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Caveat Emptor [Solo, Complete]

Celeste Monroe

Shenaniginstigator In Chief
Post DAI Timeline
DAO/DA2 Timeline
((OOC 3 Justinian, 34 Dragon; The Blooming Rose, Kirkwall Hightown))

“She's … big.”

“Yes, she is,” Celeste agreed, nodding sagely, not that the Comte saw it. His beady little ferret eyes were fixed on Gideon, and he'd likely not notice if Celeste opened her shirt and flashed her tits at him. To his credit, Gideon did look pretty good – all seven feet of him - and quite convincing, wearing the dress without a trace of discomfort; he'd started running this particular scam with Daniel well before they'd ever met Celeste, when they realized that very few southerners actually knew what qunari females looked like.

The fake boobs, hips and ass were unbelievably expensive to have made, as they had to be custom fit to the Tal-Vashoth's body, but they looked real, even felt real (she knew … she'd given them a trial grope). The fact that they were made in proportion to Gideon's horns and shoulders turned already impressive curves into a natural (looking) wonder. The dress was an engineering marvel of its own, emphasizing those curves in all the right places, the emerald satin seemingly skin-tight while still managing to conceal Gideon's natural assets (which were admittedly impressive in their own right, but would have shattered the illusion).

Add the cream that Brannigan had cooked up that removed Gid's whiskers while leaving his skin as smooth and soft as a baby's butt-cheeks, Kalindra's artistry with cosmetics, and an Orlesian wig whose titian locks curled beguilingly around his horns, and Gideon looked more feminine than half the women in the room – and considering they were in a whorehouse, that was saying something.

“I believe that her name in Qunlat actually means 'runt of the litter', or something like it,” she tossed off, as though an afterthought.

That got her an incredulous glance before his hungry gaze returned to Gideon, a hint of discontent visible now as he considered what bigger and better things he might be missing. “They have litters?”

“Three, sometimes four at a time,” she replied without missing a beat. If it was going to be this easy, damned if she would waste the opportunity. “Of course, they can only feed two, so they generally leave the extras out to starve, though sometimes they do sell them, as was the case with Diona, here.”

“Barbarians,” muttered the man who was currently negotiating for the right to use 'Diona' however he wished for a night.

“Indeed,” Celeste replied, looking properly disapproving of such immoral practices. Gideon gave no hint that he could hear the conversation taking place beside him. His crimson eyes remained demurely downcast, though his gaze was stopped cold well before the level of the floor by the awesome swell of his bosom. “Fortunately, we live in more civilized latitudes.”

Evidently, the Comte didn't speak 'sarcasm', because he simply nodded his agreement before saying, “And ten sovereigns secures her services for the entire night? Anything I want her to do?”

“Anything you want,” Celeste assured him. Ten sovereigns was the standard rate for the scam, but this time, it was about more than fleecing a gullible mark. When the Wicked Grace had docked two days ago, one of her first stops had been one of the Red Jenny message drops, and among the scrawled missives of varying levels of literacy had been this gem:

“A little prig who likes them big
Needs to be taken down.
Just follow your nose to the bloom that grows
In the lows of the higher town.”

Whoever had written it obviously didn't need to be quitting their day job (or, more likely, night job), but the gist had been clear enough to provide direction. A visit to the Blooming Rose and a chat with Madame Lusine had filled in the details of the diminutive Comte with a fetish for taller women that included beatings and humiliation. Lusine could simply bar him from the Rose (and likely would), but he'd done even worse to whores on the street, and the Friends of Red Jenny intended to put a stop to the practice once and for all.

“Can she talk?” the Comte wanted to know.

“Sadly, no,” Celeste replied with just the right tone of regret, knowing that a silent victim was likely a big plus in the pervert's book. “An infection when she was a child. Very tragic.” And nothing short of major magic was going to make Gideon's bass rumble into even a husky contralto.

