10 Legends of the Seas from the Mouths of Drunken Sailors
January 25, 2019
Legends of the sea are as old as sea-faring itself. Surely, the first person to ride a log canoe out of sight of land was greeted with the question, "What did you see?", as soon as they returned. I'm fairly certain that it didn't take long for mariners to learn that an interesting tale got more drinks bought for you than a boring one. Even so, the same basic stories are reported by sailors of all cultures and races; it seems highly unlikely that they all conspire to tell the same tales, so maybe there's some truth to be found in these legends afterall. Regardless of what your take on these old sea yarns might be, they excite tavern patrons and keep poor sailors drinking even when their purse is empty. Presented here for your perusal and entertainment are 10 legends of the seas. It's up to you whether there's any truth to them in your world. As always, thanks for your time and happy gaming!
'Twas my second year in the King's Navy and we were patrolling along the crooked coast, looking for the orc raiders that had been plaguing the towns and villages down there. Anyways, 'twas early in the morning, before the sun, and I was on deck when the lookout cries out "Fire on the water, 2 points off the bow to starboard." So we turns toward the glow and soon enough a large merchantman comes into view, all three of her masts burning bright as a smith's forge. The captain orders us to prepare boats as we closed, so that we might rescue any survivors, as he keeps looking through his glass at the burning ship. Now ye can call me a liar, if'n ye wants, but seems like time slowed down. We had a stiff wind on our beam, but we couldn't catch that burning ship. We got close enough to see figures dancin' about on the deck and the ship's name, Cortina Marie. But suddenly a chill wind blew, nearly freezin' us to the bone, then with the first light of dawn, that ship just disappeared. There weren't no survivors and tho we must 'ave chased her for nearly half an hour, none of those burning masts ever fell. I swear to the Gods 'twas the most scared I ever been.
This happened years ago, when I was a young man. Back then I was working for a salvage outfit that located and dove on shipwrecks to recover the cargoes. We were diving in a deep section near the middle of Copperhead Bay trying to recover the silver ore from the hold of some merchantman that had gone down in a storm. So our team of four found the ship, but she had broken in half. One part was on a shelf about 150 feet down, but the other must have been in the murky depths below the shelf. We shot even odds and I ended up on the losing team. So me and this half-elf named Jules go off the edge of the shelf and down into the inky depths to try to find the other half of this damned ship. Jules had the drift globe with him; that's probably what saved my life. Anyway, we don't find the ship, but we do find this weird little underwater garden with maybe 20 or so statues of men, women, mermaids, weird fish, and other things I can't name. I turned to see what Jules made of all this and he was just sinking towards the bottom -- a stone statue himself. I will never forget the frozen look of horror on his face or the way his arm was out, like he was pointing at something. I clamped my eyes shut and kicked like mad for the surface. I was the only diver to make it back to the salvage ship. I quit that day and I haven't dived below the surface of the water since.
Two years ago, I was working on the merchantman Dunedin and we were on back leg of the Glassdrate run. It was Midsummer's Eve and the full moon loomed large, right on the horizon. All of the sudden this bright blue beam of light appears in the water maybe 50 yards off our port beam. It was maybe 10 yards wide, at first, and as bright as the sun. Captain Montain turned us away from the light and ordered more sail. That decision probably saved the lives of everyone on board, cause no sooner had we turned away than the light started to grow. It was so bright that it seemed like a vast blue column streching from the bottom of the sea up to the Gods themselves. None of us had ever seen anything like it and I surely hope I never do again.
I wasn't always a pirate, you know. I was once a midshipman aboard a small warship, The Cheviot, in service to the Davrosian crown. We were the rear guard for a small flotilla of clerics and pilgrims crossing the Great Sea to the Land of Legends. It was a long trip, but it had been uneventful until we hit that damned seaweed sea. At first, we thought nothing of it because it was just isolated floating masses that were easy to avoid, but once night came on, the flotilla started to have problems. One by one the ships got hung up in the vast mass of seaweed that stretched as far as the eye could see, once the sun came up. At first, the crews used poles and oars to move the balls of clogging weeds out of the way, but the going was too slow. So the head cleric ordered that the lead ships should pour oil onto the weeds they had passed and burn them so passage could be made faster by the other ships. The group made a lot better time until night fell again and the flotilla anchored. That night the seaweed came to life and started pulling people into the water. Sometimes it just held them under the water until they drowned; sometimes it pulled them apart, limb from limb, over the water. It didn't take long for the sharks to come. I will never forget the screaming in the night. Our captain ordered us to close with the flotilla to fight the seaweed and save as many pilgrims as we could. It was the last order he ever gave. I buried a boarding axe into the back of his head and took command of The Cheviot. We came about and left those god humpers to their righteous fate. The Cheviot's now named the Silent Sea.
