This is part two of the chapter. I am unsure how large this chapter will clock out at.
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)
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Selkies' Skins 2
Section 2: Temple's LightInstallment 37Chapter 15 (part 2)
Section 2: Temple's Light
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.
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