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 ~Forever Forgotten~ To Dust 
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Post Re: ~Forever Forgotten~ To Dust • Posted: Sat Dec 31, 2011 10:59 pm
I promise it will be edited later. Yes, no edits...oopsie. Anyways! HAPPY YOUT YEAR! xD

Chapter 30: Silver Lightning

“Lass, we have to keep moving.” Yazstromo said, but the elderly man and his companion stood there, gasping for breath. “If we stop here, we’ll never make it in time.”

Tap folded her arms. “At the speed you two are going, we won’t make it anyways.”

The man stared blankly. “I wouldn’t mind meeting my successor before he kicks the dust. But if we are so slow then perhaps we need a faster mode of transportation?”

“Where?” She asked. Something warm splatted on her head and a stink like rotten eggs mixed with urine assaulted her nostrils. She clinched then glanced up with one eye as white goo slithered down her forehead. Aracient flew down and landed on the cobblestone street.

“What a nice bird!” Yazstromo’s eyes sparkled, “He even gave you a gift! I've heard that it's a sign of good luck.”

“I’ll kill you after this…” The Innocent warned.

[I…I apologize, but surely the fox is worse.] The bird stated, but she swore she could hear a faint smugness in his “voice”. She’d do more than kill him, she’d have to make sure to pluck his feathers out and break his wings first. [Yet, if it is faster transportation that you desire, perhaps those steeds would be of service?]

Aracient pointed with his beak towards two horses tied to a post next to an inn. One was a gray mare and the other, a mighty stallion, large enough for two men or one of ample weight. The Innocent smirked, then proceeded to cut the mare from the post and clumsily leaped onto her back. Whispering in her ear to calm the horse down, she steered the gray to face the two aging men. Daedus’ and the mechanical bird’s mouths hung agape, but Yazstromo untied the stallion and climbed on top more gracefully than any man of his advanced years should have been able. Tap rolled her eyes; he’d faked his heavy breathing earlier.

“I believe we are all friends,” Yazstromo offered a hand to Daedus, but the other man continued to gawk. “I thought you trusted me; we’re only borrowing these, lad, not stealing them…you could say, they’re on loan to the Chosen until further notice.”

The Prophet winked at Tap and the Innocent nodded. “It’s not like we’re the bad guys.” He glanced at her, but nodded. Could she blame him? She didn’t like “borrowing” in sunlight either.

He’s weird, the Innocent thought as Yazstromo finally got him to climb onto the stallion’s back. Trembling, he squeezed the Prophet’s waist, and his breath came in quick intervals. A wave of pity hit the Innocent: she couldn’t blame him she would not want to ride the same horse as Yazstromo either.

“Hey!” The inn’s double door slammed open behind them and a man with a crossbow in hand rushed out. He aimed it right at her. “Give me back my bloody horse!”

“Your horse?” Tap asked, noting that he was missing a few fingers and had a brand on his forehead. “That’s a horse-thief brand. I betcha took this horse from its owners’ too.”

The man glared. “You don’t know that, little miss. Don’t you think it’s wrong taking another’s property?”

“Well…”

“Oh?” Yazstromo began, “I doubt she liked you much anyway. You see, that girl is very nice to animals. Nicer than you. I wouldn’t worry too much about your mare. She’ll be happy.”

“Shut it, old man.” Another fellow came out of the inn, wielding a bow. “Dat's mah horse.”

“Such bad language. Tsk. Perhaps a class in proper grammar might be of use?” An arrow flew past the elderly man’s head taking his hat with it. “I guess not!”

The crossbow fired. She swore; it was going to hit! The Innocent closed her eyes, waiting for Death to knock her off the horse and carry her away. It might be nice to see Mervil again…

Thunder boomed. Tap opened her eyes. No sign of Death, only Yazstromo holding up his staff, a faint trace of silver electricity still sparkling at the end of his crystal spoon. The two men lay on the cobblestone behind them, alive but unconscious.

“You’ve…umm…learned some new tricks.” She said once he caught up to her.

“No, that’s one of the oldest in the bag.” He grinned. “Now, why did we take these? I’d feel a smidge bad hurting those men if it was just an impulse…”

“It wasn’t just because I think I’m some righteous crusader like Kaz.” Tap answered, “We…we have to get there quickly. It was Aracient’s idea.”

“He speaks to you?” Daedus asked.

“Yup,” She smacked the horse. “Told me where our Advisor-friend is.”

Daedus blinked and asked Yazstromo something she did not quite catch. He nodded and smiled brightly at her. “Well, then I suppose lead the way, I would not want to keep your friend waiting.”

***

Kaz’s knife gently rested on Will’s throat. A simple, useless act; he knew this, but he’d seen men do enough foolish things. Will could easily decide to try to break lose if he wasn’t careful. By the gods, the man had already blew up the coach of the High Cleric this evening, what was to stop him from doing something else irrational? If he did, he might bleed to death in some alley somewhere and no one would give a damn.

He turned to the Rito, straining his neck to meet her eyes. “How much blood do you think he’ll lose before we get him there? I don’t want him to bleed to death before—”

“I..doubt that…you bastard…”

“If you speak, mate, you shall only make it worse.” Naomi took out a roll of white bandages from her satchel. She frowned, then tightly wound it around Will’s head, then he felt something cool delve into his eye, lessening the pain some, but he still could not see through. No, he realized, that eye would never be of any use to him again. “I can’t do more than that. And you, Kaz, ye should’ve thought of this right after the fight, not ten minutes later!”

“Oh, of course, Naomi, he’s certainly not being followed by anyone else.” The Rito frowned violently at his words. He sighed, “The whole guard is probably chasing his tail by this point, and thus, ours. Most countries aren’t very fond of mere citizens catching their wanted, dangerous criminals, but most criminals aren’t good enough to bring down ten men by themselves either.”

“You’re only using that as an excuse, matey.”

“We have to move,” He pushed William forward, turned the corner, and stopped. At the far end of the street, Darius stood. The sun having turned the sky a deep, blood red behind him and twenty or so guards. He lifted a hand and approached them alone at a slow, but assured pace wearing a blank smirk on his face.

“I see you have caught one of our prey, Lord Amintor.” He stated, narrowing his eyes. “Where, might I ask, did you hide the other?”

“What makes you think I’d know?”

“Your attempts to deter me from my duty and, once I had obtained injury, sent me up to the Goron Protectorate where I was forced to stay due to the orders of my ‘fellow scribe’ make it highly suspect that you are in coerced with them.” The man stated.

Will nodded, smiling slyly. Kaz cursed him silently. “And what about my friend?”

“I have no interest in her.” He bowed to Naomi. “Though, may I ask your ladyship to leave so that we may conduct our business?”

“No,” Naomi answered. “You bloody snake.”

Darius raised an eyebrow, “Snake?”

“You’re only out for bloody vengeance,” The Rito glared.

“The law is the law,” explained the scribe. “I am only here to enforce it, not to place personal desires for punishment before it.”

“And what if I disagree?” The Rito asked. “If you were so bloody interested in the law then ye wouldn’t only be interested in finding the person who took yer precious stone.”

“Ah, yes, but I am also interested in taking those whom are in alliance with him and this man who murdered the High Cleric.” Darius glanced at Will for a moment then gave Naomi slight frown. “And, may I ask, how is that you know these things?”

“Isn’t…Jaros still hurt?” William asked. So, the only one he wanted to hurt was him, at least the others would be safe from this man if he were to escape.

“Indeed,” Kaz nodded. “I think you should see to your husband. I’ll be fine, Naomi, it’s not like I’ve never dealt with others like him before.”

She glared, but nodded, and trotted back the way they had come. Kaz wished she would worry over him less. “Now,” Darius began, taking out a pair of handcuffs from inside his robes. “May I ask you both to come peacefully or must I call my men to drag you to the gaol?”

***

His flesh burned.

Even now, several moments after the carriage had been engulfed in flames and exploded, did he notice what straining his body rolling out had done. His wounds wept for him, as he would if not for hot ash scalding away the tears. The guards had been robbed their lives in that explosion. They could not have known to move once the fire had reached the potions. It was only he who was left and not for much longer. At least, he had designed those spells not to burn for long.

Something black landed on his chest, it was a raven. It walked up and down his leg twice, fluttered, and landed on his hair and pierced him with its sharp, beady eyes. A chill ran down his spine.

“Leave me…” He whispered, flailing his hand weakly. But, it dashed his hopes and released a hallowing caw. Perhaps it was only justice for the Goddesses to have him die at the beaks of carrion and not just bleeding to death on some forgotten alleyway in the midst of Old Castle Town. What right had he to complain? He had done his duty.

“Aracient?” He heard a woman say. “Don’t tell me you’ve decided to eat with your friends…”

“His friends?” It was an old man, now, Klaus was sure he was only hallucinating. Why would these people be here? Most Hyruleans would not mind if he were to perish. “So you’ve tamed others like him?”

“Nope,” She said. “I’ve never tamed—ow—stop it you stupid bird!”

“I…think…is that him?” Another man, this one in his middle years, asked.

Klaus bent his head slightly up, but the smoke from the fire and the pain in his back and side still made it hard to see them. He coughed and turned on his side then coughed again. Blood came from his lungs. The girl ran towards him.

“Oh no…” She said, kneeling beside him. The others followed. “Look at me.”

He did. His breath coming in gasps, and his stomach turning within him. She smiled, and, for a moment, he felt as though he had seen this raven haired woman before. Strange, he was once sure he would be in Mable’s hands when his health failed, not the hands of a young, poor woman and her aging relatives. The gods did have a sense of humour.

“I…know this might sound strange.” She said, “But you’ll have to trust me. And don’t give me crap, you’ll die if you give me crap and my friend…and my other friends don’t want you to die either. He made me promise to heal you. Do you understand?”

Klaus shook his head. How could she expect to heal him? He doubted a woman of her standing could afford to purchase a fairy or even a red potion. Not with the cost of bread, meat, and water for the poor. Not with two, old relatives to care for. Perhaps she was insane…or meant to kill him out of pity.

She sighed. “Daedus, could you help me get him on his back?”

The older man folded his arms as his younger relatives forced the Advisor onto his back. Pain seared through his body and he coughed again, heaving blood upon his chest. He blinked twice, and the young woman was beside him again, her hands on his chest.

She smiled. “This might hurt a little…”

“I…I…do not fear death.” He managed.

“That’s quite brave of you.” She said gently placing her hands above his chest. “But, if you ask me, Death’s a lot scarier than most people think. Lay still.”

He did as demanded and a white light jolted from her hands like silver lightning rushing over his body. The pain blazed. He screamed; closed his eyes, then, it was gone. All except for a dull ache in his back.

“I’m sorry.” She said. “Those scars are too old. I couldn’t heal them completely…you’d think after five centu—never mind. Sorry.”

“Five what?” He asked, weakly. He had to have heard her wrong. This woman could not be…had she not just healed him?

“Nothing,” She turned away, abashed.

He coughed. The woman hovered over him again, terror in her eyes. There were two of her…no, the logical part of brain said, he had lost too much blood. Even her powerful gift could not save him. Klaus closed his eyes.

***

Leaning back against the cold earthen wall at the back of his cage, Will released a moan. His eye still throbbed despite Naomi's magic and the medicine applied to it once he arrived at the gaol. They had applied an eye patch to it as well. Shackles made both his feet and hands numb and his ruined long coat gave him little warmth in the cold, damp gaol cell.

Two guardsmen stood on either side of the barred door, one held the keys to his lock; the other held a dimly lit lantern. Neither spoke to Will or to each other. No, dirty tranquility reigned.

Someone was coming. Heavy boots stomped against the packed dirt floor and armor creaked as the man walked down the corridor. Both guards turned in unison, the one with the lantern tried to scream, but a heavy sword deluged his head. The other guard stared, frozen, eyes wide open.

“Drop your keys and run,” said the attacker in a deep, smooth voice.

The keys fell and the guard scampered. Before the keys reached the ground, a gauntleted hand caught them and a tall figure dressed in a full-suit of black armor stood in front of his cage. Will’s eye widened and he backed up against the wall, praying that this killer Darknut might not decide that he was next on his killing spree.

The Darknut unlocked the cage, gently pushing it open. “Don’t be alarmed, that was the only man I had to kill today…the others are only unconscious.”

Others? Had this Darknut been a prisoner as well? Will shivered. “You’re a Darknut.” He said. “A bloody Darknut. I thought you all died even before those damn heroes supposedly saved Hyrule.”

The Darknut shrugged, which only jiggled his armor slightly instead of the intended effect. “Only the ones that choose evil…I got a second chance.”

“That sounds great.” Will muttered, eyeing the keys in the Dark Nut’s gauntlet. “But I’m not looking for a second chance. I just killed the Advisor and it feels so…empty...it doesn’t matter if I feel guilt now. Klaus is a dead man and she’s avenged…”

“I see…” The Darknut’s red eyes shined brightly, “But I think I see more than you do.”

Will frowned. “What? Are you here to lecture me? A lecture from a Darknut…and perhaps that bastard of a Hero in the morning. What better!”

“No.” The Darknut raised his hand to the strange amulet he wore around his neck. “This…it allows me to see Poes, mainly of the malevolent kind.” He paused and turned his head. “No, I don’t mean you Dren.”

“Dren?” Either this Darknut was insane or telling the truth, Will decided. He could not say he wanted to find out which it was.

“He’s...you wouldn’t be able to see him.” The Darknut explained. “He is one of these Poes this amulet allows me to see. But I didn’t come here to kill you because you ‘killed’ the Advisor…or lecture you. I’m a Darknut, I served Ganon. What I’ve done is far worse than anything you’ll ever do. Yet, the idea of me lecturing you, now, that’s a strange picture.”

Will nodded. “Why then?”

“It’ll be easier to show you.” The Darknut knelt beside Will, unlocked the shackles around his arms and feet, and unclipped the amulet from around his thick neck. Even kneeling, he was a head-and-a-half taller and could Smoosh him in an instant between his giant hands. He hated being at the mercy of such a creature with no weapon and a ruined eye, but the Darknut only handed him the amulet, gesturing for him to take it.

