|Series||Fable: The Return by Scorponix|
|← Chapter 40||Chapter Chronology||Chapter 42 →|
The King must make a world-altering decision.
Already he feels the blood seeping out of his mouth. Strange what a knife made of pure shadow can do to the body of a Hero. It has been many years since he has felt this sensation, tasted his own blood. Thousands of thoughts fly through his mind, so many options, so many memories. Should he fight back? Can he fight back?
Another dagger of shadow in between the ribs.
How could he raise his fiery blade to the woman he swore his heart to? The woman who gave him a son. The woman who was taken away from him in the prime of her life.
Another, this time in the thigh of his right leg. He falls to one knee, clutching the fresh wound on his leg.
But she is not that woman, she is not my wife. She is not my beloved! She…is…Darkness.
"Poor dear, poor child." Queen slashes her dark dagger across the King's face, spilling deep crimson blood upon the snow. "Now grovel! Grovel before your Queen!"
He tries to stand, putting as little pressure on his right leg as he can. She cuts his left thigh before he can rise fully to his feet.
"I said grovel! I want you to beg! Beg for me to kill you quickly! I want to hear your soul die before me while your blood seeps into this frozen land! I want to hear you scream!!"
"If you want to kill me so desperately…then kill me!"
"With pleasure." She raises the dark dagger to strike a killing blow as the King lowers his head. As she begins to bring the blade down, the King swiftly stands to his feet and swipes the dagger away with his flaming sword. Immediately he holds the burning blade to her throat, scorching the decayed skin of her chin. Queen laughs.
"You are a monster. A plague upon Albion, Aurora, Samarkand and all other lands that cover this world. You are Darkness, and I have sworn my life to defeating you."
Now, Gabrielle's pure voice shines through the shadow. "But darling, you swore your life to me…you gave me your heart."
Queen laughs, once more distorting her voice with darkness. "You're pathetic lover is gone, Hero. She belongs to me now. Ah, and you've burned her sweet little chin. You'll have to do better than that to defeat me. If you despise Darkness so much…why is it that you carry it with you in your soul?"
"The Darkness remains with me from long ago when I battled the Crawler and defeated it!"
"You mean, when you murdered your greatest friend, the man who taught you how to be a Hero. Don't you remember your old friend, Walter?"
"Do not say his name! A voice as dark as yours should never show him that disrespect!"
"Have you forgotten that my brother controls his body now? Do you even care?"
Queen creates a large blade out of shadow and molds it to its sharp and deadly potential. She swings at the King and he meets her blade with his own.
"Of course I care!"
Suddenly their figures are blurred as they duel each other in a vicious sword fight. One blade of pure darkness and the other of a blazing inferno. Soon enough, they are surrounded by a raging tornado born of shadow and fire. Queen's eyes fill with the black shadow of her evil soul, while the King's eyes burn brightly from the fire within himself.
The tornado disappeared as the King removed Queen's hand from her rotten body. Her dark blade fell in the snow and withered away with the wind. Again, the King moved his burning blade to her throat.
"Tell me, Hero."
"What is it, monster?"
"Do you remember the sickness that almost took Walter's life after his first encounter with the Crawler?"
"Of course I do, it was the Darkness. It poisoned him and it remained in his body until his death, much like the Darkness inside of me."
"Do you ever wonder what sickness took your dearest wife, Gabrielle? Do you wonder how she became sick, how she died so swiftly, and without trace of a source?"
"What are you saying? Speak, demon!"
"Face it, Hero! The Darkness that you brought into her life took her away from you! Your Darkness killed your beloved wife, the mother of your son! I stand here in your wife's flesh and bones because you made it possible, you gave me a vessel for which to kill you. Funny…after all those years, your son was right all along…you did kill his mother."
Reaver awoke to an odd noise, one that made his innards tingle. It was the sound of several balverines standing together, howling and slobbering all as one fuzzy unit. He had always found balverines to be fascinating, but unbelievably grotesque at the same time. Slowly, he rose to his feet, being sure to leave his White Balverine pelt lying in the snow. Reaver knows all too well that these vile creatures carry with them a certain temper that an be set off easily, possibly by seeing the pelt of their kin adorning the body of a human.
"Pardon me friends, but what on earth is the commotion?" Reaver is questioning the balverines on all of the howling taking place and the fact that they are all arranged in some sort of arena-circle. A balverine grunts in response and points a claw towards the middle of a circle. Reaver adjusted his eyes quickly and looked inward to see two creatures duking it out. Both were quite large, and also quite fuzzy, just one more so than the other. Upon further inspection, he determines that one of the figures is the hulking mass of a man that tossed him into the army of balverines. "Ah, I remember that fellow now. He was the annoying bastard that announced my arrival into the throne room while all of that silly decision-making was taking place." Now he sees that the other creature in the fight is an enormous White Balverine. "Interesting, much larger than the others. And much longer fur, he must be an old bastard."
