Shuya

Dominating the northern side of Kardia lies Shuya, a vast nation geographically shielded from both its neighbours, and, within its interior, itself. Shuya is sparsely populated, but rich in certain mineral and metal deposits within its sprawling mountain ranges, and remains the only nation in Kardia to be a monarchy. It is, however, the other nation that is more traditional in societal structure and social classing, albeit the population numbers in Shuya are low enough, its social classing is not always clearly apparent. Shuya is bordered to the south by Efrea and Uclain, separated from the two by a massive mountain range, which even Shuyans have trouble traversing. Due to their isolation from their neighbours, the Shuyans are almost always neutral in international conflict, and tend to mind their own business, instead.

Climate

Despite Shuya's reputation for being a cold, inhospitable wasteland, it actually hosts the most diverse range of climates found within Kardia. Admittedly, many of them lean towards being colder rather than warmer, and the diversity of life within them pales in comparison to Uclain and southern Efrea. Higher altitudes tend to be colder and more windy, with shorter summers and long winters. There are several places in the mountains where snow can be found all year, and ice functions the same as rock. The southern mountains tend to be warmer, due to facing Efrea and Uclain. The northern mountains tend to be colder. Within the interior, different faces of the same mountain may have wildly different climates, depending on which side one is on. Occasionally, southwestern valleys trap warm air, and considerably raises the ambient temperature. Subtropical conditions may even develop in these micro-biomes, and many rural Shuyan villages are clustered around them.

Shuyan winters tend to be colder, but seasonal variation can lean more extreme. Shuya is not terribly humid, and small fluctuations in weather that otherwise wouldn't be felt, can have drastic effects in the drier climates. Some parts of Shuya may get hotter than the interior of Efrea, even, and winters are cold, and long, and the sun may not be seen for several days around the solstice. Seasonal-related depression is common among Shuyan denizens. Summer days, likewise, stretch on with few periods of darkness in between, and the summer solstice may pack in as many as five days before the sun finally sets.

Temperatures tend to fluctuate wildly in the interior plains, not only season by season, but also day by day, or even hour by hour. This is particularly pronounced on the western side. Conditions near the coast are often less extreme, with cooler summers and slightly warmer winters. Shuya has rocky beaches, which cause high tides, and tropical storms that affect southern regions may have a ripple effect on the coastal towns of Shuya. Usually, it's safe just to avoid the beach when the sea appears agitated, but tsunamis are not unheard of. The eastern side of Shuya is a bit warmer than the western, and much of Shuya's east coast tends to be covered in fog, and contain Kardia's most productive fishing grounds. Pirates are a common problem in eastern Shuyan waters.

Culture

In contrast to their Efrean neighbours, Shuya are matriarchal as a society. In very small, rural villages, this may not be readily apparent, but in larger Shuyan metropolises settled on the interior plateaus, the gender imbalance is very obvious. Men are more commonly labourers, warriors, and necessary for reproduction, and rarely gain particularly obvious influence in the noble or royal courts. Similarly, females lead their houses, in the nobility and gentry, rather than males, and this occasionally leads to some disconnect in communication between Shuya and … essentially every other Kardian nation, but particularly Efrea, where there are few females in power, as Efreans expect discourse with males, and Shuyans expect to speak with females. In more recent times, they've begun to learn to agree to disagree, and the thin-veiled gender-insulting has knocked down somewhat. Zetrium rarely have issues sending at least one or two of their influential females along in diplomatic matters, and get on with Shuyans much better, much to the bafflement of Efreans. Males in Shuya may gain some semblance of influence, by gaining such with powerful women in his life, but rarely will he gain power in his own right. As people are wont to do, however, the men of Shuya tend to establish their own pecking orders, independent of the womens'.

In Shuya, it is music that calls to them the strongest. Shuya's overall environment is only somewhat occasionally conducive to preservation of the varying visual arts, such as pottery and painting. Even buildings, statues, and monuments someday crumble, but music and spoken word last as long as those who remember them. Religious belief and literature, as well as history and general knowledge, are passed down through generations in form of story and literature. Poems are written and learned and recited, telling of the Shuyan peoples' everyday struggles and concerns, their hopes and ambitions, their fears and shortcomings, and through reading the histories and memorising the poems, one finds the soul of Shuya, and the terrible mistakes Shuya's foremothers have seen fit to caution against. Through their music they express their emotions and experiences, in ways that words cannot, and dance is both an entertainment source, and a means of transcribing those emotions and experiences into a visual form, of reconnecting with Shuya's soul. In music and dance, Shuya comes alive.

