|The Happenings I|
|Series||The Happenings by Azaelia Silmarwen|
|Previous||Life at the Spire and the Rescue|
|Next||Dramas with the Thief|
|← Life at the Spire and the Rescue||Chapter Chronology||Dramas with the Thief →|
CHAPTER NINE: JOURNEY TO THE THIEFEdit
Oakfield still looked the same as when I last saw it, only difference being that there was now a tree in the spot where the Golden Oak had been planted. It was good to be back on the land I knew. Sighing, I took off the Spire Guard jacket and headband and put on my highwayman jacket and hat. I could not wait to get home and change my clothes. Ten years in a Spire Guard uniform was not as comfortable as it looked.
‘Come on Storm, I’ll race you to Rookridge to see Hammer,’ I said, before taking off, with Storm running happily beside me. I got many looks as I ran through Oakfield with many citizens pointing and whispering wondering if I was indeed the brave Lionheart that survived the Crucible.
Over the years, nothing seemed to have changed in Rookridge. Bandits were still positioned in their original places waiting for un-expecting travelers. The only thing that looked like it had changed was Rookridge’s Inn. From a distance, it looked like it had been fixed up and was currently in use, but the run down Carriage House was still the same, except for the fact that assassins decided to hide nearby, waiting for me.
‘Please stand by while we assasinate you.’ one of the three assassins said to me, as they surrounded me.
‘Oh, of course I will,’ I replied sarcastically, before shooting them all.
Great, I had been back for what? – an hour? – and someone was already trying to assassinate me. I was not happy. Who would be after they had nearly been assassinated? Anyway, I was curious as to who would want me dead, so I searched their dead bodies and I came across a piece of parchment with a strange sketch on it. It was a rough sketch of what could be someone’s ear…or maybe a flower? Not having a clue what it was about, I shrugged and just chucked it in my pocket.
Maybe I would figure it out later, I thought as I walked up the stairs to the inn.
I found Hammer leaning against the counter with a beer in her hand. She was exactly the way I remembered her, except she had changed her monk robes for armour of some sort and she looked as though she had lost some weight.
‘Hey stranger,’ I said, walking over to her, which made the whole inn go silent and turn to face me.
Why was a highwayman talking to her? I could see them all thinking. Hammer might have been thinking that too at first for she was frowning at me in confusion, but the confusion suddenly disappeared to happiness.
‘If I didn’t know better… it is you!’ she exclaimed, stepping forward and embracing me, which I returned. ‘You old slag. Man, you look good considering.’ she added, taking in my tired, yet happy face and short light brown hair. ‘I can’t believe it…you’re really here. You did it. You rescued Garth. You took you sweet time doing it, but you did it.’ she added teasingly. ‘I never gave hope.’
‘Really?’ I said, raising one of my eyebrows. 'How abnormally optimistic of you.'
‘Well it’s pretty hard not to when someone’s whispering in your head about their vision of the Hero’s safe return.’ Hammer admitted. ‘Honestly, there were a few times there when I wanted to smack Theresa.’
‘I’m surprised that you two managed to survive together without me.’ I admitted, knowing that Theresa and Hammer weren’t on the best of terms when I left.
‘Anyway welcome back. So what was it like in there? As horrible as I imagined?’ Hammer asked as the barman gave us drinks on the house.
‘No one could imagine how horrible it is in there.’ I said seriously. ‘I stunk of fear and sweat. It was the most depressing place I had ever been in.’ I said, before explaining everything to Hammer about what happened. About the people I had tortured and killed, and how one of them had been my friend.
‘Don’t let it get you down.’ Hammer said gently. ‘You had no choice. Had you of disobeyed that Commandant, you could have been killed and then where would we be. Besides, I bet Bob and the others are looking down on us now, and they understand why you had to do the things you did.’
‘Maybe,’ I said, still unconvinced, but I knew that Hammer was right. I had no choice if I was to save Garth in one piece and bring peace to Albion.
‘Come on smile! We’re back in business!’ Hammer said, before remembering something. ‘Oh, I almost forgot. I’m meeting someone who might have some information on you know, our number three.’
‘I hope the Thief will be easy to catch,’ I muttered. I did not want to spend another ten years to try and get the last Hero.
