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Avast, ye doomed sailors who see Jana’haki sails on the horizon! Flee, fight, or pray to whichever deities you hope watch the waves from above. These haphazard fleets of corsairs, raiders, and pirate captains will neither give nor expect any mercy on Dema’s roiling seas.
Wakewalkers are passion and strength given form to begin with. The Jana’haki are the collective name for all fearsome individuals who have been cast out by other Wakewalker clans for disobeying the laws and norms of their kin. In cultures of longstanding feuds, duels to the death, and survival of the mightiest, consider what it takes to be an aberrant to the mainstream clans. Everyone from nameless Isle Imps to wizened elders can find themselves cut loose from their clan. Reasons for exile include oathbreaking, theft of ancestral totems or katamars, failed grabs for power in the Kahr alliances, religious heresy among the Hiremai, and other unsavory practices.
Outcasts are often given nothing more than a single small boat before being marooned far from Varakwai civilization. Given the sea monsters writhing beneath the local waters, this act is usually a death sentence. The Midnight Isles are not kind to lone Varakwai. Cooperation is all but necessary for survival. Yet life finds a way in the harshest of wills. When faced with death or keeping the most unsavory of company, the earliest of these exiles banded together to form Clan Jana’haki. As they grew in numbers, these bands seized ships to create warfleets beholden to none but the strongest in their ragtag crews. As wealth and plunder accumulated, the population of the Jana’haki Isles, the southeast region of the Midnight Sea originally named by Featherfolk cartographers, steadily grew. By the late Heroic and early Uprising Eras, terrified harbormasters estimated that there were tens of thousands of swashbuckling Jana'haki corsairs with hundreds of warcraft. From the ranks of the desperate and the disenfranchised emerged a new and infamous culture.
Unlike the traditional katamars of their kin, the Jana’haki are known to seize and staff just about anything seaworthy. If a vessel can give chase to prey and endure the rigor of naval battles, it has a place in the dozens of seaborne bands that rove the Jana'haki Isles and the Fellcoast. Craft originally constructed in harbors as far as Deonar and Hollowfalls are heavily modified to become fast attack platforms powered by oar or sail. Life aboard Jana’haki vessels is fraught at the best of times, with almost nothing standing in the way of crewmates fighting, breaking, and drinking their way into oblivion.
The only thing binding most bands of Jana'haki together is greed and plunder. The strongest and most cunning are the de facto leaders, expected to ensure that the looting, reveling, and fighting never stops. In the pidgin dialect of Jana'haki-Khottan, which incorporates words and phrases from several other seafaring peoples, these craft leaders are known as Janagar, or Overcaptains. To this end, one tradition that many Jana'haki crews keep is a ban on assassination or poisoning. Those who try to seize power underhandedly are tied to the bow of the ship and made to brace against the waves. The condemned can only hope to drown before passing beasts take note of the free meal.
Next in the Jana’haki hierarchy are Ketahr, or First Raiders, who enforce the orders of the Overcaptain and lead marauders ashore during lightning-fast coastal raids. Little more than a coin flip decides whether a Ketahr can be trusted with enough power by the Overcaptain. They could decide to seize command outright in a blood duel. This would also require enough support from the Hazgatek, a blanket term for any specialists in the crew like cooks, navigators, sail menders, and equipment craftsmen. This way, Janagar can be challenged for control by their crew at any time. All the crew feel superior to the remainder of the ship’s passengers composed of enthralled prisoners and slaves of all species that are forced into menial labor aboard many Jana’haki craft in appalling conditions of almost constant starvation and casual violence.
There are a few notable exceptions to the general nihilistic anarchy of the Jana'haki. The “Golden” Jana’haki are those who abstain from piracy and raiding in favor of trade and commerce. Especially savvy Overcaptains find their niche riches by making trade runs across Dema that exploit shortages and effective monopolies in the world’s markets. A profit is a profit, after all. Stories abound of these traders. Take Plutebi of the Golden Barge. He arrived in Mundi with a hull full of the legendary butterfish, long considered extinct by 32 LS, and left with a hull full of gold - as well as a tithe of young doomed thralls that Emperor Decimus transferred from Abresia to work the unknown fishnets wherever Plutebi harvested his cruel luxuries. Kondar Gravedrowner once led her Golden Jana’haki traders to each of the six regions of the world in search of the Kaisilius Scrolls, thought to contain direct transcriptions of Sola's first song of creation. Whether the crumbling texts Kondar finally sold for their weight in rubies to Emperor Tacitus the Kind of the Solar Hegemony were real or forged became a matter of controversy that almost schismed the Church of Sola. Enterprising crews like Plutebi's and Kondar's are tolerated by mainland authorities for the prized exotic goods they bring to market. Although notable Golden Jana’haki ships, fleets, and settlements throughout the Jana’haki Isles and the Fellcoast have thrived throughout the four Eras, they have always been heavily outnumbered by Jana’haki raiders and pirates who see no other way to better their lot in life.
