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MERRY PIRATE SEAS
Location: Equatorial waters of the Atlass Ocean, due west of Iciria. HW
Area: 56,811 sq. mi. (147,140 sq. km.), including Island of Baraga, 24,942 sq. mi. (64,600 sq. km.).
Population: 100,000 (90% humans, 10% hin).
Languages: Neathar, Traldar, Thyatian (archaic dialect), Heldannic, various other languages.
Coinage: The eight (8 gp), the triangle (gp), the tenth (sp), the hundredth (cp). Various foreign coins also in wide use.
Taxes: Varies. Examples include port fees for visiting ships, duties, tariffs, excise tax on vessels, income tax, or sales tax. Some islands will have no taxes whatsoever.
Government Type: Anarchic plutocracy; autonomous cities ruled by the wealthiest pirates and ex-pirates.
Industries: Piracy, shipbuilding, fishing, some agriculture, rum production, management of sheep, goats, and some cattle.
Important Figures: Necco the Black (Pirate-King of Baraga), Handlebar Emilio (Pirate-King of Puerto Morillos and Captain of the Black Raven), Carola the Grappler (Captain of the Leap of Faith).
Flora and Fauna: The islands are home to tropical birds, reptiles (including dinosaurs), and small mammals (especially rodents), plus feral versions of larger animals that have escaped captivity. Fruit trees, grasses, vines, ferns, and agricultural grains and crops all grow on the islands. The fruits found on various islands include pineapple, mango, papaya, and guava. Besides grain, sugar is the most common crop, but produce is also grown; coffee is found on some islands. The seas hold abundant fishing stocks, crabs, dolphins, whales, sharks, rays, aquatic dinosaurs, and even the occasional dragon turtle.
Further Reading: Hollow World boxed set, previous almanacs.
Description by Leadyl Feadiel.
I have been studying the Merry Pirate Seas for some time now, as this has been my home since I left the Makai. In fact, it was a pirate ship, the Lucky Lass, under the command of Captain R. Morgan, that brought me from those pleasant islands to the town of Floresque. The pirates are an interesting people, and they have welcomed me, despite the fact that elves are only known to them through their legends. I plan on remaining for at least a few more months before continuing my journey through the Hollow World.
The Merry Pirate Seas, are not really a land at all, but are an equatorial region of the Atlass Ocean. Nevertheless, there are numerous islands here, which make up the far eastern end of the Anathy Archipelago. The archipelago is formed by the massive mountains of the World's Spine, which circles the entire Hollow World at the equator, entering the deeps of the sea. Many of the islands are quite large, and the soil is good for growing crops or natural vegetation, which is abundant. However, in addition to the main islands, there are countless smaller islands scattered throughout the seas. These smaller isles range from decent-sized islands that can support small settlements, to islets and even sandbars. The smaller islands are sometimes not even found on the best local charts. Of the greater islands, the largest is the Island of Baraga. Baraga is quite mountainous, and the interior is very rugged and wild. Cool freshwater streams drain down from the mountains to the sea. The lower regions of Baraga are covered in jungle, or are cultivated land. Two pirate cities are located on this main island, Floresque, and the city of Baraga, which is considered the capital of the Merry Pirate Seas. Floresque is an older town of about 5,000, while Baraga is a large, somewhat modern city, of 30,000 inhabitants.
The weather in this region is very pleasant, reminding me of Minrothad, back home. The constant red sun is not overbearing, though, and cool sea breezes make it quite comfortable. In general, the skies are clear or dotted with a few fair weather clouds, but it is not uncommon for fierce storms to sweep the region. The waters themselves are clear and blue. Surprisingly, the seas to the north of the equator are warmer and more tropical than the waters right near the equator. The equatorial waters are cool, but not cold; they also tend to be rich with fish. The warm tropical waters are crystal-clear and are home to a myriad of brilliantly-coloured fishes, especially near coral reefs or atolls. I was able to study one of these reefs with the aid of a water breathing spell-quite amazing!
The Merry Pirates are a mixed people, descending from a variety of ethnicities. There are humans of ancient Traldar descent, Thyatians, Ostlanders, and Ierendis, plus people from other surface world and hollow world regions. An eclectic mix, indeed! These humans have, for the most part, intermixed over the centuries, and blended together. However, there are ethnic minorities that remain distinct, such as the buccaneers of Puerto Morillos (Savage Coast descent) or the darker-skinned pirates of Kota-Jayang (from a region of which I have never heard). There is also a sizeable hin minority, also believed to have originated from the Ierendi Isles. The method of these peoples' migration to the Hollow World eludes me, but there can be little doubt that they originated on the surface of Mystara. The version of Thyatian spoken here is an ancient dialect, but it is Thyatian, none the same. Some speak it with a distinctive Ierendi accent. The hin speak this accented tongue, and know little, if any, of the Lalor language commonly used in Norwold. The pirates also speak Neathar, which seems to be the "common tongue" of the Hollow World. Walking through a Merry Pirate city can be a lesson in human architectural history. Dwellings range from crude huts, to fine homes made of wood or brick. The more modern styles are the most common, however.
