rainstardragon: (Default)
This is several installments together's worth to catch up on missed time.  This chapter is also not finished. Currently it stands at 3,024 words including the reference title. We will consider this installment one of the chapter numbered 17 (or 8 within section two of the book). This was first pushed to my Patreon feed where it was visible to Patrons 6 days early.

Quick Glossary
Samebito- Shark person, from Japan

Hir- NOT a typo. Used here for inbetween or genderfluid, non gender binary. The other option currently in use that I have seen among those writing or living such states is Xir. They and we are not suitable for this instance as most people see gender not as a continuum but two conflicting states, and do not separate gender from physical sex. I chose to make sure that one deity had several states because of conflicting reports on gender/sex of deities that do exist in mythology.

I believe that I remembered to make note of everything that required a glossary notation for this installment. If I did not please feel free to let me know.




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 42
Chapter 17 (part 1)
Untangling the Web, Shifting the Veil
Untangling the Web, Shifting the Veil


Ven’thrith’s footfalls echoed in the halls despite the water cloaking all about them. He reveled in the bend of the physics his presence wrought and the confusion in his wake as they followed. Selkie lights and crystal lamps floated or thrust from the walls of the halls of the Outer Paths where the normal activities of the Temple occurred. White, grey, blue, green, brown, black, and subtle hues without names swirled and lurked in these worked barriers shot through with gold, silver. Occasionally some jewel would be set to relay some vital impulse to another point in the Net and then out into the surrounding city.

The door to one of the innermost sanctums rose before the group accompanying him. Flanking these were a samebito and a selkie, one male, one female. Both wore the silver and pearl armor of the guard. These were felt before they were seen visually and Ven’thrith allowed the mists of illusion to fall so that they too would be seen.

The vast sweeps of solid shell swung open for Ven’thrith and his party on his approach, startling the guards waiting outside them as much as those accompanying him. The doors knew him, remembered him, greeted him as an old friend. How many times had he passed through these doors when seeking out Mara when she mourned, or come to these chambers when the moon was just so and she needed that bit of insanity to get her through to the next cycle? He’d been with Mara when she had admired them at Seiryuu’s Palace o long ago when they had paused to take in the wonders of that Sea King’s city and tradesmen. The doors even still bore the slight purple blush that was only obtainable by the crafters when Seiryuu’s distant granddaughter kissed them to give the shade so prized. The color was rare as it was rare for Amehana of the Arashiryuu to make the trek to see that side of her kinship in those days. The door deepened the hue the nearer Justin came. Ven’thrith raised a brow and made a note to explore how this reaction might come about and what it might mean that they warmed to him.

All of these things flashed past in less than a breath, even as the honor guard laid sight on him.

“I’m sorry La- Lord Ven’thrith. They work—” The samebito guard that spoke seemed not to have had the post long. His voice squeaked. Or perhaps that was a result of Ven’thrith hirself. Most never did seem to know what to do or how to react to hir being seen sometimes male, sometimes female, and sometimes someplace in between. Perhaps it was even Justin’s presence as the spear pointed so quickly. He kept the male form firm. He was needed this way for now, he would not give in to the comfortable and be shi.

“I know. But their focus must now change. Leave this lad alone as well. He belongs to me. There will be no trouble.” Ven’thrith looked sternly at the pair of honor guards. The looked away, paling as they avoided locking gaze with him to avoid his gifts.

“My lord.”

Kirsty whimpered in Justin’s arms, twitching, hands hooking like claws as she grasped whatever nightmare she now rode between the weft of the Tapestry.

He led his small party through those doors. A net swept over them as they each passed through, and he nodded imperceptibly as the fabric of Mara’s skirts brushed and searched. He kept his heart and mind open, or as open as he ever kept it to anyone including the Sea. Pearl, coral, and smoothed stone greeted them and twisted away as the atmosphere thickened and the incense curled in thick wisps from impossible containers. Seasilk and bead curtains for decoration and for covering the doorways into the innermost rooms swayed in the current. The one for Mara’s Throne, which led further through yet another passage to the Bed and Stone Box of Souls, beckoned and opened. Ven’thrith did not follow yet. The group around the silver seashell held his attention. As he expected Mara’s servants were gathered around the gazing bowl before the Middle Dias. If he was right then they were busy watching where the conscious piece of Kirsty was questing. Whites and blues swirled around the various merfolk representing the various aquatic races in their clergy garb. His lip curled.

Though they usually could not help it they certainly seemed like a pack of voyeurs to him. Perhaps they had discovered the treachery of one of their own and were working to find and detain her. He doubted it though. Each had their own agenda, and the jockeying for position within the ranks was an ages old problem. The High Priestess and her mate were the ones he felt the most trustworthy, and it was her scowl that was the deepest.

His eyelid throbbed and twitched. He would look soon enough, and then likely want to lock himself away from the child races for awhile.

Mara’s Presence began to coalesce upon her Dias. Her servants hadn’t felt her yet, so occupied were they with the visions of the bowl. He addressed the gathering swirl of essence and gestured at Justin bearing Kirsty, speaking gently, as if waking her. “Leannán, we have a problem.” Ven’thrith paused a moment before continuing. “Some good is coming of this mess that can help us part the Veil a moment though.” His Voice, now unfettered, rolled through the chamber with the same undeniable force of the moon’s pull.

It was Mara’s Voice that truly sent the Clergy fully into their bodies once more. “I am glad of that. I’ve found the shard of me that I sent to find her, but I see no way home yet. Justin has done well returning to me.”

