Shadowed Fate

By Farore769

Chapter 14: Rescue


“What’s the bit of the prophecy after the Shadowed Fate part?” Noah asked wearily, seated on a large piece of rock fallen long ago from the distant cavern roof. Almost beyond the edge of the steady light emanating from Crystal City, darkness clung to the lines of his face, highlighting his scar in a fearsome manner.

            “ ‘In the Secrets that lie beneath the Ground is where the Wisdom required is found,’ ” Link recited automatically, pacing back and forth. To attract as little notice as possible, a plan had been devised that had Romani, Ria, and Pelayla leaving Crystal City at a different time, with Noah paying for a full week’s stay at Evren’s Star. Reluctantly, the Karradaini had agreed to the necessity of leaving certain possessions behind, such as his plumed hat, though he wore his swords across his back. “Well, we’re certainly beneath the ground, but what are the secrets?”

            Far above, a skodrag uttered its haunting cry, and Noah shivered. “Who knows? Maybe there are whole cities hidden in that.” His sweeping gesture took in the darkness draped over all. “Entire races could be hidden in those shadows.”

            Shrugging, Link ran a finger beneath his bandolier before sitting next to the brown-haired man. He stared down at his gauntlets as he snugged them, and then he admitted, “I don’t know what to do anymore.”

            “Neither do I,” Noah replied. “My mother will take over in ruling, but my father’s death has thrown people in a panic, even more than your little jaunt in the library. And that Senna is still in place as advisor! I’ll kill her, and Ra’noyl, too.”

            “Dinolfos are far from easy to kill,” Link responded absently. “Especially the females, for they can breath fire.”

            Drawing his legs up before him, Noah hugged his knees. “A Dinolfos. I listened to those rumors as we strolled over here. From what I can tell, Senna is spreading the news that the damn lizards are back, and that the soldiers of Karradai must unite behind her to defeat them and wipe them from the face of the earth.”

            “A clever plan,” Link murmured. “At the least, it adds more fighters to the armies of the Partisans, though what they mean to do with that army now that Karradai is within their hands is beyond me. Perhaps they mean to strike Hyrule. It’s a lot of effort for simply taking a musical instrument or trying to understand a prophecy.”

            Noah sighed loudly. “This is terrible. My father, dead. I never got along with him, but I never wished him dead. Poor Mother.”

            Glancing up at the rise that contained the gliders heading out of the city, Link wondered if the others had already left the cavern. His eyes slid along to the right, and he noticed a narrow ledge running upward to a dark cave in the side of the wall.

            “I thought you originally came to search for some woman, that Zelda,” Noah said suddenly. “Whatever happened to that?”

            “I became preoccupied,” Link said ruefully. “But I suppose I should find her before the Partisans do.” Closing his eyes, he cautiously felt along the mental connection, waiting to come in contact with that painful barrier.

            Without warning, he doubled over, writhing as soundless shrieks were trapped in his throat. Pain consumed him, excruciating pain that made him retch and scream and thrash convulsively on the ground. Clutching at himself, Link cried out, howled for the agony to end.

            Abruptly, he became aware of Noah shaking him, terror on his face. Hastily retreating from the barrier, Link collapsed limply, panting heavily as the pain finished but still lingered. He sat up slowly with Noah’s help, and then he said, “She’s close.” Raising a shaking hand, he pointed into the darkness. “Out there.”

            “How do you...?” the Karradaini began, then stopped. “I won’t even ask. Well, if your princess is out there, we had better rescue her.”

            With the man’s help, Link stood, shaken by the memory of the pain. What does it mean? Is Zelda feeling that? Looking back on his past attempts of traveling along that connection, he realized that every single time had brought on a vision or sensation of torture, whether in dream or waking. And the delay has been slower and slower the closer I’ve gotten to her.

