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A Brief Explanatory Note

Fable, the game for which the following story was based upon, is an action-adventure/fantasy RPG in which the player’s actions impact the world, Albion, around them. There is no singular way to play Fable, nor one definitive version of Albion; this is merely one interpretation out of many. You do not need experience within Fable to read the following chapters, though it may help. The choice, as the game states, is yours. But, for now…

…the adventure awaits.

 

 

(This is Book III of the Shattered Albion series.)

 

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Prologue: Tattered Pages  

Day 13 – Unknown – somewhere between Bowerstone and Rookridge – 11:48am

 

The ship left port from Bowerstone yesterday and, while I was enthusiastic to begin our voyage, I was not eager to leave my family behind. I suppose that is the cost of being a Hero: Theresa calls, you answer. And quickly, at that. I just wish I knew what I was meant to be looking for.

 

On a side note, I’m beginning to think that Reaver was correct in suggesting I ask him for transport North. I haven’t understood more than a couple words these sailors have said all day! As amusing as that is, I think next time I will simply have to give in and rely on Reaver. If there’s one thing I can count on him for, it’s that he knows how to sail and talk at the same time.

 

Day 18 – Unknown – Oakfield – 2:05pm

 

We’ve made our last stop for provisions before we reach the Edgelands. The sailors seem uneasy. The more time I spend with them, the easier they are to understand. It’s growing apparent that they are frightened to continue any further North. Captain Samuels—who, unlike most of his crew, is not a Northerner—does not appear to share their concern. I’m at a loss for what to do. Do I tell them to continue onwards and hope for the best or do I disembark and complete the journey on foot? What could be so terrifying in the North that they are afraid to reach it?

 

Day 19 – Unknown – Oakfield – 12:09am

 

I have decided that we will continue the quest by sea. It’s the fastest way to reach our destination and Samuels seems to agree with me. This is fortunate. The crew appears to be slightly emboldened by our show of wanting to continue on, but who knows how long that will last. The days are growing shorter and colder already; I hope we can conclude this quickly.

 

Addendum: A horse messenger arrived just before dinner with a letter from Val. She sends her love and wishes me luck. According to her missive, Logan is doing well with his studies and Walter has begun teaching Victoria how to use her swords. Lately I’ve found myself wondering how much of their lives I’m to miss because of being a Hero. Will I simply awaken one day to find them grown with families of their own? Perhaps, after this quest, I can finally retire.

 

Day 29 – Unknown – Wreekdrift, somewhere near the Stumbles – 8:45am

 

The sea’s been dead for over a week now and it’s putting everyone on edge. I’ve never seen such still waters. There is no wind and no current; it’s as though everything in the world has frozen but for us and the rise and fall of the sun. Tugging the ship has proved fruitless. I hope we can find some manner of breeze soon or our provisions may not last through the return journey. When Samuels has awoken perhaps there will be something I can do to help us along.

 

Day 31 – Unknown – Kraken’s Jaw, just south of Shalefields – approx. 6:30pm

 

A storm struck last night. It was so vicious and so sudden that I had thought for certain we had drifted into a nest of krakens. Luckily, such was not the case. The storm lasted until just before midday today and we nearly were run aground before the crew could drop the anchors. I suppose it’s natural the sea’s rougher than when we left Oakfield, but everything else is…I’m not certain how to explain. The further North we travel, the worse I feel. Are we getting closer to whatever it is Theresa was hoping I would find?

 

Day 33 – Unknown – Ironwash River – 4:03pm

 

I might have just run into a bigger snag than I expected. We’ve gone as far as we can by ship, and yet…the men refuse to disembark so we may continue on foot. They say there is a great evil here and that is why the weather has been so strange and foreboding. Even Samuels is starting to agree with them. I don’t know if they are wrong or right, but…there is something. I can feel it. We’re being watched.

