rainstardragon: (Default)
 One incredulous Byron takes over the author's computer temporarily, dripping water all over. She can weather one. more. heart. attack.

Byron: Oh look, here's my great-great-great-great-great-*giant litany* grandsire. The horse, not the man. http://www.deviantart.com/art/Son-of-the-Sea-530806833

The completely unapologetic kelpie trots right back to his barn, dripping even more water the whole time he's in the author's house.
rainstardragon: (selkies skins)

The first physical proof of the book is in the mail for the editor and I to look over while awaiting the official print cover art, and a select few beta readers have the pdf of the physical proof for digital proofing and beta reads before the book can be declared "ready" for the ebook. This first book tops out at 414 pages with the current print layout, fonts, and interior art. If you'd like to get a peek at the interior art, I will upload section divider images to the contents dividers on the archival site later. Not today though, but there will be an announcement. The website won't be updated with this installment until sometime on Wednesday after the kids and I are back home from dental work.

This is also the first post of the third section (Tidal Activation) of book one (Selkies' Skins: Castle and Well). Yes Vadise dear. You can be counted the father of a series. Everybody thank the man, because this project keeps me from doing things that would hurt such as unleashing my extreme klutziness upon hapless hiking trails (it's too cold for me lately anyway).


All that said...

Welcome back to the story!
If you don't wish to use the Selkies' Skin tag to find the entries, check the ToC on the Sticky Note at Dreamwidth. Story is mirrored to myLiveJournal, from my Dreamwidth, as well as on a dedicated site. For story news and more, subscribe to my Twitter (@AmehanaArashi) or go on Facebook and like either THG StarDragon Publishing or Selkies' Skins. As always, the main tag for the story is selkies' skins.

Selkies' Skins
Installment 59
Chapter 31
Return to the Beginning

 

Kirsty spent her waiting time at the stables for her aunt, once it had been made clear she intended to accompany her home. Some of the stalls were empty, but she could feel and hear occupants. If the light were better, she knew she would see the glamoured beasts. She wasn’t sure of what exactly they were, but she was aware of kelpie being part of their mix, as she heard mumbled words now and then.

Other stalls truly were empty, waiting for their occupants to return. Yet others held various other beasts...an old kelpie without the benefit of age freezing. His gnarled knees and shabby coat brought tears to her eyes. Before she curried Byron to occupy her hands she checked Mr. Ainsley’s chart he had by the stall.

It was nearing time for his medicine. To help Ainsley out, who was likely busy with rounding up children and getting them to the train, Kirsty read the bottle carefully before she administered it, then checked off that it had been done. She whispered to the old lad in Irish and then massaged away what she could of his aches while he lipped at her and watched with cataract clouded eyes.

“If I were a younger lad, I’d be repayin’s your gentle touches with a few of mine own...” The old one murmured as she stood up.

“If you were a younger lad, and you were giving her some gentle touches, then I’d be having a wee discussion about it.” Byron grumbled, having watched carefully the entire time. “You’d not be giving rides either. She’s younger than she looks.”

“A pity, ‘tis so hard to ken a lass’s age when her mind and spirit dunnae match her body.” The old one observed, still trying to hold himself in a manner fitting a young stallion. “By her smell I thought she was older.”

Kirsty looked confused and glanced at Byron, but he shook his head. He would answer the questions he saw forming out of earshot of hoary old males. He sighed deeply. Byron knew that this would only get worse till she was through her puberty. The selkie blood didn’t care a fig for what human ‘society’ thought would be a proper time to become a woman.

How many more generations would he go through before he just started trying again to eat anything male that looked the way of his female charges?

At last, Kirsty’s attentions turned to him, and he accepted the currying. Byron closed his eyes as the brush made its way through his fur and Kirsty’s humming wrapped around him. Finally though they were able to make their way back to the castle.

Only the children that were to stay the holidays remained, safely tucked away in the castle with their boisterous conversations or solitary wanderings. Professors MacLeòmhann and Guirmean stood beside the loch in the spot that David and Kirsty often retreated to, where the branches framed the castle and Kirsty had privacy for her lessons and changes. The two were in deep conversation when Byron and Kirsty arrived.

“Belara, for the thousandth time...I will send for you if something happens. There are few enough students to administer to that it will not harm anything for you to take a little break yourself to be there for Kirstin’s first trial.” Guirmean held her hand, his eyes caught somewhere between a sparkle and a somber reflection. “It’s better to accompany her home anyway with how clear it is she’s targeted.”

