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The Parrosans used the channels between the islands as watery avenues plied by long, graceful canoes called devos. Tribesmen who visited the city assumed that all of it had originally been above water and had submerged -- from which fanciful belief comes Parros' popular name, "The Sunken City." Like its neighbors, the Trade Cities of the South Plains, Parros began true citihood with a simple civil democracy that evolved into an unstable monarchy, and then into a merchant-led oligarchy as both internal complexity and outside menace increased. Concurrently, the life of its people steadily improved, as a large fishing fleet augmented flourishing agriculture. These net-boats plied by fishermen were the precursors of the Parrosan merchant marine. Trade with other peoples of the coast -- including Zefnar to the north -- in time proved more profitable than fishing. When the seventh century after the Cataclysm had dawned, the classes of Parros were three -- the nobles, the peasants, and the merchants. This last class expanded in direct proportion to Parros' economic growth; its escalating demands for a voice in the government caused sharp conflict with the nobility, who were content to hold office under the weak Parrosan kingship. The rivalry exploded in the Sizigar's Day Riot, which allied the merchants with the peasants. King Voric had to recognize their rights to freehold property and so broke up the noble estates into many peasant freeholdings. The craven reaction of the aristocrats to the riots had made this action relatively easy. When the House of Voric died out in the next century, the kingship itself was abolished as an unnecessary expense on the taxpayers. Throughout the seventh and eighth centuries, Parros prospered materially and culturally. Its daring seafarers forged markets a thousand miles up the coasts of Minaria and Girion. The pitiable primitives on the islands gave someone the idea to go into slaving, and expeditions started making raids. It was at this time, the early Seventh Century, that the Parrosans named the larger of the two significant islands after inhabitants, whom they called "the Pale Ones" (Gol-kous in their tongue); the lesser took the name of the slave-raider Misha Thores. So rapacious were Thores and other slavers that in just a few generations their mass kidnapping left the islands almost uninhabited. The few Golkus survivors retreated into the volcanic hills, shunning the foreigners who continued to put in on their coasts. It was sorry ending to the only politically-independent Lloroi community remaining in Minaria. Through its whole six-hundred year existence, it had never managed to improve upon what one must consider a wretched hand-to-mouth barbarism. Perhaps it was true that the gods still hated the Lloroi for their ancient evildoings. The sailors who afterwards visited the Golkus were not merchants, but worked at a different trade. The many coves and rugged interior of the island offered themselves as shelter for pirates. From lofty lookouts and well-hidden strongholds the sea-robbers launched forays against Minaria's expanding marine commerce. As the ninth century came on, pirates brought chaos to every coast bordering the Great Sea. Interestingly, no maritime power made a real attempt to nip this menace in the bud. As wise men say, "Watch where the money goes." The first piratical bases actually provided black markets for cheap, stolen merchandise which the trading kingdoms were happy to deal in. Yet, while Minarian traders collaborated with the pirates, many individuals flocked to join their free-wheeling companies -- escaped slaves, common criminals, unemployed sailors, and dispossessed yeomen. The latter came in swelling numbers throughout the eighth century, as the plutocrats of Zefnar and Parros cajoled or coerced many small freeholders into selling the farms that had been theirs since King Voric's day. Thereafter, land that had supported many hard-working families was turned into vineyards and sheep pastures. The former yeomen had no livelihood left and became demoralized, unemployed hangers-on. Piracy seemed an easy out for their angry sons. Superficially, Parros still prospered -- but a tangible menace partly of their own making was growing off its coasts. By the end of the Eighth Century, the coves of the Golkus sheltered enough swift ships and hard-bitten sea fighters to form whole fleets and the isle had been renamed "Skull Island." Where once pirate captains competed openly and violently, now most belonged to a few large piratical brotherhoods ("rombunes," in Minarian slang) which followed elected admi rals. The rombunes developed efficient intelligence systems, whereby pirates would fraternize with merchant crewmen in the coastal towns, discover their destinations and cargos, and relay the information back to Skull Island. Harbor
The History of Rombune
