Der Fischer Und Die Magische Leiche


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Heinrich sat in his quarters as the ship's light steering and soft drip-dropping of rain tempted to lure him into sleep. The fickle flame of a candle on his desk was the only source of light in the dark of the night. It was in this twilight realm between sleep and vigilance that he worked best. It allowed him access to the abstract regions of his mind while keeping lucidity in the waking realm. It allowed for words to flow easier, if quite a bit messier than his more conscious efforts.

He inked his quill and began the arduous process of transcribing today's findings into a hobby of his: story-telling. He did so knowing he would never share what this parchment held—except to his family, when he returned home. He also knew it was not in good taste to twist the lives of others into children's nighttime stories. Alas, he did just that, and had done for many years. From a colorful piper—owner of a black, bone-carved flute of mysterious origins—that drowned a hundred or so children in spiteful revenge, to a cannibal witch who bloated children with sweets.

It reminded him of the times his mother would honey the evils of the world for his young ears to hear. It was the desire to preserve the tales of old, even if bastardized. And today, such an opportunity had presented itself to him.

Hired to keep records of all occurrences in the Caribbean Inquisition, his ship had sailed onwards to a barren region of the sea. They've heard that there once lived a fisherman and his wife in an isle where now only water stood. But now, whispers of monsters and Gods of the sea were all that remained from the region.

Deciding to stop stalling, Heinrich took to the task at hand.

~~ Der Fischer und Die Magische Leiche ~~

von Heinrich Grimm

Once upon a time, there lived a fisherman and his wife in a lonesome little isle. Every day, the fisherman up and went to shore with his line and net for a meal, staying pass afterlight to all reel. From the wee guppy to the great sea puppies. And he did this every day, all days, for his wife was far too frail: to her, the wind was all but gale.

In one such day, the fisherman sat on a rock along the coast, hoping to return with something to boast. But then, as he drew his net from the waters, there he saw: laid trapped was no fish, but a cadaver. His skin was dark as coal, wrinkled as rags, and in his forehead saw a beautiful gem like none he'd saw. It glowed green in a color most beautiful; of early spring it be rather suitable. The fisherman worried, for never had he someone buried.

Then, with great effort, the corpse drew breath. "Oh, fisherman, I prithee thee; set me free. The waves have carried me so from my crew, and in haste I must return to sea. This vessel barely holds, and it shall give you no aliment. My flesh rots and sickness' pungent. Please, cut these wires and I shall give ye anything the heart desires! For I'm a mage, you see, so please, set me free!"

"No need to fret, for me and my wife don't eat such meat. I shall let you go. Go on, swim to shore!" Said the fisherman as he cut the ropes. The corpse in the water all but sunk, leaving in its trail tar-black gunk. Confused by all that transpired, the fisherman to his home retired.

He had to stretch quite a bit for some of the rhymes, but it was good enough in his eyes. Thinking back, he could remember very clearly when he had first laid his eyes on the so-called God of the Sea. Nothing more than a barely-human creature sitting in a boat too small for its size. Its hair was seaweed, and its skin was as blue as the sea itself. It threw hook and line through their entire conversation, loosing bait, yet never catching a single fish.

He had to wonder, then, if the God of the Sea was the fabled genie in front of him… or the shadow that darkened the sea beneath their vessel. A creature most terrible. The mother of all sea terrors, sailors told, was bound to the Sea God to eat all that saw its help. For legend told that any man who came close enough could ask for any wish their heart desired.

"Welcome back," said the wife as he neared the shack. "Have you anything in your pack?" Just like yesterday and the day they sailed from the bay, his wife there in bed laid.

He shook his head, "the fish all went to rest, yet I had with me a most peculiar guest." The fisherman laid next to her. "Why, a man I thought to be dead!"

"He said to have gone ashore by storm, that to his crew he needed to return. He offered to grant me a wish, but I declined; perhaps I should've asked for fish…"

"Much time to craft a story, yet haven't caught a single dory," coughed the wife rather thorny.

"I tell a fact!" said the fisherman, "perhaps you should come to shore and ask."

"If you really found a mage but no fish, maybe you should go and ask for the wish", said the spouse. "I would like a better house. Our shack's in shambles, and we can only see with candles. Now be quick, arguing is making me sick!"

We had first approached it with caution, fearing that at any minute our lives could be in terrible danger. Yet, the danger never came.

