Thursday 8 February 2024

The Sea Witch by Paula R C Readman , a craft beer: brewed with oats, wheat and loaded with juicy passion fruit. The Sea Witch will cast an intoxicating spell over you!

The wind began to howl as the full moon rose in the darkening sky. It raced around the chimney tops, rattling the red tiles on the roofs of the squat cottages huddled along the harbour wall. The racing wind chased after a striding figure, tugging at its cloak. Head down against the bustling wind the figure had emerged from the shadows, walking briskly along the cliff-top footpath. The figure took shelter from the wind beside the gnarled trunk of a hunching oak tree. A slender hand held the hood firmly in place as the flapping cloak slapped against its legs, but they paid no attention as they watched a man far below.

The tall, broad figure of Callum Storrs hurried along the harbour, stopping occasionally to avoid the sea spray as it showered the cottage fronts. He turned on reaching the inn and looked toward the cliff-top footpath. The clouds briefly separated, allowing a moonbeam to highlight the tree and the figure. Callum lifted his hand to his eyes to protect his face from another spray of salty water, but when he looked toward the old fallen oak again, the figure had vanished.

Ever since the storm had arrived, Callum had been aware of an ever-watching presence that seemed to haunt him. As he turned the door handle, a gust of wind and sea spray forced its way into the inn with him. Callum slammed the heavy oak door behind him with a rattling bang. The dimly lit room was full of smoke and dancing shadows as the gust of wind escaped up the chimney.

‘The spring tide is higher than usual,’ said Callum to the fisherfolk taking refuge in the inn as he slipped off his cloak and hung it on a peg. A young man of twenty-two summers passed was aware of his place in life, the strength of his back and the power in his arms. He stood tall as an unyielding oak. His fair hair hung like a curtain of gold across his blue eyes. He was there for his father and brothers, both at sea and on land.

‘Glad to see you ‘ome again, lad,’ Malcolm the innkeeper said while wiping the bar down.

‘Thank thee, sir but Pa, and me brothers have headed ‘ome. They all have good wives waiting for them.’

‘Then thou must find thyself one, me lad. Six months at sea is enough to drive a man to his bed, with his good woman as soon as he steps ashore,’ the innkeeper joked, making the whole of the inn laugh along with him.’

Callum smiled to show he took their jesting in good heart. The fisherfolk were a tight-knit community, and he knew every man and lad in the inn would watch his back when it counted the most.

‘May I have a pint of thy finest ale, sir; tis thirsty work, hauling nets on such rough seas?’

‘Ay, Callum, don’t mind me bit of fun.’ The innkeeper stood a tankard of his finest brew on the bar. After paying his thruppence, Callum took a sip of his ale. Then, with a nod to the innkeeper, he took his drink, crossed to the fireside and dropped in his father’s vacant seat. The heat from the dancing flames of red and orange held his attention.

Maybe the innkeeper was right; he needed a woman in his life, more than just a lover to warm his bed occasionally. A pat on Callum’s shoulder made him look up.

‘Lost in thought, lad?’

‘Ay, on such a cold, wet night the thought of taking to my bed alone has no joy to it.’ Callum looked into the eyes of the old storyteller of eighty summers past. Every line on the weather-beaten face of Old Godwin told the story of how he had spent his whole life learning the secrets and mysteries of the sea. He knew where to locate the fast-moving currents, and on the blackest of nights, he could steer a boat safely in to the harbour. Old Godwin’s thick, snowy-white hair, a full flowing white beard, and the twinkle in his clear green eyes told the tales of crashing storms, still calms, and endless sunrises. On many a stormy night, when the boats couldn’t set sail, all would gather in the inn to listen to the old storyteller, with his tales of magical creatures from the deep, sunken treasures and the men who had risked everything to hunt for them.

‘Tis a wild night to be lost in thought, lad. For on such a night as this, the sea witch roams,’ Godwin said, setting his battered silver tankard on the table, as he sat across from Callum.

‘The sea witch?’

‘Aye, lad, the sea witch. You don’t want to fall under her spell.’

‘Why… What’ll happen to you, if you do?’ Callum asked.

Godwin lowered his voice as he leaned closer to the young man. A hush descended on the inn as everyone strained to hear. They had all heard the tale of the sea witch before so why was Godwin whispering now? Was there something he hadn’t revealed before? In a low, even voice, the storyteller began his tale.

'I’ve seen the sea witch on many a stormy night such as this when the moon rises. She stands alone, sometimes on the harbour wall, sometimes on the cliff-top footpath, but always looking out to sea. She’s a striking figure with jet-black curls, whipped from under her bonnet by the wind to dance around her fair-skinned face. Her dark beauty is hard to ignore, so too is the longing in her stormy-black eyes.’ Godwin shuddered and took a sip of his ale. ‘It’s easy to understand why many a strong man has fallen under her spell. When the wild wind lifts her skirt and a man catches a glimpse of her white petticoats and slender ankles it is easy to believe she’s human.’

‘What is she if she isn’t human?’

‘She’s a creature that rides on the storm clouds, singing a low, pitiful lament that’s carried on the wind.’ Godwin gripped Callum's arm, with a trembling hand. Callum stared into Godwin’s wide eyes and saw the dark memories that haunted them. 'I've seen it happen, lad. I've seen good men lose their minds and their souls to the sea witch. She'll lure you with the beauty of the song she sings while dragging you down into her watery realm.


Above the roofs of the squat cottages, Maggie stood on the footpath overlooking the harbour. Whenever the spring storms returned, she would watch and listen to the howling wind, longing for her mother’s embrace. On such a wild night as this, her mother kissed her cheek, pulled her blanket up to her chin, and told her she would be back soon.

