Enter the Star Wars galaxy, and embark on a journey from Coruscant to the Outer Rim, as you take on the role of a tourist traveling to the planet Mandalore for the first time. Spend a few days on the Mandalorian homeworld, seeing the sights, sampling the food, and experiencing the day-to-day life of its citizens in cities like Keldabe, Sundari, and smalltown Enceri, with a knowledgeable local guide—and skilled bodyguard—at your side along the way. ____________________________________ Inspired by those fun little StarWars.com tourism blog entries of 2016, and written for the Galactic Travel Guide thread in the Literature forum. Context should inform most minor Mando'a terms, but for several words and phrases throughout the piece—brown-linked for convenience—a quick and easy translation is just a simple click away. Standard blue links go to informative Wiki articles, or helpful reference images—all of which are completely safe for work. Comments are very welcome. The year is 22 BBY, just a few short months before the start of the Clone Wars... ____________________________________ The wind whipping across the Coruscanti platform is bitter cold and penetrating, even for the smartly dressed. It's a far cry from the comforts of the Galactic City Spaceport. Nothing but an austere landing pad: all drab durasteel, caked over the repulsorlifts that keep the whole thing afloat over the planet's surface some five thousand meters below. Checking your wrist chrono, you can't help but wonder why exactly the travel agency sent you all the way up here instead of GCS. Then you see the towering vessel dropping down over the skylanes, and things start to make a lot more sense. The Coronet just wasn't built for flat-surface landings. It's hard to say just what the starship's engineers had in mind when they built her. From the top of the platform, waiting as droids ferry cargo aboard the newly docked vessel, all that can be seen of the Coronet is a sleek, aerodynamic hull adorned in diplomatic livery, the likes of which could be seen on any of a hundred other luxury liners. But below, hanging down and just out of sight from your current vantage point, is an unsightly ventral spine shaped like a bladed fin, where you've heard the cargo and crew and any poor soul too light on credits to afford the good seats were forced to bunk. Sometimes it paid to splurge a little. Like when booking a private, first-class cabin on the upper decks. A bright red airtaxi lands at the edge of the platform, offloading a striking figure in all-concealing Mandalorian armor. White plates with gold and wine-colored accents, and a black flak vest over a well-fitting, gray flightsuit. The helmet shares the armor's color scheme, but it's the gun belt that stands out most: twin pistols, and the Force only knows what else in all the various pouches. "You must be the client." Even from behind that stoic black visor, the voice sounds soft. Pleasant, even. In a single motion, the helmet's off, revealing the face of a sunny-looking young woman with a warm brown complexion and lively eyes, her dark hair tied back in a loose braid. She offers a hand to shake as she nears; she's shorter up close than you first thought. "I'm Ezgi Deshra. You can just call me Ezgi." Not a bad grip, either. "Pleasure to meet you." She clips her helmet to her belt, and fishes a palm-sized datapad from one of the many pouches. "So, the agency tells me you booked a full package, but insisted on hiring protection for the length of it. Just between you and me, Mandalore's not all that scary these days, ever since Fett wiped out the last of the Death Watch. But...hey, your money." Ezgi scans the 'pad, a faint smile on her lips as she watched the transaction light flash green. "Well, my money, now. And look, I know I don't exactly come cheap, so for whatever it's worth, think of me as your personal tour guide. I know stuff the brochures won't tell you. I'll try to make it fun. Or at least educational." She winks. "Hopefully." For what it lacks in exterior design, the Coronet more than makes up for in interior opulence. Living up to her word, Ezgi falls into the role of tour guide almost immediately, pointing out the walls are lined with top-quality tuft-oak from Jakelia, and decorated with finely crafted lapis from Draboon. Even the carpet, she says—plush and scarlet—has a story, imported from the renowned looms of Harswee, where a great Mandalorian war chieftain was born a long, long time ago. You scarcely have enough time to stow away your travel pack before a chipper blonde woman appears at the