”The Wedding Seal” finds St. Cyprian and Gallowglass dealing with a selkie under domestic duress and her fierce kin in the Orkney Islands in 1922. It will be published in 2012-2013 by Graveside Tales Publishing in the anthology, Beast Within 3: Oceans Unleashed.
“We should go. The last ferry leaves in an hour.”
“Why even come out here if we’re just going to leave? Not that I’m complaining, mind,” Gallowglass said. She pushed away from the wall of the pub and stuffed her hands in her pockets. “What happened to his wife, then?”
“I thought you weren’t a romantic?”
“I’m not. I’m curious,” Gallowglass said. St. Cyprian stopped and looked at her.
“She left. His wife, I mean.” He jerked his head towards the sea. “She went home.”
“She abandoned me,” Sinclair grated. He leaned against the door frame, glaring at them as they turned. “Don’t pretty it up for her, Charles.” His gaze fixed itself on Gallowglass. “I took her and I kept her and then she tricked me and left me.”
“Maybe she had good reason, Angus,” St. Cyprian said. “And as I said, reason or not, you cannot change what has been–”
“She loved me,” Sinclair spat. “I took her skin and made her a woman and she loves me!” He took a step forward. The music and noise of the pub had quieted, and there were faces in the doorway and at the window. The same faces as before, St. Cyprian noted, and still unfriendly.
St. Cyprian looked at the wreck of his old friend and shook his head. “It wasn’t real, Angus. You know that,” he said.
“Real or not, it was mine. She is mine. And if you don’t help me–”
“You’ll what?” Gallowglass said. “Drink yourself to death? Mate, you smell like you’ve got one foot in that particular grave already.”
“You…” Sinclair lurched towards Gallowglass, raising his hands.
The young woman stepped forward, the Webley appearing in her hand as if by magic. She pressed it to a point just above Sinclair’s belt buckle. “I don’t like you, chum,” she said. “I don’t like blokes who talk like they own women. It gets my blood up.” She sniffed. “Go back inside and finish committing suicide by gin, eh?”
There was a rumble of angry murmuring from the direction of the pub. Sinclair was a local, and St. Cyprian and Gallowglass were anything but. More importantly, the name of Sinclair carried weight in Strom. St. Cyprian was sure no one had seen Gallowglass’ pistol yet, but once they did, there was no telling what might happen. He pushed Sinclair back gently, and pressed the barrel of the Webley down with his other hand. A thought occurred to him.
“You said ‘loves’,” he said, looking speculatively at Sinclair. The latter’s mouth curled up in a hard smile. “She loves you. Not loved, ‘loves’; why would you say that, Angus?”
“It’s Midsummer, Charles. A special night,” Sinclair said. He straightened his shirt. “That’s why I asked you to come.”
“What’s he talking about?” Gallowglass said, looking at St. Cyprian.
“What have you done, Angus?” St. Cyprian said softly.
“What you wouldn’t.” Sinclair licked his lips and squinted at the horizon. “Storm is coming. You better come back inside, Charles, you and your girl both.” He turned back to the pub. Gallowglass looked at St. Cyprian, mouthing Sinclair’s last words. St. Cyprian shook his head. Something unpleasant was unfolding around them.
“Lead on, by all means,” he said.
The pub had gone quiet, and now the patrons–all men, St. Cyprian noticed–watched them warily as Sinclair spoke to several of them. “Drever, open up the back, there’s a good fellow,” Sinclair said. A heavy man moved to the back of the pub, opening up a door. Outside, the rain had started to fall, striking the windows like gunshots and thunder made the floorboards tremble beneath their feet.
“Bad storm,” someone murmured in a hushed voice.
“And only going to get worse, I fear. What’s back there, Angus?” St. Cyprian said. His hand found the shape of the Webley Bulldog nestled in his coat pocket.
“Come and see for yourself,” Sinclair said, stepping through the door. After a moment’s hesitation, St. Cyprian and Gallowglass followed him.
The room smelled strongly of salt and metal shavings. Large casks clustered along the walls, like unseeing sentinels for the cage that sat in the center of a great triple ring of sea-brine, salt and iron nails, the latter of which had been hammered into the floor.
Inside the cage was a woman. Pale and thin, she huddled at the far corner of the cage, staring at them with dull, animal eyes. Her flesh was so white that the blue veins running beneath it stood out like bruises. Dry, brittle looking black hair hung in limp tangles from her round head and long fingers twitched and poked at the flesh of her ankles as she peered at them over her knees.
“Just as beautiful as the day I met her,” Sinclair said…