Chapter XX - Ruse
I watched the shadows deepen as the sun sank behind the ruins. The air was heavy and silent apart from sudden gusts of wind. Sakon had begun to pace about the grounds, taking slow, deliberate breaths. He muttered quietly to himself and though I heard not any distinguishable words, his anxious tone did not go unnoticed; he was frightened…
In his distracted pacing, I tugged on the rope that tied my hands to the altar, looking for any weaknesses in the braid. I bit my lip; the rope was secure. My heart began to quicken in apprehension; with the unbreakable rope and my magic still suppressed… I knew not what was to be done. There was no time left to wait for my magic to return; Sakon's master would arrive any moment.
I closed my eyes; no matter how hopeless the circumstance, I could not… I would not resign myself to fate.
Once more… I must try once more.
I breathed in deeply, ridding myself of all hesitation, then mouthed a spell derived from Farore's Wind that would force the air to take form and cut through the rope. The last word passed through my lips… and I felt nothing. A shiver crept upon me and I took another deep breath. I repeated the words, breath now accompanying them. Please… give me strength…
Suddenly I felt something pulsate within me; it was faint, but steady, like the flame of a candle. I then recognized it to be the familiar force of magic. I had hoped so intensely for it to return… I could hardly believe it was so. The paralysis Sakon had infected me with no longer suppressed my magic. Slowly… but surely, despite my weakness, it was returning.
I repeated the incantation once again in a quiet whisper, urgency laced in every word. The heaviness in the air dispersed and as I opened my eyes, I could sense the air swirling above me and in that moment, the last light of the sun flashed across the sky, letting the dim light of the stars shine forth. I glanced to Sakon warily; he was still distracted in his pacing. A smile of relief graced my lips and I dared to voice the words.
Just then, the air stilled, and I fell silent, sensing a presence other than that of Sakon near me. As if from nowhere, a dark form appeared, casting a black shadow over the altar.
"Your little spells are no use here."
I shuddered unwillingly, knowing I had heard his voice before. Such great danger and power I felt, I thought it to be the golden-eyed demon. Yet still… 'twas not he. I looked up, only to see a man in a dark robe, face hidden by a cloak, staring down upon me; Sakon's master; the one who wished me dead. My eyes widened and before I could even cry out, the hooded man grabbed me about the throat, raising his other hand above me. His fingers moved oddly, circling and twisting in a concentrated manner... the beginnings of an incantation.
My fear heightened. A sorcerer? Though I could not see his face, I could feel his eyes running down my form with a twisted smile. I tried to breathe the words of Nayru's Love, but the hooded man's grip upon my throat tightened. I gasped in vain as he began to mutter strange words of a different tongue and pressed a hand against my chest, stealing the remaining air from my lungs. I felt the warmth of my body travel toward his hand; he was purposefully weakening me, draining my power. So I cannot resist... he knows I possess magical abilities.
The hooded man lifted his hand from my chest and I simply lay there, staring into the vastness of the twilight sky, numb from the cold. I willed myself to breathe again and silently… I continued to pray.
Sakon suddenly let out a gasp and I faintly heard his footsteps approach. Out of the corner of my eye, I watched him fall to his knees in acknowledgment. "Master…"
"You have done well, Sakon. Did she prove difficult?"
"Y-yes but… your paralysis concoction bested her efforts."
The hooded man leaned over me and loosened his grip on my throat, beginning to caress my neck with his fingers. His skin was cold and I did all I could to turn away, but his touch lingered on my skin. "Yet even with your fire gone," he whispered, "Your beauty remains."
I clenched my teeth as he forced me to look upon him. I was helpless against the strange power he possessed, but I would not submit. "You depraved beast." My words were hardly audible.
Chuckling once, the hooded man then turned to Sakon. "What goes on there?" He inquired impatiently with a nod to the turret stair yonder.
"The one in the mask has followed us since the Great Sea; he has come for the princess."
The hooded man hissed. "…I trusted you would not be followed."
