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An Audition (Sunrise, Veshti) [Backstory]

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1 An Audition (Sunrise, Veshti) [Backstory] on Thu Jun 21, 2018 3:37 pm

[TW: Sexual Content, Predatory Seduction]

The letter is left for her at the tiefling slum bar "Devil's Own" which she frequents, on paper so fine that old Iados is almost afraid to touch it; it's heavy and scented with rich vanilla and musk.

When the wax seal is broken, the letter reads: "If you are interested in paying your debt, we may come to a beneficial arrangement for us both. The seventeenth of this month, Heavenly Delights Inn, at first nightwatch. Dress appropriately. Give my card at the door." There is a calling card in the letter, the kind used by high society members: a card with the name 'Veshti Selmer' drawn in the style of a cursive red ribbon. It is an elven name, but not one she recognizes.

There is also a single platinum piece, possibly for her dress; the Heavenly Delights Inn is a high class place just inside the Sun District. Fine enough for a dress code and expensive courtesans; not so fine that it loses the appeal of "slumming" for rich citizens who wouldn't step outside their safe comfortable district for all the tea in Stormdale.

Old Iados is not pleased to hand over the letter to Sunrise. "I don't like this, Sunny. What does a fancy elf want with you? And in a place like that? Lucky she wasn't stabbed coming this side of town just to deliver the letter. She was wearing rubies at her neck! Rubies, Sunny! In this neighborhood! Elves."


---
"I've told you a million times, it's Sunrise, not Sunny," she murmurs absently as she opens the letter. "I haven't been Sunny since I was a chi-" Her voice trails off as she reads the message. Color drains from her delicate features, but other than that her expression doesn't change.

She reads it a second time, then puts it back in the envelope, looking thoughtful. "Iados," she begins, "can you tell me more about what she looked like?"


---
"Rubies," he repeats, rubbing a rag over the bar. "Red hair. Like. Scarlet red. Wore a cloak and I saw the hair and thought she was one of us until she reached the bar and I saw her eyes. That red. Light brown skin. Expensive clothes, big purse. Flirty smile." He snorts disapprovingly. "You wear perfume like that, with red hair loose like that, men gonna get the wrong ideas. Especially when you smile like that. Be careful, Sunny. Madams recruit from the slums sometimes, you know. You're a good girl."


---
She laughs at this, shaking her head. "I'm not going to be a courtesan. There's money in it, but you know I want so much more than that."

She leans on the bar and sips her wine. "Ever heard the name Veshti Selmer?"


---
"Sounds like a courtesan," Iados offers, perhaps unhelpfully. "When I was a boy, back when you were just a song in your mama's pretty voice, we used to pool money on elven women with names like that. Hey, Kaider," he calls down to the end of the bar at his youngest son, a strapping bouncer in his prime. "You heard of Selmer? One of your expensive district girlfriends maybe?"

The man shakes his head, looking amused at the accusation, then pauses at the sight of the letter. "Wait, that redheaded elf? No, but one of the patrons swore that she looked the spitting image of some fancy politician who dips into the Nightdocks now and again." The black market district services almost everyone in the city, including corrupt politicians.


---
Sunrise nods, thoughtful again, and drains her wine. "I should head home," she tells Iados, leaving her payment on the bar. "Thanks for delivering this."

Over the next couple days she asks around, including at various temples, to see what can be learned about Veshti Selmer.


---
Most people do not know who she is, but perseverance pays off: she is an elven politician, and a woman--a combination which is not rare but not terribly usual either.

She faithfully visits the temple of Lastai, she is young by elf standards if not by Brilight standards, and she is bucking for the position of Redport commissioner: a political position which carries very little direct power but from which a savvy holder can make friends and skim money to further their career. The last three Redport commissioners went on from their position to much higher political offices on the council.

She also, or so it is rumored, visits the Nightdocks to support her habit for poppyweed smokes--a lightly addictive pleasure drug which can only be gotten on the black market due to piracy hiccups in the supply line.


---
Sunrise tucks all this information away.

On the night in question, she wears a simple sheath dress, its ivory color creamy against her skin. At the bottom it shades to pale gold; embroidered vines in the same shade climb up the skirt. Her jewelry continues the theme: silver vines with small gold leaves spiral up her forearms, and clips made to look like delicate branches dipped in gold hold her hair in an artistically pseudo-messy up-do. All in all, it's an only very slightly upscale version of what she would normally wear to perform, and by candlelight she seems to glow like a flame.

She enters the upscale club as if she belongs there. In fact she has visited similar establishments - but only as the entertainment. Back straight, looking cool and unbothered, she presents the card at the door as instructed.


---
The gentleman at the door is too well bred to raise an eyebrow but his expression changes from faintly skeptical at the appearance of a tiefling, to surprise at the presentation of the card. She is led after a short delay to a beautiful circular booth in the far corner of the lower level of the inn, a spot with a curtain to pull for privacy or to leave open to look upon other diners. For the moment, the curtain is half-closed, providing a window onto the dining floor but veiled privacy within the booth.

The woman waiting for her inside the curtain is gorgeous by any reasonable measure. She looks to be in her late 20s or early 30s, which for an elf could mean anything. Her hair is a blazing crimson that stands out against olive brown skin and the slightest smattering of freckles. Her ears are long and delicate, her fingernails painted and dipped in jewels, and her dress is cut low to show cleavage which would make a man weak in the knees. Emeralds dangle from her ears and nestle between her breasts, matching the green sheen of her dress.

