Part 1: The Premise, The Alchemist's Illusions

Chapter 1: The Estate

The pleasure house sprawled along the shoreline with all the languid elegance of a nude reclining on the beach.

By this point, it was more of an estate than a house. There were no less than a dozen buildings and the streets between were part of the experience, too.

The estate was a temple dedicated to the senses.

Genius chefs prepared the most incredible food — elevated classics as well as new inventions. Hints as to their next dish snuck out from between the kitchen doors. The earthy smell of fresh bread, the tantalizing perfume of roasting herbs and meat.

There was always a stream of music flowing through the air, harps and lutes and whole ensembles. During celebrations, the melodies were jubilant, but otherwise they trailed soft and lingering like a fingertip over a lover’s shoulder and down to their waist.

The sights were equally dazzling. There were the natural beauties, the broad expense of the ocean, the spectacle of the sun making her blazing red bed upon it, the prettiest faces in the kingdom, the curves of muscle and flesh. There were also the crafted beauties, whole dresses of traditional beadwork, brave fashions in silk, wall-side murals and stalls hawking made-to-order paintings.

Just standing in the middle of the estate was so delightful, it was hard to imagine that yet more pleasures awaited. And, indeed, there were plenty of patrons that left totally sated after having gained nothing more than a new silk robe and a little box of pastries tied with red string.

However, foods and clothes and wares were not the only thing for sale in the estate. There were also ample opportunities to indulge in what the madame called experiences.

Many were explicitly sexual. Many were not.

The madame was a firm believer that pleasure was an experience which engaged both the senses and the heart, that the emotional and aesthetic and erotic were as inseparably intertwined as young lovers, and that there was little to be gained from trying to draw a firm line of what was sex and what was not.

Was laying back on a cushioned bed in the afternoon sunshine with gentle hands feeding you ripe strawberries sexual? It depended on the person. To some, it would be deeply arousing. To others, serene. To others, comforting and even maternal. The estate never made assumptions.

There were three rules governing all experiences at the pleasure house.

1. Everything given. 

2. Nothing taken.

3. Have fun.

‘Everything given’ meant that whatever was given — consent, payment, control — had to be given enthusiastically and without reservation.

‘Nothing taken’ meant that coercion and force were firmly forbidden. It also meant ‘nothing taken for granted’ which was a way of reinforcing that clear and consistent communication was expected.

‘Have fun’ meant just that.


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