On the Razor's Edge
“Rule the Razor, you say? A fool’s ambition.
Here, land and sea murder at the whim of ancient gods and men’s smiles hide a thousand knives. Those deceived into believing that the Kraken’s tentacles are more fearsome than its schemes soon find themselves cruelly enlightened. The Razor is too vast and its terrors too countless for even the bravest adventurer to conquer. It won’t stop them from trying though, and that means good business for me. I thank the gods daily for sending so many fools into
- Saldrin Seaheart, local guide and “purveyor” of adventuring supplies
Razor Coast, a devil’s paradise, where a man’s fortune can bleed out quicker than a spitted pig, and where the dawn sky blazes across endless oceans. Oceans that for centuries hid a lost people of whom legend whisper were born into these wild reaches as the sons of sharks. Here, within in the kraken’s clutches, law means little while gold breaks all boundaries and blood, pearls, and rum pay for all sin.
Islands poke their toothy ridges up from the depths, angry and defiant, like the maw of a great leviathan intent on rending and devouring ships. Indeed, beneath the rolling waters stretch miles of jagged shoals and empires of coral reef that cut down vessels like wheat before a scythe. Over the years, these hazards have claimed the ships of hundreds of explorers and freebooters, and throughout the Razor, there are many tales of missing ships and the lost treasures hidden within sunken hulks.
Then there are those places that the colonists call “civilized.” Filthy boom ports, their shorelines lined with shantytowns crammed with eager profiteers who come quickly, take what they can, and leave behind ruin in their careless wake — convicts, preachers, and those seeking freedom, new identities, or new lives. Depending on one’s morals, there is work aplenty for these newcomers. Rum, whaling, and slavery are all big business, while merchants who deal in the supplies needed to keep these businesses running make cool profits, especially when supplies run low.
Few of these ports stay open for more than a few decades, thus their inhabitants invest little in their structures or maintenance. Those with wealth usually live on their ships, traveling from port to port, while those without cobble together wooden shacks sealed with whale fat or tarred paper. When the trade routes change or an island’s resources wink out, the shacks are abandoned and the populations venture of to the next boom port to seek fortunes anew.
Conversely, thriving ports are hotbeds of excitement. Ships of all kinds crowd slipshod docks. Oozing with the wretched stench of blubber and blood, merchants hawk their wares to passing sailors, anything from ropes, harpoons, and foodstuff to more questionable items such as poisons, drugs, or treasure maps. Ashore, a boom port’s crowded alleys swim with drunks, vagrants, and others come to make whatever coin they can before the port goes bust. Street pugilists hold brutal matches run by shady managers who hedge bets, beggar bards promise to make legends of incoming freebooters for the coast of a few coins,
and painted whores keep their nimble fingers poised to pleasure customers or slit their throats, whichever looses the most gold. Thickly scarred slaves pilfered from all ends of the world walk in heavy irons beneath the yoke of their masters, eagerly awaiting the opportunity to rise up against the cruelness of their fate. Indeed, today’s slave is often master upon the ‘morrow while near as easily, a master can wake to find himself in leg irons.
Outside of the boom ports, life is far different. The islands of the Razor remain untamed. These are lands where violent monsoons and lush steaming jungles blanket frothing volcanic isles surrounded by beaches of deep black sand that spill into a crystalline blue sea. They strike a chord both peaceful and ominous, for here beauty and wonder often walk arm in arm with danger and death. Human settlements are few, consisting almost entirely of small tribes of indigenous Tulita. Ongoing struggles between these original heirs of the
Razor Coast and foreign colonists keep most them wary, if not entirely hostile. In other regions lurk foul beasts, agents of the mysterious powers of the deeps and wild, feral addicts who chew upon the noxious maht root and fly into frenzied hallucinations during which they drink entrails of their foes.