The Poppy Queen
The Poppy Queen, also known as the Ghost Queen, was commonly believed to roam the High Seas during the Golden Age of Piracy in the centuries following the Great Plague. Her ship which could supposedly appear and then disappear, traveling enormous distances in minutes, was a matter of much rumor. Several nations put bounties on the head of this famous pirate, but to no avail. The version recorded here is one of those told by the peoples of north eastern Dijua, who lay claim to the Poppy Queen as one of theirs.
Queen of GhostsA fog came upon the people of a small fishing village on the coasts of Dijua one day, so thick they could not see their own hands stretched out before them, and voices became muffled. Many feared to go out and fish, for the rocky shore could be hard to navigate even with sight. But the harvest of the previous few days had been little, and one girl, who some claim was blind and therefore unaffected by the fog, declared that she would go out alone if need be. A few youths stepped forward to join her. They set out into the water, which was unusually bestirred. Fish leapt onto the boat, to the astonishment of the youths, and they heard a strange keening on the wind. The girl's crew mates begged her to turn back, but she was convinced there were more fish to find and pressed onward. Then they came upon a lightening of the fog, as often happens, but to their astonishment something loomed out of the mists. No rock was it, nor promontory, but a ship, tremendous and grand and like none they'd ever seen. The youths cried out in fear, convinced it was a raider or else a ship of the sea god, but the girl was curious and took them alongside the drifting ship. "Ho there!" she called up. "Do you need help?" For the water here was shallow and full of rocks, and never had she seen such a large ship so close to this part of shore. No response came, so she circled the ship, finding a series of handholds near the stern. She ordered her crew mates to be cautious, and to flee if they felt endangered, and climbed up alone. She found the deck entirely deserted, so quiet that noise felt like blasphemy. She, of course, promptly started shouting, first to confirm to her crew that she had made it safely, and then to search for any life. She entered the captain's cabin, which was decorated with riches beyond imagining - and utterly empty. She went below decks, and found things which she had never dreamed of, but not a single thing stirred except her. In fact, the entirety of the ship showed no signs of panic, nor a hurried leaving, and looked as if the crew were merely elsewhere, perhaps around the next bend. She returned to her little boat after exploring every nook and cranny, and exhorted her crew to join her - and bring the ship to a hidden cove she knew, so they might have it for their village. Indeed, she speculated, if such riches the wide world held, could they not take the ship, which was surely the queen of ships, and take some of those riches for themselves? The description of the ship's contents overcame the youths' trepidation, and they hurried up to the deck, finding ropes to raise the little boat behind them. None had ever stepped upon a ship so fine, but the girl quickly figured out the controls - indeed, to every hand who worked upon that ship, the navigation seemed more intuitive than walking. They took the ship to the cove easily enough, then returned triumphant to their village with not only fish but dried foodstuffs from the ship's hold. The village people were amazed, and they praised the girl for her bravery. The village elder declared that the ship was the girls, for she alone had dared step foot on it at first, and that the apportionment of the goods would be her choice. She immediately declared she would share with the entire village, though the first choice of luxury items would go to the youths who had helped her move the ship.
Queen of ShipsSome time later, another season without fish came, and the girl, now a woman, looked out upon the waters and declared she would go out and return with goods as they had once enjoyed. Indeed, she said, she would bring such goods to all the peoples of the coast, and word spread through the fishing villages of her aim. She ended up with an eager crew, a mixture of desperate youths and grizzled elders whose long experience at sea would prove vital. She set out in her ship, named the Queen of Ships by her crew, and explored the high seas for plunder. The ship, though, turned out to have a strange ability - as they sailed the sky turned bizarre colors and the crew felt a pressure upon them that lasted only a few brief, terrifying moments. The sky reverted, the pressure relieved, and before them suddenly was a slow merchant ship, deep in the water with the weight of her goods. The captain was delighted, and brought her ship alongside the merchantman in quick order, demanding their surrender. The merchants, not wanting to fight such a strange ship, acquiesced, and were surprised when she took only what she perceived to be surplus, leaving them with not only enough food for the journey back to port but also some of their goods and almost all of their gold, for her people had no use for coins. Delighted by their tremendous success, the crew struck another few merchants in quick succession, the ship's magic bringing them immediately to the best targets, and then sailed home, laden with enough goods to have fifty villages of people living like the imperials of old. They went out almost every year afterwards, though future plunders were not quite so easy as their first as they began to meet opposition. Still, the Queen of Ships could outrun any pursuit, even, it is said, sailing upon a breeze only she felt.
