rainstardragon: (Default)
If you are a Patreon Patron you got to see sometimes excerpts or current drafts in the Patron Only posts, along with other things. They got to see this installment a little early. "Leviathan" is a tentative name for this chapter now that I am in the part of my outline dealing with the Leviathan self-prompt. I still need to also work on Etain and Finnol's part in this book more. For me with this project a tricky part is dealing with the concurrent parts that all depend on each other and how the fabric of their realities shift due to events in the lives of others and the butterfly effects of things happening out of the scope of these books but within the other two series.

This is part one of the chapter. I am unsure how large this chapter will clock out at. Currently we have 1,168 words for this one. I need to sit with the total manuscript wordcount, but right now... Numbers...




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 full story is selkies' skins and the tag for "Temple and Skinquest" is selkies' skins 2.

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, when I can get to uploading it finally. (click to hear what he sounds like in past recordings of other projects)


Interested in helping support the free version of this book and other projects? Visit http://www.patreon.com/Amehana



Selkies' Skins 2
Section 2: Temple's Light
Installment 36
Chapter 15 (part 1)
Leviathan


Kirsty saw a form darken the way ahead as she hurtled at the mercy of the waters. Before she could attempt to change course her head made contact with the shadow. White lightning flashed within her skull and behind her eyes, not just her eyelids. A screech filled her ears when bone contacted bone and both swirled away from each other. The form came back and claws raked into her. Kirsty did the only thing she could. Claw and fang lashed for her adversary. Blood came from herself and the other but not enough to cloud the water. Fire licked through her skin and traveled her nerves with the answering blow.


Her eyes finally registered. The dark priestess was here before her. Once again the green fire flared and she could feel the Taint seeking a way inside. The battle waged on more than one front, and the Taint seemed stronger than the last they had this dance together. She, of course, was weaker.


Kirsty pulled back and to the side, her tail growing weary already from the blows and strokes that each had been alternating. Eyes darted, looking for a weapon, a sword, shield, Lance... Anything. Mara's spear sliced the water near her, and the water crackled as each tried to control it. Kirsten fell back further. The plume that thrust her here could no longer get be felt, the portal closed.


No falling back.


At once, both sets of eyes fell on the same chest. Lost at the base of a pillar it gleamed dark in the murk, calling, exuding chill. A chill ran up Kirsty's spine at the familiar aura, though she knew she had never seen it before. Raechel's lips twisted, whether smile or grimace was moot. The black selkie lunged for it. The white selkie followed, not knowing why, only that it had to be kept from her. Both pairs of clawed hands closed around the tiny box and the writhing and beating began again.


"Let it go!" Raechel snarled, voice barely understandable as she swung her tail and connected with Kirsty's head.


Kirsty gripped harder and swung her own tail despite the throb and muffling sensation in her ears. The sting in her nose told her that something had opened yet again; the salts in the water sang there. Something gave, and the fingers around the chest slipped. Her arms closed fully around the box.


Up. Up was where that strange sense inside told her to go. Kirsty followed the directive. Raechel pressed close after. Kirsty strove, undulating as fiercely as she could and trying to outrace the other, weighed down by whatever dark object was contained in the tiny chest. Panic pried with red fingers at the edges of her vision and despair stroked icy fingers down her spine. Was there a buru-buru here, like those covered in one of those long ago classes at school. Did they range this far?


If so, it was getting a fine meal today.


The flesh of a flipper split beneath the assault of the blade behind her. More of her strength slipped away, yet she persisted. Onward, upward, forward, away. She tried to coax or command the water to propel her, but she had lost her hold, forced to continue to rely only on the still waning power of her tail.


Kirsty’s spirit railed. It called for her half-missing soul and strained forward as earnestly as the muscles of her body raced. A quick glance downward revealed the water had cleared enough to see the teeth of her pursuer and the green glow of her eyes. Her spirit sank momentarily.


In desperation she pointed a finger at the dark priestess and released it all, everything she felt, everything she could grasp. Unfiltered energies thundered through her and left her cracked, empty. The bolt flew.


Raechel grinned, moved the spear, caught it.


She missed.


The bolt bounced back with a bit more added to it, caught her squarely, spread quickly over and under skin.


Kirsty broke water, flew beyond and into air. She locked eyes with - Morvan? What? An unceremonious landing and her entire body now feeling as if she burned alive beneath her skin brought her back to earth where her body flopped and twitched of its own accord.


Laughter, deep and dark like chasms of nightmare filled her ears, covering the splash that would have heralded Raechel’s emergence into the treasure cave. Kirsty tried to move, found that she couldn’t. A knife passed over her, shaving, cutting. Cords snapped and her halfpelt dissolved into nothing, leaving her shivering.


“Cow.” A grunt followed as something knocked Raechel back into the water. Morvan’s face - no, it wasn’t his after all, only similar - came into hazy view above her.


The cursing was fairly colorful and she dimly made note of some choice ones for probably future use. She was being dragged now, and felt curious eyes watching them both. If she’d had the strength and the ability to move she would have glared. Hands prized the chest out of her arms, whatever she had rescued vanishing from her keeping.


Her heart sank. Her skin felt further away than ever.


Perhaps she had failed? What would happen if that were so? What happened to those that failed in their tests?


More laughter filled the cave and now she could tell that dread sound fell not from the lips of the Lilitu now shielding her from the view of the fuzzy pillar of fire. The part of her brain still concussed vaguely hoped she wasn’t going to need glasses if she survived whatever she had so unceremoniously been cannoned into.


At least she was clothed. Somewhat. Even if feeling distinctly bald. How did people cope with feeling fabric on them?


“Are you going to give it to me, then?” The voice ran clawed fingers down her spine and something inside drew back from the unseen touch, unprevented by the human between herself and the fire blob.


When the fire blob became an actual form Kirsty wished it hadn’t. Without knowing how something recognized the face of flame.


“No. I won’t be.” The knuckles around his wand were white, belying the confidence in the answering voice.


“Are you so sure of that? I know think that little bit of seaweed there is going to do much against my priestess after she unleashes your little pet, nor to help you put me back.” The smirk grew. “This should be entertaining for a bit.”


Kirsty wiped her nose. “Cocky blighter, isn’t he, Lilitu? Have a plan?”


Belial winced. “Live. Don’t distract. Call me Ciarán if you must call me anything.”


Astereth laughed again as something shook the cavern, and a low booming hum soon followed. “His name is Belial. Worthless, can’t even own his given name. Now then my little one, your time is up. Best to give me that blood you bear. I feel the presence of she that should have been mine within you.”

 

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rainstardragon: (selkies skins)
Good lord, Teresa. What was taking you so long? I did not see any Selkies' Skins updates since December! I know, I feel terrible about it. I wanted to release this chapter in one go. Life was throwing curveballs left and right and the chapter ended up being four times the length I first thought it would. We have it now at 4,065 words for Chapter 14. If you were a Patreon Patron you got to see sometimes excerpts or current drafts in the Patron Only posts, along with other things.

This chapter contains some characters from other storylines that intersect and from past standalone stories within the overall continuity. If you have a question feel free to ask. If the answer is a spoiler I'd prefer to answer privately.




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 full story is selkies' skins and the tag for "Temple and Skinquest" is selkies' skins 2.

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, when I can get to uploading it finally. (click to hear what he sounds like in past recordings of other projects)


Interested in helping support the free version of this book and other projects? Visit http://www.patreon.com/Amehana



Selkies' Skins 2
Section 2: Temple's Light
Installment 35
Chapter 14
Stitches and Tears


Heart pounding, Justin stayed pressed into the rocks and hoped his camouflage would hold. He racked his brain for one of the pilfered runes that might strengthen his concealment but could think of nothing. Instead he stilled his breath and cleared his thoughts, encouraging the plant life interspersed with the rocks to be thick and the eye of an observer to turn. He willed the heat of his passing to disperse, his self to not exist.

Bethrise purposefully finned his way through the water, spear ready and tendrils of what moonlight hair not held in his ponytail searching the currents. Iced eyes stayed sharp for any sign of his quarry and his senses open wide. His own training did not boost his abilities in the same way that Raechel’s or other clergy from the Temples were, no augmentations to his psychic abilities. He did have more skill in interpreting the water in more mundane ways, however. All he knew now was that what he sought was close, and that it was cloaked. The water was cold to him, far colder than normal for the time of year, far less responsive.

Bethrise paused. Something about the floor pulled his attention and he lowered his face to inspect the scuff in the silt. He wasn’t far from a pile of rocks that hollowed a bit, fallen from above sometime long ago from what had once been a cliff face. The space harbored some rather sharp looking bladed plants in such prolific amounts that no sane merbeing would willingly try to squirm in to hide. Not if they valued keeping their blood out of the water to lessen the chances of hungry sharks, or keeping toxins out of their bloodstreams.

The scuff did not seem to lead to the hollow, and it was obscured enough by some force that he could not be fully sure which direction the movement had been in, even with all of his training. Bethrise continued on past, in the direction that it seemed to indicate.

His pursuer passed by but Justin stayed in case the silver selkie turned back. The guard’s aim was not something he wanted to test again. For all he knew word had been passed to others.

It was a long time before his own guard started to relax.

Longer before he moved the tiniest bit.

Longer yet before he poked his head out to check on if the sea truly was grumpy silver selkie free.

He shook his head, pulled a breath and tried to center, then spoke a prayer in his mind. “Amehana, if you’re at your mirror or listening, I could really use some help.”

There was a delay of several heartbeats. An answer came, wispy and far away. “You’re lucky I’m in meditation and can answer readily. You’ve not had another binding burned in have you? I am,” there was another delay, as if she drew breath and energy or perhaps found the words awkward, “having to feed. I am afraid one of the grandchildren had some problems that I sapped much of my stores on solving. Akaisu went beyond my reach anyway with that blasted mirror he stole.”

“Mirror?” He made his way back toward the last weak point he had been trying to work through in order to get at his quarry where he felt her within the maze. “No. But the girl I’m after. I need to get at her.”

Justin heard a very indelicate snort in his mind, felt the ruffling of dragon breath through whatever recess the prayers went through. “That’s one I’ve heard before. What did you do?”

He flailed internally but sought to keep his body under tight control. Justin’s mental voice could not belie the squeak, however. “That’s not what I meant. Yuck.” He had another thought, but it was not well formed and down deep.

“I heard that. Sadly my companion might agree with you on it sometimes.”

“Should I be worried about what aspect of you hears me when I call?” Justin shook his head, still watching for any return of his adversary. “Do you know an opening rune or such that might help me get in?”

“All aspects of me would be apt to poke those still in mental adolescence. It helps you grow. My own mentors did the same and continue to do so when I approach them.” He felt her attention turn, focus, press questing claws to grasp the question with an effort. “Runes? I thought we covered that runes are not something I have studied much of, as old as I am. I could give you some kanji to experiment with, but the energy isn’t the same.”

He refrained from any comment on age. Who knew how old she might be, and he’d seen what she could do when irritated on Dreamwalks.

“That was still a comment, too. You really need to work on your mental stillness.”

Justin stifled a sigh and chalked this up to either a dragon thing or a kami thing. Perhaps a woman thing. This is what he got for asking for anyone to help him learn what he wasn’t supposed to. At least he could accept it. She didn’t seem as insane as some other deities, yet.

Amehana continued speaking with her voice fading like mist. Hunger licked behind the words and intense exhaustion pulled at bits of him while lightning flickered in his mind’s eye. “Focus your intention. You’ve got magic of your own. It might be dampened from what it should be, but not as bad as it used to be when Dreamweaver first found you. Use it. Don’t bother on the how. I have to go now. I’ll start pulling on you too if I don’t. Too many. Too much. Another crack.”

Then she was gone from his mind.

His skin itched. Her mental touch always seemed to do that to him, more and more the times that he could communicate with her. He rubbed at a rune on his arm that throbbed and burned dully, then picked it like a scab.

“For all I know, it is a scab.” He thought, then wondered where the thought came from. He tried to focus on his intention; get to the girl. He could feel her through the stone of the undersea mound, within formerly jagged and now rounded peaks. The reasons why he needed to get to her blurred more and more as time passed. There was the task he had been set when he’d left what passed for his home. He was supposed to team with that Taint-touched priestess to get her although he wasn’t clear on what would happen then. He was supposed to bring her back.

There was something else beyond his grasp though. Right beyond the fingers of his mind where the lullaby sung from some foggy time before. Before what was as foggy as the source of the song and the reason beyond his task to get to her.

Justin found a thread of magic with his senses and pulled in frustration. There was an answering pull which snapped his eyes open. Gifu and Lagu formed in his mind and tumbled, spun, danced. Sliding against and bumping with each other he saw them form other runes but not settle together long enough for a bind rune like the ones he bore. He pulled again, harder, focusing on his need in, to be past the stone.

They superimposed and created a key. Something clicked and he was burning. The world folded. Notes floated around and he snatched at them, danced over them, hummed them and followed the music. Threads of things wafted by, flashes of other places. Great fingers worked a giant loom and ancient voices sang melodies as fates spun and wove and the clacking of wooden machinery minded the percussion. Justin stuck to the path as well as he could, trying to stay with the music and make his way to Seaswimmer and the Key.

Then the world was back to normal. In his hand Gifu and Lagu separated and split, forming into twins of themselves and somehow seeming not to become diminished in any way. One set slipped into his own being, settling into his palms and fading to leave only faint markings. The other resumed circling the unconscious body before him. Justin knelt on the floor, dipping his fingers in the blood trickling from her nose. Feral magic crackled in response to the prodding.

He sniffed the residue on his fingers, then licked it. The blood should have — and did — taste sweet. Yet his body rejected the sustenance even with how hungry he himself was. Her breath was unnaturally slow and even, and checking her pulse yielded more of the same. He leaned over Kirsty, opened his mouth just a few inches above her face and sucked at where the soul-stuff should be and found less than half of what he expected to be there.

His stomach growled and knotted in complaint, however somehow he was not disappointed at being prevented from a nibble. On the other hand this was bad for more than one reason.

Justin felt guilt. He hefted her over his back anyway, eyes and ears open for any dangers. For now only two paths presented themselves, and neither direction seemed to offer any help. Going back the way he had come was no option. There was no anchor, and if he had been able to use his village as an anchor he would not have the strength to try that again. He wasn’t even sure he knew how he had done what he had.

“You won’t want that direction. Some of the priests are coming down that path for her and guards are closer than they are.” The voice came from just behind his ear, neither masculine nor feminine. Warmth and cold wrapped together in the words, the sound within the stillness startling Justin. “You’ll lose your prize a little quickly.”

Justin spun and brought his tail forward, braced to sweep and rake with the claws in it while he clutched the little selkie. Blood began oozing from phantom cuts, not just her nose.

“Settle your fins, boy. Surely you should know how I feel with how often you play for me.” A white silhouette pulled together and then gained a slight amount of color, a dim light fighting to stretch.

“Who are you?”

“A friend, which you have precious few of down here, at least a friend so long as you cause only what harm you need and nothing more.” The form finalized, and a white-haired warrior smirked at him, hands spread and empty, sword sheathed at his side.

Justin continued watching. Something about the man that he could not pinpoint screamed that this being did not really need any weapons. The fact that he stood on two feet and apparently breathed easily while his hair swirled did nothing to soothe him either.

“Oh come now, you glower at me as if you were her guardian. Go that way, there are some plants you might be able to cajole into helping her.” Ven’thrith pointed amiably in the opposite direction. “Take the right fork when you get to it.” The deity waited with a slight smirk on his face.

After a brief consideration Justin began his way along the route indicated, watching the deity from the corner of his eye. “Thank you…”

The pair moved in silence, Ven’thrith indicating turns and gathering samples from plants they passed until a room opened to the left. The deity ducked inside and Justin followed, by this time somewhat accustomed to his guide. Ven’thrith indicated a bed of furs, various fabrics, and rounded pillows in the corner as he slid the door shut. Rugs laid over the floor and hangings gave some color to the walls. Looking up revealed a moving replica of the path of the stars and moon. While Justin was occupied, Ven’thrith calmly settled nearby and began the task of processing, mist enshrouding his hands to mask the steps.

Justin laid Kirsty out on the bed, more scrapes and bruises somehow having been gained despite how carefully he had carried her. “What’s wrong with her?”

Ven’thrith looked up at the finman from his occupation of processing the plants into paste. “A fight is all that I can assume. What I saw was the child making her way through the maze and then Kirsten collapsed for no visible reason. The nosebleed could have had something to do with it, they seem to go together. However this time she had been motionless for quite some time before it started to bleed.” He shrugged. “This is the most interesting trial I have watched in a very long time, and has the most thumbs in the pie. Obviously this makes for a poor reflecting pool for her to see her own face in, much less for us to guess what will happen.”

Justin narrowed his eyes then rearranged her more comfortably. The deity continued watching and handed over the finished paste. “Here lad, see if you can get her to take some of this. It’ll have to come from you, after all. Oh, wait, one more thing.” Something pricked the hand the shell was almost in and the deity lowered the shell to catch the drop, which quickly sucked in the mist and turned the whole to a very unappetizing brown. “Ok, now it’s ready.”

He found the shell lightly placed in his hand. “If it has my blood in it, won’t that also pass my Taint?”

The moonlit eyes watched him carefully. “That’s the question, is it? I thought your job was to catch her, Taint her, and take her to your village for your Jarl and Seidhermenn to deal with. Was that not what was in your heart when you set out?”

The finman’s grip tightened around the shell. “Who are you?”

“You should know me, lad. I stand by you often enough when you play that lullaby on your flute and ponder how to steal back your soul fully.” Ven’thrith smirked and leaned back on his hands, sprawling carelessly as his eyes seemed to glow even more.

“That’s what I thought at first.” He nodded in reply. “I’m not so sure now.”

“Not wanting to disappoint our little Japanese friend that called on me for you? Or yourself?”

Justin looked over the pallor of the girl. Her chest rose and fell and burgandy hair stirred in the water, and then lay straight in the air. The maze could not seem to decide for itself whether it contained sea, or gas. It was a strange mixture of both that flowed with the ebb and flow of the moon’s dance and planet’s spin, and the breath of gods that he knew he would never fully know nor understand. Something about her face fascinated him and he got a proper look at his long adversary.

This was the girl he’d faced down at the Circle, and other times along the shores of her home trying to beguile her out? This was the girl at the membrane of the cave whose full power he had robbed her of by breaking the caul?

“Both.” He wasn’t sure of the answer at first, but some deep part must have been enough to speak for his conscious mind since it left his lips unbidden.

“Good. That’s good, ‘Tin… Justin.” Ven’thrith continued watching, holding very still and seeing in places that felt like had never seen light since Justin was very small and Americ had taken him under his fin once kidnapped.

“You know who I really am, don’t you?”

Ven’thrith nodded solemnly. “I do. Make me a a suitable offering and I’ll grant you a boon.”

“What would that be? If you are who I think you are, there is always a risk even when the boon goes well.”

The moon deity examined his nails. “I need a post for some weavers that I know of to secure a rip in their tapestry. You won’t feel a thing, so I believe. It will fix several problems at once, but that weaving process will take some time, as you perceive it. It won’t for me, just a sneeze, but time is different for my kind.”

“Do I have a choice?”

“No, not really.” Ven’thrith smiled, a touch of mania brightening his eyes further. “It will be better though if you are willing. Things always work much better when our play pieces are willing.”

Justin sighed. “Alright. Then use me for your post, mending, whatever it is you’re needing done. I just need to know what to do.”