“Very tragic,” he agreed, making a stab at sincerity that came up even shorter than he was (and the top of his head barely reached Celeste's nose). “All right, you've got a deal.” Digging into his purse, he came up with the asking price and deposited it into Celeste's waiting hand.

“Excellent.” Celeste slipped the sweaty coins into an inside pocket of her vest as Madam Lusine looked on with her face pinched in disapproval, likely at least as much due to not getting a cut of a score that was well above even her premium service rates as to her opinion of the Comte. That was the way it worked; there was never a charge when the Friends of Red Jenny stepped in, but any profit you made in the process was yours. “Go with him, Diona,” she instructed Gideon firmly. “Do as you're told.”

Gideon nodded meekly, still managing somehow to look demure as he followed the Comte to the stairs and up, towering over him by a full two feet. More than one set of eyes followed them; most of the workers were in on the ruse, and likely a good number of the regular customers, but a couple of them looked to be considering whether or not they could come up with the ten sovereigns.

When they had vanished from view, Celeste turned back to the bar. “Start counting,” she told Quintus as the bartender poured her a glass of Vyrantium White 9:19. There was a betting pool on the Wicked Grace as to just how long it would take for the mark to discover the dupe, and since she had money in the pot, it seemed fair to let a neutral party handle the timing.

Celeste Monroe

Shenaniginstigator In Chief
Post DAI Timeline
DAO/DA2 Timeline
While she waited, she sipped her wine, idly surveying the other patrons with a practiced eye, more from habit than any real intent. A nobleman with his purse hanging from his belt would have made easy pickings, as would the lady with the jeweled comb artfully placed in her elaborately coiffed hair. The gems were fakes, but they were good fakes; another time and another place, Celeste would have helped herself. You never knew when you might need to replace real jewels with some that just looked real.

Shitting where you slept was never a good idea, however, and while she didn't do much sleepingat the Blooming Rose, the concept remained the same. Madam Lusine would not look favorably on anyone robbing customers under her roof. Didn't mean Celeste couldn't follow the mark home and go in through a window later that night, but right now, she had other business to tend to. Gideon wasn't the only one working tonight.

She kept the door in her peripheral vision, so she saw him come in. Young, tall, well built and not bad looking, but even without armor, his bearing screamed 'Templar!': from the walk suggestive of a broomstick jammed up his ass and along his spine to his visible discomfort at finding himself in this den of sin. He scooted for the bar as though fearing someone might steal his virginity before he got there, nervous eyes darting around until they settled on her.

She gave no sign that she even noticed him, waiting to see if he remembered the instructions he would have been given, first on the list being not to approach her for any reason. She'd kept herself positioned with her right arm toward the door, the blue bandanna tied around that bicep the 'all clear' signal. If her left arm, adorned with the red bandanna, had been presented, it would have been the signal to abort and try again the next night.

“Chasind Sack Mead,” he told Quintus, voice a bit too loud.

“We don't carry that swill here,” the bartender replied. Sign and countersign given.

“A glass of whatever's good, then,” the kid said, placing his payment on the bar. Quintus had swept the coins away before any onlooker would have had time to see the gleam of gold and speculate that he was paying a bit much for a drink. Whatever was in the shot glass that he set before the templar was clear and probably could do double-duty taking rust off of armor and weapons. The kid picked up the glass, visibly steeling himself, then downed it in a single go and promptly doubled over coughing, eyes bulging and face turning bright crimson.

“Another one for me,” Celeste called to Quintus, setting her empty glass on the bar and putting two silvers beside it. He took the silver, poured more wine and left her 'change'. She palmed the coins without counting them, slipping most of them into her vest: the payment from the templar, minus Quintus' cut for acting as a go-between and the cost for whatever rotgut he'd served the kid. And no change for her two silvers. The only robbery Lusine permitted in the Rose took place at the bar.

“Care for some company, m'lady?” Sabina approached her with a welcoming smile.

“Another time,” Celeste promised her, leaning forward a bit. “But here -” Reaching out, she plucked one of the sovereigns she'd palmed from behind the elf's ear with her right hand while slipping the two vials of lyrium into the girl's pocket with her left. “Buy yourself a drink."