Justin shuffled before the light and water that was taking her time forming into a body that he could relate to. Several of the men and women in robes shot him looks and curled their lips in disgust. Other glared at him as if their gaze could force him to fire. He certainly felt like jumping in a fire right now, or hanging himself from a tree to dry out and blow away in a passing breeze.

“You will cease.” Mara’s voice addressed her servants as she finally took form. Her features shifted and darted so that at any moment you gained an impression of all creatures of the sea. “Some of you have forgotten that those under his curse were once all mine, and that any of you are as vulnerable as a stolen child or an Avowed.

“He said to bring her. So I did.” Justin offered awkwardly at the introduction to his side of Ven’thrith’s elbow.

“You’ve done well.” She stepped to the side and gestured to where she landed on her Dais. “Lay her here please. There is so much Interference that you may need to give your blood, more if some has already been taken.” Her eyes swept over Justin, then she pulled a smirk to the Moon. “You move fast.”

“The effect of her purifications on his was still fresh. I thought it better to take him instead of taking the risk.” Ven’thrith answered her implication.

“I give no quarrel so long as he is shared.” A strange energy flared between the pair of deities, bristling fur or scale of everyone gathered and drawing bumps on the flesh of the octopids. Mostly placid, the energy coiled around each and the young Finman, visible as the smoke of arcane incenses. Even with the placidity there still existed a dangerous current with the tang of blood and steel.

Justin stuffed down his uneasiness just as he did when before the Ealdormen when they quarreled. He did as she bid, laying Kirsty down on the dias. He couldn’t quite bring himself to separate from her so he stayed kneeling with a hand on her shoulder. The scent of crushed seaweed and muffled fear flavored the water around her. Kirsty’s eyes darted and jumped under their thin lids and he wondered what she saw in whatever sort of swoon this was. “What is so special about her that I was sent to capture her? She’s just a girl.”

“We have similar goals and games for where these two must be. I can share. We already share.” Ven’thrith reminded, a small smile flitting like a silver fish across his lips.

The atmosphere broke. Mara nodded. Her feet padded softly to stand by Kirsty’s other shoulder and she looked down. Skirt hems lapped at her like waves on the shore, washing gently. Justin looked up at the deity when a slim hand descended on his shoulder. His breath caught at how young she looked. Mara’s eyes were still on Ven’thrith.

“Something will need done about Raechel. I believe her to be part of this. It was her name she cried before we brought her here.” Ven’thrith laid the morsel out carefully. Sharks bit, and Mara was, after all, the mother of them all.

“Do what you need. Nullify it. I will do what I must.” To the guards she spoke, her voice iron and steel. “I need Bethrise and Raechel. Bring them.”

Her guards hastened to obey, dipping obeisance before leaving. Justin noted that some of the robed figures still in the room seemed displeased that none were directed their way as well before the withdraw.

Ven’thrith nodded in reply to Mara and knelt down. “Marvelous, Justin. Keep contact with her.”

His hands passed over the small form as his eyes refocused. Either the room took on the glow of the moon or her own light reacted to the signs he made and the strands he pulled and straightened. Some snapped when he touched them. He listened to the tones as the sphere moved in this world, and some of the other worlds, the gentle trickling chimes and the great screeling wheels. Discordant tones pulled his attention back to the room itself. His eyes, now open to the cosmos and bearing them just as much as those of Mara or Hearne, fell on the stiff interplay between the guards, Justin, and Mara’s Bloodbearers.

He suppressed a sneer. Jealousy had wrought too much damage already. Yet, the child races never learned. Not that his kind did either.

The noises grew in volume again and the threads came back into focus. Behind all of this the heard the sounds of a loom, a spinning wheel, the carding of wool, the sharpening of shears. “Are you listening, Ladies? This will be touchy work.” Ven’thrith sighed and went back to reaching out for Kirsty and following the threads that branched off of her. The hands of the Weavers worked around him, unseen to the others, or at least he assumed them unseen. Whether they saw through the Bending that always swathed him and into that place beyond where they currently existed was not his concern. There were too many threads to slip through without leaving damage.

They could fend for themselves.

If a few more joined him in realizing that there were things even beyond his generation of Deities and beyond this particular creation was not his concern. His concern was the girl, her mother. For Mara. For her sister. The more strongly he wanted to do something for them, the more strongly his gender swung toward the male, for now.

The Weavers whispered to each other and to him. Hurry, it has to be done before they come back in here. You know how they are.

Defending their cosmic weaving had to have driven The Weavers more insane than the original moon deity was reputed to be. Theirs was not a job nor a fate that he wanted.

Finally Ven’thrith found that piece of consciousness and soul that he sought in time. She had been several people over several incarnations, sometimes even parts of people. Sifting through all of the various glowing mini stars and moons of those carrying hir DNA took up more time than he would have liked. Sometimes he felt the pull of the sea or the call of a still lake and he had to tear himself away from the lonely reaching arms as he sought through time for this single light. That would not be such a loud call if Hearn would spend more time with them instead of engaging in those hunts, he growled to the ancients. Or take them along. He held himself to one form, one self, painfully.

The ever changing hands patted and brushed him as they worked the loom, wove the pattern with the unknowing aid of each person and each thread. His hands closed around the version of Kirsty that he sought. Raw, unpolished. Her light flashed and slashed at the dark, not yet rounded and polished by lessons and life into a smoother orb for her current life.

Rough little pearl.

He inhaled, secured his grip on the time and phase he needed to keep his self within. Another set of eyes opened to look within the time her mind occupied. His world became less twining yarn, shadowy forms, dancing fingers, and more staccato flashes of intention. He pushed harder, slipped enough in that his opened eyes focused. The film-effect cleared and smoothed into something more normal as he increased the energy he used.