With a trembling hand, Will grasped the amulet’s ruby and suddenly found himself engulfed in a sea of Poes. He heard their voices, some crying, others moaning. Even more screamed at him, telling him to find a way to kill the Darknut or to kill Kaz—that damn man deserved it, they said, he ruined his eye. Will gasped, he did not even know this Darknut nor did he want Kaz dead. Hurt, perhaps, but not dead. But if he had gotten out and killed the guard, would he have tried? Could these things have made him do it? Was he even in control of himself anymore?

“Stop it.” He said. “Why are you following me?”

“Murderer…” They said in unison, pointing at him. Some laughed, others wailed. “Bloodied William, we want our due…we got our due…heartless one...”

“I killed you all.” He said coldly. Understanding flooded him. He’d killed them all. Just as he had killed Klaus this day…and he did it with a smile on his face and sick joy in his heart. What had he become? “…and became just like you…” They laughed.

“William…” Ghostly hands took hold of his. Will looked up. Not into the face of the hundreds of faceless Poes that surrounded him, but this one sported a face beneath the hood. Ethereal pale skin and a curl of honey-colored hair fell into her blue eyes. He tried to move it away from them, only to have his hand go through her translucent forehead. “William…”

“Aileshe?” He felt tears spring to eyes and a small smile formed on his face, both unbidden. He hadn’t seen her for so long…if only he did not have to see her like this, wrapped in the cloak of one doomed to wander the earth due to a life cut too short.

“Aren’t you happy?”

She shook her head. “You never listen to me! You only listen to them…I…I never wanted Klaus dead or anyone for that matter. Will…you forgot me...”

“But he killed you!” He replied. “He…he…”

She smiled sweetly. The same smile he had yearned to see for so long. “It’s worth more dying young and for the man I loved than wasting away on a bed knowing I could have saved him…but he forgot me.” She looked into his eyes, tears dampening her own. “Why did he forget me?”

“You…you…didn’t want him dead.” Will shook his head in disbelieve. She placed her ghostly hand on his forearm.

“I never wanted him dead, Will.” She said. “All I ever desired was for your safety.”

The other Poes stopped, staring at him. Waiting. He trembled beneath their gaze. Yes, they might have whispered in his ear enough times for him to think otherwise, but he had made the final decision. He had shot the carriage. He had ended Klaus’ life. And for nothing.

“You never could kill. Not even an ant if you could help it…,” He placed his hands where her should-have-been. “I…I forgot…I—will you forgive me?”

“Only if you stop listening to them and remember me.” She said. “Please say you will remember me…”

“I will.”

“Thank you.” She smiled, and already, he could see her beginning to fade. His heart broke a little at this, the next time he would see his fiancée was in death. “I forgive you, William…and I love you…”

She kissed him gently on the lips, “I love you too…” Then, a gust of wind blew her spirit away and the others followed. Leaving him in their wake.

“You’re still here?” Will said.

“Yes, and we need to leave. Half the guards in this place are unconscious and the others will come quickly.” The Darknut stood and handed Will a staff, a helmet, a cloak, and a bag. Will threw the cloak over his shoulder and caught the sparkle of silver embroidery sewn into the bottom. This was Jaros’s cloak. Why had he given him this when the others, even Tap, had never quite trusted him?

“I am Fulkrome.” His companion said.

“William Desesperacion, don’t call me that. It’s Will.” He handed the Darknut his amulet and readied his new spear. He had not fought with one since the days of his knighthood, since the day she had been hung. “Let’s go.”

***

The first strains of silver twilight peaked over the horizon in the east as the knights, at last, limped the final few miles to the City of Hyrule. It was just over the last hill, just a few more steps. They had marched so long, jumping at every shadow and any noise made by a small animal in the thicket or a gust of wind. More coward than men, but that thing, no, he could ask little more of them than to keep moving. He could not ask more when he could not gather the courage himself.

Bronzen had stayed with them. The Goron’s form, little more than a shadow in the waking light, carried James in his arms. Still strong. He had not heard a single whimper throughout the hastened, fear-driven march despite the wound near the Goron’s heart and his burns. Why had Hyrule betrayed such allies as these?

“Captain,” Benjamin spun a little too quickly for his own comfort. It was only the Labrynian General, torchlight upon his hardened face in the early morning gloom. “This runner came to my men and I only a few moments ago wishing to speak with you and the Ambassador.”

“General, it is better that you stay.” He halted his men then turned his attention back to them. “The Ambassador sleeps in the back of the carriage General Ornas gave us. If it were not for him and the Gorons we would not be here.”

“Sir Benjamin, if it is not out of—“

“Don’t speak.” Bronzen silenced the rider. The young runner eyed Benjamin who found himself smiling weakly despite the fear that the demon would ambush them at any moment. He knew it would return but not when, yet hearing Bronzen speak again brought him a measure of comfort. “It is not a thing any of us need to speak of while the night has yet to pass.”

The runner frowned, but upon surveying the other men in the unit, he stopped. These were tired men, injured men; he did not have time to wonder why a Goron was in their company. That they had returned at all was a miracle in itself. “What should I report?”

“Heavy casualties and injuries. We will need the infirmary to be ready on our arrival, but the Ambassador and Jonathan are safe, though worn.” The young runner nodded hastily, it seemed the fear that blanketed the remaining knights had begun to affect the boy. Benjamin placed his hand on the Bronzen’s large shoulder. “Tell them also that the Goron Elder, Bronzen, and the General Ornas of Labrynna are as well.”

The men, some having slumped to the ground in exhaustion, looked up. Awe was painted on their faces; perhaps this would be enough to encourage them onward until they reached the City itself. It was not too far, he could see the watchtowers and strong, fortified walls reflected the early dawn light in distance.

“They…I never thought to meet a Goron Elder or a real general. I will be off to tell them, Sir Benjamin.” The runner said then kicked his horse’s flanks and road off.

Once he had left earshot, Bronzen sighed, but did not speak. Instead, he again marched and the others followed.

***

“No,” Basyle said, lips flat, voice barely containing his anger and disgust. These men were insane, news of Klaus’ death had only reached them several hours ago, and they spoke already of replacing him. But, what was he to expect from them? They only longed for power; they would not take time to mourn a man they barely respected. “We will not speak of this again until after the Festival has completed and the official time of mourning is over. That is enough.”

“Your majesty,” The king and Council turned to face the newcomer, a man in his later years using what appeared to be a giant ladle for a staff. There was a strange dignity to him, the kind that Basyle had often encountered from ancient priests and his own father before his demise at the hands of old age.

“What authority do you enter this meeting, old fool?” Asked Graydon as he stood before the Council. He had earlier demanded a replacement of the Advisor (himself). “How did you get past the guards?”

“Magic,” He paused then cheerfully smiled. “You could say they are taking a well-deserved nap.”

“Your majesty,” the Council Member gave him a dramatic frown. If he could have a member removed for the offense of his love for drama, Graydon's conviction would come first. “This cannot be allowed. This…wizard. A wizard. You know they are not permitted to use magic in Hyrule without a permit.”

Basyle cleared his throat then waved for the old man to continue. “The Head Nurse sends news. You see, some unexpected individuals arrived early this morning…”

“Yes, I know of the Knights return and that Bronzen has arrived with them, I will— ”

“She wouldn’t waste your time.” The King and the Council stared at the old man. Who did he think he was to interrupt him as though he were a wayward child? It was curiosity, not anger, that gripped Basyle as he focused on the aging man. “It is…do they have to be here?”

“Excuse us. You may continue here if you wish.” The King stood, leaving the stunned Council in his wake. He turned to the old man who, by now, had caste off his unusually cheery demeanour for an eerily calm one. “Who are you?”

“Surprisingly blunt for a king.” The old man noted with a quite gleam in his blue eyes. “I think, though, you’ll be more accepting of what Mable wanted to tell you than who I am for the moment.”

“It is often that I find bluntness will get more done than the airs loved by most of the Council.” They began to walk. Towards the infirmary, the King noticed.

“Yes, humble as well. If only you were king in a lighter time than this.” He said as they turned down another corridor. This one decorated with pictures of the Prophetic Ones of old, the elderly man’s eyes lingered for a moment on the painting of the Prophet, holding his large crystal spoon. “Ah yes, it is a pity. You are no doubt a good king, Basyle, but I fear that Hyrule will need a great one in the days ahead.”

“I have my doubts.” Basyle sighed, “If I were a good king, how is it that Hyrule is like this? The nation is in shambles and a quarter of my people starve while another turns to crime. These are not the hallmarks of a good king, Master Prophet. They are all the signs of a poor one.”

“Ah.... Though, I insist that you call me Yazstromo.” He softly said, contemplating the King’s words. Basyle wished he felt awed by this man, but only felt dread. What could it mean that the Gods had sent the dead heroes of old to help them now? “But yes, before we go in there, I must tell you, Klaus is alive.”

_________________
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“Asphixation, defenstration, breathing wool, decapitation. Drinking from a lava pool, driving drunk to look so cool. Crazy bees sting you a lot, eating any rats you caught - all these ways that you can die. Don't forget poisonous pie!" -Classic SmashQueen, Fri Aug 16, 2013 11:03 pm
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Post Re: ~Forever Forgotten~ To Dust • Posted: Tue Aug 14, 2012 7:11 am
Has it really been 8 months? Well, I've had this Chapter kicking around for a while, by our very own Tetromino, and had a mind to just add onto it. But seeing as it's a 'new' forum start, we might as well go ahead and give ya'll what I hope you still want: more FF!

I also have plans for the Fifth Anniversary in October, so be on the look out for that!

Chapter 31: Abound by Tetromino

Morning sunlight poured through the window and Jaros stirred. Naomi was there, her head resting on her crossed arms at the corner of his bed. Her golden hair lay in disarray and her eyes had dark circles under them, but she slept; possibly the first time since they had left Amintor’s house. He knew she would not rest with the Twili about. He could not blame her; most of their kind could not be trusted.

“Naomi…” His voice came out weak. He coughed and tasted blood, but that he could not blame that on the injury Will had given him. It had been bad, he knew. Will had caused him to lose consciousness, but that had been a blow to the head and a stomach wound. Perhaps, it had only made it worse, Naomi would not like that.

“I thought…” She rubbed her eyes, it had been too long since she last slept well.

“That it was worse than this?” He smiled. “Or that my body healed so quickly. Naomi,” he took her hand, “I’m not so frail as to fall over from some—“

“You did.” She said her eyes cold as iron and brow furrowed. She was worried, but then, she was always worried, especially when it came to him. “You need to be more careful.”

“I suppose so.” He smiled. If she were someone else, he would have attempted getting up, but Naomi would not be amused. He had tried escaping her clutches the first time they meant then found himself tied to his cot, yelled at for his recklessness, and placed under guard by two Crandallian nurses. It was not the nurses that kept him there, but the determinedly fierce woman in charge of them.

The Rito stood and grabbed a roll of clean bandages from her satchel. She helped him to sit up and expertly took off his old ones and threw them out. Then, with a sigh, she began to clean his wound. He was still losing a little blood, and from her strained expression, he knew he should have stopped bleeding hours ago.

She redressed his wound: skillful, efficient, experienced. The little archer may have more power, yet he could not help but see her as anything but a child.

“One day…”

“Stop, Naomi.” He took her hands. “This will heal. Perhaps not as soon as either of us wants, yet…”

“I know.” Her voice was gentle, kind. Not a trace of the sternness she often fiercely wielded. “Can you blame me for doubting your choice?”

“I expected it, actually.” Jaros said. “Nao, if you did not, I fear you’d cause me to worry like you do.”

She folded her arms. “You should. Jaros, I doubt the council thought that sending—no, allowing you to go off on this mission—would place you in worse shape than you already are.”

“We both know they would not mind if I met a gruesome end sometime while gone off on this merry outing," He shook his head, it had been years since he had the respect he once commanded. "They may pretend to grief, but they’ll soon scheme all hell knows what if they aren't already.”

“Jaros…”

“Please,” he kissed her; after a moment, she closed her eyes, frustrated. He caught himself before he sighed, and gave her a false smile instead. “Then, help me up.”
She did and retrieved a fresh coat from his pack. He watched her, the sunlight bringing out the gray in her hair and her pained stride. The cold was getting to her this morning, and her recently developed arthritis only made it worse. Yet, she was still keen, and wise, yet not wise enough. It happened so long ago…

He caught the coat she threw over her shoulder with a magical net. That had not changed. Naomi turned around, looked at the coat lying there on the near-invisible net, and shrugged. “You should come up with something new.”

“New?” He took the coat. “I'm much to old for that. What? Do you expect me to pick it up off the floor?"

“You’d catch it.”

“When injured?” With her help, he put it on. He looked over his shoulder and raised an eyebrow, “But it’s not like you to let your patients, or rather, me, leave your care so soon."

"Ye are mistaken," She grinned fiendishly, "I never let my eye off you for a moment."

"That is," he said quietly as she left him to button his coat, "when given the choice, my dear."

Now, at the desk near the window, Naomi picked up a piece of parchment: a letter sealed with the Royal Seal of Hyrule. The Triforce glistened in the sunlight. She handed it to him.

“Ah, Tap asked that you—we?—help her in the wards at the Castle? I doubt I can do much.” He scanned over the letter again then chuckled, the poor child was almost pleading. “I suppose King Basyle knows the truth about them then..."

"I can't leave you unsupervised," She threw their satchel over her shoulder, a twinkle in her eyes. "It was Yazstromo's doing, he might not know she got this sent. Carriage?"

Jaros nodded. He doubted that she needed his consent for a decision she had clearly made earlier that morning. "We're late as it is, I fear, though I had thought we were meant to arrive there days ago..."

***

They had decided not to wake the still-slumbering Ambassador. Bronzen had spoken against this and Tap had agreed, leaving him in the ward with Daedus in case he woke while they were gone. They had left Tap there too, Yazstromo had told her to rest, concern lacing into his voice as he placed an aged hand on her shoulder. Mable had been asked to find someplace where the red-clad woman could sleep. He had noted her pale face and the shadows under her eyes as she waved them farewell and followed after Mable as they headed towards the King’s study. Somehow, he doubted she would listen.

