Diamond Hearth lies clustered along narrow lanes of eroded mud and gravel, with handsome stone winter dwellings standing beside wretched hovels built of wickerwork, mud and broken packing crates. Surrounded by snowy wasteland in all directions, the weekly arrival of an air boat or iceship from Fair Isle or elsewhere is a critical component in the population’s survival — if survival it can truly be called.
Diamond Hearth is less a community than a year-round riot. Savage democracy suits this greenfield all too well. Property rights are likely settled with the long edge of a knife than arbitration. 40,000 live in the shantytown of a city, while an additional 40,000 work the surrounding icebound landscape. Of these, 20,000 are slaves who work the diamond mines and clear the ruins of Tzatli.
Tribal ties have almost completely broken down around Diamond Hearth, and every family or sworn partnership works for itself alone. The district assemblies are little more than caucuses of the richest citizens, with the slaves and most of the general population shut out of decision making.
SLAVE LABOR Edit
Perhaps 15,000 enslaved humans and 5,000 captured beastmen are involved in the mining of true ice, a bluewhite material almost as hard as stone that retains its supernal frostiness even in the Far South — and freezes solid any flesh that comes into contact with it without the protection of several layers of fur. Useful for building iceboxes elsewhere, here true ice is only a fearsome nuisance, a thing to be packed in barrels and shipped away, at the cost of some dozen or more slaves a month.
Feathersteel mines, stone quarries and the hunt for First Age artifacts from the ruins of the city of Tzatli cost almost as many lives each month as the true-ice mines.
The casual treatment of life takes its toll on both slaves and masters. The bodies of the dead cannot rot in this arid, frozen wasteland, and Diamond Hearth has virtually no city services to remove the corpses. As a result, the district is gradually becoming a shadowland on the windswept Great Ice. As the city sinks deeper into despair and gloom, the servants of Shogun Widowmaker have been carrying off the vengeful ghosts of slaves, and at least some of the living souls, into the depths of Tzatli.