"What brings thee fellows to my home?" asked the being, its voice soft and holding a fading—yet still present—tinge of sadness to it. The sea all around was unmoving, as if holding breath for ever soft-spoken word that left its mouth.

Questions were uneasily asked back and forth, but all soon returned to one topic: its bygone wife. A meek woman who had once captured his heart, but whose love the world seemingly sought to take apart. Illness had taken her youth, and left her frail. Even when her heart turned sour with grief and injustice, never once did he leave her side. And when conflict began on their homeland, they soon fled to greener pastures. Yet, life is hardly ever kind.

And so, the fisherman returned to shore, calling for the man he saw before. The water was oily and greenly sick; no doubt from the man's disease.

"O' mage, mage if truth you be
come forth and grant this wish.
Not for me, but my wife,
hear so you may decide."

From the waters rose a man, dressed all in ragged buccaneer's garbs. This time, his eyes too glowed sublime.

"Then say, angler, what does she hanker?" He smiled, his mouth riddled with cankers.

"You're in debt, says my wife, Annette," said the man, working quite a sweat. "For your life, she doth ask to live without strife: she wishes to live in a quaint house; one without mouse nor sprouts."

From the gem grew tendrils of green, reaching all the way down the man's grin.

"Then you may return," said the man, "and with your eyes the wish discern."

The "Mage" was all the Sea God ever called it. Although, once did another name slip its tongue. Germain. One might think it'd speak the name in disgust. Yet, there was only regret and shame in it. And, as the story unfolded, did his longing gazes to the sea increase manifold.

Heinrich tapped the quill on his chin, thinking best how to arrange the events in a simple manner. The Sea God's story was quite extensive. It was the gradual changes with each wish granted that kept it from noticing foul play before it was too late.

Yet, even if they did occur at the fast pace of his re-telling, he'd doubt it would've changed much. The sight of its dear wife, happy and healthy, was worth more than any sea-shore marshes and thundering skies. It is love, sometimes, that which is far more dangerous than greed.

Hesitantly, the fisherman turned. The better the sooner he returned. It wasn't that he didn't trust the mage, but the man was certainly quite strange.

And then he saw the new building in all its fashion. He couldn't believe it, it was a mansion! Gone was the raggedy ceiling and walls, now traded for squealing marble-lined halls. The kitchen was in luxury all but drowning; butlers and maidens in his presence courteously bowing.

"It's all I could've asked and more," said his wife. "Why, next I could go to shore." She was wearing a dress of golden thread; her old rags now surely shred. Her skin remained pale with weakness, but was otherwise in sparkling neatness. It was a sight most beautiful, making all his previous fears and doubts refutable.

"Now we'll never need for more. No more fishing, no more trips to shore," answered the husband, still admiring the abode's decor.

"That we shall see. But come now, it's time to sleep."

And after a hearty meal, so they did.

And for weeks they lived in tranquil and peace, yet the wife's pondering never ceased. She recalled times bygone, far, far before she'd grown weak and gaunt. Memories she thought erased long since she and her husband from the hate they fled.

Was it so wrong to ask for a little more?

"The house is quaint and lively is our state," said the wife one morning in a voice most faint. "But do tell, have you no wish for things to be as they once were?"

"Annette, the house is more than enough. Surely, we couldn't ask for more!" The fisherman had grown to enjoy their new peace, but knew how easily it all could seize.

"A life is worth more than a adobe. I'm sure he'd be fine if we asked for more. Something large and fancy; Lord knows this house is a bit scanty."

"I wish not to return," plead the husband. "I don't want his wrath to evoke and be burnt!"

"Oh, I'm sure he won't mind. Now go, do ask I ask"

And in truth—and hindsight—, the Mage couldn't have minded less. Quite the opposite, indeed. It was not its first victim, as the hollow husks of mariners with now-green eyes fill the shores of the Caribbean. And worse are those hollow husks that do not.

Thunder roared and waves crashed outside the ship, tilting it to and fro. Heinrich rubbed his eyes from sleep, as the effects of self-inflicted insomnia started to take a toll on him. He didn't know if he'd be able to finish it before conciousness left him.

He wondered if the dark, broken ghost ship of St. Germain roamed these waters alongside them. He wondered if the souls it carried trembled with the thunder. From joy of escaping from their prison by fire, or from fear of the wrath of God leading them to an even worse faith.

