Tattoo: The Books of Glory

a webserial about people who are not like us

Tattoo Book 5, part 2.15

Posted by harmony0stars on January 29, 2010

The single tunnel gave the impression that it went on forever. After what could have been hours for all Glory knew, they were no closer to an end or alteration in course. Their path remained straight and the only noises were the sounds of their passage. Though the tunnel was broken here and there by tiny alcoves and small holes which might have led to side passages if they’d been large enough to allow someone to pass, these seemed to have been created more by the slow deterioration of the original walls than to have ever been part of the design. Of the design, there was very little left. Upon occasion, Glory saw what she thought might once have been writing and pictures akin to cuneiform or bas relief, but they could just have easily been rock formations.

At least the ghoul seemed disinclined to stray too far. Whatever he thought of his strange new clan, he’d wander only a few minutes into the absolute darkness beyond Glory’s light before scampering back to its verge, uncomfortable in full light, but not inclined to stray too far into unknown territory. Maybe he was simply leery of being on his own. He was, after all, just a child even if he had fangs and claws and could change his size at will like a puffer fish. Glory supposed if he met or scented something dangerous outside her light, he’d be back quick enough to give them warning. This led her to worry about how territorial his kind were. Something she probably should have thought of before freeing him, but how could she have left him locked in a cage to be tortured just for being different? With a twinge of humor, she wondered how Robert would feel about having a foster brother.

Mrs Jacoby was already beginning to stumble, and there was no end to the tunnel in sight, not that any of them could see far. She hesitantly accepted Glory’s support, though the woman warily eyed the fire in her other hand whenever she thought Glory wasn’t looking. I showed your people how to tame fire, Phoenix thought in amusement at the poor woman’s trepidation, and they’re still afraid of it. Now that Glory was aware of him, he seemed disinclined to keep silent, remarking on his surroundings and the attitudes of their companions with snide humor whenever the whim took him. For the most part, Glory ignored him which seemed not to bother him at all. He was content simply to be heard.

The darkness became steadily damper, though not necessarily any cooler. In fact, it seemed to get warmer the deeper underground they went, not that it bothered most of them. Mrs Jacoby, for one, seemed to breathe easier as the humidity rose. Only the cinder-man was adversely affected by the atmospheric changes. Though he apparently didn’t breath unless he intended to speak, something which still baffled Glory since he couldn’t possibly still have a tongue or vocal cords when the rest of him resembled jerky, the damp was quite literally killing him, something Phoenix confirmed with disinterest.

How can you not care about one of your own? she demanded as they walked, to which he mentally shrugged.

I care about you because we are joined, he explained as if she were a child. Your world is interesting, and I enjoy exploring it, he continued with an air of condescension. He apparently didn’t care about her world so much as the entertainment which he could get from it. But he is only one of many, and I am not part of their tribe any longer, he finished dismissively. Any value one being alone might have, especially a being which equated to a single cell of a much large entity, did not impact his peace of mind. It wasn’t that he was evil in the sense that her sister was; he wasn’t malicious. Though she found his attitude completely frustrating, at the same time, she envied him. She couldn’t bear to let anyone suffer if she could help it, but she knew her life would be simpler if she did.

The passage abruptly opened up, Glory’s light reflecting off slick crystals like wet glass. As they all came to a stop, the faint sounds of dripping water could finally be heard like a whisper of the upper world. They jutted from the walls, the floor, the ceiling like thick opaque glass, mostly gray to white but with some tinges of pink and green. Glory wondered what they were, selenite, tourmaline? It was breathtaking, not the least of which because the humidity seemed to climb as they stepped into the cavern. It was hard to imagine this had all lain undiscovered under the city of Arkham for who knew how long. Crystals didn’t grow over night. They must have been there for centuries, millennia.

There was barely room to squeeze through the tangle of crystal shards and mounds, and if any other way had presented itself in their long trek, Glory would have suggested they go back to it. Their passage through the warren of glittering rock would effectively kill it, and it seemed such a waste of effort for something so ancient to be marred by something as inconsequential as human sweat. But so far there had only been two directions they could go, forward and back, and so they had no choice but to proceed.

to Book 5, part 2, page 16

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