Chapter 8 – Plans Laid Astrewn
Two weeks had now passed. The King had become disinterested in his distance to his subjects. He ordered Quiri to arrange a forum where the aristocracy would view the King's return to his marble throne. He told him to have it ready in two days. The Sheikah Council sent a messenger for Quiri, telling him that he was summoned to their presence. The messenger, after delivering the messenger, had been promptly killed. It appeared time had run out.
"So you're telling me not all sheikah can jump into shadows? Or manipulate them?"
Sable slowly shook her back and forth. "No, not all can. Like any magical talent, some are born with an affinity to it, while others, through hard work, can do it. Shifting is another example. The three brothers do not all have an aptitude for it. I believe Cory is the one whom it comes naturally to. Chan and Shawn had to work at it."
"I see. So the brothers being related, is it then based on who your parents and grandparents are?"
"Yes, to some degree. It can go even farther back than that. Many magical talents can exist and only through training can someone be opened to all of theirs."
"Is this the part where we start to discuss mine?" Zelda looked up smiling.
Sable frowned and reproached the Heir. "I told you, if I were to be the teacher you would be the obedient and patient student."
Zelda looked down, admonished. "I am sorry."
Sable nodded. "But, you are right. This is the part where we discuss what you may be capable of. It is made easier knowing who you are descended from." Zelda nodded, quietly waiting for more. "Shifting may come easily to you, as well as truth-seeing. Shadow-play I think will not come to you naturally, but with many years work you could achieve some control of it. I believe barrier-manipulation and alert-sensing you can be taught. Do realize though that each of these requires much time and toil to learn and years to master. None will come to you over night. I have told you all of these so you might choose which you want to learn first."
Zelda weighed the many options before her. To tell when someone is using magic or to control magical barriers was interesting, but she did not see much usefulness in it. Shadow-play was what she wanted, but with the pressing needs of the kingdom she did not think she had the time to learn it. Truth-seeing and shifting, those were the ones that would help the most in her present situation. She could shift her guise to spy on people, but she had others to do that for her. Now, truth-sensing is something that she could put to immediate use. "Truth-sensing. Teach me that."
"With it I could tell who was deceiving me and who was honest. It is something I could use immediately to help with the upcoming struggle."
Sable nodded. "You have thought it through well. Then shifting is what you will learn." Zelda’s eyes went wide in shock. Her mouthed crept open with a statement of unfairness on her tongue, but strong control over her composure let the statement die. Instead she took a calming breath and spoke. "Why not teach what I wanted to learn? You said I could choose."
Sable nodded. "Yes, that is what I said. I did not say that I would teach you your choice, though."
Zelda’s mouth stayed open as she had no response to give.
"You see you thought it through well, noting what you thought you would need to know. A good way to base most decisions on. Not the way to choose which magic to start with. The best way to choose would be to pick one based upon something that you already do that is related to the magic. You change your facial reactions and attitude based upon who is around you. You disguise yourself and your personality without blinking or even being consciously aware that you are doing it. That behavior is very similar to shifting. Therefore, shifting will be the easiest of them for you to learn. Next, I will teach truth-seeing."
Zelda nodded in understanding. "So the student never decides what first they learn, the master does? Am I right?"
Sable smiled. "You are."
"What will you have me do first?"
"First, I would have you stare in the mirror for a time and make perfect note of every facet of your cheeks. Every blemish. Every mark. Every curve and every angle. Do so until my return. I must report to Quiri. He has summoned me to the gardens."
Zelda looked-up as Sable rose. "Is it odd for two guardians to interact?"
"No, of course not. Yet, it is odd because he did so through a messenger. That is what makes it odd. Remember what I said about your cheeks."
With that Sable was gone. Zelda had heard what Sable had said. She knew what she was to do, but Sable said this meeting was odd. She knew she was overreacting, but she didn't care. "Julian!" A guard stepped into the room. "Call for Link, tell him to end practice early today and to come see me. I have a wish for him to be in my presence." Julian bowed before leaving. Zelda then turned and walked towards a mirror and began to study her cheeks.
Sable appeared from shadows in the abandoned garden. Her senses were sent across the shrubbery and into the accompanying shadows. There he is. She thought as she felt Quiri's presence. "Going to show yourself and explain why you sent a messenger?"
