Chapter XII - Valor
There was no sign of any other creatures after the night of the attack and many of the soldiers spent the rest of the journey in fear.
The night before we planned to take back the harbor, the company camped just within the border of the Tiran province; Crescent Harbor only three leagues away.
At dawn, we would march the remaining distance to retake the harbor.
My sleep that night was restless and morning arrived all too soon.
After I downed a jar of warm milk, I changed into my uniform then fitted myself with armor. It was heavy, but I was still able to retain much of my flexibility. With the helmet slightly hindering my sight, I decided it was best to wear it later.
I finished packing my belongings and suddenly felt an odd, gnawing sensation within me. Disregarding it as nerves, I hoped there would be no battle or bloodshed.
After the tents were packed, I joined Captain Kurion at the head of the assembled army and his first officer blew a horn for silence.
The soldiers fell quiet and looked to us somberly.
"This day will be long for us all. I pray each of you will keep the honor of the Hylian army and fight courageously, should it come to that. Our first priority is the safety of the residents and your fellow soldiers. Remember your vigilance." He then placed three fingers to his heart and then put them to his forehead in a salute. "Forward!"
The sun rose behind us as we marched westward through a grove of trees. They soon dispersed and the air began to change as we neared the sea. It was heavy with dampness, making it slightly harder to breath
A few hours later, we stopped on the road, Crescent Harbor just beyond the bend.
Captain Kurion held up a hand for silence and we fell into a hush. He motioned two men to advance forward and they slipped off their horses into the brush. The deathly silence was eerie and a shiver ran down my back.
Some time passed and the scouts returned, clearly troubled.
"There were no guards," one began, "we searched along its entirety; there is no one."
"You are certain?" Captain Kurion asked with a glare.
"Then we advance. Their mistake is to our advantage."
We started forward again and soon I could see the gates in the distance.
The scouts sped on ahead and readied themselves to climb. Their ascent was quick and silent and when they reached the top, one motioned all was well.
Just then, an arrow streaked through the misty air and plunged into the first scout's shoulder. He cringed and collapsed.
The soldiers gasped.
The second scout looked to his companion and then down to the other side of the gate. Two more arrows flew past him, and he jumped down.
I heard cries of pain emanate from behind the gate.
Moments later, the doors opened, the second scout winding the ropes back.
He had three arrows in his back and the Gerudo were running toward him with their scimitars raised.
Foolishly, they were dressed in their traditional clothing, with the exception of armored gauntlets.
The scout managed to open the gate completely, then drew his sword as he turned to face them.
Captain Kurion turned in his saddle and unsheathed his sword. "Draw your weapons; the Gerudo won't come peacefully," he shouted. "Charge!"
I quickly put on my helmet and readied my sword and shield.
As we crossed the gate's threshold, more Gerudo came bounding out in all directions.
Courageous calls erupted from both sides and double-edged swords met with curved steel.
I veered to the left in attempt to protect the scout with three arrows in his back, but he had already become engaged with a Gerudo dressed in red.
He weakly tried to fend her off, but her merciless attacks overpowered him.
His life was spent before I could reach him.
I charged forward on Epona, and the red-clad Gerudo quickly rolled out of the way.
She ran back through the town and disappeared down an alley. The rest of the company quickly made their way inside the gate and engaged the Gerudo.
"Talvrin, to the west side!" the captain shouted. "Paxley to the north! Nedri stay on the east. Ordon, take the second battalion to the south. Third battalion, follow me!" The soldiers quickly followed their assigned officers and I led my men to the south of town.
More Gerudo emerged from the buildings and alleys, and as they started toward us, I recognized their leader to be the red-clad Gerudo who killed the scout.
She locked eyes with me and grinned.
I spurred Epona to her and swiped at her shoulder but she parried my sword up and flipped back with surprising agility. I turned the reins and circled her.
The Gerudo leader tried a different tactic and swiped at Epona's legs. Epona easily jumped over, but the leader suddenly grabbed my arm and tried to swing herself up behind me.
I knocked her face with my shield and she fell.
But she took a hold of my chain-mail and pulled me back with her.
I rolled onto the ground and shook my head to steady myself.
Epona started towards me, but I whistled for her to stop.
The Gerudo leader slowly sat up, wiping the trickle of blood from her mouth. "You have some skill boy… but not enough," she taunted in her rough accent. She then stood and raised her scimitar, stalking about me and thrusting her weapon threateningly. Finally she lunged forward and I raised my shield, deflecting her attack to the right.
"Why did you attack the harbor?" I questioned, blocking her falling sword. "You've purposefully broken the treaty."
Suddenly she pulled out a dagger and attempted to stab my leg.
