So I wrote this a couple of weeks back. It was written for someone very special to me. I am stealing time to post it here tonight for your enjoyment, because it makes me happy to share these things. And because it makes me happy to think of her. And I could use some happy.
Content notes: mind control, body control, gambling, damnation
Once upon a time a Maiden stepped into a House of Sin. She was a preacher’s daughter, and the moment her foot crossed the threshold she stood out like a lily rampant on a field of vice. As her gaze saw what there was to see, glasses fell silent on the bar, the clack of dice and the clatter of the wheel slowly faded, and only the needful sounds of lust from inner rooms continued unabated. A blush graced her cheeks. But this girl was on a mission and the fire of purpose was in her belly. She would not be deterred.
The Madam looked down from where she lounged on high. Eyes not unlike to a cat’s narrowed. She observed the girl with caution mixed with desire. She knew her pedigree but not her reason. The Madam rose from her divan, letting long fingers trail the flesh of the collared young thing that had been allowed to share in her pleasure. With a thoughtless wave she dismissed the attendant who sprang into motion as she rose. Then she leaned, slender, spidery thing she was in layers of green and black, and loomed down at the floor below. Lips stretched into a captivating smile that held no warmth or soul. All eyes turned upwards to look upon her.
“What brings you to my parlor, young lady?” her voice was like silk and fire, “Your daddy would have your hide if he knew you so much as set eyes on this hall, much less foot in it.”
The Maiden looked up, face hard with determination, mouth a thin line, eyes clear and blue as heaven. “My daddy…” she began, but her voice caught ever so slightly, “My daddy has already damned me to hell. So the way I see it, there’s not much more to fear.”
The smile on the woman’s face grew wider, uncannier, and she gave a hollow laugh. It was a sound without humor affected, practiced, and tailored in it’s flawed mockery. “Girl, all may have sinned, but there is always further to fall. Go home.”
The Madam turned her attention towards a lithe young thing in silk and chains that offered a sparkling green cordial on a tray. The sounds of drink and sin began to swell again as the patrons returned to their diversions. The preacher’s daughter was ignored, for a moment forgotten, but she was not swayed. Her shoes clicked a staccato rhythm as she hurried across the well worn wood floor, and there was the clink of metal on metal as she threw her purse down upon the table. The Madam’s hand froze then, just as she was raising her drink to her mouth. The glass hovered less than an inch away, forgotten as her hand slightly trembled and her tongue tasted her lips. And then she turned back and looked down.
“All I own.” The girl whispered, unable to look up and meet the woman’s gaze. But the Madam heard it as clear as if the young girl’s lips were tenderly brushing her ear.
The mocking smile and hollow laughter were gone, and a lean look of hunger blossomed in its place. “And just what are you going to tell me that you seek to win?”
“Freedom.” The maiden said, this time with nary a waver.
“I already told you. Only freedom for you is out that door.”
“It’s not for me.”
“Regardless, I think you’ll be disappointed.”
“Only one way to find out.”
The money was collected, counted, stored under lock and key. And the worth of the Maiden’s life was doled out in chips of bone. She rolled one between her fingers, marveling at how it felt both light and heavy at once.
And then the games began.
The girl wasn’t knowledgeable in the ways of risks and wagers. But she was, as it turned out, a natural. Either that or a bit of her family’s affection for the divine was paying dividends.
The clack of dice slipping from pale gentle hands…
The buzz of it didn’t come immediately. No, it was rather a slow rise that worked its way through her. Each victory and each defeat added to it. The taste of winning after a losing streak was particularly sweet. And the sting of losing filled her with new fire. After all, her purpose was righteous.
The whirr of a wheel and the clatter of a ball…
The pile of chips in front of her fluctuated with each wager. But over time it was becoming clear that her winnings were accumulating. Chip by chip and inch by inch she saw her goal in her mind. And seeing herself get closer to it made each chip feel heavier in her hand, made the value behind it mean all the more, and made the stakes drift ever higher.
The shuffle of cards falling onto a table…
How much time had passed she did not know. The room held no windows. It could have been an hour. It could have been eternity. She pulled her chips to her, tallying them as best she could. The numbers were coming more slowly now as a heat pulled at the edge of her attention. She counted it twice, and then let her hand brush the silver locket hanging at her chest.
“It’s not enough.” She said finally, quiver in her voice.
The Madam detached herself from where she’d been watching and came up behind the girl. One hand touched her shoulder, brushing against her hair and the girl tensed as the woman leaned over and whispered. “It never is. Not for someone like you…”
“That’s not what I…” The Maiden swallowed and softly whined as she shook her head. “You don’t understand.”
“I don’t have to. All I have to do is play. Same as you.”
The Madam reached past the Maiden and a slender hand flicked and produced a chip out of thin air, and letting it fall on the table. Another and another and another followed, spilling out, clattering, piling in front of the Maiden’s widening eyes. “It’s a gambler’s dream.” She said with a smirk. A chip rolled idly across the Madams knuckles. “There’s so much here how could you ever know where to stop?” She let the Maiden go and slid into the chair opposite her at the table. Her sharp chin rested on the palm of her hand and she looked at the girl through hooded eyes. “If you want to win big though, or should I say…if you need to win big, you could always challenge me directly. No limits. High risk. High reward.”
The Maiden idly played with her silver locket as she tried to look away from the beautiful creature that smoldered at her across the table. But her wide eyes were fixed on that dark feline gaze. She swallowed hard and finally managed to look down at the table, at her winnings, and she took a long moment and to remind herself what this was for.
For the second time the crowd fell silent. Her only response was a smile sharp enough to draw blood and a snap of the Madam’s fingers.
