In the Shadow of the Mask

Memories of Ones Long Ago

She slowly opened her eyes. The scene had not changed much since she had closed them. Though Reaver seemed to have settled down and was only merely mumbling to himself. Garth and Hannah were resting against some of the larger tombstones. John was still next to her with his arm still around her. Her faithful companion was snuggled up against John’s legs and sleeping pleasantly. Looking down, she found Aja still resting in her lap. Sparrow smiled. There was still warmth in her cheek from her memory from so long ago.

“Garth… I hope you don’t mind me asking,” Hannah shyly broke the silence, “But that woman… the one that Jack showed you… who was she?”

Garth took in a deep breath and exhaled it, “I normally wouldn’t want to talk… about her, but,” he sighed, “with all that has happened lately… I feel that I might see her soon…”

“Oh Garth don’t talk like that,” Hannah hushed him.

“No… it’s true. I saw her, but for a moment after my battle with… Aja,” he wasn’t sure what name to call her by, “she was… smiling…”

“An old love I assume,” this peaked Reaver’s interest, “A forlorn lover that you looked over to indulge yourself in books and lore? A woman that would have given herself for you, but you chose to study than love? I can see it now,” he envisioned in his mind, “she gently calling you to bed and you lost in a book ignoring her… never thought you would be that type... wait… Yes I would,” he mused.

“It was nothing like that,” Garth growled, “she… she was not a lover, but my elder sister… Jahzara.”

“Was?” Hannah asked.

“She… passed away quite a few years ago,” Garth sighed, “She was like a mother to me… Our real mother died shortly after my birth. My sister… the one that Jack showed me… took care of me,” a small appeared and disappeared on his face, “Jahzara would bath, feed and teach me and barely had time for herself. She did everything for me…”

“What about your father? Where was he in all this?” Hannah asked.

“Humph,” he snorted, “My father decided that a family wasn’t worth his time and left my mother when he found out she was pregnant with me. Jahzara tried to defend him, but she was never able to convince me that our father was a good man, but that didn’t matter.”

“You poor thing,” Hannah felt sorry for him.

Garth looked to the unchanging sky, “Our tragedies were only beginning. Floods, pestilence, famine, disease,” he winced at that last word; “… we had managed to get by and survive. My sister would always say it was because mother was smiling down upon us and that she had left us special gifts… something she gave us while in her womb,” he seemed to laugh to himself, “I would always ask what it was that she gave us. Jahzara would smile and say, “Mother gave her a love that will never die and she gave me a connection to the earth that could manifest in whatever way I could.” I would always cock my head and ask what she meant by that. She would just laugh and say one day I would understand.”

Hannah thought for a moment, “Did she mean your ability to use Will? I assume that you’ve always been able to use. Considering you have such a mastery over it.”

Garth rubbed his chin, “I really don’t remember my childhood that much… just my sister and small things. I remember one time my sister was trying to start a fire and we had no flint to start it with. She had to go to one of the neighbors to borrow one of theirs. I was sitting in front of the fireplace thinking how cold I was. I kept staring at the fire pit wanting it to burst into flames so I could get warm again. That’s when I saw it; a small spark amongst the ashes. I lend in closer to see if what I was seeing was true. I nearly had my face burned as the pit exploded into a blaze,” he laughed to himself, “I ran to get my sister and told her what happened. She hushed me and brought me back home. I tried and tried to tell her, but she just smiled and said that I was only becoming more aware of myself. I didn’t know what she meant… not until much later in life.”

“She sounds like she was so sweet,” Hannah smiled.

“She was… she was,” Garth had to agree, “She did everything for me. Cooked my meals, cleaned my clothes… mended them and made sure that I learned my lessons. She worked hard all day and night to make sure that I could have a decent childhood. As I grew so did my love of books. I became so engrossed in my studies that I lost connection with the world around me… knowledge became more important than those around me. I began to see things that others couldn’t… feel things that no one else could… I began to understand the power that radiates from the earth and how it flows through the world. I was so proud of myself, that I went to tell Jahzara, but… but…,” he turned away.

“Here,” Hannah handed him a handkerchief.

“Thank you,” Garth accepted it, “Just thinking about my dear sister again brings out emotions that I haven’t felt in a long time. I wasn’t able to save her. Even with all the knowledge I had accumulated.”

“What happened to her?” Hannah was afraid to ask.

“Pestilence… a terrible disease plagued our village,” Garth explained with a sigh, “I was in relatively good health and didn’t contract it, but my sister… she was so weak from all the work she did to provide for us. She fell ill and soon died. I… for all my knowledge… could not save her. I was just a young boy when she died… only ten at the time.”

“Oh poor little thing,” Reaver decided to insert his sarcasm.

“Hush!” Hannah hissed.

