The Bald Tattooist of Maskerville

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The Lady in White's Plea and The Divine Spectre

The moon was high in the sky and smatterings of stars lighten the darkness that enveloped the night. Equidistant whimsical lamppost with orange glowing butterflies line the streets further illuminating the town. Midnight approached, and the wind grew chillier as the Chief Region grew quieter.

Rebecca and the gang: Claus, Demelov, Sebastian and Frank, were tiptoeing around the district, careful not to get spotted by the patrolling town defenders.

They were on a mission, a crazy and dangerous mission, only a nutcase would agree on doing.

Earlier that afternoon, Demelov spotted a bunch of sentry guards outside their home. He had been extremely curious as to what business they had once again with his father. He tried to gather information from Casov over dinner the night before but he had been tight lipped and always had a way of deviating things away from the topic. He had been very vague about the nature of their business that Demelov had taken it into his own hands to uncover the mystery of their affiliation.

He had been very cautious not to get caught snooping around as he crouched under a shrub just outside the open window of Casov’s office. He had overheard his father and the head of the company of sentries talking about the successful search and capture of the bald tattooist from the south. He knew it was Ink right away. Because, who else is bald and a tattooist? He thought to himself.

He figured it’ll be funny to tell Rebecca that her friend was wanted by the sentry. But what he didn’t know is that it’ll lead them right to that moment where they’ll be wasting away their young life.

Had he known that they’ll be risking their life for that nobody, he wouldn’t have told Rebecca about what he had heard. But it was too late now. Worse, she partly blamed him for the capture since it was he who told his father about the quarry, albeit accidentally. He didn’t know his father was after guy and had no idea why he was looking for him in the first place.

Rebecca couldn’t understand what it was all about either. As far as she knew, Ink hadn’t done anything wrong but had always tried to help the common people.

However, if what Demelov heard was true, then the council had already issued an urgent summon and they’ll no doubt keep him in prison without even giving him a trial.

Rebecca had heard his father complain time and time again about not following protocols regarding charged individuals. The council was supposed to follow legal proceedings before dumping people into jail, and the Divine Spectre should be the one to judge and give that verdict. Unfortunately, that power seemed to have rested on the Council Heads in his absence.

That was the reason why they needed to complete their mission. The Sanctum of the Highest Order, tallest and center of the seven department buildings, was the goal.

“Are you sure this a good idea?” Sebastian asked worriedly as they crept through the road between the Trader’s and Artisan’s buildings.

“Obviously, it’s not a good idea, dimwit,” Demelov said annoyed.

“Then, remind me again why we are doing this?” Sebastian replied.

Demelov looked at Claus’ direction. “Because some bloody genius suggested the idea, that’s why.”

Claus sighed. “This isn’t the time for us to be pointing fingers Demelov. It’s the only way for us to help Ink. Only the Divine Spectre has authority over the council. If we want to question their decision, we need a higher power backing us.”

“Why are we trying to help that guy, anyway?” Demelov complained.

“Because Rebecca wants to help him and we help her,” Frank said firmly indicating that it should be reason enough.

Then Demelov directed the question to Rebecca this time, “Then, why are you trying to help that guy anyway?”

Rebecca looked back at the four who seemed to be wondering the same question. “Because I believe he is innocent,” she simply said.

Sebastian let out a breath. “Wooh, I was scared for a minute there. I thought you were going to say you like him.”

“What?!” Rebecca replied puzzled.

“Ha ha ha ha ha ha,” Demelov laughed out loud. “That is the funniest thing I’ve ever heard in my life.” Claus elbowed him in the ribs motioning for him to keep quiet.

“Aw, watch it.”

“Be quiet. Or you’ll lead the guards right to us,” Claus whispered.

“So, just to confirm. You are only trying to help him because he is a friend who you believe is innocent. And you don’t have any special feelings for him, right?” Sebastian asked.

“Rebecca is a naturally good and caring person who wants to help people,” Claus answered for her. “You should know that by now.”

“Yeah, I know,” Sebastian conceded, feeling a little down that he didn’t realize this sooner. Frank simply tapped his shoulder as a form of encouragement.

“I’m not that good, you know. Ink was better. All I had were good intentions. I never really took some action that changed people’s lives the way he did,” she contemplated looking at the four of them. That was maybe part of the reason why she admired Ink. She wished to be more like him, to make a change in people’s lives.

