New Words (Unedited)
One of my goals for 2023 is to write at least 500 new words per day that are not a part of my current novel.
To make sure that I don't get bogged down trying to write perfectly, I'm going to post my new content as I write it - totally unedited.
I'm hoping my writing is still decent enough for you to enjoy the story, even if there are some grammar issue along the way.
A Mermaid's Tale
Sammy trudged through the soft, coarse sand with a lantern in one hand and a fishing rod tucked up under his armpit, the moonlight casting an ethereal glow on the Gaelinora Sea before him. He inhaled deeply, taking in the salty scent of the cool night air.
The full moon shone brightly above, its reflection rippling across the surface of the dark water. The moonlight created a halo above the sea, giving it an ethereal glow. He knew that this was the perfect time to catch mooneyes, the sweetest and most succulent fish in the north.
Under the light of a full moon was the only time that mooneyes could be caught, unless you had a deep-water trawler and thousands of feet of line. He'd heard the tale that when the moon was full, they would rise to the surface in search of Medeina, the moon god, and beg her to take them from their watery home and bring them to her celestial realm.
Sammy found himself a reasonably comfortable place to sit. He could feel the excitement already building in him as he cast out his line, hopeful for what the night might bring.
The night air made his bad leg ache. The walk from the city to this lonely place along the shoreline didn’t help much, either. But it was a discomfort he gladly accepted. With what he could catch in the three nights when the moon was full, he could earn enough gold to feed his family until the next moon. He would bring his catch to the morning market, and he would sell out, like he always did.
The gathering night breeze whipped up, encouraging waves to roll in and crash upon the shore. The winds here were a like a living thing, searching for any patch of exposed skin, just waiting for a moment to bite at it.
Sammy hated the cold. It made his bad leg throb. It had been a long trip from the city to the secluded area by the ocean. With what he could catch in the three nights, he could earn enough gold to feed his family until the next moon. He knew that come morning, he would bring his catch to the market, and he would sell out, like he always did.
The dark grey clouds rolling in from the south didn’t dissuade him. He didn’t mind fishing in the rain. It was summer and, even though the nights still get cold, his heavy oilskin cloak kept him mostly warm and dry. He pulled it tight around his shoulders, trying to keep what little warmth he had left in him.
Sammy exhaled heavily and watched the frosty vapor from his breath dissipate into the night air. It was the third night of the full moon and he had yet to catch a single fish. Tonight would be his last chance. Even if he had a good night, it likely wouldn’t be enough, but some gold was better than no gold at all. If he couldn’t make enough at the market, he could work the docks or find a fishing vessel in need of an extra hand. One way or another, he’d find a way to make ends meet.
A Mermaid's Tale continued...
Getting work wasn’t easy for Sammy, though, not with his bad leg. Standing without the aid of his crutch was both difficult and painful. Nobody wanted to hire a cripple, not when there were so many able-bodied men and women vying for the same job. His little brother suffered from the same affliction as did his mother. None of them was in any position to find work. His mother, occasionally, took on jobs with the local merchants. He didn’t know what she did for them, but she always looked ill when she returned. She would hide her face when she came through the door and would go straight to her bed. She’d bury her face in her pillow and cry herself to sleep. There was no hiding her tears. Their tiny house had only a single room that served as kitchen, living room, and bedroom.
While the hours ticked by, the moon tracking its path across the night sky. The clouds that had rolled in had passed by without barely a drop of rain. The wind never ceased, however, driving the waves against the shore, forcing Sammy to move away from the edge lest he be soaked by a large roller.
Sammy tugged gently on his line, trying to give his sad piece of bait some life, hoping it may look more appealing to a mooneye. The only bites he had been getting so far were from midges, and small carnivorous fishes known as biters. They were barely bigger than a man’s hand, and by all accounts, they were teeth and a tail, and very little else. It was a bad sign that they were here. They’d strip his hook clean before a mooneye had any hope of seeing it. Like the mooneyes, they too came up to the surface on the full moon, perhaps to say their prayers to Medeina.
Then, in the dead of the night, when the only sounds were Sammy’s breath and the constant crashing of waves along the shoreline, he got his first nibble. It was tentative at first, just like a mooneye. Tap, tap, tap, then nothing. The young man blew out a breath and pulled in his line. As expected, his hook was bare, the bait having been stripped from it.
