We have come to the end and again thank you all so much for your following of the tale and for your great responses all the way through. It was a difficult ending for me and a bit of an agony but I had to let it go so here it is!
see The Siren’s Bones on the header menu at top for list of chapters
They heard thunder in the distance and felt the prickle of their hair standing on end when suddenly and with a loud hissing, St. Elmo’s fire lit up the rooftops on the shore and blue flame surged along the mast of the little boat. Muireal looked as though she had been wrapped up in a bright halo shroud. Everything was aglow and the water became turbulent. When Alasdair looked over the side he saw hundreds of seals. They were swimming alongside and under the boat, bumping violently against the hull until at last it capsized. Alasdair saw Muireal slip beneath the waves in flickering bursts of light that at last were extinguished and then all was quiet again.
His companions were nowhere to be seen and Alasdair alone somehow found himself on the shore. He told Fiona that he thought he had seen a dark figure by the rocks and that a large wave seemed to have swept it away, but the events of that bitter day were still confused in his mind and he didn’t know if it was real or imagined. In fear and shame he had told no one that Muireal had been with them that day.
As he finished his story he looked at Fiona with tears running down his face. Fiona leaped up and pounded his chest. “Why did this happen!” she cried. “She trusted you!” She collapsed into a chair with her head in her hands. Reaching into his pocket Alasdair pulled out the little bone flute he had taken from Muireal’s hand when she was laying so still on the rocks. He put it on the table and went out the door. Fiona picked it up tenderly and holding it to her heart she slowly walked upstairs.
While life and time readjusted itself, Fiona drifted through the next weeks. The only fragment she had left of her daughter was the little flute and she hung onto it night and day. Each wave of memory was a pearl that scattered and if she could only find the precise point where that fragile string had unraveled she might put back together that splendid necklace of days with Muireal. Of course she should have known. Her daughter had been a visitor here and Duff had known that she would not thrive. He knew that she belonged to those who dwelt in that other world, whatever it was, and in the end they had claimed her poor, sweet body as their own. The pain was no less bearable.
Finally Fiona had another dream where she saw Muireal laughing and waving from the beach. Duff was waiting close by and Fiona ran toward them but somehow could not reach them. The shoreline kept receding. Everything was flowing backward to that edge of ocean and sky where the fisher moon casts her silver net over the sea. Fiona knew then that she had to release her precious daughter into that flux of tide and time and a voice again spoke in her heart like it did on the night of the shooting stars. This time it said, “before I go mother, you must bless me!” The next day, Fiona took the little rowboat out to the far end of the loch. She tenderly released the flute into the depths where the bones of drowned sailors and fishermen, and all denizens of the deep are ground together by sand and tide. Perhaps some incarnation of Muireal would find it there. This strange and beautiful journey was over and she prayed that her daughter’s new passage would be blessed and full of wonder.
The people now knew what had happened and there was sadness and contrition in the community but life went on as it always had. A local fishermen said that one day he saw two seals swimming together and the larger seal appeared to have an injured flipper. He claimed the pair drove a huge shoal of fish toward his nets. It was the largest catch he had ever had he said, but then, fishermen were always full of wild tales. Children at play still found little bird bones, shells and other treasures among the seaweed. Down on the rocks by the point, a small colony of seals took up residence. They had never done that before and the islanders decided that it would be unlucky to disturb or harm them and so they were protected and left alone. From that day forward people referred to the point as Muireal’s Lookout and some nights when the wind whistled a haunted song along the bluffs, mothers told their children that it was the siren, Muireal, playing her flute, and that meant it would be fine and calm in the morning and an excellent day for fishing.
The Selkie ( one of the Child Ballads- Judy Collins & Tommy Makem)