“But that makes you better than us, Beca,” Sebastian comforted. “You had these grand thoughts of helping people. I don’t think any of us here had thought about it that much. We never really even worried about those people in need,” he continued.

Rebecca smiled a little, her eyes almost twinkled in her mask. Sebastian always knew the right words to speak to make her feel better. She was grateful.

“You’re not that bad. You are here helping me,” she replied.

“Yeah, don’t group me in the same league as you Sebastian. I had grand thoughts of changing the world too,” Claus joked wanting to lift Beca’s spirit more.

Rebecca grinned.

“I think only Demelov and Sebastian belong to that category,” Frank murmured.

The two guys protested at once. Then, looked at each other having done so at the same time.

“You don’t get to complain, Demelov. Everybody knows you are like that,” Sebastian argued.

“Oh yeah. Why don’t I try to smash your face to see how true is that?” he threatened.

“Guys!” Rebecca called their attention. “Thank you for always cheering me up,” she said opening her arms wide. “Group hug?”

“Ugh, I’d consider hugging you without them,” Demelov fussed.

“Lame,” Claus piped as he and Sebastian welcomed the hug. “You’re not going to join, big guy?” he asked Frank.

“It is not my thing but… what the hell,” Frank said giving them a bear hug.

“You guys are so cheesy. I’m going to barf,” Demelov made gagging sounds.

“Come on, join in. Please,” Rebecca pleaded.

“Fine,” he grumbled and dragged his feet towards them.

The sky cleared and the glow of the moon flickered as the last cloud passed by. Then, the shadow of the Highest Sanctum loomed over them as the cloud vanished.

“So, what are we waiting for?” Frank asked removing the string that is holding his crossbow over his back and held it one hand. “Who’s ready to shoot some bolts?”

“We are not going to kill town defenders,” Rebecca reminded him.

“Don’t worry. We’ll stick to the plan,” Frank replied.

The plan was for them to enter the Highest Sanctum undetected, look for the Divine Spectre and talk to him concerning Ink’s situation. Simple. But not that simple.

There were guards stationed outside the main entrance of the tower. That made it out of the option. Besides, the entrance was barred from the inside making it almost impenetrable without destroying the whole gate. The only option left was to sneak at the back where there’ll be no guards and no back door as well. So, how were they going to get inside? Through a window instead - a window that is almost fifteen feet up. This is where Frank will come in handy. His hunting skills using the crossbow is quite spectacular according to the guys who often went with him to Mount Awari.

They all crouched behind stacks of crate just out of the lamppost reach. Frank positioned his crossbow in front of his face and aimed at the stone wall below the window. He shot bolt after bolt: left and right, again and again, until the last one was almost at the ledge of the window. It was so precise that all the bolts were equally spaced from each other. The rest of the group looked at him amazed.

“That was amazing. How did you do that?” Rebecca asked.

Frank shrugged, “Practice.”

“It’s my turn now. Watch me and be amazed at what I can do,” Demelov said winking through the eye slit of his mask.

“Why couldn’t I go with him again?” Sebastian asked.

“Because you don’t have enough upper strength to climb to the top just using those bolts,” Demelov gloated. “Just use those hands to play the piano.”

Demelov walked to the edge of the tower, jumped and grabbed the lowest bolt with his right hand. Then he swung his left hand and reached for the next bolt. Once he safely grabbed unto the bolt, he’d swing his right arm again to the third bolt until he could reach the ledge of the window. He was almost to the top when the bolt he was just about to grab unto broke. Then Frank hurriedly shot another one right on the spot where the broken bolt was.

When he finally reach the ledge, he placed both hands on it and hauled himself up. The single guard manning the window was startled and tried the push Demelov off but he moved quickly out of the way and kicked: his leg connecting to the guards neck with a crack. The guard went limp and he signaled to the others that the coast was clear.

The rest of the group went below the window and waited for Demelov to tie the rope ladder he had brought with him. A few minutes later, they were all inside the second level of the tower.

“He’s still alive, isn’t he?” Rebecca wondered.

“Don’t worry. He’s just unconscious,” Claus confirmed.

“Now, how are we going to find the Divine Spectre?” Sebastian asked.

“We’ll have to climb. The room at the top is the Divine Spectre’s chambers,” Claus answered.

“But there’ll be guards at each level,” he responded worriedly.

“Just leave it to me,” Demelov assured.

Frank stepped forward as well. “I’m here too.”

