This is a short story collection containing the stories City of the Dead, A Prophecy of Coconuts, Revenge of the Ginger, The Dangers of Gardening, Race Against the Clock, Love and Robots, Of Pirates & Sea MonstersAt first glance Inverness may seem ordinary, but the city has more than one magical secret.

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“No offence, the landscape is breath-taking and it’s a great place to study Marine Biology but it’s…Well, it’s just so…” I looked around the Ness River Islands, where I was sitting on a bench. “Quiet. Eerily so.”

“That’s what you get from going to the highlands for what is supposed to be the prime of your youth,” my best friend’s speech was interrupted by someone else’s laugh.

“Aleesha, are you still there?”

“You won’t believe it, Carol,” she gushed. “Mickey just turned up and got us VIP tickets for a gig. He says he can get us into the after show party. London is so exciting; so many things happening at the same time. I really gotta go now. Busy, busy. Byeee.

“Bye,” I said, although the only response was the beeping sound, which signified Aleesha had hung up. “Thanks for being such a great friend.”

I shoved the mobile back into my pocket and hugged myself. I had been aware Scotland didn’t have the kind of hot weather, where all you wanted to do was tear off your clothes and jump into the cool water but I had underestimated the sharp wind which gripped Inverness’s every nook and cranny with its icy fingers.

“You’re new in town, aren’t you?”

I shrieked in surprise and turned around. “Sorry. I hadn’t expected any civilization in this abandoned part of town.”

The young man cocked his head. “You do realize this is the city centre?”

“Yes,” I said. “And in comparison to London’s city centre it’s, to put it nicely, a ghost town. Sorry, I’m complaining too much. I just find it weirdly eerie. You’re in my introduction workshop, aren’t you?”

“Aye,” he said and sat next to me. “You’re Carol, aren’t you? I’m Finbarr.”

“Finbarr,” I repeated, trying to imitate the rolling r sound he used. “That sounds very pirate-y, no offence.”

“Pirate-y is good,” he chuckled. “If it’s easier for you, though, you are welcome to call me Finn.”

“Alright, Finn,” I said. “Where are you from to think Inverness is such a metropolis?”

“Inverness,” he replied.

“Oops. I walked right into that one, didn’t I?”

“It’s okay,” he smiled. “I think London is an absolutely terrible place. Way too much noise, traffic and people. Ugh. I get a nervous attack just thinking about it.”

“Maybe you’d like it if you tried going there,” I suggested.

“Tried it, hated it.” He shuddered, but not from the cold like me I assumed, since he was wearing a t-shirt, while I was trying to crawl into my anorak like a turtle. “I couldn’t wait to come back to this magnificent city.”

He took such a deep breath of cold air I almost got a sore throat from just looking at him. “Ah, Inverness. A city so, so peaceful and yet full of adventure.”

I watched two senior citizens pass with their walking frames. “Adventures, huh?”

“Maybe, one day you’ll see,” Finn smiled. “The city reveals its secrets to those it deems worthy. If you opened your eyes and gave Inverness a chance, you might see for yourself.”

“Sure,” I said with a fake smile.

Maybe living here would become easier if I made more friends. However, I doubted Finbarr and I had anything in common, apart from our studies.

The first couple of weeks of university went by in a blur. I guessed it was a common experience for anyone who goes to university, right out of school.

You think you’re an adult and suddenly you find yourself at 10am on a Thursday, sitting in front of the TV, watching re-runs of your favourite children’s programme, while wearing ridiculous laundry (because you haven’t quite figured out how to do laundry and no one told you how often you had to do it), eating ice cream (because it’s what happens when it’s up to you to make sure food is in the fridge and you stand in a shop and have the freedom to buy anything you want. Of course you buy tons of ice cream, the soft drink your parents never let you have and…is that chocolate for half-price?), out of a container, instead of writing (aka starting to write) the 3-page essay you’re supposed to hand in tomorrow.

Ah, the first weeks as an adult, in which university students collectively regress to childlike behaviour.

It was thus, I found myself walking along the riverbank for my afternoon walk back from the library to my flat. Because I still hadn’t managed to figure out a laundry schedule between doing all the school work, I was wearing the Nessie hat Mum had sneaked into my suitcase as a joke. In other words, I was silently praying I didn’t run into any of my fellow students, especially the Scottish ones.

They would never stop teasing me.

