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Welcome back to the story! If you don't wish to use the Selkies' Skin tag to find the entries, check the ToC on the Sticky Note at Dreamwidth. Story is mirrored to myLiveJournal, from my Dreamwidth, as well as on a dedicated site. For story news and more, subscribe to my Twitter (@AmehanaArashi) or go on Facebook and like either THG StarDragon Publishing or Selkies' Skins. As always, the main tag for the story is selkies' skins. Book one (Castle and Well) of Selkies' Skins is available in entirety in ebook format as of March 16th, beginning at Smashwords. The print edition is now available on Amazon and Lulu with Samantha Buckley's stunning cover depiciting Kirsty and the storm, and an audio edition is currently being narrated by Illya Leonov, currently working with Chapter 27 (click to hear what he sounds like in past recordings of other projects).

Book Two (Temple and Skinquest) is currently on Chapter Five in the manuscript. The next installment will be the final chapter for this current book in the storyline.

Selkies' Skins
Installment 70
Chapter 38
What Lies Within

Kirsty sipped at her tea while waiting, chafing at still not being returned to normal. She wanted into bed and to have legs to carry herself there with. She could almost sympathize now with the tale of the little mermaid. Legs were great. She’d not been greatly sympathetic before since part of the focus was on getting the love of a prince from the land (Setting sights that high? Disaster.) without speaking. If she’d just wanted to walk on land, she’d have understood that more.

But nooo.

Then again, she couldn’t exactly say that her plans for her life made the most sense either. Maybe someone somewhere was reading her story and mocking her.

“Perhaps some would be.” Mara’s voice came from inside her pouch, muffled to the ear but ringing in her head.

“Mara! Why aren’t I changing back?”

“Perhaps because you’ve not finished yet. You’ve done admirably, but...” Kirsty could see Mara in her head, standing on the waves and crossing her arms. This version was younger than she was used to. Mara looked to be her own age, when the wind didn’t have her dark hair covering her face. “You’ve not exactly found ME yet.”

“I got to the sea though. Byron says that’s where the traditional ending for this test is.” Kirsty shifted in the water, setting her cup down on the closest available surface.

“Not everything we do is based in tradition. You’re not going by tradition, why should we?”

Kirsty sighed. “How am I going to find you while I’m stuck in a bathtub? If I ask someone to take me back out to the ocean, especially at this time of night, Da’ and Byron both will probably flip their lids.”

“Then don’t ask. Show me your creativity and see how you can find ME from where you are. Here is as good a place as any.” Mara smiled enigmatically in her mind, but there was a warning curling through her blood that made Kirsty wonder what would happen if she failed.

The vision faded, leaving her in a darkness that was neither here nor there, somehow nowhere and everywhere at once. Now she missed her safe bathtub, as embarrassing as it was to sit there in it and wait.

No matter how hard she tried to see there was no light. Kirsty tried to create light through the several methods she knew of, but neither human magic nor selkie magic brought forth any result. At least when Ven’thrith had taken her into the waters of space, or that’s where she thought shi’d taken her for at least part of the journey, there had been light from the star crystals.

Movement did not seem possible either. She could move her limbs and turn, but locomotion in any direction was constantly thwarted by having nothing to push against.

Dimly she was aware of an uproar, though she couldn’t make out what was being said or where it was from. Struggling as hard as she could only seemed to take her farther away, even without the sense of direction.

Taking a deep breath, Kirsty stilled herself. If she couldn’t search outside herself then it left only one direction. Surely this was something she could do. Right?

Kirsty’s eyes drifted shut, or would have if she had them. It was becoming hard to be aware of even having a body. It faded away quickly now that she had turned herself inward and stopped wasting energy on the outside.

It took a long time of sitting in the same mindfulness that the Lady had been teaching her to use to find the water outside. After several tens of heartbeats she found a swirl of Mara’s energy pumping through her body. Once she found it she was able to feel it all through her bloodstream and moving through her cells. Even in her bones she could feel the two energies, although she could also feel heavier presences there. Mara’s energy presence was weak though, no where as strong as the fresher presence of the Lady through her being.

Kirsty contemplated this and watched as the veins formed beneath her consciousness. It burned and itched as if they grew new. There was a concentration of energy in her hand where the Lady’s blood had entered her bloodstream earlier.

