by Nael & Carteeg Struve
Although tribes of humans and other races who had survived the Drowning populate many of the islands in the unnaturally warm Sargassi Sea, most of those who live in the region spend the majority of their lives both above and below the waves. The Corinesti ventured into the sea after the Drowning in hopes of finding artifacts to sell to the Airbreathers and also to find new territories less threatened by pirates and other evils. Now many of the islands are under their control and used as trading stops for supplies and goods on their way to ports owned by those who dwell on land and are willing to do business.
Life and Society
There are two types of societies in the Esorucak Islands: one is the tribal life of those who wish to live peacefully away from the civilization of the mainland, and the other are those who work for the Corinesti Trading Guilds either directly or indirectly. On many of the islands, the Corinesti Trading Guilds have built ports for both ships that travel on the surface the water, and for those who transport items underneath the waves. Here the guilds employ just about everyone who is needed in order to keep transport and trade flowing: dockworkers, ship-hands, harbormasters, and even the fish market down the road who keeps everyone fed. Steady employment and the flow of money is what are most important to people in these societies. If one is unemployed, one might as well be dead.
It is important to note that many Corinesti elves live on the islands as much as beneath them. Most of those they do business with live on land, and therefore many have come to live in a similar fashion, even if they need to remain near water. Many of the wealthier Corinesti are often seen wearing garments of rich Airbreather styles.
The other tribal societies have been struggling to make sure the Corinesti do not get a foothold on their islands, or if that has already been done, to make sure they are forced off. Many of these tribes, whether they are human, Gildanesti, kobold, or goblin, only wish a simple life without the complications of civilization they believe were purposefully wiped away. The Esorucak Islands have also not been fully mapped out by the Corinesti, and many of the smaller islands have yet to be discovered or fully explored.
Recently many families who work for the Trading Guilds have taken to one faith of another. Many people have begun hearing about the return of the gods and are now giving praise to them. The Guilds have no problem with who their employees say their prayers to over meals so long as they show up for work the next morning. Religion hasn't been uncommon in the southern parts of the islands and Sargassi Sea for a while now anyways. The blue branch of the Tashrama, headed out of the Midland nation of Dhu, has slowly been gaining popularity with a fraction of the population. Although the number of followers had diminished after many learned of an Elder Dragon leading the blue branch, many of the followers have not had their faith waver.
Tribes on the islands have a variety of religious faiths. Many follow a particular god who had been part of the Tao-Shin faith prior to the Drowning, while other tribes worship as cults to gods that may or may not truly exist.
The Corinesti Trading Guilds are the sole power in this region. Five elves sit in council over all walks of life within the Corinesti nation. Each of the four guild leaders have an equal say in what goes on, although each also has complete control over their own guild so long as they don't cross jurisdiction into another guild's area. The fifth seat on the council is the Speaker of the Tides. His only official power is that of a tie-breaking vote. He has no ability to bring matters up to the council. That is for the other council members to decide on.
However, over the years the Speaker has gained one very important unofficial power. He has come to be seen as the head of the Trading Guilds public relations. The Corinesti look to their Speaker to tell them of matters of importance that arise, and many foreign powers that wish to do business with the Trading Guilds ask to deal with the Speaker directly. This has become the Speaker of the Tides' one major asset when needing to deal with the other guild leaders.
The name of the current Speaker of the Tides is Quvaresh Thylosathen, whose daughter Emeranta is wed to Gildanesti's Lord Marshal, Calhan Mar'Troon.
The Guild Watchmen is the official security force of the Corinesti Trading Guilds. All members are employees of the various guilds and answer to a chief-of-security. Each of guilds has their own chief, and each chief answers directly to their guild leader. Regardless of need, the council has made very sure that the number and strength of the Watchmen between each of the guilds remains relatively balanced in order to prevent any guild from militarily taking advantage of the others.
In tribal societies, bands of volunteers become the warriors who protect the villages and hunt for food. They are also are the men and women who fight to rid the islands of the Corinesti invaders.
Magic and Mysticism
So long as something can be used to aid the Guilds in profit, the Corinesti see it as an asset. However the varying styles of magic are respected differently. Sorcery has been viewed of as more stable and less risky than wizardry since the latter had been recently unavailable for the last forty years. Since the mysticism applied by the Tashrama is claimed to be the same type of magic used by those who follow a single god or follow the recently rekindled faith of the Tao-Shin, the view the Corinesti have on the benefits of divine magic have remained unchanged for years. In the end, respect for divine magic comes down purely to how well available it is. If a priest is unwilling to help the guild, then their magic is seen as useless and unprofitable. If a priest is willing, then the benefits of their magic are respected for whatever profitability is has.
