Tattoo: The Books of Glory

a webserial about people who are not like us

Tattoo Book 4.5

Posted by harmony0stars on May 31, 2009

Instead of leading her back by the servants’ stairs, Dilys led Glory to a much grander stairwell which curved and widened majestically as it descended. It was like something out of a movie. The honeyed hued wood of the balcony balustrade flowed so gracefully into the railing of the stairs, it seemed as if it must have been grown rather than built. Cadfael waited at the bottom smiling pleasantly, but Glory’s attention was immediately captured by the red and gold Celtic knot she had first seen from the front of the house. Though thunder still rocked the building, the colored glass was vibrant as if lit from within. From the candles that Dilys and Cadfael both carried, it was obvious that if the building had power, it was currently down due to the storm. There was some ambient light from the outside, but not enough to explain the lush color of the panes.

As she descended, Glory would catch movement in some area of the window where she was not looking, but as soon as she focused on that spot, it would stop or seem to. Maybe it was just the movement of the clouds behind the glass, and some glazier’s forgotten trick was what allowed the window to gather so much light from so meager a source. The window was at least as wide as two double doors and stretched from the floor to the ceiling. It had to be a window as there were no visible handles to push or pull it open, but every instinct told Glory that it was in fact a door. Though it stood several feet away from the base of the stairs, Glory kept noticing more detail, as if being drawn into its pattern. Currents of color flowered within each separate pane of glass, as twisted and knotted as the window itself. It was impossible to follow the coils to their terminus, but Glory felt compelled to try.

Cadfael’s grin faltered as Dilys poked Glory in the back, distracting her from her fascination. Hadn’t Dylis already warned Glory to “beware the knot?” Glory could have smacked herself, but instead focused on Cadfael with a grim determination.

If she had not already seen his antipathy for Dilys in the dining hall, she might have thought she imagined the fleeting look of hatred and disgust he directed at the child. It was quickly replaced by fawning hospitality, but Glory decided then and there that if nothing else, she would take Dilys out of this place. No one deserved to be so friendless and alone.

“Well, you are a vision.” he cooed as he took Glory’s arm. She doubted very much that she was all that lovely, especially with her various tattoos quite visible on her throat and arms. But if he noticed them at all, they didn’t interest him as he led her back to the hall which ran the width of the mansion. He purposefully took her near the window, but she did not allow herself to be caught again. If that annoyed him at all, he gave no sign.

“You must be hungry and cold after braving the bay in this storm.” Her skin crawled as he gently stroked her palm, but she didn’t pull away. She did not like to be touched at the best of times, let alone by someone as duplicitous as Cadfael. For the moment though, she had to make a pretense of cooperation. “I promise… we’ll feed you nothing that Dilys has brought with her this morning!” he announced with a chuckle.

Glory glanced around, but the child had once more disappeared. Cadfael led her down the dark hall again, and the sound of conversation was much louder now. Someone had lit dozens of candles on the three chandeliers which hung from the ceiling. She wondered how they got up there to do it or did they lower them somehow. The number of people at the tables had doubled. Most of them watched Glory with a level of fawning eagerness that would have made her uncomfortable in any setting. Now she had the feeling of a prized calf being led to slaughter.

At least Dilys wasn’t the only one who opposed Cadfael. She couldn’t help but notice a small group towards the back of the room which glared at them with a mixture of anger and despair. Their clothes were not as well kept as the rest of their family, if that was possible. Dressed in tunics and clothes which had been repaired many times, they stood in stark contrast to the modern dress of their relatives. They also did not eat. While everyone in the room seemed to have a bowl or a cup, their table was bare. They watched with shadowed eyes as Cadfael seated her at the largest table.

A steaming bowl of broth was already waiting for her, and with it a piece of coarse bread. She mumbled a thank you as she sat at the table and set her spoon in the thin liquid. Puddles of golden fat dotted the surface of the broth, but beyond that there was nothing to determine what had been used in its creation. Glory looked around meekly as she sipped the broth and nibbled the bread. Few tried to hide their interest in her, and she hunched her shoulders, looking into her bowl as if embarrassed.

“You’ll have to excuse my family,” Cadfael said, flirtatiously placing a hand between her shoulders. “We’re not used to such lovely visitors.” She fought the urge to clench her fists and tell him to keep his hands to himself. He was apparently quite aware of how handsome he was with his red-gold hair and beautiful black eyes so dark pupil and iris could not be separated. In the short time she’d known him however, she’d come to loathe him almost as much as she did her sister. Besides, there was no sense in tipping her hand too soon. “Ah, and here is some mulled wine to help you sleep soundly through the storm,” he announced as a young woman carrying a steaming mug threaded her way through the crowd.

Looking up, she caught the eye of one of the outcasts in the corner. He gave an imperceptible shake of his head as Cadfael set the cup in her hands. So… the mulled wine was drugged, big surprise. She sniffed at it and played with the cup as if warming her fingers. It would probably have no affect on her, but there was no reason to take any chances.

She cleared her throat, choosing her words carefully. “I’m looking for a friend of mine. Maybe you‘ve seen her?”

“Oh?” Cadfael feigned surprised. “We’re all family here. There have been no visitors to our island for many months.”

“It has been several months since she was last seen. Jess was doing a survey of the islands for the port authority, which are still inhabited and which might be of interest to tourists, that kind of thing. She’s a small woman, about five foot nothing and straight brown hair to about here.” Glory raised her hand to her jaw line. “I have a picture, but I left it upstairs.

Cadfael slowly shook his head as if trying to think. “I don’t remember anyone like that, but maybe you can show us the picture in the morning when the light is better.” He smiled, glancing down at the untouched cup in her hands. “You should drink your wine.”

Glory contemplated the mug and gave Cadfael a considering look out of the corner of her eye. “Can I take it up to my room with me? It’s still too hot to drink, I think.”

“Of course!” he replied in an expansive tone, flashing his ingratiating smile again. He helped her to her feet, and led her back through his gathered family who stared at her as if she were an exhibit in a zoo. Some of them even snickered as she passed. Did they really think they weren’t obvious? Even without Dilys’ warnings and the attitude of the ferry captain, she’d have known something was up. Cadfael took a lit candle from an alcove near the doorway and led her back toward the stairwell and the window. He seemed determined to expose her to the window as much as possible, and she realized that she’d have to examine it at some point when no one was around. Though she had no evidence to indicate Jess had come to the island, Glory was convinced that she had and the window was obviously a key to the mystery of her disappearance.

to Book 4, page 6

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2 Responses to “Tattoo Book 4.5”

  1. here2read said

    *chanting to Glory* “dont drink it… dont drink it”

    • harmony0stars said

      heh, I don’t think it’s any time for her to test the limits of the sword’s enchantments.

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