I swung my leg away then kicked her in the shoulder.
Stumbling back with a grunt, she spat, "I am not tied to the weak promises Nabooru made." She then leapt towards me head on.
I blocked her scimitar, and our swords crossed. Pushing my sword to my throat inch by inch, the Gerudo leader grinned. When she was nearly nose to nose with me she said in strained voice, "I, Aveil, honor the ways of my ancestors."
I glared. "Retreat and your life will be spared." I threw her off and she landed with ease.
Throwing her head back in back laughter, she screeched, "You underestimate my women… I shall stand above your rotting corpse before the day is over." Aveil then smiled sadistically. "But you are quite a handsome boy… perhaps I shall take you prisoner," she said, striking her scimitar against my sword teasingly. "I would enjoy your suffering at my hand." Suddenly she swung her scimitar forcefully towards my head.
I quickly ducked and raised my shield, blocking her second attempt that followed.
"Your over-confidence wins you nothing," I said in a low voice. "Pray your comrades are not so foolish."
Aveil's smile vanished. "You dare mock me?" She screamed as she backed away, panting. Charging at me again, I simply dodged her attacks. She kept on the offensive and soon I had led her away from the rest of the Gerudo.
Moments later, she knocked my shield back and thrust her scimitar at me with a smile of victory.
Inches away from my chest, I flung my sword to the right and knocked the weapon out of her hand.
It flew high above us and landed on the ground with a sharp clang.
Aveil's eyes darted around frantically, seeking aid from her companions who were battling around a corner. As she backed away from me, she tripped over a large rock and fell against the sand-ridden cobblestones.
Her eyes widened as I neared her with my sword outstretched.
I held it to her throat. "You have broken the treaty, and your life is forfeit," I said coldly. "But the king wishes for you to remain alive. You are spared—for now." I had no intention of taking her life, but I couldn't allow her to think the Hylian army was merciful.
Aveil barred her teeth at me.
"Stand down," I commanded.
She spat at me and stood up, glaring at me with her amber eyes. "Mark my words, boy… your time will come soon enough." I motioned her forward with my sword and took her back to where the second battalion was now gathering together the remaining Gerudo.
"Officer Faydin!" I called, still keeping an eye on Aveil.
He came towards me with his horse in tow. "Yes, lieutenant?"
"Keep her under strict guard until I return with the captain; she is the one who led the siege."
I nodded to him and started towards the center of town where I could still hear cries of battle and singing steel. I raced through the alleys, finding numerous blood splatters on the brick and stone. Then I came upon a body of an unknown soldier, his eyes half-open, staring into nothing.
The scout's face suddenly appeared in my mind… the three arrows sticking from his back… his eyes cringing in pain… his blood pooling beneath him…
I suppressed the sickness that came upon me and I leaned against a wall for support
He was the first man I had seen die… right before my eyes.
I knew there wasn't time to dwell on such things; it was normal for one of the militia to hear and see such terrifying things…
Yet I could not ignore the sorrow or the distress I felt for the murdered soldiers.
I did not hesitate to kill the beast in Kokiri or the one that attacked the encampment, having no fear as I faced them.
But this was a different matter entirely.
Both sides feared for their lives.
I knelt down and closed the soldier's eyes, praying he was at peace. I lifted him onto my shoulders and brought him with me as I went to find Captain Kurion, not wanting to leave his body in the darkened alley. As I walked on, I couldn't stop the guilt that crept upon me. If I had been faster, would he and the scout have lived?
Captain Kurion was rounding up more Gerudo prisoners when I found him in the town square.
I called to him and as he turned to me, I could see that the battle had taken a heavy toll on him.
He saw the solider I carried and closed his eyes for a moment, pointing to a canopy in front of a boarded up merchant stall.
There were already nearly twenty soldiers lying beneath the canopy, covered with blankets. I set the solider down respectfully and saluted to him in the traditional Hylian manner.
I took a deep breath and made my way to Captain Kurion.
"Report, Lieutenant Ordon," he said loudly.
"The Gerudo leader has been captured, and there is no evidence of pirates in the south."
Captain Kurion sighed. "Very well. There is no sign of them anywhere. Something doesn't feel right…" he trailed off. "Gather your men, lieutenant. The Gerudo must be debriefed."
"Yes, captain." I saluted and turned on my heel. As I put my hand to my mouth to call for Epona, an arrow suddenly whistled past my ear, flying into Captain Kurion's shoulder.
He cursed with a groan as he fell to his knees.
I looked about the town square frantically, searching for the assailant.
Suddenly a wave of pirates burst from the buildings and from the west alleys, screaming war cries as they advanced.
I drew my sword and stood in front of the captain.
"No Ordon, call for reinforcement; there are too many of them!"
