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Lucien disappeared from Castle Fairfax that night, certain that those who might stand in his way were dead. But sometimes, grief is so great, even death may keep its distance. And so the girl survived. Days later, far from the dark alleys of Bowerstone, life slowly returned to her small, broken body. The girl awoke to a familiar face watching over a strange bed. She reached out for the comfort of the dog's warm fur, ready to take her first steps in a new life. Ten winters blanketed Albion, ten summers filled the air with the sounds of insects and laughter. With time, the girl's pain turned to strength. Her grief became will. A will to change the world. And to avenge the death that still haunted her every dream.
Sparrow awoke to a pair of sky blue eyes above her own. "What?" She sighed. "Go away, Elena." Sparrow turned on her mattress, decidedly facing away from her friend.
She felt a sharp poke in the back.
"Get up, Sparrow. Theresa wants to see you." Her tired friend just mumbled and smacked her hand away.
"Alright, more fun for me." Elena raised her fingers to her mouth and blew a loud whistle. Sparrow turned to her.
"You wouldn't dare."
Elena smiled. "I would." She turned and ran outside of Sparrow's caravan. She placed her hands around her mouth and screamed. "Sparrow has treats, Brave Knight!"
A loud, excited bark echoed back through the camp.
Inside the caravan, Sparrow was already getting up. She knew what was about to happen. She quickly put undergarments on. She reached for a shirt when a big mutt plowed through her door and slammed her into the wall. The dog laid on top of her and licked her face.
Sparrow gagged at the smell. "Oh you just ate! Ugh!"
A soft laugh came from her door. Elena was leaning against the entrance with a cocky smile on her face.
"You're a bitch, you know that?"
"Oh stop your complaining." Elena reached down and pried Brave Knight off of her. "Anyway, Theresa said it was important."
"Sounds exciting. Give me a second." Sparrow stood up and pet her dog. She went over to a glass bowl and fished out a couple bone-shaped biscuits. She threw one of the biscuits in to the dog's mouth. "How have you been, Elena? Haven't seen you for a few days."
Elena came closer into the caravan. She sat quietly on the bed. She was a light-skinned, blonde woman with long, healthy hair that was always tied up perfectly with a blue ribbon. She always seemed to smile.
"Good, I guess. Still haven't found a job. I kept searching around Bowerstone to try and get a job as a blacksmith or a woodcutter, but I was always turned away. Waste of time."
Sparrow threw the last bone into the dog's mouth and sat beside Elena. She struggled to get her tight-fitting clothes on.
"At least Theresa lets you leave the camp. I haven't been to Bowerstone in ten years... I haven't left the camp in over a year. Theresa is hounding me with training."
Elena helped Sparrow slip into her scratchy outfit. "She doesn't train me, if that makes you feel better. I had to train myself."
"It doesn't really."
"Yeah, sorry about that. You look pretty silly dancing around a scarecrow field with those rusty meat slicers," the blonde girl laughed.
Sparrow was finished getting dressed. They stood up and walked out the door.
"They're cleavers! And they weren't always rusted." Sparrow retorted.
Elena smiled. "Doesn't matter much. Theresa talk to you about Will training yet?"
"Not at all." A sigh.
Elena and Sparrow walked down the dirt path to the center of the camp. "I wonder why. She said you had the potential." The blonde looked up at the sky. "Huh. Looks like it's going to rain. Great."
"Hobbes love rain."
"So you better pray it floods." Elena laughed. "My favorite saying, though old hymns and folktales are the least of our concern. If it rains, beetles are going to come out of their holes and seek shelters in our caravans."
"So the brave Elena will save the camp from the evil beetles?" Sparrow asked with a laugh. Elena shoved her.
"The alchemist in Bowerstone pays one hundred pieces of gold for a single wing." She paused. "And also if our camp is infested, our livestock will die and our homes will be eaten."
"Well it's good to have you here."
There was a comfortable silence between them as they walked to the gates. It was a feeling only shared with the best of friends. Sparrow and Elena had met when they were both only thirteen. Elena had gotten lost from a group of travelers heading through Bower lake. She had strayed off the path and found herself surrounded by bandits. If one of the camp's hunting party had not gone out that day, Elena would have been killed... Or worse. She returned with the hunters and had made herself at home ever since. She was orphaned, she said. Sparrow and Elena quickly grew a strong friendship together. They talked and ate and trained together. Elena was good with a sword, shield and crossbow while Sparrow preferred cleavers and a rusted flintlock pistol. They would spend nights at each other's caravan talking about the dreams they had or things they thought they had seen in the dark nights. Though no matter where they slept, Theresa was always able to find them. She would tell the girls that she was glad they were able to bond, but that Sparrow's training was more important and would always take priority.
