Tattoo: The Books of Glory

a webserial about people who are not like us

Tattoo Book 4.15

Posted by harmony0stars on August 9, 2009

Unlike Arawn’s settlement, Gwythyr’s mother’s place was well hidden just inside the tree line. Its sudden appearance as they rode between two immense and ancient trees had taken Glory by complete surprise. The younger trees of the hidden vale pressed close around a single building which seemed to sag under the weight of the many branches overhead, withdrawing into the craggy cleft behind it like a wounded thing. The weathered home gave the impression of a sick animal retreating into its lair. Glory had a déjà vu moment as she followed Gwythyr to the entrance. Carys’ home had the same air of decrepitude and despair.

Stepping into the wide opening, Glory saw that the neglected wall of wood was only a façade over a vast cave entrance. Maybe it had once been a mine or a natural cavern, but the hard work of several generations had expanded the cave system into a habitation. While the entrance had obviously seen better days, the interior was well kept with clean rushes on the floor and rush light candles in tin sockets on the walls. Glory was again struck by the similarities between Carys’ home and the cave. Many of the walls were not just chiseled from the rock, but tooled in exquisite patterns, not unlike the knots that flowed through the mansion.

The groom followed them in with the horses. Apparently they were stabled in a side cave where they would be safe from predators and thieves. No doubt the presence of the animals also helped warm the place up a little.

There were a lot more people present than she would have expected from the outside. None of them looked too pleased to see Glory and Gwythyr, though they hid it well, only daring to glare at the visitors from the corners of their eyes. In contrast to Arawn’s settlement, many of Gwythyr’s people were dressed as if for battle, with swords strapped to their belts or carrying armloads of spears and other implements of war to some designated spot. Glory couldn’t help but wonder who their enemy was.

Not that Gwythyr seemed to notice any of this as he strode through the caves, smiling at everyone and completely at home. Glory suspected he was just one of those naturally gregarious people who could never think ill of someone even if that someone were stabbing him in the back. As much as she knew it was in his best interests to become aware of the attitude of his peers, she still envied him. Ignorance was bliss after all.

Glory hung back shyly as Gwythyr stepped into the great hall. She was going to meet royalty for the second time in as many days, and she still had absolutely no idea how to act. At least she’d been a prisoner the first time. It had taken some of the pressures off of observing the expected niceties. She wasn’t even sure how to address Gwythyr’s mother. It might have been a useful topic of conversation on the ride over, but she’d been busy enjoying the scenery.

A man rose from where he was kneeling before a woman seated on an ornate chair. Turning, he walked briskly in the opposite direction as Gwythyr approached the woman. It was quite obvious to anyone that he was leaving because of Gwythyr, and for the first time, Gwythyr seemed to notice someone’s rudeness towards him. Just for a moment, he stopped and stared after the man. He looked sad, but shook it off and quickly knelt before his mother.

Her hair was dark auburn without a strand of gray, and her skin was so pale it was nearly luminous in the dim cavern. Arawn’s wife was lovely, but this woman was like a porcelain doll. She certainly didn’t look old enough to be Gwythyr’s mother. “My son,” the woman sighed, resting her hand on his head. He caught her hand and pressed fingers to his mouth. “You stay away entirely too long.”

“Mother… you are the only one who loves me here.” Ah, so he wasn’t entirely oblivious to the dirty looks, Glory thought to herself. That made his situation all the sadder. Glory fought the sudden urge to drag the man who had left back into the room and make him apologize. She could stand being mistreated herself. Having had most of her life to get used to it, she could suffer a lot before finally snapping. But it rubbed her the wrong way to see it done to others, and she had no patience for rudeness.

“Don’t think too harshly of them. It’s not you they resent. If you visited more often, they would know your heart.” She chided Gwythyr gently. Glory picked up on a slight accent, a cadence really, to the woman‘s words. So she wasn‘t a local, which explained Gwythyr‘s coloring. “Who is your friend, then? Not one of Arawn‘s brood I take it?”

Gwythyr climbed to his feet awkwardly and motioned Glory to come forward. Whether he had forgotten about her or mention of Arawn had embarrassed him further, he flushed a deep red as he made the introductions. “Mother, this is the Lady Glory of America. Glory, this is my mother, the Lady Muireann.”

Not sure exactly what was expected of her, Glory curtsied as best she could in her borrowed riding skirts. This seemed to be the right response as Lady Muireann smiled and held out her hands for Glory to approach. “Well, you are lovely, child,” the Lady announced, taking Glory’s hands and examining her. “It’s about time Gwythyr looked for a wife. I don‘t recognize your tribe though.”

“Oh, ah…I‘m not…” Glory was mortified, but Gwythyr was worse.

“Oh! Um… no, she’s not… that is… I haven‘t asked… we only just met…” He spluttered to a stop, covering his red face with his hands.

His mother chuckled and winked at Glory as if sharing an inside joke, as if to imply that men had to be goaded into these things. Well, she had entirely the wrong idea, but Glory had no idea how to tell her that.

Taking a deep breath, Gwythyr stepped forward and gently took his mother’s hands. Glory stepped back, grateful for her freedom. “Mother… you must know of Lord Arawn‘s missing kinsmen.” Muireann’s eyes narrowed at mention of Arawn, and her sweet smile became a compressed line at mention of his son. “The Prince has taken a dislike to Glory and tried to turn his father against her. I… did not want her to end up like the others.”

Lady Muireann looked as if she might say something harsh about Arawn and his son, but seeing Gwythyr’s hangdog expression, she softened. “Of course she may stay Gwythyr, especially if she is no friend to Arawn and his spawn. You know any enemy of his is welcome in this house, if no other.”

“Mother….” Gwythyr replied helplessly. It was clear that this was an old argument that he had no chance of winning.

“Hush, I know he has been kind to you, but I know him better. His son acts just like he did at that age. With time, he’ll learn to hide his true feelings, just like his father did. But neither of them are to be trusted. Already his son matches him in magic. You have no idea how much that family has wronged us. I would not be surprised if Neirin attempts to usurp his father‘s place just as Arawn connived his way to his brother‘s crown.”

“Father was killed by Pwyll, mother, not Arawn,” Gwythyr replied sadly.

“But who sent Pwyll and told him how to do it?” she hissed angrily, all pretence at a civil conversation discarded. “Arawn knew the people would never accept him if he killed his own brother, so he tricked Pwyll into doing it instead. He told the fool what to do, knowing what would befall him if he did it himself. When he returned, he told us what he wanted us to think, that Pwyll was responsible, but I know better! Arawn is a treacherous and blood-hungry wolf, and his son is worse. He has stolen from you the use of magic, and you are no safer there than this girl.“ She gestured at Glory, and as if remembering her presence, calmed perceptibly.

“I’m sorry my dear,” she said, turning to Glory with a weary smile. “You must think we are very rude, arguing like this in front of you. I’ll call for someone to show you to a room where you can refresh yourself.”

to Book 4, page 16


One Response to “Tattoo Book 4.15”

  1. here2read said

    hmmm and the plot thickens…

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