The upheaval of the great Cataclysm made vast alterations in the western coastline of ancient Minaria. Formerly, an arm of the continent called Umiak extended out into the Great Sea. Into this pleasant subtropical region crowded many of the empire's Lloroi subjects. It was here that the Emperor held court in the Imperial capital of Niiawee, it was here that came petitioners from every corner of the realm, even from faraway Neuth and Vultelina. To Niiawee also came ambassadors and visiting kings from distant Reiken and Girion. Alas, by earthquake and inundation Niiawee perished beneath the waters. When the torn earth quieted, only two sizable fragments of Umiak remained above the waves -- islands known today as Skull Island and Thores. Great homeless mobs of Lloroi survived upon these islands, but these citified refugees adjusted poorly to a scavenger's existence; starvation reigned everywhere and many a wretch degenerated into cannibalism during those first terrible months. But as if the gods demanded even more death, a few years after the Cataclysm the Punishing Star struck the desert inland. The earthquake, the "fiery wind," and the tidal wave that followed swept away all but the high mountains of Golkus and Thores, purging the Westward Islands clear of life. As if this was not enough, the following freezing winters under the sunless "Brown Sky" reduced the island populations to only a few hundred of the strongest and most resourceful. When outsiders learned of the drowning of the islanders they interpreted it to mean the continuing disdain of the gods for the Lloroi, whose ances tors had, in their minds, destroyed the world. This myth gave moral force to the ongoing persecution of the Lloroi-descendants who survived on the mainland. Little more can be said of aboriginal people and their descendants on the islands. Contemporary written records -- mainly those of the city of Kuzdol -mention the tribesmen only in the context of occasional raids on the islands for slaves, but these raids did not start until the early Seventh Century. If any persons had dwelled near modern Parros before the Punishing Star created the Crater, they would not have survived. Parros as we know it came to be two centuries after the Cataclysm when a tribe of vagabonds, driven from the hunting grounds of the north by fiercer interlopers, came out of the desert. They found a sweet-flowing spring rushing out of a ring of hills that overlooked a great bay. The newcomers constructed a wattle and daub village and learned to ply the sea for food, gradually developing agriculture. The latter became more important than fishing when they discovered the basics of crop irrigation. Soon the early Parrosans found that they catching more fish than the local area demanded. Consequently, enterprising men took wagon loads of salted fish inland, where it became popular with the desert people -- a great delicacy, in fact. Developing commerce for fish and other commodities contributed to the rapid growth of Parros, and also of Zefnar, a town which existed under similar circumstances farther north. Eventually the Parrosans discovered the great meteoric iron deposits left by the Punishing Star and Parrosan steel became farfamed. The metal was believed to neutralize magic and so found great favor with the makers of protective talismans. By this time, some 300 years after the Cataclysm, the outlying barbarian population had grown large enough to constitute a threat to Parros. In reply, the citydwellers rudely fortified the islands at the head of the bay as a refuge in times of war. These forts formed the nucleus of island communities; shops and resi-
records of Parros and Zefnar reveal the appalling losses that local shippers sus tained. It was common for a continental trader to visit the black markets of Skull Island only to find himself bidding on looted merchandise bearing his own shipping company's name. Severe though sea robbery was, it was only a sideline to the pirates' main occupation of slave-running. As if in retribution for the callous way the sea powers had preyed upon the islands in earlier times, these new islanders scoured the coasts near and far for prisoners. Many towns paid tribute to ward them off; some were forced to accept agreements by which pirate vessels could outfit and sell merchandise openly in their harbors. By the latter Ninth Century, Skull Island was the main source of chattel for the slave-hungry Trade Cities of the South Plains. It could have shut down Parros at any time, but preferred to have it as a conduit for trade with the interior as long as it was kept in its place. The shipwrights of Mivior had in the meantime developed swift, deep-water craft called lamash vessels. As a number of these ships fell into the hands of the pirates, the pace of their depredations was stepped up, causing near-panic amongst the Minarian sea powers. So arrogant did the pirates grow, that their compact with Parros began to break down. In the records of his temple the high priest of the Parrosan god Ashikag laments: "Pirates came into our city by night and abducted more than three hundred young maids, women, and other innocents, slave and free. Before our garrison could deal them out any punishment, they cut loose the boats in our harbor to prevent pursuit and escaped with all their captives and booty. Neither was the freedom of the prisoners secured until the council of the city handed over to the pillagers a vast ransom of silver." Perhaps the priest was too optimistic; it is doubtful Parros had the resources to fight the pirates on its own. Worse, threats from desert nomads were even more pressing. The Wisnyos, horse nomads led by a chieftain called Simir Raviev, were conquering the South, sending defeated foes fleeing north to Parros' borders. The city council of Parros, desperate for manpower, hired some of the refugee tribesmen to fend off other, wilder bands. Alas one large group they employed took bribes from Simir Raviev. As the Wisnyos approached the city, these treacherous hirelings seized the city's key fortresses and its leaders. For eight