I was once a man without memory, cast against the sands of a Selanthian beach either through Niimas benevolence, or because her father would not tolerate my presence in his deep, dark depths. For nearly two years, like a fisherman, I cast a net for memories, for those things which had made me what I am and changed me from what I was. I have opted never to suffer such an experience again, and so, I place quill to parchment and record what I know now and what I knew once before . This is my history. This is a smugglers history. This is a history of the town of Rivers Rest.
There are few who live in Fairport who have not heard of the Red Hats, a small brotherhood of smugglers whose members are etched into the harbors and ports of Torre and Oire like the brine of the sea. Their activities are rumored to take them the length of the Imperial coast at times. It was of my study of them, as a young noble, that I first heard the name of Rivers Rest. The tales told to a youth in a dimly lit and laughter-filled wharf tavern spoke of it as the origin of the brotherhood, a town that had been humbled by a great fall, not even a shell of its past magnificence, and risen, if even briefly, as a safe haven to smugglers and, later, pirates. Thus, when I fled my duty in life and sought a new future, I went to Rivers Rest.
For the right amount of silver, about anyone can find passage on a small cutter to the island set in the mouth of the Tempest, and for a bit more, they can land at the docks of the Warren. It is a hidden and often intentionally forgotten district of the island town, located behind a great wall of blackberry brambles. As I learned later, it was not always called the Warren, nor had it been sequestered away from the rest of the town by the brambles; both of these had developed over time. Once it had been a favored wharf area for a city that fell to ruin, and remnants of such are still visible; that is, those remnants that have not been carried away for use for building material. As such, the area made an ideal location for later sailors to rest their vessels and so it has been ever since.
The jumbled, crowded buildings are a product of the brambles and a calamity that occurred almost a century ago, when a fire destroyed nearly all of the structures. When the River Rats, as those who live there call themselves, rebuilt, they scavenged for any building material quickly at hand and the result was a process of design and construction as haphazard as the many tongues you might hear spoken within them. Halfling residents built halfling buildings, elven residents opted for elven styles, and so on; and many more incorporated elements from their neighbors, creating a polyglot of architecture. If one is pressed to describe the Warren, one can only call it something wonderful and free; reflecting the spirit of its inhabitants.
Only a few streets bisect the Warren, and of them, only one leads to the tunnels under the island, leaving only the North Fork of the Tempest River as a means to arrive and depart. They are named for those individuals or families who have by sheer will of presence imprinted themselves upon the Warren, or in one case, of past military adventures. One particular stretch of street is of some importance, a place where before even the oldest inhabitant can recall, violence and honor have been used to judge the claims of those who believe themselves wronged.
It is a place where elders of the Five Houses, presently the most powerful families of the Warren, offer their wisdom and judgment. It is not so much a place of duel, as nearly ritual combat. Deaths are rare, though humiliations may be often, and it is of either partys own volition to accept such challenges of combat. It is there that justice has a home.
Now I return to the Five Houses, the families that control most of the smuggling that goes on within the Warren. It would be simple and wrong to say that they are all smugglers, for the differences between families are far more delicate and upon them balances the very power of control over the Warren, and perhaps, the town itself. To understand then, these families, I must mention briefly the past of the town, of pirates, and of the Smugglers War.
While smugglers have long called the island of Rivers Rest home, the island was once magnificently a haven of pirates, of such repute that their ghosts still haunt the seas, if not in form, then in the minds of its sailors. Ketain of the Scars, Gaspard, Oteska, and the Reiver Shepherd, are but a few of the names, though among the most notable, of the pirates who claimed a home on the island or nearby. Their day is remembered as the Grand Era of Piracy, but before them, there were the smugglers. The smugglers, whom no age is given, were among the first to resettle the island after its fall into troll-infested wilderness. Over the centuries they have abided, becoming like the reeds upon the banks of the Tempest, something unchanging, steadfast in their presence.
[Coming Soon: The Pirates, the Smugglers, and the Five Houses!]