“If she eavesdrops, I’ll make sure to ask Naomi to give her a punishment she won’t forget. Or I’ll turn her into a toad.” Yazstromo grinned, showing his shockingly white teeth as the others gave the Prophetic One odd looks. “Oh, did I say that out loud?”

The sparkle in his eyes said yes, and that he had done so quite on purpose. Bronzen chortled, and even the King and his Advisor smiled, yet Benjamin could not find it in himself even to feign amusement.

Perhaps it was because James’ face was only half-healed or that Bronzen still wore his arm in a sling after insisting that Tap tend to the others first. Perhaps it was the harsh truth that he felt the demon might appear at any moment and not even the mysterious return of these two Prophetic Ones could halt its advancement.

“How many are you?” James asked. He had insisted that he needed to come along despite that both Mable and Tap had tried to stop him. Benjamin and Bronzen had agreed with the squire and Tap had only sighed. She was the least stubborn healer the Captain had ever meant.

“Three.” Yazstromo answered. “Naomi came with her husband, some fellow called Jaros from who-knows-where, I still can't say I expected she was still married. But wherever Mervil is, I can’t say.”

“What about Kaz?”

“Don’t you read books, lad?” James frowned at his words, he rarely read and was near illiterate, but the Prophet would not know this nor would the squire be forthcoming with it either. “He died a few weeks after we won. A shame, he was a good lad. It still makes the Innocent cry to be reminded of it.”

The Advisor turned to the Prophet to speak something in his ear, while Yazstromo shook his head. The King cleared his throat gesturing them to enter his study. Sunlight filtered through the large, glass window overlooking a courtyard garden where a few flowers still blossomed and tall, ancient oak trees stood there their leaves turned copper and red. A few shelves filled with aged books were lined against the wall, while his desk faced away from the window, and on the other wall a small fire burned in the fireplace. Seven cushioned chairs were set before it, and Benjamin wondered when Basyle had sent for a servant or if the King’s study was always prepared for guests that rarely came.

“James please get the door and leave us,” The King motioned for the squire to move and a sigh escaped him when he heard the young man call him ‘damn Old Man’ under his breath. Such mutterings, he had once remarked to Benjamin, were the main reason he still waited to make James a knight, but the excuse was little more than paper-thin. The truth was Basyle still felt weary about making a commoner a knight after the last one they had knighted became one of the most ruthless criminals in Hyrule. William was yet a mark of shame on the Knight’s Guild, not to mention James’ other peculiar qualities.

“So, the fact that he was there when…whatever befell your knights was not the reason you brought him?” The Prophet asked, taking a seat near the fire and resting his feet on the long table in the midst of the chairs. He took out a pipe and began to smoke nonchalantly.

The King said nothing concerning his odd behavior and the Advisor watched the old man with bright, golden eyes. Strange, he had never seen Klaus as excited as this before. “No,” Basyle said, “I was more weary of the council members eavesdropping than your friend. Whatever James might say can be included later.”

“Oh, those whippersnappers really are a troubling bunch!” He laughed, but this time, no one joined him in his amusement (though Klaus did nod). A solemn air had now transcended on those present, and the King asked them to sit. Klaus went to sit behind the desk, but the king shook his head, gesturing for his friend to take the seat beside him.

“Were it not for your wisdom, I would have asked you stay behind with Mable.” The King added his voice hinting that he was still thinking of asking Klaus to withdraw.

“What happened?” It was Bronzen who asked.

Klaus eyed Yazstromo for a moment before answering. “William Desesperacion fired at my carriage on the way to the executions scheduled for yesterday,” He rested his head on his hand looking as exhausted as Benjamin felt, “I recall little beyond waking this morning. Only that two of the Prophetic Ones of legend were indeed my rescuers…”

“A friend of ours caught Desesperacion.” Yazstromo added.

“Lord Amintor of Kakariko?” The King said and the Prophet gave him a nod. “Ah, so that story is true as well.”

“And what is that, your majesty?” Benjamin asked. He did not like these tidings of some noble catching the most notorious criminal Hyrule had known in decades. How could this man have such skill with hunting the most wanted man in Hyrule? His men had tried to catch Desesperacion for years, only to return dead or injured but always empty handed. Usually, it was both. Yet, Benjamin had heard reports of a strange man, often wearing green, bringing in criminals that the knights had never dreamed would be brought to justice. It seemed that the coming of the Prophetic Ones only brought old mysterious to light.

“From the rumors and reports, a man in green charged the assailant.” Klaus, to Benjamin’s mild amusement, was the one who answered. So, those were the papers he had requested from Thomas and Thomas had quickly gathered what he could and gave them to him. He had only a few moments to glance over them before the meeting, however. The King sighed as he too realized this, but this only caused Yazstromo and Bronzen to share an amused glance. “Yet, how is it you know him? From what little I have heard, he is a recluse who has barely involved himself in the affairs of Hyrule since his arrival from Kyzoon a decade ago. Though his name...”

"One of his grandmothers came from Hyrule, or so he claimed. He had said she greatly respected the Prophetic Ones. Even that idiotic lad," answered the Prophet. Yet, something about this story seemed canned even to Benjamin's ears.

“He sounds like a formidable warrior,” Bronzen added, and then shrugged when the others glanced at him. They could not be surprised by his words, however, Gorons were known for their respect of fighting men and this, Benjamin knew, was especially true of their Elder. “Even I have heard of the trouble this Desesperacion has caused for you and your kingdom before this.”

“Oh!” Yazstromo said quickly. “He is a good fighter, perhaps you and Kazar could spare after all this business is over. He needs a beating or three to get rid of some of his arrogance, if you ask me.”

The Goron grinned, but then his face darkened and he turned to the Captain who nodded briefly. “Dolomire and I agreed to guard Sir Jonathan and your knights because of the dangers the last group ran into when they tried to escort that Ambassador.” He gestured to his arm in his sling and to the bandaged wound near his heart. It would have killed him if he was not a Goron and Benjamin still wondered if it should have despite that fact. “We ran into the same…demon that attacked them.”

“If it had not been for the Ambassador’s magic and our escorts, we would not have survived.” Benjamin said. “Most of our force did not despite what they did to help us escape.”

Bronzen nodded silently, his mind no doubt dwelling on his companion who had died as they escaped the demon’s wrath. He had not spoken of it, and Benjamin had wisely not brought up the subject. Gorons felt that those who died in battle were not to be grieved but honoured. Yet he knew that Bronzen did both.

“It is gone then?” The Advisor asked.

“No.” Benjamin sighed. “It will chase the Ambassador until he is dead. Your majesty, we need to prepare and cancel the festival. We can’t risk the lives of innocents when—“

“Captain, be silent.” The King stood, his voice thundered. “We cannot cancel it, the city is suffering from enough unrest and panic already, and if we change our plans now, it will only lead to riot in the streets when our people ought to be celebrating. If there is a repeat of Kakariko here, we will not be able to defend against your demon nor will he have much to destroy after what the people do to this city. By then, he may not have an Ambassador to kill.”

“Kakariko?”

“Will be discussed at another time,” Basyle continued. This was not Basyle the Meek, but the fearsome Basyle, who, in his youth, had fought the Gorons in the Second Gorauler War twelve years after they had formed their Protectorate. “You may put up extra defense as you, Bronzen, and the Guild Master see fit. Keep the Ambassador under guard.”

The Prophet coughed, and all three turned. “May I ask, gentlemen, what this demon looked like?”

“He wore a dark cloak and called himself Death.” Benjamin said.

Silence spread after a brief murmur. They all knew what one another was thinking.

Could it be? The knight thought.

Yazstromo gazed into the fire, resting his face on his folded hands. To Benjamin, it seemed that five hundred plus years of living weighed heavily on his shoulders, and his ancient eyes glowed with a dark, foreboding light.

“It is not him.” He finally whispered, stirring the fire with his staff, causing embers to spring forth. “But something claiming to be him.”

“Then Arivis has returned.” Klaus supplied. This caused the Prophet’s gaze to land on him, yet he returned it unbidden. “Were not the Prophetic Ones called forth by the gods to defeat him, First Advisor? And, if he were not defeated, then that may explain your longevity.”

“Possibly.” The Scholar rubbed his bearded chin then shook his head, “But Mervil has judged him with his book and I don’t think that can simply be undone. Nor does your description fit him. He would not kill your men like this, Benjamin. It must be some doppelganger-demon that claims to use his likeness.”

It must...

The elderly man stood and leaned heavily on his staff, he nodded to the King. A plan, it seemed, was working in his head. “My companions and I will guard this Ambassador. You could say if anyone in Hyrule has experience with demons it would be us, King Basyle. Indeed, we’re the only ones with experience.”

The King and Advisor agreed but Benjamin felt uncertainty. He, for one, thought the old man too idealistic and certain of his ancient friend, yet he kept this council to himself. It was better to trust Yazstromo’s wisdom, then to think he might be wrong.

***

“I must say,” Orilieus rubbed his temples as he spoke. “You have never been this late before.”

His guest grinned. He had always, purposefully, been late whenever Orilieus asked him to meet him. “I ran into two…interesting ladies on the way. One swore to the gods she had met me before.”

“I suspect you denied this…”

“Yes, though she is right.” His eyes twinkled with mischief. “It was around twenty years ago, and I wouldn’t have recognized her if it weren’t for that large mole on her left cheek. To think that his daughter would become a successful merchant when the last time I saw her she was more interested in spending every gold piece her father made…”

This last part was said barely above a murmur and laced with regret. Yet Orilieus had learned in the last decade not to ask questions or give comfort to someone that despite appearances was far older than he could ever be. For that, admittedly, he was grateful. Few were older than him now.

“Kyznian then?”

He nodded. “They trade more readily with Hyrule in recent years than I would’ve ever expected from them. Damn, if I didn’t know better, I’d say they were looking for me.” He took a sip of the ale Orilieus had provided at the start of their meeting. The cup was oversized, taken from the Master’s own collection. Most of the mead in it was already depleted.

This, he realized, was the first time he had seen the man drink any alcohol so readily. Yet, instead of mentioning it, he asked: “And what then will you do?”

“Drink.” He answered with a bitter laugh. “No, but why, Orilieus, did you ask for me after having that bastard throw me in gaol? Hylian gaols aren’t exactly made for comfort, you know, they’ve never been.”

“In fact,” he concluded, “they’ve gotten worse.”

“That was Darius’s doing, not mine.” He answered. “To him, loyalty to the Archives and the treasures within will always matter more than protecting others or right and wrong.”

“You blame him for the whole disaster?”

Orilieus frowned. He knew how he might answer if the man were more somber, but doubt filled his mind now. “He may be ruthless, but no, I cannot. To some extent, the thieves, Darius, and I must all take blame for it. Had we been more prepared, perhaps, yes, it may be we could have prevented it.”

“With what?” He asked. “More guards? More Scribes like him? You haven’t seen the thief, and if anything, I doubt you could have stopped him.”

“You stole it?”

“What use is some old, magical rock to me?” He folded his arms. “The thief’s name is Tiveri. A magician perhaps half as skilled as Yazstromo, but then again, you know more about magic than I. He might still be in the Capital City.”

“No,” Orilieus shook his head, though he noted the thief’s name down. “He is gone. Last night, William Desesperacion left the gao—”

“And you expect me to chase him down again?”

“No, you may kill me were I to do so.” Orilieus said.

Yet, the man shook his head. “I haven’t been that drunk for years.”

Orilieus lifted the bottle. It was empty. He eyed his companion. “Are you sure?”

“Yes.” That, he knew, would be the only answer he would get. It, however, was not what he had hoped for. “That can’t be the only one you’ve got.”

Orilieus coughed. “Darius has gone, without orders, to hunt after them.”

He frowned. “He got off his chain?”

“So to speak,” though not a dog, but, he wisely, kept such words to himself. “Yet I must request your services.”

“A demand.”

“Yes, you may call it as you wish.” He sighed, “A request, a demand, it does not matter, you will do as I ask, Kaz Amintor. It may be considered a payment for not leaving you in the gaol until they had decided what to do with you for whatever part you played in this ordeal.” He carefully folded his hands atop the desk. “You will be my guest at this meeting I must intend with the king.”

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Post Re: ~Forever Forgotten~ To Dust • Posted: Sat Jun 14, 2014 5:13 pm
Chapter 32: Tales (Also, sorry for the wait)

The medical ward of Hyrule Castle was more inviting than she remembered; the last time she walked this hall it lay broken and ashamed. Grand tapestries hung from the ceiling, some silk and others painted canvas. Symbols of victory, of the Royal Family, replaced her memories of maimed bodies, the rope and flesh dangling quietly from the rafters. Tap did not recognize this place and was grateful for it.

Mable and Daedus were reluctant to let her wander, but she fumed enough to change their minds. She had done all she could, the strangers she healed would recover in time, giving thanks and not much more. Rooms and rooms of the sick and dying only managed to suffocate her further.

“What do they know?” she huffed, turning into the medical arboretum. “I deserve to sit with that council just as Yazstromo does.”

The arboretum was one of many planted in honour of the Prophecy throughout the Capital. This one had no splendour, a small sphere of life inside cold stone walls. Tap had seen the one devoted to the Redeemed, Kaz, this one, however, merely housed a tall, lonely oak and flowerbeds. The tree’s branches shadowed the walkways and benches surrounding it in a tight circle, having littered them with an abundance of colourful leaves.

Tap gingerly took the staircase down into the greenery, the welcoming smell of damp earth wafting in the wind. The stone bench she chose to brood upon was cold and uninviting, save for a plume of familiar feathers.

You hardly look impressed,” Aracient’s tone was empty, as usual.

“No, not really,” she feigned a smile and crossed her arms. “I was there, you know, with Yazstromo, with the rest of them. I have every right to sit beside them.”

