Her origins are shrouded in mystery, but Aranessa Anja Saltspite, known as the Queen of the Tides, is nonetheless one of the most respected and feared pirate captains of Sartosa, and a self-styled Pirate Queen. To some, Aranessa is the daughter of the sea god Manann himself, with brine for blood. To others, she is a mutant who cut off her own fishtail after being cast out of her Norscan tribe as a child. What cannot be denied, whatever her origins may be, is that her skill at the helm or with a cutlass is such that none can dispute her lethality in battle.[1a]
Amongst the most feared of all the lords of Sartosa is the Queen of Tides, Aranessa Anja Saltspite. Rumour has it she is the daughter of the sea god Manann himself; that she rose fully grown out of the waves in a froth of gore, and that saltwater flows through her veins instead of blood. What is known beyond doubt is that Aranessa is as merciless as the ocean.[2a]
Aranessa has always had a peculiar connection with the ancient god of the sea. She has sailed to the ends of the world and back again through the most violent of tempests and emerged unharmed. There is no warmth in her soul, and she has no love for Man. Only the open ocean and the glitter of gems can make her scowl melt, but as her scurvy crew maintains, on the occasions she deigns to smile, it is like the coming of a new dawn.[2a]
The true story about how Aranessa Saltspite became such a gifted seafarer begins in the chill waters of the far north. Aranessa was born into the ruling family of Skjold, a coastal settlement of the Norscans. The chieftain, a proud warrior king in need of a strong successor; was not pleased at all to find that his pregnant wife had delivered him a daughter instead of a son. Worse still the infant had been borne a mutant - her conjoined legs were scaled and twisted into a grotesque fan of spined flesh below the knee.[2a]
Physical mutation has always been a death sentence amongst Aranessa's pitiless tribe. Before the sun had set, the mewling babe was hurled from the tallest cliffs to be drowned by the pitiless sea.[2a]
Miraculously, Aranessa survived. Borne by a shimmering school of daggerfish that swam in the shape of a crowned sea-sire, the infant was delivered into a cove of golden sands, where she was tended by a trio of sea-nymphs. Suckled and cared for by these lythe ocean spirits, Aranessa grew strong upon a diet of gymmcrab, algae and cold black kelp. Before her tenth year Aranessa was spear-fishing for sharks, fanged rays and mermanticores. Her shell-decorated cave became cluttered with gifts from the sea that washed up with each new dawn.[2a]
It seemed like every full moon a new vessel would founder near her cove, or a galleon would find itself inexplicably shipwrecked within easy reach. Bright-eyed, the child Aranessa absorbed every scrap of knowledge to be gleaned from the well-appointed ships that had mysteriously come to her.[2a]
Aranessa eventually tired of her island paradise and decided to rejoin the ranks of humanity, though she knew that a mutation such as hers would lead to persecution and death. Numbed by rum and with teeth gritted, she amputated her strange lower legs with a sharpened cutlass, and cauterized the wounds herself without so much as a whimper. Aranessa had already fashioned replacement legs from the jagged blades of sawfish, and bound them tight to her ragged leg-stumps with leather belts that she found in the captain's quarters of a rich merchant galleon. Constantly cleansing her wounds with saltwater, it was less than a week before Aranessa was able to walk. A scowl etched on her beautiful features, she ventured out into the open seas upon an intact rowing boat that had washed up on her beach. Before three nights had passed she was picked up by a roving pirate galleon, the Swordfysh.[2a]
Mute, peg-legged and strange, Aranessa was the subject of much curiosity from the sailors aboard, though she quickly proved to them that to so much as touch her would earn them a slit throat. Daily she climbed into the rigging, and thereupon into the crow's nest, where over the coming weeks she more than proved her worth as a sharp-eyed lookout.[2a]
Over the next decade Aranessa learned to swear like a sailor, to fight like a pirate, and to navigate like a scholar. She absorbed all there was to know about the art of sailing like a sea-sponge, rising through the ranks of the Swordfysh's crew with ease. Every cannon she fired was on target, every duel she fought wasa victorious, and every course she plotted led unerringly to treasure. She became the ship's lucky charm, then its first mate, and eventually, when her captain was devoured by sea-gargoyles, its commanding officer. She earned the nickname Saltspite in the years that followed, hunting down the wolf-ships of the Norscan fleets with a cold vengeance that made even her own crew invoke the sign of Manann for protection. When the Imperial fleet approached the Swordfysh with letters of marque, intending to enlist her in the war against Chaos, she opened fire upon them too. Aranessa would be beholden to no man, living or dead.[2a]
It was in the gambling dens of Sartosa that Aranessa Saltspite allowed herself to join Captain Roth's cause. She had heard of Count Noctilus, and her troubled dreams indicated that the Seafather Manann desired this stain upon the oceans removed. Better yet, captain Roth was a man of great wealth. Over a barrel of the finest Tilean rum, the deal was struck. The Swordfysh and its crew would sail alongside the Heldenhammer into uncharted waters, and hound the Vampire Noctilus to his final death.[2a]
The Vampire Coast
In the year 2502 IC, prior to joining the Grand Alliance, Aranessa Saltspite remained one of the most respected and feared pirate captains of Sartosa. Some said she was the daughter of the sea god Manann himself and that he whispered to her to take control of all the world’s oceans. Many a sea-bloated corpse washed up against the Swordfysh’s hull, and so her Vampire first mates breathed unlife into them, creating a vast rabble of loyal crew, ready to serve at Captain Saltspite's command.
However, as part of the living realm rather than one of the Undead, she commanded a human pirate crew known as the Sartosa Free Company, and reluctantly shared control of the denizens of the Vampire Coast...