The Bountiful Island
There are few islands more beautiful or blessed in natural resources than Cometia Island. This large volcanic island is warm and fertile, with densely forested mountains and rich, fertile valleys. Groves of the valuable plant known as Spice Cane grow wild in many places, and other spices and rare woods abound. It is said that a man could live on the island his whole life and never eat the same meal twice, as the land offers such an abundance of fruit, fish, game, and spices.
Cometia Island was originally settled only a few hundred years ago. Colonies were established there by Imperial fiat, which were overseen by a generally benign ruler, the Satrap Cometian. This system lasted for over 100 years before it soured, turning an island paradise into a hell.
The Shadow of the Satrap
In the legends of the fallen Empire, there are few villains more reviled than Mendax the Corrupt, the cowardly and avaricious last Satrap of Cometia Island. A selfish and grasping man, his oppressive taxation of the islands villagers drove the people to the edge of starvation. Even though they lived in a veritable paradise, with rich fishing and fertile volcanic soil, none were safe from the tax-gatherers of the corrupt Mendax. His minions scoured the countryside, seeking even the caches of food and trade goods hidden by the islands desperate people.
After years of his greedy misrule, the people of Cometia rose up in revolt. Turning on tax-gatherers in several villages, they cut them down with the heavy chopping tools that the village folk used to harvest the islands plentiful spice cane groves. Even though they feared that the Imperial troops under the evil mans control would wreak a terrible revenge, they could stand no more of his cruel taxation. What began as a few isolated attacks became a full-fledged uprising.
Surprisingly, Mendax didnt even attempt to suppress the revolt. The cowardly man loaded the treasures he had extorted from the islanders into four small ships and fled the island, taking with him only his concubines and the most servile of his soldiers and minions. Hundreds of others surrendered to the enraged rebels, soldiers and tax collectors alike.
On a dark day for the island, these unfortunates were massacred. The leaders of the rebellion were among those who had most suffered from the Satraps depredations and their cries for vengeance ruled the day; they drove the Imperials and their families off one of the rugged sea cliffs near the islands capitol, Veropolé. Their torn and wave-tossed bodies littered the shores of the beautiful island for weeks afterward.
Imperial retaliation took some time to arrive, but as many of the islanders had feared, it was swift and horrific. A fleet arrived, filled with soldiers of the Empire. They carried orders to suppress the rebellion and make an example of anyone involved. Scorianus, a cruel man known by his troops as Tonitrius Victorix (The Victorious Thunderbolt), assumed the post of Military Governor. He was a far cry from the effete man they had risen against. Entire villages were decimated for the slightest sign of resistance to the new regime. Many villagers fled into the rugged mountains of the islands interior.
Mendax and his Treasure Fleet were never seen again. In the folktales and legends of the islanders, his little squadron has expanded to become a vast armada, loaded down with gold and jewels. There are as many theories and legends about their fate as there are stars in the island sky.
Hundreds of years later, the island still bears the scars of that ancient conflict. The Empire that the Satraps and Governors once served may be long gone, but Governor Corilan the Grim, despotic ruler of the coastal villages, still claims loyalty to that fallen empire. A descendant of the original Military Governor, he rules in the manner that has served his ancestors for many generations, ruthlessly crushing any sign of independence.
Despite their ruthlessness, it has been many generations since the Governors truly controlled the entire island. Away from the coast, Corilan rules in name only, as the hills are full of bandits and rebels that refuse to accept his authority. Only the small fishing villages of the coast are loyal to the corrupt Governor.
The villages of the interior have paid dearly for their intransigence. While Governor Corilan lacks the soldiers needed to force their submission, he is able to cut off their access to the outside world. Their ramshackle villages are studies in hunger and abject poverty, with any trade choked off by the islands hostile ruler. Where prosperous villagers once harvested the islands valuable groves of spice cane, now miserable hamlets eke out a meager existence.
Corlans small navy is a powerful force in this isolated region; his loyal captains control the waters near the island, ensuring that no ship passes without paying the Governors tolls and taxes. His men control all trade going to and from the island, with his monopoly guaranteeing a healthy profit. Any ships caught dealing with the folk of the inland villages will be charged with smuggling: The Governor will demand that they be seized and their passengers enslaved. Anyone resisting may be executed as a pirate, with the corrupt officials of the island watching judgmentally and commenting piously about the need to protect their people from such folk.
Despite their bombastic claims of enforcing good order, the Governors harbormasters often shelter pirate vessels. As long as the payoff is right, they are glad to turn a blind eye to the foulest misdeeds. The Governor encourages this policy, issuing Letters of Marque and Reprisal on the slightest pretext. The pirates that take advantage of this liberal policy reward the Governor richly for his patronage.