Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Seal Maiden’s Tale

In this scene Uncle Ned learns more about the faerie in his family tree from one of the locals, Captain Selkirk, the grandson of the area's last seanachaidh, or storyteller.

Once all the drinks had been served round and the rest of the pub settled back into discussing the day’s affairs, Great Uncle Ned and Mr. MacKinnon turned their full attention to the sea captain, John Selkirk. Tapping out the spent remains of his pipe in order to refill its contents, Capt. Selkirk slowly began, “Stories involving the seal maidens are often tragic, and according to the tale that I heard from my old gran, this one is even harder than most.” Selkirk lit his pipe, and a plume of smoke wreathed his head. For a moment Ned had the distinct impression of literally gazing back through the dim mists of time. “Your ancestor, that is your human ancestor,” Selkirk continued, leaning back in his chair, “was nothing special, just another fisherman like all of the rest of his fellows. In fact, his name is not even remembered, as his child saw to that.”

Capt. Selkirk took a slow sip of his whisky, and the liquid in the glass glowed amber as it reflected the light thrown from a smoking lantern. “This lad,” the captain went on, setting down his glass, “led his life in the same way that any fisherman did, the same routine of rising early to set out on the water before the sun had even kissed its surface, casting his nets with regular precision, returning home to store the fish and mend his nets, with perhaps a quick pint with his friends before turning in. One morning, instead of heading for his boat, he felt compelled to go wandering, letting his feet lead him where they may.”

In the corner someone joined the violin on a penny whistle, the notes hanging in the air like glittering beads of dew on a slender strand of spider’s silk. Capt. Selkirk took another small sip from his glass, and continued with his story, “It was still dark, that early morning, as the young man followed his steps, lost in a dreamlike state. He eventually found himself in one of the more remote parts of the coastline, rocky and desolate, a lonely place far from human habitation. Afterwards, he said that he thought that he had heard music or singing, and that it was the sweetest sound that he had ever encountered.” Selkirk paused, drawing a long puff on his pipe. Exhaling, he said, “It was just as the sun tipped over the edge of the horizon, lighting the world with her flame, that the boy saw them dancing along the shore. Never had he seen such grace and such beauty, as divine and as holy as God’s own smile. In that moment, he knew that he had to possess one, or go mad with grief from the memory."

Monday, August 10, 2009

Excerpt: Mab in the Faerie Market

The midday sun beat down on the Market, thronged with People. The pathways between the stalls were crammed with bodies, occasionally parting in order to make way for the passages of sedan chairs. This particular mode of transportation resembled a box with curtained widows and side doors, and was carried on poles by two bearers. Sedan chairs were more commonly used during the 17th and 18th centuries, and while Alfred knew about them from books, he had never seen one in actual use before. Whoever rode in these vehicles were obviously persons of great rank, for upon their appearance the crowd would instantly melt away to make room for them.
Rounding a corner Alfred and Robin were confronted with the sights and heavenly scents of the food, vegetable, and fresh flowers section of the Fairy Market. That it was harvest time was in evidence everywhere, and stalls spilled over with fatly ripened produce of all sorts. Luscious, ruddy-red apples set Alfred's mouth watering, as did the enormous baskets of glistening berries. Behind the vegetable stall a small man dressed in dark green cap and jerkin bowed, and offered Alfred a sample. Alfred moved quickly on when the fairy gentleman smiled, revealing row upon row of glittering, pointy teeth. In the next booth the attendant was selling shaved ices in small silver bowls that changed color as they were consumed. Alfred saw two fairy children greedily eating these, and sticking their tongues at one another, laughed merrily to see their tongues change color as well.
Under a brilliantly colored tent that was striped gold, green, and violet sat fairy women of surpassing beauty, absorbed in the task of weaving floral wreathes for one another's hair. At the entrance of the tent were two spiral topiary forms, covered in tiny buds. Alfred drew closer to look, as the buds appeared to be on the point of blooming, but instead the buds turned into butterflies, blue, buttery yellow, and crimson, and flew away.
Through the crush of the throng came yet another sedan chair. Robin, who was feeling rather out of circulation, craned his neck to see who rode inside. It was a fairly opulent vehicle, even by sedan chair standards, the surface covered with all manner of scrollwork and filigree. A lady's hand trailed from the window, her sleeve dripping with rose tinted lace. A large, sparkling jewel flashed on her finger before the hand was drawn back inside, and the lady's face momentarily peered out of the window. It was a beautiful face but cold and calculating and Robin knew it well. "By Oak, Ash, and Thorn," swore the hobgoblin quietly, "what on earth is Mab doing here?"

Image copyright Julia Jeffrey
Text copyright Chandra Peltier