Geography: Therin is a great sprawling nation which stretches southward for a thousand miles from Amber, and from three to six hundred miles into the interior at various points. Northern and western Therin tends to be hilly and upraised, with the country becoming lower and wetter as you move east and south, finally terminating in a massively impassible swamp along the southern border. Most of Therin is plains and downs, devoted to agriculture, although the land grows more like jungle and rain forest as you move south into the hotter zones.
The capital, Roncesvalles, sits on a delta some three hundred miles south of the border with Amber, where the Ronce river dumps into the sea. It is home to nearly a million people, about half of whom basically are on the dole for life. Once beautiful, much of the city has become worn out and ugly and run down.
Chalcedon is one of Therin's major trading cities, home to 30,000 people. Much of the population is of Dorian descent.
Therin is, in theory, an absolute monarchy. In practice, the Therinese monarchy has been losing ground ever since 985 AY, when it was forced to create the Estates General. Still, the Kings of Therin have managed to retain several major powers (at least in theory):
The central check on the King's authority is money. Past Kings gave away large amounts of the royal desmenes as bribes or to raise cash, and the end of slavery destroyed most of the profit-making potential of what remains. The result is that the monarchy is perpetually broke, especially if war breaks out. Only taxes can make up the difference, but the Reciever of Public Funds controls the collection of taxes, and the taxes must be passed by the Estates General. As a result, if the Estates stand together and the Reciever is in tune with the Estates' wishes, the King cannot easily defy them. In practice, the Estates squabble with both King and Reciever and each other.
The Reciever of Public Funds is the most powerful of the Royal officials, grown to overshadow the King himself since the late 1300s. The Reciever heads the Tax Ministry, which collects taxes and then distributes them to the other branches of government. This control of the funds enables the Recievers to have a very strong influence on who is appointed to offices and what policies will be carried out. They can effectively veto anything by cutting off the flow of monies. This office is always held by a merchant-noble. Currently, Duc George le Blanc, a cotton merchant, holds the position.
Much of the rest of Henri's power has passed to the Estates General, the national assembly. The first house is made up of nobles, the second of city folk, the third of the rural folk. It controls taxation, and only its constant squabbling and disunity keeps it from stripping the nobility of the last of their privileges and turning the king into a glorified manager. Therinese politics remains a very intense and deadly game. Especially since the population of Roncesvalles riots at the drop of a hat.
Therin is divided into two groups of provinces: Estates Provinces and Royal Provinces. Estates Provinces possess their own Estates (parliaments), which Royal Government must work with in order to get anything done in the province. They are usually provinces descended from those which backed the Crown during the first Theran civil war in the 400s, and which retained their old tribal assemblies as a result. Most have a hereditary governor, though a few elect their own. The Royal Provinces are governed by royally appointed governors and have no Estates of their own, reducing their ability to resist royal demands.
History: Unlike many of Amber's neighbors, the formative period of Therin history was largely free of Amberite influence. Many Bronze Age states arose in the fields of Therin long before any Amberites saw them. Amberite traders settled along the coast, but had little impact, for there was little good trade to be had at the time. The Therins were a barbarian peoples from the southwest who poured into the area around 290 AY, pushing north into the regions closest to Amber and conquering them, then pushing back southwards.
Therin peaked around 700 AY, then started to go into decline as the economy decayed and the central government increasingly lost control to the provincial governors. Around 800 AY, a series of civil wars began, which culminated with the ascension of the Capetians around 920 AY.
The Capetians began suppressing the provinces fairly harshly and consolidated their power. They also began growing cash crops which could be traded to Amber for money to hire mercenaries to further crush the provinces. The result was a stronger Theran state, which then began gazing hungrily at Amber's southern provinces. In 974 AY, Prince Corey, an illegitimate son of Gendo, insulted the Theran ambassador and was cut in half in a duel. Gendo demanded Therin hand him over for punishment after he fled to Therin. The Therans, pointing out it was a legitimate duel, refused. Gendo declared war on Therin.
