Magnus Fin and the Selkie Secret

BOOK: Magnus Fin and the Selkie Secret
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I dedicate this book to all children who have ever felt, in some way, different.

You’re not alone.

Waves high as houses reared, hovered then crashed, roaring onto the rocks. Salt spray spun through the air. Doors rattled. Chimneys moaned. Boats in the harbour were tossed high then flung low. The sea was a churning froth. Mighty waves smashed against cliff sides and hurled white spray high into the air. Magnus Fin was down at the beach watching, and yelling, and cheering. So was Tarkin, and they were both soaked to the skin.

Nearby, in the cottage down by the shore, Aquella sat in her room. With the window smeared with salt there wasn’t much to see, but she could listen to the pounding, thundering roar of the angry sea. It thrilled and stirred her, but she was worried. Young seals could be dashed against the rocks. She hoped they’d keep away from the coast and stay deep. She kept away from the window, in case the storm shattered the glass and salt water landed on her delicate skin.

Magnus Fin and Tarkin, cheering from the safety of the heathery hillside, watched the sea fling scraps of rubbish onto the beach: plastic bottles, driftwood, branches, cans, ragged lengths of rope and unidentifiable flotsam and jetsam.

“Might be treasure in among all that rubbish,” Magnus Fin shouted. He had to shout to be heard
above the roar of the sea. His practised eye scanned the coastline. He could see planks of wood. They’d make a good bonfire, or maybe a bench for inside the cave. He spied a wellington boot, a yellow rubber glove, bottles, a car tyre and something blue that looked like a mangled tent. No antiques from the
Titanic
though. No treasure chests from sunken pirate ships.

A wall of water advanced. The boys staggered backwards, yelling as the towering wave crashed over the stones, flinging a heap of sand and a dark object onto the shore. Fin just saw it before spray from the mighty wave cascaded up the beach, drenching them.

Tarkin grabbed Fin’s arm, screaming, “We could get smashed against the rocks!” He spluttered up water. “We need to get out of here. Fast!”

“But what about searching for treasure?” Fin pointed to the shore. “Something big came in. I saw it.” Another huge wave broke, whipping their hair and lashing salt spray over their faces. Nowhere was safe. The wave’s back-pull threatened to drag them both into the sea.

“OK,” Fin cried. “Let’s split!”

The wind tugged at them. Wet hair clung to their faces. Their feet splashed down into boggy puddles. As they ran, the small cottage close to the shore where Magnus Fin lived with his parents and his cousin, Aquella, came into view. From its stone chimney smoke puffed out and fled with the wind.

“You’d better come in and get dry,” Magnus Fin shouted as they ran. “Your mum will go mad if she sees you soaked to the bone.”

Two minutes later they were both huddled by the fire. Barbara, Magnus Fin’s mother, flung blankets around
them. She put mugs of hot chocolate into their hands, although Magnus Fin’s were already warm.

“That’s your selkie blood,” Barbara said, rubbing his damp black hair with a towel. “But Tarkin,” she moved on to rub his damp blond hair, “hasn’t got selkie blood. Don’t forget that, Magnus. Your friend is one hundred per cent human – aren’t you, poor laddie? And you’re freezing.”

“I’ll be f-fine. Honest,” Tarkin stammered through chattering teeth. Then, as though wanting to include himself in this family of magical sea creatures, he added, “And I s-saw a mermaid once.” Tarkin was convinced he had seen a mermaid on a fishing trip with his dad in Canada, and ever since he’d felt sure he would see her again one day.

Ragnor, Magnus Fin’s selkie father who was stoking up the fire, smiled at the mention of the mermaid.

“I d-did.” Tarkin nodded vigorously. “I r-really d-did.”

Ragnor looked at this shivering boy with the long blond hair and pale blue eyes. “I believe you,” he said, and smiled.

At that moment an almighty wave flung its spray all the way up the beach, lashing the living-room window. Everyone gasped.

Ragnor bunched his brow, the way he did when something worried him. “And I pity her out in this weather,” he said, hurrying to the window. He could see nothing through the salt-stained window, but gazed anyway. “Aye,” he murmured, “I pity them all.”

