The Worshipful League of True Folk in The Red Islands and its Dependencies, or “Red Isles” for short, are a nation of fervent religious traders who have established their own colonies, built in the image of their forebears. In two centuries, they have transitioned from a migrant cult of the Mother, to the most technologically advanced nation in the Northern Alliance.
Since the Vision of Livia – a powerful priestess of the Mother, religion and moral integrity have been the glue that has held the different communities together. Magic and immoral activities are prohibited, with hard work, rational thought and strong faith promoted as the ingredients to a happy, successful life on the Isles. This founding core belief driven by the history of the Red Isles fully controls all aspects of their culture.
Whilst their ancestry is diverse, today’s Islanders make their homes in established villages and towns around the mineral-rich archipelago. There are many places of note, but some stand out from others. The smoking shipyards of Deliverance produce fleets to guard the spiritual capital; Temperance is famous for its farming and faith; Port Livia is one of the most famed trading spots in the known world; New Denestra is a great place of learning and invention, though they guard their mechanical secrets jealously.
The Mother’s Keep
Above the Red Cliffs that look out to the east stands a mighty, sloped fortress of storm-worn stone. With nine sides and only two gates, this is not a place designed for people to easily enter – or leave. This is the Mother’s Keep: bastion of the Liviate Faithful, tomb of the Prophetess and beating heart of the Red Isles. To the outside world, (and even to many Islanders), little is known of this ominous place. It is here that the Widowed Assembly sit and govern from their committee tables and auditoria, steering the collective destiny of the prosperous, yet distant settlements and cities of the Red Isles. Those who are summoned before the assembly are both swiftly excused and remunerated, or simply never leave. For below the Mother’s Keep there are rumoured to be many subterranean levels of dungeons, interrogation rooms and under-shrines. Public burning or disciplining is rare; the Widowed Assembly find it more effective to have these done provincially, in order to promote obedience to local Elders.
Deliverance Port (Redharbour)
One of the first and longest-lived places in the archipelago, Deliverance Port –known as Redharbour- sits under the famous Red Cliffs, where the prophetess Livia and her fleet of followers first landed in their ships from Theocracy lands. Most of the maritime traffic still travels between here and the temple-cities of Almitra and Vâlannar and ferrying pilgrims in both directions is a big business, with many competitors.
Redharbour is also the greatest shipyard of the Red Isles; where the warships of the Faithful are put together to guard the waves from smugglers, foreign pirates and dangerous sea beasts. Since the Great Cataclysm, piracy from other lands has decreased, only to be replaced by prowling, forays by bizarre, aquatic raiders. Unusually, this is excellent news for the shipbuilders of Redharbour, who have just received a purchase order from Sarqand for a new Theocracy battle fleet to repel any future attacks from the Khanate. Dry-docks and foundries of the shipbuilders’ factories have begun to work day and night, with plumes of smoke seen by faraway vessels. Only time will tell if this will help tip the balance in the war against the southern forces.
Deliverance City & Island
Though a mile inland, it is said that on a windy day, the newer city of Deliverance can be smelled by trade-ships offshore. With a proud, agricultural core to its economy, the main isle is home to the largest livestock interests, specialising in dairy, rabbit and goats. Every new moon, Deliverance City holds the “great market” – where farmers, fisherman, breeders and traders all gather to meet and do business in the capital. Whilst this is a strong opportunity for market-folk, it can be traumatic for visitors and The Priesthood!
When not a market day, Deliverance City is known for its trade in the material and the divine, with many temples and speakers advertising their holy services outside the Artisans’ Hall and around the Chandlers’ Quarter. From visiting Archpriests of Sarqand, to fiery Ebonites on street corners, there is a brand of worship for all tastes. For the politically-minded Islander, cultivating relationships with the multitude of sects and cults represented in Deliverance is the first step to becoming an Elder in one’s own hometown or village. It is a skilled man or woman who can balance the pursuit of success with enough humility to maintain a conservative image back home – and claim the prize of leadership.
When the original followers of the prophetess discovered this place, it was uninhabited, even by the savage Skraelings. With the few natives they questioned, the fear it instilled was too great to get any sense from them. What the Faithful found was a verdant, warm isle, with many indigenous goats, ibex and freshwater pools: perfect for new settlements and farming; and yet, even as the first colonist villages were being built, they discovered that they were not alone in this new paradise.
When scouts and prospectors started to disappear, the new arrivals had their first glimpses of the dangers: roaring, scaled beasts that might snap a man in two, or walk through fences as if they were made of leaves. Whereas other communities would, (and had) run away, the first of the new settlers trusted in the gods and built bigger walls around their villages and temples. Larger crossbows were made; hunting parties now accompanied the explorers. This was clearly a divine test to see if the followers of Livia were up to the task of taming such a wild prize, and whether an organised, rational approach would conquer the island of terrible lizards and yield the Mother’s earthly bounty unto those who truly believed.
