|Series||The Journey by Azaelia Silmarwen|
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WRITTEN: 15 October 2012
Chapter Twenty-One: Five Years LaterEdit
Five years had passed and many different events, both good and bad, had occurred. One of these events was the Invasions of the South Islands, a nation of isles located south of Albion beyond the sea that separates Albion and Aurora. The South Islands’ leader led the invasion with great accuracy. He realised that the bulk of Albion’s small army was in Bowerstone. As a result, he somehow managed to sneak a third of his army into Bowerstone. They attacked without warning and without any mercy. They destroy buildings and slaughtered men, women and children alike.
Sparrow was in the castle garden playing with his three year old son, at the time, when he heard the warning bells sounding. He jumped as heard screaming and explosions. Knowing that Bowerstone wasn’t dealing with an ordinary bandit attack, Sparrow gave Logan to a maid, before gathering his weapons and hurrying into town. When he got there, his eyes grew wide as he came across his first war. Blood, fear, destruction and dead bodies were all around him. Sadly, it was Albion’s army and citizen who were losing. The South Islands’ men were more advanced and had better skills. Not to mention the numbers and the element of surprise.
The Hero was unable to tear his eyes away from the horrific scene, but when his eyes fell upon a group of cowering children, surrounded by five enemy soldiers, his Hero blood came alive. He took out his rifle and shot the nearest enemy. As the soldier fell, his allies turned around furiously, searching for the source of their friend’s death. Their eyes landed on Sparrow.
‘Aren’t you lot brave ganging up on a group of children?’ Sparrow growled sarcastically.
‘And you’re just stupid!’ one of them snapped, before leading the attack on Sparrow.
‘No, you’re the stupid ones if you think you can fight me and live.’ Sparrow smiled coldly.
Now usually Sparrow likes to play with his enemies, allowing them the chance to believe that they are willing or giving them the chance to flee, but this fight was different. This was a war and if Albion was to survive, Sparrow would have to take drastic measures. He took care of his enemies immediately, killing them the first opportunity he got. With the enemy soldiers eliminated, he turned to the children.
‘Run to the castle and tell the guards still there to prepare themselves for war,’ Sparrow ordered. ‘Also tell any Albion citizens you meet to take shelter there too!’
‘Yes, Lionheart!’ they cried, before running off towards the castle.
With the children gone, Sparrow began to help all the other Albion citizens and eliminate the enemy. During this time, he acquired several wounds but nothing too drastic. However, what he saw next hurt him more than his physical wounds.
His eyes found Hammer slamming her hammer into all the South Islands’ soldiers stupid enough to attack her while tears were streaming down her sad, but angry, blue eyes. Either side of her was Michael, Bowerstone’s head Sheriff, and numerous other guards. All of them were trying to protect Walter as he cried over Penelope’s bloody, still body. Her eyes were open looking blankly up at the smoggy sky. She had been shot.
And all she wanted to do today was buy Logan another picture book to read with him, Sparrow thought before he was overcome with rage.
Calling upon his Will, Sparrow discovered a new power within him; the power to call upon storm clouds above the enemy before sending down lightning and spears of ice. As the soldiers were dying, Sparrow ran towards Hammer and the others.
‘Evacuate everyone to the castle!’ Sparrow ordered, immediately taking charge. ‘I’ll give you as much time as I can!’
Michael nodded his head as his guards ran off to spread the word. He then pried Walter away from his grandmother’s cold body and hauled him to the castle. Sparrow ran off to keep the enemy busy. Hammer followed.
‘Hammer, what are you doing?’ Sparrow yelled as they took on more enemy soldiers. ‘This is dangerous! Get out of here!’
‘No, I won’t leave you!’ Hammer yelled back. ‘I’m a Hero too, remember? Or did you forget?’
‘How could I ever forget?’
‘Well, did you forget that we are also a team?’
‘Sparrow, I can double the time you can give.’
‘Fine, just don’t get yourself killed!’
‘I won’t, dear.’
The Heroes, and the brave guards and soldiers who willingly stayed behind, found fighting off a small portion of a large army was hard work. This meant that they eventually began to tire and make mistakes. In the end, though, it was just Hammer and Sparrow fighting. The two Heroes had managed to contain the enemies on Bowerstone Bridge.
‘This – isn’t – working!’ Hammer panted. ‘The moment we retreat, they will follow us and swarm the town. We won’t have time to help the others plan the next attack!’
‘You will. I want you to leave now and save yourself –‘
‘Don’t you even think about sacrificing yourself for me!’ Hammer snapped angrily. ‘I’m not leaving you!’
‘Why did you have to be as stubborn as me?’ Sparrow groaned. ‘Fine, I think I have enough energy left to create a fire wall and make another ice and lightning storm. I’ll also send a vortex their way.’
So that is what the Hero did. First he sent a huge vortex down the bridge, which picked the soldiers up and threw them around like ragdolls. He then sent an ice and lightning storm down on the bridge, before using Inferno to create a firewall.
As Sparrow and Hammer retreated, Lionheart felt his last remaining piece of Will leave him and he suddenly felt older than he actually was. However, unknown to the Heroes, the South Islands’ leader’s twenty year old son was there watching them curiously, ready to give his father a report of their greatest threat. Something they hadn’t predicted; Heroes.
For five days the warriors of Bowerstone defended the castle, and everyday blood stained the ancient castles walls, and by the sixth day, the citizens of Albion were desperate.
‘Is there any secret passages leading out of this castle for the women and children?’ Michael asked desperately as everyone, minus those on sentry duty, the children and those watching the said children, held a meeting in the throne room.
‘Do you really think that Logan would still be here if there was a way out to safety?’ snapped an exhausted Sparrow from his position up the front as he gazed out the window. Every day he was out there fighting off countless enemies. ‘The only passage I know of leads to Bowerstone Cemetery.’
‘And it’s swimming with South Islands soldiers too,’ Walter added gloomily. ‘Besides, the passage is too dangerous for the children to go through.’
