Chapter XIX - Pursuit
From all around me the gyorgs thrashed violently against each other, biting, wailing; searching for the fresh blood Sakon dropped over the boat. Their slick bodies brushed past me as they splashed the water with their fins and I cringed inwardly.
There were five gyorgs at most, but in the darkness, I could not be sure. Their scales had a purple, metallic sheen to them, seemingly emitting their own light. Unable to control my breath, my eyes darted from one gyorg to the next. Just then one charged right for me, its red eyes gleaming in the darkness, baring its dagger-like teeth. My eyes widened as I inhaled sharply, bracing myself. The moon suddenly appeared from behind the clouds, fully revealing the terror before me, gripping me in me in numbing fear; this was to be the end…
The gyorg was a mere two feet away, opening its jaws wide, screaming in triumph and hunger. And just as I cowered, a giant hand fell upon its armored head. The gyorg stilled and slowly drifted away… unmoving. The giant hand then grabbed the fold of my dress behind my neck and pulled me from the frigid water.
I did not resist as Darmani set me down against the railing of the boat and for the first time, he looked into my eyes; they were the darkest of amethyst. His gaze was gentle, nigh pitiful.
"Get the rope," Sakon ordered.
"Truly more effort than you're worth," Igos said to me with a smile on his face. "But I cannot deny that you keep things interesting." He then tossed a wool cloak to me. "Keep warm." Instilled manners prompted me to give thanks, but I bit my tongue. Darmani returned with the rope and Sakon began to tie my hands.
"I suppose you call that bravery," he mocked.
"…N-no," I began, my voice trembling, "your b-beloved logic." Sakon pursed his lips and glared.
"It was brave," said Darmani. "I hate water."
"Hold your tongue, imbecile," Sakon spat.
"The fault lies with you that I escaped so easily," I said to Sakon, still trembling. "Disparage him no longer."
"Stop this pretended courage; your self-righteousness sickens me."
"Your arrogance will be your ruin, Thief Sakon—"
"—You are not as clever as you pretend to be."
"Pretend?" Sakon scoffed. "Have you not returned to the boat? Did you not cry out in fear?
"I cried for no one."
Sakon said nothing, his nostrils flaring, and suddenly struck me across the face once again; Darmani flinched as he turned away. The biting cold of the wind further irritated the sting of the slap, but I did nothing to ease the pain; I would not give him the pleasure. Sakon then stood up and made his way up to upper deck and stared out at the pursuing ship in the distance.
"You would have… you was about to cry out. My plan was perfect," he muttered to himself. "All my plans are perfect."
I kept my thoughts silent, not wanting to provoke Sakon's wrath further. I could not let him be suspicious of any further intentions to escape; I must have patience if I was to find another opportunity. I had used what little magic I had against Sakon, and it had yet to return; I was too weak. Pulling the wool cloak tighter, I closed my eyes, trying to think of a plan. Alas, my mind was just as numb as my body. I had already slept nearly the entirety of my capture, and though I did not wish to rest, I felt exhausted.
The three captors said nothing more, only disturbing the silence when they shifted to glance at the pursuing ship. As I sat there huddled beneath the cloak, praying the ship would catch up soon, I heard heavy shuffling approach me. I looked up to find Darmani slowly making his way towards me. He would pause every so often, look to Sakon nervously, then continue on. He stopped a few feet away, his large figure towering over me and slowly lowered himself beside me. He sat cross-legged with arms folded and instantly, I could feel the heat radiating from his massive body and a shudder ran through me as I warmed. Darmani said nothing, and would not look at me, but I mouthed a thank you nonetheless.
I wove in and out of sleep for some time until the sky began to pale into colors of sunrise.
"He's even closer now," Igos whispered. "Is he using the same wind?"
"Don't concern yourself, and keep that sail taut. We'll reach the cliffs by sunset."
The coldness had abated, and I hesitantly stood to let the air dry the rest of my clothing, becoming chilled as I did so. Hands tied, I leaned against the railing, watching the pursuing ship sail steadily behind us. It had indeed sailed significantly closer during the night and in the light of day, I could now see the sails; they were black, eerily noticeable against the rising sun. I furrowed my brows in thought, wondering what kingdom flew those colors; none came to mind.