“Good lad. First of the several things that goes with your new quest is to ‘help your sister,’ of course. First step there is getting some of this into her.” He gestured to her lips and Justin slipped the paste where indicated.

Ven’thrith pointed other places out. The ears, the nostrils, closed eyes each received a small daub and the moon drew a rune which Justin found himself copying. The lad hesitated when sealing the breast and loins, but the deity took pity and indicated appropriate places above the body to draw the seals once tiny globs had been scooped and dropped to their marks from the shell, ensuring no contact took place anywhere in the sacred core. Palms, knees, and the soles of the feet were as simple as the seven openings of the head had been. Together the finman and deity watched the magic release and soak into the slumbering girl. The runes danced and sparked, slipping through green, purple, and blue.

Justin bit his lip when he saw the familiar color of the Taint, watched it send vines into the damaged aural shield and roots to her core as other energies spread to where they were needed. He watched as the energy spread along her blood and nerve networks, which he did not know by name but thought of as roots and passages.

“Good… I don’t like it but Astereth will have felt that and will think you’ve achieved what your village sent you to do. It will make him cocky and he’ll make more miscalculations. Hides your defection as well.” The moon smiled dryly. “That paste should help with healing what has been giving her the nosebleeds and the spiritual wound that’s been used to tear her. I think then that we should be able to bring that missing piece back to the correct timeline. The next step we will worry about a bit later.”

A hissing burning sound came from the body that still slumbered, followed by a pop. A backlash of burned and burning energy washed out. Kirsty’s eyelids fluttered, opened sightlessly for a moment. Her mouth opened and released a pulsing green snake of smoke and flame that coiled away with burning red eyes and dripping fangs. Justin grabbed his arm, tore at his bindrunes, and then the snake dissipated with a crystal spray, one of which lodged into Justin and promptly proceeded to burrow and disappear beneath his skin.

“Hmmm, so that’s the worm on the inside. Interesting. Expected. I’m slightly let down. What about you, boy?” He looked to Justin, who looked at him through clouds of confusion.

“Sir?”

Ven’thrith waved his hand, “Nevermind. I suppose you wouldn’t know. Ah, and there are the seams.” He smiled this time, gesturing with his nose toward Kirsty. Her eyes once again were closed and she still wore an expression of grim determination and intent to live. Now there were fading marks where the half of her soul she did possess was sewn back to herself, and spectral hands busily at work with needle and thread. The halfpelt now was so thin that she could easily pass for human in any swimsuit.

“Will she be ok? Whose hands are those?” Justin reached forward, forgetting the flare pain that still caused his teeth to be ungritting themselves with slow disbelief that it had been over so swiftly.

Ven’thrith stopped his hand, squeezing it fiercely and yanking back although keeping a serene look in place. “She will be fine, you’ve done what needs doing for now. As to whose hands those are, do you know the tale of Vassalisa?”

Justin nodded slowly. “Americ likes to tell that one often.”

“Then you know the answer I have to give.”

Justin nodded even slower. “Some things it’s better not to know.”

“Even so.” Replied the moon deity. “I will say the answer is one of the things that drove me mad.” He grinned and patted Justin on the head. “We should get up, we have company coming. Thus the next phase begins!”

The door burst open, two squidling-octopid guards squeezed through together in a mass of reddish greens and purples, each bearing a sword and shield while black beaks clacked at everything the red whorls of their eyes fell upon. Wordlessly, without so much as a stereotypical halt, they pressed and stretched writhing tentacles toward the intruder. Ven’thrith calmly adjusted his position and slipped better between the finman — already in his battle stance in front of his still comatose sister — and the guardians of the deeps.

“My lord?” One, the superior clacked, darting his eyes to the shining shifting face but refusing to meet the galactic eternities in Ven’thrith’s eyes. “We were sent to deal with that abomination. Is it that you wish to deal with him yourself for desecrating our Lady’s Labyrinth?”

“In my fashion. Technically he is not desecrating, but late a few years.” Ven’thrith gave a thin, high giggle that ran claws over stone and raked the bones of those possessed of them, the beaks of those not. He shifted his form, slimming and his face narrowing, the garb of a warrior flowing into robing that priests had long ago based their own ritual garb on. “You may escort us and announce us, although I believe our High Priestess is already aware of my presence. I will also require some food for my new Avowed.” He turned and pinned Justin with his eyes, and Justin returned his gaze unaware of why the guards would not meet that of their lord. “Justin. You will carry her.”

The younger of the guards opened his beak, brow furrowed, and then clacked it shut again at the shaking head and hooked tentacle of his superior. Instead he nodded, turned, allowed his superior to exit first and lead the way.  Ven’thrith followed and walked beside the guard with a small smile darting about his face like a silvered guppy. He knew the way but the guards had all become accustomed to the strange insistence that the visiting deity had of not walking before them, in the manner that their resident deity preferred to swish when she deigned to take a visible form. The finman followed, carrying the unconscious half-selkie cradled to his chest like a clutch of eggs.

The awkward tenderness and protectiveness, the way the horrid creature seemed to try to shield the future priestess from himself, the guard sent to retrieve her from the testing interruption, was unexpected by the eight limbed one. He couldn’t help blinking and clacking quietly as he brought up the rear to prevent either escape or attack from behind by Mara’s pets. His skin swirled through muddy colors, though he and his superior still stayed as alert to the refuse in their midst as the dangers around them.

“Raechel.” Kirsty’s angry hiss paused them momentarily, all eyes swiveling to her gritted teeth, the sweat on her brow and her taste in the viscus mixture around them.

Ven’thrith’s eyes narrowed as the guard’s widened and flicked to each other and then around as if the pair expected her to descend in cloud and lightning, the spear she was entrusted with crackling and calling for their blood.

“Bethrise needs to rein her in it seems. Someone should fetch him later when we get everything else taken care of.” Ven’thrith’s voice tightened in his throat.

“My lord.” The guards echoed each other, vague gestures with unoccupied tentacles speaking that they would see to it.

Justin tried not to squeeze the slight frame in his arms, and instead merely placed one finned foot in front of the other as their progression began again.

 

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.

Please do consider making a donation, or buying the complete book (or even the whole series, as it becomes available). The donations help pay costs such as editing, but also help put food on the table. Rather make an offline tip? Write me for a mailing address.
Donate Here via Paypal

Or you can become a monthly patron through Patreon!

As always, if you see any typos, please let me know so I can fix those, they don't always save when applied. I repeat that this is the webnovel version of the book and may differ somewhat from the print and ebook versions when the text is completed and through processing. Thank you for being part of the story behind the story.


rainstardragon: (Default)

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 full story is selkies' skins and the tag for "Temple and Skinquest" is selkies' skins 2.

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)


Interested in helping support the free version of this book and other projects? Visit http://www.patreon.com/Amehana



Selkies' Skins 2
Section 2: Temple's Light
Installment 34
Chapter 13 part 4
Skinned

 

Belial returned to his sanctuary, glad of the temporary relief from the pounding that always came whenever he needed to do large workings beyond his usual operations. Brooding over his secret selkie wife and her tendency to be drawn by traps and trouble was far more tolerable than dealing with the elderly biersal muttering to him about the quality of the beer the other family members would leave for them. Even less tolerable was the thought of actually dealing with any of his family. Especially his naggy mother. The library was his safe place from her demands and whatever oily match she would invariably propose.

The bloody glow of his sanctuary killed the wisp of good mood he had managed to gain from the warmth of the skin telling him that Salena still lived, however angered she was. Looking round nothing seemed to be touched.

“Show me what happened.” His eyes snapped on the gazing orb, narrow and iced. In reply the mist coalesced and formed shapes. In the space of a breath lifelike fiery representations showed him exactly what had transpired while he had been gone.

“Lovely, as if one living selkie isn’t enough to hide, now I have a naked treasure raiding one in the vault and I know somehow Mother will know. That’s going to be lovely to explain dreams of.” He ground out, nostrils twitching under influence of the skin he carried.

The gazing ball pulled its mist into the spirit’s vaguely hominid form, which nodded solemnly, though wearing an expression that spoke clearly of how tired it had been of trying to gain his attention.

“Yes, fine. I’ll give your voice back later tonight if I’m not too worn out.” Belial sighed as he drew his wand and proceeded to unlock the chamber behind the fireplace.

The construction of the library had long ago revealed to his forebears the cave system that it tapped. That same system through another door had often given him other sorts of sanctuary than the chamber the family treasures now claimed. Down the passage he went, forgoing the magical aid that would have teleported him directly to it, hoping for a bit of surprise on his side. Even light he eschewed, instead placing one foot in front of the other in the endless night and feeling his way by hand and foot.

“I wish Linxi was here, he’d be helpful right now. Dragonchild or not.” Belial thought, envying briefly his First Mate’s ability to move in similar darkness without being so ungainly.

Every step measured carefully, he made certain not to stray in the labyrinth. Though he could not see there was the sense of walking within a giant shell. At times it felt like something moved around him, sought to fold itself and move to a new location. Perhaps flesh of the spectral creature long gone, if he allowed his fancy free rein. The passage did not shift though, pinned as it was. Finally he came to the round in the downward spiral of the passage where the last of the doors slumbered.

It gave off heat. Angry and searing; the door burnt without burning far more than the times he had been inside with his father after another of the cullings. His heart pounded faster and harder, rebelling against the feeling in his bones and blood and the very thing that allowed him to see and speak with the spirits without bodies. Carefully he pushed the door open, sword drawn from his waist where it always dwelled, wand hidden within. He slipped inside just in time to see the dark selkie slip into the once sacred pool, changing her form as she went. Beside the pool — far enough aside that the water would not reach him — stood Astereth, though the water rose up not against him.

“Ah, you are late to the party my boy, though I’d not invited you.” The hint of a smile curled Astereth’s voice, teasing and chastising at once.

“I thought you’d still be resting from the last I saw you.”

“Oh, you’d not gotten me quite as wet as you’d thought when you dropped in the Black Gate. It was a good try though.”

Belial looked for anything he could drive this shred of Astereth into. The nearest that he could see was a sword that he knew would be missed by anyone the next time they came in to make use of one of the treasures. He continued glancing around without being obvious, seeking out something better, or wherever the weak point between the planes must be. There was always a portal whenever anything broke or strained bonds. “I suppose you’d like to talk of your great plans some more.” If he was lucky maybe he could keep him talking.

“Oh, you didn’t seem interested the last I met with you though. Tossed the pretty in.” The face of flame curled its lips. “Tried to toss me in. Some thanks for your family’s fortune and power.”

“It’s not all from you, Master. If I remember the stories rightly you chose us for a reason. But I ask again what is your game?”

“Well, since you really seem interested, and maybe I can bring you back to the fold. I’ve sent the dark one down to fish up the Gate. I’ve told her she may use it.”

“How is she one of yours? I thought all of the selkies still pledged to Mara.”

“I’m not sure, but I’m not looking a gift seal in the mouth. It matters not how she got it, she bears my touch. That is enough. She obeys far better than some humans I could mention. Particularly randy ones such as yourself.” Astereth looked at Belial pointedly.

He clenched his jaw but let the jibe pass. “I suppose you’ve not told her how to use it.”

“Of course not. How can I when I don’t even know how it was used? You know though. Perhaps I can convince you to pass on that knowledge if you don’t want your father to know the things you’ve done and probably hope to continue to do.” The man of fire settled himself on a chest out of splash range from the pool.

Belial had still not found anything suitable to try driving this remnant into, nor where the veil Between was thing enough to be seen through. “You wish to blackmail me.”

“Of course. You’ve transgressed. I like to think myself a reasonable deity though and extend this opportunity for forgiveness.”

“Deity? Have you found some way to increase yourself where you are bound in?” His eye fell on a whorled silver pin reminiscent of a shell, only partially exposed from the heap spilled at the bottom of another chest and mostly covered by a length of green cloth shot with silver. His sister had a habit of never putting everything back when going through a chest, and the haphazard spill looked like some of her work, though he couldn’t tell how recent. He prayed internally to Mara and the Weissefrau for the ability to shut Astereth more firmly away, away from where he might harm Salena. The skin hidden on him warmed.

“Now, why would I tell you if I had?” The now long inhuman mage laughed. “I still exist, does this not place me among them as is my right?”

“To gloat?” Belial settled himself lightly on the chest, leaning down as if to tidy the mussed fabric and tuck it back inside before making contact. He plucked the brooch from the fabric and palmed it. “I thought you liked that.”

Astereth blinked, and then he laughed. “I had forgotten why you were my favorite. You have not answered me though.”

The fire in his blood tugged insistently, burned in his veins imperiously, sought to reach into his mind and heart to do his bidding. Belial prayed harder to the water goddesses, careful to screen his thoughts and heart from Astereth even though he felt little hope they would hear and answer despite his wife being theirs. “Please, any help of any sort in this, not for me, but for Salena’s sake. Help me protect my wife from my Master. Help me lock away or send away this part of him, even if I die here today.”

 *Note: biersal. The biersal is a type of German house elf type of fairy. Where in the British Isles they generally receive milk, bread, and/or honey the German variety likes their keep in the form of Beer.
Note 2: The story of Salena and Belial is external to Kirsty's story, although it does directly impact her own and her skinquest. There are notes on the end of Selena and Belial's story in a patron only posting. I may do notes on the story of how they met and why they married as another patron only posting.
Note 3: The lad from the ship does later down the line have descendants in school with Kirsty. I did heavily consider feeding him to ancestors of David. The Lady's German counterpart (who has close ties to The Hooded One) allows the wolves she called to do what they will or to let the lord of the hunt decide.
Note 4: Yes the ties on Kirsty and Raechel from their outer world and own time lives are causing the deities and Astereth some confusion and bemusement. It is not supposed to be until they and Justin return to outer world/ normal time where they are supposed to give evidence of this timeslip. Time for them does not run the same as it does for Kirsty and us.

 

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.

Please do consider making a donation, or buying the complete book (or even the whole series, as it becomes available). The donations help pay costs such as editing, but also help put food on the table. Rather make an offline tip? Write me for a mailing address.
Donate Here via Paypal

Or you can become a monthly patron through Patreon!

As always, if you see any typos, please let me know so I can fix those, they don't always save when applied. I repeat that this is the webnovel version of the book and may differ somewhat from the print and ebook versions when the text is completed and through processing. Thank you for being part of the story behind the story.


rainstardragon: (Default)

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 full story is selkies' skins and the tag for "Temple and Skinquest" is selkies' skins 2.

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)

My apologies for the long delay. At least the move is done and I can get back to work and writing.

Interested in helping support the free version of this book and other projects? Visit http://www.patreon.com/Amehana



Selkies' Skins 2
Section 2: Temple's Light
Installment 33
Chapter 13 part 3
Skinned

 

The familiar trickle began again from Kirsty’s nose and the taste of salt slipped over her tongue. Tearing, that was the best way she could comprehend the feeling in her head. Another bit of herself tearing away, a thread being pulled stiffly and inexorably from her being, from her past. Unraveling. Skinning. Worse than having had to give up her human covering to be fit to be reborn.


“We can fix this, tell me, what do you see with your sight, Daughter?” The Weissefrau’s voice cut through the pain. She drew Kirsty into the water step by step. It rose higher as they went.


The lad with them reached for Kirsty, but was restrained by the old Lightkeeper.


Kirsty wiped at her nose with he sleeve as she gathered her focus to look. “There’s a red light all around the edges, pulsing like a heart. I feel… something. It’s not right.”


The Weissefrau had her to her shoulders now in the cold waters. “Like you’re being unmade, my dear?”


“Yes.”


“Then on you go. Follow the light like a good girl on out. Begin to be remade.” Before Kirsty’s eyes could clear and her lips form the question she shoved the maid down. Kirsty’s mouth was still open and the human sputtered as the last of what was holding her was pulled away by some celestial weaver beyond the span of space and time known to mortals. Bubbles of air rose to the surface as the blood flowed again and the water turned red.


The lad wrenched himself free of the Lightkeeper finally, heaving himself at the terrible goddess of water and bone left in the natural well. Before he collided a wall of water engulfed him and held him to face the Weissefrau. Her ice grey eyes bored into him as she watched the water win its way into him. “Noble intent, poor execution, mere human understanding after all you’ve seen. I am not the one that will harm her. You might have seen her success and your children might have mingled with her had you heeded my Lightkeeper and your vows to me.”


As Kirsty’s body was pulled through a passage below, the lad’s body floated to one side of the deity’s domain. The Weissefrau threw back her head and howled. In the distance a pack of wolves answered and began their way. The Lightkeeper looked away, and she smiled grimly. “Perhaps in a way, he still might get what he’d have liked just not as he’d hoped.”


“My Lady?” The Lightkeeper chanced a look at her. She still was too terrible to behold for long and he looked away well aware his sleep would be disturbed for some time by her visage.


She shook her head and adjusted a cloak around herself before sitting on a rock. “Stop blaming yourself, I know you are. He’d have stolen it if she does survive this turn. You can go back now. If they ask, I have claimed them.”


“As you say.” He kept his face and his feeling so long as he could control them neutral as possible until he was back off her path. The deity, for her part, dispersed back into her water, releasing herself to it and trying to be fluid enough to determine what was being changed.


~


Farther back in the tunnel Raechel found a thick oak door reinforced with spells and hammered iron. The tunnel continued further beyond the door, beckoning. Below her she could feel a passage of water leading back to the sea, presumably through the cave she had come through. The passage below would have of necessity worn through some weakness in the stone around her.


Behind the door is what interested her most. Something large was contained within the chamber. Though it seemed to sleep it pressed at the edges of the containment much the same as did the creatures that Mara kept contained in certain rooms of her central temple and the deepest depths. Its presence was palpable, causing her short-hairs to prickle and rise in warning and her longer hairs to lift a little as she tensed. Trying the door she could not unlock it, nor could she force or undo these spells, not without trying to blast it off the hinges with energy she preferred to keep for later. She did feel the thing behind the door move though. The shifting turned her stomach, made her quake, and yet thrilled her.


“I’ll be back for you later, perhaps.” She whispered through the door, pressing against it and grinning. “We’ll have some fun, yes? Whatever you are.”


There was a smack of something on rock behind, and a splash. Raechel giggled and squirmed, stroking the door as a shimmer of green continued fighting against the purifying spell the child had unleashed on her.


She blew a kiss to the thing behind the door and continued along the passage, following it upward.


Raechel’s exploration ended at a thick oak door at the top of a long, narrow, cramped set of steep stairs. The cliff stone complained darkly on her way up. Here things sat silent and brooding over untold secrets, lies, and a hint of blood. The door barring her way was not like the doors below the sea. No hinge revealed which way it swung. There was iron binding it, but instead was in bands reinforcing all the way across. Her hands explored and fingers prodded everything that looked as if it might be a trigger.


She winced when her fingers brushed the iron, placed the worst of them in her mouth and frowned. A sickly green pulsed briefly and red mist spread along the bar.


Behind the door a presence lingered, stirred, its attention gained by her searching.


She stilled, breath bated, listening, straining.


~


The table beside his chair held the dregs of cold tea, dark and muddy as the hearts of most of his family but at least slightly warmer. Belial leaned forward in his chair, slender hands covering his face and fingers trying to press away the aches within his skull. Tendrils of bleached sun had worked out of the ribbon he used to bind back his hair, sticking with sweat. Before him on the grate tinges of blue, green, and purple leached out of the fire and back into the wholesome reds and oranges that indicated no demon manifested within it to him today. On the walls around him lurked memorabilia of wrecks, or more accurately ‘harvests’ that those sharing his name had done before him. Among them hung several of their ancient rival’s inhuman pelts.