‘How do you know that Bowerstone Cemetery is over run?’ a shopkeeper asked suddenly.
‘Hammer went down there to see if she could get a message to my friend, Reaver, in Bloodstone to enlist his help,’ Sparrow explained. ‘Anyway, even if the women and children did escape, where would they go? Nowhere in Albion will be safe once the army has taken over here, and Albion has no allied neighbouring nations.’
‘Good point,’ Michael sighed. ‘They only way we can win now is if a miracle happens. There is no way we can defeat an army with so little men.’
‘Maybe we don’t need to fight an army,’ Walter said suddenly.
Everyone turned to look at him.
‘Years ago the South Islands tried to invade Albion and in order to defeat them, each army chose a champion to fight to the death. The winning champion meant that his army won. Albion’s champion obviously won so the South Islands was forced to return home; at least that’s what it said in one of my old textbook case studies.’
‘That’s a smart idea,’ the blacksmith said approvingly, ‘but who will be our champion?’
‘I will,’ Sparrow said quietly. ‘Throwing all modesty aside, I am the best fighter here and you all know it.’
‘He’s right,’ said Michael.
‘But, Sparrow -’ Hammer began, eyes filled with tears.
‘It has to be this way,’ Sparrow told her quietly.
‘You could die!’
‘I know that, but if I don’t try, everyone will.’
‘I know,’ she sobbed, before embracing him tightly.
‘Don’t worry, I’m sure I better than any moron in the South Islands,’ Sparrow said arrogantly.
With much difficulty, the people of Bowerstone managed to communicate their message to the South Islands’ army who called a temporary truce for the fight. The leader of the South Islands ended up turning up for it.
‘Bring forth your champion, Albion!’ he ordered.
Sparrow stepped forward.
‘So, this is the brave Hero who was willing to sacrifice himself and slayed many of my men,’ the leader commented. ‘My son, Raiden, told me all about your amazing skills.’
Sparrow remained silent, which made the leader smirk.
‘You are a strong warrior,’ he continued. ‘It would be a shame to see such a talented person killed. Join me and live.’
‘I’d rather live a thousand years in pain than join a snake like you,’ Sparrow growled. ‘Now send forth your champion.’
The leader’s eyes narrowed. He was not impressed with Sparrow’s attitude, but then again, none of Sparrow’s enemies were.
‘You are talking to him,’ he growled. ‘I, Tarrant, leader of the South Islands challenge you!’
Tarrant drew his sword and walked towards Sparrow.
‘What are the rules?’ Sparrow inquired.
‘There are no rules,’ Tarrant said simply, before attacking the unprepared Sparrow. He managed to leave a deep cut in the Hero’s left arm.
Sparrow didn’t appreciate this. He fought back to the best of his ability, but Tarrant had the upper hand. Sparrow was physically exhausted from his back-to-back days of fighting; while Tarrant had only been sitting back watching. It was for this reason that after thirty minutes of fighting, Tarrant managed to disarm Sparrow and knock him unconscious. Sparrow lay unmoving at the South Islands’ leader’s feet.
‘SPARROW!’ Hammer screamed as she attempted to run to her husband’s side. The guards held her back.
‘Some champion,’ Tarrant laughed cruelly, ‘but now you shall all pay the price of his failure with your lives!’
‘What are you talking about, Father?’ Raiden asked, stepping forward. ‘We won and they are now citizens of the South Islands.’
‘You are native if you believe they will willingly become devoted citizens,’ Tarrant snapped at his son. ‘No, I came here to eliminate all the people of Albion, and that is what we shall do.’
‘Over my dead body!’ Sparrow growled, struggling to his feet and backing away from the older man.
‘Empty threat. You’re not even strong enough to hold a sword let alone fight with one.’ Tarrant didn’t look or sound impressed. In fact, he sounded bored.
‘I don’t need a weapon to fight,’ the Hero stated.
Tarrant’s eyes widened as blue lines appeared on the Hero’s skin underneath all the blood and dirt. Sparrow closed his eyes and focused on his remaining Will, which he had been slowly regathering since the beginning of the invasion. He only reopened them when he heard the people around him gasp and he had done what he had aimed to do. Around him were several dead souls, the dead souls of the brave Albion soldiers who had recently died for their nation.
‘What trickery is this?’ Tarrant demanded.
‘Not treachery,’ replied a pale Sparrow. ‘I have used the last of my Will to give those who were taken by your army a chance for revenge.’
‘This is cheating!’
‘How can it be cheating when there are no rules?’
With that said the dead souls attacked Tarrant and minutes later he lay dead surrounded by those who vanquished him.
Sparrow looked at Raiden’s sad face.
‘What will you do now?’ Sparrow asked. He kept the souls in this world just in case.
‘Unlike my father, I keep my word. My men and I will leave your fair Albion alone,’ Raiden replied sincerely. ‘I also ask if your king or leader would be open to a truce and a bond of friendship. We shall return to our ships and construct a treaty. If your leader agreed to it, then we shall sign it immediately. If not, we shall leave in peace.’
‘Before you go, can you tell me why you invaded our home?’ Sparrow asked curiously, dismissing the dead.
‘A family feud that has been going on for years since the Hero Whisper was murdered by the Hero of Oakvale,’ Raiden explained. ‘Whisper was my ancestor, Thunder’s, sister. When the Hero of Oakvale killed her, Thunder swore that he would revenge his little sister. He returned to South Islands and managed to get the people’s loyalty behind him. Years later, he led the invasion on Albion and to spare the lives of many, he and the Hero of Oakvale did single battle combat. Oakvale’s Hero prevailed, and the South Islands’ army left Albion, but Thunder’s heir never forgot what happened. His anger has been passed down over time and the anger has now been aimed at Albion.’
‘Then it is fitting how this peace has come about,’ said Sparrow.
‘What do you mean?’
‘I am the Hero of Oakvale’s descendent.’
