In the Shadow of the Mask

Useless Knowledge

It was strange to see a… a man like Scythe quickly pull the tarp across the doorway at the snap of a woman that looked like she could barely move.

“Forgive me,” he apologized lowly to her, “But the Oracle is ready and it is very willing to speak with you all.”

“That didn’t take long,” Reaver finished off that last of his stew.

Garth released a heavy sigh as he set down his bowl and utensils, “I hope that it can reveal something useful to us.”

“It will not,” Scythe smirked, “Or at least it has not in the past. Though,” he thought out loud, “I suppose if you don’t know how to use the information appropriately, then…”

“Oh hush,” Aja snapped once more, “You’ve been nothing but a pain in the arse since they got here. Just take them to the Oracle without the lip and let they hear what they came here to hear.”

Scythe grew silent at her words. He looked down to the ground to avoid Aja’s glare. The room stayed quiet for quite some time. No one was quite sure what to say and maybe Scythe was too afraid to say something.

“Well,” Aja finally broke the silence, “You all better go and listen to what it has to say. There’s not much time and you need answers… that’s why you came here.”

Garth slowly stood up, “She’s right… we came for answers… Knowledge is both wondrous and terrible. There may be an answer to our current problem, but,” he paused with a sigh, “there may be no way for us to obtain what we need.”

“Then we just do our best,” Hannah stood up.

“Right,” Sparrow agreed.

Reaver rolled his eyes, “I suppose we should just get this over with.”

“Then come and listen to the wisdom of the Oracle,” Scythe pulled the tarp aside, “See if you can make sense of its words… the answer you seek must be earned… you have done that,” he smirked, “The Troll you faced… only proves that you do deserve an answer… it doesn’t mean that you will triumph in the end.”

“I’m willing to accept that,” Sparrow just wanted to hear what the Oracle had to say, “Whatever the Oracle has to say, I’m sure that it will help us to defeat Jack.”

Scythe shook his head, “I remember a time when I had such vigor and determination… they both died a long time ago…”

“Or maybe you just lost them underneath all that despair and sarcasm,” Aja looked up at him with a small smile.

Scythe once again turned his stare away from her. It was like he was too afraid or even embarrassed to speak against her. They had a past of some sort, thought Sparrow was not sure. Aja always seemed like the controlling, motherly type, but to be able to silence a man like Scythe…

“You better hurry,” Scythe growled at Sparrow.

She shook her head and collected her thoughts, “Sorry… lost in thought.”

He was about to say something, but Aja angrily cleared her throat. Instantly he closed his mouth and allowed Sparrow to pass without another rude or harsh remark. The others followed, save for her dog who wanted to stay behind and lick all the bowls. Sparrow just smiled as he greedily licked and drool over the last bit of morsels left in each one.

“Dare I say,” Reaver had an evil smiled on his face, “That you and that woman have… an interesting past? At least,” he whispered, “some sort of lover’s quarrel? Though I can’t imagine her ever being attractive…even in her youth,” he shuttered, “I guess that’s why she came to you…”

Scythe stood there for just a moment with his head lowered. He let go of the tarp and made sure that it fit snuggly across the doorway. He turned from the building and started to walk away.

“What?” Reaver smirked, “No witty remark? No comment to back down my massive ego. Ha,” he snorted, “like that would be possible.”

“Reaver,” Sparrow wished he would stop.

Scythe didn’t say a word as he passed the group. Reaver’s words obviously bothered him, but he wasn’t in the mood for a fight… or maybe he knew that Aja was still within earshot. He walked silently towards down the road that led to the Oracle. Reaver seemed a little disappointed that there would be no back and forth banter. Garth only gave him a look to not pursue the matter any further. The short walk was quiet and uneventful. The doors to the Oracle opened as they did before by unseen hands.