Gradually the brave colonists drove the dangers back into the far recesses of the humid forests, learning the habits and giving names to the apex predators of the place they now knew as Lizard Island. Most feared were the Water Devil, who would snatch up passers-by and drag them to a watery death; the Melt-Spitter, whose phlegm would sizzle through a human face in seconds; the flying Blue-wings with their needling bites; the most terrible was the Manripper, which only hunted in the dead of night.
Today, the terrors of Lizard Island have mostly be hunted to extinction by the watchful foresters and miners who live there, or sold, (usually dead), to the collegiate departments of New Denestra. Tales persist of scaled monsters still living in remote hill caves, or marine lizards that can swim between islands, but there is little rational evidence for this. For surely, if there were still any great threat to public safety then the Widowed Assembly would let it be known…
At the rocky, Southern peninsular of Lizard Island are the great docks of Port Livia. Originally an isolated base for prospectors exploring the Scatter, it has since grown into the largest trading port in the Red Isles, possibly one busier than Almitra. Many ships from distant nations ply their trade along the comparatively safe southern waters on their way to the mainland. They are watched closely by the sloops and frigates of the Islanders’ well-equipped navy and Merchant-Elders.
Port Livia also serves as the departure point for missionary expeditions for the far Lei-Yu Archipelago, and the jungles of Pologo and Ntambwe. Whilst many tales are told in the inns and rest-houses in Mariner’s Street of cannibal tribes, Kraken cults and spider-princes, there has been some considerable success in converting and immigrating communities of Pologese over the centuries. As a result, the bustling quays and jetties of Port Livia throng with a colourful mix of many different heritages; proof in the eyes of the Widowed Assembly that all folk must hear the Liviate Word!
Although business thrives in the great exchanges and warehouses of Port Livia, such a busy and diverse place is not without its challenges. Weapon smuggling, mineral-trafficking and other forms of tax avoidance are rife. The harbour officials and patrols of The Merciful are strict in their inspections, but they receive little help from the trading co-operatives and mercantile families. They brush them off with lip-service, altered ledgers and large donations of money and materials to Deliverance and New Denestra. Better, as they see it, to keep the real leaders happy than worry about their henchmen. Rumours of a vast black market in prohibited items and magical services must therefore, be mere fiction…
The second, huge island discovered by the followers of Livia lay across a narrow straight from Deliverance. With a more wooded landscape than its northward neighbour, refugees from the Republic aptly dubbed it “Sylvana”, or place of the woodlands. The indigenous savages encountered on the Red Coasts were here also, in great multitudes; fighting among themselves and living like feral creatures. With their superior Faith, (and weaponry), the devotees of the Prophetess triumphed over the Skraelings and either converted them, or sent them to be resettled in the North – thus paving the way for rational progress and a more civilised life devoted to the gods.
The main settlement on Sylvana is the City of New Denestra. Originally founded by engineers and prospectors mining the russet slopes of the ore-rich “Iron Hills”. New Denestra has since grown into a great centre of crafting, study and technological research in the high hills of the Southern Cape. The walled University communes of New Denestra, bustle with the heated discussions of engineers, War-Smiths and scholars of the Rational Path. With several rival University halls and many departments of study, this is possibly the most advanced centre of learning in the Northern Alliance, rivalled only by the Academy of Magic in the Kingdom of Elland, or the Great Library of Sarqand. For those with an aptitude for crafting and the ability to understand how to rationally control the “the curse” of magic, indirect forms of arcane craft still exist, alongside temporal engineering and research. The key to the tenets of their logical beliefs, relies on a structured mastery of the skeins of magic, combined with a stringent practice of keeping any magical activity outside of the body. To knowingly cast an essence draining spell is forbidden throughout the Red Isles. It was in such circles that the lethal secret of the mana-bullet gun was first developed and perfected, to produce the feared firearms that bear the Islander hallmark. Times have changed since the Days of Fire, with work becoming much harder for the faithful artisans, inventors and forging masters of The Red Isles. Whilst they are skilled creators of powerful items in the fight against the fell enemies of humankind, the Islanders were dismayed when Mage-crafters’ Guild first reverse-engineered the secrets of their firearms, breaking the monopoly on their manufacture. Since the discovery of the Vale, a further setback has occurred, with the Guildsmen of the Kingdom of Elland learning new ways to craft weapons and equipment. As such, the Deans and Head Researchers in the university halls of New Denestra have despatched their very best to the Vale. They aim to bolster the recovery of precious new resources and technologies for their departments, to the greater good of the Red Isles.
There are even whisperings in the lecture rooms and laboratories of the university departments that the once plentiful supply of metal in the Iron Hills is starting to run out, and new sources and trade partners must be found. No one but the University researchers and the Widowed Assembly are aware of this yet; such information needs to be kept under control for now, but desperate times necessitate strange bedfellows.
