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Title: Fezariu’s Epiphany
Author: David Brown
Hardcover: 386 pages
The White Oak, Clarendon’s oldest brothel, lured and destroyed men by the thousands. Fezariu was different. He had never been drawn by the White Oak’s vices but the brothel had still ruined him when he was just a boy.
Salvation came in the form of the Merelax Mercenaries – Elenchera’s most prestigious hired hands. They gave Fezariu the chance to escape from his past. Immersed in the world of dangerous assignments in the colonies Fezariu longed to forget everything about his childhood but only in facing the past would he ever be free of it.
CHAPTER ONE: THE WHITE OAK
Clarendon was to be found in southern Odrica, its inhabitants always with one eye fixed north on Sincerity – the pristine and judicious capital that was the centre of all that made the island the dominant force it was today. Clarendon’s malevolence towards Sincerity was born not of envy but lamentation for its own glorious past.
When Odrica had first been settled, Sincerity was founded as the island’s capital but it lost its status in 3270 amidst a successful invasion by Beruvian forces from overseas. Clarendon was designated as Odrica’s new capital until 4406 when the island was further divided into earldoms and duchies. Clarendon then stood as the proud centre of Molkonia, the most powerful division on the island and retained its status when the duchy was later extended into a kingdom in 12664.
The rise from obscurity of the enigmatic rebel leader, Merzara, saw Odrica united once again under a solitary ruler in 13962. When Merzara was crowned as the first king of Odrica for more than nine thousand years all thoughts turned to which city would be the island’s capital. It was obvious the honour would fall to either Clarendon or Sincerity and inhabitants from both cities began vying for the new king’s attention. Merzara’s impassioned hatred towards Molkonia ensured that Sincerity regained its throne and the decline of Clarendon was set devastatingly in motion.
For decades Clarendon clung on to its former magnificence with the law painstakingly maintained, the economy thriving through the tireless work of the merchants and the streets kept meticulously clean of degradation. However, the absence of the Odrican kings from the city and the unenviable task of the overworked magistrates in watching every corner of Clarendon left the streets vulnerable to corruption.
On the western side of Clarendon, at the base of the city wall, appeared the earliest testament to the city’s growing affiliation with segregation from the rest of the island – the White Oak. Odrica’s first official brothel had opened in 14037 to slow business and obscurity but word soon spread through the increasingly sleazy streets and in time the White Oak became the most sought after establishment in Clarendon.
The catalyst for Clarendon’s descent into profanity was Carlos Birchill. In his youth Carlos had epitomised the hard work and dedication of Odrica’s merchants, plying his trade both at home and in the foreign lands to the east. However, it was in Valadomiar that Carlos first observed the brothels used by soldiers to alleviate the physical and mental ardour of their relentless conquests.
Having grown rich from his dealings overseas, Carlos returned to Clarendon to enjoy his dwindling years. The White Oak followed soon afterwards. At first it was a simple inn with two whores operating under Carlos’ watchful eye. Within months profits were soaring and the lustful demands of the patrons forced Carlos not only to employ further prostitutes but to restructure the White Oak. The inn was extended and twenty new rooms were installed to facilitate Clarendon’s growing need for sexual gratification and escapism.
When Carlos died in 14062 the White Oak remained under the ownership of the Birchill family. Each generation enhanced the infamous reputation of the inn. At first there were several brushes with the law but when the Birchill family offered the local magistrates the luxuries of the White Oak free of charge the inn was accepted and became the mainstay of Clarendon.
The White Oak continued to endure for centuries, its plethora of wealth helping maintain the inn and adapt it in line with the many advancements in architecture. When Vincent Birchill became the new owner of the inn, more than ten thousand years after its founding, the White Oak was basking in the heights of success. The discovery of new lands in the west had allowed the Birchill family to open the White Oak to business overseas. Ships bound for the colonies would loan the finest ladies from the inn to help assuage the colonists’ lonely months at sea. The already extensive wealth of the Birchill family and of the White Oak was augmented through shrewd dealings and the boundless corruption that continued to plague the streets of Clarendon.
