Disclaimer: For those of you don't know, I do not own anything originally from Fable or Fable 2, or Fable 3 either.
Author's Message: This is my first Fable fanfic, and I know this chapter is kinda short. I promise, things WILL pick up the pace. This is really just a prologue to set up the rest. I absolutely adore Reaver so this is my tribute to him and Sparrow. Please read and review, love it or hate it I value constructive criticism since I am always striving to improve my writing. And enjoy.
Mayor. Captain. Hero.
The coastal township of Bloodstone had always been a place of opportunity. For centuries it had been filled to the brim with wayward souls, each one of them filled with a burning ambition and tagged with a price, and as such it was a town easily swayed by anyone with enough money and power. And so, when a young cavalier passed through their town and murdered the most fierce-some pirate ever to sail the nine seas in his own private study, the town as a whole bowed down before his might, and thus began the reign of a new Pirate King, who was henceforth known only as 'Reaver'.
No one knew if such be his true name, though rumor abounded that he had stolen it from the first man he'd shot down in cold blood. But true name or no, it was a name that had struck fear into the heart of every mortal with even a lick of sense, and so all residents of Bloodstone had served him as any subject would serve their King; unquestioningly and unthinkingly. Those who did not... well, their story ended with a pool of blood that spread like an offering at the Pirate King's feet.
This man, this enigma, was a bloodthirsty deviant of the worst kind, and he fit the image of Bloodstone well. He appeared to have limitless wealth, and gorged himself on the finest foods, wines, and pleasurable company for more than a hundred years, all the while showing no signs of age or sickness. Even death itself feared the Pirate King's unmatched Skill, or so it seemed to the people of Bloodstone, and after a time they revered him as more than a king; he had, in essence, become their god. He granted them the freedoms and liberties the rest of the civilized world forbade them, and all one was required to do was avoid his displeasure at all costs, for he would gun down any man or woman as soon as look at them. The people felt this a fair price to pay in return for being able to live however they pleased, and all thought this chaotic and pleasurable way of life would continue on indefinitely.
Then, after two centuries of rule, without any warning, a great army had laid siege to the town of Bloodstone; the people had cried out for their King to save them, to drive away the horde of brigands that was more vicious and bloodthirsty then any of their own, but their King had fled, leaving his people to their fate and disappearing without a trace.
And so for the first time in two hundred years the people of Bloodstone knew no leadership; it had been left lost and adrift, and the people assumed their King had forsaken his coastal paradise in search of more exotic and uninhibited pastures. For years the town was little more than anarchic cesspool. True, it had always been such, but these days it seemed the harbor at the foot of the town was constantly crowded with bloated bodies that bobbed up and down in the water, and more poured in each day. Men and women... the young and the old... wealthy pirates and filthy beggars... No one knew a modicum of safety any longer. Gangs formed, each fighting for the right to rule over the town, as well as repelling the more frequent attacks coming in from Wraithmarsh, as the eerie fen tried to expand itself into the town. The carnage was unspeakable; wraiths slipped in through the night and attacked those foolish enough to wander out alone, while gangs fought against each other, and amongst themselves, until the very trade the town thrived on came to a halt. Those who had once been prideful and free-roaming pirates became little more than starving thugs. Only the largest and most powerful gangs could rule, but without Pirate King to keep a semblance of control and order, the violence in the streets reached an all time high as gangs and wraiths clashed together in the streets almost nightly, until the cobbled roads were painted red with the blood of those too weak or too unlucky to survive.
And then, on one fateful and crisp dawn, after three years of relentless brutality and violence, a Hero appeared at the edge of Wraithmarsh and strode bravely into their town. She wore a long dirtied cloak with a hood that obscured her face, but she was fearless and confident as she marched through the winding streets, taking the path leading up toward the manor house on the hill. It was almost as though she did not know of the danger she faced walking through the streets, completely exposed and alone. Perhaps those who saw her were too stunned to respond properly, but no one made a move to attack her. Instead, one by one, they began to follow her.
Who was this woman who dared barge into their town as though she owned the place? Who would be so foolish as to brave the dangers of Wraithmarsh, when, at the end of their journey, they would find nothing more than certain death at the hands of Bloodstone thugs?
Like tiny streams joining into a larger river, men and women trickled from their run down homes, prostitutes left their brothels, and burly thugs armed with swords and pistols emerged from their dens. In collective silence, they followed the newcomer, who neither glanced back at them or gave any indication that she knew they were there.
Then, at the top of the hill, standing the foot of the steps of the surprisingly manor, which was surprisingly untouched and intact, she finally turned around and threw back her hood. Her face was youthful, surprisingly so, but held an edge of competency that only the wisdom of age could bring.
"Well, well," she said. Her voice was not loud nor rough, but soft and feminine while carrying the unmistakable hint of authority. "I wasn't expecting the welcoming committee. You have surpassed my expectations."
