Welcome back to another installment of Selkies' Skins. I'm still going to do this bi weekly, unless extra episodes get funded (find out how you can speed up the installments at the bottom). The book's sections will likely be a bit different from the website's since too many chapters in a section starts to look really confusing in the nav bar on the site. Or they might not. This is one of the issues that the editor and I will discuss.
If you don't wish to use the Selkies' Skin tag to find the entries, check the ToC on the Sticky Note at Dreamwidth. Story is mirrored to my LiveJournal, from my Dreamwidth, as well as on a dedicated site. If you would like a heads up on when the serial novel is updated before it goes to the main site (usually) or for news as to when the full novel will be available you can subscribe to my Twitter (@AmehanaArashi) or go on Facebook and like either THG StarDragon Publishing or Selkies' Skins.
Today I am releasing a double feature of sorts in celebration of the birthdays of two of my most favorite people, since they are literally right next to each other on the calendar (mother accuses me of planning having all of our birthdays fall within the same three months... I swear I didn't plan four birthdays in three months).
Happy birthday to my two malefolk (since one is not yet a man, being rather young for that moniker).
As always, the main tag for the story is selkies' skins, and the table of contents is in the sticky note.
He scratched hastily at his logbook, the pocket-sized spiral-bound black notebook he always kept with him. In his study back at Seal Point the usually green quill had turned deep red as it zoomed across the pages of his section of the Makay Logbook. The much less flashy, clear, V8 self-inking ballpoint in his hand jotted down notes of the day so far, his position, and the thoughts currently plaguing him. Thoughts that, though embarrassing and he knew full well his family would read it later, may mean comfort for some grandchild at some point.
The water lapped around the pilings, and the familiar smell of salt, fish, and old nets filled his nose along with the diesel of the various engines of the boats around him. The cries of seagulls mingled with those of the seals of the port, loud in the mist of the morning. A seagull flew overhead and dropped a bomb, but it fell harmlessly on the wood of the pier, instead of Finnol's long waterproofed green velvet duster.
"Aye? You'd be the young Murphy?" Finnol looked up, a few new white hairs showing in his nut-dark hair. His dark blue eyes swept over the lad in front of him.
The boy had light hair that he had stuffed under the usual wool cap that protected the ears of those that spent their time out on the fishing boats. He looked less than twenty, so he would have been very surprised if the lad had seen more than three years on the sea.
"Aye. My Da's onboard, we weren't expecting you for another half hour."
"Ah, I'm a bit of an earlybird because of the tide. Don't want to miss it do we?"
"Because of the tide?" The boy repeated, his eyebrows raising. "We have a motor, we could still get out of port without the tide, though it does make it easier."
"Travelling with the tide is still better. When you've been plying the sea a few more years you'll understand why."
The boy nodded, humoring the man, who he found just as nutty as he found his father. But, in this economy, a job was a job after all. He gestured to the gangplank, smiling a bit. Finnol smiled back and walked on board, murmuring a thanks and feeling glad that he wasn't a vampire, given how a boat could slip between vehicle and home with only momentary notice.
He found the captain in the cabin performing checks, in the usual heavy and warm attire favored by seafarers. Wellingtons gripped the deck, with bluejeans rising up to a thick wool sweater, with a blue wool cap that looked rather like the ones sold in local markets made from Byron's wool.
A brief exchange of pleasantries ensued, each referring to the other by title and surname, shaking hands.
"You look a mite scrawnier than I expected from your voice."
"My wife says the same. Still up for showing me those moving shoals and ghost fish?"
"Surely, if they be there again."
It was short work betwixt the three to have the boat out to sea and beyond the arms of the port. They chugged along the rocky coast to the Murphy's usual fishing haunt.
"The rocks moved again, lookie there." Captain Murphy pointed after idling the engine a safe distance away. "That group used to be some 20 meters in. That first day, they'd moved a bit but I couldn't tell how much. Chalked it up to an early morning and tricks o' the tide we did."