Sakon cowered, bowing his head further to the ground. "F-forgive me Master; I do not know how he found us. I've kept him alive to ask what you wish to be done."
"Bring him to me; if he has come for her, I must know who he is."
"Yes, at once." Sakon rose and rushed over to Darmani and Igos. "Bring the scum here, now!" Darmani was on his feet in moments and Igos lazily leaned from the entryway, waving the masked man's own sword at him as a gesture to move forward. The three approached the altar warily, their faces darkening as they looked upon me. The masked man's hands fisted and shook at his sides as he looked into my eyes, his gaze disquieting. The three stopped a safe distance from the hooded man and waited for him to speak.
"Move," the hooded man commanded to Darmani and Igos. Their eyes narrowed and hesitantly, they left the masked man to face him alone.
"What is this, Sakon?" Igos asked, disgruntled; Darmani grunted in agreement.
Sakon cleared his throat nervously and motioned them to continue moving back as he returned to the hooded man's side. "Quiet yourselves; or do you wish to die as well?" They did not reply and stood to the side as the hooded man stepped forward. A dark light formed within his hands and I furrowed my brows; I had never seen dark magic before… it was forbidden to even speak of. Where did he learn of the dark arts?
"Who are you?" the hooded man questioned.
The masked man did not answer. My eyes widened. He is going to die!
"How did you know of her capture?" The dark light grew larger, seeming to shake the ground. It emitted such great power, I could feel the evil saturating the air, choking my voice.
Again, the masked man said nothing. He simply stared at the hooded man with an unreadable expression.
The hooded man hissed impatiently. "So be it." Extending his fingers and flicking his wrist, the light flew towards the masked man with a great surge of wind. I cried out a useless warning, watching in horror as the masked man tried to evade the attack. The dark light followed his movements and impacted just below his heart. The masked man hit the ground violently, sliding some distance until he stopped… and did not move.
My lips trembled; I couldn't breathe. Darmani stood in shock, looking to the hooded man and to me, his face knotted in fear. Igos stared at the masked man's body, his face hidden beneath his black hair.
Sakon began to chuckle unsteadily. "T-there is none stronger than my master." The hooded man ignored him and turned back to me. "Ah, of course, apart from His Lordship..." Sakon then ordered Darmani to throw the masked man's body over the cliff. Darmani glanced to the masked man with regret and frowned.
Slowly, he moved towards the masked man and picked him up and wandered off into the darkness. I closed my eyes, trying to swallow the tension in my throat. Out of desperation… I began to willfully pray for my strength to return. My last hope has faded… please… do not forsake me…
"Your work here is done, Sakon, now go."
Sakon bowed his head. "Forgive me, Master, but I… I was promised I would b-be the one to—"
"I will kill her, but first… I must take something that His Lordship wants… I will allow you to watch her die if you so desire…"
Sakon grunted in disappointment. "…Yes Master, but you must know… I gave her my word she would not feel pain at her death…"
The hooded man suddenly grabbed my bound hands with one hand, and ran the other up my right arm. "Then you made a promise you cannot keep." My skin crawled from his touch, and I tried to pull away. A mounting feeling of sickness seized me as I struggled against him and my body went limp. Goddesses, I implore you… do not let me die! For the sake of my people!
"Ah… there it is," the hooded man whispered.
"Power you have not, yet wisdom is granted… and courage you shall be given…"
"What is it she possesses, Master?" Sakon asked.
The hooded man traced the markings on the back of my hand. "A great power." Confusion clouded my mind; he had taken my remaining power… I had nothing left.
Sakon said nothing for a moment. "Her? She's nothing but a woman with weak magical abilities."
"Do not take this lightly. It is an ancient power. Now stand back."
The hooded man tightened his grip upon my hand and once again muttered strange words under his breath. His hands grew hot and a powerful shock burst from his fingertips and traveled into me. I felt it slither through every part of me, vibrating my bones with searing pain. I held my breath, forcing myself not to cry out as I writhed upon the altar. The hooded man ceased his chanting and the pain vanished.
