Years ago, Magnus was seated in a booth at the Chelsea Drugstore in London. It was the height of the 1960s, the UK was swinging, the Beatles were on the charts. He found that his long hair and beautiful features were 'in' again, and he was enjoying himself immensely. The 60s were a selkie's dream; everything and everyone, free, as much as you wanted. For Magnus, it was a candy store of delights.
The door opened, the small bell ringing softly. He saw her walk in, her black hair framing her pale skin. She wore white sunglasses, as it was midsummer. Her fashion sense was incredible; if she wasn't a model, she should have been. She wore a bright yellow dress in the mod style with white gogo boots that clacked across the chequerboard tile floor. She took off her sunglasses to reveal large, dark eyes framed with long lashes, and she ordered a strawberry and lime soda.
Magnus was captivated. He must know this woman at any cost.
She turned then, and saw him. He smiled, that soft and gentle smile that had bedded countless women over the centuries. She saw the leatherbound journal on the table, the quill pen in his hand, and the beautiful golden hair in carefully arranged curls tumbling over a shoulder.
To his surprise, she addressed him first.
“If I didn't know any better,” she said, “I'd think you were a hippie. Though looking at your clothes and your hair, there aren't many hippies that can afford an entire outfit by Ossie Clark, and there aren't many hippies that know how to care for their curls the way you do.”
Magnus bowed slightly.
"Well spotted,” he said, “I'm Magnus Grey.”
"Hazel Worthington,” she said, removing a white glove to shake his hand, “Beautifully manicured nails, too. What do you do?”
"I'm a model,” he said.
"What a coincidence,” she replied, “I'm a fashion designer.”
"That explains your ability to recognise the cut of my clothes,” he said.
"Everyone who's anyone knows of Clark,” she said, “He's one of my heroes. My label is small at the moment, but I'm confident it will be lucrative in the right markets. Do you mind if I sit with you?”
Magnus's grin widened.
"By all means, please do,” he said, and they spent the long afternoon in conversation.
Magnus had walked home that night, her telephone number in his pocket, and his heart filled with a foreign sentiment of love.
Over the months that passed, he and Hazel became close, but she never seemed to respond to any of his advances. He still kept his love secret; he had never felt this way, and in the past his conquests were simple because they were only conquests. He had never wanted anything more. He was confused; he thought selkies could only fall in love if the tears were wept into the sea, and Hazel was not an unhappy woman. Quite the contrary, in fact; she was strong, independent, and extremely capable.
One night, she attended a party at Magnus's flat. Everyone was there, other models, starlets, famous people. His friend Sebastian, a rather nerdy type who worked at the institute, had also attended, although he had never done well at parties. Magnus was Sebastian's best friend, although they rarely saw each other.
"Who's this, Magnus?” Hazel had asked him as she noticed Sebastian sitting uncomfortably on the sofa.
"Oh, you haven't met?” said Magnus, “Hazel Worthington, this is Sebastian Bloodworth.”
Sebastian stood up, flustered, and shook her hand.
"My,” said Hazel, “Sebastian Bloodworth! What a name! Like something out of James Bond. Sexy.”
Sebastian blushed to the roots of his hair.
"Oh, well, I wouldn't say that,” he stammered.
"Can I get either of you a drink?” asked Magnus.
"Please,” she said, “I'd love a glass of champagne, thank you, Magnus.”
When he left them, it had never occurred to him that she might find Sebastian attractive; after all, he was the British librarian type, all stutters, v-neck jumpers, and emotional repression. He was the most unfashionable type of man imaginable, a holdover from the 50s, black and white, not Technicolor. In an era like the 60s, such a man was generally invisible to women; to Magnus's knowledge, this was the case with his friend. He did not recall Sebastian having ever spoken to him of women, or of conquest.
Magnus returned with two glasses of champagne in his hand, only to find his friend deep in conversation with Hazel. To his surprise, and growing horror, she seemed to be responsive to Sebastian in a way she had never been with him. Eventually it was obvious that he was an unwelcome third party, and he excused himself. He had gone off the celebration, and went to brood alone, on his balcony overlooking the city.
