|Snow and Stones

|Chapter 1,

|Teeth

Bone runes scattered across the table top, rattling into place for the seventh time. The exact same place for the seventh time. Sparrow reclined back into her large armchair, silent.

There was no mistaking it; one of the three subsequent heroes was returning home. Her White-Balverine tooth runes never lied. Sparrow had fashioned them herself when she was younger - although, not much younger, since she was not yet old. Her face and body were far more youthful than her mind. Short, thick dark hair and sparkling eyes darker still, lent her a fairly ordinary appearance. However, beneath her clothes, map-like crisscrossed scars spread across her body, the lightest of strawberry reds.

Now pale-faced and wary, Sparrow had been born a mute and into poverty. As a result of this she had learnt to observe. That was all she had done; observe and accept, forever trying to understand. And of course, no one is going to watch their words - their behaviour - around a little urchin who wasn't going to go blabbing. A little wide-eyed girl who couldn't go blabbing. Her sister had often said, that the day Sparrow spoke would be the day that the right people listened to them: "The day you open your mouth little Sparro', I'll make the whole world listen; they'll have ta', you'll see." Rose would reiterate this every time she could see the want to speak deeply engraved on her little sister's face.

Only much later, when she was seventeen, did the words reach her. When she stood at the core of the derelict Guild of Heroes - as she felt the blood of the ancients tuning in to the beat of her pulse - only then could she feel real words warming her lungs. Her own speakable words burning to be said. And, of course, the world did not stop to listen to her, and she didn't want them to. All she wanted was to tell Rose that she was sorry, and for her big sister - her protector - to hear her voice. But she couldn't. Not then, not now, not ever.

So few sounds are loud enough to reach the ears of the dead. Those who lay in their graves sleep too soundly, too deeply, to be reached by the prayers and sorrows of the living. And those with no marked graves, no sealed tomb or resting place, are too busy hopelessly wondering and searching this world for somewhere to rest.

Sparrow had never, and would never, know where her sister's body had been buried; or even if it had been buried. When she was younger of mind -much younger - this uncertainty had filled her eyes with fat and overflowing tears, forever rolling toward her chin. Not once, in nearly ten years had Theresa comforted the little Sparrow. Whenever the blind soothsayer spoke to the child her voice was as if she were reciting another's deeply sentimental message, that meant very little to her; this tone rinsed her words of all the sincerity and empathy she felt for the girl. Over the quiet years in the Gypsy Camp, Sparrow had grown to think that Theresa hated her, and it turn, began to hate the emotionless witch herself.

Whether Theresa liked her or not was immaterial. The day the young Sparrow left the safety of Bower Lake to become a hero, she had no company, no friends, except for her faithful dog. Theresa's opinion meant as little to her as a lonely grain of sand. As a consequence of this, her life was her own to live without any form of parental discipline. Reckless, Sparrow had made some of what she knew to be "the wrong choices."

But she would not dwell on that now. Many years had passed since she had heard the uplifting tunes of the gypsies, and swam in the cool waters of Bower Lake. She'd be lying if she said she missed it. Leaning forward, Sparrow took a closer look at her runes once again. Though their predictions could be rather vague, they were never wrong. Few people believed in the magics of the Old Religion in these modern days of guns and new machines. Will-users were often mocked by common folk and skilled tradesmen alike. Magic was thought to be as dead, as the stones of the now empty and crumbling temples of the Old Religion. Outdated children's story's and useless myth. Sparrow strongly disagreed with this.

She was not a strong Will-user at all; small apple sized balls of flame was about the best she could manage. Fun but forgettable party tricks, that couldn't even strike fear into the heart of a rat, weren't something for a infamous hero to boast about. Despite this, the Old Religion was invaluably dear to her for personal reasons. It was rumoured among the people of Albion, that Sparrow was a direct descendant of the old hero of Oakvale; and they were right. Her bloodline could be traced clearly back to his.

The Hero of Oakvale was the stuff of legend. Truly old legends of dragons, giant wasps and Jack of Blades. But he, and everything of his time had come to nothing but fairytales. Hell!; only a handful of people believed that Wraithmarsh had ever been more than a nest of hollow men and empty houses. There were only three people left in the whole of Albion with the purest of heroes' blood in their veins; the truest of connections to Oakvalle: Theresa, Sparrow and, well… The hero who would be returning to Bloodstone that very night.

Surrounding her on every angle was Reaver's decedents, represented by his furnishings, portraits and other personal possessions. Every light in the room had been extinguished hours ago, but within the red and black tiled fireplace burnt a strong and radiating fire. Its orange light jumped back and forth, almost cautiously, like a cat intent on killing a defensive and spiting snake. This caused every shadow in the room to flicker and fidget uncomfortably as they coated the far corners of the room.

