Chapter 20: Avra’s Final Offer
With the massive dragon diving toward the foe, the Gerudo and Karradaini pressed onward with new hope, heartened by the sight of the copper and black creature seizing one of the Greater Armored in her front claws and sweeping upward, tearing at it with her teeth. Dropping the lifeless body, she dove again, throwing fangs striking her sides and shattering harmlessly. Her maw opened, and a jet of flame curled out from behind her teeth, burning countless enemies, and then, as she turned, her tail smashed against even more, sending them flying brokenly.
“Feraladrask!” the Gerudo continued to yell, surging forward to defend their prophesied one. “Feraladrask!”
“Forward, you fools!” a dead voice barked, and Link whirled around to see General Okbrand stalking toward him, the Stalfos barbarically resplendent in a scarlet cloak and burnished bronze armor edged in some dead black metal.
“I’ll deal with that one,” Shessn said, hefting the banner.
“We’ll face him together,” Link insisted, adjusting his grip on the Great Fairy’s Sword.
A Talar plunged downward at that moment, its wickedly curved beak striking at the Stalfos. With shock, Link noticed the absence of a Rider, and then he paid attention to the bird’s frantic, nearly mad efforts at destroying the general. Okbrand slashed at it, but he did not manage to kill the bird before Link and Shessn were already far away, caught up in more fights.
A Lizalfos smashed into Link, and he kicked the beast in the stomach, causing it to double over. Regaining his balance, Link recognized Lord Faska, his leather armor stained with blood and a long slash barely missing his left eye. The reptile leaped overhead, but Link spun and caught a blow with his shield, his longer blade flickering out and nicking the reptile on the wrist. Snarling, Faska pressed forward, but the Hylian had no trouble keeping him at bay, for the creature was tiring swiftly. Almost contemptuously, Link moved forward to stab him through the heart.
With a burst of speed, Lord Faska dropped his blade and rushed forward, ramming into Link’s chest with his head and smashing him to the ground. Before the Hylian could recover, the reptile began clawing at him, and only Link’s shield kept the Lizalfos from ripping his face away with his teeth. Panting, he struggled to fend the beast off, but it became clear he had been feigning his exhaustion, allowing Link to tire himself.
Lord Faska let up on his vicious assault, and Link struggled to his feet, his front sticky with blood. He watched the Lizalfos’s clawed hands grope at the point of a spear protruding from his belly, blood bubbling from his mouth as he attempted to speak. Shessn ripped the weapon out, and the reptile collapsed, dark blood pooling beneath his corpse.
“Thank you,” Link said.
Shaking her head, the Gerudo said, “It was nothing. Care for your fairy.” With that, she loped further into the battle.
Alarmed, Link reached up to Pelayla. She fell into his cupped hand, her tiny form trembling. “Are you all right?” he asked worriedly.
“I’ll be... fine,” she gasped, wings fluttering pitifully. “This battle is... taxing... on me... since I can’t... get any magic. As soon as it’s done, I’ll go... to that forest shrimp of mine and
--and never leave the forest.” nev
Carefully, Link returned her to his right shoulder, but as he continued to fight, he was aware of her faltering light. Suddenly, something beat painfully within him, and he nearly keeled over, his vision darkening for a moment. Raising his head, he understood.
Romani fought nearby, a woman in her prime with well-developed muscles, head and shoulders taller than any person. White eyes blazed from beneath angled white brows, with a blue chevron mark on her forehead and two red lines beneath each eye. Whirling in a frothy spray of white hair, handling her massive helix blade with ease, she laid waste about her, blue fireballs hurling from her weapon and decimating ranks of the enemy.
Link stumbled away before she could see him, frightened by the change. Glancing around, he noticed General Okbrand staring at Romani as well, his hands tightening on the hilt of his sword till he seemed in danger of snapping the metal. Instead of seizing his chance to destroy a powerful foe, Link slashed a way past him, away from his demon-possessed friend.
Roaring, Feraladrask dove near him, landing and striking out with her sharp talons. A gout of flame exploded from her mouth, incinerating a score of humans, and then she spun, her tail crushing a few Stalfos. Yellow eyes flashing dangerously, she sprang back into the air, huge wings beating heavily to carry her into the sky.
