The Grinning Rogue: The Courtesan's Contest

06 May 2015
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Tags: Bard

The Grinning Rogue: The Courtesan's Contest

These tales are compiled for the enjoyment and edification of our audience. I must say, I do boldly put my liver and health at risk for my dear readers by buying and drinking prodigious amounts of spirits at various public establishments. There, I pry tales out of various and sundry characters. As in all cases, the names have been changed to protect the guilty."

- Iason Glamure of SeaGate

You maycall me Alexis.

I am a member of the Guild of Courtesans in SeaGate. For the correct amount of platinum, I will accompany a gentleman—or lady—to events. I can also entertain them in their home and host private parties. I have a few side jobs of note: I gather information for those who are willing to purchase it because many tongues wag in front of a beautiful lady or when soaked in claret. I also provide additional services… for the right price.

This night, I was accompanying a toad of a man. Normally, I never would have agreed to escort him as his social standing was far below my normal standard, but he was going to a party at the Seaworthy family manse, and I just had to make it.

A bit about me: I am an elven woman of above average height. Easy on the eyes. This night I am wearing a flowing forest green gown that clinches at my wasp waist. It is sleeveless with a wrap that is so fashionable right now. My hair is up in the complicated braid-work demanded by this type of formal engagement. Though I have considerable physical charms, it is my grace and wit that have me in such demands in the circles that require courtesans. Prostitutes are only used for their physical abilities and appearance, but we courtesans are well versed in art and science. We also play a variety of instruments and are exceptional dancers. In short, we are the perfect adornment for those who move in high society.

The Seaworthy family manse is a sprawling compound made within the boles of several huge trees in the center of their sector. It was the birthday of one of the many members of their clan, and this was their coming of age party where the youthful nobility were presented for the first time. In addition to entertaining Mr. Toad, I was to socially ruin a nascent buyer and seller of shares in various merchant enterprises around the city. His competition believed his impeccable reputation gave him an unfair advantage.

The arched ceiling of the grand ballroom was made of the living wood of our host trees, polished and shined for the occasion with multicolored lanterns reflecting their light from strategically-placed mirrors. The fractured reflections from above illuminated the room. My green dress alternated from red, pink, and black depending on which lantern’s light or shadow played across my body. Many of the Seagate glitterati were present—or at least the younger half of it. The receiving line took some time to navigate, but we were finally through and could take our places in the dance.

The first number was a phantasia, and we, along with hundreds of other attendees, stepped through the flowing piece. Mr. Toad danced as well as I expected. He stepped on my dress, twice, as he awkwardly hopped through one of the changeovers. The dance finally ended, and I retreated to the northern wall of the ballroom, by tradition held for the ladies, to repair my outfit.

Most of the women at this party were the younger scions of lesser nobility or the children of the rich who would like to be mentioned in the first social rank. I may have been the only true courtesan present. This fascinated the protected girls of the nobility, and they peppered me with questions about what it was like to be able to pick and choose freely among a variety of men. At first, I shared with them the wondrous moments of the trade, such as the time when I danced with Elbereth CoinSpinner, the high priest, at a reception in the Great Temple. When I judged the time right, I began to spin tales of the designated target: We shall call him Dealer. Tears glistened in my eyes as I lied about how my position was not merely glamorous parties and moonlit strolls. I mentioned Dealer’s horrible temper and how I was afraid of him from an earlier private entertainment. I let the other ladies know that, luckily, none of my bruises showed in formal dress. I told them I was blessed as other courtesans had gone missing entirely. The young socialites began to mutter among themselves and dark glances were sent towards the door when the servants announced the entry of Dealer and his lady. It could not have been more perfectly timed. The group soon split up, and I returned to Mr. Toad at the beginning of the next dance.

He seemed to have improved his step, and we went through the faster moves of a lively reel without disaster. Mr. Toad and I took wine from a passing servant during a break in the music. My distasteful companion, hoping to impress, introduced me to a variety of successful merchants and members of the great guilds. I just hung on his arm, charming many. I was formally introduced to some of the ladies I had been chatting with earlier. One of them was named Eirene, and her escort was a handsome young lord with a tanned face and calloused hands of a swordsman. We shall call him Teodorus. He was fresh to the city from his southern desert estates. Teodorus had just entered society after being raised on his parent’s vast plantations. I had heard the boy’s name before, and he had the reputation of a faultless gentlemen and valiant warrior. Eirene and I chatted at some length about the social happenings. She was trying to pretend that all this was old hat to her, and I covered for her lapses in knowledge faultlessly. With surprising subtlety, she told me that she had informed Teodorus of my problems with Mr. Dealer. It was nice to hear that he was outraged at the thought of violence towards a woman, not everyone views even the greatest of courtesan’s in that way. I squeezed her hand in faux thanks.

