Staring at Dyson's back in a recent repeat, I took a moment to admire his tattoos. And I started to wonder about how he got his tats, and who gave them to him, and why and how. This began as a drabble but got a little out of hand. It's not smut, I'm afraid, but instead, a look deeper into the werewolf culture. There is some incidental nudity and slightly salty language.
The silver bell rang as he opened the door. The chiming sound danced under his clothes, tightening the skin over his muscles as he passed the threshold into Brother Wolf, Sister Moon.
"We're closed!" the voice came from th4e back, girlish and light with a hint of a French accent.
Dyson didn't say anything. He wasn't in the mood for tedious mortal games.
"I said we're clos-" sticking her head out from the back room, the girl bit off her words when she saw him there. "Oh. It's you. Why didn't you say anything?"
"Odette," he nodded in greeting.
"Bon jour, Dyson," she weighed him with a sharp dark stare. "You look like crap."
He nodded again and then waited, silent.
Odette looked like a slim sixteen year old, with warm golden skin and long dark curls. He'd met her in Russia during the Napoleonic invasion. She'd been scavenging on the battlefields.
She waited a moment for him to say something then sighed. "You're here to see Ingrid, yes?"
"So serious, so dour, all the time," Odette shook her head, curls bouncing. "Come back, then."
He had to duck to get through the back door, sized for someone much smaller than he. Crossing the threshold, he heard another bell, felt another ward. This one skittered over his skin, scratchier than the first, delicate one.
Ingrid was cleaning up, tidying away the tools of her trade. Dyson saw her nostrils flare once when he came in, but she kept cleaning without looking up. He took up stance with his feet apart, waiting, silently.
Odette looked from one to the other, ignoring each other with stolid patience, and sighed gustily. She muttered something in French and made an exaggerated shrug before abandoning them to one another.
Dyson counted just under a thousand heartbeats before she finished putting her inks away and turned to face him. Her mouth was quirked in a small smile as she regarded him.
"Dyson," she nodded.
" Völva," his nod was deeper than hers, almost a bow.
Ingrid was short, with silver hair in a waterfall to her waist. She didn't look like the most sought after tattoo artist in the city. Instead, in faded jeans and a Cult concert t-shirt, she looked like someone's well preserved fiftyish grandmother. She'd looked exactly like that since he was a pup, naked in front of her for the first time, blood still coppery on his mouth.
"Back so soon?" her voice always reminded him of good single malt whisky, low and smooth and smoky.
"It's been a busy year," he said, keeping his voice bland.
"So I hear," her face went solemn. She turned and went into the other back room. The one that her mortal clients didn't get to see.
Another bell. Another ward. This one hurt, the sound washing over his skin like fire or acid, with a special streak of agony in a line to the left of his spine. He let out his breath in a long slow juddering sigh and pushed his way into her inner sanctum.
The front of the store looked just like a low-rent tattoo parlor on the rough side of town - cheap cinderblock construction, spotless-but-worn linoleum floor, and walls covered in designs. The back room, though, was her blót-hús, her temple, her blood house, and it looked like something from a different time.
The room was made of stone, walls and floor, and the beams that held up the ceiling were crudely hewn tree trunks. He could still see the bark in places. The only light and heat came from a fire kindled in the center of the room. Just beyond that was the only furniture in the room: a stone table. Her altar. It was seven feet long and four feet wide, about the right size for a man - or werewolf.
Some of the old stories came back and Dyson shuddered, as he did whenever he came here. There were legends about what a Völva did in her blood house when she was performing her magic. Blót was the world for blood, yes, but also for a blood sacrifice. Warriors whispered around campfires, in frightened tones, about the wolves who lay down on her altar and did not get back up again. It was probably only campfire stories, intended to frighten pups, but... He was a fighter, and knew little about the Úlfr Galdr, the wolf magic, but he knew the smell of old blood and the altar smelled like an well of it, metallic and foreboding.
Furs covered the altar today, but he'd lain upon it when it was bare stone, too. The furs came from wolverine, bears, reindeer, and, he sniffed, discretely, wolf. He could feel his ruff trying to rise, even in his human form.
Ingrid emerged from the shadows, still in her jeans and concert T-shirt, but wearing a long dark robe overtop it. The robe was black wool, lined with caribou fur. Her feet were bare on the cold stone floor. He didn't know how she'd taken off her boots so quickly.
"Come to me," she intoned in her whisky voice. "Come to me, Einarr." Lone warrior.
Dyson stepped forward, into the circle of light cast by the crude fire.
She reached up and took his head in her hands, small and strong and stained with ink, and drew him down to her. Her lips were hot and dry on his forehead, her flesh smelled like wolf fur and moonlight on snow.
He accepted her benediction and knelt at her feet, head bowed.
She chanted, softly, and Dyson felt the magic ripple outwards, like a drop in a spring-fed pool. The words were in a language known only to werewolves, like the tattoos on his back, and they invoked the sanctuary of the blood house. It was where all the lycanthropes came into the sanctuary of the Völva, to make confession and offer blood and pain to their ancestors. It was a ritual older than humanity, older than the division of fae into light and dark. It was where they could be wolves.
