Tattoo: The Books of Glory

a webserial about people who are not like us

Tattoo Book 5, part 3.23

Posted by harmony0stars on April 7, 2010

Glory was the first one to jump to the second ship when they reached the reef, but there was no sign of Chelsea. The second vessel was much larger than the first, perhaps it had been a yacht, though she knew very little beyond smaller craft were always boats and larger ones, ships. Like the first vessel, the second ship was in a terrible state. The name had been scrubbed off so long ago that rust had begun to colonize the deep gouges, spreading like frost on glass. There was a very distinctive pattern of denting across the side she could see, almost like the impression of a tentacle. It made her wonder where the ships had come from and also feel worse about her chances of getting Chelsea away.

Glancing back at the priests and priestesses, she saw that they were beginning to disrobe. Oh lovely, Phoenix groused, it’s going to be an aquatic ceremony. Averting her eyes, Glory couldn’t agree with him more. The tarnkappe would be completely useless if she had to go into the water where splashing was sure to give her away. The tiny glimpse she’d caught of her unknowing hosts did not encourage her to stare despite the oddity of their revealed deformities, though she continued to steal glances to keep track of their whereabouts.

The twins not only had what appeared to be extra fingers and toes that gave their hands and feet the appearance of flippers, they also had extra limbs folded against their sides which they now stretched languorously, enjoying their freedom from restrictive clothes. They were identical in form but not in appearance, though any casual observer would guess as she had, that they were at least brothers. Glory glanced away quickly as it appeared none of the clergy intended to keep even their underclothes on either.

Many of the men and women had a strange kind of beauty in their abnormalities. No doubt Professor Scott would have been utterly repulsed by their ichthyoidal appearance, but it was obvious they were all meant for the water. What Scott would have no doubt termed deformity was merely specialized adaptation. Many of them had gills under their ribs as Cindy had, as well as gills along their jaw line, as if to get more oxygen directly to the brain.

Though the priest with the opalescent scales had seemed withered, his clothes hanging from his spare frame, as he removed them, it was revealed that he was simply lean like an Olympic swimmer, his body designed to fly through the water at great speeds. One of the women dropped a wig to the deck, exposing a ridge of red and green fins on top of her head which continued along her spine, a speckling of dark and light scales lay across her shoulders and part of her lower back as if sprayed there. Another stepped out of her skirt, not with what a human would consider legs but with what looked like tentacles. Though she seemed to have bones at least to the knee, it was a wonder she could walk. At the very least, it must have been quite painful. She seemed to have no feet at all. Glory hoped she would not have to get into the water with these people. She doubted she’d survive the encounter and the thought of Phoenix bringing her back to life was equally unappealing.

A priest came up from below the larger ship, followed by a younger man she assumed was the captain of the vessel. Glory barely had time to step out of their way, caught staring at the opposite ship despite herself. She supposed she would have stared at Ehecatl too if he hadn’t been able to catch her at it even with her cloak of invisibility, and the ghouls also, if she‘d been able to conceal herself to do it. Though she doubted they’d have enjoyed the analogy, it was like watching a National Geographic special.

With the two men on deck, Glory slipped down below in search of Chelsea. The muffled sound of crying drew her to a door which opened at her touch. Few of the occupants looked up as she entered, and those that did helplessly gaped at the open door. Of the five, there were three women, one man, and a girl who looked about twelve or thirteen. Glory assumed this was Chelsea, having not seen a picture of the child. There were two metal pens in the room that looked as though they’d been adapted from shark cages. These were bolted to the wall and padlocked closed.

Neither cage was very large. Chelsea and a woman, who was clearly ichthyoidal, sat huddled together in the one nearest the door, while the other three prisoners sat nearly in each other‘s laps in a cage bolted into the far corner. Closing the door behind her, Glory looked around the room but saw no sign of keys… because of course, that would have been too easy. Just because she could charm locks open didn’t mean she was comfortable relying on the ability. She was certain that it would be the one time that she needed it to work with out question that somehow it would fail her.

