I’m doing an Old Races short story project throughout 2011. This project will deliver 6 Old Races short stories to its patrons. This, “The Death of Him”, is the fifth, and is a story of the selkies. I’m posting it a few days early (it’s due in October) because there’s already so much going on at the beginning of October. :)
You can find teasers for the other stories here: Awakening, a story of the vampires set after the Negotiator Trilogy; Falling, a story about Biali in 1890s New York; St. George & the Dragons, a story about Janx; Salt Water Stains the Sand, a story of the djinn.
The Old Races Short Story Project patronage window is now closed.“The Death of Him”
She was human, and she would be the death of him.
That, of course, was true as a rule. Humans poisoned the seas, overfished the waters, bore children til the land couldn’t feed them, and bred more still after that. Their numbers increased visibly by the year, while even the most populous of the Old Races bred slowly. Humans would be the death of them all, sooner or later.
But Róisín would be the death of him sooner, for she lay beside Eoin under the high late summer sun, and took his hand and put it on her belly and whispered, “Da,” beneath his ear.
Blood rushed Eoin’s head and made his hand cold against her stomach, but the fool’s grin spreading across his face belied the shocking lurch of his heart. “You’re sure,” he breathed back, and was rewarded with a nod.
“Since Beltaine,” she murmured, before her own grin split her features. “Since May Day, sure as night. My blood should be on me now and it’s not come twice. Will we be handfasted at midsummer, Eoin? Will ye be your babby’s da?”
He said, “I will,” without hesitation, then rolled on his back to stare at the starless sky. “I will if you’ll have me, Róisín, but there are things I should have told you.”
She pushed up on her elbow, grin faded to a smile, eyebrow raised in warning. “You’ll not tell me you’ve a wife and children already.”
“No. That would be…easier. Come down to the water with me, Róisín. Come down to the water so we can talk.” Eoin stood, heart pounding, and offered her his hands.
She took them, eyebrows still vocal: lifted in question now, but her smile stayed in place. “Last time you brought me to the water, it wasn’t to talk.”
It wasn’t, of course, and it hadn’t been, because graceful as his people were on land, it was nothing to their ease in the water. He might have seduced most women on land, but Róisín had caught his eye with her dark brown eyes and deep red hair, and he’d wanted, of all things, to be sure of her. So he’d taken her to the sea, to the element he’d been born in, and she, who could not swim, had trusted his arms until she could entrust his heart.
She came again willingly enough, down to the quiet bay where small boats were tied to large trees, and laughed when he stripped away his white wool shirt and dropped his brown wool pants. “I thought it was talking you had in mind.”
“It is,” he said, “and it isn’t. Róisín, sit, and be calm if you can. This is a thing I should have told you–shown you–before, but I…”
Expressive eyebrows rose again and he sighed, taking a bristling fur from beneath the roots of one of the ancient trees. “But I fell in love,” he said, mostly to the fur, and made himself look back at the girl sitting curiously on the sand. “Róisín, will you believe this, that I love you, despite all the strangenesses that may come to pass?”
She tilted her head, pretty and thoughtful. There was no curl to her hair, but unbound from its braid it fell in waves past her elbows, and she twisted a strand around a finger as she replied. “Sure and let me think. It’s most of a year you’ve come courting. Since Midsummer last, and you bearing gifts each time you’ve come. And you’re from so far down the coast as Galway town. No man comes such distanace without reason, Eoin. I’d hope it’s love, for me da’s got no money or land for you to wed.” Humor slipped away. “You’re worrying me, Eoin.”
“If worried is all you remain, we’ll be well.” Fur gathered in his arms, he went to the water’s edge. Róisín stood again as he took his distance from her, and this time he didn’t ask her to sit, only said, “Your people have seen us often enough to have stories of us, Róisín. You’ll know what I am in the moment of change.”