They were running from Vilu Daskar, but no one dared voice the fact aloud. Instead they went about their business with fangs clenched against their shame. They sailed the ship, they drank and swore and fought amongst themselves. Somehow they had to find their pride again.
They sailed with one eye always over their shoulder. One lookout always watched the northern seas from whence they'd come. They fled the cold north winds; they fled the anger of the stoat slaver. They ran away from their own shame.
What was a corsair's pride when they left their own seas, battered and beaten without even a single battle on their deck - what was a corsair's pride when their own Captain gave the order to run south? South, where pickings were easy. Too easy for a proud corsair ship who had been the terror of the hard and wild north. But they kept their mouths shut. Everyone was afraid of Vilu Daskar.
They ran from Vilu Daskar, and they found a promise of southern riches.
A single otter ship, blown astray from their fishing waters by a sudden storm. Seaotters and vermin fought in black rain and roaring seas. The otters knew the price of loss was slavery. The vermin fought for the knowledge that the fishing ship was the only way to escape Daskar's wrath. Overwhelmed by superior numbers and northern desperation, the otters fell back as the storm worsened. One by one, the otters were captured.
Dawn chased away the storm, and seavermin abandoned their distinctive corsair ship. Otters were now slaves on their own vessel. Pride crept back into the corsair Captain's stride.
Then it was a single word, a chance overhearing by the Bosun; a whispered conversation amongst the new oarslaves. A young otter was dragged up before the Captain and whipped until she cried out everything. Down below, the oarslaves listened to her screams in grim silence. The darkness in their eyes told of mutiny. The Captain gave orders, triumph in the words. These southern riches were fitting for such brave corsairs. They would abandon the seas, now ruled by Vilu Daskar, and would take to land. It would be easy to slip past the fabled fire mountain and its ever-watching Badger Lord, for why would he stop a seaotter vessel? It would be easy, so easy, to sail up the great river.
And it would be easy to capture this woodlander stone fortress the young otter had told them of.
What would corsairs fear, when surrounded by great red walls?