Chapter 9: On The Road
"Link, she's a mercenary, it's perfect!" Zelda whispered fiercely to her blonde companion. "You saw how she dealt with that drunken man! She literally sent him through the wall… with her bare fist! On top of that, she was able to heal your face using magic! Imagine what she could do with that sword, and think of the magic she can perform!"
The two of them were sitting at the bar, the night after the little… fist fight. Over sitting in their usual corner was Leto, still engrossed in the same book as yesterday, wildly flipping each page with great speed. The mercenary had no idea that Zelda and Link were discussing her, as addicted to her book as she was.
"I've learned that mercenaries are tricky to deal with!" Link whispered in response, his eyes darting to the still unsuspecting Leto, "You can buy their talents, but you cannot buy their loyalty. If someone were to offer her the right amount of money, she could backstab us!"
Zelda sighed and then placed a hand to her chin, as she always did when she thought. And Link found that whenever Zelda thought, they were bound to do something dangerous.
"Well, you are still my protection as well, Link," Zelda said, smiling, "If she were to backstab us, then I think you would be able to handle her, wouldn't you? You are, after all, the son of Commander John, are you not?"
"Yes, but my magic is not so powerful," Link replied, still looking at Leto, "And I doubt that I would even compare to Leto in a swordfight." Biting his lip, still more thoughts plagued his mind… how could a young woman have plenty more strength than himself, or his father? It struck Link as an odd thing…
"Link, come on!" Zelda muttered, pushing him off his chair and toward Leto. "She seems very, very trustworthy! Why not try? Nothing ventured, nothing lost, right?"
"Go, NOW!" With that, Zelda put all her strength in and shoved Link with all her might, causing the poor Hero to loose balance and go stumbling toward Leto.
"Watch out!" Link shouted as he came upon Leto, ready to fall on her.
In an incredible display of self defense, Leto threw up a hand in a block, stopping Link easily while still reading. The young woman looked up and smiled, cocking an eyebrow in amusement.
"Well good morning to you as well, Mr. Greene," Leto said, lowering her arm once she was sure Link had regained his balance.
"Erm… Good Morning, Leto," Link stuttered, glaring at the ground, his face red with embarrassment, "We have something to ask you about…"
Turning her gaze back upon her book, Leto simply smiled. "You want me to accompany you on your travels."
Link blinked in surprise. "How did you know?"
Leto, flipping a page, pointed to her ear, smiling. "My ears are a bit more sensitive than you would think, Mr. Greene. I've trained for duty ever since I was old enough to pick up a sword."
"So… would you do it?" Link asked, "We would be more than willing to pay you here and now. Name your price."
Leto turned her gaze upon Link, still smiling. Taking her book, she creased the page she was on and shoved it beneath her cloak before turning her piercing blue eyes upon Link.
"I would be more than happy to escort you and your wife to wherever your destination is," Leto replied, standing up and looking up in Link's eyes. "As for payment, I like to wait until the end, and the success of the trip before I am paid. Why would you want to pay for a terrible mercenary, after all? If you keep the money to yourself, I have no reason to backstab you, now would I?"
Link inwardly flinched as Leto asked the last question, her voice still pleasant. She had heard that as well? Oh, Goddesses, how badly she must think of him!
"It's quite alright, Mr. Greene," Leto said, taking her giant sword in her hand and strapping it to her back with great ease. "I understand how hard it must be to trust someone who can easily shift alliances. But I assure you, I am loyal to my client until the end, no matter how much money is offered to incite me against you. You can rest easy, I give you my word."
Somehow Link felt a little less untrusting, allowing Leto's pleasant smile to lull him into sweet security.
"Now tell me, Mr. Greene, what is the task?"
The dirt trail through Hyrule field was scenic and easy. The sun shone brightly, the sky was cloudless. The surrounding area was covered in dark green grass, trees, and beautiful flowers. The slight breeze carried the sweet fragrance of the outdoors to the party of three on the road, shifting their hair along with it.
Link, Zelda, and Leto sat astride three horses, trotting along the wide open planes and enjoying the day. Link was at the head of the party riding a large chestnut mare with a white bane. The woman who had lent him the horse called her 'Epona' and said that she was the finest of her many horses, and that she would carry Link well.
Behind him, Zelda and Leto hung back, quietly talking to each other so that Link would not hear them. When laughter or a loud shout of disbelief came, Link felt himself growing extremely curious. What was it that the two women were talking about that was so amusing? It nearly killed him when he found that no matter what he tried, he still couldn't hear their beautiful voices whispering to one another.
