In the Shadow of the Mask


She looked so peaceful as she lay in Sparrow’s arms. Her black hair twisted about her face. Her breathes were long and quiet. Her eyes moved on the occasion as if she was having a dream. What kind it was, it was hard to say. It must have been a good dream though. Her mouth would form a smile, but quickly disappeared.

Sparrow tore her eyes away from the sleeping woman. There was nothing more she could do for her. She and Hannah had bandaged her wounds as best as they could… it was just too big and the others had taken up much of the medical supplies. Hannah’s head was wrapped. Garth, though he had no open wounds, was still feeling the effects of the lightening that surged through his body. He twitched and winced every few seconds, but there was nothing they could do for him. Reaver required the most medical attention, though his wounds were not that bad. His hand was not broken, but it was severely cut and bruised. Hannah and John had to go over his arm and chest thoroughly for shrapnel from his pistol. He complained more than anything.

“What a fine state we are in?” Reaver huffed, “All this trouble and for what? To find that beast of a woman that was nearly our death bringer and end up as bloody, twitchy messes that can barely move.”

“Reaver,” Garth could barely speak, “We are aware of the problems and don’t need to be reminded of it. So if you don’t mind, please keep quiet.”

“How rude,” Reaver snorted.

“At least he said please,” Hannah pointed out.

“Please indeed,” he turned away from them, “I should have never agreed to come…”

He continued to rant and rave about the entire situation. Hannah tried to jump in, but Reaver wouldn’t let her. She and Garth could only sigh as he complained and groaned.

Sparrow and John just sat behind the statue of an angel with Aja lying in her lap and her dog laying his. They didn’t want to listen to the conversation that was become a soliloquy or so it was in Reaver’s mind. There was no point in arguing over things in the past. They happened. There was nothing they could do to change things. They only had what was happening and what would happen. Of course they didn’t know what was going to happen. They weren’t in the best of shape. Hannah’s head ached and was still swimming from the blow she got. Garth could barely raise his arms or stand. Reaver’s arm was useless.

As for Sparrow… there were too many things going through her mind. She tried to concentrate on one thing, but she was soon drawn to something else then to another. She couldn’t focus. It was probably for the best though. She really didn’t want to think about anything in particular. It was kind of nice to be numb at the moment.

“I understand,” John pulled her closer, “Work out whatever it is that you need to. I’ll be here if you need me.”

Sparrow was thankful that John could feel that she needed some time to sort things out. She was also thankful that he held her so close and securely. It was the kind of warmth and assurance that she needed; especially after what she had been through.

He has always been so thoughtful, a gentle voice echoed in her ears.

“Aja?” she looked down at the still sleeping woman.

“Hmm? What did you say?” John asked.

“Oh… I thought I heard something,” she smiled, “but it must have just been the wind or something.”

He smiled back, “Why don’t you close your eyes for awhile and get some rest? I don’t think we’ll be going anywhere for a long time,” he indicated to the three Heroes that were now talking in circles.

“Sigh,” Sparrow’s faithful companion released a heavy sigh.

“Me too boy,” Sparrow yawned, “Me too,” she laid her head down on John’s shoulder.

Placing his head on top of her’s, John began to hum a sweet little lullaby. It was soothing and peaceful. Her mind was growing more at ease with every little note. It swam though Sparrow’s head as she drifted off. She soon was adrift in a place of dreams.

“Sparrow?” someone was gently shaking her, “Sparrow?”

“Hmm,” she lazily opened her eyes, “Who…? Aja?”

In front of her sat the explorer, but not the aged one she had come to know. It was the woman that she had seen in the arena and face in the place of tombs. Her long black hair flowed over her shoulders and down to her waist. Her blue eyes were as clear as a fresh water spring and they seem to be as refreshing as one too. Her tan glowed like the sunlight. Her smile, though small, put the soul at ease and calmed the mind. Her slender figure was wrapped in a simple dress of black and white.

“Where… where are we?” Sparrow looked around the unfamiliar settings.

“This is another place and time… a memory of my past,” Aja smiled, “I thought it would be better to speak to you in a place of life, than in a place of death.”

“It’s… so beautiful,” she couldn’t help but stare at all the little wildflowers.

“Yes it is,” Aja gently brought her face to her’s, “My dear there is something I must tell you…”

“There’s something I wanted to ask,” Sparrow drew her face away.

