Foreword by Rod Rambler:
Years ago when I first received this, I had no clue what to do with it, but when something like this comes at you out of the blue you pack it away and await further instructions. This comes to light now for a purpose, as Isis has apparently chosen her champion for the conflict in Troker, and from her beginnings, shown herein, she began humbly as many a hero does. The text that follows is as it was given to me around the date herein mentioned below. Without further ado, I give you Alouette in her own words.
Set 13, 13th year of Emperor Itomas II (PA 102)
The snow was a warm blanket that covered me slowly as it fell from the sky. Something deep within me was screaming at this, but it was a small voice and the quiet was too loud for me to hear it clearly. My blood stained the snow around me in a spreading pool of red and I thought the contrast between the red and the white was pretty.
My life up to this point had been hard, as it is for many in the oldest profession in the Western Empire, and I was glad for the rest. I knew, somewhere deep inside, that I was dying, but I didn’t care. It would be a respite. It didn’t really matter anyway because I’d no longer be able to work in the same houses as I’d used to. There is no call for a disfigured courtesan, and the wind passing through my cheek and numbing my tongue was enough to tell me that. If I’d had enough energy left to fear, then the fact that my eye saw nothing would have terrified me.
I should have taken note of the date before I walked out into the newly fallen snow, but the beauty of the night was enough to remove my superstition, and my patron was enough to remove my fear. No one would dare lay a finger on one of Fade’s girls, not without paying at least. I wore my colors as a badge of honor in those days. I’d been on the job long enough that I no longer mourned the girl I’d been but not long enough to worry about the woman I was becoming. Life has a way of changing who you are planning on becoming.
While walking, I was so lost in thought, just staring up into the invisible clouds in the sky, watching as the puffs of white descended into view that I never heard my killer, or if I did, I didn’t pay it heed. It was as if the pounding of hooves, the jingling of the traces and the squeal of under-greased wheels were just a background to the contentment that I was feeling, a counterpoint, but nothing to worry about. I was untouchable after all.
There wasn’t any pain. You’d think that there would be excruciating pain, but I didn’t feel a thing other than shock when the world suddenly threw itself at me. I can remember bouncing off the stone wall and tumbling to the ground, but that was it. No pain, only wonder at the fact that it was growing warmer, and watching as my blood began to pour into the street and stain the cobbles.
“Isis,” I said, weakly calling into the darkness, “your beauty is visible in this night.”
A moment of clarity came to me, and I realized that I was dead, or soon would be. There was nothing humanly possible to save me at this point. It was when I realized that I was happy that I would be leaving this world that the weight of my profession came upon me, and I truly regretted the choices that led me to be lying in the street slowly bleeding to death.
“Isis, while death isn’t your perview, I commend myself into your care. What is left of my life I give to you willingly, and will serve you even beyond death. From this moment forward until I cease to exist, I am yours, wholly and completely.”
“There’s no use in a dead servant,” a woman said as she came into view above me.
“Who are you?”
“Have you lost faith so quickly. child?”
It was as if reality shifted and this stranger stood before me as Isis in her glory, or as much of it as she allowed to escape into the night. I moved, attempting to move my broken body into a full prostration, but nothing worked right. “Oh, my goddess,” I began, but she motioned me to stay still.
“Your offer, would it stand if you weren’t dying?”
“My offer? What offer?” I coughed and the first real pain racked my chest.
“You forget so quickly,” she said and turned to leave.
“Please, don’t leave me. I don’t want to die alone.”
“Do you really wish to serve me for the rest of your life?” Her concern looked real, “You seem to have a good thing going here.”
“Really? Not to be rude, goddess, but my life lead me to this point; dying alone in the cold.”
She laughed and smiled at me. I weakly smiled back. The light was beginning to fade even more and I knew that my death was imminent.
“I need a simple yes or no to my question. Will you serve me alone until you die?”
“You are my only mistress, Isis.”
Suddenly the night grew bright again; the torches reflecting from the low hanging clouds threw a diffuse light across the entire city. The night grew cold once more and I found myself once again able to move under my own power.
