Rose is sitting on the windowsill of her bedroom, covered in a white and red blanket that has a furry inside coating. The blanket makes her feel as if she is sitting on a cloud as she looks out to the clear blue sky. The door suddenly opens and she eagerly turns to see who it is. A warm, friendly voice says:
“Hello ma wee darling, I brought you some hot chocolate.”
It was Rose’s grandfather, Harold. Her lips break into a huge smile and she responds, “Yay! Thank you, grandpa.”
Her grandfather slowly makes his way towards her windowsill, placing the hot chocolate on the wooden table placed next to Rose’s bed. He looks up from the tray and smiles proudly at her. She takes a second to study his face, which she has always looked at in amazement. His face is covered in two scars, one stretches over the corner of his lip and the other just below his left eye. He always told her it was from his days fighting off the pirates from the Island. The Island, or its real name Inchcailloch, is the place where her grandfather used to work. He would cut the grass, take care of the forest and plant flowers. It is about ten minutes from their cottage, which is in the middle of the countryside. Rose lives there with her parents, grandparents and her collie dog, Maggie. Rose reaches over for the cup of hot chocolate and asks her grandfather:
“Grandpa, can you tell me the story again? The one about how you saved the Island?”
Rose is now twenty-three years old and lives in that cottage by herself. She sits on the same windowsill, where her grandfather used to read the pirate stories to her as she looks out to the distance, checking on her boat. Her grandfather used to take Rose to the Island most weekends. They would pack a bag of sandwiches, tea, snacks and embark on an adventure to the Island. When Rose was little it was the most exciting thing in her life. They would get onto his old fishing boat and sail off into the distance, leaving normality behind. Maggie would snuggle onto her lap and place her wet nose on top of her knee. On the windy days, Maggie would replace her furry blanket and keep her warm while they sailed over to the Island.
The Island was Rose and her grandfather’s special place. He would take her on hikes through the bluebell fields and set up a fire in the middle of the woods. He would tell stories about how he and his friends used to camp overnight on the beach, scouting for pirates. Back then, the pirates would come to steal the salmon and hunt for gemstones. These pirates came from far up north, in the Scottish highlands, where there was little salmon. Everyone wanted to catch salmon as it would sell for the most money at local markets. The Island had some of the best salmon in the whole of Scotland, which was why Rose’s grandfather was so determined to protect them.
The gemstones, however, held something even more powerful. They could unlock the magic of the forest and even summon the magical Scottish creature to shore, even though no one had ever seen it. It is said that these gemstones, once in your possession, meant you would be the protector of the Island and the leader of the forest creatures. Rose’s grandfather was able to keep one, the blue one, which represented the loch. The other, the green one, which was the strongest, was stolen from the Island by an evil pirate, Jim. Rose’s grandfather used to tell her stories about the night Jim fought him and his friends and scared off the forest creatures. There used to be fairies, kelpies (shape-shifting water spirits) and wildcats that roamed freely on the Island until that night. Ever since, no one has been able to find them.
When Rose was little she would run around the forest, speaking softly to the trees to, “Wake up” but they never did. Now Rose is older she has the same love for the Island as her grandfather. That’s why every night before bed she places the blue gemstone in a marble bowl of salt water from the loch and puts it under the moonlight to charge. She believes the mermaids in the loch can feel its power and one day, they might come out again.
Rose places the gemstone in the marble bowl and gets ready for bed. Maggie, who is now older but still as cuddly as ever, is lying at the end of her bed sleeping. While Rose is brushing her teeth, she sees lighting reflected in the mirror. She swiftly turns around and sees it’s coming from outside. Maggie lets out a loud yelp and she runs to the window. She can normally see her boat, which she inherited from her grandfather, in the distance and the outline of the Island behind, but tonight she can’t. The Island is covered in a grey mist and the boat is frantically rocking up and down. At this moment, she remembered the story from her grandfather. He told her the night the pirates came that they left a curse on the forest by tainting the green gemstone with dark magic. That is why the forest creatures could no longer roam freely. Rose knew that this grey mist meant the pirates were back and as her grandfather was too old to fight them, she was the only one to stop them and protect the Island.
Her grandfather’s face froze, “Are you sure? Did you see them?”
