The Shimmering Shores are a region taking up the entirety of the southern coastal highlands of Wisteria, formerly home to the Petrenean Republic. The term "Shimmering Shores" refers both to the geographic area and to the former territory of the Empire of All Seas, which is now made up of city states alternating between war with each other, and war with the outsiders and aberrations that are now common in their territory. Their once mostly-human population, further supplemented with seafaring Tengu, Sea Elves, and the like, has recently been further bolstered with all manner of outsider half-folk, such as Sylphs, Undine, and the like.
While Petrenea, the former capital, still appoints its rulers and attempts to exert its influence over the rest of the former empire, the fact of the matter is that the aftermath of the Great Collapse has left their forces too few, and their lands too wild, to impose their will on the other Shimmering Cities without assent. As a result, the cities have by and large gone into business for their own interests, each effectively representing its own state, even if there is still a common culture among them all, referred to by many as the Petreneans.
Like the Bastonians, the denizens of the shimmering shore are by and large unified polythiests, with some arguing that their Awakened One is another aspect of The Almighty, though there the similiarties between the Petrenean Pantheon and Bastonian Pantheon - and the corresponding belief systems - end. The Petrenean Pantheon centers the primacy of the Awakened One without placing the various other members of their pantheon under his rule.
To some degree, to be a Petrenean is to be an adventurer almost by default. Many who adventure outside of the bounds of their former empire do so in search of stability and with the ultimate goal of settling down in some calmer clime, or in search of some legend or solution they believe will return stability to their region.
Petrenean Geography and Government
The Petreneans occupy the coastal slopes and highlands of the southern region known as the Shimmering Shore, believed to be the area from which humans originated in Wisteria (the Bastonians, by contrast, claim to have always been in Wisteria). These rolling hills, once ideal for pasture and agriculture, are now riven by magical disturbances known as Wild Portals, leading to other worlds, and often introducing dangerous Outsiders such as elementals, devils, and demons into their world. As a result much of the territory has gotten wild, overgrown, or in some cases completely transformed by close and prolonged contact with the planes.
While the City of Petrenea still claims primacy, in practice, each city in the region is an independant state into and of itself. Many of these cities have reverted to a practice of republican or democratic governments, common to the whole Empire in a time before the Great Collapse, which occurred shortly after the Fall of the Petrenean Republic.
Arts and Architecture
While resources are limited by past standards, a long history of rich trade - still seen among the truly-coastal cities in the Shimmering Shore - has lead to a developed culture of the fine arts. Petrenean painters are in demand as far afield as Bastonia, where they are particularly valued for their skills at realism, some techniques of which are lost to the Bastonian artists themselves. Petrenean fashion, which valued a degree of formality beyond what is seen elsewhere, has also stayed in currency, and even where Petrenean designs are not desired or favoured in other courts, their textiles often are.
Petrenean cities tend to be large, fortified, and in a state of constant re-upkeep, with the last siege or raid never far from memory. These well-developed cities enjoy a level of architecture and infrastructure otherwise only seen in the Atarlie Empire, though the desperate condition of life outside the cities means that a similar system of national roads, irrigation systems, and the like is not nearly so well maintained.
Religion, Festivals, and Timekeeping
The native religion of the region places a focus on self-improvement, adherence to traditional norms, and the pursuit of spiritual rebirth and awakening. The religion posits that the Awakened One has promised his divine powers are not outside of mortal reach for any student sufficiently dedicated to the task, and a significant subset of the Petrenean Pantheon is made up of ascended mortals.
The Petreneans maintain a rival calendar to the Atarlie, though it is increasingly common, particularly in the east, to adhere to both. Both are solar calendars, though the original Petrenean calendar is more complex, involving 12 months with a varying number of days coming to a grand total of 365. Festivals are oriented around this calendar and usually celebrate passages from the pre-ascension life of their primary diety, the Awakened One. While religious festivals are usually somber occasions, there is also a traditional observance of triumphs, which is much more celebratory and often even hedonistic in nature.
