Elanthian Vogue: Charlatos 5120
This Month's Edition
Please be aware that the content of this month’s Elanthian Vogue has a mature theme.
Editor-in-Chief: Rohese Bayvel-Timsh'l
How are you doing with the "wardrobe sharing" idea we introduced in last month's edition? We would love to hear your stories if you've been giving it a try. Has it been a success? Have you encountered any pitfalls? Perhaps share some of the outfit combinations that you and your wardrobe-sharing colleagues have come up with!
When it comes to assembling a "wardrobe" it is often said that accessories make everything better – they are an exclamation point to any outfit. Have you ever considered that the companion on your arm could be an extension of your style choice?
At Elanthian Vogue, we pride ourselves on looking at every subject through the prism of elegance so continuing our theme of Life in Service, this month we look at a slightly more unusual and contentious lifestyle: that of a courtesan. Generally well-educated and cultured, courtesans are often revered for their knowledge, conversational skills, musical talents, as well as their beauty, making them an admirable addition to any society- and fashion-conscious individual.
Given the nature of their lifestyle, it is not easy to find a respectable courtesan or benefactor willing to share their insights. We are therefore very grateful to Mistress Naamit DMVMD-Braggiani for agreeing to speak with one of our team. A notable presence in both the Elven and Imperial court and often found in the company of dignitaries and other influential members of society, little is actually known about this intimidating woman. I will let the interview speak for itself!
We also continue with the underlying theme of accessories and take a look at the symbolic nature of collars; I encourage you all to keep an open mind. And finally, we pay our respects to this month's Vogue Gallery 5119 winner, who is sadly no longer with us.
As always, don't forget to send us your comments on any of the articles in this month’s publication or suggestions for future editions!
Lifestyle: Life in Service Part III
A frank and open discussion about the lifestyle of a courtesan between Vincien and Naamit
"We are women who are naturally giving in a relationship. We enter arrangements fully aware of what we offer and know that our rewards come as a result of what we provide to a benefactor." ~ Anonymous
What comes to mind when you hear the term courtesan? Do you picture a room with plush pillows on a bed, dimly lit candles, and a woman who knows all the ways to pleasure a man, not just physically but mentally as well. Are you reminded of the infamous Honey Mine in Talador with its delightful patron, Madam Ardenale and Old Winniefred, a retired "lady of the night"? Or do you think of a woman of the court: a paramour to royalty, nobility and wealthier members of society.
By definition, a courtesan is usually the latter. She – I say "she" but the term courtesan can just as easily extend to a male - is educated and charming. She is housed, clothed and bejewelled in return for companionship over extended periods. She may start as a companion or assistant to another courtesan, learning the ways of the trade, or she may simply start out as a mistress to a wealthy man and move on from there.
Unlike the aforementioned Winniefred though, a courtesan has the means to live an opulent lifestyle and is free to make her own decisions. In some cases, where a courtesan comes from a lower social status, she is solely dependent on her benefactor or benefactors financially, making her vulnerable and sometimes she can be the subject of society’s disapproval because of the immoral aspects of her profession.
Very often, courtesans will betray one another in acts of political intrigue in attempts to climb into higher positions of power within royal courts. There are many rumored cases throughout Elanthian history – especially in Ta'Nalfein - where one courtesan attempts to supplant the mistress to a king or emperor. This is typically preceded by her discrediting the ruler's companion, often by divulging secrets that could lead to her rival being cast aside and replaced by her.
Often, courtesans serving in this capacity begin their career in a brothel or on the streets as a lady of the night, although many come to the profession by other means. It is not uncommon for a courtesan to enter into an arranged long-term liaison by contract with a wealthy benefactor. Many such women become so powerful socially and financially that they can be particular about the clients they associate with; in other words they choose their paramour as would any other mistress, not the other way around. Wealthy benefactors will go to great lengths to court a courtesan as a prize, the ultimate goal being a long-term contract as a Mistress.
Occasionally courtesans are passed from one benefactor to another, thereby resulting in them being viewed in society circles as lower than both their benefactor and those of wealth and power with whom they socialize. Often, in instances of this sort, if the courtesan has satisfactorily served a benefactor, that benefactor will, when ending the affair or contract, pass them on to another benefactor of wealth as a favor to the courtesan, or set them up in an arranged marriage to a semi-wealthy benefactor. In the event that the courtesan has angered or dissatisfied a benefactor, they will often find themselves cast out of wealthy circles, returning more often than not to the streets and alleyways of Elanthia.
