Crowns of Deception

By Forlorn Rain

Chapter X - Departure

I awoke from a troubled sleep on the morning of departure. I had not fully come to terms with the ranking I had been bestowed with, for I was too concerned over Zelda's distraught state.

Lieutenant Ordon, the king had called me.

I would be second-in-command to Captain Kurion and three hundred lives would be in my hands.

I lay in my bed, listening to the whistle of birds outside and the rustle of the trees, and reflected of the things that occurred since the Haladian's arrival.

It all felt unreal.

Not a day ago, I was just Zelda's Guardian… concerned only with keeping my admiration for her a secret. I was to live my life unnoticed; waiting in the wings of her shadow… my duty was to be the only future I would know.

But now… everything had changed so quickly, leaving me no time to catch myself. I did not like the prospect of leaving my life in the hands of fate.

Zelda was right to be concerned… the future had become daunting… uncertain.

Yet… when had I ever been in charge of my life?

The farmers who raised me told me my parents had once lived near the castle and that my father was a royal knight.

And when they spoke of his valor, his nobility, and strength…

It was decided I would join the academy of knights, if only to feel some connection to my family.

Then I met Zelda, and everything seemed to fall into place…

I felt no control, but continued to tell myself I had chosen this life.

However it did not matter now. I knew it was not fate that forced Zelda to love me.

She had a choice, just as I.

I stared up at the ceiling, trying for hopefulness, until a knock on the door roused me from my daze.

Impa called out for me from the hall and I moaned inwardly.

"Captain Kurion wishes to see you, Sir Link."

I flung the blankets off and made my way to the door, grumbling about lack of sleep. I opened it and bowed. "Good morning, Lady Impa. Where is he?"

"In the drawing room with Commander Virnen. Get dressed; I am to escort you to him."

"Yes, one moment." Shutting the door, I quickly went to the basin to wash. After drying my face, I pulled on a simple grey tunic; I would be changing into a uniform later. I then quickly pulled on my cap to hide my messed hair.

I emerged from my quarters a few minutes later and together, Impa and I walked through the castle.

The silence was, to say the least, awkward. I hoped she did not still bear resentment towards me concerning Zelda; though her hostility would be understandable. She had been Zelda's caretaker ever since Zelda was born and it was only right that she be protective of her despite the fact that Impa was my friend.

I cleared my throat, attempting to dispel the aura of discomfort. "Lady Impa, would you answer honestly if I asked something of you?"

"Yes?" she asked, keeping her eyes ahead.

"…Do you believe this task is beyond me?"

She looked at me thoughtfully and paused before answering. "I believe you have strength yet to be discovered."

I waited for her to continue.

"If your diligence to your new post is just as strong as it is to Lady Zelda, all will be well."

"But this is entirely—"

"Take courage, Sir Link. His Majesty would not have entrusted the lives of nigh three hundred men to you if he did not believe in your success."

"…Unless this is merely a cruel play of fate," I muttered.

Impa chuckled once. "Your pessimism surprises me."

"I am glad I amuse you."

We remained silent the rest of the way but as we neared the drawing room, I could hear raised voices.

Impa clicked her tongue disapprovingly and opened the door without warning.

Captain Kurion and Commander Virnen were engaged in a heated argument and failed to notice our entrance.

"How can His Majesty be so careless? Sending a mere boy as my lieutenant?

"Calm yourself, Kurion, Sir Link has much skill."

"I know this, Virnen: I would take comfort if you were joining us—"

"His Majesty insists I remain here. What with the increasing reports of strange creatures, I must stay for precaution. Besides he trusts you and Sir Link to succeed."

"Oh, then by all means if he thinks someone so incompetent—"

Impa cleared her throat to stop his offensive speech.

Captain Kurion and Commander Virnen looked up from the map that lay stretched in front of them.

"Lady Impa," they acknowledged with bowed heads.

"Come now, gentleman, that is no way to speak of your fellow comrade," Impa said crossly as she folded her arms.

I bowed to the captain and the commander to hide my face. Though it was kind of Impa to defend me, I couldn't keep my face from heating with shame.

"His Majesty is not so unwise to appoint someone to a duty so faithlessly."

"Well said, Lady Impa," Commander Virnen commented. "Come forward, Lieutenant Ordon; there is much to discuss."

I stepped past Impa and the commander smiled furtively at me then turned back to the captain. "Captain, I suggest you take this time to inform the lieutenant of his duties. You are to leave at midday, after all." He moved past me and put a hand to my shoulder. "Be patient with Captain Kurion," he whispered in my ear, "he is a short-tempered man."

