Chapter Three- Prince of Mereath
'What is this place?' Jerren asked Elliandre in a whisper as they followed Tawbrin up the stairs.
'It's a brothel, of course,' Elliandre returned. 'What did you think?'
He had thought it was a brothel, actually; he'd heard of them spoken of in whispers from time to time. 'Then what's he doing here?' Jerren threw a surreptitious glance at the prince's back.
'He owns the place,' Elliandre explained as if this should be obvious.
'What? You're telling me that... that your prince is a whore?' Jerren asked incredulously.
It also came out a bit louder than he intended; a few stairs above them, Tawbrin stopped and gave Jerren a frosty glance over his shoulder. 'Yeh, I am. Is there something wrong-'
'I'll explain in a moment, Tawbrin,' Elliandre interrupted. 'Just keep going.'
With one last suspicious look, Tawbrin turned back and continued to mount the stairs. Elliandre faced Jerren with a hint of anger on her face. 'Watch what you say. Tawbrin's rather touchy about it, and if you hurt his feelinfs, I'll hurt you. Got it?'
Jerren decided it was best if he shut his mouth.
Upstairs turned out to be a long corridor with many doors on either side. From them were coming the most disturbing sounds; Jerren put his fingers in his ears, earning a snicker from Elliandre. Tawbrin did not go into any of these, however, and continued on towards a door at the very end of the hall. Then he bent down to lift up the end of one of the floorboards, very carefully, and removed a key. This he inserted into the door's lock and opened the door.
Beyond lay a plain room with a large wardrobe and bed, a small table, and not much else. The only source of light would have been the tiny window set high in the wall, but as there was no light outside, the room was quite dim as well. It was into this room that Tawbrin showed them. 'Come in, then.' He stood aside to let them pass, then replaced teh key and entered himself. After shutting the door, he crossed the room and sprawled on his side on the bed; his robe was thrown back, completely exposing his lithe body (even more so than it had done at the door. 'So, what is it you want?'
Elliandre perched herself on the table. 'I thought you should know about him.' She jerked her head towards Jerren, who stood uneasily off to one side, trying to avoid looking at Tawbrin. 'He's a commoner; just came through the gate. He's a bit... unused to us, needless to say.'
Tawbrin slowly raised himself up onto his elbows, staring hard at Jerren. 'A commoner?' He let out a small snort of something close to laughter. 'That explains a lot. But he doesn't sound like one...' he added to Elliandre.
'I told him to change his voice,' explained Elliandre.
'I see...' Tawbrin looked back at Jerren. 'Why'd you come here?'
'I... It was an accident.' Jerren struggled to keep his eyes fixed on Tawbrin's face. 'I just fell through the... the gate.'
'Ah.' Tawbrin nodded. 'Well, try not to make yourself obtrusive, all right? That'll kill you for sure.' He looked back at Elliandre. 'What're you going to do with him?'
'I don't know. I was planning on leaving him with you, maybe...'
'I can take him.'
'Wait!' Jerren broke in. 'I don't want to stay with him; he's- I mean,' he amended hastily at the looks from both Tawbrin and Elliandre, 'that's fine.'
'What's your problem with me?' Tawbrin asked icily, staring at Jarren with dislike.
'Nothing. I... I mean.... Well...'
Suddenly, the prince softened. 'It's diffferent than where you come from,' he told Jerren gently. 'I know. But you'll get used to it soon. You will.' He gave him a small smile, which widened as he glanced at Elliandre. 'Is that all the business?'
'I believe so,' Elliandre said, rising. 'Now... Jerren, you don't want to watch if you're that squeamish.'
Jerren wished he could have been anywhere else rather than in that room for a while. Finally, the sounds behind him subsided into silence; still, however, he did not turn back. Only when Elliandre told him it was safe enough did he dare to turn back around. Tawbrin lay on the bed, eyes closed and without robe in evidence; Elliandre was finishing tying up her boots. 'Well, I'll be seeing you around, Jerren,' she told him, straightening. 'Try not to get into too much trouble.' Before Jerren could protest at being left behind in such an abrupt manner, she walked to the door and pulled it open.
Behind her, on the bed, Tawbrin made a slight coughing noise in his throat and held up a hand. Elliandre sighed. 'You never forget, do you? Here.' She pulled something out of a puch she had concealed under her shirt and tossed it to him. Tawbrin cought it without opening his eyes, fingered it for a moment, then held up a finger. Ellaindre sighed again and tossed him one more. 'Your rates are going up. Well, I'll be seing you.' She left, tucking the pouch away.
Jerren cringed inwardly, dreading what could come next. In a world overrun with murder, theft, and other crimes, and him as it's prince... He didn't want to think of what could happen.