24. Inglorion Claims His Inheritance

Inglorion moves into his father’s house, and takes over the garden, bees and chickens. In theory, there’s a satisfying symmetry to this. Certainly Lucius seems unsurprised, and quietly agrees it’s for the best.

In reality, Inglorion’s confronted with an immediate, practical task. The walls, ceiling and floor are all spattered and stained to various degrees. When he found Tereus, he was overwhelmed with shock, and with the task of burial. He swabbed the floor in a half-hearted manner, but at the time he honestly couldn’t imagine returning. Now he feels equally strongly that he must live in the little house and continue Tereus’s work, even though he died there.

Inglorion expects to feel horror and disgust, and initially he does. It’s grim, but not as bad as he fears. The little house has a certain allure, which Inglorion can’t describe beyond thinking, as Tereus once did, that he’s come home. For this reason, or because Inglorion is sadly lacking in natural sensibility, his horror fades to distaste and he’s able to reduce the clean-up to a series of practical problems.

The tile is fine after a good scrubbing, but the grout has taken on a brownish-red cast. Tereus always said the floors were cheap and poorly sealed, so Inglorion pries up the darkened sections, exposing the rough wood planks underneath. The ants have stripped the walls and baseboards of solid matter, but no amount of scouring will restore the original robin’s egg blue. Inglorion finds several cans of paint in the shed. To Drow eyes, they’re different vague shades of gray. They’re thick and a bit curdled, but he’s able to coat the walls, ceiling and baseboards to his satisfaction. He finds the subtle differences pleasing. He can almost pretend they’re due to temperature, not color. It’s a bit like being in the Underdark. After two days of focused effort, the crime hasn’t been erased, but it recedes. Inglorion tells himself that Tereus has simply joined the Civil War veterans out back.

Inglorion brings the iron owl back in and restores it to its niche. Its ill-humor is unimpaired by its sojourn in the back yard; it resumes its self-appointed duty of regarding the kitchen and living room with angry disapproval.

The chickens remain, perhaps because they’re reluctant to abandon the small metal trash can where Tereus stored cracked corn and dried mealworms. Inglorion pokes around the yard and henhouse, turns up a half-dozen eggs, a fair number of empty shells, and no chicks. He speaks sharply to the assembled hens as he locks their coop that night. The dun-colored hens eye him balefully; the crimson survivors exhibit a bland, reptilian forgetfulness.

By making his home among his father’s possessions, Inglorion feels a steady presence, and this tempers his grief. As Tereus himself observed, it’s intimate. If he were still alive, Inglorion would find it exquisitely uncomfortable to live among his books and papers, to maintain and repair his handiwork. He would have curbed his curiosity and averted his eyes. The dead don’t require privacy, however. If anything, they beg to be remembered: Piensa en mi. Inglorion feels perfectly justified in hunting for papers and reading anything he finds. It’s part of why he came.

Tereus kept a series of notebooks. As he filled them, he shelved them in the pantry in chronological order. Each night, Inglorion flips through a volume or two, once he’s completed the day’s chores and eaten dinner. They’re not journals or diaries — Tereus did not record his feelings or perceptions, or the events of the day. As with the manuscripts Inglorion found at Shelawn House, they reflect Tereus’s intellectual passions.

The first volume opens with a fragment from Ovid’s Metamorphosis:

The Plague at Aegina

…Corpses paved the roads
and crowded the woods and fields.
In their rage and despair, men reproached the gods
discarding corpses at the temple door
stacking the altars high like funeral pyres.

You dare to ask what I felt
so I will tell you:
I begged to share the fate of my people.

We could not bury our dead.
No ground was left for graves.

Though whole forests had been felled
no wood remained for cremation.

In the end, no one was left to mourn.

—Book VII
Tr. Tereus Shelawn

Soon thereafter, there are recipes for black and red tattoo ink, and step-by-step instructions for hand-poking. He’s sliced out images of warpaint from books and magazines, and made a precise, almost architectural sketch of the tattoo he chose. Inglorion finds needles and bottles of homemade ink under the bathroom sink, and realizes that Tereus tattooed himself.

Inglorion sits on the couch, then, with the ink and needles spread out on the coffee table and the notebook open on his knees. He reads:

We’re told that it’s traditional to require an apprentice to practice by tattooing the skin of an orange, which has much the same texture, and should be pierced to the same depth. After a time, he’s permitted to inscribe a simple image on the inner forearm of his own non-dominant hand.

But, you know, fuck that.

Inglorion laughs and rubs his face as tears well up. How bloody-minded, patient and stubborn he must have been, spending hours crouched before a mirror, loading the needle, driving it in to a precise depth, learning firsthand the subtle contours of pain: The thin skin on the bridge of the nose, the jaw and cheeks, the delicate vermilion of the lip.

The journals continue, through years of solitary labor. There are extensive notes on how to cultivate, harvest and prepare local plants. Two women appear briefly — Tereus sketches one, and learns fermentation techniques from the other — then disappear abruptly. At some point, he broke into the archives of the Arizona Historical Society, collected quotes and clippings, and constructed a timeline of the house and neighborhood. The notes on cisterns and basins become more detailed, and eventually dominate, relieved only by the occasional translation or musical notation.

In the penultimate volume, Inglorion finds a draft of the note Tereus tucked into the book he left on Inglorion’s porch. He drafted it, edited it extensively, then copied it out fair. Inglorion would do the same if he hoped to befriend a stranger and feared being rebuffed. He’s touched to see that his father’s notorious air of ease and control was, to some extent, a fabrication.

For a linked table of contents, listing all of the Shelawn family adventures, click here.

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