|Groups of Note:|
“For any young noble of means and taste, there is simply nothing to compare to the delights of the Hyacinth Club. Of course, a true connoisseur will put themself in the ring once or twice, and not be limited to merely frittering thousands of Thrones in idle bets on the luck and skill of a favourite champion….” Travel Diary of Lucius di Firro, 549.M41
Monacus is a crowded, dirty and bustling planet at the crossroads of several Subsector shipping lanes. Originally a manufactorum world, with a proportion of its income still reliant on heavy industry from the midhive Factorum complexes, Monacus has grown in popularity as a weekend getaway for the idle youth of a hundred minor Houses based in and around the Sector capital Duroverum – a short and convenient hop away by warp-cutter.
The grand gilt spires – once visible from low orbit, but now hidden by the ash-storms which plague the lower atmosphere – mark the upper hives of Monacus as a place of wealth and pleasure. The crowded and squalid underhives are hidden beneath a veneer of luxury and indulgence, with every civilised pleasure and taste – and some substantially less civilised – catered for on the upper levels. The popular saying is that “only a corpse is bored on Monacus” – and for those with the Thrones to sustain the heady lifestyle, that holds true.
While the drinking-houses, pleasure-dens, menageries and artistic entertainments of Monacus are rightly famous across the sub-sector, it is the planet’s casinos and private gambling houses which draw the noble youth in their droves. Every young socialite of any standing boasts membership of one of the exclusive uphive “clubs” at the peaks of Monacus’ glittering spires; these elaborate complexes are cities in miniature, with the finest boasting gymnasia, dining-houses, state-of-the-art medical facilities and armies of servants attending to the every whim of the pampered guests. Famous examples include the Adelphi Club, whose dice and card tables impose elaborate paired forfeits for the partners of unlucky gamblers; the Hyacinth Club, where feats of athletic and duelling prowess attract astronomical wagers from baying participants, and where the occasional foolhardy noble can be coaxed into the gladiatorial ring in person; and the Luxovius Club, a rarefied and exclusive venue rumoured to be sponsored by House Roshan-Fikran, where the cool trickle of water-gardens and scent of rare blooms accompany savage and punishingly intellectual challenges of probability and philosophy.
The planetary government is under the control of the Maldigri-Duroveras, a cadet branch of House Durovera. The current governor, Scion-Governor Amari Maldigri-Durovera, is rumoured to have ambitions towards an Imperial Charter and full Noble status for their House. Governor Amari is viewed with a mixture of resentment and intense pride by their subjects; ever since they gained the planetary throne in a freak baccarat accident which killed both their mother and all eligible sibling rivals, they have relentlessly pursued an agenda which puts Monacus first, even at the cost of endangering centuries-old treaties.
The most recent and visible manifestation of Amari’s agenda is in the arming of the Spire Guard. The Guard, an ancient and proud institution marked by their distinctive red military coats and jodhpurs, have been seen as a ceremonial institution for centuries, more suitable for parading outside palaces and providing honour guards than in keeping order. Recently, however, the Governor’s decree has seen them armed with discreet and ornamental but powerful stub pistols – there are rumours that the weapons were a gift from House Sarandeen. Most young noble tourists, accustomed to seeing the Spire Guard as no more than glorified servants who can occasionally be called upon to beat an uppity Midhiver out of one’s way in the street, laugh off the change as irrelevant. Others – particularly the locals – are not so sure.
Outside the claustrophobic luxury and cramped lower levels, the surface of Monacus is deeply inhospitable, though not universally lethal. Poisoned by years of industrial waste from factorum outlets, the atmosphere is technically breathable, but the density of ash so high and the violent dust-storms so frequent that survival without a respirator and protective clothing is usually measured in minutes or hours. There are persistent rumours of an atmospheric anomaly on the planet’s temperate northern polar cap which has generated a “bubble valley”, still fertile and free from the cloying ash; locals claim that great secrets from long before Durovera’s Crusade are hidden here. Anyone who has conducted even a basic atmospheric survey, however, will laugh at the suggestion that the surface of Monacus is anything but barren and lifeless, and dismiss the local superstition as ridiculous.