door to your cabin to direct your attention out into the hall. The guide's voice is high and nasally, and she introduces herself as Teersa. She speaks to the assembled guests with the manner of someone devoted to getting the legal limit of caf every morning, and welcomes you and the other passengers to make use of the Coronet's zero-gravity hydro-spa, fully-loaded gaming room, and grand theater. "The Coronet is known galaxy-wide for its fine dining opportunities, and each and every one of you has been offered a complimentary bottle of Kalevalan wine as a special thank you gift for purchasing a premium travel package." The deck lurches beneath your feet, and the faintest feeling of momentum lets you know you're on your way now. The smiling guide beckons you and the others to follow for a tour of the ship, repeating many of the things Ezgi's already said about the Coronet's décor but with more of a self-congratulatory flair. "The Coronet's furnished with the absolute finest the world's of the Mandalore sector have to offer! You won't find another ship like it for a hundred parsecs!" "I never could figure out why they named it the Coronet in the first place," Ezgi mutters at your side. She looks less than enthused by your new official guide and her more verbose manner. "Coronet's Corellia's capital, and this thing wasn't even built there. Now a CEC model, sure, I could understand that. But coming off the lines of Kalevala Spaceworks you'd think they'd name it the Tal'tar or the Kaylva or...well anything other than Coronet." She huffs and shrugs. "Cuy ogir'olar." You arrive at a wide viewing gallery, with an equally wide viewport. The guide pauses, her hand to her ear and the comlink therein, then directs your attention to the stunning field of stars sparkling beyond the pane of transparisteel. Each distant pinprick grows brighter, before streaking toward you in a rush of whooshing light and color that signals the jump to hyperspace. "Never gets old, does it?" you say to Ezgi. She smiles, nodding as she pats your arm, but then turns to the door. "Do me a favor and stick with the tour. I'll catch up." The Coronet seems more than safe enough, so you give her leave to go about whatever business needs attending. The nasally guide takes you and the others throughout the ship, pointing out assorted bits of finery and reciting notable guests who've come before as you walk the promenade, stopping at a grand library, a spectacular entertainment hall, and that hydro-spa she'd mentioned earlier, before finally touring the bridge. By now you must've passed an army of servant droids, puttering up and down the scarlet floors, and it's beginning to look like every corner of the ship's been assigned a striking guardsman armed with a polished electrostaff. Their armor couldn't have been more different from Ezgi's, but they have an undeniable air of menace that broadcasts a warning to anyone that saw them: these are not men to be trifled with. The tour finally comes to an end at the starliner's dining hall, where a modest banquet of hors d'oeuvres awaits. Platters laden with roast nuna leg, strips of melon, and sliced tomatoes were joined by dishes stacked with cubes of white soypro and cheese, interspersed with tall cups of wine. A silver TC-series protocol droid shuffles over, carrying a tray of cocktails that are immediately pounced upon by your fellow guests. "There you are!" Ezgi's back, but you notice the pair of guards stationed at the dining hall's entrance give her a synchronized look of disdain as she passes. What's that about? "Been looking all over." Everyone starts to set upon the table of hors d'oeuvres, but Ezgi holds back, arms crossed and lips pursed. "What is it?" you ask. Her face becomes a friendly mask. "Nothing. Haili ce—er, dig in." You pluck one of the small dishes with cheese and white soypro from the table and step back, popping a cube of mealy soypro in your mouth as you offer the dish to Ezgi. "Appetizer?" She smirks, suppressing a laugh at the joke you don't remember telling. "Thanks, but those aren't appetizers. Or at least they're not meant to be. That's what passes for a real meal around here." "You're kidding..." "Wish I was. Not exactly what you were expecting when Teersa mentioned the 'fine dining,' is it?" * * * The black of space turns red hot for a brilliant moment before cooling again to a natural atmospheric blue. Through the cabin viewport you catch a glimpse of water and dry prairie beneath a cloudless blue sky, before all the world below becomes white. So this is Mandalore... Across the