The World So Far: The world is flat. On one side of disc is the exhaustively explored and urbanized home of humans, where cities, countries and nations vie for too little land to support their expanding populations. On the other side of the disc is an uncharted and largely oceanic world, dotted by islands and coastlines, full of strange wonder, abundant resources and tropical beauty.
An incoming force of humans, from a number of distinctly 15th century-feeling cultures, have sailed over the edge of their world and come to colonize the world below. Some have come to seek asylum, refuge or more converts to their maligned faith. Some have been exiled over, punished for crimes committed in the world above. Still, others come over to set down stakes in a new world, to exploit the natural resources and expand their conquest.
The new world's inhabitants, however, are four powerful undersea kingdoms, full of dynastic struggle, ancient tradition and military might. With cultures far older and far more intricate than those of the human colonists, the undersea kingdoms are as unprepared for this sudden clash of cultures as the unawares humans are.
You know what's a cool, evocative name for a culture of pirates? The Brethren.
Obvious historical call back aside, what I like about the Brethren for Colonist Culture A (our exiled and presumed executed criminals) is that it suggests unity, unity so close it requires a familial term to properly define. Rather than these criminals being fractious and prone to in-fighting, I vastly prefer the idea that there's something about dropping off the edge of your world and onto the edge of another that would smelt rabble into a unified culture.
So, let's call them the Brethren.
Now, despite being criminals, I don't imagine the Brethren began initially as pirates. With no other ships to pirate and, in such small numbers originally, precious little contact with the People, I imagine they began merely as survivalists, attempting to eke out a meager existence in this harsh and inhospitable land they suddenly discovered themselves in, a land they likely assumed was the underworld for many, many years.
(Note: Underworld is a surprisingly fitting name. At least for the Colonists. It is, from their perspective, under their world.)
I suppose we should probably determine a few things about the manner of their "execution." While I think, after wars or other political turmoil that would generate high levels or prisoners, they were maybe pitched over in massive funeral barges, I think the majority of the prisoners that were sentenced to "dropping off" were sent over the edge in a barrel, Niagara Falls style. Sending entire ships to their destruction is expensive and more symbolic. Tossing a barrel and its intestine asshole over the edge wouldn't cost any more than a coffin would to us.
A little research into Niagara Falls suggests, of course, that most of the people sent over this way would die a horrible death. Well, on further research, more like half. Assuming the distance is much higher, let's say one third. Approximately one third of the people pitched off the edge of the world survived, most with injuries. Many of these individuals probably ended up marooned on islands, became madmen or, more likely, food for the local animal populace. Whenever a barge would go over, however, its conceivable that its surviving crew would band together, attempt to make a civilization.
This, I imagine, is how the Brethren were initially formed. An island civilization, possibly with limited ship travel capability. They most likely would have staked out territory on islands and continents in the First Sea exclusively, not daring to venture much further into this unknown hellscape. Maybe they, lacking the skills, equipment or wherewithal to obtain resources more entrenched than say, wood, hide and leather, would've constructed fortresses and strongholds from the wreckages of their ships? Whatever they could cobble together.
It's conceivable they might have encountered Kingdom A somewhat, but I imagine with all their august might, the miltaristic Kingdom A would never have considered these bizarre bipedal landwalkers as any true threat, anymore than we would if dolphins suddenly declared themselves a sovereign nation.
They existed this way, one assume, for some time – isolated, clinging to survival, barely enough food, weapons and supplies to stay afloat. A civilization of castaways.
When the other Colonists arrived, however, it became a substantially different story.
It seems to read to me that the pilgrim/zealot/missionaries (right, I called them the Exodus) would've been the next Colonist Culture over the edge, especially if they were fleeing religious persecution. I think, at the first sight of another ship on these strange seas, a ship flying a flag the Brethren would recognize, things would change substantially. As more and more people began coming over by choice, the Brethren, I imagine, react hungrily, eager for the supplies and goods these new Colonists bring with.
It doesn't take long, then, for them to make the transition to pirates; preying on the Exodus, stealing their goods, very much becoming the devils the Exodus might have expected in the underworld. For a while, I imagine they're living large on these spoils. (Note: The Exodus maybe make alliances with Kingdom D to protect themselves from the Brethren's predations.) It's not until the other two groups – Colonist Culture C and D arrive that the Brethren are faced with their true and hated enemy.
For the sake of simplicity and logistics, let's assume that the exiles, criminals and prisoners who would've been sentenced to death over the edge came from either Colonist Culture C or Colonist Culture D originally – both civilizations commanding position near the Edge. This automatically ingrains a certain predisposed hatred towards the sudden and august arrival of either Culture into the Underworld, plus offers weapons, goods and materials of much, much higher quality than even the Exodus can give them.
Maybe this, actually, is where the Brethren takes shape. They need to ally in order to defeat these tougher opponents. They begin to unite their forces, they begin to fly flags, declare captains and kings and more or less organize themselves into a scattered and floating nation of marauders and raiders, commandeering ships, cannons and converting crews to their cause.
Motivated by revenge and a need for survival, lacking any means to replenish these supplies save by pillage and now trapped in an endless war of resources with both Cultures, their existence is tenuous but insidious, always threatening to collapse utterly under their foes impressive military might, but proving damnably hard to extinguish completely.
This seems a solid springboard (or should I say, plank) from which to start with the Brethren. Next time, let's delve a little more into culture, social structure and the like.
Next Wednesday on Worldblogger: More Pirates! Avast!
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