benefit of the client, she would be removed, If not by him, then Kortell herself. What use a courtesan that couldn’t be trusted? Juggling secrets of half the court was her job.
Now that she was rising off the master bed, the glistening silk sheets flowing over her curved extremities to flood into a rumpled pile round her feet, she threatened enemies from every house. She would be hunted, they couldn’t afford otherwise. Yet she couldn’t help herself, too long she’d been the most powerful piece in Kortell’s hand, yet mirrored inside just a frightened girl drowning in the cesspit of Elana’s Political hotpot. One day her beauty would fail. The finest furs, the richest foods, all of it could dry up and Jezebel would be thrown back where she’d started - clawing a living in the filthy poor-ridden slums surrounding Elana’s pristine white walls. Perhaps, just perhaps, here in His chambers there was a secret so damning, Jezebel could carve a living for herself. She’d witnessed the game of politics played out time and time again, the rise and fall of dukes and merchants and wizards, each and every one believing they were invincible. A new player she’d be, but one talented enough to just maybe survive. The Question was whether the cost was worth the rewards.
Her subtle fingers curved over the slight crack, the red of her nail varnish almost matching the rich wood of the cabinet as she clawed her nails inward, easing the stubborn panel further. As rare as her curiosity was, the fear that gripped her chest now stilled her in its scarcity. She was a confident beauty always in the company of the powerful. To stand over a piece of furniture and be frozen was unheard of to her. It was the audacity of the situation that pushed Jezebel to greater action more than anything else.
Tenderly breaching open the cabinet drawer to avoid any noise in the still Summer air, Jezebel reached into the dark and moments later withdrew pages after pages of finely printed directives. They shuffled with an almost palpable treachery in her finely manicured hands, defying the once silence of the night-time chamber. Leafing through them quickly discerned nothing to counter anything Jezebel already knew. She nearly gave up, nearly crawled back into the bed to position herself as alluringly as her craft had trained her. But something else caught her eye. Just the faintest glint, the cold glow of the moonlight from this mostly cloudless night had found its way over her naked body and caught the tarnished metal of something deep in the opened drawer.
A more thorough study of the cabinet’s exposed heart unveiled a small crudely covered tome. It was old. No, her client was old; this was ancient back when the cities had been shantytowns. The cover creaked in her grip. The leather ripened black through years of handling. Silver edging tarnished almost beyond aid by a lifetime of aging. Jezebel truly realised her stupidity now. She wasn’t going to uncover an affair; some illegitimate royal bastard; some court scandal to draw favours from. What she gingerly held in her hands. The barest of trembles shaking the tome as her nerves rushed to a conclusion she’d dare not admit, must date back to the dawn of the Republic - a forgotten remnant from a bloody period in Illan’s history. The story of how this came to be hidden in her client’s chambers alone would damn a lesser man. She was trapped; the mere fact knowledge of such a discovery hadn’t become common gossip at court stated the secrets under the covers were greater than anything she could handle. If anyone was to speak of this lost history, it would trace back to her instantly. No one would have touched this but her patron, and Jezebel well knew the man. Enough to know he wasn’t the sharing type.
Quickly rushing to place the tome back where she got it; Jezebel restrained herself grudgingly, her heart lurching leadenly in her chest at this fresh horror. She hadn’t noticed. The room was lighted seductively by only a few candles that she herself had lit. The drawer further shrouded by the mass of her torso, but there - dust. Stealing his personal items she’d disturbed a fine layer, damning herself as her knuckles had scored the perfect surface. Three lines of polished wood uncovered from the years of ignorance after so long. There was no going back now. Jezebel tenderly unfastened the tome, peeled back the cover and readied herself to delve its lost secrets. If she was lucky she would attach herself to someone of power and together hope they could survive the ensuing assault of her Client.
Jezebel scanned hurriedly, looking for something, anything that could save her. Each faded inked lettering holding her awe & salvation for that faction of a heartbeat, before she discarded it in angst to fall to the beckoning promise of its lower siblings. She had never been one for learning, her uneducated childhood hindering her desires. As far as her clients were concerned, it was a trait decidedly suitable for their prized possession. Better the flower that has no thorns to prick back with. But despite the urgency & her unfamiliarity, page after page slowly summoned a strengthening world so far from current affairs, into her mind. The veiled battles of the court appeared almost childish to the wars that had waged over control of the nation in times past. Jezebel found herself becoming greatly immersed in the dark history of her world, so much so, almost not comprehending the shuffle of His soles at the entrance.
Jezebel was never sure herself the nature of her gasp. The page that couldn’t possibly be any other but the one she sought. A secret warping even hers, a courtesan’s world, unveiled itself just as he emerged into his chambers, the long robes of his office rolling behind him.
Her final moments seemed to blur in the pain and confusion. One moment she was sure she was whole. A beauty that should never have been reduced to selling herself to make her fortune, then something happened. All that Jezebel was twisted into a mass of flesh and bones, a broken pile that landed against the heavy balcony wall with a sickening thud. Now that she couldn’t, Jezebel reflected on all the chances she’d had to escape her fate. Not just her death, for that was but a moment of weakness, a chance foolishly taken. For so long now she’d not been human. So long she’d suppressed everything she was to impress men with money, to earn her brothel wealth and notability. To improve others’ lives so she could savour the bare pleasures of the moment. That was inexcusable.
“Filthy Whore!” he bellowed.
Jezebel’s world began to shrink as her blood pooled outwards. The two words yelled with such animosity that they bloated out all else. She wasn’t a whore, hadn’t been for a long time. Jezebel was a Courtesan, a lady of society. He’d yelled that the day he threw her out “Filthy Whore”, such a long gone memory now. Her father the drunkard, the man that drowned his life’s earning, but beat the girl that put food in the larder the only way she could. He was scared as he struggled against death in his final moments. Only their old neighbour for company as she’d learned years later. It felt odd. There was nothing for Jezebel, no feeling of anything. Everything numb as her life streamed away for her, her mind waning in the summer night. She wasn’t a whore, hadn’t been...
Chapters 1 - 4 available to read
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