Mirrored from Sythyry.
Pirly had no such luck. The job for which he had journeyed to Ulmarn had vanished, and with it his membership in the widespread and influential Printer’s Guild. The object of his obsession had not lifted a limb or spoken a syllable in his defense, and, worse, had not actually loved him for longer than the length of an orgasm. The broadsheets and gossip-courts of Ulmarn knew him, mocked him, condemned him. And even the cheap brandy he had drunk to give himself courage to approach Fennel was barely muddling his mind anymore.
Pirly said to himself, “Well, I can do nothing about most of those. But I could get some kathia, and perhaps with the alertness and clarity of mind it brings, see my way to some solution to the many problems and woes as made by my nature. Or I could get some more brandy, and escape them briefly — or, with the loss of inhibition and gain of libido it brings, wind up in some other Herethroy’s bed. Perhaps, if I am lucky, someone I could stay with for some while in exchange for bodily services. This is important, for I have no home in Ulmarn, now that Harponz has cast me out of his attic as well as his guild. … Yes! Brandy, not kathia, is surely the best course!” By which it must be understood that, while Rassimel are generally the cleverest of primes, they are in no way the wisest.
“But, what woe is this?” cried Pirly. “When I went to Fennel’s home, I had my purse, holding the entirety of my worldly wealth — but now the purse is with me no longer! Yet I cannot reasonably return to Fennel’s home to retrieve it, as they roared they would take a ravenous revenge upon me if I returned!”
He bewailed his miserable misfortune for a few minutes, but then his boyish bouyancy reasserted itself. “Well, I had planned on selling my body anyhow. I suppose I shall simply start that plan a day earlier and a diligence eagerlyier than originally!” With this noble yet ignoble resolution firmly in place, he washed his face quickly in the canal, made sure that his subtle insignia of availability and transaffection were in place, and set off for the Slivard Quarter, where such commerce is commonplace.
The Slivard Quarter
The Slivard Quarter of Ulmarn is a small but tangly maze. Tiny and highly specific shops, few of them grander than a Gormoror’s guestroom, sell decorative scarves, or toothbrushes, or marital aids, or hallucinogenic chocolates, or pornography for those who revel in the joys of long tails, or any of a thousand other such specialties that one might never imagine would support a whole shop.
In fact, most of them have some illicit trade on the side. Some sell smuggled shoes — the import duties for shoes in Ulmarn are notoriously high, and the Cobbler’s Guild is in the process of collapse, so, this year, legal footware is hard to find. Some sell chocolates spiked with illegal hallucinogens, as a straightforward sideline to the chocolates spiked with legal ones.
And some — ah, some! Perhaps they have recently been discovered by the city guard, so that their illicit side trade has been revealed and rooted out. Perhaps they have gotten behind in their bribes, to the same effect. Or perhaps they simply did not wish to incur the expenses and inconveniences and labors of maintaining a proper illicit side trade, which can be considerable. So they simply have a small room in the back, scarcely grander than the closet in a Gormoror’s guestroom, containing — let us say — a cot. And if they are particularly fancy, the cot will have clean linens on it, and there might be a few amenities such as towels and a pitcher of clean water for washing up. Such small rooms can be rented for a small fee, for a short time. A few even double as actual miniature hotel rooms for penurious tourists who want to be in the middle of things and do not demand overmuch from their accomodations. I stayed in one such room once for a night; it was arranged by post in advance, and my secretary at the time was under the impression it was a room in a larger and more dignified hotel. (Or that is the story I tell everyone.)
Pirly knew about the rental of rooms, of course. Not from personal experience. He had saved on rental fees, and time, by using the washroom of the print shop — which may be a lesson in the folly of cutting corners in pursuit of one’s
He found a likely spot, on the corner of St. Spannion’s Street and the Alley of the Drill-Shops, and kept an eye out for the sort of people he usually kept an eye out for. Soon enough — a Herethroy co-lover, strolling along, with a bag from the toothbrush-shop in zir hand, wearing a pair of yellow and crimson antenna-clips. Pirly put on his brightest and most appealing smile, and stepped forth. “Ah! I admire your antenna clips!”
Zie blinked at him in confusion. “I gratefully accept your admiration on their behalf. I could attempt to tell you the name or location of the boutique at which I purchased them, which I left a mere three minutes ago. But alas! It had no name, or none posted at any rate. And the dozen wriggling walkways and subtle streets I have trod have quite escaped my mind. In any case, it sold only Herethroy accessories, so its value to you may be limited.”