suite, Ezgi's sitting in an abundantly cushioned chair, her arms crossed, helmet on, and her head tucked to her chest. She'd been like that for more than an hour. "Ezgi?" She doesn't move; maybe she's sleeping. You try again a little louder this time, but her only response is still unmoving silence. It's only when you get up from your seat that she finally budges, looking up at you from behind that featureless black visor. "We're landing." Ezgi lets out a little grunt and uncoils from her seat, stretching. "Jate. It'll be good to get off this ship." She lifts her helmet from her head, and you can hear the faint sound of glimmik music coming from within. So she wasn't sleeping, just too engrossed in her music to hear you. "Don't forget to take the bottle of wine they left for you. If it's Kalevalan, it'll be good." You gather what things you brought—and the bottle—and stuff them back into your pack as you head for the door. Stout little servant droids flock around you as you make your way down the promenade, asking to take bags or coats. At the top of the boarding ramp, a once over from a cluster of security sensors clears you and Ezgi to put boots on the ground. Only one of the other touring passengers is disembarking here with you. The rest are still in their cabins, bound for other destinations across Mandalorian space. The first thing that hits you as you make your way down the ramp is the heat. It bears down on you from the sun above, and radiates up from the sand below. And that sand is everywhere, gleaming white and hazy in the mid-morning sun, stretching as far as the visible horizon. Ahead, a great wall of black stretches up from the carpet of white. Standing on the docks jutting out of its side, it's a little hard to comprehend the scale of the enormous domed city sitting before you. The outer shell could swallow some Coruscanti neighborhoods whole. "It's not that amazing," Ezgi says, looking entirely unimpressed. She must've taken note of you staring. "Just an overgrown vheh'yaim with delusions of grandeur. You get over it. Everyone does. Size isn't everything." It's beginning to feel like there's some history here you're not privy to. You start for the portal that leads from the docks into the inner city, when a customs officer emerges from between two large cargo containers and catches sight of Ezgi. "Back again, skug?" he shouts over. Ezgi doesn't respond, doesn't slow down, doesn't even look at him. But her face crinkles into a frown. "They're still letting besome like you in the city?" He's on an intercept course now. "Kryze is too tolerant of you people. That's what happens when you put aka'liitosik in charge." Ezgi still doesn't answer, diverting her eyes from the doors ahead only for a moment to ensure you're still close. The officer aims a finger at her. "All right, halt! I've got to check your weapons, skug." It's a little surprising that Ezgi obeys. She stops dead in her tracks, eyes forward, arms loose at her sides. The customs officer saunters over, a victorious firaxa closing on Ezgi, but the moment he reaches for her belt—you're a few steps back, too far to see the specifics, but her hand goes down, his voice goes up, and it's not hard to fill in the blanks. "Ke sush, chakaar," Ezgi hisses, her voice dripping venom centimeters from the officer's ear. "Ner buir ru'cuyi Evaar'lad. I have the same citizenship rights as you, and I'm registered with the Guard to carry. Now, when I let your gett'ikase go, you're going to get the kark out of here as fast as you can." He nods, face contorted. "And if you ever speak to me like that in front of a client again, you'll be dinner for the desert scavs, tayli'bac?" "Got it," the officer squeaks, nodding emphatically before he's finally allowed to scurry off. It's several long, deep breaths before Ezgi turns to face you. "Sorry you had to see that." She adopts a little half smile. "Not a very welcoming welcome committee, huh? Don't worry, it won't all be like that once we get inside. You'll like it." An automated transport ferries you and Ezgi into the city free of charge, through a series of heavy blast doors that look prepared to keep out more than sand and the hot desert air. The transport zips through the durasteel corridor, and into an enormous cavern of shimmering transparisteel buildings that rise up a hundred stories from the surface below, and hang from the curved ceiling like glass stalactites. Navigating the packed skylines that weave between the buildings, it's hard not to be reminded of Coruscant. But where the towers of Galactic City merely used