It was not long now.


Brooding thoughts incurred purposeful steps as Reaver made his way up the sloped and cobbled streets of Bloodstone. His trip to Samarkand had been distasteful at best. As much as every cell of his body hated to admit it - Garth had been correct - the master Will-users' homeland had not lived up to Reaver's expectations at all.

How the inhabitants of such an exotic and fruitful country could lead such mundane lives of Will-discipline and meditation was beyond him. There were no gold mines, no foreign clusters of jewels or uninhibited beauties to be exploited. Even the fruits tasted dry and bitter. That excuse of a country was completely barren to him, in more ways than one. And the monkeys; he couldn't bare to think about the monkeys. Nasty little things. Furry, thieving, vulgar little things, that were all too skilled at throwing excrement. Could he be blamed for shooting one of the little buggers? How was he to know they were sacred animals? Surely most sacred animals had a much higher degree of decorum.

Formally, verbally and forcibly banned from Samarkand for all eternity, Reaver had set out on his return voyage with no plunders nor any pleasant memories. In a attempt to shake such unpleasantries from his mind he cast it back to his small chunk of Albion. Bloodstone would await him his open arms. "What rack and ruin had it fallen to without him?" he would wonder fondly. From one port tavern to another he would keep his ears tuned into common conversation; listening in for whispers of his self-made town. And oh! He had heard more than whispers!

Someone - a hero - had taken hold of Bloodstone and every property within it. The hive of pirates, whores and vagabonds now had a new guardian. Swiftly, and seemingly effortlessly, they had stolen everything Reaver once held dear. It was so blatant, so skilful, so unorthodox - Reaver couldn't help admire and hate this individual. How bold they must be; how unique; - how like him.

At first these stories had seemed to be little more than exaggerated rumours, poison laced Chinese whispers. But they soon grew louder and more elaborate; and were presented as fact by people who thought themselves to be the sharpest of minds. According to the underground murmurs, this nameless hero had arrived in Bloodstone with a limitless amount of gold. They appeared to be more than charitable, as they gave hundreds of gold peaces to beggars and concubines completely spontaneously, asking for nothing in return. Before long, the streets were emptied of the homeless, and this hero had moved into the house on the hill; Reaver's beautiful manor house. Not one citizen complained or protested to this. The beggars new houses, and the whores new glittering trinkets, had been more than enough to rinse Bloodstone's shores of every spec of loyalty towards Reaver.

The filthy ingrates! The vile, despicable, insolent cretins! How could they forget him so quickly; so willingly? How malleable and fickle was a mortal brain?

As Reaver drew ever closer back to Albion, stories of this new wealthy- and still unnamed - hero were soon spreading faster than ravenous flames across dried forest, from one corner of the land to the next. Two nights ago - a dreary starless night, with nothing but a infantile new moon to light the sky - Reaver had overheard yet another ludicrous tale of this newfound hero. The story was told by a man thin of hair and body, as a crowd gathered around his rickety tavern table.

His story detailed a rather unpleasant banshee attack on the sinful port-town of Bloodstone. Hooded and faceless, the scarlet banshee set about murdering Albion's foulest delinquents. She fed off their saddest memories and led many to their watery doom; as she embraced many tragic souls into her dead porcelain arms above the docks. Within moments of the monster's arrival the hero was locked in epic battle with the ghoul. The hero, fearless and strong, had fought the banshee skilfully and calmly, without once changing their expression. Victorious, the hero had stood proudly over the monster, as they watched it sinking into the grey and murky waters; cheers and applauding enveloping their ears.

With a bitter taste in his mouth and scornful thoughts heating his mind, Reaver bided his time, and waited for the storyteller to leave the tavern.

In a shadow painted alley alongside the pub he waited, patient as a starving viper; with his hare-skin gloved hands resting on his fine gilded dagger. Drunk and staggering, as if he could feel the world spinning beneath him, the story teller emerged. Before he could make his third step away from the yellow light of the pub, Reaver had grabbed him by the scruff of his neck and flung him into the darkened ally. With his forearm pressing down hard beneath the man's collar bones, Reaver pinned him to the brick wall.

"Who is the hero of Bloodstone?" he had sneered so low, he could feel his vocal cords rumbling. "Who is he? Name him!" he had commended of the violently trembling man.