"What is Kokira like, Miss Leto?" Zelda asked, this time aloud. She sat astride a beautiful white mare, its long legs skillfully dodging the rubble of the road, but still managing to keep a still stride.
"It is a very small and quiet place... Near the edge of the Lost Woods, so it is fairly hard to find. The village itself is composed of tree houses. It's stunning in the Autumn when the leaves change their color," Leto responded, "We make our living through weapon skills. I suppose you could call us a village of mercenaries."
"It sounds like a beautiful place," Zelda said, smiling. She looked to Leto's horse, a stunning black stallion.
The steed was larger than a normal horse, its legs long and muscular. Cole black eyes shone out from underneath a silky mane, far more intelligent than any animal's. The saddle was hewn of black leather, and although appearing simple, was of great quality.
"Is he yours?"
"Yes, he's been mine since I was a girl," Leto said, rubbing a fond hand through the horse's mane, causing it to give a satisfied whinny. "His name's Guard, it's said that he is directly descended from the Hero of Time's horse."
"He's a handsome horse," Zelda said, smiling. "I've rarely seen a more majestic creature than he. I've been among Her Highness' horses, and I must say that Guard dwarfs them in elegancy and beauty."
"You flatter us greatly," Leto said, smiling pleasantly.
"You must be annoyed with me asking so many questions, Miss Leto, and I apologize…" Zelda said softly.
"Nay, it is quite alright, Ms. Greene," Leto replied, chuckling, "Ask any questions that you might have. A great deal of things are learned by asking questions."
Turning her eyes back onto the road, Leto's smile faded a bit, though her eyes were laughing merrily. Sun shone on her, making her brown hair sparkle various colors and her blue eyes twinkle, it was almost as though the natural light had made her appear more than human.
"You seem extremely proficient in magic, Miss Leto, along with all types of combat," Zelda commented. "And you are blessed with tremendous strength, you handle that sword of yours as though it were a feather."
Leto stared at Zelda for a moment before throwing back her head in laughter. The sound sounded like the trilling of flutes, musical and pleasant. Laughter that Link could listen to for hours on end without tiring of it.
Placing a bandaged hand on the hilt of the large blade that was slung across her back, she drew it slightly from its sheath, keeping a steady hand on Guard's reins.
"This sword belonged to ancestor. She was a Sage from a foreign land, great in magic and strength," Leto said. "She is the reason that I have superhuman capabilities, the reason I can handle magic and carry a sword of such great weight."
"Do you have any idea who she might be? Her name perhaps?" Zelda asked. For some strange reason, she was growing a bit suspicious…
Leto's expression turned from a pleasant one to one of great thought. Removing her hand from the hilt of her sword, she turned and placed it atop the other.
"My parents didn't talk much of her… They said that she was not someone that they wanted to remember," Leto said. "She was quite stubborn and cold, despite her fantastic talents. So I was told by my Father."
"I see," Zelda said, slightly disappointed.
"Ms. Greene, your husband is quite the amiable man," Leto said, smiling at Link, her voice a whisper.
"He is awfully quiet and stubborn," Zelda argued, sending a glare at the unaware Link.
Leto smiled, laughing slightly. "An arranged marriage perhaps?"
"Almost like one," Zelda replied, remembering her naivety when she had made the vow. She had actually had a crush on Link back then… But didn't she have one on him now? No… it wasn't a childish crush, these were the feelings of a grown woman.
"Then perhaps it would enlighten you to know that Mr. Greene cares for you quite more than he lets on," Leto said, smiling mischievously.
"W-what?" Zelda stuttered. For the first time, Zelda was the one going bright red instead of Link. Link cared for her? "H-how would you k-know that?"
"The way his voice becomes less stern when he speaks to you. The way his guard seems to lower whenever he looks at you, the way his eyes soften…" Leto said softly, "It's clear he's in love with you, Ms. Greene."
Zelda's face deepened into crimson as she heard the words that came from Leto's mouth. Link loved her? Not when he acted so cold and so unlike the little boy that she had first fallen in love with. Was Leto simply teasing her?
"You can choose whether or not to believe me, Ms. Greene… But I think I know what I'm saying," Leto responded. She turned her head to the lowering sun, expression unreadable. "Don't let the one you love go on knowing nothing of your true emotions. It's a mistake I learned, and it's brought me nothing but heartache."
Until the night fell, they said nothing to one another, but Zelda sensed there was something more that Leto had gone through… Something that had crushed her heart more than anyone knew.
The expanse of the desert stretched out far beyond the naked eye. The silence was almost intolerable to a human being, bleach white sand blinded the eyes during the day, and the heat was unbearable.