Her eyes flick over Sunrise with playful hunger and she pats the cushion beside her with a smile. "Welcome, dear. Come sit with me. Have you experienced Heavenly Delights before?"


---
She nods with a smile, sliding into the offered seat. "Ms. Selmer, I presume? I see rubies have been switched for emeralds."


---
Delicate fingers touch her jewels and she smiles warmly. "Do you like them? And please, dear, call me Veshti. If we are to be better acquainted, I would have it be on a first name basis with you."


---
"Are we to be better acquainted?" she asks seriously. "Your letter raised more questions than it answered."


---
Veshti's smile gentles. "I would like that, yes. I think perhaps you might like it as well," she adds with a hint of amusement. "I'm informed you're well on your way to making a name for yourself in politics. You know, I hope, that you will need a sponsor." She gives Sunrise an appraising look over her wineglass. "Idealism and the impoverished huddled masses will only get you so far, I'm afraid."

Eyes still glinting with laughter, she tilts her head. "And you haven't answered my question. You are a follower of Hamity, I think? Do you like them," she repeats. She brushes a hand over the jewels at her breasts, eyes dancing as she studies the tiefling girl.


---
"They're very good quality," she says with a slight nod after only a moment's hesitation. "Well-cut, and they suit your coloring."


---
Veshti grins and reaches up to cup Sunrise's cheek affectionately.

Leaning back in her seat, she makes a gesture and a waiter instantly appears. She orders a dizzying array of seafood: delicate fish in white wines, scallops, and oysters. She also orders spirits for herself and her companion. The man takes down her order and disappears, drawing the curtain behind him.

"I wasn't born in Bright-Light-on-the-Water," she observes, turning back to Sunrise with an appraising eye. "I came from an elf clan to the north. Wretched, filthy place with a lovely name no human--or tiefling, I imagine--can pronounce. I came to the city when I was very young, seeking escape." She grins wolfishly. "I ended up working the beds in this very inn, believe it or not. These jewels, excessive though they may be, serve to communicate to the regulars just how much it would cost to have me: a king's fortune, lost to the night. No one has yet taken me up on the offer, which is just as well."


---
Sunrise relaxes a marginal amount. "Do the regulars often assume that any woman in the inn is on offer? Perhaps I should have worn more jewels myself."


---
Vesti grins again and pats Sunrise's knee. "You're exquisitely decked. No one will bother you. Especially if you remain by my side. Ah, our first course has arrived!"

She eats lightly and sparingly, saving room for more, and her hand has a habit of lingering affectionately on Sunrise's knee. "Have you run into a concept called a life debt, dear?" the woman asks as she eats. "The bards love to romanticize it. It's a barbarian custom."


---
Sunrise makes no sign of wanting or not wanting food, but she doesn't eat until invited to.

She nods at the question. "I've sung of such things," she says with a little smile. "It makes for lovely stories. In real life, of course, no one is bound by a debt they didn't enter into freely." Her tone is light and casual, and she punctuates her words with a very small sip of the expensive liqueur Vesti has provided.


---
Veshti grins and heaps the girl's plate fuller from the spread served to them, and refills her glass with more wine. "Yes! Yes, ah, a bard who understands! How rare! What a jewel!" Her eyes soften and seem almost smitten for a moment. "A debt is like a marriage: It is only worth as much as the parties involved say it is worth. If only one party says a thing is owed, their belief may be true but it is meaningless. Each must agree."

She sips at her wine, studying Sunrise with bright eyes. "You answered my letter, which means you believe you have a debt--or you are curious enough to meet someone who believes you to be in debt to them. Let us settle that right now, dear. Yes, I paid to have you raised at the Lastai temple last year. No, I will not hold it over you. I have no desire for an indentured servant or unwilling accomplice. You may, if you desire, consider the debt null. Or," she adds with a grin, "if your conscience compels you not to accept charity, we can barter a token of repayment. A kiss, if you like. Or something more," she adds with playful stroke of Sunrise's knee. "You see? I'm perfectly willing to wipe the slate clean in whatever manner you desire."

Leaning back in her seat, her eyes hood with shadows but her smile is warm and amused. "Or. If you please, we can parlay this so-called debt into a relationship which could be mutually beneficial to us both. A marriage, if you will, of convenience. I have been seeking another protege for some time, and you have caught my eye as a worthwhile candidate."


---
She takes a scallop and chews it slowly, allowing herself to savor it while also buying a moment to think.

"You delivered the letter," she says a moment later. "You saw the neighborhood I grew up in." Her tone grows dry for a moment. "The city has its own myths, but the truth is that where I come from, anyone too proud to accept charity never leaves. I meant it: I don't consider myself bound by debts I didn't enter into."

She takes a deliberately slow sip of wine, then sets the glass carefully down. "But a relationship of equals, free of obligation? Yes, I would like to discuss that. What sort of 'protege' are you envisioning?"


---
Veshti grins at the answer, clearly pleased by her philosophy. "A woman after my own heart. Can I speak plainly? Right now, you are at best an aspiring demagogue. A rabble rouser. A nobody from nothing. The powers-that-be in this city will, when you become popular enough to notice, turn their wrath on you. Not because you are a tiefling or a woman--though those things will not help--but because you are an outsider. You rail against the system, demand changes and cures and results, without being part of it."

She sips at her wine and leans forward. "Outsiders are dangerous. This is basic animal instinct, not politics. The crowd you play for, they will get you how far? A tiny corner of Westside to rule over as elected postmaster or a civil court judge? Maaaaaybe a mid-level position in the district governor's office? Though it's said the Westside governor prefers boys to girls, dear, and that's a problem for you, I daresay."