‘That explains a lot then,’ Raiden said, before nodding his head and leading his army away.
With the army out of sight, Sparrow’s energy finally left him and he fainted. By the time he awoke, several days later, he discovered that the people had voted him to be their king, due to his bravery and conviction not to allow anything to happen to Albion and her people.
However, this wasn’t Sparrow’s only war that he would have to fight in…
Uncle Reaver!’ Prince Logan yelled as he ran towards one of his father’s best friends.
‘Hi, kiddo,’ Reaver said, catching the five year old in his arms. ‘Is your dad around?’
‘Yes, he’s in the War Room dealing with boring things,’ replied Logan.
‘Really? And what boring things would that be?’ Reaver questions, sounding amused.
‘Something to do with polilicks.’
‘Polilicks? Do you mean politics?’
‘Yeah, that’s what I said,’ Logan said innocently. ‘Mummy and Uncle Walter are there too.’
‘Well, it’s almost lunchtime. Let’s go and pay them a visit.’
‘’Kay!’ Logan said cheerfully.
On the way to the War Room, Logan chattered animatedly away to Reaver. He loved his Uncle Reaver. He was so knowledgeable about nearly every subject and was a lot of fun. He was rarely serious. The only downside was that Reaver wasn’t too fond of children. It was for this reason that Reaver could only take small doses of Logan, compared to his godfather, Walter, who loved spending time with him. Logan knew that as he got older his time with Reaver would get longer and longer.
When they arrived at the War Room, Reaver walked straight in without knocking, making the occupants inside jump.
‘Reaver, how many times do I have to tell you to knock before you enter?’ Hammer snapped, while her husband rose to his feet to greet his old friend.
‘Why should I? You’re never talking about anything interesting and who am I going to tell?’ Reaver shrugged as he put the prince down.
‘He has a point,’ muttered Walter. ‘Doesn’t matter anyway. We’ve all come to an agreement.’
Raiden and his councillors took this as their cue to leave. They had travelled to Albion to discuss trading matters between the two nations.
‘What are you doing here?’ asked Sparrow, embracing his friend in a manly hug.
‘I thought that you’d be missing me so I came for a visit,’ replied Reaver.
‘I doubt anyone could miss you,’ Hammer grumbled.
Reaver looked coldly down at her. He had never liked her and when she started dating Sparrow, his hatred got even stronger.
‘Hammer,’ Sparrow said warningly, but he also shot a warning look at Walter, who shrugged.
‘Mummy, when’s lunch?’ Logan asked, walking over to her.
‘I’d say we all head to the dining room and have lunch now,’ said Sparrow, walking over and picking his son up. ‘What do you want?’
Logan didn’t even hesitate in his answer.
‘You’re easy to please,’ Reaver snorted.
‘That’s his favourite food,’ said Sparrow. ‘He could eat them until the cows come home.’
‘We don’t have any cows, Daddy, so how can they come home?’ Logan was looking very confused.
‘That’s my point.’
Taking pity on her son, Hammer explained to Logan what his father was on about.
Lunch ended up being peaceful in the beginning. Logan sat next to Walter telling him all these wide and wonderful stories, while Reaver had Sparrow engaged in a lengthy conversation. Hammer, however, was happy enough just to listen to Logan’s stories while occasionally glaring at Reaver. She would never understand why or how Sparrow could get along with the pirate.
At the end of lunch, just as they were all about to retire to the sunroom, a messenger came running in and Sparrow immediately knew he wasn’t a citizen of Albion.
‘I – I have a message – for – Sparrow!’ he panted.
Sparrow walked forward and accepted the message.
‘It’s from Garth!’ he exclaimed before reading it aloud. ‘Sparrow, I hope this message finds you well. I am writing this letter begging for help. The idiotic leader of Samarkand has somehow managed to release an ancient, but advance, evil upon our nation. Many innocent people are being killed while his highness sits back and does nothing. Would you be willing to come here and help me protect my people? I will understand if you don’t care, after all, this is not your problem. Garth.’
‘You’re going to go there, aren’t you?’ Reaver groaned.
‘I guess I’ll be coming with you then,’ he sighed. He did not look too thrilled, though.
‘So will I,’ said Walter.
‘Me too!’ Hammer said firmly. ‘Garth is my friend too!’
‘But if we both go, who will look after Logan?’ Sparrow inquired.
‘Aren’t I coming too?’ Logan looked like he was about to prepare himself for a tantrum.
‘No, you’re staying here where it is safe!’ Hammer said firmly.
‘That’s not fair!’ Logan began to cry. ‘I want to come with you!’
‘Logan, if you go to, who will protect Albion for me?’ Sparrow asked, getting down to his son’s height.
Logan stopped crying and looked at his father.
‘Protect Albion?’ He hiccupped.
‘Yes, you’re the Crowned Prince, and in the absence of your mother and me, it falls to you to protect our nation. You can even have my old toy sword and gun.’
‘I can do that!’ the Prince exclaimed brightly.
‘Good, now run along and play with Pearl.’
‘Yes, Daddy!’ Logan ran off calling out for his father’s dog.
‘That was a short tantrum,’ Walter commented mildly.
‘I used to have those tantrums too each time my father left,’ replied Sparrow. ‘My father used the same “protection” excuse on me too.’
‘That’s nice, but what are we to do with Logan?’ Hammer question. ‘We need someone to watch him and look after him.’
‘What about one of the servants?’ Reaver suggested.
‘They have enough to do without adding an energetic five year old and dog to their plate,’ said Sparrow.
‘What about my older cousin, Jasper?’ Walter suddenly suggested.
‘You have a cousin?’ Hammer and Sparrow said blankly. They never thought of the possibility that Penelope’s other son had had children.
‘He’s reliable, loves kids, very clean and very hygienic.’
‘Why haven’t you ever mentioned him before?’ asked Sparrow.
‘Oh, I haven’t seen him in years. Only a month ago we caught up.’
‘Why hadn’t you seen him before?’