Glazed eyes gazed down upon him, thoughts guarded.


They did not speak to his siblings or the others, but sometimes they gave him wary advice, and even comfort.


The pelt he kept tucked and hidden safe inside his clothing continued murmuring to him, pleas and curses, promises and threats. Choking soul screamed questions dug deep into his ears and heart with poison tipped claws. Had his storm turned her course though? Had he managed to keep her from going there despite her headstrong and imperious burning of his warning letter?


He knew she burnt it. He’d seen it in his gazing ball. He’d heard the little harrumph of said pelt. How many times had she made that sound at him before when he asked her to be careful?


Perhaps this duplicitous treachery of his family name was finally driving him insane, but it was worth it. He rarely got to see her, and when in public when acknowledging each other they had to fight to keep suspicion at bay. Those nights when she came to dance with her brothers and sisters of the pelt below the moon were worth it, every fear-lanced moment that he watched and feared the others would also pick her out among them. So too were the brief times he got to be father to the little one.


He winced when the log in the fire popped and sang, doing what it could to drive out the chill that always fell whenever he gazed or rose the storms. His fingers dug harder. He tried to weave and coax the energies the way Salena had tried to teach him one horribly hungover morning in a port far away, but his clumsy fingers merely slipped, and the spell tangled and died. Healing never had been his gift.


The ball of quartz on the table beside his chair clouded again, this time with red mist. Pulsing, beating, it continued and waited for his eyes to fall on it. He, however, eventually stood and made his way out of the room. He needed something stronger than what he had recently taken in order to tame the still mounting headache. The mist grew insistently thicker within the orb, but the master paid no heed and the door shut behind him.


~


After a timeless stretch of suspended breath Raechel began moving again and broadening her search. She conjured another orb of light and suspended it to light her way, finally finding a snake shaped protuberance to her right side in the stone. Running her fingers over the smoothness she finally found the trigger and the door slid to the side revealing a room that looked in her eyes to be some sort of combination of library and soul prison.


She stepped inside and the door — it was truly a whole book case — slid back into position. Unless she could find the trigger later she was trapped. A gazing orb throbbed an angry, furious blood-red on the stand where it lurked. If her eye lingered she saw the equally furious spirit pounding the barrier of crystal as it screamed unheard alarms. The selkie skins mounted about the room refused eye contact and speech with her. She could see they still contained part of the soul and consciousness of their former owners, but each eye contained the unfocused and glassy look of rejection. Raechel knew this gaze well already. The Sleeping Souls put to rest in the Temple back home all rebuked her in the same way since she gained the Taint whenever she entered the Chambers of the Box to lay out another set aside skin for the day it would be needed again.


Raechel closed her eyes and forced back the tear that threatened before turning to inspect more of the room. These probably all belonged to surface dwellers. What did they know, traitors? Perhaps these skins were better out of circulation, like The Ronan’s.


The pull started again, leading her away from the lavish darknesses of the firelit room and its rich wooden cases to before the fireplace itself. Of their own will her hands rose to the mantle and she heard herself speaking strange words her throat should not have been capable of. They came from deep inside, curling and coiling out with languid stretches and tickling places that her former love had not been able to reach, nor had the courage to search for. A slow smile curled in response, thirsty for more.


The invocation ended and the fire turned a sickly green.


A form gathered in the flames, the face of a darkly handsome male. The eyes bored into her know, finally out of the dreams that dominated her nights. For now any memory of Bethrise, whether during their fight or their good times, faded. She barely felt the tingles from the frayed ends of the roughly severed thread as the other end attempted to reach her.


“You are Astereth.” Raechel was not fully sure where the knowledge came from.


“I am.”


This should have bothered her. She should reject him. Now.


“Yet you do not wish me removed from your blood.”


“No.”


“You feel empty. Rejected.”


“Yes.”


“You feel that Mara prefers the land dweller, and an interbred bloodline at that.”


Raechel nodded, bit her lip, curled it and snorted whilst displaying a fang.


“She does, you know.” The being continued. “I know their bloodline well. She always has preferred them over the ones that stay within her.” The voice curled and stroked her ears, caressed the sensitive place on the bridge of her nose that all selkies shared.


“Why am I not good enough? I’ve given her myself. I’ve lost my mate. I wield her spear even though she’s damn well capable of doing so herself were she bothered. Why am I not enough?” Raechel hissed, stepping closer to the fire and pressing into the caresses. Unnoticed flames licked her feet as her eyes stayed pinned by the apparition.


“Nothing is ever enough for her, nor her sister either truthfully. They press, they demand, they entice. Yet they leave their dedicants in the end. I know of the pain, too personally. I would not leave you for some child that isn’t even a whole being.”


Raechel shivered, arched into the promise and then as quickly pulled away.


“I know you’ve heard similar before. I can prove my troth though. Come through the fire. There is a talisman in the vaults hidden here that you can use against your burrowing insect. Make her hurt, make her bleed. Already there is one using it in another time to do the same, and you can make it worse for her. You can even use it to regain your mate, make him abandon those soft ones you envy so. Perhaps even bend the rejectors of the Cailleach to your will as well. Come.”


Raechel stepped through the flames, taken through the wards and into the vaults that once were innermost parts of the Sacred Cavern before the land had risen and the sea fallen in the area. Saltwater lay still in a pool in the center of the room. In the midst of this rose the stark remains of a dais where a sundered seat and broken box of stone from which trickled a steady stream of surprisingly fresh smelling water held court over an array of riches and dangers. A being of sickly flame stood at the edge of the pool.


“Right now it is down there due to a ill planned move.” The being spared a poisonous look back the way they had come. “I cannot go down to fish it out, nor would I be able to bring it up even if I could penetrate her waters. There are two bloods that can, and I bear none.” Astereth chuckled a bit, then scowled as his companion did not respond to his joke.


Raechel did not wince from him. “Is there anything I should know before I dive in?”


“I am not sure. It is being protected, but the fall obscured certain knowledge from me regarding the spell that went in with it.”


Raechel wrinkled her nose and knelt at the edge, adjusting her skin around herself as she gazed in. She brushed her senses over the water, closed the skin and shivered her whiskers. Gingerly she dipped a flipper in.


No pushback.


She slipped in. Astereth smiled. The water pulsed. Astereth scowled. On the table in the library above the gazing orb filled the room with a baleful light as it awaited its master.

 

 

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.

Please do consider making a donation, or buying the complete book (or even the whole series, as it becomes available). The donations help pay costs such as editing, but also help put food on the table. Rather make an offline tip? Write me for a mailing address.
Donate Here via Paypal

Or you can become a monthly patron through Patreon!

As always, if you see any typos, please let me know so I can fix those, they don't always save when applied. I repeat that this is the webnovel version of the book and may differ somewhat from the print and ebook versions when the text is completed and through processing. Thank you for being part of the story behind the story.


rainstardragon: (Default)

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 full story is selkies' skins and the tag for "Temple and Skinquest" is selkies' skins 2.

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)

My apologies for the long delay. At least the move is done and I can get back to work and writing.

Interested in helping support the free version of this book and other projects? Visit http://www.patreon.com/Amehana



Selkies' Skins 2
Section 2: Temple's Light
Installment 32
Chapter 13 part 2
Skinned

 

Kirsty took a little time to recover before sitting up. Quiet burbles and coos attracted everyone’s attention to a drawer beneath the bed and Selena disappeared for a moment to open it. She reappeared a moment later with a chubby child clutched to her bosom who seemed blissfully unaware that they had weathered a storm, or that there was anything that had been wrong at all. Kirsty looked where the baby had come from quizzically.

 

“What? Topside wouldn’t have been the place for her and she’ll not do well away from me for long yet. The sea’s her home too, like mine.” Selena grinned a bit. “Like yours, too.”

 

“What would have happened to her had we sunk?” Kirsty ventured, frowning.

 

“Same as the rest of us, but she’d have been... more comfortable.” Selena took to baby over to the chair at her desk.

 

Kirsty took advantage of the space to investigate the drawer a little more. Something half familiar prickled the back of her mind, then submerged again.

 

Salena fed her baby while the young man blushed and slid out after making excuses to seeing about the rest of the crew, and that he was glad the young lady was seemingly well again.

 

Kara shook her head. “That’s the lad I was talking about earlier. Seems to already have taken a shine to you.”

 

Kirsty blushed and made a worried sound. “Sweet of him, but I have a boy I’m interested in elsewhere already. He’ll be waiting.” She made her way to a window and looked out over the water, puzzling her next move and watching for the Lightkeeper.

 

“Too bad. He’s a good lad.” Selena commented, burping her child and putting it in a sling. The baby eagerly turned itself where it could watch the world and wiggled chubby lightly webbed fingers.

 

Kirsty glanced at her, then blinked, confused at the baby’s momentary resemblance to a young Morvan, but it was gone again. “He seems so.”

 

Things bumped along awkwardly until Kirsty was topside again and the Lightkeeper was pulling up in his boat bringing provisions. He and Selena eyed each other even more awkwardly while her baby burbled and drooled. Kirsty wanted to go ashore to explore the lighthouse facilities and surroundings, half expecting to be told no. After a bit of hemming and hawing she was given leave.

 

And so she went. Unexpected by herself but seemingly expected by the Lightkeeper the boy was sent with her to keep an eye on her and to give her aid until she was sent for again. Kirsty was not certain what to think of the news that later in the day one of the boats would be sent to retrieve her after she had had adequate time to speak with the Lightkeeper regarding her quest, and to give the Captain time to chart the next course while crew saw about restocking fish from the schools in the natural harbor.

 

Kirsty settled into a chair in what passed for the living room, the Lightkeeper offering tea made from the waters from the well of the Wisenfrau.

 

“So, you quest.” The Lightkeeper began, as if the conversation through the miles had not ended.

 

“Yes. I seek the Temple of Mara. What can you tell me?” Kirsty looked round, fascinated by the lighthouse, unsure how to react to the power focused in and by the building. Had the lighthouse at home felt this way to her ancestors before Mara’s rages?

 

“It’s nearer and farther than you think, going by what is handed down to us Keepers. We only have bits and pieces. The Abbey has others.”

 

Kirsty pondered his words as he brought a lantern very similar to Mrs. Kitsch’s over to the seating they gathered at, and a plate of fish and seaweed that wound up in front of her. She ate as she considered. “How do I know I’m even on the right path?” Kirsty finally asked as she looked up from the meal, having been much hungrier than she’d thought.

 

He fiddled with the lantern, polishing it. At least it seemed to Kirsty that’s what he was doing. “You don’t. None of us ever know if we’re following the path we are meant to take. Often we stray far from it.”

 

Kirsty sipped her tea now that it was cool enough, the well water spreading through her slowly and balancing the preponderance of Mara’s salt she’d picked up over her journey.

 

The lad listened quietly, leaning forward as if by simply doing so he felt that he could lend some sort of aid. The Lightkeeper smiled secretively at the motion that had gone completely unnoticed by the young maid.

 

“There’s a cave nearby that’s supposedly sacred to your folk.” He lit the lantern after he was satisfied. Pinpricks of light shone about the darkened room, an array of stars for a mariner. “We are here.” He pointed. “It is there.” He pointed at one nearby. “Here is where the Weissefrau’s well is.” His finger moved again, and then onward. “Here is where the Abbey currently is. That moves sometimes, when a raid is imminent.”

 

Kirsty studied the light-map and it gradually dawned on her that there were times when she was very little, and Grandma had visited with Mrs. Kitsch that many of these lights had been danced on their walls to entertain her. The star for the cave drew her strongest.

 

“If I were you, child, I’d return to your path as fast as is possible. My gut tells me that the cave is where you need to go.”

 

The lad cleared his throat. “Excuse me, but isn’t that the cave the selkies are fighting with the Lillitu’s over? I can’t help but notice how some of these points correlate with some of Captain’s maps, and that matches an area we are normally careful when sailing near.”

 

“It is. The seafolk are losing many such places now.”

 

“So how are we to get her there? I’m not sure our Captain would be very for taking her there, though right now she is not in the best state to guess.”

 

The Lightkeeper looked the boy over slowly. “They seem to always get younger,” he mused. “Leave or not, she has to go.”

 

Silence settled over the room, deep and uncomfortable as a shroud too small for the wearer and donned while still living. The threads of time and fate continued to be woven and to the three it seemed as if they could feel competing designs, needles and shuttles battling to have dominance. Kirsty gripped her head and groaned, leaning forward as blood began to drip from one nostril and her attention pulled to where she should have been.

 

As she sat and the boy pulled out a questionable kerchief that was attempted to be kept clean and functional she felt the bed on her back and saw the dim figure of David at her side. The pressure of his hand on hers was as real as the nose she now held pinched in her fingers.

 

Finally the wave passed. “Bring her to me, now.” An older woman’s voice slid through their minds. “Quickly.”

 

The Lightkeeper nodded and sighed, rising. “The Lady has spoken.”

 

Heading out the door he led the way along the promontory, which sloped downward to meet the mainland. How far the walk was away from the light was hard for Kirsty to guess. Just like home at Selkie Point time and space folded oddly here. It could have been any distance. The way Kirsty’s feet tingled she would have also been willing to bet a pint of mead that someone in the past had ensorcelled the path to further facilitate speed of travel for the correct people.

 

Or perhaps the Weissefrau simply was pulling on them in the same way that sometimes The Lady did when she was in a very demanding mood.

 

The terrain changed. Things seemed denser, greener. Mist rose from the forest they had ventured into. Darkness rolled back and swirled near again as they passed. Eyes watched their progress from trees. Chitterings spoke of squirrels, chipmunks, and other nameless things. Once or twice when turning her head towards a rustle Kirsty caught a flash of white or green, and a mossy limb being drawn back behind a tree.

 

The lad pressed closer to her, put an arm around her. She pressed her lips until the headache stabbed again. It was only then that she felt truly grateful for the arm around her, as she stumbled and would have fallen if not for the quick reply of the other arm.

 

The Lightkeeper looked back at them with hooded eyes.

 

Kirsty wished it had been David traveling with them. The eyes of the boy had something that was beginning to look possessive.

David might have actually punched him if there, or mauled him if in wolf form.

 

The forest drew in tighter again before spreading out into a meadow. A clear spring welled up among rocks, flowing sedately away toward some river via a creek it had carven over untold centuries. Moss hung heavy on the trees around the edge, draperies and hair.

 

Watching closely, she thought she could see the forest breathe.

 

The spring watched, kept company by the forest. Whether the forest was male or female she could not be entirely certain. The local forest spirit was grudgingly sharing the company of the water with them though.

 

“I have brought the child. She seeks to be a woman and whole.” The Lightkeeper barely raised his voice, the tone reverent. The forest caught and magnified the short speech.

 

“Come closer child, let me see you.” Beside the spring stood an old woman, her visage constantly shifting. One moment she was tall and strong, the next gnome-sized and twisted like pines on the coastline. Her hand took Kirsty’s once her feet had done the deity’s bidding; her touch was sandpaper. “Oh, you are worse than I had thought. Poor child. You are far off of your proper path.”

 

The familiar trickle began again from Kirsty’s nose and the taste of salt slipped over her tongue.

 

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.

Please do consider making a donation, or buying the complete book (or even the whole series, as it becomes available). The donations help pay costs such as editing, but also help put food on the table. Rather make an offline tip? Write me for a mailing address.
Donate Here via Paypal

Or you can become a monthly patron through Patreon!

As always, if you see any typos, please let me know so I can fix those, they don't always save when applied. I repeat that this is the webnovel version of the book and may differ somewhat from the print and ebook versions when the text is completed and through processing. Thank you for being part of the story behind the story.


rainstardragon: (Default)

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 full story is selkies' skins and the tag for "Temple and Skinquest" is selkies' skins 2.

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)

This installment took a little more work. Justin and Raechel needed to be released together, so this is technically two but I will count it as one.

Interested in helping support the free version of this book and other projects? Visit http://www.patreon.com/Amehana



Selkies' Skins 2
Section 2: Temple's Light
Installment 31
Chapter 13 part 1
Skinned

 

Justin lay on his back where he’d beached and passed out earlier, looking up at the roof of the cave. His body ached from fighting the currents and where he had been slammed into jagged rocks. His skin oozed green in places where it had been broken. Nothing made sense right now.

 

He’d been below the waves trying to find a way into where he knew his prey had gone and attempting to avoid the very irate selkie guard that had found him. He’d wondered if the Dark Priestess had alerted the guard, or if it was just his luck and the fact that it made sense someone would be guarding one of the Ancient Relics and Rifted Paths. Then the storm came and reached much farther than storms had ever reached in his life. Something tangled around him like an invisible net and he had been pulled through what felt like invisible fabric, released again to the full fury of the storm.

 

It had felt like it had awareness though, and purpose. Who or what had taken him? Was it Astereth reaching out his hand, or was it the blessing of the dragoness, or something else entirely?

 

The guard had no longer been present, the water tasted different, and preserving his life had taken precedence to figuring out what had happened.

 

Justin groaned and rubbed his hip, amazed he wasn’t broken. Every time a rock threatened him runes had flared green around him and shielded him. Gifu had surrounded him. Marks on his wrist caught his eye and he discovered gifu etched in blue and green over and over again, fully encasing his wrist. The tattoo was faded though as if it had been placed years ago and exposed to the sun too often.

 

He watched as the blue lines and the green lines seemed to war with each other, the colors flipflopping and writhing. “I am way too old for this stuff.” Justin grumbled and attempted to sit.

 

In the back of the cave he could hear stealthy rustling, and the sound of a mother shushing a babe. By the scent, this could only be a selkie cave. He was hungry, but he wasn’t that hungry that he would steal a child, especially in this state. He only wanted warmth, and to dry out, though not too much. Where there was a selkie cow though there was usually not a selkie bull too far away, and those meant spears.

 

Justin grimaced at the thought and made his way to the entrance, frowning at the water. “I’m leaving, mother. My apologies for intruding on you. Thank you for your hospitality.”

 

He picked his way along the rocks, hoping that somewhere ahead the beach gentled. The selkie’s eyes followed him, he could feel her confused and frightened gaze until he went around the bend, the last tendril of her scent fading from his nose.

 

Where did I wash up?” He thought, trying to find some indication. He could feel the ping of one of the lighthouses connected to the navigation grid, but the signals prodding him confused him even more. “Nothing feels right.”

 

Justin sat and pulled his coral flute out of his pouch, relieved and surprised that it had not been broken. A small part of him mourned still being caught, still being alive like this. The rest was just glad he was alive and still had a chance. He settled on a rock near a pool and let the song within have its way. A rumble escaped his belly, caused it to quake, cramp, and claw. Every thought and need he had poured through his flute and called for fulfillment. He had to hunt.

 

Please, just some fish. Nothing bigger.”

 

 

While Justin gathered himself and attempted to take care of his needs Raechel had likewise found herself pulled through tide and time. She knew that so long as Kirsty was within the bounds of Mara’s Maze it would take the knowledge flowing through her blood and bone and use this to create tasks. Problems found in the blood would have their energetic roots addressed and possibly corrected, or perhaps made worse. The dark priestess took stock of her surroundings.