Chuckling, she leans back again. "But here I am. Established, known, and with a tiny corner of power I've carved out for myself. An insider who paid her dues and knows the value of a friend. Trusted. I need allies within the system too, dear. Proteges who watch my back--and I theirs--because we rise or fall together as a group. I have two girls already; you will be my third. I only take in girls and I only take in certain... kinds of girls. But if you pass my tests, and if you want this position, you will have a suite of rooms in my Sun District home of your very own and you will be brought into the inner circle of politics in this city as my personal ward. I will mentor you, and help you, and in return you will help me."

Her grin turns wolfish. "This is not a sinecure position I am offering. You will work hard and you will think terrible things about me. But you will rise, and if you are the woman I think you are, you want that shot at power."


---
She swirls the wine in her glass, studying it dispassionately while the woman talks.

"I do want power," she says after a moment. "I'm not ashamed to admit that. This city needs changes." She looks up; passion in her golden eyes makes them seem to glow. "The plague is the most immediate and most urgent problem, but it's only one symptom of a corrupt system. Yes, I want power, real power, the kind that lets you make real changes. I'm willing to work and to fight to get it. If that's what you're offering a shot at, I'm interested. But too many people speak of 'power' as something one uses to line one's pockets and reward one's friends." She shakes her head. "If I just wanted money, there's easier ways to get it."


---
Veshti laughs again, a silver bell of a laugh that fills the closed space. "An idealist. I love it. You're everything I expected from your performances."

Eyes hooded, she studies the girl with amusement. "It is no secret that I am currently seeking the position of Redport commissioner," she says affably. "It is a stepping stone to more and greater things and, yes, it is a lucrative position. But I do not seek power to line my pockets, dear; I line my pockets in search of power. If all I wanted was money and friends, I'd have stayed a courtesan." Sipping at her wine, she chuckles. "I daresay you could make the same career choice. That you have not tells me volumes."


---
She nods slowly, not reacting to the courtesan comment. "So. Let's talk. What 'certain types of girls' are you looking for, and what sort of tests are we talking about?"


---
The elf woman chuckles again. "Let me ask you a question, dear. How adverse are you to favors of a sexual nature? Have you ever, to be blunt, paid rent on your back?"


---
She takes a deep breath, then another. "I've been fortunate enough not to have to," she says quietly. "I would prefer to continue being so fortunate. I accept that that may not be possible."


---
The elf woman studies her for a long moment, only cold appraisal in her eyes.

Then, it is as though a switch has flicked. She withdraws her hand from the girl's knee and she relaxes in her seat. The earthy lust she's been projecting for the entirety of the conversation simply... vanishes, as though it were never there. Her expression turns businesslike, with only the faintest softness about her eyes to indicate friendliness. "I am not a madam," she says easily, leaning back in her seat and swirling the wine in her glass. "I have no interest in recruiting courtesans, either for my own use or others'. However. There will be times in your political career when your body will be needed for use. If I do my job properly, those times will be few and far between, but they will exist and they are part of paying your dues. The kind of girls I recruit are the ones who can accept that reality and turn it to their own advantage."

She lays her purse on the table and withdraws two keys--each embossed with a room number along the length of the metal--and a little resin token which resembles a red autumn leaf wrapped in a ribbon. "I have only one test for you, and it will be my only test. There will be no future tests of your loyalty; I want trust and faith between us, and neither can flourish when being constantly questioned. So here is your assignment: There is a man at a table there."

She flicks a discreet finger and Sunrise sees an elderly human in his sixties waiting at a table alone and looking unhappy. "He was expecting a leggy blond and is disappointed she has not shown. You will go to his table and seduce him in her place. It will not be difficult to do so," she adds with a snort. "He will assume you are a courtesan and will offer to pay you. You will not take his money," she says, giving the girl a sharp look. "Do you understand? No money under any circumstances. You will refuse it, politely. You will take him up to this room--", she hands her the first key, "--and you will treat him with all the respect you would give your father and all the affection you would give your lover. He is old and boorish and predictable, and you can probably get away with using only your mouth," she adds, thinning her lips in mild distaste.

"When he falls asleep after, you will leave this resin token on the pillow beside him and you will let yourself out. Do not harm him, wake him, or steal from him. I want him happy and healthy. Come to this room--", she touches the second key, "--and let yourself in quietly. Quietly. If I am alone, or when the gentleman leaves, you and I will speak and I will tell you why I have asked all this of you."

She leans back in her seat and studies the girl. "I know I am asking you to take a leap of faith. I can promise you this: if you decide to work with me, I will never lie to you, nor will I withhold information without an extremely good reason. I will not ask you to do things without having very good reasons for what I ask, and I will usually even share those reasons in advance. You could say tonight is an anomaly with a purpose: I need to know if you will trust me when you don't know my reasons. I am throwing you into the sea, Sunrise, to see if you can swim. Or you can walk out that door and back into your old life; I will not stop you or trouble you in any way. I am offering you my friendship and patronage, but there is no shame in deciding my ways are not for you."

This speech done, she pauses and arches an eyebrow. "I suppose I do have to ask: you're not a virgin, are you? I'm assuming not, but that would change things ever so slightly."


---
She turns her head when Veshti indicates the man, her expression unchanging. When she turns back, only a keen observer would notice the slight tremble in her hand as she reaches for her wine glass. "I assume you want this done sooner rather than later? If I'd known, I'd have eaten more quickly; seems a shame to let all this go to waste." She sips her wine and takes a breath. "And no, I'm not. I suppose I've got time for a comfort break first?" she asks, using the genteel euphemism for something her childhood neighbors would have expressed in much cruder terms.