As I looked out onto the water I thought about how quickly I had become accustomed to life in Inverness after the initial two weeks. (The laundry/grocery/etc. problems wouldn’t have been any different, had I studied somewhere else). Slowly, I was becoming less of a tourist as I had been teased the first few days, and more of a proud inhabitant of this city, which was slowly growing on me.

I sat down my book bag for a moment, (Why did I borrow so many books at the same time?), when I saw something curious in the water. I abandoned my book bag. If a thief wanted to try and take it, they’d probably end up stumbling to the ground because of its sheer weight. Besides, this was Inverness…

There it was again. There, in the river water splashed a form around. At first I thought it might be a dog, playing in the water but what kind of dog would be green?

“Hey, you,” I said gently, figuring if it hadn’t been scared off by me yet, I might as well try talking to it. It wasn’t like there were any crocodiles or other dangerous animals endemic to the River Ness. I should know. I was a marine biologist. Well, studying to be one…

Anyway, let’s explore this curious specimen.

“Hey, there,” I said again in a highly scientific voice, not at all as if I were talking to my dog.

This time the curious creature reacted. Slowly, it approached and after a moment of hesitation, hopped onto the riverbank.

It was the most fascinating creature I had ever seen and so incredibly cute.

Okay, Carol, remember: You’re a scientist now. Think scientifically, describe scientifically.

The creature was about the size of a fully-grown Golden Retriever. Its skin looked thick and leathery, like that of a reptile. However, the shape of its body reassembled a sea lion, with two fore-flippers supporting its upper body and a long tail ending in a fin, like a mermaid.

Its head looked reptilian, with teeth stumps I assumed would grow as it aged.

“Do you catch fish with those teeth?”

Barely, had the word fish left my mouth, the creature made a cooing noise at the back of its throat and opened its mouth wide, like I had observed seagulls doing, when they were begging for food.

“I’m afraid I haven’t got any with me,” I said. “Sorry I got your hopes up.”

My little creature closed its mouth again. It was hard to believe a reptilian-like creature would master the art of making puppy-dog eyes to such perfection.

“I’m sorry,” I repeated.

The creature pouted at me. Had it not made such adorable cooing noises, I would have thought it was a large stuffed non-scary monster meant to be a children’s toy.

Great description, Carol, I told myself sarcastically. Next thing you are going to say is it looks like Nessie. Wait a moment….

What if the Nessie sightings really were due to an unknown species, roaming the shores of Loch Ness?

If I were to discover them, universities would beg me to do my PhD with them, maybe on a scholarship.

“Alright,” I said to the creature, although I doubted it was such a sentient being it understood human language, let alone English, let alone with a posh accent from the South of England rather than the gruff Scottish it must be used to hearing. “I’ll run back home to drop off my books and get my camera and on the way back, I’ll stop by the supermarket to get some fish for you.”

The little creature jumped up and down on its fore-flippers. I assumed, since this demonstration coincided with my mention of fish that this was the only word it understood.

“Great,” I said. “Meanwhile you hide underneath these bushes, okay?”

I crouched beside the bush and waited for the creature to come to me. As it passed me, it nudged my cheek with its snout and cooed again.

“Nice to meet you, too,” I chuckled.

I reached out a hand, carefully moving it closer to my little sea monster. It didn’t seem scared by this action, so I put my hand on its skin and stroked it. Although, it looked rough, it was smooth and soft.

My new friend liked being petted. It shifted its weight, so it rested on its side and raised one of its fore-flippers. When I didn’t react the way it wanted me to, it let out a wail of dissatisfaction.

Thinking of what my dog would want in this situation, I scratched its tummy. Immediately, the creature closed its eyes and made little happy noises.

It seemed I had made my first real friend in Inverness.

“You’ll wait until I come back, right?” I asked. “I’ll bring fish and you’ll get more belly rubs, okay?”

I tore myself from the adorable creature and sprinted back to my dorm, the weight of the book bag completely forgotten. I grabbed my camera and rushed to the supermarket.

Thanks to my interest in marine biology I knew which types of fish were endemic to the area and bought a selection of them, before running back to where I had found my little sea monster.

When I arrived at the riverbank I was out of breath and glad to let myself fall to the ground where I had left my new friend. However, when I looked around it wasn’t there anymore. My heart constricted with a pang of sadness. Had it all been a dream? A hallucinatory episode caused by too much studying and not enough sleep?

“Are you alright, Carol?” a voice called out from the footpath.

“Um…hi, Finn,” I greeted him. By now I had given up on ever pronouncing his full name correctly. “I’m fine, thanks.”

