The great city of glass, city of spires, the broken jewel of the south, Chiaroscuro has many names earned and lost through the ages. This guide provides insights to the city and the south.
Content for Chiaroscuro includes some information, and expands beyond, "Chapter Two: Broken Jewel of the South" in The Compass of Terrestrial Directions, Vol IV - The South. Some aspects of this history and information is a creation for homebrew campaigns.
Chiaroscuro rose in a time before mortals recorded history by powers forgotten, raised by magics and ancient powers. As time passed, stone walls rose, glass structures reached upward, and the Exalted brought new life. The First Age brought dizzying heights to the city, bombarded by explosive magics and warfare.
From afar, the skyline rises as shattered edges of spires and new construction rising to meet some of those edges much like waves of civilization crashing on crystals reaching upward. The terrible destruction wrought in the early Second Age hides muhc of the glorious past in this region. Yet few know the true beginnings of this land stretch to the steps and magics of Primordials, rule of Dragon Kings, and warring of nomadic nations.
Southern history began ages ago. Before the Primordials raised humanity from the dust, they reared strange citadels for unknown purposes. Humans would later inhabit Dari of the Mists and Chiaroscuro, but the Primordials laid their foundations and imbued them with mysteries. The Dragon Kings likewise walked the South before humanity’s birth.
Chiaroscuro is the largest city in the South, and only Gem exceeds its wealth. In many ways, Chiaroscuro exemplifies life in the Second Age: a fabulous wreck displaying the glories that Creation has lost. The Exalted built their Chiaroscuro of magically strengthened glass, from the vermilion glass streets to the stained-glass mosaics and windows that adorned homes and shops. Towers of multicolored glass rose dozens or even hundreds of stories. Immense breakwaters of blue glass framed the largest and finest harbor in the South.
The old city lies in ruins now, its towers shattered into shining rubble, but a new Chiaroscuro grows amid the wreckage. Instead of magical carriages, the blood-red streets carry horses, camels and the sedan chairs of the wealthy. Dozens of ships still leave and dock every day in the blue glass harbor, traveling between Chiaroscuro and the rest of Creation. Countless caravans bring other goods by land. Chiaroscuro’s population is much reduced from its heights in the Old Realm, but at more than a million souls it remains the largest city of the South. Its people do not grieve much for the past. The city thrives once more as the hub of Southern commerce. Tens of thousands come every year to seek their fortunes.
If you can make it in Chiaroscuro, its people say, you can make it anywhere. But if you can make it in Chiaroscuro, why would you bother to leave?
This area of Creation has an immeasurable history sparking to life before the First Age, dimming with catastrophe, and glimmering back into life well into the Second Age. From the ancient eras of the Primordials, unto the Dragon Kings rule, and well into the First Age of exalts, the city swelled to nigh 22 million people. For 1500 years, it held the position as the largest port and a thriving center of manufacturing and trade.
Primordials found the bowl of valleys aurrounded by cliffs with crashing waves, marking the place with purpose. They dug magics and intent deep into the limestone, sandstone, quartzite, and bedrock to twist and craft new formations. Their blood fell upon the rock, snaking into the heart, creating heartstone and enriching marble, forcing layers of rock into temples and halls for their presence.
Shards of quartz deep in the layers of earth transformed, the sands marred in shades of scarlet and ruddy russet. Through their time in the area, they gave birth to a small center of life that the Dragon Kings found and built upon. The founders moved on as the intellectuals cultivated their works into the first shards of glass and crystal. Domes and spires rose to capture and sent sparks of sunlight through the day, starlight through the night.
Their mark remains despite the coming of exalts and time of Yu'shan. Crystal libraries hold their collected knowledge. Walls and temples chart the course of their lives. Roads supported by pillars sparkle paths through the city. And into their midst, the first mortal men and women came to their shore.
A few hundred grew to thousands, mastering the Dragon Kings' teaching to expand streets and homes, places of scholarship and faith. The first exalts were born into these people and others across Creation. The science and magic of the Dragon Kings with the power and influence of the Solars, Lunars, and Dragon-Blooded evolved into wild new frontiers! The glass found became a central material for their vision of Chiaroscuro, changing the landscape of the south.
