Flopping madly and spraying drops of water all about, the large, disc-shaped fish at the end of the line struggled valiantly to get away from the cudgel in orc’s hand. Just like he had done to the three before this one, however, Gax gripped the fishing line and let the fish dangle in front of him until it calmed slightly. Then, he smacked it across the eye with his club and it went dormant. He whistled as he removed the hook from its mouth, his meaty, orc fingers fumbling the hook a few times.
His joyous whistle turned to a growl as the hook pierced the tip of his finger for what must have been the third time today. He instinctually put his finger in his mouth to suck on it and spat it out quickly after, the stink and taste of raw fish lingering. Once he finally removed the hook, he tossed the fish into a wooden chest lined with burlap, a block of ice purchased from a butcher beneath that.
Near his foot was another burlap sack along with a small wooden box of hooks, weights, and other various fishing implements. He leaned forward and thrust his hand into the burlap sack, the dingy he owned rocking violently as he shifted his bulky frame. His hand came back with a large, crimson worm wriggling between his fingers. It glittered wetly in the bright light of midday falling over the inlet he fished in. Roughly two hundred yards west sat a small dock rarely visited by people of his town.
The blood worm frantically lurched back and forth, more so even when Gax spit it upon his hook. He cast yet again, satisfied with the distance as the hook and worm plunked down into the water. He placed the butt of his rod in a niche carved in the seat of the dingy, then laid back, his head upon a rolled blanket, and bathed in the warm light and listened to the song of the birds.
A steady thud woke him from his nap sometime later, the sun still in roughly the same location. He sat up lethargically and rubbed his eyes before calmly grasping the line at the end of his rod. He began to reel in the fish at its end, hand over hand, at a pleasant rate. The struggling of the fish was no match for Gax’s orc strength and in short order he saw the creature stagger into view beneath the steady surf.
He took up his whistling tune once more as the fish came to the surface. He reached out with his hand to grasp the line near the fish’s mouth, then he screamed and hurled himself backward.
A creature resembling an eel, albeit large enough to swallow Gax whole, burst from the depths and through the surface. It snapped its massive maw shut on the fish Gax had nearly caught. Its huge body propelled from the water and cast Gax in shadow. Its sparkling eye locked onto his as the dingy he sat in was lifted and tossed over by the creature’s bulk.
“Shiiiii—” Gax started to holler as he took flight then splashed down into the water. He surfaced quickly, fear lending him speed, and found himself encased by his overturned dingy. He flipped it over, sinking below the surf as he did so. In that moment beneath the waves, he saw the creature’s tail and was mesmerized by its size. “Irduaulin!” he hissed as his head popped above the water again.
The creature was a myth prattled on about by madmen and idiots in Gax’s town, oftentimes used in outrageous tales of seafaring. It was certainly no myth, though, Gax now admitted.
The orc paddled toward his dingy, his breath coming hard and fast as adrenaline rushed through him. Normally, he was a terrible swimmer, and certainly would have sunk had his axe been on his back or his armor strapped to him.
Gax reached the dingy and grasped one side then tried to heave his leg over. The dingy immediately flipped over on top of him once again, blanketing him in darkness. “By Krom’s hairy balls!” he swore violently.
The light of day fell over him once again as he swam out from under the dingy. He didn’t see Irduaulin in his brief time beneath the waves this time, the salt in the water stinging his eyes terribly. He swiped at them as he moved to the front of the boat and started turning it once more. Irduaulin shot from the surface once more, within arm’s length of his nose. The dingy was shattered by the creature’s jaws – a cavernous maw bristling with hundreds, maybe thousands, of backward-angled fangs.
Gax yelped in fear once more, spun, then began frantically swimming toward the shore. Irduaulin’s bulk slammed into his side and propelled him into the air and toward the shore. He hollered as he sailed through the air. The instant his body splashed into the water again, he swam with all his might.
Between strokes and cries and ragged breaths, he saw Darsil’eit, his elf companion, appear at the shore, her bow in one hand and Gax’s axe stuck in the sand near her opposite side. “Irduaulin!” he tried to scream as he swam, sucking in mouthfuls of water and managing to only sputter incoherent syllables. He felt the water behind him ripple and cried out, nearly sobbing. Dar fixed him with a disgusted and confused stare.
After what felt like an hour, his knees strike the shore. He planted his feet on the sand and surged from the surf, staggering toward Dar. “Irduaulin! Irduaulin! The big damn fish! It almost ate me!” Gax hollered as he stumbled.
He tripped in his haste and planted his face in the sand at Dar’s feet, breathing so heavily he was sure his lungs would spew from his mouth in moments. Dar remained silent while he caught his breath, scanning the water suspiciously. Eventually, Gax struggled to his feet, leaning on Dar as his legs quivered beneath him. “Did you see it?” he panted.
“Irduaulin’s a myth, Gax.”
“Damn thing is real!” he insisted vehemently. “Ate Floaty, it did.” He indicated the place where his dingy had been just minutes before and saw a sea that looked perfectly – and unfairly – calm.
“Sure.” Dar rolled her eyes. “Here.” She handed him his battleaxe and he used it as a staff to lean upon. “I’m betting you were doing a shit job at catching fish and punched a hole in your own boat, you big oaf.” Dar turned and began stalking off toward the woods she had been hunting in. “Good thing I’ve caught us a few rabbits. Otherwise we’d be paying for our meals tonight.”
“Wait,” Gax implored, his legs still jelly. “Hold my battleaxe, Dar. I can’t. Irduaulin, I swear it.”
“Sure, and I’m a unicorn with tentacles. Hold your own damn weapon, Gax. And I’m not spending coin on buying you a new boat.”
“Fine by me,” Gax said, dragging his axe behind him as he wobbled after Dar into the woods. “I’m never setting out over the sea again.”
“Actually, we set out in three days for the Dagger Isles aboard the Sea Star as guards. A two-day journey overseas.”
Gax halted and his legs failed him. He staggered to his knees and swore, “Hair of a harpy’s pointy tit!”