Chapter XXIV - Escape
I was grateful that the brig of the King of Red Lions was much better kept than that of the Dread Pirate Raven. Ganondorf had ordered me to be sent here the moment Zelda and Impa were a safe distance away. His Haladin guards were more than eager to drag me down the many stairs to the brig, whilst the Hylian guards observed with indifference. Ganondorf followed calmly after us, and once the Haladin guards locked me inside a cell, they were sent away.
A quiet chuckle sounded from his throat as he leisurely stalked to the bars. With a snap of his fingers... the torches on the walls lit.
Dread and surprise flooded within me, sending my senses on edge; never had I encountered anyone apart from Zelda and Impa with such a rare ability.
"By all rights, I should kill you where you stand for your offense." His sharp voice emanated throughout the chamber, causing a chill to run up my spine.
I said nothing, and refused to look at him.
"You are silent now? Do not mock me boy. Tell me how you came to know of the princess's capture."
"She will despise you for this, if she does not already," I taunted.
His lip twitched in anger. "She knows not the danger of her actions. King Aldir will see that you are found guilty, just as I do." Curling his fingers around the bars, he sneered. "Your ruse is at an end, Royal Guardian."
My blood turned cold, eyes widening; how could he know of my former life?
"Yes, I see the way you gaze upon her so brazenly. But truly, I cannot charge you with such a crime for she is the most beautiful woman in world."
I bit my teeth, trying to control my breath as shudders of anger coursed over me.
"And she is to be my queen," he hissed.
I looked to him, my eyes narrowed in disgust as he smirked.
"A man to be envied, am I not… to possess such a jewel?"
My fury slipped from control and I was on my feet in the blink of an eye. "If you dare speak of her so perversely again—"
"Ah, even your words betray you," he grinned. Waving a hand offhandedly he began to slowly pace outside my cell, his cape slithering against the wood. "If you are truly a former knight, then you know your fate."
"Do not pretend to know me."
He glared. "A guard on this ship gave you away, Link of Ordon. You're dishonor is most offensive to your kingdom; abandoning your duties to become an assassin? The charge of desertion is awarded death in Hyrule."
"I am no assassin, you snake," I spat. "But I won't waste my breath on deaf ears." I could see through his lie; I had not recognized any Hylian guards when I boarded the ship.
He raised a brow and chuckled. "That tongue will earn you a charge of insolence."
"Princess Zelda will never allow it."
He laughed outright. "You think her word can save you? The King will side with me, for I am his successor."
"…We shall see."
He suddenly fell silent and with inhuman speed, reached into the cell and took hold of my tunic, pulling me roughly against the bars. I was nearly face to face with him, and though he was nearly a foot taller than me and much larger in stature, I was not afraid of him.
"You try my patience," he growled with bared teeth. "You will tell me how you knew of Princess Zelda's capture."
I glared at him, half tempted to spit in his face, yet in the pale light of the torches, his eyes flashed gold. A shudder ran down my spine; not from fear, but from a different feeling entirely.
A sleepless malice.
"Speak," he commanded.
"She lives, that is all that matters," I muttered. "Or perhaps… you wished her dead?"
His nostrils flared, his lips curling in fury. "How dare you accuse me of sedition, filthy commoner!" Releasing my tunic, he grabbed my injured arm and pulled it through the bars, twisting it painfully.
"I would rip out your throat myself if not for the princess," he spat. I held my breath as I gripped the bars with my other hand, suppressing any display of pain. His yellow eyes then flickered to my hand and he released me. I backed away against the wall, panting as I clutched my arm. Ganondorf continued to glare at me as he straightened his gauntlets and dusted himself off… as if he had a just dealt with an animal.
"You are fortunate this day, boy," he scoffed, heading towards the door. "Do not challenge me again." He snapped his fingers once again to extinguish the torches and slammed the door shut, the ring of metal echoing throughout the brig.
I cursed to myself, angry my temper had been bested by the likes of Ganondorf.
He was formidable indeed; it was clear now why Zelda held such misgivings and fear for him. It was true what she had said; he thought her pathetic, nothing but a prize in his eyes and that… angered me most. She was all that was fair and good, and far from weak. But that is where Ganondorf's folly lay; he underestimated her. Sighing heavily, I closed my eyes and slumped to the floor as I rubbed my aching shoulder. All I could do now was wait for Zelda's return.
