The Shackled City – Golarian
Off the western coast of Garund, in the Arcadian Ocean, lies an archipelago of wild and untamed islands. In the times before the Earthfall, these islands were once home to many island nations and colonies of the larger nations of the Inner Sea. The appearance of the eternal hurricane, the Eye of Abendego, marked the end of many of the smaller islands as they were swallowed whole. Entire peoples disapeared overnight. Other islands on the outskirts of the storm managed to survive the apocalypse, but were largely ignored or forgotten by the Inner Sea Nations. Most of the world turned its attention to rebuilding after the death of the human patron god and the accompanying natural disasters that wreaked havoc across the Inner Sea region. One of the surviving islands, located on the edge of The Shackles, is the Isle of Phara.
Climate and Geography:
The Isle of Phara is sub-tropical. It rises steeply out of the ocean, having been birthed by a chain of ancient volcanoes. The volcanoes are now dormant, but the sharp peaks of the mountains at the center of the island are their legacy. The lowlands are covered in vast jungles, with the exception of the areas touched by civilization. Banana plantations, sugar cane fields, and exotic fruit orchards dot the lowlands surrounding the various human settlements. Coffee plantations can be found in the highlands, thriving in the rich volcanic soil. Rice is grown along the river deltas on the coastline from rivers that trace their origins to the great volcanic peaks.
The island was originally colonized by the Empire of Cheliax at the height of its power. Originally settled by religious pilgrims of the Church of Pharasma, the island population soon spiked when explorers from the Empire discovered a treasure trove of minerals, as well as priceless tropical hardwoods, and rich earth that produces a wealth of exotic cash crops. The island is home to two major settlements, as well as several smaller villages.
The city of Sasserine serves as the island’s sea port. This city is located in a protected natural harbor on the west side of the island. It produces the bulk of the agricultural products on the island and all trade on the island is funneled through its busy port. Sasserine is home to over 15,000 souls. A few days march east out of Sasserine, toward the heartland of the island, lies the city of Cauldron.
If Sasserine is the island’s breadbasket, Cauldron is its quarry. Cauldron is a smaller settlement, but produces nearly all the mineral wealth of the island. The surrounding hillside is also the location of most of the island’s coffee plantations. Cauldron is about half the size of Sasserine, housing roughly 7,500 souls.
Compared to the coastal city of Sasserine, Cauldron is a fortress. Cauldron’s buildings, tightly packed and built from wood and volcanic rock, line the inner bowl of a nameless, dormant volcano. Cobblestone roads form concentric circles around a small but deep lake of cold water which fills the volcano’s basin. Although the town’s sewage seeps into the lake, local clerics routinely purify the water for the citizens in exchange for charitable donations to their temples.
A 50-foot-tall fortified wall of black malachite encircles the city, tracing the caldera’s outer rim. Four roads descend the volcano’s slopes, becoming major thoroughfares that lead to Sasserine and other smaller villages. The regions near the rim of the city tend to be occupied by the upper class families and elite merchants. The closer one gets to the center of town (and the closer to the often pungent odors of the lake), the shoddier the construction and the more dangerous its dark alleys become.
Most people get around Cauldron on foot. However, the town has its share of wagons and carriages, most of them owned by merchants and nobles.
Cauldron’s major exports come from two sources, mines and plantations. Both industries are based in the hills surrounding the city, and are managed by various noble families who live in the area. Obsidian and diamonds are the primary products mined in the region. Most of those who dwell in the city itself are either merchants, scholars, or workers in the mines and plantations located in the hills and lowlands surrounding the city. Water is never scarce in town, but most of the city’s food must be imported from Sasserine since the local local fishing and food farming enterprises are meager at best.
The island was populated by a race of humans known colloquially as the Hillfolk. Only a hand full of Hillfolk villages remain, as most of the population have been assimilated into the various cities and colonial settlements. There is also evidence that other, more ancient races once dwelled in the jungles, as evidenced by the crumbling ruins that are occasionally discovered in the deep jungle.
Threats and History:
Cauldron legend speaks of a clash between demonic forces and the people of the island that led to the founding of the fortress city of Cauldron. Surabar Spellmason, a great archmage of his time, led the people of the smaller settlements in the foothills of the mountains to a more defensible position inside the caldera of the volcano in the face of the oncoming demonic horde. After the ancient enemy was repelled from the natural ramparts of the caldera by the heroes of the day, the city of Cauldron was founded in its basin. Many of the smaller villages shrank or disappeared entirely as people immigrated to Cauldron in droves, seeking the protection of its vast natural malachite walls.
Today, occasional reports of strange, demonic creatures roaming the jungles are still heard, but are largely discounted as the tales of drunks and madmen.
The following deities have clergy and houses of worship within the walls of Cauldron. They are listed in order of congregation size.
Church of Pharasma – Goddess of birth, death, fate, and prophecy N
Church of Iomedae – Goddess of honor, justice, rulership, and valor LG
Church of Gorum – God of battle, strength, and weapons CN
Church of Sarenrae – Goddess of healing, honesty, redemption, and the sun NG
Also, among the outlying settlements, shrines to Erastil can frequently be found, but there is no organized clergy.
The cities of Sasserine and Cauldron have been independent city-states since Earthfall cut off travel with the mainland Cheliax empire. Cheliax has other more pressing matters to worry about than the loss of one small, distant, island colony and has not pressed the issue of the island’s independence for a long while. The island’s remoteness has spared it the diabolic influences that now drive the Cheliax empire, but some say that it is only a mater of time before Cheliax turns its lustful gaze toward recapturing its former riches.