Ven’thrith watched her travails with a smile. Spunk and determination carried her through. His eyes narrowed jealously when the Cailleach’s Hound came in answer to the formerly lost Black Gate, but this he suppressed already knowing the role Taranis would play and had played in what was more recent for him. His head shook, remembering Taranis’ concurrent incarnation. This was fitting, and not an intrusion. It had been and thus would be, and he giggled internally as the Hound’s confusion over the connection he felt mounted. One day he would get to play with these threads more.

For now, he watched, detached. Patient. He had to watch for the Time, the Space, the Hole Between. At each of these internal proper capitalizations he sat and allowed the Power Ripples to spread and set the Web, the Tapestry to dance. He would not interfere with what was happening until he saw the perfect moment for the trick. She was still in the test even if something had influenced it beyond bounds that it logically should have taken.

Kirsty gave herself, flared into a blazing star to his eyes as she leapt with the intent to protect those that had been with her. The blood of his Ladies he could smell and feel activated, and for those in the room around her body the water twisted at it reacted to the blood just as that around her body in the time projection did. The rewriting was strong, demanding, insistent.

If only they could get enough of ones like her bred at once and deploy them on the map. Seeing the oceans forcibly reset and confusing the humans while undoing all of their damage to Mara and the seas would be a thing of beauty and likely the most massive confusion in centuries yet.

She leapt again after her attempt at knocking the falling debris into Raechel failed. The light flailed against the dark glow that came from the Tainted priestess riding the kraken. Not for the first time he wondered what would happen if this Taint finally found a way into Mara’s heart itself.

Here was the moment. His hands shot for the twisting and yowling ball of fur. Blue blazes met his eyes as she hissed, spit, and clawed in his hands in panic. Ven’thrith spoke a few words and pulled her through the hole, pulling Raechel through as well by the connected cords and slammed each into their own bodies as the Weavers finished with that part of their design. He was gratified when Kirsty jolted up and shook off Justin’s hand, her eyes starting wilding about the room while Mara sighed in relief. He sent her into real sleep quickly after a swift reassurance.

Better that she not hurt herself yet. There was plenty of time for that later on. Justin’s hand went back for Kirsty, and he nodded at the question in the boy’s eyes before locking eyes with Mara and sharing all that he had Seen, not only from this Viewing but from others as well. He held onto her essence with hir own, sliding physically and unable to hold the rough male form fully now that the immediate need had passed. In return Mara passed to him all the knowledge she was willing to share.

Ven’thrith had the impression that so far she was pleased with Kirsty’s performance, even if her testing was full of interference.

 

While the deities silently conferred, keeping the mortals out of whatever they were Speaking to each other, the High Priestess and Lore Keeper carefully inspected the Finman under Mara’s Hand. The gesture was not lost on her. This same gesture had been used with each of them at times, and she could remember the first time of feeling that hand on her own shoulder. How had he been able to penetrate so far though? He had been quite far in before Ven’thrith had collected the lad. Certain lines evoked the girl currently beneath the Moon’s spell, others reminded her of Etain, or the less often seen but always working for them Finnol. Was he of the Blood? Was that how he won into the Labyrinth?

Could he be the beginning of a cure for one of the plagues they fought?

Too many questions, and several other eyes that glared with distrust and envy. Was the Taint spreading?

The eyes of both Deities fell on her, captured her own eyes. She fought not to look Ven’thrith in the eye and failed. Galaxies spun and shook her core. The shifting waves of Mara’s were far less alien to her. What would they want when they spoke?


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)
I thought that I was going to get this done in one installment. It did not happen. This went to Patreon first! This chapter finishes out at 2,834 words between both parts. It got delayed for here a bit due to my son's trip and a few unexpected things.
... Now I get to cover what went on with Ven'thrith and Justin, and how he found where in time to yank her from. I both look forward to writing how the deities use their powers and dread it.




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 41
Chapter 16 (part 2)
Opening the Way


His paws tattooed over stone and through the winding passages, seeking always the higher path in the labyrinthine twists which seemed to have come alive around them. The Temple was certainly awake, and changing now, reacting to the two warring priestesses within. Land battled with sea once more through them and Taranis dodged falling stone while Ciarán and Kirsty blocked or tried to deflect undodgeable debris out of his path. The pelt that was wrapped around and clinging to Ciarán did not bother trying to hide her head, the eyes glowing green and pupils wide, staring behind since the front was covered and keening whenever something threatened his flank in the rockfall.
As fast as he ran, as far as he ran, the great black dog never seemed to get beyond a certain point no matter how the scenery around them changed. All the while the water continued to rise behind them, and Salena’s skin roared a warning, the body the skin belonged to most likely collapsing unconscious wherever she was at the time with a cry if he remembered how some skins worked. Their heads all swiveled to look behind to see what she warned of.
The halls they had run through were no more. Behind was only a wide ragged cavern gaping as hungrily as if Cthulhu himself had awoken and risen from his dreaming slumber to claim their reality. Within this abyss swam the Kraken called Leviathan, phosphorescent green and reaching for them, screeing unearthly calls from his beak as he attempted to sing the song of all sea hags. Riding this creature was Raechel, Mara’s Spear strapped to her back since it would do nothing against Kirsten no matter how she bade it to. Taranis could only be glad it was not the actual Leviathan called Leviathan, as it would have probably found a way to batter the ground into breaking until it reached them. Sea creatures were not his forte. Especially ones that had green fire in their eyes like the Dark Priestess.
Why wasn’t the little priestess’s prior purifications taking hold as long as they should?

