Tattoo: The Books of Glory

a webserial about people who are not like us

Tattoo Book 4.16

Posted by harmony0stars on August 16, 2009

Despite their initial frosty welcome, Gwythyr’s relatives were certainly more hospitable than Arawn’s people had been. A smiling servant appeared as soon as Lady Muireann called and led Glory to a bedroom. The room was already lit with rush light candles and fresh clothes were laid out on the bed. Anticipation might be the sign of good help, but it also meant that there were no secrets among the staff.

When the girl tried to help Glory change, she had to put her foot down. She didn’t want to be the topic of conversation any more than she already would be through her arrival. For the moment, her tattoos were mostly covered up by her borrowed clothes, but that didn‘t mean she wanted everyone in the place to speculate on the relatively intimate placement of some of her tattoos or their meanings.

“Um, thank you. I can dress myself,” she announced, gently removing the girl’s hands from her clothes.

The girl gave her a puzzled look, but replied, “If you say so, lady. Will you need anything more?”

“No, thank you.” Glory answered, making a show of going to a small table where a pitcher and bowl sat and pouring water into the bowl. She washed her hands and face and hoped she wasn’t being too obvious about her desire for the girl to leave. Still, she was relieved when the girl curtsied awkwardly and took a step toward the door.

“Call if you need anything else, lady.” At least the girl didn’t seem offended. She smiled cheerfully as she turned, closing the door behind her.

With a sigh Glory sat down on the bed, another frame filled with a mattress, and sank into the pillow-like surface almost a half a foot. Feathers, not herbs. And this room had a door, not a curtain. Arawn’s people had all the trappings of the ruling class and the attitude to go with it, but this place was older and better kept than his settlement. In all probability, he’d abandoned this place shortly after taking over Annwn in order to distance himself from his brother’s death. Which also meant Gwythyr was his nephew. The adoption may have been nothing more than a way to reinforce his new role as king over all of Annwn and show how benevolent he was. How Machiavellian of him. If Arawn was really as bad as Lady Muireann indicated though, Glory was surprised Gwythyr hadn’t yet had a fatal accident.

She changed into the clothes which had been left for her. Long sleeves, probably meant to ward off the chill of living underground, would also be useful in keeping most of her tattoos hidden. The dress was crafted from wool dyed a blue so dark it was nearly black. A wide embroidered belt and some decorative trim along the collar and bell sleeves relieved the severity of the dress with lighter, metallic threads. They sparkled in the candlelight. It was as unlike the fashion in Arawn’s settlement as night was from day, literally. Arawn’s people had worn light colors, richly brocaded. From signs of wear, Glory suspected the dress she’d been given had been in fashion when the caves had been the center of Annwn. Even the slippers she’d been left were old, with one of the soles recently replaced.

It was only a few minutes after she was done dressing that someone knocked on the door. “Come in,” she called, and the same little servant girl opened the door.

“Would you like me to fix your hair, lady?”

“There’s not much to be done with it, I’m afraid,” Glory replied, ruffling her short curls. After receiving the sword, the growth of her hair and nails had slowed to a halt. She was just grateful that she hadn’t been left bald. Not that she was all that fashion conscious, but her hair had always been one of her few concession to vanity. Mr Motou had burnt the hair along with various woods and herbs, using the resultant ash to make the ink of her tattoos.

Her hands full of ribbons and combs, the girl seemed determined to at least try. Glory sat down on a stool by the table to make it easier on her. Having someone fuss over her was something of a new experience, but she couldn’t help but smile at the frustrated sighs and harrumphs of the girl as she tried unsuccessfully to do something with Glory’s hair. It wasn’t as if she hadn’t been warned.

Finally some small comb found enough purchase in her hair to stay, and the girl was satisfied that Glory had been suitably gussied up. “Thank you.” Glory smiled at the girl, who looked vaguely embarrassed.

“You are welcome, lady,” she mumbled with a slight blush, lowering her eyes. It occurred to Glory that perhaps she was being too polite. Courtesy was a term coined from the use of courtly manners and was not something necessarily shown to servants. Ah well, it was too late to be brusque now. Continuing to be nice would certainly cause less discussion than a sudden change in her mannerisms.