Attendants approached through the crowd of onlookers, a deck removed for a box of black stained wood, the table cleared, and the cards passed to the players for inspection. As the Maiden touched the deck she shivered. The cards felt cold and slick. The images drawn on them severe, grotesque, and sensual. A flush came over her cheeks as she stared a bit too long at some of the court cards, fascination only broken by the polite throat clearing of the youth who had brought them.
The Maiden nodded and didn’t meet his eyes. She passed the deck and felt as though her hands were unclean.
The Madam purred as the attendant began to shuffle. “Stud poker. No limits. Know the game?
“Yes.” The Maiden said. “My daddy plays. He’s not half as holy as he puts on.”
“None of us are. You’ll learn that in time. Ante up.”
The cards went out. First one down, next four up. And with each round of betting the clatter of chips told a story of risk and desire. If fortune had had favored the Maiden before, or if angels above smiled down, nobody was smiling now. Piercing blue eyes looked across the table into a cold deep green. And ever so slowly, as hand after hand went by, the Maiden began to sweat.
And then, just like that, she thought she had a break. It wasn’t her fault. It’s happened to lots of folks before. It’s happened to lots of folks since. She was dealt an ace in the hole, and one more along with a five card and a pair of queens face up. The sight of that lovely single heart looking up at her from where she cradled it was enough to make her head spin with excitement and from the buy-in she was wagering with an eager, heavy hand. Meanwhile the Madam looked downright bored, calling each raise in kind, casually sitting on shown pair of sixes. Until finally, after the last card was dealt with so much of her opponent’s resources on the line, the Madam gently pushed a stack of chips towards the center and in a voice that was almost a purr she raised. Excessively.
The Maiden’s heart started pumping ice instead of blood. Her breathing was shallow and her eyes hard as she took in the scene. Her brain fumbled with the logic and then fumbled with the math. She had this. Didn’t she? And if she didn’t… She looked at just how much she stood to lose and felt sick. But there was no way. She surveyed her opponent’s cards, saw the possible combinations, dismissed the most unlikely. And with a slick feeling of surety within her, and trickled of sweat running down her face, she realized that she was being underestimated. Clearly her opponent was bluffing. She had to call. If she folded now, it would mean that fear won. And she would have to go back home, to be with him, and she could never…
“I want to call, but I’m short. That last raise…it’s more than everything I have.” She said at last, voice breathy from the mix of emotions.
The Madam affected a yawn. “It’s more than the money you’ve staked. But I’d hardly call it more than you have to offer.”
“What do you mean?”
The Madam chuckled, “Pretty, but not quite so clever are you?”
“A debt. You’re saying I could go into debt.”
There was a pregnant pause, and she couldn’t meet the Madam’s eyes as she spat “Agreed.”
The Madam turned back to the table, eyes burning, alight with hunger.
The cards were flipped. The Maiden couldn’t help a little smile as she laid her aces next to her queens. And then she let out an audible whimper of when she saw the Madam flip over a third six.
She was frozen. She was screaming inside. She was ruined.
The madam smiled. A fox savoring a helpless chick.
“Poor thing. I do have a heart. Let’s go double or nothing.”
“No…I…what else do I possibly have to give?” the Maiden sobbed.
“Oh there’s one last little thing that’s yours, and I’m willing to let you walk away with your life and your winnings all for the chance to take it.” She tapped meaningfully at the skin between her breasts. And the Maiden’s hand gripped, quickly and protectively, at the locket that hung from her neck.
“There’s no way…I will not let you. N-“
With a snap of the Madam’s fingers the words were jerked from the Maiden’s mouth. “I’m afraid you’re mine now. Remember? And that word isn’t going to be in your vocabulary for long. This is the one chance I’m giving you to get it back. To get yourself back. And to walk away with a nice pile of my money. All you have to do is risk the one thing you never thought you would.”
Tears began to bubble and stream from those bright blue eyes as the Maiden watched herself, body moving almost automatically, like a marionette, as she removed the locket and gently tossed it on the table.
“Good girl. Now deal.”
And she did, with the same stilted pace, uselessly trembling with anger and fear and resistance that came to nothing.
The game was perfunctory: no antes no buy-in no raises, just five cards dealt out one by one from the Maiden’s trembling hands. She lost. She had a sinking feeling the game was rigged in favor of the House. And as she sat and stared emptily at her cards, the Madam leaned forward and pulled the locket from the table. She popped it open and gazed at it with a look of lazy satisfaction. She looked across at the defeated Maiden. If asked, the poor girl likely wouldn’t be able to remember the girl in the locket. She likely didn’t even remember who she was.
The Madam let the locket dangle from her fingers and then tossed it to one of the attendants with a smirk. The youth caught it, glanced at it, gave a slight nod, and then slipped off. More attendants came and began to clear the table.
“Drinks on me!” The Madam shouted as she stood, and the silence that had persisted through the last two tense matches was broken by cheers. “Enjoy yourselves while I teach my new employee the rules of our hospitality.” And with a little bow and a handful of chips scattered to the crowd, she none to gently pulled the Maiden up from her seat by her dress and led the dazed girl by the hand. Her course never wavered as she passed through the curtain to those deeper parts of the House reserved for carnal delights.
And in those days and after there were two new girls began to be seen around the House. One fair and innocent, the other more lean and lithe. Both with an ace of hearts branded on the smooth flesh of their upper thighs. They’d lost themselves and found that the Madam always collects what she’s owed. And sometimes it was said that, when they were led obediently on their chains, or when they hung off the arms of the high rollers, or when they knelt and set their bodies to obedient service, that their eyes met. And when their eyes met there was something there that was more than the dazed and empty look of the other girls in the house, something almost like love.