A smile tugged at my lips. "Understood, commander." I admired the commander very much, for he was a knowledgeable and patient man. It was he who noticed me in the academy of knights and decided to train me with the elder students.

But I agreed with Captain Kurion; I would have also felt more confident if Commander Virnen were accompanying us.

"Would you be so obliged as to join me in readying the soldiers, Lady Impa?" Commander Virnen asked.

Impa nodded and together they left the drawing room.

I glanced at Captain Kurion. "I apologize for this sudden news of my accompanying you to Crescent Harbor, captain. I will do what I can to put your doubts to rest—"

"Enough, lieutenant. You will prove yourself on the battlefield. Now listen carefully…"

After the captain finished telling me of the itinerary, I quickly left the drawing room, irritated. My self-doubt had increased ten-fold due to Captain Kurion's condescension and I wondered if a meeting with Zelda would relieve me, or merely worsen my sour mood.

… I was too selfish.

Midday was mere hours away and I hurried to her chambers.

Ever since I had awoken, I had not felt myself. My thoughts and actions had turned contradictory; it was only last night that I fervently argued that she and I could not be alone in closed quarters.

And now that was all I wanted, to seek reprieve in her company.

I felt guilty disobeying, but my selfish need to see her was overwhelming. I would be glad when this was all over…

Yet the end felt forever away. Somehow… a few weeks felt a lifetime.

Realizing how much I had taken for granted, I hurried on.

Soon I was at her door, knocking quietly. There was no answer, but the door was not locked. Hesitantly, I opened it, looking for any signs of servants… or Impa.

Finding it safe, I entered and shut the door.

I quietly called for her and heard no answer. I walked further into the sitting quarters, wondering where she would be at a time like this.

I left her chambers and went to search her familiar sanctuaries.

It took sometime to look about the castle, and then only two hours remained until midday.

My frustration grew and before giving up, I decided to search one final place.

I was fortunate the gardens were empty of caretakers, despite the spring weather. There was only one place to look for Zelda here, and that was where we had first met.

Past the statue of Farore, and beyond the brush, I found her.

She lay on the grass against a large tree, eyes closed.

I called to her, but she did not stir. I knelt beside her and reached out, letting my hand warm against hers, and I calmed as I looked upon her peaceful face. I was grateful she slept soundly now; I could still hear her cries of fear distantly ringing in my ears.

I carefully moved the hair from her face and leaned over to kiss her forehead.

To my disappointment, this would have to suffice as a goodbye; I didn't wish to wake her.

My lips hovered over hers, but then I quickly pulled away. No, this action was much too improper; I had to regain my strength of will.

Shaking my head, I stood to leave when Zelda stirred.

"Guardian?" she asked softly, her eyes slowly opening.

I hardly managed a smile.

She sat up. "Oh… I… I didn't mean—"

"It's alright," I replied.

"What is the time? Impa informed me you were meeting with the captain and I merely came to wait."

I offered her my hand as she moved to stand.

"It will be midday soon. I only wished to bid farewell."

Her eyes widened slightly in surprise. "…So soon…" She took a deep breath and traced the marking upon my hand. "I am glad you sought me out."

I slowly pulled my hand away and she looked to me curiously. "…Must you really leave now?"

I didn't answer. I wanted more than anything to stay, but there was still much to prepare, much to think on and discipline myself for.

"You do not look well."

I furrowed my brows. "I am fine, My La—you need not worry."

Zelda reached for me tentatively and her sudden timidity quickened my heart.

"But I do," she said quietly. "Despite my objections… I know you must fulfill your duty… something I did not try to understand last night… I hope you will pardon such ignorance."

A sudden breeze disturbed the tree we stood under, letting sunlight pour through the leaves.

At the sight of her beautifully sad face shining in the sun, I gave up trying to leave and silenced the voice in my head that beckoned me to go. "There is no need… I've uncertainties myself."

Her eyes fell to the ground. "I do not know what comfort I can offer… however… I know you shall make a fine leader, Lieutenant Ordon."

I chuckled humorlessly. "I am no Lieutenant yet."

"… You speak so distantly," she observed, her eyes filled with sorrow. "It feels as if you've already gone."

I brought her hands to my lips. "We still have a moment."

"Y-yes I suppose."

I released her hand and we simply stood there, watching the remaining storm clouds drift into the distance. The time passed quickly and I knew I must leave soon.

"… Are you very worried?" Zelda suddenly asked, barely above a whisper. Still looking to the sky, she gently reached for my hand at my side.

