The Finwife’s Bride

He snatched me away from the beach on an otherwise normal day, one where I was taking a break from my duties at home. 

The beach was a sanctuary to me, a respite of sorts. I served my father and brothers, my mother having died some years prior, and as the sole daughter it fell to me to keep the house in order. My father drank a lot of our money, and if he was unhappy with anything, I could expect a beating. He had administered one the day prior after I broke a dish while washing up, and as I paddled at the shore I had to take care that I kept my scars and bruises from touching the salt water lest they worsen. 

From such a distance, you would think I’d have been safe from the sad fate of being snatched away – but they were crafty creatures, and my mother had warned me about them years prior as she told me stories by our fireside before putting me to bed each night. 

“You must be careful of the finfolk, Rebecca,” she had warned me. “They are crafty and ruthless, and they don’t care who they hurt.” 

I had initially mistaken him for a clump of seaweed, floating gradually closer, and as such it had never once registered with me that I was in any kind of danger. This was the shape he had taken to conceal himself from me until close enough that I could be easily grabbed. When this happened, I struggled and shouted as best I could, but my captor was too strong for me. 

I remember little of the journey from the beach to Hildaland, where he and his people resided, a place that I had not previously been aware existed. I recall being inside a fast moving boat, but alone inside it, as if he had transformed into it and was carrying me back. We landed on the shore and he regained his true form, gathered me in his arms, and took me home. I had given up struggling, for it was futile, and as he carried me I got a good look at him. He was tall, with a hard, stern face, and his skin was a strange greyish colour. He moved like a human on land, but I remember his forearms and calves had silvery fins on them, like gauntlets. When my mother told me about the finfolk, she assured me that the humans they snatched were never seen again. I was terrified, but had no choice to resign myself to my fate – I would be forced to become a finman’s bride and do his bidding for as long as I lived, never to return to my family again. I could not decide if this was a better or worse fate than that of serving my father, for I did not expect much more kindness from my captor. It was well known that no human ever snatched away by the finfolk returned from the ordeal. 

The finman brought me into his home and set me to work immediately. He informed me that this was my lot now, as his wife, and that he expected me to be loyal and dutiful at all times, and that I was to bend to his will as he commanded. All I could do was nod in agreement, but I felt ill thinking about it. 

I spent my first night in that house weeping bitterly, cursing myself for my lack of diligence. I had hoped eventually to escape my father’s house, perhaps to a husband who loved me, but now I was a prisoner of another master in a strange land I could never return from. As it was, my new husband was a stricter and crueller master even than my father had been – nothing I did was ever right, or ever good enough, and he was even stronger and more aggressive than my father had ever been. The food I was given to eat was meagre and barely enough to sustain me – at least in my father’s house he acknowledged that I deserved a fair portion of the meal I had cooked for him, but my husband did not extend me that same courtesy. 

Only two or three nights after abducting me, for that is what it was, my husband first summoned me to his bed. This was another duty I found myself with no choice in – it was at his command always, and I had no say in what happened to my own body in this instance. He would strip me naked with the same hunger and speed as one unwraps a much anticipated gift, and when he entered me, it was always forcefully. When he had finished with me, he would roll over and go to sleep, while I lay awake sobbing in the dark, a burning sensation between my legs. 

As time went on, I found myself becoming thinner and weaker, and more bruises appeared on my body, including my private area. Because of this, when the changes first occurred I barely noticed them – but eventually the webbing that appeared between my fingers and toes became more prominent, along with the scaly ridges each finger and toe individually developed. When I realised this I wept again. I was truly a prisoner of the finfolk now, and I dreaded the prospect that, eventually, I would turn into one of them too. 

I wasn’t alone in the home with my husband, though – his sister lived with him also. She was a strikingly beautiful creature, as all finwives were, but shy and awkward. Her brother regularly mocked and abused her for the failures he perceived in her, treating her as one treats a pebble in their shoe. It was essential that she find a human husband, lest her beauty would deteriorate noticeably until she became a hag, and were she to take a mate from her own kind she would be enslaved as I was. She eventually came to take pity on me, and she would sneak food to me whenever she had the chance. After some time, it began to make a difference, and I found my strength gradually returning to me. Whenever she could, she and I spent time in one another’s company, and she would assist me with my work even though it wasn’t her duty to do so. As such, she and I would form a strong, deep bond, finding solace in one another. After some time, she even told me her name – Mara. Her brother, who called himself my husband even though he was more of a master, wouldn’t tell me his, and she was strictly forbidden to do so – I was only to call him ‘master’ or maybe ‘husband’ if he was in the mood for it. He didn’t even bother to learn mine, because to him, I was just his wife, a glorified servant. Mara not only learned my name, but she would repeat it as often as she was able to, as if she enjoyed feeling it pass her lips when she spoke, and I loved hearing her say it aloud. Rebecca, Rebecca, Rebecca… 

She often went out to try and capture a man from the same shores as I had been snatched from, but she never succeeded. Eventually, as our bond strengthened, she would let me see her off at the beach as she swam away on yet another fruitless quest for a husband, and meet her when she returned in the evenings. I would watch as she transformed, her slender grey legs morphing into a fabulous silver fish tail, and I marvelled at the sight. It amazed me, then, that her efforts to woo human men proved fruitless. They didn’t know her like I did, because if they did, surely they would be fighting over her. 

