Tattoo: The Books of Glory

a webserial about people who are not like us

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Tattoo Book 6 part 2.38

Posted by harmony0stars on October 11, 2010

There was a steady stream of carts and people going through the wood and metal-banded gates of Ilarnek. The walls had once been a pale golden color and still were about midway up. At ground level and near the top, they were stain black by centuries of soot and human effluvium. The stones were as huge as any in the pyramid and must have been transported from some quarry far away in the mountains. Just beyond the boundaries of the city was the beginnings of a desert.

It was easy to see why Ilarnek was a center of trade. It was a metropolis barely a quarter of the size of Sybar City, but the teeming maelstrom of people attempting to pass through the gates even at the late hour of mid-morning made Glory glad they were in a wagon and not attempting to pass on foot. More than ever, she was reminded of ants. The grasslands had given way to the straggly intermediary scrubland that presaged a full blown desert early the previous day, but around the river was a lushness reminiscent of Egypt. Perhaps the River Ai was the Dreamlands equivalent of the Nile with its periodic flooding. Still, without trade from the river and farmers like Jake who made periodic pilgrimages to the walled city to sell their wares, Ilarnek would not have been able to support even half of its populace.

Though there was nothing overtly Egyptian about the city, the bleached sandstone blocks of the wall and the few temples which loomed above its rim had a vaguely Egyptian feel to them that was undeniable. On either side of the gate stood massive humanoid lizards that towered over the men and women passing to and fro beneath their blank gaze. Glory didn’t care for them at all; they reminded her of Tsathoggua even though they looked nothing like the thing she’d fought in the park.

“Bokrug who destroyed Sarnath,” Jake said in a low murmur when he noticed her expression. “His idol was brought here, the only thing remaining of that doomed city, and here he is worshiped by these fools. He’s no god for humans, that’s for certain. We still worship Tamash on the plains, but his priests have grown fat on the fear of offending the great lizard.” He shut up quickly as a guard gave him hard look, but they waved him through after a quick peek under the blanket at the tubers he was transporting. Glory still wasn’t sure what they were, but she hadn’t asked. They looked a bit like a jicama or some weird hybrid of potato and celery root.

“Would you like us to help you unload?” Glory asked politely as Jake edged the cart through the packed streets.

“Naw, a little thing like you?” he said with a derisive laugh. Glory didn‘t think she was particularly small, but the bushels didn‘t look like they’d be light either way. “Go on with your business then, and thank you for the company. Rare enough I can bend the ear of a pretty lady. You should see my wife. Ugly enough to be Bokrug’s sister,” he guffawed, “and she never lets me get a word in edgewise.”

Glory smiled politely and hopped down from the wagon into the crowd. Phoenix followed, glaring at anyone who got too close. No doubt he was worried about pickpockets, but Glory was keeping the bag of gems in her pocket, a concept that seemed not to have reached the Dreamlands yet. There was nothing of real value in the bag which rested upon her hip. The food was almost gone since she’d been forced to eat in Jake’s presence, and no doubt any thief in Ilarnek could find a better knife and flint in the meanest stall in the city.

Everywhere were people, milling about freely in the streets regardless of social status. Men and women in fine clothes rubbed elbows with beggars and barefoot gawkers from off the plains. Nor was she the only one with a bodyguard. Some of the wealthier travelers and noble-folk had two or more fighters to watch their backs. Ugly glares kept most of the riffraff at bay, though she did see some shoving every so often if a beggar, or more probably an itinerant thief, got too close to someone of obvious resources.

Traffic was further impeded by the ramshackle stalls that leaned against walls and clogged dirty alleys. Hawkers called out to passersby, professing the quality of their goods. Most of the pedestrians ignored them, which was not altogether different from Sybar City. The universal key to being left alone was to avoid eye contact.

Phoenix shadowed her as they sought a reputable jeweler. They had decided to change at least some of the smaller stones for whatever passed for money in the Dreamlands. Clearly they would not find anyone on the main thoroughfare, which aside from stalls that might fall in on themselves at any moment, appeared to be mainly inns, stables, and barracks.

Glory put her hand on the shoulder of a very thin child, and he immediately let out a screech. “I wasn’t stealin’ nothing, miss! I swear it!”

