The Sky Pirates

The Sky Pirates

The Sky Pirates

The Sky Pirates

Kelpor; this is a name that is fast becoming a dreaded curse amongst the races who sail the Broad Blue. For it is the race-name of the creatures otherwise known as the ‘Sky Pirates’. Once such a rare sight as to be dismissed as the ravings of dockside tavern soaks, the threat of their great airships now casts a long shadow over the northern waters. Sea captains of all races bring back lurid tales of ships taken by the cloud-sailing horrors; of hulks smashed and burned down to their waterlines, with not a living soul left aboard. Others speak of friends and comrades lost, simply vanished along with their ships and crews after venturing into the chill waters of the Voskian and Usank Straits.

The Sky Pirates

The Sky Pirates' Airship

Exactly where the Kelpor come from is a complete mystery. Some say they dwell in the far northern wastelands, warring for territory and resources with the hardy Vosk. This is certainly a possibility, since Sky Pirate vessel sightings and reports of attacks are far more common in the waters around these coastlines than elsewhere.

Others though believe that the race are the scarred and warped survivors of the sinking of the Ancients’ kingdom of Shenerac, when a magical storm of colossal energy is said to have caused an entire mountain, the Sharack Rock, to tear free from the earth and ascend to the skies where it floats, rootless, to this day, hidden amid the clouds. Of course, it is impossible to verify either story, but the legend of the latter is enough to keep nervous ship crews peering fearfully into the heavens on cloudy days, and the Pirates themselves seem to favour attacking from ambush by hiding in heavy cloudbanks, descending upon their hapless prey like raptors.

Physically, the Kelpor are humanoid, but they are like no other race. They stand tall, usually over six feet, and are slender of frame, which belies their fearsome strength. Their skin is pale, with a blueish or greenish tinge, but their most remarkable feature is the single iridescent eye which sits in the middle of their brows. Kelpor eyes are said to be magical in nature, and it is true that they Sky Pirates seem to possess remarkable vision, being capable of focussing on small targets from nearly half a league away.

Sky Pirate Airships are graceful, deadly craft. They are piloted by mages known as Windjammers, who are experts at gauging and riding air currents and thermals, whether at high or low altitude. This is especially true of the gigantic Khopesh class battleships, which can ride low enough to match the manoeuvres of sea craft without missing a step, while at the same time being capable of drifting easily over rocks, shoals and islands that would a ship in its tracks. This allows them to strike at targets trapped in confined waters, cornering them like a hunting cat does a mouse.

The Kelpor are a brutal race, although they are cold, calculating killers rather than berserk slayers like the Vosk. This only serves to make them even more terrifying. Their Sabre Attack Airships, the most commonly encountered Sky Pirate vessels, circle their prey in graceful arcs, hammering them with fusillades of cannon fire; the shells fired by Sky Pirate weapons resemble shrieking skulls trailing streamers of raw magic. Once the enemy is softened up, the ship will descend, while its crew launch volleys of cruelly hooked boarding pikes known as rutags. These are used to latch onto the enemy ship and provide a means of transit for ravening Kelpor boarding parties to sweep down onto the decks, but Sky Pirates will often use these weapons to snag individual crewmen and drag them, screaming in terror, up into the bowels of their airships.

The Kelpor boarders will then attack and subdue the enemy crew, using their rutags and kharteshs, or ‘whips-of-blades’, to cripple rather than kill outright. Although persistent resistance will be ruthlessly cut down, the Sky Pirates prefer to disable and capture enemies alive.

Exactly why they prefer this is unknown, but the rumours are truly horrifying – Sky Pirate airships are said to be filled, not with gas, but with the tortured, disembodied souls of the Kelpor’s victims, torn from their mortal shells by the cruel sorceries of the Windjammers. Certainly the air around a Kelpor flying craft is often reported to be filled with faint wails and groans, as if from captives of a dungeon, and damaged craft seem to seep a thin stream of iridescent vapours in which the ghostly outlines of tormented faces can be seen.

Nor are the bodies wasted, for the Slaughtersmiths or engineers of the Kelpor are said to render down the bodies of the enemy dead into raw materials – the propellant for their cannons is said to employ human and orcish body-fat as an ingredient, as well as bone splinters for shrapnel. Elvish victims, though, are said to be eaten instead – sometimes alive, such is the hatred that the Kelpor reserve for them.

The Sky Pirates seem to operate in many different splinter groups, known as Tharns, seemingly based on clan ties. The Tharns will apparently fight each other as readily as anyone else, and some have been known to take on mercenary contracts, should the Tharnetreg (‘Tharnmaster’ or clan leader) deem it in his clan’s interests. Nonetheless, it is a foolish man, orc or dwarf who trusts a Kelpor, for in time all other races are nought but prey for the Sky Pirates’ appetite for plunder and blood.