‘Our fathers’ had an argument when we were kids so we never saw each other growing up.’
‘Well, he sounds alright to me.’ Sparrow looked at Hammer. ‘What do you think?’
‘Might as well. If Walter trusts him, then we can too,’ she replied.
With this decided, Walter went to Bowerstone Old Town to find his cousin. An hour later, Walter returned with Jasper. Sparrow and Hammer immediately got along with Jasper and when they introduced Logan to him, the young Prince immediately took a liking to the older man, dragging him off to play Heroes with him.
The next day, just as the Heroes and Walter were about to leave, they found their way blocked by Michael and several guards and soldiers.
‘Is something wrong?’ Walter asked them. Sparrow had made given Walter the position as the top soldier of all of Albion when he was crowned.
‘We heard of your quest to help your friend in Samarkand,’ Michael told Sparrow.
‘How did you find out?’ Sparrow exclaimed.
‘The maids know everything,’ Michael replied, looking amused.
‘That they do,’ Hammer laughed. She had found out many different juicy bits of information from the maids.
‘Anyway, you can use as much help as you can get,’ Michael continued. ‘That is why we are willing to go with you.’
‘Michael, this will be dangerous,’ said Sparrow. ‘You may not survive –‘
‘We know the risks, my King. You risked your life for us in the South Islands Invasion, so now it’s our turn.’
‘Fine, but don’t say I didn’t warn you,’ said Sparrow.
The trip to Samarkand, via Reaver’s new ship, The Reaver II, went smoothly, except for the minor issue of Hammer’s sea sickness and crabby mood. Four days later they had reached Samarkand. Hammer made sure that she was the first one off the ship. In her haste, she ran straight into Garth, who had been waiting on the dock hoping that Sparrow would turn up.
‘Hammer?’ Garth blinked up at her, before smiling as they got to their feet. ‘What a pleasant surprise. What are you doing here?’
‘Unfortunately, we are here to help you,’ Reaver said, casually walking off the ship.
Garth’s eyes narrowed dangerously.
‘I did not ask for your help,’ he growled. He was yet to forget the Thief’s parting gift.
‘I made him come along,’ Sparrow said as he too hopped off the ship.
Garth stared at him, frowning with confusion, as he tried to figure out who the man before him was. His voice sounded familiar, but he did not look familiar. He looked the man up and down. His eyes then widened as he noticed the Guild Seal. There was only one person in existence Garth knew who had a Guild Seal.
Garth only stared even more. He was nothing like the Hero he had said goodbye to. Gone was the sinister man and in his place was a man that seemed to shine with pure goodness, though Garth could tell that some of the old Sparrow still existed. Even though the Hero’s eyes were light green now, he could see a dark shadow in them.
‘I take it that you haven’t had any contact with Sparrow for a while,’ Walter commented as he joined the group. It wasn’t a question.
‘No, I haven’t seen him in nearly ten years,’ replied Garth, turning his attention to Walter.
‘Garth, this is Walter. He is one of my good friends and head soldier of Albion.’ Sparrow went on to introduce the soldiers and guards who had willingly offered their help.
‘I am honoured that you all have come here to help,’ Garth said with a small bow, before adding bitterly, ‘It is sad that a neighbouring land is more willing to help us over our own leader.’
‘Cannot be much of a leader than,’ one of the guards commented as they followed Garth to his house. ‘Our leader has always protects our people. He even did so several years before he was king.’
‘Albion now has a king?’ Garth looked highly surprised.
‘Yes. During the South Islands invasion, he did not rest until he had freed Albion. It is for this reason he was crowned King.’
‘Who is it?’
Everyone looked at Sparrow. Garth’s eyes widened.
‘Sparrow? You’re the King of Albion?’ he gasped.
‘Scary, isn’t it?’ Sparrow joked. ‘I also have a beautiful queen and a good-looking son, but of course you probably would have already guessed that he was good-looking seeing as he is my son.’
‘Our son,’ Hammer laughed.
‘You know what I meant.’
‘Hammer is your wife?’ Garth looked even more astounded. ‘But, what about being a monk?’
‘I was never truly cut out to be one,’ Hammer shrugged.
‘And the fact that she just couldn’t resist me!’ Sparrow added with a sly smile at his wife.
Hammer merely rolled her eyes.
‘So what exactly has been happening, Garth?’ she asked seriously.
‘A several days ago, young, healthy men started disappearing,’ Garth said grimly. ‘At first no one thought anything of it, but as more and more young men disappeared, we began to become worried. Only recently I have discovered what it I, but I dare not tell anyone for who would believe me?’
Garth led them inside his house and into a back room. Inside chained to a wall was a beautiful young lady. She had long, smooth straight midnight black hair and pearl white skin. Her lips were as red as blood while her eyes with a very light blue showing fear, hate and coldness. Only her breasts and lower region were covered with light cloth.
All the men couldn’t help but gasp at her beauty. Sparrow was one of them until Hammer hit him hard over the head. The moment she did, the spell around him broke and he took several steps back in horror as he saw the girl for what she truly was.
She was even more hideous than a balverine. Her skin was an oily grey colour covered in scars and outlined every bone in her body. She had no lips but rather just a mouth of teeth that looked like they were just bits of broken glass. She was hairless and her eyes were blacker than the night.
‘Oh my,’ Sparrow gasped. He looked over at Garth and Hammer. ‘What is it?’
All the other men in the room shot Sparrow a reproachful look for calling the beautiful woman “it”. He ignored them.
‘She is an ancient creature of legend believed to have tormented Samarkand thousands of years ago,’ Garth explained. ‘There are no men in the breed so the women, when they come of age, go out and seek good-looking young men to be their mate. From there, the man is her slave… her toy. They must carry out her every desire. Eventually they will mate and apparently the men are the ones who give birth and carry the baby.’
‘Excuse me?’ Sparrow interrupted. ‘But how is that even possible? Men don’t have the necessary parts!’