---
Her smile is warmly amused. "If you're hungry afterward, I'll have more food sent up to my room. I treat my wards well, Sunrise, and you're welcome to partake of whatever is offered. I'm not trying to ensnare you. Though I do realize," she adds with a grin, "that's what they all say."

"As for the comfort break," she says, moving to rise from her seat, "take as you need. The ladies' room is there on the right. He will wait another candlemark or so, I'd wager; she really was supposed to show and it's quite odd that she didn't." A ghost of a smile crosses her lips but quickly fades. "And now I must go offer my body to someone far less... pleasant," she adds with a sigh. "So now you know I will never ask anything of you that I'm not willing to do myself or worse."


---
She responds with a grateful nod. She doesn't exactly gulp the rest of her wine, but she does take a long sip before rising and heading in the direction pointed out.

In the privacy of the ladies' room she lets herself shake, hot tears falling from a riot of competing emotions. Then she wipes her face with a cool, wet towel, takes a deep breath, and composes herself.

When she emerges, it's with the confident walk and dazzling smile of a true performer. Without hesitation, she approaches the old man and slides in next to him, her arm going around his shoulders. "Well hey there," she purrs. "Why so sad?"


---
He jumps in surprise at her touch, but his smile is warm when he recovers. "Ah? Oh, I... P-pardon my... Well, you see, I was... waiting for someone," he explains, his smile turning profoundly embarrassed. "She hasn't... Well, I mean... I suppose she... Isn't coming."


---
She pouts. "Your friend stood you up? That doesn't sound very friendly." Her other hand, in an echo of Veshti's earlier movements, comes to rest on his knee. "Maybe you need a better friend."


---
"O-oh!" Startled, but not displeased, he peers more closely at her, smiling warmly now that he understands the situation. "You know, I've never... You're a tiefling, aren't you? Remarkable eyes. I, uh." His eyes flick to her jewelry as math occurs with long and easy practice. "I, ah. Well. She really should have arrived by now, if she were... Well. Yes. F-five platinum, I think?"

It's as astounding amount for a single night's work, even for skilled bed work, but he tosses it off the cuff as though the price were nothing to him.


---
Her eyes crinkle. Leaning in, she kisses one wrinkled cheek. "Don't worry about that." Offering him a hand, she adds, "Shall we?"


---
He blinks at her, thoroughly confused. "But I. No?" Studying her with fresh delight, and entirely puzzled, he lets her lead him upstairs to the room. "I. I'm. Marcon," he offers almost shyly, as they step over the threshold. "You're. You're beautiful. Your eyes really are. Well. Stunning."


---
"Thank you," she says, smiling. "Call me Honor." She kisses his hand. "It would be my honor to please you tonight."


---
"Oh, gosh, I." Stunned and smiling, he sits on the edge of the bed and looks up at her with warm eyes. "Honor. Your hair is just." He reaches up a hand to reverently touch a lock. "I, uh. I'm not as young as I used to be," he warns with a chuckle. "But I. And those horns are just. Exquisite. May I touch? It won't hurt you if I?"


---
"Not at all," she murmurs. She ducks her head - then sinks into a deferential kneeling position, ostensibly giving him a better angle to examine them.


---
"Oh. Oh my." His breath catches and she can feel the desire on him, the way his body heat increases instantly when she kneels. His hand reaches out to stroke her horns with infinite gentleness. Slowly, his fingers gain confidence and trace down to the root of her horns, touching her hair and the silken skin.

"Honor?" His voice chokes slightly in the semi-darkness of the room. "I, ah. If you. If you really do want to. Ah." Papery hands fumble at his belt and heat rolls from the core of him. "Ah, I. I wouldn't say no to. Well."


---
Willing warmth into her smile, she lifts her eyes to meet his as she reaches for his belt.

[OOC: fade to black]
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2 Re: An Audition (Sunrise, Veshti) [Backstory] on Thu Jun 21, 2018 3:40 pm

[TW: Violent BDSM Content. BDSM is not bad, nor are people who engage in it, but this particular guy has a non/dubcon kink.]

---
As predicted by Veshti, the man is entirely unoriginal as a lover; he gasps and groans and guides her head with gentle little tugs and presses of his fingers, but doesn't hurt her. Afterwards, he tries again to pay her--twice--and is each time surprised and gratified when she takes nothing from him. He doesn't expect her to stay the night, and even discreetly says so, but does ask that she stroke his hair until he falls asleep. When he begins snoring, it's the work of a moment to leave the resin leaf on his pillow.

Veshti's room is on the third floor of the inn, one flight up from where Sunrise left her assignment. This floor is silent when she climbs the stairs, in contrast to the soft sounds of love-making on the second floor; she receives an unsettling impression of being alone up here. Veshti's door is easy to find from the number on the key, and she lets herself into a suite of rooms--there is a sitting area here with thick curtains lining the walls.

Through a doorway, she sees the flicker of candlelight and hears the unmistakable sound of sex: a woman's moans of pleasure, the slap of bodies together, and a man's grunting. Then, just as unmistakably, the slap of a whip against skin, hard and brutal and not Sunrise's idea of erotic. The woman makes a choked sound, holding back a scream perhaps, and then cries out in a pitch-perfect mimicry of orgasmic pleasure.


