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ISBN-10: 1-77115-299-0
Genre: Fantasy/SF/Dark Fantasy
eBook Length: 123 Pages
Published: April 2016

From inside the flap

When Kathleen Flynn's partner, Anna, mysteriously vanishes while swimming along the Irish coast one day, her brother Niall and niece Caitlin immediately shift into action to find her. Has Anna chosen simply to abandon her long-time companion, or has she met with foul play? The Flynns' friends from the underground enclave of Hamelyn and the world of Faerie join in to help uncover the reasons behind Anna's disappearance, while at the same time a far more sinister team is forming - one which doesn't have the Flynns' best interests at heart....

Selkie (Excerpt)

Chapter 1

"Jim Butcher is evil," Caitlin Flynn said, sniffling and dabbing at her eyes with a tissue as she closed the cover of Changes, the twelfth novel in the Dresden Files series. Murphy, the tiny black kitten she recently adopted (or rather, who had recently adopted her), cocked her head quizzically. Caitlin had named the little feline after one of her favorite characters in the series, the diminutive yet tough as nails police officer Karrin Murphy - who was described by another recurring character as "tiny, but fierce." Caitlin felt that phrase also perfectly described her new pet, who was a determined - and usually quite successful - huntress.

Taking a deep breath, she expelled it, "Okay, he's not really evil evil, but he's certainly a diabolical genius. I laughed harder and cried more through this book than anything I've ever read!" Murphy studied her for another second or two then bent her head down to lick her stretched out toes. Caitlin sighed and scooped up the fuzzy little feline for a quick cuddle, which was all the fiercely independent Murphy would tolerate. She was grateful to have a cat at all, though, after her beloved Gandalf the Gray had turned out to be a shape-shifting fairy in disguise. Caitlin still missed Gandalf's comforting solid weight against her at night, but, once she accepted that Gandalf was really "Gaylord," it simply could never be the same. Fortunately, Murphy had "crossed her path" on one of her rambles through the western Ireland countryside and decided to claim Caitlin as her person.

Well, sort of.

For some reason unbeknownst to humans, but no doubt completely logical to cats, Murphy had also demonstrated an intense devotion to Mortimer, Gaylord's partner. Mortimer was somewhat nonplussed by the little cat's attention, but didn't seem to mind Murphy who followed him around the property like an adoring little black shadow. Gaylord, on the other hand... .

Gaylord had the opposite effect on Murphy. The kitten followed him around too, but not quite the same way. Rather, she was clearly stalking the Tuatha shape-shifter, suspicious of everything about him. Niall Flynn, Caitlin's widower father, had theorized that maybe it had to do with Gaylord's former role as Gandalf: he sort of smelled like a feline to her, but off somehow, not quite right. It made sense, except for the fact that Murphy didn't behave the same way around Fiona, Gaylord's sister, who had the same shape-shifting gift. Of course, Fiona was far less likely to be on Murphy's feline radar, since she spent more time in Niall's company than Mortimer's.

In any event, Gaylord mostly shrugged off Murphy's stalking and hissing in his usual irrepressible, imperturbable way, merely nicknaming her "Kali the Destroyer," after the black Hindu goddess of destruction and rebirth. He kept threatening to shift into cat form and give her a good chasing, but Mortimer wouldn't hear of it. And although Gaylord was still as mischievous as any member of the Tuatha de Danann race, he would never even consider doing anything to upset or distress Mortimer in any way. The two young men had quickly developed an intense bond of love and friendship, and were devoted to one another.

Caitlin sighed again, letting Murphy squirm loose and dart out her bedroom door, no doubt in search of her beloved Mortimer. She put the book on her bedside table, ready to go back to the student who'd loaned it, along with the rest of the series, to her father. Niall was a professor of English literature at the local university, a specialist in folklore and mythology, and the student had recommended the novels because of the abundance of those elements upon which Butcher drew, often in unique and creative ways. Since Niall knew that his only child shared those interests with him, he'd passed the first one along to her as well. Caitlin had been hooked immediately, and devoured the entire series over the summer. Father and daughter had talked about the different fantastical elements, inevitably comparing Harry Dresden's interactions with the mythological worlds to their own. After all, Caitlin and Niall had experienced their own adventures with modern-day fairies, not to mention the not-quite-vampires of Hamelyn, the underground enclave not far from where they lived.

