Gazetteer of Lareth

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There are said to be thousands of islands in the Lareth archipelago: too many for a human to visit in one lifetime. Each has its own unique stories, history and customs. Here are but a handful of particular significance to the campaign, along with some other interesting sights of Lareth that are worth drawing you attention to.

Cinderfels

Many of the islands in Lareth owe their existence to volcanic activity. The same force that makes the islands so lush and fertile, is also the force that is preparing to wipe them off the map at a moment’s notice. Many ascribe tectonic activity and the eruption of volcanoes to be the work on Domordis and his clergy. The Sixfold Faith think otherwise. They can imagine no greater example of Calafax’s power than the might and majesty of a volcano.

The Cinderfels is not one volcano, but a series of eighteen volcanoes that trace a north-south line over fifty miles of open ocean. All are active to one degree or another, and are happily oozing lava out of various orifices into the Sasheenie. Various cults of Redcloaks have built temples on the islands, relying on their own immunity to fire to protect them from the environment. This tactic meets with only mixed success.

Few beings who are not Redcloaks can stand to be on any of the Cinderfels for very long. The heat is extremely intense. However, the Cinderfels is the centre of Calafax worship in Lareth, and a good place to go to seek audience with the oddly approachable clergy. In a world of water, the uses for fire seem few, but it is only the foolish that ignore the power of Calafax.

The nominal leader of the Red Cloak is a dwarf called Magarrus Magenti, who refers to Calafax as “the fire behind the forge”. An ex-priest of Moradin, Magenti sees no contradiction between the religious teachings of the ancient dwarves and the Sixfold Faith. Calafax evidently sees no contradiction either, as he has blessed the dwarf with surprising powers even by the standards of the Redcloaks. Magenti is said to have tamed a flock of phoenixes that dwell in the volcano.

Crimmstot

The most populous of the southerly islands, Crimmstot is large by the standards of Lareth. At almost fifty miles across, it is the home to more than 100,000 people and large enough to support three main ports: Vidala, Sunset Ridge and Timbala. Each of these ports has its own governor, and the three of them purport to work together for the good of Crimmstot.

In practice, the Scriverners Three (to use the common parlance) tend to pull in different directions, leading to strife and trouble in Crimmstot. Each port competes with one another to attract trade and coin: sometimes this means by offering lower taxes, more services and making themselves more attractive; but more often it means nobbling the competition by blockading other ports, spreading rumours or introducing dangerous diseases.

The inhabitants of the three ports are highly militant and proud of their own town. They welcome foreigners but they don’t like people from elsewhere on Crimmstot. There have been a number of alarming battles and skirmishes over the years, but as no port has sufficient manpower or resources to have a standing army of any great size, these have all come to nothing.

The reason why people put up with the strife on Crimmstot is because it is the last safe harbour for ships embarking on the final journey to the Fabled South. Crimmstot has become an endless source of legends and stories (most of them untrue) about what lies in the seas to the south of Lareth. Stories of the Hadradan Hell are still popular, while others speak of a massive ethereal continent called V’Qarin’s Land, that only appears to travellers at particular times of the year.

Crimmstot has become one of the most urbanised of the Larethi islands. The three ports have encroached far inland with little reason or planning. It is an urban sprawl of rickety housing and farmland. Much of the tropical rain forest has been felled to provide wood and grazing land for cattle and goats. All that is really left is the Barrier Forest – thin strips of jungle designed to mark the boundary between where one port’s dominion ends and another begins.

Dantallus Channels

The Sasheenie is a shallow sea – sometimes very shallow. There are places (even far from land) where the ocean is not deep enough to permit the passage of a heavily laden vessel. Therefore, many safe routes have been mapped out between the islands – deep water channels where ships can navigate safely.

These channels were mapped out by the Hadradan, Dantallus, many centuries ago and the name stuck. These Dantallus Channels provide an easy road between all of the larger (and many of the minor islands). Of course, their presence is a double-edged sword as there are plenty of pirates who also know of the presence of these channels, and who can therefore lie in wait for those heavily laden trade vessels.

