If I am drawn to darkness it is not through fault of my own. Society has shaped me and led me to its seductive allure.
- From the writings of Avon Treulla Bon Vendagi, the Dragoness

The seduction of the mind is not a skill just any prostitute can wield; there was none better at wielding it than Avon, the Jade Maiden of House Bordo, who had accumulated the most powerful and wealthiest of Aslen as her clients. Avon, the most expensive pleasure maiden of Madame Espasa's, knew her worth down to the copper and always got the best bid. Some of the others, believing their gossip had no way to her ears, whispered that it was because of her dark, wooly hair, often weighed down by oils and woven into dozens of braids, and her walnut-colored skin - exotic to these lands - that gave her this advantage.

Avon knew better. Those of esteem liked a mind that could listen and engage them on their topics. They didn't come to her for carnal pleasure alone, any cheap prostitute could deliver that, they came for a companion to listen and understand their needs. And no one understood better than Avon and for that her clients were loyal.

So it came as a shock when a serving girl - years from becoming a maiden - sent a message from the Madame that Lord Brakinos, Avon's only client to have two whole nights - the first day of the week and the last - reserved just for him, would not be coming. Avon had just finished being bathed and having her skin lathered in skin butter, her eyes adorned with green shadowing to highlight her amber-colored eyes, lip oils to make her full lips a deep red, and blush to accentuate the high cheekbones of her heart-shaped face when she learned that she would instead have a new client. Adding to the mystery, the servant informed her that he'd given no name.

While not uncommon for clients to only go by false names, Avon still needed something to address them by. And who could have bought out Lord Brakino's night? To risk drawing the ire of such a client, the Madame must've been given quite a bid or under some great pressure.

As usual, Avon, dressed in a gossamer dress of near-see-thought emerald-green material that accentuated her wide hips and long legs, lay on the plush, gold-threaded pillows of the canopy bed. She'd follow the routine anyway. Avon would wait behind the silken curtain while smoking her long, thin pipe that added to the heady scent of the room, swinging brass lanterns above let out the sweet incense smell of saffron, and her client would either join her here or call for her to come to them.

She watched his silhouette enter the room through the sheer curtains and take a seat at one of two around a small oak table on the opposite side of the room. His tall figure was outlined by the dim candles, burning in oil boils, that propagated the room.

Instead of calling her though, he merely uncorked the crystal bottle of spiced wine on the table and poured himself a glass. It was a struggle to keep from frowning. He did nothing but drink it down for several minutes and then pour himself a new one. Perhaps he wanted her to be the aggressor and beg for his company?

"Honored guest," she called in a sultry voice, "How shall I pleasure thee tonight?"

"By sitting with me and telling me your tale," he replied in a rich, deep voice that made Avon do something she'd thought herself incapable of these days: she blushed. "Tell me of the fall of Avon, the Dragon Mage of Barudur."

Her composure, built by years of maintenance, nearly cracked and she almost dropped her pipe in shock. How did he know that name? She tried to peek out without giving away her curiosity as her mind struggled to recognize that voice. She couldn't place it.

"None have called me by that title in ages," she said. "But who cares for the tragedy of a lowly maiden. Your needs are far above mine, my most gracious lord."

He threw his head back, laughing in a deep rumble, and as it died said, "Is this truly what's become of Avon Treulla Bon Vendagi? What happened to the proud woman I heard you once were?" Countless betrayals, she nearly responded, burying a rising anger. The Madame had taught Avon harshly not to give in to client's teasing. "Come. Have a drink with me."

"As you wish, my lord," she replied, "Or we could toast each other here and enjoy the pleasure of this soft bed."

The last of his laughter cut off and, in an almost disgusted voice, "I've no interest in sharing a bed with a human."

Human?

"But then how shall I earn my coin?" she asked, using both hand to part the curtain and then slid onto to her feet. For the first time in memory, she almost stumbled. She'd thought herself prepared for anything her clients did, but this... A black robe covered him head to toe with its cowl pulled over a mask that concealed everything but his bright green eyes and his mouth.

"Have a drink," he repeated, gesturing at a filled glass by the table's empty chair.

Surely, the Madam was not punishing Avon and giving her one of those twisted men who enjoyed torturing pleasure maidens with bizarre acts. Avon brought in more than enough to keep the Madam's purse filled.
"Surely," she said, finding the words as she sauntered towards him, "You wish for more than just a pleasant conversation tonight?"

"And surely, Jade Maiden," he said the words with disdain as he lightly swished around the wine in his glass, "You wish for more than this?"

She kept her eyes half-lidded and seated herself, moving with grace and allure. She would not break her image. "My wishes are unimportant. Yours are all that matter."

"Spoken like a true pupil of Madame Espasa," he said, his voice bemused, "How does one go from the most powerful Sunterland Mage to expensive lay?"

