Tattoo: The Books of Glory

a webserial about people who are not like us

Tattoo Book 6 part 3.14

Posted by harmony0stars on November 24, 2010

They were lucky that most of the priests were in the audience hall meeting with the delegation from Leng, or they might have run into far more traffic. Obviously that was by design. Phoenix wondered if the contingent meeting with the priests had an exit strategy, or if they were already considered a sacrifice for their god. Like most, he had no love for the men of Leng, but he wouldn’t wish Tsathoggua’s wrath on anyone.

With the priests busy and most of their servants either attending them or enjoying a break, the group avoided detection without too much effort. It helped that there were separate passages and stairs reserved for the support staff of the temple which allowed the priests the pretense of having all their needs seen to invisibly. Every servants’ entrance was hidden behind a tapestry which hung from ceiling to floor. Milet only looked at one wall hanging closely, and after that, she avoided examining any more. The tapestries were so thick and heavy that there was no chance that a draft might give away the presence of the doors. It was lucky that they had a guide to show them the way however, as there were more and more tapestries the higher they went, and most of these were merely decorative, a solid stone wall the only thing hidden behind them.

It was clear as they progressed through the temple that whatever soporific they’d dosed the lamp-lighter with, it was wearing off. At first he plodded along like the world’s most carefree servant. Several times, they had to stop him from simply walking through the tapestries that separated the servant’s passages from the priests. Even as empty as the halls were, there was always the chance that someone might be on the other side who would question why he was not doing his job. As they neared their goal however, he stole glances back at his followers with increasing anxiety. In all likelihood, he was realizing he was a dead man no matter if the goat-men were successful or not. He would probably not even live long enough to sell the jewel he clutched in one hand. One did not steal from one’s god lightly, and there was no doubt that the toad-god had laid claim to the woman.

“Through here,” he said in a husky whisper, standing aside to let the goat-men through. If he thought to escape while they were distracted, he was disappointed. One of the goat-men grabbed him by the arm as his brothers crowded forward to peer out from the edge of the tapestry. They quickly backed away, squabbling in their own tongue in low tones.

“What is it?” Phoenix asked.

“One of the toad-god’s spawn-cursed priests,” spat the nearest goat-man. “The thing is young, nearly mindless, but the priest is not. Even if we take care of him, the thing’s parent will know something is wrong.”

“Maybe one of you could pretend to be lost?” he offered, to which the goat-man rolled his eyes.

“Yes, brilliant,” the goat-man replied, his voice heavy with scorn. “but who’s the lucky victim then?”

A few seconds later one of the goat-men stepped away from the group with all the dignity of a man going to his death. His leader clapped him on the back and offered him a icy blue gem with a strange sigil carved into the surface. It seemed to glow with an inner fire. He took the stone gingerly and nodded at his master’s whispered words, instruction or comfort, it was hard to say. Just shy of the tapestry, he steadied himself and sought composure before taking a final peek into the hall and stepping through.

His companions resolutely avoided watching his progress. The lamp-lighter cried out and tried to break away from his caretaker as a shout of pain and surprise followed a sound like breaking glass. The tapestry was momentarily lit up around the edges with a frosty blue light and cold air caused the fabric to puff out slightly before falling back into place. Having little patience for the struggles of the servant, the goat-man who held him whipped out his curved blade and cut the man’s throat while his companions rushed from hiding. He stooped and plucked the ruby from the dead man’s hand before following his brothers into the hall.

The sacrificial goat-man and the priest stood a foot apart, the priest’s face frozen in surprise while the goat-man’s expression was a bit more resolute. The air as they approached the frozen pair was crisp with the smell of ozone, and frost coated the walls and the bodies of both men. Neither so much as twitched as the rescuers left their hiding place. They had hardly left the hidden stairwell when a roar erupted from somewhere deep inside the temple.

Glory opened a door, her eyes going from the frozen pair to her  rescuers. Phoenix gaped at her. “What the hell are you wearing?” Then he saw her arm and was rendered speechless.

“My wedding dress, obviously.” She scowled at his astonishment. If he was going to rush in like her knight in shining armor, the least he could do was ask if she was alright. Big tentacle for an arm, and all he could do was talk about her dress? He was such an ass. Ducking back into the room, she grabbed her two pouches and shoved them down her bodice. There really was nowhere else to put them, given her lack of pockets.

“Well? Are we going? I don’t imagine all that howling was a good thing,” Glory said, stalking past Phoenix with her head held high.

His companions were quick to lead the way to the tapestry. Glory didn’t ask who they were, and they didn’t explain themselves. Given the circumstances, if they were helping Phoenix, then she had to assume they were allies. It was on her tongue to apologize for the death of the man in the hall, but the sight of the dead man behind the curtain, the blood spray on the wall and the stairs still dripping, made her hold her tongue. She really didn’t know who these people were. It was too soon to assume they were friendly just because they were helping her escape.

to Book 6, part 3, page 15

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2 Responses to “Tattoo Book 6 part 3.14”

  1. Fiona said

    I do believe Phoenix is the currently most polite and gracious individual in this whole crowd. Imagine that.

    Is the lamplighter a boy or a man? Previously he was refered to as a boy and then in this chapter as a man which confused me.

    • Sorry… He’s a young man/teen. The problem is with perspective. To Phoenix, pretty much everyone is young. So from his perspective, the lamplighter was a boy. From Glory’s perspective, he could have been a man. He’s the size of a smallish man. Psychologically, it’s easier to accept a dead man than a dead boy. So when Glory saw the lamplighter’s body, without having met him alive, she decided he was a man because seeing a dead boy of about the same age as Robert probably would have been too jarring. Probably. Maybe I’m over thinking it.

      And yeah, Phoenix may have his flaws, but when he’s trying to please someone, he does it quite sincerely. Once he decides it’s in his best interests to be kind or do something for someone, he doesn’t keep thinking of it in those terms. He just does it.

      Unfortunately, Glory hasn’t had a lot of practice being gracious, I think.

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