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In the Shadow of the Mask

By DuskStarDragon

Fantasy / Action

Unfortunate Beginnings

The sun was just over the walls of Bowerstone. The gulls called loudly as they bickered over the scraps that children threw for them. The children, of course, got a kick out of the fights and squabbles that broke out amongst the birds. It was better than them fighting.

“What are you four doing?” an adult would come and ruin their fun.

They would all answer politely, “Nothing,” and then run in opposite directions.

Sparrow enjoyed the usual scene that occurred almost every day in the marketplace. It was nice to have something so normal, something so ordinary that most would not appreciate. Maybe it was all that she had done, all that she had seen or maybe it was just the blood that flowed through her veins, but this sight was so soothing for her. She sighed, thinking about her childhood… her lost youth… how she could not play as these young one did every day.

“Sparrow,” someone called to her, “There you are!”

Sparrow smiled, “John.”

He was a hair shorter than her and five years her junior. Mahogany hair, big brown eyes and a smile that made all the girls swoon; all except for Sparrow. She always ignored him when he came prancing around the marketplace. He was too young for her when she first came to Bowerstone, but he was older now… as was she.

“You actually made it here on time,” he tried to hide something behind his back.

“What have you got there?” Sparrow playfully tried to see what it was.

“No peeking,” he teased as he took a few steps back.

“I think I will anyway,” she was behind him in a flask.

He smiled as he turned around, “No fair.”

“All’s fair in love in war,” she reach around him.

He grabbed her hand with his free one, “You’ll break it,” he gently held her hand, “Here, this is for you… my dear Lionheart.”

She giggled as she took the daisy and twirled it under her nose, “I love it. Thank you.”

“I now they’re your favorite,” he continued to hold her hand.

“John,” Sparrow shyly pulled away, “You should really chase women your own age.”

“Oh… you know me,” he leaned up against her, “I always liked older women.”

Sparrow shook her head and rolled her eyes, “Oh, so you following me around when you were a child was you being in love?”

“Yes… love at first sight,” he tried to kiss her on the cheek, but she pulled away causing he to fall to the ground.

She laughed, “Are you okay? ... John,” he wasn’t moving, “John,” she came down to his side, “John!?”

“Got you,” he popped up and planted a kiss on her cheek.

“John,” she exclaimed as she slapped him.

“OWW,” he fell back, “Please be gentle oh mighty hero,” he rubbed his red cheek, “You heroes are much stronger than us of normal blood.”

“Oh hush,” Sparrow gently pulled away his hand to see the damage she caused.

John’s cheek was red and it throbbing with pain. She could tell that he was trying to hold back tears and it only made her feel worse.

“Is everything alright over here,” a guard asked sternly as he approached the pair.

Sparrow was about to answer, but John quickly cut in, “It’s nothing dear sir,” he politely addressed him, “I was walking and talking with this delightful young woman. I was so distracted by her radiating beauty that wasn’t looking where I was going, tripped and fell to the ground. She was distressed over what happen, she was going to help me back to my house… or maybe hers,” he hinted to Sparrow.

“Is that true… oh… it’s you,” the Guard recognized her, “Lionheart! I saw you’re last Crucible Challenge. Outstanding job with that Troll, I was on the edge of my seat the whole time.”

“Oh thank you sir,” she helped John up.

“Do you think that you could give me an autograph… for my son,” he quickly added.

“Oh course,” she felt through her bag.

She wasn’t in the habit of carrying autograph cards, but ever since her big victory at the Crucible it was more annoying to not to have them. Children and even a few adults kept asking her for her autograph. It’s not that she minded, but she felt like it was similar acts that caused heroes of the past to fall. She didn’t want to end up like them.

“Ah, here we go,” she finally pulled one out with a quill and ink.

The Guard told her his son’s name and how he was such a big fan of hers. She finished up the autograph card and handed it to the Guard.

