Welcome back to the story! If you don't wish to use the Selkies' Skin tag to find the entries, check the ToC on the Sticky Note at Dreamwidth. Story is mirrored to myLiveJournal, from my Dreamwidth, as well as on a dedicated site. For story news and more, subscribe to my Twitter (@AmehanaArashi) or go on Facebook and like either THG StarDragon Publishing or Selkies' Skins. As always, the main tag for the full story is selkies' skins and the tag for "Temple and Skinquest" is selkies' skins 2. Book one (Castle and Well) of Selkies' Skins is available in entirety in ebook format as of March 16th, beginning at Smashwords. The print edition is now available on Amazon and Lulu with Samantha Buckley's stunning cover depicting Kirsty and the storm. An audio edition of the first book in the series narrated by Illya Leonov and now available on Amazon, iTunes, and Audible, with other venues pending. He has finished "Book of Seals: Pearls of Sea and Stone" which accompanies and precedes Selkies' Skins: Castle and Well which will be available in full audiobook format soon. (click to hear what he sounds like in past recordings of other projects)
And back to the future, or the past, or...? This must make her head hurt.
Selkies' Skins 2
Section 2: Temple's Light
Chapter 11 part 1
Whispers in the Dark, Color of the Pelt
Kirsty frowned as the world solidified around her once more, shaking her head and leaning on the cool rock walls of the labyrinth. “That was strange...” she murmured to herself while awaiting her eyes to adjust and gathering the strength to cast another light. “Was that just a dream, or was I really with David?”
No answer came. The only movement was the soft pulse of the water. There was a tide drawing her onward.
Every step deeper into the labyrinth she fed out more of the thread she’d spun. Every passage she explored made her feel more as if she were the shuttle in a loom, or a needle in a tapestry, weaving something inarticulately intricate. To pass the time she half imagined that exploring the passages was stitching together furs or knitting a mantle that would fall over her shoulders to become her skin.
Some turns brought confusion, others clarity. In places she had to double back while in others she found herself crossing her own path. The sensation of hands working through her memories and desires never left her.
Naked. Naked summed it up very well, and she was already that. Thank goodness for her pelt.
Eventually the light from her witchfire could no longer cut the gloom. The water grew colder. Another turn. More flicks of her tail. Kirsty gave up the effort of keeping the ball going. When she tried she was unable to conjure another.
The thread had waxed thick and then thin again as she had explored. Where it pulled from her heart now felt thorny, tacky. There was a strange oozing sensation from where the thread separated from her body and a strange taste filled the water. It wasn’t quite pus, but that was the only thing she could compare it to.
Before her was another choice of three passages, each identical. Each the same ink that enveloped her now, devouring her and the slight glow from the thread.
Pressure mounted. Fur pricked.
Kirsty chose the middle path. The floor and walls rotated around her, spinning her faster and faster. She crushed to the wall, the pressure mounting even more, felt like she was finally at the point that her juices would run out of her nose. Ludicrously she had an image of a centrifuge extracting her serum.
For what purpose?
The room stopped and she wobbled out of the nearest door. Her vision was so splintered she wasn’t sure if there was one, two, or if more had grown while the walls whirled.
Movement, unseen but felt. Large, looming hulks that could not have possibly fit in the rocky passages.
Another set of passages spread before her, each with a different triskele. To further complicate things each also denoted a different moon phase. Kirsty groaned internally. The last time she encountered the moon shi had been both problematic and helpful.
“I’m beyond tired of gates.” Kirsty thought as her hair spread in the tidal pulse. Each strand grasped and tasted the energies shifting and passing by.
She closed her eyes and focused on the sounds beyond each. Each passage gave a different chill.
The eyes were back.
Head still spinning she tried to remember, since this was a labyrinth, if she’d thought she was going in, or going out. Deosil was The Lady’s preference. Yet this was all supposed to be prover her worthy of Mara’s favor, secrets, and a skin of her own.
Mara walked a dark and lonely path. Mara hid things, protected things. Widdershins it would be then, but wait. The middle path? Middle balanced dark and light. She served both water goddesses. Should she take that middle route and balance them? Was it not about them at all, but herself?
Was she overthinking?
Into the dark.
Through the passage, past the lintel and eaves with the strange glyphs. A barrier met her here but she pushed through.
So many gates and passages.
Was there even a point anymore?
Two large orbs blazed to life, at eye height, pinning her where she stood and peering into the dark corners of her mind and soul that even she avoided acknowledging.
“What is your Name?” A deep nasal voice grated.
Somehow she had the impression it already knew. She gave her name.
“No. That is what you are known as. What is your Name?”
Kirsty gave the name given her by the loch selkies next.
“No. That too is what you are known as. What, child of the land and sea, is the Name which art thee?” The eyes drew closer and brighter.
