Title: Kushiel's Hand
Disclaimer: Jaqueline and Joss, Joss and Jacqueline.
I was, at the time, far removed from the city of Elua, yet, even tending to my duties as the Comptesse de Montrève, even I heard of the outworlder. She had appeared mysteriously one day, refusing to tell anyone of her origins or her purpose. Taken by a beauty that did not come from Elua or any of his Companions, Joyce Laveau--a distant cousin of my old friend Cecilie Laveau-Perrin--offered the stranger her hospitality. It was accepted with grudging grace that gave no indication of the skill she would show both the peerage of Terre d'Ange and the Servants of Naamah.
Whether or not the outworlder knew of the Servants of Naamah before she came to Terre d'Ange will remain a mystery, nor do I know if she ever made an offering at the temple. With a name like Faith, I wonder if it would even be necessary. All I know is that she entered into a contract with Joyce Laveau, much to her hostess' delight. A day and a night they spent together, and during it all Joyce was lost to the world. She was expertly bound, muscles strained to the edge of endurance before the silk bonds loosened and she was manipulated into a new pose that awoke greater pleasure and sweeter agony. She was molded with flail and hand until she thought her skin would burst aflame and only the waves of her ecstasy could wash away the terrible heat. Time and time again, she spoke her signale, and Faith would cease, her dark eyes fixed intently on Joyce's shivering form until Elua’s scion could no longer stand their cold caress and begged for the touch of a whip or a hand once more.
The sun rose, the contract was fulfilled, and when Joyce finally awoke from her exhausted slumber, Faith had already left to form another contract.
So the stories came, in letters from my friends in the city of Elua and from my chevalier Ti-Phillipe, who often went to the city on some errand or another for me. I admit to feeling a certain thrill; how could I not, being an anguisette? Though I thought that Kushiel had finally left me in peace, the crimson mote remained in my eye, and I still felt the prick of Kushiel's Dart. I would always feel the need to yield to another, and this outworlder's ability to make all yield to her sent a shiver up my spine. Joscelin heard the stories as well, and he knew what they did to me. Still, my Perfect Companion bore it with good humor. We had both learned so much in our trials together.
It would be a long time, however, before I met Faith, and I had to be content with stories. First, she attended a ball without invitation, an action to which Marquise Cordelia Belfours took exception. In response to the Marquise's loud demand for the outworlder to leave, Faith arrogantly challenged Cordelia to a game of kottabos. If Faith won, she would be granted an invitation to the ball as Cordelia's guest and if Cordelia won, she would receive two hundred ducats. I can only guess that the outworlder had obtained the ducats from her contract with Joyce Laveau.
The bargain was struck, much to the amusement of the attendants of the ball. I am told that Cordelia played well, but Faith's almost negligent spin of her cup and the elegant fly of the lees to knock the silver disk of the plastinx into the basin made her the clear--if unforeseen--victor.
And in a show of arrogance which was to become expected from her, Faith swept Cordelia into her arms and took from her a kiss. "You didn't think an invite from you was worth two hundred ducats, did you?" she said, her mode of speech rough and peculiar to the ears of a d'Angeline.
"My kiss is certainly worth more!" the Marquise responded in shock, her face flushed with what might have been anger but with what was also undoubtedly desire.
Faith received her second contract that night.
She stayed amongst the peerage of Terre d'Ange for several more weeks, moving from one bed to another when it suited her. There was no doubt that she was rough and crude, but we d'Angelines are drawn to beauty in all its forms, even if we do not always understand it. She kept the nobles enthralled and when she left their circle suddenly, they were both relieved and regretful.
Faith contracted Adepts of the Night Court and watched as Buffy nó Mandrake scourged Tara nó Valerian, seemingly fascinated by the pattern of welts and blood on Tara's back. "Make her say it," she ordered, "The signale."
And Buffy obeyed, sweat glistening on her arm as it rose and fell with cold faultlessness until Tara was forced to sob, "Willow!" Only then did Faith rise from her seat, her hand hovering over the lattice of crimson on Tara's back before she turned to Buffy, gesturing for her to come closer. Grasping Buffy with the rabid viciousness of a wolf, she kissed the Adept of Mandrake House and such was her power that Buffy was forced to her knees in submission. Faith could only look down at both Servants of Naamah and say in frustration, "No. It's not right."
It came as a surprise when Faith paid the virgin-price of River nó Gentian. An even greater surprise was her treatment of the new Adept. Faith had cultivated a reputation in the infliction of pain that rivaled that of well-established Adepts from Mandrake House and yet not one harsh blow marred River's flesh. She lay back, letting the girl stroke her heated flesh and nuzzle between her legs to suck and tease at Naamah's pearl until she shivered with her release. Only then did she turn her attention to River, coaxing the Adept in turn to rapture and listening intently to whatever visions that came to her.
When morning came, she left the city of Elua.
And came to me.