Tattoo: The Books of Glory

a webserial about people who are not like us

Tattoo Book 6 part 2.43

Posted by harmony0stars on October 22, 2010

Glory glared at Phoenix as they entered the dining room. The innkeeper’s girl was sitting on his lap while he chewed on the leg of some roasted animal with his free hand. The table was loaded with plates of food, which he waved to with a magnanimous gesture. Milet meekly sat down on the far side of the table and began eating from the bowls nearest her, suddenly unwilling to gorge herself in public. Maybe the knowledge that she would soon be apprenticed with access to a steady supply of food made her more comfortable with taking her time. Or maybe she was just embarrassed on Glory‘s behalf.

Glory walked around the table and punched Phoenix hard in the arm, making him yelp with surprise. “Ouch! What was that for?” he said as the girl slid out of his lap and went back to her stool as if nothing had happened.

“You know what. Don’t be a lech,” she replied. “Don’t take advantage of someone in a bad situation.”

“Jealous?” he asked with a rakish smile, but she shook her head in disgust.

“Just don’t do it. I don’t like being ashamed of the people with whom I associate.”

He looked a bit perplexed, but the few people left in the room were stealing glances at them out of the corners of their eyes, or in the innkeeper’s case, staring openly. Glory sat down with her back to the bar and began eating. If Phoenix was considering continuing their conversation, her sudden indifference discouraged him. He turned his attention back to the food.

Conversations rose and fell around them as they ate. Gradually the few people left in the main room went up to bed. Emboldened by their feeding frenzy, Milet ate until she passed out. Glory and Phoenix continued eating long into the night, Phoenix calling for more whenever it seemed the table was beginning to empty. Every so often, a wizened old woman would hobble from the kitchen at the innkeeper’s call, clearing away plates and laying down new ones. As the night wore on, the selection became very slim. Finally, red faced and irritable, the innkeeper stomped over to them and pounded a fist onto the table. Milet sat bolt upright, nearly falling off the bench in terror.

“I don’t know what crevice you ghouls crawled out from, but the kitchen is closed. There is no more food. Go to bed so I can find mine before dawn!” he snarled.

Phoenix snorted, grinning widely no doubt at mention of ghouls. Glory shrugged, straining to control the smile tugging at the corner of her own mouth. “Fine, fine. I was starting to feel sorry for the old woman anyway. Someone her age should have been asleep hours ago.” She did feel somewhat guilty for keeping the woman up, but she had slipped a coin into every pitcher of wine they emptied with the innkeeper none the wiser. The crone had been well paid for her time, and he would probably never even know about it.

Neither the wine nor the food had had any effect on her. She felt neither hungry nor full, and she might as well have been drinking water. Not so with Phoenix. He might have been able to pack the food away like a bear preparing for hibernation, but the wine had definitely gone to his head. He staggered as he rose and giggled as Glory helped him up the stairs, Milet going before them with a candle lit from the fireplace.

He exhaled into Glory’s neck as they reached the landing, staggering and clutching at her waist for support. “We can share th’ bed, y’know. We’ve shared more.” He giggled again and sighed into her shoulder.

Glory was mildly disgusted as he gave her cheek a slobbery kiss, just missing her mouth. She toppled him into the bed. “No. I don’t think so, Phoenix. Go to sleep. I don’t think the wine agrees with you at all.”

He giggled again as she pulled the blankets over him, but he was already half asleep, his head buried in the pillow. “Like dis bein’ hum’n thing. S’ lo’s o’ fun,” he slurred, the last bit obscured even more by a deep snore.

Milet blinked at her from the floor where she’d curled up with the blanket, but the girl was barely holding onto consciousness by a thread. If she’d heard what Phoenix said, she hadn’t understood it. “Go to sleep, Milet,” Glory murmured, picking up the candle from the floor and settling into her own corner before blowing it out.

Time ticked away in the dark. Glory wondered if Phoenix would even remember making a pass at her when he woke up. She hoped not. To her way of thinking, after sharing a body for so long they were practically siblings. Any kind of romantic entanglements would be awkward and creepy, both.

Throughout their travel to Ilarnek, Glory had had access to the stars while Phoenix was sleeping. She didn’t sleep, but watching them kept her distracted from the passage of time. In the dark, all she had to distract her were the sighs and snorts of her companions. Though she tried to calm her mind and descend into that stillness that had punctuated the tedious moments of her sleepless nights on Earth, eventually she climbed to her feet and escaped the close darkness of the room.