 

Over the crashing pulse danced a flute far in the distance. It held no pull for her even though she recognized the most likely origins being a finman hunting his prey. She was no child, and today she did not hunt that quarry. Where she served was not here, and so no need to defend the Temple. No, he could court and eat any foolish maid answering or any child drawn to dance. It was not her concern, and she somewhat relished the thought.

 

Far south she saw the prick of a lighthouse, and a smear that might possibly be a ship. Or it might not. It would just be another of the rocks.

 

Her prey was nowhere in sight. A mysterious misty coastline glowered and sipped brine from jagged rocks which then smoothed and gentled further along the shore. Between two outstretched arms of rock sheltered a surprisingly sandy beach that would be afforded magnificent views of the full moon, and certainly flat enough for the practices of the land visiting folk of her breed. A dark bastille brooded and overlooked the views from atop a crag bedecked by wind and water worn caves. Some of those showed signs of life routinely turned out. One of those had the feel of wards placed on the entrance. Swimming nearer, the magic here tasted curiously of cinnamon and licorice.

 

Testing the boundary Raechel discovered that she could cross without harm, and without triggering anything. Cross in she did, and the cavern stretched and lumbered above, yielding at last worn rock to pull herself onto. A mooring waited nearby for absent boats and a passageway gave dark promises.

 

Pirates, probably.” Raechel thought. “Magical ones and not Cowans.”

 

Raechel explored a bit after shifting to human form, testing the magic further. She frowned at the strange twining of selkie and human spells. Older ones warred with each other for claim of the space, but a set of newer ones welcomed each other, even embraced. Following that thread she worked a spell of her own trying to reveal as much information as she could, to see if there were anything of use to her own cause.

 

Impressions came with fleeting steps across the dark canvas. Stealthy meetings, whispered promises, a stolen skin. Raechel scowled as the story unfurled and then fizzled out in sputtering sparks. She had a face for each of the recent casters, and one that was far too much like her prey for her taste.

 

Her eyes fell on some still glowing letters superimposed over each other meant nothing. SMM and BCL. Placing her hand over it she called on a mostly forgotten aspect of her goddess. Confirmation came. It was indeed a pairing. Her blood activated and the wall dissolved, revealing a different passage. The scents here were old, though she knew what they meant. No reason to explore.

 

If I poison that, perhaps I’ll kill the girl before she even exists.” A dark smile wove and danced over her lips. “That would be quite a blood healing indeed.”

 

The scent of the other passage was fresher, and as she stepped away the vanishing wall returned. Raechel turned toward the darkness and smiled.

 

 

Raechel stole into the passage to explore. Perhaps the other face was at home. Twisting a human, she hoped, would be an easy thing. With luck maybe she could even liberate that stolen skin. Then she’d burn it since the owner was now so obviously impure to willingly embrace during secret trysts.

 

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.

Please do consider making a donation, or buying the complete book (or even the whole series, as it becomes available). The donations help pay costs such as editing, but also help put food on the table. Rather make an offline tip? Write me for a mailing address.
Donate Here via Paypal

Or you can become a monthly patron through Patreon!

As always, if you see any typos, please let me know so I can fix those, they don't always save when applied. I repeat that this is the webnovel version of the book and may differ somewhat from the print and ebook versions when the text is completed and through processing. Thank you for being part of the story behind the story.


rainstardragon: (Default)

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 full story is selkies' skins and the tag for "Temple and Skinquest" is selkies' skins 2.

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)

Interested in helping support the free version of this book and other projects? Visit http://www.patreon.com/Amehana



Selkies' Skins 2
Section 2: Temple's Light
Installment 30
Chapter 12 part 3
finally titled: Stormsong

 

 The storm raged and Kirsty sang into it, trying to calm it, pretending it was just an angry unicorn or disgruntled dragon. The storm did not listen, instead whirling through the skies and repeatedly hefting the hems of Mara’s Skirt, drenching beyond the bone those cursed to be above deck. Below deck was not much drier for those manning the bilge.

Meanwhile Kirsty could feel the captain and her craft, their energies inextricably intertwined. The craft seemed to be in disagreement with where captain Makay, “Moribeth-Makay,” the ship supplied, wanted to go.

The captain strove to a someone that the ship gave dissonant groans of dislike and distrust regarding. She oozed conflicting feelings that squeezed Kirsty’s stomach as she continued trying to tame the storm. Song after song the storm ignored. There was an unnatural taste to its energy, dark, hurt, conflicted. It reached for the captain of the craft just as much as it pushed away. Strangely it felt almost like a much cleaner version of Lilitu’s energy. Behind the storm Kirsty’s soul, laid bare so she could do her best attempts, she felt another mind lurking and darting.

Still the captain strove toward the man, reaching out with her own gifts. The ship continued dreaming only of ports pointedly far away from the flashes of white-blond hair and the glints of green eyes that Kirsty caught sight of now and then at the moments before the storm’s fury would rise.

Something familiar began to creep into Kirsty’s thoughts. She could hear the clang and smell the scents of battle and powder despite seeing no source of it. The chill of death and despair gripped her as undeniably as the soul wrenching kiss and touch of the Things was said to be.

Was one of them out in the storm? Kirsty’s concentration and song faltered at the thought, and her focus slipped to trying to feel if one was within her range. Without Byron or David, would she be able to fend one off? Were any of the crew learned in that sort of magic. Were any of them learned in magic at all besides the captain and possibly her first mate?

The choice will be soon...” The voice of her thoughts was not her own, deep, creaky as beams in the wind, raspy as if it had been sawed and hacked to be given life. “Can you save my captain’s soul? I fear she will lose it soon, one way or the other.” The voice was more masculine than feminine, difficult to pin. Distinctly possessive. Jealous. Afraid.

“How so?” Kirsty sang into the wind, the words snatched inaudibly from her lips.

I can’t fight my captain long, but she’s set course for the reason these people need an apothecary again. Their relationship... is stormy.”

Kirsty wanted to be anywhere else, home preferably. Somewhere away from storms and the sting of salt and water slamming into her with hate. It made her think too much of the night her grandmother was gone and the storm that took more of the lighthouse ruins.

Lighthouse.

The image rose in her mind and her song changed. She imagined a light to guide the ship to safe port and to warn of familiar rocks. Out beyond the point on what was once a connected tip the tower strove and held a torch against a tearing sky trying to claw the flame from the proffered hand against the fears and the perils of the darkness. A pointed silhouette waited, holding aloft it’s own light in the room, ready to relight the lamp with spell or match.

A twang on her heart from a familiar cord, and she hefted back, discovering on the other end not the wizened Mrs. Kitsch, but someone from a time far older than she and no Cowan. The face though, he certainly was a Kitsch. The light he manned was not the light of Seal Point, though she could feel the connection to it. Words came and she strove to catch them from the vision. Understanding of them did not come, they weren’t her language, guttural and beautiful at once. Strength radiated from the chanced on guide.

Kirsty gave voice to these words. Distantly she could hear the gasps of Salena and the dismayed groan of Kara. The image of the answering tower rose in her mind fully and combined with the image of her home port and how it must be in this time that either she was in or the ghosts were from, and the power of her changed song grew. The voice of the ship fell back.

Kirsty sang of hope and home. She sang of safety through the storm and mince pies in ovens wafting curls of steam. Every image she could think of she wrapped up with the light, giving flesh to the ghosts of the Kitsches. The selkie lass imagined herself holding up the old lantern Mrs. Kitsch still so carefully kept back at home and used from time to time, sharing her light in reply to the light of the tower.

Around the ship the storm drew back and calmed somewhat, not quite tamed, not quite driven back, but no longer answering here to the wizard that had conjured it in the first place. Kirsty could feel him pressing and trying to claim her holding back. She reached inside herself for yet more and knowingly touched the heart of the sea. She had no time to pay attention to the shift in herself. The lives of those on this boat for now were more important to her than her quest.

The ship’s course changed and it leapt eagerly along it, driven by the magic filling its torn sails. Against the physical wind it ran, which still ran in accordance with the laws of the current storm. The spiritual wind, however, answered to the blooming Mara priestess as she balanced the powers of witch and representative within herself. Finally, hoarse, they seemed to be at the edge of the storm.

A lighthouse beckoned them. Captain Moribeth-Makay made for the safe waters and avoided the rocks, finally dropping anchor as the last of the storm died away. Her lips pressed thin as she surveyed the jagged wooded coastline. It was not where she had wanted to go, but Salena didn’t have the heart to voice it. She could vaguely feel him though, and that meant a chance to either get back at him or discover if there was a plot afoot to drive them apart despite how badly they wanted the ancient feud ended.

A slightly taller, slightly older Kirsty slumped where she was still tied, head bowed and rasping as tangles obscured her face. The captain pressed her lips tighter on seeing what had happened to the girl, stroking her own sealskin where she had it hidden on her person. Why was the girl not already in control of her body again? Her last stormsinger never seemed quite so drained in the aftermath.

Cheers went up from the crew when it sank in they were safe, at least for now. Kirsty sank to the decking when untied, too far still in the grip of the energies she’d been working with to notice, nor to feel the crush of those coming to thank her. Neither did she hear the captain’s words nor those of Kara, or the shoulder of the lad that somehow wound up under her head when she was lifted up to be cared for when he offered to help take her below. What she did feel was the careful untanglings of the old Lightkeeper as he undid her youthful and untrained too tight grasping of the safety anchor he had offered when the seals that kept him company had set up their panicked cries before she had slammed into his mind.

Mara preserve us, but you’re an old one to be so rough. Weren’t you ever paying attention when your elders trained you?” his distant comment floated by. The voice sounded nearly like Father Ronan to her, but not quite. Perhaps a distant relative? Certainly the wrong accent. This was more like David’s accent than anything Celtic.

“Probably Mara’s work alone, but what I just went through is not something covered in school where I’m from.” She answered him.

By this time she was already laid on the captain’s bed again. The captain, Kara, and the lad collectively frowned as Kirsty spoke aloud, believing her words meant for them. Speaking in her sleep after such an adventure was likely not a good sign. The lad dabbed a dampened cloth over her parched lips, looking to the others to see if they would explain what a school was. Surely not a bunch of fish the way she said it.

A cruel thing that’s been done to you then child.” the Lightkeeper replied, in her mind and still unheard by the others, still tangled a bit overly much in the young selkie’s energy net. “You seem unbalanced right now. If your ship will be here long enough I can bring some of the Weisse Frau’s water. Surely your crew you are caring for need to restock on fresh drink.”

“I don’t know about cruel. I also don’t know if they need more water, I’ve not been aboard long.” She replied, unaware still of her surroundings or the eyes on her. “But yes Lightkeeper they probably could use fresh water, and if the Weisse Frau’s water is anything like The Lady’s back home I could definitely use some.”

The voice grew quieter as he untangled more of her net from himself. “I’ll bring some then. When you wake you can tell the others if you have enough voice.” One little bit remained tethered besides the Kitsch thread. “This is an impressive net you’ve made yourself.” He threw the remaining tangle off, and then Kirsty was alone in her mind again.

 

“Impressive net? What is he talking about? I had no hands free to throw a net... Strange.” Kirsty mumbled, her lips and throat stinging, but seemingly not as bad as they had been. She opened her eyes tiredly to see three confused sets staring back at her, and a pair of hands still keeping a damped cloth ready.

 

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.

Please do consider making a donation, or buying the complete book (or even the whole series, as it becomes available). The donations help pay costs such as editing, but also help put food on the table. Rather make an offline tip? Write me for a mailing address.
Donate Here via Paypal

Or you can become a monthly patron through Patreon!

As always, if you see any typos, please let me know so I can fix those, they don't always save when applied. I repeat that this is the webnovel version of the book and may differ somewhat from the print and ebook versions when the text is completed and through processing. Thank you for being part of the story behind the story.


rainstardragon: (Default)

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 full story is selkies' skins and the tag for "Temple and Skinquest" is selkies' skins 2.

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)

This is later than I would have liked. There has been so much going on since the last post and I am still trying to catch up. We are talking so much that it is difficult for me to even try to list, so I won't. I went to the ER Saturday night (or was it Sunday?) for severe back spasms lasting all day. They were stopped, but I have to be careful. So far things seem to be under control. Yes, I've been using my back brace like a good girl. Here is an update, finally.

Also there is another mythical creatures poem uploaded to my Patreon, for those interested. This month starts off with Troll, and two other poems will join that for the month of July a bit later in the month. Interested? http://www.patreon.com/Amehana



Selkies' Skins 2
Section 2: Temple's Light
Installment 29
Chapter 12 part 2
finally titled: Stormsong

 

 The memory of the dream sat heavy on Kirsty’s mind. After so many sessions of Divination with Madam Zeldethin the connotations were not lost on her. The wreckage that had been found earlier in the year did not pair well with the dream.

Mom can’t be dead. She’s mom. If she were, Mara still probably wouldn’t allow it. Mara was then probably working on bringing her home? But then how are Ven’thrith and Herne involved?” Kirsty puzzled the symbols as her hand slipped over the stone.

Her feet placed themselves as silently as possible as the worry continued to pulse. Kirsty’s hand continued to touch the wall now and then, though she was never certain what she expected her fingers to sense. Her nose wrinkled as she stuffed the worry back into the dark corners of her mind. Even with the care with which she placed her feet, silence was not completely possible with how her exposure made her shiver. Prickling fur complained as much as her arms and legs.

Kirsty’s steps began to grow muffled the further through the passages she walked. The world faded to white around her and when she reached to run her fingers along the wall it was no longer there. Mist wound around her ankles and twined further up her legs like a long lost lover, then sank, raking slippery claws that reminded her of the grindylows. The chill sank to her bones, pricking her skin as the goosebumps continued to rise.

Salt spray kissed her, filled her nose. The stone floor bowed to oaken planking. Creaking timbers spoke to anyone listening of the waves passing beneath. The waves spoke through the timers of the passage of winds and the heartbeat driving the waters.

The mist wound and rose around her ankles, reached for her thighs again, and then sank again and flowed away to fully reveal to her the deck. Beaten down by the boots of an unknown number of seamen it glowered up at her and at the sky that took form above her. Stars flirted with clouds building at the horizon and sweeping toward the ship.

Where am I now?” She thought, slipping herself behind some lashed barrels.

Voices called only now and then, and gradually the crew became visible. Where they materialized from Kirsty wasn’t sure, only that one breath there had been no bodies and the next bodies were there. The crew’s faces, both male and female, pressed low with concern. Strangely, Kirsty discovered that she knew these faces, though had no idea why or how. Some she could tell were distant relations.

Movement by the wheel drew her attention from her scrutinies. Fur and hair on end she went, slipping like shadows on the sea from hiding place to hiding place until she drew near to the stairs she needed. Her hopes for some loose sail or cloth to wrap and tie around herself on the way were in vain, most everything was already battened down, as she had expected they would be. Kirsty lurked in a pool of shadow the color of a seal’s nose, studying the stairs and the movements of the crew.

She would be able to sneak up just fine and hide herself from the crew, but the Captain? That was another story. Kirsty found herself wishing that she had the gift to simply write things and make them happen. She might be able to sing a distraction, but the song would give her away and might encourage the coming storm, and she did not feel like encouraging a storm when she didn’t even know where she was, or if this was another illusion like the ones she had trained with last year when facing her fears.

“You may as well come up girl. I saw you halfway across the deck when your scuttles had to be longer. Kara, go down and get the girl something. Probably a lost selkie like the others.” A voice piped and lilted from the wheel, female like the long shock of tied back flame had indicated.

“Aye, Cap’n.” Black leather and silver buckles pounded and jingled their way down the stairs. Kara, far more solid and real than Kirsty had ever seen her in the paintings, winked at where she lurked in the shadows before skipping into the Captain’s Quarters.

“That’s Kara? Where, and maybe even when, am I?”

“Know her do ye? Well, we do get about from port to port. As to the where and the when, obviously we’re riding Mara’s Skirts and there’s only one time when it comes to the sea, calendars and clocks or not. Slip on in and get some fake furs on before ye get sick. Ye’ll be of no use to any, ill.” The words were addressed to her, but the wind tried to take them, and the volume the captain used to make sure they got to her gave what should have been a soft voice a strange hard edge.

“Yes’m Captain.” Kirsty nodded, then slipped after Kara.

Kara had not been idle. The Captain’s wardrobe had been opened, and one of the dresses laid out. Red seemed to be a favored color, but black and white both seemed to be incorporated somehow into every garment she saw. A tri-color short cape had been laid by the dress.

“The smallest, should hopefully fit decent enough. Where’s yer skin girlie? Wouldn’t leave it hidden on here, just in case. Ye know how men can be out here. It wouldn’t be the sweet one that would be likeliest to find it, though he’d make fer a good ‘un.” Kara stepped back, settling her hands on her hips and scowling. “Not that they’d ‘ave it long. Cap’n Salena would clout ‘em good.”

Kirsty paled slightly at the name, trying to place it and why it sent chills up her spine. She shook her head and drew on the offered clothing. “No skin. Questing.”

“That seems strange. I guess I hope you get it. Not really heard of any selkie without one, except maybe a couple families. I don’t suppose you have a name that human tongue knows?”

“Kirsty. Kirsten Makay.”

“Another Makay? Interesting... Hmmm. It’s a small sea.” Kara surveyed the slightly warmer half-selkie before her, then nodded. “That’ll do. Better get ye back topside. She won’t want to just chuck you back if ye’ve got no way to survive on yer own out there, leaves only joinin’ the crew.”

Kara took Kirsty by the arm gently, but firm enough for her to more than realize this was in no way the Kara she knew from the painting, but the Kara the paintings had been based on and given refuge to her essence. The mariner drew her back out of the quarters and up onto the poop. The Captain, definitely a kinswoman by her eyes and the set of her jaw, continued to hold the course she had been attempting.

“Here she be, Cap’n.” Kara hadn’t let loose her grip. Her fingers pressed bone.

The Captain looked her over. “Much better, isn’t it? Listen, girl. Everyone aboard pulls their weight. You have the stance of someone familiar with ships, so that’s good. You pop up in the middle of the sea, with no obvious way to pay your passage. With this storm I don’t want to throw you back over, bound not to actually.” She looked Kirsty directly in the eyes, the wind whipping the tail of her hair and threatening the hat firmly strapped under her chin. “You have a funny way of talking, but Mara wouldn’t bring you here if you had no use, so. You willing to hear our code, girl?”

“Yes’m. As for pulling weight what I don’t know I’ll learn.” Kirsty tried to keep her voice from failing. How much the woman resembled her mother in some ways was even more unnerving than before.

“Fantastic. I hope you can cook. Our cook was our apothecary too, but we lost him in our last,” her eyes shifted, taking on a guarded and wounded look, “encounter. Not been to port to get a new one.”

“Can do, ma’am. Potions is the profession I’m hoping.”

“Mara, thankee for answering my prayers then. No backstabbing, no stealing from mothers with kids, no stealing from each other, no stealing from the cargo.” The Captain began, her finger tapping one of the spurs with each point.

Kirsty wondered about the situations that had made each of these rules necessary. As she watched, the Captain began to be surrounded by the Devil’s fire, or as something speaking in Kirsty’s gut inferred, “Mara’s Mantle.” Her voice took on a hard tone that she knew well, though the woman’s voice still underlay it and twined with the new tones.

“If you catch one of the crew forcing a man or a woman in an indecent way do whatever you think best but let me know.” The tall woman continued from her wheel, still holding course.

Kirsty grimaced and nodded, her stomach clenching and the blood dropping a bit to her feet.

