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Sometimes, people ask how I started doing this.

It’s simple, really. There I was, not a week past my sixteenth birthday, meandering through the market and looking at all sorts of goods that I had no hope of buying for myself. I was dreaming of the time I might have enough money for it – me, a youth of no trade, no prospects; me, a street urchin, my father dead before I was born, my mother jailed for smuggling dream-spice. But I dreamed anyway, dreamed of the time when I would be a man of substance, when the name of Edmond Larson would command respect. What I would be, how I would get that wealth, I had no idea; but I dreamed of having it.

And in the short term, I would take the pennies I’d begged for, and buy one of the spiced buns that had been tantalizing my nose for the last quarter-hour.

Before I reached the baker’s stall, though, I saw a woman.

She was a respectable looking woman – tall; even though she was seated, I could see that she would be tall when she stood. Slender and fit, with just enough of a swell about the chest to draw a young man’s eye, not so much that it seemed unnatural or blatant. She wore a dress that looked more like the fine ones I’d seen come out of the tailor’s shops than those the working-class women wore, and it flattered her quite well. Her fur was finely-groomed and shining, the dark markings around her eyes brought out all the more clearly; her claws were varnished

Looking back, I think she was either on heat or getting close to it. I saw many beautiful women throughout the market, after all; but this one seized my attention more than they did. More like the girls I’d seen on the way to school a few years ago, when my mother was still caring for me and I was attending school myself. They weren’t necessarily that much more lovely than their neighbours, their perfume wasn’t different that an uncultured lad like me could tell, but something about them just… seized a man’s attention. This woman was like that.

Just seeing her had been enough to stop me in my tracks; but then, something happened that I’d never have expected. She turned to look my way. She smiled at me, lifting a hand with one finger out and half-curled, beckoning. I must have taken the few steps over to her table, though I didn’t remember doing so.

“Hello there, handsome,” she purred, still smiling up at me as I stood gawking on the other side of the table. “You’re looking a little lost.”

I swallowed a few times before finding my voice again. “I suppose so.”

Her hand swept outward, gesturing toward the chair opposite her. “Sit down, be comfortable.”

I sat. I was uncomfortably aware that my fur was dirty and dishevelled and in dire need of a brush-out, my clothes patched, worn, and showing a few tears, and I was barefoot, my last pair of sandals lost weeks back; I had enough of my old schoolboy manners left that sitting with a fine-looking woman while I was in such a state felt very awkward. But she was nice; asked my name, asked what brought me to the market. I didn’t dare tell her that I was just there to look at all the fine things and dream; when I said I was hungry, she rang a little bell, and sent a man who came out from the stall behind her to go get a spice bun, and told me to keep my money.

Again, it felt awkward, but if this woman had told me to walk on my hands across the marketplace and back, I’d have tried. I swallowed my awkwardness, and ate.

She was, of course, a procuress. She made sure, first, that I had some awareness of sex – and I did; school had gone into some of the basic details, I’d had a few fumbling experiences with other schoolboys as most schoolboys did, and I’d moved on to girls in the months before finding myself on the street. The woman – she said her name was Clarissa – said she thought I’d clean up nice, and they always had a need for men, especially young men. Men that women on heat could come to, for a fierce lay that would convince their bodies that they’d mated, so that their heat would subside and they – and all the men they came in contact with – could get on with their lives instead of being constantly distracted by the body’s craving for sex. And then they could get on with their lives. Married women generally had their husbands for that, but unmarried women – or married women whose husbands were too often away – sometimes needed a man with whom they could approach sex as a business: come, do what was needed, pay, and go on their way, with no lasting attachment beyond that.

She could offer me a pleasant job, reliable, good food, a roof over my head, and a comfortable room in which to practise this trade. And a doctor every so often, to ensure that if someone did bring in the nasty infections that unlicensed prostitutes sometimes got, I would be properly rid of it. There was just one catch: I’d need to submit to a surgeon who would cut my cord and render me sterile. I was needed for sex, not for my seed. But it wasn’t a horrible process – it would hurt for a short time, but not badly, and then I could get on with my life, without worry for the consequences. She had a handsome young man beside her by this point, named Allan, who nodded when she spoke and said that he’d suffered far worse playing at sports, and that sex was, if anything, more enjoyable as play for not needing to worry about a possible pregnancy.

By that point, the need was so strong in me that either one of them could have reached into my trousers then and there, and I’d not have objected. It was the man who took the next step, moving around to my side of the table, rubbing behind my ears, murmuring into one of them that maybe he could take me inside, get me cleaned up, and deal with that rising lust so I could answer with a clear head. I was young and foolish enough to take his words at face value; I accepted. He took me a short walk away from the market, into a building with a red glass lantern hanging for it, extinguished in the daytime but a clear marker all the same.

