Some would call me jaded. Some would call me evil. Others still would call me egocentric. I prefer to call myself a survivor. I want power. I’ll do just about anything to get it as long as it doesn’t inconvenience me too badly. The rush of a powerful spell flowing through me, the slide of silk along my skin or the caress of an eager lover; these things are the same to me. I have courted the Art most of my lengthened life, and have married myself to it. The lovely thing about being married to magic… It doesn’t mind if I take other lovers.
The first thing I remember is my mother’s face. My dark curly hair and fair, slender form were her gifts to me, though not of much use during my early years spent grubbing in the dirt beside the rest of my family as we attempted to grow enough to live on after paying our yearly tithe to the Lord of Waterdeep. There were four of us children, though I am the only one who remains now through a form of the Art I adore though it is not my own.
It was my father who passed his gift on to me. He was a simple man who had enough of the art to perform cantrips to make the toiling a little easier. Instead of traveling to town or spending hours with a stone to sharpen implements, he could do it right away with a muttered arcane phrase. It was his lack of ambition which kept our family poor. I look back after my years of training and see that now. In the ignorance of my youth, we were happy. My parents held a fondness for each other most would call love, and shared it with us. Despite our lack of creature comforts, we never starved, though there was the occasional lean season when we hungered.
I was seven the first time I dallied with the Art. I was helping my father with the sowing and a flock of birds landed behind us, pecking at the dirt to get at the seed we had just planted. My mind caught the word Father used as he sent forth a series of magical missiles towards the flock that scattered squawking their protests. One of them was too slow, so I pointed my hand as Father had done and repeated the word. I felt a tingle run through my young body and focus along my fingertip. Much to my delight, and the shock of Father, a weak missile left my hand and dropped the bird to the dry soil. After his shock receded, a booming laugh left his barrel chest and he clapped me on the shoulder staggering me.
As I grew, he taught me what little magics he could perform, but my thirst for the power demanded more. Whenever I could, I would slip away from the three room house we all shared and perfect the spells I had learned. Something within me yearned for more.
Of my sisters I was the comeliest, our work in the fields toning my body, and despite the protests of my mother, I grew my hair into a long tangle of curls. After all, it was not as if we lacked water to keep ourselves clean, though my family teased me about my obsession for it. Time spent in the sun tanned my skin causing my blue eyes to stand out. I traded a few cantrips with the local herbalist for a lotion to keep my skin smooth. I knew I was beautiful, and while I had to work with the rest of the family to feed us, I saw no reason to ignore my appearance. I blossomed early, curves softening the angular body of a child, and I grew taller as well, looking most of the men I met in the eye.
It was my thirteenth year when I noticed the speculative glances being tossed my way whenever I passed a man of any vigorous age. Having grown up on a farm, I knew what those looks meant. It was the same look a bull gave to a cow in season. I found I rather enjoyed it, almost as much as I did the feeling of magic as it flowed through me into whatever spell I happened to be casting. I also learned quickly that with the right behavior, I could wrap them around my little finger. The right flutter of my eyelashes, a moment of weakness, a pout… the simple farmers tripped over their feet to do what I asked. It became a game, and one I loved playing.
It was about a year later of watching me at my pranks that Father came up with the brilliant idea of marrying me off. Of course I told him what I thought of that. By the time I was done voicing my displeasure, the stunted grass that grew around our house was looking the worse for wear. He gave me an ultimatum. I tossed it in his face and marched down the rutted road that led to our farm, leaving behind everything, including the slender book containing the spells he had given me. It wasn’t until I reached the crossroads where the market was usually held that my temper cooled, and my reasoning returned. Here I was in the middle of the road, no supplies, no spell book, no clothing but what I wore on my back. It was time to leave. I’d had a taste for power, and I wanted the whole meal. I was tired of working my fingers to the bone, when I knew magic could grant power, wealth and status if wielded correctly. By the gods I would be one who did.
Under the cover of night, I slipped back to the house and scooped up my shawl for warmth and spellbook, the two things I would take with me. My family was welcome to whatever it was that was left. Magic would provide. I would find someone to teach me and use whatever wiles I must to get those lessons.
Three years later I opened my eyes and stretched languorously under the fine linen sheets that covered my nude body. The snoring lump beside me didn’t stir. Staring at the velvet canopy above me, I began planning. I had been with Hadran for two and a half years as his apprentice absorbing everything he chose to teach me, as well as other things he did not. I had chosen the simplest path to pay for his tutelage, myself. My time with him had been spent almost exclusively indoors and the dark tan had mostly faded from my smooth skin leaving my face lightly freckled. My hair had reached my waist, and its curls were glossy and thick. Eating well and maturity had softened my frame, though I retained the strength my former life had given me.
As a lover Hadran wasn’t bad given the fact he was sixty if he was a day, however it was time to move on. He had gotten more quarrelsome with every request for new knowledge. I had heard there was another mage in Waterdeep who took students. I would use the cache of coins I had “acquired” over the past years to complete my education there before entering the world to carve out my niche. I only hoped Hadran wouldn’t be difficult about my leaving. At seventeen, I was already acquainted with men and their fragile egos. If the old fool honestly thought I held a fondness for him, then he deserved the slap. I only hoped he didn’t decide to chase me out with fireballs, for I’d hate to have to kill him.
