47. The Magnificent Five: Lucius Scaevola D’Arcy

Lucius seems surprised but also pleased when Inglorion pays him a call in his dressing room the following day. Lucius is dressed simply, as a man, in breeches and a white linen shirt. There’s nothing effeminate or dandified about his manner. His long, black, curly hair is his own. He wears it braided and bound into a queue, which gives him a pleasingly old-fashioned look. He’s delicate and graceful, but his command over his gestures and expressions lends him gravitas despite his youth.

They shake hands, and Lucius invites his visitor to take a seat near the dressing-table. He explains that he’s preparing for a performance. “My day job, you might say. I’m a gladiator.”

Inglorion blinks a few times, his expression ecstatic. “You’re a gladiator? My dear sir, I’ve never heard anything so perfect.”

“Yes, along with my drag work it pays the bills. I’m in a troupe called the Reservoir Dogs. I play a Great Plains Indian, Terminator X. The costume requires a lot of work — I spend a lot of time mending my war bonnet and applying war paint.”

“You said you came from a family of performers?”

“Well, that’s an exaggeration. In her youth my mother was — I’ve never found a perfect term — a demi-mondaine with a specialized clientele. I grew up around people who did various kinds of bits. I started dressing and performing as Greta X because I could. Maman had a whole crowd of drag queen friends, and they wouldn’t rest until they got me into a dress and high heels. Their attitude was, You’re pretty and graceful and you don’t have to shave, so you should do this. It is a tremendous gift, and it would be a shame to waste it. I’m surprised you’ve never tried it.”

Inglorion laughs. “Nothing was further from my mind at your age. I was the most dour, serious creature. All I could think of was dual-wielding heavy weapons, serving my god, and slipping it to any girl who would have me.”

Lucius nods, look thoughtful. “It’s true that dual-wielding could be a problem. There are trade-offs — I’m very aware of the possibility of ruining my look by overtraining. I’m sure your god wouldn’t object, though, and the ladies love it. Honestly, I think it’s the world’s best-kept seduction secret. Women love a man who’s well-groomed and dresses with care. And anyway —” he winks “the dress comes off in the end.”

“That’s indisputable. What an original you are, Lucius.” Lucius shrugs. Inglorion contemplates him with satisfaction. He does find this graceful, handsome boy fascinating. He represents a path that Inglorion couldn’t have imagined taking as a young man. Inglorion senses that their gifts are very similar, but Lucius has put them to entirely different use. He muses, “I wonder if I could do it?”

“Anyone can,” says Lucius. “It’s just more or less convincing and attractive. It would require more work now, because you’re thoroughly settled into being a man. I started young — at 13 or 14 — and I had a lot of coaching, all the things you don’t notice about the opposite sex, the things people respond to unconsciously. You’re beautiful, but I promise you that if we put you in drag, there would be a dozen little habits to overcome. And it’s harder in daily life than onstage. Onstage you can exaggerate it, but in real life you have to seem naturally feminine, which is actually quite difficult and takes a lot of practice, even for women.”

“Would you show me how? Not now, obviously — you have a performance to prepare for tonight. But when you’re at leisure?”

“Of course. It will take some work, but you’re a natural performer. It’s like learning a new weapon. It takes focus and practice, awareness of how you’re using your body.” He jumps up and leads Inglorion to a full-length mirror. “Your features are good. A truly beautiful face is androgynous. With the right makeup, your face could easily read as feminine.”

“A different warpaint, for a different battle.”

“You wear warpaint?”

“I have it tattooed on, in Drow ink. You’d see it if we snuffed all the candles and put out the fire. I’m assuming you have Drow darkvision, and you’re colorblind?”

“Oh, yes. I’m very much a creature of the night. When you’re a performer, no one thinks it odd if you avoid the sun.” He turns back to studying Inglorion in the mirror. “Your shoulders and torso would be the main problem. Not just how muscular you are. There’s a certain inflexibility, a way of moving. You’re very graceful for a man, but training and injury and so forth take their toll. Take off your jacket and shirt.”

Inglorion does, and Lucius nods thoughtfully. “Yes, all of that has to be covered. It would be high-necked, long-sleeved dresses for you. Actually, a velvet riding habit would be very dashing. I never pad my chest, but you might have to — it would help to get the proportion right.” He turns Inglorion so that he’s in profile and adds, “Nice ass. Lay a bustle on that, and men will follow you all over town. Mind you, we’ll have to get you in high heels and tame your crotch-rocking ways. It’s a very different motion. And as a woman you’re not an ingenue — you’ve have to be a very masterful femme d’une certain age.”

