Skull and Shackles
This Mwangi metropolis caters to pirates and smugglers. Isolated on the southern end of the Bay of Senghor, the Caldaru people of the bay’s namesake city of Senghor are distinct from their fellow Mwangi natives, both racially and linguistically. While the Mauxi may claim to be racially unrelated to their kindred, the Caldaru — found only in Senghor — may actually be able to back up their own claims to uniqueness. Relatively tall, with straight dark hair, green eyes, and skin tones ranging from olive to dark tan, they don’t appear physically similar to any of the other Mwangi ethnicities. What’s more, their Polyglot dialect includes words and phrases that lack parallels in the dialects of their neighbors, and as a result most scholars and some of their neighboring cultures don’t consider them Mwangi at all, with the distant city-state of Mzali viewing them as just another group of foreigners, as alien as the Sargavans.
Of uncertain origin, the Caldaru might be the last remaining pocket of some obscure, ancient ethnic group of Garundi or even Kelish stock no longer extant elsewhere, or remnants of the original stock that the Bonuwat people mixed with in antiquity. Their own founding mythology for Senghor as a city claims that they arrived from a distant land, seeking wealth and trade, and as a result of natural or man-made reasons, lost contact with their place of origin, slowly diverged from it culturally, and finally lost the desire and need to return.
Alongside its people, Senghor’s architecture presents a fascinating historical mystery to visitors who marvel at the size and complexity of the port’s series of nested and fortified seawalls and breakwaters. Capable of sheltering the harbor from even such storms as the Eye of Abendego far to the north, and constructed to defend against naval threats that no longer exist for any nation in the modern Expanse, the city appears out of place. The massive stone blocks that make up the oldest portions of the port outstrip anything else within the modern city, or anywhere else on the Mwangi Expanse’s coastline. Combined with the unique Caldaru bloodline, explorers have long theorized that Senghor was constructed in antiquity as a distant outpost of a large, powerful, and sophisticated seafaring empire from either across the Fever Sea or farther south on the Garundi continent beyond the range of local maps. For whatever reason, Senghor lost contact with that empire, be it parent culture or colonial master, and for at least 2,000 years it has developed largely on its own.
Apparently content to exist as a city-state for much of its history, Senghor developed largely in cultural isolation. Bordered by the dense and hostile jungles of the Kaava Lands to the east and the blue of the sea to the west, the city possesses no easy land route, yet ocean trade has increased significantly in the past several centuries, and Senghor’s fortunes have waxed despite the destruction wrought by the Eye on the Sodden Lands. Though Senghor is far from being a pirate city, its lords turn a blind eye to pirate vessels as long as no piracy takes place within their claimed waters, and their own navy of several dozen ships enforces this edict with deadly force. Otherwise, any ships willing to pay a nominal duty on their cargo and reasonable docking fees are free to use the port, with one glaring exception: Senghor steadfastly refuses to admit slave ships, and often refuses ships captained or even crewed by those of Bekyar ethnicity, because of that culture’s predilection for the flesh trade. Whether on the grounds of moral disgust or racial bigotry — or both — Senghor’s actions in this regard have been the cause of bloody naval conflicts with Bekyar city-states to the south of Sargava. These conflicts have also stoked a burgeoning expansionist desire within some members of the city’s ruling elite.
Senghor’s ruling council draws its members from the ranks of the city’s nobility, but it also grants representation to the priesthood of Gozreh, the merchants’ compact, and the military. Still, most power remains inherited rather than earned, even within the latter groups. Senghor’s citizens rarely criticize the oligarchy, however, as they live in relative prosperity, with few external threats and a largely homogenous populace negating any ethnic strife.
The source of their prosperity, since the founding of Sargava, has been the huge amount of mutual trade that has sprung up between the port and its southern neighbor, particularly within the past decade. The Caldaru generally act as middlemen for trade between the former Chelish colony and outside traders and merchant companies unwilling to anger the Thrune crown in Cheliax or to deal through the Shackles Pirates. Despite several attempts to establish a trade embassy within the city, Chelish agents invariably find their ships attacked by pirates after sailing from the port, and messages to or from Cheliax lost or intercepted. The lords of Senghor claim innocence, but their own best interests lie in preventing the influence of any of the imperial powers within the city’s walls. Senghor’s status as a center of trade not under the thumb of foreign powers remains the city’s primary goal, and some on the council, including its young Speaker and his brother, who captains the city militia, even seek an expansionist change in policy that would ultimately lead to clashes with the Aspis Consortium out of Bloodcove.
At the city center, bordered by the inner ring of canals, Senghor’s grand market marks one of the biggest points of convergence points places in the Mwangi Expanse between the goods of the interior and those of Avistani crafting. Not just poorly crafted trade goods, jewelry, and cheap alcohol, the merchant goods that arrive in Senghor entice traders from power centers typically outside of the easy reach of northern trade consortiums, and in turn exchange these exotic goods for those of equal quality, eschewing the raw resource trade of Bloodcove in favor of quality local craftsmanship. Watched over by scarlet-and-black-clad Caldaru guards, the markets outlaw all weapons within their bounds to ensure that the frequently heated haggling at the marketplace never erupts into violence — or at least nothing more than bruised flesh and wounded egos.