In another day, Miriam Dowling would either be immortal or she would be dead.
The provisions had run out this morning. She’d already sent back her guides a week ago; their job was only to take her to the mountain pass described on the ancient map she’d bought. After a week of threading her way through icy ravines and down rocky defiles, in the freezing cold and thin air, that purchase seemed like a lifetime ago. It was already half a world away. She’d liquidated all her assets in New York, placed them into long-term trusts and complicated financial arrangements that would guarantee her a perpetual income whenever she wished to draw upon it. The business empire she had once made legendary was now broken up among other titans of industry. Miriam let them have it. She had discovered something far more precious the day she’d bought that map. Eternal life.
She would either find it today, or her body would never be found. Satellite pictures could only reveal so much through the dense, icy fogs that covered this part of the Himalayas. Enough to suggest the truth of the map’s contents, but not enough to find a different route in. No, the long and winding path described on the map was the only way to go. It was as much a test as a journey, she suspected. Miriam was unafraid of tests by now.
The others who had seen the map thought it a fool’s dream. Oh, they believed in the place, the physical location described as ‘Xanadu’. But the idea? A city on a map with the legend, “Here can be found the secret of eternal youth”? They’d taken her money, analyzed the map, and called her mad. She didn’t care. Life was too short to bother with bitterness. Or else, perhaps, it was too long.
She’d stopped being able to feel her feet two days ago. Miriam suspected that frostbite had set in, perhaps even gangrene. She hoped that Xanadu’s secrets could cure it. Immortality minus a few toes was still immortality, of course, but she would prefer to be hale and healthy in her centuries of life.
Twilight neared, and Miriam’s stomach growled. She ignored it, and kept pressing on. The last of the precious light was too important to waste on the weaknesses of the body. She hadn’t become the most successful businesswoman in the history of the world by whimpering and crying when the going got tough, and she wouldn’t survive this if she couldn’t push aside her hunger and exhaustion and put one foot ahead of the other. She walked through the dim fog, taking careful note of rock formations and forks in the narrow, rocky pass. Only one path would lead to immortality. The rest would lead to death.
The sun had gone down now. Miriam walked in darkness, feeling her way through the fog. Now her life depended on luck as much as anything else; if she missed a turn in the darkness, if she stumbled down the wrong path, if she simply succumbed to panic and waited for daylight, she could be dead. But on the other hand, Xanadu awaited. Xanadu, which historians called the summer palace of Kublai Khan, but which secret sages claimed had been rebuilt by his descendants in a location lost to the history men know. Xanadu, the lost city, repository of the secrets of kings. Xanadu, home of eternal youth. She stumbled, fell, but got back to her feet and continued to walk on limbs that had been pushed far past their limits. Xanadu, she thought. Only Xanadu matters.
When she felt the warmth on her skin, she thought at first that she had gone mad, or that her body was finally shutting down from hypothermia. But no, as the fog thinned, she saw the lights of lanterns on poles. The path had turned from flinty rock to well-raked gravel, the descent had become more gradual, and the air...Miriam took a deep breath. The air felt invigorating, revitalizing. She felt fatigue leave her muscles, felt her limbs tingle once again with renewed warmth. Even her hunger felt lessened, as though she was actually eating and drinking the substance of the atmosphere. It was wonderful. A new spring in her step, she practically skipped down the path to the city below.
Two men stood outside the gates of the city, clad in simple white robes. Already, Miriam felt oppressively warm in her Artic survival gear. Each one held a staff, and as she approached, they stepped in front of the gate. “Who comes to Xanadu?” one said. The other was already turning to ring an ancient iron bell, three times.
“You—you speak English?” Miriam said. It was all she could think to say.
“We speak the Celestial Tongue,” the guard said. “You speak it too, now. In Xanadu, all may be understood. Now, who are you and what do you seek?”
“My name is Miriam Dowling,” she said, lowering her hood and removing her scarf to speak better, exposing platinum-blonde hair (streaked with gray) to the night air for the first time in weeks. “I seek eternal life.”
The guard nodded. “Many seek eternal life. Many gain what they seek. You will be granted audience with Zhenjin Khan. Only he can grant you the immortality you seek.”
A woman, wearing only the thinnest of silken robes, raced to the gate. She whispered something into the ear of the silent guard, and with a nod, he opened the gate.
