Nate looked around at the town the two were coming up upon; it looked pseudo-Middle Ages, or straight out of every work of mainstream fantasy he had ever seen, the type of town the hero grows up in and is burned down at the beginning of his adventure. He hoped that didn’t happen to this one, at least note while they were there.
He looked down at his fellow traveler, “So you’re serious? A brothel?”
Zericho looked back at him, “Yeah, you got a problem with that? I mean you already seem pretty skittish…” he leered back at him.
Nate blushed, something he realized he had been doing quite a bit over the past few hours, “No, it’s just that’s not the first place I would necessarily go when I got to a town. Like, I’d figure maybe a hotel-”
Zericho interrupted. “A what?”
“Huh? Oh, um, maybe you call it an inn?” He shrugged, and muttered, “That’s what they call it in all the fantasy I’ve read.”
Zericho raised a brow, “You read what?”
Nate brushed it off, “Nothing, it’s not important.”
Zericho eyed him for a moment before continuing, “Anyway, most places, especially a small town like this, the brothel and the inn are the same place. It’s not like that back where you live?”
Nate shrugged awkwardly, “Well, prostitution is kinda illegal back home.”
Zericho did a double take, “What?! Why would you do that?! That’s practically sacrilege!”
Nate sighed, “It’s complicated, and it would take a long time to explain. I’ll just say that it’s for really stupid reasons that I don’t agree with, and even though it’s illegal doesn’t mean it isn’t everywhere.”
Zericho snorted, “Well good, on both counts, we wouldn’t get along very well if you agreed with something so… disgusting; and it’s nice to know that no matter what happens the true professionals still find a way to practice the craft.”
Nate shook his head, “How are you so sure they’ll even help us? I mean last time I checked, most prostitutes aren’t exactly politically savvy.”
Zericho scoffed, “You say it like it’s a bad word, thought you said you didn’t agree with… ugh,” he shuddered “outlawing it.”
Nate rolled his eyes as the imp continued. “And I don’t know how it works where you’re from, but I’ll let you in on a little secret;” he snorted “well I say secret, but from what I can tell, everyone kind of already knows, it’s just not made official. Anyway, just about every one of these places, they’re part of an espionage ring to keep track of everything going on in the empire.”
Nate mulled that over, “Well, I guess that makes sense, blackmail and stuff.”
Zericho laughed, “And stuff, you sure have a way with words kid.”
Nate frowned as he rubbed his face, “Shut up, it’s been a long day and I’m tired. Turns out being transported to another world is exhausting.” He shifted his pack, “Not to mention my backpack is getting heavy.”
“If it’s so heavy why are you still carrying it? What’s in that thing anyway? You already got some water and that shirt out of it.” Asked Zericho.
“Uh… books mostly, some folders, pens; you know, school stuff. And some of it could come in help. The books will definitely come in handy if you get injured again, in fact do you have money with you so that we could pick up supplies at this town? Just having something to disinfect with would really help.”
“We’ve got to get our bearings first, then we’ll see, okay kid?”
As the two entered the town, Nate noticed they were getting a lot of looks, which wasn’t surprising, although he wondered who garnered more; him, in his intensely foreign clothes compared to the robes and other simple clothes everyone else wore; or their prince, traveling with a strange man. He was, as well, a little disappointed, Zericho had talked about how diverse the empire was, with races of all kinds everywhere; but this town seemed to be predominantly human. He thought he saw an elf once, but he wasn’t sure, there definitely weren’t the more exotic races like orcs or any of Zericho’s fellow imps.
Zericho seemed to notice his disappointment, when he explained what was going on he laughed, “Yeah, this corner of the empire is mostly humans; to be honest most of your kind doesn’t like to intermingle that much with the other races, well except for elves,” He rolled his eyes, “you humans are so crazy for damned elves.” He smirked, “But you’re disappointed, huh? You’ve caught a glimpse of impkind and now you’re wondering what other wonders we hold; well I hate to say it but I’ve spoiled you, you got the best of the land as your first example, and now all others will pale in comparison.”
Nate rolled his eyes, “Yup, that’s exactly it, you hit it right on the nose, I’m in awe of your god like form. Let’s just get to the… brothel, okay?”
Zericho grinned, “Still having trouble saying it, huh?”