“Blood. Is that the ‘find Mara’ I’m supposed to do?” She tucked in further to herself and listened more intently, focusing specifically on Mara’s energy. Where had been the last place she had been cut and traded blood with her?

Kirsty couldn’t remember, and had to keep a tight rein on herself. Did she need to make Mara’s presence within herself stronger? Could she even cut herself in this state to give herself and receive the water-blood?

“No, that can’t be it. It’s got to be either simpler or more difficult. I’m probably going to beat myself up for taking so long. Watch it be one of those obvious things like when Nevin’s looking for his glasses and they’re on top of his head.”

Her mind drifted and she idly traced her left wrist in the twining pattern of her main bonds, observing how one was glowing brighter than the other in the darkness. Her mind rifled through pages of memories garnered from the Makay Log before she’d been sent to to school. The voices that it recorded soothed her while trying to recall anything that could be useful. Even long dead, they were always going to be part of her.

In her mind and heart she felt a click. Something opened and she pressed at the internal door she’d just found. It screeched further open like a crypt door’s unoiled hinges. Towards the end the door seemed to get heavier, but she pushed at it more, sinking her teeth further into the task and firming her realization.

Behind that heavy stone – it had to be stone – door in her center she saw a muted grey-blue light. The sound of the surf came and caressed her, spreading through her. Kirsty stepped through the door and deeper into herself. Her feet – they had returned! – met sand and she wiggled her toes into its warmth. The surf washed over them and engulfed them in a chill but welcome embrace that lapped up to the top of her head and made her flush and rub her arms at once.

“That took you long enough to figure out... It amazes me how visual your thoughts are.” Mara’s voice came from her right.

Kirsty looked toward it to discover the disturbingly young Mara standing on a rock and preparing to spear a large fish caught in a tidepool with her obsidian and crystal spear. Her skirt was tied up high enough to flash white thighs that were slightly greyish and striped along the outside.

“Mara? This is what was meant by finding you?” Kirsty’s heart rose to her throat at the intensity radiating off the seaside huntress.

“Yes.” She speared the fish and held it aloft, inspecting it as the silver and black scales caught the light, smiling at the movements of the powerful muscles. “You feel about like this fish, don’t you?”

Kirsty held her ground but contracted into herself at the warmth in the usually bitter goddess’ voice. “Yes. A bit.”

“You are still hungry too.” Mara turned and offered the floundering fish to Kirsty with wide, dark eyes. “Eat then. I don’t like seeing you that way.”

Kirsty very carefully removed the offered fish and bit into its side as Mara nudged her nose toward her insistently. The flesh was moist and a strange mix of murk and sweet. Whatever unrecognizable specie it was, it ran between fresh and salt waters by its taste.

“It is extinct, but I still find it here because it lives still in the line you come from. Not directly related, of course.” Mara’s unnaturally toothy smile gleamed and reminded her of some of the manga that the Japanese exchange students sometimes would be seen reading.

“So...you’re basically feeding me myself?” Kirsty took another bite and watched the goddess warily.

Mara threw back her head and laughed, leaning on her spear casually. “I suppose you could say that. Your mother was a little freer with her jokes at your age, but I am glad to see that you aren’t so suspicious of me as to deny me a little laughter.”

Kirsty finished the fish quickly, finding that the more she ate of it the more complete she felt...though not fully. There still existed that hollow ache to wear a skin of her own.

“Why are you acting so...” Kirsty paused, trying to phrase it the least offensive way possible. She found only blanks.

“Nice? Not-bitter? Normal?” Mara offered. “You’re only meeting with part of me while the rest looks for Etain...” Her voice trailed off and her eyes swept out to the fog-shrouded sea. “I’m younger here too. I’m not always the terror that people think me.”

Kirsty found herself pressing a hand over her heart at the pain welling inside. “You miss Mum very much, don’t you?”

“I do. You’re afraid of me. So is your mother, now, but she remembers that I am this too.” Mara sat on her rock and dangled her feet.

“So...when do you turn me back so I can walk on land?” Kirsty itched to sit on that rock beside the goddess, even though she still didn’t fully trust the deity. Her body moved without listening to her mind’s counsel and she hauled herself up to join her.

“You’re walking here, aren’t you? It’s already been done.” Mara’s hand settled over Kirsty’s. Kirsty felt the calluses and scars, especially the one that matched the great gashes that she had seen her mother make across her own hand at times, and blinked.

