In the Shadow of the Mask

I Cordially Invite You...

It had to have been a dream or some sort of conversation that she was having with herself. There’s no way that Aja could have been speaking to her… she was dead. She believed in ghost and all that, but this… this was a little different.

Sparrow sat on a wooden chair next to the window looking out over the Crucible. There were a few people wondering about town, but it was mostly quiet. There were no scheduled rounds for the day and most of the spectators had left for their hometowns. She didn’t mind so much. She could use the peace and quiet to sort out her thoughts and feelings. Ever since she heard Aja’s voice chiding her for her black thoughts… begging her not to give up… warning her about Jack and his mysterious servant… she tried to sort it all out, but ended up becoming more confused. She wanted to tell the others about what she had heard in her semiconscious state, but she wasn’t sure if they would belief her… she wasn’t sure if she believed herself.

“You believe me, don’t you boy,” she looked to her dog lying at her feet.

His ears pricked up, but did not stir. She could tell that he was depress, maybe more so than she. She only sighed and looked back out the window. Maybe it was all in her head and she was just making up words in Aja’s voice.

“It’s just strange though,” she pondered out loud, “That she would say that she sacrificed her freedom and not her life. I’m sure if I was making it up, my mind would have said life…”

“SPARROW! YOU’RE AWAKE!” Hannah burst into the room, “How are you feeling? Do you need anything? I’m sure you’re hungry. You haven’t eaten for at least five days. We tried to get some water down you, but most of it ended up on the bed…,” she continued on in her usual fashion.

Sparrow weakly smiled, “I’m alright for the most part… just a little weak. As for being hungry, I don’t know if I could eat anything right now,” she sighed.

“Well you need to eat something,” Hannah insisted, “You’ll end up looking thinner than a Hollow Man.”

Sparrow giggled.

“Knew I could get a laugh out of you,” Hannah smiled.

“It’s just what I needed to do,” Sparrow had to admit, “but really, I don’t feel like eating… too much on my mind.”

“I may not be able to speak for everyone,” Hannah came up behind her, “But I do know that there is a lot on everyone’s mind. We all just have been sitting around the pub, thinking about… well… all sorts of stuff.”

“I could imagine…,” Sparrow sighed, “A lot has happened…”

Hannah could tell that the conversation was heading to a dark place, “Look, why don’t you come downstairs and have a little lunch? For me?” she batted her eyes, “For him?” she pointed to the dog, “He hasn’t eaten either. Maybe you could get him to munch on something?”

“You haven’t eaten boy?” Sparrow looked down to him in surprise, “You never miss a meal.”

He only released a heavy sigh.

“Come on,” Sparrow slowly stood up, “Let’s go eat boy,” she headed for the door.

He looked up at her with mournful eyes, but remained where he was.

“Do I have to carry you down to the pub?” Sparrow bent down and rubbed his head.

“Here, let me,” Hannah offered.

“It’s fine,” Sparrow gently, but slowly lifted her furry companion off the wooden floor, “I’ve got him… he’s not that heavy.”

He was a little bit heavier than expected. He seemed so light in the past. She had no trouble carrying across Wraithmarsh or any other time. Hannah said that he hadn’t eaten in the past five days, so surely he would be lighter. But no… he felt like hundred pound weight that was tethered to the floor. She tried shifting him around to see if it was just the way she was hold him, but it felt about the same. Struggling a little, she carefully made his way down the stairs to the main floor of the pub.

There weren’t any patrons sitting around. Only the lonely bartender, who stood behind the bar reading a book.

He didn’t look up from his book, “Can I get you something?”

“Maybe a couple of bowls of soup?” Hannah answered.

“Beef stew okay?” he sighed as he closed the book.

“If it’s not too much trouble,” Hannah didn’t like his attitude.

“No trouble,” he headed to the kitchen in the back.

“Sorry for asking him to do his job,” Hannah snorted as she pulled out a chair for Sparrow and herself.

“Here you go boy,” Sparrow gently place the dog on the floor.

He didn’t budge an inch and only released another sigh.