When it comes to influential benefactors, however, one woman in particular comes to mind and I was privileged to meet her recently. Standing in the courtyard of her impressive estate, I am left in no doubt as to her wealth and status. Her property stands amongst lush farmland and immaculately cultivated gardens; there is no sign of deprivation or neglect here!
It is difficult to get a good look at Naamit due to the number of mirror images of her nearby. You see Mistress Naamit DMVMD-Braggiani the Harbinger of the Harrows. She appears to be a Giantman. She is shorter than average. She appears to be an adult. She has piercing vibrant green eyes and pale, alabaster skin. She has thick locks of long, glossy black hair flowing down her back beneath the drape of a sparkling black lace mantilla. She has an angular face, a prominent nose and a fleshy, muscular build with generously proportioned hips. She has a myriad of thin chain-shaped scars running across her exposed flesh. She has high-glossed dark incarnadine polish brushed onto her shapely oval fingernails. She has a deep black cuff of finely polished glaes in the middle of her nose, a deep black ring of finely polished glaes in her lip, a faint scar on her neck, some cross-like blackwork extending from the neck downward past her collarbone, and a tattoo of a crimson heart pierced with a silver dagger on her chest. She is in good shape. She is holding an antique leather tawse in her right hand and a hammered electrum collar in her left hand. She is wearing a writhing black ora cross, a severely v-necked incarnadine faille gown bordered in ebon velvet, a firm hourglass girdle of burgundy-hazed onyx samite, and some sanguine bourde chopines lofted on scarred ebonwood heels.
It is hard not to feel intimidated by Naamit. Her reserved demeanor aside, she exudes an air of open dominance and professionalism. Every aspect of her appearance is impeccable, from the elegant drape of her striking gown to her perfectly applied nail polish. With one hand habitually placed on her girdle, Naamit shifts her weight and establishes the tone of our appointment from the outset.
"Tell me what you want to know. I haven't got all day, and what's left of it is waning."
A subtle reprimand and flex of the tawse in her hand prompts me to avoid any small talk and get straight to the point. Under her penetrating gaze, I opt to be direct and ask her to tell me about how her business came about.
"My name is Naamit Dzosch Monica Valkiryan Mwani Durden Braggiani. You may call me Mistress Braggiani. I was raised in County Bourth in the Turamzzyrian Empire, in an establishment not to dissimilar from the one I run now."
Tracing a faint scar on her neck, she turns her attention to a tall bower of climbing red roses. Her countenance stiffens somewhat and her tone becomes clipped.
"When I aged, I took control of that business from its former master, a man named Dzosch. We were all called Dzosch back then..."
Explaining that her business empire is headquartered near the hamlet of Sylvarraend, with numerous holdings in Krestle, Mist Harbor, Wehnimer's Landing and elsewhere, she eventually gestures for me to come inside for tea. It is hard to refuse this woman anything!
A snap of her manicured fingers echoes off the marble surround as I am led through the foyer and dining hall. A young human woman, robed in a crimson silk chasuble strung from a leather collar, joins us with a small tea cart and we exit to the patio.
Spread before us is a circle of flat grey stone that serves as a quaint little sitting area, and a white table with a lone, wrought iron chair offering comforting respite for one. Young shrubs and bushes encircle the area, while a rock formation to the northwest houses a miniature waterfall that trickles pleasingly every few moments. Crimson-hued candles huddle in the shadow of the balcony above, casting their moody light across the area in rippling waves.
I am invited to sit by my host but, given the lack of options, I daren't! Instead I focus my attention on the young woman as she pours us both a cup of lavender tea before hurrying out of sight. Returning my attention to Naamit, I am somewhat relieved to see her reclining into the lone wrought iron chair and place the tawse upon the table. At least I know where I – quite literally – stand.
A few awkward moments of silence pass – for me anyway - and I ask if she can explain what the "lifestyle" of a courtesan entails. Naamit takes a small sip of her tea before answering.
"Like any, one has duties and responsibilities to the job. I treat my men and women quite well. They are afforded the best fashion that could be hoped for, are well-fed, and... cared for."
I am impressed with her matter-of-fact approach
"I expect them to wake at dawn regardless of the past night's appointments. Fast is broken, they may nap again if they wish, and then the day begins. Men and women alike will tend to the gardens here. It is of utmost importance that they are kept pristine."
