We lay silently on a low bed, neither speaking, for there is no need. I run my finger, as I have a thousand times before, over the red symbol emblazoned across his chest. I distinctly remember the day that it was first stained into his skin. Years ago on one of the many occasions that Alexander slipped out from under Aristotle's wing, he dragged me down to the marketplace where a new wave of traveling merchants had just passed into town. They set up camp within the market square offering an assortment of items novel to us. It wasn't so much the items as the people the fascinated Alexander.
Many of them bore complicated designs on their bodies. And not just on their bodies, in them, under the skin where water nor sweat could wash them away. Most were plain black, many older ones looked almost green and very few were in varying shades. It was the red that drew his eye most. Red like blood, like passion, like life.
We walked among the crowds until Alexander stopped dead. I only stopped after I walked into his firm back. He turned and took my wrist, pointing in the direction of his gaze. Tucked away, inside a brightly patterned tent, sat a burly man covered in the inked designs. He had strange instruments that he was using on a man laid out on a pallet. There was blood dripping from his skin, but he gritted his teeth as the man with the wicked needles wiped it away, revealing the color that now lay under his skin. Alexander's hand tightened around my wrist and he turned to me, stormy eyes flashing.
"We shall get marked," he said in a quiet voice that called for no arguments.
I followed silently as he pulled me to the tent and we stood in the entrance, looking around at the images that covered the walls. A dull buzzing sound filled the tent as we watched the inking process in interest. The artist, for that's what he was, embedding such images into people's skin, dipped his strange stylus into ink and then set it to skin where it pierced many times quickly, leaving behind a sharp sting and a permanent stain. The air smelled sharply of a mixture of ink and blood barely covered by soft calming incense that burned in the corner.
After some time, the man on the pallet was through. Wiping away the last of the blood, the artist revealed his work, a simple word neatly penned. "Wealth." The customer of the ambitious word was handed a small pot of salve and sent on his way after paying a handful of pressed coins. The artist set about counting his money and cleaning his instruments before he finally turned his attention to us.
"What do you want?" he asked, his voice carrying a thick accent I hadn't heard before.
"I wish to be marked," Alexander said with a gesture towards the man's own skin.
"It is forever. You can never take it off. It is painful, a purposeful wound you inflict. Can you accept this? Pain in exchange for a permanent mark?"
Alexander smiled. "I intend to mark the world. It is only fair that the world marks me, is it not?" The man did not understand Alexander's cryptic comments, but I did. For I knew with certainty that Alexander would indeed someday mark the world, he was too passionate not to. "Yes, I am willing to make such an exchange as well as one of worth." Alexander jingled the purse at his side.
"Then have you decided upon your mark?"
Alexander nodded and knelt down, sketching a design into the dirt of the floor. "I wish for it to look like this. And I want it in red."
The man's eyebrow rose. "Red? The price rises when you get so bold."
"Money is not an object. I merely wish to have this symbol in red, right here." Alexander pointed to the center of his firm chest, eyes daring the man to deny him.
He didn't. "As you wish. Take this seat and I will find your red."
Alexander strode to the low pallet as the man walked to a shelf at one end of the tent and pulled out a jar. He carefully carried it back over to a small table and chair beside the pallet upon which Alexander lay. I sat beside the pallet, opposite the artist and watched as he readied to work. First he took out a charcoal stick and recreated the design upon Alexander's chest, checking to make sure it was correct. Then he readied his rich red ink the color of fresh blood and filled his strange needle. He lowered it to Alexander's chest, on the very tip of his symbol, and the odd buzzing began.
Alexander did not cry out, or even wince as the small needle started to plunge into his skin, but I saw the muscles of his jaw tighten and reached out my hand to lay on his. After a while it was hard to tell the ink from the blood as it all bled together in an ocean of spilt wine. I laid my head upon the pallet. My cheek pressed to Alexander's hand and I watched the crowds go by outside of the tent. I felt his fingers tangling gently in my hair, stroking my scalp, and sighed. Time passed, the endless buzzing filling my senses with sound and smell, even my touch seemed to be moved by that high drone. Then it was gone.
I looked up as the man wiped a bloodied cloth across Alexander's chest, removing the blood, leaving only the crimson mark behind. The skin all around was red and throbbing as I reached out to touch it in wonder. Alexander watched as my fingertips skittered across his skin, cool against the flames of his chest. After a moment he captured my hand within his. I turned to look at him and his eyes caught mine.
"I wish for you to be marked as well." His voice was low, almost a purr as he breathed the words across my cheek.
"But I've no idea what mark I shall bear." I replied softly.
"Mine." The reply was followed by a heated kiss. He sat up and pulled me up upon the pallet. Soon I was lying back with his hand gripped firmly on my left thigh.
"He shall have the same mark." Alexander informed the artist. "Here, but smaller, no bigger than a finger. Also in red."
The man made no comment just gave an affirmative nod as he cleaned his needle. Moving his chair down he pushed my thighs far apart. Soon his charcoal pencil had sketched in Alexander's mark and the needle was pressed against my thigh. When the buzz began, I did gasp, biting my lip at the sudden pain. Unlike other pains, it did not begin to fade away; rather it was constant and biting. My hands clenched tightly as I bore it in silence. Alexander pried up my hand, wrapping his own hand within my clenched fist. Slowly, he drew our hands to his mouth and brushed his lips across my knuckles. Suddenly, the pain was not so bad. My grip loosened slightly and instead of watching that small needle dig into me, I watched Alexander.
We did not speak as I was marked, but he spoke to me with his eyes. I replied in kind, strangely not able to fill the vibrating air with something so simple or complex as words. It was as though we were in some ceremony to the gods that was both simple in practice, but complicated in holy meaning. I felt that scarring the silence would ruin it. The strange ceremony felt timeless, though I could tell by the light outside the tent that time passed. It was a rosy color as the buzzing finally eclipsed into silence.
I looked down and there on my leg was the symbol that was a perfect match to Alexander's but for size. The red drew my eyes where they traced it in wonder. Marked. Long fingers reached out and stroked my enflamed skin. Alexander's fingertips were like chilled water to my parched, aching skin. We were handed a large pot of salve for rubbing upon these new marks of ours. I was offered clean bandages to wrap around my thigh, to keep it from rubbing, but stubbornly I refused. I bore Alexander's mark, shouldn't the whole world know about it?
Alexander dropped coins into the man's hand before offering his hand to me. I took it, fingers tangling with his as he pulled me up from the pallet and we walked from the tent. Walking back to the palace, we took a slower pace than earlier and I knew that Alexander had slowed his long step for me.
Eyes were drawn to us, it was only natural that people should stare at the Prince, but now they were captured by the red mark that he bore, not knowing it's meaning. Murmurs followed us. What did it mean? I knew. I too bore the mark, but whereas he was marked by the world, I was simply marked by Alexander. His and his alone.
Even now these years later, I still am as fascinated by his mark as he is by mine I note as his fingers slide over my thigh. They trace they symbol like one walks a familiar hallway by memory alone from long acquaintance. I have never regretted the mark emblazoned on my thigh. It is not the mere mark of livestock, but rather the mark of a great man. It reminds me of who I am, whom I belong to and whom I will stand beside for eternity.
Ta da. There we are, more weirdness from me. Like, not like, think I mangled the experience? Feedback ^_^
P.S. I'm messing around with fic formats, how does this look? Good? Bad? Don't care?