“I know...I just... Oh Artair, why is it always that so much happens during the pivotal life events?”

“Belara...” Guirmean smiled and pressed a mischievous finger to her lips. “You’ll scare the children.”

Kirsty blinked at walking up on such an odd display, and Byron smirked a little.

“Truly terrifying that she’s not a block of marble. You should have seen when she was younger.” Byron agreed, his smirk only growing wider.

Professor MacLeòmhann tossed a dirty look at Byron, and he smirked even wider.

“Well, you are human. You’re allowed emotions and family.” Byron snorted and kneeled down for the elder. “If everything’s taken care of, shall we be off?”

“Yes...” Professor MacLeòmhann got on Byron’s back, Professor Guirmean helping her get situated, and then assisted Kirsty up even though she didn’t need it. “Safe travels and easy tides.”

“Fair winds and may the rocks never trip you.” Byron replied, then looked expectantly toward the underwater gates. With the Things traveling the country more, he did not want to risk the barrier not closing behind him. It had been easy to enter, the barrier had him programmed into the spell with how many other Makays he had once brought or ran errands for.

There was something to be said when a mild paranoia might protect others’ children.

Byron felt the headmaster’s eyes on him as he carried the headmistress and Kirsty down into the water, then through the first and second and out past the mer-village. Each barrier that closed, he felt a different element move through the water and the planes realign behind. The water roiled behind him as the third barrier resolidified behind him, and there was a loud ‘click’ as of a lock being turned.

Byron smiled with satisfaction. He was out of the plane that the school was located in. Now what remained was his travel through the water element and its correspondence to the topography. The underground passage out to the sea loomed ahead of them, the current pushing and pulling like a child drinking and then blowing straw bubbles in his milk. The outrush blew the weeds toward them like the tangles of the Cailleach’s hair on a storm’s night.

Kirsty trembled with mingled excitement and trepidation. The pressure here was far more intense than nights she had snuck to this outer end of the loch the previous year, before the Things began to patrol more heavily. There were eyes here, she could feel them sizing her up. From inside came a growl, but she couldn’t be certain if it was real, or if it was all in her mind.

Byron didn’t pause, but slid into the gaping maw and past the weedy and stoney teeth, and through into the passage. The jagged walls closed in around her and the darkness consumed itself—and her. They breathed and oozed a presence that leered over her shoulder, and if she’d had whiskers they would be tingling from the movement of the giant eels that plied the magic tunnel further ahead.

Byron continued onward, his hoofs moving swiftly but placed carefully to minimize the sound and vibration. With such narrow passages and craggy sides a misstep could shred his cargo and release blood to call any hungry creature. Worse yet was the possibility that an eel would slither through anyway, investigating and hoping to win through to the loch and village for a meal. If it were only himself then he could have risked it.

Time stretched strangely for Kirsty, with her wand drawn and her phantom whiskers quivering while the rest of her reached out beyond her body listening. Her aunt pressed against her back lightly, and she knew without looking that she also had hers at the ready. 

Twice Byron pressed into the side of the passage, squeezing into the ripped gaps in the stone walls from whatever force had formed it. Twice they held their breath as they felt the large forms displacing water and gliding past. The second time Byron had his teeth bared when a glowing feeler nearly slid into their hiding place, but Kirsty was able to manipulate the water to allow it to slide harmlessly past and not find any of them.

An eternity passed as more than 60 feet of serpentine muscle slid by. Yet more stretched out between their heartbeats as they waited for it to be far enough along the passage to not feel their wake.

Finally, Byron moved them back out into the passage and began his speedy exit all over again.

Then they were through the passage, and Kirsty looked around expecting to see another giant eel ready to try the entryway to the loch and through into the layer of reality they had just left. No giant toothed head or grey body greeted them for now, and the relief spread through her veins like a divination tea.

Kirsty lay down against Byron’s outstretched neck, her arms wrapped around him as he galloped the miles of sea away. She tried to keep her thoughts fluid, to be less of a strain so that he could pass through at his swiftest. Her thoughts continually crystallized on the piece of her mother’s boat that the tern had brought.

Her aunt’s warmth pressed against her back, Belara’s arms around both her and Byron, despite how Byron would never let either of them fall. If either of them had noticed the sporadic tears mixed with the salt-sea, neither mentioned it. The three rode silently, Byron changing his course whenever the edges of his awareness prickled on ‘too cold.’