The way she speaks is almost hypnotic; I find myself staring into her piercing green eyes and mesmerised by each liquid syllable. Then it occurs to me that this is why she is so successful and I secretly acknowledge that she is good at this!
"At noon, the men may entertain women from the city over tea. Sometimes the women wish to speak with mine for tutorials and tips on how to keep their husbands happy. I will permit the instruction on occasion. More important to that ritual is providing the women here with gowns and fashion from the city in exchange. A number of the women also choose make their own clothing. It's far easier for an urban woman to lose a bolt of fabric from the clothier than a purse of coin, apparently. They are not our primary customer base though."
The fragrance of the tea is sublime and it's not long before I begin to relax in her company. A small voice in my head is cautioning me to stay alert and focus on the task in hand though.
"Evening comes with a different clientele. Some of our attendants will accompany men in the city to perform for private functions. More often however, men come to us. I employ only the finest chef to prepare feasts for our guests. My men and women are allowed to dine with our guests and expected to keep them well entertained throughout the evening. A woman may take up the harp, keep idle chatter, and a man or two may backfill to keep the evening looking plush. As night waxes, men and women alike will join our guests in more intimate affairs."
At this point in the conversation Naamit pauses, offering me only a wink and a nod. It takes me a moment to understand what she is alluding to and I clear my throat in a vain attempt to avoid embarrassment – all on my part! Naamit simply shifts her weight in the wrought iron chair before tactfully closing the subject being addressed.
"In any event, I expect those in my service to be well suited for the task. Whatever that task might be."
My curiosity piqued, however, I press her on the status of those under her patronage and the nature of the service they provide.
"If one in my service wants to date, she is welcome to it. As long as it doesn't interfere with her business with me. It usually does, and unfortunately the root is the other party. Some might consider it a hard life, but I find quite the opposite is true."
Naamit is clearly comfortable discussing such matters. Crossing one leg over another, she tosses her left arm over the back of the wrought iron chair and adopts a more relaxed pose. Still standing, I shift my weight from one foot to the other and silently curse my choice of uncomfortable footwear.
"As mentioned earlier, those in my service tend to have small engagements during the day, whether it be handling discrete affairs of affluent women from the city, or peddling in fashion on the side. I do not mind, as long as it doesn't interfere with their morning and evening ministrations. They are not permitted to partake in moonlight commissions however."
Her professionalism coming to the fore, she quickly stiffens and, again, draws the topic to a close.
"I am their employer and mistress. All side jobs must be approved."
I suddenly remember my tea and realise it has gone cold. I am left wondering if I should place it on the table but, fearing she might take this to mean our interview is at an end, I continue to hold it. At this point in the proceedings, I am totally in this woman's thrall and wish to know more, so I ask about her clientele.
"This here is a high-class establishment. But we are an equal opportunity business. We serve the highest classes and the lowest classes. Not surprisingly, they don't enter in the same door nor do they visit the same girls. In Mist Harbor, our outfit is far more relaxed with a more casual clientele base than near Ta'Illistim."
Again, I underestimate her, and note that she has risen from her chair and is now pacing to the other side of the patio, clearly avoiding the question. Her tone is now cool and I sense my time is drawing to a close.
"That said, we do not discuss the particulars of our regular clients, highborn or no. Discretion is also our business, after all."
Recalling my training, I quickly change the subject and elect to ask a general question. Elanthian Vogue is first and foremost a fashion publication so I ask her about the collar she is still holding in her hand. The subject clearly amuses her and I am privy to the traces of a smile.
"It's far easier to drag a man around by his neck, if he's tethered."
The wry amusement fading as quickly as it arose, she regains a more serious disposition to elaborate on her opinion about the wearing of a collar.
"The collar is a curious implement. Some see it as restrictive, others protective. Is it any different than a married couple wearing wedding rings? I think not. You will find all my women wearing a collar and the men a torc. They are bound to me, as I am to them. It is a promise that I will take care of them if they serve me. For more utilitarian purposes however, their bonds identify them on the grounds and allow them access to areas of the establishment not otherwise afforded to the public."
Subconsciously running a finger around the collar of my own starched shirt, I find myself wondering if it is symbolic in nature. I begin to perspire a little. It's difficult to determine if this is due to the warm afternoon sunshine or the company I am keeping; probably both.
"We once had a young couple who paid a handsome sum for counterfeit accoutrements and snuck their way into our commune ... wouldn't you want to see what goes on behind closed doors? It seems the stuff of dreams and whispers. To some..."