Kirsty couldn’t look away. She was aware of shape behind the eyes. Antannae waving and stirring, reaching as her hair and whiskers did. The exact shape eluded her.
It reminded her vaguely of some Lovecraftian leviathan. Had Lovecraft seen some terror of the deep to inspire his stories?
Kirsty tried not to tremble. Perhaps if she gave in to the fear bubbling then the eyes would devour her. Worse, could it take her soul?
Why was she afraid of that? Did she have one, with no skin?
“I don’t know then.” Kirsty arranged her tail carefully, reached inside herself to gather her power, and drew on the water, just in case.
“You’ll need to know to continue. I suppose you seek your skin, if you don’t know your Name.”
“Before that you must learn about yourself. Who you are, what you are.”
“Kirsty rubbed her forehead, smoothed her hair. “I am myself. Why would I need yet another name?”
The eyes seemed to grow, engulfing her in their blind blue depths. “You may proceed.”
The lantern fish then swam away, backwards, still peering into her darkness.
Kirsty swam forward.
The lantern fish was gone.
Guilt weighed her down as she continued deeper. Things continued to move in the dark. Her tunnel expanded into a room she couldn’t fathom the size of. The stirring died down.
The weight grew.
The rustles began again, coming closer. Voices joined them.
“I swear Makay, why don’t you just roll over? You don’t belong here, or anywhere. Poor little water witch. You should study plumbing instead.” Maldein’s voice, sickly sweet with false pity, was doubly unwelcome as it tore into her ears.
Kirsty tried to ignore it. Something was playing with her.
“Makay, really, we both know that the only job you’ll be able to get after school will be with that Order of Fisheries or whatever it is, or the Piping Plumbers maybe. That’s what happens with you activists. No one wants you. We just want things to continue as they are. You’re a dangerous breed, and your family doubly so.” Morvan needled, adjusting his shirt cuff.
The school hallway was all around them. They’d caught her between some armor and the tapestry of the sea that always fascinated her. Maldien primped her hair in the shine of the armor, it’s moons and suns sparking dully on the helm. Whoever had owned that armor, they seemed to be still in it and had their thoughts about her.
“If you really love Valnarius, Maldein coaxed, voice almost sympathetic, “then you’ll end your life. Don’t you think that it’s selfish? He’ll only ghave to support you once you graduate, and he’d do it too, I’d wager. We all see that. He’s old money, but really, how much could he rally have, being... you know.” Maldein tittered, bouncing on her toes.
Kirsty had forgotten this conversation, even what year it had been. Buried it down deep where she wouldn’t have to think about the coward’s way. Looking at the face she had then, it had to have been before they decided they even liked each other that way. With the shade of red, she could see why she would get picked on so much. She’d been in the office so many times for different retaliations every time. There had been so many confrontations over the years it had been easy for the cycle to continue.
She at least understood now why she always wondered if David truly liked time with her, and actually liked her, or if he was just being his chivalrous self.
“You’d like it too much if I offed myself. Maybe the two of you should off yourselves instead. That’s less strain on the planet, more air for the rest of us, and you won’t have to worry anymore about people hearing from me what I stumbled on you doing in the owlery.” The younger Kirsty retorted, a growl in her throat. “Quite sure that’s against the rules.”
“Oh, but we’re here to learn several types of magic, and that’s one of many types. It works quite well.” Maldein purred and the older Kisty could hear her hand passing over Morvan’s clothes while she rubbed his upper arm. “Maybe I should practice with Valnarius, he’d enjoy it.”
Rage flared in both younger and older Kirsty. The elder watched as the younger reached toward Maldein, fingers clawed.
No reply, no retort, no growl now. Just a rach for her water, a desire to suck the rich girl dry. Take ever drop and vaporize it. Images of the desert.
Younger Kirsty tried so hard, instinct dictating a spell that she had no idea if it was even written.
She wanted. She demanded.
Left hand path be damned.
Shame flooded her, both for having failed, in her newness at the spell, for taking enough water from another living being to attempt killing it, and for having attempted to kill over what she knew now Maldein would probably never actually try.
Her reputation was rather loose.
The part that tried to cling to the light in herself tried to wonder what made Maldein and Morvan so miserable to always try to wreck her.
Tried was the operative word.
Not for long.
Karma was going to hurt when it caught them, whoever would be the acting hand. Still, she had acted wrongly that time. She was also still not going to talk to David about this.
No, if the day ever came where they did intertwine their paths that much then she was not going to be dead weight. Even if he was better at potions than she was.
The scene before her faded, and she moved forward again. Kirsty no longer cared if the shadowy unknown things came for her. She would meet them. Perhaps they were just memories that she was repressing. Or perhaps they were monsters that would rend her to pieces. If that was the case, then she’d like to see them try.
She felt a click ripple the water.
[Back to what I know for sure will be in book two "Temple and Skinquest."]
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