Height of the First
During the First Age, the city gained the name of Jewel of the South as a thriving hub of trade, moving extensive shipements of spice, gems, firewands and powder, and caravaned goods from other nations. Shipyards gave exalts a key location for building and repairing naval fleets for their patrols and wars. The countryside began to show fruits of labor in wines and olives. And rare hides and scales used in armors were collected and traded. No ther city held so much wealth in trade.
They raised more than temples and homes to include manses, workshops, universities, fortified keeps, and the grand palaces. Thousands grew to millions as the collective
Key in the power of Chiaroscuro laid in the very material rising in spires at its heart: glass. The formula and craft a carefully protected secret, requiring the best sands, enchanted materials, fires of the Flame Court, and forges. Exalts and leaders forged armors, prows of ships, massive spires, enhanced lens for weapons and lights, and countless other artifacts and artistic works using this special glass. The secrets of its craft have long since been stolen or destroyed.
Beyond the city, the greatness of its crafting could be seen deep below in the bedrock, in carved tunnels and subway systems never fully completed, and roadways carving into the cliffs and hills rolling from the edges into the sands. Strange deep red rocks line some of these roads into the current day, providing a sense of cool and respite against the staggering heat of the south.
Wars killed scores of mortals and exalts, but those numbers pale in comparison to the devastating effects of the Contagion and the Ursupation.
The Contagion was a virulant sickness unleashed upon the world killing Creation's population (mortal and animal) nigh to the point of extinction. Deathlords released the plague from the Well of Udr, killing 90% of all life, then invited the Fair Folk to capitalize on the devastation. A Dragon-Blooded woman came forth to aid in driving back their invasion and mastered the remaining First Age defenses to aid all of Creation. She would be named the Scarlet Empress.
As years passed, her knowledge increased, and the machinations of Sidereals rose, the Scarlet Empress became the next great disaster upon Chiaroscuro. By her hand, Sidereal hatreds, corruption in some Exalts, she unleashed a masterful plan called the Ursurpation -- a cleansing of the world by ending the Solar and Lunar threat.
The Ursupation shocked Creation, striking a formidable blow to the city of spires. During the Usurpation, the Scarlet Empress' forces fell upon the Jewel of the South with massive essence weapons and exalted warfare, threatening the pristine towers. As war broke out through the city, carving through thousands of people, numerous exalts fell back into the central spires chased with their own weapons by the combined might of the Dragon-Blooded and their allies (Sidereal). Bringing celestial magics and essence-fueled weapons upon the spires, they burned away the grand Golden Spire into a field of melted golden glass filled with the dead and burned remnants of ancient buildings.
Millions died from her attack, the Contagion, and fall out over the centuries.
Again and again, she battled against the city seeking to end all opportunities for rising again. Mercenaries and refugees took to the remains, seeking protection and a possible place to survive. This she would not allow. The final killing blow came as the Sword of Creation upon the Seven Tigers, the latest mercenaries holding the city. The Empress shattered towers and spires, bombarded the city, killed all but 10,000 people, and left the port city a ruin seething with a newly risen Shadowlands in its heart.
Rising from Ashes
After this cataclysm it took nearly two centuries for the ruins, having become only a way-stop for caravans, to trade hands and control between numerous thugs and mercenaries. A tribe from the deserts claimed the destroyed city with the leadership of Tamas Khan.
These wild hills became the hunting grounds and territory of the Ka-Khan, the Khan of Khans, the Lunar Exalt who merged the Three Tribes of the Plain of Windswept Bones and led the attack on Chiaroscuro. A great dhole-god, a prophecy remains among the Delzahn that he shall return one day. It is clear that Tamas Khan never intended for his people to become so dependent on the city, and his dholeman children know this.
More than a thousand miles to the South, the three tribes of the Delzahn nomads had sworn fealty to the warrior-prophet Tamas and anointed him Kha-Khan, their King of Kings. Tamas Khan led the Delzahn Horde north to conquer Chiaroscuro and make it the capital of a fledgling empire. To help rebuild Chiaroscuro, Tamas Khan sought help from the Realm and the Guild. Both thought they could easily master the ignorant desert nomads. Both were proved wrong. Chiaroscuro quickly regained its place as the commercial center of the South.
