Off the coast of Hyboria, on one of the largest of the volcanic Barachan Isles in the Western Sea, lies a haven of smugglers, thieves, and pirates called Tortage. Carved out from the black and rocky cliffs of the island of the same name, the city of Tortage is the most infamous port off the Hyborian mainland. Although originally founded by Argossean sailors, the constant flow of miscreants, slaves, and vagabonds has seen it teeming with various cultures for generations. Kushites, Aquilonians, and Cimmerians live side by side with Zingarans, Shemites, and even Stygians on its dark and sinister streets—even a number of wayward Picts have rowed south to call Tortage home.
If an item is illegal somewhere else, it's probably obtainable within Tortage’s inns, taverns, and manors. Most of the city itself has been in turmoil for quite a while. An uprising has formed against the ruthless oppressor currently in power. This rebellion has become so worrisome for the ruler and his sinister allies that only those proven loyal to the overlord of Tortage are allowed free passage off the island. His law is that of the sword, and he is capable of anything that will bring him closer to crushing those who oppose him. Such a boon can be a powerful bargaining tool when dealing with slavers or smugglers, whose loyalty can often be bought quickly when the need arises.
Much of Tortage Island is dense and humid jungle, with danger lurking along the shadowy paths for adventurous travelers or brave explorers. The island is dominated by a large volcano and it's sometimes the cause of nervousness to those who are new to the area. However, most of the natives and long time residents believe there is nothing to fear about. A host of sharp-clawed beasts await the unwary traveler. The heated cries of apes and even the blood-curdling shrieks of Picts can be heard echoing into the night, along with the screams of their victims.
Wandering the streets of Tortage alone is far from the safest practice either. A home for predators of a different variety, in the form of swift-bladed pirates and lurking bandits, the weak or unprepared don't last long in this pirate-infested port. While the swarthy inhabitants have sliced open more than a few throats, many more thrive on the slaving industry that flows in and out of Tortage like the tide. Just as many lives are bought and sold here as are ended, sometimes for a pittance.
With pirate factions like the Red Brotherhood, Zingaran Freebooters, and Black Corsairs agreeing to leave their battles in the sea while in port, there is no lack of tension on the streets and docks of Tortage. It's not far from the mainland by ship, but the way is not an easy one. The factions are always lurking to prey upon loot-filled vessels they can get to before their rivals. Between pirate threats, swirling maelstroms which can crush a vessel like pottery, and the forbiddance of passage off the island, a future here seems bleak. Once Tortage has claimed you, your freedom depends on cunning, strength of will, and what allies you choose. Or, it can be your grave.
Locations in Tortage[edit | edit source]
You wake up on the beaches of Tortage Island. They call it the jewel of the Barachan Isles, but this is certainly a jewel with so many sharp edges that you can hurt yourself easily on if you are not careful. It sure helps to know your surroundings better, and this guide was created so you know where to go – and what to stay far, far away from!
Tortage Beach is as beautiful as it is deadly. While the crystal blue waters and sandy beaches make it a tropical paradise, the savage picts or ruthless pirates transform this area into a bloodbath. This is where you first end up, having survived the sinking of the Stygian slave galley that you were being transported in.
After fighting your way through the jungle across from Tortage Beach towards the center of the island, you will soon find yourself surrounded by ancient Acheronian ruins. Violent volcanic activities on Tortage Island are causing architecture thousands of years old to shoot up from the ground and mix with the ramshackle housing of the local picts, who now have set up base in the old ruins. The gate may be closed for you and the key might be hidden away in dark places you don't even want to think about.
Should you against all odds survive the harrowing journey through the jungle, the mighty gates of Tortage City will soon be visible in the distance. The gates will be locked to you, though, and you will need to find a way to get in. The Red Hand controls the city, ruled by the vicious Strom, and if you’re not busy regaining yourself at the Thirsty Dog Inn you will most likely find yourself entangled in some deep political intrigue. A hive of scum and villainy, Tortage City is a place where you either kill, or be killed.
The Stone Quarry[edit | edit source]
Just outside Tortage City is the stone quarry, now infested by all sorts of shady characters. Besides the regular assortment of bandits and pirates who have set up camp here, there are also rumors of demons having found refuge among the broken rocks. Turach, a Tortage City local, is working hard on making a nearby dam to keep the lava from reaching the city, and he is known to send adventurers to the quarry for stone.
Beneath Tortage City lies a complex system of underground passageways. Carved out from the very rock that the city stands on, the passageways are a mix of people’s own cellars and an ancient Acheronian city that used to stand here thousands of years ago. With time the city crumbled, the volcano did its work, and in recent years the city of Tortage has been erected on top of the ruins. Entrances to the Underhalls are many, from the cellar of The Temple of Mitra to hidden caves spread across the island. Today the Underhalls are a place of great evil and danger, and only a fool would enter its depths.
The city of Tortage is one of the most known ports in the Barachan Isles, and it sports a deep harbor capable of accepting even the biggest ships braving these treacherous waters. But Strom and his minions have the harbor in a tight grip, keeping a very close look on who enters and who leaves the city by the waterway. A lighthouse has been erected here, but today it is mostly used to quarantine the less desirable who comes to Tortage City. It is from this harbor you will leave once you are ready to journey to the mainland.
Swamp of the Dead[edit | edit source]
This area of the island is tainted by incredible evil and the air is suffocating. Mithrelle, a local sorceress, has allowed her dark magic to influence this environment in ways that is far from natural, and the effects can be seen everywhere. They say that Mithrelle is experimenting on living beings and when she is done with them she dumps their bodies into the swamp. Here they rest eternally, but their rest is anything but peaceful.
The skyline of Tortage Island is dominated by the towering volcano that has given life – and death – to the land. It's still very much active, spewing out lava and hot ashes. The lava flows in thick rivers down the side of the volcano, and the citizens of Tortage City are building dams to keep it at bay. Even though it's the single most hostile environment on Tortage Island, several camps of bandits can be found on all sides of the volcano.
Separate from Tortage Island, but quite close in proximity, is White Sands Isle. Reachable by boat, this island is quite less civilized than Tortage and is mostly infested with roaming wild creatures and various Pict tribes. Here too you will find ancient ruins, some are quite more alien than what is found on Tortage Island, and whispers can be heard in the taverns of Tortage City about ruins here containing treasures unheard of.