Rime of the Restless Mariners
A large mountainous island with attractive tropical valleys. The land covers about 30,000 square miles and the highest peak is 10,400 feet. The southern and western part is arid but the rest is covered by fertile savannah or lush forest, with pine forests around the mountaintops. The Cibao Valley in the north is the fertile heartland. The south central region is a mixture of swamps and saltwater lagoons connected to the west coast by the arid rift valley. The island is fairly infested with crocodiles and threatening-looking (but harmless) iguanas, however Yellow Fever is a bigger threat. Most of the land is wild and uninhabited, but the Spanish and French have started plantations of tobacco, sugar and coffee.
Hispaniola and the Quick
The first inhabitants of Hispaniola were the Taíno Indians, who called the island ‘Quisqueya’ (“earth mother”), each tribe ruled by a cacique (chief). After it was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1492, this became the first European colony in the new world. The initial colonists were killed by the Taíno or by disease. The Cacique of the West, Guacanagaríx, supported the Spanish settlers, but Behechio of Xaragua (Cacique of the South-West) and his daughter Anacaona rose in revolt. For their defiance they were massacred, deported or enslaved and Anacoana was publically hanged. The Taíno of Haití have now been entirely exterminated so for labour the Europeans have imported African slaves.
The Spanish were never able to exploit the island fully, with most of the west taken over by pirates or colonies of French. The Spanish ended up giving the north and west of the island over to these French, English and Dutch invaders, retreating behind the walls of their capital Santo Domingo and deserting the southern towns of San Juan and Neiba. The western portion of the island was official ceded to the French in 1697 who installed their governor in Port-de-Paix on the north coast.
Santo Domingo is a grand city on the Ozama River, but an unfortunate one: the first city was destroyed by an earthquake and hurricane in 1498, its successor on the other bank of the river was ransacked by Francis Drake in 1586. Many fine buildings are ruined or abandoned and areas of countryside are likewise returning to wilderness, with abandoned farms, forts and towns, like San Juan and Neiba in the south. The city itself contains the Alcázar, the fortified palace of the old Viceroy the over fifty chambers, gardens and courtyards; this was sacked by Francis Drake and is now largely abandoned. The current Governor, Don Severino de Manzaneda, struggles to exert his authority from the Casas Reales, the administrative palace. There is also the first Cathedral in the New World, dedicated to Santa María la Menor and the residence of Santo Domingo’s Bishop who takes the title ‘Primate of the Americas’. There is a ruined monastery, the Monasterio de San Francisco, at the northern edge of the city and to the south is the Malecón, the impressive sea wall that hosts the city’s market. The city is protected by the murralla (defensive wall) and guarded by the Fortaleza Ozama (or simply “la Fortaleza”), where the Torre del Homenaje (“Tower of Homage”) watches over the port and the fortification on the western side is El Baluarte del Conde (“The Count’s Bulwark”).
French Saint-Domingue to the West is a wild frontier territory that is rich in beef and sugar but still hostile to being ruled by the French, or anybody. The Governor, Jean Baptiste du Casse, is forever away chasing pirates and battling the English. His deputy, Joseph d’Honon de Gallifet, tries to administer this unruly colony. He has imported huge numbers of African slaves to the sugar plantations around Cap François off to the east. This town, on the site of Columbus’ first landing, is thriving but there are memories of the 1679 abortive slave revolt in Port-de-Paix, so the slaves are treated mercilessly. Gallifet’s main problem is the “Hospitality” of Gonâve, a wild but wealthy colony of pirates on the Western coast that resists French rule, with their first-among-equals being the old English privateer William Wright. However, Wright’s pirate fleet is the only thing that keeps Saint-Domingue safe from the Spanish across the mountains or the prowling English in Jamaica, so the Governor cannot bring them into line. Moreover, the Governor’s main ally Laurens de Graaf is a Dutch pirate with a hatred of the English who keeps the buccaneers of Hospitality and Tortuga in line – alongside his impetuous pirate wife Anne Dieu-le-Veut.
Hispaniola and the Dead
The Taíno Indians of Hispaniola termed their underworld “Haití” (‘the mountainous land’). There were once five Cacicquats (kingdoms) of Haití: Xaragua (West) is the land of the warrior dead, but when a wraith tires of war then in Marién (north-west) he can hunt among the pine mountains; when the wraith is ready he moves to Magua (north-east) to be with his family and farm the land and when even farming cannot sustain his soul he goes to Higüey (east) to fish and gaze upon the sea. Eventually he is ready for the Second Death and goes to Maguana (south) where the Shadow abides to join the salty dead (Spectres) and wage war upon Xaragua across the rift valley. Eventually, he moves beyond the Caciquats to Transcendence.
This holistic afterlife was destroyed by the arrival of the Spanish and the Stygian Empire. The Taíno died through disease and war and were recruited by the Iron and Skeletal Legions, given masks and told to forget about Haití. Many then marched beside the Legionnaires who crushed the Fifth Sun of the Aztecs. Hispaniola is now claimed by the Empire, but their hold is weak. The Legions are at each others’ throats and many dead slaves are reaped or stolen by Freebooters and sold to the Guilds.
