Capital City of the Delzahn Empire. Chiaroscuro is a city known as a major trade hub and economic power in the South of Creation. Controlled by the Delzahn and their ruler known as the Thri-Kahn, who has successfully maintained independence from both the Realm and the Guild for more than five hundred years by playing each one off the other.
Geographic situation and Climate
Originally laid out in an artistically and geomantic pattern built to resemble a massive crab, Chiaroscuro has suffered much in the intervening centuries. The harbor of the city is protected by two massive spits of land, once shaped to be the ‘claws’ of the crab. Twin first age lighthouses still remain, shining out to sea for twenty miles when once they could be seen for a hundred. Where once glass spires and roads weaved their way over more three hundred square miles now only several dozen towers near the center of the city remain unbroken, with only a few partially unbroken towers scatted around the so-called ‘new’ city. The division between the old and new sectors is well defined by the sudden ending of the glass structures and the starting of more modest brick and rock buildings. When once no defensive wall was needed, the Delzahn masters of the city erected a wall of glass shards and mortar, even adding a second wall when the city grew to large to fit inside the first. All these are signs of the city’s conglomerate nature, the old with the new, the wild with the cosmopolitan.
Around the city, stretches hundreds of acres of savanna, where the Delzahn nomads ride separated from the city a miles wide stretch of farm land where the city gets its food stores. Exceptionally dry the summer, the rich soil turning dusty and gray. by the fall though the land turns rich and green with life, allowing for two growing seasons before the winds and heat of summer.
Chiaroscuro’s only ‘natural’ resources are the shards of glass that remain scattered amid the ruins of the old city. This glass is made into everything, jewelry, tools, even armor and weapons. Anyone can gather the shards and work them into armor of weapons, but only the Delzahn may buy or sell it. And while there is underground trade of the stuff from the city any caught doing this is publicly whipped and possibly forbidden from trading within the city again.
Other than the glass, Chiaroscuro is known for being the center of trade for the south, just as it was in the first age. Every major trading firm, mostly trading houses owned by Delzahn Nobles, even The Guild maintains its largest outpost outside of Nexus here. Almost every trade item found in the south ends up here, whether to remain in the south of shipment to distant lands, at some point it or its buyers end up here. Halta, Skullstone, the Haslanti League, and the Denzak Merchant Ship, all at least maintain factors if not outright outposts here.
This trade is needed for both the city’s wealth and for its survival; even with the farms sounding the city where growing wheat is ideal, Chiaroscuro is just too large and must import massive quantities of most everything else.
The districts of Chiaroscuro are more or less divided along one line, the old and the new. The old sections of the city with their glass spires and even some first age conveniences, such as running water, street lights, essence lighting and elevators, even climate control, are home to the wealthiest citizens Chiaroscuro, mostly Delzahn Nobles. The newer portion of the city, while nice by age of sorrows standards are less convenient.
The Old City
Located on the west side of the harbor is a the largest grouping of these remaining towers, some still reaching up to two hundred stories high. Referred to as The Old City, here dwell the wealthiest merchant princes, Delzahn Nobles, trade factors and rulers of the city. The right to live in these functioning spires is granted by the Thri-Kahn, the ruler of the Delzahn who charges vast amounts to outsiders who wish to dwell in such luxury.
The Field of Gold
To the east of The Old City, in its shadow is The Field of Gold, a square mile of slagged gold glass that is all that remains of the gold tower which once housed the city’s Solar rulers. This field becomes so hot in the southern sun that by midday it is unwise for the unprotected to touch it. As such, the competitive Delzahn dare each other to run across it later and later into the mid afternoon, when the field is deadly to walk upon.
The New City
If one is not wealthy enough to dwell in one of the remaining towers, then The New City will have to suffice. On the edge of the new city, houses of stone, adobe and glass shards gathered and mortared together into artistic patters; Thaumaturge’s have repaired or replaced many of the street lamps, so even here the city is well lit. But the vast majority of Chiaroscuro’s inhabitants live in mud-brick tenements, hovels built out of ruins or the cast-offs from other constructions. The farther one goes from the old city sections the more like a refugee camp it looks, indeed, that’s what they become as Chiaroscuro always needs labor, the ever growing city runs off of cheap labor.
An area of the city has been sectioned off on the east side of the harbor, this is the Out-of-Towners Quarter where an open length of ground has been cleared of ruins and rubble. Here the low ranking guild members and poorer merchants stay, all those who can not afford the price to stay in the towers. This section is constantly changing in population as merchants, explorers and transients of all types conduct their business concludes but some stay at try to make it the glass city.
On the east side of town, near the edge, is a six block section of five story buildings s known as ‘The Plaza’. This area is ruled by a god called ‘Grandmother Bright’ who maintains the peace, any who attack who attacks the buildings or their tenants is turned into a faceless drone, set to clean the streets and perform maintenance. Only one thousand and one people may live in The Plaza at any time, new residents can only enter when an old one moves out or dies.
During the day Grandmother Bright herself sits in a red and gold pavilion in the center of the plaza and offers her expansive knowledge of Chiaroscuro’s past and translations of old realm script in exchange for a task based on the value of the service and the ability of the supplicant. Interestingly, these tasks almost always advance the safety or stability of Chiaroscuro, some seemingly small task that greatly effects the future of the city.
The remains of a vast underground network stretch over most of the city, the remains of the first age subway and service conduits.
Here in the dark is the Undermarket, a black-market that has been in operation since the first age. In these the winding corridors one can acquire almost any item or service, from assassinations to rare drugs. A couple of brothels advertise their wares, the most exotic types, demons, the undead, even a raksha who only offers herself when the price is right.
