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 17

The next morning, Fenella stretched and walked to the bathroom. While she washed her face with cool water she froze.

“I can walk. I can walk!” She hopped around with glee and picked up each foot to gander at the magic that had happened overnight. “Oliver,” she whispered, “Perhaps he’s feeling better, too!” She skipped happily through the hall and stopped at his door. Carefully creaking it open, she made sure not to startle him. “Oliver?”

“Hm?” he groaned, rolling over on his side. He blinked his eyes open and squinted to see Fenella better. “Mm, Fen. You alright?” Oliver didn’t seem to be speaking well. She thought surely he was still in pain.

“Never better. And you?” she asked hopefully.

“Terribly sore. But I do think my wound… My wound!” He sat upright (a little too quickly, in fact, for he pulled a muscle in his neck). “I do believe it’s gone! Like magic. And your feet?” Fenella showed him. “What do you suppose…”

“I spoke to my mother last night,” she admitted. “Not in person, but I did ask her to help us.” Oliver twisted his arm back and forth, admiring the war wound. It tore through his bicep and make it quite difficult to move. Luckily the wound had sealed itself and was impervious to any disease or infection.

Fenella ran suddenly to him and wrapped her arms about his neck. “I was so worried I wasn’t going to see you again,” she said “I tried to get you back here without the bandits seeing you, and I forgot my shoes, and I had nothing more to tie around your arm, and you passed out–”

Oliver laughed. “But Fenella, you saved me. I’m safe now. You can’t think about what might have happened.”

She rubbed her eyes in relief. “I’m so happy that you don’t despise me after what trouble I’ve put you through.”

“Of course not. As long as you keep your promise.” He winked.

“Promise?”

“To let me watch you change back, of course!”

“Aye, you’ll see!” Fenella laughed.

“Mum won’t let either of us out of the house yet, so we may have to wait until nightfall. What do you say?” She agreed. Fenella helped him move his injured arm around, trying to retrain the muscles how they needed to move. He couldn’t pick up his utensils to eat at first, and it bothered him that such a menial task was so incredibly taxing.

Fenella stayed by Oliver’s beside for the entirety of the day. They spoke of their forbidden trip, of the sea, and growing up in each of their different worlds. They were both still sore from their incredible journey just two days before, that they didn’t feel up to their nighttime walk on the beach that evening. The pair knew it was past time for Fenella to go home, though, and prepared their story for Bridget in case they were caught. It would be yet another sneaky night ahead of them.

a selkie tale – part 16

The selkie looked down at her aching feet. They were bandaged with a greasy ointment. She noticed how dirty her arms and legs were, and shivered in disgust. Her hair felt thick and too stiff. She needed a bath. Looking around, her memories started to return to her. She’d been in this room before–it was the room she stayed in at Bridget’s. That meant–

“Bridget?! Oliver?!” Fenella called out. Her tears returned as she remembered Oliver’s weight against her shoulders. She heard feet running toward her door. To her delight, Bridget’s face appeared. The woman was red in the face and looked like she needed to rest.

“Oh, Fenella,” she sighed. She gave her the biggest hug Fenella ever had. “What in the hill’s name were you trying to accomplish?” Fenella shrunk.

“Bridget… How is Oliver?” She didn’t ignore Bridget’s question entirely on purpose.

“He is not well, but he is recovering.”

“May I see him?”

“You need to stay off your feet for a couple of days before you go anywhere. If his healing is more rapid than yours, he will come to see you. Now, I can help you to the wash tub to help clean you up. Just take care not to wet your feet.” Just then, Bridget’s burly husband stomped in, lifting Fenella from her cot and onto a chair in the bathroom. “Thank you. Now, let’s get this mud off of you.”

Fenella, as anyone could imagine, felt like a new person once the dried dirt was no longer pulling at her skin. She longed for a swim in the ocean instead, but she knew there was no way she could walk there. Her skins lay on the back of a chair seated in the bedroom. There were a stack of books there, just within reach of the bed.

Bridget had given her a roll of bandage and a tub of ointment to apply to her feet every once and a while. She told her to change them out “at least three times a day.” Fenella couldn’t wait for this stint to be over. She would have to wear her skins soon or else she would be stuck in such a frail body forever. That thought made her stomach twist and tumble. Who’d want to be human forever if they didn’t have to? She could trust any seal. All selkies and seals alike would look over one another and warn each other of danger. Most of the humans she met were too complicated and untrustworthy.

Fenella decided if she couldn’t get Bridget’s husband to bring her to see Oliver, she’d sleep instead. The trip the day before had worn her out, and now she was finally comfortable enough to rest. She spoke to her mother, wishing that she would hear her calling. She said: “Mum–I made a terrible mistake. Please, hear me, and heal us so that I can be assured my friend will be well and I can return home.” A warmth flew over her aching body and soothed her to sleep.

a selkie tale – part 15

The journey back to the village wouldn’t have been so difficult, if not for Oliver passing out halfway there. Blood dripped from the rag that bound his arm, and Fenella struggled to hold him up. Her legs shook beneath her, and she was dripping with sweat even in the cool night air. She heard horses multiple times, and knew if anyone would find them, it would probably be the band of thieves. No matter who came by, Fenella would scramble to the side of the trail behind bushes or trees to shield them from sight. She couldn’t risk seeing any other humans. Which ones could she trust?

