The Necks; also called the Nøkken; also called Sirens or Mermaids. The Necks are sometimes confused with the Espiri, who, while spirits of the foam and also shapechangers, sometimes take the form of Necks but are not Necks proper. Lorelei is a famous Neck that once inhabited the River Pentos, but was driven away.
A Storied Race
A Neck is a semi-legendary figure. They are almost always women in stories told of them -- although there are tales of men who lead women and children astray and drown them by accident. The Neck can shape-shift into various creatures such as pale horses or fish and their true forms remain hidden in those stories; but in most tales, they appear as a human with a fish's bottom half. Necks have magical powers over their voices and can enchant bystanders by accident, causing their listeners to wander towards them and drown.
Ironically, despite their poor appearance in many coastal stories, mermaids are considered a sign of luck to sailors. If you see a Neck before leaving shore, your journey will be smooth and sure. And if there is a storm, you will be miraculously saved and unharmed. Mermaids are carved onto the bows of ships. These statues are said to be able to guide a ship in a storm to safety.
Many tales tell of wedding a Neck. If you catch a Mermaid bathing with her cloak of scales taken off for the moment, and you steal her cloak of scales, the Neck will be obliged to wed you. But if you let your guard down, she will steal back her scales and return to the water, as that is her home and the place she pines for. There are many stories. People confabulate and their stories grow tall and contradictory. It is impossible to know what the race of Necks is truly like. These individual stories spread, and the truth is hidden.
The Necks, in Truth
In all honesty, the author of this article does not know what the Necks are. Any and all attempts to methodically study and discover more about this race has failed. There are only two possibilities. First, that the Necks are secretive and evasive and are able to dodge all magical attempts to find them; second, and this is unlikely, they do not exist.
The most promising tales - stories offering hints to finding a Neck - are found on the Island of Tete, a uniquely magical island that lays in the Relics of Boryen. Tete is a place uniquely connected to the realm of the Shii Elves, also called the Realm of Colors; and stories that are too strange to exist in our world exist in theirs.
But research even there has come to a dead end. So, we turn to that all-encompassing and ancient knowledge: the writings of the Elves. In fact, we have obtained many interesting writings from the Elvish realms regarding the Merfolk.
Now, Elvish knowledge has a distinct drop in quality beyond the 6000-year ago mark. The Wars of Hate did much to destroy the history of those times. And to discover the origin of the merfolk must lead to dealing with an especially far away date.
From many shards of paper and scraps of writing that are barely decipherable even with Language Comprehension spells, we have pieced together this monotale of the origin of the Merfolk and why they are such an elusive people. With this article, we entreat to show that the Merfolk are real and that they are as fantastical as the innumerable stories tell them to be.
There was an Elven man called Fionn the Harp Chief, and he strayed upon a hut on the bank of the river Cora Bog. There he stayed for awhile, and he lived with an old man called Vasudeva, who was a traveler from very far away, and this old man would ferry people across the river Cora Bog for only half a sheaf of wheat as payment.
Fionn learned under this wise old man who had gone to many schools, though none that had taught him anything. And this old man desired above all the Salmon of knowledge. This old man wished to eat the Salmon of knowledge so that he, too, would be knowledgeable and fully wise.
This is what Vasudeva told Fionn of the Salmon:
"In the center of the pine wood called Coilla Doraca there lives the Salmon who lies in the pool of Glyn Cagny into which the nuts of knowledge fall from the hazel bush on its bank. This salmon is the most profound of living creatures."
Vasudeva loved Fionn, and Fionn loved Vasudeva. To Fionn, Vasudeva was the pulse of his heart; to Vasudeva, Fionn was his beloved.
One day, as Fionn fished along the bank, a young darkly skinned woman stumbled through the brush and fell asleep on his lap. Fionn gently took the woman and brought her to the hut by the river Cora Bog. There Vasudeva was cooking a meal, and he looked up as Fionn spoke.
"Heart of my hearts," Fionn said, "I found a Man while I was fishing."
Vasudeva looked at the young woman and told Fionn, "She is alone in this wilderness. You ought to marry her." Fionn agreed, and the two wed. This was the second of the great unions between Man and Elf.
The three lived in the hut by the river Cora Bog, and the woman learned to speak and write under Fionn's tutelage, as she was, like most Men in that time, barbaric and unlearned. She called herself Hal.
One day, as Fionn taught Hal the characters of the Elves, Vasudeva came into the hut with a big grin on his face. "Pulse of my heart," Vasudeva said, "can you guess what has happened?"
"It can only be one thing that makes you so rushed with joy." Fionn declared, "You have captured the Salmon of knowledge; it has finally been ensnared in your nets."