‘True, but according to legend, when they mate, the woman somehow transfers an egg to the man,’ Garth tried to explain.
‘And the baby comes out the same way?’ Sparrow looked to his wife to see if she could understand all this, but by the looks of her face, she was as confused as he was.
‘No. It rips its way out before eating the father.’
Hammer and Sparrow stared at him.
‘Great. Now I’m going to have nightmares for weeks,’ Sparrow said serious as he glanced over at the creature in the corner and shuddering. ‘So they are carnivores? Like balverines?’
‘Yes. They only eat meat, though they only eat one man in their entire life, while feeding on animals every other time.’
‘What of women and children?’ Hammer asked.
‘They have no quarrel if female humans unless they prevent them from claiming a mate,’ Garth educated. ‘Say, for example, they wanted Sparrow and you stepped in to stop them, they would view you as an enemy and kill you. As for children, let’s not find out how they feel about them, especially if the treatment of their own children is anything to go by.’
‘So what are they?’
‘They’re called Sinverana. They have somehow been awakened or something again. We must find a way to defeat them. I managed to capture this Sinverana as she was stalking a seventeen year old boy.’
‘Why did I see her differently at first?’ Sparrow questioned, looking around at the other male occupants in the room who were all smiling down at the Sinverana and speaking gibberish.
‘That is one of their powers. They make men see them in a different light. That is how they take them away. The only time they drop their act is when they are ready to mate, unless the boys’ girlfriend interferes. It is then that the male realises his biggest mistake. From then, he has to endure her every whim up until the baby is born and endure the baby eating him alive.’
Sparrow was horrified. He was that horrified that he turned to Walter, Reaver and his men determined to snap them out of the spell. He would not allow them to experience that horror. For ten minutes he tried with no success.
‘It’s no use,’ Sparrow grumbled as a guard pushed him out of the way. ‘How did you avoid their spell, Garth?’
‘I was fortunate enough to see one attack a young lady as she tried to protect her boyfriend.’
‘In that case, I suppose I can always lock them up somewhere –‘
‘You boys are hopeless,’ Hammer sighed, walking over to the Sinverana.
‘Hammer, what are you doing?’ Sparrow sounded worried.
‘I’m going to bring those boys to their senses,’ she replied, before aiming a punch at the creature.
The Sinverana avoided it easily before growling dangerously at Hammer while attempting to break her chains to no doubt attack the Hero of Strength. As she tried to attack Hammer, she broke the spell on Sparrow’s men, Reaver and Walter. They all jumped back in horror.
‘I knew there was a good reason I married you,’ Sparrow murmured in Hammer’s ear. She could not stop the pleased smile forming on her face.
‘What is that?’ Walter exclaimed looking at Sparrow.
‘I’ll let Garth explain,’ Sparrow replied, leading Hammer out of the room, ‘but I shall not be here because his explanation is already bound to give me nightmares, so I do not need to hear it again.’
Hammer and Sparrow disappeared during Garth’s explanation, and when they returned, they could see how horrified the men looked.
‘Put you off sleeping around with girls?’ Sparrow asked Reaver quietly.
‘Only the woman here,’ he replied looking pale.
‘So what is our plan of action?’ asked a soldier.
‘I think we should patrol, in pairs, the city tonight so we have a better idea what is going on,’ Michael replied thoughtfully.
‘Sounds like a good idea to me. Sparrow?’ Walter looked at his brother-in-everything-except-blood.
‘I agree,’ Sparrow said, before addressing his men. ‘Everyone divide yourselves into pairs. Reaver… you are with me.’
That night, everyone walked around town, or blended in with the locals, keeping their eyes open. Sadly, the night didn’t go as planned.
Garth ended up going with Hammer to patrol, which meant his house and the Sinverana were completely unguarded. The creature’s tribe took this opportunity to rescue their kin. It was then that the now freed Sinverana told her Elders Sparrow’s plan.
Aware of this enemy, the Sinverana ambushed each pair and made sure to take care of them. Each one fell at their speedy yet precise blow. Hammer and Garth managed to kill all of their attackers, though it was with great difficulty. Sparrow and Reaver, however, had them flirting with them, determined to convince the men to join them. Horrified at the thought, the Heroes made sure to kill them quickly before exchanging disgusted looks. Unfortunately, Walter and Michael weren’t so lucky. As they were sitting on a stone bench, having something to eat, the Sinverana pounced on them. Walter was tackled to the ground first, but when the Sinverana saw his face, they decided to take him with them as a gift to their Princess. Meanwhile, Michael tried to fight them off, but ended up being stabbed in the chest. As he fell to the ground, he helplessly watched as Walter was dragged off to a fate worse than death.
Sparrow, Reaver, Garth and Hammer all ended up finding him at sunrise. They had already found all the death guards and soldiers.
‘Michael!’ Sparrow yelled, collapsing down to the ground next to the Sheriff. He was still alive.
‘Sparrow,’ he whispered. ‘They took him. They took Walter.’
Sparrow’s eyes widened with horror. In the background he heard Hammer gasp.
‘Please find him,’ Michael continued. ‘He doesn’t deserve a life of torture… no man does.’ Michael’s eyes slowly closed.
Sparrow gently laid him down. He then got up and paced for a bit, before stopping and letting out a scream of frustration and punching a nearby column.
‘This is all my fault,’ he raged. ‘I should have put my foot down and should have forbidden them to come.’
‘Do you really believe they would have listened to you?’ Hammer asked quietly, placing her hands on her husband’s arm. ‘They were all extremely loyal to you, and they all knew that there was a chance that they may not survive. You mustn’t blame yourself. For now we should focus on finding Walter. He needs our help know, not those who have passed on.’
Sparrow nodded his head.
‘You’re right, as always,’ he said. ‘We cannot abandon him to those demons. Garth, do you know where their lair is?’
‘I’m afraid not,’ Garth said grimly. ‘Every time I tried to follow the Sinverana, they would pick up my scent and find a way to lose me.’
