The Fisherman's Tale
Many’s a traveler who’s asked- why is it the Elves don’t fish the waters off the west coast of Mormethe? They’ve countless songs about the wind and waves, and their ships are tall and proud, and no people is as skilled with rope and canvas.
And the answer, my friends, is that once upon a time they did ply the waves. For many a year after they arrived, the Elves hunted the fish and harvested the bounty of the sea. Their great fishing vessels would go out high in the water and come back low, holds stuffed with all the ocean had to offer. And, to be sure, sometimes a ship would be lost among the waves, when the sky wouldn’t hold and the sea took back what she felt was hers. But so rich was the fishing, so plentiful the shellfish, that always new ships would go out with new crews.
None of this changed until one bright summer when a ship, her name being Fairwind in the human tongue, was late to return to port. A full month she was overdue before she was spotted a mile offshore or more, sails limp and torn and not a soul to be seen above deck. So the folk what had seen her, they set out in boats to find out what had happened to Fairwind and her crew.
When they pulled up alongside and scaled the hull, they found few answers at first. Not a body nor sign of struggle anywhere aboard did they see- no scrapes nor cuts in the timbers to show a fight, no blood amidships, and not a single belaying pin out of place. The holes in the sails looked as though the weather had caused them. It wasn’t until they reached the holds that they found the crew, packed and stacked like a fresh catch, split from stem to stern themselves, guts missing and eyes gone cloudy.
Many’s a stout heart that failed at that sight, but some pressed on to the captain’s quarters to find the log and try to see what it was that had happened. There in his log, they read of a dream the captain had had, of a woman who came to him in his sleep, skin blue as the deep sea and hair the color of seaweed, and she offered him a bargain- a hold as full as any he could imagine, and all she’d ask in return is one of his crew, thrown overboard in tribute and thanks. In his dream he says he agreed, knowing it to be just a dream, and paying it no mind. But when he awoke, ‘round his neck he found a pendant of strange stones, clear as water that seemed to ripple in the sunlight.
‘Twas then that he knew it was no dream, and his bargain had been struck. Taking the woman to be a spirit or some trickster creature of the sea, he devised a plan to outwit her. Telling his first mate and trusted officers, he would have them wind a rope ‘round his waist, and throw him in to pay tribute- only to pull him back, for the spirit had not said that the offer had to stay in the water, had she?
Nothing else was found in the journal after that, but the villagers did find a necklace there, made of strange crystal, cold as ice to the touch and what seemed to make the soft sound of waves on sand when picked up. Knowing better than the captain had, they threw that foul trinket overboard and left Fairwind to her fate, setting fire to the ghost ship and leaving her and her crew to the deeps to be mourned in song.
But, ever after, those ships that went out to get their catch in the summer would claim to have sighted a ship, hull black and sails stained with smoke, and a crew walking the deck with eyes blank and empty and setting course for them. Too many summers of this and finally a crew pulled together to put that ship beneath the waves once and for all. When they never returned, those Elves on the coast swore that never again would they set sail on those waters, save on their final journey home.