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 has finished "Book of Seals: Pearls of Sea and Stone" which accompanies and precedes Selkies' Skins: Castle and Well which will be available in full audiobook format soon. (click to hear what he sounds like in past recordings of other projects)
Selkies' Skins 2
Section 2: Temple's LightInstallment 27Chapter 11 part 2
Whispers in the Dark, Color of the Pelt
Section 2: Temple's Light
Whispers in the Dark, Color of the Pelt
From last time:
She felt a click ripple the water. A whoosh. Something had to have opened ahead.
And now this episode:
Kirsty pressed on, fur bristling, and the lightless chamber gave way to a pit. How Kirsty fell into it despite swimming didn’t cross her mind. Perhaps the gravity was denser and pulled her, perhaps there was a current, perhaps some eldritch warping of space and time took her as prey, like the faerie mounds were known to still do from time to time.
Or her klutziness just chose that time to kick her down.
Threads, sticky, bitter. Threads everywhere, in her fur, her hair, trying to go up her nose. Gifu flared back to life and fire spread from the shield. It spread out along the threads in a sick green flame and she fell agin. The fire spread over her and she tried to combat it, but it continued burning until the web that still clung was gone. Where it had kissed was beyond stinging. Her fur was charred, and it was surprising any remained.
The rune floated around her, giving a bit of light to the pit. An orange glow ahead drew her forward. Every undulation forward brought more and more sulfur to her tongue and the heat continued to rise. Gifu hovered near, quavering.
Kirsty’s blood itched.
The steam vent had more color than she expected. Life continued here, scratching for sustenance. Crenellated creatures crawled on mysterious errands seemingly undaunted by the heat and pressure.
“I’d have thought she would be here.” The leering velvet voice slipped from behind another vent to reveal itself. “She was for me. Maybe Mara doesn’t want you after all, or has something more important to do than come see a dirty little half breed.”
The dark selkie priestess leered and stroked the spear she held. Green runes danced over her form.
“I wouldn’t know. I might even be lost.” Kirsty replied.
“You were lost soon as you were whelped.” The black selkie bared her fangs. “Why aren’t you stained?”
“Astereth whispered to come here, told me what to do to keep the Temples pure of your kind. I set the spell, so why don’t you carry it now?” Raechel growled.
The spear lunged for her, the muscular priestess following. Kirsty rose her barrier and her hands as one. Gifu continued flitting about, unnoticed by Kirsty, erratic and confused. The barrier held, deflected the point away from her heart. Kirsty’s hands once more found the shaft.
Black selkie and white danced together among the vents as they billowed, bringing up the water superheated by earth’s inner fires. Raechel’s snarls wrapped and reverberated, and spell after spell tangled. The magics cloyed and curdled, liquid cheese and poison.
Kirsty found herself backed to one of the vents. The heat seared and filled her. She could taste herself boiling.
Raechel laughed. “Pathetic. Whose’s been training you? You’re terrible as a warrior.”
“I’d rather not follow that path without cause. I have no reason to cause harm.”
“Is that so? You’ve really never tried to kill?” Raechel laughed, her eyes sparking. “It’s fun.”
“Is that you talking, or the Taint, Raechel? I met your mate to be.”
The point of the spear pressed painfully to her breast and Kirsty gritted her teeth, yet the blade refused to sample her.
“He left me.” Raechel’s words were lead, or perhaps drowned whales caught in nets.
“He still loves you, I think. I think you should and could reconcile.”
“When he left me for floosies and fin flashers? Why would I?” Raechel pressed harder, but the spear continued refusing Kirsty’s blood. Raechel growled, darkness and poison swirling around her arms.
Kirsty’s eyes focused on the Taint enveloping them. Runes of dark purple, red, and acidic green twined and writhed in the spreading ink. Her hand somehow found a strange bulge in the rock encasing of the vent. She could pull the superheated water even easier here, try to cook her adversary. Instinct demanded it, even. Yet somehow, something about the dark priestess in front of her prevented it.
So many eyes watching, peering, sifting. Some probably laughed. She could and probably would die here. Yet, if she were to die, why wasn’t this deadly spear taking her? It was so similar to the one the crazed bull so long ago was going to kill her with.
“That’s Mara’s spear?” Kirsty wasn’t sure where the conviction came from. It had to be though. There could be no other explanation.