In the utter darkness and silence, I thought upon what had happened the past two days, wondering what more I could have done to keep Zelda from Ganondorf's grasp. Now that I had witnessed his true character, I felt guilty she had endured his presence for so long. He was arrogant, cruel and merciless; a man with ill-intent, drunk with the prospect of power, and well versed in the art of deception.
He had fooled all of Hyrule.
I then turned to the discovery of Ganondorf's magic. He had only displayed a simple trick of fire, and nothing more. Was there more to his ability or did he indeed only possess amateur skill? I could sense how much he wished to kill me, but something had stopped him besides the passing thought of Zelda…
The hours passed by slowly, and just as I began to fall into a numb sleep, the sudden echo of footsteps descending the staircase reached my ears, followed by a heavier set.
"You swore you would not harm him!" came an angry outburst from the corridor outside.
The sound of Zelda's voice sent relief flooding through me, quickening my heart at the prospect of seeing her.
"Princess Zelda, I cannot allow this," Ganondorf said calmly.
I stood, biting my tongue to keep from calling out to her; I could not let my actions betray myself further.
"He is a dangerous man, this Raven, you must not consort with him."
"I will not stand for this unjust treatment of him."
I heard the click of the door but it did not open.
"…You will let me pass," Zelda said slowly.
"His Highness instructed me to rule in his stead whilst he recovers and would agree this man is untrustworthy."
"Raven saved my life; a hero does not deserve to be locked up!" Zelda said fervently, continuing to fumble with the latch.
"Why does a former knight mean so much to you, even one so disloyal to the crown?" There was a moment of stunned silence and Zelda did not reply. "He is nothing more than a deserter, fortunate enough to come across you. He is using you to win back his honor, do you not see? He deceives us all."
"My word is enough to pardon any crime; do not be so quick to judge of matters you know nothing of," Zelda said barely above a whisper. I could taste blood seeping into my mouth as I forced myself to remain silent.
Ganondorf sighed. "I act only out of concern for Her Highness; will you not listen to your betrothed?"
"I would ask the same of you."
"I will not risk your safety. Now please, return to your quarters."
Another long moment of silence passed until Zelda spoke. "… Do not think this shall be forgotten." I then heard her footsteps ascending the stairs, my heart sinking as they died away.
Ganondorf let out a quiet laugh before following after her.
And I there I remained in darkness… alone.
I didn't remember falling asleep.
Standing beneath the shade of a tree, I felt the wind sweep across my brow. Tall grass of green and gold blew westward, brushing across my boots. A clear blue sky stretched endlessly, and a brilliant sun shone above. Recognizing the scent of Hyrule Field, I realized I was at the edge of the Kokiri Forest, upon East Hill. Then I heard a familiar voice call out to me. Turning around, it felt as if my memories had taken a life of their own.
"This is a dream…?"
She nodded. "I am sorry you were imprisoned… I did not think Prince Ganondorf would betray his promise to me so publicly." Her voice came as a clear echo, seeming to fill the air. "You heard the commotion earlier I presume; I came to free you but as he and I disputed, I realized it would be wiser to wait for I do not wish him to fault you further over mere suspicions."
"I care not for myself," I replied. "My concern lies with you, Zelda. How is it you speak to me now?"
Her face flushed and she shifted uneasily. "I did not think it would work…"
I simply raised a brow.
"It is forbidden magic," she sighed, "the Dream Melder."
I groaned in aggravation and before I could speak out in objection, she put a finger to my lips, yet I did not feel her touch. "I am rested enough; this was the only way to see you."
I took her hand, still unable to feel her skin. "I see you will not yield," I mumbled.
She entwined her fingers with mine, gazing at my calloused hands as sorrow filled her violet eyes. "Were you harmed in my absence?"
I shook my head. "Nothing but my shoulder, but that prince is cruel indeed."
Brows furrowing, she asked, "What has he done in my absence?"
"You are right of his character; he spoke of you as if you were a prize to be won," I said darkly. "He was very much interested how a traitor knight rescued you from your capture."
Zelda turned her gaze to the field as she thought upon my words. "He knows you were—are my Guardian," she said quietly. "It is just as I feared; he wishes you dead for keeping me from him and now abuses the power of his status to charge you wrongly of desertion… even to silence me with feigned concern as his betrothed."
