Tattoo: The Books of Glory

a webserial about people who are not like us

Tattoo Book 6 part 2.35

Posted by harmony0stars on October 4, 2010

Glory lay in the dark beside the hearth fire, listening to the sounds of the sleeping house. Despite what Lark had said about not having much, there had been plenty to eat, though she’d almost kicked Phoenix under the table when it seemed like he might go back for a third bowlful of Marta’s stew. There was appreciation of good food and then there was outright gluttony.

The room was dark; their surrounding barely discernible in the red glow of the coals. Lark and his family had retired to their beds, the children in a half loft above them and the adults in rooms on either side of the house. Even if Glory couldn’t see the stars, at least the house was warm, and there was little chance of anyone attacking them in the dark. She lay on her back with her arms folded behind her head, waiting for the dawn. As eager as she was to get started, she was equally irritable about the events that had brought her to the Dreamlands.

If there was one thing she hated, it was being pushed around. The few memories she had of her father certainly didn’t mesh with the creature her grandmother had described or the thing that had manhandled her at the asylum, though some remnant of Lawrence Lewin still lingered in his body. He had tried to warn her before the Other asserted itself. The question was though, which one of them was her father, the man or the thing that lived in his body? Phoenix claimed her body, her humanness, was vestigial. Almost a worse thought was, she was apparently the black sheep of the family. From what her brother had said, her relatives were every bit as vicious and backstabbing as her sister. If she succeeded in her father’s quest, what then? Even if she found some way back to Earth without completing his quest… What would she become if she left Phoenix behind in the Dreamlands?

As soon as light began to leak through the closed shutters, Glory slipped outside into the dewy predawn. It was cool, but the temperature didn’t bother her, even without Phoenix’s tampering. She sighed and leaned against a fence post, watching as the stars faded as the sun approached the edge of the world. Were the Dreamlands like Annwn? She’d avoided thinking about the ramifications of her adventures in the supposed Welsh Underworld, but now she found herself in another land outside time and space. How many other “worlds” were there?

She didn’t like having so many questions without access to the answers.

The animals stirred as the sky transition from gray to pink, and Lark’s family weren’t far behind. Tans stuck his head out the door, obviously wondering where she might be. He grinned when he saw her, waved, and strode over to the animal enclosure to see to his morning chores. Phoenix wasn’t far behind, but his look of panic disappeared as soon as he spotted her. He ducked back into the house, and Glory sighed and went to see what trouble he might be getting into.

“Where did you get that?” she asked, nodding at the sword that was now belted at his waist.

“I gave it to him,” Lark said sitting on a stool near one of the windows. He was polishing the dagger Phoenix had taken from the robbers and examining the hilt. “I’ll never guard another caravan. At my age, I‘m better suited to this dagger, and maybe someone will recognize it when we go hunting for that band of robbers. Besides, your bodyguard should be better armed than a dagger he took from a highwayman.”

Glory raised an eyebrow at Phoenix. She couldn’t be sure, but she thought he was smirking behind the biscuit he was gnawing on. “I’m no fool,” the old man continued. “I dealt with enough nobles and merchant children in my time to know when I‘ve got gentry in my house… and hired muscle.” Lark made an amused grunt as her jaw dropped and went back to cleaning the dagger. “Now I don‘t know where you ran off from or why, probably an arranged marriage… but if your people come looking for you, I don‘t want to say I sent you off without at least trying to see to your safety.”

“I’ve packed you some food,” Marta said shyly, placing their bag on their table. From the look of it, she’d jammed as much food into it as she could. Glory hoped it wasn’t food they’d miss.

There was really no way to explain her family dynamics to them, so she simply said, “Thank you,” and tried not to blush as Marta handed her a bowl of porridge with pieces of fruit in it. She sat down on the bench next to Phoenix and ate in silence. Phoenix kept his mouth shut as Glory thanked their hosts again and said goodbye for both of them.

“What the heck did you say to them?” Glory asked when they’d walked far enough she didn’t have to worry about being overheard.

“I didn’t say anything!” he laughed. “That was the problem. He figured since you did all the talking and were so completely clueless, you had to be some run away rich kid. It worked out for us, so I didn‘t contradict him. I noticed you didn‘t either.”

“Yeah… because the explanation would have been so much weirder,” she muttered, rubbing her face. “And… by the way, would it hurt you to be polite? You could have at least thanked them for their hospitality. I don‘t think you opened your mouth except to put food in it the entire time. You could have thanked Mika too.”

“Oh, I think you thanked him enough for both of us,” he said with a smirk, while she rolled her eyes. “You’re too polite. That’s probably the other reason he thought you were gentry, aside from hopping on a runaway cow, that is.”

“Ugh!” she growled. “How the heck are you supposed to stop a stampeding cow?!”

Phoenix sputtered with laughter as he tried to reply. It took him several seconds to bring himself under control before he finally said, “You don’t. So long as it isn’t likely to trample anyone, the best way to collect spooked cattle is to wait for it to run itself out.”

“Since when are you such an expert?” she asked, not really interested in the answer.

“I’ve been around a long, long time,” he said in an expansive tone. “I spent a lot more time in small villages like this than in your so-called modern era. It only took humanity about two hundred years to go from self-sufficient to completely dependent upon machines. Your father won’t have any trouble bringing humanity to its knees when the time comes.”

“Wait… what’s that supposed to mean?” she asked, stopping in the road to stare at him.

Phoenix shrugged and stopped as well. “He plays games. He gives people the tools of their own destruction. I’ve seen the effects of his gifts on other cultures in other times. Humanity may think that they are the creators of the technology they use so freely now, and maybe they are to some extent, but I’d bet money that he planted the seeds at some point. He whispered in someone’s ear, poisoned someone’s dreams. When the time comes, he’ll make it all spiral out of control and sit laughing at the destruction.”

“Why?” she demanded in a grieved tone. “What does he have against humans? Why would he want to hurt anyone?”

“Well,” he said slowly, “none of the starspawn really think of humans as… sentient. They barely consider my… progenitor as a peer. By myself, I’m nothing to them. Maybe their Elders even thought they were being merciful when they… made me like this. So you can guess how they feel about humans. It’s not that they want to hurt any one so much as humans aren’t even as interesting as ants to most of them. I mean, how many humans walk around worrying about stepping on an ant? Humans see ants as a nuisance and in some rare instances, eat them.”

to Book 6, part 2, page 36

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2 Responses to “Tattoo Book 6 part 2.35”

  1. Fiona said

    Time to question Daddy’s mission, I think

  2. Alderin said

    “And from way up here, you all look like little ants!”

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