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 depicting Kirsty and the storm, and an audio edition is currently being narrated by Illya Leonov, currently working with Chapter 33 (click to hear what he sounds like in past recordings of other projects).
And now to begin the webserial for "Selkies' Skins: Temple and Skinquest."
Selkies' Skins 2
Section 1: DescentInstallment 1Chapter 1
Section 1: Descent
Kirsty leaned further forward against Byron as her father shifted his weight. Her stomach backflipped as her mind chewed over the twisted and confused letter she'd sent the night that her father had made his decision, and how her brown owl Neri, and her tern Foam, had tossed shells to determine which of them would get to make the delivery. She had wanted to pour out everything in that letter, but to write it...
To either side of them Connor and Olan rode on Seal and Mirror respectively, borrowing their kelpie-bred horses to escort her back to Castle Carrick and school. She would have preferred to be riding her Seal, but all had insisted that she was safer on Byron, and her distant and irritating cousins riding flanks. Neither the white Seal nor the grey Mirror were particularly pleased to be ridden by those not their owners, but they allowed it in order to finally accompany their distant grandsire on his run through and below the sea. Kirsty had not known before that they retained the ability to breathe below the water.
Byron had fed them something before they had set out, perhaps it was that which had unlocked their heritage more fully. Or perhaps it was similar to how she could take on an aquatic form by taking the hated transformation paste while working toward her skin.
Off to the right, her lip curled at the sight of Connor, net at his waist reading for action and spear leveled like a lance to streamline their gallop. The left was the same with Olan, and they scanned the waters just as much as her father and Byron did. Their sealskins were closed over their faces, so that seal faces and torsos flowed into fur covered arms and legs in reversed half forms. Eyes followed the group, Kirsty could feel them, distant and present all at once. Would there ever be a time she no longer felt as if deities watched her for their entertainment?
Her father had fretted about the upsurge in monstrous creature activity in the seas and ministerial raids on merfolk settlements. He fretted just as much about the idea that they might run on one of those during their trek, or that they would encounter one of the roving Things underwater and become “relocated” or worse. He was...clingier than usual, and had called her things like “Precious,” “little fur bum” and other such names as she'd not been called since being very small and considerably chubbier before bed the night before. She honestly would have been very happy to do without the resurrection of those embarrassing nicknames.
The water's viscosity and taste began to change. She breathed it deep, opening her mouth slightly as she tried to place the scents and tastes. Byron's magic did not allow her to drown, instead allowing her lungs to process the water just as if it were air. The subtle ways that each ride changed her physiology, and the way his magic reacted to take that into account, were lost on her with how slow the changes being wrought were.
It was fear, coppery and acrid. Byron slowed his pace to a wary walk. Seal and Mirror danced a bit until Olan and Connor pulled them back into line with less skill than she would have.
“Which one are we near again?” Olan whispered. “I can never keep the names of these Scottish ones straight.”
“Duír.” Finnol and Byron answered together, just as soft.
“Should we go find out what happened or is happening to turn the water, Da'? Maybe I can fix it.” Kirsty's voice modulated itself to match theirs, though she leaned toward the source with wide eyes. The whispers of the water tickled the edge of her hearing, but she couldn't quite make out what they said.
“No.” Byron shook his head. “I'm not going there. You might be late or might not get there at all if so.”
“They have warriors. They'll be fine Kirsty.” Finnol's voice was as matter of fact as Byron's. “Now, silent.”
The group picked their way carefully from outcropping to outcropping with their senses wide, the kelpies' frills fully spread and crimson. Duír fell further away from them, but the oppressive hydrosphere continued to grow. Kirsty's fingers twitched, longing to do something to pop the bubble. It felt not as if they were at the bottom of the Atlantic beside the islands, but heavy as if they were at the edge of the trenches and descending. Imp shifted, popping his head out of her collar for the fifteenth time, and she was glad of the reminder that he was there.
The temperature dropped again and the darkness grew. The water grew yet thicker and Kirsty felt the familiar pain of her deepest nightmares setting claws into the edges of her mind. The darkness was so intense that the Things seemed to glow as the force swept in and washed over them, a wave of shadow, web, and madness.
“Of course, we get found by a big wing of the Cailleach's prodigal son hair brushings.” Byron growled through clenched teeth, sidestepping and releasing poison foam for the creature closest to glide through.