‘So do I,’ agreed Hammer. ‘Anyway, you should go. You have things to do, people to see. As soon as I have anything we can use, I’ll head back to the guild and Theresa will call you. Oh…and welcome back. I missed you. I’m glad that goodbye on the dock wasn’t our last.’
‘Me too, old friend.’ I said, rising to me feet with her, and then we both left the inn together before going our separate ways. Hammer to, who knows where, and Storm and I to Bowerstone to get organised once more and to see another old friend.
When I walked into Bowerstone Market, many people stopped and stared, something I was getting use to, and as I walked around in search for Alex, many store owners, some of which were my employees, yelled out to me in welcome.
I eventually found Alex in the inn having lunch with a woman and two five year olds, twin girls. I stood in the doorway, half hidden watching him as he was laughing about something one of the girls had said and, as though he could feel my eyes on him, he looked up and over at me, frowning slightly before he realised who I was.
‘No way!’ Alex yelled out happily, getting to his feet, ignoring the startled looks from the twins, the woman, and the other people in the bar. ‘So the mighty Lionheart has finally decided to return home from her quest.’ he said as I walked towards him, before embracing me in a hug. ‘It is so good to see you again, Sparrow. It has been far too long.’
‘Ten years is a long time.’ I agreed. ‘And it’s good to see you again, too.’
‘You cut your hair,’ Alex noted, taking in my appearance.
‘I didn’t really have a choice at first, but in the end I was allowed to do whatever I wanted with it, as long as it was short.’ I said, absently touching my hair. It was long at the front going down to my shoulders, but it was much shorter at the back.
‘I like it,’ Alex said.
‘Thanks, but it looks like I’m not the only one who has changed.’ I noted looking past Alex at the twins and the woman, before giving him a pointed look.
‘Oh yeah,’ Alex said, leading me over to the table. ‘Sparrow, this is Jenifer, my wife and our twin girls Rachel and Lauren. Girls, this is the adventurer I was telling you about.’
‘Are you really the brave Lionheart?’ asked Rachel.
‘Yeah, are you really the Hero of Bower Lake and Rookridge? The Hero that defeated the two bandit leaders, along with Ripper? And you're also the Defender of the Light or Chosen One as the Monks of the Temple of Light call you, aren't you?’ Lauren asked eagerly.
‘Chosen One?’ I repeated. ‘How many titles have I got now?’
‘A lot,’ laughed Jenifer. ‘It is so nice to finally put a face to the stories.’
‘Hmm, do I want to know what Alex has been saying?’ I laughed, looking over at Alex.
‘I tell only the truth.’ Alex replied, ‘Are you going to stay for a while?’
‘Maybe? How about yes, definitely.’ Alex said. ‘You look dead on your feet. You need rest.’
‘And I will rest, but I am so close to finishing my quest, Alex.’ I told him gently. ‘One more Hero and my sister will be avenged. Once that happens, I promise I will take it easy.’
‘Hmm, you better.’ Alex said sternly.
‘Yes, Father.’ I laughed. ‘Anyway, I will leave you to your lunch. I need to get out of these clothes and sort out a few things, and once this is all over, we will have to catch up again.’
‘I will hold you to that.’ Alex said.
‘It was nice meeting you all,’ I added to his family.
‘You too, Lionheart.’ said Jenifer.
‘Please, call me Sparrow.’ I said smiling before turning to go.
‘Wait Miss Sparrow!’ Rachel cried out. ‘Can we have your autograph before you go?’
‘My autograph?’ I repeated blankly before realising what she had said. ‘Oh, um, I guess so.’ I mumbled turning red, why Alex said there laughing.
* * *
It took me fifteen minutes just to get to my house and it was only two minutes down the road from the Cow and Corset. Why did it take me so long? Well, it took me that long due to the mob of children that had come running at me flinging bits of paper at me to sign.
Maybe I should think of buying a stack of autograph cards, I thought when I was safely inside my house with Storm, who went straight to the fire and laid down in front of it. Wait, why was there a fire in the fireplace? Obviously I wasn't the only one in here, and my theory was soon proven when a young lady, probably around my age of twenty-eight, came walking down the stairs holding a bundle of sheets. She had long blonde hair, blue eyes and was short and slim, but then, everyone is short to me. She stopped in her tracks when she saw me.
