Tattoo: The Books of Glory

a webserial about people who are not like us

Tattoo Book 6 part 3.21

Posted by harmony0stars on December 10, 2010

As Milet ate and Phoenix sulked, Glory finally looked down at her misshapen limb. She might as well have been wearing a rubber novelty arm. It had more or less gone back to its proper shape, elbow and wrist, four fingers and a thumb, but it was elongated and necrotic looking. Even the tattoos had more or less gone back to their proper place. She found herself wishing she’d asked for some clothes along with the food, something with long sleeves. The flesh of her arm was the color of things more usually found under rocks or deep under the ocean. The skin was gray and splotchy where it connected to her shoulder, becoming progressively more pallid until it reached her bone white fingertips. Her arm and fingers were drawn out and cadaverous, extending about a half a foot longer than her good arm so that the tips of her fingers stretched down past her knee. It was grotesquely wasted, little more than bone and long ropey muscles. Despite its appearance however, it worked just fine, and she had regained what she considered normal sensation.

She wiggled her fingers, long and bony like a cartoon witch’s, then closed her hand into a fist and let it rest in her lap. Closing her eyes, Glory tried to visualize her arm back to its proper shape and size. As the minutes slipped by, she thought she had made some progress, but when she looked, there was no discernable change in the limb.

“Toad-face do that to you?” Phoenix asked, some of the sulk gone out of him now that he’d had his say. He’d been watching her as she examined the arm.

“No, I kind of did it to myself. It’s not going back either.” Glory told them about Shub-Niggurath under the inn and what the creature had shown her of the schism between the Great Old Ones and the Elder Gods. Milet looked queasy at the thought of having swam around in the mind of a god and put down the date she’d been about to eat. Looking around for some place to sit, she finally just sat where she stood, drawing her knees up to her chin and wrapping her arms around them.

“So the Goat with a Thousand Young told you a bedtime story about the origins of life in this universe… what’s to say It even told you the truth?” He didn’t look impressed. “Seems like It just gave you enough information to get you in trouble.”

Glory shrugged uncomfortably. Just because it hadn’t seemed like there was enough of a mind left in the hot puddle of ectoplasm to deceive a bumblebee, that didn’t prove Shub Niggurath had been entirely honest with her. Even if she couldn’t come up with a reason for It to deceive her, that didn’t mean the thing hadn’t had an ulterior motive in telling the story. At the very least, every memory was subject to perception. The Elder Gods who had punished Shub Niggurath and imprisoned the Great Old Ones might have a completely different version to tell.

“Does Cthugha have a better genesis story?” she asked and watched him flinch at the use of his progenitor’s name.

“No,” he said quietly, turning back to the storm. “But we never really looked into it. We watched other stars being born and die without considering where they might have come from.”

Glory glanced at Milet who looked half frightened, half bewildered . “I’m sorry we’ve dragged you into this,” she said to the girl. “As soon as we reach a safe port, I’ll find you an apprenticeship, and you can be free of us.”

‘I-I’m not ungrateful for what you’ve already done for me, miss,” the girl said anxiously, raising her head from her knees. “I’ve eaten more in the past few days, than I have in a month.”

“I know. It’s alright to be afraid though. You’ve been very brave,” Glory said gently.

By the time the storm blew itself out, the stars were appearing in the night sky. The bed was little more than a trough filled with a large feather ‘mattress‘ and a mountain of furs. Glory let Milet have it, taking half the furs for Phoenix and keeping one for herself. Though Milet protested that Glory should have the bed and Phoenix became sullen again at its loss, Glory ignored them both. She folded her fur up and set on it, resting her back against the wall as she attempted to meditate. Scowling, Phoenix made his own rough pallet near the window and pulled the furs over himself.

The night was long. Or maybe it just seemed that way as Glory spent the dark hours trying to fix her arm. As the sky began to lighten, turning the darkness opaque, she glared at the offending limb, telling herself that it was slightly shorter though she was certain it had not changed. Her shoulder throbbed as if she’d pinched a nerve, and she was under no illusion that it was the elder sign that was keeping her arm in its current state. Despite her earlier belief that Shub Niggurath hadn’t been whole enough in mind to have an ulterior motive, Glory began to wonder if the information she’d been given hadn’t been some kind of trap. Had the creature shown her how to change her form knowing that she wouldn’t be able to fix it once she did?

Casting a believable illusion over her left arm would be more difficult, but it was starting to look like her only option. Illusions were a matter of craftsmanship, a slow process of imagining the limb from every angle and permanently fixing that image in her mind’s eye. Though it seemed that physical transformation should be more difficult, illusions were only as good as their flaws. Even once she successfully attached the idea of her arm being normal in her consciousness, she would have to keep that idea fresh in her head at all times or risk having the mutant limb revealed. The constant expenditure of energy to maintain the illusion was in sharp contrast to the once and done affair of true transformation. Every cell in her arm would have remembered the transformation for her, leaving her free to focus on other things. On some level, the cells in her arm must have recalled their original shape on their own since they had nearly gone back to normal without her, but somehow the elder sign interfered with her connection to the limb, and so she was left with an arm that would have made the Tasmanian Devil do a spit-take.

to Book 6, part 3, page 22

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