First, off, a little Nightwish, a Finnish Metal Band that does really good acoustic folk tunes, and an appropriate song;
Islands are special places, but I'm a little biased, growing up and living on two smallish islands near the bottom of the world. There's a different mindset, knowing that you're completely surrounded by water, and share borders with no-one.
In an island, if you want to visit somewhere else, you need a boat of some type, and that's also where bad, and good, people can come from. You can grow insular and inward-looking, making do with only what you can gather around you, but you can also become entranced by dreams of what might be out there, beyond the horizon. This can lead to wanderlust, especially when it's rather inconvenient to return home from wherever you are.
There are three island/ island groups in my world setting that have been fleshed out more than a shape and a name on the map.
The Hundred Isles
A cluster of islets to the west, lying in a curved arc between the larger islands of Velindor (known in distant lands as Island of the Silversmiths) and the fearsome Dragon Isles. The exact number of islands is in dispute, to those who care about such things. Perhaps seventy have fresh water, maybe slightly over a hundred exist at high spring tide, and perhaps double or more at lower tides. They are close, with only a few hundred metres separating most, and many a lot closer, with narrow channels of only a few metres between them. This creates a vast labyrinth of intricate channels, with many fast and dangerous currents, and sudden and varied tidal changes.
There are a few bridges between close lying islands near Send, the island most easily reached by traders from the Mainland, but there are no major towns. The Meethall on Send is the centre for the thetse fish oil extraction industry, as these small greasy fish that abound only within this archipelago contain a rich flavoursome oil that is favoured in coastal and southern cities. Trading galleys visit on a regular basis to trade essential goods for barrels of oil. There is accommodation for travellers in this large, barnlike building, with hot meals and a hall for rest.
The other islands are grouped into natural 'townships' of five or ten islets, usually with an extended family or two on each. A Chieftain informally governs this, usually travelling to Send a few times a year to raise concerns and queries on behalf of the township at the Great Meets, and bringing news and information back.
Flat land, where it exists, is protected by stone walls and intensively farmed, and steeper arable land is terraced and planted. Even so, much of the islands are bare wind and sea-swept rock, and life is dominated by the sea. Nets are strung between stacked rock houses and across channels to net thetse and other fish, children have their own coracle or canoe by the time they are old enough to walk, and most homes are built with windows and balconies leaning over the water, but secure enough to withstand winter storms. The islands are not rich, and have few natural resources other than driftwood and flotsam, the thetse oil, and occasional lag deposits of alluvial silver and small pinkish rubies, but the people are hardy, self sufficient and are a happy and family oriented lot.
The people have, according to their legends, always lived here, and tell legends of the passing of the great ship of the Sonderholm peoples some two thousand years ago, and of great flights of dragons at rare intervals. They are shorter than average, like the original peoples of the Kheldarian Basin, but are quite broad across the shoulders and stout, and very agile and nimble around water. Hair is dark brown or black, and eyes blue, grey or green, with fair skin tanned by sun, wind and wave.
Things to do;
- A wanted criminal has fled to the outer, lesser known outer islands. Brave storms, currents, sharks and treachery to capture and return her to justice.
- Towards the Dragon Isles, a small submerged rock is covered by several ruined buildings of an unknown style, lying under about three metres of water.
- Someone comes into possession of a treasure map, identifying a stash of hidden loot on an island. Investigation reveals that it could be any one of a dozen islands in this group, and the two dominant families are feuding Romeo and Juliet style. Parties must not offend either group while sneaking around, digging holes all over the place.
- A barren, windswept island peopled with ghosts (kind of like in the video). Talk to the lone inhabitant, and discover the reason for the curse and how to break it and free the spirits.