“He’s going to be so happy when I give this to him tonight,” the Guard was nearly bursting with joy as he took the card from her, “Thank you so much. Much obliged,” he gave a courteous tip of his hat and went back to his patrolling.

“Come on,” John grabbed Sparrow’s hand and started to pull her down the crowding street.

He pulled her down towards Fairfax gardens. With one more tug, he pulled aside into an ally and check to make sure no one was following them.

“I think we lost them,” she sighed.

“Lost who,” she was a little annoyed.

“Those autograph mongers,” he ducked back into the ally, “They were starting to gather.”

“Don’t want to share me,” Sparrow started to walk away.

“If I could,” he threw his arms around her waist, “I would lock you away forever… like I already have… in my heart…,” he whispered into her ear.

He was sweet, gentle and kind. Maybe that’s why Sparrow agreed to go on that date with him.

“And maybe I’ll lock you away too,” she was about to kiss him on the cheek.

Hero… a voice echoed in her head.

“Theresa,” she whispered.

“Hmm? What did you say,” John loosened his arms.

“I have to go,” she pulled away from him.

“Wait! What is it?” he called out in confusion, but she could not turn back now.

It has been a long time Hero, Theresa’s voice came again, but time has little value in a world that has little left…

What does she mean by that? Sparrow asked in her mind.

Albion is in danger once more, Theresa continued, An enemy and friend of the past haunts the land… come to the Guild at once…

Her voice grew silent, leaving Sparrow with more questions than answers. There was nothing she could do right now other than go to the Guild. But first she had to make a stop in at the Cow and Corset.

“Come on boy,” she called out, “We have to go!”

Her faithful friend of so many years slowly stood up and stretched. He was getting older, but refused to be left behind. Hurrying as best as he could, the dog made his way to her side.

“Hey there boy,” she bent down and rubbed him on the head, “Did you have a good nap?”

The dog jumped up excitedly and barked to answer her.

“I hope you got enough sleep,” Sparrow sighed, “We’re being called upon.”

The dog seemed to understand her words. With a low woof, he started towards the bridge.  Looking back at his master, he gave a loud bark like he was saying “well, let’s go then!”

“Right boy,” Sparrow nodded her head.

The pair set off across the bridge, passed all the villagers and merchants. They knew nothing of what was going on. Well… either did Sparrow. All she knew was that she was needed once more to save Albion from some former terror. Who or what it was, she couldn’t say. But whatever was threatening the peace that had finally settled on the land. She, herself, even found a small, fragile piece of it.

“Sparrow! Where are you going?” John caught up with her just outside of Bowerstone’s gates.

“John,” she stopped, “I’m sorry… I have to go…”

“World’s in danger, eh?” he tried to catch his breath.

“I don’t know,” she wasn’t going to give him the few cryptic details the Theresa left her with.

“So you’re just going to run off without saying goodbye,” he seemed a little hurt.

Sparrow looked down at her feet, “I’m sorry John, but I have to go,” she looked up at him, “I don’t know how long I’ll be… you… you better just…”

John quickly grabbed her hand and brought it to his lips, “I’ve already waited this long. What’s a little bit longer? Go do what you need to do… go and save the world,” he let go of her hand and walked away.

“John… John,” she called out, but he didn’t turn around, “I’ll be back! But please… don’t wait for me,” she whispered.

She had broken her own promise, one that she had made in her heart after Lucien’s death. She would never grow close to another. She feared that her life would put others in danger… just as it had Rose…

“No,” she shook her head, “There isn’t time for this.”

She had to turn from the place that she had lived for year and some many others when she was younger. Time, apparently, was not on her side. She had to make hast to the Guild and to Theresa… if she was even there. Finding a clearing with no one around, Sparrow pulled out her Guild Seal and concentrated on her desired location. The dog sat right up next to her so he wouldn’t be left behind. The eerie blue light surrounded them both and the sunny clearing disappeared. The warm of sun gave way to cool, dampness of the cave and the fresh air was replaced with stale, musty air.