 

Day 34 – Unknown – Ironwash River – 2:21am

 

Great Avo, my hands won’t stop shaking. I don’t expect this to be legible when I view it later, but I need to get this down. Shortly before midnight, one of the sailors was taken. No one knows how. Apparently he was on the opposite side of the deck from everyone who had been on watch at the time so no one saw it. It was his screaming that woke the entire ship. Going by how quickly it was cut off, none of us believe he may still be alive. The real question is: what happened to him?

 

We’ve scoured the ship from top to bottom, but we’ve not found a trace of him. We’ve seen no strange people and no creatures—nothing to say what could have happened. At this rate, we’ve no choice but to wait for the sun to rise and begin the search again.

 

Day 36 – Unknown – Shalefields, west of the old Bastion – 9:30pm

 

Two more men have gone missing and we’ve still not found a trace of either them or what took them. I’ve persuaded Samuels that remaining on board his ship is no longer the safe option and we’ve begun travelling by foot. I wish I could say this ordeal has given me a sense of clarity for what Theresa wants me to find, but I still don’t know.

 

I worry we may be stumbling into a trap.

 

Day 40 – Unknown – Fairwood, Mare’s Teeth Hills

 

They were right. Samuels and half the crew: dead. Can’t see this thing with all the darkness.  Found safety in a cave for now. Can’t abandon the survivors. Need to kill this thing and get us back to Bowerstone.

 

If we fail and someone discovers this journal, my name is Gwilym Rochester, known to most as Sparrow. I am, as of this moment, the King of Albion. Please return this to my family. Tell them I love them and I am sorry.

 

~ * ~

 

The night was impossibly dark, the cold cutting even as it burned. Blood choked the air like a pungent, ghastly incense. A lone figure picked their way through the tangled mass of felled bodies and paused as they spotted something odd. A little book, splattered heavily with gore, laid on the grassy ground. Oh. Yes…that had fallen out of the Hero’s pocket as he vanished into a swirl of blue light. Intrigued, the figure picked up the book and flipped through it. They frowned as they finished their perusal, annoyed. With a burst of Will, darkness wrapped about the tome—within seconds it decayed to ash and dust and was no more. The figure turned away and was swallowed up by the night.

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One: The Walking Dead  

Night-time was a rather quiet time for most of Albion’s residents. Once the hustle and bustle of work and school and other daily activities faded away with the last rays of the sun, there was very little for most Albionites to do but hole up in their houses and hope that none of the hungry beasts roaming the wilderness wanted them badly enough to break in. The dark was a special reminder of how little power they had over the terrible things out there. After all, only bad things and the guards that attempted to fight them off would ever dare to be caught outside in the country after darkness fell. Therefore, when a lone, black-lacquered carriage rattled down the main road from Bowerstone—its horses tearing down the path as though Skorm himself were on their heels—anyone who happened to glance out their windows was instantly suspicious.

 

The largest house in the region—the mansion belonging to the immensely wealthy, and extremely egotistical, industrialist Reaver—was the only house that still seemed to be bustling with movement despite the growing lateness of the hour. The servants were occupied with their individual tasks; hastily working to make sure the house was in perfect order when their employer eventually returned. The usual aura of anxiety in the air had been replaced by a far calmer, almost relaxed atmosphere. That, however, didn’t last long. Soon enough, there was a clatter of hoof beats on the gravel drive and the loud rattle of wheels. Word quickly spread for everyone to be on awares.

 

Despite the amount of warning they had, the servants were never quite prepared for their employer’s return. They quickly received even further of an indicator of just how unprepared they were to greet him. It wasn’t so much that the front door slammed, but how it was slammed that sent the few servants brave enough to attempt a greeting scurrying out of the halls to bury themselves in their tasks. It was an angry and loud sound; a final-sounding boom! that echoed through the manse in much the manner of a gunshot. After that…well, the servants knew not to stay in plain sight any longer.