A whimper escaped my lips; please… spare Hyrule from war…
"Is… is that all?" Sakon breathed.
The hooded man shook his head once and ran a finger down my face; I could hardly turn away. "Where is your power? Where is your Triforce?"
My face paled as disbelief replaced confusion. "The Triforce d-does not exist," I said weakly.
The hooded man hissed and began his chanting anew. Under the control of his dark magic, my body became rigid and I felt as though the flames of hell themselves had enveloped me. I heard an ear-splitting scream only realize it was me.
He fell silent moments later and the flames subsided. I rolled to my side and curled into myself as far as the coarse ropes would allow, panting with uneven breaths.
"Do you weep now?" the hooded man whispered, twisting his fingers into my hair. "Submit yourself…"
I could barely speak. "I h-have not what you desire."
He grunted scornfully and the fire returned. My back arched and I thrashed about, blood filling my mouth as I tried to bite back my screams. Din… Farore… Nayru…
The hooded man ceased once again and leaned over me. He cupped my face, his nails clawed against my neck and jaw. "Give me your Triforce and this will end."
I continued to shake uncontrollably, and somehow, managed a glare. He inhaled sharply through his nose, and pulled his hands away, letting them hover just above me, readying to resume the torture.
"Stop this!" Igos shouted suddenly as he ran forward. He stopped before the hooded man. "You will not touch her again."
The hooded man turned to face him. "You dare interrupt?"
Sakon merely stared at them in alarm. "Stand down Igos!"
Igos shook his head with gritted teeth and let out a war-cry as he charged forward. The hooded man easily evaded him, but Igos's rage spurred him to attack again. He spun towards the hooded man, swiping his sword wildly; then jumped high into the air, falling towards the hooded man, sword outstretched. The hooded man moved at the last moment, and Igos landed on the ground with a dull thud.
"You cannot defeat me," the hooded man warned. Igos said nothing and, without warning, lunged from the ground, sword held outward to the hooded man's face. The hooded man only had time to turn his head. The sword cut through the hood of his cloak, forcing it to fall to his shoulders. I could not see his face, for his back to was me, but I could see his hair; it was dark… flecked with grey. The memory of a time long since past, before I came of age, rushed to the forefront of my mind. The familiar, peculiar hair, the unnerving gaze… the soft, dangerous voice… no… it cannot be…
Just then, Igos screamed in rage. "You!" His entire body had frozen.
The hooded man quickly moved back, and pulled his hood back over his head. He then aimed a splayed hand toward him.
"Damn you Haladian—" Igos never finished his words. The hooded man shot Igos against a stone wall with a blast of dark magic. Cringing, I closed my eyes as Igos's body slumped to the ground. The hooded man let out a malicious laugh and Sakon simply stood beside the altar, breathing heavily, unable to say anything in his stunned silence.
"How foolish warriors are..."
"Igos…" Sakon finally whispered. "…Yes…" he said louder, clearing his throat. "Foolish indeed." Fury, disgust, and sorrow welled inside me and my struggle to escape began anew. Fiercely, I tugged at the rope and my surroundings began to spin from the movement. My efforts grew half-hearted as I felt the need to purge come upon me.
The hooded man then turned back to me. "You wish me dead," he said with amusement. "I feel your hatred."
I said nothing, feeling tears burn behind my eyes.
"At least you can—" A deafening roar silenced the hooded man as it echoed across the execution grounds and the very earth itself seemed to move. Darmani rushed forward from behind the bend, his face contorted in a look of pure rage. "Igos! Igos!"
I could feel the smirk of the hooded man. "Mind yourself goron…"
I screamed inwardly for Darmani to run as he fell to his knees at Igos's side, great tears forming in his amethyst eyes.
"Move away Darmani!" Sakon shouted.
Darmani turned to Sakon. "You let him die Sakon! You killed him—"
"Do not interfere!" There was a note of hysteria in his voice.
