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'To be a privateer', by Captain Claw

Soul Shriven
((This small piece of literature has recently begun circulating in various Dominion docks, particularly among sailors.))

This is a text written for would-be privateers, captains especially, any who would consider pursuing such a life. As of late, this one has seen many new privateers filling the docks. Many eager, wide-eyed youths, hearts full of desire and tales of fame and fortune fresh in their ears. This one's heart always sinks a little when he sees such unknowing, fresh privateers with no experience, training or idea of what they'll experience, save for stories told in taverns and books. So few of them return.

This one is a privateer captain, khajiit if his dialect didn't give it away. He has years of experience as a successful privateer. He wishes to remain anonymous, thus he will refer to himself as 'Captain Claw'. It is what he wished to call himself when he began this life. Now he will. He seeks to educate you on what you will face. Tactics and sailing will not be discussed, as they have been chronicled in many books, which he hopes you will read, should you choose to go down this path. Rather, his text will discuss something different: the experiences you will face and the mindset you must have to be a privateer who survives.

His goal is not to convince you to be a privateer, but to give warning. Many heroic stories of the sea were written to sell books. Those who sing of such battles in taverns are trying to impress the women. Captain Claw will put it simply. There is nothing romantic, honorable or inspiring about this career. It is bloody, it is ugly and the stories you bring back, you will never wish to share. There is no shame in deciding this is not a life for you. He would rather someone seek a new life than set sail ignorant of what they will face. The world needs farmers and workers as well. At any point, you may set this text down and leave to be a laborer. You are not a lesser man.

The first thing you must know is that a successful privateer does not attack military ships. War ships are well armed and armored, likely more so than your ship. Their crew knows how to fight. Even if you can win, hard targets mean heavy losses, and you do not want to risk your crew more than you need to. Once a crewman has experience and courage, losing them becomes very undesirable. A new, inexperienced replacement means a weakness in your ship and a potential mistake in battles. Perhaps more than that, a loss is a blow to morale. If enough men die under your command, you risk a mutiny or abandonment. Perhaps the greatest lesson this book has to teach is that a privateer captain is only as strong as their crew. Their well-being should be your highest priority. Pay them well, treat them well, keep them safe.

So, you cannot attack military ships. What do you attack? Merchants and transport vessels that sail under any non-allied flag. The less armed the target is, the better. As a privateer, you will live the longest if you target that which is least capable of fighting back. What's more, they transport supplies and valuables for the enemy. While perhaps not as obviously important as a warship, a missed supply run to the enemy can make a world of difference to our soldiers. Hungry enemies do not fight well.

This means that you will be attacking the innocent. Let that sink in. The people you are going to attack aren't soldiers who will honorably meet you in combat. These are merchants, craftsmen and normal people who are likely only allied with their side because they have to be. They do not hate you for being an 'enemy'. These are your prey. They are innocent of all crimes, have little to no hate for your faction or race, and are likely only on the seas and under that flag to make a living or provide for their families. You are going to kill them.

Let's go through an imaginary encounter with a merchant vessel. First, you are going to lie to them. As this one said, there are splendid books on tactics, so he won't go through the trouble of trying to out-do them. Rather, he will skip to when you are in a position of dominance, or have them off guard. The first thing you are going to want to do is loudly inform them that you only wish their cargo and will let them live in exchange for cooperation. Make them believe it. Swear it on your family, swear it on your country, swear it on your gods, swear it on whatever you have to swear it to. They'll usually cooperate. If your crew and ship are fearsome enough and your dominance is proven, few wish to die at sea.

Make it clear that your mercy is conditional. If any try anything, all will be executed. Make it clear you do not wish it to come to that and truly do just want the cargo. Once again, make them believe it. Tell them of your family. If you do not have a family, make one up. Include a small child. If you have not boarded them at this point, do so, weapons drawn. Give them rope, make them bind themselves and talk to them as they do it, make them trust and believe you. In such a desperate situation, the victims are always drawn to that glimmer of hope, even in the helplessness. If you do this right, they will help. They'll point out where everything is and make no trouble at all.

And this brings Captain Claw to the second thing you must know as a privateer. What do you do with survivors? The first thought is, of course, take them prisoner. This is wrong. A proper, secure prison on a vessel is costly and takes room away from the crew. Also, it isn't like land battles where they can be sat aside for a patrol or marched to a nearby outpost. You may be on the sea for days, weeks even. You must feed them and clean their waste, tasks that take supplies from the crew and bring morale down. What's more, you're stuck with them for long periods of time. You must constantly watch people who you have robbed and perhaps killed friends of. When they think you are not watching, they may strike. It is a danger to you and your crew to take prisoners, and good luck getting paid by the navy for the capture of random civilians who know nothing.

So do you let them go? This is also wrong. You never know who is related to who or what connections someone has. Never let your fate rest on the thankfulness of someone you robbed, ignoring the friends you may have killed. Once again, this isn't like a land battle where you are an anonymous soldier. They saw your ship. They knew where it was. If they can determine which ship it was, or one person on that ship, they have you. A privateer has to keep many records for the navy and if gold exchanges hands, who can say who sees it and who does not? You never know who is willing to devote their life to chasing down a grudge, or how far they will take it. You killed their friends and family, they might do the same.

The correct answer is the one you likely do not wish to hear. You're going to kill them. All of them. You promise them mercy and then you murder them. As soon as all of them are bound and you have every trinket, you execute them. No one lives to tell tales of you. You and your crew remain anonymous to the enemy. To summarize, you choose the most defenseless and undeserving of targets, make them cooperate with empty promises of mercy, and then kill them when they are unable to fight back.

As for methods of execution, this one prefers marching them over the side of the ship, so long as their bindings are secure. Mages can easy prod them along or blast any uncooperative. Be wary of Argonians, as they can breathe underwater. While yes, the thought that one could survive a bound trip from the high seas to land is a little far fetched, better safe than sorry.

This doesn't cover every situation. There will be many surprises along the way, which is why you all must know how to fight, but as a privateer you are at your worst when things go according to plan. Morally, you are despicable.

So, why be a privateer at all? The one type of tale that holds truth are the tales of riches. You will take much from many and it is all yours to sell. If you can stomach the work, you will have enough coin to live quite well. Also, it helps if you are a patriot. Despite doing dastardly things, you make a strong impact on the war effort. You take much needed supplies from the enemies and sell them in allied markets. A perfect privateer falls somewhere in between greed and patriotism with a fair portion of blood lust.

This one hopes that you now have been sobered of any marvelous and heroic tales of the privateer. A privateer is the farthest thing away from a hero that there is. If you value your morality in even the smallest sense or are hoping to gain pride and dignity for any reason, find another way for yourself. You will either die or be forever changed. Those of you who still wish the work, Captain Claw hopes you have taken his lessons to heart. A wise senche-tiger lives long by hunting what cannot fight back.

If you worship the gods, may they understand what you must do, and if you don't, good luck.

- Captain Claw
Edited by Albano on January 13, 2015 7:13AM
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