a selkie tale – part 31

It was Moire. Her voice was beautiful, as was her human form. She seemed to channel every selkie’s pool of magic and used that extra energy to call forth the ship. The sailors had been broken from their curious trance, but as hard as they tried to steer their ship away from their rocky demise, the selkie folk song was too powerful for the ship to bear.

The ship was thrust forward on a giant wave, and Moire spread out like a cloud to shield her clan from the wreckage. The pirates flew overboard and the ship smashed with an exploding slam. Wood planks and cannon balls were thrown in every direction. The selkies, though, were sheltered completely.

A cry of victory could be heard even over the coming storm. The selkies dove into the waves, following their Chieftess to land. There they would meet the humans and discuss their terms of peace.

“Mum,” Fenella gasped, running up to her side. Moire turned and put her hands on Fenella’s shoulders.

“Fenella, I could not be more proud of you. I’m not fond of working alongside humans, but they have trusted us so far. Now, I must take care of political matters.” Moire gave Fenella’s head a pat and followed the human chief’s beckoning. Fenella watched her mother in awe; never had she seen a more beautiful human–or seal for that matter–in her entire life. She walked gracefully on two feet as if she was human herself.

Fenella heard Oliver shouting her name as he ran to her from Gillespie. When he reached her, he picked her up and spun her in a circle and making her laugh.

“Fenella, thank you! You’ve saved us,” he said in gratitude.

“You’re welcome. I’m relieved that my clan came. I couldn’t have done it without them.” Fenella yawned. The two stood awkwardly with each other for a moment, not sure what to say to each other alone.

Finally, Oliver turned to cup Fenella’s face and press his lips against hers. Fenella felt her knees buckle and her face grow hot as fire. She gripped his shirt with both hands, never wanting it to end. When he pulled away, his eyes were closed and he said, “I hope this means you can stay with us again.”

“Why did I ever leave?” Fenella asked with a grin. Oliver smiled and embraced her again, feeling raindrops finally fall on their faces.

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a selkie tale – part 30

The ships arrived hours after Oliver had warned Fenella of the invasion. Dressed in a white gown provided by the town’s finest seamstress Fenella marched to her battlefield, below the cliffs of Gillespie. Rocks shot upward from the sea floor, creating ragged, pointed walls off of which the waves could crash thunderously. Oliver rowed her in a small dingy to the rocks, where she was able to climb the largest one right in the middle. It was relatively close to shore, and appeared to be an excellent anchoring place.

“Fare well, Fen. I’ll see you at the end,” Oliver said. She noticed the reluctance in his eyes and shined a smile.

“Don’t fret, Oliver. I will return soon!” This made Oliver return her smile with more confidence than before. They both knew being near the rocks and thrashing waves was one of the most dangerous places on the coast,  but if Fenella’s plan prevailed, it would all be worth the trouble–at least that’s what she believed.

Back in the selkie clan, Moire’s position on the matter of helping the humans was tossed about, but soon denied. If Fenella wished to risk her life for these men, they must be trustworthy. Over the past few weeks, her family had noticed her maturity and great strive for power, and they respected her for that. They would not allow her to fight on her own. Others joined her family when they spotted the ships arriving.

Soon the seal scouts that were sent to inspect the ships discreetly swam to Oliver–per Fenella’s request–telling him, “They’re laughing, aboard! Sharpening knives and axes, loading cannons and stuffing the barrels of their guns with powder. There are skins of our kin being hung from their ropes. We are in the fight as much as you, human boy. Are ye prepared?”

“Aye, we’re ahead of them. Gather your female selkies to join Fenella among the rocks!” he ordered, like a true Chieftain.

Fenella ordered those of the selkie women who could to transform into their human counterparts. After Bridget helped to clothe the women of the sea, they joined Fenella on the rocks. The sea began to fight against them, crashing higher and becoming angrier by the minute. Fenella bit her lip nervously, but watched closely as the ship of villains approached.

“Selkie clan–we will begin to sing our clan anthem as the ship approaches,” Fenella shouted. “Once we get their attention, coax them toward us; make them believe they can reach us before hitting the rocks. We can pull them closer with our combined power. Their ships will crumble beneath their boots!”

The human clan hid quietly on the edge of the beaches with guns and axes, and the tops of the cliffs were lined with archers and a single cannon, roughly disguised as rocks themselves.