It had been so long since she had been in there. Not since when the Four Heroes came together to stop Lucien’s plan. It was strange to be back in that place where heroes of past and even present stood. Everything was the same; the table was still set up with many notes and documents strewn across it, candles were still lit, though they should have burned out a long ago. The only thing that was missing was Theresa.

Looking around, Sparrow grew anxious.

Sorry that I cannot be there at the moment, Theresa’s voice filled her head, but other things are occupying my attention. I will give you all the details that I can like this. Do not be alarmed by the visions you’re about to see… look… look to the past… where your bloodline begins… behold…

The Chamber faded to black. Sparrow tried to remain calm as the scene changed to a strange place. The dog licked her hand to comfort her. She in turn rubbed his head to say thanks.  The scene stopped moving to show a large bronze gate. It was open and terrible sounds could be heard inside. Sparrow, without hesitation, ran past the gate and into the fray of battle. A man and large dragon were locked in combat. The man summoned forth fire and lightening and hurled it at the lumbering beast. Charging at the dragon with astonishing speed, the man brought his sword up and thrust it through the creature’s chest. The dragon released a terrifying scream as it fell to ground where upon it withered and died. The man released a heavy sigh of relieve. His task was done, his battle well fought, but what did this have to do with Albion now? Sparrow looked to where the dragon fell; a Mask lay on the floor. It was torn and worn by time and battle. It had been stitched several times and many stains dotted it. She felt compelled to pick it up; it was calling her. She seemed to glide towards it; the dog growled and barked viciously at the strange artifact, but she did hear him. Picking up the Mask, she examined it closely. A voice came to her…

Put it on… claim power that only a True Hero deserves… put it on and gain Strength, Will and Skill beyond your imagination… come join me in eternal life…

She thought for a moment, but the Mask had other ideas. It flew from her hand and on to her face. She tried to pull it off, but it would come.

YOU BELONG TO ME NOW!

“AAAGGHHH!” Sparrow screamed as the vision disappeared.

She clawed at her face, still feeling the Mask burning her skin.

Do not be alarmed Hero, it was only a vision, Theresa’s voice came once again.

Sparrow fell to the cold floor, felling sick and weak from what she was just shown.

Lucien’s terror is nothing in comparison to the enemy that wishes to reenter this world. He is a terrible creature that is older than the Old Kingdom itself. He has haunted the land in memories, rumors and stories of old. He is coming… You… oh Hero of Bowerstone, must once again take up your sword and bow, summon forth all your Will to prevent this ancient man from coming back, Theresa explained, you must gather the other Heroes and bring them back here. Only then can I speak of what you must do… she went silent.

The old Seer was always cryptic, even when Sparrow was a child. Always eluding to something, but never saying what she truly meant. Sparrow had grown use to it, but it still annoyed her. There was no time to be annoyed however. She had to go, though she didn’t really know why. All she knew is that something evil was beginning to cast its shadow over Albion and it was up to her and her fellow Heroes to stop it.

Once again she would take up her sword and bow and fight for the people of Albion, whether they knew it or not. She knew that she would face many dangers along the road, spend many nights in strange places and travel to places that many others did not return from. She would meet a lot of new people and hopefully meet up with a few old ones.

She sighed, “Well boy, it looks like we have to go find Garth, Reaver and Hannah.”

His ears perked up when he heard Hannah’s name.

“That’s right,” Sparrow smiled, “You really miss Hannah, don’t you?”

The dog whined and jumped about to say “YES!”

“Then let’s go find her first,” she headed for the Cullis Gate.

He quickly followed after her. He didn’t care about the dangers that lay before them. He just wanted to see old friends again. Sparrow couldn’t blame him; she wanted to see them too… except for Reaver… she really didn’t care to see him again… of course, Garth could have killed him by now.

“Doesn’t matter,” Sparrow shook her head as the gate activated, “I just want to see how they’re all doing… I hope they’re all doing well…”

The light surrounded her and the Chamber of Fate disappeared.

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