Tattoo Book 4, Part 2.9
Posted by harmony0stars on October 25, 2009
It was fully dark by the time the exiles had gathered what weapons they could find or cobble together and assembled before the darkened portal. Glory could not decide why the portal was now dark but had her suspicions. It seemed to have remained alight so long as Carys remained in this world, so in a sense she had been the key holding it open here and allowing people to pass through to the other side. It had probably gone dark as soon as she and Glory passed through, causing her family no end of worry. Without Carys holding it open on this side, the door probably would have gone dark whenever Neirin finished exiling the people he decided he would not be able to control when he turned on his father. Without their memories, Cadfael and his fellow exiles had assumed that sending people through was what allowed people from Annwn to come into this one, never realizing it was merely coincidence. Or maybe Neirin had waited until a stranger appeared before getting rid of another rival, probably Aonghas’ idea. Neirin didn’t seem to be much of a planner.
Glory had found her old clothes in the room she’d been given when she first arrived. They were rough and wrinkled from air drying after she’d rung them out however long ago that had been. It could have been weeks or even months from the amount of dust that had colonized the small traces of her movements. Apparently no one had gone to the room after her daring escape, and her clothes were exactly where she’d left them, spread out over the trunk at the foot of the bed so that they would dry evenly. Though scratchy and creased, she was still relieved to change out of the dress and into clothes she wouldn’t feel guilty about ruining. Her backpack was also a comforting weight against her shoulder as she stood beside Jess, waiting for Gwythyr to reopen the door of Caer Wydr.
Gwythyr stood with Cadfael and several other of his men, probably plotting out their plan of attack once they reached the other side. Finally stepping away from his friends, he approached the portal, playing with the glass shard on its chain. He stood staring at the glass for a few moments, twisting the glass shard on its chain. Glancing at Glory, he frowned and looked back at the portal quickly, removing the amulet from around his neck. If he was feeling guilty about dragging Glory and Jess back into his world, he didn’t feel like making a scene in front of his people.
Though it hadn’t appeared he’d been paying much attention at the time, Gwythyr seemed to know exactly what to do as he brought the sharp end of the shard down on the fleshy part of his hand, drawing blood. He let it pool in his hand a moment before casting the droplets onto the dark portal. Instantly it came alive with color, rapidly swirling in angry patterns. Was it reflecting Gwythyr’s state of mind?
Regardless of any trepidation they might feel, a group of four stepped forward, weapons drawn. Gwythyr stood beside the portal as each warrior disappeared into the radiant glass. People continued to approach the glass in groups of four, and it seemed so long as Gwythyr remained, the portal was open to his kinsmen. The best armed went through first, probably in case any enemies were waiting on the other side. As slowly as time seemed to move in Annwn, mere seconds could have passed since Glory and her friends had gone through the flames. Of course, there was no way of knowing if the differential was a constant. The crowd slowly dwindled until only the women and youngsters remained, though there were few children even close to Dilys‘ age. Glory wondered what threat they had posed to Neirin, but they’d probably just been in the wrong place at the wrong time… seen too much or caught wind of his conspiracy.
Not really feeling part of the group, Glory and Jess approached Gwythyr just as the last person touched the glass and went through. With one hand on Jess’ neck, Glory reached out to the portal, but Gwythyr caught her by the arm and held her back.
“You would be safer if you stayed in your own world,” he declared as if he had already decided she would not be accompanying them.
“Maybe, but what about Jess? Is she going to change back on her own if we stay here?” Glory demanded, her hand still on the doe‘s neck.
He glanced at the deer uncomfortably before putting his hands on Glory‘s shoulders. “I… am not really sure.” He leaned in to look her in the eye, and Glory was half afraid he‘d try to kiss her. Gwythyr was a really sweet guy, but her life was complicated enough already. “But I promise I will return as soon as the battle is over,” he assured her.
“No, I’m sorry but I can’t leave it to chance,” she replied, gently twisting free of his hands. “Something could happen to you, and I can‘t trust Arawn to come make sure Jess gets turned human again. I promised I would bring her home, and I don‘t think her mother is going to understand if I bring her home like this.”
He looked as if he might try to argue further, but Glory reached out and touched the glass, arriving in a starlit meadow, perhaps the same one she had landed in the first time. Those who had gone before her were softly murmuring in the darkness, waiting for their leader. Gwythyr arrived only seconds behind her, his scowl all but obscured by the lack of light, but Glory could tell he was not happy. If he was like the rest of the men in his family, he probably did not handle defiance well.
Somehow the group found their bearings in the dark and began their march towards Arawn’s settlement, entering the trees seemingly without any fear of getting lost. Though of course, they were natives. It was probably not so mysterious after all. The men set a grim pace with the women and few children bringing up the rear. Many of the women were armed as well, but as the space between the warriors and their dependents increased, Glory realized that they had no intention of fighting. They were armed to protect themselves in proximity to the bloodshed, but they would not be entering the battle itself.
“Stay with the women and children,” Glory whispered into the doe’s ear and quickened her pace. Jess froze for a moment, clearly upset at the abandonment but then reluctantly continuing to trail the group.
If the men were bothered by her presence, they didn’t have time to voice it. A few of them glanced at her, but their mood was unreadable in the dark. Maybe they thought she was foolish and would soon be dead. Good riddance and good night. Well, they’d see she was hard to kill, even if she wasn’t even remotely familiar with the rules of sword play.
By the time sounds of battle reached them, the women were far behind. The men picked up the pace, though some of them were already panting with exertion. Glory had no problems keeping up. She could have run all night without tiring. She could have run circles around every single one of them no matter what they thought of her. The only problem she did have was the occasional root or branch in the way, though it seemed the forest finally had other things to worry about than tripping up one interloper.
If Deryn’s bird had warned Arawn, there had not been much time to prepare, or maybe Neirin had already had men inside, ready to turn on their kinsmen. Regardless, as they broke through the tree line they could see fighting everywhere around the walls of the settlement, but from the sounds, it was most ferocious inside the settlement itself. The gate hung wide and the battle boiled around the opening like a river of metal and flesh.
Near the tree line, Fomorians stood watching the battle, most likely posted as guards in the event any warriors came to assist Arawn from other settlements. Their lack of interest in the trees at their back betrayed the fact that they were not very concerned with reinforcements. The forerunners of Gwythyr’s men fell on them and cut them down before they had a chance to yell a warning to their kinsmen across the meadow. More of the exiles rushed out onto the meadow, slaughtering any Fomorian unlucky enough to stand between them and their goal.
to Book 4, part 2, page 10
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