A man came from the desert with burning eyes, collecting the children of the south into one horde. He held the history of ancestors, wisdom of gods, and a strength of heart to bring people together and lead them forward. To reawaken the heart of the south and redeem that which was lost. Numerous prophectic words and poetic verses describe his coming, never truly complete until the three tribes were bound. The Tri-Khan led the Delzahn to conquer Chiaroscuro and start rebuilding.
Nothing stopped this revival as Tamas rebuilt the foundation of the city.
Since this time, with the aid of the Guild, the Delzahn, and numerous groups and common folk, the Tri-Khan has rebuilt most of the city. The absence of the Scarlet Empress has given the Tri-Khan an opportunity to move from rebuilding to establishing commerce and raising armies and a formidable navy. The Guild holds land within the city, encouraging trade. The noble structure bears strong fruit for an age to come. And the Delzahn swell with numbers and strength in the wilds.
From the foundations up, the position of the Tri-Khan and the citizens expanded to new structures and districts, refining the docks, and digging out the past for a better future to once again become a vast city dominating the South. The port once again channels trade through the South, providing passage for Gem's trade, and emerging as a world power once again.
Tamuz and Tamas
Tamas became the first Tri-Khan, so named for being the first man to bind three tribes into one the Delzahn Horde. In the campaign Ghosts of the South, Tamuz the elder First Age Lunar took a new face and name of a lone nomad warrior Tamas Khan. He conquered the tribes, brought stability, warred to gain control of the remains of Chiaroscuro. Over the centuries, he continues to take new faces, names, and become the new Tri-Khan holding the region.
In these current years, the Tri-Khan continues to rule (the current in place for 300 years), the Guild holds a position, Dragon-Blooded may visit as diplomats, trade moves between nations and the port, and Exalts are welcome as citizens.
The city centers about the port, the life of the city comes from this crescent shaped series of docks built into and around Chiaroscuran glass in the shape of crab claws. At the tip of each claw rises a majestic lighthouse, light reflected upon ancient lens and crystals falling far shorter than it once did in the First Age.
From the central bend of the dock's crescent unto the center of the city are the oldest buildings and shattered spires. Radiating from this center mix new buildings cascading around ancient structures, like fruit around seeds. Jutting through the new and old districts, spires jut high into the sky. The boundaries of Chiaroscuro expands much farther than the previous, but squatter without high leveled buildings.
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.
Though these hills are usually green, the soil here tends to be dry and somewhat sandy. The plants here are tough scrub brush and evergreens such as cedar, palms and similar tough succulents. Moreover, the trees that grow here tend to be gnarled and impressive, capable of withstanding droughts and high, searing winds that blow up from out of the South.
The food of this area is well-known throughout Creation. Olives, dates and similar fruits are to be had in abundance, and vegetables and lentils are quite favored. The main grain grown here is rice along the rivers and a variety of other arid grains. Goats are kept for their meat and milk, as are cattle along the river and near oases and other water-rich locales.
The hillsides themselves tend to be covered in succulent grasses and other hardy foliage, providing ample fodder for the tough horses of the Delzahn, goats, camels and the mighty yeddim. There are also plenty of predators here: dhole-hounds, jackals, lions and packs of claw striders. Prides of simhata can be found occasionally, as well.
These hills also often contain a variety of ruins, from ages past. Many of these are set into the depths of the craggy hills and canyons, protected from destruction by their construction, worn away by constant howling winds. Among the hills can also be found the occasional thumnas — an artificial hill made of scree, gravel and sand. These hills were constructed as protection for tombs by the tribes and people of these lands. Though this was not a First Age practice, it is said that the first thumnas was constructed for the body of Tamas Khan, interred in a tomb hidden as a hill, that his foes might not find and despoil his grave.
In the centuries since, a variety of great heroes, many of them Exalted, have been interred in the thumnas, which are always constructed with some thaumaturgical property that prevents the hungry ghosts within from escaping.
These are not the strangest of the lands, though. It is clear that the Essence of this land owes much to the Elemental Pole of Fire, far to the South, for fully half of the demesnes (and thus Manses) to be found here are aspected to Fire. Locals refer to these demesnes as “chimaera lands,” due to the strange gouts of flame that erupt from the ground itself. It is known that many gods and elementals favor these sites.
