The Pirates Code
There are not many universal truths in life, particularly when life has been as fraught with sorrow as it is on Gadria. With the end of the Nightmare War, and the residents of the Kytaran Sea beginning to realize that life can be whatever they make of it, an ancient law of civilization has returned to the hearts and minds of maritime scoundrels, much to the dismay of local law enforcement: if a population of criminals continues to thrive unchecked by the laws of society for long enough, they will inevitably invent their own laws to live by. In the Kytaran Sea, these laws are referred to simply as the Pirates Code. Genesis and Implementation There is no single source from which the entirety of the Pirates Code came, as it was instead cobbled together from various sources, for various reasons, and with varying degrees of obedience from crew to crew. The original code that the first dwarves from Ikar followed when they arrived in the area was actually a set of commandments from The Old Man, the mysterious ocean god that granted safe passage for the Dwarven Salvation. His one and only message for Morwr Strongarm was to respect the sea, a message that Morwr happily dedicated the remainder of his days sharing with every set of ears that would listen. While most other aspects of the Pirates Code is subject to change, this is one law that no sane pirate, or indeed, any sane person in Kytar at all, would never break. The Kytaran Sea was and is the promised land for any who might seek it, but by no measure does that make it safe, as time and experience has shown, The Old Man's wrath will come just as timely as his mercy will. Evolution As time marches inexorably onward and voyages into the heart of the Kytaran Sea became more ambitious, the Pirates Code began to naturally form and adapt to the needs of each crew. It is not uncommon to find two ships anchored in the same port with wildly different sets of rules, simply because they haven't followed the same paths on their journeys. No misfortune is so small that superstitious brigand will not see a hidden message from the Old Man, or from the sea itself, and no sooner than he says a short prayer of thanks for his life being spared will there be another strictly enforced command when the sailor reports his experiences to his captain. In this way, the Pirates Code splinters and adapts until the only similarities it shares with another crew is it's name. Common Laws There are two different kinds of laws in the pirate code. There are universal commandments that every pirate is aware of and will follow without question, and there are ship specific laws that isolated crews will adopt after some misfortune. Much like the Old Man's orders to always respect the sea, the universal commandments of the Pirates Code are those that remain constant and unbending in the steady passage of time. There are thirteen such commandments, and they are as follows: Note on Gender Pronouns: Throughout this list, readers may notice the exclusive use of male pronouns, rather than female or gender neutral. This is done for two reasons: firstly, to shame, as most of the reasons for the creation of a new law is typically due to the actions of a single crew member, and it is usually men who make these mistakes. For this reason, the author cannot use the word "they", unless it specifically refers to multiple individuals, as that could cause confusion as to whether or not the act was committed by multiple people The second reason is out of respect for any non-human races engaging in piracy, who have had a tragic history of being referred to as "it" or "them". For the duration of these lists, please assume the words "he" or "him" can refer to both men and women. The only exception is made for the M'bani people, humans native to the Kytaran Sea, who have an entirely matriarchal society, and do not allow men on their ships.
- Never admit to any illegal activity to law enforcement - This may seem obvious, but it is a rule that is most commonly broken by pirates who are new to Kytar, and may have assumed that lawlessness is part and parcel of a life in the Free Islands. Every island has it's own form of government, and that means town constables can be found on all settled islands. Without this explicitly stated law, an unwise greenhorn could find himself chained in a dungeon on Tarlock or Skatchew, unable to atone for the crimes of a pirate crew that has long since left port without him
- Never use open flame on the top deck at night - Many an unlucky deckhand has been carried off in the dead of night for lighting a candle or a torch, completely unaware that their ship was being followed. The Kytaran Sea is filled with monsters of every variety, and they've all learned with a cruel air of certainty that where there is fire, there is food. In order to be able to see in the dark, most crews instead cultivate the bioluminescent moss that grows on the shells of Giant Sea Turtles, which most predators have learned to avoid, as it is poisonous when eaten.
- Never use kelp as a food source - This law is followed by pirates only, and calls back to the Stem of Life; the name for the magically water filled kelp stem given to Morwr by the Old Man. This tradition seems unnecessary by most island inhabitants, who use kelp as a main staple in their diets. It's likely that this law is kept out of respect for the sea, though most theologists agree that the Old Man wouldn't mind if it was broken.
- A sailor must always touch the sea to his bare skin before disembarking - This law exists as a way to acknowledge a pirates thanks to the Kytaran Sea, as an entity, for allowing them to arrive at their destination alive, not necessarily for granting safe passage.
- Never bring harm to the less fortunate, specifically beggars - Even after five generations, those who have escaped the Nightmare War still remember the horrors it brought to all. As a result, many simply cannot bring themselves to steal from those who have not been able to bring peace back into their own lives yet. This law also exists for practical reasons, as a beggar underground has always been the most reliable source of information for a criminal underground.
