There are currently four smaller islands within sight of Daunton; travel is quite constant between these islands. Most ships will only set out on clear seas, quickly returning to their destination if they see any sight of fog or storm. Even so once a month or so a boat is caught, to far out to return before they are consumed. Most ultimately make their way through the seas and return, often weeks or months after they departed on what was to be a trip of a few hours. A few though have been lost forever and are remembered on a small stone plaque by the quayside.
Note: The Proximate Isles are also called the Near Isles, though that term is disdained by scholars because of the potential confusion with the Near Lands.
Bacarte is a rough and tumble island that has drifted closer and further away to Daunton for over a century. Plagued by frequent and persistent mists most days the island is often only a barely visible smudge from Daunton. Which is how the vast majority of citizens of Daunton like it. The island, with it's treacherous shoals and thick mists has long been haven to the unsavory, from merchants to outright pirates to worse.
At the same time Daunton benefits tremendously from the proximity of Bacarte, the "merchants" of Bacarte include the some of the greatest navigators to ever sail the seas, they travel far and wide bringing back loot and lore which they often disposed in Daunton itself. The shanty town that grew up on the island offered the sorts of services that appear in any large city, but, isolated on Bacarte the citizens of Daunton could avoid acknowledging their existence (and in truth many knew little of the isle thinking it more abandoned than it was).
According to tales that circulate through the taverns of Daunton the Five, when they were younger and less respected, spent much of their effort fighting the corrupting influence of Bacarte; they made inroads in stopping some of the worst practices (slavery, corpsetheft) but inevitably they'd find that however thoroughly they routed out and defeated some menace the cloaking mists of the isle would simply attract some other unsavory group; often just as bad if not worse that whatever the five had removed before.
Then a fateful event happened; though the Five could hardly have known it at the time. The five, growing in power and renown and increasingly frustrated arrived on Bacarte on one of the rare clear days. And promptly laid waste to a necromancer, two slave cartels and obliterated the shop of a merchant trafficking in "unsavory magics and items" located in the middle of the shantytown. Challenged by a brash young hobgoblin about their actions Jeronel Threehammer loudly replied that "We will continue to return so long as you engage in vile acts that are an abhorrence to all right thinking people. If it takes one time, or a hundred, we will return so long as you offer succor to necromancers, and diabolists, slavers and murderers." And the five left; pleased at their success and saddened that they would soon return.
Within a week rumors were spreading among the "less law-abiding classes" of a change in Bacarte. A group of powerful hobgoblins were forming coalition of among the pirates and thieves of the island and they were doing it "in the name of the five". The five wanted to react immediately of course, but incursions from Arcadia, rumors of a portal to the insectus and another group of slavers they'd uncovered during their raid demanded their attention.
When they finally returned they found posters around the island. It read
*Diabolism (devil worship of any sort)
*slavery (owning of people)
*murder (justified or otherwise)
all prohibited by the "merchants of Bacarte" in conjunction with "the five"
The head of the "merchants of Bacarte" was the very same hobgoblin who had challenged them. And he'd used an off the cuff remark to build a coalition of pirate groups and townsfolk around "cleaning up the place a bit". It was hard to argue with the civilization of Bacarte, and the so-called merchants would become one the Five's most vexing problems.
The "merchants" refused to admit to "intentional piracy"; the shifting seas were a complex place. If some traveling vessel attacked one of their simple merchant ships they had to "defend themselves". And they had to take "restitution" to repair the damages. Was it their fault that other groups, prejudiced against goblinoids, presumed they were pirates and attacked them?
Any proof of overt piracy was met with swift action. The "merchants" vigorously punished the offender, offering genuine recompense to the victims. And also presented the five with a long list of other individuals and groups engaging in piracy, as well as certain merchants and other individuals in Daunton who were trafficking in illegal goods.
The five found themselves in another bind. They couldn't punish the merchants and leave the other groups untouched, the detailed information (often remarkably so) about other pirate groups allowed them to efficiently root out the groups. Nothing led directly back to the hobgoblin dominated merchants. And they could not help but note that the hobgoblins seemed to grow more and more prosperous every year.