“We keep the ship’s secrets, and the secrets of the crew. I expect you will understand that one just as easy, girl. Also, unlike some crews there is no voting for a new captain, even if I die. This ship belongs to Mara herself, no matter who I work for. I am the final authority here.” The woman stomped, her boot speaking against the deck and the boat giving off a cry of it’s own through the whole of it.

The rest of the crew could not hear their conversation, but their voices rose in answer to the ship’s voice. They all could guess easily enough. Kirsty was not certain if it was the woman speaking, or Mara’s overshadowing speaking regarding authority.

“Finally, our deity is Mara, and the Weisse Frau, of course. I don’t care what deity you pray to personally, but while serving here we all belong to her, and a bit to her sister. Understood?”

“Yes’m. I swear to these, then. I was already Mara’s, although I do not know if I know the Weisse Frau.” The cape seemed to weigh more on Kirsty’s shoulders and work teeth into her. She shuddered, the form too close to the phantom shark bite she had received during a long ago choir class.

She could not hold back the scream as her hands flew to the site of the new bite in progress, her eyes widening and then clamping in pain. The Captain studied her a moment, the flares rising from Kirsty just as they rose from her own hands gripping the wheel.

“A Mara priestess then, you didn’t say that. Even more helpful. Sing us safe passage, my route has changed.” A grim smile danced across the Captain’s face, lit by the lightning from the now much closer storm. “Kara, lash her good and tight there, so we won’t lose her.”

The Captain indicated the bannister between the poop and main decks. Kirsty noticed the railings were sturdier than other craft she’d seen records of for the era. One of the uprights was even stronger and more ornate than the rest, exuding a sense of power and connection. The sounds of crew and storm faded.

Kara wasted no time in following orders and securing her. Kirsty did not fight, there would be no sense in it with the situation. As the rope wound and tightened she felt her consciousness pulled into the ship, joining with the consciousness it already help. The ship pressed at her mind, probing, searching. Kirsty’s hands, though her arms were left loose of her bonds, found her fingers lacing with unseen appendages. It felt as if the spectral hands formed and held based on the shape of her own.

 

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.

Please do consider making a donation, or buying the complete book (or even the whole series, as it becomes available). The donations help pay costs such as editing, but also help put food on the table. Rather make an offline tip? Write me for a mailing address.
Donate Here via Paypal

Or you can become a monthly patron through Patreon!

As always, if you see any typos, please let me know so I can fix those, they don't always save when applied. I repeat that this is the webnovel version of the book and may differ somewhat from the print and ebook versions when the text is completed and through processing. Thank you for being part of the story behind the story.


rainstardragon: (selkies skins)

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 full story is selkies' skins and the tag for "Temple and Skinquest" is selkies' skins 2.

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)

HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY!



Selkies' Skins 2
Section 2: Temple's Light
Installment 28
Chapter 12 part 
not titled yet

 

 

 Kirsty eventually fell into a stupor, laying down on her side right there on the floor of the depths. She’d been on the move for so long, then there was the fighting against what had turned out to be a spell from a rival. “So much for selkies having only weak magic, you elitist sods,” she thought bitterly in the direction of every person she’d ever heard utter their speciesist drivel. Then there was the fight against the spellcaster, and who knew what she was learning of dark magic whispered to her by Astereth. On top of that there was the strain on her mind with slipping back and forth between times. She should never have listened to the Spiralis snake and strained ahead more than she already had been.

Sleep. The arms of sleep and the soothing siren song was what she needed to allow body, mind, and soul to knit. Something in her had activated when her heart was touched by Mara’s spear, but finding out what exactly it was could wait.

Sleep. The word pounded through her with the rhythm of tide and moon. It pulled at her, fogging her mind until all was dark, even though it already was so, save for the places glowing with their phosphorescence. Only those of the temple monitoring her progress would be able to know for how long she slept like that, and even then their kenning would not be accurate due to the way time worked on the Maze and the Initiatory Tests.

Sleep. The command continued long after she had finally lost the battle against it. With the stilling of her body her mind and soul turned focus on the inner work that needed doing. Desperately she grasped and grappled with the things knocked loose inside herself. Weaving and knitting, knotting and plying repairs were made.

Meanwhile something else went on. Between the relaxed fingers webbing wove, born of the gossamer threads pulled from herself. Sleeping fingers danced through long practiced gesticulations, conjuring and knotting netting unlike any of rope she’d previously made at lochside or seaside. They had so long practiced these knots that they worked easily even in her sleep.

Kirsty’s awareness drifted in sweet velvet nothing for a time healing before she heard voices. First those of her mother and Mara, urgent whispers as they sought a way through an unknown force, then the moon shone on Mara’s stricken face. Tear salt tracked her cheeks with their crusty sheen as more tears slid down their tracks, Etain clutched tightly in her arms where she stood before a somber veil blowing in a breeze that touched neither selkie nor goddess.

She called, of course she did. Whether Kirsty was heard by them was another story, but perhaps... Why was she seeing them through the gate the veil guarded? She reached out to touch the gate, but the burning chill was as if she were somewhere between trackless stars and back in the arctic winter all at once. It suited the stone room that choked around her.

The scene changed. Suddenly Ven’thrith was at her side and they were both standing on some rocks, white cloak of dreaming and insanity covering them both. The gate had moved. If the moon deity knew she was there Kirsty couldn’t tell. He, and he was definitely male this time instead of female or that hemaphroditic form he also used, was more focused on peering through the gate and clenching his fists. “They’ll be here soon, Mara, I’m sure of it.”

“Good. See where your meddling has brought us this time.”

“Not every plan of mine to make things better can work as planned, I am the moon, here...”

“Yes, yes. Cyclically fickle and as difficult to have any time with as Herne. How long do you think? Feeding Etain is creating quite the drain, more than I’d have expected. I’ve not done this in awhile, like this.”

“I’m sorry. It shouldn’t be long. Mimir will be guiding Finnol, and with the true figurehead that should give us just enough to pull her back through.”

Mara sighed, slumped, nodded. Ven’thrith laid his hands on either side of the gate and pressed forward. Kirsty realized then that she had never seen either of them at the sizes they were. He spanned it, and her mother looked like a child of moonlight cradled in the arms of the sea goddess, her dress lapping and crashing around the slight frame and her mother herself nude save for the bit of fur and the goddess’ cloak tucked over her. “I just hope he gets here in time. Seven tears can’t call a selkie back from this side of the veil anymore... not all the time.”

“No,” Ven’thrith smiled, the light of the moon just beginning to wax from him again. “But do you hear that my dear? I believe I hear someone stirring, though what he’s up to I can’t say. Something’s happened to allow him to act or send someone though.”

The wind brought from land the sounds of hooves, a horn Kirsty recognized well, the baying of dogs, and the calls of wolves. Her heart leapt at the sounds of the Wild Hunt.

“And how do we know we don’t just hear young Valnarius completing his own initiations and earning his place?”

“Perhaps, but this feels different. That is soon, but not yet. I’ve been looking forward to watching his own trials and seeing if he does earn a proper place.” Ven’thrith giggled, the sound clashing with the sturdiness of his frame. “I’d like to think that Astereth finally tripped up again.”

“I won’t hold that hope. I just want him gone from our realms for good this time.” Mara turned her head and spat.

The visions faded and the velvet returned, this time with silk drawing over her face, then around her like the winding sheet she knew one day she would be given. She dreaded it kissing her mother. At some point the now finished net, gleaming silver and gold with the enchantments and soulstuff of an apprentice priestess of the sea, had wrapped around her as her body drifted with current and tide. Her very own shroud. She drifted still in the empty sea as her consciousness returned again, the waters warm now, like a good hot bath freshly drawn.

At last, she opened her eyes.

She stifled a scream at finding herself netted yet again, and no hands on the outside to free her of the dread entanglement. Her terror rose when she recognized enspellments on the netting, tied in every knot and woven in every fiber. She reached to her belt for a stone knife to cut her way free but once her desire reached cognizance she found the gold and silver shroud falling and slipping off of her like water before she could sever even one thread.

Soon, it lay beside her, a shimmering puddle of will. Inspecting it she recognized her own work and frowned. Bundling it for transport she discovered how compact it could be and she tied this to her belt.

Perhaps this will come in handy later. I have no memory of making this though. So, when? How?” She thought.

Kirsty focused her eyes next on smoothly worked stone walls then pushed herself up. Water lapped at her tail and dripped from the ceiling. She rubbed her eyes and blinked, but the worked stone still greeted her eyes.

She gave herself a good rake with her claws on what would have been her thigh, stifled a yelp, and flopped back down unceremoniously to look about from that ungainly angle, trying to figure out how she could have made her way here when the last she remembered was being unable to continue swimming far in the deeps.

Absolutely nothing greeted her inquiries save the lapping of the tide and the dripping further into the worked room.

“Mara’s fins...” she grumbled and pulled herself further up the shore. Her stomach growled, demanding filling and uncaring that its protests might attract something that ate beached selkies.

Kirsty grimaced, looking even more carefully for something that might be hungry, even though she was pretty sure this ordeal was shaving off all the lovely padding she’d been working so hard on putting on in preparation for the trek.

Nothing came, and the only routes available to her seemed to be forward into the dry cave, or backward into the water. If she had drifted in her sleep though it was no telling where the turns in the maze were, and the further she wound in the less she understood about how it worked.

She dragged herself further up the smooth beach, grateful to not have her underbelly raked by rough rocks. How soon would the paste wear off? She’d not had to take any for a very long time now.

Hopefully she’d not overdosed and become stuck this way. Then she’d need a skin even more just to be able to walk. “That would definitely be under ‘things never to tell David, ever.’” Kirsty thought to herself as she flopped down to rest and wait.

Idly, she traced her fingers over the crescent mark that Ven’thrith had left on her when inside The Lady’s well, focusing on what it had been like to have two legs and hoping that this would speed the hoped for transformation.

After what seemed to be an eternity of heartbeats she felt the tingling spreading over her body and the familiar searing splitting up her tail and bones shifting. She burned as her fur retreated and thinned, until at last her half pelt covered her from thigh to near the shoulder again, noting that it seemed to cover less area than the last time she had been in her birth form.

 

Several tentative steps later she was making her way through the dry passage.

 

 

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.

Please do consider making a donation, or buying the complete book (or even the whole series, as it becomes available). The donations help pay costs such as editing, but also help put food on the table. Rather make an offline tip? Write me for a mailing address.
Donate Here via Paypal

Or you can become a monthly patron through Patreon!

As always, if you see any typos, please let me know so I can fix those, they don't always save when applied. I repeat that this is the webnovel version of the book and may differ somewhat from the print and ebook versions when the text is completed and through processing. Thank you for being part of the story behind the story.


rainstardragon: (selkies skins)

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 full story is selkies' skins and the tag for "Temple and Skinquest" is selkies' skins 2.

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 Light
Installment 27
Chapter 11 part 2
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?”

“What?”

“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."]

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.

Please do consider making a donation, or buying the complete book (or even the whole series, as it becomes available). The donations help pay costs such as editing, but also help put food on the table. Rather make an offline tip? Write me for a mailing address.
Donate Here via Paypal

Or you can become a monthly patron through Patreon!

As always, if you see any typos, please let me know so I can fix those, they don't always save when applied. I repeat that this is the webnovel version of the book and may differ somewhat from the print and ebook versions when the text is completed and through processing. Thank you for being part of the story behind the story.


rainstardragon: (Default)

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 full story is selkies' skins and the tag for "Temple and Skinquest" is selkies' skins 2.

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)

And back to the future, or the past, or...? This must make her head hurt.






Selkies' Skins 2
Section 2: Temple's Light
Installment 26
Chapter 11 part 1
Whispers in the Dark, Color of the Pelt

 

 Kirsty frowned as the world solidified around her once more, shaking her head and leaning on the cool rock walls of the labyrinth. “That was strange...” she murmured to herself while awaiting her eyes to adjust and gathering the strength to cast another light. “Was that just a dream, or was I really with David?”

No answer came. The only movement was the soft pulse of the water. There was a tide drawing her onward.

Every step deeper into the labyrinth she fed out more of the thread she’d spun. Every passage she explored made her feel more as if she were the shuttle in a loom, or a needle in a tapestry, weaving something inarticulately intricate. To pass the time she half imagined that exploring the passages was stitching together furs or knitting a mantle that would fall over her shoulders to become her skin.

Some turns brought confusion, others clarity. In places she had to double back while in others she found herself crossing her own path. The sensation of hands working through her memories and desires never left her.

Naked. Naked summed it up very well, and she was already that. Thank goodness for her pelt.

Eventually the light from her witchfire could no longer cut the gloom. The water grew colder. Another turn. More flicks of her tail. Kirsty gave up the effort of keeping the ball going. When she tried she was unable to conjure another.

The thread had waxed thick and then thin again as she had explored. Where it pulled from her heart now felt thorny, tacky. There was a strange oozing sensation from where the thread separated from her body and a strange taste filled the water. It wasn’t quite pus, but that was the only thing she could compare it to.

Before her was another choice of three passages, each identical. Each the same ink that enveloped her now, devouring her and the slight glow from the thread.

Pressure mounted. Fur pricked.

Kirsty chose the middle path. The floor and walls rotated around her, spinning her faster and faster. She crushed to the wall, the pressure mounting even more, felt like she was finally at the point that her juices would run out of her nose. Ludicrously she had an image of a centrifuge extracting her serum.

For what purpose?

The room stopped and she wobbled out of the nearest door. Her vision was so splintered she wasn’t sure if there was one, two, or if more had grown while the walls whirled.

Movement, unseen but felt. Large, looming hulks that could not have possibly fit in the rocky passages.

Another set of passages spread before her, each with a different triskele. To further complicate things each also denoted a different moon phase. Kirsty groaned internally. The last time she encountered the moon shi had been both problematic and helpful.

I’m beyond tired of gates.” Kirsty thought as her hair spread in the tidal pulse. Each strand grasped and tasted the energies shifting and passing by.

She closed her eyes and focused on the sounds beyond each. Each passage gave a different chill.

The eyes were back.

Head still spinning she tried to remember, since this was a labyrinth, if she’d thought she was going in, or going out. Deosil was The Lady’s preference. Yet this was all supposed to be prover her worthy of Mara’s favor, secrets, and a skin of her own.

Widdershins then?

Mara walked a dark and lonely path. Mara hid things, protected things. Widdershins it would be then, but wait. The middle path? Middle balanced dark and light. She served both water goddesses. Should she take that middle route and balance them? Was it not about them at all, but herself?

Was she overthinking?

Widdershins... Inward.

Into the dark.

Through the passage, past the lintel and eaves with the strange glyphs. A barrier met her here but she pushed through.

So many gates and passages.

Was there even a point anymore?

Two large orbs blazed to life, at eye height, pinning her where she stood and peering into the dark corners of her mind and soul that even she avoided acknowledging.

“What is your Name?” A deep nasal voice grated.

Somehow she had the impression it already knew. She gave her name.

“No. That is what you are known as. What is your Name?”

Kirsty gave the name given her by the loch selkies next.

“No. That too is what you are known as. What, child of the land and sea, is the Name which art thee?” The eyes drew closer and brighter.

Kirsty couldn’t look away. She was aware of shape behind the eyes. Antannae waving and stirring, reaching as her hair and whiskers did. The exact shape eluded her.

It reminded her vaguely of some Lovecraftian leviathan. Had Lovecraft seen some terror of the deep to inspire his stories?

Kirsty tried not to tremble. Perhaps if she gave in to the fear bubbling then the eyes would devour her. Worse, could it take her soul?

Why was she afraid of that? Did she have one, with no skin?

“I don’t know then.” Kirsty arranged her tail carefully, reached inside herself to gather her power, and drew on the water, just in case.

“You’ll need to know to continue. I suppose you seek your skin, if you don’t know your Name.”

“I do.”

“Before that you must learn about yourself. Who you are, what you are.”

“Kirsty rubbed her forehead, smoothed her hair. “I am myself. Why would I need yet another name?”

The eyes seemed to grow, engulfing her in their blind blue depths. “You may proceed.”

The lantern fish then swam away, backwards, still peering into her darkness.

Kirsty swam forward.

The lantern fish was gone.

Guilt weighed her down as she continued deeper. Things continued to move in the dark. Her tunnel expanded into a room she couldn’t fathom the size of. The stirring died down.

The weight grew.

She waited.

The rustles began again, coming closer. Voices joined them.

“I swear Makay, why don’t you just roll over? You don’t belong here, or anywhere. Poor little water witch. You should study plumbing instead.” Maldein’s voice, sickly sweet with false pity, was doubly unwelcome as it tore into her ears.

Kirsty tried to ignore it. Something was playing with her.

“Makay, really, we both know that the only job you’ll be able to get after school will be with that Order of Fisheries or whatever it is, or the Piping Plumbers maybe. That’s what happens with you activists. No one wants you. We just want things to continue as they are. You’re a dangerous breed, and your family doubly so.” Morvan needled, adjusting his shirt cuff.

The school hallway was all around them. They’d caught her between some armor and the tapestry of the sea that always fascinated her. Maldien primped her hair in the shine of the armor, it’s moons and suns sparking dully on the helm. Whoever had owned that armor, they seemed to be still in it and had their thoughts about her.

“If you really love Valnarius, Maldein coaxed, voice almost sympathetic, “then you’ll end your life. Don’t you think that it’s selfish? He’ll only ghave to support you once you graduate, and he’d do it too, I’d wager. We all see that. He’s old money, but really, how much could he rally have, being... you know.” Maldein tittered, bouncing on her toes.

Kirsty had forgotten this conversation, even what year it had been. Buried it down deep where she wouldn’t have to think about the coward’s way. Looking at the face she had then, it had to have been before they decided they even liked each other that way. With the shade of red, she could see why she would get picked on so much. She’d been in the office so many times for different retaliations every time. There had been so many confrontations over the years it had been easy for the cycle to continue.

She at least understood now why she always wondered if David truly liked time with her, and actually liked her, or if he was just being his chivalrous self.

“You’d like it too much if I offed myself. Maybe the two of you should off yourselves instead. That’s less strain on the planet, more air for the rest of us, and you won’t have to worry anymore about people hearing from me what I stumbled on you doing in the owlery.” The younger Kirsty retorted, a growl in her throat. “Quite sure that’s against the rules.”

“Oh, but we’re here to learn several types of magic, and that’s one of many types. It works quite well.” Maldein purred and the older Kisty could hear her hand passing over Morvan’s clothes while she rubbed his upper arm. “Maybe I should practice with Valnarius, he’d enjoy it.”

Rage flared in both younger and older Kirsty. The elder watched as the younger reached toward Maldein, fingers clawed.

No reply, no retort, no growl now. Just a rach for her water, a desire to suck the rich girl dry. Take ever drop and vaporize it. Images of the desert.

Younger Kirsty tried so hard, instinct dictating a spell that she had no idea if it was even written.

She wanted. She demanded.

Left hand path be damned.

Shame flooded her, both for having failed, in her newness at the spell, for taking enough water from another living being to attempt killing it, and for having attempted to kill over what she knew now Maldein would probably never actually try.

Maybe.

Her reputation was rather loose.

The part that tried to cling to the light in herself tried to wonder what made Maldein and Morvan so miserable to always try to wreck her.

Tried was the operative word.

Not for long.

Karma was going to hurt when it caught them, whoever would be the acting hand. Still, she had acted wrongly that time. She was also still not going to talk to David about this.

No, if the day ever came where they did intertwine their paths that much then she was not going to be dead weight. Even if he was better at potions than she was.