The story teller was an aging man; weak, with tattered clothes and tanned blemished skin, and now nose to nose with a fearsome Reaver. He moved to escape the pirate king's vice-like grip, but when he saw the shining silver dagger digging into his creased neck, he spoke:

"She has no name, sir. A woman. Younger than you'd think." the man stammered and quaked. "With snow white skin and sad dark eyes, and more scars than any man would ever want to count."

The man's pulse was now that of a mouse's, as Reaver eased his grip on him, before growling knowingly:

"Sparrow…"

As the man began to draw in a sigh of relief, Reaver plugged his dagger directly into his heart. The storyteller's eyes bulged almost comically from their sockets, as his head lunged upward stretching the skin on his neck, and strained groans dragged up his throat. Reaver slid the dagger from the man's chest with an unpleasant drawn out squelch, that caused him to wrinkle his nose; before the now soul empty body dropped to the ground, heavy and limp as a cloth bag of bones.

Such people disgusted him. He felt almost cleansed when he disposed of them from this world. Taking a silken handkerchief from his pocket to slickly wipe his dagger clean of the man's blood, Reaver took a moment to ponder the quickest way to reach Bloodstone.

Now, many hours later, he made his way through his showy floral front gardens. His - or soon to be reclaimed anyway. Subconsciously, he cast his mind back to the night at The Spire. The night Sparrow had dragged him unwillingly by his coattails in to the chaos and cacophony that was her business, her life. That one night had certainly been more than enough. Oh, he was certainly accustomed to chaos; he would often seek it, and cause it even more often. But Sparrow's was almost unfathomable. Incomprehensible powers and entities had sought her out. Created her chaos. She had turned the whole of Albion on its head, and in doing so, she had flung Him and… the other two, into the darkest walls of The Spire.

How she managed to return from the dead, and stop the seemingly unstoppable force of Lord Lucien with only a simple music box - all within one evening - would remain a mystery. This was unexpected in itself, but none of the hero trinity had expected Theresa to present Sparrow with yet another choice. What surprised them even more, had been her response, her decision.

Wealth.

She had always acted - always appeared to be - so moral. So upstanding, so pure, sometimes to the point of extreme irritation. But, still yet more unexpected, had been the use she had put her boundless wealth towards. Any self-respecting hero would have surely bought Castle Fairfax, or a sizeable chunk of Bowerstone. But no. She had chosen his town. The cobbled coastal shore of thieves and whores, he had worked so tirelessly to shape and craft as his own.

The girl was strange; that was one word for her.

Unique, rare, wayward?

Yes.

Attractive…?

He hadn't decided yet. But strange, most definitely suited her.

Reaver stood, straight and upright as a sundial, before the arched wooden door. His wooden door. He tried the heavy brass handle, fully expecting it to be locked. However, to his surprise, the door opened easily - almost welcomingly. Though he was glad he wouldn't have to endeavour to pick the lock of his own house, suspicious apprehension lingered at the very back of his mind. Regardless of this, he strode in.

Closing the door softly behind him (as thieves do) Reaver shut out the cold and salty night air before examining his old hallway. Nothing seemed to have changed within the house he had become so accustomed to. The fine panelled walls remained polished and maintained their wealthy, imposing and unfriendly presence, that easily made any peasant feel inept. The extravagant gold leaf painted furniture remained in its proper place; and the grand chandeliers hung perfectly from the ceiling, bedight with glaringly bright dangling crystals. Everything was intact, untouched, with an almost lonely emptiness. Confidently, but warily, he approached the main room of the house, beyond a small arched corridor. Once again, the door was unlocked. Slowly, Reaver wrapped his fingers around the door handle and readied his pistol with his free hand.

The door eased open to reveal a curious little scene. Absolutely nothing had been moved in the room whatsoever - but it was not how he had left it. Not an ornament had been touched nor had any picture been moved askew. However, numerous scraps of paper littered the floor, tabletops and sideboards; depicting near indecipherable slanted calligraphy and complex diagrams of the Old Religion. Bumpy clusters of burnt out candles were stuck in every available space, having dirtied his wonderful furniture with their now frozen dripping wax. Up against the crackling fireplace was the most peculiar looking mace; seemingly made from discarded industrial poles and cogs, found on the seashores of Albion, rusted a repulsive orange. It was as if she had moved on top of the room, as an extra layer, instead of moving in to it.

A plush red arm chair had been drawn up to a table at the centre of the room, upon which some bone runes had been scattered. Within the chair was a sleeping figure. Reaver instantly knew it to be Sparrow and swiftly aimed his gun at her head - but did not fire it.