I was serving aboard The Widow's Revenge, a pirate hunter out of Teak Bay, when I saw the great beast with my own eyes. We were hunting Lola "the Crafty" Nightshade and her crew. We had been on her tail for the better part of a week, when we lost sight of her ship, The Dark Pact, in a fog bank near Clam Cay. The Leviathan is what some call it. 'Twas a vast beast that seemed somehow the mix of a great killer whale, a giant squid, a hydra, and a demon. Each of it's numerous tentacles had a human head on the end and those heads belonged to dead people we knew. The heads tried to convince us to surrender, while the tentacles twisted about men and ship alike, taking all towards its vast maw filled with razor-sharp teeth. Cutting off a tentacle caused the beast to spawn two more. There was no fighting the thing; it seemed to know what we would do before we did. The Leviathan took very little time to destroy our ship. Truth be told, I'm only alive because I fell into the water when it was tearing the Widow's Revenge apart. I clung to a piece of flotsam and pretended to be dead. As quickly as it had come on us, it was gone again, below the waves. I wasn't the only survivor to make it to shore, but I was the only one to survive the cannibals and wild beasts on Clam Cay. I was rescued by missionary clerics of Torm, two years after the event. This barstool is the closest I get to the sea now.
No one sails beyond Neptune's Teeth, the vast reef that stretches from north to south in the Beavernian Ocean. The ships that do, never return. The Dragon Sea is what it's called by the sages, but you'll find a lot worse things than sea dragons if you ever do make it out there. How do I know, you ask? Well, the island kingdom of Sennebron punishes those who betray the royal family by exiling them into the Dragon Sea in a sailing canoe. Betrayers are knocked unconscious and then lauched beyond the reef. I'd tell you more, but my throat is too parched to continue.
While serving aboard The Sapphire, a whaling ship out of Bromwater Bay, I chanced to see the strangest creature that I have ever heard tell of. It was about 75' long, glowing white, with the upper body of a vast giant with claws and the lower body of a whale. It swam all around us and passed under us three times, but it never surfaced. The master harpooner wanted to put boats in the water to hunt it, but the captain forbid it. After about 20 minutes, it dove into the depths and we never saw it, or anything like it, ever again.
Between the Toryn Empire and the elven kingdom of Shonryel lies the Sontaag Sea, but experienced sailors know it by another name, the Undead Sea. A millenia ago the Toryn Empire launched a vast invasion fleet against the elves. The elves destroyed the Toryn fleet in a 6 day battle, called the Battle of the Endless Storm by the scholars and Kirya-Cellumessen by the elves. To this day, ghost ships, skeletons, zombies, and all manner of undead plague the region. You can find coastal hoppers all around the Sontaag Sea, but no one crosses it.
If ye wanna talk about a truly dangerous stretch of water then ye need look no further than Beherit's Triangle. It lies between the Kingdom of Offria, Lobster Key, and the Rimdeen Reef. Any ship caught in the Triangle during the New Moon simply disappears with everyone and everything on board, never to be seen in this world again, but that's not all. Sailors going through the Triangle during the full moon report seeing all manner of strange things, such as great roaring metal birds flying through the air, strange yet silent multi-colored lights shooting back and forth across the night skies, and even some large metal sea monster with a reverse fylfot flag stuck in the middle of its back. Oh, you think I'm lying, right? You are right to think I'm no sailor. I was the harbor-master of Pearlhost on the Offrian coast for fifteen years, so I know what I'm talking about.
Beware the Ashtawa Archipeligo near the coast of Shinjan. Rumors tell of a lost civilization and cities of gold, but all you're likely to find there is death. Old salts call the Ashtawa Archipeligo the Siren Isles and most won't go near the place. Those who do are pirates, crazy, or both. How do I know? Well I am the sole survivor of a survey team dispatched by the Shinjan emperor to map the Ashtawa chain. I've seen men lured to their deaths by sirens, eaten alive by devilfish, and torn apart by su-monsters. Best of all, having failed in my mission, honor demands my ritual suicide in the court of the emperor if I ever do return home. Buy a cursed man a drink, won't you?
I hope you enjoyed these tales from the sea. Next week I will have those ships that I promised you last week; they took a little longer to create than I expected. If you do enjoy these blog entries, please check out my page at DriveThruRPG by clicking the banner below. Thanks for your support.