The Wavecrest Archipelago consists of three large islands, and dozens of tiny islets surrounding them. The little islets lack the extreme agricultural productivity of Abalone, Halcyon and Pearl, but have chosen to ally themselves with the larger islands and be considered part of Wavecrest for two main reasons: improved trade conditions and reduced raiding. Since raiding between members of Wavecrest is illegal (though it does still happen), many local islets join up for protection against their neighbors.
The climate of the Wavecrest Archipelago is mild and pleasant all year round. Rainstorms are frequent but light, and true storms are rare, occurring mostly in winter. Natives shrug the weather off, working in the rain with wide hats of braided leaves covering their heads. Sometimes, at the height of Calibration, it snows over the largest volcanoes; this is considered a good omen for the coming year. On such occasions, groups of priestesses collect snow from the slopes, and scatter it on crowds at festivals.
Wavecrest’s intensely fertile soil supports large forests of breadfruit, mangoes, guavas, walnut, mahogany, teak, banyan, maize, bananas and other fruit trees. Pigs, goats and chickens grow fat on leftovers, and the local fishers bring in fish of all kinds, as well as harvesting kelp and other seaweeds. While Wavecrest’s biggest export is food, wood, pearls and coral all come in abundance from the islands and the sea. The one thing Wavecrest lacks is significant metal resources; the islands have some iron and gold deposits, primarily on Halcyon, but have to import most of what they use for shipbuilding, weapons and jewelry.
The People Of
A visitor to Wavecrest is likely to note the large number of women on the islands. The Wavecrest islanders believe that women are superior at land-based industries, so women make up the majority of blacksmiths, farmers, merchants and so on, while men are generally sailors and fishermen. The archipelago supports a small navy, sufficient to deal with pirates and raiders.
Wavecrest is ruled by an elected president known as the Feathered One; named thus for the ancient cape of office he wears which confers wisdom, honesty and forethought on all who wear it according to legend. Aided by a council of priestesses and the mayors of the archipelago’s various cities and towns, his most important duties are preserving general harmony and appeasing the volcano gods.
If the volcanoes grow active, then any convicts currently in the jails are hurled into the lava regardless of their crimes. Should this fail to appease the deities, the Feathered One himself is the ultimate sacrifice. As a result, the justice system of Wavecrest is extremely harsh, punishing any crime stronger than public rudeness with imprisonment.
The Wavecrest Archipelago was not founded, as such; it merely expanded, with savage tribes worshipping the volcano gods and swelling outward into the green land and thriving seas. While there has always been enough food to survive on, the islands were not as fertile as they are now, and the islanders were forced to support themselves by fi shing and raiding as well.
Different tribes worshipped the different volcano gods and warred on each other. Bounded by the limits of primitive ships, the tribes directed their aggression at each other rather than outward.
Solar savants and engineers in the First Age sought a way to increase the islands’ fertility, seeing Wavecrest as a potential breadbasket that could serve the other Western islands and also supply Solar expeditions further into the West and the deep Wyld. Their efforts, though now lost to history (though see “Volcanic Fertility,” p. 27) met with success. However, though this turned Wavecrest’s industry from raiding to farming, it didn’t dampen the incessant feuding. Tribe still battled tribe, and their numbers grew with the increased fertility that the soil could now support.
The Solars intervened again. Eclipse Caste diplomats called together the volcano gods in a mighty council that left the ground black with obsidian for centuries. The Solars promised that the gods would still receive their sacrifi ces, but insisted that the gods declare peace between the tribes. The leader of the largest tribe on Abalone was brought forward, clad in a mantle made from garda bird feathers, and surrendered his name to become the Feathered One, who would rule all Wavecrest under Solar guidance. The volcano gods grumbled, but were eventually forced into compliance by Solar eloquence and threats and Sidereal political pressure in Yu-Shan.
It took a while for the tribes to accept peace. Petty wars continued for decades, but attention slowly shifted from internal aggression to external trade. The new fertility of Wavecrest’s soil had become a major factor in the West; with distribution coordinated from the Coral Archipelago in the north, and facilitated by First Age creativity, Wavecrest found itself undergoing an industrial revolution. The people developed new shipbuilding techniques and crew organization schema. The men of Wavecrest became proud of their new standing in the West, while the women found themselves with a higher place in society than most Western women, due to the importance of Wavecrest’s agriculture.
The entire West was shaken by the Usurpation.
Battles shattered the geomantic network and destroyed surrounding islets. Wavecrest was forced to fend off raiders who saw the archipelago as a soft target and a convenient base. The Feathered One declared allegiance to the Shogunate in hopes of protection, but was disappointed by the lack of actual assistance.
The Great Contagion was a disaster. Corpses rotted in Wavecrest’s fields, and dead bodies choked the harbors.
The volcano gods themselves raged at the devastation to their islands and the invading Fair Folk, and streams of lava flooded across both land and seabed.
With the arrival of the Scarlet Empress, Wavecrest was again quick to swear allegiance, but in return for prompt tribute and undisputed fealty, the Feathered One requested a light hand by the satrap and as much non-interference as possible. The Scarlet Empress readily agreed, having more urgent business with the Scavenger Lands.
Within the last 100 years, Wavecrest has become conscious of the growing threat posed by the Coral Archipelago. What was once simply a matter of pirate raids has now become a full-scale trade war backed up by raiding. In response, Wavecrest originated and still supports the Western Trade Alliance. The recent disappearance of the Scarlet Empress and rumblings of war from the Realm have caused further concern, as has the Silver Prince’s appearance on Onyx.
The vast untamed stretches of Wavecrest’s interior still nurture tribes that have never seen the sea except in tales, and whose worship of the volcano gods continues unabated by social pressure or civilization.
The politicians and merchants of Wavecrest work to solidify their hold on trade throughout the West, while the Feathered One mollifi es politicians and negotiates alliances. The veneer of civilization that covers Wavecrest, with its open attitude and friendly reception, is a thin one; at the heart of the archipelago, the volcanoes still burn.