Fighting, Warfare, and Death
Along the Shimmering Shore, war has gone from a distant sadly-necessary evil to a near constant. While it was once the practice for only children of a certain class to be trained in combat arts in preparation for military careers, it is now rare to find a Petrenean of any race in their teenage years who isn't familiar with the use of at least one kind of weapon, and several indigenous fighting styles involving improvised weapons have sprung up. The various cities now promote Magus Colleges for their noble-born, the most famous of which is the Lycium of Petrenea, where all manner of combat is studied, magical and physical.
Petrenean belief dictates that upon death, except for particularly virtuous beings, the soul undergoes a period of refinement and wandering in Bardo before some event strips it of its memories and births it anew into Ahren, with the new mode and manner of living being determined by the way in which the previous life was lived - good lives leading to more spiritually-advantageous lives and poor lives leading to more destraught ones. It is also believed that at any point in life, up until the moment of death itself, it is possible to Awaken, immediately and directly joining the Petrenean Pantheon even as one's mortal shell vanishes.
Language and Scholarship
The Petrenean Trade Language, native to the humans in the region, is functionally a variant of Bastonian, written with the same alphabet and otherwise a common language. However, it has several distinct religious terms that do not neatly translate between the two dialects, and are usually referred to in the Petrenean term - ki being the most immediately obvious of these terms. It is ultimately up to the GM whether or not to treat them as seperate languages mechanically, but there should ultimately be no issues in having Bastonians and Petreneans understand each other. This trade language is both the principal lingua franca of the former empire and the main ecclesiastical tongue.
A sort of slang language, native to the Tengu, is also in common usage, along with a variant of elvish native to the Sea Elves. Many patreneans with the labours to spare also pick up any of a number of common outsider languages, such as Celestial, Infernal, Aquan, Ignan, Sylvan, and the like.
Diet, Libations, and Entertainment
Though often times seen as refined and decadent, the Petrenean cultural diet is actually effectively a subsistence diet, heavy in rice and occasionally supplemented with whatever else is available - vegetables and meats, with fish and seafood of all kinds being especially highly prized, particularly on the coasts. In areas where agricultural practices are still in high swing, the Shimmering Shore region is also known for its extensive use of and trade in spices of all kinds, and every city has one or more unique spice blends, known collectively as curries or maslas, which are popular.
Drinking, while not forbidden by law, is religiously frowned upon, an observance taken to more or less greater stringency depending on social class, occupation, and location, with the tengu being the noted exception. Brewers and distillers of all kind ply their trade, and the region is particularly known for several variants of rice wines, all supposedly originally developed by the tengu. In the inland highlands, they also heavily produce grapes and the wines and brandies produced from those grapes, largely for export.
Meals are taciturn affairs, but often followed with dance, theater, and various other traditions of entertainment, including shadow puppets for which the Tengu in particular are known.
The realities of life are starkly different between the cities and the rural areas, even at the peasantry level. The cities are actively guarded in both mundane and magical ways, isolated from most of the dangers of the outside world, though the fear of Outsiders and Aberrations still pervades. The rural communities, vital for agriculture and arguably safer for early childhood, are none the less only a shade seperated from wild reality, and rural petreans tend to grow up hardened by the trials and tribulations of their exposure to the Wild Portals and the things that crawl through them.
Within the cities themselves, there can be an at-times substantial wealth gap, between levels of nobility and high merchants, who are fabulously wealthy (sometimes even by adventurer standards) and a peasantry class of laborors who scratch by with their daily bread, overcrowded communal accomodations, and half a step ahead of criminal enterprises.
Technology and Craftsmanship
Doing a thing well is a cardinal teaching of the Petrenean Pantheon. Much like the Clans of Magnus, the petreneans tend to preach that, if your lot is to farm, it is better to be a mediocre farmer than an exceptional blacksmith. This has lead to something of an intense specializing in the trades, with secrets and knacks being passed down long family lines and refined with each generation - quickly, given that humans and tengu are not nearly so long-lived as the Dwarves with whom they share this dynamic. Things are made to dramatically outlive their maker, and some masterwork items have been in the same family for centuries.