“Zhenjin Khan graciously grants you the favor of his attentions, Miriam Dowling,” the other guard said. “All praise the glory of the Eternal, the Never-Dying, the Great Zhenjin Khan!”
The two guards escorted her through the city. Miriam took note of the buildings; they were simple, constructed of wood rather than stone. She noticed a grove of trees in the distance, and nodded. Stone would erode over time, but in an eternal city, wood could be grown and buildings repaired as many times as their immortal inhabitants needed. “How many people live here?” she asked the guard.
“You will be the six-hundred-and-seventy-first to arrive,” the guard responded. “The majestic wisdom of Zhenjin Khan has provided for many more than that in Xanadu.”
“Oh, I don’t plan to live here,” she said. She suddenly worried. What if the immortality required you to stay here? These people might be used to living like peasants in some primitive city halfway up a mountain, but Miriam had plans for her extended youth and health. She wasn’t sure if she could adjust to eternity up here.
“Many choose to leave Xanadu,” the guard said, as they approached a larger building at the heart of the city. “Many more do not.” He gestured. “Gaze upon the palace of the Eternal Emperor, the Undying Zhenjin Khan! In his presence, prostrate yourself in gratitude at being allowed to glimpse his eternal majesty!” They walked up the steps into the wide open throne room, made of wood like the other buildings but decorated with ancient sculptures of jade and coral. Miriam had become something of a student of Chinese culture and history during her years of determining the truth of the map, and she could see that these dated back over seven hundred years. They had been kept in excellent condition.
Ahead of her, a lithe, dark-haired man of Mongolian descent sat on a simple cushion. Two female servants attended at his side, and another one behind him rubbed his shoulders delicately. “Prostrate yourself,” the guard shouted, falling to his own knees. “Prostrate yourself before the Immortal Zhenjin Khan!” He bowed low, letting his forehead gently tap against the wooden floor.
Miriam awkwardly began to copy the gesture, but Zhenjin Khan waved a hand dismissively. “You are not one of my subjects yet, girl,” he said in a modest, amused tone. “There will be time enough to kowtow to me later on. I expect that you hope so, at least, yes?”
“Um...yes, Emperor, er...” Miriam had met heads of state before, but never under such circumstances. Her blue eyes locked onto his brown eyes as she steadied herself. “Emperor. I came here to seek the secret of eternal life. It is true?” Her voice betrayed her secret greed. “It is here, in Xanadu?”
“My father and I fell out in 1284 by your Western calendar,” Zhenjin said. “He wished me to rule over China as his successor, while I wanted to explore the secret wisdom of the ancients. When I took fifty of his wisest sages and a hundred servants with me, he declared me dead and made my son his successor. But I have outlived my son, here in Xanadu, my son and my dynasty and yes, even my kingdom. China is a patchwork land ruled by warlords, but in Xanadu, I endure. Yes, eternal life is real. It is obtainable.”
“Um...” Miriam felt nervous in a way she never had, not in any business deal. Nobody had ever intimidated her before, but the man before her held the upper hand in a way no negotiator ever had. Her brain simply froze under the pressure, while her mouth continued moving of its own volition as she said the first thing that came into her head. “China was united decades ago. Under the Communists.”
Zhenjin smiled gleefully. “Fascinating!” he said. “Forgive me, the last visitor we had was in...1922, I believe she said it was. We hear so little of the outside world in Xanadu, that sometimes we forget that it moves and progresses. We look forward to hearing your tales of history, of the time that has passed since last outsiders came to Xanadu. You will have every opportunity to recount them to me.”
Miriam’s heart fell. “Then I would...I would have to stay in Xanadu forever?”
Zhenjin shook his head. “No, not forever. The magic of eternal youth will stay with you when you leave this land, so long as you have drunk deeply enough of the elixir of its airs.” Miriam’s heart leapt for joy. “A mere five hundred years is all it takes.”
“Five hundred years?”
Zhenjin nodded. “You must endure five hundred years as my subject, here in Xanadu. Five hundred years of service to the Immortal Khanate. That is the price of immortality. Should you wish to pay five hundred years of time, an eternity is yours. Should you decline, at any point in your term of service, then we will happily escort you from paradise.” He held up a smooth hand, unlined with age. “With supplies to see you back to the Outer Kingdoms, of course. We are not barbarians.”