"I would rather die than see you become his queen." I could nearly taste the venom in my voice.
She graced her fingers against my cheek. "Do not speak such words… I will not let him become Hyrule's king." She then bowed her head and said barely above a whisper, "I betrayed you Link, but I shall rectify my mistakes..."
The desire to feel her in my arms was overwhelming; I wished her to know I would always love her… no matter what came to pass. I breathed her name and her averted face shaded.
"We cannot plan your escape until we return to Hyrule…I'm sorry."
I took her by the shoulders. "No, I will not run like a coward; there is more you do not know."
Her brows puckered, waiting for me to continue.
"Ganondorf possesses magic," I said gravely. "He may be a necromancer."
Her eyes widened, her mouth falling slightly agape. "I knew nothing of this," she whispered.
"Does he know of your ability?"
She shook her head. "None save Impa and Sahashrala."
"It must remain so; tread carefully…"
Zelda nodded and said nothing for a few moments. "I am frightened… though war has been evaded, peril yet looms before us."
"…Of what do you speak?"
"The essences we bear… the golden eyed shadow shall seek us still."
Unconsciously, I glanced to my hand, still not knowing whether or not I believed her. "You are safe in Hyrule, Zelda; worry not until you return to the castle."
"…I pray you are right." She then fell silent, lost in thought.
"Tell me of Calatia," I asked, not wanting that silence. "Did you speak with their king?"
Zelda nodded. "King Neildar holds no quarrel with Hyrule, but allies we are not."
"Yet," I encouraged.
Zelda's face lightened. "Perhaps."
She turned from me, continuing to hold my hand as she looked out towards Hyrule Field.
"Is it just as you remember it?" she asked quietly.
Zelda smiled and sat in the grass, tugging my hand to join her. I sat beside her, admiring her wordlessly, wishing this was reality… that we had returned to days of old with trivial cares.
"One day," she began softly, "we shall come here again."
"In waking you mean?
She giggled softly. "Yes, but for now dreams must suffice."
"…You won't force me down the hill again… will you?"
The journey back to Hyrule took nearly three days; the King of Red Lions was nowhere near as quick the boat Sakon had stolen, nor Raven's ship. Impa visited my cell twice a day to bring me food and water, while every night, Zelda came to me in dreams. We spoke of the past, of my adventures, and of the disturbing occurrences in Hyrule. Something tugged in the back of my mind each time we spoke, prompting me to remember something, but I could not recall what impressed me so. At every meeting, the desire to touch her, to feel her, became more prevalent. I sensed she felt the same as I; we had been kept apart for so long, and now to be together again but forbidden to be together was maddening.
On the last night of the journey, Zelda used all her concentration to attempt to feel my hand and it worked for a few moments, however, after displaying so much magic, her strength gave out and the dream ended; she did not return that night.
At dawn, I heard a loud commotion from above and knew we had arrived in Hyrule. The King of Red Lions docked and I heard nearly everyone leave the ship. I was left in the brig for a few hours until Impa came for me.
"I have been ordered to bring you to the lord of Sunset Bay's castle… as prisoner." She held shackles in her hands and I hung my head.
"That bastard is going to frame me for Lady Zelda's capture…."
"She will not allow that," she said as she opened the door and gestured for me to stand.
"Where is Lady Zelda now?"
"In the care of the Lady of Sunset Bay."
"I will not see her…?"
She shook her head. "Prince Ganondorf has set more of his guards on watch; it is too much of a risk."
Impa fastened the shackles about my wrists loosely and I sighed heavily, feeling the weight of daunting future set in.
"You have been through much already, but your courage is needed now more than ever; do not yet lose hope."
I nodded and let her lead me up to the deck. The sun blinded me and it took some time before I could see without difficulty. The Hylian soldiers eyed me warily, not knowing what to think of me.
We walked off the ramp onto the dock and just as I stepped onto the land, the air became noticeably colder; it was almost like the chill of winter. I looked to Impa in question, but she kept her eyes ahead and led me to a small coach ahead. And like a true prisoner, I was forced inside while Impa climbed to the footman's seat with the driver.
Through the bars, the townspeople of Sunset Bay watched our procession curiously, and I did my best to hide my face because of the shame I felt. Even though I had been a pirate, I had done nothing to warrant such treatment.