“I went into a deep depression and further receded into books for comfort,” Garth ignored the rude comment, “I read and read until I found an old book with its binding nearly gone. It was written with fine black ink and gold leafing on the edges of the cloth like paper. I didn’t think much of it, until I came to an old legend about people that could bend nature to their will. They could summon fire, weapons, wind and spirits. They could slow time with a thought and push their enemies and obstacles out of the way. They were Will users. I read further until I came to a small section about a tower that could concentrate the Will of the world and grant the user any wish they desire. I had to find this tower and master Will. It was inside me… ever since I first willed that fire to explode in the fireplace. I traveled all over Samarkand and read every book I could on the Old Kingdom and the mysterious Spire. After I had exhausted all the books in my native land, I knew that I had to go beyond its borders and travel across the sea. I came to Albion and searched for more books and literature on the Old Kingdom. That’s when I met Lucian. We had similar desires, though we never spoke to one another on the matter. I thought after I had met a kindred spirit and I could finally bring back my sister,” he sighed, “but it was all for not… I have failed my dearest Jahzara in life and death…”

“You haven’t failed her,” Hannah spoke gently to him, “She did those things for you because she loved you and wanted to provide a good life for you. That’s what family does. I’ll sure that she’s looking down on you and smiling.”

“I don’t think so,” Garth turned away from her, “Seeing her once again only brings back bad memories and ill feelings.”

“At least you didn’t see her die in front of your eyes,” Hannah sorted, “At least she wasn’t shot… at least… she…,” Hannah grew silent.

“Don’t tell me that you are going to start blubbering over that shriveled up one man,” Reaver sighed.

“My father was a good man,” Hannah yelled at him, “He always giving and giving, even to those that didn’t deserve it… like me…,” she lowered her eyes.

“Why would you say that?” Garth glanced to her.

Hannah gave a small sniffed, “My father really tried with me… he really did. He tried to instill the ideals of the monks in me, but I rarely ever listened. I hard time believing that there was good in everyone. I was so different from the other children…”

“Because you were large and brutish,” Reaver smirked.

Garth shook his head, “Please keep your comments to yourself.”

“No… he’s right,” Hannah admitted, “I was bigger… in more ways than one… people made fun of me and called me names. I fought a lot when I was younger and my father was displeased with my behavior and told me that anger was not the way of the monks. He said that I should meditate on my actions and find a better way to manage my anger. I didn’t what to irritate him further, so I ran out into the woods to think about what I did. I sat and tried to, but I couldn’t. I thought that I was in the right to defend myself from the jeers… even though it was with my fists. The more I thought about it, the angrier I got,” she clinched her fists, “I became so ganger that I just started to hit and smash everything in my wake. I didn’t realize all that I had done until one of the brothers came looking for me. Trees were up rooted and rocks had become pebbles. I had taken a beautiful place of peace and destroyed it,” she lowered her eyes, “I had become what others called me for so long… a hammer… something that destroys. From that day on, I held everything in and maybe indulged a little too much in food. Even now I don’t listen to my poor dead father’s words. I couldn’t save him from Lucian’s men and I turned my back on his teachings… on him… What did I do after he died? I got drunk on what I thought was strength,” tears started to form in her eyes, “You at least searched for a way to bring your sister back. I just forgot about him… forgot about what he had done from me… I did little for him in life and even less to honor his memory… I am the one that has truly failed their loved one.”

The group grew silent. What could be said to brighten the mood that had descended up them? The people that they remembered… they had been so good to them in life, but they had treated them so terribly. They ignored them… they wouldn’t listen to them… they wanted to help them, but it came too late.

“You two are really a mess,” Reaver sighed, “And being so selfish might I add.”

“At least they are willing to relive their deepest memories… no matter how painful they are,” a voice came from Sparrow’s lap.

“Aja,” Sparrow smiled down at her.

She returned the smile, “Yes my dear,” she gently stroked Sparrow’s cheek, “Reaver, they have been honest with themselves,” she turned to him, “Not even Jack could see into your heart. He could only see the false persona that you show the world. You’ve locked away the young man that you once were along with all the good memories in your life. This character you play… this Reaver,” she continued, “Regrets nothing and feels nothing, at least Garth and Hannah, whom haven’t seen as much as you admit to the wrongs they’ve done in life and truly are sorry. I pray that you will be able to go back to the man you once were and begin to live once again,” she turned to Garth and Hannah, “Please do not think that you have failed your loved ones. Garth… your sister loved you and never left you. She still is with you… don’t you feel her in your heart?”

Garth put his hand over his heart, “I like to think that I carry her love in my heart… though it turned to stone long ago…”

“It shall never leave you Garth. Your sister is part of you and will forever remain as long as you remember her, not as a sick dying woman, but the vibrant young lady that made sure that you experienced life,” she smiled to him, “Hannah… do you not fight for justice?”

“I tried to… but what good has it done?” Hannah refused to look at her.

“Your father tried to teach you that there is good in everyone,” Aja shook her head, “If you truly believed that wasn’t true, then you wouldn’t have gone out into the world and you wouldn’t have gone with Sparrow all those years ago. Embrace what your father taught you and make it your own.”

“Sister Aja,” Hannah looked to with tears in her eyes, “Thank you.”

“Yes,” Garth agreed, “Thank you.”

Reaver snorted, “Isn’t this all warm and fuzzy.”

“Reaver…,” they all started to say.

“I know, I know,” he sighed, “Shut up.”

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