Ghael Isles

Jack Shear’s post on the Ghael Isles is here. This is one of the country descriptions for my upcoming book on the World Between. This is a draft.

Basic description.

These lush, sweaty islands are in the south east Sea of Sothak. This is as far as fugitives can run, bordering the World Between and Mord-Stavian and the Scavenger Lands, a place with no centralized authority—and therefore a population accustomed to taking matters into their own hands. There are six big islands, and countless smaller ones.

 Stylistic Feel

Not-Caribbean. Fear is pervasive, and shelter is far away. The Mordish (living) escaping from Mord-Stavian find their way to the Ghael Isles, but unless they are connected with an organization they are more likely to be pressed into service as living or dead labor than they are to escape. The folk magic of shamen is the most powerful force in the islands, followed by necromancy. The Isles had many fortresses built during the war with Mord-Stavian; some are now settlements, others are crumbling and abandoned. The jungle has many mysteries, including islands with dinosaurs, forbidden magic experiments, and cruel aristocracy far from the censure of more compassionate peers. Monsters and disease haunt the fecund deeps of the jungle and seas. Even pirates tread carefully here.

 Ruling Structure

The Ghael Isles have no centralized government. The closest thing are the Lords and Ladies, owners of vast plantations that band together for mutual defense and coordination as needed. Tribes and other organizations lurk in the jungle. Some are secret, others simply out of reach of civilization.

 Stereotypes

Most thoroughly mixed blood in the World Between; Mordish escapees mingled extensively with armies fighting Mord-Stavian long ago. The most superstitious corner of a very superstitious world, they can’t make decisions or take action without involving spirits. They are born knowing how to swim. They all have a gift for necromancy. Given any reason at all, they will paint themselves. All of them have a tattoo. They are legendary torturers who use drugs and spirits to unhinge their victims. Some are cannibals.

 Famous For:

Shamanistic tradition. Unique sea-side cuisine, including gumbo, dark bread, and sauces for meat. Smuggling skill honed by proximity to Mord-Stavian. Knowledge of the secretive and dangerous islands. Knowledge of the horrific secrets in Mord-Stavian.

 Major Cities

Valvisto. This port is easy to find. It has a sheltered harbor backed up to a spur of defensive rock. It is an independent city-state that is the doorway to the Ghael Isles, a door that swings both ways. The city is strong enough to be indifferent to most threats, but not strong enough to consider conquest. It is ruled by an Exile of Masks, refugees from a lost city that made a new home in the Isles.

Banjoke. A drunken lord got in a banjo playing contest with a grubby little boggie, Nuffink. He promised his estate and island (most posh in the bayou) should he lose. He lost. Then he was furious when all the boggies and their houseboats choked his desirable island property. He ranted and raved and whipped up a militia. He disappeared, so did the militia; the neighbors shrugged and went about their business. Since then, the island (renamed Banjoke) has been infested with boggies and houseboats. They own the bayou.

Tideport. This port is on low-lying ground on a river delta. The richest plantations surround it, so it attracts the island aristocracy as well as the abject poor. Mord-Stavian has a slave auction house where they buy, sell, and trade humans. The marines from Tideport keep the savages in nearby islands in line so the glittering parties and elegant civilization doesn’t have to get its hands dirty. Meanwhile, in the shadows, the underclass rely on aid from spirits and shamen just to survive.

 Notable Locations

Zakathanox. This formidable tower is an outpost of the Black Warlocks. For a price, they will animate a work force for a plantation or military. There are subscriptions available, for animation on an ongoing basis. They are cruel and deadly, but their only interest appears to be in trade. No one knows what they do with the exorbitant fees they collect.

Oracle Pools. The interior of the island has a deep crater full of pools. Some go to other places, like the Dreamlands. A temple there has captured masses of gibbering protoplasm that giggle and whisper hideous truths.

Crystal Mountain. It is a mountain, but it is not crystal; it is the fortress of the wealthy and exiled Crystalline Brotherhood of Admixers, alchemists with peerless skill. However, due to their unhealthy interest in vivisection and necromancy as elements of alchemy, they must practice far from civilized eyes. They are jovial, friendly, ruthless, and insane.

 Supernatural Elements

Spirits. The Isles swarm with spirits. Ecstatic ceremonies of narcotics and possession ease the tension of the marginalized poor, and give them a sense of connection with some power in their hopeless lives. Meshing with the spirit world brings obligations and power; some use that to help people, others use it to punish their enemies.

Necromancy. The Black Warlocks are a powerful necromantic faction, but other necromancers are hired on as cheap “court wizards” for wealthy plantation lords and ladies, or consortiums (usually families.) Aristocracy are smug that they are too enlightened to be squeamish about the utility of using the dead once you’ve worked the life out of your slaves or soldiers.

Season of Scales. Most blame the Crystalline Brotherhood of Admixers for the reptilian population. People who look like lizards, or lizards who look like people. No matter how they came to be, they are well adapted for the tropical islands, and they have lairs both above and below the surface of the waves. No one knows what their goals are, or whether they serve a higher purpose, but there are accomplished shamen in their ranks.

Threat of Corruption. To the east, windswept deserts rife with mystic radiation. To the south, an inexorably powerful theocracy of the dead. To the north, a patchwork of crazed imperialists. The Isles have been in the middle of war before; that’s how civilization was born there. They don’t care to do it again. Still, it’s hard to pay attention to all these threats when life is so absorbing where you are.

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