Selkies' SkinsInstallment 60Chapter 31
Return to the Beginning (part two)
Return to the Beginning (part two)
He almost wished for a rogue shark to attack, or for one of those nasty Things to feel him as he did them and to attempt to take her. Then he could have something to take his frustrations out on.
Byron was not certain whether or not he was glad when they got to Seal Point and nothing had gone amiss. He frowned a bit when he stepped out of the water and the moonlight flowed through and over him as he brought them all back to solidity.
Snow lay thick over the beach above the high tide mark, ice covering the docks and many of the rocks in hoary rims of crystalline splendor. Imp immediately went to work clearing the walkway, running along the path that Belara’s wand cleared in order to get to work on the one that Byron would need to go to his barn, flock, and very small herd.
Belara slid from him as soon as he released her from his grip. Kirsty remained draped over him, her breathing even and slow. Belara sighed, clutching the charm around her neck over her chest and brushing the young head lightly.
“Poor child...she’s so young.” The headmistress sighed.
“Always. Always young. If she were full blood...but she’s not mature with the human blood in her and the selkie latent still. She’s the same age Finnol and Etain were.” Byron grimaced, displaying his teeth. There was something about the moon tonight that set him on edge more than it should.
They walked up the path toward the house, the day-flowering part of the flowering vines closed for the night, while night-blooms reached blue and white petals to catch the invisible moonsugar, the spell keeping them as wards also giving them all the heat they needed. The witch’s hand on his side was warm in the snowy night.
The trio passed by the front door and walked around to the side. Here too similar vines climbed the rock and wood sides to sprawl and lace around windows.
Her tenseness radiated in great waves, steady as a stiff wind. In many ways it rivaled his own. Darting a look and turning his head slightly, he caught the widow’s eye. “The lad is expected home tonight. They turned to come in after sending messengers. The boys will be with him. She’ll have a proper sendoff, of sorts anyway, and he will have more company than an old kelpie that should be dust.”
Belara nodded. “I will stay to see her off tomorrow, then I will be heading back to the school. It’s not fair to stay the whole break when other professors remain at their posts...”
“And as you are also head of house, you overstep the divide between family and student enough doing this much,” he finished for her bitterly. “I cannot fault you for it, Belara.”
“I can.” Belara muttered to herself.
The door opened itself inward for them as they stepped to the doorstone, and the house itself listened to the conversation between the two. They knocked the snow from their feet a second time after entering, just near the door where generations had done before in the winters.
Byron let Belara pass from the mudroom first and out to the hall, then past the door to Finnol’s study, where the stairs crossed down over the door, and out to the parlor.
The fire had dwindled to nearly dead coals since the last Byron had been there to stoke it. They glowed dully as a murk-choked sun.
“Byron?” Marsali drawled sleepily from her portrait above the mantle.
“Back Marsali. Hale and well.” While Belara stoked the fire, he couldn’t help stretching his muzzle wistfully to the essence enlivened anchor he’d painted centuries ago. “If only I could feel your hand again,” he thought.
“Kirstin’s not on her feet, but slumped over you...” Marsali shifted, placing her hands on the border between them and straining against it, aching to sweep up her forgotten-how-many-times-great granddaughter.
“The trip, and another attack on school grounds, on top of–” he broke off, unable to finish what both already knew. His eyes locked with her own, and her lower lip trembled momentarily. No matter how many deaths and disappearances through the centuries occurred, the sting never decreased. She was too tender, too giving, too caring for it to happen.
For the zillionth time he cursed the things that had left him unable to press a suit before the damned fisherman and even before it was time to present her to the other temples as her parents sought a suitor of proper standing for their young priestess. If things had been different back then, he could have spared her all this, she’d still have her skin...and though they were dead perhaps they’d have been able to enter Mara’s box together.
Her ghosted smile and wet wide eyes, that enchanting mingling of blue and brown, echoed his regrets back to him. She was not aware–or perhaps had not allowed herself to be aware–back then. She had ample opportunity to see after their death though, with the weight of station removed from herself. Carefully he rose up and touched a hoof to her hand. The anchor of the portrait sparked a bit, rippled, and they could almost touch. If only he could find even part of the ashes of Marsali’s skin...
