The snow billowed all around the old cottage as the night grew darker. This would be a storm to remember; for days the snow had piled up around the small houses of the village with no end in sight.
Light from inside the small dwelling shone upon the drifts out of tiny windows.
Inside the home, a fire crackled noisily in the fireplace and soup bubbled in a pot above the fire. Young ones gathered around the fire trying to get warm.
This cottage, being the town meeting hall, was crowded with five families who had sought shelter from the storm and were all now living cosily, if cramped, sheltered from the elements.
"Tell us another!" came a childish cry.
A chorus of echoes begged the same of an old man sitting amid the dozen children.
"But, children," the old man said, "It is almost bedtime and if I start another story, you shall be late to bed."
"We don't care, tell another story!"
The old man looked over to his aging wife and she nodded wearily, smiling.
"All right, then." he said, settling himself for another tale. The children squealed with delight. Smiling, the storyteller took out his pipe and lit it. "Now children, have I told you of the story about Foghan and the dragon?"
Amid the chorus of 'no's, a little boy shouted, "We don't wanna hear about some old dragon!"
Shaking his head at the boy's disrespectful behaviour, the old man asked, "Then what do you wish to hear, young man?"
"We wanna hear about Link!" shouted the boy. The children loudly agreed with him.
The old man thought for a minute. "How about the tale of the Silver Rose?"
Heads shook. "We've heard that one!" someone shouted.
"What about the tale of the evil faerie king, Vaun?"
The old man smiled slyly as another story sprang to his mind. "Have I told you the tale of the Sorcerer's Apprentice?"
The room fell silent but for the sound of the village women preparing supper.
"Ah! I thought not!"
The man settled into his chair and drew a deep breath of smoke from his pipe before starting.
"Now little ones, this story happened many years ago, after the faerie king had attempted to conquer Hyrule. The hero, Link, had killed the faerie, but some questions still remained. For instance: How had the Shades been found? How did they know Rothe? How did Vaun survive the destruction of the Forest Temple? No one knew it, but Vaun was merely a puppet, a distraction while darker things roamed the surrounding Shadows. One such shadow was Ashir, the apprentice of the wizard, Agahnim!"
The air was putrid.
Deep in the bowels of the great Hyrule Castle, a dungeon dwelt. This dungeon was kept only for the vilest of criminals. Few guards passed through these halls. The only light to these rooms was a single dim lantern that illuminated the main chamber. Around this main chamber were a dozen cells, each locked.
These prisoners were here to die.
The air was musty and thick and the smell of rotting flesh and rancid meat hung heavy in the rooms.
Inside one of these rooms lay a small man.
He spent his days looking up at the ceiling and watching the air move. Sometimes he thought he could see shapes in the air, moving and bending and shifting; calling out to him, begging him to join them in their dark dance.
This man had led a full life and was now awaiting the executioner's block, although he half fancied that he was now forgotten, since he had spent almost two years in this filthy cell with no hint of release. This man was Ashir, the pupil of the great Agahnim!
He used his magic for fun now, for his cell was guarded against magical attacks and could not be opened with spells. Life was slow.
That was about to change.
The sound of running feet reached his ears first. Many feet; at least a dozen. Voices he heard second; hushed voices. The sound of the cell lock turning was heard last.
The door to Ashir's cell creaked open and his room was flooded with a blinding light.
One man ran to the magician and roughly picked him up, carrying him out the door.
The others waited out in the main hall, men in dark clothes with concealing cloaks and masks upon their shoulders.
Quickly, they ran up the stairs to the main dungeon and then up again to the castle itself. They moved very stealthily out into the castle grounds and then out of the city; the bright midnight light burning Ashir's eyes.
His mind was cloudy in the sudden rush of events but one thought kept piercing his mental fog: He was free!
THE ADVENTURE BEGINS...
Hyrule. Called by some the Jewel of the Seven Kingdoms. Hyrule was a land of majestic mountains, emerald rivers, and cavernous ravines. Mostly, though, Hyrule was a land of magic. Of course, all of the Seven Kingdoms had the power of magic, but for some reason, Hyrule had more. Its people, the Hylians, were all naturally gifted with magic; it came easy to them.
In the surrounding lands, populated mainly with the humans, magic was not so plentiful. Generations of breeding had diluted the magical blood, so humans had trouble performing even the easiest of spells.
Hyrule has for centuries been ruled over by the monarchies; the King and Queen, chosen by the gods themselves legends say. Inside their beautiful castle in the centre of Hyrule both were pillars of sanity as the rest of the castle fell into chaos; Ashir had escaped.
Link, the protector of Hyrule, the Hero of Destiny, the guardian of the Triforce, was striding through the halls of the castle towards the throne room.
Though only sixteen, those who do know him never place him below twenty; the pressures of leadership and destiny have pulled on him long.
Passing a troop of guards, Link entered the giant throne room. No one ever entered the Hyrule throne room without stopping in awe. The walls were adorned with rich velvet curtains and tapestries made of the most brilliant colours; the floor was laid with ivory and gold; the ceiling plaited in silver and gems; the entire room centering on the thrones.
Both towering above the room mounted on a raised dais, they shone with the light of the morning sun. Made entirely of ruby quartz, these thrones glittered red and reflected the sun's rays throughout the room. Upon these chairs of royalty sat the king and queen of Hyrule.
King Torvus of East Hyrule sat in the right-hand throne, his golden sceptre shining in his hands, his red cape blending with the chair, his blue robes piercing the red room like a sword through bread. Queen Mira of West Hyrule sat upon the left chair, her flowing golden gown seemed to surround the seat, her silver crown resting gently on her brow.
Both monarchs demanded honour from those around them.
Link approached the dais and knelt quickly. "Your highnesses."
"Rise Link." Mira said, "You know that it is we who should be bowing before you for the services you have given this country."
Rising, Link said, "You summoned me?"
"Yes." Torvus announced. "One of the prisoners has escaped, killing two guards on his way. We wish that you should track him down immediately."
"Torvus!" Mira whispered scoldingly.
Torvus seemed to relax a bit in his throne. "Sorry, Link. I am not yet used to being so informal with my subjects."
"No problem, sir." Link said knowingly. Torvus had ascended to the throne when his wife, Princess Mira, was proclaimed Queen of Hyrule following the death of her father, King Gerrik. Link winced as he remembered the day Gerrik had died. Asleep in his room, an illness striking him, Gerrik had been murdered by the evil faerie, Vaun.
"I'll do as you ask."
"Thank you, Link." Mira said, smiling.
Link turned around and marched out of the room to prepare for his mission.
Link returned to his room in the guest wing of the castle. What would he need? This was a tracking mission, so heavy armour was out of the question. Light mail should do. He bent down to pick up the shirt of chain links and his necklace fell out from beneath his tunic. The necklace. It was a small plain ring fastened onto a chain. Idly, Link fingered the item and fondly remembered his time with Malon. The farm girl had given it to him with the promise to return it. He still had that to do.
At that moment, the door flew open and in flowed a young girl not much older than he. She was dressed in knee high riding boots, dark green breeches, and a loose tunic of blue belted with a silver belt. Atop her head was a silver circlet.
Although she did not look it, she was a princess. But not just any princess- she was Princess Zelda, jewel of all the Seven Lands and youngest sister of Mira.
Link stood straight and turned to his guest, putting on the mail.
"What's up, Zelda?" he asked casually.
"Link!" she said excitedly, "I just got a letter from Julia! She hasn't said anything in over two years! This is great!" Saying that, the young princess jumped onto the bed and began reading:
"Hello Zelda, dear. I hope I find you in good health. I am so sorry that I have not stayed in touch but out here in Delabor, communication is very rare over long distances. How is our dear older sister, Mira? I hear that she has become Queen of Hyrule! She shall make a wonderful queen. Is Torvus still as boring as ever? I do not doubt that he is! He will never change.
I wrote to you to tell you of my future plans: I am coming down from Delabor soon to visit, so prepare my room! I am looking forward to revisiting all of our favourite places! I am sorry for the short notice, but word of this Link has spread even up in these frigid lands and Trine is expecting to meet the boy. And the sooner the better! He is getting restless, Zelda. There have been no border skirmishes for over six weeks and he has nothing to do! He is also looking forward to meeting his aunt, you two have not seen each other for so long, why it must be over ten years! Speaking of little ones, dear, have you married yet? If my counting is right, then you must be about the age to start looking, at least. I shall expect a list of suitable suitors when I arrive! Till then, good bye and give my love to the new queen!"
Zelda finished the letter and looked up at Link. "Julia's coming here! That's terrific, Link!"
During Zelda's recital of the letter, Link had been busy preparing for his mission but now he stopped. "Who was Julia again?"
Zelda tossed a pillow at the boy, laughing. "You remember, don't you? Julia is my older sister; she's the middle child with Mira being the oldest. About eighteen years ago, she and a noble wed and she gave birth to a boy, Trine. That was two years before I was born. Then ten years ago, her husband- I can't remember his name, now- ascended to the Delaborian throne and she left Hyrule to join him. That was the last time I saw her before she visited once, seven years ago. And she's coming home again!"
"Good." Link said, busying himself once more with preparations, "Why don't you go tell Mira and Torvus the good news."
Zelda jumped up. "That's right! I've got to tell them!" She rushed to the door but stopped short. "Link?" she said turning to face him, "Where are you going?"
Link put his sword, the Evil's Bane, the Master Sword, into its scabbard and left the room. "A prisoner escaped last night and Torvus told me to track him down."
"Oh," Zelda said as she followed Link out into the hall and towards the main gates. "Well, if you'll wait a bit, I'll go tell Mira the news and then join you! Ok?"
Link smiled at her and agreed. "Ok, I'll meet you by the front gate in ten minutes."
With that, the two parted company, Link headed for the gates and Zelda headed for the throne room.
Twenty minutes later, Link, Zelda, four guards, and a friend of Link's, Auldric, departed from the Royal Palace all mounted on the finest steeds. The going was slow, though, for Link had to constantly stop and look for the tracks of Ashir.
The day was beautiful, Zelda thought; the warm air clinging to the countryside, the cool wind lightly whisking her golden hair; birds chirping happily in the trees. Even her mount, a sandy brown mare called Sufaina, after the beach clinging coral, seemed to help the serenity of the land with her hooves thudding lightly on the grass.
Link had led the group in a southerly direction and at this rate, Zelda thought, they would reach the Calatian border in three days.
She worried about those people, the Calatians. They were pleasant enough, in their own fashion, but to her they always seemed distrustful and guarded against new things. Really, she couldn't blame them, after all that country has been through.
According to the legends and lore of Calatia, the land was once nearly as beautiful as Hyrule, but a fierce magical war had turned much of the territory into either deserted plains, baked by the sun; or strangling forests, were the sun never reached. After this war, the people had just began to recover when a powerful, evil wizard appeared. This wizard was said to be the vile warlock, Agahnim. The same Agahnim who had nearly delivered Hyrule into the hands of Ganon several years ago. Many scholars agree that, though Agahnim lived many centuries ago, it was the same one who Link killed in his pursuit of Ganon- revived by the vile one for his own evil purposes.
This ancient Agahnim had ravished the land and killed many Calatians before he was stopped in a great battle with the ancient Calatian hero, Garin. The wizard supposedly died in that battle, but the tales are unclear as to the fate of him.
A sudden thought struck the young princess. What would the Calatians do if they discover that Hyrule has been harbouring Agahnim's apprentice? They wouldn't be happy at all, that is for sure.
Idly, Zelda twisted her ring as she thought of the possible outcomes: The Calatians could be so furious as to try and imprison or even execute Link and herself! Their hatred for the wizard runs deeper than anything else in their lives. It runs so deep, in fact, that their society scorns any that use magic frequently; including Hylians, like she and Link, who use magic constantly. Very few Calatians have any knowledge at all about magic.
The princess snapped out of her thoughts to see Link riding beside her.
"What is it , Link?" she asked.
"I said that the tracks we're following have been joined by more."
"What do you mean?"
Link stopped his horse, Silvermane, and dismounted. Kneeling, he pointed to the ground by his feet. "These tracks are those of Ashir and his friends," he pointed his hand west and swept it to join those tracks, "These, though, are from another group who joined our friend the wizard from the west. I'd say about six who joined the original party of twelve."
"What were they doing in the west, I wonder?" Zelda said thoughtfully. "There's not much over there except Northern Calatia. Link, get the map out and check it please."
Link opened a pouch on the side of Silvermane's saddle, took out a map, and looked at it for a minute. "Well, there's not much west except for Calatia and Turka. Why would these people come all the way from Turka just to meet with two-bit wizard? That's a lot of ground to cover."
Putting the map away, he mounted his horse again and turned to Auldric, who had been silent for the trip so far. "Auldric, why don't you take two men and follow the new tracks and see were they start?"
Auldric saluted mockingly. "Yes, sir! We'll meet back at the castle, OK?"
Link saluted back and smiled, "Sure thing, Auldric. Good luck."
With that, Auldric and two guards turned and headed west.
That night, Link, Zelda, and the two remaining guards posted camp near the Ghanrian River. The river was hardly a river any more, for it had dried up ages ago and reduced to nothing more than a stream.
With the crickets chirping all around them, the four made ready to sleep. Link took the first watch, for there were many creatures that roamed the land at night. The surrounding blackness was kept only at bay by the dwindling fire.
Zelda was surprised when she awoke to find that the fire had almost died and Link was still on guard. She got up and walked over to were the boy sat.
"You should be asleep. You're watch ended hours ago." she said, sitting next to him.
Link looked at her in the gloom. "I know," he said, "but, I just can't think of any reason for Turkans to kidnap Ashir and take him to Calatia. If anyone saw him, he would be killed on sight."
"I know." Zelda said. They fell into silence for some moments, the only sound the crackling of the fire. Suddenly she spoke up, "Link, when we find these kidnappers, what are we going to do? You said they have about eighteen men. We only have four."
Link looked at the ground for some time before answering, "I don't know. We'll just have to hope that we sneak up on them. Don't worry, everything will be fine."
Zelda wasn't too sure.
The next morning, the four travellers set out, once again on the trail of the wizard.
As they rode, Zelda noticed that the Eridani Mountains could be seen easily; these mountains were the boundary between Hyrule and Calatia and the closer the mountains come, the greater chance that the wizard will not be caught this side of the boundary line.
As the day wore on, Link noticed that Zelda seemed very preoccupied. She wasn't speaking much and looked to be thinking a lot. This worried the boy, for Zelda was usually a happy, outgoing person. Something was wrong.
Keeping his eyes on the trail, Link found himself remembering the first time he had met the princess. Although it was only two years ago, it seemed to him to be ages. Fighting his way down into the depths of Hyrule Castle and finding at the end, the most beautiful girl he had ever laid eyes on. She was his age but held a certain charm that made her seem much older. Her shoulder length golden hair and astonishing features were captivating. Of course, Link had said nothing of his attraction to her, but she had sometimes hinted that she knew how he felt and shared the feeling.
After freeing Zelda from the dungeon, Link had helped her escape to the Sanctuary were she could be safe. Since that day, he and she had been the best of friends, always by each other's side. They had been on many adventures, and through these adventures Link had gained more popularity than he had ever dreamed of; everyone in Hyrule knew him. His talents had greatly increased and he was considered by many to be the best swordsman in all the Seven Lands, yet still he longed for more. Staying as honoured guest at Hyrule Castle and the constant duty of commanding the Praetorian Guard was wearing on him; he wanted more. As his uncle would have said, "The soul is getting restless."
Link had bested everything that rose against him. Creatures were so afraid of him now that most would run at the sight of him.
This thought jarred Link out of his thoughts and back into reality: Where were the creatures? This part of Hyrule was usually crawling with nasty things, now there were none to be seen or even heard.
"Zelda?" he asked.
"Have you noticed that these lands are empty? There are no monsters."
Zelda looked quickly around her at the rolling hills and saw nothing.
"That's odd." she said, "There should be at least some."
