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 2Chapter 1 part 2
Section 1: Descent
Da’ and Byron want me escorted direct to the school this time, and the 'cousins' are supposedly helping. As if they've not wielded net and spear enough nights in my vicinity these past months. I’m sorry I won't be on the train with you. I've missed you, and there is a lot that I've not fully processed yet. I've checked the moon and tidal phases... when we're both at the school I'd like some time together at that fountain, or by the loch–you know where. Quiet and normal...if possible. I'm not sure what hour I'll arrive though.
David rolled the letter up again and tied the blue ribbon. His eye caught for a moment on the flashing hastiness in the way she had written his name on the outside. Kirsty somehow could make anything look like a shimmering fish if she wasn't paying attention. He wished that the wax seal had allowed itself to be repaired, or that she'd have at least put her seal on the inside too so that he could have an unbroken one for accuracy if he ever wanted to have something made for her with it. The Makay family crest was an anchor with a seal wrapped through it mischievously, surrounded by seaweed in a complicated pattern. This had been pressed into the wax next to her own personal seal, a curious seal swimming in a circle around a strange symbol that he had only ever seen on her letters. Just asking would ruin any element of surprise though.
Out over the loch a crack echoed, the ice shifting. Holes often formed and closed in the places that it froze around the edges. The only way to know if they were selkie-made or natural was to be watching when they opened.
He shifted position on the rock he sat on by the shore of the little cove that he and Kirsty, avoiding a point the best he could. David still wore the thick dark clothing and furs that protected him from the cold on his flight. His things were already in the castle, but since he was not sure exactly when she would arrive he had not wanted to risk missing her arrival.
The willows screened the area and gave it some privacy from the white triumvirate castle, and the bushes between there and the forest proper were thick. Over the years they had been at the school he had observed them slowly thickening, and he wondered if perhaps the centaurs of the forest were responsible, since other coves did not sport quite the same amount of camouflage.
“I hope she comes soon, it's getting dark.” He thought, observing the deepening twilight.
Somewhere nearby in the forest, but off the school grounds, Urma would be either resting or hunting to fuel her long flight back home to Shadowcrest. Kirsty had a fascination with her that she had not been able to hide, and he smiled thinking of how wide her eyes went whenever something caught her interest. The sky had just achieved the exact deep purple Urma had in her scales when the water roiled.
David sprung up and straightened himself. The water did that the other times that he had been there to witness Byron's arrival. It roiled more than the last time he had been there for some of Kirsty's spear training, and he could only assume it was due to more people being brought through than the last time.
The water surged next, overeager to divulge what it contained, reaching for his shoes with watery hands. The wave receded and Byron trotted to shore, shaking his mane and spraying David with water. The expression he wore was unusually grumpy.
David bowed. He would have anyway, but something about the irritation on the kelpie's face made it seem like an even better idea. It was also disconcerting to be able to see through him and his cargo while they finished coming back into solidarity. Watching Byron's hooves was much easier than seeing Kirsty as some...inhuman elemental.
“I'd have thought that we were going to beat the train.” The kelpie sounded as cross as he looked. “I didn't realize we lost that much time.”
“Ah. No, I asked Urma to bring me directly.” David straightened when Byron's hooves were no longer water and he was merely dripping as usual. “Kirsty asked for some quiet time in her letter, and first day back after any break is often hectic.”
“Is that so?” Byron's cross look began to melt somewhat, a wry smile beginning to play a bit at the corners of his lips. “'Quiet time' would most likely be a very good idea after the trip we had. I don't suppose Urma will be able to visit before she returns?”
“What happened?” David's nerves tightened and he looked the group over more carefully, especially Kirsty. Of course her family would take care of her, but...
“We had a run-in with the Things and what may have been intended to be a raid on one of the nearby settlements.” Finnol replied, tight lipped. “I hope your trip was less eventful, David.”
“We had no troubles this time.” Kirsty was off of Byron now and wrapping him in a hug. David wrapped his arms around her in return and hugged tightly enough to feel her still pounding heart, sighing. “I'm glad you're safe, all of you.”
Connor watched the pair from his place aback Seal, shifting uncomfortably at the relief playing over the teens' faces while they held each other. “I hope one day Mani can look at me like that...” He mused, looking toward his brother. “Strange to think of what I almost did...”
“We'll be heading back soon.” Byron sighed, as Finnol shifted on his back and the man's hipbones gouged.
“I hope you mean after a decent rest.” A deep but unmistakably feminine voice rolled over them all from the forest. “You I'm sure will be fine after another hard run since you sound as if you do it to yourself often. The horses though...” Urma emerged beneath the dark trees, her eyes catching and magnifying the fading light.
Seal and Mirror pawed at the question, anxious to run more and tossing their heads back the direction they had come from.
Kirsty slipped from David's grip and turned around to present herself properly to Urma, curtsying her greeting. David sighed at the loss of contact, and the dragon nodded her head gravely, her tack still on since she had been intending to leave when she had rested and the dark had fallen well.
“I intended for us to rest with Lady Merlana and to take care of some things down in the loch...” Byron sighed, then sat down and dumped Byron off onto the ground, forgetting that Finnol was still astride him. “Ainsley probably wouldn't mind letting Mirror and Seal borrow a sack of seaoats, I suppose. They don't eat what we do and prefer kelp to grass. Oh... sorry lad.”
