Though she had been warned even by those who knew the city only by reputation, Eve remained determined to wear a cloak as she walked through the streets of Gash. Heat rising visibly from vents along the edges of the boulevard caused condensation to gather inside her hood. Sweat ran down her cheek, and it occurred to her that, if one thing defined this city, it was exactly that: sweat.
A few turns and alleyways taken, and Eve matched the crude drawing she’d been given to the emblem of a bed hung from chains above a door. This was the place. Its parlor was nondescript, with straight, uncomfortable lines on its sparse furniture. A woman entered from a rear office, raising her eyebrows.
“I was told I should come here?” Eve said. “I’ve got a note.” She wrung suddenly empty hands. The woman’s eyes were quick to dart across the page, then she motioned for Eve to follow her down a long, curved stair. A thick, wooden door waited at the bottom, slightly open.
Once inside, Eve heard the door slam as one arm wrapped around her own while another covered her mouth and shoved cloth inside. Before she could get them to the gag, her hands were slipped into knotted rope, which pulled taut, lifting her arms over her head.
Her heart beating ferociously, Eve watched the approach of a woman who could have been any woman and yet was entirely herself. She wore a hood quite unlike Eve’s. Hers was that of an executioner. Strong, gloved hands ripped Eve’s cloak from her back. Then they lifted a short, leather whip. The hooded woman ran the smooth, knotted pommel of the whip along the scars crossing Eve’s legs, then up to a small tattoo inside her thigh.
“You like pain,” said a milky voice from behind the mask.
Then the whip’s pommel pushed upward once again.
Hours later, with all things slack and released, Eve gathered her cloak around her shoulders. The hooded woman held the door open.
“I hope everything was satisfactory, Madame,” she said.
Eve nodded, curtly. “I shall review you favorably to Her Ladyship. Your license is renewed for another year.”