|Series||Fable: The Return by Scorponix|
|← Chapter 33||Chapter Chronology||Chapter 35 →|
The King sees his first glimpse of the storied Northern Wastes as darkness ever looms on the horizon.
Just as it was on the ice, the sun's rays are blocked by a flurry of snow, covering the already icy terrain with another layer of powder. The winds howl and carry the breathe of evil as the King feels the journey's end come closer and closer. Silently, the company of Reaver, his crew, and the King depart from the secluded home of the now deceased Lucien Fairfax. They shut the door to the White-wooden hut lying high up in the mountains.
"How did you find me?" The King directs his question to Reaver who, as usual, leads the company.
"Trust me your majesty, life is easier and more fun once you have lived as long as I have. The wonders and magics of the world open to your very whim with age and wisdom of course. It also helps to be endowed with heroic abilities and have a professional relationship with a blind hag."
"I see, so Theresa sent you?"
"Sent me? My dear boy, nobody sends me. I am the sender of people. And if I am told that the man who owes me a country will die soon then I may feel obligated to make a business decision to save your life. Bonus points go to me also for settling an old score."
"Always about business with you, Reaver."
"But of course!" Reaver smirks. "The world revolves around business, your majesty."
"Well then, where are we going oh Captain?"
"The only speck of existence on this hunk of frozen dirt, Snowspire. City of wonderment and dreams! City of exotic folk of the snow lands! Home of the great Oracle! Oh wait a moment, it's none of those things. The city is bleak and boring, the people might as well be dead, and the Oracle went to sleep centuries ago. We're going to Snowspire because it's the only hint of civilization for several days in either direction, no matter how depressing and hideous it is."
They proceed down the mountain and come to a flat white plain that seems to go on forever. Reluctantly, they begin to walk once again through the downpour of snow. After an hour of the sad march through the snow, Henry approaches his father.
"Yes, Henry?" The King responds.
"I never truly got the chance to relay my appreciation for…saving us all. If you didn't risk your life that way, we would al be dead on the ice."
"Bravery is a dangerous thing, son. In a moment of extreme danger, a man gets a feeling that could either be bravery or adrenaline-fueled stupidity. What defines a man is whether he act upon that feeling. In my life, I have almost died by throwing my body on the line to do what must be done. My only hope is that you are able to know when the time is right…and how to be a Hero."
"That is all I have wanted, Father. For years my judgement has been clouded, I have done terrible things to people who did not deserve it. This far into my life I could hear a sound and tell you if it was alike to that of a dismembered head hitting the ground. I could be given a blade and know the precise amount of force it would require of me to sever the spinal chord. It takes me five pitchers of mead to start forgetting these…but they come right back when I wake up the next morning. Father…am I a Hero."
"I don't know, son. I do not know how to determine it either. The only person I know who can identify heroic powers is Theresa…and I have only seen her in visions since this all started. From stories my father told me…he discovered he was a Hero as he entered the Chamber of Fate under Bower Lake-"
"They weren't that way in his time. It was a simpler time before industry took over Albion…there wasn't much order to the world. It was peaceful, bright, warm…happy. He entered the chamber and he was overcome with an immense power known as Will. I had a less climactic experience…but that feeling happened to me under Bower Lake as well, just more recent."
"Did Theresa help you?"
"She did, yes. She taught me how to channel my Will without the aid of gauntlets."
"She seems to be much more powerful than what I originally assumed."
"She is, nobody knows how much power she truly possesses. Sometimes I wonder if even she knows all that she can do. But…she keeps a watchful eye on Albion as well as the rest of the world."
"We are getting close now, I can feel it."
"What do you mean? Close to what?"
"You can feel its presence?"
"I can feel the presence of pain…pain that lies locked behind the walls of The Necropolis."
"The Damned City…I remember old stories about it, how the ghosts do not even know they are dead."
Reaver interjects here, never allowing himself to be out of a conversation entirely. "Ah yes, The Necropolis! Its people left in a lifeless, sad, day-to-day reenactment of their lives…that is before a man came along wanting power and wealth. He made a deal, and he was satisfied…immediately the world around him in that city changed and all life ceased."
Henry replies to him, "sounds a lot like you, boss."
"Like me, how so?"
"A young reckless man made a deal with some sort of powerful darkness. Once he was rewarded, all he had ever known vanished from existence. The only difference is that you still stand before us."
"Indeed I do, and I will continue to stand here until the world ends and there s nothing left to stand on. Even then, I will continue to live out my years in the vast nothingness…a fitting retirement wouldn't you say?"
As Reaver waits for a response to his clearly rhetorical question, something big is seen through the veil of snow. Large, black castle walls slowly came into view from behind the white storm. No torches lit the darkness through windows, no guards watched the gate, no banners flew from the walls. This was the dead land, the Damned City, The Necropolis.
"There it is, now we are in the North it seems." Reaver started. "Once we reach the gates we shall make a right turn and continue straight on to our destination. Remind me, your majesty, if we already have the second mask…why seek out this person the hag has sent you for?"
"There is still the third mask we need to deal with."
"The one that was destroyed centuries ago by molten rock?"
"We need to be sure, Reaver!" The King shouts at him, something he isn't accustomed to doing. Reaver tilts his head slightly to the side in intrigue.
"Was that…anger, or irritation? I do hope you're angry with me, your majesty. If so, maybe you might finally have turned into a King like you should be."
"What are you talking about? Reaver, Albion's existence is at stake and we need to be quick. If the mask lives then…then we have not yet won."
"What shall we do once we have retrieved said mask? What to do once all have been recovered and brought together?"
"We destroy them and be done with it forever."
"You majesty…tell me this." Reaver begins. "If molten rock and fire could not destroy a mask, what could you possibly do to accomplish this task?"
"Well I…I will," The king takes many moments to think. "I don't…quite know."
Reaver smiles and goes back to leading the company, the King is left in disbelief. How did he not think of this before? They arrive at the battered, broken gates of the long-forgotten Necropolis. Immediately, Reaver swings his step and makes a hard right turn, the company follows closely. Ahead, they see the much smaller, brighter gates of Snowspire.
As they get closer to the only civilized life in the North as they know, the snowstorm begins to let up. All around them they begin to see the pine trees that litter the landscape. They watch closely as they pass frozen lakes that seem to have ceased actual water flow millennia ago.
Through the thicket of trees, the king's sight picks up on a figure watching his movement. It is tall, strong, white as the snow it stands on. Eyes as red as blood observe his movements, its fur ripples in the wind. It disappears behind the snow and is gone in a moment.
Minutes later, they all arrive at the gates of Snowspire. A guard from high above the gate looks down and shouts. "State your business with the North."
The King steps forward, "I am the King of Albion…I seek a member of the populous here who is able to help with my current situation."
"No entry, royal or otherwise."
"Sir we must, it is the difference of life and death."
"We do not care."
"It is your life as well, and everyone behind those walls."
"Do you threaten us?!" The guard is distracted by something behind him, as if he is being spoken to. He looks at the King sternly and relents. "Very well…you may enter."
The gates creak open and a figure cloaked in brown approaches them. A faint glow emanates from under the low-hanging hood. A strong, warm, and wise voice greets them. "Hello again, old friend."