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 ~Forever Forgotten~ To Dust 
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Sheikah Elder
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Joined: Thu Jan 08, 2009 12:41 am
Posts: 1043
Location: Terra Australis
Gender: Male
Post Re: ~Forever Forgotten~ To Dust • Posted: Sun Jun 13, 2010 10:24 pm
7,271 words enjoy.

Chapter 15: Conflict

It was not yet dawn when the four-man company arrived at the gates of Kakariko.
Though not surprising that the Gates were shut, the half a dozen soldiers standing across the path inside showed something to be afoot. Two large fires burned either side of the gate so that it was impossible to get anywhere near it from either side without being seen.

Noticing this oddity, the group stopped outside of the fires range to try to figure out what was happening.

“It doesn’t look like anything has changed in the town,” Naomi mentioned, “maybe they’re waiting for something specific.”

“There won’t be any harm in asking at least, surely.” Kaz added while starting forward.

Will grabbed his shoulder, “If someone recognises me there will be.”

Walking over and throwing a grey cloak and hood over Will, Jaros stated, “I’ve kept this spare, keep the hood up and no one should be able to tell who you are.”

“Do you feel guilty helping me? I’m a murderer after all,” Will asked turning his head to Jaros, somewhat grateful.

“You don’t seem to think so,” Jaros answered shrugging. “Anyway Kazar trusts you, that’s good enough reason for me to.”

“Make sure they don’t see those pistols of yours either.” Kaz added matter-of-factly, “they’re illegal you know.”

Will nodded and they continued.

They walked up to the gate and Kaz called out half-jovial, “Hey what’s all the fuss here?”

The Soldier obviously in charge stepped forward and explained, “An important relic was stolen from the Sheika archive a few days ago, and no one is allowed to leave till the thief is caught.”

“My, my, is that so? Well it should be fine if we’re just passing through, right?” Kaz investigated.

“I can’t promise anything but we’ve got everyone looking for him, it won’t be too long before he’s caught anyway.” The Soldier stated confidently.

“Well if that’s that case I shouldn’t worry too much. Would you open the gates for us then?”

The soldier nodded and indicated for one of the men behind him to open the gate.
“If you’re going in I should warn you that some people aren’t too pleased with this situation and have been creating a bit of a ruckus, if you stay away from the centre of town however you should be able to avoid the er . . . Riots.”

He gave a weak smile and motioned for them to enter.

Once they were past the gate they could hear the men comment on the odd group and one of them swearing that he saw a beak on one of them, the other men laughed him down and suggested that he not drink before going on his shift. The group of travellers relaxed a bit and Will let out a sigh of relief.

“See no problem; I told you, you should be fine.” Jaros boasted nervously.

“I’ll be holding onto this cloak while we’re here nevertheless.” Will replied.

“Let’s find an inn, we need to get some sleep and we’ll probably be stuck here for at least a little while.” interjected Naomi.

“Maybe we could help them catch him, that would let us clear out a bit earlier,” Kaz added joking.

“I doubt that he would be that easy to corner if they’re still looking for him after so long,” Naomi commented.

“Hey I’m sure they’ll get him soon. That Soldier was pretty confident anyway.” Kaz said defensively.

Ignoring him Will finalised, “Let’s get moving.”

*****

By the time they had reached a place to stay, the sun had risen and a few early risers were going about their business. The group knocked on the door of the inn that they had chosen and it opened rather quickly.

Even though it was clear that the inn’s owner had been up for a while already, he saw fit to complain, “You know what time it is? It’s not proper to be running around bangin’ down peoples’ doors at this hour! What do you lot want?”

“Well it does say above your door that this is an inn, does it not?” Kaz mentioned, “One would imagine that you’d have a place for someone to stay.

“Oh, with all this business of thievery and locking down the town I wasn’t expecting anyone to be coming in. Well business is business, come in; you lot want a room together or separate?”

*****

Hiding in a backstreet, focussing as hard as he could Tiveri followed the group though the town using the stone and saw them enter a small building.
The early morning twilight gave him just enough strength to use the stone again, but that was all he could manage. He quickly noted the general area where they were before he collapsed and let the stone drop.
He would wait until that night before giving them a visit, now he needed to find somewhere better to hide from that damn scribe.

*****

Will sat awake at a small table in the corner of the room he was sharing with Kaz. While he was tired, he really wanted to avoid that nightmare as long as he could. In an attempt to stay awake he took his Magic Shots out and started cleaning them, though without any moving parts in them there wasn’t much of a point. Eventually sleep overtook him, his head landing softly on the tabletop but what he had expected after that was not the case this time.

*****

Will dreamed again, but this time it was different. He stood in what appeared to be a passage in a wealthy person’s house or a government building. That was all he could tell through the flames that covered almost everything in sight.
Will looked around him not looking to escape but searching for something, someone. His eyes fell on a man standing across the room from him. The man wore official looking robes but a wall of fire in front of him obscured his identity.
Will raised his sword that he hadn’t realized he was holding and pointed it at the man. Through the haze Will saw the man draw his own sword and return the gesture.
They waited like that for a moment them suddenly will leapt forward through the fire at the man aiming to kill, the man moved to block the charge and . . .

*****

“Hey Wake up William.” Kaz called shaking Wills shoulder roughly, “you’ve slept through most of the day already.”

Will stood up groggily - the last remnants of the dream fading - and shook his head to wake up. He walked over to the window and looked outside, it was late afternoon now, he had indeed slept longer than he had intended, which was not at all if he could have helped it.

He tuned to Kaz and said, “Alright, what are we gonna do now? We’re stuck here after all?”

“Well I’d like to see what all the row with this thief is about, so I was thinking I’d go ask some of the locals.” Kaz replied. “Naomi and Jaros are already out somewhere so it’s just you and me.”

“Fine, you can buy me a new belt while we’re at it.” Will added grabbing his cloak and leading the way out the door.

“I guess that’s the least I could do.” Kaz stated following.

The two pistols sat forgotten on the table.

*****

Darius walked through the archive inspecting the crime scene once more; now that the thief had escaped again, he was back to square one.
He knew that there wouldn’t be any more evidence he had already scoured the area. Indeed the only clue he found in the first place was a bit of pipeleaf that ironically was enough to find him in the first place.
Darius sighed. It was obvious that he was wasting his time here; his only options were to wait until someone else happened upon him and get to him before some angry Sheika killed him or wait until he tried to escape. Neither option seemed likely to happen fast, not at least before the people’s pressure forced Master Orilieus to let people leave again. That would probably irritate the Sheika as much as everyone else is now.
Darius walked towards the entrance but before he could leave, he remembered something; the thief remarked that the stone did not belong to the Sheika originally; he called them impostors too, how odd.

He walked back to where the stone was kept along with all the other Sheika relics and picked up a large leather bound book. The book was a detailed record of every item in the room; he quickly flicked through until he found the information on the seeking stone.
Darius glanced briefly at a sketch of the stone. It did look rather . . . otherworldly. He turned to the written information. The article contained all the stuff about how the stone worked and its incredible importance, as well as a note at the end written at a different time to the rest stating that the stone had mysteriously lost its power. However, there was no mention about how the Sheika acquired it; while not all of the items had that information about how they were gained; – no one knew anyway – the stone was relatively new compared to those ancient relics.
Maybe there was some credibility to the thief’s claim but it wasn’t Darius’s job to decide on that, He replaced the book and turned to leave; the thief could plead his case once he had been caught, no doubt that he wouldn’t escape him forever.

*****

“It looks like most people don’t care about what was stolen - an old Sheika heirloom that doesn’t even work,” Kaz said, exiting a bazaar and tossing Will a new black belt. “In fact the only ones demanding the thief be caught are the Sheika.”

“If that’s the case the people in charge here are probably going to give in to public demand sooner rather than later and let people leave the city again,” Will remarked latching his sword onto the new belt. “You can’t lock down a city and especially not one like Kakariko without there being some discontent.”

Kaz continued, “Mm, I’d like to visit the Great Hall and see when that’s likely to happen anyway, what’re your plans?”

“The sooner we leave here the better and . . . hey what’s this.” Will patted himself down. “Crap! I left the Magic Shots in the hotel room! You go to the Great Hall, I need to go back and get them.”

Will turned and ran back towards the inn and Kaz waled to the center of the city where the Great Hall stood

*****

“Sorry t’ intrude on yer but I hadn’t bothered to clean this place out before you got ere. Oh it’s you’ve gone out ehh.” The innkeeper said aloud, entering Will and Kaz’s room. “Well I guess I’ll just tidy up quickly before you get back.”

The innkeeper moved through the room sweeping as he went, He walked to the small table and pulled a rag out of his pocket. He saw Will’s pistols and picked one up not sure what it was, and then it dawned on him. The innkeeper dropped the weapon and ran out of the room. This was bad; he needed to find a soldier, quick!

*****
When Will got back to the inn he was greeted by the sight of three infantrymen talking to the innkeeper and the innkeeper noticing him and call out, “that’s one of them there!”

Will didn’t know how, maybe the innkeeper recognised him or found the Magic Shots but he knew he was up. He quickly turned on his heels and ran dropping the cloak as he did so. Will darted through streets with the infantrymen in hot pursuit; He knew he couldn’t just outrun them indefinitely.
He turned a corner and saw an alley with some orange crates stacked in it, perfect. Will deftly leapt up the boxes and onto the roof of the adjacent building.
He heard the mens stop and look around but they couldn’t find him. He heard one of them say that he was sure that it was ‘Wild Eyed Will’ – a nickname that Will didn’t particularly like – that they had been chasing and the others agreed.
Will waited for them to leave before moving off again. He needed a place to hide; the city would be full of wanted poster of him before nightfall.

*****

Kaz walked out of the Great Hall feeling frustrated, he wasn’t able to talk to anyone important and all the military personnel he questioned knew nothing. He ignored the crowds around the building and slipped through.
He thought about going back to the hotel or browsing through the shops again or maybe looking for the other two members of their party.
All of a sudden, three infantrymen ran past Kaz almost bowling him over.

“Woah, woah, woah, what’s the rush,” Kaz called grabbing one of the men by the arm.
“oh, ‘Wild Eyed Will’! he’s in Kakariko!” the infantryman, who was obviously a junior, reported enthusiastically. “We need to let the higher ups know as soon as possible!”

Kaz paused for a moment taken aback then said, “well I suggest you get to it, you might get rewarded for your diligence.”

The man saluted clumsily then turned and seeing that the other two hadn’t waited for him he dashed towards the Great Hall determined to be there when they told their superiors the big news. Kaz guessed that they would be more frustrated than pleased when there was another issue going on that was causing them enough of a problem as it was.
Kaz quickly turned on his heels and ran in the opposite direction; he needed to find Naomi and Jaros.

*****

Will was still on the run when twilight descended on Kakariko, he thought there were some old storehouses in the direction he was going but he had been looking all day and was beginning to feel a bit unsure of his bearings.
Suddenly a tall hooded figure appeared in front of him. Instinctively Will reached for his guns; missing them, he grabbed his rapier instead and held it out, ready for a fight.

“Sorry to alarm you,” the tall figure stated undeterred by Wills sword. “But I have been watching you for some time now, and I believe we may be of some assistance to each other.”

Will lowered his sword but didn’t sheath it. “Who are you?” he demanded.

Stepping forward the person loomed over Will, he could now see the strangers pale blue complexion and creepy red eyes, but he didn’t show any surprise at that.

“My name is Tiveri,” He answered Wills question calmly. “I suppose I’m responsible for the current uproar in this city.”

“You’re the thief?” Will asked.

“I wouldn’t say that myself, Those Sheika stole the seeking stone from my people first,” Tiveri replied begrudgingly.

“I think you may need to do a bit more explaining before I’m going to trust you,” Will stated unsatisfied by Tiveri’s short remarks.

“Alright, But I suggest we move somewhere less out in the open,” Tiveri said. “I’ve found a place to hide out, would you follow me there?”

He turned not waiting for Will’s reply and walked of from the direction he had appeared.

*****


Darius walked into the Great Hall late at night to Report everything that had occurred during the course of the investigation so far as unproductive as it was, he was feeling more than a little disappointed. As soon as he was in the room, he was immediately noticed by one of the soldiers and called out.

The soldier jogged up to him and handed him a wanted poster. “there was a sighting of William Desesperacion in the city,” he stated officially. “We’ve been asked to distribute them about town.”

Darius looked at the poster; He remembered hearing about ‘Wild eyed Will’ before, a rouge knight right from the capital, he had killed a fellow officer, was arrested but managed to escape.

The soldier reported, “They’ve raised his bounty by five thousand; I heard that he murdered six men all in one fight a few nights ago. I thought you’d like to know. He turning up while there’s all this business with that robbery in the archive seems a bit suspect.”

“Are you absolutely sure?” Darius questioned.

“Three men saw him and two Magic Shots were found in an inn whare he was supposedly staying, those are his signature weapons aren’t they?” The soldier answered.

“That and a well made rapier,” Said Darius thoughtfully.

“Anyway you should look out for him regardless,” the soldier concluded.

Darius thanked the soldier and moved into Master Orilieus’s office.

*****

Will was right about there being storehouses in the direction he was going but he didn’t care right now, he was more concerned with Tiveri’s story.

“So you say you’re a Twili?” Will asked.

Tiveri nodded.

“And your people are from a different dimension?”

Another nod.

“and you were abandoned after you were sent to this dimension?”

More nodding.

“And lastly that you hadn’t stolen that stone you had retrieved it, it having originally belonged to your people?”

“yes this is all true,” Tiveri said finally.

“Really that all sounds a bit far fetched to me, but looking at you I’m willing to bet there’s some credibility in what your saying,” Will replied. “But if I’m going to help you get out of this city you’re going to have to help me with something else first.”

“What is it?” Tiveri asked willingly.

“They’ve probably got my two Magic Shots now and I’ll bet they’ll be kept at the barracks, “Will explained. “I need to get them back. If you help there I’ll see what I can do to get you out of here.”

“Deal,” Tiveri said holding out his hand, a very human gesture.

Will grabbed Tiveri’s outstretched hand. “Deal,” he repeated.

*****

Darius concluded his report for Orilieus, stating that he was out of leads for now but that one of the infantrymen had mentioned that it was suspect that William Desesperacion had arrived in town in such close proximity to the robbery taking place and that he’d see if there was any real connection to it.

Darius rose to leave and Master Orilieus said, “It’s in my understanding that some items belonging to William have been seized and are being held in the normal place, why don’t you go pick them up, see if they’ll help you out in any way. I hate to think I’m shoving two cases on you now but see what you can find.”

“That’s no issue to me, sir,” Darius stated. “I’ll go check that out now.”

He then turned and left the room.

*****

The large clock on the Great Hall struck twelve as Tiveri and Will weaved their way through the shadows, sneaking their way to the barracks where Will suspected his weapons were being kept. A few times, they stopped as a soldier or someone heading home late from the pub passed by, but apart from that the going was smooth.
When they arrived, Will smashed in one of the windows and slipped through landing softly. Tiveri mirrored his entrance looking about they saw that they were in a dorm full of empty cots.

“Alright most of the men stationed here will still be out searching for us,” Will stated popping on his eyeglass. The Irony of that wasn’t lost on him. “But we still need to move quickly, we’ll never know when someone will decide to come back.”

They stepped out into a hallway with several similar rooms to the one they entered along the hall and exits at either end.
Will went left, Tiveri right.
Will’s exit led onto a crossroad he peered into the left path and saw that it was a mess hall. It only had a kitchen adjoined to it so Will took the right path, another hallway with dorms along it.
Will continued searching.

*****

Tiveri passed through several rooms without being particularly productive, and then he happened upon a small group of infantrymen. Tiveri managed to duck out of the way before they saw him. He peered around the corner to see what the men were doing, two of them were in a store room just ahead looking for something and the third was standing just outside looking in. he was about to leave when he realised that this storeroom was what he was looking for.
Tiveri briefly weighed his options and wether he could take the men blocking his way. No question about that.
He pulled two stone coloured gloves out of his pocket and put them on, just three men and they had their backs to him. This would be easy.
Tiveri stepped out of hiding and leapt at the doorway. The man standing in front of him turned just as Tiveri grabbed his face and shoved him with a little help from the magic in his gloves against the back wall knocking him unconscious. The two men inside turned to face him but Tiveri used his gloves to pull down two sets of shelves on top of them, knocking them out for a while.

Tiveri searched through the room quickly, he found some Pipeleaf confiscated from a criminal, he dounle checked it. it was his pipe leaf, that he'd left the night before, he pocketed it.
Finally, he found what he was looking for, two odd looking red and silver items wrapped in a grey cloak with a broken belt that had a knife and small pack full of rupees and a few other items. He grabbed the weapons and pack then he stepped over the men and ran out. Now just to find Will, get out of here and then out of this city.

*****

Darius walked into the barracks empty reception, noting that the storage room was in the back of the barracks. He headed in that direction.
He was about halfway there when he heard a crash. He started running.
Darius Dashed through several rooms but stopped instantly when he saw someone step out in front of him. Recognising the person instantly, Darius quick pulled his sword out and held it offensively in front of him.

*****

“I’m telling you, I didn’t know that was him.” Kaz pleaded with the officer.

After returning to the inn, looking for the other two members of the group Kaz had promptly been arrested as an accomplice to the nefarious Murderer William Desesperacion. Now he was doing his best to convince his accusers otherwise.

“I’m not lying I only met him on the way here, he said he was going to Kakariko and we decided to go together. He said his name was Fitz.”

That was mostly true, he had met Will on the way there and he’d only been back in the country for a while but he’d visited some border towns frequently, like the place where he had met Will and he’d found out plenty of the goings on around here.
Kaz didn’t know how convincing he was sounding but the officer interrogating him wasn’t buying it.

“Now, you understand why I think you’re lying?” The officer said.

Kaz shook his head slowly.

“You told me you didn’t know who he was when I showed you his picture,” The officer poked a wanted poster sitting on the desk between him and Kaz.
“Well, uhh he did look a bit different to this, his hair was longer and this pictograph is at least 5 years old,” Kaz blundered. “I didn’t recognise him at first, and he did give me a different name.”

The officer was still unconvinced.

“Look why don’t you let me help you catch him, he’s stuck in the city right and I consider myself a reasonably skilled swordsman, if I help you get him why don’t you let me go.”

Kaz didn’t want to stop Will, in fact he thought he could help him out here but most of all he wanted his sword back. He could see some soldiers looking at it just outside the room and he wanted it back before one of them broke it.
He liked that sword.

The officer paused looking thoughtful, then conceded, “Alright but if you mess up at all I’m dragging you back here and no more deals for you. Got that?”

Kaz nodded vigorously.
The officer stood up and motioned for Kaz to follow as he walked out the door. Kaz followed him and grabbed his sword off the soldiers fiddling with it.

It seemed like he’d go sleepless tonight too.

*****

This was probably the worst-case scenario.

Will had burst into a room looking like it was designed for sword training and he now faced one of the worst people to run into right now, a Kakariko scribe.
As soon as he saw Will, he’d pulled his sword out ready to fight. Will quickly drew his own in reply.

Neither of them moved for a moment then the scribe spoke, “William Desesperacion right?”

Will didn’t move.

“Well I’m Darius,” He continued to mock a greeting. “You’ve made quite a fuss around the city today and I was starting to worry that I would have to look for two criminals now. Oh, your bounty’s gone up again, 20,000 now.”

“I’m overjoyed,” Will said sarcastically.

“Hmm, too bad servants of the law can’t collect on that, seems like no one’s going to be taking it,” Darius stated.

“Whatever can you mean?” Will asked fully knowing. He started pacing around the room and Darius mimicked him.

“Oh, I thought you would understand, I can’t let you escape now that I’ve seen you,” Darius answered, now much more serious.

Then almost faster than Will could see, Darius leapt into the air and struck down at him, He brought his Rapier up in time though and managed to knock Darius’s sword to the side. Will took that moments advantage and moved his sword to stab into Darius’s exposed chest, but Darius used Will’s parry before to spin around and block him.
Locking swords with Will, Darius Threw a punch at his monocle clad eye. Will dodged the blow and pulled out of the lock.
Both combatants hopped back, and then Will went on the offensive angry that Darius would use a low tactic like going for his eye. He struck quick and strong at Darius but the scribe held him off perfectly.

Will considered himself a good swordsman, indeed, he wouldn’t have made it to a knight’s rank - the highest in the Hyrulian army – without being of some skill, but he knew he couldn’t beat this scribe. He needed a way out.
Darius took a brief opportunity to strike at Wills head with the blunt of his sword and Will ducked straight down. From this position, Will tried to kick Darius’s legs out but the scribe jumped over the attack and over Will, striking down as he moved. Will stopped the attack, just, and hopped away from where Darius now stood.

“You’re a good fighter Will, but I’m afraid you can’t keep this up for good,” Darius Taunted. “Why don’t you give up now?”

Will faked an angry lunge at Darius but as he moved to stop the attack, Will spun quickly and dashed out the door behind him.
Will ran through the building with Darius close behind, he ran fast but the scribe was faster and he caught up to Will just in the barracks entrance.
As he got to Will Darius stabbed hard at him but he dodged to the side, rolled and came up ready to fight again.

“I said I wouldn’t let you escape, and you’re not going to,” Darius stated coldly.

“I think I am,” Will boasted, noticing something that his opponent had not.

“If you won’t surrender I’ll just have to kill you,” Darius said raising his sword.

Before he had a chance to attack and almost comically, Darius was yanked off his feet and sent sprawling backwards. Will ran up and kicked his sword away as Tiveri Walked up from behind Darius as he propped himself up on his elbows.

“You are working together, what a surprise,” Darius said trying to keep in control of the situation. “I guess this makes things easier for me.”

“Don’t try to act tough,” Will said bluntly, holding his sword to Darius’s neck. He turned to Tiveri, “did you get them?”

“Yes, and some other items I assume you dropped,” he replied tossing Will the two pistols.

While Will was distracted Darius, made his move. He jumped up out of the Way of Will’s rapier and grabbed one of the Magic Shots flying through the air; he pointed it at Will just as he caught his own and pointed it at Darius. Stalemate, but Tiveri was still free to move and he did so, dashing to grab Darius’s arm. Darius realise this and ducked to the side, out of the way and pulling the trigger on the magic shot at the same time.
The shot went wide but Will and Tiveri still ducked to avoid it giving Darius the moment he needed.
Darius dropped the gun and jumped to where his sword lay, quickly realising what he was doing Will fired off three short shots but Darius got to his sword and blocked all of them. He was ready to fight again.

“I didn’t get a good look at you last night,” Darius said, looking at Tiveri, “you truely do look completely alien to Hyrule.”

Tiveri just stared back at him.

Darius turned back to Will. “Now where were we?”

Realising that it would be bad to continue the fight longer, especially now that he had what he had came for, Will grabbed the second magic shot off the ground and ran out into the night, Tiveri following close behind him.

Darius started to chase the two but by the time he got outside, they had disappeared.
Twice now he’d let his target escape, that wouldn’t happen a third time.

*****

Will and Tiveri arrived at their hideout and Tiveri handed Will the rest of his belongings.

“Alright, what’s the plan for getting out of here?” Will asked after a moment.

“Each of the gates along with several guards is protected by a magic barrier to prevent any tampering.” Tiveri Replied, straight to business. “The source of the barrier for each gate is nearby to it, I saw you enter through the East gate, the west leads to the Goron mines, the South to Old Hyrule castle town and past there, New Hyrule, castle town. That one is the most guarded and that’s the one we need to leave from.”

“Mmhmm,” Will agreed. “The last place we want to go now is straight into Goron territory and the lost Underwoods are unwise to enter at the best of times. When do we move?”

“I’ll need to wait until Dawn to be of any serious help so we’ll need to be precise,” Tiveri explained. “We’ll take out the Barrier just before dawn, a shot from one of your weapons to the source, it’s in a tower just opposite the gate, should knock it out for about 10 minutes, we’ll use that time to bust through the guards and open the gate. From there should be easy.”

“That’s sound but rather general, though I don’t doubt we can pull it off,” Will approved.

Then there was nothing left but to wait.

*****

The officer That Kaz was stuck with obviously had run into a wall With looking for both of the criminals who were loose in the city. He had no real investigation, which was apparently being handled by a scribe and the officer had simply resorted to ordering all soldiers not on duty already, to comb the city looking for them.
It all seemed pretty pointless to Kaz but he went along with it all the same, the more time they wasted running around, Will could be finding a way out.

“If any criminal was hiding out here they would be staying close to the outskirts,” the officer stated to Kaz and the five soldiers with him, thinking himself very smart,” We’ll take a patrol round there and see if we can find anything.”

Really something like that was obvious and Kaz had already thought of it, but it was still as unproductive as going anywhere in the city, Will would be hiding somewhere out of the way not in plain sight.
The group marched off and Kaz followed them, it was almost dawn.

*****

About fifteen minutes before dawn just as planned Will and Tiveri approached the tower, The Gate was about a hundred meters from the tower and had twelve guards standing around it, twice as many as the one Will had entered by.
There was only one entrance to the tower, a small door facing the gate with just one man guarding it.
Tiveri and Will ran up to the side of the tower and crept around the side, when they reached the front Will casually stepped out and slammed the guards head against the door. He grabbed the key to the door off the guard and quickly moved inside, about ten minutes before dawn.
Inside they saw a spiral staircase leading up, Will had counted three floors and it served to reason that the source of the Barrier was at the top. They ran up the stairs noting strangely that the middle floor that they had to run across to get to the other half of the staircase was completely bare but for 6 bizarre looking ceremonial swords.
They reached the top floor and found the source to be a crystal of some description floating and twirling in the center of the room giving off an odd pale light, though there was no reason to be surprised at something like that it was a particularly magically based item.
Will looked out the window and noted that the sun was starting to rise. He looked at Tiveri to acknowledge that he was about to start their timer to escape, Tiveri nodded his reply.
Will pulled one of his Magic Shots out pointed it at the crystal, he pulled the trigger and almost immediately the Crystal stopped twirling and its light went out, ten minutes. Will turned and ran down the stairs following Tiveri who had shot down them a moment before him. He reached the second floor and found Tiveri stopped in the middle of the room, looking at the unearthly black shape that was massing itself before them. Well that’s what Will saw, Tiveri on the other hand saw with his keen sense of what lived in the shadows a grotesque creature forming itself before him.

“Will, I’ll handle this,” Tiveri said seriously. “You clear a path once I’m done.”

Will didn’t say anything; he just walked around the outside of the room knowing that Tiveri could help himself; they now had nine minutes left.

As Will left the room, Tiveri pulled on his two stone coloured gloves as the creature formed itself completely, and flew into the floor. Immediately six ugly grey arms like that belonging to a corpse, pushed themselves out of the floor standing ominously in a circle. Tiveri knew what this was, it had several names, creature from the bottom of the well, Dead Hand, or simply unnatural freak in any case this was one of the most dangerous creatures in all of Hyrule, to think there was one imprisoned here near to so many people. Then he realised that the barrier was not only protecting the gate but also keeping this monster trapped here, he needed to kill it now before it escaped.
The arms waited a moment then turned to the walls reached up and grabbed the ceremonial swords off the wall. Realising what they were doing Tiveri used his gloves to pull the two swords nearest to him into his hands before the arms reached them, said arms immediate turned their attention to Tiveri and lurched at him trying to get their prizes.
Tiveri ducked from the attack and leapt forward releasing the swords and using his magic to direct them to attack the arms slashing each in half. The loose end burned away instantly in purple unnatural fire and the stumps shrunk back into the ground. Tiveri knew they would grow back soon but he would be finished here before they had a chance to do so.
He was now in the center of the other four arms, each brandishing their own sword, Tiveri went to work quickly. Throwing his swords at each arm in turn, he added each opponent’s sword to his collection.
He finished his work and leapt back as the body of the disgusting monster materialised out of the floor, it charged at Tiveri, but it wasn’t fast enough. Tiveri dashed past it grabbing one of his swords and stabbing the freak with it leaving it there, he turned, grabbed another sword and ran the monster through again and again and again until one sword was left. Tiveri hopped back grabbed the last sword and flew at the abomination before him, he slashed straight through the creature and didn’t stop to look as it burned away letting the swords impaled in it drop to the ground as he dropped the one he was holding. Seven minutes were now left.

*****

As soon as Will was out of the tower, he sped straight down towards the gate; he pulled his sword out.
The first three guards Will encountered didn’t see what hit them. Will leapt up as he reached the first one and slashing straight down his chest, he then ducked and kicked the man behind the one he just fell’s legs out and stabbed him into the ground backhanded. He then pulled away drew a pistol and fired it at the third hitting him square in the face.

By now the other soldiers had noticed what happened and started running at Will. He calmly stuck the Magic Shot he already had out onto the rapier and pulled the other out pointing them at the advancing soldiers. Two shots rang out and two of his opponents fell but then the rest were on him.
As the men charged Will, each lowered a particularly dangerous looking spear at him, Will managed to slip past two of them and slash both through the side before getting past the group.
Will hopped back from the soldiers and attached his second pistol. The remaining few – there was five now – cautiously circled Will waiting for a chance to attack. Will stood calmly in the center with his pistol sword held relaxed at his side. He still had seven minutes left to defeat them and get out easy.

*****

Just like almost everyone on that side of Kakariko, Kaz heard the shots loud and clear, there was no doubt who that would have been. Sure enough, the officer ordered the men to head in that direction, the south gate.

Kaz followed feeing nervous, now he was actually going to have to do something. He started thinking of a way to let Will escape without incriminating himself, there weren’t many options and he only had a couple of minutes before they got there.

*****

Darius also heard the shots and started running, but he was at the Great Hall and about ten minutes away from the gate.

Unbeknownst to him, there was no way he would get to the gate in time to stop Will and Tiveri escaping.

*****

Eventually one of the guards made a move and tried to stab Will in the back but he dodges the thrust and grabbed the spear out of the soldier’s hand. Will span and cracked the blunt end of the spear over the soldiers head as he stumbled past him, leaving him sprawling across the ground.
The other four attempted to use that moment to their advantage and charged in, but Will ducked under their spears and hacked at the shins of the soldier closest to him.
He rolled through the gap and sprang to his feet holding his sword and the spear pointing down on each side of him.

At that moment, Tiveri ran out of the tower and up to where Will was facing off against the gates guards.

“You go open the gate,” Will stated calmly not looking at Tiveri. “I’ll take care of these, and then we’re out of here.”

Tiveri ran around the last three men as Will ran at them. Will stabbed the first soldier through with the spear, cut the midsection of the second, and then almost gracefully leapt into the air and shot the third man twice in the chest.
Will hit the ground running, a short smirk playing across his face, they were out with five minutes to spare.

*****

As Kaz and the infantrymen he was with arrived at the scene, Will was already almost at the heavy gate and another man he was with was opening it using some form of telekinetic magic.
The officer raised his arm as if to order the men to attack.

Kaz grabbed it and said forcefully, “I’ll take care of this.”

Kaz unsheathed his sword and ran at Will leaving the officer standing awkwardly with his arm in the air.

Kaz yelled as he approached Will, alerting him to his presence and then struck at him his blow easily being blocked. He really hoped his plan would work.

*****

Taken aback by Kazar suddenly appearing and attacking him Will didn’t realise at first what Kaz was doing and seriously thought he had been betrayed.
He fought furiously, needing to be on the other side of the gate before his time ran out.
Then as one minute ticked by and then two Will realised that all Kazar was doing was defending. Then it dawned on him that Kaz wanted to let him escape.
Will decided to try something that rarely worked, he locked swords with Kazar then he flicked his sword up and knocked Kazar’s right out of his hands.
Taking the opportunity, Will spun on his heels and sprinted at the gate he had just one minute left.
Will got through to the other side and skidded to a halt. Tiveri dropped the door once he was on the other side. And the infantry men that Will hadn’t realised were even chasing him stopped just on the other side.
Will briefly caught Kazar’s eye and they looked at each other knowingly.

Now they had to leave before the men got the gate open again.

*****

Once Darius got to the scene, the carnage that Will and Tiveri had worked up was already being cleaned up and the casualties lay in a row covered in sheets.

He soon enough discovered that a small group of men had been sent after them but they didn’t expect to find them.
He was feeing even more frustrated now, not just twice had he let his target escape but now they had left the City completely.
Darius knew what he had to do now, he gazed out the now open gate, he had to find them no matter what, and he would start in the most obvious spot, Old Hyrule castle town, a den for all the criminals in Hyrule, his targets would wind up there eventually.


I may clean up a few bits later but not anytime soon.

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Post Re: ~Forever Forgotten~ To Dust • Posted: Wed Jun 30, 2010 9:27 pm
Tetras have this wonderful ability to make magic happen. Even if that magic is LATE. ;P Have a good one, peeps.

Chapter 16: Anamnesis

Kaz didn’t know how Will expected that thin, bendy blade of his to stand up against his longsword. In fact, he didn’t understand why the Hyrule Knights had begun using those things at all, but, they were made in Hyrule, so the blades must have been magically reinforced.

He guarded, making sure to loosen his grip on the longsword’s hilt. Then it happened, Will’s and Kaz blades clashed, sending sparks into the air. With a flick of Will’s wrist, the kid somehow managed to hurl Kaz’s longsword out of his hands. Damn, Kaz back flipped and grabbed his sword, placing it in its sheath.

"It’s not as wimpy as I thought," he muttered to himself. "But," looking over his shoulder, "At least Will got away."

Straightening himself, Kaz left, his gaze resting for a moment on the smoke rising from other parts of Kakariko. It seemed the fires had spread from the merchant’s quarters and lower districts to some of the houses of the lower nobility. Even from here, he could still hear the shouts of the rioting populace. Kaz frowned, where in this hell had Naomi and Jaros wondered off to? This place was in chaos: a revolt waiting to happen! He didn’t want them to get caught in the middle of it, he had to get them and find a way out of here.

At times like this, Kaz wished he had studied a detailed map of Kakariko, but then again, he’d never thought he have to escape from the most “peaceful” city in Hyrule. Although, it was peaceful only in the sense that most of the nobility never saw the darker side of their little paradise.

Then, Kaz spotted something strange in the small crowd that had gathered near the gate. A brown haired scribe from the Great Hall was pushing his way through the rabble, heading towards the young officer that Kaz had traveled with earlier. The scribe tapped the guard on the shoulder and the officer turned to face him.

“Why did you let him get away?” The scribe asked.

“I, well, it’s that man, sir,” he pointed straight at Kaz, “He ran in there! Telling us that he could handle it! And well, I mean, sir, he looked like he could. That blade of his, and, he looks like he’s fought a lot.”

“Looks.” The scribe repeated drolly. “Do you know what went through those gates?”

“Will—“

“Desesperacion does not concern me.” The scribe said. “It’s his cohort I care about. Why did you send just one man?”

“I…”

“I plan to report you, sergeant. No excuse will cover you here. Go.” The young officer called his men and the crowd split, letting the officer and his men through. Kaz watched in silence, standing with his back straight and hands behind it. He did not like this scribe, he was a dangerous and powerful man. At a leisurely pace, the scribe approached him. “You.”

“Yes?”

“When you stand like that, it makes you look like you should have been in command of those men.” said the scribe. At his words, Kaz placed his hands in his pockets. “You are a strange man, Master Kazar, and why someone like you is here is…interesting.”

“Hmmm,” Kaz nodded, “Then I’ll take my leave.”

“No, I don’t think so.” The man said as Kaz glared at the blade that was now blocking his path. “You’re that foreign noble who often misses meetings at the Great Hall. Don’t think I didn’t recognize you. You may look like a commoner with your coat covered in dried mud and blood with a sleeve missing, but that scar at the corner of your left eyebrow is unmistakable.”

Kaz frowned, that was not a massive scar, well, at least compared to others on his body. He’d gotten it in a fight with a young man who’d led a rebellion against the king of Kyzoon, but he would rather forget that it was even there. “What’s your point?”

“Simple.” The scribe said. “Are you in cohorts with William Desesperacion and his partner?”

“You only care for the other one.” Kaz pointed out.

“Does it matter?”

“I’m not helping either. William took my wallet and I simply wanted to take it back.” He explained, making his voice and expression as innocent as he could. “I didn’t even know the guy was working with someone else.”

“I see…” The scribe’s eyes narrowed. “I don’t believe you. If Desesperacion had taken your wallet, you could’ve gotten it back from him without breaking a sweat. Your skill with the blade is well known, at least amongst the scribes. You did not see the other?”

“No.”

The scribe stared at Kaz. “Just as well, he is dangerous."

“But he doesn’t concern me.” Kaz met the scribe’s sharpened gaze.

“I know.” The scribe said, then whispered, “But, if it was revealed that you were working with a wanted criminal…”

Kaz glared, his hand reaching for his blade. “What’s the damn point?”

“We,” the scribe replied, his lips turning up slightly. “Will work together to hunt them.” Kaz stared bluntly as the man sheathed his sword.

“I—” but, before Kaz could say anything, a tall woman in a cloak followed by a man ran through the crowd, pushing aside (and almost running over) patrons in their way. Kaz felt anger rise to the surface when he recognized Naomi and Jaros. Well, he guessed he would have to tell them eventually.

“Kaz, where—”

“I’ll explain later.” Kaz said, watching the scribe out of the corner of his eye. Even with the hood of her cloak over her head, he could no doubt see her beak. “We’ll meet at this gate sunup tomorrow morning," ordered the scribe as he turned to leave, and Kaz glared at his back. "Don’t keep me waiting.”

***

“That thief has caused more trouble in two days than many have in the last hundred years,” Orilieus sighed as he signed the document in front of him. His eyes never met those of Darius, who stood there, carefully watching the tired, old man do his work as he listened to the scribe give his report. Darius wondered if the Master of the Hall was simultaneously thinking of solutions to the newly risen revolt as well. Orilieus was a marvelously gifted in the area of multitasking, something that Darius could never quite master as well as the elder man.

“Who would have guessed that he would cause a revolt all by himself? Even I could not foresee it, and yet, he finally caused that pot to boil over. Not that they needed much of an excuse. Now, the nobles are no longer content in protecting their homes and there is talk in the streets, shouts of overthrowing their Sheikah oppressors.” Orilieus sighed. “I had hoped this would not happen until the office had passed to my successor. But enough of the ramblings of a tired old man. Is that all you have to report Darius? If so, you have leave to pursue him outside of the city walls.”

“Thank you, Hallmaster,” Darius said. “There was one other event of note. A man, Kazar Amintor, who was also at the gate during the escape.”

“Ah, so he has returned to city?”

“Yes sir.”

“And I suppose he will accompany you, then?”

“I...indeed Master Orilieus, how did you guess?” Darius asked, momentarily surprised.

Orilieus coughed. “It was only a guess. You could say I know more about him than even you have fathomed on your own.”

Darius raised an eyebrow. Did Orilieus have a friendship with the strange nobleman that he had not noticed? It did not matter; he also reported on Kazar’s odd companions. He had never seen a woman like that one in all of his life, or that strange man beside her... “Before I left, a strange woman with a bird-like face and another man came. The woman called Kazar 'Kaz'.”

“Ah,” Orilieus stamped the document and met Darius’ gaze. There was something in the old man’s dark eyes that told the scribe he did not find this news surprising in the slightest. Rather, he seemed amused. “So, it would seem Lord Kazar is more than he makes himself out to be. A figure straight out of legend! To think he snuck right into Hyrule without a person even suspecting it of him.”

Darius frowned. “With all respect Master Orilieus, those are just legends.”

“How can you say that when they walk right before your eyes?” Orilieus stood. “The evidence was before you as well. Kazar hardly changed in these seven years he lived amongst us in Kakariko, he should be in his thirties now, but yet, he looks no older than a man in his late twenties. The only reason he appears older than twenty-one are the scars and worry he received from years of war and whatever else he faced in his long life.”

“Yes, but…”

“And his name,” Orilieus continued, “It could almost be considered changed by time. But, I believe he chose to change it himself. Although, he was not very creative in that choice, a different name would have been less suspicious than the one he uses now. Do you not understand, Darius?”

The scribe nodded and averted his eyes, disbelief washing over him. A creature of the shadows steals a long dead artifact and now the heroes of legends were walking among them! Darius wanted to attribute it to the senility of an old man, but something stopped him. If the legends were true, and they were here, well...what darkness was yet to come?

“You must be open-minded in everything scribe; even the most fantastic of myths began with a seed of truth.” Orilieus sat, dipped his pin in the inkwell, and began writing on another piece of parchment paper. “You have done well, go and get some rest before your journey.”

“Thank you, Hallmaster,” Darius turned and left, making sure to softly close the door behind him.

***

Silence. Why was it that the constant silence that came upon Hyrule Field at night still chilled her to the bone? It had been this way for years now, no wind and no animals scraping about. Nothing but the muted sound of Tap's footsteps and breathing. In the villages and cities she’d heard some call it the abyss of death or the curse of the gods, and now, those who traveled by night only did so in groups and with guards to protect them.

But, their fear created a haven for those who lacked it. Bandits, murderers, and other brave souls could travel by night unharmed, for, other than the silence, there was nothing to fear. Yes, she had heard stories of someone leaving a village at night and disappearing or returning with burns on their skin or madness, but she’d never encountered anything like that. Just the silence of the fields, why would she fear that?

Suddenly, she heard a man’s baritone in the silence, though she could not make out the words or see him. Tap crept forward, hiding herself in the tall grass until he emerged from the shadows of the night, sitting not even a dozen feet in front of her. Her heart began to race, but he did not notice her, no, the strange, elongated being was in a world of his own.

“—but, he, he is useless!” He said in frustration. “How can he help us?”

At the word, “us”, Tap frowned. Who was this “us” he was talking about? Better yet, who was this “he”? Then, she spotted one of his companions asleep, back turned to her. The other had to be nearby, but, it was too late to run. She would have to hope this idiot on watch or his friends would not notice her.

“Yes, that is possible.” He sighed. “Yet not certain. We have no proof that they will return, and they might be trapped or—“

Tap bit her bottom lip, was it possible that the silence had caused this? No, this strange being must have been insane already.

“Hope?” He asked. “Or you mad?”

No, Tap thought, but you are.

“I know,” he hissed, “yet I would—what in the cursed light?”

Her little fox had padded over and now sat on his lap, starring up at him with huge, round eyes; the same eyes that had won her heart. But she doubted it would work on this strange man. No, he was probably too far gone to care for such things.

To her shock, he stood and loosed a bolt of lightning at the fox. The little creature bounded to the side, letting the bolt burn the patch of grass where it had stood. Before he had time to send out another one, Tap leaped to her feet, short sword in hand, and jumped at him. Her action caused him to stumble backwards, trip and fall over his own feet. The next lightning bolt went high, missing both her and the fox.

“What in hell is going on?”

Tap, the strange man, and the fox looked at the owner of the voice, standing with his rapier withdrawn and pointed in her general direction. He blinked before placing the weapon back in its scabbard, a frown creasing his face.

“Tiveri, I trust you have a good reason for attacking her?” He asked.

The strange man did not reply, but instead, curled his lips slightly in disgust. Tap guessed he had no taste for Hylian women.

Then, the strange man’s companion looked at her, and she could read the questions in his eyes: why was a woman walking around Hyrule Field at night with no companions other than a fox? Was she mad? Or was she more than she appeared: a thief or some other kind of criminal? Tap realized she did not know the answer to that question herself. She couldn’t say that she was as innocent as she had been five hundred years before. Sometimes, you needed to do certain things to survive. And she had.

“I’m taking my fox and going.” Tap explained, quickly turning her back on him and taking a few steps. Something caught her eye and she stopped, looking back at him. Why did he seem so familiar? Then, it hit her, those hazel eyes and that brown hair. They both—but no, his face was somehow off, was it that it was too narrow?

“You...aren’t Kaz, right?” Tap choked on her words and she felt her stomach turn. A part of her wanted to shrink, run, and hide; she didn’t want Kaz to figure out what she had done. Even if he had never been the smartest person in the world, she was sure he’d figure it out, condemn and hate her.

“Kaz?” He glared. “I’m not that old man, no, if you’re looking for him, he’s back in Kakariko.”

"Oh, thank the gods," Tap murmured, relief flooding through her.

“But, who are you?” The man asked.

She smiled, gently. “I’m Tap, and well, I wouldn’t say I’m lookin’ for anyone. Nope, not at all! But where are you going?”

“Huh.” He headed back towards his empty bedroll. “Honestly, it's too early for any of this. You can call me Will, and we’re heading to the slums of Castle Town. If you want, you can come along, but right now, I’m going back to sleep. Good night.”

***

That night, Kaz rolled over once again, he had been unable to sleep for hours. Not even in his own bed in his own house. No, too much had happened recently; too much had changed from his simple life of chasing down criminals and turning them in. Yes, he had wanted to help William, but he had not expected Naomi and Jaros to come and…mess everything up again. He would’ve rather continued sending Naomi letters by pigeon than see her in person after five hundred years.

How the goddesses of Hyrule loved to play with a man’s life! Only a few days ago, life had been fine, as talking to Cyro in his inn before William had shown up and took a seat in the old place. It was so much easier to pretend that he was not Kaz the hero who had helped save the world from Arivis. Or Kaz the general who had lead the armies of Kyzoon for over four-hundred years.

