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Those innumerable islands, keys, and sandbars known as the Westward Islands are a favorite haunt of pirates. Many caves are to be found, a good place to stash loot. Some of the islands are mountainous and thickly-forested, making evasion of pursuers easy. Nor can raiders land just anywhere and strike inland unexpectedly, since dense mangrove forests protect great lengths of the coast.
While pirates must be discrete, some of the more brash do leave fascinating memoirs, the most famous of these being Bilge Rat's A Pirate's Life. Also, many merchants have passed on their accounts of piratical society in the island towns where they have done business. Finally, there are the countless court records of captured pirates tried and confessed, and these provide an invaluable source of filibuster lore for the researcher.
For literary artistry, though, the interested reader should not neglect An Account of the Horrible Depredations and Monstrous Crimes Committed by the Sea- Going Pirates by "Captain Shark." Scholars believe that Captain Shark is none other than one of Minaria's most respected man of letters, Tarwanan of Boliske, who has lately written so eloquently of the Great Plague of Colist. Tarwanan's literary skill makes his pirate narrative an engaging adventure, as well as an informed secondary source regarding the famous pirates of recent history.
The pirate vessels which ply the Westward Islands are chiefly crewed by natives who have lived in the islands for generations, but there are always new men coming aboard: Miviorans, Rombunese, Hothiorans, Shucassamites, and vagabonds from the Banished Lands. The island of Lebow is a particularly- important nest of pirates at time of this writing. Its main settlement (as one can hardly speak of a capital in the chaotic Westward Islands) is Fudenbur. In such a place piracy is one of the most honorable professions practiced -- which is not a good endorsement for these "other professions," such as smuggling, slaving, and tavern-keeping.
Popular assumption makes the Westward Islands a place shunned by all hon- est traffic. This may be true when speaking of honest men, but the dishonest and questionable traffic in the islands is immense. Contrary to common belief, pirates capture little in the way of gold or jewels; the major parts of their seizures are bulky goods which are useless to them and hence must be sold to traders from the mainland.
Merchants have long flocked to the islands to buy and to sell. Pirates crave lux - uries and pay a dear price for them whenever they are awash in loot. On the contrary, pirates often must sell cheaply most of the bulk goods which they cap- ture. More ambitious pirates don't wait for incoming merchants to pay them a call, but smuggle goods into the coastal kingdoms of Minaria, sometimes through arrangements with mainland criminal interests, sometimes through the connivance of local authorities. In this way customs duties are avoided and the value of the smuggled goods are substantially increased.
Who is the pirate? What sort of a man is he? One must have nerve to thrive in such a violent occupation, though the pirate's frequently-reported barbarities hardly speak of real courage. He is a materialistic scoundrel with little belief in the vengeance of the gods, obviously, but outside of a few modern-day lumi - naries such as Nonnus the Missionary, our world teems with materialistic scoundrels who are no better than pirates at heart. For the most part, the fili-
buster usually comes from the slums of port towns, or is a peasant who has fled bondage and gone away to sea. Many begin their piracy by being captured by other pirates. If freebooters should be in need of additional crewmen, they com- monly ask for volunteers from among captured merchant sailors. Many seamen take such an opportunity to join a pirate crew, disenchanted with brutal discipline and starveling wages dealt out by honest captains and dreading the penalty for refusing the pirates' demands. If few recruits happen to come forward of their own volition, any likely-looking man may be shanghaied to serve aboard a pirate ship.
Those prisoners who become pirates are the lucky ones. Most who are cap- tured at sea are abducted to the Westward isles and sold as slaves. Even if the ransom option is offered, few common sailors are able to make good their assessment. But slavery in the islands may lead to piracy, since such persons may have to follow a piratical master on board a ship and, pirate society being admirably fluid, many a loyal and hard-fighting slave has become a free crew- men after a few years.
Rare is the man who engages in sea robbery because he wants to live that sort of life above any other. The pirate nearly always seeks to retire young; he robs to become wealthy and live thereafter as a local grandee, or else return to prop- ertied obscurity in his country of origin. Even if a man has attracted fatal fame as a blood-thirsty sea robber, he still might purchase an amnesty from some corrupt Minarian governor and thereafter live under his protection.
In earlier days, men willing to become pirates gravitated to Skull Island, which eventually became part of the kingdom of Rombune. As Rombune grew respectable enough to be embarrassed by its freelance pirates, the small-time filibuster usually found the Westward Islands more congenial.