Queen of PoppiesIn time the captain heard of a strange substance, which she had often left ships with, viewing it as useless. Opium, it was said, had the power to ensnare minds - and the peoples of the world would pay a pretty penny for it. Why, she thought, not begin selling some of the treasures her people had no use for, so that they may live in even greater luxury. She asked her Queen of Ships to bring them to opium shipments - which very often were other pirate ships - and then to places they could sell the valuable drug, and buy anything that caught their fancy. (Often wood, which was tremendously valuable to the coastal people but rarely captured in raids). Pirate ships she appeared alongside started not just surrendering but defecting, swearing fealty to the Queen of Ships and her captain. The captain was joyous, and many of those who kept their word quickly found themselves flourishing as she had flourished. She quickly garnered a reputation not just for appearing and disappearing, but for so much of the opium trade passing through her hands that they named her the Poppy Queen. She then vanished, four hundred years after she'd first appeared, her ultimate fate one of the mysteries of the ages.
The north eastern quadrant of the continent Dijua is mountainous, with rocky, clay-heavy soils hardly capable of supporting livestock, let alone traditional agriculture. Most of the communities clustered near the coasts, relying on fishing for their living, and that and the relative isolation from the rest of the world led to a natural talent for sea craft in the area. The people often lived in extreme poverty, driving many to crimes such as highway robbery and piracy, especially in lean years with little fish. Many of those who went out into the world were reportedly welcomed back by their people as heroes bearing vital resources. Contrary to popular imagination, the pirates of the area cared little for gold, instead focusing their efforts on trade goods such as timber, spices, and silk. The north eastern coast did indeed flourish after a time, with outside goods pouring in, permitting the establishment of several towns that catered to pirates around the coast's many hidden bays. The existence of the Poppy Queen herself is a matter of more debate. Certainly, there was a surge in piracy during and after the ravages of the Great Plague, and the opium trade blossomed in its wake, but there's no concrete evidence that the pirates were united under one banner, nor of a supposedly magical ship. However, multiple worlds have similar legends from around the same time, of a ship that appears and then vanishes, leading to some to speculate that the Poppy Queen might have had a multi-dimensional ship - in that case, she would have most likely not been native to Veshiri, as the chances of a remote fisherman from that planet and time inventing such a ship are about the same as a fisherman inventing steamships upon hearing that some distant land has begun smelting bronze.
The myth is popularly known in Veshiri, and a minor curiosity in other worlds, though naval historians consider its relation to similar myths a matter of deep mystery.
Variations & Mutation
The origin of the magical ship itself is one of the most variable parts. Common claims include that the Poppy Queen built it herself, that it drifted ashore to her fishing village, and that she, in this being a pirate of some note already, captured it after it betrayed its previous master. With consistent contact with other worlds came the eventual revelation that other worlds have similar stories, adding another variant origin - that the Queen wasn't of the planet at all, but rather a traveler from another world entire (this has proved less popular, despite being more plausible).
The story is a favorite of the people of north eastern Dijua, and the nearby city of Sistu (which sits between the north and south eastern quadrants) named its wharf district for the legend, and piracy is a common theme in several businesses, including a museum.
There are a number of publications about the Poppy Queen, primarily penny dreadfuls and penny adventures (the latter often meant for children) in the modern age. The potential adventures of the Poppy Queen and her crew across multiple worlds have captured the public's imagination.
The Sistu Museum of the High Seas has a statue of the Queen with poppies at her feet out front, and a number of Sistu establishments such as restaurants (often those aimed towards tourists) have a pirate theme, often referencing the Poppy Queen herself. Poppies have become a common motif in the area of the Queen's supposed origin, and mention of her is woven into several sea shanties in the region. Notably, poppies were used as a symbol of the Dijuan resistance against the spreading Veshiri Empire (starting in the north eastern region and then spreading).
Date of First Recording
The first recording of the poem was in 1,597 of the Dawn Era, though different versions were recorded later.
Date of Setting
Variably between 1500 and 1100 of the Dawn Era