Title: To Kill a Sparrow
Summary: It hasn't been long since Sparrow escaped Lucien's Spire, and already the corrupt lord has taken it upon himself to end her life. The Highwaymen's Guild is out for blood, and with the assistance of the Assassin's Society they very well may succeed. But when the assassin sent to take her life moves in the for the kill, he finds himself unable to complete his contract.
Chapter: 1/?-Story is done, just haven't broken it down into chapters yet!
Series Warnings: This series contains some concepts that readers might find disturbing. As is the norm for any of my stuff, there's a lot of cursing and a lot of smut (hooray, smut!). But the smut in this particular story contains a wee bit of fetishism (haha awesome right?) and some questionable...erm, intents. Some viewers may not like the OC in this story. I, for one, am in love with him. This story is definitely for mature audiences.
Chapter Warning: Just mild swear words if I remember right.
Pairings: FemSparrow x OC
Disclaimer: Fable, Fable II, etc, belongs to LionHead Studios. I make no profit from this work of tribute to my favorite NPCs in the series. Please don't sue me, grumpy British game developers. :(
A/N: This started off as a little drabble, and turned into a full blown story after I fell head over heels in love with this OC. I tried to stay as true to the video game as possible, in regards to places, plot lines, and characters. But much of it I've taken upon myself to expand upon, considering I think LionHead has done a shabby job actually giving the world of Albion depth and character development. I still love them, though! My distances and travel times are off, and I don't care. :D
She knew someone was following her, but she hadn't been able to tell who. Every time she had turned around in the crowded markets of Bowerstone her wary eyes had searched the crowds and found every hidden nook and cranny that she could, but not once had she seen him. Even her trusty little dog knew he was there—the mutt had even barked at him once or twice. But an enemy that remains unseen is an enemy that can not be fought.
So she had no choice but to go about her days as if nothing were wrong. She was a Hero, after all; there was little in modern day Albion that could harm her. And definitely not by some mere human. It was a lesson his brothers in the Society had learned the hard way, time and time again. If she had a shadow that meant her ill, she would deal with it as she had the others: a swift and untimely death.
But, he had to admit, he had been surprised that she felt comfortable enough with his stalking presence to even leave Bowerstone's town limits. And she didn't just make the short journey to Castle Fairfax's gardens. Oh, no, not her. She went on a full length journey on bandit-plagued roads to Oakfield.
He had barely been able to keep up with her while remaining undetected. Bandits and hobbes alike had tried to take him down after their kin had failed with her. It had proved increasingly difficult to dispatch of the poor bastards without raising too much noise for her to hear, and use as an excuse to double back on the trails.
Be that as it may, she knew he was still there. Occasionally, he would find a bloodied note pinned to a bandit corpse with a sharpened twig, the message more than whatever she had scrawled on the sullied sheets of paper. Friend of yours? One had inquired. I hope you're not scared of dark places, another seemed to laugh at him.
But he had been smart enough not to follow her into the hobbe cave she found. For one, he hated hobbes and the corruption they represented. They were a defilement of the last remaining innocence in Albion—of children, young, innocent and naïve. And two, there was no guarantee that he could stay out of her eye sight in a cave. She could be waiting around any dark corner, or even be heading out while he was stuck in a narrow bit of tunnel with nowhere to go but back the way he had come. Then he would have been in front of her, and that pesky dog would have run him down as surely as not.
Sparrow—Lionheart, whatever she was being called these days—didn't keep him waiting long. She was in and out quick enough to justify his decision not to follow, flooding him with relief that it had indeed been the right one. The concept that she could disappear out some hidden exit had crossed his mind, and left him anxious as he hid in the thick boughs of a tree over shadowing the entrance. It was a good perch, leaving him a gap in the foliage just wide enough for him to watch as she emerged victorious from the cave with a troll's head dragging in the ground behind her.
Standing head and shoulders taller than even the tallest men of Albion, she was an imposing figure. As a hero, her power was directly proportional to her height and size. She was built heavy, not some dainty little house wife that fancied herself an adventurer. She was the real thing. Thick muscle from head to toe, hidden by rather upper class clothes that probably had never seen a speck of dust until she had bought them. Soft leather boots broken in by miles upon miles of hard road travel, coated in dirt and blood and who knew what else. Dark men's breeches on long legs, just as dirty as her boots.
She wore a well kept highwayman's trench coat over her lady's blouse, a fact that did not lose its irony on him. A trophy she had taken from the last man the Highwaymen's Guild had sent after her on Lucien's contract, as was the tri-point hat atop her head. The bright crimson mask that hid her face, however, had been taken from those that came before him. Those the Society had sent.
