Chapter 6 - Hints of Betrayal
Three months have now passed since the expanding of the Heir's circle. To the south an army is being trained in silence and secret. Lead by a charismatic farmer calling himself Dashiva. He is a tall and lithe man, with pale blue eyes and black hair. He hails from the north, from the massive empire called
. Twice he has come to speak with the Heir. The first was a quiet affair where he was welcomed into her circle. The second was to report movement of raiders to the south of Arcadia . It seemed the King's plan was in motion. Lake Hylia
As well occurring during this time span was Zelda's meeting with the gerudo High Chieftess Sahoori. The meeting was one of much interest. In it Zelda learned of Sahoori's desires to remove their oppressive King Ganir. Sahoori related to the Heir how in a distant past the tribes of the gerudo were not united as one but lived in relative peace with each other. There were disputes but no wars. A male was born every century and the tribe he was born to held dominion over the others. This changed when one of the King's rose to power using their own races need to procreate against them. From then on all tribes have sworn allegiance to one king after another.
Zelda understood what Sahoori wanted. In return for Zelda's aid to Sahoori's secretive faction among the tribes she would provide to the Heir fighters to help stave off the raiders. At the end of the meeting Zelda's circle had expanded once more and they departed each other co-conspirators and friends.
The Guard in this time span had reached a number not seen in them for years. Through harsh desert training they have become hardened and skilled. Their numbers now reached into the thousands. They have as well been reorganized to better defend and maintain the peace of Hyrule. For every twenty-five Guard there is a Captain. For every five captains there is a Lieutenant. And every lieutenant reports to the Captain of the Guard directly. To move such infantry quickly and swiftly there were wagons designed to move across open terrain. The light cavalry the Kingdom does have trained remained at the Castle to protect and escort the Royal Family.
During this time their loyalties have been tied strongly with Captain Muion, though ten among the Captains have swayed their loyalties directly with the Heir. At
the air has become tense. There are secret meetings throughout the structure. Whispers of treachery echo in every corner. Secret meetings that even the Heir has not become aware of. Though, she can feel the tension. Hyrule Castle
The King has become more distant, becoming agitated at the state of affairs in his realm. It seems his dream is pushing forward, but he knows something is happening. He has had reports from sheikah outside the kingdom that could bring doom to his plans. He has at present left instructions with his advisors and sequestered himself away to plot his next action. He is unaware of a shifting of the Guard in the castle. Even among of his own honor guard.
King Oberon stands by his fireplace, his arm resting atop its mantle. His Crown of Ages lies on a nearby desk. He stares solemnly into the flames. "Quiri, if what you say true, then Hyrule is indeed in trouble."
"It is truth, your majesty. The Emperor of Arcadia has not directly made a threat to us, but my sources tell me he still wishes to expand his empire farther. And though our Guard have become stronger, we have not the resources to keep the Emperor at bay."
The King's head shakes. "It is not his forces that concern me. I know how he operates. He does not conquer with men and war as his father before him. He conquers with words, diplomacy, deceit, and trade. Already I can see his agents among my people. Working to try and take-over what exports we have. Our strongest, our food from the villas, they try and weasel in. So far they have failed. If he takes that from us we will be at his mercy."
"What of his offer?"
The King's nostrils flared. "She is still a child. And I will not see my daughter added to his harem."
"Do you think he will take-over through trade and not through a rebellion? Rebellion seems to be his most favored weapon."
Oberon shook his head. "We have too strong a hold on our people. With the raiders soon to be attacking in the south, all ideas of rebellion will soon fade from their minds. What I fear is open conflict within my kingdom, not from my subjects but from other sources."
"The other races?"
"Yes. The only one who could possibly be a threat would be the Gerudo. And their King is ambitious enough to try. Though, I think I have managed to keep him amiable towards me thus far."
"What about a militant faction within your very own guard?"
The King snorted. "Captain Muion has the Guard wrapped under his finger. They are more loyal to him than they were to
. That man knew how get respect, but Muion knows how to buy and inspire loyalty with sweet words and sweeter rewards." Trent
"Then what bothers you so?"
"I know the Emperor has somehow wormed his way into my kingdom. I just don't know how deep or how much. Can the sheikah not find out?"
Quiri brought up his hands. "We have tried. We have tried much. But we cannot locate his agents. They are either too good at hiding their intentions or they are not there."