“Triton, help me,” he called out over the vast stretch of black water, hoping the sea god might hear his plea. “Don’t let me go home empty-handed. Not again.” Neither Triton nor the sea answered him. They never did. He knew it was a waste of breath to pray, but when all else failed, what harm could it be? He didn’t actually believe in the sea god, but it was best to not take any chances.
Trying to keep his spirits up, Sammy softly whistled a tune while he put some fresh bait on his hook. Again, with hopeful anticipation, he cast his line into the water. The bait had barely sunk beneath the surface when he felt another tug. One sharp pull, and that was it.
“Some help you are,” he said as he started pulling in his line again. When he found the bare hook yet again, Sammy shook his fist at the wind. It was blowing directly into his face, making it difficult to cast out beyond the shelf to where he knew the water was deeper, to where the biters didn’t go.
A Mermaid's Tale continued...
This pattern repeated until the young man was down to his last strip of fish. With a heavy sigh, he placed his last strip of his bait onto his hook. This time, he tried tying a rock to his line. He found one that was about the size of his fist. It would be heavy enough to cut through the wind, but not so heavy that he couldn’t throw it far enough. With all his might, he cast his line out, hoping, praying that it would make it beyond where the biters seemed to be congregated. He watched as his stone flew over the waves, well beyond where his earlier casts had reached. He quickly let out more line, doing what he could to help the stone carry the bait straight down.
He waited, patiently, for several minutes until he was certain the bait was at the bottom. It was then that he started to gently pull in the slack line, only stopping when he felt the slightest bit of tension. It was important to make sure the line was taut, otherwise he’d never feel the gentle bite of the mooneye.
Time continued to slowly pass, but the wind was relentless. Sammy pulled his oilskin cloak tighter around himself while he stifled a yawn. He hadn’t had much sleep in the past two days, not with him spending every night out here by the sea. He dared not let himself fall asleep though. His staying awake may have been the difference of his family surviving the month or his mother having to do whatever she did to make some coin.
A tiny tug announced a fish.
He prayed to the gods that it wasn’t those blasted biters. He prayed to Triton. He prayed to Medeina. He even prayed to Boreas, the north wind, that this wasn’t another biter. If it was, they strip his bait and he’d be forced to return home with nothing to show for his efforts.
“Be a mooneye,” he said to the sea as he let out a bit of line. He didn’t want the fish to feel the string when it took his bait. Sammy held his breath as another pair of tiny tugs pulled on his line. And then another. And another. It felt like a goldeye. They had a pattern when they took his line. Tug. Tug, tug. Tug, tug, yank.
Just like he had hoped, the tiny tugs turned into a mighty pull, nearly dragging the young man into the surf. Quickly as he could, he wrapped the fishing line around his forearm and started to drag the fish to shore. His oilskin cloak was perfect for this. It was thick and heavy, and it completely protected his arm from getting cut by the line if the fish suddenly pulled hard. There was a danger of being dragged into the salty sea if the fish was stronger than he was, but it was a risk he was willing to take.
Each step was agonizing. Using his crutch under one arm, he hobbled inland, dragging what felt like a monster sized fish along with him. He was working his way to where the shoreline was sandy, to where he could safely drag the fish ashore, but the mooneye had other plans. The fish was pulling him along the shoreline to where it was rocky and the footing was precarious at best. Had he not been a cripple, had he not had to use a crutch, it still would have been difficult, but in his condition, it was nearly impossible.
A Mermaid's Tale continued...
While the fish continued to drag him along, Sammy's heart raced. He had never fought a fish this powerful. If it was a mooneye, and he prayed to the gods it was, this one fish could set his family for the month. Maybe more.
Panic was setting in. The longer he had the fish on the line, the more likely the biters would get to it. If they did, they'd strip it bare before he got it ashore. It was at that point a new fear gripped him. What if a water dragon, a Makara, saw it? They were known to inhabit these waters.
What if I caught a Makara?
He pushed the notion from his mind. It couldn't be. If it were, he'd be getting dragged to the depths of the sea. It was a mooneye. It just had to be.
Sammy continued battling the fish. Sometimes it felt like he was making headway, bringing in some line. Other times it was like the fish was playing with him, taking him to where he had no choice but to go near the water's edge, to where a rogue wave might come in and wash him out to sea.
It was when the rocks appeared to be getting larger, rougher, sharper, that Sammy saw what he hoped would be his salvation. A large flat rock jutted out into the water. It was plenty big enough for him to stand on. It would give him a good platform to drag the fish in.
