The Iron Fish

Rust and decay, that is the final voyage of all ships in the Endless Sea. The captains know that sooner or later they must say their goodbyes to the ships they sailed with across that infernal sea. They call it having a bitter drink, because a ship is like a son or a daughter to them, and having to let it sink into the dark bottom of those unexplored waters always drives them to the nearest pub to drown their sorrows in liquor as they recount stories of past glories aboard their vessel.

Woe be upon the captain and their crew who refuses to sink their own when rust has settled all over, for that is when the Iron Fish comes.

It happened twenty years ago, and those in ShantyPort still remember it as it was yesterday. Captain Balassar was getting in on years and his old steamer, Big Bertha, was starting to show clear signs of rust damage across its hull. The Covenant of Captains had told the old sea dog that the time for having his bitter drink was at hand, but Balassar was a stubborn and proud man.

“To Hell and rot with all of you!”, spittle flew from his mouth as he raged inside the copper chambers of the Fishery, the seat of the Covenant. “A captain is not a captain without his ship! You’re all afraid of an old children’s story!”

The 1st Captain, the head of the Covenant, rubbed his grey temples while closing his eyes. Balassar was always one to cause trouble.

“We are not debating on whether your ship will be spared or not, captain Balassar. It is the law that our forefathers set in copper ages ago. The only reason no one living has see the Iron Fish is because no one ever refused to sink their ship when its time had come.”, he gave the old man a weary look when he saw that his anger had not subsided on his face.

“The ship will be sunk in a fortnight, whether by your own hand or the Covenant’s. That is all, this meeting is now adjourned.”, and he banged his captain’s pipe over the metal table nestled inside the guts of the Fishery.

By the next dawn, Balassar was gone with Big Bertha and his crew. The other captains took a vote and a fleet of four ships would seek out Big Bertha and sink it, with its crew in it, as a lesson to all.

One afternoon, as the edges of twilight began to paint the sky in orange and red the Seer from the lookout point atop the hill outside of town sent a telegram to the Covenant.

“MAN ON WOODEN PLANK FLOATING IN. STOP. MEMBER OF PARTY TO SINK BIG BERTHA. STOP. TWO KILOMETERS FROM COAST. STOP.”

A ship was sent, commandeered by captain Glossto -a man of the sea for over thirty years-, to rescue the man. When he finally arrived with his crew and brought the man onboard he was delirious from dehydration and rambling.

“It comes…it comes….”

“What happened out there, man? Where are the other ships?”, Glossto asked the man, but he would only continue to repeat the same two words over and over. They had wrapped the man in a warm blanket, but he would not stop shivering. Without warning he began to convulse and died right on the spot. Glossto and his crew were baffled and decided to head back to shore to bury the man and wait for any more survivors to appear.

It came on the second day after the man died on Glossto’s ship.

Dawn had firmly set on the town, its inhabitants already starting their daily routines for sustenance when another telegram, this one followed by the lookout point’s fog horn alarm sounding in the distance, arrived.

“GIGANTIC SHADOW UNDERWATER. STOP. COMING IN FAST TOWARDS SHORE. STOP. BRACE FOR IMPACT. STOP”

The blast of what appeared to be a thousand fog horns screamed across the pink light of the early sky as the monstrosity rose from the sea below the town’s docks. The Iron Fish had come. 

Layers upon layers of iron scales formed its enormous body. Rows of fangs as tall and wide as a man flashed from a mouth as big as half the docks. In one bite the Iron Fish had devoured half the docks along with a hundred souls. 

The behemoth rammed its massive body over the deep parts of the ocean floor that rested next to the docks and the town, sending shockwaves that made buildings crumble. People scrambled, screaming, trying to get away from the beast’s attack. The captains tried to organize a defense in vain as cannons fired ships that had managed to escape its initial onslaught, but it was all for naught, for the monster’s iron body was impenetrable. A roar bellowed from its mouth, bursting the eardrums of anyone who was as close as three hundred meters from it.

The Iron Fish rammed its body thrice over the shore, bringing down more buildings and devouring more ships that tried to attack it. And as violent as it began, it stopped. The monster had gone underwater and everyone reeled for another attack, but nothing happened. Then they noticed that the underwater shadow was swimming away from the town. The town was spared…in a way.

Twenty years later and people still talk about it in hushed whispers, about the dawn the Iron Fish came upon their town, causing death and destruction. A new law was written in copper after the event: Any captain who refuses to sink their ship once its time has come shall be sunk alongside with it.

No captain has refused to sink their ship ever since.

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