"Look, Sakon, it must be pirates that chase us, look at the sails…"
"Ha! I knew it was mere coincidence they followed us; this boat is too small to be of any consequence to them."
Pirates…? My hopes fell; was it truly useless to hope that I would be rescued? I looked away from the ship and slumped to the ground, trying to blink away the burning in my eyes.
Then a thought came to me… something I had heard long ago from Priest Rauru in the Temple of Time…
"Prayers do not go unheard… "
"Wisdom knows not pride. Even in the darkest times… our beloved Goddesses are watching over us…"
No… I had not believed in such a ritual for so long, I could not even consider it. The Goddesses would not hearken to the prayers of the unfaithful who only heeded their warnings when it was too late…
Even for the sake of your own people?
It was unmerited to call upon their help now.
Sighing, I shook myself from my heavy thoughts and simply watched the sun move slowly across the sky.
It was midday when I was finally offered something to eat. Igos handed me a flask of water and gave me half a loaf of bread as well. Though I was famished, I ate with as much etiquette as possible. Sakon would not allow Igos to give me more than that, but Darmani left an apple beneath the wool cloak.
I did not know how to feel towards the two kinder captors. They treated me gently, with respect, yet still were committed to taking part in my demise. I gazed at Darmani, feeling tears prickle behind my eyes. He stole a look at me, and I weakly smiled. He blinked fiercely and frowned, his eyes falling, downcast. He then moved to help Sakon tighten the ratlines.
I was not spoken to the entirety of the day. Igos and Darmani occasionally jested with another, playing games of rhyming and cloud comparisons, while Sakon took no part in this. He was consumed with his maps and his large burlap sack of treasures, taking out many weapons from it and cleaning them, many times glancing at me with a smirk.
Igos and Darmani fell asleep for a few hours and when they awoke, I hoped Sakon would rest, but he simply let Igos take over the helm and looked to me knowingly.
He knew I wanted him to sleep.
My frustrations began anew and I turned my back to him, staring out into the rolling waves. Patience.
Finally, the day came to an end as the sun began to sink in the west, the sky darkening to brilliant colors of orange and lilac. Seabirds began to fly about, circling the ship and sitting atop the mast, a sign that land was nearby.
"Sakon," Igos suddenly began, his voice puzzled. "The ship has slowed but—"
"Ha! What did I tell you! Why do you always question—"
"Listen!" Igos grumbled. "There is another… a smaller boat."
Sakon's grinning face faltered. I looked towards the ship, and indeed it had fallen behind, but there was a smaller boat following us now, sailing with surprising speed.
"You cannot deny this now Sakon… they are following us."
Sakon's lips wrinkled in anger, glaring at the boat in the distance. I considered escaping into the sea once again now that we were away from open waters, but there was no guarantee pirates would aid me; if anything, they would do far worse than simply slitting my throat.
Harsher waves suddenly began to rock the boat and Sakon whipped around. "Well they're too late!" he yelled, glee dripping in his voice. "We've reached the Calatian Cliffs!"
I turned around and saw an enormous wall of cliffs ahead of us, stretching along the coastline as far as the eye could see. Thick, swirling fog surrounded the unseen shores ahead and the boat steered directly towards it.
"They're right on top of us!" Igos shouted, pulling the rope of the sail tighter. The boat pushed through the fog and my stomach lurched, certain we would crash into the rocks hidden within. But not minutes later, the fog dispersed, revealing a small inlet nestled between the cliffs.
"We're safe," Sakon began. "They'll have to sail this fog until they find a way out." He wound up some rope and threw it over his shoulder. "And only I know the path up the Scarlet Crag." As we neared the shoreline, a small rundown dock appeared and I felt as if the wall of cliffs would topple over us any moment. A forest blanketed the bottom of the cliffs within the inlet and I could see no way out. The boat finally stopped beside the dock and Sakon grabbed his burlap sack and kicked the loading ramp down and hurried to the shore. "Move it!" he commanded impatiently.
