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 precedes Selkies' Skins: Castle and Well. (click to hear what he sounds like in past recordings of other projects)
I am releasing this installment a little early due to expecting a busy weekend.
Selkies' Skins 2
Section 1: DescentInstallment 18Chapter 8 part 2
Cave of Communion
Section 1: Descent
Cave of Communion
Bethrise looked at her over his hand before taking another card. “You shouldn’t be messing around with the water like that before your Initiations and Trainings are done. That’s third degree water magic, and definitely above how old you are. Could break the planet matrix or your own cellular construct. Why you’re here and not on a beeline for Mara I’m not sure. The Maze has an entrance here, but I wouldn’t imagine you need it if you already know who you are.” He sighed and moved one of the shells toward the goal, discarding the spent card after. “You really don’t have a skin of your own?”
“No skin. A halfpelt that has come close to getting me in hot water a few times.” Kirsty looked over her cards.
“That must feel very strange.”
“Incredibly. I’m never fully convinced I’m whole. There’s always something missing, just beyond reach. When I’m with David it is not quite as sharp, but it’s still there. I don’t know how long I’ve been here below now. I miss him. I’ve been feeling pulled in more than one direction at once.” Kirsty discarded her card and made her move.
“Hm... That’s a feeling I know. You’ll have to make sure that you succeed and survive so that you can get back to this David of yours. If he feels the same way about you he must not be having an easy time of this separation.” Bethrise tensed for a moment, his eyes gazing through the table a moment before he jumped his shell on the table over one of Kirsty’s pieces, then collected both. “Wave.”
“He... In one sense he doesn’t know I’m gone. In another he does but is busy with his own tasks. Mollusks...”
“You can’t call mollusks, that was clearly a cockle.”
“Mollusks.” Kirsty eyed him and pointed at the shell that had once been hers. “I call a defense roll.”
Bethrise sighed and rolled the die. “Fine. Mollusk. My wave gets sand only.” He rolled again and returned Kirsty’s shell to the former location, then counted it out five spaces. “You still get moved.”
“I should teach David this game when I get home, when we get free time.”
“You should. Maybe someday fate will then allow us to play together and I can meet this lad. See if he’s worthy of an Initiate, provided Byron doesn’t eat him.”
“Byron likes him. He wouldn’t eat David.” Kirsty pressed her lips together.
“Maybe. Kelpies are rather territorial if you haven’t noticed. He has eaten unfit suitors before, at least so I’ve heard.” Bethrise mumbled as the game went on. “Could even think of him as a son, but he’d still need to prove his worth.”
Kirsty pressed her lips together and played the game silently for several turns. Her thoughts turned over and over the image of Byron, who had changed her diapers a time or three when she was just a child and watched over her when her parents were unable to be at home, drowning and devouring the boy that was both her best friend and the one she’d given what she had of her soul to. As a result of her distraction Bethrise was able to gain the upper hand quickly and won her sector of the sea, ending the game.
“Do you really think that he would?” Kirsty looked up at the disowned guardian.
“The thought doesn’t feel good, does it?” Bethrise’s voice was soft. “Guardians are chosen because of their protectiveness and because of what dark things they may have to do in the protection of their charge. It is far more than just laying down one’s life. It’s the soul too. They become bound.”
“He was Marsali’s. How does this work? I always assumed that since things were muffed that he passed down the lineage. Is that why? What happens if...” Kirsty trailed off and blushed, thinking of all the ways that David had taken care of her and stood in a similar place to Byron.
“He’s the only one of that time still alive, so I think he’s bound to the line until Marsali’s skin is returned to her, or even just a bit of the dust. Your line is the only one with such a strange situation, though there are others that aren’t ‘normal’ as well. Now, this might theoretically mean that you have two guardians or have the option of it. It certainly would have fixed a lot if Marsali had had that option.” Bethrise leaned on the table as he pondered the situation. “I suppose that is something that you’d best get an answer by asking Our Lady of the Sea when you see her.”
“Soon as I find Mara...” Kirsty frowned and got up, swimming to face the entrance to the maze and laying a hand over her heart, wincing at the tugs on it and more than a bit woozy as two times and realities washed over her senses. “I need a little space.”
