Tattoo Book 6 part 2.30
Posted by harmony0stars on September 15, 2010
The sun had barely stained the sky peach when Glory heard movement in the grass. Expecting sheep, she sat up to see Lucka and Shemp climbing the hill. Lucka stopped a few yards away. The dog glared at her as if daring her to do anything threatening.
“Oh, good. I was half worried you’d left and abandoned your ghoulish friend with us,” he said, leaning on his staff. Obviously he had not forgiven her for criticizing his ancestors the previous night.
Glory was almost insulted, but instead, she laughed. She knew ghouls, and it was hard to imagine Phoenix as one. Lucka scowled. Funny that he disliked Phoenix when they seemed to share the same surly, taciturn personality. “Phoenix is no ghoul,” she said, snickering. “But don’t worry. We’ll be leaving soon enough.”
Lucka nodded as if he had no doubt. “You should find the old road out of Sarnath in a few hours if you head north. There are still small villages along its length where you may find shelter for the night, though they will expect you to earn your meal. You’ll reach Ilarnek in a week, unless you are fortunate enough to find a farmer heading to market. From there, you may be able to find passage to Kadatheron on one of the barges, but if not, follow the river. May Nasht bring you luck and protect you on your journey.” With that perfunctory blessing, he stepped past her and strode off into the grasses, probably in search of wayward sheep. The dog gave her a backward glance before it disappeared down the other side of the hill with its master.
She climbed to her feet, still smiling. Glory wasn’t sure if Lucka intended to be rude or if he was just a very plainspoken man. It didn’t really matter to her since it was unlikely that they’d ever meet again. Besides, she kept picturing Phoenix as a ghoul, something made doubly ludicrous by the fact that he didn’t seem to have a sense of humor.
Mika was brushing the dead coals away from the packet of meat when she reached the lake. Phoenix was still curled up near the remains of the fire, fast asleep. She dug the pouch of gems from her pocket and fished around for a stone. Even the smallest gem would represent a small fortune for Mika’s family, and she doubted Ourkranos would miss any of the stones considering he hadn’t seen fit to save their bearers.
“Morning, Mika,” she said and was rewarded with a smile.
“Good morning,” he replied. Mika glanced up the hill before pulling out a knife to cut up the remains of last night’s dinner. “Lucka said not to offer, but I can at least send you off with some breakfast.”
“Maybe he won’t mind so much when he sees this,” she said, offering him a lavender hued star-stone.
Mika gaped at the stone, gently taking it from her and holding it up to the light. He tucked the knife back in his belt and pursed his lips. “This is too much!” he protested. “Wait. I’ll be right back.” He tucked the stone into a pouch on his belt and trotted back to the hut. A moment later he returned carrying a sack with a long strap. Mika put the whole packet of meat in the bag, and then his own knife as an afterthought. “I- wish I had more to offer,” he fretted.
“Don’t worry about it,” she said, slipping the strap over her head so the sack rested on her hip. There was obviously more in it than the knife and meat, but she felt it would be impolite to look. “We’re grateful for your hospitality. I hope Lucka won’t be too upset with you.”
Mika grinned. “Oh, don’t worry about my cousin. He’s seldom happy about anything, but he won’t be upset long once I show him the gem. It’s we who should be grateful to you. Good journey to you and your friend. May Nasht bring you luck and protect you.”
Mika walked away with a spring in his step while Glory knelt to shake Phoenix awake. He waved as he disappeared up the hill, driving the sheep up to the lush fields of grass above them. Phoenix sat up with a gasp, looking around in a panic.
“Did they leave?” he asked. When she nodded, he said, “Let’s dig up the food before they come back. We’ll need it.”
Glory smacked the back of his head as she straightened up. “Come on. We’ve got a long way to go.”
“Mika already gave me the food,” she said in disgust, patting the sack on her hip. “I’ll be holding onto it though, or it won’t last a day. You can have some later after we find the road.”
“Oh…” He scanned the ground and picked up the bone he’d been chewing on the night before.
“Phoenix, you’ve spent millennia in a human form. Didn’t you pick up anything in all that time?”
“Yeah,” he said. Phoenix put the bone on a rock and smacked another into it until it cracked. “I learned all kinds of things.” He sucked at the gelid marrow as she scowled at him.
“Lucka called you a ghoul, you know,” she said as she lead the way out of the little dell. “When we meet more people, you’d better behave yourself.”
He didn’t respond, but Glory was used to his sullen silences. She just hoped he’d act more civilized when they reached their first village, or it would be hard to get any wagons to carry them far. It was nearly noon before they saw the overgrown road from a hill. The ancient highway was barely an indentation in the plain, though it took on more definition as it wound away into the distance.
“Can we stop and eat now?” Phoenix panted as he followed Glory down the hill towards the road.
“You mean can you eat, since apparently I still don’t need food or sleep.” She scowled at him. “The only thing it seems you told me the truth about was suppressing my senses.”
He opened his mouth, then snapped it closed, looking away. “I don’t expect you to believe me, but I was protecting you,” he muttered, looking to the horizon rather than meet her eyes.
“Protecting me? You’re insane! From what?”
“From yourself, from your family. If Aaron hadn’t passed me to you, no doubt you’d have realized you weren’t human within a few months. I don’t have any personal experience with maturing star spawn, but I know how most of them end, especially twins and triplets. Unless they’re fortunate enough to be born conjoined, star spawn can rarely stand to have such a close rival as a twin. With your knowledge and your tattoos like training wheels on bike, you’d have come into your power too soon. You could have burned out or let your emotions get the better of you. It was exactly what your sister would have wanted.”
to Book 6, part 2, page 31