Tattoo: The Books of Glory

a webserial about people who are not like us

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Tattoo Book 6 part 3.31

Posted by harmony0stars on January 7, 2011

The drought along the river Ourkranos they already knew about and shook their heads sadly over the fate of the people still living there. There was no end in sight, and many lives had already been lost. When she described their journey up the mountain though, they both stared at her as if she was mad. Only one man had ever attempted to reach Kadath and lived to tell the tale, and he had not met the gods. Elewa scribbled madly in his journal, begging for details on how it had looked and what the gods had been like. Both men were breathless as she described their flight from Sarnath, and Glory could not help but notice that many of the men sitting at the nearby tables had put away their books and grown silent as they listened to her story.

Phoenix eagerly described his swordfight with the bandits, embellishing things until he had taken on half a dozen men single handedly. Their escape through the tunnels under Ilarnek became an epic battle from which they would not have escaped without his assistance. Where Glory gave facts which were pared down to the thinnest sliver, Phoenix excelled at storytelling and had a ready audience in Elewa and the eavesdropping librarians. Even Milet listened wide-eyed to his retelling, though she had been there and seen everything firsthand.

Glory skimmed over the events in Ilarnek. She left out Shub Niggurath entirely but made a point of telling them what ‘Bokrug’ had said concerning Ourkranos and hinted at who the god of Ilarnek really was. She felt guilty about using the gems sent to save the people along his river without at least mentioning what had befallen the god. If Soter and Elewa thought it strange that Bokrug had spoken to her at all, or that he had attempted to talk her into staying with him in Ilarnek rather than just doing as he pleased, they must have attributed it to the prophecy Phoenix had mentioned. That was the only aspect of her story they questioned when all was said and done.

“I don’t know,” Glory replied. Soter got up from the table as an acolyte came bearing a small carved box. A cat wound its way around his legs so that he might have tripped if he hadn‘t already been walking slowly for the sake of the box itself. It had to be worth a small fortune from the look of it. Glory gave the cat a hard look but it blithely ignored her.

“The thing that spoke through my father and dragged us both to the slopes of Kadath said only to seek Y’qaa.” Her voice was tight with frustration. “It didn’t give any reason. Nor did the gods say why I was to seek it, though they did not seem to think I’d be successful. The Miri Nigri didn’t explain themselves either beyond claiming their god had sent them, which definitely does not make me feel better about them, even if I‘d probably still be in Ilarnek without their help!” Phoenix scowled at that but kept his mouth shut. “I’m almost sure I won’t like whatever I find in Y‘qaa, but if I don’t go, I’m even more certain whoever is involved in this will make me and everyone I love suffer for it.”

Elewa nodded sympathetically. “It is always thus with gods. Do as they say whether their instructions are clear or not. All any of us can do is hope for the best.”

Soter returned to the table bearing the ornate box, scanning the scroll which had been sent with it. Mother of pearl and half a dozen different woods had been used to create an inlay pattern of concentric and interlacing stars. He sat down, lifting the lid as if the contents were exponentially more precious than the box itself.

Phoenix cocked a skeptical eye at Soter as he lifted three tiny pendants from the box as if they were made of the finest porcelain. “Atal must know something more of your mission than we if he saw fit to go to such extremes to ensure your arrival,” Soter said, gingerly setting the necklaces before Glory and her companions.

Each pendant consisted of an egg-shaped orb barely larger than the pad of her thumb. A small glass dewdrop formed a cup at the center of each delicate star, giving it the appearance of some outre flower with five petals. The gray metal was paper-thin and seemed to glow with a ghostly luminescence wherever it sat in shadow. The arms of the stars drooped and curved, interlacing and overlapping at their tips to give the pendants a stable base upon which to sit. Each had a ’chain’ fashioned from what looked to be horse hair. Glory reached for one, only to have the cat leap up onto the table and push itself under her hand. She grudgingly scratched his ears, and he dropped onto the table before her looking smug.

Soter must have noticed her consternation. “Is something wrong?” he asked with a frown.

“This is my cat, from Earth,” Glory said feeling as if the entire universe was conspiring against her. “Or… at least, he made himself at home in my house before I ended up in the Dreamlands. I mean… I haven‘t even named him yet.”

Soter nodded, an amused smile creeping into the corners of his mouth. “Cats are expert Dreamers, moving from Earth to the Dreamlands without effort. If your cat was to be encountered anywhere, it would be Ulthar where all cats are safe from harm.” He held the note up for reference. “Atal writes that he has used some of this cat’s fur as part of his spell, with his permission of course.” He nodded deferentially to the cat who made no move to acknowledge the man’s words one way or another. “He will help lead you to Ulthar.”

Glory reached again for the amulet and this time the cat was satisfied that he had been acknowledged. She was surprised by its weight. For such a delicately crafted item, it was deceptively heavy.

“Oh…” said Soter, and Glory looked up. He had retrieved a small vial of gray powder from the box, no larger than the fingernail of his smallest finger. Glory handed over her amulet as he carefully tapped the powder into the depression of each star and set them back on the table. He thought for a moment before patting his pouches in search of some item, finally coming up with a quill, its metal encased point clean and sharp. With an apologetic smile, he held it out. “This should be sharp enough, I think. Atal says that each of you must add a drop of your blood to your amulet to activate the charm.”

Phoenix looked none too pleased to be shedding his blood again, but he didn’t argue. As their blood touched the powder, it momentarily smoked and bubbled with light brighter than the sun. Everyone instinctively leaned away from the table as a wave of heat passed over them. Even the cat leaped into Milet’s lap and away from the smoking amulets. The process was over in an instant, leaving the three star pendants with a cold blood-red ruby at the center and veins of red grown through the metal like the roots of some plant. The entire thing had become encased in clear glass like a minuscule paperweight.

to Book 6, part 3, page 32

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3 Responses to “Tattoo Book 6 part 3.31”

  1. Fiona said

    Cool.

  2. Fiona said

    Typo in first sentence : new -> knew

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