Just above the ranks of the criminal underworld but falling just short of respectability, there exists a shadowy, ill-defined "half-world" populated by a motley assortment of artists, poets, entertainers, and others whose profession and temperament leave them stranded on the fringes of polite society. Their unique position affords them the chance to mingle (in certain contexts) with all levels of society, and may be found lounging disreputably at theatrical premieres and gallery openings, making introductions at bohemian soirées, and slipping out of unexpected bedrooms just before first light.
This mysterious foreigner has attained a considerable notoriety in the short time he’s spent in Illyria, and the ruined abbey he’s purchased in the countryside is rumored to be the site of occult ceremonies and frenzied rites of the most depraved kind. He has put it about that he is seeking a young female accomplice to serve as his “crimson altar concubine” for some unknown but vaguely sinister purpose.
Depending on the source of the gossip, Illyria's most sought-after clairvoyant and medium is an exiled "Queen of the Caravans", the fugitive mistress of an Azerbaijani oil tycoon, the reincarnation of Queen Hatshepsut, or an obscure provincial girl with a gift for accents and cold-reading. Whatever her true origins, her seances are well and rapturously attended, and
her Tarot readings and consultations (always held in her small but fashionable lodgings in the New Town) are booked almost a year in advance. She offers no clear explanation for her mysterious powers of prognostication, save that she works with the assistance of a "spirit guide" in the form of Zalmoxis of the Getae, an ancient Thracian warrior-king whose bronze sword hilt she wears on a silver chain around her neck.
An impassioned young man of upper-middle class origins, Laszlo maintains a fashionably dilapidated squat above the fire-gutted ruins of a printworks, from which he publishes broadsheets and handbills proclaiming his fiery but inconsistently-defined ideology. The building was scheduled for demolition some time ago, but the authorities are in no hurry to tear it down, as the location is well-known and easily surveilled, should the nightly gatherings of University bohemians ever develop beyond posturing, sesquipedalian demagoguery, wine-bibbing, and the swearing of fearful oaths. It is considered a rite of passage for junior police officers to attend such meetings undercover, dutifully taking notes in suspiciously crisp leatherbound journals.
Vera Petrović and "Freddie"
A middle-class divorcée turned essayist and playwright, Mrs. Petrović (she has retained her married name) presides over a raffish and often combatative (the last meeting was broken up by police after a pistol was discharged into the ceiling) salon in a small coffeehouse at the edge of the Old Town. Wits, dandies, and flaneurs of all stripes are drawn there, and the resulting verbal fireworks are breathlessly related (though always under the zealous pen of the censor) in the morning editions of Illyria's rival newspapers. Mrs. Petrović is most often seen in the company of "Freddie" (full/real name unknown) a free-spirited American sculptress with whom she shares a modest apartment overlooking the parade grounds. Mrs. Petrović has politely, but firmly declined subsequent offers of marriage.
The Great Clown Pagliacci
Currently playing the Capital for a series of sold-out performances. A bitter, depressive alcoholic who may snap at any moment now. Suffers a recurring delusion that he is God imprisoned in flesh and every day lived as a man is his punishment for creating humankind.
The reigning prima donna of the Illyrian stage, the pale, striking Gautier rose from playing an assortment of slave-girls, maids, and ladies-in-waiting to the ingenue roles with a swiftness that garnered the astonishment of critics and the envy of her peers. Her hypnotic gaze, shockingly naturalistic portrayals, and a certain indefinable something have made her the most talked-about commoner in the Capital, and speculation is rife as to her origins (her name is almost certainly a fiction), amorous entanglements, and the tendency of actresses contending for the same parts to succumb to bizarre and unaccountable reversals of fortune which serve to take them temporarily (or in one recent case permanently) out of the running.