“Am I the only one who isn’t adept at fighting here?” Sebastian wondered.

“It seems like it,” Frank said.

“Hey, what about Claus?” he protested.

“I’m a pacifist. So, I don’t like fighting,” he explained.

“Oh, but don’t provoke him cause he can hold his ground in a fight,” Frank grinned.

“But I know how to swing a bat… that’s pretty lethal,” Sebastian declared.

The three guys just nodded their heads at him. So, the group trudged the journey up. Every now and then they would pass by a maid servant who would flee at the sight of them. There were a number of them. They lived to serve the Divine Spectre: cooking his meals, cleaning the tower and feeding the guards. All of them never left the tower. They were women who pledged themselves to the Divine Spectre, women who traded themselves in exchange for something they desired.

Demelov would either punch or kick the guards that would block his way. All the while evading their blows and never getting a scratch on himself. He was enjoying it. Occasionally, Frank would help if there are more guards.

But there weren’t more than three at each floor. By the time they reached the top, twenty or so guards were left unconscious.

They were now facing a huge door, twice the size of normal ones seen on most homes.

“Say, what kind of person uses this kind of door?” Sebastian asked. He was always the first one to ask the questions.

“Well, I’ve heard that the Divine Spectre is colossal but not that many people had seen him,” Rebecca answered.

Claus brushed his hair as he leaned on the railing facing the door. “The Divine Spectre is a different being than us. He isn’t human. He is an ancient creature older than the elves.”

“Then if he is really old, he might already be sick and dying. Maybe, that’s the reason why he hadn’t been around the previous council meetings,” Sebastian hypothesized.

“It could be a possibility. The council seems to know more of course. There’s only one way for us to find out,” Claus said.

Sebastian opened the door. But unfortunately, the knob didn’t turn.

“It’s locked.”

“We can see that, dimwit,” Demelov said to Sebastian.

“Leave it to me.”

Claus pulled out a thin wire and looped it into a figure, only he seemed to understand. He tinkered the keyhole until the door unlocked. Frank whistled, impressed at his friend’s antics.

“Where did you learn how to do that?” Sebastian asked.

“Books. I know the theory but it’s my first time applying it. Now, I know it works,” Claus grinned.

Demelov rolled his eyes. “It’s good to know you do have some kind of use.”

“I’m plenty useful than you are, Demelov,” Claus bickered.

He scoffed, “Did you just see how many guys I took out down there?”

“Half of it was my work,” Frank countered.

“Help which was not needed. I could’ve beaten them on my own.”

“Who dares to come enter my chambers?” a loud booming voice asked from inside the room.

The five stood frozen on their spots as they heard the voice. None of them dared to make a sound.

“Speak,” it ordered.

Demelov pushed Claus towards the door first, suggesting that he should be the one to talk since it was his idea, and out of all of them he was the one who was more diplomatic. Claus considered this and was about to enter when suddenly, lightning flashed from the sky and a deafening thunder rolled.

He took a step back and pushed Demelov instead. After all, he was the most audacious of the group. But Demelov shook his head and grabbed Sebastian by the collar, thrusting him to the door: telling him to man up and do his part for he was the one who hadn’t contributed much to their mission. Sebastian grumbled and struggled to be free from Demelov’s grasp. He looked towards Frank who silently stood watching them and begged for him to go instead as the eldest.

They were busy arguing amongst themselves that they didn’t see Rebecca going inside the room.

“A lady in white? What business do you have with me?” the Divine Spectre echoed staring at Rebecca.

“My deepest apologies for intruding the Highest Sanctum, your excellency,” Rebecca apologized sincerely and deeply bowed towards the Divine Spectre.

He appeared to be standing in front of his desk when he was actually sitting. And by the time he rose, he was twice as tall, the room seemed to grow smaller as his gargantuan body filled his chambers. The glow of the moon passing through his window was blocked by his cloaked figure enshrouding the room in darkness.

The four men entered just in time to see the massive being towering over Rebecca.

“And who are these?” he asked.

Rebecca looked behind her to see her friends by the door. The only light illuminating the room was from the corridor outside.

“They are my friends, my lord. They were here on my request,” she explained.

“Come, friends of the lady in white.”

They all walked towards the center of the room behind Rebecca. The door suddenly closed with a loud bang and the wind outside wailed, thunder sounded once again inside the pitch dark chamber of the Divine Spectre.