They controlled the largest fleet, offering genuine protection and shipping services (to the joy of the merchants of Daunton who appreciated the hobgoblins thoroughness, dedication and rock bottom prices). A ship that could reliably have been sunk as a pirate vessel now had to be painstakingly searched to sift contraband from the ever increasing amount of legal goods the merchants handled.
In time the five simply had to cut back on their attempts to reign in the piracy. There were greater evils in the shifting seas. Ones that couldn't be reasoned with (or trusted not to buy and sell souls or children).
Places of NoteEdit
The Drowned Man Edit
A tavern of run by Faun, a particularly rough looking Minotaur who won it in a fight with the previous owner; a fight that cost him his left eye. The Minotaur considers it a fair trade. Despite it's location, rough clientele and lack of security force a degree of order pervades. Faun expects patrons to step in to stop any fights; those that don't pitch in or otherwise misbehave find themselves cut off.
And being cut off ("gored" in the lingo of Bacarte) is a bad thing for would be mercenaries and adventurers because of the tavern's second role, as a meeting place for adventures and employers.
There is a portal that connects the Drowned Man to the Hanged Man Inn. The portal itself is an odd thing, it seems to be a miniature henge about three feet high, carved entirely of wood. A duplicate rests in the hanged man. The portal is connected to Arcadia and works intermittently. Generally it always works if someone has had three strong drinks in the past half hour [endurance check]; it also usually teleports anyone who makes a bawdy joke while standing inside (but a given joke only works once). Anyone transported by the portal appears at the other establishment surrounded by glowing mist and only remains in their location for a half hour or so before returning to the original portal. Any violence that starts in the teleported persons vicinity also immediately reverses the effect. (This effect is particularly attractive to would-be employers who are concerned about their personal safety in Bacarte and to the authorities of Daunton, who have choose to overlook the traffic between the two two inns). Another, less attractive, effect is that drunken portal users find they have truly horrible hang overs the next day.
The House of Hadeys Edit
When Bacarte began its economic ascent the Dauntonian Church of Lauto presumed, naturally they felt, that they would dominate the money loaning business on Bacarte just as they had on Daunton. They took very little account of the existing Lautoan priesthood, or its nominal head, a goblin named Gedder Nofinger.
This would prove to be a painful mistake. Upon the arrival of the first Lautoan Priest an aggressive, fast talking fellow shipped over, everyone would agree later, more because the Chapel leadership was keen to see him go than because they trusted his good sense, was greeted by the sly goblin. According to witnesses (of which there are a suspiciously large number) the goblin challenged the interloper demanding to know "by what right to you claim to stand above the priests who are already here" when the smug human asserted that it was well known that their church was the greatest church of Lauto in the Isles.
The Nofinger nodded sagely and explained that, in fact, the proper name for Lauto on Bacarte was Hadeys. This flummoxed the would-be-head-priest (religious study was not his strong suit and, at the time, the Imperial Gods were very poorly known on Daunton). He was forced to retreat back to Daunton for consultation; but the Chapel quickly mustered its self and asserted that in fact the majority of Bacartes most certainly did not worship Hadeys and sent forth no small number of investigators to "prove" this.
Their investigators were in for quite a shock; it seemed that just about every man woman and a majority of children did, in fact, assert that they worshiped Hadeys. Though their was much muttering about bribery the simple truth, acknowledged by all, was that Bacartes took tremendous pleasure in thumbing their noses at the wealthy priests from Daunton and the story of a simple goblin sending a fat wealthy Dauntonian scurrying back home had captivated the isle. And they much loved seeing the Lauto priests scurrying around the streets of Bacarte in their fancy robes with their gaudy golden sticks and attempting to inquire of the meanest dock worker about their religious beliefs.
It also turned out to be an opportunity for the merchants to flex their muscle. The priests were allowed to travel with only a single bodyguard (the rest were stopped at the docks) and despite expectations among Dauntonians (with whom the gaudy, usurious priesthood of Lauto is notably unpopular) that their would be bodies floating in the bay the next morning not a single priest was touched; everywhere they went they found the most vicious of bugbear willing to make space with them at the bar and discuss religion.
