Tattoo: The Books of Glory

a webserial about people who are not like us

Tattoo Book 4.11

Posted by harmony0stars on July 12, 2009

As they passed through the gate, the leader of the hunt let out a shout which was answered from within. People came running to help the riders down from their horses. Unlike Carys’ family, these people were not all cast from one mold. Glory could easily pick out who was related to whom, and not just by their wardrobe. Perhaps only those directly related to Carys’ line could be called into the land of the living, but there were obviously quite a few more people beyond the doors of Caer Wydr than just her ancestors.

Glory slid off the saddle without assistance and stood by the horse, her hand on its neck. Right at that moment, the horse was probably the friendliest creature in the place. It snorted and turned its head to look at her and she gently stroked its nose. She’d always liked horses. When she was eleven, she and her sister had received riding lessons for their birthday. Glory had been overjoyed, her sister decidedly less so. The lessons had stopped abruptly when Lori “accidentally” cut one of the horses in the face with a bridle, claiming it had tried to bite her.

A group of exasperated boys were rounding up the dogs, which had scattered on entry. From the tone of their shouting, it seemed they were having a harder time than usual. The dogs ran about, sniffing and yipping in tones of delight. They seemed quite happy in their wanderings, not at all as cowed as they had been in the forest. Maybe they were just glad to be home in an environment with which they were familiar. The horses, for their part, didn’t seem to mind the dogs, though the grooms cursed the dogs and the boys vehemently, probably worried that the horses would be spooked by the dogs underfoot or that the dogs might get stepped on. Both animals were equally valuable.

One of the dogs came sniffing by Glory’s feet and she crouched down and held out her hand. The dog stopped and eyed her warily before coming closer. It sniffed her outstretched fingers, then sat patiently as she gently scratched under its chin, more roughly around its ears, and finally to all the really itchy spots that were hard for a dog to reach. Its fear of her forgotten, it nudged her hand for more, even as one of the boys came upon it and shooed it back to its pack mates and the kennel.

Her escort had dismounted and looked at her oddly as she stood up. Glory raised her eyebrow and gave him a defiant look which only made him chuckle and shake his head. “I’d be careful of petting a hunting dog. You’re more likely to lose a hand than make a friend.” The horse whickered as if in agreement.

Glory shrugged noncommittally. She suspected that the dogs had only panicked because of the way she had confronted them with her sword drawn. Otherwise, they were as unlikely to cause her harm as any other non-human animal. She had tattoos to calm and befriend animals. It was only humanity she had issues with. Her tattoos named her a friend and most animals would go with their instincts once their surprise had worn off, especially given the fact that she‘d done nothing to reinforce their fear. Humans were decidedly less inclined to obey their instincts.

Any uncertainty about her status among her captors was cleared up as the leader of the hunt gestured towards Glory with his chin and told her companion to wait outside the largest of the round houses. Obviously, he intended to plead his case to his father and then call for her to be brought inside. Her companion frowned as the other hunters and Carys passed through the entrance. Carys gave Glory an unreadable look as she passed.

For his part, her erstwhile riding partner looked more than a little insulted and embarrassed. He tried not to look at Glory at all as he waited by her side, apparently as her guard. As the moments ticked by, he looked steadily more guilty and miserable, though why he should feel anything at all about her circumstances was beyond her.
“I’m Glory,” she said after a boring few minutes of standing around with nothing to do but twiddle her thumbs and bide her time. It had already occurred to her that either she was speaking Welsh or somehow her words had been given meaning by passage through Caer Wydr. Which was convenient to say the very least. Things would have been much more difficult if she could not communicate.

He flinched as if startled by the sound of her voice. “I am Gwythyr,” he replied stiffly after a moment of consternation, sinking almost immediately into a glum silence.

“Can I ask why you seem so… anxious?” Glory queried after several more seconds passed without conversation.

He seemed at a loss for words, but finally responded apologetically, “I am sorry that you are being treated so rudely. Unlike others who have lately visited, you are obviously no commoner and should at least be given a seat and refreshment while you wait.”

Glory reflected on what she recalled of the Mabinogion. Yes, there had been things pertaining to proper decorum. Lack of hospitality towards noble guests was practically a sin in Celtic mythology. Insults came in at a close second. Lack of respect towards one’s superiors another. She tried to remember if there was anything else, but at that moment, a servant came to the door and motioned for them to enter.