Two months later found me filthy, disheveled, dressed in tattered robes, gagged and manacled within the hold of a ship heading to its final destination of Calimport. My temper knew no limit, but I was helpless to act upon it bound as I was. My hands were enclosed within steel mittens that did not permit my fingers to move, wrists bound to my ankles. I would have a score to settle once I figured out how to free myself, but for now, I would patiently wait my fate, hatred a burning ember. Hadran would die.
I could feel the differences in climate as our ship got closer to Calimport. The air in the hold became stiflingly hot, the smell of human waste, sweat and sickness was a disgusting miasma that never left. Once a week the sailors would come in and throw buckets of sea water over us in a pathetic effort to knock down the smell. My body grew thin, my hair dull and lifeless, and my mind clung to the arcane formulas still held in my memory while I lay in a lethargic state uncaring about my body. It was my mind I had to preserve. Blinding sunlight finally returned me to awareness. I struck out weakly, earning a backhand for my troubles. Someone cursed, yelling at the swarthy skinned man who had hit me. “She’ll get a higher price as a pleasure slave if she is not damaged you fool!” I started laughing weakly. I would not be worth the gold they sought after being locked in a ship hold for three months given only enough water and food to stay alive.
After being dragged to the slave market, I paid no attention to the auction. One “master” would be the same as another; someone to dispose of and flee. If he was decent, I would accept my time there and seek ways to earn coin and find a way to replace my spell books. I stood silently with hands still bound before me, my chin raised and gaze staring unseeing at the crowd. Coin exchanged hands and I was led away several streets over to the rear gate of a large garden set behind a huge sand colored building. Several women wearing veils and loose clothing lounged around under shades with meek servant girls wafting fans over them. I was led through a back entrance where a soft-looking man scooped me up and dumped me into a large wooden tub filled with scalding hot water where I was ruthlessly scoured and the shackles were removed. The water was changed three times before I was clean enough to satisfy his sense of smell, before he dragged me out to stand dripping before a veiled woman that entered the room. Dark brown eyes raked over my trembling reed thin frame appraisingly.
“She’s too thin. Men appreciate curves, soft women, not ones that are as sharp as a sword,” she stated to the man holding my arm to keep me from pitching forward.
“So feed me. You spend two months in a slave hold covered in piss and who knows what else and see how well you look,” I told her, summoning up some sarcasm. She merely raised an eyebrow.
“I will feed you for a week. If you do not look better, I sell you to the pits to feed their animals or please the gladiators. If you improve, you will learn how to please a man,” she spoke matter-of-factly.
I remember snorting. “I know how to please a man, I hardly need lessons.”
Those brown eyes glared at me filled with disgust. “I do not mean the crude coupling of two who mate like beasts. It is an Art you will learn from me, one as mysterious and powerful as magic.”
A week later, I looked into a mirror I passed to see that while I was still far too thin, my hair brittle and my skin sallow, my eyes had lost the hollow look in them. The next morning began the first of many days of my training in the art of pleasure as taught in the pleasure houses of high-paid courtesans. And I learned, for it was just another weapon I would add to my arsenal.
Five years later I was curled up on a large pillow under the shade of one of the giant palms that graced the gardens when Kashia approached. I closed the book I had been reading, carefully tucking the loose page of arcane symbols within to conceal it. Sitting up I smoothed the silk gown over my lush curves, after four years still pleased they had returned to me. Her brown eyes met my own blue over our veils as she folded herself down to share my seat.
“Pasha Jathka will be coming tonight to select a gift for his eldest son who has come of age. You will be presented with Amne, Karrin and Rytha for him to choose from,” she informed me. I felt an eyebrow rise in surprise.
“Here I thought I would never be sold off,” I stated sarcastically.
Kashia’s gaze was amused. I had been here for five years and had never seen behind her veil. “You were not ready. Your talent needed extra training, for I had no intention of selling you to a merchant with more money than sense. I saw in you the potential for a place in a noble house, pleasuring the son of a sultan, or entering his own harem. Your fair skin and eyes makes you stand out as exotic.”
“No,” I said. “If my training here is done, then I am done and it is time to leave.” I told her calmly. Her eyes flashed dangerously as she raised her hand to strike me for my impudence. I had been a cooperative student during my time here, taking her instruction and entertaining those I was commanded to entertain. When I caught her hand, she looked at me with surprise on her face.
“I will be happy to send coin to pay for the expenses incurred by my training Kashia, but I will not be sold. Especially to some beardless boy who would barely know where to look, much less touch,” I gave her a cheerful smile. “If you are done with your instruction, I will be on my way for I have other things to attend to in my life. Partial payment has been rendered by the services I have provided so far.”
