Tales of the Sea Bitch (34)
The Licensed Quarter... there were notes on the
Island Garden, the House of Foreign Stories, and the House of the
The House of Foreign Stories had two entries, one
from the Memoirs and one from the earlier magistrate.
The Memoirs said it was a geisha house run by a
gaijin, Magda. She was very unusual looking to the Nipponese, and
dressed like a foreigner too. She told tales of places far away,
where there was winter and snowy mountains on the other side of the
Burning Sands. She told of her journey across those sands
too. Wonder what the writer would have made of me?
The magistrate's dossier said that it was owned and
run by Magda, a vassal of the Unicorns. It was a geisha house,
but all the stories and drinks were from foreign lands.
Apparently doing a gaijin house was the only way the Unicorns could dig
into the Scorpion monopoly, such as the Unicorn's Morning Star
house. Magda's papers needed to be renewed regularly, which the
magistrates had done for mostly "don't rock the political boat" reasons.
So that was where we went. We actually had to
take a boat, which while obviously tiny at least moved around under my
feet. It was all too short a trip to the dock, but the waiting in
the boat to dock was welcome to me at least, although the master of the
boat apologized for it.
Once we got ashore, the dock was small, cramped, and
busy. Everyone moved out of our way, of course, but it wasn't an
easy feeling. We were on the northern end of the island, and had
only two ways to go in front of us. One was through a large dirty
servant's gate, constantly busy with people carrying supplies.
The other way out was through the house. Next to that gate, right
in front of the dock, was a very fancy large sword polishing
establishment, as if the dock was private to the house. The dock
was certainly inside the wall that adjoined the house.
We of course went into the house. We were
welcomed in by a very large man, who introduced himself as Gate.
Several young boys stood with large pillows on which we were to leave
our swords for polishing. My rapier drew some funny looks, but I
placed it on a cushion. Everyone else surrendered their weapons
too, although it took Toni a while to get through all his.
We were then shown to the back door, and exited into
the island proper. A small stable lay off to one side, and a main
road stretched out in front of us. We walked out past the Island
Garden, a complicated maze of bushes, trees, and flowers hiding people
sneaking off for covert assignations of all types.
A little further on, on the right, was perhaps the
largest building on the island. Miwa told us the stylistic sign
said House of Foreign Stories, in Nipponese made to look like a desert
The main room downstairs was large and open, lots of
people here. Large sumptuous cushions laid around for seating, a
very foreign flavor around the Nipponese low tables. Artwork was
foreign too, and so were the servers and entertainers. These
women were from all over the world, including some elves, but not
We were immediately shown to a table. Several
women came over and asked what we would like. Miwa simply asked
for some sake, and I was going to join her in that. Phoebe looked
overwhelmed, so I smiled at her to try to make her feel more
comfortable. The woman asked me if I wanted an elven drink, a
particularly rare one to find outside elf society, and of course I
agreed enthusiastically. She went on to offer everyone else
drinks from all sorts of places. No beer, but spirits and wines
from everywhere. Phoebe joined me in the Goldenleaf, a thick rich
amber with tiny silvery flakes.
Exotic foods were also on offer. Miwa ordered
a platter with a spread of finger food from all over the world.
A woman playing some unusual stringed instrument
We sat there for half an hour or so, enjoying the
food, drink, and music, and watching people leave in pairs for the
upstairs. Eventually a beautiful Imperial -- or southern middle
sea -- woman came down the stairs. She was clearly Magda.
She circulated through the rooms, and worked our way to the table.
Magda looked straight at Miwa, addressed her by her
formal name -- and the title assistant to the Emerald Magistrate of
Ryoko Owari -- and welcomed her, and introduced herself.
Miwa greeted her politely in return. She said
she had heard she ran the most interesting establishment on the island
and was not disappointed.
Magda complimented Miwa in kind, saying she had
heard she was beautiful and intelligent and was not disappointed.
After a little chat between the two of them, Magda
then went around our group in kind. She came on to the men,
but not to me. Actually that was kind of a relief, I'd be off
with her in a flash.
After about 20 minutes, she made her excuses, went
over to a central spot in the room, and told one of Her Stories.
It was a good story. Magda was good.
After the story, she continued circulating, while we
continued to be pampered. Eventually a Nipponese gentleman came
over and introduced himself to Miwa. He was obviously a minor
member of the Governor's family, and asked if he might join us.
Miwa gestured him to a seat, and he then asked
politely how she was enjoying the town, and if everything was fine in
her position as Assistant to the emerald magistrate. He was
handsome enough if you liked men, I guess, and seemed genuinely
interested. They talked for a while.
Meanwhile a very attractive african woman came over
and sat down next to me. She was clearly coming on to me
hard. I glanced over at Phoebe to see if she looked upset, but I
wasn't expecting it. I was a spirit, right? Heck, just as
well go for it. Magda had gone to this effort, I wasn't going to
insult her. So I dived right in.
Everyone but Toni was getting someone who seemed to
be pretty fine tuned. Miwa's guy didn't really seem to be coming
on too hard to her, but perhaps that was the tuning.
Upstairs there were private rooms, and less private
rooms for more public activities, and a balcony around the whole
upstairs for strolling and talking and so on. That's about all I
noticed. If you want to know anything else you'd have to ask one
of the others.
I heard that Peter spent the time hearing foreign
stories. Phoebe was assailed by a parade of people in groups who
came over to talk to her, obviously trying to figure out what her deal
was. She talked, told stories, listened to stories, and so
on. Shortly they asked if she'd tell a story to the whole
room. Of course she did, and of course she was great. Sorry
I missed it. Well, not that sorry given the alternative, but you
know what I mean. Eventually she went off with someone too.
For most of the evening, Toni was left to
himself. Later on, though, Magda came and sat down with him
herself. They spent a lot of time laughing and talking.
Miwa eventually figured out the guy with her
was attracted and ready to go as far or not as far as she wanted.
As soon as Miwa indicated the evening was over, he expressed his desire
to meet with her again. They parted on pleasant terms.
As for me, I was offered tobacco and opium as
well. I declined. I guessed I might be alone in that, and
kind of expected Phoebe to try the opium. I wasn't going to ask,
but if she wanted to talk about it, it was fine. I must admit I
was curious. But I'd spent my life not getting drunk on board
ship, and didn't want another habit that could lead to me falling
At some point, goodness knows when, aomeone came to
my room and politely and discreetly indicated Miwa was asking about me.
With a grin I said to tell her I was enjoying my shore leave.
Which I was.
((Miwa did not want to leave without the entire group. She wasn't
too impatient yet at 2 am. Entertainment continues and the party
went on. It was 4-5 am when she finally got impatient.))
Much, much later someone came by and ever so gently
implied it was time for me to leave with Miwa. So I came on down.
As we were leaving, Magda in a more serious tone
said she had a very important matter she needed to discuss with Miwa,
and would it be possible to meet with her that evening at her office? I
didn't catch what she said in reply, but I imagine she agreed to it.
Miwa had actually managed to remember to ask her man
about the magistrate. Apparently he was a fine and honorable man,
possibly the best Emerald Magistrate the city had in many, many
years. It was a great tragedy he died. He was starting to
burn out from the stress of the job, starting to make mistakes and
didn't seem to have his heart and mind in the right place as often
towards the end of his life.
Miwa gently asked for specifics. Gently in
reply, he knew that the relationship between him and the governor was
always excellent, but towards the end the man heard rumors that there
were differences between them. He was quick to say that nothing
that would lead to his death, just disagreements about how to care for