Zelda’s white gelding dashed by, his front legs badly burned, and Link swung himself into the empty saddle. Wheeling the animal around, he charged off with his sword ready, eyes searching. They could not win by annihilating the enemy; the Karradaini, Gerudo, and Riders had sustained too many casualties for that. Instead, he hunted for any of the eleven remaining Partisans, hoping that their deaths would throw their armies into confusion.
A scream cut through his thoughts and shattered them, and his head turned against his will, to meet the hollow gaze of the approaching ReDead. The gelding faltered, then stopped, whickering uneasily as it, too, was paralyzed. Shambling forward, the corpse moaned.
“Link, snap out of it!” Pelayla yelled weakly.
Her voice broke the cadaver’s hold on him. Sawing on the reins, he spurred the gelding forward, and the horse needed no second urging. Yet, after only a few seconds of weaving in and out of fights, the animal reared and shrieked in fear, trying to twist away. He threw Link to the ground and galloped off, trampling a crippled Lizalfos.
Sitting up, Link beheld a creature worthy of nightmares in the flesh, a beastly horse with a narrow snout filled with long serrated teeth. The dull coat hung from its skeleton in loose folds, yet there was no doubt it could run fast on those clawed paws or barrel through almost anything with its heavy shoulder bones. Tossing its lank mane, it turned its dead eyes upon him, and Link found himself frozen, heart beating a wild tattoo against his ribs.
Smiling, Senna adjusted her skirts from her sidesaddle perch on the terrible horse-creature, as fastidious as any noble lady out on a pleasure ride. Meeting Link’s wild-eyed gaze, she raised a slender hand and pointed it at him.
An arrow pierced her dead mount’s neck, and the creature screamed in the explosion of light. It disappeared in an instant, dropping its rider to the ground. Rising to her feet, Senna whirled around and sent a bolt of darkness at Zelda, who blocked it with a shield of light wrapped around herself. The two women, ignoring the arrows and throwing fangs speeding past, hurled magic at each other, faces drawn with concentration and glistening with sweat.
Link scrambled upright and fought on, trusting that Zelda would see that Senna was destroyed. He caught a glimpse of Lonnu, his mahogany hair singed and half his face badly burned, but the man disappeared amid a ring of Karradaini armed with polearms. Turning, the Hyrulian watched Kal shove between a pair of Gerudo without a second glance, rushing toward a fallen Rider and stabbing him in the belly. The human fought like a berserker, lashing out at anything that drew near and targeting every Hylian, and no matter how many soldiers tried to bring her down, she always emerged the victor.
“Fight, you dogs! Fight on! Crush them!”
Searching for the source of the cry, Link saw Avra perched atop a boulder that had to have come from one of the catapults, her scimitars clutched in her fists, her yellow eyes ablaze with a mad light. Laughing, she directed a band of Lizalfos forward, watching the reptiles bring down a pocket of mercenaries.
“Avra!” Link bellowed, striding toward her, a snarl on his face.
Turning, her eyes became flinty as they noticed him, twin chips of gold in a dark face. She leaped from the rock and alighted on the ground, moving forward to meet him.
“Last chance, Hero,” she called as they halted a pace apart. “Give me the Ocarina of Time or tell me what Shadowed Fate is. If you do, you’ll be spared.”
“Even if I knew, I wouldn’t tell you,” he spat, readying his sword and shield.
The Gerudo shrugged. “So be it.” With that, she sprang forward, her blades ready to cleave through his flesh.
Blocking her with his shield, Link struck at her, but she whipped her scimitars away in time to halt the Great Fairy’s Sword. He struggled to free his trapped blade, and then pain hit his hip as one of her weapons broke away and struck him. He retaliated swiftly, swinging his sword and scoring her thigh, and she stumbled back, fury on her glistening face.
Link danced forward, but Avra gave him no chance to land another blow as she darted forward to meet him, her scimitars less than an inch from his chest, and only held there by his sword and shield. With sweat streaming down his face and aggravating his open wounds, he strained forward, wanting only to force her weapons away, but she pressed forward, throwing all her considerable strength against him. She bared her teeth and then pivoted away. He spun to meet her, staggering a little, and managed to nick the side of her neck.
“Link, behind you!” Pelayla cried suddenly.
