The Aeolian Islands

This article is intended as part of a larger Tyrrhenian Sea gazetteer to support Sagas set in Genoa and the surrounding area. Although not usually a stop on the trade lanes of the Republic, the islands may make suitable sites for a one-off story or as locations for Hermetic sancta. Alternatively, they could form the setting for a castaways covenant in the form of a “Robinsonade” style saga as suggested by Timothy over here on his Games from Folktales blog. 

Any or all of these volcanic islands could be the site of the “Burning City” project detailed in Hermetic Projects, Chapter 2. In addition to the story ideas presented in that chapter, the volcanoes may still be home to fire aligned Pagan jinn that have been drawn along by the previous Muslim overlords and their sahir. 

aeolian-islands-old-map-1

These volcanic islands officially form part of the Kingdom of Sicily in 1220 and therefore fall under the rule of the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick II. The majority of the inhabitants, known as Aeolians, now speak the Sicilian dialect, although remnants of Siculo Arabic persist due to its previous Muslim occupation.

These islands were believed to be part of the kingdom of Aeolus, a son of Poseidon and the Lord of the Winds in Greek mythology. The entity known as Aeolus is a powerful Faerie that makes his home on a mythical island known as Aeolia.  Aeolia lies in a large Faerie regio that can only be entered off the coast of Lipari while the winds blow at a gale force. His servants consist of several powerful faeries that embody the four classical Anemoi (Greek: “winds”) – Boreas (Aquilo), Notus (Auster), Eurus (Volturnus) and Zephyrus (Favonius). Additional minor wind spirits, jinn and air elementals in turn make up their respective retinues.

Similarly, any or all of the islands in the group may have Mythic equivalents hidden in regios, perhaps containing settlements or individuals from the region’s previous Greek, Phoenician or Roman occupations.

aeolian-islands-old-map-detail-inset

Lipari

Dominated by the capital town of the same name containing the episcopal seat, the largest island contains several settlements. Although repopulated in the eleventh century by the Norman defeat of the Saracen raiders the area is still plagued by local pirates operating from the African coast. Lipari’s now inactive volcano has several small craters and has been known for its dark obsidian and pale pumice since ancient times. Above the town is a Roman structure containing thermal springs adjoined by a set of baths carved into the stone. The site has a Magic aura of 3, tempered to relaxation.

The fisherman of Lipari are reputedly able to predict the weather by gazing at the clouds of smoke from nearby Stromboli. This ability can vary from individual to individual – many just possess the Weather Sense Minor Virtue, but some exceptional Aeolians exhibit a form of Theurgical Elementalism and possess powers equivalent to a non-Hermetic version of Divination and Augury. These Aeolian hedge wizards typically have Strong Faerie blood and claim descent from the aurai, the daughters of Boreas, a type of winged nymph otherwise identical to the Nereides of the Theban Tribunal except for their lack of marine motif (see The Sundered Eagle, page 128).

Stromboli

One of the most active volcanoes in the area, this island is known as “the Lighthouse of the Meditteranean” to sailors due to its almost continuous eruptions that fling glowing fragments of lava and gas into the air. Although the pyroclastic display is constant, it is rarely dangerous and village folk cannot remember the last major eruption. The small villages of San Bartolo, San Vincenzo and Ginostra are the only settlements on the island.

Strombolicchio, a small volcanic plug of basalt off the northeast coast is a natural fortress that may make an excellent open air laboratory dedicated to investigating the local volcanic activity.

Other Aeolian Islands

The other major islands in the Aeolian group follow, in order of size:

Salina

The second largest island in the archipelago, this island is the next most inhabited after Lipari and holds several villages. Known for its two mountain peaks as Didyme (Greek: “the twins”) in ancient times, the island is comprised of a half-dozen inactive volcanoes. Remarkable subterranean gurgling sounds can be heard at irregular intervals, believed by the locals to be the vengeful muttering of defeated jinn imprisoned underground by victorious Norman sorcerors. The ruins of abandoned Roman villas dot the coast and higher up the slopes many Roman era tombs can be found.

The salt lake of Lingua still produces an amount worthy of trade and the few vineyards produce a distinct variety of sweet wine referred to as malvasia.

Vulcano and Vulcanello

Referred to a Therassia by the ancient Greeks, this intermittently active island gave its name to the common volcano. It is reputedly the location of one of the legendary Forges of Hephaestus once known as the Thermessa (Greek: “source of heat”). Although local legends claim the volcano is the chimney of Vulcan’s workshop, to date several Verditius magi have been unable to locate the entrance to the blacksmith god’s forge. Departing disappointed, they have nevertheless noted the slopes to be an excellent source of both alum and sulfur.

The islet of Vulcanello at the northern end is joined to the main island by a shallow strait except in times of extreme weather. During these storms, the lesser volcano withdraws into a Magic regio that in turn leads directly into the Twilight Void. Perhaps the real entrance to the god’s forge lies through the Magic Realm?

Filicudi

Its name a corruption of Phoenicus, the ancient Greek name for the small volcanic landmass, this island still supports a small village despite its size. Just off the coast, a volcanic finger of rock known as La Canna thrusts from the sea. This twisted basalt spire is the site of a small Infernal aura of strength 3 except on the 3rd August, the feast day of the island’s patron saint, the martyr Saint Stephen.

Alicudi

The most westernmost volcanic islet is named for its ubiquitous heather or erica and was therefore referred to as Ericusa in classical Greek texts. Now as ever it is a haven for pirates, who sometimes shelter in temporary houses on high terraces, but it is otherwise uninhabited. At the Storyguide’s discretion, it may be the location of the archmaga Fortunata’s villa (see Legends of Hermes, Chapter 3).

Panarea, Basiluzzo and their Islets

Once known as Euonymus and Hycesia respectively to the ancient Greeks, these two islets were once occupied in Roman times but now lack any permanent settlement and are rarely used by pirates. The larger island, Panarea, is distinguished by thermal springs that produce a steady but modest supply of Creo vis if harvested while bathing naked and alone. As the smallest island in the whole main group, Basiluzzo, is barely more than an outcrop of basalt less than a square mile in area.

mappa_panarea

Several minor islets, little more than rocky outcroppings are found to the east of Panarea and south of Basiluzzo: Battilo, Bottaro, la Fromiche, Lisca Bianca, Lisca Nera and Panarelli.

Ustica

4328_ustica
Ustica

 

Further Reading

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