THE SAILORS' TALES OF NEPRIS
THE BLACK BARSA
as told by Andrus Voltmer
The Nepris elder Andrus Voltmer. Image by Faugar.
here once was a fisherman named Ansyr, who once lived in the village Nepris. He was a quiet, unassuming person with a ready smile and a helping hand. He was usually the first to offer his help when the situation required it and could always be seen with a good-natured smile. Ansyr was a hardworking fisherman with never a complaint and happy with his life. He was not a great fisherman, but was able to provide for his family and many times with extra to help out others not so fortunate. Because of this Ansyr was well respected and liked in the village.
Also in this village was another fisherman, by the name of Nolaf. He was a lazy fellow who only did the bare minimum needed. He seldom gave full effort in all things that were thought necessary to survive. The other fishermen often wondered how he seemed to always have fish, but didn’t go out of their way to find out. A fisherman has enough work in their own ducraer and should not go looking for more in another’s. One would think the others would disdain and shun him, but this was not the case. He was friendly, with a quick wit and always stopping to talk and joke with the other fishermen. The other fishermen would just shake their heads and wonder how Nolaf could live like that. Sometimes they thought him wasting their time in idle chatter, and it irritated them. But Nolaf always seemed to sense when it was time to leave, and usually left them laughing.
There came a time when all in the village were doing poorly. The ocean was reluctant to give up her bounty and many nets were empty. It did not really worry the village, for that is the way of the ocean, as all should know. In her good time Baveras would return the bounty, and a fisherman needed only to continue and accept this reality. It had always been and would always be, this dance upon the waves of life.
It so happened that Ansyr and Nolaf were having a worse time of it than the others in the village. Nolaf because of his nature, and Ansyr just did not seem to find any fish, no matter how much effort and time he spent. Through it all, both kept their ready smile, and Ansyr still gave help whenever needed. It was noted that Nolaf was not as witty or joked as much, but still, he did not bemoan his fate.
At the end of one day, Ansyr was pulling in his nets and bringing in nothing but water. As he hauled in the last section of netting, he spotted a black fish. It was a barsa with a back as black as the deepest night, lightening down its sides to a belly that was a dark gray, as dark as the underside of clouds in a raging storm. It was a small fish and Ansyr was a little surprised by the color, as he had never seen a fish of this color before. But no matter, he tossed it back into the ocean telling it to go home and come back when it had grown and could feed many. Then he prepared to return ashore.
Suddenly, Ansyr heard a voice. He stopped working and looked up, but there were no fishermen near him so he returned to his preparations. He thought it probably was the wind sighing though his now raised mast. Then the voice came again and this time Ansyr looked over the gunwale to where the voice came from. There was the black barsa looking up at him. To his surprise, the fish started talking to him:
“Fisherman, why did you set me free?”
It was a moment before Ansyr could answer. Finally he closed his mouth and answered: “You are but a small fish. It is better to set you free to grow larger so you can feed many, rather than taking you now.”
“Will your family not go hungry?”
This brought a nod and a sad smile to Anysr’s lips, when he answered. “Yes, it is true. But it is better to have a bigger fish to serve many meals than to have a small fish to barely feed you one time.”
The fish found this intriguing, and said it must ponder this thought, but they would speak again. Then it slipped back below the waves.
By the time Ansyr had returned to shore, he had convinced himself that fish do not talk and that the whole thing was just brought on from being tired and hungry.
As he was headed home, Nolaf came up to Ansyr. “I saw you talking to yourself today- out on the ocean! You should be careful, or others may start believing you are becoming sea dazed,” Nolaf added with a light chuckle.
Ansyr just laughed. “Yes I should be careful, especially if I believed what I heard. If I believe, I will be talking to myself again soon.” With that he turned for home and never saw the look of speculation on Nolaf’s face.
The next day Ansyr fished as always, but the black barsa did not appear. By now Ansyr had convinced himself that his talk with the fish was all an illusion. On his way back to shore he just had to chuckle to himself at his wild imagination. But it was not a bad day for he did have a few fish to feed his family. One thing he did notice during the day was the fact that Nolaf had stayed close by while fishing. It was unusual, as most fishermen liked distance between them. However, it was not something he would worry about.