Of course, not all the potential Dantallus Channels have been mapped, and there are plenty of islands beyond the reach of the channels. Those who go off the beaten track, away from the charted channels are in danger of running aground.

Daukoth

Daukoth is a autonomous community of about two thousand souls to the far south of the Lareth archipelago. It is unusually isolated from its fellow islands, the nearest being Crimmstot roughly fifty miles to the east. The bountiful waters around Daukoth allow the community to survive without the need for trade, although many flat-bottomed vessels and dug-outs still ply the trade lanes around the island. Given the colony’s isolation, the government of Daukoth is unusually autocratic; led by Wayfarer Thotik and the council of captains. Thotik is a middle-aged half-orc renowned for his military acumen and romantic conquests.

Daukoth is about fifteen miles in length and two in width. A massive coral reef makes up an impressively beautiful natural lagoon, although it isn’t deep enough for ocean going ships to get very close to the shore. To the north of the island are a collection of moderately sized hills called the Garden Peaks. Most of the island is covered in tropical forest of either palm trees or mangroves, except for an area of about eight square miles on the leeward side of the Garden Peaks that has been flattened and given over to agriculture. The staple food grown here is rice and other pulses. This makes up the main part of the diet of the islanders, along with fruit and fish.

Fresh water comes from the Rose Bowl. A small fresh water lake that has formed at the top of the garden peaks. Dozens of small streams take the overflow from the Rose Bowl down to the sea.

Of the two thousand inhabitants of the island, half live in the Old Village. This is located on the lower slopes of the Garden Peaks, very close to the agricultural area. It is surrounded by a wooden stockade that is designed to keep out any natural predators from the sea, but wouldn’t stop a determined military attack. Homes in the Old Village (and all around Daukoth) are made of wood, and raised off the ground about two feet to stop the lower part of the buildings rotting, and to provide some protection from flooding.

There are three stone structures in Daukoth, made from elderly black stone that was dug out of the old Seltram Quarry generations ago. The quarry itself has long since ceased its work and is now filled with water overflowing from the Rose Bowl. Unlike the natural lake, drinking water isn’t take from the Quarry, but it is used for washing and swimming. Youngsters like to climb the quarry walls and dive into the fresh water.

The three stone structures are the shrine to Domordis that dominates the middle of the village (a cairn of stones about eighteen feet high), the barns where the harvests are stored, and the Immartis Penitentiary. The penitentiary is a rather grand name for a prison that can hold no more than fifty people (and only twenty-two cells are currently filled). It was once the barracks of an Hadradan garrison stationed on Daukoth, and has been maintained over the centuries to the extent that little of the original stone still remains. The prison is a squat tower of cylindrical design about forty feet high, and fifty feet wide.

Also found in the village is the Wayfarer’s Mansion – a very impressive three story structure, that dwarfs most of the other buildings. The mansion is home to the Wayfarer, but also the place where the council of captains meet. Beyond the Old Village settlements are found all around the island. The largest cluster is in a clearing near the beach, where dug-outs and other flat-bottomed trading vessels make rest.

The economy of Daukoth bears a little explanation. Barter is an important part of the economy on Daukoth, with many islanders preferring to do something in return for goods and services. However, this isn’t always possible and the Council presses a number of ceramic trade tokens colloquially referred to as chips. These chips are imprinted with the seal of the Wayfarer, are about half an inch in diameter and have a hole bored through the middle. Many islanders thread the tokens together and wear them like a necklace.

The tokens are traded for goods and services on Daukoth, but they have no monetary value off the island. Trade outside the island – whether it is the buying of imported goods, or the sale of the island’s wares – is controlled by the Council. Individual islanders might be licensed to leave the island and conduct trade, but all the proceedings of such trade goes back to the council. This is because all trade conducted with outsiders is conducted in Coin.