A few years ago, her grandfather became very ill and he was moved to an elderly care home in Glasgow, the nearest city. This was when Rose inherited the cottage, as she was the only one left to take it over. Her parents had moved to Glasgow when her grandfather got ill, so it was up to her to take on the responsibility of caring for the Island. As she looked out the window at the boat rocking furiously up and down, she knew there was no way she was making it over to the Island tonight. She had to sit tight and wait until sunrise before she could set sail.
Rose rested against the windowsill with Maggie at her feet, drifting in and out of light sleep before the sunlight rose from behind the Island, marking a new day. The familiar warm glow of the sun was struggling to fight through the grey mist which had now completely covered the Island. She quickly put a big bottle of water in her bag and ran out the house and down to the fishing dock. Maggie’s paws were trailing behind her and as she approached the boat, she could see water floating on the deck floor. She quickly mopped it up with a towel and called on Maggie to jump onto the boat. She took a big breath and thought of her grandfather as she whispered, “I am strong enough for this.”
Rose decided to take the quick way round to the beach; normally they would attach the boat to a dock on the hill side of the Island so they could hike to the beach. Instead, Rose decided to sail all the way round to the beach to get a closer look. As she got closer, she found a small tree perched over the water that would disguise them on the boat and allow her to have a panoramic view of the beach. Suddenly, the grey mist cleared as a strong wind came from behind and there, standing on the pier, was a group of two-hundred highlander pirates. Their boats were filled with hundreds of fishing cages, ready to capture the beautiful salmon having their daily swim in the loch, unaware of what was coming their way.
They were all dressed in their clan tartan, square patterns of different blue tones, covering every inch of their clothing. Their faces were covered in dirt and whiskey bottles were scattered across the sand. In the distance, standing next to a tree, was a woman. Her tartan skirt drenched in moss from the rotting boats they came in. Her hair was shiny, waxed in grease and a cigarette was hanging from her mouth. Rose looked at the scene in shock. She couldn’t believe that they were on her Island. Rose caught a glimpse of an engraving on one of the boats that read, “Ramsay.” She recognised the name but she couldn’t remember why. Then, she suddenly remembered her grandfather’s story about fighting off the pirates, he told her that Jim’s boat had the same engraving “Ramsay” on the right side. This was Jim’s granddaughter.
In this moment, Maggie started whimpering in panic and Rose knew she had to get back to land to figure out what to do. She reversed the boat around and sailed back in the direction of the cottage. The morning light was bouncing off the water and as she got back to the dock, she stopped to look down at the water. Under the surface she could see three salmon swimming parallel to each other and all she could think about was saving them from the pirates. As she was looking into the water, the reflection of her ginger hair cut across the blue reflection of the water like paint strokes on a canvas, and she thought to herself, “I am going to save you, my wee friends. Just hold tight.”
Rose hopped out of the boat and ran up the path to her car. Rose got in the driver’s seat and Maggie jumped in the back. Rose drove all the way to Glasgow to see her grandfather. During the whole journey all she could think about was the woman’s waxy hair melting under the sun and her cigarette turning the white sand black with its ash. Rose got to the elderly home, where her grandfather was, and made her way to his room. She walked in and saw him sitting on his chair, looking out the window at the trees. She walked over to him and wrapped her arms tightly around his neck and said, “Hello, grandpa.”
He turned to look at her face, which was usually pale but all of a sudden red and agitated. He responded concerned, “Is everything ok, darling?”
Rose looked up from her shoes and sighed, “They’re back grandpa, the pirates. All the salmon are going to die and I don’t know what to do. I need your help.”
Her grandfather’s face froze, “Are you sure? Did you see them?”
Rose started crying and stuttered, “I saw them grandpa, and I saw the same boat. It’s Jim’s granddaughter!”
Her grandfather looked back out to the window and turned towards his bedside cabinet. He pointed at the drawer and frantically said, “Rose, could ye pass me the box inside the first drawer?”
Rose quickly walked over and got out the box. She placed it on his lap and asked, “What’s this grandpa?”
Her grandfather pressed the button and the lid flipped open. Inside was a small bag with a pink ribbon tied around it. He said caringly, “I was saving this until you needed it. It’s a blue gemstone that I got made into a necklace. Take this and go to Miguel, he lives in the cave on the Island. I know this doesn’t make sense, but trust me, he will explain everything.”
