The Brass Coast history
Three Sisters of Highguard
Long before the formation of the Empire, three Highborn sisters - Riqueza, Erigo, and Guerra - lived in the city of Pharos. Sisters in spirit if not in blood, each was the head of a patrician family, part of the elite council that ruled the nation of Highguard then. Despite their power and status, the three idealists grew weary of the restrictive nature of Highborn life and resented the venal corruption of that age. Their nation was entering a period of political and spiritual turmoil as it became clear that open conflict between the corrupt Patrician Council and the virtuous chapters was inevitable. The sisters were sickened by the nepotism and malfeasance of their fellow patricians, but found the austere isolationism of the chapters equally unappealing.
Instead they dreamed of founding a new nation, one based on ideals where people would be free to live honest lives. They would set sail from Pharos and find a new land to conquer, just as Atuman and their forebears had done. Far from the decay of Pharos they would be born again, free to chart a new destiny.
The Exodus from Highguard
Interest in the plans of the Founders drew many like-minded Highborn to their side, and initial plans to purchase ships and sail across the Bay of Catazar became unworkable as the numbers grew. Instead, the three sisters, their households and their supporters set off on foot from Pharos. Their ultimate destination was the western coast of the Bay, a land that their divinations had revealed would make the perfect place for their new beginning. Purchasing many caravans and oxen, their great caravan moved slowly west until it reached the city of Sarvos.
Ruled in theory by the Highborn Saravos family, but in practice governed by a council of wealthy merchants, Sarvos welcomed the pilgrims with open arms. With winter on the horizon, the caravan weathered the winter outside the jewelled city and renewed their supplies while the Founders drew up plans for the conquest of Madruga. They hired Sarvosan mercenaries and bargained with Patrician Benedict forming an alliance with the city to attack the Nagurerro orc stronghold of what today is the town of Trivento. The port was a major thorn in the side of Sarvos as it was home to a significant number of Naguerro vessels, including some notorious pirate ships that regularly attacked Sarvosan shipping. After a decisive battle, the Freeborn and their allies seized the port,capturing almost the entire fleet.
Their Founders refused the entreaties of their League allies to remain in Trivento. Sarvos was still part of Highguard at that time, and even this far from home they would still have been subject to the rule of the Patrician Council. So as agreed, they left Trivento and its riches in the hands of their allies, and instead they took command of the Naguerro fleet. There were many slaves held at Trivento who the Founders insisted on freeing. Some returned to grateful friends and family in Sarvos, but many chose to join the Founders as they sailed south to the island of Atalaya to began the conquest of their new homeland.
The Conquest of the Coast
Their first destination was Free Landing, specifically the island that is now home to the town of Atalaya. The waters in this area are notoriously treacherous, especially on the approach to what is now Atalaya, and as a result the island was uninhabited at that time. The Founders used powerful magic to divine a safe route through the difficult waters and brought all but one of the ships safely to their new home. They named the island Free Landing and announced that this would be the Freeborn's new home. The dangerous seas and the captured fleets would make the island a safe haven that would protect them from any harm. From here they would build their strength and eventually conquer the entire Brass Coast.
From Atalaya, Erigo led those who had a thirst for battle in a series of daring raids against the orcs, attacking settlements up and down the length of the Brass Coast, and capturing any ships plying their trade in the waters. The resources were brought back to Free Landing, along with something more valuable. Where the Freeborn attacked, they freed any slaves they found. Those who wished to join them were brought back to Free Landing along with any wealth they could carry off, to start a new life as a farmer or to join the swelling ranks of the corsairs who sailed with Erigo.
Over the next decade, they conquered the islands off the coast of what is today Madruga and Feroz and once their position was secure, they took the fight directly to the Naguerra stronghold that stood on the site of modern-day Quzar. From there, they eventually spread out to claim all of Madruga and Feroz, driving the orcs west and south into the hills of Kahraman and Kalino.
The Birth of a Nation
Each of the three sisters was an idealist. While they broadly agreed with one another, they each had their own ideas about what was most important. Riqueza wanted a nation where individuals could celebrate life, and explore their personal connection with the divine. Erigo wanted a secure homeland where everyone would be free to pursue their own prosperity. Guerra wanted a just society, free from authoritarianism and slavery. As the Freeborn established themselves, they began to divide into three distinct groups, each supporting one of the Founders and viewing their new freedom in terms of that sister's ideals. Over time three tribes were formed, each named for one of the sisters. While most peoples' first loyalty was to their extended family, they all looked to the inspiration of the Founders for what it meant to be Freeborn and to guide them toward living a moral, prosperous life.
While the Freeborn were conquering the Brass Coast, the Patricians murdered the Last Navigator, and plunged Highguard into civil war. Eventually the chapters were triumphant, but in the wake of the tragic conflict another wave of emigrants fleeing the turmoil came to the Brass Coast. This same conflict saw the cities of Sarvos and Tassato likewise declare their independence from Highguard. In the decades that followed, the virtuous assembly of Highguard made several overtures to the Freeborn, some seeking to encourage them to return home while others suggested that they accept the rule (and the protection) of Highguard. These requests were quickly rebuffed by the Freeborn; they had turned their back on Highguard and forged a new nation for themselves. Few had any interest in returning and none had any desire to submit to Highborn rule. The responses were blunt and made it plain that Highguard should not regard the Brass Coast as part of its dominion.
