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Every charitable act is a stepping stone towards enlightenment.

attributed to Zemress, Blade of the Isles.
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Icon of Zemress


Zemress, The Blade of the Isles was recognised as an Exemplar of Prosperity by the Imperial Synod in 223 YE, three years after her disappearance and presumed death.


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 exemplar. 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.


The Assembly of Prosperity cited the following signs of Zemress's exemplardom:

  • 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.

Zemress in Play

The Seminary of Zemress

In Autumn 382YE, with the resounding support of the Assembly of Prosperity, Gilah of the Chantry travelled to Calvos in Madruga, to examine the Kraken's Bane. Having identified that the ship did not possess a true liao consecration, she used a dose of the priceless liquid to create a permanent aura as testament to Zemress' inspirational legacy. The vessel had long been housed in a specially erected dry dock in Calvos and has always been a favoured destination of pilgrims from all over the Brass Coast, the Empire and even from far Sumaah.

Following the consecration, a proposal from Freeborn architect Gabriela i Matez i Riqueza i Zemress saw the Imperial Senate commission an ambitious seminary designed to support the pilgrims drawn to Calvos to visit the Kraken's Bane. it became a focal point of co-operation between Imperial and Sumaah dedicates of Prosperity, with the white granite for the project being donated by the Sumaah Republic. The actual construction of the building was undertaken by the Zemress islanders - descendants of the exemplar herself. Work was completed shortly before the Autumn Equinox 383YE.

Now, a great wharf runs away from the dry dock where the Bane is kept, with the seminary built on the jetty itself. A grand building of weirwood and white granite, it stands out in the ocean on heavy pilings driven deep in the bedrock of the shallow bay. Tall glass windows look out over the waters on all sides, so that students studying there can contemplate the oceans and how humankind's dominion over the waves was achieved and preserved through hard work. It includes a library of books and scrolls all pertaining to the life of Zemress, so that scholars can pore over the details to glean new insights into her life and works. The most exotic part of the structure is a mithril floor, worked with intricate designs, etched into the precious metal to depict seminal moments from the life of the exemplar. Visitors to the seminary literally follow in Zemress' footsteps as their journey through the building takes them over the key scenes, the crucial moments that caused her to become the Blade of the Isles.

The support of the House of Prosperity in Sumaah was conditional on the Imperial Synod making a solemn promise that the seminary, and the Kraken's Bane, would be a place of pilgrimage for any follower of the Way who wished to come and study, not just Imperial pilgrims, no matter the state of relations between the Empire and their country of origin. The Synod responded with three statements of principle in the General, Prosperity, and Freeborn assemblies. Gilah and Lilith of the chantry, and Mazo i Zabala i Erigo of the Brass Coast all echoed the same promise: Pilgrims visiting the shrine of the exemplar Zemress at Calvos Sound in the Brass Coast who are dedicated to the Way should be allowed to conduct their pilgrimage in safety regardless of their country of origin. That was enough for the Sumaah, and they duly contributed a third of the materials needed to build the seminary that stands so proudly on the docks of Calvos.

Not far from the seminary stands the House of Guerra, a place dedicated to support refugees to the Empire, especially those who seek a new family among the Freeborn. Several of the priests and scholars who attend the seminary - especially those of Zemress Island descent - also volunteer a portion of their time to assist at the House of Guerra.

A Tale from Sumaah

Zemress is recognised as a paragon of Prosperity by the Sumaah Synod. This tale is one of several they contributed to the Seminary of Zemress, translated (with only a little commentary) by Lola i Conzmarra i Erigo and some visiting Sumaah scholars over Winter 383YE.

Sumaah history supports the events as described. While in Sumaah, records indicate that Zemress did indeed demonstrate antagonism to the ships of the Asavean Archipelago. When the Plenum sent a naval expeditionary force to invade the Republic, she recruited almost the entire pirate "nation" of the Frieøyer to help defend it. Within a few years of the failed invasion, the previously lawless Frieøyer had officially become part of the Republic, and to this day their descendants form the backbone of the Sumaah navy (limited though it may be), and maintain the Storm Temple in their northern port-town of Xeier as a place of pilgrimage for dedicates of Prosperity.

This writer feels the need to lay down on paper the story her grandmother told her, when she was a little changeling barely reaching her knees. An absolute glutton for stories, and especially that most precious of story traits - that it was all true. It concerns the Virtue of Prosperity and the Blade of the Isles: Zemress. Of course, she’s a woman of many stories but this one was always my favourite.

Zemress had an ongoing antagonism with the Asaveans. For a while, this mutual dislike was kept to skirmishes and small battles on the high seas. There were many moments of bold daring, huge opportunities to show Courage and Vigilance and not just from the woman herself. Her crew was as brave as she was and rallied around their leader. She refused to give an inch to the enemy and neither side exhausted their resources or wiped out their opponents. But the situation had to come to a head and come to a head it did.

One day, she found herself faced with several Asavean ships to her lone craft (the Kraken’s Bane, naturally). Rather than flee or surrender, naturally she decided the only other option was to win. Systematically, she went through each and not only captured their riches but sent each and every one scurrying back to Asavea with their tails between their legs.

Funnily enough Asavea didn’t take kindly to this. They didn’t take kindly to this at all. This was not just a fun looting excursion - it was all out war. And accordingly, to fight a war they needed all the might they could gather. As flattering as it would be, the fleet wasn’t entirely aimed at subduing Zemress. She would be a bonus in their mission of going about invading the Sumaah, a goal they had had in sight for some time.

Luckily for Sumaah, Zemress was not about to stay out of this fight, resting on her laurels. She took to her ship and took to the seas, determined to do her part. And do her part she would. She and her crew battled all they could and shrugged off losses and injuries, never letting it dim their passion for Sumaah and its people. But soon she realised something - she was just one ship and she couldn’t do this alone.

Now, not only did she have skill. She had resources. Resources gained from the payments and bribes she took from her enemies, but also whatever they contained within their ship. You see, she had a specialist part of her crew - a group of merrow that would be sent out to every ship she sank, swimming inside the wrecks to pick up whatever they could. With this all in order she began recruitment. Not just honest sea-faring folks from Sumaah, oh no. She saw a different opportunity. She started to pay pirates, criminals, brigands, any desperado she could find. She went into lawless taverns, packed docks and distant cities. She went where many feared to go and she paid them to fight on the side of Sumaah. She piled them with gold and jewels until they could barely walk under the weight of riches.

But while they were fighting, she began to preach The Way. She took them by the hand and sang of The Labyrinth, the Virtue we all must embody and share, what is expected of us and how great each and every one of us can be. She spoke from the heart and her brazen passion moved all who listened to her. More and more of those she had hired began to convert, taking anointments, finding how to centre their lives around the Way too.

Oh and the war was won of course. Sumaah stood triumphant and proud. All the Asavean ships were sunk and lost to the eddies of the sea. She was honoured and praised, as were her crew (even the merrow amongst them!). But that wasn’t nearly as important as all the souls she brought into The Way, saving them from a life of spiritual deficiency. And did you know that to this very day the descendants of those pirates still follow the Way, many of them practising inside the Sumaah Republic to this day. Her legacy lives on in the children, grandchildren and distant relations that all owe their conversion and belonging to her.

As translated by Lola i Conzmarra i Erigo

Further Reading

A Tale of Sumaah was written by Peter Green