Caught in her lingering gaze, I see Naamit's lip curl, exposing a single canine with a curious sneer. I suspect she has noted my discomfiture.
"I expect anyone under my employ to handle their tasks. Whatever those tasks might be. Needless to say, the girl is still in my employ, but the man unfortunately succumbed to the rigors of his position.
Noticing Naamit place her hand once more on her girdle and shift her weight, I sense our interview is at an end but perhaps not our time together.
"What else can I answer for you, Vincien? I see you haven't touched your tea. Did you want to stay for dinner?"
Ever the consummate business woman!
Taking Back the Collar
When you see someone wearing a collar, particularly a leather one, chances are you assume that they are under the control of someone else. Collars can have a multitude of meanings in relationships. They can show ownership, devotion, or subservience, and can be as meaningful as a wedding ring. They can be essential for some kinds of alternative lifestyles, or just add spice to an already fun connection.
But what about wearing a collar outside of a relationship? Because of the relationship-status contexts, many people feel discouraged from wearing a collar just for themselves. Stop worrying about what a collar is "supposed to" mean and adorn yourself with one of your own if you feel like it.
"Even when I'm single, collars bring me comfort. They're like an encouragement from a hypothetical future partner, or from the bravest part of my inner self." ~ Anonymous
Yes, collars have symbolism. They can send a message to others about what kind of lifestyle you are potentially leading. Different collars have different meanings to different groups, and can explain better than words what kind of role you are currently taking part in. On the other hand, they come with a feeling of independence and rebellion. Wear them with whatever makes you feel sensuous and formidable. Match subtle day-wear collars to your outfit so no one but you know what it symbolizes. Or go the opposite direction and draw gazes by wearing something startling: maybe a spiked leather collar with bells and lace or even a tag that says "ME" - as the answer to "who owns you?"
Alternatively, perhaps that rose gold collar simply makes your skin tone glow and is perfectly on point with the rest of your outfit. Who says that a statement piece has to actually make a statement? Wear it because the collar is pretty and you like it!
Learn to love yourself; this is important no matter your relationship status. Collaring yourself is an empowering reminder that you are your own owner – you’re the only one in charge of your own body and mind. Wearing that collar gives you permission to love and protect yourself, and reminds you that you are worth every ounce of energy it takes to maintain and remember that love.
Wear that collar and determine how symbolic it is to you by perhaps having a collaring ceremony of your own. Light some candles, don your collar with pride and admire yourself in the mirror. Make a promise to be devoted to yourself and care for yourself as any good and rightful owner would do. Now go ahead and wink at your reflection because you look good!
It is with a heavy heart that I reveal this month's Vogue Gallery winner.
Socius Leiffen was the one-time Headsman of Mist Harbor, having inherited the Isle of Four Winds from his father. Eschewing the formal title, he still took his duties as protector of the people very seriously. He was renowned for his anger issues and lack of control, having flown into more than one murderous rage when provoked, or when those whom he was sworn to defend were threatened. He was equally a trusted and good companion to many, occasionally seen at society events to support them despite his obvious discomfiture - sometimes in the company of Naamit herself.
Socius died under mysterious circumstances earlier this year but the team were fortunate to capture his likeness in the 5019 Vogue Gallery and we are honored to present him to our readers this month.
Charlatos Socius Leiffen Smudges of grey charcoal and white chalk fill the frame to reveal the indistinct outline of a man in the negative space. Seated, with his elbows on his knees, his hands appear to clutch a pair of formidable daggers, their blades standing out in sharp relief against the dark background. Above them, it is possible to make out a plain-looking face that exhibits an expression of inner conflict. A pair of penetrating green eyes, one carrying the shade of a fearsome scar, stare out of the page as if challenging the viewer to look closer. The precise application of a single silver fleck adds a steely glint to his charismatic gaze. Portrait as featured in the 5119 Vogue Gallery
Elanthian Vogue have been impressed by some exciting new faces who have been shaping the fashion scene recently and we are pleased to support one in particular in the upcoming election for Mayor of Wehnimer's Landing. We will be holding an auction on Restday, 15th day of Charlatos to raise funds for Lord Faerinn Greatsinger's campaign.
Interested parties and curious onlookers are invited to assemble in the Event Hall of Elanthian Elegance's Lily Manor at 2.00pm to peruse the catalogue and partake in a celebratory glass of champagne to mark their 15th anniversary!