In the Shadow of the Mask

Bowerstone Blood

“It makes sense,” Sparrow sighed, “What he showed me… it’s all about my bloodline.”

“I know they say Revenge is a dish served cold, but thousands of years or longer? Seems a little obsessive to me,” Reaver commented.

“Either way, we have to play his game until we can figure out what his plans are,” Garth shook his head, “And unfortunately we won’t know anything until we get to Bowerstone.”

“Then we should be on our way,” Hannah was growing impatient, “That is… we should continue forward… there’s really no point looking back,” she corrected herself.

“Agreed,” Garth agreed, “but we still have the problem of getting back to Bowerstone without having to go through Rookridge and those Balverines again,” he stuttered.

“What about what Sister Aja said?” Hannah reached for her guild seal, “She said it was a way for Heroes to travel all over Albion… even without a Cullis Gate.”

Garth pulled out his, “Yes… she did. I have always wondered about this and why Theresa gave these to us.”

Sparrow looked down at hers. If she was close to Bower Lake, she could transport to the Chamber of Fate instantly, but anything too far and it wouldn’t work. Not wanting to get anyone’s hope up, she chose to keep it to herself for the moment.

“It’s something that I have researched,” Garth started to walk towards the gate, “In some of the old books, I have found that Heroes not only used the Gates as a means to get to places, but also used the seals to return to a common place.”

“Common place? What is that?” Hannah asked.

“The Heroes’ Guild I believe…,” Garth mumbled.

“Are you saying that we can use these to travel back to that dark, dank little hole in the ground in Bowerstone Lake?” Reaver seemed a little disgusted at the thought.

“I think so… the symbol on the seals are similar to that what was found all over the guild,” Garth recalled, “It would make sense if a Hero could just travel back and forth to the Guild as they pleased.”

Sparrow looked to the seal then to the gate. There was a chance that there was a quick way back to Bowerstone… back to John before it was too late. She had to take the chance it would work. She clinched the seal tight in her hand and stepped towards the gate.

“Sparrow? What are you doing?” Hannah asked as Sparrow stepped into the light of the gate.

“There’s no time. I have to see if it will work,” she closed her eyes and began to concentrate.

She envisioned the crumbling walls of the Chamber of Fate; the pale light that barely illuminated the fading painting of the wall; the stacks of books that sat around an old heavy oak table. She saw clearly in her mind the place she wanted to go.

Please Cullis Gate… please take me to Bowerstone Lake… to the fallen Guild, she prayed.

It hit her suddenly; a rush of musty, stagnate air that smell of mold and dust. She opened her eyes slowly so they would adjust to the light. She looked around to see that she had left the world of light to a world that was dim and hollow. The lit candles flickered and the shadows on the wall danced about to an unheard waltz. To most it would have been a place to avoid, but for Sparrow it like a second home.

She released a heavy sigh, “I’m here… it worked.”

She stood there in awe for a moment, but soon realized that there was work that needed to be done.

“I need to tell the other that it work,” she started to step back into the gate, but stopped, “Will it work a second time though?”

Looking down at her Guild Seal, Sparrow took a moment to think. If it brought her here, surely it could take her back. She already took one risk today, what was one more?

Taking in a deep breath, she stepped back into the light of the gate. Concentrating on the snowy scene she just left, Sparrow closed her eyes. She felt the whoosh of the gate’s energy. Fresh air filled her nostrils and light filtered through her eyelids. Something was wrong though. The air had a sweet smell to it and her body felt the warmth of the sun. She opened her eyes; she wasn’t surrounded by snow and rocks, but the strange alter that sat in the middle of Bower Lake.

“Maybe I didn’t concentrate hard enough,” she mumbled to herself.

She would get it one more try. She made a clear image in her mind of the place she wanted to go. The snowy scenery, the white capped mountains and her friends standing around waiting to see if she was successful. With the image in her mind, she activated the gate once more. The whoosh of air hit her again. Taking in a deep breath, Sparrow slowly opened her eyes.

The dim light, the echoing of bats and beetles filling her ears and the paintings on the wall; she was back in the Chamber of Fate.

“Oh no,” she grew frustrated.

Somehow she managed to get to the Chamber, but now she couldn’t get back to the mountains. Maybe the gate didn’t have enough energy or it was a fluke, she didn’t know which. The important thing was that she had no way of contacting Garth, Hannah or Reaver.

She paced the floor for a moment, trying to figure out what to do.

If only Theresa was here…, she thought to herself, she could contact them and tell them it worked… and what is going on… but she’s not… Oh Hannah… I wish you could hear me… it worked… I got to the Chamber of Fate, she said a silent prayer.

The light intensified behind Sparrow; the gate was activating. She turned to see who or what was coming through. Putting her hand on the hilt of her sword, she readied herself for anything.

“Never thought I would see this place again,” a familiar voice came from the light.

“Hannah,” Sparrow was relieved.

“Sparrow, it worked!” Hannah stepped from the gate along with her furry companion, “You made it. I knew you would. I mean I figured you would… there was some doubt, but I can see that it was wrong.”

“Got tired of waiting?” Sparrow asked with a smile as she rubbed her dog’s head.

“No… I know it sounds strange,” Hannah admitted, “but I swore that I heard your voice just before… saying that you made it. Garth and Reaver said they didn’t hear anything, but I know that I did… at least I thought I had.”

“I’m just glad you that you came,” Sparrow thanked her.

