Monday, February 26, 2018

Guest Blog - La Contessa by S. Nano

La Contessa’s Card Game

The setting for La Contessa is 18th century Venice. Indeed, the city is almost like an extra character in the story, providing the perfect back drop for the debauched games and political plotting of its main character.

It was important for me to capture the spirit of Venice or La Serenissima as it was called. The book contains detail about fashions, masks, art, food and drink to try and evoke 18th century Venice for the reader. Many social customs are referred to including the famous Regattas and Carnevale. But one of my favourite scenes in the book is La Contessa’s version of the card game Faro.

Il Ridotto was Venice’s state gaming house, established in 1638 in a wing of Palazzo Dandalo. It was an attempt to control the games of cards and dice that were appearing in the lanes of Venice. The gaming house was notorious and attracted huge numbers of gamblers, usually from the wealthy classes playing high stakes games. Gamblers were required to wear tri-cornered hats and masks. One of the card games played at Il Ridotto was Faro.

Faro was hugely popular in 18th century Venice. It was a relatively simple and fast moving game, hence it was possible to lose large amounts of money quickly. Without getting into the details of the rules, basically gamers played against the dealer by placing stakes on cards that were turned over. ‘Losing’ cards meant the stake went back to the dealer, ‘winning’ cards meant the player gathered the stakes on that card.

La Contessa invites some of her aristocratic friends to join her in a game; there is Lady Rudston from England, Archduchess Hofburg from Salzburg, Anastasia Petrova, a Russian Princess and Mademoiselle Marie La Tour from Paris. However, this being a book of BDSM erotica, La Contessa has an imaginative twist to her version of Faro. The stakes are converted into punishments. These are administered by palm of the hand, whip, flogger and cane to the respective servants of the women. Roberto, La Contessa’s servant and the narrator of the story, ends up receiving the lion’s share of the beatings.

Il Ridotto was eventually closed in 1774. But the game of Faro went on to become popular in the casinos of the wild west.

Story extract

I hear a commotion of chatting and giggling from the other side of the door before it’s flung open by Lucio dressed in formal attire for the occasion. Lucio sees me standing by the card table and shoots me a disdainful stare across the room. La Contessa enters with her four guests.

They are a bizarre sight dressed with the formal extravagance of Venetian court life. Julia has done a remarkable job in transforming her mistress into the epitome of current Venetian fashion. The wigs are enormous, even by the standards of the day. It’s as if they’ve entered a competition for the tallest wig, which, inevitably, La Contessa has won, as hers is several inches higher than the others. They are embellished with jewels and enormous feathers so that, even in the high ceiling of the salon, they nearly touch the roof. In fact, I believe the size of La Contessa’s wig is so preposterous a parody of the fashion of the day, or even a mockery of her guests, is suggested. She has the statuesque figure and poise to pull it off but, though I’d dare not hint it to her, as a group they appear rather ridiculous.

It’s not only the enormous wigs. Their faces are powdered white, their lips rouged and their faces adorned with false moles in the shape of hearts or spades. Their gowns are sumptuous; the quality of the material, their cut, and vibrant colours are stunning. They walk stiffly, encumbered as they are by their wigs, bustles, and layers of undergarments.

As they enter one of La Contessa’s guests is nattering away to the others in good Italian with a strange accent, which I take to be English, “I’m enjoying Venice exceedingly. I must say, much to my surprise, so is Lord Rudston. I was most worried he’d be bored away from his estate and his hunting, but he seems to have taken such an interest in the architecture here. You know, he has taken to regular constitutional walks where he simply insists on going out on his own to explore Venice. I’m most delighted he’s shown an interest in things other than his hunting, it’s most refreshing.”

I have to restrain myself from laughing. I catch La Contessa’s gaze and we exchange discreet smiles. We both know where Lord Rudston’s been! He’s taken himself off to the brothels of the Cannaregio. He’s probably fucked every prostitute in Venice by now without Lady Rudston suspecting a thing. 

Well, I say every prostitute; that would be some achievement given there are several thousand of them!

From the introductions made by Lucio I can identify La Contessa’s guests. There’s Lady Rudston, with a short round body and spherical face looking absurd in her massive wig.

 Apparently, Lord Rudston owns huge estates in a part of England I’ve never heard of called ‘Yorkshire’. There’s Archduchess Hofburg from Salzburg, who is tall, angular and pointed, Anastasia Petrova, allegedly a Russian Princess and finally, and most interestingly, Mademoiselle Marie La Tour, the wealthy heiress to the Gobelins tapestry factory in Paris, who is young and pretty. They make for a strange party.

