Selkies' SkinsInstallment 49Chapter 26 (part one)
Strange lights flickered around the stone circle, which served to attract more and more strange lights – these in the form of actual will-o-the-wisps. For the most part the night was calm and the breeze soft. The sky kept going between being cloaked in ragged clouds and clear to allow the littered sparks of stars to peer curiously at the Earth below.
Morvan's dread only deepened as he ranged and watched where he had been told. The terrain kept shifting around him, so he abided by the warnings not to stray too far without cause – if only for simplicity's sake! He was not meant for this demeaning post. His family had once whispered in the ears of rulers, and not to forget successfully taking down rival families! Here he prowled, cowering at the crunch of phantom feet on the ground, between people he didn't even like...and whatever it was that the Headmaster expected to cause the other students to even need protection...
Guirmean, for all he knew, was only blowing things out of proportion, and this Guardian business was a clever ploy to scare him for what he had done.
If so, why this knot of dread in his gut? What was that strange sensation that had passed between him and that half-blood? If this were indeed a plot simply to scare him into dropping the feud with the girl, then why use such levels of magic as was being done for this charade?
He looked again to where the Observers remained within their own protective circle. Guirmean stood watchful with his stang. His fellow students kept their gaze on the stones, faces marred by emotions he could not – would not – share.
The land directly around him shifted again, becoming lush forest heavy with the scent of rain. The wind kicked up, and he shivered.
A crash sounded to his right and he spun, brandishing his wand and flinging a rain of daggers without a second thought. They buried themselves in tree trunks, humming mockingly.
The cry came from his left. High, wild, and fierce it pierced the night and left the ribbons around his feet to trip him as he bolted. The smell of dead fish and old slime assailed his nose, but also the scent of musk and – perversely – birch.
He hadn't been aware of his own cry, but the others were. He ran past Gurimean, almost headlong into him, and would have kept going to plunge into the now glowing sphere around the Observers. However, he was yanked by the collar and spun back around to face the attackers.
At the same time Guirmean had been turning him back about, he had also been sending a pulse of energy to push the attackers back. The landscape shifted back to the seaside beach, and Morvan saw several dark and finny personages flung back, though others kept coming.
Those that dodged the blast displayed no fear. They brandished spears instead. Morvan could not be certain, but the assailants seemed to range in age from roughly eleven, to grizzled elders. Some wore armor that vaguely looked Nordic, while others wore only rags and rough-woven kelp covers. A few wore blue paint similar to the whorls Makay has slathered over her face, but somehow more sinister.
Commotion rose on the village side. Morvan knew no help would come from that quarter by the sound of Ainsley's war whoops. No, it would be up to the half he had been assigned to.
Guirmean hurled another spell, and then took a swipe with his stang at the attacker closest to him. The crane gave a raucous cry and rose off the end, flying into his face and battering with its wings, driving the green abomination back.
"Don't just cower there you lout!" Bartholomew shouted at him as he and Stanley passed by. "We're here to learn to do this!"
Darcy said nothing to him, focused on the Finmen with a snarl. The force of the fire he flung was more than was called for, damaging all of their night vision.
"Do not kill them." Guirmean called over the din, while his crane pecked and drove a Finman back. "Immobilize or drive them away, but do not kill. They are trapped as these."
Bartholomew thrust his wand, and it flared with light as he slashed. The unlucky Finman that was his target screamed as a hand separated – his right – and withdrew, clutching it to himself. Bartholomew followed, chasing and swinging this lightsword and shouting something that Morvan could not make out.
He found himself finally reacting other than to flee, using a rudimentary shield charm to deflect one of the spears flung his way.
"Why bother playing with him, this one's not worth the trouble." A deep male voice cut through the din nearby.
"He's been screaming for proof for years now and used my children. I'll warn him as gently as I will those others." The old woman from before answered, though he could not see where from.
The battle continued around him as he found time warping and the air taking on a gelatinous attribute around him. For the first time he wondered if this were all some strange dream.
The Finman now in front of him somehow had slipped into range before he noticed, so focused was he on the actions of the others and trying to piece together the nonsense he saw. Morvan's thought was that seaweed had grown fur and scales and was running toward him.
Morvan summoned a fireball from his wand. The dragon scales embedded in it complied happily, but the fire fizzled when the creature met it with a waterball of its own. The sea-eyed creature sneered at Morvan, enjoying the game of bringing down a wizard while his brethren kept the others busy.
"Didn't think non-humans had magic, boy?" The Finman added a little more energy to his spell and the water continued onward, swamping Morvan, and he struck his head on the rock that materialized beneath.
Morvan fell through the earth into a forest of shadow where fears prowled as wolves and the snow was flung on sabered winds.
A stream of curses in the hated language Makay used followed him into this darkness, answered by equally energetic ones in yet more barbaric Finsper.
It took a few breaths to get used to the sensation of air moving in her lungs, the flow of her blood, and the beat of her heart. The ground below her was cold, and as hard as she remembered.
She could hear stirring, the other travelers settling into their bodies. Her aunt's voice sung the anchoring chants, rolling and twining, spinning the threads of body and soul together again.
Kirsty shook a bit, still too light. She had been close to some part of herself – she knew it. Her skin itched.
More than that, she awoke with the knowledge that she was still a pawn. There was little memory of what had transpired other than a terrifying fall into the waters of the realm of the Fey, and something about a loom.
Carefully, she sat up and looked around. Everyone checked each other over, the Headmistress examining them thoroughly and further anchoring those that needed it. Kirsty felt a little more normal after her aunt's hands settled on her shoulders and the solid power of earth weighed her down from her touch.
"There. All settled. It seems that some of you still have long nights ahead of yourselves though." Belara eyed Floyd and Ingrid closely. "Be sure to be careful in your dream hunts."