days Parros was given over to debauchery and looting; afterwards, without pausing to organize his conquest, Simir Raviev extended his campaign north. The Wisnyo conquest had a profound effect on the pirates' slave trade. With an empire at their feet, the nomads had no need for slave dealers. Further, their ignorance and extortions had already ruined the merchant marines of Parros and Zefnar, leaving only the well-guarded ships of Mivior to prey upon. The Miviorans reacted with deadly vengeance, raiding the pirate bases, scuttling their ships, and burning their villages. Any pirates caught in the process were hanged. The pirates had not recovered from the Mivioran raids before the invasion of "the abominations of the land and the horrors of the air" ruined Mivior and thus deprived the freebooters of the last important source of shipping on the Great Sea. Aside from a little fishing, the former pirates had no incentive to go sailing, and so settled down to a life of subsistence farming. In the eleventh century, the monstrous invasion over and the Wisnyo empire long-ago collapsed, Parros and Zefnar recovered somewhat, but the mercenary-supported tyrants who took power in those cities were too preoccupied with intrigue and local warfare to develop their sea trade to its pre-Wisnyo lev els. The piratical response of the inhabitants of Skull Island was likewise a pale shadow of the past. But the vital energies of these pirates' sons could not be indefinitely repressed. Many islanders sang the songs of the golden days of the "rombunes" and longed to see unity among the scattered villages. The eleventh century logbook of the village of Daiton's Moor says: "Those who wished Skull Island to have one leader looked to the captain Marko Steelknife of Quaytown. Steelknife believed that unity was within reach of the island, for unlike the continental states, the boundaries of Skull Island were clearly defined and not coveted by neighbors or barbarians. To advance his plan, he formed a brotherhood which he called 'The Rombune' and built a strong fortress." This fort, built in 1020, was named Port Leeward, but foreigners called it after
the earlier name for the island --"the Golkus." Subsequently, Steelknife extended the power of his Rombune by a series of small wars, power plays, and intrigues. By the time Steelknife's physical powers started to yield to age, the principal leaders of Skull Island had assembled at Port Leeward to draw up a charter for united government. The document showed the pirates' natural distrust of authority. The islanders' system borrowed many elements from old piratical articles -- including a division of the chief executive's office into two parts. A king managed foreign relations and warfare, while the otzlauf, a kind of tribune, administered law and domestic policy. These offices corresponded to the captain and the boatswain of a pirate ship -- one of Minaria's most democratic institutions. In 1052, Steelknife assumed the kingship, but died in his residence less than one year later. The new state which his election had brought into being was officially recognized under the name of Rombune. The newborn nation leapt into vigorous life. Mivior was not fully recovered from the devastations of a century earlier and even Zefnar and Parros had taken to raiding Mivior's coasts for plunder and slaves. Rombune struck an accord with its neighbors and joined in the raping of their traditional enemy. Not until the climactic fleet engagement of Marooner's Island in 1098 did Mivior manage to reassert its naval power and drive the confederacy of raiders from its coasts. The end of the Mivioran war coincided with a major shift in Rombunese policy. The government had for a long time closed its eyes to the nation's traditional trade, piracy, but now that the reavers could not be employed against Mivior, their lawless spirit led to banditry along Rombune's own shores. Furthermore, nationhood had brought with it a need for respectability, and the swaggering pirates were becoming a national embarrassment. As more and more restrictions were placed upon Rombune's pirate captains, the freebooters grew disgusted with petty-fogging bureaucrats and moved their bases of operation to Thores and the Westward Islands. Finally, by edict of King Harus Tarpaulin, piracy was forbidden; raiding was to be permitted only against states at war with Rombune -- and then only if the captains carried legal letters of marque. When the captains of Thores resisted the new law, Harus dispatched his marines to the island, seized it, hung the leader, pardoned the common seamen, and made the island a major naval base. The pirates who would not live under the new order joined mercenary fleets or moved to the Westward Islands and lived pretty much as before. The filibusters of the Westward Islands, with so much new talent moving in, kept busy; by the middle of the twelfth century their attacks had driven most of Zefnar's and Parros' shipping off the seas and only politics prevented them from doing the same with Rombune's. Finally, the desperate tyrant of Parros, Arin, persuaded the Black Knight to take charge of his squadrons. Within a few years the mercenary champion had captured and hanged thousands of filibusters, frightening most of the remainder out of the trade. Rombune had done nothing to help the pirates. While the kingdom did not oppose piracy on moral grounds, it had lost faith in piracy that did not advance the government's ends. After conniving at their crimes