- Always follow the codes of other crews when aboard their ship - Codes that are not universal are still treated with as much reverence as the laws that all pirates follow, as every ship is seen to have granted her own commandments to her children. It is also assumed that a crew hosting other pirates will not make up codes for the visiting pirates to follow, and if a pirate is caught doing so, his punishment will be decided by the captain of the visiting crew. This code is followed easily enough, but special mention needs to be made for the M'bani ships, who will only allow men aboard after being paid a substantial amount of gemstones, for they use no other currency, and those men will need to be bound, gagged and locked in the brig for the entirety of their passage.
- Never kill an ordinary bird while at sea - Nobody should ever need to kill a seagull or a tern for food, as improper planning is agreed by most pirates to be a well deserved death sentence. Birds serve a more important service while embarked, as they can lead a lost ship to land, and as such, they are simply too valuable to be killed needlessly. This of course does not apply to avian or bird-like monsters, who are actively attacking the ship
- Honor the last requests of those who have died at sea - Another call back to the tragedies of the Nightmare War, death rites were at one point denied to nearly everyone on the planet. If any ship, not just pirates, were to come across a drowning man or find survivors after a costly battle, they will be obligated to offer any life saving aid to those who can survive, or accept any requests for those who cannot be saved. There is one exception to this code, outlined in another code.
- Come to the aid of any ship waging a losing battle with a sea monster - This is also standard procedure for all ships in the Kytaran Sea, though it is usually only pirates who have the firepower and the gumption to actually turn the tides in these battles. The occupants of the Kytaran Sea must be respected, it is true, but even the Followers of the Old Man agree, when fighting a life and death battle at sea, all restrictions dissolve. There is one exception to this code, outlined in another code.
- Contracts between crews must never be broken - Honor among thieves has resurfaced as a joke for the law enforcement of mainland Ikar after a semblance of normalcy returned after the Nightmare War, but in the Kytaran Sea, honor among thieves is crucial for mutual survival. Contracts between crews are not very common, but the terms for any joint operation must always be outlined before the operation begins, with unanimous support, or not at all. If any term of a contract happens to be broken by one of the crews involved, all other terms are considered null and void, and the offending crew will be considered a hostile entity to all other pirates, who may decide to avoid them, attack on site, hunt them down, or just ignore them.
- The captain must always recite the Ode to The Old Man before casting off- The Ode to the Old Man is a simple prayer of thanks for successful past voyages, and a request that the same success will meet the next one. The prayer is as follows: " Old Man of the Sea, you have granted us your wisdom and mercy, that we may live on the bounties of your home. We give thanks, as we sail and live in your holy name, that we have returned to shore by your graces, time and time again. We ask once more for your guidance, as we chase the horizon, so we may help those in need, punish the wicked and take our own rewards as we see fit. O Great Father of the Sea, grant us safe passage, that we may continue to spread your message, and praise the sea in your name."This may seem a little overly mystical for a gang of thieves, but it should be noted that this sort of reverence is specific to the Kytaran Sea, where the ordinary dangers of a life at sea are increased tenfold.
- Remember and honor our dwarven heritage - With the exception of a handful of isolated populations, all civilized life in the Kytaran Sea began with one ship of escaped slaves, and nobody in Kytar is likely to forget that fact any time soon. Dwarven traditions and customs are the norm for life on the Free Islands, and even to this day, dwarves occupy a special caste in Kytaran society, where most Island Lords are descended from the original crew of the Dwarven Salvation, and simultaneously, any dwarf down on his luck need only ask the nearest pirate for assistance, and nine times out of ten, the pirate will give the dwarf anything he needs, within reason of course.
- Never work with, cooperate with, or in any way aid the Acredian Empire - The Acredian Empire is the only Ikaran government with any presence in the Kytaran Sea, and for obvious reasons, they are universally reviled by every single non-Acredian entity. Old wounds do not close easily, and the atrocities of the dwarven subjugation at the hands of the Acredians have mostly faded into memory for most dwarves through entropy, for no dwarf has been in the presence of an Acredian since they left Ikar, with the exception of a handful of naval skirmishes, during which dwarven forces have sunk every Acredian unit present. Pirates, on the other hand, run into the Acredian Armada fairly regularly, as Acredian patrols near Thrane make for safer waters than the rest of Kytar, in terms of monsters and Wild Magic surges. Pirates are also not a very forgiving demographic. Ships with black flags can frequently be seen picking fights with the larger, more cumbersome Acredian destroyers, and will far more often than not emerge victorious. These victories can be credited in part by the superior design of Strongarm Ships, as well as the expertise of a practiced crew of brigands, but most will say, correctly in this authors opinion, that is is the vicious animosity still felt by every man, woman and child of the sea, who still feel that the crimes of the Acredians need to be paid for in blood at any opportunity. Even the Tigress Captains of the M'bani ravager ships, with whom has been shared the story of the Nightmare War and the Dwarven Salvation, will attack, and always destroy any Acredians unfortunate enough to be spotted.