Chapter 2: A Royal Reception
The Larth expedition reached the gates of the Castle at four strokes past noon. Sir Heironus and Captain Collonius were received in the main keep of the Castle and told to meet the Crown Prince and the Royal Cabinet in the Great Hall. Sir Heironus took the protocol of royalty seriously, perhaps more seriously than his military duties. This has always been a point of contention between him and his colleagues in the armed forces. The two took their seats among the power brokers of the Royal Court. Present were Crown Prince Cyrus II, Princess Zelda, Royal Advisor Gennis, High Sage Ezra, and others of great importance.
Gennis began the meeting by calling a quorum and then began the slog down the agenda. “First on the agenda,” he stated, with a tone unmatched in its potential to induce a coma, “is the continuing diplomatic troubles with the Republic of Byrna. Reports from our spies that country are telling me that they are calling up their military forces: cavalry, infantry, and navy. The troubles might lead to a conflict with the Byrnese. Considering our current strife in the north with the Cusantach, this will not play out well for Hyrule.
“Which leads me to the next item on the agenda, the search for the Hero. The scouts we’ve sent across the lands adjacent to our own think that Link might have settled in our ally, Calatia.”
“A question,” Heironus then started, standing up from his chair, “the Hero has been gone from Hyrule for forty years! If we were to find him, and that is quite the if, the lad would be about sixty years of age.”
“Fifty five,” the Princess corrected with a slight smirk. Cyrus scowled at this intransigence from his sister. His dislike of Zelda was widely recognized.
“Nevertheless,” Gennis then said, returning to his point, “perhaps, if Link has settled down as reported, perhaps he might have born a son. Maybe even a grandson at this point. The bloodline of the Hylian Knights remains only in the Hero, and finding his children should be an utmost priority.”
“Indeed,” Cyrus acknowledged, stretching his arms to each side and fumbling for another Cucco drumstick. “If Byrna does wish war with Hyrule, then they shall have it. Find this Link, bring back to the Castle whatever of his brood that can lift a sword. Is there anything else, Gennis?”
“One more item, Sire,” Gennis confirmed, “In light of the coming war, assuming it does play out as expected, is we need to rally our allies. I propose we send a diplomatic delegation to our allies in Calatia and the Rito Confederation. They could rally the allies and hopefully convince their leaders to send troops to aid Hyrule.”
Cyrus though about the idea for a second, sighed powerfully and then conceded, “Alright then, send Zelda, my beloved sister, to the Rito capital and Captain Collonius to Calatia. The missions will surely succeed in their capable hands.”
Heironus snorted at the appointment of his rival, while Collonius’ face betrayed his glee at the prospect at a trip to Calatia.
“Is there anything else before I adjourn this meeting?” Cyrus then asked, hoping beyond hope he could return to those delicious grapes in his quarters. “Your Royal Highness!” A voice then pierced the large wooden doors. Drat, foiled again.
Impa entered the room with a speed surprising for a woman of her old age, causing Zelda to jump up from her seat and run to the nursemaid. In tow with Impa was the young man from Larth, the sole survivor. “What is it Impa, my dear?” Cyrus then coyly questioned, his hands tapping on the wooden table, suggesting annoyance with the delay between the present moment and adjourning.
“Well, Sire, I’ve brought with me a young man named Rourke, who is the lone survivor of the Larth massacre.” Impa then said, pushing Rourke before the Cabinet. Seeing him for the first time, Zelda became startled and gave Impa a look betraying feelings of worrying. Impa shot back one of her infamous calming gazes, and Zelda calmed down. “It is an honor to meet you, your highness,” Rourke cordially responded. Impa then stepped forward to present Rourke’s credentials; “He has seen the Cusantach in battle and has even slain a warrior of theirs with his own bare hands. He would make an excellent agent to insert into their ranks. I propose we train him and have him act as a spy. As a human of Northplaining descent, he would be readily accepted into their ranks. He can become a potent asset for our spy corps.”
“So be it!” Cyrus then dismissively exhaled. “I’ll have Gennis write up royal decrees of solidarity to be presented to King Seladon of Calatia, and High Chieftain Komali VI. Dismissed, my subjects.”
With that decree, the various busybodies at the table shuffled out of their seats, gathered up their related papers and scrolls and left out the main door. Ezra stopped to exchange a few words with Impa about what the weather and left. When her brother had left, Princess Zelda ran over to Impa and Rourke, who were standing awkwardly in the corner of the room. Impa requested Rourke’s pardon as she was pulled away to speak with Zelda on the far side of the room, in private.
Every so often, Rourke would spot Zelda looking over Impa’s shoulder and at him, with signs of concern in her eyes. Rourke didn’t remember much, but he didn’t understand the hush-hush nature Impa displayed towards him. She must know something about his past. He’d have to press her on it later.
Once the conversation ended, Zelda nodded cordially and departed to prepare for her trip to the Great Sea. Impa approached Rourke and put a hand on her shoulder. “Follow me, I want to show you something.”
Impa lead the young human to a hall stretching from the Keep to the Castle where the Crown Prince resided. Along the walls were various tapestries that betray their antiquity with faded colors and a coating of dust. There were images depicting the founding of the Second Kingdom, the founding of the Hylian Knights, the Hero of the Winds, the legend of Old Hyrule, and many more. Rourke inquired voraciously about Hyrule’s history, gorging himself on the various facts and tidbits that Impa repeated from her vast memory. Impa was the Kingdom’s most learned student of Hyrulian history, and it showed.
For the next hour or so Impa regaled Rourke with all the lost or forgotten tales of Hyrule’s history: the Great Flood, the Settling War, Cataclysm Eve, and whatever else the old woman could recall from her studies. Whatever awe Rourke felt towards Hyrule was only augmented from these tales. As the two lost track of the time, Impa noticed that the clock in the adjacent room had struck six past noon. The sun was apparently in the throes of collapsing beneath the horizon.
Impa then remembered her last piece of business with Rourke before the end of the night. “Ah yes, before my old mind lets this slip, Princess Zelda has requested that you join us on the diplomatic mission to the Rito Confederation. Security detail work, that is. Wait until you see the marble halls of their capital island, Valoo. It will certainly astound you, my boy!”
Impa then drew her walking stick from her robe and used it to guide her steps towards the stairs leading to the Royal Quarters, where she, Zelda, Crown Prince Cyrus, and others retired for the night. She gave Rourke one final instruction, “The guards outside will take you to your quarters, and in the morning I shall see you again.” He nodded at Impa’s instructions and walked towards the doors that lead to the main courtyard. Outside a guard did indeed lead Rourke to his quarters, where he settled for the night and fell into the deepest sleep he could remember engaging in for some time.
At daybreak, a single clipper would depart from the castle, heading south as the crow flies down the Zora River, through the Canal, and out to sea. In four days time the R.H.S. Intrepid would arrive at the white island of Valoo.
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