Rose looked confused as she reached for the necklace. She responded hesitantly, “But…grandpa, how will this help?”
Her grandfather raised his hand to her cheek and softly caressed her skin as he spoke softly, “Ma wee adventurer… You’ve always been so curious. Trust yer’ol grandpa, and go to Miguel. If anyone can save the Island, it’s you ma wee pet.”
Rose smiled and brushed the tears off her cheek as she clipped the necklace around her neck. She said, “Okay, grandpa. I’ll talk to Miguel and I promise, I’ll do everything I can to save the Island.”
Her grandfather smiled and said, “I know ye will.”
Rose ran to her car where Maggie’s face was patiently awaiting her return. She gave Maggie a kiss on the forehead and said, “Let’s go fight some pirates, Maggie.”
“He wanted to wait until you were ready. Now come back to the cave, I have a lot to show you.”
Rose was back on the boat with Maggie faithfully by her side and about to set sail again. She was grasping the gemstone in her hand as she started the engine and took off. As they got to the dock, she walked around to the right. She had only ever carried straight on, over the hill, to the beach and the forest. But this time, she was going towards the caves. Her grandfather always told her it was too dangerous and she could only go when she was older. Now, here she was, older and ready to face the danger.
She arrived at a small beach covered in stones and a small cave elevated above, to the left. She made her way inside and called out, “Miguel!” but no one responded. The place was littered in cobwebs and old bones hanging off crooked pieces of rock. Maggie was even cautious, only walking closely behind Rose instead of boldly leading the way. Then, in the distance she could see a flame burning and a fire roaring. She approached slowly and sitting across from the fire was a man, dressed in black with a fur coat. He put his cup of tea down and greeted them, “You must be Rose.”
The man patted Maggie on the forehead and she licked his hand as a sign of trust. He directed Rose to a wooden seat and offered her some tea. Rose spoke abruptly, “Are you Miguel? My grandpa said you’d know what to do…I need to stop the pirates!”
The man looked at the fire and back to Rose, “Yes, I’m Miguel. I knew you’d come one day and your grandfather was right to send you here. Follow me…”
Rose looked hesitant, and then murmured the words, “I am strong enough for this” to herself again and responded with confidence, “Alright, let’s go.”
Miguel lead them both out of the cave to the stone beach again. There was no water and no fish. Miguel raised his hands over his mouth and whistled a soft tune to the melody of the winds. It sounded like he was soothing nature to sleep, just like a baby. As he whistled, the trees rumbled and suddenly Rose’s feet felt wet. She looked down and the stones disintegrated to clear blue water, running along a stream. The stones became water and a beach appeared. The trees rumbled louder and then, suddenly, a kelpie was in front of her with a tiny pink fairy floating over its head. The kelpie, that looked like an angelic horse, trotted closer to Rose and whispered, “We’ve been waiting for you.”
Rose couldn’t believe it. All the stories were true and finally she was able to meet the forest creatures her grandfather had told her all the stories about. She raised her hand slowly towards the kelpie’s fur, which was black with strokes of white. As she touched him, he said quietly, “We’re so glad you came. We miss your grandfather, Harold.” Rose pulled her hand back to her side and looked up at the kelpie’s eyes and smiled. She turned towards Miguel and asked,
“My grandpa knew about this? Why didn’t he take me here?”
Miguel responded, “He wanted to wait until you were ready. Now come back to the cave, I have a lot to show you.”
The three of them made their way back to the cave and sat down by the fire. Miguel handed Rose a small bag with a pink ribbon, just like the one her grandfather gave her. She opened it and inside was a purple gemstone.
Miguel explained, “This gemstone is for you. If you combine it with the blue one on your necklace, it will summon the rest of the forest creatures. Once they see the purple light, they will come and help you.”
Rose took the gemstone and asked confused, “But how? How will they see the light?”
Miguel smirked and said confidently, “Only the forest creatures can see the purple light. It’s a secret between you and them.”
Miguel rummaged in his box and handed Rose another thing. It was a piece of paper with a word written on it, he gave it to her and said, “This will summon another creature that will help you, Rose. I saved this creature when I was younger from the waters of Galicia, my homeland. I brought the egg back to Scotland, to this Island, and raised it all by myself. Until your grandfather came, and then every week he came here to help me look after it and in return I would teach him Spanish. You see, this creature only understands Spanish which is why she doesn’t come out for everyone. Only those who can speak her language.”