Vincent’s early tenure of the White Oak was spent maintaining the high standards of his predecessors but over time his insatiable greed and paranoid fear of losing power became detrimental to the inn. The long-standing alliances with Odrican vessels bound for the west were severed and the White Oak slowly returned to the isolation of its founding on the edge of Clarendon.
Free of outside influences, Vincent was able to keep a tight leash on all his assets. He spent hours meticulously counting the White Oak’s profits, surreptitiously monitored the time allocated to the patrons with each of his prostitutes and retained the bulk of their takings for future investment in the inn. Vincent’s tyrannous grip on the White Oak only receded the day he met Jessamine.
* * *
Jessamine’s arrival at the White Oak was the subject of conflicting rumours. Some said that Vincent had found her on the streets and offered to take her in, others professed that Jessamine was a prostitute from a rival brothel and that Vincent had persuaded her to join the White Oak. The worst of the sceptics claimed that Jessamine was payment from one of the local merchants who was heavily in debt from his frequent visits to Vincent’s inn and had been forced to sacrifice his own daughter. Whatever the truth, Vincent arrived at the White Oak one day with eighteen-year-old Jessamine by his side.
The atmosphere at the White Oak changed completely. Vincent quickly found himself overwhelmed by love for Jessamine and his hostile demeanour descended into a rare placidity that was welcomed by all that frequented the inn. It seemed that Vincent’s days of sexual promiscuity were at end and with Jessamine he had found the reassuring comfort of monogamy. However, Vincent’s new found and tender devotion did not last long.
Within months, Vincent’s love submitted to the lure of opportunity. During the long nights sitting with Jessamine by the bar, Vincent hadn’t failed to notice the lustful gazes of the patrons. Their eyes, wide with desire, followed Jessamine’s every move. Rather than feeling the insecurity of a jealous lover, Vincent was struck by a glorious epiphany, one that could increase his already vast wealth.
Vincent took his time in laying the foundations of his treacherous scheme. He enticed Jessamine with sweet words, flowers, rich trinkets and promises of impending marriage and children. Once Jessamine was at his mercy, Vincent introduced her to the wealthiest and most impatient of his patrons. His assurances to Jessamine spoke of monogamy and sacrifice that would bind them together for all time. If this had been the beginning of their relationship then Jessamine would have refused Vincent’s proposal and walked away; however, by this point her heart beat to the same rhythm as Vincent’s and to leave now was simply unthinkable. So Jessamine submitted body but not soul to the eager patrons, all the time thinking of Vincent’s reassurances that they would one day be married.
Jessamine’s new life as a prostitute of the White Oak brought fame and wealth. The mysterious and shy girl Vincent had first brought to the inn became spellbound by the power of her own intoxicating femininity. As her confidence grew Jessamine learned to dominate the room, giving equal attention to each patron before choosing to share her bed with the highest bidder. Vincent remained in the background and watched the patrons – old and young – offer money and fabulous gifts for just one night with Jessamine. The partnership was perfect. Jessamine would earn a fortune by day but at the end of the night would sleep in Vincent’s richly adorned arms.
When Jessamine passed her first year at the White Oak she saw a sudden change in Vincent. His greed, seldom constrained, was now unleashed in all its ferocity. Jessamine began entertaining patrons day and night to line Vincent’s already bulging pockets. Their nights of tender lovemaking and untarnished promises of marriage were forgotten. Jessamine, believing it to just be a phase Vincent was going through, worked even harder to please the patrons and win back the adoration of the one man she loved.
As the months passed Vincent did notice Jessamine’s efforts but only in the form of the increased income the White Oak now enjoyed. He still refused to come to her bed at night but by day would melt her heart with a brief smile or slight nod. For a time such acknowledgements were all Jessamine needed to get through the day, however, the moment she discovered she was pregnant everything changed completely.