When they finally arrived at the building, the sun had almost completely set, and the streets were instead lit by lamps. Some kind of gas, Nate assumed, or maybe plain old candles, or perhaps even magic, that was now a possibility.
The building was mostly made of brick, making it stick out from the primarily wooden town; and unlike most buildings that were either completely dark or only had a single candle in the window, the brothel was glowing quite brightly.
“Here we are, not up to my standards but it’ll have to do.”
Nate looked down at the imp, then grabbed the door handle and opened, stepping inside after Zericho.
Inside was a lot like what Nate imagined would happen if you took a Hooters back into the middle ages, a bar and several tables with customers being served alcohol and the occasional item of food by scantily dressed employees, albeit with two small differences. The first Nate had expected, there was a flight of stairs in the back that he assumed led to the private rooms, the second…“What’s with all the guys?”
Zericho looked up at him, “What do you mean?”
Nate surveyed the room, very confused and, more than fairly embarrassed, “Why are there so many male servers? In…” He gulped, blushing, “skimpy clothing.”
“They’re employees, what do you think? And they’re dressed like that to attract customers, what, are you an idiot?”
Nate covered his blushing face, “No… no, it’s… it’s kind of complicated, I-”
The two were snapped out of their conversation, as a large woman with red hair and an equally red dress quickly approached Zericho. “My lord is that you? I heard the news only a few hours ago, but I never thought that’d I’d find you here!”
Zericho raised an eyebrow, “I take it that you’re the owner of this establishment?”
The woman seemed surprised for a moment before laughing, “Yes, of course, how silly of me, coming up to you like that. My name is Mona, and yes my prince, I am the owner of this brothel.” She looked around the room and noticed that the conversation was starting to attract attention. “If you would come with me my lord, into the back, we can talk in privacy there.”
Zericho nodded and began to follow the woman, a skittish Nate in tow.
Mona looked back and stopped, she scanned Nate with a condescending eye, “Excuse me, sir, but if you require something you can ask one of my many employees.”
“What? Oh, no I’m-”
“He’s with me.” Said Zericho bluntly.
Mona looked from the imp back to Nate, confused, “My lord, are you sure?”
Zericho smiled and sighed, “It’s a long story, it has to do with why I’m here, and he can be trusted, he saved me.” He looked down at his arm, Mona gasped as she followed his eye line, “Well sort of.”
“Should I get a healer my lord? There’s one in town that I have made use of before, when clients become too rough with my employees.”
Zericho shook his head, “It’s okay for now, it’s not bleeding, let’s talk first. Something tells me the news you have doesn’t involve my father suddenly breaking free and slaying Osmodai.”
Mona nodded, and continued towards the back, Nate and Zericho following.
The three of them entered a small room that, to Nate, appeared to be an office; albeit a very messy one. Various scrolls and pieces of parchment were lying about, and a wooden desk sat in the middle of the room, surrounded by a few chairs. Zericho hopped up onto one of them, “So, Mona, right? Mona, how’s the situation looking? What’s changed since I left about, hmm, I’m guessing 12 hours now.”
“It could be far worse my prince, last I heard, Osmodai’s forces were only just locking down the palace, and that it should take a week or so for them to secure the capital. There is also little news from the other cities of the empire, suggesting they are safe. Although…” She sighed as she sat down at her desk.
“What?” asked Zericho.
“My prince, I don’t want to offend you, but, what do you think is going to happen to the kingdom with your father no longer overseeing it? Even if Osmodai is contained in the capital.” said Mona.
Zericho shrugged, “I don’t know.”
He sighed, “It’s going to start falling apart, most of the governors were barely kept in line as it was. There’s no way they’re gonna work together well enough to defeat Osmodai.”
Mona nodded, “That’s right. Sadly, that is about the extent of what I know about the present situation; as there are so few mages present in this town; I am reliant on the message birds from Pjakes for news.”
“Pigeons?” asked Nate, who had been silent till this point.
Zericho laughed, “Pigeons? Is that what you use back home? Try hawks.”
“Actually my prince,” said Mona, “while I’m sure that you use far more impressive birds in the royal home, in this town we do indeed make use of pigeons. I simply don’t have the means to care for a hawk; this is a small town after all.”