The girl's smile brightened with delight at the trick and the tip: easily twice what she made for an evening's entertainment, and none of it going to Lusine. That it was also considerably more than Quintus' cut of the action was only fair, since Sabina was taking a far greater risk as the one who moved the contraband.

She watched as the elf sauntered around the bar and approached the templar, leaning in close to whisper something in his ear. That was the point at which the lyrium would undergo its final transfer of ownership, but evidently Sabina added in a bonus, because the kid jumped as though she'd given his broomstick a twist.

"ImsorryIthinkIvechangedmymind," he announced in a pitch that suggested he'd experienced a sudden reversal of puberty, his face redder than Celeste's scarf. He backed away from the bar, then scampered out the door to scattered applause and catcalls. The Rose counted more than a few templars among its regular clientele, but not many were warmly regarded.

Sabina turned back to Celeste with a shrug and a wink. Mission accomplished. Quick and clean. Now the pup would take the lyrium back to his superiors, who would confirm its purity and leave a message at the arranged drop setting up the exchange of the remainder of the shipment for the remainder of the money. Quite a bit of money.

It was what made lyrium one of her favorite smuggling cargoes. The vials were small, easy to conceal aboard the Wicked Grace, and it was risky enough to be challenging, with a healthy profit margin. More profitable than fleecing perverts, if not quite as amusing.

And speaking of perverts, she'd begun to think that the Comte had simply fainted upon getting under Gideon's skirt (wouldn't have been the first time) when a strangled shout filtered down from the second floor.

"Stop," she instructed Quintus, who nodded.

"Seven minutes, forty-seven seconds," he announced loudly. The chorus of cheers and groans that rose up made it clear that there had been bets placed on the outcome here, as well as on the Wicked Grace.

Well, crap. Looked like she was out ten silver, and if memory served, Stubby would take the whole damn pot. Gideon had managed to beat his previous record by a full half minute (the two that had fainted without making a sound weren't included in the count), and Celeste had put her own money at the seven and a half mark. The cook had been the highball at seven and fifty (if Gideon managed to keep the con going longer than the highest time guessed, he won the pot).

Ah, well. You couldn't win them all. Past history promised at least one more act to the evening's entertainment, so she settled back in to wait for it.

Celeste Monroe

Shenaniginstigator In Chief
Post DAI Timeline
DAO/DA2 Timeline
It wasn't a long wait before the little Comte descended the stairs, very nearly tumbling ass-over-ears in his haste. His ferret eyes were the widest she'd seen, his face was blanched nearly as white as the shirt he clutched to his bare chest, and the side of his neck sported a hickey that looked as though a lamprey had latched onto him.

“Your Lordship, is something wrong?” Madam Lusine approached him, the picture of innocent concern. The look that he threw her seemed composed of equal parts venom and terror, but a warning against retaliation would have been included in the conversation upstairs, so his options were limited to precisely what he did: scurry for the door and into the night beyond.

“He's going to have an interesting time explaining that mark to his wife,” Lusine told Celeste with a smirk as the room burst into a raucous mix of laughter and cheers in the wake of the Comte's departure. Another legend of the Blooming Rose that would be bringing people through the doors for weeks to come, which explained the improvement in the proprietor's demeanor.

“He's married?” Celeste was hardly surprised, but she hoped the wife wouldn't end up bearing the brunt of his anger.

“Oh, yes,” Lusine confirmed with an evil chuckle. “An arranged marriage. His title is just about all he has, while her family had money and a daughter that would have been too large for most men's tastes. She'd make two of him easily, and not much of it is padding. He's too terrified of her to try his nastiness in their bedchamber, though, and for good reason. I suspect he'll be sporting a few more marks on that lily-white hide before the night's out.”

“Good for her,” Celeste replied, raising her glass in salute before taking another sip as Gideon descended the stairs, dress and makeup still flawless, as regal as a queen (king … whatever).

