The city was one of the pioneers of modern age with functional sewerage system. Unfortunately, it was intended to be used by a significantly less number of people than the city was holding now. In the last decade, the number of residents tripled, everybody wanted to enjoy the cozy life of stench free metropolis.
Built in lids where a building would connect to the public sewerage system where there to prevent its content to get back into those houses. This solved the problem for most of the private homes where the frequency of toilet visitors was reasonably small. Buildings that provided public service to the citizens often had problems with lids’ springs jumping out their seats.
Wealthy city once again needed help from poor people that were willing to work all sorts of jobs just to make ends meet. Even among those jobs, there were jobs considered less glamorous than others. Entering sewerage system to fix the lids was one of them, it took a lot to cross a border of one own’s mindset and become a sewerage worker. People often cross the borders of their own mindsets. Sadly, most of the time bad circumstances make them do that. We rarely cross the borders for the mere fun of it.
If one got lucky as a sewerage worker, during a shift, one would service a building used by opulent people. Those buildings had lids beneath toilets so most of the time there was no need to immerse completely into the sewer to find the lid and fix the spring. Opening the toilet and reaching the lid was a job for men tiny in size for normally sized men had too big and too rough hands to find and fix something as delicate as the spring.
“I never understood why they do not allow women to do this. Their hands are as deft as ours.”, commented the worker in a mild voice. In these couple of months he worked as a sewerage guy, no one heard him say a bad word about anyone, no curses left his lips nor he raised his voice. Even when they sent him to fix the spring on the main sewage conduit in one of the hottest summer nights, he did it. When asked how come he never shows anger or peeve, he said: “Those are just circumstances. I do not see a purpose of allowing circumstances to ruin my mood.” The sewerage man’s coworkers concluded he must desperately need the money because working this job for this long without having a day off simply had no other explanations.
One day he was sent to an “Inn” on the docks – one of the girls had her toilet clogged by her client. He was drunk and he spilled his guts into the toilet. Clogged toilets are bad for business. Inns were the best clients, they needed urgent help and were ready to pay for it. It was not usual for a sewer workers to look anywhere except the floor while moving around clients’ buildings. In these sorts of “Inns” it was most certainly forbidden to make an eye contact. Besides fast reactions and effectiveness, they valued discretion above all. When he unclogged that girl’s toilet, on the stairs, on his way out, he passed by a visitor. This calm, polite, meek sewerage worker did something no one would expect of him. As he was passing by the visitor, sewerage worker looked at him, caught his eyes and lifted a brow with a slight sly smile. Neither of them stopped. The did not even slow down, they were too busy with whatever they were about to do. One might think the sewerage guy showed contempt towards the visitor but a thought about a sewerage guy feeling contempt towards any visitor of an “Inn” had not ground in common sense. To the attentive eye, that was no contempt, it was superior amusement. The one dog owners show when their pet meets a hedge hog. One might want to warn his pet but it is better to let a dog decide if the opportunity to play with the hedge hog offers more benefits than dangers. For a moment it seemed the visitor recognized a sewerage man. Was it the eyes that were so familiar? The visitor had no time to dwell upon it, the girl was waiting for him. Sewerage guy got out of the “Inn” and continued with his shift. Visitor twitched when girl grabbed his buttocks as he was penetrating her and that is when he realized who the sewerage guy is. For a brief moment he felt shame. He realized this girl is not giving him pleasure. It is not because she did not know her job. It was because she was not his. God knows he had the money and skills to make her become his forever. The thing is, he did not want to make her become his. She was just a shell that was doing what she was supposed to do. She laughed when others laughed, she cried when others cried, things that most people found amusing, amused her too. Like a monkey, she was a normal human being. His behavior changed, he stopped being a caring, attentive, seductive man. The visitor started to show her he dislikes her. He did not despise her job, it was her way of thinking he hated. He scared her easily for she was one of those people that get scared by the things they cannot explain. Once he was done with her, he let her go. Weeks after that night, the girl was blushing whenever other girls would mention visitor’s name. He was different than other men she had and she was hoping to get more of him.
