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We all know what pirates are--and that pirates come in many types. There are the psychopathic ones who prey on everyone, including other pirates, then there are the ones who are fishers or traders eking out a poor existence, turning pirate when the opportunity arises (and they think they can win) then reverting right back to law-abiding trade. There are also the pirates to Kingdom A who are legal privateers by Kingdom B, who has issued letters of marque and reprisal against Kingdom A.

The generalizations are: pirates make up a large force that can be hired as sea-going mercenaries by various kingdoms who don't have a navy, or whose navy isn't strong. The important thing to remember is that ships are harder to come by than on Earth. In Inda, when Iasca Leror invested in the building of three vessels, that meant that a sizable percentage of the yearly allotment of wood for the kingdom was set aside for ship building. The burning of these ships thus represented a devastating loss, because no country is strong enough to resist (long) the Wood Guild, whose purpose is to make certain that the world's forest are not depleted. There is a driving fear underneath all mage actions that the indigenous life forms who threatened to destroy humankind could do so again, if they materially damage the world. So wood is monitored, and regulated strictly. Inevitably there is politics involved, though it's supposed to be a fair and impartial system.

So new ships are rare, and old ships can be protected and strengthened by mages, if one wishes to pay. Old ships thus get repaired and used for far longer than Earth counterparts.

Navies to patrol and protect trade have waxed and waned over history. Khanerenth has traditionally protected the east. This kingdom has long relied on trade--its two main harbors are central trade locations for that portion of the world. Khanerenth at its strongest regularly patroled the various island archipelagos east and south of them, which were favorte hiding places of pirates until the Venn settled a colony at Geranda. The Gerandans took over guardianship of the eastern seas--exacting a toll for their services that most reluctantly paid.

Whenever navies weakened, pirates thrived. The most famous pirate group has been the Brotherhood of Blood, which has had a long and bloody history. It has no continuity--the name, famous in history, was adopted by ambitious pirates every other century or so. There was only one period when the Brotherhood had a treasury (though it was rumored to have one during every single iteration, no matter how brief): that was the longest version during the lifetime of . It was entirely due to the magic-prolonged life of the establishing pirate chieftain, who had had ambitions to establish an empire, but as often happens, he was caught unawares by his carefully trained second in command who was impatient to rule. After that the chieftains of the Brotherhood reigned no longer than ten years at most, having to exact increasingly savage retribution on the ambitious to retain control.

Pirates less bloodthirsty than Brotherhood types largely obey privateer rules, which require the defeated ship crew to be set adrift in their boats, and passengers kept to be ransomed. Ships are taken, rarely burned. Pirates who kill ships and crews generally get on capital lists that inspire entire navies to chase them. Rewards for capital list pirates are usually thumping good prices, put up by kings as insurance.

Kings will also put up good prices for anyone who catches brokers who deal in pirate loot, "laundering" it. Customs authorities are vexed with the economic end of piracy, always seeking to eradicate dishonest officials, but kingdoms tend to protect jealously their harbor rights, and though treaties are sometimes made in order to police harbor officials' dealings, they seldom last past the lives of the monarchs who made them. It's inevitable that in an enormous sea-going culture the word will travel fast about pirate-friendly ports.

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Page last modified on March 19, 2010, at 08:38 PM