The Sanguinary Mask

“Sometimes my mind is caught by flights of dark fantasy. No – not in the bedroom – more of a gothic sense. Read on to see what I mean.”

I wrote this story for the following prompts.
Sadje’s What Do You See – Image credit; John Noonan @ Unsplash
Ragtag Daily Prompt — Carpet
Pensitivity’s Three Things Challenge — Brag – Coach – Stealth
Word of the Day Challenge — Crossing
Your Daily Word — Bulb
Fandango’s One Word Challenge — Carpet

The Sanguinary Mask

‘The mask is cursed. Do not let it be worn. Use must retrieve it. Show me why they call you Hant!’

‘Consider it done.’

A day had passed since he received those orders. The burning, sweet smell of hog roast wafted on air energized by classical music as it dissipated into the trees that concealed him. Drawing a black bow from his shoulder, he set himself with determination. It was time to live up to his name. The word ‘hant’ means to appear as a ghost.

Creeping through the orchard, he cursed the moon the glinting upon his silvery hair. His shoulder-length locks had always been that colour. At least his deep grey stealth leggings, shirt and bracers help him fade into the background.

Back to an ancient pear tree, he peered around the gnarled trunk and took in his task.

Even as he watched, a regal black-and-gold coach drew to a stop with a hiss of brakes. It disgorged a group of men in tuxedos and their beautiful ladies in glamorous flesh-revealing frocks. Each wearing or carrying a glittering mask. These were the winning players of the Grand Super League. Tonight they were to celebrate at the masquerade ball.

Hant watched them parade along the red carpet, one flashbulb after another created a lightning storm from a large cluster of photographers.  The guests of honour stopped to pose and brag on the way into the luxurious Coltringham Palace garden.

“You better hope, I claim the mask before you don it. Its adornment will be the last thing you do as a human,” Hant breathed as he slipped along the rows of box hedge framed, majestic rose gardens. His nose tingled with the delightful scent of the pearl-white and ruby-red blooms.

Footsteps crunching on gravel – nearby.

Hant froze.

A guard wearing a black viscose suit appeared between hedges ahead. An earpiece flashed blue in his right ear. A 9mm semi-automatic P320 Sig Sauer stuck out of the holster at his waist.

Hant hated guns. He crouched and drew the ebony shaft of an arrow onto his bow. Nocking it without taking his eyes from the target.

The guard beamed his torch about the dark gardens its bulb dimming slightly as he worked. The light roamed ever closer to Hant with every passing second.

He took a breath, drawing the recurve bow taut. His thumb grazed his chin as his arm and shoulder muscles gave him pleasure as they strained against the weapon’s tension.

The guards saw a flash of silver hair.

Hant released the tension – loosing the arrow with the slightest plunk of the string and the hiss of fletchings catching the warm air.

His aim was true. The arrow thundered into the man’s skull between his eyes. He stumbled, seeing stars.

Hant slammed shoulder-first into his chest, driving him over a hedge into a cluster of pink flowering azaleas with a crack. Two well-placed punches left him unconscious.

Retrieving his arrow, he smiled at the bulbous, sand-filled bludgeoning tip. The guard would be concussed but live to tell the tale of seeing a ghost

Melding into the darkness, Hant closed in on the brightly lit party space. The guest list held two hundred names. Somehow, he had to locate the mask and disappear it without being seen.

An arched path lay ahead. Hant peered between the woven willow boughs, hanging in wisteria. Nothing moved —

Rustling in the leaves to his right.

Hant pressed against the hedging. Grinned and took a calming breath. “Stupid cat!”

He crept through the arch and felt his heart flutter. Two steps in front of him was a young lady who stole his breath away. Draped in a stunning ice-blue evening dress that highlighted the shiny chestnut locks spilling over her tanned shoulders, she was adorable to him. As he focused on her emerald-green eyes, he saw fear blossom over her smooth features.

“Hi,” she whispered, her voice sweet, as she stared at the bow.

“Hello, bewitching one. Do not be afraid, I shall not harm you,” Hant said offering a smile.

“But you are here to harm someone?”

“I sincerely hope not,” he offered his hand. “They call me Hant, as I look like a ghost.”

