Friday, January 21, 2011

Courtyard of Daldrume and Subsidiary Solar Systems

Towards the Western edge of the Second Quarter of the Fourth Arrondissement of the Third Tier of Devukarsha there is a well-known walled garden surrounding a large rectangular courtyard in the classical Morvai style, completely enclosed by arched walkways and paved with softly worn red cobblestones imported from the impounded ancestral estates of convicted schizmolatrists. The walls are inset with dozens of tasteful red and green mosaics that would not have looked too much out of place in Pre-Diaspora Herculaneum. The mosaics are all the more notable for how they stand in contradistinction to the fountains that splash playfully in the sunlight and are said to have been modeled upon designs that the cloneheirs of Anton Gaudi himself have declared cluttered and overly baroque in the extreme.

Daldrume is one of the smallest Autonomous Regions within the Upper Tiers of Devukarsha. It is older than all of the so-called Lesser Houses and has managed to remain independent of the Ascendant Houses for so long that it is now considered a tradition amongst the Houses to allow the Deep Infrastructure to maintain this place as a neutral, unclaimed and unspoiled site that they can all share.

It has much historical significance, though only about a tenth of the actual dealings and events that have ever taken place within the Courtyard have been recorded or made available to the Public Domain. The Courtyard is a place of privacy and introspection, of quiet contemplation and discretion. Much takes place here away from prying eyes or eager ears. A great deal of subterfuge, behind-the-scenes dealings, hostage negotiations, treaty discussions, recognition pacts, financial settlements, assassinations, and other such business is carried out within the Courtyard of Daldrume and even more such things are dealt with in the immediate vicinity, though much of that is for the sake of misdirection...or is it?

The Courtyard of Daldrume is far too important, both politically and otherwise, to Polite Society to allow it to be over-run by the Paparazzi. Thus the Paparazzi, who are banned from these grounds, used to prowl the outer walls and hound after every visitor in the hopes of sniffing out some hint of scandal or juicy gossip, or at least they used to, until after the end of the Second War and Twenty-Seven Mandates were enacted. That's when the region surrounding Daldrume was legally declared an Irrevocably Permanent Autonomous Zone.

Within minutes of the formal delcaration nearly every intelligence operative, spy, and foreign diplomat in Devukarsha or in the nearby vicinity who monitored the Courtyard on a perpetual watch for their various interested parties started to set up and maintain the forest-like array of foilers, bafflers, and other covert security and privacy systems that constantly confuse, disorient and scramble the Paparazzi's cameras, links and informants. Shortly thereafter the entire area became a non-stop partyzone that serves as a buffering mass of parades, performances, gatherings, and all manner of special events that allow anyone and everyone to come and go at all different times of the day, week or month. That has made it all the easier for all manner of skullduggery and illicit espionage to take place freely all around the walls of Daldrume. It has also made it much easier to sneak into the Courtyard unobserved for all manner of sneaky dealings and those traditionally delicate or sensitive sorts of arrangements that have always taken place beside the softly burbling fountains of the Courtyard of Daldrume.

Getting to (and from) the Courtyard is More Than Half the Fun
Outside the Courtyard of Daldrume, the majority of the Second Quarter of the Fourth Arrondissement of the Third Tier is taken up by the Portico which is the collective name for the entire amalgamation and extremely convoluted circuit of formal, informal, and clandestine parties, balls, soirees, and other events that wrap the entire outer circumference of the Courtyard of Daldrume with a rich agglomeration of ever-changing, always transforming party locales that shift and morph into and out of one another like movie sets that behave like schools of fish. Holography and extrusive frameworks merge into a perpetual playground of faux-favelas, holiday-huts, mistwalled palais, shadow manors and more, creating an intoxicating and bewildering phantasmal fete-scape that is only rivalled by the festivals of Dalarika, Mardi Gras in Nulussiene, and Carnalval in Old Kedellim.

