Infamous Pirate Captains of the Mediterranean

So to return to the world of Sojourners in Shadow, and to the Mediterranean specifically, I thought I’d post a little on some of the more notable pirate captains. Essentially, I’m doing this because at least two of them will be major characters with their own stories to be told, while others will be important to them, and to other characters later on. What happens in the Mediterranean, and to the pirates, and to those other places connected to both – such as the Northern Federation, the market towns of the European peninsulars, to the mutant forces and settlements, to aquatic communities and ranging trade – will only develop and matter more as time goes on.

I’ll keep these bios very brief as I’m not sure how much, or what, I want to reveal just yet.

The first I’ll mention is Tryst. She’s originally from the Caribbean, a survivor of the tiny islands left there, and has unnatural luck. This ability has enabled her to cross an ocean, start a life among pirates and even gain her own ship – the Slim Chance. She has several crew members loyal to her, almost all of them women. As a woman herself and knowing the nature of most pirate crews, and also because she isn’t much of a fighter, Tryst tries to keep her top personnel female so they have her back rather than challenge her. Running a pirate crew is well known to be difficult, with physical intimidation a major factor in keeping your underlings in check. Tryst has luck, charm and wits on her side, so she tends to draw in adventurous seamen. Still, while her luck is famed for helping her, it is also infamous for costing others. When things go wrong around Tryst, they tend to really hurt someone else, and she knows it. She has to take care who she hires, who she trusts, who she count on. If she wants to raise her standing among the pirate captains, she’ll have to take some risks soon.

A captain who loathes risk is Rodrigo. A seemingly simple human from Spain, this individual is known for his cunning and adaptability. His ship – the Grim Fandango – is a wooden vessel with sails and so forth, like all the rest, and yet it has several features that are far more advanced and useful than someone would suspect. Rodrigo has used his ship’s abilities to outmanoeuvre stronger enemies, just as he has used his ruthlessness and sharp mind to outwit opponents. Unlike Tryst, Rodrigo is a pirate to make a living, and he has worked hard to establish connections in the trade networks. Also not a fighter, he has three cloned super-soldiers who are loyal to him, along with other beings who stand out, even among pirates. Rodrigo isn’t considered one of the more powerful or famed captains, and yet, those who know him, know to take him and his determined crew very seriously.

These two are the major characters I mentioned. I have written a short story about each of them so far, not that either has seen the light of day. Yet. I aim to use both to reveal the world of piracy, from different angles, before moving out into wider territory.

To continue on to other captains that will gain mentions or encounters, I should start with Asafa. He is also known as the Black Lion and is one of the strongest captains around. He is also notable because he is from the Northern Federation, as is his entire crew. He began life in a prison on Africa’s coast, until he led a riot, which evolved into a break out as he and others captured a supply ship. From that point on, he has roamed the Mediterranean, unable to go home, forced to find a way for him and his men to survive. He does return to Africa now and then, but only to attack a coastal prison and gain new recruits. This isn’t such a bad thing for the Northern Federation because it means fewer prisoners to deal with and Asafa’s attacks are mostly aimed at Europe. Some would even accuse both parties of co-operation. Either way, Asafa has a much better ship now and a large crew, and he leads them formidably from the front.

A lesser rival and yet an equally aggressive one is Andre. In many respects, this shaven-headed human is just a thug from Europe. Born into the pirate life, growing up on one of the havens, he is well known for being a tough fighter and cruel enemy. Not someone you want to be on the wrong side of. He also isn’t much for restraining his crew. If you want to ride the sea, raid settlements and have your fill of plunder, rape and violence, Andre is the captain for you.

Torsten is the one who is strict on his crew. He was born into a life as well, but as a mercenary – recruited as a boy and remaining one as an adult. He sees himself as soldier really, and expects discipline and organisation from those who follow him. For some time he was a mercenary captain, but he was later hired to take his fighters to sea. He became a privateer – market towns would compete, even fight, and so would hire people like him to attack each other. To other pirates, Torsten was doing their job but with a permission slip. To him, he was being a soldier for hire. Now with greying hair, he has long moved past the pretence. While he does get hired for work occasionally, Torsten is a pirate captain in name as well as action, raiding as he wishes, yet maintaining his own code of conduct always.