Raechel smirked, well seated on the kraken and tethered firmly within the energetic throne of the temple. Did every temple feel this way once the secret was activated and accessed? It laid itself more bare and trembling to her touch than Bethrise once had, eager to give her anything. She reveled in this feeling and the sensation of the Taint seeping from within her and into it. The girl clung to the back of the black beast, her human protector behind and attempting to shield her from view.
Playtime with the filthy land creatures was over.
Raechel envisioned the path they trod becoming steeper, rising beneath them. It became so. The granite and basalt gave way and smoothed to obsidian. Dark, cool, smooth as the mirrors that she could feel one by one turning their views toward her as she controlled this piece of reality. She ignored all of the eyes whether of deity or mortal. Let them witness her new birth. Crystal would have been another excellent choice, but too pure and far too open in both time and number of magical implements linked to it. It wouldn’t do to have too many openings to divert the force she wielded, not yet. Ice would have given the little child too much room to possibly worm out of her grasp. No, she herself was the most like Mara and it would be she, Raechel of the Tolltachonn lineage that claimed this place. Not some human-blooded filth. Especially from a branch of the Marainion that would have been in her own family tree had Marsali’s marriage to her ancestor happened. The idea of being a cousin to the brat twisted her lips, pointed her teeth.
The ripples completely melted, and it was smooth as artificial glass now. The erstwhile companions slid closer to her new pet’s reach. To facilitate this she steadily continued to tilt the path. Her pet would feed, even if he refused to eat his former master. There were other things she could do with him for interfering.

Kirsty clung and watched as they continued to slide, trembling. She wracked her brain for something that would save them. Striking at the kraken would only enrage it. This was so unlike the fears that Aunt Belara had trained her to face back in school, and this certainly was no ship. If only there was some way to stop their sliding and possibly buy a little time to come up with a plan.
David’s firesnake would be fabulous right now, though she was also glad she wasn’t having to protect his body while sliding down obsidian. That thought triggered other thoughts in her brain, and unearthed the memory of a prank someone had pulled in her common room that had been connected with a snake and sent a few students quite literally up a wall. Kirsty grasped for the charm out of the hazy memory, hoping that she remembered the word right and focusing more intently on the intent itself to make sure it was more likely to work.
“Triptogradore,” she growled, pressing her hands more firmly against the giant black dog between her legs. Her trembling increased. What if she got it wrong and merely rooted them to the spot? She herself had never done this spell before.
Her stomach twisted. The steady slide ceased. Her stomach tried to heave and she swallowed it down. The Hound’s ears flicked forward as his mouth dropped open. Half a heartbeat passed and the Hound’s feet began stepping up the near vertical incline as quickly as their combined weight would allow soon huffing deep in his chest. It wasn’t fast as they all would have liked, but it was progress.

Raechel roared, a call more fitting coming from the vocal cords of an enraged bull selkie than of a cow like herself, but she didn’t care. The kraken picked up a large rock then flung it toward them in the same moment. Raechel’s call should have knocked them off of the wall, but whatever spell the brat had used kept them stuck fast and they continued upward.

Kirsty saw the rock coming. Larger than others they had deflected before she did not think that even combined she and Lilitu would have enough strength left to deflect it far enough. If she estimated her maths correctly though, perhaps she could have a chance to let the others get away if she landed and sent a bolt downward? What would happen if she failed though? Yet, if she didn’t they were all going to get flattened.
Her eyes narrowed. She’d think about what came after if she had an after to think from. She shoved the Black Gate into Lilitu’s hands. If she ended up in the water instead this was an item she did NOT want Raechel to have access to. “Keep this safe. I need it later.” Kirsty was only aware of the first sentence she said, flinging herself out to the rock and willing herself to fly that shortening distance to the rock without the help of a broom. “I’m sorry. I love you,” she inwardly apologized to her parents, to David, Thomas, and Ally. Vibrations shook the invisible tethers between them all, she either a fly caught in life’s web or a spider scurrying along the threads.
Her spine flailed as she snaked through the air. Fur sprouted and stood on end, some of it projectile shedding and miraculously ending up in the kraken’s eyes and inhaled by the crazed fallen priestess. Legs sprawled and tried to swim, claws extended in her terror. Kirsty yowled her challenge and her fear-fueled battle cry right back at Raechel, even though the tiny cat form did not hold the same magic that she knew her selkie form did and would.

Unknown by the participants in the tapestry, hands beyond their layer of reality worked warp and weft. Intent on setting this pattern before their mirrors returned to unravel it they followed the warring destinies and zoomed shuttles after the lines of silver they saw. Pleasure thrilled through the owners of the hands as the monotony was broken for them by this little play of mortal life. Other eyes watched through time and space, and other hands began to reach out. The Weavers took into account the reaching of their old friend. They hand an Understanding with hir. Shi too had hir entertainments, and they always made the pattern more interesting, even if a bit more chaotic than first Seen.