Now, from the point of view of La Contessa’s plans for her soiree, they have each come with a male servant, dressed like me in combinations of leather straps and thongs. I expect La Contessa has loaned this attire as I can’t imagine this being normal dress in these aristocratic houses. They are directed to stand next alongside me at one end of the card table.

The ladies take their seats at the table and Lucio pours out a glass of malvasie for each of them. They unfold their enormous fans, decorated with hand-painted Japanese geishas, which must be the latest fashion. I appreciate it must be hot under the thick velvet and damask dresses but the salon is not so warm. I can only think the fans are an affectation or, it occurs to me, they might be used for coded messages if the players had conspired to cheat La Contessa, as I know fans are used in this way. But I consider this highly unlikely. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine Lady Rudston having the wits to cheat anybody.

La Contessa explains the rules of her game, “I know you are familiar with the rules of faro. I shall play the role of dealer. You can bet up to five stakes for each turn. There is a delightful little twist to my version of the game though. After each turn your winning stakes are converted into punishments for our respective servants. So, if the dealer, that’s me, wins, then I get to punish your servant. If a player wins, then you get the chance to punish my slave. So, there you are ladies, it’s really win-win for you, either you administer corporal punishment or you watch it being delivered to another servant.”

As La Contessa explains her rules I stand there mentally calculating the likely odds. Surely that means with four against the dealer I have four times more chance of being punished than the other servants? Oh well, I was expecting there to be a twist, and it doesn’t surprise me La Contessa would load the odds against me.

“This is good. I am looking forward to game. Salons of St Petersburg do not permit such goings-on. We are not so, how do you say, opening of minds as in Venice,” explains the Princess Anastasia in broken Italian.

“Oh my goodness! If only Lord Rudston knew what I’m getting up to whilst he’s wandering around Venice looking at churches. He’s such a stick-in-the mud,” laughs Lady Rudston. “He’d never imagine I’d be doing anything as naughty as this whilst his back’s turned!”

“I was once invited by the Comte du Conde to a masked spanking ball at the palace of Vaux le Vicomte,” added Mademoiselle La Tour, “it was great fun. Thank you for inviting me Contessa, I’m looking forward to this.”

The thin Austrian archduchess looks across at her haughtily, “I’m surprised Le Comte would invite a tradesman and commoner to his palace.”

Mademoiselle stares daggers at her, “Money opens doors, as you’ll no doubt discover soon Herr Hofburg. Nobody will talk to an impoverished aristocrat as I expect you’ll soon find out after your husband has settled his debts at Il Ridotto.”

This afternoon could be fun! But La Contessa has no time for this squabbling amongst her guests and rapidly pulls them back to the game at hand.

 “Lucio, lay-out the instruments of punishment for me,” she orders.

He fetches an armful of implements and arraigns them on the green baize of an adjoining card table. There is a collection of whips, riding crops, tawses, straps, slippers, and canes of varying sizes, materials, and flexibility all capable of delivering severe corporal punishment. The servants of the other aristocratic guests stare nervously at the tools arraigned before them.

“I will add a little more interest to the game by giving a value to the implements. I believe the canes are the harshest so they need two winning stakes before you can use them. For the overall winner, the player with the most winning stakes, I have a special treat. So, shall we begin ladies?”

La Contessa
S. Nano

Genre: BDSM, Historical Erotica

Publisher: eXcessica

Date of Publication: 26 January 2018

Number of pages: 271
Word Count: 90.500

Cover Artist: Kevin Blisse

Book Description:

The most decadent city…

The most perverted mistress…

Renowned for her beauty and cruelty, La Contessa’s reputation as a dominatrix is well established. And eighteenth century Venice has degenerated into a decadent and lascivious city, the perfect backdrop for her to play-out her debauched games and political ambitions.

She sends her maid, Julia, into the alleyways to search for a young man to act as her slave. Julia finds Roberto prostituting himself in the least salubrious district of Venice. He enters into La Contessa’s service to perform her bizarre and sadistic scenes.

From their first meeting there is a mutual attraction between maid and servant. The young couple engineer a series of sexual encounters, knowing the risks should their mistress discover them. Their situation is complicated when La Contessa rescues Becky and brings her to the palazzo as her submissive girl-slave. The interloper exposes Julia’s jealousies… and the feelings for her mistress.