Odd, though, how she had managed to fold the mask so that it covered her entire face. It left her an even more intimidating figure with a blood red face void of any features.
A week he had been following her, and never had he seen her without her garb meant to intimidate the strongest of men into leaving her alone. Never had he seen an inch of skin, other than what the eye holes cut into her mask left her to look out of. Bright blue eyes—eerily blue—looked up to regard his tree calmly.
Did she see him? Had he been caught so easily?
But no, her eyes never focused on his. Never found the little gap in the leaves that he hid behind.
The dog whined, and she shook her head to clear her mind. With a short laugh she continued on the path she had set on, dragging the mammoth troll head behind her by its mossy hair.
And he followed. To the Rookridge inn where she presented the head to the owner as a trophy to hang over his bar. Back up the steep mountain path, where she stood at the fork in the road glaring towards the ruins of a tower and the temple built beneath it. Fear did not sway him as she took the time to write him another note, before she decidedly turned down the right fork toward Oakfield. She was his mark, after all, and he knew her better than most.
I should have led you to the Shadow Cult, her note had said, and he laughed. No doubt the cult would have loved that, considering ever since she killed their leader they had been reduced to a meager handful of priests too scared to gather en masse. They would have taken any sacrifice from her quite gladly, their shadows searching out his shadows until he was dragged kicking and screaming to whatever torturous death awaited him.
But she was Sparrow the Lionhearted, or Pure, or whatever the townsmen called her. And she would not deceive him so, no matter his intentions. No, if death were to come to him it would come from her own hands. Swift. Merciless. Righteous. And then he would be buried, as she buried each that came before him, and left with a marked grave to haunt for the rest of eternity.
So she led him to Oakfield, where the mayor greeted her happily despite the gore her clothes were covered in. The fat pig managed to convince her to pose for a sculptor—some noble had commissioned the town to produce a statue of her to be erected outside a tower in Brightwood. He took advantage to disappear for a while to bathe in a nearby stream and change out of his clothes.
While he stood up to his waist in the cold mountain waters that drained into the sea, naked as the day he was born, the dog found him. He watched the beast as it paced the shore, nose sniffing up a storm over his road dusted clothes even as it kept wary eyes on him. It did not trust him—as it shouldn't. He had been sent to kill the beast's master, after all.
Sighing, he sank into the water until it was up past his nose. Holding his breath, he simply watched the creature rifle through his meager possessions. Could it swim?—he wondered absently as he tread water. He had no weapons on him if the beast decided to attack him. And being in the water so, he had no Will powers that would help him dispose of it. Not that he wanted to—he wasn't ready to move on the Hero, and surely the murder of her pet would force her into action where he was concerned.
But the dog stayed on the shore until it found what it was looking for: his travel pack. Cursing, he tried to swim to shore to stop the damned animal as it let out a cheerful yip and started trotting back up the steep bank, head held tall and proud with his pack in its mouth, and tail wagging victoriously like a battle banner.
A rifle went off, the bullet whizzing into the water by his head, and he swore again, coming to a halt in the water with a big splash as he turned to find the marksmen. Stupid, stupid him! It would be his luck that he'd shirk his duties long enough to succumb to his vanity, and be caught by some desperate lot of bandits or some such—
"I thought of having him take your clothes, but I'm not so cruel as to leave a man naked in these parts," a voice laughed from the cliffs far above his head. Growling, he immediately sank back into the water until it was up to his eyes, as he back pedaled enough to look up at the Hero.
Had she seen enough of him to know what he looked like? Would she be able to pick him out of a crowd now? His biggest weapon had been that he was a stranger, unassuming and an enigma. He had been able to hide in plain sight, able to walk beside her in the markets when the dog was off digging in people's gardens. Could he still?
The mutt found her and dropped his pack at her feet, barking happily as it rolled around in the grass, elated at the good job it had done. She was still in her travel stained clothes, rifle aimed at his head as she watched him for a moment. Laughing, she snatched his pack up and spun around on a heel, disappearing into the thick woods atop the cliff.
He had not been too happy about the whole thing. What game was she playing at, leaving him alive when she knew he was after her life? It would have been so simple to put a bullet between his eyes while he was naked and vulnerable, unarmed, and unable to even run. Then she would not have had to worry about him killing her in her sleep, or something.
He wondered as he scrambled onto the banks, pulling his clothes on as quickly as he could despite his dripping wet body. Normally, he would have taken time to bask in the sun and let it dry him. But not when she was nearby, and for all he knew coming to finish what she had left undone.