“I know,” she said gently, leaning down so that she could look the boy or girl in the eye. It was impossible to tell under all the dirt. “We’re strangers to your city. Maybe you could be our guide?”

Instantly the child’s eyes widened with hunger. “Oh, yes! Milet is my name, miss, and I can find you anything you need.”

“We need someone who will buy a gem for gold,” she replied very softly to keep anyone from overhearing and careful to not let on how many she had. She reached into her bag and pulled out the last of their biscuits. It was hard as a rock after six days on the road, but Milet stared at it like it was the first food she (he?) had seen in a month. Glory held it out and the child took it with some hesitation, wary of it being snatched away. “If you take us to someone trustworthy, I’ll give you a coin when our business is done.”

Rather than begin eating as Glory had expected, the child tucked the biscuit away in a pouch and immediately began leading the way through the crowds. It was a difficult road as no one was inclined to move out of the way for anyone, and Glory wasn’t the kind of person to force her way through. When Milet noticed they were falling behind, she waded back and took Glory by the wrist, dragging her through the crowds with Phoenix staring down anyone who took offense.

to Book 6, part 2, page 39

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6 Responses to “Tattoo Book 6 part 2.38”

  1. Fiona said

    I haven’t really been able to get into Lovecraft in the past, but if a person were to start with his writings, which one would you recommend?

    • I have always been particularly fond of the Dreamquest of Unknown Kadath, but within Lovecraft’s body of work there is a lot of variety, from what could be seen as psychological horror (Rats in the Walls) to fantasy (any of the stories which take place in or relate to the Dreamlands) to scifi (Cool Air) to straight horror/supernatural (The Thing on the Doorstep, the Case of Charles Dexter Ward). It really depends on what you’re in the mood for, but the ones I named above have always been among my favorites. He has a large body of poetry and essays too, much more extensive than his fiction, but they don’t get the recognition his more creative work does and most fans aren’t even aware he did anything else.

      To be honest, without the number of writers who have continued his work, he might have fallen into obscurity even with Derleth’s quest to keep him in print. Many criticize him as being too flowery in his prose and dramatic. As a big nerd, I love his 25 cent words, which you can probably tell from my own writing. lol It’s more interesting to read his contemporaries and watch them pick up ideas from one another. For instance, Robert E Howard (creator of Conan, Kull, and Solomon Kane) and Lovecraft were great friends. He contributed a great deal to the Cthulhu mythos and is credited with creating Tsathoggua. There’s also Lynn Carter, Clark Ashton Smith, August Derleth, and many others, as well as earlier authors who influenced Lovecraft: Lord Dunsany, Algernon Blackwood (the Willows and the Man who the Trees Loved are two of my personal favorites), William Hope Hodgson (he invented the Sargasso sea and contributed a great deal to Lovecraft’s terrifying sea-life tropes). Most of their work is free to read online as well as Lovecraft’s.

      • Fiona said

        Thank you. That gives me lots of ideas.

        I think the one novel I tried reading once was about finding a hidden city in Antarctica, but I found it slow going. That was years ago and probably my tastes have changed and it’s time to give him another chance; but the earlier authors you mention sound good to follow up too.

        Talking of Antarctica, this may be my favourite sci-fi horror story ever:
        http://www.amazon.com/Who-Goes-There-John-Campbell/dp/0899667341

        • That’s At the Mountains of Madness, the one Del Toro is turning into a movie now. I don’t hold out much hope for it being any good. Literally nothing Lovecraft wrote has ever worked as a movie. His stories have been used to inspire movies, but there has never been a movie that managed to translate his work faithfully aside from shorts. There was a pretty good translation of Cool Air into film, but by and large the others I’ve seen have been disappointments. Though the movie industry was just getting started while he was alive, Lovecraft hated the cinema. To be honest, for as much press as At the Mountains of Madness gets, it’s not one of my favorites either. Supposedly Del Toro’s take on it will be very much like The Thing, which is also being remade. I have to confess… I’ve never read Campbell’s novella. I’d love to at some point, just to see what the movie left out- there’s sure to be something!

          • Fiona said

            I could read them online, but it’s fun to look for these old books in used book stores. The quest begins!

          • LOL I know the feeling. There’s no substitute for holding a book in your hands. There is supposedly a “complete” collection of Lovecraft’s work put out by Barnes and Nobles, but it is riddled with typos from what I’ve heard.

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