The chant stopped in a moment of ringing quiet. Dyson could hear his heartbeat, and hers, and the small crackling of the fire. They were alone together in this space, in this moment, and all of his weariness, heartache, impatience, and conflict fell away from him. He sighed in the small pleasure of absent pain.
Ingrid smoothed the hair off his forehead and stared down into his eyes.
"Tell me," she ordered.
"Völva, I have a story to tell," he intoned the ritual words. His tale took... a long time. He hadn't visited since right after his disastrous deal with the Norn. By the time he reached the Garuda's defeat, Dyson could sense the moon setting in the dark sky beyond the stone walls.
The silence stretched out after his last words and Dyson finally opened his eyes. Ingrid was staring at him with dark eyes.
The tension stretched out, and his felt his skin prickle and hum as she digested his story. Pups who came to her with unworthy feats were sent away with sharp rebukes and a little something to light a fire under their tails. Dyson was not worried about that. But he could not help but remember those campfire stories of Völvas' own sacrifices. It was said they chose only the most worthy wolf warriors, the ones with the best tales to tell, and offered them up as sacrifice to increase their own powers. He couldn't help but think that his story was very interesting.
Finally, she nodded sharply, and gestured.
He unbuttoned his shirt and shrugged it off his shoulders, carefully folding it and laying it on the floor beside him. She walked around him, slowly, examining his back. Her finger touched left shoulder blade and traced a long, delicate line down the line of muscle next to his spine, stopping at the hollow of his back. the sharp tip of her nail barely grazed his skin. He clenched his jaw, fighting to keep still under the feather-light touch.
"On the table," she slapped him on the shoulder.
He stood, slowly, his muscles slightly stiff from kneeling in the cool air. Ingrid watched as he pulled off his boots and socks, unbuckled his belt, and unbuttoned his jeans and slid them off his hips. He carefully folded each piece and placed them in a pile, moving with deliberate speed and respectful precision.
Then he climbed up onto the table.
Even through five layers of fur, he could feel the hardness of the stone as he stretched out on his stomach. He settled in, cushioning his cheek on his folded hands, his bare back, ass, and legs suddenly chilled. He was naked, his spine was vulnerable to the Völva, and all of his senses heightened at he watched her pull out her tools. They were small and sharp and made of cold steel. He could sense the magic and the iron in the bottle of ink, smell the sharp tang of oak galls and ashes when she unstoppered it.
Her body heat from under the robe was like a furnace as she stepped up beside him and laid her small hard hands on his back. She washed his skin, where the new tattoo would go, and the sting of the witch hazel made his eyes water. Then she began the ancient ritual, scribing the story of his life directly into his own skin.
The pain was... extraordinary. It always was. The tattoos comprised extraordinary magic to overcome his healing abilities, to make the marks permanent. He ground his hips against the furs, holding his whole torso tense under her steady hand as she pierced his skin, over and over again, wiping away blood and smearing ink into the tiny wounds.
His entire consciousness narrowed down to a small point of fire in the small of his back. His wolf could not help but imagine how simple it would be for her slender silver and steel needle to sever his spine. Muscles and sinew trembled with the need to hold still, despite the pain, the smell of blood, and the danger.
Time dilated. He had no idea how long the Völva had been working when he realized she had stopped. Slowly, carefully, he looked back over his shoulder.
She was staring at him with dark eyes that seemed to go down for very deep. She'd put her needle down and was holding her ritual knife, the curved blade red and gold in the fading firelight. It looked at sharp as her smile.
Despite the battle, the long night, he felt adrenaline shudder through his body as she stared at him. Finally, with a quick motion, she sliced her thumb. The blood smelled thick and sweet and it burned when she smeared it over the new marks on his back.
"Up!" she barked, slapping his ass sharply. He rolled his eyes at her before climbing off the altar with a low hiss as the burning pain. He pulled his jeans up gingerly, relaxing as the waistband settled a few inches below the raw wound of the new tattoo. On the oldest wolves, the line went all the way down the back of their legs. He could only hope kilts would come back into fashion by the time his tattoos reached that far.
Her dark eyes followed his movements with interest.
Finally, fully dressed, he turned and bowed politely to the priestess. She nodded back, more deeply than usual. Almost a bow.
Taking his arm, she escorted him back out through all three wards. Her skin on his lessened the bite of the magic, for which he was grateful. Dawn was a gray light on the horizon when he stepped out into the cold morning.
"Thank you, Ingrid." he turned to go.
"Good hunting, Dyson," she smiled and he turned to go. He was just a few steps away when she called after him. "I look forward to hearing the rest of this tale as it unfolds."
He paused for a moment, just a hitch in his step, before he continued to walk away, into the bitter pre-dawn silence. The cold seemed to settle into his veins as he left her in the brightening light.