“Poor thing,” Hannah patted him on the head, “You’re not feeling well, are you?”

It was more than that. It was something that Sparrow had started to realize as she descended the stairs. It wasn’t his weight that had changed… it was something mental that affected the body more than any injury could. His body was bogged down by depression. His muscle ached and his bones were to weary to move. His whole body had turned against him… Sparrow knew this feeling all too well. It was only that morning that she had to fight the depression that settled deep within her to rise out of bed. Her body was still sore and barely wanted to listen. It took all the strength she had to shuffle over to the chair and look out at the scene. She wasn’t even quite sure how she managed to get down the stairs.

“Here you go,” the bartender nearly threw down the bowls of stew in front of them.

“Thanks,” Hannah insincerely thanked him as she wiped some stew off her clothing.

“Whatever,” he mumbled as he went back behind the bar.

“At least the food looks better than the service,” Hannah whispered to Sparrow.

“Yeah,” Sparrow had to agree, “Come on boy, you love beef stew… well, anything that has beef in it anyway,” she set down a bowl in front of him.

He just lay there, uninterested in the steaming bowl of food.

“Oh come now,” Hannah lifted his head, “It looks so good. You know you want to eat it,” she started to talk to him like a mother to a finicky child.

All she got was a pathetic wiggling tail.

“No good, huh?” Hannah sighed, “Oh…,” an idea came to her, “Look, Sparrow is going to enjoy hers,” she pushed the bowl in front of her.

“Oh… right,” Sparrow understood, “Look at me, I’m going to take bite,” she dipped the spoon into the thick broth, “Mmmm,” she made all sorts of happy noises to show the dog how good it was.

He lifted his head and sniffed the bowl. His little pink tongue poked out of his mouth and lapped up a small amount of liquid. His big brown eyes went wide as he found the strength the stand. Lap after lap, the stew started to disappear until only a carrot or two was left. He looked up at hand and smiled in his own special way.

“That’s worked better than I thought,” Hannah was surprised as she turned to Sparrow.

“I’m sorry,” Sparrow gulped down the last bit of her stew, “Guess I didn’t realize how hungry I was,” she looked at her empty bowl.

“Barkeep,” Hannah called, “Two more beef stews please.”

The bartender sighed as he once again had to do some actual work.

“Sparrow! You’re up,” a voice called out from the entrance.

“John, Garth, I was wondering where you two got off too,” Hannah invited them to the table.

“Just getting some supplies,” Garth sat down, “How are you feeling?” he asked to Sparrow.

“Yeah, we were getting worried about you,” John reached over and squeezed her hand.

“Better since we’ve got something in our bellies,” she eyes the fresh bowl of stew that was just set down in front of her, “Isn’t that right boy?”

He was a little too busy to answer at the moment.

“That’s good to hear,” John sighed with relief.

A silence over took the group. There were many things to discuss, but none wanted to be the first to mention the problems, both past and present, that they had to face. Pleasant conversation could not break the dread and gloom that all were feeling.

“Maybe this isn’t a good time,” Sparrow put down her silverware, “but I think Aja contacted me a day or so ago…”

“Really?” Garth sounded interested.

“What did she have to say?” Hannah leaned in.

“I know it sounds crazy and I’m not sure if I believe it myself, but,” Sparrow tried to recall her words, “she told me that Jack is weak right now and it is the perfect time to strike…”

John smiled, “That’s Auntie for you. She won’t even allow death to stop her…”

“I don’ think…,” Sparrow started, but thought it was best to stop.

“What?” Garth inquired.

“Some things she said… she said that she gave up her freedom to save my life,” Sparrow shifted uncomfortably, “If she was dead, would she had said that she gave up her life for mine.”

John thought for a moment, “She could have meant her freedom to move around Albion… she always said that she was freest when she was traveling…”

“No…,” Sparrow shook her head, “I don’t think so…”

“She was philosophical,” Garth commented, “but she was also blunt when it came to important things.”

“She also did like for us to figure things out for ourselves,” Hannah pointed out.

