Tattoo: The Books of Glory

a webserial about people who are not like us

Tattoo Book 6 part 3.43

Posted by harmony0stars on February 4, 2011

Whatever had shoved its way out of the hole had cleared away enough debris that they didn’t have to push their way through. That didn’t stop them from worrying about a ton of rock falling on their heads of course. The frozen slime trail it had left behind made it just as likely that they’d slip and jar the ceiling loose.

Half the room had collapsed long ago, and the floor had a definite tilt to it. As they trod over the gravel and dust of centuries of neglect, small stones went rattling towards a dark crevice which gaped open where two walls had once met. A cold draft came from the opening, and a glistening trail of frozen snot ran the length of the room as if a mutant snail the size of a VW bug had gone out to assail some poor unsuspecting garden. From the marks in the dirt, it had never come back again.

What made it all the more unsettling were the spots of frozen goo hanging from the ceiling and in patches parallel to the main trail. Perhaps these had been made by random limbs sticking out at all angles, but it still meant that the thing had expanded once it escaped from the catacombs. The ceiling and walls weren’t that close. Just imagining what might have left the trail made Glory feel queasy. Chances were, she was distantly related to it.

Debris had fallen since its egress, some of it embedded in the slime trail when it was fresh and some of it after it had frozen. They would not have to worry about walking into the lair of something large and hungry, a least not this particular thing. Inside the passage, a patina of frost and frozen slime spattered every surface. Walking was treacherous, and Glory was extremely grateful that whatever had come up from the catacombs was long gone. Encountering a giant mutant ice-sneezing slug was not what she had come to Ygiroth for.

It was hard to say if the tunnels were manmade or natural. If humans had made them, too much time had gone by to discern their handiwork. Mineral growth had obscured any sign of all but the roughest chisel marks in the stone and those might just as well have been created by natural faults in the stone. The slime trail was as good a path as any to follow until it petered out, though how they could lose a trail as wide as a car and frozen solid, she had no idea. Glory and Phoenix end up in a cavern so large the light of their two meager torches was negligible. Anything might have been lurking beyond their circle of light.

As she didn’t imagine there was more than one set of convoluted tunnels under Ygiroth, it was as good a time as any to burn the charm Atal had given her. “You should rest and probably eat something now.“ She rested against a fallen stalactite. “I don’t know what will happen when we burn this thing. We might not have much time.”

Phoenix didn’t need to be told twice. He wedged his torch between two rocks and found a boulder to sit on. Rifling through his pack in search of his portion of the food, he still glanced up from time to time to stare into the looming darkness. The only sound in the cavern came from the soft clatter of water on stone as stalactites encouraged their land bound brothers to grow, but that didn‘t stop them both from being anxious.

Glory hefted the pouch in her hand, squeezing the hard ball of material and wondering what was inside. It was about the size of a superball and crackled ever so slightly when she squeezed it. Though it was only double knotted with a bit of twine, she dared not open it. That might ruin the spell, and she really didn’t relish wandering around in the dark until she just happened to stumble upon Y’qaa.

While Phoenix gnawed on a piece of pemmican, nasty looking stuff which she was glad she didn’t have to share, she focused on her desire to find Y’qaa and tried to compel that need into the ball. Even Phoenix, with his massive appetite, could only handle a little pemmican at a time. He was soon done. Glory set the pouch into a slight depression in the floor and held her torch over it thoughtfully.

“We should have brought some wood down,” he offered, wiping his mouth and pulling on his bag. “I don’t know if a torch is going to be able to burn it to ash.”

“I know. I was just thinking the same thing.” She lowered her torch over the depression.

The pouch went up like flash powder, leaving them both blinking away spots. When their sight finally cleared, there was nothing left of the pouch but a tiny pile of twinkling powder that was already cold when she held her hand over it. Glory scraped it into her palm as best she could. She once again concentrated on finding Y’qaa before blowing the ash into the air.

The particles glittered and swirled in the torchlight, a faint glow growing in the air in front of them. On impulse, Glory held her torch behind her back. The light seemed to brighten even faster without her torch to hinder it. She stubbed it out against the floor and told Phoenix to do the same. The ball erupted with pearlescent light, forcing the absolute darkness back as it bobbed in midair. Though the cavern was still much too large to see the true extent of it, the ball did a much better job than their torches had.

Glory took a step towards the ball, and it drifted away. She stopped, and it stopped. Phoenix and Glory looked at one another and then both began walking. The light always stayed just ahead of them, like a will-o-the-wisp that would hopefully not lead them into any subterranean quagmires. The light led them across the cavern, down side passages, and into new caverns that might just as well have been the same as the first for as much as they were different.

The light floated into another wide crevice which almost immediately had them scrabbling to stay on their feet. Like a dream, and why not since they were in the Dreamlands, the cleft turned on its side halfway through so that they ended up walking on a wall which had started as the floor. That would only have been disconcerting, but they had rediscovered the frozen slime trail and it made their footing treacherous. Again the ‘floor’ began to tilt, but this time whatever magnetism had been at work in keeping their feet on the ground did no see fit to protect them from gravity. They slipped many times as the slant became a very steep mountainside with no wall or ceiling in sight.

To make matters worse, like a dog that had picked up a scent, the ball no longer seemed content to wait for them, ranging far enough ahead that she began to worry it would leave them behind. There came a point where Glory slipped in pursuit of the ball and couldn’t stop her momentum. Phoenix made a grab for her and lost his footing as well. They both went skittering down the slope at breakneck speed. As if in response, the light shot forward. Just when Glory was beginning to worry about coming to a nasty end, the slope began to even out. Unfortunately their momentum kept them sliding even as the light slammed into a wall of black, glassy rock and exploded like a puffball, moving too fast to veer away from impact.

to Book 6, part 3, page 44

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