The next day, the sky was clear and not a cloud or trace from the night before could be seen. Taka stood on the small wooden dock by the loch, skimming stones along the water. The sun was high in the sky and he knew he would be called for lunch soon. Yet he didn’t want to go, he didn’t want to see anyone, except for her.
He skimmed the stones more aggressively, with most of them sinking instead of skimming. His impatience’s and growing frustration was all but clear in the way he threw the stones. Normally he would skim a few and she would appear. However today, she was ignoring his calls. He skimmed one more stone and turned away, disappointed and pouting. He knew he was being childish, but he could not help it, as much as he tried.
He was a young looking boy in his early teens. His dark hair was long and past his shoulders, he had a small but lean frame, mostly elbows and knees, soft almond eyes and pale skin. On the full moon of every second month, his eyes were the only thing that never changed. He wore the outfit of a stable boy, though it was not a job or position, he did often. He also wore a grey woollen cap upon his head.
It had only been a year, since it had begun and Taka had chosen to struggle alone with what he considered a great burden. Arthes had been as supportive as she could and had tried her best to comfort him, but not smother the lad. Conell had tried to coach the boy, knowing himself what it was like to be controlled by the moon. However Taka had rejected all and every advance for help and guidance, only stating to both Arthes and Conell that he was not like them, that there was no animal to be unleashed, that he was different and there was nothing they could do.
As he walked away, he noticed that the stone made no sound on the water and so he turned around.
A thin, delicate, slender, arm poked through the surface of the water and had caught the stone.
Taka walked back to the small wooded dock, sat down and crossed his legs. A small smile appeared on his lips. She dropped the stone, then swam over to him and leaned both her arms on the edge of the wooden dock. The rest of her body remaining submerged in the water. She had hair the colour of straw and her skin though pale like his own, in the sunlight it shimmered, with deep greens, blues and purples, just like stain glass. She was naked, but that did not seem to bother her in the least. Taka however always looked her directly, in her bright blue eyes and if he ever did find himself gazing at her in a way he shouldn’t, he always made sure she did not see.
Her name was Selna and she was keeper and lady of Loch Awena.
He had never seen her out of the water and did not know how long she had lived in the Loch. He had asked Conall several times, only to have silence as his answer and response. Taka had asked her directly of course many times, when he was a child and had pestered with such questions, she had swam away. As he got older, she would instead flick water at him and then would not reappear for weeks, sometimes months on end. So Taka no longer asked her such questions.
“You took your time.” Said Taka softly
“Did I now?” Selna replied and splashed water at him playfully.
Normally Taka would have splashed back, today however he did not. Instead avoided her gaze and drew invisible circles with the tips on his fingers on the aged wood of the dock.
“Is something wrong?” She then asked him, her voice full of concern and then she asked him “Is it the moon? The next full lunar isn’t for another week yet is it not?”
“Yes.” Replied Taka, even more softly than before.
To which she once more splashed him with water and said, “That is but a whole week away, nothing to feel sore about.”
Selna never understood the human concept of time, things just happened or they didn’t as far as she could see.
“I don’t know what I will be.” He said to her, the water Selna had splashed at him, dripping off of his face, for he had not even wiped it away.
“Oh,” replied Selna.
Selna was the only one that had ever seen Taka transform. What she considered beautiful, Taka saw as nothing but a curse.
Every second month and on the full moon, Taka would at midnight go down to the Loch, stand on the small dock, shed his skin and become someone anew. He was still Taka, but his body was and would be forever changed and there was no way to control it. He would then spend the next two months, getting use to not only a face he didn’t recognize, but a brand new body as well.
Selna would always be there watching, she always took the skins but she never said where she took them too or what she did with them. Once Taka had asked her, only once and she told him that she kept them safe but would not elaborate further.
The first time he had been afraid, but he knew the change was coming and he was even excited. A year later, it weighed on him heavily. The first time, he had gone from being his natural golden haired boy form, to a middle aged man. Mentally it had put a strain on him but he had endured, thinking that he would, in time, get use to it, that was of course, until the next time, in which he became a child. Then an elderly woman, then a young man with scars on his face, until he reached his current form. One that was close to his actually age and he didn’t want to let it go. He would never have his original body ever again. Which he did not know in the beginning and had left a bitterness within him. Seeing Selna, however, brought him comfort.
Most of the permanent residents of Cèilidh Castle of Loch Awene, had something, unusual about them. However, there had never been anyone like Taka.
“You know you need to talk to Conall” Selna told him.
Taka did not answer, he had rebuffed their help and had declared himself different to them. Pride and stubbornness had stopped him from going back on his words.
Silence fell between them and Selna looked as she would soon leave him and dive back into the Loch.
“Why can’t you just help me? I trust you.” He then said to her.
However she just shook her head at him and looked over his shoulder.
He followed her gaze. Several meters away, Conall stood, arms folded across his chest watching the two of them.
He was dressed in his farming attire, his boots and pants covered in mud. His red hair a fiery halo around his head in the shining light of the sun. The spectacles from the night before nowhere to be seen. Selna then let out a large sigh. Conall never visited her, not like the others. It annoyed her, but she had grown use to it over the decades and it had not helped her ever growing infatuation with him.
She then turned, disappeared under the water and swam away, wanting to suddenly be left alone with her thoughts. Taka took his gaze away from Conall, only to turn around and find Selna had gone.
Taka knew of Selna’s fascination with the man he now walked beside. Infact the whole castle knew of it, however they never spoke about it, not in front of Conall anyway. Though, Taka was sure and knew that every piece of information, every bit of gossip, no matter how small, always reached Conall’s ever hairy ears. Though Taka ignored it and felt he was special, because of the extra attention Selna paid to him and him alone.
Taka begrudgingly stood up and walked toward Conall. Who once the boy was close enough, turned and walked toward the Castle. Taka hurried and caught up with him, until both were walking beside one another. However, both saying nothing. They passed through the grand stone walls that surrounded the castle and entered the courtyard. Which was a very large open area, a large grass field, bustling with castle staff, all coming and going. Each hurrying about, each with a chore to do. As they entered the courtyard a few called out, some waved and a few gave a swift nod in their direction. However, none of them stopped to chat and neither did Conall or Taka.
He did however notice a tenseness to Conall. He was a man that was somewhat stiff in his movements and his face always did, more often than not, have a serious expression. However there was an added tightness to him Taka noticed.
Taka had lived at Cèilidh Castle of Loch Awene all his life. He had never asked about his parentage or how he had originally come to be there. He had always felt that, no matter what, everyone at the Ceilidh Castle was his family and he always felt safe there. There had never been trouble and everyone worked together in harmony. Though there were always, as always rumours that not only could and did the walls move, but things had not always been peaceful and idyllic at the castle.
“Go get cleaned up. Arthes will be waiting in the kitchen with lunch and then you are expected to help Emon on the moors until sun down.” Said Conall rather tersely
He was never short with the lad and he instantly regretted it. However his regret was wasted as the Taka was already halfway across the courtyard and had paid Conall no mind. Which Conall was glad for, Emrick rested heavily on his mind and there was so much the boy didn’t know. He had no idea the trouble coming, should Emrick return. If it had been anyone else, Conall would have ignored such a notion of Emrick’s return but Arthes had a dream and she was never wrong….
To be continued……