 

Silence reigned for several long minutes, eerily permeating the hallways like a toxic gas, before measured footsteps finally broke through the air, stalking through the extravagantly decorated halls with barely masked impatience. Just one look at the newly-arrived man was enough to see that it was difficult for Reaver to keep from destroying everything around him. His shoulders were taught and his dark hair mussed. His customary smirk had vanished in the beginnings of, what some might have termed, a childish tantrum. As far as he was concerned, those people were clearly wrong.

 

The Queen was driving him to distraction…and not the pleasant kind. The entire incident had begun with her asking him to…think outside the box in regards to his petitions to the Crown in order for her to maintain her public image. Though years had passed since then, a tradition was borne: Reaver would propose something to the court, the Queen would, usually, reject it immediately, and, in private, she would always tell him if he could actually do it or not…provided he paid for the entire project. It was a delicate, frequently tilting balance that worked out well between them. He got his brothel, and she got to keep the treasury full to be spent on projects that she deemed to be of more “benefit” to the masses. (Which was confusing, because, when wasn’t a brothel beneficial to the masses?) This time, however, was very different.  The entire, mutually beneficial, proposal of a new mine in the Edgelands had been rejected in all shapes and forms. According to the Queen, as soon as the land was surveyed it was “too dangerous for those who might work within it”. After several hours of debating, Victoria had still refused to give in. Even now frustration pulsed so insistently through him that he thought he could have pulled his hair out if only it wouldn’t have utterly destroyed his looks.

 

They’d been working on their relationship and on communicating better for so long now, but sometimes it was as though they were speaking two entirely different languages. She tried to do something nice for him, it usually backfired. He tried to follow her lead, she ended up annoyed. He just wasn’t certain of exactly what she expected of him. Sometimes…sometimes that made her infuriating. It was as though she didn’t see a line between their personal and business relationship. Like she didn’t realise their deals couldn’t just be everything or nothing. She needed to understand there were limits to these things…he just didn’t know how to explain it to her.

 

If he thought hard enough on it, he supposed he could ask Ernest to talk some sense into her. Ever since the Understone debacle, Ernest had been almost casual around him. If anyone could calmly convince Victoria to see merit in a business proposal it was Ernest Faraday. Still, the thought made Reaver cringe. He was not making the trip to Clockwork Island just to beg for Ernest’s help. He’d figure something out on his own. All he had to do was get around Victoria’s silly moral code…which he guessed wouldn’t be too difficult if he had a solid—albeit easy to improvise—plan in mind.

 

Humming an odd tune to calm himself, Reaver traversed the empty halls to his study. He needed to get some notes together. And to drink. He really needed something to drink.

 

He pushed open his study doors with what was probably more enthusiasm than necessary and let them fall closed behind him as he all but collapsed into his chair—of course, had anyone questioned him on the matter, he would have insisted he had merely sat down gracefully and with great speed, but that was another thing entirely. The bottle of Burgundy he’d opened that morning was still on his desk—a stopper having been shoved into the bottle’s mouth, most likely by a servant—and he poured out a small glass. Distracting himself settled his temper rather nicely, despite the fact that he was lacking in pleasurable company and so was only able to focus on one of the many sheaves of parchment that had been set upon his desk at some time or another.

 

From the next room over Reaver could hear the solitary echoes of a long case clock, ticking away seconds like a metronome as he sipped at his glass. The lonesome sound mingled with the soft crackling of the flames in his study’s hearth like a delicate nocturne, only occasionally punctuated by the rustling of papers and the scratch of his pen. He needed a plan. Something concrete and thoroughly devious that would still be able to win the queen’s attention. After all, he did so loathe being refused, especially for petty reasons, and he knew perfectly well that the Queen was not entirely immune to his charms. All he had to do was find a means to make her see things his way.

 

At that thought, the fire in the hearth abruptly dimmed as though a large gust of wind had come down the chimney and the room dimmed with it. Reaver drew his head up from his work as the room failed to brighten even as the fire itself returned to its former brilliance. One of the oil lamps—an expensive one with a fashionable, coloured glass shade—on the other side of the room was out. He could feel the beginnings of a frown start to tug at his lips as his mind needlessly pointed out that the very same lamp had been lit only moments ago. Reaver tried to dismiss it—after all, the damper was open in the fireplace and the weather had been erratic lately, so it was easily explained away as a by-product of the same wind that had made the fire grow dim—but that didn’t stop him from resting his free hand on the butt of the Dragonstomper .48 holstered at his hip.

