Sparrow the Nutter
When Rose got the bright idea to spend five gold coins on a music box, Sparrow's first thought "Oh bloody 'ell! Not again!"
Their little shack was littered with various odds and ends that Rose had been certain would put an end to their misery, would elevate them to the lofty status of the upper class and maybe even develop the ability to pronounce the letter H. It had reached the point where you couldn't roll over in your sleep without being poked in the back by a Salad Shooter, Pediegg, or a Slap Chop. (He did have to admit that the Snuggies weren't a bad idea, what with being homeless and in danger of freezing to death and all.)
But it was useless to argue with Rose. She was all he had after their parents had…well, he wasn't sure exactly what had happened to Mum and Dad. Rose refused to tell him, only that it had something to do with balverines and mating season and that he wasn't old enough to understand. He'd chucked a Sew-EZ at her head for that one. So if she wanted the damned music box he'd help her buy the damned music box, but this was the last time!
"So what do you think?" She'd held the music box out for his inspection. "Ew! Why are you lickin' it?"
"Pie would taste better."
"Well, this will 'elp us get pie! As soon as we're adopted by that simp Lucien it's only a matter of time before 'e puts us into 'is will. Then we'll bump 'im off and Bob's yer Uncle."
"We 'ave an uncle? Why ain't we livin' with 'im then, cheap bugger?"
But of course the music box was a dud. He should have known after he saw the "Made in China " stamp on the bottom of it. Mum had always said not to trust anything made in countries that didn't exist. (She'd also said "Oh beans!" a lot but that didn't seem relevant.)
So they'd gone to bed that night, joined by their friend Steve (who due to a blow on the head from an irate pie vender he'd tried to rob, thought he was a dog.) Steve was a lot more tolerable now that they'd managed to house-break him, but Rose swore that if he tried to get frisky on her leg one more time they were taking him to the butcher's.
The rest of the evening went pretty well, as far as Sparrow as concerned. Nice walk in the snow, brief tour of the castle, a chance to meet their potential patsy Lucien Fairfax.
All well and good until Lucien shot Rose.
" 'ere now! Not very nice of ya!" Sparrow was annoyed.
"You're the fourth! Not one of the three! You may be the fifth but it's doubtful. Your father was probably the second, unless he was the first. If you were the 6th you'd have bigger feet…" Lucien babbled, waving the gun.
"Yer loony and I'm goin' 'ome!" Sparrow pulled his Snuggie tighter around himself. "And you can bloody well figure out what to do with that!" He pointed at Rose's body. "Cause I ain't cleanin' it up!"
"You're the 8th!" Lucien howled. He pointed the gun at Sparrow and fired. The bullet went to the left of the boy and a black hole appeared in the wall.
"Sorry about that." Lucien seemed embarrassed. "I usually have better aim." He fired again.
Several things when through Sparrow's mind as the force of the bullet knocked him backwards through the castle windows. The first being "Oh beans!" which definitely seemed appropriate for this situation. The next was to think that Lucien Fairfax was a bit rude not to toss Rose's carcass out first so that he'd have something soft to land on. It was all a bit much to handle, given his tender age, so Sparrow's sanity decided this would be a jolly time to pack up and move to a safer environment. Permanently.
"Get back here!" The old blind women stood over the boy's body, shaking her fist at the fleeting wits. "Stupid thing. This is going to be interesting…" She bent down and scooped Sparrow up. "Can you hear me?"
"Pie...I was promised…a….bleedin' pie…"
"Yes, yes, come with me and I'll make sure you get pie. And your frie…err…dog as well." She drew her hand back in disgust as Steve enthusiastically licked it.
"Glad I'm not the 6th…bloody 'ard findin' boots as it is…always wished I'd been born a girl…could go for some dainty feet, I could."
Yes, Theresa sighed to herself. Interesting indeed.
Looking back, presenting Sparrow with a sword and a gun as 'Going off to kill Lucien' presents was probably not the best idea. Well, it wasn't a bad idea, but Theresa thought she probably should have waited until they were away from the gypsy camp. Especially since Sparrow's first action once armed was to slaughter everyone in sight.
"For the last time, I'm not killable!" She snapped at him finally, pushing the sword out of her face. "Stop that."
"But I turned off the safety!" Sparrow stomped his foot. "You need to die now!"
"You just killed 30 people! That will have to hold you for now, young man!"
Sparrow sulked and put the sword away. He absently stroked Steve's head as the 'dog' licked the blood of the innocents off of his hand. "Stupid old woman…"
"I heard that! I'm blind, not deaf! Now, see that building in the middle of the lake?"
"Swim out to it."
"And then can I kill you?"
"No, you may not."
"Then, I ain't doin' it."
"Oh, I think you will. If you do everything I tell you to, you'll get to kill Lucien…"
"Once he's dead Castle Fairfax goes up for sale…"
"What do I care about that?"