It should be noted that amid these winding tunnels is the headquarters of the Court of the Orderly Flame’s Intelligence division led by Ulito Swan, the daughter of the late Celestial Censor of the south, Swan Dragon. Access to this hidden chamber is imposable to find unless invited.
Origin and Founding
Not much is known about the origins of the Glass City, only that it was created by a whim of the Primordials and given over to rule by the Dragon Kings.
It was not until two thousand years after the Primordials were overthrown that its population grew to more than twenty million and the city really came into its own.
During the first age Chiaroscuro grew into the what was poetically called ‘The Jewel of the South’. It was the hub of trade for the entire south, where massive shipments of spices and gems would be loaded onto ships and sent to all corners of creation.
All this changed when the usurpation came, when massive essence weapons and exalted warfare of all types took their toll on the pristine towers. Most notably, sorcery reduced the Gold Palace of the anathema to molten slag, all that remains today is a smooth field of gold. Despite this damage though the city was more of less intact and remained as a center of trade, even growing in size as refugees flooded in from all over the south during the Shogunate era. Still the city stood during the Contagion when nine out of ten people died. Even when the marauding Fair Folk invaded the city stood fast against their encroachments. It was not until the Scarlet Empress turned the power of the Sword of Creation upon the Seven Dragons who were using the city to stage troops and equipment, that the towers finally shattered as the land shook.
After this cataclysm it took nearly two centuries for the ruins, having become only a way-stop for caravans, to be reclaimed by a group of nomads known as the Delzahn. These wanderers have spent the last five hundred years rebuilding the Jewel of the South back into its former glory.
Chiaroscuro is ruled by the Tri-Khan, the hereditary leader of the nomadic Delzhan nomads who first resettled the city after it was devastated by the Sword of Creation. The currant Thri-Kahn is Yejouj Kahn, one of the more cunning descendants of the original Thri-Kahn Tamas Kahn, a man who was known for his cunning.
Other than the Thri-Kahn the leaders of Delzahn government are the Nobles, the various decedents of the original tribal leaders, known as ‘kahns’. These nobles retain the right to duel, collect taxes and race camels or horses within city limits, among other things. At currant time there are more than forty thousand noble living within the city walls. With in the noble ranking structure there are four titles in decening rank: The Kahn or Bey, with Orkahns then Pashas being the lesser rank. Traditionally the Orkahn owns all the livestock, the traditional measure of wealth, in his sept, with the Kahn then owning the livestock of multiple septs. In current times the actual wealth usually lays in things other than cattle.
Delzahn tribesmen make up more than a quarter of the local population, as such their traditions are the ones followed within the city, though they hardly expect foreigners to follow their code of honor. Indeed, the Delzahn don’t believe outsiders even know what honor is.
The outsiders that do come to Chiaroscuro are usually shocked to find that dueling and racing are the primary pastimes, and that nobles regularly conduct these events within the city. The natives see these events as great entertainment, readily accepting any challenge but outsiders are often disturbed to find they are not exempt from challenges. They may refuse to duel a Delzahn commoner, but when challenged by a noble it means one must leave the city or fight. These duels are mostly non-lethal, but ones sparked by jealousy or thievery are often to the death.
The Chiaroscurans have a relativity open policy on religion and are quite flexible on the subject, something the Immaculate Order, much to their chagrin, has had little effect on. In addition to the very public presence of Grandmother Bright many Terrestrial Gods have cults openly within the city, as well as several ancestor cults. In fact the order has, in the centuries they have been here, only managed to add the Dragons to the large list of gods and spirits worshiped by the residents.
The general rule is that one worships what works and doesn’t harm the city or its people. Shamans are a large part of Delzahn culture and one can found easily whenever one needs to contact minor spirits. These shamans use drugs and dance to pray, gaining a type of Spirit Sight akin to the thaumaturgical ritual. Elemental Summoning and Spirit Beckoning are also widely used.
Economy and Culture
Farmers work the fields bringing sugar, tobacco, silk, cotton and marijuana for exports.
The Delzahn are cavalrymen who use their horses and camels in raiding and guerrilla type warfare. When a threat to the horde is made known they launch great sweeping, highly mobile campaigns against their foes.
In recent years the city born Delzahn have added siege weapons and mercenaries, bought through the Guild, to the power they can draw upon.
Still, though, the true power of the Delzahn military comes from the Horde, which consists of every man of fighting age who calls himself Delzahn .
Technically the Thri-Kahn is in command of the full military might of the Horde, though in practice the leadership is far more loose than any used to the rigid structure of the Realm’s Legions. This allows the Delzahn far more tactical flexibility than most. Unfortunately this also leads to a less unified command, which can result in a lack of planning and co-ordination.
When riding into combat the Horde mainly weapons usable while mounted; including the lance, long slashing swords, short bows and javelins, but especially favored by the city dwelling Delzahn are flame pieces. Nobles may be better equipped, wielding better crafted weapons and even weapons made from the steel-like glass for which Chiaroscuro is known.
Rarely seen are the so-called, ‘Spahi’, elite heavily armed and armored cavalry who are the only professional soldiers normally maintained. They use lances and target shields as well as heavy armor.
Delzahn heavy weapons include some leftover first age essence cannons which protect their harbor and many newer catapults and fire projectors which are deployed into the field as needed.
Chiaroscuro itself is protected by several layers of walls, all of which have overflowed. Beyond the city proper each section of the city normally has a modest wall defended by the local Khan or Orkhan. The slums are totally indefensible and the nomads beyond the city can quickly respond with hundreds of warriors. Anyone attempting to take the city or one of the Delzahn enclaves will come under hit-and-run attacks from the locals until the entire horde descends upon them in one great wave.