The Bald Tattooist of Maskerville

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Dwindling Foes (Part II)

Frank and Claus grabbed Demelov to stop him from further attacking Marty. Ink bent down and took the mask that was thrown on the ground and handed it to his friend, while Marty wiped the little blood coming out from the tear in his mouth.

“Guys, enough fighting. In case you forgot, we are not enemies here. Can’t you just set aside our differences and help each other at least?” Rebecca begged.

“She has a point. Right now, we are not in Maskerville. We are in Valhalla, in the land of the elves, in the middle of a canyon filled with creatures that might just attack us at any second of the minute of the hour. There is no peasant, servant, middle class or noble amongst us. We are all the same here. And we should have each other’s back and not quarrel amongst ourselves,” Claus lectured. “We will be moving out early in the morning tomorrow, before the sun rises, when everything is still quiet. We better get that head start. And I don’t want to hear any more arguments.”

“I’ll take the first watch,” Frank offered.

He took his crossbow with him as he sat on a rock by the side of the pond. The rest of the group huddled around the bonfire to keep warm while they snuggled with the furry Wolf who had it’s eyes closed and ignored them through their entire fight. Rebecca watched Eris as he climbed up the head of the Wolf. She grabbed Ink’s hand before he could go and sleep beside Marty.

“I think you should go and apologize to Eris. You have been quite harsh on him,” she said. “This reminded me of the first time I met you on that tower. You were like that too. You suddenly became angry and unknowingly directed it to me. I feel like this time, you directed it to Eris. I know you do not particularly like the nobles and are distrustful towards them. But Eris is a loyal servant of Lord Fillias. You should’ve known that since the day of Nathaheim. You were there with me.”

Inked sighed. “I know, I’m sorry.”

“No, not to me. But to Eris,” she said. “And I already told you this, I know that the reason you have such feelings is because you truly care for the common people. I just hoped that you wouldn’t take those frustrations out to other people,” Rebecca smiled. “I know you couldn't see it clearly, but I’m actually smiling.”

“Thanks… Becca,” for the first time in what feels like forever, Ink finally allowed himself to say Rebecca’s nickname. The sound of it from his lips brought flutters to the pit of his stomach.

“I feel like you are always there to keep my mind in the right direction whenever it’s getting drowned by negative emotions,” he continued.

“I am glad that I could help. Now, you seriously have to go up there before Eris falls asleep,” she prompted as she pushed him to climb the adhesive stairs.

Eris had his back to Ink. He was sitting cross-legged and petting Il. He tried to lie down and fall asleep but it seemed impossible with all the thoughts that were running on his mind.

“Hey, Eris. Can I sit beside you?” Ink asked.

“Yes, of course, Sir Ink,” Eris replied.

“You know, you really didn’t have to add a sir for my name. I’m not a young master or a noble like them,” he said referring to Claus, Frank, Demelov and Sebastian.

“If you think I am calling them young master or lord solely because of their status then you are mistaken, Sir Ink. Although, it is true that I have gotten quite used to it because this is what’s expected from me. The main reason why I address them as such is to show my respect and to be polite. The same way I call you Sir Ink and your friend, Sir Marty. It doesn’t matter to me that you belong to the common people,” Eris explained.

“Then I suppose I am impolite and without manners,” Ink replied.

“No, no, not at all. That was not what I was trying to say, Sir. I merely meant that I am more comfortable addressing people formally. I think the only person I never did call by sir was my brother Farris.”

“You have a brother?” This was news to Ink. He supposed that man who accompanied Eris the day they left Maskerville was him.

“Yes, I do. An older brother.”

“Does he work for Lord Filias too?” Ink asked.

“Yes, we both do,” Eris answered looking at the North Star just right above them and the rest twinkling in the night sky. “Have you ever heard of the sacred elvish holiday Nathaheim, Sir Ink?”

Ink was quiet for a few seconds not sure where Eris was going with the conversation. Of course, he knew what it was. He was there with Rebecca that day, and he was careful not to let that information slip.

“Yes, I have heard of it,” he answered reluctantly.