"And the fishing that day?" Finnol asked, scanning the waters for any evidence of merpeople, Selkies or not.
"Was decent enough. The next time was better though, seemed like they was a jumping for the net."
"Net fishing here, Captain? Seems a mite close."
"Casting nets now. Too tricky for the others with things shifting about. Like the sea doesn't know her own mind. Anyway, I had Mac and Duggan with me that day. Was a great haul, filled the hold quite well. But they all just went... puff."
The lad sighed at his father's conversation, hurling his net and pulling it in again as the "old salts" traded tales.
"Puff." Captain Murphy nodded at Finnol gravely. "I kind of wonders if I was Selkie tricked. 'Course, my boy." He nodded toward his son now. "My boy thinks I'm a crazy old codger for entertaining thoughts o' the like. But I tells him, 'the sea's her own land, full of mysteries. No telling what she's got under 'er skirts till it's too late, no matter how much we men thinks we knows.'" He nodded again and lit his pipe, looking around as if he thought something might suddenly materialize.
"A good philosophy." Finnol agreed. He tried not to wrinkle his nose when the smoke was blown toward him, but it burned. He turned and coughed to clear it from his lungs.
"Didn't realize ye were a sensitive to the smoke. Sorry there." Captain Murphy moved downwind obligingly. "So, what do you reckon? Scientific explanation, or proof o what ever' good sailor ought ter know?"
"Not too sure. I'll have to observe a while, and see a catch."
"Plenty of nets here. Always glad to help with a bit o' scientific research."
Several hours passed, and the hold was filled, replicating previous trips that Captain Murphy had had in the area. Nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary. The fish all seemed normal enough. While the other two were busy with their tasks, Finnol took out his wand and managed to test the fish with various charms meant to dispel Apparitions, in case they were ghosts like one of the fishers' theories had been.
The fish still remained, so they were either real, or really good illusions.
One theory down.
It wasn't until nearly sundown that he noticed anything unusual in the area. By the rocks, down low where the waters broke and sprayed over the sort of outcrop that Etain had liked to drape herself over when they were younger, he saw movement. A sleek brown head bobbed beside it, followed by a body that heaved itself up onto it with the next swell. Wide black eyes stared back at him for a moment.
Finnol stayed still, scented the air though it blew away from him.
"Da, want to watch out. Looks like a seal over there."
"Don't want to catch one of those" Captain Murphy agreed with his son. "Might be one of those recently drowned souls from that ship sinking in that last big storm."
"Da, don't you think that's stretching the old stories a bit? I'm no lad naemore."
The so called seal continued to watch them. It twitched now and then, lifted itself and curled its tail off to the side in a mermaid-like fashion now and then when neither of the fullhumans were watching.
"Rather have a soul wind up a selkie than a soulfish lad."
Finnol flinched a bit at Captain Murphy's comment, then tore his gaze from the seal - certain that it was in truth a selkie by its actions - to check the humans.
"Ah Lawd. Don't ask, you'll get Da started on those too now." The lad complained through the strain of muscles, pulling in his net, now filled with silver fish.
"They're real. I saws 'em once." The Captain commented around his pipe. "Like flyin' fish, but with red eyes and human faces. Moaning and crying about what they were going to do whilst alive, to get yer pity. Then they eat you and turn you into one of them. Those be the Devil's work, I'm sure."
The sun set, and the other two were too busy with their bickering about what was and was not real or possible to notice the seal slip her skin off. Nor did they notice the lightly furred dark brown haired woman stand up on the rock and begin to sing.
Quietly at first, then steadily louder, her song rose and wove with the changing tide. The side closer to the boat began to rise, the rock seeming to grow... or perhaps be thrust up. Once it was loud enough to catch the human's ears, their movements slowed. A face came up on the side the lad was on, another woman opening her arms to him from in the water. She giggled and displayed herself, flashing large brown eyes and a gleaming smile from under her reddish-blonde hair. A similar form broke surface near the Captain, this one slightly older, and redder haired, but still young and winning. The Selkie women worked together, trying to sing the men into the water, one way or the other.
