“Wide as the eyes can see, as expansive as the imagination,” she delighted, gesturing with open arms towards the numberless threads that composed the urban quay. “It’s always like this,” she continued, “ships coming in and out typically bearing spices but also such desirables as horses, smelted ores, even slaves—whatever’s necessary and whatever will make a profit.”
“Have to admit, I’ve not seen such an assembly of sails in all my life, perhaps won’t again my entire life-time. Such a panoply of different ships—brigantines, barques, sloops, men-o-war, and god knows what else beyond my own reckoning, but I have to ask, first and foremost, what are those,” he queried, gesturing to the aggressive prows of several single-masted vessels abounding in three whole ranks of oars.
“Consider yourself lucky I’m so well-read,” she replied, winking coquettishly. “They’re called ‘triremes,’ the technology of our human predecessors, what became the Ivederenghoi. Fine fine warships, but they require an outrageous number of slaves to successfully man; I’m told they smell delicious of human secretions after some weeks of use. Anyways, they’re all owned by the various Ga Zakazi; you can tell by the colors of the sails. Those the property of House Barsica are marked in blue and black stripes.”
“Do you dominate the local trade?” he requited, noting down the great number of such crudely appointed sails.
“We certainly do fairly well,” she replied, silently counting the vessels stowed in harbor, “and while they can be used for trade as in warfare I would mark their maximum range as somewhat less than the more heavily masted vessels of our foreign contemporaries.”
“I would imagine,” was all his reply, gazing out upon the numerous marble-slabbed piers half-collapsed to the unimaginable depth below replaced ramshackle and ad-hoc with crudely-sawn and improperly planed wooden slats standing upon great tree-trunks unstripped of their massive bark and undoubtedly rotting below. “So slaves are typically reserved for manual labor, but are they ever otherwise employed?”
“Oh in all sorts of things,” she replied thoughtfully, thumbing her chin. “For a number of years we had the services of a fencing instructor who’s recently been given leave to retire in his old age. There’s a number of smiths working in the employ of House Tyletus predominantly in the iron smelter. We even had a shipwright who was—under peculiar circumstances, if you ask me—disappeared one evening from his private home. Basically talent, wherever we can get it. You see, we live in a bipartite society. The general population that you’ve generally witnessed about live in covens. The female Szchellezi have marginal intelligence, and they possess, trade, and stud the virtually witless males of our species, as need be, who are generally constrained to simple labor activities—occasionally used as brute force in warfare. The females give birth to clutches of eggs and the infants fight for limited resources before being recognized by their covens.”
She nodded assent. “We in the upper class have to maintain access to respectable human males for the sake of reproduction. We give live birth and even nurse our young. Unfortunately, while our females are completely valid, the males are mules, though they remain highly intelligent and excellent leaders in both civilian and military life.”
“So without a larger upper class—“
“There’s little we can do to improve our lot.”
“The very opposite of a top-heavy society.”
“But what about the mules then, necessarily they maintain a libido even if they’re sterile?”
Here Gul Ladal interjected, “The degenerate slaves run brothels throughout the city. Women—and men—that have been born within and never blemished by sunlight, whose beauty dwarfs their country own.”
“Somehow, I feel dirty,” Arius concluded.