The habit of metal coinage is still engrained in much of Lareth since Hadradan times, although there are very few foundries in the archipelago for the minting of such items. Indeed metal items of any sort (that aren’t weapons) are fairly scarce. The foundries that do exist are located on the larger islands to the far north, but the coinage still circulates widely.

One Daukoth chip is worth about the equivalent of one silver piece in trade. Traders who sail to other islands and sell goods, or sell goods to visitors, take payment in Coin. This coin is then taken to the Council who exchange it for a like amount of trade tokens. There is a temptation to keep a little Coin back of course, but Coin isn’t accepted in any of the local shops. Even visitors need change their currency before they can use it.

The bulk of Daukoth’s habitable space is located in the north of the island. The further you go south, the narrower the island becomes until the plant life is left behind in favour of long sand spits. A collection of tiny islands (collectively referred to as the Daughters of Daukoth) stretch out about fifteen miles beyond the island’s southern coast. However, they are so close and the seas are so shallow that is fairly easy to wade or swim out to any of them. Taking a canoe is even easier of course.

However, the waters around Daukoth are not to entered lightly. There is an abundance of life in and about the reefs, which attracts an abundance of predators. Fishermen in boats and canoes are usually fairly safe but sharks, mosasaurs and huge predatory whales are fairly common in the area. Other sea monsters, giant crabs and amphibious horrors are commons sites in and around the island.

In contrast, the largest predator on the island is a nasty little bird called the Keopys, which is a flightless runner about 2 feet high. The largest mammal (other than humans) are a single troop of gibbon-like primates who inhabit the southern forest, and (of course) the rat. Snakes are also a danger – and they are almost all capable of swimming wide stretches of open ocean. Salt-water crocodiles of all sizes, bask on the beaches, but they aren’t much of a threat out of the water.

Gunakadeit

A lush tropical island about twenty miles across, and noted for its abundance of fresh water lakes and hot springs – many of which are said to have miraculous healing powers. Gunakadeit (pronounced Goona-ka-DAH-tay in Gobbley) is the home to as civilised a society of goblins as one could hope to meet. Unlike the illiterate tribal goblins that pollute many of the larger islands in the north, the goblins of Gunakadeit have a great respect for knowledge, intelligent discourse and, for coin.

The goblins abide in a large stone ziggurat of rumoured elven construction. They are ruled by God Emperor Xutun Niblixus Mashicata. The term “God Emperor” is mainly for the tourists – as is the insistence that his subjects wear feathers and brandish spears. The goblins have carved quite a niche for themselves in appearing as a primitive tribe, who guard their “holy healing waters”, but are willing to lead the sick, infirm and the gullible to the right springs for the right price.

This is not to say that Mashicata and his followers are con-artists. Many of the springs do indeed have strange powers about them – not all of which are conducive to the health of the bather. To their credit, only the goblins seem to be able to differentiate between the good springs and the potentially deadly ones.

The island is shared by a permanent community of Domordis priests – almost all of them elven – who consider that Gunakadeit is of special significance to their god. It is rumoured that the soul of the god resides here, deep below the ground, and that the priests commune with it on a regular basis. Whether true or not, Gunakadeit has become something of a pilgrimage hot spot for members of the faithful.

Although on cordial terms with the priests, Mashicata is watching them closely – if they’re trying to pull a fast one and muscle in on his good thing… well, the goblins will simply have to take steps.

Mandatum Veritatis

A small rocky island with little in the way of vegetation or indigenous animal life. In centuries past Mandatum Veritatis was the seat of Hadradan power in Lareth. The quarter mile span of the island was covered in a massive citadel dedicated to the Hadradan god, Helian. Here the prefects administered the islands for the Emperor. It was the seat of religious and secular power and sported its own great harbour, as well as barracks for thousands of troops.

After the end of the Hadradan occupation, much of Mandatum Veritatis was destroyed by understandably irate islanders. Over the years it has been a haven for pirates, sea witches and even the headquarters of the Cult of Dagon. That all changed about five hundred seasons ago.

