Tattoo: The Books of Glory

a webserial about people who are not like us

Tattoo Book 5, part 3.16

Posted by harmony0stars on March 22, 2010

It was close to midnight when Glory heard a hesitant tap on the door. She might have assumed it was a branch in the wind if not for the fact that there was no wind and no trees near the motor home. She opened the door as the rap was repeated with a bit more urgency.

The youngest priest stood at the door, anxiously fidgeting with the cuff of his sleeve and glancing around him as if he expected to be found out at any minute. “Can I come in?”

Glory considered telling him no, just because she was in a surly mood after her reception, but stepped aside instead. If he’d come to tell her to give up as the others had, she send him packing in short order. But it seemed to her that if he was worried about being seen, it was probably not because he was in the same camp as his compatriots.

He was quite tall and had to duck slightly to clear the lintel. She noticed as he put his hand on the doorjamb that there were strange knobs of skin between his fingers. When he noticed her looking, he tucked his hand in a pocket. “I was born outside the clan,” he said, explaining further when he saw her look of incomprehension. “Webbing between the fingers. My parents were afraid of what it meant and cut them. Such early signs are a mark of Dagon’s favor. I was marked for clergy and drawn back to the sea despite their precautions.” He smiled self consciously, running his other hand through his receding hairline.

The priest had the same look as all of Cindy’s kinsmen, the bulging eyes and slightly sagging jaw line, what unkind people referred to as wattles. His nose was almost flat against his face with barely a bulge over his nostrils, and his ears were slightly smaller than normal, lying nearly flush against his head. His mouth was nearly a slit, devoid of all but the suggestion of lips. By far his worst feature however was the skin of his face and neck. It was dry and peeling, almost scabby, but especially on top of his head amid his sparse and stringy hair. Altogether he was a singularly unattractive man, but anyone who looked him in the eye could see that what he lacked in looks, he made up for in heart. His eyes were sad and apologetic and also, determined.

“I… am sorry about how you were treated. My people tend to forget that they are not universally loathed by outsiders, that in fact most people wouldn‘t know Innsmouth from Saskatchewan.” He thrust his hand at her as if suddenly remembering his manners. “I’m Chester.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Glory said with a self-conscious shrug as she shook his hand. Though she‘d expected his hand to be at least a little moist, it was very dry, almost too dry. He probably needed a good soak. “They’re not the first people driven to isolation because other people don’t know what to make of them.”

“Sounds like you speak from experience,” he replied with a slight smile and nod. Obviously he’d had similar experiences before coming to Kingsport.

“Yeah, something like that,” Glory sighed, gesturing for him to have a seat at the tiny kitchen table bolted to the wall. “Would you like something to drink? Eat?” She grabbed a bag of half eaten Cheetos from the table, putting it in a cabinet as he waved his hand.

“Ugh, keep those things away from me. Everyone makes that joke, and I’m addicted to the darn things. A glass of water, would be fine.”

“Sorry.” She filled a glass form the fridge, not bothering to explain she had two kids sleeping in the bunk over the driver’s seat. Apparently Robert was taking his big brothering very seriously, or he‘d just assumed that with only two beds, he was expected to share with Edgar. “You should know that I didn’t go in there looking to free Cindy. I was helping a Naga retrieve his daughter. I just couldn’t leave any intelligent beings down there to be tortured.” She left out what she’d had to do to the Cinder-man. It was something she’d feel guilty about probably for years to come.

“A naga is a serpent person, right?” he asked uncertainly and smiled again when she nodded. “I had to look it up on the internet when I got home. Father Llugh would have guppies if he knew I even had a laptop, let alone wifi. I’m sure you noticed, we’re quite insular, too insular if you ask me, not that my colleagues often do. Being the youngest does not garner much respect with Fathers Miguel or Llugh. I tell them, if we stopped hiding, we might not be met with such distrust when we are finally discovered, but they laugh at me and tell me to put more salt and pepper in the chowder.”

Glory grimaced. “I applaud your desire to join the greater part of humanity, but…”


“But if my own experiences mean anything, the greater part of humanity can’t even stand to accept its own idiosyncrasies, let alone those of any other tribes. You’re probably better off keeping well away from ‘outsiders.’”

He looked disappointed, but also intrigued. “What are these other tribes? There’s nothing about tribes in the Ilyaa Ghft.”

“I’m sure other people would call them races; I prefer tribes. I don’t know about the Nagas, but the ghouls and other shapeshifters can breed with base humans and so can your people, so tribe seems a better word to me. In high school, we learned how some animals which look similar cannot breed together or if they can, they cannot create viable young, like horses and donkeys create sterile mules. Since crossbreeding between the human tribes does create fertile offspring however, it‘s unlikely that we‘re separate species. Our physical differences are merely hereditary and not due to a genetic separation. We are all one race.”

“But… that’s wonderful!” he said in delight. “If I used that argument with Fathers Miguel and Llugh…”

“I doubt it would make a difference, really. Though it might be nice if people could one day be more accepting of each other’s differences, there are lot of people who can’t even accept people of color, let alone people who can breath under water. I mean… it might be something to work towards,” she added as his face fell, “but I wouldn’t expect your peers to jump for joy at the prospect of making nice with a group that was still burning witches a few centuries ago.”

“You’re probably right,” he said with a sigh. “And the Ilyaa Ghft says nothing about other tribes. Father Miguel would be quick to point that out no matter how well I made my case.”

to Book 5, part 3, page 17


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