"Perhaps he wishes to die as well?" The hooded man chuckled.
"… I won't let you kill anymore; I will kill you both!" Darmani then lunged to the hooded man, drawing his fists back, readying to destroy him with one blow. Sakon gasped and moved back, nearly tripping over himself as the hooded man summoned the same dark light in his hand.
"Then death you shall be granted." The light flew towards Darmani and he crossed his arms to block the attack, but his efforts were in vain. The dark light exploded when it touched his thick skin, sending him into the same wall of stone as Igos, landing naught but a few feet from him. Large rocks rained down upon his giant body, burying him beneath their weight.
A feeble moan fell from my lips… and finally my tears fell.
"Fools…" Sakon breathed, his face paling.
"Your comrades were chosen poorly, Sakon," the hooded man mocked. "Much time has been wasted." Without warning, tendrils of red light shot down from his hands like lightning and pierced into me. The pain lasted for but an instant, and I begun to fade from consciousness.
"Why do you resist still? Give me your power!"
I simply closed my eyes.
"You insolent little—" He paused and snatched my right hand once again. A hiss sounded from his teeth as he released it. "Unlike my lord, your power has yet to be fully awakened…"
"Just kill her, then take it!" Sakon shrilled; the deaths of Darmani and Igos had clearly upset him.
"Be silent Sakon. The spell His Lordship gave me will simply kill her if her power is not awakened. Perhaps when she is on the edge of darkness, consumed by sheer desperation, it will manifest." The hooded man then lifted my head and I felt his breath upon my cheek. "She must after all, appear to be tortured at Calatia's hands." His hand grazed down my arm as he lowered his face towards my neck. My eyes widened as I realized the true meaning of his words. A fear I had never felt before seized me and it felt as if the very fibers of my being were willing me to move. And like a fissure within the rocks around us, something within me cracked.
"Touch me not!" I fought against him, trying to free any part of my body from the ropes; I felt as if I was tearing myself apart from within. He tugged at the neckline of my dress and I screamed for him to stop, but his hand traveled down my side, across my waist and down my leg. He tore the bottom of my dress, ripping it to the knee. Sobs wracked within me as his hand moved back up, resting upon the curve of my hip. I cringed, shutting my eyes tightly, summoning Nayru's Love over and over in my mind…even though… I would not be saved.
My body refused to fight any longer and just as I begun to fade… a voice called my name in the distance…
…A familiar voice that stilled my heart.
"Courage shall come!"
My hand began to burn with a cool flame… pulling me back from the darkness. It traveled through my body, enveloping me entirely. Faintly, I heard the hooded man cry out in alarm. I could feel a tension trying to smother the cool flame and my heart beat frantically, compelling me to fight against submission. The voice then called to me again…the voice of…
A thousand different memories blurred across my mind and all fear and hesitance melted away as my hand was carved by a hauntingly familiar ache...
Forgive my unbelief…
My hand burned brighter… and I opened my eyes. A blinding blue light suddenly fell from the heavens, turning stone to dust, encircling the hooded man and me in its wake. And like a wave upon the shore the light fell upon us.
I shielded my eyes to the blinding light, hearing Sakon's screams fade away. I opened my eyes, and found myself no longer on the Scarlet Crag. I was drifting in darkness; I could see nothing, feel nothing… hear everything.
"So… you failed…" a deep voice snarled.
"Forgive me, My Lord, her power was beyond reckoning… I barely escaped with my life," said another; the voice belonged to the one that had tortured me.
"Perhaps it would have been better had you perished…"
"… My Lord…"
"I have given you power in exchange for your loyalty; are you so weak?"
"I would not have returned, save for one matter…"
There was silence for but a moment.
"The other power… you have found it…?" Silence again, then a low chuckle echoing with cruelty, quickened my heart and caused my flesh to rise. I then recognized the voice… it was the golden-eyed demon.
"Where is it?"
