Skulls 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 f leets 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.
Government: The overlord of the Shackles is the Hurricane King Kerdak Bonefist, captain of the man-o’-war Filthy Lucre, flagship of the Shackles fleet. He heads a council of pirate lords, each of whom commands his own fleet 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 fleet 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 flagship, the imperial frigate Tyrannous.
-from the Pathfinder Chronicles: Campaign Setting