Selkies' SkinsInstallment 62Chapter 32
While Whiskers, Seal and Mirror exchanged the news important to horses and disguised Tomtra, Finnol rapped politely but loudly on the faded blue painted door. Kirsty scraped her boots with the bootscraper while waiting on the porch. The wind blew steadily, and in the distance they heard the soft roar of surf on the stacks. Several moments passed in silence, and he knocked again.
Still there was silence despite the light that they could see within. Kirsty shifted nervously. Finnol glanced down at her and pressed his lips. He tried the door, and the knob turned loosely, rattling when he released it. Finnol made a mental note to himself to tighten screws and fix all of the small workings inside...the sprung spring was in need of changing.
The scent of musty lonely old woman, ancient lace, ashes in need of clearing and lingering regret filled their nostrils as they stepped inside and called out for Mrs. Kitsch. A faint voice called out from the back, and they followed it to the kitchen where they found the silver haired woman crumpled in her pantry. Her lilac dress and bedraggled lace incongruously clashed with the rubble from the cans and shelf that had fallen, and she clutched her hip gingerly.
“What happened here?” Finnol kneeled down and checked her hip to make sure she was safe to move.
“My joints locked up again while I was looking for the canned hash...then I lost my balance.” She looked up at him, her rheumy eyes not quite fully present while she looked into his. “I fell a wee.”
“Just a wee?” He moved her hand, prodding gently. His eyes unfocused slightly as he looked more with his senses. She winced a bit “You’ve got quite the bruise, but I don’t think anything’s broken. Kirsty will probably be able to whip you up something.”
Kirsty occupied herself with putting the pantry back to rights, glancing over her shoulder at her father and nodding at the mention of her name. As she picked things off the checkered floor and deftly resecured shelves she set aside herbs she knew she’d need.
“I’d appreciate it if you’d do a laying on o’ the hands while our Kirsty’s cleaning up my mess...” Mrs. Kitsch sighed. “Your family has always been so good at it.”
“Of course. Anything for our favorite Lightkeeper.” Finnol smiled, playing down the wreck for now.
“Tosh...I’ve not helped keep the light since before you were likely born Finnol Makay. I know you’re a charmer, but really now.” She admonished. “That lighthouse was gone long ago.”
“A generation or two isn’t so long, really.”
Kirsty shook her head at the banter between the adults and grinned a bit. She could hear the pain in her grandmother’s best friend lessening while her father performed the healing hands. She dusted her hands, picked up what she’d set aside – there had been a fair supply of boneset and dittany which would be good for her bones – and went to the stove to see what teas she had that could be pressed to service. Combined with the store of potion for Mrs. Kitsch’s arthritis that she’d brought with her, Kirsty was certain she’d be having the old woman feeling younger and less doddery.
“Says the lad afraid of getting the dress for his daughter’s coming out. I’m sure all the laddies at that silly school you packed her off to have been waiting rather eagerly for it. It really would have been so much more sensible to keep her home and send her to the local public school so she could meet a fine dockhand.” Kitsch quipped.
Kirsty pressed her lips together and locked her eyes on the prickly cactus Mrs. Kitsch always kept in her kitchen window, stifling a giggle. Her father sputtered a bit. She filled the kettle, pretending not to listen to the woman needling him.
“In this age, I can’t really count on a dockhand supporting my only remaining child, now can I?”
“Oh, aye... The boys at the fancy school will be having the same thoughts as a dockhand or fisherman with her looks and her singing.” The needling continued.
Kirsty snorted and listened to the water heat to the proper temperature, weighing out on the scale the proper measures of herbs and teas. She only cared about what one of those ‘laddies’ thought of her.
“And she’s getting to that age that she’ll be having thoughts of fine young lads herself. Whatever happened with that boy that had been here to visit her before. The ‘friend’ that had her so determined to build herself up over the summer? When do I get to meet this lad and give him the Once-over?”
Kirsty groaned and blushed. Finnol’s matched it.
“Don’t get me on about boys. She’s got David that’s her best friend, then there’s the Lillitu boy that I still expect Aunt Belara to write me saying Kirsty finally went and drowned for calling her a beast.”
“I have to survive the Makay tests before I can think about things like boys.” Kirsty broke in, pouring the now hot water. Despite her tone – which she hoped made it sound somewhat like she’d not ever considered David in any other light than just a very close companion that she cared for enough to disregard her safety in order to bring him some lessening of his monthly pains – she blushed. Kirsty studiously kept her head down while counting the minutes of the brew and placing Mrs. Kitsch’s regular potion beside the teas for when it was time for that dose.
Mrs. Kitsch chuckled a bit as Finnol removed his hand from her hip. “I will never understand why your family does its coming of age rituals so young, or what going down the local fairy well and into whatever caverns are down there – or out on the sea for weeks at a time – has to do with becoming adult.” Mrs. Kitsch breathed deeply, touching her hip gingerly. “Thank you lad. That’s much better than it was. Certainly better than what those fools at the clinic can do with their pills.”
“Funny you should mention that...I’m going down the Lady’s Well later today. Would you mind Keeping a Light for me?” Kirsty removed the ball, then brought the tea over. She set the blue willow porcelain teacup and saucer down in front of Mrs. Kitsch with a soft clink.
“In the middle of Winter?” Her voice was sharp before she took a thoughtful sip of the tea, the usually slightly unfocused eyes sharpening to scimitar points trained on Kirsty.
“Well, it is time...” Kirsty hedged.
“All the others did their swimming and questing in the summer...” Mrs. Kitsch grumbled. “When it was warm and hypothermia wouldn’t be certain.”