In moments, the rough tide rolled the ship close enough for the pod of selkies to become visible to them. Their long hair whipped around their faces as their dresses did about their ankles.

And then, their song began. The sailors had no idea where the beautiful sound arose. It was as though a heavenly choir was welcoming them into the land beyond. When they spotted the women draped across the rock bed, they were intrigued and turned that way. The selkies pretended to just notice them and jumped up, waving with excitement. Some blew kisses, raising up the skirts of their dresses to show off porcelain legs. Together, they gathered each other’s energy through a shared anger toward the evil men and encouraged the ship in their direction. Because the ship was of such volume, the selkies struggled to keep their song together as well as move the ship with all their might.

The pirates seemed to be very interested, though, and didn’t mind the ship being tilted toward that side of the beach. The selkies continued their coquettish acts reaching in the direction of the ship and putting their hands on their hearts with such desire, it was difficult to turn away.

But then, the captain of their ship emerged–tall, leather cap and all–and shouted, “Wake up, men! Heed not their precious songs and flirtation! They are sirens that pull any unsuspecting man into the sea!” His voice boomed so loudly that even the rocks on the cliffs trembled.

Fenella panicked. What now…they’ve caught us!

Suddenly, before the selkies rose a glowing figure in a white dress of sea foam that grew and grew and grew until it was as tall as the rocks that reached up from the sea. A beautiful woman with hair like fire and lips like summer poppies revealed herself, joining her sisters in song.

a selkie tale – part 29

After meeting with who was left of the villagers, Fenella decided it was time to take action.

“Friends, you say these pirates come on ships to invade your land?” They answered affirmatively. “You may not believe me now, but my family and I might be able to help you. Prepare yourselves for battle, and I will call on my family to protect you from further destruction. You were so hospitable to me, and I feel the need to repay you.”

“You owe us nothing, child,” Bridget said. She shook her head. “We only did what we thought was morally sound.”

“Gillespie has become my home-away-from-home. It breaks my heart to see it reduced to rubble. We will ward off these attacks, and rebuild together!” The town cried with enthusiasm and hurried to begin preparations.

Oliver grabbed Fenella’s arm. “What will you do? I thought your clan hated humans?” He was panicking.

“You needn’t worry, Oliver. If I have to do it by myself, your village will face no more peril.” She looked worriedly into Oliver’s eyes, which studied her closely.

“Be careful, Fen. Come back to me, aye?” Fenella smiled and put her hand on his.

As soon as her toes tapped the water, she began her transformation. In seconds, she was spiraling between rock formations and through schools of fish that swam past her. When she reached her family’s outcropping, she lunged to the surface and hurried to where they all were gathered. “Mum, Aunt Annag–I have a request,” she announced, breathlessly. The elders had already gathered, alerted of her transformation into a seal.

“Fenella, what in St. Andrew’s name happened but moments ago?” Moire demanded. “You used a transformation spell?”

Fenella sighed and concentrated again, ready to turn into a human before her clan’s eyes. Every selkie gathered became speechless and gasped at the sight of Moire’s youngest daughter on two human legs.

“Fenella!” her mother chastised, astounded.

“Mother, listen. Everyone, hear me! We selkies helped humans long ago. Aunt Annag told me that, doesn’t everyone remember the tale? We mustn’t fear them all! There are murderous, poaching pirates approaching who will take our lives just as they will take the humans’ and their supplies! We must help them. Their village has already been burned to the ground, perhaps we can help rid them of the pirates.”

“That sounds quite dangerous, Fenella,” Maesie said. She could tell there was a tremble in the crowd. Fenella walked next to her sister and put her human forehead against her sister’s.

“I have a plan. We won’t be hurt.”

“I forbid this! It is foolish to involve yourselves with the humans. They will betray our trust and hunt us for entertainment, for food. They do not deserve our respect or protection,” Moire ordered.

“They saved me,” Fenella fought back. “If not for Oliver’s gun, or his parents’ food, or the village’s hospitality and protection, I would already be dead. I wouldn’t have ever returned to you. Oliver has kept my secret to this day. I have to return that favor, whether or not any of you will join me!” Fenella climbed onto a rock where she could stand over everyone, and raised her human fist. “Who will join me in battle?”

a selkie tale – part 28

Fenella had been so busy over the weeks that she’d lost time for socializing. Maesie confronted her one morning saying, “I refuse for you to practice again today. Fenella, we haven’t swum together in such a long while. Let’s go with our friends today, what do you say?” Fenella agreed, happy for the distraction, but also worried about becoming too distracted.

