In the Shadow of the Mask

Exodus

Sparrow clinched her fists and gritted her teeth, “Release her.”

“Giving orders I see,” Sparrow words seem to amuse him, “I’m afraid you have no authority here,” he casually strolled, “She is the master of this place. Though… she has a master now…,” a light flashed in his hallow eyes.

Theresa suddenly went limp.

“Theresa!” Sparrow went down to her.

“Hero…,” her voice mumbled.

“Theresa,” Sparrow held her in her arms, “I’m here.”

“Hero…,” she looked up at her, “Hero…,” she raised her shackle hands up to Sparrow’s face, “Hero…”

“Theresa…. AGG!” Theresa’s hands wrapped around her throat.

Theresa tightened her grip and Sparrow tried to pry her hands open. The more she pulled the tighter Theresa’s hands got.

“What will you do hero?” Jack mocked, “You’ll have to kill her if you don’t want to die and face me.”

“I… won’t,” Sparrow managed to choke out.

“Foolish girl,” Jack came down to her face, “This woman has lived long enough. She keeps death away by sheer will alone. The visions she sees. The future she knows. She’s suffers so… end it if you are truly merciful.”

He voice echoed in her head. It penetrated deep inside. It bounced off the walls and made a sinister harmony in the hallow chamber.

It would be so easy… just place your hands on her throat… squeeze and she will merely go to sleep… she can rest then… she can be at peace… like little John’s parents… like John… the voice hissed and chuckled.

With each word, she could feel the darkness surrounding her closer and closer. With each word the light faded and abandoned her. With each word, he was slowly entering her.

“That’s right,” she felt his cold metal glove stroke her cheek, “descend into the darkness. Come to me. That’s where you belong…”

“No she doesn’t,” a flash of silver came between Sparrow and Jack.

Air freely flowed back into Sparrow’s lungs. She took in a deep breath and looked to see if Theresa was alright. She had collapse and seemed to be unconscious. A severed glove lay next to her.

“Hmm,” Jack looked at his missing appendage, “You’re that woman from the temple… yes…,” he glanced up at Aja, “Do I know you by chance?”

“Not in this lifetime,” Aja answered with a snort.

“Too bad,” Jack seemed a little disappointed, “Oh well… I suppose that I’ll have to take care of you,” he looked to Sparrow, “with my own hands.”

“Hand,” Aja kicked his severed hand down into the seemingly endless abyss, “It’s only fair.”

“I’ll allow it,” Jack snapped his fingers on his still attached hand, “Take the seer. I’m done with her for now. Also,” the mask seemed to smile, “I want you to fight me without hesitation.”

The chains and shackles loosened and fell to the ground. Theresa moved, but very weakly.

“Theresa,” Sparrow’s voice was horse yet.

“Hero,” Theresa seemed to come back to herself.

“Get her out of here,” Sparrow looked to Aja.

“Sure you can handle him?” Aja put Theresa’s arm over her shoulders, “You don’t seem to have the strength or the will.”

“I can,” Sparrow slowly stood up, “I have too. He must pay for what he has done.”

“Revenge is not for you,” Aja whispered in her ear, “Remember: Keep your mind focus. Do not thing about the past or the future. You live in the now and that is all that matters.”

“I’ll try,” Sparrow drew her sword, “Please. Take Theresa somewhere safe.”

“Only place to go it the entrance and that’s blocked,” Aja mumbled as she walked Theresa away.

“Come now,” Jack motioned to her, “The seer and elderly woman are out of the way. Surely you can fight. Look,” he held up his hand, “I’ll even use one hand and no weapons. That is acceptable?”

Sparrow didn’t answer. She wasn’t going to give him that pleasure. He could fight anyway he wanted, just as long as he fought. She was going to end this… end him. Taking in a deep breath and exhaling it slowly, she raised her sword and prepared to attack. He just stood there; his mask not revealing any emotions. She would have to be the first to attack.

Raising her sword high, she brought it down in a horizontal slice. The blade stopped midair; Jack had caught it. Casually tossing it to the left like it was a toy; Jack motioned for her to come again. She gladly obliged him. Taking back and swinging her sword once more in a vertical cut. It stopped once again as Jack caught the blade and pushed it aside.

