1. Wealth Unimaginable : Welcome to Golden Island
Arguably the richest port in all of the Fair Isles Sea, the Golden Island is a small independent state that while much younger than the Seven Sisters, prospered at an incredible rate and eclipsed them in wealth and trade volume in mere decades.
The city controls the entirety of its island, and being the only large settlement on it, most people refer to the island and city as The Golden Island indiscriminately. As such, if the city once had its own name, it has been lost to the ages. Over time, the residents have come to see it as a mark of prestige that their city sports a name fit for a nation.
The island is ruled by a council of magisters, issued from the most prominent merchant families. Their policy obviously favors trade, and their laws are in line with what one would expect of a continental kingdom. One major difference is the harshness with which money-related crimes are punished. Theft, fraud, laundering, and the like are dealt with more severity than murder. Offenders are stripped of all wealth, rank and office, and sent in chains to the mines to work hard labor as mine-slaves, which most people would consider worse than death. Despite this, it is said behind closed doors that the council is utterly corrupt.
The city is openly opulent, with great gold-plated statues lining the docks where ships from around the Fair Isles Sea moor. Magisters and officials riding in palanquins with processions of exotic beauties are a common sight, and a traveler from any other nation might faint at the price of luxury items available in shops.
Its merchants own literal palaces throughout the city, and it is rumored that one can fish for gold coins in their fountains as easily as if fishing in the sea. Many mercenary companies have their headquarters near the snaking docks of the Golden Island, as many a merchant is eager to hire protection for his wealth, both at home and during trade missions.
2. History of a Gold Rush
One might ask what made the Golden Island so rich, so quickly. The answer is simple: Gold.
The island sits on top of a cavernous system riddled with easily-attainable massive gold veins, which islanders took to exploit in earnest as soon as they were discovered. Said caverns are on the far edge of the Barûn-Kor cave system and connect to the Underdark.
The dwarves of Barûn-Kor had been the main producers of gold and precious metals in the region for ages, but have a history or reclusiveness and little will to trade with humans, which they view as unfit of benefiting from their riches. It was partly due to this that the Golden Island rose to prominence in the region so quickly, as the discovered gold veins were outside of dwarven jurisdiction. They soon became a competitor of Barûn-kor on the Fair Isles Sea markets that other human population had much more affinity trading with. Some say it was specifically done to spite the dwarves, and force them into trade concessions. One might see why this theory is popular knowing the Golden Island is the state with the best trade agreements with Barûn-kor, ones that would not be even conceivable for any other kingdom. If the dwarves were reluctant at first, they did not seem to hold a grunge for too long, as this commerce has given them access to resources otherwise unavailable to them in their Underdark outposts. In recent years though, a sizable mithril deposit has been discovered in the mines, and its prospecting is souring the relations between the islanders and Barûn-kor, whom were still the only exporters of this precious metal.
In addition to gold, large platinum and silver veins have been in exploitation in the caves, adding to the city’s massive wealth. In recent years, a vein of unique pink marble has been discovered, which became prized by artisans the world over. Naturally, the Golden Island charges a small fortune for this material, and has taken to lavishly ornament its Vault with it.
3. City of Golden Island : Important sites
3.1 : The Golden Agora
The tallest building in the city is home to Golden Island’s ruling body, administrative offices and the court of justice. Admittance is based upon wealth, and residents of the lower city, as well as visitors from other islands, are required to pay a stunning fee to enter the building. People charged for an offence, if they don’t belong to the right group, still must pay the fee before attending their own trial, and failure to do so can begin a cycle of unpayable fines piling up on top of each other. That money, in the end, is spend exclusively on beautification of the high city, as well as on maintenance of the 20-feet tall golden statues by the harbor.
Prison cells underneath the Golden Agora are filled up with smallfolks and merchants caught up in a loop of excruciating fines. The prisonners are expected to be sold into slavery, and shipped off the island, to groups such as the Bleached Skull Syndicate in the Ravarnôss region. Their fate is at the will of some bureaucrat, and most families would give up everything they have to Players willing to break into the Agora, set their loved ones free, and perhaps plant some proof of corruption into a judge’s office to blackmail him later.
3.2 : The Vault
Such wealth needs to be protected, which is why the Golden Island possesses one of the mightiest vault in the known world. This formidable citadel as the center of the city is an obvious dwarven engineering marvel, rivaling their own vaults (which every dwarf will still tell you are better, if only for being underground). One can only fathom at the cost of such collaboration with the notoriously moneygrubbing populace of Barûn-Kor. Few are permitted entrance in its grand, pink marble halls, where a whirlwind of bankers sort, loan and trade currency from around the Fair Isles Sea and its surrounding regions.
More than a mere bank, the Vault is a fortress. Its treasure rooms were built far undergroud, and magical transportation is required to gain access to them. As breaking in is supposed to be impossible, the « easiest » way to enter the Vault could be to steal one of its specially enchanted signet rings. Few of them were created, and the Vault rents them to the richest in the High City. Each of those rings are linked to a private treasure room. With the Vault prizing itself for being discreet, no question will be asked to somebody holding a ring. Access will be granted on a whim. Never forget, however, that the richmen are quite capable of protecting themselves.
On the off chance that someone would try to break into the Vault, a secret labyrinth is rumored to exist beneath the island, a labyrinth with countless perils such as traps, roaming monsters and Warlocks torturing unlucky dungeon delvers. The teleportation circle, in the Great Hall, can send someone just about anywhere if it detects any kind of falsehood.
3.3 : Business Square
Surrounded by the Vault and luxurious shops, Business Square is one of the most lavish places in the known world. The finest jewels, silks and spices are on display here, and prices are available upon request. Specialized agencies help their clients with large scale business transactions, such as the purchase of an island, or even a flotilla with its crew. Few organizations have the means to maintain an office on the plaza, but those that do will stop at nothing to make the most of it. Nurchan, for exemple, not only sells costly enchantments, but is also rumored to negociate shaddy magical deals behind closed doors. As usual on the Golden Island, discretion is key. Offices have information on their clients, the richest in the Southern Seas, and such knowledge could be used to blackmail entire estates. Thus, most contracts are stored every night within the Vault.
Writer : Guillaume Lupien and Maxime Castonguay
Artist : Guillaume Lupien