The next night, Linza opened door number thirteen with a flurry of nervous excitement.
Tanyth was waiting for her.
Linza was glad that she had done her best to avoid imagining what Tanyth would be like, because there was no way she would have done them justice.
They were pale and slender and a bit shorter than her, with light blue hair caught up in a messy ponytail.
They had pointed ears and angular features, pretty eyes and elegant hands. They wore a skirt that sat low on their hips and brushed the ground, and a criss-crossing bandeau over their flat chest, both in lilac cotton.
Their pointed ears distinguished them as half-elf, rarer than half-orcs but not unheard of in the kingdom. Though other hominids tended not to be compatible with each other, most other species seemed at least partially compatible with humans. Children of inter-species parents were not themselves fertile, despite some folks best efforts at claiming residual elf or orc or seraphim blood. Part of the reason that the ‘partial blood’ myths were hard to stamp out was because half-humans could look very different from one another and land anywhere on the spectrum from one parent to the other.
Each community was different and some were more welcoming than others, but generally half-human children had difficulty fitting in. Cultures that valued fertility tended to see the half-humans’ sterility as a sign that they were cursed or otherwise deficient.
Yet, the very same traits that lead to those difficulties — their relatively exotic features as compared to humans and their sterility — made them welcome members of brothels and pleasure houses the world over. So, half-humans tended to be over-represented in erotic contexts, and the pleasure house was no exception.
Worries of exploitation were valid, but this particular establishment had more of a sense of ‘refuge’ than ‘circus’. It helped that the founder herself was half-orc.
The little half-elf jumped to their feet with a clap of excitement. “It’s so good to meet you!” They surged forward and wrapped Linza in a warm hug.
Her cheek tucked comfortably onto the top of their head, and they smelled like jasmine and sandalwood.
They withdrew and took Linza’s hands in their own, which were as soft as she’d imagined. “It is lovely to meet you!” Their voice was distinctly feminine.
“It’s nice to meet you too!”
Tanyth lead Linza by the hand down to the bamboo mat and patted it, and Linza sat across from them. She surveyed the room a bit sheepishly, noticing that it had been put back into its original state in her last absence. “Sorry to leave it a bit messy, I—”
“Not at all!” Tanyth said. “I told you to make yourself comfortable, and you did! Great work.”
Linza blushed. “Did you… see?”
“Oh, heavens!” Tanyth put their fingertips to their lips. “Not at all. Rule number two. Nothing taken. And in the interest of rule number one, everything given, I must say that I would happily oblige such a scenario should you desire it. But! Only if you desire it.”
Linza nodded. She was starting to understand more implicitly what the rules meant. The terms of her employment had given a crisp definition, but it was like the difference between a sketch and the model. In real life, there was more depth to it.
“I will definitely consider that,” Linza said, and she meant it.
Tanyth grinned. “Perfect!”
“What’s… next today?”
“We get to know each other,” Tanyth said.
“Like… sexually?” Linza felt like a dope as soon as the words were out of her mouth.
Tanyth laughed, the sound like wind chimes in a summer breeze. They pressed their fingertips to their mouth again, as if Linza had said something naughty and yet delightful.
She supposed that she had.
“Everything given, I wouldn’t refuse,” they said. “But I’d truly like to get to know the rest of you first! Why don’t we go get dinner?”
Linza hesitated. She was going to have to mooch off of Wyn a couple more times that week as it was, so it didn’t feel right to spend extra on dinner out. Though, Wyn would never forgive her if she passed on such an opportunity, so Linza swallowed her pride and nodded. “That would be lovely!”