Later that week Ansyr had forgotten about his encounter with the black barsa and was fishing as usual. Near the end of the day as he was preparing to return with his meager catch, the voice came again to him. He was surprised and a little worried, fearing he was becoming sea dazed. Then the voice came again and he looked over the gunwale to see the black barsa floating in the water. He blinked. Was the fish bigger now? No, it had to be the water causing this illusion.
“Fisherman, I have thought over your words and there is wisdom in what you say. I find this good and will repay your kindness.”
“No, no that is not necessary,” replied Ansyr in a hasty, nervous voice. He was a little worried about this whole situation.
“That is true fisherman, but I choose to repay your good deed,” came the flat voice of the barsa. “Throw your nets into the ocean off the point on the cliffs known to men as Ricau Roost. Three days I will fill your nets.”
Ansyr just looked at the black barsa. Could this be true, or was he just dreaming once again? He looked up in the indicated direction, then back at the fish.
“Is this understood fisherman?”
The question brought him out of his thoughts and he managed to mumble a quiet "yes". With that the fish slipped back into the depths of the sea, leaving Ansyr to stare at the waves lapping at the side of his ducraer. He was in a daze… should he believe or not? All his life Ansry had heard many tales about the oceans and the luck or disaster that befell fishermen, but he never thought that he would be part of any. Ansyr was so lost in his own thoughts on his way to shore he did not even notice Nolaf not far off, watching him intently.
By the next day Ansyr had decided he would do what the black barsa had suggested, and went out into the ocean off Ricau Roost. He threw out his nets as he would any day fishing. No sooner were they all out that he saw a churning in the water, and started to pull his nets back onto his ducraer. These nets were overflowing with fish. He saw barsa of all kinds, evoor and even a bonehead or two. Soon he had his nets pulled in and his ducraer was barely able to contain all the fish. He was excited and happy at this bounty. Even if he had to row the long way back to shore, it would not remove his pleasure. He had so much fish that he willingly shared with others, and still had more than enough for his family.
The next morning, while he was preparing himself to return to the sea, Ansyr noticed several holes in his netting. He didn’t remember them being there the night before, but thought it was possible and that he probably missed them in all the excitement of the previous day’s catch. So he sat down and repaired the nets, and set out for fishing very late that day. When he got to the same place as the day before, he threw out his nets and waited. Nothing happened. He waited the rest of the day and into the early evening with the same result. As the night began to settle, Ansyr pulled his nets back in, disappointed this time, but then realized that the fish had not mentioned something about catching fish three days in a row. So he went back, not really worried as he had plenty from the previous catch.
The next day, in preparation for the day's fishing, he found the rudder and mast setting to be loose and ill fitting. He chided himself for his inattention the night before, worrying about no fish and not attending to his duty. "The sea is my life, and my life is the sea; I am tempting fate by not attending to what matters", was his chagrined response. So once again he made his repairs and got started late. As the day before, he pulled in empty nets and returned home without a catch. He was sad but not disheartened by this; he still had one good catch, did he not?
The next morning all was ready and he left at his usual time and went to try once more for this wondrous bounty. No sooner had Ansyr started throwing his nets into the water than the black barsa called to him. "Why have you returned to this place once again," he demanded, "are three times not enough for you?"
This surprised Ansyr greatly. "I have only pulled one catch from the ocean and do not know what you speak of!" There was silence for a time while the fish and man stared at each other. The silence lengthened between them with neither saying anything.
"Were it not your nets that were thrown into the water three times and filled three times?" the fish finally asked.
“I threw my nets in the first morning and pulled in your bountiful harvest, but the next two days brought nothing,” answered Ansyr.
"For three mornings," the fish said, "I have filled the nets that were dropped in this place."
"But I was able to only come on one morning, the other times I could not make it until the afternoon,” replied the man.
With that the fish slapped its tail in the water causing a great splash and disappeared.
For many days Ansyr fished as normal, but wondered what had become of the black barsa and what would happen now. During this time he found out that it had been in fact Nolaf who had taken the other two catches. Ansyr wasn’t really angry with Nolaf, just sad that he had done it. He understood that all fishermen were trying to find a little luck and Nolaf had just taken what luck he could. Ansyr had one good catch that brought his family a little extra money and still many meals to come, so he could not begrudge another for wanting this also.
Perhaps it was a month later or maybe a little longer when Ansyr heard the voice again. He was a little surprised, as he had thought to never hear of the black barsa again. When Ansyr looked over the gunwale at the fish, he was astonished to see it had grown considerably. It was easily twice as big as any other barsa he had ever seen.
