Tattoo Book 7 part 2.35
Posted by harmony0stars on August 16, 2011
Before the pack leader could take another step towards them, Maria jumped between them, her own hackles raised. The lead dog flinched in surprise, backing up. That was all it took for Maria to press her advantage. Like any pack of canines, a show of weakness was a show of submission. As soon as he looked away, Maria launched herself at him, gripping his neck between her formidable jaws. After a few seconds of holding him on the ground, she released him. He struggled to his feet and slunk back into the kennel without looking around. The other dogs did not seem quite so eager any more to challenge Maria or her companions and slipped away from the sparse light in shame.
Feeling free and clear, they almost stumbled over the last guard. He looked up from his perch on an overturned wooden bucket, a long-stemmed pipe dangling from his fingers. It perplexed Glory how he could sit and smoke in a place which seemed designed to give a person black lung. He blinked up at the invaders as they loomed through the smoke of the torches, either drunk or just tired. Jack clubbed him with the pommel of his sword before the man even had time to react.
Jack glanced at Glory as if to gauge her reaction before shrugging. He bent to pick up the pipe, examining it with a pleased smile before tapping out the bowl and tucking it into his jacket.
Glory shook her head. “You don’t find workmanship like that any more,” he said with dignity.
He grabbed a torch from the wall. Past the fallen guard, a barrier of sorts had been erected, not that the marauders had to worry too much about anyone trying to escape with Neirin’s dogs garrisoned just inside the tunnel. They dragged the makeshift wall of wood out of the hole and looked down the passage. The tunnel sloped sharply into the earth.
Neirin’s marauders or someone before them had dug deep into the ancient site. Walls of earth alternated with massive stone slabs, many of which had been toppled from their original placement to reveal… nothing more than more blank earth. If there were any graves to despoil, they were hidden somewhere deeper. Regardless of whoever had been there before them, the marauders had decided to use the place as a prison. Low holes had been dug into the earthen walls, perhaps by the dogs, perhaps by human prisoners. They gave off an odor of rotten meat and excrement. If the place had not been a tomb before, it was now.
“I hope to hell there’s not a draug down here somewhere…” Glory muttered, examining the symbols which covered the nearest slab. Most of them were too worn down by time to make out, but what was there was tantalizingly familiar. Jack chuckled but didn’t comment. The mound was as silent as the tomb it resembled, but Glory was beginning to have her doubts that that was what the place had been meant for.
Their torch provided the only light in the close space. Though they couldn’t be certain there weren’t more guards somewhere in the dark, Glory couldn’t imagine someone willingly sitting without a light of some kind in the dank tunnel. Even if it wasn’t a tomb, the place was still creepy.
“Gwythyr?” she called in a loud whisper. “Trevor? Mike?”
“Hello?” called a woman’s shaky voice from the nearest hole.
“Princess Caoimhe?” Glory called a little more loudly.
“Who is there?”
“We’re here to get you and any other prisoners out while your brother attacks the camp, lady,” Jack said, crouching down by the hole with his hand extended.
“Is Prince Gwythyr there with you?” Glory asked.
“Glory?” Gwythyr sounded like he was at death’s door. A dirty hand reached from the hole, and Jack helped the princess up. Gwythyr crawled after her, looking as though he’d been beat to hell and back. Mike and Trevor followed him out, Mike supporting Trevor who limped badly, his left leg bloody and tied off with a tourniquet. Sir Euan was the last out of the hole, and he moved to support Trevor on his left side.
“Is there no one else?” Jack asked as he moved to help Gwythyr stand.
“Prisoners do not last long in the Craven’s care,” the knight said, his free hand near his empty scabbard as if he could will his sword back to its sheath.
Mike scowled. “If Gwythyr hadn’t convinced him that we were your cousins, I think there’d be two less.”
“Nay, I think it was the fact that you came from the Otherworld which saved you,” Gwythyr replied. Glory couldn’t help but notice that he and the princess were holding hands in the dark passage. “No doubt he intended to torture you for information.”
The Princess squeaked as she noticed Maria, and moved closer to Gwythyr. He put his arm around her shoulders, winning a grateful smile from her.
Glory smiled too, though she turned her head away so Gwythyr wouldn‘t notice. “Don’t worry. She’s with us,” Glory said. It looked like maybe she wouldn’t have to worry about Gwythyr trying to marry her after all.
“Oh!” Caoimhe’s eyes welled with tears. “Oh, you poor thing. He took all three of my maids, one by one, and did the same to them. We shall find someone to change you back.” For all that she had been so jealous of Glory’s popularity with the “royals,“ Maria didn’t seem to be too impressed with the princess’ promise.
“Come on. We should get away before Neirin sends someone to check on why his guards are gone.” Jack said, turning towards the exit.
“We cannot,” the princess replied, sounding more confident than she looked. “The Craven has stolen an artifact, and I am honor bound to retrieve it.”
“The harp? Don’t worry. It‘s safe,” Glory said.
“Is it indeed?” Neirin’s voice came out of the dark, cold and threatening. Torches erupted from the darkness, illuminating Neirin, Aonghas, and a warrior who held his blade to Prince Lorcan’s throat. The Prince looked a little worse for wear, blood spattered over his clothes and a nasty gash near his scalp. “You will have to tell me why it is so important.”
to Book 7, part 2, page 36