Tattoo: The Books of Glory

a webserial about people who are not like us

Tattoo Book 6, part 2.20

Posted by harmony0stars on August 23, 2010

The heat was finally seeping into her bones, and Glory struggled not to fall asleep. Dragging the only remaining bag to her, she dumped it out over the furs covering her legs and looked at what the men had deemed too important to burn. There was very little: a metal tube and a small leather bag of the sort in which a child might keep marbles. Glory nearly choked as she upended the bag into her hand. The smallest gems were the size of a pea, but many of them were as large or larger than a cherry. Many of them were star rubies and sapphires, but several gems were of a hew she couldn’t identify. Every single stone, ruby, sapphire or otherwise, had the characteristic white asterisk. All of the stones shifted color as she held them up to the light. She might have no use for wealth, but she could still admire beauty when she saw it.

She returned the stones to their bag and next examined the tube. Something shifted inside, but she couldn’t see any way of opening it. There was an indentation in the center of the tube, the perfect size for one of the larger stones, but the contours were all wrong. As she sat staring off into space, something twinkled in the firelight. She reached into the pile of bones and pulled a ring from the mess. It was a signet ring of the kind used to make wax seals and other imprints. The gem itself was another starred stone like the ones in the pouch but carved into the likeness of a flower, something like a rose. Its color shifted from red violet to blue to a breath taking sea green as she examined it.

Licking her lips, Glory matched the ring with the indentation in the tube. At its touch, the tube opened along seams she had not even noticed. She gently unrolled the scroll inside, surprised that she could read it despite the unfamiliar characters. Apparently Phoenix’s influence was not so easily removed as he was. Glory read the scroll through twice before returning it to its case and resealing it. The people and places mentioned in the parchment were naggingly familiar, as if she’d encountered them in a dream. Well, after tearing their former owners limb from limb, the least she could do was see their mission to its end. She had a feeling she’d been meant to climb the mountain to its top any way. It was definitely closer than the bottom and just as deadly a destination if the note was to be believed.

She put the pouch and tube back in the bag and set them aside. Aaron muttered in his sleep, and she cocked her had to the side, rubbing her eye with a relatively clean knuckle. Aaron… who she’d been told was dead, who had supposedly died of old age shortly after Phoenix left him and been cremated. There wasn’t a mark on him, so far as she could see. He must have arrived more or less when she did, else he’d have been frozen solid and certainly not breathing. She nudging him with her foot, and he groaned. After a moment, he opened his eyes, blinking up at the roof of the cavern before he centered on the firelight and then Glory.

His eyes widened, and he sat up with a gasp. For several seconds, he stared at her in confusion before looking down at himself. He examined at his hands and plucked at his shirt, then returned his gaze to Glory with a scowl.

“You just couldn’t leave it alone, could you? I told you visiting your father was a bad idea.”

“Phoenix,” she said, unable to mask the note of disappointment in her voice. There was no mistaking his surly, self righteous tone. Deep down she’d know he couldn’t be Aaron, but she’d hoped.

“What are we going to do now? There was a reason I kept you from dreaming, you know. I knew what you were the moment we joined.”

“Well thanks for sharing!” she yelled, feeling the blood rush to her cheeks. “Don’t you think you could have been a little bit more forthcoming? Why the hell did you have to be all mysterious and crap? How exactly was that helpful? Who is my father anyway? And… and why do you look like Aaron?”

She really didn’t have the energy to sustain her rant. More than anything she wanted to curl up and cry herself to sleep. This was all just too much any more. Her sister she could deal with whenever she found her, or die trying, but now she was supposed to be some kind of demon-spawn thing, and her father wanted her to find something unmentionable in some place unpronounceable. It was a pity she’d already dismantled the mummies for the fire because she really felt like breaking things.

Phoenix looked down at himself again and shrugged. “Aw, do you still miss him? Poor baby.”

“Shut up,” she replied, “I didn’t have to pull you out of the snow, you know.”

“Sure you did. You thought I was him.” He gave her a look of disgust. “How long are you going to carry that guilt around. It’s not even your fault. I made the suggestion, and Aaron ran with it. I was really surprised when he left us all his money of course. In all the years we were together, he never did one altruistic thing until he met you. It probably would have been better for us if he hadn‘t bothered though. Fewer complications.”

“Those aren’t complications. They’re people and my friends.”

He rolled his eyes. “You really are the most irritating child. I never met star spawn so needful of human contact and so debilitated by a conscience, though I’ve heard the Black Pharaoh’s offspring tend to be… unique.”

“Is that what he’s called?” Glory asked. As much as she wanted and needed to know more, the prospect of finding out just how much more of a monster she might be filled her with dread. Just from their initial meeting, she wasn’t filled with warm fuzzies towards her father. She wasn’t even sure which was her father, poor Lawrence, trapped and isolated in his own body or the thing that used his body like a jacket. Maybe she was like Gozala, some kind of chimera.

“He has many names, just like the rest of his kin. Best not to use any of them, especially here. He may be bound to a human body for the moment, but that doesn’t mean he can’t send an avatar to the Dreamlands if he feels like it. Being bound doesn‘t make him any less dangerous, just a little easier to avoid.” Phoenix looked around. “Is there anything to eat?”

Glory frowned. “Since when do you eat?”

“Since I’m stuck in this weak human form, and my stomach is telling me to put food in it,” he groused.

“Well, unless you’d like to turn ghoul, there’s nothing here but the bones of those who were here before us.”

Phoenix looked to the dwindling pile next to what amounted to a funeral pyre with curiosity. “There may be hope for you yet,” he said, “but if those are my choices, I think I’d rather be warm than fed.”

to Book 6, part 2, page 21

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3 Responses to “Tattoo Book 6, part 2.20”

  1. here2read said

    Oh… its not Aaron! It’s not Aaron… darn it!!

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