A short silence followed, the raven plucking absently at his wing.

Don’t take it to heart. Yazstromo just wanted to spare you from a room of dusty, old noblemen. I heard him say it myself,” he had not, but the sentiment was no less true.

A chilling breeze swept through the tiny garden, likely bringing the snow down the mountain any day now. Tap pulled her collar tight around her neck and looked down at her avian friend.

“I’ve been wondering,” she started. “Who were you before? I mean, what was your name before you...”

Died?” he finished. “I wish I could say, but I have spent enough effort in keeping what memories I do have. The others can’t speak to you anymore, their spirit simply won’t allow it,” a twinkle akin to Yazstromo seemed to cross his beady eyes. “But I have many stories to tell, even if I can’t remember who I am.

The Innocent sighed, another mystery she could never solve. She slumped back in the uncomfortable seat and crossed her arms, finally content with being left out of Yazstromo’s meetings. “My schedule is empty, why don’t you tell me a little story you do remember?”

Aracient sharpened his claws on the stone beneath him, pausing before speaking. “I’m more interested in what you have to say, my lady. Surely you have a tale or two to tell.

Tap wrinkled her brow trying to think of a story to entertain a raven. What a queer thing to be doing, she thought. But it did make her smile more. In the rush of the Capital only Aracient seemed to care for her business, if she were even there or not.

“You know, I’ve been back in Hyrule for quite a while and I haven’t heard much of what we did, my friends and I. At least I thought I’d hear some embellished accounts, not anything at all,” Tap began. “There are just those statues,” she grumbled. “I probably don’t even have one.”

Then tell me how your story goes.

“I thought you already knew,” Tap scoffed. “Knew about us while you were alive, I mean,” Aracient just turned his head as if he had not heard the question, encouraging her to continue. “Fine. There isn’t much to tell anyway. My friends and I were just kind of caught up in the whole thing.”

“I met Kaz, or Kazar as he calls himself now, one afternoon; his friend, Railin, was there, too. The circumstances were... less than perfect. They met up with Mervil and learned to regret it. I had heard stories about some vigilante but they were proof enough that he existed,” she smiled sheepishly. “I patched Kaz up and went to the Autumn Festival. I had been looking forward to it all summer: the crowds, the food, and especially the music. I’d never have guessed they would still be having these things, either.”

They are just as beautiful as they were back then,” Aracient added. “Once they were dedicated to you and your friends, but time forgets heroic deeds far too easily. I am sure this year will be different. I can tell Yazstromo will make that happen.

Tap laughed, trying to abandon terrible memories. “That old coot hasn’t changed since we met, you can always count on him. Things would have been very different if he had not been a part of us. Mervil even liked him, though he would never admit that.”

You do not think highly of this Mervil, I take it?

“I wouldn’t say that exactly,” she lied. “Mervil was very different from the rest of us. Naomi, Kaz, Railin, Galysses, Yaz; we all managed together just fine. We nicknamed him Death, dark and gloomy and too serious,” Tap sighed a long and calculated tune. “But he was responsible for all of us meeting. And all of this,” she spread her arms wide, grasping for the vast kingdom beyond the walls.

“And as much as I hate to say it, he had love in his heart. Somewhere very, very deep,” she was frantic for redeeming memories, relying only on the way she would sometimes catch him looking to Naomi. “He was prepared to sacrifice himself for Yazstromo. We never could figure why, though. And apparently a long time ago Naomi found something in him I wouldn’t have guessed,” Tap shook her head at the idea, there was only one Mervil she knew, anything else was nonsense.

Aracient clicked his beak and took a new perch across from the Innocent.

I’m sure you’re full of surprises, too, my dear.”

“You must know about that night, that Festival I mean,” Tap continued quietly. “The King murdered in a drunken stupor; none of us know what exactly happened after that. One second we were with the screaming crowds and the next we were hundreds of miles away.”

The halls of Crandall were old and cold in her mind. Her memories of Crandall afar were far and few between. All the better, she mused.

“And I guess that is all,” Tap shrugged, standing into an elongated shrug. “I got to say, a lot of what happened after that seemed to be on a ‘need to know’ basis. Mervil, Yazstromo, and Naomi were always whispering, whispering and planning I guess. They led the way and the rest of us had to follow. We lost a few good people to the Demon along the way, a few not so good.”

”I should think any loss would spell death back then,” the carrion quipped.

Tap quickly agreed, pushing the broken forms of old comrades out of her mind. “I was curious to the world they used to know, Mervil and the rest. But it always seemed too far away for them to remember right. Crandall still has a shadow over this place, I can feel it everywhere.”

Again, the eerie faces of Numen and the Fallen invaded her mood. The Innocent rubbed her eyes and began to step away, as if speaking of the old days made them real again.

“I was never more afraid...” she glanced back at the ever vigilant raven. The day she opened Mervil’s lock upon the Silver Sanctum rushed back, Death’s grip lingered ever greedy on her arm. “There were days I thought the Gods were prepared to carry me under. I never felt safe, even when the others did. We were never actually safe.”

Galysses, the Fallacy, the Compass. You travelled with them, they fought and they died.”

“Yes,” Tap replied flatly, feeling the tears well in her eyes. “Every day I felt like running, but I remembered where I was supposed to be. I deserve to be at that Council because I lived those days with Yazstromo and the others. I may not have been as important as them, but I stayed. I stayed, Aracient, that was more than I ever thought I could do with my life.”

Then you should be on your way,” Aracient fluttered to a perch closer to the pacing Innocent. “People out in those streets will celebrate you being here later tonight. Plan and debate, there’s no need to run away again.

Tap beamed and ruffled up her tunic. “I thought you had a story to tell me though.”

No, not right now,” he replied, slowly. “I only ask that you enjoy the festivities for me, Tap. I will tell you it some other day. I promise.

Aracient took flight out of the courtyard, circling once as if to ensure that Tap, too, had fled to continue her new tale.

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Post Re: ~Forever Forgotten~ To Dust • Posted: Sat Jun 14, 2014 5:18 pm
Chapter 33: The War Forge

“In case I’ve gone daft, this report does tell me that no sooner than he hits the gaol stone, Desesperacion is gone, fled the City?!” Klaus barked, visibly weary. It had only been now that news spread of the midnight escape, their words of earlier disaster replaced by bitter new ones. He attempted to leave his bed, but the crowded ward hushed him back down. The entire Council had set up around his bedside, not to give well wishes or commend him for essentially rising from the dead, but to hound him with news.

Every nobleman in the City had gathered here, pressing themselves together to bicker and bemoan the turmoil of the day. Basyle could not keep them out of his study or this ward for any longer. He had no sooner retired with Klaus and the Second Convoy when the throngs of the Council inevitably followed.

“Yes, the guards reported a Darknut stormed the Tower and freed him,” a withered voice cut through the murmur. A man three hands taller than anyone else in the room approached fully cloaked in old battle hardened armor. He tapped his closed helmet in regards to Klaus.

Yazstromo coughed roughly, ribbing Naomi’s side. “Who’s that?”

“How am I supposed to know?” she whispered sharply, glaring down at his smirk.

“I can assure you I have my finest men in pursuit,” the Guild Master turned to the raucous response of the Council. “I value catching a criminal over having my Knights care for the drunks and whores your Festival is having tonight, mind you,” his voice crackled like a flame. “There is not a place in this Kingdom he could hide, Darknut at his side or not.”

Basyle nodded his approval, inviting Yazstromo, Naomi, and Kaz to join him. “I am sure that once the formalities are finished tonight, our new friends can join the fight. If I’m correct they have a few things to bring up with Desesperacion themselves.”

A few bewildered looks were cast among the Council at Basyle’s lot of companions. A swell of chatter began to rise, quickly snuffed out by the gauntleted hand of the Guild Master.

“And what would a bird, a nobleman, or an old man bring me, your Majesty?”

“You’d be surprised,” another new voice called genuinely. The sound startled the entire room. Orilieus entered, covered head to toe in rich blue dressings. His new companion eyed the audience closely, before settling a glare on Kaz. Darius appeared tired, clearly agitated to see both of his arrests were for naught. “I was almost tempted to let our Lord Kazar rot away in your dungeons, but I've recently found reasons abound to have him here.” Their late night meeting had only been provided after much goading by Orilieus with the Kakariko soldiers who had completed Kazar’s arrest.

Basyle suddenly fumed at the new guests. “You’re late,” he stated matter-of-factly, ushering the doors to be closed once more behind Kakariko’s Master. “But I suppose there could not be a better time to make sense of this sorry mess.” The murmurs swelled as the ward capacity continued to do so. Orilieus kept smiling, and Darius kept stoic and silent.

“Where do I begin?” Orilieus replied, pointing his staff at the Prophetic Ones in their company. “I have nothing more to tell than the facts we all know. As you said yourself, your Majesty, this lot will bring an end to our troubles. All of them.”

Darius scoffed and stepped forward. “I have all the reasons to disagree. ‘Lord’ Kazar has been running amuck in the name of the City and has done all but fail it. Does this council not take heart in the facts I brought to them last evening? This nobleman is a-,” the Scribe trailed off as the King motioned to speak.

“It is no secret that words of ancient folk have been spreading through the Capital,” Basyle said slowly. “We have placed far greater matters than a theft and a murderer in their hands, long, long ago. Whatever Lord Kazar has done, I truly believe it is in the best interest of my subjects.”

Councilman Graydon chuckled sarcastically, milling through his colleagues. “Surely you are joking, my Liege. You expect this Council to swallow this unfounded optimism?”

“I do,” Basyle replied flatly. “Do you not see it in their faces? The age, no, better yet, the emotion they have standing here among us? Your belief in the matter does not change the facts. I should be kneeling to these heroes, as all of you should.”

Graydon looked on, baffled. Behind him the council dipped their heads, accepting what many would deem ridiculous. Klaus offered what little he could in a smile.

“The Gods above have returned these people here for a reason,” Klaus looked beyond the crowd, thoughts spread thin over all Hyrule’s turmoil. “Under the watch of the Sheikah, a great relic is lifted out of Kakariko by a Shadow not unlike themselves. Desesperacion returns to our streets attempting to murder our clerics. How could anyone deny our needs?”

“Even with a rekindling with the Protectorate, a monster tore through dozens of our brave knights and one of Bronzen’s finest warriors,” Basyle locked a concerned gaze with the Goron Elder, guarding the ward as if it were his own. “Walk the halls and you will see that the Prophetic Ones have leapt from their likenesses, sprung from the portraits and statues we once revered. I fear that this sorcerer, murderer, demon, whatever you wish to call him, is the reason we now see the impossible.”

The Guild Master reappraised the heroes he had cast aside moments earlier. Stepping forward, he placed a heavy gauntlet over his chest plate, bending to his knee in regards to the King and his Prophetic Ones. “Accept my apologies. If the King and the High Cleric decree it, I am not the one to call them fools. I will alert my men to answer to the needs of your heroes, your Majesty,” he lifted his great head and addressed Yazstromo directly. “As the Master of Hyrule’s knights, I personally request your acceptance into your service.”

Yazstromo smiled wide, and tapped his staff on the stonework beneath him. “No one said I was in charge,” he winked at Naomi, who merely huffed and folded her arms. “But I’ll gladly take the job, and your help. We can use all sorts of mighty beasts on our side, not against it.”

“And you can trust you have the support of my people,” Bronzen boomed from the far end of the ward, holding his great fist in the air. “My Protectorate will be like a second home to you all. When I have mended, I will gladly hunt this creature again. Our Brothers shall not have died for nothing.”

Orilieus clapped his hands together, looking to the King and to his sullen Scribe. “While you have had the hospitality of my city and my vigilant Scribes, I am certain we can solve all our problems so long as we continue this amiability. Where you find Desesperacion, you’ll find our Shadow, and where you find our Shadow, we will find our Stone.”

Lord Kazar bowed to the Grand Master and extended his hand for the Scribe’s. Darius hesitated at the formality and simply nodded.

“Already I have sent Scribes in my stead to follow Desesperacion, though the outlaw believes he’s worth my personal attention,” he addressed Basyle coolly. “Despite the Grand Master’s sentiments, I intend on remaining here in the Capital, so long as I know the Seeking Stone’s thief hides here. I am sure the gunman will provide nothing but his own death before he aids the cause. Now, if you will excuse me, I have work to do,” the Scribe made on his promise, showing himself out promptly.

The Council milled among itself, shocked at Darius’s aggressive display. Basyle took no offense; the bristling for the Royal Family shared by all Sheikah did not shake him. “First we will celebrate. I, for one, have had enough of this dark sod. This Council is dismissed. The next time I see any of you, you had better have a flask in hand.”

Bronzen and Orilieus accompanied the King back out into the ward, followed by the throngs of whispering councilmen. Soon, only the Advisor, the Prophetic Ones, and the Guild Master remained.

“While we are guests for the Festival,” Naomi began, holding the bridge of her beak. “I have to agree with Darius. We should be working to fix all of this mess. We never should have got involved with Ti-,” she caught herself with a hard glance from Kaz. “It might be better that we are out on the streets, helping the Scribes find this Shadow thief.”

“I would not worry about that, milady,” the Guild Master’s voice was ragged, as if he were a smaller man underneath his massive armour. “The Festival will be sufficiently patrolled. There will be no repeats of what happened during your own.”

At that, the door of Klaus’s room flew open with a gust of fresh air. Tap stumbled in, hacking violently to catch her breath. “What did I miss?” she flushed. “I got here as fast as I coul-,” the emptiness of the room finally sank in, and so did her face. “Oh, I guess I missed it."

“Nothing to worry yourself over, lass,” Klaus laughed from his bed, swinging his legs over to the slab beneath it. “You will find nothing but allies in these halls tonight!” For once the Advisor could feel an old light of hope coming down to the Hyrule he loved. Gorons, Knights, and heroes all together once again.

Kaz crossed the short distance to the Innocent and placed a heavy hand on her shoulder, smiling down at her. “There’s a party out there. Why don’t you follow me this time?”

Tap was not quite so sorry she missed the meeting now. Outside, the first fireworks flew high.

