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Sailors and Ships in the Sea of Stars (A to Z)

22 April, 2021

A fisherman in good timesWhen the Sundering happened, it hit sailors and the ships at sea particularly hard, some of the seas just poured away into the void, taking all of those upon them with it, others were wracked with storms and waves, as few as one in six of those ships unlucky enough to have been out when the Sundering happened ever made it back to port.  This was a terrible loss of skilled sailors and knowledge, not to mention ships and cargoes, several merchant houses were wiped out by these losses even before the other changes of the Sundering disrupted their business.  Many coastal fishing village lost the major portion of their adult fishermen in a single day, a handful were almost depopulated of adults, leaving only children and the elderly waiting for the fishing boats that would never return.

As if such devastation was not enough, the fracturing of the world disrupted -when they did not eliminate- maritime trades routes, fishing patterns and more.  It was some years after the Sundering before wood (such as Karrias wood) and other materials were discovered that would allow for the construction of starships which could travel the space between the islands as though it were water. The Empress poured no small amount of money in the search for materials to build starships with, freely sharing the knowledge, as she recognize that wealth is generated by trade and the Sundering had all but killed trade on anything other than the most local of scales.  The ability to travel between the island by starship caused a huge boom in trade and travel, leading to the construction of new ports, the revitalization of old ones and shipyards springing up to build the new starships.

Unfortunately, the availability of sailors was at an all time low as the starship boom began, leading to a huge influx of new people into careers about ship, old traditions -often half remembered- were reestablished, schools and academies were opened, but most of the training was actually aboard the new starships.  As one can imagine, it was an exciting and harrowing time for the new crop of sailors and lead to new traditions.

Sailors telling stories by the seaAmong the new traditions was the Sailors’ Bond, the idea that all sailors were part of a vast family and that this family helps its own when they are at sea or “over the stars”.  Sailors help sailors, as long as the risk is reasonable, even if they are from rival nations, as long as you are not actively in the midst of battle, the Sailors’ Bond applies.  Helping your shipmate find work, paying into a fund for those hurt (or the families of those killed) and teaching new sailors the ropes are all accepted parts as well.  Pirates, however, are outside of the Sailors’ Bond and can be left to die, though the less bloodthirsty ones can try to call upon the Sailors’ Bond.

Sailors have also developed their own variant of the Imperial Tongue, called Sailors’ Argot to those who do not speak it, which is rich with nautical and maritime terms as we as with ways to pass information among themselves that will not be easily understood by outsiders.  While the outer, social level of Sailors’ Argot is continually evolving, mixing and changing, the core working part of the language is quite stable, allowing sailors to change ships and be able to do their job as they adapt to the social milieu they find themselves in.  Naturally, this also positions sailors as an “in group” with everyone else as outsiders, which sometimes causes friction.

Among the sailors, those who work the “high skies”, the sailors on skyships, are nearly an aristocracy among the sailors, as it is such a dangerous job (more so than just being a sailor, which is dangerous enough), the crews are among the best and in return they are better paid, fed and equipped.  Tradition says that a skyship newly arrived at a “wet port” (a port that serves starships or normal naval ships or both) is expected to stand the other sailors a round of drinks which helps to sooth the conflicts between the two groups.

Notes: Getting from point A to B should be interesting and sailors are interesting people.  Sailors’ Argot has been part of the world from the very beginning but barely used in play unfortunately.

Images, upper, “A View near Folkstone with Fishermen Selling a Cargo” by Thomas Rowlandson is marked with CC0 1.0, lower, “Sailors Regaling” by Thomas Rowlandson is marked with CC0 1.0.

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