Friday 5 May 2023

South of Kambyra: The Unravelled Isles

This post is part of a hexcrawl series I was planning for Blood & Treasure. I'm not sure of its ultimate fate, but it follows on nicely from the last post, so here it is! I'll post a map as soon as I'm happy with it (or at least, if I can make a map that is ok to look at, a thing by no means certain).

 The Volsturand Islands

This chain of slow-subsiding volcanic islands in the Gulf of Khonoy was once a thriving nation built on privateering and the slave trade. However, a cataclysmic sequence of volcanic eruptions blew the main island, Volsturand apart, and commenced a process of subsidence that continues to this day. Most of the old ruling class fled to the mainland, founding Kavikor and usurping the rule of Khonoy along the way – although some still continue in their grim business of piracy and slave-taking – and the small fortified cities and fishing villages fell for the most part into empty ruin.

In their place came many opportunistic folk from across the sea, seeking to carve out new realms for themselves, whilst the oppressed indigenous tribes sought to throw off the Volsturandi yoke and repel the invaders. Now, the isles are mostly lawless, but their ruin is in fact a siren-song for adventurers and soldiers of fortune. It is said that the precipitous collapse of the pirate-kingdom left those who fled no time to gather up the illicit hoards they had accrued through piracy, and thus the islands draw a small number of bold – or desperate – souls seeking to make their fortune...or even carve out new realms of their own.

The island chain is nearly 480 miles in length, from SE to NW. Its southernmost point is only 36 miles from northeastern Kanthe. The larger – and formerly more prosperous – islands are found in the north-western third of the archipelago, in warmer waters. There remains some trade between the various kingdoms and city-states of central Khonoy and these isles, but it is tenuous, and prey to piracy.

Finally, the island of Kambyra lies some 180 miles ENE of the archipelago. This far-flung colony of the swift-growing Empire of Gerredain (far to the north) is swiftly becoming something of an entrepôt linking Khonoy, Avronakiya, Gerredain  and the lands of Old Yrena. 

South-East to North-West and has some close cultural and commercial ties to the Volsturand Archipelago.

The closest parts of the archipelago to the Khonoy mainland are the Malstedt Isles, a group of eight small, low-lying islands occupied primarily by fisherfolk and herders fled from some of the more obnoxious or oppressive regimes on the mainland. They are joined on occasion by sealers, and sometimes subjected to raids by the Sea-Grymne of Kynnarat (although there is little enough to steal).  The sole exception to this regional inconsequence is the well-defended island of Khorat – not part of the Malstedt Isles proper, but close by. Khorat is the home of the powerful Priest of Deiron, Vygelis and his potent Triton and Light Elf allies.  Vygelis is a cautious ruler, and does not seek to increase his sway beyond Khorat’s coastal waters, knowing that to do so might invite the rancour of foes more powerful than he. The only time he acts beyond his borders is to suppress particularly obnoxious acts of piracy or if petitioned by the Malstedt Islanders for aid (and then only if he deems the risk of projecting his power suitably low). Vygelis’ caution is motivated not by fear, but rather by a vision he received from Deiron, commanding him to create and secure a refuge against some future, unspecified, danger. 





The Cowdray Shoals (SW)

The Cowdray Shoals, a region of dangerous reefs, bleak islets and generally foul weather occupies an elliptical area some 30 miles in length, running SSW-NE. It is no wider than ten or twelve miles. It begins approximately 36 miles NE from the port of Khonoy in northeastern Kanthé and merges with the Malstedt Islands.

The Shoals are the last remnant of a peninsula that once stretched from the now mostly-sunken island of Melzeth (the Malstedt Islands are the shattered ruins of that once mighty land). Few vessels dare the Shoals – they are simply too treacherous, despite the ample rewards for the brave soul who fishes the rich waters. Even the Sea-Grymne and Truk raiders seldom bother with the Shoals. This, of course, has made the Shoals an ideal place for ne’er-do-wells and those who have cause to hide.

Several of the islets provide shelter for smugglers and pirates, although they are not permanently occupied – rather they are refuges or drop points for purloined goods. There is also a pair of islets where a small group of Lannite exiles dwell, in hiding from the persecutions of the Mardicene Church that dominates the Kanthéan mainland. Finally, there are a few wrecked ships written off as high-risk and low-reward - perhaps wrongly - by other adventurers that may tempt the desperate or impulsive adventuring party.

The encounter areas for the Shoals will be detailed in the next post.