---
Sunrise listens to this for about a minute. Then, feeling like she has completed her task and therefore is entitled, she heads back down to the first floor and orders a shrimp platter and another glass of wine on the room's tab. She takes the stairs back up slowly, in no hurry to walk in on that again and frankly hoping it will have died down by the time she gets there.


---
On her way back up, she runs into a man coming down in haste. This man she absolutely recognizes; it would be impossible not to know the stern face of the Feytower commissioner. He is the final word on what happens in the city's magic district. Though he is not himself a wizard or warlock, it is said that not even a magic user would cross him. His temper is legendary, as is the fact that his enemies tend to meet odd and often lethal accidents.

He collides into her on the stairs, taking the turn at high speed while fumbling at his tunic to ensure it hangs just so. The two bodies take a hard tumble together, ending three steps later on the landing, shaken but no worse for wear. "What the blazes?" he bellows, thoroughly irritated by the collision which was by rights his own fault.


---
"Oh! Terribly sorry!" Despite having kept hold of her treats, she wipes a non-existent stain from his tunic with the hem of her exquisite dress. Ducking her head, she seems too embarrassed by her own misstep to even look up at his face. "I hope you're not hurt?"


---
"No, I'm-" His hand snaps out with the speed of a striking snake and grasps her chin so hard it hurts. Forcing her face up, he studies her with a frown, then lets her go, satisfied she is not a threat.

"You're one of Veshti's?" he guesses. There's an odd note in his voice; not quite shame, but something within javelin-throwing distance. "Tell the man at the bar to send one of their clerics up with the wine. She... has a headache. You know how she is."

That said, he sweeps on down the stairs, not bothering to look back at her.


---
She waits on the stairs and slowly counts to thirty, willing her heart to slow. Afterwards she goes back down and relays the message, then heads back to the room, watching her step the whole time.


---
The cleric--a pretty halfling girl with curls down her back--accompanies her to the room, clicking her tongue when she sees the mess of the bedroom. Veshti lies semi-conscious in a heap of bloody bedsheets, her delicate elven body a mess of brutal whip marks. The cleric pushes past Sunrise to begin her work, healing the wounded woman.

She looks up, her eyes clearing as the pain ebbs away, and motions for Sunrise to help her stand. "You see?" she offers with a weak laugh. "You're already seeing the value of a good protege. I'm fine. I'm fine," she tells the cleric woman as the last of her wounds heal. "Send someone up with fresh sheets, food, and wine. I'll be in the bath."

Taking a deep breath, she looks back at Sunrise. "Join me? I had them stock a bathing dress in your size, if you're modest. I'll be donning one myself; I've no interest in remaining naked for the rest of the evening."


---
Sunrise arches an eyebrow. "As long as you're not planning on getting handsy again, I'd just as soon not wear clothes in the bath," she demurs. "It's probably not an offense against Hamity, but why take chances?"


---
"No more hands," Veshti agrees with a chuckle, leading her back to a spacious bathroom with an enormous tub of hot water easily big enough to seat five.

"I actually abhor sex," she says cheerfully as she pulls on a thin shift that covers her to just above the knee. "Well. 'Abhor' is a strong word. But it's like a file scraping me from the inside. I can do it, but why would I want to? Oh gods, this water hits the spot. There are oils over there if you want to indulge. Add whatever you wish while you tell me how you knew to bring a cleric."


---
"I met your little friend on the stairs, and by met I mean he practically ran me over," she says, adding various oils and salts with an expert touch. Satisfied, she leans back, naked and luxuriant. "Is he always like... this?"


---
"Mmm." She makes an annoyed noise, leaning back to let her hair spread through the water. "Luther is not always like this, no. He enjoys inflicting pain, but tonight went further than I anticipated. I surmise he is under a great deal of stress." Her voice tightens, then she smiles. "He will remember what he owes me when the vote for Redport commissioner comes up, however, and for that much I would endure worse."

She looks up sharply at the tiefling girl, reaching for a comb to run through her own hair. "Lesson one: never sleep with anyone who won't remember their debt to you. Nor with anyone who will scorn you for it after." Her grin turns wolfish. "Unless the scorn is the point. Now. What did you think of old Marcon? Did you do as I asked?"


---
She nods. "Nice enough," she concedes. "I didn't exactly enjoy it, but it could have been worse. So. Why the leaf? And why couldn't I take the money?"


---
"Because you are not a courtesan," she says. "You will never accept money for favors of that kind. I wasn't joking when I said it would cost a family fortune to have me. Favors, offices, jewelry even; these you can accept, but never money. To men, money is the cancellation of a debt. By not accepting any, you create one in their mind."

She leans back and basks for a moment. "The red leaf and the red ribbon are two of my designs. It's the hair and the 'delicate elf' thing," she adds, rolling her eyes lightly. "Marcon keeps the legal library at the Sun District high court. They are seeking an intern for a temporary position while the courts handle a heavy backlog of cases. The work is easy--filing books and scrolls--and the position is highly coveted because whoever fills the role will have precisely seven weeks of meeting the most illustrious members of the city's political and influential families in a setting outside parties and drinks."

She looks up at Sunrise, resuming her work with the comb. "If your day schedule is clear, I will put you forward for the position. If not, one of my other girls. That is why you left my device on his pillow as a token. He will understand and respect the debt he owes me for introducing him to such an amiable girl." A smile plays at her mouth as she studies Sunrise, pleased.