And a grimace cracked her face, she wiped it away, but his lips curved into a smirk. He knew he'd gotten under her skin. But it hurt so much to hear the name of her homeland, even after all these years. It had been ages since she'd last gazed upon those sun-baked lands.

"How does a lowly soldier end up a king? Life is what it is," she said, forcing a demure smile to her features. Her livelihood rested on being the Jade Maiden, an exotic beauty from a land near mystical to these people of Wold.

His eyes almost seemed to glow in the dim light. They had a beautiful shape, curved up at the sides. She wondered more about his appearance. "Do you miss your homeland?"

Anger shot through her. How dare he ask that. She ached to say, keeping her face smooth and her alluring smile plastered on. "I long only for the company of my lord."

He rolled his eyes. "They have trained you well. Do you play fetch as well?" he asked, "But you've nothing to tempt me with. I don't ache for mortal flesh." And then he reached out, holding his hand above the flame of an oil bowl, he moved his fingers like he were making a puppet dance. Her eyes widened as the flame twisted into the shape of a serpentine dragon and spiraled up to the ceiling to vanish in a puff of smoke.

She clutched the oaken arm rests. "Sorcery...," she whispered, mouth going dry. How could that be? In these god-abandoned lands?

"Yes, but I'm not a sorcerer," he said, "I'm one born of the flames."

She sat forward. "A fire fairy?"

It was said one look at their fair faces could make a human fall in love. They possessed an unearthly beauty. So they wore masks and covered themselves when they walked among mortals. That explains some things, she thought. His clothing. His exquisite voice. She hated to think how he'd sound if he were trying to seduce her. "But that can't be. Magic disappeared from Wold when the gods abandoned it."

"Not all of it," he said.

"But how? How have you survived? It's been nearly a thousand years."

"I have my ways," he answered, "The humans of these lands have forgotten the old ways. They know nothing of magic beyond their myths. Then I heard the strangest rumor of a Sunterland maiden who worked as an expensive whore," her lips pressed together, "And as I dug deeper, I learned of another one. That the Jade Maiden of House Bordo was none other than Avon, the feared Dragoness."

"That was a long time ago," she said in a hollow voice. It still hurt where Trevak, her dragon familiar had been been torn out and their bond severed. "The past should remain the past."

"What if you could have it back? Some of your spellcasting? Some magic? What would you give?" He asked holding out his gloved hand, palm up.

She ached at just the thought of wielding it. Of that power coursing through her veins again. "Anything," she answered. "My soul if you'd like it."

He smirked, closing his hand, when he opened it there lay a small metal cylinder in the center of his palm. "Would you sign a contract?" He made a fist again and this time, when he opened it, there lay a scroll. Her skin tingled. She could feel the magic radiating from him.

Gripping the arm rests, deeply shaken and overwhelmed, she tried to control her tone, but it still sounded weak as she said, "What're the terms?"

"That you serve me well as my right-hand. And in return I'll give you power and wealth beyond anything you could earn here. Surely, you wish to leave this life."

"I don't know," she said, sinking back in her seat, "It's not uncomfortable. And do I really want to leave one slave contract for another?"

"You will not be my slave," he said, "Never that. You'd be my ally. A confidant. One I can trust with my deepest secrets. Your knowledge and education from the Sunterland are wasted here. I can unchain you. I can give you back some of what you were. I need your training and your talent."

"Madame Espasa would never sell my contract."

"She will to me," he said, "If you wish it."

"I have been betrayed too much to hope again," she said, "There's no trust in me."

"This contract would be made by Blood Oath. And you know what the oath of a fire fairy means."

The oath that cannot be broken.

"So years of loyalty for a fancy estate?"

"No. If you serve and become my most loyal and strongest servant, I'll see you returned to the Sunterland."

She was struck dumb. Her knuckles pale as her fingers dug into the oak. Swallowing hard, she asked, "But how? The door is shut. It's impossible."

"I have ways," he said, resting his chin on his palm with sly grin. "But are you brave enough to dare?"

She held out her hand, "the contract," she said, frowning when he laughed.

"You'll never bore me," he said, and then clenched his fist and the contract vanished.

"What're you doi-" she began, but he cut her off.

"In good time, but before we sign, I want a little entertainment." She nearly lost her temper and it took all her control to keep composed. "Relax. Not that kind. I want a story first. Your story. Tell me how you were ruined."

"My woe is your entertainment," she said, her tone cold. "If that's what you really want, then so be it." She took her glass by the stem and took a sip. "It's amazing how people will betray you. How they'll conspire for your doom and abandon you to rot. The beginning was really in one of my last days at Prevora School. I despised that place. My mother sent me there to crush any dream I had of magery. She blamed magic for my father's death and wanted to sever me from it. And she nearly succeeded until..."

As she spoke, the memories, so long forgotten, began returning.