“You know, it was more beautiful than this night sky,” he said as he pointed above. “I don’t even think there’s any word that could describe it. I have seen it, you see. And before I did, I thought the night sky was the most beautiful thing I’ve seen my entire life. But not anymore, not after seeing Ethereans Day. I just realized after looking at the stars right now, that Lord Filias was right. Human fascination is such a bizarre thing. It is easily captured but nothing can quite hold it for an extensive length of time. Before long, men will have found something else that would enamor them. Just like how the stars got thrown behind the beauty of Nathaheim.”

It was silent as Ink listened to his words.

“There I was… telling him that people should treasure Nathaheim’s beauty should they see it everyday of their lives. But I actually forgot the first grace that made me fall in love with the skies.”

“I don’t think I understand what you are saying,” Ink said.

“I meant that I fell in love with the night and the stars first. But then Nathaheim came, taking all my attention away and making me forget that everyday and every night, the stars are still here… twinkling. My first love. I feel like I haven’t appreciated it as much as I used to,” he finished.

“I know you think Lord Filias is some slick git. Maybe, a part of him was. But if it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t have it seen it. And it wasn’t just because he needed someone to keep him company. He took me there to help me cure my sickness. Even when he didn’t really have to. Does that sound like someone who is completely bad at all?” he asked.

“You are a great guy, Eris. You are loyal...loyal beyond reason. Lord Filias is very lucky to have you in his household. And I’m sorry if I said those things but I have only seen one side of the guy. I haven’t seen him be compassionate like you do. And frankly, most feelings I have for him is anger. The High King was right. I am broken and maybe filled with hate.”

“But there is kindness too. It’s just, selective. That’s what Miss Rebecca saw in you. The reason why she went out of her way to help you. You give the common people hope. And maybe, she didn’t want that hope to vanish.”

“Rebecca is special,” Ink murmured.

Eris contemplated Ink’s words and said, “You like her, Sir.”

Ink was startled. He didn’t expect Eris of all people to tell him this directly.

“Huh? Of course, I like her as a person and a friend,” he deflected.

“No..., you like her more than just a friend. Your feelings are romantic,” Eris concluded.

“Alright, alright. Clearly, you lack sleep. You’re starting to imagine things. I should let you get some. Good talk, Eris,” Ink said in a haste, eager to descend and escape into the confines of his own thoughts.

It was one thing for Catherine to point out those things for him, but Eris is a whole different matter. He wondered when his facade had started to crack all this time. He also worried about who might be suspecting things. He didn’t want anymore people to tell him the feelings he knew but refused to acknowledge. He had been trying to crush those emotions. He didn’t want to like Rebecca more than just a friend because it would feel like he would be betraying his own kind.

Never. I am not going to become her prey. Ink thought.

He jumped the short height, landing beside Marty who was already sound asleep. All of them were, except for Frank who was studiously watching the shadows. Ink bundled himself up with his friend’s blanket and lulled himself to sleep.


Up on the clouds though, the elves were not falling asleep. Catherine tried to keep awake. But every time she forces her eyes open, they would eventually just shut off on their own. Then her head would jerk, waking her all of a sudden.

In between her nodding off to sleep, she heard glimpses of a conversation shared by Elmator and the Prince. She wasn’t entirely sure what it was. It wasn’t really coherent and the other elves were shouting at the top of their lungs as more action was obviously happening.

“.…Even if they succeed, approaching it would be impossible…” Prince Hanariel said.

“But the people of the south…” Elmator replied.

Catherine dozed off again, not hearing everything properly. In the screen, the rider elves of the Snake had finished healing their beast. It slithered quietly in the grass listening for any vibrations. It appeared that it has no intentions of stopping or resting for the remainder of the night. It climb up the tall tree, only to dangle in the branch, upside down. It had it’s body wrapped around the thick stems. It’s quietly observing the night for any movements, listening intently for any fluttering of wings and sticking out it’s tongue to touch the air.

In the silence, it heard rapid fluttering of thin wings. It stood on it’s head. Though it has no visible ears, it has a unique way of detecting low-frequency airborne sounds using membranes inside their head.

