|The City of Central |
From: the map of Heimr, the known world
Central City was the largest city in heimr, the known world. It was a place where anything could be bought or sold. All you had to do was know where to look. The most popular district was the pleasure district. And hidden in that district was The Temple. It was built to look like a place dedicated to the worship of sex and beauty but underneath the silk and the flowers was a dark secret. All the gold made by the lucrative business of sex went to fund a temple to Asmodious, the demon god and overlord of hell. Most who came to the temple came to partake of the pleasures it offered, but others sought to commune with their deity through the use of the prostitutes- each of whom was a priestess of one level or another.
Novalee was one of these, though she hadn't taken that name yet. For now she was called Jade Songbird. She was a lower level priestess, and a cheaper prostitute. However on the day our story begins she wasn't mingling with the other girls as they pleasured guests of all the Intelligent races of heimr, instead she was in the tea room playing the harp. She played the music that helped make the conversations feel more private. The music was light, sensual, and romantic to help sell the illusion being created: prostitutes pretending to be in love with patrons, who tried to forget that they had paid for her attentions.
She stopped playing for a minute, just to drink from the glass on the table next to her. She was beginning to feel light headed. She was weak, and hungry. These were not new experiences for her. She was always hungry. For as long as she could remember she'd always been underfed. But today was worse. She'd eaten almost nothing the last three weeks because the High Priest had put her on a water fast. Jade drained the water that was her only sustenance.
At the table to her left one of the girls shierked and tried to get away from the patron she was with. The girl, who was fairly new, was human and rather young. If Jade remembered correctly, she one of the girls used in the sacrifice the past holy day. Once the girls were ready to begin working they were the center piece of the worship ceremony, where their virginity was sacrificed on the altar of Asmodious. The patron she was with was politely called a merrow, and impolitely called a fish-man. Jade empathized with the girl. While compatible with humans, the merrow's rough and clammy skin made it very uncomfortable to lay with.
The patron grabbed her roughly. Jade saw one of the Paladins walk across the room to them. The Paladins did not have names, at least none that were shared with the girls. They were called by their rank. There were three ranks among the paladins-- senior, master and commander. The girls gave them nicknames to differentiate them but these were never said where a paladin may hear. This one was called Senior Brokenhorn because one of his horns was broken. He was a Shedim or a Demon human high-breed. His skin was red and his pupil-less eyes glowed white.
Senior Brokenhorn grabbed the girl. She stopped struggling. He asked, “I'm sorry sir. Shall I bring you a different girl? Perhaps one who is not so obstinate?”
The patron shook his head, “No I want her.”
Senior Brokenhorn nodded said to the girl “Do your job.”
The girl was pale but she took the patron's hand. “This way sir,” she said as she led him to the stairs. Senior Brokenhorn watched them go, then turned his attention to Jade. She breathed deeply, trying to control her fear, and plucked the strings.
Music was a balm to her wounds. With each string she plucked, the notes eased her pain and calmed her nerves. She became lost in the music. It was as much a part of her and her skin. It was some time before she stopped again.
When she did a patron asked, “Could I make a request?”
Jade opened her eyes. When she saw who the patron was, she nodded. His name was Micheal. He was only there during the afternoon and evening when the tea room was opened. He flirted with most of the girls but only ever took liberties with one of them, and only once. It was said that Micheal like the illusion of being with a women without being with one. Some of the rumors were that he was shy, and that he was here to learn how to be comfortable with women. Whatever the case, Jade liked him. He almost always sat at the table near the platform she played on and listened to her. He called himself a lover of music and complimented her on her skill.
“The song you told me about.”
“I'm sorry?” she wasn't sure what he was talking about.
“I believed you described it as a song from your dreams?”
“Oh.” Jade took a drink from her glass. She looked at the strings of her harp and took a deep breath. She started to pluck the strings tentatively at first. She had never been taught the song but it was one that she hummed to herself when she was alone. She didn't know the words, but the melody was a part of her, even if she didn't know why. It was a song transported her away from the temple to somewhere far away, where she was free. There was never a time when she didn't know the song, and over the years she had pieced it together on the two instruments she knew: harp and on the ocarina.