No, Kazar Amintor was much easier. According to that story, Kaz was the youngest of three children born to a noble couple in a distant land across the sea where “Kazar” was a popular name given to young men. “Kazar” had fought in a war as a young officer, and once the war was done, he had left the country, looking for something more and had found Hyrule, where he felt his sword could help by finding criminals and turning them in. That had been his excuse, though, not the one he gave to the nobility. No, he told them that he wanted to experience the “wonders of Hyrule” (what little was left of those). As far as he was concerned, it had been the perfect ruse.

Kaz sighed, and deciding that he would get no sleep that night, he got up, walked over to the old redwood desk by the light of the moon and lit the candle that sat there with a piece of flint. He avoided looking at the old pictograph in the frame, preferring to let his eyes linger on the mirror for a moment. Boy, did he look tired, and, noting the single gray hair with his keen eyes, he shrugged. Why should he care about that? Damn, he already felt old as it was, it didn’t matter. He took a few green leaves from a bowl and put them in a satchel. He’d need some on this trip.

Kaz heard a knock on the door. He told them they could come in, while stuffing the bowl of green leaves into a drawer and shutting it quickly. If it was Naomi, he couldn’t let her see these, she might know what they were and he didn’t want to explain himself, but he needed them for the headaches, especially with that kid around.

“I’ve noticed you haven’t slept well.” Kaz looked up to see that it was Jaros. The man did not come in the room but kept to the doorway. “In all truth, I hadn’t noticed but Naomi had and she asked me to check on you.”

“No experiment or whatever it is on your part?” Kaz asked.

“I don’t see a poe here.” Jaros smiled, but it was somehow different from a normal smile. Kaz still didn't believe he had only come at his wife's request. Then again, it was Naomi.

Or maybe he isn’t lying, Kaz thought, but there was little point trying to understand either of them. That was still a problem he carried from the last time he was around Naomi, trying to figure out if she was up to something or not. Jaros on the other hand, well, he would have to know the man better before he could make any judgements.

Jaros cleared his throat. “Yes, well, why is it?”

“What?” Kaz asked, before remembering the earlier question. “Oh, I just don’t like sleeping when people like you and Will are around.”

“Of course. Though I'd wager that’s not the only reason.” Jaros stated. Kaz wondered if the man could somehow read his thoughts or something. Either way, he was pretty sure he would never get the answer to that question.

“It’s not.” Kaz agreed, frustrated. “But if Naomi wants to know, she should ask that question herself.”

“Indeed," He sighed, "She wished to, but she hasn't gotten much rest recently..."

“Sure.” Kaz nodded. Kaz didn't hate her, but she'd brought back memories he'd rather forget. All the years of trying to pretend he was someone else, the skills and titles he acquired. Naomi could see through all that to who he really was, and it was unsettling. Even after spending the whole day healing, she still wanted to see what was up with him. As for Jaros, he simply annoyed him at times. It had been a long day and Kaz certainly wasn't feeling like being questioned any longer. Insomnia or not.

“Just tell her I’m damn fine.” Kaz said. “And leave, please.”

He nodded, glanced at the picture, and left. Somehow, Kaz guessed, he had gotten some clue to whatever real question he had but had not dared to ask.

***

Jaros had not expected her to stay up for his return, despite what she had promised. Healing always took a lot out of her, but ever since…her return, it did more so. He gently placed a hand on her shoulder. “He says he’s fine. You mustn’t worry so much, I’m certain you realize it’s not good for you.”

She opened her eyes, surprising him, if only slightly. She was not lying when she said she would stay up this time. No, that odd Hylian was truly something like a son to her, if he took her word for it. And, like always, he did.

“He’s a bloody liar.” She said, closing her eyes. “Tomorrow morning. We’ll talk.”

He only nodded, and blew out the last of the candle.

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Post Re: ~Forever Forgotten~ To Dust • Posted: Sat Jul 10, 2010 10:48 pm
Chapter 17: A Tale of Two Parties

Three travelers walked silently across the landscape, their figures silhouetted against the pale colors of dawn. The landscape was hilly, interposed with clumps of trees and mangled undergrowth that had lain untouched for years. Tiviri walked at the head of the party, smoking great quantities of pipeleaf in a careless fashion. His Hylian companions fell in step behind him, fatigue still lining their faces. Will was fiddling with his rapier belt and Tap kept sneaking glances at her newfound companions, her fox trotting along side her feet.

“So, why are you going to the old capital?” she asked, attempting a causal tone.

Will looked at her and shrugged, pulling his cloak around him to ward off the morning chill. “We’re going to meet some…family,” he replied. “Isn’t that right Tiviri?”

Tiviri expelled a smoke ring in response.

“You two are related?” asked Tap incredulously. Her fox peaked up its ears and looked at her.

“No… I mean yes,” stammered Will, backpedalling. “I mean, we’re not related. Like to each other. We’re just both going to visit family, who are ill at the same time. Like, we both have family that is sick and we’re visiting them in a non related way! So separate...but together, out of convenience!”

“We are traveling to the former Hyrule Castle Town in an attempt to escape the grasp of a particularly determined Kakariko Scribe.” The Twili interjected, not bothering to turn his head. Tap raised her eyebrows and Will’s eyes bugged out.

He began sputtering. “Tiviri! We’re trying not to draw attention here! You can’t go telling everyone we meet what we’re doing!”

“So you do not trust the Hylian female then?”

Will began to turn red. “Well no, I mean. That’s not what I’m saying at all,” he said, addressing Tap. “It’s just we don’t know you and you could be anyone. Not that I’m saying you are! Of course we trust you! It’s just other people. We have to be careful. And…well…yeah.” Will tried desperately to avoid eye contact and Tap hid a smirk behind her hand.

“I see,” continued Tiviri. “Well if trust is not an issue, was your deceit an attempt to impress her with your perceived empathy? Hylian courting rituals are ever so strange.” Will’s mouth hung open and Tap tried everything she could not to laugh.

“I…shut up!” Retorted Will, throwing his empty water canteen at the Twili’s back. “Seriously, how can you be so dull?! Didn’t you study social rules in the million years you’ve been here?!”

“Not at all,” replied Tiviri as he knocked the ashes out of the bowl. “In fact watching your discomfort at my perceived naiveté is providing great amusement to both myself and the female. That would imply an excellent understanding of your social structure.”

Will started to say something and trailed off, face still flushed red. Tap couldn’t contain her laughter anymore, her fox yipping in unison. The Twili continued, “In any case, your companions will meet with us soon Hyruling Desesperacion? We cannot stay in your old capital for long. Doubtless that scribe will search there first, and we cannot risk being caged again.”

“Yeah, they’ll be here. Maybe that crazy bird person will fly over and spot us, or we might be on our own,” muttered Will.

Tap’s ears perked up at the mention of a bird person. Cautiously she asked Will, “Bird friend? Do you know her name?”

Will gave her a curious glance, “Yeah, it was Naomi Something, though I never said she was a girl.”

Tap inwardly winced. Now it was her turn to backpedal. “Er, it was just a guess. You don’t see too many Rito here or nothing! Just thought it’d be interesting to meet one. Ya’know, if she’s coming and all.”

“Yes…it would be interesting,” replied Will, fixing her with an inquisitive stare. Tap looked away and began to hum.

************************

“I said dawn Amintor, not two handbreadths above the horizon.” Darius said to a very disheveled looking Kaz.

“I don’t care if you’re a scribe or not,” replied Kaz, buckling on his sword, “I am still a noble, you’ll address me as such.”

“Very well Lord Amintor,” said Darius, sarcasm lining his voice. Kaz thought the mock bow he added was a little much but he let it slide. Any other time he would have told the scribe to clear off; maybe challenge him to a fight for threatening to blackmail him. But, acting as an aide would provide enough opportunity to delay the scribe. Maybe even misdirect him entirely. With any luck, he might be able to give Will enough time to sneak away.

Assuming of course, the kid was smart enough to not wait around for him.

“Where are your companions?” the scribe asked, clearly irritated. “We’ve wasted enough of the morning sun!”

“Oh them? They aren’t coming. They were just guests of mine.” Kaz made his voice sound as truthful as he could make it, “Capital nobility you see, they don’t wish to join us, though they understand my leaving.”

“Yes I’m sure,” Darius said unconvinced. Kaz hoped he wouldn’t insist on returning to his house to get them. Naomi and Jaros had left the city hours ago, per their plan. Heading back would poke too many holes in his story. Besides, Kaz was so tired, he wasn’t sure if he could come up with a suitable excuse on the spot either.

The scribe made a final check of his supplies and Kaz turned his gaze toward the still smoldering portions of Kakariko. Hours after the fires were extinguished; the building remains were still too hot to enter. He could still hear shouts emanating from the far end of the city. The Hallmaster needed to get this under control soon, Kaz thought to himself, otherwise the Royal guard would step in and that would mean the gallows. He gave an involuntary shutter. Kaz started when he realized Darius had been watching him, waiting, so, he slung on his pack and followed Darius to the gate.

“Your travelling partner has quite a head start,” Darius said. “It will take us almost a full day to reach Hyrule Castle Town.”
“That’s a rather bold assumption,” said Kaz, “How do you know for sure they’re headed there?”

“Because I am still in possession of basic common sense,” said Darius tersely, “It’s not called a thieves refuge for no reason. No offence to your Lordship may I add.”

“None taken,” Kaz replied coldly and rolled his eyes. “There’s a big world outside Kakariko walls, scribe. It’s just as probable they could be heading into the forest as the capital city. We should ask around the smaller hamlets first and-“

“How much do you know about scribes, Lord Amintor?” asked Darius, cutting him off.

Kaz was taken aback. “Er, not too much I suppose, though I don’t know what this has to do with anything” he shrugged. “I’m not in session very often because I travel a lot. But, from what I understand, scribes take down the proceedings and work on behalf of the Hallmaster.”

“Yes. Those are tasks we do in addition to others. But any man can be trained to do these things. Take notes, run errands. A guardsman greener than a new spring leaf could do everything that you’ve said in our place. Yet, scribes chosen individually, raised from childhood to serve the hall. Do you know why?”

Kaz shook his head.

“Because of our ability to use magic”

“Magic…”

“All Hylians have it in their blood, but few can use these gifts and even fewer can hone them. Scribes are chosen by these criteria. We are selected and trained so that the Hallmaster has a menagerie of agents he can commission for tasks of…delicate nature.”

Kaz nodded slowly. He didn’t like where this was going.

“My ability is strange, Lord Amintor, but is very suitable for catching criminals,” Darius continued. “It’s one thing to track someone; it’s another thing altogether to track them anywhere they are, simply by knowing their face.” The scribe stopped and turned to look at a very stunned Kaz. “I have been very fortunate so far. I cornered the tall one in a dark inn yard and was incapacitated before I could glimpse at his features. Yet I encountered this same man and Desesperacion yesterday in the barracks, attempting to retrieve those pistols.”

Darius paused for a moment before continuing, “It’s not a perfect ability. I only know the general direction from my current location, akin to a compass. It’s also a process that requires complete focus and a good deal of energy. Even so, I must still do the legwork, investigating and apprehension.”

The scribe began walking again. “At a fast pace, we shall be there by nightfall. You are coming with me since you’ve fought the rogue before and could prove a more suitable adversary then a squad of guards. With your help, I will have my query apprehended, Desesperacion arrested or dead and you’ll return with tales that will elevate your position as a noble.” Kaz wasn’t sure how to reply. Darius didn’t notice. He followed the scribe, mind buzzing furiously. Perhaps sidetracking this man would be harder than he had thought.

***************

Will took in his surroundings as the trio passed the vine ridden gates of the old capital. Despite the name, the old capital, Hyrule Castle Town, was a facsimile of its former glory. The square, once witness to the parade of royalty and the coronation of kings, was now strewn with the stone ruins of arches and monuments. Many of the abandoned houses were in a severe state of disrepair after decades of disuse. Not surprisingly, the gathering of the most unfortunate of Hyrule had turned this place into a haven for bandits. It had taken on the moniker of a thieves’ fortress; its inhabitants masquerading as loyal citizens of Hyrule, while simultaneously pillaging its wealth. Surprisingly, the children played carefree and ran laughing through the streets. It was an odd sight to see bandits, who would slit a throat for a yellow rupee, patting the heads of children; talking to them in a gentle demeanor. “Even the ruthless still look out for their own,” Will surmised.

Tiviri ducked into a narrow corridor which led to a hidden courtyard enclosed on all sides. Vines covered the tall encircling stone walls and were slowly engulfing the back of the house as well. Judging by the broken marble fountain in the middle, Will guessed this was once a house for nobles or a rich merchant. That must have been an eternity ago.

“Here,” said Tiviri, tossing a rusted metal key at Will. “I will be resting upstairs. The both of you are free to leave your things here and do whatever you wish.” Will turned the key in his hand and Tap looked at the looming stone masonry uneasily. “Hyruling Desesperacion, it is best if you wait in a more advantageous location for your companions. If you should find a suitable supply of decent quality, buy me a reds worth of dark pipeleaf, I am almost out.”

He dropped a small bag of rupees by the threshold and stepped into the house. “And by the blasted light, if you get caught do not lead them here.” The Twili shut the door.

“A please would have been nice,” muttered Will snatching up the rupee purse. “C’mon Tap, let’s look around the city, unless of course you have things to do now that you’re here…”

“Oh, no it’s alright,” Tap said nonchalantly, “I can wait to meet your friends. They sound interesting to meet and all.”

“Right,” Will remarked.

They started off in the direction of what served as the merchants’ district. Even in the afternoon sun, the ramshackle booths and carts gave them an uneasy feeling. Much of the food wasn’t in great condition, but it wasn’t spoiled. Scattered in-between the food vendors were a scattering of women and men calling out, advertising services: some offered their sword as a hired mercenary, others we’re more of a dubious sort. There was even an old woman who claimed to be the descendant of a famous fortune teller living in the city centuries ago. The duo took in the strange sights in curiosity; Tap holding her fox in her arms and Will’s hand resting on his rapier.

The two were at a clothing vendor when Tap suddenly pulled Will aside and pushed a red wide brimmed hat into his face.

“What are you-“

“Just shut up and pretend you’re buying it.” Tap whispered.

Will counted the number of stitches inside the brim as Tap glanced down the street. After a few moments, she pushed the hat on to Will’s head and jerked her head in the other direction.

“Come on, we need to get out of here!”

“Huh? Are you going to tell me-“

“Hey!” The vendor interrupted Will, “You pay for that. No stealing here! We’re a respectable sort.”

“Oh sorry.” Tap grabbed Tiviri’s bag of rupees and threw a blue in the man’s direction. The vendor bit it with his front teeth and nodded towards the girl. Will and Tap hurriedly walked away.

“Now do you mind telling me what’s going on?” he asked.

“That scribe,” she replied in undertones, “I think she’s here. I just saw her.”

“What!” Will looked alarmed. “We need to get out of here now and….wait. She?”

“Yep. I only saw her back, but she had the symbol of Kakariko on her cloak and everything. Let’s just get back to Tiviri’s hideout and look for Na- your companions later.”

“No, wait.” Will grabbed Tap’s arm. Her fox growled threateningly. “The scribe that was chasing us was a guy. Why would they send another one out?”

“How would I know?” asked Tap, mildly perturbed. “If they sent one, they can always send two. We should go.”

“I want to see what she looks like first,” said Will. “If it turns out she is looking for me, at least I’ll be able to tell what she looks like if she changes clothing. Besides, she hasn’t seen me yet, so we have the upper hand right now. Let’s just trail her for a bit.” Will started down the street, keeping to the sides. Tap sighed heavily and followed behind.

*********************

“Damn this leg,” Kaz groaned, sitting on a rock. “I knew that fall back there did something.”

“Yes, amazing you’ve travelled throughout Hyrule without dying from the numerous injuries you must sustain each trip.” Darius responded humorlessly.

Kaz continued to clutch his leg and the scribe looked toward evening colors of the sky. “It’ll be dark soon,” The scribe said with a grimace. “I can order the gates open at night but I’d still prefer to reach there before then.” He rummaged through his pouch and dug out a small root. “Chew on this, it’ll numb pain and accelerate healing. Now move.”

Kaz took the root, making a show of chewing it slowly and getting to his feet. The scribe was proving extremely difficult to delay. Pretending to injure himself by falling down an embankment was doing nothing. Even after “mistakenly” traveling down a different path, losing his walking stick, having his water canteen mysteriously break and claiming heat exhaustion, he may have only successfully slowed the scribe down an hour. In addition to making a complete fool of himself.

A scream pierced through the air, turning both their heads. The scribe’s sword flew into his hand and Kaz followed suit. At the intersection ahead and through the trees, he could make out the wavering of torchlight, dancing around the dark figure of a caravan. A man was holding a blade against the driver, his two companions rummaging through the goods in back.

“Please, we don’t have anything,” said the driver, trembling. “Just take the money and go.” In the back, the man’s wife and his child were huddled together, the mother trying to comfort the child while shaking herself.

“Awfully strange, see’un a merchant travelling so close to night,” replied the bandit, pressing the blade closer. “One might think you’d be tryin’ to hide somethin’.”

“We were waylaid by a broken axle!” the man stammered, “N—needed to make this s—shipment. Have ta make a living somehow.”

“Well that’s certainly a shame then,” said the bandit, feeling the stolen rupee purse before stowing it away. “Breaks my heart to see a ‘ard workin’ family b’set by misfortune. Breaks it right in two. Maybe we need to put them out of their misery, right boys?!” The men at the back hollered in union and unsheathed their swords. The child whimpered and the man pleaded desperately. “No no! You have what you want, just go, we won’t tell anyone!”

“No need to worry ‘bout that. We’ll just kill you now, take yer wife, ‘ave some fun with her. Sell the child as a slave. Makes for a tidy day’s work that!” The man laughed, his eyes drifting towards the forest. They widened in surprise. “What‘n Din’s nam-“

Darius leaped out of the forest and bounded onto the caravan stand, knocking the sword away from the man’s throat. Kaz ran toward the bewildered duo on the ground. The merchant wrenched himself from the seat into the caravan back, as the bandit leader and Darius exchanged parries. Kaz blocked a flailing swing and smashed the bandit’s face with his hilt. As the man flew back, Kaz only had a second to duck while the other bandit tried to take off his head. From the strokes, Kaz could tell this one had fought for some time: very strong, but sloppy. The second bandit threw his whole weight into his blows, trying to knock Kaz off balance. Kaz simply deflected each move, keeping an eye on the unconscious one on the ground.

The bandit leader was proving to be a more competent swordsman. After the initial shock, he steeled himself against the scribe. Arms moved back and forth. Lunging. Block. Thrusting. Parry. Darius remained expressionless, countering each of the strikes effortlessly. In the blink of an eye, Darius’s blade nicked the man’s shoulder before he could block in time. The bandit gritted his teeth, swinging faster, trying to catch the scribe off guard. Darius took advantage of the sloppy defense and sliced the bandit again, this time at the leg. The leader grew frantic, abandoning discipline all together. He blocked Darius’s strike and threw a wild punch at the scribe’s face. Darius caught the fist with his empty hand. Using the bandit’s momentum, he pushed himself off the platform; pulling the thief with him he twisted in the air. Using the shocked bandit as a barrier, Darius slammed the leader into the ground and back flipped off. He immediately entered another sword stance and the leader got to his feet groggily.

Kaz was beginning to tire out; each block was taking more and more out of him. He had fought one on one many times before, but never an opponent who seemingly had limitless energy. Each time, the bandit smashed his sword into Kaz’s as if he was trying to break it. Attrition would not work in his favor here, and, by Din, he was so bloody tired. He searched through all the techniques and stances he had learned over the centuries: Fighting a taller enemy? No. A group of enemies? Hmm, no. Fighting a moblin? Maybe, if he pretended his quarry had a spea-OH CRAP!

The bandit finally managed to knock Kaz’s blade away, delivering a kick to his chest in the process. Kaz landed awkwardly at the base of a tree, head spinning around him. The bandit raised his sword above his head, grinning, Kaz wincing and readying himself for the blow. The great Kaz of the Chosen, slain by a common bandit. In his last few seconds, he wondered if anyone would mourn for him. Naomi maybe, in her own strange way.

He heard a crash and the bursting of flames. Kaz opened his eyes. The bandit was on fire, flailing wildly, a broken lantern at his feet. Kaz grabbed the bandit’s dropped sword and jumped up, flicking his wrist. The tip caught the bandit right at the neck, slicing the jugular. The thief gurgled and dropped to the ground, clothing still on fire. Kaz looked up to see the lantern’s owner, the merchant’s wife, gesturing frantically out of the caravan window towards Darius.

Even with his injuries, the bandit leader was still fighting, their duel moving closer to the trees. Darius began to show annoyance, pressing a little harder, slashing a little faster. Fatigue was setting into the bandit’s before a thought entered his mind, lighting up his face. Blocking Darius’s last blow, he threw himself to the ground and ran back toward the caravan. Darius gave chase, somewhat nonplussed. The bandit scrambled past the horse and stopped, turning to face the scribe again, sword outstretched.

Misunderstanding his intent, Darius also halted and walked in front of the horse, preparing to begin the fight again. With a malicious grin, the bandit swung his sword and struck the leg of the animal with the flat of his sword. Enraged, the horse lashed out, slamming its hoof against the head of the scribe before he had time to react. Darius flew back and crumpled to the ground unconscious. The bandit laughed, and pulled the horse back with the reins. He was about to finish off the scribe when he heard a voice behind him.

“Ahem,” Kaz flicked the sword out of the bandits hand and pushed his sword against the man’s throat. The leader raised his hands, palms outward.

“Look kid, you ah, got me alright? “ The bandit said, glancing over Kaz’s shoulder. “An’ my men. Just let me go. I won’t do this again, swear by the king’s head I won’t.”

“You know, I think I would have years ago.” Kaz spoke in a distant voice, “I’ve learned since then. People like you will never change, no matter how many opportunities you get. You’ll only continue to plunder, to rape and to murder. There is no second chance today. Goodbye.” His blade flashed and the bandits head snapped back. With a sickening gurgle he fell to the ground clutching his neck. After he was satisfied the man was dead, Kaz quickly ran over to check on the first man he had fought. This one was also dead, head smashed against a rock when he fell. Just as well, he didn’t feel like slicing anyone else’s throat today. The merchant’s family had exited the caravan, showering Kaz with grateful cries.

“Are you alright?” he asked, wiping his sword with his shirt.

“Yes, thank the goddesses you were here,” exclaimed the merchant, holding his wife and daughter close. “If it wasn’t for you and that other man…I don’t want to think what would have happened.”

“Other man...? Darius!” Kaz ran toward the unconscious scribe, merchant family in tow. Placing his right ear on the scribe’s chest he could make out faint breathing.

“He’s alive, thank Nayru,” said Kaz, standing up. “But he’s in no state to travel. Not like this.”

“We could take him to a town, find a doctor,” said the merchant’s wife. “It’s the least we can do.”

An idea struck Kaz like a thunderbolt. He nodded to the family, “Yes, if you could do that, it would help a good deal. Where were you folks heading?”

“We were delivering amber to the Goron Protectorate.”

“Excellent, that’s where he was headed too,” Kaz improvised quickly. He took Darius’s satchel and rummaged through it. A curious note caught his eye and he pocketed it before handing the bag over to the wife. “Here are some medicines he was carrying. You can use these until you get him to a doctor. Now he’s a stubborn person and if he wakes up, he’ll insist on continuing his task. Make sure he stays and gets his rest. Don’t worry about telling the doctor to force him to stay, he’s a scribe; guards can restrain him without worrying about bruising. “

The child’s eyes widened and the merchant responded incredulously, “A scribe? Well yes sir! We’ll make sure he gets the best care as possible sir.”

Kaz nodded, “Good, here are some rupees for the trouble. I wish I could accompany you, but I..er have my own mission to complete in the old capital, which is unfortunately in the other direction. Now let’s get you back on your way.”

“Yes sir, thank you lord scribe!” Kaz didn’t attempt to correct them. They lifted Darius onto the caravan and Kaz stripped the bandits of any valuables before burying them at the side of the road. Twilight had almost faded by the time he saw the family off, trundling in the direction of the Protectorate.

Kaz dusted himself off. “Well when life gives you deku seeds…” he said to no one in particular. He started in the opposite direction. If he hurried he could be in the old capital in an hour.

*********************

“What’s a shiekah doing here?” Will asked as they walked back to Tiviri’s hideout. They had followed the mysterious cloaked figure through the evening and into the night. Will meant to return before nightfall, but they were lost for a good few hours, much to Tap’s chagrin.

“Well she’s not a scribe. Just be happy with that huh?” Tap replied. Her fox was sleeping soundly on her shoulders.

“Still, almost fooled me for a second with that cloak. Though I wonder what that funny symbol on her chest was?” Will pondered, nearing Tiviri’s alleyway.

“I don’t know, but I can’t help but think I’ve seen it before…” Tap began in an unsure voice, “Maybe I did, a long time ag-AH!”

Two hooded figures appeared into view just as they reached the alleyway. Will unsheathed his sword and Tap reached for her dagger before a familiar voice began to speak.

“There ye are mate,” said the tall woman. “I didn’t think we’d find you in this maze of a city and with that hat to boot. We need to get out of here and…” She turned towards beaming girl next to him. The smaller girl rushed over, the two women embracing while Will stared dumbfounded.

“Wait you know each other?” Will asked in shock. “Seriously? That’s pretty fortunate if you ask me.”

“It is,” mused Naomi. “Now we run into Tap, you're like a magnet, Will.”

Will threw his arms in the air, “Don't blame me, you guys are outright weird, you know that?! You must all have some sort of magical connection. Is anyone else in this crazy little group going to show up out of the blue?”

“There you are!”

Will had barely finished speaking when Kaz rushed into view. “You found him, excellent work Naomi! The plan worked.” he said, out of breath. “Now I managed to waylay the scribe for maybe a day or two, but we have to leave soon. Nice hat Will.”

Will pulled his hat off and Naomi removed her hood, “How did you get in the city?” She asked. “The gates are barred.”

Kaz held up a note and imitated Darius’s voice, “This bearer, a scribe by the name of Darius, is entitled to act in any method deemed necessary by himself, in my name. I will vouch for his actions both in spirit and in law. Signed by the Master of Kakariko City.” Laughing he lowered the note and noticed for the first time the trembling girl standing next to Will, smile fading.

His voice was hoarse, “Tap?”

“Kaz?” she asked weakly.

“Ah, so the company has finally gathered.”

Everyone turned to look at the new speaker standing at the end of the alleyway. A tall figure moved into view, his steps echoing against the looming stone walls. The Twili removed his pipe and surveyed the crowd, expelling a ring of smoke in their direction.

“Excellent.”

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Post Re: ~Forever Forgotten~ To Dust • Posted: Wed Aug 04, 2010 12:57 am
[This is an intermediate Chapter posted to keep some sort of pace going, as well as to make up for my shorter section earlier]

Chapter Eighteen: Old Bones

“It is not wise to cheat death like this.” An old voice scoffed somewhere distant. These were the first words to reach his ears when the faint flickers of firelight crept into sight. “You would think with such responsibility he would be more cautious. That he would actually-,”

Klaus was midstride when he lost his footing; the searing pain in his back took his breath away and his feet from under him. The nightstand that once held a Red Potion now lay on its side, the refreshing liquid seeping into the floorboards. Two nursemaids now stood over him, looks of worry slowly fading into smug smiles.

“I fear you’re in no health to walk, Sir Klaus.” The older of the two attendants beckoned toward her younger helper to heave the disabled Advisor back into his cot. “Spare the look of contempt; this is your fault, after all.”

He shook his head before letting it fall into his stiff pillow. Duly noted, he would have to make an order for slightly less board-like headrests with his return to the office.

“I’m well aware, Mable.” Klaus turned his head slightly to the left to address the Head Nurse. “I was even on my way to pay you an early visit. Albeit, I admit, the visit would have been conducted exactly the same way.” Brushing his hand on the floor he picked up a glass shard from the Red Potion and spun it in his fingers. His medals and soiled robes had been long removed from him.

Mable lifted one of the lit candelabras and placed it in a holding stand, filling the lower part of the room with light. “Be it early or not, your Excellency, you should not be waiting so long in between your appointments. There are reasons why you have them, you know. Now turn over so I can change your bandages for only the Gods’ know how many times I’ve done so already.”

Klaus quickly complied, sparing a wince or two from the pain. A few ‘tisks’ whistled through Mable’s teeth as she addressed the deep black stains. “You should have felt these long before five hours ago. You’re a grown man, Klaus. I shouldn’t have to hold your hand.” The Head Nurse was one of very few people who the Advisor considered a friend outside of his Royal Duties. She served under the previous King and was the oldest remaining tenant in the Castle. Not even Basyle was free of her remarks, but they all knew they were caring at heart, for she was like a second mother to them all.

“You know that I feel that my physical deformations should not come in the way of my business, Mable.”

“Being strong of mind is not going to save you from a crippled and dying body.” She worked quickly, removing the bloodied cloth with trained and steady hands. The Advisor cringed slightly as the sting of a Red Potion swab met with his wounds. The medicine worked quickly, the pain ebbing away like a swift tide. Soon he was treated to a new torso wrap and the Head Nurse was looking upon her handiwork with satisfaction. “That should hold you up for a while, just don’t go out of your way and you should be fine.”

The younger nursemaid approached having already replaced the nightstand to its proper position. Holding the broom she had swept the bottle shards in she went on to make anxious eye contact with the two superiors. She opened her mouth once, hesitated and closed it, only to open it again for a new conversation. “If I may ask a quick question.” Her voice was smooth and sweet but shaky nonetheless, obviously a new recruit under Mable’s wing. “Sir Klaus, the entire clergy, your staff, and the Knights’ Guild are well aware of your mastery of poti-,”

Before she could finish the Advisor slowly raised a hand. Klaus bowed his head before speaking, making sure not to show any possible look of contempt for the outdated question. He couldn’t blame her for not knowing, but she had done something worse and he was making preparations for it.

“The current Royal Heir, Sir Klaus, feels that there is something to be won with the cursed scars on his back, my dear. Why? Well, it’s been made very clear it is no one’s business.” And there it was, Mable’s snide voice coming to criticize him again. He couldn’t blame the younger woman, but he sure wish he could share his irk.

“They are a reminder of what I am working toward, milady.” Klaus spoke calmly, keeping his voice slightly loud and agitated as if trying to wean Mable off of her pedestal. “It seems rudimentary, but it means something to me to bear these scars. I will never forget my mentors and what happened to them. My suffering is my debt repaid; they lost their lives for my continuation. It is the least I can do.” Ignoring Mable’s silent protests, he rose from his bed and attempted to stand. Klaus did so successfully, using the cot post for what little stability he could manage.

Brushing his matted hair around to what he felt was suitable, the Advisor continued. “I have since conjured a potion that can heal my scars and stop them from reopening. But they are mine to keep and only mine to prosper through. Mable and I would lose out on our quality time and my will to right the wrongs of criminals could wane without them. That is something I can’t have, not in times like these.” He sighed and peered out at the dark sky. The storm had passed and the Moon was close to breaking free of its clouded prison. The council would have to forgive his absence from the meeting this night, rather he live and miss a conference then attend and pass in his chair.

Dying around men he barely knew was never his strongest ambition. “Maybe someday, when I feel the time is right, I will remove my reminders. But the melancholy might be too much to handle.” He winked as he started to blow the candles out by his bedside, an obvious request to be left alone.

Mable rolled her eyes and folded her arms, pulling out another bottle of Red Potion and setting it on his nightstand. “I will wake you in the morning, Klaus. I imagine Basyle will stop by for a visit to make sure you are still in one piece. Try not to break this bottle, if you would, your stock is running rather low.”

“I’ll keep that in mind, Mable, you have nothing to worry about with me. I have no other plans tonight.” Klaus lay back into his cot as his medical staff left his bedside. One candle still lit the room, casting eerie shadows upon the masonry and hanging banners. He slowly drifted off to sleep, silently jesting that a board would be more comfortable under his head.

***

The sign was most definitely written in his scrawl. It was too bad he had lost the ability over the years to understand his handwriting or else he’d be in a nice warm bed by now. Yazstromo lay behind the misshapen plank sign he had crafted many years ago as a reminder which way lead to his tower away from home. His crude bed provided a comfortable layer between damp moss and his own dew covered garments. But after many days of travel without much more than a couple mud puddles, he had been unable to bathe or wash his clothes.

“Like a fine cheese, sometimes strong, sometimes meek,” he began to rattle off an old saying he had heard a few centuries back from a travelling Dairy Salesman. “Sometimes pleasant and other times it reeks.” Shuffling through his rations he found a large circle of his poetic subject and just as he was about to cut it, he remembered he was lacking a knife. “Pity, cheddar seemed rather delectable for a moment.”

Yazstromo gazed solemnly up into the dark canopy of the trees. The Sun was beginning to set, but in the opposite direction, showing he still had a way to go. It was starting to draw a few annoyances, having to sit out all night and make sure he wasn’t pilfered by wandering Skull Kids and Stalchildren under the moonlight. Hopefully his journey would come to an end, or at least come to something not so pine-needled. He also gave silent sentiments that Benji was enjoying himself in his stead, but he had wanted an adventure after all.

The Underwoods were starting to get a tad bit old. Wandering the Underwoods at his age was a deathtrap in and of itself, one slip and there would be a broken hip, another would harbour another broken hip. Yazstromo had learned he enjoyed walking quite a lot. Five hundred years had changed him very little; he still seemed as old and as decrepit as ever, hiding a fighting and eccentric spirit under wrinkled experience.

“Now, if I’ve got this right...” He spoke aloud, half wishing he had company until the other half of his thoughts reminded him it would likely be something undead. “The sign seems to say ‘take left’ but what if it actually says ‘turn back’. But that begs the question, why would I place a sign that tells me to go the way I came if the sign before me told me to come here. Maybe I would have assumed I’d get lost eventually by reading a sign incorrectly.” Running the circular logic in his head, Yazstromo absentmindedly packed his things for what seemed the millionth time to continue his travels.

After a few more minutes of deliberation, the Scholarly man snapped his sign in two and added it to his pack for the fire he would inevitably need soon. He pulled out his crude compass and followed it to the leftmost path, the most overgrown and disturbing looking one yet. Walking through the layers of leaves he watched as the trees changed from gnarled to slightly less gnarled. The environment was slowly evolving as he went, the trail becoming less tangled in brambles and the light passing through the leaves suddenly became much more pleasant.

High above him the Sun seemed to cut across the sky as if he had missed night altogether. It was a sure sign he was going the right way. And that was what his final sign informed him as he made it to a final intersection. It was finally Sunset in the proper horizon and the smell of familiar air was on the breeze. Perhaps he’d skip another meeting with Stalchildren, after all, they were terribly antisocial, especially because of the biting.

Yazstromo looked forward to looking up on the rolling hills of Hyrule Field. After the completion of his duties as Advisor to the King of Hyrule, he had parted ways with the Kingdom and settled down in his Tower. He wondered how things were now; he was never sent any letters from anyone who could possibly know where he was. The total of those people happened to add up to none. All he had were his memories of his travels and exploits as a Scholar, as a Prophet, and as an avid cutlery collector. The looks of shock he’d be given when he returned with the spectacle of his partial gift of immortality and for the fact he hadn’t turned to dust by how old he was. He knew there were naysayers of the Prophetic Ones after such a long time, but anyone familiar with the history of the land would, or as he felt, should recognize him, believer or not.

But what would he do with all the attention? Maybe rupees would be involved, but even then he’d probably trade them for seeds or for a small boat. Perhaps he’d come across a nice little shop that sold mechanical sundries, a long lost fascination he once had. Yet as the Sun sank lower and lower and the sky bruised more deeply, Yazstromo picked up his pace.

The trees of the Lost Underwoods finally began to thin long after he had been expecting them to. Long past forty minutes earlier he had worked up his excitement to arrive in Kokiri Forest. By this time he felt he had long missed his chance. A strong wind caught him by surprise, rustling the branches and bringing with it the pleasant smell of water. Yazstromo struggled to balance his hanging lantern as he worked by faint moonlight to find the source. The calm sounds of waves finally broke through the loud cladding of his feet.

Suddenly the tree line fell away and he found himself surprised to be standing on a sandy shore. A large and unmistakable sight stretched out in front of him. The crescent Moon shone brightly upon the lake, the few stars in the sky twinkled back through wind strewn ripples. Yazstromo walked to the edge and sat down dumbfounded, placing his belongings a few feet away. The water was clear and clean, a few land masses dotted the lake, and far at the other shore the shadows of the Lost Underwoods continued.

He hadn’t the time to gawk or to try to wrap his head around what he already knew to be a simple reality. Yazstromo dumped his collection of planks and started a much needed fire. The flames danced in the darkness, gracing his hands and face with missed heat.

“Lake Hylia, how you have changed.” The old man could not figure what mood commanded his senses now, the shock of finding such a large landmark where he least expected had already faded. At that moment he was not sure how happy he was to be back in Hyrule, especially if the rest of it was as different as this old lake. “I guess five hundred years can’t change me, but it certainly can you.”

Yazstromo sighed, resigning to the night calm around him. The old twisted tree of Lake Hylia’s previous fame had finally fallen to rot and the remnants of the old Laboratory were down to a primitive foundation. He’d never forgive himself if he had missed out on his last chance to see a living breathing Kingdom. But hope came in an unusual way.

The shadow of a thin man approached from the water’s edge, stopping just out of the ring of light the fire was providing. A cracked voice called out to the nearly dozing Yazstromo, wrenching him out of his dreams.

“Excuse me, but,” the man’s voice shivered as a cool wind rushed the shore from across the water. “Is there any room for one more? I’m kind of lost.” Daedus sat down on the sandy beach, looking down into his hands at his mechanical friend. Yazstromo couldn’t help but have his eyes twinkle in long lost delight.

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Post Re: ~Forever Forgotten~ To Dust • Posted: Tue Aug 10, 2010 3:44 am
[Here it is folks, last minute and somewhat unedited. Enjoy.]

Chapter 19: Toward Fate

They had arrived in a large field, the grass under them wilted and the sky overcast. Remnants of Kokiri Village could be seen in the form of burned buildings and short skeletons scattered amidst the wreckages. The deep emerald tree line, filled with life and colour, gave a comfortable contrast to the appearance, and even in its rotting state the Forest was filled with a life giving atmosphere.

The Lost Underwoods really were something, the Deku Lord thought. He and his companion moved across the field in the general direction of the Great Deku Tree. Even though Jethro had never experienced its huge presence, the stories his friend had told made him uneasy at the sight of the Skulltullas that now nested in its festering canopy, riddled with webs and rotten branches and leaves. The trunk, warped and gnarled as it was, still managed to hold the old tree up. As they walked, the Deku Lord turned his head away in an attempt to eradicate this invasive image of his old friend. The old tree was the only Hyrulean he had ever befriended besides...

“We need to go to the village.”

“The one you told us about last night?”

“Yes, Jethro.”

They continued at a somewhat faster pace, passing by the Kokiri that used to guard the path to the Great Deku Tree, or what was left of him. All that remained were two wooden legs, rooted to the ground and ripped off just below where the knees would have been. Long stale blood clung to the now-petrified stumps, giving growth to new mushrooms around the edges. Jethro shuddered. They continued across the clearing and into the Underwoods, silence overtaking them quickly as they entered. Neither was prepared for what had greeted them upon their arrival in the land of Hyrule.

They slowed their pace as the Underwoods began to darken. The grass became more deadened and matted down, as if it had been treaded on many, many times for the last few ages. Vines and short mushrooms could be seen occasionally growing on and under the trees, and chiselled skeletons were seen from time to time. Deku Baba Sprouts became a common sighting, seeming to grow larger as they treaded deeper into the Underwoods.

A Poe was sighted a bit off travelling the toward the two wooden men, the lantern in its hands swaying gently back and forth by its rusted, half-broken chain and dimly lighting the path in front of it. Its tattered clothes were a pale lavender, accenting its facial features and..

Jethro shuddered again. As he took in the ghosts's features one by one, he looked up to see a blood-soaked bandage wrapped around its head where its 'eyes' would have been. It unsettled him, despite it being a mere apparition. He wondered how a soul became one of these damned, and if they all met with such a terrible fate. He rested his hand on the hilt of his sword as they passed, but it paid them no heed. Perhaps they were not the aggressors the Deku Lord had made them out to be.

* * *

“There are others here?” Railin called up to the guard towers, his face getting drenched by the downpour in the process. Between the water falling into his eyes and the light of the torches on the guard towers and the general darkness the Underwoods perpetually retained in the afterlife, he couldn't at all see which tower he had been hailed from.

“Of course there are! Why don't you step inside and see?”

The gate was more of a ramp than it was a door. After the guard spoke, the 'gate' was lowered into Krynditch by ropes from the towers, the wood creaking the the rope straining the whole way, before it fell haphazardly onto the ground. Railin began to step forward into the village when he was once again stopped by the yelling voice from above.

“Before you enter,” the guard started quickly, slowing once he saw Railin hold back, “you should know that you'll not be able to leave ever again. This means that you won't see your friends for a very long time, assuming they wind up with the same dismal fate you have.”

“Why couldn't they just find this village while they're alive?”

“This village exists only in the afterlife. In the real world, this is just a clearing with a haunting feel to it. What's special about that clearing is that, if a mortal soul dies inside of it while wandering the Lost Underwoods, they'll be spared the fate of those who die inside of it, instead being deposited directly into Krynditch. In fact, you're lucky you died in Crandall. The ones who die in the Underwoods can't seem to enter our village at all..”

The guard's voice trailed off. Seeing no other alternative, Railin proceeded inside the village, looking around in a small daze. The gate slammed back up behind him, making the walls of the village shudder and creak. Looking around at the weather-worn village, he sighed at his fate, resigning himself to having to occupy a house like one of these forever. They were arranged in rows, perhaps to accommodate more souls, although the village interior looked as though it far exceeded the boundaries of the exterior. Each house was a single floored cabin of sorts, each with enough for a couple rooms with which to cook and relax, and perhaps an upper loft. All he could do now was wonder how the guard knew so much about him as he took his first steps into eternity.

* * *

After a while, they strode into the familiar village-outpost hybrid the Deku Lord had once known. At a glance the village appeared unchanged, but closer examination revealed that it had not been occupied actively in a very long time. Small vines were starting to creep up the five buildings, and moss was beginning to overtake the Forest pedestal on one side. There were not the usual footprints present in the grass, and the torches on all the buildings had long since fizzled out and rotted away; most weren't even present in their holders. The upper floor of the left residential building had entirely collapsed, with bits of standing wallposts left intact; its twin on the right was decayed to the point were it might collapse to that point soon anyway. The vines that had once adorned the huts had either rotted back into the ground or been stolen. Certainly anything that wasn't one of the Forest folk would have been unable to live for more than a few days here, and would have been forced to continue their trek into the endless maze of the Demon Underwoods.

They proceeded toward the Forest Potions shop, the Deku Lord noting that the Forest Pedestal no longer held its familiar glow. If they wished to use it to leave, they would be forced to restore it. He instructed Jethro to branch off into the Foreign Goods shop and look for a jar with the label “Forest Essence” containing, ironically, a thick, fiery liquid that would be warm to the touch.

The Deku Lord stepped inside the Forest Potions shop, moving aside the now ripped worn curtain; he was met with the image of his old Kokiri guard, standing in his usual stance: hunched over a bit, hands on the counter, head drooping down a bit. But, this time he didn't bother to look up at his company.

“Who's there!?” He barked out this inquiry quickly, masking any fear he may have had of an unpleasant intruder. The Deku Lord took a closer look at his friend, first noticing that his arms faded from flesh into wood, ending with roots grown into the counter-top. His entire body appeared to be decaying slowly, and bark had grown on the back of his neck and down under his shirt and vest. Further inspection revealed that something much like a nest of maggots was devouring his right shoulder. The front of his neck was reddened and had small cuts all over it.

Who's there!?” The demand came again, sharper and more fearful this time.

“Mister Nightfield,” the Deku Lord began, regaining his composure, “what happened here?”

“You.. it's been so long.. there was a man in a dark cloak with violet emblems. They glowed red when he..!”

The Kokiri looked up at the Deku Lord, staring at him with eyes that had been turned entirely to wood. They moved about, as if searching for something to fixate upon, but it was clear they could see nothing. He cried out in agony, grief finally overcoming him after so many years.

“Please! Save me from this awful existence!”

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Post Re: ~Forever Forgotten~ To Dust • Posted: Sun Aug 22, 2010 10:20 am
Chapter 20: Disillusion

Fulkrome silently made his way back toward the house he and Femm had called their temporary home. He'd decided to leave the town for a while the day before while Femm had declared she was going to patrol the area. There had been no sense in him staying at the Old Capital if he'd have nothing to do all day. Unfortunately, even when he did head out, nothing special occurred, although he did hear some sort of fight break out that night. When the clashing of swords died down he made the decision that it couldn't have been anything too horrible and continued on his way. Now he sort of wished he'd investigated the fight, at least it would have been more interesting than making his way through the dark of night.

He entered the house, noticing that the family was out, Femm sitting with her back toward him. As he casually walked toward her, she suddenly vanished from sight, the familiar black sword now against his armour. Part of him wondered what good that would do in a real fight.

“Why are you paranoid all of a sudden?” he inquired as the blade was removed from his vision. “Or are you usually like that?”

