Tattoo: The Books of Glory

a webserial about people who are not like us

Tattoo Book 5, part 3.22

Posted by harmony0stars on April 5, 2010

Innsmouth was like a war zone, and she wondered what had possessed the locals to leave the debris where it lay, let alone stay after the buildings had begun to collapse. Making her way through the rubble strewn town as quickly as possible, Glory marveled that anyone could make their home in such conditions. Had they been living like this since the 1920s?  If so, did they stay out of stubbornness, refusing to give up their town, or was it fear that kept them from dispersing? Certainly all the reasonable people had removed themselves to Kingsport generations ago, though if the people she’d met were the reasonable ones, Glory didn’t hold out much hope of finding any allies within Innsmouth aside from Father Chester. She wasted no time on sightseeing, and really there wasn’t much left of the architecture to hold anyone’s interest aside from a few bas-relief aquatic touches that must have been beautiful in their day. No wonder the refugees in Kingsport didn’t like ‘outsiders.’

Without any way of knowing how many people still lived in the wreck of a town, Glory stayed off what appeared to be the main thoroughfares as much as possible, leery of encountering anyone even with the tarnkappe to hide her. Chances were, if they walked into an invisible person, they’d raise an alarm whether they could identify their enemy or not. Though there was broken masonry everywhere and sometimes huge holes in the street itself which opened into what remained of the sewer, there were also sections of the town which were almost cleared of debris. Either these were places where people regularly walked, or there was some kind of trap involved that Glory couldn’t figure out. She faithfully stuck to the outskirts of city, mindful of even the scuff of her shoes in the grit as she made her way to the shore and hopefully a boat.

As she came to the edge of town and the beach, she saw a large ship tied to a pier in the distance. Hurrying across the tacky gray sand, she saw several smaller boats lining the weathered dock as well as the much larger ship. Glory half expected the boards to collapse under her, despite evidence that it was in regular use. The tiny boats were not in much better condition than the dock they were tied to, but the ship had clearly been acquired more recently. She surmised the scratched and battered ship had been painted white at some point only because the ships in every movie and book she had ever seen seemed to be mostly white. It still had touches of white along the railing, but they it was also possible that they were white from seagull droppings. The birds screamed and swooped along the shore as if they had a vendetta against the sea. The entire vessel looked as if it had been through a terrible battle, after which any marks that might have identified it had purposefully been effaced.

From the prow of the ship, she could make out a dark mass far off in the bay. Though it was shrouded in mist, another ship was anchored there and this was probably where Chelsea was being held. Glancing back towards the town, Glory cursed as she saw a procession making its way towards the dock. She’d won some time by not dallying, but clearly the denizens of Innsmouth had a schedule to keep. There was no time to steal a boat. She’d just have to stow away on board the ship.

It was a small group of dour men and women who wended their way from the town over a cracked pavement only marginally repaired with flat masonry harvested from the town. Everyone wore dark robes except for two men who pushed a grossly overweight man at the head of the procession and two men at the back who pushed the container of blood. They were halfway to the ship when two men came running up the beach, pointing back the way Glory had come. She groaned as she realized her footprints were clearly visible in the sand leading up to the pier. With the tide receding, most of them were still visible along the waterline.

She hopped on board the ship as Father Chester and another priest ran to the ship. The second man was as thin and rangy as a scarecrow, and his skin of his forehead and hands seemed to sparkle in the fading afternoon light. As they approached, he called out to the ship and a burly old man with a bristling gray beard came up on deck. “Has anyone come aboard?”

“I haven’t seen or heard anything,” the Captain replied shyly as if afraid of being called a liar.

“There are prints in the sand leading up the pier,” the priest replied testily.

“P-perhaps a curious youngster?” the captain offered.

“Search the ship,” the man ordered, gesturing for Chester to help.

The captain gave the unknown priest a questioning glance, but said in a respectful tone, “If you will take the deck father, I’ll go back below and look there.” The scaly priest stayed on the ship, his eyes methodically ticking over the ship as if hoping to catch even the slightest sign of movement.

