War of Winds
Scourge of the east coast and neighboring continents are the pirates of Varya Keep. When not ambushing trade ships or reaving coastal villages, the Keep is a criminal’s sanctuary, untouched by Pardeux’s laws. Of course, such freedom is usually accompanied by chaos, but those living on the island seem to thrive nonetheless.
Not much about the island’s history has survived, since so few care to record it. It is known that the first to arrive on the island three centuries ago were not pirates, or even outlaws, but miners looking to harvest the unique volcanic rock. This included obsidian, which quickly became popular on the mainland and therefore very valuable. Due to this, Varya Keep was said to be a treasure trove and it was only a matter of time before treasure hunters descended upon it. While there are still a handful of people working with obsidian, pirates quickly found that the more valuable part of the island was how difficult it was to get to.
The island of Varya was created by a volcano deep beneath the Golden Sea, and as such the waters around it are littered with sharp volcanic rocks that can and will tear through a ship’s hull like parchment. The island itself is composed of sheer cliff faces all around its perimeter; the only real beach is filled with black sand at the northwest end of the island, called Caldera Bay. In order to reach the island, ships must carefully navigate through the sharp hidden rocks and make port in the bay. This makes the island a fortress, accessible only when the inhabitants will it.
Despite residents having little to no regard for basic morality, much less official law and order, there is always the food chain. At the top of Varya Keep sits the Pirate Lord, self declared with all opposition crushed, they are the wealthiest person on the island. It is a very precarious position; being feared enough to maintain authority while not being hated enough to inspire mutiny. When the lord is overthrown or killed, usually both, sailors often notice the number of pirate attacks dwindling as they are too busy fighting amongst themselves to claim the title. After all is settled in a matter of weeks, the new Pirate Lord can enjoy their reign of about a year or two.
At any given time, a majority of the islanders are at sea or wreaking havoc along the coast, but should they all return home at once, Varya Keep would have almost twenty five thousand inhabitants. Humans make up 70% of the residents, their relatively short lives and big ambitions take to piracy quite well. 10% are elves with a deadly mixture of greed and wanderlust. The remaining 20% is a combination of all kinds of races who ended up on the island, willingly or not.
While most people imagine the Keep to be nothing but chaos, filled with so many cutthroats and thieves, it’s actually quite a friendly place. Without laws, you are free to do whatever you want. However, if you do something someone else doesn’t like, they’re also free to kill you, and the only thing that would make them think twice is whether or not you have friends that will take revenge. Therefore the people of Varya Keep tend to have as many friends as possible, even if most of them are bought or blackmailed. When not spent buying friends, the islanders enjoy as much of their stolen wealth and luxuries as possible, often wearing the finest clothing and adorning their homes. The stone with which houses are built is very expensive to maintain; their natural black color easily fading against the salt air and harsh sun. Therefore the wealthiest residents have the darkest houses, including the pitch black mansion of the Pirate Lord called Nightstone.
In order to avoid constant raiding, many small villages and towns on or near the coast have taken to paying tribute whenever the pirates come to their port, while those that refuse are shown no mercy. King Avesmorgen has sent numerous patrol ships in order to defend against the pirate attacks but all of the ships in the pirates’ fleet are stolen, making them near impossible to discern from other trade ships until it is far too late. Avesmorgen has clashed with the pirates of Varya Keep for decades, even attacking the island on multiple occasions, but could never reach its shores. Despite the many setbacks, King Avesmorgen has made slow but considerable progress in eliminating piracy, causing all islanders to curse his name.