The people of Zemress Island are the descendants of the crew of the Kraken's Bane, the ship belonging to the exemplar Zemess i Ezmara i Erigo. The ship was wrecked and the crew marooned on a tiny island on the other side of the Catazar bay. They survived there for centuries, living in isolation from the rest of the Brass Coast, until they were eventually rescued by Imperial captains in 381YE. On the advice of the Freeborn assembly they settled in the westernmost Freeborn territory of Segura.
The Island of Zemress lies well outside Imperial waters, in the south-eastern Bay of Catazar. In 220YE it became the home of the marooned crew of the Kraken's Bane - the ship of the respected exemplar Zemress. Forced to make new lives for themselves in the very shadow of the Grendel nation, the crew and their descendants remained hidden here for over a century and a half.
We the Freeborn assembly recognise the inhabitants of the Isle of Zemress as descendants of the three tribes, and recognise their right to citizenship of the Brass Coast.Immeldar i Ezmara i Erigo, Statement of Principle, Freeborn Assembly. Summer 380YE
A couple of years ago, the inhabitants of the island reached out to their Freeborn cousins. A century and a half of separation had seen the inhabitants of the Isle of Zemress diverge somewhat from the traditions of their distant cousins. They appeared almost Marcher-like in their insistence on the virtue of honest toil and hard work. Even more unfortunately, they had embraced a heretical view that while the virtues of the Way certainly existed, only the virtue of Prosperity had any true value - indeed they seemed to have little understanding of the deeper truths of the Way, or the nature of the other Virtues.
A need to send missionaries to help lead the Isle of Zemress in all of the Virtues. More information of the Isle of Zemress is available from Immeldar of the Brazen Pavador.Immeldar i Ezmara i Erigo, Statement of Principle, General Assembly. Spring 380YE
In 380YE, Immeldar i Ezmara i Erigo and the Freeborn assembly recognised the inhabitants of the Isle of Zemress as having the right to see themselves as citizens of the Brass Coast, should they wish. With the aid of the General Assembly, they also resolved to send missionaries to help lead the islanders to an understanding of all the Virtues. Apparently successful, while reserving a special place for Prosperity, over the last year the islanders have come to see the value of the other six Virtues and make some effort to incorporate them into their lives.
The exiles debated returning to the Brass Coast, but there were some significant obstacles to doing so. A large number of people would need to be moved, without attracting undue attention from the Grendel to those still on the Island. A significant voice suggested that leaving the familiar Island for the uncertainty of life in the Brass Coast was less than ideal.
This fragile state of affairs was brought to an end in Summer 381YE when the Grendel at last became aware of this significant population of humans right under their noses. The Freeborn assembled a great armada of more than fifty vessels from all over the Empire to sail to Zemress island and carry out a daring rescue of their cousins dwelling there. Under the noses of the astonished Grendel navy, the Empire carried out a daring rescue, in fact so many captains took up the challenge that they were able to rescue not just the Islanders but bring with them all their possessions and belongings.
We were heartened by the rescue of our cousins from the Isle of Zemress and we would welcome them in settling in Segura. We are certain that their resourceful skills and work ethic will contribute greatly to the Prosperity of the province and we will be happy to smooth their full integration back into the Empire.Mazo i Zabala i Erigo, 381YE Autumn Equinox, Freeborn National Assembly, Upheld 76 - 0
Having arrived in the the Empire, the evacuees looked to the Imperial Synod for guidance on where they should settle. By unanimous agreement the Freeborn Assembly backed the statement by Mazo i Zabala i Erigo urging them to settle in Segura. As a territory of rolling grass and dry plains, Segura offers them space, a luxury that was in short supply on the Isle of Zemress. The huge influx of citizens also helped to revitalise the territory which was still struggling to recover from the conquest of the Lasambrian orcs. With their animals, and seeds from their farms, the families of Zemress island began to settle in Sobral Grasses and Yellow Chase, establishing farms on land that had been left unclaimed for many years.
