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Image: Sea of Thieves - a player poses next to their skull sails Rare/Microsoft Studios via Polygon

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I’m a pirate reaver queen and protectors of tweens in Sea of Thieves

I betrayed a crew of bros and feasted on their despair

Players often set out on their own in Sea of Thieves, adventuring across a vast sea either alone or with a crew upon their reliable, trusty boat. Sometimes, they meet other players, and end up in a battle of wits and gunpowder as one crew seeks to best the other and sink their ship.

An entire server may band together in rare circumstances, with every ship joining an in-game Alliance to share the fruits of their plunder with each other. This arrangement benefits everyone with extra gold and reputation; the drawback is the effort it takes to set up such a server. This weekend, I found myself in one of those rare servers, something I’ve only seen a handful of times in the wild. Gold poured into my coffers, and every threat the sea could offer up fell before our fleet of six ships.

I ended up betraying that sacred arrangement, and doing the unthinkable for a pirate: I threw thousands of gold pieces into the ocean, out of reach of everyone. What could have inspired such self-sabotage?

The answer is simple: I found out about a plot of betrayal brewing among my peers, and chose to defend the most innocent sailors among us.

Image - a brigantine decorated with unicorns in Sea of Thieves
How could you want to sink this ship?
Rare/Microsoft Studios via Polygon

The calm before the storm

I was navigating around the Devil’s Roar as a solo sloop captain, my small ship laden with cargo, when I saw the galleon. The red and black vessel had managed to ambush me as I was sailing around the rocky terrain of Flintlock Peninsula, and I was ready for a fight.

I could hear the ship buzzing with activity; the other pirates were arguing among each other, debating with one crew member in particular; someone named Hunter. Hunter had taken the role of captain of this ship, and he silenced them all with an assertive “Bros, no, I got it, bruh. I’ve got this.”

This crew was — and there’s no other way to say it — a brouhaha of bros.

There’s a bit of a rivalry between Xbox One players and PC players at times in the Sea of Thieves fandom, but I often find Xbox players to be humble, salt of the earth players who don’t push to talk and are just looking to have a good time out on the seas. Therefore, when they offered me the chance to join a server-wide alliance and farm lots of gold, I happily accepted.

We then saw that there was a giant skull cloud, meaning that one of the skeleton forts was active — an opportunity for us to crack open a giant vault of valuable treasure. Hunter’s crew and I engaged in some healthy banter, and I felt a sense of relief.

As we travelled, three other ships around the map were all turning in loot at outposts. A steady flow of gold flowed into my pockets; my cut from being in the same Alliance. Finally, a nice, ship combat-free session of Sea of Thieves! How fun!

But these good times were not meant to last.

a Sea of Thieves screenshot showing with ships approaching a skeleton fort in the world.
Giant, nefarious skull clouds are business as usual in Sea of Thieves.
Image: Rare/Microsoft Studios

You think you know a pirate...

There was a brigatine already parked at the fort, and clearly floundering. The poor ship was getting pounded by skeletons on cannons. Aboard was a dad and his two daughters, who both seemed to be tweens eager to do a good job. I introduced myself to the brigantine, received permission to come aboard, and then cleared the skeletons with a line of sight to their ship and helped repair their brig.

The family thanked me for the help, and the two daughters complimented my dress. I told them I loved their beautiful unicorn ship. We played a little music together, and I told them how to more easily murder each kind of skeleton. We were instant besties.

Hunter’s crew grew suspiciously quiet as this played out.

We started clearing skeletons, but the dad and his daughters perished, brought down by a cruel wave. (The sea is not always, or even mostly, kind.) That left Hunter’s crew alive on the island with me, and I was soon approached by Hunter himself.

“I don’t want to deal with them, man” he said, aiming to recruit me to his side. “When the forts clear, we’re just going to blow ‘em up. We’ll leave the alliance and set up a new one, OK?”

“Sure,” I said.

It certainly wasn’t OK, but I wasn’t going to say anything about it. Not yet.

I didn’t want to tip my hand.