"There's a special potion hidden the basement…I hear it can grant your fondest wish…"
"Okay, your second fondest wish…"
"You mean…" Sparrow started to weep. "After all this time?"
"Yes, Little Sparrow. The smallest, most wonderfully proportioned feet you can imagine. You'll be able to wear the creations of all the masters…well, you'll have other girl bits to go along with them, but…"
"I don't care!" Sparrow stomped a very large boot on the ground. "I want girl feet!"
"Then swim out to that island…"
A few minutes later, as Theresa knelt on the shore frantically pumping water out of Sparrow's lungs, it occurred to her that in the future it was probably a good idea to find out if someone could swim before ordering them to do so.
"Bloody merchants! It's after 10! Why ain't this store open?" Sparrow whined. "I need a new sword!"
"It's not open because you killed the shop-keeper. Along with almost everyone else in town. That's how you lost your last sword: it snapped off in someone's gut! Just go steal what you need." Theresa's voice in Sparrow's head sounded incredibly annoyed.
"I can't do that! Stealin' is wrong! Tis a sin!"
"You're a mass murderer! You're so evil you have horns!"
"Bloke has to have some lines he just don't cross, Theresa!" Sparrow folded his arms across his chest stubbornly. He'd finally learned to say the letter H but he still wasn't fond of it. Bloody overrated, if you asked him.
"Fine. Go sleep at the inn for seven days. There should be some new shop-keepers. Just make sure you leave them alive after you're done!"
"Harold! Oh, Harold!" The woman was sobbing. "Why? Why?"
"Daddy? Daddy, pwease wake up." Her daughter knelt by the man's body, which was draped over the stairs.
"Now, don't be like that!" Sparrow soothed. "He's in a better place now. Look, want to see something wonderful? I can dance!" He went into a spirited jig, which caused the woman to start sobbing harder. "Hey! I'm dancing! Look at me when I'm trying to entertain you! Don't make me slap you!"
"Monster!" The woman hissed.
"I am not! I'm a Hero! Look, I took out a bandit not long ago! See? Got his noggin right here!" He proudly presented Thag's head. "See? Lopped it right of…oh, now you're just being difficult on purpose. What you need is a few hours of good loving. Come back to my place?"
It had gone down hill from there…
Theresa hoped he was on the right path this time, she truly did. Everything had seemed to be going well at first; Sparrow had been skipping merrily toward Oakfield to speak to the Abbot, only stopping now and then to kill some bandits or travelling merchants.
Then he'd run into that idiotic…gargoyle! After having a nice chat with it, Sparrow had decided it was destiny that he too become one. He'd climbed up to the stop of a stone pillar and stayed there for nearly a week, shouting insults at anyone unlucky enough to pass underneath.
"I can smell your bum!" He'd hollered down at Theresa when she'd finally had enough and showed up to confront him.
"You get down from there!"
"Shant! I'm a gargoyle, you stupid wench!"
"You can't be a gargoyle! You don't have a permit for it!"
Sparrow let out a string colorful language and shimmed down the wall. "That? That's what's wrong with this country! Government interferes in everything! Can't run a pie stall without a permit! Can't drive a carriage without a permit. Can't be a gargoyle without one! Someone needs to do somethin'!"
So he'd given up, reluctantly, on the gargoyle dream. Theresa (not taking any chances) also assured him that he would need a permit to become a Hobbe, a Balverine, and a Hollow Man.
"How about a demon door?"
"That's the most expensive permit of all."
She'd convinced him to stop back at Bowertown for a shave and a shower, but it had only taken a few admittedly impolite comments to irritate him and send him on slashing frenzy. He wasn't happy to learn that, like at the gypsy camp, children could not be killed. He'd taken to slapping them instead until they fled on their own. He'd also remembered to praise Steve lavishly for biting a few fleeing citizens on the rump. She'd long ago give up trying to convince him that Steve should wear clothing.
"He's a dog! He doesn't need clothing!"
"He's not a bloody dog! He's a very confused young man!"
"Arf!" Steve added his opinion, but no one was listening.
Maybe things would be better now. Theresa was trying to be an optimist about it.
Seven days later, Sparrow was decked out with his new sword and rifle, and ready to go. He was also wearing a corset, a skirt, an eye-patch, women's boots, pig-tails, and had dyed his hair and beard a shocking pink.
"What the bloody…never mind." Theresa decided it was simply better not to ask. "Just get going before the Abbot dies of old age!"
"No, you can't kill him."
When Sparrow discovered the Temple of Shadows , he was like a child in a toy shop. "You mean…I can kill them? All of them? And you'll pay me for it?"
The Shadow Priests looked at each other, somewhat nervously. "Of course. We're evil, after all. Just get someone to follow you into that circle and pull the switch. Oh, and you've got a bit of chick on your mouth."