She did have a tendency to dispatch of men like him face-to-face, with sword rather than gun. She saved her bullets for other marksmen and trolls, not for simple assassins. Who said chivalry was dead?
So he hurried, clothes sticking to his hide uncomfortably as he disappeared into the underbrush to circle around his bathing site. He made no sound in the bushes, stepping softly and carefully to avoid rustling dead leaves or breaking brittle branches. Sticking to the dappled shadows, he searched the whole area for her and found nothing aside from a set of foot prints accompanied by paw prints in a dirt trail heading back to town.
Even knowing she was gone, he kept hidden as he circled around Oakfield to some outlying farm. The whole time he kept an eye on his back, just waiting for the dog to attack or to see her drawing her blade while his back was turned. But she never came as he stole a pair of breeches and a light shirt from an unwatched clothesline. Boots were harder to find, forcing him to break into the small farm house to dig through a closet while the owner was out tending his fields. Even then, the shitty pair of light brown work boots was too small for his feet—he was not a small man to begin with.
Surprise the clothes even fit.
But he crammed his feet into them anyway, scowling past the winces as he disappeared back into the woods with his set of black assassin's clothes folded up in a bed sheet he had also stolen from the clothesline, and expertly turned into a back pack. And as he found the first path towards town, he switched into an actor's role.
He was just a simple farmer as he strolled into Oakfield. A stranger to the villagers, of course, but it was not uncommon. Oakfield was a large agricultural hub in Albion, and farmers from all over came for seed if their last harvest had been poor. So he smiled and greeted every man, woman, and child he saw as he entered town. He was friendly, courteous, and even faked the country bumpkin accent as he stopped to chat with stall vendors and other farmers.
How was the weather so far this year? Good rain? Nice to hear. You expecting a larger harvest than normal? Excellent! My farm got drowned out last year, left all my corn with that damned fungus. Couldn't sell half of it to a pig farmer, if I wanted. Know where I can get some seed grain? Was hoping to cram in a late wheat harvest this year.
So he melded into the evening market crowds. No one seemed to notice that he didn't buy anything for his evening meal, despite his long talks with one stall vendor after another. No one noticed him pocketing an apple or two, either. But when the eyes of the crowd turned from their shopping to something more interesting, he was among them. He was just another farmer in the horde as the villagers laughed and cheered, rushing towards the Hero.
She was meandering through the crowd, eyes laughing as she accepted the congratulations from one villager after the next on her latest accomplishment. The rumor mill hadn't brought wind of her exploit over the cave troll, he knew, or else they would have been buying her beers and asking for her to recite the tale.
No, instead they left her to her shopping. The grown ups at least did. The children would not leave her alone, and she didn't seem to mind. They clung to her coat, laughing and hammering her with question after question as she bought supplies for her dinner. Laughing right along with them, she regaled them with outlandish tales blown much out of proportion of her adventures, and they drank it up like their life depended on it.
One girl, perched on the Hero's shoulders, seemed content to simply sit up there and watch the world go by.
Scowling to himself, he stayed back in the crowds, following at a safe distance. Children, fawning over a Hero that intimidated even the most hardened of men? And they seemed no more scared of her than she was of them. They worshipped the ground she walked on. Clung to her every word. Begged for toys and autographs. And she gave them readily.
They left her when she came to the end of the market street, all except for the little girl on her shoulders. He disappeared into the tall corn fields on either side of the path as she turned towards a farm house off in the distance, her dog trotting happily at her heels. Frowning, he shadowed them to the plain house with its simple thatched roof, watching as she let herself into the fenced off yard without a word.
A new horde of children assaulted her, bare foot and covered in dirt from the fields as they all laughed and exchanged hugs. That was the first time he heard the word "mommy" thrown out.
He froze where he hid in the field, heart dead in his chest as he watched a woman with her children—not just a Hero. They were so happy. So innocent in their reunion after a long time spent apart. She proffered toys and gifts from her pack to each of them—all ten of them, including the one on her shoulders. To the oldest, a boy of no more than fourteen, she gifted a short sword that he clung to his chest proudly.
The assassin sat down heavily in the corn field. The Highwaymen's Guild had not included this in their report when they went to the Assassin's Society for help. They had not said she was married, with children, or anything. They had not even said that she owned a farm in Oakfield, not that it would have mattered now. He was the best the Society had.
But he had never killed a mother. Refused it. He would not be responsible for leaving children motherless in a harsh world such as this.