“Been fishing?” he asked, nodding at the plastic bag full of fish, which I was holding against my chest. One of the fishtails peeked out.

“I thought I’d make fish and chips tonight,” I claimed.

Apparently, not in a very convincing manner.

Finn raised an eyebrow. “And you were hoping to catch the chips by hiding behind a bush?”

“I’m taking a break,” I answered.

While talking to him, I tried to keep a lookout for my new friend. But the mysterious sea creature was nowhere to be seen. I hoped it would return once Finn had left.

“Nice hat,” he said.

Only now did I realize I was still wearing my ridiculous Nessie hat.

“It’s not mine,” I stammered. “I mean it was a present…meant as a joke.”

“So you weren’t trying to catch Nessie with that apparel and the fish?”

To my surprise his tone was not at all mocking. He sounded serious, as if it was a genuine question.

I hesitated, clutching the bag of fish tighter against my chest. “Of course not. The thought of discovering a new species suspiciously close to descriptions of Nessie would be silly.”

“Would it?” Finn looked out onto the river as if he were looking at something I could not see. “What a pity, for I happen to be looking for such a kind of creature.”

“You’re taking the Mickey,” I accused, feeling as if I were the butt of some Scottish inside joke, like the time during my first week, when one of my dorm mates tried to convince me there was such a thing as flying haggis.

“Have you changed your mind about Inverness yet?”

I was taken aback by his sudden change of topic and shrugged.

“Are you willing to give it another chance, then?”

“I am I suppose.”

Finn grinned. “Then let me show you a secret.”

He walked down the steep slope of the riverbank and raised his hand as if he meant to hail a taxi. I was certain he was taking the mickey now. Was it some kind of Scottish initiation ritual to pretend Nessie was real?

“Trust me,” he said, sensing my doubts.

A wall of mist gathered in front of him within seconds. It was so thick I couldn’t see anything behind it, not even the river.

“Follow me,” Finn stepped into the misty labyrinth.

“What do you think you’re doing?” I yelled as he vanished into the mist.

I threw all mistrust of him into the wind and hurried after him, calling his name. I entered the wall of mist and shuddered. My feet splashed against the water. The further I entered the swirling white labyrinth, the more certain I became that this was no ordinary fog.

Apart from its suspiciously sudden appearance, it wasn’t cold. For some reason I also had the inkling, the more I walked forward, the higher my steps took me. The fog was like a ladder of puffy clouds.

Maybe I really had gone nuts. First Nessie, and now magical mist.

“This way,” Finn called out from my left.

Then his hand appeared. I grasped it and let him pull me forward. My feet hit a hard surface. Wooden board, I saw, once I looked down.

“Welcome to my ship,” Finn grinned.

“Ship?” I echoed and looked around.

We were indeed on a ship, a wooden ship which looked like an antique and had wide white sails. On top of the mast hailed a skull and crossbones flag. Where did this ship come from? A ship of this size could not be overlooked, especially by someone who had been inconspicuously scanning the river and its shore for a certain sea creature.

“Yes,” Finn said, puffing out his chest with pride. “Welcome aboard the Mysterious Mist. Not the most imaginative name, I grant you, but certainly one of the best ships I’ve ever had the honour of sailing.”

“You have sailed many ships, then?” I asked, out of a reflex for social interactions I did not know I possessed.

“Well, yes but this is by far the most magnificent one,” he said.

I didn’t listen while he prattled on, throwing around out-dated nautical terms unfamiliar to me (when I imagined going on expeditions I always envisioned a bit more modern version of transportation). Instead, I tried to gather my bearings.

First there had been a curious creature, which had never been documented before. I could live with that. Gladly, even. However, a pirate ship appearing out of magical mist seemed too fantastical to be true.

And yet, as I ran my hand over the railing, I felt real wood. The wind against my face was as real as the sound of Finn’s voice.

Sooooo…scientific approach.

Option number 1: I was going crazy or somehow mentally confused, i.e. dreaming, hallucinating etc.

Option number 2: Something unbelievably magical was happening to me.

By using the simple decision process of declaring option number one terribly boring, I decided to…just go with the flow and go on a magical adventure.

“So you own this ship?” I asked, interrupting Finn’s explanation of why the Magical Mist’s sails were especially extraordinary.

“Well, you don’t own a ship per se,” Finn said, clearly ready to leap into yet another lecture, when a new voice interrupted him.

