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.

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 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.

a selkie tale – part 24

That night when Fenella glided home, she tried to slip in, unnoticed, behind the family.

“Stop, Fenella,” her mother ordered.

Fenella froze. “Yes, Mum?” She knew she’d be chastised for leaving without notice. She thought Maesie would have covered for her better than this…she had been caught.

“I don’t want you leaving without someone knowing. What if something were to happen to you? What if we wouldn’t have a clue where to find you? We can’t save you from a shark or human attack unless we know where you are.”

“I wasn’t in any danger. I stayed against the sho–”

“You are no longer allowed to visit the boy. Giving him the ears to hear seals speak was dangerous enough, but to sneak away for a visit in person? It’s unheard of. He will reveal your identity, and before we realize, our family will be captured and sold, exploited for all the country to see. You would endanger your own clan, Fenella?” Moire was livid, and it scared Fenella.

“Y-Yes, Mum.” She watched her mother dive back into the water with enviable grace for her last border inspection of the evening. Elders of the clan would take turns swimming the border of their territory to be warned of intruders or to be sure everyone in the clan was ready to come onto the outcropping for the night.

Maesie bounced over to her, head hung low. “I tried to convince her that you wanted one more swim through the currents before the end of the night. I didn’t think she would find out you’d gone to your human again.”

“Nay, Maesie. You did your best. Thank you.” Fenella made her way to the warm rocks and thought about her next move. Her goal would be the same: be practiced enough in magic to turn human again, but because she could no longer visit her friend, she’d try her best to communicate with him from the water, and learn as much as she could from the elders. They could teach her more about her abilities. Before she could fall asleep, Fenella found her aunt, and asked, “Will you help me with my magic, Aunt Annag?” The old selkie grunted in approval, not even opening her eyes from her slumber.

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.

a selkie tale – part 21

The frigid water that ran through Fenella’s whiskers enlivened her, and suddenly she felt at home. She heard something under the waves and opened her eyes to see her mother and sister had come to meet her! She wondered if they waited here each day for her return. She met up with them around the bend of the shore where she could no longer see Oliver or the beach.

“Mummy!” she cried, swimming fast as a shark on attack. She swam in circles about her mother before nuzzling her.

“My pup, we thought we might never see you again. We thought they’d captured you,” her mother explained. She seemed so fatigued.

Maesie swam up then, bumping her snout into Fenella’s. “Who was that you were with, Fenella? A friend of yours? Does he know what you are?” To Fenella’s ears, she seemed a bit jealous under her worry.

They swam home while Fenella explained her first catastrophic night, and then told them of the giant men with fire logs that could kill other men. She mentioned Oliver and his parents briefly, but didn’t go into their last moments together. Seeming close to a human could be dangerous. She decided to go easy on the visits back to land at first. Somehow she would find a way to transform into a human again, so Oliver could show her even more of his land. Now that she had a friend, she knew her next visit would be a safer one.

“Fenella, why did you call out to me for help?” her mother asked as they laid out on the rocks for the night.

“We were injured by those bad men who stole my seal coat. My friend was kind enough to help me retrieve it.”

“Why was your friend so eager to help you? Could it be that you told him of your birthplace?”

Fenella hesitated for a moment, trying to fabricate a response that lessened her chance of punishment. “N-No, Mum. I told him it was handed down from my elders, and it was very valuable and that I must have it back.”

“Hmm,” her mother responded. She disapproved of the relationship between the two already, and Fenella could sense it. “But you gave him the ears of the seal. He can hear you, can’t he?” Fenella’s heart felt as though it plunged to the depths of the ocean, too far to return. Had she seen everything on the beach that night?

“Aye….Mum,” Fenella admitted, ashamed.

“Why would you do such a thing?” Fenella felt odd about the way her mother spoke to her. She seemed disapproving, but at the same time, she was very calm. Maybe as to not alert the selkie family around them.

“I suppose I don’t really know. I felt like it was right. I didn’t want our friendship to die.”

“Be careful, love, for men do not care to see us die. Better our friendships to die than  selkie or man.” Fenella rolled around, irritated that there was only caution in her mother’s words, never happiness. Why couldn’t she be proud that her daughter had befriended such an evil species in order to survive? Shouldn’t she be happy that her daughter had returned, alive and whole?