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Chiaroscuro: The Diamond Throne
Chiaroscuro dominates a nation of over 85 million people, across the South and Southwest. A ruthless and vicious nation, Chiaroscuro hides its many flaws under a glittering mask of beauty and prosperity, letting the glittering light from its crystal spires blind the rich and the foreign to the crushing despair that afflicts its lower echelons. With a powerful military and a vast political machine, Chiaroscuro is a rising star, determined to take control over all of Creation
Chiaroscuro's territory stretches from the islands of the Southeast, through the ruins of An-Teng and the twin cities of Gem and the Lap, past the glittering city itself and east as far as the edge of the southeastern jungles. It has a thriving sea trade, with the world's second-largest navy (a navy still eclipsed by that of the West), and is one of the main economic centres of Creation.
To be rich in Chiaroscuro is to be in the upper ranks of the world's society, and life is among the best possible anywhere in Creation. Chiaroscuro's criminal system is simply and carefully set up, through a system that began by subverting the Shogunate system, and has since been formalized. Simply put, anyone who is convicted of any non-capitol offense is forced to pay a fine, whose cost increases based on the severity of the offense. Those who cannot pay are sent into exile in Saridan Prefacture. Many of the rich consider these fines to be minor inconviences, and many cheerful break laws left and right, secure in their ability to buy their way out of trouble and then make life hell for whatever poor sod dared to challenge them. In particular, life is excellent as a Dragon-Blood. The Terrestrials are given an amazing degree of free reign, unheard of anywhere else in the world. However, even patrician nobility and rich commoners are freewheeling and corrupt; the entire justice system is slanted around this, as judges are often reluctant to punish a noble who will be walking freely out of the courtroom.
Even the middle classes find that Chiaroscuro is a good place to live. The poverty rate is very low, and a side effect of this is that people tend to pay well for skilled labour, relying on automatons for simpler tasks. The average citizen in the bulk of Chiaroscuro has a Resources rating of 00, and things like literacy, health, and order are fairly good in most of the nation. Of course, Chiaroscuro still dominates dozens of older prefactures, many of which resent these new rulers, and seperation movements occasionally appear, but in most of the nation's prefactures are secure and safe.
The major exception, however, is Saridan. Covering a region of blistering sands and deadly creatures in the Far South, Saridan is a dangerous terrain to live in. Although locals attempt farming at the few oases, and hunt and gather resources from the metal-rich desert and strange beasts, life is hard and, although the prefacture provides Chiaroscuro with a decent amount of wealth, too few people wanted to live there. The government's response was to start sending exiles to the prefacture, forbidding them from departing and forcing them to work in this hostile land. Political dissidents, heretics, thieves con men, vagrants and beggars, even people convicted of many violent crimes - all of these end up in Saridan, and none are happy about it. Life expectancy is short, poverty is crushing, and the population only keeps from reaching overcrowded due to the death toll. The rest of Chiaroscuro does its best to ignore that Saridan even exists, blessing their lucky stars that somewhere exists to put these malcontents and then putting the entire issue to one side.
Chiaroscuro is another nation which holds firmly to the Immaculate Order. Slavery is uncommon, but technically legal - however, few people become slaves (only really barbarians captured in war and the children of other slaves), and they are not commonly seen, and are only allowed to patrician or Terrestrial families. Religious heresies, if considered dangerous, are sent to Saridan. If they are considered harmless, they are usually let alone, and many minor spirits have their own cults in the region that have adapted to the Immaculate ways.
Chiaroscuro remains the only nation to have the materials required to maintain a ready and easy supply of what is known as glassiron - Chirascuran glass. One step down from adamant, this glass is used in most buildings, although small amounts of it are slightly too brittle for good use in most equipment. The glass is frequently used for ornamentation, and is often used on knives or caltrops, or other disposable weapons (increase the damage threshold of such weapons by +1L), as well as tower shields (Glassiron tower shields have one lower mobility penalty). Glassiron is also used in barricades and city walls, giving the nation a facade of shining beauty. Chiaroscuro is also one of only three nations to produce adamant at all, although they do so in small amounts.
Chiaroscuro is also not afraid to use oil, especially in the Far South. Trade with either Deathlords or oilrunners is common and not considered something to be ashamed of.
Chiaroscuro actively and almost aggressively courts the favour of many other great nations. Deheleshen is their primary target; the nobility of Chiaroscuro recognizes that if they could get the East on their side, it would tilt the balance of power almost overwhelmingly in their direction. They also spend a great deal of time talking to the Balmori Republic, hoping to gain influence and eventually engineer an alliance that will leave the Diamond Throne in a position of dominance.
In addition, Chiaroscuro attempts to gain influence in the Western League and even Pangu, although their efforts here have been much less successful. Chiaroscuro ultimately hopes to absorb the West into a new Shogunate, and they have had little luck to date. As for Pangu, it remains their primary rival in a race to establish the new Shogunate. Currently, both nations wish to merge, but neither is willing to do so on an equal or submissive position - both require being the master. Unless one side or another gains a massive degree of influence, this state of affairs will remain.
Even New Estasia gets some degree of courtship from Chiaroscuro, who has emissaries to the Autocthonians and suggests that previous hostilities should be reconsidered. Relations remain strained, but Chiaroscuro remains hopeful of their abilities, and they often remind New Estasia that the war was entirely the fault of Yugash, not of Autochthonia or the Shogunate in general. Rathess, on the other hand, worries Chiaroscuro. They do not have any power that can be easily harnessed, and most of Chiaroscuro's nobility is not stupid enough to believe that the Dragon Kings can be manipulated. Most are content for Deheleshen to keep the lizards bottled up.
Most minor kingdoms distrust Chiaroscuro - it is not uncommon for them to invade under one pretext or another, and the South is almost totally under their sway. Those who resist them do so with enough fervour that the Diamond Throne doesn't consider them worth the effort of conquering. Chiaroscuro distrusts some Deathlords, but not all - they maintain a state of war against the First And Forsaken Lion after a series of events forty years back, but are on friendly terms with both Eye And Seven Despairs and the Princess Magnificant With Lips Of Coral And Robes Of Black Feathers, who helped them in their war against the Lion.
Chiaroscuro officially follows Immaculate doctrine regarding the Anathema; when they are sighted, they are reported to the Hunt, and officials are to give the Hunt all aid necessary in order to destroy the Solar and Lunar monstrosities.
However, rumours always circulate. Rumours that, if they could control Anathema, the Terrestrials of the Diamond Throne would do so gladly. That they are searching for a way to bring Anathema under their sway - or that such a way has already been discovered. If this is true, and proven, Chiaroscuro would lose a great deal of influence, and the nobles involved would almost certainly be executed for high treason, but power is a great lure, and the power of a Celestial Exalt is a great thing.