Manannan’s Daughter – Cantos one

I am a selkie who calls these islands home. Welcome, stranger to these enchanted isles. Rest here a while, safe from my capricious mother. Rest, and I shall paint the hours with tales bright and strange.

Hush, no need to start and shudder so. My mother cast you upon my shores. She will not harm you while you remain. But the storm? She only rejoices in her power.

Rest–rest–I shall begin my story.

Once upon a time so very long ago, there lived a dryad. She was very quiet having no need for speech in her beloved forest. She loved to sit silently beneath her favorite pine, inhaling its clean, youthful scent. The animals of the forest would come to her and be content in her love.

For a long time the young dryad lived thus, each day much like the one before. Each day was beautiful; the sun loved in a blinding sky.
The wind murmured in the treetops. There were butterflies and flowers and the animals loved her. Time passed gently.

One morning after a storm had washed away the night sky, the dryad found within her forest a strange bird. When the bird saw her it struggle, but only one wing could beat futilely to gain the sky. She carried the bird back to her home where she could nurse its damaged wing.

It was a strange creature, this bird from the storm. It was large, falcon sized, but longer of wing and lighter bodied. It was white. Its bill was long and sharp.

Often, the white bird would call. Its cry was a wild haunting cry, mourning for what was lost. The dryads heart grew heavy for she had grown to love it.

The day came when the bird’s wing was strong and the sky was no longer denied it. She watched as the creature found the sky and sought its home. She watched as the sky became as empty as her forest.

Days passed but they held no peace. Each morning she climbed the tallest hill of her forest. Each day she watched the sky, gazing after the flight of the creature. Finally she knew that she must follow where she could.

It was so lonely to leave her forest. She knew each tree, the streams, the meadows hidden there. She had known much love within her forest. But the strange bird had brought a part of the world to her that she had never dreamed existed. The dryad was no longer content with her green cloister. She must seek the strange bird of the storm.

Oh long, long time she traveled, through strange and wondrous lands. She beheld sights that astounded her imagination. A desire awoke in her to know more than her forest could teach her. For a while she forgot the creature she followed. She entered tall city gates.

The city sprawled before her. Old with winters long forgotten yet having youth in its strength. In one breath the city inhaled the dryad and absorbed her with countless others.

For a while the lights dazzled her eyes that did not wish to see. She lived frantically. Time seemed to be speeding away and there was none to waste. There was much to learn about life in all its sordid glory. She learned.

One morning she awoke with thunder in her head and ashes in her mouth. The sun was a pale ghost hanging in the smoke. The wind held only rancid memories better forgotten. The dryad remembered–It was another time, innocence, free laughter, a white bird flying in a blinding sky. She left the city and sought again the way he took.

Far she traveled and far away her forest. The wind was scented with unknown places. That scent drew her onward though she was weary beyond enduring. She kept walking, following the strange scent.

And she found the sea. It was vast beyond all comprehending. It held the blue of her skies and her deep forest greens. It seemed to laugh as it played with shore.

Far away where sky and sea were one, she saw a glint of sun on white wings. She felt the waves kiss her body as still she followed. Long she swam and when she could no longer swim she let the current carry her. But still she followed the flash of white wings.

One morning the sun rose and the dryad knew she would never greet the dawn again. For too long and far had she journeyed from her forest. She had no heart to go further.

I found her one morning, lying where my mother had left her. She awoke when I touched her but the dryad was beyond my help. As she was drifting into that long sleep of unknown realms awaking, I heard a sea gull’s cry. So hard she tried to shake death’s grasp. The gull hovered just above her.

She sleeps on the cliffs overlooking the sea. The wind whispers to her through the trees. The sea laughs below her.

Above her bed, there are two gulls where once there was one.

Rest, stranger. See, already the sun kisses the eastern sky. The storm which left you here is long since over. Sleep now. When you awaken, I shall offer another tale to ease time’s burden. I must return to the sea with the rising sun. Rest until I return.

© 2019 Maggie Grimes

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