Quiri stood up from a shadow on the grass. "Simple, any other message and you would gotten mixed intentions from me."
To her, reading a person came on three levels. First what your ears heard. Second is what your eyes saw. And third, is what you pick-up from them as intent mixed with emotion. Most sheikah do not broadcast their emotions. They are raised to keep themselves from broadcasting too much. Not all of it can be blocked just most. And what Sable was feeling had her blood running cold. "What have you done?" She drew her shortsword from within her robes.
Quiri shook his head, eyeing her warily. "You know what's funny? When you think of something it doesn't really affect you too much. You think up a plan and what you feel is only distorted a little. But some quick rationalizations have you feeling fine again. It’s only when you put that plan into action do your emotions betray you. I feared that would happen. Now I know it does."
Sable had begun to circle him, her body tense. "Betrayer is what they'll call you."
Quiri shrugged. "Oh well. At least I'll be remembered."
He struck then, a small dagger appearing in his hand. He quickly lunged at her. She parried his attack and jumped back. She landed on her toes, she saw his body move, then shifted her weight slightly and jumped to the left kicking off her right foot. Quiri's second attack missed as well. He landed, turned on his feet and jumped forward, attacking her again. She stood her ground this time, grabbing his arm and shifted his momentum away from her. He had anticipated her standing her ground, and as he was thrown at the nearby wall his other hand struck her shoulder, another small knife in his grasp.
He didn't strike the wall but instead vanished into a small shadow cast on it. He had planned this well in advance. Sable had not. Her left arm was useless, hanging limp. His slash had cut the bundle of nerves below her clavicle. Her face was grim, but she knew she could still win this. He was young, but quick. But she held more knowledge and more magic. The question facing her was, stay and fight, or run? Her sheikah pride burned and railed against what was happening. A sheikah had betrayed. Betrayed! Sheikah took a blood oath to follow the royal family. It was something impossible to be broken and yet it had.
It was that which was keeping her confused. The logical thing to do was easy. Quiri was here to kill her. Remove her and keep her from aiding the Heir. Quiri was in league with Muion, and if Quiri had shown his colors then Muion would, too. And that meant she had to fulfill her instructions. That was the logical thing to do. It was shameful, but logic was losing this battle. It was not possible for a sheikah to betray another. It just was not possible! It had never happened!
And that indecision and shock is exactly what Quiri was counting on.
First, hold the castle and let the Heir escape to safety. Then go on the offensive once she was away. Last, clear the castle and kill Muion and all his supporters. A very simple plan. One, that theoretically should be easy to implement. Tiryn knew which guards were his and which were not. The problem? So did Muion. In the first few minutes there was chaos reigning. Servants being pushed and thrown into rooms which were then bolted. Something Tiryn and everyone else had forgotten to note was that each door was now only lockable from the outside. Muion had the keys. Tiryn cursed himself for not noticing when this change happened. The only upside was that it gave him enough time to rally some defense and to establish certain key points without too many livery under foot.
Another thing wrong with a simple plan was the preparation put into it. Shawn and he had spent hours redefining the ideal points for him to control. Points that if held would give him a good chance at launching an effective attack. Too bad right now he did not hold any of those points. The castle was divided into three sections. The east and west wings and the central section. He had squads in the central section fighting, and squads trying to clear the east wing as well. The west wing and most of the central section were held by Muion and his forces.
The good news they were almost even when it came to guards. It seemed that not all of his desert trained men followed commands. The bad news was the King was in the west wing when Muion struck. The worse news was so was the Heir. They were not his problem. He had been given his orders and his part of the plan. If he fulfilled his and they theirs everything would be back to normal by sunset. He hoped.
There was chaos among the halls. Roaming groups of guards escorting servants to locked doors. Shawn and Chan were in such a room. The door was bolted on the outside. They and a dozen other livery and aristocracy were trapped. At least until the two decided to change that. The two brothers were currently whispering in low tones in a corner of the room. The two were determining which phase of the plane to enact.
"You and Tiryn discussed this. Shouldn't his guards have those key points, yet?"
"Maybe not. Every good strategist knows the plan is only there as a guide."
"A guide?" Chan snorted. "You guys worked for days on it!"
Shawn shrugged. "No battle has ever gone according to plan. That's why we ourselves have just-in-case orders."