            “This way,” he said aloud, then set off into the darkness at an easy lope he could maintain for long periods of time. Noah followed, his breathing unnaturally loud in the silence, and as the pure darkness pressed around them, Link created a small light that hovered in front of him, something his minimal skill with magic could hold awhile, yet even that would drain his strength. Still, he carried his mage oil in a belt pouch, along with the crushed rose petal and fireroot he had managed to salvage from his ruined belongings. That would restore depleted magical strength, but it would drain his physical endurance swifter, a potentially dangerous--even deadly--combination.

            Green cloak streaming out behind him, Link continued on for a countless period of time, Noah keeping up gamely and saving all breath for running. Experimentally, Link focused on the Triforce of Courage dwelling within him, hoping it was close enough to another part to resonate. Faintly, he sensed it stir, then a little stronger. It pulsed in time with another like power, and using it to guide him, he suddenly found himself before a low stone building topped with battlements, a pair of torches burning on its walls.

            “What is this?” Noah panted softly, halting beside him.

            Extinguishing his magical illumination, Link crouched down behind a large rock as a lantern bobbed into view atop the wall, carried by a man in leather armor with a rusted lance propped on his shoulder. Another patrolling guard met him in the center of the wall right above the entrance guarded by a heavy iron portcullis, this man clad in mismatched iron mail. Nodding to one another, they tramped on out of sight.

            “Your princess is in there?” Noah hissed in Link’s ear.

            “Apparently,” he answered simply, wrapping his cloak tight around him. Its dark green color would camouflage him better than Noah’s embroidery-strewn red coat, but he made sure to hide his white sleeves, collar, and breeches.

            “But this is an outpost of an outlawed guild!” the Karradaini whispered fiercely. “I recognize the meaning of those two torches. If two and only two torches were placed outside a building, it meant that they controlled that building. They started out as keepers of peace, rooting out thieves and criminals, but their methods of putting people to the question were deemed too harsh to be allowed! Their skill is breaking people, of continually torturing them to the brink of death and insanity, but keeping them both alive and sane so they know they’re being tortured!”

            “All the more reason to get her out of there,” Link replied, slithering forward slowly.

            As the guards made their circuit again, he froze, but as soon as their lanterns disappeared, Noah joined him in wriggling toward the iron portcullis blocking their path. Halting before it, Link shook his head at the size of the spaces between the bars. “I wish we had Pelayla,” he whispered. “She could have flown through here and opened it from the inside.”

            “Whatever we’re going to do, you had better do it fast,” Noah warned.

            Glancing up, Link pressed himself against the impregnable gate as the guards passed overhead. As soon as the light faded, he took a deep breath and set his left hand on a flat strip of iron perpendicular to the ground.

            Dredging deep inside himself, he pulled up all the magical power inside him, even drawing on the Triforce. As it flared brightly, he hid the mark beneath his right hand, and then he set to gathering air around the section of the portcullis. Slowly, pieces of metal began to flake away, then faster, until the whole thing crumbled in a pile of rusted shavings. Moving to the strip just above, he set to work rusting that away as well, and then another. Exhaustion filled him, but he went on to a fourth, and a fifth. A sixth. Sweat plastering him, he barely noticed Noah concealing him as the guards completed another circuit, with his coat wisely turned inside-out to hide the bright threads.

            Suddenly, after destroying a seventh piece of the gate, Link collapsed, chest heaving as he gulped air down his raw throat. “I can’t... do any more,” he gasped, quivering with fatigue.

            “We can get in,” Noah whispered comfortingly. “That’s what counts.”

            Still, it was a tight squeeze, Link only able to wriggle through because of his narrow frame, and he had to pull Noah through because of the man’s broad shoulders. Inside the dark entrance, they sat for awhile, gathering strength before rising. Link’s legs shook slightly as he pushed himself up, but he strode down the hall, using his Triforce to guide him.

            Turning a corner, he shielded his eyes at the torches lining the otherwise bare stone walls, casting uneven light on the cracked floor. Noah muttered a curse, but they continued on, the floor gradually sloping downward. As they traveled, claws skittered and scratched, and they watched a sleek rat run by, pausing to sniff at them for a moment before continuing on, snuffling at the bases of the walls.

