In the Words of a Prince

It seems not to matter how much gold I shower the criers in, nor how many plumes I shove into my noble attire. My real estate standings--from Fairfax Castle to the Bloodstone Mansion--are as inconsequential as the head I stand over every villager, traveller, and thug. My blade might be descended of the Archons of old or coated in the rust and disuse of a gypsy vendor for all the world cares; it may bathe in the blood of scoundrels or innocents.

I could spread my arms and swipe up all of Albion in my grasp, every tomb and treasure, every island and marsh. I could stretch my fingertips until I outgrow the frail beating of my own fragile wings, my hummingbird heart and the words will still taunt me.

Or haunt me.

One can never really be too sure.

The only sure thing is the distrust in his voice, masked poorly in that jovial tone. "Sparrow!" I can hear the sarcasm peaking from beneath the quick cover. "My dear woman, what are you doing in Wraithmarsh, and in the middle of this simply dreadful weather?"

The girl at his side is not as clever as he. She has no mask and if she did, she wouldn't know which way of it was up. Her eyes narrow jealously at my stony gaze, my unmoving scowl. Her head suddenly lifts higher, her back straightens as if she has not just recently been complaining of the wind and cold rushing through her translucent little skirt, the way the rocks twist her too high-heels awkwardly, the frightening way the dead just pop from the muck of the ground like evil little parodies of daisies. She must be brave and win his favor back, away from me.

She's an admirable little trollop, but none too bright. She's followed the bastard this far, anyway.

"Reaver?" she coos in a sing song voice, all pouty lips and batting eyelashes, "Who is this?"

I want to announce that I'm the goddamned Lady of the land, owner of everything from the northern most cave of Oakfield to the southern border of this little piece of Hell her beloved Reaver has cursed, that I have enough gold coins to demand I be called Queen, enough skill to slit her from nose to bellybutton before she'd even known I'd gotten up.

But I don't.

Because I've been sitting in the mists of banshees long enough that my sleeves are clinging to my arms, my skirts plastered to my knees, I've been perched on this rock so long I might as well be part of it, or a gargoyle for it at least. I can think of at least a few insults I'd like to hurl their way.

Hey, Skill-Hero, is it true you don't know which way to hold your gun?Now it sounds funny from this end.

But all he can think to do is lean a foot up on my rock, in that familiar arrogant stance, and whisper furiously, "Seriously, Sparrow, what are you doing?"

Three years hence, since they've abandoned me to the world to seek adventure in exotic lands, since they've surrendered the tower we fought for to some sightless witch, they do not wonder of the fourth Hero, the one to bind them all.

They wonder of the Sparrow, with her too-small wings and her humming bird heart.

But there is a special providence in the fall of a sparrow, and if I can unite them in justice then I can unite them in greed, and the quickest means in this category is none other than the Thief King himself.

We regard each other for a small eternity. Behind those pretty blue eyes and that stolen youthful smirk he must know I've been waiting for him, he must know this is the only place I'd know he'd be. Reaver holds no obligation to his positions at home, or his relations to myself, or to any other of our small following for that matter.

Reaver only brakes for Wraithmarsh, to throw some unwitting beauty, some poor bedazzled boy or girl to the mercy of the Shadow Court.

My robes are too heavy when I stand, with guilt, or gold, or rain, I cannot tell, but they match well with his flippant costume when I brush past. My lips move slow in their dark paint, a new and unfamiliar cruelty for his ears. "Throw the tart in the hole, Reaver. I've been waiting to speak with you for some time."

The man smiles, but he doesn't know why.