A shot ripped through the side of their ship and everything lilted to starboard. He tightened his grip on the rope around the mast and thought about all the choices that lead him to this particular stretch of choppy sea.
He’d been given a “most dire” mission and as an Eye of Tor he had no choice but to accept the Inquisitorial Mandate. The first leg had been an easy trip to the Caliphate where he’d even snagged his own cabin thanks to an early bribe.
The second leg, aboard a Màoxiǎn merchant ship, had been a living nightmare of creaking timber, voided stomachs, and smells that made a hardened torturer ill. The ship’s first officer had laughed off the bribe and tossed his trunk into a closet sized cabin shared by two other unfortunate passengers.
Tor continued to have a very particular sense of humor.
He’d spent as much time as possible above decks but the weather took a turn early on and that only added to the misery. The vessel did not handle rough seas well and her captain, a smarmy halfling, stayed far too drunk to do anything about it.
Just when things were utterly hopeless the weather cleared long enough to reveal the angled prow of a Vale ship heading toward them. The crew was relieved until someone hanging from the sails screamed about pirate colors on the approaching vessel.
His own ship had tried to turn but the wind wasn’t cooperating. That’s when the vale ship’s cannons had gone to work and “discouraged” further running.
“Almighty Tor,” he prayed. “I am your most humble punisher of heretics, your most loyal servant, I beseech you to rescue me from this most dire plight.”
A cannon barked and a chunk of mast next to his head exploded into stinging fragments. The rope frayed and he found himself sliding down the tipping deck.
Pirates and Privateers
Piracy has been a part of the Known World since before the Iron Scale enslaved everyone. As soon as the first boat entered the water some greedy bastard built a second boat to rob the first. During the time of the Iron Scale piracy was viewed as an act of rebellion and symbolized freedom for the common folk. Heroes like Red Shirt, Unsinkable Jane, The Terror, and Black Sail plied the seas in that dark time and lived on in stories whispered by slaves in the dead of night.
Those noble pirate rogues continue to be immortalized in sea shanties and tavern tales told by every Bard who wanted to get paid.
The romanticism of those bygone days continues to inspire young men and women to set sail for adventure but over the centuries the reality of piracy has become more visible to the common folk.
Trade routes had grown dangerous and few ships could travel anywhere unless they paid a hefty tole to one pirate band or another.
In response the 5 nations issued Letters of Marque to various captains to create the first Privateers. These state sanctioned pirates still sail in search of plunder but generally target a single nation’s vessels instead of whatever crosses their path. Not all pirates are privateers however and attacking the wrong ship, changing your colors, and general bastardy behavior are all quick paths to a sizable bounty on your head.
The Denebre Imperium is still offering an astounding 5000 gold piece reward for the head of Craven Billy, the man said to have survived 500 cannons.
New Background Feature – Privateer
You are, or have been, a state sanctioned pirate working for one of the 5 nations. Under your captain’s Letter of Marque you are able to attack and capture enemy vessels from the other nations and bring them back to your granting nation for condemnation and plunder. The letter also grants safe harbor within the granting nation. It does not guarantee military support from the granting nation nor does it grant full immunity for all crimes committed against rival nations while capturing vessels and material. The line between Pirate and Privateer can be a blurry one but with a Letter of Marque you are granted a sliver of legitimacy, especially to the common folk of the granting nation, which you can leverage into all manner of small favors.