Pirly persevered. “But — I admire the Herethroy greatly! Had I a bit of spare money, I should gladly buy a trillion trinkets to give to those beautiful ones who, like myself, catch my eye in the street.”
Zie smiled politely. “Alas for your penury! But, fortunately, I have already bought my own trinket, so there is no need for you to spend your hypothetical money on it.” Zie attempted to step around Pirly and continue down the street.
Pirly was at a loss. “But — O beautiful and foreign Herethroy tourist — you seem to be at a bit of loose ends in the bustling city of Ulmarn! I am unoccupied today. For a tiny consideration, I shall be your native guide, and show you a wider range of and deeper intensity pleasures than you had expected to experience in our wonderful city! For I am wonderfully capable of providing enjoyments to Herethroy.”
Zie stepped away from him. “My ends are my own, and I shall satisfy them in my own ways, at my own times. In any case, if I were to hire a native guide, I should pick one whose accent was that of Ulmarn, rather than the clipped consonants of Culchrame.”
Pirly gasped and put his hands over his muzzle. As he did so, a towering Herethroy woman dressed in laborer’s clothes, yet with well-hemmed slits in strategic spots, strode over to him. “Is this Rassy troubling you, miss?”
The co-lover cocked zir antennae at the newcomer. “Rather so! He appears to have propositioned me, which I do not need from my own species and do not appreciate from others.”
Pirly snapped, “Then you should not be wearing yellow and crimson antenna clips, for they signify openness and even eagerness to such invitations!”
The co-lover ripped the clips off zir antennae and threw them at Pirly. “I shall murder the shopkeeper who sold them to me without warning! If I can find him again, which is doubtful.”
The giant woman placed a foot-hand on Pirly’s chest and shoved him away. She said to the co-lover, “Now, if there is any sort of recreation you would appreciate while you are in Ulmarn, please note: I am your own species; I am actually from Ulmarn; and I have rescued you from this Rassimel rascal!”
“I note all of these things, and, should my circumstances change so completely that I am in need of such services, I shall send for you swiftly!” said the co-lover in frosty tones. “In the meantime, I shall stride down St. Spannion’s Street, where my husband the hero and my wife the wizard await me, disapproving of any delay.” Zie put actions to words. (Though, if there were a Herethroy wizard in Ulmarn at the time, word of it never came to my laboratory; and wizards are incessant gossipers about such matters.)
“And you!” said the giant to Pirly. “Propositioning a tourist on the streets, and a different-species one at that! What do you think you are!”
“Hungry,” said Pirly.
“Well, that’s the Khtosyis’s cape,” said the giant. “He’s whoring himself to Herethroy because he’s hungry. Tell me, little boy, who’s the horny hero?”
“What? … um … am I supposed to be?” asked Pirly.
“Hah, he thinks it’s him!” said the giant. Another Herethroy and a Cani, in interesting garments that were only slight variants on common street-wear, joined them. “What you are supposed to be is a member of the guild. If you’re hiring yourself out, that is, which it sure looks as if you are.”
“Guild? There’s a guild…?” said Pirly.
“Yeah, there’s a guild. You can’t join it though. The Guild don’t approve of Rassies going after bugs,” said the new Herethroy. “We’re decent folks, the Prostitutes of Ulmarn, we are, and we won’t have traff trash around. You want money, you can damn well sell cley. Hooking is skilled work, I’ll have you know, and we keep our standards high!”
“My elbows! Release my elbows, if you would be so kind! Oh, why do you lift me and carry me to the alley? Oh, no! I object to this procedure!” wailed Pirly.
Every guild has its own means of humiliating and discouraging interlopers. The guilds of advanced and subtle trades, such as healers and smiths, use advanced and subtle means, such as administering nearly-impossible tests, and, should the interloper somehow arrange to pass, accepting them as retroactive members for a substantial retroactive payment. The Prostitutes of Ulmarn, perhaps because of the direct and physical nature of their trade, administered a direct and physical discouragement.
The Cani prostitute stayed for a moment afterwards, and even offered a flask of cheap wine so that Pirly could wash the mud and horse-wastes and slightly decayed pig intestines out of his wounds and hopefully keep them from getting infected. “We don’t approve of your kind in Ulmarn. But there’s a foreign Orren, from Kismirth in Vheshrame Mene, been asking around about traff sluts who want to go off to traff-slut-land.” She gave him directions. It was, after all, an easy way to clean up the city.