The room he ushered me into was finer than any I’d been in before. It had a washroom attached, with running, heated water, rather than needing to fill a basin from a public fountain, heat it, and then laboriously dump it into the bath. And the soaps he rubbed into my pelt had scents that were nearly erotic in their own right. Coupled with the way his hands ran over me, I was moaning by the time he finished.

And once I was dry, he laid me on the soft, comfortable bed, atop the smooth, fine sheets, and he slid his mouth down and around my rampant arousal.

Some part of me was wise to the notion that I was being tested, so rather than simply indulging in the pleasure, letting it sweep through me in a hurry, I held on; stroked his ears and jaw and the bridge of his snout, undulated under his attentions, and apparently pleased him. He shed the robe he’d slipped into after bathing me, fetching a flask of clear oil, smearing some of it over my shaft. Then it was his turn to lie back, and he coaxed me into place atop him, into him.

Not something I’d done more than thrice in my prior experimentation with other youths, that, but not for lack of enjoyment; that simply marked the point at which I’d found willing girls instead. And it was so much easier with Allan – he didn’t caution me, didn’t urge me to go slowly; in fact, he urged me faster, not only with words but with his tight grip on my shoulders, claws pressing through my newly-groomed fur and against my skin, and with his quick breaths and needy squirming under me. I pumped into him, and he nipped at my chin and urged me to go faster, harder, until I was driving into him as hard as my legs allowed, growling over his ears with a swelling, urgent need. As I shot into him, he clutched tightly to me, panting over my throat, urging me on.

He gave me a quarter-hour or so to collect myself after that, and it was in the haze of pleasure that his earrings caught my attention; two silvery studs, each of which clutched a large, brilliant blue stone, both flecked through with white like the wispy clouds of a clear, cool day. He saw my attention, slipped one of them out, and held it up for me to look closer, asking if I liked them; when I confessed that I did, he explained that I’d be given one if I accepted Clarissa’s offer, as a marker of my profession. A symbol of potency and virility, he said; he had two because a woman had chosen him as her favoured consort, but he was still available to others if she didn’t need him then.

Looking back, the whole business was not meant to give me perspective, but to draw me in further. The luxurious surroundings, the attentive partner, the jewellery, the nice, clean clothes Allan dressed me in, even right back to the kind way they’d treated me at the table in the marketplace. And it worked; it felt like such a small thing, to go back down to the market with him, to meet that lovely woman again, to agree to her offer.

I’d only been old enough to sign contracts for myself for a week, but old enough I was. I didn’t read too closely, I admit, but all the things I saw looked decent. Room and board, guaranteed work, the attentions of physicians… all for ten years of work, and one simple cost: my ability to sire children. I was young and foolish, used to a working-class life for the most part, and the harder life of the streets more recently; I didn’t think, then, that I’d ever have any want for children of my own. And I was dazzled by the luxury being dangled before me. Signing my name was a small thing.

Things happened fast from there. I was brought to another brothel; my room there was smaller than the one Allan had brought me to, but it was still rich and comfortable. It didn’t have its own bath, but there was a communal bath in the building. I didn’t exactly have much in the way of belongings to sort into the place, but I was promised a tailor later on.

That afternoon, I was ushered to a physician’s office, placed in the care of a very serious woman who radiated competence like Clarissa had radiated beauty. She gave me a few instructions – how long I could expect to be hurting, how long until I would be “safe” to start working – as she was numbing me. I felt nothing while she was cutting or stitching;when she switched tools and pierced my ear, it stung, of course, but nothing unbearable.

The next few days were uncomfortable, though it was somewhat eased by the better conditions I found myself living in. After a week or so, the discomfort had waned enough that I dared accept the invitations of my new fellows to some social evenings. One in particular, Thomas, was recovering from having his cord cut just a week before I did; since neither he nor I was yet safe to work with women, we paired up for the next few weeks for some more personal entertainment, running through every position we knew and some that we stumbled upon.

They were good weeks. A round or two of sex each day, good food, comfortable quarters, and enough time in the day for a proper constitutional; compared to the dreary and straitened existence I’d had before, life was feeling good, even when I did have enough time to contemplate the costs of this deal I’d accepted. Ten years would make a hefty portion of my life; and now that I was living comfortably, thoughts of a family didn’t seem so outlandish. A family which I wouldn’t be able to have, anymore.

Still, what choice had I had? I wasn’t sure I’d have lasted much longer on the streets, not long enough for my mother, distant at even the best of times, to serve her time and be released. I’d have had no family had I died in a ditch somewhere, and even less chance of leaving any sort of legacy. This way, I was alive, comfortable, and after ten years of pleasant work, I could learn a proper trade and live a proper life.

And in the meantime, I was surrounded by attractive people. Like the slim youth dozing with me in the morning sunlight, his breath warm and gentle on my throat, the scent of our union the night before still lingering upon us.

To be sure, I’d given a great deal. But I’d received good value in return.

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