The Ocean’s Bite
Connor Mac Craith stood at the bow of the Queen’s Dream, the salty wind whipped his red-ish brown hair around his face. The sea was calm now, the crystal waves gently beat against the sides of the boat creating a swaying motion. It had taken Connor the better part of his first week on board to settle his stomach and acclimatize himself to the constant rocking. The soft orange glow of the sunrise was reflected in his warm blue eyes and played across the sharp angles of his face. Most of the crew were still below deck, giving Connor a rare moment of peace. Despite the beautiful morning, there was a knot of unease forming in the pit of his stomach.
“Look alive, lad.” Someone’s deep voice said behind him. A heavy hand thumped on his shoulder, nearly causing his knees to buckle. “How can I look alive when you’re threatening to compress me into a puddle?” Connor snapped, mildly annoyed. Eirnìn O’Neil laughed heartily and released his grip. The man was comparable to a mountain, with most of his face hidden by tangles of brown hair. “Wouldn’ bother doin’ that, easier to jus’ snap ya.” He held up his clenched fists and made a snapping motion. Connor rolled his eyes and turned his attention back towards the rolling ocean. In the time since he’d looked away, the sky was beginning to turn a foreboding grey and the waves rose higher and higher. Connor felt his stomach sour. “Storm’s brewin’,” a third person had joined them at the bow.
The heavy limping steps told Connor who it was without him taking his eyes off the agitated waters. Captain Matthias’ gnarled face looked as though it was carved by the sea’s wind. A downpour of freezing rain came in sheets without warning, the sky completely covered with inky grey clouds. “Get up here ya freeloaders,” Captain Matthias slammed his foot onto the deck repeatedly. “There’s work to be done-” Connor, and everyone else, didn’t hear the rest of his sentence. There was bright flash of lightning, followed by a thunderclap that shook the sea. The crew came flooding onto the deck, rushing to follow the captain’s orders. Connor and Eirnìn scrambled to help. The ship suddenly lurched out from under Connor’s feet and he slipped on the slick deck. He hit the deck hard, his vision was dotted with colored spots. A wave crashed over the starboard side, sending salty water rushing across the deck.
Connor found himself being swept along with the wave and he stopped when his back slammed into the sail beam. His eyes stung from the salt and he had inhaled a few mouthfuls of water. Rough hands gripped the back of his shirt, pulling him up to his feet. Eirnìn seemed to have stayed upright through the ordeal. Connor’s heart pounded as he looked over the churning ocean. A dark mass rose above the waves. For a second, Connor thought of land. That was until the dark shape began to move towards the boat, independent of the waves. The massive body cut through the water at an impossible speed and seemed to create waves of its own. Connor’s body was locked with terror.
He finally collected some of his wits and took several steps away from the starboard side. “S…Sea serpent!” Connor screamed, finding his tongue just as a triangular head burst up from the sea. The serpent’s roar could be heard through the din of the storm. The creature fangs were the size of a man, with scales the color of inky brine. It turned its serpentine gaze towards Connor and he felt his stomach drop. He stood there, hypnotized by its four electric blue eyes. It was a though time was at a standstill. Connor perceived nothing of the chaos around him, it wasn’t quite terror but something else. An older, more powerful, influence had taken over him.
“Man, the cannons. Fire at the demon’s head!” Captain Matthias’ words woke Connor from his daze. Most of the crew were struggling to keep on their feet and in no state to follow orders. Eirnìn was nowhere to be seen. As Connor made towards the cannons, the serpent suddenly slammed its body onto the deck. Connor threw himself backwards and narrowly missed being crushed. The wooden planks had no hope of supporting its weight and the Queen’s Dream shuddered. With an echoing crack, the serpent’s body caused her to collapse, dividing the boat in two. Men screamed as they slid into the freezing waves. Connor struggled to find purchase as his half started to tip and he went sliding towards the ocean.
A large hand caught his arm, the sudden jerk nearly caused his shoulder to be dislocated. Eirnìn gripped a rope from the sails and Connor’s wrist. “Grab the nettin’.” He swung Connor upward, allowing him to grab the nearby climbing net. The two worked their way up the netting, Connor’s frozen fingers made the ordeal painful. “Now what?” Connor shouted, as they reached the top. Eirnìn pointed towards a lone lifeboat. “Think we can swim that far?”
“Think there’s a choice?’ Conner glanced back at the serpent, blinking rain out of his eyes. The beast was tearing the other side to splinters, their half was sinking fast. He knew it was their only hope. Maybe the serpent wouldn’t spot their minuscule boat. Maybe. Connor nodded and gathered his courage. He launched himself forward and hit the water hard. The frigid waves stole his breath.
Conner struggled to fight towards the lifeboat, his arms numb already. He saw the dark outline of what he hoped was Eirnìn passing him. Rising with a wave, he caught sight of the boat. Connor held his breath as the wave forced him under, spinning in its turbulence. Connor vaguely wondered what the sea serpent was doing. Miraculously, he found himself within reaching distance of the boat. His limbs were aching and he wasn’t sure he could pull himself up. Eirnìn reached down and hauled him up into the safety of the boat. Connor, on his hands and knees, struggled to cough up the salty water he had swallowed. Terrified of what he might see, he glanced behind him. The serpent’s gaze was on them. Its luminescent eyes watched as Eirnìn rowed the minuscule boat away, oblivious to the carnage around it.