The Emerald Legion is led by Francisco de Bobadilla who, like most of this Legion, was lost in a shipwreck, in his case along with Columbus’ gold. Inherited the title of Anacreon from his friend John Cabot, he has been unable to maintain his authority. He rules from the Citadel of Nueva Isabela, the ruined city across the Ozama River.
The Skeletal Legion is represented by the former-Conquistador Alonso de Ojeda who died penitent for his crimes against the Indians. Ojeda does his best to rein in the wilder Reapers and slaver drivers of his Legion, but is thwarted in this by Bartholomew Columbus, the swaggering brother of Christopher. Bartholomew’s allies include many powerful Spaniards who died wealthy and impenitent. Columbus is at the forefront of the Thrall trade, which holds markets in the ruined Monastery of San Francisco.
The Grim Legion is led by Cotubanamá, the great warlord Cacique who was defeated by the Spaniards. Many of his Legion are also Taíno Indians and though they are loyal to the Empire. Cotubanamá’s troops are the law-enforcers in Santo Domingo, based out of the deserted Alcazar palace, although many wraiths see them as oppressors who are usurping control of the streets from the Emerald Anacreon. Cotubanamá’s forces are dilatory in pursuing Freebooters who steal the Empire’s slaves, because this creates more embarrassment for Columbus.
Not all the Taíno Indians joined the Legions. A small group escaped into the mountains to preserve their ancient ways. These are led by Guacanagaríx, who seeks redemption for betraying his people, and Guarocuya Enriquillo who defected from the Iron Legion. Their band has grown as they take in more African Cimarrons who escape from the slavers and they are sharing Arcanoi with the mysterious Maître-Carrefour.
In the south, Anacoana reigns as Dark Cacique of Maguana. Her Spectres have opened Nihils into the ghost towns of Neiba and San Juan and a Maelstrom brews permanently over the rift valley. The Cimarrons know of her, but to the Legions and Freebooters she is only a dark rumour.
Famous Dead of Hispaniola
Alonso de Ojeda, Prefect of the Skeletal Legion, Conquistador explorer
A wily governor, navigator and explorer who died old and sick and guilt-ridden. Ojeda has done much to make the Skeletal Legion a compassionate institution for the many Indian and African victims of disease. He detests Columbus personally but shares a Fetter and Haunt with him – the ruined monastery of Saint Francis.
Anacaona, Cacique of Maguana, Doppelganger
This imperious and beautiful queen rose up in rebellion after her family were betrayed by the Spanish and was captured and hanged in front of her people. Her vengeance knits the Spectres of Maguana into a coherent force.
Bartholomew Columbus (Bartolomé Colón), Legate of the Skeletal Legion
Christopher’s brother and no less swaggering, cruel and duplicitous. Although lower in rank than Ojeda, he rules Santo Domingo’s soul trade by virtue of his wealth and potent Fetters.
Bojékio, Taíno Shaman, Doppelganger
Anacaona’s eyes and ears, this crafty old wizard mingles with Freebooters, Cimarrons, slavers and Legions and reports back to Maguana.
Cotubanamá, Prefect of the Iron Legion, Taíno hero
A Taíno Cacique who led a doomed rebellion, he has become a powerful general of the Empire. However, Cotubanamá has carefully filled his ranks with former Flayed wraiths (Taíno , Carib, Aztec). He feuds with Columbus (whom he despises) and Ojeda (whom he respects) so his pursuit of Cimarrons and Freebooters is careless, as if he sets his sights on something else.
Francisco de Bobadilla, Adelantado (Anacreon) of the Emerald Legion, Conquistador governor
Bobadilla is one of the few who can work with Columbus and they serve the same end – providing Stygia with souls. He commands the fleet of Shadowjammers that hunts down pirates and protects slavers.
Guarocuya Enriquillo, Cimarron, Taíno revolutionary
A mestizo relative of Anacaona who led his own rebellion against the Spanish and died for it, Enriquillo has a heroic reputation among the Dead. He rose through the Iron Legion’s ranks before deserting to join the Cimarrons, who he is shaping into a fighting force to rival those on Jamaica.
Guacanagaríx, Cimarron, Taíno traitor
Poor Guacanagaríx welcomed Columbus and refused to join the Taíno rebellion, for which he is damned as a traitor. He spent many decades treading the path of Haití as best he could, looking for redemption and mentoring other runaways who escaped the slavers or the Legions. His peaceful community has been turned upside down by the arrival of Enriquillo, who is remoulding it into a small army.
Jan ‘Yankey’ Willems, Freebooter, pirate
An old Dutch buccaneer who served alongside Laurens de Graaf (and has him as his Fetter) and William Wright (another Fetter) and protects the Hospitality with his Shadowjammer Princesa.
Pedro de Córdoba, Puritan, firebrand preacher
A wise and respected Friar who spoke out against slavery and the destruction of the Taíno , Fray Pedro works tirelessly now to free slaves, smuggling them to the Cimarrons or out of Hispaniola. He is targeted for destruction by Bartholomew Columbus, but Cotubanamá is an unenthusiastic pursuer and Ojeda is rumoured to be his secret supporter.