"I see. Alright. Here is what you will do. Go and inform my sheikah to send agents into his palace and learn directly from the source." Quiri nodded. "Also, have my daughter moved to our estate on the banks of
in Timberlane. Before she arrives have the number of Guard there doubled." Lake Hylia
"I do not think that is wise, your majesty. If the Emperor learns of this he may accelerate whatever plans he has. Right now he does not know that you know. Any drastic movement now may cause him to show his hand."
King Oberon's brow furrowed. "That is something I do not yet want. Not until I have at least discovered where his hand is."
Quiri nodded, waiting for further instructions. The King turned to regard him, a ghost of a smile crossing his mouth. "Quiri, old friend. I'd be lost without you sometimes. You're the only man close to me I know that doesn't desire more."
Quiri himself smiled in return. "Thank you, your majesty."
"Go out and see my will be done, save for removing the princess. In that regard I will heed your advice."
Quiri bowed and left the King to his ponderings.
There was a knock upon the door. Zelda called for them enter her chamber. Shawn stepped through, closing the door behind him. Link stood off in a corner, his arms crossed as he moved his eyes from the door to the window.
"Drop your disguise, Shawn."
With a wave of his hand Shawn's natural features appeared. "You have summoned me, Heir?"
Zelda waved her hand. "Enough with the title. I've known you too long now for that when we are in private."
Shawn smiled and nodded. "Then what do wish of me, Zelda?"
She smiled. "I now have turned seventeen this day. And with this I wish a present from you." Her smile grew.
Shawn hesitated before speaking. "I wish to give you one but I have none to give."
She stood gracefully and made her way towards him. "Yes, you do."
Shawn took a step back as she reached her hand forward and caressed his cheek. "Z-zelda..."
"I have never known a kiss. And for my birthday I would wish to experience one from a man. I find you, out of your brothers, the easiest on my eyes."
Shawn swallowed loudly. "If you wish it..."
"I do." With that she stepped forward and pressed her lips to his own. He met hers blankly at first but then closed his eyes and leaned forward. For a moment their lips touched before she disengaged the contact with a smile.
"Thank you." With that she turned and resumed her seat watching him carefully.
Shawn's shock soon faded as he too smiled. "N-no problem."
Zelda's face soon became impassive as she turned to Link. "Link, go to Captain Craigen and learn more of the Guard shifts among the castle. I wish to know which of our secret guard have been transferred."
Link nodded and left the room.
Shawn's entire demeanor now changed from slightly nervous to serious. Zelda's own composure did the same. She turned toward him. "Anything?"
Shawn's recalled the past few minutes in his mind, sifting through what his senses had picked up. "There's not much there. From him at least. There normally isn't much anyway."
"What did you sense from him? Did he even notice?"
Shawn's nodded. "He noticed. That much was obvious."
"Did he feel jealous? Angry? Confused even?"
Shawn sighed. "I felt confusion from him. Not a trace a jealousy or anger, though."
Zelda's tilted her head. "What?"
Shawn sighed again. "You told me before we set this up that he said he loved you, right?"
"When he looks at you, I don't sense any affection from him. Nothing. Even when he speaks with me or my brothers, I sense no feelings of care or friendship. Nothing but a passive regard for us."
Zelda's brow furrowed. "That makes no sense. He said he loved me and always will. Why would anyone say that and not mean it? Or at least feel it? He's protective of me, that much is obvious. Why is he so much harder to read or understand?"
"I don't know. The only thing I can think of is he just thinks he's in love with you. But, there is something I feel from him. Something I can't put into words. Not devotion, not acceptance..." His words trailed off and he shook his head.
That's when Zelda's eyes lit-up. "Duty."
Shawn snapped his fingers. "Yes, that's what I sense from him. Duty. All of his thoughts are wrapped around that. And from that stems his love for you."
Zelda's tone lowered as she spoke. "Now I see how it happened."
Shawn looked at her questioningly.
"He's watched people who were in love act towards one another. Their protective of each other. Like he is with me. He equated that with love. He's confused his duty with that." She brought her hand to her head. "Oh Link, what did my father say to you?"
"I don't think it is what your father said to him, but how he took those words. I sense naturally he has a very strong sense of duty. I think he took your father's words to heart. He was without purpose and then he was given one. You."
"And because of it he's emotionally stunted."
Shawn's eyes narrowed carefully as he regarded the Heir. "You care for him. A lot."