Her expression angry, she reached for a handful of the hair that tumbled freely under my veil. A short muttered phrase had her hissing in pain as a burst of energy entered my hand where I held her, a burn rising under my palm. I remember that rush, the first I had felt since Hadran had sold me. With my free hand, I scooped up my book, a battered collection of pages bound in leather, before walking towards the door that led to freedom, Kashia scrambling to keep up with my longer strides.
I released her at the door with a warning look. “It would be unwise to summon anyone to follow me. That was just a tease of what I have managed to hold onto for all these years. I would hate to have to return to raze this building to the ground with everyone in it,” I commented softly. “If anyone asks, I suggest you sent me on an errand. I know the man who pays you to run this place would be displeased to know that you walked me to the door to see me gone yourself.”
I muttered a phrase and disappeared from her life forever, vanishing into the hot dusty streets of Calimport. Of course it wasn’t that simple. I had managed to hold onto the spells I had retained in my memory by constantly focusing on them during my journey. I had painstakingly written them into the margins of the battered book someone had tossed upon the rubbish pile, no one thinking twice about seeing me with it in the years I had remained there. I entertained many interesting people there during my training, some of them very careless once they were worn out by passion. I managed to filch a few new spells from dabblers who didn’t care to magically lock their tomes and thought me harmless.
That book, its bindings now disintegrating with the years that have passed, still remains one of my most treasured possessions, kept in a small glass chest at my home in Waterdeep, sealed from prying fingers.
It took me years to return to Waterdeep. I left Calimport by smuggling myself into a departing caravan, surprising the Master when he stopped for the night, and bartering my company for his transportation towards the north. That carried me to Baulder’s Gate where I slipped away when the caravan arrived at its warehouse, filching a few gold coins from the merchant’s pouch, using them to acquire a small hovel to live in. I began aiding adventurers who stopped through, hiring my magic out to travel with them. Sometimes there were other mages with them, and I bartered my services for a new spell.
After fifteen years of this existence, I stopped and stared into the waters of a fountain one day as I paused to gather water for washing. Despite the lotions I had paid dearly for, some days going without food, age and my slim existence had crept up on me. I had deep creases across my brow, lines around my eyes, and my mouth was surrounded by the deep indentations of dissatisfaction. Threads of grey had woven through my ebony curls, and the bold blue of my eyes had faded some. An old woman stared back at me.
I lived in Baulder’s Gate. I had availed myself of the resources of the Great Library whenever I had the coin to donate to clear the path for my entry. My inventory of spells had grown, filled with spells of beautiful destruction. Even as a child I had been attracted to fire, its danger fascinating, and its passion a siren’s call. During my times of study, I heard the whispers of a school of the darker arts of necromancy below the library. One of their talents enabled the gift of eternal youth. Looking at my reflection, I felt the draw of that promise like a moth to a flame.
So I sent a message, leaving it with a librarian to be delivered. A woman responded, meeting me in a private dining room at the Three Kegs Inn and Tavern. Our conversation was simple once we got past the pleasantries. I stared at her slim, youthful figure, hiding my jealousy. Her price to return my body to its prime was complicated, but one I relished. It seemed she knew Hadran as well, and he had attempted similar revenge when she decided dalliance was over, to much less success. She, however still held a grudge, and it was one I was pleased to exploit. As a counter, I told her I would require she remove at least five years to erase the worst of the ravages of time. It had been twenty years since last he had lain eyes upon me, and I would use fifteen of them as my disguise. She agreed and a week later saw my departure, dressed in the style of garments I had worn upon my arrival in the city. The deep lines time had etched upon my face had softened, the grey gone from my hair.
While not having the fresh eye-catching beauty of my youth, I had a mature air about me; one that spoke of experience and allure. I rather expected Hadran would not recognize the little mage he’d sold off. My training gifted me with the innate grace of a concubine. It would be an interesting first meeting. In the end it was rather anti climactic. I sent a message, he met me, we spent a week together before I slid a dagger between his ribs one afternoon, whispering into his ear who I was, and why he was dying. The look on his face was rather priceless, and one I gifted Tylia with as I returned to Baulder’s Gate with his head in a bag, preserved through the reading of a scroll she had given me. Last I heard she had it displayed like a hunting trophy upon the wall of her laboratory.
One thing I have noticed about my fellow practitioners of the arcane, we have rather a blind spot when it comes to physical attacks.
A week later, I was young, active, beautiful and wealthy, having scooped up several little items he’d left carelessly lying around, as well as a few extra spellbooks and odds and ends. Unraveling the wards that covered a few of his more valuable tomes had proven to be trickier than I cared to try. I’ll admit, I wallowed in my wealth. The sensible part of me invested in a merchant company, before returning to Waterdeep to purchase a house.
I have been alive four lifetimes. My siblings are long dead, having passed on the way they started life, fighting the soil for what they want. I tutored my sister Tarre’s granddaughter for a time, it seems she inherited a bit of Talent, though not my ambition. Pity. I do hate to see waste, and she would not even have my trials to see her to her power.
I adventure when I am bored. Every ten years I travel to Baulder’s Gate to visit Tylia, ensuring that never again will I see myself as I did that day in the fountain. We trade favors and both continue our lives. I live for myself, enjoying the pleasures that life and magic can give me.
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