Updated: May 15, 2021
Loneliness had always been a close companion of Rúna's. It had first made itself known when Rúna was a child, as Rúna began to realize she was different from other young girls her age. Her differences made it hard for her to make friends. She also learned very quickly that her differences were more likely to earn ridicule than praise. So, while she was kind, Rúna was also wary.
She carried her loneliness and wariness with her like two twin stones slung about her neck. They weighed her down. Her every action, decision, step was inhibited by the weight. She carried them with her when she left home to seek her fortune as a mercenary. She carried them with her when she made a home on the outskirts of the village, away from prying eyes. She carried them with her with she cared for a three-legged dog and taught a small boy how to fish. She carried them with her when she made the unpopular decision to take up arms against her people during the Battle of Clontarf, fighting with the Gaelic High King Brian Boru to help the Gaels win their independence against Norse invaders.
She was tired of loneliness.
She was tired of wariness.
So, when on that first day in the cove with Fiadh, she discovered that the weight around her neck felt much lighter, there was nothing in the world that would stop her from returning to that place to spend more time with the strangely wonderful Selkie woman she began to call her friend.
It was addictive, the feeling of acceptance she felt in Fiadh's presence. When those dark eyes locked on her and Fiadh listened to her stories like everything that Rúna had to say was worth hearing, the warmth in Rúna's chest grew. When Rúna first made the Selkie woman laugh, and that lilting, musical sound tripped out over her lips, Rúna knew she had to hear it again. She carefully cultivated a knack for making Fiadh laugh as often as possible.
Their days together grew longer. A couple stolen hours here and there turned into several hours at a time and then into full days until they were seated a few hands-width apart by the fire, sharing a meal and enjoying one another's company. Rúna treasured their time together. And, when apart, her heart always tugged her back to their shore, their cove as soon as she was able to return. Love had crept up on her quietly. But Rúna would never bind Fiadh to a shore she didn't belong to. Fiadh belonged to herself and to the sea that she loved beyond measure. Rúna couldn't, wouldn't compete. She'd simply cherish the time they had together.
It was on a late-summer evening like this that everything between them shifted. The fire popped cheerfully. The interior of the cove bathed in a warm glow.
Fiadh sat cross-legged behind Rúna, braiding soft yellow elderflowers into her hair. Rúna's every nerve ending was alight and focused on Fiadh's place behind her. The gentle tug and pull of Fiadh's nimble fingers through her hair and across her scalp, over and over again felt blissful. Fiadh's fingertips leaving fiery trails in their wake. The selkie quietly hummed a haunti