I have a few week's worth of posts written for the story. We are finally getting closer to the loch for Kirsty's training with the inland Selkies, and then it will be time to go back to Etain. First though, a bit more of the world she moves through (and feels so separate from) and a look at what is out there for suspected non-humans to have to deal with on a regular basis. As for this chapter, I might or might not include it in the finished version. Feedback on whether you the reader think this chapter can safely be left out or not is welcome.
The Moon Extinguished
The storm raged, lightning splitting the sky and then the sea below, like lances and crackling dragons hurled without a care of where they would land. Ozone and salt filled her nose, and she could feel yet more electricity in the air. She wasn't sure if she was walking or swimming, but it was cold.
Freezing actually, the rain that was being whipped around was turning swiftly to ice as the temperature continued to drop, and it would not have surprised her to see a Titanic-sinker bobbing about like a cork. She wished for a thicker pelt, a fuller pelt, or a blanket - better yet, to be back on shore. Wherever shore might be.
She tried to get her bearings, but all she saw were storm ravaged waves, and a single boat, or perhaps a small ship. Another flash of lightning, and something pulling her closer, revealed that to be a more familiar outline than she had originally thought.
"The Sea Witch! Mum!"
The roof had been pulled off the top of steering room, leaving the wheel exposed to the elements, giving the boat an overall older look than it already had. It was more like the paintings she had seen of the family's smaller vessels, from back when they had possessed a fleet and the voyages were more often. Etain's cloak whipped around her, and her hair too, long snarled into a hopeless nest of tangles that would take a week's combing. A terrible fate for any Merwoman, Selkie or any other breed.
Faint strains of her mother's song drifted to her, but were snatched and bandied about easily. It didn't matter, Kirsty knew the words, and she sang them herself, praying that they would soothe the storm. There was the thrill-taste of magic in the air, and in the water when it splashed over her, both the rousing, and the calming varieties.
Someone, or thing, made this... But what?
She cast her eyes around, then felt a something, a tingle of magic, just like she did at school when other students were practicing, more like her own though, like what she felt when singing with the Selkies in the loch and learning what they still retained. Yet, it was still not quite like theirs either. Following the direction it had been in, she saw a swell wash over the face of a white haired, smooth faced, old man... trident glowing.
"Why couldn't it be a blasted collywobble? Does it have to be a Triton? Why do I even have to go to school with other students and not be taught both human and Selkie magic at home? I can only think of one reason, and it's silly."
She took a breath, and extended her hand, biting her lip and summoning all the energy she could muster. She could only hope that, if it were a dream, or she was projecting, she could do something to loosen his grip on the storm. Kirsty sent all that she could into the spell, sending it flying toward him.
The cold was what woke her from where she slept, warm and comfortable around David, though he looked both as if she'd socked him somewhere soft that she oughtn't when coming back from her dream, or as if every single bad memory he ever had had decided to gang up and well up in his mind all at once. Or at least, that was what she gathered from what little she could see.
It was dark, and she could feel her breath on her own face, the moisture freezing. None of the other students seemed to have turned the lights back on. Lightning flickered outside while winds howled and rocked the train on the track, and the rain beat every available surface. It sounded as if that rain was turning to hail, felt so too, according to her blood.
David had felt her move, and he rubbed her back soothingly. She'd not hit him, but neither had he gotten a pleasant feeling off of her as she woke, as if the thing, whatever it was, that caused the lights to go out wasn't enough.
"Stay here. I'll go find out what's wrong. Thomas?"
"Help Nevin watch over the girls?"
Thomas nodded. "Like I'd do anything else. Can't leave any of these girls alone long without something happening. Poor us Nevin, we're still outnumbered."
Nevin gave a wry smile, blushing a bit at being noticed. "Like they're goddess touched."
Diana gave Nevin a sidelong look and elbowed him.
Kirsty was not keen on the idea of letting go of David, but she also knew through long experience he was not going to let her follow, and not going to stay if he thought there was something that needed doing. He more than likely was not going to make his way down the hall dragging her as she clung to his waist, though at any other time she might have tried for comedic effect. Or maybe just blushed and not done it...
She released him, with a soft whuffing sound that she was sure he understood by now. Her blue eyes pinned him, as if, if she tried hard enough, she could impart some form of protection to him, like how a mermaid's kiss supposedly could keep a man from drowning.
He replied with a nod, and a squeeze of her hand, before he drew his wand and left their cabin. She looked at the others as well as she could, after David had closed their door. The moon-faced girl's face was not the usual, dreaming serenity that it normally was, nor did it exude anything remotely like serenity. Curiously, her face and eyes still seemed to shine in this darkness, at least to her eyes. The boy that was with her, Nevin, held her close as they tried to keep each other warm. Thomas and Ally were doing the same, as the cold only seemed to be increasing.
"You'll freeze..." Ally opened an arm to Kirsty.
Kirsty went over to that side and slipped into the arm, now between Diana and Ally. They all huddled close together.
Thomas whispered. "Think you can do that warming song without being too loud? The one you're always humming when you knit."