Dignitaries both legitimate and spurious meet and mingle with aristocrats who might be frauds, replicas or spies. Simulacrae and costume-clones, surrogates, duplicates and doubles are everywhere and it is their task to make sure that no one ever knows who was or was not present, nor whom they were with or what they did. Prevaricators, glossoliacs, and mesmerists stalk through the place making sure that no one can recall things quite the same as anyone else.  Distraction is the main stock in trade of the clonecastes and entertainment is the passion of the Solmiri who compete to serve every whim and satisfy every need of the various guests in their own manner and interpretation like a hundred masked Scheherazades always just out of reach.

The entire circumference of the stately old Courtyard is ringed about with gaudy masquerades, elegant masks, and every imaginable sort of mood lighting, sound system, wandering entertainers, street thespians, retrobards, poets, jugglers, and clowncurity. A vast staff of psychomalleable chameleonics, vaguedroids, mirrobots and the like continually circulate through the majority of the entire Second Quarter. The result is a vastly entertaining, never-ending party that delivers timely episodes of spontaneous outbursts, easily deciphered opulence, chic decadence, and such coordinated social chaos that no one can track who is whom, who they've been with, or where they've gone until they leave the grounds.

Each party contracts out its own security staff, so that no two parties ever have the exact same mix of bouncers, clowns, ranters, coolers, or provocateurs. There is also a ferocious competition amongst the various established party-going cliques, clades and dilletantes to differentiate their events from all the other, obviously lesser events. Ass-Clowns are banned from this area. It takes a very high-level diplomatic permit to allow them past the Portico.

The sheer number of available taxis, rickshaws, hovergondolas, skiffblimps, and other means of private transportation immediately and directly available on the periphery of the Portico is staggering. There are literally hundreds of extrusion-nodes just at the very edge of the Portico where self-disposable autocabs are fabricated on demand to compete with the other, already operant systems. There is a separate police force of harlequin-wasps that are tasked with maintaining the free flow of traffic into and out of the immediate area surrounding the Portico.

Any members of the mediocracy who can provide proper identification and who have an invitation can enter the Portico, but their datarecovery systems are muzzled and filtered to the point that few ever bother. Those that do attend the parties surrounding Daldrume are either posers or after something too big to play subtle, which attracts attention in and of itself.

Getting into and out of the Courtyard of Daldrume itself isn't nearly so difficult as trying to navigate the partyzones and revel-areas that have grown up around the Courtyard. Unless you care to make use of the Low Street entrance.

A Public Access Historical Location: Take the Low Street
The Courtyard of Daldrume remains one of the most venerable public access locations in all of Devukarsha. It is required by venerable law and established tradition that the Courtyard is to be made accessible so that even the lowest of the underclasses can have unimpeded access, should they have the means to find their way through the Portico and the non-stop party-zones. The Low Street was established during the Third Regime. It has been kept open, free and clear for centuries by an intrinsic detachment of waspcops that are extruded on demand as guides and guards for anyone who steps onto the surface of the Low Street. While it was originally established that the Low Street was for anyone, not just the lower rungs of society, it has become an entrenched notion amongst the party-goers and debutantes that no one of any status, class or Inheritance would ever soil themselves by stooping so low as to demean themselves by making use of the Low Street. To do so would be tantamount to publicly declaring that you could not secure an invitation to one of the parties that are always circulating about the place. It would be a social disgrace.

Thus there is a thriving market for discrete guides who are suitably conversant with current Dregs-slang and who can assist a patron to travel the Low Street without anyone knowing they were anything other than what they appeared to be at the time, usually a small group of squalid throwbacks or shanty-dwellers. Of course these guides more often than not work for more than one master and as with any secret worth knowing, it is known, sooner or later, by those who make every effort to be in the know.