 

He’d nearly convinced himself that the wind truly was to blame when, out of the corner of his eye, he saw another lamp flicker and then extinguish itself as though someone had blown out the flame.

 

“Oh, now really,” he soliloquized with a huff of annoyance, drawing his pistol languorously. “Either this is merely a prank in poor taste, or this is one of the most abysmal taunts I’ve ever happened to lay eyes upon. Tut, tut, you really must try harder,” he added to the room at large, tapping the Dragonstomper’s barrel against his thigh meditatively.

 

As though in response the two lamps on the other side of the study abruptly extinguished, leaving only the light of his desk lamp and the fireplace to fight off the growing darkness. His pulse picked up, thudding through his head with pre-battle adrenalin, as his eyes searched the gloom for any sign of movement. A growl of frustration very nearly forced its way from his throat as he failed to find whatever thought it was amusing to keep turning off his lights. Really, didn’t they have better things to do than screw around with him and get shot?

 

Fingers brushed the back of his neck, as cold as ice and just as biting, to make his skin erupt with gooseflesh. Reaver whirled, pistol at the ready, and was startled to find…absolutely nothing. Nothing but the wall-to-wall bookcases that occasionally gave the study the air of a padded cell. He stared at the countless leather-bound books without seeing their titles and absently licked his lips to return moisture to his strangely dry mouth. Tried to calm his pulse. He had to be doing this to himself—it was far too fanciful a situation to not be purely his own imagination. This is ridiculous.

 

The hiss of his desk lamp being turned off instantly pushed all thoughts of this being a possible hallucination out of his mind.

 

Reaver,” a voice like the hush of embers dropped into cold water called, barely louder than a whisper.

 

He could feel eyes boring into his back, making his skin crawl as though it wanted to be anywhere but attached to him. He steadied himself and adjusted his grip on the Dragonstomper before turning back to the rest of the room.

 

A dark mist was growing there, coalescing into a—very familiar—umbral figure whose features were hidden within the depths of a deep hood. The darkness grew, bringing a soul-crushing cold with it as it spread throughout every corner of the room until even the fireplace struggled to pierce it. And that voice echoed through his mind again: “Thief Prince….”

Damn. This couldn’t be happening—actually, as it was, in fact, happening, it most certainly could be, but it was most improbable. Indeed, Reaver might have been more willing to believe it had he still been living in Bloodstone, where the corpses of his past had long since been both drowned and buried in what was all but his backyard—not that having Wraithmarsh so close to the his home had ever been very pleasant—but here, in the middle of the pretty new life he’d painted for himself? It was unfathomable. A distant part of his mind supposed that, he ought to be concerned about what would happen if someone—say, his new butler, perhaps—were to walk in and see a Shadow Judge in his study but he was a bit too concerned about why the aforementioned Judge was there to begin with. He had paid up his annual sacrifice only a scant few months ago, ensuring himself another year of living as he currently did. If the Shadow Court had suddenly decided they no longer had use for him…. A flicker of panic flared through the back of his mind and he immediately tried to squelch it. By Skorm, he’d rather fight a flock of banshees blindfolded, than let his anxiety show.

 

“Why, whatever could you be doing here?” he enquired, making a show of lowering his pistol.

 

The Shadow Judge—Reaver was never certain which was which, if only because they all looked exactly alike and none of them had ever bothered to offer their names—shifted slightly, half turning, before facing Reaver once more. Though he was unsure if the Judges actually had eyes, Reaver could feel the weight of the Judge’s gaze like a physical force and his careless smirk faltered slightly.