Darmani followed after Sakon and Igos jumped from the upper deck to where I stood as I studied the foreign land of Calatia. "The cliffs are nearly a thousand feet high," he said with a wink. I sighed a shaky breath and let him lead me off the boat. We followed after Sakon into the forest with only a small path to lead the way and as I looked back, the sea disappeared behind the thicket. My apprehension grew.
"Where are you taking me?" I asked, not expecting an answer.
Sakon didn't bother turning around. "The Scarlet Crag… the Calatian execution grounds." The blood left my face and I stopped suddenly on the path.
Igos gently grabbed my upper arm and steered me forward. "I wish you would not act so brave," he said quietly. "Sakon would not be in such a rush to kill you."
I glanced at him uneasily, feeling as if I'd purge at any moment. "I am not afraid of death… but I do not wish to die." Not for the sake of war…
Igos furrowed his brows and said nothing more as we continued on. The forest suddenly ended, revealing nothing but gray, muddied rock before us, but the path stretched onward.
Sakon stopped and turned to me with a grin. "This path leads to the Scarlet Crag; your time runs short, princess. Are you prepared?"
I could not answer; I simply glared and looked away. He burst out in laughter then waved a hand for us to continue on. As I walked closer, I could see the small path carve up the cliff face in a winding direction. I closed my eyes, trying to fight a spell of dizziness. Sakon started up the path and Darmani got to his hands and knees, then coiled into himself and began to roll up the path after Sakon, the dull spikes upon his back leaving small craters in his wake. Igos put a hand to my back and I inhaled deeply as I took one step forward towards my death, determined not to show fear. I kept my eyes ahead, trying my best not to look down.
After nearly an hour of climbing, Igos let out a small chuckle. "Ah, you were wrong Sakon. Our pursuer cares not for his boat."
"Preposterous…" Sakon breathed.
I took a deep breath and followed his eyes down. My airway constricted; we had climbed up much farther than I expected. The forest stretched out below us and now looked nothing more than a small field. I could see the captors' boat drifting in the water, glimmering faintly in the light of the setting sun, but towards the outer part of the inlet… there was another boat that had been steered right into the sands of the shore. Though I could see no one, a spark of hope returned. Surely pirates would not chase us to land… dare I believe my unvoiced wishes were answered?
"Why didn't you tell me this before?" Sakon screeched.
"I noticed just now!" Igos argued.
Sakon cursed and flew up the path, nearly running. "Hurry you fools, faster!"
Darmani rolled faster after him and Igos rolled his eyes, motioning for me to continue on. Despite my increasing sense of sickness, I kept glancing down, hoping to see the one who followed after us… the one who perhaps had come to rescue me…
…Then I saw a figure round a bend on the path below. A person dressed entirely in black, was chasing after us. I suddenly felt an odd sense of recognition; I had seen this mysterious person before, but I could not remember where. The pursuer frightened me more than all three of my captures together… yet strangely… I wanted him to catch up.
"He's gaining on us." Igos warned.
"We are more than half way now! He cannot overtake us."
"That man must be very skilled to have come this far." Igos commented. Swallowing loudly, I looked up and could see the top of the cliff. I exhaled unevenly, relieved that the treacherous climb was nearly at an end.
"Almost there…" Sakon huffed.
"He's no more than two hundred feet behind," Igos shouted.
"Damn it, I don't need a narrative!"
The path began to narrow, making it harder to keep our quick pace but soon enough, we reached the last bend and Darmani let out a sigh of exhaustion as he reached the top and uncoiled himself. Igos moved in front of me to take my tied hands and helped me the rest of the way. Reaching the edge of the cliff, he hoisted me up and guided me away to a safe distance. Looking about, I could see that we were in the ruins of a long since destroyed fortress… the Calatian execution grounds Sakon had called it… or rather the Scarlet Crag.
Igos set me against a rock wall and put a hand against my forehead, shaking his head. "You cower not, nor show fear; you're beginning to make me care about your fate."
My mouth fell open slightly and before I could even think of a response, Sakon shouted for Igos. "Get down there and fight him off."