Jana’haki reavers prey on the most vulnerable targets at sea and along Dema’s shores. Although in the Heroic Era the first Jana'haki pirates took what they needed to survive, their initial success steadily expanded to roving waves of plunder. Jana'haki raiders soon captured hundreds of trade vessels all across Dema's seas. From Mundi's fishing boats and Yaras's trade schooners, to Gilded State treasure ships and Hegemony war barges, the Jana'haki lined their pockets with the great wealth of Dema's maritime powers. The battles fought between Clan Hiremai and the Jana'haki for control of the Midnight Isles' sea lanes were particularly vicious. Hiremai Argosi fleets mercilessly sank Jana’haki craft on sight to protect their religious totems.
Although the sight of Jana'haki sails is enough to terrify even the bravest of sailors, none of the Jana'haki are so feared as the Hoka. These fanatical champions are known variously as Blood Drinkers, Skull Carvers, and Champions of Kedak. Hoka notoriously consume defeated rivals in the perverse belief that they will absorb their power. Although Hoka warriors are a key component of any Jana'haki marauder unit, there is almost never more than one aboard any given ship, as Hoka are known to prioritize killing and eating other Hoka at the slightest provocation.
The most powerful and feared Jana'haki pirate captain by far was the infamous Varkus Rakanon, whose vast fleets spread malice and dread that reverberated across Dema. Accounts testify that he was nearly eight feet tall, towering over even fellow Wakewalkers. Skyrocketing onto the stage of history seemingly from nowhere, Varkus spent almost a decade challenging and defeating the strongest Overcaptains he could find. Completely without precedent for the Jana'haki, Varkus spared the lives of those he defeated, and even allowed them to retain their small fleets as Janagar, so long as they swore fealty to him. In this way, Varkus invented for himself a new title: the Wrex Hakagar, or Corsair King.
By uniting the Jana'haki beneath him, Varkus the Corsair King soon amassed a mighty armada which came to be known as The Dreadfleet. Its crown jewel was the Karakoa, the largest ship ever constructed, which the Corsair King had captured in 11 LS while it was anchored in Mundi. Varkus's seizure of the Karakoa soon became the object of folk legends, causing many independent Jana'haki bands to flock to his side. As the Jana'haki united for the first and only time in history, a legend was born. A floating city unto itself, The Dreadfleet was responsible for crippling maritime trade between Yaras, Hiremai Island, and Mundi between 12-17 LS. Only heavily escorted convoys were able to overcome the unrelenting ambushes. Yet just as suddenly as Varkus Rakanan rose to power, his pirate kingdom collapsed. The Corsair King's death in 17 LS brought an end to The Dreadfleet. Leaderless, the remaining Janagar tore The Dreadfleet apart while fighting over who should be the next Wrex Hakagar.
In the later decades of the Uprising Era, Jana’haki warbands settled the sparsely inhabited western and eastern coasts of the Midlands, founding hundreds of pirate colonies and hideouts. These landed Jana'haki exploited the labor of countless thralls to build coastal fortresses so impressive that even the organized navies of the Solar Hegemony and The Auric could not easily locate and destroy them. The chaotic struggles for power and treasure in the Fellcoast exploded as the Jana’haki carved out fiefs. The Jana’haki harrying of Dema’s seas continued well into the Exodus Era, and even reached new heights when most of the Jana’haki fought viciously in the Marauder Wars. A powerful Jana'haki coalition known as the Red Mast managed to provoke the navies of the Hegemony, The Auric, and Hollowfalls into open conflict in the Gilded Sea. Fortunes were made and lost as warlords jockeyed for power. Finally, Emperor Tacitus the Kind of the Solar Hegemony rallied his nation’s home fleet, sweeping up and down the Panacean jungle and the Fellcoast from 59-64 LS, obliterating the largest pirate kingdoms. From this crucible rose successor Janagar like Mikuran of the Mapinkari Armada, and Mhaol Grannek and her Mirmedons. These lamellar-clad mercenary clans fought in numerous wars on as many sides up until the final days of the Redsky Era.
Hunter. Hunted. Reaver. Madman. Magnate. The trials and travails of your Jana’haki characters are guaranteed to be recorded in The Silver Sagas, boisterous Jana’haki shanties that tell of roving roguish deeds. Strike hard and fast at your legacy in Dema, and binge the raucous night like the day will never dawn.
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