Saga of the Serpent's Skull
Colony on the Verge
Capital: Eleder (8,900)
Notable Settlements: Crown’s End (812), Fort Bandu (198), Freehold (1,330), Kalabuto (11,340), Port Freedom (2,950), Stark Point (490)
Ruler: Baron Utilinus, Grand Custodian of Sargava
Government: Independent colonial barony
Languages: Common, Polyglot
Religion: Aroden, Abadar, Iomedae, Gozreh, Shelyn
Once the jewel in the crown of the Empire of Cheliax, today Sargava (pronounced sahr-GAH-vah) has broken away from the motherland and is dependent on the protection of the Free Captains of The Shackles. The ongoing cost of that protection is crippling the former colony, but the prevailing opinion remains that no price is too high to pay for autonomy. The population consists mainly of Mwangi tribesmen, ruled over by the Chelaxian colonials. The colony’s empty treasury is making it difficult to control the tribesmen, and there have been several native revolts.
On the wrong side of the Eye of Abendego, along the rain-soaked jungle coast of Desperation Bay, lies Sargava, an ancient colony of Cheliax cut off from its homeland by geography, pirate fleets, and the march of history. The failing crops, native uprisings, and naval threats of the last century have all the hallmarks of a death spiral, but ironically the very isolation from its patron state that leaves Sargava in such threat and disarray has also protected its people from the social decay and diabolism that has ensnared their homeland. In a sense, the best of old Cheliax survives here in the jungles of Sargava. But it is unlikely to survive long.
Gained in a push by the land-grabbing prince Haliad I more than 500 years ago, Sargava has long held the distinction of being Cheliax’s most distant surviving colonial holding (several attempted colonies exist in Arcadia, but none ever lasted longer than a century).
When Aroden’s death threw Cheliax into disarray, wealthy old Baron Grallus backed the conservative House Davian, funneling the vast natural resources of Sargava to Davian’s holdings in Corentyn. The raw goods plundered from the land filled the coffers of Cheliax’s established order and ancient Mwangi relics abducted from the jungles summoned a vast army of mercenaries to Davian’s azure standard.
It wasn’t enough. Davian fell with so many other pretenders to the Chelaxian throne in the vicious Battle of a Hundred Kings. Corentyn burned in defeat, and old Baron Grallus found himself alone in the wilderness. Word spread fast of Thrune’s victory in Cheliax and of the emergence of diabolism in the imperial heartland. Summer brought a flotilla of imperial ships to the horizon, packed with an army of surveyors, interpreters, missionaries, miners, and nobles loyal to the new regime. Just as the greedy Chelaxians first viewed the lush green coastline of Sargava, a larger fleet surged from Desperation Bay, its ships flying the black flags of the Free Captains of the Shackle Isles.
Buying off the pirate fleet cost Sargava half its stores and open-ended promises of tribute in timber and medicines, but the quick sinking of the expeditionary force and the fierce destruction of lone infiltrators since have time and again proven the wisdom of the maneuver. To this day, Sargava appreciates the support and defense of the Free Captains and remains essentially free of Chelaxian entanglements. The arrangement has also kept Sargava broke, with the lion’s share of the colony’s proceeds filling Port Peril coffers. The Free Captains give the current Baron, Utilinus, autonomy so long as the payments keep coming, allowing the colony to run its operation much as it has for centuries.
The greatest current danger to Sargava comes not from the ocean, but from internal strife. Since the earliest days of colonization, the Chelish legions sought to subjugate the local Mwangi tribesmen and adapt them to the imperial way of life. The crumbling, ancient city of Kalabuto, on Sargava’s eastern border, used to be the greatest example of this conversion—a working, cooperating community of thousands of natives held under the sway of a handful of Chelaxian shepherds. Aroden’s death robbed his clerics of their powers, greatly undermining the superstitious natives’ trust in the new system. Many became unruly and rebelled against their foreign masters.
At the same time, a mysterious cult honoring the mummified remains of an ancient child captured the native city of Mzali, on the edge of the Screaming Jungle along the southern edge of the untracked Mwangi Expanse. The child claimed relation to the time-lost Mwangi kingdom that had originally erected the cyclopean stones of Kalabuto and Mzali, attracting many natives to its cause. Mwangi tribal warriors armed with spears and reed shields have harried Sargava’s borders ever since, sacking Kalabuto on three occasions before being driven back into the wilderness. Thus far the Chelaxian settlers have managed to retain their colony, but with no reinforcements coming from the homeland to replace fallen soldiers, the Mwangi will not be deterred much longer.
Having broken ties with Cheliax, the baron now rules Sargava as an independent kingdom by default, employing the faux-modest title of Custodian. The current Custodian is Baron Utilinus. Unfortunately for the baron, between the demands of the Free Captains and the uprisings in Kalabuto, he finds his barony cracking at the edges. Despite his able efforts, it is unclear how long he can continue to hold Sargava together.