Kirsty nodded and began humming the song, mentally knitting up some warmth, though she never had any idea where it came from. There was a shifting sound up where the owl was, the bird moving closer to the source. Her friends pressed even closer, and the sense of dread only continued to grow.
"Diana, cover your face. it's coming closer."
The moon-faced girl did so without question, though the others looked toward Kirsty's whisper questioningly. Diana closed in on herself, trembling. Kirsty tried to keep an eye on everything, pulling her wand from the sheath next to her pouch, but flashes of memory distracted her.
Her mother's screams for her brother filled her ears momentarily. The feel of crumbling stone was below her feet as she tried, and nearly failed, to pull Etain from the cliff, and the rocks below. A sickening feeling grew in her belly and heart as more memories, or more like fragments, assaulted her mind. She could see the green fish face, the serrated teeth of the Finmen above her own crib, and hear the scream as her mother drove them back, and her father's shouts. The scent of burned fish filled her nose.
The door opened, and another body squeezed in, pulling Kirsty from the jumbled memories. She looked to see who or what it was, then relaxed as she recognized one of her Housemates, before turning her face again toward Diana.
The light that she always saw inside Diana, soft and silver, was out. Kirsty swallowed.
"Nevin... Check Diana? She's not glowing anymore."
"Anymore? She never glows..."
"She does. Just check her." Kirsty ran her fingers through her hair. "Hop in the huddle, what's going on out there?"
The new person squeezed in closer.
"Some things are searching the train. Not sure for what. I came to check on-" the girl, an underclassman, broke off and blushed, "someone, but couldn't go any further back. I'm just, so..." She shuddered, and everyone felt it and nodded. "I think they're looking for more than one person. I heard screams at one end, like someone was being pulled off."
Nevin adjusted Diana in his lap, after checking her pulse and vitals the best he could. "Wonder what made her pass out? I feel terrible, but not that bad."
"Pulled off?" Thomas rose, gripping his wand. "All our parents were assured the usual travel to school was going to be safe."
Kirsty waved him back down, stifling the urge to conjure a light.
"One of the Spiralis' had hoped it was a suspected non-human." The girl continued. "Because they react a bit differently than us."
"Hogwash." Thomas spat, wishing he could use a harsher term, but refrained due to the presence of the ladies. "Everyone reacts the same. Scared. If there's any truth to it, it's because non-humans and part-humans get treated worse overall than someone from a non magic family. Almost puts me in a mind to try for Minister when I'm old enough. Stop this blasted segregation nonsense."
Ally nodded. "I wish you would. I'd really like to see something bring the three communities together, instead of all the secrecy."
Kirsty wretched a bit. The feeling in her gut intensified, and her head began to throb as she tried to ignore or conquer the fear and bad memories. The cold also intensified, and she could feel her blood rebelling and fighting the unnaturalness. The pain flared, and she could feel something pulling on that source deep inside her. All she wanted right now, was to be back at Seal Point, in the water, or down the Lady's well again, or at least in the loch by the school. Even a bathtub would do, so long as it had water.
Imp's energy flared up around her own, she could feel his magic fighting to shield her from detection, but she could feel as it was pulling on him as well.
After the darkness and pain, there was the sound of voices. She felt, more than heard, the cabin door, and David's voice. It was much sharper than usual, and that made her want to fight her way closer. She felt someone hand her body to him, and could hear, as if through water, her and Diana's names mentioned.
When she came to again, she was in David's lap. The train was moving, and the lights were on. Looking up, David looked both relieved, and more than a little ill. Kirsty reached up and stroked his cheek, smiling what she hoped was reassuringly. She turned to look toward the others, and breathed a sigh of relief to see the light was once again in Diana's face, even if she was the only one that ever seemed to see it.
David nodded and hugged her a bit tighter. "They're gone now."
Ally spoke. "We didn't lose anyone that David saw, Kirsty. Human nor not, in case that's what made you and Diana faint."
Kirsty looked at David, and he nodded again, affirming what had just been said.
"I did not see anyone taken. Maybe so, but no one that I know of. I'm sure we'll find out later though if there was. I think we got rid of them fast enough." Kirsty pressed a bit closer, listening to the way his accent rendered the words.
"Oh no, I didn't pass out from the thought of someone being taken. One of the things was close enough to take some of our life force. I'm alright now. I bet Kirsty could use a bath though. Baths fix everything." Diana smiled at them serenely, and not for the first time, Kirsty wondered exactly what was really running in that girl's veins. There was never the opportunity to ask her though.
Thomas sighed, looking first at David as he stiffened at Diana's comment, and then around the now packed cabin. He thought of a way to draw the others away from the hint, since he knew most in the cabin knew neither of their secrets. "So, how many students could we actually cram in here? Think we'd annoy the Prefects finding out?"
Ally looked at him incredulously, before starting to laugh. "I think I'm a bad influence on you."
Kirsty started chuckling as the others' tension also broke. When they were firmly ensconced in their laughter, she shot David a look that, all too clearly, conveyed exactly how much she needed in some water soon. He squeezed her while no one would noticed, and nodded tiredly, looking out the window, upward to where the moon should have been.
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