Tattoo: The Books of Glory

a webserial about people who are not like us

Tattoo Book 6 part 2.40

Posted by harmony0stars on October 15, 2010

Even that one tiny stone was apparently worth quite a bit of money. They left the gem merchant with two pouches of gold coins. He had at first thought to give them a small sack, but Phoenix spoke up, requesting the pouches instead so that they could more easily tuck the money out of sight. Pon-D’lek thought this was a very prudent idea and divided the gold accordingly. Glory took a few coins from a pouch and tucked them into her pockets but stuck the pouch itself out of sight under her shirt, while passing the other to Phoenix. It was uncomfortable wedge between her belly and jeans, but the pouch was too big for her pockets, and she doubted it would last long in the sack Mika had given her.

As they left, Glory saw Pon’D’lek’s wife pass a small package of what she assumed was more food to Milet. Maybe they knew each other, or maybe the woman was just a soft touch when it came to street children. Pon-D’lek had not seemed to know Milet, or if he did, he chose not to treat the child with any familiarity. The boy stood patiently in the street as the door closed behind them, the food already hidden somewhere under his layers of ragged clothes.

“Could you please show us where to get some better clothes and boots, Milet?” Glory asked. The boy opened his mouth as if shocked by her politeness, or maybe it was just that he’d been expecting the coin she‘d promised. If Pon-D‘lek‘s wife hadn‘t just fed him, Glory might have suggested they find someplace to eat; Milet was much too thin for her liking. But seeing as he had been fed, they could afford to put off finding an inn for a little longer.

“Yes, miss,” was all he said as he turned and led the way down the much less crowded street. Every so often he looked up at the sky as if to reassure himself that it was still day. The sun was far from setting, but the temples cast long cold shadows over the city. Locals, and even scattered visitors, seemed to be seeking shelter as the gloom spread.

Milet led them to a street that seemed to consist entirely of shops, but even as they walked, Glory could see many of the shop owners were closing up for the day, even though the sun would not set for at least a few more hours. “Folk close up early here,” she said quietly to Phoenix as they stopped at a cobbler’s stall. The owner stood by nervously, the wisps of white hair combed over his otherwise bald head fluttered in an intermittent and chilly breeze that had sprung up in the shadowed streets. She could tell he wanted to take his things inside but also didn’t want to lose a sale.

“If you will let me take your measurements, lady, I will have new boots ready for you by the morning,” he said at last, anxiety creeping into his voice. “For… two gold coins.”

Glory nodded after only a few seconds. “For myself, my guard, and the boy.”

“The boy…?” The cobbler and Milet looked at one another incredulously.

“Yes. While I am in the city, he is my guide, and he needs shoes,” she said while Phoenix rolled his eyes.

“Don’t argue with her,” Phoenix broke in. “It’s really not worth the effort.” Glory scowled at him, but he smirked in response, refusing to meet her eye.

“I… can try on these here,” Milet said, pointing to the pile of used boots in the bin in front of the shop, “while the shopkeeper takes care of you inside. If… if I were to get new boots, someone would just steal them while I slept anyway.”

“Oh,” Glory said in disappointment. “I hadn’t thought of that.”

“Six gold,” the cobbler said.

“Three,” Phoenix broke in again.

The little man’s noise turned red as he shouted, “Five!”

“Four. The boy will take a pair of castoffs, and we don’t need anything fancy, just sturdy.” Phoenix seemed to enjoy haggling. He grinned as the cobbler gave a little cry of despair.

“Four! And I tell you I am being robbed! I am the finest shoemaker in all of Ilarnek. I have members of the priesthood who come to me and no other!”

With that decided, Milet wasted no time but sat down in the dirt to begin trying on shoes. The bottoms of his feet were as black as the road itself. The cobbler stared unhappily at the street urchin going through his stock, but led the ways inside with a wave of his hand. His anxiety was palpable as he gave one final glance to the sky which was finally beginning to darken.

Phoenix leaned close as they entered the shop and whispered, “Don’t think of keeping him. You can’t take him back to Earth with us. He’d fade away like any dream.”

Glory gave him a wounded look. “I can take care of him while we’re here at least.”

Phoenix shook his head. “He’d be better off on the streets than with us. There will only be more danger the further we go. Besides, you pick up strays the way a cat collects fleas.”

“That doesn’t speak well of you, now does it?” Glory replied glibly. She sat in the chair the cobbler indicated while he collected his tools. Phoenix said nothing more, but his expression was anything but pleased as he leaned against the doorframe.

“Would you like a particular color or fashion?” the little man asked, despite Phoenix’s insistence that they only needed shoes to get them from point A to point B. He was visibly sweating and watched the door as if afraid Milet was out in the street stealing him blind.

Shaking her head, Glory said, “No, I don’t care about any of that. We have a long way to travel yet, and I don‘t want them falling apart like these.”

The cobbler grunted as she peeled off her sneakers. He gave them a disdainful look before putting first one foot and then the other against a piece of wood to trace the outline of her soles. Then he carefully measured the tops of her feet, her ankles, and calves, making careful note on the wood itself. She pulled her shoes back on, and Phoenix took her place on the chair.

“Do you have any requests, sir?” the shopkeeper asked as he took Phoenix’s measurements.

Phoenix shrugged. “I like red or orange, but I don’t care. So long as they don’t pinch.”

The little man drew himself up proudly as he finished. “Sir, I do not make shoes that pinch!”

“He didn’t mean anything by it,” Glory apologized. “He was just commenting on the shoes he‘s been wearing.”

The man stared down at the ratty sneakers that could not possibly last another day and snorted. “Very well… I really must close now, mistress and sir. It is much too late to remain on the streets. I suggest you have your… guide find the nearest inn as soon as you can, and I will have your boots waiting for you in the morning.”

“No, I wasn’t,” Phoenix chuckled quietly into her ear as they stepped out of the shop, deftly moving away from her as she tried to elbow him.

“Quit making trouble,” she said softly as the shopkeeper bustled out into the street and wheeled the cart of old shoes inside. She turned to Milet who stood nearby, tapping his new shoes with impatience.

“I know an inn nearby,” he announced, fairly jumping to be on his way. “You must be hungry. You barely ate a thing at Master Pon-D’lek’s shop. This way please, miss.”

He trotted down the street and Glory and Phoenix had to hurry to keep up. Aside from a few other travelers who looked about as anxious as Milet, the streets were completely deserted. Obviously something happened when then sun went down which had the entire populace spooked.

to Book 6, part 2, page 41

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