The priests returned to Daunton asserting a massive conspiracy and publicly demanding action. The newly elected Mayor Bunt reluctantly held hearings. And when they heard story after story of how ostentatiously dressed priest had wandered into the deepest dankest parts of Bacarte with a single bodyguard and heard not so much as a rude word they came to a very different conclusion... that there was someone on Bacarte who could get business done.
And when the agents of those Dauntonian men and women of business arrived in Bacarte they found the representatives of the merchants of Bacarte ready to meet them; and, sitting over-looking the piers, a newly built simple temple of Hadeys that was willing to lend money at a significant (though still quite profitable) discount to the sky-high rates of the Chapel of the Obolus.
The ensuing decade would see rapid, economic growth in Bacarte; driven in no small part by attractive financing from the humbly named House of Hadeys. Growth that the Lautoan priests could only watch and grumble about.
The other Dauntionan churches learned rapidly from the object lesson, quickly opening chapter houses of their own; staffed, as much as possible with local priests. And to this day it is extremely difficult to find a Bacarte who does not offer obeisance to the god of the underworld under the name Hadeys.
Personalities and Creatures Edit
Margan Kraith Edit
A paunchy Hobgoblin, Bacarte's premier loan shark and a powerful cleric of Hadeys - a disciple of the aging Gedder Nofinger. Kraith is a member of the Merchants of Bacarte; his passionate advocacy for the supremacy of Hadeys is well known though few are willing to openly say it is tied to his systematic, ruthless focus on discouraging any potential competitors. Being an affable, if vicious fellow, Kraith has been known to provide Clerical services in exchange for mercenary work. The well connected Hobgoblin can also be an excellent source of information within Bacarte so long as his palm is appropriately greased.
Mother Ciballa Edit
More colloquially known as "Mama Hex", Ciballa is an ancient hobgoblin witch. Accounts vary on exactly how old she is, but the consensus is that she's far older than any hobgoblin has any right to be; most Bacarte citizens remember her being elderly and on death's door as children. Regardless, Mama Hex is probably the most extensive source of magical knowledge in the Isles, rivaling Daunton's Great Library in both size and scope. She's an expert on magic in all of its forms, whether it be arcane, divine, primal, psionic, shadow, or things more bizarre entirely, and she has intimate knowledge of nearly all known magical rituals. Adventurers, businessmen or more unsavory types occasionally seek her out, looking for advice or some sort of magical edge, but only the most foolish approach her with anything other than caution.
Mama Hex mostly deals in favors, collecting debts and using them to punish those who transgress against her, but it isn't unknown for her to ask potential visitors for bizarre reagents for her various spells (she famously once asked The Five for a bag of fingernails, each plucked from a freshly slain corpse, before she would grant an audience). Her moniker is also very well deserved; more than one hapless soul that tried to shortchange her ended up afflicted by some sort of supernatural curse that proved highly resistant (if not immune) to conventional removal.
Kythira the Living IsleEditRumored to be a living creature in legend and the legendary home of a great court of Eladrin, who may have immigrated to the Isle of the Fey Court. If the isle is a living creature, bisection by the Shadowrift, must have placed it in great pain.
The original Eladrin inhabitants of the island divided themselves into four houses, each closely affiliating itself with one of the four generative elements: House Running Waters, House Four Winds, House Dancing Flame, and House Many Stones. Each Eladrin house built great city-spires, as well as royal catacombs, along Kythira's central mountain range, at the sites where the primal energies of their house's element were most concentrated. Ruins of some of these sites now dot the edges of the Shadowrift.
Vegetation grows at a prodigious rate upon Kythira most notably the massive mangrove forests that push outward from the Shadowrift to the edge of the shore. These forests are populated by spares tribes of gnomes and shifters, and a few scattered clans of human nomads. Attempts to colonize the island for farming have not yet been successful.