Any common citizen may have been forgiven for mistaking her to be a young man. Dressed in a long, grey, men's army style coat, with a battered, sun bleached ivy green hat dipped over her eyes; she appeared to be sleeping soundly. Her feet rested atop the table in the most unladylike of fashions, as her hands clasped a pistol that lay on her lap.

Lowering his gun ever so slightly Reaver examined her, for what was - he swore to himself - the shortest of moments.

"Who takes up residence on top of a manor house, as apposed to moving inside it?" he thought silently to himself. "What a perplexing - strange girl."

Her skin shone out apart from the shadows; pale and bright as the moonlight shining on a still midnight pond; such a ghostly white. She lay so, so still, as if an unshakeable inertia had been cast upon her; as if she were already dead.

Though his aim was perfect, a cold and most unpleasant sensation of mercy eked its way up Reaver's stomach, creeping round his insides. It was almost as if he felt an unwillingness to kill her. For another short, short moment he pondered why this might be. It wasn't because she was asleep; though killing people in their sleep was underhand and immoral, he had absolutely no qualms with doing this. Was it because she was a woman? It couldn't be, he'd killed so many men and women on his way to this room, and felt no guilt about them.

"Stop being such a dithering fool and shoot the thieving cow!" he mentally ordered himself, before grimacing at his momentary merciful misconduct. Smirking slightly at his foolishness, he straightened his arm and pulled the trigger.

No sooner had his gloved finger twitched on the trigger, did Sparrow's head snap upward and her eyes fly open. With the gunshot's sound still spreading to all four corners of the room, Reaver stood statuesque and awestruck. His pupils set fixed on the bullet he had just fired, which was now clamped firmly between Sparrow's teeth.

Snatching her advantage quickly, she cocked her gun and aimed it in less than a heartbeat. She had him trapped. Slowly, she reached into her mouth and retrieved the bullet.

"A stray cat seems to have wondered in." she spoke as if she were talking to an onlooker, but there were none. Between her forefinger and thumb, she rolled the bullet steadily as she spoke. "Were my dog still alive, he'd have crushed your neck to splinters by now."

"Don't you underestimate tomcats my dear." Reaver replied smoothly, holding his aim firm. "I've seen many a ship cat carrying an ex-sparrow in his jaws."

Both sustained their glairs for a long moment before begrudgingly lowering their pistols. Using her basic Will-skills, Sparrow lit the flames of the lamps by simply gesturing her hand. As the room was illuminated so was Reaver's form, showing the disappointment and distaste that shaped his features.

For someone who had just completed a lengthy sea voyage, he looked remarkably well groomed. With smooth shaven skin and pricey red and cream garments of many silken and flimsy layers; you'd never know he'd only recently left the company of pirates (who were famed more for their debauchery than their personal hygiene). His posture was so straight it was pompous. The way he threw his chest forward - as the Bloodstone whores do - made him seem notably feminine. Though his windswept hair was clearly greying, his features were ever so slightly more youthful than before. For any other man, this would be impossible. But not him. Sparrow wondered; how many had he sacrificed since they had last parted?

"Why are you here?" she asked, with very little curiosity in her voice.

"To take back what is rightfully mine, why else?" he replied as if the conversation were beneath him. As he returned his gun to its holster he looked almost instantly more relaxed.

Sparrow mimicked him, putting her pistol away, with a slightly sad expression; seemingly disappointed with Reaver's answer.

"You did abandon it." she said mildly, whilst withdrawing a half bottle of "Djin Gin" from the drinks cabernet and pouring two stingily small glasses. "Had I not been here, there'd not be a solitary soul left on your "Costal Paradise.""

"Be that as it may," he said in a disregarding tone, not taking his seat nor his drink. "It is still my Costal Paradise, and you had no right just slipping into it when you thought my attentions were diverted away." a slight snarl on his face gave his words a sharper edge, as if he were scolding a child. "Did you really think you could just take it from me? Did you really think I would not return?"

"Don't insult me." she cut in, her words were sharper than his. She took her seat again in the armchair, her legs crossed in the most impish of fashions. "Of course I anticipated your return."

"Well, I can't blame you and your fortune-telling friend for chatting about me. I am-" he spoke arrogantly, before Sparrow interrupted him again:

"Ha!" she scoffed. "Resa hates me. That witch would never tell me anything."

Reaver took a moment to look distrustfully at his drink, as he felt a rather important query rise to the surface of his mind:

"If you knew of my imminent return -" he posed as distrust strengthened in his voice with every breath. "- most likely to kill you - why did you not strengthen your defences, flee, or ready an attack? I'd have thought you more intelligent that this."

