The Bald Tattooist of Maskerville

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At The Quarry

“No, the question is what are you doing there?” Demelov asked at a loss for words.

Sebastian came rushing to Rebecca’s side and checked her for any injuries.

“You damn bastards! What have you done to her?” Demelov angrily asked the defenders.

“Master Kale, we didn’t do anything to her,” the guards stuttered all at once.

“Damn you didn’t,” he said taking deliberate steps towards them his red ogre-mask looking more ominous as the gap between them were closed. But before he could throw the first punch, the guards had already fled, parting the crowd in their haste. Demelov ran after them swiftly.

“Where do you think you’re going bastards?” he shouted after them.

Frank sighed and followed after his friend. Claus did too after a moment of hesitation.

“What are we getting ourselves into Frank?” he whispered beside him running as well. “It’s better not to get involved with the town defenders.”

“They cross Rebecca. They cross us,” Frank simply said.

They ran after the four, taking sharp turns at every corner. They continued the pursuit - climbing over low walls: one hand on the stone and hoisting themselves up over to the other side, their long frilly robes billowing at the hem.

They were gaining speed at the guards who were almost spent at the marathon they had been doing.

Demelov chased them until they hit a dead end at the alley. They halted suddenly, their breaths ragged and masks askew from all the running.

“You can’t run away now,” Demelov said.

The House of Kale, Demelov’s family are well known amongst the people of Maskerville. They are after all the head of the Artisans Department. It was their family who makes the unique masks that are being distributed all over town to market. They are also easily spotted because it was only them who had silver hair. The power they have over town is considerably large that nobody dares to cross them. Furthermore, their temperamental and brutal nature is more than enough to make them a fearful bunch. Most people are stricken with fear even just at the mere mention of their name.

“We swear the girl was unharmed,” the guards stammered.

But Demelov was deaf to the words they were saying. He took deliberate steps towards them. He slowly catwalked and picked up a spare log thrown at the backdoor of a shop. Seeing as there’s no point in explaining themselves to him, the guards nodded at once and charged at him. He was alone now. His friends lost track of them through the chase. Surely,they could overpower him. They thought.

But boy, they have never been more wrong in their life. Demelov fought them head on. He moved so fluidly as he evaded their blows. They tried to hit him with their spears but he was like a cat dashing from one side to another. In the confined space they were fighting on, their longer weapons were a disadvantage. Instead of hitting Demelov, the guards ended up clashing their spears to the wall as Demelov would duck at every swing. This leaves the guards wide open and he’d hit them with his log forcefully. The way he swung the log has a certain technicality to it that the amount of force connecting to their bodies’ sends them reeling on the ground. His movements were so precise that there seems to be no wasted energy in every attack he made. He jumped to one large crate and swiftly made a back kick - to quick for the eyes to see - as the guard who followed him up was thrown to the wall on the other side. His open robe flailing like a cape.

Only one guard was now left standing. He trembled while looking up at Demelov standing on the crate. Time seemed to slow when Frank and Claus reached the two of them. He looked at the entrance of the alley at Demelov’s friends approaching.

He pleaded. “Please, don’t gang up on me.”

Claus looked at him behind his gray ogre-mask. “Gang up on you? No, silly. Did you think we came here to help him?” he said gesturing at Demelov.

“Leave me alone, Claus,” Demelov exasperatedly said.

“You see, we came here to stop him from doing something stupid like killing you guys perhaps,” Claus helpfully supplied.

The guard gulped and looked back at the red ogre-mask with an angry looking expression: furrowed eyebrows and knotted forehead.

“Demelov needs no help from us in doing that you see,” Claus continued. “But just like what I told him, and keep on reminding him,” he said while looking at Demelov. “We are not a group of barbaric people. Do not get your hands dirtied. You’ve beaten them more than enough,” he reasoned.

“Haven’t you guys seen what they did to Rebecca?!” he shouted.

“I think Rebecca is fine,” Frank calmly said.

“You think?” Demelov said half believing.

“Well, clearly, you haven’t seen the situation well enough. Or is it more accurate to say that your brain didn’t have time to process it correctly seeing as you were already consumed by your rage,” Claus chided.

“It appeared like Rebecca was helping the boy,” Frank pitched.

“You should really learn to control your issues, Demelov. You should try reason every now and then,” Claus joked.

Demelov let out a loud huff. Then threw the log he had been gripping tightly at the remaining guard’s head. He threw it with so much force that the guard ended up getting knocked out.

