The Tally Master, Chapter 8 (scene 43)

Standing beside the sea in the cove below her home, with Pater behind her, his hands warm on her shoulders, Keiran had been learning how to herd fishes.

She’d scarcely felt the brisk wind on her face or the cool sea spray against her shins. Scarcely tasted the salt on her lips. All her attention narrowed to focus on the dark and monstrous presence she’d encountered when she followed her energea out across the waves and then plunged deep beneath them.

The ominous swimmer turned and glided, lethal in intent, seeking to do violence with an implacable calm.

She’d caught him with a noose of energea, and now he came to her, surging shoreward with the muscular movements of his colossal body and powerful strokes of his mighty flukes.

On and on, he came, seeking his captor. Seeking her.

Keiran became aware of her pater shouting, his fingers gripping hard on her shoulders. “Release him! Release!” he bellowed.

But she couldn’t. The monster of the deeps that she’d snared had snared her, hooking her energea more strongly than she’d entangled his.

She began to struggle, flailing like a mackerel in a net and with as little effect. The behemoth of the sea reeled her in, reeling himself in, his aspect gaining distinct traits as he neared: sleek black skin, tall dorsal fin, conical teeth made for tearing, white underbelly.

On and on he came, cold hunger in his innards, colder rage in his eye.

Keiran’s pater released his grip on her shoulders to thrust her toward the dunes behind him.

And then she could see her monstrous captive, a gargantuan fish—shining black on his upper surfaces, gleaming white below—streaking between the two headlands of the cove, launching himself inland with his toothy maw opened wide.

Pictwhale. Sword of the sea. Hell-sent and wrathful.


Keiran screamed.

And then she pulled—hard—on her energea, blasting it out to batter the fearsome creature as it plowed up the beach.

She felt something within her rip, and her energea flashed gold with black edges.

At that moment, the orca swerved, his belly grinding against the pebbles and broken shells in the surf before he regained the deeper waters of the cove, heading back out to sea.

Keiran fell, her backside thudding into the sand. Pater whirled, horror on his face.

He roared.

“Pater?” faltered Keiran.

“Stay here!” ordered Pater. “Stay right here.”

And then he left, limping, running. Pat, thump, pat, thump, pat, thump.

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The Tally Master, Interstice 1

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The Tally Master, Chapter 8 (scene 42)

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