Tattoo: The Books of Glory

a webserial about people who are not like us

Tattoo Book 2.5

Posted by harmony0stars on August 24, 2008

Glittering wetly in the firelight, it squatted on a boulder, a huge hairy toad. Glory was certain it must be a statue made damp by the mist, but it looked so… organic. It also looked… immensely pleased with itself. Glory shuddered in revulsion. She stood at the edge of an illuminated circle. The mist had taken on a tropical, musky odor, like the hothouse lair of some zoo-kept monstrosity. It was the smell of sewers and subterranean places best left sealed. An alien odor lay beneath the earthy scent of the mist. Glory would almost have taken it for the smell of one of the older canals in the city, but she was nowhere near one. It smelled of sulfur and the slow rot of swampland. It was metallic like blood and bitter like sap. She could taste it on her tongue and fought the urge to spit.

“N’ggah-kthn-y’hhu! Cthua t’lh gup r’lhob-g’th’gg lgh thok!” shrieked the cadaverous woman before the stone idol. It sounded like she was having some kind of fit. She gazed at the statue adoringly, strings of human teeth looped around her neck like pearls. Wisps of hair clung to her otherwise bald head. Despite her patchy hair, she seemed young. With a wig, no one would have been able to say with certainty what age she was.

“G’llh, Tsathoggua! Y’kn’nh, Tsathoggua! It hath come! Homage, Lord Tsathoggua, Father of Night! Glory, Elder One, First Born of Outer Entity! Hail, Thou Who wast Ancient beyond Memory Ere the Stars Spawned Great Cthulhu! Power, Hoary Crawler in Mu’s fungoid places! Ia! Ia! G’noth-ykagga-ha! Ia, Ia, Tsathoggua!” she cried triumphantly.

“Once more I have come before you to seal our covenant with the blood of children born on the anniversary of my own birth. Thirteen children for each full moon of the year, oh Lord of the Moon. The lives of these children given so that you might turn back the years. Another nineteen years that I might serve you Lord, in all that you favor… in protection of your children from the environmental abuses of man, the toads and the frogs which creep through our waterways. Even as I am the reincarnation of Klarkash-Ton, your servant in Atlantis, I remain your servant on Earth, now and forever! Use me! I am your tool in this world!”

“Bring forth the first child!” she shrieked into the darkness. A dagger glinted in the firelight. From the left, the ragged man from the park carried a whimpering child, no more than two years old. The man knelt at the hag’s feet, offering up the bawling infant like a bottle of finely aged wine.

“Drop the knife and the kid, you crazy old cow!” Honestly… she’d meant to be more subtle. Now would have been the perfect time for some trusted sidekick to sneak around and free the children while the evildoers were occupied. Too bad Glory didn’t have any friends, let alone trusty sidekicks.

Both of them turned to stare at Glory with something approaching dumbfounded awe. “What? How? Who…?” Unfortunately, the moment didn’t last. Tacita looked down at her kneeling servant. “The girl from the park?” she queried with eyebrow raised.

He nodded grimly, a look of barely contained fury in the set of his eyes. He’d apparently taken his defeat in the park personally.

“Kill her,” she ordered dismissively, taking the baby from him, her thin frame staggering under its wriggling weight. She struggled to carry it closer to the statue of her god. “Don’t take too long. The sacrifices must begin before the moon reaches its zenith.”

He only grunted in reply, turning to face Glory with a malicious smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. He made a fist, cracking the knuckles. He didn’t even bother to rush her, moving with an arrogant slowness that unnerved her.

She looked at the palm of her hand helplessly. Now would be a good time to start working! She thought at the sword Aaron had given her as his parting gift. Her palm remained depressingly empty. Lovely… she thought at the thing. If there’s a god, I’m a cosmic joke. Thanks for nothing, Aaron.

The man stopped a few feet away from her and just stared at her, that nasty little smile playing at the corner of his mouth. Glory was transfixed in horror as his features began to change. Suddenly, the spitting thing… it made a whole lot more sense. It was probably venomous, maybe it paralyzed his victims while he pounded them into pulp. He continued to crack his knuckles as his hair became snakes and his nose seemed to melt away into his face. His mouth broadened and scales beaded up on his skin like condensation.

“I can’t believe I wrestled you in the park,” she said, trying to build up her courage. “You’re like the kind of ugly that gives the elephant man nightmares.” She couldn’t help but flinch though, as his tongue flicked out as though tasting the air for her.

When he finally spoke, it was like rustling leaves in a soft breeze. “Girl, I am going to enjoy sucking the marrow from your bones.”

She couldn’t help it. She bolted into the bushes like a frightened rabbit. He made a sound as he followed her that she could only assume was laughter. Either that, or he was choking, and that would just be wishful thinking.

Okay… so work around to the other side of the clearing…. and that was as far as her plan got before she tripped on a branch and went sprawling. A moment later, she was lifted by her backpack as if she weighed nothing at all. She landed on the ground hard again as her arms slipped through the straps. He glared at the backpack only a moment before tossing it into the undergrowth. Reaching down, he yanked her from the ground and she dangled helplessly in his grasp, her arms pinned to her sides.

“Ugh! Get off of me you sick, scaly freak!” She squirmed as he made that awful choking noise in the back of his throat.

“Caught her!” he cried out triumphantly.

“Well kill the little cretin and get back over here, slave! This little brat won’t hold still!”

He growled and the snakes framing his face hissed angrily.

“Slave huh? So… are you not allowed to bathe without her say-so? Cause I’ve gotta tell you. I’ve met better smelling bag ladies, and I sleep under a tree in the park.”

He growled, shaking her in his fury. Though she tried to keep it in, a tiny whimper made its way up her throat. His tongue shot out as it tasting her fear. “Scream,” he growled, shaking her again. “Come on, make it look good.” Okay… that was just weird.

I… am Not… going to Scream… for you.” she yelled into his face, kicking him as hard as she could between the legs. She had no way of knowing if his anatomy was at all analogous to a human man, but he dropped her all the same, and she scurried into the undergrowth like an animal. It was only by luck that her fingers curled around a thick branch that came away in her hand.

Glory leapt to her feet, but the serpent man was nowhere to be seen. She stood frozen with indecision. Where was he? For all she knew, he had built in camouflage like a chameleon. Or maybe he could shapeshift into other things, like trees or rocks.

Shivering, she took a deep breath to steady herself. Then she began beating the bushes around her, hoping to flush him out of hiding. When he popped up from the bushes on her second swing, she could not have been more surprised. She let out a shriek that brought an answering cackle from the clearing, but he just stood there as if waiting for her to strike. In fact, it looked like there was nothing he wanted to do more than leap at her, but he kept himself still as if by force of will alone. If getting knocked upside the head with a tree branch was what he was waiting for, she didn’t disappoint him.

She swung the branch as hard as she could and was surprised that it didn’t break under the impact. He went down like a ton of bricks. Even the little snakes attached to his skull went still. She almost reached out to make sure he wasn’t faking, but something she once read came back to stop her hand…. even a dead serpent can bite.

A wail from the clearing brought her back to herself. “Eat the carcass later!” the witch screamed, and the child cried out again. Glory raced through the bushes, hoping she would not be too late.

to Book 2, page 6

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