He started to turn, then screamed as something stabbed into his back. He saw a grinning Lizalfos drawing her blade out of his back, and then he swung the Great Fairy’s Sword viciously, beheading the creature in a single blow. He caught a glimmer of movement to his right and spun as fast as he could, already knowing he could not block the blow speeding toward him. Avra’s scimitar slammed into his right arm just below the shoulder, the sharp edge cleaving through muscle and bone and finally severing the nerve before she tore it out again. His right arm fell at once and dangled at his side, weighed down with his Hylian shield. He knew he would never be able to use that arm ever again.
The duel suddenly leaned in favor of Avra, for, with Link partially incapacitated, she fought without mercy, employing every advantage his disadvantage gave her. She cut him on the outside of his left thigh, struck a blow that barely missed his right eye, and managed to stab him slightly in the side. Yet the Gerudo did not escape harm. Spurred on by his telling wound, Link redoubled his efforts at slaying the woman, the edge of his blade landing over her collar bone and drawing bright crimson blood that welled beneath the rose edges of the blade.
Growing weaker from the loss of blood, Link attempted to sidestep around Avra, but his foot landed in a wet mixture of blood and dirt, and he slipped. The Gerudo’s blades darted out immediately, and he raised the Great Fairy’s Sword instinctively. With a screeching cry, the desert weapons sheared through the fairy-empowered blade, sending its length flying brokenly through the air.
Link stared at the jagged edge of broken sword rising from the hilt, then tossed it aside and leaped at Avra. Pain shot through his side again and again as she hacked at him, but he managed to wrap his left hand around the blade of one of her scimitars. Hot blood ran down his wrist as the sharp metal cut through his gauntlet and dug into his palm, but he ignored it as he wrestled with the Gerudo. Finally, he managed to wrest the scimitar from her sweat-slicked grasp, and then he tossed it and caught the hilt with a burst of pain, blood already smeared on the leather.
Fury twisted Avra’s face. With a wordless cry of rage, she launched herself at him, but Link caught the blow near the crossguard of his new weapon. She backed away, searching for an opening, and then darted forward, cutting him just beneath the jaw. Blood ran down from the wound, mingling with the sweat already covering him, but he concentrated on defeating her. Suddenly, he slammed his scimitar against her side, and the weapon bounced off her ribs, slicing through her skin and muscle to reveal her bones.
The Gerudo took a step back, her free hand pressed to the gaping wound in a vain attempt to staunch the blood flowing swiftly past her desperate fingers. Taking advantage of her momentary distraction, Link slashed a deep line down her left arm, but then she fended him off and struck him on his bloodstained front, threatening to sever muscles he needed if he was to succeed. His scimitar knocked hers away, and then they locked blades, straining against each other, snarling faces inches apart.
Avra ripped her weapon away and rolled to Link’s right. He pivoted, but she struck him on the ankle, and he wavered a moment before he could regain his balance. Sweat-drenched bangs fell into his eyes, obscuring his vision, and he shook his head in an attempt to dislodge them. In that brief moment, Avra glided forward and drove her scimitar through his belly with a triumphant shout.
The scimitar fell from his nerveless fingers. Crying out as he felt the weapon pierce through his back, Link struggled to draw breath through lungs that suddenly refused to work, fought to keep his heart beating as it faltered within his breast. He stared at Avra through a red-tinged haze, stared at her exhausted but ecstatic face. Her lips moved, but Link’s ears refused to register the sounds she uttered. His life slipped away swiftly, but he could not die yet.
With grim determination, Link wrapped his left hand around the hilt of the scimitar protruding from his middle, the leather-bound metal already sticky with his blood, and he drew it out. The sharp edges tore at his innards, and he nearly blacked out from the pain, but he ripped the weapon out of himself and moved forward. Shock painted Avra’s face as he swung, and then her headless corpse toppled to the ground, blood pouring from her severed neck.
She’s dead. The scimitar slipped out of Link’s bloody fingers, and he dropped to his knees. Blood gushed out from his middle, and darkness encroached upon his vision. He noticed someone--a woman--running toward him, but the blackness swallowed her as he fell on his front. The woman cried his name, but all awareness flowed away as blood bubbled at his lips and the breath rattled in his throat.
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