They rode in silence, all of them looking around to find a trace of an enemy, but could find none. Suddenly Link caught a little detail. "Birds."
The others looked at him. "Birds, sir?" one of the guards asked.
"I hear birds. I don't think I've ever heard birds this far south."
The others agreed. This was indeed strange.
Where were the creatures?
The rest of the day was passed in near silence, as the companions rode on through the strangely safe lands.
That night, they camped under the boughs of a large oak tree. After they had eaten their small supper, Zelda lay near Link on her back looking at the night sky.
Link looked down at her. "What are you thinking about?"
Zelda did not shift her gaze from the heavens. "I was thinking about my family."
"Yes. I hardly know them, Link. My mother died when I was very little; I never knew her. My father died almost six months ago; Mira and Torvus became the leaders of Hyrule and now spend all of their time ruling the land; Julia and Trine live on the other side of the world, ruling Delabor. I don't really have anyone to talk to; to confide in, you know? The closest thing I have is probably you, Link."
Link chuckled softly. "Am I not good enough for you?"
Zelda smiled slightly. "You're the best I could ask for. You've been my friend for over two years now and we've been through a lot together but it won't last forever. You know that. One day, we'll have to stop running around on adventures and leave that to younger people who have all the time and none of the responsibilities."
Link laid back onto the grassy ground. "And when do you think that will be, princess?"
"Most likely the day I marry."
It was a few moments before any other word was said between them. Link murmured softly an agreement. "Yeah, when you get married..."
Zelda pushed herself up onto one elbow and looked Link in the eyes. "Link, I know how you feel about me," she could see the astonishment in his eyes, "and the Gods willing I may feel the same about you, too, but I don't think anything could happen between us. I'm of royal blood and it's expected of me to marry a nobleman."
She reclined again and resumed her stare at the stars waiting for a response.
It never came.
The next morning, it was a blood red sun that crested the mountains surrounding Hyrule. The morning light fell upon Link, Zelda, and the two guards already riding towards the Calatian border. By midday, the mountains loomed over them and Zelda called for a halt.
The party stood in a deep ravine that cut through the mountains; in the middle of ravine was a small path- the road to Calatia.
"Link, this could be trouble." she said.
"Ashir has already crossed the border. I suppose we'll have to tell the Calatian king."
Neither one of them enjoyed the task. They both knew that King Eridanus would be furious at the news. An evil sorcerer loose in the land was bad enough, but he was also Agahnim's apprentice; not good news at all.
Wordlessly, the decision was made. Zelda turned to one of the guards, "Go back and inform Queen Mira and King Torvus that Link and I are following Ashir into Calatia. Go now!" With a salute, the man turned his mount around and headed back to the castle.
The remaining three kicked their own mounts forward into the realm of Calatia.
Auldric and his two companions were having difficulty.
The land to the west was very rocky, so a clear trail could never be seen. Once or twice they had come to a dead end and had to retrace their tracks to pick up the trail again.
By the end of the first day they had made small progress, coming only five miles from the trail of the wizard.
The night passed uneventfully and the new day dawned. That day proved to be better for the trackers for the path was clearer. While Auldric did not posses the same hunting skills as Link, he was above the average.
The trio followed the trail as it turned from west to a northerly direction. Noting this, he could be reasonably sure that the trail would lead him to the freezing forests of Turka. Looking at his map, Auldric noticed that the path seemed to be headed towards a small town called North Ridge, which sat along the Western Mountains that divided Hyrule from Turka. They would have to get provisions for a long, cold trip there if the trail did not end at the town.
The day passed and night fell.
Settling down in the soft dirt surrounding the fire, blankets around them, the three men began to talk.
"So," one asked Auldric, "how did you meet Link? You two seem to be pretty good friends."
"Well," Auldric said, "about two years ago, I was fishing in the Jarul River when one of those pesky Zoras jumped out at me. I guess I screamed, because before I knew it, there was Link, sword in hand, fighting this Zora before my eyes. I moved away from the fight, not wanting to get in Link's way, when I slipped on a rock and fell headfirst into the river!" The guards laughed at this, "The next thing I know, I'm all wet laying on the riverbank with Link kneeling next to me. He was all wet too, so I guess he jumped in and saved me from drowning. After that, Link and I have been pretty good friends."
"You were lucky that Link was there, huh?"
Auldric laughed, "Yeah, I guess I was. But since then, I have helped Link out now and then. I saved his life once, you know."
The other two laughed, not believing him.
"No, really! I saved Link! There he was, surrounded by a group of tektites, with only his sword for a weapon. The tektites didn't see me, so I snuck up on them and cast a fire spell that burned almost half of them! They never knew what hit them! I was coming in, sword slashing, from behind, and Link was still fighting his way through them on the other side. Needless to say, we slew them all."
"Get off! You are saying that you saved the Hero of Hyrule?! No way!"
"True, true. It's all true."
Laughing, the men all drifted off to sleep.
The next day, the three broke camp and continued on their way, following the tracks northwards.
The going went peaceably and swiftly and before nightfall, the town of North Ridge was within sight. Cresting a small hill, the men could easily view all of the small town. Before them, they saw many golden lights glowing in the fading sunlight, the mountains beyond shedding long shadows by the red dusk.
Riding into town, Auldric quickly found an inn at the edge of the settlement where they spent the night.
North Ridge was the sort of town where everyone knew each other and strangers were easily recognized. It was a typical border town in that the houses were every close to each other; a tightly built town. Also like border towns, North Ridge had very few places of recreation; there was only one small pub that doubled as an inn and the town hall, there was one town fountain in the centre of town, and one small store.
When Auldric and his companions had awakened, they had breakfasted and immediately began to search for someone who knew of the six mysterious kidnappers. They met nothing but walls. No one in town was willing to speak with them about the strange men.
After several hours, Auldric just gave up; he was going to get nothing from these people.
They had just sat down in the pub when a tall man walked up to them.
"Sirs," he said, "You are looking for the strange men who passed through town several nights ago?"
Auldric eyed the man carefully before replying. "Yes, we are. Do you know of any useful information about these men?"
The man looked quickly around him, "Yes. I do. If you would follow, I can show you all the information you need." Saying that, he turned around and left the pub.
One of the guards spoke as he watched the man depart. "I do not trust him, Auldric. He is shifty."
"I don't trust him either, but he's the first person to even offer us information in this town. Let's check it out." Auldric said, rising from the table.
The three men left the pub and followed the strange man down the main street and out of the town into the surrounding grasslands. When they had reached a small shack, the man stopped and faced his followers. "In here are all of the answers you seek. If you would follow me..." He opened the door and entered the hut.
Auldric and the two guards followed and were immediately surrounded by blackness. Behind them, they heard the door slam shut making the darkness complete.
A faint snickering rose around them and suddenly the house was filled with light. The man had lit a lamp and was smiling evilly. Around him and three travellers were half a dozen battle-hardened bandits, each with a curved blade in his hand pointed at Auldric.
The strange man walked up to the trio and took their weapons saying, "All the answers you will ever need."
Something hit the back of Auldric's head and he fell into blackness, hearing no more.
Mira was worried about her sister.
When Zelda had come to Torvus and she, they had granted the girl permission to travel with Link, but they both had concerns. It was not fitting for a princess to be riding around the land on adventures.
It should be expected, though. After she and Julia had been married off to distant realms, only Zelda remained, and their father had spoiled her rotten after the Queen passed away. The young princess had done whatever she wanted for much of her life, and Gerrik hadn't the heart to stop her.
Currently, Mira had other concerns now than to worry abut Zelda; she could look after herself and Link would protect her no matter what. With the sudden announcement that Julia was returning to Hyrule after so long, the court was busy making preparations. Banners had to be made, dinners to be thought out, rooms to be prepared, and so on.
As well as arrangements, the monarchs also had to quench rumours. With the announcement, the people had begun to talk: Are Hyrule and Delabor uniting? Are they at war? Against who? Each other? Is Trine looking for a bride? Is Zelda marrying Trine? Such things have to be dealt with before they get out of hand.
Mira was sitting in the throne room of Hyrule Castle beside Torvus, chin in hand, listening to boring reports of various occurrences in the land. Presently, a small, beetle-like fellow was telling her of the new improvements made to the castle to protect it from siege.
"Is that not a brilliant idea, m'lady?" he asked.
Suddenly aware that the man was speaking to her, Mira snapped out of her thoughts. "I'm sorry?"
The man frowned in displeasure. "I said, m'lady, that the castle walls have been modified so that any invading army must pass under several rings of archers and multiple traps. They would be slaughtered! Is that not a good idea majesties?"
Mira looked to her husband and caught his eye; he too was bored. "It is indeed a grand idea, sir. But is it necessary? No one will attack this castle." Torvus said.
The beetle man seemed shocked. "Necessary! Necessary? It is indeed, good king, it is. Why at this very moment a host of demons could be marching here! These walls will stop them, sire, I guarantee."
Amused, Mira said, "Will these walls indeed halt the advances of a demon hoard? With their magic and ethereal bodies? That would be a great feat."
The man fumed, "M'lady! Please do not mock technology! This-"
"What if the enemy attacks the gates?" Torvus asked.
The man went stone still, his mouth opening and closing silently; his eyes narrowed and his face flushed in anger.
Torvus laughed. "This news of the walls is indeed good! We thank you for informing us, sir. Perhaps when you have time, you could find a way to improve the gatehouse that protects us as well as the walls. Again, thanks and good bye, sir! Never let it be said that we have no need for brilliant men! Go now!"
The man turned in a huff and left the room that still echoed with the laugher of the king. Mira watched him leave and then turned to Torvus. "Who was that man, dear?"
Torvus only laughed harder. "My dear queen! That was your Captain of Defense for this marvelous castle! Sir Gain Rampt is his name."
Wiping his teary eyes, Torvus beckoned a page. "Tell those who are left to spend the night in the castle and make rooms for them; the queen and I shall be in the Tower. Do not disturb us unless important. Go!"
The page left and the monarchs rose and headed for their rooms in the castle tower.
Arm in arm, the king and queen walked along the concourse that led to the tower. The walkway was built with a wall to one side and open on the other looking out to a small garden.
Torvus looked hard at his wife. "You look worried."
Mira shook her head. "No, I'm not. I'm fine, really."
"Don't bother lying, I know you too well. What's wrong?"
Sighing, Mira answered, "It's Zelda. I can't seem to stop thinking about her. I don't like her running all over the land chasing evil with Link. It's not good for a young girl or a princess."
Torvus smiled slightly. "She will be fine. I have never known a girl with more skill at staying alive than she. Besides she's with Link, he'll protect her. Don't worry."
Not convinced, Mira said, "I just can't shake this feeling of dread and foreboding, like I'll never see her again. It scares me, Torvus."
They stopped walking and Torvus hugged his wife. "You should not be worrying about such things, dear. You are the queen of Hyrule. Push such evil thoughts out of your mind and leave them until they are proven a reality. Then they may be addressed. Until then, enjoy yourself! We have the whole afternoon to ourselves. What shall we do?"
Smiling as an idea came to mind, Mira said, "Let's have a treasure hunt!"
Torvus looked dismayed. "Mira, I hate treasure hunts! I never find anything."
Laughing as she took him by the hand she said, "Oh, come on! We haven't had one in ages! It'll be fun!"
With that, she led him through the castle halls to begin the hunt.
Sir Gain was not happy.
He glowered at all of the royal courtiers as he passed them on his way to his quarters in the east wing of the castle.
The stupid queen had no idea how lucky she was that she had such a man as he under her rule. Gain had not lied when he had said that the new walls were impenetrable, he just had not expanded on that fact. The king would be surprised to discover that he had pinpointed the exact flaw in the design. Stones from the gatehouse had been scavenged to build parts of the walls. A well-placed bomb could destroy a good portion of the gate. Within minutes the castle could be taken over.
His foul mood disappeared and he chuckled as he thought of the monarchs shivering in a cold shack in the Northern Countries. The warlord had said that Mira and Torvus would be exiled shortly after the coup. For this, Gain was grateful. Even though he was a traitor to the crown, he would not be responsible for their deaths. When he had made the deal with the warlord, he had ensured that the royal family would live out their lives in exile, far from Hyrule, while their 'faithful' captain of defense would be relaxing in the luxury of personal advisor to the warlord.
He entered his chambers and smiled as he thought of how the princess would react to the news that she was no longer a princess but a mere commoner. He chuckled again as he thought of her face contorted in rage as she was barred from returning to the castle; or Hyrule for that matter. Gain was sure that the frivolous activities of that girl would stop when her crown was taken.
But Link. That boy could be a problem. While he would try to retake the crown, he would also let nothing harm the royal family, so he might stay with them in their exile. Early on, he was ruled out as a supporter of the coup; he was too loyal to the monarchy.
If he disrupted the plans somehow, he might have to be killed. Gain did not like that possibility at all. As with the royal family, he did not like murder. Killing on the battlefield was one thing, but killing for politics was quite another.
His thoughts concentrated on the present as he walked to a mirror in the back of his room. He had to give the warlord an update. The gate was finished and the plan was drawing together. The kidnapping of the wizard was the signal that soon all would be ready to depose the queen.
He muttered the magic spell to bring the mirror to life and a shadowy figure replaced the reflected image in the mirror. Smiling grimly, Gain prepared to give his report.
Soon all would be complete.
Calatia. The Land of Plenty. A land rivaled in beauty only by its northern neighbour, Hyrule. Inhabited by the descendants of the fair Hylia of Hyrule; Humans. These people are of the simple type, who live close to the land and distrust anything new and foreign.
It was into this country that the small party of the Princess Zelda rode in search of the wizard's apprentice, Ashir. Unfortunately, politics interfered with the search; the riders were headed toward the capital of Calatia, Calasta, in hope of finding King Eridanus in a good mood. They rode with fearful hearts for Eridanus will surely blame them for Ashir's escape.
Currently they were a two-day journey from the gem of all cities, Calasta. Renowned throughout the Seven Kingdoms for it's high towers, wide pools, beautiful gardens, and magnificent architecture, Calasta held the throne of the most powerful land in the world, with an army hundreds of thousands at it's command. A force to fear.
The princess Zelda was riding beside Link upon Sufaina and admiring the countryside when Link took hold of her arm suddenly, halting them both.
"What is it, Link?" she asked, surprised.
Link was silent for some time before answering; he was staring at some point of in the distance. "On the horizon." he said, "A group of people is coming this way."
Zelda relaxed a bit. "Oh! Is that all? I thought that we would be in trouble. If it's only people, then we should go meet them!"
Link held her arm firm. "No. We don't know how they'll react to Hylians in their land. They could get violent."
"Then what should we do?"
"We wait for them to get closer and see if they're armed. If they are, we run away as fast as we can."
Zelda was confused. "Link? Running away from a small band of raggedy travelers? Why not just stand and fight?"
Link stared at her in shock. "Zelda! Are you supposed to be a princess?! How would you react if you discovered that several Calatians had crossed into Hyrule and killed some farmers? Attacking these people could be disastrous!"
Zelda blushed in embarrassment. "Sorry. I forgot that we had left Hyrule."
With that, the travelers hid behind a small thicket of bushes and waited for the Calatians to draw nearer.
Soon, though, their fear left them and they left the thicket cover for they had sighted the green and gold flag of Calatian nobility. These were knights wandering home after some unknown battle.
Presently, the two companies met.
A knight rode forward upon a steed of brilliant silver; the breed of horse given only to the four leaders of the realm. Among them the king himself and his three governors.
The knight, clad in armour shimmering in the noonday sun, raised the visor of his helm revealing a tanned, scarred face with a bushy mustache beneath his sharp nose. He spoke in a strong, commanding voice.
"Who so greets a Lord of the Realm of Calatia? Riding boldly as if to give greetings?"
Before Link could stop her, Zelda had ridden forward and addressed the knight. "Sir, I greet you so boldly; for I am also of royal blood."
The knight looked surprised. "And whose blood is it that you claim is royal, miss?"