He was not surprised, after a few weeks had passed, to discover that Sebastian and Hazel had become an item. Hazel told him herself, since he was her confidante. Magnus was filled with consternation. He looked at his beautiful face in the mirror, his perfect hair, his admirable body. He was a poet, he could speak countless languages, he was eternal, and he was magic. How could Hazel prefer a man like Sebastian over a man like him?
His desperation increased, as he tried to tell her who he was, how important he was, how he was powerful and magical, by telling her every story of the seal-people he could think of, every glamour of Faerie, every possible thing to charm her away from Sebastian. He even took her to Paris, and showed her his favourite haunts, the secret restaurants and wine cellars of the city.
His fortune was boundless, he could grant her every wish.
One night while they were in Paris, he found her on the balcony, looking across the city. He approached her, wishing with every fibre of his being to touch her, to put his arms around her, to claim her as his own. By this point, Magnus had been driven mad by it, by the longing, and the refusal.
“What is it?” asked Magnus. She turned to look at him, smiled, and sighed.
“Oh, Magnus,” she said, “you've always been so wonderful to me. You've been my best friend for a long time, and I can't express how amazing it is to be here in Paris with you. It was such a surprise, and you know I've wanted to come here for years – especially because it's the centre of the fashion world.”
“You deserve it,” said Magnus, “your brand is successful, and it's time you were in Paris. I have a meeting arranged with one of the head designers here in France. You are very talented, and I have high hopes for you.”
Hazel put her hand to her mouth, stunned.
“I don't know what to say!” she said, “You've done so much for me already...”
Magnus sensed there was something wrong.
“But...?” he asked. Hazel smiled.
“But...people change. Dreams change. Here I am, in the city of lights,” she said, “and all I can think about is going home. I look out across this city, and I think of the sea that separates me from him. I feel it, that distance, like a physical pain.”
She laughed then, a musical sound.
“Oh, listen to me!” she said, “I sound like a silly girl. You do understand, though, don't you? You were always so keen on romance.”
Magnus's teeth ground together, as he tried to keep his expression placid and gentle.
"Yes,” he said, “I think I understand far too well.”
She never did meet the French designer. She left Paris in the morning, and Magnus returned the following week. They never spoke of the trip again.
In six months, she and Sebastian were married. Sebastian asked Magnus to be his best man; after all, he was the best friend of both the bride and groom. He attended the wedding, in the finery of the seal-folk, in a coat of woven gold. He was the most splendid person there, but everyone saw only Hazel, and the radiance of her happiness. When she said I do he nearly passed out; when they kissed he looked away, willing himself not to leave the ceremony.
Afterwards, she embraced Magnus, with Sebastian looking on, smiling happily. Magnus envied his friend, who he thought must be the happiest man in the world. Sebastian, so innocent and naïve he couldn't have suspected the evil coursing through the veins of his best friend, driven to madness by love and rejection, who had never before known either.
Over the past several years, whenever she had spent the night at his flat, after breaking up with someone, they had shared a bottle of wine and she would weep. He would comfort her, and at every opportunity, catch her tears in a vial, in secret. He counted, and made sure there were seven. Since she met Sebastian, she hadn't wept. Magnus did not use the tears because he still hoped she would one day see the light, and come to him; a sense of unconscious practicality made him keep them nearby just in case. After the wedding, and as their blissful marriage passed from weeks into months, hatred mixed with his yearning. He could no longer stand it; he put the pendant on and spoke the cantrip meant for the salvation of those who would need it. A secret spell meant to charm the abused from their abusers, the most guarded of all the selkie powers, and used sparingly.