“Five hundred years...”
“It passes quicker than you imagine, my dear.”
Miriam thought back to the plans waiting for her, the finances placed in careful trust for her return. She thought of the future, of all the days that awaited her. Five hundred years. What was five hundred years when balanced against forever? She knelt down, and slowly leaned forward until her forehead touched the floor. “Then I am your subject, Immortal Khan,” she said.
“Describe to me again this ‘dot-com boom’.” Zhenjin’s voice was calm, measured, polite, and utterly bewildered. Miriam took another sip of her tea.
“Once the computers had learned to speak to each other, Eternal Emperor, men created businesses that existed in no building, but only on these computers. People would tell their computer to tell someone else’s computer to buy an item for them—a book, or a statue, or whatever they wished—and it would be shipped to them, sent by an airplane from wherever the goods were located.” A scribe sat between the two of them, taking down her every word, just as he had done every day since Miriam began her service. All Miriam had done so far, every single day since her arrival, had been to recount everything she could remember of events in the world over the past eighty-six years. Just explaining the existence of television had taken a month and a half, and Zhenjin had insisted that she recount the plots of as many stories as possible. She’d racked her brains every night to remember more details for his insatiable thirst for information. Hell, after three years away from the outside world, she wasn’t even sure if she was remembering half of it right. A one-woman Wikipedia, that was her.
“And how did they pay? Did they perhaps send their money by an airplane?” Zhenjin laughed at his own jest.
“No, my lord,” Miriam said, smiling politely. “The computers remembered who gave money and who took it away, and told the computers of the bankers. The owners of the companies grew mad with excitement at the thoughts of limitless profits, and men spent fortunes buying shares in their companies.”
“Ah,” Zhenjin said. “Like the South Sea bubble.” He smiled at her agape expression of shock. “I may be ignorant of the present, Miriam, but you will find that I have studied the past a great deal.”
Miriam found herself smiling in return at having underestimated Zhenjin. He was truly a fascinating man. Really, if this was the price of immortality, it wasn’t so bad. She didn’t mind spending a few centuries in his company.
Miriam woke up at dawn again to the shouts of the overseer. “Wake up, Jasmine, you unworthy dog!” she shouted, prodding Miriam’s feet with the butt of her whip. “It is time to return to work!”
Miriam’s eyes opened blearily. “Yes, Madame,” she said thickly, sleep still fogging her mind. The words had become instinctive. She knew that more punishment awaited her if she failed to respond respectfully. She felt like she had gotten only an hour’s sleep. Perhaps she had—once the sun had set, it was difficult to determine exactly how long she had worked.
The pleasant, peaceful times spent recounting history to Zhenjin Khan had long passed. He had given her a new name, ‘Jasmine’, and had sent her out to begin her ‘greater service’ to Xanadu. That was five years ago, and her ‘greater service’ had, so far, involved nothing more than moving heavy rocks.
It was the same today. As soon as she stumbled out into the early morning light, Miriam felt the overseer slap her lightly with the whip. The sting soon faded in the healing air, but Miriam knew she would get more if she failed to work. “Pick up that rock, Jasmine!” the overseer shouted, punctuating her command with another slap of the whip.
“Yes, Madame,” Miriam said, and grabbed one rock from the ever-smaller pile and hefted it into her arms. When she had begun, the pile had been higher than her head and wider than a building; now, only a few dozen remained. Miriam could count them by heart now, remembered them better than anything from the outside world.
She staggered under the heavy weight, slowly walking across the courtyard to the vast pile of rocks she had spent five years building up. She placed it neatly atop the pile, knowing that another lash of the whip awaited should she let it slide off (or worse, topple the pile), and headed back towards the pile to be moved. The air of Xanadu helped to ward off fatigue, but even so, she never seemed to move fast enough for the overseer. The commands seemed to be constant, abusive, accompanied by pain and exhaustion. Miriam longed for an end to the labor, but forty-seven rocks remained.
As the hours whiled by and the sun rose high in the sky, forty-seven became forty, then thirty. By the time the sun hung low in the mountains to the west, the pile contained no more than fifteen rocks. The overseer lit the lanterns, and shouted, “Continue, Jasmine!”