Non-human captains are rare, even now, and Thrasher stands out for this reason and more. She is a super-soldier from the mutant forces in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. She has even fought at Eden. She left that horror some time ago and has forced her way to the higher ranks of pirate captains through sheer force of will, and also force of physique. Her name isn’t the one she once went by but has been earned because she uses a whip of four chains to beat her crew. She also prides herself on being one of the few female captains around, and she doesn’t like competition.

A final mention has to go to Djinn. While many pirate captains are nasty pieces of work, while many have fearsome reputations, even the more violent ones have their limits and try to live the pirate way. Djinn is someone that scares other captains. He is someone pirate crews will flee from. His ship is much bigger than any other, his crew a mix of psychopaths and tormented slaves. Worse still, he is a powerful magic-user with an array of magical rings and gems at his disposal. Few can stand up to him, and none would want to end up in his clutches.

I should add that Djinn has a history behind him that adds weight to the terror he can cause. A history that has left scars across the Mediterranean. I touched on it before, and it gets a stronger mention in Tryst’s story, and it will get more as time goes on, yet I don’t want to say anything here. But once, the Mediterranean was facing a horrifying enemy, and only just managed to win out. Djinn was part of that terror and the only remnant left. He wasn’t the main threat. He followed another. But now he is his own man, free to pursue his own twisted desires. Djinn is a threat all of his own, and yet his presence is a reminder to many of what once haunted them.

So that’s an overview of several notable figures. If everything goes according to plan, all of them will matter over time. Everyone will get an important moment. A lot has to happen in the Mediterranean. Just as so many other parts of the world have been earmarked for turbulent times and climatic changes. In that time, I hope to tell how many lives are lived, until they are ended.

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Partnerships

My last post dealt with rivalries. As mentioned, these are pretty easy to come by. The way the world works now means most people – humans, monsters, mutants, machines – are trying to kill each other. You usually need a reason not to attack first. However, there are some partnerships. As strange as it may seem, certain groups have learned that they are better off helping each other out. In certain cases, they have come to depend on one another. Clearly, these cases are rare, but here are some of the main ones:

A major partnership is that of super-soldiers with other mutants, especially the lesser mutants derisively referred to as mutts. This combination has become so well known many won’t question it, they are all mutants anyway, and yet it is a partnership of necessity as much as anything else. Super-soldiers are powerfully built individuals and most would think they don’t need others on their side. In fact, most super-soldiers would boast that they never have and never will need help, that they of all types are the strongest and most capable of conquering all. They will even declare that they, and they alone, are carrying the mutant side of the war against humanity. But they need the other mutants. While super-soldiers aren’t few in number, they are vastly outnumbered by humans, and the lesser mutants are not only much more, but they aren’t restricted by reproduction limitations. Many mutts have survived by breeding a lot and toughing things out. Of course, the super-soldiers stay in charge and often use their inferior comrades as cannon fodder.

I have to stress, this happens mainly in the more militarised groupings, such as the mutant army based in Constantinople and laying siege to Eden, and the mutant nation around Trade Island, where the military is the real power. Mutts endure the rule of their superiors because they grant them protection. It isn’t a pretty partnership, yet it is one, all the same. However in other places the relationship is more pleasant, where mutual support is the aim. Such a place is Normandy, where many mutants have gathered to make and develop their home, and where there isn’t any segregation between the types of mutants. While in other places, super-soldiers breeding with inferiors is disdained, here interbreeding is the norm. For this reason, there are much fewer weaker and badly disfigured people, and a hell of a lot less resentment.

It makes sense for mutants to work together, and humans do too, but not always. Many pockets of humanity will fight as savagely as necessary for resources, even against each other. Yet they have other allies as well. Ones that have been on their side since the beginning. Funnily enough, humans who encounter them are more likely to trust them and offer or accept help than their own kind. Aegis, totems and denizens are three types of monsters who have chosen to aid humanity rather than assault it, as most of their brethren did. Aegis became their guardians. Denizens are their allies. Totems are as well, healers and helpers, pacifists for all their physical strength. It has to be said, though, that when aegis are involved, it tends to be a very one sided partnership. While they defend humans, they are not their equals. They tend to be strong minded, often overbearing, so humans spend most of their time listening and nodding. Much preferred to being stomped on by devil-beasts, however.

