Mongrel: Shad Tattoos Tardi
|Tribal tattooing method that is now called hand-poke,|
If you've read The Half Shaman, you'll know that some of the details of Jeb's story mentioned in this installment have not been written in yet. Read, or refresh your memory by clicking on the link.
Shad gave things into Tardi’s hands and hitched his shirt-tail ends up over his shoulders. Draped himself face down over the slab table of the picnic setting. “I found the greaseproof paper that time I made the coffee. And I made the rosemary charcoal sticks then too. You trace the designs on my back.”
Tardi chortled. “No wonder the coffee was so ugh.”
“Talk me through it. It’ll help me see your tracings better.”
“What do I see?” Tardi began. “Over your left butt bone is a star system with a yellow star and a red star. Both have a planet. The fucking Procyon System? Why?”
“Moving along,” Shad said. “In the middle?”
“A broken staff of some kind, the pieces crossing. Not the kind of staff for fighting with, I think. A setting at the top with nothing in it,” Tardi said.
“Half of Shaman Jeb’s staff while she still lived on Lotor. Don’t know why it’s shown as broken. Nothing in the setting because there are no crystals on Lotor. Above my right butt bone is a …?”
“Hard to make out. A human-like outline half-filled with all the colours of the rainbow in stripes and blotches while the other half is … a fucking bad colour. You don’t have some kind of death warrant on you?”
Shad laughed. “Would I be here? It’s the Hole-in-the-Day life-suit so black in the daytime that it appears to have no substance. Shaman Jeb’s life-suit that she was gifted by the pegasee on Lotor. An undercover kind of attempt by them to hitch a ride off-planet. Would’ve worked but for Shaman Thyal’s smarts. Jeb and he were the only shamans remaining. Trace over the designs with the charcoal.”
“I’m going to make the tattooing even easier,” Tardi said. “I saw pigment pens somewhere. You could trace over the charcoal with them and on with the needling.”
“Don’t want to make it too speedy, got to tell the tales while I do it,” Shad said.
By late afternoon, Shad was a long way into the telling Jeb's story. He’d inked-in the binary Procyon Star System on the left of Tardi’s back, carving tracks through the tree’s bark-like skin with Tardi’s encouragement. The two pieces of the broken staff were inked in the middle of Tardi’s back. He was tracing out the Hole-in-the-Day life-suit to the right. They still used the picnic setting, Tardi laid out over the table. With the tide on the up, water lapped the under-deck.
“No!” Tardi shouted.
He’d been close to a trance taking in the story at the same time denying the pain of the needling.
He rolled from the table and sprang away from Shad. He shouted. “What have you done to me? My Gran worked all her life to save me from them. You are a bad, bad man!"
“Tar, wake up!” Shad said. “It were Trinnet doing something to the boy?”
Tardi panted. He stared past Shad to try and see Callum through Trinnet’s eyes.
The monster played with him. It cycled him through seeing Callum from under Trinnet’s bushy brows and seeing Trinnet from under … from under …. Callum’s dark eyebrows.
“Fucking Trinnet. He infected Callum.” Tardi all but fell over one of the benches. “He cut him while he slept. Did the blood exchange on him.”
“Sure?” Shad said.
Tardi walked. Turned. “I’m seeing Trinnet. Victorious. I’m seeing Callum. Furious. The fucker did it without asking.” His voice crescendoed on his disgust. “What excuse will he have?”
“He’ll say he did it to get a second opinion on things the monster is telling him,” Shad said. “Or he’ll say it weren’t right, Callum the only one out of them two without the influence. He was always saying that to me as well.”
Shad talked at each place where Tar turned in his walking. “I always had the excuse that I swore to shadow you. I feel terrible, telling you the young one would be safe. What will we tell his gran?”
Tardi stopped. Thought. “Nothing. For now. Callum is not some ignorant know-nothing and so there will be a reprise. Better to tell the whole lot together. Or nothing if Cele leaves before it happens.”
“Dusk soon. Get some dinner going.” Shad packed up the tattooing kit. “Miz King is expecting Zebe, she said. Man, have you got some times coming!”
“Yeah, okay,” Tardi said of Shad getting dinner. Zebe’d be arriving, and Man I’ve got some times coming? Huh? Got no energy to follow that up.