Every charitable act is a stepping stone towards enlightenment.attributed to Zemress, Blade of the Isles.
Zemress i Ezmara i Erigo was born into a poor family of merchant sailors and dockworkers who lived in Calvos, along the western rim of the Bay of Catazar. There is little known about her early years other than testimonies that state she was a hard worker, dedicated to her community and the Imperial Way of Virtue. It is rumoured that she had the habit of stowing away on ships in search of adventure but as yet no evidence has been presented to support these claims.
What is confirmed is that by the age of just twenty she was granted the position of first mate on board The Old Pearl, a merchantman that sailed The Jewelled Isles and Sarvos trade routes. Two years later she was granted captaincy of her own vessel and worked for the Saluga trade guild transporting shipments of fine wines destined for the cities of The League. It was here that she met and befriended the retired ship's captain and famous shipwright, Captain Massimo Belardinelli. For several years she split her time between sailing and studying under the tutelage of Belardinelli and proved to be a most gifted pupil.
The following years were infamous for the increased pirate activity in the Bay of Catazar. The Saluga guild suffered the loss of dozens of valuable shipments and several ships were seized or scuttled, resulting in the complete collapse of the trade guild and the bankruptcy of the investors. Zemress was outraged by the depredations of the pirates yet despite the fact she was now unemployed and destitute, she vowed to take action against these barbarian scum. The Civil Service were unable to supply any financial or military support due to the recent loss of Segura in 204 YE, all spare Imperial resources being directed to deal with this tragedy.
Undeterred by her misfortune, Zemress gathered her designs and embarked upon a journey to Anvil. Along the way she visited shrines erected to the Virtue of Prosperity and discussed her intentions with priests and pilgrims, pleading for advice and meditating upon the wisdom she was granted. Upon arriving in Anvil, she presented her design proposals to several affluent guilds who universally expressed interest in purchasing her drawings. Several of her proposed improvements to rigging, construction and hull design are stored in the Imperial Library and may still be viewed today. The Zemress Hull is still considered to be the standard of design for all Imperial Light Cutters and has even been adopted by some foreign nations.
With her newly acquired wealth, she returned to her home city of Calvos, setting up a business with her old friend and mentor Belardinelli who acted as chief overseer of operations. A newly discovered acumen for matters of business combined with her revolutions in ship design provided her with enough funds to start construction of her own sailing ships. The Kraken's Bane, a ship designed with the lone intention of hunting and destroying pirate raiders, was the first ship launched from her new shipyards and remained her personal vessel and the flagship of the fleet for the duration of her life.
Over the following years, Zemress hunted and captured dozens of pirate raiders, paying for her crews and expenses out of her own pocket and without financial support from her impecunious homeland. After the devastation of Segura (204 YE), Barbarians were shown no mercy and were quickly put to the sword while foreigners were frequently taught Imperial values and the benefits of following The Way. Those who converted to The Way were often set free and returned safely to their homes, others were ransomed back to their people with strict warnings never to trespass upon Imperial waters again. She is one of the few Imperial Exemplars also recognised in the Sumaah Republic - although in recent years it has become clear that their House of Prosperity considers her a paragon rather than an exmplar. It was during these Years of Trouble that Zemress gained the epithet The Blade of the Isles.
It would be quite easy to simply dismiss her actions as those of a glorified pirate were it not for her actions following a successful patrol. Zemress would split the spoils of war between her sailors, each taking their due share. Upon docking in port, a service of thanks would be given. This was always led by a priest of Prosperity and all and sundry were invited to participate (It has been recorded that one such service was attended by over two thousand citizens). At the conclusion of the service, Zemress would take her share of righteous bounty and bestow it upon the poor and needy of the community, announcing her plans for how it would be spent. As far as can be discerned, this money was never simply given away to be squandered. Instead, it was invested into projects that would benefit everyone in the community. Indeed, several housing projects were funded by this wealth, local business ventures were started, a widows and orphans fund was initiated and the greatest proportion was delivered into the hands of the Imperial Civil Service to benefit all citizens of the Empire.
In the year 220 YE, Zemress sailed out of port in her ship The Kraken's Bane, with the intention of hunting a notorious pirate vessel known as the Grendyl. This led to one of the greatest mysteries of the Catazar. After leaving port, neither Zemress or her crew were ever seen or heard from again. Since The Grendyl also vanished at the same time it is speculated by some that both ships were engaged in a momentous battle, so fierce that everyone on board was killed. All that is truly known is that a year after setting sail, The Kraken's Bane was spotted drifting at sea just off its home port of Calvos. There was no sign of the crew or any evidence of what happened to them. It was as though everyone had simply and peacefully abandoned the ship at exactly the same time. Many faithful proclaim this is testimony that everyone must have died in battle, with the exception of Zemress herself who ascended at the end of the fighting. Others have speculated that when Zemress ascended, her entire faithful crew were raised in the labyrinth with her. Most people have no explanation and to this day the events surrounding The Kraken's Bane, remain a mystery.
For many sailors, Zemress represents the epitome of the Imperial corsair - mercilessly hunting and destroying those who threaten the security and integrity of the Empire. Others remember her for her less martial actions - as a great and selfless benefactor of the Empire responsible for great acts of kindness and generosity.
Zemress has been attributed with the saying "It is not the pointless accumulation of money that makes one wealthy, but the responsible distribution of that money that provides true wealth.". During the year 223 YE the Imperial Synod recognised Zemress Ezmara, The Blade of the Isles, as an Exemplar of Prosperity.
- Zemress's acts of charity were acts of Benevolence that enriched thousands of Imperial Citizens.
- The Blade of the Isles is an Inspiration to many who take up arms against those who threaten the Empire, from sailors to Dawnish knights-errant. However, she is primarily recognised as an inspiration to those who work hard and invest that money for the benefit of others, knowing that the long-term rewards will be a benefit to every citizen - recognised as such by the Merchant Princes of the League and members of the Imperial Bourse.
- Her journey to Anvil is generally accepted as a Pilgrimage and many faithful replicate her travels, culminating in a great service in the city of Anvil.
- The Imperial Synod have acknowledged the great contribution Zemress made in converting irreligious foreigners to The Way of Virtue and also in reaffirming the faith of many Imperial Citizens who had wandered from the true path. Her acts of Salvation are frequently sermonized by Priests of Prosperity.
- The Kraken's Bane is considered an, albeit slightly unusual, Legacy. It is housed in a specially erected dry dock in the city of Calvos and is the destination of many pilgrims. Slivers of keel timber are mounted in medals with ribbon necklaces and The Honour of the Kraken is awarded as one of the highest honours to those heroes of the Empire who have performed charitable and/or valorous acts for the sake of others.