Sparrow did not answer him, but drained her glass, and in turn, downed his in one gulp. As her head flopped forward, as if from weariness, her gaze abruptly fixed on his.

"I need your help." she said honestly and plainly.

"Oh no, no, no, no. I inexplicitly decline. A hundred times I decline." he said light-heartedly, but defiantly. "Last time I was dragged into your "business," I ended up trapped in the Spire, having my life-force drained - in great pain, I might add - to make an all powerful weapon. And I do not wish to re-enter those events any time soon."

"This is different." she insisted without tone, her gaze unnervingly fixed and unmoving.

"You are involved my dear Sparrow, how could it be different?" he replied in a superior tone.

"It has nothing to do with Lord Lucien, nor the people of this age-"

"This is getting rather tiresome." he interrupted, disregarding everything she said. "I think it's time you left this house."

He gestured condescendingly towards the door; but Sparrow remained where she was, her expression and gaze unchanging in an almost determined fashion.

"Come on. Pip-pip!" he prompted.

"You can't just shake this off!" she shouted, anger and impatience rising in her voice.

"I think you'll find I can." he replied dismissively, as he grabbed hold of her arm and hoisted her from the chair.

"There is nothing to discuss, nothing to shake off;" he continued calmly as he dragged a kicking and writhing Sparrow towards the door. "Bonne chance."

"You have a responsibility to those people!" she screamed - almost roared - as she shoved him off of her. "You murdered them!; my ancestors! Your neighbours, your family!"

On these words, both of them drew their guns, all niceties forgotten.

"So you read my diary? How intrusive of you." he huffed, unable and unwilling to mimic a civil tone.

"Yes, I did." she replied, her voice was not malicious, but more persuasive, almost pleading. "And I know the guilt you feel and what it does to your dreams. Please, help me. We must save them."

"From what?" he snarled. "Their bodies have crumbled and their ashes are drowning in Wraithmarsh!"

"That was only their bodies; their flesh." she put her gun arm up in the air as a form of surrender as she reached into her coat pocket. "But their souls are trapped, in this..."

From her pocket she withdrew a strange object; A snowglobe. Reaver's aim remained straight and pinned on Sparrow's heart - she felt its unease at the persistant glair of the barrel.

"I hear them sometimes," she said softly as she stretched her arm out towards him, holding the gloomy little ornament in his line of vision. "They call out to me, and for you - constantly. They're trapped and cursed. This is a cursed snowglobe."

Reaver recoiled slightly. This girl was worse than strange, she was mad. But still, the object was rather alluring; and it's dark little houses so familiar. However, he would not let his eyes nor mind dwell on the little bit of tat for too long.

"You are wrong, and deluded." he insisted, his aim straight. "It is I who is cursed."

Sparrow exhaled slowly, as if she where unwilling to admit something, and drew the snowglobe back to her chest.

"I had hoped… your better nature would disclose itself." her eyes grew colder as they set upon him once again. "How foolish of me. I shan't expect it of you again."

And with that she shot her pistol in the air with a skull splitting bang. Every light in the room was extinguished apart from the still burning flames of the fireplace. In the moment of confusion, Sparrow lunged forward and wrestled Reaver to the floor. Gripping a struggling Reaver's shooting hand in her own, Sparrow held him down. In the flickering firelight, she could see his handsome features twist with rage, until he looked truly ugly.

"Get off of me you wench!" he ordered, all decorum had gone, as his eyes looked murderous.

Instead of retorting, she smiled and slowly turned her head anticlockwise; in the most manic looking of ways, she shook the snow globe in his face, almost teasingly.

Suddenly, white specks began to swarm around them. More and more appeared thinker and thicker. They spun in a circular hurricane or whirlpool movement. They were clear now. Plain, fat snowflakes. Before Reaver could question what was happening, a bright white light had obscured he and Sparrow.

They had been engulfed in a bright white nothingness.


A/N My computer claims that "snowglobe" isn't a word; I refute this.

I hope you enjoyed this chapter and that my Sparrow didn't annoy you ^^; I'm slightly miffed that I'm placing yet another story in the Fantasy/Romance section. I do so much more I swear! Maybe I can put this in the Adventure/ Romance section… or - god forbid - the Fantasy/ Adventure section!

This will only be about 5-7 chapters long when it's done, so it won't go on forever like most of my fics.

My sincerest apologies if there were any irksome mistakes with grammar, spelling and so on. It's only me, my dyslectic brain (I know that's no excuse) and a really bad word processor working on this.

REVIEW PLEASE ^-^ ~! I do so love them.