Luc Tattooing Rory
Soul Keeper by Cathryn Marr
According to experts, psychic vampires are mortal people whose need for energy metaphorically connects them to the bloodsuckers of legend. This is only half true. In fact, there are mundane persons whose need for vital energy is so intense that they seem to wring it directly from anyone with whom they come into contact. The technical term for humans like this is “drama queens” or “crazy makers”. —from The Lightway Codex, Appendix i: Defining the Players by McCleron O’Connell, Indigo Lightworker
Sucking in a breath of good intentions, Luc wheeled his tray of implements across the room. Went back to snag his stool and an adjustable high intensity lamp that he switched on and angled to get the best light on her back.
Paused to collect his thoughts and resolve as he studied the satiny canvas her skin represented. A single freckle centered between her shoulder blades over her heart center made him smile through his worry. He had it on good authority that there was truth in the saying that freckles were angel kisses. He would use this one as part of the harmony and balance rune he planned to draw there, twined with his own personal sigil. If this quest took them where it appeared to be, she’d need every bit of protection available to get through it unscathed. Adding his particular mark to the mix would be like permanently installing a GPS tracker on her. Wherever she went, whether it was in the physical or psychic worlds, he’d be able to find and protect her.
Only marginally uncomfortable with his decision to mark her this way without first getting her consent, he canted his head, studying the line of her spine. It seemed a crime to mar the creamy perfection with ink, but it was the only way he knew to quickly tether her spirit so it couldn’t leave her unannounced. He’d tattoo the protective rune, Algiz,just below her hairline, finish with Sowelo to combat dark energy in the small of her back where the flare of her hips and buttocks formed the shape of a perfect, inverted heart. Between them he’d fit Ehwaz (communication and travelling between worlds), Laguz (the travelling of the soul and the unconscious mind), Uruz (union of energy and mind), and Perdhu to keep her down to earth.
Over her heart center, twined with Gebo, for harmony and balance, he’d place his personal sigil to mark her as under his protection. Once activated, the symbols would give her a permanent trail of breadcrumbs to follow so, no matter what she did or how far she traveled outside it, she would never again lose her way back to her corporeal self.
Recent experience in his bathroom notwithstanding.
The circumstances there, he thought, had been unique, contained within the boundaries of his house and playfully erotic rather than traumatic. His body thrummed with awareness. The gleefully generous but ghostlike nymph who’d tormented him to exquisite release would come to him again at the slightest encouragement he feared. She’d chosen to follow him and, he suspected, her own body had been as engaged in what she’d done as her spirit—which, he thought, was precisely the link that had allowed her to find her way back to her physical self.
“Will it hurt?” she asked, bringing him back to earth.
It took him a moment to pick up the train of her question. “Getting tattooed along the spine is more painful than other places, yes.” He brushed her hair out of the way, scrubbed an alcohol swab over the base of her neck. “This one on your neck will probably be the most painful.” His lips twitched. “If you survive it, the rest should be easy.”
“Okay.” A thoughtful pause. “You and Solaya say this needs to be done so I don’t…” A hesitant search for words. “…jump out of my skin again and…go someplace…” Troubled lines etched her face. Images of the bodies in the Neon Boneyard flashed through Luc’s mind, as vivid and immediate as her struggle with the memory. She didn’t want to, but she would revisit the scene again and again until she knew how to change the outcome for another child. Until she could make it stop. “…someplace not here without meaning to again. I don’t get how tattoos will stop that. Are they magic?”
Luc grimaced. “Magic” was a volatile term when it came to angels—fallen or not. In the mundane world, the term suggested that a wave of the hand or the wiggle of a nose could change things in whatever manner the wielder chose. Even in the world he’d come from it couldn’t. Angel, demon, Fae, or human, the only way to get what you wanted was to work at it.
In some instances, however, there were both practical and symbolic shortcuts. “Sort of, but not exactly.” He picked up the transfer paper with the first rune, held it where she could see it. “Essentially, runes are an antediluvian form of written language. They represent various… concepts… to the ancients—the beings—you need to be guarded against.”
His eyes narrowed, mouth worked as he considered explanations. “Humans with special abilities have always been around, but those who are truly gifted are rare and usually reviled, even in modern times. You’re one of the new breed, the next step in the human evolutionary process—”
“I’m what?” Rory turned halfway over to look up at him incredulously. “New breed… evolutionary process… What the hell are you talking about?”
“Human evolution.” Grinning, Luc gently nudged her to lie flat. It occurred to him that he had laughed, lusted, and lived in abject terror for someone else more in the thirty-six hours or so since he’d met Aurora Montgomery than he had since… Well, probably ever. “Moving from one stage of anthropological development to the next—kind of like homo erectus evolving into Neanderthals then essentially into man as he is today, only the aspect of evolution we’re talking about here is more of a fine-tuning. It’s happened before, and it has to happen again sometime, so why not here, now, and with you as part of it. Here, turn your face down”—he indicated the face rest—“and lie still so I can get at your neck.”
Muttering something about “crazy people” and not being “named Alice” which meant she didn’t “have to believe in impossible things before breakfast” she did as he requested. Laughter, unconstrained and freeing, roared through Luc. Disgruntled, Rory hoisted herself on her elbows, sent him a killing glare, flopped back onto her face.
Laughter exploded, causing the dark places he’d carried inside him since the day of The Fall to crack and start to splinter. Light, so long missing from his soul, bled through the widening fissures in a sheer white radiance he found both fascinating and blinding. He reached one long-fingered hand toward it, toward Rory…