Tattoo Book 6 part 3.44
Posted by harmony0stars on February 7, 2011
They hit the wall with enough force to knock the breath from their lungs. Phoenix groaned, and Glory irritably pushed him away, wincing at the sharp bits of flint and obsidian. He’d been the lucky one, landing on top of her instead of colliding with the sharp stones himself.
“I think… we’re in Y’qaa.” Phoenix winced as he rolled over and climbed to his feet. Aside from a scratch on his cheek which was beading up, he didn’t look any worse for wear.
“How can you tell?” She wiped her bloody hands on her pants and wished she had some spare clothes. The cuts to her clothes weren’t quite indecent, but she felt awfully exposed. The pain disappeared almost at once. If anything her healing abilities were accelerating, and her arm looked as if she’d never accidentally changed it into a tentacle. She was left to wonder how long the Elder Sign tattoo had been holding her back.
“Well…” He looked around and said, “that ball of light is gone, but we can still see.”
It was true. The sky, if there was one, was obscured by a gray fuzz, like fog that the sun had not yet burnt away. It hung over their heads, obscuring the rocky heights from which they had fallen and the hard place with which they’d collided. So this was gray litten Y’qaa…
“I expected… more?” No matter which way she looked, the terrain was the same. They occupied a narrow margin between the mountain and the cliff, and there was no way of knowing which way to go. Had the ball collided with the wall because Ubbo-Sathla was somewhere on the other side, or had it just been moving too fast to slow down? “Did it seem like the ball was veering to the left to you?”
“Honestly, I couldn’t see much of anything except stars when we reached bottom,” he said, touching his cheek with surprise when he realized he was bleeding and then wiping it with his sleeve. She smiled. “What?” he demanded, giving her a blank look.
She shook her head. “Nothing. Seeing stars is just a very human thing to say.” As they only had a fifty-fifty chance of going in the wrong direction, she turned to the left and started walking along what amounted to a gully, though it did not appear as thought it had rained in a very long time. “You’ve really, uh… blossomed since we came to the Dreamlands.”
Phoenix hurried to catch up with her, a scowl creasing his forehead as though he didn’t know if she was making fun of him or not. “It’s nice,” she assured him. “It’s better than when you were stuck in my head and only making snide remarks about my choices.”
“It’s not my fault you make bad choices,” he said with a hint of smugness. She snorted but chose not to respond. Teasing could very easily become an argument considering how many times they‘d fought in the past.
The landscape was slow to change. Only the occasional small sickly-looking plant or skeletal tree proved they were making any progress at all. They had been walking for hours before a sound like screaming gulls reached them. Up ahead they could see flying things moving through the fog and landing in niches in the wall. The sound became like fingernails on a chalkboard the closer they came to the colony.
The things were massive and chattered at each other like a tree full of starlings… if the starlings in question had been squamous, man-eating monstrosities. The bones which littered the ground around their nesting area were definitely humanoid, if not entirely human. The cliff face and the litter at its base were covered with the creatures’ sulfurous droppings, the smell making both of them gag and cover their mouths. Slowly the things became aware of the travelers, and their chatter died away as one equine head after another turned in their direction.
A massive ‘bird’ launched itself from its perch and plummeted towards them. Glory searched her shirt for the key Atal had given her, recalling the story of Haon-Dor. The slimy shantak landed on the rocky incline nearby, sending broken shale and skree rattling down to the path. It shook itself like any bird might to resettle its feathers, small bits of ice scattering in all directions.
Phoenix cursed as a chuckle reached their ears. More of the creatures landed around them. Bho-Rehd slid from the back of his mount, and his minions did the same. “Did you think you could escape us so easily, Princess?”
“I told you. Don’t call me princess,” she hissed, hunching her shoulders and glaring at the goat-man.
Bho-Rehd laughed. His friends chimed in, though they didn’t sound as sure in their gloating as he did. Somewhere he had picked up more priests so that they were six in all, including himself. He held up a blood-red ruby, the flickering light at its center making his expression even more malign. “I think I will be the one giving the orders, if you care at all for your companion.” He looked at the gem, admiring his handiwork. “It took me some effort to discover his true nature, but remarkable as his ability to keep that body intact is, he is not the first djinni I’ve confined to a gem. Test me, and I will compel him into the gem completely.”
Glory and Phoenix exchanged glances. “What do you want then?” she demanded.
“Why, I want you to do as your father intended and retrieve the tablets from Ubbo-Sathla.” He didn’t smile so much as put his sharp teeth on display. “But you will give them to me, and it is I who will be exalted above all others, not you. It will be my people who will control the cosmic prison of the Old Ones, and your father and his kin will bow to us. The slaves will become the masters and the gods will be compelled to obey if they value their freedom.” He cackled and his companions echoed him with weak chuckles. Clearly this was Bho-Rehd personal madness.
Glory clenched her jaw but said, “Fine. Show me where I’m supposed to go.”
to Book 6, part 3, page 45