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 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 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.

a selkie tale – part 23

It was evening time once again before Maesie rushed Fenella out of the clan and into the open water. “Go on, now! You’ll never have enough time if you wait til nightfall!” Maesie hissed. She would swim in a cloud of sparkling tuna and in and out of the large kelp garden that her family frequented. It would be hard to keep away for too long, for the rest of her family would realize her absence.

Fenella longed to speak to Oliver again, and she hoped he would be waiting for her on the shore. Then they could plan their next visit. More than anything she wanted the power to change into a human by herself. She knew it would take much practice with magic to be experienced enough for shape-shifting, and her magic had only just awoken.

Finally she reached the familiar bend in the shore where Gillespie resided. As soon as she rounded the corner, Fenella’s stomach felt like she’d swallowed a sea urchin whole. She was so nervous Oliver wouldn’t be able to hear her from the village up the hill. Confident still, she slumped ashore and shook the brine from her whiskers.

“Oliver,” she thought. “I’ve snuck away and come ashore. Come and meet me!” She heard silence, save for the waves that crashed on the beach. It seemed as though so much time had gone by, and she felt rushed to return home, but she finally heard something. Raising her snout from the sand, she listened carefully.

“Fen, Fen!” she heard someone hiss at her. Whipping her head around, she caught a glimpse of a figure running toward her, kicking up sand behind it. “Fen,” Oliver said, breathing hard. “My apologies, I couldn’t come sooner.”

“Don’t fret, friend. I would have waited a bit longer,” Fenella said.

“I didn’t know if I should tell you or not, but my parents saw you change into a seal again,” Oliver admitted. He couldn’t hold it to himself any longer.

“Oh no… Have they told anyone?”

“I don’t suppose they have. Mum really doesn’t believe any of it happened.” Fenella snorted. “She’s not sure what to think of the story I told her, but she misses you.”

“I miss her, too. All of you. I hope one day to be strong enough to grow legs again and walk on your land. You could show me more of the human world.”

“That would be quite the time, Fen! I’d love to see the underwater world, as well.”

That gave Fenella an idea. “Perhaps I can make that happen.”

“Could you?! So I wouldn’t drown?” Fenella barked and shook the chill of the night wind from her coat.

“I’ll see what I can learn while I’m away. I promise one day I’ll be practiced enough in my magic to be able to visit more often, and speak real words to you.”

Oliver draped his arm over her neck. “I’d like that.”

a selkie tale – part 22

The next day, Fenella, her sister, and the rest of their selkie clan swarmed their underwater garden in a celebratory parade for their youngest kin to return home safely. Fenella was elated to be able to swim again. Her flippers never hurt like human feet did, and swimming amongst the shining fish and forests of kelp was what she missed most. But even in her excitement and feeling of belonging, something felt odd in her stomach. She could have mistakenly swallowed a jellyfish, but she thought it might be more than that. As she followed the shoreline, pondering her time ashore, her sister, Maesie, joined her trek.

“Alright there, Fen?” she asked, making Fenella stop swimming altogether.

“Sure,” Fenella replied, slowly regaining her speed.

“Why are you down all of a sudden? I thought you’d be happy to rejoin the clan.”

“I just ate something funny, I think,” Fenella offered. She knew it was a less-than-convincing retort, but it was better than admitting the truth.

“Hmm, you’re lying to me,” Maesie replied in a sing-songy voice. She dove suddenly, then rushed up to stop right before Fenella’s face. “You want to go to the surface again, don’t you?”

Fenella spun around and swam back to their rock, wanting to put her time on land behind her. Mother doesn’t approve, she thought. I can’t disobey or I might lose my family. 

“Fen, wait!” Maesie called after her. “Please–let me help you. I was jealous at first to see what an exciting time you had, but I have no longing to return to land on legs. I’m happy here. If you aren’t happy as a seal, maybe I ought to help you find that happiness, yes?” Fenella dove into the seaweed below, pretending not to hear her sister. Maesie continued. “Fenella, I can’t see you so sad every day. I can at least cause a distraction while you go ashore, if that’s all you want. You may not have the power to turn human on your own, but at least you can speak to him!”

Fenella slowed and allowed Maesie to catch up to her. “Mum will be angry if she finds out.”

“I’ll watch for you. Just don’t be long, alright?” Fenella agreed and followed her sister home. She felt happier looking forward–she knew she would get to see Oliver that night and hear about more of his world. She wished she could go on another adventure with him, though one less dangerous, of course. She could hardly wait to speak with him again.