'Lionheart?' she asked nervously.
'Yes, that's me.'
'Thank goodness,' she said with a smile of relief, walking over to me. 'I'm Samantha, the maid that Alex hired, for while you were gone.'
'I think you're more than a maid,' I said taking in my house. 'I don't think I've ever seen it so clean. But that might have been because I never had a chance to clean it. Tell you want. How would you like to have this as a permanent job?'
'I would like that very much!' Samantha practically exclaimed, 'Oh, I left all your mail on your desk upstairs.' she add as she gave me a little curtsy and took my sheets to be washed.
'I hope no one else will bow and curtsy to me,' I muttered to the sleepy Storm, before heading up stairs to sort out my belongings and get changed.
Once I was back in my usual outfit - (gangreen corset, hot light brown pants, leathery tan thigh high boots and, green and red highwayman coat and hat) - and once I had packed me bag, full of healing potions, Storm's things, spade and everything else I would need on my travels, I went over to my desk to see what was what.
I had many envelopes of rent and fan mail - how famous had I become in the last ten years? - but I also had a letter from Barnum:
I am please to inform you that I have successfully transformed Westcliff into a family friendly zone. Ever since the project was completed, families have been here enjoying wholesome fun with not a criminal or roughen in sight. I have also eradicated all poverty.
As you can probably tell from this letter, I have done some changing myself. I am now free from the shackles of that ridiculous thesaurus, from the Temple of Business and Yodelling. I'm a respectable man now.
I had wondered why I hadn't come across as abnormally long and difficult words.
Anyway, more to the point, I have a very health sum of gold for you here in Westcliff. Your investment plus ten years of interest along with my heartfelt thanks.
I look forward to seeing you again, my friend, but until then,
Your good friend,
The letter had been on the top of the pile, which told me that Barnum had just only just finished his project, though I could also tell by the ten years interest line in the letter two.
I was just debating whether or not I should go to see Barnum when Theresa spoke to me.
'Hammer has learnt the location of the Thief. Return to the Guild as soon as you can.'
'Okay, I'm on my way now,' I replied, before waking Storm up. He would have been annoyed if I left without him. 'Come on, boy. Duty calls.'
* * *
A day later, I was walking towards Theresa and Garth in the Chamber of Fate. Hammer had not yet arrived.
'Did you see Hammer?' Theresa asked.
'In Rookridge? Yeah, she told me that she was meeting someone who might have had information on the Thief.' I replied. 'I take it she was successful?'
'Yes. She is on her way as well, with the information she has gathered.' Theresa answered.
'Our friend has told me much about you.' Garth told me as we waited for Hammer. 'That night in the castle, your sister...I had no idea. If I had known, I would have stopped him.' Garth said sadly.
'I know,' I told him gently, putting my hand on his shoulder. I know that I had only known Garth for a little while, but somehow I knew that he was not one to hurt the innocent or gain things by foul means.
It was at that moment that the Cullis Gate glowed and Hammer stepped out. She looked tired.
'Sorry it took me so long. Lucien’s men are all over the place.' she said, stopping in front of us.
'That's all right. I only arrived a few minutes ago anyway.' I said, but Hammer didn't seem to be listening. She was looking at Garth.
'You must be Hammer.' Garth said politely.
'And you must be Garth – Lucien's lackey.' Hammer replied coldly.
'Why do I get the feeling that the next few days are going to be difficult?' I muttered to Theresa, who only smiled.
'I was made to understand that you might be mistrustful. I did anticipate your staggering wit and intellect.' Garth said coolly.
'Oh yeah? And did you anticipate the fact that I like to take a hammer and whack smug little spell flingers?' Hammer said, raising her hammer threateningly.
'This is not what we are here for.' Theresa interrupted sternly. 'Hammer has information on the third Hero.'
'Mostly gathered from a tavern, I hear.' Garth said innocently.
'Not one, lots of them. I did a proper tour.' Hammer replied, making my laugh. 'Right, I think this bloke, the thief is a pirate called Reaver. He runs the port of Bloodstone to the southwest.'
I froze. Reaver, as in...Oh no. How could I have been so stupid?
'And you got this from some drunk?' Garth said, clearly not convinced.