A special mention has to go to sphinx here. While it is stretching it to refer to this as a partnership, sphinx have forged a strong reputation for being powerful individuals who can be worked with. True, they have been known to manipulate and betray, but all the best players of the world game do that. There is something to be respected there. But sphinx can be relied on, they would rather co-operate than create trouble. They rely on their wisdom and cunning, first and foremost. Physical and magical strength comes in when needed.

A number of monsters are considered more neutral than most, so have been known to work with others more often. Again, this isn’t really a partnership, but creatures such as sphinx, and also wraiths and magi, ally themselves more readily with those equally dependable. In this regard, magi are known for a partnership with pixies. Both sets of beings depend on secrecy, deception and skill to keep themselves from harm. Both races have been hunted, oppressed and mistreated. Both magi and pixies understand magic well, despite the former being unable to use it. Together, they often help each other, sharing the risks to lessen the overall threat. Also, pixies are excellent spies and messengers, and espionage and information gathering are specialities of magi. They are a natural partnership, but also one needed in this brutal world.

There is another type of partnership among monsters, but this is more variable. It tends to feature the scavenger types – vermin, hobgoblins and ghouls. They can team up with another race and follow it along, picking up whatever pieces they like. Usually this goes with a stronger group, such as brutes, vandals, etc. Not always is this a mutual act either. Many monsters won’t want these creatures near them. They can have their benefits though. Vermin are inventors, if crude. Hobgoblins are among the best thieves around. Ghouls tidy up bloody messes. Every ecosystem needs its bottom feeders.

Returning to the human race, we can talk of some specific partnerships. In the last post, talking about rivalries, I said that in Australasia we have the four groups of Britannia, New Japan, America and Australia, and there is a level of competition going on, especially among the Japanese themselves. At the same time, there is a partnership going on, one that has enabled them all to benefit and flourish. The four nationalities work together, with difficulties, and there has never been a major conflict between any of them. Australians remain in charge of their home and the ‘guests’ understand that, while living in their own ways. Another human partnership to be mentioned is that of the Octagon State. Eight bases in the Texas region have managed to gain enough control of their territory to join forces, helped by the fact their culture and rules are all pretty similar. They live by the Bible, look to the glory of Ancient Rome for inspiration, and hate mutants, who they have warred with for generations. Only together will they prevail.

When it comes to partnerships, essentially all you need is an understanding which works because it benefits everyone involved. Because of this, I can talk about pirates, mercenaries and criminals. Basically, they have their own rules and ways to make sure they aren’t killing each other off. In Trade Island, mercenaries take work and kill whoever they are told to, but otherwise don’t hinder each other. In fact, many of them loiter in the Rough House, where they can talk about work with one another. This isn’t too different from how mercenaries around the world behave. In Europe, groups of them will be hired by market towns one day to fight each other one day, then unite to force more pay from their employers the next. As for pirates, across the Mediterranean there are several small islands which are considered pirate havens. Here, ships will dock and crews will enjoy themselves by whatever means are available, and no robbing or killing is to be done. Well, that’s not strictly true, it will happen, they are pirates after all. But by and large, no one is meant to. Pirate havens cannot operate unless the frequent guests behave themselves. Merchants and innkeepers will only reside there if they can make money. In truth, there is less chance of being accosted in the dark while on a pirate haven than in most of the market towns or numerous villages along the Mediterranean coast. Criminals reside on the outskirts of society. In order to survive, they have to co-operate and sometimes even aid each other. No one else will.

As much as the world has created an environment that makes rivalry as commonplace as breathing, this has meant that partnerships are vitally important. The problem comes in that most people can’t trust another group for long, wondering what will break the trust, who will act first, who will get to act last. Partnerships will come and go, they always have done, but these ones have lingered the most or stand strongest at the current time. They are rare gems. Still, they are also very dangerous in the wrong hands.