Zericho seemed annoyed, “So what about the council members? I know that not all of them were at the palace.”
“That’s correct my prince, in fact only was present when the invasion began according to my sources. The rest were either off performing their duties around the kingdom or were on leave."
Zericho rolled his eyes, “Leave in this case no doubt referring to Zinoe.”
Mona smirked, “Yes.”
Nate looked between them, “Is there an inside joke here?”
Zericho facepalmed, “’Zinoe of the Afterglow’ as he always calls himself, is a lazy bastard that relies on tricks instead of being actually good at anything to get ahead.”
Mona giggled, “What my prince means is that Zinoe is a very subtle man, he prefers to spend most of his time thinking, and is known to take many retreats during which he meditates.”
“’Meditate’ my shapely ass.” muttered Zericho.
“Actually my prince, I was going to suggest you head for Zinoe first.” said Mona
“The closest major town, Pjakes, is where he chose to spend his retreat this time around.” said Mona
Zericho groaned, “Of course.”
Nate shifted in his chair, “Am I allowed to ask any questions here? Because most of this sounds like nonsense to me.”
Mona looked over at Nate with disdain and then back to Zericho, “You never did explain why this boy is with you my prince.”
Zericho hopped off his seat, “Nope, I didn’t. Now is there anything else you need to tell me?”
The brothel owner sighed, “No my prince, I suppose you’ll want to make your way to Pjakes tomorrow?”
Zericho massaged his injured arm, “Well yeah, might as well get the torture over with quickly.”
“Then I’ll prepare some supplies for you and your… companion?” she asked
“Yep, now if you don’t mind me, I’m going to go sample your wears.”
Nate quickly stopped the imp, “Wait, you were serious earlier? After today your body doesn’t need that kind of stress; what if you tear it open again?”
Zericho attempted to brush him off, “What are you my nursemaid?”
“No, I’m trying to keep you from killing yourself, idiot!”
“Excuse me!?” snarled Zericho.
“Both of you stop.” Mona quickly separated the two, “You have no right to talk to the prince in such a way boy.” She glared at Nate, “But my prince, he does have a point, I could have the local mage here in less than an hour for your healing.” She knelt down and began to inspect his arm.
Zericho quickly brushed her off, “Fine, call your healer, just keep your hands to yourself.”
“Of course my prince, I shall get someone to show you to your rooms while I go fetch him.” she quickly bowed and left the room.
Nate looked over to Zericho, “So what are we going to do now?”
“Well I am going to go down to the bar and get myself a few drinks until that healer comes.” Said Zericho, “You can do whatever you want.”
“No, I mean… she said that this Zano guy was in another city. Am I coming with you? Or…?” He trailed off.
Zericho raised an eyebrow, “We already talked about this, yeah, you can come with me. I don’t mind.”
“No, it’s just…” He sighed deeply, “Look, today has been really confusing; I guess I just need to go collect my thoughts. I’m gonna go to that room she was talking about, get ready for bed.”
“Sure, you go do that.”
Nate made his way to the door before looking back for a moment, “Thanks, I just… thanks.”
As Nate closed the door behind him, Zericho wondered to himself if he’d have time on this trip to bed the boy… probably, he figured; besides, the shy ones usually were more expressive under the sheets.
The room was lit by dim candlelight, and asides from the bed, the only furnishings of the room were a stand for the candle and a small chest for his belongings.
The bed he had been given wasn’t exactly up to snuff to home, the mattress seemed to be filled with hay, the cloth containing it fairly rough, and the blankets wool. Still, he supposed it was better than the ground he would be sleeping on if they hadn’t made it to the town.
He was just about done sorting through his backpack; he had two textbooks, one for anatomy and physiology, and one for chemistry; several notebooks and folders; several pens and pencils; his mp3 player (he supposed he should be glad for some entertainment, although he hadn’t had either his cell phone or 3DS with him); a granola bar; gym shorts and what was left of the shirt; and his house keys.
Well, he had one more item with him, in the front pocket. He supposed he should check how many he had left, and took it out.
He began counting, “1,2,3…” and finished a minute later,“…31,32,33.” He sighed as he poured the capsules back in the bottle. That left him with a little over a month before he had to get home.
Wheeeee! Third chapter! Thanks to all of you reading this. Feel free to provide any criticism/questions!