The other young, female selkies they swam with seemed happy and worry-free. Fenella felt more freedom just swimming around with them. They said they’d found their own sunny outcropping where the clan elders couldn’t see them. “That way,” Maesie explained, “We can speak about whatever we want without them knowing!” The selkies giggled about the young males that caught their attention, who they might court when the time came. They also complained about elders’ restrictions and how beautiful the ocean was as the sun reflected off of it that day. Fenella stayed quiet, just enjoying different company. It had been so long since she’d spent time with her old friends.

“You know, I really think Finlay has been eyeing me of late,” Maesie gloated. “I might court him for sometime. He is always willing to bring back an extra fish for me.” She giggled.

“Oooh he would make the perfect mate for you, Maesie!” one of the selkies swooned.

“Much too soon for that!” Maesie retorted, hot with embarrassment.

“You don’t love him, Maesie, do you?” another added in shock.

Love? Fenella thought. She felt her stomach turn anxiously. “Are you, Maesie?” Fenella asked curiously.

Maesie looked terrified at first, but then thought about it for a moment while the other girls prodded her for an answer. “I–I suppose I might. Would you explain ‘love’ as your stomach twisting around?”

“And being our happiest only when you are with him!” another chimed in.

“And feeling terribly lonely and incomplete when you haven’t seen him?” Fenella asked.

“Yes–I supposed I do love him, then!” Maesie chirped. All the girls cooed in excitement around her.

Fenella could hardly express her happiness as her fear and confusion swept over again. Did she love Oliver? Could that be that warm feeling in her belly that perplexed her so?

That night, she returned to the beach. Nothing would stop her from seeing him tonight. Once again, she breathed deeply before channeling her emotions. It appeared again to her, that warm feeling that twisted and churned in her stomach; the one that made her happy and sad; the one that pulled at her heart until she would see him again.

Closing her eyes, Fenella bowed her head, feeling the low tide wash the beach beneath her. Somehow, she captured that wild emotion ‘love’ and reigned in its power. She felt the warmth flood her veins and lift her from the eroding sand. Her flippers stretched and jerked in all directions and she breathed heavily, wanting it to be over already.

Suddenly she felt each grain of the soft sand in her palm. When Fenella opened her eyes, she saw her own human fingers dusted with sand. Tears of joy coursed down her cheeks. She stood, much more confidently than the last time, and saw ivory-colored legs in the moonlight. “Oliver, Oliver I’m here! I’m coming,” she called in her mind. Still, there was no answer. Pushing back the worry of him being angry with her for not returning sooner, Fenella bravely made her way up the beach and onto the path traveling toward Gillespie.

She pulled her seal cloak about her more appropriately, and slipped the seaweed from her wavy locks. She knew she must smell of fish and not of humans, but there was no time to clean up.

When she finally crested the last hill before the village, Fenella’s breath caught in her throat. The first thing she saw was smoke. It billowed off of every house in the village. Leftover flames licked the last of the wooden walls and thatched rooftops. Gillespie was left for ruins.

Fenella’s hands cupped over her mouth as more tears fell. “Oliver!” she cried, running into the destruction. “Oliver, Bridget! Where are you?” She ran about, seeing no one at first. Then she tripped. When she sat up again, she saw a bloody, burned corpse beside her. She sobbed, standing again and running desperately through the ashes. “Oliver…”

“Fen?” Just behind her and down the hill, she saw a group of people huddled together on the tree line. One figure approached her and she stood still in the moonlight. “Fenella?” Oliver asked in disbelief.

“Oh Oliver!” Fenella ran into his arms and wrapped hers around his neck. “I’m so sorry it’s been so long. Your village–I thought you–I thought–” Her sentence was interrupted by sobs. Her hands gripped his shirt, and he held her against his chest, shushing her.

“It’s alright, Fen. I’m alright.” His warmth calmed her, and she was finally able to calm down.

“Thank heavens,” Fenella whispered. Oliver leaned a sweaty forehead against hers.

“You came back,” he stated, holding her cold hands in his.

“I was able to transform myself without anyone noticing,” she whispered excitedly. Then her excitement faded. “Oliver, what happened to Gillespie?”

