Crashing waves hit the shoreline, tossing flotsam across the gritty, pebbled beach.
Cleana sat alone, staring out over the turbulent ocean.
He’s gone. He’s gone and he’s left me alone again.
A particularly large wave crested and crashed on the shore, running up to soak her skirt in white foam. Tiny creatures scuttled on the pebbles near Cleana’s feet, dredged up from the depths by the turbulent ocean and left beached, far from home, by the waves.
Ambrose was her man, but first and foremost, he was a man of the sea.
After the near-disaster of his last voyage, he’d promised to settle down and marry her, yet here he was, gone once more to sail to the mainland. She remembered their conversation last night.
“But Ambrose. You promised me you’d stay,” she’d said.
“Cleana. I have debts I need to pay before we can settle down. This one last trip to Strangford on the mainland will earn us enough to pay off the debts and repair Ma’s house for us all to live in.”
“I don’t care about the house having a few leaks,” she’d said. “I just want you safe and sound here, in my sight.”
“Enough, woman,” he’d said. “Leave me to make the decisions on finances, as I’m the one that’s responsible for them.”
He’d not wanted to discuss it anymore after that.
Now here she sat, on the bay near Port Erin, where she lived and loved, staring out in the direction of Strangford, praying that he came home safe once more. Praying to the spirits of all that inhabited the waters of the straight all the way to Ireland itself.
Cleana prayed and prayed, and then prayed some more.
After a while, a susurrating murmur made her look up.
She beheld a horrific sight. In front of her, in the shallows, rose a giant serpent—green and grey-brown, scaled and enormous.
It’s yellow, hooded eyes stared at her from a giant wedge-shaped head that sat on the end of a long, snake-like body. It was so large, it filled half the bay.
She tried to move, but fear froze her legs and her voice.
The murmur continued, and she saw that it came from a body clenched between the serpent’s white teeth. She recognised its clothing.
He seemed unharmed, but it was hard to tell.
The creature leaned even closer, and gently dropped her lover’s body on the pebbles by her side, pulling back once it had let go.
Cleana reached for Ambrose, to see if he lived, but he grunted and coughed up water before she could touch him.
“Wha…” he asked, after he’d spewed up enough water to fill their well at home. “What happened?”
“That’s for you tell me, love,” she said.
“I… I’m not sure. I remember us hitting a storm, and that’s all I knew.” Ambrose lifted himself, turned and leaned against her for support.
“Your ship sank,” a giant voice rumbled above them. It was the serpent who spoke and now it turned to look directly at Cleana. “I heard your prayers, little woman,” said, “and decided to answer your honest faith in the spirit of the ocean.”
“I… I thank you, good serpent,” Cleana stammered.
“See that you sacrifice once each moon. A freshly-caught fish will do.”
“I’ll never forget this, and I thank you,” Clana said.
“See that you don’t forget,” the serpent said.
At that, it turned and snaked under the water of the bay, disappearing in a flash of green and brown torso.
Cleana and Ambrose were married the following week, and to this day, every month, without fail, Cleana takes a freshly-caught fish to the shore where the serpent-dragon returned her Ambrose to her.
Of the other men of his ship, nothing was ever heard again.