“Was that necessary?” Claus asked pointedly.

“It was fun,” Demelov shrugged.

Claus sighed and lectured him good-naturedly. “You should’ve left one of them awake. Someone was needed to carry the other unconscious two or someone should at least ask for help. In this case, they’ll be left there for quite sometime before somebody finds them.”

“Well, I hope it’s Julian who finds them,” Demelov grinned. “I’ve been wanting to take him on ever since. You reckon the captain of the defenders would come looking for me then?” he asked Frank.

Frank shook his head smiling a bit under his black ogre-mask and said, “You are hopeless.”

“That I agree,” Claus echoed.

The three walked leisurely back to the main street. The people who have gathered, now gone. The boy and Rebecca also nowhere in sight. They approached the carriage that they knew belonged to the Gris.

Demelov opened the door hurriedly. Inside was Rebecca, Sebastian and a peasant boy he didn’t know. The boy was now sitting clutching his stomach. He looked to be in pain but was happily munching on a bread, the bread he had stolen.

“You! Peasant,” he said angrily grabbing his tunic. Rebecca barricaded the boy and faced Demelov.

“What are you doing with your mask off?” Demelov asked.

“I’m trying to make him feel at ease,” Rebecca reasoned.

Demelov looked at Sebastian. “I told her not to but she just wouldn’t listen,” he explained.

Demelov sighed. “Rebecca has a point you know, the boy wouldn’t feel at ease surrounded by hideous masks,” Claus said.

“Exactly,” Rebecca agreed. “So, are you taking off your masks too?” she asked the four.

They looked at her like she was absurd and at the same time echoed a resounding “no”.

Demelov grabbed Rebecca's arm and examined it for injuries. “Are you ok?”

“I made sure she is fine,” Sebastian said shooing Demelov’s hand away.

“I’m not asking you dimwit,” Demelov replied.

“I’m not the one running off to god knows where without knowing what happened first,” Sebastian countered.

“If I hadn’t, then they would’ve escaped,” he bit back.

“Guys! I am fine. It’s him that you should be consulting,” Rebecca said pointing at the boy who had been quiet all this time, curiously watching the exchange between the five.

“I really think he should be taken to the Medics but every time I tell him to, all he does is just shake his head. Those guards had beaten him so much. I believe his ribs might be broken,” Rebecca sounded worried.

“Hey! You! Do you talk?” Demelov asked.

Claus wiped his mask. “He’s not going to answer you if you’re going to talk to him like that."

“Well then, you try if you are so good at it,” Demelov snapped.

Claus climbed into the carriage and sat beside Sebastian who made room for him.

“Hello, little boy, my name is Claus. And these are my friends: Demelov and Frank,” he pointed at the two respectively.

“I assume you have already met Rebecca and Sebastian. We are good people,” at the mention of that, the boy looked suspiciously at Demelov, clearly doubting whether is he good or not. Claus smiled as he saw the boy’s expression while Demelov just scowled behind his mask.

“And we want to help you,” he continued. “You need not be afraid from us. So, now that you know. Why don’t you tell us your name?” Claus asked.

…..

….…

….…….

Silence. The boy looked at him like he was in a daze.

“Maybe, he doesn’t understand what you’re saying,” Frank surmised.

“Or maybe, you just suck,” Demelov prompted which Claus ignored.

“Maybe, he’s in shock,” thought Sebastian.

“Shock? He’s eating a freaking bread. A bread that he stole and got Rebecca into trouble. If you leave it to me, I know a way to make him talk,” Demelov said darkly.

Rebecca looked at him warningly. "Demelov!"

“I was kidding,” he surrendered.

“I highly doubt you were,” Frank murmured.

Claus talked once again and coaxed the boy into talking. By the third attempt, the boy glanced at Rebecca and timidly said thank you.

He raised both of his hands in triumph. “He talked."

“What was it he said? I didn’t hear anything,” Demelov said annoyed.

“He said thank you to Rebecca,” Sebastian replied.

“I bet he did,” he grumbled.

“Quit it, will you Demelov?”Rebecca asked.

She smiled radiantly at the boy. He seems to be more comfortable talking to her than the rest of the guys. Probably because her mask was off. Or maybe, simply because she looked the nicest of the bunch. He now answered whatever Rebecca asked, albeit, monosyllabically.