Finnol stunned both men, then sent them swiftly into the cabin. They sulked momentarily, then tried to turn their charms on him.
"Sorry ladies, I'm well mated and satisfied. This isn't a traditional clanground, so why don't you tell me what has you in such a frequented area?"
The eldest frowned up at him,bothered that he had no scent spike from any of them. "Why would we be talking to the likes of a halfling like yourself? We can take you out other ways."
"You could." He agreed carefully, nodding a bit as he chose his words. "But I might be able to help on the other hand. I'm with the Order of Fisheries and Water Conservation." He continued over her snort and sneer. "The other one, not the one with the Crown."
"Maybe then, but I doubt it." The eldest tucked a stray hair behind her ear.
"Our fishing ground got taken over. Most of our men were taken by trawl nets. We could get some of them out before hauled in or drowned. Not all. Not our husbands." Interjected the youngest. She twisted a strand of reddish blonde hair around her finger as she looked at him.
"Trawler nets?" He thought, trying to remember the lay of known Selkie fishing grounds and the areas approved for trawlers. Eventually he gave up and conjured a crude map of just the approved human fishing grounds and types. "Show me?"
"Just here." The eldest gestured after picking up a piece of driftwood that had floated into reach. The boat drifted closer to the sprouted rock, but still was not close enough to be a danger unless he dropped his vigilance.
The area indeed was squarely inside the boundaries granted as unfishable by treaty by human entities, according to the map.
"Why didn't you send word?"
"We don't know where to send it to. Our Emissary was one of them that we couldn't rescue. Not that our herd or our clan have much use for human ways of doing things." The eyes of the Selkies were wet, especially the brown one that had been on the rock and since put her skin back on to join them.
"What about asking a gull or a tern, or some other Messenger?"
"Too saddened to be able."
"Yet you can plot ways to torment men. Was it one of these?"
The nut brown seal glared up at him accusingly now while the eldest scowled.
"No." She replied. "But they are human, they use nets, and they are taking the food from where we had to move to."
"How about you let these two go, I do what I can about taking care of those poachers, and for the time being you frequent the sea around my home. Seal Point is kept safe from the two so-called ministries and the Crown. It'll be iffy enough if you stay here with what I had to do to them to have this talk and protect you."
The youngest snorted while the nutbrown one sneered. "Protect us? From what? Being drowned in nets ourselves?"
"Scientists are still wanting to prove the existence of sea people, for good or ill. Do you really want to risk what sort of tests you'd be put through? Have your skins stolen? Allow men to put their hands on you and have no way to fend them off or run away?"
"The halfblood is right. We can't know what they'd do if we were Netted and survived. We'll take you up on your offer of refuge, for now." The eldest replied. "But we would like a say in what happened to the the men that killed our husbands."
"Fair enough ladies..." He sighed, then pointed to a spot on the map, changing it a bit so that they could see. "That is where Seal Point is. If you have any trouble with the herds around there, go to the house above the docks and talk to those inside. They're family, and will help you if I'm not currently there."
The three nodded, the younger two more reluctantly than the eldest, then pulled the heads of their skins over their heads. For a moment, the sealskin faces sate over their human ones like masks before settling and melding. Soon, there were three brown harbour seals, one a reddishblonde, one more of a certain red, and one regular dark brown... all swimming away in the direction of safe refuge.
Finnol rubbed his head and leaned on the railing a moment more.
"Mara, what is going on? If this keeps up, the merfolk will be known again within the generation... And then more humans will know about magic, and we'll have countries and religions fighting over who's got the strongest magic all over again."
The ocean continued with her regular waves, and no tingle of Mara's attention touched him. He expected none, yet since he never knew when she or any other listened... he had no problem with voicing his thoughts to the Winds.
He was just about ready to turn and Revive the men he'd knocked out, when he felt the chill of one of the Ministry's things prickle the edge of his senses. He could feel the licking tongues of dread, and rather than wake them, instead he sought to drive the boat away and back to port.
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