Chester is a kingdom which makes up part of the Empire of Gard. It is the largest Gardish realm. Many of Gard’s colonies in the Bocan Islands belong to Chester, and it is the main economic rival to Gideon City.
From the signing of the Pact to 471 Occidental Calendar, the king of Chester had been a brass dragon, as in all the other realms. But in that year, then-king Rehemut stepped down in favor of a human named Alfric Lecorne. As part of the following year’s settlement, the Emperor of Gard recognized King Alfric I as the ruler of the realm of Chester, and made up the new title “Protector of Chester” for Rehemut. The Protector’s responsibilities remain unclear. There may not be any.
Chester is organized as a hierarchical aristocracy. Lords and ladies rule the land, holding estates which have been in their families for generations, dating back to the days of Gideon. Inheritance in Chester is based on absolute primogeniture. The eldest-born child of either sex inherits the estate.
Those not fortunate to be born into the aristocracy make up the merchants, artisans, soldiers (but not knights), and peasants of the land. Social advancement is rare.
The infiltration of dragons into the aristocracy some 450 years ago led directly to Chester’s participation in the Human’s Revolution. As a result of the treaty that ended the conflict, the aristocracy is now purely humanoid at all levels, even the royal house as of the 472 settlement. Most of the land’s nobles are humans who can trace their lineage a thousand years back, but had been in relatively minor positions in the aristocracy, owing fealty to overlords who were secretly dragons. Since the Revolution, there have been promotions all around for the humanoid lords, including many second- and third-born children who would not have gotten any inheritance at all otherwise.
The brass dragons who used to be lords over Chester now serve in advisory positions to the new lords, and as at-large officials responsible for administrative affairs. The name of the new draconic position is Praetor. The name is a title taken from the ancient empire of Gideon, which Chester is very proud of its ancient association with. But most of the dragons have deserted Chester for more dragon-friendly realms, or for the New World.
Chester is the largest Gardish realm, though not by much. It takes up much of the southeast part of the empire. Generally flat, warm, and rainy, with hot summers and mild winters, Chester contains a lot of land ideal for farming. There are a few wooded areas, but these woods are not the great natural forests of the north. Indeed, many of them have been planted by the aristocrats of Chester so they can have places to hunt.
Chester’s economy has historically been agricultural, with some trade with Orient in the east. However, with the discovery of the Bocan Islands and Freedland, Chester’s southern coast has assumed much more importance in recent years. There are not many great cities in Chester in comparison with its size, owing to its largely agrarian nature. But several towns along the southern coast have grown immensely in the last century, and now ports like Applehunt and the capital, Fachester, have become true ports of call, though they are dwarfed by Gideon City.
Chester borders a number of other Gardish realms, including Wick to the north, Rushtide and Vaunoo to the east, Pecsmuth to the southwest, and Casogard to the northwest. Bisecting most of the kingdom from east to west is the Emperor’s Highway, a road whose ownership and maintenance in various places has been the subject of much internal debate over the centuries. The Emperor’s Highway runs from Archons in Rushtide to the town of Triton, Chester, where it splits in two. The Emperor’s Highway North goes to Casogard, while the Emperor’s Highway south goes to Pecsmuth, and on to Gideon City.
Tradition, chivalry, and the aristocratic ideal are the foundations of Cestrian culture. Hierarchy is very important to the upper classes, and allows them to maintain order for the lower classes. Hierarchies are not as rigidly maintained in the cities, but their presence is still felt. Most cities are run by councils composed of lords and ladies from surrounding lands who claim to run things better than the cities’ own inhabitants could.
These aristocratic ideals are constantly challenged by new ideas coming from the other Gardish realms and from the colonies in the New World. Some Gardish nations, particularly Wick, look down upon Chester’s strict adherence to aristocracy and social class. But Chester’s nobility believes that the order and structure they provide promotes the values of peace and honor, and keeps the lower classes safe and well-fed. They acknowledge that the lower classes experience few freedoms, but see this as the natural way of things, and believe that giving the serfs too much power would be dangerous.
Many of the fiercest battles of the Human’s Revolution took place on Chester’s soil, as Chester was one of the most bitterly divided realms between the pro-dragon and anti-dragon factions. It has still not fully recovered from the conflict, and many of its cities experienced a lot of population loss from refugees fleeing to the Bocans. However, Chester’s star may be on the rise once again.
To members of the middle and lower classes, the political differences between dragons and humans are very minor. The struggle for the New World is a different matter. The wealth of the Bocan Islands, brought to Chester’s ports by merchants, speculators, and sailors, has had a big impact across Cestrian society. Even peasants benefit from new markets, new goods, and new roads and systems of irrigation built from the profits of the New World.
In particular, Chester has a new colony upon the northern coast of Freedland. This colony, still a small settlement, is called Alfria, after the new king. The first ships back from Alfria returned with a wealth of mithral. More is on the way.
Cestrans embrace Sidarch, Avillion, and Avatrunei as their chief gods. Stories about them are often told among the peasants and encouraged by the nobility, who believe the three are most supportive of their agrarian, aristocratic ideal. Avatrunei is often portrayed as an uncle to the other two gods, a view unique to Chester, and possibly reflective of the Lawgiver’s former dominance in the elder days of Gideon.
Lotheria became associated with the Human’s Revolution, and worship of her spread greatly during that war. But since then, it became clear that the aristocrats only start to speak of Lotheria when they are angry with the dragons, and forget all about her when the situation calms down. She’s lost a lot of ground.
Although peasants are more or less required to worship Sidarch, Avillion, and Avatrunei to the exclusion of other gods, only evil gods are actually outlawed. In Chester’s colonies, there is much more religious variety. Saralek worship is especially shunned by Cestran aristocrats, who fear becoming associated with the Bitter Empress.
The Cestrian aristocracy is almost entirely human, with a few traces of elf blood here and there. The common people are a wider mix of races, with all of the major ones represented. Halflings in particular are common.