“Yes, Madame,” Miriam said dully, lifting another rock into her hands. Exhaustion and boredom had turned the evening into a haze of motion and response, thought having long fled her body. She no longer cared about anything except the number of rocks left in the pile, about completing the task the overseer had set for her. She set the rock on the pile, hearing the overseer’s command to return for another as if through a haze, responding without even thinking. “Yes, Madame,” she said. She lifted another rock, carried it through the darkened courtyard. “Yes, Madame, she said, placing it on the pile. She had lost count of the times she had said the words, lost count of the times she had crossed the courtyard. She only watched, like an observer in her own body, as the pile shrank down from ten to five, five to three, three to two, and finally down to one. When she finally placed that last rock on the pile, she sagged to the ground in grateful exhaustion. Her eyes slipped closed.
The sting of the whip startled her back to wakefulness. “Jasmine, you lazy girl! Pick up the rock from the top of the pile!”
Miriam’s heart sank, and for a moment, she wondered if even eternal life was worth this. But she responded, almost without thinking. “Yes, Madame,” she said, picking up the rock and beginning to carry it back across the courtyard to its initial resting place.
“Pick up that rock, Jasmine, you useless slut!”
“Spread your legs, Jasmine.” The tone of the harem mistress was softer, more of a caress than a slap, but Jasmine knew that it was no less a command.
“Yes, Madame,” she said, allowing her legs to part. Two girls each took one in their hands, pulling them wider. It hurt, but Jasmine knew that the air of Xanadu would soothe the pain, and her limbs would become more flexible for the experience. Zhenjin Khan (she still refused to call him ‘the Immortal, the Undying, the Eternal’, et cetera et cetera, at least not in the privacy of her own mind) wished for his women to be limber, and although Jasmine had not seen him in forty years, and then only as a figure in the distance while she toiled in the courtyard, she knew that she could be called upon to pleasure him at any time. She knew she had to be ready for that moment.
Jasmine didn’t know exactly when she had forgotten her name. She hadn’t heard it in so long, not from anyone’s lips but her own. For a few years, she had taken to chanting it every night, speaking the syllables over and over again until she fell asleep, but eventually the word had lost its meaning. It had just become a nonsense phrase, and finally, Jasmine had forgotten it herself. It had started with an ‘M’...
The harem mistress inserted a dildo into Jasmine’s pussy, and she practiced clenching her muscles around it. Someday, she knew, she would service Zhenjin Khan’s immortal penis in the same fashion.
“Stand, Jasmine,” the harem mistress said, as the girls released her legs.
“Yes, Madame,” Jasmine said, rising to her feet. She held the dildo in place only through a supreme effort of will. Yesterday, she had let it slip from between her thighs, and they had used a willow reed on her nipples until she howled. Then they had whipped her for howling. She would do anything to avoid disobeying again.
“Good girl, Jasmine,” the harem mistress said, caressing her cheek. Jasmine sighed softly at the rare praise. She wished she could earn that praise more often. It felt sometimes like she would do anything to please them instead of draw their ire. “Now, you will feel pain. This is not a punishment, Jasmine, but a test. Do you understand?”
“Yes, Mad...ame,” Jasmine said, starting slightly as the willow reed slapped against her buttocks. The hesitation was barely perceptible, but Jasmine knew that the mistress had noticed. She resolved to do better.
“You are not being tested on your stoicism this time, Jasmine,” the harem mistress said as the reed struck again and again. “That will come later, as your training progresses. For now, you are simply learning control. Do not let the toy slip out. Eventually, a time will come when you will welcome the reed as the caress of a lover, when you will beg for it on command. But for now, I am only concerned that you maintain your hold. Do you understand, Jasmine?”
The reed struck again. Jasmine knew she would need many hours in the healing air before the redness faded from her buttocks. “Y-yes, Madame,” she gasped out, trying to stem the flow of tears.
She managed to hold the dildo in. She knew it would be easier if she wasn’t so aroused.
YEAR ONE HUNDRED FIFTY-THREE:
Jasmine ran her fingers across Jade’s nipples, seeing the other girl tremble. The Undying Emperor watched the two girls, his own member powerfully erect. Jasmine longed to take his cock into her unworthy cunt, but she had been instructed to ‘duel’ with Jade, and she knew nothing but obedience to his undying will.