"And who are you?" barked a tall, brutish looking man who stood at the very front of their gathering, cracking his scabbed and bloody knuckles.
The woman did not appear the least bit intimidated. Indeed, her cupid's bow lips curved into a beguiling smile as her emerald eyes seemed to sparkle in the sunlight. "I see you do not remember me. I'm hurt," she added sardonically.
"And who the bleedin' hell are you?" asked another.
Her smile grew wider. "I am Sparrow, the Hero of Bowerstone. I was here some three years ago, the same time your Pirate King disappeared. And seeing as you've asked, I should also inform you that I am now the bleedin' mayor of this-" she looked around mockingly "-fine little town."
A stunned silence met, her pronouncement, at least until the man could find his voice again.
"Mayor, huh?" he growled. "We don't need no stinking mayor. I'm the leader 'round here, so why don't you just mosey on back where you came from, before I ugly up that pretty face of yours."
A round of jeering and laughter followed this proclamation, but the woman who called herself Sparrow barely acknowledged the threat. "I must say, I had a good look around on my way up to my new manor, and if any town needs a mayor... I mean," she said with a mocking smile, "just look at yourselves."
"What's that s'possed to mean?"
"It means this town has become little more than a gutter where degenerates such as yourself can squander away what life and talent has been given to you," she said simply. "Rest assured, I take no pleasure in being here, but I was asked personally by the Mayor of Westcliff to rebuild this town."
The thug sneered viciously. "I don't give a rat's steaming shit if Reaver himself sent yeh. I'll tear your pretty little head off your shoulders before I go takin' orders from some posh little wench who's probably never even killed a man." Another burst of rowdy cheers followed this, but the woman did not seem the least bit bothered.
Sparrow waited patiently for the cheers to quiet down, but then asked quietly, "Is that so?"
Sparrow only sighed in response, then removed the heavy traveling cloak from about her shoulders and dropped it where she stood, revealing a ragged linen shirt stained in several places with what looked like dried blood and a pair of skin-tight leather breeches. On one hip rested a thin sword, and on the other was holstered a sleek pistol. Resting her thumb lightly on the hammer and her finger on the trigger, she looked the man dead in the eye with a look of determination so fierce the whole crowd fell silent again.
"We can start whenever you wish," was her simple challenge, "but before we do, I ask you, aren't you tired of all... this?" The crowd fell silent, including the thug who seemed their unofficial leader. "How many years have the people of this town been fighting over the remnants of the Pirate King's rule? Bloodstone was once a town of wealth and freedom, run by proud and merciless pirates that were feared from Westcliff to Oakfield. Now look around you. It's little more than rat-infested hole dedicated to squalor and misery. Is this really how the lot of you want to live your lives? squandering your life away until someone kills you and adds your corpse to the lot floating in the harbor?"
More silence followed her words, and Sparrow glanced meaningfully from face to face, seeing the sudden drop in morale as her words sank in.
"I've come here to take on the mantle of leadership," she went on. "I've come to pick up the jagged pieces of Bloodstone that the Pirate King to callously left behind. Don't you want more than this? I can give you more than just the life you used to have. I can give you much, much more. It is a monumental task, I won't lie, but it is one I cannot take on alone. I need you, Bloodstone," she said, addressing the crowd at large. "And you need me. I can lead you, but I am not this town. You are. Only you can rebuild what has been lost. The gangs will not save you, the Pirate King will not return for you. I alone care about your future. I alone believe Bloodstone can still be saved. But you need to believe it too. If any of you, like this thug you see before me, believe violence and death is the only way to move forward, then please, I welcome you to challenge me. Prove yourself worthy to lead this town in my stead."
Smiling cruelly, the thug instantly went for his own pistol, but before he could so much as remove it from its holster, a gunshot sounded through the entire town, followed immediately by a hair-raising shriek. The thug found himself on his knees, clutching his right hand, which was bloodied and, on closer inspection, now had a small, round hole sliced cleanly through the center.
"Y-you bitch!" he growled in agony, and he grappled for his weapon with his other hand, but again the woman called Sparrow fired her pistol, and this time a small appendage flew from the man's other hand and skittered across the cobblestones. The crowd drew back as a whole when they saw it was the man's thumb.
"Ghaaaaah!" the man roared loudly, jumping to his feet and charging straight for the woman. Sparrow did not move, did not flinch away, and when the man was only a few feet from her, she issued a final shot, and the man lay dead at her feet, his blood pooling around her boots.
The town was deathly silent. No one seemed to move, or even breathe. All those who had witnessed the fall of the most brutal gang leader in Bloodstone stared in utter shock at the woman before them, her stature so great, her expression so fierce, and her eyes burning into each of them. For a brief moment, it was as though they were looking into the face of the Pirate King once more.