"I promised you I would give you an explanation of my reasons for all this. One: I would put you forward in this position so the city cream can fix their first impression of you as a serious, literate girl who is not frightened by legal scrolls. You're a pretty face with a pretty voice and of a race most of these people will associate with poverty; if I debut you at a party or over drinks, they will assume you are an ornament with nothing between your ears. This is an opportunity to make a different first impression."

She reaches for her wine and drinks with a pleased sigh, savoring the taste. "Two: I would see how well you work with men who have had you. As I said before, these instances will be few, but they will exist. Marcon is harmless and if you take the position he will treat you as a father ought. I need to see that for you it will not be awkward. We remember the debts men owe us, but we do not live in shame. They have not seen us at our most vulnerable because we are not vulnerable; when we fuck them we are creating a debt, and there is nothing more powerful."

She sighs and leans back again, studying the fine ceiling. "Three. You have already seen what I am willing to do for power. I have two proteges now, but you will be my fourth, not my third. My first protege is no longer welcome in my presence after she made disparaging remarks about the ways in which I use my body. As a policy, I therefore no longer teach girls who aren't willing to work beds when needed. I can tolerate many things, but I cannot work with a girl who thinks she is better than me simply because she's sucked fewer cocks. That is a difference of experience, not of inherent quality. If you must think yourself better than me, aim higher than glorifying inexperience for inexperience's sake."


---
She looks thoughtful and sips her wine, then addresses the last point first. "I don't enjoy bedwork," she says honestly. "I know - now - you don't either. I can do it when necessary, but I'd prefer to find other ways whenever I can. But you can't grow up where I did without knowing at least some women who chose that way of life." She sips again, a small wry smile coming over her face. "One of them told me once she has terrible stage fright, and doesn't understand how I could stand doing what I do. Not being comfortable with something doesn't make it bad."

Sighing, she sinks further into the water. "And Marcon is an old dear. I might feel awkward working with him, but I can be a big girl and deal with it."

Then she gives Veshti a look. "Why the act earlier? And all the dramatics? Why not just talk to me?"


---
Veshti smiles at this last question. "Why the hand on your knee and the leering?" She chuckles. "I would rather you sign on with me at my worst and find I am better than advertised, than recruit you at my best only for you to feel betrayed later when you realize how dirty politics can be. How would you feel if weeks or months into this patronage I suddenly sent you--without this preparation--to seduce a Southside comptroller? Betrayed. Shocked. Disgusted. But now, this way, you have seen me at my worst and decided to work with me regardless. I respect that gumption."

Chuckling, she begins pinning up her long hair in a towel to dry. "Consider it also, perhaps, a defense mechanism on my part. If I play the madam, you cannot hurt me with accusations of being such. I do not actually like sending my girls out on bed jobs, you know. It is like sending my own daughters. Distasteful, even when necessary."


---
"Fair enough," she says with a sigh. "I still would have preferred a straightforward approach, but I don't suppose it matters now." She tilts her head. "I hope you don't expect me to become less public or less passionate. I'm interested in the subtle side of politics, but in addition to, not instead of."


---
Veshti chuckles at this. "I don't expect you to change who you are, dear. Some of the things you say... may get us into trouble. But I wouldn't take you on if I didn't want the challenge. This city needs a little shaking up, especially with this damn plague spreading. Alysa and Elinor--those are my other girls, you'll meet them tomorrow--agree with me." She hides a smile. "Elinor is your biggest fan. I hope you can handle a little fan worship."

Turning her head sharply, she seems to remember something. "One more thing. If an elven man with black hair and green eyes ever asks you about me, dissemble politely until you can get away, then come warn me as quickly as possible."


---
She raises an eyebrow. "I don't imagine black hair and green eyes are uncommon among elven men. Anything more you can tell me?"


---
Her lips twitch. "Fair. But very few of them may come asking after me. Mmm." She closes her eyes, distaste on her face. "He had a little mole by his left eye. And he would likely claim to be my husband," she adds, opening her eyes again. "There's that, I suppose."


---
She gives a half-smile. "Men believe the strangest things."

She stretches and relaxes; the contrast with her prior careful poise is striking. "So what happens next? You say I'm meeting people tomorrow?"


---
"My own preference would be to take you back to my house tonight and install you in your rooms. You would then meet my other two girls in the morning at breakfast." Toweling her hair dry, she sits higher in the bath and begins to braid the long tresses.

"But. You are my partner, not my servant. While rooms will be kept in my home for your use, whether you actually use them is ultimately up to you. So you are free to go wherever you please tonight. Tomorrow, one way or another, you will meet my girls and we will get you fitted. I know you aren't without clothes, but you will need more. I have in mind something modest and scholarly and quietly expensive, to start. Once we have you dressed, it's off to meet Marcon and secure your temporary internship. I'm most excited about that; you'll meet quite a few people as part of your work, and they'll remember you."

She chuckles, tugging at a strand of hair to work it into her plait. "Hmm. Do you have another performance planned? You could even invite some of your new acquaintances. Cards; we'll need to get cards scribed for you. You can write the dates and locations of your next event on the back when you hand them out. They'll find it all delightfully droll--until they show up and hear what you have to say. Then, well. We'll see, won't we?"


---
She smiles. "I have a few performance opportunities, but I put off scheduling them until this particular mystery was solved. Which means I'm free tonight, although I'll need to run some errands. If I'm in, I might as well be fully in."


---
Veshti grins and claps her hands. "Excellent! We'll dry off, eat if you're still hungry, and call my carriage. I'll take you home, show you your rooms, and then I'm off to bed, dear. You can use my carriage and driver for the evening."

She steps out of the bath and begins the process of toweling off. "Oh. Your rooms are yours, but I do have one rule."


