"They will return." Says Chieftain Azrune. "And with greater numbers."
He, Zelda, the stranger and I are sitting in the main tent, one of the few that isn't burned. My face is bandaged with bark and plastered with healing remedies. I can't talk at the moment, my jaw is broken. The swelling has gone down quite a bit but I'm still bleeding. The ground stopped swaying but I still feel sick.
"So what do we do?" Zelda asks.
"Get him out of here." Azrune points to the stranger. I feel a flutter of satisfaction in my gut.
"What did I do?" he snaps angrily.
"They are after you. You draw them like a magnet. It is vital that you leave this place before they come for you again."
"But I don't even know what they want from me! I don't remember anything! You can't just throw me out into the wild!" He says. "And you heard him, didn't you?! This Drag-ama-what-his-face wants to become God. If they get what they want from me I don't think the future will be all that bright for you folks."
"We could send an escort." Zelda suggests. "Someone we trust to keep him hidden and safe until we find out who this Dragmire is."
The Chieftain nods thoughtfully,
"Lord Azrune." A guards steps in. "Bruta is here to see you."
"Send him in."
Bruta is clutching an armful of scrolls in his withering arms. He is shaking quite a bit and his bald head is shining with sweat.
"My Chief, may I have your permission to speak?"
"From what I hear, the leader of the trespassers called himself Lord Ghirahim. I know this name from ancient scripture. And his ability to vanish into thin air only confirms my suspicion. He is Demise's blade: The Malice Sword."
"A-a-a-a-and...he's a walking, talking weapon, how?" The stranger asks rudely.
"He was created by a demi-god. Pure malice runs in his veins. He is a living blade, that has a spirit form which can walk and talk, as you say, just like us. With him returning after centuries of sleep can only mean one thing: The final showdown is here. The great Goddess Hylia has awakened in mortal form again. She and Demise are finally going to fight for the last time. And it is vital that she find the Sword of good and evil first or he will destroy her with it!" Bruta says.
"That's nice and all, but can't she just slit his throat with any old knife and be done with him?" The stranger says.
"You don't know the- well of course you don't!" Bruta blustered. "In the beginning Hylia created the Heavens out of music. She created instruments and players to join in her song. But one of the players refused. He preferred silence so she created a different world for him- our world. But he ruined it with storms and chaos. Hylia fought with him over it and in the end they decided to forge a sword together: a living sword that could choose between them. The one chosen would win our world. But once The Ether Sword was created she was unbiased and chose neither. Furious, the dark spirit forged his own blade: Ghirahim the Malice Sword. He vowed he would destroy Hylia and all her creations. And that's when he was named Demise. But with the help of the other players she sealed him away. But it was not enough and all their power was exhausted. So she created, Fi the Master Sword and chose a hero to wield it, because she did not have the heart to fight. And so to completely destroy Demise, she came to Skyloft and was born as a mortal. And as you all know, well some of you," Bruta eyes the stranger. "Her plan failed, Demise managed to break free and put a curse on her and her hero, that the three of them would forever battle to the ends of time until he has destroyed them both. Her only hope is to find the Ether Sword."
"But, Bruta," Zelda says, "why can't she call upon her Chosen Hero to vanquish him with it?"
"Because, my princess, only Demise and Hylia can touch it. It houses both their souls meaning it is the only weapon that can kill them."
"So...they think I know where it is?" The stranger asks.
"For some odd reason, yes." Bruta says.
"It's not that odd." He snaps.
"I only say that because the true whereabouts of this ancient sword is only known to the oracles: The singing stones of...of..." Bruta scrambles through his scrolls, muttering to himself. "Right, Raine and... oh dear..." He brings the parchment to his nose. "I can't really read this legend...or this map. Do forgive me! Both it and I are rather old."
"Here." Zelda takes it gently from him. She scrutinizes it, puzzled. I crawl over to investigate. The map is faded and the leather is peeling and flaking. I can't read it any better than Bruta. What I can see of it is an ancient map of Hyrule- the way it was in the time of prosperity: during the age before the royal family when the mythical technology functioned. So many little roads, and mechanisms pattern the forest like a web, veins of the musical ether that fueled the robots and generators. All this ancient knowledge, lost to time.
"The Stone of Raine is at Dragon Roost." Zelda points to the east- the only readable piece on the map. "Would the stone know where the Ether Sword is?"
"I don't know- it's worth a try." Bruta blusters. "It is important that Hylia finds it first."
"Since you have brought this upon us," Azrune turns to the stranger, "I am sending you and an escort to investigate the Stone of Raine."