"Fisherman it is clear that another has stolen that which was not his, and I would know who has done this."
Ansyr was frightened; he could not knowingly put another fisherman in danger. No matter what that fisherman may have done. All lived and died by the sea and no fisherman would cast another to disaster when they may need their help at a future time.
"A fisherman throws his net into the oceans and pulls up a catch, it is not until it is in his ducraer that he can claim a partial ownership. It is through the grace of Baveras that a fisherman harvests these fish and part belongs to her. It was not in my ducraer so I had no ownership so it was not stolen from me", was the answer Ansyr gave.
"That is not what I asked and you know it! The catch was mine to give and a false fisherman has taken it."
"No", Ansyr replied, "The fault was mine, I was careless with your gift and another received it. I am the one to blame." With that he closed his eyes, expecting he knew not what. All was quiet, and when he opened his eyes again, the fish was gone.
Many, many weeks passed while Ansyr went about his livelihood, somewhat subdued. Many commented on it, but he would say nothing about why, or about what had happened. He was worried and knew not what to do or what he could do. He sent up prayers to Baveras for guidance, but found no comfort or answers. He still gave of himself to others whenever help was needed, but his ready smile seemed dimmer. No one noticed that Nolaf went out of his way to avoid Ansyr, except Ansyr himself. This also saddened him, he had no quarrel with Nolaf nor did he blame him for his problems, and still did he avoid him.
It was late in the fall, just before the winter storms came sweeping in off the Adanian Sea, when the black barsa once again spoke to Ansyr. The man’s eyes became round at the sight of the fish now. It was larger than his ducraer and could easily capsize one, if the barsa so chose.
"I have heard your words, and I have been watching others of your scual. You have shown honor and integrity and many of the other fishermen reflect these same traits."
Ansyr's spirits rose somewhat at these words, but sank the next moment, for the fish said: "I can not let my gift to you be taken by another. I have pondered your words and seen the actions of the others, so I have come to a decision. I will not seek out the one who took what is not his. However, I will keep watch over all fishermen and will prevent any who will try to benefit from a gift in the future without working for it. If a fisherman is unwilling to put forth the work or shows a laziness in accepting his responsibility to that which Baveras has given, I must take them before their time to Queprur. Go now and give this warning to all. I will let time pass for all to perceive this truth before I act."
That evening Ansyr went to the elders and told them his tale, relating the words he had heard from the black barsa. He did not put blame on anyone, only told a shortened version about what happened. The elders called the village together and related all to them. The villagers talked late into the night and were concerned how this could change their lives.
Finally, the elders called a halt to speculation, and said that nothing would change in how they were to fish the oceans. "Do we not already spend our days working the oceans and giving thanks to the gift from Baveras? All the fish has done is remind us of what we already know. Let us return, for the sea is our life and our life is the sea."
The fishermen returned to the sea, maybe with a little more conscience of their livelihood and the gifts brought from the sea. At times, a black shadow would be seen sliding under a ducraer, but no calamity resulted and many began to believe it was just a huge shark they were seeing. Things settled down with many believing there was not much to the warning, because many thought they worked hard enough to have to worry about it.
Everything continued with things settled back in to their normal routines, until one spring. It was a calm, warm morning and day, with barely a breath from Grothar to ruffle a fisherman’s hair, when Nolaf set out for his day of fishing. By late evening all the other fishermen had returned except Nolaf. A search was formed and his ducraer was soon found capsized. There was no sign of Nolaf, and it became clear that the warning from the black barsa was a reality.
To this day the black barsa drifts through Baveras’ realm, occasionally reminding fishermen that a gift is truly a gift when worked for.
THE TWO BROTHERS
as told by Andulf Istherin
The fisherman Andulf Istherin. Image drawn by Quellion.
here once were two brothers, children of a fisherman and his wife in Nepris. One was named Alof, he was the older one, and the other was called Marin, being two years younger. Alof was a very aggressive child, and didn't make life easy for his smaller brother. In fact it was said that he didn't care much about Marin. Everytime there was work his parents needed to be done, Alof managed to delegate most of it to his brother, and everytime when there was some advantages to obtain, Alof claimed them for himself and Marin received little, if anything. There wasn't much Marin could do - he was the younger and the weaker, and so he accepted his fate.