'Yeah, he sailed with Reaver for years. Said they captured hundreds of ships.' Hammer said. She obviously found the drunk to be a very reliable source.
'Doesn’t mean his a Hero. Lots of pirates capture ships.' Garth said pointedly.
'Reaver takes down galleons with one bullet. High winds, rough seas, a mile away, it doesn’t matter: he picks off the captain. The more impossible the shot the quicker the captain surrenders.' Hammer argued.
'Impressive, but we’re not trying to make Lucien surrender.' Garth said pointedly again.
'I know we're not, but I'm sure this Reaver is the Hero of Skill.' said Hammer.
'He is,' I sighed.
'How do you know that?' asked Hammer, going wide eyed.
'I meet him over ten years ago, a few days after you had joined us, Hammer.' I admitted.
'You met the Hero of Skill?' said Garth.
'Unfortunately. He's arrogant and during our short encounter, he had people swarming over him and he tried to get me drunk and to sleep with him, while he boasted about his skill. At the time, I just thought that he was exaggerating, but now that I think back, he probably wasn't. He's taller than me, and the Hero of Skill is meant to be tall.' I explained. 'If only I had realised back then.'
'You had no idea of knowing, and by the sounds of it, my hammer will be itching to thump him one.' Hammer said.
'Then I guess we're off to Bloodstone.' said Garth.
'Bloodstone is surrounded by Wraithmarsh on three sides and ocean on the fourth.' Theresa told us.
'No matter. We can reach it via Cullis gate.' Garth replied unperturbedly.
'Not this one. It only leads to Hero Hill.' Said Theresa.
'I wasn't talking about that one.' Garth told her.
'Got another one handy, have you?' Hammer asked curiously.
'I built one, at my tower. It can get us to Wraithmarsh.' Garth replied.
'Okay, you’re a genius. Does it work?' inquired Hammer.
'It will take some time to activate but it should work.'
'Should?' Hammer asked quickly.
'My thoughts exactly, Hammer. What do you mean it "should" work?' I asked.
'I've never actually used it.' admitted Garth.
'In that case, how about we push you in first and if you don't return, we'll know not to follow.' Hammer suggested.
'You must do this together.' Theresa told us, giving Hammer a look. 'Lucien has sent men to guard Brightwood Tower.'
'Strangely enough, that actually surprises me.' I admitted. 'Does he honestly think that you would return there?'
'I am returning there, remember?' said Garth.
'Oh, you know what I mean.' I huffed, while Hammer laughed.
'Okay then, let's go.' she chuckled. 'After you, your Brilliance.' she added with a mocking bow to Garth.
'Barbarian,' muttered Garth as he walked towards the Cullis Gate, with Hammer, Storm and I right behind him.
When we arrived on top of Hero Hill, Garth continued to lead the way down the path to the ground.
'You know, this is the first time that I have ever walked down this path. Normally I walk up it, but never down.' I mused out loud.
'Then how do you get down?' Hammer asked.
'I normally jump.' I shrugged.
'You jump from the top of the hill down?' Garth said, looking over his shoulder at me as though I was insane.
'It's not that high, and I've only landed on my bum once.'
'You are insane,' laughed Hammer, as we walked along the path to Brightwood.
'I know.' I replied cheerfully.
'When we get there, we shouldn't use the front gate.' Garth said, becoming serious. 'Lucien’s men will be expecting us.'
'Then how are we to get in?' I asked.
'I know another way in,' replied Garth. 'All you have to do is follow me.'
'We already are.' I pointed out, making Hammer chuckle.
'It really is great to have you back.' she told me. 'I went back to the Temple for a while… same old nonsense. Ignorant men trying to tell people how to live their lives based on books written a thousand years ago.'
'Right, cause nothing that ancient could contain any wisdom.' Garth replied sarcastically.
I was starting to think that we might have been starting to rub off on him.
'Hey – these aren’t Old Kingdom schematics that teach you how to build guns that shoot lightning.' Hammer snapped. 'It’s a load of superstitious nonsense that never helped anybody. And if you swallow it all, it can get you killed.' she added sadly, no doubt thinking of her father.
'Hmm, we might actually be in agreement there. But let's cut this short. We have a lot to do.' Garth told us, when we arrived outside the front gates to the tower, before he ran off down a path, with Hammer, Storm and I right behind him.