transparisteel, Sundari's skyscrapers seem to be made almost entirely of it. Transparent, translucent, and mirror-sheen panes by the thousand catch and play wonders with the dome's artificial light. Even the floors you see are sparkling glass, and you pass over a crowded merchant plaza that invites you to look several levels down through floor after floor. "It's all the beskar that makes it possible," Ezgi says, pointing over the transport railing. "Mandalorian iron. Sundari's built over a big beskar mine. It gives the buildings their core strength, so you don't have to worry about whether or not the shiny bits will hold up." She nods toward a large rooftop concourse coming up. "That's stop number one." The transport dips, and slows to a halt at the edge of the way, letting the two of you off. "Welcome to Peace Park." It seems strange to call this place a park. The grounds are devoid of any grass, instead made up of a transparent glass floor that's edged by an immaculate sandgarden. There are trees growing in the sand, and shrubs, though they've been meticulously trimmed into geometric shapes so stark they look about as alive as the decorative boulders they join in the dust. As you make your way along the concourse, you start to notice something strange about the people, as well. There's a striking sameness about them. The faces are all different, of course, they're not clones. But everyone here is human, every man, woman, and child. And their hair is a uniform a dull yellow if it isn't shaved clean, styled in ways that are all so similar it's as if everyone goes to the same salon. Their sense of fashion doesn't seem to vary much, either, nor does the singularly light tone of their skin. None of them looked anything like Ezgi, and for a city of this size, it stands out as sharply as Sundari's dome on the dunes. At the park's end is a large sculpture, shaped like a pale blue teardrop that's been split down the middle. A boxy droid on wheels rolls over, a digital smile on its flat screen face. "Welcome to Mandalore!" it says cheerfully, somehow recognizing you as an offworlder, there to see the sights. "This is the Memorial Shrine, commissioned by Satine Kryze." That's the second time you've heard the name Kryze since arriving. "Who?" Ezgi curses. "Now you did it." The tour guide droid lifts itself up a little straighter. "Why, Her Exalted Royal Majesty Satine Kryze, Duchess of Mandalore, Keeper of the Sacred Peace—" "Here we go..." "—Head of House Kryze—" "Clan Kryze." "—Leader of the Mandalorians—" "New Mandalorians." "—and Protector of Mandalorian Space." Ezgi folds her arms and shakes her head. "Di'kutla beskar'ad." From the park, Ezgi's tour takes you to the Sundari Art Museum. You walk the long galleries for nearly two hours, bouncing back and forth between the official museum guidebook and your own guide's unscripted commentary. Ezgi lights up as she points out several of her favorite pieces, among them a beautifully complex painting by a Morseerian artist named Nebron Leeru, and a surrealist Miralukan sculpture said to have been inspired by an ancient star dragon. There's little love for the dozens of New Mandalorian cubist works on display, however. Just down the street from the museum is a grand building with a steeply arched roof and a quartet of blocky glass towers. Ezgi explains that it's a cathedral that had been built over a century ago to honor the old Mandalorian gods, by those few New Mandalorians who still believe. Inside, the walls are lined with elegant stained glass windows and illuminated reliefs that tell a stylized history of Mandalore, from bloody war to a blessed peace, and the birth of Sundari from the smoldering desert sands. The display culminates in a chapel alcove, whose star-covered walls are built around a round altar topped with a neuranium sculpture of Mandalore held on the backs of two armored figures, while a third stands majestically atop the globe. "That's Arasuum," says Ezgi, pointing to the figure at the top, draped in a flowing cloak and showered with jewels. "In ancient times, Arasuum was seen as the personification of stagnation, tempting the Mandalorians toward idleness and decay." Her finger drops, to one of the figures that had been tasked with holding up the world, one dressed in ludicrously spiked armor and clutching an archaic war ax. "This is Kad Ha'rangir, who legends call the destroyer god, eternally pitted against Arasuum in a cosmic war to bring change. The old clans worshiped him, and waged war in his name in the hope of receiving his blessings and protection