Tattoo Book 4.9
Posted by harmony0stars on June 28, 2009
Glory blinked, and she was kneeling in a sunlit meadow. A gentle breeze sent ripples through the tall grass like waves. She turned her head and spied Carys sitting in the grass a few feet away, also surveying her surroundings. She dazedly blinked up at Glory as she approached.
“Carys? Are you alright?” she asked.
“Do I know you?” Carys asked calmly. She peered into Glory’s eyes curiously for a moment before returning her gaze to the swaying grass and the woods beyond. A dog or wolf bayed somewhere.
“I’m your friend,” she replied, crouching to help the old woman to her feet. “I’m Glory. Don’t you remember?”
Though she leaned on Glory’s arm, Carys climbed to her feet with more strength than she’d shown only seconds before… if it had been seconds. The transition from the mansion to this place was somehow blurry in Glory’s mind, as if she had not arrived all at once or in her entirety. We parts of her mind still catching up? She released Carys’ arm, since she didn’t seem to need the support, and examined her hands.
It may just have been the strangeness of their journey that made Glory uneasy, but the quality of light seemed slightly off as well. She spread her hand and wiggled her fingers and after a moment realized that she had no shadow. Nor did Carys who had started walking towards the trees. There were no shadows anywhere, not even in the creases of their clothes. Except under the trees, that’s where the shadows were. Where the trees began, the light ended as if someone had drawn a line. It might as well have been nighttime there, and Glory had a sinking feeling the woods were not where they wanted to be.
Aside from the baying of a dog, which continued to cry out every so often, there was no sound aside from the rushing wind. Glory followed Carys towards the trees hoping that if this place was Carys’ ancestral afterlife, then perhaps some instinct was telling her which way to go. Still, she didn’t like the look of the darkness of the forest.
“Uh, Carys… do you really think we should go in there?”
Carys stopped, cocking her head to the side as she regarded Glory. “You can go wherever you like, dear, but I have to find my family.” Her tone wasn’t cruel. She wasn’t telling Glory off; she was simply indifferent to her presence. Glory wondered if she even remembered her life, that she had been virtually bed ridden with old age only moments before.
Taking a deep breath, she let it out in a sigh before following Carys into the darkness. The woman paid her no mind. Glory took one final look at the sunlit meadow before letting the darkness swallow her.
The gloom under the trees made it seem like midnight, and there was no end to the seemingly primordial forest. A few feet in, and the meadow might not have existed at all. Light grudgingly crept in through the leaves above. It was barely enough to see by. Even Carys seemed to struggle in the dark, though the underbrush caused Glory more difficulty than Carys, catching at her feet as if reluctant to let her pass. Carys walked without stumbling, but aimlessly, as if unsure of her direction. Glory could hardly blame her. Without access to the sun, it was impossible to know north from south. She supposed Carys’ aimlessness made up for the ornery nature of the brush. At least she wasn’t too worried about losing the old woman in the murk.
Glory had never been afraid of the dark, but the incessant baying of the hound and the minute creaking of the trees was starting to make her jumpy. She couldn’t tell if the scurrying sounds she heard were caused by her progress through the scrub or actual animals in the dark. A root or vine caught her foot, and she stumbled into a tree, barely catching herself in time to stop a painful head butt into an ancient oak.
With a growl, she popped her sword, just enough to light her palm, and raised it above her head. The affect was immediate. All the little sounds of the wood suddenly ceased and the underbrush that had been causing her so much difficulty was suddenly nowhere to be found. The ground was not completely barren, but aside from a few low trees or bushes, the earth was as smooth and brown as one would expect in such a dim place. Of course… what could possibly grow without light? Clenching her teeth, Glory hurried after Carys.
Carys turned and blinked at Glory in surprise. “What is that?” she asked, gesturing at Glory’s raised hand.
“Light,” Glory grunted without explanation, too irritated by the forest’s attempts to hinder her to go into detail, not that she was much inclined to talk about something she didn‘t really understand herself. She’d always had great affection for trees and plants, and after living in the park for so many months, she’d thought she was on fairly good terms with the vegetable kingdom. Apparently not.
Carys opened her mouth as if she might say something more, but was cut off by a white doe which landed with a thud between them. With a grunt of exertion, the hard soil under its hooves flew out in clods as it immediately bounced upward and over a low bush. Glory had once read that deer could leap six feet straight upwards, but damn! Her heart thudded in her chest as if beaten by a crazy percussionist.
A hound bayed nearby and another, and suddenly a pack of white and red hounds surged through the brush, close on the heels of the doe. Behind them came a rider on a white horse, and several more behind him. Neither the dogs nor the riders gave Glory or Carys a glance, but Carys’ eye lit up, and she ran in pursuit of the hunters as if she hoped to catch the stag all by herself.
Glory was left behind before she even had a chance to consider following. She stood dumbfounded as the forest went as silent as it had been a moment earlier. Even the sound of the hunting party was swallowed by the darkness.
Just as she had made the decision to try following in their wake, the doe came bounding back through the brush. It stumbled just a few feet from Glory, its nose quivering and running with mucus. It was clear that the deer was nearly run to ground. Glory expected the doe to try to get past her. Instead, it limped and panted towards Glory, then with a sigh, lay down at her feet with as much grace could be expected from an animal nearly run to death. Which is to say, not much. The doe’s head lolled back as the animal let it rest against Glory’s leg, staring up at her with huge, terrified eyes. If there was ever an animal which by its actions asked a human for help, this had to be the most eloquent plea.
Baying and barking, the hounds rushed through the bushes, and Glory stepped over the doe to stand between them and it. The dogs showed no sign of stopping until she let the glow in her hand expand, her sword fully revealed. Some of the hounds stopped in their tracks while those behind collided with their pack mates, but many of them turned tail and attempted to run back the way they had come… which startled the horse of the lead rider as he came through the underbrush. The horse reared, and the man just barely kept his seat. For several minutes there was chaos as the other riders caught up and fought to retain control of their mounts. Glory spotted Carys, doubled up behind one of the hunters, and was surprised to see her stay on the horse at all. It may have been the darkness under the trees, but Glory thought she looked younger, not young, but certainly not as ancient as she had been when they first met.
The lead rider was quite obviously livid as he trotted his horse closer. “Who are you, stranger, to come between me and my lawful prey? Stand aside.” He bit off the last two words as if he were emphasizing a blow.
“And if I refuse?” Glory asked, though she wasn’t at all eager to find out.
to Book 4, page 10