Although the Hadradan Empire is now firmly inward-looking and Timinite, the Vandanian church is far from extinct. With less receptive ears to their message of hate and expansion at home, the Vandanians have found themselves cast to the limits of Hadradan influence. And so it was that a Vandanian mission under the command of Melisada Dalnazid came to Lareth, hoping to retake the Mandatum Veritatis in the name of her god.

Ironically, Melisada’s mission was welcomed by the inhabitants of the surrounding islands who desperately wanted someone to drive out the Dagon cultists. And, to their credit, the Vandanians have no love of supernatural evil and those who are stupid enough to worship it. In fact, they saw it as their solemn duty to protect the humans in the surrounding lands from these depredations.

And so the Vandanians found their way back into Mandatum Veritatis. They were a small group, but they have used the intervening years to secure their power base. Missionaries were sent out from Mandatum Veritatis to preach the teachings of Vanda to all the humans they could find, and so the old Hadradan teachings and begun to spread around Lareth. Today there are few islands of any size that do not have a chapel or shrine to Helian, and Vandanian priests who can trace their allegiance all the way back to Mandatum Veritatis.

Mangahouanga

Foolish are the souls who set foot on Mangahouanga. This dense tropical paradise sports no settlements and no indigenous peoples. The reason? They’ve been eaten. Despite its relatively small size Mangahouanga has more predators per square inch than anywhere else on Iourn – with the possible exception of the Thundercrowns in central Tibrai.

Huge lizardine monstrosities, giant apes, dragons, insects the size of houses and misshapen aberrations are commonplace. Even the plant life is deadly. The only semblance of thinking creatures are the undead remains of those stupid enough to set foot on the island in the first place.

Quite why Mangahouanga  has developed such a deadly collection of flora and fauna is a matter of mystery and debate. Some think that all these monsters were deliberately placed on the island to protect something, and that there is an incredible treasure lurking deep in the steaming jungles for the brave soul who is powerful enough to reach it. Of course, that is just the sort of nonsense that encourages people to visit Mangahouanga in the first place.

Moon Peak

The Moon Peak is an extinct volcano that rises out of the ocean in the far north-east corner of Lareth. There isn’t a great deal to the island except the volcano, that rises in traditional conical form for about two thousand feet above the surface of the Sasheenie. The sides of the mountain are covered in vegetation, but too steep to provide home and shelter for large creatures. Most of those live on the plateau.

The plateau is about a quarter of a mile across, and filled with the sort of abundance that is common on Lareth. A large amount of the forest has been cleared by the members of the Sixfold Faith, who consider the mountain to be a holy place – perhaps the holiest in all of Lareth.

At the centre of the plateau is a ring of standing stones that acts as a place of meeting and debate between the disparate members that make up the Sixfold Faith (and in particular the Cloaked Cabal). The area is maintained by a ageing Browncloak called Murkun Hardwick – a dour gnome who doesn’t like visitors.

Hardwick is the only permanent resident, although there are number of huts and chalets for visiting priests who wish to pray, or commune with the moons. Of course, getting to the plateau is not easy. There are no harbours at the foot of the Moon Peak, and nothing as useful as a set of stairs to get to the plateau. If getting to the island is difficult, then the ascent is even harder. That is simply the “way of things” according to Hardwick. After all, if it was easy to get to Moon Peak then Hardwick would be beset with visitors and wet-behind-the-ears acolytes. And who wants that?

Taratega

Lock up your valuables, keep your sword close and leave your wife at home! Welcome to Taratega, most dangerous and yet most visited of all the Larethi isles! Taratega is a lawless haven of cut-throats, buccaneers and pirates. There is nothing that cannot be bought or sold in Taratega, for there are no officials, no laws and no lawmen to get in the way of trade and parley.

Captains looking to hire a crew who would do anything for coin, adventurers looking to sign on for danger, and simply those looking for wealth beyond reckoning… they all start their journey in Taratega. If they’re not careful, they also finish their journey there as well.