 

You would dare question one such as I, Thief Prince?” the Judge enquired, moving half a step closer to where Reaver stood. “You would offer me threat, as well.”

 

Of course I would, Reaver thought impetuously, though he was careful not to give the thought voice. From the very first moment he had laid eyes on the Shadow Court, all those years ago when he had been so disgustingly weak, the Judges had chilled him. He was an expert at acting nonchalant towards them and anyone else that came across his path, but they still unnerved him. Still brought out the memory of shadow and flame to torment him, reducing him to the very same mental state he had been in the night he…no, it was best not to think of that. Instead he raised his head defiantly, tapping his Dragonstomper against his thigh with an idle lack of care, and drawled, “Why, of course not! I was simply so surprised by your arrival, I acted without thought…you understand, I’m sure.”

 

Do not lie to me, Thief Prince,” the Judge hissed, making Reaver decide he wasn’t drunk enough for this. “You have grown lax. Lax and tiresome. You have made a fool of all those who granted you borrowed time, but no longer. Time is up.

 

For a brief second, Reaver’s heart began to race with panic; his mind began screaming at him to run as far away as he could, as fast as he could. And then it faded. Panic and fear, the heady flood of adrenalin, was his element. He was Reaver, after all. King of pirates, industrial magnate, and he was not about to fall to his knees like some ignorant peasant and beg for his life. He refused to die, and, if he had no other choice but to do so, then he was not going alone.

 

He raised his pistol and cocked it, staring the Judge down defiantly. “I believe we have a conflict of interests, there. Allow me to demonstrate.”

 

The bark of the Dragonstomper sounded oddly muffled, as though fluff had been stuffed into his ears, but that didn’t keep him from firing three bullets into the Judge’s head in quick succession. Though his aim was true and the bullets hit their mark, the Judge only wavered slightly (which was surprising enough, considering Reaver wasn’t even certain the Shadow Court had forms more substantial than a…well, a shadow) and failed to vanish.

 

Do you think such childish toys will harm me? I who am eternal and beyond time? I who gave you life beyond all mortal means?

 

The Judge lifted its hands to lower its hood and suddenly Reaver was painfully aware that he was staring at himself. Or…more accurately, something that had shaped itself into his image, though they had gotten several things wrong. For one, his doppelganger was dressed in the clothes of a peasant, its skin as colourless as new-fallen snow and its eyes and hair darker than the deepest of shadows. Its gaze seemed to look through him, reading every sin inscribed on his soul and weighting them against each other.

 

“You are not one of the Shadow Court,” he observed, lowering his gun by a fraction of an inch.

 

It seemed to hesitate before walking unsteadily toward him. “I am…beyond this world,” it replied, its voice androgynous with an odd flowing quality, like water running over rocks. “I am the keeper of the farthest gate; the one who leads wayward souls into the abyss. I am Death. And you, Thief Prince, are no longer for this world.”

 

Reaver’s throat had gone dry, and the walls felt a mite too close to him, crowding in like an assembly of people pressing against him. One of the Old Gods…. Despite his effort to embrace the modern age, he couldn’t shake certain parts of his upbringing—the tattoos littering his skin were proof of that. Sometimes superstition was just ingrained into one’s blood. But now was not the time to let it take over him. Instead, he addressed his malcontent with scorn, and spat, “Rubbish. I made a deal: one sacrifice, every year, and I remain immortal. I’ve never once missed a sacrifice, and you have the sudden desire to change the deal now?”

 

“No. That was not the arrangement.”

 

“And how would you know?” he spat petulantly. “I—”

 

“Made your bargain with the Shadow Court. I am aware,” Death finished for him, effectively cutting him off. “Did you believe them to be leash-less? Bound to this world by pain and the stubborn refusal to die? No. I hold all contracts, and all contracts to me are bound. A life for a life. You died moments ago and I shall collect. You will come with me.”