Scythe stopped at the doorway, “Oh Prince of Thieves,” he glanced over his shoulder at Reaver, “I will only warn you this once. You may say what you want about me… My hide had grown thick of the years. However,” he growled, “keep your tongue in check around her… she has been through much… and though,” he sighed, “she puts up a good front, she is very fragile. Hero…,” Scythe turned to Sparrow, “if she persists in staying with you to the end… Please do me a favor. Please watch over her in all your endeavors… and don’t let her face Jack of Blades again.”

Sparrow nodded her head, “I will. She’s watched over me… all of us this entire time. It’s about time that I look after her.”

Scythe release a deep laugh, “She won’t allow that. She feels like she must protect all those that come under her care. She carries much on her shoulders… she always has… I… have always… admired her for that… Please Hero… protect her…,” he bowed his head to her.

She was too surprised and a little stunned by his words. He had been so harsh and critical of her in the past… only an hour or so ago. His demeanor had changed completely. He seemed more depressed, calmer.

“I will,” Sparrow nodded her head once more, “I won’t let anything happen to her.”

“Thank you Hero,” a small smile appeared on his face, “Enough of this talk,” he cleared his throat, “the Oracle is not as strong as it use to be. I do not know how long it will be able to remain conscious. We better hurry,” he stepped inside the building.

There was no more need for words. He was right. The Oracle needed to speak and they needed to listen. Sparrow, for one, wasn’t going to let it wait.

Their footsteps echoed down the hallway. The energy of the place felt different. It made the hair on the back of Sparrow’s neck stand on edge. It was like when Garth was building up for a massive Will attack. The place was alive with Will more than ever. Sparrow looked back to Hannah and Reaver. With ginger steps, they were lightly setting down their feet as if they were pricked and poked.

“I would stay farther back if I were you two,” Scythe warned them, “The Will of this place has increased at least ten times than what it was before. Any further in and you might be knocked unconscious.”

“Wouldn’t want that to happen again,” Garth looked back at Reaver who was pulling his hair through his fingers.

“Hmm…? What did you say?” he didn’t seem to hear him.

“Stay here in other words,” Hannah stretched her arm out in front of him.

Reaver wrinkled his nose as he stopped, “That was a good nap earlier… but I did miss the action… Alright,” he shrugged his shoulders as he leaned up against the wall.

Sparrow smiled. She was happy that Reaver had a little bit more sense this time.

“We’ll fill you in on the details,” Sparrow nodded to Hannah.

“We’ll be waiting right here for you,” Hannah smiled.

“Please don’t take too long,” Reaver smirked, “I don’t want to get bored.”

Sparrow shook her head and ignored his comment. Scythe continued on with Garth and Sparrow following behind. Hannah looked on, while Reaver just leaned up against the wall, not really seeming to care.

A bluish light was coming from the chamber up ahead. It washed over them as they entered the chamber. It tingled and danced across their skin. The light was alive as was the place with Will. Sparrow shivered from the surge of energy that was going through her body. It was almost too much for her.

“It will be alright,” Garth placed his hand on Sparrow’s shoulder.

The tingling left her body with his touch. It was like he was absorbing it away from her.

“Come now,” he offered out his arm, “There’s not a lot of time.”

“Yes,” Sparrow wrapped her arm around his.

They both walked through the open silver doors. The faces that were once lifeless now seemed to follow their every moment. The dark stone eyes were now filled with a blue light. A deep humming reverberated through the chamber and inside of them.

“Welcome Heroes…,” the humming turned into words that filled their heads.

“Oracle is there really time for such superficial greetings?” Scythe sighed as he stopped before the stone faces.

“There is always time to greet ones with respect and honor dear Scythe,” the forming voice echoed.

He only shook his head, but knew there was nothing he could say to change the Oracle’s mind.

“You have questions, do you not?” the voice asked.