            “I’m surprised we haven’t met anyone else,” Noah whispered. “I mean besides the rat.”

            “Pray it stays that way,” Link replied, absently fingering the pin from Malon. In my condition, I can’t fight off a dog.

            A left turn, then another, then a right, served to disorient Link. Each corridor looked exactly the same, with lit torches and black stains above them from the countless years of smoke rising to the ceiling and a floor that sloped gradually downward that was filled with countless cracks. More rats scurried past them with the sharp click of claws on stone, and Link swore he saw what at first glance appeared to be the body of a sleeping bat, but its lack of fur and long tail betrayed it as a Keese. Though the monsters possessed acute hearing, this one did not wake as they passed, for which he was thankful; Keese uttered one of the most distinctive--and disruptive--screeches, and their fangs contained a poison that would dull the thinking, speed up the heart, and stop blood from clotting. If the Keese had woken up and bitten either of them--or simply uttered its painful cry--they would have been discovered in no condition to fight.

            Link focused on the Triforce within him, hurrying through crossing hallways with only a slight thought as to how they would ever find their way out again. Caught up in following the resonance that served as guide, he rounded a corner and came face-to-face with a man in a battered steel breastplate.

            Gasping, the man stumbled back, but Noah leaped forward and slammed one of his swords through the man’s gut, a good foot of steel protruding out his back. Removing the weapon, he wiped it off on the man’s filthy shirt before returning it to its sheath.

            “We need to hurry,” he said.

            Racing through the corridors, Link kept a wary eye out for any other people, but none came into sight. The Triforce practically pounded within him, and he scraped his depleted energy together and ran faster. Suddenly, he skidded to a halt in front of a thick iron door before throwing it open and entering. Almost immediately, he wished he had not.

            Blood stained the walls of the room, bringing back vivid memories of the Shadow Temple. But here, fresh glistened brightly over old, with implements of torture nearby, pincers and brands and iron tools and metal-tipped flogs, all scrupulously cleaned; somehow, that only made it worse. Rusted chains hung from the ceiling and the walls, sometimes with skeletons still locked within them. The worst, however, were the bodies in various stages of decomposition, men and women, and even the tiny form of a child, ragged black hair draped over her face.

            Link heard Noah retch behind him, and he moved forward, sickened at the terrible sight before him. Further back in the room were cells, and he walked forward slowly, stepping through pools of blood. He peered into each, but only one contained a living person, and the gaunt man shied back in fear, clutching a noose made out of the remains of his shirt to his scarred chest. Regretting that he could do nothing for the man, Link continued on to the far wall, where five other doors waited, strapped in iron. His Triforce resonated most before the second from the right, and he opened it, barely aware of Noah staggering behind.

            The room was blessedly free of blood and bones, with no tools of the torturer’s trade in sight. But the floor had unmistakably been cleaned recently, and the well-oiled hinges of the door itself suggested people frequently passed through. And the macabre decoration in the center of the room belied the illusion that the chamber was not used for torture. A woman dangled from the ceiling, held up only by iron manacles, her feet a few inches above the floor. Clad only in her long golden hair and blood--both dried and fresh--she barely seemed alive save for the uneven rising and falling of her bosom, each breath an obvious battle. Her head lolled toward her left shoulder with perversely clean tresses falling over one side, and a veil of blood fanned down her cheek, but Link would never mistake that face.

            “Zelda,” he breathed, then ran forward. “Zelda!”

            Her eyes snapped open, blue orbs of pure terror. Convulsing, she broke open old scabs and sent streams of scarlet trickling down her arms, her belly, the insides of her thighs. “No!” she shrieked. “No! You cannot break me!”

            “Zelda!” Without thought, Link drew his sword and swung it at the chains. The fairy-wrought blade sliced through the iron links easily, and he dropped it and caught the princess as she fell, pressing her wounded head to his front. “Zelda, easy! It’s me, Link!”

            On the back of her right hand, a Triforce flared. Suddenly, she clutched at his arms, sobbing brokenly. “Link. Oh, Link!”

