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Blood Ties

Peter David

  Table of Contents

  Title Page

  Copyright Page


  Chapter 1 - My Reputation Precedes Me

  Chapter 2 - The One Thing

  Chapter 3 - An Unwanted Savior

  Chapter 4 - Unnecessary Difficulties

  Chapter 5 - The Walls of Blackholm

  Chapter 6 - The Nightmare Begins

  Chapter 7 - Gnome Away from Gnome

  Chapter 8 - The Lair

  Chapter 9 - Into the Pit

  Chapter 10 - An Unholy Bargain

  Chapter 11 - The Route to Bowerstone

  Chapter 12 - Threading the Needle

  Chapter 13 - Killing Page

  Chapter 14 - The Student of Humanity

  Chapter 15 - Into the Fray

  Chapter 16 - Sacrifices

  Chapter 17 - Aftermath

  The beginning of a beautiful relationship

  There was a rustling of trees from overhead, and something suddenly dropped directly in front of me, landing in a crouch. It looked like a gargoyle come to life. Its nose and ears were pointed. It was wearing overlarge shoes, leggings, a loose shirt, and a conical hat perched atop its head. It was hard to tell how tall it was since it was so low to the ground, but I didn’t peg it as being more than three feet high. Still, one couldn’t judge how dangerous something was in Albion simply by its size, or lack thereof. Instantly, I started to reach for my pistol, not knowing what the thing in front of me was and not caring.

  And then I stood there, stunned, my hand hovering over the butt of my pistol, because the thing opened its mouth and the voice of my “savior” emerged from it.

  “Oh, we could be best friends,” it said, “if I liked people with arses for faces.” Then it nodded toward the pistol I was still reaching for but hadn’t quite gotten around to drawing. “Nice big weapon there. Compensating for something?”

  “You’re what saved me?” I said, incredulous. “What are you?”

  I had thought that it couldn’t have sounded more disdainful before. I was wrong. “Don’t you know anything, aside from how to make yourself an easy target? I’m a gnome, you ignorant twat.”

  Fable novels by Peter David




  Published by the Penguin Group

  Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

  375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA

  Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada

  (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)

  Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

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  (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty. Ltd.)

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  (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.)

  Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196,

  South Africa

  Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.


  An Ace Book / published by arrangement with DK/BradyGAMES, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.


  Ace premium edition / November 2011

  Copyright © 2011 Microsoft Corporation. All Rights Reserved. Microsoft, Fable, Lionhead, the Lionhead logo, Xbox, and the Xbox logo are trademarks of the Microsoft group of companies. “Fable” is a registered trademark or trademark of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and/or other countries and is used under license from Microsoft.

  All rights reserved.

  No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

  For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group,

  a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,

  375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

  ISBN : 978-1-101-55250-6


  Ace Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group,

  a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,

  375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

  ACE and the “A” design are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

  To the fine folks at Microsoft

  who gave us Albion

  and all the adventures therein,

  with a particular tip of the sword to Gareth

  An Explanatory Note

  Fable is a game that is predicated on numerous choices that players can make. Consequently, no two playing experiences are ever alike, and the world of Albion is a highly individual one, unique to each player in some aspect or another.

  In this novel, we have elected to give a window into one particular incarnation as it was left after the events of Fable III.

  If your personal world of Albion happens to match up, then well-done you.

  If you have already gone or (if you have yet to visit Albion) should happen to wind up eventually going in other directions, then that’s brilliant.

  There is no absolute, one-size-fits-all incarnation of Albion, and—for the purpose of this tale—we simply present you with one version of the many that are available to you.

  Chapter 1

  My Reputation Precedes Me


  Granted, I could have asked. I would have to think, though, that under such circumstances the responsibility to clarify one’s marital status certainly has to rest on the woman’s shoulders. As it turned out, the only thing resting on this particular woman’s shoulders were my calves, for we were somewhat entangled at the point when a loud banging resounded from the door. An angry male voice bellowed, “Jennifer!” He did not sound like he was going to be a good sport about the whole misunderstanding.

  This entire business began, as such things typically do, in one of the main pubs in Bowerstone Market: the Cock in the Crown. The place got a bit bashed up during the calamitous battle with dark forces that you might have heard about. Also, if you’re reading this narrative, then you certainly know that I, Ben Finn—adventurer, soldier of fortune, occasional thief—was instrumental in turning back a wave of evil that threatened to wash over the whole of Albion. Yes, yes, our ruler likewise had some small hand in stemming the tide. But you know what? This is my story, not our leader’s. When our illustrious ruler’s own memoirs are eventually made available to the public, you can read those as well and see whose tale is more convincing. Or, at the very least, the more entertaining.

