License to Pillage Intro
A gentle breeze carried the salty mist into town as the last rays of the sun clung to the western sky. Soon nightfall would descend upon the town and with it the thick sea fog that some perceived as a blessing, others as a curse. Stirragen was a fishing hamlet on the west coast of Nordland too small to be noted on any maps, and its citizens hoped that this fact alone would preserve Stirragen from the dangers the night brought with it.
“Should have a thick fog tonight,” Theoff, a young lad with peach-fuzz sprouting from his chin, observed.
“A curse to keep us blind against the threat that lurks beyond,” an older man with a face which had battled sun and salt for many seasons replied.
“A blessing to safeguard us from the dangers beyond!” Theoff retorted.
The older man tapped his spear on the wood-worm eaten pier sending a small piece falling into the water. “There is no safety when you can’t see the dagger in the night. You can pray to your gods, boy, but I will only trust what my eyes can see.”
“And the Fog Ears! Man cannot stand alone in the face of Chaos, Jespin!” Theoff quickly added. Every night two men would sail out, one in a skiff one hundred meters out into the sea, and another two hundred and fifty meters. Each skiff was tied to a massive wheel on the shore taken from an old Tilean galley that shipwrecked up the coast at Wrecker’s Point. Once the two wheels were used to haul massive anchors up, now they served to haul the Fog Ears back ashore come morning, for after a long cold night on the sea the men were either too tired to row back to shore or fast asleep. Should the men hear the splash of oars against water then they were tasked to light a lantern only visible from the south to warn the village of the threat.
“Nights are long and cold. A man’s senses grow weak and his nerves can fray.” Jespin spat into the calm waters and added, “Whether you live or you die depends on yourself, no one else.”
“Being selfish and looking out only for yourself is no way to live,” Theoff proudly replied.
“Being selfish is the only way to live if you want to stay alive. You can stand firmly on your moral highground if you want, but when death looks into your eyes in a foggy night, I can assure you the piss running down your legs is going to soften that ground. By the time you gain the sense to turn and run you’ll find your boots sucked into the mud and yourself unable to move.”
“Then why are you even here?!” Theoff asked in desperation.
“Because I’m a bloody fool,” drawing his finger up to his cheekbone and running it down the scar which stretched to his jaw, “Because I’ve already run once in my life.”
The silence between the two men went unbroken for a minute or two until they both let out a gasp of dread. Two hundred and fifty meters, a lantern has been lit! Quickly pressing their backs to the wheel the two men began to pull in the skiff. As it neared the shore Jespin mused aloud, “Why hasn’t the other been lit yet?” Before Theoff could think of a reply Marlon, the man from the skiff, jumped into the water and waded ashore.
“We must pull Georg ashore!” Marlon said alarmed, “Theoff run and wake the villagers while Jespin and I wheel Georg in!”
“The one hundred meter lantern hasn’t been lit! Did your fear get the better of you?!” Jespin replied. Suddenly the dragon-masthead of a raiding galley broke the fog and Marlon ran off crying in alarm.”
“Run boy! The cave at the base of Siren’s Bluff! Run and hide!” Jespin rasped.
“We must st-stand and fi-fight. Give the others t-time,” the young lad stuttered, his eyes locked on the sea ahead.
Hitting the boy hard across his upper arm Jespin said, “Quick boy before yer piss muddies the ground. Leave some firm ground for me to hold em off. Go! Live!”
The bloody corpses of women still in their nightgowns and men with trousers half laced-up littered the ground as the burning village lit up the night sky. Northern warriors milled about prodding their axes into overturned chests and bundles of blankets.
“Nothing worth looting,” a raider with a thick beard grunted.
“Gold’s already in the coffers. Loot’s a bonus,” the taller older raider replied.
One of the raiders dragged a heavy thatch basket out of a burning house his eyes wide with greed. He untied the cover peering in and his face turned into a snarl as he kicked over the basket pouring its contents, salted fish, out onto the bloodied ground leading other raiders nearby to break out into laughter.
“Bloody fishermen. No one worth fighting,” the thick-bearded raider grunted again.
The older raider stooped down picking up a salted fish and smashed it into the other’s chest. “Gold’s already in the coffers. You can take the fish for loot if you want. Any blood’ll do to keep the men fresh. Next moon we sail around Manann’s Teeth and pick what we can. Two moons time is Hargendorf. Gold’s already in the coffers. Hargendorf is just a bonus.”