Taratega is a flat rock with very little to recommend it. There is fresh water, and there’s a sort of scrubby plant-life, but there’s very little in the way of flora or fauna to excite the interest. The advantage of Taratega is that it sports an abundant number of deep-water harbours, and sits at the centre of scores of Dantallus Channels that can take sailors anywhere they want to go in Lareth. It is an invaluable hub of trade and other more pernicious activities.

Taratega has no government, no police force and no tax collectors. The bubbling anarchy is kept in check by enlightened self-interest. Like-minded individuals band together to protect what is theirs, and to deny advantage to their competitors. Everyone from dockmasters, to warehouse owners, to the proprietors of Taratega’s many inns, taverns and hostelries keep sufficient muscle to defend their patch. Strength (or the appearance of strength) and many well-placed allies and contacts is what makes Taratega tick.

Taratega would not survive without trade and the sea. Everything that the island needs to keep going is imported. This is no great problem, of course, because ships are always coming to the island to either unload their wares or collect new cargo. All roads do indeed lead to this wretched hive of scum and villainy – and that’s just how the locals like it.

The Zaratan Nation

Of all the races that call Lareth home, the dwarves are the ones who fit in the least. With no subterranean realms to call their own, the dwarves find themselves physically and spiritually cut off from their society and the gods. Over the centuries, many have tried to return to the Black Hills in Hadrada, or to the Cradlelands, but there are still many that stay. And of these indigenous dwarves, many belong to the Zaratan Nation or the Aesir as the prefer to call themselves.

The Zaratan are perhaps the largest beings on all of Iourn. They are immense sea turtles, miles across that roam the deep Ramillic Ocean far from Lareth. These beings can live for thousands of years, and spend much of that time in a state of torpor and hibernation that can last centuries. What is little known outside Lareth, is that the shallow Sasheenie is where these deep-water creatures come to breed and lay their eggs. Therefore these monstrosities, many larger than the islands in the archipelago, are more common here than they are anywhere else on the planet.

Quite how the relationship between the Zaratan and the Aesir began is unclear. It was certainly something of a leap from the cavernous Black Hills to that of ocean-going caravaneers, but many dwarves found the tropical life so antithetical to their nature that any change might have been considered a good thing.

The dwarves of the Zaratan Nation live on (and sometimes within) the massive sea turtles. They build massive stone citadels on the backs of these turtles – some as large and as grand as Mandatum Veritatis itself. Thousands of dwarves live and prosper in these citadels, that sometimes cut into the shells of the turtles, allowing the dwarves to venture into the dark warmth of the shell’s interior.

The dwarves survive by fishing, and collecting rain water through complicated guttering, and trading their wares with the more static islanders in return for goods –  particularly iron and stone. Iron and stone are the most prized goods for the dwarves, because it is with them that they are able to improve and expand their citadels, and create many of the signature items that dwarven smiths and artisans are rightly famous for. Of course, iron and stone are fairly uncommon in tropical Lareth, the dwarves often have to set out onto the open ocean to trade with Hadrada, the Cradlelands or even easterly Urova.

The arrival of a Zaratan at any island in Lareth is met with great excitement as it means access to high quality dwarven goods. The dwarves make things that can be found nowhere else in the chain. Weapons and metal-goods are particularly in demand, although dwarven (or Aesir) pottery is also in high demand.

Why do the great zaratan put up with the dwarves? Why do they allow themselves to be steered around the oceans? And why don’t they just submerge and drown all the little hairy bleeders on their backs? The dwarves seem to possess some control over the zaratan. In addition to the normal dwarven pantheon that still gains lip service from the dwarves, a sect of dwarves known as the Testudinians. These are the priests of the god, Aegir, and are said to have psionic powers that give them the ability to master the mind of the zaratan and ‘encourage’ it to do their will.

NEXT TIME:
The Campaign Begins!


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