Sparrow wiped his face on his sleeve and motioned to one of the acolytes. "Follow me, please."
"Sure. Where are we going?" The young man asked happily.
"No! Stop right there, Dave!" The head Priest shook his finger at Sparrow. "We're off limits, now. You'll have to do your recruiting elsewhere."
"There are way too many rules in this bloody world about who I can and cannot kill!" Sparrow snapped. But he'd done as he was bidden. He was especially fond of luring Game Masters into the temple ('Bloody buggers! Report ME to the guards for a high debt!') Only once had the ritual gone wrong and instead of a dead Game Master he had ended up with a very irritate Game Mistress.
"Only a 2% chance of that happening, really." Sparrow had tried to explain to the horrified woman. "You were supposed to get shocked. Or beheaded. But look at it this way: think of the SHOES you'll be able to wear now. I'd give anything to be in your place, Madame. Someday you'll thank me for this."
"I have a wife, you idiot! I have children! I can't…my wife will leave me when she sees what I've become!"
"But think of all the lovely clothing she'll leave behind when she goes. You really need to stop being such a pessimist." Sparrow was annoyed by her lack of gratitude: the sight of her small, delicate feet was almost enough to move him to tears. "Look, if you're that upset step back into the circle. If I pull it again you're bound to die of something this time."
"No, no, that's quite alright. Martha always has been…adventurous. Maybe she'll enjoy something new." The Game Mistress turned and fled, leaving a bemused Sparrow behind.
"I've said it once and I'll say it again." The Head Priest sighed. "If you're bloody stupid enough to follow one of us down here, you deserve whatever happens to you. If you're stupid enough to follow him…" he motioned to Sparrow, who was wearing a harlot's outfit today "anywhere you deserve your fate!"
Winning the Abbot's approval wasn't as hard as Sparrow had expected. Theresa had told him, sternly, that he couldn't behead everyone until they had sufficiently gossiped about him to the Abbot's satisfaction. Sparrow, when he was done pouting, had settled for running around town thrusting Thag's head into the face of everyone he met. Which had proven highly amusing in one case: Sparrow hadn't know (or really cared) that Thag's mother lived in Oakfield but was delighted to make her acquaintance.
Finally the Abbot had agreed to trust his beloved only child into Sparrow's care, which Theresa was thankful for (even if she did think that Abbot was nuttier than squirrel poop for doing so.)
"Sometimes people call me Hammer when they think think they're being funny. They're not." Hammer was complaining to Sparrow, who nodded in sympathy. "I think I'll call you Fluffy."
"Fluf…I beg your pardon?" Hammer sputtered.
"Come on, Fluffy!" Sparrow was already into the Wellspring Cave . "Race ya!"
"Look, you're being way too sensitive about this! I was trying to help!" Sparrow raced after the furious woman. "Thought you wanted the oak on your Dad's grave to get big. I was just watering it for you!"
"Don't…don't speak to me!" Hammer growled. "Don't even look at me until we get to Westcliff!"
"Fancy a trip to the Temple of Shadows , then? It's Poker Night…"
Hammer started to snap at him, and then stopped. "I suppose they have good beer?"
"Fine. Poker Night sounds lovely, but so help me if I end up beheaded or a man or…"
"No worries, luv! Would I lie to you?"
The next morning Hammer (now carrying a good portion of the Temple 's gem and ale collections on her back) was in a far better mood. They weren't such a bad lot after all; certainly a great deal more fun that the holier-than-thou version she'd grown up with. Other than the fact that to a man they all called her "Fluffy", she'd definitely been made to feel welcome.
Westcliff went as expected. Sparrow had no trouble beating the Crucible. He'd also had no trouble in killing the innocent merchants in between levels, which drove the ratings so high Mad Dog immediately put in an order for a new luxury wife.
"I get to be a Spire Guard! Theresa! I get to be a Spire Guard! That's even better than a gargoyle!" Sparrow was jumping up and down in glee. "I hope I get a fancy uniform, and they have a 401K, and dental benefits!"
"You are there to rescue Garth."
"Need I remind you of a special potion…"
"Okay, unsod Garth. Where's the damn boat?" Sparrow scratched his backside, hitching his skirt up in the process and revealing an extremely hairy leg. "Let's get this over with."
Hammer stood on the pier with Steve at her side, watching the boat sail away. "Is that in then? He's gone for a spell?"
"About ten years, give or take." Theresa confirmed.
"Fantastic! Temple of Shadows offered me a spot on their World Poker Tour. I'm going to be so bloody rich I can buy Albion ! See you in 10 years!" Hammer took off in a sprint, and people flung themselves out of her way.
"Get back to the guild right now, Hammer!" Theresa was furious.
"Sorry…" the woman's voice drifted back. "Don't know who you mean. The name's Fluffy…"