Whatever had the populace of Ilarnek scared, she didn’t want to annoy the innkeeper by going outside to investigate. Maybe in the morning she’d question Milet about it. Instead, she slipped down the stairs to the empty common room and then down the second stairwell to the hot springs under the building, swiping a candle stub form the bar.

As she had expected, most of the sconces had been extinguished, only the top one and one far below at the entrance to the springs had been left lit. Glory felt her way down the stairs, saving her candle stub for the bottom and lighting at in the sconce beside the door. Once again she examined the ancient inscriptions, but they were too badly effaced by graffiti and time. She lit her candle and stepped through the door into the pitch black room, edging forward until she found one of the hanging lamps.

It didn’t shed much light, but then she didn’t need much, just an anchor in the dark. She didn’t want to lose sight of the shore. Blowing out the candle, she stripped, folding her clothes and setting them a few feet away from the light, just in case someone came down and was tempted to mess with her stuff. Glory stepped up to the misty water and saw small wavelets brushing the shore.

Funny… the water had been mirror smooth before Phoenix jumped in. “Hello?” she called, but all she got back were echoes. Well, maybe the river was connected to the springs through some kind of tidal cycle that only caused ripples sometimes. What did she know?

She stepped into the water with a sigh, feeling it envelope her like a second skin. It was like losing track of her body, drifting away from herself into the oblivion of sleep. But if she was asleep as she drifted through the subterranean waters, there were also dreams.

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13 Responses to “Tattoo Book 6 part 2.43”

  1. Raven said

    “We can share th’ bed, y’know. We’ve shared more.”

    Yeah, but from inside the same skin; inside the same brain.

    • Fiona said

      Sorry Phoenix, you haven’t got a chance; she’s turned down better men than you.

      • Raven said

        And what has to hurt, somewhere: how she felt about the man whose shape he’s wearing (Aaron).

        • Yup… if Aaron hadn’t jumped the gun and tried to “comfort” her, who knows what might have happened.

          Actually though, fun fact: in the original imagining of the story, Aaron was supposed to be a fallen angel, and Phoenix didn’t exist at all. Aaron still passed his fiery sword on to Glory, but she still didn’t stick around because by giving up his sword he became human and therefore vulnerable. Later Aaron regretted his decision to become mortal and got vamped. Still later, he regretted *That* decision as well, and when he met up with Glory again, he being an unholy monster, he couldn’t touch her because she carried his “weapon of vengeance” within her body which was antithetical to his new soulless nature. A total unrequited love situation.

          Do you like the way things are or the way things could have been better?

          • Raven said

            That would have made more of a DC/Vertigo Sandman/Lucifer/Constantine storyline, and in that context it would have been great….

            It just wouldn’t have been very Lovecraftian, and in particular would have denied Phoenix his whole fire-vampiric individuality.

            The sword of an angel, even a fallen angel, no, I don’t think any internal conversations would have been quite as interesting. And there wouldn’t have been the prior vampiric hosts to teach human experiences.

            So where would the sword be in present circumstances? Quite possibly not in a facsimile of Aaron’s (never-human) body, but in a duplicate of Glory’s own, the only human body the sword had ever known.

            And unless that had included the tattoos, and Glory could have seen them right away, who would Glory have thought she was seeing on the edge of the cliff there, and what would have happened next? Might have been a short story for the sword….

          • In effect, there would have been no story at all and the sword would have been a tool, nothing more. And you’re right. There would have been no Lovecraftian elements, which is one reason why I changed it. The story wasn’t creepy enough and I’ve never enjoyed reading or writing “romance,” even the unrequited kind. 😉

          • Raven said

            I tried to reply to your friend request at YSDC, and found I’d been banned, “Will be lifted: Never.” (Too many puns? Dunno.)

            Another blog you may enjoy, and where I know you would be welcome, is http://thepaganandthepen.wordpress.com/

            Brynneth Nimue (Bryn Colvin) there could be, I think, your spiritual sister… and also writes (while Tom Brown paints) the story of Hopeless, Maine: http://www.itisacircle.com/home/

          • Wow, really? What the heck did you do to Yoggy? Though admittedly I have found them to be a bit strict on some matters. I had one of my posts deleted by a mod even though no one seemed offended. Ah well. You’d think a site referencing alien gods would be a little lenient on mockery of Catholic priests. I mean, is there anyone who doesn’t have a snide comment or two about Catholicism these days?

