The Tally Master, Chapter 7 (scene 37)

Cold, gray clouds had blown up during that last afternoon with her father, and the breeze over the white surf of the small cove between two headlands had grown stiff.

Keiran stood barefoot on wet and shell-littered sand, looking out at the silver waves rushing in through the cove’s inlet and crashing around the tall rocks protruding within the smaller body of water. Pater stood behind her, his hands warm on her shoulders.

A rolling billow crashed on the shore and she felt its vibration through the cool, wet sand. The broken wave hissed up the beach toward her toes. A gull cried, blown sideways by a gust.

“Open your inner sight,” came Pater’s gravelly voice, “and direct it where the surf breaks.”

Keiran drew in a deep breath of the sea air—too brisk to carry the scent of salt and brine as strongly as when the breeze was gentle or absent—and held it, then let it slowly trickle out through her nose. She closed her eyes and let her inner perceptions unfurl.

Silver arcs of energea curled more wildly and more tightly in the ocean surf than she’d ever seen elsewhere. Flint and sand hummed with straight lattices. Grasses and reeds featured gentle, simple curves. People, sheep, and goats possessed complex arrays of arches that branched from one another. But the wind-tossed sea, powerful and furious, exhibited tangled spirals, ever changing and snarling.

“Follow the energea from the moment of impact up the beach,” said Pater.

Ah! The spiraling energea bounced against the lattice of the sand and uncurled, flowing in a current of loose spirals that grew ever straighter as they approached the farthest reach of the water. Where the wave ebbed, the energea ebbed with it, tangling anew in its retreat, save for a mist of softly undulating arcs flowing inland, under Keiran’s feet toward the dunes behind her.

“Let the sea energea enter,” Pater instructed.

Keir softened her knees and felt her feet relax, her toes letting tension flow out of them.

The next incoming wave broke, pounding the sand, and the energea surged up the beach. Keir felt the inland flowing mist tickle the nodes at the base of each toe, stroking her own energea into a slightly faster vibration.

“Good,” said Pater. Was he watching with his inner sight? No doubt.

Another wave came in, and another. Her feet seemed to buzz, warm despite their contact with the cold, wet sand. The vibration—still within the energea, not the flesh—mounted through her legs and on up through her torso. Her heart warmed, but the energea cooled as it fountained up her neck and then out through her crown.

“Now follow your own energea out to sea,” said Pater. Was that excitement in his voice?

Her awareness glided on the energea, easy and comfortable, just above the surface of the waves. At the mouth of the cove, she plunged downward, sensing the water in a way wholly different from the interaction of one’s body with the ocean. She was liquid and permeable, yet powerful, with glints of brightness flickering in her lucidity. She surged and flowed. She soared out to sea, through the sea.

The flickering glints within her lambency strengthened, definite and pulsing. Their brightness pierced her, and then she was their brightness, darting and fierce and free.

“Stay with them,” rumbled Pater.

She’d almost forgotten him in the sensations dominating her attention, but she obeyed.

As a hundred or more points of sharp brilliance, she turned and flashed and swooped. I am the fish, she realized dimly. And it was magical.

On and on she swam, one with the water, one with its denizens, one with being, one with all that was. How far had she travelled? How far would she go? How could she ever turn and return? Her larger self beguiled her.

And then her fish school darted forward to envelop a monstrous presence. Darker, more powerful still, with colossal flukes and a mighty tail. Its mood was heavy, remorseless, and compelling. Her awareness entered its shadow, slow and intense. She tightened . . . something. And then the monster was hers, bound to her and caught.

Or had it caught her?

She pulled.

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Next scene:
The Tally Master, Chapter 7 (scene 38)

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The Tally Master, Chapter 7 (scene 36)

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The Tally Master, Chapter 1 (scene 1)

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The Tally Master