Pursing my lips I cursed Ganondorf under my breath.
We made our way to the northern cliffs, and on the closest crag to the city, stood an ancient fortress: the residence of the Lord of Sunset Bay. As we rode towards the gates, two knights escorted us the remainder of the way. We stopped on the southern side of the castle and two guards then led us to the dungeons.
"You will be held here for the time being," Impa said quietly. "We leave in two days time."
I said nothing and trudged into my cell. There were ten in all, but I was the only prisoner. She then placed my belongings on the dungeon keeper's table, and made her way back to me with keys in hand.
"I am sorry," she whispered low enough so the guards could not hear. "Please, endure a while longer; the princess and I will not forsake you."
I did not reply as she unlocked the shackles from me. Without another word, Impa closed the cell door and left the dungeon.
I could not sleep; the night was like a winter's frost despite the autumn season; the drastic change was peculiar indeed. I moved against the cell bars, closer to the torches in attempt to feel the fire's warmth.
I had been listening for hours for the shuffle of footsteps, or the ringing of metal, but I had heard nothing to indicate Impa or Zelda would come. I huddled into myself, enduring wave after wave of shivers. I began to feel overwhelmed; my circumstance evoked unpleasant memories of my time in Raven's brig. I closed my eyes and slumped to the stone floor, suddenly feeling ill.
…Zelda… how did it come to this?
"I was able to endure because of you… I will not leave you again."
"...I believe now I was not only spared for Hyrule's sake… but for you."
I shook my head; why did I think of such words now?
"Your Goddesses did not send me; it was by my own instincts that I found you."
"It was their whisperings that guided you… it is the only way you could have…"
"Your faith is meaningless..."
Did I truly believe that?
Suddenly I heard the door latch click, and I looked up to find Zelda opening the door. She was dressed in nothing but a sleeping gown and wore a thick, hooded clock. In her arms, she carried a bundle of clothing and threw it on the table beside my belongings. She then rushed to my cell, fumbling with the keys her hands.
"You must escape from here, tonight!" She was breathless, her voice nearly frantic. The lock released and she swung the door ajar, taking my hand as she tried to pull me to my feet.
"What has happened?" I whispered as I stood. Her face was pale, lips trembling as she shook her head. I pulled her to me and simply held her shaking body in my arms. "What has disturbed you so?"
She took my face into her hands. "I have seen you die!" Tears sprung to her eyes. "The other essence of the Triforce lies with him, Link… the golden eyed man!" A quiet sob escaped her lips and she covered her mouth with the back of her hand to quiet herself.
I could only gaze helplessly upon her; she was frightened beyond comparison.
"I have foreseen it; if you do not escape now, he will come for you."
"I cannot leave you, Zelda. If he desires to kill us both, I must protect—"
"You can do nothing from a cell, Link." She then pointed to the bundle of clothing she brought. "There is no time, you must change quickly."
She wiped her eyes and turned around. "Hurry now."
I did what she asked, all the while thinking of what I could say to change her mind. After I fitted my sword to my belt, I continued. "Do not ask this of me Zelda… subjecting you to his hands…"
She grabbed my tunic, steering me towards the door. "If you remain here... you will not stand a chance." She opened the door and dragged me out of the dungeon.
"…Have you so little faith in me?"
Her pace slowed as we ascended the stone steps, emerging to the lower level of the basements.
"…You do not understand," she whispered. "You have not seen what I have."
I could not muster a reply.
"I fear I am seeing what will come to pass… that my dreams are premonitions."
I did not heed her words when she came to me with frightful dreams so long ago. If I had listened, I would have never been captured… Zelda would not be at the mercy of Ganondorf.
Have you no faith in her?
We evaded the remaining guards easily enough and came upon the storerooms as we rounded the corner of the top basement floor. Sneaking though the storerooms into the kitchens, we hurried out the garden door and into the shrubbery. The stars were veiled and the moon was hidden behind dark clouds, shielding us from spying eyes.
As soon as we were a safe distance away, she stopped in a small clearing. "Just past those trees lies a wall, and beyond, the stables; ready a horse and ride as far from here as you are able,"
she instructed, her voice low and uneven.
"Zelda please… there is another way."
"No, there is no—"
"Come with me." I pleaded.
She bit her lip, searching my eyes.
"You are in far greater peril."
