Skull and Shackles
Officially, Bloodcove takes its name from the iron-rich waters that spill out of the Vanji River, staining the waters red. Unofficially, everyone knows that the name really refers to what the settlement’s wealth is built on — blood. For if the foreign exploitation of Mwangi is a living beast, as its victims sometimes imagine it to be, then Bloodcove is its beating heart, feeding on the grief of both the Mwangi people and the land itself. Within Bloodcove’s twisting boardwalks, rafts, and mangrove trees, the civilized world has come to the Expanse, with all the joy and suffering that entails.
Though Bloodcove has its share of unaffiliated merchants and pirates, the amount of wealth flowing through it is due mainly to the presence of the Aspis Consortium. Agents of the Aspis Consortium hide in every shadow in Bloodcove — as well as preen in every spotlight — and they manipulate trade, orchestrate raids, and keep a close eye on anyone who might affect the bottom line. In Bloodcove, business is everything, and while the enmity of an Aspis Consortium agent or affiliate might not be personal, it’s still exceedingly dangerous. Though most traders understand that for better or worse, Bloodcove is the best trade nexus in the Expanse, of late several new and independent settlements, such as Freestation farther east along the Vanji, have been springing up in hopes of facilitating trade (and perhaps to splinter off their own piece of the action). Though these other townships are generally run by the Aspis Consortium as well (either overtly, or via infiltrated agents), there’s no question that the elite of Bloodcove have mixed feelings about any hint of competition.
The Grand Admiral of the Fever Sea, Harthwik Barzoni, styles himself the official ruler of Bloodcove, though the Grand Admiral position appears to be that of an official elected for life by the scions of the original pirate founders. In truth, the trading consortiums that siphon their goods through Bloodcove have considerable say in who is chosen to serve as the Grand Admiral and what power the position holds. Barzoni maintains the Bloodcove militia and ensures that the periodic violence that sweeps the settlement does not disrupt trade. In return, all businesses and permanent residents of the cove pay Barzoni a small monthly fee to help “maintain order” — and his position.