She was not human; couldn’t be.

Save that she was more comely than most, and young and willing, the girl sleeping in the grimy bed was like any other girl shaped for the sport of sailors. Only this one was a songstress and ethereal in appearance. Just as there was a price for this foul room under the eaves of the inn, so there was a price for her willingness; and they must both be paid, cash on the barrelhead.

In the space of seven days ashore, Mercer Hollingsworth had spent all his hard-won pay on the girl, and on this attic room, which was as soiled as a tub of swill. But the girl, as strange as she was, was better than the accommodations: a pretty wanton when she coalesced with the form of true femininity, her generous flesh formed for a lover’s hands like the soft billow of a sail. And her voice! Oh, her voice….

It was Mercer’s last night, and after their sport, the girl slept, like a log of driftwood lulled below the surface of life by the greater power of the sea. Mercer was left to rule the kingdom of the land. It was no great heritage, and he still had to see the old duke in the morning before he set off, for he was a sailor of the “freelance” sort.

While he swigged his cold ale in the darkness, the room itself grew colder. The girl stole the best portion of the blankets, as the candlewick flickered, begging piteously to be snuffed; even the spiced ale turned sour. He would have a fine thick on the morrow, when he must board ship again and take up the sweat and stink of life without the fourth part of a shilling to show for his pains. He savored, as best he could, the last of the ale, the last of his purse, and the last of the land. If nothing could be counted on save spent drink, spent money, and spent manhood, then what a swinish couch had Christ their Savior spread for the limbs of man.

Previous Page Next Page Page 2 of 23