Eye of the Mercenary

Disclaimer: All recognizable characters are the property of R.A. Salvatore/Wizards of the Coast ©. I don't own them; I'm just examining all their possibilities.

Original concept based on the artwork of Darrkest Drow and used with kind permission.

Author's Note: This story was based on the Darrkest Drow art piece "Drow Studs Quarterly, Spring 2005 Edition" and meant to be the article mentioned on the cover as "Jarlaxle's Preview of Next Season's Underdark Fashion Do's and Don'ts." I simply couldn't resist writing it out.

The original piece can be found online at Darrkest Drow's gallery at Deviant Art. Inspiration also came from Shadowgirl1's fanfic "Mercenary with Style," so without further ado:

"In the Eye of the Mercenary: Jarlaxle's Preview of Next Season's Underdark Fashion Do's and Don't's"

by Jarlaxle, Captain of Bregan D'aerthe

as told to Mistress Manthar, Drow Studs Quarterly's regular fashion maven

I have to start by saying how absolutely tickled I am that such a fine publication such as Drow Studs Quarterly has asked little old me to give my simple opinion on such a fascinating topic; though I will not take this time to lament having been asked to pose for the cover, yet I am sure my scrawny little form is not quite the object of desire as…oh say your current coverboy Uthegental Armgo (don't ask me how I know that, charming soldier will be your latest piece of ogle, I have my sources), but I do digress.

I have always found fashion a rather fascinating topic. Contrary to popular belief, I do own other articles of clothing besides that beautiful vest I am quite fond of that displays my midsection rather well, though I do confess I am probably partially responsible for this belief because that vest is ever so fine and I do wear it a little more often than not. No, I do in fact own a few nice, spidersilk shirts that are just little articles of luxury, and a few more pairs of trousers in velvet and leather that compliment my backside perfectly; though my hat is one accessory that is absolutely non-negotiable. Don't listen to all the "fashionable" naysayers who may tell you otherwise; purple indeed goes with everything.

Besides it only makes sense that a mercenary would be a reasonable expert on the topic of fashion. As the captain of Bregan D'aerthe, I must always be completely up to date on all the latest rumors and goings on; all the little rivalries, intrigues, and potential acts of aggression that may come from this to determine my next course of action and make a tidy profit in the process. The same is definitely true of fashion. Style is a war in and of itself and it is also important to be well armed with the knowledge of various trends, new ideas, and what is beautiful and what is plain horrid.

I feel it I would only be doing my civic duty as a loyal son of Menzoberranzan to give my little opinion on the comings and goings of all the changing strategies in this little war of style. As the caverns grow more humid and the winds blow a little less, you all should feel very fortunate that I am at least giving out these tips for but a smaller fee. If you want anything else, that will cost you a little more.

Do's; True Fashion Triumphs

I must begin my little list of the next big things in fashion by giving my overall impression of what will make these summer fashions so perfect. The order of the day is simple styles that reflect the personality of the wearer and show her or him to be confidant and commanding; a creature fearful and beautiful to behold. All of these are lighter in texture for the humid tunnels, yet pleasing to the eyes, showing true nobility and sophistication; whether a beautiful priestess or a handsome wizard or soldier. Without further ado, here is what all the well-dressed drow will be wearing this summer:

Lizard-skin trousers:

The entire student body of Sorcere swears that they came up with this wonderful idea first, yet I have been seeing these delicious articles of clothing worn for decades by a rival mercenary band in Ched Nasad. This small band had a little "accident" in the tunnels last year and their impeccable fashion sense traveled to Menzoberranzan, first has seeping through the ranks of merchants and slithering their way onto the well built legs of Tier-Breche students in all three schools. I have to say these trousers are absolute works of art; they fit the drow form well, yet are completely comfortable to maneuver in. Plus the colors and patterns make them absolutely beautiful, many coming from lizards with skin of striped red, green, orange, and black, that were a little too old to bear load. Ironic, isn't it that the final fate of a drow's steed is to ride on the drow herself? That little thought just puts a smile on my face.

Black, leather straps:

Once merely an accessory or a bondage device, well-tanned strips of rothé hide adorned with plenty of buckles and studs and now being worn as outfits in and of themselves. I think that is absolutely brilliant. This style is classic and always the favorite of dark elves of all professions since the look is so commanding. They are ridiculously easy to come by and enough put together in the right order can create the perfect outfit. Not happy with the creation? Then just change the location of a few and you have a whole new look. Plus should one ever have the need for a tourniquet or appropriate restraints, they are readily available.