Pulling herself up tall as she spoke, Zelda said, "The blood of Hyrule, sir. For I come of the house of the late King Gerrik and the current Queen Mira. I am Princess Zelda."
The knight was silent for some time before speaking again as he slowly looked the girl over noting the stature, fairness, and dress of her.
Then he dismounted and walked up to Sufaina and bowed low, kissing the princess' hand. "Lady, forgive me. I did not know of your arrival into our land."
Zelda smiled as her authority was recognized. "Sir, all is forgiven. What is your name and business today, sir knight?"
"I am Lord Gildebrandt of Darantol, your highness. I have just come from a tournament in Calasta and am riding home with my courtiers."
"Well, I am on my way to meet with your king, whom I suppose you have just departed from?"
"Indeed I have, m'lady. Does his highness know of your visit?"
Mounting again, Gildebrandt said, "Then I shall send a man ahead of us to tell the king of your visit."
"Us?" Zelda asked.
"Yes, m'lady. I shall accompany you and your party to Calasta. The plain lands have become dangerous of late and someone of your stature must be protected."
Zelda smiled. "Of course you shall come with us, sir. But I am afraid we may not need your help," She gestured to Link. "for I have with me the Legendary Hero of Hyrule, Link."
The Lord looked shocked. "The Link who defeated the evil Wizard?"
"The same." Link said, bowing in his saddle.
Turning to Zelda again, Gildebrandt said, "Then, Princess, you have nothing to fear with such men guarding you."
With that, Gildebrandt sent one man ahead of them to Calasta and the others of his party onwards to Darantol and he himself rode alongside Zelda. Then Link, Zelda, Gildebrandt, and the two guards set out for the Calatian capital.
The rest of the day was spent riding at a light pace for the sky was clear, the sun was warm and the entire company enjoyed the relaxation. While most of them were quiet to enjoy the day, Gildebrandt would be constantly talking; about himself, about Calatia, about Hyrule, and such.
By nightfall, Zelda and Link were so worn out by the Lord's never-ending voice that they almost immediately fell asleep after setting up camp.
Zelda had a dream.
The princess saw herself standing in a high vaulted room before a large throne. Although someone was sitting upon the throne, she could not see who it was; shadow covered his face.
She heard herself talk. "Who are you? Where am I?" There was no answer.
She asked again and again, each time receiving only silence. She found that she could not move closer to the throne; she was stuck were she stood.
Suddenly noises from outside reached her ears. Zelda strained to hear what the noises were when she noticed a small balcony several feet from where she stood. The noises were coming from there.
The man raised his dark hand and Zelda found herself moving to the balcony.
She reached the edge and peered out at a frightening sight.
Below her marched thousands of soldiers, row after row, all in perfect step. Some were human, some were creatures she had never seen before. On and on they marched; from blackness into blackness at the edges of Zelda's vision.
She was turned around to face the throne once again. Before her startled and fearful eyes, a figure emerged from the deep shadows surrounding the chair; one almost as black as the shadows themselves.
This being silently and slowly walked forward until he was almost face to face with the girl. He raised his hand in which he held a long sinister blade and swiftly let it fall upon the princess. The vision went dark and Zelda awoke.
Link was kneeling above her when she opened her eyes.
"Zelda!" he whispered, "Wake up! We're under attack!"
Zelda looked quickly around. The sun was just beginning to redden the morning sky and the sounds of battle could be heard.
Link helped her up as she said, "What's going on?"
Drawing his blade, the Master Sword, Link replied, "Moblins. Lot's of them. Come on!"
Zelda unsheathed her dagger and followed as Link led her into some thick bushes.
"Stay here and be quiet." he said.
"What? No! I'm going to help you, not hide!" she said angrily, starting to rise.
"No! There are too many. Stay here in safety."
Saying that, Link ran off to join the fight.
Zelda watched as more than a dozen moblins attacked Link and Gildebrandt and the two guards. Encircling the four, the moblins moved quickly around them.
Link swung at a moblin that had strayed too far in and slew the beast, but the others were just out of reach of the swords.
Poking the defenders with their pikes, the moblins never broke the circle of attacked for several minutes.
Thoughts were running through Zelda's mind. "What can I do?" she thought to herself. "If I attack them, I might be able to distract a few, but they would kill me after killing Link. If I run away, Link will die!"
Even as she thought this, one moblin walked too close and was slain by Gildebrandt's sword. The princess made up her mind.
Holding her dagger tightly, Zelda ran out of the bushes yelling as she charged the circle. Before any of the fighters could react, she had slashed two moblins deeply and they fell to the ground in pain. This was all that was needed for Link and the others; they attacked the moblins that were momentarily distracted by Zelda's charge and quickly killed six of them. Unfortunately, in their charge, they did not cover their rear, and the remaining three assaulted the two guards whose backs were turned. They died in cries of anguish, but Link and Gildebrandt faced the three and speedily killed them.
Link slumped down on the ground breathing heavily and Gildebrandt bent over, his hands on his knees, catching his breath. Zelda just stood watching the bloody remains of the dead.
"Lord Gildebrandt?" she asked after some time.
"Yes?" he said.
"Do packs of moblins usually attack travelers in the day?"
"No, m'lady. Very rarely do they take up arms and attack their masters."
"Masters?" Link asked from the ground.
Standing tall, the lord poked one of the moblins with his sword. "Yes. Masters. Did you not know that moblins are kept as slaves in Calatia?"
"Slaves! Moblins?" Zelda asked, shocked.
"Yes." Gildebrandt said, "They are excellent servants. If a bit crude."
"Why do you keep them as slaves?" Zelda asked.
"We have much work that we would rather not do ourselves, so we keep moblins to do that work. The arrangement works out fine; the moblins do the work and the masters collect the fruits of that labor. All parties are happy."
"You mean the masters are happy." Link said quietly.
Gildebrandt stared hard at Link but did not reply. Instead he said, "If we wish to reach Calasta tomorrow, we should leave now."
The others agreed, and after they had buried the dead guards, the trio mounted their horses and rode off.
The companions traveled through the quiet Calatian countryside the next day and by the time the sun was setting, the towers of Calasta were within sight.
Zelda had never seen the capital of Calatia. King Gerrik had never liked the Calatians and had rarely visited them. He believed that they hated all magic and that included all who used magic. Zelda could have been attacked by mad Calatians and Gerrik would not take that chance.
With Link to her right and Gildebrandt on her left, Zelda approached the doors of the great city. Soundlessly they opened and the two Hylians could not have imagined what lay before them.
Under the fading light, the city was illuminated by thousands of torches and mirrors. The torches cast light into the mirrors and then reflecting the bright light throughout the city. The light fell upon the red brick buildings of the city. Everything from the smallest house to the tallest tower was red. Tales told of the city that always burned, and indeed at night the red light gave the impression of fire in the city. What surprised Link and Zelda more than the towering buildings and bright, yet hellish, light was the multitude of people.
Lining the main street were thousands upon thousands of Calatians chanting and cheering. Zelda had never seen so many people gathered in one place in her life. She was overwhelmed.
Gildebrandt took the lead and guided Link and the princess through the great city and throngs of people to the steps of the Grand Palace. Standing atop these large stairs was a small delegation. One of them stepped forward to greet the travellers from Hyrule. He was a tall man of great strength and had the look of a knight. His grey beard fell to his knees and his shoulders were covered with a fine green cloak that reached to the ground. Atop his head sat a grand golden crown covered in jewels.
This was King Eridanus; ruler of all Calatia.
He stopped before Link and Zelda as they dismounted and said in a voice loud enough to be heard over the cheers of the crowds, "Welcome Princess Zelda of Hyrule! Welcome Captain Link of Hyrule! You honour Calatia with your presence!" he stopped shouting and bent close so the two could hear him, "Please, come inside. This occasion deserves a feast, and lucky for you there is one ready! Come!"
With that, Eridanus turned grandly, and with a sweep of his cloak, started back up the steps to the palace with Zelda and Link in tow.
The Hylians entered and immediately were in awe. The palace was the most ornate and tasteful building they had ever laid eyes on. Gold covered most of the ceilings and silver lined the walls (in between the grand tapestries); the floor was tiled in the most expensive blue marble.
Through a series of twisting corridors they were led until the sounds of feasting reached their ears. Zelda close to Link. "This is my world, Link. Let me do the talking."
Link just nodded.
The small group entered a large dining hall. In the centre of the hall was a grand black and gold table. Lining the table stood dozens of chairs, many of which were already occupied. Above the table hung huge chandeliers all ablaze with gigantic candles. The scene was very jovial and festive.
Those sitting around the table were nobles. Even Link could tell they were nobles; they had fine clothes and talked big. In his experience with nobles, they all seemed to talk about either extremely stupid matters or extremely fake matters.
"Friends!" roared Eridanus. A hush fell over the room. "I have with me the Princess Zelda of Hyrule and Captain Link of Hyrule! They shall sit by my side this evening! Make room!"
Some people cheered and shouted greetings as everyone shifted down the table one seat.
The guests all stood as the king stood at the head of the table. As he sat, the others sat as well. Link was seated at the king's left hand and Zelda, directly across from him, sat at the right hand. Eridanus clapped his hands loudly. Moblins came in and set food on the table. "Eat and enjoy!" shouted the king.
"So, my dear princess," Eridanus said happily as they began their meal, "what brings you into my beautiful country? No royalty of Hyrule has set foot in this land for many years. The last to do so was your late father, Gerrik, when he was younger. That must be now more than twenty years!" he seemed too sombre up. "I'm sorry about Gerrik. I knew him well and I was saddened to hear of his death."
Zelda stopped eating and looked down at her lap before speaking. "Thank you for your concern, majesty. My father was a great man and shall be missed by all."
All heads within hearing of the princess nodded gravely as she continued. "Link and I did not enter your land to admire its beauty, I'm afraid. We came following a.... dangerous prisoner who has escaped from the king and queen. He crossed into Calatia several days ago. We thought it wise to come to you first before walking through your land without authority."
Eridanus looked hard at her for a few moments and then laughed heartily. "My dear girl, any family member of Gerrik will always be welcome in Calatia!" He took a drink of wine before adding, "As long as their intentions are noble! Otherwise I would have to take their head off!" Again he laughed and was joined by the other dinner guests. Only Link and Zelda paled in fear.
"Th- Thank you, majesty." Zelda stuttered out.
Laughing again, the monarch said, "No, no! Gerrik was like a brother to me and his family were like my own family! Call me what your sister called me when she and I went riding together; Greybeard she called me. That name was good enough for your sister then and it's good enough for you now!" The table broke out into more laughter.
Link was chuckling along with the others and spoke up, "But if you call Zelda anything other than 'princess', you'll have a furious girl on your hands!"
Eridanus found this extremely funny and collapsed in his chair, red faced and fighting for breath. "Good, lad!" he gasped. When he had gained his composure again, the king turned his full attention to Link.
"Now then, Link. What have you been up to since defeating the evil wizard?"
"Wizard? Oh, do you mean Agahnim?"
The table fell to silence. Everyone was looking at the king.
Eridanus looked the boy straight in the eyes and said levelly, "That name is never to be said in my land. The wizard took much from my ancestors when he was alive. I do not know about Hyrule, but in this land that wizard is still considered a demon. Do not name him again."
"Sorry, majesty." Link muttered.
The king relaxed a bit and took a long drink of his wine and uttered a curse under his breath. "Carry on, Link." he said softly.
"Well, after killing... the wizard," Link took comfort at the king's approving nod, "I eventually came against his master, Ganon, who-"
"Tell us of the Dark Lord!" shouted a voice from the other end of the table.
"All right." Link said and went into great detail of his experiences with Ganon but after a while he realized that his audience was paying him only polite attention and was not interested in what he was saying.
When he had finished his account of the Thieve King, a man near Zelda said, "And good on ye, lad! Nothing good ever comes from magic-users, that's what I always say!"
The diners all laughed and agreed loudly. Once again, only Link and Zelda did not join in the laughter.
Greybeard pointed to the man who had said this and laughed, "Too true, good man! Too true! Ah! Zelda, dear, allow me to introduce Evander, prince of Turka by day and scoundrel by night!"
Zelda followed the old man's finger to a tall, black haired man with bright blue eyes and sharp features. He was dressed in the traditional garb of Turka: A white tunic with grey breeches and fur-lined boots. Around his neck he wore an ornamental arrow with a star around it; the symbol of Turka.
Evander stood and bowed low, a grin on his face. "Princess. I honour you with my presence! May this 'scoundrel' get to know you better in days to come!"
The other diners gasped at this rude comment but Eridanus, Link, and Zelda laughed at the prince's disregard of etiquette. "May you consider yourself lucky, prince, that you know me this well!" the princess laughed. Evander beamed with humour and took his seat.
The dinner continued for many more hours, and through it all Zelda caught the Turkan prince watching her often. Sometimes when he caught her eye, he would raise his cup in toast, always smiling at some unsaid joke. As the night wore on, Zelda could feel her eyes droop lower and lower and was about to drift off to sleep when she felt Link's hand on her shoulder. Looking up to him, she asked, "What is it, Link?"
He was standing next to her, holding a goblet in his other hand. Looking around, Zelda noticed that several of the dining chairs were now empty. "You fell asleep. I think you had better go off to bed."
Zelda, fully awake now, started to argue but her friend held up a hand to stop her. "You were almost falling into your meal. Not a polite thing to do." he added with a wry smile. "Besides, you've had a long day. Get some sleep."
"Yes, my dear." Zelda looked over at Eridanus who was still eating and drinking merrily. "Go off to bed. Your friend is right, you are excused. I shall send soldiers tonight to find this prisoner of yours, and within a week, you shall have this man. Come to me tomorrow morning and we will talk more then." The king clapped his hands and a small moblin appeared at his side. "Guide the princess to her room."
The creature bowed and stood next to Zelda as she slowly stood up.
"Highness, I think that I should escort Zelda to her room and, if I may, retire myself for the night." Link said, taking hold of Zelda's elbow.
"Of course, of course. Good night to you both." Several diners also bid their farewells to the two.
With that, the moblin lead Link and Zelda out of the dining hall.
When the noise of the dinner had faded to a murmur behind the thick castle walls, Zelda shrugged off Link's helping hand. "I can walk fine by myself, thank you." Link just smiled as the princess stumbled several times; her weariness getting the better of her. Just when he was certain she would trip and fall, Link took hold of her arm again and this time she did not stop him, she just leaned heavily against him.
The moblin eventually guided the Hylians into a short terrace with doors on one side and a railing on the other looking out into a small courtyard. At the other end of the terrace, Link could see stairs that lead down to the tiny garden.
The slave stopped in front of a door in the terrace and opened it. Link lead Zelda into the room, which was a fair size, and set Zelda down on the bed. As he did so, the girl mumbled something about not being tired, but Link ignored it. He pulled the covers over her and walked out of the room, closing the door quietly.
Following the moblin to his room, Link also felt the pulling of sleep reach his eyes. Link's room was not far from his princess', but it was too far for his liking. Turning to his guide, Link said, "Could you have someone keep watch at Zelda's door?"
This obviously surprised the small dog-thing. "Ksah?" it said.
"Could you get someone to watch over the princess' room?" Link repeated. "A bodyguard?"
Comprehension lit up the moblin's eyes. "Ah," it said, "a bo'ieguard? Yea, ksah. Yea." Then it left the room, rambling about 'bo'ieguards'.
Link shook his head slowly as the door closed behind the servant. Being waited on by moblins would take some getting used to.
Looking around his spacious quarters, Link idly fingered his necklace. Nothing good can come of this visit to Calatia, he thought. Nothing good at all.
If only Link knew how right he was.
Auldric awoke slowly.
The first thing he thought of as soon as he regained consciousness was how much his head ached. The second thing was that he had chains on his hands and legs.
Opening his eyes, Auldric saw that he was in a large, low room populated mainly with rotting skeletons. The room was dimly lit and the only natural light in the room was coming in from a small window in one wall.
"Ah, you are awake."