Gwythyr sighed and followed Glory into the dim interior. His mention of other visitors had not escaped her, and she was left to wonder what had happened to them. It may have been her imagination, but the way he‘d brought them up… it didn’t seem as though they had been treated well upon arrival.

Her eyes adjusted quickly to the light. Gently curving tables lined the walls of the round house with an elevated table at the center. It was to this table that she was led. Many people, obviously family and their spouses, sat at the long tables. They stopped eating and their talk tapered away to silence as she approached.

There were very few people within the building who showed any sign of age, but the man who sat at the center of the room was the exception. His hair was as golden as everyone else’s but there were liberal amounts of silver at his temples. He watched her approach with an ambiguous expression. To his right sat a woman she assumed was his wife. Though she was also showing signs of age, she still was easily the most beautiful woman in the building. Her expression was also unreadable. Their son however sat to the left of his father and glared at Glory as if to burn holes in her head.

Arawn was silent several seconds as he regarded her to the point that she wondered if she should speak first. Finally though, he said, “I want you to know, stranger, that if one of my people were missing, you would be summarily dealt with as others have been before you.” Glory blinked as she processed this information. Dealt with did not sound good. She hoped that he did not mean that they had been killed or her trip was for nothing. She didn‘t like the idea of telling Jess‘ mother that her daughter was gone forever. “That we have had the pleasure of greeting a long lost relative is a point in your favor,” he continued and everyone glanced in Carys‘ direction. She smiled radiantly, now dressed in gold brocaded silk like the others. “That you spooked my son’s dogs and ruined his hunt is not. I do not know you,” he said, steepling his fingers, “which is strange in and of itself. No one traverses my lands without my knowledge. Now,” he said, leaning forward in his chair, “who are you and what do you have to say for yourself.”

Swallowing past a lump that had suddenly appeared her throat, Glory opened her mouth not exactly sure he’d believe her or even what was the proper address when speaking to a king. “My name is Glory, great King. I am from a land called America, far across the ocean. I am here by the request of a mother searching for her lost daughter. … and I believe I may have some answers concerning your lost family members as well.”

As Glory told Arawn about the glass doors and the exchange of people, his expression changed from disbelief to surprise to fury and finally to contemplation. His wife and many of the others in the hall looked alarmed, but his son continued to stare at Glory with utter loathing. “Father! You can’t believe this story! It’s preposterous.”

Arawn held up his hand to silence his son’s complaints and turned to Carys. “Is what she says true?”

Carys looked from Glory to Arawn blankly. “I – I honestly don’t know. I don’t remember anything until I woke up in the field. She was there also and helped me to my feet. She called me friend, though I did not remember ever seeing her before.”

Arawn looked thoughtful as he turned back to Glory. “The door of Caer Wydr is not meant to work the way you say. None of my family should be plucked forth and exchanged for others. What proof can you offer?”

Glory racked her brain. What proof did she have? “Carys? How did you get your scar?” she asked quietly after several seconds.

Carys absently touched the white mark on her cheek and bit her lip. “My… husband. He hit me.” Tears sprang up in her eyes.

“Do you remember what happened after that? You told me only a few hours ago.”

“I-?” she looked perplexed, struggling to remember the events. “I don’t. I’m sorry.”

“He went through the door and Cadfael took his place.” Glory asserted.

“I do remember my brother was there…” Carys murmured uneasily.

“Cadfael was the first to disappear.” Arawn agreed thoughtfully. And the man who appeared at the time was a Teuton, a German as you say.”

“Is he still here?” Glory queried.

“No,” said Arawn with a note of finality. “He was rude and offensive in his actions. He was shown hospitality at first, but he was undeserving. If I had known what his true offense was, I would have dealt with him even more harshly.” He fixed his eyes on Glory. “I think that there is truth in what you say, but it is also a possibility that you could be a party to the disappearances and are merely using what you know to alter our understanding.” His son’s smug look evaporated as his father continued. “Until we can ascertain what has occurred here, you will be our guest.”

“Father!” Arawn looked at his son sharply, and the boy had the good sense to close his mouth and look away.

His eyes still on his son, Arawn announced, “You will be our honored guest and every courtesy will be extended to you so long as you act with the decorum befitting a noble.” Glory had the feeling he was referring more to his son’s lack of manners than hers.

to Book 4, page 12

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2 Responses to “Tattoo Book 4.11”

  1. here2read said

    somehow honor guest, sounds more like held captive with limited freedoms.
    hehehe

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