The coastline around Chiaroscuro consists of a wide and fertile stretch of savanna. Winter rains turn the savanna green. By Resplendent Earth, though, the land dries and the rains end. These rolling plains are named Wind-Scattered Bones, the death of grasses and blending away to rocks looking like bones from afar.
Delzahn tribes and clans roam these plains, grazing horses on the grasslands, herding their herds of goats and camels, in passes until they move on to another stretch of coast. These grasslands remain in a constant warfare with farmlands for space and water, the laws of the Tri-Khan and city dwelling tribes seeking space to feed the city as the nomads lose more land over time. Raids sometimes rise during painful years of drought or in response to farmland expansion.
Much of the coast is made of limestone and marble, worn by the oceans. Caves riddle the heights, pools forming from the tides, where fish, crabs, and other sealife can be found. Some of the tribes seek these pools, collecting catches to feed their folk.
Some pirates have also taken to the natural caves to hide their treasures, hide stashes of goods and arms. Working in those caves is dangerous with the twisting natures of the stone and roughness of the tides.
Along the coastline east of Chiaroscuro, the Moachei ridge rises in crags that twist and lean. Sandstone structures from deep red to pale sunset look dark as night against the desert and at a distance. As shadows deepen, you can easily lose Delzahn in their depths. The tribes protect these ridges, unwilling to allow a single outlander to place foot on those sands and rocks, much less near enough to spy out the tombs encased there.
Whispers and songs carry on the wind whipping through those twisting precipieces, voices of the dead and songs of the living ushering the eldering and dying unto the next world. The Moachei Rai, clan of the Dark Mount, hold this territory over all, ensuring the rites are performed on the newly departed, interring the fallen, and welcoming the risen ghosts. Ancestors guard the small shadowlands that resides in the heart of the ridge.
Chiaroscuro maintains trade across the region with a constant flow of caravans and merchant ships. The Guild maintains offices and a large outpost in the city, managing offers and goods alongside many of the merchant and noble castes. The goods traded range from food and housewares to firewand weaponry and ship building. This city and Nexus constantly vy for top position for all trade in Creation.
The coasts and quarries provide fine marble, stone, crystals, and pigmented sands for building and artworks. The oceans and bays provide hefty amounts of fish for the city and in trade.
Throughout the city, ruins of stone and glass are scavanged for pieces to remake and reuse. Only those accepted by the Delzahn and government are allowed to sell such relics, incurring hefty punishments if such edicts are broken.
Farmers work the fields producing sugar, tobacco, silk, cotton, olives, some vinyards for wine, fruit orchards with citris and dates, vegetables, and grains.
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 Kahns. The newer portion of the city, while nice by age of sorrows standards are less convenient.
The Old City
Portions of Old Chiaroscuro remain at least partially intact. Two small areas in the central city suffered only minor damage, and clusters of mostly intact towers reach for the sky. Hundreds of other towers broke and fell, but lower floors remain habitable. In the less damaged regions, the streets remain magically clean and bright as well.
The most prestigious portion of the old city lies on the west side of the harbor, where several dozen of the city’s glass towers remain unbroken. A smaller region survives near the center of the city, lying just east of the Field of Gold. Here, a cluster of nine towers remains almost intact, with several half-intact towers around them. Each tower stands between 50 and 200 stories high.
Here dwell the city’s merchant princes, Guild factors and the most important Delzahn nobles, amid fantastic Essence-powered luxury—or what Old Realm folk would call the humble decencies of life. The elevators, lights and climate control all still function in these buildings, powered by Essence accumulators built into the walls. At night, the intact towers reveal another lingering marvel of the First Age. During the day, the glass of the towers soaks up the bright sunlight shining down upon this city, releasing it at night. From the lower minarets of each tower, beams of light shine down to the surrounding streets. Each night, too, Essence-winds sweep the streets clean of debris.
Elite thaumaturges (mortal, God-Blooded and even a few outcaste Dragon-Blooded) service the devices that control these functions. On rare occasions, they can even repair similar devices found in other towers. Actually repairing the glass walls of the towers or building new climate control mechanisms, however, is well beyond the ability of even these highly skilled sorcerer-artisans.