Jade’s own fingers stroked the inside of her thigh, and every part of Jasmine wanted to open up to her like a flower to the morning sun, but she knew that she would lose quickly if she allowed her legs to part. Jade had been playing this game for the Immortal Khan’s amusement for many years while Jasmine was still undergoing the harem training, and she rarely lost. If she could get her fingers inside Jasmine’s pussy, she would quickly have Jasmine moaning in pleasure...and the first one to moan would be sentenced to a year in the Web of Silken Bliss. Jasmine had already spent three years there in the last century, and she understood that it was ironically named. She needed to be the one to make Jade moan.
The Eternal Emperor did not play this game every night, of course. Sometimes whole years passed in other amusements, and the Web of Silken Bliss hung empty, its prisoners all pardoned. But he had been enjoying the entertainment of the duels of late. Jasmine felt honored to be selected, even as she tried to avoid losing. The honor of selection was one thing, but the honor of victory, of servicing the cock of the Immoral Lord...Jasmine shivered at the thought. No. She had to remain focused. If she spent too much time thinking of that pleasure, she would be hung in the Web of Silken Bliss for a year and his cock would be out of her reach that whole time. She had to win.
She traced slow, tickling spirals around Jade’s belly button, watching the other woman’s eyes glaze just a little with desire. Jasmine had been trained to please both men and women over her time in the harem, just as the men had been trained to please women as well as other men. The Undying Khan’s appetites were many, his imagination limitless, and they had nothing but time to spend inuldging it. And that was just as it should be. She had seen over a century of service to his immortal glory, now. She looked forward to centuries more.
Jade’s fingers, though, made it seem as though the next year of her service would be in the Web of Silken Bliss. They stroked at the delta of her thighs, leaving Jasmine panting for breath. Her own attempts at seduction were forgotten now, she held herself perfectly still in an effort to control the raging fires within her cunt. She knew she was on the defensive now, but if she could only clear her mind, just for a moment...
But Jade’s fingers would not stop, and only the fact that the Immortal Zhenjin Khan was drinking in her struggles like wine helped to allay her shame. She knew that he took delight in the loser’s loss as well as the victor’s victory, knew that he was watching, aroused, waiting for that final moan of surrender, and only the thought of a year away from his glorious presence kept her from delivering it to him. Jasmine closed her eyes, trying to just still her tongue a moment longer...
But Jade had found her weakness now, Jasmine’s traitorous legs uncoiling under those perfect careesses, and those fingers slid into the slickness of her cunt with practiced ease. It felt so good now, rubbing her clit, making her mind reel with pleasure, and Jasmine could scarcely contain that joy, those glorious sensations Jade’s practiced fingers elicited, and she could feel her resistance melting away, knew that this would be an orgasm worth a year in the Web of Silken Bliss...
YEAR ONE HUNDRED FIFTY-FOUR:
Jade held a sponge to Jasmine’s lips, letting her suck gratefully at it. “You are due to be released tomorrow,” she said, looking up at the girl suspended in the air by dozens of silken cords, each one tying off her body, holding just a little bit of her weight so that she almost floated in the air. “I think the Undying Khan might just have us duel again that very night! He thought you lost wonderfully.”
Jasmine tried to keep perfectly still, despite the shivering ecstasy of the thought. One of the ropes wound around the others in a delicate pattern, so tightly threaded that any motion of any part of her body caused it to quiver; after it completed its spider-web travel through the other ropes, it wound directly between her thighs, pressed tightly up against her clit. Any struggle, any motion, even the shiver of bliss caused the rope to quiver upon her, and once it began to vibrate, her own writhing bade it continue. Many was the day that she had orgasmed again and again, helpless to the motions of her own body, until she had passed out from exhaustion.
Jade reached up and gave the silken threads a tug. “See you tomorrow, Jasmine,” she said, watching the helpless girl’s shudders of pleasure begin. Throughout the Web of Silken Bliss, Jasmine’s movements set off the other girls into their own quivers of rapture.
The Immortal Emperor did not look in on the Web often, but when he did, he was always pleased with what he saw.
YEAR TWO HUNDRED TWENTY:
Jasmine knelt next to three other women of the harem, but she was the only one who spoke. “Greetings, august warrior. The Immortal Emperor Zhenjin Khan thanks you for your services this harvest, and as his reward, he bids you to take of our pleasure for the next three days and three nights.”