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Post Re: ~Forever Forgotten~ To Dust • Posted: Thu May 14, 2015 10:29 pm
Part II will be up tomorrow (or the day after, this chapter is over 10,000 words, so, we decided to cut it in two parts). Yup, the show is back on the road, kind of...

Chapter 34: Mayhem’s Masquerade, Part I

When Kaz invited Tap to join him in the festivities he hadn’t realized that Mable, the Head Nurse, had got wind of it. She’d ushered the Innocent off, insisting that a guest of the crown could not be seen in such ragged and tattered clothing. Tap hadn’t looked pleased, mumbling under her breath, but soon relented with a quiet sigh, a slight smile on her face.

Now, two hours later, he found himself waiting outside of the room Mable had led Tap to. Before the Head Nurse had slammed the door in his face, he had caught a glimpse of what was inside. Near one wall, hung dresses of various styles, colors, and lengths hanging on racks, while the other was lined with shelves filled with powders, perfumes, strange bottles and small boxes. In the midst of this room stood a straight-backed, graying woman in a severe gray dress and two attendants in blue. The aging woman glared at him, told him to wait, and ordered Mable to shut the door.

He pitied Tap. Her face had been distraught when she saw the contents of the room. When was the last time she’d worn a gown? Had she ever? At least when his daughters had gone to their first ball, they’d had years of practice. Their first balls had been generally low key affairs; Tap was being dragged to the ball-version of a bear’s den. She probably hadn’t danced in a few hundred years.

“Still waiting, eh?” Kaz turned, Naomi now wore a simple blue dress, though the skirt was long and full, designed for an old woman of the court. He noticed that it was held together with white thread at the side. It was a dress made to get out of quickly, then, in case she was called onto fight.

“I was comparing this to when my daughters…,” Kaz stopped, noting the pained expression on his old friend’s face. It was gone in an instant, replaced by a smooth, blank expression. “That makes me sound like a fool, doesn’t it?”

“Only if you want to claim a five-hundred-year old woman as your kid.”

“Ha,” he shook his head. Naomi gave him a smug but pointed smile. “Right. Now, where were you?”

Naomi lifted her eyebrows. “I asked Yazstromo about that demon the guards met returning from the Highlands.”

Kaz frowned. “Not good?”

“He said it’s something claiming to be Death,” Naomi said, her voice nearly a whisper as a servant approached them, carrying a platter covered with various drinks. She took a glass of wine off the top of the tray. “And the king thinks it fine to party and play with a man like that on the loose.”

Kaz remained quiet. Could it be that Mervil would turn against Hyrule? Or was this some kind of trick, played by a sorcerer claiming Death's mantle? Nonetheless, a chill overcame him; it had not occurred to him that if they ever met Mervil again, he might not be on their side. Though Kaz had never considered the man kind, Hyrule would not stand if Mervil had chosen to condemn it.

“Aye, I see it leaves you speechless,” she said with a hint of amusement tainting her voice. “And I thought you’d never close your mouth. If it is him…”

“I’ve been betrayed before, numerous times,” Kaz said. “We’ll deal with it when the time comes.”

“I’ll talk sense into his thick head. If he thinks—“

The door finally opened. Naomi grinned like an approving mother, the Innocent returned the Rito’s expression with a shy smile. She slowly walked out, looking down at her dress as though she was worried she might trip over her crimson skirts. Cut in the modern style, it was tight around her waist and bust, the low neckline showing off her cleavage. A large white ribbon tied around the waist and the skirt opened in front, showing off her white petticoats beneath.

“Staring’s rude, Kaz.” Tap folded her arms across her chest.

He blinked. He wasn’t staring, really, he was just looking. A man had a right to look at a beautiful woman in a dress, didn't he? He could take a lingering glance at something that was made to show off the curvature of her breasts, hips, and buttock. If anyone asked, he was not blushing; men his age didn’t blush in the presence of pretty women.

He pretended to sneeze a few times so he could turn his head and cover his face with his arm. “Have they set you free yet?” He asked as nonchalantly as he could manage once he had regained some measure of control. Kaz focused on her dark eyes as he said: “Or do they need to teach you to walk in that thing, again? Some women have a terrible time from what I hear, it’s a sill—“

He caught her hand mid-slap in a firm grasp.

“You’re not supposed to catch a girl’s hand when she does that!” She cried, but her eyes glittered in amusement. Her large, black eyelashes had been brushed just so to make her eyes that much more beautiful. The makeup was flawless, adding to this effect. He felt another sneeze come on and turned his head.

Naomi laughed.

“I’ve gotten kind of good at that sort of thing.”

She giggled. Kaz dropped her hand, but got a quick slap on the wrist regardless. Darn women, couldn’t let them go for a second without an attack. “And being pretentious to lovely women.”

He said that last bit with a broad, mischievous grin. Naomi rolled her eyes, clicking her tongue in disapproval. “Off with you two, then.”

“Wait, what are you going to do?” she asked.

“Ask questions,” answered the Rito, “I want to know exactly what those soldiers saw. No, I need to.”

“And I’m not adult enough to know? I’m still the Innocent. Just a kid who’ll never mature in my…betters’ minds?” Tap’s eyes darkened, walking up to the older woman and craning her head up to meet the Rito’s hard expression. Even with her hands on her hips, though, the short girl did not look the least bit opposing compared to the towering Rito standing before her.

Despite that, the woman sighed, relenting. “It’s not that we wish to keep it from you.”

“Naomi thinks it may be Mervil who attacked the Ambassador,” Kaz said, “Don’t glare at me like that. You may have led us to victory alongside Mervil and the Prophet, and fought his forces in a war in some bygone time, but this path isn’t smart. Keeping important information from an ally that has every right to know it only leads to foibles. Anger. Distrust. Fear. Miscommunication, my lady, is oft the doom of armies.”

“Aye,” Naomi smiled wistfully. “To think you’d lecture me.”

“Don’t treat me like a child, Naomi Goldenwing,” the smile vanished at Tap's voice, her gaze smoldering instead. It was the very look that she had sometimes given Death when they fought in the old days. Grim satisfaction filled him; she needed to get off her high horse. “In the future, you must not keep any secrets from me or her. Tell that to Yazstromo when you see him, please.”

Naomi stood there in silence for a moment, turned, and stalked down the hall until she ran into a white and black clad servant. She gave him an order in a harsh voice, commanding him find a man named James.

“Gods,” the Innocent shook her head. Right, he would have to stop calling her that as well. “I thought only Mervil could get her that mad.”

“Oh, so, I’m the new Mervil, correct?”

“What? You’d have to be a lot more grim.”

“Thank Din.”

She laughed, taking his arm at last. “We need to go. If I have to wear this frilly thing, then the least I can do is show it off.”

He smiled down at Tap and her bulging skirts. “I’ll call a coach.”

***

Being in places he was not supposed to be had always been a particular talent of his, although Jaros feared he’d gotten a little clumsy at it over the last few centuries. Naomi had done quite a good job of putting an end to most of his skulking and spying on other members of the Council of Elders. She thought it was bad for his health, and unbecoming besides for the man they had chosen to lead them. It did not matter that it was part of the game they played; to his Naomi, his “health” mattered more than the proper guidelines of good politicking.

She may have been right, but she couldn’t expect him to follow her rules all the time. She knew he was awfully bad at listening to them in the first place; it was a side effect of old age, after all. Thus, he had slipped out of the old wizard’s guestroom as Naomi prodded Yazstromo for information. He drew on a little Starlight to make himself near invisible and then closed the door behind him silently. Once outside, Jaros forged an illusion, making himself look like a young servant washing the stone floor nearby. Both invisibility and illusion were one of the simplest and easiest tricks for him to perform: they were based merely on manipulating the way that light reflected off of him or some other surface.

Personal Illusionment was the simplest form of Starlight magic.

Soon he slipped into the servants’ corners, grabbing a wooden bucket and a cloth. Stepping out into the hallway, he took his first left. A moment later he nearly slammed into a young woman with bright, red hair and a quite full figure. He should know, nearly falling on his rear from the impact.

“’C…cah-cuse me,” Jaros tried to put on the mask of an awkward and shy servant. “You wouldn’t happen to know where Lord Ashtar is? I was told to guide him to his rooms; though, I can’t say I know where those are either.” He gave her his best helpless expression.

The maid sighed. “You, Tyran? I’m shocked Lorene still trusts you with such things!” she shook her head in disbelief. “Go, but don’t get lost. The Ambassador’s in the small library on the west side, you know, the one on the second floor and just to the right. His rooms are right ‘round there too, you know where the guestrooms are, right? It’s the good one though, ‘pparently some lord and lady from nowhere are staying in the one’s they were supposed to give to him.”

“Oh…ah…yes, of…of…course,” he replied, adding a nervous stutter, then a blush, making the red head sigh once again.

“Just go,” she said, “and don’t let me find those floors unwashed either!”

He gave her a quick nod, then scurried towards the servant’s stairway that she had pointed at while giving him directions. It was a poorly lit and terribly steep staircase that curved into the side of the castle. By the time he reached the top he had placed a hand on his stomach, leaning against the cool stone. The wound hadn’t reopened, though it now pained him.

Jaros took a deep breath. Once such an injury wouldn’t have been a bother, neither would a staircase have left him winded. He sighed. There was little he could do about either. Naomi, however… He pushed those thoughts out of his mind and entered the library, leaving his bucket near the door.

It wasn’t a small room by any means, despite what the ginger servant had said. The library had a domed roof and two rows of slim white columns that did not quite reach the ceiling. On either side beyond these columns there was a series of large bookshelves, which he passed as he headed deeper into the poorly lit library. At the end of the columns he reached a large opening filled with ornate tables. Nobles supped happily in the multicolored sunlight that poured in from above. Three beautiful stained glass windows stretched across the ceiling, depicting the Sacred Realm and the Triforce in purples, pinks, gold, and brown.

Small indeed, he thought in amusement as he looked upon the guests and the sweeping scenery above. Using his disguise to be little more than invisible to noble eyes, Jaros began his search. There were a few ambassadors from other countries among the nobility at these tables, but none of them had Ashtar’s vivid green eyes or his garb. Jaros frowned, was forced to get a noble a drink or cake a few times, but then noted a set of double doors near the windows that lead out to a balcony.

Quietly, he snuck outside. Taking note of the fresh Autumn air and…the smell of food. He turned. There, on the balcony, not too far from the doorway, Ashtar and the Master of Kakariko sat at a table lunching together.

What an odd pair. Jaros thought, changing his illusion so that he looked like the bricks of the castle before they spotted him. Curiosity had filled him when he learned that the lone Ambassador had survived the attack by the creature his wife dubbed Mervil. If it were him, he wondered how a mere man, sorcerer though he might be, had lived while all his men perished. Few people lived who had faced Mervil head on, and even those who did often had a Mark to show for it.

He could only name two who had not.

“That is a strange question, Lord Ashtar,” Orilieus said, taking a sip of his wine and frowning as if it was too bitter. Perhaps the conversation had been bitter instead.

“Is it?” Ashtar asked. “Certainly you’ve heard of the legends of the Stone. My people tell of them in the north, though, of course, it is fictitious. Such a marvel as that cannot truly exist…” He laughed. “A stone that can find your heart’s desire? Nonsense. If it did…”

Ashtar stopped speaking and then sulked, glancing around the balcony warily. The man’s eyes lingered on Jaros for a moment, but he shook his head. For a Hylian he was perceptive, most people wouldn’t notice that the light did not quite hit the wall correctly... Ashtar picked up his fork, but instead of eating his fish, he stared at its head. “I always feel as if he’s watching me. Any moment, he will come. Have you ever felt like that?”

The Master of Kakariko sighed, no doubt having heard such mutterings several times in this conversation. “I am sure you have heard of this,” Orilieus sounded weary, like a man who wished he was anywhere else besides dining with this particular ambassador. He must have thought it was a way to serve the crown, a crown that had found his service lacking of late. “But a stone like you describe was stolen by a thief a few days hence. Though, it could only track treasures of magical origin and, perhaps, mages. I doubt the Seeking Stone is the same as the one your people speak of. It’s a Sheikah artifact, nothing more.”

The Ambassador leaned in slightly. “It is better than speaking of that demon…”

Orilieus coughed. “If it comes, you will be safe here. There are mighty folk in the halls tonight.”

“Safe?” Ashtar laughed bitterly. “So, then, you think that these…”heroes” can stop it? Well, perhaps…”

The man’s eyes were on him again. He decided it was better to leave than chance it. Perhaps he was just a little out of practice, or… Jaros shook his head; no one here should have been able to see him. Maybe Naomi was right after all. He had grown paranoid, but if one thing was for certain, he felt he had to find the one who held the Seeking Stone. And to do that, he allowed the stars to guide him.

***
After Desesperacion had shot the High Cleric, Tiveri had thought it wise to leave his last safehouse. Fleeing with the Stone, he made his way to the darkest area in the Old Capital: the Shades. Here, he could hide a bit longer. They still wore their hoods here, despite the day’s festivities, and no guards walked these streets. No one cared that another criminal had joined their ranks. But even here, among the shadows, the outlaws, and prostitutes, Darius could still find him. For the Twilit, there was nowhere safe. Nowhere he could hide, instead, he needed to keep moving.

He could only rest in his second lair for a few more moments. If he didn’t move soon, that light-blinded Darius would find him. With a sigh, he snuffed out his pipe, placed it inside his cloak, and covered his head with his hood before heading out into the grime covered side street. Looking both ways, he saw no one in the ally aside from an old beggar. He did not give him a rupee. The old man would die tonight, no matter what he did. One rupee could not help him. Why should he spare so much for a man who could give him nothing?

Instead, he ignored the begging man and headed deeper into the alleys and tunnels that made up this part of the Shades, passing by others of questionable reputation. No one looked his way. One or two tried to pickpocket him, but he left them with a sprained wrist instead. He didn’t have time to deal with such light-blinded idiots. The sun was setting; he needed to reach his lair quickly. He crossed a main street crowded with people, shops, and festivities.