She took her hand from mine and stepped back. "If you do not leave willingly, I shall force you."
Angrily, I grabbed her hands and pulled her back to me.
"Link, do not do this!"
I silenced her with a heated kiss, and she fought against me in vain.
"I would rather die than leave your side again," I breathed heavily against her lips. "I promised…"
Loosening my grip, she broke away and stared at me with narrowed eyes, tears running freely… such regret and guilt within them.
"And I you, that you would never suffer for my sake again," she whimpered. "You were dead once… and it was nearly my ruin… I could not bear it if you died again."
I stared at her wordlessly and sighed; she would not be swayed.
Gently, I took her hand and placed it against my heart. "Then swear to me, until you feel this heart stilled… believe I am alive… that I will come for you."
"I will." Her voice broke and she cried my name, begging me to run.
I kissed her once more and rushed into the woods, despising myself more and more with each step I took. Reaching the wall, I turned around to glance upon her a final time. Through the darkness, I could not see her yet I still felt the ghost of her touch upon my skin.
Hesitantly, I began to scour the wall, finding it only to be as tall as two men. I dropped to the other side into the brush and hurried on towards a faint light between the trees. Coming upon the stables, I quieted my footsteps and tried to find an entrance.
As I came upon a sliding door, I heard hushed, low voices from inside.
"He is confined alone; the charge for desertion will be solidified once an escape is staged."
"How long shall I keep him alive…?"
"You are denied the privilege to slay him; it is fortunate he has become of use or I would have killed you the moment you returned in failure."
"… My Lord is most merciful."
"On the night of the wedding, you shall bring him to Hyrule Castle. Once I have taken the princess's power and she is dead, I will take the boy's and fault him for her murder on behalf of Calatia."
"I understand, My Lord."
My mind was reeling; coherent thoughts escaped me. Silently I moved the door open to a slit, finding Ganondorf speaking with a familiar cloaked figure.
"But what of the princess?" he hissed. "Surely the boy told her my identity…?"
"Her knowledge is of no consequence. Aldir and the counselors are now under my control; none shall believe her outrageous accusations stemmed from the trauma of abduction."
Everything suddenly fell into place; Ganondorf…was Agahnim's master. He knew of my former life from Count Agahnim, knew where to find Zelda because of him…
And Ganondorf was the golden-eyed man that plagued Zelda's nightmares… the one she believed held a power of the Goddesses. I moved away from the door, a terrible feeling of foreboding taking hold of me.
I must return; I cannot leave her to his evil designs!
And then… I remembered what had stirred my mind during the dreams with Zelda… what had been locked away in the recesses of my memories, something I deemed so trivial I had never given it a second thought…
Through the river of time, one truth yet remains; righteous ruling brings the sun's light whilst the wicked brings the moon's darkness. All shall be warned from this day hence, if such an evil befalls the land of the Goddesses, creatures of the night will bring to pass its ruin.
Zelda thought it was the impending war that was to bring calamity to Hyrule but…
…Should a righteous heart and an evil heart join under the crown, chaos will reign across the lands and beasts shall roam in warning.
Their engagement… the threat of war and destruction was still upon Hyrule… upon her.
I began to run for the wall in blind panic. I crashed through the brush, tripping many times in my frantic need to warn her. I reached the wall quicker than expected and just as I began to climb, a strange coldness seized my body and I was thrown back. My vision spun, my head pounding as I tried to stand.
"Ah, the traitor knight has escaped already," Ganondorf mocked. "But your skills will not save you."
I was forced back down to the ground by the same strange force. Ganondorf circled me before digging his heel into the wound on my shoulder and I bit my teeth to keep from crying out.
He leaned down, his narrowed golden eyes glowing in the darkness. I tried to twist away from beneath him, but to no avail. Before I could utter a word of defiance, he slammed a heavy boot against my throat. "Your misplaced courage is nothing to my power." A dark laugh echoed sharply in my ears as he kicked me away.
Rolling into a tree, I began to cough violently, tasting the blood that filled my mouth. Dull spots of light clouded my vision and I could not breathe.
Agahnim suddenly appeared above me, gripping an invisible force in the air. He drove his fisted hand to my chest and it felt as if a knife plunged into my body, sapping all the strength from me.
Darkness shrouded my eyes, silencing the desperate prayers in my mind.
Please… Goddesses… save her.
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