Chapter 2: Day in a Courtesan’s Life
Von shot upright out of a perfect landing and dropped his dancer’s sword, crying, “Eva!”
His den mother was bent over, rubbing the heel of her hand into a leg cramp. “It’s nothing,” she said through gritted teeth.
Von’s adaptation of a popular sword dance to make “in” jokes about recent, well attended duels was clever and showcased his own cresting powers. He hadn’t thought, until now, how it challenged those of his thirty-year-old partner.
“The last move is too difficult,” Von blamed himself.
“It’s perfect,” Eva said with finality.
She freed her hair from its tie. It fell straight in a cascade of gold, sticking where it touched her damp shoulders. Signs of aging had made inroads about her green eyes, relieved by light touches of makeup, but her body was still trim and firm in the skin-tight sword dancer’s costume know as a body sheath.
“Will you spare me a kind word, now and then, when I’m retired?” Eva asked her protégé.
“Eva!” Von protested, stricken.
“Let’s see if I can walk,” she said.
He hovered as she hobbled to the chair where their dancers’ drapes waited. Seated, she caught his retreating hand and studied it, stroking her fingers down between the tendons. “You live for today,” she said. “It’s one of the dear things about you.” She looked up into his crystal gray eyes. “But soon you’ll have to think about the future. You may only be sixteen, but men don’t last as long as women in our business. You will have less time than I did to groom your successor.”
“You don’t have to retire,” Von protested.
“I do,” Eva rejected the compliment. “And if Liege Monitum doesn’t make me an offer soon, I will have to retire here.” She smiled. “You would keep me?”
“Oh, Eva,” Von despaired, eyes welling with a devotion that was hobbled by reasons he could not divulge.