“Sorry, I was being followed yesterday,” she muttered, “at first I figured it was just someone wanting a fight, as usual, but when they didn't confront me I began to wonder what their real purpose was.” She walked around the Darknut, turning absentmindedly to face him, “call me paranoid if you want, but I think we might have some weird new visitors.”

“As long as they aren't any worse than the rest of the criminals around here, I don't see any problem with it,” Fulkrome shrugged. “You might want to investigate it just in case though.” He was curious himself, but didn't allow his voice to betray him with that fact. Of course, he was more interested in investigating himself, but with his large form and inability to sneak around in a crowd full of Hylians, there was no chance he'd be able to find anything out.

“My thoughts exactly,” she exited the house without another word, but Fulkrome could feel the sudden tension in the air.

A new group of possible criminals hiding out here, there really wasn't anything too important about that. There was one reason that they could have been following Femm, however. The symbol of the Sheikah worn on the back of her cloak would make her seem like a Scribe from Kakariko village, meaning they must have caused some trouble there to be cautious enough to check her out from afar.

If a scribe were to enter this Old Capital, the type of trouble that could rise from their very presence here would be enough to send the entire city of criminals into a riot. That sort of chaos would bring backup and then nearly the whole area would have to be taken care of. Fulkrome inwardly winced, he could only hope that this wasn't the case because of the many innocent lives that called this place home as well.

************** ***************** *****************

After having returned to the area Tiviri had decided they were to stay in, the atmosphere had generally stayed tense, causing those that had no idea of Tap's and Kaz's past to become rather annoyed by the matter. They'd somehow managed to get some sleep, but only after the two had made sure there was as much space as possible away from each other. By the time morning came, Will finally decided to question them.

“Why are you guys basically avoiding each other?” he asked with an exasperated tone, “because how things are right now, it looks like we're going to be stuck with each other for a while, although I guess one of you could always leave.”

“We'll be fine,” Tap muttered, “our last encounter just sort of...brings back bad memories, that's all.”

Kaz merely looked away, “anyway, we have to try and come up with an area to go to after this. Darius isn't going to stay unconscious forever and a whack in the head wouldn't be enough to make him forget about Tiviri. That guy is determined to find him and bring him in.”

“Wasn't he after me too?” Will questioned, “I mean, I am one of the most wanted men around and now I'm working with Tiviri. Okay, not exactly 'working with' him, but you guys know what I mean. Is Tiveri really that important to this guy?” he glanced over at the Twili in question, “what was it that you stole again? Some stone that was important to the Sheikah?”

Tiviri took a deep breath from his pipe before expelling the smoke, “Yes, it was a stone. Although technically I never stole it, it originally belonged to my race. It was the Sheikah that stole it from us and called it their own. In truth, I just took back what belonged to me which did indeed cause them to become angered.”

“At Kakariko, they said that the artifact didn't even work,” Naomi stated, remembering what Kaz had informed them that day they'd entered the city. “Many of the people weren't interested in it because of that, but for some reason it bothered the Sheikah. None of them know that it had never belonged to them?”

The Twili shrugged, “It doesn't matter. One scribe is not enough to get the Seeking Stone back from me and I have no interest in giving it back to those that are not only unable to use it but call it their own when it doesn't belong to them in the first place. The stone will be needed in our journey.”

Tap sighed in frustration. Another journey, huh? At least it would be a bit more interesting than what she'd been doing the past years after Kaz left. “Alright, so now that we're officially off topic, could we maybe get back to thinking about where we should go next?”

“Why don't we go South East of here to a place known as Darik Village?” Jaros suddenly inquired, “they say it's an old ghost town now. People don't tend to go around there due to the rumours of poes having taken a liking for the place.”

“That sounds great,” Kaz nodded, “though we should stay here a little longer before heading out. There isn't exactly a hurry and it seems to me Tiviri has no interest in leaving yet.”

“Why would you-?” Naomi glanced over at their other companion, now sitting on the ground with his back against the old brick wall to their left. “Oh, I see,” she sighed, “fine, we can stay for a while. Though we really need to be careful.”

************* ***************** ******************* *************

“I see that you're back,” Fulkrome stated as his companion walked through the door. “Looks like you didn't find anything out. If that's the case, they can't be that important. Maybe they've even already left here.”

“I doubt it, no one has left this place yesterday night or today; they're still here, just hiding somewhere,” she replied with a harsh tone. “Anyway, it doesn't concern you. If you're staying in tonight then go to sleep, I can see that the others have already done so.”

“Fine, I can see that you're in your usual bad mood,” he muttered, leaning against the wall he was sitting by.

The fire place crackled as Femm absentmindedly moved the wood around, having taken one of the still burning sticks out of the fire. Even in the near silence of the house, she couldn't help but feel as though something was honing in on her, like someone was walking toward the house. Just as she was pushing these thoughts aside, a low creak was heard from the main entrance.

Quickly standing up, burning stick in hand, she noticed a shadow slowly entering the house, closing the door behind themselves. Throwing the stick, she was surprised to see it suddenly come to a halt in front of the creature's face. He didn't exactly look like a Hylian or Sheikah, having the coloured skin that he did, but she recognized it from somewhere.

“Who are you?” she questioned harshly, “and what is your reason for coming here at this time of night?” What was she thinking? This was a town full of criminals, why ask this person what they were doing when the answer was obvious? Still, from the way he was just standing there in front of the door, unmoving and silent, that in itself made it clear he wasn't there to steal from the owners of this house.

“My name is Tiviri,” he replied, sucking the pipe in his mouth, expelling a few smoke rings. “I was guided to you by an object I have. It seems you have even more magical energy than any Hylian I have met thus far and what's more, you have impeccable control over most of it. If I may question, what sort of race are you from?”

Femm stared at him for a moment, “it doesn't matter what race I'm from. You seem like a nice enough person, so how about you turn around and leave right now...?” she trailed off, noticing the stone in his hands for the first time. She'd seen it before; the Seeking Stone. It was said to be a Sheikah artifact, but her father informed her that it came from another race all together. “You're a Twili?”

Tiviri gave her a questioning glance, “there are few that know of my race, how is it that you know of it?”

Sighing, she decided to answer his question. “I'm what you could call a 'half-breed', my being half-Sheikah, half-Demon. The one that told me of your race was my Father, the demon of my family. That stone you have, that was in Kakariko, how did you manage to get a hold of it?”

“It was relatively simple, although I won't go into detail about it. A half-Sheikah, half-demon female, that's something I'd yet to hear about during my time in this world.”

“Not surprising, I'm the only one that I've ever come across during my journeys.”

“Femm, if you were going to talk so loud to yourself, why did you want me to-?” Fulkrome stopped, eyeing the stranger standing before them. Standing, he glared, “I've heard legends of your kind, the red eyed-demons that once tried to take over Hyrule.”

Tiviri's gaze moved to Fulkrome, “and you are a Darknut, correct? Your kind killed many of the Hylians, so the old Legends say.”

“How about we take this outside, there are people trying to sleep and this house doesn't exactly keep noise out very well,” he growled. “I've made a decision to kill all of those that are evil, so it would seem you're my next opponent.”

“Fulkrome,” Femm snapped, “stop with your 'I'm going to kill all those that are evil', speech for a minute. You don't even know who he is. If I had been like that when we first met you'd be dead right now,” her voice was cold again, causing the Darknut to sigh with annoyance.

“Fine, we can fight some other time, 'red-eyed demon',” he muttered with distaste.

Tiviri glanced out of the nearby window, it had been late when he decided to use the seeking stone and now dawn was beginning to approach them. “I have to get back to my companions, it's a wonder none of them awoke when I left. Perhaps the future will bring our two groups together.”

“I doubt that,” Femm turned a cool gaze toward the Twili. “When you get back to your friends, let that girl with the fox and the boy with the rapiers know that the 'Scribe' said they're horrible at keeping their distance.”

He nodded, faintly amused that the two had gotten close enough for her to be able to pick out those details. Turning toward the door he remembered the glowing stick of wood that was still floating in front of him, “You can have your stick back.”

With that, the piece of wood flew back toward the fireplace, but before it could reach its destination, the fire suddenly consumed it. The ball of fire moved to rotate around Femm, her gaze slightly colder from before. “Leave before I'm forced to take matters into my own hands.”

Tiviri opened the door and sunk back into the light morning darkness. He was surprised that the people living there had allowed a Dark Nut and a mysterious yet knowingly powerful female stay at their house, having it also being occupied by a child.

“Go back to sleep,” Femm sighed, “we didn't wake you up did we?” The fire ball took its spot within the raging flame still burning in the fire place.

“Alright,” she yawned, “and I was just getting some water.”

After the child finally went back to bed, Fulkrome sat down again, leaning back against the wall, Femm staying to sit in front of the fire place. After a few minutes of silence, he decided to question her, “so, was that your Father?”

She stared at him, “From now on, remind me to introduce you as 'Fulkrome the idiot.' My Father has been dead for years.”

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Post Re: ~Forever Forgotten~ To Dust • Posted: Tue Oct 05, 2010 7:27 pm
Alright.

Rather than keep you all waiting an eternity I have decided to break my chapter into two parts. Yes this means you all have to wait a while longer, but it also means you get to read the first 6000 words or so. I will either delete this post and replace it with the full segment so it shows Blue on the forums, or well, I can do a lot of other stuff :P.

So remember: no one is writing during this next period (still) as I have to conclude this piece. Enjoy what I have so far, it's fairly rough and unedited so don't shoot me.

Chapter 21: The Stars on Velvet

Only a few cinders were left smouldering in the ash. The Moon had taken over the job of lighting their camp, the flames forgotten for rest and relaxation. It had been a last minute venture; with the ailing Klaus they were given the only direct order of leaving the Castle by dusk. Benjamin had been tasked with heading this Second Convoy to meet Ashtar’s Caravan; at least, it was the second attempt at fulfilling the trip.

Many of the straggling Knights those few hours earlier had been rounded up like caught mice to populate three carriages. Benjamin, having served as one of the most prominent captains in the Guild for nearly ten years, was caught gathering his wools to return home. James and Zachary were enlisted from their bedside in the Old Knight’s Tower and assigned duties on different carriages. The overall mood that night was of sleepy regret and disinterest with their mission. Sir Jonathan of the Council was the only man who seemed miffed about the whole ordeal, sitting stark still in his Carriage, eyes scanning the dark windows in inexplicable fear.

None of them enjoyed hearing the fate of the previous knights sent to meet Ashtar. In the morning light they would leave with their Official, Jonathan, into the borders of Labrynna, haphazardly ready for the threat that could befall them. But now, under the moonlight all subjects of the Kingdoms were subject to, the idea of death was hardly enough to lose sleep over. Only Jonathan and Benjamin remained awake, Jonathan in his skittish demeanour and candlelight, Benjamin in his half-hearted vigilance to guard the camp under velvet skies.
They had chosen to camp near a small precipice, its depth repetitive as the soldiers in their waning hours of consciousness had taken a liking to tossing down rocks and pebbles on the trailside. Benjamin would have to wake them soon, they wouldn’t enjoy travelling through the winding paths of Death Mountain and its opposite foothills in heavy fog. Once, many years prior bandits had called this area a haven, why none lived here anymore was a mystery to them all, nothing had changed.

Even after all that time some of their belongings had still been left in caves, untouched, rusted and worthless. Crude foundations dotted short flats in the Mountain’s sides where huts once sat, the homes of pillaged belongings, rapists, murderers, and thieves. That dark past seemed to echo here and spread across all of Hyrule. History was a subject all Hylians knew too well.

In the hours of travel they had already passed, troubling news surfaced from Kakariko City. Scribes of varying ranks had replaced the Guards in almost every duty by order of Master Orilieus due to the recent robberies and the escape of the individuals. Names had not been dropped; identities had been kept upon sealed lips.

“Klaus is certainly going to wake to one hell of a morning,” Benjamin mused to himself, leaning very dependently upon his carriage, listening to the bated breath of his sleeping companions as it carried out into the night air. Perhaps this was the last and only place where he could find Hyrule in its long lost peace and beauty. Someday even this haven from the chaos of the outside world would find its way back to a hellish past. The cold wind forced his shudder, his breath coiling away into the night air like a spectre into darkness.

***

“I’m afraid there is nothing to find there, anymore,” Yazstromo sighed long and hard. Centuries old memories and horrors being had in only a few hours of exposition had him feeling even wearier by the firelight. Soon he’d have to cork his longwinded charisma before he collapsed of exhaustion and painful nostalgia. His guest, however, seemed unfazed, staring back at him the entire time soaking in every sentence. When he heard Yazstromo speak of the Castle beyond the Wood, his heart sank only a little.

The Scholar forced his smile, shaking his head at the whole ordeal. Five hundred years earlier he was telling himself that he’d find solace in what occurred, the friends he lost, but digging down for the young man’s satisfaction had turned out to be more difficult than he ever imagined. Yazstromo had not felt like himself in a very long time.

Daedus raised a single pointed finger, opening his mouth as if to speak but ultimately closing it again. Cinders sparked up by his face as the fire dwindled with the height of the Moon. Surely they had gotten past the idea that after so many years something had brought the men back together, yet it didn’t feel right. The old man seemed exactly the same, but the world in which Daedus embraced so readily thirty years prior, was hardly the world he was kept from.

“Magic is always a wondrous thing, I must say. It is nearly more interesting than the scales of a Hylian Loach. Both shimmer in the light of day, but in the dark there is nothing more black and empty,” Yazstromo tugged at his beard, gazing at Daedus with the utmost curiosity. “It is what has made this meeting possible, you’ve nigh aged three decades since we last met, and certainly I haven’t either,” he chuckled quietly, tracing strange pictures in the sand with his Walking Staff.

“But magic is not always spells, wizards, and witches; magic comes in many more shapes. I find just the idea of the Sun rising to be a magical experience, even if it is made to do so every day,” an owl nearby hooted as if agreeing with his late night ramblings. Daedus was more than surprised to hear such a strange noise come from the blackness around them. “Are there things you consider magical, Daedus?”

For a moment the younger of the two men furrowed his brow, finally opening his mouth with the true intention to speak. “I think everything here is, well, I never got your name...” He trailed off, clutching Lewis tightly, keeping him out of sight. Now that he thought of it, he never recalled telling him his name either.

“My name is Yazstromo, friend of many a peculiar breed. You could say I am a connoisseur of eccentric people and things,” shuffling around, he plucked a long dead mollusc shell out of the sand, throwing it into the pitiful flames. “I remember quite vividly your fascination all those years ago with fireworks and collectables. I hope you did not want your forks back; I finally grew tired of cutlery and sold them. A man can only stand being prodded by sharp metal objects so many times.”

“You don’t have to worry, Yazstromo,” Daedus struggled pronouncing his companion’s name, his tongue unfamiliar with such an obscure sounding title. Obviously the older man was given some glee by his difficulty, but Daedus knew it was all in good nature. “My collecting days ended long, long ago. Believe me, it was hardly a tiresome time...”

The owl called again, waking a few cranky and loud crows in a nearby tree. Yazstromo scooped up a handful of sand and dumped it over their worn fire, snuffing it out almost immediately.

“Wait, aren’t we going to need that tonight, to keep the anima-,” Daedus was shushed promptly on his own accord as Yazstromo ceremoniously removed a familiar looking firework and set it upon the previous fire pit. Striking one of his matches he lit the fuse on the small rocket. After only a few seconds and ears were plugged, the firework took off into the starry sky where it exploded loudly and into a flurry of rich reds, violets, and blues.

“I think that will keep the bears away from gnawing our heads. We haven’t the wood to spare for the fire anyway. It is bad luck to cut the trees of the Lost Wood, you know.” The Scholarly man sat back down, brushing away all of his crudely drawn symbols with his blanket. Tossing his second sheet to Daedus, Yazstromo flopped down with as much elegance as a Moblin. His company mimicked the same, setting the ailing Lewis in a dry hovel in the sand beside him.

Only the wind made any sort of noise now. The fire was gone, only a few glowing sticks remained, their heat quickly lost to the darkness. High above the remaining shower of lights from the rocket finally faded against the stars, leaving an even stronger smoky smell around their camp. It was pleasant for both men, lying on opposite sides of the fire pit, their eyes fixated on the bright Moon.

Yazstromo broke what was nonchalantly established as resting hours.

“How was it you knew of the Castle beyond the Wood, Daedus? Not even those in the Royal Family devote their minds to the knowledge of such things,” the question was legitimate and harmless upon execution. Before the sweating Daedus could reply, Yazstromo gave a muffled laugh. “A little birdie told you, didn’t he?”

Daedus said nothing. Had he not hidden Lewis carefully enough that evening, or had all those years finally caught up to him? Had Yazstromo finally figured he was the thief of his rusted little friend? Even worse, did he let him take him away?

“Do not fret about those days gone by,” Yazstromo soothed. “Truth be told, I wasn’t very fond of Lewis in the first place. He can be very obnoxious some weeks.” He smiled to himself as he knew his friend across the sand was returning the gesture.

And they both concluded in their own minds that if Lewis were still in any condition to do so, he would have smirked just the same. However a small metallic bird could.

***

She had hardly slept an hour that night. Rocking to and fro on the creaking chair; discovering the squeak she had first thought of the rest of her comrades, before remembering he was just in the other room. The rest of them would have to live with her slight sadistic mood, just for a little while. When Tiveri had left, Tap had pretended to be asleep in her seat, facing one of the few windows in their hideout. Through the corner of her eye she watched him thoroughly check everyone else’s state except hers. The reasons why he didn’t bother, she had not a clue.

Kip lay silent in her lap, unaware that he was the only one sleeping. He seemed to be dreaming, his legs twitching as if in chase, his teeth chewing back and forth across her tattered cap. Snores from the men were soft from the other room, their unknown sound causing the fox’s ears to pull back in their own unconscious curiosity. For a long time he had acted as Tap’s comforting force, but as hard as Kip may have tried, he wasn’t able to sew up the aging hole in her heart. Having Kaz here brought her more agony than she had ever imagined.

“You do need your rest.”

The deep voice startled her from her thoughts and her chair, unceremoniously dumping Kip onto the floor. Tiveri held up his hands in the faint moonlight to calm her as best as his bizarre figure could. He watched the fox regain its senses, swearing it shot him a glare before jumping into Tap’s empty seat.

“I think that’s something that’s my business,” Tap turned away, her hand clamped on her arm in a bashful manner. After only a few seconds of quiet she decided to speak. “Shouldn’t you be resting? After all, you’ve been out quite a while tonight.”

Surprised again by his actions, she watched him chuckle and fold his arms. “Shifting the focus is a long dead trick if my time in this Kingdom has taught me well,” he coughed, noting that his smoking was getting a bit out of control from all of this stress. “One could never guess that such a conservative shell housed a feisty core of a girl,” he noted Tap blush and fluster at the remark, amused by the novelty of seeing such emotions from a hardened warrior. Perhaps the guise of the title was simply that.

“What do you even want?” Picking up her fallen cap, Tap placed it on Kip’s once again sleeping head. “Last time I checked you weren’t exactly the talkative type, skulking around behind everyone’s backs.”

“I can understand if you’re not pleased by my, how will I put this, choice of vocabulary. But I hardly think we have enough time to discuss matters of my relations with Hyrulings,” he watched her twinge as if he had spoken some sort of slur. Were all of these Hylians this sensitive? “Not to leave you embittered,” Tiveri continued, taking a seat across the small room effectively reducing his height to match that of Tap standing. “But if you must know, the Stone beckoned me away.”

The Twili glanced to the partially cracked door to the other room, watching the huddled shadows of his companions shudder with each breath. “There is someone with considerable strength hiding in this city. I felt it wise to try to find whoever they were. I was successful,” he activated the stone as he spoke, gazing into its brilliant lustre. “But only momentarily.”

Tap gave him a puzzled gaze, slowly opening the idea of speaking with the strange creature. Once she had been distrustful of another man only to learn it was for naught, perhaps Tiveri would repeat his actions. “Momentarily? Who did you find?”

“It was a Sheikah, but certainly of a different breed. She wore the Eye in the Old City, a foolish endeavour,” Tiveri snapped the Seeking Stone from its hanging pose, almost entranced by the light shining through his fingers. “There are many criminals here who would certainly enjoy having her head on their mantle, Scribe or not. Why she wears her emblem so proudly with her blood and despite her strength, I do not understand.”

“Then I guess we don’t have to worry about her trying to turn us in then, which is all the better,” Tap watched as her companion deactivated the Stone and returned it to its place. After a moment of silence, she felt obligated to continue the conversation. “When do you supp-,”

“Her name was Femm, she bears company with a Darknut, the last creature I expected to meet here,” Tiveri placed his pipe in his mouth before shaking his head and setting it aside, as if trying to quit then and there. “Foul company amongst a city of fetid felons may not be the wisest thing a Sheikah has ever done. Though with the case of the Scribe of Kakariko, there is some competition.”

Tap felt like she should smile, deriving at least a hint of humour on the Twili’s solemn face. After forcing the expression she had been without since Kaz arrived, the Innocent watched her company stand again, towering over her as he made his way to the window.
“Soon Darius will become wise as to what has happened. Perhaps the Hyruling Male you’ve come to find such distaste with shall be heralded a noble no longer,” Tiveri closed his glowing eyes, letting the moonlight’s tendrils ebb at his strength. “The Old Capital is only a temporary haven for us. Words will fly about our presence soon enough,” he turned to Tap and awkwardly placed his hand on her shoulder. “Now wouldn’t be the time to let personal vendettas get in the way of survival. If the Scribe finds you and your friends with Hyruling Desesperacion and me, our fate will become yours.”

The Innocent’s eyes fell to the floor, trying to find some reason to combat Tiveri’s words. She hadn’t much time to think before he yet again changed the subject.

“There is someone else in the Capital walls with powers unlike any other I’ve sensed. I fear that it may be some sort of Bounty Hunter, sent to retrieve us in the light of Darius’s decommission,” Tiveri approached the door, tracing his fingers around the edges. Suddenly a faint aura came to life through the cracks, deep violet and calming. The spell was weak but would keep out any amateur magician and every thief. “Femm’s presence prevents me from finding whoever this might be. They are both powerful individuals, it’s as if they can overload the Seeking Stone’s sense of direction.”

“So ever the more reason to get as far away from here as we can.”

The two were surprised to hear the cool voice emerge from the next room. Jaros approached, looking wide awake, likely eavesdropping the entire time. “If Orilieus is as smart a man as his followers speak of him, this ‘Bounty Hunter’ might very well be some of his best Scribes sent to sweep one of the most notorious hideouts in the entire Kingdom.”

Tiveri mused over the idea, ultimately shaking his head. “No, this is different from any Scribe in Kakariko. If Orilieus’s men were swarming the Old Capital, tonight would hardly be so quiet. It might be better if we stay together during our visit, take in the ‘sights’ as you call it. We can’t afford to be separated when and if we have another enemy treading our path.”

“And what are we supposed to do when the Knight’s Guild line the streets in just two more days?” Jaros unravelled a small piece of parchment he had stored in his pocket. It was the same advert Tap had come across in Kakariko City. Soon the fantastic splendour of the Festival would grace the Capital, but it was not just a time for celebration. Whispers of trouble gathering the several Ambassadors for the Royal Banquet were beginning to take hold in the Old City, foreboding words to cloud the reputation of the Autumn Festival even further.

“Then we will not break the Season’s tradition,” the Twili turned his back to the Lyos, making short time across the room to return to his chair. “We shall give the Knights something memorable to do while on their posts.”

Tap could see the gears working in the minds of the two men in her company. A clash of interests would get them nowhere. But right now she could find no reason to be interested. As long as she wasn’t paired with Kaz, she would be content. However, something told her that if Naomi had her way, she and Kaz would never get out of each other’s sight.

“We should be resting,” Tiveri spoke quietly, his voice passive to his suggestion. “Who knows what the morning could bring? There may be news of strange company we may not want to hear,” he ignored his temporary willpower and lit his pipe. Rings of smoke drifted into the waning moonlight. The Twili couldn’t remember when either of his company had left him alone; it was morning before he knew it.

***

The following morning was cool, as it should have been. Winds cut across the chilled lake, the warm water lapping away the shoreline frost. Leaves fell in droves, ripped from their summer abodes to scatter aimlessly across the land. Signs of the previous night’s habitation were all but erased; only the outlines of two men could be found depressed into the sand. In the hours of the evening even these would be washed away with Lake Hylia’s gradual tides. High above the Moon faded into the dawn sky.

Lewis bobbed up and down on Daedus’s shoulder. Their companion had at first reluctantly offered his cooking oils to help the tiny machine move again; but after a few disappointed and glum looks, Yazstromo gave in. “When you have the hankering for fried vegetables, or a slightly less fishy tasting fish, then that’s too bad,” he had said as he delicately dabbed at Lewis’s figure, smiling smugly as he worked. He was a good man, not just for helping Daedus’s mechanical friend, but for accepting his company in spite of his actions in their brief past.
Daedus hoped that this was the sort of courtesy all people shared in Hyrule, but something told him not to get his ideas skewed by the kindness of only a few. But it was through the work of these compassionate people that truly made him fall in love with residing someplace else rather than that infernal hut. He may have had everything he needed to survive, the necessities to continue through his terminal existence. But even he had learned he was not really living.

“Now if I have my bearings,” Yazstromo stopped abruptly in front of Daedus, nearly being run over in the process. Plucking a nearby reed, the Scholarly Man fell to his rump and began to draw a crude map. “We’ve travelled at least three hours worth in this direction,” he traced a scraggly line roughly north on his chart from the Lake.

“This looks nothing like what I remember,” Lewis’s voice slowly shrieked from his plated beak, literally rusted from years of silence. “Where is it that you’re taking us?”

Yazstromo at first seemed to ignore the question, before simply shrugging and continuing to draw his symbols for various locations even he shouldn’t have been familiar with. Perhaps it was another one of those reverse elderly moments he had become accustomed to, but his role as a Prophet was long dead. He decided to attribute it to incredible luck and his incredible skills at completely guessing.

“We’ll go wherever our path takes us. I’d love to do some sightseeing after so long. But if we keep going in this direction,” Yazstromo blindly waved his free arm in a random direction to the northeast. “I think we’ll get to Kakariko quite reasonably soon.”

Lewis squawked his disapproval as best he could. Daedus stopped and hummed over the idea. “I don’t think we’ll enjoy it very much there. I ate at this small little tavern,” he turned around and pointed before realizing he had no idea which direction was what anymore after all this travelling. Quickly he pulled himself together and tried to pass over the mistake. “The man there told me that things weren’t going very well in this part of the world, lots of bad people running amuck. I can’t imagine the City being much better.”

“I suppose you are right, but where else could we go? If the whole Kingdom is on its knees thanks to criminals, as you say, I can’t imagine there being anything to look forward to,” Yazstromo sounded glum, as he should have been. But after wiping away his crafty map he still had that same glint in his eye. Maybe his optimism would make the trip, but five hundred years was a long time.

What if Hyrule broke his heart?

Yet before the first Advisor could express his feelings any further, there was a rustling and snapping of the brambles nearby. Daedus, having yet experienced everything the world had to offer, could not seem to choose between reacting with fear or with curiosity. Lewis lamented his ability to fly, choosing to stiffly hop an inch closer to his owner’s head; the days when he could hide in one were beginning to be sorely missed.

The snorts of horses came next from the brush, soon followed by two of the animals underneath armoured riders. One was a Hylian and the other a Zora, both bearing arms and the crests of their respective Royal Armies on their chest plates.

“You two! What are you doing trespassing on the Southern Grounds?” The voice of the Zora was deep, his specialized tunic hiding much of his face and physique. He seemed to be quite small, but that meant he was very agile, even with such heavy armaments weighing him down.

“Southern Grounds? I’m sorry; I haven’t been to Hyrule in quite some time, I’m afraid we’re a bit lo-,”

“It is by the decree of the Royal Advisor of the King that no one approaches the Village,” this time the Hylian spoke, he seemed to be a veteran of sorts, tired eyes and aged skin peered out from under his helmet. It seemed fitting that an experienced warrior was hired for such an important job. Whatever that job might have been.

“A Hylian village? in the middle of the Forest?” Yazstromo began to trace his mental map in midair, his finger shaking slightly as he went. The two Soldiers gave Daedus a puzzled look, only to watch him merely shrug and proceed to sit down on the damp ground.

“Are you sure he should be out in a place like this?” The Zora pointed a thumb back at the mumbling Yazstromo, trying to raise a response from the complacent Daedus. He had gained at least some knowledge of authoritative figures and how to behave around them in his past visits, but he was amazed at seeing an entirely different race of creature.

“Ah!” Yazstromo chimed as he tugged at his beard in thought. Spinning on his heels he hummed for a few seconds more, finally raising his fist into the sky as if to mark a grand proclamation worthy of the Gods. “Nope, no clue what you fine fellows are talking about.”

The Hylian soldier shook his head and sighed. He went about gesturing his free hand down to Yazstromo, beckoning him to take it. After a slight fumbling and a gruff snort of disapproval from the steed, the old man was seated behind the rider. “I think you’re in need of our assistance.”

“Wonderful! It has been ages since I’ve ridden a horse,” Yazstromo clapped, winking at his travelling companion, noting that he was putting on a senile ruse just for a free ride out of the Underwoods. What simple cunning was possible of doing, or as the Scholarly man felt was what wonderful luck he had been having.

Daedus and Lewis were helped up by the Zora, who seemed indifferent to the whole thing. “I think the next time you choose a venue to walk with your father, you might want to check a map first.”

“But he isn’t my fath-,” the younger of the aging men interjected, only to be interrupted stiffly.

“Sir Klaus would not be pleased if we let our guard down,” the Aquatic Knight pulled on the reins of his horse and began to head back into the trees from whence he came. His partner followed suit. “They say Darik Village is haunted with the Poes of those killed in cold blood back when the Advisor was younger.”

“Sounds spooky,” Yazstromo chirped from behind them, grabbing at leaves and twigs as they rode along, mistakenly knocking his driver in the back of the head. There was a slight grumble of incoherent words from the man but nothing vulgar. At least that’s what Daedus had heard. “Wait...,” the old man cleared his plate of ideas for appearing senile to ask a sensible question. A question that meant a lot to him no less. “This young Klaus is Advisor to the King?”

The Hylian Knight peered over his shoulder, his look cast in doubt and scepticism. “Sir Klaus has served on the Council for many ye-,”

“And what is this ‘Sir’ business? Shouldn’t he be a Lord, mind you that job is not easy!” Yazstromo tugged at his beard, a judgmental index finger raised into the air as if he were lecturing.

“You two aren’t from around here, are you?” Daedus’s rider spoke matter-of-factly as they cleared the Forest, returning to the sprawling fields of Hyrule. In the distance there could be seen a few smokestacks rising to greet the sky. No doubt that was the village these men were in charge of.

Lewis was about to speak, the opening of his beak making a sharp sound. His owner gave him a darted look, surprised neither guard had asked what was sitting on his shoulder. Taking the glance to stay quiet, Daedus tried to fumble together some sort of response. “We’ve been travelling. My father,” using the term came out queer on his tongue. “Well, he has gotten ill and it was decided he wanted to visit Hyrule just once more. Even if he can’t appreciate it, I’ve done something for him in spirit.”

What a romantic one he is, Yazstromo smiled meekly looking up at the sky before trying to continue his ranting. However, he was defeated as the Hylian Soldier pulled back on the reins to stop his horse and proceeded to hop off to the ground. Further ahead the Zora mimicked the action.

“I’m afraid we can’t escort you any further,” the man motioned towards Yazstromo to be helped down. “Despite trespassers being rare, if we were caught away from our posts the Sir Klaus would have our swords.”

“Not a problem, young lad,” Yazstromo landed delicately on his rump. He wasn’t even sure if that was on purpose for a hopeless ruse. His backside was none too impressed. “Civilization is but... How close is the next town to here?” Starting again, his hand was lowered from midair by the helpful soldier, who was using his finger to point them in the right direction.

“An hour’s walk from here you should find a suitable place for the night among the mountains,” the soldier appraised the two senior men and shook his head. “The Gorons at the Protectorate might find you a liability but nonetheless I hope you two can be lucky enough to find another escort there. These fields are dangerous even in daylight. Hide your fancier trinkets and keep to yourselves, if not for the bandits I would have a clearer conscience doing this.”

Yazstromo shook his head and placed his hand on the younger man’s shoulder. “You won’t have to fear for my safety, I’ve been told I pack quite a formidable punch,” he left their company with a sly smile and a wink for good measure. The Scholarly Man beckoned Daedus to accompany him onto familiar looking hills.

“Gorons, Yazstromo? Even in my time here I have not heard kind words about the creatures,” Lewis chirped before hacking away another chip of his rusted beak. Maybe talking would have to wait until he was properly repaired. What could another few days hurt?

“You have nothing to fret over, Lewis, as they say, the hardest exterior only ends up covering the softest hearts.”

“Who says that?” Daedus replied.

“Haven’t the slightest, my good Daedus, none at all.”

The Sun shone at their backs, the cool winds of autumn encircling their journey hardened feet. To where they would take the two men this time, neither knew. At this time of life, everything was worth the trip.

***

“What?!” Klaus boomed, the ornamental quill in his hand breaking in two. He slammed his fist on the brittle pieces of his pen, trying to find an outlet for his temper. Around him the council were seated, Klaus sitting at the right hand of the King, who seemed just as furious at the man at the end of the table. He was a fresh recruit to the Knight’s Guild, his final testing before being sworn in was to act with superior officers at Kakariko City.

And now his career was tarnished at his failure, and at Orilieus’s request to send him for an audience with the Capital Council.

“You’re telling me that with all the resources Orilieus has in his City,” the Advisor closed his eyes, trying to regain the little composure he had at this time of morning. “A dozen Sheikah Scribes and fifty stationed Hylian Guards were unable to handle two criminals?”

“That is, I suppose, a summar-,” the young Knight was interrupted by the deep voice of the King. In a lapse of masculinity, he let out a shrill whimper at his dignity’s expense.

“Two notably dangerous criminals enter one of the most heavily guarded cities in all the Kingdoms, and this is the best that can be done?” King Basyle attempted to hide his outrage, but his crimson face shone like a beacon of both embarrassment and fury. “You have me understand that this ‘shadow’ manages to steal away a prized relic from under Master Orilieus’s nose, a Sheikah relic no less! Does he not realize how much of a struggle it has been to cleanse the ties between our peoples?”

The councilmen all shared their own looks of worry and disgust at the news. This young man had been sent by Orilieus to brief the Lords of the Capital Council about the situation at Kakariko City. Whether it was a snub that he not appear personally or a genuine inability to attend, they would soon discover.

“Orilieus has always been a considerate man, the Council is aware of this,” Klaus broke the clamour of whispers and darting looks he was being given by the messenger at the table’s end. “If he wishes to apologize to this council about his ignorance or lack of competence at apprehending the troublemakers of Kakariko, I bid you return to him with the request. We are all anxious to hear what he has to say, and what he has been doing since Desesperacion’s and the shadow’s escape.”

King Basyle cleared his throat and addressed the Knight by name. “To make this painfully clear, as the Master of Kakariko is generally busy with his leaf juice, tell Orilieus he is expected to attend the Royal Banquet at the Autumn Festival both as a guest of honour and for a debriefing to this council. Let him know that I personally await him with open arms. He may bring whoever he pleases as his dining partners. You may leave,” he directed the two Soldiers to open the chamber doors and escort the messenger out of his sight. The passiveness dripped off his fingertips.

One of the Council members stood to address the group. “What shall we do in the meantime? William Desesperacion’s reappearance has only brought this Council misery. With a possible warlock as a companion, it may be unwise to smoke him out with conventional Knights.”

“You are on the right track, Graydon, if the ‘shadow creature’ is working together with the outlaw, it would be a death sentence to any Soldier. We all are aware of Desesperacion’s actions, his ignorance of authority,” the Advisor squeezed the bridge of his nose, looking down at the strangled remains of his quill and insulting himself with the notion he lost his poise. “But any actions now must wait; we need Orilieus’s take on the events, what his plans have become. You are all dismissed to your pleasure.”

Slowly the suffocation of the room subsided, the last robed man exited through the chamber doors, the heavy oak set back into its frame. Basyle still sat at his post, sifting through parchments Klaus had recently filed involving Desesperacion and his recent murders.
“Why must this Festival be sworn in on uneasy words? I was hoping that after five hundred years there would be an end to all the fuss. Yet it seems just in Hyrule’s historical luck that things have to go awry.”

Klaus shared the same sentiments as the King, folding his hands in front of him. The bandages from the night before had been spoiled but he had put off treatment for the assembly. If Mable knew, she’d have his head. “We will just have to make the best of it. The first Ambassadors will be arriving this evening and the vassals have started decorating the City streets and the Castle for the festivities. Despite everything, I think it is in our best interest to try to enjoy ourselves. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel like,” he paused and shook his head. “It is as if Hyrule has forgotten how to live.”

“If the Prophetic Ones were alive to see these days, I could not blame them for questioning their heroism,” Basyle smiled meekly, putting the documents away in his satchel. He was never a man for airs, just like Klaus. He only wore his crown for addressing the Capital and for Festivals; even his kingly attire was retired for council meetings. If the young knight had never gazed at the aging face of his King, he would not have known to who to bow.

Perhaps this is what makes the job worthwhile, Klaus thought, watching as his friend nodded informally to signify his exit of the Lords’s chamber. A vassal knowing his King actually cares. A vassal being able to call his King a friend rather than just his superior. Watching Basyle leave, the Advisor spoke the words he knew to be true in his heart. Maybe the walls could tell him what to do, or what to feel.

“If the Prophetic Ones were alive to see these days, I could not blame them for turning tail and leaving us behind.”

The walls had nothing to say.

***



I shall return!!

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Post Re: ~Forever Forgotten~ To Dust • Posted: Tue Nov 16, 2010 10:25 pm
Chapter 22: Under God’s Shadow

The abandoned shack off the hillside reminded them exactly of where they were. Everything from this peak to Lynna City was barren and left to rot. Labrynna was a crumbling place, its glorious past lost to the depths of the Sea of Storms and to the fields of its neighbours.

Having crossed the Death Mountain range, Benjamin and his men began their descent into the misty foothills of Rolling Ridge. There were no Gorons here, this coming as no surprise as most had moved to more hospitable and easily navigable areas in Hyrule. The Protectorate featured most of the Gorons known in this region of the Kingdoms and was a force soon feared by the Hylians and their kin. Who could blame a fear of boulder eating behemoths? Recent failings of ties between the Gorons of the Protectorate and several royalties, especially that of Hyrule, caused witness of change in the social structure of their city. The Gorons of old, renowned as peaceful and docile, had been replaced by violent and deceptive descendants.

It coldly gave a call back to the betrayal of the Sheikah much earlier in the Kingdom’s history. King Basyle was many a king of Hyrule who had since needed to tiptoe around these tribes for the sins of his great grandfather, and his before him. Benjamin could only wipe his brow in respect of their obscene luck. Gorons did not take very kindly to the Knight’s Guild Coat of Arms.

“We still have quite a journey ahead of us,” the Captain struck his flag into the eroded mountainside, surveying his tired and sorry lot. “The Nuun Highlands are at least another eight hours ahead.”

Groans became the return, some loud and angry, some tired and meek. Sir Jonathan said nothing at all, seated on the step of his carriage and looking quite ill. Benjamin hushed them and spoke through their same worn demeanour. “I would give us a few hours of rest, but the Ambassador is the Guest of Honour at the Festival. We can’t afford to waste any more time. King Basyle would have our heads if we bring Ashtar back any later than he already is.”

Everyone seemed to cringe, not at the idea of punishment, but from the cruel reality of the fate of the first Convoy. The Captain’s words came out more like debilitating death threats than they were supportive of progress.

“I think you should offer the men at least a bit longer for compensation,” surprisingly Jonathan spoke up, one of the first instances since the previous day’s departure. His voice was cracked and uneven; perhaps his nerves were getting the best of him. “But I think we should at least leave the Foothills, this fog will only get worse as the morning Sun tries to rise.”

There was a murmur of agreement from the crowd, their eyes darting back to the silhouetted figure of Benjamin and his flag. Using what felt like his last bit of energy, the Captain withdrew his marker and pointed it toward a stumbling path a few metres away. “We go by foot first and clear the path for the carriages,” the leader went ahead and began picking among the soldiers to accompany him on the way down; very few were enthused.

“I will sound the horn when we have reached the Base,” Benjamin designated six others to stay with Jonathan, who seemed to express horror at the idea of separation. There were likely children with more courage than this ‘esteemed’ member of the Royal Council. But he was still their superior, as inept as he was beginning to become. “James will lead the carriages down, three men on foot in front, and two in back. Zachary will lead the remaining caravan.”

Jonathan raised a hand to protest, but its pallor was lost to the greater one of the suffocating mist. With a few head bobs and backsides eagerly returned to the ground, the Captain left with his group of men. Only a few seconds ticked by before even the blazing colours of Benjamin’s flag were lost from sight.

James stifled a yawn, rubbing his elbow into the Official’s ribs and jesting about the weather. Disappointed, but not disheartened, he folded his arms and proceeded to hum and old ballad to himself. Despite his complete debauchery of tone, the song lifted the mood on the misty mountainside, soon claiming the attention of the other knights left to tend to the defenceless Councilman.

If one had not a clue of their mission or of their inner dread, they too would have joined the merriment of the tiny silhouettes in the fog.

***

“This isn’t the cleverest of disguises,” Yazstromo said as he tucked his beard away into an old dusty shawl he and Daedus had found on their trip. Whoever had lost it was out of luck, it was about to be put into ridiculous use. “But we’ll do what we have to,” he motioned for his friend to take cover behind a nearby boulder as the supply carriage came closer to their position. They had happened upon the foothills leading into the Goron Protectorate in the past hour, but the Gorons were far from inviting them into the gates:


“You can’t spare two old men the heavy spoils of travel this fine morning?” Yazstromo had asked, trying his best to look as weak and limp as possible. Towering above him was a rather fat Goron, scanning him with its big black eyes. For a moment it seemed like he was going to break and open the way into the city, but he folded his arms and shook his head.

“Sorry, I cannot do that. We had strict orders from the Elder not to allow in any more Hylians,” he craned his neck back towards the closed stone doors. “The last couple we let in brought us a wily casualty. I never knew Sheikah could be so obnoxious and troublesome. If it were any other day and under any other order, I would let you in.”

Daedus piped up next, trying the same tactic as looking lame and disoriented. “But, we have nowhere else to go in times like these,” a silent agreement was made as the subject of the sealing of Kakariko. Neither of them would be allowed in that City either.
The Goron growled as he thought this over. Finally after what seemed an eternity, the Mountain Warrior answered with a stomp of his foot. “You will just have to go to the Capital; there will be plenty of beds there. The Autumn Festival is starting soon and all the Inns will be open for business.”

“You can’t be serious!” Yazstromo gasped, almost falling over accidentally as he took a dramatic step backward. “You would send too ailing men a day’s walking rather than disobey an equally old Elder?” he knew right away he had offended the Gorons, or as close to offending as he could come when a strange belligerent cry echoed out of the fat one’s mouth. Later on he would learn that the Elder was merely thirty and to equate his title was blasphemy in the Protectorate.

“Oops,” the Scholarly Man had said to Daedus and Lewis as soon as they settled down. They had been chased away from the gates, unsuccessful in bending the soft spot they had hoped remained in the Mountain Warriors. “It looks like we have to get in some other way. Surely neither of us could make it to the Capital before nightfall in our ragged shape.”

“Agreed,” Lewis squawked, nearly falling from Daedus’s shoulder as he tested out his wings. “Surely we can’t be expected as the culprits from Kakariko. I don’t understand the hostility of these Gorons.”

Yazstromo shook his head, scowling at the dusty trail worn with wagon treads. Walking up to one of the eroded boulders, the elder of the two sat and drew in the dirt the old map of Goron City. With one look at his shaggy blueprint and back up to the stone fortified gates, he swept away his drawing in a small fury. Nothing could stay the bloody same, could it?

“Why not try to sneak in some other way?” Daedus replied, lifting up the dusty shawl from a few yards away. How it got way out here was beyond them. For a moment the newcomer to these lands felt robbed by his guide; if the Gorons actually ate people he would be extremely upset, not to mention undoubtedly more horrified at the sight of them.

“I’m quite certain that big oaf will be able to tell it’s the same old man in that thing,” the Scholarly man huffed, grabbing the faded green outfit and balling it up.

“Just put it on, I have an idea.”After stuffing his comrade into the womanly article, Daedus smiled at his handiwork. Explaining his unorthodox plan to Yazstromo, the older man smiled and told him that it ‘was worth a shot’.


As the supply carriage neared the more femininely disguised Yazstromo, the Scholarly Man stepped out and pretended to collapse. Reining back the horses, they saw that this cart was being driven by two women, and Hylians all the better.

“Oh, woe is me!” the fallen lady on the track cried out as pathetically as he could. He rocked back and forth howling loudly. “My hip!”
The younger driver, short and blonde, jumped down from her seat and surveyed the sorry mess Yazstromo was at portraying a woman. But it seemed to fool her as easily as Daedus convinced his friend to dress up in the first place.

“What’s wrong?” she asked in a strange accent, one neither of the men had heard so far in their travels. “Are you okay?” reaching down she brushed Yazstromo’s side. For a moment he forgot his ruse but quickly made up for lost time by shrieking uncomfortably.

