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Welcome back to another installment of Selkies' Skins. I'm still going to do this bi weekly, unless extra episodes get funded (at which point I'll have to squeeze more writing time to make more backlog, because everyone and their mother's kittens seems to want to eat my writing time this week). The book's sections will likely be a bit different from the website's since too many chapters in a section starts to look really confusing in the nav bar on the site. Or they might not. This is one of the issues that the editor and I will discuss. This chapter in particular is one that we will debate as to if it makes a better section end or section beginning, or if it will get treated as an "in between" happening.

Byron: You'd better not cut that with how you kept pushing that along to where it occurs in the timeline.

... Maybe I'd better protect my bed.



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We now return to Selkies' Skins.


Selkies' Skins
Section 2
Chapter 18

End of the Trail
installment 28
~~~~*~~~~

 

Byron had continued his northward trek as swiftly and thoroughly as he was able. The Kelpie had not kept track of how far he had gone. Time did not have much meaning when traveling as part of the water to go through it, nor would it matter until he was back at his mistress' side discharging his duties. Food he had taken only when coming across it, not wishing to waste any time if he could help it. He was swifter without any humans, only halfhuman or not, on his back. There was also the advantage of not having to be careful with his poison spines in his mane.

Still, it had been a long search. He was quite positive that Kirsty would be well into this year's training in finishing her readiness for her skinquest, by now. As long as she had a firm understanding of all the worlds she was going to be required to walk in, she should succeed. So for now, his only worry was Etain, unless he had lost track of more time than he had thought.

Well, maybe more technically it was Etain and the nameless things that the Ministry used to keep track of non-human magical beings and anyone else that they wished. He was well versed in how they worked, had encountered them so many times since the Ministry had wormed their binding onto him centuries ago. The Ministry of Myths at that, and he could never be certain which of the competing “governments” were worse. The question was, why were so many of them ranging so far from the prisons and the "reserves?" Who had revolted hard enough to have them unleashed? Was it one of the merclans not yet forced into the reserves? One of the reserves pushing back and refusing to give up traditional grounds? An escapee? Product of one of the wars always boiling just below the surface of one of the many intermingled and intersecting worlds?

Maybe the gods will hurry and make a grand return and scare some sense into all those pompous windbags. Probably too much to ask, be my luck Mara would decide to ride her clergy. Or Herne's Hunting Dogs would chase them through their silly “secure” government buildings...

A tickle of coldness passed him by, and he sneered to think that even below the waves they were hungrily on the prowl for new beings to mark, or old ones to feed from. And so many. He changed his heading to avoid the one that he could feel ahead. A Seafolk city came slowly into his view as he galloped, and his heart leapt, hoping that perhaps they would have some news of where his mistress had gone.

The outer buildings were empty. Weedy yards waved in the current, and nary any sort of pet nor guardian was to be seen. The fields between had the unkempt look of untended seaweed beds developing, and even the oyster-beds between the outcroppings had an almost haunted feel. It was not unheard of, especially if there were threats in the area, for those on the outskirts to retreat into the cities and citadels proper. So he pressed on, though marking that the outskirts were abandoned and oil still seemed to linger, though changed somehow.

Byron passed through the gate in the walls of coral and pearl, into the city proper, but here too, silence greeted him. He slowed his pace, just in case it was what had sent everyone to hiding. Yet, the streets remained empty, the markets abandoned, and the pennants on the undersea towers were all that seemed to move in the current. He paced slowly through the city, hoping for an Octopid, a Deepsea Selkie, one of the Sharkmen... even a Triton, contentious as they were, would have been a welcome sight.

There was none.

He pressed on to the citadel in the heart of the city, and here too, no living, speaking thing greeted him. Into the castle he went, to the throne-room. Here, all that greeted him was the pipeline for the oil rig, plunging through the roof and the remnants of the splintered throne, drained of magic. Which of the capitals was he in? He searched the walls for a pennant that bore a crest, but all that still remained were blank.

With a sigh, he bowed low, paying respects when a final look around revealed part of a decaying hand. The Kelpie then left, making his way through the city toward the spires of the temple. The guardian statues gazed at him hollowly, the Samebito woman and the Selkie woman armored and holding spears.

Mara's militarist aspect. Explains the overtones of Viking and Grecian architectural elements.

Going past the external guardians, he came to the room of the representative Ancestors, each presenting their Histories, stone-faced. Here, at least, magic still lingered, dormant. Waiting. The taste of his mistress still lingered in these waters, fresh and emotion laden, joined with the suppressed fear of-

A Triton? But where are they then?

The dead eyes of the stone Megalodon watched from where the body lay, and the spearpoints of Mara's more humanoid form gleamed momentarily. Catching sight of this, a chill swept over him shaking him to his very marrow.

What within or beyond the seven waves is bloody going on?

He circled and paced the room, but try as he might, the track ended here.

Mara. What have you done? What are you playing at?

The eyes of the Megalodon continued to stare, as did the sharkwoman. Byron studied the eyes of those statues carefully, hoping that there might be some clue left in the temporary bodies. For a moment, he saw a flash of whirling waters, fighting themselves, and a great unsteadiness.


~~~~*~~~~


Be watching for the next installment in around two weeks, unless an extra episode funds.

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As always, if you see any typos, please let me know so I can fix those. I am very happy that there will be money to print the full story out for the editor to do a comb through before it goes to print and ebook and to have the editor get paid. She is currently looking over section one and part of section two, helping get section one prepared for the backers' reward ebook. Thank you for being part of the story behind the story.

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