Theresa stood at the gate. When the girls approached, she gave Sparrow her cleavers and her pistol. She grabbed them and winced as the jagged metal cut her fingers. "Another day of training?"
Theresa grinned. "Yes, though not in the way you're expecting. Today you're training in the ways of the Will." Sparrow was stunned, but a smile slowly spread across her face.
"It's about time!" Elena said.
"Both patience and impatience have their uses, Elena, but make sure one does not overshadow the other," Theresa said.
"I understand, but it's a little hard when you have nothing to keep you busy."
"You do have something to keep you busy. You told Sparrow before you got here." Sparrow looked back at Elena and laughed when the girl rolled her eyes. She gave a quick wave and walked back towards camp. She mumbled something about Theresa's foresight being a pain in the arse. "Many years ago I promised I would help you avenge your sister's death. That day has come. Today, you leave the safety of the camp and seek out Lucien. The journey will not be easy."
Sparrow could see that night. The snow that blanketed Bowerstone, Lucien's smile... Rose laying on the ground. She shook her head. "Do you think I'm ready?"
Theresa shook her head. "I know you're not. Not yet. Come with me."
The gate keeper opened the giant wooden doors and the two passed by him without a word. They walked over the bridge and stood at the edge of the cliff. It overlooked Bower lake. It was just as beautiful as Sparrow remembered. The water shined brightly in the morning sun, the mist drifted lazily upon its surface. Hero's hill blocked the sun out on most of the lake. It left a shadow of the mountain and it's three tall, stone spires. The lake was surrounded by trees. A cool, refreshing breeze brushed by Sparrow.
"Take this." Theresa turned to her and handed her a disk-like object.
Sparrow turned it over in her hand. It was about the size of her palm. There was an odd symbol made of a lustrous metal set into a turquoise stone. Theresa grabbed it and attached it to the breast of her shirt. "It is a powerful artifact, the kind of which all Heroes once carried. It will grant you access to places others cannot go. It will also allow me to talk to you, when necessary." She straightened the seal and then laid her hand on the younger's shoulder. She turned her towards the waterfront. "Now, look down toward the lake." She pointed at the lone island in middle of the lake. There was a crypt on it. "The seal will allow you to enter that tomb. You will have to trek the tunnel. It will lead you right under Hero hill. That is where the Chamber of Fate lies. Inside, you will learn a powerful spell. Now go. I will keep your furry friend here for now."
The tomb door closed behind Sparrow. She walked back to it and fondled for a handle or... Anything that could help her open it. There was nothing.
The door will not open. You must press on.
Sparrow shrieked and turned around. Her gun was pointed at... Nothing... No one was there. "Hello?" she called, not letting her pistol down.
Do not be alarmed. I am speaking to you through the Guild seal.
Sparrow let out the breath she was holding and let her arm drop back to her side. "It's going to take me time to get used to you whispering in my ear."
You will have a lot of time.
Sparrow began walking down the stony hall. "Not too long. I'm going to find Lucien before he has a chance to kill anyone else. I'll make him suffer for what he did."
It is not healthy to think that way. Both patience and impatience-
"Have their uses, but don't let one cloud the other. I know, Theresa." There was a brief silence. Sparrow swallowed her anger. "How long will this take me Theresa? Weeks? Months? A year?" she asked.
There was no reply.
"Keep your answers then." Sparrow reached the end of the hall.
There was a hole in the ground and it was certainly too wide for her to skirt around it. She looked down and saw nothing. Just darkness.
You will need to jump into that hole to continue.
"I can't say I like the feeling of falling." Sparrow knelt down and grabbed a loose tile. She dropped it into the pit and waited to hear a noise.
Don't worry, the water at the bottom will break your fall.
Great. Like her clothing wasn't uncomfortable enough dry. She holstered her flintlock and jumped. Her stomach knotted as she descended into the darkness. Finally, she felt herself crash into the water. She gasped when she surfaced. It was colder than Bower lake. A torch lit up on the far side of the room. Sparrow swam quickly to the edge of the water where she pulled herself up on the moist dirt. She coughed out the murky water and stood up. The torches did little to light up the dark cave. She shivered and stepped into the next chamber. It was dimly lit by fluorescent blue fungus growing in small patches on the wall. Sparrow jumped from a small ledge. A loud, hard crunch came from under her foot. She lifted it up and in the blue light, she saw pieces of a large bug on the bottom of her shoe. Multiple clicking sounds echoed through the cave. She tensed up at the thought of walking into a beetle nest.
If a Sparrow is to leave its nest...
