Tattoo: The Books of Glory

a webserial about people who are not like us

Tattoo Book 6 part 2.32

Posted by harmony0stars on September 20, 2010

Aside from the occasional tree, there was nothing but undulating grass in every direction. They walked until dusk but were no closer to any towns for their efforts. A copse of trees stood between them and the wind in what amounted to a dimple on the otherwise flat savanna. If nothing else, it ensured there was enough wood for the fire.

Glory might have kept going, but Phoenix was clearly exhausted. After finishing off the lamb, it wasn’t long before he passed out, leaving Glory to another sleepless night alone. Hopefully they would reach a town the following day, or he‘d be out of food before day‘s end.

The wind rushed through the grass, chill enough to keep the insects quiet. Phoenix seemed unnaturally sensitive to the cold, but while she was aware of the chill, it didn‘t bother her any more than when she‘d been staying in the park. She sat with her back to a tree, feeding the fire whenever it got low. Pheonix lay curled up on his side, no doubt dreaming of his lost coat. As the night wore on, unknown animals called to one another in the dark, though none of them came close enough to be problematic.

She allowed herself the luxury of letting her mind wander. Could she trust Phoenix? Even if he was being completely honest with her, it didn’t make her inclined to renew their partnership. He seemed perfectly capable of surviving independent of her in the Dreamlands. On the other hand, the prospect of changing into something else if and when she found her way back to earth didn’t appeal to her either. How inhuman was she likely to become?

While the gods at Kadath had seemed human, their features were just a little too perfect and too similar considering the diversity of their assumed heritage. From what little she had read, no two starspawn were alike. She had no way of knowing what had been real and what had been an illusion in Kadath, but she suspected that her nascent abilities had even then been telling her what her eyes were missing. The Great Old Ones might send their offspring into the Dreamlands to prevent them from maturing as Phoenix suggested, but if her father was any indication, it didn’t seem like they cared so much about when their children actually arrived in their nursery. Under their illusions, her cousins might look very different.

Glory rubbed the tears from her cheeks and blamed it on smoke from the fire. She liked being human, even if humans often disappointed her. If she stopped being human, would she lose her humanity? Would she stop caring about people? Compassion didn’t seem to be a mindset that was actively encouraged by the rivalries of the rest of her family.

She paused in the act of shoving another branch into the fire, aware that someone was watching. There was barely a hitch in her movements as she dropped the branch onto the coals, but the sparks made no difference in the darkness. Illuminating the trees and the grasses provided no clue to her unseen observers.

Leaning back against the tree, she shut her eyes and strained her other senses to their limit. She thought she heard movement, but that could just as easily have been the wind moving through the grasses. As she opened her eyes again, someone slipped a knife under her chin.

“Your valuables,” her assailant said in a gruff voice. She gestured to the bag which lay near her feet.

Two more people stepped into the light of the fire, their faces obscured by kerchiefs over the lower half of their faces. Both of them reached for the bag at once, and the larger of the two shoved the smaller man away. He snatched up the bag, emptying its contents onto the ground. Sorting through their meager possessions with his foot, he scattered the remains of their bread and cheese, the knife Mika had given her, the flint she’d collected at Kadath. The man kicked the cheese into the fire with a muttered curse and stomped on the bread.

Glory flushed with anger as her assailant tightened his grip. A trickle of blood rolled down her neck. “We know you have jewels,” he insisted. “Where are you hiding them?”

A rumble of thunder vibrated the air around them as if drawn by her anger. As the lightning flashed close on its heels, she saw Phoenix wrap his hands around the end of a branch sticking out from the fire and swing it at the man holding her to the tree. He yelped and jumped away as the sparks exploded from the impact, dropping his dagger to the ground.

As lightning flashed across the sky again, Phoenix snatched up the dagger and leapt to his feet. He lashed out at the man still standing near the fire, sending him stumbling back away from the blade. The man and his smaller accomplice bolted for the surrounding fields, but their friend was made of sterner stuff.

“Cowards! See if I share when I have the jewels!” he shouted after his fleeing companions. He snatched up the fallen branch and swung it at Phoenix’s head. “Come on then,” he said in cold voice. “All you do is sleep, eat, and complain so far as I’ve seen. You’re more likely to cut yourself than me.”

Phoenix wasted no breath in answering the taunt. He dodged several more swings from Lucka, for Glory recognized his voice as he tried to goad Phoenix into carelessness. Whatever else Phoenix might have learned during his long years sharing other men’s lives, he knew how to fight. Ducking under a final swing, he lashed out with the blade, stabbing Lucka under the arm. The shepherd barely had time to groan as he stumbled and fell down dead at their feet.

“Jewels?” Phoenix panted as he grabbed her by the arm and stumbled back towards the road. She just had time to snatch of the bag and throw the knife and flint inside before they were running down the road. At least the storm seemed to have passed as quickly as it came on and the waning moon revealed their path. There was no more lightning and only the faintest rumble of thunder before the wind died down again.

“I found a pouch of gems in the cave. I gave one to Mika for his help,” she replied.

Despite his quick actions, Phoenix was obviously still exhausted. He stumbled as they ran, leaning against her more as the minutes wore on. “You’re too kind and too trusting.”

She shook her head stubbornly. “None of them were Mika. Even the little one was too tall. That was Lucka you killed. I’m sure of it. The others must have been his friends or relatives. It’s not Mika’s fault they decided to try for more.”

Phoenix said nothing as he stumbling again, dropping the dagger he still clutched in his hand. He fell to his knees to search the ground for it. “Mika or Lucka, we were still attacked because you are too kind,” he said as he staggered to his feet again, blade in hand. Glory took his arm, feeding him more energy through her touch. He sighed and pulled away to walk on his own as his strength was restored. She could tell he was still tired, but with the energy she shared, he was at least a bit more surefooted in the dark.

to Book 6, part 2, page 33


2 Responses to “Tattoo Book 6 part 2.32”

  1. Fiona said

    Go Phoenix!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: