Tattoo: The Books of Glory

a webserial about people who are not like us

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Tattoo Book 6 Part 3.18

Posted by harmony0stars on December 3, 2010

“Lady? If you will, please?” the turbaned man said in a reverent tone that put Glory’s teeth on edge. He made an eloquent gesture towards the river, bowing slightly.

It was one thing to be polite, but she didn’t know him, and she didn‘t know why he was being so deferential. Somehow he knew about her though, and she doubted Phoenix had let slip her not quite human status in the heat of the moment. Plus, the man had called her a goddess, and she was no one’s deity. The very fact that they all seemed to want to please her made her less inclined to trust them.

“Thank you… but I think we will make our own way,” she said, rubbing at some dried dirt on her arm and looking around at the unobtrusive hillocks with their waving grasses for some clue as to what to do next.

“You misunderstand, lady. Your Father sent us to help you on your way,” he replied with a hard edge to his voice. He let it be known, without coming out and actually saying it, that they had been sent to help whether she liked it or not.

“That’s a fact that works less in your favor than you might think,” Glory replied, trying not to clench her fists. Her feelings for her father were murky at best, but resentment ruled the roost. Whoever he was, whatever he was, whatever he wanted… at the very least he could have been more forthcoming about this quest. She’d gotten more information from a fragmented extra-dimensional alien than her own father. Whatever her father’s intentions, Glory doubted very much that any help he saw fit to provide was really for her benefit.

The man helplessly glanced at his remaining companions as if for moral support. “You might get away from the city on another ship,” he said after a moment, “but it would take time to book passage and questions would be asked. At the very least your attire will make the captains suspicious. The priests will be out in the city by now, searching for you. O-of course, we cannot force you to come with us, but the longer we stand here, the less likely it is that any of us will escape.”

Glory frowned, frustrated by his logic. “Phoenix?” she called. Maybe he would have some insight into this new development.

He gave her a look of contempt. “Oh, do whatever the hell you want; you will no matter what I say,” he practically snarled and returned to staring off into the dunes.

“Miss?” Milet tugged on her good arm. “It’s true. No one will help you in the city if the priests are against you, not even the foreign traders. They’re too afraid. And there’s no use going off into the desert if you don’t have a map. Wherever you go, I’m with you,” she said earnestly, “but I think our chances are better with them than not.”

Once again, Glory was stymied. She hadn’t planned on dragging Milet along, but she couldn’t very well leave the girl in the city. No one had seen her but the spawn, if it could see in the traditional sense, but that might be enough to get her killed.

“Fine,” she said, feeling as if she really had no choice in the matter.

Glory stalked off in the direction that the man had indicated, little caring if Phoenix chose to follow or not. Milet hurried to stay close by her side though. Just because the girl counseled that they go with the strangers didn’t mean that she trusted them apparently. Glory saw her eying them as the men hurried past to secure the large rowboat bobbing among the reeds and scum. She had not noticed in the dark of the sewer, but they walked with a stiff-legged gait. It didn’t slow them down a bit, but it almost seemed as if their legs were malformed in some way.

Their leader eyed Phoenix as he brought up the rear, sulking into the boat like a kicked dog. “If you come, you row,” he said, unable to keep the sneer from his voice.

Phoenix gave him a disgusted look as if he had planned to help all along. Sitting beside the tall leader, he took up an oar without comment. Glory reached for an oar as well which brought the turbaned man up short.

“No, lady,” he said, surprise and consternation written all over his face. He obviously didn’t like having to correct a goddess. “You’d need a partner to row with you, and the girl is too small. We’d be spinning in place with five rowers.”

She couldn’t help but notice the bitter line of Phoenix’s mouth as he turned away from her to put his back into the oar with the others. It wasn’t like she‘d planned to sit back and let him do all the work. If that was how he was going to be, well, when… if she got back to Earth, it was just as well that she intended to leave him behind. At least she wouldn’t have to worry about his querulous voice in her head any more.

As much as she wanted to devote her time to returning her arm to normal, the passing riverbank drew her attention. Every waving windblown tuft of tall grass was a potential enemy. The priests and the city guards could already be hunting for her. How long before they broadened their search to the river? Surely Tsathoggua knew the tunnels under his temple led to the sewers and ultimately to the river. Unable to row, Glory devoted herself instead to watching for signs of pursuit.

They eased past the quay of docks and boats, slowing their transit in the hopes of attracting less attention and staying close to the far bank which was dominated by tall river weeds and cattails. The shipyard boiled with activity, but she had no idea if this was due to a concerted search or if it was always that busy. At any rate, no one seemed to notice them as their momentum and the current carried them away from the port. The men on one side of the boat dipped their oars into the water, turning the boat slightly as they approached a bend in the river. As the dock was lost to view, the rowers eagerly renewed pulling on the oars.

Within a few yards, they left the tributary upon which the shipyard of Ilarnek was situated and joined the massive artery that was the river Ai. The river Ai was to the Mississippi what the Atlantic ocean was to Lake Superior. The city was still visible as they moved downriver. There was little need to row as the pull of the river carried them along, though the men still rowed to keep away from the swiftly moving waters at the center of the river. If their boat had been caught by the main current, it was unlikely that four rowers would suffice to bring them back under their own control.

to Book 6, part 3, page 19

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