Flight of the Queenyan's Revenge
A Pirate's Guide to the Ghost Worlds
No one comes to the Ghost Worlds without a reason, which may range from a desire for goods and services not available in civilized space, being on the run from the forces of the law, or just a desire to be free of rules and regulations life. For years at a time this small cluster lays over a month away from any other population center, but as time runs on it returns to the core of Outremer space, allowing those on it to escape their exile and venture back into civilized worlds to raid or resupply.
Its orbit is partially at an angle to the plane of the ecliptic around which all the other bodies circling Recalescence lay. For almost three years of its four year orbit the Ghost Worlds exist beyond the Outremer Subsystem and far below it. This changes during the first six months of the fourth year, as it slowly climbs and approaches the other worlds, and at its height even exists above the other worlds, having its orbit cross between the Broken Arc and Sestile, before it begins to lower again, as it heads back out to its lonely place beyond the other worlds.
A brief description of the Ghost Worlds
When venturing into the Ghost Worlds, you’ll find it composed of three primary bodies. Two are relatively standard planetary objects with the third being something of an enigma. Only one of these bodies, Bor’s Grave, is regarded as being friendly to life as it’s commonly known.
The outermost world is a giant Air body named Stratcha, whose dark green and black clouds are surrounded by several bands of rings and asteroids, making the entire area picturesque. This sight is spoiled by the ships of mind flayer design fliting between the larger asteroids and deep into the cloud cover. In general they keep to themselves in hollow asteroid fortresses constructed in Stratcha’s rings, content to only leave when in need of additional slaves or supplies. There are rumors of an entire illithid city existing suspended and hidden from the light deep in the cloud cover, but it has not been confirmed by any even remotely considered sane.
Once passed the tentacle filled space of Stratcha is Bor’s Grave, commonly regarded as home away from home for a multitude of pirate crews. Much of this earthworld is covered by deep forest, swamps, lakes and shallow seas, with mineral resources being very poor. It is dotted though by small city states and villages ruled over by an ever shifting network of warlords and petty kings who continually compete with each other for what they don’t have. The nominal capital, and main port of call to anyone venturing to Bor’s Grave is Chaodan, no finer hive of scum and villainy can be found in Outremer Space.
For those daring enough to continue on to the center of the Ghost Worlds the twin asteroid belts of the Hammer and the Anvil lay in wait. They orbit the Malfian Rift in two very erratic orbits, each criss crossing the other’s path frequently, sending chunks of rock tumbling into each other and often times crushing any ship that strays into them. Why would anyone go here then? Riches. These asteroids are filled with the metals that Bor’s Grave is starved for, with iron and precious metals being the prime targets. This is performed by specially modified mining ships called Divers, which dart into the belts, attach to a big enough rock and then quickly drag them out to let miners work on them in relatively safer areas.
Finally at the very center of the Ghost Worlds lies the Malfian Rift. When looking into the space enclosed by the Hammer and the Anvil an observer will see nothing; no planets, no stars or ships, as if a roughly spherical silhouette was blocking out whatever would be on the other side. Venturing in for a closer look will reveal that any light dims as well, with the most brave crews admitting that even magical light has difficulty beyond certain depths into the Rift. After that point though, all ships passing deeper disappear, with not even wreckage being left behind to mark their passing. All this mystery makes it a tempting target for the illithids and other masters of the nefarious arcane arts, as they sponsor expeditions into the Rift to see if anyone comes out alive.
Races of the Ghost Worlds
A lose smattering of just about everyone can be found in the Ghost Worlds, primarily on Bor’s Grave. The overall native population there seems to be made up of humans and orcs, who have over the years been integrated with their spelljamming cousins. Today you’ll find renegade tinker gnomes, outlaw humans, elven exiles and giff mercenaries rubbing shoulders with illithid slave merchants and scro officers in the bars and barracks of Bor’s Grave.
The human race makes up roughly half the population of Bor’s Grave, the majority of it toiling out in the fields or acting as craftsman in the city states. The trading houses of Aquintallia also are known to have unofficial trading posts in the larger cities, with almost all having some presence in Chaodan. The Norse have been known to sell their services here as well, acting as bodyguards and muscle for criminal organizations.
Elves are on the whole one of the more uncommon races to find in the Ghost Worlds. With none being native to Bor’s Grave, the Elven Imperial Navy never bothered to place a force here to protect their interests. The largest organized contingent can found serving in Lothirek’s Swords, a small pirate fleet aligned with the rulers of Chaodan. Their leader, Lothirek, is a former Elven Imperial Navy officer who went into exile and took his crew and ship with him. These days more then just elves are accepted into his fleet, but they still form the core.
The Ghost Worlds is one of the few places you’ll find more drow then the other races of elves. Those who live out here often do so as either outcasts, or due to rejecting the structure of the Elven Imperial Navy. The chaotic and violent nature of pirate crews also are a natural place for the usually ambitious race to hone their skills.
The vast majority of dwarves living in the Ghost Worlds are exiles from the platforms of Sestile’s moon Aja, come to ply their skills in exchange for booze and gold, working to repair the pirate fleets and rogue traders who call the place home. The more adventurous sign onto the crews of Diving ships to wrench usable ore from the Hammer and Anvil, or run the incredibly dangerous forge-rocks just outside of the belts. Due to its insular nature, natives of the Stonebeard Citadel are almost unheard of out in these reaches.
Bor’s Grave is one of the few places in Outremer Space with a large population of orcs and orc-kin. They typically live in the lowland marshy areas which border the world’s shallow seas, using draft boats to raid nearby villages and then retreat deep into the swamps. Those that get tired of the damp and wildlife of the marshes often journey to Chaodan where they seek employment as thieves or sign on with pirate crews.
