Raff pulled his collar up and headed down the cobbled street. It was late and there was a smell of smoke in the air, combined with sewage and a sort of burnt sulphur that lurked generally in the atmosphere at this time of night. He was heading to the Red Monkey Tavern. He had been there for the past three nights and liked the atmosphere. He would order beer and sit quietly in the corner and people watch. As he approached the Tavern entrance he plunged his hands into his pockets, focused firmly on his feet and headed in through the crowds of men and working girls who gathered outside. Just as he was about to enter the building someone shoved him hard in the side, causing him to sidestep into another group of men.
"Watch where you're going, boy!" A rugged looking man shoved him hard in the chest.
"I'm sorry," he gasped, stepping backwards into someone else. "I'm sorry!" he gasped again, turning around to see who else was going to push him.
"Oh don't worry, darling," a woman with a scar that disfigured the entire left side of her face was looking a Raff curiously. "I've had worse."
"I'm sorry," he said again.
"Don't be sorry for me, darling. You need to be sorry for yourself. Come inside and buy me a drink before one of these great oafs takes your head off for looking at 'em funny."
She took his hand and led him through the crowds into the Tavern.
"Thing is, darling," she said to him as they drank their second pitcher of ale. "You're little. I mean proper slight, any one of these idiots could kill you just by punching you. And you're quiet, gentle spoken, like. I'm sure there must be some nice gentleman's club you could frequent where you won't get stabbed or anything."
"I like it here," Raff smiled. "No-one knows me, and mostly they leave me alone. I feel like I can really be myself here."
"You're lucky, not many people here get to be themselves, we all have to play a role."
"What's your role?"
"Ha, I'm the madam, darling! Ain't no-one gunna touch me now I got this, but ain't no-one gunna touch any of my girls, I take care of them, for a percentage."
"You want a girl, you ask Polly, I'll sort you out, any type, I got em all. I'll do you a sweet deal too, cos you're nice and ain't said nothing about me scar."
"I'm alright for now, thank you," Raff began awkwardly. "I don't think you should worry about your scar, you're a nice person, people will see beyond it."
"Oh sweet'eart, not in my line of work they won't. So, you got a sweetheart, or don't you like girls?"
"I don't really know what I like," he said truthfully. "I like who I am, here, now, with you."
"Well, ain't that sweet, I'm here every night, gotta keep an eye on my girls though, so you'll have to excuse me if I leave you."
"'Ark at 'e! 'of course'! I'm sitting with a proper gentleman. I'll get your story out of you eventually."
It was dawn when Raff left the tavern and headed down the streets home. He scrambled over the fence into the back garden to his parents' home, and up the large oak tree that overlooked his bedroom window. It was a bit of a jump, but he'd discovered that if he didn't look down then it was easy enough to make the distance. Grabbing the window ledge he pulled himself into the window and landed on the floor with a heavy thump.
"Isabelle?" his mother's voice called from down the corridor. "Are you alright? Did you fall out of bed again?"
"I'm fine mother," he responded, quickly changing out of his evening clothes and pulling a night dress on over his bound breasts. "Just tripped on the chair."
"Well hurry up, we're having brunch with Sir Thomas at eleven, and you need to be looking your best, I have a new dress being delivered for you.
YOU ARE READING
The crew of the Black Dog airship are made up of an assortment of people, from different backgrounds and worlds. Raff and Polly have crash landed in the Arkurite Empire, and found their place amongst the crew, but how did they get there, and what's...