Part Five: The old sailor
This news spread quickly around all the turrets, feasting halls, bedrooms, kitchens and parlours of the Palace. The Thief heard the news from a Selkie nurse who was checking his temperature and inspecting his limbs for breakages. ‘Without her royal coat’ said the Selkie nurse, ‘our Queen will bleed to death.’ The Selkie nurse left then sniffing as she swam away. One by one all the other Selkies left the room, leaving the thief and all the other creatures to wonder about this terrible news.
In the corner, the old bearded sailor chewed at his unlit pipe. ‘Arrr,’ he said, ‘this is perilous state of affairs. Arrr.’
‘What’ll happen if the Selkie Queen dies?’ asked the thief. And all the creatures – the lobsters, starfish, porpoises and dolphins, seagulls, jellyfish and albatrosses - looked at the sea captain. None of them made a sound as they waited for the old man to give them an answer.
The old mariner chewed his pipe a moment more then said: ‘Arrr. Selkie Queens are not supposed to die from wounds. Arrr. They live for hundreds of years so they do. And then when they’re very old they change into thousands of glittering bubbles. Very important that they do an all. Arrr. Cos every single one of them there bubbles contains a baby Selkie. Arrr’
‘So if the Queen dies there will be no new Selkies?’ asked the thief.
The old man nodded his head. ‘Arrr,’ he said in a sad voice, ‘Arrr. No more Selkies means no more creatures being rescued from the great storms that bedevil the Atlantic. In fact the storms will get worser and worser, when there’s no Selkies to oppose them. Arrr.’
At this the thief stood up and declared, ‘I know where the Queen’s coat is!’ Then the excitement left him and he slumped down again. In a quiet voice he said, ‘But I don’t know how to get it. I don’t know in what direction Salthill lies, and I doubt I’d have the strength and speed to get there and back before the Selkie Queen dies.’
Now read: The Thief and the Thunderstorm. Part Six