“Capt’n Two,” a woman, who was dressed the part of a pirate, called out to him. “Where have you run off to now, you scurvy landlubber.”

Finn rolled his eyes. “Hello, Capt’n One.”

The woman sized me up with a dark look and spat on the floor. “Shame on you. You brought one of the landlubbers on board.”

“The landlubber’s name is Carol,” I said.

“This,” Finn said, giving the woman a martyred look, “is my twin, Fiona, who thinks just because she was born five minutes before me, she is the more important Captain on this ship.”

“I told you it’s fine if you want to bring friends,” she told him in the unmistakeable tone of siblings being annoyed with each other. “It would be nice if you warned me, so I won’t blast her off the ship with a canon. Also, in case you haven’t noticed, now is not exactly the best time, what with our mission.”

“Mission?” I repeated, “That sounds interesting. Tell me more.”

Evidently, I had thrown all caution, and doubts, into the wind and fully accepted my role of adventurous explorer. Nothing could scare me and everything was exciting. Yo ho, a pirate’s life for me. Arrr.

Fiona gave him a stern look. “Finn, don’t you dare –”

“It’s like this,” Finn interrupted her. Fiona seemed used to this kind of behaviour and merely rolled her eyes, while Finn explained with a huge grin, “Our family have been kind of guardians of Loch Ness ever since Urquhart was abandoned.”

“Urquhart is the castle, well now it’s just ruins, next to the Loch Ness,” Fiona explained upon seeing my confused look. “It was partially blown up to avoid reoccupation of the castle by Jacobites.”

“Right, ever since then it’s been our duty to watch over the loch and its inhabitants.”

“You mean like the fish and water striders?”

“Our biggest concern is a different one,” Fiona said and lifted with the tip of her sabre the ends of my Nessie hat.

You’re kidding.

This would have been my first reaction under normal circumstances. Given I had decided to go along with whatever was happening, I exclaimed instead, “That explains the creature I found this morning.”

“You what?” Fiona asked, elbowing her brother harshly in the side when he tried to interrupt. “What did the creature look like?”

I described what I had seen reluctantly, although it was clear that if anyone would ever believe me, it was those two.

“For once in my life I’m afraid I have to say well done, little brother.”

Finn smirked. “I told you making friends wouldn’t kill you.”

“Can someone please tell me why we are so happy?” I asked.

“We brought the Magical Mist to Inverness because of an extremely important mission,” Fiona explained and added with a sideways look at her twin, in a teasing tone. “Well, other than dropping off wee Finbarr for his first day at university.”

“What she means to say,” Finn huffed, “is that while we were on babysitting duty, we sort of…naturally not on purpose…”

“We lost Baby Nessie,” Fiona said. “Now we have to find her, before Mama Nessie finds out and eats us. I guess Baby Nessie thought you looked like one of her kind because of your sil…interesting hat. Consequently, welcome to our mission.”

“Thanks. Well, I saw…Baby Nessie less than an hour ago at this riverbank. I promised her to bring fish, which she seemed to be enthusiastic about but when I returned she wasn’t behind the bush where I had left her anymore.”

“You know what that means,” Finn said in a sing-song voice. “You have to set foot onto land.”

“You have to set foot on land,” she said. “You and your new friend will search the riverbank inconspicuously, while I will take the Magical Mist up and down the river to look for Baby Nessie. Off you go.”

“I –”

“Walk the plank,” she said, jabbing her sabre in our direction.

“Ladies first,” Finn said.

“It’s terribly nice but I haven’t got the foggiest about how to get down from here.”

“It’s easy.” Finn threw first one, then the other leg over the side of the ship and hopped down, so he stood on the mist, which still surrounded the vessel. “See.”

Okay. Sure. Why not? I had arrived this way on the ship, although I had not known what I was doing at this time. I should be able to get off it the same way.

I copied Finn’s movements and voila I was walking on the magical mist myself. I was grateful I could not see the ground because if I had been able to see how far I was up in the air with no solid ground to keep me from falling, I probably would have remembered my fear of heights and passed out.

Finn and I walked down the wall of mist and broke through it, resurfacing on the plain shore of the River Ness. Considering I still had a plastic bag full of fish in my hand, I thought, we might as well use it.

I unwrapped a pair of fish fillets and handed one of them to Finn, saying, “Let’s just hope we don’t run into anyone we know or this is going to end up in an awfully weird situation.”

Finn accepted the fish. “Do you mean weirder than finding out Nessie is real and being on board a magical pirate ship?”

“Never mind.”

