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, has finished the Glossary (click to hear what he sounds like in past recordings of other projects). The audiobook should be available very soon.
And now to begin the webserial for "Selkies' Skins: Temple and Skinquest."
Selkies' Skins 2
Section 1: DescentInstallment 5Chapter 2 part 3
Section 1: Descent
David put his own arm around Kirsty, looking through Morvan as if he wasn't even dust. Kirsty barely noticed his arm, but felt less vulnerable and gave herself even more fully. Once she was certain of it, of the viney cascade of notes rising up and down, she twined her voice with the flute's notes.
Her weight rested more on him as she gave herself. Around them the vines grew and spread up and through the trees like streamers. Bushes became denser, and David grew more sure of centaur involvement with their little cove on the loch.
As the voice and flute faded, both player and singer emerging from semi-trance with dreaming smiles, little balls of multicolored lights settled and winked on and within the foliage. Some of the students gasped and huddled together. Others leaned curiously forward, wanting better looks but afraid to move too much in case of dispersing the lights.
A few of the spirits settled on the head of the moonpale Diana, and she held a hand palm up, tentative. Another landed on her hand, a cool light that neither burned nor warmed, yet gave a distinct feeling of life.
The professor nodded in approval at Diana. “The more still, the more likely they will investigate you. Seems they like you.”
Although several settled on Kirsty and David, including on fascinated by David's nose, all seemed to stay clear of Morvan and Maldein. In fact they left a wide circle empty around the pair, as if something one of them carried was an offensive odor. David noticed, keeping his expression neutral while comparing the absence with the fuzzy glowing carpet that had formed on his friend Thomas' head.
Ally's red hair was being braided by a few of the orbs. “How are these spirits different from the whisps, sirs?”
“Sometimes they are one and the same. “The professor carefully pulled out a pipe and tobacco, then packed it when Renovan nodded at his upraised eyebrow. One of the whisps obligingly lifted a spark from the fire, and the heady smoke joined that of the fire. Another made off with a pinch of the tobacco with a greedy titter.
Gerwulf offered the centaur a puff, refused with a polite shake of the head, which he then took himself. Soon a smoke ring wafted up, which the orbs played with.
“These are of the forest though. Ours look different from what he has described the forest spirits he encountered in Japan. They look this way because we don't have other ideas of what they would look like.” Renovan flicked his tail when a few tried to braid flowers into it. “I'm a stallion, though I appreciate the grooming.”
The orbs pulled the flowers out and wound broad leafed vines in instead, artfully arranging the curls so that it was hard to discern if the plants were or were not part of him.
“Some in Japan are tiny pale people with large eyes that click and try to play. They will disappear if you frighten them. There are larger ones that take the shape of animals, but I was not able to meet any on my trip there.” He puffed another ring for them.
Some of the spirits started turning their attention to the offerings on the rocks. Each time an orb dipped into or hovered over it, a little more would disappear.
“What is your assignment then?” Morvan broke in. “Sit and watch?” He sneered.
Kirsty shifted uncomfortably. She almost wanted to hit him. This was the same attitude that had offended the unicorn in a previous class with a different teacher, and if he wasn't careful might kill everyone's hands on studies. For some reason though she was too sleepy, too warm. She found herself closer to wanting a nap than to brain the prat.
“That is part of the assignment. The other is to commune with them. It is much easier to respect something you have firsthand knowledge of and to learn what is not in the books. Be aware though, they can be deadly if they feel they need to be.” Gerwulf looked at Morvan with a placid challenge, already knowing the lesson was lost on this pupil.
“My father would have you job if anything happened to me.” Morvan snapped, a vindictive smile lighting his face.
The orbs stopped their movements and buzzed discordantly, drawing near to the boy for the first time. He shrank in on himself. “What are they doing?”
“They know your family and say some rather off-color things foals shouldn't normally hear.” Renovan looked amused. “Also that the unicorn is easily called and could be let into your room wherever you go if you make any trouble. At least that's the tamest thing they say.”
Morvan paled, then deflated. The buzzing of the orbs stopped as he settled and grudgingly began his task of watching. Carefully he took out his notebook and began to make notes and sketches.
