Atop the Shoulders of Giants
A group of 37 islands in the midst of the Merchant Sea, these islands are named for their plentiful supply of Obsidian from the volcanic activity of the major islands. Only nine of the 37 islands are of particular size, but the group all-together make the largest cohesive island culture in the Merchant Sea. The capital of the Obsidian Isles, known as Jin Tao and founded by the Lu Paei in the year 1509, resides on the island Walanu.
Culture and Early History
The history of the Obsidian Isles is a complex one. Their people have remained mostly peaceful compared to larger neighbors for most of known history, preferring to trade with mainland nations and cultures rather than bother with many armed conflicts. Since the late 900’s the Nada’Athi empire and the nation of Golir have somewhat consistently vied for political control of the islands, but to little avail. In the mid 1100’s and early 1200’s the Obsidian Isles were a frequent stopping point for defectors between Golir and the Nada’Fan, or refugees from the conflicts between the two nations.
The idea of refuge is a strong part of the culture of the Obsidian Isles, and hospitality is considered one of the highest moral necessities by the inhabitants of the islands. The national structure of the islands actually formed as a sort of hospitality effort by the Merrusi people of the island of Walanu (the largets island in the group) after a terrible storm had all but obliterated several major societies on the other islands. The exact date of this has been lost to history, but it is believed to have occurred between the years 400 and 435 by the Nada’An Calendar.
This cultural focus on hospitality and refuge has made the Obsidian Isles a popular place for all sorts of out casts, criminals, and refugees to flee to in a time of need, and has lead to a great deal of cultural diversity among the inhabitants of the islands. Though the majority of the inhabitants are most culturally similar to the culture of the Nada’Fan, strong influences of the Traenish Language tribes hold root in the isles as well.
Prior to its conquer by the Lu Paei family the islands were ruled by a sort of representative republic system where each island appointed one representative for every 1000 people (or just 1 for the few islands without even 1000 inhabitants) who would act together as a sort of governing council. The system was notoriously slow and gave a great deal of power to larger islands with high population, but it maintained a relative peace for a very long time.
However, late in the year 1508 the Lu Paei family was forced to flee its homeland, and sought a place to establish a new base of power. It set its sights on the Obsidian Isles, and its significant naval force swept through the islands in a matter of only a few short months, conquering every major settlement with overwhelming force. Previously, the threat of war with a larger enemy than the islands themselves had kept both Golir and the Empire from attempting invasion, but the Lu Paei, having no where else to go, called both bluffs at the same time and took a nation in the process.
The Lu Paei family immediately established their patriarch as “Emperor of the Obsidian Nation” and completely dissolved the council structure. Their conquest had been so swift and complete that for generations the people of the Obsidian Isles passed down stories of the sea full of cannon and the cities full of fire. No one in the isles dared oppose the Lu Paei, not even the Obsidian Blade who were purportedly completely inactive throughout the entire two year period of direct rule by the Lu Paei family.
Only a couple of years later when the Lu Paei took Lalsim and defeated the Nada’Athi navy, they quickly re-named their leader as “Emperor of the Nada’Ath” and annexed the Obsidian Isles as a governance of the empire. A tradition has held since that day for a particular line of cousins to the Lu Paei, the Lin Wa’s, serve as governors of the Obsidian Isles. Whenever the current Lin Wa governor dies or retires, the emporer or empress of the time appoints one of their descendents or other next-of-kin to take over.
With few exceptions, the Lin Wa’s have been passive rulers. Their tax rates have caused a great deal of outrage, but the legislative and enforcement goals of the Lin Wa family could be favorably described as “lazy.” Though the laws state that the governor must appoint any subordinate local rulers, the Lin Wa family has made a habit of appointing local rulers according to how much they will be able to keep the populace placated – thus generally just appointing whoever they receive the largest number of pleading letters about. Thus most of the islands (or sub-divisions of larger islands) are ruled more directly and actively by a local, culturally native, magistrate who tends to enforce native cultural idioms more frequently than imperial mandated laws.
In terms of foreign relations, the Obsidian Isles have maintained a mostly friendly relation with Golir and with several of the Traenish language tribes, including the Confederacy. Despite their addition of the isles to the Nada’Athi empire, the Lu Paei family recognized that the largest value of the Obsidian Isles was for naval positioning and mineral exporting, and thus exempted the isles from a number of trade embargoes. This inadvertently turned the Obsidian Isles into a trafficking location for Nada’Athi merchants hoping to trade with embargoed nations or hoping to smuggle illicit goods into the empire. After a long time spent trying various trade enforcement methods, the Pirate Wars erupted around the Merchant Sea, with a great deal of activity and raids occurring in and around the Obsidian Isles.
When the proverbial smoke cleared from the war, the Nada’Athi empire still did not instate any of the trade regulations on the Obsidian Isles that they had previously been exempted from, but rather required a secondary trade pass for vessels carrying goods to or from the Obsidian Isles with requirements so strict that only the most trusted merchants of the empire could acquire one. This has not solved the problem completely, but after the elimination of most of the strictly pirate elements in the isles and the implementation of the trade passes, the isles have become a much safer place once again.