Tattoo: The Books of Glory

a webserial about people who are not like us

Tattoo Book 6 part 2.28

Posted by harmony0stars on September 10, 2010

Phoenix huddled next to the fire, a miserable heap of ratty furs. The smell of spoilage and of smoke that wafted over her made her gag. Maybe the heat from the fire had caused the residual fluids from their former owners to putrefy, but Glory suspected that the furs had stunk all along, and the cold of Kadath had suppressed her sense of smell. She was glad she’d discarded her fur by the lake.

Only Phoenix’s face was visible under the furs, scratched and smudged with dirt. She could only imagine how she looked. Her hands were dirty enough, though the gloves had protected them somewhat. He jerked in surprised as she stepped into the tiny clearing made by their exhausted bodies.

“You can’t be that cold,” Glory said. She was sweating, despite the gentle breeze that rippled through the grass. Phoenix still had both furs wrapped around himself and sat so close to the fire she would have worried he might set himself ablaze if he‘d had anything left to burn beyond dry grass. When he continued to gape at her, she realized he hadn’t expected her to come back. Of the two of them, she would have said he was the least trustworthy, but she kept the observation to herself. “Come on. I found some shepherds who’ve invited us to share their camp for the night.”

He stood up, clutching the furs around himself. “Can we trust them?” he asked.

Glory shrugged. “Well, I don’t suggest you go blurting out who my father is like you did in Kadath.” She frowned as he took a step towards her, still wrapped in the stinking furs. “Look, it’s pretty warm on the plains. Why don’t you drop those? You don’t need them, and they smell.” The fire was little more than a black smudge but she stomped and scattered the cinders until she was sure it was out. “Just keep the one then,” she said as Phoenix continued to hug them to himself. “It’s suspicious enough that we’re out here this close to Sarnath without an explanation. We don’t need them to start worrying you’ve got something to hide under all that fur. You look like a mutant bear and smell worse.”

With an irritable sigh, he struggled out of the top layer, dropping it to the ground. It was barely an improvement, but it would have to do. At least one coat was easy enough to explain given their sojourn in the mountains.

The smell of the roasting lamb hit them before they even reached the creek bed, the thought of food finally making Phoenix pick up the pace. They turned the bend in the creek to find a small lake, likely all that remained of the spring run off. The sheep clustered on the far side, enjoying the sun while it lasted. The shepherds had made their camp in a seasonal hut at the base of a hill that cast most of the lake in shadow and probably helped keep it from drying up.

Mika was scraping the fat from the lambskin while their dinner sat over a fire. The fat dripped from the carcass causing the fire to hiss and sputter. He looked up as they came into view and waved. A dog sprang to its feet beside him, its fur bristling as they approached.

“Shemp!” the boy shouted at the dog, and it immediately dropped its tail and ears with an embarrassed whine. Glory knelt and held out her hand. It didn’t care much for her but grudgingly gave her hand a sniff before sidling over to its master and sitting on its haunches. If a dog could glare, it only had eyes for Phoenix. “I’m sorry,” Mika said, flushing. “He is usually very friendly.”

“It’s probably Phoenix’s coat. I’ve told him he doesn’t need it now that we’re on the plains and it‘s warmer, but he refuses to give it up,” Glory said.

Mika chuckled as he gave Phoenix’s coat a second look. It was matted and filthy. Someone, somewhere, might be able to clean it, but Glory doubted the smell could ever be removed. “Lucka went to round up some more stragglers if you want to clean up,” Mika said, going back to his scraping.

They left Mika to his work and walked over to lake where it was still lit by sunlight. Glory was at least grateful for the clean water, though she wouldn’t have minded a real bath. Phoenix was far less enthusiastic.

“It’s cold!” he complained, giving his hands a cursory dip before pulling them back into the sleeves of his coat.

“Take that stupid coat off,” she hissed. “You’re just making your hands worse, especially with all those nicks and cuts. Do you want an infection?” She glared at him while he stared at the ground.

Finally with an exaggerated sigh, Phoenix shrugged out of the coat and let it fall to the ground. He gingerly dipped his hands into the water, pulling them out almost as quickly to rub at the dirt before repeating the process. After the third dipping, Glory grabbed his hands.

She’d missed her chance to try healing the lamb, which made Phoenix her unwitting guinea pig. If it was simple enough to share a bit of her energy with him by willing it, maybe healing was the same. The effect was instantaneous. Phoenix yelped in surprise, jerking his hands away and nearly falling on his butt in the mud. Glory caught him by the wrist to steady him before forcing his hands into the water and scrubbing them vigorously until they were clean.

“Why…?” He stared at her in bewilderment.

“We need to talk, but not here while we have an audience,” she said sharply. He reached for the coat where it lay, but she grabbed it first, tossing it into the grass behind them. “Leave it. It‘s disgusting and too warm to justify keeping it.” He followed her back to the hut in silence.


2 Responses to “Tattoo Book 6 part 2.28”

  1. Fiona said

    But Phoenix is a fire creature – everything feels colder for him.

    I’m going to be his advocate, lol.

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