“Why wouldn’t I keep matching scars to what my children wear?” Mara’s voice was sadder now, fainter. “You are in me, and I am in you. Balance wouldn’t be balance if I didn’t bear the scars and pains too.”

“Do you know when Mum will be back?” Kirsty held still as she floundered through the conversation, still unbelieving at how accessible Mara was in this form.

“No. But I’m trying to bring her home. I don’t know where she is...but at the same time I do.” Mara turned her head to the left and looked further down the beach.

Kirsty looked in the same direction, surprised to see that they were near the birthing pool, although it looked very different than the way she knew it. In that direction she could hear faint shouts and calls.

“I think it’s time for you to go back...” Mara’s hand tightened possessively and Kirsty cried out as a joint popped. Just as quickly Mara released her with a hiss and guilty glance.

The world around her faded as the fog rolled in and shrouded all. She could feel the cold wetness soaking into her skin and the salt air hydrating her sinus cavities...and the sting of it. As the fog rolled out she found herself sitting once more in a tub now chilling, inside an overcrowded bathroom.

“Why are you ALL in here...?” Kirsty grabbed the nearest thing to pull over herself. The shower curtain definitely needed washing by the stiff feel of it. She prayed that the rod wouldn’t fall down on her.

“Kirstin! Taing do Mara!” Her father scooped her out – curtain, water, and all – and held her close forgetting about dignity and soggy clothes. He continued to exclaim in Scots Gaelic before slipping back through Irish Gaelic and then English. “Where were you little pup?”

Kirsty squawked in indignation and went red. “Daaaaaa’.... There’s people in here and I’m in a shower curtain...” Despite how hard she tried to hide, she was convinced that everyone that had been staring at the tub like it had been empty and had seen everything. Half-pelt or not, it would surely have her thrashing at night for weeks. “I was with Mara. I figured out how to finish this test and she gave them back. Or I brought them back...something like that.”

“She’s got her land legs back!” Byron grinned from the door, Kirsty’s ears still ringing from the din. “Lovely hairy legs.”

Kirsty groaned and examined what was exposed, finding that they were hairier than the last she’d seen them. “I hate puberty. Weird changes. Not-even-half-pelt legs.”

Andersen, Merrow, and Marc pushed their way out of the bathroom while Finnol sank to the toilet and refused to let Kirsty go. Byron snickered at the scene. “But wait, there’s more.”

“You’ve been watching too much Cowan TV somewhere.” Kirsty considered picking up the nearest bottle and chucking it at Byron but heaved a deep sigh instead. The more worried he’d been or was, the heavier the sarcasm. She pushed her irritation aside and leaned into her father. “Sorry Da. I didn’t mean to scare you...”

Byron left the door and made his way down to Marsali and the fireplace. With a sigh he reared up and rested his front hooves on the mantle to touch his nose lightly to the painting. His eyes pressed closed. “I don’t know how much longer I can take this Marsali... Sliding back and forth too? There one minute dead to the world and then puff? Gone, then back again?”

Marsali pressed her hand on the canvas between them, stroking his muzzle the best that she could. The wind in her painting picked up some of the spray and kissed his green velveteen lips. “We have to. The pups all still need us, and we need them.”

Byron snorted and pressed a little firmer against the canvas.

 

This was the regular post in the schedule. If you'd like to have another episode in the update schedule (May 4th), feel free to use the Paypal button below. Otherwise the next post for the story will be on May 11th.  A total of $10 earns everyone an extra episode. We are actually close enough that I probably will get to post an extra time. One more ought to bump us over. Alternatively you can buy an ebook, print book, or audiobook from me through Amazon, B&N, or Smashwords, then comment here (or pop me an email) with the amount of what you spent on the title and I will credit that to the pool. If the ten dollars is not met, then the amount rolls over toward the next early episode.

Like the story? Vote here at Top Web Fiction (just remember, we're a long way from finishing the story here and there is a lot of ground to cover. If you're on Goodreads, the first ebook is already listed there with my other books. Got a question? Ask it and maybe the answer will be revealed in the story, or in a comment if not part of the story. Want to do a review? Visit the listing, or feel free to post one in your own blog, and don't forget to have a look at the other stories on the web fiction guide and of course you can now put one on the Goodreads page as well. 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.
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