The stifling heat of the day had given way to the icy conditions of night, and with it rest for some creatures, and life for others.
Amid the towering dunes of sand, men sat nestled around countless fires. Each man wore identical silver armor, emblazoned with the symbol of a rearing lion… the symbol of the kingdom Vandellus.
More than a month ago they had set out in a march toward Hyrule, and now here they were in the middle of the fabled Desert of Illusions. It was said that somewhere within the sand land there stood the mighty Temple of the Sand Goddess, waiting for a worthy soul to take the countless treasures within.
Each man was incredibly dirty, having not taken off their armor or bathed for a month. They whetted their thirst on bottles of beer and stale water, living off of moldy bread and rough strips of jerky. Their chain mail was caked with sand, and their swords dull with blood. Some sat casually, talking to one another while others sat up, green in the face and purging their stomachs. The horrible conditions had gotten to them all…
Somewhere in the inky darkness, golden eyes with slitted pupils watched the unsuspecting young men, waiting for the opportune moment to strike…
A young man stood far from his party, taking off his helmet and pouring the sand out of it… Had he looked behind him and at the massive figure behind him, he would've known of his sad fate…
He turned, and instantly his dark eyes widened with fear.
A loud cry of terror echoed throughout the region. The men of Vandellus grabbed their spears and swords, looking about with fright on their faces. That was the cry of one of their men, they were positive…
Moments passed and nothing had happened. The desert yielded none of its terrors, and minutes passed. Each man began to visibly relax, unaware of the intense danger they were in.
From the dark, a terrifying wolf arose, fangs flashing ominously as it dove in among the soldiers with hate in its glowing eyes.
It was larger than the hugest of men, with a glittering silver pelt. Its legs were long and muscular, and claws so sharp that they could break the strongest of armor. Yellow, glittering eyes with slitted pupils radiated bloodlust, lips curling back in a furious snarl.
The men lunged toward the beast in a futile attempt to kill it, fear clouding their minds and judgment.
The beast roared, its voice deep and frightening, chilling each man down to the bone. It raised its terrible claws and brought them down, slashing through armor as though it were butter, blood spewing and falling upon the sand, staining it crimson. Men fell to the ground as dead corpses, eyes wide with horror, crimson liquid dripping from their mouths.
Fear became great, and the men began to run away, not realizing that it was all for naught.
The wolf lowered its ears to its head, blood dripping from its chops as it gave a horrible snarl at the fleeing party. With little effort, the beast lunged upward into the air and came crashing down before the men.
It howled before lunging forward and taking men into its crushing jaws, breaking their bones and causing blood to fall like rain, wetting its silvery pelt.
The slaughter continued, men falling to the ground in a symphony of terrible cries. The beast's bloodlust seemed far from sated as it killed with horrible ease. Not a single arrow, sword, nor spear had pierced its muscled body…
Soon only a dozen men remained, clutching onto each other and staring with horror upon the object of their fears.
The wolf had become blood soaked, a vision of terror. Blood dripped thickly from its snarling muzzle, its fangs were coated in rich blood. Every massive paw was drenched in blood… The pungent, metallic scent of blood clogged their nostrils, making the men want to purge their stomachs.
It advanced slowly toward them, a low and throaty growl deep in its throat.
This was the end for the men…
The wolf lunged forward, jaws open and claws pulled forth.
The men screamed for the last time before they fell to the ground, as dead as their brethren, blood leaking out and forming a deep pool about their mangled bodies.
The beast disappeared into the night, leaving the gristly scene as it was.
The landscape, once so peaceful and tranquil had turned into a living nightmare. The snow white sand was no longer the same color, instead it was a deep crimson. The bodies of countless men littered the clearing, and once again the same deathly silence had been returned…
Somewhere far away, someone stood on a lake and laughed.
"Link! Link, wake up!" someone shouted.
Link felt himself being violently shaken from sleep. Slowly he opened his eyes a crack to see Zelda and Leto bending over him, their faces white with worry.
"What…?" Link murmured, looking about frantically. "Where is the desert… and the slaughter? What happened?"
"You had a nightmare, Link," Leto said gently. "It's nothing to worry about. Now come on, we all need our sleep, tomorrow is going to be a long day…"
"Are you alright Link?" Zelda asked her friend, the worried look still painted across her face.
"I'm… fine," Link said, smiling. Despite what he said, he was still shaking from that horrible nightmare. The wolf… its snarls, and the horrible screams… It all seemed so real.
He lay down upon the ground, the blanket around him and keeping him warm. Somehow though, he couldn't fall back into the same peaceful sleep. And so, he drifted in and out of sleep, his mind still wildly thinking of what he'd seen.
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