Just a hint of color:

Tanners and dyers are doing such wonderful jobs with finding new pigments from various forms of fungus and different stones to create colors that accentuate drow skin perfectly. I have found the best robes, shirts, and even pieces of leather armor have a few different shades of purple for mistresses and green and orange for masters that stand out without being too obvious. These beautiful colors just make an outfit simply pop and make a statement while framing one's terrifying beauty.

Form-flattering robes:

The greatest style to appear in Menzoberranzan in a long time are shirts and robes constructed of light fabric, usually spider-silk or even (and you didn't hear this from me) surface fabrics such as cotton. The shape is always straight and perfectly aligned to the drow form. The style is simple, yet not flouncy and flatters all forms like each was perfectly made for the wearer. Many different clothiers are producing this beautiful garment, but I must say the true master of the straight robe is a new designer named Khalnes Nyn'ran from Sshamath; who interestingly enough is a thousand-year-old lich. I kid you not; Khalnes is a master mage who just grew tired of centuries of endless study, so he began designing robes as a hobby and now has his own clothing line as a side project. I admit I was a little put off by this little piece of information at first, but then it only makes sense. Liches are famous for their classic and impeccable sense of fashion, so maybe we members of the living could learn a few things; a lich's eye for the live guy, if you will.

Show me some skin:

I must close this list by adding the most subtle, yet obvious fashion triumph of this season; bare, beautiful, black skin. I don't mean walk around completely naked (though that is purely the reader's discretion), but a well, placed hole in clothing or appropriate flap is just enough to expose some of that fair flesh. Short pants, high vests (always my personal favorite), and the ever-so popular plunging neckline is even more effective. This is not just completely flattering on females, but also on taut, muscular young males as well.

Don'ts: Need I Say More?

Here are the fashions that may have been popular at one point in the history of Faerûn, yet now deserve to die a slow and painful death for this season, though who knows, I may actually like them again if I live for a few hundred more years. Here is the list of things one should only wear as an alternative to straggling through the wilds of the Underdark naked with no decent choice to be had.

Monotonous Monotone:

To those who think that wearing straight black or straight red will make you look any more daunting, my sympathies. As I have said earlier, the truly fashionable drow is one who is not afraid of varying colors and styles, showing ingenuity. To dress in one color only may have been popular last century, but it is a new era. You are likely inspiring more yawns than shivers, so take my advice and be a little more creative. After all, if you show your creativity in dress, imagine how others will perceive your creativity in torture, or even in bed, and perhaps both at the same time.

Poofy Sleeves:

I especially direct this to all my wizard associates out there, do not commit this fashion travesty in your robes or any other attire. I just cringe when I see these little puffy balloons on the shoulders of spell casters or anyone else for that matter. Regrettably, this fashion is becoming more popular. I can only say don't do this to yourself. You look like a mushroom in such attire, and that is not pleasant to behold at all. No, this style is not classic, it is simply tragic. Go with a nice light robe that is a little easier to gesture in and you'll be a little more comfortable as well. At least do it to avoid being laughed at by that powerful tan'ari you just conjured, because it really ruins the moment.

Rothé Fur:

Sadly enough, the increasing heat also means putting aside beautiful coats made of this wonderful materiel. Oh well, until autumn I guess. Face this reality and move on with life, though by no means think you can fill this void with vests and (shudder) trousers made of rothé fur. Trust me, it looks barbaric and only itches in the humidity. On second thought, it may be the perfect material for slave troops. Just starve the orc for a few days, lash him a few times, and dress him in a beautiful rothé fur vest on a really humid day and you have the perfect killing machine.

Ankle Boots:

Yes, your pretty feet deserve a little fashion too. Reward then with a nice pair of high, leather boots or even some cozy, jewel studded slippers, but don't slight them some poor excuse for footwear that makes a pitiful attempt at combining both. They only cramp your ankles and make your legs look lacking. Plus I have my own theories on males who wear ankle boots, but I digress yet again.

Mesh:

Oh netting, we hardly knew ye. In your glory days, you were the stocking of choice for priestesses and many young masters wore you as a vest to show off their perfect physiques. Then, you faded away; passed in the winds of decent fabrics and more sensible consumers and left for the ages. Now it is time to put you out of your misery, though your memory is alive for at least another second. Pardon me while I squeeze out a tear.

Well, there you have it; my humble opinion on the best and worst styles for the summer. If I have given any helpful advice, I am most humbled. If I have offended anyone's ancient leanings, good luck finding me. My, this was fun. If your wonderful publication needs my input again, I would be most happy to oblige. Now let's discuss that cover…I only joke.

With best regards,

Jarlaxle