“No strength… what a shame,” Jack clicked his unseen tongue, “I was hoping for a better fight… but we can’t always get what we want. Can we?”

She didn’t pay attention to his jeers. She tried once more, but with the same results. She couldn’t hit him for nothing. All her strokes were merely swatted aside like a fly buzzing a horse’s ear. She tried to summon forth her Will, but nothing came to here.

“You Will is of no use to you here. It only feeds to this altar and gives me strength,” Jack chuckled, “Just like your Will, just give yourself to me and it all ends.”

Sparrow could feel a heaviness building her in heart. It slowly whelmed up inside of her until if felt like lump in her throat.

“Feel it… it’s the darkness in your heart… it feels like all those that have faced me before,” Jacked mused, “Darkness, though it comes from many places, is all the same. It calls the same… it feels the same…,” he once more came to her face and gently caressed her.

It was soothing and the feeling in her chest started to fade. His touch was warm and felt like summer breeze.

“That’s right,” she heard him whisper, “Come to me…”

“Not today,” Aja’s voice echoed.

A silver blade came between Sparrow’s and Jack’s face.

“Back away Sparrow,” Aja warned, “You aren’t strong enough to face him today… Go to Theresa and get out of here.”

Sparrow just stood here. Jack’s touch still lingered on her cheek. She wanted it again… she wanted his touch…

SMACK! Aja slapped her across the face.

“To the present my dear,” Aja growled, “You need to get to Theresa out of here.”

“No… way out,” Sparrow slowly came back to her senses.

“Then allow me,” blue lines begin to form and shine through her dark clothing, “Stay down,” she pushed Sparrow down to the floor.

Blue sparks trickled off her fingers, but started to form a solid shape. Tendrils of energy flowed through her hand and shot out through her fingers. The sheer energy that came off of her attack caused the hairs on the back of Sparrow’s neck to stand straight up. The bolt of energy hit the stone wall blocking the entrance and exit. It shattered and exploded from its place.

“SPARROW! SISTER AJA!” Hannah appeared with the others.

“Sister Hannah,” Aja calmly called out, “Please take Sparrow and Theresa away from this place. They cannot stand being here any longer. I’ll hold him off.”

“We can take him together,” Hannah was determined.

“No,” her voice resonated in the cavern, “None of you are strong enough… not here… not while he gathers the Will of this place. You need to get them out of here… before he swallows their very souls.”

“I can feel it,” Garth’s legs started to buckle, “All the Will… my Will is being drained,” the blues lines of his Will started to fade from his body.

“Garth!” Hannah grabbed him before he fell, “Take him Reaver,” she handed him off.

“Does he have to be so heavy?” Reaver complained, “I would prefer other cargo…,” he eyed Sparrow

“Get him back to the ship and I’ll get Sparrow and Theresa,” Hannah took Theresa in one arm and Sparrow in the other, “Come on Sister Aja!”

“Go… I’ll keep him busy while you escape,” Aja took a step away from Jack.

“But…,” Hannah didn’t want to leave her.

“Go,” Aja gave her a stern glare.

There was no point in arguing. Aja’s glare said it all. She was going to stay and no one could convince her otherwise. Hannah understood and carefully lifted Sparrow and Theresa over the rubble that once was a wall. Sparrow couldn’t keep her head straight as Hannah carried her towards the stairs. Her mind was still flooded with thoughts of Jack and his finally touch. It was so comforting and it lifted the weight from her heart. The sting of Aja’s slap was still fresh as well and kept her mind on what was happening at the moment.

Hero…, Theresa’s voice entered her thoughts, She must not face Jack alone. She can last longer than you or I, but not by much. Find strength and take heart Hero. Retrieve your savior. You have the strength, but do not face Jack of Blades, she warned.

“I won’t,” Sparrow straightened up.

“Sparrow,” Hannah helped her steady herself, “are you okay?”

“Yes,” she pulled away, “I need to go back and get Aja,” she stumbled back up the stairs.