"The Gerudo must be kept guarded," I argued, trying to count how many pirates there were. "…I did not come here to die…"
Captain Kurion looked at me purposefully, grimacing as he clutched his bloodied shoulder.
A band of pirates gathered around us, and I quickly lunged for the closest. I sliced the exposed flesh on his lower leg and slashed his wrist; his sword fell with a clang. I rolled around him and jumped behind another, running my blade up his back. I engaged the remaining, dealing shallow wounds that would not kill them.
As the last pirate fell to his knees, I could feel my strength starting to wane. I turned back to Captain Kurion and found him making a tourniquet from his ripped uniform; his breathing was labored.
I went to his side and tried to help him stand.
"Ordon… the men—"
"—I must get you away from here."
As he shook his head, I felt a sharp tug at my neck of my uniform and I was thrown back like a rag.
My head hid the ground and I skidded across it. Ignoring the sharp pain in my head, I tried to stand.
A large pirate with a red cap and a strange tattoo on his chest roughly grabbed Captain Kurion and dragged him off to the west alleys.
I stumbled to my feet and started after them.
"Lieutenant Ordon!" Captain Kurion's first officer shouted.
"You are in charge now!" I continued forward, stripping myself of my armor to gain speed. I met more pirates along the way, but I quickly disarmed them and continued my pursuit, following the captain's trail of blood.
Just as they turned past a brewery, more pirates joined them and together they carried the captain down to the beach.
I caught my breath for a moment before continuing on. Coming upon the docks, I saw a great ship with a single, large sail with crossed swords upon it, sailing towards the harbor.
The pirates then began to run faster.
I knew I had heard something of such sails the past, but with my mind racing and my body past exhaustion, I could not remember.
The ship docked and the pirates hurried up the loading dock and threw Captain Kurion onto the ship.
As I stepped one foot upon the dock, something seemed to holding me back.
I couldn't move.
Memories of Zelda suddenly flashed through my mind.
"I may not understand these premonitions or the markings, but they must be connected. They must be a warning but, Link, please… consider the future…"
I shook my head; why was it I remembered her words now?
I took a few more steps, trying to ignore the heaviness that came upon me.
"I fear I will never see you again."
I closed my eyes.
"…You will be taken from me."
No, this fear would not sway me. Despite the danger, I had to rescue Captain Kurion; I couldn't let him to die.
And I would return to Zelda as promised.
The heaviness lifted and I trudged up the dock, trying to silence my panting.
I crept onto the ship and found Captain Kurion slumped in a corner, tied, head lolling. Pirates were surrounded about him, shouting crude insults and spitting at him.
I drew my sword and they turned to me, their eyes wide with shock as I moved towards them.
"Release him," I commanded.
They laughed. "Ya insolent boy, yer blood will be payment fer settin' foot on ar' ship."
I took a deep breath; I knew I must end this skirmish quickly if I was to save the captain's life… and mine. I lunged forward without warning and they spread out, leaving an opening to the captain. I spun my sword around, knocking three pirates to the ground.
The others paused for a moment, stunned by my sudden movement. Gritting their teeth, they began to encircle me.
I swung my shield to my back and grabbed the hilt of my sword with both hands.
Then I charged. I cut a path threw them, spinning my sword so quickly they could not keep up.
It only took a few moments to disarm them. The pirates backed away, frightened, and rushed to the lower cabins.
I sighed and turned to Captain Kurion. "Captain, are you alright? Can you move?" I asked as I cut his bonds.
He replied with a groan.
I sheathed my sword and put his arm around my neck, forcing him to stand. I dragged him to the ledge where the ramp was, but to my horror, it was gone.
All I could see was the waters of the Great Sea.
I panicked and knew the only way to escape was to swim back. With the captain's heavy armor and our weaponry, it was a risk, but the only choice.
Just as I stepped a foot up the railing, the pirates reappeared from below, laden with peculiar weapons.
"Such impudence," one with a beard cackled.
"I'll enjoy watchin' ya squeal, boy," said another with long hair. I stepped my other foot up and dragged the captain up with me.
"What a coward, eh men?" They erupted into laughter and I ignored their insults and readied to jump.
Just then, a low tune resonated through the air…
…Piercing straight through me.
My eyes widened in recognition and I swayed on the spot.
But when had it fallen?
I cursed myself for forgetting to take it from my belt pocket last night. Shaking with anger, I slowly turned around to face the pirate who dared touch his lips to Zelda's precious instrument.
I searched the pirates in front of me and they took a step back when met my eyes.
The notes echoed again but I still could not find the source.
Captain Kurion flinched beside me, reminding me his life was at stake. His eyes fluttered open as he came to.