The thing that binds the peoples of the Merry Pirate Seas together, is piracy itself. Piracy is the dominant industry, and the dominant cultural trait of this region. Pirates are nobility here, and their exploits and raids on foreign lands are celebrated like in no other. And celebrate, they do! Taverns and alehouses are filled with boisterous, hard-drinking pirates, all attempting to outdo each other in one way or another. Whether it is who can drink the most, sing the best song, or attract the prettiest girl, everything the pirates do is a competition. And they have fun doing it. Indeed, they do not call them the Merry Pirates for nothing. Mostly, the pirates are men, as a lot of captains have superstitions about women at sea. But, there are women who overcome this bias to join a pirate crew, or even to command their own ship. These are a most individualistic and chaotic people. None of them will even dress alike, there being no clan symbol or insignia to bind them together. Each one dresses in strikingly colourful tunics, sashes, trousers and the like. Footwear ranges from slippers, to high boots, and they wear their hair in every way imaginable! Everything is a matter of personal choice. Needless to say, some pretty outlandish costumes can be found here.
The pirate individualism is apparent on board their ships, as well. Although the captain is the commander of the ship, many decisions are made by taking a vote, rather than through direct orders. In fact, many captains are elected by their crews, much like it is done for various offices back in Darokin. The most successful and well-liked captains sail under the same crew for many years (or circles, as they say down here), but others are voted out (or worse) if they fail to produce booty. Despite this trend, there are other captains who command in the more traditional manner, or even through sheer terror. This, like everything else in these waters, varies greatly from ship to ship. Each ship has a set of articles, or laws, which outline the rights and responsibilities of each pirate, including the captain. Pirates sign a ship's articles and swear an oath to uphold them when they join a ship's crew. These oaths are taken very seriously by the pirates, and those who break them are dealt with harshly. I will not elaborate on the many varieties of punishments here, but pirates who break their oaths are quite often put to death. This sense of honour extends throughout the Merry Pirate culture, and is applied to many other aspects of life in the seas. All sorts of agreements and contracts, both written and spoken, are used by pirates and landlubbers alike, before business transactions are conducted. The lack of official laws or strong central authority make this necessary, I believe.
Each Merry Pirate city is its own independent state, ruled by a pirate king, or a council of such kings. These kings wield power through the wealth and influence amassed over their careers of piracy. However, although called kings, they are not royalty in the same sense as the king of Alfheim is, for example. Instead, they use their vast fortunes to control those around them, put down their enemies, and live lives of decadence. Very little "ruling" of the common people is done, nor is it needed; pirates and landlubbers take care of themselves and their own. Coin flows freely between individuals, with little interference from the "government." I admire freedom, but the lack of controls here can accurately be described as anarchy.
The pirates take to the seas in a variety of vessels. Sometimes galleys or even longships are used, but sailed ships, based on Ierendi designs of several centuries past, are by far the most common. Some pirates prefer fast, lightly-armed cutters or sloops, with one mast. Others choose to sail three-masted frigates or barquentines ("barqs"), which can still out-sail a galley while bringing much more artillery to bear. The brigantine, or "brig," is a two-masted vessel which blends manoeuvrability with a mid-sized battery of artillery, and an adequate cargo hold. Individual modifications and custom designs of these basic ship types are common.
On-board ship, pirates wear little or no armour, and only officers carry weapons larger than daggers. Before engaging an enemy target, all pirates will don full weapons. Favoured weapons include the cutlass, rapier, boarding axe, club, and crossbow. There are mages among the Merry Pirates, and it is rumoured that some may have wands of fireballs and knowledge of artillery spells, but I have not witnessed this myself. I have not seen these magics cast anywhere else in the Hollow World, ever since my own spell book was stolen from me when I was captured by the Heldannic Knights.
There are few historians among the Merry Pirates, which has made it more difficult for me to determine their actual history. As I mentioned previously, the various ethnic groups which make up the pirates have somehow emigrated or been brought to the Hollow World from the surface. The oldest traditions of the Traldar tell of the "old world's" destruction, and the other groups also have distorted views of history. There are elements of various legends and tales, especially among the longer-lived hin, that strongly point to outer world origins, perhaps even involving Immortal intervention.
In any event, since arriving in the Hollow World, the pirates have enthusiastically taken to their new home. They have made enemies of their neighbours with their constant raiding. The Milenians, Azcans, Traldar, and Schattenalfen all count the Merry Pirates as their enemies. Only the friendly Makai, with whom the pirates frolic and feast, welcome them as friends.
Baraga, the "capital" of the Merry Pirate Seas, is the most modern city I have seen in the Hollow World. The crafty, old pirate, Necco the Black, controls this hub of pirate culture. The city is walled and defended by various artillery devices, and the harbour entrance is also protected by sharpened spikes. Ships enter and leave Baraga each sleep. Pirates return from their exploits with treasure to be spent and goods to be sold. The most expensive and luxurious entertainments are found here, along with plenty of the more affordable taverns and sailor's watering holes. Food, clothing and other wares from all over the Atlass Ocean can be bought in Baraga. Pirates indulge in all sorts of self-gratification and debauchery in this town. The music and drinking never cease, all through the never-ending day. Women dressed in scant attire await arriving ships and seek out the most successful and wealthy pirates. Such practices are not frowned upon, and are even encouraged! This is certainly not Alfheim!
Sharkfin Sea lies between Puerto Morillos and Kota-Jayang. This is not the place for a swim, as the waters are infested with ravenous sharks. Pirates greatly fear shipwrecks or falling overboard here.
Another place to be avoided are the islands to the north-west of Kota-Jayang, where it is rumoured that the fearsome kara-kara, or "orcs of the sea," make their abode.