Mirrored from Sythyry.
Fennel was certainly in his element, when he came to Kismirth. His element being, of course, miniscule throngs of the middle and upper classes, out to enjoy certain classical passtimes — gambling, drinking, fornicating, eating — plus occasional more enlightened activities, such as music (we are trying to import performers from here and there, though we are not managing to attract the best ones yet) and museums (similarly, not yet fully constructed or equipped).
(On “miniscule throngs” — we are hoping to get substantial throngs, and I imagine we will in good time. We were at the time getting dozens of people where we want hundreds.)
His particular interest was the Cartesan Casino, and the Forfeits of Fornication in particular. Fennel, like most of our customers, quickly figured out that the real object of the game is to lose — two players out of the nine in each round lose — and, as the price of loss, to bodily enjoy the other loser on the stage. He learned how to pay for extra balls in the game, which would guarantee that, if he lost, he often got the person of his choice as the other loser. If anyone asked — and nobody in Kismirth ever asks — he could deny all responsibility for his passions and behavior.
But it is possible to win at an afternoon of Forfeits, too. One does not win in a single round; seven of the nine players simply do not lose. But if one goes for some while without losing too many games, one is eligible for one of the Grand Prizes. Some of them are cash: this is a casino after all. (Not very much cash, since we don’t want certain high-priced troubles.) Others are not cash: we know what our customers are here for, viz., cross-species sex with some measure of plausible deniability.
Fennel, on the afternoon in question, won an overnight date with the Dancer of the Day, from sunout to dawn. Not a terribly unlikely fate, given that only some two dozen people stayed that day in the Forfeits game long enough to be eligible for a Grand Prize. (Players are likely to play until they lose once or twice or thrice, until the satiety of their loins recommends they switch to a less physically demanding form of gambling — which the Cartesan Casino or another one will be more than happy to provide.)
He all but danced up to Suite 18, which is where the date takes place in the common case that the winner is not staying in the casino’s rooms. This was, in fact, his second Grand Prize of the Dancer of the Day, and the first one had been an Orren woman of amazing skill and agility. He had great hopes for this one as well.
But when he got to Suite 18, he yelped, “You!”
And the Dancer of the Day yelped back, “You!”
Fennel stared. “Pirly? What are you doing here?”
Pirly tried to arrange his exotic-dance garments to be far less exotic. “I’m the Dancer of the Day. I often am, when the winner is Herethroy.”
“I mean, what are you doing in Kismirth?”
Pirly leapt lightly from the back of the couch, and landed sitting cross-legged on the floor. He had learned a great deal in a few months in his new profession. “Dancing a lot. Pleasuring Herethroy whenever I feel like it. Owning a little fraction of the casino. Building my own printing press in my spare time.”
“I, uh, suppose I see.” Fennel drooped his antennae. “I never expected to see you again.”
“And you’d have been just as happy if it stayed that way,” said Pirly. “I suspect I owe you an apology. I didn’t behave at all well, when I came to your home that time. I had put far too much meaning on far too little a word. I was naive and foolish and unprofessional, and I am quite sorry for whatever sorts of grief I gave you.”
Fennel smiled. He had the vague sense that it was he who owed Pirly an apology of some sort for something or other. “Ah, quite all right, Pirly, quite all right. It inspired an important set of conversations with my spouses. As a result, I go on solitary vacations thrice yearly, to places like Kismirth. Get the traff out of my system for the while, as it were.”
Pirly laughed. “I don’t think the traff is going to get out of my system. Not if I stay in Kismirth with a constant buffet of Herethroy presenting their genitalia to me.”
“Weren’t we doing that back in Ulmarn?” asked Fennel.
“Well, it was always rather cramped in that little washroom. Now I get big beds — or on stage or something. And I used to feel a bit bad about taking time from my printing job at it. Now it’s part of my job, and I get to feel bad about sneaking back to my apartment and fiddling with my press during lunchtimes.” Pirly grinned, and said, “So it wasn’t a very big change for me, after all. I swapped my job and my hobby, is all, and wound up in a different city than I’d meant to be in. Not much of a matter at all for a Rassimel.”
Fennel tugged his toe-fingers nervously. “So, um, what shall we do now? Tonight?”
Pirly considered. “I wouldn’t be the first Dancer of the Day to declare the day’s winner to be inappropriate …”
“Your, um, pimp doesn’t mind you turning down a, um, john?” asked Fennel.
Pirly considered for a moment. “I am my pimp, or one of them, anyhow. We’re a collective here. By the same token, it is burning fur off my own tail if the grand prizes don’t turn out too well, and we start losing customers and getting a bad name. So I’m going to pretend that I don’t know you, and we’ll do what we came here for. Which is pretty much true; I certainly didn’t know the first thing about you when we scrambled each others’ lives, a few months ago.”