She learned that he was actually together with a group of stone masons who delivered rocks at the courier last night. He snuck away from the group while they were unloading the blocks only to return a few minutes later to see that they were already gone. They were the last deliveries for the day and he didn’t know the way back. So, he slept outside the Courier Department - inside one of the carriages parked outside. He was waiting for the next deliveries when he felt hungry and went outside to look for something to eat. He didn’t really want to steal but said that he felt compelled to because of hunger and well, the smell of the bread was just too good to resist adding that he had never eaten one before. Rebecca understood of course, flour was a luxury only the rich could afford, one of the many that is.

“Don’t worry. I’ll give you plenty of bread before taking you home,” Rebecca said smiling at the boy once again.

The boy blushed and hid his eyes behind his long brown mane. “You are very pretty,” he said timidly.

“The hell? This kid! Watch what you’re saying, you’re not even supposed to see her face,” Demelov reprimanded.

“Relax, the kid is merely stating a fact,” Claus chimed.

“I think he is starting to become Rebecca’s admirer. He’s becoming like one of us,” Sebastian said a bit horrified at the thought of another competitor. It was actually very ridiculous considering the kid is probably no more than ten years old.

“Do you guys ever pay attention to the more important details? Or are the trivial matters more important to you?” Franked asked. They all turned to look at him quite surprised by the lengthy question he asked. He was never really loquacious and very rarely does he not get straight to the point.

“Rebecca said she’d take the boy home,” he said as if that should be more than enough reason to raise the red flags.

It took three seconds before the thought finally sunk in and it was Demelov who reacted first.

“Are you crazy?” he asked her.

“The boy doesn’t know the way back. I have to help,” she reasoned.

“Oh, and I suppose you know they way then?” Demelov asked sarcastically. “You’ve never even been south.”

“I have been. Once,” she said indignantly. Though she didn’t tell them it was just south of their mansion, at the bell tower just west of the public market. Never further than that.

“It’s too dangerous, Rebecca,” Sebastian said worriedly.

“What danger could be out there? I’ll just simply take him with the carriage and be back. Easy.”

“Still Rebecca. You never know what’ll happen. It’s best if you stay clear of things that’ll potentially put you in danger. But I do understand your desire to help the boy, so I propose we just stick to his original plan. We wait with him until the next delivery of stones. We make sure he doesn’t do anything that’ll get him into trouble and then we’ll send him on his way with the stone masons,” Claus proposed.

“Brilliant. This is the first the time I’m agreeing with Claus. You don’t go anywhere but we wait here in the district,” Demelov seconded.

“I suppose we could do that too,” Rebecca agreed.

They have just arrived to their conclusion when a man a wearing a fairy-mask came running to the carriage. It was Rebecca’s chauffeur.

“My lady, I’m afraid there has been a change of plans. Lord Romulus won’t be going to the forest plantation today. The council has been summoned. Urgent matter he said. He told me to tell you this and drive you safely back at the mansion. He was already on his way to the Council Circle together with Lord Castel,” the servant informed.

“Oh, it’s all good, Omer. Something came up as well. However, I do not want to be escorted back to the mansion,” Rebecca replied.

“But there is somewhere you can take us,” Frank said.

“As you wish, Master Frank. Where will we be going?” the servant asked.

“To the Department of Couriers,” he simply said.

Sebastian looked at Frank. “What will we do there?”

“We inquire about the next deliveries, of course. Good thinking Frank. Otherwise, we would’ve waited here for hours not knowing anything,” Claus piped.

So, the five of them - six including the boy squished themselves inside the carriage as the servant drove away. It was quite comical how five tall burly men fitted inside the confines of the room. Frank occupied the most space seeing as he was the one who had the most muscle. Leaving Claus and Demelov to share a really tight spot,therefore making them more uncomfortable. Sebastian was quite happy he got the spot next to Rebecca. While Demelov kept on complaining at Claus to move his butt.

Claus being the calm one as ever, just ignored the incessant yapping of the silver haired man beside him.

All throughout the ride, the boy sat quietly and watched as four weird ogre-masks: red, gray, black and blue bickered amongst each other every now then. And he thought, not all northerners are as bad as they believed.

When they arrived at the department, Claus and Frank were the ones to step out and talk to the personnel-in-charge at the information desk. They went back to inform them that unfortunately, there will be no deliveries of stone till the next two days which prompted another argument to ensue within the group.

“It seems like we have no choice but to take the boy home ourselves,” Rebecca said.

“We? What makes you think “we” are going to go south?” Demelov replied.

Sebastian tried to hit Demelov's head but missed. “Then I suppose you’d let Rebecca go by herself, stupid."