Kirsty sighed and shifted where Byron still kept her stuck to him, the comfort of home seeping into her slumber. They both looked at the sleeping girl.
“Put her to bed, Byron, before she drools in your mane. Poor dear.” The way Marsali’s lips slid over his name when she used that soft tone still made the blood rush to his face and his fur turn a darker shade of seaweed.
He smiled wanly. Even with her human husband long dead, and having left her soul behind in this realm, she still never called him dear directly. Those times when the ‘dear’ applied to more than one person though, he knew what she was really saying. He’d wait as long as needed and dance on lava if need be, just to see her at peace and whole, and her progeny safe as possible.
“Of course.” He returned to all fours and dipped his head respectfully, effectively hiding the sheen on his eyes until it was back under control.
“Perhaps...stay the night as well? I...” Marsali was once more on her rock, now twisting her long hair and gazing the depths of the surf.
Belara stayed quiet, still forgoing the use of magic in favor of coaxing the wood and flame to mingle the other way. Neither the selkie’s essence nor the kelpie paid her any heed. If they had looked, they would have seen her eyes had the sheen of unfallen tears and bittersweet memories.
Belara understood their situation. It was theirs to work out though. All she could do was count her blessings that she had not had anything between Blair and herself when they met late in life. He waited for her on the other side of the veil, reminded her every year after her standing Guardian over sleeping forms of initiates and trainees at Artenhame, that special subset of their society without which the deities would be more likely to forget their children. The thought of Blair’s brogue as they remembered their courtship and he gave her advice on the year’s trends was a balm for her.
What would have happened if Marsali’s skin was found when she still lived? Would these two have met again on the other side of the divide? Belara hoped so and blew again.
“Imp went to clear my path to the barn, but as you wish, Marsali... The path will be clear for in the morning, and he will understand.” Byron replied, then clip-clopped softly up the stairs with his precious cargo and his Marsali’s distant issue.
As Byron went up, the fire finally deigned to accept the nonmagical processes being used upon it, and the flames spread from languid stretches to the flickers that would last through the night to warm the house. The fire provided the only sounds for a few moments, a music of its own.
“Thank you Belara, for coming...for accepting them.” Marsali’s voice slipped into the silence. “So few do, truly accept...” She trailed off.
“It is all I can do.” Belara looked up at the portrait, removing her green pointed witch’s hat and the pins from her peppered hair, letting it fall and a few years drop away now that she was not in her headmistress role. “The world would be far simpler if more people would.”
“Yes, yes it would. You might want some of Finnol’s whiskey before you go up to your bed. I’d serve it myself, but...” Marsali pressed her hand against the canvas that served her. “There are prices I have to pay for ensuring I can still be seen and heard by any that need me.”
“That...would be a very wise idea, I think. Thank you. Has the House moved my room again?” Belara sat her hat down on an end table, and it was whisked away to the hanging nubs in the mudroom. She began her trek to Finnol’s study.
“Fourth door on the left now, beyond the one it brings up for young David now.”
“You mean the one Finnol used to use when he was here visiting Etain.”
“Is that door between those rooms still there?”
“It’s probably come back. You know that the House has its own ideas.” Marsali smiled wistfully and shook her head.
Belara sighed deeply and shook her head in answer, and the selkie chuckled at her reaction.
“Don’t worry, Belara. I doubt David and Kirsty get up to as much mischief as Finnol did.” Marsali couldn’t help the smile. Humans, she had observed, never seemed to be able to decide on their morals. Selkies, on the other hand, knew by instinct what was proper for themselves.
“I beg to differ. They might not do what that emotional lunkhead of a step-grand-nephew of mine instigated, but I have more than enough grey hairs from some of their adventures.
“Mmmm...” Marsali’s mischievous smile continued to flicker. “Don’t worry, by the time I got to my third generation, I’m sure I’d have been a grey and no longer a brown. Goodnight, Belara.”
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