            What’s really funny is, lately my spam filter is catching your comments and holding them for approval; I assume due to the links. lol Thanks for posting them even if wordpress thinks they’re spam. 😉 I’ll let you know what I think as soon as I have time to check them out.

          • Raven said

            They didn’t say. The “You’ve been banned” screen was generic; an email (“It’s a sad occasion when we have to univite someone, but I do hope you find somewhere that may fit your posting style better. There are many fine sites on the net dealing with Lovecraft and Cthulhu.”) was more diplomatic, but not more explanatory, and I suspect may have been just as generic.

            When I had previously asked in Private Messages the reasons for red-ink posts or deletions, I’d gotten no explanations, only “this decision is final” — and my saying that an explanation would make it easier to understand the decision didn’t even get a response.

            My posting history is no secret; you can view it from my profile. The last PMs I sent (to WinstonP and PoC) were simply defending Roucheau’s innocence in the “Noob question here” thread, not attacking anyone at all.

            Red-inked posts: (1) I’d explained (once again) why a link to the start of that thread needn’t be kept only on that thread, but ought to be distributed elsewhere. (Moderator response: “Please cut the snarkiness in the posts. We don’t need that here, thanks.”)
            (2) I’d riffed on the inadvertent but beautiful portmanteau of Inventor and Investigator as it pertained to Astrophysicists…. [Do you recall that Cavor actually introduced himself to Bedford as an “investigator” in Wells’s original novel First Men in the Moon?] (Moderator’s response, 3 posts down: a one-point Infraction for “snark and sniping”.) Do read the rest of the thread.
            (3) I’d replied to Tigger’s “Prequels don’t have a particularly good history either” with a short list of prequels (X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the second Indiana Jones, the third Underworld, et al.) and asked “What was so terrible about these?” (Moderator response: delete the entire post contents as “antagonistic”, with warning of a ban. Despite repeated requests, no explanation was ever given how that post met that description.)
            (4) The “Noob question here” thread (Roucheau’s post and following).

            But I think my other posts, finding maps and other helpful links for people trying to track down sources, speak for themselves. People were thanking me, not angry with me. I have no idea what “antagonism” I’m supposed to have been showing; I certainly wasn’t feeling any.

          • Yeah, I think the Yoggy cultists have gotten a bit too dogmatic lately. Ah well, all good things must come to an end. It’s still a good source for outre Mythos info. Even when I Google to get clarity on one GOO or another, the Yoggy site sometimes comes up as one of the first (or only) sites dealing with the subject.

            Feel free to post to your heart’s content here. 🙂 We’ll be snarky together. lol I imagine if they banned you, my own eventual exile is only a matter of time. Ironically the one time I did get into it with a poster on Yoggy (in regards to the an NMN voodoo post and his victim), the mods were nowhere to be seen. So, so far as I’m concerned, their track record is a bit spotty in who they target and even in how they exert their power over those who choose to provide content for their site.

    • lol If only Phoenix realized how creepy he’s being! I mean, eeeeeewwww! Phoenix, darling, it will just never work out. You just spent a year closer to Glory than her own twin.

      What we’re going to see here is Phoenix jumping feet first into a laundry list of bad habits that he’s only had exposure to peripherally. Boy will he be one sorry boy in the morning! He’s literally lived as other men most of his long life, but he has no first hand experience being human or actually experiencing the habits of his hosts. He doesn’t know how things feel because he suppressed their feelings and hungers as superfluous. Except for… you know… sex.

      But that’s just not going to happen. As Fiona said, Glory’s turned down better men, who I might add, were actually men and not alien fire-beings in a temporary semblance of a man.

  2. Raven said

    What’s neat about the closing scene:

    Caverns have always been powerful symbols for the unconscious mind — well, they are literally the Underworld, after all — with examples like Plato’s (metaphorical) Cave of the Shadow-Images, Merlin’s Crystal Cave, or even the Cave of the Dark Side into which Yoda sent Luke.

    And a deep pool of water, likewise, is such a symbol. Hypnotic eyes have been likened to such pools.

    Here in the Dreamworld, to find an actual cavern with an actual deep pool of water… well, symbols are more than merely symbols in dreams, aren’t they?

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