Fenella limped. Her feet were raw from the trek back from the cavern. She’d removed them to sneak after her seal skin cloak (which was now stained red from Oliver’s wound), but forgot to grab them after Oliver had been shot. Finally, she fell. Her feet were wet with blood, and she couldn’t even touch them. She managed to push Oliver out of the road and laid next to him, crying.

“How did a hopeful night become so terribly horrifying?” Fenella whispered to him. Tears poured down her face, but she had no energy left to sob. She needed to get Oliver to safety, but…

 

Fenella groaned and tried to stretch, but it seemed like a thousand knives dug into her feet. “Ahh!” she yelped. Her breaths were short, and she found the energy to sit upright. “Where…where am I?” she whispered to herself.

a selkie tale – part 9

When only a few fireflies were left buzzing around their feet, Oliver asked, “Now can you tell me where you came from?”

Fenella bit her lip and thought for a moment. She did need help retrieving her cloak, after all. “Only if you promise to help me.”

“Help you? Are you sure I can?”

“I’m not perfectly sure, but I think so.”

“Er, I suppose I can help you out.”

“Promise?” she asked.

“Promise.”

It was hard to tell him now, after she had experience an entire day of human life. There was hardly mention of the sea at all in their town, and the sea is really all that Fenella knew. “I came from the sea, just South of here,” she said, waiting a bit for his reaction.

“The…sea?” He was taken aback.

“Yes. You see, my family and I are actually selkie folk. I was able to walk on land for the first time yesterday, and I can only return to the sea once I find my seal skins. The bandits stole it from me. That’s why you had to give me clothes.” She blushed.

Oliver was quiet and looked at her in silent alarm. Standing, he paced about for a few minutes, and Fenella watched him cautiously. “So, you’re a selkie. You’ve been a seal until yesterday? Like seals that swim and eat fish?” She nodded affirmative. “Just like in the tales.” He looked at her hard, trying to scan for any signs of her old form. She flushed bright red again.

“I-I don’t think you can tell from this form.”

“You need my help to get your skins back, then.” He paused for a moment in thought, rubbing his eyes and sighing. “I’ll do it.”

Fenella jumped up and wrapped her arms around him. “Oh thank you, Oliver! I’m in your debt!”

“Eh?! W-Well I did promise, after all. I want to watch you change back, though. Deal?” He winked.

Fenella laughed and said, “Absolutely!”

Oliver reached down and clasped his hands together. “For you,” he said. Fenella peered into the small gap between them and saw a dim, yellow light. Her face lit up and she opened his hands to watch it fly.

On their walk home they found so many things to speak about: the life of a seal, all the limitations of being a selkie, how she transformed into a human, and whether or not she preferred to walk or swim; the latter she wasn’t quite sure of yet.

“Do you think you would go home as soon as you have your cloak again?” Oliver asked, disenchanted.

“I must go back to the sea for a short time, or I would remain a human forever. I don’t think I could stay away for long, though. As long as I use the magic my mother awoke in me, I will be able to transform whenever I please. If I don’t get my skins back soon, though…” she trailed off.

“…You’ll never return to your family,” Oliver concluded. Fenella looked up at him sadly. “How about we walk down to the water now? Walking on the beach at night in the low tide is one of my mum’s favorite things.”

“That would be lovely,” she replied. She could feel her heart reach out to him. He wasn’t turned away by her identity, he promised to help her and keep her secret, and he wanted to spend time with her, too. She didn’t want to leave his side. “Just make sure we don’t get lost again. I’m not very good with directions.

At this Oliver cackled and put a comforting hand on her shoulder. “Of course I won’t. We’ll make it back, I promise.”

a selkie tale – part 2

Fenella sat in the shallows, her flippers sinking as each wave passed through. She watched her mother as she lowered her muzzle into the water and closed her eyes. A flash of sparkling light–like the stars on the clear nights of the full moon–swam toward her. Before she could retreat in skepticism, it jumped to her, pulling at each of her fins and tugging her whiskers. A cold feeling rushed over her body like an icy morning wave.

Then, she felt different. Her flippers were cold, and they seemed to move around much too liberally. Opening her eyes, Fenella realized that her fins weren’t present any longer; she had feet! She wiggled her toes and giggled. Her arms felt heavy, but she picked them up and waved them in a giant circle.

Oh, the freedom! she thought.

“Fenella,” her mother called, “Enjoy your walk. Return soon, yes? And do not misplace your skins.” Fenella wrapped her arms around her mother’s seal neck and kissed the top of her head. Her family swam away so she could continue inspecting her new body. She noticed her seal skin cloaked her, which must have been normal for humans. She had only seen a human twice before now, and they seemed to wear similar garments.

Standing was one obstacle with which the selkie magic helped. Bracing herself with both of her long arms, Fenella pushed herself onto her knees and finally lifted slowly until she stood tall. Feeling a little too confident, she stuck one foot out and took a brave step, which caused her to fall directly back into the sand. She grumbled, “Humans always seem so graceful when they walk. Why can’t I do it? It can’t be so hard.”

She tried several times more before she was finally able to carry herself, on buckling legs of course. Once on the hard dirt path, Fenella was much sturdier than on the beach. When she turned around, she saw her family’s rolling backs as they swam through the waves. Oh how she missed them already.

It was dark by the time she reached the forest. It would have been much more helpful to have come midday when there was sunlight. The selkie shivered as a chilling wind breathed by. She pulled her skins tighter against her bare skin. So fragile, human skin was, she thought. Perhaps that’s why they wear these clothes.

“Yow!” she hissed, picking a twig off of her foot. “Yes, definitely fragile.” Being human was already so very annoying.