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The Dreadbringer

The Dreadbringer was the most famous ship in Aressan history. Built in Adholis in the late 1330s, it soon became a byword for terror throughout the Kingdoms of Axmund and Arcadia. Its captain, Anburn Thrice-Cursed, was an infamous pirate, and was largely the cause of the strengthening of the Kingdoms' respective navies.


The Dreadbringer was said to have been built in Adholis over the course of seven years, made with timber from every corner of Aressa, with spells and enchantments woven upon it to keep its crew from harm. It was the largest ship ever built, measuring over 150 feet long and eighteen feet wide. The sides were painted with three human skulls arranged in a pyramid, and the same emblem was displayed on a flag just beneath the Adholian flag. The Dreadbringer terrorized the coasts of Aressa for nine years (1340-1349) before it was captured by Arler Dreadnaught (whose epithet originated with the ship's capture) and renamed the Dreadnaught, flagship of Axmund.   The Dreadbringer quickly lived up to its name, becoming a legend of fear which was often more effective than the ship’s skilled and deadly crew and infamous captain, Anburn the Thrice-Cursed, son of Hanburn and founder of Adholis. He preferred to raid the coasts, and practically never boarded another ship. Many villages simply surrendered to the pirates the instant the ship was sighted, becoming raucous vice dens for a week or two as the crew took their shore leave, and often ending richer than they began. Imitators sprung up among the other Adholian pirates, flying the triple skull from their mainmast and claiming to be the fearsome Dreadbringer.   The truth of Anburn’s exploits is difficult to know for certain. His legends are many: among many other things, he is said to have:

  • Escaped a fleet of ten Axish ships by swinging the Dreadbringer around in such a manner that they rammed into each other;
  • Stolen the Rod of Mara and buried it somewhere in the Hauntmoor;
  • Sailed the Dreadbringer nine or ten miles up the Beck River to raid towns along its coasts, before slipping back out to sea
  • Captured the twin sons of Astos Daeosimo, a powerful merchant of Hesia, and ransomed them for access to the city, where his crew accidentally began riots that lasted six weeks;
  • Conscripted an entire Axish village to crew his ship, then sailed east and let them off in an Arcadian port city (usually believed to be Kefalaio
  • Seized the fort of Dunneg on the isle of Marholm with only five men aiding him, by disguising them as guards who had captured him, then taking the fort-commander hostage once they gained entrance.
In the end, Anburn was captured by Arler Dreadnaught. The legends hold that it took ten men to restrain him, and that he had to be executed four times, first by hanging (the rope broke), then by drowning (he slipped his bonds and nearly swam away before he was hauled out of the water), next by impalement (some say he pushed the stake into the ground, while others that he simply slipped his bonds again), and finally by beheading (a punishment reserved for the lowest of criminals, but which soon became the fate of many pirates).   When he was finally executed, his skull and those of two of his crew members were sent to Adholis, as a warning of the power of Axmund, and many Adholians believe his skull was magically reanimated to advise the Grand Mayor.

Historical Basis

Anburn Thrice-Cursed was a real person, the son of Hanburn the Spider, an illegitimate son of the Axish King Robert the Stallion who was slain in a revolt to seize the throne. When Hanburn was killed, Anburn and his brother Terfin fled south, eventually founding the Free City of Adholis south of the Iron Mountains. In the early 1340s, the brothers led a fleet of pirates from the city, raiding the coasts of both Axmund and Arcadia. While his various rumored escapades have varying levels of truth, it is known that he was captured alongside the Dreadbringer by Arler Dreadnaught and executed by beheading.


The legends of the Dreadbringer are widespread throughout Aressa, though at various levels of exaggeration. The phrase "as clear as Anburn's exploits" has become used to describe a topic muddled by hyperbole and exaggeration.

Date of Setting

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