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 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 13

Oliver slipped off his coat to reveal his gun. He knew it would be best not to use it, for the traveling bandits would hear it and return even from the other side of the hill. He assured Fenella it was only cautionary, and his plan didn’t involve harming the men unless they were in imminent danger. Fenella swallowed hard.

She was up first: she threw her large branch across the room so it made a clattering sound against a stand of weapons, causing the whole wrack to topple over. The noise echoed so loudly that they had to cover their ears.

“What wa’ s’that?” said one of the men, alarmed. They both stepped slowly around the bend in the cave to see the strange catastrophe.

“Oo’s there?!” the other shouted. As if they would answer.

Oliver then threw a small stone even further down the corridor, past the weapon stand. It echoed deep into the uninhabited cavern. Fenella beamed and tapped his hand to commend his aim. He winked and listened carefully. The bandits grew silent, so the intruders peeked slowly from the dark side of the rock from behind which they were hiding. They two men were creeping slowly toward the dark corridor, an axe and sword in hand. Oliver nodded and Fenella dashed barefooted toward her skins, which were now behind the bandits, unguarded.

She felt the soft leather between her fingertips when a deafening pow shook the cave.