Rose smiled as she thought of her grandfather. On their trips to the Island, apart from the necessities, he would bring a Spanish poetry book with him titled, Soledades, galerías y otros poemas (1903 y 1907) by Antonio Machado. He would read her verses of the poetry as they sat by the beach and watched the sunset. Rose had one favourite line from the poem Soledades which read: “Yo iba haciendo mi camino, absorto en el solitario crepúsculo campesino.” That line resonated with her every time she looked out her windowsill from the cottage, as the colours faded from orange and red, to deep purple and blue at sunset. She knew at this moment her grandfather wanted to prepare her, to be able to summon the other creature and save the Island from the pirates.
Rose put the piece of paper in her pocket and asked Miguel, “What is this other creature? and what will I call her?”
Miguel smiled and responded, “Some people call her a monster, others call her a beauty, it doesn’t matter what she is. All that matters is she’ll help you. Her name is, La Joya.”
Rose called on Maggie and said gratefully, “Muchas Gracias, Miguel.”
Maggie started wagging her tail and Rose threw her bag over her shoulder, as she climbed on top of the kelpie and rode off over the hill. The little pink fairy was hovering over Maggie, as the four of them headed towards the beach to face the pirates. Rose grabbed the gemstones and spoke to herself once more, “I am strong enough for this.” At that moment, the leaves rose from the ground and the wind got louder. The forest was suddenly alive and behind her she could see hundreds of kelpies, wildcats and fairies coming behind her. She thought back to her younger self, when she would speak to the trees, and felt comforted by their presence as they formed a line behind her. She knew that, with their support, she would save the Island and protect the salmon.
Rose charged towards the beach, grasping the gemstones and the forest creatures started running towards the pirates. Jim’s granddaughter exclaimed, “Whit the hell! Ye cannae stop us!”
Rose shouted back, “Aye we can!”
Rose looked down at her gemstones and pulled the note from her pocket as the kelpies mounted the pirates and pushed them to the ground. The fairies were sprinkling sand in their eyes, to blind them from fighting. The wildcats were ripping the cages apart, blowing fireballs into the metal to let the salmon back into the sea. Rose held the note and whispered the word, “Ayúdeme, La Joya” and closed her eyes in hope. Her necklace began to light up and a purple light beamed towards the water. Suddenly, the waves of the loch grew bigger and bigger. In the distance, a hump peeked out from the water and the waves began to rock aggressively. The hump was followed by an elongated neck reaching up, high into the sky. The hump got closer and then a green face appeared from out of the water, its eyes looked over to Rose and twinkled at her, a small sign that she had understood. Then with its huge tail, it swept the beach and flushed the pirates far out to sea, leaving only the forest creatures and Rose. All Rose could hear was a faint shout in the distance from Jim’s granddaughter, “Ye’ll pay fur this!” as her head nodded off in the distance, between the waves.
Rose ran to the water, but before she could say anything, la Joya disappeared under the water and back to the depths of the loch. So many people had tried to catch a glimpse at la Joya before and many believed her real name was the Loch Ness Monster, but Rose knew she was anything but a monster. She was the real guardian of the Island. She realised, as the hump sunk beneath the water that she wasn’t going to get any closer, but she didn’t need to. La Joya came when she needed her and now she got the beach back. Rose walked towards the water and Maggie came running behind her, cuddling into her arm. Rose looked down at the shallow water and could see one Salmon, which swam off when Maggie moved her paw. Rose whispered, “Go swim, little friend.”
As Rose stood back up, she let out a deep sigh of relief. Behind her was the same kelpie that she met at the cave, and the little pink fairy perched on its nose. The fairy flew closer to Rose, circling her head, looking at her up and down. Then, she covered Rose in a glitter dust which transformed her clothes into a purple tartan dress, which fell just before her knees. The fairy returned to the kelpie’s nose and said, “Now, you are our new leader. Welcome home.” Rose held the gemstone necklace close to heart and squeezed them together. She spoke softly,
“It’s good to be home.”
By Sarah Yule.
Glasgow, United Kingdom
Produced by: Eugenio Zorrilla
This is fiction.