Kirsty did not feel as her determination bore her further than it ordinarily would have. Her paws contacted the rock and she channeled every bit of energy she had left in her to send the rock downward, to fall short of the target. The rock rolled and her world rolled with it. She yowled again and cast her gaze about, looking for some ledge to attempt. Not for the first time she wished her land transformation could have been an owl.
“There!” and she leapt as best as she could for the spotted ledge. It was narrow, but the closest thing she could see. Maybe should would be able to find another ledge before it got smoothed out, unless she could manage to pull in enough to work the sticking spell on herself too.
Her feet landed and she immediately crouched, looking for another ledge. The ledge moved faster than she was ready for, sending her head into the wall as something struck her from behind. Her world reeled as something else grabbed her, and she found herself falling through the wall. What little was in her stomach still emptied itself as she transited, getting lost in Between.
A large hand. Being slammed roughly onto her back and forced back to her other form. Galaxies blazing into her eyes and taking her to the edge of madness, but only teetering at the edge, as if it was time to dance beneath the moon and shi would no longer be escaped to keep watch over a ball of fur. Screeches and bellows that were not her own and a sickening crack in another part of the in Between. The voices of the sea and moon. Then silence.
With a jolt she sat up, caught sight of several people and a chamber. Her eyes locked with those of Ven’thrith and she felt the squeeze of his hand on her shoulder lessen. The galaxies stopped their insane whirl and gentled into full moons.
Kirsty heaved a sigh of relief. She wasn’t dead. Guilt immediately consumed her. “Raechel? Where is she? Lilitu? That black Hound?”
“She will be dealt with.” A cool voice touched her ears.
Ven’thrith swelled like a storm over Mara’s waters. Kirsty could only nod as he sent her back under a cloud of real sleep.


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)
I thought that I was going to get this done in one installment. It did not happen. This is late, and hopefully the next part of the chapter will be ready before Sunday to get somewhat back on schedule.




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 40
Chapter 16 (part 1)
Opening the Way


The boom was followed by another and Kirsty could feel things moving below her feet. Ancient mechanisms impossibly worked into rock sibilantly hissed even more ancient chants in a language that Kirsty did not recognize, yet felt as somehow familiar. Whether Salena’s husband or the Hound heard these she could not be certain, but if they had heard more than the booms would not they be looking for the sources of the voice as she was?
The ice rose slowly, pushed up from below, far more sluggish than the lightning lancing through her brain as she processed everything and fought off magical overload and drainage. She could feel whatever things were turning in their beds feeding from her, tearing demandingly, sucking from stores she hadn’t even known she had. What grounding she had was weakening, and she knew that somehow aspects of her training were still missing. She tried to visualize herself as rooted to rock like a mussel to combat this force pulling from her, but never seemed to be able to connect well enough for more than a thread or two. Some force strained to raise her arms, but she herself strained not to, and to hold onto her body.
Something large moved below, coming for her, and she could almost feel a current of dark laughter riding toward her in this tide. It certainly seemed to know what it was doing and was not having the same problem staying rooted, controlling the machine instead of being controlled or some sacrifice.
Threads somewhere snapped. Dimly she had visions of Mrs Kitsch’s old Lightkeeper lantern lighting up, and probably the one in the nearest Lighthouse as well. If she could just understand what these voices were chanting, maybe she could add a layer and control what was happening, or at least free herself from the machine that was this abandoned Temple of Mara.
Ciarán grabbed her elbow, tried to pull her out of the box. “He’s found the switch somehow. We need to go, get away from the water.”
The cloaked creature stood and left the water alone. “I agree. The enemy is moving fast, or I’m no true Hound of the Cailleach.” He took Kirsty’s other elbow, helped Ciarán pull the girl out before he had even finished his sentence. Neither had been still as they spoke, but moving in tandem as if some cosmic weaver pulled twinned strands.
Neither even let Kirsty’s feet touch the ice. Some unspoken agreement had passed through the pair that allowing the water priestess, fully fledged or not, to touch the water would make the bad situation worse. Instead they held her above the water by her forearms, as if touching her any other place would cause some other mechanism to awaken. Kirsty, unused to being manhandled so, instinctively tried to kick out at them to force herself back to the ground. At the same time she attempted to pull in what energy she could to ready another attack, further fighting against the force that was trying to claim her.
“We aren’t who you should be kicking.” Ciarán grumbled as they arrived to the cavern floor properly, the pair lowering her to her feet once more.
Neither stopped their forward momentum, pulling her along as the ice cap cleared the top and the waters below began to flow into the room behind them. With the rising of the waters magic in the cavern walls, not just those halls and rooms below, activated. A dim green glow spread along everything, securing treasures in place. The chanting now was louder, more demanding.
Kirsty found herself thirsty for something salty and coppery, and it wasn’t a simple need to go out and catch a live fish with her teeth. She wanted to bite and claw.
“I can walk on my own!”
“Not going fast enough.” The Hound let her go, continuing his run forward as Ciarán dragged her forward. The hood he pulled forward more, as tattered and hole webbed as it seemed to be, and wrapped the once waving nightmare around himself. The whiteness of his spectral fur, if she could have seen it, was replaced by black. The change was swift, bones reshaping and jolting into new forms more fully his own, four paws now pounding the stone. Gone was the cloak that gave him the two legged form, spread instead in the matted black fur twisted and knotted from too many errands and too few willing hands to wield a brush and remove those cares.
Taranis eyed the churning legs ahead of him, then bowled into them to sweep the girl onto his back. He swung his head to the side to help toss Ciarán onto his back. As each landed and grasped his fur, in his proper form information about them entered his awareness in short bursts with the open circuit. At some point in the past, though he wasn’t certain how, the girl had been in his touch before. The scent of fire and hissing of serpents briefly assaulted his nose and ears, and the sense of a young male human-Hound willing to give his life and essence to protect her, and the answering of a basilisk wand to that need. Somehow, the Black Gate was involved. Yet, here with her was the Black Gate, and he was positive he’d never met this Kirsty in his long hungry life. He stuffed that odd knowledge and paradox to the back of his mind to ask his mistress about later. For the male the information made much more sense; Ciarán was bound to a selkie turned merchant-pirate, and the progeny was likely to come under his mistress’ care because of some injustice still on the horizon.
Taranis would be a good Hound and deal with all that later. For now the way forward was out, since the girl did not seem to have the sense to just open the gate and take them all to the Cailleach’s hall and cauldron for a nice drink.