  I was relaxing in a corner of the pub, contemplating all that had happened recently, and all that was going to be happening, and regrettably not having a good deal of luck with the latter. I have many great and remarkable attributes, but planning for an extended future is not one of them. There are wonders galore in Albion, with lands of intrigue and amazement, b
ut life can be harsh, unfair, and tragically short. To people such as Heroes, how they live that life is extremely important. They have deeply rooted philosophies about how their deeds or misdeeds shape them and affect their lives. Do not misunderstand : I have as much respect for the rapidly dwindling, nearly nonexistent profession of Hero as anyone else. Yet I am sometimes forced to wonder about the benefits of being a Hero, or even a fundamentally decent person. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but random monsters and dark forces beyond mortal ken tend to snuff out both the virtuous and the vice-ridden in equally random measure.

  Which is a roundabout way of saying that making long-term plans seems to be an utter waste of time when one has no idea what will constitute the long term. Why worry about the future? The future invariably holds our deaths in some way, shape, or form, so it’s far wiser to live for the moment.

  I beg your indulgence for my rambling and happenstance style. I am something of a vagabond by trade, so it’s only natural that my recollections and ruminations tend to wander as readily as my feet.

  So: the girl. Jennifer by name, which you should remember if you were paying the least bit of attention. Full, curvaceous, and load-bearing hips, and breasts stretched tight under her blouse in a way that indicated they were happy to see me. I eventually got around to inspecting her face. Most men tend to study the face first, then inspect the body. I say more fool them. If the girl has a pleasing face but an unappealing body, there’s nothing you can do about it. If, on the other hand, the reverse is true, well, that’s why the gods invented dim lighting.

  Fortunately, Jennifer’s face, while not likely to win any beauty contests, was appealing enough. It was melonround, pale, and freckled, and topped with a mountain of red hair. I like redheads. They’re often as fiery as the color of their tresses suggests, and they’re far fewer in number than other women. She also had a come-hither look in her brown eyes as she sashayed over to my table and asked coquettishly if the seat opposite me was taken.

  I gestured toward it invitingly, and she didn’t sit so much as insinuate herself into it. There was no doubt in my mind what she was interested in, and I was quite confident that I would be perfectly happy to provide it on an as-needed basis, completely gratis. Indeed, it is pretty much the only one of my services for which I do not charge. One must be charitable.

  It was not as if we immediately sprinted off somewhere and did the deed. Even though the conclusion was foregone, there was still the verbal dance to be done. She asked about my life story. I provided an extremely abbreviated version since it is so laced with tragedy that it is unlikely to put any save the most morbid of women in the mood for horizontal congress. I confined myself to the highlights: a soldier of fortune who struck out at a young age, armed with only his wits and a remarkable ability to hit whatever targets he was aiming at even should they be at distances unattainable for other marksmen. I described in short, quick strokes how I had encountered our noble ruler during a time of trial, and how our paths had continued to intertwine until they ultimately converged in Bowerstone for the great and terrible battle that had raged through the city.

  “You were involved in that?” Her eyes were wide and limpid. Had I told her that I was actually an enchanted frog disguised as a man, I could not have prompted a response of greater amazement.

  “I was indeed,” I said, gesturing for the serving girl’s attention and raising two fingers to indicate that both the lady and I desired to imbibe. Jennifer had not actually asked for it, but smiled gratefully when a mug frothing with ale was placed in front of her. How considerate a fellow was I.

  I described in great, excessive, and partly true details all that had transpired during that frightful war in the streets of Bowerstone. She admitted to witnessing exactly none of it, which was fine since that meant I could embellish details as I saw fit. Not that it really required all that much embellishing considering the horrifically evil forces that had been arrayed against us that day.

  She listened to my detailed description of all that had transpired, wide-eyed and rapt and drinking her ale. When she lowered the mug, she had a small mustache composed of foam. I reached over and wiped it off with my finger. Her skin was soft, and it was as if there was a quick spark, like lightning, between the two of us.

  “I am ashamed, sir,” she said softly.

  “Ashamed? Why ashamed?”

  “Because while you were out there in streets running red with the blood of brave men, I was hiding under my bed with my hands clasped over my ears. I am ashamed because I was so cowardly that I don’t feel as if I deserve to be in the presence of one so great.”