"Jump," I said through my teeth.
He looked to me in disbelief. "But—"
"They must be stopped."
"Don't be foolish, Ordon," he said hoarsely.
I didn't bother to look at him as I pushed him back. "Sorry." I heard him hit the waters below and prayed he would reach the beach on his own.
I unsheathed my sword as I jumped down from the ledge. "Hand it over," I said in a low voice.
The pirates looked to each other and laughed nervously. "Some hero, eh? Thinks e's noble."
"Your lives will be spared if you hand it over."
"Enough of this," a bucktoothed pirate said. He rushed to me and I simply raised my shield ever so slightly to block his attack. He stumbled back, and as I pushed my shield at him, I heard a sickening crack. He fell to the ground and didn't move.
The other pirates let out fierce cries of rage and came at me. The first to reach me thrust at my chest and I evade him easily, kicking him in the waist. He doubled over and I jumped on his back. As I leapt into the air, I brought the hilt of my sword atop another pirate's head. Landing on the deck, I suddenly felt the fibers of my uniform rip and a sting run across my side. Gritting my teeth at the shallow wound, I continued fighting.
But yet again, the sound of the ocarina resonated in the air. My patience gone, I attacked without restraint.
The pirates screamed out painfully, but I wouldn't give into mercy. They were despicable ruffians, ruled by desire, knowing nothing of sacrifice.
Just then, a pirate swung down from the upper deck and swiped at my head.
I ducked and as he swung back, I dodged him again and stabbed his thigh. He fell to the deck with a dull thud and I grabbed the swinging rope and flew around the mast, slicing whatever my sword could reach. The rope's momentum soon faded and I touched back down on the deck.
The remaining pirates' eyes were gleaming with hatred. They encircled me and lunged for me all together.
Rope still in hand, I glanced about and saw where the rope was tied down. I quickly drew the hidden knife from my boot and flung it at the knot. It broke soundly and I flew up.
The pirates missed me by moments and bumped into each other.
Flying about, I looked out across the ship and saw a dark figure on the upper deck, gazing up at me with mild interest. Then I noticed he was twirling something in his hand…
…A blue sheen reflecting in the sun...
I pushed myself against the mast, aiming to land beside him.
As I swung back, I heard a pirate scream, "Zuko, now!" I looked up and saw another pirate in the crow's nest, smirking. He let his blade fall and the rope's tension was lost.
I fell through the air towards the dark figure and there was nothing I could do to stop my descent.
I hit the deck painfully and rolled into the wooden balustrade. The wind knocked from my lungs violently and my sword flew from my hand, as did my shield. I cursed inwardly, struggling in vain to inhale. I could hear thudding footsteps heading towards me and suddenly I felt cold metal at my throat.
I looked into the pirates' eyes and knew I would never see Zelda again. As my death lay in front of me, I realized my true weakness…
It was pride.
"I trust you to return it."
I had been blinded by my anger, by my fierce desire to get back Zelda's ocarina, something she would have deemed trivial compared to my life.
…I had sworn…
"Promise me you will return here alive…"
I had failed her. I wouldn't see her smile of relief upon my return nor would I be able to dry her tears. I would never see her blushing face, nor hear her quiet laughter again.
The blade pressed harder into my neck, drawing blood. I closed my eyes, wanting nothing more than to beg for my life.
Please… please I need to live.
… It was the only way I knew how to live.
"Leave him," a deep voice said suddenly, amused. A man dressed in black came forward and stood in front of me. His face was concealed, but I could see his sharp, dark eyes gazing down at me.
It was the same man who had taken the ocarina.
"B-But captain! This boy nearly killed Nudge and Gonzo! And Senza is—"
"I said...leave him," the masked man said dangerously, never taking his eyes from me.
The sword lowered from my neck and the masked man smirked. "All that for this?" He mocked as he held up the ocarina.
I made a move towards him, but was restrained by two pirates.
The masked man laughed. "You managed to injure my best men...quite a feat for someone like you."
"The people you sent to the Goddess deserve justice," I struggled to say.
"Interesting notion," the masked man said offhandedly. "But I do not believe in your Goddesses, boy. You know nothing of the world, so I will teach you of its cruelty."
I glared at him and said nothing.
The pirates let out low laughs; they could not wait to see me die.
The masked man smirked. "I sense fear in your silence. Fine then, your life is spared for now… however… I'll most likely kill you in the morning." He then turned and walked away.
The pirates shouted rough objections and through their loud bantering, I yelled in a strained voice, "who are you?"
The masked man turned back, chuckling as he took out his sword. "Such impudence." Then he brought the hilt down upon me. "And it's Captain Raven to you, boy."
…And I fell into blackness.
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