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 8Chapter 4
Where Moon Meets Sea
Section 1: Descent
Where Moon Meets Sea
A ripple, a splash. Etain felt it at the edges of the energy web keeping her here at the rocks at the edge of the worlds. She had passed beyond the gate of the Rocks that Drown, beat their siren songs and ever hungered waves that brought all boats and life to be shredded. Yet here she was, stranded on rocks that she knew not the names of, surviving on fish and seaweed. She stayed warm by drying what she could of small bits of driftwood and such for fires, and trying to fashion a raft out of larger pieces.
Most magic failed her here, though at least she had her voice to sing the fish close enough to hunt. Etain feared putting on her skin here, so weak she was magically. There was the danger of losing herself further and never returning home, finally forsaking the last of her humanity and truly, fully, belonging to the sea.
How many moonrises and sunsets had she spent here, and how did they translate in the mortal world of man? She kept track in her notebook faithfully, a last bastion to retain sanity and humanity. Each attempt of leaving the net though her hopes grew slimmer and slimmer that she would ever escape. Etain had no more tears for it.
The ripple came again, stronger.
“Must be summer break...that has to be Kirsty entering Mara's realm...” she said aloud to herself, to break the monotony of wind and wave and the heartbeat of the sea.
The moon rose, laying a silver path across the waters. A figure walked over it, crossing from world to world as the wind wove long waves of white into delicate filigrees that glowed, the aurora a rainbow around the distant brow. He, or she, perhaps shi being more accurate, stopped outside the boundaries of the invisible net trapping her and gazed sadly.
“Poor child.” Ven'thrith's voice rolled through, hir fingers resting lightly on the boundary and giving color now to the bonds while flickering back and forth between femininity and masculinity. “How fares it?”
“Cold and wet, and too weak to spare energy to dance nor smile. Are you come to get me off this accursed rock?” To her ears she sounded bitter as Mara.
“No child, though your Mother comes now that you've been found here. She can command this trap to break open again. Byron comes as well. Tell me daughter Brinetreader...did you find the Name?” Eagerness made hir face shine and hair whip.
“I believe so, or part at least. But in so doing I fear I may have lost myself.” Etain looked at her feet. “I managed to save endangered kelp as well to reseed the seas with... I promised Calypso I'd see to that” She patted her pouch softly. “It has been hard not to eat these, but I know I musn't.”
“Calypso? Long since I've spoken to that splinter.” Ven'thrith pressed harder on the barrier, grief and pain etching a suddenly much older and far more tired face of the moon than Etain had ever seen before. “I'm sorry my little slipping one. I would not have sent you Beyond if I had realized exactly how much of yourself would be lost.”
Etain shook weakly, balled her fist, but did not have the strength to lift it, nor the magic in her to do much else. “Tell me at least the reason, since you say this fault is yours.”
“Mara bleeds in her mind for her sister still and how the Lady is bound without her name. But there are matters that still must have mortal hands and mortal minds.” The darkness of the moon, though this night shi let it shine full, weighed hir words with the weight of the world. Each fell, a lead weight, a stone, into the deepsea. “Circumstances are finally aligning where an attempt might be successful.”
The fight went out of Etain, not in a huff or collapse, but in a long, slow, pain-filled exhale from which her lungs did not want to rise again under the heavy weight. “Might.”
“Might.” Ven'thrith agreed.
“Kirsty?” Etain wasn't sure whether to hope or to fear when asking, what little was left of her spirit trembling like a wisp in a storm over a bog.
“Well, for now. She is quite the brave one.” Shi replied through the membrane between them. “She has done admirably up to this point. You'd be proud of her...but I will let you tell you herself of her adventures. I won't deprive her of that.”
“So you believe then that she'll survive?” Etain sat and drew her knees up.
“I don't think that for now we have cause to doubt.” Ven'thrith paused a moment, trying to look through time, but to hir the threads were too twisted. Too many possibilities were overlapping, and more fingers were at the loom of time than what should have been, certainly more interferences than hir own gnarling the weave. What shi was able to discern for now all led to the union between land and sea that would heal Mara's hurts, which surely had to bode well for the little selkie maid and the young Hound. “Soft now. If darling Mara asks, I've not been here.”
Ven'thrith stepped away from the magical mesh, morphing first to the White Lady, then to Shi-yu, and back to the Old Man in the Moon as various worshippers touched in on and prayed to different aspects. As shi walked back across the silver bridge of moonlight where it kissed the sea shi rose until once more one again with the moon. Etain watched wearily and curled around herself to await her release.
Time continued to tick on with every passing wave and the night drew on, then to a close. The sun rose and Mara stepped out from the bloody morning across vermillion blazes in full armor, flashing with lightning and ocean's silver, set with pearl and crystal and throat gills flaring. Her feet carried her swiftly, her double headed crystal and obsidian spear a lance crackling with her fury.
Etain watched this vision dispassionately. Once it would have filled her with both dread and joy and caused her arms to open to the mother of her line and her oldest playmate, her oldest friend. A cry of pain rolled forth from Mara as her spear penetrated the field, and she drove further in, twisting the spear as if it were a key and flinging her claim wide to the skies for all to hear.
The netting fell and blew away in burning wisps, consumed by the sea deity's fires. When a burning fiber of magic fell on her sealskin she didn't flinch. Nor did Etain cry out when some fell on her exposed human flesh. She was numb within and without.
“Oh my child. My little strong one.” Mara crushed Etain to her chest in one arm, looking around for anything living that she could take more of her rage out on. Just as when Etain had been a pup, Mara's steely voice held a tenderness few ever saw.
Etain's arms closed woodenly around Mara and she cuddled close for the deity's warmth. Mara smelled of salt and fish primarily, but there were other things beginning to curl into Etain's nose. The scents of dolphins, seals, otters...these too wound slow courses to her brain along with the beat of Mara's heart. Nothing presented itself to Mara and so her spear wielding arm also flowed around Etain, bringing her closer.
Etain shudded as life began to flow and Mara's presence seeped back into her. Through her skin and through her breath the mist entered, reseating home and reenlivening the blood. Mara set the spear down, dipping Etain backward for a moment while settling down onto her legs to bring her into her lap.
“You've been separated from me for far too long, child. Rest now. I have you again and you've come through the storm.” Mara whispered, rocking Etain lightly and nuzzling her ear. The tiger shark striping on her arms faded and the sharkskin melted away, seal fur sprouting lush and dense.
Etain snuggled closer as the deity gave her a safer form to fall into. The sobs came, pent up for years, welling from the depths and bringing with them all of the pollutions that Etain had drawn in during her adventures but been unable to process properly. “I'm so tired, Lady Mother...”
“I know Etain...You've done well. You've done well.”
Etain lapsed into sleep, still sobbing, and here on the other side of the Rocks That Drown Mara sang the songs of Life, placed cuts into the woman's soft flesh, and poured her own blood directly into her, just as Etain had been doing for so many years for her precious seas.
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.