The sea is never silent. Not when there are no ships for leagues around. Not so far from land that a bird is a rare sight indeed. Not even when a young man alone lays in his refuge of wood and nails and prays that the end would be gentle and kind. Two score and ten days, he had drifted since the Bedford sank beneath the waves taking all hands save for himself. He had clung at first, then pulled himself into the small boat that had survived. It was one of the many meant for chasing whales, but the only one that had broken free of its mooring lines. He had drifted as the moon changed above him and now this lonely son of a New England port wished his boots had never left the docks.
He nearly didn’t hear the surprised gasp over the mournful wind and the sea clawing at his safety. But he couldn’t miss the voice, reverent as it was.
Sitting up, he saw a young man’s smiling face sticking just up over the side of the boat. Lean, tanned arms rested on the low side and the strange man started to pull himself aboard. He was bare to the waist, save for a fur mantle he wore with the hood down and his leggings seemed to be made of fur. He was quite fit, a well-built specimen of manhood with tanned skin and lean muscles. His eyes were a bright, clear blue and his smile full of wonder.
“I’ve never seen a real human. And a man, no less! What are you doing all the way out here? I thought humans needed sand and shore and the green places.” Then, as almost an afterthought, he leaned in. “I’m called Macsen. Who are you?”
“I…I’m Tad.” The young sailor paused. “Thomas Jameson.”
“Well, you’re awfully far from the mortal halls, Tad Thomas Jameson.”
Tad blushed brightly and Macsen moved closer to him.
“Just…I’m just Tad.” Taking a breath, Tad began to explain about the ship, about the storm, about the sharks and even about the men who hadn’t made it. Macsen wrapped an arm around Tad’s shoulders.
“I can try to get you back to your shoreland if you want.”
Tad was startled by the sudden contact and looked up into those clear blue eyes.
“You’re real,” he breathed, the words barely escaping his lips.
Macsen chuckled, his laugh deep and infectious.
“I’m as real as the sea and the stars. You’re not nearly so lost as to be seeing what isn’t real, I promise you that.”
For a long moment, Tad was silent. Then he looked at the young man sitting beside him.
“What manner of devil are you, then? Or maybe some kind of sea monster?”
Macsen pulled back, affronted.
“Monster? I will have you know, sailor boy, that I am a Selkie.”
“I thought Selkies were maidens?”
The question came slowly from Tad’s lips and Macsen chuckled again.
“Mortals, I swear. Selkies are just like humans, my dear boy, just more free.” Macsen brushed his fingers lightly over Tad’s cheek. “Are you telling me you’d rather have a fair Selkie maid because I somehow doubt that.”
Tad felt his cheeks go hot and he looked shyly up at Macsen.
“How did you know?”
Macsen cupped Tad’s cheek gently and brushed his lips against Tad’s. He was warm to the cold sailor and tasted like salt and sweet and wonderful things, and like a promise.
“I’m a Seal Lord. We have our ways.”
Tad leaned against Macsen and then spoke quietly.
“Were you really going to take me home, Macsen? To the shore?”
“Only if that is what you desire.” Macsen stood carefully, pulling Tad up with him. “Or, my dear young sailor, you could come with me.”
Tad rested his hands lightly on Macsen’s bare chest, leaning so his face was in the soft fur of his mantle.
“I can’t breath under water…I would drown.”
Macsen pressed his lips to Tad’s forehead.
“But if you could?”
For a long moment, they stood there in silence, gazing into each other’s eyes.
“Then I would go with you.”
“And dwell beneath the waves as my husband?”
The blush crept up Tad’s ears and down his chest now, under the collar of his shirt.
Taking Tad’s hand in his own, Macsen turned to the edge of the boat.
“Then come into the waves, love. And I’ll give you one of our seal coats. Be a human no more.”
Uncertainly at first, but then with his eyes full of trust, Tad removed his shirt and boots before jumping into the sea. Macsen followed a half step later, pulling the hood of his mantle up as he hit the water. A large gray seal swam up next to Tad and butted him affectionately. Then they swam. Down and down and down into the depths they swam until Tad had no more air in his lungs and could feel the darkness rushing up to greet him. Then Macsen pulled him into a grotto mercifully full of air for the breathing. It was a beautiful place formed of stone and shells and pearls, full of treasures of the deep. A luxuriant nest of furs filled one corner of the place. One more, Macsen took the shape of a man. This time, he strode purposefully to a waterworn chest and produced a mantle to match his own.
“For you, my bold one, for daring to come away with me.”
As Tad pulled it on over his shoulders, he felt the change. No longer was he cold or wet. No. He was a Selkie, made to swim beneath the waves and walk the shores in the moonlight with his fair and handsome seal lord at his side.