For the past six months Chinese tattoo artist, Zi Xia has been held without charge at the notorious Wú Chù Kě Táo prison. Many locals speculate that he has been working with the notorious outlaw Shan Fang. Despite little proof, many are calling for his execution.
According to a local source, Zi Xia first fell under suspicion because an informant indicated that his tattoo parlor served as a hideout for members of the Shan Fang Gang. All members of the gang are required to decorate their skin with the gang symbol as a sign of eternal loyalty.
While many organized gang members have such tattoos, what makes the Shan Fang Gang’s tattoos so remarkable are the magical properties they are imbued with.
Magical tattoos themselves are quite rare. Charles Baub, a Professor of Magical History at Ada-Kar University, indicates that “the precise formula for these tattoos was lost hundreds of years ago. What we know today has been cobbled together from random sources. The overall effectiveness of the tattoos has been extremely limited compared to what we can read in the historical record.
“The skill that Mr. Zi has shown is far and above what anyone else is doing. Such skill not only shows amazing personal talent but also likely includes a wealthy benefactor funding his research. The confluence of these facts has surely contributed to his arrest.”
Often times the magical properties are limited to personal protection spells, or spells granting strength or speed. In the case of the Shan Fang Gang, however, the tattoo is enchanted with a devastating spell that will boil the blood of the wearer if he turns against the gang in any way. This is one of the ways that the gang has so successfully ensured loyalty.
Zi Xia fell under suspicion because he not only had a copy of the gang’s tattoo in his art book, but also because he is the world’s foremost purveyor of magical tattoos. While such things might seem circumstantial, it has been enough to bring him to the attention of the nervous citizenry and the district’s governor.
While some are applauding the arrest, others are using it as a rallying cry to fight injustice. “Mr. Zi has been locked away in one of the world’s most notorious prisons with no charges and little evidence,” explains Jessica Hewitt from Amnesty Now, a civil rights organization dedicated to bringing ideals of modern justice to a notoriously unjust world. “His detention has more to do with an ineffective governor and mob rule than with criminal activity.”
It has been over a year since Shan Fang’s bloody prison break. During that time a nation-wide manhunt has turned up few clues to his whereabouts. Fortunately the anticipated mass slaughter that the locals feared has also not occurred, leaving many to suspect that he has either died or fled the area.
Local officials are not taking any chances. Repeated patrols into the Jiá mountain range have turned up few leads. So few, in fact, that the central government is recalling their troops at the end of the month. Local officials are quick to point out that the mountain range is far too rugged and remote to be able to positively determine that the murderous outlaw has truly left the area.
The mountain range is a labyrinth of obsidian and pumice. The narrow canyons and sharp ravines are filled with innumerable lava tubes leading deep into the earth. Though these could be perfect hiding places for a desperate outlaw, they have also led to an average of seven accidental deaths per year over the last twenty years. Even those familiar with the area sometimes lose their way.
To make matters even worse, the mountains are home to a number of dangerous beasts including the world’s largest known clan of oni. While the central government contends that the presence of these flying ogres is added proof that Shan Fang is dead, Governor Tian insists that Shan Fang is working with the oni. Indeed, some have speculated that Shan Fang is part oni, which partially explains his bloodthirsty cruelty.
This may explain why Zhao province is taking no chances. Governor Tian De has detained many other people for questioning, though none have been held as long as Mr. Zi. In addition to this, Governor Tian has hired a number of man-hunters through the Adventurer’s Guild to locate the illusive outlaw’s hideout. To date none of the trackers have been able to locate the outlaw, and some have failed to return at all.
Zi Xia’s fate will likely remain unknown for some time. Despite the work of Amnesty Now and other similar organizations, the Chinese Zhao government is unlikely to respond by releasing the prisoner. Perhaps his best hope lies in the capture or killing of the notorious bandit Shan Fang.