"… Let's not speak of it," I sighed, taking her into my arms.

She was trembling slightly.

"…Are you cold?"

She shook her head. "No, I…" Her face shaded. "Shamefully, I am still unsure how to compose myself."

I bit back a laugh. "As am I." I murmured as I kissed her hair. "But I am content simply being at your side." I held her looser to illustrate my point.

Her face shaded further and her head fell against my shoulder. "Yes… that I understand."

"…And yet… it feels unnatural to stay from you… even after all this time." In our silence, I memorized her warmth, her scent of roses, the softness of her hair and skin and the quiet rhythm of her breath; this memory would have to last me for a time.

Zelda suddenly turned into me, her arms winding around my neck. "I fear… I will never see you again," she whispered, her hands fisting my hair. "That you will be taken from me…"

I didn't answer; I knew not how to console her, but I couldn't bear the thought her suffering in my absence.

Slowly, I took her hands from my neck and pulled off my hat. Placing it into her hands, I pressed them against her chest.

Her eyes widened in the slightest.

"Hear this…" I could feel her heart beating quickly, nearly in rhythm with my own. "By this, you shall know I will always come for you."

"…But what if something happens to you?" She mumbled. "You cannot promise that…"

"…Even death will not sever me from you." Warmth suddenly coursed me and my left hand tingled slightly. I looked at it, annoyed it was bothering me so often. Where had this marking come from? I then saw Zelda looking at her right hand, bemused.

And noticed another marking had appeared, meeting the already straight marking at an angle.

I took her by the wrist and kissed her hand. "Does it hurt?"

She didn't answer, keeping her eyes upon the markings.

"It is strange enough we bear similar markings, but please be careful until I return. We will find the cause together." I smiled half-heartedly and released her

She looked at me then to the ground, gripping my cap in her hands. "Promise me… you will return here alive. Otherwise, I... " Shaking her head, she put a hand to my face and hesitantly pressed her lips against mine.

I smiled slightly, and before I could pull her closer, a pocket of light shone through the leaves, the glare of the sun blinding my eyes. Judging by its position, midday was nearly upon us, coming more quickly than expected.

Reluctantly, I broke away. "I must go," I said against her mouth. "Will you come to the gate?"

She forced a smile, tightening her hand about my cap. "Yes."

I stroked her face once more. "I swear to you, Zelda... I will return."

Returning to my chambers, I quickly changed into a traditional red and blue uniform of a Hylian officer and pulled on heavy boots that rose above my knee. Fortunately, I was not required to wear the armor throughout the journey.

I grabbed my bag of personal items and quickly went to the stables to ready Epona for the seven day ride to Crescent Harbor. I then led her outside where the soldiers were gathering and as I neared, my nerves began to best me.

Perhaps Zelda was right; I felt a strong urge to deny my station and remain at the castle.

I shook my head. No, I would not yield; I would fulfill this mission successfully, even if I could not forget this unshakable apprehension.

Arriving at the designated spot, I watched the soldiers march out from the barracks up the sloping lawns. The company formed five battalions in front of the inner gate and soon the knights appeared on horseback from Castleton, their squires and a few of their men behind them.

I rode Epona around the battalions, confirming there were sixty men in each. Some glanced at me with raised eyebrows, others refused to look at me and the soldiers I was aquatinted with tried to suppress their smiles; whether they were out of encouragement or ridicule, I did not know.

As I made my last round, Captain Kurion emerged from the main courtyard and crossed over the drawbridge. Alongside him was Commander Virnen, the king, and Zelda.

Dismounting, I quickly made my way past the inner gates to them.

I bowed and Captain Kurion nodded stiffly and rushed off to speak with the high officers and the knights.

"Good Afternoon, Sire," I greeted. Now that I held a recognized position in the Hylian forces, I had been told that I was to address the king as 'sire' and give formal respect to nobility, no matter how well acquainted I was with them.

I then bowed to Zelda. "Good Afternoon, m—Your Highness." Righting myself, I glanced at her as I turned to the commander. "The soldiers are ready, Commander Virnen."

"Very well, lieutenant, you may join Captain Kurion at the lead."

As I nodded, the king cleared his throat. "Lieutenant Ordon, I shall expect a full report upon your return"

"Understood, Sire."

Zelda suddenly stepped forward. "May the Goddesses watch over you… Lieutenant Ordon." She curtsied and met my gaze.

I resisted rolling my eyes and smirking. Kneeling before her, I gently took her hand into my mine. Placing a kiss upon it, I quickly glanced beside us to make sure certain ears were not listening; the king and the commander were engaged in a deep discussion.