The Red Isles are known for their main settlements, but equally famous is the chain of Metal-rich islets, that lie to the north-western extremity of the larger islands. Isolated, stormy and surrounded by treacherous currents, the lure of The Scatter has claimed many a mining ship and her brave crew. Off the coast of Lizard Island, the great Scorpion Rock curves out of the waves, wreathed with the wretched wrecks of fishing boats, Islander sloops and foreign traders who sailed too close.
If it were not for the fabulous wealth of the Scatter, no one of a rational mind would think of going anywhere near it. Besides the tempestuous weather, the dangers are manifold, leading to extraordinary stories from those who return. It is said that in some places, the rocks themselves move as if alive when hit by thunderbolts; some mariners swear by the Father that they have seen a congress of great serpents in the waves. Whether these tales are true or just circulated to keep the lucrative opportunities to the established mining collectives, few can say.
Though colder and wetter than the other isles, northerly Temperance is a fertile place, famed for two things: a strong adherence to the Faith, and its distinctive flocks of black sheep that supply the busy woollen mills of the capital, Ebony. This wealthy town stands in the shadow of the wide slopes of “Old Uncle Thunder” – an inactive fire mountain that has nourished the surrounding land with dark, volcanic soil, making farming viable and undemanding. There are little dangers here, save for the occasional Black Jackals – which are dealt with by the strong guard dogs of Islander tradition.
The town is home to the sect known as Ebonites, who are known for their dark clothing and rigid (some would say martial) interpretation of the Liviate way. Since the Great Cataclysm and the arrival of the Orcs, parts of their more radical reading of the visions and words of the Prophetess are being considered by the Widowed Assembly. Groups of Ebonites approved to join the expeditions to the Vale, (and the wider war effort), have done so with gusto, eager for the chance to spread the word of the Prophetess. This concerns The Theocracy, who have a standing ban on some of the more radical sub-cults, such as the Searchers. This sect are known to act outside of Faith law, conducting impromptu “witch trials” and mete out harsh sentences for those guilty, (in their eyes) of “social degeneracy”. Such sensationalism and antagonism can be a useful tool however, in stirring the common folk of the mainland to a truer interpretation of the Faith. Only time will tell whether the Temperance-influenced sects and their hard-line approach to worship of the gods will succeed in converting new believers into the fold.
Priests and priestesses from Temperance dress in contrast to their dark clothed brethren and stand out in blood red vestments that represent the Red of the Isles and the sacrifice of all those killed on that first pilgrimage while fleeing from their old lives. Livia is known commonly as the Red lady or the Rose of the Isles and these flowers are worn by priestesses and devout worshipers as symbols of love and affection to their most beloved of icons.
To the South, the small fishing docks of Moonport serve as the main point of transport and trade between Temperance and Starhaven. The folk here are less radical in their outlook; preferring instead to haul-in the shoals, or work Serpent Reef for crabs, coral and other curiosities to sell.
A long, hilly island, this land lies close to Deliverance, and was the place the Prophetess and her followers had their first disagreement with the Skraeling tribesmen. Though the bloody totems where they attempted to abduct Livia and her priests are long-gone, the shattered stone circle remains. It is considered an area of bad omen by the Islanders. Nevertheless, the surrounding countryside is viable land for grazing livestock, and has several good seams of metal ores and the rich red cliffs that complete the Northern half of the Red Coasts. Intensive mining and forestry have cleared large parts of the once wooded island, but this is all for the good of the Faithful, as they now have a lot of space to build new factories and towns to live in.
Part of the reason why the Red Isles were undiscovered for so long is thanks to the intimidating barrier reef that runs along the eastern side, into the northern horizon. In some places the jagged formations rise up to the height of a ship’s mast. This is an irony not lost on the many Nordländer and Theocracy sailors who meet their ends on the spine of the notorious Serpent Reef. From the coral-clustered Gates of Dawn on the far side, to the great rock-spires of the Under-temple Breakers by Temperance, the only way in, (or out), of the Red Isles is via the safer waters to the South of Sylvana and Port Livia.
Although the Red Isles are so named for their ore-filled cliffs and hills, the sea by Skrael is a source of waterborne wealth, in the form of pearl farms. The large pearls from the Red Coasts are known for their splendour; they fetch a handsome price on the mainland.
This place is deserted, but for the blackened ashes and broken bricks of whatever great structures once stood. It is seldom spoken of; for here is where the holy texts say the original tribes, the Skraelings, were supposed to be resettled.
No one really knows where they went to, but there is a standing ban from the Merciful on any Child of Livia setting foot on the black land of Serenity. Sailors from nearby Temperance say that unquiet spirits haunt the cliffs, and that the whole place is cursed.
The Widowed Assembly, unusually, has made no attempts to seize the island back, with only a wry smile in crossing the face of any your talk to with questions of recapture.
A hulk of one of the original Tetremes, permanently anchored off the coast of Sylvana.
Nowadays, The Forgiver is used as a prison ship to house the political opponents of the Assembly.
Divergent philosophers, de-robed priests and the most dangerous prisoners who have not earned a capital sentence are all sent to their “removal” from society here.