for years, the Rombunese chose this moment of filibuster weakness to send a fleet to the Westward Islands and set up a number of forts to keep them under control. Hereafter, the royal government assumed, the pirates would serve as the pliant instruments of Rombunese policy. But it did not work out that way. Fearful of growing Rombunese power, Parros gave aid to the same pirates the Black Knight had suppressed. They sowed their seeds on fertile ground, finding former captains who were restive under Rombunese control and yearning to regain their old independence. Before long, in the year 1153, a young filibuster captain named Garn the Cutlass seized the Rombunese fort of Seawood. The escapade touched off a long rebellion in the isles, and though Rombune poured men, ships and treasure into island conflict, the angry pirates, secretly aided by Parros and soon by Zefnar, kept victory out of its grasp. The war with the Westward Islands continued into the reign of Harus son, Nectano Brownstockings. At last public opinion turned against the long-grinding conflict and the king, refusing to make peace, was forced to abdicate when
the peace faction found enough votes to elect one of their own, Janup Goodcargo, into his place. King Janup ruled for twenty-six years. During this time Parros and Zefnar suffered severely from an on-going trade war with Mivior. A series of military reverses had all but eliminated these city-states from the sea lanes. In their decline they looked for support from Rombune, which deigned to grant it -- at a cost. The acquisition of these well-humbled old enemies as client states greatly enhanced the prestige of the Rombunese king. Under Janup, Rombune reasserted itself militarily, keeping the Westward Island pirates at bay and safeguarding the Gironese coastal trade from Mivioran encroachment, making terms with the Selkies, the non-human race which controlled the northern coasts of Girion, to do it. At home, the alliance of factional interests that Janup welded together remained strong enough to ensure the election of his son upon his death. Janup's son Modeus Goodcargo enjoyed a reign so tranquil that little is recorded of it. It was in 1202, in the reign of the next Goodcargo, Rocorn, that word leaked out regarding the scope and great wealth of Mivior's trade with Reiken. It is strange that Rombune did not did not show greater interest in Reiken at an earlier date, since men know of the Reiken voyages since before the invasion of the Abominations. But they no doubt had been fully distracted by the Girion trade from which they were attempting to exclude the Miviorans. Further, Arnult's book had valuable charts to follow. The Rombunese found the Reikenites willing potential partners when their first trading enterprise arrived, but Mivior retaliated and a serious war irrupted. After years of mutually-damaging conflict, Mivior agreed to respect Rombune's rights in Girion for exclusivity in Reiken. But the war could not paper over the intense anger generated on both sides. Despite the failure to establish a Reiken trade, the succession of kings of the House of Goodcargo had proven so fortunate for Rombune that after the death of Rocorn, the captains of Rombune elected his son Harus II to the throne. The most memorable event of the reign of Harus II was the great tidal wave that struck Minaria. Some believed it was due to the anger of the gods for Yoritom of Adeese's sacrifice at the altars of Greystaff. Regardless, it came out of the southwest and did great harm to all of the southern coasts of Minaria, up to Boran and Boliske. Thores and the Golkus ports were fortunately not inundated due to the shelter of their mountainous terrain facing the wave, but Parros and Zefnar were hard hit. All the sea powers sustained immense losses when the disaster struck, but overall it was turned to Rombune's benefit. Already weakened by internal problems, the physical destruction of Parros and Zefnar forced them to accept Rombunese help, which soon reduced them to quasi-protectorates. Mivior, too, was eclipsed, and this allowed Harus II to enter into the Reiken trade unopposed. The kingdom took care to treat generously with the Reikenites so that when Mivior felt strong enough to oppose the arrangement, it was the Reikenites themselves who compelled Mivior to share the Reiken trade with the Rombunese. After such a monumental coup, the captains were loyal to the house of Goodcargo to the man and at Harus' death took the remarkable step of electing a woman to the monarchy, Harus' daughter Daring. Early in Daring's reign, Zefnar and Parros sent out a call for help against the new kingdom of Shucassam. Daring dispatched her marines to their aid, and several years of sporadic warfare with Shucassam followed. In the course of this war, Daring met and looked favorably on Galiz Tabir, the tyrant of Parros. The intelligent young man saw that a royal marriage was the best way out of his troubles and accordingly wooed and won the queen's hand. Once installed as prince consort, he persuaded the Rombunese to sacrifice Zefnar to Shucassam, in that way buying a long-term peace for Parros. The latter at first enjoyed a protectorate status, but in time came to be an integral part of the Rombunese kingdom. The bargain also satisfied the war-weary Shucassamites, seeing the advantages of gaining such an excellent port on the Great Sea. Galiz is remembered not only as one of the last, but also one of the most fortunate tyrants ever to reign on the South Plains.