"A masked man who followed Sakon… he somehow survived the dark magic…"
"Then all is not lost. Heal yourself and return in my stead. I must stay if this ruse is to work; the princess cannot be found alive in Calatia." The hooded man was in league with the golden-eyed demon. If only I could remember who the hooded man was…
I strained my ears to listen further, but a voice, like a whisper of the wind, spoke to me.
"… Zelda… wake up…"
It was the same that had called to me before.
"Yes, My Lord, right away."
"Do not make this all for naught." The darkness began to dissipate and the voices of the evil men faded away. I called out in protest, but the voice pulled me from the vision.
Eyes flying open, I gasped as I sat up and heard a sigh from beside me.
And there stood the masked man, gazing at me with such intensity it sent a chill down my spine. I stared at him in disbelief, unable to calm my breath. Was this the vengeful spirit of the masked man? Or… had I been killed by the hooded man?
"W-what happened?" I asked unsteadily, looking about fearfully. "Where is…" The ropes that bound me to the altar were gone, and a large, shallow crater was now carved into the ground surrounding the altar.
Then I knew I was not dead. How? I could only remember a blinding blue light and the foreboding words of the golden-eyed demon.
"He vanished," the masked man answered.
I turned back to him, feeling myself shrink beneath his gaze. "Vanished?"
"Your light drove him away."
My eyes widened further. It was I who summoned it? Never before I had possessed such power; I did not see how it was possible.
"Give me your Triforce and this will end."
Blood pounded in my ears.
"…Wisdom is granted…"
I put a hand against my head. No… the Triforce does not exist…
You believe in the Goddesses… yet not their power?
The masked man suddenly reached for me. "We must go-"
"H-how is it that you live?" I questioned, drawing back.
The masked man shook his head. "I do not know—"
"I watched you die!" Relieved as I was that he had not perished, I did not understand how he… and I… had survived. Everything was becoming overwhelming.
"…Calm yourself," the masked man said in a low voice. "You needn't be frightened of me; I'm not going to kill you."
I slid towards the edge of the altar, away from the masked man. "It would be folly to trust you so readily; tell me who you are."
"There's no time for pleasantries; we must leave," he replied as he started towards me. I did not answer and I moved back further, feeling my feet touch the ground. "Do not try to flee; you're still weak."
"You expect me to follow a man—a pirate, who claims I am 'valuable cargo'?" He was evading my inquires, stirring my suspicion. "What do you want of me?"
He clicked his tongue impatiently and climbed over the altar with ease. I panicked at his sudden movement and defended myself with magic before thinking. "Ina Vukseni!" As the words of ancient Hylian fell from my tongue, I felt a great tension seize my body and the familiar warmth of magic overflowed within; my magic had returned in full. Yet… I felt no control of it. I was forced back as a pale light shot from my palm and flew towards the masked man. I was amazed the spell worked, but the masked man side-stepped the attack so quickly, I did not even see him do so. The light hit a nearby boulder, causing it to crumble into nothingness. My eyes widened in surprise; the spell had meant to stun… not destroy. I ignored the voice of caution that crept into my mind, reasoning that the hooded man's spells must have done something more than impair my magic…
The masked man looked to me warily and raised a hand in warning. "I have already said I will not kill you, now stop this."
I drew my hands back, readying to defend myself again when suddenly I felt something sharp pierce through my skin just below my ribs. A dagger skittered ahead, clanging against the ground and the masked man's eyes widened as I turned around.
And there Sakon stood… his eyes black, shining with rage and fear as he aimed another dagger. "Why do you still live? Where is my master?" Sweat poured down his face as he breathed shallowly. It was then I noticed cuts about his face and many rips in his clothing. The wound upon my right side began to throb and I clutched a hand against it, feeling blood soak my dress. Sakon then let the dagger fly with a look of triumph upon his face. I hurriedly called upon a shield spell, crossing my arm and splaying my hand. The dagger whistled soundly as it spun towards me and just before I could finish the shield spell, the masked man himself moved in front of me and knocked the dagger away with his sword.
