Dark Places of the Earth
When explorers from Cheliax] first charted the western coast of Garund, they chose to steer clear of the island chain now known as the Shackles. Largely uninhabited save by monsters and ghosts, many of the rocky isles were crowned by cyclopian ruins constructed from gigantic basalt blocks and carved with hideous depictions of deformed monstrosities and hungry gods. When the colony of Sargava was established, the settlers once again avoided the ugly, barren place, preferring to pretend the islands simply weren’t there.
However, as the wealth of Cheliax’s new colony became apparent and smugglers and pirates were attracted to the region, there were some who proved cynical or desperate enough to make use of the many hidden coves and sheltered harbors offered by the supposedly cursed island chain. Over time, these criminal hideouts multiplied, and some began to develop into perminant settlements as more and more opportunistic traders, mercenaries, and other unsavory folk found their greed overpowering their fear.
When Aroden died a century ago, disaster came to the pirate havens of the Shackles just as surely as it did to the rest of Golarion. Initially, pirates and smugglers flocked to the islands to seek refuge from the storms that swept the world in the aftermath of the god’s death, but when it became apparent that one such storm, the gargantuan hurricane known as the Eye of Abendego, was showing no signs of subsiding, they began to fear for their livelihood.
Wheras once the voyage from Cheliax to Sargava had been well-charted and relatively safe, now only the truly brave or desperate ever attempted the hazardous voyage across the open ocean and around the eternal storm. Furthermore, with the collapse of the Chelaxian empire, the kingdom could no longer mandate regular shipments to or from the colony, so only those traders who chose to go south on their own initiative would even have a reason to attempt the crossing. For years, the captains of the Shackles tried to wait the storm out, all but trapped behind the wall of wind, their plunder rotting uselessly in their holds.
Their salvation came in the form of the first Hurricane King, one of the first captains to successfully chart a course around the Eye of Abendego and return to tell the tale. Under his leadership the various criminal groups in the Shackles were organized into one loose organization, dubbed the Free Captains, and began to raid north beyond the Eye, returning to their islands when a fleet arose to oppose them and thereby turning the hurricane that would have ruined them into their greatest asset.
In time, the route around the Eye became known to more honest merchants, either independently rediscovered or secretly taught to a select few by the pirates themselves. In exchange for a cut of their profits the Free Captains left these ships unmolested in their waters, and once again the wealth of Sargava began to flow into the Inner Sea. It wasn’t long, however, before the new rulers of Cheliax took notice, however, and organized a fleet to retake their lost colony in the name of house Thrune. Although not a few of the Chelaxian vessels were lost at sea as they skirted the edge of the Eye, Sargava still had not the strength to oppose those that remained.
So it was that the governer of Sargava cut a deal with the Free Captains of the Shackles that to this day stands as their greatest source of income. In exchange for a ruinously expensive annual fee, the Free Captains sailed against the might of Cheliax and won the day. In the decades since they have repelled an even larger fleet from the home country, as well as an attempted invasion from Rahadoum, while the cost of their tribute has nearly emptied the coffers of the governor in Eleder.