Tattoo: The Books of Glory

a webserial about people who are not like us

Tattoo Book 7 part 2.25

Posted by harmony0stars on July 2, 2011

They walked through the dense copse as long as they could, hoping the tightly compacted trees would help disguise their passage even if the soft soil under them would not. The ruse would probably not protect them long. Once the horses were discovered to be riderless, the most logical course of action would be to backtrack to wherever they’d last stopped.

It was a long trek back through the woods without the horses, especially as they took every opportunity to disguise their trail. They walked over rocks, heading away from their destination more often than not, especially when they finally hit a stream. It was unpleasant and cold when they took off their shoes, but at least they didn’t have to worry about glass or rusty nails like they might have at home.

By the time night fell, they were still wandering through the woods, though it had been several hours since they’d heard even the distant sound of horses.

“We should rest,” Jack said in a quiet voice, one arm supporting Maria as they stumbled through the dark forest.

“No,” Glory reached out and forced energy into Maria as she had once done for Phoenix. The tiny woman jumped in surprise and Jack released her, scowling. “The longer it takes for us to get there, the more likely it is someone will end up eaten. At least I’m pretty sure Neirin will wait till morning to do his little hunt.”

“Warn me if you plan to do something like that,” Jack said through gritted teeth.

“Why? First day I met you creeped on me to get your fix or whatever you want to call it,” Glory replied.

“Yes, well, I haven’t used that all up and may not for weeks. The excess is just a painful burn along my nerves.” He sighed. “And now Maria will have a taste for it… as if it‘s not hard enough keeping her from misbehaving.”

“Is this how you feel all the time, Uncle?” Maria stared around her and at her own hands, holding them up to the sky as if she could see through them.

“The first time is always the most exhilarating. Now come along, dear.” He tugged on Maria’s sleeve. “Time to burn off some of that energy.”

They set off into the trees anew, moving much faster now that Maria was all jazzed up on the energy Glory had given her. She giggled as they hurried through the trees and had to be hushed several times. They saw the light of the camp before they reached it, and thankfully Maria had herself under control by then. Though that didn’t stop Jack from frowning at his niece, and scowling at Glory whenever he thought she wasn’t looking. Clearly Glory had upset him.

Maria wore a wolfish grin as they crept closer to the camp. The robbers didn’t seem to be worried about their quarry seeking them out. A massive bonfire lit up the area and several of the men sat talking or gaming near the fire, or stood watch over the prisoners. Neirin was nowhere to be seen, though Aonghas stood away from the fire, almost on the edge of the forest with arms crossed. A dark figure ducked out of the largest of the tents and stalked towards him, rail thin and dressed all in black.

“Holy shit,” Glory rasped in shock. Neirin was… terrifying. He hadn’t seemed nearly so horrifying the last time she’d seen him, but his obsessions, now unchecked by obedience to his father or the tiniest amount of love from or for his mother, had changed him.

“That our big baddy, then?” Maria asked, unable to keep the excitement from her voice.

“Neirin, the cannibal deer hunter, yeah…”

He was all muscle now, not that he‘d been a slouch before. Somehow he‘d dropped whatever reserves of fat he‘d had and become lean like a hound. Glory could well picture him chasing down his prey, human or deer, without the use of a horse. He wore black from head to foot, his hair bound behind him with a black cord. He scowled as he stalked up to Aonghas, and Aonghas having glanced behind him to see who was approaching, did not look any happier than his ally as he turned back to face the woods. The bones and feathers hanging from his belt and tied to his clothes rattled and danced in the firelight as Neirin stormed towards Aonghas, his face becoming shadowed and all the more ominous as he passed the bonfire.

“Don’t play games with me, Aonghas,” Neirin hissed as he joined the other man at the edge of the woods. “In the morning, I hunt Gwythyr and when your fools finally bring the girl here, I’ll have her too.”

Aonghas stiffened. “I have given in to you several times over with your promise of leading us to the Otherworld and a kingdom of my own. My men have become hunted and shunned even by our own people. You want revenge on your brother for stealing your place. I understand that, but I will have my revenge too. The girl is mine. She will be my queen when you open Caer Wydr.”

“Such revenge I think all enemies would aspire to,” Neirin sneered.

“It’s not for you to say how my revenge plays out. If she loves Gwythyr, it is enough that she loses him, and she would be a strong queen in my new kingdom and help me to understand the Otherworld better as well. I have delivered your brother to you. Now you must fulfill your bargain.”

“Stop calling him that!” Neirin snarled, looking as though he might pounce on Aonghas. The men by the fire looked up and some of them touched their weapons. “And there is still the matter of my sister.”

Aonghas finally turned away from the woods to glare at his craven ally. “I’ll not kill a child for you, nor will any of my men. We’ve not fallen quite that low, and I’ll die before we do. Our deal was for Gwythyr only, and I have brought him to you. Give us what was promised.”

Neirin smiled, the light from the fire making it seem more like a grimace. “All in good time… we hunt in the morning. Then, I will do as I promised and see you to the Otherworld.”

to Book 7, part 2, page 26

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