The fisherman knew he couldn't deny. For it had been years since he'd seen her so alive. With a heavy heart and slow pace, to shore he went for the mage to face. The water was thick, black, and yellow, and no longer did the shore had its sunny mellow, for the skies with loud thunder bellowed. And far from the shore, a half-sunken ship; more than half of it by water chipped. With a prayer and a breath, he did then exclaim:

"O' mage, mage if truth you be
come forth and grant this wish.
Not for me, but my wife,
hear so you may decide."

From the waters rose a man in full captain's gear; blue lips grinning ear to ear. The gem on its head was bigger than before. More tumor than mere decor "Then say, angler, what does she hanker?"

The mysterious mage by his return sounded neither angry nor annoyed. In truth, he was quite overjoyed. Little did his mind it soothe, be it from the sunken eyes or the smile with too-many-tooth.

"Oh," implored the man weakly, "she says the debt is not paid! We wishes for her past grace: a castle worthy of a Spanish lord, a memory from before the war sent us abroad!"

The gem glowed a green most foul; its tendrils like venomous snakes in his face did prowl. The earth shook and the seas bubbled, leaving the fisherman most troubled. And as soon as it began, it stopped. Pieces of flesh from the mage in the water plopped. Each chunk revealed beneath thick, rough skin like leather sheaths.

"Then you may return," said the man, "and with your eyes the wish discern."

And so the man did turn and to home swiftly returned. And what he saw took his breath away, for a castle was all in display! Inside, he found the halls to be full of knights and maids, all in black and green like a funerary parade. Their faces hidden behind helmet and veil, hiding sickly skin else dignitaries turn pale. And seated in the throne was none other than his wife, crowned and no longer sickly-white. At her feet kneeled specters of old kings and queens.

"Husband, this castle indeed seems fitting. Why, I'd have to thank the mage for a job so flitting." Her head was crowned and no longer she frowned. Her skin was pink with life like the first time he'd meet his future wife.

"Then we shan't ask for nothing more. I wish not to again the mage implore."

Her wife remain silent, and in her eyes held a light most suppliant. For in her was wish deeper than any other, the longing of carrying another. A part of her ripped by sickness, but that could now be renewd with swiftness.

"We shall see. Now, let us hold court, our subjects demand my support."

Words melted together under Heinrich's eyes. He knew their meaning, but the journey between mind and hand was utterly lost to him. It didn't matter, as the story was soon coming to an end, and soon he may rest.

He laughed bitterly, as he already knew the end of the story—even if there was no one else to boast the fact to other than himself. Even the most pure of wishes can twist into vile surprises.

It was deep in the night that the wife felt in her heart much fright. Even with soldiers and gold, there was still something she desired much, much more. Yet, to speak of it nearly made her cry. What if the mage all but denied?

Still, she gathered her resolve, and her husband roughly awoke.

"Husband," she asked in a voice most meek, "with the mage you need to speak."

"No! I cannot ask him for more. What if he's grown of us sore?!"

"Tell him to take it all away!" she plead. "For this wish be not of greed. Tell the mage to bring me to health, so that here at sea we may start a family again!"

Silent was the fisherman for long, but in the request he could see nothing wrong. With fear but conviction, he sought the living malediction. The sand was thick with death, and it hurt to take a breath. Corpses rose from the sea, the sight nearly bringing him to his knees. Screaming to the heavens so his plead may beckon through the laughing devils, he said:

"O' mage, mage I plea,
come forth and hear our wish.
Not of gold, but of heart,
hear what we want!"

A man of most pristine garments rose from the depths, yet all the same for his smile and foul breaths. His eyes shone with green light; the gem he once held no longer in sight.

"Tell, angler, for what do you hanker?" His smile bled with rancor.

"Oh, we make a last wish. Take all you've given since I've caught you for fish, but please, hear: give my wife strength so that a family we may build at sea in length!"

Heinrich's quill stopped and held atop the parchment. In truth, the Sea God had not continued his tale at the very end, and instead turn his sights to the calm waves, not speaking a single word else.

They had returned to ship, and planned to sent a letter to their superiors in hopes of advice in how to deal with the "issue" at hand. It bothered him slightly, as it always did, to work with unfinished tales.

Yet, as he turned his sight back whence they left the Sea God alone, he saw shadows upon shadows circle its boat. And there he remained, throwing endless bait into the waters, never seeking to caught any of them. Content in spite of its ill-fated end.

Perhaps, even the cruelest of faiths held light in them.

Heinrich, once the ink had dried enough, rolled the parchment and stored them to work on tomorrow. He wasn't in any hurry. After all, who would want to read such grim tales but his grandsons?

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