They couldn’t see anything but they could feel him moving. They could hear the rustling of his cloak against the stone floor. They could hear their own heartbeats beating. They waited in anticipation for the Divine Spectre to say his next words. They were anxious.

He didn’t leave his spot behind his desk. He merely removed his own mask. He had his back towards them. So, they weren’t able to see his face right away but they could see something glowing underneath his cloak. The faint light now diffused from his body into the room. When the Divine Spectre faced them, they were surprised to see his face void of flesh. It looked like a mass of bluish-light formed together to resemble a face. But that face has no eyes like that of a human. It was covered by white membranes with just a hint of purple irises underneath them.

He removed his cloak entirely, blinding the room with bluish-glow that emanates from his whole vaporous body. Rebecca and her friends were shocked to see the Divine Spectre’s true form. Sebastian even had his mouth open while staring at the otherworldly being standing in front of him.

The Divine Spectre laughed at their expressions and placed the vertigo mask back on his face.

“And this is why I have to wear the mask,” he said fondly towards them.

They all blinked when the light was unexpectedly out again and the Divine Spectre motioned his hand to turn on the whimsical lamp of blue butterflies hanging on his ceiling.

They can now see not the diaphanous body of his true form but a man with flesh wearing a mask that seemed as old as his age. He was wearing his cloak once again and he still towered over them. It seems like the vertigo mask couldn’t conceal his enormous height.

“Now, to what do I owe the pleasure of your uninvited visit?” the Divine Spectre asked sitting on the chair of his desk.

There was a moment of pause before they finally regained their composure. They weren’t so sure if the Divine Spectre is more welcoming now than he was just a few seconds ago.

“Your excellency,” Claus bowed. “My friends and I apologize once again for trespassing into your tower. But there is an urgent matter that we’d like to discuss with you, if you allow us.”

“Oh, be comfortable, child. Seeing that you’re already here, I don’t see any reason not to hear you out,” the Divine Spectre said trying to make them feel at ease.

“My thoughts exactly, my lord,” Claus echoed.

“What’s with all the theatrics?” Demelov butted in. Claus closed his eyes and prayed that he doesn’t cause any trouble by saying inappropriate things.

“Ah, you must be a Kale,” he muttered.

“I know, it’s the hair,” Demelov replied.

“No, actually, it’s the attitude that gave you away,” the Divine Spectre said humorously.

Sebastian stifled a laugh and disguised it as a cough which Demelov gladly suppressed by pressing his hand over his mouth. The atmosphere is a bit lighter now and the group are starting to feel at ease.

“I don’t often get a lot of visitors. And the old guy tends to get bored sometimes,” he said as way of explaining the whole scary ordeal. “So, tell me about this urgent matter that you needed help with.”

Rebecca stepped forward this time.

“Ah, the Lady in White. Did you know what it means when one wears a white dress in front of the Spectre?” he asked.

“Yes, it is a symbol of purity and it presents the intention of the wearer to bring no harm or evil to the Divine Spectre,” Rebecca answered.

“Good. Very good. Where did you learn this?” he asked curiously.

“My tutor, Grand Thello, told me this.”

“And did he also tell you that it represents an offering free from moral blemish and impurity?” the Divine Spectre asked.

“Yes,” she replied.

“So, you know what it means and you still wore it?” the Divine Spectre asked amazed.

Sebastian furrowed his eyebrows. “What does he mean? Are you offering yourself Becca? In exchange for Ink’s freedom?”

“The hell you are,” Demelov responded outraged.

Frank faced Claus and clapped his shoulders. “Did you know about this?”

“Yes,” Claus answered.

“You knew and you didn’t even stop her?” Demelov couldn’t believe what he just heard.

“She had already made up her mind. There was nothing I could do to change it,” Claus said defeated.

“We’re leaving,” Frank said, grabbing Rebecca by the hand.

“No!” she shouted. “I’m not leaving.”

She boldly faced the Divine Spectre. “I came here to ask for your help, my Lord. I don’t know why you haven’t been part of the council meetings lately. But I need you to be there tomorrow. They are going to convene about a man whom I believe to be innocent. A man who has done nothing but help the common people. But he is going to be punished unfairly and I need you to be there to see reason and release him. You are the only one who has the power to oppose whatever decision the council has reached. I beg of you. Please, help him,” Rebecca pleaded.

The night is almost out and dawn would soon rise, chasing the darkness away. A fresh morning would start and tomorrow will be another day.

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