For fun or practice, Jei and I love to write a page or two of a random subject or story to keep ourselves sharp. One of the ways we’ve done that is by exchanging pictures we’ve found over the net to inspire us. This particular one is simply called “The White Mask” and was inspired by the picture below. I do not know the source of the painting or I would credit the artist ten times over (if any of you know it, please let me know!) Please enjoy.
An expensive commodity that was the phrase the man had used. The descriptor had come as he sneered over toward the lined wall of cages filled with eyes that peered out from under the messy mops of hair that graced the children’s sunken features. There had been more of them a day or two ago. But a client had come calling and six of their companions had been dragged out kicking and screaming, disappearing into the night to only the gods knew where. The weight of the coin purse the well-dressed men who had torn their small developing family apart made their captors near howl in glee.
That was where they were now, counting each shiny gift out on the ramshackle table they cobbled together with wooden planks and crates as legs. There were four of them in total. Two skinny fellows with a head of height difference, a beer gutted stout of a man and the broadly shouldered ringleader who had more brains than the other three put together.
“We could buy a whole house with a propa’ roof!” The fat one sputtered out, spittle landing across the table toward his skinnier companion. Annoyance graced the skinny man’s face as he gathered the coin and started to count again, obviously struggling with numbers over ten.
“Shuddup, Barne! I’mma countin’ here!” The man spat back at him as he pushed the coins around the table into some sort of semblance of order. “Charlie’s gonna have me head if I don’t have us divvied by the time Frankie and he gets back. Now yea shuddup.” The words deflated the fat man’s exuberance as he grumbled and began to sulk.
“Neva let me have any fun, Jax. Neva.” With a creak of the worn down crate beneath the large man he pushed himself to stand and wandered toward the cages. His frustration had to be spent somewhere. The man’s blob of a shadow fell across the rusting bars as he loomed over one and then another, deciding which group of huddled dirt covered mongrels he’d torment first. Their eyes followed him, each praying he would move along to another.
“You. Get over here.” He growled out as his eyes fell upon the fourth and final cage. The pointing meat of a finger focused in on the oldest of the girls. A dirty blonde with a scrap of cloth to cover her from the cold. Her eyes went wide as she realized he was staring intently at her, unwavering in his decision. With a swallowed whimper she willed herself forward toward the cage entrance as Barne fidgeted with the key, confident that the fear of repercussion would keep the others from interrupting his impending entertainment.
It was only when he had jimmied the lock open and reached in to grasp for the straw colored hair of the girl did Barne find himself surprised by a sudden blow to his knee. The gurgle of a scream came from the fat man’s lips as the injury caused him to fall. “Yea little ungrateful twat! I’ll kill you for that!” It hadn’t been the girl though. A dark haired boy, a few years younger than the girl smirked up at Barne with his foot starting to move to kick at the sweet spot where no man could recover quickly. The boy’s aim was perfect as Barney spilled over in agony.
“The ‘ell is going on over here!” Jax had jumped to his feet and started his way toward the cage, baton in hand. “Yea kids are going to get a righ’ beatin’ for that!” Four steps away from the writhing form of his companion the leering man came to a rigid stop. The scrambling children huddled against the back wall watching in both fear and confusion as the threatening man began to fall forward, a slick sound of something pulling free from his back.
The dead weight of the now corpse named Jax landed directly on the recovering Barney, incapacitating him further with the bloodied body weight on top of him. In Jax’s place stood a young man, no older than sixteen years with a crimson blade and a white mask to cover the boyish features that lingered beneath. For a brief moment, there was absolute silence and wonder before the voice and motion of the masked figure stirred the young captives to move.
“Come on now. We only have a small while before the others return.” With a quick thrust of his hand, he plunged the crimson blade down into the gut of Barney before urging the huddled mass to leave their cage. His attention then turned to the other three cages. Nimble fingers made light work of the locks and shoddy metal doors, freeing the lot in a matter of minutes. When the very last young one had made their way out the door he followed suit with the scooped up coin thrown in a sack over his shoulder.
Little hesitation came as their peer and newfound leader pointed them towards the route the masked youth deemed safe. As they turned and twisted through the back alleys and cobbled roads he kept them together with his words of encouragement and silent confidence. As they emerged towards what he had assured them was safety he pressed against the wall and quietly pointed them towards the White Horse Inn and gave the eldest the sack to carry. “Go now, tell them the White Mask has sent you. I have work to finish.”