Glory stood and asked, “What is your name?”

“Oh! I am Tesni, lady,” the girl replied, curtsying and looking at the floor. “Shall I show you to the dining hall?” she queried shyly.

“Yes, please.” Curtsying again, Tesni led Glory down several corridors which looked exactly alike, taking her deeper underground through gently sloping tunnels. She wondered just how deep the caverns went. How many people were holed up here, waiting to duke it out with Arawn?

They came to two ornate doors which opened onto a room with a vaulted ceiling so high she could only see the tips of stalactites illuminated by chandeliers. The chandeliers hung down on chains attached to the walls, allowing servants to lower them when it was necessary to add more fuel. Mineral deposits glittered in the rough, unworked walls, left there as decoration by the generations who had crafted the hall. It seemed only the floor had been leveled by the ancient workers. The light made the cavern quiver with reflected light, as if ecstatic in its own natural beauty.

The room hummed with quiet conversation. Like Arawn’s hall, tables lined the walls in a half circle. Even if only the nobles were represented, there were probably twice as many servants and warriors elsewhere in the caves. Arawn’s people certainly must be outnumbered, though he probably had allies in other settlements to call upon. Still Glory wondered what they were waiting for.

Lady Muireann’s table was set higher than the others and was inhabited by herself in the middle with Gwythyr and the man who had so rudely left on his arrival to either side. Both men were obviously trying not to look at one another and instead made conversation with their neighbors at the table. Gwythyr smiled in welcome as Tesni seated her by his side.

“The dress suits you, child,” his mother announced with a smile, causing Glory to blush. She was not at all used to compliments of any kind.

“Thank you,” she mumbled.

“Gwythyr has told me that you come from a land beyond my homeland of Eire. That’s a long way to travel. What brings you to Annwn?”

“I’m looking for someone, a girl. Her mother asked me to find her.”

“You won’t find her,” asserted the man on her left. “Not if Arawn found her first.” He glared at Gwythyr as if daring him to explain. Gwythyr did his best to ignore the man, putting a spoonful of food in his mouth.

“I know that people from my country have come here by accident and that Arawn has done something to them, but no one will explain what that is.” Glory announced in frustration.

Though the man spoke to Glory, she had the impression that he was directing all his words at Gwythyr. “You will notice,” he answered coldly, “that we have no red meat on the table.”

“Yes?” Glory glanced at the dishes. There was fish and vegetable dishes, but no red meat at all. She had a sinking feeling she knew where this was going, but hoped she was somehow wrong.

“Leave it, cousin.” There was a note of pleading in Gwythyr’s voice.

“She deserves to know, cousin.” The word was more a sneer than a term of affection. “You brought her here so she would not share the same fate. Would that you brought all the foundlings here, but perhaps it is not compassion that brought you here today.”

“Aonghas, enough,” Lady Muireann cut in before an argument could erupt. Turning to Glory, she explained. “Chief among Arawn’s abilities is transformation, his own and others. Every one of the people who arrived here from your homeland has been transformed to white harts and let loose in the woods.”

“Where Arawn’s son hunts them to stock his clan’s larder.” Aonghas finished smugly, glaring at Gwythyr. Lady Muireann sighed, giving Aonghas a hard look.

“Oh… oh my god, that’s disgusting.” Glory replied in revulsion. Gwythyr looked as if he’d like to sink into the floor. Yesterday, there had only been vegetables at their end of the table. She wondered if that was by Gwythyr’s request or if it was Neirin’s idea of punishment. The prince had glared at her throughout the meal, while chewing the meat on his plate with obvious gusto.

to Book 4, page 17


4 Responses to “Tattoo Book 4.16”

  1. Darkthorn said

    Mr Motou had burn the hair along with various woods and herbs, using the resultant ash to make the ink of her tattoos.

    Should be burnt 🙂 but all good

  2. Amy said

    Wow, so the first creature she stumbled on was probably the daughter. But I must say eeewww, that takes “The Greastest Game” to entirely different levels. No wonder the poor dear/deer laid her head in Glory’s lap. So now how is Glory gonna save her and get out of there?

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