The results of their industry have been impressive. In the short time since their arrival, the Zemress Islanders have set to and raised hundreds of farms across the Sobral Grasses. What was once a barren land with only scattered signs of habitation is rapidly becoming a prosperous and busy landscape dotted by farmsteads surrounded by a blanket of dusty fields of yellow grain. Sadly the output of those farms is limited by lack of water and poor soil, but the Islanders have a proposal that might fix that. The situation in the Yellow Chase is more challenging - the land here is simply too arid and rocky for crops to grow at all and it is very hard to do more than keep a flock of sheep or goats alive. However the Islanders are not prepared to simply throw in the towel on the matter and have a proposal here too.
Creating a Zemress Islander
Refugee from Zemress Island is not an archetype; rather it is a background element you can choose to explore when making a new character. When making a Zemress island immigrant to the Brass Coast, there are several things to bear in mind when creating your character.
The Zemress Islanders are passionate about the value of hard work - and have a religious zeal about the value of Prosperity. Although they are Freeborn, their industrious approach to life may contrast with the more indulgent approach of the Freeborn. If you intend to play a character from the Brass Coast but want to be totally focused on working hard at events leaving celebrations for the evening if at all; if you want to take a more sombre approach to your character and be earnest about your efforts then playing a Zemress Islander is the perfect background.
The Zemress Islanders are proud of their heritage. After long discussion with hakima, they have chosen to reflect this in their names. They have traditional Freeborn names, but append "i Zemress" to the end of their family names to indicate their roots on the Isle of Zemress. So "Edina i Ezmara i Zemress i Erigo" indicates that she is an Erigo, and a descendant of the Ezmara from the Isle of Zemress - functionally a separate family to the Ezmara of the Brass Coast. Of course any Freeborn character will shorten their name to the most important parts when appropriate, but you should include i Zemress in your formal name if you're playing a character from the island.
Prior to 381YE, there were no Zemress island natives living on the Brass Coast. Indeed, before 379YE, they had no contact with their Freeborn cousins at all. Prior to the evacuation, all the islanders lived relatively peaceful, prosaic lives primarily based around farming. They worked hard not to attract the attention of the Grendel; they were not involved in a guerilla war against the orcs for example. As a direct consequence of their desire to avoid the attention of the Grendel, they had no boats or ships, and few had any military training. It is fine to have embraced these things since the evacuation, but backgrounds in which you fought the Grendel or engaged in foreign trade will be rejected.
Likewise, it is important to remember that they were isolated. No Zemress Islander has any ties to the Empire prior to the evacuation. For a century and a half they lived completely separate lives, exiled castaways on an island deep in enemy territory. Despite this, they never stopped thinking of themselves as Freeborn. They may have become a little more religiously focused, and prioritise Prosperity over other virtues, but they still considered themselves to be inspired by the Founders for example. The five things common to the Freeborn are also common to the exiles of the Isle of Zemress. They still organised themselves into families, they are every bit as candid as other Freeborn, and so on.
The scale of the armada assembled to evacuate the island meant that the refugees were able to bring almost everything of value with them - even livestock. Since their arrival, they have worked tirelessly raising barns and farmsteads across their new homeland. They have also received important support from the Freeborn and the Imperial Senate in their settlement of the fertile plains of Segura and they have prospered there. Consequently, almost all the Isle of Zemress emigres enjoy a comfortable lifestyle rather than the hand-to-mouth existence once might assume a group of people fleeing their homes would be forced to adopt.
When they left the Isle of Zemress, the refugees settled in Segura; so any Zemress Island character should be based there. The majority of the islanders are farmers - making a farm an excellent choice for personal resource for your character.
Playing a Zemress islander
During their years in exile, the Zemress islanders strove to keep the traditions of the Brass Coast alive. They celebrated their ties to the Founders, especially to Erigo. They honoured the captain of their ship, eventually taking the family name i Zemress in her memory - and today all modern descendants of the original crew are considered part of that family. In some ways, their isolation has made them even more traditional than their original relatives. Their staunch anti-slavery philosophies, and the questions they raised around the acceptance of matrilineality, have both had a significant impact on the coast in recent months.
Initially, there was some reticence from some residents of the Isle of Zemress about bonding to the Brass Coast egregore. In particular they were concerned about the place amongst the Freeborn given their inability to trace their heritage back to the founders. By Winter 382YE, however, the Zemress Islanders have almost all become Imperial citizens and bonded to the egregore. Discussions with their neighbours, and with the hosts of the egregore spirit, along with recent discoveries about the Coast's history have seen many Freeborn citizens favour a more personal relationship with their chosen Founder rather than a narrow identity based on birthright. This has allayed the Zemress Islanders fears that they would never be truly accepted among the Freeborn and they have joined the nation wholesale which has grown to incorporate their unique outlook and traditions.