In the Twelfth Century Rombune tried to seize power over the Westward Islands, but a stubborn war of resistance drove them out, disgracing the throne of Rombune and ushering in the Goodcargo dynasty. Someday a more con- certed effort than Rombune's will no doubt subdue this pernicious island redoubts and reduce them to a pacific backwater -- or, perhaps, a local kingdom shall be forged by some energetic genius who arises from the freebooters' own ranks. But for the time being, the rapacious pirates of the Westward Islands remain what they have long been -- a painful carbuncle on the nose of maritime Minaria.
But for all their faults, the pirates are a colorful and individualistic lot. Any read- er of Minarian pirate lore can recite a score of famous names, but for sheer ruth- less cruelty Scarthroat Andelys has few rivals.
In 1329, the lamash King's Oath with Captain Culvert commanding, sailed from Castle Lapspell bound for Port Lork. About twenty leagues from shore the Oath was brought about by a piratical sloop, Andelys' Osprey crewed by about thirty hard-bitten men. After the Oath had struck her colors, a boat from the Osprey came alongside with Scarthroat leading a boarding party. They commenced to plunder the ship and passengers with such violence and with insolence to the women present, that the robbers provoked some sailors and passengers into futile resistance. The pirates bloodily slaughtered all who showed spirit, then the survivors judged suitable for enslaving were manacled and taken over to the Osprey. No doubt Scarthroat considered it just a common day's work, but the King's Oath turned out to be a faithful prize. One of the brave passengers killed was one Hasmo Trelaine, and one of the slaves taken aboard the Osprey was Armon, his son -- later to be known in every port as Bilge Rat the Pirate.
As it happened, Scarthroat had a daughter who would grow to be another pirate of fame -- Tana Andelys. Filibusters love to tell stories of beautiful and daring she-pirates, but we must take most of these tales with a grain of salt. Captain Karah and her all-woman crew making free with captured male sailors is doubtlessly a myth, but apparently some individual she-pirates, such as Leira Tosha, Vanne Hashli, and Tiara Starsail, were real, though none were actually captains in their own right. While many of the legends told of these nautical lionesses have been colored by romance, none of their careers are uninterest- ing. Predictably, few of this unique sisterhood have stood out for beauty, legend to the contrary. The most notable exception to the prevailing plainness has been Tana Andelys.
Why would women enter piracy, and why would hard, unchivalrous men accept them as crewmates? One must remember that the scarcity of free women in the islands made them prized, and thus respected, above their mainland sisters. This is even true of women brought in as slaves. Tana's mother was a beauti - ful bondmaid whose master, the owner of a tavern, was forced to sell to
Scarthroat at the point of a sword. Tana was born to the happy couple and grew up in the squalid city of Fudenbur watching from a widow walk for the return of her far-traveled father whom she saw but seldom prior to adolescence. Nonetheless, young Tana enjoyed considerable status as the offspring of such a feared pirate captain. Oddly enough, the brutal man reportedly doted upon his ex-slave wife and his little girl. Tana repaid him with true devotion and the desire to live as he lived.
At the age of sixteen Tana finally wheedled her father into granting her what she most desired. Scarthroat accordingly took her to sea to learn the ways of the filibuster. In fact, Tana took readily to the life, her father's true daughter. Scarthroat became even greedier after Tana joined him, intent upon becoming a great man of property in his retirement and upon making his daughter an hon- orable lady.
It was not to be. Scarthroat suddenly found himself in the midst of a piratical fleet -- a fleet commanded by Bilge Rat, the youth whom he had wronged so grievously ten years before. Bilge Rat took honorable vengeance on his enemy, slaying the older man in what was called a "fair duel," but Tana considered it murder and forever after nursed a hatred against the Bilge Rat.
After Scarthroat's death most of his crew joined Captain Bilge Rat. Gracious to women, Bilge Rat put Tana on a ship bound for Fudenbur, but once home she wasted no time in organizing the remaining Andelys men into a new crew. Fortunately, the family still possessed one ship, crewless in dry dock. This she renamed The Red Lioness, of which Tana was considered the owner, but not its captain. Her father's loyal men were the officers and they helped her to contin- ue her nautical education. At last, at the age of twenty, Tana took personal com- mand as a piratical sea captain in her own right. This was an early promotion for an ordinary sailor, but Tana was far from ordinary.