One day, the two brothers who were in their teens, fished together in their ducraer far off the coast. Suddenly, there was a wrenching movement in the nets and as Alof tried to investigate what was the cause for all this turmoil, an enormous swordfish freed itself from the net. In it's desperate efforts while leaping out of the sea, the swordfish hit Alof with its pointed sword. Alof stumbled back, bumping his head on the gunnel, then he rolled into the sea. Marin witnessed the scene with horror and without thinking, jumped after his brother, rescued the unconscious body and dragged him back into the ducraer, thus saving Alof's life.
This event changed Alof. He was so thankful to his younger brother that he started to treat him differently from then on. He even vowed that should something happen some time to Marin, he would also risk his own life to save his brother's.
And so time went by. The brothers grew up and while Marin remained in Nepris, fishing like his father and grandfather, Alof moved to Ciosa, where he became a merchant. Every now and then he visited his younger brother, but there came a time when the contact seemed to break off and they led their separate lives. Marin eventually married the neighbour's daugther and she became pregnant soon after the ceremony. Everybody was happy in expectation of the soon-to-be-born baby and there was a big discussion on how to name the little fellow.
One day, Marin's wife, Amra, lay in throes of agony. What all had hoped would be a great celebration of childbirth, in fact, turned out as long hours of labors for the young mother. Being soft and fragile, she struggled for more than a full day with the birth, and though the midwives did their best to save her life, it seemed hopeless.
At the same evening, heavy clouds formed over the Mithral and a storm broke out, so intense and terrible that fishermen would speak of it for generations, and caused a lot of damage at the Mossy Rocks Cove region. In the midst of the storm Amra struggled with her baby and her life but as morning dawned, neither was her baby born, nor had Amra perished yet from her strains.
When the sun rose, fishermen brought further ill news. A ship had obviously capsized on the cliffs during the storm and various crates and at least one dead body had been found already. However, there seemed to be good news among the bad ones as well, as one of the crates contained a rare medicine, composed of exotic gunthreed leaves which only grow at specific parts at the continent of Nybelmar. The medicine was said to not only have strong effects to soothe the mother's sufferings during childbirth, but could also provide strength.
The Neprisian herbwoman immediately recognized the medicine and knew it was a last chance to save Amra or her unborn child, and so applied it hurriedly.
And indeed, only shortly after the treatment was used, a little boy was finally born and he was healthy with the eyes of his father. Amra, though weary and exhausted, also recovered from her pains very soon afterwards.
It was not until the next day the proud father discovered that the dead man who had been washed on the coast, and whose medicine had saved his wife's and child's life, was his brother Alof.
Marin prayed for a long time for his brother's soul to find its way to Baveras's embrace, the Sea Goddess whose nearness he had once more experienced in these hard times. He also thanked her for the gift of new life she had granted to him.
Days later, when the ritual bathing of the newborn took place in honour of Baveras, it was an easy decision for who the young parents would name their son after.
'Alof', Marin said, and Alof would only be the first of three children that Amra would bore her loving husband in the coming years.
THOMGEIR AND THE GHOSTSHIP
as told by Calmann Narth
homgeir was a captain a long, long time ago, even before King Santhros united the realms to form the Kingdom of Santharia, back when the lands we live in now bore the name Avennoria..." [Note that the narrator inhabits the Manthrian region] "...Thomgeir travelled often and far, from Marcogg to Strata and even far to the south to the deserts of Aeruillin. He was a well-known trader and proud of it, renowned in all those lands and he brought the most exotic goods from afar to the shores of Sarvonia.
Image description: The Ghostship Varteran. Picture by Fiorellina.
One day he sailed in a ship known as the 'Varteran' from Marcogg to the Isle of Doranthakar, which now harbours the small Kingdom of Dorania, when something unexpected happened...
Another ship approached, which soon turned out to belong to ruthless pirates. Thomgeir's ship was only a small one, a vandrek, not the big barek he was used to commanding, and small was his crew and also the treasure.
The pirates caught up and finally boarded the ship by force. Thomgeir's crew tried to fend the intruders off, but it was to no avail. The little treasure there was they transfered to the other ship, and seeing that the vandrek was already severely damaged during the fight and in danger of sinking, the pirates offered to take the whole crew as prisoners avoard their vessel and release them as soon as they reached land.
Indeed, the men accepted, but Thomgeir refused to leave his ship as he still thought he could make it to safety if given a free hand. The pirate captain disagreed, but Thomgeir kept insisting.