She took his hand and blushed as he kissed her trembling fingers, dorsum and forearm before releasing her. “Victoria.”

“The pleasure’s mine, Victoria. You must forget you saw me, okay?”

“Only if you tell me why you’re here,” she implored eyes searching his face for answers.

“I must retrieve a cursed mask. It was stolen —”

Footsteps encroaching

Victoria moved first. Pressing herself against him, she sandwiched the bow between them.

Hant’s world spun as she kissed him. Stars seemed to explode in his mind as a warmth engulfed his chest. He couldn’t help it, he kissed back with all the passion in his heart.

“My apologies for interrupting,” said a guard quickly walking away.

“He’s gone,” Victoria breathed chest heaving against him.

“Thank you,” Hant said wiping his lips. Maybe I should steal you away and forget the mask,” he added still dazed.

She giggled, “That was quite a kiss, huh?”

“Mesmerising!” He glanced at the party, needing to get going yet feeling magnetically attached to Victoria.

“What does the mask look like?” she asked.

“Matt black – made of laser-cut obsidian. It —”

“Covers the whole face?”

“Yes, have you seen it?” Hant felt hopeful.

She held up her blue mask. This one like ice glittering with Swarovski crystals would shamefully cover one side of her beautiful face. “That mask is the only one here not covered in sparkles.”

“Good, that’ll help me find it.”

“Prince Sebastien is going to give it to the captain of the football team as a gift for winning the Super League.”

“Not good. Where is it?” Hant took a fearful breath – he was running out of time.

“There,” Victoria pointed at a white stone folly tower. It’s the base of open arches creating a round theatre stage. A man dressed like a blue-coated musketeer stood there in front of an orchestra playing Beethoven’s symphonies. Before him on a short Doric column was the mask. “What will the mask do?”

“It’ll turn him into a bloodthirsty vampire.”

“Oh my … that’s awful.” Victoria blanched.

“I need —”

The music stopped to polite applause.

“Ladies and gentlemen, Prince Sebastien!” announced the musketeer.

“Thank you one and all. One does hope you’re all enjoying our fabulous masquerade ball.” The prince took centre stage beneath the folly during his applause. His regal white suit glowing like titanium in the spotlight.  

“We gathered here today to celebrate the magnificent victory of team Avalon in the Grand Super League. Please welcome Captain Grant Morris and his team.”

“Damn!” Hant breathed his eyes flicking between the mask and the footballers, now walking a black path lined by ferns turned golden in the light. “Excuse me, I have to …”

“Go!” Victoria kissed him, “Get that mask.”

He nodded and dashed through the shadows. Making a beeline between trees and bushes to reach the folly.

“Captain Grant Morris,” continued the prince shaking his hand. “You are without doubt the reason why your team were able to raise the trophy. You plundered thirty-eight goals in just twenty-two matches. More than any other player in the tournament. What have you to say?”

“I … Erm — Ha-hem,” Grant cleared his throat. “I thank you for the accolade, Prince Sebastien. However, no one person can make a team successful. Each player,” Grant raised a hand toward his teammates, “Must come together as a united team if they are to be successful. They all claimed victory as one and I was lucky to claim it with them.”

“That’s very modest, Grant. Now, allow me to give you a special token of our appreciation.” The prince gestured to the musketeer who raised and held the obsidian mask up to the light. Its matt black surface seemed to absorb the light in the same way it would suck the life from anyone who wore it. “This one-of-a-kind object valued at over a million pounds is my gift to you for bringing our country the joy of success.”

Hant had arrived at the folly. There was no way, he could grab the mask in time without a thousand people seeing him now.

The prince accepted the mask from the musketeer and turned to face the footballer. “Your gift, Captain.”

 “Thank you, so much!” Grant took the mask to a loud cheer. He turned and raised it toward his handsome face.

Hant was now four feet from the Prince. He leapt forward, caught a flash of blue material and flinched back into the shadows.

Victoria burst into the light and grabbed Grant by the lapels. In one sultry move, she kissed him full on the lips and gained control of the mask pushing it and his wrist down to her hips.

