Tattoo: The Books of Glory

a webserial about people who are not like us

Tattoo Book 7 part 2.16

Posted by harmony0stars on June 3, 2011

Despite her complaint that it really was not necessary, Gwythyr insisted upon letting Glory ride and led the horse deeper inland. All through their trip, she felt Maria staring daggers at her back. It was useless to wonder if the woman understood the intricacies of courtly etiquette. She either did or she didn’t, but hopefully she knew enough to not make a scene. Historically the Celts, and by inference, the fairies, abhorred bad behavior and ill manners.

The game trail slowly evolved into something of a path and soon joined a broader way large enough to accommodate wagons. It was only a few hours before the sound of horses reached their ears, and looking back towards the woods, they saw a group of about a dozen men coming up the road. Gwythyr stopped and waited with a slightly embarrassed smile on his face.

“Ho, my prince!” said the man in the lead as he reigned his horse in. He had dark hair and eyes, looking over Glory and her friends calmly. “I am glad to see you made it out of the woods. We searched for you until dark, and again at dawn, but the rain had washed all trace of you away. I would not have liked to explain to your aunt or to your father how I lost you in such a idyllic setting.”

“Aye, sorry, Sir Euan,” Gwythyr said, blushing slightly. “By the time I realized we had become separated, it was too dark to see even my horse’s hooves on the path. Luckily I discovered a dear friend and her companions as I looked for a place to pass the night.” Gwythyr made introductions, Sir Euan regarded each in turn, his placid expression betraying none of his thoughts.

“I am certain your aunt will give them the welcome they deserve,” Sir Euan said. “But now we should make haste to the fort before the Lady sends any out on a fools errand to search the woods for us.” He reached down and offered his hand to Maria who took it with a slight smile and was hoisted up in front of him. Other riders quickly took the travelers up behind them, and Gwythyr pulled himself up behind Glory.

As they trotted down the road, signs of traffic became more evident. They passed several farmers and travelers, coming and going, who invariably moved to the side and bowed their heads with respect before continuing on their way. Glory didn’t like such displays, but the knights ignored the peasants, and the footed travelers didn’t seem to be frightened or downtrodden in any way, merely respectful and cautious of the horses. So she supposed they were only following custom.

The fort came into view long before they reached it, rings of fortified earthworks following the contours of cnoc Rhaonastil and the surrounding hills. It was an impressive sight, especially with the land around it cleared for farmland for miles around. The closer they came to the huge city, it was too large to be called a fort in Glory’s mind, the more traffic they encountered, until it became awkward for the carts and other travelers to make way for the horses. They pulled off to the side, but could not entirely clear the road for the knights; so the riders were forced to slow their pace. The previous travelers had been more than willing to step aside for the group, but the travelers nearer to the city clearly resented the riders’ right of way. They gave the riders ugly looks as they trotted by to which the men seemed entirely oblivious.

Glory counted a total of seven concentric earthwork rings around the lands, though the ones nearest the cnoc were packed tightly around the fort itself like a Mandelbrot set. They encounter the first wall while still well away from the fort itself. If it extended around all of the farmlands, it represented a massive amount of work. A sentry nodded to the knights as they passed, and Sir Euan paused to have a word with the man. The guard called a boy over from a collection of buildings surrounding a small garrison. The boy went haring off down the road a moment later, most likely with news that the missing party had not been ambushed and that they were bringing guests.

They could see a small village had grown up at the foot of the next wall even as they left the first, and other roads wended towards the cnoc in the distance. As they passed through the farming village, some of the younger children watched the knights curiously, but most of the farmers gave the travelers no more than a passing glance as they stepped out of the way of the horses. Within the earthworks, it seemed the farmers were less resentful of the knights at least. So the carts and wagons heading into the area were probably merchants who were not closely affiliated with the Queen of Rhaonastil or under her protection.

The next circle had both farmland and livestock, and the small town at the base of the third wall was much more chaotic. Carts and merchants warred for space to move as others tried to unload their wares. Hawkers called out their merchandise over the noise. It became obvious why Sir Euan had dispatched the runner to inform the queen of their coming as it was unlikely that they would reach the fort before noon. The second ring, when they finally broke through what seemed to be more market than town, was much broader than the first and included horse, cattle, and even some wooded areas in the distance.

The riders quickly outpaced the other travelers and merchants who had won free of the morass and moved on to the next one in the distance, trotting around other travelers as they came to them. The third settlement at least had a broad, cobblestone road and a separate street for the market. This allowed for faster travel to the massive gate standing at the opposite end of the road. Two guards stood at the ready, while a third man peered at each of the knights and their companions with a pompous attention to his duty. If he hoped to impress Sir Euan, the knight looked merely bored as they were waved through the gates.

The last leg of their journey went much faster, as only the largest wagons passed through on their way to the hill fort, and these were easy enough for a rider to avoid. They reached the remaining rings, each one preceded by a deep boggy ditch, a catchall for rainwater and frogs. A series of heavy wooden bridges carried them over these ancient trenches. No doubt the metal hooks at either end of the bridges were for the purpose of pulling them out of the way in the event that a large hostile force tried to invade the city.

to Book 7, part 2, page 17

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2 Responses to “Tattoo Book 7 part 2.16”

  1. Alderin said

    Nice town description, I want one. 🙂

    “the fort itself like and Mandelbrot set” – those darn ‘d’s always seem to sneak up and attach to the unsuspecting ‘an’… though it should be just ‘a’?

    *HUGS*

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