He sighed and took one her her hands in his, leading her around the village as he spoke. “I suppose those bandits we thwarted were a part of a larger crew of pirates. They came inland and threatened us to hand over the goods we stole from them and prisoners in return for their lost members.” Fenella watched his face closely, studying his emotions. She watched his jaw flex in anger. “We weren’t prepared for their attack in the middle of the night. They threw torches on our homes and stole our livestock. Few who fought against them survived, and the rest of us fled with the women and children.” He turned away from the rubble. “We have to flee. We are too small a people to handle these pirates on our own.”

a selkie tale – part 27

Fenella’s mother kept a close eye on her while she trained with Annag. As she became stronger over the weeks, her mother showed her pride by allowing her to swim further than her usual boundaries, unaccompanied. She thought it had been long enough for her to get over her obsession with the humans.

Fenella, on the other hand, practiced harder at night, while the rest of the clan slept. She swam into the thick of the kelp garden and practiced blocking the trace of her magic. Annag mentioned that any time she used magic, the elders of the clan would know it, which explained how Annag and her mother knew she used magic in her human form.

They had just returned from a hunt one afternoon when she overheard another elder teasing about using a cloaking spell to block Annag from knowing what she was doing all of the time. When Fenella inquired about this skill, Annag told her it was nonsense and she shouldn’t need to worry about acquiring that skill. Not even the elders used it. They were all honest with each other, which Annag assured Fenella was the reason for their close bond.

Against the elder’s wishes, she practiced simple tasks to see if anyone noticed that evening. Sometimes they would awaken to a sense of magic in their sleep and realize someone was practicing.

One morning, Annag approached Fenella on a morning swim and said, “Did you take a break from rolling in a fog last night? I noticed you’ve been hard at work for a while now. I’m glad to see you getting stronger, but rest is just as important.”

Fenella struggled to contain her excitement. She hadn’t noticed my magic last night! I’ve done it!

Without further hesitation, Fenella slipped away that evening to visit Oliver. Tonight would be the night she would turn into a human again–or at least give it a go. Her heart fluttered, and she could just imagine Oliver’s face light up when he saw her. It had been a few weeks since she could slip away from her clan. Finally, with most of her goal achieved, she arrived on the shores of Gillespie.

“Oliver?” she called out. When there was no answer and no footprints to be heard, her heart sank. I wonder if he’s forgotten me. I couldn’t blame him. She knew if she could finally transform herself, she would be able to find him.

Taking a deep breath, she concentrated on a hot feeling in her stomach. She couldn’t pinpoint what the feeling could be, but she would use it to give herself a human body again. She was confused, though. Because she couldn’t identify the feeling, there was no way to control it in one direction. Her magic seemed to dance around, as unsure of itself as she was. The only control she did have was on the cloaking spell. Her fear of being caught held that strain of magic steady.

She felt her flippers tingling, saw tiny, floating sparkles of her magic escaping, but nothing changed. She was a beast all the same. Fenella knew she had to embrace her feelings before she could use her magic appropriately. She returned home that night, defeated and more confused than before.

a selkie tale – part 26

Aunt Annag had Fenella work on a number of different exercises over the next few days, including using her excitement to breach further from the water’s surface and her mild irritation from other fish stealing her prey to ward them off and keep her kill for herself. She also used the empathy she had for her seal kin on a neighboring outcropping to create a fog thick enough for them to escape their human predators. Her exercises took multiple tries, but she achieved success with each in the end. She felt the exhaustion creeping in, and her heart ached to see Oliver.

Her aunt was very pleased with her first tasks, and told her she was growing stronger and more confident faster than most selkies of her age. “Tell me, child, is there more motivation for this power than you’re letting on?”

“No, Aunt Annag. I want to become reliable and gain respect and friendships from my clan.” At the back of her tongue, wished she could say, I must see Oliver.

“How about I tell you a story now, since you’ve accomplished your goal for today?” Fenella laid down in gratitude. “Before I was even born to surf this sea, there were selkie clans who worked with men.”

“Is that a jest?” Fenella asked, appalled. Why hadn’t she been told this before?

“Hardly. Our ancestors used their ability to turn into women to lure ships of invaders into rocky shores. There was a mutual agreement between the human clan’s leader and the selkie clan of old. They would protect the humans’ shores while the humans allowed seals and selkies alike to live in peace. The humans did not fish in the selkie territory, and they did not hunt us or the seals.