Abandoning his crutch, he lunged across the rocks, doing his best to not break a leg as he made his way. A sudden tug pulled him off balance, twisting his crippled leg, drawing a scream of agony from him.
The line went limp.
The pain in Sammy's leg became secondary. All that mattered was his fish. He yanked on the line, hoping to illicit another response from the mooneye, but there was no pull. There was no resistance of any kind.
"Triton, why?" He screamed at the night sky. "Why would you give me hope, only to take it away from me?"
Ignore the agony of his leg, Sammy worked his way across the boulders until he finally stood on the flat stone. He took a few uneasy steps as he hobbled to the edge, perhaps a half dozen feet above the water. With a heavy heart he started winding in his line, wrapping it around the sleeve of his oilskin coat. All the while, he cursed Triton and his forsaken sea.
The wind suddenly picked up. The waves seemed to become larger, crashing upon the shore. The sea-spray wetting Sammy’s face, drenching his hair. He needed to get himself off this rock as quickly as possible. He looked back to where he had thrown his crutch, suddenly regretting that moment of stupidity.
As quickly as he could, he continued to bring in his line, wrapping it around his arm as quickly as he could. A wave broke over the top of the rock he was standing on, nearly taking his feet out from underneath him. As the water receded, it made the stone slick. If another wave, a larger wave were to come before he could get off, he would be swept into the water.
With all his might he continued gathering his line. He considered just throwing it away, but it was so tightly wound around his arm that he’d never be able to get it off. He reached for knife that hung at his side, beneath his cloak. Sammy was working his way past the heavy metal clasps when his line suddenly went taught.
A heavy pull threatened to drag him off the now slick rock. The sight of an oncoming wave, a huge wave, told Sammy his life was about to end.
A Mermaid's Tale continued...
The cold sea water sloshed over Sammy, sending him sprawling, twirling, tumbling from the smooth rock onto the large, sharp boulders behind him. They cut into his legs and knees, but they also held him tight, preventing him from being washed back out to sea.
The mooneye tugged again on his arm, pulling his body forward. His leg screamed in agony as it bent at an unnatural angle. The pain told him he was alive and that he still had a fish to land. As quickly as he could, he considered his option. He dared not climb back onto the smooth rock, fearing that he may not be so lucky should another wave break over its now wet surface.
Sammy watched as his line raked over the edge of the stones. He cursed to himself, knowing that if he didn’t do something quick, the rock's sharp edge would slice its way through the string that held his prize catch. He was going to lose his fish, his hook, and any chance of surviving the month. Throwing caution to the wind, disregarding the searing pain shooting up his leg, the young fisherman pressed forward, clawing his way to the flat stone, all the while, continuing to wrap his line around his arm, an arm that was on the verge of being dislocated from his shoulder.
“I won’t give up, fish,” Sammy screamed at the sea. “You won’t frighten me away, Triton.”
It was only when he made it to the sea’s edge, peering down into the frigid waters below, did Sammy see his fish for the very first time. It was a mooneye, and it was huge, dwarfing the biggest fish he had ever seen before.
As the fish's back broke the surface, its gleaming silver scales reflecting the full moon’s light, the water churned, almost instantly turning to a froth.
If he didn’t get the fish ashore in seconds, there would be nothing left but a skeleton. He no longer cared if he lived or died. All that mattered was landing the fish. Not bothering to consider the consequences of his action, Sammy dropped from the large flat rock, plunging into the ice-cold sea below.
His skin stung like it was on fire. His lungs seized. His throat locked. For a moment, the muscles in his arms and legs refused to obey. He was sinking beneath the surface, never to take another breath.
Sammy refused to give in. Not now. Not when he was so close. With one arm and one leg, he swam for the shore. His head broke the surface. Salvation was only five or ten paces away, but the way the cold was leaching into his body, it appeared to be an insurmountable distance.
Another wave crashed into the young man, submerging him in the frothy cold, sending him tumbling toward the shoreline. The young man stretched out as far as his arm would allow. He grasped for anything to wrap his hand around, desperate to ground himself before the wave receded and swept him out to deeper waters, dragging him to his doom.
When the water pulled away, Sammy had a death-grip on what could have been a rope, or an old root. With what little strength he had left, he pulled himself away from the water, clamoring further ashore. He pulled on his arm, the one attached to the fish. There was no resistance. His worst fear suddenly realized; he’d lost his prize catch to sea.
