flashfic

The Sea Witch and the Serpent

Once upon an oceantide, there lived a sea witch. Her home was not upon shore or cliff, but in a cup of woven kelp that had a tendency to drift. To deal with this, she had fashioned an anchor of crowns and bracelets linked together with chainmail belts and the indestructible tresses of long-haired princes. This freed her up to deal with important things, like herding clownfish (clownfish were very time-consuming that way, excellent hobby) and knitting moonlight/North Wind fiber blend whenever she needed a new sweater.

One day, however, a serpent moved in from one of the adjacent seas. The serpent was a marvel of spikes and scales and glowing blue eyes, and he liked playing rough. At first the witch paid him little heed. But after the fifth time she had to devise a new anchor so her home wouldn’t drift off toward the latest storm, she decided that enough was enough.

First she secured her most fragile belongings. She didn’t own anything made of paper–water and paper didn’t mix well, after all–but she had a collection of spellbooks and herbals written painstakingly in nautilus and conch shells, in the scratchy language of witches. Not to mention her grandmother’s lace, one of the few luxuries from the land, all cobweb delicacy and dewdrop embellishments, and her glass cabinet of medicines distilled from all the seaside herbs.

Then she hauled up the anchor and guided the cup, bobbing like a leaf, toward the serpent. Locating the serpent wasn’t difficult. He had discovered a watchtower on a lonely island, and was currently striking at its stones with his coils, laughing a laugh of tempest hisses when the tower’s inhabitants clung to each other. “I can see why they chased you out of wherever you came from,” the witch muttered to herself.

She scooped water from the sea and raised up a harpoon of sharp ice, and cast it toward the serpent’s eye. The serpent reared back and slapped its tail once, twice, thrice. A great wave broke toward the witch in her little boat-cup, and the tentacles of krakens and staring eyes of the monsters of the deep were visible through the rush of water.

“You think you know storms and monsters?” the witch said dryly. The serpent’s tongue lolled out, daring her. The witch raised up another harpoon, and this time it flew true to its target, for all the thrashing of the waves and the lashing of the tentacles.

The serpent blinked as though it had gotten a taste of something too sweet (serpents are not known for their love of confections), and then it burst apart into a tapestry of serpent-shaped bubbles, a vast foam-picture swirling upon the restless surface of the sea. The sea monsters looked nonplussed, to say the least. From above, the bubble-serpent would look like a tapestry of crystal beads, of pearlescent tears, of moonstruck filaments gathered lace-fashion.

The witch said to the very quiet sea monsters, “I’m going to leave him that way until the next full moon”–it was the full moon tonight, as it so happened–“and come back and see if he’s learned to behave himself.” She smiled suddenly, broadly. “By the way, I feel the need to take a nap and I’d prefer a calm sea. Would you mind–?”

The sea monsters dived very quickly, but not so quickly that the sea was made turbulent.

In the meantime, for the next moon-cycle, the watchtower’s bemused inhabitants enjoyed the view of the transformed serpent. After that, the serpent was much better behaved, and decided to clean the local shores of bottle-glass and netting.

As for the witch, she did consider leaving the serpent that way, but if he had to be good so did she, so there was that.

For affreca. Prompt: sea battle.

Most of my experiences of the sea are not nearly this exciting; we used to go to Galveston in the summers, back when I lived in Houston. ┬áIf I ever encounter anything like this, I’ll be sure to let y’all know.