The ship rested low in the water with their latest plunder, sails taut with a lazy wind that reflected well the easy contentment of her pirate crew. They had already plotted a course toward loose women and free-flowing libation, but their anticipation was patient, like that of a cat savoring the last swallows of canary. Several sails, spotted from the crow’s nest, had passed on in peace, as the pirates found themselves already sated… for the time being. Their captain was no exception, and Nic rested easily against the rail at the ship’s stern, watching the latest vessel disappear at the horizon.
Full of treasure as his ship’s coffers were, they had stayed out longer than normal on this particular venture. On the one hand, holding out for a greater prize had paid off in spades, in the gold each man now had to his name. On the other, they had stretched their supplies thin enough that they were down to hard tack and little else. Now that they had little concern for speed, they had the time to drop a net beside them, weighted with the occasional bauble from their hoard in the hopes of attracting the eye of fish for their larder.
Nic could see the shadow of the net dragging beside them, not swollen to bursting but visibly bulging from its original silhouette. An easy smirk crossed his lips, and felt one of the few remaining tensions ease from his shoulders. They would have fish to spice up the menu, at least, and but a few days more until they reached their port of call. That was his only thought, as the net tightened and began its rise up toward the deck, hauled up by a pair of crewman. He certainly didn’t expect the net to contain anything worth a second glance by any but the cook – but the exclamations of his crew took no time at all to pique his interest.
“A girl!” the cries came at first, with a mix of bewilderment and wonder. This far out to sea, there ought to be no one, at least no one still living – yet Nic could see the net thrashing, with a pale arm flailing in the midst of the ropes and knots. Incredible! He took the steps down to the main deck in a rush, already denying what his eyes could see. And then… then he saw the tail.
“Steady, lads,” he called to the growing crowd waiting for the net to release, as he strode to the fore and only then gave a brief nod to those hauling the net into place and gestured for them to slow its descent. “That’s not just any girl, I’d wager.” He was sure of it now, although it was hard to make her out clearly among all the fish and weed, and with the net keeping her tightly in its clutches. As the net settled finally onto the deck, he crouched, tilting his head to find her face, a smirk spreading quickly across his face. “Gents, we’ve caught ourselves a mermaid.”
Panic had fully set in and even though she made no progress towards escape she continued to flail about inside the net as though the rope alone burned her skin. Before she knew it, she felt the water pouring off her head as it surfaced from water, only to be slammed by a nearby wave. Were she not a mermaid, she certainly would be choking on the salty sea water instead of continuing her frantic thrashing about as she rose higher and higher into the air. These heights were not a welcome sight and only added to the sunshine blonde’s fright. She was a woman who lived under the land, the last place she ever wanted to be was out of the water and floating high above it now. A dizzy sensation was beginning to take over from the adrenaline and fear that raced throughout every inch of her.
She heard shouts from the men who pulled her up, yet both their words and faces were nothing more than a blur to the anxious girl. The spinning she felt started to leave her when she was once more safety put onto solid flooring. It may not have been her first choice of the safe waters, but she was thankful to at least be no longer dangling in midair. The fish who shared in Clara’s fate flopped around her, gasping for air they could not get. Fortunately, air was one thing that Clara did not have to worry about. The human side of her allowed for her to breathe above and below the water. Already she could feel her body beginning to adjust to the switch to land side of her.
As the net opened, Clara felt the captured fish fall away from her. Immediately she looked around for an opening, some place that she could quickly crawl too in order to fall off the boat and back into the water where she would once more be safe. As it were though, these men surrounded her in a tight circle, all trying to see the captured “gem” which she certain they would try to sell as soon as possible. If only her fin turned to legs in a matter of moments, rather than having to wait until it dried out entirely. Then she might have been able to run and push herself through the crowd and over the boat’s edge. As it was though, clouds covered the sky and kept the sun hidden, only to prolong the transformation.
“Release me at once.” She ordered about shouting to any man that would listen, although her blue eyes were fixated on the man who’d step forward from the group and reeked of authority. “ You have no need of me.”
It is often said that “curiosity killed the cat”, but this blonde haired beauty wasn’t a cat, and therefore she was considering herself an exception to this ridiculous warning. Honestly she couldn’t understand her friends constant pestering and warnings about getting too close to the surface. In no way was Clara attempting to be naïve, on the contrary she understood all too well what could happen should a human spot her and her beautiful slender tail reflecting in the sun. Being a mermaid had come with both its wonderful perks and it’s unfortunate dangers. There were some humans who believed in such creatures of the sea and hunted them as though it was some sort of sport. Then you would hear of the pirates, who may not have always specifically went out to hunt a mermaid, but who would take one captive if the chance presented itself and would search the world until they found someone willing to pay a pretty penny for the delicate and fragile creatures.
Despite all of this, Clara found that she simply couldn’t help herself. Anything that could be considered shiny or sparkly always caught her immediate attention, and one of her favorite hobbies was to make jewelry out of these pretty shinnies she had found. It was because of this hobby that she was forced to risk getting caught by these villains, as every good jewelry maker knew that the best shells could only be found on the dry land or floating near the surface. Besides, Clara did this often and never had any trouble before. She was always careful and alert while she browsed the sea for ‘treasures’ to use.
Speaking of treasures, just up ahead something glimmered gold and had caught the blue eyed mermaids attention. All thoughts of pirates and poachers had vanished and now she could only focus on what laid ahead for her. She assumed that the glittering shell must have been caught or wedge between some seaweed pieces as it wasn’t moving, however she was hardly going to complain about her good fortune. Even from where she swam she could see that it would be a big piece, perhaps worth making the center focus of one of her bracelets.
Onward she swam, heading straight towards her prize. Once more she had to wonder what her friend, Emma, was always so worried about. Well, that was until Clara finally had made it to her would-be-prize. As fate would have, Clara’s overconfidence about the possibility of running into a situation had lead her straight into just that – a dangerous situation. The moment she realized that her shell was not caught in seaweed, but rather a strong net, it was too late. She was halfway over the net when she felt it begin to close up on her. Immediately she tried to swim backwards, but it was far too late, and the only thing her wriggling served to do was cause her flip upside down and completely into the net among the other unlucky fish. She thrashed about in vain, all in a fit of panic, doing everything she could to break the ropes as she felt herself being lifted higher and higher, out of the comfortable sea that she called home.