Tattoo Book 6 part 3.19
Posted by harmony0stars on December 6, 2010
The black ship was massive, long and narrow like the blade of sword and sharp at both ends. The top of the bow curved back on itself, splitting at the top like two horns, this illusion emphasized by the way the color bleached out of the points towards the tips. The effect would have been graceful if not for the sinister coloring of the vessel and the white ovals that sat just above the water line like glittering dead eyes. A wedge of black wood jutted out into the water like a beak that might open to snap up prey at any moment. Though the entire ship seemed to be fashioned from a reddish sort of wood, the entire thing was painted a dull black as if the makers had taken charcoal, ground it into paste, and spread it over the ship as a shellac. Only the ‘eyes’ had any luster, which coupled with the stillness of the oars made the ship seem dead in the water.
It sat silent and still, looking too heavy for the currents to move even if the two barnacle encrusted chains hadn‘t anchored it in place. Three banks of oars rested in the water, reflected back at the boat and giving the unpleasant impression of a massive multi-legged water strider or aquatic centipede waiting for prey. It was no wonder the turbaned men hadn’t sailed it down the tributary to dock at the city properly. There was no way the smaller river would have been deep enough to accommodate the ship’s hull. Though that was probably for the best. If they had docked at Ilarnek, their escape might not have gone so easily.
There was a shout from the ship as they came nearer, and more men peered over the side. As their boat approached the much larger ship, one of the rowers in the prow stood and threw out a rope to his comrades. The men aboard the black ship caught it and began pulling them closer to where a rope and wood ladder had been dropped. Glory put an arm around Milet as she felt the girl shudder, though she wasn‘t sure if it was the ship itself or the sickly sweet miasma that surrounded it that had finally gotten to her. Glory knew the smell well. It was the same odor she’d encountered in the caverns below Sybar City when she’d fought the draug, and also in the pine barrens.
The men onboard the ship were different than the men who had rescued Glory from the temple. For one thing, there was much more variety in their clothes. It seemed turbans were a cultural standard, but the men of the ship were obviously laborers and dressed accordingly. They were all darkened by years in the sun, and those who went without shirts were quite hairy. But despite their otherwise ragged clothes, they all wore similar boxy shoes.
They stared at the black planks at Glory’s feet and peered at her arm only when they thought she was looking elsewhere. They steadfastly avoided looking directly at her as if they feared for their lives if they did. She hadn’t looked at her arm since they climbed aboard the rowboat but had no inclination to look at it now. It was definitely not going back to its proper shape on its own. She tucked the limb behind her self consciously as she pretended not to notice their curiosity.
The sailors who had helped them board gave a start as the tall turbaned man began bellowing in their language to get under way, then down at the boat before pulling it up, their body language becoming sullen. They scowled and glanced at Phoenix and Milet resentfully, obviously wondering where their missing people were and who the strangers were that had replaced them.
The tall man, fully a head taller than any of the others, barked a few more orders before another man hurried out from a dark doorway below the tallest mast, adjusting his clothes and wiping his mouth. The leader spoke rapidly to the smaller man in a tone of disgust, and Glory could only understand a handful of words in the rush. He was apparently irritated with the captain for not being ready, glutting himself below decks when any fool could see the weather had turned with the mood of the local god. Glory glanced at the sky which had become dark and overcast despite the lack of wind. It did look quite ominous.
Turning away from the captain, who began shouting orders in his place, the tall man bowed low to Glory. He straightened, smiling broadly with a mouth full of sharp teeth. “Lady, I apologize for not introducing myself sooner, but in the rush to escape from Ilarnek there was little time for the niceties. I am Bho-Rehd of Y’Pawfrm e’din Leng, second only to high priest Bho-Blok who alone dwells in Sarkomand. Come, you may use my quarters for the duration of your stay with us. We should get under cover quickly before your… ah, suitor, can focus his attention on you.”
It was on the tip of her tongue to refute his words, but thunder cracked overhead, making everyone flinch. The sailors, who had been dragging their feet as they stole sullen glances at Phoenix and Milet, cast fearful eyes to the lowering clouds before scurrying about their appointed tasks. The clanking of the anchors warred with the increasing sounds of thunder.
Without waiting for a response, Bho-Rehd turned and walked towards the central mast. Instead of taking them to the door from which the captain had emerged however, he walked past it to a room which sat higher between the central and smaller mast. “It is small,” he said apologetically, “but it is the largest private room on the ship. I will find a berth for your man servant.”
“Both Milet and Phoenix will stay with me here,” Glory announced, looking around the room. It was already hard to see as the ambient light continued to fade.
Bho-Rehd looked shocked and gave Phoenix an appraising look. It was not friendly.
“Don’t worry about him,” she said dismissively. “I’m more concerned with the looks your people were giving my friends when they thought I wasn’t looking.”
He turned away to light a lantern, though he looked rather queasy as he did so. “Do not worry for your servants, lady. If you have any doubts for their safety, I will see to it personally. We exist only to serve. The men were merely upset that we would not be able to see to the bodies of our fallen in the proper fashion, and no doubt they wonder if your companions were in some way the cause of their lost feast. When our dead return from Y’Pawfrm e’din Leng, they will hold no grudges against you and yours.”
“They… come back?” Glory asked in confusion.
“Yes, of course,” Bho-Rehd replied, hanging the lantern on a hook made for the purpose inside the door. “This was promised to us by your father when he took us from Earth and the service of Chaugnar Faugn: that any who fell in his service in the Dreamlands would be resurrected in our ancestral home. I, myself, have been killed more times than I can remember.” He turned to regard her with a bland expression, sweeping his eyes over Phoenix who leaned against the wall, still maintaining his moody silence, and Milet who shied away from his regard. “Do you require refreshments?”
The ship rocked as somewhere below decks a drum began beating like the heart of a giant. The oars heaved, sending the ship forward.
“Water and food for my friends,” she said, stressing the last word. Bho-Rhed gave a deferential nod and left the room, closing the door behind him.
to Book 6, part 3, page 20