Oh god, I’ve punned too early today. Sorry about that. I’ve been in an odd mood the past few days, mainly due to politics making me sad. I fixed this with bingeing on Spitting Image- something still far too topical- and rewriting the fanfic my husband randomly did for me. At the bottom he’d written ‘this scene setting is harder than I thought’. Guh, tell me about it. Well, in the interests of not being about politics and containing magical talking creatures, here’s a sort of prologue I knocked up in the middle of a hangover, barely edited and probably too florid. Enjoy.
Now that the tourist boats had left, the selkies could cause a little less mental scarring by transforming.
Many didn’t bother, most of them choosing to lounge around in the last warmth of the sun as sleek seals. They paid no attention to the tall blond man pacing among them on their tiny, rocky crag. He paid them the same courtesy, pulling his sealskin coat around him and glancing fretfully across the Firth of Forth towards the city. There was a loud splash, and the man turned to the ripples spreading across the water. Dark foam began churning against the edges of the island. The man scanned the surface. There. Among the murky waves, a familiar black shape. It sped towards the island, and as it closed in the outline of a horse’s head came into view. There was a snort, and her shoulders emerged as she reached the shore. She rose up as the waves broke, one of her hooves scraping noisily along the rocks. The horse flowed over the rocks, her form changing as she moved. Her long neck receded; she rose up onto her hind legs, shaking water from her mane, which was growing, twisting around itself into a plait. The man stepped forward to greet the kelpie as the spray ebbed behind her and she stretched her pale human limbs.
‘Glad you could make it, Mor.’
She nodded. ‘Cavan.’
Cavan looked Mor up and down, his handsome features creasing into a smile. ‘You know, being a human suits you. That skin colour really goes with your eyes.’
‘You couldn’t pull a rotten turnip out the ground with a line like that.’
‘Everyone’s a critic.’
‘Are we safe here?’
He spread his arms, gesturing at the grey dappled creatures around them. ‘Nobody here but us seals, my dear. There’s no doorways here, and most of the search party can’t cross water. All the trouble is over there.’ He tipped his head towards the city’s dark outline.
‘Well, you’re going to have to go in and get him before trouble does.’
Mor arched an eyebrow. ‘Come on. You’re the first person I’d think of if I needed someone to pick up a young man in a bar.’
Cavan grinned and clutched his chest theatrically. ‘Mor, you wound me.’
Just then, they both winced. Cavan grunted as a burning pain shot through his chest. Mor let out a small whinny and clutched her head.
‘It had better not be.’ Cavan folded his arms. ‘I was rather hoping I’d have some time for a night out before we had to—’
‘Cavan, you need to go now. We can’t let her find him first.’
He sighed. ‘Alright. But if we come out of this in one piece, you owe me at least one candlelit dinner in the New Town.’
Mor rolled her eyes and nodded. ‘If this place is still intact by the time we’re done.’
Cavan turned back towards the coastline, watching thin tendrils of mist creeping towards Edinburgh, winding around the ancient monuments of the Old Town. He shivered, arched his back, and returned to the water with a graceful dive. Passing below the surface, his muscular arms began to shrink and widen into flippers, his skin harden and darken. Cavan sighed when his human features vanished into a wet snout and wiry whiskers. At least he’d get there faster in this form. He turned his large black eyes towards the shore and dashed onwards.