It was a matter of weeks before Hazel left Sebastian. She had called Magnus, and told him that she could not stop thinking of him day or night, and she was unable to sleep. She had confessed her sudden love for Magnus to Sebastian in tears, and he had accepted in silence – because while rejection was unfamiliar to Magnus, to Sebastian it was like an old friend. Sebastian had watched her pack her things, and only said he felt blessed to have been able to share her life and joys with her for as long as he had. Blinking back tears, he said that her memory would always be looked upon with fondness.
Magnus was thrilled; in his conquest he quite forgot about the feelings of his best friend. He brazenly met Hazel at the door of their flat, and without a word or even a look at Sebastian, accompanied her to their new life together. Sebastian had watched her walk away, wordless and broken. Not only had she left him, his best friend had betrayed him. Still, he loved them both, and so he wanted them to be happy. He was a quiet, unassuming man, and believed only the best of people.
Magnus was over the moon. He showered Hazel with gifts, took her out to the best restaurants, wined and dined her as only a selkie knew how. Things were not all that they seemed, unfortunately. In the night, she would say Sebastian's name again and again in her sleep, and wake, confused, to find herself with Magnus. Those nights, she wouldn't go anywhere near him. Day after day, she seemed happy – only to suddenly seem puzzled, as if she were half-waking from a dream. Sebastian's name was never far from her lips, and the faraway look in her eyes drove Magnus to despair. Somehow, the magic hadn't worked, and it seemed that she would never truly be his.
One morning, he awoke to find a note on the bedside table. With trembling hands, he lifted it, and read:
Dear Magnus, you have always been my best friend, and I love you dearly. However, I do not love you as I love Sebastian. I feel that I have made a terrible mistake, and I am going to correct it, if I can. I am so sorry, and I hope you will forgive me, but I must follow my heart. I wish you all the best, and perhaps when things have settled, we can speak again. For now, I ask that you respect me, and to honour your love for me, by keeping your distance. Love Hazel.
Magnus's breath started to come in short gasps, and he crushed the note in his hand as if he could have overcome what she had said with the power of the ancient race that bore him. Through powerful magic, she was able to break the bond and walk away. Magnus looked around himself, at his enormous flat with every new 'in' thing, his built-in bar, his hi-fi system, the loft, the balcony overlooking the city. He had everything, and it was all hollow and silent, because he had nothing without her.
Hazel had returned to the small flat she shared with Sebastian, in a far less fashionable corner of town. She stood in front of the door, pacing back and forth. She didn't know if he would take her back, and it made her feel ill; while she had valued Magnus's friendship for a very long time, she had never been interested in him. Her sudden all-consuming desire for him had been frightening and seemed – to her – to have come out of nowhere. She'd had ample time, had she wanted, to start a relationship with Magnus; she wondered if it was some kind of boredom with her marriage, but she couldn't remember ever being bored with Sebastian. He was sweet, and surprising; intensely clever and full of interesting ideas. There had been so much more to him than outer appearance showed. She couldn't understand why she had chosen to leave her husband; she had loved him, and loved him dearly. It had been madness, and she was prepared to pay the price; it was Sebastian's right to turn her away.
Hazel hesitantly knocked on the door, her heart beating wildly in her chest. She heard footsteps approach; she nearly lost her nerve and walked away, but in the end she stood her ground. There he was, as the door opened, in the afternoon light; a soft corona around him from the hallway light. She caught her breath; to her, he was so very handsome, his bright blue eyes shining, even wearing his dowdy outfit – he was like coming home. In that moment before he saw her, she had prayed 'please let him still love me'. Sebastian stared at Hazel. Time stood still for an eternal moment, and without a word, he gathered her into his arms. She sobbed against him, and he stroked her hair. He led her inside, and gently took her hand. He asked nothing, he asked for nothing. Simple acceptance, and no conversation seemed necessary.
“There is a bottle of wine on the counter,” he said softly, and she smiled, and nodded through her tears, “but I think we might need two. I'll go to the store and get another one, and then we can talk. Is that all right?”
“Yes,” she said, and laughed, “Yes, of course. I'll be here.”
“I'll be right back,” he said, “you remember where the glasses are?”
She nodded. He kissed her hand.