Petreneans are known for the mechanical intricacy of their goods and the resiliency and even aesthetic enhanement of their repairs; a tradition that has become increasingly refined since the Great Collapse, in an attempt to keep in memory the light of their vanishing Empire. They are particularly noted for a peculiarity of their woodworks, including hosues common outside of cities, which is often done without the use of metal fasteners or adhesives that might be typical elsewhere.
Carcolie and the Classes
True adventuring classes are extremely common throughout the Shimmering Shores, even among non-adventuring characters, due to the nature of their hardscrabble existance.
Barbarians are somewhat rare, though occasionally found among the lower rural classes, as the embrace of such rage is discouraged by common interpretations of the teachings of the local religion.
Bards are extremely common among the Tengu in particular, who have the knack for it and a bird's sense for music. Travelling Petreneans of all races often pick up an instrument in their journies and develop the talent for true Bardic Performance naturally, perhaps drawing on the talents of a past life.
Clerics are surprisingly uncommon, usually confined only to their countryside or urban temples, or as the heads of orders of Monks (often thusly multi-classed). Clerical proclivities are extremely prized in regions where the Wild Portals tend to link to places like Hell or The Abyss. Given the thin barrier between Ahren and the cosmos in the Shimmering Shores, the Oracle variant of clerics is extremely common by comparison to other regions.
Druids are uncommon terrestrially but pop up often along the shore in Sea Elf communities, and often have a close affinity for the sea. It is said by some druids in foreign lands that this is because the damage done by the Great Collapse destroyed or wounded the spirit of nature in the entire region, making the training and cultivation of druids borderline impossible within the Shimmering Shores.
Fighters are extremely common and come in a variety of forms, including the samurai and cavalier variants. Different cities, with different bases of tradition and different resources, also tend to have different traditional "archetypes" of fighter, with their own signature styles of weapon and armour mastery.
Monks arguably originated in the Shimmering Shore, and the Petrenean Trade Language is the source of many terms used in monastic practice, such as the word 'ki'. While once chiefly of religious bent, Monks are increasingly seen as a practical force, particularly in rural areas where the local temple might be a closer source of aid than the city to which a village might otherwise owe fealty. Each temple, quite naturally, has its own fighting style, and some engage in teaching that style to the local population, even if they don't bother to train the cultivation of mind and soul that should go along with body to promote awakening.
Paladins are not unheard of, particularly as the Samurai pathfinder class is arguably a variant.
Rangers occur infrequently, as the wilderness of the Shimmering Shore is too wild for stringent survivalists to go far. However, many formal military orders, and some monastic orders, produce specialist monster hunters for which ranger is the natural and obvious choice.
Rogues are extremely common (as is their combat specialist prestige class, the Assassin, and monk variant, Ninja). The cities in particular harbour such wealth disparity as to be rife with crime; coastal cities are occasionally the safe harbours of clans of pirates and privateers, and some in the rural areas find stealth a better weapon than the sword.
Sorcerers are common, but the wild nature of magic throughout the entire Shimmering Shore means the distinction between sorcerer and wizard is not always clearly seen. Legend (and the reality that shaped it) is full of intermarriages and interbreeding between the local populations and all manner of Outsiders, making sorcerer bloodlines surprisingly common. Sorcerers who do more good than harm are considered a valuable resource in a land where occasionally even the undergrowth can't be trusted.
Wizards are also extremely common, especially within cities, alongside their Magus variant. The cities all play host to colleges of magical and martial study, and there's an even split between practical Evocation or Abjuration specialists fit to fight off intrusions from other worlds, and specialists in Conjuration or Divination frantically searching for methods by which the Great Collapse can be reversed.
Petreneans and the Other Nations
While once their empire had designs of posing a serious threat to the Atarlie Empire and absorbing the Hearthlands or the Lordless Lands, such dreams have been dead for a century or more. The Petreneans have little thought to spare for the politics of other nations - while the coastal cities may engage in trade over sea with the Atarlie or Bastonia, those further inland are too busy fighting off the wilderness and the depredations of the other city states to put much thought into foreign lands as anything other than the subject of myths and legends.