Tattoo Book 1, Part 2.6
Posted by harmony0stars on July 20, 2008
The adrenaline was definitely wearing off as Glory stumbled into the kitchen. She just wanted to lie down for a good long time. Forget the vampire oozing its ‘life’s blood’ into the living room carpet. There’d be no getting that stain out. She was definitely too tired for this crap, and her thoughts were becoming disjointed. Considering the surreal nature of her life lately, she could no longer tell if this was a dream or she’d gone round the bend at some point. Probably the latter. That would actually explain a lot.
Aaron lay slumped in a corner, and Glory crouched beside him gingerly. His hand covered his wound from view, but Glory was loathe to remove it.
“I’m sorry Aaron,” Glory whispered. “This is all my fault.”
He grunted, his eyes tightly shut against the pain. “Don’t flatter yourself. It looks worse than it is…. It’s almost healed. Just hasn’t sealed over yet.” He paused for several seconds before continuing. “And it’s not your fault. You know it’s not. Not your sister and not this. I’m not exactly the poster boy for morality here. You’d probably spit on me if you knew what I’d done with my life up till now.”
She leaned forward with a sob. “It is my fault. All of it. I should have destroyed my book years ago, after she tried to steal it the first time or asked me how to curse someone. I was just… I was just flattered that someone believed in my studies, even her. No matter how horrible she was to me otherwise, I was just glad she believed in me… no one else did.”
He groaned as he shifted his weight towards her. She instinctively reached out to help him, but even as her fingers brushed his cheek, he spasmed in agony. Ripping himself from her grasp with a yelp, he curled against the wall, trembling and gasping for breath. “Wh-what did you do to yourself Glory?”
“Sorry! I’m so sorry!” She cried, tears in her eyes. “I wasn’t thinking.”
“What did you do?” he demanded, shivering. It felt as if someone had jolted him with a cattle prod. First thinking about his mother for the first time in decades and now this agony, the first real pain he‘d felt since receiving the sword. It was like a sign.
“I, uh, got a few tattoos.” She tried to smile ironically but only managed to grimace. “There’s a gentleman I’d been talking to about the magical applications of tattoos for a while now. It was just one more path of interest for me until… all this. I went there and told him about… what my sister did and my book. I’d been working on diagrams whenever you were out… what I thought would be effective protection and more besides. I gave him my mother’s ashes, and he ground up herbs and pigments with Dong Chong Xia Cao caterpillars, Kukui nut soot and cane juice, woad… “
“Your mother’s ashes?” he turned to look at her with a sick disgust.
She ran her hand over her shaved head and the runes that had seemingly grown in their place. “The symbols direct the energies and the herbs and other ingredients are just a matter of tradition… If my theories are right, it’s the ashes that will really empower the charms because it was her death that started all this. If… Lori had just left her alone….” Glory rubbed at her eyes. They felt hot and itchy. “The most powerful magic is created through sacrifice. My mother’s ashes were a reminder of that. The pain of the tattoos, even without the pain from the woad, also empowered them. The power of the tattoos is proportionate to the righteousness of my goal and what I am willing to suffer to achieve it.”
He looked at her… she could tell he was speechless with disgust. “I’m… going to leave. Obviously Lori knows I’m here or at least that I‘m staying with you, and I have to get my book back, you know? It’s… not that I’m ungrateful for how you took care of me, but there are things I have to do. And it’s obvious I’m putting you in danger by being here.”
His expression softened. “This?” he replied with weak chuckle, holding up his blood smeared hand. “This is my own dumb fault, not yours. You can stay here as long as you like. I… can’t help you if you leave.” Disgust he might feel, but it was self-directed. Compared to Glory, he might as well have crawled out from under a rock.
“I think we already had a discussion that went something like this, and I’m still leaving. It’s not… healthy for me to stay here. I’ll never be able to stand up to my sister if I use you as a crutch, and I’m not going to put you in danger again. I’ll be responsible enough for anything my sister does with my book, I’m not going to watch her pick off people around me just because they try to help me.”
He was silent for a long time. She was just about to stand up and leave when he held out his hand. “Here, take it.”
“What? After what happened the last time I touched you? Are you nuts? And what about your wound?”
“It’s healed. I just need a bath. So, just… take my hand. I’m not letting you leave until you take my hand.” When she still hesitated, he sighed. “Look, I want you to know I’m here if you need my help. Just,” he lunged suddenly, grabbing her outstretched hand in his own, “take my hand!”
He gritted his teeth as every cell and sinew of his body seemed to catch fire. He had no way of knowing what would happen when the sword left his body, if he could even transfer it to Glory with whatever she’d done to herself, but he wasn’t going to let her leave without trying to give her a way to fight back. Her tattoos might give her the element of surprise, but it wasn’t going to stop a thug with a knife or a determined demon.
It took only an instant, but it was a moment that seemed to stretch into infinity for both of them. When Aaron finally released her hand, they both slumped against the wall. Glory stared at her hand. There was no pain, though she felt there should be. She supposed she felt a little warm, a little… exhilarated, but that was fading fast. It wasn’t until Aaron groaned softly that she came back to herself.
“Aaron!” She crawled over to where he lay, then stopped, uncertain if she should touch him. Aaron was shivering uncontrollably. Though the pain of her touch had ended with the successful transfer of his sword, a new pain had taken over his senses. It seemed to go on and on forever. “What… what did you do?!” she demanded.
“I gave you my sword. Couldn’t let you run around without giving you some kind of protection.” He chuckled weakly. He knew what the pain was now. He hadn’t felt anything for so long, but he was no longer insulated by the sword’s power. He was dying, though it might take a few decades. He’d never felt so alive…. so alive it hurt. “Look, I… put you in danger by bringing that woman here. I should have known better. All my life, the only person I’ve ever thought about was myself. I figure it’s time I started acting my age a bit.” He snorted, but she just gave him a weird look. She’d learn, in time, what the sword did. Maybe it was better she had it. She’d put it to much better use. His burden would be her blessing.
“But you didn’t have to….”
“I did.” He looked away as he pulled himself up the wall, pushing away her hands as she tried to help. She’d been determined to go, but now she might seek an excuse to stay, to help him or because she felt grateful or responsible. God, the girl was all about responsibility. He couldn’t let her do that. “You should go. Lori knows you’re here, so the sooner you leave, the better off both of us will be.”
“But… I should help you.”
Yup, right on cue. “You’re not responsible for me!” He all but shouted, and she flinched. He felt like an ass, but he knew he had to make a clean break with her, for both their sakes.
“I…” she began, then her shoulders slumped. What she wanted was to stay. She might not be used to interacting with people, but despite his less savory personality quirks, he was a decent person and more than anything she wanted a friend, a confidant… she wanted someone to know her. No one in all her life had ever attempted to do anything for her, except now Aaron had, and she wanted to stay because it felt good to be treated like a person. But what she wanted was really irrelevant, wasn’t it? She had to take care of her own mess and staying would only put him in danger, especially now that he didn’t really have a way to defend himself. And besides, he didn’t seem to want her there any more. “I hope you have a good life Aaron.” She pushed herself to her feet, grabbing her backpack even as she walked to the door.