Zelda brought her eyes to meet his own. "Yes. But, I realized a long time ago there can be nothing between us. He's my shadow and I'll be a queen one day. At least I know he truly won't interfere with whomever I choose to be with." Then she regarded Shawn. "And you know Shawn, one day I won't be a child."
Shawn gasped and his eyes widened. "I know that, your majesty...."
Now she smiled. She stood and walked over to him. He stood still. She wrapped her arms around him and leaned him to kiss him. He drew his head back. She leaned in more. Their lips touched once more and he leaned forward once again into her.
She withdrew gently and took a step back. "I am still a child, though now. And there is still too much going on in my kingdom for me to choose or even consider. Hopefully, when it is all done I will be a woman."
Shawn stood very still for a few moments, still letting the sensations play across his lips. He bowed quickly to her before bidding her a good-bye and left. His mind was racing with many thoughts. There were many implications with what she said and yet many contradictions. He was still common born like Link and her bodyguard in some respects. There were childish thoughts and emotions still apparent in her, yet such mature decisions and actions. And he wondered not for the first time how one so young held so much wisdom.
Days of fighting ensued far to the south of
. The raiders invaded the kingdom, burning and ransacking all homesteads they fell upon. Slowly they made their way towards the Belt of Hyrule, where lay the many villas and the awaiting Militia that Dashiva and other sheikah had helped to train. As the first raiders struck the Belt the Gerudo lead by Sahoori attacked from behind. In a matter of days the raider's numbers were decimated, stuck between the Militia and the Gerudo. When the Guard were finally involved the raiders were already on the retreat. What was left was rounded up and executed. Hyrule Castle
When the Guard investigated into the militia they were met with confounding answers and flat denials. When they inquired to the King Ganir of the Gerudo about his assistance, he only said it was a token of friendship towards the King of Hyrule. Further inquiries resulted in no new information and the King of Hyrule let the matter drop. The raiders had still had the desired effect on the populace. Though, not has deep as Oberon would have liked.
He was still sequestering himself away from the general populace. A tactic he was fostering among his populace. A distant ruler, but who cared. He was experimenting with it. People who held an image of someone were oft let down by that person. If they held an idea of that ruler, the idea would be stronger. It was a thinking concept Quiri had introduced him to. He barely grasped the concept himself, but it made some sense. He would give it a few more months before he decided to stay with it or not. Depending on how the populace reacted to the new laws he had readied.
Which was exactly what he was writing on now, seated at his desk late into the eve. His room was lit by only a few lamps which now sat on his large desk. The rest of his room was shrouded in darkness, save for the moonlight coming in from his large window. From it he could look down upon
. In some corner of the darkened room there was a presence. It waited in patience, knowing only to interrupt when the large man was done with his writing. He did not wait long. King Oberon leaned back and let out a sigh. He slowly massaged his hand. Hyrule City
Quiri stepped forth from the shadows clearing his throat softly.
Oberon glanced in his direction, his face impassive. "Thank you for waiting for me to finish." His tone was wry.
Quiri nodded. "I know what actions to avoid in order to not spark your infamous anger."
The King's lips cracked with a smile. "How polite and eloquent of you to say. Or in other words, you know how not to piss me off?"
This time Quiri smiled. "You were always coarser than I."
"Very true, was it not you who once told me that if I were to lead a grand kingdom I should at least not sound like common rabble when I spoke?"
Quiri's smile broadened. "I had to use words you would relate better to."
The king guffawed. Slapping his hand on his thigh. "What news have you brought me old friend?"
Quiri stepped closer to bring his voice lower. "The sheikah have been unable to infiltrate the Sunlite Palace of Arcadia using their standard practices. They've resorted to more unconventional methods. Thus, it'll take more time to get in."
The king nodded then spoke. "Can their intelligence truly be that good? I mean your people can hide in the shadows for crying out loud! How can they detect that?"
Quiri's eyes widened in surprise at the slips in his tongue. He quickly covered his reaction before the king glanced at him. "They have powerful magicians housed therein. Thus, we are resorting to sneaking people in disguised as servants. It takes longer to properly insert someone like this. Though, the method does work, they are usually limited in what they hear. But they will be able to give a little. Maybe enough to help."
Oberon's lips turned grim. He still had not found the Emperor's worm in his kingdom. He knew the worms were here already. The ones slowly replacing the outland merchants. Buying solely one product. Ingratiating themselves with the people of Hyrule. The farmers and the factors. The next step was to be welcome into the town with them getting aid to set up their own factors. Once that started they would offer to buy the food with a better price and steal business away from the local people.