With an anxious nod, Chester began looking high and low, even over the sides of the ship. From his hangdog expression, he clearly expected to find Glory or to hear a shout from below. She refrained from trying to talk to him as he searched. It would do no good to warn him to be ready if she startling him and gave the whole game away. Instead, she climbed on top of the forecabin where it was unlikely that she would encounter anyone through accident. Since the roof could easily be seen without difficulty from below, there would be no reason for anyone to climb up.

The procession reached the ship as the captain returned from below. With downcast eyes, he approached the obese priest in the wheelchair. Chester hurried to his side, the other priest already waiting before his master.

“Well?” the High Priest demanded, his eyes flicking from his own man to the Captain and Chester.

“There’s no one aboard, sir. There’s nothing amiss,” the burly Captain answered in a hushed voice. His terror was a palpable thing, and Glory felt sorry for him.

“Do you sense anything, boy?” the fat priest asked Chester coldly.

For a second Chester froze and a peculiar green and pink flush crept up his neck right to his ears. He quickly shook his head, eyes averted, hoping the elder hadn‘t already sensed Glory and his own duplicity. As an afterthought, he mumbled, “No, sir,” terrified that the High Priest would take offense at his silence.

The old man grunted as he sat back in his chair. His eyes moved over the ship as methodically as the scaled priest’s had, making it clear that he was still unconvinced. Gesturing to two more of his men, twins or at least sibling if she was any judge, he said, “Check again, but quickly. It is almost time to begin the ceremony if we wish to be back in our warm beds by the time the tide turns.”

Chester and the Captain moved aside as the two priests climbed aboard, one staying on the deck to search while the other went below. Within ten minutes they returned, shaking their heads. “The Captain suggested it might have been a curious child,” the first priest offered disdainfully.

Eyeing the Captain, the High Priest replied, “Go back to the town and check into it. If you find out who it was, make sure their name and the name of their closest relations are added to next year’s list of sacrifices. I will not have such open defiance of my power.” Chester gave a violent start, and the corpulent priest glared at the younger man. “Do you object, boy?”

“It-it’s not my place to object, s-sir.”

“Good,” he replied, gesturing to his men to move him onto the boat. “Your strong mental aptitude will take you far, boy, providing you continue to know your place.”

Glory rubbed at her scalp in frustration as the boat finally got underway. She was beginning to wonder if there would be anything she could do aside from watch events unfold. At the very least, she hadn’t considered being stuck on a ship with almost a dozen psychics, if she was right about the conversation she‘d just overheard. Chester could have warned her he was a mind reader!

to Book 5, part 3, page 23

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4 Responses to “Tattoo Book 5, part 3.22”

  1. here2read said

    well doesnt that just complicate things… mind readers.. lol thats a good twist

    • 🙂 Yeah, because otherwise it would have been a simple snatch and grab… in the middle of a bay… surrounded by hostile fish people who wouldn’t mind one more sacrifice for the party… with nowhere for Glory really to even hide anyone she happened to rescue aside from under her cloak… and her cloak’s not that big.

      Looks like Glory’s SOL.

  2. Alderin said

    Yeah, Chester could have warned her, because that’s something you tell people all the time, “Oh, by the way, I can tell what you are thinking, so this whole time I’ve been eavesdropping on your every thought. Have a nice day.” That’s almost like telling someone that you tapped their phone a couple weeks ago. Seems to be mind reading is a gift best kept secret to all but very close friends if possible, and Glory hasn’t been around long enough to be considered a friend.

    • Hey now! Glory has every right to feel left out of the loop. Everyone always seems to expect that she knows these things already. Of course, it could have just slipped his mind. Some things become so mundane in the course of your life, you might forget to mention them if you happened to meet someone who doesn’t share that commonality. Like if you were somehow contacted by an alien from a world with a different kind of atmosphere. Up until they came and abducted your butt, it would never have never occurred to you to tell them that you breath oxygen because you didn’t know they didn’t.

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