Major Geographical Features and Locations
Rhas-lac: What was once the great capital city of the Chôt-tang Empire was left in ruin by the Great Wave. The entire city and surrounding lands were destroyed or submerged in the Drowning, but in the decades following, as the waters settled, slivers of land were exposed. All the inner islands of the Sargassi Sea were wiped clean of any evidence of habitation, save where the great capital city once stood. Mariners tell tales of the island as accursed, that landing there will bring misfortune or worse to all who set foot on the island.
Vagan's Maw: Deep in the eastern stretch of the isles, a round fissure as deep as the oceans cuts into the sea floor. A great amount of heat bubbles out of the fissure, and many believe this natural event gives the Sargassi Sea its overly warm climate. Strange and dangerous creatures have been known to swim in the area. Few who have explored the depths of the trench have returned, and the Explorer's Guild has marked it as "More risk than profit potential." Those who have returned from exploring the hole have come back changed, both physically and mentally. The last Corinesti to return, Herescine Loraladenin, was found unconscious a mile from the maw, with his mouth sealed together by scales and his lower half changed into lizard-like tails. Herescine has not communicated with anyone since regaining consciousness fifty years ago, and although he has not harmed anyone or done anything, guild doctors have declared him insane.
Prior to the Drowning, the Esorucak Islands were primarily the high mountainous regions in the grand Narstedh Empire, where a majority of the Canon War's battles took place. The tiny southernmost islands in the Sargassi Sea were part of the Empire of Dhu, the great power that was both Narstedh's ally in the war and chief competitor. The northernmost islands were territories controlled by the minotaur's Chôt-tang Empire, enemy to the people of the Midlands. But in the end, their stances towards each other mattered little. Once the Great Wave struck, the battlefields and glorious cities were wiped out in a matter of a few minutes. Millions died.
The Sargassi Sea filled up the middle of Adlatum, and what most people thought of as the Midlands was moved westward to include the lands of Mauritand up to Bhadlum. The newly formed Esorucak Island (Esorucak being a Narstedhi word for "Lost Glory") were discounted by most as home to nothing more than rubble, even though scatterings of survivors either found themselves or made their way to the islands. Tribes formed. Most of them were human, but Gildanesti, kobolds, or goblins populated several islands. The Sargassi Sea was unnaturally warm, and the occasional phantom-like steam-storms moistened the islands enough to provide water for vegetation. The tribes survived, sometimes making their own homes, or taking shelter in caves, or even living in the ruins of destroyed cities.
Shortly after the Drowning, the Corinesti Trading Guild began sending explorers into the region, hoping to find relics from the destroyed civilizations they could sell to the Airbreathers at a tidy profit. The venture proved much more valuable than they anticipated. Entire cities were flooded, several sitting relatively intact at the bottom of the sea. Riches out of reach of the Drowning's survivors were lying about, waiting to be picked up. The Corinesti moved many of their operations into Sargassi Sea. They came to find the warm waters much more comfortable than the South Tabaran Ocean and took over the vastly untouched Narstedhi city of Jovunta, which had been second in size only to the now-destroyed Narstedhi capital. Jovunta was renamed Corinost, and the Guild Headquarters was moved. Since then, many of the underwater settlements were developed in the cities of the lost empires that were merely cleaned up to suit the Guild's needs.
The Corinesti seized control of many of the islands and constructed surface-traveling ships that could easily sail into human-style ports. The trading centers on the Corinesti islands were designed to allow massive amounts of cargo to be raised or lowered between the world of Airbreathers and the undersea home of the sea elves with little risk of damage to the goods. Some of the human tribes were conscripted into assisting them in repairing what goods were damaged and yet salvageable. Most tribes rejected domination by the sea elves and fought to keep the greedy traders off of their land and away from their homes. Skirmishes with tribes are a constant threat on the larger islands where the two types of societies are forced to interact.
Over the years, the Corinesti became more focused on trade between both Aecka and Keirmn, but they refused to give up trade with their long established business associates on the western shores of Aecka, especially in the Midlands. Still, with the repeated attempts by the Nordar dwarves to expand the Ironvald Empire and the Teusten pirates to control the seas, the Corinesti have recently begun to pull the borders of their influence further south to just the Sea of Tears. The balance of risk vs. profit has been becoming too lopsided in those parts, and the piracy threats in the southern Sargassi Sea have been much more tolerable. Still, some parts of the Guilds do continue to do business in far reaching locations like Vjenor and Trejor.
