Selkies' SkinsInstallment 41 Chapter 23
Pay Better Attention Kirsty (part 2)
Pay Better Attention Kirsty (part 2)
David frowned and finally cleared the end of the tables as Kirsty was being walked from the great hall by her aunt, trailed by a still profusely apologizing Ally, who was in tears. Still no further sound came from Kirsty. The focus was so intense on Kirsty and Ally that no one noticed the occasional item being knocked over by an invisible something that was making its way for Lilitu, Imp not even bothering to avoid any implements in his way.
The silence from Kirsty only seemed to be making Ally louder and louder, her words now reverberating in the hall with the same volume as an angered deity, though considerably more desperate. “I'm so sorry! Why aren't you saying anything? You're so angry with me you won't even yell?”
As he left the great hall to follow out the doors and into the hallway, Lilitu's laughter grew in volume as well.
Diana narrowed her eyes at the laughing boy, speaking toward Thomas.
“Sometimes, that rule needs an agent. That's something I've heard from the White Lady... I had another dream about Her last night...”
Thomas looked at her. “Considering what I know of the myths about her, I don't think that is a deity I would like to be on the bad side of. Much less talk to.”
“No. You wouldn't. In some ways she's a little like Cerridwen on a bad day...” Diana drifted off, still eying Lilitu. “Samhain's ritual will probably be interesting for her this year. I wonder if she'll be doing her own again, or if she'll take part in the Mythological Society Moot this year?”
Thomas shrugged, hiding a shudder at the memory of the stories of Cerridwen and Taliesin, and mentally edging as far away as he could from the mere thought of the White Lady too, as if the very mention of that cognomen would summon some aspect of a lunar – or perhaps madness – deity.
"No idea Diana... Hard to judge with how withdrawn she's getting... Then again, since we don't share a common room, maybe we don't get to see 'normal' anymore?"
Ally could no longer be heard through the closed door of the hall. The Headmaster was sternly gazing over the other denizens while the Headmistress was occupied, and each student went still momentarily if his gaze met even the corner of their own – as he had been since the start of the ruckus in his search for the culprit.
“She'll be calm enough now. Going to catch up.”
Diana nodded, still eying Lilitu. As she watched, Lilitu went still under the Headmaster's eye. “Alright. I will keep watch a bit. I may learn something interesting... Like if Lilitu's behind this as I think.”
“Don't do anything too crazy.”
Diana only smiled. She knew that her definition of crazy did not match that of her friends, not even Kirsty.
While events continued to unfold behind her in the great hall, Kirsty found herself swept yet again to the medical wing. She did not complain though.
Kirsty found that even though she wished to, she couldn't. Desperately she tried to remember what flavors she had tasted before the fire had broken out in her mouth, in case something had overshadowed the salsa, perhaps some additive easily Sent. No one had ever had such a violent reaction when salsa was offered with anything, nor had anyone's mouth been burned so badly. Smoking ears were routine, and as the weather got colder it was more often eaten to ward off colds and flu.
Try as she might, she could remember no off flavor.
“Be quiet Allison. If you do not stop the caterwauling we cannot hear when Kirstine does try to speak.” Her aunt's clipped notes fell with the usual martial march, softened by the use of their given names instead of family names, but received just as harshly.
“Yes ma'am.” Ally sniffled, attempting to rein herself back in.
Their footfalls had not lost any speed, and after taking one glance at the icy deputy Headmistress the gremlin jumped back as they came into the hall she – or perhaps the gremlin was a he once more – had been setting a trap in. His/her/its hat, knitted of stolen left socks, fell off as it pushed through the wall.
“Kirstine, can you make any noise?” Professor MacLeohmann asked, turning her head to check behind them when hurried footfalls sought to catch up.
In response, she tried, but her vocal chords refused to cooperate. She tried toning, wondering if at least song would work like she'd do underwater to amuse herself sometimes, yet that did not work any better than human speech.
