Freebooters of the Havens
South of the Successor Kingdoms, in that region known to scholars as The Drowned Republic , is an archipelago. Once the highlands of the province of Vantoria, of the Republic of Primovantor, these islands have become a wild, mysterious place, with only a pale shadow of the glory of the old republic remaining in the many ruins above and below the waters. Long abandoned, the surviving native inhabitants have regressed to a tribal state. Only in recent times have the great powers from outside the Archipelago given it much attention, yet it has never been ignored. The archipelago has long been a refuge for outcasts, madmen, the ambitious, and pirates. Not much has changed, though the great powers now seek to colonize and exploit it, bringing them into conflict with its inhabitants. Those that refer to the islands by their simple local name; The Havens.
The archipelago stretches across the infant sea, from the realm of the Successor Kingdoms south to the Twilight Glades, and comprises 20 large islands, and countless small islands, sandbars, atolls, and seamounts. Much of the sea is quite shallow, and navigation difficult. Only a few safe routes through the southern islands have been charted by merchants, and those through the archipelago proper have been a closely held secret of the locals, who are experienced with the regions many challenges. Within the last century however the lures of the region’s wealth and resources have attracted many explorers, who have mapped ways through the rest of the archipelago, opening it up for proper exploration and colonization, as well as the eventual removal of the piracy problem once and for all.
The region’s climate is subtropical, with warm rainy winters and hot dry summers. The northern most islands are dominated by scrublands and forests, transiting into ever denser jungles the farther south you travel. Some believe that the touch of The Green Lady lies on the archipelago, others say that it is some mystical remnant from the ancient forests of the elves, of which the Twilight Glades are but a shadow. It is clear some arcane effect is on the land however, as the region is far more verdant and lush than time and climate alone would allow. This effect appears to extend to the sea as well,
Ancient ruins dot the islands, relics of the lost Vantorians, now long reclaimed by nature. These sites are still revered by the natives to the havens. Many of these ruins now lie beneath the waters, navigation hazards as dangerous as any reef, yet to the crafty seaman and diver, potential sources of profit in artifacts, gold, and jewels. Even more so the ruins on the land, which a stalwart explorer can discover and wrest from the primeval forests. The ancient Vanatorian province possessed great wealth, traded from across the known world, and that wealth which may remain to be rediscovered has become a great draw to adventurers and businessmen the world over.
Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune Concept Art by Max Rogers
Yet the jungles, forests, and swamps have their own dangers. The island interiors are all but unmapped after the great flood, with few trails. Many poisonous species of insect and snake call the islands home, and great beasts stalk the land. Large and often aggressive, many match tales of the saurians that once once thrived in the now drowned equatorial belt, although whether these are the remnants of those great jungles, or species introduced by others later that have gone feral is unknown. Beneath the waves too, there are many dangers.beyond the navigational hazards, the deeper waters are home to immense crustaceans and krakens, and Water-Wyrms frequent the island shores. There are rumors also of terrible fish-men and seductive sirens, which strike without warning and cause entire ships and crews to vanish without a trace.
Far more pressing a concern to the local kingdoms and would be explorers are the native inhabitants of The havens, which view all not of their tribes as outsiders and enemies. The natives are the descendants of the Vantorians and the Volcae and Albidosi tribes of the northern mountains, which had sought refuge in the republic during The God War. Having lost much of the ancient Vantorian’s knowledge, the survivors have in many places regressed back to a tribal society. Despite wielding weapons of wood, stone, and bog iron, they are capable warriors. With their knowledge of the forests, swamps, and ruins, they strike without warning in lightning raids, only to vanish back into the wilds, leaving no trail. From their Villages, Crannogs, Hillforts, and stone Brochs, they fight to hold what they can from the outsiders and invaders, and no kingdom or colony has ever completely held the island interiors where they have their strongholds. Only a few city-states retain the traditions of the lost Republic, and even those are pale shadows, clinging to ancient traditions and glories but little able to match them. Few kingdoms can muster proper Legions in the Republic style, and rely far more on levies, mercenaties, and tribal auxiliaries.
Each island and its clans and kingdoms currently stand alone, and without unity they will never drive out the invaders and outsiders from their land. At the heart of their division is a spiritual and cultural disagreement. In the face of invasion of their land, some have turned to worship of the The Green Lady as an avatar of nature itself, trading away independence and ancient faith for divine protection. Marching alongside the cult of The Green lady are bestial half-men and eldritch creatures, powerful yet inhuman. The followers of the The Green Lady desire to build a paradise where nature is revered above all things. While others eye the magic, weapons, and sciences of the outsiders, and desire to gain that power and rebuild the kingdom of their ancestors, even if it means changing their way of life. It is not uncommon for such visionaries to make deals with outsiders, trading knowledge of the islands or revered Vantorian artifacts in exchange for steel and gunpowder weapons with which to arm their clan. Sometimes seen as traitors by their tribes, those who seek such power never the less are a potent force. Yet while willing to deal with outsiders, they still view them as invaders, and many visitors to the islands have found themselves under attack by the very weapons they traded on a previous expedition. The divide between these ideological factions is deep and sore, and it has seen families torn asunder and bitter feuds between clans and tribes, furthering the strife.
(part 1. art used for aesthetics, and sources provided.)