In weeks that followed, sewerage guy and the visitor did not meet even though the visitor tried to get a hold of him a couple of times. After a while, the visitor gave up, “She will find me if she needs me.”, he thought to himself.
Two months later, sewerage man’s coworkers were taken abrupt to learn he quit his job. They soon exhausted all the theories about his resignation, some other guy took his place and the memory of him faded away.
Getting better clothes was the easy part, getting the stench of sewage out of her nostrils wasn’t. In one of the “Inns” she heard a guy bragging about beating his whore bloody because she did not get fast enough to her knees for him. She recognized the ring on his finger – he was one of the wealthy merchants. It was a sign he belonged to the merchandise elite. She noticed him but he did not even see her. One could smell a sewerage worker is near but it was almost impossible to notice him since they were always around, helping the city to function properly. They were invisible and meek while dealing with excrement opulent people ejected from their asses. Make no mistake, opulent people do not shit, they call it “working on prosperity of the society they belong to”. Their wealth gives them the right to proclaim their excrement as something normal, as something worth being admired.
This is why she took the job in the first place – she was invisible and got to go everywhere and hear everything. The goal was to find out who whipped that poor woman whose corpse her former bed companion planted to her pursuers. People talked. She listened.
One stormy day merchant was informed about a ship wreck. Most of his goods were saved but the papers were gone. He needed to get to the docks as soon as possible to reclaim his goods or someone else will claim them for him. His spies already warned him about other merchants. They were on their way to the docks too. Storm was raging, his money was about to go to waste so our merchant decided to ride a horse instead of taking a carriage. On a horse he could take shortcut to the docks. It was a steep treacherous trail but he often used it to beat his competition. Never during a storm though. Merchant was not concerned about it, his horse knew the trail by heart. All he thought about was the money. When his horse tripped, the merchant fell off it. Horse broke only one but the merchant broke both of his legs. Empress found them both laying on the ground, getting wet but only one of them was moaning, swearing, despairing. She cut horse’s throat. There is no reason for a noble animal to suffer. Then she squatted next to the merchant,
“You people drop like flies, all I have to do is wait for your stupidity to kick in. Shut up now and listen to me carefully. You have two choices. You can cooperate and help me take off your robes or you can try to fight me. Either way I get what I want but in the fight you might get even more injured. If you behave, I will let you take my clothes and hand you your sword before I leave.”
He nodded and she took off his robes. His pants were ruined though. They were torn and bloody so she left them on. Robes were full of metal ornaments.
“How can you carry these around? I thought you are weak and skinny but I have to admit it takes strength to wear these.”, she stripped metal ornaments, “There, no one will suspect the robes were yours. You are famous by your vanity, I will not be.”
She was shorter than him so his robes almost completely hid her pants. She helped him put on her clothes and threw him his sword.
“Here, this is more than you did for that whore of yours. Wolves already picked up your scent. Soon they will be upon you. Use this sward as wise as you can.”
That very evening the remains of our merchant were found. He had fought hard, even killed one wolf but it wasn’t enough. Wolves were many and with broken legs he had no real chance to survive.
Empress continued on foot. It was harder to run wearing so much clothes but at least she was warm and dry. By the time she arrived to the docks, most of the merchandise was claimed. She managed to get a few chests by presenting herself as her homeland merchant that got robbed after he crossed the border and got close to the city. It only takes to be proud-spirited, strict and to know how to dominate a room by mere appearance and body movements to make people believe her. Basically, all she had to do was to let her true self peek out for a moment. Those chests were enough to rent a room in a decent Inn and to enable her to start a new life as a small merchant. Empress chose a unisex name. For the time being, she was content to enjoy in seeing people squirming while trying to figure out if she is a woman or a man.