“Why can't I talk?” The panic at still finding herself unable to make even a sound gave more volume to her inner speech, and she instinctively reached out, questioning and grasping for an answer from someone, anyone. She shook her head vehemently to underscore for the others that, though she tried, she couldn't. There was a path that she could feel outgoing, and so it was in that direction she poured the voices of her thoughts, mostly wordless as they were. Awareness of her surroundings dimmed as she was brought the rest of the way to the healer's wing.
Instead it was the sound of the sea that she heard, pulsing and breaking upon the shore, and the salt tang of it licked her nostrils. There was the sense that who she had contacted pulled back for a moment in surprise while she continued to extol her terror, loudly, and perhaps deafeningly along the link. Just as quick, the feel of familiar arms closed around her as the recipient of the mental cacophony regained his balance. There were other presences, but it was the sea, the brush of a tiny bit of silver and copper, and the arms those rings were connected to that was the strongest.
She could feel his voice now, even if she couldn't think of his name or make out what he was saying. He was simply the scent of snow, fur, pine, wood smoke and assorted potions ingredients. The swells rose again in intensity, and the ship under her in this inner world creaked and thrashed in the sea. She felt the ship strike rocks and break under her, and the water washed over her. The arms tightened yet more, pulling her from there, then joined by another set, and a pair around her legs while something worked at her mouth and throat.
The panic, and time, stretched and compressed for her as incomprehensibly as if she had been passing between realms of existence – eventually subsided to irritation, which was far easier for her to handle. Kirsty was able to see around her again. White curtains surrounded the metal bed, serenely draping from rod to ceiling, clashing with the austerity of the atmosphere. Ally was out of the way near the foot, looking stricken.
“She kicked me!”
“Hold her tighter so we can look in her mouth.” The Healer barked, and two sets of arms tightened around her, but thankfully there was no binding magic. Ally was back at her feet, literally laying on them and locking her legs around Kirsty's.
Kirsty began to struggle again, as her body had been while she had been mentally checked out.
“Kirstine! She has to look at your tongue and throat.”
Kirsty turned her head to find her aunt pinning her with an icy, now a glacial green, gaze. It was suddenly cold as her aunt's will to still curled through her and took possession of muscles and sinews. She took a breath, exhaled, and forced herself to relax.
The inbreath brought not only her aunt's scent of old books, ginger, tea, and ancient forests, but the scents she had smelled while trying to communicate her earlier terror to anyone that could have any way to hear. The lingering scent of fur, the tease of the pine breeze overlaid by the assorted scents of potion ingredients pulled her gaze to her right shoulder, where she saw David's blue eyes. With that, she relaxed more.
“Let me go. I don't need to be pinned...”
Once again, Kirsty's lips moved, but no sound came. Her eyes watered a bit, the frustration coming back swiftly.
“Still can't hear me...?” The water pooling in her eyes deepened and spilled as the blue darkened.
“No. We can't.” David squeezed her a bit, and she felt the warmth from the copper ring next to his Deity's silver ring. “Yet.”
“Open up Makay, you'll likely go insane if you don't let me see what to do to give it back.” The Matron butted in tersely, drawing Kirsty's eyes back to Laryna.
Despite looking, Kirsty didn't take in any of Laryna's black habit for the day. Kirsty opened her mouth as wide as possible to allow the Healer to shine her wand in, then nearly gagged when another wand was shoved in and started squirming and turning. The unwelcome and unexpected feeling intensified, and though she tried to remain still her body had other plans, thanks to the intrusion. Once again their arms were needed to hold her still so that Laryna could do her work.
“Seared her vocal cords right out, poor dear... Just what was in that salsa you mentioned?”
Kirsty gagged as the exploratory wand was withdrawn, and would have allowed her breakfast to come up to spray the Matron, if the news of why her voice wasn't working was not enough to stay the impulse.