There are several different legends surrounding Kythira's unusual geography, most of which involve Lauto, and Peresefa with the goddess Vena in a supporting role either helping or hindering the former's difficult relationship (though several versions circulate among mystery cults that have some rather unusual developments the official legends are more prosaic, with Vena's participation limited to using illusions to improve Lauto's appearance, at the behest of one or the other of the two). But, the fanciful imaginings of some Dauntonians notwithstanding, it was recently discovered that the creation of the Shadowrift and the disappearance of the Kythiran Eladrin are interconnected events. Beset by the destructive forces of a being known only as The Submerged Eye, the Kythiran Eladrin led by King Paerlanthas of House Running Waters called together their greatest arcanists in a ritual that brought about a great cataclysm. Punching a hole through the very fabric of the living world the Eladrin managed to seal The Submerged Eye in a plane beyond Lauto's realm of the dead, but only at a great cost. The Eladrin empire was ruined and most of its inhabitants dead, in its place a dense grey mist that spans the border between the Isles and Herebos. Now the island's shifters, gnomes, and tribesmen must keep constant watch lest fell creatures from the Shadowfell stray into the world of the living.
Isle of Opposition Edit
The Isle of Opposition is a storied and famous place within the Shifting Seas. It is marked with two henges, ancient rings of giant stones, on the opposite horns of the island; the henges form rare permanent gates to places beyond the Shifting Seas. Arcanists who have managed to study the ruins rarely share what they have learned, but it is commonly believed that there is some significance in the selection the locations.
Currently the golden henge is open to the The Valley of Bone and the gray henge is open to the Kingdom of Jade . Settlers from both lands have moved to the isle over the past few years and established small colonies. Visitors from the Valley do not have a unified agenda. Some seek glory or power, others come to commune with the strange spirits of the Shifting Seas. Still others are motivated by curiosity. By comparison most of the travelers from the Kingdom seek some resource or power that would give them advantage in their battle against the forces of darkness that threaten their land.
The colonies lay claim to the territory around their respective gates and exist in a state of uneasy truce, abetted by the presence of travelers, merchants and diplomats from Daunton and elsewhere in the Shifting Seas. Long ago, Dauntonian explorers established a crudely fortified port on Fulcrum, the small tidal island in the center of the circular bay. Since the establishment of the gate connections to the Valley and the Kingdom, Fulcrum has experienced rapid growth and improvement due to the increased traffic in both individuals and goods. The growth has spread to the end of the tidal causeway where warehouses, trading posts and bazaars now dot the shore.
The western section of the Isle, away from the bay and the two gates, is a mostly unexplored wilderness. Rumors abound of ancient ruins, additional gates and other mysteries waiting to be discovered. Many believe that the secret of the Isle's true purpose is hidden somewhere within that wilderness.
Though the two mystic henges sit only a few miles from each other as the crow flies, in practice travelers must walk the entire length of the inner coastline to get from one to another.
For one thing, the "horns" of the island slope up sharply from the bay. At their tips, the henges sit atop sheer cliffs nearly a thousand feet high. It is possible to try to take a shortcut from the sea by scaling the shorter cliffs closer to where the horns meet the Isle proper, but extremely difficult. For one thing, the waters of the bay along the horns are treacherous, with rocky shoals and strong currents. For another, the cliff faces are unstable and prone to rockslides. Finally, a variety of aerial predators nest on ledges and hollows in the cliffs.
Even for the proverbial flying crow, the direct trip from one henge to the other is not easy. Thick, swirling mists, faintly tinged with gold or gray, enshroud the ends of each horn. These mists have a dehabilitating and disorienting effect on creatures that enter them, causing them to become easily lost and risk crashing or falling. Ancient roads leading up to the henges are free of the mists, allowing travelers on foot to pass safely through them.
The henges have another property that is of great interest to sages, but also has important practical consequences. The environments found in the locations on the far sides of their gates - the Valley and the Kingdom - leech through to the Isle. The area of the horns matches those environments in terms of climate and geology. So the horn of the golden gate is a steamy, hot jungle, while the horn of the grey gate is cold, snowy and rocky. Even the flora and fauna from the destination side seems to mystically appear on the Isle without anyone having seen them actually passing through the gates. This effect gradually diminishes as distance to the henges increases, so that on the main part of the Isle, the climate is very similar to that found in Daunton.
A side effect of this property is that it stabilizes the state of the land close to the gates. It is as if the bleed-through erases and overwrites any additions and modifications wrought by sentient hands. Mortar crumbles, bricks fall, metal rusts and tarnishes, nails pop free, ropes untie themselves, ditches refill, and walls come tumbling down. Sometimes things just disappear. In a matter of days, or weeks at the most, the land near the henges is restored to its original, pristine condition.
