The Bald Tattooist of Maskerville

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Rescued (Part I)

They were shocked to see Demelov lying on a pool of his own blood. The sight of Demelov bleeding was an awakening for all them, it was like their energies were revitalized. They cried at the same time as Frank charged onward to the guy in the red shirt, the culprit to Demelov’s injury. Rebecca grabbed another arrow and shot unwaveringly. Even Ink, who didn’t really had much liking to Demelov, was enraged. He stabbed the member of the brotherhood and slashed another. There was no time to think and doubt whether life should be taken or spared. They were merely fighting for survival. Sebastian, Eris and Marty rallied.

There were still a dozen or so men left. Claus was the one who was triggered the most. His eyes turning red as he saw his friend on the brink of death. Frank warned Sebastian before to never provoke him to a fight, and now they knew why. They had never seen Claus on a bloodlust before. And Claus on a bloodlust was not someone you would want to cross. He didn’t think twice about killing the men. Maybe, it was the adrenaline that fueled him but he moved twice as fast and jumper higher than he normally could. His strength was overpowering the men as well.

He was like an assassin who killed swiftly. The next thing you’d know, he was right beside the person grabbing and breaking his neck. Frank had now ditched his crossbow and left the remaining guys for Claus to finish. He fought hand to hand with the leader of the men. He was bigger than him and had more force to his blows that landing a single punch took a huge toll on his opponent. Rebecca managed to take out three on her own as well. Her aim was more accurate this time. Though her opponents moved rapidly making it harder for her to hit the target, she had adjusted to their speed well. The rest of the guys were fighting their battle splendidly. They coordinated with each other like they had fought at a great war back to back for years. It was mostly their subconscious mind doing the battle. The moment they stopped all thoughts and hesitations and surrendered to the call to fight for survival, the tables had been turned on the Brotherhood of Light Bearers.

Ink delivered the last blow to the last man standing, swiftly cutting his head with his blade while the man was preoccupied with Marty. It was a shot at the back. But protecting his friend was more important than an honorable fight. They ended up winning. Their feelings were a mixture of relief and sorrow. All of them were bloodied and drained of energy.

The bodies of the brotherhood littered the evergreen bushes inside the dangling vines of the huge tree. They gathered around Demelov who’s gasping for breath. He had his eyes closed but his lips were grinning. He was the only one whose mask was off. Claus ripped his shirt to reveal the stabbed wound on his stomach. There’s a gaping hole now filled with blood and he tried to put pressure to stop the bleeding. He bit at his lip as he struggled to close the wound. Demelov grunted.

“Demelov, it’s okay. Can you hear me? It’s gonna be fine,” Claus tried to compose himself for his friend.

He coughed. “I thought you would have fled by now,” he replied.

“Shh, Demelov. Don’t talk,” Rebecca said touching his forehead just right on his mark. “It’s okay. Can you believe we defeated them? We won,” she lowly cheered.

He coughed up more blood this time. Dread filled the air as Claus looked at Frank for help, his internal organs were damaged.

They heard paws marching just then. Not just a couple, but a lot of them thudding towards their way. A flood of pixies parted the dangling vines and light penetrated through the split. The light was so bright that their eyes strained to see the figures that passed through the curtain of vines.

Elves. Elves riding white tigers with wings, circled their company. Among the group of riders was a banner man who carried a streamer that had a crescent moon embroidered on it.

All of their hair were blonde and long. They wore fancy-looking clothes under their cloaks that were strapped on their chests by a brooch that is shaped like the crescent moon, it was the symbol of Valhalla.

The last one to enter was beautiful beyond belief. He had a powerful aura around him and was no doubt someone from a high position, even his clothes looked like it was made of silk and his long blonde hair was bound by a small diadem around his head that glitter like starlight.

“And who might these masked people be?” Prince Hanariel asked, his cerulean eyes gazing at the group.

“It’s a ghoul, High Prince,” the first elf uttered pointing at Demelov’s figure on the ground. “It’s a rotting ghoul,” he reported in his deep voice.

Rebecca stared at the Prince and noticed his eyes changing color. She was pretty sure that it was cerulean just a few moments ago but now it’s white as if the pupils where suddenly gone from his eyes. It was only for a moment but then he spoke.

“A company of armed men are coming this way,” Hanariel said. “They are after these people,” he looked around and saw the bodies of the dead brotherhood members.

It was Claus who spoke first. He bowed low and said, “Your highness, we are…”

“I know what you are, child. You are the Accursed Men of the Undead. I had encountered some of your people before,” Hanariel interrupted. “What brought you here so far North, at the borders of our land?”

“We are here on a quest, High Prince. We are sent by the Divine Spectre. We have been told that the Northern Kingdom of Valhalla had an unused Vertigo Forest. It is our deepest desire to acquire this land from your kind,” Claus said humbly.

“Concealing your true forms will do little to help you counter the curse that was placed upon your people. A ghoul is what you are to our eyes,” he said, looking at the ghoulish creature with hollow eyes. Rebecca swiftly covered Demelov’s face with his mask.

“You bring with you death. The company of the undiseased will reach these grounds and you’d have nowhere else to flee,” he frightened them.

“With all due respect Prince, without our masks, we must look like hideous ghouls to your eyes. But we are living creatures who also struggled to survive,” Rebecca said, clutching Demelov’s hand.

“He is dying,” Hanariel said. “And so is the girl with the orange pixie-mask. It appears to me that your quest had failed. It is no longer the business of an elf to mingle with the lives of mortals.” He turned to leave.

“Your highness!” Ink called boldly, taking his attention. “We will come to your kingdom. This I promise to you. Whether you will take us with you or not, we will surely get there. The men who are after us will face the same death like their brothers who had come before them.”

He looked so determined and so resolute that Hanariel stopped to study him. Rebecca stood beside Claus who stood beside Ink. Sebastian, Frank, Marty and Eris followed suit. They stood together side by side like a band of ugly mercenaries.

Rebecca saw the same thing happen again. Hanariel’s eyes turning into white for a brief second. Then, something in his expression changed. He looked at his men.

“Tend to the wounded,” he said talking to what appears to be a healer in their group. “We’re taking them with us. We’ll present them to the High King,” he commanded.

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