In the World of El Tor, there is no shortage of local legends that have been established in the various regions where humans have settled. Two of the myths that have seen a wider circulation both involve the mysterious darkness under the water – in Lago Nero, the large lake that separates Caelon from Secessia, and in the Mar de Comercio, (the Sea of Commerce) that hosts the Saibhrean Isles to the Northwest of Caelon.
The Stone Maidens of Lago Nero
The legend dates back toward the end of the third era, when vindicators would return to the White Walled City after their excursions out into the demon-flooded world. While it is accepted as fact that many different types of demons existed (some cities to this day have remains still on display), any secrets that lie within Lago Nero have remained mysterious through the ages.
Vindicators who traveled by boat across Lago Nero spread stories about what they initially thought were stone statues protruding from the water. They described the statues as figures of women, beautifully carved but covered in moss and seaweed, giving them somewhat of a “living” characteristic. The first reports of these sightings were in the southern half of the lake, about halfway between Caelon and the land now known as Secessia. Other reports of the statues claim that the statues were seen hundreds of miles north, toward where Torium now resides.
What makes the myth so peculiar is that each time, the stone maidens are reported to be facing directly at the oncoming ships as they pass by. In each instance the following has been reported: If the sailors approach the statue directly, a large waves crashes over top of the statue and hides it from view, drawing it back underwater. Also, when sailors pass by, the heads of the statues seem to rotate, tracking the ships on their way.
In none of the reports have the stone maidens been known to cause any kind of physical harm, but the fact remains that because the nature of the statues remains mysterious, sailors have learned to avoid them in the rare cases that they still appear. In the Fourth Age, they have become so rare that their existence itself has been called into question by rational thinkers, even despite the mountains of eyewitness reports of their existence.
Parade of the Dead in the Mar de Comercio
One of the great mysteries of the Saibhrean Isles is the reported appearance of ghostly apparitions just under the surface of the water. In all cases, the apparitions seem to be led by a bright white whale whose song causes hypnotic effects upon listening.
There is a sonnet by the famous Saibhrean poet Bróccan the bard that describes the myth very well that has gotten exposure throughout the isles over the years, but it had already been so ingrained within the culture for many years, that the poem was certainly not most people’s first exposure to the legend. It did, however, increase the reach of the myth to northwest Caelon as well.
Torians in the isles have come to associate the white whale and its parade with the afterlife. Supposedly, the priestesses of the dead, the sagairt báis as they are called, are rumored to know the secrets of the parade of the dead, not sharing this with anyone outside of their strange circle.
Common mythology around the white whale claims that the whale leads the souls of the dead to the underworld (domhan thíos), their penultimate resting place prior to their final salvation once the sacred seal has been broken.
Eyewitnesses have claimed that while the souls of the people are below the surface of the water, they are nearly perfectly visible in their forms, but outside of the water nothing can be seen. Some have even claimed to have seen perfectly recognizable visages of deceased relatives and lovers within the deep waters, even without the white whale and the parade.
The sightings of loved ones in the water has become a common theme in many of the poems of the Saibhrean Isles. Many hopefuls, especially those who never got the chance to say goodbye, take trips across the water in hopes that they might get that one last chance.
The white whale of legend is the subject of the crest of Clan Mac an Bhaird (Clan Ward, in Caelish).