"And risk falling to my death? No," Igos said bluntly. "We must face him on even ground. He knows we have the princess; we cannot escape him."
Sakon peered over the cliff and cursed again. "He has but a hundred feet left." He whipped around and began to pace about.
"What do we do?" Darmani asked tiredly. "He's quick—"
"Quiet you blundering fool!"
Darmani simply blinked and bowed his head. I glanced to Igos and he folded his arms, shaking his head.
Sakon then wandered back to the edge of the cliff. "Fine, we will wait for the bastard and kill him ourselves," he sneered. "Igos wait here; Darmani, grab him when he rounds the bend. Hurry now, my master will be here soon."
Igos sighed and led Darmani to a ruined wall, forcing him to hide on the other side. I watched as they hid themselves and stood, wanting to shout out a warning to the pursuer, but suddenly Sakon pulled a dagger out from his burlap sack and held it to my throat. "Your hope for salvation is wasted; that man is all but dead…"
"Is taking my life not enough?"
Sakon's lip twitched and he pressed the dagger further against my skin. He threw his burlap sack beside a boulder and roughly grabbed me by the arm, steering me away from the cliff. "You think that man will save you?"
"I do not know," I gasped, "but not matter what becomes of me, you will never be free; your death was assured the moment you laid hands upon me!"
Sakon's grip tightened, his nails digging into my arm. "I am the greatest thief this world has ever known; your laws mean nothing to me. And when my master arrives, you will beg for death before the end." As he pulled me along, my eyes fell upon an altar of stone in the middle of a hollowed out courtyard. A feeling of heavy warning encompassed me and my body seemed to still itself before I could think to. Sakon dragged me forward and I fought against him, but I simply slid over the flat ground, loose pebbles scraping beneath my boots.
Sakon hissed and I felt the tip of the dagger pierce my skin as he forced us to a stop just before the altar. I inhaled sharply and ceased my struggles, tilting my head up to lessen the pressure of the blade. "Kill me then," I commanded through gritted teeth. "What need is there for hesitation?" I did not mean those words. Whether it was pride or bravery, I did not know. I was a contradiction; with every encounter with death I escaped, the more I did not fear it, yet… my will to live was fortified each time.
He leaned over me, and I could feel his breath on my ear. "That bastard has created a problem, yes, but do you realize how much greater your death will be with your rescuer watching?" I shied away from the feel of his lips, but he grabbed my hair and pulled me back. I closed my eyes, trying desperately to summon enough strength for magic. "While your blood soaks the ground, I will kill him… slowly, painfully. And when your bodies are found, all will know that he killed you and then himself. Do you not think it an idyllic ending?" He lowered his dagger and loosened the grip on my hair. "Hyrule, Haladin, and Calatia will be plunged into war!" He erupted into laughter, his eyes full of madness.
I shook my head, seeing nothing but evil in his heart. I dared to repeat the words that had so offended him at sea. "You are a twisted being, Thief Sakon; your arrogance will be your ruin."
"You wretch!" He bellowed as he grabbed my tied hands, throwing me upon the altar. "You dare condescend to me when I hold your very life in my hands?" He fell upon me, holding his knife out as he brought my hands over my head. I bit my lip to keep from crying out, blood seeping onto my tongue. Sakon raised the knife, his hand shaking with the urgent desire to kill me, all patience to wait for his master gone. I turned my head away, not wanting to watch myself die, not wanting to fear death, yet tears still formed beneath my lids.
Suddenly a voice cut through the air, shaking the very foundations of the fortress. "Enough!" I was struck so intensely with relief, my throat constricted with emotion.
Sakon stilled and I opened my eyes to see the pursuer standing upon the Scarlet Crag, nearly glowing in the last light of the sun. He wore a black mask that covered his face from forehead to nose and wore a long cap that covered the entirety of his head; the shape of it was strikingly familiar, reminding me of an old possession I kept hidden away beneath a loose stone in my chambers.
"Enough," he growled dangerously as he drew his sword, rushing towards us in blind determination.
Sakon slowly turned to him, his small eyes gleaming with hatred at the masked man. He released my hands and straightened himself. "You truly have a talent for disruption," he spat, his upper lip curling in fury.