            “What did they do to her?” Noah asked, staring at her in horror.

            Unfastening the pin, Link tucked it away and wrapped his cloak around Zelda. He smoothed her hair as she wept on him, uttering sounds meant to comfort. Her tears continued, however, and he was truly frightened. What have they done to her?

            Noah knelt beside her and cautiously smoothed away a lock of hair, but she shrank away from him, eyes widening in fright. Thrashing as she tried to get away from him, she suddenly cried, “No! Not again! Not again!”

            “Zelda, he’s a friend!” Link exclaimed, carefully blocking Noah from her sight.

            Clutching at the front of his tunic, the princess huddled against him, sobbing again and again. “Link. They hurt me, Link. They hurt me! And they took my magic.”

            “It’ll be fine, Zelda,” Link assured, understanding those nightmares of torture. He had been feeling what she had gone through. And maybe that barrier is because she can’t use magic anymore.

            “I... I knew you would come,” she whispered, burying her face in his chest. “I felt you. There were moments when the pain stopped, when I could breathe again. I tried reaching out with telepathy, but I might as well have been human for all the good it did.”

            Fumbling at his belt pouch with one hand, Link drew out some crushed rose petal and the mage oil. Dropping the rose petal in the vial--and then adding a touch of fireroot--he held it to her face, saying, “This will help you get better.”

            Zelda shied away, but then drank all of it as he tilted the vial to her swollen lips. Sighing, her eyelids slid shut, and then she grew heavy in his arms as she drifted off into a dreamless sleep.

            “She’s beautiful,” Noah murmured, staring down at her. “Even battered up like that, she’s breathtaking.”

            “Now isn’t the time to fall in love,” Link snapped, rising with the princess in his arms. His legs chose that moment to weaken, and he stumbled.

            Taking the cloak-wrapped woman, Noah said, “Maybe I had better carry her. Did that drink you gave her make her fall asleep?”

            “Yes,” Link responded. “It will also soothe her, speed the healing process, and restore her magic, at least in part. We need to get out of here fast, though, before anyone discovers that man you killed.”

            “If we get caught, you can be sure we’ll get the same as her,” Noah said grimly, indicating Zelda. “Now come--”

            The door swung open, and a large man in a long leather vest halted as he saw them, knives and pincers stuck through a wide belt and a vicious whip coiled around his right arm. Closing the door behind him, he demanded, “What right have you to my find, whelps?”

            “Your find?” Noah cried indignantly. “What do you mean, your find?”

            “I discovered her outside the city,” the man sneered, fingering a dark mustache. “As the one who found her, I have the pleasure to--Who are you?”

            Link dove for his sword, scooping it up and planting himself between the would-be torturer and Noah. “I’m Link Dragonslayer, the Hero of Time,” he growled. “I am the chosen one of Farore, Goddess of Courage.”

            Sneering, the man seized the handle of the whip in one meaty fist and drew a knife long enough to be a short sword. “Brave talk for an insolent whelp. I will enjoy breaking you.”

            For a man of such girth, he moved lightly, the whip snaking out before cracking toward Link’s eye. Blocking it with his shield, he moved forward, the Great Fairy’s Sword meeting the long blade of the knife. The torturer smiled contemptuously as he danced away, but Link pressed forward, praying for his strength to hold up. Suddenly, the end of the whip snared his right leg, and the man jerked it back swiftly. Landing on his back, Link closed his eyes in an attempt to dispel the silver-black dots flickering across his vision.

            He barely had time to react as the man moved forward, the blade aimed to stab through his shoulder. Link brought his sword up, and then the torturer uttered a startled gurgle. Warm blood dripped onto the front of Link’s tunic, and he shoved the corpse off him, tugging his blade free.

            “Come on,” he urged, hurrying from the lifeless body and shoving the door open.

            The old man had succeeded in hanging himself, but Link barely paid the corpse with the bloated face any mind, head turning this way and that as he scouted the way forward. Noah followed him, also searching for any others, and then Link entered into the tangled hallways again, praying to find the path out.