Chiaroscuro also holds several hundred broken but still habitable towers, some in clusters and some standing alone amid neighbors utterly destroyed. About a third of these buildings retain working elevators, allowing residents to live 20 or more floors above the street. The upper stories hold the most desirable apartments. A third of the broken towers retain Essence-lighting. A third possess clean running water. A third offer climate control—not always the same third, but about half the towers preserve some sort of First Age convenience. The more utilities a tower-stump offers, the wealthier its inhabitants are.
In buildings where the elevators failed, the most desirable apartments are located on the first few floors. The upper stories become the home of poorer merchants, scribes and skilled artisans. Some inhabitants spend up to half an hour walking down the stairs every morning and longer climbing back in the evening. Others build rickety elevators consisting of a wooden platform, a length of rope, a simple pulley and a counterweight, with perhaps a few husky slaves to help with the pulling. Attached to the outsides of the buildings and vulnerable to wind, these devices help residents living on upper floors go up and down more easily.
At least 100,000 of the city’s residents live in the old city amidst the partially functional wonders of the First Age. Any Delzahn noble can claim a place in one of the buildings of the old city. Other Delzahn must pay modest rents to the Tri-Khan, while non-Delzahn must possess at least three dots in Resources to live in the upper floors of buildings without elevators and more to live in the more intact and functional towers.
The new city consists of everything built in the Second Age, whether truly new construction or salvaged from the most ruined portions of older structures. New Chiaroscuro holds many different regions, ranging from well-ordered neighborhoods to squalid slums. Unlike the old city, living in the new city is completely free. Acquiring a comfortable dwelling rather than a rude hovel, however, requires either paying someone for a house or building it oneself.
The best and most prosperous neighborhoods feature well-made structures of adobe, with the finest built of fired brick faced with mosaics of colored glass. In many of these districts, clever artisans tapped into functional portions of the city’s water supply to provide many houses with running water. Thaumaturges replaced the broken street lamps with ones scavenged from poorer or uninhabited regions. More often, though, the inhabitants make do with mortal artifice, such as street lamps fueled by burning fat or vegetable oil.
The crab’s claws were a pair of huge glass breakwaters that enclosed more than 20 square miles of ocean. They were made to endure the worst storms imaginable. The temblors that toppled the rest of Chiaroscuro merely cracked these massive structures. The breakwaters rise more than 20 yards above the waves. Mighty enchantments wrought into the glass itself still protect the harbor from storms, reducing even the worst hurricane to no more than a stiff breeze within the enclosure.
At the tip of each breakwater, a tower rises an additional 100 yards above the top of the wall. At its apex, each tower carries a brilliant Essence beacon consisting of an ox-sized sphere of red jade inlaid with orichalcum wires. Essence antennas embedded in the breakwater still power them, though damage reduces their brilliance. The mechanism that swiveled the lighthouse beams also broke long ago; teams of slaves turn the beacons instead. The beacons can be aimed only across the ocean. On a dark night, sailors can see these beacons for about 20 miles out to sea. (They used to reach 100 miles.) Southern mariners tell many tales of ships lost in stormy seas that suddenly sighted these twin beacons and followed the Bright Eyes of Chiaroscuro to safety.
The docks sprawl far along the coast of the city, with a marina for small crafts and covered slots. A vital aspect of Chiaroscuro lies in the docks, for the bevvy of the oceans and extensive trade from numerous organizations and cities around Creation. Sections of the docks are solid, made from stone and petrified wood, solid and repaired to ensure larger crafts can deliver their goods, crops, and more. Other sections can detach, move, and reattach as needed to handle larger ships or due to storms.
Near Old Chiaroscuro’s eastern edge lies a region a mile wide where the towers suffered complete destruction. Amid the devastation and the huts of squatters, however, rises a small neighborhood of tidy, five-story buildings— just six blocks of them around a modest red-glass plaza. A number of roads extend through the ruins to connect this neighborhood to the Old East Road and the rest of Chiaroscuro.