“Yes, I’m too restless to be an ingenue, whereas you have that fine quality of repose. That’s what I found so attractive in Greta X.”

Lucius nods seriously. “Exactly. It’s natural to me, but I cultivate and preserve it, too — that sense of ‘Come and get it, boys.’ Receptivity.” He continues to study Inglorion’s face and bearing. “A corset would help. Your waist is perfectly slim, but a corset reminds you how to move, and it suggests breasts. It’s almost better than the real thing, and certainly better than a bra stuffed with tissue. A choker would do wonders, and earrings. You’d probably treat rings on your fingers like brass knuckles.”

“Probably. And, indeed, when I wear my signet, it’s partly for that purpose.”

“You have a signet ring?”

He hesitates. “Yes. I didn’t introduce myself fully when we met. I’m Inglorion Atropos Androktasiai, Marquis Theates.”

“It’s an honor to make Your Lordship’s acquaintance. Why didn’t you tell Greta X?”

“It seemed like a distraction, and I didn’t think she’d be impressed to meet a Drow peer.”

Lucius says, “If you’d like, I can do your makeup tonight, before I get ready to go onstage. In return, you can help me with my warpaint.”

Lucius sits Inglorion down at his dressing table and says, “Let’s see… You won’t need foundation. Your skin is lovely, and of course there’s no beard to conceal.” He presses his lips together, considering. “I think we should darken your brows and lashes. You’re so fair, you’d look washed-out onstage.” Quickly, deftly, he uses an angled brush to sketch in Inglorion’s brows. He coats his upper and lower lashes with black mascara. “It’s not waterproof, so don’t rub your eyes, or you’ll look like a raccoon. Don’t cry or sweat too much, for that matter.”

He continues, “Your lips are lovely. Mine are thin by comparison.” He lines them, then applies layer after layer of lipstick, blotting with a tissue between layers. “Again, you can’t eat or lick your lips, and you’ll have to reapply every hour or so.” He adds a layer of gloss on top. “This will really take advantage of that pouty lower lip.” He considers, tilts Inglorion’s chin back and forth. “We’ll do blush, but no contouring, I think. Your cheekbones are perfect. Your jaw and chin are strong, but that fits the character.

“Now for your eyes. I’ll have to play around a bit. I’m not sure I want to line them really heavily, make them quite as dark as mine are. In fact…” He starts fiddling with pigment. “Close.” Inglorion feels a little mink brush flicking across his right lid, then his left. “Keep them closed.” This time the brush traces around his upper lids. “One more — this will be wet, and will feel cold.” A tiny, wet bush flicks around the base of his lashes, feeling like an impossibly tiny, cold tongue. “Oh, yes, that’s it. Keep them closed for just a moment. I’ll give you a layer of setting powder.” Inglorion feels a duster made of ostrich feathers dancing over his face, neck, collarbones. “OK. Now you can open.”

Lucius nods. “Yes, I think that’s it. Hang on — let me put your hair up. Right now it very much says, ‘male elf.’” He deftly adds a series of tiny brads, and twists it into a knot high on Inglorion’s head. He makes a few final adjustments, pulling a single lock forward to trail artfully across one shoulder. “Oh, yes, that’s nice,” says Lucius. He steps back, frowns, picks Inglorion’s cloak up from a nearby chair and drapes it over his shoulders and chest. “There. That’s not bad at all.” He turns Inglorion around to face the three-panel mirror on the dressing table. 

“Holy shit,” Inglorion says, then bursts out laughing. “That’s amazing.” And it is. With his chest and shoulders swathed in silk, his white hair piled elaborately on his head, and full makeup — all raspberry pinks and soft grays — Inglorion is a strikingly beautiful woman. The illusion flickers a bit when Inglorion reaches up to touch the plaits on the crown of his head. They both notice it, and Lucious says, “Your gestures are very masculine, but that’s fixable. You make a charming woman, and the illusion could be quite convincing with practice.”

Dressing as a woman is not something Inglorion has ever considered before. Women are, for him, a kind of treasured prey, a favorite food item, or a particularly luxurious bedding he can settle into. He asked Lucius to transform him on a whim; seeing it is fascinating and taboo. Inglorion gives himself a come-hither look in the mirror and says, “I’d hit that.”

Lucius smiles. “Anyone would. Indeed, seeing you in makeup, I’m less concerned about the outfit. With a face like that, everything else will follow. What do you sing? Tenor, I hope.”

“Oh, yes. I can sing anything from bass to high alto without too much strain.”

Lucius catches sight of the mantlepiece clock, says, “I need to start dressing now. Tell me about Drow warpaint while I do it.”

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