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The Selkie and Her Knight: Chapter 3

Updated: May 15, 2021

The second time she saw her, her heart leapt into her throat and took up residence.

Rúna* was never what her parents expected of her. Born to a life of hardship, a female when a male was desired.

"Rúna, you'll never make a suitable wife," her mother would sigh at her when she would disappear from the house to practice horsemanship and swordsmanship with the village boys.

"Rúna," her father would rumble, his voice dark with disappointment when he saw her wild hair, skinned knees, and torn trousers.

"She's as ungainly as a colt," her grandmother would say in a harsh whisper to her mother when she didn't think Rúna could hear.

Freckle-faced, ginger-haired, knobby-kneed Rúna always heard.

The most significant thing about Rúna, however, was that she was kind in an unkind world.

When Rúna was grown, a small village boy, no older than six or seven, approached her because his hound hadn't returned from a boar hunt with his father. She smiled gently and told him she would find the dog. Rúna spent eight hours tracking the animal. When she found it, it was in a state; front leg mangled, wheezing, and terrified. Deftly splinting the animal's leg, she hefted it over a broad shoulder and carried the hound back to her small hut on the outskirts of the fishing village. On a dirt floor, next to a small, popping fire, she removed the animal's mangled leg and cauterized the wound. She kept vigil until the early morning hours to make sure the dog would make it through that first night.

In the morning, when the dog was sleeping, breath even and heartbeat steady, she left the hut to find the village boy and his family. When she found them, the boy was overjoyed to hear that his beloved hound had been found and was healing. The boy's mother, however, rejected the notion of taking the animal back. The hound was another mouth to feed. One with no use if it wasn't able to contribute to the food on the table.

Mouth drawn in a hard line, Rúna nodded her understanding and turned to leave. The boy tearfully followed her for a few paces. Heart aching for the child, Rúna turned and knelt to look him in the eye, face softening.