The pair nodded, glancing at each other and sharing secret smiles that prowled through night haunts and lonely dens.
Something tugged at the edges of Kirsty's consciousness. A frission of fear not her own buzzed along the energy line between the Participants and the Observers.
Her aunt was herding them out before she could comment, pale and her lips pressed tight. "Back now while we have the chance."
So quick were they herded, they were almost to the threshold before the first word.
As the last of them stepped back to the world of the Anchor the energy field snapped closed on itself. The parallel worlds that they had accessed would be closed here until the next High Day.
Kirsty ran down the slope with the other Participants, toward the huddled Observers, toward whatever the threat to them was. At first it had been fear for her friends that stopped her heart, in case whatever had drawn the Guardians off had thought to have a silent third party attempt to break through. Then she caught sight of them.
Things narrowed to a point, as they did when she would work healing spells. A grin spread across her face and she broke out ahead of the descending group and blazed past the Observers. Tonight the Seelie and Unseelie would fight, and she would be part of the cosmic forces' churning.
They were hers. These she should and could hunt, and bring down whole-heartedly. Finmen were not mere fish.
It didn't matter that this emotion was out of character for herself. The part that noticed found itself shoved into the deepest recesses of her mind and stuffed under a large rock. There were enemies of her people here, her blood and bones sang of it.
The Headmaster and the Guardians here were steadily stunning and beating the Finmen back. On sight of what they were doing the darker parts of herself snarled in anticipation.
Finally, some unrestrained opportunity to pay them back for the siblings she should have. Here was the chance to deal with the frustration that could not be taken out on those that kept her netted.
A burst of water caught her eye where it was overcoming the fire ball Morvan had thrown. It had to be him, the dueling styles of the others were more substance and less flash. He tended to rely on methods that impressed. The others cared more for effectiveness. Morvan was not a bad duelist and even scored many points against her during dueling club (before her aunt banned them both – her for attempting to drown him after a comment about her mother, and he for making a comment that the Headmistress insisted in both parents coming "for a meeting"). He lacked whatever it was that made David's firesnakes so effective.
While Stanley froze three Finmen in ice, the Headmaster dropped another large handful with a sleep spell, and Bart caused a few others to go running from the light blast he unleashed, the Finman's waterblast overpowered her rival.
She screamed, unleashing the sonic weapon that Cerridwen restored on healing her throat fully. She may not like him, but he was a member of her school. In this primal state, school equated enough to clan to warrant defense against something more hated.
Kirsty leaped over where Morvan lay, not even bothering to draw her wand. She thrust her hands out while the Finman held his ears and reeled back. Instinctively she let her feelings rush along her arms and out the centers of her palms. Any water that hers met was subjugated to her own will and rushed along with hers over the creature, where it swirled.
She snarled, teeth fully bared and her eyes flared. Momentum was carrying her forward, and if she could just make contact she could let loose the poison building inside.
Wood and stone struck out at her unexpectedly, toxic energy of its own arching out to meet her. Only quick hands and a wrench of her body turned her in time to slide along the spear's staff and connect with her feet instead.
There wasn't time to ponder where a formerly unarmed Finman had gotten another spear from. She only had time to switch the polarity of the release – and hope it went out through her feet instead – without making herself ill.
She felt the shock reverberate through her, and her knees buckled. The ground met her bum not long after – too quickly to land gracefully. Kirsty rolled away as the male attempted to make use of her comparative inexperience.
She was dizzy, too dizzy, but she glared as her eyes met her adversary's.
It was odd how they looked like her parents' eyes. She saw the roiling depths there and the tumultuous waves.
It only infuriated her more.
"Vile abomination!" She spat in her first tongue.
"Said the kelp to the seagrass," he hurled and grimaced. "Halfbreed harlot." With a heave he was on top of her and slashing with black poison tipped claws.
This was the last. The rising tide within broke and the shield spell she had been practicing with burst out and thrust him away as the claws contacted.
Kirsty lay gasping. She saw the flash of green that meant her aunt had passed by somewhere in her range of vision. There was the sound of the male's cry.
The sounds of battle ceased. All that could be heart for three heartspans was the sound of the sea.
She got up and looked around. The Observers huddled in the circle, wands out.
"Huh... I wonder why humans are supposed to use wands..."
Kirsty smiled at the absurdity of the thought.
Ainsley and his party she could see moving around through the debris, helping to drag away the felled Finmen, back to the sea. The Headmaster was bent over Morvan, but she couldn't see exactly what he was doing.
"When did they get here? Blazes, I don't care..."
"I make bollocks of things..." She mused aloud, then moved closer to see what she needed to do.
If she went near those things again, she knew she would berserk again. At least with the things it was accepted if one temporarily lost themselves.
Morvan's eyes were open when she got there, and fell on her.
"I had him. You interfered." He hissed at her, weakly.
"I hope you weren't getting a grade on this..." Kirsty countered. "Didn't you learn yet that large amounts of water beats weeny fireballs?"
Morvan tried to respond, but his eyes crossed and then closed. She almost laughed for getting the last word, except he had recently hit his head.
Guirmean pressed his eyes shut and rubbed between his eyes firmly. "Miss Makay, Dentention, my office tomorrow at 21:00."
Expect the next episode around September 8th, unless an extra episode funds, in which case you might see the next on September 1st. If you'd like to have another episode sooner, feel free to use the Paypal button below. A total of $5 earns everyone an extra episode. If the five dollars is not met, then the amount rolls over toward the next early episode. You can see how close we are to having an extra episode by checking the meter on the sticky post.
Please do consider making a donation, or buying the complete book once it's available. The donations accelerate postings, but also help put food on the table. Rather make an offline tip? Write me for a mailing address.