Aja nodded her head, “I know… You wish to know if that woman you saw in that vision was me and what I meant by “You now know where you’re blood come from.” Don’t you?”

“Yes,” Sparrow blushed a little at the thought of the man kissing the woman so passionately.

Aja sighed, but it was a contented sigh, “That vision… that one pure thought is a memory of my past and the sweetest one I hold closest to my heart,” she place her hand over her heart, “It is beautiful and simple; sweet and innocent. It is something that has kept me going this entire time. It is,” she smiled, “of my time with my husband and my young son… William Black.”

Sparrow stared at her for a moment, trying to take in what she just said.

She giggled, “You heard me correctly.”

“You… you’re… William Black… is your son?” Sparrow managed to finally ask.

She nodded with a smile, “Yes. A gift from my husband… a sign of our love…”

“If your William Black’s mother and I’m related to him then,” she started to put it together, “You and I are…”

“Related,” she finished for her, “Yes. Though I was human at the time I gave birth to him, a little bit of my demon blood passed to him. Through it, he was able to channel the power of this world… like Garth… like you…”

“You’re… my ancestor,” Sparrow was still stuck on the matter.

“Yes,” Aja couldn’t help but giggle once more, “The same blood that courses through your veins, the Hero of Oakvale’s and William Black all stems from a humble blacksmith and a woman that he loved dearly and deeply.”

“Wait,” Sparrow questioned, “you said that you were human when you had William. How is that you are still… alive?”

She lowered her eyes as a few tears formed in them, “I was being punished… by my former master… Jack. I had betrayed him,” she sighed, “and he took away my powers and cursed me to live out as a human for the rest of me years. However,” she gritted her teeth and clinched her fists, “I was not destined to die alongside my husband… Jack took that away from me too. He gave me back my demon form and former abilities so that I would serve by his side once more.”

“Couldn’t have you just refused?” Sparrow could see that it was painful memory.

“If I had… he would have killed my beloved and our child,” she shook her head, “I do not regret returning to him. It saved my husband and child from being torn apart by his other demonic servants. If I had refused, then William would have not been able to grow into the man he became… he would have not defeated the Court and the world would have still been in the shadow of it. No… I do not regret my choice.”

“You did it out of love,” Sparrow understood.

“Yes… love is a marvelous thing,” Aja took hold of Sparrow’s hand, “It is something that is pure and felt to the deepest part of our souls. It something that simple and yet so complex, we can never really explain it. Love is what saved me from Jack’s clutches. My husband’s love showed me the light and that life is worth living. My son’s love broke the bonds that Jack had over me for so long and freed me. Love…,” she seemed a little embarrassed to be speaking so passionately about the subject.

Even Sparrow’s cheeks began to blush at her words. She turned away from Aja and tried to concentrate on something. She looked at the flowers that stood so proud and tall around her. There were lilies, buttercups, poppies and all sorts of wildflowers that littered the place. There was one though that caught her eye. It was hidden behind a bright red poppy, but Sparrow spotted right away. It was daisy of the most unusually color. Instead of a golden center, it was a rusty orange. The delicate petals should have looked like freshly fallen snow, but it was more like butter. It was a strange little flower, but it was the prettiest flower that Sparrow had ever seen.

“The smallest things bring the most wonder memories,” Aja moved the daisy into view, “They are the things in life that remind us that it is worth living. Does this small gift from a shy little boy make your heart flutter and sooth your soul? Does it show you that all the good in your life is connected and that you have much to fight for? Does it give you strength from a place so deep inside that no one, not even Jack, can touch it?”

“Yes,” Sparrow had to put her hand over her heart.

It quivered and fluttered about like that of a girl’s heart. She hadn’t felt this way in a long time. It was something that she missed and had longed to feel again. That sweet, little, innocent kiss given by a little boy was the first time that Sparrow could say that her heart did flutter, but only for a second. That little peck on the cheek felt so warm. It was almost like being kissed by sunshine.

Her cheek started to warm and it spread through her face. It dipped down and straight into her heart. It spread until her entire body felt warm. It filled her and she couldn’t help but smile.

“Think about that my dear,” Aja stroked her cheek, “it is your pure thought and no one can take it from you. Hold it next to your heart,” she placed her hand over Sparrow’s heart, “My son was not able to hold a pure thought… neither was the Hero of Oakvale… they suffered in childhood as you have, but they did not have what you have…”

“What is that?” Sparrow asked.

“One pure thought…,” Aja faded as the world darkened.

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