Warning: Same as before. Sort of. :)
Dusk was falling over the city. Some people were leaving work, others were just waking up. Whores are generally of the latter variety. I pushed my bangs out of my face and stepped into the backroom of the brothel. In the opposite wall there was a door which led to the reception, a dingy little room with a desk. And to my left, towards the street, hang heavy, mouldy drapes. They were the backdrop for the large window, in front of which we would offer ourselves to those who saw us. Humiliating and undignified to be sure, but it was how we made a living.
I parted the drapes and stepped up next to Elena, one of the few girls who would treat me kindly. She threw me a tired smile, before bending forwards, offering the men outside an impressive view of her cleavage. I followed her example silently.
Something quite suddenly took our audience's attention away from us. We all stretched to see what. A carriage. And with a fine coat of arms adorning it. A red and black dragon, writhing in flames, if I was right. Made sense. Dragons were popular motives, but I didn't recognise this one.
Everyone was curious. It wasn't often that the carriages of the fine folk happened through here. Probably a servant on an errand... I thought. When the door opened I saw I was quite wrong.
He was nobility. That much I could tell with a quick glance. No common man had hair that long, nor clothes so fine. What's a noble doing here? I briefly wondered before returning to my so-called duties. I couldn't help, however, keeping an eye on the good lord as he entered a dark store. I frowned. I'd lived here for six months before someone told me what that store was, and by then I'd often noticed how anyone with half a mind to them stayed far away from it. Master Olen's Foreign Remedies. Black magic. I made the sign against evil in the folds of my dress.
I didn't notice the skinny man eying me with great interest, so absorbed was I in making sure the noble didn't slip out without my seeing it.
Elena nudged me. "What are you doing? Skinny there seems quite taken with you..."
I blinked, staring down at the man. He grinned, showing rotting teeth. I swallowed the bile rising in my throat and simpered back at him, preening and winking. He practically skipped his way into the brothel. I sighed and cast a last glance towards Master Olen's, only to do a double take as the lord exited, looking about. For a second, before he put a wide brimmed hat atop his black hair, he looked across the narrow street, at the brothel's window - at me. I jolted and flushed.
With another start I spun to face the Madame. "Y-yes, ma'am?"
"You've got a customer, girl," she told me, coldly as always.
"Yes, ma'am," I obediently said and hurried away from the window and through the drapes. The skinny man from before smirked at me and stroked my hair.
"Pretty girl..." he slurred. I could smell the alcohol on his breath.
"Good choice, sir!" Madame gushed, suddenly jovial. The outside door creaked open then, and Madame hurried to greet the newcomers.
I forced a smile at my customer. "This way, sir."
I was stopped in my tracks as a deep voice called, "Hold!" We both looked towards a buff man in livery. "You," he rumbled, nodding to my customer, "out!"
Skinny frowned and staggered his way towards the guard. "Now, 'old on! I was 'ere first, an'--" Before he could finish, the guard had simply grabbed him by the back of his shirt and hoisted him out.
Unsure of what to do, I blinked, on the grounds that blinking would perhaps wake me from this bizarre dream. Nope...
Suddenly Madame sprinted in again, smoothing first her own hair, then mine, only to hurry back to the door, holding it open and simpering even more, if possible, than me at a potential customer.
It was him. The lord, standing there, with his cape draped heavily around him, and the hat removed once again. He ignored Madame, and walked towards me. His face was frigid, utterly without expression. Only his eyes - Green. Clear, brilliant green. - betrayed any emotion, and it was at such intensity it frightened me.
I fought the urge to gulp and dropped into a curtsey. "M'lord," I greeted, attempting to grin flippantly at him. "Come for a quick round, eh?" If looks could kill, Madame would've been charged for my murder.
His face never moved a muscle. Reaching a hand out from the cape, he held up my hand with the tips off his gloved fingers. For a delirious second I thought he'd kiss it. Abruptly, he let it go, and rubbed his fingertips with his thumb, as if to clean them.
I rose from my curtsey, straightening, barely keeping my bitterness in check. When he reached up and barely brushed my cheek, I flinched. His lips quirked in either a smile or a frown; I wasn't sure. His fingers didn't move from my cheek.
"A good choice, sir!" Madame suddenly bellowed. I started, and the lord dropped his hand, turning to look at her. "This young lass is eighteen years old, yet very skilled," she continued oblivious. "She is not cheap, no, sir! But to you..." Madame quieted, the smile fading, looking into the noble's eyes. "I... shall leave now, m'lord..." And she hurried out.
I raised my eyebrows at him when he turned back to face me. Not surprisingly, he didn't give any indication of noticing, especially not as he started circling me. I clenched my hands, forcing myself to stand still. My heart pounded in time with his footsteps.
"You are a very beautiful girl," he suddenly muttered, directly behind me. His voice sent several, distinctly unpleasant chills down my spine. It was cold and hot at once, a voice of smoke, darkness and raging infernos.
I wetted my lips. "Thank you, m'lord."
"What is your name?"
"Never mind." Suddenly he was back in front of me. I started, not having heard him move. "I will call you Illustria."
"Yes," he mused, eyes burning. "It suits you, I think. Tell me, Illustria, do you enjoy working here?"
I couldn't hold back a small smile. "I doubt anyone would."
"Poor girl," he said. He didn't sound sincere at all. "Such a pretty flower should not be trapped in a bed of weeds."
I raised my chin, ignoring the massive breach of protocol I was performing by assuming myself his equal. "I've been in much worse beds than one of weeds, m'lord."
I could hear the smirk in his voice, but I could not see it on his face. "Have you, now? And what, Illustria, if I were to say that I'd be willing to replant you to a much grander bed?"
My brow furrowed. "I'd say, m'lord, it'd be too good to be true..."
"How much are you paid, girl - by week?" he asked, and then, before I could answer, "I'll double it. Per day."
I stared at him. This really sounded far too good to be true... And it it probably was. The histories about nobility and their "tastes" weren't just myth. More than one whore had gone with a lord, only to disappear completely, leaving no clues at all; after all, who would question the high crowd? It was far too good to be true. I may've been fallen, but I've never been stupid. "No, m'lord," I told him calmly. Or tried to. My voice was shivering as much as me.
He stepped back, eyes widening in what I presumed to be disbelief. "No?"
"No, m'lord. I stay here for the time being."
He stared at me, silent for a few moments. I shifted nervously. "I... see," he finally conceded. "Very well, if that is your choice," he spread his hands in a gesture of surrender, "then so be it."
I smiled at him, relieved. "Thank you for understanding, m'lord. I'm sorry you had to leave empty-hande--"
He chuckled, cutting me off. "Hardly. My dear, I've already risked my reputation by coming here, and I will certainly not leave without due compensation." Faster than I could move, he grabbed my arms and pulled me closer, covering my mouth with his own. I froze completely. Only a finger jammed into my jaw finally managed to prod my mouth open.
How long we merely stood there? I've no idea. But at some point yet another man dressed in livery entered. "M'lord," he hissed urgently. "They come!"
The lord let me go abruptly, sending me stumbling, and in a rare display, from what I gathered, of emotion, swore viciously.
The guard looked nervous. "Shall I bring the carriage, m'lord?"
His master nodded. "Yes. Hurry." The guard disappeared, and the lord turned back to face me. "Well, Illustria, it seems I must take a... rain check, is it not? Here," he held up a gold coin, showing it clearly to me, before putting in my hand. "For a single kiss. And here," he held up five more, "for what you still owe me." Spinning, he hurriedly followed his guard.
I stared, open-mouthed, first at the coins, and then at the door. "Gods..."