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)
"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 four of the chapter.




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 39
Chapter 15 (part 4)
Leviathan


Raechel gathered herself after she awoke and glared toward the surface. By the changing quality of the light she could assume that the human born whelp still refused to roll over and just die. There was more than one way to skin a seal or a human though, and she smiled at the comparison, not noticing the fish-like barbed frills beginning to break through the skin of her arm as she slipped further from selkie and closer to her enemies, the Finmen. For her there was no irony that one could become the things they hated, or once hated. She could now understand their desire to eat the flesh of both humans and her kind.

She was not weak, nor was she stupid.

Green wyrdfire played around her fangs as she grinned hungrily and turned tail. If the passages here corresponded with the way all of Mara’s temples were normally built she would be able to find the underwater door to the chamber where the large creature was kept. Perhaps she would even find the switches to flood the aboveground chambers if this had been made during the eras of the changing seas.

Raechel used light orb after light orb as she swam, unconcerned that they lasted in shorter intervals than they once did. She was tired after all, it stood to reason. Perhaps the color had only changed because of that as well, not the Taint that she knew still fought to counter the previous purification attacks she had been subjected to. She clung to it now partly because the improperly trained upstart had dared make the attempt. At last she arrived at a slick sludge coated door which seemed to have been raised fairly recently. She could see vague tracks still through the slime. It was not too recently though, but the door at least was opened periodically. The dark selkie hoped it was for feedings. It would make it more interesting, so long as whatever the creature as did not take her for food and instead recognized her as a fully fledged priestess and therefor its proper mistress.

Suspending a sickly green flickering orb in the water she searched for a lever, latch, or lock, anything that would open the chamber beyond. She heard the creature stirring, listening, and she cooed to it. Her whiskers shivered in anticipation. After a bit she suspended herself, hands on hips and tail moving just enough to keep herself upright as she thought, chewing her lip. No latch, thus the opening was a spell. She ran through the ones that she knew from her own people, the secrets that they guarded in the inner Temples that she had been granted access to, those secrets that supposedly helped spark the humans’ own magical heritage. Spell after spell she tried, yet none worked. The large being behind the door grew more restless.

She too was restless. She wanted this creature more and more, coveting it for her own. Together they could do great and terrible things. Perhaps if it proved strong enough once she had dealt with this trifling mess she could turn her sites to the primary temple, overthrow the High Priestess and the Lore Keeper. Raechel would prove to Mother Mara just how strong she truly was.

The darkness moved heavier in her heart, whispering further glorious promises. She smiled. First there was this little door.

She patted it lightly. “You will yield your secrets.”

Something turned. Her eyes widened as the mechanism raised the door and two hungry eyes peered back at her. Tentacles slipped out before the door was even very high and what had been hidden away squished through, impatient. A tentacle reached for her and tried to wrap around her. The great beak clacked as those balefire eyes brightened.

Raechel allowed it, staring the kraken down. She opened herself to Mara, a living vessel just like all of her sisters and brothers. The sea filled her and she it.

The kraken continued to bring her to its mouth, unaffected and severely unimpressed by the tiny furry thing puffing at it. This was a nice morsel though and it stayed still unlike the creatures on the ships it normally was sent on. If it wasn’t so blasted hungry it might even wonder what on earth the tiny creature thought it was doing.

The beak grew closer, opened. Raechel flicked her eyes from those of the creature to the gaping aperture. Death peered back, waiting to greet her and heal the broken and poisoned heart. She sneered and looked back into its eyes. Words from the old tongue fell from her lips, the first waves of the coming storm. Her eyes grew harder as the binding took hold, but far, far less effectively than such things once were. Mara withdrew slightly. In her minds eye the deity took on her more shark-like guise and turned the striped shoulder to her, averting her gaze and blessing.

If it hadn’t been such a dire situation the gesture would have stunned Raechel. To allow her attentoin to waver long would have allowed the kraken room to squeeze out of the binding just as it emerged from the gate before it was fully open. The wills battled, but at last the dark priestess won.

“What is your name, kraken?”

“Leviathan, Destruction, Death.”

Raechel smiled.

“Good names. Destruction, there is someone I wish you to meet.” She gave her commands.

Soon she knew where the switch was. Reaching fearlessly into the groove with the door above her she found the pull. A second boom went through the water and stone. She could feel the waters begin to rise.

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)
"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 three of the chapter. I am unsure how large this chapter will clock out at.




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 38
Chapter 15 (part 3)
Leviathan


Kirsty frowned, puzzling over the words, her eyes drawn once again to the spirit fire still flickering weakly about the sundered box and throne. “How though?”

Belial shifted about, trying surreptitiously to appease the softly grumbling skin that was unwrapping from his waist and attempting to wriggle her way up his back. The skin, however, made no such attempts at remaining hidden and managed to pop its head out of the back of his collar. Launching itself, the dark skin arched and dove for the box, slipping quickly before frantically questing fingers. “Salena! What are you doing?”

The skin landed in the box, her tail touching his foot as if seeking an anchor, but lolling itself open and flat within with satisfied rumbling purrs. Kirsty glared at Belial. Before she could confront him about having a selkie skin, nevermind that she could not remember hearing about one moving on its own, the spirit fires intensified. No longer contained to flickering over the throne and stone box they now covered the entire dais and island they stood on.