Vasudeva revealed the massive salmon behind his back. "I will cook the fish, now. Do not eat any of it as I prepare the ingredients, as you know how much I have waited for this moment," he said to Fionn.
The Salmon was lain across a pan and cooked over a fire, and the smell caused Fionn's stomach to grumble. Vasudeva left and headed into the woods. Soon after Vasudeva returned, and, after putting some spice on the salmon, told Fionn, "Do not eat the salmon, my love." Fionn told Vasudeva he would not, and the old man left again. Fionn did not eat the salmon.
Vasudeva returned again, and this time he put some leaves on the salmon. "Make sure not to touch the salmon, dear friend," Vasudeva said. Fionn told Vasudeva he would not, and the old man left once more. Fionn did not touch the Salmon.
This time Vasudeva did not return for many hours, and hunger made Fionn ache, and Hal waited with impatience. But the salmon was stoked and guarded, and the long hours of cooking only made the strange and magical salmon of knowledge sweeter to smell. At last Vasudeva returned, and he said, "Oh, Fionn. I thought you would eat the salmon, as that was my intention all along. I simply didn't wish to disturb your supper."
And Fionn replied, "It was you who caught it, why should I eat it?"
Vasudeva said, "Because I should not, indeed, eat the salmon. For I saw a vision many years ago, before you arrived, and I saw that it was you who should eat half the salmon."
"Then you should have told me earlier. Besides, you can have the other half if what you say is true." Fionn said.
But Vasudeva shook his old head, "I saw also that it would be your wife who should eat the other half." And at that, he split the fish in two and served it to Hal and Fionn. The two ate the salmon and were filled with its wisdom.
"Surely it will be someday," Fionn said, "that you, too, will taste the flesh of this fish."
Vasudeva bowed,"If you say it is true, then it must be true, as you have dined on half of all knowledge and would not lie to me."
Now, that night Fionn and Hal made love at night along the banks of the river Cora Bog, but they tumbled over the banks and into the water and Hal drowned.
As Fionn dove into the river to rescue Hal's body, he also saw two small figures sinking to the river bed beside her and brought them up with Hal. As he brought them to the shore he saw that the two figures were children, a boy and a girl with wide grey eyes; the boy had hair golden as the sun and the girl had hair as pale and white as the jumping foam along the waves.
The children also had the bottom halves of fish, and Fionn could not see any legs to be found. With his wisdom, he understood that the magic of the salmon had given him and his wife children far before the usually appointed time, and strange children, at that.
Fionn remarked upon seeing his children, "It is good that Hal ate the bottom half, or you two should be very unfortunate."
Fionn buried his wife and, when he returned to the hut, told Vasudeva that he was leaving. Kissing his friend goodbye, Fionn took his children and made for the road. He carried his two children in his arms, and their laughter rang throughout the woods.
Fionn called the boy Oisin, which means Far-voiced, for his songs could be heard ten miles away, and as clear as if you were next to him; and he called the girl Niamh, which means Piercing-eyed, for she could see the truth in all things.
Fionn trained his children in the art of the harp, and the art of song, and the art of changing one's form. He told them of the gods, and he brought the children to visit Heaven, where he introduced the two to Lur, who loved them dearly as his own. Netzach loved the children as well, who, because of their fishy halves, understood deeply her love of running and dance. But the Espiri have always despised Oisin and Niamh. And they hate Niamh the most, for her songs were added to the songs of the crashing waves by Lur, and they are envious spirits.
Conclusion on the MerfolkThat is the end to the monotale of the origin of the Necks. There are various stories about who Oisin and Niamh wed afterward. Most agree that the two took the forms of Men and found spouses among Men. Some stories say that Oisin and Niamh wed each other. But that is beside the point. The merfolk come from a legendary copulation between a famous Vanwi elf, a Woman, and a mystical fish. It is no wonder they are rare; they were rare even in a time when legendary things were commonplace.
It is a wonder they have survived at all into these times (for the many tales of them today tell us that the merfolk continue to survive). They are a young race, it is true, younger even than Men. But they are a strange combination of the true races formed by Vahan. It is unknown what is the divine plan for the merfolk. And why, even, they should be formed at all. Perhaps they are like the Halflings; relatives of Men. So they are wild and free and young and willful. But they are also relatives of the Elves. So they are mystical and shy and do not appear often to us.
A strange race, indeed. I hope to meet them someday. I hope to learn about them and their culture and their creations. They are kind in most of the stories about them, if a bit forgetful of their dangerous presence.
Lorelei's melodious voice crashed many ships, and the men of the village banded together and came to her rock perched in the river stream and brought their complaints to Lorelei. They wanted her to stop her singing, or to force her to leave. Lorelei left that place and never returned. And that was an unfortunate day.