"She must remember to use her talons." Sparrow grabbed hold of the cleavers hooked onto her hips. She pulled them free and waited as the clicking drew closer. She needed to wait for the right moment. There was a small hiss and a beetle came into her sight. Its jaw twitched and it leaped at her. She swung upwards. The cleaver cut through the insect, spraying foul-smelling liquid onto her. Another slashed. Another and another. One latched on to her leg and she shook it hard until it barely clung to her foot. She kicked it up in front of her, grabbed it and cleaved it in half. She looked around and saw no more beetles but she still heard the clicking sound. She looked up and through the dim light, saw a small shadow crawling into a crack in the ceiling. She pulled out her pistol and fired, lighting the room up like lightning. The beetle exploded when the bullet hit, sending little bits of wing, meat and legs falling towards the ground.
Sparrow strapped the cleavers back to her hips and her pistol to her belt. She gathered up a couple of wings and continued down the cave. The tunnels were dark- dark enough to hide a sudden drop. She went back into the juice-stained room and plucked one of fluorescent mushrooms. She was sure its light wouldn't last long so she hurried back into the tunnel. The single mushroom was remarkably dimmer than it was alongside its cluster, but its light seemed to not be deteriorating.
The mushroom didn't give enough light to see very well, but she could vaguely make out the walls and the floor but she would be able to stop herself from running into a wall and she wouldn't be falling down a hole anytime soon.
Sparrow's foot slid on the loamy soil and down came the woman, sliding down a muddy slope, kicking and trying to get ahold of something that would stop her. She crashed unceremoniously into another cold puddle of water. She shivered searched for the mushroom. She saw a glowing clump of dirt and dug it up.
The mushroom's light had long since died. Sparrow tossed it aside. She had already found another one to replace it with. It seemed to have been a couple of hours since she first stumbled into the cave. She had walked into more than a couple of beetle's nests; she'd pick the wings from the dead insects to give to Elena when she saw her again. Each time, she'd wipe the juice off of her starchy clothes in disgust. After a while, she reached a lit room with a portcullis blocking her way forward. She had to wonder why a stone door was this deep under the lake. Sparrow was doubting its functionality when a large stone sphere flew out at her. It stopped in front of her, humming low and glowing blue.
This is a flit switch. They act as keys to doors many more old machinery. The colour of the orb determines how you open it. All of them are opened by using one of the three different talents the old heroes had. Blue for strength, yellow for skill and red for will.
"So just hit it with my cleaver?"
To put it simply.
Sparrow unhooked her cleaver from her hip and swung at the sphere. A loud crack was followed by a spark and the cleaver shattered into pieces on the ground, leaving only a handle in Sparrow's hand. She cursed her luck and threw aside the handle. The flit switch flew back to the door and sunk into a slot above it. The portcullis gave a click and opened.
"Well at least it opened," she said flatly, "Remind me not to smack one of those again."
Theresa was silent.
"I wonder if anyone's ever head-butted one of these."
Behind the portcullis was a cavern. Stalactites the size of trolls hung from the ceiling. There was an opening on the far side of the room, the only way to get there was by crossing the wooden bridges that connected the small islets. Below was a pool covered by a thick layer of mist. She crossed to the other side of the room, killing some more beetles and prying their wings off on her way.
"And where exactly have I arrived?" Sparrow asked.
She was in a chamber made of marble. Four braziers in the center of the room lit and glowed an eerie, ghost blue. Behind it, she saw a large circular, gold door. Unrecognizable runes were carved into the door. A light vibration could be felt within the room. The Hero made her way to the door and touched it. It was warm- a relaxing warm. The runes lit up and the golden slabs turned. A loud 'thunk' echoed through the caves and the door opened. Inside, torches lit as she passed. The stone corridor's walls were covered by rustic bookcases with equally decrepit books. She grabbed a few, relatively undamaged books and continued. She ended up in a large dome-like room. Tapestries hung on every wall. One of a farm, a town in flames, a fire-haired woman, a woman in a scarlet robe, a man marrying a woman in a hood and a hero fighting a dragon. There was a strange tingling in the room- a feeling that made hairs stand on end.
"Where am I, Theresa?"
This is what's left of the Heroes' Guild. For centuries, this academy trained the most supremely gifted sons and daughters of Albion, bound by the blood that flowed in their veins. Once worshiped by the people of Albion, the great Heroes came to be feared and hated. No man alive today remembers the night the Guild burned. And now it lies forgotten.
"Why were they hated?"
The Heroes served as caretakers of the people of Albion. When Paladin Black disappeared and the Guildmaster dying shortly after, the guild fell into disarray and was usurped by cruel members who sought political gain by placing the Heroes above the people of Albion. The people of Albion grew spiteful of the Heroes and with the invention of firearms, they were able to fight back.
"All of the Heroes were killed?"