"Release her," the masked man commanded as he started towards us.
Sakon did not take his eyes away from him as he put the dagger to my throat once again. "I'd rather watch her die..."
The masked man's steps faltered; I could feel his eyes burning. He shook his head, holding out his sword. "I have gone through great sacrifices to get this far and if she dies… I will deal with you the same way." He started forward again, slowly, deliberately.
A-ah!" Sakon warned, pressing the blade further against my skin. I winced and the masked man stopped.
"That would be pointless," Sakon sneered, "you losing your princess and me my life. You're simply trying to steal my glory; that's quite dishonorable."
"I've no honor left to take," the masked man nearly whispered, the rage in his voice abating some. "And neither do you. Now release her."
Sakon replied with a laugh and snapped his fingers. Darmani suddenly stepped out from behind the wall and grabbed the masked man in his great muscled arms. The masked man twisted wildly, but his struggles could do nothing to break the steel grip of a goron. Igos then stepped out of the shadows and knocked the masked man's sword from his hand with his, pointing it to the masked man's chest. It was only until I saw Igos's sword out of his sheath that I realized how dangerous it truly was. It was a wide, double sword, with a gap between the two blades that merged at the tip. The masked man then bowed his head, and our eyes met. In the blackness of his mask, I could not see his eyes, but I could feel his eyes upon me and something stirred within me.
Sakon grinned and quickly tied my hands to the altar before rushing over to them.
"What do you want done with him now, Sakon?" Igos asked loudly. "Should I kill him?"
Sakon stopped a few feet from the masked man and spit at him. "Perhaps I shall kill your precious princess before your eyes instead… you seem overly interested in her well-being."
The masked man did not reply; he simply kept his eyes upon me.
Sakon then turned to Igos. "We will wait until my master arrives… then we will deal with both of them," Sakon said, nodding his head towards me. "His resolve has intrigued me."
"Why waste our time with this?" Igos muttered, running a hand through his mass of black hair. "I did not agree to torture when I accepted your offer…"
"I would not let you kill him even if you wanted to, Igos," Sakon said with a twisted smile. "I will kill him myself, if only to show the princess that I cannot be defeated." He turned around and began to make his way back to me. "I will take great pleasure in watching you and your rescuer die, princess."
I said nothing to his cruel words, simply narrowing my eyes in disgust. I looked back to the masked man and my heart quickened beneath his unrelenting gaze; my desire to see his face was overwhelming.
"Guard him by the stairs beneath the tower, Igos, and take his sword. Do not take your eyes off him."
Igos waved his hand dismissively and told Darmani to follow him. I heard Darmani whisper an apology as he dragged the masked man forward. As they passed by the altar, the masked man finally looked away from me, and glanced about at the surroundings. Sakon began to tie my ankles as I watched Igos and Darmani take the masked man to a set of stairs within a ruined turret just beyond the courtyard. The masked man sat down on the steps, Darmani hovering beside him by the stair's archway. Igos twirled the masked man's sword with interest before striking it into the ground, leaving it to sway at an angle. He then took his place by the archway, leaning against it with arms folded.
The rough tug of Sakon's knots brought my attention back to the altar. The gnawing feeling of fear grew within me as I lay there; what did the mysterious master of Sakon want of me? There must be a reason why I was tied so peculiarly to this frightening altar of stone. What would they do before they killed me? I sighed unevenly; there was no use asking; Sakon would reveal nothing. I looked to the heavens, trying to rid myself of hopelessness. Grey clouds had covered the sky during our ascent up the cliff and the bleak weather caused me to shiver. The sun had sunk further in the west, the warmth all but diminished. I closed my eyes, wondering how I was to escape now that the masked man had been captured as well. Once more, I searched myself for any hint of magic when I heard Igos's voice echoing through the ruined fortress.
"Not that I really care, but… if you've come to rescue the princess, why do you hide your face?"
"Were you burned or disfigured?" Darmani chimed in.
I heard a faint grunt from the masked man. "No, nothing more than the obvious reason."
"Come now, you're going to die; tell me who you are."