"My Lady is most gracious," I said against her skin.

She took an uneven breath and also glanced over to the king. She then quickly drew something from her concealed dress pocket and discreetly placed her ocarina in my hands.

I looked at her questioningly.

"You shall ease my concerns if you take this," she said barely above a whisper.

"You cannot give me this," I said incredulously. The ocarina was a royal family heirloom and it was reputed to have special powers. I believed it so, for I had felt the calming power of its notes.

"I was entrusted with a possession so dear, and I wish to do the same. I trust you to return it," she continued, disregarding my reply.

"… I cannot accept it."

Her lip trembled in the slightest. "Please..."

Hearing the desperation in her voice, I sighed and reluctantly took the ocarina and tucked it away into an empty belt pocket. "As you wish."

She smiled with relief.

"Remember what I told you," I said quietly, looking up at her meaningfully.

She averted her eyes. "A-as you wish."

I stood and squeezed her hand.

She closed her eyes and paused for a moment. "I shan't keep you; be on your way, lieutenant." After granting me a half-hearted smile, I released her hand.

I placed three fingers to my heart, signifying the three Goddesses, then put them to my head to salute. I turned away and joined the captain at the front of the ranks.

As we rode down the hill, I glanced back up to see Zelda still standing there with the king. I kept my eyes on her until we rounded the corner, and could see her no more.

The days passed slowly as the company journeyed to Tiran province. At sunset of the third day, we set up the encampment in the outskirts of Fieldtown; Crescent Harbor still nearly forty leagues away.

I shared a tent with the five lead officers. The men were quite older than me, and being in their presence was uncomfortable; it was apparent they did not approve of a younger superior.

I sighed to myself and quickly stashed my bedroll in a corner so I could escape their silent criticisms, if only for a short time.

I rushed outside and heard the quiet murmur of voices around a fire nearby. I walked past the men without a word towards Epona and carefully removed the ocarina from the saddle sachet. Tucking it away, I then headed to the open plain.

I walked away from the encampment until I could not hear a sound. In the stillness, I drew out the ocarina and began to play a low, quiet tune.

I was not as well versed as Zelda, but I could still draw upon its soothing effects. After my mind had calmed some, I sat on a rock, studying the ocarina in closer detail.

The small, golden Triforce etching caught my eye. I turned the instrument about, and as I did so, the markings upon my hand caught my eye.

One marking ran straight across while the other line met it an angle… just as Zelda's.

When I first noticed the markings, they were nearly red in color, as if it were a healing cut.

But now they had dulled to a faint shine, much akin to the appearance of a scar.

I fisted my hand and looked back to the ocarina. The marking appeared to be creating the same triangular shape…

No, it was too bizarre, I had to stop such absurd thoughts.

It was best to forget this matter; I would tend to it with Zelda upon my return.

I was soon enveloped in darkness and decided to play once more before I returned to the encampment.

I played for but a minute before I heard the heavy flap of wings behind me. I whipped around only to find nothing behind me. I stood and looked about, seeing nothing.

Then I looked up.

And a dark creature descended upon me.

I hardly had time to duck and it clipped my shoulder. I drew the dagger at my belt and readied myself.

Searching for the beast above, I saw a giant bird with razor sharp talons and white, glowing eyes.

It flew after me once again, letting out a sharp caw.

I rolled out of the way, wishing I had a bow.

I was on my feet in moments, waiting for its next attack.

The bird beast swooped low, watching me with its blind eyes.

I twirled my dagger, preparing to throw it.

Suddenly the bird beast flapped it wings at me, a gush of wind and debris whipping at me. I shielded my eyes and in that moment, the bird beast attacked.

It tried to pierce me with its long beak and I swiped at it blindly as I tried to protect my neck. I felt my dagger slash against it, not knowing where I struck it.

Finally, it retreated into the sky.

I watched fly about, trying to regain my breath.

Then realized it was making its way to the encampment.

I cursed aloud and ran back. Keeping my eye on it, the bird beast dove lower and lower and I quickly searched about for a bow.

A soldier suddenly shouted in alarm. "A monster! There is a monster upon us!"

Others looked about warily. "Where? What do you speak of, Reizen?"

"Above! It flies above!"

The bird beast spread it talons and screamed.

The rest of the soldiers appeared from within their tents, something I did not want to happen.

More attention would mean more panic.

"Run! Take cover!" The soldiers began to run about, nearly tripping over themselves.

