“I’m sorry, Songuth, but this is a matter of some delicacy and I will need to speak with Magister oa Iretario in private,” I said.
“La, those wizards can get righty pissy, can’t they?” she said, and clopped off.
“I’m very sorry, miss…”, began Thenel.
“I think we could do well to be a bit quieter about this. Perhaps in a time bubble?” I asked.
Thenel nodded, and said, “I would be much happer of that. I didn’t want to ask for it, you know.” The familiar ripples of a bit too much Tempador magic filled the room, and any Songuth eavesdropping on us would hear only incomprehensible chirping. “Thank you, Bluelark. I treasure your discretion.”
I put my hands on my hips, because bipeds usually do that when they’re scolding me and I was trying to look all scoldy. “I am afraid I do not fully reciprocate. Indeed, you were discreet about your own engagement to Rehit: too discreet by half.”
His ears and tail drooped. “We’ve been engaged for years and years; we’ve been living together for nearly that long. If I thought about it, it’s obvious that you wouldn’t have heard about it up in Ketheria. But everybody I know here knows all about it, everybody. So I didn’t think to tell you — I haven’t needed to tell anybody in so long. I’m quite sorry.”
I thought about that for nine seconds. “In that light, it does seem a natural mistake. I quite accept your apology.” (Naturally he can’t be attracted to both his own species and other ones, so, well, no wonder the engagement was so long and nonmarital. Poor Rehit. But that is a matter for later.)
So he ruined it by saying, “And of course whatever we were doing has to be secret from Rehit and everyone else. It’s not a real love affair.”
I snapped, “I will accept the secrecy, but I’ve got a quite real infatuation running all the way from my crotch to my crest … when I have a crest … and it’s all your fault.”
He chewed his tailtip a bit before he managed to say, “I will admit to feeling something of the same sort of … feeling … thing … at the moment” Which is quite an admission from a guarded-tongued Eigrachter.
“Well, can we continue on with our … I don’t know what to call it?” I asked, quite eagerly. Downright wagging my tail like a Cani, if you must know. I am so useless at irritated vengance wizard.
“I am still engaged,” he noted.
I didn’t quite start crying, but I rather whined a bit.
Thenel stomped his foot. “I am not cheating on my fiancé. What do you take me for?”
“You have the high honor of being both the most appealing and the most perplexing person I have welcomed into my …” (How did I want to complete that? heart? vulva? imagination?) “… home.” (Not quite honest — I have had some astoundingly perplexing guests — but close enough.)
He bowed a bit. “You are too kind, madam.”
“Could you explain to me just how it is that you are not cheating on your fiancé?” I had to ask. (This sort of thing matters to me. If I wanted a morally-questionable affair, I’d call Inconnu to my bed. He’s not only amazingly cute and amazingly traff, he’s trying to collect all seven other species.)
Thenel looked miserable. Since I am a terrible agent of interrogation, I nuzzled his cheek and curled my tail around his waist, and eventually coaxed him to talk.
“I have certain … if I may be so bold … certain amatory tastes that do not meet with general approval,” he said.
“I believe I know to what you are referring. For that matter, I believe that yon couch still bears the marks of my buttocks from such amatory tastes,” I said.
“Actually, no, you don’t. I refer to … certain activities … which we did not do. I would never request them of you. It is not dignified or polite, even to the very limited extent that a cross-species entanglement is dignified or polite,” he said, looking hideously embarrassed.
“My dear Thenel, I have been a patron of wrongfolk for well over a century, in a rather libertinous city. If there is any sort of body-play that primes engage in, I have heard of it; I have seen it; I have done it.”
He told me what it was. I had heard of it. I had not seen it, and I had most certainly never done it. I tried not to look surprised and disgusted, but I don’t think I succeeded very well.
Thenel saw my expression. “Rehit tried it once … I shouldn’t say that … but … he doesn’t much like it. Can’t say as I blame him. I wish I didn’t want it, but sometimes I need it. So he agreed that I could, well, hire professionals to provide certain services which he is unwilling or unable to provide himself. Once in a while.”
“I suppose that’s reasonable,” I said. I didn’t really mean to, and didn’t really realize it until afterwards, but I uncoiled my tail from his waist. “And that Orren woman who blackmails you?”
“Well, she’s blackmailing me. I don’t really have that much choice in the matter,” said Thenel.
“So, you’re (1) engaged to another Rassimel; (2) cheating on your fiancé and justifying it to yourself on the grounds of being blackmailed; (3) like that enough to regularly hire prostitutes to do it.”
“That’s … basically true,” he had to admit. His ears were miserably flat.
“And you really can’t have any sort of honest relationship with me. Unless I blackmail you and you want to pretend that that’s honest.”
“That’s the sum of it,” he said.
“I’m not going to blackmail you, and I’m not going to cheat with you, and I’m not sure you’re really even traff,” I said.
“So you’re breaking up with me?” he asked.
“I suppose I am,” I said. “If one can break up with someone with whom one has had two sexual encounters, leavened by only the smallest and most marginal of social and friendly chatter before and after.” Which was harsher than it needed to be, but breaking up is best done cruelly.
“I deserve nothing better,” he said. “Indeed, I deserve nothing at all … but … may I have one more kiss?”
“You most certainly may,” I said.
Nine minutes later, I had rather lost count of that one more kiss, and I was helping Thenel undo one of the knottier knots on my belt.
Nine minutes later, I was on my back, trying to tug his cloak out from under my rump when he wasn’t pinning me to it. We were giggling like a pair of mad things. The “one more kiss” had gotten quite out of hand.
Nine minutes later, I grabbed him by a convenient handle to stop him. “We can do more, but enough with the freebies. I’m gonna have to charge.”
“… charge? …”
“Ten lozens, or my pants go right back on ‘n I walk out the door,” I said. He sort of stared. I laughed. “What? You get a rent-a-girl, you better pay the rent!”
He stared at me, then laughed. “I knew that you were a nendrai-wrangler, a wizard, and an enchanter. I did not know you were also a courtesan!”
“I have many skills!” I said. “But honestly there’s not much difference between nendrai-wrangler and hooker, if you must know. Hey! You’re not going in there ’til you pay up!”
He got up and hunted around in his scattered clothes, and handed me a ten-lozen coin. “There you are.”
I grinned as lasciviously as any Orren can, which is a lot. “OK, I’m rented for as long as you want ’til the time bubble is over. But not for anything. Don’t expect any joy from my hands or mouth. You’ve got a fiancé for that kind of thing.”
“Ah, you’ll only do things which he is unwilling or unable to provide. Thereby satisfying the letter of Rehit’s permission, and not all that far off the spirit, I guess,” said Thenel. “So we’re not breaking up after all?”
“Not ’til your bank account is empty!” I said. I am a practical sort of whore.
With a practical sort of ethics, now and then.