February 3, 4546
A thousand images flew past her eyes-a spirit carrying the touch of death, a fairy-Spryte?-being thrown into a geyser of light and darkness, a golden lion with wings of an eagle swooping at three triangles, a cave filled with fire and light. And above all these, overshadowing them, was the face of a woman whose hatred of the world had driven her into madness.
Zelda sat up in bed, breathing heavily. She wiped the sweat off her brow with the back of her hand. Link, startled out of sleep, sat up quickly and shook his head clear of the cobwebs.
"Wha...what is it, Zel?" He blinked his eyes owlishly.
"I had a dream...a nightmare, maybe...I don't know what it could mean...maybe nothing." She covered her mouth with her hand. "It scared me, that's all."
Link hugged her. "It's over now. It was just a dream, nothing else. Go back to sleep." He kissed her on the cheek, then settled back into bed.
But Zelda stayed up, thinking about her dream. The woman she saw was like no one she'd ever seen before...she looked as though hatred was all she lived off of. Zelda racked her brain, trying to remember all of her dream. The woman was...was searching for something...something with power...
Zelda sighed. This mystery would have to wait until morning. She sat back into bed and tried to sleep.
* * *
Hours later, Link opened his eyes slowly, unwilling to relinquish peaceful sleep. Light had already flooded the room he and Zelda shared, and some of it reflected into his eyes, making them water. He pulled off the bedsheets and stood up. Zelda woke up as he got out of bed and sat up. She rubbed her eyes and yawned.
"Morning, Zel...feeling better?" Link asked as he stoked the dying fire.
"Much, thanks." Zelda stood up and stretched. She walked over to the servants' bell and pulled the cord that called the maids. As she did this, a knock came at the door. Link opened the door to find one of the king's messengers. The messenger bowed.
"His Majesty King Harkinian, ruler of the land of Hyrule, requests the presence of Sir Link, Protector of the Triforce, and his wife, Princess Zelda of the royal family of Hyrule and heir to the throne of Hyrule in the Great Hall!" the messenger stated.
"We'll be down in a few minutes," Link said somewhat curtly, and closed the door.
"Who was that?" Zelda asked.
"King Harkinian, in his infinite wisdom, has requested the prensence of the daughter he can't control and the knight he can't stand in the Hall immediately," Link said.
Zelda slapped his arm lightly. "He doesn't hate you that much," she said.
"Oh, really? You should've seen the glare he sent my way when we left the ball last night. I can still feel the burn marks on the back of my neck."
Zelda yawned again. "He probably just wants us there for the meeting with the Benluccan ambassador."
"Yeah, well, things really do seem to go your way more when you've got a heavily armed knight behind you."
"And nothing creates the image of family harmony like having your beautiful daughter there as window dressing." Zelda opened the door in response to the knock that came. The maids came in with the wooden tub and heated water for Zelda's bath. They placed it behind the screen set up in the corner, filled it, and left. Zelda undressed and sank lazily into her bath. Link continued with his exercises.
Outside, the maids, chattering like a bunch of hens, walked down the stairs. One of them tiptoed up to the guard. She whispered something in his ear, making him blush. After a quick look around, he followed her down.
"Yes, that's right. Follow her to her room and leave your post unguarded."
Part of the wall suddenly bulged outward and folded onto the ground as a shapeless blob of grey. It raised up and assumed a vaguely human form, and the stone disappeared to be replaced by flesh and cloth. K'illa M'ohoni stood alone on the stairwell.
"Leave it open for me, foolish worm." She laughed quietly, then flattened her ear against the wooden door.
"...ambassador's got a chip on his shoulder for some reason. I can't figure out why he even came," Link was saying. "The caravan doesn't need anyone else tagging along."
"Maybe he just wants to flatter my father. You never know," Zelda replied.
K'illa frowned. She was hoping for an empty room which she could search with ease, but it looked like she'd have to wait. Slowly she put her eye to a crack in the door, putting her hand on the stone wall to steady herself. What could she glean from this?
"Hey, you! What're you doing?"
K'illa spun around. The guard had already come back up and was charging at her with his spear. K'illa cursed and rushed at the guard, who was taken by surprise. She grabbed the spear from his hands and bashed him over the head with the handle. The guard dropped like a sack of potatoes, and K'illa ran down the stairs.
But the guard's shout had alerted the others, and K'illa found herself facing a dozen armored soldiers on the stairs. She used the spear to vault over their heads and raced down the stairs.
Her steps quickened as she went over the castle plan she'd memorized for just such an occasion. She took the second door off the stairwell, raced through the gallery and chapel into the east tower stairwell. She lept up the stairs two at a time and opened the trapdoor at the top.
What had once been Link's bedroom had been converted into a second guardpost after Link had moved in with Zelda. One guard sat carving his intials into the stonework as K'illa came up. He looked up and clumsily hefted his spear, his hands shaking. K'illa smirked. This chair-warmer had never seen battle.