‘Are you saying that the only way to find their liar is to be captured?’ Sparrow asked.
‘Yes. Only the captured would know where to go.’
Sparrow growled in annoyance, while Hammer looked hesitant as she looked between Reaver and Sparrow.
‘Why are you looking at us like that?’ Reaver asked suspiciously.
‘You said that the Sinverana found you and Sparrow attractive, right?’ she asked.
‘How could they not?’ Reaver replied arrogantly.
‘You and Sparrow are our bait then.’
‘Excuse me?’ Reaver’s eyes darkened slightly.
‘You and Sparrow need to allow yourselves to be taken, then fight your way back out with Walter and the other men.’
‘In your dreams!’ Reaver huffed. ‘There is no way I’m putting my neck on the line for them.’
‘Why you little –!’ Hammer took a threatening step towards Reaver.
‘Enough!’ Sparrow said suddenly, wrapping his arm around Hammer’s shoulders. ‘Dear, you cannot force Reaver into risking his own life, but your idea has merit. Tonight I shall allow those demons to capture me before showing them that they messed with the wrong person.’
‘Why did you have to be so noble?’ Reaver groaned. ‘That means I now have to go too.’
‘Why does it mean you have to go?’ Sparrow asked, looking confused.
‘Because if I don’t go, you’ll end up getting yourself killed,’ Reaver informed him with a shrug.
Sparrow smiled. He knew that Reaver may act indifferently, but he did care.
That night, Reaver and Sparrow found a quiet place to sit where they waited for the Sinverana to claim them. While both appeared at ease, they were both shaking inside. The thought of those creatures touching them made them want to shudder and vomit. Then, if their plan backfired, they would have to live with the consequences and would end up giving birth before being eaten.
As they sat there waiting, they heeded Hammer’s last words, though her words were mostly directed at Sparrow.
‘Remember, you have to act as though you are completely under their spell,’ she warned them. ‘This means you aren’t allowed to flinch, shudder or show looks of disgust, but most of all, come back safely with Walter and the other men.’
For an hour the men sat there, slowly growing impatient, though they didn’t know if they should have been grateful or not when two Sinverana did appear for them.
‘Hi, there,’ the tallest one said, trailing claw-like hands over Reaver’s shoulder seductively, before sitting in the Thief’s lap. The other Sinverana, however, wrapped her scaly arms around Sparrow’s neck. It took about all of the Heroes’ strength not to flinch at their touch and vomit at the Sinverana looks and smell.
‘Hi,’ Reaver replied, smiling his most charming smile and using his animal magnetism. Sparrow would have taken his hat off to his friend. He was acting as though he was flirting with some gorgeous young teenager. ‘What can we do for you lovely young ladies?’
‘Oh, handsome and a charmer,’ the Sinverana said tracing one of her fingers over the pirate’s chest. ‘Would you boys be interested in coming to a party tonight with my sister and me? It is meant to be awesome, but unfortunately we have no dates. So when we saw you two boys sitting here alone, we thought that you might be interested.’
Reaver looked over at Sparrow.
‘How could we turn down such an invitation from two lovely ladies like yourselves?’ Sparrow purred, looking up at the Sinverana who had her arms wrapped arm his neck. It took all his effort not to gag on the disgusting vile in his mouth.
‘Oh, I see that your friend isn’t the only one who is a charmer,’ his Sinverana purred in his ear. ‘Follow us then.’
The Sinverana each took one of the Heroes’ hands and led them away across the Samarkand desert.
It took the party two hours to get to the Sinverana’s hideout, but when they did arrive, Reaver and Sparrow were immediately surrounded by Sinverana in armour with poisoned arrows at the ready.
‘Do you really believe we are so naïve enough not to realise who you were?’ one of the Sinverana hissed. ‘We know you are from that country across the sea who slaughtered our kin. We are just thankful you made it easy for us to capture you.’
Nothing prepared the Heroes for the sleeping drug the Sinverana forced down their throats. It was that strong that they both found their strength leaving them, and before they knew it, they were in the arms of their captures slowly falling asleep.
When Sparrow awoke, he found that he was lying down on the hard rocky ground. His wrists were chained to the ground as were his ankles. He also realised that his attire had changed. All this clothes were removed, though his pants were different. Instead of his black, daggy trousers, he was now wearing three quarter soft brown pants.
Sparrow moved slightly, before gasping in pain. Looking down at his right side of his waist, Sparrow saw that he had some strange ruins branded into his skin. It was still red raw, which told him it had only recently been done.
‘Reaver?’ Sparrow whispered.
‘I’m here,’ Reaver groaned. ‘It’s about time you woke up.’
‘How long have you been a wake?’
‘A while, though I am unsure of the exact time. There is no way to measure time here; however we have had a few visits from those monsters while you were out.’
‘Did they say what they were to do with us?’
‘No. The first visit was to have us branded, be grateful that you were asleep during that agony, before they came back and examined us, and also be grateful that you were asleep. Then the final time was to come in and check on you. Apparently, those drugs had an outstanding effect on you, that’s why you were out of it for so long.’
‘Good to know. You wouldn’t have thought of a way out of here, would you?’
‘Not yet. I’m still trying to figure out how to get out of these cuffs.’
‘Well this plan definitely backfired in our faces,’ Sparrow muttered.
‘You think? This plan was bound to backfire. We don’t know enough about their culture or about them.’
‘At least we aren’t in a cage,’ Sparrow muttered.
‘What is with you and cages?’
‘Just a childhood fear,’ Sparrow muttered, before yawning.
‘Are you still tired?’ Reaver asked disbelievingly.
‘Uh huh,’ Sparrow yawned as he closed his eyes.
Reaver shook his head, before tensing as the prison door opened and two Sinverana walked in. They ignored the Thief and went to check on Sparrow.
‘He is still asleep,’ one whispered.
‘Are you sure he’s actually asleep?’ asked the other. ‘He might be faking, or he may be dead!’