What do you mean my vocal chords are seared out?! How am I going to discharge my cyclic duties? I don't think Mara's ever had a Mute priestess – oh no! What if David won't want me if I'm a Mute? She screamed in her mind as the cold spread and her stomach roiled like a butter churn at Ms. Kitsch's after Byron's lambs had been weaned from their mothers.
David winced, hearing her thoughts somewhat through the ring, but this being no time to address her fear. Indeed, Kirsty likely would have been mortified to know he'd heard. Instead, he squeezed her just a bit tighter, hoping she'd notice, trying not to feel sick himself.
“So Kirsty won't ever talk again? Because I fed her salsa just wanting her to pay attention better? I didn't know it was that spicy!” Ally wailed.
“Allison McCallister! Now is not the time to panic. Kirstine, this goes for you as well. Kirstine. Suaimhneach!” Professor MacLeomhann's voice was a vice grip, inexorably pressing down on all that heard it.
“Well!” The Matron sighed as they calmed. “With that out of the way, I did not say she would never talk again, only she will go crazy if she does not get her voice back. It is fixable. You can let her go now, I don't need to get back in the poor girl's throat.”
Kirsty sighed silently, slumping into the mattress as her muscles all released at once, joined by David's less quiet sigh.
“You couldn't have done that before! Honestly child, I'm a Healer. You're supposed to trust me.” Laryna glowered as she went for Sgòrnan Slàinte, the potion usually only used when someone coughed their throat out, sometimes literally.
After drawing a large bottle from the cupboard, she carefully poured a green viscous fluid into a crystal vial. With a wave, the entire pharmacy slid safely back to the end of the hall, without so much as a drop or particle falling from place. The vial she handed to Kirsty with a curt nod.
“Drink up child. Come back after lunch and after dinner, then we'll see tomorrow if you need more doses.”
Kirsty sighed down to her toes and looked at the vial. When two breaths passed, her aunt cleared her throat reproachfully. Kirsty looked up at them while the Matron puttered off to give her the space she knew Kirsty needed. Though room temperature, vapor curled off the potion in great slow clockwise spirals. Pinching her nose, she swallowed it in one long draught.
Kirsty promptly fell over to the side, reaching for her throat and shivering.
“Did. Not. Say. So. Cold...” Kirsty wheezed and scratched like a long time smoker trying their hand at operatic Mermishdian or perhaps Xhosa, yet managed to be heard. Although her potions studies had introduced her to the concept that some healing potions would be cold at room temperature those texts had also understated the fact to the point of barely mentioning it.
David sighed. Kirsty smiled sheepishly and tried not to dwell much more on the iceflow retracing its steps down her esophagus with all the certitude of a glacier.
“Well then,” Professor MacLeomhann spoke softly, “I think I shall be finding out who helped this happen.” The Lilitu boy's laughter in the great hall had been far too delighted for her taste, and knowing of how long the Makay and Lilitu families had been against each other, it was far too suspicious. Perhaps if young Morvan had been responsible there would be enough proof of malicious intent to expel him, influential parents or not.
The bell tolled its first call through the castle, announcing the time for all to prepare to head to their first period classes. Kirsty slipped off the bed and scooted out the door, not fearing that they might be late, but instead that she might get roped into an impromptu exam now that her aunt was fit to rouse ancestral spirits.
Kirsty scurried past Thomas, who was already on his feet thanks to leaping up from the bench outside paying respects to the headmistress. She wanted the salt tang air of the sea and to be home, preferably playing in the surf with David, one of the seal pups, or even better to sing with her mother while preparing a batch of fish for the long snow laden winter. The sea was tantalizingly close. All she had to do was go from the loch, through the underground passage, and the fresh water would turn to salt and the whale song would sweep through her as they passed near.
Yet, the mere fact she was part human trapped her here till she was of age to decide for herself which magic would take precedence.
For those interested, the editor is starting to get healthier again and looking forward to getting back to work.