Raechel blinked. For a moment something about her eyes seemed clearer.
Kirsty didn’t shut her eyes. If she did then perhaps she’d lose the slim hold over Raechel. Kirsty could taste the Taint clearly now. Where it touched, stung. Nails, fire, salt, acid. She inhaled as deeply as she could, even though it made her chest rise and press harder on the tip.
This time it did press in, but still refused to open her. The blades of crystal and obsidian slid to her heart, through her with the sensation of a hand swishing through over-hot bath water to mix in fresh cool water.
Unbidden, The Song of the Water Keepers floated from her lips, washed over the spear and Raechel, and through Kirsty herself. The tide pulsed. She couldn’t reach Raechel, but she could and did wrap her fingers around the shaft sticking out from her chest.
Healing, hope, renewal. These were things she woven into new verses of the song, continuing where the Book of Seals left off.
Kirsty was unaware of Raechel’s frustrated scream or what was pouring out from her through her words and the blue-green phosphorescence coiling up the spear and swimming for the dark priestess. If anyone had been able to look, like the various deities watching the testing process were, they would have seen it take on form that flickered between snake and spectral seal and hear it calling in compliment to the words welling from deep within her core.
Raechel wrenched the spear from her adversary with a shriek and flung herself back as hard as she could, before the specter could penetrate very far into the Taint surrounding her. Claw and fang rent into the cloud, left imprints that sizzled and shimmered as they sought to erase and change some of the runes embedded in her.
“Slowly, too slowly for this round.” One watcher commented from their gazing shell her voice low. The lights of the gazing chamber were muted, barely lighting the walls themselves and not even reaching to those watching their prospective sister.
“That will still continue working though, even while they’re apart. Even if it takes years, and repeat exposures, we might reclaim that one.” Another voice answered, low and male, rumbling like whale call.
“Our Lady willing.” The first replied.
Kirsty grimaced, levered herself off the rock with her tail and used the momentum of the retreating spear that tore from her hands to follow, but not fast enough.
Raechel turned and fled into the dark and the myriad twisting tunnels of mind and the ethers connecting the waves. Kirsty sank to the seafloor when her adversary had gone too far for her to pursue. Hand pressed to her chest, still no blood flowed, and the finger of the other hand poked where her chest was closing again, her brow a tangled kelp bed and lips snarled storms.
“What about that Finman that was sulking around with her outside the thin place?” The priest’s voice curled in the dark, part of the heavy waters of the shell swirling as he looked for the man.
“I don’t think he could press in that weak point, even with Astereth’s poisoning Raechel so badly. Not yet.”
“That shield wasn’t her rune, originally. She’d not use runes unless they taught her to unlock them in that school. He gave it to her at the girl’s first brush with our wayward sister. I was watching her progress at the time.” A third voice wound in. “Why and how though, and what binds them?”
“Problematic.” The priest nodded. “Still, we should prepare for our own entries into the Maze, before she reaches the threshold. “We have time to study this oddity before she enters the Chamber.”
“They were once Mara’s as well. Maybe this one will be one we can use to cleanse and reclaim them.” A forth voice, cool and steady, gripped the others, chastising. “You should all remember this.”
“I didn’t mean to sound so clinical, dear.” The priest grimaced, his nose wrinkling as he looked to her. “My apologies, High Priestess,” he continued as he saw the ice in her eyes, fully in her role.
She made a gentle, dismissive gesture to all of them, backing away from the shell they had been sharing. “I must withdraw and consult with her Ladyship. We could not have been the only ones watching. He, too, surely would be watching whether his lackies can or not. You all go in ahead of me.”
“Should we move her from the room? The first, again.
The High Priestess looked over the grey selkie where she shivered. “I doubt that is necessary. Raechel would have left, to protect her heart and the Taint. Seaswimmer will find the way out by the time she comes back to herself. We can only hope she’ll remember her new verses. I’ll be recording them before I forget them myself.”
“As you say then, Lorekeeper.”
She nodded her white head in acknowledgment, smiled slightly and made a barely perceptible kissing motion toward her chastened mate, and turned her back on them. She needed the crystal, and the book, and her Lady’s presence. Now.
[Back to what I know for sure will be in book two "Temple and Skinquest."]
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