‘No, he is still breathing, and I doubt he is faking. He didn’t even move when he was branded. If he was awake, he would have screamed like the other one.’
‘What should we do with the other one?’
The Sinverana walked over and looked at Reaver, who looked at them warily.
‘We could take him to find his mate and get it over and done with.’
‘Or we could just torture –’ The Sinverana broke off screaming as did her friend. Blue electricity surrounded them and slowly killed them.
‘Sparrow, was that you?’ Reaver demanded.
‘Who else would it have been?’ Sparrow asked as he began to burn away his chains with the little energy he had.
‘Well thanks to you, I have two Sinverana skeletons on me and they stink!’
‘Sorry,’ Sparrow said as he laughed.
‘Yeah, real funny,’ Reaver huffed.
‘Oh stop your complaining,’ Sparrow said as he stood up and took the skeletons off his friend.
‘How did you get lose?’ inquired a shocked Reaver.
‘My inferno Will,’ Sparrow said simply, taking a key off one of the Sinverana and realising Reaver.
‘Now all we have to do is find the prisoners and Walter before getting out of here,’ Sparrow said as Reaver got to his feet.
‘Easier said than done,’ Reaver grumbled as he picked up a bow and arrows that one of the hideous creatures had. ‘It’s been a long time since I used one of these. Think the last time I used one was when I used to go hunting with my brothers.’
‘I can’t see you hunting with a bow,’ Sparrow muttered.
‘Well now you can as I will be hunting Sinverana,’ Reaver replied.
Rolling his eyes, Sparrow flung open their prison door. He then jumped out ready to attack, before jumping back in with only his hand sticking out. Reaver watched on, thinking that his friend had lost it, before he noticed that it was getting cold. Outside in the corridors he could hear screaming.
‘What are you doing?’ he asked Sparrow.
‘Making the Sinverana being impaled by ice stakes from an ice storm,’ Sparrow replied casually.
‘There are Sinverana out there?’
‘Didn’t I just say that?’
‘But why didn’t they come running in when their kin were screaming?’
‘Maybe they thought they were screams of pleasure?’
Reaver shuddered at the thought.
Sparrow had the ice storm hailing down for five minutes, before deciding that anyone out there would be more than dead by now.
He stuck his head out. All the snow and ice were blood red.
‘Charming,’ Reaver said, also sticking his head out. ‘Well, let’s let the prisoners free. That was the entire purpose of this backfired plan.’
It took the Heroes roughly half an hour to free all the prisoners from the dungeons, but to Sparrow’s dismay, there was no sign of Walter.
‘Has anyone seen a young Albion man?’ he asked the nervous Samarkand men.
‘I saw one only briefly,’ replied one man. ‘He was in the main hall trying desperately to fight off the queen.’
‘You mean she –‘
‘No, she said that she didn’t want to mate with him until he was older.’
Sparrow visible relaxed.
‘Thank Avo,’ he muttered, before addressing the group of men again. ‘Is this everyone?’
They should their heads sadly.
‘The rest of us have been paired off and doomed to die,’ a teenager said with a sob. ‘My twin was one.’
‘Right,’ Reaver said, not leaving anytime for moping. ‘Follow us and we will lead you to safety.’
‘You lead them out,’ Sparrow told Reaver. ‘I’m going to find Walter.’
‘Sparrow, be reasonable. Let’s lead these men out and then we can find the kid. He’s not in any danger. It’s not like he’s going to age several years in a few short minutes.’
‘I don’t care. I’m going to find him!’ Sparrow said stubbornly before running off.
‘Idiot,’ Reaver huffed, before leading the other men to safety.
Finding Walter was harder than Sparrow initially thought it would be. He had several close encounters; he even had the Sinverana deep claw marks on his tannish skin to prove it. Fortunately he managed to narrowly dodge all the poisoned arrows. It also didn’t help that the Sinverana den was like a labyrinth and that Sparrow’s sense of direction was next to none. He didn’t know how many times he arrived at a dead end, nor did he know how many times he ended up walking in circles. Eventually, though, Sparrow ended up stumbling into the Sinverana Queen’s throne room, which was currently occupying four Sinverana warriors, who had their poisoned arrows aimed straight at him, and a the Sinverana queen who was sitting in her throne looking highly interested in Sparrow.
‘So this is the other man from across the sea,’ she murmured. ‘He is older than the other one, and nearly as cute.’
‘Where is he?’ Sparrow demanded. ‘What have you done with my friend?’
‘Oh, the cutie is safely away where no one will ever find him,’ the queen replied.
‘Let him go!’ Sparrow ordered.
‘Who do you think you are to address a queen like so?’ one of the warriors demanded angrily.
‘Who do you think you are to address a king like so?’ Sparrow shot back.
‘What’s a king?’ all five Sinverana asked in unison.
‘A king is a male version of a queen,’ Sparrow explained with a hint of annoyance.
‘So where you are from, you are a leader like me?’ the queen’s leant forward eagerly.
‘Interesting. Maybe we should mate and combine our people.’
Sparrow was not impressed.
‘I’m married,’ he said bluntly.
‘I have a queen already. Now, realise my friend.’
The queen’s eyes narrowed.
‘I shall not give him up… not unless you can give me something better in return.’
‘And what is it that you want?’ the Hero asked hesitantly.
‘You and your kingdom.’
Sparrow stared at her.
‘No way,’ he said immediately. ‘I am not handing my kingdom over to a monster like you!’
The Sinverana hissed angrily at him.
‘How dare you!’ screeched the queen. ‘Kill him!’
The four Sinverana got ready to fire their arrows. Sparrow managed to kill one with a fiery blade, before he narrowly dodged two arrows. Unfortunately, the third arrow cut his upper right arm. Sparrow flinched.
‘You are dead,’ the queen hissed coldly. ‘Now that the poison is in your blood, nothing can save you. There is no antidote.’
Sparrow looked at the small scratch on his arm. It didn’t look that bad. Maybe the arrow hadn’t injured him enough for the poison to enter his system?
