Do you have a tattoo? What is it and why did you get it? If not, would you ever get one? What would the tattoo be, and what would it symbolize to you?
“I don’t understand why that old man is making us gather the firewood,” Zinnia muttered as she stalked through the wooded glen.
Her dark-skinned companion chuckled softly. “Is that because it’s a man’s job?”
“That’s not what I-“ Zinnia shut her mouth abruptly as she caught the other girl’s grin. Tamara had the uncanny ability to know exactly what Zinnia was thinking, even before she knew it herself. “It’s not like I want to be treated like a princess out here. I understand that trekking through the wilderness isn’t exactly glamorous.” She sighed. “I just thought that getting off the farm would mean fewer chores, you know?”
Tamara softened her face but maintained her teasing grin. “We can give Kennick a break for one night. Besides,” she added, reaching for a low branch, “I think Master Elvior wanted to talk with Kennick privately. From what I gather, there weren’t many opportunities before you all came to my village.”
Zinnia flinched as she recalled their harrowing escape from her homeland. Magic and monsters were supposed to be things only in stories to entertain and frighten children. In the weeks since the sorcerer first appeared at her doorstep, she had learned that those things were all quite real and quite terrible.
She stared at her own hands, long slender fingers curled around the bundle of twigs she had collected. They were unscarred despite the flames that had once flown from them in her panic. Elvior had said she would come to control that, but she had her doubts. She’d seen what fire could do to buildings, had seen neighbors lose everything to fire, and she had no desire to willfully summon such a destructive force.
Tamara had fallen silent and Zinnia turned around to see what had caught her attention. She stood staring up into the nearest tree, her eyes fixed on something up in the canopy. Zinnia followed her gaze to a massive brown and black hawk perched on a low branch. It stared intently back at them. She shivered.
“We should get back to the others,” she murmured. There was something intelligent in those eyes. After all she’d seen over the preceding weeks, it was enough to set her hair on end.
“Yeah ok,” Tamara agreed.
The women gathered up their wood and turned back towards their camp. Behind them, Zinnia heard the hawk take flight. It’s screech almost sounded like laughter. Were hawks dangerous? She was pretty sure it was only the carrion eaters they needed to worry about. Master Elvior could reassure her.
“You ok Zin?” Kennick got to his feet as soon as they emerged from the trees and rushed to his sister’s side. “You’re white as snow.”
She forced a smile. “Just nervous is all. Got thinking about everything we’ve seen since leaving Pa behind and it’s getting dark now so I’m just a little on edge.”
The white haired old man raised a thick eyebrow. “Did you sense something?”
“Not exactly,” she stammered.
“It was just a hawk,” Tamara said.
She nodded. “We saw this massive hawk and it seemed to be watching us. Zinnia figured we should come back and tell you.”
Zinnia stared hard at the ground. She didn’t like admitting her fears aloud. Especially when they sounded so ridiculous spoken.
“It was probably just curious,” Elvior said, lighting his pipe and blowing several circles up into the sky. He watched them float upward until they disappeared. “This trail isn’t a common one. It’s probably been a while since it last saw people.”
Master Elvior had Zinnia start the fire, encouraging her to use her innate ability rather than the survival skills she had picked up on the farm. He explained how she could channel the flow of energy and focus it at a point, small enough to get the kindling going but not so much that she would accidentally burn the forest down.
Tamara offered to go check the traps so that Kennick could stay nearby in case something needed dousing. Zinnia tried not to take it personally. With the sorcerer’s guidance, she succeeded in making a small fire using magic.
“It’s not magic like I use,” he lectured. “What you three have, it’s far more natural. Ancient. Everything they study up in that fortress in the Rondells is derivative of what you can do.”
“If you say so,” Zinnia muttered. Kennick nodded enthusiastically. He had questions, but Elvior had refused to answer them unless they were all together. He didn’t like having to repeat himself.
“Um, Master Elvior?” Tamara’s small voice came from the woods. They all turned at the distress in her voice. Instead of a rabbit or small rodent, she had a man with one arm over her shoulder. “I think he’s hurt.”
The men ran to relieve her of her burden. “Where did he come from?” Zinnia demanded. “I thought you said no one travels this way!”
“I said it was uncommon,” Elvior muttered as he and Ken set the young man down close to the fire. “Kennick, come over here and help me with this.” In the fading light of the day, Zinnia could see the cuts and scrapes all over his naked torso. There was a gash at his side that looked like it might have been grazed by an arrow. “Take this, can you wet it for me? Good. Now, press it on the wound. I’ll hold him steady.”
Elvior rolled the stranger’s body partway so that the wound was above the ground. Kennick followed each of the old man’s instructions as they came. His hands glistened in the firelight as they pressed the wrapping to the wound. The young man shuddered as Kennick worked the old magic on him.
Zinnia could only stand by and watch. Tamara stood opposite her on the other side of the fire, looking just as helpless as she herself felt. As she listened to the low chanting from Elvior, her eyes wandered over the man’s body.
He had scars and cuts to spare, and he had the build of a fighter. His arm was decorated with black markings. She thought she recognized some patterns from a tribe to the east. If that was true, then what was he doing out this way? There was also a marking on his shoulder of a bird in flight. It was a hawk.
She shook her head. There was no way. She just had hawks on the brain because of that one from earlier. And the dream she’d had earlier that week. Three? She refused to accept it. It was just coincidence. She was not seeing omens.
Notes: Oh snap. That went a little differently than the way I had originally pictured it in my head. Took a while to get around to it, but the tattoo was in there! The stranger’s name is Remi and I think I really like him. He’ll end up joining the group on their quest to save the world. Because of course.
Tattoos fascinate me. I like them in fantasy when they have mystical qualities, or they paint a picture for later. I like them on real people too. I’m kind of a big weenie though, I don’t think I could ever commit to one. What about you? Do you have tattoos? Answer the prompt! Tell the story about your tattoos. Make one up. That’s what writing prompts are all about after all.
Friday’s prompt: Write about something you frequently forget.
I forget I’m not 22 anymore. Remembering I’m closer to 30 than to 20 really throws me for a loop. I’m not a real adult, what? Same time tomorrow for a new tale? Ok! It’s a date!