“Help me, young lady, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up,” Yazstromo coughed this out, his high pitched voice older than his previous times in Hyrule. “I was robbed on my way to visit my-,” he paused here, holding his head to begin faking another injury.

As suddenly as the Scholar had fallen, Daedus rounded the boulder with a look of utter horror on his face. “Mother! There you are, I’ve been looking all over for you,” the other woman cocked an eyebrow at the affairs taking place in front of her carriage. “I’ve been worried sick!”

“You know this lady?” the young woman asked, looking between the two, wondering how such old people were closely related. This was surely the strangest thing she’d found on the supply run to date. The old times in Hyrule must have been as different as her grandmother had told her about as a child.

“Yes, I was staying at the Protectorate and received a message my mother was coming to visit me,” Daedus lied through his teeth, not very good at this kind of deception. Perhaps he was the first true pure hearted person to cross the winds of Hyrule. Lewis plucked some of the hair from the back of his head to spur a few shed tears for his ailing relative on the ground. “What sort of creature did this to you, mother?” he fell to his knees and picked up Yazstromo with varied difficulty. Yazstromo huffed quietly as he watched Daedus struggle, his face beet red with determination.

Setting the old woman upon his feet, Daedus wiped his brow and continued his faux speech. “I’m sorry to ask you young ladies to help us, but could you spare us a ride back into the Protectorate,” he placed a sympathetic hand on the blonde girl’s shoulder as well as another on his ‘mother’s. A look at the gates in the distance was met with mutual smiles between the driver and the younger old man. “We would walk but she is much too weak now.”

“You can ride in back with the barrels,” again the sound coming from her mouth sounded queer and foreign. “Just don’t be rough; they’re filled with gun powder,” she motioned for her partner to help load Yazstromo and Daedus into the back. An exchange of words was made in a language the Scholar had never heard before, finally satisfying the idea that they were not exactly Hylian.

The older, black haired woman lifted Yazstromo with little exertion, setting him in the back of the covered carriage. Daedus declined assistance, choosing instead to crawl up into the supply cart with as much elegance as a fat Dodongo. Soon the door was closed and latched behind them, drowning them in near blackness. Above them tiny holes let in dusty sunbeams that barely illuminated their opposite faces, both smiling wide with success.

“I can hardly believe your stupid luck,” Lewis whispered from somewhere in the tangles of his friend’s hair. “A fool could have seen through that ruse. You call that acting?”

Daedus chuckled and scooped up the mechanical bird, setting him on the rocking carriage floor. “I’ve always been blessed, my friend, you know this better than anyone,” he averted his gaze to Yazstromo, who was scratching feverishly in his pauper’s clothes.

“Not sure about it yet, but I think this thing has fleas,” he dug his beard out of its hiding place and kneaded it anxiously. “You’ll be owing me two fish if it does,” the glance was serious but the twinkle in Yazstromo’s eyes showed it as it truly was, harmless fun. He opened his mouth to speak again but Daedus shushed him as the carriage came to a slow halt.

Outside the voice of the particularly fat Goron cut the silence. It was muffled as he read out the supplies list the women had provided him with. Patting the side of the cart as delicately as a Goron could, the two men were nearly crushed by barrels as the carriage rocked back and forth on rickety old wheels. Yazstromo shuffled farther back, hiding as best he could in his cramped clothing behind two Powder Kegs. He beckoned for Daedus, who after replacing Lewis in his ragged hair, claimed a seat beside his comrade.

The latch was drawn and the door was opened wide. Peering inside, the fat Goron clapped his hands; apparently this was a very important shipment.

“We can always count on you Kyznians,” he proclaimed loudly, extending a finger to shake with the blonde girl. “If only we Gorons were gifted with such wonderful sulphur mines for our gunpowder.”

“Perhaps you should move to Kyzoon,” she replied, putting on a fake smile as best she could. It seemed like the Gorons had tarnished their reputation far beyond the borders of Hyrule. The Goron laughed and shook his head, mentioning something about delicious rocks and proceeded to slam the cart door’s shut.

In a matter of minutes, the gears controlling the stone gate groaned to life and the carriage passed safely into the walls of the Protectorate. After a moment of rough uphill travel, the cart finally came to a stop and the faces of the women appeared at the entrance. Daedus stood up and walked back out into the midmorning Sun. Turning around to help the defenceless old lady from the high ledge, he felt his face flush as Yazstromo’s long beard slapped him in the face.

“Your beard, you idiot!” Lewis hissed, but only a moment too late. The two Kyznian women looked at one another with shocked expressions, much to the mechanical bird’s chagrin. As quickly as they had devised their crotchety plan out in the field, the two men made a mad dash into the bustling streets, the old woman’s beard waving wildly in the stiff breeze.

***

The crack of dawn was not a welcoming sight. Perhaps that was why, at the faintest sliver of light on the horizon, Tap had decided to leave the humble hideaway. Tiveri and the others were still asleep, likely to be until she returned. After finally dozing off the previous night, she could still hear the others discussing something in the other room. Pairings of the group was the likely subject, she told herself. It would be in Naomi’s own twisted desire to place her under Kaz; no matter what Tiveri said, these were wounds that could not heal at simply a sight.

Tap had told Kip to stay behind despite his general aversion of the others. Had she turned him away from the rest? Thinking back she could not really see reason to hold a feud with Naomi or any of the newcomers. What she wouldn’t give for another familiar face. Yazstromo perhaps, even the faceless Allanon would be a better sight than strangers. Tap wanted something to anchor her back into the Hyrule of old, but as it seemed, nothing was going to go her way.

Sometimes she would sacrifice her sanity and comfort just to see Mervil’s glower from across the way. What was she saying? She shook her head silently in disagreement, rounding another corner in her adventure for new experiences in this shabby old city. The back streets were becoming more and more plastered in litter, and the fall leaves blowing across the empty alleys were lonely spectres of long gone Summer.

Mervil was no longer a part of any of their lives; leaving them to clean up the mess of the Kingdom ensured each of them of that. How Naomi could have ever felt anymore sympathy for Death was beyond her. The Innocent understood what circumstances they were fighting for, but just once, Mervil could have shown compassion instead of vengeance. Yet, despite all her ideas of his shortcomings, Tap resigned herself to respecting his name and his memory, no matter how construed it happened to be.

Even the Old Capital seemed to mock her idea of tranquility in this Hyrule. Although the majority of familiar buildings were left to crumble into dust, some still held strong as sad sagging shacks for the pauper class. The only landmark left was the Temple of Time, enclosed in its high walls and wrought iron gates. For what purpose it even stood to this day, she could not be certain. Perhaps it had not been used since the War, the scarring of prisoners within the walls deemed too sinful to ever disgrace with freeborn feet.

The first songbirds began to chirp from high above. It would have been beautiful if it were not for the drab grey tint everything donned in this backwater excuse of a community. Tap had to still her thoughts; it felt like her animosity for even being in the same country as Kaz was tearing her judgment apart. Will’s likeness had never helped either. Never before had she been this critical, damn it all if she would have once preferred this Old City as a home.

From the bell tower of the Temple of Time the first ravens began to screech, taking staggering flights on bruise tinted wings. Tap wished to be as free as the birds, able to watch over the lands from soaring heights. Being able to communicate with the animals to some degree was her only solace, if only she could find a creature large enough to carry her to the clouds. Maybe that was why Naomi was starting to bother her, a figure of what she desired herself to be, called a friend.

No, that was silly, if anything Naomi was the only person keeping her sane in these times. Why were they even staying here? Why did she even need to be involved, weren’t Tiveri and Desesperacion the criminals? But Naomi and Jaros insisted on them staying together, speaking as if it were the times five hundred years prior. The only difference now: they didn’t have a walking Death as a leader, nor did they have a walking Death as a critic.

Maybe Death found his human interloper at last. Not everyone could escape this finality, the undead, Galysses and Allanon, found this out the hard way. Now all she felt was sorrow, a kind different from a broken heart.

Walking up the stone steps in front of her, seeming like a sudden manifest in her mindless journey, Tap stood upon the ramparts of the outer Capital walls. High above the full Moon shone brightly, trying to combat the overwhelming dawn light, doomed to fail. Tap sighed and took a deep breath of the morning air, misty and musty inside the cramped City.

“Is this what the Goddesses really want of me?” she whispered quietly, resting her elbows on the wall, gazing out upon the rolling hills of Hyrule. It still held some beauty, yet only a bloodied face of past familiarity. “To sit in this dying Kingdom with brigands and suffer through these people?”

Standing in silence, she let forth a stream of long held tears. Five hundred years of living seemed more a curse than a blessing. Tap took her cap off and turned it upside down. Reaching in, she removed an old and withered pictograph photo. In it she stood off to the side in a small group of friends. Naomi and Yazstromo were sheepishly smiling to one side of her, on the other stood more recent acquaintances. Darren stood tall in his blue robes, a crossbow at his feet, and to his other side was Samir, the only other man her age she had felt any connection with.

At that moment the Innocent questioned if she had really done the right thing in leaving. If only Xanath were here... he would have known the answer.

A great fluttering of feathers above startled her from her thoughts. Before Tap had realized it, a large raven had plucked the old pictograph from her trembling hands and took flight down the rampart.

“Hey! Get back here!” she stumbled forward yelling at the large crow, nearly dropping her hat in the process. It would have seemed silly from the streets below, watching a girl take off in a dead sprint after one of the many ravens calling the Capital home while trying to slip on a cap. Their black demeanour only added to the stench of the crumbling Kingdom. “Stop, give me my stuff back!”

After nearly running across the entire embankment, Tap tripped on an upturned cobblestone and landed face first into the brick path. A quick curse slipped through her lips as she pulled herself up off the ground. Looking ahead she saw to her horror the bird flying far past the end of the City Wall. Defeated, the Innocent slumped against the side of the parapet and proceeded to sob quietly to herself. Now another memory was taken from her.

Tap sat there in the chilled breeze for what felt like an eternity, feeling sorry for herself even when she knew she should not.
[I do not understand.]

A strange voice came from somewhere nearby, making Tap jump with surprise having not expected anyone to be awake by this time besides guards on duty. But this did not sound like any guard she had met before. She peered up above her only to recoil back in shock a second time. A raven was surveying her with its head tilted quizzically and beak slightly open.

Shakily standing up and turning to face the bird, she dusted herself off and spoke quietly. “Did you say something?”

[I do not understand.] It said again, its eyes fluttering as its head kept in sync with her movements. [Why is this important?] The raven picked up the stolen pictograph being clutched in its black claws and held it out towards the baffled Tap. The Innocent greedily took it back with a vehement expression crossing her face.

“I didn’t know ravens could talk so well,” she said as she returned the photo back to the inner seam of her cap. It was true that she was ignorant of this fact, perhaps she had been missing out all this time by avoiding the birds altogether.

[Why is this important?] It squawked again, choosing to preen its feathers blindly, keeping its eyes focussed on the woman in front of him. The Moon was setting far off behind this scene, its dying light shining brilliantly white off of the bird’s outstretched wing. [I do not understand.]

“It is a picture of me and my friends,” Tap replied, still confused at the strange way the animal was speaking to her. “Why did you give me this back?” she never knew a raven to be a polite being. But neither were humans, were they?

[If they are your friends, where are they now? Why are you all alone?]

“I’m not alone, you dumb bird,” the Innocent hissed, trying to seem angrier with it than she was. “Why can’t you answer my questions?”

[Then why were you crying? I do not understand.]

Tap rolled her eyes, turning around to leave. She wasn’t ready to deal with this sort of thing at this time in the morning. But something nagged at her to continue the conversation, the intrigue proved too much to bear. Spinning around she saw the raven had left. “Well that was a little rude,” she said quietly.

[Where are you going?] Tap nearly fell backwards as the raven spoke loudly from her left flank. As loudly as she could perceive it; she couldn’t recall if she had ever explicitly told the others her ability to communicate with animals in this fashion. [If you are so worried about your things, don’t you think you should stop leaving them around unattended?] She gasped as she saw her bow and arrows lying on the ground in front of the crow, a murder of his kind standing around them. None of them spoke to her, choosing to caw and coo quietly among one another. Her new raven friend was the largest of the bunch.

“You’re the same bird from Kakariko City, aren’t you?” she was genuinely delighted; this may not have been her ideal familiar face, but it was better than nothing.

[Many people often tell me that we have met before. Your name is Tap, you are well known, am I correct?]

“How did you know? And I wouldn’t call it ‘well known’ anymore,” completely giving away her surprise, Tap proceeded to approach the raven on the ledge. “I haven’t been in Hyrule for ages.”

[There are many things that I know. Ravens are the wanderings of lost human souls, a legend I’m sure you have heard before. I have known of you in both lives, the Prophetic Ones are still spoken of in the smaller villages of this Kingdom where merriment still thrives. I am glad to have spoken with you at last.]

“What is your name then, Mr. Raven?” for a moment she felt back to her old self again.

[I go by the name of Aracient.] He replied, looking down at her belongings and up at her again, turning his head on its side. [I asked my brothers to bring you your things for a reason, young lady.]

Tap flushed and hurriedly relinquished her things from the birds at her feet, who in the sudden motion took timid flight. “Well then, Aracient,” she felt like she was pronouncing it wrong but kept vigilant in her bizarre morning journey. “You led me here for a reason, didn’t you?” they both knew she was speaking about how he had led her into the alley covered in Autumn Festival adverts.

[Yes, I did.] To her astonishment, Aracient bent down and withdrew a rolled up paper from a crack in the wall. Spreading it out as best as he could with his sharp claws, she saw it was yet another copy of the Festival. [Perhaps if people were more inclined to us, trouble would go less unnoticed.] He sounded more serious now, talking coherently as if he were about to administer a grand speech.

“Well, I will listen to you,” Tap said, smiling to herself as the raven looked back up to her. “I’m sure all the others would like to know what you have to say.”

[I would hope so.]

“Then why don’t you come with me to meet them?” she stretched out her arm to Aracient who seemed to shake his head in disagreement.

[Only if you promise me one thing.] He said matter-of-factly. Tap furrowed her brow for a moment, choosing to nod at the proposal. [I do not want you to cry over what is past. Your friends live and you are far from alone. Save your tears. It is what I wish someone could have told me.]

The Innocent smiled meekly, wiping away the last of her tears. “It’s a deal.”


Yes, it is finally done. From this point on I will be writing small chapters in between certain points. I will let you know when this will occur and I PROMISE they will be prompt and up as quickly as possible.

Love, ZE

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Post Re: ~Forever Forgotten~ To Dust • Posted: Wed Nov 24, 2010 9:59 pm
What's up peeps? Shocked to see me so soon? This like the EDN adversary addition of FF 2...or at least, its close enough to it that you could call it that. ZE let me write to...explain certain things between certain characters. Don't worry, LiB, we didn't mess up your part. This was already in the works soon after ZE's part was posted and so on. Anyways, thank you ZE for editing this part! And yes, this is some 6600 words. Goodness. >_<

Chapter 23: Cenotaph

A frozen wind nipped at his pointed ears, carrying along with it the smell of fresh blood. His stomach turned, it was her blood; who else could it be? But, snowshoes strapped to his legs were not made for running. No, Kaz only hoped he could reach her before they could do any more to her. If he couldn’t…no, no, he could not let his thoughts go that way.

He was the bloody General of Kyzoon. He did not fail his people, he would not fail her. He would save her from them.

The wind blew harder, slamming snow against his face. It felt like ice, sharp and fierce. He lifted his arm to shield his face but kept up his pace as best he could, his lungs burning as he reached the top of the hill. Kaz smelled fire and burning flesh and blood, it was then that he spotted them. Those who had captured her were large, dark-furred, but elegant creatures with slender, arched backs. Each of them finishing their menacing appearance with one bright red eye, and a veil covered the lower half of their faces.

But they were warmer than he and the girl who knelt on the ground before them. She wore only the remnant of a once white dress: ragged, frayed, and bloodied. The child knelt there, the symbol of his inattentiveness and failings. If only he had put up more watches or told them the children could not play when the scouts had said these creatures were about. If only he hadn't been distracted with that letter from home or that longing to see Vivi when this long winter ended. If only...but "if onlies" could never undo mistakes, they could only prevent you from making them worse.

What had he been thinking? That his presence would keep them away? He was not Mervil, and he did not know if even a living Death could destroy these wretches. Even after hundreds of years of this wintry war he had made no progress. They always came, and they always killed. Ruthlessly. Yes, they staged a defense; yes, they were able to keep the creatures at bay to some degree, but it was never enough. People still died, animals still killed, and villages still destroyed. These creatures were what the old line of kings had once kept at bay.

If we had known the price then, would we have killed that tyrant? The answer, he knew, was still 'yes'. It had been why the old man had begged him to stay, he had not known, at that time, what he was getting into. ...and I would've anyways. Even had he told me. The Kyznians had become his people, and she, one of their daughters, was still among them. He had told her mother, Irene-a Hylian-that he would save her child. He carefully crept forward, keeping out of the firelight and the gaze of their giant eyes, hiding behind a nearby tree. He’d have to attack them, quick, quite and fiercely, before they could stop him. If they gazed into his eyes for long, they would stop him and take his head or sing him to sleep with their songs and kill him with their spears. They could break his body, twist it like a stick, and...

Yes, those in the army were correct, this was little better than suicide, but they knew they would lose the girl if they sent more than a man. The beasts saw it as an affront to their honor, they had taken the child as a form of challenge, yet Kaz did not know who he might fight. If he won, they would let them leave safely. Other winters, others would have gone to confront the beast. Most died. Yet, few men these days had gone through such conditions as these to kill these creatures...even on a normal run. All those who had were either too old to fight or too dead; all except the General. The last winter like this one was nearly seventy years hence.

Kaz readied his sword, unfastened his double shot musket, and focused on the beast closest to him. It was a bigger one; its face was uncovered. The fur around its muzzle had gone gray and two ivory teeth the size of a man’s hand stuck out from its upper jaw. It stared at the girl, its back turned away from the man hiding behind the tree's wide truck.

Kaz leaped from out behind the tree onto its back, hitting its head with the butt of his gun. The creature roared, throwing him to the ground beside the girl.

She looked up and smiled. How could the she smile after all she had suffered?

“General!” cried the girl, embracing him.

"Not now," he said, voice soft.

Quickly, Kaz pulled her arms back, falling into a defensive crouch in front of her. Reaching for the knife in his boot, he threw it at the monster's red eye. The knife struck its cheek. It screeched, tossing its head back and snapping its jaw. The other creatures stood by, watching. Patient, cold, like strange judges lurking in the night watching an ancient ritual unfold.

It was quick. Kaz rolled to the side, barely avoiding a punch. It picked up one of the spears by the fire, twirling it in the air then pointing at his sword with its other hand. The other creatures stared. The girl looked up at him with dark eyes filled with pain, but managed a smile. Again.

The monster before him stared him down, challenge in its red-eyed gaze. Dread and realization, as cold as a harsh winter, filled his gut. They had known he would come. They had taken this girl to force him challenge their leader. He withdrew his sword and charged at on the patted down snow. It waited. Spear held in a forward stance, it side-stepped gracefully, his sword barely missing its right leg.

Kaz slipped across the patted snow and ice, the fire raging behind him. His sword reflecting the flames. After a series of furious exchanging, a smile cut his face like a knife. “You’re slower and older than what I recall. Is this what you want?”

His adversary returned his taunt with a sharp, piercing growl, its great red eye shimmering in the firelight. The other creatures laughed; a sound that chilled his bones, but he kept standing. They would not overcome him. He gently squeezed the girl’s hand then motioned for her to stand back. He focused on the beast before him and gave it a curt nod, pointing at the gun. He discarded the musket. It wanted a fair fight.

The fight recommenced. He stepped out of the way of its great spear. Swinging his blade upwards, hesitant to leave open a chance for attack, he managed to deliver a nasty flesh wound to the lumbering beast’s left arm. A black liquid flowed out, becoming steam before it touched the ground.

It roared, and Kaz found himself on the defense. The being was getting quicker now, the smell of its blood invigorating it into action. It stood taller and attacked with teeth, eye, and spear, never leaving Kaz another opportunity to land more than a pitiful swipe. He had more scrapes and bruises than his foe, and damn, he could not feel his toes or finger anymore. Have to find a way to finish it soon or—

The creature tripped him with its spear and he fell onto his hands and knees in the snow, unable to move. Towering above him, the beast pointed its spear at his chest. It then spoke, the words sounding rough on such an alien tongue: “You die, old fool, General of Kyzoon, I—“

Bang!

It fell over, dead. The other creatures screamed in pain, in rage. Kaz covered his ears. A small hand touched his arm. In the chilled air she stood, a small silhouette outlined by orange flame. Wasn’t she old enough to understand what she had done?

The girl shook, holding the musket in cold, unsteady hands. “Um, Mr. General," she whispered, "I think we should go. Quickly.”

He almost laughed, a mere child giving him commands. He was to weak to waste energy on that, however, instead, he pulled himself to his feet, leaning on his sword then sheathing the weapon. Kaz tossed his cloak over the girl’s shoulders, picking her up, keeping his eyes on the beasts.

They watched him in silence, they're faces alien yet somehow solemn. One looked up and gave him a nod, then turned and walked away, the others following, leaving their spears behind. They weren't taking revenge? Why? What had they done?

Again, Kaz found, he did not understand them.

Maybe he had lost his honor among them. He shook his head and fumbled his way out of the camp as quickly as his wounds, exhaustion, and the weight of the girl would allow. Why was she so heavy? He shifted her weight to his right arm, leaning on his sword as they made their way through this storm. Snow now fell from the dark clouds and wind blew it harshly around them, almost causing him to fall several times along the way and lose himself and the girl in some snow drift in these accursed Underwoods. If he did so, they would both die. No, he'd promise someone...whoever it was...that he wouldn't let it happen. Who had that been?

Kaz was too exhausted to recall.

But he would keep his word, even if he ended up a dead man. As long as she still breathed, no, as long as they still breathed, they could make it. Just one step after another, just concentrate on that. How long had it been? Minutes, hours, days? He wasn’t sure, but the wind kept blowing and the snow fell hard and the chilled wind bit into his skin. There was no sign of Sun or Moon. No stars. Only those strange, sparkles of fae dust that marked the time as early day. At long last, Kaz saw something small shimmering in the blizzard, and heard...hooves; were those hooves? What kind of fool would drive a horse out in this accursed weather? No, that was the sound of booted feet and heavy armor. Someone...

“Gen-General, the officers said not to come…but…I knew…I knew…I had to,” the man said, holding up his lantern. “Is that the kid, sir?”

He nodded. He wasn’t sure if he could speak.

“I’ll take her,” the soldier said. He did not reply, simply passing her over to the younger man. “Damn, it’s so cold my ass is bout to freeze off. Ah, sir…I…we…should we get going, right?”


“Yes, er,” his voice came out scratchy and worn; old.

Perhaps that was why the monsters had left. They saw it as a war between two, old foolish men.

“Corporal Daithor, sir,” he said. “Hoping to—“

“Corporal, is this the time?"

"No sir."

"Let's go then."

The wind howled and he found himself leaning on the young man more than he would have cared to admit. But, despite Daithor’s earlier talkativeness, the corporal did not complain. The soldier did not speak a word. From what he could see of the young man’s face, he could only read a quiet and stoic determination; the kind that might very well make a good officer later in life, but certainly not yet. It wasn’t time to think of that. All these asides, was he just looking for something to think about, to focus on something other than the blinding snow?

They marched on. The wind howled all around them, and the snow was falling so quickly that he was glad the young man had brought a lamp, though it made little difference in this whiteout. He wasn’t sure if they were heading in the right direction, hell, he could only hope they weren’t heading back towards those nightmarish beasts. He heard a howl. A shiver sprinted up his spine; he prayed that was only a gust of wind and a wolf following them, stalking them in the daylight. Damn, how he hated being nearly blinded by this blizzard.

“General, we-,” the man stopped, “don’t fall asleep. See, the snow is lightening up and well, there are fires in the distance. They mean bread, water, and...women... Ah...sir?”

“Yes?”

Daithor said nothing, but he could see the young man blushing profoundly. He nodded for the young soldier to continue, and they did. Crossing over the icy bridge and managed to only slip once. The girl had screeched at that, but, that served to relieve him, knowing she was yet alive and hail in the young corporal's arms.

Kaz lost track of time again. Uncertain how long it had been from the time that the corporal had spoken last or if there was any time in these Underwoods at all. By Nayru, for all he knew, he’d been here for a hundred years, transversing these Underwoods with this young soldier and little girl in this wintry hell for lifetimes of normal men. Finally, the snowfall lightened and the fires of watchmen and their camp came into view. He could see life again, smell it. Kaz touched the head of the child, but she did not reply. She must've fallen asleep.

A woman covered by a furred cloak over a double-breasted uniform and a pair breeches strutted up to them, lantern in hand. Three marks marked her as a captain. She dropped the lamp in the snow and asked the soldier to hand her the girl.

Daithor shook his head. “She’s dead, ma’am.”

“She can't be, he…” She looked up into Daithor's brown eyes, then turned her fierce gaze on Kaz. "You promised me."

Dead? He stared at her, blankly, weakness and exhaustion clouding his mind. What in blazes were they talking about?

"Whom?" that word barely escaped his tongue. A word he would later wish he had not spoken at all, but his mind was addled. "Irene?"

Instead of providing an answer, she slammed her lantern into the side of his head.

***

Something hit the wall above William’s head. Well, he was glad he had decided it was time to get up anyways, even if the damned nobleman he had the luck of sharing a room with had the most unorthodox ways of getting him up in the morning. The first time it had been a horse licking his face due to a sugar cube Kaz had placed right on his nose. Will could still recall the disgusting sensation of sticky, stinky, surgery horse slobber covering his face. Slowly, the fugitive opened his eyes.

A knife, the noble had thrown a bloody knife at him! It was stuck in the wall, still wiggling slightly from the impact. William cursed, why was the old man trying to kill him this time?

He sat up, fastened his boots, and finally, looked over at Kaz. His double still slept, though fitfully, his hair sticking to his forehead and strange words—perhaps gibberish—escaping his lips. Kaz shivered too, as though from fever.

Will watched with a sense of eerie satisfaction; the man wasn’t everything he or the legend had made him out to be, no, the person before him was only a mere mockery of the Redeemed. Kaz was weakened by nightmares just like him. No, Will shook his head, this was worse than what he had gone through, he had never thrown a knife at someone in his sleep.

The fugitive heard the older man draw in a sharp, quick breath. Kaz sat up, his blankets covering the lower half of his body, his back bent forwards and his head in his hands. Blood dripped from his lips. His hazel eyes gazed at him blindly, unseeing, and filled with despair.

“What the hell?” Will asked, keeping his voice low.

Kaz blinked, looking around, still in a daze. “Where am I? Daithor, where did you put the girl?”

“Who?"

"By Din's fiery Hell...,” Kaz said. Will continued to stare blankly at the old man. “What did you do? No, I brought her back, she was safe, she was fine...Don’t you remember?”

“Stop it.” William said, shaking him firmly. Ancient, hazel eyes stared back at Will in silence, making his stomach tighten. “You're...you're down right insane, aren't you?”

Silence fell for a few moments. Moments, that to Will, felt like an eternity, then, the old man closed his eyes and exhaled slowly. He stared out the single window in this small, makeshift bedroom. “You shouldn’t try to fix the impossible, William.”

Will almost breathed out in relief, but stopped. This was nearly as bizarre as before. “What?”

“Heh.” Kaz picked up his green coat off the top of the lone chair in this room. It only had three legs, of course, the fourth had been snapped off at its base. “I suppose you're right, I am mad. Some five-hundred years of constant fighting will do that to a fellow. By Din, hundreds of years of leading men and women barely older than children will too. Sanity isn't something you should expect from me, kid."

Kaz shot him a grin. Will suddenly felt like a foolish boy again. What had he thought he could do? Chase away Kaz's demons when hd couldn't fight his own? But, when he looked into Kaz’s eyes he did not see the same intensity he had moments ago. No, he saw only an old man who had seen too much war, too much death. Anyone would lose a few of their marbles under such circumstances, many would probably completely lose their minds. Kaz was lucky he wasn't some screaming lunatic hidden away in some monetary somewhere.

“I...won't." He said, looking down at his hands, "Alright, I'm sorry."

Kaz blinked, his coat only half-way on. "For what?"

"It..." he shook his head, watching the older man in silence as he collected his thoughts. By the time he had, Kaz had stood, frowning down at him. Perhaps it wasn't time to ask yet. "Are you leaving?"

“Apparently,” Kaz replied and placed his sword in its sheath. Its hilt was bland, only having a black hilt and a green pommel stone for ornamentation, but the long sword’s blade glistened brightly in contrast. He still did not know from what metal it was wrought.

“In that dream…or memory, there was a girl kidnapped from camp by the Xinari, a race of creations that don't live Hyrule. I went, tried to save her, it was a fool's mission from the start, and it didn’t work. She died before we made it back to camp. Taken by the cold, of all things. I…was told by her mother, Irene, years later that when I returned here I should visit the shrine originally dedicated to me, the caretakers line runs through her family." He gave him a faint smile. "I'd forgotten to do so."

William nodded. "You're not used to forgetting, are you?"

The old man sighed, shaking his head. In silence, he left, closing the door behind him lightly. William nearly followed, but stopped. He would let Kaz have his peace. After a night like that, he would want it too.

***

“We won’t need to find them right away.” Tap stated, looking at her feathered friend. “It’s hardly sunup.”

The bird nodded, if she dare call it a nod. He spoke little and, from what she had seen, cawed to his brothers even less. His eyes though were sharp and wise, and he listened to everything she told him; even if his replies were few and far between. Except for the annoying ones. [Why? Is there a point?]

“I’m hungry.” She put it simply. “And there are plenty of inns, taverns, and that kind of thing that serve breakfast, even if they’re not very good. When did you say you lived again?”

He did not answer, at least, not in the way she wanted. Tiveri was right, everyone in Hyrule was a master at turning the conversation in whatever way they wanted. Even the dead. [Did you not say you wished me to meet your friends?]

Tap sighed, but continued to stroll down the streets of Old Hyrule Castle Town. The smells of food reached her; eggs, freshly baked bread, sausages, melons and other fruits, even ham. Who would want ham in the morning? Perhaps Kaz? No, she would not think of the man in such a cheery way, she turned back to focusing on the town around her.

Few children were up this earlier, only the beggars, and not even those approached her with the strange raven that refused to leave her side. While others—women doing laundry, men going to work, criminals trying to look less suspicious as the sun rose, and others that she wasn’t sure why they were about—walked the streets. Some gave her a glance, others pretended that the odd girl dressed in red was only an illusion out of myth. Tap wondered, for a moment, if any would think she, a girl dressed in common clothes that had seen better days was the same as the Innocent they had heard about in the tales told to them at the fireside or sung by the bards on the night of the Autumn Festival. Did the bards even sing the Epic of the Chosen these days?

Then what did the bard sing?

She laughed bitterly and saw that she stood in a courtyard. Naked rose brushes stood to the side, slightly overgrown on the fences that encircled the place. Scattered and bare blossoming trees stood in front of them. In the centre of the gardens was an unkempt fountain and in the middle stood a marvel statue of a woman who wore a dress made of emerald; the goddess Farore. In her hair she wore flowers wrote from the same stone as her dress and from the hands lifted above her head the fountain’s water flowed, falling into the basin at her bare feet. A sanctuary made of marble stood in the back, its two tall stained glass windows glistening in the dawn’s early light. Tap shook her head in dismay. Why had her gods led her to this place? She then hid behind one of the trees.

[What is this place?] Aracient stood on a nearby bush, somehow missing the thorns and plucked out a leaf with his black beak.

“It’s…” Tap looked at the bird sadly. “We originally had it built in the memory of a ‘friend’ of ours. I don’t know what it’s for now. Knowing the Hylians, it’s probably nothing good.”

[In memory of who?]

Tap glared at the raven. Why did he like to ignore every other word that she said? Why! He was lucky she had cared for him—what was she thinking? The Innocent took a deep breath and tried to smile at the bird instead, “Kaz. I’m guessing from what little you’ve told me that you’d remember that Yaz wrote the Epic of the Chosen, the legend that tells our tale. At the end he noted that Kaz died in a terrible accident a little after we—I mean, Mervil—beat Arivis. This was later built in honor of him…because…I missed him. He was a good friend. Now, I don’t know what they use it for.”

[So, he is not alive…but why are you?] The raven asked, plucking out a few feathers and then studying the statue of Farore. She wondered where the bird’s thoughts lead, but did not ask, instead choosing to answer his question.

“I’m not completely certain.” Tap said, “Naomi—you know, the Rito woman from the legend—told me that the time spell around the great desert Tower we visited had malfunctioned. Apparently the last son of the King at the time had used powerful magic to lock away troops under Arivis’ control. It had worked, but hadn't stood up to time when we first arrived,” she was trying to remember everything Naomi had told her and the others the fateful day they arrived at the Bronze Construct. It wasn’t going very well.

“We were attacked and the spell was broken. That was when we found out that even then, the prince’s last actions were not that successful. Time had been going on very slowly in that Tower and all his fellow knights, Arivis’s forces, and he had long since rotted away,” it was all a depressing story, but that’s what ravens enjoyed, wasn’t it? “During the fight with Arivis the spell ceased and I guess it inverted back on itself or something with all of us inside. Our ages got stuck, Naomi said. I guess it wasn’t completely effective or we would’ve been just as stuck as that poor man trapped in there. It’s not a blessing from the goddesses; it was just bad luck.”

[A curse…] The reply from her winged-friend seemed little more than a whisper. [I am truly sorry you must suffer so.]

“Thank you.” Tap said and smiled, the fact was she would have hugged the raven, but he was too regal, standing there, staring into the distance at the man in white and green priestly robes that now stood before the fountain. Another man wearing a green coat and dark trousers walked towards the priest.

The Innocent almost bolted, but stopped herself mid step. What would Aracient think of her if she ran from all her problems? She had once heard that ravens hated cowards and she liked the strange bird too much to find out the truth of those old folktales.

[Who is that?] The raven pointed at Kaz with its beak. [Is he one of your friends?]

“No.” Tap answered bluntly. “I’m going to go closer. Could you act more like a normal raven?”

Aracient gave her an amused glance; at least, Tap thought it was amused. She had not quite gotten used to the bird’s emotions. Then, in a flurry of midnight black feathers the raven took off, soaring above her and cawing as she crept towards the priest and the Redeemed. Then a feather fluttered down and landed perfectly in the priest hands. The man blinked, taking a moment to examine it. The cleric looked up at the sky and grimaced as Aracient flew in a circle above. A murder soon joined him.

“That is…a rather interesting sight.” The priest said. “Now, master Kazar, why have you come here? I had heard there was a Kyznian noble living in Kakariko, but I would not expect you to come here of all places. There are many sanctuaries honoring the Chosen Ones in better parts of the city, milord, and as you can tell…this place has seen its better days.”

“You could say…,” Kaz sighed. “That my grandmother’s family came from Hyrule. She had a deep respect for the Prophetic Ones.”

“That does not explain why you came here, young man.”

Kaz stiffened at that, but the grayed haired, wrinkled-faced man appeared years his senior. “Well, you see, she was from these parts. Not all noble lines of Kyzoon were so originally. She had grown up the daughter of an innkeeper, but she had a thirst for adventure and left these lands, Your Honor. My grandmother found her way to my homeland and joined the military, rising in rank until she was given a title by the King and the General. When she was a child she often came here with her mother to remember the Chosen of Hyrule.”

“I see…was her name Irene?”

Kaz nodded and Tap gasped in silence. Who had this woman been? “Yes, that was her name. You knew her?”

“That was my sister.” The priest said. “But…you do not look like her.”

“No, I take more after my father.” He answered. “Now, do you understand my interests—”

The ravens cawed.

“—what’s with those damned birds?”

A raven dove down, landing behind the priest on the ledge of the fountain. The cleric turned around to look at it. The elderly man shook his head, no doubt wondering why such a bird was intruding on this sanctuary. It stared past the old priest and locked eyes with Kaz.

[Is he your friend?]

Tap shook her head. “I…don’t know…”

[Why is that?]

“Stop that!” She said, not realizing she had spoken so loud until both the priest and Kaz turned around. The priest gave her a look filled with shock then curiosity, while the Redeemed’s face held an expression of slight dismay.

“This is…extremely odd…” The priest smoothed his robes and looked upon her with kind eyes. “Who, may I ask, are you?”

Tap exchanged a glance with Kaz. His face was as stone. Then, she looked at Aracient; the raven was now playing with one of the shining jewels in the statue’s hair. The Innocent smiled a not very innocent smile. “Me? Sir, well, I’m the Innocent. Tap. The one and only! That bird behind you is my new friend Aracient. And, finally, this man you see lying to you, well, I know for a fact he’s not from Kyzoon, but Hyrule, at least, initially. He’s Kaz, the Redeemed. Isn’t that remarkable?” She finally took a breath.

Silence filled the courtyard and the Innocent called to the raven, “Come here, Aracient.” The bird came, landing on the ground beside her. “Only the Innocent has power over animals. Well, this kind of power, I mean.”

The priest nodded. He believed the legend; Tap had hoped that he was old enough to not have thrown them away as mere symbolism. She gave him a smile and turned to Kaz. The man’s face held no emotion, but in his eyes, she could see anger under the calm exterior he showed the priest.

“Excuse us.” Kaz said, quickly, motioning for her to follow. “We’ve things to do. Right Tap?”

“Ah…errr…yes.”

The Innocent heard the priest sigh as they left the courtyard and followed her former friend in silence. Not even Aracient spoke a word as they traversed the streets of the Old Castle Town, with the warm midmorning sun hidden behind wispy clouds. More people walked the streets now and callers ran through the crowds selling their wares. She bought a small loaf of bread and some cheese from one, ate most, but gave a portion to Aracient. The bird ate it gleefully. Soon, Kaz led them to the door of one of the nicer inns in Old Hyrule Castle Town. His eyes shifted to the beautiful black raven on the sign. Wait, had she just thought of Aracient as beautiful? Tap wondered what the bird would think of that.

“Good…errr…bird. Stay there.” Kaz said but Aracient fluttered down, looking up at her former friend with challenge. He sighed. “I don’t think he likes me.”

“I can’t blame him” Tap folded her arms. “But, Aracient could you please go back up there? People are staring.”

This time, the bird did as asked; Kaz led her into the inn, opening the door and requested a private booth, showing a large green rupee. The innkeeper smiled but her multiple chins weighed it down, making it appear more half-hearted than she had intended. She called for one of her serving girls to lead them into the next room where the maid sat them at a table. Even this room, though, looked fuller than Tap would have liked. She’d rather not be seen, especially in a place like this, even though she was very hungry.

Tap’s stomach complained profoundly, but the girl’s eyes were on Kaz. “What…what would you like, sir? Some eggs, toast, maybe—“

“Hey!” Tap called and the girl glared and frowned at her. “I’m hungry too. He doesn’t need food; he’s a bit overfed already.”

“That’s not nice calling your brother fat.”

“He’s not my brother,” Tap explained and gave Kaz a fake smile, but he seemed distracted by something. Was he even listening? “And I didn’t say he was fat. He’s not. Just a little chubby. But, could you get me some eggs and toast and…”

The girl was distracted again, this time she tapped Kaz’s shoulder. “What do you want, sir?”

“You should serve her first.”

“Oh, fine. What do you want, miss?” The maid’s voice held a touch of anger. Tap rolled her eyes, didn’t she know the man was five hundred years her senior? No, of course not, and this serving girl wouldn’t simply believe like that priest had.

“Eggs, toast with jam, and…um…leaf juice.” Tap said, then started to trace the flowery embroidery on her linen napkin, stopped, and started to tap the table. The maid glared at her but turned on her toes and stomped away.

“She…I think she likes you or something.” Tap said, turning back to her companion. She hated the idea of having to eat breakfast with the man, but it was better than eating it with Arivis or some other villain at least.

“I suppose.” His eyes sparkled with amusement. “She isn’t the kind of woman I find attractive, however. A bit too blond.”

Tap continued to tap and met his eyes with a sharp glance. “Is that why you brought me here? To talk about that?”

“No.” He answered. “I just thought you might be a little hungry. You weren’t there when I woke up, so…I guess I was right.”

“I…” She stopped herself, her stomach growling again. She grimaced. “Oh, I just thought you would want to talk about what happened on that night. You know, when you...when we...well, yeah, when you left Hyrule.”

“It was five hundred years ago.” He said quietly. “By anyone’s count, that’s a bloody long time ago.”

Tap nodded, “So, that’s why…”

He frowned, but she stopped herself, the maid was back.

The serving girl carried a platter with one plate of steaming hot food, a bowl of something, two cups, and a single pot of leaf juice. She placed whatever was in the bowl and other cup in front of Kaz, gave Tap her food, and poured Tap’s leaf juice. The Innocent frowned when she tasted the egg.

“What’s wrong with it?”

“I…like them more burnt. Crispier eggs are a lot better than these!” She explained, stirring the perfect yellow yolk with her spoon. The Innocent then lifted her spoon causing the yolk to stretch, come apart and drip onto her eggs below. “The yolks are better that way too.”

He smirked. “You never could cook.”

The Innocent glared. “Like you, Mr. Mighty Warrior-like person, could either. I bet you have someone cook your meals for you every day and never bother to do it yourself. They’d taste too nasty for your “refined” tastes.”

He took a mouthful of whatever was in the bowl and ate it. It looked like some kind of pale yellow, grainy mush. “I wouldn’t call this refined. In Hyrule, they think this is a Kyznian specialty, but really, it’s nothing more than hot creamed corn and brown sugar. The army of Kyzoon ate it for breakfast when they were on campaign.”

The Innocent tilted her head. “Um, what’s Kyzoon?”

He laughed. “How in hell…no, I don’t want to know how, but you don’t know?”

She shook her head and nibbled on her toast. At least this was nice and blackened but not too charred.

“I spent centuries there.” He said, scratching the new growth on his chin. The Innocent guessed he hadn’t left Kakariko with a razor. “It’s a land across the sea and the port of Hizelt is its capital. It’s larger than Hyrule, but in the more inland parts they have intense winters and rich sulphur mines.”

“Okay,” She said. “I’ll rephrase that. What were you doing there?”

“That’s a rather long story. It’d take months to tell and the others are waiting.” He said and went about eating the mush quicker. The Innocent rolled her eyes. “I led men and women to war for most of the nation’s history since the reign of the tyrannical king. Before that, you could say, I helped in the rebellion against him.”

“And married…and whatnot in that time.” The Innocent softly added, part of her hoping he had not heard her. Her thoughts fell again on William, the young man that looked so much like Kaz, and her heart filled with jealousy. How dare he leave her and then do that. It might be five hundred years, but she had thought that he would come back to her as the same, love-struck thief who’d left Hyrule five hundred years ago. Not this…this strange person she couldn’t define any better than the absurd attraction she felt for William.

“You could say that.” Kaz sighed and took a sip of his drink. “I’m sorry.”

“I…” She stared at her mostly untouched plate, but the food only made her feel slightly queasy. Or was that this conversation? Maybe the reason she had not wished to speak or see him again was not because she hated him, but because she hated the idea that things might have changed. Those five hundred years were much longer than a few months; that eternity lasted far more than time. They weren’t those people who had fallen in love at the drop of a hat centuries ago, no, those people were only children. They were a thief and an archer, not a retired general and a destitute lady. The world had grown old now, and Tap laughed at the irony of it all and how silly she had once been.

“I think I get it…a little.” Tap said. “But, I can’t go back to feeling for you like that, again…or at least not now. I don’t know if we ever could.”

He nodded. “Don’t worry, I didn’t expect that. Naomi will be a real pain in the arse no matter what... But, since that’s the case, then you would let me protect you?”

Tap blinked then giggled. The question was so absurd, but then again, she had been distant and acted strange when she was with him, or perhaps, well, no, he had pretty much stated he had no such feelings for her. She was not sure to be glad about that or not, or if he had meant something else that she did not understand.

“Errr…if you want. Don’t you think it’s time to go?” She asked. “I’d think they’re worried or something like that.”

“No. Naomi might even be excited.” Kaz smiled from across the table, finishing the last of his bowl. “Well, perhaps you’re right.”

They left the inn, passing the blonde serving maid on the way out and walked along the streets heading back towards Tiveri’s hideout, while Aracient followed the skipping Innocent and the striding Redeemed. They chatted on a various number of things, but never touched upon anything too important. Tap dared not mention Mervil, though; she wondered still what had happened to Death. Was he here in the city too or was he searching the land for people to condemn? She stopped that train of thought before it got too far, then, someone tapped Tap on her shoulder and she gasped. Kaz reached for his sword, withdrew it, and pointed it at the newcomer’s throat.

“Don’t hurt him!” Tap screamed. “That’s Will. I forced him to buy that hat when we were running from that scribe-girl yesterday.”

Kaz sighed but put the blade back in its scabbard. “Scribe-girl? Darius is a man, Tap. He’s in the Goron Protectorate by now. You might want to get your eyes looked over…”

The Innocent stuck out her tongue. Will sighed, forcing both of the Prophetic Ones to give their attention to him. “You’re like little kids. The first thing you did was act like the other was sick or something and now you’re best friends?”

“At a certain age,” Kaz gave Will a smirk. “You revert back to your younger years.”

