The tale of The Wine Princess is one of the most enduring legends along the northern portion of the Rheggen River. Not merely because the story is intriguing on its own merits, mind you. No, the gruesome final voyage of The Wine Princess continues to captivate listeners because the ship continues to be seen plying the Rheggen River and the waters of the alpine lake known as the Dwarf Sea. There is no particular time that the ship can be spotted, but viewing it means that there will be a storm on the Dwarf Sea.
Whether the appearance of The Wine Princess foretells the storm or somehow causes it has been a matter of debate for those that live along the shores and work aboard the other vessels that sail this route. But for over three hundred years the arrival of The Wine Princess has been the signal that everyone looks for to clear away from the Dwarf Sea and be prepared for an epic storm.
The first occasion that The Wine Princess sailed into a storm on the Dwarf Sea was the beginning of the ship’s tragic history. It carried a cargo of barreled wine and a few dozen passengers looking to go from the Fanolanian river port of Rheggenbourg to the Geldenreich city of Bregenz on the eastern shore of the Dwarf Sea. The ship was brand new and had a crew of somewhat inexperienced men under the command of a veteran captain, a temperamental half-dwarven blowhard named Drumpf. Keen to establish himself as the greatest captain on the river Drumpf was resolved to make the voyage faster than had any of his predecessors. Normally this wouldn’t have been a problem. But the weather and the water had other ideas.
When the ship had reached the midway point on the Dwarf Sea a tremendous squall sprang up. sheering crosswinds of unheard of strength tore across the ship and despite the hardworking crews best attempts the rigging was mangled and the masts sheared off. The ship was being tossed about in the most frightful manner and the passengers were panicked. Drumpf grew agitated by their behavior and ordered his crew to secure the passengers below decks. But The Wine Princess began to take on water and the passengers became even more fearful. They resisted the crew’s attempts to keep them below decks and started to struggle. Drumpf drew his sword and ordered the passengers to be tossed overboard before they created so much of a nuisance that the ship would flounder. The terrified crew did as they were told and began hurling the screaming passengers over the sides of the ship.
The storm only grew stronger and angrier as if in response to this evil deed. Great waves crashed down on top of The Wine Princess and soon it was completely flooded. The vessel didn’t break up so much as utterly succumb to the storm and it sank with all hands someplace close to the dead center of the Dwarf Sea. No trace was ever found of it until the next storm began to brew on the Dwarf Sea and witnesses saw the unmistakable form of The Wine Princess sailing right towards it. This same terrible scene can be viewed every time such a storm arises.
There is however one strange side note to the legend of The Wine Princess. Unlike other tales involving ghost ships this one is able to take on both cargo and passengers when it shows up in Rheggenbourg. Often some of the ill-fated original passengers are on board too. The crew is always the same, especially Captain Drumpf. The vessel will make all of its routine stops just as if it were doing this for the first time. And when the storm is encountered the vessel will plow through without any apparent ill effect, emerging on the other side to deliver its cargo and passengers in Bregenz. But even this is deceiving. People who were asleep when the storm started will recount the most horrifying nightmares wherein the crew are throwing the passengers overboard and the vessel sinks. Then when the storm subsides the passengers awaken to find everything normal. Perhaps some of the passengers they saw weren’t even on board to begin with, but the dreams are so inescapably vivid as to unsettle their minds.
A number of sages and priests are investigating this phenomena whenever they get the chance. There is a small group of such inquisitive people in Rheggenbourg that have collected over three hundred years worth of notes on The Wine Princess including the passengers that continue to sail aboard it and the storms it manages to survive. It would seem to be that the more they learn the less they understand.