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 6Chapter 3 part 1
Section 1: Descent
Kirsty stood before the Examining Lintel and gazed up toward the currently still carvings, musing on glyphs, stones, and the ever tightening insistence of the sea and the odd twining of vine and root. The marble ravens' eyes, sapphires keeping their House's secrets, winked in the moonlight disturbed by the waving tapestries. The sealion's eyes watched her with similar guarded gaze, just as did the serpent of Spiralis. The closer the end of the year drew the more time she could feel being wasted. With the vastness of the sea what guarantee did she have she'd find the right temple in time once finally released?
“Waterwitches shouldn't be out of bed at this hour.” Meri, the castle's gremlin, peeked around the side of a tapestry. Shi* was as androgynous as ever and smiled maliciously. “It's not your waterstudies night, and not a moon night. I should tattle.”
Kirsty shrugged, keeping her eyes on the Examining Lintel. “I won't stop you. How are you coming on picking open that seal on the poltergeist?”
Meri grimaced and hissed. “It burned my hands again. I'm closer than I was, but little Meri still has a long way to pick before having a friend again.”
Kirsty sighed and finally took her eyes from the Lintel's watchers, turning them to the tiny, grizzled, mismatched creature. “Let me see your hands.”
The gremlin grudgingly shuffled into the light and extended hir* hands. Kirsty flinched a bit when they reached the bar of moonlight, their raw, red burns still steaming with magical acidic curls of smoke. “It hurts. It does.”
“I can tell. Poor lonely Meri.” She dropped down to a knee and rummaged in her sporran, pulling out a small pot from the enspelled hollow.
“Yes. Meri is very poor and very lonely.” Shi whined in agreement. “No one likes Meri but Mervin. Mean headmasters took Mervin away from Meri and Meri away from Mervin.”
Kirsty opened the pot and carefully smeared the healing ointment on the little gremlin's hands, humming quietly one of the songs she knew to boost the healing. She was careful to keep it quiet enough that the gremlin could continue to vent if shi needed to.
“Meri and Mervin shouldn't do whatever they did that was bad enough for it then.” Imp sniffed down at Meri from his perch on Kirsty's shoulder. “If they would be sensible and do helpful things they would be free like Imp is.”
“Be nice Imp. Mischief is in their nature, and it's something we probably actually do need to just deal with. Otherwise they wouldn't allow them to remain.” Kirsty chided, looking over her handiwork while Meri glared at Imp.
“Not many students figure that out so soon into their careers here.” The black marble raven observed dryly, the white marble raven nodding in agreement. “It is usually years after, when and if their children return to the nest.”
“If ever,” Spiralis' snake changed his coiling and raised his head a bit.
“Tending the gremlin's wounds surely is not what brings the water's child to us this night though.” The sealion gazed down at her, his chisled mane flowing and fishtail flicking thoughtfully. “It is early morning whilst students still slumber, perchance you've had another dream that you need guidance on?”
She shuddered. “Nae, not this time.”
Each of the carved statues leaned further over their Lintel and strained toward her with interest. They reached for her with their minds, extending theirs to overlap with hers and hear her thoughts, just like they had with countless students back to their carving and ensoulment.
“What is it then?” The statues asked as one.
“This waiting is driving me insane. What more can I possibly learn that I need to know before I go? Oh aye, these things are indeed fine, and necessary for when on land, but-” Kirsty restrained herself from pacing.
“But what of the seas and shifting tides are found in these stone walls and the green forest surrounds? What can you learn here of the halls and creatures of the deep, yes?” The Leomaris sealion finished for her.
“Is the wait really that long?”
“Am I not a danger to those here by remaining, and thus always living distracted?”
“Says the selkie-maid that was so happy not so long ago to be safely by the side of the one she gave her heart to. Will you not be just as distracted if in the sea?” His voice rumbled and rolled like thunder through her mind, and she felt the pass of fur and scale.
“I am happy to be back with him. I just feel useless.”
“How do you know you are useless where you are? How can anyone know what difference one little thread makes?” The white raven's silken voice threaded in, a tiny breeze on a summer day.
Kirsty did not answer, merely balled her fists. The castle fell away around her and she was once more in that place in between where her House had been chosen for her. The breeze blew on her left, and the leaves rustled to the right. Before her was the ever rushing sea, reaching now to her toes.
“I think,” Spiralis hissed in her ear and coiled up her. “I think the selkie-maid does not see what she means to other students on their own journeys. When it was time to place you with your element we considered both your actual element, those connections you had already begun to make, and your giving heart. You are the one that helped McNamara become comfortable here so that she could learn to control her fires when they flared.”
The waters in front of her briefly showed Ally's first few days, and how many times it had been Kirsty's quick hands taking Ally's flaming ones in the common room while going over homework. Water swirled over fire, and the scene disappeared.
“There are others.” The snake settled, his weight rooting her. The sand shifted and she felt like a granite stone set in sand. “We could go on about how you are useful here.”
Kirsty shook her head. “I believe you. I guess. I just don't know what to do.”
The statues looked at each other out of the girl's range of mindsight and spoke beyond her mindear.
“Should we?” the serpent mused, flicking his tongue. “She's got the mind breadth for it.”
“The last time we let a student soul travel to their future had some rather harsh repercussions when he returned home.” the lion grumbled. “If you remember, he didn't return.”
“He forgot our counsel though when the time truly came for him to experience that in his present.” the ravens cawed. “Poor Michael.”
“I think that this Makay has an advantage.” The sealion picked a claw fussily. “Surely Michael's story has survived with that book they keep.”
“What if it hasn't?” The white raven's rough voice washed through gravel shores with the waves. “Their goddesses do sometimes remove all entries by and about 'dead branches' going by some of what we have gleaned.”
“Kirstin is not exactly known for living fully in the present.” The black raven groused as he picked his breast feathers. “Valnarius will also notice if she is more absent than usual and will wonder why. The lad pays attention even when he seems like he doesn't.”
“I believe that she could do it successfully. No one will know she is not as fully present as she could be. Her body will still be here. She will be seen walking the halls and doing everything that she does normally. Makay will not miss any classes.” The serpent hissed and soothed.
There was a general murmur as the others considered, looking over the child caught at her cusp. To them she always fluctuated between several forms with the change of her thoughts. She was a living embodiment of water, plain and simple, just as surely as they had several students that embodied other forces with or without knowing.
“But will she be able to deal with the after effects?” The black raven picked at his wing before eyeballing his mate.
* Shi and hir are intentional spellings for a third gender or questionable gender pronoun.
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.