You stand at the prow as your ship cuts through the placid sapphire waters, the hot sun overhead making the sea sparkle. The breeze of your passage provides a welcome cool as you gaze ahead, wary for the emerald patches of shallow water, but mostly your eyes seek the dark mass of your destination: Blackfort Island.
Slowly it emerges like a block of darkness standing above the waves, attended by white clouds floating above. As you draw closer the featureless black resolves into towering igneous cliffs, the bases lapped by foaming white water. Screeching flocks of gulls and croaking terns greet you as the ship turns to sail by the cliff side. The cliffs of Blackfort Island surround the whole island and are broken at only one point. You eventually reach the break, remnants of the great stone cliffs lying half submerged in the water, tumbled piles of rocks whitened by guano making numerous entrances to the bay beyond. Guided by the expert hands of your crew, the ship tacks to sweep through one of a number of passages through the rocks scattered across the entrance to a deep harbour. Watchtowers built of the same black volcanic stone stand to observe your entrance, though you see no watchers. The wind does bring life to blood-red banners hanging off the battlements, each centred with the head of a snarling black tiger.The town of Blackmaw is situated in the harbour, overlooked by a large fortress of black stone that forms a gate to the interior of the island. The town is a chaotic jumble of mismatched timber and stone buildings packed into the C-shaped patch of land around the large harbour. The timber piers cover as much areas as the town itself, providing moorings for hundreds of ships. The majority of the ships seem to be an extension of the town itself, too old and damaged to do any more than float at their moorings. Many have had their masts cut off and been converted into housing and shops without any hope of being able to set sail again.As a trading port Blackmaw thrives on the spice trade and numerous trade ships are coming and going despite the numerous derelicts. It doesn’t take long to find a vacant mooring and your crew manoeuvres the ship in, thudding gently against the deck. Longshoremen resting in the shade of a crudely erected canopy drag themselves away from their hookah and rum-flavoured tea to secure the mooring ropes before lingering with hope of employment.