We searched both sides of the river, calling out Nessie’s name and waving around fish fillets.

“School project about stereotypical perception of Inverness,” I told passers-by, holding up my camera.

The few people we encountered ignored us and kept walking, pulling their children or pets closer to them.

In spite of our efforts and the possible sacrifice of our reputation, our search was in vain. Almost an hour later, we still hadn’t found the slightest trace of Baby Nessie.

“I hope she didn’t get hurt,” I said, genuinely worried for my new sea monster friend.

“We’ll find her,” Finn said, contemplating the fish in his hands. “I’m sure of it. If not…”

“If not?”

“Let’s not think about that for now,” he said with a forced smile. “Mama Nessie can be a teensy bit temperamental, especially when Baby Nessie is concerned.”

“You mean if we don’t fine Bane, we are going to end up as sea monster fodder?”

“More or less, yeah.” He let his fish fillet fall back into my plastic bag. “Bane?”

“Baby Nessie,” I explained, emphasizing the letters I had used to create the abbreviation. “What’s plan B?”

“I’m not sure,” Finn said, dejectedly. “I suppose we’ll have to see what Fiona found out.”

Finn wiped his hands on his trousers and took a compass from his pocket. Although, I still got lost in Inverness from time to time, I knew the magnetic needle didn’t point north. He turned the magnetic needle as if he was dialling a code.

The wall of mist appeared as if…well by magic. Fiona stepped from the white wall, with one hand on her hip. “I have found a clue. What have you been up to, you scurvy landlubbers.”

Finn stammered, clearly too annoyed his sister had been more successful than him. “I…we…”

“What clue have you found?” I interrupted him.

“I saw a group of young men, fellow students of yours, I presume, carrying a suspicious bin liner from the river.”

“Suspicious, how exactly?”

“It was moving and making little sea monster noises,” Fiona replied. “The kind that tends to alert an even bigger sea monster, which happens to have a penchant for eating people trying to harm or being stupid enough to lose its young while being supposed to babysit it.”

“How often has this happened, losing Bane?”

“You don’t want to know,” Finn whispered, so his twin wouldn’t hear. “One would think by now we’d have become more apt at locating the little sh…I mean sea creature. It’s adorable, sure, but it gets lost so often it’s not funny anymore.”

“So you don’t have experience in how to find Bane?”

“Usually, she returns on her own account because she gets hungry. Until now it was always in time, before we were eaten. To answer your question, we have no idea what we are doing. Protecting these little monsters may have been something our family has been obliged to for centuries but it doesn’t mean it’s an innate skill. Grandpa always said wildlife animals aren’t pets and confusing these two concepts can be deadly.”

“Why isn’t your grandpa here now, helping you?”

“He got eaten.”

“By Nessie?”

“No, it was the giant squid in Loch Lomond.”

“You’re pulling my leg, aren’t you?”

After all the strange things I had seen today it was impossible to say whether he was teasing me or telling the truth. I hoped it was the first; even if it meant the only human I had made friends with so far, had a peculiar sense of humour.

“Enough with the family history,” Fiona said, pushing us forwards, when she had descended from the wall of mist. “And enough of the defeatist attitude. Just because we don’t know how to capture the little terror doesn’t mean we’re going to fail and meet a horrible death at the thin, yet terribly sharp teeth of a Scottish tourist attraction.”

Fiona, still clad in her pirate outfit, including an impressive hat, led the way, swinging the sabre in her hand as she lectured us, “I think they’re bringing it to the police, at least that’s what I heard one of them suggest. Therefore, I suggest we march there, gain entrance by claiming to report a crime and retrieve the bin liner, before any more people get involved.”

“What about the people who have seen Bane?” I asked, afraid Fiona would go so far as to suggest killing them.

“No one would ever believe them,” Fiona dismissed my doubts.

We walked across the bridge and up the hill, on which the city centre was located. Fiona made a turn to the right and we followed her up a flight of stairs. It was yet another shortcut I had not discovered in my short time in the city, leading directly to Inverness Castle.

Yes, the Inverness Castle which was built on top of the ruins of the very castle where, according to Shakespeare, Macbeth resided, before he was killed. Nowadays it was the Sherriff’s Court and police station.

“Look, over there,” Fiona exclaimed.

She pointed at the group of youths she had described. Three young men and one young woman carried a huge bin liner whose contents moved between them.

“We found Nessie,” they exclaimed in almost perfect unison and held up the bin liner.

