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. An 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. He is currently working on "Book of Seals: Pearls of Sea and Stone" which accompanies and preceeds Selkies' Skins: Castle and Well. (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 installment is the last part of Chapter Six. The next installment will be Chapter Seven: Soul Piping and is currently in progress. Thank you for your patience while I finished my degree and caught up on things.
Selkies' Skins 2
Section 1: DescentInstallment 13Chapter 6 part 4
Darkened Hearts (also considering Shadowed Hearts)
Section 1: Descent
Darkened Hearts (also considering Shadowed Hearts)
Justin wakened in time to taste the waters begin to turn, and the taste of the poison was one he knew well. It burned his tongue, his throat, his heart. His skin throbbed and the flute in his pouch groaned silently.
“One of the Tainted? Here?” He levered himself up and gave a kick of his tail to get off of the seafloor while his body screamed. A small trickle of blood ran from his nose and clouded the waters around him. Perhaps it had already been happening though and he only just now was feeling it. If there were any sharks still alive nearby it would certainly grab their attention.
The world spun and then settled while the drum of his heart beat mingled with the subtle tide. Runes along his arms activated in response to the spread of Taint. Justin’s hair rose and part of himself fought while his hand reached to touch and check his bind-rune still rode where it should. It did and he drew a labored breath as his vision cleared more. He still felt Seaswimmer nearby, and she was closer than when he had lost consciousness even though he was not certain how or why that would be.
“Move.” Two voices sounded in his mind, male and female, both cold and low. Something almost familiar tickled his mind about them, but there was no time to dwell on it. Not with that presence feeling so near to his quarry.
The world fully snapped to focus and he picked up his dropped spear, which he found several bodyspans away. Many tail flicks later he was further into the Taint cloud, far enough in where his second Sight could actually see it starting to cloud due to the concentration of it. The Taint aided him, allowing him to travel swifter through it and recognizing him as part of it. Justin’s lip curled in disgust at himself from the boost but part of him was glad of it. The cloud grew darker the further he followed the pulls.
“Purpose to everything.” A voice barely whispered, though he couldn’t make out which of the many voices he had been hearing lately. “You should be thankful.” Another voice curled from somewhere inside himself, near the inner chains.
Finally, the water began to clear again from night-dark to cloud-grey and then to watery-mist. In the center of the clearing his quarry hung suspended and ashen in her half-form, her silvery-white fur dull. Faint runes and whorls burned over her in deathly icy fire, glowing weak and sick as they shifted and danced. The lettering flashed now and then to ogham and back, and often to something far older that pulled at something deep inside himself, almost touched. Her eyes, currently a vibrant aquamarine backlit by the same witch-fire dancing over her, opened and locked with his but stared through him as if her Sight was locked into some other realm.
“She’s Dying! Now is your best chance. Your spear!” Another voice licked and curled through his mind and his bones sang, this one definitely the one near his chains. “Strike the selkie where she floats.” Ice gripped his heart and leeched at what warmth he did have in it. His hands reached to make sure there was a good dose of poison on his spearhead, without his will, controlled by the voice.
Song fell from the lips of the youth before him while her hair tendrils writhed in the water. He could not be sure of what the words were, nor the language as the young priestess-witch stumbled over what was being pulled from her. Whatever it was though, it seemed to go with the motions she made with fingers and tail. She was doing something to or for the water, and it was clear that she wasn’t quite sure of exactly what she was doing. As he watched she gagged and the fighting began again. An answering throb pulsed in his veins and he felt something shift attention to him, and then discard him like storm refuse.
The ice gripped harder and the voice of Astereth oozed through his mind again. “Now, Thrall. Stop her and present her to your Jarl, and you’ll perhaps gain a mate.”
A ripple in the water pulled him outward from where the voice was trying to take him in his mind. Looking toward the presence, on the other side of Seaswimmer, he saw one of the sources, and the being that he’d felt. The black selkie woman, also in her half-form, sneered at the white one while clutching the double tipped spear. The shells of the elder Mara priestesses weighed some strands of her hair down, the blue paint playing over her face in a warrior’s dance. Her body was muscled and toned beneath the armor and the floating wraps, but he could see her twitching, as if she were a savage grundylow held at leash’s end of a dark goddess.
Justin recoiled before the woman could see him. The sneer made him think too much of his Jarl. Something within himself pushed back against the Taint. The woman traced figures in the water before her and her eyes lit with a dark flame. Words of power and cursing coiled and hissed from her mouth in green and purple clouds wending their way toward Seaswimmer.
Seaswimmer’s eyes still looked ahead unseeing of what was going on in this layer of reality. The water around her was beginning to take a red tinge now, and he could taste her blood in it just as he could taste his own. Seaswimmer’s light dimmed further and the symbols spread into the water itself. The presence of deities and spirits focused on the three merfolk was overwhelming to him as their different games met and clashed.
The symbols and the blue light drifted further from the tiny, very frail looking, body. Seaswimmer’s eyes flickered as she fought and attempted to keep herself while her soul mingled with the water. Something broke inside when, for just a brief moment, the Tested saw him. Horror flashed and then was gone as she was pulled back.
Justin made a decision and reached to pull out his coral flute. Americ thought him to be weak. If he were weak then it was time to rely on what made him different than the other finmen. If he were going to hunt and capture the new priestess, then he was going to do it by his own code of honor. It did not include taking her at a point like this, as if he were some coward.
Justin wasn’t sure why it felt so important to him.
“I hope this works.” He thought. “They’re both a little older than my usual target.”
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