Aethelstan glanced around the room, and then sighed. “This is the ugliest brothel that I have ever had the misfortune to enter,” he stated quietly to his brother. “Palace of Pleasure? More like the Hovel of Drunken Numbness…”
“It will serve,” said the Graharz.
“To achieve that named state?” noted Aethelstan. “Most assuredly.”
The Graharz leaned towards his brother, as Striker approached. “You know what I mean,” he said.
“No, I don’t,” declared Aethelstan forcefully. “As I told you and your little friend, I’m not going to throw away my life on any foolishness. As bad as it is, I’ve no intention of it getting worse.” He turned away from his brother. “You enjoy your companions--I’ll enjoy mine.” He watched the handsome slave approach the Graharz, and lead him towards a table where a small group was gathered. Then, with a sigh, Aethelstan made his way to a small chair that had been placed in a corner, and sat down. He glanced around, and waved at a rather plain young girl. “Get me a drink,” he said.
The girl nodded, and darted away. As Aethestan kept his eyes on her, she made her way towards a table conveniently located in the center of the “palace”. A woman was playing a game of go with the hunchback. Aethelstan was surprised that he of all people should have access to this place, much less company, but then the woman turned around, and he recognized her as the noseless, scarred keeper of this cut-rate whorehouse. Her gimlet eyes regarded him for a moment, then nodded at the girl, and began to pour a cup.
Aethelstan watched as the girl returned to his table and set the cup down. “Your drink,” she said a hurried whisper, her eyes fixed on him as he picked it up. “Do you want me to stay with you?” she blurted out as he took his first sip.
Aethelstan swallowed his drink, and looked at her for a moment. “How old are you, child?” he asked.
“Fifteen,” she said, much too quickly.
“I’d rather you didn’t,” said the Milesian. He pushed his cup towards her. “Though I wouldn’t mind you sharing this drink.” She stared at him, clearly rather surprised. “Don’t get too good an opinion of me,” he noted. “The wine you serve here is shit.”
She picked the cup quickly and took a long swallow, Aethelstan studying her horribly lean face as she gulped it down. “Thank you, sir,” she said, putting down the cup.
“I told you not to be impressed,” said Aethelstan. “It’s bad policy to disappoint your customers in this fashion.”
The girl looked so quickly at her feet that he actually felt ashamed. “Sorry, sir. Sorry.”
He shook his head. “It was… never mind. I just want to know… why is the Crookback in here?”
“Madame Ursula’s friend?” she said, a cheerful smile on her face. “He was born here, so Lord Nycetus lets him come and go as it pleases him.” She nodded. “And he and Ursula are friends.” Another, more emphatic nod. “They play go together. All the time.”
“Ahh.” Aethelstan considered this. “Well… I’m happy for them.”
“I will te--” began the girl, only to have a large man push her out of the way.
Aethelstan glanced up at him. “Look, sir, you seem to misunderstand the point of a whorehouse, so if I may enlighten…” He blinked.
Before him were two of the Tall Hill Folk, regarding him with rather unpleasant grins. “Baaaa,” said one of them, as he raised his fist.