Image: Sea of Thieves - a player poses sadly on a dock.
A moment of silence for our Alliance, please.
Rare/MicrosoftStudios via Polygon

I am become death

I perished in combat against the skeletons we were clearing off the island. It was intentional; this meant I would be sent to the ghastly Ferry of Souls, and would respawn aboard my ship. I visited my armory, and pulled out a sniper rifle. This was the perfect opportunity; as waves of skeletons continued to spawn in the fort, I could stay under the radar.

The island was littered with explosive barrels. I had to move stealthily, but Hunter’s crews’ guard was down. When you know where every ship on the server is thanks to an Alliance, you don’t expect someone to betray you.

They should have expected it, because I was going to blow this Alliance up in a petty display of spite and fury. If you think you’re going to ruin the day of two very nice little pirates on my watch, you’re sadly mistaken, Hunter.

The fort’s captain spawned, and the music swelled as the skull cloud above the fort dissipated after we killed him. There would now be a key we could collect that would be used to unlock all sorts of riches on the island. Thousands and thousands of gold pieces were at stake here.

I wasn’t anywhere near the key nor the vault door. I was in my sloop’s crow’s nest. I raised my sniper rifle and peered down the scope. I could see Hunter and his crew. The Hunter was about to become the Huntered.

I fired at the explosive barrels I had carefully arranged on the galleon’s deck.

Image: Sea of Thieves - a collection of barrels
Gunpowder barrels are this game’s bigger wildcard.
Rare/Microsoft Studios

I’m gonna getcha!

My shot connected with the first gunpowder barrel on the dock of the galleon, and the blast was big enough to catch the other two barrels and blow them up as well. The galleon was rocked, spinning back and forth. Hunter and his allies were incinerated.

“Go, go, go!” I yelled to the family, leaping from my crow’s nest and onto the fort’s higher levels. “They’re betraying us, grab as much loot as you can! Go!”

The galleon had sunk, and I took the massive Skeleton Barrel that explodes with three times as much force as a standard explosive barrel, and a couple of random pieces of shiny loot. I then helped the family load up their brigantine with as much loot as possible, until I saw the galleon’s silhouette upon the horizon.

They wanted revenge, and I had to ensure they didn’t go after the brigantine, or the family I had decided to protect. So I sailed directly at the enemy, and placed my shiny loot on the prow of my ship. If I couldn’t win, at least I could cover the family’s escape.

The hunt was now on.

Image: Sea of Thieves - a player blows a kiss from the dock Rare / Microsoft Studios via Polygon

We shall drown together

The galleon has three billowing sets of sails; the sloop has one, single, sail. If I was going to engage in a chase, I needed to get close enough to draw their attention, and then sail directly into the wind. I had to stay just out of range of their harpoons.

All of this was easier said than done. The camaraderie I had once shared with Hunter’s crew was gone; they were cursing at me, threatening me. They were angry, and I could use that. I pelted them with firebombs and H-HEWWOS? alike.

“If you come any closer, I’m gonna have to give you a smoocharoo!” I called at the galleon with my speaking horn.

“No, bro!” Hunter screamed. “No smoocharoo, we’re going to sink you, what the fuck, we had a deal!”

I was going to sink, sure, but so was the galleon, because I was leading Hunter’s crew on a merry chase off the map. Once you pass the fog and go off charted waters, the water turns to blood. The sky turns dark. Any ship that stays out in the darkness is eventually torn apart. But the sloop is a workhorse; I can stay afloat as long as I keep actively bailing.

The galleon is too large to efficiently bail, and Hunter’s crew were too furious to pull it off with any measure of coordination. Making matters worse for them, I had boarded their ship with the Stronghold Keg. They turned, saw me, and began to swing their sabers. Those sabers connected with the Stronghold Keg, which immediately detonated.

All five of us went up in flame and gunpowder. They learned absolutely nothing from the encounter; when we all reappeared on the Ferry of Souls, they howled profanity at me for betraying our sacred bond of pursuing gold and treasure in favor of helping a brigantine full of tweens.

I am the reaver queen of Sea of Thieves, and I hold no allegiance to gold or treasure. Instead, I will be charmed by unicorn figureheads and precocious pirate tweens. Someone has to be a defender on the seas, and I’ll take that role, especially if it means I get to blow up my enemies while someone screams BRO so loud it temporarily shorts out their microphone.

It was a good day to be a pirate.