  “If I only kept company with those who deserved to be in my presence, I’d spend the majority of my life alone.”

  She laughed at that. “You are utterly charming,” she said.

  We were like-minded in that regard. We were able to agree on how marvelously charming I was.

  She leaned forward, and there was the invitation in her voice that we had both known was inevitable from the moment she had shown up. “Would you like to see where I hid?”

  “Under the bed, you mean?”

  She nodded.

  “Under the bed would be fine,” I said, “for a start.”

  She nodded again as a slow and slightly tipsy smile spread across her face.

  The girl took my hand as I tossed an arbitrary amount of money on the table to cover the bar tab. I hoped it was the correct amount and honestly wouldn’t have cared if it wasn’t. Ben Finn may be many things, but first and foremost he’s someone who can keep his priorities in order.

  We left the bar, and she nuzzled her head against my arm, laughing lightly every so often. She interlaced her fingers with mine and kept telling me how strong I clearly was, and how manly, and how thrilled she was to have met me. I tried to remain humble in the face of such excessive adoration, but it was not an easy thing.

  Her abode was a small apartment situated over a millinery shop. The ale seemed to be having its way with her, as I was anticipating doing. There were stairs up a side entrance that led to her apartment, and she half pulled, half dragged me after her. “Fear not, dear, I’m right behind you,” I assured her. “Wouldn’t want to miss seeing a thing.”

  “Oh, don’t worry, you won’t,” she said, and giggled yet again. If she continued to giggle, she was going to start sounding like a schoolgirl to me, and that wasn’t something I was especially looking forward to. I prefer women to girls. They know more, and you don’t have to waste your time providing instructions, road maps, or diagrams.

  She let me into her apartment, locking the door behind us. It was a fairly simple affair: a small sitting room, a kitchen, and a doorway that led to the bedroom. I’ll say this for her: She got right to the point, dragging me into the bedroom while still producing that same annoying giggle. I knew I was going to have to tune it out as best I could as I got down to business.

  The clothes began to fly, and in short order there was something in the air, namely her legs. She was, to understate it, extremely receptive. But before I could put her on the receiving end, there was a sudden but firm banging at the door.

  “Whoever it is,” I whispered in her ear, my thoughts still occupied with animalistic longing, “tell him to go away.”

  Instead of doing as I said, she placed her hand firmly against my face and pushed. Off balance as I was, I tumbled backwards and hit the floor with a very loud thud. Her eyes were wide with concern, and she said with quiet franticness, “It’s my husband!”

  “Your what now?”

  “Go! Grab your pants and go!”

  I grabbed my trousers out of the pile of clothes and yanked them on, still trying to put together what in the world was going on. The pounding at the door was becoming more insistent. “But you never said—”

  “No time! Out the window!”

  “But . . .” The rest of my clothes, not to mention my belongings, were still scattered around.

  Wasting no time, she shoved e
verything else under the bed. “Go! Go!” she said in a frantic whisper. “I’ll meet you back at the pub and return everything!”

  Automatically, I turned toward the window, but then something clicked over in my mind. “Waaaiiit a minute.”

  “We don’t have time to wait a minute! Hurry!”

  I turned toward her with a ready smile. “Oh, but what’s the hurry?” I said. “I think I’d actually like to meet the lucky fellow who calls you ‘wife.’ I bet it’ll be a fun conversation.”

  Her eyes widened, her eyebrows arched so high that they seemed ready to crawl up and over the back of her head. “Are you out of your mind?! Are you stupid?”

  “No, but you obviously think I am.” I shook my head in disgust. “Here’s something I didn’t actually get around to telling you: I don’t have the world’s most pristine background. I’ve done my share of thievery and perpetrated quite a few scams in my lifetime. There’s no voice coming from the other side.” And I pointed to the door where the banging was still sounding. “That’s not your husband. That’s your accomplice. Probably a woman because, if it was a man, he’d be bellowing in order to add some urgency to the threat. So it’s pretty obvious that—”

  The pounding abruptly stopped, which said to me that whoever was on the other side had heard me. No reason for her (I was assuming it was a her for the reasons I’d mentioned above) not to have heard me since I was making no attempt to keep my voice down at that point. My smile widened and became even more smug.

  Then I heard a rough male voice approaching. Someone was coming up the stairs and speaking at the same time. “Meg!” he said with a growl. “Why the hell are you banging on my door? If Jennifer’s not home, then she’s not home!”