Up From the Deep: A seaman's pamphlet on the threat of the Devil Fish
In the most remote corners of the world, around black islands shrouded by mist, and in the dark caves that drink deep of the seven seas, lives a scourge that every seaman must beware of. Read what I offer, take these words to heart, and you may survive your next sojourn to the Dark Continent or Dead Man's Isle.
How did the horrid creatures we have come to know as the Devil Fish crawl from the sea? It is said in the King's court that life begets life, but in the case of these foul residents of the underwater abyss, I would argue differently. In their case, the cycle begins with death.
None will try to claim that the world is without darkness. No matter where you turn, there is a black heart or poisoned soul perched on the edge of despair or anger. To man's credit, I believe he is able to leech himself of this poison, and counter the darkness with reason, joy, and hope. But for those who cannot, the venom is potent, and his blood carries it wherever he goes, including across the ocean.
If a man or a woman with a black heart dies at sea, that poison can be sustenance. There is a creature that lives beneath the waves that is terrible and alien, difficult to comprehend with our feeble minds and that finds human darkness more succulent and sweet than the rarest of tropical fruits. Every black-hearted seaman that takes his final rest in Davy Jones's locker feeds the incomprehensible behemoth that swims in the Eternal Night Below. Indeed, this is how it came to be. The devil fish call it Jaga.
It is my belief that when a ship slips beneath the waves with members of the crew still aboard, Jaga is sometimes attracted to the site of the tragedy. Unlike the moray or the barracuda, I do not believe this abyssal ghost rends and tears at the dead men and women floating down toward the crushing depths. Instead, it embraces the departed, drawing them in and giving them new life as the reviled devil fish.
Do not be tempted to take pity on these cursed abominations. The life they are given is not the life of man. Jaga gives them the ferocity of the shark, the hunger of the whale, and the cunning of the garpike. They are twisted into shapes that are barely recognizable, oftentimes more fish than man, and their souls rest at the bottom of the sea.
Filled with the evil of Jaga, which is no less than the darkness of man himself, the devil fish are compelled to haunt the borderlands between the sea and the earth. Most of the time, they frequent caves carved out by the angry hands of the surf, although they have also been known to take shelter in shallow reefs of coral. Near Tortugas there is even reported to be a clan of the beasts living in the sunken shell of a first class ship of the line visible from the port's highest location.
When the devil fish grow restless, they come ashore to steal or feed, and woe to any man who crosses their path. It has been suggested that Jaga's spawn prefer to ravage under the fullness of the moon, but I have heard numerous tales where upon the monsters sacked a settlement under naught but the stars or even in the light of day. Surprisingly, they do not eat humans. Whether there is some remnant of their lost souls that proscribes them from eating flesh or if their palette simply cannot abide the taste of man is unknown, but they will only devour a human if extremely desperate. Instead, I have heard that they value the taste of any kind of fish, and have a fondness for fruits and breads. One might think this feeding part of a perfectly natural cycle if not for the pillaging.
Once ashore, the devil fish are consumed by avarice. They are often compelled to steal valuables and drag them back into the sea. Most accounts point to an interest in all that they would have loved as men and women: gold, gemstones, silk, spices, rum, and the like. This greed is surely a composite of the covetousness that Jaga embodies, and it is possible that they heap these treasures in some underwater grotto as tribute to the black behemoth.
I implore the crew of any seagoing vessel to avoid the aptly named devil fish at all costs. For the bold and adventurous, however, if you learn of their existence near a port you frequent, consider raising a banner or calling upon His Majesty's royal marines to deal with the infestation. Not only will you be doing the port a great service, but you may recover some of the riches sequestered in their dark dens.