 

Reaver wasn’t entirely sure what he felt just then—he wasn’t even entirely certain that this wasn’t some ridiculous, distasteful prank—but he knew one thing: he was alive. His heart thudded erratically in his chest and he could hear his blood rushing in his ears. His head ached, thudding dully, and his body was weary. But he was alive. And, as long as he was, there wasn’t a chance, by any of the gods, that he would go willingly into Death’s arms. He raised the Dragonstomper and steadied his grip. “And if I refuse?”

 

Death paused, head tilted slightly, and, the next thing Reaver knew, he had been all but thrown into his chair and was now trapped there in Death’s preternaturally strong grip. “If you shoot me once more,” it began warningly, “then I will drag you, kicking and screaming, into the afterlife. Still yourself, resist the urge to fight for your life, and I will grant to you a single chance to live. To live and to live out the same amount of years you have already been granted.”

 

Reaver abruptly stopped fighting. He didn’t trust Death, didn’t trust that this creature was being honest with him, but it wasn’t as though he could afford to tell it to sod off, either. If it truly was Death itself, then it would take him; if it wasn’t, then it would probably tear him asunder. He didn’t like either of those choices. But the thought of having so many years without worry that the Shadow Court was going to decide they no longer wanted his service was intriguing. Intriguing and just about the only thing that kept him talking.

 

“You have my attention,” Reaver drawled.

 

“You have three choices that lie before you,” Death replied, unsmiling and emotionless. “The first is that you will succumb and I will take you. You will have no time to prepare and no time for goodbyes; you will merely vanish to the world. At first, those who are invested in you will fret and fear that something has happened. However, as the months and years go by, they will quickly come to realise that you are meaningless to them and you will fade from memory.”

 

It paused clearly reading Reaver’s expression of utter disbelief before continuing on: “But you have already voiced your distaste for such a fate. Which brings me to your second choice. I can make you a true immortal, which will keep me as uninterested in your fate as if I were to take you now, but heed my words: the price will be steep. You will know no peace or happiness, only pain and emptiness. You will lose everything and all you love shall fade. For those who are not immortal are not made to be so, and affliction is the only way for them to bear such a burden.

 

“Your third choice is the one I mentioned earlier: I will grant to you the equivalent of years you have already lived to continue on with your life, if you but fulfil a single quest on my behalf. Make your choice.”

 

Reaver resisted the urge to laugh or mock Death, if only because he didn’t want to risk losing a chance to keep living. Honestly, the first two options were ridiculous. He had not lived so long with the intention of being forgotten about because some strange creature had decided it preferred the thought of him being dead. Nor did he intend to spend an eternity in misery and suffering—it was beyond idiotic to think that anyone would. After all, the point of living as he had was to ensure that he enjoyed life and was able to do what he wanted, as he wanted. Which…meant that he really had no choice, after all. The third option seemed too good to be true (much like a swindle, really), but he was also aware that it was really the only option that would benefit him and it was really the option Death wanted him to pick.

 

He decided to indulge Death and, affecting disinterest, enquired, “What, exactly, are you asking of me?”

 

“Something dangerous is coming to pass and, because it slipped into being so silently, someone is about to die that is not yet meant to. This can cause irreparable damage, and you will be the one to prevent it. Complete this task and you will have your prize. Fail, and Albion will fall with you.”

 

Ah, there’s the catch, he thought cynically. Reaver didn’t do saving people—no, to be accurate, he found saving people boring and had no interest in it. After all, he wasn’t a Hero. Well…he was, but not in the way everyone assumed Heroes were, nowadays. The only person he ever had looked out for, and the only person he ever wanted to look out for, was himself. But wasn’t that what he’d be doing if he took the deal? He would be saving himself by saving someone else. It was a far more tolerable option to dying.

 

“Before I choose,” he began slowly, “tell me something: who exactly am I meant to be keeping alive?”

 

Death hesitated a moment and then began to speak…and Reaver’s blood turned to ice.

 

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Two: Arella  

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Three: Rest For the Wicked  

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Four: Shadow Fall  

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Five: An Unexpected Party

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Six: The Guild

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