The younger man shook his head. “That’s not that important. You know, I was looking for you two. I just found out that Orilieus is coming here for the Festival; the royals literally demanded his presence or something like that. I’m not sure, but this place is going to get even more dangerous in the next few days and…they said an ambassador is coming from Kyzoon. Her name was Leah Tirpz.”

Kaz sighed. “That’s Irene’s other daughter…just bloody wonderful. Have Tiveri and the others decided what to do yet?”

“Not that I know of. You old people take a long time to choose to do anything, old man.”

Tap coughed. “Shouldn’t we tell Naomi and Jaros and that weird Twili?”

The others nodded, even the raven. Tap smiled, confused, yes, but relieved and continued to skip along, humming an old forgotten tune that she had heard from the bards long ago. Even if the bards now sung a different tune than of the heroes' adventures, she and her friends still lived on. Why should she care if not even the bards could recall what had been done?

_________________
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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: Tue Jan 18, 2011 7:21 am
Ladies and mentlegen, I present to you my crazy long addition to FF. :D Sorry to keep y'all waiting, but you know how it is, you're never busy until you actually have something to do. :| Enjoy!

Chapter 24: A rolling stone

Blackness. Head...

Ugh...

Throbbing.

Where am... wait... no... I... I remem-

Eyes... stuck shut. Head... stinging. Ribs... aching...

My head... my... chest... he... he didn’t... Oh... oh ho no... NO.

Darius forced his eyes open. Foggy shapes loomed around him. Taking a deep breath he felt a shooting pain in his chest. He reached up to feel blood pulsing heavily around the U-shaped indent on his brow. He moved his hand to discover another painful lump extruding from his head, only to have his hand slapped promptly back to his side.

“Sir mustn’t touch.”

“Mustn’t touch? MUSTN’T TOUCH?! You are most CERTAINLY one to talk! Exactly what sort of bed manner do you consider THIS then?!”

The blurry matron gave a stifled sigh. “Sir was far too agitated, Sir needed to rest...”

“You knocked me to the floor and clubbed me over the head! Resting and concussed are two wildly different conditions, my dear doctor! Now if you’ll kindly excuse me I will skip my next dose of blunt trauma and be on my way.”

Throwing off his sheets, the young scribe began his next violent crusade for the freedom that awaited just outside of the stony hospital wing. Since awaking to find himself in the custody of a very single-minded Goron nurse, Darius had been attempting to leave on his own terms, often quite forcefully. The Goron nurse however, now in focus once more, had other plans and simply grabbed Darius around the shoulders, shoving him again indelicately back into bed.

“Sir has given me...” The clearly very patient nurse paused dramatically here, tending briefly to a fresh set of bruises littering his bulbous face... “That is to say, Sir has given all of us, a very hard time, and perhaps Sir needs to lie down and relax... before his condition worsens.”

The sickly sweet tone that dripped from this poorly masked threat would be enough to scare most folk right back into bed. And despite the fact that the promise of more ‘intensive treatment’ only added fuel to the fire, Darius knew that the colossal physician actually had a point and so begrudgingly stayed his aggressive advance and unhappily collapsed.

Considering that most of his conscious time lately had been spent fighting stony behemoths for the right to leave his own hospital bed, Darius really had had very little time to survey his room. With his pounding head now resting, he noticed that the stone walls looked as if they had actually been carefully dug out like the inside of a cave rather than built up like the stone buildings Darius was used to. This seemingly backwards construction was contrasted by the beautifully crafted, gleaming medical tools scattered about on various chiselled benches. An incredibly heavyset window made from what appeared to be a solid brick of quartz let in a dull reddish glow from outside. Focusing on the warm glow, Darius mulled over his current position.

Alright... whether through inspired design or sheer dumb luck, everything in this city has been built like a fortress; the walls are solid stone, the steel gates are impassably huge and the elegant simplicity of the buildings leaves me no flaws to exploit in an escape... I doubt I am getting out of here via the usual methods, especially considering the state I’m in... but nevertheless, I must escape and carry out my orders. I have to try something... anything... I wonder... how strong is that window really...

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“Those rocks are beginning to look surprisingly palatable...”

There were two reasons Yazstromo had come to this conclusion. The first was that while some people have a talent for magic or for fighting, others simply have a talent for eating. The humongous Goron enjoying a dish of fine satayed basalt on the opposite side of the room happened to have such an ability, and managed to make whatever he ate seem like the most supremely edible thing in the insufferably cramped diner. The second reason was that after repeatedly turning down the waiter’s offer of pumice flambé, Daedus and Yazstromo were brought two steaming bowls of the only non-rock based meal on the menu, which the waiter had assured them, not convincingly, was edible.

The Goron noticed Yazstromo ogling his dish and shot him a quizzical look. The old man glared at the giant before returning quickly to his bubbling sludge.

“I wonder if he’d notice if I swapped our dishes... just for a little while,” Yazstromo mused, fiddling with his beard.

Daedus however had been thoroughly unfazed by how truly repulsive his meal was thanks to the strangeness of the place he now found himself in.

As he and Yazstromo had hurried into the streets of the Goron Protectorate, neither had taken much note of anything except how dark and crowded the place was. After they slowed down and discovered a lack of burly guards furiously tracking them, they got the chance to take in some of the sights. The most prominent feature they noticed was the stunning vastness of the cavern they were in. It stretched so high that the ceiling was almost hidden entirely by darkness. This was helped little by the gloomy lighting of the lava channels that ran level with the roads. These rivers of churning molten rock, which were a wholly alien sight to Daedus’s aged eyes, carried massive shipping crates filled with various strange products to some of the larger structures in the city. Between these bigger buildings were the markets, burdened with a constant stream of customers and passersby. Among these markets Yazstromo and Daedus had found the ‘Hard Place Diner’, a small eatery filled with portraits of famous Gorons and rare rock samples, which despite its diminutive interior seemed to house a very large percentage of the city’s activity.

All of this had finally tipped the scales and become too much for the poor, sheltered creature. Daedus had only just recently rejoined the world of activity, life and company. He had managed to shut out the initial shock with his desire for redemption and a decent meal after which he was tasked with the struggle to reach a safe harbour. Now though, with nothing to distract him from this barely remembered reality, Daedus was left feeling empty, scared and without guidance.
Daedus looked around the room and could feel eyes constantly passing over him. There were so many people, and they all looked so strange. Everything was getting to be too much... just... too much...

The world started to fade to darkness... sweat was beading on his forehead... his stomach began to clench...

What... what am I doing here... I can’t... I just...

“OW!”

A sharp nip to his neck brought Daedus back to the diner. Little Lewis had been trying to get his attention as delicately as he could for the past few minutes, finally attempting a much more direct approach. Daedus now noticed that one particular set of eyes had been watching him very closely during his whole ordeal. Very sad eyes.

“I might have suggested retching myself,” Yazstromo spoke conversationally, “if I had thought it would taste any better on the way up... I have my suspicions, but I’ll leave it at that.”

He grinned, though his eyes remained locked on Daedus, glazed with a look of concern. Without moving his steely gaze, he directed a lofty address to Daedus’s right shoulder.

“Lewis my dear contraption, for the sake of all things good and tasty, see if you can procure us something to wash down this affront to my pallet. I would suggest a mild acid.”

The trinket glared at the old man as only a trinket can. He too was concerned for the frightened Daedus.

“I’m finding it a bit tough to leave. I can’t say I shareeerrrr-” His beak had seized open. After a few seconds of straining, it slammed shut with a clack.

“Eh... your hopeful optimism...”

Yazstromo quickly shot the back talking bird an impatient, furrowed frown and directed him with his eyes to the bar. The little bird gave a tinny sigh. He knew better than to ignore one of those looks.
“Although... I suppose... it couldn’t hurt to shake off some of this rust.”

He clunkily shuffled off of Daedus’s shoulder and hopped pitifully away from the table, taking great effort in playing up his still stiff joints by toppling over every other step.

“Daedus... how long were you stuck in that house?”

The man, who had been focusing on the performance of his mechanical friend, was shocked back into conversation.

“I believe I mentioned that it must have been 30 of my years or-”

“No no... no, Daedus... how long were you really there? Everybody knows what it is like when you are waiting for that certain package to arrive or waiting for a certain conversation with political types to end or-”

He was already fishing in the dark and now he feared he had lost him. This man, boy almost, was making it very difficult to feel useful.

“Or... how about waiting... just waiting. We of all people know that waiting makes time act an utter fool. It finds it has your full attention and wants you to see it dance. Time will make you wait much, much longer than what others think you are waiting... and you’ve been waiting alone for a very long time, haven’t you my boy?”

Daedus looked down. He didn’t know what to say. His skin was pale and his hair bleaching with age... but it was clear he had been a child for a lot longer than most folk.

“You see, Daedus, all of these people around you? They all look like they know what they’re doing, don’t they? They all seem to have a story to follow... but not you. You haven’t had a life, not really, and you certainly haven’t got a purpose... at least... not one that you know of. I think I can understand why that’s frightening...”

His scraggly hair continued to hide his face, and now his tears. Daedus wept silently, not wanting to interrupt, but Yazstromo was no fool. He only hoped that this was helping.

“But perhaps... and this is just a perhaps... a person doesn’t need a life or a purpose to start writing their story, hmm? Perhaps you have something that everyone else here never even got a chance at. Every single person has been so filled up by the big proper world and the big proper stories that they had no choice in what story they were being written into... but you my boy... well... you’ve gone practically your whole life without a story. Maybe it’s time you started writing one, eh?”

Daedus looked up and saw a hopeful twinkle in those ancient eyes. He smiled through his tears. Perhaps he was right. Perhaps all he needed to do was just... start.

TINK... TINK... TINK...

Daedus glanced over and saw Lewis slowly returning, somehow balancing a tray with two stone pitchers on top.

“Ah, wonderful. You always had a knack for the impossible you old timepiece,” said the even older Yazstromo, swiftly plucking one of the mugs from Lewis’s perfect equilibrium and grinning as he struggled to stay upright. Daedus quickly assisted him by taking the tray and replacing it and his friend on the table. The little bird gave the smallest expression of annoyed fury ever documented by Yazstromo, which he returned with a jovial grin.

“So, Lewis, your companion here and I were just discussing the nature of our adventure. What are your thoughts on the matter?”

The old man continued to beam at the metal creature, hoping his ever vigilant optimism would once again grant him forgiveness. Lewis pouted, in his own universally unique way, and answered the endearing coot.

“Considering the effort the chef put into making sure you weren’t eating something dug out of the cliff face, we should really think about repaying him by... well... paying him.”

Yazstromo took a swig from the mug and recoiled recognising the distinctive taste of mud.

“Yes, yes I think that I was done with my meal any way...” he muttered obligingly.

The group rose from their stools and approached the counter. The barman watched their approach and saw the oldest among them fiddling with a pouch. They seemed to be chatting about their next destination and idly tossed some rupees onto the bench. They then turned to leave.

Hah hah, he thought. Foreigners.

“Excuse me gents,” said the behemoth of a bartender, picking up the gems, “but I hope you don’t expect this to cover your meal.”

The adventurers looked at each other. Daedus simply had no idea what was happening at all, given that he had seen the gems before and assumed that it was a custom to give bright and shiny objects as a token of thanks in this place. Yazstromo however was completely baffled as he was almost certain that he had purposely handed over a small fortune in the hopes that the poor establishment wouldn’t have to serve dirt at his next meal.

“I could give you more, barkeep, but I would suggest you get a barrel.”

He returned a stony grin. “Boy, you really don’t know, do you mate? Rupees ain’t been accepted here for a couple of years now. The Hard Place Diner has been keeping up with the advancement of Goron society and as such we only accept Goro-bucks as payment here.”

The old man squinted. “Goro-bucks? I see... and you won’t accept rupees at all?”

“Oh, sure we will. The Hard Place Diner welcomes patrons who have specific tastes and as such we will happily grind these into one of our many delicious beverages for you.”

The Goron grinned with a very practiced smile and reached for the gems. The old man snatched them with an apologetic smile and stuffed them quickly back into his bag.

“No no no, I wouldn’t want to be a bother and besides, I’m already stuffed... but you really won’t take rupees for the meal?”

“Would you like if I payed you in pastries, mate?”

Yazstromo gave this serious thought.

“I’m sorry,” Daedus cut in, “but you would prefer to have these Goh-roh-bucks? Might we see one in the hopes that if we find some we might give them to you?”

Giving him a patiently confused look, the Goron pulled out a fist sized coin, a deep stony grey, which somewhat resembled a sand dollar.

“This is a Goro-buck. These were brought in when the Protectorate decided that using snacks as currency was demeaning to our civilisation as a whole. You won’t find too many Goron establishments accepting rock candy these days mate, but since you seem like a nice guy, I’ll cut you some slack... half off; 20 Goro-bucks.”

“I’m afraid that no matter how many times you halve the cost, good sir, I will still fall short of having anything at all. Perhaps,” said the wise old man, reaching deep into his robes, “this will do as some collateral while we sure up the debt,” and he handed over an intricately carved wooden box with a very strange looking latch on the front.

“You see, the box belonged to one of the Prophetic Ones; the Prophet, actually,” he continued, hoping to ignore the creature’s massive eyes rolling in disbelief and ambivalence.
The old man adopted a tone of indifference himself and spouted off, “Oh, and there just so happens to be a signed likeness of some, uhh, Dolomike? Dolomire? Dolomire fellow in there... not that that means anyth-”

THE DOLOMIRE?! You only mean the GREATEST Goron wrestler of our TIME?!” Clearly this had caught the Goron’s attention. His eyes flashed with excitement as he snatched the box out of the old man’s hands.

“Yes, if you happen to find it before we get back then feel free to hold onto it. Although I’d be careful if I were you,” he added with a tone of almost patronizing innocence, “as that latch can be devious to undo and you might feel inclined to snap the box in half. Unfortunately that autograph is a particularly delicate one. The Doloman fellow apparently had it with him during one of his bigger matches and it’s all crumpled and gritty, just hanging on by a thread I’d say. Right, well, we’ll be back in a moment my good man!” Yazstromo beamed, seeing that the Goron was now thoroughly immersed in twisting and turning the small latch while trying to contain his seemingly unbearable excitement. He gestured to his partners and they slunk out of the door.

“That should keep him occupied for a little while I should hope,” Yazstromo sighed, relieved.
“He really did seem excited about that likeness. It certainly was lucky that you happened to have one on you.” Daedus was enthralled by how things just happened to fall into place around this mysterious man.

“Yes, well, this is just another example of what I was saying before, Daedus. I’ve discovered we need to craft our own stories, forge our own destinies and such. I happened to need a priceless artifact and so I made sure I happened to have a priceless artifact... and for all that Goron chap knows, I really did have one.” Yazstromo let out a chuckle and winked mischievously at his still confused travelling partner.

“Let’s just get back before he figures out how to open that box, eh? Now, Daedus, where do your instincts tell us we should go? What chapter comes next? How does this exciting stretch of your story begin?”

Daedus began to think when inspiration hit him like a brick. Or, moreover, a Goron hit the ground in front of him after being launched out of a window and crushing three massive crates of sand.
“Ungrateful little human, kick me through a window, who even does that? He’s definitely getting another smack on the head...” mumbled the Goron as he dusted himself off, straightened his nurse’s cap and began the slow decent up the stairs to the room with the now shattered window.

Daedus smiled. A proper smile. Maybe this story was going to be easier to write than he thought.

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“UNHAND ME! This is preposterous! Just let me leave!”

A pair of Goron guards had heard the ruckus and had grabbed Darius in mid-flight as he came tumbling through the hall. They had dragged him all the way back to his room and had done so with considerably less care than a hospital guard might be expected to exercise.

“Ahh, bro, it isn’t advisable to try stunts like that, yeah? You might have gotten yourself hurt, kickin’ a Goron through a solid quartz window. You’re in a hospital you know, bro,” said the younger of the two. He clearly saw Darius as an excitable, confused little thing and was quite sincere in his advice. The older of the two, with a thick stony moustache and a heavy brow, understood full well the type of punk Darius was and how little respect he had for the people who were caring for him.

“You think you’re so tough punk? Don’t think we haven’t heard about all the trouble you’ve been causing up here. Just because you’re sick doesn’t mean I won’t rough you up, so pipe down!”
As he said this he tightened his grip on the poor scribe and indelicately forced him back onto his bed.

“Sorry bro, but this is for your own good you know. You can’t be runnin’ around kickin’ guys through windows like that. Don’t worry, we’ll be right outside if you need anything, okay?”

“Yeah,” the moustachioed golem chimed in, “we’ll be right here... watching... so shape up and don’t misbehave!”

The two left Darius to his own musings about whether he could survive the several story drop to the ground floor and took guard outside.

A few moments later, Darius’s nurse returned with a very peculiar grin on his face.

“Hello sir, I have some good news for you. Thanks my quick trip outside I ran into some friends of yours.”

“That is highly unlikely.”

“Yes, I thought so too. However, when they explained that it was urgent they see their mentally disturbed friend, I knew they must be on the level. Come on in sirs, I’ll be right outside if you need anything. If he gets too rowdy, I’d be more than happy to sedate him.”

The nurse opened the door to reveal two aged men, one more so than the other.

“Thank you my dear doctor, we’ll only be a moment,” said the eldest one calmly and with a soft smile closed the door.

Darius looked them up and down. He was certain that these were no faces he knew, and he remembered faces.

“So, we hear that you haven’t been enjoying the facilities here.”

“Your understatement couldn’t get any grander if I-”

“Kicked the Goron nursing staff out a window, yes, we saw. It is an odd place this, isn’t it? Did you know that they don’t accept rupees here?” The old man fiddled with an implement on one of the pristine benches.

“Of course. It is common practice for Gorons these days. I myself carry a bit of their currency on me on long journeys just in case. Are you sure it shouldn’t be you in the hospital instead of me, old man?”

He brought the implement to his mouth and began picking at what he thought must have been a small stone lodged in his teeth.

“I suspect that that may be the case, although I fear that many more poor nurses might get flung out of windows. This sort of thing happens, as you know. I tell you what though young sir... if you would be so kind as to lend us some of that money to pay off a little meal we had earlier, then we might be able to help you with your living arrangements.”

Yazstromo twirled the tool slowly between his fingers and grinned at the poor scribe.

Darius looked from the cunning old man to his companion, who looked a little uncomfortable but clearly still more confident about this plan than he himself felt.

“And exactly how are two old beggar men going to break me out of a solid stone fortress surrounded by muscle-bound guards?”

“Oh,” Yazstromo mused, “we have our ways. So, it’s a deal then?”

“I’m sorry sir, you and your friend are clearly confused and desperate,” Darius said, feeling almost a little sorry for their position, “and you seem not to have grasped why I should be trusting a couple of strange old men who have lied their way into my hospital room.”

The two men looked at each other, the older one with a snide grin and the younger one simply confused. And then, surprisingly, the younger one spoke.

“Do you have a reason not to?” Daedus asked the scribe, who was a little taken aback. “My travelling companion mentioned to me that you must clearly be in a rush to get to your destination, as otherwise you would simply stay and enjoy the opportunity to relax and recover. If you are indeed in need of an immediate escape, then I feel that we are the only ones for a fair distance not intent on keeping you in that bed. Even if we cannot help you, you will be no worse a position for accepting our help.”

Yazstromo turned to the scribe, who now wore a stunning shade of frustration, and smiled.
“Truer words were never spoken my boy. And I should hardly think that, for a man such as yourself who carries extra money in exotic currencies just for a rainy day, losing 20 Goro-bucks seems like that great a loss, especially if it gives you a chance to be on your way a little swifter. We all take gambles, my friend. Yours is simply a small wager that two old men can defeat an army of stone giants.”

Yazstromo quickly spun the instrument to a point and left it revolving on the tip of his finger.

“I’ve bet on far worse odds.” He added with a grin.

Darius was surprised at the coherence of their argument. It was true that at this point any assistance would be a step up. He grimaced and reached down beside his bed.

“You know, 20 Goro-bucks is pretty expensive for a meal. You should know now that you’ve been ripped off.”

Daedus held out his hand and accepted the pouch of coins. Darius, now resigned to whatever fate had in store, lay back on his bed with his arms behind his head.

“They left me some of my personal effects like money but took everything else down to the front desk, hence my greater difficulty in escaping. Whatever master plan you two have, make sure it includes getting my things.”

The two men were now quite pleased with themselves, Daedus especially, and were quite distracted with their own sense of acheivement.

“Yes yes, we’ll get your toys, never mind that. Just rest up! You’ve got a big day ahead of you... I imagine!” Yazstromo shouted and, flinging open the door, dashed out of the room with Daedus clutching Lewis in his hand and hurrying after him.

Darius glanced out of the doorway and, seeing his guests had left, breathed a sigh of defeat.

“Grace of the Gods, why me?”

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Daedus, having caught up with Yazstromo, was feeling quite good about his day so far. A little tired, maybe, but he was running on 30 years worth of pent up adrenalin and he felt like nothing could stop him now.

“Ahem, not to doubt your eternal wisdom Yazstromo,” whispered the little copper bird, who had collar, “but yours is the walk of a man who has a plan... which is odd, because I don’t remember you ever mentioning one.”

The old man winced briefly at the bird and pontificated his reasoning in as lofty a voice as he could muster.

“We may not have a set in stone, map on the wall, provisions in the bag plan, no. But we have done very well for ourselves so far and I am confident that our adventure will continue on in a stunning fashion. Confidence, my tinny little friend, is a powerful weapon. It is why I always win at cards.”

“From what I remember, you rarely won at cards, Yazstromo,” chimed Lewis.

“Yes, well, being a gracious and charitable friend is another one for the arsenal,” Yazstromo rebutted, poking his tongue at the trinket. Daedus stifled a laugh and kept his eyes forward.

The three arrived to an interesting sight at the diner. The tables had been shoved unceremoniously to the corners and in the centre were two Gorons shoving and batting each other about. Yazstromo and Daedus worked their way through the seething, cheering crowd and over to the bar, where Yazstromo was pleased to see the bartender still clicking away at the latch on the little wooden box, though he was now thoroughly enjoying the distraction of the wrestling.

“EXCUSE ME,” Yazstromo piped up over the noise, “BUT WE HAVE YOUR PAYMENT RIGHT HERE.”

“WHAT? OH! WONDERFUL! ALTHOUGH, TO BE HONEST I WAS KIND OF HOPING YOU WOULDN’T COME BACK MATE. BIT OF A WRESTLING FAN YOU SEE. THAT’S WHAT GAVE ME THE IDEA!” The Goron gestured to the middle of the room with a grin on his face.

Yazstromo smiled and nodded, taking the box back off the barkeep and tucking it safely away in his robes.

“YES, A WONDERFUL IDEA IT IS, SPOT OF- oh... oh sorry...” The old man realised he was still shouting despite the round ending and the crowd quietening down.

“But yes, spot of exercise here and there is good for the bones, eh Daedus?”

He nudged Daedus, who nodded, despite being enthralled by the preparations of the next fighters.

“So this is a common occurrence then? The fighting?”

The Goron shook his head at the old man. “Nah, nah, this is different to the usual wrestling we have going on here. See, we just got word that in a few hours, some fellow named Orilieus is coming through town on the way to the Autumn festival and he’s looking for the strongest Goron’s to accompany him as guards. So I thought we’d have a contest to find the strongest out of us, because after all, WE’RE THE STRONGEST IN THE WHOLE TOWN, RIGHT BOYS?!”

He threw his massive arm in the air and was immediately greeted with a booming cheer which Yazstromo found delightful, but quite shook the unsuspecting Daedus and poor Lewis nearly fell from his hidden perch.

“Well, who could argue with that? So, the Autumn festival eh?... My word, what a marvellous celebration it is... Oh, you’d love it Daedus,” Yazstromo leaned against the counter, his eyes lost in dreamy memories.

“You can practically swim through the smell of the food, Daedus, and drinks are thrown around like sailors throw water from a sinking ship... people dance in the streets and there are jugglers filling the sky itself with dancing and the colours! Oh the colours Daedus, the colours are so beautiful...”
Daedus was seized by the images spun by these words and was quite certain now that he needed to see it all with his own eyes.

“Hah hah, well, perhaps you should go then gents! It isn’t too long a trip if you have a horse or carriage.”

Daedus’s spirit fell a little bit when he remembered how difficult the trip here was in the first place.

“We... we don’t have a carriage though... or a horse...” he muttered, now looking down.

The Goron let out a hearty laugh. “Hah hah hah, well, goodness knows how you got up here then. Maybe this Orilieus fellow will be happy to let you ride with him, eh?”

“Ahh, I’m certain of it!” cried Yazstromo, clapping Daedus around the shoulders encouragingly. “And should we be expecting to greet any of you on the way to the Festival? Eh, fellows?”

The old man raised his voice over the clamor and held a hand to his ear. The crowd exploded with cheers and two more Gorons took the opportunity to dive into the ring and start grappling. Yazstromo chuckled and motioned to Daedus that it might be time to go. Daedus looked to the Goron and counted out 20 coins from the purse. He gave a small nod and a thank you then followed Yazstromo out of the noisy room.

The streets were quiet, at least compared to the diner, and the two men and their bird felt somewhat more at home in this strange place. Daedus walked confidently, nodding and grinning at Gorons here and there; he didn’t feel quite so lonely anymore. But he was still concerned about one matter in particular.

“Yazstromo... are you really certain that Orilieus will let us join him on his way to the festival?” Daedus asked carefully, as if asking too hard would somehow change the answer.

Lewis poked his head out of Daedus’s collar, a sad look somehow glistening in his eyes.

“Oh, uhh, Daedus... I think they were joking... If this Orilieus person is looking to pay for the strongest Gorons in town, he is probably pretty important. I doubt he’d let two strangers simply join his convoy.”

“Once again, you’ve missed the point entirely my dearest bird-brain,” hummed Yazstromo, with a twinkle in his eye.

“Come now Yazstromo, don’t give the poor guy false hope-”

“I will do no such thing! In fact, I think we should let Daedus tell us our course of action, don’t you?”

Lewis managed to etch a look of concern onto his stoic avian face, but remained silent. He hadn’t been given cause to doubt the old man yet... he just didn’t want his friend to get hurt.

“Now,” Yazstromo said, turning to Daedus, “Lewis is absolutely correct. I doubt Orilieus would let a couple of strange old kooks like us join his group for no reason. However, we know for a fact that he is letting two people join his ranks, correct?”

Daedus thought back to the diner, back to what little he had recently found out about this Orilieus character.

“Yes! He requires two body guards! That is his entire reason for coming here!”

“Spot on. Now, exactly what kinds of bodyguards is he looking for?”

Daedus, not seeing the direction of these questions, again answered innocently.

“Gorons. Orilieus is looking for the strongest Gorons to guard him.”

“Once more, a brilliant deduction Daedus! Now, you’re a clever lad, do the maths: Orilieus is looking for the two strongest Gorons to accompany him to the Autumn festival; we want to accompany Orilieus to the Autumn festival... so that means...?”

“We must be the two strongest Gorons!” Daedus gleefully cried, only realising a moment later the strangeness of this statement.

“Perfect! A wonderful plan, Daedus. I honestly couldn’t think of anything more straightforward,” Yazstromo chirped happily, his chest puffed out proudly.

Lewis cocked his head, one eye twitching slightly from the sheer willpower required to comprehend this plan. He looked from one to the other, then let out a little tinny sigh and tucked himself back into Daedus’s collar, a small grin having worked its way onto his steely beak. This was going to be fun.

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Throughout the town was a pressing silence. Not the kind of silence you hear out in a field or in an empty room, but the kind that you hear when something big and hollow is suddenly devoid of activity. This could be explained by the sudden migration of every inhabitant of the colossal cavern to the town gates, forgiving of course the medical staff, who were required to stay and tend to their patients, much to the chagrin of a certain scribe. Yes, almost the whole town had rushed to cheer on the strongest Gorons among them and delighted in watching the chosen two grapple and spar with willing bystanders, tossing them gleefully back into the crowd.

A make-shift arena had been cobbled together long before the crowd had arrived, seemingly by some of the more fanatic wrestling enthusiasts, and the two massive Gorons in the middle of the ring seemed to be enjoying it to no end. One was quite tall and very muscular. He sported a sleek, stony moustache, the chiselled form of which curved up slightly at the ends, lightly framing his long face. The other was much shorter and stockier all over. He was so heavyset that his arms looked almost too thick and tough to be attached to his body, which could have been likened to a large boulder. While clothing had become more and more popular among the Goron people, those who practiced the wrestling arts had opted for a more traditional approach and wore very little. The tall Goron sported a only baggy set of pants tied with a thick rope, while the thicker creature wore only a large flat belt, dividing his massive body and his two trunk-like legs. Individually, these two could easily withstand virtually anything that was bold enough to attack them, but together, it seemed they were a stone wall that no sane being would seriously attempt to topple. Yet still, despite this, two far smaller and far stranger figures prepared themselves just outside the ring.

“How are you doing in there? It shouldn’t be too hot as I added a coat of this marvellous slime that grows under my bathtub occasionally. It seems to thrive in hot, humid conditions and excretes delightfully fresh air. It’s also marvellous at decomposing foodscraps... and furniture... and floors... but don’t worry, it is entirely possible that those last few were simply because the slime got bored, which hopefully shouldn’t be a problem with our plan, eh?”

The figure stood taller than regular men but was by no means rivalling some of the locals in stature. Its form was obscured by a loose tunic and baggy pants. With the addition of some thick leather gloves, canvas shoes and a scarf which hid the majority of his face, the outfit looked like something that might be more at home on a lithe monk or a bandit, but still managed to carry an air of style and tradition. His companion however was dressed in something else entirely, and it was easy to see why the taller one might have been concerned about his acquaintance. This one too was covered from head to foot with clothing; a thick woolly jacket covered his top half, with the lower segment being hidden by a pair of shorts over some tight leggings. His feet wore boots, his head a beanie with flaps to cover the sides of his face. The only uniform they seemed to share were their thick leather gloves. Though, despite their forms being almost entirely hidden by clothing, the bulky limbs and rocky protrusions across their bodies gave away their identities almost immediately; these were, without a doubt, two Gorons, albeit over-dressed ones. Except that they weren’t Gorons at all.

“I feel fine Yazstromo... although, I am worried that I will not remember what to do,” the gaudy figure spoke worriedly, as he awkwardly shuffled about practicing the motions he was so concerned about forgetting.

“Daedus my boy, when you are performing you can’t afford to be too worried... or... perhaps that's too not-worried... in either case, we’ve practiced enough and now you simply need to have confidence!”

Yazstromo enthusiastically reached over to give Daedus a reassuing pat on the back Daedus, but he overshot and knocked the poor man to the ground.

“Oh my... sorry about that... I assure you though, once you get into that ring everything will run like clockwork! You have nothing to be worried about,” he insisted, offering his hand to help the poor man to his feet.

Daedus had good reason to be worried though. He had never in his whole life tried something like this. In the few hours between the three adventurers finding out about Orilieus’s arrival and his actual appearance, Yazstromo, Daedus and Lewis had been working relentlessly at making their impossible plan come to fruition. They had managed to coax some enthusiastic townsfolk into helping them shift the massive wooden crates into place to create a makeshift stage. They took great care in preparing the arena on top, making it an invitation to any would-be champions. Underneath the arena though was something wholly more bizarre. Strings and pulleys had been connected to all different parts of the stage. Weights had been hung on certain slats while others had been thinned out. Detailed calculations guided every decision as the three worked on the intricate trap. Time moved quickly, but so did they. Taking the generous amounts of money lent to them by Darius, the two men swiftly went about buying their supplies. They bought massive sheets of thick leather and their distinctive aforementioned choices of clothing. Hiding in a dusty abandoned dance studio, the three ambitious adventurers had set to work on creating their disguises; they were going to make themselves into Gorons.

Daedus hadn’t really done too much sewing in his time, forgiving little patchwork jobs with old bent needles, although he couldn’t help but be suspicious of how well and how quickly Yazstromo’s sewing needles worked. By this it is meant not that he felt that it was himself or Yazstromo who were doing the sewing, but the needles themselves. When his hand began to cramp and he needed a rest, he could sense that the needle felt reluctant to stop working and he could have sworn that whenever he left it alone it twitched just the tiniest bit. He considered that perhaps this is simply how very good sewing needles were meant to be and left it at that. They plastered some jagged rocks along some of the impossibly fine seems and filled the insides with stuffing from a half empty pillow that Yazstromo claimed he had stuffed in his pack on a whim. As they filled the suits it became increasingly more apparent to Daedus that not only was there much more stuffing in this pillow than there had first appeared but also that he had never had so much luck in such a short time as when he was with this mysterious old man. Not ever. This might have been an interesting point for Daedus to muse upon if, for one, Daedus was the sort of person to muse upon things and, for another, their plan had almost miraculously come completely together, save for one impending detail: the final execution. Though he may not have realised, Daedus did indeed have good reason to be worried. It was show time.

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Post Re: ~Forever Forgotten~ To Dust • Posted: Fri Feb 11, 2011 7:40 pm
Well, here it is. (Gasp!) Introducing an npc here, Dren. This is pretty much just a side story, seeing as there's not much going on with Fulkrome plot-wise. A measly 4,079 words, enjoy.



Chapter 25: Haunting

Fulkrome breathed in the evening air as he walked around the small lake. A place so familiar yet so changed. Not too far from the Old Capitol, the lake was a feature not present all those centuries ago. A few small groves surrounded the shoreline, making homes for the small animals happily chattering to each other as the sun sank farther and farther towards the horizon.

I suppose nothing remains the same forever. he thought as he walked around the edge of the lake, a routine he had started only recently. This daily walk provided him with something to do in his spare time, which he had quite a bit of in recent times. A breeze rolled across the water, sending ripples over the surface. As Fulkrome stared at the dark water, a slowly drifting figure caught his eye somewhere on the other side. It floated towards him, slow and wisplike. Fulkrome moved his hand towards his sword, ready to draw it if the need to arose. As the figure got nearer and nearer to his side of the little lake, Fulkrome was able to pick up the ethereal being’s features. It was small, not much bigger than a large dog. A faint glowing began to emanate from the mysterious creature as nearly inaudible whispers began to flow through Fulkrome’s metal helm.

He could hear ”You…” whispered very faintly all around him, as if several voices were talking to him at once. The strange figure was only a few feet from Fulkrome by then, seemingly fighting against the light wind to stay in place as it opened its two eyes. Pulling its arms out from its body, it produced a small decrepit lantern, the source of the strange glowing. Taking an effort to raise its arm, it pointed at Fulkrome just as the whispers started to increase both in volume and speed.

”Why are you still alive...? it said several times, a different emotion apparent each time.

“Do I know you little poe?” Fulkrome inquired of his strange visitor.

”You killedthem…” it said with mostly anger in its voices, ignoring Fulkrome’s question.

“I’ve killed many in my time,” Fulkrome said with regret in his voice as the poe returned it’s arm to its side, seemingly tired from the effort in keeping it up.

”You killed ME…” it replied, all its voices sounding enraged now.

“That’s still not enough information for me to know who you are.”

Looking over to the setting sun, Fulkrome realized how late it was getting. The gates to the capitol would be closing for the night. As Fulkrome began to turn and head back towards his temporary home within the capitol, an onslaught of the poe’s whispers whirled around him, each whispering something different to him. Within the maelstrom of voices, he could only pick up a few of the things said. Voices asking him things about himself he could not answer, telling him what his victims went through because of him. He could hear nothing save for the poe’s constant questioning, which was getting even louder.

The poe’s eyes began to get larger, burning with energy. As Fulkrome looked at it, he noticed the creature was now steadier, even though the breeze still blew across the water. As soon as Fulkrome began to draw his blade, the voices stopped abruptly and the poe motioned for him to follow it. ”Come,” it whispered sorrowfully. Looking back towards the capitol, Fulkrome began to follow the wisp, ready to defend himself if needed to. The ghostly figure floated toward one of the groups of trees surrounding the small body of water. As they neared, the poe’s lantern started to glow brighter, illuminating the trees around them. One tree in particular stood out, being a lighter color than the rest of the trees around the shore. The poe stopped near the tree, floating towards the trunk while resting its hand on the rough bark.

As Fulkrome caught up with the ghost, he saw an odd arrangement of flowers in front of the tree. Words were carved into the tree, worn away over all the years. Returning his attention to the flowers, he thought to himself. If this is my doing, someone must have been caring for this area, these flowers are arranged too intricately to be natural.

“Have you been here all this time poe?” he asked the ghost, who was nearly on the ground now, staring at him.

”For so many years… Trapped…” was his response, sounding completely saddened, no other emotions showing through any of the many voices speaking at once.

“Is your body buried here?” Fulkrome asked as the poe stared at him, rhythmically growing and shrinking as if it were breathing.

Not responding, the poe faded away, its evanescent form dissipating in the breeze.

“Where are you going?” Fulkrome said, snatching at the vanishing wisp.

Silence fell over the area as the whispers stopped completely for the first time since they began. Looks like this is where I’ll be spending the night then Fulkrome thought as he sat against a boulder, facing toward the grave in front of the pale tree. Trying to make out the carved words in the tree, he deciphered only a few words, the rest being too faded or worn away to read. Whoever was buried here was named Himel, whether or not that was the poe, Fulkrome couldn’t tell. As he was looking over the old tree, Fulkrome noticed something under the bed of flowers. Was there anything there just a few minutes ago? he wondered to himself as he reached over to grab it. Pulling a small chain out of the dirt, he realized it was necklace. There’s dirt on every part of it. It looks as though it was just unearthed.

”Remember…” a singular voice said quietly, oddly alone without the other voices speaking at once.

Brushing the dirt off the necklace, Fulkrome slowly put it on, letting the amulet on the end drop to his chest. Thinking about the events of the last our, he drifted off to sleep, thoughts racing through his mind.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The sun peaked between the trees in front of him as Fulkrome woke. Stretching his arms, he began to stand up. Looking around he realized he couldn’t remember parts of the previous night, the memories blurred and fuzzy. Hearing the necklace fall against his armor, the memories quickly flashed back to him as he looked down upon the mysterious trinket. Why did I put this on without much thought? he wondered. I’m lucky it doesn’t seem to be cursed or something. Reaching to take it off, a hiss whirled up around him.

“Still here, are you?” he asked, looking around for the poe.

”The village…” the poe whispered as it floated up from behind Fulkrome, moving over his shoulder and stopping a foot in front of his face.

“I can’t be of much use to you if you’re going to be so cryptic about everything,” Fulkrome replied. What seemed to be a sigh rushed past him as the poe reached for the amulet around Fulkrome’s neck. As it made contact, the poe was drawn towards it, disappearing inside. I don’t really want to make any spirits angry, he thought as he rested the amulet in his palm. I’ll get rid of this if the poe causes any trouble. For now it looks like he’s coming with me.

It was still early in the morning, the sun rising less than an hour ago. As he began the walk back towards the Old Capitol, Fulkrome thought over what the poe had said.

Village, that’s certainly very descriptive. There are many more villages around now than there were last time I was in this land, which does narrow it down some, although not enough to know exactly what the apparition was talking about. It’s hard to remember if there was a village where that lake is now. If there was, wouldn’t there be more evidence of that in the area other than a single grave?

As Fulkrome drew nearer to the gates of the capitol, he could see workers putting up decorations for the Autumn Festival.

Things are always changing, Fulkrome thought, sometimes slow, sometimes fast. The change may be temporary, or lasting, but in the end, nothing’s the same. To him, the festival was a sign of these changes.

Passing the workers at the gate, he noticed most of them smiling, excited for the upcoming festival. This excitement could be seen in many of the people in the streets, many who were rushing back and forth to prepare things. Making his way towards the house where he was staying, he involuntarily reached up and grabbed hold of the necklace, carefully holding it in his hand. Looking down, he tried to release it only to notice a strange glow, similar to the glowing of the poe’s lantern. A very thin smoke crept its way from the amulet between his fingers and gathered in front of him. As more smoke gathered, more of the poe’s features appeared, until eventually the eyes opened as the poe was fully formed. Fulkrome looked around at the people in the streets, expecting some to notice the specter. Everyone went on with their business, as if they didn’t notice the spirit floating in the street.

”Festival…” its whispers said in union.

“You know about the festival?” Fulkrome asked as a man walked past.

“Well of course I know about it, everyone celebrates it around here.” The man said, somewhat surprised at the dark nut speaking to him.

“Oh, sorry, I was asking the poe, not you.” Fulkrome said, turning towards the man.

“…There’s no poes around here mister, at least none I’ve ever seen,” the man replied, apparently not seeing the one right in front of Fulkrome.

“Interesting… Well, have a good day sir, I’ve got to get going,” Fulkrome said, continuing on his way to his temporary home. The man stared after him, puzzled, and went back to what he was doing. The poe drifted after Fulkrome, constantly whispering to him but completely unnoticed by the people around it.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Fulkrome pushed open the door to see Femm looking into the fireplace.

“Eventful night?” she asked as Fulkrome put his sword and shield against the wall.

“You could say that,” he said, holding the necklace between his fingers. “How much do you know about poes?”

“Hmm? A little more than the average person would, why?” she asked as she looked up from the fireplace and noticed the necklace around Fulkrome’s neck. “Where’d you get that?”

“A poe led me to it last night. And it’s been following me since then,” he said, turning to the poe who had just floated into the room through one of the walls. “There you are, say hello to Femm.”

The poe simply drifted lazily around the room as Femm followed Fulkrome’s gaze only to see nothing.

“Something feels odd, but I don’t see anything. You sure there’s something there, or are you going senile?” she asked.

“It’s here, but why you can’t see it, I don’t know. There was a man outside who couldn’t see it either, even though it was floating right there.”

“Odd, I wasn’t aware poes could be visible to certain people and not others, it’s not something I’ve seen before,” she said, still unable to see the ethereal figure floating around the room. “Although putting on that necklace may not have been the smartest thing to do.”

“I don’t really remember making a conscious decision to put it on, I seemed to do it against my will,” he said, sitting against the wall near his equipment. “Besides, I didn’t think it would’ve been a good idea to make any spirits angry, even though there’s probably quite a few of those out there somewhere.”

Calling…” A few whispers began to swirl around him.

“This poe talking to me can get kind of unnerving at times.”

“I would imagine ghosts would be uncomfortable to talk to,” Femm said somewhat uninterested.

“Several voices speaking at once, sometimes saying the same thing, other times saying different things than each other.”

“Fascinating,” Femm said, standing up. “I think I’ll go take a walk, I’ll see you later,” she said as she walked out of the door.

“Looks like it’s just you and me now poe,” Fulkrome said to spirit, who had stopped drifting around and now floated in the middle of the room. “I still haven’t figured out your name yet. I saw the name Himel on the grave, could that be you?” he inquired to the ghost.

Shaking its head, the poe replied with ”Place…”

“I’ve never heard of any villages called Himel,” Fulkrome replied, thinking back, “if it’s even a village. You’re going to have to explain things a little more if you want me to help you.”

As Fulkrome continued to think over everything, the poe began jerking around erratically in the air. Before Fulkrome could react, the poe flew towards him, arms flailing. Fulkrome blacked out as the poe reached him, its eyes seemingly on fire.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

{i]What a dreary place.[/i] Fulkrome thought as he walked through the foreign world. Everything was bathed in gray light, no color existing anywhere that he could see, other than himself. Every step he took sent ripples outward, as if he were walking on water. The only sound that could be heard was the wind, constantly blowing, never picking up or dying down. Whatever that poe did to bring me here, it’s going to pay.

As he walked towards the only distinguishable landmark in the gray world, Fulkrome felt the presence of someone behind him. Turning quickly, he was blown to the ground by whatever it was behind him.

”A shame I can’t do much more to hurt you here,” the stranger said. Looking up, Fulkrome saw the figure looked much like the poe that had been following him, only much more humanoid in appearance. Tall, slender and wearing a tattered robe, the figure glared down at Fulkrome with contempt.

“What is this place?” Fulkrome asked of the apparition.

”A place you should know very well, considering you spend so much time here,” the poe responded, still glaring at Fulkrome.

“Are you the poe from earlier?” Fulkrome asked, getting up.

”Indeed I am,” the figure replied. When Fulkrome was standing again, the poe turned to walk away, motioning for him to follow.

Fulkrome walked after the poe, trying to think of a way to get out of the strange world. Silently the pair walked for what seemed like hours to find a small house, old in appearance but in good repair. By this point, Fulkrome had realized following the poe was probably his best option, seeing as it was the only other being in this world, and possibly the only one who knew how to get out.

”And you’d be right about that assumption,” the poe said.

“How did you know what I was thinking?” Fulkrome asked, startled by the spirit’s ability to read his mind.

”This world’s rules are much different than the real world’s,” the poe explained, walking into the old house.

“You have yet to tell me exactly what this world is,” Fulkrome replied as he followed the poe into the house.

”You’ll figure it out sooner or later,”

The room they were in was decorated nicely, all the furniture looking centuries old and seemingly untouched over that time. As the poe sat down on one of the large sofas, a fire sprang to life in the fire place. Motioning for Fulkrome to sit down, the poe said, ”I suppose you’d like to know why I brought you here,”

“Why I’m here is only of the questions I’d like you to answer,” Fulkrome said, reluctantly sitting in a chair near the fire. The fire, gray like the rest of the strange world, emitted a strange warmth. The muffled sound of the fire was all that could be heard during the lull in the conversation. The moments dragged on as neither of the two spoke. After the long silence, the poe finally spoke.