How long can Roberto and Julia keep their love secret? Will Becky’s presence thwart their relationship? Will La Contessa’s scheming bring her the richest prize in all Venice?

All is resolved before the grand ball and masked, BDSM orgy held by La Contessa in her palazzo as the climax to Venice’s Carnivale.

Extract: heat level 1 

La Contessa gestures for me to take up a position at the opposite side of her from Becky.

She’s dressed formally, in her wig, a rich embroidered gown, and as much make-up as I’ve seen her wear. She’s dressed to impress, and when I see her guest, I understand why. His gown is grand, its hood lined with ermine. But it’s the cane, capped with a silver winged lion, which provides the vital clue for me. Nobody would openly carry such an iconic symbol if they were not part of Venice’s ruling elite. The ensuing conversation confirms my suspicions.

“May I speak frankly to you, Contessa?”

“Yes, these are my servants. I trust them not to allow any report of our conversation to go beyond this room. They know the severity of the punishment if they do.”

“This is a delicate matter, Contessa. As you know the trade through Venice of late has declined, and the Doge and Council of Ten are, let me be frank, in straightened circumstances.”

“Allessandro Fernasse, I’m perfectly aware the interest on my loans to the Doge is due for payment in a matter of days. No doubt you’ve been sent here to crawl on behalf of the Council of Ten to renegotiate the interest payments. And, knowing the perverse lecher you are, I don’t doubt you’d also like to avail yourself of the entertainments I offer. You will see I have acquired a new slave and slave girl since you were last here. The girl is especially delicious don’t you think… and very willing.”

The corpulent representative of the Council of Ten squirms uncomfortably in his seat, sweat dripping from his forehead. I’m intrigued by this exchange. It explains a lot. Venice is a place where money rules. This must be the hold La Contessa has over the ruling elite of the city, making her untouchable in whatever she does.

“Yes, Contessa, on behalf of the Council I’m here to ask for a rescheduling of our debts.”

La Contessa raises an eyebrow, “Ask? You mean beg, surely.”

“Well, to discuss what mutually beneficial arrangements we might come to,” splutters Fernasse.

“Ha! You mean beg. And yes, I will make you beg! Get out of the chair onto your knees and crawl towards me.”

“But, Contessa, is it your intention to humiliate me?”

“Yes, indeed it is. Do as I say and get on your knees or there will be no negotiation. I will simply insist on the repayment of my loan. You know the consequences.”

Offered no alternative, Fernasse heaves his body out of the chair and gets down on his knees. He crawls the short distance to where La Contessa sits, her hand outstretched ready for him. He takes it in his hand and kisses it. There is a pause.

“Yes?” prompts La Contessa.

“Contessa, I beg you on behalf of the Doge and the Council of Ten to extend the period of your loan to the city for six months. We are expecting a fleet of merchant ships to arrive from the Far East by then with goods we can trade. I beg you to grant us this favour.”

“That’s better. And tell the Doge, next time he wants to reschedule his debts, he must come himself, and I will make him get down on his knees and crawl. I am minded to agree to an extension but I do have further conditions; a few trifles to satisfy my whims.”

“Yes, Contessa; let me know what they are. I’m confident we will be able to accommodate them,” said Fernasse, still on his knees.

“The first stipulation is that, on the final day of Carnevale, I will expect my barge to lead the procession along the Grand Canal, and for the ball to be held in my palazzo.”

“Why yes, Contessa, we would be honoured for you to host the Carnevale’s masked ball,” he says, relieved at the relative modesty of the request.

About the Author:

S. Nano is a writer of erotic stories with dark and exotic content in fantasy or historical settings drawing on the themes of female domination, BDSM and fetish but often with a seam of quirky humour running through them.

‘La Contessa’ is his third full length novel. ‘Adventures in Fetishland’, a BDSM/fetish re-invention of the classic Alice stories was published by Xcite Books and ‘Mistress of the Air’, a comic, Steampunk, erotic adventure was published by eXcessica. His novellas and short stories have been published by Xcite Books, House of Erotica, Forbidden Fiction, Coming Together and Greenwoman Publishing.

He is a regular participant in reading slams at ‘Smut by the Sea’ and similar events in the UK, contributing a workshop ‘Kinking Up the Past’, on getting inspiration for erotic stories in historical settings, in 2015.

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