---
Sunrise seems in no hurry to leave the bath but rises anyway, reaching for a towel. "Oh?"


---
"Boys are welcome at my table, but not in my beds," she says, arching an eyebrow. "What you do outside my home is officially your own business--yes, even when it's my business--but my house must maintain an appearance of propriety."

Waving a hand, she adds airily, "Girls are welcome to stay over, as you'll learn from watching Alysa's behavior. It's a matter of perception."


---
She huffs in laughter. "I don't think it'll be an issue, but. Duly noted."

A few minutes later her hair is towel-dried and she is dressed and ready.
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3 Re: An Audition (Sunrise, Veshti) [Backstory] on Thu Jun 21, 2018 3:46 pm

---
There are nicer homes in Sun District--true mansions, sprawling with extra wings--but Veshti's home is easily the richest Sunrise has ever stepped foot in. Silks and expensive tapestries line the walls, providing rich decoration and sound-proofing at the same time. The floors are cool silky marble shot through with lovely smoky patterns. The wood framing the doors and windows, and providing a heavy banister for the magnificent staircase leading up to the second floor, is rich and dark and old, polished to a perfect shine. Smartly dressed servants take Veshti's wrap when they enter, and incline their heads politely to Sunrise.

For once among non-tieflings, no one gives her horns a second glance.

Veshti yawns and has a soft conversation with what appears to be the head butler--a dignified human man in the late prime of his life--then looks up at the second floor landing. A woman in a sky-blue dress, a good head taller than the tallest halfling but with their tell-tale ears, peers around the corner of the hallway with excited eyes. She is soft and fluffy, just on this side of chubby, and her grin is warm.

"Elinor, what are you doing up at this hour?" Veshti demands with fond exasperation.

"Did you get her? Is it really Sunrise?" the young woman begs with a grin, peering down at the knot of people below.


---
Sunrise looks very satisfied with this new development in her life, running fingers lightly over the banister and graciously returning the nods of the servants. At the outburst she smiles and raises a hand to wave - then, with a playful grin, blows the girl a kiss.


---
Elinor's eyes widen. Pretending to catch the kiss, she staggers back in a swoon with the kiss clutched to her heart. Then she cracks up and runs pell-mell down the stairs. "Oh my gosh, oh my gosh! I know all your songs, all of them! Test me! Oh! Will you sing 'Morning Comes Again' for us? Will you? Oh oh oh! Is it true you wrote it after a wandering sailor broke your heart? Everyone says so, but you never really say, but it is true, isn't it?"

"Elinor," Veshti warns, but she can't hide her grin.

"Veshti," the girl replies respectfully, sinking into a perfect curtsy before rising again with a fresh unfettered grin. "What was his name? Oh! Was the sailor a girl? That would be even better!"


---
Sunrise laughs, delighted. "I'll never tell. And I tend to sing while I'm doing other things, so you'll probably get sick of it eventually. Do you sing?"


---
"Yes! Well. A little," she amends, blushing. "Not like you. But around the house."

Veshti looks amused by all this. "Elinor, since you are determined not to sleep, will you show Sunrise to her rooms? I need my rest."

Turning to Sunrise, she gives her a gentle hug. "Tell the servants if you need anything, dear. Don't let Elinor keep you up all night."

Elinor, grinning, gives Veshti a warm hug before taking Sunrise's hand. "C'mon! Your rooms are between mine and Alysa's. They're really good."


---
Sunrise takes her hand gladly, following her up. "We should work out harmonies," she says with a smile. "When I was a little girl my mother would start singing, and she'd taught me the harmonies to jump in and sing along."


---
"Oh my gosh, I am going to sing with Sunrise," the girl says to herself, delighted. "I am just! so! excited! I could scream. I begged Veshti to bring you on, I said 'Veshti, if you could just hear what she says.' She came to your concert last month, you know? You probably didn't see her; hardly anyone does when she wants to be invisible. Oh! Here we are. Okay. Close your eyes."

Taking her by both hands, she leads her into a room where a fire has already been set and candles placed for them. No, not a room; when Sunrise opens her eyes, she realizes it is a suite of four rooms. An open entertaining area with seats and musical instruments for playing, a study for books and writing letters on an imposing desk made of dark polished wood, a bedroom with a sumptuous bed done over with warm pink velvet curtains, and the biggest bathroom she's ever seen and a tub adorning the center like a crown jewel.

"Do you like it?" Elinor's eyes shine. "I know it's a bit small," she admits--a strange thing to say when Sunrise is fairly certain the rooms could hold several Westside families, "and it might be a bit too pink because Alysa got involved in the decorating, but we can change anything you don't like."


---
A goofy grin splits her face. "Are you kidding? I feel like a princess." She twirls once before collapsing, giggling, into an overstuffed chair in front of the fire. "Fun fact - fame doesn't equal money," she confides. "I wear nice clothes and jewelry and sing in fancy places, but then I come back home to a house that could probably fit in this room - and it's still nicer than most in the neighborhood!" She shakes her head, looking around.

"...It is a little pink," she concedes after a moment. "I can live with that."


---
Elinor giggles and throws herself into a nearby chair with easy abandon. "Ahhh, I'm so excited you're going to be here! I know you have to, like, sleep and stuff. But if you ever want to smuggle a bottle of wine up from the cellar and talk all night long, we can! We just have to be quiet not to bother Alysa," she adds with a giggle.

"Where's your house?" she asks in curious afterthought, resting her chin on her fists.


