Thanks to all for your patience and support. It looks like there will be another chapter (seven) after all. The story keeps getting more convoluted although so far everyone has assured me it’s readable! Writing a story in serial form has definite challenges. Though still in need of a few revisions I won’t hold it back for fear of tossing it out totally, so here it is.
(For the time being and for convenience, the Siren’s Bones story chapters are on the menu header)
The Captain went away again and the boys came back from school. The eldest son, Hamish, was getting ready to take on an apprenticeship on the mainland, but still, Fiona was glad to have their company and their help again on the little farm. She hoped they would bring some light to these past dark days.
With her brothers back, Muireal finally roused herself from the lassitude of those last months and seemed happier for a time. However, she had begun to wander off again on her mysterious excursions, and it happened one terrible day that she did not return home. It was the night that St. Elmo’s Fire lit up the masts of ships on the sea and electrified the steeples and rooftops on the shore. Fiona and the boys searched for hours, which turned into days but it was as though Muireal had been spirited away by the fairy folk. Fiona felt that something much darker had occurred though what it was she didn’t know.
Her anguish was a wave, gathering momentum as it sped toward the shore and just when she felt she could not bear another moment it would subside back into the deep ocean of her being and she would lie down exhausted until the next one began.
She should have known. The signs had all been there. They had been living in some other realm, one where they were ghosts, unable to touch each other, trapped between shifting veils of grief and guilt, uncertainty, and divine decree. When the Captain sailed away still silent and uncommunicative, Fiona wondered what would become of them all.
Prior to Muireal’s disappearance, there had been an accusation from one of the islanders. A farmer’s wife claimed that Muireal, in passing, had cursed a pregnant cow who subsequently died after giving birth to a deformed and stillborn calf. Superstitious mutterings began to grow among some, including speculation as to what or who might be to blame for a fishing boat that had gone down off the coast, or for the recent poor fishing yield. Whether or not they actually believed it had something to do with Muireal’s effect was unimportant. The fact was that Muireal frightened and disturbed people. Her oddness coupled with her beauty only added fodder for those who still loved to gossip of witchery and banshees. A small but “polite” delegation from the village meeting hall was sent to Fiona’s cottage demanding that Muireal be sent away to an asylum somewhere for the strange and feeble minded.
Only one person stood up in defense. It was a boy named Alasdair who lived on a neighbouring croft and who sometimes helped Fiona with her own farm chores. He was an engaging, good humoured lad and always greeted them as he passed by on his way to market. Alasdair was the only other person besides Fiona and her sons who seemed to understand that Muireal, though peculiar, was certainly not dangerous or feeble minded. He would often sit with her on the bluff and listen to her play. He was even familiar enough to tousle her dark bronze curls affectionately. He was able to make her smile. He convinced everyone that Muireal’s esteemed father, the Captain, would have to be back from the sea before any decision could be made. The delegation was somewhat relieved and went home after that.
Muireal who was hiding in her room heard everything. To make matters worse, during the past week Fiona had found her down at the beach in a very distraught and agitated state, but this time it was due to her female cycle, which had finally begun. Muireal was alarmed and confused by what was happening to her. The sight of blood terrified her. Perhaps she was remembering that terrible night when she looked out the window after hearing the screams of her mother. In the light coming from the kitchen, she had seen Duff bleeding profusely from his wound as he ran.
Although Fiona reassured and calmed her, Muireal became withdrawn again. There of course were those awkward changes in body and spirit that were normal for girls of that age, but this was much more. To Fiona, Muireal still looked lucent and changing. The web of her fingers appeared more pronounced and the bones more delicate. Her eyes had grown luminous with a liquid sadness. One day Fiona found Muireal tracing the webbed fingers of her hand with a filleting knife. Instinctively Fiona knew that Muireal believed that separating those tiny fingers would make her into one of “them,” one of the island folk. Those fused bones were the cause of her shunning and muteness. Fiona quickly took the knife away. She wanted to tell her daughter that those very bones were the precious pearls of an unspoken enchantment that had not been forgotten. This disturbing event only added more anxiety to her growing premonitions.
And so it was, on that chilly spring morning, Muireal walked up from the beach. She placed a little bouquet of seaside daisies and various bird bones and shells on the table by her mother’s plate. She then put her arms around Fiona’s neck and hugged her tightly. Fiona stopped and kissed her daughter tenderly before setting out the breakfast. Afterward Muireal went over to the hearth and picked up the little flute that had lain untouched for months. She turned and waved to her brothers as she headed down the beach path before disappearing from sight. Fiona again felt that familiar stab of fear and unease. “Don’t go too far and be back in time for tea.” she called out anxiously.
It was not until weeks later that Fiona was to find out what had really happened to that wonderful creature, her beloved daughter, and it was young Alasdair who would bring the news.
If I Was a Blackbird
… I’d whistle and sing,
And follow the ship that my true love sails in;
And on the top rigging I would there build my nest,
And I’d pillow my head on my young lover’s breast.-
Silly Wizard was a Scottish folk group extraordinaire and very popular in the 70’s and 80’s, partly due to the unique vocals of lead singer Andy Stewart (1952- 2015). Though they sang traditional ballads they also wrote and composed their own songs.