"Your life is mine, pathetic thief." His voice sounded just as terrifying as it did upon first meeting.
Sakon merely laughed at the masked man's threat as he revealed more hidden daggers. "She killed my master… your princess's blood is mine." The masked man did not wait for Sakon to attack again; he rushed forward, sword at the ready. Sakon's grin widened and he let out a cry.
I panicked, torn inwardly if I should stop the masked man. I wished for retribution, for Sakon to know the suffering he had inflicted upon me… but no matter how much I desired to bring justice by my own hand, he must be judged for his crimes by trial. Though Sakon would assuredly be sentenced to death by the minister of law, I still could not let the masked man kill him here. I summoned a different stunning spell and unleashed it towards Sakon and the masked man. Strangely, I sensed the magic split before reaching the masked man, avoiding him entirely as it continued towards Sakon.
Sakon's lips curled in fury as the masked man easily deflected his daggers. He drew his last dagger back, shrieking madly, and just before it released from his hand, the invisible threads of the stunning spell silenced his screams and stilled his body. His eyes widened, his face melting into a look of horror. The masked man curbed his advance and watched Sakon fall to the ground with a sickening thud, blood dripping from his nose. His black eyes stared at me blankly… devoid of life.
Terror gripped my heart, filling me with guilt at the sin I had committed. No…
The masked man slowly turned to me, but I could not look away from Sakon's body.
"Is he…I… I killed him?" I said, barely above a whisper. I had taken another's life... something I hoped I would never have to do. And without consent of the law...
What have I done?
"…Death was too merciful," the masked man said through his teeth.
I looked to him in disbelief, my lips trembling as I spoke, "I-I did not mean for this… a stunning spell should not have-"
"—He aided in your torture; he deserved far worse."
I shook my head, at a loss for words, feeling the heavy weight of remorse crushing down upon me. Had the hooded man's spells truly unbalanced my magic or had I acquired… a new power? The wound Sakon inflicted began to sting, and I pressed a hand further against my side to stop the bleeding. In that moment, the distress of my capture, the suffering of my torture… the upset from Sakon's death threatened to overcome me. I felt my composure snap. Forgive me…
"What's done is done. Come, I must bind your wound," the masked man said with near gentleness. He started towards me and I stepped back, the movement causing the cut to throb more intensely. Tears formed in my eyes, but not from pain; I must regain control of my magic… of…
"I… I will heal myself," I said unevenly.
The masked man step's faltered as he studied me. "…No, do not—"
Quickly, I overlapped my hands upon my side and naught two words were spoken before I lost concentration. My vision swam and I swayed on the spot. I stumbled back, and the masked man rushed forward, cursing under his breath as he caught me just as I sunk to my knees.
"That was reckless," he growled furiously. "Do not attempt to use your magic again; you'll kill yourself." His embrace around me tightened and the sting of the wound dulled ever so slightly.
The masked man pulled me closer to him, looping an arm around my back and the other beneath my knees. He stood with ease, staring at me for a moment before moving forward.
I felt my face shade. "R-release me!" I pushed away from him, but quickly ceased my efforts as the wound surged with pain. He did not relinquish his hold as he made his way to the turret stairs. As we passed Sakon's body, I looked away, feeling bile rise in my throat.
…Then my eyes fell upon Darmani and Igos in the distance… still.
I closed my eyes, nearly burying my head against the masked man. I tried to calm my shaken breaths as I recalled how they were struck down. How many more deaths would I cause?
"Your light demolished the rocks that buried them," the masked man said quietly, his voice keeping me from falling into further despair. "Worry not… they are not dead; their heartbeats are faint, but steady."
"Then I… I must help them!" My relief was sincere; if the masked man had survived the dark magic, I should have assumed Darmani and Igos had. But how was it that he appeared… and acted as though the dark magic had not harmed him?
The masked man shook his head once. "There is nothing you can do in your state. Trust me, they will live." We passed by them, and I was comforted by the rise and fall of their chests, yet still…
"There is nothing you can do…"
I shook my head inwardly. The self-disgust I felt further evoked the guilt that had already taken hold… and I blinked back my tears.