The masked man did not reply.
"I will swear on my life as an Ikanan not to tell a soul…?"
"…That's hardly encouraging."
"What is he doing?" Sakon nearly screeched. "That man is insufferable." He finished tying my ankles and marched over to the stairway. "Be silent, Igos, I won't have you talking to our prisoner." Sakon then stomped away back towards the altar, but continued on to the boulder where his burlap sack lay.
"Why do you follow such an ill-tempered man?" the masked man questioned, his voice lowering to a near whisper.
"I am a mercenary; he pays well," Igos replied indifferently.
"I'm not proud of my deeds, but mercenary allows me to travel… I'm looking for someone you see."
"For vengeance," said the masked man; it wasn't a question.
"… Yes… how did you know?"
"By the way you carry your sword."
Igos chuckled. "Is it so obvious?"
There was silence for a moment before Igos continued. "My sword belonged to my father…" I then heard the sound of steel being drawn.
"I've never seen its equal," said the masked man.
"My father was a brilliant swordsman; he was once the ruler of the Ikana border in Termina, but when I was a boy… he was killed right in front of my eyes. This sword is all I have left."
"…I am sorry. His murderer is the one you seek…?"
"Yes, the only thing I know about him is that he is from Haladin, but I will never forget his face. I live only to find that man."
"A life of vengeance… I understand."
"When I find that bastard, I shall say: 'greetings; my name is Igos Du Ikana. I come for my father's blood; prepare to die.'"
"I hope you find him someday," the masked man said with sincerity.
"Me too," Darmani agreed. At his honesty, I felt a smile of amusement beneath my lips. Despite Darmani being one of my captors, I could not hate him, nor could I hate Igos. Their kindness was truly peculiar and I could not decide if I was to appreciate it or despise it. Even to the masked man, they showed respect.
Igos sighed and clicked his tongue. "Ah, I won't say anymore about the matter… so tell me, how did you find out about the princess's kidnapping… surely it was more than chance that led you to us…?"
"I suppose it was chance but my intentions are not so honorable as you believe; a pirate knows valuable cargo when he sees it."
I tried to reason with myself that perhaps the masked man lied. I recalled the determination, the fury in his eyes when he found me at Sakon's mercy, but I could not stop the anger from igniting within me, smothering the hope I had placed in him. Was this masked man truly no different than Sakon: bloodthirsty and cruel? Was I nothing more than an object in his eyes… a means to attain glory? A ransom for riches. I let the anger pass through me as I listened further to their conversation.
"Oh?" Igos said with amusement. "You intend to steal from us…?"
"It seems your greed has brought about your death."
Before the masked man could answer, I heard Sakon drop his burlap sack beside the altar and he rushed angrily towards them. "Igos, I will have your head if you continue this useless banter!" He burst out.
The masked man stifled a laugh. "You think very highly of yourself, don't you?"
"The same could be said of you," Sakon retorted.
"I doubt you are as clever as you say you are, judging by your attempt to force yourself on the princess of all people."
"Don't force your lurid thoughts upon me, pirate filth. I only desire her death." Sakon spat. "When my master arrives, you won't be so quick with your tongue." He then struck the masked man across the face and kicked him in the chest.
"...There's no need for that Sakon," Igos reproved.
"Silence, all of you! It doesn't matter what you think!" Sakon stormed away and returned to the altar, muttering to himself as he rummaged through his sack.
A moment of silence passed before Igos grunted and said quietly to the masked man, "I hate to see you die even if you are a pirate… you seem a decent man."
"I have already escaped death once. Perhaps I can a second time."
"… We shall see."
Nothing more was said and the air grew thick with tension.
I closed my eyes and cursed inwardly, furious I could do nothing to escape my own death… to save myself. And the masked man… I still did not know if I could trust him.
"Prayers do not go unheard…"
I knew I could not prevail alone… but…
The beat of my heart suddenly echoed loudly in my ears, drowning out everything except the words of Priest Rauru.
"Wisdom knows not pride."
Inhaling deeply, I looked to the heavens and found myself mouthing a hopeless prayer…
For the sake of Hyrule…help me.
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