Demelov didn’t like what he heard at all, “Don’t call me stupid, dimwit. I’ll stop her from going of course.”

“And how are you suppose to do that? Clearly, Rebecca had resolved herself to go and I will be there to support her,” Sebastian bellowed.

“Oh, I know plenty of ways to keep her from going. I’d even go as far as to tie her body to a chair if that’ll stop her. Quite frankly, that thought had been playing on my mind for awhile,” Demelov grinned.

“What the hell?” Sebastian sounded disgusted.

“Will you please shut up?” Rebecca begged.

“Oh, you don’t get a say in this,” Demelov dismissed. Rebecca looked at him angrily her eyebrows furrowing clearly not hidden behind her mask.

“Ok, everybody let’s all calm down,shall we?” Claus said.

“Oh, shut up. Don’t give us anymore of your “brilliant” ideas that do not work Claus,” Demelov replied.

Claus looked at Frank helplessly. But he simply shrugged his shoulders indicating that there’s nothing helpful he can do.

Rebecca squared her shoulders and shouted to get their attention.

“All of you, listen. Whether you are coming or not, it doesn’t matter. I’ve already made up my mind and I’m taking this boy south with Omer. You can keep your opinions to yourselves,” she huffed.

So without any further arguments - they went on their way, clearly not going to let Rebecca go on her own. They stopped at a pastry shop just before then, Rebecca wanting to make true her promise to the boy, and bought three baskets of bread for him to take home.

The ride was long and once they passed the public market for the common people, the road started to get bumpy. The small gust of wind blowing through the window doing very little to diffuse the heat shared by their bodies in the confined space. Over time, it was even quite difficult to breathe through their masks that Demelov got annoyed and threw his mask at the floor of the carriage first. He looked at the three who stared at his mask at the floor.

“What?! It’s stuffy,” he simply said.

The three men looked at each other and did the same one by one. They removed their masks and the boy who had always been quiet the entire time, gave an audible gasp.

“I know. We are quite something to look at, aren’t we?” Claus smiled delighted by the reaction. Not that he wasn’t used to it. Rarely does he remove his mask but it still is quite a satisfaction for people to gawk at his beauty. It seems like even little boys aren’t immune to it. Or maybe, it’s just a total effect since his potency has been multiplied four times by men who is just as beautiful as him by their society’s standard.

Claus is tall and lean. His face sculpted beautifully radiating white fair glow. And his eyes are a compelling green color that is somehow peeking through his messy long black hair. Actually, it didn’t look messy. It was styled to look that way. A very precise art that Claus claimed to have perfected himself. A little deviation and it’ll ruin the whole look, he had said.

Whereas Claus is tall and lean, Frank was a few inches shorter and many inches wider. He was a muscled guy with broad shoulders, an impassive face and black eyes like a hawk’s. His skin bronzed bore of the number of days he spent out in the forests hunting.

While Demelov has long silver hair reaching his shoulders that always catches the people’s attention. Only their bloodline has that kind of hair, the bloodline of Kale. He has extremely black eyes in contrast to his fair white skin and his lips are always etched into a smirk or a grin. He also has several piercings in one ear.

Lastly, Sebastian. He has brown eyes in a very youthful-looking face and has soft features in contrast with he’s fiery red hair. He’s nowhere as tall as Claus or Frank or Demelov but still a good 3 inches taller than Rebecca. He is also skinnier than the three and the youngest.

Certainly, they were a group to look at.

Rebecca paid no attention to the boys though for boulders upon boulders of rocks caught her attention as they were passing by the road. They were already around the area of the stone quarries. It seems to be leading to the place where people cut the stones. The boy said that he wants to go here instead so that he could go home together with his grandfather who no doubt is worried about him. She can hear the distinct clacking of the stones getting chiseled in the distance. The sound of the tool against the hard rock giving off a certain rhythm.

She craned her neck to see through the low stone walls.

The people who had been working were doing hard labor, harder than what she could’ve imagined. They were carrying large boulders of stones upon their shoulders as they walked from the source to the place where it is being shaped and cut. Some men carry it together with a long pole at their backs and a rope attaching the rock to the center of the pole, distributing the weight evenly to the two carriers.

She couldn’t imagine the boy’s grandfather doing this kind of labor, let alone a kid like him. He stared at the boy at her side. And wondered what kind of things he must’ve endured. She hoped - deeply hoped that there was something she could do, something more meaningful - more than just giving him three baskets of bread.

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