Wednesday, September 11, 2013

From Palmyria to Port Sorrow 'tis Thirty-Five Leagues - Port Sorrow

All that winter we starved. We starved along with our neighbors and our livestock. What little food we had was stolen from us by the heartless animals working for Baba Yaga. My mother died that winter, of sorrow or shame, along with my two youngest sisters. My brother had died fighting in the Tsar's army the year before, and in the end it was too much for my father. He went mad with grief and fled screaming into the howling winter. Alone and desperate, I packed what little I could carry and left my home. I had heard that far to the south, somewhere in the sea, was an island paradise where people fleeing the war were gathered. With nothing left to lose, I headed south to see if the stories were true.

I walked through the Ash Wastes, and along the Repentance Road. I met other refugees on the way. We shared what little we had, as well as our fear, and pain, and comfort. Finally, those of us who had survived the journey arrived in Parnath. The city was packed with refugees from every corner of Morden, all scheming, and bickering, and fighting; trying to board one of the ships bound for peace and freedom. I was lucky. I shipped as an armorer's mate aboard a merchantman and arrived here in Port Sorrow quickly and relatively peacefully. I've been here seven months now, and in that time I've seen more treachery, more depravity, and more hopelessness than I ever saw at home. This place is a festering wound upon Morden. There is no peace here. No rest. Only thievery, killing, and endless debauchery. On the whole, I'd rather be back in Steppengrad.

Port Sorrow lies southwest of Morden, a good week's sail from Palmyria and within easy striking distance of many major sea trade routes. As recently as a hundred years ago, the island was home only to a handful of fishermen and whalers in isolated camps. Eventually, prior to the start of the Bane War, the island became a haven for pirates, smugglers, and other undesirables. The city of Port Sorrow grew up to serve their needs. As it grew, so did its reputation as a dangerous, unsavory free port where anything from uncustomed spirits to slaves could be had for a price. For decades, the population of the island stayed stable. That is, until the coming of the Witches and the start of the Bane War.

As war spread across Morden, people from all nations fled their homes in search of safety. They fled south and west until they reached the sea. Then those rich, brave, or desperate enough took ship and fled Morden altogether. Eventually, these refugees found their way to Port Sorrow and word made it back to Morden—There is land and safety here. Over the next few years people flooded into Port Sorrow in search of peace and a new life away from the endless Bane War. What they found was, in its own way, worse than what they left.

There is no central governing body in Port Sorrow, only a viper's nest made of warring pirate factions all striving for power. These factions rule different parts of the city like tiny fiefdoms, each with its own laws and punishments. The pirates as well as the heavily armed and savage thugs working for them take advantage of incoming refugees, extorting their goods from them and subjecting them to all manner of humiliations. Most refugees live in desperate conditions, jammed into overcrowded, vermin-infested tenements or living hand to mouth in the street. Some refugees are lucky enough to have work, typically in the dockyards and shipyards, but many have turned to a life of crime. These poor souls tend to work either as independent street level criminals or as part of one of the pirate gangs. Life in Port Sorrow is nasty, brutish, and short. Those who come as refugees long for the day when they can return to their homes.

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