Finnol channeled a blast of superheated water through his wand after pulling it from far distant volcanic undersea vents and infused it with the light of his brightest memories so that it glowed a vibrant blue and drove back some of the night.
“I don't think these ones belong to the Dark Lady anymore. There'd be no reason for them to be down here.” Kirsty called up her own volcanic plume, far easier here than when she was on land. Here she had to hold control of her mind to keep herself from becoming the plume and boiling away.
One of the Things fell back, while the one her father hit dissipated. Connor had his net in his left hand, throwing it to fall over his own target. The net flared with blue and green seafire and the Thing grew more transparent and was pulled down before he plunged his spear in with a savage cry. Light, blue as the Lady of the Well's and likely a result of her blessing, flared and exploded.
Olan's net caught on a stray wake from one of the others and missed the Thing he had charged, not even making it as far as intended, then landed on the seafloor. Both he and Mirror ducked under the tattered shadows and despairing night and the unfettered mounted selkie charged past each other. Olan slid over onto the horse's side – not thrown off by it not being a hyppocampus – snatched up his net as they passed it by before grasping his spear fully again, then drove his spear two-handed into his adversary as they passed below.
Kirsty's heart thudded harshly in her chest, threatening to explode with terror. Three others yet remained to dispell, and they closed closer. With such close quarters her sound weapon would harm the others as much as the enemy, and there was the chance that there would be more that she would attract. Even a slim chance was too much for now.
Connor slid off of Seal, letting his skin close over his legs and granting him back the tail he was more used to fighting and hunting with. The increase in his mobility was marked, and he drove himself toward the next while gathering more light and channeling the energy through the spear with a shout.
Byron dumped Finnol and Kirsty, leaving them with just enough of his spell's that they would not drown in their human forms. He reared when in range, slashing with his hooves and rending any part of the Thing he caught with his teeth. The water around him was thick with poison foam as he worked himself up further and continued to press into it, despite how it tried to suck away his memories. Byron used his centuries to his advantage, calling up strong memories and overwhelmed it while the poison worked to dissolve the living shadow.
Finnol for his part kept Kirsty behind him, wand still ready and taking on the last Thing, while at the same time Olan circled around with a similar idea. The magics met and mingled, and exploded with a pulse washing out around them. Byron lowered his head, letting the energy wash blow away his foam that rose for the surface. The pall of cold lessened and lifted, though here and there frozen evidence remained on the seafloor in crystalline spreads where robes had touched down.
“There will be more...” Finnol muttered.
Byron nodded, shaking the last bit of foam off and forcing his spines down before trotting back for them to slip back on. “I don't like this. But at least these weren't targeting us.”
“Just the people of Duír.” Kirsty ground out between her teeth with as much venom as Byron had earlier released. “I hate the sweeps, hate the Ministry for these.”
“As do we, ciosan.” Connor replied, Seal carrying him over and insisting on nuzzling Kirsty.
The pointed use of the family term was not lost on her as he continued making up for that summer day long ago. Kirsty nodded grimly and focused on Byron's mane.
“They are misguided. Not all are evil. Magnificent arses perhaps, but not all can be evil. The road to Hell though...” Byron trailed off and began to move again as soon as both Kirsty and Finnol were seated properly.
Finnol pressed his lips together, his grip on his daughter tightening. The entire way to Castle Carrick his stomach flipped and ground. “How much longer is our secret safe?” He wondered.
Finally they had gone through the underground passage between the sea and the loch, past the mervillage, and through the several planes-gates that swung open for Byron's energy key. Someone was there waiting already, the riders and their mounts could see and feel the form. Byron and Kirsty reached forward with their senses, and Byron only slowed enough to give himself time to ascertain who it was and how to handle the intrusion.
“Oh!” Kirsty grinned, leaning further forward eagerly and her face brightening. Without realizing it her heels dug uncomfortably into Byron's sides and between a pair of his ribs.
“I could have done without getting heeled again. If it's not one generation it's another.” Byron grimaced and emerged dripping onto the shore, shaking himself harder than necessary to fling his mane to a more presentable state in protest.
Seal and Mirror followed him, staying with their hooves in the water while Byron undid his sticking. They waited while coalescing from water into a solid form, eying the boy.
Thank you for reading along with the webnovel version of this book. After three installments have been posted I will be able to open an entry at Top Web Fiction for this particular book in the series.