How can they stand such noise? Such clamor? He thought as he ducked down another narrow alleyway. Hyrulings were the most unfathomable creatures. In the Twilight, their festivals were beautiful affairs. The immortal queen in all her beauty and allure, hair of flame, eyes of ruby, beauty unmatched. The palace filled with somber music, tales of old, and ancient ritual. These fall festivals could not compare, they were only an echo of Twilight’s darkling nocturne.

To live and walk in this too bright world, it was a nightmare he would not wish on another. Yet, it was one he had to live in himself. Tiveri finally came to another alley filled with boxes and crates. The first stars blinked to life over head. Unlike all the other dingy streets, all with their own seedy graffiti, this one had a single symbol carved into the wall. It was an ancient Twili rune, unassuming nonsense to anyone else in this kingdom. All he had to do was press the bricks in the correct order and—

Unexpectedly, the Seeking Stone felt warm under his cloak. Tiveri pulled it out, bathed in its bright light, casting his and other strange shadows throughout the alley. Something, no, someone powerful was nearby.

So soon? He asked, receiving no reply.

Why, did you think you could hide from him forever?

It is not that. He looked over his shoulder. The alley was empty. Whoever it was was not here yet. If we do this quickly, we may still escape him.

Escape? No, you know that will not work. He sighed, trying to ignore the voice as he put in the magical combination. It wouldn’t be impossible to take him if we got him by surprise…Laced lightning into his spine, blast his head off with a well-timed bolt. It is within our power. You must not forget that you are no weak Hyruling.

Perhaps, but neither of us is ready for a confrontation.

He felt a surge of relief as the bricks lit up before him. The door too, also lit slightly, and then slid open silently. As long as Darius wasn’t hiding behind one of the many boxes or crates, he might be safe. Safe for one night, that was. Before he entered, however, he heard a creak and saw something shimmer in the moonlight. He gathered lightning in at the tip of his fingers, and threw it at the shimmering figure. It disintegrated; defused by a shield made of silver light. He felt shock, and perhaps fear, but readied another lightning bolt.

It seems your luck’s run out, Tiviri. An unwelcoming thought. In the shadows at the other end of the narrow alley, a figure emerged. For a moment, he seemed to be a shadow himself, but soon he took on the form of a cloaked man, a dark hood hiding his face. The man lifted his hand, signaling Tiviri to stop. He would not. Did this man think him a fool? He eyed the man warily, fear falling to his stomach like a chunk of ice. How did he find me?

He is like Hyruling Darius. That much was obvious.

Hyruling Darius would have done more to stop our attack, he concluded and slowly lowered his hand.

The stranger nodded, lowering his hood. Brown hair, tall, and a plain face; the man was perhaps the most ordinary being he had ever met. Or, so the man’s glamour informed him. The first time he had seen him, Tiviri had not sensed such power, now, he wondered if the face he saw was also a lie. What did a Lyos look like underneath the shell they displayed?

“If…it may seem odd that I found you,” Jaros said. He took out a folded piece of paper from a pocket sewn into his cloak. “I found this in your last hideout.”

Jaros unfolded the sheet. It was a small map of the Shades, one that marked his lairs throughout the city. Tiviri had kept it for personal reference, and in his haste, had left it behind. He took it hastily and stuffed it inside his cloak.

“Not that I exactly expected a thank you from…one of the Twilight Folk,” Jaros said, a hint of distaste coloring the man’s voice. “But we must move with haste, or at least, go inside.” He pointed to the open doorway. Darius left the meeting this morning, and while he isn’t here…”

“You have joined him in his pursuit?”

“You haven’t must choice but to trust me, Twili.” That statement, at least, rung true. “It is not safe in the open for you or I; if that Scribe found us together we both would hang.”

“Then why associate with one of my kind?”

“Hmmm, if one has the same disdain for you that you show for us, we have no right to hold that opinion?” He asked, ducking under the short door and into the dark room.

Tiviri soon followed, closing the magical door behind him. He lit a few stumps of old candles on the table, and sat on the rickety three leg stool. Jaros had found the bed, already seated before the candle light filled the darkness. He hadn’t had a problem with seeing in the dark, it seemed, unlike other light-blinded fools.

“Yes, you are not trapped in an enemy realm. In this dreaded land of sunlight, of green things, and light-dwellers.” He spat, taking out his pipe. “That map has many places which I have marked throughout the Shades. You could not have guessed this one.”

Jaros eyed the piped. “What kind of pipeweed do you prefer?”

That…was not the question he had expected. Light-dwellers were not allowed to catch him off-guard twice in one evening, but Jaros was unnerving. He frowned. “Why should that matter?”

“Matter? Ah, you…would not understand that. No small talk with a Twili.” Somehow, the word sounded more like a slur when he used it. “I once smoked myself,” he said, “but Naomi claims such habits are bad for my health.”

What a strange couple. “That does not answer my question.”

“I understand, no small talk,” he said, a cold, odd smile on his face, “You might say that a fairy guided me.”

Jaros removed something from his coat. It was a long coat much too long to fit into it, except if he had hidden one of those bottomless bags in it or used the same magic on his pocket. For someone from this world, it was a clever use of magic.

“Or not,” Jaros said, “As long as I know your name and face, and you happen to be outside on a cloudless day, I can use the stars to track you. The stars do not sleep while the sun shines.”

Tiviri cocked his head to the side. Curious, perhaps the power Jaros claimed to have and Darius used were related.

“And what is that for?” He pointed at the coat with his pipe.

“You will need to put this on.” Jaros passed him the coat. It had a long neck, tall collar and a heavy mantle. “To create an illusion for another person is a difficult task, it’s neither easy to maintain nor simple… What is it?”

“By the blasted light,” Tiviri said, “if it were possible why did you not use this plan three days ago?“

“You’re a Twili; proud, obnoxious, shunning the Light. Why should I risk it? I am not so young that you could not injure me if I were ill-prepared or if I did not find you under the cover of darkness…” Jaros frowned. “While disguising yourself as a Hylian—a man with a different face—would protect you against Darius and his magic. This magic is…somewhat fragile, you may say. It’s linked to me. The illusion will begin to fade if you are further than thirty feet, it will dissolve once you’ve left a hundred foot radius. There’s some risk for me as well…I would prefer not to fall unconscious merely because you desire to test its bounds.”

“I see.” He removed his cloak, and put on the heavy, yet fine, wool jacket. “The Ritoling would not approve of that, I take it?”

“No,” he sighed, “she wouldn’t approve of this either. It will drain me too much. ‘You’ll die faster’, et cetera et cetera.” He waved his hand in a weary fashion. “All healers are like that, I suppose, but a man only has so long to live…”

“Then, why?”

“I wish to keep an eye on it, that Stone you covet so much. And you. I do not trust Darius with the Stone; I think his motivation is more than just to reclaim an artifact of his people. He is a Scribe of considerable strength and influence. In a fight, you might die, or you might defeat him. Either way, it isn’t in my best interest to test that.”

Strange as the Lyos was, Tiveri would take his magic. If it meant one step closer to getting Darius off his tail and returning home, he would do whatever needed to be done. Even if he must wear the face of a Hyruling.

“How would this work?” he asked.

The man gave him a tight-lipped smile. “I did it ten minutes ago.”

Tiviri’s eyes widened. He had felt nothing. No change, not even the slightest touch or tingle of magic. It must have happened when they entered the room in the wall. It was more subtle a spell than any he had seen on this side of the Gate.

“And if you hadn’t agreed, it would’ve killed you,” Jaros said rather bluntly, “Come, we’ll be late for the ball if we stay here…”

“And Naomi will disapprove of our arrangement?”

“Yes, that is so.” He stood, dusting off dirt from his cloak. Jaros made for the doorway and slid it open without a moment’s hesitation. “She won't be happy, we’re quite late already.”

Tiveri smiled with his new face.

_________________
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“Asphixation, defenstration, breathing wool, decapitation. Drinking from a lava pool, driving drunk to look so cool. Crazy bees sting you a lot, eating any rats you caught - all these ways that you can die. Don't forget poisonous pie!" -Classic SmashQueen, Fri Aug 16, 2013 11:03 pm
There's always another secret... ~ Mistborn, Sanderson


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Post Re: ~Forever Forgotten~ To Dust • Posted: Wed May 27, 2015 10:14 am
It's like a MOVIE with two PARTS!

Chapter 34: Mayhem's Masquerade, Part II

Tap took in her surroundings as she and Kaz made the rounds of the Castle grounds in their private coach. Ornate carriages, some inevitably more beautiful than theirs, had lined the long drive up to the Castle gate. The woman wore equally ornate and beautiful dresses, their hair up in seemingly simple styles, silver and gold pieces often holding it in place. Many, it seemed, were voluptuous and stunning, as though these elite women were not only wealthy, but also more gorgeous than the norm. For a moment Tap felt a twinge of jealousy; they seemed to emphasize her short stature and her flatter chest. Five hundred years, she was five hundred bloody years old, by now she should have been over these things.

It’s the dress. The idea that I won’t live up to their expectations. She wrung her silk handkerchief between her hands. A gift from the attendants who had provided her with this dress for the banquet, now, she understood why she needed the thing. It wasn’t in case she cried, but to keep her calm.

“We’ll be at the entrance in a minute.” Kaz squeezed her arm, pointing. A footman approached their carriage, clad in black with only a hint of a white beneath his coat. Tap sat up straighter, eyeing the door expectantly. It clicked open and the footman bowed.

Kaz produced a small card from his coat pocket. On the back Tap spotted the seal of the Royal Family, an official invitation, one, she guessed, the royal family had sent to all the nobles, knights, and advisors invited to this special occasion. It had to have been printed from the newly minted presses she had heard so much about these last fifty years.

“Welcome Lord Amintor, and?” The footman raised his eyebrows.

“Lady Elle Lebrant,” said Tap. That was the name they had finally settled upon. She’d barely agreed to use a different name than Tap, but, she guessed there was some sense to it. None of the nobles would be as easily swayed as the Advisor and the King to believe who she truly was.

The footman nodded, offering her a hand and she took it, carefully lifting her skirts and petticoats so she wouldn’t trip and make a complete fool of herself in front of the nobility. At least having done this a hundred-thousand times today (or so it seemed), one could now call her an expert. A moment later and Kaz was at her side, taking her arm almost greedily. The pathway before them was lit by several translucent glass lamps on top of tall posts.

“What are those?”

He leaned down then whispered into her ear. “Fairy Lanterns. They don’t use actual fairies; it’s apparently based on one of the Advisor’s projects.”

She nodded, urging him forward when she noticed a few nobles staring at their odd coupling. Normal nobles wouldn’t be interested in something that they’d seen a thousand times. Sure, Lord Amintor was a recluse and Elle was quite new to court, but even they shouldn’t be unaware of these new lanterns, commonplace in the Kingdom.

Once they entered the Castle another footman gave them directions to the main hall, the place where the Fall Banquet was being held. The sound of swelling music reached her ears. It was a rhythmic dance piece, one so old that Tap could remember dancing to it when Xanath and his archer clan were still alive. Soon the music was accompanied by a buzz, the buzz of hundreds of voices. Finally, they entered the hall proper.

The last time Kaz and Tap had stood in this hall, the stained glass windows above had been shattered by the demon. Now, they stood there, centuries old once more. Magnificent and beautifully remade, each one was lit by a large lantern so the nobility could witness their splendor. Each panel displayed scenes from legend, and there, in the center of the ceiling, Tap could see their ancient journey unfold: Mervil in his dark cloak, the Staves of Sun and Moon in hand as he fought a faceless evil.

Tap shook her head, pulling her gaze down and back to the present. It’s time to forget

“Tap?” Kaz asked, keeping his voice low. Maybe he was ready to forget as well.

“Oh, right.” They’d agreed to dance before they rejoined Yazstromo and the others. Tap was sure one flump around the dance floor couldn’t hurt. “C’mon!”

She led them through the crowd, nearly running despite her dress. Kaz sighed, but easily quickened his step, taking long strides beside her and somehow managing to look natural despite their hasty pace. How many excited girls has he taken to these things? She would’ve huffed, except that she was certain the nobility would consider it unladylike. Stupid nobility. When we’re done, I’ll huff—

A rogue piece of petticoat tripped her. Tap tumbled, her fall broken by a strong hand around her waist and the firm, straight back of a nobleman wearing a black coat. That man, however, was not so lucky. He stumbled forward, crashing into a servant carrying a large silver platter. Little sandwiches and other treats (Kaz called them hors d'oeuvres) flew, splattering on the two Prophetic Ones and the nearby guests.

“You!” The man pointed. Tap blanched.

“S…sorry…” She trembled, turning her head.

Kaz placed a strong, broad hand gently on her shoulder. “It isn’t your fault.”

The young man glared, speaking with a strange, foreign accent. “Not her fault! What? Old man, I get that’s your daughter and you want to save your reputation, but please…she’s just clumsy!”

“Clumsy! I’m not clumsy! And what do you mean, ‘daughter’?” She looked at Kaz. Sure, he looked older than she did (and perhaps older than he should), and the grey in his beard and fine lines developing next to his eyes didn’t help, but he didn’t look that much older than her. It wasn’t like she was sixteen anymore.

“Granddaughter?” Some of the young men around them laughed. Some of the young ladies covered their faces with their fans. Why hadn’t she gotten a fan? They had gathered a large crowd already.

From this crowd, a woman with graying hair and a snobbish nose stepped forward. She gave the young man a stern look, before casting her hard gaze upon Tap. The Innocent turned up her head, meeting the woman stare for stare. Despite how stern and hard she might think herself, Tap knew she couldn’t match Naomi’s, the epitome of sternness and hard femininity. She didn’t hold a smothering whisk to the Rito, given a few more seconds Tap was certain she would overcome this woman. This noblewoman had probably never had a girl so ‘young’ stand up to her before. It would serve her right, losing this battle; finally, a small frown appeared on her rival’s face and they broke eye contact.