“I hope that Garth and Reaver decide to try their luck,” Hannah looked at the gate.

“They will… Garth’s curiosity will peak and Reaver won’t want to miss the action… they’ll come,” Sparrow was sure of herself.

She was right. The gate activated two more times, bringing both Garth and Reaver to the Chamber of Fate.

“Good of you to come,” Hannah greeted them.

“Didn’t want to miss the party,” Reaver announced so loudly that it echoed in the cave, “Oh… I sound just as lovely even as an echo,” he listened to his voice bounce off the walls.

Garth rolled his eye as he pushed passed Reaver, “I’m happy to see that it worked and Aja was correct about the Guild Seals. Though,” he paused for a moment, “I wonder where she went.”

Sparrow looked to her feet. She still felt the sting of Aja’s slap and harsh words. There was still a feeling of guilt about what she did, but it was necessary… for Aja’s sake. Her dog must have sensed her feelings and sat down next to her. He leaned up against her and started to lick her hand.

“Thanks boy,” she gave him a good rub.

“Now that we’re here,” Reaver seemed bored, “shall we go? Caves are nice and all,” he looked around in disgusted, “but I’ve sent enough time in them and this one is just like the others. So may we please go?”

“As you wish,” Sparrow pushed away the thought of Aja to the task at hand, “We need to get outside and down to the main road.”

“Hope things haven’t changed much,” Hannah smiled as she headed for the gate, “This is still the quickest way out, right?”

Sparrow nodded her head.

One by one, they used the gate to reach the top of the Guild. Carefully, but quickly they made their way down to the bottom to the main road. It would take a few days, but if they hurried they could get there sooner. Sparrow was more nervous than anything. She would have run out ahead of everyone, but they needed to stay together for now. It was too dangerous to travel alone. The masked man… Jack of Blades had proved that he could go and come as he pleased. He didn’t seem to be constrained to the laws of man or the supernatural. Truly Jack of Blades would be their deadliest opponent.

Three days later…

The streets of Bowerstone were abuzz with people. Everyone was whispering to each other. Of what, Sparrow wasn’t sure. Nobody seemed to pay attention to the group as they entered. Usually familiar and strange faces alike got some sort of glance or whisper. There was nothing though. The townspeople were too interested in what each other had to say.

“I’ve only been to Bowerstone a few times,” Hannah remarked as they come to the clock tower, “It was always a little overwhelming… still is… but not bad… but still,” she continued on.

“Where does John live?” Garth asked Sparrow quietly.

“He lives down that street,” she pointed to a particularly crowded street.

“Wonder what’s going on over there?” Hannah noticed the building crowd.

“Hmm… yes,” Reaver eyed the young ladies in the crowd.

“You can sweep them off their naïve feet with your tales of the high sea later,” Garth growled, “We have business to tend to.”

“Right,” Sparrow headed for the crowd.

She pushed her way through the mass of people to see what was going on. At the front of the crowd, she could see several guards ordering people to stay back.

“Stay back Miss,” one guard stopped her from going any farther.

“Sorry officer, but my very good friend and his family live down this street,” she quickly explained.

“Sorry, but no one is allowed beyond this point. There is a murder investigation going on,” the guard answered.

“Who was murdered?” Garth popped out next to her.

“Sorry Sir,” the guard shook his head, “But with the investigation underway, I cannot reveal any information pertaining to it.”

“Please Sir,” Sparrow pleaded with him, “My dear friend John lives on this street. I have to know if he’s okay.”

“Oh… you know John,” the guard lowered his eyes, “I think you should speak with the Sheriff…”

“What happened?” she could start to fell tears forming in her eyes.

It was a long explanation that the Sheriff gave her. He didn’t have a lot of details. All he and his men could determine was that there were two murders and someone missing. Both of John’s parents were found dead in the den. They didn’t seem to it was coming… it was quick… they were dead. John, on the other hand, couldn’t be found. Everyone in Bowerstone had looked for him. Nobody could find him. Not a trace. It was like he disappeared into thin air. There was nothing more that could be done at that point. The guards were doing everything they could, but there were no more leads.

The crowd had dispersed. Some were crying as they left. It was a hard loss for the city of Bowerstone.

“What should we do now?” Hannah looked to Sparrow.

“I… I don’t know…,” she stared into nothing.

She hadn’t made it in time… John was gone and his parents lay splayed out on their floor… the blood draining from their bodies… out into the streets.

“The streets of Bowerstone do run red tonight,” a voice came from behind them.

“Sister Aja?” Hannah was surprised,

“Rough night eh?” she poured some dried herds into her pipe, “It looks like you all could use a stiff drink,” she lit the pipe and puffed out some smoke.

“…,” Sparrow was too distraught to answer her.

“Especially that one,” she pointed to Sparrow.

“I’ll take you up on that offer,” Reaver agreed.

“I suppose you would like to talk,” Garth assumed.

“Come on,” Aja motioned for them to follow her.

Hannah pulled Sparrow gently along. She couldn’t think straight. She thought she could make it there in time, but she didn’t. Two people… two wonderful people were dead and their son… someone that was so precious to Sparrow was missing. There were no clues that the guards could find, but Sparrow knew. She knew what was going on. She couldn’t involve the Bowerstone guards though. It was too dangerous. Jack had shown his true nature.

I have to get to Theresa, she thought to herself, but I fear it may already be too late…

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