---
"Out in Westside," she says calmly. "Where I grew up."


---
Her eyes widen. "Oh, gosh. What's it like living there? Is it true every third boy is a dashing pirate and every other girl is a tragically beautiful barmaid? Do you meet a lot of orcish kin? Have you ever seen a goblin? Oh! Have you ever been kidnapped? Like, the romantic kind, not the awful kind!"


---
She can't help it; she bursts out into giggles. "Is that what they say about it? And here we tell each other stories about your part of town." She shakes her head. "Your version is better. Let's go with that. Romance and tragedy and adventure. And yes, there are orcfolk there." Attempting to look mysterious, she adds, "And you know goblins aren't allowed in the city. If I saw one, would I say?"


---
"Oh, gooooooosh." Elinor sighs dreamily, looking pleased. "I almost never get out of Sun District. Veshti took me with her to the nightdocks once and I nearly got myself accidentally engaged. So I'm not supposed to go to the 'seedier parts of town' on my own. But oh gosh, I want to. I'm not a little girl, you know. I'm just a little baby-faced."


---
She laughs softly. "I do need to pick up some of my things and talk to a few people. If Veshti won't be upset you could come with me, but it might be a disappointment." Smiling, she adds, "How old are you?"


---
"I'm almost twenty!" she asserts with a laugh. "And I've done, you know, so much! Just not as much as I want to. Not as much as you, obviously," she adds dreamily. "And, no, gosh, Veshti won't be mad. It's my own fault if I'm tired tomorrow, but I'm okay with that!"


---
She grins. "Well. She said I could use her coach. We'll try not to get you kidnapped by pirates."


---
"Lemme get my wrap!" she declares, running out.

When she comes back, her hair is smoothed and she wears a white gauzy wrap around her shoulders. She looks quite the lady, despite her earlier boisterousness. "Ready? Oh, but I do give you leave to leave me with pirates if they're nice ones," she adds with playful dreaminess. "Someone tall with long curly hair and a crooked smile, you know?"


---
When she returns Sunrise is sitting at the little desk, penning a few notes. She shakes her head, laughing. "I can see why Veshti says you're not allowed to go there alone. If you're interested in slumming with someone pretty and poor I can make some introductions, but let's try to avoid even romantic kidnappings, okay?"


---
Elinor laughs again, hanging on her arm as they head downstairs to the carriage. "It's not my fault! Have you seen the latest wanted posters for Thea Starguide?" The notorious lady-pirate's wanted posters are indeed a common piece of art on the city slums.

"Her smile! That little jagged broken tooth, it makes her look so dashing! I just! My knees are weak and so am I! Oh, oh, Bertrand is driving tonight?" she exclaims when they go out into the warm summer night. "He's a sweetie, and so cute. Don't tell him I said so!" How he could possibly miss hearing her as she climbs into the open-air carriage is a question left unasked and unanswered.


---
Sunrise exchanges a smile with the said Bertrand. "He's lovely," she agrees, at the same volume. "And, hah, if Thea Starguide shows up you'll have to stand in line."

She leans forward as they ride, directing Bertrand out of the Sun District and into her part of town. As they rattle down the  street she eyes the alleys, hoping to head off anyone who might see the expensive carriage as easy prey.


---
The Westside slums aren't the state of lawless chaos that the Sun District denizens sometimes like to believe, but at this time of night the streets aren't completely safe. Sunrise catches a few familiar eyes who melt away at a shake of her head; not 'friends' by any means, but people who are willing to find a different target for the evening. Bertrand's presence no doubt helps; the 'cute sweetie' looks noticeably able to handle himself in combat, and he is armed with decorative dagger sheaths which are probably not empty.

Elinor chats affably as they ride through the slums, and is more than capable of being distracted by the people they pass at this hour; the men and women of the evening receive cheerful smiles, and when some urchins on the older side of childhood run through the street in front of the carriage Elinor happily throws coppers to them as though it were grain thrown at a wedding to bring the newly-wed couple fertility. After that, they're trailed by urchins seeking more handouts but the girl is too absorbed in their conversation to notice.

When they reach Sunrise's home, she gasps with unfeigned delight. "Oh! Is this yours? It's so quaint and tiny!"


---
Sunrise restrains the urge to pat her on the head. "Yes, it's mine. I'm not going to move everything out on such short notice, but I do want to grab a few of my things. You don't mind helping me carry them?" Hopping down, she offers the girl a hand.


---
"Oh gosh, of course!" she agrees, hopping down with Sunrise's help. "I'm a good carrier. I'm a good worker in general, really! Mother wouldn't let me grow up not helping her clean the mansion." She pauses, frowning lightly. "Um. Veshti thinks I should watch when and where I talk about that. But we're practically sisters now, so it's alright to tell you."


---
She smiles, amused. "I thought mansions automatically came with people to do the cleaning?"

The inside of her home is an odd combination of austere and luxurious. She seems to own very little, but what she has is high-quality; she seems the type who would prefer not to have any couch than one that isn't up to her high standards. Sunrise leads her to her bedroom, where she begins pulling outfits from her closet. "Veshti mentioned new clothes, but I like these ones."


---
"Well, yeah, that was... my mother," she admits. "It's my really a secret, but it's not really supposed to be talked about in polite company. And, oooh, I like them too!" she enthuses, carefully helping her pack the clothes. "Oh, the color of this one! It's a shame you're so much taller than me or I'd borrow it."

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4 Re: An Audition (Sunrise, Veshti) [Backstory] on Wed Jul 11, 2018 8:42 pm

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