“So this is where I find you at last, Lord Amintor.” Her fierce gaze landed on Kaz.

What.

“A pleasant surprise for the both of us,” he said, his expression growing hard.

This must be that Leah-person he was talking about. The young man who had started to get up fell down once more, splattering wine on his fine coat and breeches He gasped, eyes widening with a mixture of surprise and awe.

“We should get going, Elle.”

“No,” Leah said.

Kaz sighed. “Leah, no matter what business you have with me, it can wait until after this evening. I’ll still be here tomor…row…” The aging woman linked her arm with his. They made an awkward pair. Leah was an inch or two taller than him and as thin as a reed despite her age. Even with the flecks of gray in his beard, Kaz looked two decades her junior.

“I’ll be fine!” he whispered through clenched teeth. The Innocent smiled at his discomfort, though she did feel a little pity for the ex-general. “Maybe, Lord, you can take me dancing instead.” She looked at the young man still on the ground.

The young man blinked. “Umm. But…I wanted to…”

Leah’s glare made him bite his lips. “Do as she asks, Orran, and don’t step on her feet,” she did not even wait for a response. Kaz was ushered away by his new date as quickly as they had arrived.

By the end of third dance, Tap was positive she was a much better dancer than this Orran. You’d think a noble would know how to dance! After that comment, she imagined Aracient’s response: [Agreed.] Tap was glad the bird’s voice was with her even though her friend was not. A quick curtsey and she graciously found a new dance partner.

***

“You look older,” the woman said as they reached the long, half-covered balcony outside the main hall. This was a place the King had set aside for guests who wished for some privacy, but only a few invitees were out here on this cool Autumn night. Most who dared were young couples, the women covering their bare arms with shawls or gentlemen’s coats, while their partners shriveled in the cold night air. They stopped near the railing, far enough from the guests so none could eavesdrop without leaning in and giving themselves away.

Kaz leaned against a stone column, crossing his arms as he gazed out past the castle wall and into the hills of the north. “Twelve years can change a man. Change, that always seems to catch up with us in the end. I’m different now, believe me.”

“And more sentimental too,” Leah quipped.

He laughed, though not in amusement. “What is it you want?” He did not look at her.

“Those looking for you, they wish you to return. Kyznian sentimentalists,” she said that word with disdain, missing a few syllables as the strange Hylian word slipped off her tongue. “They think that if they bring the general back, it will bring back some mythical golden age.” He furrowed his brow at her remark. “No, I do not believe it, either”

“I can’t solve all its problems.” He shook his head, staring at the stars in the distance. “Never really could. Sure, kill a tyrant and put another, perhaps better, tyrant in his place. Keep the borders safe, only to kill innocents on the other side. Bring justice, only to question myself later, asking if it were just to begin with…” Kaz paused and removed his overcoat.

“Did I ever apologize?” He asked, gazing back at her.

“Yes,” now Leah broke off to the starry sky.

“Did you ever accept it?” He presented his coat to her. The chill on the balcony was cutting.

No reply. They both knew the answer. She never had, she never would. He’d gotten quite used to such responses from those who had lost family members, loved ones, and friends over the last five hundred years. At some point, they had become only numbers; he could not have dealt with it for so long if he’d seen them as people instead. Children, really, even the senior soldiers and his most trusted officers.

She had said he had grown sentimental, he guessed she was correct. Yazstromo would laugh if he knew how downright sentimental he had gotten, and perhaps remind him that five hundred years was still not quite three thousand.

It was too bad the Redeemed often felt that old anyways. The mind could play strange tricks on a man.

“If you did not come to pester me about that, why are you here?” Kaz asked. “Don’t take a knife from your skirt, though, that trick didn’t work last time.”

Leah snorted. “I was young then.”

“Still young now, you know.”

“I would slip poison in your drink instead. A slow working one, preferably. It would take a week to work and appear to be a common illness.” Her cold eyes shimmered with faint amusement. A jest. He would never have expected to share a jest with this woman.

“Curiosity, Amintor, drove me here,” she said. “I had to know what caused you to leave.”

For a long time he did not answer, instead gathering his thoughts as he watched two guardsmen on top of the wall march by. Three times. She released a sigh. “I see—“

Kaz waved his hand, shushing her. “By the goddesses; don’t. Haven’t you figured it out yourself?”

She responded with a frown. Even if she had, he knew she wouldn’t admit it. Stubborn, endlessly stubborn, Naomi would like Leah just for her stubbornness alone.

“Vivianna died fifty years ago this past spring, but who remembers, really?” Kaz heard the weary quiver in his voice as he spoke, his eyes became moist. “Only an old man who saw his wife in every hall, around every corner...”

Leah glanced to the side, avoiding his gaze.

“I still felt tied to duty, that’s why I didn’t leave. Couldn’t. But, after your sister died, I…they were all so young.” He released a sigh. In the cold air, he saw his breath, the nearby Fairy Lantern lending it an ethereal outline in the cold night air. Then, he continued. “They were too young—many younger than my great grandchildren; how can a man lead his own children to die, to kill? I grew tired, milady, worn out, it…” Leah raised a pale hand into the pale light between them.

“What?”

“I will tell them I found you dead.”

She spun on her ankle, heels clicking against stone as she left. Kaz draped his untaken coat over the banister, ready to brace the cold alone. He knew true cold, true loneliness. Maybe he did come to Hyrule to die. But for now, he still had unfinished business. Kaz hurried down the halls after his departed company, reaching her once she was half-way down the staircase within the main hall. Kaz grabbed her arm. “Leah.”

“I nearly forgave you…,” her voice grew solemn as the clamor and clatter from the hall below reached them. In the distance, nobles ate at tables, couples danced, and the King sat with his guests. Basyle was as jovial as ever. “…do not let me do so now.”

His hand dropped to his side as she slipped away, rejoining the party below. Reaching up to his eyes, he wiped the tears away from them with the back of his sleeve. Dear gods, he thought, when was the last time… What…What’s that?

Kaz sprinted down the staircase, hand on the hilt of his not-so-ornamental sword. Something darkened the stained glass windows above, blocking the light from the Fairy Lanterns outside. He jumped over tables, causing a few nobles to yell, panic, and point. Then, he ran through the crowd towards Ashtar and the King where they dined near the dance floor. Neither noticed the shadow blanketing the hall. Only a few guests looked up as the ballroom was cast in a shallow gloom. One nobleman remarked that they needed to send a man to check the lanterns.

Something colossal crashed through the window, shattering the stoic image of Mervil into a million shards of metal and glass. Women screeched and men screamed, some diving under their tables while others fled for the main corridor. A figure fell through the chaos, a shadowy cloak billowing around it. The shadow landed with an earth-shattering boom, smashing the marble dance floor. The impact threw the remaining dancers back like so many discarded corpses, sprawled out in a circle around the fiend, unmoving.

Kaz’s grip tightened on his sword. He’d left Tap there. Was she one of those dancers? Should he choose between her and that craven of a man who’d brought this demon here? Among the chaos he spotted a woman in a large, red and ruffled ball gown. She was lying on her stomach, blood seeping from multiple wounds.

The shadow stood slowly, bending and twisting in unnatural ways. It was tall, much taller than any man left in the dance hall. He did not take any steps, merely gliding closer to the banquet table where Basyle had previously been dining. The King was gone and a dozen guards now stood in his place.

[Do not waste your time,] the voice was calm, despite the murmuring cries of guests. The soldiers the Spectre addressed ignored him, brandishing their swords in a song of steel. [Where is he? The guest of honour?] he turned his back on the brigade, stepping over the quivering form of the red woman. Kaz ignored his selfishness, hoping she was not who he believed her to be.

[Where have you hidden him? I ask only for a simple exchange. Give me the Ambassador and I will spare this Festival a fate it knows too well.]

The brigade of soldiers seemed to ponder this. Kaz could not blame them, everyone in the castle walls had heard of this Spectre, the terrible things he had done to Knights greater than them. Ashtar was gone, no doubt cowering in some corner.

“You won’t touch him.” Naomi stepped out from the Kings Guard, unharmed. She held a spear in hand, brows drawn tight in anger. She had torn off the skirt of her dress, revealing a long tunic and white breeches underneath. “What makes you think you can take this man?”

[Naomi,] the Spectre did not turn to acknowledge her as he spoke. Could this really be Death: changed, unhinged? [What is driving you to protect him? You know nothing about him. Honorable warriors have already fallen for this coward. I have no inhibition to dispose of one more.]

The Rito seemed to hesitate, as if she weren’t expecting the threat. “It’s not just me here, Death. There are other warriors here,” she pointed to Kaz, who stood near the other side of the dance floor. He half-drew his sword, unsure of what he planned to do with it.

[I fear no washed up captain, nor a mere nobleman,] Around them the ballroom went dark, causing more screams of panic. Lord Amintor leapt forward, coming to the edge of the shattered dance floor. [Ashtar’s soul is mine, I have marked him and he has crossed me for the last time.]

Blue flames engulfed the fairy lanterns of the chandeliers above their heads, casting the ball room in a ghostly gloom of pale light and harsh shadows. Naomi lit her spear, wings outstretched, and eyes upon the Spectre, then, she charged, leaping into the air and diving upon him. Death blocked her with a black sword he had drawn from an invisible scabbard, showering the dance room in sparks of shadow and light.

Naomi landed in a crouch near a table the King, the Advisor, and Ashtar had flipped on its side to hide behind. The guards who had taken Basyle’s place had all fled, cowards in the face of Death. The Spectre landed on the ground, only a few feet in front of her. “Who made you judge? Who are you to take the mantle of ‘Death’? Who are you to come here and demand our lives?”

The fiend’s eerie laugh echoed throughout the silent hall. Fear, cold as ice, froze those who had stayed in the ballroom behind their own upturned tables, columns, or doors. Most only dared to look at the Figure the Rito had called “Death” even as she blocked a lazy blow from his sword. Behind him, Kaz approached cautiously, scanning the ballroom for any guardsmen who had stayed behind, and especially for the woman in red.

He spotted some behind a table. “Guards, get these people to more a secure location,” he said, causing one of the men—James—to look up. “She can hold him for a bit, but if we don’t…”

“But…he…he’s only toying with her…” whispered James, visibly shaken at confronting this monster once more. He was like stone now, watching as the pair exchanged blows, moving like graceful dancers around the ballroom. Violet flames and piercing light joined their magical dance, washing over the marble. Even with Naomi’s considerable skill the shade seemed uninjured. She was not faring nearly as well, bleeding from wounds on her shoulder, arms and right cheek. “We just can’t. We couldn’t stop it before. You heard who it is.”

“That’s not important right now!” Kaz whispered, watching for a moment as Naomi stabbed at the Spectre, aiming for his shoulder, but only damaging his cloak.

“Don’t just sit there like moss on a Deku Shrub,” Yazstromo’s wispy voice came from behind, seeming to break the spell holding the pocket of guards in place. “There are people here who are your responsibility. You handle them, and we will handle him,” Kaz could hear the uncertainty in the elder’s voice, but the Knights did not. They took off, gathering guards to their cause and began escorting as many guests as they could out of the hall. Death paid them no mind, distracted by Naomi and the men behind the table that she defended.

Yazstromo waved solemnly to Kaz, running out from behind their table to join Naomi in her fight. He pulled a few imbued forks from his satchel and threw them at the Spectre’s back. Without turning, Death melted each one with a wall of black flame.

[I see you are well, and that you too have betrayed me, Scholar,] there was no inflection of hurt in the Spectre's voice.

“Old nicknames, eh?” Yazstromo quipped, casting a bolt of dazzling lightning at the fiend. The Spectre caught the bolt on the edge of his black blade and threw it at Naomi, catching the Rito off guard. Her left wing was scorched from the blast. With his other hand, Death launched a spire of flame back at Yazstromo, never taking his gaze from Naomi as he did so. She seemed to be his consolation prize, blocking a jet of light she sent out from her spear. Kaz rushed to the Prophet’s aid, pushing him out of the way of the torrent of flames.

Damnit! Kaz landed hard on the marble, dropping his blade in the process. But the Shadow paid them no mind. Whatever stayed the fiend's hand, he did not know, but used it to his advantage. The Redeemed helped Yazstromo to his feet and ducked to safety behind the King’s upturned table.

“Will…will…she’ll die because of me.” He heard Ashtar murmur. The man was still here, rolled up into a ball with his back against the wood. In his hands he held a golden staff, the conduit for whatever magic stayed the beast in the Highlands. “By the gods, she’ll die because me…”

“Be quiet,” the Advisor seethed. Klaus pulled out a bottle from his robe. “Lord Amintor?”

“If we act together,” he said, looking at Klaus, “we might have a chance to surprise him. I can help Naomi, distract him from her long enough…”

A loud thump, and a sudden crash rung out behind them. Kaz peaked beyond the table, his heart catching in his throat. The ball room was now alight with black flames, Naomi standing like a silhouette of light against the shadows. Once, long ago, he had watched someone else, someone deserving, face this flame. Naomi’s light was growing dim, being beaten back towards their table with each blow Death dealt.

Klaus lobbed the bottle he had taken from his robe; it shone like a beacon in the darkness. The Spectre’s sword intercepted the bottle, smashing into its flat side. The magical contents of the potion exploded around him, drowning him in smoke, flames, and splintered wood.

“Get out of here...!” Kaz cried, running into the black smoke created by Klaus’ liquid bomb. He jumped over what remained of their table, covering his mouth with his hand. In the smokescreen he heard nothing but silence, not even his own cough.

But a powerful blast of magic from the warlock blew the smoke up and out the broken window above. The sound was deafening, as if someone had blown a great horn loud enough for the Gods to hear. The sword Death had been using was misshapen, melted like black wax in his hand. He seemed to muse over the damage Klaus had done to his weapon.

Naomi took her chance, leaping at the Spectre with her shining spear. At the same moment Kaz sliced the man’s leg. Death spun, barely blocking Naomi’s spear with his arm. Dark blood flowed from arm and leg. That, however, only served to enrage the fiend as he held his ground. The Spectre threw Kaz aside with a concussive wave from his free hand. The dripping blade in the other began to bubble and pulse, as if it were alive, pained by the damage done to it.