These foreign factors worked directly with the Emperor. They would eventual crush the local competition. In the end they would control who bought from whom. Those they refused to buy from would be those who did not offer their support to the new regime. This practice was to take place at the same time the emperor's big worm began his work. Whether it was through open rebellion or a military coup he had yet to figure out.
He turned to Quiri. "What have you found about Muion? Is there any reason I should doubt his loyalties?"
Quiri only shrugged. "He has met in secret with many of the captains and lieutenants. They only talk of troop movements and how they wonder about the ideas of the other captains. The ones he thinks are directly loyal to the Heir. He speaks of reducing her influence over them by having them stationed away from the castle."
King Oberon quirked his head. "He is that afraid of her influence?"
"He is very protective of his guard. He views them as his and no one else's. He can be highly possessive of things he has rightfully acquired. Or so I assume from observing him."
"I see. What of his intentions for the throne?"
"They remain the same. He wishes to wed your daughter when she becomes older."
"Would he dominate her rule you think?"
"I cannot say for sure, but there is a chance he would view her as more a possession than individual."
The king heaved another sigh. "He'll have to be removed."
The king was silent for a few moments. His brought his hand to his head, cupping his forehead with it. Then he spoke in a low tone. "No. Not yet. He will be eventually, but with the threat of
looming like a shadow I'll need him to lead my guard. Maybe, in a few years when Zelda has chosen a consort he will be removed. Whomever her consort, he'll be made the Captain of the Guard. But that is a worry for another day." Arcadia
"Her would-be-consort would be made Captain of the Guard? What if he is lacking?"
"He would be a puppet then, seconded by a strong and loyal leader."
"The Heir's shadow, perhaps?"
The King smiled. "Of course, he would be the ideal candidate."
"That is why you let her interfere with the Guard. It brings them closer to their future leader..." There was a hint of awe reflected in Quiri's voice; as if he himself did not believe the man before him to have such cunning. It also brought into doubt his own secrets. Has the King been playing him?
The King's smiled only broadened. "I let her do many things. I let her have her sheikah guide to introduce her to them. I let her have her way with the aristocracy. I have little to fear for her there. She has them wrapped around her many fingers. As to the Guard, she has swayed among the desert-trained captains three to her side. Easily undercutting a man as possessive and intelligent as Muion. I give her wide berth because I cannot show her how to rule. It is something one must find in their own time. I once feared some time ago that she would never come out of her shell. But, time and patience have pulled me through. She is coming into her own quite nicely."
Quiri's face was completely passive at hearing all the king knew. It made him weary. It made him fearful. So fearful he had to make sure he would walk out of here alive. "Have I failed you in any way, m'lord?" His voice was strained and his arms were tense.
Confusion grew on the King's face. "Why would you ask that Quiri? Of all the ones I rely on I rely on you the most."
Quiri still did not relax. "All this information...I was not aware of it. I was not the one to inform you. Have you relied on another sheikah for information, m'lord?"
The King was slowly shaking his head. He rose and made his way towards Quiri. He placed his hands upon his shoulders and spoke in low tones. "My dear friend. As I told you when we were young together. I will never need another guardian but you. I would still to this day not betray those words." He smirked as he looked into his friend's eyes. "For all your spying and shadow-play you have forgotten the easiest way to get information. By simply asking."
The tension drained from Quiri's body as his fears were proven inaccurate. The king was not aware of anything amiss. Then he realized the king was waiting patiently for a reply. Quiri knew exactly what would put the King at ease. Quiri started laughing. Strong and bold were his laughs, his whole body shaking with them. He clasped his hands around the King's strong arms and spoke. "I'm sorry to have doubted you my old friend. I'm sorry."
The King's grip strengthened for a moment before he released him. "Enough talk of doubts and forlorn feelings, Quiri. Get the servants to bring some light ale so we can enjoy the fruits of our labors thus far."
Quiri half-smiled and nodded his head. He headed to the door and stopped. He turned around and saw the King sitting down at his desk a large smile plastered on his face. Quiri raised his hand and spoke. "A thought, Oberon. What of assigning Tiryn to the Heir?"
King Oberon's smile did not slip a bit and his eyes wondered the room as his mind thought the idea through. His eyes finally rested on Quiri. "That's not such a bad idea. His experience with the guard and the land in general may be of some aid to her."
"Of course." Quiri nodded and walked away. And it will get him conveniently away from you. That old man knows too much.
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