“Yes,” Garth nodded to the stone faces, “I know that in your wisdom that you know what is going on in the world…”

“… Jack of Blades… has returned once again,” the voice seemed to sigh, “We feared as much, but we felt him enter this place of existence… the Hero… the Hero of Oakvale did not success in his attempt to destroy the old Demon Lord…”

“Demon Lord?” Sparrow asked.

“It is the only thing we can describe him as,” the voice sighed again, “When humans first started to walk upon this world, he was already ancient…”

Scythe grumbled, “That is not important now… his past is his past… There is not much time. Tell them what you have to tell them.”

“You have grown impatient over the years,” the voice pointed out, “It is true that time is of the essence… but everything is relevant to what is happening now… though,” the voice paused, “… the story is not ours to tell… for we do not know it… or in any complete manner… So to ponder on it here would be useless…”

Scythe growled lowly, “Isn’t that what I said before?”

“In so many words,” the voice seemed to be laughing at him, “But you Heroes came here to find a way to stop Jack…”

“No…,” Sparrow raised her eyes to the stone face, “We came here to find a way to destroy him…”

“Fiery words Hero…,” the voice seemed to approve, “Hopefully you will be able to do better than your forbearers… I will tell you what we know and pray that you are able to do what others were unable to do…”

“Please Oracle,” Sparrow begged, “Tell us what you know.”

The voice took in a deep breath, though one would think that it didn’t need to and released it. Sparrow could swear that she could fell a breeze as the voice exhaled.

“… Jack of Blades… at one time,” the voice started, “possessed a sword that is said to have been forged from blood… though we do not know if that is true or not. It is an old weapon that is said to hold all the power of Albion… but we do not know how true this is…”

“They do not seem to know much,” Garth whispered to Sparrow.

She nodded her head in agreement.

“It was taken from him by William Black and a dark deal was struck between the two,” the voice didn’t hear them, “William gave his soul to the sword in order to defeat the Court… of whom Jack belonged to… but they are unimportant and long dead. The sword which spoke to William was called the Sword of Aeons…”

“That is the sword that Aja mentioned,” Sparrow recalled the prophecy of Master Jiva.

The glowing blue eyes of the face seemed to look to one another at the mention of Aja’s name.

“You know her?” Sparrow asked.

“… It… is… not important…,” it answered, “You came here for answers about Jack,” it reminded her, “The Sword of Aeons was said to have been lost after William used it to defeat the Court… it was not until 500 years ago that it appeared once again. Jack slit the throat of Scarlet Robe… a descendant of William… and it appeared once again. The Hero of Oakvale, Scarlet’s son, and all of the Heroes of that era tried to stop it, but they failed. Somehow the Hero defeated Jack and could have claimed the Sword for his own at the sacrifice of his blind prophet sister… Theresa…”

Theresa…, Sparrow ponder, a blind prophet… no… it couldn’t be… She could not be the same Theresa that I know and that has guided me all these years. No one could live that long… could they?

“It was never known if the Hero killed his sister to obtain the sword…,” the voice continued, “But this was not the last time that the Hero faced Jack… It was here… on this very island that Jack… in his most terrifying form battled against the Hero of Oakvale for the final time. It is said that the Hero wielded a sword of great power that slew the great beast… that is why most believe that the Hero killed his sister… it is said that only the Sword of Aeons could kill Jack…”

“But obviously it didn’t or he didn’t have it,” Garth pointed out.

“Yes… but even William with the sword was not able to defeat him,” the voice sounded sad.

“Then there is no hope?” Sparrow felt her heart sink.

“… There is…,” the voice echoed, “Hope… The Sword of Aeons is not the only sword of great power in Albion and beyond… Avo’s Tear…”

“That sword is merely a legend,” Garth shook his head.

“So is Jack of Blades,” Scythe smirked.

Sparrow ignored the two, “Where is the Avo’s Tear?”

All eight eyes looked away from her, “We… we do not know… it is not meant to be known… it is a sword that will only come to those that are worthy to hold it… it is beyond our knowledge to even how it was forged. We are sorry that we cannot be of more help… but this is all we have to offer.”