Prosperity is Paramount
While the people of the Isle of Zemress acknowledge the Way, and the Doctrine of the Seven, they consider Prosperity to be the single most important virtue. A few Islanders have embraced the Way and a handful now pursue one of the other virtues, but most continue to heavily favour Prosperity and more than a few pay nothing but lip service to the idea that the other virtues have any value at all. Prosperity was central to their survival on their island, it continues to be the central philosophical idea that guides most Islanders even now and many are much more dogmatic about their faith than is common on the Coast.
A few actively deny the other virtues have any value at all though they are carefully not to do so openly. There is an unspoken belief that it's all well and good to be ambitious, wise or courageous or any of the others, but none of it means anything unless you have the kind of prosperous nature that causes you to take action. Virtue is all about the actions you take, so what really matters is that you have the drive to improve the lot of yourself and your family every day. Philosophically, the view is more clearly expressed as the idea that the other virtues are not worthy of study or respect because they are ultimately constituent parts of Prosperity. At the most extreme, it might be regarded as a kind of purification heresy.
Bitterly Opposed to Slavery
While most Freeborn are fundamentally opposed to slavery, the Zemress Islanders hate the institution with a fervour. The constant threat of enslavement by the Grendel hung over them for generations and it was only the actions of the Empire that saved them from a certain death toiling in the Salt Lord's mines. As a result, they are devoted to the ideals of abolition and implacably opposed to slavery.
The recent events with the Iron Confederacy have only hardened attitudes about slavery amongst the Islanders. It is not simply a matter of having laws against slavery - in the view of many there is simply never a justification for any kind of collaboration with slavers and the rough justice meted out to those who had rebelled against the Duke of Kalino reflects the tragedy that results from doing so. Many Islanders cannot understand why the Empire has anything to do with anyone who practices slavery.
Distrustful of Orcs
Centuries of living with the constant threat of discovery by the Grendel (and subsequent enslavement or death) has left the Zemress Islanders suspicious of all orcs including the Imperial Orcs. It is important to remember that when their exile began, orcs were still regarded as a dangerous menace in the Brass Coast and kept as slaves by the rest of the Empire. While many of the people of Zemress have adapted to the reality represented by the Imperial Orcs, just as many still remain suspicious, viewing any orc as a potential threat.
Work Before Play
In keeping with their emphasis on Prosperity, the Zemress Islanders have a work ethic that even the most hardworking Marcher might admire. Life on the island was hard - survival meant back-breaking hours of toil to gather and prepare food every day. The Islanders are still Freeborn - they celebrate life and crave adventure and excitement - but they are clear that such things must wait until the work of the day is done. They will stop to eat when needed, but they put off feasting as well as music, dance, or any celebration until their work is complete.
The result is a a commitment to toil that many Freeborn find startling. The people of the Brass Coast are no strangers to hard work - but the view of many Freeborn is that you work to live. Followers of Riqueza often express the view that life should be celebrated in all its glory; the purpose of work is to earn the means to enjoy life to its fullest. But in the minds of the Zemress Islanders celebration is the just reward for a prosperous or virtuous act. In their view every inhabitant of their island gets up each day striving to be virtuous - and they may only cease their toil once they have accomplished something genuinely virtuous. They break their morning fast with a simple, plain meal designed to fill the belly and then they throw themselves into their labours. The goal is to work hard - or more recently to do something virtuous - so that they can earn the right to take a break from their toil to relax and feast. They are somewhat scandalized by the views of some Freeborn - that the purpose of life is for living and that you should seize every chance to enjoy it while you can.