“My dear lady!” One of the blokes who had been eying Gideon earlier approached as the Tal Vashoth angled toward the bar and offered an extravagant bow. “If that churl's abominable behavior has not soured you on the notion of companionship tonight, it would be my honor to spend time in your company.”

Gid looked down at the man, smiled pleasantly and said, “Sorry, but I'm not that kind of girl,” in a bass rumble that vibrated through the floorboards. The would-be paramour's eyes bulged open, and he levitated backwards with an alacrity that would likely have drawn accusations of magical apostasy, had any templars been present. Unruffled, Gideon continued his trajectory, fetching up beside Celeste.

“Heartbreaker,” she accused him.

One massive shoulder tipped up in a shrug. “When you've got it,” he replied modestly.

“Message delivered?”

“Loud and clear,” Gideon confirmed. “Told him that if he got caught doing it again, I'd personally sell him to the Antaam for the soldiers to use as a tool for sexual release.”

Celeste snorted. The threat was woven from the same cloth of bullshit as qunari bearing litters. The reality was that if the Friends of Red Jenny were called on to take further action, the little bastard would likely just get a knife between his ribs. Digging into her vest pocket, she withdrew his cut of the take and passed it over. Half for him, a quarter to Celeste and a quarter split between the crewmates who had aided in his transformation. He'd had to get close enough to the pervert to plant that hickey, after all.

“Thanks,” he told her, then to Quintus, “Rum.” The bartender took the sovereign and replaced it with silvers and a double shot of Gid's preferred brand from Rivain. “To fools with money,” he intoned, reaching out to tap the edge of her glass with his.

“May they be ever rich and stupid,” she agreed, downing the last of her wine and pushing away from the bar.

“Leaving?” he asked her.

She nodded. “Fun's done, time to run.” Another night, she might have indulged in a friendly tumble with Sabina, or maybe Adriano. Just not tonight.

“Giddy!” Katriela wrapped her arms around a massive bicep, gazing up at him coquettishly. “You're not leaving too, are you?”

“With such beauty to keep me here?” he replied, his tone shifting from rumble to the velvet purr that made women swoon, the makeup and dress apparently not diluting the effect in the slightest. The crimson eyes cut back to Celeste. “You'll be all right?”

“Fine,” she assured him. “Think I'll wander over to the Hanged Man and see if I can keep myself entertained.” Gid knew the day as well as she did. Daniel's birthday: the second since the sea had taken him. The Red Jenny caper would have pleased him immensely, and he'd have been the first to tell her to enjoy the hospitality of the Rose; they'd enjoyed it together more than once over the years.

It simply wasn't what she was in the mood for tonight. She wasn't feeling melancholy – not exactly, anyway, but with both reasons she'd come to the Rose tonight seen to, the urge to move on was strong. There was fun yet to be had in Kirkwall tonight: something to make the ghost of Daniel Monroe roar with laughter in the Fade, and she was of a mind to find it.

He nodded. “I'll be back in the morning,” he told her, which answered the question of where his share of the take was going. Lusine didn't give discounts. And yes, he would walk from Hightown to the docks in the dress, most likely without anyone daring to give him more than a side-eye.

“D'you have a poem for me, Giddy?” Katriela urged him, tugging at his arm with about as much success as she'd have had moving a mountain until he allowed himself to be moved.

“Of course.” He towered over the petite elf even more than he had the Comte, but his bearing had changed in that subtle way that he had. Even with the dress, padding and makeup, nobody would mistake him as anything but male now, deep voice rolling smoothly as he let her lead him back toward the stairs:

“She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes ...”

Celeste didn't wait to hear the rest. Gideon didn't need her help to get laid; between that voice and his poetry, he saw more action than the ship's mouser, and that tomcat had sired kittens at every dock from Gwaren to Dairsmuid. Leaving her first mate to his evening's entertainment, she slipped out the door and into the night in search of a diversion of her own.

((OOC - Poem stolen by Gideon from Lord Byron))