Tattoo: The Books of Glory

a webserial about people who are not like us

Tattoo Book 5, part 2.17

Posted by harmony0stars on February 3, 2010

I warned you, he muttered churlishly.

You couldn’t have been more… specific? Glory demanded irritably.

It’s not as if you didn’t figure out months ago that the energy you were spending so freely was coming from me, Phoenix replied in the same tone. You won’t let me replenish our stores faster by killing, and we just brought two people back to life not too long ago and healed our own wounds. And now this woman. What did you think I was warning you about?

Well, I couldn’t just let her bleed to death! Glory snarled, letting out a sigh of exasperation. So how long until we have light again?

It doesn’t look like we’re completely in the dark, he growled back snidely, so I’d just as soon not expend any more energy if it’s alright with you.

As Glory blinked at her surroundings, a patchy blue and orange phosphorescence was slowly asserting itself over the darkness. It clung to the crystals and the rock from which they grew like day-glow lichen exposed to a black light. As her eyes adjusted, the light grew bright enough to discern the jagged edges and towering beams of crystal all around them. Where the fungus or whatever it was had colonized the bed of the crystals, entire shafts were lit up like gigantic dull bulbs.

Mrs Jacoby sniffled from her crevice, pulling her wrist from Glory’s grasp. She rubbed at the sealed wounds as if afraid they would reopen. “You… how did…?”

“Just one of the many services I offer to friends,” Glory quipped boisterously, though she was feeling less than jovial. The phosphorescence offered some light, but not enough to give them warning if something was down there with them. Mrs Jacoby’s blood was going to be like a dinner bell to anything that hunted by scent, which was probably how most subterranean predators would do it. “Come on, let’s get you out of there,” she said, leaning into the slippery hole and helping the woman lever herself out. The last thing she wanted was to heal another gaping wound.

Without Phoenix‘s fire, the ghoul boy had come even closer to the group, scurrying down from his perch to squat only a few feet from Glory. Perhaps the light had hurt his eyes or reminded him of his prison cell. Whatever the reason, he seemed more comfortable with them now that it had been extinguished… or he was more afraid of what was out there without it.

Mrs Jacoby moaned and shivered under her hand as the ghoul climbed over the slippery crystal with the skill of a spider to lap at the black blood dotting its surface. He was only visible as a dark shadow, but it was hardly a comforting sight. As if in response to the sound, the boy chirped once and pulled himself onto a low hanging shaft of crystal, seemingly impervious to the sharp edges.

“Come on. Let’s get moving,” Glory said quietly, moving deeper into the crystal forest. It was the only thing she could think to say. Any words of comfort would have sounded insincere considering how little she knew about ghouls. Maybe Scott hadn’t been too far off in his statements after all.

The boy continued to range out in front of them, but he didn’t wander far, staying mere feet away from Glory as opposed to yards. Despite the dangers that the sharp crystal posed, Glory dreaded the moment when the shards would give way again to blank rock, the visibility they afforded now a precious commodity. Though it went against her nature, she began looking for smaller outcroppings of phosphorescent crystal. A good kick or two and they were loosened, but not always with their glow intact. As the crystal outcroppings became fewer in number, Glory divided her cache of glowing stones with Mrs Jacoby. Their light did not reach much farther than the ends of their noses, but it was still comforting in the heavy darkness.

The path leading out of the crystal obstacle course was just as smooth and straight as the one leading in. Glory could only speculate on what had set such spectacular mineral growth in their path. Leaving the crystals, the humidity and heat also evaporated. Were they a product of the crystals or the environment that allowed their phenomenal growth? Glory would likely never know, and like all the things she wondered at but would never know, it was maddening.

The lack of humidity was detrimental to Mrs Jacoby’s stamina, especially after all the blood she’d lost. She was soon panting with exertion and leaning heavily on Glory’s arm. Unfortunately, the Cinder-man did not recover from his trek through the crystal jungle at all. His progress was slower than ever, even after making it through the jagged rock with all his digits intact. Glory wondered again if there was something to be done for him, only to be put in her place by Phoenix.

‘He’ is a creature of fire and that body is borrowed, it’s former owner’s life and memories devoured. Probably the poor fool who summoned ‘him’ here, he growled in her head, finally tired of her musings and her concern for the creature. It’s amazing he’s managed to maintain the body as long as he has, but unlike me, he cannot live for much longer, especially after passing through that sauna. He needs to consume that body and leave your world, and he cannot do that from down here.

Biting her lip, Glory did her best to ignore the cinder-man, but it went against her nature to ignore anyone’s suffering and despite the fact that he had effectively killed whoever had originally owned the body he wore, he could just as easily done the same to all of them in order to extend his life. All he had done instead was consume by fire the last bits of a man someone else had killed. Perhaps he was smart enough to realize he wouldn’t get through the caves alone, or maybe he was more compassionate than Phoenix gave him credit.

to Book 5, part 2, page 18

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