Byron had indeed noticed the tears. His stomach reeled, and his bones ached. At times like this he wished that he could still shift, pull the child into his arms and rock her while singing the songs from his hazy past. Instead he blazed through the water for home. The faster he got her there, the sooner she could be among the energies there, and the familiar faces and voices of forebears.

“The sooner Mara can take little Kirsty away too...” the thought rose unbidden, and he swallowed down bile and forced his frills to stay down. “No, it’s only to be Midwinter. She’ll be going down the well with The Lady...” The thought of seeing her tiny feet disappearing past the rock and dark water brought no more comfort. Byron tried to not fall into the blackness that stalked at the back of his mind.

Kirsty tried to shift a bit, and her warmth kept him on the stable side of the brink. He sighed when her weight grew and her breathing evened out. Belara’s presence on his back was much heavier. She was no sleek creature of the sea. Thin, yes. Sleek, yes. The land was just as heavy in her as it was in David, though in her case it could be described only as roots–great pine roots from the ancient forests too tired to latch onto each patch passed over–and granite. For him, it was rather like bearing the subfloor of the sea with padded feet that at least bore some of their own weight.

Or was it guilt that his searches were always futile slowing him, and that Kirsty would be stepping into too many roles far too soon? If she were Temple-bred, would things be different?

Yes and no. The hand now curling into his mane, just as it had when she was a baby, would not have been.

 

Expect the next episode around January 19th, unless an extra episode funds, in which case you might see the next on January 12th. If you'd like to have another episode sooner, feel free to use the Paypal button below. A total of $10 earns everyone an extra episode. If the ten dollars is not met, then the amount rolls over toward the next early episode. You can see how close we are to having an extra episode by checking the meter on the sticky post.

Like the story? Vote here at Top Web Fiction (just remember, we're a long way from finishing the story here and there is a lot of ground to cover. If you're on Goodreads, the first ebook is already listed there with my other books. Got a question? Ask it and maybe the answer will be revealed in the story, or in a comment if not part of the story. Want to do a review? Visit the listing, or feel free to post one in your own blog, and don't forget to have a look at the other stories on the web fiction guide and of course you can now put one on the Goodreads page as well. Please do consider making a donation, or buying the complete book once it's available. The donations accelerate postings, but also help put food on the table. Rather make an offline tip? Write me for a mailing address.
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As always, if you see any typos, please let me know so I can fix those, they don't always save when applied. Thank you for being part of the story behind the story. >.>


rainstardragon: (Default)

 



Welcome back to another installment of Selkies' Skins. I'm still going to do this bi weekly, unless extra episodes get funded (at which point I'll have to squeeze more writing time to make more backlog, because everyone and their mother's kittens seems to want to eat my writing time this week). The book's sections will likely be a bit different from the website's since too many chapters in a section starts to look really confusing in the nav bar on the site. Or they might not. This is one of the issues that the editor and I will discuss. This chapter in particular is one that we will debate as to if it makes a better section end or section beginning, or if it will get treated as an "in between" happening.

Byron: You'd better not cut that with how you kept pushing that along to where it occurs in the timeline.

... Maybe I'd better protect my bed.



If you don't wish to use the Selkies' Skin tag to find the entries, check the
ToC on the Sticky Note at Dreamwidth. Story is mirrored to my LiveJournal, from my Dreamwidth, as well as on a dedicated site.

If you would like a heads up on when the serial novel is updated before it goes to the main site (usually), you can subscribe to my Twitter (
@AmehanaArashi) or go on Facebook and like either THG StarDragon Publishing or Selkies' Skins
.

We now return to Selkies' Skins.