Parros accepted its loss of independence without much lamentation, as it had been a mere formality for a long while. It rebuilt its economy and even reopened the meteoric iron mines that had not been worked to their fullest potential since the Wisnyo conquest. The Parrosan fleet, for a long time in deep decay, sprang to life again with Rombune's support, and shared in that kingdom's far-flung markets. Rombune's nearest neighbor to the south was the kingdom of Afgaar. Previously, Afgaar had little interest in pressing to the north, where only wretched wasteland prevailed until Parros was reached. But now they started moving north, to the alarm of the Rombunese subjects of the mainland. Galiz and Daring put there heads together, and sent soldiers and settlers south, staking a claim to what had only been land sparsely inhabited by only primitives before. This southward expansion deliberately ran itself up against the most advanced outposts of Afgaar and there established a fort to nail down a lasting claim to the territory. The dual monarchs called it "Fort Harus," after her father. A number of small wars have been fought between Afgaar and Rombune since, mainly on land as the Selkies will not tolerate two of their allies settling their differences amid their territory, which is called the Silkien Coast. Yet these wars have been half-hearted. Afgaar is too engaged in the South to waste its resources on the poor lands of the north and it needs Rombunese trade. Rombune, on the other hand, lacks the large population required for serious aggression. Hence, Fort Harus has continued to stand in mostly quiet vigilance on the south border. While protecting Parros from barbarians, Afgaarans, and Shucassamites, Rombune has made great material progress during the last century. Its shipbuilding yards rival Mivior's in the number of merchant vessels produced. The wise kings of the House of Goodcargo-Tabir are, in a large measure responsible for the continuing prosperity. What they have done for their country has been justly rewarded by Rombune's electors. To date, the throne has not left the family of Janup Goodcargo. The long-expected confrontation between Rombune and Mivior has not come. The latter kingdom has gone stagnant and has not acted with its old aggres siveness. Rombune, on the other hand, has become engaged, wisely or unwisely, in the deeper interior of the mainland. Redgrave I heeded an appeal from rebels in the town of Jipols, who had risen to cast of Shucassamite rule when the kingdom was racked by the same regional quake which shook Muetar. The Sea of Zett flooded so much that Jipols, standing at the outer edge of a great basin, became viable for a port. The Gyharan ethnics of the city always had resented Shucassamite rule, and now believed as a protectorate of Rombune they could achieve much of their ambitions. Rombune, allied with Jipols, fought a short war against the enfeebled Shucassam, winning a grudging truce, if not a formal recognition of Jipolean independence. At the moment Jipols exists as something of a Rombunese ally and a protectorate, while Shucassam plots a reconquest. Jipols no doubt hopes for a return of its past independence, while Rombune looks ahead to absorbing it as it did Parros. Minarian politics are complex and only time will decide the complex issue. The Rombunese have characteristically been a rowdy people always ready for a good fight or a good song. Here is one of their rousing songs:
The Western Gales Do Blow Ye fighting men of Rombune Who tack the flowing breeze, Whose pendant's flown three hundred years, Through fights and stormy seas! Your lamash craft shall never fail To thwart the foreign foe, As ye sweep through the deep And the western gales do blow.
The brave ghosts of your comrades Shall watch from every wave, For the Great Sea was their field of fame And the ocean was their grave. Where foemen of our people fell Your manly hearts shall glow, As ye sweep through the deep And the western gales do blow. Bold Rombune needs no sea-wall, No towers on the steep; Her fortress is the mountain-waves, Her trench the daunting deep. With lamash built of seasoned oak, She quells the swells that flow, As ye sweep through the deep And the western gales do blow. The shield and sword of Rombune, Never for home shall yearn Till our foemen's fleets depart And starry skies return. Then, ye Great Sea warriors To the Golkus Town we'll go, Then we'll sweep through the deep When the gale has ceased to blow. When the clam'ring fight is heard no more, And the gale has ceased to blow.
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