Tattoo: The Books of Glory

a webserial about people who are not like us

Tattoo Book 7 part 2.18

Posted by harmony0stars on June 8, 2011

The queen of Rhaonastil was small, nearly as tiny as Maria, but her stance and expression radiated power. Her hair was parted into two fat honey-brown braids which hung down over her dove white dress. For all that, she seemed tired, dark circles under her eyes visible even from the bottom of the dais.

She regarded her guests with a shrewd eye, settling finally on Glory. “My sister’s son has told me much of your adventures in Annwn, and something of your quest here.” Her stare made Glory uncomfortable, and she tried not to fidget. “I can see the old blood is quite strong in you and your companions, but you especially. Perhaps I will help you. But later we shall meet in private to discuss this. For now, make free of my home. Take rest and repast. I shall meet with you tonight after the evening meal.” She turned with a nod to Gwythyr and Sir Euan and left through a side door with an entourage of nobles, most likely her advisers.

With this dismissal, Gwythyr eagerly stepped down from the dais. Sir Euan followed, offering his hand to Maria who cast a sly glance at Trevor from under her lashes. Sir Euan did not seem to notice and Trevor caught her look, shrugging as if to say she was free to do as she pleased.

“I hope your cousins will not take offense if I show you the Keep privately?” Gwythyr sounded anxious as he hastened to add, “Sir Euan has graciously agreed to show your companions the grounds and the market. There is… much I would say to you.”

Glory cast a desperate glance at Mike and Trevor, but Mike seemed very much amused, and Trevor was lost in his own thoughts. “I’m sure Glory can make her own decisions.”

Jerk, she thought, turning away from them with a smile for Gwythyr. This was going to be awkward.

Taking a package from a servant waiting in a side hall, Gwythyr led her to the interior of the keep and a private garden. Glory would just as soon have run in the opposite direction. He perched on a low hanging tree branch, leaving the ornate stone bench to Glory. Opening his package, he offered her food and wine, much to her relief. She was just glad it wasn’t some kind of gift.

They ate in silence as Gwythyr worked up the nerve to say whatever was on his mind. He waited for her to finish eating, a gentleman to the end. “I was quite pleased to meet you in the woods last night, not simply for the sake of my poor empty stomach,” he began with a feeble joke. “Once you had gone, all I could think was that Neirin and Aonghas might track you back to your homeland.”

“Neirin still has the key to Caer Wydr then?”

He ducked his head as if embarrassed. “So far as I can tell. Which begs the question as to why he remains in this world.”

“I don’t think he would like it in mine. Your people suffered a great deal while they were there. They couldn‘t die, but they couldn‘t rest or take any sustenance from the food,” Glory said, relieved that she had deflected the conversation to a more serious matter.

“True, but he is a hunted man,” he sad, staring at the ground between them. “Only the Fomorians might give him sanctuary, and even if my cousin suppresses the story of what Neirin did to his mother, his madness will become obvious sooner, rather than later.”

“Are there Fomorians here?” Glory asked, recalling how Aonghas had pretended to be a friend to Gwythyr’s mother.

He shrugged slightly. “Yes, but my aunt cannot play favorites if she wishes to attract foreign merchants, and besides, their race is no measure of their trustworthiness. Even if one of their princes has shown himself to be a marauder, Aonghas is a younger son. He is expected to try to carve himself out a kingdom elsewhere, as my father’s father did in Annwn. If not by marriage, then by force.”

As he fell silent again, Glory had a creeping dread that he’d brought the conversation back around to his real topic. “And Neirin and Aonghas have been seen here?” she asked before he could go mushy on her.

Scowling, he scuffed his foot in the dirt. “Aye, according to the rumors. Tír na nÓg is a large place, and while it has been at peace for generations, there are always those who would foment unrest if it brought them profit. My aunt’s kingdom is the largest and wealthiest on the island, but that only means that she has many jealous neighbors who would see her wed or removed. She has ruled since the death of her father, and done so wisely and without a husband. Some urge her to choose one to provide an heir, others to quiet her louder neighbors who say she would be no kind of leader if battle came to the island. If it would not offend her more ardent suitors, she would marry her war chief and be done with it.”

“Who is her war chief?” Glory asked, simply to distract him again from turning the conversation towards any feelings he might have for her.

“Sir Euan,” Gwythyr replied with a half smile.

“Oh!” she said in surprise at which Gwythyr laughed.

“Yes, I hope your friend is not too enamored of him,” he said as if reading her mind. “If not for political considerations, I think he and my aunt would already have been wed many years now.”

“I wouldn’t worry too much there,” she said. “I think she is only trying to make Trevor jealous. They’ve been quarreling, which is partially my fault I guess. We only just met not too long ago, and we haven’t gotten along very well so far.”

“Should I ask for another room for her?” he asked.

Glory shook her head. “No. I think it’s probably for the best if we stay as we are. It will force us to find common ground, and anyway, I don’t want her to be even more insulted.”

to Book 7 , part 2, page 19

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