Upset by the lashing wave, Aquella hurried downstairs to join the others. Magnus Fin looked up at her and
grinned. “Hey, Aquella – it’s totally wild out there. You should see the stuff on the beach. Something seriously big came in. Soon as the storm’s over I’m going back to see what it is.” Magnus Fin paused to gulp at his hot chocolate. “The waves are fifty metres high – they’re huge.”

“Totally awesome,” added Tarkin, who had finally stopped shivering.

“And totally scary,” Aquella said, plumping herself down beside the fire. There the three of them sat, staring into the orange flames, contemplating totally awesome waves and what that meant for the creatures in the sea.

“I hope the selkies are OK,” Magnus Fin said. He also hoped, amongst all that flotsam and jetsam, he’d find something that could be called treasure.

It’s strange how an angry sea on Sunday can be still as a millpond on Monday. But strange things happen in the far north of Scotland, and not least of all with the weather and the sea. So it happened that the morning after the wild storm, Magnus Fin woke to the sun seeping into his Neptune’s Cave of a bedroom, lighting up his driftwood mobiles, his shells, coloured glass, collection of bird skulls, bones and fossils. Had he dreamed the storm?

Seeing traces of salt on the window and the beach dotted with rubbish, Fin knew the great storm had been no dream. It had been real – and could mean treasure!

He fumbled in his drawer for his school clothes. There was nothing better than hunting for special things brought in by the tide, like dolphins’ jaw bones or killer whales’ vertebrae! He’d found a horseshoe recently and a shark’s tooth. Shopping in town had nothing on beachcombing, and beachcombing was free!

In minutes he was dressed and, with a slice of buttered toast in his hand, hurried out into the bright morning. He set off along the beach path. Without meaning to, Magnus Fin found his steps falling in time with the lazy lapping waves. They were barely waves at all, more like tiny shifts in the water. Though he was eager to look for treasure there was something about
the stillness of the morning that slowed him down. The sea swirled around the rocks, up the pebbled shore then back, sighing as though even that was too much effort.

It was hard to believe that only yesterday the same sea had been roaring, shouting, hurling spray high into the sky with foam coating the rocks and wobbling in the wind. Now it was still as glass, with hardly a breath of wind to ruffle its smooth surface. The birds that had somehow survived the wild storm of the day before were back, wheeling and crying in the blue air.

Magnus Fin studied the ragged tideline. Plastic stuff lay scattered amongst seaweed and stones. Fin knew it was rubbish. He knew it was ugly. He knew his father would probably come that very evening to clean the beach. But Fin also knew that amongst that rubbish it was possible to find wonderful things – things that had come from sunken ships, or from Denmark or Norway. He gazed up the coast, then down, trying to recall where the large thing was that he’d spied being hurled from the sea the day before.

Fin felt that rush of adrenalin he always felt when beachcombing. It was early morning. No one was around: only seabirds above him, the sea before him and the thrilling prospect of treasure waiting to be discovered. He ran along the shore, head down, pulse racing – but soon his steps faltered. Dead fish and dead gulls littered the beach, strewn and twisted among coils of rope and tangles of seaweed.

Anxiously Fin scanned the flat rocks by the caves, a favourite hauling-out place for seals. He dreaded the sight of dead seals battered by the storm. Seeing none, he turned his thoughts back to treasure. Where was
the strange thing he’d seen flung ashore in the storm? Magnus Fin knew every inch of the beach so it didn’t take long to find a big dent in the sand that hadn’t been there before.

He squatted down and ran his fingers through the gritty sand. Three black cormorants stood in a row on a rock, their wings spread out – like washing on a line – to dry. Was that a good omen? Fin hoped it was, sinking his hands deeper into the damp sand. He liked the gritty feel of sand against his skin. He forgot about dead fish and dead birds and pushed on eagerly.