Not all. You are here. Your blood comes from the Hero portrayed on the wall. His name was Nathaniel Black- one of the mightiest Heroes who ever lived. At a young age, he suffered a devastating loss... from which he never truly recovered. But when the world tried to crush him, he fought back. He grew strong, strong enough to reshape the world as he saw fit. The Chamber of Fate, the room you are in now, is the site of one of his last battles with Jack of Blades. The vibrations you feel now are scars left by the force of their clashing Will. That is why I have brought you here. Hold your fingers to your palm.
Sparrow did. Nothing happened. She shook her hand a little but still nothing. "Was that supposed to do something?"
Think of the vibrations in this room. The way they move inside you. Imagine that energy moving through the veins in your arm and into your fingertips.
She closed her eyes, focusing on the almost nauseating vibrations. She imagined it centering in her heart and being pumped to her hand. A sharp coolness shot through her arm. She opened her eyes and saw brilliant blue lines shining from her veins. They were like the ones the man she saw at Fairfax had. She slowly pulled her fingers from her palms. Tiny strings of electricity danced in between them.
Excellent. Now point your fingers in the direction you want to expel the lightning.
Her fingers straightened and a beam of twitching lightning shot out. She closed her palm and the electricity died out. The lines on her arm faded.
You will have opportunities during your quest to improve your technique. You will discover more spells later. You are done today. You start your quest tomorrow morning. For now-
On the far side of the room, a blue aura formed over a stone pedestal.
Step through the cullis gate and you will be taken away from here.
Sparrow caught herself as the world stopped spinning. The cullis gate had left her winded and dazed. She opened her eyes when she heard a shriek. Elena was hankered down in front of her and pulling a wing from a dead beetle. She looked up at her with fear and then confusion.
"What the hell!" She cried.
The Hero looked around. She was on top of Hero Hill.
Elena stood, "Where did you come from?" she questioned. "You were in the tomb!"
Sparrow laughed and shrugged her shoulders. "I was but I guess I'm not now. I went through a cullis gate and now I'm here."
She reached into her pack and pulled out a couple of beetle wings.
"Also, I found these down there and I thought you might want them." Elena took them with some hesitance. Her face was still twisted in confusion. "It's magic. It shouldn't make sense."
"Did you learn the ways of the Will?"
"I learned a spell, yes. Want to see?" She folded her fingers and felt the coolness in her arm. She opened and shot a bright beam of electricity at the ground. It let out a loud crack and fizzled away.
"Wow," Elena said. "That was amazing. And here I am with my power of picking beetle wings."
"Anyway, let's head home. It's getting late. I also heard they're pulling out the Bower brew tonight," she said with a nudge.
"What's the occasion?" Sparrow asked.
"They may or may not know that a certain girl had finally received her Will training." Elena smiled and pulled Sparrow with her back down Hero Hill. "Yeah, you definitely need new clothes. You're covered in beetle guts."
Sparrow shoved her over.
That night, the rain began to fall. The men of the camp quickly set up the awnings and hung paper lanterns from them. Music began to play and they danced, sang, drank and ate. Everyone was celebrating Sparrow's success. The sounds of laughing and cheering echoed through the damp forest. Little kids ran in and out of the woods, catching fireflies and screaming in delight. Sparrow smiled to herself. It was a beautiful night. She loved to see everyone enjoying themselves. She laughed as an inebriated Elena dancing near the fire almost fell into the flames. Someone grabbed her arm, mid-fall and made her land away from it. The two began to laugh. Elena's eyes were closed and her face was red. She snorted and stood, only to fall down again. Sparrow looked around the crowd again. There was the elder telling stories of old Albion, the camp's tattooist drawing on kids' faces. The only person who didn't seem to be having a good time was Theresa who was sitting against a tree and flipping through her tarot cards. She always wondered how a blind woman was able to read them. The red-robed woman looked up at Sparrow, white eyes staring directly at her. She also wondered how she was able to do that too. Theresa looked back down at her cards and started flicking through them again. Sparrow yawned. She wasn't drop-down tired yet but she knew tomorrow was going to be a busier day than today. She stood and hugged her friends goodnight. She went back to her caravan and brushed her teeth. After she was done, she stripped her stained clothes and set her bed. It was a chilly night but it didn't bother her. She loved the cold. She crawled into the cot and adjusted herself. Someone got into bed with her. He made his way up to her face and licked her. Brave Knight gave out a tired whine and fell asleep on her.
Sparrow rolled over with a feeling of bliss. The sounds of people enjoying themselves and the smell of wet trees was relaxing to her. This was her family now. She couldn't deny the feeling of wanting to stay here forever. She didn't want to go on her quest anymore. She just wanted to live the simple life of a gypsy. The woman felt anxiety spiking in her stomach but she fought it down. Maybe after her quest was done, she could come back and settle down. It made her feel a little better but she still loathed the idea of leaving everyone behind. A tear rolled down her cheek and she fell into a deep slumber.