Selkies' SkinsInstallment 68Chapter 36
Kirsty spilled into the pool, taking a deep breath of the water and trying not to whimper. There was a warm spot, and she pulled herself there, laying down in the hollowed shallows that seemed to wrap her in caring arms. Her body trembled as she reclined, and thankfully her vision began to go back to normal save for the red around the edges that throbbed with her heart.
She eyed the gap she fell out of, now that her vision was beginning to clear, and felt for something she could use as a weapon. It was a useless maneuver she recalled shortly after beginning. They kept the pool free of driftwood.
One of the larger fish nudged her tail. Its silvered scales did little to tempt her appetite due to her pain, unusual since she often nicked a fish from the birthing pool if no one was due. She shooed it away, but it kept at her, always nudging toward the sea.
Kirsty pulled herself the rest of the way, dragging away from the birthing area and back down along the stream’s flow to the surge of the sea. There was a rush of energy when she got into the salt water. Far out she could feel the call and pull of one of the Temples. If she held still long enough she could feel other Temples in other directions. Kirsty contemplated how on earth she was going to be able to manage her way through the rocks of the shoreline in search of Mara in this state.
A surprised whinny held her short and turned her around, her arms holding one of the nearby rocks to manage the ebb and flow of the surf.
“When did you get out? I’ve been here this whole time!” Byron’s hoof falls over the worn stone were a welcome sound, and when he was near enough she eased her arms from the rock to his sturdy frame.
“Just now.” Kirsty buried her face in his green fur, letting her body wrap his legs while the kelpie laid the underside of his chin down her back.
Byron looked down her back, seeing where the purple bruising was showing from beneath damaged scales. He frowned. Selkies did not have scales, but fur. “What happened in there? You’ve been gone days now.”
“So much... So many passages and gates, I think. And the Lady implanted something into my hand...” She lifted her hand and showed him where the scar had faded, the tattoos darker than when they had formed. “Turned me into a fish-thing to help this summer. Then there was the Moon God, I have to dance more... Then there was a Finman...he–”
“Finman?” Byron’s right foreleg pulled Kirsty beneath him and held him to his underside. Kirsty made a sound of protest, she wasn’t a pup anymore. He ignored her protests and held her tighter...as old as she could ever live she’d still be one of Marsali’s pups to him. “How could that be? We’ve been trading watches. This has been secured since shortly after you went down.”
“I don’t know. Just that he was there, and I think he’s crazed. I don’t even know how he got in. The Pool’s the one place they’ve never been able to set fin.” Kirsty had given up on getting him to let go.
“Because they can’t, not after what was done when they turned... The only way any Finmen would get in there is if they had the same ancestors or were allowed in by the Ladies.” Byron continued watching the portal out of the Lady’s realm warily, while also scanning around them for any others.
All that met his eyes were the same surging sea, rocks, and beach that had kept him company these several hours of his watch. Above them on the dark cliffs were the thick trees that always shifted, with no deer moving among the boles. Not even a seal had been in the waters nearby, as if everything had been ordered away. Likely it had been, which only left one possibility to his mind.
Byron tried not to shudder at what that might mean for Kirsty. He nuzzled lightly and blew a little over her. “Well, you are out. You’ve made it to the sea. That’s traditionally the end of this test. If you can turn so that you don’t dry out I’ll take you home.”
“I don’t know how. I’ve not taken any of the paste since I went down. I should’ve had to at some point, but.” Kirsty looked back at the stream’s exit point from the cliff, expecting the Finman to come after her at any minute.
Byron scowled. “Just what did she put into you?” He began to make his way through the surf along the shore to the dock and house further down, careful to keep Kirsty well covered by the water. Perhaps, if he got close enough, he could bolt with her on his back and get her to the bathtub in time for he and Finnol to look through the Log for ideas.
Kirsty tried to remember what had passed between herself and the Lady, but most of it had already hazed. “A shard of the same crystal type she gave David...and some energy. She just said it would help me.”
Byron ground his teeth. “Cryptic, of course it can never be straightforward. That would be too much to ask. Deities.”
There was a shark prowling the waters nearing the dock, seeking after the fishes that always swam there during this part of the tide. It came close to investigate, staying well out of the kelpie’s range and fixing one eye on them as it slid past. He had other more pressing matters on his mind, and as it posed no thread it was soon left behind.
Then he was thundering out of the water, up the beach, and bellowing before the front door. It sprung open and he was though, into the parlour, where Marsali shrieked as she tried to rise off her rock to come out of the painting. He didn’t even bother with trying to contain whatever water he was still putting off. Said water formed a puddly trail behind him and quickly soaked into rugs and carpeting over the wood floor.
Byron ran up the stairs and rattled portraits off walls before crashing into the bathroom and depositing Kirsty into the tub to the protests of both her and Mr. Merrow. Their splashing as they tried to regain some form of dignity coated walls and speckled the ancient mirror. Someone’s flailing arm knocked over the row of bottles holding oils and soaps.
“Oi! Warn a mate before dropping a lass in his lap. ‘Specially if she’s dressed like I think! Her Da’ may keelhaul me, Selkie or no.” Mr. Merrow scrambled out of the tub and from under Kirsty, then snatched a towel to wrap around his waist. He turned his back to her as she further tried to adjust herself, until he was fairly certain she had important things covered.
“He’ll kill us all if she dries out like that. Keep her wet till we figure this change out.” Byron backed out with the intention of going to summon Finnol, his eyes not rolling and shot yet, but his red-spined frills were on full display through his seaweed mane.
Mr. Andersen was shutting the front door again while Marcus stumbled from the kitchen, still clad in Etain’s white frilly apron and wielding the fork he’d been turning sausages and checking bangers with. Before he was able to fully do so Byron was back down the stairs and he had to fling it again. The pair only gazed for half a second before the door was fully shut again.
“Well...what a way to come home... Go put on another serving or three, she’ll likely be hungry. I’ll head up and see what’s to be done.” Mr. Andersen sighed, only able to make out bits and pieces of what had been shouted upstairs.
“Young lady... WHERE IS YOUR DRESS? I don’t want your father jumping to any conclusions.” Merrow was already across the hall and into Kirsty’s room, Andersen could hear him trying and failing to open her closet.
Marc and Andersen exchanged raised glances before parting.
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