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. Aan audio edition of the first book in the series narrated by Illya Leonov and now available on Amazon, iTunes, and Audible, with other venues pending. (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." This chapter is currently a work in progress. We are back into longer chapters so this will be in at least two, more likely three parts. We go now to Justin as we draw closer to the Finmen's territory and the Temple. In a few days I will update the glossary to include the new words, although if you are really curious the ones in this segment are Nordic and German due to the ethnicity/location of the Finmen's strongest settlements.
Selkies' Skins 2
Section 1: DescentInstallment 10Chapter 6 part 1
Darkened Hearts (also considering Shadowed Hearts)
Section 1: Descent
Darkened Hearts (also considering Shadowed Hearts)
Blue eyes unfocused and then refocused while the Seidhermenn conversed. The voices of the goddesses had been pulling at him more and more, as well as the chants he had last heard when the strangely serene Japanese dragon kami, Amehana, and her little white frilly friend had visited his dreams so long ago. These clashed strangely with the voices and runework of the Seidhermenn. A wave of sound crashed over him and their deep, scratching voices won out. The confusing scene that had been before his mind's eye faded. Once more he stared at the water-fire, picking out runes but puzzling as to their meaning and use. His own bindrune was also in the fire, curing from what had most recently been added to his weight and history.
If the Seidhermenn knew he saw the runes in the fire, he would likely be placed under stricter care, and even be chaperoned on his missions, lest he learn to read them or do runework. So he learned long ago not to ask after the runes like the others were allowed, but to try to feel them out for himself.
In the flickers he saw the lightning bar of Sowilo in the basecoals, peeking, breaking and disappearing. Inguz's helix twinned and wove away. Tiwaz, Thor's rune, blazed momentarily in the coal. All eyes went to those, drinking them in, taking various layers of understanding.
“As I said before, 'Tin has already managed to taint her since he interrupted the presterburdr. He managed to get a bit of what she would have become and she a bit of what he is. Because of this she'll be more vulnerable to the full selkie priestess we managed to corrupt.” One of the younger of the thirteen creaked like an ancient oak door.
“I would imagine that this would give our clan a bit more influence when it comes time for the next Gramr.” Americ dropped a pinch of the seeing mixture into the fire. As the herbs ignited the sparks shone off of the green scales of his arm.
The eyes turned from the fire they had been collectively gazing into and through, to Justin. He continued to attempt looking unnoteworthy. Though something about Seaswimmer infuriated him, something else told him that anything he did against her wasn't right. Perhaps they would discard this.
“Still interesting that I may have taken part of what she would have been for myself though.” He thought to himself, waiting.
Another elder fished Justin's bindrune from the coals, then restrung it with rasped chants while the conversation carried on around him. The wood glowed, oddly not burned, only bleached instead of blackened. Justin hoped that it had not hardened so much that he couldn't try carving marks of his own in it trying to reclaim some measure of self again. The elder frowned at the coloring. “Curious...”
The most imposing of the elders did not notice his compatriot's observation, nor the unexpected coloring of the result rune. “Tainting is good, but just not enough. If we end that bloodline, or twist her so badly she ensures there is no return of the gentle side... perhaps bringing her to live with us as one of us even, I think that would be better and more in line with His will. Mara won't heal.” The eldest's voice rasped like a worn hinge just before the breaking point while stirring the coals and returning his attention to their glyphs. “Tin. Attend.”
Justin looked up, keeping his face carefully neutral, then rose and moved to where the ancient pile of scale and fur pointed his gnarled clawed finger. To have the claw inscribe yet more runes into him was something he preferred to avoid. Already the green thickness had begun to ooze from the nailbeds and drip down the claw. “Here, Jarl Seidhermenn.”
“I want you to follow the girl, and bring her back to us, preferably netted and weak. The more spiritually broken the better.”
“As you command, Jarl.” The edict was no surprise to him, yet even they had their tribunals and processes that must be adhered to. With a deep curt nod, just enough to show that he understood and respected both station and assignment, he withdrew from the room and through the tattered door.
The beads and shells decorating the leather clanked and jingled behind him, and he did not pause to examine the twining runes as they inked their way over the flap, nor the longhouse he'd just exited with the carven dragon eaves. Instead he made for a much smaller, far more run down affair. The wooden over door, chains and rock were to the side for the time being, as he was not currently under guard. Justin pushed aside the woven seaweed curtain and gathered his spear, his flute and rations were already in his pouch.