”I had been waiting for so long to finally find you. Wandering all these years, hunger for revenge the only thing driving me on. When I had died, I figured that would be the end. The end where I wouldn’t have to deal with all the pain of life. But instead I was damned to existence as a poe, doomed to wonder, trapped in that world.”

“Was bringing me here how you’d enact your revenge?” Fulkrome asked.

”I cannot harm you in this world, and I am much too weak in yours. I had come to terms with the fact that my thirst for revenge would never ne sated. Instead I brought you here to ask of you a favor.” The poe turned to look at Fulkrome, a look of hope deep within its eyes.

“And what might that favor be?”

”I want you to find what became of my family. All this time spent in the afterlife, I have found out nothing of their fates. The one thing I know is this; they were killed by you and your minions a few months after I died. My death couldn’t be considered very pleasant. I was left in the street of a small village, the flesh on my neck agonizingly scorched. The burns were your doing, of course. Lying there, hardly alive but feeling all of the pain, I watched as you and your creatures wreak havoc on the small town and its people. I was horrified because of the evil acts I watched you commit.

Staring at the fire, the memories of this event came back to Fulkrome. “Why were you in that village? From what I’ve gathered so far, you’re from a village called Himel. I can’t quite remember the name of the name of the village you’re talking about, but I know that wasn’t its name.”

”And you would be correct. Himel was a very small village, only a few families lived there. It was hardly considered a village, at least not to any of the major powers in the land at the time. I had left one day to get some needed supplies from a village a few miles away. I was hardly in town for more than an hour when those monsters showed up, destroying whatever they could. I wasn’t the kind of person that would run when other people could be saved, so I grabbed some armor and weapons from the armory to try and fight back the creatures. I was able to fight off some, but others were too fast, not bothering to attack someone who could fight them back, instead opting to focus their attention on the helpless people.”

Fulkrome watched the dancing flames in the fireplace as the poe told its story, the scene rushing back to him from the back of his memory. The imagery still clear as it was the day it happened, not dulled by the passing of time. While the village wasn’t too large, it was quite busy on that day, many people walking in the streets. Did any of them know they were to die that day? As Fulkrome contemplated this, the poe continued to speak.

”After running through the streets, fighting off monsters and telling people to flee, I saw a humanoid figure silhouetted in the smoke. Thinking it to be someone that may have needed help, I ran towards it, sword drawn in case anything was lurking in the alleys to the sides. One I could see past the smoke, I saw it was no villager standing there, but a man in a suit of armor. I kept running, thinking together we could kill off the attackers more quickly. But then it stuck its hand into a flame, watching his gauntlet turn a yellow-white. It was then I realized I had come across a Darknut. I knew there’d be no way I could stand up to something that powerful, I turned and ran. But it was too quick for me, grabbing me by the neck with its white-hot gauntlet and lifting me off the ground, it laughed at my attempt to fight for the village. As far as I’m aware, I was the last one to die in that town, killed by your hand.”

The poe turned to look at Fulkrome, the recollection of his last few hours of life wearing him down. ”My name was Dren while I was alive. After my death, there was nothing for what must’ve been weeks. Then all I remember was existing as a poe. After passing into this life, I tried to find my family, with no luck. When I found my home, Himel was destroyed, no signs of anyone there at all, live or dead. Since then I had been searching for my family, and for a chance to get revenge on you. Since the latter is out of my grasp, finding my family is the only thing I have left before I can be at peace.”

“You don’t think they could still be alive after all this time do you?” Fulkrome asked.

”I know they are dead. My desire is to find their resting place, so I can be with them again. Perhaps they met the same fate as I did, and wander the land as poes? There is no way for me to know unless I find them.”

“I don’t know how much help I could be in finding them, but I’ll do whatever I can.”

”That’s what I was hoping to hear, Fulkrome. Now, it seems it is time to leave this world and return to yours,” Dren said as he stood up from the sofa and headed towards the door.

“Wait,” Fulkrome said after the poe, “you still haven’t explained what this place is, or why I am the only one who can see you.”

”Ah, you hadn’t looked out the windows the whole time during our conversation?”

“I did not, but I don’t see what that could tell me. There’s nothing out there as far as the eye can see,” Fulkrome said, glancing toward a window in the room.

”You’d know that wasn’t true if you had looked. The place we’re in right now is your mind. The area we’ve been in this whole time is where your memories are located. As I told my story, I could see the things you remembered about that time. Everything was playing out on the other side of these walls. And as for me not being visible to anyone else, I became a poe with thoughts of vengeance in my heart. Hatred and other feelings toward you have made me invisible to everyone else around me, except for you, of course.”

“So haunting me is the only way for you to interact with the world now?” Fulkrome asked.

”I can manipulate things to a certain extent, but aside from little things, I can’t do very much in the real world.”

“And how am I going to be able to help you find your family? I have no idea where I’d be able to look for them. And besides, you’re the first spirit I’ve seen. My eyes can’t see ghosts.”

”And that’s how I’ll help you to help me. I can allow you to see lesser spirits, other poes, as long as you wear that necklace you found back at the lake. And now, it’s time for us to leave.”

As Dren spoke, the door out of the house began to shimmer and disappear completely. The dreary gray landscape was nowhere to be seen, instead a swirling vortex churned right outside the doorway. Motioning for Fulkrome to follow, Dren stepped through the vortex. Taking one last look around the house, Fulkrome walked through the doorway.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Everything was fuzzy as Fulkrome regained consciousness. It was darker outside, the sun about to set. Looking around, Fulkrome saw that no one else was home, the house seeming very quiet. Getting up, he walked out the door into the evening air.

People were still in the streets like they were earlier, the only difference being the few poes Fulkrome could now see floating about in the crowds, drifting lazily around without a purpose.

Dren appeared as Fulkrome looked toward the setting sun, in his original form once again. ”Do not forget…” he whispered.

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Post Re: ~Forever Forgotten~ To Dust • Posted: Fri Feb 18, 2011 10:54 pm
Chapter 26: Cold Bones Part 1 (Very Rough Draft, Forgive me)

The twirling mist began to scatter as the Sun crept higher above the horizon. James and his merry choir had fallen mute, their interest in singing superseded by dread, leaving the mood as sombre as could be. There had yet to be a signal from the Rolling Ridge Base. Captain Benjamin was not one to break his promises either. But, knowing what could hide within the deep crevices, the potent mist, or around the crags, even one of the finest of the Knight’s Guild was under fate’s unforgiving thumb.

The men kept busy, their minds fleeting to the simple tasks of twiddling thumbs or whispering worried words silently to one another. Every wind strewn pebble drew them to their feet with swords drawn; more than twice had a wave of embarrassment spread among the men from this flighty disposition. Moments like those were quickly dismissed as ‘never happening’.

Their already strict schedule was far beyond suffocation now, the Sun at dawn already marked their tardiness. Jonathan sat on a stone, having James and Zachary swear to stand at either flank so he could find some sense of safety. Begrudgingly they did as they were ordered, shooting each other looks of contempt for such a frail excuse of a delegate.

“What are we to do if Benjamin does not even signal at all?” The councilman asked, tugging at his sleeves anxiously. “We can’t very well follow them, we can’t risk losing the carriages or having a steed break its leg.”

“Exactly,” James called, trying to brush the mist in front of his eyes as if it were a curtain. “Just give it some more time; this is probably the first any of us has ever stepped into this country. Rolling Ridge might as well be the same size as Hebra’s Hill for all we know.”

“I guess you’re right,” Jonathan straightened his back as if it could save his pride’s posture from its terrible beating.

Ravens nearby began to caw tiredly, the fluttering of their wings echoed eerily among the rocks. It was officially morning on this side of the Mountain according to them; why they were perched this high up no one knew. Rolling Ridge once was the most populated city of Gorons across the entire continent, renowned for the ingenuity of its miners and entertainers. Most people agreed that the Protectorate back in Hyrule would have been a failure if not for these more enlightened ‘Mountain Warriors’. Perhaps Benjamin had taken to a rest inside one of the many abandoned homes.

The figure of eight more hours until they reached Nuun was starting to be prayed to be more like ‘it cannot take that long to get to the Highlands and back to Hyrule, can it?’.

With the morale steadily spiralling into gloom around the camp, a loud bellowing horn sounded from somewhere in the distance. Immediately the knights sprung up from their posts, cheering and jeering one another for being prepared for failure. Zachary and James left their guard as quickly as possible, hitching up their horses for the trip down the misty path. The councilman did not seem to join in as joyfully at the sound of their Captain’s success.

“That certainly did not sound like the Convoy’s si-,”

“Nosing around the grounds? What cheery lot is this, Bronzen?” A very rough voice came from the descending path, quieting the celebrations swiftly.

“Seems to be a bunch of those Hylians from down the Hebra,” a rotund Goron came into view, a large rucksack hanging off one shoulder, sagging like it was filled with stones. It probably was. Slung across his other arm was an unnecessarily large maul, a powerful war hammer. The head was heavy and round, forged from iron to be able to break apart sledge. In its opposite direction was a long spike that glistened with Goron mined diamonds, the sharpest edge known in the Kingdoms. Whoever this warrior was, he was certainly skilled enough to carry one of the infamous Gorauler Hammers so casually.

Knowing the distaste that Gorons universally held for his people, and the stories of the savage ‘Gorauler’ Gorons, James began to draw his blade. The owner of the voice stepped out from the fog and laughed raucously. This Goron was a bit taller and older looking, a strange sight, even for many of the knights who had never had a close look at Mountain Warriors before. This one carried nothing, but his lack of weapons was made up by his intimidating muscular build. His hands were bound with dirty wrappings, the sign of a labourer in the Protectorate.

The taller Goron watched James try to covertly arm himself. “Don’t worry about us, we aren’t here to crush you into dust, as fun a pastime that can be,” he held out one of his massive wrapped hands, the tattoo of the Ruby dark on his wrist. “The name’s Dolomire,” he flashed a toothy grin as if the men should have immediately fawned over him. A few confused looks were exchanged and Dolomire pulled back his greeting. He knew it was silly to think a Hylian would try to shake hands with someone so strong, at least by comparison.

“I thought from all of the wars of words, Basyle would never tell his men to walk across Goron Territory,” Bronzen spoke with a rumbling tone, folding his arms after readjusting his pack. He seemed more dignified than what parents had told their children about the Mountain Warriors who carried Gorauler Hammers. They were named in such a childish fashion for the Gorons who used them in times of war; their destructive power was feared by all nations. Almost unanimously, those who used them were brainless brutes, renowned for their strength rather than their intelligence, and their savagery rather than their pity.

“We’re only passing through here to meet with a Convoy from another kingdom,” Jonathan was shaking like mad, all his prior experience with Gorons rendered him a shell of a conversationalist. “King Basyle wishes us to meet Ashtar and bring him back safely to the Autumn Festival.”

Dolomire looked at Bronzen, and the latter back to the former. “I guess the fellow with the Guild Arms wasn’t pulling our chain. I was surprised that he left you little men here. Brigand’s Peak still has a few desperate souls willing to cut a man’s throat for some rations.”
Bronzen assessed the muddled response from the crew of men standing idly in front of him. “Your Captain showed us great respect and gave us a great kindness. He had a satchel of Goro-Bucks and some finer rocks on his person should he meet an ill fallen Goron on Rolling Ridge. That makes him a smart man,” Dolomire gave his comrade a small shove at this and guffawed.

“Not that we really needed those things, but in exchange we agreed to help you lot out,” the taller one took a large bite out of a stone and proceeded to give orders. “Your Captain has asked us to give you guys the grand tour, Bronzen and I hike these paths all the time. Just unhitch your horses and pass us your carriages, we’ll give’em a break.”

Jonathan skittishly raised a hand, to protest being carried in a cart by a Mountain Warrior.

“You must be Sir Jonathan,” Bronzen approached the pale councilman and gave him a sound pat on the back, nearly knocking him over. “I was told you had to walk with the rest of the men, no more free rides.”

“That’s preposterous!” He fumed, suddenly gaining back some courage now that respect for his authority was finally being openly shunned. “You expect me to meet with the Ambassador in tattered clot-,”

Dolomire laughed as he heaved one of the carriages over his shoulder, balancing it delicately like it was a serving tray. The knights applauded his strength and the massive Goron bowed, unceremoniously allowing most of Jonathan’s belongings to fall out onto the ground. Cups and a small mirror shattered against the hard stone while the remainder of his clean clothes swaddled up the dark soil.

“Benjamin told me that you would get a bit sour, but everyone else has to meet this famed Ashtar with rags and sweat on his brow,” Dolomire began to descend the path, calling back to Jonathan an ultimatum. “Bronzen has some free space in that satchel of his, if you can’t walk like a real man shoul, we can carry you like a child.”

Jonathan flustered, trying to come up with some kind of response to this. But after the more timid knights began to chuckle at Dolomire’s forward approach, the councilman surrendered himself to the idea. James and Zachary looked back at the defeated delegate and smiled, maybe Gorons weren’t as bad as they’d been told; maybe Jonathan could still learn that out here they were all equal. Whatever killed the First Convoy would not care for who had what title; deep down the councilman had to know that.

There was no shame in fearing Death, not out in the wilderness. But having two Gorons at their side, the men could not help but feel a little more invincible than they had ever imagined.

***

Klaus still had a wobble in his step. His robes wept blood each time he overworked his back, but discomfort could only hinder his work for so long. Reports on his desk were hastily piled together in a sorry form of organization. Many of the foreign ambassadors had already arrived and several criminals were still listed as highly dangerous and possibly mobile in the Capital.

It was just his luck that nothing could go on in Hyrule without someone gutting the man beside him in protest. So what was the Royal response to this? Klaus had to do his own form of gutting. In a few hours three more criminals were to be executed for the general public. Each was a thief of varying skill and voracity, all sought out before the Festival could begin.

Whether this was the destined time to be rid of these criminals or if it were feeding the crowd’s need for violence for a little less calamity at the Banquet, he could not be sure. Klaus was not truly the one who controlled these executions. He was the man to sign convicts in and out of the prisons, condemning them to death or to life deep within the Shadow Temple. Maybe if he did not spend all his time being a signature he could get things done. Things that actually mattered.

King Basyle would only tell him ‘that with time, the people will realize their own wicked tendencies’. If only he had half of his monarch’s faith in the people of the Capital city and beyond; if only there weren’t the likes of William Desesperacion, men who felt little pity in mayhem and death. He knew as High Cleric and Advisor that he would have to combat these personal convictions of his people, as difficult as it was proving to be. Klaus swore as he broke another pen tip, this one spilling ink across all of his documents.

In an outburst of frustration the Advisor swept his arms across his desk, sending all the papers flying and his record books softly thumping on the carpet. Stopping short of flipping his table, the searing pain of his back wounds gave him a direct ticket to his chair. Dark and dirty blood dripped out onto the floor, collecting with much older stains he had not bothered to clean. His temper would get him nowhere, but the stress from the Kakariko incident, the slain Convoy, and the general planning of the Festival were beginning to wear him down. Mable would have his head for not requesting more treatment.

Klaus rested his head upon his hands and rubbed his eyes. He would have to clean himself up soon enough; being covered in blood prior to the execution might give the wrong impression. With the likes of Desesperacion and his unknown accomplice lurking around, there were several hired guards to protect the Advisor during his business in the Square. If anyone made a hostile approach, even with words, towards the High Cleric, they would be dealt a severe penalty.

The Advisor had it set in his mind that he did not need a personal guard; he was trained with a blade and, though an advocate against them, had many offensive spells at his disposal. Would someone foolishly attack a man who could deliver the very essence of spite? Even the most sheltered individual in Hyrule knew the dark side of Klaus’s knowledge of spells and potions, for it was one of the most spoken sins for his potential removal as High Cleric. Yet even the holy men had been stripped of good intentions, wishing his position as Advisor and their leader to be lost, it would be the clerics who swarmed to replace him.

Basyle had warned him of the dangers of his ‘young retirement’.

“I would rather see you at my side until the Black Sunset than have one of those hard hearted old crones be my aid,” this was a line the King would often deliver after a less than intense council meeting. Most of these meetings were spent listening to old men who often forgot what they were voting for, proposing, and, to raucous laughter afterhours between King and Vassal, their own names. It felt disrespectful to be so sour towards these esteemed aristocrats, but Klaus had learned a very important lesson over the previous years. If King Basyle wills himself to withstand the company of otherwise incompetent politicians for Hyrule’s sake, any sane man who holds similar ground is allowed the occasional jest at their expense.

It was a powerful rumour that these old men had their fair share of gossip about Basyle and Klaus. Mable had told him this during one of his scheduled visits, ending her story with a sly but sealed smile. Apparently what was being whispered in the halls after each conference was a shy on the blushing side. Empty words from tired men destined to be replaced each generation.

“Klaus?” a gruff call came from the archway of his study.

“You may enter, just let me clean these things up,” the Advisor rushed to collect his fallen work and placed it chaotically upon the varnished desk. It was Thomas, likely making his rounds for the latest information Klaus had for him about the Knight placement at the Autumn Festival. Klaus could have sworn he had paid to run the security side of things for Capital events. “Right now I have not had a chance to review your charts; today’s public execution has been a terrible burde-,”

“I’m here just as messenger boy for the Old Man,” the Captain wiped his brow, beads of sweat provoking him. The ‘Old Man’, Basyle, felt it was still appropriate for the Knights to wear formal attire no matter the weather; a light chainmail could become a device of torment after hours of wearing it. “We received a message that Orilieus should arrive by the end of your execution today, he’s hired a few Gorons to be his personal guard. The people have already begun to gather in the square, throwing rocks at the men on the scaffolding.”

“Wonderful,” the Advisor ignored the news of the mob mentality of the Capital’s population. Rocks were the least of his worries as a few years prior some very inspired townsfolk had burned the execution platform down to the ground. At least it saved him from having to do the killing. Klaus reached his hand out, only hesitating for a moment, and retrieved his potions case. Satisfied it was packed with all his ‘necessities’, he handed the case to Thomas and directed him to the large oak door. “Make sure Orilieus’s men are treated just as honourably as the Chief himself. Maybe we can get the Protectorate Elder warmed up to the idea of trading with us again.”

A hopeless endeavour to be sure. He thought silently.

Thomas sighed; politics were the least of his concerns. He was very near to retirement from the Knight’s Guild altogether for now he was only responsible for training the new recruits. Captain Benjamin would be his replacement the moment proud Thomas removed his helm. At least he would be if he returned in one piece. Klaus shook his head at the thought, sentencing men to certain death was far more difficult than doing the actual reaping.

“I’ll need to make a short stop with Mable before we leave, you may go gather the others,” he removed his heavy robes and hung them outside the strong mahogany doors. Klaus’s undershirt was stained red, receiving a very concerned look from his older comrade. “It’s just a flesh wound, not a lot to worry about.”

The Advisor began to go his separate way only to be stopped by a short call from the Captain.

“I always knew you were hiding something useful behind all those papers and fancy clothes, Klaus,” Thomas gestured toward the decorative sword hanging on his side, a blade envied by all the Knights. It was crafted as gift for the first Advisor by the old Gorons, long before a Protectorate was a glint on a dreamer’s eye. Over the generations it was often swapped as the great treasure of either the current High Cleric or the Advisor of the King. As ancient a blade it was, it had yet to see the taint of blood.

Startled for a moment, Klaus removed the scabbard from his side. He had grown so accustomed to it being on his person that he often forgot it was a constant companion.

“How about you take care of this for me for a while?” he passed over the golden hilt to his aging Captain. Thomas smiled and held it like a newborn baby.

“It would be an honour, Klaus,” he slung the scabbard over his shoulder and carefully balanced the potions case in the crook of his arm. “Your carriage will be ready in a few hours, just try not to gossip too much with the old broad,” the two men nodded in agreement before taking their leave. Klaus decided to drape his hung dressings over his back as a last minute attempt to try to hide the sickening stains on his undercoat.

Walking down the ancient corridors of Hyrule Castle, he felt a tad strange without a sword at his side. There was a solace to it in the end, after all a sword wouldn’t do him any good against the cutting words of a disappointed Mable.

_________________
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Post Re: ~Forever Forgotten~ To Dust • Posted: Mon Feb 28, 2011 7:25 am
Well, I can't think of any more reason to hold off this next chapter. Enjoy!


Chapter 27: Partners in Grime

The wind carried the scent of what could only be described as damp stone to Orilieus’ nose as his carriage pulled up before the now-open gates to the Goron Protectorate and the mass of rocky bodies just within. The Master of Kakariko chuckled at the spectacle. “Just like Gorons to take a simple request for bodyguards and turn it into a theatrical extravaganza involving the whole populace.” He shook his head and sighed. “I imagine I’ll have to wait until they’ve all had their fun before I can continue on to the capital. May as well sit back and enjoy the show.”

***

“So is that it, brothers? Is there nobody else out there who can best us in the ring?” The taller Goron grinned, looking out over the cheering crowd while his stout companion posed beside him. He turned and looked at the carriage that had just arrived. “If that’s the case, then I guess that means we’re the strongest, hmm? I suppose us two will head off and keep the soft-skin from the village from hitting his head on the journey to their castle. Although it’d take just one of our smallest Gorons to handle anything that could be thrown at him, am I right, brothers?” The audience’s response could have been heard from a mile away, such was the din that they made, roaring with passion and stamping the ground, their mighty feet spreading cracks through the hardened stone beneath. The tall Goron clapped his hands to his chest in farewell, and turned to leave.

“Not so fast! You have one last challenger!” The entire crowd, as well as the two wrestlers, turned to face the source of the challenge; though, for many, it was out of surprise of being able to hear anything through the clamour at all. Standing amidst them were two heavily clothed Gorons, one standing tall and pointing a gloved finger toward the wrestlers on-stage, the other standing just behind him, attempting unsuccessfully to not stand out. The crowd’s surprise quickly turned to bewildered amusement. These two Gorons, not particularly impressive of stature and significantly over-dressed, at least compared to the clothing most “civilised” Gorons wore...and they wished to challenge the champions of the day’s event?

The stout Goron guffawed, prompting a few in the audience to snicker as well. “You, challenge us? Look at’cha! Yer puny! Me grandmamma could sneeze on ya and ya’d crumble!” More of the crowd began to join in with the laughter, prompting the shorter of the two newcomers to sink a little in his jacket.

The first one, however, stood tall and continued. “Is that so? I take it, then, that your grandmother also received top secret training from Dolomire?”

At this, the laughter was replaced with a collective gasp, and murmuring. “Dolomire...THE Dolomire...unbelievable, these two...DOLOMIRE...” The tall Goron, curious now, called out over the muttering audience. “I’m sorry, little brothers, but I don’t believe I’ve seen you here in the Protectorate before. Your names are...?”

“Names?” Yazstromo gulped. I knew I’d forgotten something, he thought. Pausing a moment, he then punched his fist into the sky, doing his best to look impressive. “I am the brawn with the brains, the king of the ring whose, uh, name you can sing! Yaz...goron! And this is my sterling sidekick with...fists of...sterling silver! And is also a king who...likes to fight people. King Dae, umm...Daedongo!”

The tall Goron raised an eyebrow. “Yazgoron and Daedongo? Never heard of you. And I’ve definitely not seen you in the Protectorate.” Yazstromo smirked, before realising nobody could actually see him smirking.
He compensated by letting out his most masculine laugh.

“Of course you haven’t! That’s because we only just got back. From our secret training. In the mountains somewhere. With Dolomire.” The shorter Goron stamped his foot on the arena in annoyance, Daedus wincing inside his costume. Fortunately, nothing happened.

“No way! Dolomire wouldn’ train you claybrains! He’d only train real wrestlers, an’ real wrestlers wouldn’ wear big stupid outfits like that! All that clothing just gets in the way!”

Yazstromo laughed once more. “Exactly, my good fellow! That’s why we have all this clothing on; as part of our training. To get the most out of his teaching, Dolomire trained us to fight while being burdened down and restricted by all of this. Only by shackling our bodies could we free our minds...or something. But enough of this banter. We’re Gorons, and we like to fight, apparently! So let’s get to it...unless you’re too scared of our secret training. With Dolomire.” Another gasp rose from the spectators. The two Gorons on stage hesitated, before turning around and whispering to each other.

“Ya don’t suppose these two actually got trained by THE Dolomire, do you?” The taller one shook his head.

“No, brother, there’s no way. I couldn’t even get the champ to train me, and that’s before he went into seclusion.” He snorted quietly. “I honestly think your grandma COULD sneeze them into the ground, so I say we just get this over with, as unfair a fight as it would be.” The short one nodded, and they turned back to face the waiting bystanders. “Very well, then,” the tall Goron bellowed. “We accept your challenge, Yazgoron and Dae-whatever. But be prepared to drag yourselves back to the mountains you came from!”

As the two challengers clambered into the ring, Yazstromo whispered near where Daedus’ ear was. “Remember, my boy, for you, it’s left, spin, back, and stamp. Try to make it look a little authentic, and hopefully we’ll be on our way to the castle before afternoon leaf juice.” Yazstromo helped his companion to his feet, before looking up at their competition. The stout Goron placed his knuckles on the floor in front of him and bared his teeth at Daedus, while the tall Goron just cracked his neck side-to-side, before addressing the pair.

“Let’s make this a nice, quick bout, eh, little brothers? First pair to get knocked out of the ring wins.” His entire body tensed slightly, and then...”FIGHT!” Yazstromo quickly leapt a step to the right, barely missing his opponent’s opening lunge. However, the tall Goron quickly compensated, spinning on the ball of one foot. Yazstromo did the same, before jumping back, landing just at the edge of the ring. The tall Goron laughed. “Guess your time’s up, little brother.” In response to this, Yazstromo merely threw his hands forward into the Goron’s chest and stamped the floor just beneath his right foot...triggering the mechanism built into the arena earlier in the day, dropping a lead weight attached to a series of pullies...that jerked down one end of the plank of wood the Goron was standing on, quickly turning it into a makeshift catapult...launching the Goron into the air, with Yazstromo still cradling his chest, and following through as the Goron flew over his head and out of the arena!

Yazstromo turned around to make sure his opponent hadn’t hit the rock behind him too hard, before looking to see how his partner was faring, or rather to see how badly he had messed up the plan. For the meanwhile, as the wizard expertly executed their agreed-upon choreography, Daedus was, unsurprisingly, panicking the second the fight started.

Umm, right, left, forward, back, spin...oh gods, what was next?! The stout Goron loomed over the timid man as he fell to the floor in terror. Then...stamp! Floor panel! Where is it? He threw his hand behind him, slamming the arena behind him as the Goron brought his hands over his head. As Daedus punched the floor one last time, he felt a click, and looked up as...confetti exploded from in front of him.

Fortunately for Daedus, the confetti launcher was positioned in such a way as to shoot the coloured bits of paper into the Goron’s now-exposed face, blinding him. “Argh, my eyes! Who knew my eyes would be so sensitive ta’ getting coloured bits o’ paper shot into dem?!” He stumbled around, clutching at the air around him, trying to find Daedus. He came to the edge of the arena, wobbling precariously, throwing his arms out for balance. A small glint shot out from inside Daedus’ jacket towards the Goron...and he finally fell to the ground with a thud.

Yazstromo strutted to the centre of the arena. Facing the crowd, he paused for dramatic effect, before throwing his arms into the air victoriously, to the sound of...complete silence. Puzzled, he glanced over at the dumbfounded crowd, before stamping the floor beside him, causing another burst of confetti to fly into the air...and the crowd went wild! As Daedus shakily managed to stand up next to the older man, Yazstromo yelled to him just loud enough for him to hear. “See, there’s two things I’ve learned over the years, my boy. First, people will cheer for anything if there’s confetti involved.”

Daedus gazed in awe at all the Gorons cheering...cheering for him. “And the other thing?”

“Always have a backup confetti button.”

***

As the two new champs finally sauntered over to the carriage (after receiving many a congratulatory thump on the back from the Gorons), Orilieus stepped out and applauded.

“Well done, gentlemen! An excellent show! I’m amazed you Gorons don’t put on bouts for the rest of Hyrule more often. The Protectorate would make quite the number of Goro-Bucks from the ticket sales alone.” He shaded his eyes as he looked up at the sun. “Although I daresay the length of the proceedings would prove a major downside. We’d best get going if we’re to make it to the capital before nightfall.”

Daedus nodded in agreement, and proceeded to climb into the conveniently large carriage, followed by Orilieus. As Yazstromo was about to follow suit, a pang of realisation struck him. “Oh my...dreadfully sorry, Master, but before we go, I need to quickly grab a few incredibly important items from back in the Protectorate.”

Orilieus harrumphed. “Very well, Goron, but if you could do your best to retrieve them in an expedient fashion?”

“Of course, sir, of course, I’ll be gone for the thinnest wafer of your most esteemed and valuable time. As quick as a bolt of lightning if it had to get where it was going in an incredible hurry. If said lightning, say, had a carriage to take to a gathering in a distant castle in only a few hours, rather than travel through the sky, as lightning is wont to do. And the lightning was burdened by two rock-people, one of whom had to waste the lightning’s precious time by turning around to retrie-“

“Now, Goron?”

Yazstromo nodded, and quickly dashed off back up the hill towards the Protectorate, at a pace faster than that of your typical Goron. And, Daedus thought, faster than that of a man more than 500 years old.

***

“Nurse, I am here to...arrest that dangerous criminal you have lying in that bed!” The Goron nurse and the Scribe both looked up to see a well-dressed Goron holding a large sack in one hand.

“Excuse me, Goron? I am no criminal, and I take offence at the accusation.” Darius indignantly stared at the strange visitor, before turning to his right to see the nurse beside him nodding appreciatively.

“A dangerous criminal, eh? Not surprised, not surprised...the trouble this one has been causing trying to escape, I should’ve put it together myself earlier.”

“Not to worry, I’ll be taking him off your hands right now, and taking him straight to their capital. Quite the bounty on his head...big Goro-Bucks in it for bringing him in. Of course, I’ll have to confiscate his personal effects as well.” Yazstromo began stowing Darius’ belongings in the sack.

“You don’t say...well, anything I could do to help? Maybe for a small...finder’s fee, brother?” The nurse winked slowly at him.

“Well, now that you mention it, my journey would be a little easier if the prisoner wouldn’t squirm.” Yazstromo reached into the sack and pulled out a small pouch of Goro-Bucks. “Now, I’d do it myself, but I’m not a trained medical professional...”

The nurse waved his hand to cut him off. “Say no more, brother: One sedative coming right up.” He then gently smacked his fist into Darius’ head, knocking him out cold. Yazstromo laughed and threw the Goron the small pouch, before opening the sack again. “Now, in your expert opinion...he can fit in here, right?”

***

After dragging the sack out of the Protectorate and carefully lifting it on top of the carriage (showing a remarkable amount of strength on his part), Yazstromo climbed into the carriage and sat next to Daedus, across from Orilieus, shutting the door as it proceeded to wind its way down the dusty trail. The silence that followed hung on the air, draping over the two “Gorons” like a shawl of awkwardness. Yazstromo shifted in his seat, attempting to get comfortable. Orilieus coughed. Daedus just sat there, twiddling his thumbs together, looking out the window and seeing nothing of interest. He could feel Lewis nodding off inside his jacket. This is...so...boring, he thought to himself.

Something else in the carriage agreed with him, and proceeded to try and liven things up. A quiet bubbling began to be heard, and a puzzled expression appeared on Orilieus’ face. “I don’t mean to alarm you two, but...your skin is starting to smoke.”

Daedus started as Yazstromo looked down at himself, and exclaimed, “Oh no...the bathtub slime...”, and in a matter of moments, both his and Daedus’ disguises melted away into nothing, but leaving two old men (and, strangely, their own clothing) completely intact.

Daedus started stammering. “S-s-sir, we c-can explain...”

The Master of Kakariko, deaf to anything being said to him, murmered to himself. “It cannot be...” He squinted, then jumped as if seeing a ghost...or someone who by all rights should be a ghost. “By the Prophet’s beard! You’re...well, the Prophet!” Yazstromo blinked, then looked down. stroking his whiskers.

“Well, I’ll be...you’re an exclamation now.”

Orilieus burst into a wide beaming smile, splitting his face from ear to ear, and began clapping jubilantly. “Yazstromo, THE Yazstromo, Scholar, Prophet, First Advisor...in my carriage! Over 500 years, and he appears in my carriage, of all places!” He almost started bouncing in the seat, so immense and uncontainable was his glee. “Unbelievable! The Prophetic Ones, walking among us! Impersonating Gorons and beating them in wrestling contests...in my carriage!” Yazstromo chuckled, stroking his beard. Oh good, I have a fan.

Orilieus then looked at Daedus. “And his travelling companion, surely a man of great wisdom and courage, to be blessed with walking alongside the Prophet himself! In my carriage!” Daedus looked flustered at all the attention being thrown in his direction, and began stammering again. “Who, me? I’m nobody, really...I just...met him, and-“

“Nonsense, good sir, nonsense. You must be a man of inestimable character, full of some quality worthy of accompanying the Prophet of old! Oh, how fortune has smiled on me, just a humble Master of Kakariko Village...in my carriage!” As he went on, Lewis let out a small metallic sigh. Oh good, he has a fan.

***

Eventually, after a few hours’ travel, the carriage finally pulled up before the gates of the Old Capital, the immense Hyrule Castle Town lying just within the shadow of the Castle itself. The door on the side of the carriage opened and a stooped, bearded man stepped out. “Well, Master Orilieus, while I thank you for your company thus far, I would love it if my friend and I could take a short respite and tour the town by ourselves?”

“Of course, Prophet, of course! I wouldn’t dream of saying otherwise! But if you could meet me at the Castle by nightfall, I would be eternally grateful if you and your companion would be my guests at the debriefing tonight and the Royal Banquet in a few days. I am sure that the King would be most interested in meeting a Prophetic One in the flesh, and especially one who has done so much for our kingdom as the First Advisor...oh, and I’m sure the current Advisor would be thrilled to meet his predecessor as well!”

“Of course, Master, of course! Daedus and I would be happy to join you. After all, I’ve never been one to turn down a free meal!” At this, Orilieus and Yazstromo laughed. “Now, if you’ll excuse us?” And with that, Yazstromo and Daedus entered the walls of the Old Capital.

Shortly after the two had left, Orilieus’ thoughts were interrupted by a yell from the carriage driver, who was busy unloading the luggage from atop the carriage. “Master Orilieus, there is something moving in a sack up here!” Orilieus turned, frowning. “A sack, I don’t remember needing anything in-“. He stopped. “Wait...one of the Gorons...Sir Yazstromo had a sack! Quickly, man, get it down and open it!” The driver proceeded to lift the sack off the carriage and drop it to the ground with a soft thud, and a muffled yell. Orilieus bent down and opened the sack. He looked in, and immediately gave a start. “...Darius?”

***

The two old men ambled through the crowd at a leisurely pace; Daedus being nearly overwhelmed by the bustle of the Old Capital’s thoroughfare, Yazstromo just drinking in the sights and sounds of human civilisation. Lanterns swayed in the late afternoon breeze, streamers decorating many buildings along the streets. People of all shapes and sizes, many dressed in golden-dyed finery, treaded the cobbled walkways of the town, going about their business in preparation of the night’s festivities. Most of the decorations for the Festival had been prepared, it was sure to outmatch the only other Yazstromo had seen, in more ways than one.

Eventually, the two of them found themselves amidst a cluster of food stalls, the smell of various fried goods wafting their way to Daedus’ nose and making him salivate. Yazstromo, too, was enjoying the smell of proper food, when he paused. He glimpsed a face for just a moment, a face that brought back memories, centuries old...but surely it can’t have been her? He scanned the crowd, trying to find it again, before giving u- there! It was her! And another face came into view...and a third! Yazstromo gaped, flabbergasted. “Amazing...familiar as I am with random chance, there is a definite line between coincidence and fate...” His mouth curved, forming the barest hint of a frown. “This cannot be a good sign...” Then, instantly, his face turned upside down, and he flashed a wide, toothy grin. “Oh well, I may as well go with it!”, and he strolled briskly towards the trio standing by a fried fish stall, Daedus standing in place, looking at the events curiously.

“500 years, and the first time I leave the house, I just have to run into you three menaces!” Tap, Naomi and Kaz, busy haggling prices with the fishmonger, turned to look at the commotion.

At once, Tap squealed in delight. “Yazstromo!” He held his arms open and she bounded into them, hugging the once-Prophet as he chuckled.

Kaz smiled as he followed Tap. “Old man, long time no see!”

“A long time indeed, Kaz, my boy! Too long, in fact! Centuries, if you will,” he agreed, as he shook Kaz’s hand. “And if it isn’t everyone’s favourite Rito captain! A pleasure as always, Naomi, my dear.”

“Aye, Yazstromo. It’s good to see you after all this time.” Naomi gave him a short and conservative hug, before stepping backwards.

“Oh, and what would a reunion be without a little gift?” and Yazstromo pulled a small box out from under his robes. “Fudge, anyone? That Orilieus fellow gave me some. Turns out he’s quite the expert on our little adventures we went on. And after our trip together, I imagine Daedus is well versed in them now, too...assuming he paid attention. Daedus, come and say hel- come, lad, what are you doing all the way over there?” Yazstromo beckoned at the timid old man behind him, who was standing a ways back, clutching a small bulge beneath his tunic shirt. He shuffled forward nervously, stopping when Yazstromo clapped him on the shoulder and gestured at the three strangers before him.

“Daedus, I’d like you to meet Tap, Naomi and Kaz. These three are friends of mine from way back, when we saved the world all those years ago. Tap, Naomi, Kaz; this is Daedus.”

Tap nodded. “How do you do, Mr. Daedus?”

Daedus blinked, his grip tightening on his chest imperceptibly. “Umm, good, I think. Thank you?”

Yazstromo smiled jovially, then looked at Kaz, who seemed impatient to ask something. “Wait, you said you came here with Orilieus? As in Orilieus, Master of Kakariko Village?” The old man nodded vigorously, his beard bouncing up and down like a yo-yo.

“Indeed, my boy. Why, are you acquainted with him? Moving up in the world, eh?” He chuckled, then continued. “Yes, we ran into him after a short stay in the...Goron Protectorate, I think it was called, and after a series of fascinating events that I’m sure to tell you about repeatedly later, we were invited to ride with Orilieus on his way here to celebrate the Autumn Festival. Which reminds me, Daedus and I will have to be heading towards the castle soon...something about a meeting of sorts...”

Kaz interjected, knowing how Yazstromo could get when he needed to remember something. Concern laced his voice. “The Goron Protectorate? Yazstromo, you didn’t happen to meet a man named Darius there?”

“Well, now that you mention it, I did run into a certain Darius. Was actually fairly instrumental into what happened back at the Protectorate. I forget what happened to him...” He paused to think a moment, when his head shot up, his eyes wide. “Oh my, I left him on top of Orilieus’ carriage! Oh, I do hope he can find his way out of that sack I stowed him in.”

Kaz barked out a short laugh. “Don’t worry. That man could find his way out of a locked chest sitting at the bottom of Lake Hylia. I guess him being unconscious will delay his search a little longer, so that’s something.”

“Indeed. I’m always glad when leaving people unconscious in a sack turns out to be a good thing.” Yazstromo grinned, and clapped his hands together. “So, you know why I’m here, but I still haven’t the foggiest idea what any of you are up to in Hyrule’s capital. You can give me the condensed version for now.”

Naomi shook her head. “Hold fast a moment, Yazstromo. There seems to be something going on over there. See, the currents of people are starting to move in the same direction.” Yazstromo turned his head around so he could see for himself. It was clear that the foot traffic was starting to follow a singular purpose, with the majority moving further into the town.

“Naomi’s right,” Kaz said. “They’re definitely starting to move in that direction...towards the square in the centre of town.” Yazstromo nodded, stroking his beard thoughtfully.

“Then I guess we should follow them. It would be just awful if we missed any excitement.” He turned back to his friends and grinned. “After all, we’re the Prophetic Ones, right? Excitement is our specialty!”


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Post Re: ~Forever Forgotten~ To Dust • Posted: Sat Apr 23, 2011 7:07 am
Chapter 28:Murderer

Since arriving in The old Capital Will had taken to spending most of his time in a Tavern. It was near the town centre, perfect such that he could gather a fair bit of information eavesdropping on the gossipy patrons. Also from that particular spot he could hear the crier make his announcements. The man, who only ever came to the Old Capital to do the crying, was a large man in his mid forties. He wore a wide brim hat to cover his bald head and a deep blue coat and waistcoat with silver buttons. He looked like he was more used to being in far cleaner places.

Most of the time the announcements were of trivial matters, at least to Will they were. Mostly he paid very little attention and merely sat and brooded. Yet this time, just after the man had made an announcement pertaining to the approaching Autumn Festival, he cried something that had Will’s attention.

“By the decree of Klaus Russeau, Advisor to his majesty, King Basyle!” he began, “The execution of three criminals shall be held in this town square at precisely six o'clock this evening!”

Klaus was going to be in the Old Capital tonight! In his head Will was already beginning to assemble plots and plans to have his revenge. Klaus was the man who had ruined his entire world, all because of him Will was wrongly labelled a murderer and then Aileshia had died saving him. Yes this man deserved to die, and who better to make it so than he? Will had made up his mind; he stood and walked out of the Tavern. It was already well past noon, he hadn't time to dawdle.

********************************************************************************

Will watched the soldier from Kakariko walk along led by the service girl who had been arranged to lure the man well away from anyone else. A scent of wine emanated from him. Hidden deep into the shadows of an alleyway, he waited for them to pass before stepping out and grabbing the man by his still helmeted head.

Plate and mail could defend well enough against conventional weapons, however it could do nothing to impede the twist that would break a man's neck.

Will caught the soldier’s body before it could hit the ground and dragged it well into the alley, away from prying eyes. He stripped the man's armour from him indifferently, gathered it into the pile on the cloak Jaros had given him and dumped the body into an old wooden box that looked like it had been abandoned for quite a while and in fact was beginning to rot.

Stepping out again with the armour bundled in the cloak and swung over his shoulder, he noticed the girl was still standing there in her loose dress. She held up the spear the soldier had been carrying, “I suppose you want this too?” she looked at him in a cold unconcerned manner as she spoke, a look that would have chilled any other man.

Will took the spear off her without saying a word; it was an odd looking weapon, shorter than the ones the other soldiers used but the head was longer. It resembled a short sword with a far too long hilt, all the Soldiers that came from Kakariko had ones just like it, though none of the guards he fought there had them, or armour as well made. A more elite group of Knights, though none of them as skilled as a Scribe.

“Thanks,” Will finally spoke, his voice level and uncaring. He pulled a purse out of his pocket and tossed it to the girl, “It was his, I have no use for it. Consider it compensation for robbing you of your next client.”

At that Will turned his back on her and strode off into the night.

********************************************************************************

Klaus sat reluctantly in the carriage headed for the Platform where he would once again end the lives of men who had killed, robbed, and raped the innocent; it didn't matter so much to him. Not to say he was desensitised to it, no certainly not, it was just a matter of withdrawing himself from it. He doubted he could stomach it all if he did not do so; still he hated it all the same.

The soldier sitting in the carriage across from him was new, he had a fresh face and appeared to feel as jolly about their current proceedings as Klaus felt. He was glad that not everyone seemed to act like barbarians when a man was condemned to death. As they were nearing the platform he could hear the cries and jeers of those who had gathered for another bout of ‘entertainment’.

Klaus shifted the weight of the box on his lap unconsciously.

He glanced out the window noting the unique armour of the guard of the Master of Kakariko, though as he knew they served little purpose if a scribe was with him instead. Mere moments before, Orilieus had caught him having just arrived there himself and had insisted that Klaus allow some of his men to escort him to the execution. Klaus sighed, it wasn't really necessary, there were more than enough guards around him to stop any would-be assassin. Many Knights were out for crowd control, all sworn to the Advisor’s safety. If Thomas truly spun no lies, Klaus hadn’t a man in the Guild against him, a comforting thought.
He closed his eyes and began shutting everything out again. His wounds were beginning to hurt again.

********************************************************************************

Will walked silently beside the carriage that held the man who he was about to murder. Murder? No, not murder, his death would surely be just. His trigger finger itched, he was so close but he had to wait a little longer.

When that fool Master, Orilieus had sent him with the other 'guards' to follow Klaus's carriage Will could hardly believe his luck. He had previously planned to sneak off and wait in the crowd for a chance but this was even better. As soon as Klaus stepped off the carriage he would shoot him between the eyes. Will resisted the urge to check on the Magic Shot he had hidden in his pillaged armour. He recalled the days when he once had an opportunity to wear it a hero and not a criminal.
There’s no turning back, now, he almost lamented.

As the carriage moved up to the Platform, Will's heart began to beat faster. Positioning himself opposite the door he watched as first the accompanying soldier stepped down and then Klaus appeared at the door, looking pained. He couldn't wait any longer. Will whipped out the pistol and pointed it straight at Klaus. The next few moments seemed to take hours. Will didn't say anything, no statement of why he was doing what he was doing, it wasn't necessary; strip him of his disguise and the Advisor would have easily known.

He felt the power build up in the Magic Shot as he saw the soldier notice and jump at him. He grabbed Will’s arm and pushed it down just as he pulled the trigger. William could see the bullet crafted by magic shoot towards Klaus. It hit. The shot flared somewhere on his person, he couldn't quite tell and Klaus fell off the carriage’s steps and onto the old paved street.