He lay back in the dirt and closed his eyes, feeling the warmth of the sun shining down on his face through the tall corn. How was he to return to the guild with a contract left unfulfilled? He had never done that before. He had a perfect record. Lucien had paid him generously to carry out this order, up front and in full. But he could not kill her now, not after seeing her children, and how happy they were with her. He could not take away their happiness.
Sitting up abruptly, he watched as the horde disappeared into the farm house. Ten children. Eldest well into his teens, and youngest no more than five. But she had been in the spire for the past ten years. And before that, she had only been a thorn in Lucien's side for a year, at most. How had she managed to have ten children in eleven years while slaughtering hordes of hollow men, bandits, and hobbes? How had she managed to have a baby girl while in the spire?
Scowling, he circled around the farm house to the back side. Picnic tables were set out to accommodate the whole family as a middle-aged woman smiled and set the table, children running around screaming and play fighting as their Hero mother watched, sipping at a beer stein. And then he noticed the boy with red hair, wrestling with another with black. A girl with green eyes and blonde hair fiddled with a lute at her mother's side, while a little boy with brown skin and hair as black as night played in the dirt at their feet.
Adopted. So they were adopted, then. But that did not change a thing. They were still her children. He would still be a home wrecker.
A tall man joined the lot, standing tall and proud as he went to sit across from Sparrow. The assassin watched as tension built in her shoulders, and even in the children.
"You couldn't wash up before coming?" he asked her innocently enough.
"Dear," the woman chided him slowly, a warning to be polite.
"I didn't think I had time before dinner," Sparrow answered, voice cold and emotionless.
"So you figured it'd be okay for the children to see you covered in gore like that?" the man huffed irritably, gesturing to her with an angry wave of his hand.
"It is nothing they have not seen before," she remarked.
"I like it," the girl at her side spoke up without looking away from the lute strings. "This way, we know mom really was away saving people."
Sparrow ruffled her hair affectionately.
"Well it's disgusting," the man huffed.
Sighing, she gave her daughter a one-armed hug before standing. "I'll leave, then. I'll be in town for a while, the children can come visit once I've bathed."
Children tried to pretend that their mother wasn't fighting with who obviously was their father. They tried not to let the tears in their eyes fall at the knowledge that she was leaving so soon after she had arrived. Even the five year old with copper hair was strong as she hugged her mother's legs before she disappeared back through the house.
In his mind, the assassin burned an image of the man in his head, before slipping back around the house to keep track of Sparrow.
What kind of person was she? he thought as they made their way through back village roads to a house tucked amongst a copse of trees in the midst of the fields. A Hero on a mission to stop Lucien's spire from being built, a mission of vengeance just as much as it was to save the world. And yet she adopted orphans and kept a family squirreled away in Oakfield. She played with children while covered in gore, and no one cared except for that man.
An ex-husband? Undoubtedly, or else she would not leave the children with him.
The spire took a lot from her it seemed, other than ten years and much of her sanity.
Sparrow unlocked her large farm house and paused in the doorway, even as the mutt pranced inside past her legs. Hand braced on the door frame, she turned ever so slightly to cast an angry glare in his direction. Not at him—she still could not pick him out of the shadows when he was hidden—but in his general area. Snarling under her breath, she tore his pack off her back and flung it towards him in a rage.
"Leave, if you have any decency and sense of self-preservation!" she roared, and birds fled from their perches in the trees around them. She didn't wait for him to respond, before disappearing into the darkness of her home and slamming the door shut behind her.
He didn't move for a long time as he watched the house, expecting candle light to illuminate the dark windows. But they never did, and she never came out as the sun set and left him in the dark. Finally, he moved and found his pack among the trees and underbrush. Muttering to himself under his breath, he retreated a good distance back into the woods to set up a shelter.
He didn't find her note until well into the night, when he lay on a bed of pine needles unable to sleep. She had pinned it to a package of jerky that hadn't been in his pack before, the words sketched out with a bit of charcoal on a crisp sheet of paper with the mayor of Oakfield's emblem engraved at the top. He could barely make the words out in the moon light.
Deft set of fingers on you, if you managed to steal this back.
He snorted with laughter and folded the note up, tucking it back into his pack. So she had anticipated him stealing it, had she? He would have, if he had found a moment among the market crowd to do so. It was what he had planned.
Laughing, he pulled his travel cloak around him and rolled over on his hard bed of dirt and pine. He would figure it all out in the morning, when he didn't have visions of those mismatched children and their peculiar mother in his head.
They had already been orphaned once. But they had a father and two mothers now. They could do without the Hero, couldn't they?
Coming up next: The assassin strikes! What will Sparrow do?
As always, please review and send comments. I live off your feedback.