|Series||Fable: The Return by Scorponix|
|← Chapter 36||Chapter Chronology||Chapter 38 →|
As darkness draws near, The King attempts to destroy the masks that call evil into Albion.
"The wind has grown colder. The snow falls heavier. I can feel the light fading from the sun's gaze, I feel the darkness closing in." Garth takes a heavy breath. "They have come…we must move quickly if we have any hope of success." Garth leads the King, Henry, Reaver, and Reaver's crew quickly out of the city gates.
"Where are you leading us?" The King asks.
"I am taking you to the largest source of power and destruction this desolate landscape has to offer. The Archon's Shrine outside of the Bronze Gate."
"Garth! We do not want to take the masks closer to where Jack's mask might still be! The power surge might draw the Court to us!"
"Your majesty, you forget one thing. The Court already knows we are here. There is no stopping them from coming to the Bronze Gate."
Reaver now interjects. "And to what end are we going to the Bronze Gate for? Are we just simply going to cast the masks into the lava and hope that they burn?"
"That is all we can do, master Reaver."
"I see, and what if our hopes and wishes fail us? What if you are wrong old friend?"
"Then we shall find some way to win…we have no other choice."
"And there is where you are wrong. In life, I find that even in the most troublesome situations there are always a multitude of choices. One of my personal favorites is temporarily siding with the obvious winners."
"So you intend to betray your king and your country?"
"Oh please, I am not intending to do anything but survive as I have always done. If surviving means saying goodbye to a large portion of my past then so be it. If it means the downfall of another monarchy then who am I to stop its downfall?"
The King re-enters the conversation. "Garth, Reaver! Stop this nonsense. We are here for one reason and that is to destroy these masks and be done with them. If we can do this then we give Albion a more peaceful future."
"Your majesty, you and I both know that I have never been a terribly profound supporter of peace."
"I know, but if you want me to hold up my end of our bargain then you will do as I say! You will obey your king."
"Finally! I've been waiting for you to grow a pair of royal balls and take control. Now, let's get this show on the road."
The company finishes its march to the Archon's Shrine. Within the shrine, three souls still to this day float inside their eternal tombs. Their moans echo with pain, sadness, and deep regret. Over the centuries the souls have lost their identities and have forgotten their true voices. It was once known which souls the Hero of Oakvale surrendered to the shrine, but that knowledge has long since been forgotten. All of them stand in a huddled mass in the center of the shrine, waiting for something…anything to happen.
The King speaks up first. "Garth…is something supposed to happen?"
"Well…this is something I have never quite understood about the link between the shrine an the gate. When the Hero of Oakvale surrendered the souls, the Bronze Gate opened. But now the gate is closed…yet the souls remain."
Now Henry speaks for the first time in hours. "So how do we open the gate?"
"That is the problem." Garth strokes his white beard as he studies the ancient runes that surround the shrine. His breathing is heavy and his eyes seem to slip into a trance-like state. Garth's voice changes from its normal deep warmth to that of an echoing, ominous evil. "We cannot open the gate. The gate may only be opened by they who carry the darkness."
Henry swiftly pulls the two masks out of his father's bag and holds them up to Garth. "Here!"
The King leaps for his son's arms and tries to swat them down. "No!"
"Father, what are you doing? He said they who carry the darkness! This is darkness and we carry it!"
"You don't understand, that isn't the darkness it wants."
"What are you talking about?"
The King walks up to the seemingly possessed figure of Garth, Henry drops the masks to the cold ground.
"You? Are you sure?"
"I am sure…I carry the darkness." Suddenly, the souls surrounding the shrine start to spin rapidly in their tombs and change to a deep, menacing red. Shadows fall around the shrine and surround the King.
Dark minions with faded wings hold blades to his neck, their eyes burn holes through his body. Their ghostly arms wraparound Henry, Reaver, and the crew, preventing them all from moving. In one voice, the shadows scream "I am without darkness!" Mimicking the King from before the Court returned to Albion, before his father's secrets were revealed to him, before Reaver dragged him from the castle.
The King closes his eyes, accepting that the darkness is still with him, accepting that he will never be without the darkness. He feels the blades slowly fade away from their spots on his throat, and he feels the presence of darkness lift from the immediate area. At the same time, he hears the distant noise of enormous gates slowly opening. He opens his eyes to see everyone free of their bonds, including Garth, and he sees the Bronze Gate open far ahead of the Archon's Shrine.
The King kneels slowly to pick the masks up from the ground as everyone comes around him again. "It's time we end this before it begins."
Laughter, it fills his ears. Laughter, it echoes through his very soul and reverberates within his thoughts. A chorus of laughter, a trio of voices that disturb his core and send trembles through his spine. The masks vibrate in his hands, the power within them surges and calls to their masters. The Bronze Gate has opened, the darkness has returned to the King's mind, he feels the Court breathing down his neck. He does not hear the screams of Reaver's crew as they lose their lives to the Court's army. He does not hear his son calling his name, nor does he hear Reaver's many pistols fire upon the oncoming hordes. He does not hear the fire burn around him. All he can hear is their laughter.