Life on Zemress Island offered few opportunities for excitement or adventure. Survival depended on remaining hidden from the Grendel which meant being circumspect about any celebrations and avoiding undue risks. As a consequence the Islanders have developed a rich story-telling tradition, which often forms the centrepiece of any festivity. Their sutannirs and story-tellers weave tall tales of daring corsairs sailing the high seas or bold kohan plunging into the heart of a battle. Some of these tales are partially familiar to mainland Freeborn, but generations of embroidery have exaggerated details and altered the facts so that many are unrecognisable. Traditionally, before beginning a tall tale, a storyteller from Zemress Island will use the phrase "A little while ago, before we all came to the island..." to indicate that what follows will be a fanciful story of adventure and excitement that is not intended to be treated as fact. The most respected entertainers of Zemress Island are those who can weave a tall tale that leaves their listeners uncertain as to whether it really happened or not.
The main religious festival in the Brass Coast is the Feast of the Broken Wheel, when the proud become humble, the prosperous become ascetic and the wise act as fools. Although it is a popular Freeborn festival which has received the approval of the General Assembly, many Zemress Islanders regard it as foolish at best and blasphemous at worst. In Autumn 382YE, the Prosperity Assembly invited both the refugees from the Isle of Zemress - and representatives from the Sumaah Republic - who also recognise Zemress as an exemplar of Prosperity, to attend a festival in celebration of the famed exemplar Zemress to be held at Anil.
In response, both groups pointedly refused to attend attend Anvil on the same weekend that the blasphemous Festival is being celebrated in the same place. The Islanders welcomed the possibility to attend a festival dedicated to Zemress in the future, but they were not prepared to do so at a time and a place where so much religious crime was due to take place.
Not all Zemress Islanders feel this way, but it is clear many feel that the festival is deeply inappropriate and would like to see it replaced with something more suitable, something that celebrates the Brass Coast's virtuous achievements and uplifts the Freeborn spirit. Such a change is not impossible, but would require the leadership of the Freeborn Assembly if it was to move forward.
Although the people of Zemress Island went without access to liao for over a century, their sutannir remain crucial to their life. A sutannir will usually give a sermon to their congregation each morning, intended to inspire them to virtue and urging them to work hard at the labours to come. They are used to working hard together - so usually this will be some communal activity that is needed, such as raising a barn or clearing a field. Often it is their priest who is responsible for assessing when their virtuous obligations have been met and only then will an individual or group cease their work and settle down to enjoy what remains of their day. The judgement of a sutannir is widely accepted - an individual who slacks during the day will readily accept being forced to work on long after their companions have ceased their labours.
As part of their tradition role in arranging festivities, the Island sutannir have developed a role in helping the community identify important tasks that need doing. Because the Islanders don't believe they can celebrate until they have achieved something meaningful, a good sutannir will seek out essential work that needs doing and bring it to the attention of their followers. The goal is that by identifying some important endeavour that demands attention, the sutannir is providing their followers with the opportunity to engage in meaningful work - and thus enjoy the fruits of their labour once it is complete.
On Zemress Island such work was often restricted to determining who the Islanders would give their support to. For example, if one of their number falls ill, then the priest would organise the congregation to work to support them until they recover - provided that that person was worthy of such help. This role seems to have been a crucial part of the survival of Zemress Island. As the Islanders explain it, their sutannir ensures that each Islander feels confident to demonstrate their Prosperity by working hard in the interests of their neighbours when needed secure in the knowledge that the priest will recognise their efforts and thereby ensure that everyone returns the favour when they have need of help. With the many opportunities provided by their new homes in Segura, the role of the Island's sutannir has only grown, as they have led their congregations in establishing new farmsteads, households and even great works for the benefit of the whole community.
Some traditional Freeborn sutannir have disdained this new approach, believing that each individual should choose their own path - and that their role is to encourage their congregation to be virtuous rather than providing such leadership. But others have been inspired by the approach of their Island cousins and have begun to adopt a similar approach with their own congregation. The idea that helping their congregation identify endeavours worth celebrating and helping them to achieve them creates new reasons for celebration is slowly spreading across the Coast.
- Zemress i Ezmara i Erigo covers the exemplar who founded the Isle of Zemress colony
- Shelter from the storm details the initial opportunity to evacuate the Isle of Zemress
- Desperate affairs, desperate measures details the aftermath of the evacuation
- Free to live covers the exiles settling in to their new homes in Segura and mentions some of the problems they encountered
- Weak and idle theme details the islanders reaction to the Iron Confederacy slave issue
- Judged by their company deals with the problems relating to an attempt to build a great work to aid the islanders