I met her on her return one evening, where she sat and wept on the shore, her tears dripping down her face onto that gorgeous tail. 

“It’s hopeless,” she sobbed. “I will become an old hag.” 

I sat by her, took her hand, and squeezed it tightly. “You’ll always be beautiful to me,” I told her. 

She looked at me in surprise. “Do you mean that?” 

“Of course,” I replied. 

She blushed and looked down at her lap, then back up at me again. She smiled at me, and I returned the gesture. Then she moved a little closer to me and started to stroke my cheek with her thin webbed fingers. I put my arm around her waist and pulled her closer still, so that our bodies touched, and I gently caressed the point where her skin merged seamlessly into her scales, beguiled by the sensation of the change. Then we leaned towards one another and our lips collided. Her mouth tasted of salt and felt like home. We lay down in the sand together and embraced, and I felt her tail coil protectively around my legs as we did. She was giving me the love and affection I had craved for so long, which was certainly more than her cruel brother ever did. 

Finally, the kiss ended, and for a time we lay there in the sand together in silence, holding one another tightly. I ran my fingers through her wet hair, and she rested her face into the small of my neck. Ultimately she was the one who broke the silence. She sat up and gripped both of my hands in hers tightly. 

“Come away with me, Rebecca,” she whispered to me. “Let’s leave this place and go back to your home, and we’ll get away from my brother and his wicked ways. I know a small cottage near the beach where we can live. You can be my bride instead, and I swear to you, I will love and protect you forever.” 

I lay there and took in what she had just said to me. “I want to, Mara,” I answered her, “but no human has ever escaped from this place. You know that as well as I do.” 

A wry, mischievous smile crossed Mara’s face. “Well then,” she said confidently, “wouldn’t it be fine to be the first?” 

I couldn’t argue with that. I hated living in Hildaland, and I knew that, when the weather cooled for winter, that the finfolk would move on to their usual home in Finfolkaheem, a kingdom under the sea where it never got dark, and I would be expected to travel on there also. I would be subjected to the same life as the one here. Being back in my own land would be better, and now I would have someone to go to who wasn’t my awful father. I looked at Mara and smiled back at her. 

“I’m certainly happy to try,” I told her. 

With that, Mara moved a little closer again and gathered me up in her arms. I was surprised by how strong she was. I put my arms around her neck and leaned in to her breast. 

“Hold on tight,” she whispered to me. “It won’t be long.” And she dove back into the water, holding me tightly as she did. 

Again, I remember little of the journey back, but next I knew we were laid on the sand of the beach from where her brother had first snatched me. I was soaked to the skin, so we lay in the sun together so I could dry off and warm up. She wrapped her tail around me again and furnished my lips, cheeks and neck with more waxy, salty kisses, and in that moment I wanted to be nowhere else. 

Since we couldn’t return to my father’s house, we had to find another one. Mara knew another finwife who had been unable to find a husband either on land or from her own kind, and so had gone to live among humans and find work as a spaewife. She had, of course, aged rapidly as unwed finwives are wont to do, and for all that she certainly looked old enough to be our grandmother she could possibly have been much younger. She welcomed us warmly into her home, for she so rarely saw any of her own kind nowadays, and was happy to let us stay with her. She and Mara were like a mother and daughter, and after we moved in to the spaewife’s cottage I noticed a huge change in Mara. She glowed brighter than the phosphorescence in Finfolkaheem from the joy she now exuded, and I grew to love her more and more every day as a result. We would lie in bed together at night, sharing more warm salt kisses, falling asleep in one another’s arms. Mara didn’t miss her old life – she moved on land with elegance, grace and poise, as if she’d always lived there.
The years passed, and as they did, the spaewife grew older and frailer. Eventually, her time came, and she asked Mara and I to return her body to the sea. The two of us did so, and we grieved for her intensely, the only mother either of us had ever known, who had readily accepted us into her home and encouraged our love for one another. We walked back up the beach holding hands tightly, as we always did, and we talked about our love for her and all the kind things she’d done for us. Mara was aware that she had come close to a similar fate in her life. 

“I thought my whole future would rest upon finding a husband,” she told me. “Then you came along and changed it all, and never once have I looked back. We both have been free of my brother all these years, and I shall not grow old so quickly, and we are both able to live our lives as we please.” 

I nodded. I peered down at my hands, where the ridges and scales that had sprouted when her brother had enslaved me had long fallen off and faded away. Hers were the same now, more human than finwife. He had never once come looking for us, or if he had, then he had yet to find us, but I owed my very life and freedom to her, and no matter what came next the two of us would always have each other.