"Stop this!" I yelled. "Stay your ground!"

The soldiers nearly disregarded me; I did not blame them; monsters were not suppose to be real.

"Soldier," I ordered one I did not know, "Fetch the captain, and you," I said to another, "fetch me a bow." They nodded quickly, anxious to escape the piercing cries of the bird beast.

"The rest of you calm yourselves. You will not be prey to this creature." The soldiers looked to me doubtfully, but had ceased their hysteria. Those who had weapons tentatively reached for them and watched the beast above.

It continued to circle about, looming closer and closer, then suddenly swooped down upon the first soldier who had cried out in fear.

I sprinted to him, and rolled him to the ground.

The talons ripped the side of my uniform.

I ignored the sting and inquired of the welfare of the one beside me. He simply nodded his head, breathing heavily.

"Lieutenant!" a soldier shouted as he threw a bow and quiver to me.

I nocked an arrow and aimed.

Somehow, the bird beast knew my intentions, madly flapping its giant wings to retreat.

I narrowed my eyes and let the arrow fly.

The beast did not even reach the edge of the encampment.

It was silent for a moment, then…

"Ordon!" Captain Kurion yelled.

I lowered the bow and turned around.

The captain's eyes were wide with shock. "Did you… did you just slay that monster single handedly?"

I wiped my brow. "Not without the help of this soldier," I pointed to the one who threw me the bow.

Captain Kurion pursed his lips, still staring at me.

"Paxley!" He shouted.

High First Officer Paxley, appeared behind him. "Yes, captain?"

"… Take a few men and burn the body of the beast… we cannot let the townspeople see it."

"Sir!" Officer Paxley snapped his fingers and four soldiers followed behind him.

I handed the bow back to the one who had found it for me and before I could thank him, Captain Kurion interrupted.

"Alright now, all of you back to your tents, and do not speak of this; we do not want to cause the people alarm."

The soldiers looked to one another and began to mumble.

Captain Kurion cleared his throat and raised his voice. "As Lieutenant Ordon just showed, they can be contained by simple weapons. Do not fear them. Now get some rest."

The soldiers grumbled and dispersed.

"Ordon… come with me," Captain Kurion demanded.

I hurried after him to his tent, situated in the middle of the encampment. I sighed and ducked inside.

I found the captain leaning over a large map of the Tiran province and I cleared my throat. "Captain?"

He didn't acknowledge and simply motioned me forward. "I must finalize our plans."

I stood across from him and he pointed at a spot near the top of the map.

"This is our location… and here… here is the gate to Crescent Harbor. There will most likely be Gerudo guards posted atop, but our scouts will silence them before they can warn the others."

I nodded my head and he continued.

"After the scouts have climbed the gate and opened it, we'll slip in quietly and surround the town. Five knights will create a perimeter by the front gate while the officers, along with you and I, advance to the center here… this is most likely where the Gerudo leader is."

"And if she is not?" I questioned.

"Then we seek her out ourselves. Whether she comes peacefully or not… our top priority is to ensure the safety of the residents."

"The commander mentioned that pirates—"

"Leave that to the other five knights; they will block them if they attempt to flee to the Great Sea. I want you focused on leading the second battalion if it comes to battle."

"I understand." I looked at the map and noticed the northern coves, remembering that was where the women and children and escaped to. "Captain, they could just as well escape through the northern coves…"

Captian Kurion looked down at the map. "Very…observant," he grunted reluctantly. "I thought only the residents knew of the escape route, but the Gerudo could have easily found out about it. I will speak with Officer Paxley." He then cleared his throat impatiently. "That is all, lieutenant, you may go."

I saluted and turned to leave.

"Wait, Ordon."

I stopped.

"…How… how did you know how to destroy that beast?" He asked in a hushed voice.

"…I… I do not know." Truly, I did not. It felt almost second nature to slay it with such ease.

"I don't understand," the captain continued. "Where are they coming from? Why do they roam so freely?"

I shook my head. "I wish to the Goddesses I knew."

"What I said was true… we cannot have the people know of these beasts. His Majesty does not wish them to live in fear."

"They have a right to protect themselves," I argued.

"That is our duty."

"And when we are not there?"

The captain was silent for sometime. "This is grave, Ordon," he sighed. "I must inform His Majesty of this. Send for the messenger."

I saluted and left.

Fortunately the messenger was tending to his horse not far away and I sent him on his way.

The encampment was nearly silent when I returned to my tent. The men had retired early to prepare themselves for the coming day, but I doubted they would be granted a peaceful sleep.

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