Selkies' Skins
Section 2
Chapter 18

End of the Trail
installment 28
~~~~*~~~~

 

Byron had continued his northward trek as swiftly and thoroughly as he was able. The Kelpie had not kept track of how far he had gone. Time did not have much meaning when traveling as part of the water to go through it, nor would it matter until he was back at his mistress' side discharging his duties. Food he had taken only when coming across it, not wishing to waste any time if he could help it. He was swifter without any humans, only halfhuman or not, on his back. There was also the advantage of not having to be careful with his poison spines in his mane.

Still, it had been a long search. He was quite positive that Kirsty would be well into this year's training in finishing her readiness for her skinquest, by now. As long as she had a firm understanding of all the worlds she was going to be required to walk in, she should succeed. So for now, his only worry was Etain, unless he had lost track of more time than he had thought.

Well, maybe more technically it was Etain and the nameless things that the Ministry used to keep track of non-human magical beings and anyone else that they wished. He was well versed in how they worked, had encountered them so many times since the Ministry had wormed their binding onto him centuries ago. The Ministry of Myths at that, and he could never be certain which of the competing “governments” were worse. The question was, why were so many of them ranging so far from the prisons and the "reserves?" Who had revolted hard enough to have them unleashed? Was it one of the merclans not yet forced into the reserves? One of the reserves pushing back and refusing to give up traditional grounds? An escapee? Product of one of the wars always boiling just below the surface of one of the many intermingled and intersecting worlds?

Maybe the gods will hurry and make a grand return and scare some sense into all those pompous windbags. Probably too much to ask, be my luck Mara would decide to ride her clergy. Or Herne's Hunting Dogs would chase them through their silly “secure” government buildings...

A tickle of coldness passed him by, and he sneered to think that even below the waves they were hungrily on the prowl for new beings to mark, or old ones to feed from. And so many. He changed his heading to avoid the one that he could feel ahead. A Seafolk city came slowly into his view as he galloped, and his heart leapt, hoping that perhaps they would have some news of where his mistress had gone.

The outer buildings were empty. Weedy yards waved in the current, and nary any sort of pet nor guardian was to be seen. The fields between had the unkempt look of untended seaweed beds developing, and even the oyster-beds between the outcroppings had an almost haunted feel. It was not unheard of, especially if there were threats in the area, for those on the outskirts to retreat into the cities and citadels proper. So he pressed on, though marking that the outskirts were abandoned and oil still seemed to linger, though changed somehow.

Byron passed through the gate in the walls of coral and pearl, into the city proper, but here too, silence greeted him. He slowed his pace, just in case it was what had sent everyone to hiding. Yet, the streets remained empty, the markets abandoned, and the pennants on the undersea towers were all that seemed to move in the current. He paced slowly through the city, hoping for an Octopid, a Deepsea Selkie, one of the Sharkmen... even a Triton, contentious as they were, would have been a welcome sight.

There was none.

He pressed on to the citadel in the heart of the city, and here too, no living, speaking thing greeted him. Into the castle he went, to the throne-room. Here, all that greeted him was the pipeline for the oil rig, plunging through the roof and the remnants of the splintered throne, drained of magic. Which of the capitals was he in? He searched the walls for a pennant that bore a crest, but all that still remained were blank.

With a sigh, he bowed low, paying respects when a final look around revealed part of a decaying hand. The Kelpie then left, making his way through the city toward the spires of the temple. The guardian statues gazed at him hollowly, the Samebito woman and the Selkie woman armored and holding spears.

Mara's militarist aspect. Explains the overtones of Viking and Grecian architectural elements.

Going past the external guardians, he came to the room of the representative Ancestors, each presenting their Histories, stone-faced. Here, at least, magic still lingered, dormant. Waiting. The taste of his mistress still lingered in these waters, fresh and emotion laden, joined with the suppressed fear of-

A Triton? But where are they then?

The dead eyes of the stone Megalodon watched from where the body lay, and the spearpoints of Mara's more humanoid form gleamed momentarily. Catching sight of this, a chill swept over him shaking him to his very marrow.

What within or beyond the seven waves is bloody going on?

He circled and paced the room, but try as he might, the track ended here.

Mara. What have you done? What are you playing at?

The eyes of the Megalodon continued to stare, as did the sharkwoman. Byron studied the eyes of those statues carefully, hoping that there might be some clue left in the temporary bodies. For a moment, he saw a flash of whirling waters, fighting themselves, and a great unsteadiness.


~~~~*~~~~


Be watching for the next installment in around two weeks, unless an extra episode funds.

Like the story? Vote here at Top Web Fiction.
Got a question? Ask it and maybe the answer will be revealed in the story, or in a comment if not part of the story.

Want to do a review? Visit the listing, or feel free to post one in your own blog, and don't forget to have a look at the other stories on the web fiction guide.

Please consider making a donation. They accelerate postings, but also help put food on the table. Rather make an offline tip? Write me for a mailing address.
Donate Here via Paypal



As always, if you see any typos, please let me know so I can fix those. I am very happy that there will be money to print the full story out for the editor to do a comb through before it goes to print and ebook and to have the editor get paid. She is currently looking over section one and part of section two, helping get section one prepared for the backers' reward ebook. Thank you for being part of the story behind the story.

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