The scene before her faded, and she moved forward again. Kirsty no longer cared if the shadowy unknown things came for her. She would meet them. Perhaps they were just memories that she was repressing. Or perhaps they were monsters that would rend her to pieces. If that was the case, then she’d like to see them try.

 

She felt a click ripple the water.

 

[Back to what I know for sure will be in book two "Temple and Skinquest."]

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.

Please do consider making a donation, or buying the complete book (or even the whole series, as it becomes available). The donations help pay costs such as editing, but also help put food on the table. Rather make an offline tip? Write me for a mailing address.
Donate Here via Paypal

Or you can become a monthly patron through Patreon!

As always, if you see any typos, please let me know so I can fix those, they don't always save when applied. I repeat that this is the webnovel version of the book and may differ somewhat from the print and ebook versions when the text is completed and through processing. Thank you for being part of the story behind the story.


rainstardragon: (Default)

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 full story is selkies' skins and the tag for "Temple and Skinquest" is selkies' skins 2.

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)

We return to Kirsty and to how she is doing with the effects of time shuttling.


My apologies for the slight delay. This was not quite ready when I wanted.



Selkies' Skins 2
Section 2: Temple's Light
Installment 25
Chapter 10 part 4
Tangled Fur

 

 David sat looking into the well listening to the chill breeze and the slipping of the owls and bats through the dark air above and around him. It didn’t matter that he wasn’t supposed to be out, though the usual consequence would fall on him just as it would anyone else since he did not have the excuse of his “special studies” tonight, though he could feel his night drawing closer than he wanted. The kelpie, which had not been nice, was long gone and good riddance.

He liked Byron much better, even though he was still sure that the kelpie fantasized about eating him if he ever crossed Kirsty. He felt closer to her here, for now, and that calmed him. Maybe if he sat in one of their places he could better figure out what was wrong.

“Master?” Imp hopped onto his shoulder and sat.

“I thought you’d be with Kirsty.”

Imp fidgeted. “Mistress sleeps still. Imp was wanting to check on Master.”

David sighed at how Imp addressed him. He’d accepted it, but perhaps some day they could get him to speak normally. “I am fine, I’m more worried about her.”

“Mistress would be more worried about you than herself. Mistress would have asked Imp to check.”

He smiled a bit. “Yes, she probably would have. Maybe when you go back to her you could whisper in her ear that I’m fine and to just get better and stop worrying about me.”

“Imp will do that. Master, Imp is worried, about more than just Master and Mistress.”

David nodded for him to continue.

“Imp still worries about the Black Gate from the dream not-dream that he spied on Morvan having. Imp thinks that maybe that makes mistress ill, or lets the Things come so close. There weren’t this many last year skulking about.”

“I don’t think that it makes her ill, if he really does have this thing. I can believe what you told me about the skins, that makes sense, however,” he paused a moment at a whine from Imp. “I would think that since it is Morvan and you mentioned the demon, there is more involved.” He patted Imp carefully at the wilting.

“But Master... If that’s not it then what can Imp do for Mistress?”

“I don’t know, Imp. I’m at just as much of a loss as you are. You can keep an eye on Morvan when you’re not with Kirsty. Let me know if you find anything else out.”

Imp nodded. “Imp will do so.” He then bounded off after placing an awkward hug around David’s neck.

David watched the water imp bound off as it cloaked itself. David sighed and looked into the water one more time, touching the lump under his shirt that was the crystal and Kirsty hair pendant. Just get better. I don’t know what I can do for you,” the thought wavered gently as he thought about brushing the hair from her face or straightening her collar.

At that moment Finnol and Byron strode into the courtyard from the direction of the lake. Byron was dripping, which was normal, but Finnol seemed to still be in the process of pulling the water from his clothes and returning it to the lake and the ground.

“Mr. Makay?” David rose and took a step toward Kirsty’s father. “I did not expect that you might be here so soon. Did something happen on your way?”

Finnol blinked, shaking his hands as if they burned. “My trip? As could be expected. Did something else happen with Kirstine since the last letter from my Aunt?”

David nodded, falling into step with the pair. “She’s had another episode. We took her to the medical wing, sir.”

Finnol sighed and placed his hand on David’s shoulder. “You’re a good lad. Thank you for taking care of my daughter.”

“Of course, sir.”

“I’m guessing that being bothered is why you are here instead of,” Finnol trailed off with a wan smile as they crossed the threshold. His shoulders squared as the Examiners ruffled through his mind and aura.

“Yes, sir.” David looked up at the older man, then the Examiners.

Their jewel eyes gazed back, less shrouded somehow than usual. Finnol and Byron followed his gaze.

“Something isn’t right...” Finnol ducked back out the threshold, and back in once more.

Byron whinnied and shook his head, snorting and pawing as the water flicked everywhere, including on David.

“Sir? Byron?” David looked between the pair.

“You don’t feel her here?” Byron’s red frill peeked from beneath the kelp of his mane.

“I do...” David nodded slowly. “But I feel her everywhere here that she passes often.” He eyed Byron, took a careful step backward to give the kelpie his space.

“This is,” Finnol stepped back in fully, turned at glared up at the statues. “Different. There is something about this door and I feel her in it. So help me, if you lot have something to do with my baby’s problems I will leech whatever water is in your compounds and then pulverize you to sand for the beach. No matter how many times I sought guidance from you as a child.”

Finnol locked stares with the guardians of the gate. David was unsure how much time passed, how many ticks of the watch in his pocket. He was about to clear his throat and suggest going either to Professor MacLeomhann, or to Kirsty when the elder Makay sighed.

Finnol looked slightly more worn, if that were possible. Frayed around the edges like a pullover worn too many times. “I’m sorry. Perhaps I am getting paranoid.”

Byron pressed his side against Finnol, and Finnol’s hand went to his shoulder. “It is to be expected. Will you be joining us, David?”

 

“If you wish it. I probably should be going to my room though.” David eyed the kelpie.

 

[Unsure if I will include that adventure in this book or if it will be part of Book 3 since it’s a David/Thomas and may touch on the Black Gate’s story. This is a chance for readers to sound off on helping shape the way the tales unfold. Comment below (so I can keep track) which you think is best. 1) Save their exploration and any discovery for in #3. 2) Include their adventure in the current book, #2. 3) In both, having one in truncated form and the other the full form. 4) Another option, reader suggestion.]

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.

Please do consider making a donation, or buying the complete book (or even the whole series, as it becomes available). The donations help pay costs such as editing, but also help put food on the table. Rather make an offline tip? Write me for a mailing address.
Donate Here via Paypal

Or you can become a monthly patron through Patreon!

As always, if you see any typos, please let me know so I can fix those, they don't always save when applied. I repeat that this is the webnovel version of the book and may differ somewhat from the print and ebook versions when the text is completed and through processing. Thank you for being part of the story behind the story.


rainstardragon: (Default)

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 full story is selkies' skins and the tag for "Temple and Skinquest" is selkies' skins 2.

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)

We return to Kirsty and to how she is doing with the effects of time shuttling.


My apologies for the slight delay. This was not quite ready before I had to go do the month's monthly grocery shopping.



Selkies' Skins 2
Section 2: Temple's Light
Installment 24
Chapter 10 part 3
Tangled Fur

 

 David stayed by Kirsty as long as he was allowed, as did Thomas and Ally. They would have happily taken dinner by Kirsty, but they did not get that far before first Thomas’ extra classes called them away, then Ally’s extra studies. Laryna shooed the teens on their way with promises to send word as soon as some marked change happened. David, as Laryna expected, was the most difficult to nudge along, and she’d caught him holding Kirsty’s hand more than once when he thought no one was watching. Professor MacLeomhann often sent her office messenger to check through the paintings.

Laryna leaned thoughtfully against the cabinet holding all of the tools of her trade, watching the girl’s sleep and trying to sense what was wrong from far back enough the defenses would not turn her away. She wasn’t certain what constantly came between her and the teen’s spirit, but it was very effective at cloaking whatever injury she still nursed.

All the former nun could come up with was that it was a wound of mind and soul. She knew there was something she could do, but not what, and the information might have been known to her if she had not been pulled away from her Order and time.

“If only I could speak to Father Roanan. He always had answers.” Laryna thought aloud, hoping that if she spoke the name, his ghost might somehow speak.

As always, her hopes didn’t fruit. Instead they withered. Laryna paced the walkway between the beds, pulling up from her belt the pearls and stones of the rosary normally hidden in her folds. One by one they passed through her hands.

“Our Lady of the shifting seas

Hear the notes of my pleas

Grant your children what we seek

Be we brave or be we weak

Lift your waves upon the shore

Take the danger from our shore.”

Over and over the rhyme repeated, until at last she found herself seated on the chair at the foot of Kirsty’s bed, the last prayer fading on the last stone.

“What’ll it be girl? What do you need?” Laryna, still holding the rosary, reached out and rested her hand on the teen’s ankle. “I have to have been placed here for some reason, after all this time and how much trouble you’ve had here ever since coming, is it to help you? If so why?”

Kirsty didn’t stir, but the nun did feel something else stirring, felt the turning of unseen eyes toward her. Laryna knew the feeling, waited, held her breath, listened.

“Guide me. I still belong.” Laryna’s eyes closed. Her inner eyes opened and a roughened hand that she didn’t know turned her head. Kirsty’s spirit lay where the body did, larger than it and glowing weakly, pulsing slowly. Battered and bruised, something seemed to have been tearing at the essence. Strings extended in all directions.

Laryna reached out. The strings reached for her rosary.

“Where is the rest of you then child?”

The strings latched on, wrapped around the beads. Color returned to the face behind the light.

“She needs to hurry.” The voice by Laryna’s ear was not the voice of the goddess she served. It wasn’t even female. “I said it wasn’t a good idea.” Another voice, by her other ear, piped. “There’s not really anything you can do, Healer,” hissed a third. “It’s all up to her, and not getting lost, or not pulling herself apart fixing herself.”

“What do I do then?” She asked.

“Nothing, unless you know where to find a selkie skin for her to borrow for now. Even part of one might help her feel whole until later.” That last voice hissed, smug, snakelike.

The voices left, but there will still eyes. “Hm... I might. I doubt that’s been checked out.” Laryna opened her eyes, looked over the now comfortably sleeping teen. Something was happening, wherever the rest of her was, but at least what was here before her was as comfortable and stable as it could be. “Rest while I go look for it.”

 

Laryna left the Healer’s Hall, took a deep breath to steady herself as she navigated her way to the library, holding back the memories of when she had brought part Father Ronan’s remains. “I’m not fully ready to see that again though.”

 

[Unsure if I will include that adventure in this book or if it will be part of Book 3 since it’s a David/Thomas and may touch on the Black Gate’s story. This is a chance for readers to sound off on helping shape the way the tales unfold. Comment below (so I can keep track) which you think is best. 1) Save their exploration and any discovery for in #3. 2) Include their adventure in the current book, #2. 3) In both, having one in truncated form and the other the full form. 4) Another option, reader suggestion.]

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.

Please do consider making a donation, or buying the complete book (or even the whole series, as it becomes available). The donations help pay costs such as editing, but also help put food on the table. Rather make an offline tip? Write me for a mailing address.
Donate Here via Paypal

Or you can become a monthly patron through Patreon!

As always, if you see any typos, please let me know so I can fix those, they don't always save when applied. I repeat that this is the webnovel version of the book and may differ somewhat from the print and ebook versions when the text is completed and through processing. Thank you for being part of the story behind the story.


rainstardragon: (selkies skins)

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 full story is selkies' skins and the tag for "Temple and Skinquest" is selkies' skins 2.

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)

We return to Kirsty and to how she is doing with the effects of time shuttling.


My apologies for the slight delay. This was not quite ready before I had to go do the month's monthly grocery shopping.



Selkies' Skins 2
Section 2: Temple's Light
Installment 23
Chapter 10 part 2
Tangled Fur

 

 As Kirsty passed through the threshold vertigo grabbed her once more. She reached out for the wall she hoped was there, but there was nothing.

Light. The light hurt her eyes, bouncing off of some white surface. It stabbed with graphite claws and ink shards as if she had abandoned it for some time.

The pen fell from her fingers.

Something warm trickled from her nose and landed on the white surface. She heard three drops land and felt the liquid – salt-copper, had to be blood – land and spread.

An arm went around her and fingers lifted her chin.

“Kirsty, are you alright?” The familiar voice, warm and rich like German Chocolate cake freshly made, washed over her like a long overdue drink.

“Why is she bleeding? She’s not been doing anything particularly hard today. Thomas, do you have anything?”

“Let David get it this time, he’s already got her Ally.”

“I... I don’t know. Where am I? When am I?” So dry, so hard to force the question from a parched throat.

“When?” David’s voice, still soaking into her like she’d been a seastar left too long on the beach, had found a way to sound more worried than the first he spoke. He whisked a white kerchief from one of his pockets and pulled her close.

The diary that she’d bled on was taken from her hands. Somehow it felt as if Ally was removing a part of herself, though the hands were helpful. He whispered something and gently cleaned her nose, whatever charm he used combining with hers as she willed the capillary to dry over.

Her eyes focused more and adjusted to the light. The Loch lay before her and watched with Mara’s steely eye.

“I’m at school again...” Kirsty sighed. “I’m no closer than I was.”

“Kirsty, yes, you’re still at school, with us. I know I’ve said this before but you’re really worrying us. Maybe we should talk to your aunt about these lapses.

“NO!” Horror deluged over her, chill as any highland waterfall in winter. Kirsty wasn’t sure where it came from, but memories swam to the surface about other times in the recent past he’d urged her to talk to Professor MacLeòmhann, all of which had ended with one very grumpy werewolf promising to hold his tongue a little longer on condition that she do it before he did.

Said grumpy werewolf was now beyond mere grump mode. The wolf's eyes flashed and bore into her, attempting to wrest control and herd her. She felt a growl, her finely tuned hearing picked it up as well, but it wasn’t one of the registers their friends would hear. This had to be the closest she had seen his eyes get to the time she’d discovered his secret and been chased after by him.

The stubborn selkie-maid winced, but held her ground, or perhaps more accurately stayed where she was held, yet was unable to mask the tremor that was railing to be set free.

She felt the flow begin again, another three drops oozing free, ending the battle in a stalemate. Barely.

“Please no David. Please.”

He sighed and once more dabbed gently at her nose, eyes softening but far from defeated. “Soon then. This can’t go on.”

“I’m tired, and cold.” She leaned into him, too exhausted to care about dignity. Neither was a lie even though she was also hoping it would be a way to deflect having to agree. “Hold me.”

It suddenly got a lot warmer, all of that coming from David, and she snuggled into the obliging, albiet grumbly, haven.

“Smooth. Very smooth.” Thomas observed, taking her diary out of Ally’s hand. “Not going to work though since you’ve said that every time this has been happening that I’ve seen. What were you doodling this time anyway?”

Kirsty glared at him. She didn’t remember having used the line at any time and she was freezing and felt like she’d been pulling bits of herself out. Was that even possible? And he was going to just open her diary? Surely David would defend her honor and say something.

“I’m curious too. This incident is too like the others. Trance, automatic writing, nosebleed, sometimes rather bad, and rather severe disorientation. I’m afraid this time we will have to look even though I don’t like looking in your private thoughts without invitation.”

Ally nodded her agreement with David’s decree. Thomas opened the book to where she had been writing... something. Kirsty couldn’t remember what. Thomas sat and turned so everyone could see the page the right way up and the four of them fit in close like the biscuits in Aunt Belara’s tin.

“Thank gods it’s not sparkling vampires or feather wearing werewolves. Just weird looking girls.”

Ally cuffed him upside the head. “No one in their right minds would ever think to pollute them like that. Where is that coming from? Stop it or you’ll ripple something and it will. Then what will we do? And we’ll all say it’ll be your fault, not hers.”

David closed his eyes and sighed. He’d rub his temple if his arms weren’t both busy trying to keep Kirsty some semblance of warmer. She was uncomfortably cold even through the cloth between them. If werewolves could wear armor at some point in time they could probably wear feathers.

His friends definitely had some detrimental effects on his own ability to focus at times, and his patience. It was definitely time to take control again. “Do you know these four Kirsty?”

“I don’t... know?” Kirsty looked at the faces she’d drawn. Something tingled just beyond her grasp. She should, shouldn’t she? There were tickles when she looked at the three girls, each caught in midaction and almost making her wonder if they were elementals.

Then her eyes fell her Her. Brigid stared up at her from the page, colorless pencil work and unfinished, marred by the drops of her blood.

“The alliance is still alive even though I moved my stronghold.” The words came to her, pushed from somewhere somehow forward from where she was. The cadence and lilt was not hers. The disorientation returned and she felt something in herself unravel.

It was dark.

At least she could feel David holding her. There was movement, and the crunching of snow with scuttling behind them. The sounds fell away leaving only the dark and his familiar scent.


“We going where we think we are, Sir?” Thomas matched his steps to his friend’s, falling a step behind and to the left.

“Yes. We are.” David nodded and flicked his eyes over to him, brow lifted at the unusual title... He certainly wasn’t a Sir yet and most definitely had his own trial to pass through still before that was even a possibility... not that he particularly wanted to carry any title, then to Ally who he had felt come up behind on his right the usual place she took walking with Kirsty.

“Kirsty going to be pretty mad at us latter.” Thomas continued.

“Probably, and she can be. I’d rather this get stopped before it gets worse or more frequent, whether or not she glares at me for a month over her potion book.”

Thomas opened the door for him when they got to it. The three noted the change, half the time the door would swing open for them on it’s own. No one had yet figured out exactly how the front gate really worked. Whenever a student thought they finally had learned something about it, the gate just changed how it acted.

“I’ll go up ahead then and get the professor.” Ally murmured. “I can move quicker.”

“As you think best.” David replied to the already darting firewitch, then looked up when he felt something brush his mind.

Each of the Examiners on the Lintel seemed to be gazing down at the four as they separated, but particularly pointedly at the selkie in his arms.

“Since when to they look so far down?” David whispered to Thomas.

Thomas looked up. “Not this far that I’ve seen... Weird. Something didn’t quite feel right passing through either.”

“I don’t think you should tell Ally yet. You and I may be coming back later tonight though Ally will probably want to stay with Kirsty tonight wherever Professor MacLeòmhann has her stay.”

Thomas nodded. “Ally’s worried enough already.”

The entrance hall passed away behind them as they mounted the steps to follow Ally to the Leomaris house quarters. With luck they wouldn’t cross paths with Morvan or his cadre.

 

 

[Unsure if I will include that adventure in this book or if it will be part of Book 3 since it’s a David/Thomas and may touch on the Black Gate’s story. This is a chance for readers to sound off on helping shape the way the tales unfold. Comment below (so I can keep track) which you think is best. 1) Save their exploration and any discovery for in #3. 2) Include their adventure in the current book, #2. 3) In both, having one in truncated form and the other the full form. 4) Another option, reader suggestion.]

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.

Please do consider making a donation, or buying the complete book (or even the whole series, as it becomes available). The donations help pay costs such as editing, but also help put food on the table. Rather make an offline tip? Write me for a mailing address.
Donate Here via Paypal

Or you can become a monthly patron through Patreon!

As always, if you see any typos, please let me know so I can fix those, they don't always save when applied. I repeat that this is the webnovel version of the book and may differ somewhat from the print and ebook versions when the text is completed and through processing. Thank you for being part of the story behind the story.


rainstardragon: (Default)

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 full story is selkies' skins and the tag for "Temple and Skinquest" is selkies' skins 2.