The man who stood before them disrobed, revealing an already-erect penis. Jasmine did not know exactly what the men of Xanadu did to earn their ‘rewards’ from the Eternal Khan; she did not know how they learned to accept service, whether it differed from the women or not. It did not matter. They all had their roles to play in the Never-Dying King’s city, and it did no good to question the wisdom of the Perfect Lord. She only knew that for the next three days and nights, her role was to pleasure this man with all the arts she had learned in over a century.
He strode to one of the other women first, though, walking around behind her and pressing her head down, raising her buttocks so he could take her from behind. Jasmine waited where she was. Later, after things had become less formal, she could feel free to approach him, but these first moments had a ritual all their own. Jasmine merely watched the other girl get fucked roughly, the man’s motions urgent and intense. She knew from long experience that the men’s visits to the harem were not so infrequent as to frustrate, and yet not so often as to go unappreciated. Her lover for the next three days had probably built up quite an appetite.
The girl knew how to work him, though. Within mere minutes, his breath came in short gasps, his eyes stared ahead, unseeing as he focused on the far more intriguing sense of touch. Jasmine could almost time the orgasm she wrung out of him down to the second, so expert had she become in the arts of pleasure.
He moved to another girl, his member already stiffening almost before he pulled it out of the first. Jasmine knew then that he was one of the elder children of Xanadu, one who had already steeped himself deeply in the airs of the legendary kingdom. He would have stamina, this one. No wonder none of the girls that he had been given were less than two hundred years old; a hundred-year-old girl would be fucked to exhaustion before even two days had passed. He would probably not even stop to sleep during their intercourse. The August Khan’s judgment in selecting the rewards for his subjects was truly wise; this man would leave the four of them dizzy with pleasure, their own stamina almost enough to keep up with his but not quite. He would leave the harem thinking of himself as potent and virile, whereas an older woman would match him fuck for fuck.
He came again and moved to Jasmine now, and although he gripped her flesh roughly as he entered her, she felt only pleasure. Immortality and perfect health meant pain was just another sensation to Jasmine; perhaps more intense than some, but the very intensity was what made it blend perfectly with the more sensual feel of his cock sliding in and out of her. None but the immortals of Xanadu could understand exactly how to mix pain and pleasure so expertly. His hands, twisting and fondling her nipples as they fucked, played a symphony on her body. She sighed softly, thanking the Immortal Khan for his wisdom in arranging things. She had been teased and tormented this last week, kept from orgasm until she needed him as badly, as swiftly as he wanted her. Their sex was fast, urgent, and he knew that it would please her this way. He had been trained to please a woman as well, after all. Her orgasm hit hard, and she knew his would not be long behind.
She felt his seed spurt inside her, but she knew that it would find no purchase. More of the magic of Xanadu; by the Immortal Emperor’s decree, there would be no children here. Why have descendants when the current generation would live forever? He pulled out of her, leaving her panting and breathless on the floor, and moved on to the last girl. Once the ritual was ended, they could begin to find more...inventive ways of pleasing him.
Jasmine looked forward to the next three days.
YEAR THREE HUNDRED TWENTY-THREE:
Jasmine rode the dildo up and down, up and down again, her own lubricants having long ago coated the glass until it was slick and its passage into her cunt an easy one. She could not remember how long she had been straddling the fake cock that was set into place; sometimes, she drifted into a semi-conscious haze that passed for sleep, but even then, the movements had become automatic. A hundred years ago, she would perhaps have collapsed from fatigue after a day or two of pleasure, but the air of Xanadu had worked its magic deeply on her since then. She no longer knew exhaustion, fatigue, numbness or soreness. The Undying Khan had chosen her for service in the Garden of Fragrant Delight to demonstrate to her exacly that.
So she simply squatted upon her “lover”, pumping up and down, letting the pleasure consume her thoughts, knowing only that she had been ordered by the Immortal Emperor, Zhenjin Khan, to pleasure herself until he commanded her to cease. All around her, the scents of other women filled the air, the musky scent of their juices wafting into her own nostrils and increasing her own arousal. She did not wonder when the Eternal Lord would command her to stop. She did not think of anything at all. She simply pumped her hips in constant, ceaseless motion, reveling in the sensation of being perfectly obedient.
Jasmine’s moans mingled with those of the other women. They, too, knew nothing but obedience.