The most catastrophic event in Esorucak's history since the Drowning occurred in 300 AD when the Corinesti Trading Guild broke apart in what amounted to a civil trade war. Eleven years earlier, in 289 AD, the Speaker of the Tides had been conducting business in the Sea of Tears, believing he could negotiate with the Nordar and finally put an end their history of fights over rights through certain water routes. In one of the few Nordar victories of the 288-289 AD war (which was a series of skirmishes hardly worth calling a war), the dwarves destroyed the Corinesti vessel without realizing who was on it. The Speaker was slain literally in the final weeks of the troubles before the dwarves called for an uneasy truce. The matter was quickly put to bed, but the seeds of conflict in Esorucak hundreds of miles away were already planted.
In order to make sure that only one of the few elite elves was able to take the position of Speaker of the Tides, the Guild board put in a list of requirements meant to keep out their lessers. Unfortunately, the various houses who had sought position were able to put in requirements meant to keep out fellow houses of power as well as commoners. As a result, only one Corinesti was found who met all of the requirements. The elf was Lias "Wavestrider" Ambrodel, and with the various changes he wished to impose upon the Guild, a majority of the board had no interest in placing him in the Speaker seat. Unfortunately there was no one else to choose.
In the span of ten years, Ambrodel's leadership resulted in many of the houses quitting the Guild and trying to form their own conglomerates away from the influence of the Ambrodel house. The unified Guild fell apart and a trade war erupted between the houses. Economic devastation swept through the underwater country, and even the Airbreather nations and companies were struck hard by the cut off from their under trading partners. Recessions became commonplace in many of the Midland nations and in Keirmn. Finally the Trade War ended when the four largest competing Guilds joined together to form a council that would oversee the activities of the separate Guilds. The council consisted of five seats: one for each guild leader, and one for the Speaker who would only have the official power of being a fifth tie-breaking voter.
Corinesti society returned to normal with most members taking positions within each of the four guilds. The four guilds are commonly known as the Salvagers, the Traders, the Explorers, and the Harvesters. The Harvesters are seabed farmers and hunters, gathering supplies and growing food from the ocean itself. The Salvagers hunt for pre-Drowning artifacts and recover goods from recent or newly discovered shipwrecks. The Traders are those who deal with Airbreathers, bringing goods above-water to trade with land dwellers. Traders also purchase goods from one land and selling them in a distant port, acting as middlemen between nations that do not often directly deal with each other. Explorers venture beyond the Sargassi Sea and away from Adlatum's shores, searching out new territories.
Some Corinesti have successfully remained outside of the power of the Corinesti Trading Guilds. Some have joined the Cult of the Shark, a group dedicated to piracy. Others have left the Sargassi Sea altogether and traveled south to the Coral Cauldron, to take up a life of dedicate to the ways of mystics and monks and away from the materialistic greed of the rest of their kind. The Trading Guilds hopes to eventually bring all of their kind back within their fold in the future, and to quell any of the more recent uprisings the tribal barbarians are causing on the lesser settled Esorucak isles.
Amviresta (Large City 24,000): Originally home to one of the first tribes the Corinesti Trading Guild had taken over after the Drowning, the tribal land has now been built up into a well established port city. Not only is Amviresta used as a stop over point for many ships traveling from eastern to western Adlatum and vice-versa, the city is also equipped with many tunnels and equipment to help raise and lower goods and people to and from the world of Airbreathers and the undersea kingdom of the Corinesti. Descendants of the tribes who had lost their land long ago are now the manual labor for the guilds, but since the shorter lived races have no memory of the simple life taken up after Narstedh was destroyed, most appreciate the work the Corinesti have brought to the region.
Corinost (Metropolis 76,500): Formerly the Narstedh city of Jovunta, the vast and tall buildings had remained relatively intact during the Drowning, even though it now sits deep at the bottom the Sargassi Sea. Since then the Corinesti have cleaned the city up and taken it over and renamed it. The head of all four trading guilds operate out of Corinost, and the Speaker of the Tides calls the city his home. The wealth of Jovunta has long since been plundered, but the city how is home to the great riches of the Corinesti Trading Guilds. Although most Airbreathers have never seen the Corinesti capital, many claim it to be the grandest and wealthiest city in all of Adlatum.