from Arasuum's machinations." Finally, she points to the last of the three, and the one standing alongside Ha'rangir beneath the globe. This one wears no armor—save for the same T-visored mask as the others—instead donning layered robes, though there's another ax gripped tightly in its hand. "And that is Hod Ha'ran, the fickle god of fortune whom the clans would pray to for luck." "So why are these two stuck down here, while Arasuum gets to stand on top?" you ask. Ezgi shrugs. "Interpretations change. Most Mandalorians don't worship the old gods anymore, and haven't for a long, long time, actually. The New Mandalorians—the ones who built this place, I mean, and even in Sundari they're a minority—they don't see Arasuum as a god of stagnation, they see him as a god of peace and protection. They worship him, rather than Kad Ha'rangir as the ancients did." Her voice is tight, and she starts fidgeting back and forth on her feet as she talks. "But they still credit Ha'rangir's influence with the destruction that 'cleansed' the old society and made their rise possible, and they thank Hod Ha'ran for their prosperity. So here they are, lifting up these people's idea of Manda'yaim." You take a moment to let it all sink in, and the more you reflect on it, the more the neuranium sculpture begins to take on a darker tone than its beautiful craftsmanship and place of reverence had first suggested. "You said most Mandalorians don’t worship the old gods anymore. Is it just these people, or are there others?" "There are scattered believers here and there," Ezgi replies, pacing the chapel's perimeter. "Some mercs still say a few words to Hod Ha'ran before heading out on a dangerous job, and once in a while a superstitious Mando who's down on their luck might lay out a few flowers and a credit ingot as an offering for the god of fortune's favor. Mostly you just get dead flowers and dusty credits doing that. Some Death Watch types were heavy into Kad Ha'rangir worship a while back." Her lip curls in disgust at the thought. "Not the 'bringer of change' concept of him, either, but as a full-blown, 'fire and blood' destroyer god that would help them tear this city to the ground and slaughter its people. Chakaare." "And what do you believe?" "Me?" She sighs, and you catch her rolling her eyes even as she looks away. "I believe people love having divine powers that agree with them. I enjoy the stories and the mythology of it all—the Akaanati'kar'oya, the Ka'ra, the Ani'la Akaan—but that's all they are. Take some allegorical value out of them if you really want, but at the end of the day they're still just made up stories." Once you’re finished looking around the cathedral, the shopping district is next, a shining commercial enclave comprised of a variety of clothing stores, markets for offworld foods, speeder lots, and upscale salons. There's even a small shop that sells homemade glassware, ranging from dishes and vases, to statuettes and hand blown artwork. After, Ezgi takes you to the Avenue of Founders, a concourse much like Peace Park, lined with bronzium statues of the first New Mandalorian leaders. More of those tour guide droids roll about, just waiting for a new guest to inundate with historical trivia. From there, it's a short airtaxi ride to the Royal Palace, the unmistakable central fixture of Sundari. The taxi lands on the far side of a lively plaza. Across the square, between two grand staircases leading up to the palace entrance, is a large mural depicting what looks to be an ancient battle between two armies of Mandalorian warriors and Jedi Knights, done in the same cubist style as the paintings from the museum. Climbing the steps is a chore, but outside the palace you find the other tourist who got off the Coronet with you, preparing to be taken inside on the official palace tour. You hurry to join her, but one of the Royal Guards moves to block your path. "She has to wait out here," says the masked guardsman, inclining his staff toward Ezgi. "The aka'liit are barred from the palace. No exception." Before you can say anything, Ezgi shrugs and turns her hands up in surrender. "Fine." She fakes a polite smile for the guard and gives you an affirming nod as she backs away. "I'll be here when you're done. People watching or something. It's fine." There's no hiding the practiced tone in her voice. This isn't the first time she's been through this. "Go ahead." You join the guided tour with your former ship mate, a dark-haired woman with vibrant green eyes, and the finely dressed guide takes the pair of you into the palace. The