Below are the basics every traveler knows about the Thousand Isles and some of its most prominent characters.
Arfk is a cold, rocky island that is home to the Grael as well as several species of polar animals that were able to move up the slopes as the water rose. The principle industry of this desolate place is hunting seals, blue bears, or norwhales.
Azy Cay is a small, relatively harmless settlement off the coast of Perck. It was founded by a beautiful pirate mistress, Azy Angsley, who ran aground here in a storm and just decided to stay. There are few residents here, but they engage in some illegal trade on occasion.
Blackbeard commands one of Caribdus’ only two Men of War, the Destroyer. It is said the ship is crewed by the dead, and that the Pirate King himself is unkillable! Fortunately for most, Blackbeard rarely strikes ships or towns. His purpose is unknown, but some whisper he gained his immortality from the Sea Hags, and now patrols the seas in their name.
Duckworth, Admiral Nelson Duckworth is the Thousand Isles’ most famous privateer— and a visitor from Earth. His flagship, the HMS Justice, is one of only two Men of War in the entire world (Blackbeard commands the other). Opinions of Duckworth vary. Merchants love him; pirates curse his name with every drink.
Baltimus is the most advanced city in the Free Towns with the only port deep enough to accommodate a Man of War right at the pier. It is home to the British East India Company and its two most colorful members, Bruno Baltimus and Edward Lazenby. These two throw grand galas every weekend, and young women and aspiring nobles compete violently for invitations.
Bluth’s Crown is an odd ring of four standing stones that many claim was where the elemental spirits were bound, allowing some races of Caribdus to cast magical spells. A small group of mages and their companions live here now. Braven’s thick forest once served as the Emperor’s private hunting reserve. After the flood, Jant needed lumber for ships and ordered the trees cut down. A small band of “rangers” still live there, trying their best to replant trees and return the forest to its former grandeur.
Brigandy Bay serves an important purpose in Caribdus, for it is the only large port that does not adhere to the Great Port Treaty. Cargoes are bought and sold here for no tithe, no questions asked. The three trade guilds have threatened to invade Brigandy Bay and hang everyone on its “miserable shores,” but so far have not attempted it. Brigandy Bay also has a thriving black market where rare treasures are often offered up for sale.
Bristo is a prosperous fishing village run by American Thomas Crane.
Calib’s Rock is little more than a quiet waystation along the so-called “Ghost Trail” that runs from Jomba Town south to Caresia. Caresia is known for its neutrality and convenient location within the main shipping lanes of the Free Towns. Monthly meetings between agents of the three shipping companies occur here to hash out disputes and trade, giving rise to a growing street market.
The Coaker Mountains are not only the sole remaining source of iron in Caribdus, but also a prison for those who oppose Emperor Jant. Few of the enslaved miners survive to see their sentence served. A few interesting creatures live in the Coakers. Rocs nest in the high peaks and fire salamanders sometimes crawl forth from the supposedly-dormant volcanoes.
Cuna’s people have been the target of several large pirate raids. Once a town of over 2,000, only a small number of determined fishers and farmers remain. They are very distrustful of strangers.
Deiking, or “*Little China*” is home to a large number of Orientals. The vast majority of the people here are honest and hardworking, but cruel warlords perpetuate the wrong stereotype by pushing opium upon Caribdus’ wealthy.
Dunich: Quakers from Earth’s New England set themselves up in this quiet fishing town far away from the rest of the Free Towns. They catch and sell particularly succulent greenback fish, but are otherwise left alone by most.
The Flotsam Sea is a slowly swirling mass of debris filled with hopelessly entangled ships. Scavenging is good, but the Sea Hags’ foul minions are thick there as well.
The Free Towns: This motley assortment of villages and cities runs the gamut from plantations to rain-soaked fishing villages. Baltimus, Bluth’s Crown, Braven, Brigandy Bay, Bristo, and New Madrid make up the Free Towns.
The Inquisition: Tomas de Torquemada despises elemental mages, claiming they have made pacts with the Sea Hags for their infernal powers. Few believe the madman, for earthers from later times know full well the impact the High Inquisitor had on history. Still, a small cadre of stalwart believers infiltrate Caribdun society and seek out mages. They follow them until an opportunity presents itself to capture them quietly, then whisk them away to Torquemada’s barge, the Perdition, for confession. Those who confess are granted “release” by being hung from the Perdition’s masts. The inquisitors have a saying—”Everyone confesses.”
Jomba Town was named for a former West Indies whaler who seems to have disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Some claim he was murdered, and that his ghost still haunts travelers along the trail from here to Caresia.
Kaja is the only permanent settlement on Arfk. It is home mostly to whalers and hunters, many of whom are former pirates hiding in the frigid north to escape the noose.
Kehana Flumes: Several thousand kehana live beneath the waves in the upper reaches of these volcanic chimneys. The vertical tunnels also provide easy access to the surface, allowing the kehana to ambush travelers looking for sulfur and other minerals in the rich pillars.
