Leon slammed the front door behind him. Merlin yowled in protest from a bookshelf perch. He spared his cat a twitch of a smile on the way into the bathroom, throwing his coat across the coffee table. At least the damn apartment was his…and the cars, the latter gifts from his brother. His parents couldn’t take those away.
Leon had always been a failure in their eyes; their disownment just cemented he’d never be anything else to them. That stung, more than anything else. The money…the money was an unpleasant side effect but he would survive without it. He’d have to. His parents were not the sort to change their minds, even if Leon asked it of them, which he wouldn’t. They wanted him gone, he’d go.
He kicked off his shoes and set the tap running for a bath. They thought to scare him into good behavior with a few arcane words and an unknown ritual. Whatever they’d done to curb his talent hadn’t worked. For all their warnings about consequences and discretion his gift still moved in his veins. He could feel it, always at his fingertips like zephyr over wet skin. They couldn’t steal that from him either. It was a comfort that at least one of his birthrights remained.
When the large tub was full Leon’s shirt joined his shoes on the gold flecked tile. His belt was halfway off when something caught his eye. There was a spot, dark against his the skin of his back. He frowned and twisted, trying to catch his image in the now foggy mirrors.
Leon twisted his arm, reaching his hand towards the middle of his spine. Raised skin met his fingertips and Leon’s brow creased. It was no larger than a penny, a small circle of delicate raised lines and curves. This probably wasn’t good.
He dropped his arms and moved to the mirror, drawing a large circle on the fogged surface with a fingertip. With a few quick flicks he added the rune for clarity and then another for collection. From there it was as easy and thoughtless as breathing.
With any easy flow of power he focused on the circle, letting the invigorating energy in his veins move through it. The vapor in the air settled, condensing and settling around the room. His clothes would be soaked but at least he could see. Once his reflection smirked back at him unobscured he released the spell.
Prickling arched up his spine, his skin pulled tight and painful as something twisted against it from within. He gasped as his back crawled and stung. Then as quickly as it had come, the feeling abated and Leon was left panting, hands gripping the sides of the sink.
He whipped around, twisting again to see his back and the strange mark. His stomach dropped a little. It was bigger. The dark lines twisted into a new whorl, a graceful curve and twist that moved slightly away towards his left side.
The prickling pull was gone but the mark remained. Leon ran his fingertips over his spine again, a side effect? Nothing had gone wrong though, the spell had worked. The air was clear. Almost hesitantly Leon reached into his veins; he could feel it there, bright and moving with the familiar manic rush that was his talent.
He drew a tendril of it, the rush coming to the surface for just a moment as he formed a dark silver coin held between his fingers. It was an old trick, the first illusion he’d played with, and it came to him without any effort. Leon kept his gaze on the strange mark and let the cantrip fade into glittering motes.
Like before, the pull of skin and a prickle like electricity made him twitch. Leon could see an intricate line of dark red, smaller than the coin he’d held in his hand a moment ago, arch from the mark and wriggle to find its place in the design.
His stomach turned.
In two days’ time Leon’s mark had traveled considerably. There was no logic to its spread. One spell recorded itself in vicious sharp lines that tucked themselves into his jean’s waistband. Another sent lazy swirls of bold lines up around his shoulder and down his bicep.
Each attempt to erase the growing mark just added to the mess that now stretched itself over Leon’s torso, the edges peaking around his ribs and from under the collar of his shirt. He’d tried every ritual he knew, and a few he’d made up out of sheer desperation. The failures were bold amidst the rest of the strange tattoo.
“Consequences they said.” He muttered. If he spent much longer doing this he’d run out of skin. Already summer apparel was an issue as the curls of raised lines ran up his lower neck and curled around his upper arm.
With a final swipe of the chalk Leon completed the runes and set the focus. He placed shaking hands down on the hardwood floor and tried to ignore to pounding pain in his temples. Drawing power was still second nature, even with exhaustion setting in. He felt liguid ice wash across his skin as the cleansing spell moved over him. It set him shivering, teeth clenched against the cold. The last of the chill faded and Leon held his breath.
The almost electric bite twitched across chest. Leon didn’t have to check, the pull of skin into the raised lines was enough. Leon drew a shuddering breath and collapsed across the circle, waiting for the mark to stop. “Dammit.” He cursed, eyes closed as he attempted to summon some anger towards his parents.
They’d wanted him to feel the weight of his choices, to be discerning and prudent. And when he hadn’t, when he’d thrown it in their faces gloating and petulant, they’d forced the matter. He was too tired and the harsh reality was setting in. This thing wasn’t going away and it just might be his fault.
Leon pushed himself to his elbows and then to his feet, sending a stack of thick tomes tumbling. He ignored the many circles he’d etched into the floor boards and the long dead candles pooling over the wood. A short shuffle got him to the couch and he was unconscious before he hit the leather.