            Suddenly, a youth leaped forward and grappled with him, yelling wordlessly. Reacting out of instinct, Link stabbed the person through the heart, only noticing the slender waist and full breasts as she fell to the floor, beautiful pale green eyes wide with surprise. Hurrying onward, he had to fight his way past two others, and then he found a dead end.

            “I think we were supposed to take a right back there,” Noah said, glancing over his shoulder. Shifting Zelda in his arms, he started back that way. “We need to hurry.”

            Link returned to his place in front and led the way, growing frustrated as the correct path eluded him. Another person fell to his blade, and then he caught the glimpse of a hall free of torches. The exit.

            “Go on ahead,” he ordered, planting himself in the middle of the hall facing back. Fumbling at his belt, he removed the pouch containing the Ocarina of Time and his pin and tossed it to his friend, who caught it automatically. “The way out is just up ahead. Get out as fast as you can, and take that for me. I’ll follow and make sure no one comes after us.”


            “Go!” he snapped. “I order you!”

            Noah hesitated, then said, “Yes, Link.” And he ran through the hall.

            Link waited thirty heartbeats, and when no one showed up in pursuit, he turned to leave. Abruptly, claws dug into his upper arms and dragged him back. Startled, he dropped his sword as those talons pinched certain nerves, and then he struggled to free himself, losing his hat in the process. An exasperated hiss sounded behind him, and then a thick arm made of only bone wrapped around his chest, nearly crushing his ribcage. The arm lifted him a good two feet off the ground, and terror seized Link as the Stalfos--it had to be a Stalfos--backed into a room he had not noticed before.

            “Well done, Faska, Okbrand,” a chillingly familiar voice complimented, the accents of the desert clipping the words with a defiant edge. “Set him down.”

            The Stalfos released him, and Link fell to the floor, gasping in air, unable to resist as someone tore his bandolier off. Suddenly, a strong hand tangled itself in his hair, pulling him to his feet and forcing his head back. The point of a scimitar pushed it back even further, and he stared into hooded yellow eyes set above a prominent nose that protruded from a dark face. “Why hello, Hero,” Avra greeted, a smile curving her lips, her eyes twin pools of murder.

            Someone stirred, and then the albino woman entered Link’s view, her face twisted with rage as her pale scarlet gaze alighted on him. Suddenly, a knife flashed in her fingers, and she moved forward. Without lessening her hold on the Hylian, Avra ordered, “Okbrand, restrain her.”

            The Stalfos seized the human around the middle, and she struggled viciously, kicking and squirming as he lifted her off the floor. “Get your hands off me! You were Hylian once! Release me!”

            “Only until your blood has cooled a little,” the Gerudo said calmly, pressing the point of her weapon a touch harder. Link felt it break skin, felt the blood begin to trickle down his neck. “If Dragonslayer does not tell us what Shadowed Fate is or where we can find the Ocarina of Time, I’ll let you treat him like your humano treated you.”

            Shaking slightly, Kal jerked out of Okbrand’s grasp and stalked away, back stiff. The cloaked Lizalfos chuckled softly. “Kss, we will have no need of that if Avra treats him like she treats all outsiders.”

            Glaring into the Gerudo’s smiling face, Link ignored the sweat matting his hair and plastering his bangs to his face. “I’ll never talk,” he growled.

            “I love it when they’re defiant,” the Gerudo commented casually. “Their breaking is so final, so irreversible. When I’m done, he’ll be a pliable tool we can use.”

            “I thought we would kill him!” Kal suddenly burst out. “You promised!”

            “My mate will not like a tame human,” Lord Faska informed. “Kss, she wants a fierce one! Of course, I am always game for a little sport, and human flesh tastes wonderful, especially when it is so young and tender.” A forked tongue flicked out over his thin lips, and the Lizalfos smiled eagerly.

            Shifting slightly, bones rubbing against each other audibly, Okbrand growled, “Better if you killed him now. He is dangerous. Janthlianti’s touch lingers on him.”

