Legends tell of a beautiful land, known as Tír Fo Thuinn, that exists on the ocean floor just off the western shores of Éire. A land where creatures who once conquered the lands above now live in exile. A land where mortals cannot go. A land that some say exists only in fairy tales. Sometimes fairy tales are lies, told to children who cannot be trusted to do what they are told out of love or respect for their parents, in hopes that fear of punishment or the promise of reward might keep them in line. Sometimes they are superstitions, a rustling branch in the howling wind mistaken for a woman, come to foretell of the death that would be discovered the next day, or a misplaced gold piece that could only be the fault of some mischievous sidhe thief.
But Áine knew Merrow were real. She had seen one when she was six years old. She had been playing too close to the cliff, and as the tide rolled out, she spotted something sitting on a rock that was barely poking out of the water. She turned and called to her father, but by the time she turned back around, it was gone. At the time, she thought it was a Selkie, and her father almost convinced her that it had just been a seal. But there were aspects of the creature that did not line up with either — the tail looked scaled, the top half looked very much like a lady.
While she took every opportunity she could to try and spot the creature on the rock again - which was a challenge after the trouble she had gotten into for being so close to the cliff - it was not until she was ten that she saw another one. By that time, she not only knew what a Merrow was, she had spent countless hours poring over legends and fairy tales about them.
The second Merrow she saw was not on the rock, and it was not at a time when she had been expecting to see one. Instead, while playing on a beach not far from her home, she had wandered into a small cave to explore. There, in the cave, near a pool that likely led under the rocks and out into the ocean, was a beautiful woman with a long red robe and a red knitted cap in her hand. Her robe dragged the ground, but it was neither wet nor dirty. The woman looked at Áine with surprise and began swiftly walking toward the mouth of the cave.
“Wait, please,” Áine called after her. The woman did not stop. Instead, her steps seemed to hasten. Áine began to run after her. “Please, are you a Merrow? I have read so much about you. I think I saw one of your kind once near my home.” The woman continued swiftly moving out of the cave and toward the land. Áine kept pace beside her and repeated “I saw one of your kind once, and I thought she was a Selkie. How ridiculous of me, I know. But you have to understand, I didn’t even know about Merrows then. I wish you would stop and talk to me. I only want to know more about Tír Fo Thuinn. It sounds like such a wonderful place, not like this boring place where I’m confined to the ground and everyone fears the freedom of the open sea. Everyone goes on about the beauty,” she winced, “but all I see is green.”
When they reached the edge of the beach, Áine’s mother called out for her. She stopped and turned back to see her mother walking toward the cave. Her mother had not seen her yet, but there might be trouble if she did not hurry back. When she turned back around, the woman was gone.