Scary Tales of the Deep Folk, Book 1

Author: Cassia Volcatia

Welcome back, dear reader, to another volume of "Scary Tales." I write to you today from inside the mysterious and miraculous town of Markarth. Built long ago by the vanished Dwarves, the city has survived for centuries. It now serves as home to a group of Reach clans united under Ard Caddach, a Reach warrior of some repute. Ard Caddach is the first chief to unite the Reach under one banner since his cousin Leovic did so!

After the success and popularity of your fair scribe's last tome of tales both unresolved and unexplained, Scary Tales of the Druadach Mountains, your traveling tale-teller was invited to the city of Markarth by none other than Ard Caddach himself. The ard hopes to correct the impression that the Reachfolk are barbarians (an impression your fair scribe never meant to convey, of course!) and remind all my readers that the people of the Reach, like all peoples, have a grand culture and a rich tradition of storytelling.

And so, against the advice of both my patrons and my fellow scribes, I undertook the long and perilous journey to Markarth to meet with Ard Caddach and immortalize the long-told tales of his people.

Below are three accounts of strange and unexplained events in the Reach from the Reachfolk of Markarth themselves, collected for the first time by one humble scribe. So settle into your favorite chair, grab yourself a mug of mead, light the lanterns against the dark of night. Then read on—if you dare.

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The Fish-People in the Dark Places

Our first tale comes from a Reach vateshran, or history keeper, whose tribe lived in the mountains above Markarth for decades. Many years ago, she said, their scouts reported sightings of startlingly humanoid creatures coming and going from the caves below where the clan lived.

At first the clan thought these creatures to be goblins, yet these goblins were hairless, eyeless, and had dead-gray skin like that of a fish. These "fish-people," as the clan took to calling them, had never approached the camp and never attacked any Reachfolk. Yet the clan refused to take chances with such obvious abominations.

The clan-chief formed a war party and led it into the caves below, determined to force out these fish-people and secure her clan's territory. Yet the party encountered no resistance, even after they searched all the caves. They found no sign of any fish-people inside, despite their scout's report that a number entered the caves mere hours before the war party arrived.

Later that night, in the darkest hours before the morning, the first attack occurred. Several Reachfolk were silently murdered, their bodies left gruesomely displayed, while others disappeared entirely. Once again, the clan-chief gathered her best hunters and strode into the caves. She planned to root out the fish-people who had attacked her clan and destroy them. And once again, a full day's search revealed only empty caves.

That night, the clan remained on full alert, but no more attacks came. Each night for weeks after, the clan posted pickets. Yet no more attacks came, and there were no more sightings of the fish-people. More than a month passed before the clan-chief finally allowed her clan to resume their normal patrols, and that same night, the fish-people struck again. This time, they left the bodies of several elders strung up on the mountain, and worse still, several children vanished entirely, never to be seen again.

Enraged by yet another cowardly attack and an egregious assault on the most vulnerable members of her clan, the clan-chief flew into a righteous fury. She called forth her witches and shamans, and summoned additional magic support from neighboring clans. One by one, they sealed the caves below the clan's land. She had them collapse each wound in the mountain with rage, magic, and force of will, and when they were done, there was nothing but heavy piles of broken rock where the caves once stood.

The clan remained wary for many months after, but no more attacks came, and no more fish-people were ever seen. The clan's clan-chief was wise to seal the caves, yet the lack of vengeance forever gnawed at her and her clan. Who were those fish-people, they asked, and how were they able to hide unseen in the caves?

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