Tattoo: The Books of Glory

a webserial about people who are not like us

Tattoo Book 4, Part 2.8

Posted by harmony0stars on October 18, 2009

“You may not have to worry about your mother,” Glory declared. “Tesni went to warn her about the Fomorians before we left. With any luck, Lady Muireann’s not going to be too happy with Aonghas’ warriors. She may not come to Arawn’s aid, but that won’t stop her from turning her warriors on the Fomorians if she believes they’ve hurt you. I doubt they can easily fight a battle on two fronts.”

“Tesni… my mother’s maid?” Gwythyr smiled grimly. “Well, hopefully my mother will have the patience hear her out.”

“And Deryn sent word to Arawn before we went looking for you, so hopefully he will be forewarned as well.”

Gwythyr glanced down at Deryn who still sat on the floor with his legs drawn up and his back to the wall. Turning to Cadfael and the men and women who had gathered, he said, “Prepare yourselves for battle. We will need to return as quickly as possible.“ Cadfael nodded decisively and turned to begin issuing orders to his people. Within minutes, the room was empty, but Glory could hear people running and shouting orders. Hopefully Cadfael was not the only one whose memory was returning.

Kneeling before his guardsman, Gwythyr tried to get him to look him in the eye, but Deryn obstinately stared at his knees. When he finally did look up into Gwythyr’s eyes, it was clear that a faulty memory was not the reason why Deryn was being so evasive. It gave Glory hope that Jess’ mind would not revert to the form she currently wore. Maybe it was the presence of the glass amulet so close to the door itself that was finally working its magic, restoring mind to body.

“I am a coward, my lord,” Deryn announced when he finally found his voice. “I am ashamed of myself. All the skill I have is calling and sending a sparrow as messenger. That is all. It is for that skill that I was chosen as one of your guardsmen, and a sparrow… a sparrow is not so fast a flier as other birds or proof against predators. It could be that my messenger never made it to your… father. My fighting skill is negligible. I think that is why P-, why Neirin recommended me as one of your honor guard. I was grateful to him for it at the time, but now I think he did it only because he thought I was neither a threat to him nor useful to his cause. Maybe he even thought I could be turned against you at some point, out of gratitude for his support.”

“But you are here now Deryn. You came to rescue me.” Gwythyr said, smiling as he placed his hand on Deryn’s shoulder.

“No… no, sir, I did not. She goaded me into it,” he replied ashamedly, nodding toward Glory.

Not wanting to embarrass Deryn or herself by eavesdropping further on his confession, Glory cautiously walked across the room to where Jess cowered against the wall. So far, no one had seemed too concerned with the doe, but Glory wanted to make sure that Jess was still in her right mind before trying to convince her of passing back through the door of Caer Wydr. She had a feeling that even if Jess was still sane and coherent, she’d be reluctant to return to Annwn.

“Hey Jess,” Glory said softly as she neared the doe. The doe looked up and Glory could read the misery in every twitch of her limbs. No doubt, like Glory, Jess had hoped that passing back into their own world would change her back. Glory gently lay a hand on the doe’s shoulder and felt the muscles jumping beneath her skin. “Sorry. I really hoped getting back would put you back in your right body.”

Jess closed her eyes and lowered her head in defeat. “Look, I have it on good authority that this spell becomes null a year from when it’s cast, but I’m pretty sure Annwn is a whole separate world with its own rules. At first I just thought it was some kind of Celtic afterlife, you know? But now, I don’t know. I don’t know if you’ll still change back in a year if you stay here. I’m not even sure how long we’ve been gone. It was full dark in Annwn, but it looks like the sun’s just setting here. Considering Arawn’s part of mythology from thousands of years ago, it’s a pretty safe bet that time moves much slower there. Who knows how the time difference could affect the spell’s duration here, if at all. So, uh, I’m not going to think less of you if you want to stay here, but…”

The doe looked up at Glory before swinging her head towards the dark portal and nodding. Then with a sigh, she carefully lowered herself to the hard wooden floor, clearly preparing to wait right there until everyone was ready to leave.

