Tattoo: The Books of Glory

a webserial about people who are not like us

Tattoo Book 6 part 2.42

Posted by harmony0stars on October 20, 2010

The girl was back on her stool when they came down, staring out at the tables vacantly while waiting on the pleasure of the inn‘s patrons. She didn’t seem to mind her life, but she didn’t seem to be interested in much of anything going on around her. Glory knew she couldn’t save the girl, but every instinct in her said that she should try. The girl didn’t look much older than Robert, and the way she was being treated made Glory furious. If she rescued her though, what then? Phoenix had said she couldn’t keep Milet. What could she do for the girl? It wasn’t as if she could steal every hard luck case that they encountered and take them back to earth.

Inside the door to the baths were deep shelves containing rows of neatly folded towels. Glory didn’t hold out much hope that they were anything but dry. The stairs were as dimly lit as the inn itself, the owner keeping only every other sconce filled with oil. There below the inn, the wooden building gave way to a rocky and ancient foundation. In the darkness, it was difficult to see much, but every so often as they’d passed the sconces it had seemed that there was writing or symbols on the walls, though if that were the case, they were too worn down with age to verify. The writing and symbols around the door at the bottom of the stairs was not so easy to dismiss though someone at some time had made an effort to efface them. The legible portions made Glory‘s skin prickle, though she could not have said why. What remained of the script was familiar to the point of déjà vu.

The second door held back a wall of dampness that seemed to wrap heavy tendrils around them as they passed through it. The room, or rather the cavern, beyond the door was filled with a massive pool of steaming water that was only partially lit by hanging lamps near the edges nearest the door. The surface was as black and reflective as obsidian. At most the hanging lamps gave the curling mist a fuzzy solidity. Anything might have been lurking beneath the surface of the lake.

Phoenix immediately dropped his towels when they reached the water’s edge and began removing his clothes. Much to Glory’s embarrassment there was no partition or side room to keep the sexes separate. Milet looked just as mortified.

“Come on!” Phoenix said with a grin, kicking his pants aside and jumping into the water. Wavelets from his impact lapped at the shore but were almost immediately stilled. The underground lake returned to its mirror-like finish, broken only when Phoenix breached the surface again. “Well?”

“I’ll wait, thank you,” Glory said in a tight voice. She had already turned her back on him as he finished disrobing.

“S-so will I!” Milet squeaked.

“Bleh!” Phoenix shouted, his exclamation echoing in the dark cavern. “You’re no fun. It’s not like I haven’t seen you and a thousand other women naked before.”

Glory flushed all the way up to her ears, but maintained a stony silence as Phoenix continued to splash around for a few minutes. When it became clear that Glory had no intention of joining him, he finally climbed back out and got dressed. “I’ll see you upstairs then,” he said with a hint of irritation, leaving the used towels where they lay.

Milet continued to hug his towel to his chest as they both watched Phoenix leave, neither of them making a move until the door had closed behind him. “Miss… I…” Milet began in a small voice. “I didn’t want to say in front of your guard, but I’m a girl. In a few years, I won’t be able to hide it any more, but I don’t want to end up like most of the street orphans. Please don’t tell. At least as a boy, someone might apprentice me if I can save up money enough to pay.”

“Pon-D’lek?” Glory asked, giving the child a sidelong glance.

“His wife is nice,” the girl said with a tiny smile, “ and I could do worse than becoming a gem merchant.”

“I’ll see to it before we leave Ilarnek,” Glory said, pulling her shirt over her head.

Milet was shocked beyond words. “I… you… will? But… I‘ve hardly done anything for you in return.”

Glory shook her head as she slipped into the steaming water. It was hot only for an instant before she acclimated to it. Despite her misgivings about the dark mysteries that might lie below the surface, she swam out a little deeper, feeling almost as if the water was a second skin. “It doesn’t matter. Taking care of people is what I do.”

“Oh,” was all Milet said as she also removed her clothes and slipped into the water with a hiss of surprise at the heat. The child didn’t venture far from the shore, either unable to swim or just as leery as Glory had been about the unknown depths of the underground lake.

She might have stayed in the water for hours, but she had a feeling that Milet was probably hungry and she didn‘t like letting Phoenix out of her sight. For as uncomfortable as she’d been before stepping into the water, Glory was surprised at how displeased she was at getting out. It would have been nice just to close her eyes and drift on the warm eddies for a couple of hours, oblivious to everything around her. Drifting in the water was the closest she’d come to sleep in a long time.

Glory retrieved her clothes, Milet following after. It seemed a waste of a good bath to put her filthy clothes back on, but Milet’s were certainly worse. “Just keep your best clothes,” Glory told the girl as she saw her layering the rags. “I’ll buy you some new clothes tomorrow.”

Milet gaped at her in astonishment for a moment before following Glory’s instruction. Her hair was still matted from years of not bathing or brushing through it, but she looked much better to Glory. Together they climbed the steps back to the inn above.

to Book 6, part 2, page 43

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2 Responses to “Tattoo Book 6 part 2.42”

  1. Fiona said

    I’d like to swim in a steamy lake right now, although I’d share the leeriness.

    • Yeah, subterranean hot springs are only attractive if they’re well lit. lol Creepy subterranean hot springs in places synonymous with dreams… sounds like Nightmare material. lol

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