"I will go." Zelda says. I shake my head just as Azrune shoots her a look.
"I will allow no such thing. Your place is here with your tribe!"
"No, your place is here." She says back. My jaw would have dropped if it weren't for the cast. "I am a grown woman, I am a fighter, I have killed an Octorock and eaten her egg, I have wrestled a bison and severed its head. I have completed every inch of my training and painted my face with every mark of my kills. The trials are finished. I am soon to become a Chieftain's wife. And I choose the life of a warrior over child rearing. You've raised me as your son, so is it too much to ask for you to give me the same rights?" Her voice rises with all the power of an erupting volcano. I cower in awe. Bruta is halfway out of the tent. Her father gazes at her sternly, but this brow has softened.
"You must promise me you will return." He growls though I notice a waver in his voice. Zelda's face brightens as she throws her arms around him. He engulfs her in his biceps. "You are a daughter of war, and my sun of peace. Is it too much for me to ask that you bring someone to watch your back?"
Zelda points at me, still crushed in the hug.
"Him." she says. I'm stunned and I feel the heat rising in my ears.
"But he is injured." Azrune says.
"Do you doubt my healing capabilities?" Zelda pulls back and crosses her arms. I see the mountain of a man give with a sigh.
"Of course not."
Beaming Zelda gives him a peck on the cheek.
"I will write to you every week."
"Be sure you do or I will send the whole army to find you."
I am both happy and annoyed. I am riding behind Zelda holding her waist!! But beside us is riding the stranger with his suggestive winks and unnecessary flexing. We travel far from home, leaving the forest that was the world of my childhood. Our childhood.
We make our way toward the mountains, aiming for the tallest that shoots up into a ring of clouds like a tower. We come to the gates at nightfall. A big burly creature greets us with a grunt. It's a goron- a real one!
"What is your business?" he growls like grinding stone.
"We wish to stay at an
Innfor the night. We are travelers, just passing through."
He scrutinizes us with large purple eyes. After a moment he unlatches the gate and lets us pass.
"We'll be keeping an eye on you lot- so don't try anything funny." he threatens.
"Sheesh, talk about no sense of humour." The stranger scoffs when we aren't entirely out of ear shot.
The inn is full of gorons, all brooding and slumped. Some are gambling and smoking on pipes. It smells weird and makes me dizzy. Everything seems a little funnier than normal as we sit in the far corner, eating...weeds. The menu didn't have much else other than rock cakes...real rock cakes.
"So what's the plan, sweet heart?" The stranger asks lounging back in his chair, boots on the table. I glare. Zelda gives him a dry look.
"Well first of all you need a name."
Dolt the Annoying. I want to say but my cast keeps me mute.
"Jack Storm crow, the great bringer of death." The stranger says with a flourish. I snort.
"What's the matter?" He shoots at me. "Is your mouth stuck?"
I pull out my dagger and flip it a few times just to show him how capable I am though mute.
"You seem more of a Maltzar to me." Zelda muses. "I'm not sure why but that is what I think when I look at you."
"Maltzar." He ponders it. "Maltzar the daring- Maltzar the mighty. Yeah I'll take it. Maltzar it is."
I roll my eyes.
Zelda changes my bandages and reapplies her special remedy made from crushed herbs.
"This will be over soon." she says as I wince. "Once we speak with Raine we'll find that sword and give it to Hylia. Then we will be home and everything will be fine."
I take her hand. It's so delicate for its roughness. I stroke the ring of her engagement to the Ordon chief's son. There is so much to say, I am bursting with words, but they are all trapped behind a painful wound. She slips her hand free and finishes up the last of the bandaging.
"It's fine." She brushes my hair out of my eyes. "Our union will bring the tribes together. It will end the disputes and we will share resources. It is for the better. The Son of Ordon isn't all that bad. I'm sure you'll like him." her smile is a half hearted twitch. "But you will always be my greatest friend." she kisses my forehead. Her lips are soft as I remember. I am burning up inside, splintering apart. I want to scream. I would if it didn't hurt so much.
I love you Zelda! Why don't you see that?! Don't marry him I beg you! Marry me!
"Yo!" Maltzar pokes his head in the door. Our eyes break apart and look at him. "I recommend we spoon. Zelda, you go in the middle, it'll keep you nice and cozy." he grins. I wince from accidentally clenching my jaw.
I wind up in bed next to Maltzar, both of us brooding (though neither taking the floor), door locked with Zelda enjoying the double bed in the next room. Sometimes I hate that woman.
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