‘Sleep now, child of mine. Tomorrow we’ll gather driftwood from the beach.’

Maggie was ten summers old when her mother left. She had woken to a cold cottage, but she knew how to start the fire, cook the porridge, and where her mother hid the money. What she didn’t know was how her mother came by it. For a while, no one but Elizabeth Mills asked about her mother. Maggie gathered the driftwood to sell, and looked after herself by baking bread, growing vegetables, and feeding the chickens, which she either ate or sold when she needed more money.

As the years passed, she began to do odd jobs around the village, looking after children, cleaning, helping in the bakery, or taking in washing as her mother had done. If anyone asked, she told them her mother would soon return, and that she had remained to look after the chickens and geese. Tom Mills and his wife, Elizabeth kept an eye on Maggie, telling her if she needed help to come and see them.


Many years ago, her mother, Marina arrived in the coastal community one stormy night. The church bells rang a warning that a ship had run aground not far from the shore. Risking their own lives, the fishermen took to their rowing boats but arrived too late as the ship broke in two.

The following morning, the women combed the shoreline, looking for anything the sea had discarded. In among the rocks, they found trunks and bottles. Some had broken apart while others were intact.

From the cliff-top footpath, Elizabeth Mills hurried down the shore, her skirts tucked in her waistband. She had seen a trunk the other women had missed, she told Maggie years later. The trunk was floating half-weighted down in the water. Elizabeth had tied a rope through a handle and pulled it ashore. Once she had broken the lock open inside she found the greatest treasure of all. A child lay wrapped in clothes. Why hadn’t the sea taken her like her mother and father? Elizabeth wondered. Lifting the child of ten summers out, Elizabeth found a leather pouch full of gold coins, jewels and a note in it, saying, if you find my child alive, please take good care of her.

The Mills waited a few years to be sure that the customs and excise men had lost interest in the sunken ship. Of course, there was no way for them to identify Marina’s parents if they were among the bodies washed ashore. Now they had a daughter to think about, Tom thought the time was right so he took two of the gold coins and went to see if he could buy the two tumbled down cottages, surrounded by land, away from the main village. Tom had always wanted a garden and somewhere to keep livestock. By doing most of the work himself, Tom rebuilt the cottages to give their daughter the best start in life. Elizabeth being good with needle and thread could turn any piece of cloth into the latest fashion so Marina was always well dressed. Her clothes became an example of her mother’s fine needlework, which brought many of the villagers to their door wanting the latest fashion.

When Marina was old enough, she moved into the cottage next door and made it her own. The trunk, which had saved her life, stood in Maggie’s bedroom and contained two poetry books, and a doll dressed in a black silk gown.

 Years later when Marina was ready to speak of her past, she told the Mills all she could remember of her life before being in the trunk. After her parents had died of a fever in South America, where they had been doing missionary work, she was travelling back to England with her guardian, a country she had never been to before. Marina recalled the sadness of losing her parents and the excitement of returning to her parents’ homeland they had described as gentle rolling countryside, of stone walls, streams, and brooks. After the heat of a rainforest and the savageness of the natives, Marina had read and reread the poetry books her mother had taken with her on the journey to foreign lands.    

Maggie’s grandmother, Elizabeth always said that the sea would take her beloved daughter away. ‘I knew the moment I pulled that thin little body from the trunk she would only be mine for a short amount of time. Whenever a storm brews and the wind changes direction Marina would stand by the fallen tree, looking out to sea. It was as though it called to her.’

‘Oh, sweet grandmother, do not weep. I’m here.’

‘I know sweet Pet, but she’ll always be my daughter, no matter what others might say about her.’

‘Grandmother, do thou know who is my father?’

Elizabeth took Maggie in her arms. ‘Child, if I knew, I would tell thee. Your mother never said.’

 Maggie took to watching the men who watched her. They didn’t think she knew what was in their minds, but she did. The Mills were wise people and had brought her up well. Tom had sat her down and explained she was a wealthy young woman who would be a prize catch. The man who married their granddaughter would never want to go to sea when there was money to spend. She would need to choose wisely and not let her heart be stolen like her mother’s.    

On many occasion, Maggie had watched the boats come in, but this was the first time she’d caught Callum’s eye. The fisherwomen told numerous tales about how he was a dangerous catch, with a wandering eye.  

Maggie took pleasure in seeing the strength of his back, the curve of his lips, and the arch of his brow. He winked at her. She arched an eyebrow slightly as her lips parted, but she did not smile for him, but turned away.

 If Maggie was going to bait her hook, with a flash of her ankle and a glint in her eye she wanted to know that he would be her own true love. She needed to know more about him before she reeled him in.

Days later, Callum’s boat was a no-show. As the tearful fisherwomen gathered at the harbour to lament the loss of another ship to the sea witch, Maggie knew the truth as soon as she had spotted the dark clouds gathering on the horizon. When the storm broke the ghostly shadow of her mother had appeared by the fallen oak to let her know Callum wasn’t the right man for the daughter of the sea witch.  


About the author  

Paula R. C. Readman is a prolific writer. She shares her life with her husband, Russell, and two cats. She collaborates with three publishers and has penned six books and over a hundred short stories. 

Blog: or just Google Paula R C Readman, and something’s bound to pop up. 


  1. I enjoyed this story! Very atmospheric.

    1. Paula R.C. Readman9 February 2024 at 09:54

      Thank you so much.

  2. Another good Read Paula

  3. Another hauntingly good read from Paula :) ( Anne Nelson)

    1. Paula R.C. Readman9 February 2024 at 15:54

      Thank you so much for reading my latest story

  4. Very good story, holds your attention right to the end. Well done.

    1. Thank you so much for reading my story. I'm so pleased you enjoyed it.