Just as in anywhere else humans and orcs can be found in close proximity, half-orcs can be found on Bor’s Grave as well. They are often more favored by pirate crews and traders then their orc or human cousins due to their natural strengths and being more adaptable to a ship’s command structure.
At some point, the spelljamming orcs of the Scro’s Third Regiment was stranded in the Ghost Worlds, and since then have worked to bring order to the chaos and establish themselves as a dominant force on Bor’s Grave and beyond. Their enclaves are highly regimented, organized with an almost mechanical precision and well defended. While content to raid villages near their strongholds, they will often send trade delegations into Chaodan and other cities for weapons and supplies they can not steal.
The mind flayers and their slaves have made Stratcha and its rings their private domain, fortifying hollow asteroids to use as their bases to live as they see fit. This does not mean they are non-existent outside of Stratcha, as they continually need fresh slaves gathered from the markets of Bor’s Grave as well as other supplies they can not manufacture themselves. They typically trade in gold and other ores dug from their asteroid homes, but have been known to deal in stranger artifacts as well.
Worlds in Detail
Visually, Stratcha is a striking sight to behold as you approach the air world, its surface area covered by swirling banks of black, green and even blue clouds, all surrounded by thin rings of ice and dust and asteroids. It has no moon to speak of.
While no known native life has been found in Stratcha’s atmosphere, its asteroids are crawling with it. Sometimes literally. Here the mind flayers have constructed their own little slice of heaven, using this remote location to house their experiments and set up their pleasure dens, unbothered by the other races and casual adventurers. Those who do dare to venture out here do so at the request of the illithids, ferrying to their fortress homes fresh slaves and supplies, or venturing forth carrying out missions for their mind flayer masters.
The largest known settlement in the rings is called The Grove, as its massive towers of wood and stone resemble a gathering of massive petrified trees free floating in space. This place is the shipyard of the illithids, staffed by slaves and desperate shipwrights who construct the nautiloid ships popular with the mind flayers. There are rumors of a second, much larger settlement buried deep in the clouds of Stratcha, a veritable illithid city of unknown construction and purpose. Those who make the wild claims of witnessing it say its been carved out of the carcass of a giant spelljamming creature, its shell now protecting the illithidsfrom the winds of Stratcha and rays of Recalescence.
From space Bor’s Grave appears to be a muddy brown and green ball, its covering of forests and swamps broken only by shallow seas and few tall mountains, it is orbited by two small moons, the Bear and the Stag. The first spelljammers to reach this world found the native population existing in subsistence farming, broken only by raids between groups to gather resources and settle scores. In the present not much has changed.
On the shores of the world’s largest sea Martalon, lies the pirate metropolis of Chaodan. This ramshackle city spreads out in a wild growth across the marshy plain its built upon, with few buildings built in the same style, or of the same material. It primarily serves as a homeport for pirates and illicit traders, allowing them to meet, sell their goods and services, resupply and get royally drunk. The only physical organization brought to the city comes along racial lines, as those of similar needs will group together to ensure their prefered housing styles are common. The most infamous example of this is Darktown, where illithid agents, drow, and other beings that are adverse to bright light congregate.
The city itself does not have a single ruler, but a loose network of organizations which will control swathes of the city much like an organized crime outfit. They work together to ensure Chaodan’s continued existence and to make sure none of their rivals grow strong enough to take over the entire city. Each of these organizations presents one individual to a joint council to help settle disagreements, negotiate, or to plan mutual defense. These meetings are often roccus affairs, half party, half show trial, called only when needed. Loosely aligned with this council is the pirate fleet of Lothirek’s Swords. They are mostly called on to ensure that “docking fees” and other bribes as collected, and that no one attempts to bring into the city any weapons which could destabilize the entire area.
Chaodan is also the home of the powerful assassins guild the Scythes of Nerull, an organization infamous for committing their murders with a religious devotion that can send even the most jaded Elven Naval Official into bouts of paranoia. Even in this city of outlaws and cutthroats the Scythes are looked upon with suspicion, making those outside the priesthood of Nerull operate under cover and with masks to disguise their affiliations. Many tavern goers have speculated that the Scythes could take control of the entire city if they wished, but their love of murder prevents them of having any ambition relating to temporal power.
The Hammer, Anvil and Malfian Rift
Before reaching the center of the Ghost Worlds subsystem, the Anvil and the Hammer have to be crossed. These two asteroid belts don’t orbit around each other, so much as chase each other around a central point to repeatedly and violently collide, over and over again. Only experienced pilots will venture here, men and women who are lucky to have survived long enough to be able to read the flows of rock and know just where to move their ships to avoid being crushed at seeming random.
Despite the danger, there is always a large number of desperate people venturing out into the Hammer and Anvil, trying to claim riches from the asteroids. The crews of these diver craft often do the work both for money, and the thrill, as every time they go out to do their job they risk death or dismemberment, giving rise to a society known for heavy drinking and a love for life that would give even the more adventurous pirates a run for their money. In fact the mining crews are known to look down upon the pirates as those who have picked the “easy work.”
The fact drinking on the job is almost mandatory for the miners though is why their tales of spiny and stoney hided creatures living in the Hammer and Anvil are discounted. More and more though, as larger numbers of fortune seekers ply their trade ships return to Bor’s Grave heavily damaged and maybe without crew, showing signs of attack by something other then just asteroids.
Finally, at the center of it all is the Malfian Rift. Little is known about it, no one who has plumbed the depths have survived. Stories in the bars of Chaodan claim that it is everything from a portal directly to the Abyss, a dead god’s soul, or a tinker gnome invention which has gone a bit too far.