“Sparrow you can barely stand,” Hannah was concerned.

“Please,” she looked back to her, “Get Theresa to the ship and make sure Reaver doesn’t leave without us.”

Hannah only nodded her head. There was a sense of urgency and determination in her eyes that told Hannah everything. Sparrow needed to do this.

“Don’t worry,” Hannah assured her, “I’ll take care of Theresa and make sure Reaver stays in port.”

“I’ll be back as soon as I have Aja,” Sparrow headed back to the altar room.

She slowed her pace; her legs were still a little weak from all that had happened. She couldn’t understand what he had done her. It he could assert his power over her, why didn’t he do it in Oakvale? It had been so easy for him to penetrate her heart and mind, why wait so long?

“Leave the poor girl alone,” Aja’s voice came just up ahead, “You’ve done enough to her.”

Jack chuckled, “I have done worse… but you know the details of my work… first hand.”

“That I do,” she sounded calm, “But I choose to take her place. I am near death as it is.”

“Ha, ha, ha,” her words amused him, “Death would never come near. Not as long as I’m around. You won’t allow it. I know how you are,” his voice whispered through the narrow passage, “You won’t leave this existence until I do. It is you purpose in live to see my end… though… it was so different long ago…”

Sparrow quiet came to the entrance of the altar room. She peeked over the rubble to see what was going on. Aja was standing across from Jack. They hadn’t moved since Hannah had dragged her out of there. Aja had sheathed her blade and didn’t seem to intend to attack.

Aja shook her head and sighed, “Why must you play your little games with her? It’s what got you into trouble in the past. That is one thing I have never been able to understand about you. Why all the games?”

Jack rubbed his masked for a moment, “Why did I play all the games with you?” he finally asked.

“I… I really don’t know why,” she shifted uncomfortably.

“You don’t have too,” he suddenly appeared in front of her, “You just need to know that I will always take you back…,” he stroked her face.

She didn’t seem to mind and allowed him to do so.

Sparrow couldn’t understand what was going on. It almost seemed like Aja and Jack knew each other. Their words were calm and exchanged in a pleasant tone.

“We have an eavesdropper,” Jack noticed Sparrow.

“Leave her alone,” Aja glance back, “You know that you prefer a better fight. Let her gather what she needs.”

“No…,” Jack stepped passed her, “You’re right when you say that I play too many games. Maybe I should stop acting like a child…”

Sparrow felt paralyzed as he drew nearer. He was in no rush as he calmly walked to her.

“That’s one thing you never did,” Aja growled.

“What is that?” Jack stopped.

“Listen!” she wiped around with astonishing speed.

Jack stood there without a word. Aja sheathed her blade.

“You always knew how to cut me to the quick,” Jack chuckled.

As he chuckled, his upper body began to slide to the left. It fell to the ground and into the darkness that lay below. His legs remained standing for a moment, but soon they joined their upper half in the abyss. Aja watched the scene unfold then shook her head when the severed halves disappeared. She started to walk in Sparrow’s direction.

“Sparrow,” Aja called out to her, “I thought I told you to leave.”

“I couldn’t leave you behind,” Sparrow approached.

“Well… since you’re here,” Aja looked up at her, “help me out…,” she started to collapse towards the darkness.

“I’ve got you,” Sparrow grabbed hold of her hand and pulled her towards her.

“Shall we go?” Aja weakly asked.

Sparrow nodded her head, “Yes. I think we’ve done everything is needed.”

“Indeed,” Aja agreed.

She couldn’t believe it. Aja had done it. She had killed the Jack of Blades. All that she had gone through, all the mocking whispers, all the threats… the deaths… it was all over because of an aging explorer.

“Don’t be thinking that Jack is gone,” Aja seemed to be reading her mind.

“You sliced him in half,” Sparrow carefully helped her down the stairs; “People don’t walk away from that.”

“People don’t… Jack does…,” Aja answered in a distant tone.

“You know more about him than you claim,” Sparrow looked down at her.

“Too tired now,” her head started to droop, “Maybe later… my child… grandmother needs her sleep…,” she was out.


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