Glory approached the first cage. The girl was sniffling as the woman attempted to comfort her. There was really no way to ease into it, so she swept the cloak off in one sweep of her arm. The older woman in the far cage who had been watching the door since Glory entered gave a tiny shout of surprise, but Glory hastily hushed her. Her companion immediately began blubbering, begging to be released and Glory was grateful that the first woman had the presence of mind to put her hand over her mouth.

If she’d been worried about getting one little girl away, Glory had absolutely no idea how she was going to save five people. “I don’t suppose there are keys around here somewhere?” she asked in a whisper.

The Ichthyoidal woman looked up, sadly shaking her head. “The priest keeps the keys on a chain around his neck. You should never have revealed yourself,” she added. “I don’t know how you got past the priests, but now that we’ve seen you, they’ll know at least what we know when they come for us.”

“Why the hell would you tell them someone’s here, you fish faced freak?” the man finally rasped from where he sat slumped against the wall of the cabin. One side of his head was crusted with blood and he didn’t look as though he could even run, let alone swim.

“They’re psychic,” Glory replied before the woman could respond in her defense. “She doesn’t have to tell them anything for one or more of the priests to pick it from your minds.”

“Great! F-ing great,” he muttered, subsiding into silence.

Though she didn’t let it show, Glory felt pretty much the same way. Things had just gone from bad to worse. Kneeling beside Chelsea’s cage, she examined the lock before wrapping her hand around it and giving it an experimental tug. A second harder pull and she smiled as it clicked open. Quickly she went to the other cage and opened it as well. A key would have been convenient but apparently unnecessary.

“It’s no use,” the Ichthyoidal woman announced, helping Chelsea up as she pushed open the door of her cage. “Father Dag will never let us get away.”

“There’s only two men on board? We could overpower them or push them overboard, steal the ship, and head out of the bay. I doubt any of them could swim faster than the ship.”

The woman shook her head though, “This ship doesn’t have a motor. It’s just a floating prison. Father Dag is too smart for us.”

“He’s that stinking fat pus-ball up there, right? The one who gives orders to hunt down little kids and their families?” Glory demanded, losing her temper.

The woman flinched and silently ducked her head as if expecting to be hit for even hearing such heresy. “Father Dag takes care of his children. He makes sure we are fed and protected from Outsiders. He loves us and wants us to be fruitful,” she droned.

Glory grabbed the woman by the shoulders, startling her into looking up. “Father Dag is a self-serving sadist who only cares about himself. He’d kill every single one of ‘his children’ if it meant more power for himself.”

Wagging her head as if too exhausted and downtrodden to believe there was any hope, she said, “Father Dag can call upon Father Dagon and Mother Hydra to smite us.”

to Book 5, part 3, page 24


7 Responses to “Tattoo Book 5, part 3.23”

  1. Fiona said

    Well I wonder how Glory’s going to get out of this one. A showdown?

  2. Fiona said

    btw, is Father Dag a puss-ball or a pus-ball? Because a puss-ball sounds cuddly like something I would call my kitty 😉

  3. Alderin said

    Darn English pronunciation conflicts. Puss- being short for Pussy as in Pussycat, but puss being another term for mucous. It’s like ‘I read something’ and ‘I want you to read something’, or ‘wind the toy’ but ‘the wind blew’. Breaking rules all over the place.

    Father Dagon and Mother Hydra. It would likely be too much to ask in this story that they are as ephemeral and in-effective as a modern smiting from “Father God”.

    Paragraph 1: “was much large than”


    • Ack, two typos in this one. I’m slipping. 😉 Thanks

      As for Father Dagon and Mother Hydra, I can neither confirm nor deny that they are in the smiting business. You’ll have to talk to their lawyers (or keep reading) heh.

      • Alderin said

        No worries about the typos, really. I’m positive that we aren’t paying you enough to hire an editor, so the least we can do is be volunteer editors.


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