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."

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