With so much competition, Tana decided that to succeed she needed more brains than brawn. She organized better intelligence networks than any other pirate had, sending her word of the comings and goings of merchant vessels in the major ports. To be sure, pirates had oftentimes planted spies on the main- land, but Tana made the practice more systematic. She also recruited more women, and these were easily able to infiltrate the establishments where Minarian sailors took their ease and talked loosely into their cups.
From the beginning, the information Tana's agents provided was of a superior nature. She was thus able to choose her targets carefully, avoiding the ship- ments of low-value bulk and plum-plucking those carrying more valuable ship- ments of precious metals, rare tropical products, and spices.
Her spies had not been in place very long before Tana learned that Bilge Rat was planning to pick up a ransom for some noblemen whom he had abducted. Tana judged this a chance too precious to waste and so she negotiated a Hothioran pardon with King Boarhort's minister of the navy. In return, she would lay a trap for the Bilge Rat when he sailed in unsuspecting to collect his ransom.
In her first collision with the man Tana learned to her sorrow why Bilge Rat was considered a legend in his own time. The Red Lioness was destroyed, her crew captured, and Tana herself only avoided apprehension by swimming ashore to a hostile Shucassam. She needn't have bothered, however; Bilge Rat put all the Lioness survivors ashore to fend for themselves and she rejoined them there.
The Shucassamite militia soon descended and the crew was scattered. Tana was wanted in Shucassam for robbing The Pride of the Desert, a ship laden with royal gifts for the Padillan League, a kingdom of Girion; she barely avoided cap- ture by riding in a wagon of dancing girls disguised as one of their number. Somehow the she-pirate made it safely into Zefnar, where she contacted her secret agents to receive gold and shelter.
But Tana's cooperation with the Hothiorans against a fellow pirate had been rash. She faced trial and cruel punishment if she returned. For that reason, Tana decided to let the Westward Islands be for a while and took a coasting ves - sel to Port Lork. There she again put herself at the service of the royal navy. Since her misadventures along the coast of Shucassam had not impressed Hothior, she drew nothing better than a small patrol boat. Nonetheless, in sev - eral months' time the remarkable woman had proven her worth.
Hothior's subsequent war with Mivior saw the Hothioran fleet bottled up in Port Lork in dread of superior blockaders. Tana embarked upon a daring plan. She prepared her coaster to look like a private craft and then sailed with a few hand- picked mariners into the heart of the Mivioran fleet, presenting her crew as mer- cenary volunteers. A large part of the enemy squadron was already made up of mercenaries and, as always, these contained a large number of former pirates -- many of whom were known to her. With their help, Tana managed to organ- ize a mutiny aboard several mercenary ships all at the same time and led these away in a piratical cruise against the coasts of Mivior. The Mivioran fleet was forced to divide in order to pursue the pirates, but the subsequent sally of the Hothioran navy mauled the remaining blockaders and the Miviorans had no choice but to withdraw ingloriously to Colist.
By this time Bilge Rat had ceased to be a pirate in everything but name. By the strange logic of the pirates, this left Tana vindicated and thus able to return to the Westward Islands in triumph, laden with the booty of her Mivioran cruise and in very good terms with Hothior.
But Tana had no ties to any one kingdom and her success brought other offers. Soon the maritime maid was commanding entire fleets of mercenaries, and later was engaged as a hired admiral for regular naval squadrons.
Tana Andelys is a formidable woman, no doubt. Yet many in the islands say that Bilge Rat would still prove himself master if the two ever met head-on a second time. Tana seems undaunted and waits for the day when she can show the world her that her gainsayers are wrong.
The most famous song mentioning Tana Andelys is called Pretty Tana Andelys. It is not heroic verse, but a biting satire composed during the days of Tana's dis - grace. It is not strictly historical, since we do not know that Scarthroat ever tried to avoid meeting Bilge Rat, who was, after all, a minor new captain in those days. It is also not clear that Scarthroat was sold out by a "Keglorn," i.e. a pirate acting as a traitor or informer. The term harkens back to Rustag Keglorn, whose information helped the Rombunese mount a successful attack on Westward Island rebels during the year 1154.
Pret-tee Tana Andelys A pirate wanted to be; Pret-tee Tana Andelys
Couldn't be made afraid,
Though Ta-na Andelys' father
Already had been betrayed.
Now bringing you back...
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