Wednesday 3 May 2023

Kambyra: Out East

 I never went beyond the fastness of the eastern mountains, for I was told that Imperial writ did not run thither, and no good account came to me of that wild vastness, peopled as it was by the uncouth and violent Native Elves and men both Superstitious and Brutal. Naught was to be seen there worth the danger, or so it seemed to me.

    Zastenuto, private letter to Yorvald Astell.

It is a curiosity of our times that, whilst the currents of history have, for the most part, swept this brave and lonely isle east to west, the Imperial contagion came from the west. It is, some say, an impermanent - and impertinent - imposition that is fragile, and even doomed. For in the east, they say, true power lies buried at the roots of the earth, in the roots of ancient trees, in the veins of the true folk of this land, and the pattern of true history may yet be somehow redeemed by that power. I do not know if this is truth, myth, or just a foolish hope of a conquered people, or all three.

    Calvid Rhoak, the Wandering Scrimshander

The great mountains of the east frame, protect and yet somehow menace the colonial heartland. If not as wild and rugged as the peaks of the southwest, these peaks seem almost primordially massive (particularly given their location on an isle which, whilst large, is hardly a significant landmass). Constantly battered by winds from the southeast, these peaks shelter the rest of Kambyra from the worst of the weather that comes up from the southern landmass, whilst they also capture and direct the rainfall in the form of the rivers and lakes that irrigate and fertilise the rest of the isle.

Much of the land, especially in the south, is simply rugged and for the most part empty, although it is known that a clan of Giants dwell in the interior of the southern peninsula, occasionally trading rare hides and minerals with the intrepid Zwunker villagers of Wilderwater - who, since the passing of the Koryato Elves, are the only navigators who would dare such perilous waters as lie to the southeast.

It is rumoured that Dragons dwell in the East - although few are the wildernesses of which such things are not said. No sure sightings have been reported since the slaying of the Gibberranter, the malign Black Dragon who previously dwelled in the ruins of Karris Khazo. 

Karris Khazo itself, once a mighty temple of the Shokottu Elves, was for the most part destroyed during the assault by the aforementioned Gibberranter and abandoned to that fell worm, some five centuries ago. However, eighty years ago, a powerful Knight of the Empire, Sir Yalson Gwend led an expedition against the vile creature, and succeeded in slaying it. However, only one of the twelve who set out against the Dragon, a grim scout named Ammedel returned, bearing tidings (and wisely, proof) of the dragon's death and that of Sir Yalson, the beloved priest Nalner of Hind, the fabled archer Sheerin Kalkoskii and indeed, all the Knight's companions. 

Thereafter, admirers of the fallen heroes would betimes make a pilgrimage to Karris Khazo, seeking knowledge beyond the proofs given by Ammedel, and often seeking souvenirs - some of which became relics - until, thirty years after the fall of the Dragon, those who travelled to the ruins ceased to return. Silence fell upon that region of the east - a windswept dryland of rough hills punctuated by marshy vales, until just five years, the few brave traders who still traffic with the Shokottu Elves began bringing word that some new force had occupied Karris Khazo, and the Shokottu, in their understated manner, seemed deeply worried about what that might portend.

North of Karris Khazo, where the land is not mountainous, it is a rugged, narrow strip of coast, choked by dense forest and populated by the remnants of the Shokottu Elves. Once a proud, martial folk, whose small towns and keeps dotted the entire island of Kambyra, this Elven people have become forest nomads, eschewing the arts of civilisation (so-called), and living a simple life as hunter-gatherers. Formidable on their own ground, they do not acknowledge Imperial authority, and, in the absence of a full campaign by Imperial troops, they have no fear of being made to bow to a foreign throne.

Only in the farthest north, where the land is gentler and the weather more mild - though still heavily-wooded and prone to ferocious storms - is there any degree of safety for the colonist (or adventurer!) who ventures into easternmost Kambyra. Here dwells an order of forest monks, drawn from among the Shokottu Elves, colonial renegades or dreamers and the indigenous Kambyran folk. Known as the Shakuri, they keep their pleasant corner of the island quiet and, for the most part, safe. Woodcutters and hunters know never to dare these woods, for the Shakuri are gifted with power over both mind and body. Certain colonial landowners dislike so much potentially productive land lying 'neglected' under the governance of the Shakuri, but the colonial administration has thus far been firm in its resolve to leave the woods to the monks, being all too aware the the monks' domain sits astride the easiest route whereby the dangers of the east might invade the Kambyran heartland. 

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