Thus, attempts to fortify the gates inevitably fall to ruin, as the first waves of colonists discovered. Those from the Kingdom were very persistent, building and rebuilding almost a dozen times before giving up. They (and the Bonites too) eventually settled for building walls and moats on the horns a mile down from where the ancient roads enter the mists. These constructions still demand a high level of maintenance, but not so much as to be impractical. (The stubborn folk of the Kingdom of Jade also still maintain a small guard tower just off the henge, rebuilding it about once a week.)
Similarly, enterprising attempts to build ladders or cut stairs leading from the sea directly up the cliffs to the henges have failed. The effect is so strong there that the beginning of the construction has unraveled before the project even reaches three-quarters completion. Even the Kingdom colonists only made the attempt three times before giving in.
Fulcrum was established on the bay's central islet a couple of generations after the fall of Allaria. Over most of the intervening centuries, it was little more than a crude, small fort, some shacks and a couple of piers. It was used as an emergency port to shelter passing ships from weather and the fogs of the Shifting Seas, and a waystation for the sages drawn to study the henges and explorers bound for the land beyond them. The gates switched destinations dozens of times over the years, but usually to places that were uninhabited, hostile or alien. There were two times that the gates led to more civilized lands and commerce was established, but it never grew to high volume.
With the recent switch in destination to the Valley of Bone and the Kingdom of Jade, travel and trade has exploded, and so has Fulcrum. The old fort remains, but it is now surrounded by warehouses and residences, ship construction and repair facilities, a tavern, and a temples dedicated to Joven, Merkari, and of course Netari. There is a shrine of Maros at the fort as well.
Given the new value of the port to Daunton, the city now keeps the fort well garrisoned and there are always a couple of warships on patrol in the bay. The lords and politicians constantly bicker over the expense, and given the possibility of the henges changing again and the Isle suddenly becoming a near-useless backwater again, they hesitate to commit permanent resources. But the local forces are kept highly trained and alert by their commander, the veteran officer Countess Vady Sharun. She is quite well aware of the presence of the Imperium not far away on Mykonos, not to mention the possibility of armies of the Valley or Kingdom massing unseen beyond the gates. She keeps her troops well aware of these things too.
About 150 people now live on the crowded Fulcrum islet, and settlement has spilled over to the nearby shore. Both islet and shore are called Fulcrum, but when more specificity is needed, they are called "Fulcrum-sea" and "Fulcrum-shore". The bay between them is shallow and filled with treacherous rocks and shoals. Small craft - skiffs, barges and canoes - ferry people and goods across. At low tide, a natural land bridge between islet and shore is exposed. Heavier cargo is transported across this causeway in the three or so hour period before rising tides submerge it again. Given the unpredictable nature of the tides in the Shifting Sea, those travelling along the causeway try to leave as soon as it possible and don't dawdle during the crossing.
Most new buildings in Fulcrum-shore were thrown together in a hasty, slap-dash fashion. Surrounded by a wooden palisade are warehouses, markets, trading posts, and bazaars. There are also taverns (Dawn and Jewel, Kobold's Folly, Jungle Juice Tavern) and inns (Green Skeleton Inn, Sage's Rest, Mayatl's Boarding House). Businesses run by or for Valley folk tend to cluster to the north and those more oriented towards Kingdom people are located on the south side. Residents use the terms "gold" and "gray" to refer to this split, as in "over on the gray side of Fulcrum", or "get lost, you filthy dragonborn, this is a gold joint."
There are a few nice residences, but many more live in shacks, lean-tos and even treehouses. The full-time residential population of Fulcrum-shore tops 300, with a typical transient population somewhere between 100 and 300. There is a new Dauntonian fort here as well.
Mykonos' Sanctuary/Nova Imperium Edit
A monastery founded by the halfling pacifist known as Mykonos has floated off the coast of Daunton for centuries, once known and respected throughout the Transitive Seas the monastic order the pacifist founded. In addition to the monastery the island housed a several dozen dwarven families who worked the iron ore deposits deeper in the island.