“That woman was an enigma wrapped up in a mystery,” Reaver made his appearance known, “As the old cliché go… never did care for clichés… they are so… I don’t know…”

“So cliché?” Garth asked.

“No. That’s not at all what I was trying to say,” Reaver snorted.

“Was the ship alright?” Garth asked.

“Yes,” he sighed, “Nothing out of place and just as we left it.”

“Good,” Garth seemed to be a little bit more at ease.

“Why? Are we going somewhere?” Sparrow was a tad confused.

They all looked to each other, save for Reaver who was checking his hair in a spoon.

“We were thinking…,” Hannah wasn’t sure how to start explaining.

“We want to head back to Aja’s home in Oakfield,” Garth took over, “There are some ancient books that might be able to help us. I had found one pertaining to mystical items and weapons. It might have a section on the swords that both we and Jack are looking for… it might even have a location.”

“I said that it would be highly unlikely that it would,” Reaver continued to groom himself, “A waste time really.”

“Either way,” Garth continued, “It is worth a shot since we do not have a location on Jack at the moment and I don’t want to keep sitting around here anymore.”

“I agree with Garth,” Hannah nodded her head, “We need to keep moving and hope that we can gain the advantage over Jack.”

“Yes, but a rolling stone gathers no moss… oh,” Reaver groaned, “Another cliché…”

“Actually, that is a proverb… Mister Reaver,” John lowered his eyes.

“It pertains to the situation, doesn’t it?” Reaver asked.

“I suppose…,” he shifted in his seat.

Hannah shot Reaver a glare, “Oh stop it. The poor boy doesn’t need you scaring him.”

“We are also dropping off John in Bowerstone and the ship,” Garth leaned forward and placed his hands on the table, “We figure that Barnum will want his ship back and John should continue on with us.”

“I want to go through,” John spoke up, “I can’t stand by… not after what he has done…” he clinched his fists.

“John,” Sparrow squeezed his fist.

“That would be suicidal,” Garth shook his head, “I don’t mean to sound rude, but we don’t need to be worrying about you while we fight Jack. I’m sorry, but you’ll have to stay in Bowerstone…”

“EXCUSE ME!” a little boy ran into the pub, “EXCUSE ME!”

“Get out of here!” the bartender shooed him, “This is no place for kids.”

“I have a message for Sparrow,” he tried to catch his breath, “Garth, Hannah and Reaver.”

“Here my boy,” Garth called him over, “We are them.”

“I have to make sure,” looked at them with disbelief, “I was told to ask you “What was the two things brought to you that represented the people you love?”

“Who told to ask that?” Hannah asked.

“The man with a stitched up mask,” the boy answered honestly, “But I have to have the answer in order to give you the message,” he held up a piece of folded paper.

“Here,” Reaver quickly grabbed it.

“NO! I have to have the answer first,” he tried to grab it back.

“A daisy and a woven necklace,” Sparrow answered.

“Oh… that’s right,” the boy seemed satisfied, “Now I can spend those gold coins he gave me,” he happily skipped out of the pub.

“What does it say?” Sparrow nearly wanted to reach over and take the note from Reaver.

“The most unusual thing,” Reaver read it over, “Listen to this,”

“Dear Heroes,

I cordially invite you to the Sepulchre, a most splendid place to discuss our past grievances. Come if you wish to speak with me. I promise that it is no one will interfere with you as you make your way here. Well, I hope that you will come. I really do have important business to discuss with you my dear Sparrow. All are welcomed to come, even the young John. I hope to see you soon,

Sincerely yours,

Jack of Blades

“He’s got some nerve,” Hannah was outraged.

“Does he really expect us to come when it is an obvious trap?” Reaver raised his eyebrow.

“But now we know where he is,” Garth rubbed his chin, “Though Reaver is right… it probably is a trap.”

“Sparrow what do you think?” Hannah turned to her, “He did address you directly. Should we head to Bowerstone, then to Oakfield or to this Sepulchre? Where ever that is…”

They all looked to her. It was her decision and hers alone. She knew what she had to do.

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