'Bite down on this.'
It wasn't much of a request. He pressed a roll of rag into her mouth, and waited for her to bite down. Then he stood, examining his task.
Marking within the gypsy clans was always brutal. His own brand however, was even more so. The girl knelt before him, hands and feet tied tight, anchored to an oak tree a pace to their left. Her bare back and torso glistened with sweat from the fire beside them. That's good. Heat loosens the skin. He snapped open his little black box of tools, laying them out on the ground. One was a charred, thin piece of black wood with a needle like tip. There were two jars, one dark liquid, one blue. A tiny lockbox was the final item, containing a greenish paste.
The man gathers his tools, and circles her, speaking as he does, his odd foreign accent creating a silkiness to his speech.
'You will be in agony. This is your first, so you must be brave. Remember your lessons.' He kneels behind her, flicking out a wicked knife, tracing the pattern he plans lightly on her bare skin.
'You must be quick like the fox.'
He dipped two fingers into the green paste, applying it to patches of skin he plans to mark. The paste is cold, numbing.
'Be sharp like the eagle.'
He holds the wooden marker in the flames, then coats its tip with black liquid from the jar. The marker pierces the flesh between her shoulder-blades, and agony floods the girl. The man continues to talk as he carves her back, but his words can no longer be heard by the girl, as the pain becomes indescribable. The man is not just carving her back. He carves her soul.
Some hours later, and it is done. Three strange swirls, joined together stretch along her back and touching the base of her neck. The swirls, at first black have been done over in blue. What they signify or accomplish is unclear, but the man seems satisfied as he unties his victim. He leaves her with a dark bottle of some powerful spirit drink, and a paste to apply on her wounds, adjusts his bandanna, before wandering off into the forest. He wonders if she will survive.