Around the edge of this neighborhood runs a fine gold line in the red streets. The Chiaroscurans call this neighborhood the Plaza. It does not need distinction from the city’s other open spaces. The buildings are of First Age glass, though of Second Age styling. Most buildings have shops on their ground floors, with four stories of comfortable flats above. These apartments remain cool in the fiercest summer heat. Residents enjoy hot and cold running water, walls that dim or glow at a touch and other conveniences.
All of these First Age amenities are broken or mockups. They function only through the will and the power of Grandmother Bright, a goddess who would seem far too powerful to claim such a small district as her sphere of influence. She looks like a tall, slender and elderly woman with long gray hair, dressed in gold and crimson robes. At night, her skin softly glows. Grandmother Bright is the Plaza’s only law. She keeps it safe and keeps the peace among its inhabitants.
Exactly 1,001 living people inhabit the Plaza. At night, exactly 1,001 ghosts walk the streets. By Grandmother Bright’s command, none may attack each other. The ghosts can enter the buildings only with a resident’s permission. If Grandmother Bright catches anyone attacking the buildings or one of her tenants, with a wave of her hand she transforms the assailant into a faceless, gold-skinned humanoid whom she sets to work sweeping the streets and performing other menial labors. These thralls have no will except to serve Grandmother Bright and no need for sustenance, but they do age and die in time. Only Adamant Circle Countermagic or Grandmother Bright herself can undo this curse. People who try to move in without Grandmother Bright’s permission merely suffer terrifying hallucinations until they leave. Grandmother Bright’s protection applies only within the Plaza neighborhood itself, though. She does not protect residents if they pass beyond the golden line. Nor does she care what her tenants do outside her boundaries. (For instance, one resident is a skilled assassin who simply doesn’t accept contracts against other residents).
Grandmother Bright strictly enforces her population limits. She accepts new residents only when an old resident moves out or dies. This restriction includes births. Women cannot conceive within the Plaza; if they become pregnant outside the Plaza, the pregnancy remains suspended indefinitely, advancing only when the woman ventures outside Grandmother Bright’s domain. If anyone dies and becomes a ghost, he must leave unless one of the older ghosts departs instead. All replacements, among the living or the dead, must be completed within one day. Despite Grandmother Bright’s inflexibility, she has a long line of would-be tenants, both ghost and mortal.
Grandmother Bright often walks about the Plaza, chatting with its residents. She also frequently sits in an elegant red-and-gold pavilion in the Plaza’s center, receiving supplicants. The goddess knows a great deal about Chiaroscuro, past and present, and about the First Age. Her petitioners include spies and treasure-hunters as well as savants of First Age lore and would-be tenants. Just to receive a hearing, though, a petitioner must give Grandmother Bright an object of beauty. She prefers old or natural objects to items newly made.
This payment may suffice for minor requests (for instance, translating an Old Realm manuscript or making sure that both sides in a negotiation tell the truth). When a supplicant wants a major favor from Grandmother Bright, however, she demands further payment in the form of a specific object or a unique service. The goddess cares nothing for ordinary riches or favors. She chooses her fee based on the value of the favor and on a supplicant’s ability to pay. She often asks petitioners to arrange for third parties to perform tasks. In a recent case, parents who sought their lost child were asked to persuade a minor Delzahn noble to go to the harbor and launch a toy boat carrying five lotus blossoms. In another, she told a scavenger seeking First Age artifacts to persuade a famous duelist to bring her a jade dagger belonging to the Dynastic commander of the Realm’s garrison. Naturally, beings with power of their own, such as the Exalted, receive tasks of greater difficulty.
The remains of a vast underground network stretch over most of the city. The passageways and stone tunnels range in size, the smallest allowing only rodents and thin cats passage, others immense to allow two horses and their riders to pass side by side. Grandmother Bright tells fanciful stories of this First Age subway and service conduits.
Now the chambers and tunnels are pitchy dark. In the depths lies 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 impossible to find unless invited.
An area of the city has been sectioned off on the east side of the harbor, this is the Faseek (outlander) 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 who intend to visit and conduct their business yet remain either to try their fates in the city or lack of funds to leave.