Renovan and the professor nodded, and the centaur softly began a tale of how the forest spirits had helped to fuel the growth of the trees, as the tale had been passed to him when he was but a foal himself.
Kirsty listened and snuggled into David. Her consciousness was the slow dripping of water underground and the dance of the stream through its bed. Now and then a green vine threaded into her mind's eye and she could feel how the water moved through it, and the dance of life it held. Dimly she became aware of whispering in her ear that was neither Imp, nor David, in a language that she almost – but not quite – could put a name to.
Time made little sense, just as little as if they were in the circle at Artenhame. When Kirsty opened her eyes and parted from the vision she found one of the orbs floating in front of her face, less than an inch away. The orb had a definite form, a thin and long humanoid with large eyes and a laughing slit of a mouth, surrounded by the light that had made it appear round.
As suddenly as her eyes had focused on it, it was gone, just an orb dancing before her nose and threatening to pick it. Then it danced onward again. Both the professor and the centaur were watching her with twinkling eyes and crinkled lips.
Looking around Kirsty saw that several students had produced copious notes, while others as yet had nothing save expressions of awe. Others acted as if they wanted to dump debris over Maldein and Morvan, but repeatedly put it away whenever one of them looked toward where it was being carried from. The orb that had teased her before danced over to one of the nearby rocks, and her eye fell on a familiar glyph.
It burned and flashed with a cool green fire tracing the lines of forest trees, moving without moving. While other students kept their attention on the myriad spirits she reached her hand out to poke the tiny rock. It did not move, but she felt more rock even further beneath. Kirsty brushed at some of the dirt hugging it, but the grass fought back and refused to give way.
“Kirsty, what are you doing?” David asked, grabbing her hands at the odd green light in her eyes and trying to stop her.
“I'm positive I know this symbol, and want to know...” She trailed off, his grip dulling the desire a bit.
More of the orbs started to settle around the stone with Herne's glyph and Kirsty pawed more insistently at the stone again, despite David's grip taking her hands away from it. The orbs, fascinated by her interest, obliged and helped her clear the stone of it's covering without damaging the layers of grass. These they deposited a short distance away to continue growing.
“Don't let them fascinate you with the glyphs and stones too much.” Renovan's voice was soft. There had been no sound to alert her that the centaur had drawn near enough to speak into her ear. “Some things are better left alone until the time is right.”
“Sir?” Kirsty looked up at him. David still hadn't let go. They both had the same firm expression.
“Perhaps later you'll be able to find out in some private lessons, but not this time.” Renovan smiled and shot a conspiratorial wink, “Your professors and I will keep it in mind.”
Kirsty blinked in confusion, knowing there was some subtext she had just missed, frowning slightly as she analyzed.
“What glyph? There is no glyph on that rock slushgirl.” Morvan sneered.
“Lilitu, there is no reason to shoot insults in my class.” Professor Gerwulf's voice held none of the warmth it usually did. “Some people see different things. Need I remind you how you did the last time we covered hidden texts?”
“No sir.” Morvan pressed his lips together, still looking at the rock that had fascinated Makay so much.
Renovan shook his head. This foal, to him, was a lost cause. All he had ever seen of the boy was him bringing misfortunes on his own head while trying to appear more worthy than others. The other foal caused her own problems too, but more through curiosity and an overdose of innocence than Lilitu's pompous flouncing. It was amazing she had kept it this long in such close proximity.
The centaur looked up to the sky, toward where the moon would be. It was perhaps too convenient that she had it still for so long. In his gazing though he had not yet discerned why it was being protected. His gaze fell again to the girl.
Kirsty glared at Morvan briefly, but said nothing. A small smile touched the corner of her lips and then was gone. Her attention went instead back to the stone, and the glyph that Renovan knew she saw. “If such lessons are offered, I would love them.”
A breeze stired through the clearing, bringing with it the tang of the sea beyond the loch, and Renovan listened to its whispers. “Yes...I'm quite certain that they will.”
“For now though it is regrettably time to head back.” Professor Gerwulf broke in. “Your homework will be to compare what you learned in today's observations with what our text says about forest spirits. I want you to write essays and be prepared to discuss in class. We will cover the different types of forest spirits in more detail then.”
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.