Take The Tour
The Courtyard of Daldrume is on the itinerary of most tour groups and has been featured in countless paintings, holosculpts, postcards and the occasional netnovela or vidream. There is a small gift shop just inside the main entrance that has been in business off and on since the days of Maxellus the Almost Emperor who declared himself to be the Great Unifier. There is also a large gamma-scalded iridium-shell statue of the mighty Maxellus just a few steps past the gift shop.  It is a striking and surprisingly non-sarcastic depiction of the man who would have been emperor, standing in a classic business-warrior's pose next to a toppled throne.  Few can believe that it is the work of Dandavris, especially anyone familiar with Dandarvis' sarcastomorphs and his extremely vulgar (even lewd) revisional depictions of various sacred heroes, questionable saints and certain of the less-virtuous Madonnas, such as Kuchimbra. Dandavris was responsible for the infamous Immaculate Indiscretion of the Madonna formerly installed in the Great Octangle of Renoy on Killian's World, before it was vandalized and removed to a more secure and undisclosed location, presumably within the deeper catacombs beneath the island-city of Renoy.

At the center of this courtyard, past the central fountain and its luxurious catch-basin, there is a circular gate that hangs in the air just half a step off from the pavement. The gate turns slowly upon its vertical axis marking a thirty-degree arc every hour on the hour. At the completion of each thirty-degree segment of the circle set into the pavement, the destination of the gate switches over to the next location in its sequence. There are twelve destinations available to this gate and each is available for two different hours of every day. Various high-level Directors, Cabinet-Members, Executives, and even certain high-ranking Parliament members have estates or villas located on one of the exclusive worlds only legitimately accessed via this one very secure gate. If there are better security or privacy systems available within the Known Worlds, they would be installed in the Courtyard of Daldrume before you ever heard of them. But still, there are those who try to sneak past; larkers, thrill-seekers, drunken dilletantes, and others. Most are found, eventually, little worse for wear, often sealed away for a few decades in a criotube or stasispod with no memory of what happened.

It is said in the markets of Devukarsha that it is never the getting into a place that is the issue, but rather the getting out of it once you've done what you've gone there to do.

Assassins freely enter and wander the Courtyard of Daldrume all the time. Only one has ever made it out of the Courtyard after administering a socially-lethal nanocyte into the extended wetware of a visiting dignitary from Mulshire. That assassin was believed to have been the notorious so-called 'Nathaniel9' who may or may not be from Jezeal. How they escaped is still a source of conjecture and a topic for folklore and vidramas.

The Almost Emperor
Maxellus was the would-be Emperor who almost brought all of the Great Rift under his dominion. Almost but not quite. He died in a freak accident from which only his favorite concubine survived. She was an Oodkan who later dropped-out and has been untraceable ever since.

The Civil War that exploded in the wake of Maxellus' death very nearly destroyed Devukarsha until the Ascendant Houses were able to settle on the current Constitution and established the so-called Peace even though there are currently three great wars being fought, one of which is approaching the city a little closer each day from the weirdzones of the East. But those are things best discussed another time.

Maxellus really did become something of a Great Unifier, after the fact and far more from what came about despite him more than anything that he actually did directly. The Lesser Houses finally stopped their petty squabbles long enough to ratify the Constitution once and for all, enabling all subsequent revolutions to be both televised and to be brought directly into the ongoing political process. This was the moment in history when the Twelve Ascendant Houses and the Twelve Descendant Houses reached an accord that has stood to this day. The Lesser Houses have never recovered from the loss of their relevancy brought about by the Constitution and every revolution that comes and goes now works within the overall political ecology established by the Constitution, overseen by the Parliament of Hours, the Ministers, Directors, High Cabinet and Council of Executive Chiefs.

There has never been another almost-Emperor since Maxellus and it is considered highly unlikely that there ever will be again. But, of course, stranger things have come to pass, and there is serious unrest amongst the underclasses of the grotto-districts...

The Twelve Destinations of Daldrume's Gate will be detailed in another post, or at least those that are not blocked by Parliamentary Edict or granted the Right to Privacy.

1 comment:

  1. Great stuff. It teems with all sorts of little adventure seeds--or even whole campagin seeds.


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