My moment finally came as Dealer was about to be formally introduced to me. Just before he took my hand to raise it to his lips, I fitted on my special ring. It pricked his finger, and he quickly flung away my hand to see a small spot of blood on one of his fingers he began to dab with a silk hankerchief. Undetected, I slipped my special ring into a hidden dress pocket and replaced it with a near identical match. I apologized abjectly to Dealer and made my hands shake in mock terror. Teodorus stepped between myself and dealer to take my ringed hand and look at the offending band, noticing a slight burr of metal at the bottom of my newly donned jewelry. “This must have been the cause,” he said. “Just a simple accident.” Dealer stalked away, already becoming enraged by the poison now coursing through his veins. I allowed myself a smile as I thanked Teodorus for his gallantry.

Mr. Toad desired to do business with Teodorus’ family in order to help trade the spices they produce; we were, therefore, bound to that very pleasant couple for the evening and gave me a break from the exclusive company of my companion. Eirene was a joy, still fascinated by the formal event. She had just been introduced to proper society four months before, so this was likely just the fourth or fifth event she’d ever attended. Her family was well regarded in the armor trade and helped factor for several consortiums of craftsmen. The evening passed pleasantly, and I noted that Dealer was becoming more and more flushed. He was hurried and brusque in his actions as the enraging poison took hold. Perfection.

Later in the evening during a quick reel, I deftly steered myself into Dealer’s path. He ran into me with poor grace, and, as I fell, I ground the sharpened heel of my slipper into his ankle. His temper erupted, and he shouted incoherently while his fist hit my jaw. The music stopped as the player’s saw what happened. The hissing intakes of breath filled the room for a moment until Dealer screamed and swung at me again. Teodorus stepped forward and tripped the brute before he got to me. He declared that Dealer was a brigand and no gentleman for striking a lady. He pronounced that, if Dealer dared, he would meet Teodorus at noon the following day with the weapons of his choice to settle the point of honor. Completely out of his mind by now, Dealer roared off the floor and charged at Teodorus.

The young warrior side-stepped the scoundrel’s charge and tripped the crazed merchant yet again, warning him away. Dealer struggled to his feet and stormed back up, windmilling his fists. Finally, the Seaworthy house guards arrived and set upon Dealer. They beat him to the floor while he raged like a beast. It was a glorious spectacle, all I could have hoped for. Dealer was dragged from the room and tossed into the streets. Socially, he may as well have been killed by the dashing young Teodorus whom all the young nobility congratulated for his courage and precision. Mr. Toad helped me to my feet, apologized, and took me home right away. My other employers gave me a great bonus for that evening as the ruin of Dealer was complete.

Battlefield or ballroom, always keep your wits about you. The smiles of the wealthy are like the daggers of thieves.

 

Game Rule Information:
When chatting with the young ladies, Alexis used the Alter Emotion Ability to get them angry with Dealer. She used Sleight of Hand to switch the poisoner’s ring with one that exactly matched it, minus the injector tip. The sharpened heel of her slipper that went into Dealer’s ankle was a sneak attack feat called Enrage Foe.

Enrage Foe: Your sneak attack can make foes extremely angry.

Prerequisite: Int 13+, Cha 13+, 4d sneak attack.

Benefit: When you strike a foe with a sneak attack, you have the option to do 2d less of damage. This forces the target to make a will save versus the total damage suffered or become enraged. An enraged foe wants to destroy the one who did the sneak attack and will do so in melee if physically possible. They will move with the greatest speed to the sneak attack, though they will not do something obviously self-destructive like run over a cliff if the sneak attack is on the other side of a chasm. The target must have an intelligence of at least 2 to be affected and must be subject to both critical strikes as well as mind-affecting spells (though this is not a magical attack).

Example: Karina is a bard with a 5d4 sneak attack. She uses a thrown dagger to Enrage a centaur that is fighting her group. 5d4 minus 2d leaves a possible 3d4 of damage; she rolls and inflicts 11 points of damage. The centaur rolls a will save and gets a 10, failing the check. It becomes enraged and charges at her. It doesn’t see the concealed pit trap she is standing behind and falls into it.

Poisoner’s Ring Advanced Equipment List Cost: 10 gp Weight: N/A

A poisoner’s ring is a ring of any type with a gem or jewel set into it. The gem may be either removed or hinged open to reveal a needle that can be tipped with a single dose of any type of injection-based poison. This is illegal in all cities of good or lawful alignment.

Berserker Weed Common Equipment List Cost: 5 cp Weight: N/A

Berserker weed is the shredded leaf of a plant that grows in the far north. If rolled and smoked, it brings a sense of power and invulnerability. Those taken by its effects assume others know how powerful they are and will react violently to any insult or injury. The weed grants a +1 circumstance bonus to strength and constitution and a -2 circumstance penalty to dexterity and wisdom. It requires increased dosage of the weed to gain the effect after the first use. The user must fail a Stamina Save DC 10 in order to feel the drug.

Alchemical Note:

Berserker Weed is a component in incense of anger as well as an injectable poison. The DC to create the incense is 19. The DC to create the poison is 24.

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