The Bald Tattooist of Maskerville

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Trial (Part I)

The group kneeled and bowed their faces before the king who sat at his golden throne. Even Demelov didn’t protest this time. They didn’t rise until they were told to do so. And it was Claus who spoke first.

“Greetings, High King Vienuriel, Ruler and Protector of Valhalla, It is a great honor to be in your presence,” Claus said.

“I am aware of the reason why all of you are here, child,” he said, looking at Prince Hanariel. “It has come to my understanding… that you desire something that is ours.”

“More than just desire, sire. We are in need of something that is… as you said, yours,” Claus replied.

He gazed at the nine masked people standing before him.“You have brought a lot in your company just to seek negotiations with me.”

“It is the Divine Spectre who chose each and everyone of us for this quest. We are simply obeying a higher power.”

“Ah, yes, indeed. The Mysterious Divine Spectre, even older than us. Did you know that? Why he led you people into my borders is something I couldn’t quite understand. But you see, the elves no longer mingle with the lives of mortals.”

“As I have heard, Your Highness. But surely, if such was the case… there would be no need for you to welcome us here. And I can only assume that there must be something you are curious about… to led us right into your kingdom,” Claus deduced.

The King laughed. He gazed at Claus. “Ah, child. There are so much more you need to learn from this world. I have heard of your determination, all of your determination. I wondered if there was something more you could offer. You didn’t expect us to just give you the Vertigo Forest for free, did you?”

“I have thought about it, your highness. And I didn’t think such would be the case.”

King Vienuriel tapped the golden arm of his throne. “And yet you still pushed through? There is nothing you could offer that I want in exchange of our land.”

“Then why have you accepted us into your kingdom, sire? If there is nothing that you want,” Claus asked boldly.

“Why, indeed. I wonder. Perhaps, there might be something that I wanted to see,” the king grinned.

A group of servant elves appeared from the hall adjacent to the throne room. They didn’t look like servants to the mortals though. They were dressed too fancifully to be called as servants. The king looked at them and nodded his head.

“Well, I’ve been informed that everything is ready. Come,” the High King said.

They followed the High King to the hall that had a juliet balcony overlooking the clear water of the lake. At the end of the hall was another huge door and the servants opened it before the King and the Prince. Sebastian stood on his tip toes to peek at whatever is on the other side. The sound of the lyre was playing in the background and he wondered whether he could have a go at it too.

The High King and the Prince passed through the door with Rebecca and the rest behind them. There was a wide beautiful garden where a lot of lavishly clothed elves gathered. They all seemed to be prominent officials and all the chattering stopped as the High King and the Prince arrived. There were plenty of food served on a long table. Mostly, fruits and vegetables cut into different shapes. There were servant elves who carried desserts such as pies and tarts while others served some kind of a bluish drink that had smoke rising from it. Together with the smoke was a sweet aroma that made their tongues salivate.

It was the banquet the prince told them about.

Ink stared at the extravagant gathering, feeling uncomfortable. Or maybe it was the various elves staring at them that unnerved him. Elves were beautiful creatures and they all shared the same silky hair that just makes them picture perfect. He had never been self-conscious about his bald head before. But being surrounded by beings who had such hair makes him just a bit insecure. It also made him feel like he draws a lot of attention because of his unusual bald head among their group. He would’ve preferred the company of pixies. At least there he wouldn’t be alone. All of the pixies were bald.

“My dear friends, subjects, lords and elf-kind. I am deeply overjoyed that we will be joined by peculiar people, mortals, cursed men”-Vienuriel uttered while the elves listened intently on his speech-“on this glorious day. I hope that you will relish this banquet and enjoy yourselves until it lasts. Feast everyone!”

The mortals looked at each other not knowing what to do. They were confused as to where this whole thing was going.

“What are you waiting for? Aren’t you hungry?” Prince Hanariel asked.

Seeing as there’s no point not to eat when everyone was feasting, they descended the platform they were standing on and peered in front of the large table that never ran out of something to eat. Sebastian stuffed his face with food as if he hasn’t eaten anything his entire life.

“Don’t you think it’s a bit weird that they threw a banquet for us?” Demelov quipped.

Claus swallowed a mouthful of lettuce. “Don’t be mistaken Demelov. They didn’t throw this banquet for us.”

Sebastian bit into his chicken drumstick. “What do you mean?”

“I think they were celebrating this banquet for a different reason and we simply arrived in time to take part in it,” Rebecca said, twirling her fork in her pasta.

“That’s what I believe too,” Claus replied.

“And the king. He spoke so mysteriously. It’s a bit suspicious,” Ink said, reaching out for an apple pie.

Marty rolled his eyes. “Oh come on, Ink. You are always suspicious about everything.”