‘Finish him!’ the queen ordered.
Sparrow prepared himself to dodge the three archers, but as they were about to take aim, three arrows came flying from the other side of the hall and hit each archer straight in the heart. They fell to the ground immediately.
Frowning, Sparrow turned and saw Reaver walking towards him, bow in hand.
The queen looked furious.
‘I’ll ask you again, surrender Walter or else!’ Sparrow ordered feeling much more confident now that Reaver was there with him.
‘Never!’ she shrieked.
Before the Heroes knew it, the queen ran at Sparrow with amazing speed, sword in hand. Sparrow, not being fast enough to dodge her attack, ended up being seriously wounded.
Sparrow let out a cry of agony as he fell to his knees. That Sinverana was faster than a balverine. Fortunately Reaver was just as fast. Before she could finish Sparrow off, Reaver’s bow blocked the queen’s sword. She turned angrily to Reaver before trying to kill him. Sparrow watched helplessly on as the two fast moving beings dodged and attacked each other.
Reaver managed to get a good distance away from the monster and he immediately shot an arrow at her. It went straight through her throat. As the creature fell, Reaver ran to Sparrow’s side.
‘Good lord,’ Reaver muttered looking down at Sparrow’s wound.
‘I’m alright,’ Sparrow muttered through pale lips.
‘Don’t lie to me,’ said Reaver. ‘I can tell that you are not alright. We need to get you out of here –‘
‘No. I need to find Walter,’ Sparrow said firmly, trying to get to his feet.
‘Don’t be stupid!’ Reaver snapped. ‘You’re in no shape to be running around!’
‘I have –‘
‘You don’t have to do anything –‘
‘Yes I do. Look, I’m going to find Walter if it is the last thing I do! You would do the exact same thing for me if you were in my predicament!’
Reaver glared at Sparrow before saying angrily, ‘Fine, but if Hammer doesn’t kill you for being so recklessly, than I will!’
The Thief helped Sparrow to his feet and they began to explore everywhere. At long last, they arrived at the final room; the queen’s, but just like all the other rooms they searched it was Walter free. The only plus side was that this room wasn’t home to Sinverana.
‘I don’t understand how can he not be here?’ Sparrow said as he collapsed in a stone chair. ‘We checked everywhere!’
‘Maybe they have another hideout somewhere,’ Reaver said thoughtfully as he looked around the room.
‘Then we have to start searching the surrounding desert!’
Sparrow struggled to get to his feet.
‘And what good will that do, Sparrow?’ Reaver demanded. ‘All that will happen is that you’ll get yourself killed! Do you really want to abandon your wife and child?’
Sparrow froze. Reaver had said the magic words. Sparrow had vowed that he would never abandon his family like his mother and father had unwillingly done to him and Rose.
Sparrow slowly nodded his head. Reaver gave a sigh of relief as he lent up against a wall. He would wait for Sparrow to make the first move. However, as he lent up against the wall, the wall next to him slid open. He had unknowingly lent on a pressure plate.
Curious as to what the wall revealed, Reaver looked inside. Behind the secret wall was a tiny room, no bigger than a broom closet, with no lights. Walter was curled up in a ball on the floor, shaking. His eyes were fearful as they adjusted to the light streaming inside.
‘Reaver?’ he whispered.
‘Hey, Sparrow, I found the kid!’ Reaver called out to his friend, reaching in and pulling the shaking Walter to his feet.
‘Walter!’ Sparrow exclaimed, trying to get to his feet.
‘Sparrow!’ Walter hurried to his friend and embraced him.
‘Are you alright?’ Sparrow asked quietly.
Walter nodded as he pulled away, but his eyes widened when he saw that Sparrow was bleeding.
‘What happened?’ he asked.
‘Those Sinverana are faster than a balverine,’ Sparrow replied, grimacing. ‘I didn’t move out of her way fast enough.’
‘Enough chitchat!’ Reaver said gruffly. ‘You can chat when we are safely away from here and Sparrow is healed! Now move!’
A week later, Sparrow, Reaver, Hammer and Walter were all on the Reaver II heading back to Albion. The week they stayed in Samarkand, was mostly for healing Sparrow’s wounds, however, the scratch from the arrow wound never began to heal. Sparrow made sure to keep it hidden from everyone. He didn’t want them to worry or for them to know that the mightily and powerful Hero was defeated by a scratch.
On the journey home, Sparrow sat on deck allowing the cool fresh salt air to rustle through his hair. Hammer was standing on the other side of the deck, vomiting, while Reaver stood at the wheel. Walter was sitting quietly next to Sparrow.
‘Do you want to talk about it?’ Sparrow asked.
Walter shook his head.
‘Are you sure? A wise woman once told me that it is wise to talk to someone about your fears or after traumatic events.’
Walter just stared at the deck.
Sighing, Sparrow turned to look back out to sea.
A minute later, Walter began to talk.
‘You know how I said that my father and uncle had a fight when I was younger?’ he asked quietly.
‘Well, the truth is, it was about me. That day my uncle had lost his job and he was that upset he went to the Cow and Corset and got drunk, and when he’s drunk, he becomes violent. I was over at Jasper’s playing that night and when he came home, he took his temper out on Jasper, my aunt and I. My aunty tried to protect us kids, but my uncle was just too strong for her. In the end, Jasper had a broken arm and I was locked in a small cramped closet. I spent all night in there listening as my uncle destroyed furniture and yelled at my aunt. The next morning, Dad came to pick me up and… well, the argument began. The brother’s stopped talking to each other, the aunt left my uncle and Jasper was taken away by child support. Ever since that day I have always hated being in small spaces and have always hated the dark where there is no light.’
‘That is understandable,’ Sparrow said quietly. ‘I’m terrified of being locked up because of something that happened in my childhood. All that matters is that we find a way to face our fears in the end, as a wise woman once told me.’
‘Who is this wise woman you speak of?’