“Seek me in the forest,” her voice said and when I turned to thank her she was already gone. My left hand was still mangled; my pinkie had apparently been torn away by the wall and the scar tissue was old and white. I put my hand to the left side of my face and I could feel the scar there as well. It was only now that I realized that only my right eye was still able to see.
My face and arm must have taken most of the blow from the wall. My steps were sure and unfaltering and I made my way quickly to Fade’s home. This would be something necessary, and something I wasn’t looking forward to.
Like many of the rich in the city his house was solid walls facing the street, all of the windows faced in on the inner garden. I’d never thought before about how this construction shaped the mentality of the nobility and merchants of the city. Cold and imposing on the outside. Warm and inviting to those within your inner circle. The heavy doors on the south side of the house lead directly into the inner courtyard. Unlike many of the true rich, Fade had cold stone within his courtyard. One of the other girls met me there and I could see the fear in her eyes and the revulsion at the mask that my once pretty face had become.
“I need to speak with Fade,” I said. There was none of the usual false warmth in my voice. For once I would be able to tell this man what I truly felt about him.
She looked afraid as she turned and walked from the courtyard. While she was gone I removed the red and gold sash that had escaped the violence that befell me. It was a symbol of who I had been and it was strange to me how it had survived the ugliness intact. I dropped the sash to the pavement and stood upon it as I waited for Fade to appear.
“Ally! You’re safe!” he said as he walked out of the house and I looked sharply at him. His smile was too perfect, his demeanor that of surprise, a surprise that shouldn’t be there before I even told him what happened. My eye narrowed and I began to glare at him.
“Why?” was all I asked in a voice colder than the night.
“What do you mean ‘why?’”
“I’m only twenty two, Fade. I was beautiful until tonight. Why?”
His expression turned ugly and he stalked over to me, “Why? Because you were planning on leaving me, you self-important little whore!”
“Leave you? Until tonight I had no reason to leave you,” I said, the shock suffusing my features.
“You weren’t,” he said, the smile returning to his face.
I pulled the hair away from my face and turned the left side toward him. “I said ‘before tonight’ Fade. Now, there isn’t anything in this world that would keep me in the same city as yu, let alone in your employ.”
“Alouette, we can talk about this.”
“Really? There’s nothing to talk about. You apparently tried to have me killed.”
“Tried is the operative word here. You’re alive, and a certain type of man will still…”
I glared at him, for the first time seeing this safety that I’d thought I’d built for myself for what it was; it was just ‘slavery’ by another name. “Fade, I have promised my service to another.”
“You don’t get the opportunity to…” he began, anger suffusing his features. Unfortunately for him, he’d finally walked close enough that I could stab him in the gut with the knife I always hid in the skirts of my dress. His breath left in a little ‘oh’ of surprise and he sank to his knees.
“People feared you because they never realized how much of a coward you are,” I said in wonder as he slowly crumpled in on himself. Retrieving the sash from the ground I cleaned my knife of the blood, and other mess, that it had acquired in the momentary contact with Fade’s insides. Turning I walked away, wondering if his final prayers would be answered. Personally, I just hoped Anubis ignored him and dragged him off to the afterlife screaming. Before I left the courtyard for the last time I let the sash flutter to the grey cobbles.
Somehow, in the time between my death and rebirth, my false sense of security had turned into an actual feeling of calm and safety as I walked the streets toward the gate. The guards began leering the moment I stepped into the light. Their looks of lust turned into fear and then anger as they noticed the blood covering the front and side of my dress.
“Master Leerman has been stabbed,” I said, stumbling forward and into the nearest guards arms. That was his real name, even if most people used Fade, is underworld nickname instead. I heard the guard calling the alarm even as the man who was holding me guided me into the guard house.
Soon we were the only ones who remained at the gate. “You really don’t want to do this,” I said quietly. I’d give him a chance, but after that I would still be leaving this city in the next couple of minutes.
“Sure I do,” he said with a grunt as he loosened his trousers. I looked up at him in such a way that my hair fell away from the ruined left side of my face. “No, you don’t” I said putting menace into my voice. He blanched and took a step back.
I turned and left the guard room and then let myself out of the city through the sally port. I heard the guard close and bar the door behind me. He chose life, and I was happy to let him keep it.
Thus concludes the first chapter in the story of Allouette