Unfortunately our ancestors became too trusting of the humans. Once the human’s leader passed on, another rose, who longed to enslave selkies: capture and exploit our powers around Scotland and even past the borders. Some were captured and brought in cages to be stared at by people who would pay human currency for them. Our ancestors never saw those captured ever again.

We must be careful who we trust. It has been many years since our kin were captured, that now selkies are but a legend. Most would take care to keep it that way. After our clan retreated to a new home–here where we reside today–humans continued capturing seals, trying to decide which ones might be selkies. Eventually they thought they had captured us all and found other uses for them.” Annag grew quiet and thoughtful, her perpetual smile fading. “We must take care to protect our family and our species, for we could lose them to untrustworthy humans.”

“But Aunt Annag, it was before that terrible ruler that humans and selkies worked in harmony. Do you suppose that could ever happen again? Or are selkies like us sure that all humans will become our predators?” Fenella pressed.

Annag laughed. “I don’t suppose anyone really knows if it would work out again. Humans still hunt seals, so I would assume they would hunt us as well. Don’t you think? We are in seal form for the majority of our lives.”

Fenella didn’t respond. She knew Bridget’s family, who seemed the head of their clan, could be trusted. They fished and hunted on land. They never spoke of going on seal hunts or of selkies, and she never once saw a seal in their village. She knew Oliver would revolt at the sight of a hunted seal, now that he knew she was one herself. Wouldn’t he?

a selkie tale – part 25

Aunt Annag was one of the eldest of the selkie clan. From her stories, the young selkies would learn of the times when the selkie folk would go on land often, hiding their identities, but using the human world for their own gain. Aunt Annag, herself, had become human several times, bringing back tales and treasures from land. Seals in their area hadn’t much to fear, until their large population began to be hunted for their skins and fats. Aunt Annag warned the pups not to venture onto land as often anymore, for they might see their seal kin hanging from posts in the villages.

Knowing these things, Fenella knew she must keep her true mission a secret. She wanted terribly to see Oliver, but she had to grow stronger so that she could transform all by herself.

“Has the human world inspired your magic craft, child?” Aunt Annag said with her comforting smile.

“Aye, it has. I hoped you could teach me the ways of selkie magic so that I may use them as well as you or Mum.”

“To return to the human world?” She kept her cheerful smile as Fenella began to panic.

“No no, I’m forbidden from returning.” She paused for thought. “But I would like to one day keep our family safe when they need help, or to save our seal kin from being hunted.”

“That’s a very noble quest, to keep your family safe. Wouldn’t you also like to keep in touch with your friend on two legs?” Her irritatingly calm smile never faltered as she bore deep into Fenella’s soul.

“I, um… No! I don’t need a–a human. I want to save my people from them. Humans are so cruel and kill anything, even each other, without a second thought!”

“Alright, alright. We did this small exercise to find your true passion behind your magic.  Your emotions will make any magic you use more powerful. Now, I’m aware that you’ve used your magic three times now. Do you remember?”

Fenella closed her eyes, trying to remember the third time she used her magic. “I used it to give Oliver the ears to understand my thoughts and when I asked Mum to help heal us while I stayed with his family, but I don’t remember another time.”

“How about when you were in the forest with a band of thieves surrounding you?”

“Oh–I screamed and they fell onto their backs.” Aunt Annag nodded in approval. “I understand now. I screamed because I felt the most scared I’d ever felt; I asked Mum for help because I was in so much pain, but also worried for Oliver’s life; and I gave him seal ears because–” Fenella cut off and looked down between her flippers. “I-I was sad not to…be with my friend anymore.” Aunt Annag’s smile never faded, and Fenella could tell she saw straight through her.

“Most impressive, child. Our magic is most effective when we can focus on exactly what we are feeling at the time, and concentrate it into one goal. If you had been previously trained in your magic before you grew legs, you would have been able to stand your ground amongst those men. You would have focused on that terror and anger and used it to take care of the lot of them, as well as regain your belongings. Unfortunately you were unable to have this lesson before.”

“I see,” Fenella said. She thought hard about the three times previous. “So I used my–erm–sadness to concentrate my magic on allowing Oliver to hear me?” Aunt Annag winked and wiggled her whiskers.