Throughout much of Shuya, belief in gods is all that keeps Shuya moving. In a land where everything seems to be against everything else, one oft needs something to keep them going, to keep them greeting every day and going on with their life. As such, religion is very serious in Shuya, and it plays more than a small part in the lives of Shuyans. Even those from very isolated, far-away villages, will make the time to visit the Holy Temple of Nesya at least once in their life, and trips to the temples are taken very seriously.

In more populated areas of Shuya, formal education is much easier to obtain. In many cases, this formal education is not considered a right, and those able to afford such are often the nobility, the royalty, and perhaps the minor houses below the major ones. Those of middle class may be able to afford at least foundation education, but at least half cannot, and the impoverished are always street smart instead of book smart. However, those that display some semblance of inclination toward more intellectual endeavours, may find someone higher on the societal ladder assists in them gaining a tutor, at least for a period of time, particularly if that someone is female.

Homosexuality and transgenderism are both recognised and accepted in Shuya. Some may feel pity for females that turn out to be male, but this is somewhat rare in occurrence. In general, however, Shuyans are always overjoyed when a male turns out to be female, but Shuya does not have access to the same technology as other nations, and their means of handling transgenderism is entirely rooted in magic. As such, the hormonal aspect of transitioning does not always occur, and many transgenders within Shuya's borders continue to feel a bit off, even after transition, unless they seek out assistance with the biological aspect in a more advanced nation, typically this will be Zetrium. Those in power often have multiple lovers, though only one pairing intentionally produces children, and any children that may or may not be of that pairing are generally assumed and treated to be by everyone else, albeit their parents may not quite follow the same trends.

Shuya does have a small slave trade. However, most of those with an ability to afford such are those within the gentry, nobility, or royal line, and most middle-class and lower never own a slave in their life. Slavers also rather like Shuya's isolated landscape, as they can find lost travellers and villagers separated from their group much easier, and essentially everyone just assume the missing person(s) fell prey to some larger predator.

Currency and Trade

Shuya uses druz of a different design. The values remain the same, but each region has its own minting style, and in particularly rural areas of Shuya, the druz is forgone entirely in favour of barter-trade. Small, isolated villages have an easier time trading for what they need than bothering with exchange of coin, and oftentimes, these smaller communities may be a bit nomadic, in that they still somewhat follow the migratory patterns of wild game. As such, it is more difficult for them to mint anything.

Even the larger cities in Shuya accept trade instead of coin, and there's a relatively smaller amount of druz in circulation in Shuya than in Efrea and Zetrium.

Demographics

In rural areas of Shuya, mortality rates are much higher. Most people do not live beyond sixty, and it is rather normal for people of all groups to die fairly early. Infant mortality rates are highest in rural Shuya than in the rest of Kardia, due to difficult climates and environmental threats that often are not present in other nations (Uclain is the exception). Shuya's population is stable, with an even number of births for the number of deaths, but due to emigration of Shuyans to another country, and undocumented deaths, coupled with the number of disappearances, the Shuyan population may be statistically stable, but it is, like Efrea's, in slow decline.

The gap between rich and poor in Shuya is somewhat of an ambiguous one, and unlike in some places in Kardia, that gap isn't wide enough that the poor have a higher death rate than the rich; both have the same general mortality rates, and often the same general mortality reasons, as well. A very, very small overall sliver of Shuya's population are wealthy upper class, with only 3% of Shuyans being in the noble caste or the gentry. Conversely, however, over 35% are below the poverty line; given the inconsistent variables in regard to location and resources, a large number of that percentage may not actually be poor in the traditional sense, just not make as much druz as most. One may be still able to find, make, or trade for, the very basic necessities they need, or even have some quality of life luxuries, and yet be below the poverty line.

Geography

Southern Shuya features an abundance of mountains, with higher peaks generally found to the east. Consequently, these mountains function as a de-facto border between Shuya and Efrea. The older mountains to the western side, and in the interior, have mostly eroded into the Glayan Plateau, home to the Shuyan Court and around 75% of its populace, and the Uclainian Sagovax Steppes. Like the western mountains, the steppes form the boundary between Shuya and Uclain, though none are really sure where the actual border is.

Much of the Shuyan mountain ranges are dominated by coniferous and aspen forests, and species diversity tends to be low. Glaciers dot the landscape, and avalanches and rockslides are constant dangers at steeper curves. Plains and taiga dominate the flatlands north of the mountains, stretching into tundra at the northern frost line. Like northern Efrea, Shuya has rocky, dangerous beaches.

