©2017 by John M. Meagher
Mypor – One of the earliest settled islands of the Frees. Officially known as the County of Mypor, the port and surrounding area were founded by a Malachan nobleman as part of a royal charter. After the rebellion that formed the nation of Terendor, the County was left to fend for itself during its parent nation’s instability and since has become an independent realm. Myporeans are known for their quick tempers, spicy food and wearing colorful sashes around their waists which identify which family they belong to.
Malachi – The elder of the two mainland nations directly north of the Frees, Malachi reached the height of its power over four hundred years ago, then fell into a period of deep decline following the revolt and subsequent secession of its largest province, which became the kingdom of Terendor. It was during the century after Terendor’s secession, referred to with grave solemnity by Malachan historians as “the Shadow Years,” that the Malachan settlements on the islands to the south both were founded and broke away from their parent nation, which led to the region gaining the collective name of “The Frees.” Since then, Malachi has slowly regained stability and has a fair measure of her old strength. Malachan culture is generally considered to be more sophisticated that than of Terendor, and the capital city of Trevonne, recently redesigned by the brilliant architect and scientist Phillipe Marsienne, is a flourishing center for the arts and sciences, with the new innovation of lamps lighting the main streets at night.
The Broken Lands – A wild region lying between the southern portions of Malachi and Terendor. The terrain is rocky, unfertile and contains no precious resources, so neither country has made any real effort to claim the territory. Naturally, this has made the region a haven for brigands and thieves who raid the neighboring populations. The coastline of the Broken Lands is as dangerous as the interior; the waves conceal many rocky ridges that can rip out the bottom of a ship in seconds. A number of local pirates make a living in these waters, both luring pursuers and driving prey into these hazards. The lawless port of Morganton, where the brigands and pirates meet, trade stories and information and sell their ill-gotten gains, is the closest thing this area has to “civilization.” However, rumors do circulate of a large ruined city in the heart of the Broken Lands. Some tales say the city is occupied by various brigand gangs and is decorated with their stolen prizes. Other rumors, however, whisper that the ruins are occupied by something else.
The Elflands – Some fifty years ago, beyond the northern borders of Malachi and Terendor, strange beings that fit the legendary description of “elves” began to be seen, migrating south in small numbers. At the same time, word began to spread of strange monsters haunting the wilderness. The general consensus is that all of these creatures are coming from a single place, dubbed “The Elflands.” To date, no reliable account has been recorded describing this region, as no human explorers have ever returned from an expedition north to in search of the Elflands, and the elves themselves are notoriously close-lipped on the subject.
Kreigstadt – A small island off the coast of Terendor. The Kreigans loudly declare that their island was the first of the Frees to be settled, not Mypor, a claim that no one pays much attention to. This is mostly due to the Kreigans’ “putting their back to the Frees,” as the term goes. Kriegstadt is closest to the mainland of all the islands in this group, and the general impression is that Kreigans wish they were even closer. Kreigstadt’s chief trading partners are Terendor and Al-Kef, and Kreigans make little effort to establish stronger ties with the other islands in the Frees. The ruler of Kreigstadt is called the Meisterherran and is elected by a council of Kreigstadt’s most powerful merchants for a single term of six years.
Hisvet – The colony of Hisvet was originally settled by Baron Viliere of Tavos, a Malachan nobleman who was stripped of his title, excommunicated and exiled along with his followers for a “difference of faith.” Viliere continued to use his title anyway, and his descendants have each claimed the title in their turn, saying that in Hisvet, “a Baron sits as high as a King.” It has become clear that Viliere picked the site for his exile well; the prevailing trade winds carry ships along the southern length of the island, making Hisvet an ideal location for trade…and piracy. Dozens of pirates lurk in coves along the southern coast, waiting for their prizes to sail past. These buccaneers are commonly referred to as “the Baron’s tax collectors,” as it’s believed that so long as the Baron gets his share of their take, they may continue to operate off his coast without interference. This is considered to be the first, though not the last, reason for Hisvet’s ongoing feud with the Kohaya Quad.
Surem – The city of Surem was founded by one of the sultans of Al-Kef as a trading port for his merchants to operate within the Frees. It was not long before this sultan was forced to cede control of the port to one of his rivals as a peace settlement during one of the frequent internecine wars between the nobles of Al-Kef, and this set a pattern the residents of Surem are all too familiar with. It is said that civil authorities have the formal banners of each of the Al-Keffi sultans in secret storage, so that when news comes that the city has been traded to a new master, the new flags will be flying over the city even before the new vizier arrives to take command. As a consequence of this, the Suremi are a self-sufficient folk, and consider themselves a part of the Frees as much as any of the other islands, despite the fact that they technically remain a colony of one of the mainland powers. This self-sufficiency extends into defense: Suremi merchants are one of the favorite targets for pirates operating out of Narlos, but the Viziers of Surem have long employed mercenary ships, mostly from Al-Kef, to protect their shipping. Depending on the political situation, these mercenaries will sometimes double as privateers, hunting pirates or the ships of those realms the Vizier is currently quarreling with.
The Kohaya Quad – More commonly known simply as “the Quad,” the Duchy of Kohaya is a series of four close-set islands. The water running between the four portions of the Quad is a mixture of ocean saltwater and fresh water from rain and natural springs, and these channels are too shallow for ocean-going vessels. There is only one lagoon large and deep enough to make a natural harbor, the city of Kohayne. Kohayne is almost a vertical city; the slopes rise quickly from the harbor on all sides, with the buildings stacked higher and higher. It was originally a small port city called Marhayne with no ruler beyond a local mayor, until Mandran Kohaya, Duke of Kevrensbury, renounced his native lands in Terendor and came south with his family and entourage. The Kohayas quickly imposed their will and wealth upon Marhayne, increasing its size and transforming the trading post into a thriving city, renaming it Kohayne and adding their family name to the island group as well.
