Tattoo: The Books of Glory

a webserial about people who are not like us

Tattoo Book 4.14

Posted by harmony0stars on August 2, 2009

Glory was uncertain how long it had been going on, but the scritch-scratching of some kind of vermin slowly insinuated its way into her consciousness. The dim glow which defined the curtained door was the first thing that swam into view as she opened her eyes. Beyond that, the room was pitch black. As rustic as the place was, she wasn’t surprised to learn it had pests, but this mouse clearly had no fear as it steadily worked its way closer to the bed. As her eyes adjusted better to the gloom, she scanned the floor for her visitor.

Eventually she spotted the patch of darker gloom that jerked its way closer and closer to where she sat. It was more the dull gleam of the thing it carried that caught her attention however. She stayed as still as possible, but it didn‘t seem to notice that she was not asleep, straining as it was with its burden. If she’d still been capable of real sleep, she’d have thought she was dreaming.

Keeping perfectly still, she slyly plucked at the bedding until she had worked the corner of the top sheet free. The mouse was much too engrossed in its theft to notice her as she inched back off the bed, pulling the rest of the sheet free. A mouse, single-mindedly dragging a gold necklace into her room, could not be a coincidence. For one thing, the necklace looked exactly like the one Arawn’s wife had been wearing at dinner. Glory bunched the sheet up, folding it repeatedly to make it thicker and more manageable before crawling back onto the bed. Some rustling of the sweet herbs inside the mattress must have alerted the mouse to her movements. It looked up just in time to see the folded sheet come down on top of it.

She scooped up the mouse and necklace both, bouncing them off the soft mattress a couple times before opening the chest and dropping the wadded cloth inside. The mouse might chew its way through the layers of the sheet after it recovered from its concussion, but it would not have time to chew its way out of the chest. Seating herself on top of the chest, Glory prepared herself to wait for dawn.

It wasn’t a long wait. The servants began to murmur and move around outside the door well before the sun rose, getting ready for another day‘s work. As the sound of dogs, horses, and pigs filtered into the building from outside, louder more authoritative voices joined them. It was only a matter of minutes between what she took to be the first noble waking and shouts of alarm.

A few seconds later, the curtain of her room was jerked aside, and Arawn himself stormed into the room. He seemed a little surprised to see her waiting calmly, seated on the trunk, but he recovered quickly.

“Where is my son?” he demanded, his nostrils flaring with fury.

Glory raised an eyebrow. “Tell me… are you also missing a necklace?”

Arawn frowned, caught off guard by her question, and glanced out the door to where his wife stood ringing her hands. No doubt they’d discovered the theft first and their missing son afterwards. He narrowed his eyes as he turned back to her. “Why? What do you know about it?”

Glory stood up and opened the trunk. She picked up the wadded sheets, gently shaking it, and was gratified to feel the feeble movements of the mouse still trapped inside. Without looking, she thrust the whole bundle into Arawn’s hands and reseated herself on the trunk, hands clasped in her lap.

Frowning, he opened the wadded fabric. The frightened squeak of the mouse was quite audible. With a thunderous expression, Arawn shook the mouse out upon the floor, the necklace landing with a dull clunk on the floor beside it. An instant later, Neirin cringed before him.

“Father, I…”

“Stand up Neirin,” Arawn said with a disgusted sigh. “You embarrass me. Your sister never acted so childish.” Glory winced and their impromptu audience had the good grace to look uncomfortable as Arawn continued. “and your brother…”

“He is not my brother,” Neirin gritted, fists clenched at his side.

Arawn glared at Neirin silently before turning on his heel. His people had the good sense to scatter in his path, turning and attempting to look as if they hadn’t all been privy to the argument. Arawn walked away without another word. Only Neirin’s mother stood waiting, and he stalked past her without a word. She turned and followed after him, anxiously murmuring platitudes at her son.

Glory picked up the necklace and exited the room just in time to see Neirin turn and viciously growl something at his mother before stepping out into the morning light. She looked heartbroken. Someone coughed on her right, and Glory turned to see Gwythyr waiting beside her door. He looked absolutely mortified by the inadvertent part he’d played in his brother’s humiliation.

“I doubt she’d want this back from me, but can you make sure this is returned?”

Gwythyr accepted the necklace without comment, awkwardly tucking it into a pouch which hung from his belt. “I was… thinking. Maybe you would like to come with me to visit my mother.”

“Your mother?” Somehow she had assumed his mother must be dead, though where someone who died in the afterlife would go when they died was a paradoxical question.

“I thought… maybe it would be a good idea if my brother wasn’t reminded of your presence. And I do not get to see my mother often.”

“Is that allowed? I mean, aren’t I supposed to stay put?”

Gwythyr shrugged. “My father will still know where to find you if he needs you. He actually suggested my visit last night. Neirin’s in one of his moods, so it is best to just… make ourselves scarce for a little while.”

“Alright… but I’ll need something else to wear. This dress was definitely not made for riding.”

Gwythyr’s hangdog expression was instantly lightened by his sunny smile. She had a feeling he’d be smiling all the time if not for Neirin’s ugly jealousy. Glory couldn’t blame Gwythyr for being moody. She’d had little enough to smile about growing up with her own evil sibling. She’d had even less to smile about since then.

In a matter of minutes, he’d borrowed some riding skirts and boots for her. It was like wearing immense culottes. Swishing outside, she found Gwythyr waiting with two horses. Glory stroked her horse’s velvety nose before pulling herself up into the saddle. She was grateful for their slow pace as they left the village or castle or whatever the proper term for the settlement was. It gave her time to remember the few riding lessons she’d had as a child; she really didn’t want to embarrass herself by falling off.

They followed the tree line north, and Glory was relieved to see that the forest did not go on forever. Eventually the trees gave way to a wide valley with a few rounded hills in the distance. The hills were far too uniform to be natural though, and Glory suspected they were actually burial mounds. Of course, burial mounds beggared the question… who could be buried in the land of the dead?

By the time they reached Gwythyr’s mother’s settlement, it was close to midday. If not for the fact that her body no longer registered her surroundings in any significant way, Glory expected her muscles would be protesting the long trip. Instead she slid off the horse without any stiffness or assistance from the servant who was attempting to help her dismount. He looked completely flummoxed, and she couldn’t help but pity him. He was only trying to do his job. Sadly, she was no kind of lady.

to Book 4, page 15

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4 Responses to “Tattoo Book 4.14”

  1. Amy said

    very nice, I like the way she was able to put Neirin in his place without too much trouble, maybe it will help her cause with Arawn instead of alienating her as well.

    • harmony0stars said

      Hopefully… Arawn’s a pretty ambiguous guy to figure out though and the story’s far from done. 😉

  2. here2read said

    I dont know for all that trouble… I might have pryed a couple of stones loose… LOL

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