"Would anyone else like to issue their challenge?" Sparrow said at last.
Satisfied, Sparrow holstered her pistol. "Return to your homes, your brothels, your dens, and inform everyone you pass that law has come to Bloodstone. At dawn tomorrow, I will call a meeting in this very place. I invite all residents of Bloodstone to attend, and together, we will see what can be done about returning Bloodstone to her glory."
Wordlessly, the crowd dispersed, still in shock over the sudden and brutal shift in power, and Sparrow turned from them without further thought, taking the key from around her neck and unlocking the door that led her into Reaver's Manor.
Or rather, my manor now, she thought suddenly.
The heavy door flew open, revealing a dank, dark, musty sitting room. Sparrow stepped inside and closed the door behind her, igniting a handful of flames in her palm and looking around. The manor house had the distinct air of neglect. She doubted anyone had even set foot inside it since Reaver had abandoned it.
Swallowing hard, Sparrow approached the heavy oaken door across the entrance, almost as though compelled to do so, and with one steady hand, forced open the door and entered the study where she had first encountered the Pirate King. The room was dark as a crypt. Sparrow cautiously made her way around the room, lighting whatever candle-lamps she could find, ending at the desk that dominated the eastern side of the room. Its surface was coated with a clear inch of dust, but through that, Sparrow could just make out a faded yellowed envelope. Lifting it, she blew off the filth and inspected it closely.
It was addressed to no one; knowing Reaver, it could be something really nasty, but unable to quell her curiosity, she slit the red-wax seal and flipped it open, finding only a yellowed piece of parchment, folded neatly in half and written upon with an elegant script. Holding it to the light, she read the words the Pirate King had left behind years ago.
If you are reading this, you have usurped my home. Well done. May suppurating pustules plague every delicate part of your anatomy. Be you stranger or acquaintance, friend or foe, you can enjoy the anecdotal tales I have recorded upon magical paper and left scattered in objects around the house. Until I return to kill you and take back what is rightfully mine.
Grinning inspite of herself, Sparrow folded the letter and tucked it back in its envelope. Typical Reaver. Well, if he ever did return, he would be in the shock of a lifetime. Instead of finding his town in the hands of some mortal whom he could easily do away with, he would find her, and she wasn't going anywhere.
But for now... well, for now, there was much to be done. Bloodstone was hers, and by Avo and the Light, she would see it prosper.
The change had begun gradually, over the first few months, but picked up speed as the years progressed, until the town of Bloodstone was hardly recognizable. One by one, pirates and thugs alike found themselves trading in their guns and swords for hammers and axes. Beggars left the streets and whores left the brothels and began working in the rebuilt shops, selling jewelry, furniture, and clothing, or styling hair. Buildings were painted and furnished, streets were repaired and cleaned. Bodies were fished from the harbor to be given proper burial, and the dock was repaired. Before long ships began sailing into the newly rebuilt harbor, bringing their supplies and wealth with them, and so Bloodstone became the new trading port between Westcliff and the rest of Albion. Finally, after seven long years, the unkempt air of the town was little more than a distant memory, and Bloodstone bragged of a wealth that surpassed even Bowerstone's. Citizens faithfully paid their rent and taxes to the Mayor, and she in turn protected them from the horrors of Wraithmarsh and the pirates from the sea. It was a rare day a Banshee or a brigand trespassed on her territory.
After more than two centuries of lawlessness and filth, Bloodstone had redeemed itself. Each day merchants, artisans, and craftsmen plied their trade, and each night they would gather at the taverns to relax and enjoy a good time. The children were received a good education at the school house, were properly clothed and cared for, and went to bed with full stomachs every night. Then, for a few hours before each new dawn, Bloodstone would lull into a peaceful slumber only to stretch its legs and begin the day again.
Sparrow stood at her elegant stone balcony, her hair being tossed around on the clean sea breeze as she looked on with pride as the sun reflected off the russet-tiled roofs of her town. Bloodstone had truly become a place she could call home. It was far away from all the memories and ghosts of her past. There was nothing here to haunt her, and for the first time, she felt as though she had truly accomplished something beyond her own selfish need for revenge. Smiling to herself in satisfaction, she returned to her manor, which she had remodeled in her efforts to remove all traces of Reaver's influence, and opened to wardrobe to prepare for a new day.
Thirty minutes later she walked down the stairs to her parlor, opening the front door where her naval Commander stood in full uniform, saluting smartly with just a hint of a smile about his weathered lips.
"On time as always, Mister Daniels," she greeted pleasantly. "Come inside and have yourself some coffee."