“Yeah sure,” the policewoman said annoyed. “Why don’t you sober up and return the dog or whatever you’ve got in there, before you get into trouble?”

The (presumably) students (because who else has time to take long walks along the river at odd times of the day) protested.

“I have better things to do with my time,” she said. “Go home or I’ll arrest you for obstruction of justice.”

“Sorry,” Fiona called out, walking over to the group of students and policewoman. “I’m so sorry. Children, eh?”

“Who are you?” the policewoman asked, rather bored than annoyed.

“Their drama school tutor who hopefully won’t get fired because her students ran off during class,” she improvised and gave them one of her best mean Captain looks.

This confused the youths into silence and satisfied the policewoman.

“I’ll take this,” Fiona continued and grabbed the bin liner from the students with surprising strength. “Thank you, goodbye and detention for you four. Report to Mrs Foster’s office at once and don’t think I won’t check.”

Then she dragged the struggling bin liner away from the stunned policewoman and students. As she approached us, I whispered, “Was rescuing Bane really that easy?”

“No,” Finn said. “I guess we’ve got about ten seconds until they break free from their stupor and start running after us.”

I glanced back at the red-brick castle. The policewoman had returned inside, while the students unfroze.

“Run,” I screamed.

Finn and I both took a corner of the bin liner and carrying it between us, we ran.

I didn’t know how heavy I expected Nessie Junior to be but boy was she heavy. Even between us three, she slowed us down immensely.

We dragged the bin liner past an old man who sat alone on a park bench. His eyes followed us with an amused expression.

“What have you got in there?” The man joked, “Your brother?”

“A corpse,” Fiona snapped.

Fortunately, the man accepted her sense of humour and laughed.

“Over there,” Finn said, beckoning with his head at a large puddle of water.

“It’s small but it will have to do.”

Fiona and Finn pulled out identical compasses and dialled a code with the magnetic needle, like Finn had done before. Within seconds the by now familiar wall of mist reappeared and carried us on board the Magical Mist.

“Those students can’t see us, can they?” I asked, as I leaned over the railing, trying to catch my breath.

“I doubt it,” Finn answered, joining me at the railing.

While we were preoccupied, Fiona attached the corner of the bin liner to sails hanging from the mast, thereby creating a sort of playpen, from which Bane couldn’t escape.

“Set the sails, landlubbers,” Captain Fiona yelled.

Her brother tugged on sails and ran around the deck, while his sister took over the steering wheel. I decided to hold on to the mast to keep my balance, while the ship swayed so heavily. Next to me, Bane squeaked carelessly in its pen, regardless of the seriousness of the situation.

The ship moved forward at such furious speed, the mist surrounding the ship became translucent. I saw the city flash by, the suburbs give away to parks and golf courses. As we raced along the countryside, taking sharp turns at the river bends, I saw smaller villages appear and disappear just as quickly.

The river widened as we entered Loch Ness. Amidst the beautiful loch, which was surrounded by vast forests and gentle hills, it was hard to believe how many tourists came here every year. The single sign of civilization were the ruins of Urquhart Castle.

The Magical Mist came to an abrupt halt in the middle of the loch. I staggered and fell back against the mast. Baby Nessie yelped.

Finn and Fiona came running and began loosening the sails. Bane hopped around in its cradle until one side of the bin liner broke and Bane jumped from its confines. It hopped onto the floor.

The twins made shooing motions, trying to get Bane to move forward.

“Walk the plank, dearie,” Fiona said, waving her sabre encouragingly.

Baby Nessie moved forward unto the plank and jumped down. The moment it touched the water it moved gracefully and swiftly rather than slowly and clumsily as it did on land. A moment later, Baby Nessie was joined by a much larger version of itself. Larger as in so huge it’s a mystery how anyone could miss it.

Mama Nessie nuzzled its young, while letting out noises akin to a dolphin. It was a surprisingly touching sight, not only because we had not been eaten but also because the two Nessies were so happy to be reunited.

“You know,” I said, talking to Finn in a low voice, “I always thought if I ever encountered something magical it would be in London because it’s such an amazingly strange city and yet in all my eighteen years there I never encountered anything truly extraordinary at all. I come to Inverness, a lonely country village by London standards, and after a few weeks I find a magical pirate ship and Nessie.”

“I told you,” Finn smiled, gazing at the reunited sea monsters. “All you have to do is give it a chance and you’ll find out how amazing Inverness is. You just need to open your eyes to see it.”

Copyright Julia Fellner 2014

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