"Yeah, find the Heir and get her out was what I was told. I'm not sure what you were told."
Now Shawn snorted. "You have got to pay closer attention to details. If Tiryn couldn't secure the castle then we were to get the Heir out of the castle and safely to the south. If Tiryn was in the process of securing the castle then we were to get her out of the castle and make ready to move south if necessary. If Tiryn secured the castle then we were to get her out of the castle and protect her from rogue elements."
Chan blinked for a few seconds before responding, his shock evident in his voice. "So, go get the Heir and get her out of the castle. That was the plan regardless of all that extra nonsense!"
"No, there were options. And we need to consider which one to do." Shawn spoke with level intention.
Chan only shook his head. "I got a plan for you!" He raised his hand and flicked his wrist. A six-foot staff topped with a red orb came into being. He pointed it at the door and the orb glowed. The door burst into flame then settled to ash instantly. The people in the room began shouting and screaming, their heads whipping about. "Let's go get the Heir!" Chan shouted to his brother as he rose and shifted back into his own features. He pushed through the crowd as his brother trailed him, his features becoming sheikah-like.
"That wasn't necessary! We could have gone through the shadows!" Shawn reprimanded his brother as they raced down a corridor.
"Whatever. Do you know where Zelda last was?"
"I thought she was doing lessons with Sable."
"In her room."
Chan nodded and raced towards the west wing of the castle with Shawn beside him. They neared a junction where guards were fighting each other. They recognized a captain as being one of their own. Chan was readying a fire attack when Shawn's hand found his brother's shoulder. They stopped dead in their tracks. Chan turned to him, his eyes questioning.
Shawn spoke quickly. "Zelda. We have to get to her as quickly as possible."
Chan sighed, but nodded his agreement. They dashed into the pocket of guards twirling their staffs and letting their elements flow. They were out the other side in seconds. Leaving over a dozen Guard floored. They turned another corner and raced up a flight of stairs as they heard the crack of thunder echo through the hall. They each launched a spell of their own in the direction of the sound. They soon heard another crack and the brothers were reunited.
"Shawn! Chan!" Cory shouted rounding a corner. "Where's Zelda?"
"In her quarters. We were on our way!" Shawn said as he once again began running. Cory and Chan stayed pace with him.
"What's going on with Tiryn?" Chan asked Cory.
"Not good." He replied through huff of air. "He's got the east wing I think almost secure, but that's it. And I think Muion has reserves."
"How? And Where?" Shawn queried.
"In the town. I saw two columns of Guard marching towards the castle. I think Tiryn's going to lose the castle."
"What about the stables?" Shot Chan.
"Taken. There's no safe route we could take through the main road. We'll have to find another way. If only this forsaken castle wasn't surrounded by the town!"
"There's a side path we could take into the town." Chan spoke quickly.
Shawn spoke first. "Not if he has two columns coming from the town and we had no warning. It means our agents were taken out and he now has the city secured. We could fight our way through, yes, but it would put her in too much danger."
They launched themselves up another flight of stairs.
Then Cory spoke. "Right, so we've got to find another way. The secret passages?"
"Shawn shook his head. There are wards in place. We felt them go up not too long ago."
Cory's brow furrowed. "Wards?"
Shawn and Can exchanged a look. Shawn spoke. "We'll talk about it later, okay?"
Cory did not respond. His mind wondered how they could have felt it and not him. His thoughts were cut short when they approached an odd scene before them. They saw two Captains shouting at the top of their lungs at their men who were surrounding a single doorway. The guards' backs were to the brothers as they were trying to press forward.
They had reached the Heirs' room.
"C'mon you devils! Kill the damned man! If you fall let others take your place! Just don't stop fighting!"
"Five hundred rupees to the man that kills him!"
The captains' shouts seemed to have no effect on the Guard. They just kept pressing forward. They faintly heard the sounds of metal clashing through the noises of the Guard. In their minds it was not hard to figure out what was stopping them.
Chan whirled on Cory. "Find us a way out! We'll get to her, okay?"
Cory nodded and ran down a corridor.
Chan turned to Shawn. "Ready?"
Shawn vaguely nodded, his own mind trying to cope with Chan taking charge. It had thrown him off and he wondered why he had send Cory out. The thought was gone in a moment as he pointed his staff at the clumped bodies.