The Frees – A collection of small tropical islands south of the mainland, so called because virtually all of them are ruled by independent “free” rulers who claim no allegiance to any of the larger nation/states around them. The racial backgrounds vary from island to island, but most folk of the Frees are descended from settlers, refugees or exiles from Malachi and Terendor, with sizable minorities coming from Al-Kef or those islands with native inhabitants, collectively called “islanders.” Geographically, most of the islands are steep and rocky, with little flat land for farming and jagged coastlines with few natural harbors. Thus, the populations of these islands generally congregate around the port cities and make their living through fishing and trade. Over time, this has resulted in the name of an island’s oldest or largest port city becoming synonymous with the island itself. Thus, when one is speaking of “Narlos,” for example, it is assumed by all that the speaker is referring to the city first and the entire island a distant second.
Vendurel – Following the death of the Marquis Desmond Vendurel, his young widow Lorraine defied her father’s intention to remarry her to another nobleman and fled into the Frees to pursue a life of her own. After a series of adventures that included an improbable number of kidnappings and rescues (as well as the Marquise becoming a pirate captain herself), Lorraine eventually settled down with her lover, Captain Dorian Holbrook, founding the port city that bears her name. The descendants of Dorian and Lorraine have ruled Vendurel since, continuing to use her surname and title, and many of them seem to have inherited her penchant for strange and romantic adventures.
Narlos – Narlos was once described by a traveler as “corruption masquerading as a government.” For most of its history, the port of Narlos was little more than a safe haven for pirates operating in the southern portion of the Frees. As the city grew larger, several of the strongest pirate captains agreed that someone would need to take care of necessary but boring duties such as harbor administration and garbage collection, jokingly referring to this person as the “Lord Mayor.” However, over the years pirate captains came and went, but each of the successive Lord Mayors expanded their power by making improvements to the harbor and maintaining control of harbor fees. Now the Lord Mayor is the de facto ruler of the city, skimming his profits off the top and letting the various pirate gangs, who have set themselves up in various districts of the city, fight over the leavings.
Bravel – Bravel is the largest of the “islander” realms, meaning it is still populated primarily by the native population rather than settlers from the mainland. The interior of the island is not as rocky or steep as many of the other islands in the Frees, allowing a sizable population of natives, who call themselves the Ghalani, to flourish there. A Malachan explorer, Georges Bravel, befriended the Ghalani, even marrying the daughter of one of their chieftains. The Ghalani allowed their new son-in-law to establish a trading post, which took his name. Before long, a number of Bravel’s men followed their leader’s example and took Ghalani wives, beginning the process that now makes Bravel a curious mix of Malachan and Ghalani culture. The Ghalani get along fairly well with their coastal cousins, though in the past they have been firm in restricting the colonists’ expansion into the island’s lush interior. That has begun to change since the Sabre Empire annexed Valmor, Bravel’s closest neighbor in the Frees. Bravellans and Ghalani alike believe their island is the Sabrians’ next target, and the two cultures have grown closer in response.
Nauticus – Ten years ago, this island was known as Valmor, the southernmost of the Frees, until a dispute erupted over tariffs between its ruler, Coinlord Jarrus Davick, and a consortium of Sabrian merchants. Tempers flared and violence erupted, and without warning a Sabrian fleet sailed into the harbor in support of the merchants. This led to Valmor becoming the northernmost province of the Sabre Empire, renamed Nauticus. The island’s population has nearly doubled since the Imperial takeover, the majority of the rise due to an influx of Sabrian colonists and naval personnel. The speed and brutal efficiency of the Sabrian response has caused some to believe that the original tariff dispute was simply a pretext, giving the Empire an excuse to invade, but these people wisely keep such thoughts to themselves.
The Sabre Empire – A large and aggressive naval empire extending far to the south of the boundaries of this map. Sabrian warships are larger and faster than anything produced by the northern powers or within the Frees, and Sabrian cannon are more powerful as well. Relative newcomers to the Frees, the Sabrians are generally regarded as haughty and arrogant. They have an elaborate set of protocols for dueling, using a pair of blades they refer to as “the Argument and the Retort.”
Al-Kef – A nation to the northeast of the Frees, Al-Kef is divided into numerous regions, each ruled by a sultan. These sultans ostensibly answer to a Padishah, who rules the entire nation, but it seems clear that the Padishah has less than absolute authority. Al-Kef is an aggressive nation that was rapidly expanding westward until it met with the nation of Terendor, expanding in the opposite direction. The two nations have shared a shifting border and nearly two centuries of intermittent warfare and skirmishes ever since.
Terendor – Originally the largest province of Malachi, Terendor broke away in a successful rebellion over four hundred years ago, expanding eastward until meeting the westward expansion of Al-Kef. Sharing a western border with their former parent nation, a fluctuating eastern border with Al-Kef, and the mysterious “Elflands” somewhere to their north, the Terendans have become a hardy folk, suspicious of strangers but fierce in their loyalty to friends and in the defense of their nation.
Bacurutu – A very small island somewhere beyond the western edge of this map, far enough away that many have never heard of it, much less consider it to be one of the Frees. Its inhabitants survive primarily by hunting the whales that migrate past the island twice a year. They also follow a unique religion which they refer to as “listening to the winds.”