Will’s Pistol whipped the soldier, threw him to the ground and stepped forward to finish the job just as the carriage exploded into brilliant blue, green, and red flashes. The blast threw Will back and his helmet flew off as he hit the ground. He quickly recovered well before any of the guards could and grabbed the odd spear off the ground ready to fight his way out.

Looking over at where Klaus now lay, he could not see him moving and a pool of blood was beginning to form around him. Surely he was dead now, Will surmised. He noticed some of the guards beginning to stand and decided that he had best be leaving. As he dashed off into the crowd he heard shouts after him and others calling to help the fallen Advisor.

Will realised he had lost the helmet and hoped no one had recognised him.

********************************************************************************

Kaz, Naomi, Tap, Yazstromo, and Daedus had just made it to the outskirts of the crowd when the carriage had exploded.

“What the *Navi* was that?” Tap demanded of no one in particular, none of the party made comment to her swearing, it had become a common occurrence recently.

“As if I would know,” Kaz began to reply anyway. “For all I know it could . . . oh, oh no. He wouldn't have. Would he?”

Tap gave him an odd look and was about to say something when Kaz interrupted, “You guys go see if anyone's hurt, I need to go!”

“What . . .” Tap started but this time Yazstromo interrupted.

“We really should go see if anyone's hurt don't you think? You would be a great help then.”

“Uh, okay,” she replied, suddenly feeling several hundred years younger under the wise man's gaze.

“Don't worry, Tap, I'll follow him. I think I may know where he's headed too.” Naomi assured her. “Now go help those people!” she added, jogging away.

********************************************************************************

Will had managed to get clear of the soldiers for a moment but that would change shortly. He was right about those ones from Kakariko, they were a fair bit tougher than the average soldier. He came across a stable that had been abandoned by just about everyone, bar one stable hand. Will gave the lad a knock on the head and he crumpled to the floor, lucky for him he was still breathing.

Will threw off all the armour he had been wearing and went to go grab a horse, he noticed a Bloodbay already saddled and decided to take it. Quicker than saddling a new one, he would risk it not being the fastest one there.

He burst through the stable door and out into the street, just as three patrol men appeared. Will saw them and muttered, “Damn my Luck!” as he turned away from them and galloped down the street.

At that the three gave chase and Will began to lead them through side streets and alleyways hoping to lose them but his efforts were in vain as they stayed hot on his heels the entire time. The fact that one of them had a crossbow did not ease the problem. Will saw a wagon overloaded with barrels and took his chance, he pulled out the gun again and shot through the axle twice, sending the wagon collapsing and barrels tumbling down between him and the patrol.

Surely he would escape now. Will took another corner, a left then a right, straight into a dead end.
He could hear the patrol men closing on him again and he realised that he couldn't turn back.
He looked around himself and realised the wall to his left was only a story high and he didn't hesitate to leap up there leaving the horse behind.

Will found himself on a low roof as the patrol found their way into the alley. He listened to them talk as they suggested he may have run away on foot, and one of them telling another to stay there near the horse. Will watched two of them walk away as they had said and waited for them to be a fair distance away before he jumped down onto the last one and smashed his skull into the ground.

He hopped back up onto his own horse and bolted out off the dead end. He headed in what he believed was the general direction of Tiveri's safe house and managed to find himself riding up behind the remaining two Patrol men. Will didn't hesitate to shoot one of them in the back and he tumbled off his horse but the second was quicker to react.

He haphazardly let a crossbow bolt off in his general direction before jumping off his horse and rolling into cover behind some stacked boxes. Will dismounted also and stood opposite the man on the other side of the boxes.

He pointed his Magic Shot at the stack at about chest height and shot right through all of them, the patrol man had jumped out of cover however and now pointed his crossbow right at Will. He leapt to the side and rolled as the next bolt sailed past him. As he stopped, he pointed the gun at the man and pulled the trigger. The shot hit the man in the shoulder and he flew back into the wall and slumped over.

Not checking to see whether he was dead or not Will hopped back up on his horse and galloped off again.

********************************************************************************
As soon as he had arrived Will leapt off the back of the Bloodbay, burst in through the door to the safe house and dashed to where he had left the rest of his belongings.

“Bloody idiot!” He cursed his stupidity at not bringing all of it with him. What had he thought would happen? It dawned to him now that all reason had left him as soon as he'd gotten the idea in his head. He cursed again.

“Is something bothering you?” Jaros's question startled Will out of his thoughts, he hadn't seen him sitting in the chair by the window reading.

“Oh, something's come up, I need to leave town.” Will found it hard to be annoyed at Jaros but still a little harshness crept into his voice, “ oh and you can have your cloak back, I don't need it anymore.”

He tried to hand it back but Jaros shook his head saying, “No, consider it a gift. Winter will be here sooner than you realise and you may wish you had it then. I'll tell Naomi and the others you've left.” Will paused momentarily and Jaros continued, “Something tells me you wish to be gone and forgotten from this place already and that our paths will not cross for a while if ever again.”

“Uh, sure thanks.” Will managed. He hastily grabbed the rest of his things, as few as they were, and managed to take two steps towards the door before it was kicked open in his face.

********************************************************************************

After securing something for his throbbing headache – the din of cheers and boos coming from the town square wasn't helping it much, and neither was what sounded like fireworks a moment ago - and getting his senses together, Darius had related all that had happened to him to the Master.

Orilieus waited a moment before deciding, “Well I suppose what would be prudent is to find Kazar and ask him to explain this.”

“If he continued following Desesperacion he should be here but we can't bank on that.”

“Regardless, if he is here there's no reason for him to be leaving right now, You should rest a bit more. I'm surprised you don't have a concussion.” Orilieus suggested.

“I would suppose so, alright but I must let the Town Watch know who to look out for.” Darius agreed begrudgingly.

“Then make it so.” Orilieus concluded.

********************************************************************************

“Dammit Will!” Kaz yelled as he strode purposefully into the room, “First you pull that stunt in Kakariko and now this. You tried to kill the bloody High Cleric!”

By now Jaros was giving both of them what could be described as a surprised look but neither noticed it.

“You have no idea what sort of suffering that man has caused me!” Will barked in response, and as if to declare he was done with words he whipped out both his magic shots and pointed them at Kaz.

Kaz's sword left its sheath in an instant and sliced both pistols in half before Will had a chance to shoot.

As Will dropped them, each severed half of the weapons exploded into a small ball of flame and smoke filled the room. Using the ensuing chaos, Will leapt up to and out of the open window behind him, dropping down into a narrow alleyway. As Kaz climbed through after him, Will stuck in his monocle and drew his rapier.

“I was wrong; I shouldn't have trusted you so well.” Was the only thing Kaz said before they both leapt in to fight.

As their swords twirled and clashed it was clear that neither was holding back, each of their faces set deadly serious. Kaz led in with a series of strong strokes but Will had no trouble countering those, he seized a moment to break through and ducked down to slash at Kaz's legs.

Kaz quick stepped away from the attack and used the movement to spin around to attack Will’s midsection. Barely getting his rapier up in time to block, Will was put off his guard. He jumped back and away as Kaz followed up that swipe with a quick stab. Will kicked out at Kaz's chest but he managed to bring his sword back to stop that attack with the flat of his blade.

Will pushed off the sword to put even more distance between them, and then threw himself into a flurry of stabs. Kaz managed to dodge or parry all but one of the stabs one just nicking his sword arm, barely enough to draw blood. He swung his sword up through the air between Will and himself; the wild swing connected with Will’s sword and knocked the attack aside.

He took the opportunity to slice down at Will; an attack that could have cleaved Will’s head off if he hadn't jumped back as he did. Kaz wasn't finished yet however and he charged, swinging his sword well. His opponent was only just able to dodge the attacks and a sizeable nick appeared in his hat. Kaz finished the attack by drawing back his fist and smashing it right into Wills monocle eye. Will cried out, doubled over in pain as shards of glass were driving into his eye and blood started to run down his cheek. He looked back up at Kaz and fury covered his face, he ran at Kaz slashing and stabbing his Rapier carelessly.

After dodging a few strikes Kaz managed to lock Will sword with his own. He flicked it up out of Will’s hands and then brought his sword down to cut a shallow gash through his chest and snap the rapier’s blade in half in the same movement.

Will fell back onto the ground, one hand grasping his now ruined eye, the other held his chest. He looked up at Kaz as his sword touched Wills neck, his face plastered with shock. The victor grabbed Will by the collar and hoisted him up just as Naomi ran into the alleyway. Kaz had run far faster to get here than she had.

“Kaz, what has happened here? You almost killed Jaros!” she demanded, she took one look at Will’s bloody face and added, “oh dear . . .”

Kaz answered in all seriousness, “He was the one who tried to kill the High Cleric, Naomi. Did you think that shot could have been anyone else?”

“I . . .” She started but then dropped it, she looked at Will again sadness shown clearly even on her beaked face.

Kaz looked at Will, still keeping a firm grip on his collar, “I thought there was something worthwhile in you, hell, I even believed you weren't to blame for what happened three years ago.”

“The man I killed then was the real criminal.” Will spat out, “But all cause of that man my life has been ruined!”

“So you go to kill him, Validate the sentence?” Kaz didn't wait for a reply, he turned to Naomi saying, “I'll take him to the Gaol, They'll give him some medical help there too I should think.”

Naomi noted that Kaz hadn't suggested that she do anything to heal him, “I'll come too.” She replied and followed Kaz out of the alley.

********************************************************************************

Fulkrome had become accustomed to seeing all the Poes that drifted around the Old Capital. The few that followed people he wondered the circumstances of, but never bothered to look into it. He had his own Poe problems to deal with and didn't want to get caught up with any others.

That mindset changed however, when he saw three people moving down the street. One of them was practically dragging another by his collar, and that man was covered in blood. This victim was not what really gabbed Fulkrome's attention, it was the improbable massing of Poes that seemed to surround the bloody man. All but one of them seemed to give an air of violent intentions.

Letting his curiosity get the better of him, Fulkrome began to follow the group at a distance. If he had one Poe here to bother him, what caused so many to be pulled to him?

_________________
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Post Re: ~Forever Forgotten~ To Dust • Posted: Fri Oct 07, 2011 10:32 pm
Forgive me... I will also make my best attempt to edit this shortly.

Chapter 29: Shadows of the Past

“I must say, this land is not what I had expected from your tales,” the two Deku were rummaging through yet another clearing, lost among a Forest unforgiving to the Deku Lord’s memory. Lukas had been rather silent since they... dealt with Nightfield. His friend’s rigid form had not given way yet, despite it being several days since they left behind the ruined village. He also would not speak, or eat; even a mere glance was almost too much for him to perform. Jethro continued to grasp how to understand what, to him, was a friendship made in three days, but for his equal he tried to gain the empathy for the decades it was worth.

“No, but I expected a change or two,” the First Lord spoke in a hushed tone, making his comrade jump with fright. “This forest has very powerful magic behind it, so I am not surprised to see it so untamed. From what landmarks I can still determine, it has swallowed most of the land I knew. Perhaps even all of it.”

Deku Lord brushed his fingers on the nearest tree; it too bore the beginning of the sickness they found plaguing the Kokiri land. Nightfield had been a friend for many years, though he had been involved with questionable business before, he did nothing to deserve that fate. The wooden gaze haunted his sleep even still. A powerful sorcerer had inflicted this curse, and the Deku Lord knew very few of those in Hyrule, much of the magic in the Hylians’ blood lay perpetually dormant from the people.

You... it's been so long... there was a man in a dark cloak with violet emblems. They glowed red when he..!

Nightfield had given him even more reason to seek out Mervil. But he would not have dealt such a crippling hex to the innocents in Kokiri Forest, would he? He had tried to fish out more information from his old friend, but whatever was left of the Kokiri’s spirit died in their company and what was left could only wail. The Warrior was a hard person to forget, and an easy one to spot.

“I can’t be pointing fingers,” the Deku Lord said abruptly.

“What?” Lukas remarked, puzzled.

“Don’t fret over it, Jethro, I was just lost in old times,” he removed his hand from the ailing tree and pointed where he knew north-east to be. “In order to reach Mervil’s home we need to go that way. If we can find a way out of these Demon Underwoods we’ll know just how much longer we have to travel. None of these plants are proving useful to me, it is like they have been silenced by the dread bleeding out from the heart of the Forest,” he shook his head, such a beautiful place to be stricken by misfortune.

The Lords took a quick rest by a crumbling old fountain. It was the only piece left of a village even forgotten five hundred years ago. Deku Lord knew not its name or shared any sympathies with the Poes haunting it nearby. Maybe this was all that waited for them, trees and ruins...

When they retrieved their supplies it was near noon, at least that was their best guess. Heading in the proper direction, the Lords raised their hopes as the sound of a rushing river broke the calls of wildlife. The land began to mimic the old hills of Hyrule, and the army of ancient trees thinned the closer the river became. High above, the canopy hardly allowed a trickle of light to fall down to them, but the emerald beauty from before had returned the farther they paced themselves from the Kokiri.

“If you recall, this land has an aquatic race known as the Zora. Their mountain lake feeds the river somewhere up ahead, but most of their people fled during Arivis’s reign,” he finished this as they trekked over another crest, the forest still spreading out in all directions; yet, Zora’s River snaked at the bottom of the steep descent. The trees remained tall enough to blot out the sky, but were sparse enough to show a glimpse of their end far in the distance.

“I would not be surprised to hear they had stayed farther north, where even their waters come from. A shame really, almost an entire race gone from Hyrule, as well as a powerful monarchy,” he continued. “They were a peaceful people, but knew very well how to fight. Although Arivis wielded Fire, it was a wicked and potent dark magic that fuelled it, something they could not stand against.”

He was only able to tell very little of the war with Arivis, much of the time was only relayed to him by the Prophetic Ones who were absent for the initial retaliation by the forces of the Kingdom. With such a menace as Faciss shackled to the Demon’s feet, it was a battle only able to be lost. In the end, the deaths were delivered by two creatures, hiding behind a cruel facade. The Deku Lord tried to think of similar events in Fluvari’s history, but any such thing had long faded from the history books.

Perhaps the petty Garo attacks would be recorded as the largest ‘ruckus’ the Kingdom had faced in centuries. And that would be bad publicity for me.

“Mervil lived among the high hills of ‘Death Mountain’, quite a fitting place for his residence. The Mountain Warriors, the Gorons, held fast to their city and patriarchy. They are gentle... most of the time, so do not shy away if you see one in Kakariko.”

Lukas nodded, paying more attention to where he was walking as many of the tree roots were rising up out of the topsoil to seemingly try to trip him. At the end of the uneven embankment the forest momentarily gave pause. Before them the murky waters of the River were swift and unforgiving, blocking them from advancing.

“It appears we’ll have to search for one of the land bridges, if any are left...” the Deku Lord sighed, yet another barrier in his way.

“No,” his friend interjected. “We have a bridge right over there.”

In the distant gloom a logged bridge stretched across the expanse of the river, expertly crafted with braces and even decorative spires. Lanterns hung from each of the posts, glowing with a strange flame. The Deku approached the crossing to investigate its condition.

“Surely this was built long before the Underwoods overtook this part of the country, but,” the Deku Lord surveyed the bridge, shaking his head with confusion. “It looks much newer. What point is there to make this in an empty place?” He turned around to see if any ruins lay nearby, but there were none. Yet, into the sea of trees a vague and withered footpath snaked its way back up the hill. It had not been used in some time, but certainly while the Forest stood.

Lukas prodded one of the lanterns, watching it sway back and forth from its clasp. “This is a queer fire, no fuel of any kind I can see.”

“Yes, it carries the light of Din, a familiar magic in this Kingdom,” the First Lord held another lantern, turning it over in his hands. “Someone has been kind to travellers here. Most wizards capable of using such potent Fire would never waste their time on something so modest,” he stepped into the centre of the bridge and gazed downstream where Lake Hylia no doubt rested among the Lost Underwoods too.

“Someone has indeed been kind, not letting the old Hyrule be left to rot,” he took in a deep breath and motioned for Jethro to join him and his crossing of the river. Was it nostalgia he felt after such a short time away? Or was it someone else’s lingering in this ancient forest?

*

For once in his life he cursed that magnificent Forest. The Deku had finally reached a final clearing in the Lost Underwoods, the rest of Hyrule sprawling out before them between the trunks of the last trees. They had stuck to the old trail the rest of the way out, finding little else outside of a single crumbling well along the way. It was here they took their final rest and ate the last of their rations. Much of them had been wasted trying to navigate near the cursed Kokiri Village.

“If we continue at this pace we will arrive there at the start of dusk, giving us plenty of time to find lodgings in Kakariko,” the Deku Lord gazed deeply at the rising giant that was Death Mountain in the distance. “Although I must admit, we will be a peculiar sight. The Deku here are shy creatures, preferring to keep within their reign of the Forest. But you must have noticed that they too have fled for a brighter land.”

“You spoke of this place as being a rival in your heart to Fluvari,” Lukas began. “Five hundred years have passed and most of its residents have fled, yet you still speak of it as home.”

“Of course,” he replied, pointing toward the familiar sites of the Mountain and the Capital Walls. “I have lived here as long as I have called Fluvari home. It is the unbridled magic, both the real and the emotional kind, which gave Hyrule a place in my heart. You will eventually understand why, Jethro. Our time here will not be a short one.”

The Lords took their first step into Hyrule Field, glad to feel the strong winds flowing around them. Their walking guide had ended, but it did not matter; this was finally somewhere the Deku Lord could navigate. Looming over them, Death Mountain stained more and more of the skyline as they travelled. Faint echoes of falling sledge could be heard from the Goron Protectorate, its entrance far east of their gaze and knowledge.

Smoke from cook fires drifted into the blustery air from where Kakariko stood, but its face had changed. The high walls of the City seemed queer and out of place, the Deku Lord already began to lament the end of its past rural self. But what else could he expect from the Sheikah settlement? It was destined to thrive under their shadowed watch.

Hard beaten paths wound their way around the hillsides. The soil resembled stone rather than anything else, unforgiving and heavy horse travel cemented what might as well been cobbled roads. They followed the trail many carts wide, bearing down on the walled City before them.

“They say they build walls in peace to prepare for war,” Lukas noted, catching a glimpse of a watchtower being prepared just beyond the gates of Kakariko. “Why is it no one remembers when Fluvari needed none, or why we still need them?” he shared the same hesitation and anxiety for their homeland with the Deku Lord. It was not a practice for the highest ranking Lords to take leave in troubled times, but they continued to assure themselves of the sentries’ ability to counter the Garo interlopers.

They could never forgive their choice if they returned to their Fluvari in ruins, if they returned at all. The vortex that led them to Hyrule would be impossible to find in the vast Lost Underwoods, and what could have become of Symmetry City in five hundred years? Deku Lord pushed these thoughts away, concerned more with the damaged City wall. Surely Hyrule has remained in peace, what with the empty and silent plains...

“Who goes there?” a gruff and tired voice called from the parapet above. An elderly Sheikah Scribe appeared, peeking over the edge and down at the strange Deku folk. “By the order of Master Orilieus this City has been sealed until after the council with His Majesty, King Basyle.”

“May we inquire why?” Lukas replied, studying the features of the Sheikah, a race he had yet to meet before.

The Scribe growled and muttered to himself. He seemed exhausted and bitter toward his post, despite his strong stature and attire. “The criminal William Desesperacion was sighted within the city, helping a very cunning thief,” the Sheikah had been ordered to leave out details of the failed guarding of their Seeking Stone. “They caused more trouble than they were worth, opening the gates and fleeing.”

“Then I suppose there is no reason not to let us in if your criminals have already vacated?”

No response was given and the elderly man disappeared into his tower. A few moments passed and the rattling of massive chains began to fill the air. Slowly, the gates to the City opened. The Scribe walked out to meet the Lords with a smile of all the unexpected greetings.

“It has been a very long time since I’ve last laid my eyes on a Deku,” he pointed to his back at the bustling City. Many knights had been stationed to prevent anyone from leaving without proper clearance. They had their work cut out for them as a small mob had formed already, making crass remarks at the only Scribe in sight. “Our gates are closed to prevent further tampering from those men as we repair the damage to our City and our reputation. Do not think us unkind or unjust. Orilieus ordered that the populace remain as we search for answers.”

“In my experience worse things have happened,” the Deku Lord presented his hand to formalize their greeting.

The Scribe smiled meekly, shaking his hand and his head at the remark. “The Deku of Hyrule have long abandoned their Wood, so as travellers from the many Kingdoms abroad, I ask that you do our City a kindness.”

“We have indeed travelled to great lengths to come to Kakariko,” the First Lord said truthfully. “Many years ago I did business here, so think nothing of it.”

“If you see Desesperacion, even somewhere as distant as Calatia,” the Scribe removed a piece of parchment from his cloak and handed over a likeness of William to Lukas. “Find one of the Sheikah that is sure to be near and apprehend this murderer of many men. Wives and children alike carry a dark heart for him.”

Lukas handed the pictograph to his friend, who took to a fit of coughing. The man on the page resembled one of the Prophetic Ones.

This can’t be him, the bandit, but...

“Is there a problem?” Jethro looked legitimately concerned for the sudden ill expression that seized his comrade.

“No, nothing to worry over. I am not used to such... sweet winds anymore,” he lied, and rather badly. But both of his company accepted his answer, patting him on the shoulder.

“Of course there is a reward for his capture, yet,” the Sheikah rubbed the back of his head with unease. “For the shadowy thief, Orilieus has offered the spoils of our Gold Vault, as much as a man can carry.”

Although he had no need for riches, this piqued the Deku Lord’s interest. “And what does this cunning pickpocket look like?”

“We... do not know for certain,” the elder replied sheepishly. “He was a mage of some sort, using magic against the soldiers who gave him chase. He did no more than harm them mildly, unlike his accomplice. The thief seems not as dangerous, but he stole something very precious, making him the higher authority,” he reached again into his pocket and produced a roughly treated paper. Upon it was a hastily made sketch: a tall man dressed in a cloak black as night. “All witnesses agree that this is our man, but who in all of Hyrule doesn’t own a travelling cloak like that?”

The Deku Lord glanced quickly over to Lukas and then back to the two pictures in their hands. My, my... It seems they’ve been keeping themselves well occupied... Nostalgia returned to him again, seeing two faces unscathed by five hundred years. He did not know how, or why, but the urgency to reach Mervil only seemed strengthened. To him, the Warrior was the only one able to make sense of this changed Kingdom. He tightened his grip on the sketched photo, hoping that he would even be offered help.

After some brief conversation, the Deku entered Kakariko City, its gates slamming shut behind them. They said their goodbyes and sought a place to stay. Travel would recommence in the twilight hours. The First Lord wished more answers than questions lay in wait.

***

The last tendrils of sunlight withdrew beyond the forest. Already they had travelled quite a distance from the base of Rolling Ridge, only to face one more ascent to complete the Nuun Highlands and their mission. Among their merry crew the mood had significantly lifted, it seemed foolish not to feel much safer with two Mountain Warriors at their disposal. Benjamin could not blame them, for he had the most doubt and worry as their leader, but Bronzen and Dolomire had too positive a disposition to ignore. Even the cold stare of Jonathan had been broken with laughter during their long hike across Labrynna’s plains.

It was pleasant to see smiles, to hear jests shared despite the weight of their fate looming nearby. They had set up camp a few minutes of travel into the Nuun’s highest hills, where a forest had been allowed to mature for centuries. Within this dark Wood the First Convoy had been slaughtered without remorse. The Captain of the Second winced at the thought, for he had sent many of those men. Now he led even more towards that uncertainty.

After a long deliberation with his men, mostly Sir Jonathan, James, and their Goron escorts, Benjamin had decided the sunset also marked the end of travel for the night. In the morning they would retrieve Ashtar from their agreed rendezvous point, a clearing on the opposite side of the Nuun Forest. Tomorrow would be the very last opportunity to meet the ambassador as he had been instructed to leave when a certain limit of days had passed without Hylian contact. King Basyle would have none of that, and neither would this Captain, too many good men were put into this mission to have nothing to show for it.

Their camp was set up by the river edge, a modest waterfall gushed down the cleaved cliff-side. This area was known for its common quakes, many powerful enough to rip up Din’s earth and create many dangerous pitfalls. Some of these tremors had split the Lynna River into many tributaries. Its source rested much farther north from their current location, but the Nuun was webbed with many small streams, each leading to this one beautiful fall. Benjamin questioned the Council’s assigned meeting place for not being here, a much more convenient and agreeable locale. When he brought this to Jonathan, the delegate merely shook his head and harrumphed, still very discontent at his sudden commoner position under the rule of the Gorons.

Benjamin observed his men from afar, content on spoiling his mood with his thoughts. He sat upon a very large stump, tuning out the comforting and calm flow of the Lynna River, tuning out even the many quickened conversations of the other Knights. Cook fires were reduced to cinders, the aroma of meat drifted far into the wilds, attracting wary scavengers much too scared to approach. The clinking of the pans and many layers of armour made their presence far from subtle.

What does it matter? If that terrible beast is here there is nothing we can do, the Captain pulled his cloak tighter in the cool mountain breeze. It smelled of rain and soon looked it as many clouds descended from Rolling Ridge at their backs.

Apparently the men could sense his agitation, the backbreaking stress he felt at this point. He was responsible for so many of them and there was hardly any hiding his fear for their safety. This feeling was not helped by their darting smiles or uncomfortable waves; they only proved to show that deep down this joyful affair was swimming in regret for each man. They believed they accepted the mission knowing their possible doom, but now with it near completion, it only became more real. More terrifying.

“You aren’t looking too well, Ben,” a concerned voice came from behind. Pebbles were scared off as the bulky form of Bronzen took his fair space of Benjamin’s stump.

“Believe me, this is me trying to hide it,” he wiped his unkempt face, the stiff bristles of his blonde scruff itched at his hand.

“I can certainly share in your troubles; I too have led many of my Tribe to defy Death’s cruel hand. It never has gotten easier, in fact, maybe more difficult,” the Goron sighed, placing a heavy hand on the Captain’s shoulder. “No man should have to send his friends, or his foes, into the unknown, risking terrible outcomes. But some men have to be the brave ones, as much as they’d rather not be,” he tried to coax a smile out of his Hylian counterpart, satisfied to see a cautious smirk.

“I wish I could be made of stone like you, Bronzen,” he lamented, feeling more like a crumbling statue, fate taking sledge after sledge from his body. Benjamin nearly lost himself staring at the sparkling waters with the long silence that followed.

A few flighty raindrops bounced off his gauntlets, Bronzen cursing at the idea of getting wet. The men scrambled for cover, it was bad enough swimming in sweat laden armour that the Gods did not need to make for more trouble. Dolomire approached from the river holding an already pitched tent over his head, much to the surprise of the three men it left behind.

“You don’t mind, do you?” he asked rather nonchalantly, his large bound hands pulling the tent down and stretching the canvas in opposite directions. Benjamin nodded and smiled as the fabric was torn and quickly refurbished into a canopy above his stump; Gorons were always the most hospitable.

After much debate on if the second Goron could fit, Bronzen and the Captain were uncomfortably joined on already limited seat space. Dolomire coughed at his poor scenery, reserved to sitting against the backs of his comrades, staring at the blank canvas.

“The weather is not to turn for another few hours,” the Wrestler began, only Benjamin was aware of their Goron escorts’ real identities, something that would only humble his men further. “Bronzen and I would like to propose a simple extraction of this Ambassador fellow, tonight.”

Benjamin shook his head before giving another thought. “I can’t do that, my men are already prepared for a well deserved night resting. I’d feel much better travelling the forest in daylight, at least then we can see what’s out to kill us.”

Dolomire mused, humming quietly. He let out a deep sigh and continued. “If the massacre of your First Convoy was by the hands of some beast, we’re already too late to keep ourselves a secret. Surely this Ashtar will have his own men at his side, we have much better numbers, and no offense to you, much better fighters,” he nudged Bronzen in the back who quickly confirmed he felt the same way.
“You already missed the talk, Dolomire, you two may be strong, but ten ranking Knights were killed in that attack without a chance to fight back. I can’t risk the lives of my men just because we happen to be safer with you two.”

“I knew you would say that,” Bronzen added, standing up quickly and nearly knocking their makeshift canopy to the ground. “I’ve heard of your previous strategies in my meetings with Basyle, he thinks of your intellect nearly unmatched in your Guild. With Ashtar’s men returning with us, we don’t need to put many of your men in danger. Surely there is some option that will carry us through, besides me carrying the Ambassador on my back?”

Benjamin nearly waved his hand for them to leave their dreaming plan until his eyes fell upon Jonathan’s shuttered carriage. It was like their Tribe to want to act quickly and as brutishly as possible through any objective. He could not blame them personally for their ambition; it was this very attitude that built their Protectorate. Scanning his troupe for viable men, the workings of a simple plan began to snap together like a puzzle.

“The look on your face tells me you have something promising,” Bronzen was simply fibbing, it had grown too dark to easily see around their stump.

“Yes, I believe that, with your help of course, we can make this happen tonight,” the Captain smirked as Dolomire clapped his hands together, eager to get moving. “We will use the dark to our advantage. Jonathan’s carriage will be used since its windows can be blocked. As he’s officially too ‘important’ to risk, we will have James impersonate him. I’ll drive while you two walk either side. I hope you won’t mind, but a carriage on its own isn’t imposing enough.

“How is that necess-,” Bronzen began, scratching his head in confusion.

“As much as I wish my First Convoy was unlucky, we need to split our assets. Be it a beast that took them in cold blood or a distraught mage, I am technically sworn to Jonathan’s protection,” the Knight explained with a hint of venom. “James is one of the most adept swordsmen in the Kingdom, maybe even better than the Guild Master. It’d be foolish not to have him as our flank.”

A chuckle came from the other side of their canopy before its owner stepped into their company.

“You flatter me too much, Ben,” came the velvet voice of James. “I’ll expect that long overdue knighting when we get back,” he joked, pointing to his Captain’s badge, a gift to all Knights under Basyle’s long rule.

Sir Benjamin smiled and shook on the deal.

It had taken very little goading to have Jonathan strip out of his fine robes and into a commoner’s clothes. At first he whined his usual protest, only to be knocked on his bottom by the impatient Bronzen, an action that quickly reversed his temperament. James reddened and tugged at his queer attire, aware that his shabby appearance robbed any extra credibility these fancy dressings gave him.

A quick debriefing to the other men ended much of the discussion of their plans. Their fake Jonathan settled himself in the dark carriage, its drapes drawn to hide its contents. Benjamin lit four sturdy torches, handing one to both of his Goron companions and securing the others to either side of his driver’s seat. It was all the lighting he could spare physically and emotionally; the camp needed the remaining torches to keep the beasts away, while the Captain felt too much illumination would draw unwanted attention.

Nodding at Bronzen and Dolomire to begin their conquest of the night, Benjamin took his place behind the reins of a single work horse. The bench was the most uncomfortable he’d ever found. If the impulse to drive the horse forward hadn’t already occurred, he might have asked one of the Gorons to rip up his stump for a more suitable seat.

“Are you sure I can’t have a light in here?” James fidgeted, the weight of the night falling very much on his shoulders alone. He wanted the reassurance of something warm, but Benjamin merely shook his head at the small viewfinder they normally would converse through. Even the Captain was bathed in shadow, his torches hardly able to fight back the swelling darkness of a clouded night.

Quick work was made of the calm river, though rains from the north had swelled the depth to nearly snuff out their torches. The soft gush of the waterfall was a momentary comfort; but, it too had to be left behind as the Gorons sought a footpath up the opposite bank. Narrow edges proved harrowing, as Bronzen nearly took a tumble near the crest of the mound. Here the wilds of the Highlands had taken root.

Before them lay waist high grasses waving slowly in the stiff wintry breeze, only with a few muted places where the Nuun hid sunken snares of earth and roots. Deep fissures in the land were well disguised from here on out, no more simple travel fixes. The steep climb towards the imposing wall of Nuun Forest felt like a choking wade through a bog, the black of the night felt heavy, its strength seeming to stifle the glow of their lanterns.

“Mind you, it seemed less of a hike from the bottom...” Dolomire lamented, stopping a few yards short of the entrance of their destination, obviously winded from the difficult hike. These trees had been spared the rusted heads of axes for centuries, the path too dangerous to be worth the price for firewood or building materials. Thick trunks and cascading branches blocked out any light from the outside and any hope of seeing within. Already feeling small and alone in the middle of Labrynna, the grand curtain of the Forest helped only strengthen the minimal outlook.

“This is our last chance to turn back, Benjamin,” the more robust Warrior began, staking his torch momentarily into the soft soil. “I can only imagine these trees have made for worse travel. I’ve visited similar places, it’s very easy to drop off a vine covered edge and never be seen again. But those were a well travelled wood, this is much different.”

The Captain shook his head at the concerns, having already had his mind made up back at camp. “We’re here with an hour to spare by the look of the clouds,” he was lying, it was too dark to see anything other than silhouettes and the unsettling gnarled branches of the Forest, reaching out with their greedy fingers. According to the locals on his past visits to Labrynna, Benjamin was to expect a serene beauty to the Nuun upon the dawn. A welcomed contrast if he could have afforded the wait, or the ability to turn down the advice of hardened war veterans.

“Let’s get this over with, shall we?” Dolomire found a weary footpath a few feet to the north, just large enough for the carriage to fit through.

The damp and dense foliage clung at the sides of their caravan, tugging it back and forth like spoiled children. James spilled from his seat several times, finding less and less reason to crawl back with each new upset. He knew to expect a terrible travel, just not this abomination of a ‘trail’. The path itself wound tightly around an incline, hiding steep drops just within the bordering shadows.

Even the wildlife seemed fearful of breaking their silent trip, only their faint rustling gave away their presence. The Nuun was known for wolves, the first creatures accused of murdering the First Convoy, but the report from the Labrynians showed their deaths was more akin to execution than simple bloodlust. Mere owls and gentler creatures filled the remaining dominion in this Forest, nothing capable of killing a grown man let alone several. Maybe there was something more here than simple woodland.

Bronzen’s lantern suddenly flared violently, blinking out of sight with a muffled cry.

“Hold!” Benjamin seethed, jerking the reins back as hard as he could. Jonathan’s shuttered caravan lurched heavily on the sharp incline, nearly tumbling off the edge into what could only have been a nasty abyss. He drew his blade quickly and snatched one of the mounted torches into his hand, peering into the black, a cold sweat breaking on his brow.

“Something lurks in the forest,” the voice brought some calm to the Captain’s racing heart. Bronzen spoke quietly from somewhere ahead of them. “Can you hear the branches sway without the wind?”

Birds of prey were unheard of this far from Hyrule and bears remained relatively unknown in Labrynna. Something was moving in the canopy above; that or the suffocating night was beginning to play tricks on them all, as Benjamin only began to hear the shifting trees after a minute of deafening silence.

“We are too close to be spooked, we will not turn with our tails between our legs,” even the mighty Dolomire sounded tense, his eyes darting fervently for anything above them. “Mind, Gorons haven’t had tails for a very long time,” the jest fell flat, especially with Bronzen whose face reappeared like a spectre in the dark, contorted by his lantern’s new flame.

“At the top of the crest we are to expect a straight path to the clearing and hopefully Ashtar’s coach,” James interjected the directions; after all, it had been his task to direct them to the ambassador in the first place. “Sir Jonathan did have a proper map, but someone misplaced it in their... lavatory. Not that it would be any good now,” he smirked, having it lost on the audience who had already taken his words to mean ‘continue’.

The bait councilman returned to his seat before any jostling trouble would keep him from it. Fear of the dark was considered a childish dread, but no man, even the Guild Master, could be expected to feel bravery in this night’s maw. At least that was what each of the four was quietly telling themselves as they neared the rocky crest.

Having finished one of the many stony embankments the Nuun Forest hid, the group felt relieved that their goal was within reach. However the brambles were large and thick here, their thorns nearly immobilizing the workhorse whose loud protest was painful on the ears and an unwelcome call into the dark. Benjamin dismounted from the carriage seat, a lantern in hand to survey the path ahead.

“Looks like no one has bothered travelling this way in years,” Bronzen was shaking his head, holding his light higher revealing a long corridor of the unsightly weeds. “I haven’t seen such an unruly Wood outside our own in Hyrule. There’s no way we can force the horse and carriage through this awful mess.”

“Surely the clearing cannot be that far,” Benjamin scratched his scruffy face, peering up into the black sky, knowing it due to the dark blobs representing the treetops surrounding it. Thunder rolled quietly in the distance. Terrible weather to match terrible feelings I suppose.

“No, hardly a trip,” the Wrestler pointed down the long thorny path at a tiny patch of flickering light. “Best place to have a campfire. Really, the only safe place.”

The graven faces of the Mountain Warriors finally returned to their common smirks. Even Benjamin was able to break his nervous bout with a smile, but only shortly. There still remained the trek through the brambles, a difficult and painful hike for all involved.

“We can’t leave the carriage and horse unattended, too easy of a spook; we’ll need them for a pleasant ride back to camp. Certainly Ashtar’s caravan won’t fare any better in this mess,” Bronzen scratched his head and looked to Benjamin for any new plan.
He mused at the possibilities for a moment before calling to James.

“We’re going to have to continue by foot, Jonathan, this path is too troublesome for our cart,” they waited for a response. When none was given they knew their councilman had understood. Benjamin attempted to hack his way into the blockade with no luck, his sword barely nicked the thick roots; though, he could have sworn they shuddered – perhaps the Nuun had Deku creatures of their own. “Looks like we won’t be cutting our way through. I hope that thick skin of yours is going to hold up,” he shrugged as his comrades did the same, the three of them taking their first steps forward.

“By the Gods,” Dolomire muttered as a sharp thorn dug at his thigh. “I can’t say I like it, but I’ve been through worse,” he flashed his celebrity smile, but Benjamin assumed he actually was making light of his past days fighting outside of a ring.

“We’ll keep quiet from here, in case someone is guarding Ashtar who shouldn’t be,” he pulled down his faceplate, restricting his vision but keeping it safe from any potential harm. “I will signal you when we should reveal ourselves to the clearing. Otherwise we might be walking into a trap.”

“Understood, Ben,” Bronzen’s face was pulled into a scowl as he clasped the nearest barbed branch in their path and ripped it from place. “We’ll try to keep this up, make things simpler for dragging this Ambassador back, whether he likes it or not.”

Benjamin nodded and pointed forward at the flickering fire, its light beckoning them to come closer. Whether the foe that desecrated the First Convoy was there or not, they had no other choice. The Captain embraced his fears, knowing they would not leave him. How he wished to be made of stone.

***

The guard at the Mountain Gate was not nearly as kind to them. After the rookie soldier finished his fun of seeing if ‘Deku were really made of wood’ by poking them, he let the Lords pass into the old Trail. Having learned of the relocation of the Gorons, the Deku Lord was not surprised to see this portion of the mountain devoid of activity, everything that mattered on this heap of stone now rested closer to the abandoned Zora Highlands.

Ancient mudslides marked both sides of the twisting path, frozen solid by the passing of time. With so little traffic this way vegetation began to strangle the rocky walls with lichen and vines. Patches of grass and the odd flower strived valiantly to soak in the last of the sunlight, the warm orange glow slowly creeping away.

“Perhaps dear Nayru has been kinder to Hyrule than the poor Kokiri led me to believe,” the First Lord stepped over a small patch of what resembled heartier poppies and smirked at the new life all around them. “The Hylians have cleaved deep into the Mountain to make their grand City, but they drove away the old beauty of Kakariko. I hope that this is a sign it will return to them.”

Lukas rounded the next turn first, taking a pause at the collapsed ruins of Dodongo’s Cavern. The Gorons had abandoned it after finally mining it empty of the best stone on Death Mountain. There were no guards along this path as the original entrance to their City had been reduced to little else but a storage access. Deku Lord imagined the ancient Elders would be very unhappy to learn that.

“Mervil’s home rests on the far side of the volcano,” he traced the scenery with a jagged path. “It will be rough going, but manageable. It remains one of the only ways to travel into Labrynna. I was lucky before and found a vortex in the Lost Underwoods rather than having to hike this incredible distance.”

The old entrance to Goron City came into sight, completely unguarded with a mess of railcars dotting the path toward it. Taking the higher route, they climbed a short cliff face and Jethro was surprised to see that there was indeed, another used path out of reach by anyone who was ignorant to it.

“Bandits used to flock to this area, even establishing a small community, much to their bad luck...” he smiled briefly, thinking of the bandits that had ‘befriended’ Death, both marked by him for their poor decisions. “It was not long after Arivis’ siege that they, like thousands of others, fled out of fear. Although they should be centuries gone, keep ready in case some new crooks are calling it home.”

Walking on the uneven stone proved full of perils. Several pressure cracks dotted the landscape, some large enough to stumble into, never to return. Steam from the magma chamber below often billowed from these with some ravines leaking lava in the distance.

“I’m not sure about you,” Lukas loosened his fancy robes; they were more suited to fall weather than anything else. “But I feel a bit out of my element.”

“That is the best part of adventuring, Jethro, feeling lost and feeling anxious. You will get over it soon.”

“I pray you’re right...” the Second Lord huffed, having to leap over a concealed crack lest he scorch his feet. “And what do we do if the Warrior is not there? We will have nothing left to seek, and I am currently not in any mood to be doing this multiple times.”

Don’t say that... Deku Lord worried to himself, keeping a close eye on his strides.

The last tendrils of sunlight withdrew beyond the Mountain, plunging them into an uncomfortable darkness. Above them clouds were forming, ready to make more misery for their journey and anyone beyond Rolling Ridge. A soft glow rose at their backs from the many lanterns and fires within Kakariko City. And to their delight, a soft glow peered out over a small embankment a few dozen yards ahead and above them. The First Lord sighed with relief, who else would have a fire burning this high on the range? Better still, who else would want to live here?

“There we go, just above that ledge,” he directed Lukas to meet his gaze and the two picked up their pace. Wary that if Mervil was causing trouble in Hyrule that he may very well deny them any help -- or worse-- he could not shy away from his only source of information. Not that he gave me much of that... The magic of the Seed continued to elude him, but twenty five Fluvari days were not many spent on research.

Grunting, a noise he did not particularly find becoming, Lukas heaved himself over the last jagged outcropping of sledge. His feet flailed for ground that was not there. Scrambling, he managed to grab the helping hand of the Deku Lord, narrowly escaping falling to his death. A massive ravine welcomed them on the other side, deep and black as the night.

The First Lord helped the Second back to his feet, where a gracious bow was offered as his reward for his heroism. They both knew this was a sad ruse as Jethro was far from a formal fellow. Likely he was forcing himself not to embrace his saviour and shower him with exaggerated compliments.

“It appears he doesn’t want any visitors.”

“How do you know that?” Lukas said in an exasperated voice, his heartbeat still echoing in his ears. The vertigo from looking into the gorge was keeping him from gathering his senses. A moment passed without reply before his friend nodded to what had tricked them into thinking the home was undoubtedly occupied.

A familiar lantern hung from a tall and crooked post, the light of Din glowing happily in the dusk. Farther beyond it the black silhouette of a small shack rose from the earth, its entrance empty. The Deku Lord shook his head trying to think of a way to cross that didn’t involve risking their lives.

“I would have preferred you finding a bridge here, Lukas,” he half-jested. “Let’s see that Clawshot of yours, I’m sure the Mountain is strong enough to use it.”

Rummaging through one of their satchels, Jethro produced the emerald coloured device, its bulk unwieldy. It was of his own creation, more useful than the ones the sentries had; it could be used for any distance rather than a set one. He began packing into it a long and sturdy chain. “Hold on tight,” he said, as he lifted the Clawshot to his shoulder.

“Now let’s see...” he scrunched his face trying to find a suitable destination in the rapidly decreasing light. A few minutes passed of minute changes to aim.

“Just shoot the damn thing!” the Deku Lord huffed, shaking Lukas into a decision.

A loud snap echoed into the gorge as the trigger was pulled and the projectile sent flying. The claw punctured the ground just ahead of the lantern, the heavy chain pulling hard on the two Deku, carrying them quickly to the other side. Their landing was rough, sending them sprawling in either direction, the Clawshot landing with a satisfying thud.

Holding his head, the Deku Lord stood with some difficulty, Lukas already packing away his machine, babying it every second. “That was a poor performance.”

“Next time be more patient, then,” Lukas scoffed, drinking a green liquid from his flask. It was a common medicine in Fluvari, used for quickly regaining concentration. “If we ever find need of my cannon remind me to not let you touch it,” he patted a different and more bulging satchel on his left shoulder. “Mind, I’ll have to reassemble it first...”

The First Lord chuckled at the neurotic lapse, quickly silencing himself as he remembered where they were.

This was Death’s abode.

Cold winds whipped past them, jostling the lantern and ominously causing its magical Fire to flicker. “No, don’t!” the Deku Lord hissed as his comrade casually removed the lamp from its post.

He waited for something dreadful to happen, but nothing did. He recovered from his cringed position and cleared his throat, keeping a faux elegance.

“We will make this visit as short as possible,” he gazed up at the black billowing storm clouds, then back at the comforting light of Kakariko, shuddering. On this side of the ridge the land was smooth and flawless, seeming to curve towards the tiny shack on all sides; it made walking to their destination a strange experience.

