Page one: The agreement
The device slowly began to creep downwards, producing a thin line when a tiny needle punctured the skin in a constant notion. The ink seeped into the skin and began to set, eternalizing itself within the host’s skin, like a canvas that being filled in. Another line followed soon afterwards, finishing the product for now.
The device was pulled back and the tiny motor that gave it life began to fizzle out, no longer receiving a signal to do so.
The man that held the device grinned, enjoying his artwork and nodding to himself and the client as he placed the device down and used a small piece of cloth to clean the surface, disinfecting it as he did so.
When he was done he stepped backwards and observed his latest work; three sets of rings on his left arm, all interlocking at some point. “One more session should seal the deal. Same time next month?”
He asked as he placed both feet against the wall and pushed off, forcing the small chair he was on to slide backwards on its wheels, transporting him to the cash register.
A small cash exchange was done, the tip-jar was filled and a friendly ‘bro-hug’ was given before both men went their separate ways, both men with a grin on their faces as the door fell shut. The owner of the shop then locked the door and placed the closed-sign in front of the door before making his way over towards his desk and pouring himself a drink, seconds later falling gracefully like a sack of potatoes in his chair and plopping his feet up on his desk, letting out a deep ‘aaah’ as he did so. He only had time to swallow one gulp before he was forced to steer his attention elsewhere.“What?”
He asked innocently, watching his assistant raise an eyebrow and asking him if the bro-hug wasn’t a bit much. Pssh, it is a free country, isn’t it? Besides, the guy knows a guy who knows a guy who deals in cheap curtains. I am thinking about sprucing up the old palace.”
It was his turn to raise an eyebrow when she inquired whether or not he was mistaking a palace for this rat-hole he called a shop. “Yhea, yhea. Funny, real funny. How about you finish up and close when you are done. I’ll be upstairs.”
He told her as he watched her leave to the side room and leave him alone.
The ‘Modern alchemist’ was a combination of two shops in one; On the right-side it was a tattoo-parlour and on the left it was a small herb shop that specialized in alternative medication and small new age salves and tea. He himself was the owner of both the shops, having first started off as a tattoo artist, yet expanding three years ago when the time was right. The shop was located near a large moat and even had a few chairs and benches outside for customers sit and relax in the spring or summer, or simply for himself to have a cold one after a long shift. The shop only had a small circle of customers, yet the shop’s reputation was quite well. In fact, should the owner allow it, he could have had twice the amount of customers.
He dragged himself out of his chair and began making his way upstairs, bringing his tea with him. He had a comfortable bedroom, bathroom and living room upstairs, allowing him the luxury of having work and home in one place.
His bedroom was quite modern, if not showing a few bits of tacky items that a true bachelor place needed, if not required. The living room was spacious and had several dozen of exotic or ancient items on display, most of them early European. The bookshelves were lined with copies of old tomes bundles of handwritten letters in a language now long dead. The whole place was like his shop; a mixture of modern and ancient times, all blending in like it belonged together.
He placed his tea down and sat down on his sofa, fingers searching underneath the sofa for an item, seconds later producing a very old looking book. He opened the book at a specific page as he began curling up his right sleeve, displaying his own tattoos he had there. He glanced at the intricate markings before using a small needle to prick and produce a droplet of blood, letting it trail down the markings before dripping in the palm of his hands. He did this for a few minutes, afterwards using a piece of cloth to wipe the blood away and show clean skin again. Had someone watched him do this they would have noticed his eyes turning a shade darker for a while, the veins around his eyelids more pronounced before the calmed down again, afterwards the man looked… ‘Energetic’, as if he felt younger than before.“There we go.”
He said to himself, closing the book and placing it back in the hidden section underneath the sofa. He finished his drink and enjoyed the wave of energy and life he was feeling now, although fully aware that it would subside in an hour or so.
Lance O’Brian was known as a skilled tattoo artist, a playful owner of two businesses and an eccentric collector of historical items. What people did not know was the fact that he himself used to go by another name, or several others, and that he was as old as most of the items in his room, if not older.
He was a direct descendant of line druids, sadly now the only living remnant of a once proud lineage. He had survived three great cleansings of his people and the plague itself, migrating all over the world to prevent execution or capture. His longevity was due to his ability to leach life energy from other creatures, draining tiny amounts of several hundreds to stave off the effects of aging or even reversing it somewhat. In the old days he had used potions, poisons and lengthy rituals that needed constant upkeep, yet over time he had perfected it by marking others with a specialized ink.
Some druids had no problem with sacrifices, stealing life force at the expense of a life, yet Lance considered himself more of a neutral party, focusing more on leeching small amounts of life-force from a single individuals, yet a large amount through a large group. Most of his clientele were long term costumers and he tried to give back as much as he took. He never harvested from the sick or the frail, only on the blessed and the healthy. Each mark would steal some life energy, but at the same time grant a bit of tranquility, making it a fair trade in this otherwise stressful society.
He glanced at his own marks, inspecting the many lines, rings and symbols, knowing full well there was a layer of spiritual ink underneath the façade of artwork. Many of the incantations were centuries old, some even older. He kept the incantations active and very much filled, seeing as he would need to draw from them at a moment’s notice. He still remembered the guy who had tried to stab him in a dark alley a few years ago, no doubt after his wallet. He had used a small incantation to rupture the man’s internal organs when he finally laid hands on him. Being a druid wasn’t always a pleasant state of affairs, even less so when you could rip apart people from within.
He tried to give back as much as he could, sometimes even more, but he was a neutral party; not bound by good or evil, simply a observer in his own way. His thoughts began wandering back to what he had been pondering about for the last few weeks; finding a new assistant. His shop was getting increasing amounts of clients and he was frequently a hand short in all of this. He had already one assistant in the shop, having ‘persuaded’ her a few years ago, but now it was time for it again. He couldn’t chance on simply finding a perfectly suited candidate that was both loyal and discrete about Lance’s heritage or arcane activities. No. If Lance wanted to find a loyal assistant like he already had, he would need to take matters in his own hand; make someone loyal. He decided that next week he would begin looking for a candidate, possibly out of the steady flow of clients in his shop. After all, what better way to force a mark of servitude and loyalty on a person, if you already were paid to tattoo them in the first place? He’d take things slow, setting up the basic foundation blocks for the bonds, letting the assistant come to him. Now, what type of assistant would he chose for this part of the century?