The Field of Gold
The Chiaroscurans call the square mile of rippled golden glass left by the Solars’ tower the Field of Gold. The vast bare expanse becomes blazing hot under the Southern sun. By midday, temperatures on the glass expanse reach blistering heat. By late afternoon, the heat deals environmental damage equal to a severe sandstorm (see Exalted, p. 131). The Delzahn sometimes use the Field of Gold as a test of courage and endurance, daring each other to run across it later and later in the day.
In the broken heart of old Chiaroscuro, various ancient spires of glass rise in shards thick and sharp enough to carve hearts out of dragons. A few within remain intact, though impossible for mortals and most exalts to enter. Beyond spellwork and sharp edges, the area destroys most adventurous souls as the shards become a maze of reflections and torch the living as crystal hones sunlight into laser efficiency.
Despite the prodigious numbers of people who died in Chiaroscuro (especially in the Contagion), some combination of luck and geomancy kept large shadowlands from forming. Instead, the city contains hundreds of tiny and unstable shadowlands. Most are no larger than the ruined foundations of a single building, and many are only a few paces wide. Nevertheless, ghosts use them to walk from the Underworld onto the streets of Chiaroscuro. In some neighborhoods, ghosts fill the nighttime streets while the living hide indoors behind wards of salt. All of the known shadowlands are similarly warded—but wards decay or are destroyed. Dozens of tiny shadowlands are known only to the ghosts who use them. Local ancestor cults also keep a few shadowlands open but do their best to restrict what ghosts may use them.
A few of these ancestor cults operate in an impressively businesslike fashion, with the living bribing the ghosts not to cause trouble, with further payments to ghosts who help restrain their fellows. In return, when the living members die, they become the recipients of the cult’s offerings and help keep the peace between the living and the dead. As with the living, many of the dead see Chiaroscuro as a refuge from the terrors and oppression of the wider world. Many families burn offerings for their dead relatives. A few of the small shadowlands even hold small markets where the living and the dead can trade.
See Markets and Services for a full list of the many markets, goods, and services.
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 Tri-Khan is Yejouj Khan, one of the more cunning descendants of the original Tri-Khan Tamas Khan, a man who was known for his cunning.
Other than the Tri-Khan the leaders of Delzahn government are the khans (sultans), the various descendants of the original tribal leaders. The khans 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 descending rank: Khan, Bey, Orkhans, then Pashas being the lesser rank. Traditionally, the Orkhan owns all the livestock, the traditional measure of wealth. The Khan watch over the livelihood of all Orkhan livestock across multiple septs.
Never assume these are mere beasts. Depending on the family and sept, the livestock vary in breed, some even hold the blessings and touch of spirits and elements, passed through generations among the dunes, stones, and sky of the South. Society
Delzahn tribesmen make up more than a quarter of the local population, as such their traditions are the ones followed within the city. Their path is of honor in all things, from the battle of words to the first blood of duels. Some of their practices may seem harsh to those from other lands. The Delzahn hardly expect foreigners to follow their code of honor. Most do not believe outsiders truly know the meaning of honor.
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.
Chiaroscuro holds to the place of gender and roles in all things. Is that to say a woman cannot attain the power of a man? Typically, yes, but traditions have started to change slowly over the past three centuries. Notably, the Tri-Khan accepted women into his circle of power and allowed a widowed wife of a Religion
The Chiaroscurans have a relativity open policy on religion and are quite flexible on the subject, something the Immaculate Order 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 the centuries they have been here, the order only managed to add the Dragons to the lengthy 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.
The city and kingdom of Chiaroscuro has access to military and guardians dedicated to the city and the Delzahn Horde protecting the deserts. For centuries, city and desert kept to a balance of power. But that balance has tipped over the past three centuries.
The navy hosts 40 battleships ready in the defense of the bay and merchant routes. Chiaroscuro is a key port for high trade for all southern locations, tribes, and Gem.
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. 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 Tri-Khan 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 coordination.
When riding into combat the Horde mainly wields weapons and battles 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.
Buried in old rubble, built around by buildings, cornerstones of crossroads, and sunk in the bay, numerous pylons of an ancient protection protocol remain scattered about the old city and port. Some of these pylons have registered power and elemental force in response to danger or keyed sequences. If repaired, the network could function again, the old wall of the city.