Their screams of agony echoed down the massive corridors. They were scrambling around madly trying to escape the flames and shards of ice. The captains already lay dead upon the stone their bodies charred and frozen. Within a few minutes of attacking, the swarm of guards were defeated, their bodies lying strewn across the hall. And standing directly in front of the Heir's door, his form surrounded by bloody corpses, was Link. In his hand was his broadsword. His great sword was stuck in a man's chest.
Chan rushed over to him. Shawn reached beyond them and opened the door quickly. Zelda was in there and was on her feet in an instant. Her eyes registered Shawn's face and her own face relaxed into a smile. Then one of worry. "How's Link?" She asked coming forward.
She emerged from the room to find Link wiping his blades clean on a guard's pants. He looked like hell. His clothes were drenched in sweat and blood. His face was the same. His hair was disheveled and he looked pale. His breath was coming in ragged bursts. Still, he stood without support. Seeing the Heir he was instantly at her side shooting a question to Shawn. "The way out?"
"Cory was supposed to find us a way out. He ran that way." Shawn pointed a ways down the corridor.
Link nodded and barked commands. "Shawn lead the front. Chan behind the Heir. Zelda, run by my side."
Everyone moved at his commands and the group was soon running down the corridor. Chan watched Link's strong stride, marveling how he was even walking. Soon numerous thunderclaps shook the hallway. The group ran in their direction, turning left into another corridor. They ran past a few scorched bodies. Soon they found Cory motioning to them as he stood next to a jagged hole in the wall. Chan smiled broadly and they came to stop. "I thought you'd try something like this." He laughed.
Shawn and Cory joined him. Link only nodded. "Where's the rope?"
Cory then showed them a silk scarf tied to a jagged part of the wall. "Found a good use for this year's fashion expression."
"Shawn, you and Chan first. Secure the area below. Cory stayed up here till the Heir is down."
They obeyed. Shawn and Chan cleared the grounds around with a few quick bursts of magic. Zelda held onto Link's back as he scaled down the silk gowns tied together. Cory was soon on the ground running to catch-up with them. He felt hurt they had started off without him, but he knew the Heir's safety came first.
"Link, wait!" Shawn shouted.
He stopped and turned to him.
"We can't take the secret passages out. There are wards up keeping people out. Which means it keeps people in as well."
"You can't break them?"
Shawn shook his head. "It'd take too long."
For a moment Link was silent. He looked across the area, scanning the grounds. He eyes settled upon the moving waterway in front of the castle. "Cory, blast a hole in the waterway. We'll take it."
No one moved. "What?" Zelda asked incredulous.
Shawn and Chan looked wary.
"The town was taken. The castle will fall next. We're trapped. There is no other choice."
Zelda slowly nodded. Then she sighed. "Alright. First, we have to help the others. Shawn. Chan. Find Tiryn and help him get the loyal guards out of there. Cory..."
"No." Link said quickly. "We'll need him with us."
Zelda nodded not missing a beat. "Right. Then Chan, instead find Sable then find my father. Then get them out of the castle."
The brothers nodded and dashed off their appearances shifting into the likeness of guards.
Link nodded to Cory and the three made their way towards the waterway. They approached it carefully, on the lookout for guards. They saw none. Cory aimed his staff and a flash of light shot from it. The metal bars blew apart in an instant. The way was clear for them, though dark. The three took a moment's hesitation before they plunged into the strong currents of the water and were washed into the darkness.
Zelda clung desperately to Link, her feet going wherever the current of the water took them. Yet, somehow she felt the powerful beats of Link's movements as he guided them through the waters. She felt her stomach lurch a number of times and felt her legs knock against stone walls. Her head clipped something as well and the pain blinded her for minutes. After an eternity of gasping breathes and maddening darkness she was abruptly in the blinding light.
She blinked her eyes and squinted through them trying to adjust to the light. She glanced around and noticed she was floating in the river that flowed in front of the town. She also noted an absence. She splashed around spasmodically searching for Link. Her hand felt a wet cloth and she clasped it. Her eyes were now adjusting well and she saw her shadow floating face-down in the river. She almost screamed. She grabbed him and began to swim for the shore. Then she heard splashing. Cory was soon beside her helping.