“You are not dead yet Salena, though if you don’t listen more often to the man that loves you it might come sooner than we all expect.” The voice rose every hair on Kirsty’s body. This was the voice she heard at home so often. The faint form that materialized in the water that trickled up from a hitherto unseen source to run into the pool again was also familiar, yet was as ancient looking at some of the ways the Wissefrau had presented herself. At her waist was the sword she knew of the Lady having, yet there was something broken about it, despite being unable to see the blade.

Salena’s skin, with a series of barks, grunts, and other sounds of seal speech, let them know precisely what was bothering her about her husband and the entire situation. Kirsty didn’t understand it, but he Belial’s lips pressed together and color rose.

He shook his head at Salena, then spoke to Kirsty. “The Black Gate has been in my family since The Lady and Astereth had their fateful falling out. He sired children before he lost, and one of his men ensured that we received it as birthright. The gate not only calls the Hounds of various Clans, but also can take pieces of the soul.”

Kirsty sighed, letting the issue of the skin go for now. “So, I might be able to use it to regain that piece of her.”

“In theory.”

The remnant of the Lady by now had crouched down to stroke the sealskin. “I would like to return to myself. I’ve been locked away here for so long. I have no idea how many other severed pieces have been sealed as I have. You should also look for this, it is here too. It’s how a piece of my power locked away.” She drew Meidh from the scabbard she wore. Though she held the hilt, there was a piece of the first third that was the only part that was seen.

They nodded, and Kirsty inspected the talisman, trying to figure out how to use it for that. No incantation leapt out at her in the filigree, nor in her mind. The neither the stories that she had from her Makay lineage nor the Marainion lineage ever gave any clues as to exactly how The Lady had been sundered. Nor had Mara been present, since that battle had been inland. Instead she tried for something less informed.

She focused her heart, where she would pull energy to for any intentional spell. She focused on the long need and drive of the generations before her to heal the deity that watched over them. Every ounce of longing and intention that she could pull from her line she called on and tried to channel through the gate. She linked it mentally with the vial of The Lady’s water that she carried with her in her pouch, and with what was from that deity that flowed in her own veins. She mentally tried to fold space and time, and felt the drain of it, reached out through the gate and tried to open it to give The Lady a path back to herself.

Once more the stone opened. Instead of being the black of night it turned to a lake blue, then to a sparkling deep blue as of a crystal lit underground spring. The Lady smiled wistfully, nodded at Kirsty, and then walked through. There was a whirling, Kirsty disoriented as if she’d ridden a broom into a waterspout, a rushing feel. Then the stone closed again.

With it, there was a boom that echoed the hallways and rippled through the waterways.

Belial paled. “Leviathan.”

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)
"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 two of the chapter. I am unsure how large this chapter will clock out at.




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 37
Chapter 15 (part 2)
Leviathan


Kirsty blinked and narrowed her eyes. Belial’s brow furrowed. Both pressed their lips together but kept their eyes on the man of flame. The remnant gathered strength and a bit more solidity from some source, pressing nearer step by step. A dull thrum came from one of the vials in the pouch at her hip, pounding through her veins as the being came nearer. Subsonic, more felt than heard, several items in the cavern resonated with the note. Far above in the dim study with the agitated spirit entrapped in the crystal orb glazed and clouded selkie eyes cleared and focused, waking up and extending their senses.

In the middle of the spring a flickering of purple, green, and blue dimly ran along the stone dais rising from the saltwater and crackled along the sundered box. The box toned low, the subsonic hum echoing and concentrating there until reaching the range that Belial’s ears could hear.

His wife’s pelt shifted against him, a claw timidly scratching and poking. He ached to pat it, but dared not betray the pelt.

“No. I am not.”

He raked his brain for anything. The stone box kept attracting him. Perhaps, if they could get over the water and into the box, then he’d have the shielding for what he needed to do. The Black Gate rattled in its coffer, reacting to all of the energies, probably even beginning to open already. If he could use that, then that might solve the problem.


As Belial was processing, so too was Kirsty. Something weak and tired inside herself was half contemplating giving this being whatever was in the blasted box. However, she also knew that if he wanted it that it was a powerful object. A another part wondered, “Why give it something that it wanted? What if it was an item that might be useful to her. Raechel had wanted it it too, apparently, since that was how we met again.” This also was something this dark curling thing was rejecting as it tried to spread through her mind and heart. That part of her wanted it for itself. Other shards of her mind each sounded their own opinions, previous lives bubbling up from deep recesses, some in fear of what they felt in the boxes, others excited that they were so near.

The pulses, now echoing to her sensitive ears, both sent her off center and yet emboldened her. Shards and facets came together again in agreement. Who they had been and seen, what she could become after this moment, all that mattered was not giving in, tired or not. What felt as if an age of debate having flashed in the space of perhaps a breath. If she hadn’t apparently been skinned under her borrowed clothes her short hairs would be on end. Drums sounded within the box that Belial-Ciarán had taken from her after he rescued her. Steady, marching, dancing, raising in ferocity, a howl answered inside her. Racial and ancestral memories stirred, whether human or selkie she might not ever know should she live long enough to look back from this moment.

Words, male and female, sounded inside her head in a language even older than those she spoke. Though she did not know what they said she could feel the intensity, understand somewhat what had happened. Whatever was in that box held some key to the Lady’s loss of self, so too did this desecrated shrine portal.

The sisters had been driven out of what was once a home for them.

The light continued growing brighter, as if calling out. An idea glimmered, and as it gained strength so too did the light.

Kirsty pushed up, reached out. The chest passed back into her keeping before Belial-Ciarán could put up an adequate defense of it. Astereth stood between herself and the dais. Her other hand moved her sporran to where a male would traditionally wear it and the little selkie balled herself to have the Vials she carried and the chest together and hopefully shielded as she hurted at and then through him on her way. If she could get to the ancient seat, and the box hopefully whatever was inside would take care of the remnant and give her the piece of the Lady that was hidden here. Perhaps she could even find her way to her own time and place. She hated portals now, but if she could make a portal and make it work, she would be happy.