To this day no one knows how the cultists managed to infiltrate the island or corrupt the monks. The monastic order had been completely dominated by the Brotherhood of the Bright Eon for almost a year before it was discovered; the Isle became the brotherhood's secret base during that time. They gradually infiltrated the mining community as well, imprisoning or slaying any who would resist them. The cult would spread its influence wider over the year spreading discord amongst Daunton and the other isles and preparing for their dark rite.
Daunton was shocked to awareness of the thread beneath it's noses when a group of dwarves managed to slip free from the mines, which had been turned into makeshift prisons and escape to Daunton on a stolen boat. Their stories of deprivation, the mad goals of their captors and the corrupting insidious influence them seemed to be able to inflict upon even good-hearted folk ran about Daunton like wildfire.
Attempts to assault the isle or dislodge the cult were casually brushed aside as the cult lit hideous green fires and begain their rituals. Their rite called forth a great creature that blotted out the sun, above Daunton and the Proximate Isles and threatened their destruction if not for the intervention of the Five.
After the death of the five the island and the destroyed monastery was shunned by everyone; the Mayor went so far as to attempt to resettle the dwarves in the city. But Mykonos' Sanctuary would be abandoned for only a few months before the Imperium used its powerful magics to a rip open a portal to its capital, Isolate Prime. Under the cover of darkness an "exploratory expedition" filled with "reserve" legionaries swarmed the island, claiming the upper levels of the monastery as an outpost. The Daunton attempted to mount a response and a hasty force was sent out, "led" by mayor Brunt (enfeebled by his sickness he was carried on a stretcher). Tense negotiations (amid assertions by the Imperium representative that they were simply forming a "peaceful trading outpost") and awareness that the hundred hardened legionnaires would be virtually impossible to dislodge from the monastery the Mayor grudgingly agreed to allow the Imperium to form an outpost "pending further discussion".
The Imperium was at great pains to back up claims that, despite its grandiose name (Nova Imperium Substruct XXIII*), the new base was a simple trading outpost. The formerly abandoned dwarven town at the sea shore was restored and the governor (the "chief trader") moved into a grand house away from the "token" military force based in the upper levels of the partially rebuilt monastery. T
Most folk of the main isle grudgingly admit there is a place in the cosmos for the Imperium; they just prefer that it be far off. And there is grousing that a stronger leader than the current mayor could have driven them from Mykonos' Sanctuary completely.
The dwarves Mykonos' Sanctuary who have returned to the island and resettled their town have more complex emotions; the monks they had depended upon to protect them failed them, and in some cases were corrupted and became their tormentors. The idea of a powerful new patron appalls and attracts them with equal intensity.
(*) A substruct is an Imperium classification for a base of operations, its the smallest permanent encampment. Even the Imperium don't call Nova Imperium "Nova Imperium Substruct XXIII" outside of formal written documents.
Portal Problems Edit
In the six months after the Imperium claimed Mykonos' Sanctuary it rapidly swelled with traders and other visitors, often priests of Netari, scholars interested in studying the transitive seas and bored nobles. The portal is small by Imperial standards, but still allows a flood of minor functionaries, bureaucrats, bored nobles and so forth to flow in and out.
Or it did.
Roughly a month ago there were some problems with the portal. Not unheard of of course, especially for a new portal. A month has passed without the portal being effectively reconnected; occasionally a new person is deposited from the portal but often telling of being trapped, floating in a void for what seemed like days.
The governor was away, and the vice-governor, his son, is known more for his prowess in drinking than in his leadership skills. Falling food stocks have forced many of the Imperium to decamp to Daunton until the portal is fixed.
If that weren't enough rumors have recently begun to spread that the monastery was not as well cleared out by the initial raid as the Imperium have thought. Traders visiting the monastery turned outpost report alarms and exhausted legionnaires that seem to jump at innocuous sounds.
Personalities and Creatures Edit
Son of the vice-governor, renowned for his prodigious drinking ability and little else. It's hard to find a citizen of Nova Imperium who thinks he's not making a complete hash of things. Or who's willing to say anything in public about it (his father is notoriously vicious and equally well connected)
Consensco's lieutenant governor. Lentesco is a toadying temperavir ( known for his intensity in serving Consensco's family, spinelessness (he invariably speaks on behalf of someone else) and apparently lack of morality or other virtues that might hinder his ability to serve his master.
See the far lands for a description of the Imperium.