"Thank yeh, Capt'n," he said in his heavily accented brogue as he removed his hat; his long chocolate-brown locks were tied back and styled immaculately. He stepped inside and shut the door behind himself, then followed her to her study. His smile warmed as he took in his superior. Professional as always, she was dressed in her uniform, a fitted silk white shirt with a high frill around the neckline, a pale blue reefer jacket with shiny brass buttons, white form-fitting trousers, and shinny black boots that came up over her knees and lifted her by several inches with high, pointed heels that clicked as she walked. Her fire-red curls were pulled up into an impeccable knot atop the crown of her head, and held in place only by a pale blue ribbon.
As they entered her study, they were greeted by an elderly but spry woman he recognized as Mrs. Kumar. She had a no-nonsense air about her that Sparrow had come to depend on over the years. Her skin was a deep, dusky brown and her white-streaked black hair was pulled back into tight braid that reached her knees. She wore strange but colorful robes, today's being a mix of flaming-orange and red. She was setting a silver coffee tray on the large mahogany desk dominating the center of the room.
"Good morning Miss Sparrow, Mistair Daniels," she greeted with her peculiar accent. From what Daniels knew of her, she had come with her husband from Samarkand. At the time, Sparrow had been working day and night to restore law and order to Bloodstone and had nearly fallen ill from exhaustion. She had hired Mr. and Mrs. Kumar to take care of her and her home, and they had remained with her these past six years.
"Mrs. Kumar, good morning," Sparrow said with reserved warmth. "Is your husband well?"
"He is, Miss, though the foolish man rose with the dawn tu start on the vines on the east wall. He says thair getting undair the roof tiles again."
Sparrow shook her head. "I thought I told him to stay off the roof? He's too old to be climbing, and the fall could kill him."
Manya Kumar rolled her dark eyes. "Try telling that fool he's tu old, see whair that gets yu."
Sparrow smiled. "I'll talk with him again."
Mrs. Kumar bowed and made to leave the study. "I wish yu luck, Miss."
Alone with his Captain again, Daniels poured a cup of coffee for the both of them, adding her usual extra milk and sugar. He joined her, holding an ivory, porcelain cup that felt fragile in his large, weathered hands.
"So, how was the journey, Mister Daniels? Anything to report?" She was, of course, asking after her merchant ship, The Rose.
"Nothin' out of the ordinary, Capt'n," he replied, and then smiled, "and how many times 'ave I asked yeh te call me Jack?"
She gave him a small smile. "You call me Captain. I call you Mister Daniels. It is the way things are."
He shook his head, but offered her his full report. She listened attentively, even as she stood staring out the window over her gardens, appearing lost in thought. Daniels was not fooled; he had been with her for too long. His Captain never missed a detail. At the end of his report she merely nodded and took her seat, then refilled her coffee. "Thank you, Mister Daniels. It is a relief to know I can rely on your to take care of The Rose when my duties here keep me landlocked."
He smiled. "Yeh can always rely on me, Capt'n. If yeh'll pardon me sayin' so, maybe yeh should get back out on the open sea. Yeh look like yeh could use it."
She lifted her gaze slowly to his, the full impact of her emerald-green eyes hitting him like a kick to the chest. She looked tired, weary even. But also determined. "In time. I still have business to settle here. It's always busy this time of year. Harvests and merchant ships all coming in at the same time. A monsoon hit last week and the dock needed repairing. A group of pirates got cocky. I personally took care of them."
Daniel's scowled. "Yeh wouldn't be worn down so if yeh didn't insist on takin' care of everything yerself."
Sparrow gave him a rare smile, a real one that seemed to light up her whole face. "If only I had a few more of you, then I wouldn't have to."
He hated it when she did that. With a smile and few flattering words she had his gut twisting into knots and completely diffused his growing and justified frustration, until he found himself smiling at her like an idiot. For her sake, he tried to keep his momentum. "Yeh work yerself to the bone fer this town. Yeh put so much in it yeh ain't got nothin' left for yerself."
Her expression suddenly grew serious. "I commit myself only as much as any resident of this town has themselves," she said quietly. "I could never face them if I did anything less. You should know that."
He lowered his eyes respectfully. "My apologies, Capt'n, I know its not me place. I am concerned for yeh. Me words come from honest intentions."
Sparrow sighed. "Bloodstone is my home. Its people are my family. What manner of woman would I be if I didn't put everything I have into taking care of them." He could say nothing more and he knew it. "Thank you for your report, Mister Daniels."
Understanding himself to be dismissed, he stood and saluted, exiting the study with a stiff back.
Sparrow watched him go and then immediately put him from her mind. Daniels had been her Commander since she had acquired The Rose five years ago. Sometimes her work in town became so demanding she could not get out to sea for months, even a year or more. But this was her life now, one she had chosen and one she lived well. She was at peace in her work. Bloodstone had placed itself with full trust into her hands; she would put everything she had into making it prosper and destroy anything that dared threaten it.