Tattoo: The Books of Glory

a webserial about people who are not like us

Tattoo Book 5.20

Posted by harmony0stars on December 23, 2009

Shuffling forward, she carefully picked her way across the cavern, wary of the uneven flooring. There was no telling how large the cave system was or what pitfalls were hidden by the darkness. The dripping water indicated it was still actively forming, but she‘d been under the impression that though all caves were a constant temperature, it was a temperature somewhat above freezing. Unless there was a hidden glacier somewhere nearby, the darkness felt like a night at the height of winter. Thus her extensive knowledge of caves was expended.

She tripped over something and fell with a grunt. Feeling around, she found the handle of the sledgehammer and picked it up with some small measure of relief. With the sledgehammer in hand, she wouldn’t have to rely on her sword for defense. Nearing the shimmering light, she finally saw the flashlight gleaming from the bottom of a shallow pool of water. It wasn’t deep, but as she reached in to pull the light from its depths, the water was bone jarringly cold, even for her. There was even a crust of ice around the edges of the pool and with the flashlight in hand, she could see what looked like frost glistening on the stalagmites and stalactites she had so carefully avoided in the darkness.

She moved the beam of her flashlight slowly over the nearest rock formations. Though the light didn’t reach as far as she might have liked, she could make out a maze of stalactites and stalagmites, some meeting in columns while others loomed large like exclamation points warning her away. As long as some of the stalactites were, it was a wonder she hadn’t walked smack into one as she felt her way across the cavern to the pool. At least she hadn’t landed on any of the numerous stalagmites jutting up from the cave floor like nature’s own homegrown pit trap. She might have been able to heal from such a wound, but the thought of having to pull herself off one of the spikes… well, she was just glad she’d been lucky.

Still, as comforting as finding the sledgehammer and flashlight were, neither gave her any indication of which way she should go, and time was surely running out. The sun might be setting at any second, and she’d be none the wiser until the draug ambushed her. All the runes had been inscribed in the chamber above with no intention that the draug would ever get out. It might be that the creators of the chamber hadn’t even known about the cavern beneath their treasury. Unfortunately, modern technology had ensured the draug could never be put back in its prison again. It also meant that since by all accounts it was unlikely that she could reason with it, she’d have to try to destroy it.

Wherever the draug was hiding, it hadn’t left a single rune or dropped coin to indicate its whereabouts, not that she had supposed it would. Shining the light on the silvered stones, she saw no signs of its passage. It did seem as though the frost was thicker to her left, and it seemed as good a direction to try as any. Carefully picking her way over the slippery formations, she remained wary of any sinkholes hidden by the shifting shadows.

The darkness and the constant dripping was enough to make a person paranoid. The flicker of the light on the rimed stone only fostered the illusion of movement around her as she stalked through the forest of stone. Squeezing past two exceptionally thick columns, she stopped short. Her breath steamed in the frigid air as she suppressed a gasp.

A sickly sweet stench hung in the air like meat left too long in an abandoned refrigerator.
The draug lay sprawled over his mound of treasure, arms outstretched as if to contain his entire hoard while he slept. He was a black and fetid thing that seemed to suck all the heat from the rest of the cavern. If he had ever worn any clothes, they had decayed or burst as he expanded. Though he was inhumanly large, he was not bloated as the stories suggested. His oily skin stretched taut over muscles large enough to put a professional body builder to shame.

As she edged forward, she saw that the draug had been adding to his hoard during his nightly forays into the modern world. Various coinage was mixed indiscriminately with bottle caps, key chains, watches, and even some silvery candy wrappers. It seemed that if it glittered, the draug was not above adding it to his collection. In fact, she could not immediately see anything that might have constituted his original treasure trove.

Stepping closer, she leaned down to examine him and his hoard more closely. Tucking the flashlight under one arm, Glory pulled at what looked to be a sword handle jutting out from the pile near his side. It came loose much sooner than she would have expected though, and she landed on her butt on the cold stone to marvel at the iron weapon in her hand.

Though she would have expected it to be cold to the touch, it was warm as if it had been lying in a patch of sunlight. One side was sharp like an axe, while the other was square and flat like a hammer. The handle seemed almost too short to make it useful as a weapon. With a chirp of surprise, she dropped it to the floor with a clank. The runes… it couldn’t be… mjolnir? She’d always supposed that if stories of Ragnarok were true, that it had come and gone. Someone would have had to pick up Thor’s hammer after he died of Jormungandr’s poison. Such a valuable weapon couldn’t be left on the field of battle or buried with its owner.

Turning a curious eye back to the draug’s accumulated junk pile, she shuddered at the implications. What if the entire hoard had originally consisted of the weapons of the fallen Aesir? If they managed to claim them, what might the Miskatonic scholars do with the ancient weapons? Whatever long forgotten king had buried the hoard, he’d been wise enough to know that mankind wasn’t ready or responsible enough to carry such weapons. In her opinion, they still weren’t.

to Book 5, page 21

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