Sigils and Wards
On the edge of town near campus, in the basement of a bar, there is a tattoo parlor. There is a rumor on campus that the tattoos there provide protection that you all desperately need, that the artist uses salt and iron in her inks. These statements are true, to a degree. There are no signs to guide you there; you will need to find it by yourself. You should have no trouble, if you truly need it. Knock five times in the familiar rhythm: “Shave and a haircut…” You may feel the sensation of a pair of eyes watching, like a spider on the back of your neck. Ignore it, and the door will swing open. Turn around to see whom it could be, and you will never find your way home.
Inside, you will find the artist. The many inky lines that traverse her body obscure her age and facial features; if you stare at them too long, you may get dizzy. She always knows what you want. You want protection, like everyone else. She will tell you her price. This is your only chance to leave. If you do not accept the price, you can turn around and go home. If you accept, then the work begins.
She starts by giving you a strange drink that tastes of honey and mulled wine, but also of iron and acid. You will both recite a prayer, as her eyes roll back and her tongue lolls and she speaks in a language you do not understand. Then, she will begin the tattoo. You do not get to choose the design, but then again, neither does she. If you could ask her about it later, which you can’t, because you will never see her again, she would tell you that her trances let her connect with her god, and that your blood is only a part of the sacrifice that you eventually make. That iron and salt embedded in skin are not the only protection this will provide.
When she is done, your skin will be raw and bleeding, and she will tell you how to care for it. Wash it three to five times a day and then apply ointment derived from wool wax. Should you follow the instructions, and the tattoo heals well, you will never need to carry iron or salt again; the sigil on your skin is that of an older god, one that even the Gentry would not cross. Should you neglect your new tattoo, you will wish the Fair Folk had been able to get to you first; this being does not take kindly to sacrilege. You will see other students on campus that bear the mark; on the new moon, you will meet them in the woods and dance. The morning after, you will wake up in your dorm, with no memory of the night before. But you sleep soundly, knowing that nothing will take you.
Not yet, anyway.