Montevalno is the very apex of civilization. There is no element of life in Montevalno which is not a reflection of art. Even the humblest of food or domain has some spark of creativity and color to it. The true measure of the success of a society, as the Mon would have us think, is to provide means enough that each man may pursue the calling of his heart.
On one hand, this makes Montevalno a hub of artistic learning. Painting, sculpture, music, writing and every other art you can imagine is pursued to the most glorious of heights in the halls of the collegia of Montevalno. On the other hand, it produces a culture full of insecure snobs and drama queens, desperate for recognition for their latest masterpiece. Still, the one thing it will never be is boring.
Proximate, But Not Allied
Montevalno, unlike the other Golden Circle shadows (remember that GC is simply proximity, not a political entity), is not formally allied with Amber. Although a serious attempt has been made at an alliance in the past, the negotiations that were to lead to it were badly disrupted by local events and events in Amber.
Since Montevalno has never been formally allied with Amber, no Amberite has ever laid down a shadowpath connecting Montevalno to anywhere else. However, captains that can sail the shadow seas without the aid of a shadowpath, notably those of Kitezh and Minos, sometimes know the way, and thus, the shadow is served by the occasional trade ship from those shadows.
However, Montevalno is an "open secret" as a favored vacation spot for Amber's Princes and upper crust, a place for private get-aways (think: the equivalent of visiting the south of France on Earth). It's trivial to find personal passage, aboard a ship, from Amber to Montevalno and vice versa, though most such routes have a stop in Minos first.
Montevalno is a collection of principalities and city states. Titles vary, and so much creativity has gone into means of address and details of heraldry as to make them virtually useless. By necessity, these nobles are collectively referred to as patrona, an honorific that speaks to their unique role in Mon Society. They make the greatest sacrifice for their country, setting aside their personal artistry in favor of doing the duty that allows others to follow their hearts. The Patrona are respected, but also pitied, and many a Patron has bankrupted himself trying to demonstrate that one can be both an artist and Patron.
This is not to say the Patrona are all petty fools, but they tend to drift that way, and those who decide to embrace their role and grow a bit overly adventurous tend to meet an appropriately tragic end. So appropriately tragic that the tales of ambitious Patrona and their fall are the bread and butter of Mons theater.
It is no accident that the ends of the ambitious are so dramatic, for they fall at the direction of the greatest artists of Montevalno. The Collegia Des Artes is the collective name of the various institutions of art and instruction throughout the nation, with a presence in every principality. It is the source of much knowledge, the ultimate arbiter of tastes and the final word on matters political. Much of this is handled in a a day to day fashion - the Collegia's opinion is well respected, and the right word in the right place is enough to push policy in most cases. Still, for those extreme situations, an education in the arts can come in most handy.
The Black Collegia
There are three collegia that grant no titles or honorifics, and their study is not spoken of, the are the Collegia de Danse, Collegia de Masque and Collegiat de Finale. The Collegia de Danse is the least secret of the three, and is used as a cover for the other two, as it allows a certain amount of nod and wink among those who feel themselves to be in the know. Danse instructs students in the arts of the court, teaching the intricacies of politics, making for excellent courtiers, diplomats and spies. Masque takes the principals of espionage further, teaching the arts of intrusion, disguise and other black arts. Finale is the end of instruction, and is the study of an artful death.
- For clarity, use the word "mons" the way you would "french".
Montevalno is rich and fertile, and obviously it is capable of exporting art and artists. Since it lacks a shadowpath, however, Montevalno does not have the large-scale trade network that is typical of the rest of the Golden Circle.
The Duchies of Serminia and Paloma are neighbors, and have a bit of a checkered history. The other duchies an principalities each have their own little quirks.
Montevalno has some native magics, especially related to art, but it is only a small part of the culture.
Montevalno prefers to fight with mercenaries. There are always young bucks looking to study "the art of war" but they make better armchair generals than soldiers. Still, soldiering is a good profession in Montevalno, for those without the means or talent for a better education, and while they are not particularly hardened, they can field some very well trained and well equipped infantry (halberdiers and pike mostly) and crossbowmen.
Montevalno is the shadow where the plays of Shakespeare could easily have happened. It is suited to drama of every stripe, and play in Montevalno will usually revolve around some hubris, romance or intrigue of a scheming patron or ambitious artist.
Additionally, it will benefit Montevalno greatly to be allied to Amber, and that effort should drive a certain amount of play.
Player-maintained Wiki: montevalno.roadtoamber.com