“Such skill, such…grace,” the Spectre’s voice was queer when spoken aloud. “But...you will have to try a bit harder,” Death raised his disgraced sword high above his head. Dark fire shot from his hands, pulling in the other pillars of flame from around the room. Soon the blade and its master were enrobed in a cocoon of wicked heat and magic, a barrier no one would dare cross. Suddenly the shadow vanished in a cloud of smoke, the moonlight from above casting the room in silver light and deep blue shadow.

“Naomi!” Kaz cried, watching as the Spectre reappeared behind her, a flaming scythe cutting the air, greedy for her neck.

The Rito caught it on her spear’s shaft, her step faltering from the blow. Death vanished again, but his voice filled the hall, laughing at the warriors. A great wind blew in from the window above, pushing the heavy doors of the banquet shut, cutting James and his Knights from the rest of the guests.

“A nobleman and a Rito half-trained in magic cannot hope to prevail against one such as me,” he said from the shadows, “these injuries are but scratches. If you had just turned over that fool I would have let you and all that remain live to see tomorrow’s sunrise. I was sure I made the consequences very clear."

“He’s gone,” Kaz answered the fiend’s boasting; crouching into a defensive position, crossing the dance floor to stand beside Naomi. “And I doubt even you could find him!” He raised his sword, ready to strike.

“Who is this fool swordsman?” The fiend asked from the shadows, curiosity tainting his voice. He reappeared on the staircase Kaz had entered by. Death floated towards them, spinning his fiery scythe in a lazy circle, building up a wall of black flame. He released it like a calm wave, making them split once more. It scorched their clothes and burned off one of Kaz’s sleeves, but otherwise did little harm.

“I had expected this kind of treachery from you, Naomi, but from some man of the court?” he opened a gloved palm and a small red flame sprang to life, dancing in the night. The Spectre brought it close to the tired warriors, the flame casting a warm light on Kaz’s face. “You…? How?” he froze, the flame in his palm withered away to nothing. The Spectre vanished just as quickly.

[Is this some sort of trick? Your work, Yazstromo? The work of that whelp, Ashtar?!] The voice returned to them, speaking directly in their ears. Silence. What was he talking about? Kaz was sure Death had checked on him from time to time… hadn’t he?

Unless?

A barrage of stones suddenly rained from above. The Spectre was there, dark blue in the moonlight. He was tearing the stone pillars apart and throwing them at terrible speeds. Giant sheets of glass began to fall, smashing apart on the floor below as the banquet hall threatened to fall in on itself.

“Come down here and fight, you coward!” Kaz mocked, beckoning Yazstromo to rejoin them in the centre of the dance floor. He wasn’t sure they could take it much longer. He had several cuts, bruises, and burns covering his body. The Spectre had received several cuts and slashes already, revealing pale skin and vile, black blood beneath its black robes. Some wounds were deep, but he showed no sign of relenting. The Redeemed looked at Naomi, she fared slightly better, able to heal the worst of her injuries with her magic, but that did little to allay her exhaustion.

Damn, Kaz thought as they circled one another, dodging magical attacks left and right, if we can’t end it soon… Images of Tap’s fate flooded his mind. Where was she? Maybe the Knights had carried her out. Maybe that red dress on the dance floor, broken and bleeding, hadn't been her...He shook his head, barely dodging another attack from the Spectre, sliding to a halt on the dance floor beside the battered Yazstromo.

Naomi met his eyes. She had an idea. He nodded. She launched into the air, taking a wide swing at the Spectre. Kaz ran underneath them, sword at the ready, waiting for Death to return to the floor. But he did not move. The hall shook with a terrible power, tendrils of fire shot forth from the Shadow’s pale hand, smashing into the hall below. One of them wrapped around Naomi’s leg and sent her tumbling into the chaos far below.

Kaz leapt to break her fall, tumbling head over foot with the badly burned Rito. His blade clattered to the side, out of reach. He tried to run for his weapon but was knocked back by the swinging strands of black flame. Kaz landed awkwardly on his side, landing awkwardly upon his hand. It was at least sprained, probably broken in multiple places and burned. Useless, he could do nothing more than watch the fight unfold. Naomi had fallen to her knees, her head sagging between them. Kaz looked wildly around for Yazstromo, finding him pinned in a corner with the dozens of terrified guests who remained, as if Death was not interested in harming the Prophet.

“Such is the fate of all who challenge me,” Death stepped out from the blistering flames, unfazed by their heat. He walked now on unseen feet, his face still a void in the firelight. The flames obeyed their master, pulling Naomi’s weak form to her feet. He lifted her chin with one pale hand, its black scythe at the edge of her neck. “Did you forget this? Whatever treachery brings this thief here, I do not care,” he pointed the weapon now at Kaz, held back by the swelling heat of the fire. “I will cut you down once I’m finished with her. There is no third time.”

“Then mark me,” Naomi spat in Death's face. “Throw me aside like you did to our friends.”

“If these people were friends they would not deny me my rightful due. I imagine you are hiding others, trying to sway me. If the Scholar wise, he would not stand against me. If the Innocent still pure, would she not have turned the Ambassador in?” Death asked, his shadowed face coming closer to hers. “If you are still my beloved, Naomi…why have you betrayed me?”

“I was…never your beloved,” she said, struggling against her magical bonds, “…bastard.”

She freed her arm, stabbing the spear clean into his chest. The Spectre dropped her in surprise, pulling the weapon out, turning the fine wood to ash at his mere touch. The spearhead fell to the floor between them, clanging sharply against the marble tiles. She gasped. Dread clasped her gut as his face nearly touched hers.

She should have seen his pale face. His beard; his icy cold stare, perhaps a faint, but judgmental frown. Instead, all she saw was shadow, and two pinpoints of blue light which may have been eyes.

“Mervil…?”

His voice reached inside her mind. [I thought you would recall…,] then, he added in a quiet voice, ever closer. She could have sworn she felt a warm breath touch the tip of her ear, “You may not use that name.”

He lifted his scythe to her throat. One quick inch, and she would die. She would not close her eyes. Death would not see her cower before him.

“I don’t fear you.”

“What a shame,” he nicked her neck gently. She could feel the warmth of her own blood as it oozed slowly down the black blade. “This is what happens to those friends who—“

A midnight black feather landed on the blade, its quill pointed towards Naomi, its vanes and shaft bent so that it pointed up at Death’s hood. Above them, a raven cawed angrily. All of the Spectre’s flames died out at once, and the ballroom, once more, was consumed by darkness. A few broken rays of cold moonlight landed upon them, silhouetting them like two performers in some twisted play. Shards of glass shimmered in the dark, upon the dance floor like so many stars scattered across the midnight sky.

“Shadow,” Death lifted his head as a soft voice spoke, a few drops of anger only hinting at the rage beneath, “enough.”

The black scythe was swatted aside by a blade made of ethereal starlight. Death released Naomi from his grip, springing backwards. Behind the Spectre, he sent out a burst of flame and trailing shadows, only for the attack to be blocked by a nearly invisible shield of silvery light.

“Do not touch her,” Kaz knew this voice. Jaros. Green, catlike eyes flickered to life in the darkness. Something…inhuman, with a sharp, elongated face, long limbs, and dark beauty, like stars of long ago. It was a Lyos, in a guise akin to its true form. His glamour having dissipated as his stoic mask fell from his face. Jaros now stood by Naomi's side, taking her hand in his. The Lyos summoned a spherical shield of Starlight to protect them. “Flee, or—“

“Tell me, Jaraki…” the silhouette asked, vanishing deeper into the darkness that now engulfed the ballroom, “what do you fear most?”

“Do you fear loss…?” He appeared again behind them, throwing a spire of dark fire at them. Then, four more columns of flame came to life, all slamming into Jaros' shield, making it shimmer with each hit. “Poverty?”

Death appeared near the shield, rekindling the dark fires around them, sitting fire once more to the ballroom. The Spectre swung his scythe in a wide arch, releasing a massive gust of wind. Yet, the shield did not waver.

“Fate?”

The Spectre crept towards them and leaned forward, his waif-like form only a breath away from the shimmering shield. “You’re dying, you know,” gone again, like a flash of light.

“Are you afraid that she does not love you?” Death laughed.

The Rito shivered. It was just the unnatural chill. It had to be.

“Why should she?” said the Spectre, emerging from the shadows near the remains of the King’s table. Death skulked through them as fire and shadow danced in his wake. With a lazy gesture, he sent more spires of flame at them, laughing eerily, like a child playing some demented game.

“All you are is a shadow of whom you once were. A frail man, standing at the edge of his grave, waiting to fall in so that others may bury his corpse... I can taste death in the air.” A crimson tongue slithered out of his invisible mouth.

“I can feel it brush against my shoulder.”

The Spectre threw a shower of flames and shadows from his hand.

“And smell your fear on the wind.”

A heavy gust blew through the cracked window, picking up shards of wood, glass, and steel, zipping around them in a cyclone, but it dissolved against the shield like the rest of the magical attacks had.

“Your shield won’t protect you forever…” Beneath the Spectre’s hood, he grinned; white teeth slashing across his face in a jagged smile. A smile Naomi had seen before. “And if you can’t, who then shall protect her?”

“You’ve failed,” the Spectre flew at them, awaking a wave of flame behind him, burning the corpses of the damned in a conflagration. With a heavy swipe, the Shadow’s scythe cut through the air, shattering the shield that had kept them safe from his fiery rage. Naomi cried in alarm, feeling, more than seeing Jaros fall back, nearly tripping over his own limbs.

In the dark, she heard a heavy thud. Something hard and bright had slammed against Death’s head. The Spectre turned, facing the red-haired newcomer dressed in a long coat.

“I am afraid…,” said the man, the glowing Stone whipped back into his hand via some unseen magic, “that this whole affair isn’t in my best interests.”

The Shadow spun, whipping his scythe through the air, aiming for the man’s neck. He leaped back, dodging the blow. Smirking like a conceded fool, wearing the smile rather than owning it. The Spectre swung his fiery scythe once more, but before the blade could cut off the man’s head, Death was struck by a dozen knives formed from Starlight, piercing through Death’s left side.

The Spectre screeched in pain, his body shredded, bleeding blood and shadow upon the ground as he took several steps back, hissing. Jaros had returned to a more amiable disguise, concentrating as much of his magic as he could spare. Starlight rained from above, falling through the destroyed façade of Mervil’s victory. The Spectre tried to protect himself, but the light of the Lyos seemed too difficult to snuff out.

In a burst of black flames, the fiend vanished, leaving a trail of ethereal Starlight in his wake. Death's scythe clattered to the floor, abandoned.

[You have damned this Kingdom, fools,] The voice whispered, a remnant of the Shadow not unlike Jaros’s magic, carried off into the night by a chill wind.

A moment later, Jaros collapsed beside his equally battered wife. Naomi slung his arm over her shoulder then stood, throwing his hood over his face. To her surprise the man in the long coat took his other arm. They headed towards the closest exit. Her heart slowed, voices and horrifying crying began to replace the silence as the masses realized the Shadow had fled.

Guests began to emerge from their corners, clearly distraught. Men and women alike began calling names, looking for loved ones and friends in the rubble. Naomi could hear Kaz above the clamor, calling out for Tap and a woman’s name she had never heard before.

A great pounding echoed into the hall, the tall doors of the ballroom shivering from a force on the other side. Yelling and shuffling could be heard out in the Castle corridors. Another loud crack echoed out and the shambling figure of a Goron entered the room, the doors falling into splinters around him. Bronzen carried an axe much larger than any man, his bandaged body heaving from the effort to break in.

A great wave of Knights streamed into the hall, directed by James to tend to the wounded. The hulking form of the Guild Master ran into the ballroom, barking orders as well, especially directing the search for the King and Klaus. Fairy lanterns began to fill the room with light, illuminating the aftermath of the Spectre’s attack. The smell of scorched flesh hung heavy on the air, making Naomi realize just how badly she had been burnt.

In the shadow of the doorway stood the Ambassador, wide green eyes surveying what remained of the ballroom. “We…we’re safe?” Ashtar hobbled over, clutching his staff like a child would a toy. Naomi sighed in response, adjusting Jaros’s weight on her shoulder. “He’s…the phantom's gone?”

“…for now,” said Jaros in a weak voice. Ashtar shivered. “…but, wherever it’s gone…we defied it. …I fear it will—”

He wheezed, then coughed, a little blood and bile spattered on her shoulder.

“I think it may be advantageous for you and I if you would, as Hyrulin—ans say, shut up,” said the mysterious man. Naomi blinked, her mind slowly working out who this ginger-haired stranger must be.

“Tiveri?” she whispered once they had passed Ashtar and those who still lingered in the doorway, lamenting the scene. A group of nurses, led by the vigilant Mable, rushed down the halls, carrying stretchers and chests of medicine. The Twili looked over his shoulder, leering ever so slightly. Once they were out of earshot, he nodded. “Thank you.”

They passed quietly along the empty corridors, questions echoing inside Naomi’s head. Soon they were at their private chambers and Naomi laid Jaros out in her bed in their guestroom. Dawn's light began to trickle in their windows, dreary with clouds and heavy rain. Tiveri slipped out of the room.

In their room, there was something akin to silence. Twas the peace in the eye of the storm. They were safe, for now. She sat on the chair beside her husband's bed, a cold chill leeching any warmth she felt as she watched him sleep; his breathing haggard and worn. She closed her eyes, but behind them, all she saw was Death's torn form staring back at her with cold, blue eyes. Empty; no sign of the man she had known in their depths.

What have you become, Mervil? She thought, weariness seeping into her bones. She took Jaros' hand, squeezing it firmly, feeling its warmth in her slender hands. Even that did little to reassure her.

"What did that fool-Ashtar do to incite Death's wraith?" she whispered, but the only answer she received was the somber tune of slow, cold raindrops against stone. By the gods, why would he betray us...?

~Thus ends the second Part of Forever Forgotten~


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