Kirsty looked down and fiddled with her fingers, debating on how much to give away. The Lightkeepers knew some things, everyone that lived on the point still was in some way connected to its mysteries and the planes that intersected here, unless they were one of the rare ones that moved to the area looking for solitude and were kept to the areas that Cowans knew. However, of the Oldtimer bloodlines only a few still knew the tales of when the deities walked among men or that two still dwelled here.
How much did Mrs. Kitsch remember, and how much of her memories had her strange sorrows claimed? Kirsty looked up again, her eyes drawn to the portrait of a young man that seemed to be in every room of the house in some fashion. His sad eyes gazed back at her. Who was he?
“Sadly, it is important that she go down the well today, Mrs. Kistch...I’m afraid that it is something that we can’t postpone without risking what’s left of what the family has.” Finnol broke in, his voice gentle on her ear as his hand was on her shoulder. “I don’t like it myself, but I know better than to go against what has been called for.”
“It’s related to the sea, as always, isn’t it lad?” Mrs. Kitsh sighed. “The sea always has the last word with her own...”
Finnol and Kirsty both nodded.
“Very well...I’ll do it. Kirsty, I’ll need a token from you to tie to the light, ‘Cowan’ tho’ I be.” Mrs. Kitsch finished her tea, then got up and moved carefully out to the parlor and to her wing-backed chair by the fire. Here too the sad man kept watch in a faded black and white portrait, though there were considerably more photos of him here. “If you’d be so kind as to fetch my lamp, some red thread, and the scissors out of my embroidery kit?”
The requested items were very quickly fetched, and Kirsty nervously kneeled down beside the old woman where she was gestured. Shaking hands lifted her hair and snipped a bit from the back, from the bottom-most layer where it would not be seen to be missing. Kirsty tried not to shiver at the sound of the snippet being shorn away. It was no different than when helping shear a sheep...much less of it being taken even.
Next, Mrs. Kitsch cut a measure of thread the length of Kirsty’s forearm, and wrapped it securely around the lock of hair until it was well bound up, leaving only a tuft at each end where her dark hair could be seen. Another length of thread was cut and tied around this, then set aside while the old Lightkeeper checked the oil and wick in her ancient lantern.
“This was my father’s...He passed it to me the day before we knew the Storm was coming, then sent myself, Mum, and my siblings away to your house ‘to weather what was coming’. Long before your Mum and Da’ were born.” She said, noticing Kirsty’s eyes lingering appreciatively on the way the steel twisted around the glass flute and accentuated the wick with its cage. “I think I might pass it to you when its my time to go. It’s older than my Da’ and supposedly was brought here by one of the ships that used to be part of your family’s fleet.”
“I couldn’t accept it... something like that should stay in your family.” Kirsty looked up at her.
“I never had children of mine own. That’s why I’m so glad your grandmother did and let me play at being aunt. None of my brothers or sisters ever managed any kids either. You’re like my own grandchild.” Mrs. Kitsch lit the wick, and then breathed a prayer over the glass as she set the flute back in place, far too quiet for Kirsty to catch.
Carefully the old woman got up and picked her way with the lit lantern to the window, where she hung it on the hook that faced the sea. The trees were in the way now, where they hadn’t been years ago. The point changed its geography on its own...but she was near enough she heard its heartbeat.
Just as carefully she tied the token about the chamber, breathing another prayer.
Kirsty felt a net around her, light as a mother’s touch, and sighed as it sunk into her skin. If she closed her eyes she could see the tie between herself and the light, glowing like a silvery moon-snow reflection. Around this there was twined a slightly bluer and thinner cord.
“I daresay someone’s already taken the liberty of binding you to shore, Kirstin...” Mrs. Kitsch’s voice was soft, barely a whisper.
When Kirsty opened her eyes, the old woman was gazing fixedly at the space between herself and the lantern, where she had just been looking with her inner eye.
“I’m not sure who or what it is that’s serving as an Anchor though.” She finished, then looked at Kirsty.
“Odd that anyone would be, though I am certainly thankful to whoever it is.” Finnol mused, also looking at Kirsty.
Kirsty thought for a bit. “I’m not sure who it would be. I don’t think David would know how...I’ve not exactly asked him. Ally gave me something for Yule though...” She described the strange paper poppets she’d found and how they’d been tied, blushing deeper and deeper. “I thought it might be some silly love spell like the ones you can find in the bookshops in the occult section.”
Finnol’s face drained of color at the mention of a possible love spell.
Kirsty threw up her hands. “I didn’t ask! You know I wouldn’t do or have someone do anything like that for me Da’! I know the disaster that comes from those, whether it’s a real one or an attempt.”
Finnol’s face gained a little color, but he sat heavily on the settee, releasing a little puff of dust.
“Well...it might just be an instinctual response, then. Maybe your friend just felt like it would be a help. You do get a little drifty.” Mrs. Kitsch looked at Finnol pointedly. “Young Mr. Makay, there’s no need for that. Some day your little girl will get married and have a litter of good healthy bairns, and that’s the end of it. But maybe it could use a bit of a love spell to shove her along.”
Finnol gave her a woebegone look. “Subject change? I’m hoping it’s just an Anchor spell.”
“Fathers...” Mrs. Kitsch muttered, shaking her head. “Will there be anything else child?”
Kirsty shook her head shyly, still blushing at the thought of anyone possibly trying a love spell on her, as wary of them as she was after having seen the result in Marsali’s plight.
“No ma’am. I’m sure that’s all.”
“Alright then. I think it may be wise to take that charm you were telling me about with you...just in case. I’m sure that between that and this Light you’ll be able to find your way back from the Fae to our world.”
“Yes ma’am. Thank you Mrs. Kitsch.” Kirsty wrapped her arms around the old woman in a tight but careful hug, her nose filling again with the scent of old lady.
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