Turns out, there was a secret entrance in Ripper's old bandit camp, the back entrance to the Tower's grounds.
'Lucien’s men,' Garth said quietly, as we stopped next to a statue and looking down at the path we needed to follow, which had many Spire Guards watching for Garth. 'They’re looking for me. They’re between us and the Cullis gate. We’ll have to fight our way through.'
'Just how I like it,' said an eager Hammer.
'We shouldn't fight unless we need to.' I said as the two of them were about to walk off. 'We need to save our energy. Who knows what will be waiting for us in Wraithmarsh.'
'So how do you suppose we get to the Cullis Gate then?' demanded Hammer.
'You forget, my friend, that Reaver isn't the only Hero of Skill.' I told her, taking out my rifle, before shooting all the guards in range.
'Man, I've gotten rusty.' I mused afterwards as we stepped over the dead bodies, as we walked up to the Tower.
'Really? You seem the same as ever to me.' Hammer said, looking down at the bodies, not understanding what I was talking about. 'They're dead, aren't they?'
'Yeah, but each time I was aiming for their hearts, and I missed most of them.'
'If you say so,' muttered Hammer.
Unfortunately, we did have to do some combat when we arrived at the Tower, but it was nothing we couldn't handle, and before we knew it, we standing in front of the Cullis Gate.
'I will need to concentrate to start the gate. I must rely on the two of you to watch my back.' Garth told us, as he walked over to the Gate, looking thoughtful.
'Oh sure. We'll do all the work while you just sit there and think.' Hammer snapped. 'Let me know when it’s my turn for a break, won’t you?' she added sarcastically, before gasping. 'Is that…a Shard?'
Sure enough, it was. This wasn't good.
'Amazing, isn't it?' Garth said.
'A sunsets amazing, that things just a bloody nightmare.' Hammer replied, and I couldn't help by agree with her.
'Hmm, here comes the fun apart,' I groaned as a group of Spire Guards and Commandants appeared.
What felt like hours later, Garth had finally gotten the Cullis Gate up and running.
'Go now!' Garth yelled at me, and I quickly followed Storm through the Gate, with Hammer and Garth behind me.
* * *
When I came around, I found that I was in a slavers cage, which surprised me immensely. Where were Storm, Hammer and Garth? Did something happen? The last thing I could remember was stepping through the Cullis Gate, and after that, nothing.
'Theresa? Theresa?' I said into the Guild Seal.
I received no answer. Something wasn't right. Theresa would never ignore me.
'Is it alive?' asked a nearby voice, startling me. I swear I near wet my pants.
An old, ragged man walked out of the fog and looked at me.
'You had a dog with yeah, like.' he told me. 'It ran off into the fog. The banshees will have it by now. Aye, you have seen the last of that mongrel, I can tell ya.'
'What of my friends?' I asked, trying to keep my voice steady.
'I never saw anyone else. If your friends are here, the banshees probably got 'em too.' he answered, looking at me closely. 'You from Bloodstone, eh? No…no. you ain’t got the sink of it about ya. It is a wicked place. Would be burnt to the ground if there was any justice. So, what do I do about you? Reckon I’ll burn you as well.' he laughed suddenly, before running off.
Great, I thought bitterly. I'm an unfamiliar region apparently filled with banshees with a mad old man running around.
My thoughts though were interrupted when I heard the old man screaming and begging, before he was suddenly silenced and the scream of a banshee took its place. I didn't like the sound of that, but, to my surprise, the fog started to disappear and Storm came running towards me with a key in his mouth.
'You should be able to hear me now.' Theresa said, as I unlock the cage door, and bent down and hugged the frightened Storm. 'You're alive.'
'I can see that, Theresa.' I told her. 'What happened? Are Hammer and Garth alright?'
'The Cullis gate malfunctioned and Hammer and Garth were sent back to the Guild.' replied Theresa. 'You have made it to Wraithmarsh. But you are on your own for now. Well, you’re not entirely on your own.' she added, when Storm barked. 'But Hammer and Garth cannot reach you. Be wary – the fog here is unnatural. Somehow, it dampens the Guild Seal. Bloodstone is on the far side of the marshes. I suggest that you head there – quickly.'