Individual Highborn missionaries received a warmer welcome however. The Founders and the families had carried some knowledge of the Virtues with them. As the years passed, the Way steadily gained traction in the Brass Coast, though it never took the position of authority it enjoyed in other nations. The Freeborn were fiercely independent, their spiritual beliefs shaped by their ideals and a deep suspicion of authority and they resisted efforts to allow the virtue assembly of Highguard to dominate their understanding of the spirit, reincarnation, and the Virtues.
By the time the Empress began her crusade to unite humanity beneath her banner, the Freeborn were much as they are today – a disparate people of sprawling, extended families spread over three tribes, with each tribe claiming to trace an unbroken matrilineal line back to one of the Founders. While each family and each tribe treasured their individual freedoms, they were bound together into a loose nation by the Founder's ideals and by carefully negotiated contracts and treaties.
Initially, the tribes were suspicious of the Empress and hostile to the interests of the powerful Highborn priests who backed her. After a long negotiation between the Empress and prominent tribal leaders, they agreed to join the nascent Empire. The Freeborn had demands, however. Their negotiators were instrumental in slavery being outlawed, at least for humans. It was at their insistence that each nation would set the means to select their own senators, rather than a single method being applied to everyone. Perhaps their best-known contribution, however, was the creation of the egregores, spirits created by magic to ensure that every nation was able to preserve its traditions. To this day, the Freeborn are enormously proud that their influence ensured that their ideas of individual liberty and responsibility became a central part of the Empire's identity.
They also influenced the formation of the Imperial Synod. While they were unable to convince the priests of other nations to acknowledge the central role of honesty in a virtuous life, they worked with priests from Navarr, Wintermark, and the Marches to ensure that the nascent Synod would not simply be an extension of the Highborn assembly of virtue. They helped to ensure that the Imperial Constitution granted each nation an assembly of equal authority, and that only the General Assembly would wield the most impactful powers of the faith.
Through the last four centuries, the Brass Coast has been at the forefront of any Imperial project that has involved ships or the Bay of Catazar. Modern corsairs continue to protect the southern coast of the Empire from the Grendel, as they have done since the earliest days of the Empire. During the reign of Empress Deanne in particular, the sailors of the Brass Coast were instrumental in breaking the Grendel invasion of the southern nations. More recently, they played key roles in mapping the bay, evacuating the Isle of Zemress, and protecting the southern fishing fleet from the depredations of orc pirates.
The Freeborn are a mercantile people - on land no less than at sea. Since the beginning of the Empire, the Freeborn have been able to present themselves as traders backed by the full weight of the Empire. It is something they use, sometimes shamelessly, to their advantage when dealing with foreign powers. The stability provided by the Empire has allowed the Freeborn to reach far beyond their native territory, bringing in great wealth to all the nations. At the same time, they presented a pleasant, honest face to the Empire's neighbours and more distant rivals establishing themselves not only as traders but also as diplomats. Close to home, the Freeborn established reasonably good relations with both the Faraden and the Iron Confederacy - and even today the bulk of all trade with these two nations passes through the Brass Coast.
The Freeborn enjoyed a renaissance of a kind during the reign of Emperor Barabbas. The ship-obsessed Throne worked closely with the corsair families to build his armada, and the Brass Coast's ill-fated Golden Fleet was the first Imperial navy ever commissioned. While several families accrued great wealth under the Highborn Emperor - others lost everything during his ill-starred plan to invade Attar that claimed the three navies of the Barrabine Fleet. Not until 379YE would the Empire build another navy - and again it was the Freeborn who took the lead with the tragic Freeborn Storm.
All too often, historians to overlook the role the Brass Coast has played in maintaining the ideals that lead to the creation of the Empire. Throughout its history, Freeborn senators, generals, archmages and priests have worked behind the scenes to preserve the freedom, dignity, and prosperity of Imperial citizens regardless of which nations they hail from. Their influence waxes and wanes, but whenever the Empire has begun to stray down paths of excessive dogmatism or slip into authoritarianism, the Freeborn have rallied, found allies, and tirelessly worked to ensure that the Empire continues to serve its citizens, rather than striving to rule them. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the role Emperor Ahraz - the only Freeborn Throne to date - played in bringing the Orc rebellion to an end, and strengthening the Empire with its first new nation in over three centuries. While Ahraz is often overlooked by Imperial scholars, his reign also brought the ideals of Guerra to the forefront and arguably helped lay the groundwork for the modern abolitionist movement.
Freeborn on the Throne
There has only ever been one Freeborn Emperor, Ahraz i Contero i Guerra, who freed the orc slaves and was instrumental in bringing them into the Empire. The Freeborn believe that it is in the Senate that true power lies and that the best Emperors have accepted this and served as figureheads and administrators rather than policy makers. Popular prejudice paints the Freeborn as poor politicians – a slur that several of them embrace. Their blunt frankness combined with a tendency to want to get to the point of any argument does not endear them to their political opponents, but they make up for this directness with a tendency to produce powerful and impassioned orators.