Skull and Shackles
The pirate lords of the Shackles sail from an assortment of outlaw ports, hiding their illicit activities behind the cover of the ravenous Eye of Abendego. Forgotten ruins of an ancient civilization dot the island chain and treacherous coastline, their crumbling stone walls carved with horrible depictions of cannibalism and blood sacrifice. So disturbing are these images that when Chelish explorers discovered these ruins 600 years ago, they marked the region cursed and haunted on their maps and continued south to found the colony of Sargava. Before long, raiders began to prey upon the lucrative trade between Sargava and Cheliax, using the ancient harbors to hide from Chelaxian warships. These pirate havens soon grew into small communities that even accepted legitimate merchants and businesses. Aroden’s death prompted storms across Golarion, including the Eye of Abendego, which formed just north of the Shackles. This gigantic, permanent hurricane forever changed the shipping lanes in the region, and most nations abandoned the hope of continuing trade with Sargava. The buccaneers of the Shackles soon fell to infighting over quickly dwindling resources. Rather than succumb to complete dissolution, however, the pirate lords eventually banded together to form one pirate f leet. In the spring of 4674, the Free Captains of the Shackles, under the banner of their newly elected Hurricane King, began to ravage merchant shipping far to the north, near the Arch of Aroden. Over the past 30 years, the corsairs of the Shackles have enjoyed unprecedented success. All of the Free Captains are skilled at skirting the dangerous fringes of the Eye of Abendego, giving them an easy escape route from less experienced pilots. Foreign powers continue to launch attempts to suppress the pirates of the Shackles, but few meet with any success. The Shackles themselves have been assaulted twice, by Cheliax and Rahadoum, but in both cases the invaders met with disaster, losing most of their fleets to the merciless winds and treacherous currents of the Eye. The Shackles today consist of a motley collection of bandit and slave ports, where freebooters find safe harbor and trade their ill-gotten plunder with unscrupulous merchants. Their populace is mostly runaway criminals, escaped slaves, and buyers seeking proscribed goods such as drugs, poisons, and other disreputable wares. A powerful Free Captain rules each port, divvying the loot from recent raids and dispensing pirate justice as needed. Besides civilized races, feral goblins inhabit the scattered ruins of the Shackles, as do the race of savage cannibalistic degenerates called kuru, believed to be possessed by the spirits of the ruins’ original inhabitants. Lizardfolk raiders also make occasional sorties from the swamps of the Sodden Lands to the north. The waters of the Shackles are home to sharks, sea cats, and scattered communities of locathah. Sahuagin villages are present in the western isles, particularly around Ollo, while water nagas dwell on the mainland’s southern coast. Farther west, feared dragon turtles prey upon ships making the dangerous passage around the Eye of Abendego. The Shackles have only one true ally—the former Chelaxian colony of Sargava. In exchange for defending the colony from Cheliax, the Free Captains now receive regular tribute of lumber and slaves from the baron of Sargava. Elsewhere, the marauders of the Shackles are feared and hated, particularly by Cheliax and Rahadoum, who bear the brunt of the Free Captains’ depredations, as do the wealth-laden ships of the Aspis Consortium out of Bloodcove.
A rumor currently making its rounds suggests that one of the Free Captains has offered to safely pilot a Chelaxian f leet to the Shackles in exchange for immunity for past crimes. Whether this is true or just a ruse to discredit one of the lords of the council, it’s a well-known fact that Cheliax would like nothing more than to see the pirate confederacy eradicated.
Government: The overlord of the Shackles is the Hurricane King Kerdak Bonef ist, captain of the man-o’-war Filthy Lucre, flagship of the Shackles f leet. He heads a council of pirate lords, each of whom commands his own f leet of ships and rules one of the Shackles’s numerous islands, ports, or anchorages. While Bonefist is king by virtue of his possession of Port Peril and command of the
strongest f leet in the Shackles, in reality he reigns at the sufferance of the council’s most powerful
lords. Tessa Fairwind, Mistress of Quent and captain of the sloop-of-war Luck of the Draw, is a popular figure throughout the Shackles. Rumor has it that Lady Tessa is next in line for the Hurricane Crown, either by acclaim or by force. The mysterious druid-captain known as the Master of the Gales rules Drenchport and commands the xebec Kraken, accompanied by his giant squid companion. Avimar Sorrinash, cruel captain of the brig Blood Moon, is lord of Ollo. When the Blood Moon returns fresh from a successful foray on the high seas, Sorrinash and his werewolf
crew often roam Shark Island in orgiastic hunts of celebratory destruction. The disgraced Chelish admiral Arronax Endymion is of lesser importance, but still a force to be reckoned with on the council. He leads a squadron of Chelish mutineers called the Devils’ Own from his f lagship, the imperial frigate Tyrannous.
Port Peril: The Shackles’s largest port, Port Peril is located on the mainland overlooking Jeopardy Bay. Fort Hazard, the fortress retreat of the Hurricane King, dominates the walled city and its deep-water harbor from the bluffs above the city. The twisting streets of Port Peril are lined with taverns, brothels, gambling halls, and other vice dens. Its teeming market squares do a brisk trade in all manner of stolen goods and contraband, such as Tian silks, Qadiran spices, Nidalese poisons, and Mwangi relics. Untold riches from years of plunder and tribute are said to be hidden away in the sea caves beneath the city.
Drenchport: The dour city of Drenchport huddles on Tempest Cay. Its storm-lashed buildings are built of waterlogged driftwood and flotsam from wrecked ships. The infamous tavern Drowned Dwarf stands at the edge Drenchport and is known as much for its remarkably high murder rate as for its cheap but delicious homemade beer.
Ollo: The people of the wretched port of Ollo are sullen and fearful, for the sahuagin that live just
off Shark Island regularly raid the town for food and plunder with the permission of the community’s unscrupulous lord.
Quent: The lively city of Quent is perhaps the most open port of the Pirate Isles, and the sacred prostitutes of Calistria at the House of Stolen Kisses are known as the best information brokers in the Shackles for those seeking gossip, blackmail, or revenge.
Sasserine: The large port-city of Sasserine was perhaps the safest and most civilized community in the Shackles. The Pirate Lord in charge of the city did not join his brethren in support of the Hurricane King and was killed for his defiance. As the Pirate Lord lay dying the citizens of Sasserine rebelled and took control of the city. Various noble families formed the Dawn Council that has rules the city for the last few decades. At first the Hurricane King did not seem eager to reclaim the city and instead formed an uneasy alliance with it by establishing an embassy within it’s walls. Several years later however the city was attacked and sacked. All that remains now are the haunted ruins of a once great city. The city itself was lodged between two high cliffs and was protected from a land-based invasion by swamps and jungles.