Auldric turned in the direction of the voice. The owner of that voice was a small man in bright blue and red robes that covered every inch of his body. On his head sat a large blue turban adorned with a gold emblem of a ring. The man's face was largely covered with a bright scarf and only his brilliant green eyes showed from behind the clothes.
"Your friends are dead. You cannot escape. All hope is gone. You shall tell us what we wish to know and you shall then be released."
His throat burned as he tried to speak, but Auldric managed a few small words. "Where..... am..... I?"
Even though the man's mouth was hidden from view, Auldric knew that the man was smiling. "You are in the deepest dungeon of Delabor Castle."
"Delabor?" he croaked.
"Yes, Delabor." the small man said. "Hyrule's neighbour to the north."
Auldric was silent for a moment. His mind seemed to be stuttering. Images and memories would flood his mind and then all he could see was darkness. What was the last thing he could remember? North Ridge. He had been ambushed in that town. How had anyone known he would be coming? The attackers had seemed to be waiting for him.
Then it struck him. Both he and Link had misread the tracks! The trail from Turka did not converge with that of the wizard, it separated! Those travelling with Ashir had split into two groups, one heading to Calatia and the other heading into Turka.
Auldric might have followed this line of thinking further, but his thoughts were interrupted by the small robed man.
"We had hoped to catch Link and perhaps even the princess Zelda in our little trap, but we had not expected to see you. I take it, then, that the other two are in Calatia trying to find me?"
Auldric's eyes widened in understanding. This strange man before him was no simple torturer, he was Ashir! The sorcerer Agahnim's apprentice. What was he doing in Delabor?
Ashir chuckled. "Yes, I suppose they are, aren't they?" He shook his head. "Enough of this. Do you wish to be released?"
"Yes." Auldric said.
"Good! Then you must do as I say. Is that understood?"
"What is it you want?"
Ashir paced the room as he spoke. "I want you to kill Link."
"What?!" Auldric shouted in surprise and the sudden pain in his throat made him wish he hadn't. "Never, Ashir. I will never betray Link."
The wizard came and stood directly in front of the prisoner. "Are you sure? Never is a very long time."
Disgusted at the wizard, Auldric only spat in his face.
Ashir took a step back and wiped his face with his sleeve. He said nothing as he walked over to a small table. Auldric watched as the man picked up a vial and returned to where the prisoner stood chained to the wall.
"Never will I kill Link!" Auldric shouted, but Ashir still said nothing. Instead, he mumbled under his breath and pointed a finger at the Hylian. The air seemed to shimmer around the pair for a moment and then it was gone.
Fear gripped Auldric as he realized what had just happened. It was a binding spell. Auldric couldn't move; not a muscle. He was frozen.
The wizard then approached his petrified prisoner and lifted the vial to Auldric's lips.
"Drink up. You shall think differently of me when you are done."
Ashir laughed as the amber liquid fell down Auldric's throat.
When the vial was empty, just for fun, Ashir removed the binding spell and watched as his prisoner writhed violently in agony and horror.
Far above the dungeon, in the castle itself, the warlord smiled as Auldric's screams reached his ears.
Link was awake early the next morning.
As long as he could remember, he had been an early riser. When he was younger, this had seemed somewhat odd, but now he used the extra time awake to quietly practice his fencing.
The young man had awakened and immediately knew he would be the first person up. The sun was only just rising, and in a palace such as this, the only people awake would be servants.
Link left his room, wearing only a light tunic and his sword, and stood leaning against the railing outside of his room. Looking down into the courtyard, he could see the morning mists swirling on the grass and he could hear the sharp chirp of several small birds. Link could almost feel the peace and tranquillity.
Walking down the hall towards the stairs that lead into the courtyard below, Link passed Zelda's room. To his satisfaction, a large moblin sat in front of the door, guarding it.
Once in the courtyard, Link began to practice. He went though all of the moves that he had learnt over the years until he completed them perfectly.
After finishing a long complicated slicing motion, someone began to clap behind him.
Stopping his practice, Link turned to face the clapper.
The prince Evander stood on the balcony looking down at Link as he clapped.
"Very good!" the Turkan called out.
"Thank you, highness." Link said as the prince walked down the stairs to join the hero on the grass.
"You seem very skilled at practicing, Link, but are you as skilled against an opponent?"
Knowing a challenge when he heard one, Link said, "Get your sword and I'll show you how skilled I am."
Evander smiled and unsheathed a small, curved sword from underneath his cape.
Link looked at the sword and smiled. "Highness, that sword would break if I hit it. I won't fight against such a... feeble weapon."
The prince laughed. "Link, call me Evander. I don't like formalities. As for the sword, I'm willing to bet that it can withstand your blade more than adequately."
Raising his sword to a fencing position, Link said, "Well, let's find out, then."
The swords clashed and the fight began.
Link slashed at Evander's head, but the prince ducked and returned with a stab to the gut. Link turned and struck the blade aside. His sword continued up in an arch and came down above Evander's shoulder. The prince batted it aside with his sword and sliced at Link's knees, but the young hero jumped just in time.
The two continued for more than an hour, neither one giving the other any room to strike. By the time the sun was well into the sky, a small crowd had gathered and was cheering the duellers on.
Zelda had come out of her room to find the hallway blocked with cheering people. The last thing that she wanted after riding around the country for several days and staying up late last night at the dinner, was a crowd of fans outside her door keeping her from her much needed sleep. Even Link knew that when she didn't get her sleep she tended to get bitchy. And not just slightly bitchy, but really bitchy. Nothing was worse than a bitchy princess who needed sleep.
She pushed her way through the crowd to the railing to see what was happening. Figures, she thought, as she saw Link and Evander duelling on the lawn below.
Cupping her mouth to be heard over the cheers, Zelda shouted, "Link! Evander! Stop that this instant!"
The crowd fell silent and the combatants stopped fighting to look up at the girl.
"Why?" they both asked.
"Because that fighting is keeping me from sleeping, that's why!" she said angrily.
Before Link could say anything, Evander said, "Why don't you come down here and make us!"
The crowd laughed at this; they always enjoyed a comedy.
Zelda drew her robes about her, stood tall, and walked to the stairs. In the corner of the hallway, she caught sight of a long candleholder. Quickly, she tipped the candle off and took off the stand, leaving her holding a long metal staff.
She descended the stairs and walked onto the lawn of the courtyard, Link and Evander standing before her grinning madly.
She stopped several feet in front of them and leaned on her staff. The men raised their swords and, side by side, charged at her. Zelda raised her staff and held it in both hands. The princess made a feeble attempt to block her attacker's assault at her head and managed to do so, but, quicker than anyone anticipated, Zelda retracted the staff and violently shoved it into the men's stomachs.
Both dropped to the ground instantly, fighting for breath, as the crowd began to laugh and cheer wildly.
Zelda threw her staff down onto the ground and kneeled before her gasping opponents. "That's what you get for disturbing my sleep."
With that, the princess turned on her heel and walked out of the courtyard, up the stairs, and back into her room. Still kneeling on the ground and clutching their stomachs, Link and Evander watched her until her door slammed shut.
Link turned to the prince and said, "Here's a tip, Evander: never disturb a princess' sleep."
Both men painfully laughed as the crowd dispersed.
Several hours later, Link and a few other men were sitting in a small guardroom around a small table. On the table rested several pints of ale; some of the finest from the palace's stock.
Although Link could still feel the pain from Zelda's attack, the alcohol helped keep it a small pain. Link had learned long ago not to compare Zelda to any mere girl; she could fight almost as well as any man and she had proven it to all who disagreed.
"So's I says to 'im, 'Eh! Mate! Why don't you come 'ere and give us a 'and?'"
The room filled with laughter as one of the men finished telling one of his hard won(and sometimes hard swallowed) adventures.
"Moblin!" the man yelled. In came the small moblin that had lead Link and Zelda to their rooms the previous night. It entered carrying a flagon of the ale.
The man held out his cup and the servant obediently filled it. "So, tell me, Link," the man said, "What tales do you 'ave to share wit' yore new drinkin' buddies?"
Link took a sip from his flask and answered, "Not many, I'm afraid."
The other men shook their heads and laughed. The man who asked, Ghent, was not convinced. "Come off it! Surely the great Link 'as a few stories to tell, eh?"
Link chuckled. "None as big as yours, Ghent. Not even I can match those!"
The others laughed again in a drunken sort of way, although at this point most of them would have laughed at a beetle.
"Well then," Ghent said, "per'aps we just need to fill you with more ale! Moblin! Fill Master Link's flask."
The moblin entered again and filled Link's cup. "Thank you." Link said after the creature had done this. It jumped as if struck and looked wildly around it.
"Hey! Don't stand there like a pole! Get out until we call you again! Go!" ordered Ghent. The moblin rushed out of the room.
Ghent shook his head and said, "Honestly, they can't do anything unless you yell at 'em. Link, if you treat 'em like the dogs they are, they'll do as ye say, but if you act as if they's your friend, they'll start to thin they's are your equal, and we can't 'ave that!"
"I'll keep that in mind, Ghent." Link said, drinking from his cup.
"You do that, mate. What was all that 'Thank'ye' slosh?"
"Courtesy costs nothing. Perhaps you should try it."
"Maybe, but courtesy 'as it's place- and that's not to a moblin. Keep that in mind, mate. You could get into trouble acting all 'nice-nice' to slaves."
"I will." Link said, taking a long drink of his ale and finishing it off. "Well," he said getting up from his chair, "I guess I had better find Zelda. We're supposed to meet with the king."
The men waved hands vaguely in Link's direction as he left the room and returned to their drinks.
When Link and Zelda entered the king's private study, Eridanus was reclined on a small sofa dictating to a scribe. When the patriarch noticed the pair, he told his scribe to leave. As soon as the man had left, Eridanus laughed heartily and embraced the Hylians.
"Ah, it's good to have Hylians in this palace once again! I don't know what it is- the smell, maybe- but Hylians just radiate a sense of.... tradition. I suppose it's all those years that Hyrule has, ah, 'under its belt'. Ever since you two arrived here, the people of this castle- and indeed this city- have become more peaceful. Yes, yes. I know that you have only been here for one night, but already your impact can be felt throughout this castle."
Zelda curtseyed and said, "We thank you, your majesty."
A shadow seemed to pass over the king's face and he said, "Now. About your business in Calatia..." and he sat down again.
Link and Zelda exchanged glances. "Our business, sir?" Link asked.
"Yes, your business. What you told me at the table last night was not all of the story, though it may be true. I want the rest of your tale."
Zelda took a deep breath and said, "What we told you of this prisoner was true. But we did not clarify our reasons as to why we are pursuing him."
"He must be very important if Mira has sent you two to track him down."
"Sir," Zelda continued, "the prisoner is what could be called a political enemy. An enemy of the Monarchy. I'm afraid that you won't like what I have to tell you."
Zelda paused, but Greybeard motioned for her to continue.
"The prisoner once served under... the Wizard."
Silence crept into the room and tension soon joined it. Eridanus just sat stone still staring at the Hylians. Link noticed that the monarch's hands were clasped so tightly together that the fingers were turning white.
"A servant of the Wizard." the king muttered. "And why was this servant not executed with the rest of His followers?"
"We could not be sure as to whether he was under the Wizard's control or acting on his own behalf. To be sure, we had him incarcerated immediately after his capture."
Eridanus rose in a rage, slamming his fists into his desk. "To be sure, he should have been executed! You should not have taken the risk!"
Link instinctively moved to guard Zelda, putting his body between her and the enraged king.
The three stood still staring at each other, waiting to see what the other would do. After some time, the fire faded from the monarch's eyes and he sat down with a great sigh.
"I'm sorry. As you well know, the Wizard and his doings are grave subjects. I should not blame you for your lack of foresight. I am sure that you will pay for that sooner or later." Eridanus sighed again and brushed his hands over his face. "Until then, you should enjoy yourselves! Come tonight to the ball; the entire court shall be there. Until then, you are free to do as you please. Tour the town or the castle, I'm sure that you will be able to find someone to show you around."
With that, the king returned to his work and the two Hylians walked out, the meeting obviously over.
"So, what do you want to do, princess?" Link asked.
Zelda thought a minute before answering. "Let's tour the town!"
"Zelda, I don't think-" Link began but the princess interrupted.
"Come on! It'll be fun! Just you and me. We never have time alone any more!" The girl started to pull Link's arm but Link held back.
"What about a guide? We don't know the town, we could get lost."
Zelda stuck out her tongue and rolled her eyes. "We don't need a guide; we aren't kids anymore! As long as we stay near the castle on the main streets, we'll be fine."
Link hesitated for a second but then gave in. "All right. Only if we stay close to the castle."
Zelda laughed and agreed as she yanked him after her.
Few cities in the Seven Kingdoms can rival Calasta. As one of the biggest and richest cities in the land, the Hylians could understand why it was chosen to be the Calatian capital.
As the sun slowly passed overhead into midmorning, Link and Zelda busied themselves with the Calastan Market.
If one believed in the rumours, someone can find anything from around the world in this market. From fruits to fences, vegetables to vests, weapons to wood, grains to jewels, anything and everything could be found at the great Calastan Market.
On all sides, merchants trying to sell their wares accosted the Hylians.
"Fresh Dupri Nuts! Very cheap!"
"Deku seeds! Deku seeds! Plant 'em and have a Deku tree in weeks!"
"Get yore freshly forged blades! Straight from the smithy, they are!"
"Authentic Gebri robes! Wear authentic Gebri robes and amaze all your friends!"
Pushing their way through the crowds, Link and Zelda eventually came to a small stall selling small vials of many coloured liquids.
"Oh, Link!" Zelda exclaimed, "Potions!"
The princess stopped and examined the many drinks while Link talked to the merchant.
"Sell a lot of these, do you?" Link asked.
The old man shook his head. "Sadly, no. These Calatians don't trust magic, and apparently healing potions count as magic."
"How much for this, sir?" Zelda asked, picking up a bottle.
"Um, twenty rupees, miss."
"And this one?"
"Fifty rupees, miss"
Zelda rummaged through her purse and retrieved the money.
"Ah, thank you, miss. May the gods smile upon you and-"
"Don't buy from him, miss!" came a voice behind them.
The three looked across the way to another potion stall were a tall, round man was waving at them.
"Shut up, you!" the old man shouted angrily.
"These potions are of much better quality than those, madam! Come and take a look, eh?"
"No, thank you." Link said, "We have the ones we want."
"But, sir," the tall merchant persisted, "these are cheaper! And better! Come and look and you will see I don't lie, eh? Then you will know better than to buy swill from that thief!"
"No, thank y-" Zelda began.
"Thief!?" the old merchant screamed, interrupting the girl. "Who's the thief? My potions may be pricey, but you get what you pay for! Not the coloured water you sell!"
"Coloured water!? I'll show you coloured water!" Saying that, the tall merchant threw a bottle at the old man. The man ducked and the glass shattered on the wall behind him.
As Link and Zelda hurried away from the brawl, they could hear the sounds of harsh threats and glass shattering. They couldn't stop laughing for many minutes as they pictured the old man jumping out of his stall with a broken bottle in his hand, rushing towards the tall merchant who still yelled at the top of his lungs about how much better his goods were than those of his competitor.
The rest of the day passed uneventfully for the Hylians as they roamed the marketplace. Before they knew it, dusk had fallen upon the great city and the streets grew less crowded.
Quickly, the pair hurried back to the palace. The ball was about to begin.
Mounted on the swiftest steeds in the land, Commander Kelian of the Calastan Guard and five of his soldiers rode with Lord Gidlebrandt back to were he had met the Hylians.
The King had ordered Kelian and his men to follow the trail of this Hylian prisoner and capture the man before the land consumed his tracks.
At a speed that most horses would have found impossible, the six Calatians rushed out of Calasta and out into the open land. Tracks only stay fresh for a day or two; three at most. After that, they faded and soon disappeared or were crossed by other tracks making the hunt extremely more difficult.
Deep in the night, the men reached the camp of the Hylians. Gildebrandt bid his farewell and ran off, back to his home, leaving the soldiers slowly following the faded tracks.
