The history of Shark Island begins with a certain Milton Half-beard, that was set out here with ten other mutineers. Other ships came by later, but no one was eager to take them aboard, so he declared himself a governor, and started trading. The Island is not on the major trade routes, but close to several, and makes a useful stop to load water and other supplies; the port is well protected. Sharks are plentiful here, and tradition forbids their killing; fortunately most are not of the man-eating kind.
Today, the large settlement welcomes any bastard of the sea, opens its rotting arms for them (and snatches any loot they might carry). Here you can get your gunpowder and cannonballs, and get some fresh recruits (well not fresh… but experienced). Here there is plenty of grog, and the nicest and wildest ladies of the night for thousand miles around! Ahoy, me matey!
That’s the official version. But as everybody knows, the island is under the protection of Country X.
A privateer, or corsair is a private warship authorised by a national government to attack enemy shipping and be treated as prisoners of war if captured. If war was not declared, or if the privateer preyed on neutral shipping, the privateer might well be treated as a pirate by the enemy (which usually meant hanging).
Privateers were of great benefit to smaller naval powers, or ones facing an enemy dependent on trade: they disrupted commerce and hence enemy tax revenue, and forced the enemy to deploy warships to protect merchant trade. Privateering was a way of mobilising armed ships and sailors without spending public money or commissioning naval officers. It was an accepted part of naval warfare from the 16th to the 19th centuries, employed by all significant naval powers.
Country X made healthy use of privateers, and much good came of them. They just tend to be a little… troublesome at times. As the nation became more established, and decadent, it wasn’t so elegant to have those half-pirates everywhere, plus they needed a stable port far from their home waters. And so has the Royal Navy directed all their corsairs to take over the place.
Homeland, and the rest
Shark Island was always close to the zone of influence of Country X. Today is a fortified colony about a week of sailing away.
Technically, all pirates and privateers allied to any nation are welcome, and are promised safe haven here. Practically, if a ship flying the right colors isn’t in the port, there is one nearby.
There is always a party going on in the bars and bordellos, and you can easily tell who is ‘native’ and who not. The locals have fun, the other pirates are much more quiet, and careful. Actual incidents are rare, mostly happening in times of war, when privateers of other nations are smart enough to avoid this place.
The current governor is Milton Halfbeard the 5th. A decree of the first one commands all of his followers to take on his name; something they find quite useful in the end. The legal system has only a few pages, and is pridefully announced as the only law that was never changed or abridged. The strange customs are not many so far.
In practical matters, the captain of the guard has the power to organize a militia if it is necessary, but besides the few heads that need to be bashed in the port, life is fairly quiet here. There are permanent troops in the fortress above the port, they don’t leave their stations to make sure the island is not invaded by some other power.
The triumvirate is completed by the judge, a position of honor usually reserved for the former governor. Somehow, it is always the few big families that get into the key offices.
Country X does little beyond ensuring a friendly-disposed governor will have the seat. Of course, this source of information can’t be left unguarded, and a few spies are stationed here, listening carefully to all the talk that is led here.
Very rarely, and only for special targets, the group is allowed to act against the enemies of the crown, should they land here, and if the group won’t be exposed. And indeed, a few of such random deaths have already happened, not helping the paranoid pirate captains to trust this place.
- The visitor - once again, a boy from a rich family goes where he shouldn’t. The place is really great, but it’s not a theme park, and you can bet someone will pick him for ransom. So, be faster than them.
- The ambassador - an important state official needs a ride to the island, and some discreet muscle would be nice. But is this a covert mission for the crown, meeting an enemy agent on somewhat neutral ground, or is he a traitor, selling out his own country? The consequences of one quiet meeting may be grave.
- The responsible - a wealthy mylady is expecting, and the father is a dashing young sort-of-pirate. If would be really kind of you to get him to her. Of course, he won’t be exactly willing to go, and his crew will follow their captain, so you better hurry.
- The debatable - now, either something happened to the old judge (sick? poisoned?! murdered?!!), or there was an unprecedented crime - and somehow, nobody trusts the corrupt system. Either way, an outside presence is needed, someone without prejudice or bias, someone all sides of the problem will trust.