With some effort the two managed to haul his, and their, sopping wet bodies to the shore. Cory instantly put his fingers to Link's throat. Then put his ear to his mouth. His reaction grew grim as he balled his fists together and began to press upon Link's chest. He cursed as he realized Link was wearing leather armor beneath his clothes. Cory worked quickly to remove the piece, then cursed again at the wounds on Link's chest. He then began again by putting abrupt pressure below Link's ribcage. A few quick bursts and he would stop. He would then resume again. After a few tries Link's body jerked and he coughed water up. His body was racked with coughs before he was still again.
Cory sighed in relief, then spoke. "That's why he needed me. He knew he wouldn't last the trip." Cory sighed again before going to work on the shadow's wounds. Zelda offered what help she could. Mostly by cutting off strips of silk from her ruined dress.
Once finished Cory took a glance around them. The town was some two hundred meters to the east. To the south lay a copse of trees. Enough cover for now. He hauled Link's body while Zelda followed. Once there, he began to think of their next course of action. He turned to the Heir and spoke his mind. "If I can sneak back into the castle I can help my brothers get the Guard out. If we have enough on our side maybe we could retake the castle."
Zelda firmly shook her head. "No. Your brothers are on their own for now. As are Tiryn and his guard. Sable I am sure can take care of herself. Unless Quiri got to her." Cory's eyes went wide.
"W-what?" He stammered.
"Sable went to meet him. That's when the Guard attacked my Honor Guard outside the door. You see, Quiri called Sable to eliminate her. He thought she was my only sheikah guardian."
Cory was shaking his head. "No. No. No! Quiri is a Sheikah. He couldn't betray you or your father."
She rounded on him her eyes blazing. "He did!"
Cory flinched and looked away. He heard her take in a large breath then let it out. "Go to town and find a wagon. Steal gold for supplies if you have to. Don't forget clothes also, commoner clothes. Use the gold to pay for them or just steal everything if you have to. Just get us a wagon with a week's worth of supplies by sundown. Go."
Cory sat for a moment speechless. They were going to abandon everyone. He let out a mournful breath before standing to obey.
Zelda looked over at Link once more. He was breathing, but slowly. He was bleeding from two of his wounds still. Though, none were deep or serious, they were just so many. She had thought him dead for sure when he ran out that door. Thought for sure he would die for how long he had stayed out there. It had been an eternity hearing the sounds of metal and the cries of the Guard trying to reach her. Hearing their curses as they fought Link. Now, thanks to him and the brothers she was safe and still alive. She only hoped everyone else was as well.
There was no going back in. The castle was gone. Lost. She knew that for sure when she heard Link say the town was securely Muion's. He had somehow brought in more Guard without her knowing. Somehow taken out her agents in the town. Those whose sole duty had been to come warn her if any companies returned. A sudden fear gripped her heart and tears began to play on the outside of her eyes.
"Father..." she whispered.
She blinked away the tears. If Muion had the castle then her father was surely dead. They would not keep him alive. She dug her fingers into the ground, grasping a wad of dirt in her small hand. She squeezed the dirt with all her might before flinging it against the bark of a tree. Then the princess let out a haggard breath. For all she knew she, Link, and Cory were the only survivors. A few tears trailed her cheeks.
A little past sundown Cory returned. He apologized swiftly saying it took quite a bit of gold to bribe his way past the guards. She nodded her understanding as she emerged from between two bushes. She'd changed into a plain woolen dress with brown work boots. Her blonde hair she'd rubbed dirt in and had tied it into a tight braid. She as well smeared mud and grass across her cheeks and arms. She asked if she looked regal. Cory suggested she slouch some.
Together they changed Link's dressings again, using actual medical dressings and salves. They laid him in the bed of the wagon. Zelda opted to sit by his side and rearranged some of the supplies so she could. Cory nodded and shifted his features to that of an elderly man. Zelda commanded him to make their way towards the villas and Dashiva.
"I'll be your father, deary." He said in a raspy voice, trying to lighten the mood.
She only looked away without replying.
"Right. What about getting in contact with other sheikah?"
Zelda shook her head. "I don't know how many may have betrayed us."
Cory opened his mouth to object again but a look silenced him. Instead, he turned his attentions to getting the wagon underway as the sun's final lights fled the sky.
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