“Good girl,” Glory sighed, patting the doe’s shoulder before turning back to the room. “Hey!” She grabbed one of Arawn’s missing warriors by the arm as he dropped off a bundle of spears next to the glass portal. Where’d they been keeping those, she wondered, and what other weapons might they have squirreled away for a rainy day. Had they subconsciously known this day was coming?

The man raised an eyebrow at her and half sneered. Regardless of her triumphant return, it was clear that she still failed to impress these people. Story of her life, really, but she wasn’t in a mood to care. “Where’s Dilys?” At that, the man blushed and looked away. “Well? I wasn’t so distracted by the sheer number of people threatening my life to see that she wasn’t here, so what’s been done with her?”

The man yanked his arm from her grasp and glared down at her. “We would never do anything to our little Dilys.” He had the presence of mind to at least look a little embarrassed as he continued. “She and the others were… confined after you took Carys through Caer Wydr.”

“And they’re probably still confined, right? Because you’re all too busy preparing to go home to free the folk who had the right idea in the first place.”

At that, the man hissed something in Welsh going pale with anger, though his nose remained quite red at the tip. He drew back his hand as if he might slap her, but Gwythyr was suddenly there, catching the man by the wrist and giving him an ugly glare before letting him go. “What is this about then, Arwel?” he demanded. In an instant, the man deflated, his shoulders drooping as he stared down at the floor.

“I was asking after Dilys,” Glory replied for him.

“Dilys is here? Thank goodness!” Gwythyr grinned with relief. “Take me to her.”

None too pleased to be leading the way, Arwel set off down a corridor on the left without a backwards glance. Clearly he did not relish being the one to set Dilys free, though whether that was due to his restored memories or how Gwythyr would react to her imprisonment was hard to say. They entered the kitchen where an old woman and her helpers were busy removing the sharpest knives from the drawers and laying them on the table. No doubt this was the ‘Granny’ Cadfael had mentioned when Glory first arrived in the house. She tracked their progress, snorting with disdain as Arwel grabbed a candle before returning to her task. Glory had a feeling that the old woman had not been a supporter of Cadfael’s actions.

Crossing the room, they entered a smaller door with rough wooden steps leading downwards. From the dank smell, it was obvious that this was the root cellar. The stairs creaked ominously beneath their feet as they descended into the gloom. Arwel let out a soft, uncomfortable cough as he stepped onto the dirt floor and held his candle high.

“Well… I never thought to see you again!” Dilys announced as Glory stepped into the light behind Arwel. It was the first time Glory could recall any emotion in the child’s voice, and she smiled despite the circumstances. Almost a dozen people lined the walls,  bound together by the wrists with ropes knotted to a low beam in the ceiling. They’d probably been dumped down here in the dark as punishment for helping her.

“Dil?” Gwythyr queried, and the little girl’s eyes widened in surprise.

“Gwythyr?” She struggled to her feet despite the ropes binding her hands together. Several more of the prisoners also attempted to rise, and Gwythyr stepped down into the cellar.

“Why is she bound?” Gwythyr demanded angrily as he worked to untie the ropes.

“It was a… misunderstanding.” Arwel answered uncomfortably as he stepped up to the nearest prisoner and began working at the knots. Dilys snorted, but did not contradict him, nor did anyone else in the dank hole as the three of them worked at removing their bonds.

As she was freed of her bonds, Dilys threw her arms around Gwythyr. “I knew you’d come save me! I knew it!”

Though Glory had her doubts, seeing as up until recently no one had managed to keep their memories intact when traveling between worlds, she kept her thoughts to herself and smiled at the happy reunion. She wondered if Dilys knew that Gwythyr was more than her foster brother.

to Book 4, part 2, page 9

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