The Sea Hag's Heart

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by Laedha Vorondil - April 2020

Sarat absently stirs her drink, ice clinking against the sides of the glass, and stares into the whiskey's golden depths. Spending the last of her wages on whiskey is the most recent in a series of less than stellar decisions. Damn the captain for bottoming out their wages instead of just putting the ship in drydock so they can at least pick up side work until they are needed again.

Not like being a crewmate brings in great gold anyway, she thinks to herself, but she was training to be a swashbuckler and you could make a decent living there. Well, other people could. Not her, not anymore. She'd bet her training sabre in a dice game and lost it, along with 300 gold and her best boots.

Making a mental inventory of what she could sell to get by until wages are due, she rejects her torn jacket, but thinks she might get a few gold for the belt. The buckle is steel, not silver, but it's good quality leather. As she ponders, a loud laugh from further down the bar catches her attention. She looks up and sees a couple of weather-worn sailors signaling the bartender for more rum despite the collection of empty glasses they have already accumulated.

"Ya shoulda seen it, we put that sea hag down like she were no mor'n a mass o' sargassum! Cap'n was hopping around barkin' at us to git rowin' and patch them holes she kept knockin' in the hull, all the whiles firin' round after round right in the sea bitch's neck like it were nothin'! Best day o' me life!"

The old sailor slaps his knee and guffaws, then downs another glass of rum. His companion lowers his voice a bit and asks, "But did ya see the heart? I hear sea hags got a blood ruby for a heart, bigger'n a fist an' glowin' like the innards of a volcano. I never seen one though, my cap'n runs off any time we see a seamonster...... damn coward."

"Ah did! Somethin' in that hag's chest kept shinin' an' pulsin', that musta been it! Sent fire out too, I got burned worse'n mah wife's cookin' when she finds lipstick on mah collar. Well, whatever it is, it's still down there where we killed her. Hull was nearly shot by the time we sent her under the waves. All we got hold of was her trophy."

"Where was the critter? Might be I go lookin' for that heart, I allus wondered if it was real."

"Oh, we was over near Tenwat, dragged her down south a bit as we fought. Musta been near Lothos by time we got the last shot."

"Ehhhh, them Lothian bastards don't like me over much, chased me off with those tridents t' only time I visited. Guess I'll have to hope to see a sea hag myself someday. Besides my old lady, ya know."

The two men laugh uproariously and launch into a serious of increasingly lewd stories about their wives and mistresses. Sarat rolls her eyes and finishes the last dregs of her whiskey, then wanders out onto the dock. Lothos, huh? A ruby that size would solve her gold problems for a good long time. She could get her own ship with that, even.

Is that a reddish sparkle over there in the sand? Gaunt and thin, her eyes blood-shot, Sarat almost misses it in her feverish rush to check every sea cave and bunch of kelp before her pear ran out again. She hadn't eaten in a week. The more she looks, the more obsessed she becomes at the thought of the enormous red jewel. It haunts her dreams and seems to glow out of the corner of her eye every time she dives into a ravine or searches a kelp forest.

Has she really found it? It isn't just another apparition? Approaching the boulder quickly, Sarat digs around in the loose sand where she thought she'd seen that sanguine glint until her fingers hit something hard and angular and....warm?

Heart pounding, Sarat pulls it out of the sand and stares down at the most beautiful gem she has ever beheld. Faceted on all sides, the ruby pulses a deep, hypnotic blood red. Minutes tick by as Sarat holds the stone, which seems to grow larger and larger in her vision, everything else fading into a bluish blur. Triumph swells in her throat and a surge of power sets her veins on fire.

Suddenly, her lungs fill with water and she chokes, tearing her attention from the gem. Pear! Does she even have any left? Just one left in her rift. Frantically, she crams it into her mouth and chews, taking a few deep breaths. She has to get to the surface! That last piece would last her that long, but not much longer. She'd be damned if she lost this stone just when she finally has it.

Clutching the treasure to her chest, Sarat pushes off the bottom and swims for the surface. The warmth of the ruby pressing against her heart seems to warm her all over and she enjoys the swim, fantasizing about what she will do with all that gold. Or maybe she will just keep the ruby..... what else does she really need, anyway?

When she is just about halfway up, Sarat starts feeling unusual. She hurts all over, like her skin is stretching and tearing. A sudden stab pierces her chest and she screams, looking down to see that the sea hag's blood ruby is pushing insistently into her chest, a sharp facet cutting through her skin and pounding into bone with each insistent red flicker. The pain is like nothing she has ever experienced.

Sarat frantically tries to pull the ruby out, futile fingers tearing at her flesh and adding to the cloud of blood billowing out around her. The pain in her skin grows worse and worse until a flurry of tentacles erupts from her body in a writhing mass. Her body swells, bulging out in rippling masses that swell larger and larger until her massive bulk begins to sink.

Sarat's panic turns to blind rage. Those damn sailors, this was their fault! They'd TRICKED her into looking for the heart! Aaaaargh! She gnashes her razor-sharp teeth and swings her thick, whip-like tentacles at a passing shark, lashing it to a bloody pulp and screaming. She'd kill them, set them on fire, rip all of them and their precious ships to pieces!!!

A dozen eyes suddenly open all over her hideous body, each holding a murderous gleam as it scans the surface for a telltale shadow. One day, she WILL find them....