"S-stay where you are, or I'll stab you!" He gulped heavily.
K'illa walked forward slowly, giving the guard her best vixen act. She looked him in the eye.
"You wouldn't hurt meÉwould you?" She pouted slightly. The guard, now obviously uncomfortable, gulped again. K'illa glided forward, pushed the spear away, and pressed her lips to the guard's. The guard's eyes widened, then he fell into her kiss.
And a second later, his eyes rolled back into his head. The guard let out a low moan and crumpled to the floor. K'illa kicked him. "I suppose you wouldn't." She took his spear and jammed it between the trapdoor and the wall. After some searching for a heavy object, she took a large wooden crate and hefted it lightly onto the wood, blocking the door completely. Below the door, she could hear footsteps and cries of, "She's up there!" The guards were coming.
K'illa cursed her situation. There wasn't any way to escape, unless she could slip out one of the windows. But she'd still be on the roof without a way down. K'illa cursed again.
A large thunk from the ceiling shattered her thoughts. Apparently the guards weren't as stupid as she thought. Those in the west tower were firing arrows, trying to drive her out. Well, two can play at that game.
K'illa went over to the window and looked out. Two armor-plated idiots were reloading their crossbows. Before they could fire again, K'illa sent a bolt of lightning at their wooden roof, setting it on fire. The guards screamed and tried to put it out. She'd have no more trouble from them. But how to get down from the bloody tower?
* * *
Zelda got out of her bath and took a handspun towel from the floor. She quickly dried off, then went to her wardrobe. Pursing her lips, she searched through the possibilities.
"Let's see... should I were the green dress with the trim, or the blue one with the pearls?"
"Well, which one will impress the ambassador the most?"
Zelda shot a glance at Link, who was calmly doing his exercises. "It's not just for that purpose, you know."
"Why not wear the red one I like so much?"
"Because father would choke if he saw me in that."
"I'm no good with outfits. Besides, pretty soon you won't be able to wear any of them."
A muffled crash came from out the window. Link looked up. "Did you hear something?" Zelda looked out the window.
"Yeah, something. Like a crash."
"Sounds like Rupert tripped over the crates in the east tower again." Zelda laughed at this, remembering the clumsy guard who was always at his post in the tower.
The door burst open without warning. Zelda shrieked and jumped into the wardrobe. The guard gulped and hastily pulled his head back behind the door. Link came out onto the stairwell.
"What's so important that you can't knock?" he said testily.
"Sorry, sir. But we've been ordered to get you down from there."
Link frowned. "What's wrong?"
"We found someone listening at your door earlier. She evaded us and we've got her boarded up in the east tower right now. She's apparently a sorceress and may be after you or the Princess."
Link sighed. "You've got the stairs secured?"
"I-yes, but she's blocked off the trapdoor. We tried to fire at her from the west tower, but she set fire to the roof and we can't put it out."
"I'll get her. I could use some exercise."
The guard blinked. "Excuse me, sir?"
"When I was younger, I used to swing over to this tower from my own. I can probably do it again. Just make sure you've got the stairs blocked off. Now give me your sword." The guard handed it over to the hero. Link ran back into the room. When he closed the door, Zelda peeked cautiously out of the wardrobe and then walked out, scowling.
"I hope you gave that guard what he deserved," she said, hands on her hips. Link sighed.
"It's actually sort of important. There was a spy at our door earlier. The guards chased her into the east tower and I'm going to flush her out."
Zelda gasped, and brought a hand to her lips. "Rupert-"
"No one knows. We can't get a close look; she blasted the west tower with some sort of magic." Link walked over to the window, picking up his hookshot from the chest where he kept his equipment on the way. He brought it into position, aiming carefully. With a clank and mighty jolt, the hook flew out from the contraption and slammed solidly into the grinning gargoyle he'd chosen as his target. A second later, Link was pulled along swiftly until he could get a grip on the stonework. He hung there for a second, the wind rushing past him in the frigid air.
Link swung in suddenly, his sword outstretched. He landed with a thump and quickly stood up. "All right, you, come on-" He stopped.
The room was totally empty. A few crates scattered the floor, one of them holding down the trapdoor. The initials 'R. A.' were carved into one wall, and below that-
"Rupert!" Poor Rupert Alolo lay on the floor without a scratch on him. Link knelt by him and looked him over. Link placed his forefinger on Rupert's neck vein. Weak pulse, but at least he wasn't dead. Link stood up and pounded the wall with his fist. He took his sword and shattered the crate holding down the door, letting his rage bleed off. Link opened the trapdoor and walked down to the guards below, shaking his head.
"There's no one there," he said simply.
My thanks to Juliet A. Singleton for the generous loan of her characters and set-up in her stories. E-mail me at GlnnMiller@aol.com.
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