“There is nothing else that you know that might be able to help us?” Sparrow still wanted to know more.

“What we have given you is all that you need to know in how to defeat Jack,” the voice was starting to fade.

“But it didn’t help the Hero of Oakvale,” Sparrow could feel the Will draining from the place, “There has to be more! Something that the Hero… William… You have missed!”

“That knowledge… is… unknown…,” the blue light disappeared from the stone faces’ eyes.

“No,” Sparrow gritted her teeth and clinched her fists.

Garth took hold of her hand, “There is nothing more… we have what we came for...”

“But it amounts to nothing,” Sparrow growled, “The Sword of Aeons couldn’t defeat Jack, not even when held by William Black or the Hero of Oakvale.”

“There is the Avo’s Tear though,” he tried to give her some hope.

“Which we don’t know where it is… The Oracle didn’t know where it is,” she could feel hope fading.

Scythe snorted, “Told you, nothing but useless knowledge. You should taken my advice and hide. Hide as long as you can… or…”

“Or what?” Garth was afraid to ask.

“Kill yourself and end the line of Black,” he gave a grim look that sent shivers up and down Sparrow’s spine.

“Don’t speak of such things…,” a voice hissed from behind them.

“Aja,” Sparrow looked to see who it was.

“Don’t listen to him child,” she stared at Scythe, “He has lost his faith… don’t lose yours.”

“But without either sword how can we possibly defeat Jack?” Sparrow angrily asked.

She smiled gently at her, “A sword is merely a piece of metal shaded into a blade. They cut… they slash… they pierce… What you need is a pure thought… something that you keep in your heart or have you forgotten what I told you?”

“Good tensions are well enough,” Reaver appeared at the doorway, “but that is all they are. Goodness… purity… love… fluffy stuff… they feel good, but what good do they really do?”

Hannah gave him angry look, “Then what have we fought for? Has it all been in vain? I thought that when I left the monastery… that good tensions get the world nowhere… and the only way to make things right was to make them right yourself… to fight… fight until you were numb to the world around you…,” she lowered her eyes, “you wake up one day and wonder what you were fighting for the entire time… you lose hope… I did and I ran away…”

“Hannah,” Sparrow understood how she felt.

“But being here with all of you,” she looked at everyone, “and seeing all those people in Bowerstone reminded me that I fight for them. Violence is a terrible thing,” she shook her head, “but doing nothing about it is an even worse crime. Sparrow,” Hannah took a step into the chamber, “I know things look bleak, but we’ve be able to face situations like this before. Remember,” she smiled, “it wasn’t a sword or fist that stopped Lucien… but a little music box.”

“Not mention a bullet to the head,” Reaver stroked his pistol.

Sparrow looked to Garth, then to Hannah and finally to Aja. They all seemed to be saying don’t give up. As long as they were willing to stand together, they were willing to face whatever they had to. Sparrow had started to lose sight of what she was fighting for. Jack’s game was getting to her. He was toying with her emotions and not letting her think clearly. He had taken something from her… something very precious. He knew that would cause her great pain… he knew that she wouldn’t be able to fight him to her fullest.

“You must take the pain you feel in your heart and push it aside,” Aja pull her hands on Sparrow’s shoulders.

“And put my purest thought there instead,” Sparrow finished for her.

“Yes,” she drew her close, gave her a hug and slowly released her.

Scythe cleared his throat, “If you do wish to continue in this endeavor, then I advise that you start. Jack may be the patient type, but even his patience will wear thin. He will come looking for you… for all of you… for the seer.”

Sparrow looked to Scythe, “Do you have a suggestion to where we should start?”

He turned his back to them, “The Seer… ask her… I know that she has the strength to see beyond what is here and now…”

“… I do…,” another voice echoed in the chamber.

“Theresa!” Sparrow exclaimed.

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