The Razor Coast
Steer clear if’n you’ve any sense. Port Shaw is second only to that festering pit, Carcass, in slime and skullduggery. On the docks of Shaw, cannibal savages rub shoulders with murderous pirates, and the gods know what other horrors walk in broad daylight among them. Me, I don’t drop anchor in that stain. I’ll go as far as Kai Bay, and ye can swim the rest if you like.
—Cpt. Kren Sandscraper
Port Shaw at a Glance
Port Shaw is divided into loose districts. Like any pirate town, there are no legal boundaries of any kind, and the districts themselves grow and shrink with each passing year. The Dragoons patrol each, though anarchy reigns in Tide district and Bawd districts after dark, but blithely ignore most murders, assaults and robberies, unless a powerful member of the Lodge takes an interest or a violent act disrupts the tycoons’ lucrative business endeavors.
Here follows a few words on each major district, though many small neighborhoods cling to the cracks between them or nestle within a larger district.
The Silk District:
Home to Port Shaw’s artisans and artists, here many of the town’s tailors, coopers, dressmakers, apothecaries and other craftsmen ply their trade and keep their quarters. Additionally, more than a few artists exiled from their homeland maintain exhibition halls and meager residences in Silk. The avant garde of Port Shaw are a mish-mash of artists from diverse cultures, hailing from all across the Known World.
Tulita traditional arts and performance (most notably their dance and musical traditions) add to the mix, making the Silk District a melodious and entertaining quarter to visit both day and night. Many of the Tulita arts practiced and taught here cater distinctly to tourists and are highly demystified – watered down and oversimplified to cater to the lowest cultural denominator. The lure of the Silk District’s coin and pleasures commercializes the natives’ culture; an aspect of Port Shaw constantly criticized by the remaining traditionalist Tulita tribes along the Razor.
The Jade District:
The lair of Port Shaw’s wealthiest upper-crust – or at least where most aristocrats of the Coast maintain their “city residences.” Many of the richest citizens of Port Shaw also own plantations on the outskirts of the city, or they spend some of the year aboard luxurious pleasure barges, intermittently restocking at Jade.
Shops and up-scale markets cater to these displaced aristocrats, offering the latest fashions from far-off ports of call and every decadent tea, spice, textile or other good the rich simply cannot live without. The personal bodyguards of these pampered debutants prowlthe streets here. Many of these warriors fashion themselves after the knights of distant kingdoms across the Razor Sea and swear oaths of allegiance to the loathsome aristocrats they serve, while displaying whatever ridiculous crest or insignia their employer takes for a coat of arms. The oaths of these ruthless sellswords are only as binding as the weight of their masters’ gold; still, anyone who looks like they don’t belong in Jade gets tossed.
The low-burning smoky tar lanterns of Bawd call sailors and other visitors to her dark twisting alleys and dockways, luring them to experiment with exotic and far-ranging narcotics, to lose their shirts (and occasionally their teeth) at gambling dens, to enjoy Port Shaw’s infamous houses of ill repute, and to attend myriad entertainments:spectacles from the Speckled Eyes snake charmer’s guild, baboon fights, gourd-gazing seers, legendary scorpion baths, noose races and other wild spectacles.
The Bawd district is also home to The Broken Skull tavern, a well known pugilists den, where nightly matches of grit, stamina and blood on sawdust entertain the drinking crowd. Gangs and guilds of beggars and thieves are a constant nuisance in this quarter, most of whom kick up “tribute” to the Municipal Dragoons in exchange for freedom to pursue their business interests. Gang wars occasionally break out resulting in bloody mayhem that can go on for weeks at a time. These conflicts are eventually quelled by the Dragoons, who usually take the highest offer from the warring factions to wipe out their adversaries.
The docks of Tide District are the epicenter of the town, where the constant comings and goings of merchant, fishing, and whaling vessels create permanent bedlam on the boardwalks. There is nearly no good or service in the Known World that cannot be procured in Tide, for the right price. In this bustling district, ships restock their holds, off-load their cargo and trade their goods from distant shores in exchange for local commodities, angling to fetch a handsome price in a far off port.
Tide is also as subtly lethal as its namesake. The district literally pulls people in from the sea, never to be heard from again. Press gangs steal drunks off the docks to toil at their oars. Slavers pick off loners and indigents to add to the sweaty hordes in the holds of their dromons – destined for sale in reeking markets of Carcass. Dock walking whores garrote well-heeled marks and slide their pouches from blood-slick belts. Vicious knife-gangs like the Salty Dogs roam in packs and tear apart the weakest of Tide, like jackals taking down a young gazelle in the savannah. Tide is no place to stroll after sundown, unarmed or alone.
Fields of pineapple, taro patches, sugar cane, mango trees and other delicacies worth a king’s ransom ring the interior-facing side of Port Shaw. Wealth growing by the acre. These sprawling estates look like paradise from a distance, their rich colorful treasures waving in the cool breeze. A closer view reveals the sweaty sheen of dark-skinned Tulita and the crack of their overseers’ whips. The plantations are a place of misery, and sadly one of the only places left for displaced Tulita, struggling to survive in the face of the Razor Sea’s most dangerous encroaching predator – civilization. Their verdant lands no longer belong to the tribes, so now the best they can hope is to slave on property they once owned for barely enough food to feed their families. The conditions at different plantations vary. Some owners make an effort to at least treat the Tulita as treasured employees – working the land their father’s owned for the profit of their new masters.
Outskirts of Port Shaw:
Life on the Razor forces many unfortunates and the downtrodden to live beyond the plantations on the outskirts of Port Shaw. A meager survival on the edge of a harsh wilderness teaming with monsters is the fate of such outcasts. Most of the surviving Tulita population lingers in the Outskirts.
Struggling against disease, famine and aggressive predators, some of these proud people cling to life with the strength of their ancestors even as their gods turn away from them. Others are beyond hope. More than half the Tulita population has been enslaved and toils under the back-breaking yoke of the plantations. For many of the rest, brothers, fathers and sons have taken berth on whaling ships, leaving their loved ones to struggle in the Outskirts, in hopes of making enough gold to buy back their family’s lands. Most never return as salvers, posing as whalers, lure gullible natives on board before bee-lining for Carcass’ festering markets. Their orphaned families persist in the Outskirts, filled with equal parts hope, anger and despair.