Just before dawn they came upon a small village.
Hurrying down to the smouldering ruins, the soldiers halted just outside of the village and stopped a man in tattered clothes with ash covering his face.
"What happened here?" Kelian asked.
The man cringed from the soldiers but answered in a fearful voice. "The Wizard!"
The commander looked worriedly back to his men then turned back to the peasant. "Are you sure? The Wizard has been dead for many years."
"I am positive, sire. Only that demon could do such damage! One minute we were all enjoying ourselves in the square, and the next, the entire village was burning!"
"The fire could have been started by bandits."
"No, sire. Many people saw the Wizard, and I myself saw him!"
Kelian heard a gasp from his men behind him, and even his strong heart grew cold at the thought of actually laying eyes upon the evil Wizard. "You saw him?" Kelian asked quietly.
"Aye. He was horrible, he was! He was seven feet tall and covered in scales! His four arms ended in ferocious talons and he floated above the ground! His eyes glowed purple in the night, laying to flame anything their light touched!" At this the man collapsed on the ground in a wretched heap.
"Where did the Wizard come from?"
"...the north, sire."
"Where did he go?"
"I don't know, sire."
Kelian turned to his men and addressed them. "I think we have found our Hylian prisoner. Gared and myself will return to Calasta and the rest of you will help these people. I shall send reinforcements to help in about two days."
With that, Kelian and the other soldier raced back to their home city with all the speed they could muster from their mounts. This news would anger the king greatly.
When the soldiers had dispersed around the town, the man hurried away from the ruins. He threw his tattered clothes aside, revealing the shining armour beneath, and washed his face in a small pond were he had left his horse.
As he saddled up, he thought of how his piece of the plan would fit into things. The Warlord had told him what to do and he had done it flawlessly, but what was the point?
Well, he thought as he started his journey back to Delabor, I will just have to wait and see.
The Calatian Ball was the grandest thing Link had ever seen.
The ballroom was easily twice the size of the dining room, which in itself was huge. The ballroom was divided into two; the dance floor occupied more than three quarters of the room while a small dining area was in the remaining quarter, slightly raised.
As Link entered the hall, he immediately noticed how expensive everything was. The dance floor was tiled in marble, and the dining floor was carpeted in the finest of rugs; the walls were adorned with gold. The hall was lighted by dozens of chandeliers made of silver each holding hundreds of candles.
The room was not nearly as extravagant as some of the guests. Most of the Calatian nobility was already on the floor, dancing. The Ladies were dressed in long, flowing gowns with gems sewn into them; jewellery flashing in the bright light. The Lords were dressed in expensive waistcoats and long capes with shimmering rings on their hands.
Link turned at the voice and saw Zelda walking towards him.
He almost didn't recognize her. She was dressed like the Calatian Ladies in a golden dress with golden jewellery almost falling off of her.
"What do you think?" she said, turning around to show off the dress.
"You look beautiful, Zelda." Link said.
She approached and looked the boy over. "You don't look so bad yourself, Link."
Link shuffled uncomfortably. "These clothes itch." He ran his finger along his collar. I look stupid in these clothes, he thought to himself.
"But they're the most fashionable clothes money can buy. You should enjoy them. Very expensive." the princess said with a coy smile.
"If fashionable means too small and very 'flowery', then these must be at the top of fashion."
Zelda laughed and took Link's hand. "Come on! Let's dance."
Link held back. "Um, Zelda, I can't dance."
Surprise covered the princess' face. "You can't?"
"Remember, I didn't have the same upbringing as you. I'm the son of a woodcutter. Dancing was never at the top of my list of things to learn."
Smiling, Zelda said, "I suppose you'll just have to learn, then."
Saying that, she pulled Link onto the dance floor.
Evander was standing in the raised dining room watching the dancers enjoy themselves on the floor. Around the prince were some other minor nobles. The current topic of their conversation was the Princess Zelda.
"What do you think is the real reason she came to Calatia?" one of the men asked.
"Who knows?" another answered.
"She claimed she was 'ere to capture a prisoner." said Ghent.
"Do you really believe that, Ghent?"
The man shrugged. "Well..."
"Why would they send a princess to do a soldier's work? And to send her with that brigand, what's-his-name-?"
"Yes, Link. Why, it's disgraceful! That's how rumours start."
Ghent shrugged again and took a sip of his wine. "I don't see that princess paying much attention to Link. 'e's a good chap, but after all, 'e's just a peasant."
The others agreed except for Evander, who was still watching the dancers, more specifically Zelda.
Ghent elbowed the Turkan. "Right, 'ighness?"
"Eh? What? Sorry, I wasn't listening. What did you say?"
The men laughed. "Ha!" exclaimed one of them happily, "The good prince has been ignoring us, gentlemen! What could possibly be more important than us?"
Ghent laughed and said, "It seems that the fair Princess of 'yrule has caught our lord's eye."
The nobles all took a moment to look at the visiting princess until she walked over and talked to a young man.
One of the men spoke up. "Is that her guardian? That...Link?"
Both Evander and Ghent nodded as Zelda pulled the hero onto the dance floor and, from the look of it, tried to teach him how to dance.
"Disgraceful." Evander heard muttered from behind him.
"Oh, I don't know..." the prince said.
"What?" gasped the other lords.
"Link. He seems a very... competent man. He has proven himself to the Hylians with his bravery and his skill was proven to me this morning."
"Surely you're joking, Lord," one of the nobles said, "Link is a mere commoner! How can he measure up to us?"
"He may be a commoner, but he is a commoner who defeated the Wizard, remember, and that skill can most definitely best most of us."
The others had no answer, but merely stared at the prince as if he had gone mad.
They watched silently as Evander walked down to the dance floor, heading towards the dancing Hylian couple.
"Step, step, and turn! Step, step, and turn! Good, Link, you're getting the hang of this."
Link had managed to avoid the princess' feet for the past few minutes successfully. This was tough; at least when fighting evil rogues, you knew where you stood. You hit them and they hit you. That's it. But when he had gone out onto the floor and started to dance, Link had not expected anything so difficult. The fact that the music was fast paced made the job only that much harder; he could swear that the band had started the waltz just to irritate him.
"Link, watch it!"
Link turned his mind back onto the princess just in time to watch himself step on her feet.
She sighed and said, "It's all right, just be more careful."
The music ended and they stopped dancing.
"Well that wasn't too bad for your first time."
Before Link could respond, he felt a tap at his shoulder. Turning, he saw Evander standing behind him.
"May I cut in?" the prince asked.
"Well-" Link began but was cut off by Zelda.
"You most certainly cannot! I am dancing with Link. Go away and dance with one of the other Ladies."
Evander persisted. "But, your highness, it would be very rude of you to turn down an offer in front of all these guests. Surely you don't want to seem rude and uncultured in front of these guests?"
Zelda looked around quickly at the other nobility.
Evander knifed himself in between the Hylian couple just as the music started up again.
"But-" the princess started to object, but Evander had already swept her away from Link.
"Evander, how dare you-"
"Princess. Before you finish that thought, let me tell you that you look positively radiant tonight."
"Thank you, but-"
"May I also tell you that the other Lords disapprove of your relationship with Link."
"I don't care what you and the other Lords think, prince."
"Did I say that I thought as they did? I did not."
"Because I wanted a dance with the fairest princess in all the Seven Lands. And to say how much I enjoy a woman who can fight back."
Zelda stared hard at Evander before saying anything. "This morning?"
"You single-handedly beat two of the best swordsmen in the land without even breaking a sweat. Or a nail. A woman who can fight is much less trouble to journey with; she needs no protection."
"Are you planning on taking a journey with me, prince?"
A slight smile crossed Evander's face. "I am not as stupid as I make myself appear, princess. I know that you told the king only part of the reason as to why you are in this land. I'm sure that when he discovers the truth, you will have to flee."
"What makes you think I told Eridanus anything but the truth?"
"Only part of the truth."
"Even so, I have no need to run from him."
"Beware him, princess. He can be a very vengeful man."
Zelda shook her head. "Still, he won't harm-"
"He killed his wife." Evander said, cutting her off.
Shock covered the girl's face and Evander continued. "The queen was convicted of treason against the Crown. She was executed at the king's feet."
"Treason?" Zelda whispered. "She conspired against him?"
"In a way. She was found with the Duke of Tranora, if you get my meaning."
"The Duke? Was he executed as well?"
Evander shook his head. "No. He still lives. Maybe."
"Why was his life spared?"
"It was spared only because Eridanus wanted to torture the man. Rumours say that the Duke hangs in the dungeon almost dead but kept alive only by spells so that he can be tortured beyond what would have been his death. Poor man."
"I thought Calatians don't use magic."
"Oh, they don't, but sometimes it's the best way to get things done."
They continued dancing for several moments in silence.
"He sent soldiers out to track down the prisoner. They will find him and report back to the king." Evander said.
All colour drained from the princess' face as she realized how great her danger was.
He will find out that Ashir is a wizard, Zelda thought, and not just a wizard, but the apprentice of Agahnim. He'll kill Link and me without a second thought.
"We need to leave." she said.
"Good choice. I suggest you go now, princess."
With that, Evander guided Zelda through the dancing crowd to Link.
Zelda grabbed the boy's arm and dragged him quickly out of the hall, leaving Evander staring after them.
Several minutes later, the king burst into the hall with several soldiers behind him.
"Zelda, why are we running back to our rooms?"
Zelda was almost dragging Link behind her as she cannoned into her room and shut the door behind her.
"Because we're leaving Calasta. Tonight." she answered, pulling out a sack and quickly filling it with her belongings. "Go pack."
"Why? I was starting to enjoy this place." Link said, leaning against the door, smiling casually, as if this were just a game.
"Because Eridanus is going to find out who it is that we lost."
The smile vanished from his face as she said this and he disappeared from the princess' room in a flash.
Zelda finished packing and hurried over to Link's room and met him as he rushed out the door. "Let's go, then." he said.
The Hylians left the hall just as the sound of heavily armed feet could be heard running up the stairs.
Evander had returned to the group of nobles when Eridanus burst into the dance hall flanked by several guards.
Behind him, the prince heard a noble say, "I wonder what he's after? A criminal?"
Ghent snorted. "A criminal? In here? No. They wouldn't get past the guards."
The group watched silently as more soldiers appeared at all of the hall entrances.
"Looks serious." another noble commented.
Eridanus stalked up to the Lords, looking furious, and elbowed his way through to Evander.
"Evander!" the king barked, "You were last with the Princess Zelda, where did she go?"
Evander put on his most disarming smile and said, "I don't know, sire. One minute I was dancing with her, and the next she was dragging Link out of the hall. I guess, I wasn't good enough for her." He laughed, then stopped, "Why? Is something wrong, highness?"
The monarch glared at the prince for a moment and then strode away saying, "Nothing we can't fix."
As the guards left the hall to search the palace, the other nobles began talking among themselves about treasons and conspiracies. No one noticed the worried look upon Evander's face.
The two Hylians rushed down a flight of stairs and found themselves in a narrow corridor. There were no doors on either side.
With the princess right behind him, Link ran down the hallway and turned down another one. On and on they ran, through the maze of halls in the palace.
Soon the halls became less decorated and torches were places farther away from each other. The carpeted floor ended and was replaced with rough stone. The ceiling became lower until it was just above Link's head.
"Where are we going, Link?" Zelda asked.
"Out." he replied.
They continued in silence until the hall ended in a large oak door.
Cautiously, Link drew his sword and opened the door.
The door opened into a low, dark room, with odd shapes lying on the floor. There was no light in the room.
They quietly shut the door behind them and let their eyes adjust to the blackness.
Link heard the princess give a sharp gasp beside him. The shapes on the floor were moving!
Before they knew it, a high-pitched squeal arose from one of the lumps on the floor in front of them.
Suddenly all of the odd shapes were standing and encircling the pair. Several were growling and pawing at them with small clawed hands. Link held up his sword and waved it menacingly at the creatures. They backed off a bit, but not much.
Then one of the creatures squealed and stepped forward holding a small lantern. It was a moblin.
They were all moblins. This room was their quarters.
The moblin holding the lantern looked up at Link and then bowed. Link lowered his sword.
"ksah!" it said, "Itiss you!"
Link and Zelda both peered at this moblin. He was the small one who had led them to their rooms and the one who had served Link when he was drinking with Ghent.
"I'm sorry to burst in here, like that." Zelda said.
The moblins all shook their heads violently. "Nononono." said the lantern-holding moblin, "We sorrry for scaring youm. We not know it youm, ksah. Good ksah. Do not hurt usm, please ksah!"
Link and Zelda exchanged glances and Zelda said to the small timid beast, "We don't want to hurt you, we want to get out of the palace. Guards are chasing us. Can you help us escape?"
The moblins squealed sharply and nodded vigorously. "Yes, yes, we help you, ksahs! Come!" said the lead moblin. The moblin beckoned them and the others around him also beckoned excitedly as the Hylians followed the lantern-holding moblin.
The small glow of the lantern illuminated little of the large sleeping chamber of the moblins. All Zelda could see around her was the many moving shapes of the slaves. Before she knew it, Zelda found herself standing beside to the leading moblin and Link, surrounded by the other slaves, facing a wall.
"Where now?" she asked.
Link was given the lantern, and the moblin began to paw at the wall. Before their startled eyes, a section of the wall opened to reveal a secret corridor.
"In." the moblin said as he took the lantern from Link and entered the hallway.
Once again Link and Zelda exchanged worried glances. Where was this creature taking them?
They entered and immediately the door closed behind them, shutting them off from the other slaves.
The Hylians looked down the hall and could only see the bright glow of the lantern receding into the blackness. Quickly, they hurried after it.
After what seemed like hours of endless travel, the little moblin stopped before a wooden door.
"Is this it?" Link asked.
The creature nodded. "Ya, ksah. Ya. Out."
It pushed open the door and cautiously went through followed closely by the Hylians. They found themselves in a small grotto; a stream trickled through the centre of the clearing and low bushes and trees encircled it. The cool night air rushed through the door and echoed in the passage behind the trio. In the tangle of undergrowth a cricket chirped.
As Zelda took a deep breath of the air, she turned and looked at the doorway they had passed through. It was brilliantly disguised as part of the surrounding stone wall. Around the lintel, seven little gems shined dully in the moonlight. The sign of the Ancients.
Few but the aristocratic families knew about the Ancients. Their real name had been lost in the folds of Time. Of the few facts known, these ancient people worshiped beings of great power, supposedly the old gods, and honoured the number seven. Everything they had built in their generations-long existence had seven symbols arranged in the pattern of a six-sided star with one in the centre of the star.
"Zelda!" Link whispered to her.
She turned to face him and saw him crouched behind a bush next to the moblin who was doing the same.
"What is it?" she whispered back, silently walking over to them and crouching down.
Link held finger to his lips and pointed through the dense undergrowth. Beyond, Zelda could see the faint outline of a dirt road passing near the grotto in the moonlight. Along the road, two Calatian guards were walking.
They're obviously on patrol, Zelda thought, judging by the manner in which they walked and the way that they talked so loudly.
The trio waited until the guards had passed before venturing out into the open.
Link turned to the slave. "Thanks for helping us. I think you should return to your quarters before you are missed."
The creature shook it's head. "No, ksah. I will be not missed. None care for me. None but you, ksah. Only you good to me. I help."
"No. If we return to Hyrule, you would be killed on the spot. Hylians don't like moblins. Sorry."
"But Link," Zelda pleaded, suddenly feeling fond of the pitiful creature, "Let him come with us so that he no longer needs to be a slave. We could protect him. It's the least we can do in return for him helping us."
The moblin nodded so hard and fast, Link thought its head would fall off. It looked at him imploringly with its small beady eyes, hope shining within them.
"Fine." Link said at last.
Zelda patted the moblin's head and asked, "What's your name?"
"Kubo, ksah. Kubo."
Zelda offered her hand to Kubo. "My name is Zelda and this is Link. Pleased to meet you, Kubo."