Government

The only monarchy in Kardia, Shuya is ruled by an Empress. Unlike most concepts of monarchies, the Empress is not succeeded automatically by her eldest daughter, nor can the current Empress influence who will succeed her in any other way. Shuya's religious clergy, instead, select and name an heir, sometimes as early as when the girl in question is merely a young babe. The clergy insist they do not choose the girl that will become the next Shuyan Empress, and given how common it is for a random girl from some isolated Shuyan village high up in the mountains to be chosen, it is probably not them that does the choosing at all, and perhaps it is the will of Shuya's goddess that chooses Empresses and guides them.

Depending upon the Empress in question, nobility and gentry may have some measure of influence and favour with the Shuyan court, but it is just as common that they have none at all. The clergy of Shuya's goddess are charged with advising and guiding the empress in her decisions for Shuya, and, if need be, teaching her court etiquette and protecting her from political sharks. A specialised group within Shuya's clergy, the Sisters of the Star, are all female devotees of the goddess that have trained in martial and combat arts, in order to physically protect both the clergy as a whole, and the empress herself. In far more than one occasion, a Sister has become romantically involved with the empress, and, when the clergy feel that the empress the goddess had last chosen had outlived her usefulness… well, sometimes, that empress just disappears.

Religion

Shuya is monotheistic, believing in a single goddess they call the Lady of Light. Her name is Shasana, but the name is not known by any but the highest ranking of the Holy Order; in many instances, even the empress herself did not know the goddess' name, as it is believed to be insulting and somewhat demeaning to refer to the Lady of Light by her name rather than her title. Joining the clergy within Shuya is a very big deal. Most priestesses and acolytes of the Holy Order of the Lady of Light undergo training for many years, starting often as young as the preteens, before joining the proper ranks of the priestesses. Some move on to become a Sister of the Star, others join the main bulk of the Holy Order centred in the Holy Temple of Nesya.

In Shuya, it is believed the goddess does not control nor tames the wintry, harsh land that Shuya can be, merely shows the way for those that heed her words, and it is up to them to follow the path that she sets. The goddess is never spoken about, nor to, in even a teasing tone, it is always a hushed reverence, for despite her lack of interference in everyday life in Shuya, all fear her wrath, which comes on the wings of ill-fated karmic retribution. Some may become relatively blindly devout, and the inner machinations and agendas of the Holy Order are unknown to those outside of the clergy, and, at times, somewhat sketchy, but the people believe in the Lady of Light, and would never dare act, or even speak, against those she shelters within her temples.

Technology

While Shuya has some semblance of technological advancement, much of it leans toward assistance in withstanding the harsher conditions that can be found in its borders. Several types of technology do not operate well in high altitudes, and while some amount of arable land can be found in the interior of the country, agricultural technology is still somewhat rudimentary, as far as machinery goes. However, the Shuyans have learned to adapt varying types of crop to the unique biomes found within their territory, and grow regional variants of many kinds of crop that are common in other countries, thus their food does not always resemble the same type of food found further south.

Textiles are very specifically advanced, aiming to create fabrics and similar materials that can withstand colder temperatures, and insulate from drastic, sudden temperature changes. This enables those traversing the ever-changing climate of Shuya to do so without severe temperature shocks, going from a bitter cold location, to a balmier one. Mining, on the other hand, has made leaps and bounds of technological progress over the years, as Shuya's soil is rich in mineral and gemstone deposits, and the methods of gemstone cutting and jewellery production are rather advanced. The most beautiful, jewellery-quality gemstones available in Kardia are found in Shuya, and most labourers in and around deposit veins are miners, either of the ore, mineral, or coal variety.

The vast majority of Shuya's "technology" is not mechanical at all, but instead, magic-based. Magical shields and barriers are oft rigged around densely populated areas, in order to protect from powerful snowstorms and avalanches. In areas where it is improbable to build electricity or water lines, Shuyans set up lights that burn off the ambient spirit in the vicinity, and construct magic-powered water lines. In many locations, Shuya's electricity generation is run off wind or water power.

While weaponry and amouring exist in Shuya, they are not terribly impressive, nor intricate, merely simple protective coverings made of leather or metal plating, sometimes both, and simplistic blades. Most of Shuya relies on magic in order to do battle, barring the Sisters of the Star, whom gain their weapons and armour from Zetrium or Uclain, instead.

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