Rotten Fish Maidens, or a story of vultures

(Storytime Part III below; Part I and Part II)

Once there was a village that sat upon the coast where men and women made their livelihood by the sea. The men set out upon the waters in simple boats to fish with net, with hook, and with spear. The women prepared the fish, cooking some fresh while smoking or pickling the rest for the leaner times.

Then one day they received word from a village to the north that they were under attack from strangers. The men, duty bound, set out in their boats with spear and axe to give aid to their neighbor.

The days passed and the women waited. Days became weeks and the fishing season came with no sign of the men’s return. The women set out with the few boats left to the village and cast their nets into the water. Fish swelled their nets, wriggling and riddled with strange diseases. Try as they might, they could not find a single healthy fish in all the catch.

Hunger growled in their bellies until they could stand it no longer. They cooked, smoked, and pickled the flesh of the tumorous fish. They tore at it with their teeth and forced the too-slick flesh down their throats.

When the men finally returned, they found all of the women dead with strange dark birds picking through their bodies. They killed the birds and found amidst the carnage a single woman clinging to life. Though barely alive, her belly was full with child. The child writhed in the womb. The men gathered uncertainly around her, the midwives dead.

A beak thrust from her belly and with a scream, she expired. A strange dark bird tore its way from her. The men lay down in shame upon the earth and died.

And to this day, seeking their fathers, the bird children sail out above the land in search of battlefields, feasting on whatever they find there.

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