As was, the Clarettons had fallen into some infamy in recent years. During the Occupation in the last years of the War, a certain branch of the Clarettons had collaborated with the occupying forces, staining the entire family with their perfidy despite the gallant efforts of other branches during the Uprising. The hole-biters of Master G_____’s generation were far too eager to return to their dull and tidy lives to allow for vengeance on the surviving Clarettons, and so the family retained their wealth and privilege after the Uprising. This leant the Claretton name an aspect of danger and darkness without a reduction in social standing that of course resulted in a very popular notoriety a few generations later.
Which is a very long way about of saying that I found the attentions of the Clarettons quite flattering given my humble station.
It cannot be imagine that the intimate relation between the residents of New House and the Big Cave extended itself into any formal recognition or any such financial assistance as would be beyond the master/servant relation or outside Sacrificial charity. My father was paid a steady but not generous wage, we were given the hand-me-downs of Master G_____’s children and grand-children (cracked porcelain, chipped silver, unfashionable clothes), and we were given letters of recommendation to apprentice ourselves to one craftsman or another. Master G_____ was similarly generous with many of his tenants’ and servants’ families; we were blessed that he had such a wealth of family or our lives might have been far less comfortable. Certainly, I can perceive now that he spooned upon us some small modicum of extra favor, but I was ignorant of any such interest until after my twentieth summer.
The events leading to my seduction began with the Winter Sacrifice. Upon this night, it was the old scoundrel’s habit to open the doors of the Big Cave to all his family, servants, and tenants for a great party in the old B______ tradition. The great stone walls were polished to mirrorshine, sideboards and tables were laden with salty cheeses and dried fruits and smoked meats, all the fireplaces were set to blazing, and gifts were bestowed on family and followers. They were glorious, glorious nights and even now I can see them with the eye of innocence.
It will be very hard for those who know my reputation to imagine that I was ever innocent, ever pure, ever chaste. It is my curse that I delight in pleasing others and in those bygone days, it pleased my mother and natural father to appear to them as Sacrificial as the fading memory of Master B______.
(I was not, in truth, so pure or chaste as I appeared. I suppose I could have started the memories of my amative life with the books I found in the old gentlebiter’s library: the manual of monster-slaying that depicted the saucy succubus, bare-breasted nymph, and haunting dryad; the illustrated tales of the Powers in their youth, before the Dark One brought shame to the world and the First Star was clothed in naught but her light; the illustrated travelogues with the naked tribeswomen of the southern jungles and the salacious seraglios of the east. Yes, I suppose I should have started with the books for they formed in me not only queer longings for I knew not what but also an appetite for miscegenation that has led me into some strange embraces.)
(Nor should I ignore that thrilling shock I felt at the difference between the sexes when I discovered a young cousin in the garderobe at a very tender age.)
(Neither nor should I ignore the erection I bloomed at a slightly less tender age imitating the grinding gate of one of my mother’s sister barmaids when I was left in her care at the Emerald Wyvern. I had not the slightest idea what to do with myself though she was very handy at relieving my discomfort.)