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)

This is a little late, it's been a busy month for me. Reading has been more convenient than writing due to all the stuff. 

We begin both a new chapter and the start of the middle section of the book. We'll be returning to Kirsty where she's been thrust into the Labby, completely unaware of what is going on both above and in her proper timeframe.
 

Some people have gotten to read parts of this chapter's rough draft in the Patrons Only part of my Patreon. Also, happy birthday to David's creator, without whom Kirsty would not have come to be who she is.



Selkies' Skins 2
Section 2: Temple's Light
Installment 22
Chapter 10 part 1
Tangled Fur

 

 Kirsty landed poorly when Mara’s grip released her. Behind her the entrance to the labyrinth crackled and became stone. Carefully she picked herself up and took stock of her surroundings. The seal behind her still bore the marks it had on the outside. Gradually the room came to view as if it was solidifying around her from a half-formed dream.

Various crafting implements were tucked into the corners. Here a spinning wheel, a forgotten drop spindle. Some sort of loom lurked in another corner and it would have been impossible to not recognize wool cards. A needle shone, and suspended by a thread was some sort of intricate web in a willow hoop. Strangely, the smell of a forge hung heavy in the air and the ring of a hammer, unheard, sounded through her bones. The hiss of a sword being plunged into water hissed through her skin.

Kirsty puzzled over why she had the impression of a forge when the room looked nothing like one.

“Another one? How many others are just going to pop in through the wall and wander off?” A voice of her own age piped. Kirsty followed the voice to find a dark haired girl working on some sort of intricate beadwork. Strangely she seemed to have a pair of blue-teal wings sprouting from her back. The wings prickled a memory of a large blue feather wafting into a circle, and the flash of wings above while the pipes howled.

“It isn’t like you didn’t interrupt my work in exactly the same way, Angelina.” Another girl grumbled. In her hands leather seemed to be in the process of being formed into wings, complete with hawk’s feathers. This girl had long auburn hair. A single braid pulled the bangs back and to one side of her face, decorated with a concho and a hawk’s feather, though her skin was so pale that Kirsty wasn’t certain she really ought to be wearing her hair that way or the white buckskins.

“It’s not like I meant to BlowingWind. I’m never going to live that down.” Angelina mumbled, setting her work aside.

“Not a bit. Just be glad I don’t bring it up in the ski lodge.” BlowingWind grinned.

In a further area, mostly cloaked in darkness, an older girl seemed to be puzzling together a crumbled wall covered with strange carvings that looked vaguely Aztecan. Vaguely. Not one single person that she saw seemed to possess any aquatic features. Land-dwellers like herself then, perhaps?

“I don’t understand. I came from the sea. Now there is no water.” Kirsty drug herself closer to the nearest girls while the third toiled on seeming unaware that she had any sort of company.

“Were you dreaming?” BlowingWind asked.

“Hardly. I’m wide awake and had been talking with one of Mara’s Guards before she, or I guess she’s the one as it was some disembodied force, tossed me in here.”

“Mara, I’ve not heard of that one.” BlowingWind shrugged. “Then again Mom is a little, well, hindering when it comes to my involvement with the spirit world and even when I try to look up anything related to it. This includes learning more about Dad’s path.” She stage whispered, “She thinks an old family curse from a dragon will make me lose my first love, maybe do worse things. She is even iffy sometimes about Saint Brigit.”

Angelina shrugged and shook her wings a little. “I only come here in dreams. My bodily trips into the sprit world take me to a very different place. Usually above ground. The dream world and spirit world, and the other worlds are all very different places, but maybe they overlap in some places.”

“And her?” Kirsty pointed to the woman in shadows working so studiously on her wall.

“I have no idea. She looks a lot like the pictures I get of my cousin Jewel. I don’t think she’s ever heard us when we try talking to her. Don’t ever touch those bits she’s not picked up though. She gets very strange.” BlowingWind answered.

“Jewel? I know a Jewel. Mum warned me to steer clear of any O’Drake boy because of their curse, romantically anyway.” Kirsty tried to peer into the shadows to see better. It had been some time, but the young woman did indeed seem to be the same one she remembered. She even got up next to the older girl and shouted in her ear, but there was no response. Jewel simply continued working on the relief’s restoration, traced some symbols, and murmured “Huetziatl, falling water... But why did this settlement die?”

“Odd that you’d know my cousin. Then again everything is odd in dreams.” BlowingWind returned her focus to the wings she was sewing, which now and then looked like some sort of blanket. “The other day I had a normal dream and was snowboarding up on the mountain, then it started snowing hamburgers. Not good for snowboarding.”

Angelina snorted. “Did it rain your favorite soda next?”

Blowingwind flicked a concho at her companion. “Don’t mind her. When she has normal dreams she dreams about her boyfriend.” She stretched the last word out, and meanwhile Angelina turned an interesting shade of crimson.

“Ok then.” Kirsty shook her head and looked around again. “So how does one get from here to the next room? I don’t see any way out. The door I came through looks rather solid.”

“Have to make your own way, probably.” Angelina shrugged and held up the beadwork, revealing it to be some sort of arm sheathe. “We came to work on our power items. They are extensions of us.”

Blowingwind put her project over her shoulders. “I’ll dance Hawk. Dad was a shaman. Hawk came to me in another dream and told me that this is what I must do. I’m working on one in the waking world too. I sometimes wonder if I’ll be able to fly in this world once I’ve got it done, and I’ll just soar the sky to... whatever...” She closed her arms again after realizing she had been twirling and swooping. “It’s what feels right anyway. Obsidian, my boyfriend, sometimes says I remind him of a skinwalker.”

Kirsty found a chair and gathered together what working items that she knew how to use that it seemed no one else was using. “Something that feels right, huh? Ok... Maybe I’ll just start with what I know then... I’m on a skinquest, I hope I’m not supposed to make my own. I always thought that maybe it was in Mara’s Box.”

“Heard of a cougar-woman once. Cougar gave her her skin though. So I guess you’re a real skin walker?” BlowingWind poked her upper arm. “Fuzzy.”

“Selkie. I’ll be a full blooded selkie by the standards of my kind.” Kirsty nervously began to examine the wool cards but found nothing nearby to work with. Experimentally, and half laughing at herself, she brushed them against each other. “Maybe something will pop up like that story of Rumpelstiltskin.”

She nearly dropped them when the carding tugged on her heart.

Looking them over more carefully she could not find any reason why they should have pulled on her heart. They looked normal, worn, as if they’d seen many other users before she found herself shoved into the chamber. After a moment she continued and the pulling continued as well. With every pull she found herself settling into a scrying trance. Every pass of the bristles felt as if they worked through mind and heart. Kirsty watched with half interest whenever a thought connected to why she wanted to become a full selkie would be pulled to the surface. She could feel something soft building between but could not see what it was. Kirsty continued until she had a ball of invisible “wool” about the size that she was used to spinning.

A few moments of investigating this strange substance passed. She felt a little frayed but also a little more ordered as well. She also realized that she felt very, very, very exposed and cold. She needed something to insulate herself. She knew this, felt this. There was only one way that she knew to warm herself.

Next she picked up the drop spindle and began humming the spinning tune as her fingers got to know the tool. This was also of wood and had been worn smooth by countless turns and fingers before hers. Following familiar motions she began to spin, the repetitions soothing her even though she chafed against all of the strangeness surrounding the unspecified tasks. This all surely was part of her testing. It had to be.

She still felt exposed, but at least the magic of the song was warming her a little.

The thoughts about what she was doing and wanting kept coming. In the back of her mind she felt a pricking, as if someone was testing some sort of connection. She paid it no mind. That had become all too familiar of late.

She was being tested. Of course she was being watched.

Kirsty found that if she got too riled what she was spinning got to feeling sharp and too lumpy. Controlling her thoughts and emotions seemed to be something needed. To help herself focus she thought harder of the skin she was doing this entire thing to earn. The others fell away into the dark and she found herself alone in the chamber. It had drawn in and was smaller. She could feel them beyond the walls, but their smells were gone, perhaps because each was back into their own little compartments.

Should she have even been able to talk to them? They had said that they’d not been able to speak with Jewel. Were they able to see her in the same way they had all seen Jewel while so very occupied?

“No, you shouldn’t have been able to see them or talk to them. You’re not mine and these quests are all supposed to be individual. Interesting that you did see them though. Your destiny must be tied to theirs somehow.” The voice that pierced the dark was warm and forbidding, the crackle of a forge’s fire and sharp clang of hammer on copper and steel. Somehow it was also the soft whooshing of a loom and the clatter of spinning. “How do you know one of my work songs if you aren’t – oh dear, this may be awkward.”

The darkness drew away a bit, pulling back from the glowing goddess of the forge. Her green dress rippled down beneath light copper armor and a plain belt. A small green dragon sat on her shoulder regarding Kirsty with the same curious gaze the deity wore in her green-blue eyes.

Kirsty bowed from where she sat. This deity she didn’t really remember meeting, but she’d remembered feeling this energy when Etain had been at Draiganpáirc for Order business. “The Lady taught me the song when I was little. Mum knows it too. Sometimes Mara would keep time with us if we were working on the nets where she could sit with us. I always find myself at least thinking it whenever I work with my hands. Sometimes, sometimes I’ll use it when potion brewing too.”

“Then I suppose in a way you are mine, in a,” she drew a breath and sent a soft note through her nose, “battle liason way. The alliance is still alive even though I moved my stronghold.” The deity leaned closer, touched Kirsty’s chin, turned her face from one side to the other. “I do see them in you. Not as harsh and suspicious as Mara. Not as soft and swift of sword as Arna--.”

Kirsty blinked at the cut off name. The deity blinked in confusion and sighed. “She still doesn’t have her name back then. That’s all I remember of it, even now. My name is Brigid.

“Kirstin Allegra Makay, the pup Seaswimmer,” Kirsty dipped again.

“Ah, and much more polite than your human heritage Sir Kay and that distant son of Kay. This pleases.”

Sir Kay? Wait.” Kirsty’s thought was broken off as the deity continued.

“I think, little sea bear, that I’ll give you a gift to make up for you, hmmm, apparent ‘mislanding’ on entering the labryinth.” Brigid stroked the head of the dragon softly, humming a tune that crackled and rose for a moment before dying down. “There may be hope yet then, for name and for coat. Do not disappoint me. Find the name, find the coat. Earn the coat to fill your soul, find her coat to let her go. The wrong wrought by human hands is fated to be undone by blood that spans aided by the wolf from the other land. List ye well to this prophecy, lest only to the seafoam bound you’ll be.”

A small ripple of laughter, like the water on the top of a well once a pebble was dropped, and then the deity disappeared. Brigid took the light with her.

“I’m beginning to think that everyone is far, far, far too ‘helpful’ as I go through this.” Kirsty looked at the now visible sheen of wool and thread, softly pulsing in time with her heart. I’m not ungrateful, but I do wonder what the price is in the end.”

A set of doors formed before her. Alike in every way that she could find they seemed to not be able to make up their mind exactly how they wanted to look. The darkness stayed around her.

Taking a deep breath she chose a door. On opening the door she found a long passage, filled once again with water. Sea torches were lit and glowing dim blues and greens. As her eyes adjusted it seemed that the passage developed some sort of twist ahead, and she saw other opening.

 

Kirsty shook her head, tied one end to the door, and stepped in. “Folklore. I don’t want to get lost.”

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.

Please do consider making a donation, or buying the complete book (or even the whole series, as it becomes available). The donations help pay costs such as editing, but also help put food on the table. Rather make an offline tip? Write me for a mailing address.
Donate Here via Paypal

Or you can become a monthly patron through Patreon!

As always, if you see any typos, please let me know so I can fix those, they don't always save when applied. I repeat that this is the webnovel version of the book and may differ somewhat from the print and ebook versions when the text is completed and through processing. Thank you for being part of the story behind the story.


rainstardragon: (Default)

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 full story is selkies' skins and the tag for "Temple and Skinquest" is selkies' skins 2.

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)

This is a little late, it's been a busy month for me. Reading has been more convenient than writing due to all the stuff. This installment finishes out the first section of book two. When I go through the manuscript deciding what will stay for the print/ebook edition and where I might want to reveal more this chapter might see some additions. The next installment will be both a new chapter and the start of the middle section of the book. We'll be returning to Kirsty where she's been thrust into the Labby, completely unaware of what is going on both above and in her proper timeframe.
 

Some people have gotten to hear me read parts of this chapter live while it was in the writing area. I'm grateful to those that are interested in the backstories of Marsali, Kara, The Captain, and Finnol. Sadly I can't get all of it into this story, but maybe some day I'll get to write shorts for these different characters to show some of their stories.



Selkies' Skins 2
Section 1: Descent
Installment 21
Chapter 9 part 2
Skins and Figureheads

 

Finnol extracted himself from the chair even as Hyacinth spoke and grabbed his coat and hat on the way out. Outside the offices of the Order of Fisheries and Water Conservation it was cold and grey. It would get colder yet, he was sure, making for a winter as bleakly empty as the house back home. Pulling the blue hippocampus and sheep blend wool lower he attempted to ward off the worries always at the forefront and distracting him from his duties.

The Corsair lay heavily in the water where he was docked. Beside him and bobbing far more lightly was a small dinghy that was reserved for local operations where a larger craft was less suited. Finnol slipped down into it and planted his rump of the frigid plank seat.

Didn’t take ye long. If you are the mate of Marsali the Brinetreader you are smaller than I would have expected.”

Finnol looked over the Triton before him. The wild white hair and cloudy beard was much the same as other tritons, but this one lacked ornamentation in his beard to denote his place in the hierarchy. The well muscled torso he could see refused to shiver in the cold.

That is my wife, yes. You look like you should be familiar, but I can’t place your name. My apologies.”

Mimir Merisson, second eldest son of Merisson, late Triton-king of Alwinmeer. You might know my name from my exploits or the face due to the family resemblance. My brother was the one that sent for help for Alwinmeer when the humans started their invasions, after it was clear that what little we could do would only bring more humans and the threat of those accursed ‘refuges’ on our heads.” Mimir rose higher in the water and glared down at the small half-selkie.

Finnol locked eyes and held his breath, listening. At last, it came to him. “I’m sorry that more could not be done for Alwinmeer. I hope that your people are safe and have been suitably relocated. There were several suggestions sent by the Order to your brother as to sites that don’t match known deposits and hopefully will be a bit safer.”

Mimir relented a bit, schooling himself down and sighing. “Your Order did what it could. Your wife was the last that came to the area, by then everyone but myself was gone. I was searching for stubborn stragglers and mourning father perhaps more than I should have been.”

Finnol drew his breath in at the mention of his wife and her last known location.

Mimir continued, nodding. “She successfully deactivated the old Temple. I’d already taken care of the Throne. While in the Temple though we had an incident with the Lady of the Sea. This led to several other strange incidents.”

Mimir finished his recounting of his adventures with Etain, from front to back, including the vision of a selkie-child having been in the passage with them, and even admitting the dark desire he’d had for selkie flesh while they were battling their way through the Rocks That Sang.

She’s beyond one of the Gates?” Finnol couldn’t keep his voice down, nearly falling out of the dinghy leaning toward Mimir by this time. “So help me, if you intentionally left my wife beyond the edges of our world I’ll--”

Mind yer place, half-seal.” Mimir pushed him roughly back onto the plank. “I tried to get her through. When all was said and done all I could find was this.” He produced from under the water a small black figurehead.

Finnol took it from his hands, running his fingers over the strangely familiar design. It matched exactly the faux figurehead that had been found when investigating Etain’s wreck. The energy from it was stronger though, living, as if it were the true Figurehead of a ship of Mara’s living fleet. “This is...”

The Corsair creaked where he still lay docked, verifying. Something in the sound, the way the small ship tried to speak, some plaintive note of it chilled both selkie and triton more than any of the other groans it had been issuing while listening to the tale. The figurehead in Finnol’s hands pulsed in reply to the creak. The hair rose on both as the energy unwound and reached toward the mated ship. The Corsair groaned in reply to the pulse, reaching its own energy toward it.

She was a good ship.” Mimir acknowledged. “They took excellent care of each other.”

She will be again.” Finnol pulled the figurehead to his chest in a possessive hug. “By Mara, we can rebuild her and give her a new body. If Etain is truly gone then she’ll go to Kirstin for Pairing. If Etain can be found then the family will be whole again. And by the Ladies I will find a way to make it whole even if Etain is beyond the veils. Byron did it with Marsali and kept her from fading, I can too.”

The Corsair creaked and groaned in agreement, beginning to bob again. The color somehow seemed to enliven once more.

I’m glad that I could help a little bit then by bringing the Sea Witch home.” Mimir’s voice grew soft, as if Finnol were a fry in the palace hatchery. “Marsali, what I know of her, is one of those special cases. Having had her skin stolen if she died and wasn’t given a chance to reunite, she’s gone forever and never gets reborn. Your wife though... She’s got a skin unstolen. She can be reborn to the sea. Would it be wise to interrupt whatever pattern she’s supposed to be in? I’ve been giving things a lot of thought, and I’m half convinced that some of these more outrageous things happening point to the Weavers.”

Finnol wrinkled his nose. “I believe in a great many deities, but I’m not so sure those are actually real.”

I wasn’t either, until recently. Something much bigger than what we normally pay attention to is off balance somehow, or there’s some fight brewing. Not Ragnarok, but something.”

Something’s always brewing.” Finnol sighed, acknowledging Mimir’s point. “What will you do now?”

Try to find where my people relocated to, see if the camps I had left them in have found somewhere permanent. I have been given a place that I can take some of them, the ones that want fully away from humans.”

I see. You’ll always be welcome to visit here, and at Seal Point.”

Mimir nodded and left, leaving the inanimate dinghy, the animate Corsair, and lonely selkie behind him. Finnol pondered the things Mimir had related, especially the strange appearance of the little white seal. “Not all there... hmm...”

Finnol looked toward the Corsair. “Well, old friend, I suppose now I need to call together what remains of the Shipwrights. Mara won’t just materialize a new vessel. That will have to wait until I see to Kirsten though, you know.”

The boat creaked and groaned at him.

I know. As soon as I can. Until then I don’t suppose it will hurt anything to have the real figurehead in your cabin. I’d put her with yours, but I don’t know where your real one is hidden in you.”

Near huffs this time from the boat, and the waving of ropes. One finally wavered in the direction of home, raised when by normal physics it would have simply hung.

Yes, you’re right. Byron will likely want to be with me for that. Fitting for the real patriarch to go with me, I guess.” Finnol drew his nose down and flared it briefly before relaxing. At least it was a position he wouldn’t know the full drawbacks of. “You don’t mind not going with me then?”

 

A stiff pop, and Finnol nodded his head. “Right then. I’ll let Hyacinth know I’m off, and have her pass around the news. He sighed, pulling some golden earplugs from the same pocket as his notebook then stuffed the soft material into his ears. There would be no repeat of the head buzzing that had come from when she’d found out from him about the extent of the debris of Etain’s wreck.

 

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.

Please do consider making a donation, or buying the complete book (or even the whole series, as it becomes available). The donations help pay costs such as editing, but also help put food on the table. Rather make an offline tip? Write me for a mailing address.
Donate Here via Paypal

Or you can become a monthly patron through Patreon!