“Now just to find the wench.” He thought, smirking just a little. “What happens after that is something else entirely.”
“'Tin, you forgot something.” The ancient voice drew him up short, and he turned slowly while the blood dropped to his feet. “I think you would find that you would not go far without this.”
The elder placed the pendant over Justin's head, and the weight of it pressed down on his chest and heart. It burned and seared, taking his breath for a moment, then went still and cool. The sentience within the rune watched. He could feel it calculating, waiting. Yet somehow it was not the same as what it had been when the elder removed it for the scrying and curing.
“My apologies Seidhermen Americ. Thank you.” His heart raced despite forcing his breath to be slow and even.
“You should be more careful, 'Tin. Much more careful. I am surprised your luck holds enough that it wasn't noticed by any but myself. I advise darkening your bindrune while you are gone, before the Jarl realizes his hold slips.” The voice carried, despite being hissed below the elder's breath, as if the force of his magic funneled it to his ear alone.
“Thank you for not...revealing then.”
“No one deserves the pain he inflicts when he infects you. I tire of treating it, when there are so many others that he could take his frustrations out on.” His dismissive tone left the listener wondering if the elder really thought so little of it.
“I do not understand why it has always been so.”
“Pray you never find out then. That day he'll be likely to inflict things to make your soul split, and what you fight so hard for will be lost forever.”
“I will remember the warning...”
“Tin...don't fail. Don't let her go without doing something.”
“Am I that soft then?” Justin drew himself to his full height, squaring himself in the manner of the other, more respected, hunters and warriors. His slimness belied the stance.
“Yes.” The elder turned to go, pushing his way out of the hut.
Americ paused and turned his head slightly.
“Why do you continue to hide me?” Justin pressed. “It would be much easier to just let the other Seidhrmenn discover.”
The old finman's face folded into a bitter smile. “I do not like the Jarl, nor how he keeps us subjugated to Astereth. I prefer Mara.”
“But why? Weren't you always a finman too? I know that we do have some born to the women we steal.”
“I was, but my wife was given to him after she had finally begun to trust me, with Mara's help. The same will happen to you, should you ever gain one, whether or not Mara decides to favor you by influencing a love. I was much like you, and like you, had to first steal what knowledge of the runes that I could.” The elder traced a shape onto the doorframe, then left fully.
Justin followed suit, pondering the information. If he were not the only one having to steal the knowledge, then perhaps there was hope yet, if Americ had been able to gain Seidhrmen status. A wife though...
He smiled as he passed one of the women gained from the raids, in her chores, offering a polite Góðan daginn to her. She beat the rug harder and scowled at him, blonde hair pulled up into a stern bun she'd covered with a bright blue kerchief. Finding a wife was a rather unlikely thing when all of them cast similar looks, despite his best attempts to bring them small comforts they missed.
He left the village behind, along with the scowling women, and the surrounding kelp forest and rocky fields with the various guardians and traps, careful to move neither too fast nor too slow. One of the guardians watched him with a curled lip while he made his way through, but did not stop him nor sling a taunt. For a few months now, since he ruined the midwinter birthing, his treatment was...different. Not better, just different. Wary.
Justin left in his wake the final rune-traced dolmen that marked the edge of village territory and the open hunting area. Other villages of the loose clan could be expected to have their hunters prowling, and it would not be unusual to chance on those of other clans, especially as he'd likely need to go into their territories. Reflexively he reached once again for the carved wooden rune-bind pendant at his neck, his passport, burden, and curse announcing his unknown past to Seidhermenn of other clans and the various guardians of their areas.
He swam and followed the pull, wishing that he could ride a current to make his trek less long.
*Note: Justin's encounter with Amehana and Diamondixi can be read in "Dreamweaving" from Smashwords and other venues.This was a short story written as a reward to a donator to the Kickstarter for the first book. Amehana also makes a bit of a cameo in my "Dragon Shaman" series and will also do so when I get around to working on "The Shadow Chronicles." Amehana also makes appearances in other worlds. ;)
Thank you for reading along with the webnovel version of this book. This has gone up on the Web Fiction Guide, so reviews of the current story developing are welcome, as are votes.