YEAR THREE HUNDRED SIXTY:
“Again,” Jasmine said, her fingers curling into Lily’s hair as she pressed the new girl’s face into her crotch once more.
She felt Lily’s hot breath on her clit as the girl said, “Yes, Madame,” her speech muffled by such close contact with Jasmine’s flesh. She had clearly never pleasured a woman before; her first fumbling attempts at licking Jasmine to orgasm had inspired amusement more than arousal. But the training of the courtyard had rendered her pliant enough that she was a willing student, and the only way to learn was by doing. She felt the strokes of Lily’s tongue on her labia, teasing the arousal out of her bit by bit, and idly admired the girl’s improvement after only a few short hours of service. But it would be another year of training before Jasmine would release the girl from her room.
Sometimes, the Eternal Emperor’s service was more pleasant than others.
YEAR FOUR HUNDRED TWENTY:
“Pick up that rock, Lotus, you useless slut!” Jasmine lashed out with the whip at the girl’s naked back. Lotus was new to the courtyard, only a day or two removed from her service as the Immortal Khan’s storyteller, and she continued to insist her name was ‘Candace’. But Jasmine knew that it was her duty as overseer to teach her otherwise.
“I...yes, Madame.” Lotus might still be sulky and petulant, but she already knew the proper responses for one of the Eternal Lord’s subjects. She lifted the rock, struggling under its weight, and began to haul it across the courtyard. Jasmine knew that she could lift that same rock with one hand now, but Lotus had barely started breathing the air of Xanadu. She even still needed food and drink, something Jasmine was now allowed only on special occasions.
Jasmine watched Lotus set the rock down on the pile, where it joined some forty others. Staggering under the weight, Lotus inadvertently caused one of the small piles to topple over. She tried to right them, but already Jasmine’s hand brought the whip down on her.
Jasmine felt no guilt as she whipped Lotus, screaming abuse at the terrified girl. She knew that this, too, was obedience to the will of the Undying Emperor. And obedience to his glorious will was the only important thing.
YEAR FIVE HUNDRED:
“Miriam?” Jasmine knelt prostrate before Zhenjin Khan, the Undying, the Eternal, the Perfect Emperor, and waited for him to acknowledge her presence. “Miriam? Miriam, are you listening?” She stared at the floorboards, prepared to wait as long as needed for the Glorious Khan to call upon her. “Jasmine?” he said. Finally, he had called her name. She looked upon his presence.
“Yes, my Glorious Emperor?” she asked.
“It has been five hundred years, Jasmine, since you entered the service of Zhenjin Khan. Today, you have become one of the true immortals of Xanadu. Do you remember what that means, Jasmine?”
Jasmine tried to cast her mind back, to the day when she first set eyes upon the Glorious Khan. She remembered an icy mist, a world of snow...that was the world beyond Xanadu, she knew. Beyond that was another world, but it was lost to her memory. She knew only service to the Undying Khan now. “No, My Lord. I am sorry to have failed you.”
“You have not failed me, Jasmine. You have done just as I wished, all without knowing.” Her heart sang to hear those words of praise. “I shall tell you now, Jasmine. Today is the day that you may leave my service. You may go to the world outside. You may stay there as long as you wish.”
“Out—outside?” Jasmine’s eyes went wide, like a frightened child’s. If the Undying Lord was pleased with her, why was he exiling her to the world of ice and snow? Was this a further test of her obedience? Did he wish to see if her love for him extended so far that she would willingly leave his presence if commanded? “But...but when can I return, Perfect Emperor?”
He chuckled, as if at a private joke. “You misunderstand, child of Xanadu. I said, ‘You may leave’. Not ‘You must.’ You may leave if you want...or you can stay here, in Xanadu, continuing to serve me in all ways.”
Jasmine struggled to understand the concept. She felt like she knelt there forever, trying to wrap her head around the notion. Finally, she spoke. “You mean...I do not have to leave? I can continue to serve you?”
Jasmine flung herself forward, kissing the Eternal Emperor’s feet in heartfelt gratitude. “Thank you,” she gasped out between kisses, “thank you for letting me remain in your service, oh Great, oh Mighty, oh Potent and Eternal Khan!” Jasmine knew that she was risking punishment simply through the familiarity of worshipping his feet without being commanded, but on some level, she knew that just this once, the Immortal Khan would understand.