As the creature violently shook the princess' hand, Link looked around at the surrounding land. None of it looked familiar.
"Um," he said, "where do we go from here?"
The other two followed his gaze in silence. Then Kubo spoke up.
"Where to go? Meum take you to safe place. Yes, ksahs, safe."
With that, the slave scurried off in an easterly direction.
Throwing one last look at each other, Link and Zelda hurried after their new companion.
As the sun rose into the morning sky and shone down upon Link and Zelda making their escape from the Calatian palace, a more joyous affair was taking place in the Hylian capital of Hyrule City.
With the preparations all finished, Mira, Torvus, and the rest of the castle staff were more than ready to receive the Delaborean delegation.
Citizens lined the Via Regalis, the main road of the city, to heartily welcome the Queen Julia and her son, Trine.
The two Delaborean royals strolled down the street upon their magnificent steeds, surrounded by an honour guard of more than fifty knights and two cloaked figures in tow, and stopped before the great castle gates.
The crowds became silent as they waited for the doors to open and the royal families to meet.
Slowly and silently the great doors began to open, and out stepped King Torvus with Queen Mira at his arm. Attendants helped down Queen Julia and Prince Trine from their horses and they approached the Hylian monarchs. Without a word, Torvus and Julia embraced in a stiff hug (They had never really liked each other). Then Mira and Julia met in a strong embrace. At this, the people of Hyrule City cheered, for when monarchs love each other there can be no wars.
Julia released her sister from the hug and smiled, tears rolling down her cheeks. "Mira, it's been so long since we've seen each other. I missed you so much!"
Mira, her face also wet with tears, said, "Julia, I can't say how much I wished we could be together just like when we were young. You've grown so much!" she exclaimed, her eyes looking over her sister, "Last time I saw you, you were only- what? Twenty years old? It's amazing how much Zelda looks like you!"
Julia smiled and looked at the assembled nobles. "Where is my little sister? I'd like to see the beauty of Hyrule!"
Mira exchanged glances with Torvus and said, "Zelda is... away, right now."
"Oh." Julia said, the smile fading slightly on her mouth. "That's too bad."
Torvus raised his hands, "Well come on in! We can't have you all standing out here!"
Saying that, he led the nobles and knights into the castle, the giant doors closing with a sound much like lead coffin lids slamming shut.
The castle was busy from that moment until late at night. The servants were constantly ferrying things to and from rooms. The baggage of the guests had to be taken care of, the guests had to be showed to their rooms, dinner had to be prepared, and so on.
Mira, Torvus, Julia, and Trine spent the evening relaxing in the Royal Gardens, with the two women catching up on old times. While Mira and Julia chatted, Torvus showed his nephew to the private shooting range. A bet had been placed on who could rack up the most points before dinner.
"Come on, Trine! Surely you can beat an old man like me!" the king laughed and drew another arrow from his quiver.
The Delaborean prince smiled. "I can beat anyone, Highness. I'm the best." With that, he quickly drew his bow and fired, the bolt piercing the red bull's-eye.
Torvus grunted in surprise and notched his arrow. "You're good, Trine. How long have you been practicing?"
The prince thought for a moment before replying. "Seven years."
"Seven?!" Torvus exclaimed. "That's almost half of your life! Incredible!"
Saying that, the king fired the arrow, narrowly missing the centre of the target.
"Although," he added as Trine lined up for another shot, "I know someone who might be better than you."
"Link." the boy said without shifting his gaze from the target. "I hope that I will be able to meet him while I'm here." The arrow was loosed and, again, hit the bull's-eye.
"Perhaps." Torvus murmured. It's amazing, the king thought to himself, amazing how much the boy looks like his mother. Shaggy sandy blonde hair came loosely down to Trine's chin, encircling his sharp features (a trait of his father) and his brilliant green eyes. Jutting out from beneath the long hair could be seen the familiar pointed ears of the Hylia.
"How good are you at magic?" the king asked.
"As good as your mother?"
"No." Was there disappointment in his voice?
"As good as your father?"
"Much better than him." There was definitely some anger there.
"What did you and your father do together?"
Several emotions flashed by on the boy's face. Sadness, longing, remembrance, anger. Anger was a prominent one.
"We didn't do much together. He died when I was really young. My mother says he was a great father to me, but I can't remember him."
A tense silence crept between the two, only to be interrupted by Mira calling to them that dinner was ready.
The next day, Julia and Trine were given a tour of the magnificent Hyrule Castle. The king and queen were personally guiding them.
They passed through the vaulted chambers of the main hall, through the jewelled hall of the throne room, around the huge kilns of the kitchens, through the great gardens, on top of the giant new walls, and eventually to the huge main gates.
The south wall of the castle was split into two halves with the gates in the middle. Around the gates rose level upon level of stone fortification ending with a wide covered walkway at the top.
It was in this walkway that the royalty had stopped and were enjoying the view of Hyrule City spread out below them.
"So," Mira asked Julia, "what do you think of the castle?"
Staring out at the city, Julia answered, "It's beautiful, Mira. All of my memories of here have been nothing compared to the real thing. And so much has changed! Those walls, for instance, they are new, right?"
"This castle is greater than anything we have in Delabor." Trine said.
"You shouldn't say that about the land you may be ruling someday." the king said.
Trine shook his head. "I'd rather stay in Hyrule."
Mira looked at the boy. "You would give up the throne to stay here?"
Trine slowly turned to look at his aunt, a slight grin on his face. Something about that smile was unsettling to Mira. She didn't have time to think about it more because the floor beneath their feet suddenly shuddered and began to crumble.
The gatehouse was collapsing.
To an observer watching the castle, they would have seen a great cloud of smoke billow from one side of the gatehouse and the entire gate begin to fall in on itself and four people on the top begin to run like hell to get off the doomed building.
The four on the walkway were running for their lives.
Just seconds after the explosion, a full third of the gatehouse had collapsed; the floor falling the five storeys to the ground close at the heels of the royalty.
Before he knew what was happening, Torvus found the ground begin to break up under his feet and give way. Then a giant slab of stone uprooted itself beneath his feet and slide down into the expanding cloud of debris. The king of Hyrule gave a scream and fell.
Mira heard his scream and turned to look for him.
"Torvus!" she called hysterically after her husband.
Julia grabbed her sister by the arm and pulled Mira with her to the safety of the castle wall where Trine was already waiting for them along with several guards.
"Hurry up!" Julia heard her son call to her and she gave a last burst of effort and landed on the catwalk, pulling Mira with her, just as the gatehouse gave a final shudder and collapsed in a smouldering wreak.
The guards swarmed the two women helping them up and checking for injuries.
"Are you ok?" one of them asked Julia. She responded shakily and embraced Trine who was standing next to her. She began to cry in relief. Then she heard a shout behind her. She turned to see the guards kneeling over Mira, whose blood was rapidly spreading on the stone floor.
"Is everyone all right? What happened?" asked a man worriedly running up to them. The man was Sir Gain Rampt.
"We're fine, but the queen is injured." Trine said.
"Right, right." he said. Suddenly his face drained of all colour. "Where's the king?"
They looked about but could not see him. "Did he fall?" Julia asked.
Carefully, Rampt and Trine edged to the rim of the wall and peered down into the still settling dust.
"I'll go find him." Trine said and ran off to the wall steps.
"Trine!" screamed Julia frantically, "Come back! It's too dangerous! Trine!"
The boy was not listening.
Trine clumsily made his way through the wreckage of the gatehouse, searching for his uncle.
"Sire!" he called over and over, getting no answer.
He made his way to the middle of the debris and looked through the dust, seeing nothing more than ruin and white cloud. Then he heard a slight groan behind him.
Turning, he walked to where the groan had come from. The groan came again and Trine looked down at his feet.
There, under several giant slabs of rock, lay Torvus.
"Trine!" the king whispered painfully.
"Don't speak." Trine instructed as he began to pull some of the rocks off of the body. He continued in silence until the king's chest was fully exposed.
He looked down in disgust at the blood soaked garments and ravaged skin. Torvus weakly extended a hand to grab hold of the boy, but Trine hit it away.
Then, to the kings mounting horror, the boy unsheathed a wicked dagger and quickly drew it across Torvus' throat, silencing the shout of fear.
As the king lay gasping in pain and confusion, Trine uttered a spell and lifted a large boulder until it was poised above the body of his uncle.
"Goodbye, uncle." the boy said dispassionately, and he then released the rock, crushing the life from the king.
Two guards soon came running up to the boy kneeling in the rubble and looked past him at the crushed body of Torvus. One of them laid a hand on his shoulder. "Sorry, highness."
The three stood motionless for a few minutes in respect and then the guards helped the crying Trine out of the wreckage. They looked at Sir Gain and just shook their heads. At this, Julia, who had been standing to one side burst out in tears and ran to her son.
As if on queue, clouds began to fill the sky and blotted out the sun.
All of Hyrule was in shock at the news of the king's death and the injuring of the queen.
Torvus' body had been dug out of the wreckage of the gatehouse and laid in the castle chapel until it could be properly buried. Mira was taken to her chambers where doctors from all over the land worked constantly to try and save the queen from death.
For more than two days, Julia had never left her sister's side, always clutching the woman's pale hand.
Julia looked up from the bed to see Mendregere the Healer. Mendregere was renowned as being the best doctor in all the seven lands.
"Yes?" Julia asked meekly.
"I'm afraid all we can do now is to wait. There's nothing more I, or any other doctor, can do for her. Please, get some rest."
Julia shook her head slowly. "No. I can't leave her side. If I do, she might die without anyone near who loves her."
"I understand that, highness, but it does you no good to stay here and not sleeping. You need your rest. You need to be strong in case..."
The Delaborean queen stood up quickly, pointing an accusing finger at the doctor. "You think she's going to die, don't you? All of you think she's going to die! Well, she's not because she's the queen of Hyrule and her people need her!"
"What about your people?"
Julia paused. "My people?"
Mendregere gingerly helped Julia into a chair. "Your people need a strong queen, and your sister's people need a strong queen. If the Hylians see you moping around as if Mira is dead, they will despair. A grievous queen is not a good queen."
"You- you're right. The people need me."
That's right. Now get some sleep. I'll have a bed moved in here so you can still be near your sister."
"Thank you, doctor."
Mendregere silently ushered all of the staff and doctors in the room out into the hall.
As he closed the door, Sir Rampt ran up to him.
"Doctor. How is she?"
If you mean Julia, she's still very upset, but if you mean Mira, then I don't know what to say. It doesn't look good."
"Have you used all of the proper spells and medicines?"
"Of course, sir. The best thing any of us can do now is wait and see."
Gain nodded miserably.
The doctor put his hands on the lord's shoulders. "Relax. It's not as if this was your fault."
Rampt stared hard at the doctor for a moment and then quickly ran down the hall, heading for his room.
Mendregere only shook his head at the fleeing lord. "Poor man."
On either side of the door, the two hooded figures watched the man go. When Rampt had gone from view, they looked at each other and silently nodded.
"Yes, Rampt?" said the image in the mirror.
Rampt was again standing before the magic mirror in his quarters, but this time, it was not to report.
"That work you had me do on the gatehouse- that was to kill the king and queen, wasn't it?!" By this time, Rampt was shaking with anger.
The dark image only shook it's head.
"I assure you that was not my intention. I intended to march through the weakened gates to conquer the castle. No one was to die."
"Then what happened?"
"Perhaps it was your fault. You worked on the gates. You weakened them to the point of breaking."
Rampt could only stare incredulously at the image. "My fault?! It was your idea! Don't blame me!"
The image only shook its head slowly and vanished, leaving the lord staring at his reflection.
Was it his fault?
As the lord pondered his role in the death of Torvus, he failed to notice that he was not the only one to hear the conversation with the mirror. Silently, the eavesdropper left the room.
Julia woke with a start to see Sir Gain Rampt standing over her.
"Y-Yes?" she muttered.
"I ask permission to investigate into the gatehouse."
The Delaborean queen woke fully. "Investigate? Why?"
"I-I believe the gates were sabotaged, highness."
"Sabotage! Who would do such a thing? How do you know?"
Gain looked at his feet as he answered. "I don't know who would try to kill Trovus or Mira- or even you and your son- but I do know that the gate has stood for centuries and nothing more than a crack has appeared on it. I don't believe it is coincidence that it fell when all four of you were in it."
Julia looked troubled and then nodded. "Do it, sir. If it is sabotage, I want the criminal brought to justice."
Gain bowed and left the room.
Rampt stood before a collection of castle guards and the best masons in the city, as well as an assortment from the city police.
He pointed at the rubble of the gates. "I want you all to go through that mess and search for anything suspicious." He waited for the groaning to subside before continuing. "The queen and I suspect someone tampered with the gates in an attempt to kill the king and queen. You have until Mira wakes up. I suggest you get to work."
As the assembled men began to meticulously work their way through the rubble, Rampt started the walk back to his office and was joined by the castle chamberlain, Roland.
"The queen Julia expresses her desire to grant you all the resources you feel are necessary to quickly get results. Use them wisely, Gain."
"I thank the queen for her support, Roland, and I fully intend to use everything at my disposal to find the saboteur."
"So you think it is sabotage and not some accident?"
"I'm sure of it, chamberlain."
"And what makes you so sure?"
Rampt stopped and tried to stare the tall man in the eyes. "I just have a feeling; an instinct."
The chamberlain looked calmly down at the lord. "Those same instincts that got you into the position where you are now?"
"What are you implying, Roland?"
The tall man turned his back to the lord and began to walk away. He called over his shoulder, "Nothing, Rampt. Nothing at all. Think what you wish about this 'act of sabotage'. After all, I'm sure you have some first rate knowledge as to what happened."
Watching the chamberlain walk away, Rampt was filled with terror at the man's words and the implications he made.
It took Link and Zelda almost an entire day to reach where Kubo was taking them.
The moblin had led the two Hylians through the open expanses of the Calatian grasslands and into the sheltered darkness of the eastern forests. The former slave had quickly found a narrow path winding its way through the dense underbrush of the forests and was wasting no time in leading them along it.
"Kubo, please stop for a bit!" whined Zelda. "I'm too tired to continue. I need to rest!"
The moblin stopped and shook his head at the princess. "Nononono. We cannot stop. Not here. No. Must keep going."
Zelda sat down on a small rock and looked at the small creature. "Going? Going where? You still haven't told us!"
Looking wildly around him, the moblin said quickly, "Shhhhh! Stay quiet, princess girl. Quiet. Not good to yell here. No. Not good. Up! Must keep going to get to safe place. Up!"
"Zelda." Link said quietly, "I think we should do as Kubo says. I'm getting a bad feeling about this forest." He rested his hand on the hilt of the Master Sword and looked warily around.
"Yesss. Listen to Linken. Up now. Up. Forest not safe."
"What's not safe about it, Link." Zelda said from the rock, "I don't feel anything wrong. It has everything forests have, doesn't it? It has trees and bushes and dirt and birds and...." she trailed off, unease growing in her.
Link nodded slowly. "No birds."
Zelda got up slowly and wrapped her arms around herself. "But forests always have birds."
The Hylians looked up into the trees for any signs of avian life, but could see none. They brought their attention back to the ground as they heard Kubo's sharp intake of breath.
They saw him staring at the rock Zelda had just been sitting on. Link bent closer to the rock for a better look at it, but could see nothing wrong with it. Turning to Kubo, he said, "What? It's just a rock."
The moblin shook his head. "Cut it with your sword."
Link shrugged and did so. The Master Sword cut silently through the rock, leaving the two halves to fall on either side of it. The rock was hollow and filled with some sort of yellow, sticky fluid. Lying inside the fluid were hundreds of little translucent balls.
"Ewww!" squealed the princess in disgust. "What are they?"
Link picked one up on the edge of his blade and peered at it. "It's a spider."
"Spiders? How did they get into the rock?"
The three looked at each other. It wasn't a rock; it was an egg.
Zelda moved to Link's side and grabbed his arm, looking into his face. "What kind of spider lays eggs that size?"