'Don't need to tell me twice.' I told her, rising to my feet and following the path to Bloodstone.
At first, I didn't come across any nasty creatures, but when I came to a small village, the fog began to reappear.
'Something in the marsh is controlling the fog…and using it against you. You need to find the source and destroy it.' Theresa told me, with a note of worry in her voice.
'I think I have found it,' I muttered, looking up at the banshee in front of me.
The moment the banshee caught sight of me, she sent out her children and began whispering my deepest fears and thoughts at me.
'Your friends aren’t real. You are alone in this universe. Terribly alone,' she whispered at me, but I knew that wasn't true. I knew that Hammer, Garth, Alex and Theresa were my true friends and that nothing this creature could say would make me doubt it, even though I had doubted it a couple of times myself.
Five minutes later, after listening to all of the banshee's taunts and lies, I became triumphant, though I got the feeling that the banshee was only a young one seeing as its taunts were kind of pathetic.
'Well done! But be careful there may be more so stay on your guard. I may lose contact with you again because of the fog.' came Theresa voice.
I groaned, but continued to head to Bloodstone, wanting to get out of here as fast as I could. After a few minutes of silent walking, I began to take an interest in the ruins.
'Hey, Theresa? Did people use to live here or something?' I asked.
'Yes, this use to be Oakvale, though it has changed erratically since I saw it last. And that was a long time ago.' Theresa answered. 'Since then it has seen many a cruel deeds. Six hundred years ago, bandits attacked the village and burnt it down to the ground. The survivors rebuild their lives…only to have them destroyed a second and final time. A new threat came from within. A reckless young villager made a deal with the forces of Shadow who took the lives of ever other villager as payment. All of his family. All of his friends. And now, the marsh has engulfed the village, and Oakvale is nothing more than a bitter memory.'
'That's horrible,' I said as I started shooting a group of hollow men.
Then, fifteen minutes later, Theresa spoke to me once more.
'You are making good progress. You are about halfway through the marshes by now. You’ll be in Bloodstone before you know it.'
'I hope so. I know that I will never be recommending this place to anybody for a holiday.' I muttered, before preparing to fight another banshee.
'Very impressive. Every few survive banshee attacks.' Theresa said, when I had killed the banshee and continued on my way. 'You’re nearly there. Nearly safe.'
'Nearly is the key word,' I told her, and I couldn't have been more right.
In the short distance between here and the entrance of Bloodstone, I had to fight a forest troll, and many more hollow men including those that can shoot lightning at you, but I found by shooting off their heads, they became weak and much easier to dispatch.
I arrived in Bloodstone, just as the sun was setting, and I headed straight for the town, stopping only long enough to get through the Demon Door that lead to the Winter Lodge, and replacing my Chopper with the master long sword I found there.
'The largest house in Bloodstone – that will be Reaver's. I suggest you go and make the Thief's acquaintance.' Theresa said, as I caught sight of the town.
'Figures,' I said, as I walked down to the town.
As I walked through the town, a few people glanced casually at me, a few even stopped to have a closer look at me, but other than that, they continued on with their business. This surprised me greatly. Could it be that I wasn't known here in Bloodstone? Not that I was complaining. It was very refreshing to be able to walk around somewhere without being attacked, fear, hated, or loved.
When I arrived at Reaver's I was greeted at the door by one of his young henchmen, very young. He would have been no older than fourteen.
'Oi love, have you got business with Reaver?' The young teenager asked, eyeing me up and down with a peculiar expression on his face.
'You could say that,' I replied.
'Well, he's through the back.'
'Thanks,' I said, before walking into the mansion and into Reaver's study. I didn't bother knocking seeing as the door was open.
Inside was one of the most handsome man in Albion, who was currently posing for a sculpture. His dark brown hair was neatly pulled back out of his face; he had high cheek bones and dark green eyes with a birth mark under his left eye, and on his chin was a slight chin puff. He was one of the tallest men in Albion, even taller than me, and he stood there with his right foot posed on a stool with his left hand on his hip and his right holding up some sort of pistol.
At last, I had found the last of the three Heroes. At least I had found the Hero of Skill...Reaver.
'Next chapter link:' http://fablefanon.wikia.com/wiki/Dramas_with_the_Thief
Written: 28 August 2011