The Confederacy of the Shoal Kingdoms
Capitol: None (confederacy of many smaller petty governments)
Population: Human 45%, Merren 15%, Dwarves 10%, Manx 10%, Ælven 13%, Drakken 7%
Government: Various forms of government varying from shard to shard.
Religions: Mainly Pentatric worship, though various sects, cults of the Pentatric gods exist, as well as more obscure religions. The Black Temple of Madragat, Hastur, and the Beneath can be found on those Shoals that practice freedom of religion.
Imports: Metals, wine, silk, magical items, various. fine worked and mechanical goods, skyships, elemental crystals
Exports: Metals, lumber, wild beasts, monsters & monster parts, spell components, beer
(From Shoal to Shoal, imports and exports vary depending on local resources, with much trading occurring between Shoals. It should be noted that though the Circle Sea is the nexus of trade in all the Shards, the Shoals have the best black market, due to the loose laws that plague the Shoal Kingdoms. The Shoals are notorious for making cheap knockoffs of the products of other shard nations.)
Alignment: N, CN, NE
The Shoals are a loose confederation of smaller shards bound together by their position midway between the Upper and Lower Shards as well as by a loose and as yet untested mutual protection pact. The narrow strata of small shards is the only stop on the long journey between the Upper and Lower regions.
Each shard or small group of shards among the Shoals is its own unique entity, with its own particular laws, governance, and so forth. Quite often a traveller can expect some similarities between Shoal Kingdoms, but huge differences can sometimes catch a wayfarer unawares. In one Shoal, the shard may be ruled by a so-called King, in another a potent cult, or a criminal guild, while trade councils and matriarchies may rule elsewhere. The Shoal Kingdoms are a strange mixing pot of ideas and cultural experiments.
The Shoals are a popular refuge for those dissatisfied with life in other realms, on the run from the law, or those exiled from their homes.
The Shoals also have a reputation as a somewhat rough and tumble place, due to loose laws and harsh justice being present in varying degrees from petty kingdom to petty kingdom. The Shoals are for the most part, not beholden to any foreign power, and so take great pleasure in its various governments. Though the Free City of Tantavos on the Circle Sea is a far more dangerous place, the Shoals contain many dangers and traps for the unwary.
The Shoals might be a ripe target for conquest, were it not for the fractious nature of the people who dwell there and the great distances between the Shoals and their closest neighboring nations. One of the few things that are common from Shoal to Shoal is a hatred of slavery and faceless authority. Indentured servitude can be found here and there, but slavery is absent. Despots who have risen to power on their own merits can be found, but not oppressive bureaucracies.
The Shoals are also notorious for their black market trade, and the acceptance of skypirates on some Shoals. Some Shoals are in fact governed by skypirates, much to the chagrin of the Circle Sea and other trading powers. Due to the lack of law and order in many Shoals, bounty hunters are commonly employed to bring justice to miscreants who travel from Shoal to Shoal.
Without doubt, the Shoals are a strange and dangerous place, but also a place of opportunity for a sharp mind or an adventurous soul. Between civilized Shoal Kingdoms are shards full of wilderness, or the ruins of a failed Shoal culture. Strange beasts are close at hand, but among the wilderness riches and undiscovered resources can be found, for the Shoals are not yet fully explored.
The Pentatra maintains a pervasive presence among many of the Shoal Kingdoms, due to the divine and arcane services it can provide, and its connection to the skyship industry, upon which the Shoals depend for commerce. Though loose in other moral areas, the Shoal folk are more devout than most to the Pentatric Gods.
A few Shoals of note:
The Big Sister and the Little Sister: The Big Sister is one of the larger Shoals, and is ruled by a trade council. Not wanting to alienate any potential trade, the Big Sister advocates religious tolerance; this has brought worship of the Black Temple to the Shoal, though in a more appealing guise than elsewhere. The Little Sister is a wild shard that float close to its larger sibling. It i home to various warring humanoids, and at least one tribe of merren skyraiders who prey upon the skyships that leave the 'capitol' of Maiden's Port. Rumors abound regarding the Little Sister, but little truth is known.
Meerpoint: a fetid swamp fills most of this small Shoal. Renegade Pentatric priests are rumored to be the power that keeps Meerpoint a viable shard. The Oracles of Meerpoint will divine the answer to any question... for a price.
Klommesh: Shrouded in mist, the Shoal of Klommesh is home to a sect of Chaltesean Zealots who routinely set forth to scourge those places that they judge overcome by Evil. The Fiery Flails of Klommesh strike without warning, and disappear, leaving burning ruins in their wake thanks to the power of their Fiery Goddess. Their senior members ride mighty drakes into battle. Klommesh, incidentally, is home to several fine breweries which the zealots turn their attention to when they are not scourging evil.
Nurthal's Torment, the City of Masks: Named for a mystic who suffered from painful possession by unknown gods or outsiders, Nurthal's Torment is a popular spot for outlaws to go to ground when on the run from bounty hunters. Tradition demands that no one show their face to another. Information is for sale from all across the Shards in the City of Masks.
Nighttown: A haven for piracy, Nighttown is built for the most part on the underside of an inhospitable shard covered with wilderness and ferocious beasts. The cruel pirates of Nighttown sometimes stage hunts across the topside of the shards, chasing hapless victims and wayward travelers until they capture them or the prey are devoured by the deadly fauna of the shard’s surface.