“Maybe a short rest first would be wise... You children should run along...” He took Kirsty's trunk from off of where it had been strapped to Byron.
David took the trunk from Finnol, though Kirsty had begun to read for it. “Very well, sir. Have a good trip back when you leave.”
“Thank you. Keep my daughter out of trouble.”
“I'll try sir.” David answered. “I can't promise with how it seems to find her though,” he thought.
Finnol nodded, and both Olan and Connor slipped from their horses. Urma nodded and turned to go back into the forest, moving far more silently than any might have guessed possible for such a large being. Without so much as a thought she swept away the traces of her tracks. Soon it would be dark enough to not worry about being seen, no matter what size she chose to be. Connor and Olan took Seal and Mirror toward the stable by the back route, to avoid any students' eyes that might be watching that direction these last few moments. Byron and Finnol conferred together, heads mere inches apart, Byron's eyes flicking often in the direction that Urma had slipped.
David and Kirsty began their walk from their sanctuary back toward the castle quietly, each taking short glances at the other while the towers rose to the clouds. As they cleared the trees the first of the lights from the carriages came down the bend of the entry road, winter fireflies floating above the snows. In the direction of Mr. Ainsley's buildings the buzz of Reaper announced that the flying lawnmower had woken some sleep, ready to patrol the grounds in search of errant students that had not figured out how to stay on his goodside.
Kirsty sighed and examined the back of her hand for the thousandth time since getting back to the castle. One of the castle's nearly invisible serving denizens had taken the trunk from David as they had crossed the threshold. They both knew that the creature would deposit it in her room. Since she didn't have to worry about taking it herself they had gone to the secondary fountain, which sometimes was infested with kelpies. They now sat on the white marble, looking into the algae misted water and watched a dark shadow circle slowly.
Surreptitiously she scratched where the Lady's crystal had penetrated her, dispersed, and then become part of her blood. It still itched, and itched more whenever she thought of the upcoming summer. David was near, and his presence soothed her worries of Black Gates, Tainted registers, and the increasing pull of the sea on her mind and soul.
David looked at her, blue eyes drawn by the movement while they sat together at the fountain in the courtyard. “Are you sure that you're alright Kirsty?”
“I'm fine. I've just...” Her own blue eyes looked around the courtyard, taking note of where all the other students were. “It was so different than what I expected down the well. I'm not too thrilled with what happened at the registry either. I actually had time for that.”
“Do you want to tell me about it?”
“Yes.” Kirsty stopped rubbing at the distracting tingling, but his eyes had caught the movement and he made his own subtle inspection.
His arms went around her and she leaned into him, closing her eyes. Kirsty inhaled his scent and found herself wishing he still had his sword before pushing that thought away. Urma’s dragon scent still clung faintly. He would need to change to his school robes before going to dinner, though she knew only a keen nose close by would detect the scent still after Byron's inadvertent washing of him. She found herself relating most of what had passed, though glossing over how she had nearly forgotten who she was and the strange episode with Ven'thrith and trying to downplay the interference from the Finman at the end.
David listened quietly save for an occasional growl, holding her tighter at points through the story, but he didn't interrupt. Kirsty was glad of it, because there were points where she trembled, trying to sort out her feelings as she talked.
“All of which reminds me... this is it.” Kirsty very shyly pulled the tied poppets, still in the protective mundanely and magically sealed plastic baggie from her sporran. “I've been afraid to leave it anywhere.”
She tried not to blush as she handed it over to him, and he examined it quietly. “I see...” He handed it back. “It sounds though as if it helped you, so I don't think it would be wise to ask your aunt about undoing it. Although you could, if it makes you uncomfortable.” He avoided her eyes for a moment.
“I... don't know if it does.” She blushed, avoiding his eyes too and fiddling with the corner of the plastic as her lips curled into a shy smile. “I don't mind the idea of being bound to you, but I don't want you magically obligated.”
“Kirsty, I don't feel obligated. I don't feel any different about you than I did earlier in the year.” He still couldn't look directly at her. “I like you. Hasn't that been obvious?”
Kirsty blushed and put the poppets away, relaxing a bit more. “I'm glad you do. I've not been sure if my feelings have been obvious, or if they were too obvious. I'm not good at this stuff.” She very shyly looked at him again, tilting her head down a little to shield herself a little with her lashes instinctively.
He managed to meet her eyes again and smiled. “I think you're doing alright.” David leaned toward her slightly and slowly.
Kirsty's stomach growled and a look of horror flitted across her face as her hand pressed into her stomach to quiet it. “Of all the moments for it to speak!” She tried to keep the blush from spreading.
David smiled a bit, then lightly kissed her cheek. “Time for you to eat it seems. I feel that way myself.” He patted her other hand lightly. “I'm glad we didn't have to wait til tomorrow for some time together.”
“Me too. What about Morvan and the Black Gate?”
“I'll help the dog deal with that. I won't allow Morvan to put you in danger.” His eyes flashed with ice and his voice sounded a few years older than he was, very assured of himself when it came to finding a way to deal with this nuisance.
“Alright then. But you have to let me know if there is something I can do to help.” Kirsty nodded.
“Very well then.” David rose and gave her his hand, assisting her up even though they both knew she didn't need it.
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.