The port city was a raucous tangle of color perched up in the sea cliffs, thousands of people flittering this way and that like a flock of seabirds in constant motion. The cliff-side city surrounded a bay, where hundreds of ships of every shape and size moored.
They had finally arrived after four more days of travel, and Pasco promised that Ada would get to see his ship very soon. But before that, they were to spend a night in the city.
Ada peered down from the top edge of the cliff, trying to figure which ship was Pasco’s. Not that she had much to go on — he’d said what kind his was but she’d never heard the word before and she could hardly tell the ships apart except that some were big and some were small, some with colorful sails and others with drab ecru.
A warm hand pulled Ada back into the center of the rickety staircase that they were descending.
“Gods, child,” Missa said. Her voice was uneven and she had a thin layer of sweat on her brow. “Mind the height!”
“Oh. Doesn’t really bother me anymore, I suppose, between the tower and the, y’know. Dragon.”
“I wouldn’t mention that too loudly here,” Pasco said from ahead of Ada. “Some of these folks are exotic collectors in the worst way.”
Ada frowned. “Oh. Right… How long are we staying here, again?” Ada had never been particularly good at minding her manners to begin with, and after over a week traveling with this crew, she wasn’t sure she’d be able to go back to being even partway proper.
Pasco turned and looked back at her, brows raised. “Thirsty, aren’t we?”
Ada blushed, then grinned. Just him saying that sent her mind twirling through all the things they’d been doing, everything they could do. If she hadn’t been aroused before, she was now. “Well. Yeah.” Ada scurried to catch up, haphazard on the rickety stair, which caused a worried gasp from Missa. “But how—”
Pasco chuckled. “Just the night. Think you can make it?”
“Hmmmm, depends on what we’re doing.”
The tavern was perched over the docks, half nestled into the rock and half jutting out over the water, like a sea bird too fat for its nest. The part over the water was an open deck and the sea breeze rushing over it smelled of salt and sweat.
At the center of the deck was a five man band, which was surrounded by a swirl of dancing patrons.
The inner area was lined with booths along the wall, a bar on the innermost side and a few freestanding tables between them. The cooling autumn air breezed through the open tavern, ruffling colorful flags and streamers.
The patrons were mostly younger, men and women, some topless in a similar manner to the pirates, some wearing embroidered sashes, others wearing dull linens. As the party approached the deck area from another board walk, a buxom middle-aged woman sauntered over to meet them. “Aaaaaah our favorite prince! The usual this evening then?”
Pasco dipped his chin at her. “You known it.”
The woman couldn’t hide her gleeful expression. She leaned back towards the deck. “Next round’s on the prince, aye!”
The whole tavern cheered and the woman started hurrying around to gather everyone’s orders.
Pasco took Ada by the hand and pulled her out onto the deck where the band had just started a new shanty. They sang and danced. Ada stumbled this way and that because she knew neither the songs nor the dances, but still, she had a grand time. She only slowed once she was hoarse and her feet ached and she’d already swigged down a tankard of beer.
She then followed Pasco to a booth, and as the buxom woman saw them sit she didn’t even come over to collect an order, just nodded knowingly at Pasco and disappeared behind the bar.
They chatted for a bit, Pasco recounting some of his favorite memories from his previous visits to the tavern. Ada listened happily and soaked it all in. She’d been to so very many dinner parties, but this was different. Less pomp and circumstance, more raw and spontaneous. Pasco’s life sounded so much more interesting than hers had been, and she was excited to be a part of it, for however long she could be.
Thinking of dinner parties reminded her of what she used to do during them to pass the time. What might she inspire in him if she shared her old secret? Only one way to find out.
“This place is so fun,” she said. “The closest thing I ever had to this before was dinner parties. They were fine but… mostly boring. Lots of formality… lots of people who couldn’t see past their own upturned noses, y’know.”
“Ugh, that sounds terrible.”
“It was! It was very boring. Though I, well, I found a way to make it fun.” She twirled a piece of her hair around her finger.
“Oh yeah?” Pasco said, seeming to pick up on her being coy. “How’d you do that?”
Pasco laughed. “I thought that was frowned upon at royal dinner parties.”
“Oh, it definitely is,” Ada said. “That’s why it was secret masturbation.”
“So you like edging?”
“Hm? Well, yeah, but I always got off.”
“You climaxed at the dinner party?” He sounded truly impressed.
Ada’s heart fluttered with pride and arousal. “Yeah, obviously.”
“And nobody knew?”
“Nobody knew. Believe me, I’d have gotten a far worse fate than being banished to a tower if anybody knew about that particular indiscretion.” Ada was excited that she’d impressed even Pasco, whose life seemed much more sexually uninhibited than she’d ever dreamed possible.
“How in the world did you manage that? I’d never be able to.”
Ada grinned wickedly. “Aw, I’m sure you could. In fact…”