As always, if you see any typos, please let me know so I can fix those, they don't always save when applied. I repeat that this is the webnovel version of the book and may differ somewhat from the print and ebook versions when the text is completed and through processing. Thank you for being part of the story behind the story.


rainstardragon: (selkies skins)

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 full story is selkies' skins and the tag for "Temple and Skinquest" is selkies' skins 2.

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)

I am releasing this installment a little early due to expecting a busy weekend.
 



Selkies' Skins 2
Section 1: Descent
Installment 20
Chapter 9 part 1
Skins and Figureheads

 

 Finnol frowned over the letter his aunt had sent him. On his desk sat a small copy of the portrait that resided above the mantle back home, right next to a picture that used to contain his wife and youngest child. Behind his desk another frame stared out over the office, the Captain’s Quarters filled only with one careworn pacing figure. In the portrait on his desk Marsali and Kara sat together on the rocks of Seal Point. Kara was taking long swigs from a bottle of rum. Finnol had absolutely no idea where the ancestor had gotten the rum in the Oil Painting Realm where essences could be sent to. Trust Kara to find rum, alive or dead.

“I don’t understand it. Kirstin has never been the sort to not pay full attention. What would be making her class performance fall? Her grades are still up, but this report doesn’t sound like my baby girl.” Finnol looked up at Kara, his eyes wide and hair tousled.

“I don’t understan’ it either, Finny-boy. She’s been a mite funny since the day David found her spread out under the Examiners Lintel. She seems to function just fine, but it’s like she’s no’ all there. It comes and goes though, what’s bein’ whispered by the various castle observers.”

“It’s a bit early for her to be a few galleons short of a full payload,” the captain observed from his own painting. There was some thumping, and a bit later he emerged to Marsali’s painting himself and settled gingerly on the rocks. “Great-gran’ I never could understand how you find these comfortable.”

Kara passed him her brown bottle and reclaimed it again after his long swing. “I dinae mean she’s gone loony. I mean more like part of her is gone and the rest is on autopilot more’n it should. I hope autopilot’s the right term...”

Finnol grunted. A large swig of coffee fortified with scotch and something he had found in the pantry labeled “mood control for Those Months” in Kirsty’s handwriting chased itself down his throat. “The right term,” he acknowledged. “I could go and see for myself, whether it throws off things for Auntie or no, but I don’t know if I would do more harm than good for Kirstin.”

“None of us ever know what will do more harm than good. Can you afford the time off?” The Captain leaned forward toward his fellow selkieblood. “You’ve been muttering a lot more lately and taken so much time off for...” He gestured aimlessly and looked as gentle as a sea-wizened mariner ever manages.

“Can I afford not to?” Finnol replied. “Captain Makay I appreciate your concern, but I am not going to go off on a revenge voyage like Salena. I’ve not a Moribeth’s temper.”

“He dinae mean it like that.” Kara sighed. The Captain pressed his lips thin and tapped his fingers on a barnacle, mumbling something to the effect of his not being so sure about that beneath his breath. Marsali pinched the bridge of her nose and made to draw a long-lost skin tighter around herself before her hand remembered it was not present on her shoulder.

“Children.” Her normally soft voice now had the edge of the tempest sea. “Bickering helps noseal.”

“Yes, Elder.” All three chimed in unison. “Sorry.”

Marsali nodded and released her grip, dipping a foot deeper in the surf. “I think it would be wise for you to go, child. I cannot. The Ladies do not answer me when I pray, so perhaps young David has ideas that he deems not safe to say to anyone. The followers of Herne have always been secretive. They must be. Or her friend, the little firewitch that should have drawn Brigit by now but hasn’t.” She paused, calling up the name from the thousands in her long memory. “Allison.”

“Do you really think they’d not have ideas that Belara would not?” Kara and Finnol asked, both skeptically.

“She is a pubescent, a youth. Youths keep secrets from their elders that they show only other others their age. Even I remember this. And also where the water has not the answer, perhaps it lies in the fire, or the woods, even the sky or the earth. Ours is not the only element nor only answer.” Each element was accentuated by a gesture and smile, but the smile faltered as she saw that yet another several generations still did not understand the intricacies of the web.

“Maybe.” Finnol nodded at last. “I’ll go, even though I don’t know what other elements might have to do with it.”

Marsali nodded. “It is enough. This is only brought up by my intuition.”

A knock on the door interrupted the conference between the wizard and his pictures. After a grunt of assent it swung open and the receptionist, in her pink as always, met his gaze with unsteady eyes.

“Mr Makay, there is a man at the docks to see you. He cannot come in without help, and since I’ve no magic and certainly not strong enough to lug him in...”

“I will go then. I suppose that the communication orb I put down there works then.” He rose, and smiled sheepishly when Hyacinth’s eyes fell on the various pictures. “I swear I wasn’t talking to myself this time.”

Kara waved from her perch cheerily. “Hello little fish! I like that little gem around your neck much better today.”

 

Hyacinth shook her head. “Of course not.” She nodded to Kara in reply. “Thank you.” Her gaze returned to him. “Best be off. He seems very important and very grouchy.”

 

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.

Please do consider making a donation, or buying the complete book (or even the whole series, as it becomes available). The donations help pay costs such as editing, but also help put food on the table. Rather make an offline tip? Write me for a mailing address.
Donate Here via Paypal

Or you can become a monthly patron through Patreon!

As always, if you see any typos, please let me know so I can fix those, they don't always save when applied. I repeat that this is the webnovel version of the book and may differ somewhat from the print and ebook versions when the text is completed and through processing. Thank you for being part of the story behind the story.


rainstardragon: (Default)

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 full story is selkies' skins and the tag for "Temple and Skinquest" is selkies' skins 2.

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: Descent
Installment 19
Chapter 8 part 3
Cave of Communion

 

 A cool trickle started and Bethrise hissed but did not retreat. Behind the trickle surged the vast power of the sea.

“Even pushed into the recesses of sleep,” Mara mused, both watching and feeling the young priestess-witch perform the work her line had been made for, “her touch heals.” A surge of pleasure crashed through the riding deity, so much like her mother, much more than she thinks she is,” the thought resounded through her mind, and she let it echo to her distant sister, and to the Huntsman, if he cared to hear the stirs through the fabric of the world.

For Bethrise the trickle penetrated like an icy current, but that wasn’t quite right, in his mind. It ran like the old stories of tiny streams, picking around blocks and seeping in, prying with gentle fingers at crust and scab, then carrying the pieces away. Not all of them by a long shot, but as each little piece came off and went away he felt lighter and clearer. As unexpected as the touch had been it fell away quickly.

Bethrise pulled back, looking once again at the tiny female in his arms. “What was that?”

Mara only laughed and slipped out of the incohate priestess’s body, leaving the little selkie-maid to swim back out from the depths of her mind and inner self. Her voice taunted him in her mind. “That, Bethrise Lairlight, is why she is the Chalice. Now prepare her and then go see to my bringing home my wayward Lance before we’ve lost the chance.”

The guardian frumpled his face as much as the last time he’d chased off a bull of his own age from his charge during the courting season. Waking the girl was a bit of a challenge, but he finally did manage after many fruitless assorted attempts and at last dragging her across the floor by her tail several times. That had not been well received and he now sported a couple lovely bruises, a few bite marks, a scorch mark in a highly unexpected location, a smaller ego, and having been called a Trickster Finman. Bethrise fervently hoped that Kirsty and her family did not have a regular habit of abusing people when first waking up. If so then it was a miracle any of them had survived to breed. He took a deep breath and related what Mara had told him from behind the table.

Mara watched the fracas invisibly in amusement. Toying with mortals was not something that she was above, especially when two highly serious personages allowed her an opportunity. Yet this too had its purpose in her tests of character and strength.

“A symbol of my humanity?” Kirsty smacked her lips and wiggled her jaw around, trying to reset her jaws after they’d come unhinged sometime in her panicked waking scuffle, most likely when she bit him. “I’d guess the wand would be out, that’s got Mara’s hair and she was a full selkie.” She pondered and picked at a bit of Bethrise that was obstinately stuck between a set of her front teeth. She spat when once again part of it got on her tongue.

“That’s what she said.” He agreed, scowling at the missing chunk of forearm. “You are viscious.”

“Sorry.” Kirsty started pulling things from the pouch at her hip, some of which Bethrise could not figure out how she got them out, much less in it in the first place. “I could treat that for you if you’d like.”

“No, I’ll be fine. It would be my luck that the bite was enough to give you a taste for selkie flesh. I don’t need a cannibalistic priestess hunting me to prolong her life.”

Kirsty paused, a mass of white fabrics, netting, and shells about halfway out of the pouch and with a great deal more fabric obviously waiting behind. “That’s horrible. Does that really happen? I thought it was merflesh and not selkie flesh that was supposed to be able to give immortality.”

“I didn’t say that it really would. I’ve heard the legends say both though. Does it work?” He guessed her next question, “I have no idea. I’ve not tried it. I do know that in the head temple there is a book that contains all of the dark and light magics of the sea though. If so then it would be in there. What the deuce is that? It looks like a huge white net.”

“A dress.” Kirsty replied. “Something a female wears to be modest so people aren’t looking at her naked. Prevents sunburn too.” Kirsty finished pulling it out, holding it up between them and raising it enough that he could see the whole thing and so that she could hide her face and the blush behind it. The shells and bells jingled in the current.

“That looks horridly heavy. Gorgeous, but heavy. How are you even supposed to move in it?”

“It is. This is my ceremonial dress. I wore it to enter the sea and give myself to Mara. I’ll wear this at the school dance next year.” Kirsty wasn’t sure exactly how she knew that in the next year there was to be a dance. Trying to figure that out gave her a terrible buzzing headache and she could feel herself starting to fray and see two places and times superimposed again. “I supposed, if she is going to give it back when I get my skin, that this is the best thing to offer regarding my humanity... I hope so, I think da’ wanted me to wear it at my wedding too, someday.”

Kirsty lowered the dress, shivering as a chill descended on her. Her stomach reeled and clenched and she was beginning to feel more than lightheaded as her stomach tried to rise. Still invisible, Mara reached forward and flicked her fingers. The stone door of the Maze rumbled open. Sigils flashed and danced as she programmed it, envisioning each twist of her further tests and where she desired the path to lead. Her initiate and the guardian turned their heads, both jaws dropping open and the guardian placing himself between the noise and the maid.

 

It was the perfect opportunity. The ocean answered her will. A current caught Kirsty in its grip and hauled her into the inky depths. Mara’s hands closed on the fabric and it went just as invisible as she was. With that Bethrise was left alone in the room as Mara carried herself to her temple.

 

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.

Please do consider making a donation, or buying the complete book (or even the whole series, as it becomes available). The donations help pay costs such as editing, but also help put food on the table. Rather make an offline tip? Write me for a mailing address.
Donate Here via Paypal

Or you can become a monthly patron through Patreon!

As always, if you see any typos, please let me know so I can fix those, they don't always save when applied. I repeat that this is the webnovel version of the book and may differ somewhat from the print and ebook versions when the text is completed and through processing. Thank you for being part of the story behind the story.


rainstardragon: (Default)

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 full story is selkies' skins and the tag for "Temple and Skinquest" is selkies' skins 2.

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: Descent
Installment 18
Chapter 8 part 2
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.”

“But

“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.

Please do consider making a donation, or buying the complete book (or even the whole series, as it becomes available). The donations help pay costs such as editing, but also help put food on the table. Rather make an offline tip? Write me for a mailing address.
Donate Here via Paypal

Or you can become a monthly patron through Patreon!

As always, if you see any typos, please let me know so I can fix those, they don't always save when applied. I repeat that this is the webnovel version of the book and may differ somewhat from the print and ebook versions when the text is completed and through processing. Thank you for being part of the story behind the story.


rainstardragon: (selkies skins)

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 full story is selkies' skins and the tag for "Temple and Skinquest" is selkies' skins 2.

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' Skins: Castle and Well. (click to hear what he sounds like in past recordings of other projects)

So... this chapter went much differently than I originally expected it to. Sorry Vadkun, that is part of what took so long. You know how Justin are Kirsty are though... And it didn't help the story wanted to write itself out of order and everything else that was happening/not happening.


Selkies' Skins 2
Section 1: Descent
Installment 17
Chapter 8 part 1
Cave of Communion

 

 “Right. Well. Off I go then, whether that nameless evil Temple Sister comes back to dry me and grind my bones or not. Or... Whatever else she might come up with. Off I go then. Weapons or not.” Kirsty tried to sound more chipper than she actually felt. She was certain that the part of her that was Seaswimmer would have much preferred avoiding bad blood with the Templeborn. Then there was a part of her that for some reason, likely the unwarranted curse that had been hurled and deflected, desperately wanted to put the black selkie in a nice little room with Morvan, some candles, and a romantic dinner simply to see which of the pair would be more offended. It was a terrible thought that only a small amount of herself chided herself for. The rest of herself just accepted it and prayed to Mara that her other Daughters were more reasonable, and that as she aged she would get a grip on some of her darker and odder tendencies.

Perhaps, if I’m not careful, I’ll end up like that?” She thought to herself. Kirsty didn’t look back. She simply swam off and hoped to leave the Finman behind herself. He did not follow, for now at any rate. She mulled over the spear and shield as she swam and how they disappeared. “Was it something that I did to make them vanish? How was it really that he called them up? Eventually she shook her head at herself.

It took some time, which had been lengthened by checking behind herself for followers, but she eventually found herself in a gorge. Frowning, Kirsty followed the insistent pulls further in. The water here was warmer, somehow, than she expected. Within the gorge, in the side, Kirsty found a cave entrance. Bioluminsecent plant life clung to the stone walls and gave their multihued glow to the sea-night, enough to easily navigate the turns by. It was into this that she felt herself being led, and she began to doubt.

I don’t remember Father Ronan’s book saying anything about this... Granted, he admitted he didn’t know the deeps...” she thought to herself as she cautiously slid inside and followed the calls of her blood. Somehow she didn’t think that this was the direction the black selkie had come from, nor did she think it was the direction she had originally been going.

Kirsty still hadn’t forgotten the irritating Finman she’d left behind herself, now perhaps some hours ago, when the passage opened. A silvery selkie sat on a rock at an improvised table pouring over some form of book, absentmindedly rolling and picking up dice as if waiting for someone, or perhaps more like someones judging by the number of other rocks that were drawn around the table below the gently pulsing selkie-fire. His other hand rhythmically planted something crunchy into his mouth from the plate beside him. His equally silver hair floated behind him, restrained near the head with a seaweed tail-band. Further into the room three passages waited, each sealed with shimmering glyphs that tickled something far in the back of her mind.

“Um. Excuse me, sir. I’m looking for one of the Temples of Mara, I think. I’m sorry if my inner guide is off and this isn’t a public space.”

The selkie quizzically looked up at her briefly, then down to his book again. “Well, it’s not public or private. My friends and I just meet here for our games, keeps me awake. It’s a good location for us, and where I’m currently stationed anyway. You’re off still by a fair swim if you’re looking for Lady Mara.”

Kirsty watched him. He seemed like all he was doing was waiting for someone to come play, but the set of his jaw the longer she stayed changed and he looked up, eyes hard. “Despite what Raechel might have told you, girl, I don’t like strange young females staring at me, and you’re young for my taste.” The male grumbled. “If you’re here because someone invited you to our game without telling me, then sit. If you’re here because you’re seeking the maze it’s that way.” He gestured to the three passages. “Otherwise quit being creepy.”

“I’m sorry? I’m just confused. I also don’t know anyone by the name of Raechel.” Kirsty blinked. “Wait, you thought I-? No. No, no. I have somebody. I don’t need to look. I’m supposed to find my way to the temple and do whatever it is Mara wants me to for earning my Skin and finishing the Initiations.” Kirsty flushed, embarrassment and agitation warring with her face and letting itself out with the flick of her tail.

The male put his dice down and sighed. “All of the Temples and their Keepers regularly share news of all kinds, including gossip, and I know well I’m no longer the most well-liked Guardian within the Temples. I don’t know about getting a Skin, you’re obviously down here well enough, aren’t you? Not much use in going topside unless you’re thinking of joining up with that Order that’s supposed to be protecting the waters. Whatever good they do in one area gets undone in another so that isn’t a great deal of use either. Initiations though, that I know a little about and more than I wish I did. You would have some choice about it too if you’re so unprepared as to not find your way there without ending up here.”

“Choice? I wasn’t born with a skin, and since I’m the only surviving female of my generation at Seal Point, Mara and The Lady leave me no choice.” Kirsty slipped onto one of the stones at the table when the male winced. “What’s this about choice? You look like somebody died just now.”

He sighed. “Sometimes feels so. I guess that makes you one of the land Marainion. I’m sorry to hear that and sorrier that you’re to be bound to two such fickle goddesses. I lost my mate-to-be to Mara.” He picked up a deck of cards and shuffled. “It wasn’t all at once. It happens to all priestesses at some point or other. Raechel gave in young. You’ll lose yourself more than you already are if you aren’t careful, even if you do have a good bull like you said.”

“Um... I think I’ve heard Da’ ask Mum if she’s losin’ too much of herself a time or two before. I thought that was because of work, not this. I’m Kirsty, or I guess Seaswimmer... What are you called? I feel funny talking this long without a name.” Kirsty leaned forward and put her elbows on the table, trying to match the ease he was sitting with.

He quirked a lip at her. “You’re definitely a landlubber, sitting like that. I’m Bethrise, technically still the guard of a particular Mara priestess, but she made it rather clear she wanted nothing to do with me. You’re in as deep of trouble as if you were a cursed pirate dubloon in a shark’s belly if you don’t know which of those names is you.” Bethrise calmly dealt a hand each while waiting.

“Well, they’re both me. One name for Above, one for Below.” She eyed him, then looked at the dealt hand, and the shells now joining the cards. “So. Guard. I guess that makes you kind of like Byron was for Marsali. You don’t look like a guard.”

“The Stolen Priestess. If the stories are true she gave that kelpie as much trouble as I was getting and do get. At least I had the safety of keeping mine, somewhat, instead of having to find her a mate.” Bethrise smiled ruefully, his blue eyes fading to silver. “And I don’t wear my armor all the time, although soon I’ll probably have to with the Things coming so close to the Temples now and the deamhan waking, as if the rogue children of the Cailleach weren’t enough down here.”

“Things aren’t so pretty topside either. We have them boarding the trains to school, infiltrating school grounds...” Kirsty sighed and picked up the cards. “Imp, a friend of mine, was saying something about a thing called the Black Gate being somewhere on the grounds of Castle Carrick.”

“Never heard of that gate, but I don’t like the sound of it. Caer Carrick, the school? Is it true that one of the founders of the place was married to one of us? We have a tale in the Temple that she was a priestess from one of the shallow water temples and her skin was stolen.”

Kirsty shrugged. “I don’t know. There’s legends that say Leomaris might have been married to some sort of merperson, but no details. Spiralis supposedly built his dorms and quarters where he could watch for proof. The silches enjoy teasing the students at the windows.”

“Silches.” Bethrise sighed. “Met a few of those. Mischievous. Much prefer dealing with the sea-bred.”

 

They played at Waves silently for a bit. Kirsty hoped for some sort of information she could use. “So, if this place isn’t on the way to the Temple then why did I wind up here? Or is this just because that repair job I had to do in the water after the blast messed me up?”

 

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.

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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. I repeat that this is the webnovel version of the book and may differ somewhat from the print and ebook versions when the text is completed and through processing. Thank you for being part of the story behind the story.


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