Belial reached for her as she burst out of his touch and protection. He saw where she was intending to go even as Astereth tried to pull more augmentation and tried to catch her. With a cursed call he followed.

Others answered him as he sent out the energy he had pulled from himself and out of his soul, the temperature dropping. The fear fed them, though it was not their normal fare and they vied for it with the guardian spirit here, but in return of his call some fed back what they could to the necromancer. Others tried to leap on Astereth, even if they only had the strength to distract for a moment, allowing the living to pass through their forms.

Salena’s sealskin shifted where he had it hidden, completing a circuit around his chest. He knew that if he saw her again he might lose an ear, she was still angry with him, but for now they worked together despite the literal and metaphoric distance between them.


Kirsty expected to be caught against something, to knock him aside or to be knocked aside. Unlike the living fire from David’s wand snake she felt no heat when passing through. There was only cold, bitter, bone deep, heart deadening cold, like spoiled disappointment and the odor of rotten cottage cheese, envious of something kept beyond reach. Then she was through, the odor and its taste clinging to her tongue like fur on a black skirt. Water beneath her feet and placing a water shield beneath them, her feet touching and then dashing over the surface like a skipped stone. Whirling around to face him again, kicking herself for exposing her back, she could hardly believe that had worked to get through or get her across. If she lived, if this continued to work, maybe she could experiment with that technique more later.


Furred figures swirled around Astereth when her eye found him, whirling spectral seal skins and human forms. Keens, barks, and bellows assaulted her ears, mostly female with the odd male here and there. Belial-Ciarán burst through Astereth, into the water. The water pulsed, sending a shock through the cavern, shaking the ground around them. Astereth laughed again at the sound of the splash, turning to pin Kirsty with a leer.

Astereth came to the very edge, rising on his toes. The wraiths continued to swirl around him, preventing him from trying to do anything to her from across the water. Somehow, Kirsty knew that for the Lilitu, falling into the water must be a bad thing. Why was Astereth not crossing?

Then Belial broke the water and flopped his gasping way onto the dais with her, water streaming everywhere and an odd moon pale glow outlining him, the same color as the selkie wraiths. “Open the box!” He coughed, then coughed more as water shot out of his mouth, some landing on her feet.

Kirsty grimaced; she opened the box as the drumming inside grew louder.

The temperature dropped even lower. Their breath steamed, the water smoked. Belial lurched up, still coughing a bit as if something squeezed his chest, not fully convinced all the water was out. She took out the amulet that lay inside, the drums stilling at her touch. A fossilized globule of the darkest, most hopeless night took the form of a cabochon set in a filigree triskele winding widdershins. Kirsty felt a great weight press on her shoulders, as if taking on the sifting of the entire world, older than she ever imagined in less than a heartbeat.

“We’ll have to open the Black Gate. Let me.” Belial wrapped around her, his wet seeping through and chilling her more than she already was. He hissed in her ear at the contact, laid his hands over and around hers.

The wraiths retreated, fleeing through the door and down into the waters around them as if fleeing something far more dreadful than their adversary.

Sweat ran down her brow, into her eyes, and down her lip as the stone opened and pulled on her increasingly waning personal reserves. This sweat threatened soon to freeze as what was kept within and beyond it poured out.

Dark forms flowed from the night and the salty water about them froze over. A grey mist enveloped the pair, and this too was darkening. One of the forms unfolded and circled around them, hooded eyes meeting Kirsty’s as it passed, pinning her and stealing her breath. The chill, the despair, the sobs and screams in her mind she knew. This before her was what she knew as a Defector. Yet, it was not ragged like the ones she had seen before, nor like the ones she knew roamed the country in her time. This one seemed healthy, and somehow pure. It wrapped around Belial and Kirsty, pulling them into a chill embrace but leaving them faced forward as others continued to pour out and drove for Astereth.

Astereth, or more accurately the remnant, screamed and backpedaled, releasing the strikes originally meant for Kirsty into these. They absorbed the blows into their nothingness and pressed forward, eventually engulfing and extinguishing his flame. All that remained was the wraith of a man in ancient garb Kirsty still could not quite place. Then they pulled him within the Black Gate, leaving the one holding Kirsty and Belial in place.

Slowly it released them. Bowed.

His voice hissed and raked low, popped like coal in the grate, growled softly like a dog still on guard. “The Cwn Annwfn and Gwyllgi recognize the current guardians of the Cailleach’s Black Gate. We welcome helping the possible Cauldron of the Sisters of Lake and Sea and,” he paused, sniffing, “someone that participates in the Wild Hunt? You smell rather like we do.” He glanced to Belial, “Also I suppose it is good someone of your blood makes up for it and protects one of the selkies, after what that Thing did to this one’s Ladies.”

Kirsty shivered, the air still and chill as if a Thing were in the room. There were no flashbacks to a younger time, nor memories of the times she had encountered them though, and this being before her felt Untainted, Pure. “Thank you?”

The being before her nodded, stood. Below the cowl a black snout briefly flashed fangs. He bent down and pulled the cowl back from his face enough to lap at the water, seeming to drink easily despite the thick ice blocking access. “You should reclaim the fragment of your Lady before you leave this place, Mistress. I do not know what other adversary to you is near, but my fur is still on end.” He rose, having washed the taste of Taint from his mouth.

 

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)
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.”

 

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)
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.

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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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