“The Dragonfly has done it, dear elves! It has done it! From being the last competitor to catching up to the first placer, the Mighty Snake. What a surprising turn of events! After having such a rough start due to the bump off with the Snake, we may have thought they would’ve lost their chance, but are we so wrong!” Gimofel shouted.

More cheers erupted from the crowd as bettors for the Dragonfly were revived and roared to life.

Catherine was startled by the abrupt merry-making cries. “What?….What?….What happened?” she asked in a daze.

“The Dragonfly just moved up the second place. And it’s nearing the Snake,” Prince Hanariel answered.

“What?!” Catherine said surprised. “For real? Weren’t they lagging behind just awhile ago? They didn’t even had a good start!” she exclaimed as if it didn’t make any sense.

“The Dragonfly is the best flier you have out there. Think of their wings like rowing through the air. It has commendable control in changing direction and speed that is absent among other flying insects. They can fly terribly long distances too, even across oceans. Before I created the klosus, they were my first aerial transport. But well, they aren’t really best for attacking or fending off unwanted creatures,” Prince Hanariel explained.

“Here it is, approaching steadily. But the Snake knows what’s coming and it’s ready. Will the Dragonfly get it’s revenge or will it finally succumb to the Snake’s ruthlessness? Watch out folks!”

The Snake was motionless as the fluttering became louder. From the dense leaves blanketing the tall trees emerged the Dragonfly and its three elf riders. The Snake swiftly lengthened it’s head with it’s mouth open to bite off one of it’s wings or maybe, even swallow half of it’s body.

The Dragonfly changed direction swiftly, flying upward and out of the Snake’s reach. But the Snake just wouldn’t let that happen, it propelled itself into the air following the Dragonfly like the first time it did at the start of the race. The creature had already learned its lesson though. Using synchronized stroking to change direction rapidly, the thrust propelled it upwards as it free glided upside down in a circular motion. The elf riders then casted a spell while looking down at the Snake.

A cloud hovered above it and in poured rain but not just any rain. Steam was coming down together with the torrent of water. The riders jumped out of the way and the Snake hissed as boiling water cascaded down its body. Quick to respond, a counter spell was made, a cold wind blew away the cloud, at the same time cooling the snake and healing it’s burnt skin. Another elf of the Snake casted a spell that produced a lightning bolt hitting half of the abdomen of the insect, sending it spiraling to the ground.

“Well, that was a marvelous display of benign nature magic, don’t you think folks? You surely couldn’t expect any less from the best casters out there. We will settle on a draw for now. As both creatures were severely injured but missed getting eliminated by a hair’s breadth,” Frinamdel said.


The Dimetrodon lied in wait for it’s prey, concealing itself behind the tall bushes just outside the small field of wild flowers. It was a bit of a feat, considering how it’s sail can’t be easily hidden. But thanks to the skillful riders who performed an invisibility incantation, it is now safely tucked and undetectable, unless a klosus shows up or another elf does dispelling magic.

They already had their target locked on the Bee the moment the race started. Their team had been the winner for three consecutive years in the behemoth wars.

They owed that streak not just to the ability and strength of the unit but to careful planning. They strategize on who, when and how to strike, making tactical moves that would be to their advantage. And right now, they stayed in place trying to enjoy the scent of the flowers which they knew would attract the Queen Bee. They didn’t help it escape the Guntheri’s attacks because they formed an alliance. They did it cause they personally plan on taking out the beast.

That’s how the veterans think. Three years into the games and you’d know places existing in the canyon that would definitely draw other beasts. And they were right, cause just about that moment, a buzzing sound came flying towards the field. The Dimetrodon’s eyes followed every move and action. It was so focused that it didn’t escape from it’s sight another creature stalking the Bee. It gave a little nod to the riders indicating the Beetle that was trailing their prey.

“Well, it seems like today is our lucky day. Remember what the High Prince told us, make every opportunity count. We wait till the Beetle makes its move. Wait until they fight it out. Then, we charge and make two kills,” Yanmar said, he was the High Prince’s best fighter and the one leading his Dimetrodon team.

Despite the dwindling foes, the fight was just starting for some that lurked in the shadows.

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