Lukas held the lantern to a plain door, a very large padlock resting in its latch. It was unlocked and the chambers filled with rust. They surveyed the perimeter, finding a single window and a door on the back. It too was secured with a padlock, this one more elaborate and locked.

“Hello?” the Deku Lord called into the night, politely knocking on the back door. There was no answer so the Deku returned to the entrance and pushed on the door there. It wouldn’t budge. “Mervil? Are you there? The Inquisitor has come to do some of his namesake,” if he was ignoring them as petty travellers the naming of a Prophetic One would surely have the door fly open. Once again there was no response. Changing tactics he started shaking the door in its frame to no avail.

“Go pick the other lock,” he directed the Second Lord. A few moments of anxiously waiting in the dark passed before a frazzled Lukas returned.

“There were three keyholes, and,” he held up three pieces of metal, each scorched to black and brittle. “This happened.”

The Deku Lord grew impatient and slammed his fist on the door. “Would you open this damn door?” he hesitated for a moment and softened his tone. “Please?” It was then a slow creak echoed out into the mountainside, the front entrance slowly pulling back into the dark home. He could hear Jethro swallow nervously beside him.

Together they crossed the threshold, their single lamp seeming to be overcome by the darkness of the interior. The First Lord strained his vision to make out any silhouettes, but there were none beyond Death’s belongings. Opening their lantern, the Deku lit three others scattered at random throughout the shack. No one was here, and by the conditions of things, no one had been here for a very long time.

“Mervil?” he tried again, knowing they were alone but not letting himself come to grips with it. He had only been here once before and only outside of it. During his journey to Labrynna he had crossed paths with the shack, barely knowing it to be Mervil’s if he had not spotted him leaving in the distance.

“I was under the impression the man was rich,” Lukas started, investigating a chipped cabinet full of tarnished dishes. There was no silverware to be found, which seemed a bit odd.

“He was, he just did not have time for luxuries I suppose.”

This first room was small and a combination of living and dining spaces. A rusted out potbelly stove rested at the far wall, a pan sitting half strewn inside it. Broken in two, a pipe lined with hard soot led up to the chimney. In the middle of the living space where one of the lanterns rested was a small table, otherwise empty and surprisingly not rotting from age.

“Why he didn’t just build himself a better house, I’ll never understand,” he did not know for certain, but the bridge in the Forest was probably built by the Warrior. But things did not add up, this house had been abandoned for decades, maybe longer. The Deku Lord calmly allowed his frustration to ebb, there had to be something useful left here, it was obvious potent magic lined the walls, he could sense it.
They passed into the second of two rooms, this one a lonely bedroom. In the far corner away from the backdoor was a small cot, the sheets tidy and folded. A nightstand made of fine mahogany lay beside it, a leg broken making it settle unevenly. An old candle covered in browned wax was lit, filling the room with eerie shadows. On the opposite wall was a cracked mirror; it reflected the room but neither of the Deku in it.

“How unnerving,” Lukas brushed his fingers against the glass leaving ugly streaks of dust. “What’s this...?” He felt the edges of the mirror sway in his grip and pulled it from the wall. In behind the fixture was a small alcove giving a home to an odd looking chest.

Jethro removed the box carefully, placing it on the bed and in the firelight. It did not have a shadow. Opening the bizarrely placed latches, they found it to be empty of any object; however, the interior was lined with dozens of engraved symbols.

“They’re in his ancient tongue,” the First Lord informed his puzzled accomplice. “I know very few of them, if any accurately. This one,” he pointed to a rough etching in the bottom’s centre, “means money or ‘wealth’.” He said the latter in the best Crandallian he could, which was not very good. He had little time to learn what he could from Mervil’s notes provided with the Seed.

At the echo of his voice the chest filled with a large sack, bursting with rupees. Startled, they backed away. Surely this can’t be some kind of creation magic? The Deku Lord examined the money and found it to be legitimate. “Wealth?” he tried again, with nothing happening.

“Astounding, it’s a Safeguard Lockbox of some kind,” Lukas closed the lid and reopened it, the rupees disappearing in between actions. “But I’ve never seen one you locked with words...”

“Passages?” the First Lord spoke the word in Crandallian, watching a very tattered notebook appear in the bottom. Removing it delicately, he flipped through many pages, all filled with strange numbers and what seemed to be corrections. The calligraphy was fluid through the first pages but became more savage and rushed as the notebook progressed to the point of being nearly illegible.
These were verse numbers for his Spellbook.

Coughing nervously, he returned it and shut the lid, uninterested in what else may have been inside. He couldn’t place a reason for his alarm or unease at holding such a simple set of reminders.

The Deku opened the lid to make sure it was gone. Sure enough, the chest was empty. He scanned the interior for any other symbols or words he knew, finding just one more. “Family...” The lid opened itself this time in a queer fashion revealing that nothing had been produced. “That’s odd; maybe he never put anything in here yet.”

“Or he removed it,” Lukas’s voice from across the room shocked the Deku Lord from his thoughts. The Second Lord was standing in front of the opened nightstand, clutching a weathered pictograph in a cloth as if it were made of glass.

The First Lord joined his friend and observed what he had found. In the photo stood a small girl, smiling brightly and gazing straight at the pictobox with haunting eyes. They looked so familiar, an intense blue, but seemed out of place with her long blonde hair. Her face was also strange, very Hylian but just not quite.

“Who would this be?”

“I... honestly do not know,” the Deku Lord looked around at the drab room and back to the stained photo. “Mervil never spoke of his family, not even to the others as far as I’m aware. Let’s put this back where it should be.”

The box accepted the item as the rightful object, whisking it away to join whatever else might be hiding within it. Making sure he could not decipher anything more, they returned it to its home, the mirror being nearly dropped in fright as their reflections had suddenly returned.

“Well, look at that,” he raised the candle to the wall the bed was touching, revealing hundreds of man-made grooves. “Looks like a tally of some sort.”

“Days or judgments?” Jethro replied, opening the last drawer of the nightstand and finding a small pile of drawings, most of scenery nearby with others being symbols or coats of arms from lands he would never know. The last parchment was left half finished and covered in furious scratch marks. It seemed to depict a decrepit old fountain in front of a horizon that did not belong in Hyrule.

“That’s a good question.”

The First Lord placed his lantern on the floor, the flooding light of Din casting a shadow of something under the cot. Reaching under the bed he felt the sharp edges of another metal box. He pulled it out with some difficulty as it rattled what sounded like a small latch on the floor.

It was a decorative iron chest with a simple lock in the front. A very haunting symbol adorned the top, one the Deku Lord knew well as it too graced the cover of Mervil’s Spellbook.

“Surely...” he lifted the lid, not surprised that it was unlocked nor empty upon investigation. “This housed his book of magic. Looks even older than the tome itself,” he turned it over in his hands, finding more etchings, all foreign to him.

“This seems like a lot of protection for a small shack,” Lukas was used to the finer homes in Fluvari, assuming that anything under a small mansion would be considered useless to pilfer. “And I’m sure the bandits were well aware of who lived over the hill,” he smiled at this, receiving a bashful smirk in return.

“Help me move this, I think there is something else under here,” The First said to the Second, grabbing one end of the bed. Without difficulty it scraped out from its tucked corner, revealing a rusted latch and the faint outline of a panel.

“A basement? This thing looks ready to fall over with a gust of wind! Can’t be much of a foundation left,” Lukas went to pull at the hatch but was stopped by a puzzled Deku Lord.

“Where did the box go?”

“What box?”

“The Book’s box!”

Sure enough the chest was gone from the top of the bed. The First Lord felt his anxiety rise, like they were falling into some kind of clever trap. He quickly went to the mirror and removed it, musing as the Safeguard box was gone as well.

“I think we should go,” he tugged at Jethro’s robes but the curiosity had gotten the best of him.

Opening the hatch did not reveal a staircase like they had guessed, it only revealed a third box; however, this one was made of wood and was well beyond rotting. A faint glimpse of metal could be seen through the cracks as Lukas removed the top. Inside rested a faded scabbard and a tarnished sword, the Crandallian symbol forged into the blade.

The Deku Lord slowly relinquished the sword from the floor and held it like it were to turn to dust at any moment. “I always wondered what weapon he was mimicking when the time for reaping came,” he polished the Crandallian symbol, seeing that it was appropriately plated with gold and amethyst. “It is a humbling thought, holding something as ancient as this...” The last oldest thing he had ever held had been a doorknob in Ikana, but only in its past incarnation, so not quite as interesting.

He had heard faint telling of Mervil’s days as a soldier for the Crandallian army; he just did not seem like the kind of person to glorify it by keeping his sword. Then again, he was Death, so why not keep something so tainted with blood and despair?

Lukas removed the remnants of the box, the wood falling apart to the floor despite his best efforts to salvage its shape. Underneath it was a stone floor, cracks running through it. In the centre was a small slot glowing with a very dim light. The Deku Lord looked at the Crandallian blade and then to the floor.

“Nothing ventured I suppose,” he inserted the sword into the opening and twisted it to the left. In front of the two Deku the floorboards groaned and snapped before parting to reveal a narrow and sinister staircase.

The shock of another vanishing item in the home had been worn thin as the Deku Lord expected Mervil’s Sword to disappear from his hands. For a moment it remained but after he released it from his possession, it departed from the shack in a quick flash. A frigid breeze wafted up from the dark basement, giving them more reasons to choose to leave.

It was apparent that there was nothing here. Mervil had long since abandoned this little shack, his home in Hyrule. But maybe answers lurked under their feet, and that doubt made it impossible to leave without investigating. The two looked at one another with a quick hesitation before picking up their lanterns and descending into the blackness before them.

The staircase was only wide enough to go one body at a time, making it seem all the more claustrophobic. Each step was steep and each pace forward felt like they were going to fall forward. When they reached the bottom a single torch lit on its own accord, showing a simple door to be their journey’s end.

“So much for us leaving,” Jethro jested as his friend opened the door precariously. He received a scowl in response before the First Lord slipped into the unknown.

On the other side was a lone room, lit by two lanterns identical to their own. A table rested in the center, the floor around it littered with papers and what seemed to be the remnants of a feather pillow. The walls were bare and made of black stone, the same as the lock to this place. They seemed to choke out what little light there was. The Lords stepped inside, only to have the door slam shut behind them.
“Yes, so much so,” the Deku Lord swallowed.

Around the walls six torches sprang to life with perplexing black flames, an omen if either of them knew one. They cast very little light, but enough to show something else peculiar about the tiny cellar.

[What are you doing here?] A quiet voice seethed from the dark corner, freezing the Deku in their tracks and their thoughts. A man sat in a chair facing away from them, barely visible. [Speak!]

“I’ve come looking for you.”

[Who? Why have you intruded on this sanctuary?]

The Deku exchanged a quick nervous glance. “Sanctuary?” he quickly reminded himself not to be so crass. Changing the subject hastily, he continued to reply. “You should already know who I am,” the First Lord replied calmly, presenting himself to the center of the room. He made a formal bow to signify their supposed amity.

[Yes], the voice replied, sounding closer and more agitated. [I know exactly who you are.]

The First Lord stretched out his hand to the darkness of the room, more confident now, but not by much. Making no sound, a tall figure rose from the chair in the corner with much difficulty. It approached him with ragged steps and head tilted at an odd angle. The shadow stopped just short of the light of his lantern, looking down at it and back to the Deku Lord with glowing red eyes.

He pulled his arm back and took a step backwards, keeping the lantern close to his side.

“We have only come to speak with you, Mervil,” his voice broke briefly, but he cleared his throat to regain his composure.

The room shuddered as the cloaked figure laughed and mocked the name, his voice contorted and unnatural. He lounged forward with uneven steps, trying to catch the receding light of the First Lord’s lantern. Lukas attempted to open the door but it appeared to be welded shut in some fashion.

[What right do you have to know this name?] The jovial laugh turned to a venomous rage. All of the torches flashed brighter, their black flames engorged.

“I am the Inquisitor, you are Mer-,”

[Do not speak that name.][/ i] The eyes flashed in the darkness of the hood. He began to laugh again, swinging his arms back and forth, making the flames dance with his newfound delight. He extended a hand to the Deku Lord as if to greet him, encroaching at the only natural light in the room. [i][The Inquisitor is no longer needed, long to be left in his fever dream of a Kingdom.]

Under normal circumstances they would have defended Fluvari but currently they were the ones trapped, not the other way around.
“Mervil, we have only come for information, that’s all,” the First Lord nearly ran backwards into the Second as the three circled the room slowly.

[What do you fear most, ‘Inquisitor’?] The man’s hand entered the natural light, revealing it to be of rotten flesh and scorched bone. [Do you fear loss...? Poverty...? Fate? Do you fear me?] He cornered the Deku and entered their ring of light, revealing his identity.
It certainly was not Mervil, or at least the Deku Lord hoped not.

The figure was a rotting cadaver, its legs broken and uneven. The face with the glowing eyes was a splintered skull, fleshless with its mouth perpetually ajar, not matching his words. [Do you fear Death?] ‘Mervil’ knocked the lantern out of his hand where it smashed to bits on the cold floor, leaving them mostly in the ghostly dark light.

“I do not fear you, Mervil, you are but an illusion,” he tried to continue but the skeleton seized him by the collar, easily lifting him from the floor. Lukas made an attempt to help but was thrown to the wall by an invisible force. The eyes of the skull would not focus on the Deku Lord; they flitted around as if blind or belonging to a lunatic.

[Miserable little thieves come to take what isn’t theirs. You sicken us.]

“Where is Mervil?” He struggled to speak despite not feeling any pressure on his throat.

The skeleton cackled again, tossing him to the back of the room. [It is a foolish man who seeks Death!] The spectre danced on his broken legs, making the flames follow his fluid movements. You will not find him here, just his misery. Listen well, Death watches from the Heavens!] The torches blazed intensely, licking the wooden ceiling above. The eyes flashed again and the spirit was suddenly standing over him. [Death has flown from this place! You will not find him. He howled, causing the torches to go out in a burst of light.

[Fly from this place, from this sanctuary. Fly and pray that Death is not watching.] The spirit raised its arms to the ceiling and a loud rumbling shook the cellar. Dust and mortar rained from above, with bits of stone smashing to their long lost counterparts in the floor. Red flames licked the air from within the corpse before bursting into an inferno, consuming him in a cloak of fire and spraying cinders in every direction.

Lukas seemed to materialize as if from nowhere and helped the Deku Lord to his feet. The spirit moved swiftly toward them, his hand clawing the air with angry flames. Jethro pushed the First Lord toward the door and was thrown aside by the spectre’s magic.

Frantically, he tried to open the sealed door with no luck, the spirit rushing after him. The Deku Lord placed his palm against the door and attempted to concentrate on breaking the magical seal, but a familiar scorched hand pulled him to the ground. Mervil’s curse summoned a pillar of fire to the center of the room, consuming the table and crumpled papers.

The First Lord felt a burning sensation in his flailing arm as the spirit held him to the ground, laughing at his attempt to escape. What a miserable place to die, he thought, defeated.

Above them the powdered ceiling of stone began to burn, causing rivulets of fire to rain from above, singeing holes in his robe and adding to the curse’s aura. The Deku Lord struggled to free himself much to the amusement of his captor, but that amusement ended in a curdling shriek. Jethro had recovered and proceeded to Smoosh his lantern across the spirit’s skull, sending him crashing to the floor, the light of Din countering the black magic with little effect.

Lukas fired his readied Clawshot at the door, the heavy claw and chain smashing through it in the lapse of the spirit’s magic. The Lords pulled hard on the chain, ripping the blockade out from its frame, revealing the staircase on the other side. Without a moment to lose, they took off running up the stairs, hearing the skeleton screaming something in Crandallian they did not want to understand.

The floorboards began to close above them, but not quite fast enough to impede their escape. Leaping into the bedroom, the entrance to the cellar closed, the roaring sound of the flames still echoing in the shack. Spires of fire began to rupture through the floor, providing unnecessary hazards as they made their way to the door.

Behind them the spirit burst through the sealed floorboards as a robe of black fire, spreading tendrils of enchantments through the walls. Blazing hands reached out blindly for the two Deku, knocking Mervil’s more trivial belongings to the scorched floor. Ahead the front door began to close. The Deku Lord cursed their luck; Mervil had even the most cunning criminals in mind to keep from taking his things. Yet, given his most recent behaviour, perhaps this was all an empty cruelty.

“Oh no you don’t!” The Deku Lord seized the exit with his magic, finding it overwhelming to deny Mervil’s hexes.

They soared through the doorway as the floor gave to the spirit’s demands. The door slammed shut as the First Lord released it, the blistering heat from the shack driving them further away. Nearby the lone window shattered, spraying glass over them like sleet, tearing into their robes as they fled.

At the side of the ravine they turned around to see the devastated abode of Death. Smoke billowed out into the night, feeding into the storm clouds conjured above. Flames of many colours blazed against the black night, consuming Mervil’s shack in a menacingly beautiful fashion. It was not long until they turned back to normal, the curse left by the home’s owner having finished its duties.

“What a shame, everything the man had... Well, everything not worth missing I suppose...” Lukas tried and failed to find some way to bring a poetic sense to seeing the destruction of the home of a man he had never met. Though, it did not help having that man leave a charm behind that nearly killed him.

“Well, he didn’t lose everything,” the First Lord passed the strange mirror over to his friend, having pilfered it in the escape. Anything had to be useful from that man’s home, he hoped. “But, we have lost our way. If Mervil has left Hyrule, I do not know where to go... or what to do,” he sighed heavily, sitting down to take in the sight of the burning shack.

“By the way, we probably could have used that cannon of yours,” he continued, trying to bring some light to their skewed path.

“I exaggerated,” Lukas chuckled. “I didn’t bring my cannon.”

“I think that’s more like lying then.”

“Yes, yes I suppose you’re right.”

The Lords sat together, lost in thought and with choices. There must have been a reason Hyrule beckoned them to leave Fluvari, but without Mervil the Deku Lord saw nothing to aid them. Gazing into the gutted home of Death, they still found time to shudder in the stiff cold breeze. Nearby, a lone lantern swayed on its crooked post.

***
Despite their plan of keeping silent, the constant grunting involved with clearing the path echoed into the dark expanse. Either there was no wildlife to disturb, or something had already spooked them hushed. Benjamin wished for the prior.

The old walking trail still existed in a ragged form, making the aspect of travelling to the campfire an attempt at overcoming zealous plant-life. With thick roots running through the soil much of the evening moisture was gone, leaving sturdy footholds in the black night. Benjamin cringed as a razor like barb suddenly dug into his faceplate, startling him back. His left greave caught in the dark and tripped him back into the painful mess.

Cursing silently, he was helped back to his feet by a sore looking Dolomire. Already the Gorons were covered in nasty welts and scrapes, but neither felt a regret for aiding the well respected Captain. Who else could this far from home? Who else would in this haunting place?
Pushing forward, they ignored further alarming encounters with their vegetative foe. As the trail widened, the brambles receded into the dark borders of the trees. The walking turned joyous as their vicious claws crept away, barely visible, daring not to impede them further.

“Wait!” Benjamin whispered loudly, signalling for the Mountain Warriors to stop. He pointed down at the ground showing it was charred and littered with withered vines. Looking up at the clearing before them he could make out the shape of a wrecked carriage, the campfire blazing high and intense behind it. Someone had been trying to get out, and rather hysterically. The soil underneath them had been torn up by various blades and animal hooves.

“I don’t like the look of this...” thunder rolled down over the Ridge, opening the sky for a light rain. Bronzen crouched and brushed his hand across the dirt, finding his fingers smudged with a foreign substance. “This is blood.”

A different crash from behind startled them out of the Forest and into the clearing; the shock bewildering their senses. There was no call for help, of wildlife, or the cries of a distressed horse to follow. The men tried to lie to themselves that this was a coincidence. They had to get moving.

“Go!” Dolomire seethed, pushing Benjamin toward the decrepit caravan. “We will handle anything from here,” the two Gorons stood stark beside each other, glowering into the Forest that glowered back with dismay.

Benjamin drew his sword and padded quietly to the broken cart. It was rather simple in an exquisite way, adorned with queer markings and symbols – they were almost familiar. Three of its wheels had been torn from place, the fourth bent under the weight of the vehicle, tilting it at an odd angle. No light could be seen from the inside with all of the dark windows bordering the roof cracked or shattered completely. He dared not call out.

Rounding the other side with a recruit’s caution, he was horrified to see the blazing fire that greeted him. The remnants of other matching carriages lay black and charred, piled almost neatly with corpses of men and horses between them. Suddenly the smell of seared flesh hit him, making him nearly topple with nausea. Coughing anxiously, he averted his eyes and searched for a door, the blistering heat of the fire clouding his actions.

“There,” he exclaimed, his voice drowned by the crackling pyre at his back. The latch turned with difficulty at first, before clicking into place and falling open on the slope. Only his shadow greeted him at first, making him jump at its sight and feel ashamed at doing so. The glow behind him seemed ready to engulf his constant companion, the heat pushing him to enter the small wreck.

One careful step ended in a tumult down to meet his shadow, rocking the carriage off of its wheel and smashing its side hard against the ground. Benjamin swore loudly along with a quivering voice in the darkness. Shaken, he went to light his lantern only to have it knocked out of his hands with a shrill noise.

“No!” the man gasped, his silhouette barely noticeable in the black of the interior. He shakily held a decorative cane to Benjamin’s throat. “What do you want?!” shining eyes flashed from the Captain’s sword to the floor.

“Ashtar?”

“Quiet!” the eyes flashed again, signalling the Captain to disarm himself. “He will hear us...” the voice cracked and the man withdrew, terrified.

“Ashtar, I am Third Captain of the Knight’s Guild of Hyrule,” he returned his blade to his scabbard and removed his faceplate. “I have been sent by King Basyle to accompany you to the Capital.”

“No, no,” the shuddering form in the corner wept.

Nervously, Benjamin approached, his hand offering to help the Ambassador to his feet. “What is going on here?”

“Stop, he will hear us!” he spoke in a hushed tone. “He will kill you,” the voice changed to poison. “Like he killed my men.”

“Come with me, now, my party is just on the other side of the Underwoods, we can get out of here!”

The cane smacked his hand away, Ashtar’s face twisting in rage and desperation as he shakily rose to his feet. “You led him back to me?” tears were streaming down the man’s face, his green eyes bright and vivid even in the dim light.

“Led who? Who did this?”

Ashtar covered his face with his hands, shaking his head. The ambassador could hardly stand, weakened by his imprisonment in his carriage. He wore a dark cap and a flowing tunic. It seemed he had been using his travelling cloak as a blanket, as it hung tattered and uneven on his shoulders. The man was of average height and build, certainly not a soldier type. Benjamin knew this would not be helpful in the slightest.

“Ashtar, no one is out there,” he grabbed his shoulder and stopped the young ambassador from punishing him with his cane again. “Let us leave!”

The Captain knew this to be a lie; he had felt a presence ever since they crossed the river back at camp. But that was not important. As long as they fled from this clearing in a timely manner they would have a chance. Today was not the day he wanted to meet the murderer of many brave men.

“It doesn’t matter, he’s always watching me,” the hysterical ambassador fell towards his would-be rescuer, hardly able to speak. “I can hear him taunting me from within the forest. You brought the bastard back to finish the job!” Ashtar tried his best to pound his fist into the knight’s armour, but hadn’t the strength.

“Listen to me! We will be safe as long as you leave with me n-,”

A raucous cry filled the clearing before something colossal smashed into their carriage, buckling the roof and sending it tumbling up and over the pyre. Benjamin and Ashtar were flung around the inside, the Captain overcome with grief as he caught a glimpse of Dolomire landing a few metres away, crumpled into a dark heap.

The Ambassador howled, scrambling to crawl out of the wreckage. Benjamin kicked open the crushed door and drug himself out with the help of his sword, his other hand pulling Ashtar with him. Waves of heat fell upon the men as they ran toward Dolomire’s form, a wall of flames erupting from the earth to stop them.

“No! Go back, leave him!” Ashtar cried, trying to run the opposite direction, only to be silenced with dread.

The pyre burned black, a tower of flames fighting the now pouring rain. Benjamin stood his ground, his sword posed but his composure not. Anxiously surveying his surroundings, he found Bronzen was nowhere in sight, even their trail home seemed to have been swallowed by the Nuun’s spite.

Dolomire rested unresponsive just a few metres away, sprawled in a queer fashion and the dark of blood inching out from around him. They were surrounded by fire on all sides, the clouds bulbous and filled with lightning; there was no way this was a natural storm, at least not any longer.

[What do you fear most, Benjamin?] a voice called with pleasant admonition. The magical fire around them somehow muted its crackling, leaving the white noise of raindrops behind. Ashtar’s weeping was silenced, but his face was marked with horror.
“Who are you?!” the Captain called to the mountains of fire.

[Do you fear loss?] the question seemed empty, like a routine. [Is it Poverty? Fate?]

The Ambassador could not control his emotions, falling to the ground in shambles, holding his head in shaking hands. Benjamin stepped slowly back to the ruined carriage, lifting its shattered wheel as a shield, trying to keep calm in the face of disaster.

“Show yourself, coward!”

[Do you fear me?] the voice said quietly with a tinge of humour on its breath.

The black pyre churned violently, the black flames dancing in odd directions as it formed into a vague and towering silhouette of a garbed man. Ashtar pleaded silently for a way to escape. The Fiery Figure rose several feet higher and wider than their crushed caravan. With sweeping arms, the flames dropped like molten rain, scorching the earth.

“What do you want from us?” Benjamin slowly backed away, the empty face of fire seeming to watch his trail. “You are the monster who slaughtered my men, aren’t you?”

[You trek through this Wood, seeing yourselves as heroes.] The pyre gestured behind it in a great motion, the limp body of Dolomire being lifted by magic to the space between them. [This creature sees himself as the young man he once was, trying to make up for something already passed.] Tendrils of flame slowly crawled forth from the silhouette and wrapped tightly around Dolomire’s arms, making him sway like a sickening marionette. [He helps himself to words he no longer deserves. You are no better, the foul sort to keep up his pathetic facade.]

The Captain roared, receiving a booming cackle back as the Flame let the Goron drop to the blackened ground below. Ragged breaths still escaped the Wrestler, but Benjamin could not contain his venom. He flung the wheel like a discus high and toward the towering figure with a satisfying snarl. The shield vaporized into ash as it momentarily contorted the Flame’s face.

[You see yourselves as heroes, but Death knows your soul. A wise man must regret that which he has done poorly, and atone for the sins he commits.] The rushing sound of flames slowly returned to those of the storm crashing all around them. [Protecting this Ambassador is one sin I cannot forgive!]

Cascading from the skies, the silhouette fell upon them in a cruel rain of fire. Benjamin shielded the cowering form of Ashtar, feeling the biting pyre slam against his armour. He felt embarrassed for the man he was about to lose his life for, but if this creature made such a performance every time... who could blame it crushing a man’s mind? Benjamin hoped that this was not the same fear the others had felt at their demise.

Suddenly they felt the flames snap away and the cold rain splash across their faces. The Fiery Figure roared from behind them as Dolomire flung the two men over his shoulders and sprinted through the walls of flame. He appeared dazed but determined. His face was swollen and bloody and his left arm flailed limp and broken.

Another wall of black fire attempted to impede their path at the forest’s edge, but the Wrestler leapt into the dark wooded path. Bronzen lay a few feet in, struggling against magical bonds. Dolomire set the men down and turned his back to them, staring down the silhouette fast approaching.

“Don’t do this!” Benjamin attempted to make Dolomire join them back to the carriage, but the proud creature shook his head.

“Just remember that I helped you out of friendship. You’ll owe me nothing,” he looked over his shoulder and smiled. The Captain shook his head, unable to look back up at him.

“Hold still!” Ashtar stood over the enraged Bronzen, smashing his ornate cane on the fiery shackles and freeing the Protectorate Elder.
Bronzen rose to his feet and attempted to convince his friend to change his mind with a glance; but, the same stubborn fire burned within him and they silently made their farewells. The shorter of the Gorons lifted the two men over his shoulders.

“Cover your faces and get ready!” he shot forward into the thick brambles, looking back sullenly at his defiant comrade.

Dolomire stood his ground at the clearing’s edge, crossing his arms in front of him, bracing for the impact. The silhouette dispersed itself in a great inferno, washing over the Wrestler with a satisfying screech.

Branches and leaves flew all around them, the wind twisting the canopy violently above. The Mountain Warrior held back unflattering curses as he ignored the sting of dozens of thorns, focussed solely on survival. Benjamin tried to make sense of their surroundings, unable as billowing smoke joined the dark blur of the forest path. Ashtar’s ramblings did not help much either, the broken man could only expel crude noises as Bronzen attempted to save their lives.

The Captain felt only two things now, fear and guilt. Fear at the creature that pursued them, the killer of many of his comrades, and guilt, for he knew that each time he closed his eyes he would see that proud shadow of Dolomire. That proud shadow, broken, falling into dust, and only to save two men he hardly knew.

Was that what bravery was? Benjamin felt ashamed for doubting the aspect of losing his life over Ashtar. The convoy before him had, and now Dolomire too, how was he any better?

[How many more will foolishly give themselves for you?] The taunting voice sounded as if it were with them there, running through the swallowing darkness. [Give him to me!]

Bronzen broke through the end of the path, the carriage waiting for them as it should have been. The Goron rushed to it, slamming his fist on the side signalling to James they had returned, and not very happily. He went to rush them off of his shoulder and into the seat, the Captain first. Bronzen’s rough hands yanked the clasping Ambassador into the air, only to drop him with a horrible grunt.

A blade bit through the tough flesh of the Elder’s back and spat blood as it pierced through his chest. Black fire covered the sword’s steel and the flaming silhouette behind the staggering Bronzen spooked their already edgy stallion. The horse gave out a terrible cry, rearing into the air and nearly knocking the carriage over.

The silhouette removed its slick blade from the back of the Elder and gave him a shove forward, showing no reaction when he did not fall over dead. Benjamin pulled hard on the reigns, pushing the angered horse forward to trample the Fiery Figure ahead, only to watch it move swiftly from his path.

“James, it’s yours!” the Captain called, leaping from the seat and landing hard in the muddy soil. James did not call out or act, the horse went galloping away with their escape plan. Benjamin was not concerned. He stood defiant, wiping the dirt from his face, and yanking his helmet off angrily. The silhouette was more his size now, but still towered above him, the size of a Royal Executioner. Its sword was broad, held expertly with a loose but known grip. It did not approach, only tilting its flaming head to the side as if curious.

Benjamin drew his sword, which received a laugh from his opponent. The Figure turned away from him and approached the struggling Ambassador in the mud.

[This man is not worth the lives I’ve taken. Run away, this does not concern you.]

“Don’t you touch him!” the Captain bellowed over the deafening rain. The cloaked man reached for the trembling Ashtar, its fingers more like claws. Benjamin attacked, sprinting forward. He heaved his sword with all the strength he could manage, slicing diagonally at the neck of his foe. The silhouette raised its free hand and froze him mid-swing, the tip of his blade driving unnoticed through its hand. He did not even acknowledge Benjamin’s presence. “What? What is this?”

The spell suddenly warped, suffocating the knight of air. Benjamin willed himself to move but nothing was working. With a quick flick of its wrist, the silhouette sent him sprawling into the brambles, their thorns tearing through his armour and gouging his sword arm. Dazed, the Captain watched as the Figure dispersed its sword in a plume of smoke and seized the Ambassador by his collar. Ashtar squealed shamelessly, blindly swinging his cane into the silhouette’s fiery body.

Benjamin nearly fainted, fighting to bring himself to his feet, swearing as the hilt of his sword burned his hand to the touch. The world swam with fire; the saboteur’s flames had spread from the clearing and encroached upon their scene. He coughed violently, already lightheaded from the loss of blood. “What good is an Ambassador to you?!” he cradled his arm, taking staggered steps.

[Stay away or I will do much worse to you.] The empty hood had suddenly snapped to his direction, sending chills down his spine. It snapped its fingers like a spark, summoning a wall of fire between them, and then finally a replacement weapon. A ball of blue fire grew in its free hand, slowly taking form as a long staff, and then finally a haunting scythe.

“No...”

It was Bronzen speaking for Benjamin’s racing mind; the two leaders knew of this Man, but knew it could not be. The Elder was upon the silhouette, grabbing the fiery scythe before it beheaded the terrified Ashtar. Surprised by the rekindled strength of the Goron, the Figure was clipped with angry fists, seemingly unable to let go of its scythe, as it was used to pull him back to the crushing embrace of Bronzen over and over again.

“You can’t have this one!” The Mountain Warrior ignored the screech the silhouette was emitting as he lamented his burning hands, clutching what seemed to be cloth under the flames. It clawed at him with its free hand, leaving singed flesh in its wake. Heaving through the pain, Bronzen threw him with hearty satisfaction into the dense forest, the sapphire scythe flailing wildly like a light.

“Ben!” Bronzen ran to him, scarred and beaten. The sword wound had luckily missed his heart and cauterized.

“No,” he brushed his heavy hand from his shoulder, picking up his sword gingerly. “You aren’t dying for me, or for that,” he pointed at the broken man lying in the mud. “I won’t allow it!”

The trees around them lit the stormy night with dark flame, black and blue. Where the silhouette had been thrown, the forest had already caught fire, its damage spreading in bizarre tremors. A loud snap echoed through the rumbling thunder.

[Do not defy me. You seal your fate along with that snivelling whelp.] the voice was close again, heavily slurred and angry. Another uneasy rustling began to close in on them, the Highlands alive with smoke. The tree line was broken in uproar, branches and soil flying everywhere. Bronzen shielded Benjamin, expecting the worst.

“You better get in; it’s a one way trip!” James pulled back on the reins, bringing the bewildered horse to a stop in their clearing. The carriage was badly beaten from its hectic journey, but anything would do.

“Quit your sobbing,” Bronzen towered over the sullen Ambassador, lifting him with some difficulty from the earth, the mud dripping from his cloak. “It’s you he wants, so give us a bloody chance. My friend did not die for a cowardly prude.”

Ashtar was speechless, not willing to respond and unable as he was seated within the cart in a rush, the doors closing around him. The carriage rocked dangerously as Benjamin joined James and the Goron latched onto the back.

“Let’s hope you picked a good horse,” James smirked, his face tired and confused, but the Captain had no mirth to return.

“It’s a ride back in the dark and the smoke, it’s going to take more than a good horse,” Benjamin snapped the reins and the men took off at a gallop.

[You do not know your folly!] The voice mocked from the rustling canopy. Harsh winds swirled above them, the clouds streaking with queer lightning. They were making good time, the Captain hoped, just waiting for something terrible to happen; this would be a time when any pitfall would spell disaster. Around them the Highlands came to life, creatures scattered in their wake and the rain had already swelled several tributaries over their banks.

[Give him to me!] As suddenly as they had left, the silhouette fell from the trees in a plume of fire, landing far behind them, resonating as a pinpoint of blue light. It raised its gnarled hands, one holding the familiar scythe, and the other willing trees to be torn from the very earth.

“Watch out!” James seized the reins from the ailing Captain and made a hard left. A tree trunk splintered nearby, having missed its intended target. The hills fell from beneath the carriage as part of an embankment crumbled under their stallion’s feet. Distressed cries filled the night as they were carried off by the mud, unable to control their momentum.

Branches tore at the vehicle, breaking the windows in a spray of glass. Ashtar held tightly onto his seat, the ornate cane casting a warm glow. The image of the Gorons haunted him in the dim light, overpowering the grief he felt in this pursuit. Why were they refusing their own safety? He gazed solemnly through the broken viewer, watching the shadows of the men protecting their faces from the storm-blown soil.

“This is no time to be a hero,” his staff seemed to say, the pulsating light calming him.

“I agree,” he coughed, fighting back his fears and his tears. He could only get in the way. What would the Goron say if he ruined them further?

Bronzen was losing his footing as the cart swung violently in the mud, almost capsizing down the hill. His fingers dug deeply into the cracked oak as he pulled himself up, drenched and breathless. The Goron crawled onto the top of the carriage, giving much needed balance to the degenerating vehicle. His shoulder throbbed with pain, as if to warn him of something. Behind them the silhouette had made considerable ground, ploughing unheeded through the burning forest, the earth bending at its will.

With the extra weight shifted behind it, the horse stumbled blindly through the current of the landslide and found solid ground. With a snapping jerk the carriage was pulled from the torrent. Benjamin was nearly thrown, his body quickly losing grip on reality. The blood would not stop pumping from his wounded arm, and the rough jostling of the carriage was getting too much to handle.

James tried his best to direct them safely, the storm lighting their path. The edge of the forest was in sight, but that would not mean safety. Above the clouds swirled together, the lightning turning an unpleasant violet and lingering strangely. The Captain could feel his consciousness ebb; however, a rush of adrenaline returned to him as the rain changed to burning embers. Around them the voice of the Figure laughed, warped and full of glee.

[Benjamin...] the damning voice echoed inside the Knight’s head, soft as a whisper. [Give your life, what use is it to you now? I can feel it trying to be free.] The Fiery Figure had caught them, spreading its fire up the side of their carriage. Its free hand lifted him with ease to join Bronzen, acting more cautious having found the Goron to be a considerable force.

[Dolomire did not live very long. Neither will this one.]

“You just don’t know when to give up!” the Elder called, forcing himself to move in the raining embers. But he only knelt, the blade of the blue scythe tight against his throat.

“I am surprised the King lets you have your silly Protectorate,” the silhouette finally spoke, but with difficulty, tilting Bronzen’s surprised face towards its own. “He must be as weak as you.”

They finally broke free of the Nuun Forest. The expanse of grasses and dark skies greeted them for only a moment.

“The Gods be damned!” James cursed, dropping the reins and covering his face. The ground disappeared beyond a sharp outcropping, sending them tumbling down the rocky side. The stallion let out a curdling scream as its legs shattered from the impact with the bottom. Carriage wheels flew in every direction, the vehicle splintering into several pieces at the base of the hill. Benjamin had been thrown from his seat as a blur of tarnished armour, with James landing far from him, his borrowed robes tattered and smouldering.

Bronzen rose to his feet, leaving his deep gash in the earth behind. In the centre of the wreckage lay the motionless Figure, still aflame with black fire. Its weapon flickered nearby, struck into the soft soil by the impact. Bronzen approached with caution, his ragged breath steaming the air in front of him.

Benjamin watched from the ground, having not the energy to stand. Nearby he could hear their faithful steed give its final whimpers of death; James had no reason to doubt their choice now. And it was James who now stood between the ailing Captain and Death, sword drawn.

The silhouette laughed, floating slowly to its feet, seemingly unharmed. “Now who is this child? James, I know you. James, the man Basyle will not Knight. I wonder why, and so does he.”

“Do not disrespect your King!” James seethed, pointing his blade at the Spirit before them. The storm thundered loudly, shaking the earth beneath their feet.

Sir James, a queer title,” it taunted. “The King cannot knight bastards in court, especially ones he sires.”

“What?” the driver stepped backwards, confused.

“Don’t listen to its lies,” Bronzen took a step forward, wielding a large wooden club, part of the broken undercarriage. “This creature is a cunning demon, it will tempt without want.”

“Even your Sir Benjamin emptily promises a title your King has refused you, despite bravery, despite loyalty!” its voice suddenly turned to an angry bellow. “And what do you fear most, James!” The silhouette vanished in a cloud of fire, only to appear mere inches in front of the driver’s face, scythe in hand.

Bronzen swung, only to be repelled by the Figure’s magic, crashing into the remnants of the carriage. James leapt backward, avoiding a swipe from the fiery weapon. He managed to place his steel in a defensive pose in time, the second swing from the silhouette colliding with his sword. The force sent him reeling backward, almost losing his balance. The two shared several more blows, the raining embers being blown into his face by the merciless wind.

With a heavy backhand, the scythe cut through the air and shattered James’s weakened blade, knocking him down. James held his exposed face, feeling several shards of metal protruding from his skin. The taste of blood and metal made him retch.

“You are a strange man. Only one who does not fear Death can face it so... blindly,” the silhouette chuckled eerily, making light of the quick fight. It lifted the bloodied man from the ground, cupping his ruined face with fiery hands. “I am disappointed that you are not afraid of me. I would like to see how long you won’t be.”

“Put him down!” Benjamin stirred at the sound of the familiar voice, using his blackened sword to upright himself against a large stone. The silhouette turned its head trying to find the source, visibly surprised.

Sir Zachary stood behind them, the rest of their Convoy surrounding the grassy knoll. The drawing of blades sang into the night, their steel flashing brightly through the darkness.

[And what will you do?] James was released, huddled in the mud with his ruined face. [There were more men the last time, and remember what happened to them?] The silhouette lifted its scythe, pointing to Zachary. [To be honest, I have had more fun with the Gorons. They are not quite so easy to cleave.]

“Men, bear arms!” the Convoy raised their blades, only a few men strong. Laughter filled the air at their gallant behaviour. But, as a Labrynian flag hoisted into the air, the silhouette went quiet, the unsheathing swords of a hundred men replacing it.

“Demon, you rile the giants of Hyrule’s allies,” the Labrynian General struck his flag into the soaked earth, the falling embers returning to a light drizzle. His men ascended the hill, revealing their number, all armoured and ready for combat.

The silhouette seemed to appraise them, returning his weapon to a neutral position. He stepped forward to the shattered remains of the carriage, unhindered by the encroaching force prepared to attack. Ashtar lay among the planks, his travelling cloak covering his face. A quiet murmuring escaped his form, his hand clutching tightly to his cane.

“You will regret this,” it said, turning back to face its foes. “You waste your compassion for these men. If I do not have this one now, I will not stop,” the scythe mottled from sapphire to black. A pair of wings sprouted from the Spirit’s back, burning red. “I invite you.”

The silhouette sprang forward without warning, cleaving three men cleanly in half. Benjamin recoiled in horror, watching the army from Lynna descend upon the Fiery Figure. Steel rang against the ethereal weapon, its blade unforgiving. It fought with skill the Captain had rarely seen, easily defending against two men at once. The silhouette would not be overwhelmed, as any man who came too close was sent flailing through the air by unseen magic.

With a satisfying howl, the Spirit released a burst of flame, disintegrating nearly a dozen men in its wake. The General of the Lynna battalion was cut down, the scythe carving through his collarbone. He fell in a heap, gasping for air but only inhaling his own blood. The men continued to defy the Demon, trying to keep it on the defensive, but to no avail.

Zachary returned to his feet, having been tossed aside by the Spirit’s magic. His face was covered in blood from a gash above his eye, and he looked frail in the light of the silhouette’s flames, despite his best effort. Crying out, he leapt for the winged creature, aiming for its neck. The sword passed clean through, melting from some unbelievable heat.

“Arrogance.” The silhouette pushed back the dwindling forces with a wall of flame, separating him with Zachary. “Death is yours,” the Spirit widely swung its scythe, striking an arc through the soil between them. The Knight stepped backwards, moments before the earth fell from under his feet, a pit of flames erupting to consume him.

“No!” Benjamin sprang to his feet despite his frailty, cursing wildly. He tried to run, tried to ignore the terrible cries of his comrade, but his legs would not carry him. The Captain fell to the ground, too weak to act. Around him the ground shook, the Mountain Warrior taking his incentive. Bronzen dove into the flames, relinquishing a blackened and writhing form.

The battle ceased, the scarce number of men too horrified to act. Men lay dead all around them, torn to pieces and others burnt to ash. “I do not have to kill you! Don’t you understand? If this Ambassador is nothing to me, he must be even beneath nothing for you. You protect him by some word of a man who dares not tread a path such as this.”

The silhouette turned to the unconscious form of Zachary, Bronzen holding him and showing a frightening rage. “I will take the lives of those foolish to act against me. I will show you no mercy, no kindness. I stand here to plead you save yourselves from misery. Give Ashtar to-,”

“Enough,” Ashtar pulled himself free from his crumpled sanctuary, walking heavily on his ornate cane. “Leave these men,” his voice quivered as he forced out his cowardice. The silhouette turned to face him, opening his arms as if to embrace the Ambassador. Each step showed how weak the broken Ashtar really was, barely able to walk, especially not in the face of death.

The silhouette covered the remainder, cutting the air with a greedy swing. His scythe froze in front of his target’s face, stopped by the Ambassador’s cane. It began to glow bright gold, Ashtar pushing the surprised Demon backwards with ease.

“Leave these men,” he spoke clearly, unafraid and glowering at his assassin. “And leave me!”

A burst of golden light erupted between them, shattering the scythe and knocking the silhouette back into the hillside. The creature screeched in pain, stumbling forward with its body covered in shining lesions. With an eruption of fire, it vanished, black blood boiling in its wake.

Ashtar’s cane returned to normal and he took a few cautious steps forward. Benjamin could not believe his eyes, and none of the remaining men said a word, simply taking the opportunity to disperse and tend to the wounded. The last thing the Captain remembered was the comforting hand of Bronzen picking him up from the ground, and watching as Ashtar collapsed before them.

The storm vanished as quickly as its conjuror. Beneath the starry skies the Nuun Highlands burned brightly, its light witness to the broken souls before it. Bronzen barked commands to the remaining men, holding the crumpled forms of the knights like children. For a moment he almost left the Ambassador where he lay, but the cost had simply been too great. Yet, he could only think of the promise of more devastation. This Demon would keep its word.

And who would rescue them then?

_________________
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It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.

-Carl Sagan


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