The Kieran Empire is governed by Emperor Jannis Jant—nicknamed “The Great Whale” because of his immense girth. Kiera, capital of the empire, was already perched in the mountainous highlands, and so was in little danger of the Sea Hags’ flood. Emperor Jant realized this early on and closed the gates to the city to all who could not pay an exorbitant “entrance fee.” Thousands of the Emperor’s own people drowned cursing his name at the city walls. Their bones can still be seen along Kiera’s rocky shoals. The Emperor still rules his Empire, though there have been numerous attempts to overthrow him. The Great Whale also benefits greatly from the Coaker Mountains, the only known source of iron remaining in the Thousand Isles.
Kiera is an ancient city with tall black spires gilded with gold. It is the seat of the Kieran Empire and the home of Emperor Jannis Jant. This is where ore mined from the Coakers is sold.
Kuwayway was once an ugak raider camp. The Ograpog Legion eventually chased the raiders away and erected a fort here to prevent their return. These days the plateau is a low island useful for careening ships. Travelers are advised to stay away from the crumbling ruins of the old fort however—it’s said the ghosts of the dead ugaks have returned to it.
Lanos is an agricultural village that exports rice and rice wine (saki). It is a comfortable and relatively safe place due to its lack of great riches and no-nonsense constable.
Maroa: The Atani live in massive carroway trees off the coast of Cuwayo. The trees produce valuable fruit that the glider-folk sell for exorbitant prices. About 2,000 others (non-atani and a few atani exiles) live in “Below Town,” a rotten collection of shanties and lean-tos. Once per week, the atani descend from the trees and offer 2d6 bushels of carroway fruits. These sell for $100 per basket of 10 fruits. Eating one instantly removes one level of Fatigue regardless of its source. During these events, the atani also sell a single blood fruit, a rare red carroway that sells for $200 each. When eaten, it immediately removes one wound.
Marsales is a solid shadow of New Madrid. It is widely popular with captains looking for the comforts of the larger cities but with a slightly less watchful City Watch.
New Madrid is the second largest city in the Free Towns. It was settled and named by the Spanish, and is home to the Spanish Guild. Crime is high there, and many say smugglers can find easy work. The only standing Catholic church can also be found in New Madrid. A group of missionaries are also present, and often send expeditions out to the rest of Caribdus in an attempt to convert the natives. This church has publicly distanced itself from Torquemada, but most natives see them as one and the same and therefore shun the entire religion.
Ograpog was the bright and shining jewel in Caribdus’ crown. It certainly wasn’t a perfect society, but it was at least equal to the Greek city-states of Earth at their peak. Ograpog rests under 50 fathoms of water these days, its surviving citizens having fled in whatever vessel would carry them.
Paltos is where Kieran prisoners are kept until they can be assigned a spot in the Coaker Mountains. The dread prison of Paltos is said to be inescapable.
Shark Bay is a haven for pirates, smugglers, and whores. There’s no finer place to spend a rich prize than Shark Bay, for though it is remote, it is well-supplied by merchants who quietly accept profit over conscience.
Swindon presents itself as an “honorable” port, but is more than likely just a front for the less-reputable ports on Perck.
The Teeth: This is the magical lair of the only known non-kraken archmage, Tressa the Red. The only entrance is through a deadly “river” called the Gullet. Visitors are not welcome.
Terras: It is said a great sea dragon roams the waters around this deserted island. The wreckage of ships that ventured too close are often seen drifting toward the Flotsam Sea.
Timin is the “overflow” settlement for those Kierans who could not buy their way into Kiera. It has thrived thanks to wise placement on fertile ground, and sends shiploads of precious food to Kiera weekly. The Senator who rules it and his rebellious but beautiful daughter are often talked about in Caribdus’ taverns.
Torath-Ka: Over a dozen years before the Flood, the Ograpog Legion mercilessly hunted down bands of ugak raiders. Those who escaped fled to the so-called “land of the ancients”— Torath-Ka, a dense jungle highland filled with all manner of savage beasts. Legend has it the Red Men know devilish black magic, and can summon gargantuan creatures to fight on their behalf. It is likely these are tales told to keep explorers away from the rich diamond mines of the “Savage Land,” but a rare few veterans of the Ograpog Legion claim the tales are true.
Tuck is a small farming town plagued by monkapes, razor wings, and giant crabs.
Tulago is a prosperous town founded by former slaves from Earth. Guests are invited to the nightly fests, and smaller crews are often allowed to share their food and drink—at least for a few days.
Vittoria: A daring English explorer named Angus McBryde was sent to establish a new colony on the far eastern tip of Torath-Ka for the British East India Company. Unfortunately, he has not been heard from since, and attempts to find his settlement have so far failed.
The Whip Islands are a desperate man’s last resort. Valuables drifting in and out of the Flotsam can be found washed up on its sandy beaches, and have made more than a few sailors fabulously wealthy. Finding a treasure is a matter of luck, however. Some row ashore and find a lost treasure worth a king’s ransom, while others search for years for less than they’d make sailing. Giant crabs and tidal snakes are common, so beachcombers should be wary.
Wrasseton is a waystation for the farmers of Sprith. They cart their goods here and sell them to ships who carry them on to Caresia or elsewhere. Like the people of Cuna, the Wrassetons have been raided by pirates one too many times. Anyone even suspected of being a cutthroat might find himself facing an angry lynch mob in the middle of the night.
Xaxa: A small town settled by a former French noble. He runs a very quiet and restful “resort” and allows courteous guests to view several rare paintings he brought with him from Earth.