Indeed as it turned out, the pirate captain had no patience with Thomgeir and his love for his ship. And so he finally gave the gruesome order to leave the captain on his ship, tied to the mast, leaving him to the waves. But if that were not enough, one of the pirates even took a hammer and a large nail and drove it right through the forehead of the doomed captain to keep him quiet once and for all. And though, so the story goes, this didn't happen: It is said that Thomgeir was still alive when the pirate's ship left him on the open sea, toy of the tides.
The members of his crew who had survived the raid later told the tale, and they also claim that he was shouting at the pirates when they left him, cursing them. Yes, he did so, though nailed to the mast he was.
And so ends the story of Thomgeir. Though everyone here at Mossy Rocks Cove will confirm that the vandrek of Thomgeir, the 'Varteran', is still out there somewhere on the ocean. Throughout generations people have reported to have seen this small ship, crewless, and some say as well that they have watched the rotten corpse of Thomgeir nailed to the mast, passing them by and then disappearing in the fog again.
None can say if this appearance is Thomgeir's spirit, which still hasn't come to rest and seeks revenge at the pirates' descendants or if he only wants to warn others of the dangers he faced.
VYNNOLF AND THE WYRM
as told by Calmann Narth
The Nepris elder Calmann Narth. Image by Faugar.
here once took place an expedition of a discoverer who wanted to find new lands in the eastern seas.
As he and his crew entered uncharted waters all of a sudden a storm approached, which was so fierce, that it completely destroyed the ship and all members of the crew drowned in the depths of the ocean.
Except one. His name was Vynnolf, and he was an ambitious young sailor. He had thought that he'd become rich and famous if he participated in such an adventure should they indeed discover new lands. But this was not to happen. He was lucky anyway, because it seemed that Baveras had an eye on him: He was washed on the shore of a small, yet unknown, isle.
Vynnolf's only possibility to survive was to make the isle his home and hope that he somehow would be saved one day. But years passed by and his hopes seemed in vain. And though, there had been people on the island before him, no doubt. As in one of the small caves he discovered whole rooms full of strange coins of gold, goblets and plates made of silver and necklaces with the brightest jewels he had ever seen. Probably all these valuables were treasures gathered by pirates, forgotten in the meantime, as nobody came ever back to add or take from the riches. Alas, all these things were of no use to Vynnolf, and in the long years he lived on the island he forgot about all these treasures.
Then one day - more than two decades had passed in the meantime - a ship came off course in a storm and by sheer luck found Vynnolf on his island, now barely recognizable as a human. It is said that he didn't even know anymore how to speak and had to learn many things anew. But he returned home, and he was happy.
Vynnolf had changed. He had become a humble man, who had learned to value the blessings of a simple fire, fresh meat, a bit of cheese, and what it meant to have friends. He felt in heaven. Until the day when he mentioned in one of his narration concerning his adventures on the isle that he had discovered huge treasures down in those caves he had found. And since that day people didn't want to let go of him. Immediately an expedition was planned to retrieve the gold. And this was when Vynnolf saw the other side of his "friends", the side he was happy to have missed during his time living as a castaway. He saw the greed and the recklessness of the people to gain riches without honoring what they already had.
And so he decided to lie to them for their own good. "There's a wyrm out there, guarding these caves!", he said. "A vicious wyrm, who will kill you all when you approach him, and even I barely survived. Don't go there," he begged to his friends, fearing that the wealth would change them to their disadvantage. "Treasures are not everything in life!"
But nobody listened to Vynnolf. A ship set out finally meant to collect the riches and Vynnolf already feared that the crew would take him to task upon returning why they hadn't encountered the wyrm he had mentioned. - But nobody ever returned from this mission.
Months later another ship set out to investigate the matter, to defeat the wyrm and to return with the riches themselves should something have happened to the other ship. But it returned neither.
Also a third ship tried its luck, but suffered the same fate.
Well, that's what happened. Nobody can tell what really took place out there in the deep seas. But the people back then agreed that the sailors shouldn't have tried to challenge such a mighty wyrm, especially as they had been warned repeatedly.
But since Vynnolf had told his son on his deathbed that there never had been any wyrm, people don't know anymore what to think. Some call the incidents Vynnolf's curse, others say that Baveras understood the deep sentiments in Vynnolf and only did what for the Goddess seemed her cruel duty. Or were the waters out there just too stormy for all three ships? Was it all just coincidence?
Well, the truth we'll never know.