The Lighthouse Seer by Lyndsey Croal

The boy arrived at Elenya’s lighthouse a day before her first Rites, sailing through the haar as if drifting over clouds. She watched his approach eagerly from the lantern room. It had been months since she’d seen another soul, except for the occasional seal or seabird seeking solace on her lighthouse cliff.
     When the boy was close, she descended the spiral staircase and walked barefoot onto her rocky island. The boat was moored at the small pier, bobbing on black waves. She took a deep breath and prepared herself. The air tasted of seaweed and salt, as it always did. Like home. She picked absently at the scales under her fingernails, from the fish she’d been preparing earlier.
     Her visitor eventually stepped onto land, carrying a wooden chest with a brass lock. He was dressed all in grey with hair the colour of night and eyes like silver. He couldn’t be much older than her, seventeen or eighteen. 
     ‘I brought an offering.’ His voice was hoarse, suggesting a long voyage. ‘You’re the Lighthouse Seer?’
     Elenya nodded. ‘You’re a day early.’
     His lips parted slightly, his breath escaping in a wisp-like mist. ‘Oh. Will you send me away?’
     She frowned. Tomorrow, people would arrive from all over the archipelago to seek her Rites. Her job was to give them guidance for the months ahead, and they would bestow offerings in return – supplies or trinkets. She wanted to know what was in the boy’s chest. ‘I’ll be busy with preparations today,’ she said, then closed her eyes and inhaled slowly, feeling the change in the wind. Clear in her mind she saw it – a whirl of water, roaring of waves, thrashing of rain. ‘A storm will come tonight,’ she said half surprised at her words, the vision over. ‘You should stay here, there’s a spare room.’
     The boy looked enthralled. Not many people got to witness a Seer’s sight. ‘I’d be grateful for your hospitality, Seer. I’m Shea.’
     ‘Elenya,’ she said before thinking, forgetting that she was supposed to have given up her name. She glanced around, expecting to see one of the Brethren appear and scold her for breaking the rules. 
     ‘I’m honoured,’ Shea said. ‘I’ll keep out of your way then.’ He made towards the cottage, but Elenya hesitated. It had been a long time since she’d been around anyone, never mind someone her age. 
     ‘Fish!’ she shouted. 
     He turned. ‘Sorry?’
     She scrambled for the words. ‘Do you like fish?’
     He smiled. ‘I eat little else.’
     ‘Then join me for dinner later. I’d be glad of the company.’
     ‘And I yours.’ He disappeared into the cottage with a nod. 
     Elenya headed to the lighthouse to continue her preparations. When the Brethren arrived tomorrow, they’d expect her to be ready. She lay the Seer’s map on the table in the circle room. It showed every island of the archipelago, half the land scribbled out as the sea had taken it.                Where was Shea from? Or did he always live on his boat? 
     She stared at the map for a long time, straightening the edges, running her fingers across the contours, trying to memorise every part. At its side, she placed a bottle of fish oil, seaweed paste, and a bowl of sea glass she’d collected over the months: oil to show fish stocks, seaweed to map safe sailing routes, and sea glass as a luck offering.
     Her preparations complete, she returned to the cottage and started a fire. As the sky darkened, the predicted storm began, with battering rain and whistling winds. Shea joined her, and she served salted fish and seaweed soup. As they ate, Shea told her of his journey – it had taken him six weeks to find her. He’d had to stop at various islands to ask for directions, though he said little about where he was from. She asked him what was in the chest, but he wouldn’t tell her yet.
     ‘What’s it like when you use your powers?’ he asked after dinner.
     The storm was in full force now. Its rumble echoed through the walls making it feel like they were underwater. She shivered. ‘Like a memory, but more vivid.’
     Shea held his hands in front of the fire. ‘What did you do before becoming a Seer?’
     She looked at him, unsure what to say. ‘I lived on an island.’
     He nodded slowly. ‘With your parents?’
     ‘Yes.’
     ‘Any other family?’
     Elenya thought about it, but she couldn’t remember. Why couldn’t she remember? ‘I…I don’t know.’
     ‘And what did they look like, your parents?’
     His eyes. They were so familiar. ‘I don’t know.’
     Shea put a hand on her arm, and she jumped at his touch. ‘It’s okay,’ he said. ‘I’m here to help.’ Then, he pulled the chest over and unlocked it with a brass key. She shuffled back, suddenly worried what it might contain. But he only took out a sleek grey coat.
     ‘Is that your offering?’ she asked.
     ‘It’s more of a returning. It’s always been yours, Elenya.’ The way he said her name sent shivers across her skin. ‘I’m glad you still remember your name. That’s a good sign.’
     ‘I don’t understand.’
     ‘When the Brethren stole you to take advantage of your gift, they made you forget. But they’re not your brethren. I am, though. Now that I know it’s really you, I’m here to free you.’      He held out the coat.
     Hand shaking, she reached out and touched it. A vision flooded into her head, like a tidal wave engulfing her senses. She was swimming, further and further, into the deep. And she felt at home there, in her sealskin, dancing beneath the waves, singing in her ancient tongue. She knew of the seasons and the way of the waves. It wasn’t the knowledge of the land-walkers. The ones that had ruined all that’s sacred and beautiful.
     The fog was lifted. She looked up at Shea, her brother, her friend, her true brethren. 
     ‘I remember.’

About the Author

Lyndsey is an Edinburgh-based writer and Scottish Book Trust New Writers Awardee. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in a number of anthologies and magazines, including Cunning Folk Magazine, Shoreline of Infinity and Mslexia’s Best Women’s Short Fiction 2021. Her debut audio drama was produced by the Alternative Stories & Fake Realities podcast in 2021.

Twitter: @Writerlynds 

Website: lyndseycroal.co.uk

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