He searches for a pistol to hold, it gives him comfort when he watches two warriors fight to a certain death. "Ah, that's right. The fat one in the circle burned it with his hand. What a downer, I liked that pistol, I think I killed my fourteenth maid with that one. Ah…memories." He slips a small pistol out from inside his boot and clutches it in one hand. "You'll have to do for now, little one." He watches intently as Knight and Woltach continue their battle.As Reaver observes, the four remaining members of his crew weave their way through the balverines and join their captain.
Woltach's ferocious claws swipe violently across the chest of Knight. The rotten body of Walter is barely effected by the claws slashing through it. Knight battles back with fists driven from his massive strength. Both bodies bleed heavily, Knight's blood is as black as shadow, while Woltach's pure white fur is stained red. Knight lands a strong punch to Woltach's jaw, sending a large fang flying outward into the circle of balverines. Reaver extends a hand lazily in front of him and catches the stray tooth, "Interesting, another souvenir for me I suppose."
Woltach attempts to return the favor with a swipe of his claws over Knight's face, but instead catches a sharp blade through his right hand. Woltach howls in pain as a waterfall of blood falls from the wound and stains the snow below. Knight retracts his knife from Woltach's hand, then brings it to his mouth and licks the balverine blood from it. Woltach clutches his injured hand, trying to stop the bleeding, his face is caught by a slash by Knight's knife. The great White Balverine falls into the snow with a howl, he tries weakly to get back up…but is held down by Knight's massive boot.
"Well I've had enough." Reaver steps forward through the lines of balverines.
Knight sets a pair of spike brass knuckles into his right hand. He flips Woltach onto his back and prepares his final strike. Suddenly, a gunshot is heard, and Knight's entire right arm falls to the ground. He looks back to see Reaver standing proudly, holding a miniature pistol in his hand.
"This little devil has a lot more punch than I expected. I'll be using you more often. Oh fatso! Over here!"
Knight releases an audible huff and starts walking towards Reaver with malicious intent.
"Come on, that's it. Over here, boy." Reaver now makes kissing noises as if to call Knight like he is calling a dog. Reaver continues his mocking until the hulking mass of a man gets up into his face. Reaver points the small gun into Knight's chin, threatening to pull the trigger. "I believe that a shot from this gun into your big fat head here will blow it to bits. The last time I shot you in the head, it didn't work out. But that's because you could easily heal, but now…now this body will be useless to you. Say goodnight…Knight." Knight laughs loudly as Reaver pulls the trigger, blowing Walter's head to smithereens and launching bits of bone, brain, and gore all over the surrounding area. Reaver takes a handkerchief and wipes several specks of blood from his brow and chin.
Knight continues to stand tall, headless and bleeding profusely from the gaping hole between his shoulders. Through what used to be a larynx, Knight now laughs demonically, spurting blood outward from the hole.
"Well that's a bit of a bother. But then, what would I expect from a being born of darkness that has the ability to spawn fire from thin air and take control of bodies even if they have been buried in the ground for several decades? Drex…my sword, if you would." A tall, bald-headed pirate makes his way through the balverines caring a sword made of a mixture of gold and crystal.Reaver grabs the blade by the gilded hilt and gets into a fencing stance. Knight raises his remaining fist, this holds the small knife that wounded Woltach.
They engage immediately, Reaver using quick flourishes and jabs, while Knight uses his strength to deflect Reaver's blade away. Knight catches many jabs to the chest area and to his remaining arm. The remaining members of Reaver's crew gawk in awe at their captain's skill with a blade. For all these years it had been well known that Reaver was a master with a pistol, and that was his gift as the Hero of Skill. Nobody ever had the thought that his Skill would branch out to melee combat as well.
Reaver side-stepped his ghastly opponent and swiftly stuck his gilded rapier into the hole that used to hold an arm. Knight grunts through the blood coating his larynx and punches Reaver in the cheek. Reaver back peddles to recover, but Knight quickly approaches with his knife ready to kill. Knight flings his shoulder towards Reaver, launching the rapier out of the hole and to Reaver's feet. Reaver recovers his blade from the ground and returns to his stance. Knight ushers him to come back and fight, Reaver smirks.
"I've had fun playing with you, old boy. But I'm afraid our little game is over."
Knight stammers, confused. He starts to step forward but is stopped by five massive claws sticking through his chest.
"Hold him there, Fluffy." Woltach snarls and barks at Reaver for his remark.
"I have a name, pirate dog!"
"Ah and I also have a name, funny how life works out that way. Now we can discuss these formalities later on whatever our mother's decided to call us the moment after we slid out of her innards, but right now we have business to attend to! Hold the bastard!"
Woltach agrees and holds Knight slightly above the ground as he squirms to be released. Reaver lines himself up, then runs into a powerful leap. He soars above Knight, driving his rapier down his gaping throat hole. As he passes over and starts his descent he rips the blade out, cutting through the entirety of Knight's torso.
"You know what to do from here I suppose."
Woltach howls as he rips the mangled body apart, breaking ribs and spilling guts. Out of Walter's rotten chest cavity flies a heart, a heart that Woltach catches in his great maw and swallows in one vicious bite.
