A/N: The Princess' name is Princess Emily, and her dog is named Quixote (Yes, after Don Quixote. I always name my dog that in Fable :3) This story is somewhat AU, but not really… You'll understand later on. Please read and review and follow and favorite and whatever else the kids are doing these days. Constructive criticism is welcome!
Throne of Shadows
Chapter 1: Shadows in the Desert
"Listen, you have to go on without me," Walter wheezed. Our hands, which had been intertwined tightly, were loosening. I threw his arm over my shoulder in an attempt to drag him along.
"I won't leave you here," I told him. After all we'd been through in the cave with the shadows, I wasn't leaving him behind.
His breathing worsened. "You have to. I can't—I—I can't…" He slipped from my shoulders and collapsed just before the final set of steps.
"Walter!" I knelt by him, trying to lift him into a sitting position.
"It's all right," he whispered. "It's all going to be all right."
I realized then that my labor was fruitless—Walter wasn't going to get up. I struggled to contain my emotions as I patted his shoulder gently. "I'll come back for you, I promise. I'll get help."
When I rose to stand up, Walter suddenly grasped my hand. "You'll do me proud. I know you'll do me proud…" On those last words, his hand pulled away slowly and his eyes rolled back into his head.
"Walter!" I cried, but it was too late—he was completely unconscious. I glanced warily back at the entrance to the cavern. Thankfully it had collapsed on itself. Walter would be safe until I returned.
Quixote licked Walter's hand and followed me as I made my way down into the womb of the desert. A wind blew, weak in general but strong enough to send stinging sand into my face. I pulled the collar of my shirt up to cover my nose and mouth. The sun beat down upon me, constant and unmerciful. I braced the cruel heat and continued on. I moved quickly, struggling to cross the desert in hopes of finding the Auroran people near the statue.
After a short while, I saw a dark form in the distance. It looked somewhat like a person, which filled my body with hope and adrenaline. Could it be someone who would be able to help Walter? I sprinted towards it and began to hear a voice.
"Where are you?" It asked in sad, painful tone, "I can't see, I need help!"
I stopped dead in my tracks. "W…Walter?" I called out. Sure enough, straight ahead of me I saw my mentor, seated at a table just like he'd been at Ye Quill and Quandry in Brightwall some time ago. He didn't seem to see me, and only kept calling out for help. When I came up to him, his voice distorted, and I recognized the menacing voice of the Crawler.
"I'm blind," it mocked. "I can't see. Help me! Hahahaha!"
After he spoke, Walter and the table went up in a stream of black mist, just like the shadow creatures from the cave.
"You… You escaped!" I shrieked. "Walter!"
I glanced back in the direction from which I'd come, but a black wall blocked my vision. I pounded on it with my Hero Hammer, shot at it with Briar's Blaster, and launched ice and fire at it, but to no avail.
"Just calm down," I whispered to myself. "As long as he's focused on me, he won't hurt Walter."
Turing around, I gasped when I realized that the sun was eclipsed by shadows, and the desert was cast into a night-like darkness. I could still see, thankfully.
Knowing that Walter needed me, I began to move forward again. Quixote growled and barked, sensing things that frankly I was happier not to know of.
The Crawler spoke once again, its voice echoing around the entirety of the desert. "You abandoned your friend to die. He's calling for you, while the children spread out his heart to the skies."
Once again, I heard my mentor calling out. It was a cry of pain, and I came upon him being attacked by a horde of shadow beasts. He was blind and looked exhausted, and blood poured down from deep wounds all over his body. "I can't… I can't take this right now."
Moved by emotions and not realizing that it was another illusion, I pulled out my hammer and swung it at all of the shadows until none were left.
"Is that… Is that you? What's happening?" He asked. I grabbed his hand, but he just dissolved into black. While he dissipated, I heard him scream. The sound pierced my ears, but I convinced myself it wasn't real.
Struggling to keep composure, I hurried away. Not far ahead I saw him again. He stood still, as if he were waiting for me. I forced myself to run past, but only collided head-on with a shadow wall. My head pounded as I tried to bring myself to my feet. The Crawler called out to me.
"This world is ours. We will smother every light, every last breath from every last mouth. You try to run away, but you are made of sand. You are falling apart between my fingers."
Walter loomed over me, his eyes dark and unfamiliar. "One day," he whispered, "The people of Albion are going to need you. I have to find out just how ready you are."
He drew his sword and raised, ready to stab through me. Just in time I rolled out of the way. I forced myself up and tried to run, but we were surrounded on all four sides. I turned and looked at him, realizing that he was a mirage, a figment of my imagination. I did not recognize him; I did not feel for him. This was not the man who helped me to escape the castle, or save the Mourningwood soldiers, or fight off Logan's men in order to make our way to Aurora. This was the Crawler, a maleficent being for whom I should have no mercy. Staring the fake Walter square in the eyes, I pulled out my pistol and fired. He flew backwards and evaporated, leaving no trace of his existence besides some upturned sand. I breathed heavily and leaned against a sandy rock. I'd just killed Walter—maybe not the real one, but a version of Walter. Only moments ago, I'd been willing. Now, my conscience was coming undone at the seams. What if it had been real? What if blood had exploded from his chest instead of the shadow aura?
The Crawler must have noticed my anguish, because it growled at me. "He would have done anything for you. Now he screams alone. He curses you. Not even in death will he forgive you."
With tears streaming down my cheeks I flew across the sand, almost tripping over myself when I saw Walter once again. He bore a torch, and glanced around warily just as the last one had. He was looking for me.
"Your strength is ebbing," he and the Crawler murmured simultaneously. "We can feel it."
I raced away from this Walter illusion, but he followed me. He began to speak, telling me disturbing tales from his past.
"My brigade had been pinned down by the enemy, until there was just me and two other men left. We retreated into a cave, but they never came after us. They just blew the entrance. Sealed us in. We spent three days in that cave. No light, no food. Just three men waiting to die in the dark."
"SHUT UP!" I screamed, covering my ears and cowering. "You're not real, this is fake, you're not fake, this is real… Wait, no, what am I saying? Help! Someone, help!"
"The light in your eyes offends us. Let it go out!"
Walter disappeared. I drew my hammer out, prepared for what would come next. Or at least I thought I was prepared. There was a sudden sensation in my eyes. It is impossible to describe, but I will do my best. It was as if someone was trying to pull out not my eyes, but something behind them. I clawed at my face, but nothing was there. The sensation continued, however, and the Crawler laughed.
"Are you blind? Are you blind yet?"
I was thrust into a world of complete black. I heard my dog barking, but I couldn't see a thing.
"Hehehe… There's nothing left. You're gone! All gone!" the Crawler's words, gravely and deep, scraped into my ears. It was right—I was blind, engulfed by the darkness and hopelessly lost in the desert. Not only had I let Walter down, but I'd let my people down as well. All of my benevolent actions, everything I had done to help the people and to overthrow my tyrant brother Logan was wasted. Walter and I would rot away in the desert. We would be mummified in the sand, never to be seen again. Crying, I fell to the earth and felt my will to fight slipping away. The last thing I sensed was the Crawler's presence as its shadow minions descended upon me…