Skull & Shackles
The port town now called Hell Harbor was a logical site for early pirate settlers establishing a base in the Shackles, as the natural harbor is deep and easy to defend. Limestone from ancient quarries and crumbling Ghol-Gan ruins was employed to construct tall watchtowers on spits of land flanking the narrow harbor entrance, and skilled archers make it difficult for unwelcome ships to penetrate the city. The town earned its name thanks to the numerous imps that have populated the region since its discovery, and to this day these diabolical creatures can be seen perched on the eaves and sills of the settlement’s Chelish architecture.
Arronax Endymion, former admiral of the Chelish navy, is the current pirate lord of the city, and the brutal mutineers who made up the crew of his original fleet are enthusiastic enforcers of his iron-fisted rule. Endymion ran afoul of his devil-worshiping homeland’s deadly internal politics, insulting a seemingly minor aristocrat of House Thrune at some soiree in Corentyn. The celebrated Chelish mariner was forced to flee past the Arch of Aroden in his flagship Tyrannous, accompanied by six additional ships crewed by mutineers from the Chelish navy who had sworn their personal fealty to him years ago. Pursued by an imperial fleet twice the size of his own, Endymion sailed directly into the roaring Eye of Abendego. How he and his flotilla survived is a thing of legend. No more than 2 weeks later, he laid siege to Hell Harbor, sinking a dozen pirate vessels and overcoming the town’s land defenses with ease. Accustomed to a loosely organized society of rival pirate gangs, Hell Harbor now had a new and very different pirate lord, who brought culture and order to the previously anarchic port.
In the years since, this enclave has nearly doubled in size and taken on an atmosphere not unlike that of any thriving Chelish port town, with the same cultural touchstones for which the infernal nation is famed. In fact, Hell Harbor even boasts its own opera house, the Three-Horned Hall, where performances of classic material in the original Azlanti play to packed houses; Endymion—himself an aficionado of High Chelish Opera—frequently attends, as do those seeking his favor. The ex-admiral’s influence on the port can be felt through various facets, making the political structure a much more ordered affair, with a paid constabulary, building codes, municipal government, sanitation, and tax collection. But Hell Harbor has changed Endymion as well. Once a devoted follower of diabolism, this disgraced Chelish noble has become increasingly paranoid about visitors hailing from his homeland. Natives of Cheliax who were not part of his original crews (who all bear a red-and-black tattoo of a horned skull on the left side of the ribs) are not welcome in the port, for Endymion sees spies everywhere. The Wretched Furnace, Hell Harbor’s hulking prison, is filled to capacity with individuals suspected of ties to House Thrune and its machinations. Even the imps that clutter the slate roofs of the harbor’s buildings have drawn Endymion’s suspicion, and a proclamation offering a reward for each imp slain is posted in every tavern and bawdy house.