"Do you feel it? In the wind? In the changing current? War brews just beneath the waves, Deft Willow. It calls to all manner of free men. Ha! Let us answer it."
-Captain Warmonger, speaking to his beloved ship
An IntroductionInvaders dirty the shores of our once great islands. They steal away our home, leave us to rot in squalor. No more. They think they can drive us pirates from these water, but we own the sea. Now I sit here in my quarters, writing this document for every pirate and scoundrel alike... though, I know many of you are illiterate. I'm sure you can find one among you who can read this script. I write this document to teach something of the Craven Islands that you may use it to drown these invaders in their glittering ships. Wield this document as you would wield a saber, for in these pages is knowledge. And knowledge is sharper than any steel.
A Brief Brief HistoryLet's start at the beginning, since you likely know little of history. In a time far beyond the reach of memory, these islands were ruled by the ancient Assiana. They were a people stout of mind, so much so that their old palaces still remain, made of a damn near impenetrable alloy called Black Iron. No doubt many of you have seen their black remains, half swallowed by jungle. But enough of old skeletons. We the pirates, the free folk, rule these islands now. Yet our rule is threatened, threatened by the imperial powers that be. The Merchant Princes of Eijmar, Davenhall, Makal and Aralia were the first mainlanders to arrive on our shores. Next came the lurkers from Erinth and then them from Yonderfall. They flocked to our shores like rabid gulls, stealing away our cities, leaving few hidey-holes for us to make port, murdering our kin, and all for some damnable pearls. But their coming here was their greatest folly. Many of us know these lands, and with this document many more will come to know. Let us use land, sea and swamp to craft our own brand of warfare.
Any man, woman or child on the mainland who claims they can navigate the islands is a damned fool. Much of the documentation on the Craven Islands is the work of fiction, written by mainland "explorers" who scrawl out maps of coasts they've never set foot on. Only sailors who knows these waters have any chance of reaching port in the inner islands. But imperial captains are quick to learn.
Treacherous WatersCays, keys and sandbars litter the straights in between islands and can run a ship aground without care. Yet, it’s the jagged rocks which jut from the waters that a crew's got to be looking out for. They’ll tear a ship in two and sink it to the sandy depths before a man can pray to his god. If an imperial ship were to get caught in these straights, it would be a shame.
TopographyThese islands are ones of dramatic cliffs, sprawling jungles, white sand coastlines, and glamour-grove swamps. More on them later.
Source of the CurrentAt the heart of the Craven Islands lies the Blistering Isles. Legend has it they're made of molten amber, but I know of no ship captain daft enough to sail into the hurricane that surrounds it to check. The source of these violent winds is the Great Auramere at the center. The closer one comes to the isles, the greater the gales. Imperial crews are not versed in sailing these winds. If you find yourself hounded by their ships, sail into the storm. They'll be force to retreat or be dashed upon the Glass Belt.
The Great AuramereIt's akin to a volcano, but not so. This one lies under the sea, a fissure in the rock bed, spewing molten light rather than molten rock. Not a ship on the Gilded Sea wants to be afloat when she blows. When the auramere erupts, she sends a turret of flame into the sky, like a brilliant sunset, churning the winds and boiling the sea. Now the water may burn to the touch, but not just from the heat. There's a foul acidity to it that'll eat through the boards of a ship within the hour. I've had some dealings with the Greyfaces of Vander. Somehow they can predict an eruptions days before it's due. If an Imperial fleet were to be lured into the open waters just before an eruption, their ships would burn and sink. The thought puts a smile on an old pirates lips.
Just moments after an auramere eruption.
Beasts & BushesWarm nights, sandy beaches, a fierce wind riding the sails - the Craven Islands seem like paradise. But we are not fools. Most creatures here kill fools. These beasts prowl both sea and land and are the most ferocious in the known world, far from what one would see in a common barn. Some of these beasts glow along their bellies and can range in size from an ant to that of a whale. Many snap at anything that moves. Plants are no better. What should be a harmless flower has a mind of its own. And jaws.
Welkin BeastsI’ve seen things, creatures that would make you question if the gods had sent demons loose on us all. These creatures known as welkin beasts are so fearsome and unnatural that they can warp the very sea and send gusts of wind to drown your ship. They're all different sizes, different species, but all have power that of which only a god should possess. Five of these animals are known to me: Zeki, Aziara, Semiana, Etak and Eviana. One day I hope to tame a Welkin Beast. I believe it can be done. The Greyfaces of Vander have a strange kinship with the welkin, worshiping them. In turn, the beasts seem to protect their islands. If they could be tamed, they would be a great asset to the cause. BEWARE! They do hold grudges. Lost a good ship more than once to a Zeki, the little bastard. So fearsome are they, that I stitched that bird's likeness into my flag.
Lesser FaunaLesser beasts prowl the Craven Islands as well. They too have a connection with the auramere, yet, unlike the welkin beasts, they have no dominion over the elements. They glow a fierce color in the night, some in the water so small that during a swim it can be like dancing among glittering stars. I’ve cataloged a few creatures myself: giant iguanas, frogs, monkeys, jaguars, giant turtles, torch-hawks, and candle-bats. Torch-hawks can be used for their glow-oil, commonly used in lamps, if you become stranded. Those among the waters are as follows: sparkseeds, flares, firefish, streakers and glamourjaw. Flares are nasty little squid-like fish that exploded if threatened. Look for their glowing heads in the water. They swim in schools. Ships that cross over these schools will be in for some fireworks, if you catch my meaning.