Link shook his head. "I don't know, but I don't want to meet it. Let's get out of here. Lead the way Kubo."
With the moblin in the lead again, the three quickly made their way along the path.
None of them could shake an overwhelming sense of fear.
This sense was only heightened when Kubo vanished before the Hylian's eyes.
"Kubo!" Link shouted, holding his sword ready and looking around for any sign of the creature.
Zelda had drawn her dagger and looked up at the trees when the leaves began to violently shake.
Suddenly giant green and black spiders surrounded the two Hylians, all hanging from the trees by thick strands of web extending from their abdomens.
The biggest spider hung directly in front of Link. The only difference between this one and the others was that this one had orange stripes on it.
"Travelersss put away weaponsss or little moblin diesss!" It hissed.
Zelda quickly dropped her weapon, but Link didn't move a muscle.
"Link!" Zelda whispered, "Put down your sword or they'll kill Kubo!"
"If I put down my sword, there's nothing to stop them killing us."
The surrounding spiders all hissed loudly. The lead spider said, "Ahh. You arrre a warrriorrr! The tassste of victory is much betterrr than the blood. You shall fight usss to the death, yes?"
"You can't take on all of them by yourself, Link! You'll be slaughtered!"
Link ignored the princess, "You like the taste of victory?" he said to the lead spider.
It clacked its mouth pincers together a few times before responding. "Yesss."
"Then what about just you and me fighting?"
"You wisssh to wagerrr?" it hissed.
"If I win, you release my friend and allow the three of us to pass through the forest."
"And if I win?"
"If you win, we will give up without a fight."
"What?!" Zelda cried out in shock, but Link held up his hand to silence her.
The spider spat before Link. "No fight, no good! Fight to the death!"
"Fine." Link said. "But only if none of your friends interfere with our battle. Just you and me."
The spider clacked its pincers again. "Fine."
And with that, Zelda was swiftly pulled up into the trees and the spider attacked.
Link dodged the attack and struck out with his sword, missing the spider. The spider jumped up into the overhanging trees and left Link staring up at the branches.
"Come down!" Link shouted.
He turned just in time to raise his sword in defence of the attack. The spider had spun it's web and was hanging down from the strands. Link tried to retaliate, but the spider had already pulled itself back into the branches.
Again and again the spider came down and attacked, and each time Link defended but had no time to strike back.
Then, the spider swung down and Link rolled under it, came up quickly, and lashed out with his sword, cutting the web. The spider crashed to the ground, landing on it's back.
Link approached the creature as it struggled to right itself. The trees above rustled as the other spiders hissed their disapproval.
Link placed his blade just under the mouth of the great spider and said, "Do you give up?"
In response, the spider spat on Link's boot, the acid burning through the leather.
Impassively, Link drove the sword through the creature's throat.
Before he had drawn the blade out, Zelda and Kubo were dropped behind him. The spiders above hissed even louder.
Kubo jumped to his feet and called out to the other two, "Hurry, run! They will attack us soon! Run!"
Link and Zelda didn't need to be told twice.
Several seconds after they began running, they heard the sounds of the spiders overtaking them in the branches above.
"Faster!" Link shouted.
Just as the spiders seemed like they would drop down, the forest ended suddenly; several spiders falling out of the branches.
The trio just kept running, leaving the hissing creatures and the forest, behind them.
It wasn't long before they had to stop and catch their breath.
Zelda lay stretched out on the ground, Kubo lay curled up in a ball, and Link was sitting with his head between his knees. None of them would move for over an hour and by that time the sun was setting.
"I guess we make camp here tonight." Link said.
"Sounds good to me!" Zelda sighed.
The three of them lay silently watching the stars come out in the fading light
It was after dark when Zelda spoke up.
"Link," she said, "what do you think the stars are?"
"They're stars. What could they be made of?"
"I don't know. I just thought-"
"The gods made them. That's all I need to know."
"Oh." The three were silent for some time before Kubo spoke up.
Link and Zelda turned to look at the moblin. "What?" Zelda asked.
Not shifting his gaze from the heavens, Kubo explained.
"Before Goddesses came down and created the world, there was Great Nothingness. All that was in Nothingness was black sky. One day, the god Chaos, in his castle in the sky, cut himself with a blade. He gathered all blood in a cup until his veins were dry. Then, with last strength, he flung the cup, spilling the blood across Nothingness. The blood became stars and the cup became moon. That is why, on some nights, the moon looks golden, and on others it looks blood red."
"Amazing." Link said. "Where did you hear that, Kubo?"
"Mother told it when I was young."
"She must have been very wise." Zelda said.
Kubo nodded. "She was. Taught me many things."
With that, the moblin began to sing softly. The words were unfamiliar to the Hylians, but they knew beautiful music when they heard it.
Silently, Zelda moved next to Link and said, "He's so much happier now that he's not a slave."
Link nodded. They both listened in silence to the moblin's song until it ended and Kubo fell asleep. Link looked down at Zelda, who had fallen asleep on his chest. He turned his eyes to the stars and just stared until he too fell asleep.
They woke early the next morning and set off again with Kubo in the lead.
Although the two Hylians had no idea where they were headed, they were confident in the small moblin.
Throughout the day, the trio passed through many of the small forests in the region. The going was tough and the weather became suddenly hot and blistering and, of course, Zelda was always whining.
"Why can't we use our horses?" she would ask over and over again.
"Because if we called them, they could lead the Calatians right to us. Wait until we reach Hyrule." Link would answer her each time.
"How much further?"
"Not far." Kubo would reply.
By dusk, Link and Kubo were sick of hearing the princess' voice.
Eventually they came to the edge of another forest and Kubo told them to stop.
"Stay quiet from now on. Speak not."
Silently, swiftly looking cautiously from side to side, the moblin proceeded to lead them into the dark forest.
Before long, the trio came upon a small ravine with a tiny stream trickling through the bottom.
"Link," Zelda whispered, "I have a bad feeling about this."
Link kept his eyes darting around him, looking for anything suspicious and whispered back, "I know, just keep your eyes open."
They descended into the ravine and halted before a large tree stump beside the stream.
"We wait." Kubo said, and promptly sat down heavily on the stump.
The princess crouched beside the water and dipped her hands in the cool liquid.
Link remained standing at alert, still uneasy about the situation.
They stayed like this for many minutes in silence before they were met by the inhabitants of the forest.
Zelda heard a rustling in the bushes on the other side of the stream and looked up in time to see an arrow pierced the air and hit the dirt inches from her leg. She fell with a startled scream into the water and the three were immediately surrounded by moblins. They were all heavily armed.
The lead moblin stepped forward. "Throw down weapons and give up."
Link and Kubo ignored the soaking princess' yells from behind them and concentrated on the lead moblin. Kubo said quickly, "Meum Kubo. Meum used to be slave in Palace. These friends help meum run. Meum help them get home."
As if on queue, Link slowly drew his sword and laid it on the ground before the moblin leader.
"My friend and I mean you no harm. We wish only to return to Hyrule."
The lead moblin snorted. "That youm say, Man. But what youm mean?"
"I mean what I say. And I'm no Man, I am a Hylian."
Saying that, Link pulled off his cap, revealing his long, pointed ears; the telltale mark of a true Hylian.
The surrounding moblins began to whisper excitedly to each other at the sight of Link's ears.
Link leaned toward Kubo and whispered, "Why are they talking like that?"
Kubo whispered back, "A prophesy about two Hylians. Very old."
The lead moblin interrupted the short conversation. "Hylians hunt moblins. Why should usums trust youm?"
"Because we are only a day ahead of the entire Calatian army and if we don't leave the country soon, we'll be killed. Along with those who are found with us."
Again the moblin chattered, this time in fear. The leader seemed to make up his mind.
"Come. Youms rest in hideahole, then leave. Come."
Several moblins helped Zelda out of the water while others retraced the Hylian's trail, hiding and destroying it, to throw off pursuit. Then, in a line, twisting through the dense forest, they all set off for the 'hideahole.'
As they walked, Zelda began to whine. Again.
"That's right, just ignore the princess. Who fell. Into water. Just ignore me. Everyone else does. Don't mind me, I'm just a princess" She spread her arms wide, "I mean, look at me! I'm of royal blood and I'm soaking wet! And I'm being made to walk for days on end with no stopping. It's not fair!" A far away look came to her face. "I just want to lay down next to a big fire, wrapped inside a big, furry blanket, with servants waiting on me, hand and foot. That's all. Is that too much to ask?"
After several more minutes, the moblin leader had had enough. He stopped the group and strode to where the princess was leaning against a tree, pouting.
"Girl, come here." he said beckoning her to bend down so that he could look her in the eye. She did so and, before she could move away, the moblin had slapped her roughly on the cheek. "Quiet, girl! No more talkin' for youm!"
The princess fell back with a gasp, hand at her cheek, in shock. The other moblins chuckled at her reaction.
"You hit me!" she growled. "You moblin scum!"
Suddenly the princess was surrounded by armed moblins who were, needless to say, pissed.
A blade was pressed against Zelda's throat by the lead moblin. "Never say that again, girl! Next time, you die."
The moblin withdrew his blade and they continued walking. Zelda quickly got up and rushed to Link's side, tightly holding his arm and crying in fear.
"They nearly killed me, Link!" she said as they followed the moblins. "Why didn't you do anything to help me? You're supposed to be protecting me!"
Link shook his head. "Frankly, you deserved it, Zelda. You insulted them."
"I though you were on my side, Link. I thought you were my friend. Now you're siding with these foreign moblins." She crossed her arms and began to pout.
They continued in silence until the princess again spoke up.
"But they hit me, Link! It hurt!"
Link looked at the girl's red cheek. "You'll get over it."
Zelda stopped and pushed Link into a tree. "I'm a princess, no one hits princesses!"
Link brushed the tree moss off of his tunic and glared at the girl. "Princess of what?"
"Don't be daft. Hyrule, of course."
"And where are we?"
Unease began to creep into her voice. "Calatia."
"Right," Link said as he began walking again. "So here you're nothing more than a peasant to these people. Not royalty. You need to learn that well if you're to be queen."
Zelda quickly caught up with him and said, "But I'm not going to be queen. Mira's queen."
Link didn't reply. He had a bad feeling that things will have changed when they returned to Hyrule.
The Hylians were led through the dense woods by the moblins until they came to a large tree stump in a small clearing.
"What now?" asked Zelda, looking around. "I don't see any 'hideahole'."
Link smiled. He could remember a similar hideout in Hyrule's Lost Forest.
The moblins approached the stump and pawed at it.
"What are they doing?" Zelda asked.
"Just watch." Link said, nodding to the stump.
To the princess' surprise, the small creatures pulled away some moss from the old tree, revealing a small hole just big enough for a person to fit through. The lead moblin gestured for the Hylians and Kubo to enter.
Cautiously, they entered the dark hole.
"How are we all supposed to fit in here?" Zelda muttered as she crawled through first. Her words were closely followed by a scream as her hands abruptly found no ground to crawl on.
Link and Kubo chose to climb down the ladder.
"Are you all right?" Link asked Zelda, helping her up from the ground.
"I'm fine, I guess. Just bruised." she said.
Link and Zelda turned to Kubo to find him staring into a doorway across from the ladder. They stood beside him and felt their jaws drop in awe.
Before the trio was a giant room, lit brilliantly with hundreds of small candles. The floors and walls were built with stones and stalactites hung from the ceiling, some almost reaching the floor. All throughout the cavern, moblins were working busily.
"I've- I've never seen so many moblins in one place! It's amazing!" exclaimed Zelda.
"What are they doing?" Link asked, more to himself than to anyone else.
"Building." said a voice behind them.
The three turned to find the lead moblin standing before his fellow scouts who had just come down the ladder.
"Building what?" the princess asked, as they all began to walk through the cavern.
"A city." came the reply.
"A city?" the Hylians asked.
"Weum moblins make home for usums. Deep under ground. Hideahole."
As the group passed moblins, all working industriously, many stopped working and stared at the Hylians. Some shouted in surprise and soon moblins were lining the streets of the small city, all silently watching. Amid the crowds, the Hylians caught sight of a Man standing among the workers. The Man walked over to greet them.
Link eyed the man carefully as he approached.
He was a small old man with kind features; he seemed almost a grandfatherly figure. His small brown eyes were almost hidden behind the folds of skin surrounding his eyes and the thick spectacles perched on his nose. His long white hair fell down past his arched back almost to his knees. His great beard touched the floor when he walked, with which he needed the help of a cane.
He stopped before the group.
Well, well, what have we here?" he said in a small voice, adjusting his glasses. "Looks like two Hylians and a stray moblin. Interesting." he turned to the moblin captain. "Are they dangerous?"
The moblin shook his head. "No, sir. Only boy carry weapon."
"If you were human," the old man said, turning to Link and Zelda, "I could say that you are Calatians taking a walk with your slave. But you're not humans, are you? You're Hylians and that should make your reasons more intriguing. Captain," he said, turning again to the moblin leader, "take them all to my hut and keep them there until I come for them, please."
The moblin saluted as the man turned and left the group. "Come on!" the captain barked to Link, Zelda, and Kubo as he herded them toward a small group of cottages off to one side of the cavern.
The three captives were roughly shoved inside a small hut and guarded until the old man came.
He sat himself in an old rocking chair and stared at the three for some time before speaking.
"Well! Make yourselves comfortable! Sit down and have something to eat and drink."
Link looked around the small one room dwelling but saw nothing to sit on or anything to eat.
"Sit, sir?" he asked. "Where?"
The old man smiled and pointed behind them. "Right there, young man."
They turned and to their surprise saw two chairs and a stool standing where a moment ago there had been nothing. Beside the chairs was a small table with food on it and three glasses of wine.
"How-?" Zelda began, but stopped as if her voice had suddenly been ripped from her throat.
The old man smiled even more. "I shall ask the questions, young lady. Please, sit."
Obediently the three sat on the chairs.
"Now then," said the old man, settling back into his chair, "what is your reason for being in this part of Calatia? You may speak now."
"We were running from the king and his men." Link said.
"Really? And why was that?"
"We made him angry." Zelda said in a small voice.
"Angry? That doesn't surprise me. Eridanus is always angry with someone. But why-? No. You'd better start at the beginning. Tell me everything."
For some reason, the three travellers felt compelled to say everything about their reasons in Calatia to the old man. It was almost as if they were being forced with his kind words. They talked for hours on end, not once stopping, and the old man listened silently, sometimes nodding slightly or shaking his head in wonder and disgust.
When they had finished their tale, the three suddenly felt so exhausted that they dropped to sleep almost immediately.
After a while, the old man got up and stood over the travellers. "Get your rest while you can, children." he said, "I fear that you may need it in the future."
When Zelda awoke, she found Link and Kubo still asleep.
Getting up quickly, she looked at the small hut as memories of the previous night flooded back to her. She cautiously opened the door and looked out.
Already, the moblins were at work building. She walked out of the hut to get a better view of the work, but was quickly stopped by a moblin guard, who sent his partner off, presumably to find the old man.
Within a few minutes the old man was again standing before the girl.
"Ah, princess! I see you are awake. Good. Come and walk with me."
With that, the old man turned and shuffled off. A moment later, at the 'insistence' of the guards, Zelda caught up with him.
"What is it these moblins are doing?" Zelda asked.
"They are working to make a place that will be safe for their children. As all parents do."
The man shrugged. "In many ways it is safer than the surface. For instance, there are no slave drivers down here. Here the moblins can live in peace and security from those like the Calatians. Here in their 'under-world'."
Zelda noticed a group of moblins stop working and stare at her in awe. A few waved happily.
"Why is it the moblins seem so excited about Link and I?"
"Hmmm?" Gregory said, glancing at the moblins. "Oh. They are anxious about what you two could mean."
Zelda shook her head. "I don't know what you mean."
The old man smiled. "No. I don't suppose you do. Let me explain. You see, there is an ancient prophesy passed down from moblins to their children. This prophesy foretells the height of the moblin race. I goes like this:
To every riddle there is an answer
To every door there is a room
To every hero there is a hand
that beckons him to doom.
