Sha'a-Ale, also known as the Jade Archipelago, is the largest island chain in the Pandro Zoridian Ocean, famous for its gorgeous shimmering waters, lush verdant beaches, and vibrant species of flora and fauna. Named on account of the effect the precious gemstones found within the caves and crevasses of the central island, Torlay, has on its surrounding seas, nowhere else is as magnificent in the world as these islands.
The capital city of the Archipelago, Nilince, is considered to be an architectural marvel that is admired across the empire for its winding canals and sturdy bridges built over a collection of nearly 150 small islands. A global centre for both maritime trade and thriving industry, it is a powerhouse not without its own significant problems. Established as the base of operations for the largest criminal syndicate in Ulanto, Dominio Nostro is made up of ten major crime families each specialising in various forms of sin that bring their own types of product to the table for smuggling via the use of gondolas in the canals, and couriers on the streets. The ever-present underworld is shady, treacherous, and overflowing with distrust and disdain.
Headed up by the Elemtival Yaztós family, the four eternal Aspects of Dominio Nostro have one primary objective: spread their immense influence across the Archipelago, and then the rest of Ast Maastmir. Auria, Wiccatoré, Yocetta, and Ignizió are the personifications of air, water, earth, and fire respectively. Reporting directly into the imperious Aspects sit ten Primes, the bosses of each subordinate family managing their affairs and dealings within Nilince, some by force and others by being forced. These families are:
- The Judinnus, Qjinni with an affinity for mind-altering substances and otherworldly curios. They peddle in a powerful hallucinogenic drug line called Wish which is supplied as tiny squares that dissolve in the mouth, granting a prolonged lucid dreamlike state to the user. Unknown to most outside of the Judinnus, use of the drug siphons soul energies of the consumer to a locus of vitality kept within their hearth.
- The Kharos, a Dwaer clan of adept jewellers, rudimentary chemists, and a myriad of diverse merchants. Purveyors of a pure sparkling powder that stimulates the brain, enhancing feelings of pleasure and causing instant heightened arousal. Made from the prized jewel of the isles, Crystal Jade is a truly exhilarating experience. Connections to the clan include the Daccios who are famed for their construction capabilities, and constructed underground tunnels for smuggling the rarest of goods.
- The house of Domnici, Eruev with a penchant for the occult. Abusing their innate talents for the esoteric, they infuse runes with great mystical potential and crumble them into luminous rocks for snorting or smoking from glass pipes. Runicaine causes extreme alertness, confidence, excitement, and an unmistakable “lustre”. In addition to this their arkane prowess is exploited to both seduce and blackmail targets in their pursuit for political power.
- The Vencinois, Gente folk with a taste for delicious food, aromatic tobaccos, and the apparently simple life. They make a portion of their nilins selling a secret blend of the “serene” lavender plant and a less-refined Jade powder. Varying on each hit, Spweed's effects range from being: relaxed or agitated, giggly or confused, hungry or with loss of appetite, and intensely talkative or anxious behaviour. The rest of their wealth comes from acting as loan sharks and committing fraud of all kinds.
- The Gioraghi gang, Umeren thugs notorious for running illicit brothels and prostitution rings. Their wares include a wicked pill dubbed Essence, which sparks tremendous joy, love, and adventurousness. Nobody outside of the gang is too sure how the pills are made exactly, but some can sense that they possess rich spiritual qualities pulled from other lifeforms.
- The Barlettis, a barbaric band of Golia focused on protection racketeering and mercenary work. If not paid well enough to undertake semi-lawful activities, they “hire” themselves into the employ of nobles and the affluent with threats of violence. Giant’s Blood is renowned for the contrasting effects it has on individuals, and is their chosen self-made produce. Each species reacts differently to its injection, with some responses including severe relaxation, augmented strength, or an expanded mind.
- The Friezzoler crew, brilliant Noldor pioneers recognised for causing the monumental economic boost that benefited the whole Archipelago. Bankers, engineers, and providers of entertainment services, their crowning achievement is the Friezz Casino. On the side they sell Scrolls: parchments that when crushed up create crackling flakes. When the vapours are inhaled or the slivers are snorted in completely, the result is popping sensations as they make their way throughout the body, giving a strong sense of euphoria and skin sensitivity.
- The Moxinengo tribe, savage Krosiio who are brutal through and through. Contract killing, kidnapping, and bombing are their preferred methods in sewing chaos. Getting high on their own supply, their assets are taken straight from the coral reefs around the Archipelago. Sea Salts as they are quite literally named induce a frenzied state and an enormously increased tolerance for pain.
- The Quanaudi consortium, very much unique from the other families in that they are a conglomeration of the lesser species and groups of Ast Maastmir. The downtrodden, forgotten, and oh-so-often oppressed citizens of the world now with import of their own. Comprising all manner of individuals, they know what really makes people happy. Their forte is in the creation of numerous addictive alcoholic and alchemical concoctions from whiskies, to wines, to beers, and their magnum opus, Gravitas: a smoky liqueur said to fill the drinker with incredible dignity, seriousness, and a presence worth respecting. Drinking too much however can soon enough remind you that overconfidence is a slow and insidious killer.
- The kin of Ascon, the ancient Natur of the world. None are as old as the Asconians, barring the Elemtivals of course. Gifted in forgery and exquisite crafts, they use their own living epidermis and leaves as the base for distinguished commodities. Elegant clothing, durable armour, beautiful weaponry, and lest we forget: Barkane. Rapid hair growth, temporarily reinforced skin, alleged visions of prior times, wildly exaggerated delusions of grandeur, and even complete psychosis. Risky is an understatement.
Popus Xiovænni de Sanctíl embodies the fifth element: æther. The quintessential avatar of that which transcends all. The divine, the celestial, and the radiant. Youngest of the Elemtivals by a few millennia, they are infinitely hated by the other four in Nilince. Leader of all of Sha'a-Ale, plus the Aestian faith, Xiovænni is beloved and praised by most of the empire’s peoples.
The Archipelago’s police force, the Ethereal Wardens, are kept endlessly busy with Chief Janus Klaratu's priorities stuck in constant flux. Pulled from one direction into every other due to the disarray caused by Dominio Nostro, support is required from state-licensed vigilante groups in order to keep the peace.
Torlay is officially a sanctuary with all plantlife, wildlife, and minerals being under protection, but with the lack of resources available for the preservation of the island, Dominio Nostro are allowed to run rampant depleting the majesty that makes the region so special. Already the colour of the tides fades, and the ecosystem has begun to be disrupted.
Other principle islands that are a part of the Jade Archipelago include the Volan Arc: an island chain formed of five volcanoes increasing in size in sequence with them all thought to be inactive, although rumour says Yocetta and Ignizió Yaztós know better. Glarene, Nantalli, and Cloros make up the Scilliscisco Circuit with an accumulation of whirlpools in the middle of them. Belanas is the last prominent island and features an odd land-based reef similar but distinct in its bizarre nature.
Much goes on over Ast Maastmir, but everywhere else pales in comparison to here…