Tattoo: The Books of Glory

a webserial about people who are not like us

Tattoo Book 4.17

Posted by harmony0stars on August 23, 2009

“The spell only lasts one year if not renewed.” Lady Muireann explained apologetically. “We have tried to gather them ourselves, to bring them inside where they would be safe, but they are understandably fearful of people. I am sure that one hunting party looks much the same to them as any other.”

“Arawn has let it be known that your people are free to go after the year is up, but so far, none of them have survived the year,” Aonghas blurted, still directing his comments at Gwythyr. He seemed determined to turn her against his cousin. “We no longer hunt in the forest. The thought of eating any animal that might once have been human is just too revolting.”

“Do you think it is easy, Aonghas?” Gwythyr put his hands on the table and glared past his mother to his cousin. “Do you imagine that I can just say no? That I can come home whenever I like? I am not given a choice. Everyone who has questioned Neirin’s hunts has met the same end as our unfortunate visitors. Neirin sees it as defiance and convinces his father of their guilt. If Dilys were still here, she would put her brother in his place, but there is no one else to speak against him. Arawn favors Neirin even more now that he is an only child, but I think he is also afraid of him. You are mistaken if you think Arawn is unaware of your preparations here. He has always known that you hate him, and he has kept me there to prevent your attack. But he sent me away, and Glory with me. What does that tell you?”

Aonghas smiled cruelly, a vicious gleam in his eye. “It tells me the old fool has finally made a mistake, and the time for our attack is now.”

Lady Muireann cocked her head to the side as if considering, while Gwythyr went very pale. “No… you cannot,” he cried, aghast.

“If he’s always kept Gwythyr close as a means to deter your attack,” Glory interjected quickly. “Then Arawn might expect one in his absence. It could be a trap.”

“What do you know of it?” Aonghas queried in a challenging sneer.

“I only meant that if he’s never been so careless before, assuming he’s being careless now could be a fatal mistake.”

“I think that we should consider our actions very carefully,” Lady Muireann announced, laying her hand on Aonghas‘ arm before he could growl anything more. “Arawn has always sent Gwythyr back to us with an escort, a veiled threat to his life meant to discourage us from using his visit as an opportunity. This time, he sent no one. Why? Too much hinges on the outcome of our battle. After all this time waiting, we cannot afford to act in haste.”

The dining hall had become very quiet during the argument. All eyes were trained on the high table, and Lady Muireann acknowledged them with a weary smiled as she slowly rose to her feet. Aonghas quickly leapt up to assist her as she limped away from the table. Her leg was hidden by her dress, but Glory caught a glimpse of something… not right, but they disappeared into a dark passage before she saw anything more.

With Lady Muireann gone, servants began emptying the tables. It seemed without her presence, the meal was over. Gwythyr stared after his mother for a long time. A few diners sat and talked quietly, probably about the impending battle, but most of them left via the main doors.

Glory was just beginning to wonder if she could find her way back to her room on her own when Gwythyr finally turned to her. He tried to smile, but it was pretty much a lost effort. Despite that, he held out his hand and said, “I want to show you something. Please?”

She let him draw her to her feet and followed as he led her down the same passage his mother and cousin had taken. Just inside the passage were several more openings leading off in different directions. Taking a rush light from its sconce, he led her down a sloping tunnel that seemed noticeably cooler than the hall had been. She found out why as the passageway opened up onto an expansive cavern. Water dripped from the ceiling into a vast, underground lake. There was so much water, she doubted it was fed merely by rainwater percolating through the rock above. Somewhere a fish splashed. Boats were moored beside a dock and some men looked up from their nets as they passed, but Gwythyr didn‘t stop and the men went back to securing their catch.

“You’ll be safe here.” he announced without preamble. “There’s no lack of food or water. My mother could withstand a siege years long without worrying about supplies. Neither Arawn nor Neirin could drag you from this place, and my mother would refuse to hand you over to them simply out of abstinence.”

“What if I don’t want to be safe here?” Glory demanded, and Gwythyr looked startled. Obviously his whole reason for bringing her down here had been to assure her of her safety. It was a sweet thought, but she didn‘t need the protection. “I came to find Jess,” she asserted. “And then, I am going home.”

“How? Even if you find the girl, only Arawn knows how to open Caer Wydr,” Gwythyr protested.

“I don’t think that can possibly be true if he was unaware that his missing people were being taken through it.” At Gwythyr’s doubtful look, Glory continued. “Your mother thinks sending you here without an escort may be a trap Arawn has set to lure her into action.”

“What do you mean? You suggested it to her yourself.”

“I do think it’s a trap, and if suggesting as much to your mother is enough to deter a war, all well and good. I‘m sure a lot of good people on both sides would die, and that‘s a waste. Righting an old wound doesn’t seem to me to be enough justification for the slaughter that would follow, no matter how much of tyrant Arawn may be. But beyond that, I don’t think the trap was designed to catch your mother. I think we were sent away to lure whoever has been taking Arawn’s kinsmen and sending them through Caer Wydr. Just because we didn’t see anyone doesn’t mean we didn’t have an escort. And if we were not attacked on our way here, when there were two of us, there’s no reason to believe a lone traveler won’t be attacked on the return trip.”

Gwythyr shook his head. “I will not dispute your story. I do not know enough about Caer Wydr to say whether it is plausible. But I think your idea that Arawn is using me as bait is… farfetched.

“Tell me about the people who have gone missing. Were they supporters of Arawn or dissenters? More importantly, did they support Neirin? How many of them were like Dilys, willing to speak out against him and keep him in check? How many of them would have supported a war with your mother‘s followers and how many would have stood against it?”

Gwythyr frowned. Suddenly, he looked very angry and leaned towards her with a snarl. “Are you trying to implicate my family?!”

“What? No! I’m saying it’s probably Neirin!”

He could not have looked more surprised if she had reached into the lake and smacked him with a fish. He straightened up, his mouth in a little round ‘oh’ as he thought it over. “As monstrous as he is… I don’t think Neirin would have harmed his own sister,” he decided after a moment.

“No? According to your mother, Arawn is responsible for your father’s death. So why wouldn’t Neirin try to get Dilys out of the way when she was clearly her father’s favorite? Besides, she hasn‘t been harmed. Technically, she‘s exiled to my land and while her existence isn‘t exactly pleasant, her life isn‘t in any danger either. The only stipulation is that my people are paying for Neirin‘s crimes. He gets rid of rivals for his father‘s attention and at the same time receives convenient scapegoats to muddy his guilt.”

to Book 4, part 2, page 18


2 Responses to “Tattoo Book 4.17”

  1. here2read said

    politics… backstabbing… spin artist… wow its like this is set in DC… hehehehe

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