Hant scowled, he wanted all her kisses. He wanted to rip Grant’s free hand off for the way he caressed her buttock too.

“Guards, take her away!” ordered the prince.

Victoria pushed her amorous intrusion and drove the footballer backwards into the hedges as she continued to kiss him.

Hant caught her eye and mouthed ‘Thank you.’ Snatching the mask away he turned and bolted into the gardens.

Skirting a pond adorned with angel statues, he saw Victoria fleeing.

Hant swore as a bullet hit a statue less than an inch from his right ear.

Thump!

An angel lost her head as a spray of 9mm rounds pummelled her to dust.

Spluttering through a cloud of plaster, Hant leapt a low wall and sprinted into the orchard. Bullets smacking into trees all around him.

A guard appeared on his left, aiming.

Hant flexed off an arrow.

The guard cried out as the blunt-head smashed his nose and laid him out.

Apples and pears became juicy shrapnel as the guards peppered the orchard with their Sig Sauers.

Hant stayed low, weaving through the trees.

Then his way was barred by three guards ahead. “Freeze!” order the central one.

He never stopped moving as he unleashed another arrow. Even as it struck one of the men in the throat, he was flying through the air. His silvery hair fluttered as he bounced off a stone bench and crushed the leader’s jaw with a savage heel kick.

Two guards down.

The third depressed the trigger of his gun.

Hant ploughed his knuckles into the man’s wrist. Bones crackled as the gun barked once and thumped to the ground.

The bullet burrowed into the bench as the moaning guard tried to punch back.

Hant deflected with his bow and took him down at the knees. A solid palm strike to the temple left him flat in the dahlias.

Crossing through laurels, he made several sharp turns away from the remaining guards. A wall loomed ahead glinting in the moonlight.

Veering to the right, he came upon an iron gate; still open as he left it on the way in. Sprinting through it, Hant saw the guard he’d subdued there, still sleeping against the wall.

Down a flight of steps, he arrived at the riverside dock. Ignoring the multi-million pounds yacht taking up most of the moorings, he jumped into his military zodiac. A rubber-based stealth speedboat.

Victoria was waiting for him.

“What are you doing here?” he asked as he passed her to start the outboard motor.

She gave a demure grin. “Well, I did just get myself barred from the party.”

Hant smirked as he pulled the starter cord and gunned the motor into life. Without waiting he spun the Zodiac and aimed for the centre of the river. “You sure did. Bet you could have gone home with Captain Grant though.

“Haha! Knowing this party is for him — he’ll love himself so much there will be no room for me.”

“Stop!” yelled a guard racing onto the dock.

A bullet smacked into the motor block as another lanced into the neoprene wall of the boat causing a hiss of escaping air.

Hant ignored it, accelerating away.

“Are we sinking?”

“No, we’re fine.” Hant sighed with relief as he realised no boats were following him. A short distance downriver, he stopped at another private dock. This one made of old and rotting timbers.

“Where are we?” Victoria asked.

“Nowhere,” Hant helped her from the Zodiac then sank it using a concealed knife to avoid potential followers. Without another word, he walked over to a black Toyota Landcruiser.

“What now?” She asked curling her body about him.

He gave her a longing look, “I wish we could be together. However, my world is something,” his lips met hers and they kissed until breathless, “A … beautiful girl like you … should never be a part of. This has to be goodbye.”

A tear made a sparkling track as it flowed over Victoria’s cheek.

“I’m sorry,” Hant dumped his bow in the back and slipped behind the wheel. He made to close the door and froze.

Victoria revealed the mask in her hand. “I’m not, my love. Tell me again how this will turn me into a vampire?”

The End


Don’t forget Holly Ward investigates, Stolen Treasures is out on Amazon now!

A recent bank robbery. A saddened man. A coded message. Can they all be connected?
Young Sleuth Holly Ward is determined to help the man. It’s not long before she too comes under assault from a group of dangerous individuals. In the face of intimidation, abduction and even murder can Holly solve the clues and catch the criminals before she becomes the next Stolen Treasure?


Thanks for reading my friends.

There’s more in the Poetry CornerPoetry Nook, and the Short Story Collection

Have a great day!

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