Despair gripped Sammy. He could not go home empty handed. Not again.
Another wave crashed upon the shore, drenching the young man yet again, covering him in dense seaweed. Beside him, barely two paces away, something moved.
A Mermaid's Tale continued...
Sammy couldn’t believe his eyes. He didn’t know how, but he had managed to get the fish ashore. It was the biggest mooneye he had ever seen. He would get more gold from this one fish than he would have gotten on three of his best nights of fishing.
The fish flopped. It flopped again. It was trying to make its way back to the sea.
Sammy’s heart thudded in his ears when he saw his hook was lying on the ground next to the fish. It had come free. It could, with just one flap of its mighty forked tail, send itself back into the water. His fish would be gone. The gold would be gone. His mother would have to work for the merchants.
He wouldn’t allow that. Never.
Sammy cast his eyes upon the sea. Another wave was coming in. An enormous wave. It was plenty big enough to swamp him and the fish and carry them both out to sea.
The fish flopped again. It was still working its way to freedom.
Pain be damned. The young man crawled toward the fish, across the sharp-edged rocks. They dug into his skin. His bad leg screamed in protest. He didn’t care. When he was only a pace away, the young fisherman threw himself at the fish, wrapping his arm around it, clutching it to his body.
Sweet Gaia, this fish was huge. It was nearly as long as Sammy was tall. Never had he ever seen a fish like this before.
The wave was nearly upon him. There was no time to move away from the shore.
He knew it was going to hurt, but he didn’t care. Sammy rolled on top of the fish, rammed his foot underneath one of the large stones, and jammed his arm all the way up to his elbow under another. The fish continued to struggle beneath him, trying desperately to free itself.
The wave of icy water crashed upon the shore, submerging man and fish. The water roiled and churned, debris carried by the wave stung every inch of exposed skin. All the while, the mooneye fought to free itself, wriggling and slashing with his large, forked tail.
Sweet Gaia, the water wasn’t receding. Sammy was still submerged. His lungs burned, starving for air, desperately begging the man to take a breath. When he thought he could last no longer, on the verge of blacking out, the wave passed. He gulped air, quelling the raging fire in his lungs.
Again, the fish flopped beneath him. He needed to drag it further up the bank, away from the sea, away from its salvation. Sammy freed his hand and foot, grabbed the fish up under his gills, and started his laborious trek back across the rocks to the shoreline, where he dropped his crutch. There was no way he was going to make the journey without it.
He looked back, remembering his fishing rod, his line, and his hook. They were his lifeblood. As he looked back towards the sea, he heard a voice. A high-pitched melodic voice carried upon the wind, beckoning him back to the sea.
The fish fought, shaking its body, making it nearly impossible to carry. He’d have to come back for his rod. He couldn’t carry it anyway, not with his crutch and this giant fist. He forgot about the voice. All that mattered was getting this fish to market.
Sammy fell repeatedly, each time injuring himself worse and worse. He was exhausted, and he’d only barely made it halfway to his crutch. The wind picked up again, becoming vicious, biting. The waves were becoming more intense. Even where he was, well away from the shore now, the water was rolling in. The night sky became like ink as another bank of clouds rolled in. Visibility went from bad to worse. The walking was becoming more treacherous by the second.
A crack of lightning lit up the sky for barely more than a heartbeat. The rain increased, now coming down in torrents. His oilskin coat would keep most of the freezing drizzle off him, but the coat and Sammy were soaked through.
Another wave crashed upon the shore, carrying water up towards him, covering the ground up to his thighs. Another crack of blindingly bright lightning struck the large, flat rock he had been standing on early. It sheared the rock in half, sending it plummeting to the water below. The sound was deafening.
When the ringing in his ears stopped, he heard the same voice. It was no longer high-pitched and melody, now it was one of terror and pain.
Another crack of lightning lit up the area. In that briefest of moments, the face of a girl was visible. She was beside the large flat rock, where the lightning had sheered it off. It was impossible to know for sure. He had seen her for barely more than a heartbeat, but she looked trapped.
Sammy looked down at his prize catch. All the while, the girl’s screams echoed in his head.
With a mighty heave, he threw the fish away from the shore and started making his way toward the girl.
It was a decision Sammy feared he would regret for the rest of his life.
A Mermaid's Tale to be continued...