"There, that should take care of one of them. One bastard down, two to go."
Suddenly, he hears the painful howl of a great White Balverine. Woltach falls to his knees, clutching his heart. He starts to cough and choke, then change as his eyes turn black with darkness. Mere seconds pass, Woltach stands defiantly and powerfully, staring directly at Reaver.
Henry stood strongly on both feet, proudly carrying his massive claymore. Before him stood the blackened skeleton of Jack of Blades. Jack carried with him two large blades made of pure darkness. The blades curve and taper to points like they are living essences of flame itself.
"Tell me, Henry. Are you afraid?"
Henry readjusts his executioner's cowl and steadies his grip on the blade. "There are far more things in this world to fear than a creature like you."
Jack laughs, "Educate me then. I am anxious to prove you wrong."
Henry now leans against one of the walls of the Shrine. "Well, you see, there are these things in life called responsibilities. I left my home at an early age for reasons of my own, so I found myself in the real world very quickly. I had to find a job, and in this time what better job is there than becoming a pirate and killing for a living?"
"It certainly sounds like a business I could appreciate."
"Shouldn't we be fighting or something?"
"No, please continue, we have plenty of time. My sister will keep your dear old daddy company for long enough. Plus, I do not plan on keeping you alive for very long."
"Very well. You see, I had this job of killing and plundering and suddenly found myself with a pit in my stomach…like I wanted something more out of life. On one of our restocking journeys to Knothole Glade I found myself in love with one of the tribeswomen, Savannah. She and I have a son now, which leaves me to another thing. It's terrifying to care for a baby, do you even understand how hard it is? Of course you don't, you're a skeleton."
"I haven't always been like this, you know. I've taken control of hundreds of bodies. Now of course, my pleasures have been found to be more on the side of murdering and burning rather than joys of the flesh."
"Take it from me, joys of the flesh are some of the best joys you can find. Almost equal to-"
"Severing a head from a torso?" Henry looks shocked. "I know you, boy. I know how you think, what you feel. I know the power that lies within your veins. Oh don't look at me with that puzzled look. When the frost troll hurled you against a wall of ice, any normal man would have burst into a multitude of colorful pieces. But you…you awoke from the impact and returned to remove the trolls head. Wouldn't you say that was rather…Heroic?"
"Are you saying I'm a-"
"Hero?" Jack laughs demonically. "You posses the blood boy, but you hold something else in your heart. You lack the drive to do heroic deeds, rather you hold dear in your heart the feeling of satisfaction you earn when hurting others. No wonder you have been known as The Executioner for the majority of your life. In an older time, a better time, Heroes could be Good or Evil, completing quests and earning renown. But that was a world full of Heroes, and a world where I ruled as the greatest Hero that ever lived. The Hero of Heroes they called me, my word was treated as law. My blades struck fear into the hearts of all who gazed upon them. My mask…my mask held the power of every last man woman and child that I struck down in cold blood. A mask…fit for a murderer, a ruler, a real Hero. A mask that would fit the curvature of your face almost perfectly."
"I know what you're trying to do! But I won't fall for it! I have too much to live for!"
"What?! A tribal wife and an unnamed child living in the dirty forests of Witchwood?! A father who is about to die by my sister's hand?! You could live in infamy as the most powerful Hero in history! Your blood could host the return of the great…Jack of Blades!"
"So be it." Fire bursts from Jack's skeletal mouth as he lunges forward with his dark blades hunting for heroic blood. Henry readied himself and begun his wind-up to swing his massive blade. He swung just as Jack neared, striking both of his blades with immense power. Jack recoiled and returned with a flurry of attacks, Henry tried his best to dodge each one.
Jack continued to pour his way through Henry's defenses, breaking down his strength bit by bit with each passing blow. Henry used as much force as he could muster and pushed Jack back with his claymore. Jack roared like a lion and hooks his blades into position on Henry's blade with the curved solid flames.
"You are a fool, Hero." Jack lifts, yanking the blade out of Henry's hands and far out of reach.
Suddenly, the King bursts through Jack's dark walls and tackles Jack.
Without wasting a moment, the King raised his burning blade and swung it down onto Jack's neck of bone, severing his head. He now punts it far away, leaving Jack's body squirming off to find it.
"Henry, we don't have much time."
"What are you talking about?"
"We have to get out of here!"
"What do you mean? We have to destroy the masks! That's what we came here for!"
"We failed…I failed."
"What do you mean?" Henry looks to see the pale figure of his mother off in the distance. "Mo…Mother?" An evil smile spreads across her lips as she brings a mask up to meet her face. Her hands lower to reveal the mask of the Queen now stuck in place, eyes as red as fire. "No!"
"She gave me…a choice."
"A choice between saving Albion and-"
"What have you done to her?!"
"Henry listen to me…"
"What have you done?! That's my mother…you…you did this…"
"Listen to me, dammit!"
"She gave me the choice between trying to save Albion from them…and saving you."
Realization set in to Henry's mind. His vision darted between his father's eyes and and those of his mother…now Queen of Blades at full power. "What have you done?"