            Avra turned her head to regard the Stalfos with a flat expression. “Oh? What do you mean? He has come into contact with your old master? No doubt he attempted to destroy her, which, according to you, is impossible. But you said she was bound away.”

            Link flinched slightly as Okbrand moved the Gerudo’s scimitar away with a careless sweep of his hand, wrapping his fingers completely around the Hylian’s neck. The fingers of his other hand traced along his brow and beneath each eye. “Janthlianti betrayed her followers. She still had the strength to save us from the goddesses’ wrath, had she wished it, but she turned her back on us without a second thought, leaving us unprotected. Her promises are false. Yet all of those who once bowed to her can recognize those who have been possessed by her, were granted her immense power, something even I was never granted. The touch is faint, as though Dragonslayer managed to keep his mind to himself, but he has had the Fierce Deity within him. And she can be strangely possessive of certain people, if she has uses for them. Better to kill the Hero than risk giving Janthlianti a tool she can use for her own ends.”

            “We may as well summon his fled darkness,” Avra snapped, hitting the Stalfos with her blade. “Move aside.”

            “What I want to know is why he is here,” Lord Faska hissed, adjusting his leather armor. “What interest would the Hero of Time have in an outpost of an outlawed guild?”

            “Yes.” Returning the point of her blade beneath his chin, Avra stared into Link’s eyes. “Why are you here?”

            Scowling, Link compressed his lips, determined to remain silent. He gasped, however, as a blade slashed down his back, cutting through tunic and shirt. A slash of pain sliced across his shoulder blades, then the small of his back, and then a vertical line that connected the two. Realization came suddenly; someone was skinning him, working a dagger beneath his skin and peeling it away. Something sharp pressed against the open flesh, and his eyes bulged as agony filled his being. I will not cry out. I will not cry out. I will not cry--Arching his back, he threw back his head and howled in agony, trying to thrash a way out of Avra’s iron grasp. She merely smiled and moved aside as Kal planted herself before him, neatly cutting through his garments in the front, baring his chest. At a curt nod from the Gerudo, the albino human retreated, fingering a strange blood-coated dagger with a serrated edge.

            “I will ask you again,” Avra said calmly. “Why are you here?”

            Gritting his teeth, Link attempted to straighten, but hot blood gushed down his back, and his muscles knotted in agony. Suddenly, Lord Faska circled around him, and then claws raked his back, sharp teeth tore at his exposed flesh. He shrieked, expelling all the air in his lungs before gathering more, only to howl again. His knees buckled, and suddenly Avra’s hand in his hair was the only thing holding him up.

            “You taste good, Dragonslayer,” Lord Faska said with a wicked grin, ostentatiously licking the scarlet blood staining his claws and mouth.

            “It only gets worse, the more defiant you are,” Avra informed him. “Why are you here?”

            Unwilling to give up, Link raised his head, though he trembled. Goddesses, much more and I’ll die! Suddenly, he said, “I came searching for Zelda.”

            That brought a thoughtful expression from Avra, disappointment from Kal, and surprise from Lord Faska. Only Okbrand remained expressionless, regarding him with the twin flames guttering in his eye sockets. “Well, that is interesting,” Avra commented. “And why did you come looking for her here? What made you choose this place to search?”

            He intended to fight them as long as he could, and he raised his chin defiantly. Sighing heavily, the Gerudo said, “Try to avoid getting blood on me, if you please.”

            Kal moved forward with her bloody dagger, grim satisfaction on her white face. As Avra moved to the side while still holding Link in place, the human reached out and touched his cheek briefly before bringing her weapon toward his face. He shied back as the tip of the blade came near his right eye, and, suddenly fearful of being blinded, he said, “The Triforce. The connection between bearers.”

            “What are you talking about?” Avra demanded, shaking him.

            “The no’tzennok,” Senna informed, sweeping into the room and closing the door behind her. “I have read of it, in a book of Gerudo lore. It is a sort of mental link between bearers of the Triforce that can pinpoint their location, can transfer thoughts and feelings. It can be blocked, of course, but only so long as the person is aware of the connection. And it only works when the bearers who are attempting to communicate are in the same world.”