BushesJungles cover the islands. Thick ferns and bramble. Large vines droop low from tall looming branched. The very air in these parts is dense and near dripping with water. It’s here among the forests that you can hear them whisper to one another, like clouds brushing up against their kin – a phantom to the ear, but there all the same. Or I’m just a crazy old pirate. Who knows?
Captain's CrownThis tree dominates much of the island jungles. It's glowing bulbs hang in the canopy above resembling that of a golden crown. More than one poor soul has been drawn to the sweet smell of their bulbs and only found death. It's nectar can be used as poison in a pinch, but only in small doses to mask its natural glow. It can also be used in place of glow-oil in lamps, but the high acidity will eat through the brass lining, eventually.
Sapseed BulbPink in color. Deadly in everything else. A snapseed may look like a harmless overgrown flower, but it'll eat you if you try to pick it. Also, snapseeds are known to hunt in packs. They can be fearsome foes and even fiercer friends. It's been a favorite of mine to lure prey into the jungles so that they then become the prey of the snapseed. Just keep to the trees. Snapseeds know not how to look up.
Points of Interest
Blistering IsleThe Blistering Isles lie at the heart of the Craven Islands and are home to an auramere. The lands are shattered and broken, their amber shores teeming with an endless supply of seraphic pearls. Or so the legend goes. Yet since no one has reached the Blistering Isles, it makes a man wonder how these legends came about in the first place. Yet the imperial believe it to be true. They believe the pearls that wash up onto the outer shores stem from the Blistering Isles themselves. And maybe they do.
Wandering StonesDozens of carved, amber stones can be found among the various islands. They usually crop up near a partially buried road or ancient temple. They were likely created by the Assiana people. Carved into them are the likenesses of the welkin beasts. The Greyfaces believe them to be sacred. We pirates don't care much for them. Yet those from Eijmar are so superstitious they think them bad luck, abandoning whole towns if one is discovered nearby. Can you imagine that...
Glamour-Grove SwampTake heed, the glamour-grove tree lures prey by glowing beads that hang from their willow-like branches. If the beads are touched the branches come alive! Impossibly strong things too. They'll snake around a grown man's torso and lift him clear from the swamp's waters to be consumed in their fleshy pods way up high in the canopy. A terrifying end, but a satisfying one for these invaders. Lure their armies into the swamps and submerge yourself in the waters. The branches won't dip below the surface, but they'll make short work of those imperials.
One of many glamour-grove swamps.
Glass BeltBeen marooned here one too many times. It's a string of islands made of glass, so it's none too pleasant to step on. The winds from the auramere break many ships upon these shores.
The GodheadThis great waterfall drops nearly 500 feet into the rocks below. Unlike most waterfalls on the mainland, this one glows a dim orange as it comes down off the cliff. The merchant princedom of Makal has found a great city at its base - Wardenhall. But the cliff is the cities greatest weakness, for it traps them. It can be used as a base for siege as ship approach from the water.
Twin BastionsTwo great castles protect the pirate city of Candletrap, the last great city of free men. For years, these bastions have braved imperial attacks from all sides. Between the two of them, they have 120 cannons lining their ramparts and nearly three hundred men manning them. Pirate captains Savàge, Warmonger, and I, Copper Quint, rule the island as a brotherhood and let not greatcoats or silverhands into our lands. Not alive anyway.
The Citadel (Belle Gard)It was once a holy city of the Assiana but has since fallen into the hands of Captain Seagrin, a lone pirate who's denounced our brotherhood. The city is protected by ancient barriers constructed on either side of the cove, blocking much of the wind coming from the Blistering Isles. Captain Seagrin resides in the citadel, a black iron palace with towers banded with silver and gold. If Seagrin could be persuaded to our side, it would make a fine foothold.
Belle TrosNot a friend in Belle Tros. Not to a pirate, anyhow. They despise outsiders and will lynch a pirate if he don't put a feather in his shoe and walk carefully. Belle Tros is part of the Independent Union (a nonsensical name, if you ask me), separate from the brethren. They've managed to fend off imperial and pirate forces, due to Merwatch and the wind coming off the Blistering Isles.
Fort MendIt was once an Assiana palace. Since then, it's been fitted as a prison for pirates and deserters. It's a dark place where no one comes out alive. I've lost many a brother to this hole. On principle, I want to see it fall. It's black iron walls may protect it from broadside cannons, but maybe we can smoke them out.
VanderIt's a small village of people with strange complexions. Fifty years ago, tales tells of them being kind folk. But years of pirate raids have made them foul to outsiders. Further into the island is a Assiana temple in perfect condition. The greyfaces worship at the foot of the wandering stones within. It has me thinking that the stones may be the key to taming the welkin beasts. There are strange magics in the wandering stones, obvious by the way they burn the skin when touched by anyone other than a greyface.
Answer the CallSo here you are, at the end of this piece of parchment, a great deal more savvy. We may be a loose brotherhood, but the fire in our hearts unite us stronger than any border drawn by kings and princes. Let them be consumed by this fire. We are free men, pirates of the Craven Islands, and we will not let our way of life die here. Sail to the Broken Crown in Cadletrap, if you so wish to join my fleet. Or go it alone. Either way, we will bloody our shores with their blood and drive them into the sea.