Bethrise turned to watch her, following when she couldn’t hide the strain on her being. “You’re really not whole. It’s more than a metaphor with you.” He murmured, putting an arm around her and pulling from his waist pouch a couple sea grapes.
She winced away from the touch at first and then stilled when she realized it was the guardian. “Neither are you. You’ve got a similar Taint in you that the dark selkie and the Finman I met have. You should really fix the bleeding I see. That’s a deep gash.”
He looked down at his chest in confusion at the hazy image the young priestess unknowingly and weakly projected to him of a seeping and badly bandaged wound there, then back to her now unfocused eyes. “Some wounds take a long time to heal, and some broken things aren’t able to be fixed.” He pressed one of the green-brown grapes between her lips as he steadied her. “I’ll do what I can. What was that about a Finman?” He guided her to the floor, watching in mild bemusement and definite annoyance at the thought of one of those anywhere nearby as her eyes swept the room and finally locked on the sigils above the entrance to the maze.
Kirsty’s eyes cleared momentarily. “There was a Finman that played his flute a little before the dark lady threw her curse at me. He gave me a shield and spear, but that spell is broken now. Something’s making me feel funny.”
He grimaced and shoved the next grape into her mouth, which she chewed along with the other, finally. “More medicine for you then. See, you did mess yourself over with fiddling with that water like you’d said.”
The girl’s voice changed, not as if she spoke with two at once, more as if someone overshadowed her from far away. “Yes, you will. Your Charge needs you, Guardian. Do not worry about the Finman, for now. He is known to me and fights his Taint just as you do.”
“Lady Mara.” He dipped his head, eyes now steel. “I suppose I’m honored you’re speaking ot me through one of your vessels. My Charge though I am unsure how to get near without our malady setting us at each other’s throats.”
“This is why I am having to unravel snarled threads even though I am no weaver.” Mara replied, Kirsty’s eyes now dominated by the shifting depths that were her own. “You have to ensure that she does not interfere further. Her part in my tests is done. The Finman’s are not. The opening has been made for the poison to be drawn out, though my lance isn’t aware.”
Bethrise tried not to shudder, unable to tear his eyes away from the goddess within the child. “I will do what I can, Lady.”
Mara-Kristy nodded gravely. “You are hereby discharged from your duties at this gate. You will tell my Initiate she is to approach my temple through the maze.”
“The maze changes and connects things as needed. My clergy has forgotten this fact as the needs have been so similar among my peoples for so many generations. This does not mean though that Raechel and Astereth will not figure this out. I will send someone else from the nearest temple. You MUST ensure that she leaves something behind here though, some symbol of her humanity since se also seeks a skin and a full soul.”
He looked her over. “No offense my Lady, but the girl doesn’t look like she has a whole lot to leave behind.”
“That pouch holds more than it looks like. She is a witch.”
Bethrise’s gut felt like a lead ball retrieved from a glacier. “You mean you want me to make her empty out her purse. My father tried that with my mother once. ONCE. A wise man does not simply say ‘clean out your bag’ to a female, even a Guardian.”
“A wise man does not simply talk back to a deity either. Especially his deity.” The hint of humor covered razor fangs. The situation with Bethrise was reminding her a bit too much of when Mirmir interceded for Etain. Thinking of Etain “And she does not need to leave everything. Only a symbol of her humanness. I’ll ensure she gets her human skin back at the end with her seal skin.”
He sighed. “Do all of your Initiates leave something behind?”
“All, a different thing for each. Some don’t get their past back. Raechel, before you ask, did get it back.” An almost gentle smile crossed Kirsty-Mara’s face. “She still loves you, though she won’t admit it to anyone. I hear her in her dreams calling for you no matter what she does or says while waking. You need to stop blaming yourself. What happened that day wasn’t your fault.”
“Maybe, but I still feel like it. Why are you talking to me?”
“I do answer prayers, in my own way and own time.”
“But why not through one of the others? Why through someone that hasn’t finished her tests and Initiations?”
“Always so full of questions. The others are all older and they retain themselves most of the time when I step in. Would you want to have this conversation with someone that knew more of your story and all the rumors and lies?” She didn’t reach for him physically but instead reached a spectral hand out to lay it over his heart, smiling when shortly after the unconscious Kirsty physically placed her hand there.
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.