The Flynns were actually a wee bit closer now to the cave which served as the entrance to Hamelyn, in part due to their brush with the world of Faerie. The large house, which had been sold to Niall for barely more than a pittance by a former colleague of his, was a little farther out in the countryside than the small house where they'd lived since Niall had brought his daughter back to his native Ireland after the death of his wife. Of course, they didn't travel back and forth to Hamelyn as often as they had in the early days after meeting Mortimer and Fortescue a year ago, since both of the Hamelyners had left their home and moved Above. Niall had been working since the previous winter, with Fortescue's input and assistance, on different ideas to eliminate - or at the very least minimize - the extreme sensitivity to sunlight which had originally driven their people underground hundreds of years earlier. Fortescue had been something of a scholar in Hamelyn, devoting himself to learning about herbs, minerals and the like with as much dedication as he had once given to history. Over the past several months, he and Mortimer had been able to incrementally increase the amount of time to which they could be exposed to the daylight. It wasn't a cure yet, by any means, but it was progress.

Caitlin herself, now that she had passed the end-of-school exam known as her "Leaving Certificate" (the Irish equivalent of the SAT's), was torn between following in her father's footsteps and pursuing a life of scholarship and academia or studying something more "useful," either in the sciences - to help in the research - or in business - to help Mortimer in the management of the estate. Mortimer had a good head for figures and accounts, and had leased sufficient land to local farmers and herders to generate enough income so they had no financial worries. There was still plenty of property left over for their own future herds of sheep and horses, if at some time Niall chose to go that route.

There was also another career possibility Caitlin had been considering: following in the path of her Aunt Kathleen. Niall's sister had been a geologist, working for an oil company on rigs in the North Sea, helping them find the best sources of oil with the least amount of degradation to the environment. She had met her long-term partner, Anna, during those years in Scotland. Anna, a practicing midwife and herbalist at the time they met, had opened up a new world to Kathleen. After they'd been together for a half-dozen or so years, Kathleen had turned her back on the lucrative but dangerous and damaging world of petroleum extraction and refining, choosing to study animal husbandry and alternative healing herself. The two women had lived for several years in Scotland, raising sheep for food, milk and wool, spinning and knitting in their own little cottage industry, as well as helping their neighbors with knowledge of herbs and natural childbirth. They often took on local young people for the summer, teaching them these sustainability skills and offering free room and board in exchange for the young people's labor, helping them with the milking, cheese-making and yarn-making. The teenagers and twenty-somethings left Kathleen and Anna with the knowledge and skills to start their own small businesses if they chose. It wasn't a lucrative, high-flying way of life, but they were content to be self-sufficient and have enough left over for the occasional indulgence.

Which was why they'd come to stay with Niall and Caitlin for a week or two at the end of the summer. Their business in Scotland had been left in the capable hands of a young man who had been helping them with the heaviest of the labor for several years now. He was more than competent and skilled enough to supervise the other "interns," as he jokingly called them. And Caitlin had been intrigued and fascinated by the two women's stories of what they'd accomplished, and how simply yet happily they were able to live. She was starting to wonder if, with Mortimer's financial sense, she and her father could create a similar kind of growing concern here. The house was more than large enough to accommodate a handful of young people, and she and Mortimer could learn enough animal husbandry to take care of a small herd. Especially if they added Fortescue's brains into the mix. And since she and Fortescue still had mixed feelings about her going too far away to university... . She had applied and been accepted to a handful of schools, both here and in the US, and had tentatively decided to remain here and attend the local university. There had been so much going on and she simply hadn't wanted to "abandon" everybody. But now it had become more than that: She saw a way to try to live in a more sustainable, eco-friendly style. She loved Ireland and liked the idea of trying to live in harmony with this beautiful green land. Yes, there were things she missed about the States, but it was easier every day to stay in touch with whatever was going on there. And after meeting and becoming involved with Fortescue, she had become even more emotionally invested in her adopted home.

The biggest concern Caitlin had about further education now was how to break it to her father that she might not want to go to university in the fall at all... . She was hoping to persuade him to let her study herbalism, and maybe naturopathic medicine as well, at one of the online schools she'd been researching. There were several recognized and accredited ones with low residency requirements, meaning she wouldn't have to leave the country for long stays somewhere else, only brief, intermittent visits. Caitlin reminded herself that she hadn't entirely decided on this course of action ... which meant she could postpone the discussion with her potentially disapproving father for at least a little while longer. Sometimes - although not often, for she loved some modern conveniences a little too much - she longed for a time when these decisions hadn't been so complicated. Instead of having to choose among several institutions of higher learning, each offering a myriad of career paths and opportunities, a person would simply apprentice himself to a master and learn a useful trade from him. Of course, that was the difficulty: "Himself." "Him." As a young woman in those earlier times, Caitlin wouldn't have had many opportunities at all, at least at many times throughout history. There had always been places for professional women with certain skills and knowledge, but they had often been few and far between. There had even been independent, relatively powerful women in the Middle Ages, but it hadn't been common.

Caitlin was distracted from her musings by the sound of raised voices from downstairs. It sounded as though Aunt Kathleen was upset about something. She grabbed the book off the table to return to her father and headed downstairs to investigate the commotion.