A Companion is a skilled, well-educated and well-respected member of a guild of professional courtesans/entertainers, somewhat similar to oiran. While they do frequently engage in a form of state-sanctioned prostitution, they are nonetheless treated with a great deal of respect and deference from nearly everyone, though non-guild prostitutes are generally treated in the reverse, even if they are former Guild members.
The oldest profession in the ‘Verse has one of the oldest and most respected guilds in the Core. Prostitution as it had existed on Earth-That-Was was abolished long ago, replaced by a government-approved profession officially titled ’Companion’. The Companion’s Guild established Guild Houses throughout the system to train its members, though, due to the war, there are few Houses currently on the outer worlds. The Guild establishes its own laws and rules. For example, Guild law states that no House may ever be run by a man. The law also states that a Companion is free to choose her clients. Originally a female organization, the Guild has since allowed males to enter. The men undergo the same training as the women and, like the women, they service both sexes. The Houses exist to provide training to the Companions. No work is ever done inside a House.
Companions must pass a test in order to gain their registration. To maintain that registration, they must also pass a yearly physical evaluation conducted at a licensed hospital.
Clients must pay a subscription fee to earn a place in the client registry. The Guild and the Companion must approve of the client. If a client ever mistreats a Companion, that client will earn a black mark in the client registry, preventing him or her from ever securing such services again.
A Companion House is run much like a monastery, protecting its inhabitants and sheltering them from the outside as they undergo their training. The services a Companion performs for the client are steeped in tradition and ritual. A Companion greets a client and bids that client farewell with ceremony, and the act of lovemaking is designed to make each client feel that he or she is special and valued – only one of the reasons an evening with a Companion is so highly sought after.
Contracting with a Companion earns the client ‘an evening of pleasure’ that goes far beyond the sexual encounter. A Companion is trained to listen, to entertain, to soothe, and even to offer advice, for they are well-versed on any variety of subjects from politics to the economy. A Companion knows traditional and contemporary dance. They are skilled musicians, schooled in literature, and stay current with all significant newsworthy events. They have a high degree of empathy and are trained in psychology, so they can understand their client’s needs.
The beauty, elegance, and skills of the Companions have earned them the highest respect in social circles. There is no stigma to bringing a Companion to a party, as doing so proves you have both money and the ability to impress the Guild, whose members set very high standards. However, few Companions marry the wealthy prince and go off to live in the glittering castle. While of the social elite, Companions still exist outside society. Though a Companion is welcomed as an escort at a party, a Companion would not be so well-received as husband or wife. A Companion might commit to an exclusive, long-term contract, but that would still be a business arrangement. A Companion is encouraged to enjoy the work, but is taught to stay emotionally detached from the clientele.
Most Companions work on the Core planets, entertaining clients in their own suites or meeting them elsewhere. Some choose to travel and may contract with a luxury liner—servicing clients on a cruise or flying the ship’s shuttles to visit clients on nearby worlds. Few Companions choose to travel on their own or ally themselves with a small ship, and even fewer visit the outer worlds. Those who travel off the beaten path can pick and choose their clients, though they may not make as much money as working on the wealthy Core worlds.
Registered Companions are culturally well-educated with training in a number of areas, including psychology, music, fencing, and languages, as well as unarmed martial arts.
Girls and boys as young as twelve may begin training, which includes a well-rounded education and years of physical discipline, religious study, and the arts. Girls and boys are taught dance, martial arts, calligraphy, how to play musical instruments, and singing. The children undergo rigorous testing on all subjects, and those who fail are sent back to their homes. They are taught the art of love play only upon successful completion of their schooling.
Guild rules and companion customs
The Companion Guild’s rules and practices are relatively unknown outside of the guild, though a few details have been made public:
- A Companion is allowed to choose his/her own clients
- It is not unusual for a Companion to choose female clients as well as males
- A Companion must have a yearly physical examination in order to keep his/her license
- A clientwho behaves badly enough can receive a “black mark in the Companion registry,” after which no registered Companion will contract with them.
- A form of tea ceremony is a part of the traditional opening to a meeting between a Companion and his/her client.
- A Companion frequently provides a form of psychotherapy for his/her clients
- Trainees on border planets seem to begin their training at an older age than those on the “core” planets.
- Trainees come from good families and the training houses have high academic standards.
While the Companion Guild is in many ways a working company of skilled artisans, several “Houses” exist, practicing a variety of traditions. Many houses, it also would appear, are a kind of religious sect. Heads of many “eastern” Companion houses are called “priestesses,” while the heads of many “western” Companion houses are called “matrons.” There are heavy religious overtones to many Guild practices, such as the use of incense, a focus on contemplation, and a cloistered lifestyle.
Notable companion houses
House Onesta — Considered the “thinkers” house, Onesta has been known to have the best conversationalists, rhetorical speakers and counselors in the ’Verse.
House Francesca — Based on the teachings of Arwynn Francesca, a famous 23 rd century companion.
House Amok — Known for more “dangerous practices,” for clients with darker fantasies.