            “I am in the middle of a questioning, not a magic lesson,” Avra snapped. “So, this boy was using this... no’tzennok... to find the princess?”

            “Judging from what I heard, yes,” the sorceress replied. “And your methods of questioning are so... messy. I prefer mine. Although, this allows me to admire his muscles. And what fine muscles he has.”

            “I would have to watch your every move to be sure you did not kill him and raise him to serve you,” the Gerudo snapped.

            Uttering a musical laugh, Senna glided in front of Link, halting and adjusting her black skirts. Her gaze raked over him appreciatively, and she nodded. “Oh no, he is much too handsome for that. The necromancy would rot his corpse faster. I am still experimenting with preserving a body after its death.”

            “Well, I--”

            Without warning, the door burst open, and a woman in a bronze-colored gown rushed in, wielding a pair of scimitars. Ria followed immediately after, as did Romani, awkwardly clutching one of Noah’s swords in both hands. The woman in bronze tackled Avra, and then Link straightened, wincing at the pain throbbing within his abused body. Reaching beneath her cloak, Ria tossed him the Great Fairy’s Sword, and he caught it automatically, spinning to fend off Lord Faska’s slender blade.

            Kyrani? he thought incredulously as he spared a moment’s glance at the woman attacking Avra. Pure hatred twisted her face, and she bared her teeth in a feral manner as she slashed and stabbed at the other Gerudo. Focusing on his own fight, Link sidestepped the Lizalfos and clipped him on the jaw. The reptile screeched, then leaped overhead before lashing out with his tail. It caught Link in the middle, and he flew through the air, smashing to the ground on his wounded back. Winded and in extreme agony, he stared as the Lizalfos loped toward him.

            Romani threw herself on Lord Faska, hacking at him with Noah’s sword. Eyes wide, she screamed as the reptile twisted to his feet, his sword lost somewhere in the roiling melee. Ripping the sword from the woman’s hands, he advanced on her, but Link plunged his weapon into one of his scaly legs. Convulsing, the Lizalfos snarled as he fought to remove the blade from his thigh, but Link pulled it out swiftly, struggling to his feet. Without warning, Faska jabbed forward with his claws extended, catching the Hylian on the front and slicing through skin to reveal his breastbone. He fell clutching his front, dimly aware of blood staining his fingers.

            Lifting his head weakly, unable to think clearly because of the loss of blood, Link watched Okbrand seize Romani by the back of her neck and lift her up easily, eyeing her a moment before hurling her toward a wall. Ria grappled with Kal, but as Senna moved forward, unruffled and swanlike in her grace, the cloaked woman suddenly spun to halt the sorceress somehow. Kyrani and Avra still fought viciously, flame-haired blurs unmindful of the others around them. And Lord Faska stalked toward Link, limping heavily.

            Suddenly, a man in the hall cried, “Riders! Riders coming! Flee!”

            Everyone halted, glancing at the door. Smoothing her robes as though she had all the time in the world, Senna announced, “Avra, I believe it is time we leave. We can deal with these people at another hour, preferably one of our choosing.”

            Okbrand regarded her for a moment before striding to her side, and then Lord Faska joined them. Anger plain on her white face, Kal swept her gaze over the others, then said, “Well, no need to leave all of them alive.” Moving swiftly, she plunged a long dagger into Ria’s front.

            Link tried to cry out, but only a little blood dribbled past his lips. Avra struck the hilt of her scimitar against Kyrani’s temple, and as the gown-clad woman crumpled, she hissed, “We will cross blades again, and you will learn the skill of your mother as you die.”

            Link’s sword slipped from his blood-slicked fingers and clattered to the floor. Out in the hall, he heard people running past, frantically seeking to escape the building. Something entered his vision, a person made of heavy bones yellowed with age. He shook his head; his thoughts were not working quite right. He only had the barest impression of movement before a steel-worked boot slammed into his head.


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