Everything was good, wasn’t it? He liked being in Primary Seven and was excited about going up to the high school. His parents were happy. His selkie cousin Aquella seemed to be coping with human life since losing her seal skin. And he, Magnus Fin, had one green eye, one brown eye, webbed feet and was no longer ashamed of it. In fact he was proud of it! He liked who he was and, of course, it was the best thing in the world to have a best friend like Tarkin. He was so lucky, so very…

The tip of his fingers scraped against something hard. He stopped thinking and started digging. Whatever was in there felt cold and metallic. He dug deeper. Maybe it was part of the hull of the
Titanic
? Maybe he was about to get super lucky? Maybe amongst all these beer cans and plastic bottles there was some real treasure? By this time Magnus Fin had thrown back a mound of sand. The hard metallic thing, whatever it was, was big. This was surely the dark shape he’d seen flung from the sea. So he hadn’t imagined it! He dug quickly, faster than a dog.

He threw up more and more sand, till he could run the back of his hand against something that felt like iron. He tried to push the thing but it wouldn’t budge. By this time he had made a deep, wide hole. He lay flat on the sand and tipped his head and shoulders down into the hole. Pull as he might, the buried treasure wasn’t moving. But what was it? A rusty chunk of iron? Gold? The skull of a blue whale? A bomb?

The three cormorants flew off. Still Magnus Fin, with his head down the hole, groped and patted. He couldn’t feel an end to the thing. Maybe this really was the
Titanic
– the whole ship! How lucky could he get? Fin scraped his hands across the rough surface. He hit it. He punched. He felt something sharp. What was it? Still it refused to budge. Maybe this was hidden treasure snatched by a wave from a smuggler’s cave? Fin’s mind raced. His mother wouldn’t have to take the bus into town every day to work – with this treasure they could buy a car. And his dad wouldn’t have to work for the farmer all hours of the day and night. And Fin wouldn’t have to keep his mouth shut when people at school went on about their holidays in Florida, and London, and Lanzarote, and Malta. Because with this treasure they could go abroad too! They could travel the world. They’d be rich!

Used to the shadowy light in the hole now, Fin could make out a kind of box. He peered at it and noticed a lid. He stretched his hands and tried to pull it open, but it wouldn’t budge. He tried again, tugging at it for all he was worth.

Suddenly a blinding red light pulsed from the thing in the sand. Fin felt a searing pain shoot up his arm.
He screamed and yanked his arm back. He bolted backwards out of the hole. His left hand stung. He stared at it. There was a strange mark on the back of his hand. It was throbbing. A patch of skin between his thumb and forefinger was torn! The pain in his hand was hot, like fire. In horror he gaped as a drop of blood oozed from the wound and splatted down into the sand. He dragged himself backwards, staring in shock at the glowing deep red hole in the sand.

All the excitement turned to panic. What had happened to him? Fin scrambled to his feet, terrified now that some awful monster might leap from the hole, or an unexploded bomb might suddenly go off. The pain was unbearable. Through stinging tears Fin saw the hole in the sand pulse red then fade. It was alive, and it was warning him to keep out! Crying out in pain he stumbled backwards.

Cold water, that’s what he needed. His hand was swelling up fast. He lurched over the sand and stones. He fell. He got up. He staggered down to the water’s edge. He had his school clothes on, washed and ironed. His mum would go mad. But he had to soothe this burning hand.

He ran into the sea, splashing up fountains of cold water. Deeper in he waded, crying out in agony. When the cool water swirled round his waist he fell forward, submerging not only his bleeding hand but his whole body.

Like he knew it would, the sea brought relief. He lay under the soothing water, letting the lazy waves lap over him. A curious fish swam by, opened its mouth, then flicked its tail and swam off. Then a whole shoal
of darting little fish came to look. With his green eye Fin winked at them. They shot away. Still Magnus Fin lay under the water, feeling the burning sensation in his hand cool down. The salt water stung the cut but at the same time soothed it. The thought of sitting in a stuffy classroom practising long division seemed like the most unnatural thing in the world. Fin, under the sea, was in no hurry to go to school.

He didn’t have one green eye and one brown eye for no good reason. Green was for the sea; brown for the land. Magnus Fin, son of a selkie father and human mother, could breathe on land and under the sea. And that’s what he did, while the water swirled around and above him, and the mysterious pain in his swollen hand eased.

BOOK: Magnus Fin and the Selkie Secret
13.74Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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