Festhalls of Waterdeep
Prostitution, or "the soft trade" as it is sometimes called in genteel company, holds no stigma in Waterdeep. Ever practical, Waterdhavians have two views that contribute to an overall acceptance of the soft trade: a respect for making money (however it is done) and considering the seeking of pleasure as a virtue rather than a vice. As such, prostitution is perfectly legal (though attempts to establish a formal guild for soft traders has not yet come to fruition). Of course, not everyone is automatically in favor of it, particularly when patrons of the soft trade are committing infidelity when engaging in it. Of course, for every couple that views such entertainments as a violation of their union, there is a couple who enjoy such diversions together. Waterdeep is nothing if not cosmopolitan. Some distinctions in the various soft traders are found below:
Classes of Soft Trader
There are four "classes" of soft-trader, generally speaking.
- street walker: Very low class soft-trader who works on the streets. Often have bad reputations, as they have sometimes fallen prey to drunkenness or disease, and can't find work in reputable establishments. Others may simply be too plain or unrefined to work in such places. Unlike coin lasses and turncoins, they often are too poor to have someplace to take their clients back to, living in large numbers or in inns or with family, so they accompany clients back to their own places (a practice almost universally considered foolhardy and dangerous) or simply engage in a nearby shadowy alley. Street walkers generally charge copper for their services.
- coin lass, turncoin: soft-trader (female and male, respectively), who wait in alleys to attract custom. Frequently return to rented rooms or dwelling. Coin lasses and turncoins most often solicit in silver coin for their services.
- highcoin lass, laugh-lad: soft-trader (female and male, respectively), who is higher-class than a coin lass or turncoin. Frequently employed by establishments of some kind, and often solicit for their services in gold coinage.
- highcoin lady, bright-spear: soft-trader (female and male, respectively), who is able to blend in with the very rich and noble. Rarely solicit in individual payments for specific instances of their services, but take on "patrons" who pay regular coin in exchange for being able to visit often during their patronage.
Professions of the Soft Trade
- arcanator, arcanatrix: Soft-traders who employ magical talents in their professions, most often illusions and enchantments. Often quite rare and in demand, they can charge quite large amounts of coin.
- body servant, concubine: A concubine is a type of domestic servant, generally very beautiful and genteel. A concubine is basically just another sort of household servant, save that their duties lie in the bedroom (or wherever else their amorous employers desire). Though the term originally applied only to those servants of the very wealthy who could afford to bring in a live-in soft trade servant, it is also sometimes applied to those soft traders who "make house calls," arriving at a patron's home to provide a few hours' entertainment.
- courtesan: Beautiful and well-trained in the bedroom arts, but also expected to maintain artistic or social skills as well. Most often be woo'd for patronage.
- doloror, dolorix: The polar opposite of the tormentor or tormentrix, the doloror and dolorix are professional submissives who offer themselves up to sensual torture by their patrons. They are skilled at subtly aiding their (sometimes inexperienced) patrons' efforts while maintaining their own personal safety, and frequently well-trained in healing arts and the talents of escaping from bonds. Dedicated dolorors and dolorixes are frequently devotees of Ilmater, the Crying God.
- escort: Escorts are soft traders whose work takes them out in public, as attractive companions to social events or simply for a night out on town. Whether coin-lasses or courtesans, an escort must be beautiful and fashionable, and above all an able conversationalist, providing stimulating discourse while not dominating the discussion. They are frequently well-known in social circles and in establishments such as festhalls and theaters.
- father, pander: A term with connotations of roughness, traditionally the purview of rough men who employ street walkers and keep them safe on the streets. May also be a man who runs a festhall or brothel.