Reaching the stairs, the masked man gently set me down and knelt before me. "Your wound," he said with a nod. I lifted my hand from it and the masked man reached into his one of his belt pockets, pulling out white dressings. "I pray that dagger was not poisoned," he muttered. I said nothing in return, still lost in my thoughts. The masked man then put a hand against my side and instantly, the stinging stopped. He pulled his hand away. "You do not bleed…" His voice was filled with confusion. The wound began to prickle uncomfortably and I wrapped an arm about my waist; my body was healing of its own accord. What is happening to me? There is something wrong…
Laboring for breath, my eyes burned and I could not longer hold back my tears. I looked to my lap, ashamed the masked man would see the Princess of Hyrule weeping.
"Do not dwell on the thief's death," he began quietly. "Your guilt is meaningless; you did not intend to kill him as I did." The prickle of the wound then dulled as the fibers of my skin rejoined. He tucked his dressings away and moved closer, his knee nearly touching my own. "You must realize… the fault lay with his arrogance." His low voice steadied the frantic rhythm of my heart and slowly, I met his eyes. A peculiar sensation flooded through me and I was unable to look away. Against the blackness of the mask, even in the darkness of night, the odd color of his eyes was vividly noticeable: a piercing, silver blue. His fierce, steady gaze brought me back to my senses and I regained my composure.
I had seen this man before… a man in black with blue eyes. "Who are you?" I whispered. My hands left my side as I leaned toward him, drawn by his stare.
"It matters not," he said, shaking me from my moment of reminiscence. He then took my arms and helped me to stand. As he stood there steadying me, it was noticeable that he was taller than average and quite intimidating. "Are you healed now? Can you stand?"
I ignored his inquiries. "You know who I am; it is only fair you—"
"—Fair?" He scoffed, the gentleness fading from his voice. "You presume too much. I know nothing of you."
I knew not how to respond to his insolence. I had grown used to Sakon's cruel threats for I knew where his loyalties lie and his true purpose. But the masked man… him I knew nothing of. His contradictive nature of gentleness and coldness confused me greatly.
"…But you called my name," I reasoned.
"I did no such thing."
My frustration grew at his blunt lie. "Then how did you know of my kidnapping?"
"Nothing happens in the Great Sea without my knowing."
"I hardly believe—"
"Enough. We must leave before that hooded bastard returns." He took a step towards me and I took one back. Just who was this mysterious masked man? Why did he lie about coming to my rescue? How had he survived the dark magic?
"Why… tell me why I must trust you. Why did you come?"
He looked into my eyes, and slowly raised a gloved hand towards me; his left. "I came for you… not for the sake of your title." My gaze fell from his, flittering down his darkly clothed body, and in that moment, I remembered...
Blue cloaked in midnight.
My breath stilled and my eyes widened as I stared at the ground.
The masked man resembled the one who led me from the darkness in my nightmares. Those terrifying nightmares had ceased to plague me for nigh three years… until my engagement, but then were only dull, lifeless…
Then… on the night of the celebration of peace—the horrific, detailed nightmares had begun anew, causing me to remember the ones I thought had long since passed. Even now, in waking, I recalled the visions beneath my lids. Was this man the very one who led me from the darkness?
"Be wary of ones you call friends, be wary of ones you deem enemies."
I felt no danger in the presence of the masked man yet perhaps that was the most unnerving detail of all. I glanced at his proffered hand, still unsure if I could trust him.
"Please…" he said, barely above a whisper.
"Do you not know?"
The same… The voice was the same. This man had saved me before.
I took a deep breath; if by some miracle, the Goddesses had heard my prayers… and sent him to me… then I would follow. Hesitantly, I placed my hand in his. His touch sent a strange pulse through me, causing the back of my right hand to tingle.
But before I could question it, the masked man pulled me forward, setting us off in a mad dash, leaving the ruins of the execution grounds behind.
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