“I agree with Ink. He said there’s nothing we could give him that would change his mind. Then why all the trouble to lead us here?” Catherine said, crossing her arms.

“Oh, you are just the same, Catty. Always distrustful about things.” Marty had earned himself a slap on his arm.

Frank nodded his head. “But it does make sense.”

“I believe there is something the High King wants from us,” Claus explained.

“Couldn’t it be because of the courage we displayed at the evergreen bushes? I mean, you heard the king. Maybe, the determination Prince Hanariel saw moved him,” Rebecca reasoned.

Claus placed his hand on his chin. “Well, that would’ve been a wonderful thought Rebecca. But I don’t think that is the case. Even now, the elves are watching us.”

“But what could the High King want from us?” Marty asked.

“I don’t know that as well, Marty,” Claus said.

“What if it is not something we can give that he wants. What if… it is us? What if there’s something he wanted to do to us?” Ink wondered aloud. “And I just have a feeling that it isn’t good at all.”

Sebastian felt queasy upon hearing that. “Do something to us? Like what?” he asked, gulping a glassful of the bluish drink.

“Maybe, he’d want to kill you for fun,” Demelov snickered darkly. “Or torture you to death. Maybe, he’s a fanatic like the brotherhood of light bearers and want to purge the world of evil like our kind.”

“Or maybe, they want to make us their lab rats. After all, they like to learn stuff and invent things. Maybe, they’d want to rip our innards open and see how different we are from their kind,” Marty added ominously, grinning at Sebastian. Demelov glanced at him and grinned underneath his mask.

“That isn’t funny, Demelov,” Rebecca chastised.

Marty got another slap to his arm from Catherine.

“Anyway, since we are already here. We have to make sure the king would give us the Vertigo Forest,” Claus said. “There must be some kind of occasion the elves are celebrating now.”

“Do you know of any more elvish holidays, Rebecca?” Ink asked, glancing at her direction remembering her knowledge about elves.

“Not any that would fall on this day,” she said.

Eris stacked the plates they had used. “Actually young lords, Master Foril had told me that the elf kind are having the annual Behemoth Wars.”

“Behemoth what?” asked Demelov.

“Behemoth Wars, it is a sport that is very famous among the elf kind.”

“Foril told you about this too?” Frank asked.

“Yes, he did, Master Frank. But he never really gave me specific details. Just that a lot of elf lords and elves from all over Valhalla are coming to the Moon Castle and Eclair to witness the game.”

“So, this is what this banquet is all about,” Ink said.

“Yes, Sir Ink. I believe this is the banquet for the opening of the Behemoth Wars.”

The Prince walked towards them with two elves flanking his side. The one on the left wore a scarlet tunic while the one on the right wore a blue tunic. They believed the one with the scarlet tunic must be an elf warrior judging by the scarlet robe, the stature of his body and the expression on his face. The other one must be a political figure or at least someone who’s work is in that field or related to it. “What are you children gossiping about so suspiciously?” Hanariel asked.

Prince Hanariel made the introductions.

“Men and women, this is Chief Avrat, Head of the First Tuvari,” he said as he pointed to the one wearing the scarlet tunic. “And this is Elmator, my attendant,” he said to the one on his right.

“Greetings Mortals,” Elmator said while Chief Avrat was just quietly watching them.

“It is a pleasure to meet you both,” Rebecca chirped. She didn’t extend her hand for she knew that it wasn’t an elf custom. “I am Rebecca and these are my friends,” she indicated everyone in the group and said each of their names.

Elmator cocked his head to one side. “I hope the food was to your liking.”

“Oh, it was. Sebastian ate a whole bunch,” Demelov said, pointing to the blue ogre-faced mask.

“Well, I am glad that you enjoyed it. Shall we escort you now to the arena?” Elmator asked.

Ink furrowed his eyebrows. “To the arena?”

“Yes, we will be showing you a lot of great things,” he replied.

“Noble Sire, I am deeply honored that you are eager to show us a lot of things that humans could only hope to imagine. But we aren’t here simply to sight see. You know this, High Prince. We would very much want to talk to His Highness and have things settled with him,” Claus interrupted.

“You heard what he said back in the throne room. There is nothing you could give that he wants,” Prince Hanariel said.

Rebecca huffed. “Then why are we here?”

“That is for us to know and you to figure out, child,” the Prince said cryptically.

“With all due respect Prince, if you have no desire to help our kind then I’d prefer it if you tell this to us directly than being so inscrutable about things,” she asserted.

The guys looked at each other. “I see your point now Claus,” Sebastian whispered. “The old Rebecca wouldn’t be so… bold,” he finished.

“Patience, child. It is something that you need to learn,” Hanariel said. “Now, you must follow us. If you wish to make progress in your stay here.”

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