- festlass, festlad: a soft-trader who also works as a performer in a festhall, providing entrainment of some kind. Whether acting, singing, dancing, vaudeville or some other art, every festlass or festlad is expected to strive to become a star. Of course, the reality is that many of them simply remain in the background of big productions, and the rest of the time roam the taproom of the festhall seeking to entice customers. Nonetheless, all of them are required to spend hours every week practicing and learning their arts, often from well-renowned artists. These soft trade workers are often quite glamorous and develop devoted fanbases of folk who are content to simply see their performances without ever employing them as companions. It is also not unknown for some of the less-known festlasses and -lads to hire themselves out as entertainment at parties and the like, but these tend to be hard currency workers rather than courtesans.
- hidecoin: soft-trader of either gender who is so slick in manner and subtle in solicitations that only a few clients know their trade.
- hierodule: Some temples maintain small populations of hierodules or holy prostitutes. Their exact purpose varies by faith, but they all offer their intimate companionship to the faithful, bringing blessings, healing and sometimes even experiencing prophecies and visions on behalf of the worshipper. Of those in Waterdeep, only Sune's maintains active hierodules in its organization.
- mother, mander: the owner of a festhall or brothel, who hires and watches over her soft-traders. Less frequently, the term used for a woman responsible for overseeing the safety of street walkers under her employ.
- tormentor/tormentrix: Simply a distinction in services provided by any given soft trader, the tormentrix or tormentor are skilled at the application of erotic pain for the pleasure of the patron. Their arts are myriad and impressive, often requiring extensive training who specialize not just in physical experiences, but in emotional and mental cruelty and torture. These soft traders are often devotees of Loviatar.
Types of Festhalls
A variety of establishments all under the category of "festhalls". They are unified in a single trait, however: the providing of attractive intimate companions in return for coin.
- Festhalls: Performance venues filled with music, festhalls range from the rustically bawdy to the dark and sensuous to high-energy places filled with light, color and bombast. All of them have one thing in common, however: their performers are courtesans, eagerly sought-after beauties who offer their affections to those patrons with the coin to catch and keep their attention. Their company is most-often sought after performances, and winning the affection of a truly popular and talented courtesan performer is a mark of distinction in Waterdhavian society. Festhall courtesans are never simply for hire to anyone who comes along, save in the seediest such establishments - they often must be wooed and won, although the chase is frequently just difficult enough to be exciting, rather than truly difficult.
- Nightclubs: There are several establishments in Waterdeep that feature music and a large open space for patrons to dance. Most such establishments permit ladies of the coin to pay a fee to enter the establishment, to provide dancing partners and solicit those whom they dance with. A few of the upper-crust establishments also house courtesans who provide elegant, flirtatious company, but who must be wooed in the usual way with such folk, rather than the any-with-the-coin attitude of coin-lasses.
- Spas: The majority of spas provide ample pampering and relaxation regimens, which frequently include intimate physical company as well. These lasses and lads are paid well for their services not by the patron, but by the spa itself, which simply charges the patron in a single lump sum for the whole of the services they take advantage of.
- Gambling Houses: Gambling houses rarely have in-house companions, though when they do, they are inevitably courtesans. Far more frequently, however, gambling houses invite local courtesans to visit their establishments with their patrons, offering the courtesans a small fee for each visit, in return for ensuring the patronage of a (usually wealthy) new patron. Likewise, it is not unusual for both courtesans and coin-lasses to visit these establishments themselves, paying a bit of coin at the door in return for the opportunity to mingle with potential new clients.
- Brothels: Brothels are invariably the domain of coin-lasses and -lads, domiciles in varying degrees of opulence that provide entertainment for patrons. They usually feature a large salon, often with a bar, where those workers not currently in assignation with a patron can be seen and approached. Brothels are usually run by a "mother", often a former coin-lass herself. Many of them also have a "father" who accompanies those lads and lasses of the brothel who walk the streets for trade; he is frequently armed and adept at violence, in order to protect his charges. Such street walkers either retire to a patron's domicile, or bring them back to their rooms in the brothel (though of course a few indulge in patrons' desires for wild or simply lazy inclinations, like assignations in alleys or parks).