In the First Theran/Amber War (974-985 AY), Drake led Amber's armies south, and repeatedly crushed Theran field forces. Gendo returned the conquered lands to Therin, in return for Therin ceding independence to several of its outlying provinces which had been recently rebellious. This began a process of disintegration. In the wake of the war, Marc II creates the Estates General as a concession in return for help paying the monarchy's war-induced debts.
This process of disintegration was briefly halted by the last great Theran king, Louis XII (1050-1075 AY ). In 1060-3 AY, King Louis XII had exploited Rebman/Amber disputes to quietly overrun and reannex the provinces his ancestor had been forced by Gendo to grant independence to. Gendo now ordered him to release them, and he refused. The result was the Second Theran/Amber war (1065-1075 AY). Juri, having returned from Shadow, resumed the office of Marshal of Amber and marched south, crushing the Therans repeatedly. She forced the conquered lands to be released and carried back the King of Therin to Amber herself. The Therin Estates General tried to declare her Queen, but she refused the offer, convincing them to elevate the House of Valois to the throne instead. Therin became a Golden Circle Shadow.
Crushed during the Annadil Crisis when they made war on Amber, the once mighty nation of Therin sank into chaos and anarchy. Its military was devastated by Princess Shinobu, who then forced the Therinese nobility to free the slaves, who responded by slaughtering the nobility. This drove King John II Valois to finally risk walking the Pattern. He succeeded, and promptly lead half the Therin nobility off into shadow, abandoning Therin to its fate.
His nephew, King Henri of House Bourbon took the throne and pledged fealty to Amber in return for help in pacifying his nation. The power of the Therinese nobility has been crippled, as they were forced to cede most of their lands. The large plantations have ceased to exist, as freed slaves preferred subsistence farming for themselves.
In 1363, the first of a series of royal bankruptcies happened. By 1382, King Henri tried the expedient of repudiating his debts. The result was a short, sharp civil war which ended in the complete victory of the Capuchin family of bankers and their allies. Appointed as 'Reciever of Public Funds', Etienne Capuchin became effective King of Therin. The position continues to be the prize all the merchants aim at.
A new Therinese nobility has arisen, great merchants who rose out of the ranks of the slaves due to greater amounts of intelligence, dedication, or luck. They dominate the Therinese cities, and with control of most of the ready cash of the nation, they effectively control the government as well, especially since the Estates General tends to fail to ever agree on anything. With the nobility sunk into poverty and debt, the merchant class has pretty much taken over, becoming a new class of nobles by purchased royal patent, and assimilating what is left of the old nobility.
The Therin military has become a much less corrupt body. It consists of a small full time cavalry corps (mostly staffed by the nobility) and crossbow corps (supported and supplied by the cities), backed up by large, poorly trained freeman militias armed with spear and pike. The old siege artillery train remains available, but few people understand how to use it.
Technologically, Therin is in the middle of the Renaissance (sans gunpowder). Possessing many rivers, the Therinese make extensive use of water power. Most travel is done by foot, carriage, or on horseback. The Therinese are very sophsticated farmers, though these days, most farming is done on small family farms and produces subsistence crops.
The Cult of the Unicorn is worshipped by most folk, and the church wields great influence. Nobles are barred from becoming priests by Therin law. The nobility worship a close-knit family of militant gods and goddesses from their barbarian past, and their religious fervor has increased in recent years.
Therin has a very statified society. The freedmen are at the bottom of society, and combined with the older free peasants, make up the bulk of the population. Most live in extended families on small private farms, growing subsistence crops, united into villages ruled by elected councils. The freedmen are very proud of their freedom and rather touchy about it. They tend to heavily dislike both the nobles and the merchants.
The merchants and artisans form the middling strata of society. Some merchants purchase titles and rise into the nobility. They are organized into guilds which strive to create and protect monopolies on their chosen form of trade or labor.
The nobility are theoretically at the top of society. They still possess the right to bear arms, though this has been weakened by the arming of the slave communes. They cling to their honor, for it is often all they have left, with their lands either lost to the peasantry or else still possesed, but no longer exploitable without slaves. Many pursue military careers in order to feel useful.
Increasingly, bands of petty nobles form mercenary companies which hire out to the various factions of Therinese politics, which has a very violent streak to it.