“Welcome home, my love,” he said. Then he left the flat, closing the door behind him.
She went into the kitchen and took the glasses from the cupboard, her soul filled with quiet joy, thankful for the man she had married and his impossible forgiveness. He was so gentle, and kind; she knew that she did not deserve it, but she took comfort in his love.
A few minutes later, she thought she heard the door open. She thought it was too soon for Sebastian to have returned; she looked into the hallway but saw nothing. She thought she was hearing things. She pushed the corkscrew into the bottle and eased it out with a satisfying pop. She smiled again, her first true smile in weeks, although she continued to fight against disturbing thoughts of Magnus that seemed to suggest themselves from elsewhere. She shook her head to clear it. She poured the dark, ruby liquid out into two glasses, and heard another noise in the hallway. This time she was certain she had heard something. Still holding the bottle of wine, she went out into the hallway to investigate.
Magnus's eyes were mad, and wild...and blazing blue, with the centuries of storm and sea. Hazel knew then he was more than human, but had no time to run or cry out. He stabbed her again and again, his hand tight around the silver knife slick with blood, and he wept, sobbing incoherently as the bottle smashed across the floor and mixed red wine with the thick blood that pooled onto the white tiles. Hazel collapsed, and upon falling, saw the sunlight through the window glint off of the tear pendant that swung from Magnus's chest. With weak hands she snatched at, and snapped, the pendant from around his neck.
She knew, then, that all his stories were true; in the extreme clarity as her life ebbed from her, that he was an ancient creature of folklore and fairytales. She knew then that Magnus was a monster, driven mad by need and lust, masquerading as love, and that she had always, and only, ever loved Sebastian. This somehow brought her peace.
Magnus looked down one last time at the shattered frame of the woman he loved, the lonely, sticky blood, the life taken by his own perfect hands – this hand, created perfection, soft and supple, meant to be offered as a gentleman's prayer, to help, to protect, to lend succour, to be trusted, because his people were meant to soothe and caress, as the caretakers of humanity. These hands, only meant to be offered in support, had destroyed one of them; the only human he had ever loved.
He lost his nerve then, and fled. He vaulted over the wall and ran as far and fast as he could go. No one saw him, and he had made sure that no blood had soaked into his perfect clothes. In the darkness, he buried the knife deep, in a field near an overpass where he himself would never again be able to find it. Sobbing, and desperate, he disappeared into the night, and from history for some time to come.
Sebastian smiled to himself, joy flooding through him, as he returned to the flat with a bottle of Dom Perignon. He had never spent so much on a single bottle of wine in his life, but he felt that this was a cause for celebration. He put his hand on the door and pushed it open.
He saw the blood first, and he thought it was wine, that Hazel had broken the bottle, because he saw pieces of it, jagged green shards on the floor, and the red, and he thought it was the wine, the merlot colour staining into her stockings, her dress, and his eyes tracked up to see the spatters of thicker fluid, slightly browning now, her eyes open and pleading, and he stared wildly down at the misshapen form of his wife, registering that she was lying in a pool of her own blood.
He went to her, absolutely beside himself, and she showed him the pendant. In a few words she told him the impossible: faeries were real, and they were enemies, and the seal-folk bewitched people away from their lovers, and of Magnus's jealousy. He wanted to call the police, but Hazel refused; she could feel the cold stealing across her body.
She looked into his eyes, and said “Sebastian...”
and then she was gone forever.
Sebastian stared down at the still figure of his wife. He said nothing, but took the tear pendant in his hand. There was only one thing he could think to do, and as an archaeologist, had a passing familiarity not only with folklore, but with the way it worked. If faeries were real, then so was magic, and he determined to take command of the story, to turn it his way. He knew he would have to leave his peaceful life behind, and follow another path, but it would be worth it to get his revenge. He owed it to Hazel, and to the long and happy years that Magnus had stolen from both of them. The Fae, Hazel said, were powerful creatures, and so he would have to become powerful himself, to turn their powers back on them.