first room you enter is an elegant hall of transparisteel, with decorative windows and high ceilings. At the far end is an elaborate, high-backed throne with stained glass accents. "This is the formal throne room," your guide announces. "It's from here that Duchess Kryze dutifully attends to the needs of her people. Unfortunately, the Duchess is too busy to receive visitors today." The tour takes you through banquet halls and parlors, past offices and into a sprawling holo-book library. Most of the titles are in Mando'a, though you're assured they're some of the most well-received works this side of Obroa-skai. Eventually you find yourself in a large office, surrounded by detailed glass busts that bear the likenesses of Mandalore's past Prime Ministers, before moving on to royal gardens that don't look all that different from Peace Park. Sundari's day-night cycle is dipping into darkness by the time the tour finally comes to an end and you're escorted back out onto the main terrace. It takes a moment for your eyes to adjust enough to the diminished light to pick Ezgi out on the palace steps, sitting with her helmet on and her arms hugging her knees, rhythmically bobbing her head. You chance a touch on her shoulder and she turns quickly, taking her helmet off; you can hear a smazzo song still playing on the internal speakers. "So how was it?" she asks. "Did they let you meet Her Exaltedness, High Queen of the Many Titles?" As night falls, the New Mandalore hotel becomes the final destination of the day's odyssey. Like the rest of Sundari's buildings, it's a geometric glass tower, but the hotel hangs down from the dome's vaulted ceiling, accessible only from a series of landing pads near the bottom. Taxiing up to the New Mandalore, you enter the hotel to find an austere interior not unlike that of the museum or Royal Palace. A circular sandgarden that hosts a trio of small trees and rocks sits at the center of the reception area, ringed by a narrow band of water. Checking in takes only a few moments and your indenticard, as the room was already booked and payed for as part of your travel package. A droid porter is on hand to take your pack up to your room. You're due a complimentary meal as part of your stay, and given it's been some time since you last ate, food now sounds a lot more attractive than food later. The hotel restaurant is an aberration by classical standards, located at the very bottom level of the establishment rather than near its summit. It doesn't take you long to see why, though. The New Mandalore's polished transparisteel floor offers diners a spectacular view of Sundari at night, the lights of the city glittering below their feet. The trade off is the strange sense of vertigo that accompanies walking across a floor that doesn't seem to exist. You take a table with Ezgi, amid whispers and stares from the other guests, some of whom openly wear their disdain for an armored Mandalorian in their presence. A black-suited waiter soon arrives at your table, offering a datapad menu before zipping off to attend to another group of diners. Most of the food is the same as what you'd eaten on the Coronet. "May I?" Ezgi asks, holding out a hand for the 'pad. You pass it over and she goes to work, scrolling and tapping in several selections. The staff are quick, the first plates arriving before she's even finished. When all's said and done, the table is covered by two bowls of plain white rice, a bowl of ruddy brown beans, cubes of cheese, a roasted nuna breast, tomato slices, and a pair of water glasses. "New Mandalorians might be mirsh'kyramude in the kitchen, but you can always find some raw potential laying around in the cupboards." She takes a small red bottle from one of her belt's many pouches, and begins to drizzle the contents over one of the bowls of rice. "Nothing a little pirjanad can't make better. It's, uh...what's the...nu'partayli te shabla..." She bites her lip, struggling. "Hot sauce!" A faint splash of water wets the hot rice, and she stirs the sauce throughout before adding in half the beans. The tomato slices are diced using one of the table knives, and the nuna breast is carved into rough chunks, with both ingredients ending up next in the bowl. The serrated edge of the blade makes for a rough cheese grater, and the ragged flakes top the entire concoction alongside another helping of sauce, and a generous amount of ground pepper from the table shaker. Finally, Ezgi turns the finished bowl over to you, fork poking straight up. "Moment of truth. Tell me what you think. And be honest, okay?"