Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Isle of Miseleth

Also known as the Black Island, on account of the dark, basaltic cliffs that girt the shores, and also the many freeswords, pirates and sorcerers that are rumoured to inhabit it.

It is the only sizeable island in the northern reaches of The Painted Sea, where cargo and war ships sail east, west and north between the dunelands of the Ghisan Alliance, the Bronze Cities of the Arid Lands, and the opulent jungle setting of Port Oorth, and despite the reputation, it is used as a port by many captains.

It is walled almost entirely by black basaltic cliffs, some glassy and others arranged in strange hexagonal formations. The only breaks large enough for a cargo ship are the main Southern Bay and a smaller, hidden Northern Inlet.

The Southern Bay has a deep channel reaching to the shore along its western flank, with the rest of the wide bay occupied by hundreds of islets and partially submerged rocks. The City, which has either the same name as the island, or perhaps no name, is a ramshackle affair; a sprawling maze of wooden buildings, narrow cobbled streets and short bridges that covers the narrow gravelly coastal strip and the lower flanks of the mountain that encloses the Bay, and spills onto the islets and rocks of the bay. Almost all the buildings are constructed of driftwood, planks and beams from shipwrecks or the bones and tusks of sea beasts, but are stable enough to stand the occasional winter gale.

It was built by a band of pirates, on top of ancient ruins, some 400 years ago, and even though they vanished from recorded history shortly after, others migrated to the settlement, some for trade, some for isolation, some fleeing persecution or justice, and it grew haphazardly, with no absolute rulers or written laws. This has invested the City with somewhat of a survival of the fittest mentality.

Any item, goods or service may be found here, but the more expensive or depraved items or experiences will require extensive investigations or contacts. It is also popular for any number of activities that would be illegal in other lands, and many stolen and illicit goods and substances flow though the Island's docks. It is, however, a safe harbour in the changeable waters of the Painted Sea, and the complex tidal flows caused by the eight moons, the docking fee is negotiable, and the streets are surprisingly safe.

Many powerful mages, alchemists and warriors reside here, as there is less of a chance of random interruptions, strange habits are not judged, and most physical wants can be obtained for coin or magic.

The current de-facto Mayor is Tilarmar the Docklord, head of the Dockworkers Guild. He has the power to stem the flow of goods through the City, and is also a smart, likeable man with a disarming manner. He has also managed to keep the other factions in the City at each other's throats, so they can only communicate through him. He has a son who has strayed and joined a band of minor brigands who lair near the Island's northeast corner. He is concerned about the boy, and wishes him back safely.

Underneath the more landward extents of the City are a series of caverns that many buildings adjoin, some treating one or more as a basement level. They are littered with ruined buildings of the Ancients, with many mosaics or carvings of that age lining the caverns.  Many of these are occupied, and used for storage of dangerous or suspicious goods, as lodgings for secretive or poor folk, or as bases for the small, ever-present bands of beggars, thieves or worse.

Some of these caverns lead through secret doors into the Undervaults of the Ancients, an extensive but mostly collapsed and ruined network of smooth tunnels. Of the few remaining areas, one is a series of small rooms devoted to the musical pursuits of the Ancients, with arcane instruments that produce an unsettling series of high clicks or low, almost subaudiable droning. Very unsettling to the unprepared. One other section of uncollapsed tunnels holds strange tools that may have been armour or weapons, but the exact effect and how to produce it is completely unknown. There is a market for them as ornaments for the rich and greedy.

The Northern Bay is hidden from view by a rock wall that hides the entrance until the ship is mere metres away from dashing on the cliffs, but a fast left turn brings the vessel into a small but sheltered inlet. From here, a narrow track leads up to the top of the cliff, with three smallish sea caves halfway up. The low temperate jungle of the Island is dense at the top of the cliff, with a rough cut track leading into the interior. Although it is a two day walk to the City, some extremely dangerous or rare cargoes are transported this way, regardless of brigands, spiders or packs of crimson furred apes.

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