To every king there is a fate
To every queen there is a groom
To every heir there is a throne
sitting in a vaulted room.
To every sun there is a moon
To every night there is a day
To every light there is a shadow
where brightness holds no sway.
To every slave there is a master
To every land a Lord must be
To every Precious a greatness awaits
the Chosen to set free."
Gregory looked to the princess. "Those last lines hint that the Chosen, or the Hylians, will set free the greatness that awaits all Precious, or moblins."
"Why are they called 'Precious'?"
"That is what they called themselves ages ago. Just as you call yourself the Chosen."
The pair walked on without another word for a few minutes, watching the moblins scurry among the cavern when Zelda suddenly chuckled to herself.
"What is it, girl, that you find so humorous?"
"I just find it funny that I'm listening to a strange old man in a strange land tell me that I could free the moblins, and I don't even know your name."
"Strange, am I? Well, yes, I suppose I am a bit. As for my name, I am called Gregory."
"Gregory." Zelda repeated to herself. "That name sounds familiar." Then she had it. "Not the Gregory who stopped the Sunian invasion of Arkhas!"
"The same." Gregory said proudly.
"But that was ages ago! You should be dead!"
Gregory laughed loudly. "It wasn't that long ago, girl! Why, I fought alongside King Eridanus and your father, and they are still living well!"
Zelda looked down. "My father is no longer living."
The old man stopped laughing and stared at her. "Gerrik? Dead? When did this happen?"
"Several months ago. He was killed."
Gregory seemed to deflate. To Zelda it was as if he had aged twenty years in a second.
"I am... sorry to hear that. We were great friends. We always used to talk of the old times, when we were young." The man sighed deeply. "It was a better time, then. Back when your father and mother were alive. Gerrik was always the strong arm of the Lands with Ambrosia his supporting arm. Before he executed his wife, Eridanus and June were always heavy supporters of Hyrule, always there to help out in some way." He sighed again. "But times change and the good never lasts forever."
A sudden commotion near an entrance turned their attention away from the bad memories. A moblin ran up to Gregory.
"Sir! Vincent has come back!"
Zelda looked at the old man questioningly. "Who is Vincent?"
Gregory seemed to regain some of his youth. "He is my son!" he proclaimed proudly.
Together, Gregory and Zelda walked toward the entrance and found there a mass of moblins jumping about excitedly. Among them stood Link and Kubo.
In the centre of the mass of moblins stood a tall young man in dull tattered armour wearing equally tattered rags around the armour. In a scabbard by his side hung a long broadsword. Around his neck was draped a long red scarf.
To this young man Gregory approached, arms spread wide.
"Vincent!" said the old man, hugging the knight, "You've returned! It is good to see you again, boy."
The knight returned the hug and said, "I have come back to you father, and with me I have brought more of the oppressed moblins."
Vincent turned and gestures toward the entrance, and through it walked several dozen sickly moblins accompanied by a few of the healthy Underworld moblins.
A shadow seemed to cross Gregory's face. "You didn't steal them, did you?"
Vincent dismissed the question with a wave of his hand. "How can something be stolen when there is no one to own it?"
The old man quickly turned on his heel and strode away from his son, back to his hut. Shortly after, Vincent followed.
The moblins dispersed, leaving Link, Zelda, and Kubo standing alone.
"What was all that about?" Link asked.
"I don't know." said the princess.
"Who is old man?" asked the moblin.
"His name is Gregory." answered Zelda.
Link looked at her sharply, "Not the Gregory who-"
"Wow. I though he was dead."
The three watched the hut for a few minutes in silence before they headed off to meet this Vincent.
As they approached the hut they heard shouting.
"You killed the owners, didn't you?"
"They tried to stop me! I did what I had to do to free the slaves!"
"But you don't kill the owners! That's murder!"
"It's no different than what you did in the War!"
"What I did, I did with a just cause!"
"I would call freeing slaves to give them a future a just cause!"
"But to kill innocent people is wrong!"
"Keeping slaves is wrong!"
Suddenly the shouting stopped and the door flew open. Vincent was framed in the doorway.
"What do you want?" he shouted to the three companions.
"That is no way to talk to our guests, Vincent." said Gregory as he lightly pushed the boy out of the doorway to allow the Hylians in. "Please come inside."
They entered and sat down in the chairs that appeared before them.
"What are you doing here?" Vincent asked of them.
"Vincent that is enough!" scolded the old man.
Zelda held up a hand and said, "That's all right, sir." She turned to Vincent. "We were on our way to Hyrule when we were ambushed by a troop of moblins who brought us here."
"With your little slave too?" the knight asked pointing to Kubo.
"Meum no slave!" shouted the little creature angrily. "These two free meum! Help meum get to Hyrule and be free forever."
"You would do better to stay here."
"Meum go with Linken."
Vincent glared at the three of them and then stalked out of the dwelling, slamming the door as he went.
When he was gone, Gregory sighed.
"He has become very reckless. His heart is in the right place, but he refuses to believe moblins can be free without bloodshed."
"Sometimes spilling blood is the only way." Link said.
"Not if it can be avoided." Gregory said through clenched teeth.
The hut fell to silence for a few minutes until the old man seemed to snap out of his downcast mood.
"Well!" said he, "We can't have you all hanging around here! You have a home to go to. Come with me and I'll have someone guide you back to Hyrule."
Thanking him graciously, the three followed him out into the cavern.
Gregory went to a small group of moblins and picked two of them out, showing them to the travellers.
"These two know every tunnel in the Underworld. If any can lead you to Hyrule, these two can. Meet Mido and Guido."
The moblins heartily greeted the companions.
"Every tunnel?" asked Link, "I thought we were going above ground."
The old man shook his head. "No, no! The tunnels are the safest way for all of you."
Still having doubts about a journey underground, the travellers all got into a small wagon, with Mido and Guido sitting in front, that was pulled by a small pony.
"Comaway! Comaway!" shouted the two guides happily as the cart began to move down a side tunnel. Gregory waved to the group as they departed
When they had moved some distance away from the main chamber, the cart rocked slightly as Vincent jumped on.
Before any of them could object, the young man said, "I am coming with you to Hyrule to protect the moblin from any harm you may try on him."
"But we-" started Zelda.
"You should have nothing to fear if you are as kind as you say you are." Vincent said, cutting the princess off.
"Fine," said Link, "but you will find yourself with no cause in Hyrule. There is no slavery there."
"We will see."
With that, the four settled down for the long trek back to Hyrule.
No one was eager to start a war.
"But sire, please be reasonable." pleaded Lord Gonhaussen of Tranora. "A war would be a terrible strain on our economy. I do not think Calatia can afford a war. Not with Hyrule."
The other lords nodded. They were all in the study of King Eridanus, all of the four Lords of Calatia. Eridanus paced angrily around the table that the other lords sat at.
"I don't care." Eridanus said bitterly. "I want Hyrule punished."
"But sire, -" started Lord Gildebrandt but was cut off by the king.
"And we treated them so well! They were our guests and look how they repay us! Link I may be able to forgive. He was not in power when this Ashir was imprisoned, but that little wench of a daughter Gerrik raised deserves the block!"
Silence filled the room as the other three lords thought of Zelda beneath the axe. They shuddered at the thought.
"Where is this wizard now?" asked the Lord of Torano.
Gonhaussen sighed. "We think he may have crossed back into Hyrule."
"Perhaps we can ask Hyrule to return him to us to deal with?" suggested Gildebrandt quietly.
"No!" Eridanus shouted, "I will not negotiate with those magicians! They should all be destroyed!"
"Sire!" exclaimed Gildebrandt. "The last thing we want is another Inquisition!"
"I don't care!" roared the king. "I want Hyrule under my control so that they can be punished for their unnatural beliefs! Start gathering troops, gentlemen, we soon go to war!"
The other lords exchanged worried glances. This was not good.
Julia turned to see Roland burst through the door to Mira's chambers.
"What is it, Chamberlain?" she asked.
"M'lady, Princess Zelda has just arrived in the castle!"
Julia quickly stood up and rushed out the door to see her younger sister running down the hall toward her. Following the young girl was Link and another young man. Trailing him was a small moblin.
Julia and Zelda embraced as they met, both crying as they were overcome with emotions.
"Zelda, it's been so long since I last saw you!" exclaimed Julia.
Zelda stepped back from the hug and glanced to the queen's room. "I'm just sorry we have to meet again like this."
Julia nodded and walked in the room. She was followed by Zelda.
"Mira!" gasped Zelda as the girl saw her oldest sister laying silently on the bed, bandages wrapped around her. The young princess knelt beside the bed and took hold of her sibling's hand. Looking to Julia, she asked, "How is she?"
Julia looked down. "The doctors don't think she'll make it."
"What happened?" came a voice from the doorway.
The women turned to see Link standing beside Roland with the other two standing behind them.
"The- the gatehouse collapsed. All four of us were on it." She began to cry softly and collapsed into a chair.
"Four?" asked Link.
Julia nodded but said nothing. Roland answered the young man.
"The Queen Mira, King Torvus, Queen Julia and her son, Prince Trine."
"What happened to Torvus?" Zelda asked.
Roland looked to the stricken Julia before answering. "He was killed in the gatehouse."
"Torvus is dead?" asked Zelda and Link simultaneously.
The chamberlain nodded.
The room fell into silence. After a few minutes a sudden commotion outside brought their attention out of their thoughts.
"Let me through! Let me through!"
Roland and Link looked behind them to see a man in white robes struggling against Vincent and Kubo, trying to get into the room.
"Let him through!" ordered the chamberlain.
The two moved aside silently but kept wary eyes upon the man.
"Link," said Roland, "This is Mendregere the healer. He is tending to the queen."
Link shook hands with the man and watched as he checked on the injured queen. He went to a table and mixed some strange plants together in a bowl and then added water. He silently put the bowl to Mira's lips and made her swallow the liquid. Then he held his hands above her and muttered a spell. Beneath his hands a bright light flashed and seemed to turn into a gas as it surrounded the body of the queen. When she was totally covered, the light faded and was gone.
"What was that?" asked Link.
"A simple sleeping potion and a healing spell, that is all." said the healer.
"Will the spell work?"
Mendregere looked at Link and said, "I doubt it."
Link just stood there, looking at the stricken body of the queen beside Julia and Zelda. The healer asked Link outside.
"Boy," he said, "I suggest that you get some rest. You look tired and if the queen does die, the land will need some strong shoulders to lean on. Queen Julia's will not be strong enough and neither will the Princess Zelda's. You must be there when the power shifts or the country will be in chaos. Do you understand?"
Link's eyes seemed to glaze over slightly and he stared off into the distance, looking at nothing, and then he snapped out of it and nodded silently.
"Good. Go get some sleep."
With Vincent and Kubo trailing him, Link walked off, leaving Mendregere standing in the hallway across from the two cloaked figures, who had never left their posts.
The dinner that night at Hyrule Castle was more jovial than most nights, for the nobility of the land finally had a reason to be happy- Link and Zelda had returned.
During the past few days, dinner had been a solemn affair. With the death of Torvus and the near dead Mira, dinner had lost its appeal to most nobles.
Link had taken his places near the head of the royal table and was currently sharing his adventures with the diners. Seated next to the hero was Vincent and Kubo, both given places of honour. Beside them sat Queen Julia at the table head and Prince Trine at her right hand.
Zelda was absent from the meal.
When Link had finished his long tale, Julia spoke up.
"Link," she said, "Your tale is fascinating and we all thank you for letting us listen to it, but you have not formally introduced us to your new companions." As she said this, the queen gestured to the knight and the moblin.
Link bowed his head slightly and said, "Forgive me, your highness. He gestured to Kubo and said, "This is Kubo. As I said, he helped Zelda and me escape from Calasta." To Vincent. "And this is Vincent, son of Gregory."
The two rose and bowed to the assembled nobles then retook their seats.
"What is it you do, sir Vincent?" asked one of the nobles.
The knight said, "I free the oppressed."
"The oppressed?" asked another lord.
Vincent nodded. "Yes. I was once a royal knight of Calatia before I stopped a noble from beating his slave. That noble had me discharged from the army and since then I have helped free the slaves with my father."
"I did not know slavery was still allowed in Calatia. Or the world for that matter." said the first noble.
"It is still very much a reality, sir."
"And what of you, sir Kubo?" asked yet another lord, "What was it you did in Calatia?"
Before Kubo could respond, Vincent said, "A slave."
The nobles muttered. "Moblins are slaves in Calatia?" asked Julia. "Only moblins?"
Vincent nodded. "Only moblins." Kubo gave the knight a cold stare.
Silence filled the room as the nobles tried to avoid staring at Kubo in pity.
The castle chamberlain, Roland, interrupted the silence by walking to the head of the table and asked Julia permission to speak. She nodded.
"My lords and ladies," he said, "may I have your attention please?"
All eyes looked to the tall man. He cleared his throat. "I have some sorrowful news to announce. Her Highness, Queen Mira of Hyrule, has just died."
As one, the diners stopped eating and stood in surprise. Some cried out and wept, while others sat heavily and stared into the distance. A giant uproar arose as many tried asking Roland for more information.
"Please! Please!" he shouted, calming the nobles. "Now is not the time to be mourning the departed ruler. We must celebrate, not the death of a queen, but the ascension of another! Now Queen Julia is ruler of Hyrule! All hail Queen Julia!"
Many of the lords and ladies took up the cheer, and Julia rose from her seat to welcome the praise. Link stood and came before her. He knelt down on one knee and placed his sword at her feet. Looking up, he said, "I pledge my loyalty to you, Queen Julia."
The queen smiled and rested a hand on his shoulder. Link then rose and moved to the side. Other lords were likewise pledging their loyalty to the new ruler.
The mourning of Mira was quickly replaced by the celebration of Julia.
Link, Julia, Trine, Roland, Sir Rampt, Vincent, and Kubo all went to the castle crypt where Mira's body awaited the journey to the Royal Tomb. The crypt's many low-ceilinged, vaulted chambers forming a maze of tunnels that any uninvited guests might lose themselves in. Torches burned brightly in their sockets.
Kneeling beside the body was Princess Zelda.
The group approached the body and stood next to the mourning princess.
"Zelda?" Link asked, putting his hand on her shoulder. "Are you all right?"
Zelda looked up at the boy with tear reddened eyes and said, "Yes. Yes, I'm fine."
"Maybe you should get some rest, princess." the chamberlain said.
"No. I'll stay here."
Vincent and Kubo were looking at the queen's body as the others tried to console the princess and the new queen.
"How did she die?" asked Vincent.
The others looked up from Zelda and stared at the knight.
"She was injured when the gatehouse fell, of course." Trine said.
Kubo shook his head. "No wounds." he said, pointing to the head.
Link and Roland looked closely at the corpse. "He's right." said the chamberlain.
"Where's that healer?" asked Link.
"He should still be upstairs."
"Get him. Both of you." ordered Julia to Link and Roland. They nodded and ran off.
The remaining people stared at the body of Mira.
"Zelda," said Trine, "Where were you during diner?"
Zelda did not move her gaze from her sister as she answered her cousin. "I was in Mira's room."
"Just- just being there. At her side."
"Were you alone?"
"Trine!" scolded Julia, "Do not pester your cousin! Can't you see that she is grieving?" Julia knelt beside her younger sister and embraced her. The crypt fell to silence.
Minutes later the healer, Mendregere, was brought down by Link and Roland.
"Healer," said Julia, "How did my sister die?"
"M'lady," said Mendregere, "Mira died due to much trauma to the body and the mind."
"Where?" asked Vincent.
The healer walked to the body and pointed. "Well, to the head, mainly, and-"
He paused and the others looked at him accusingly.
"Her head-!" he said, in shock.
"It is perfect, healer." said Trine. "Not a scratch."
"I-I do not understand! I treated the wounds myself!"
"I you did then there would have been scars." pointed out Link.
"There were scars!"
"I don't believe you, Healer. There never were scars, were there?" said Trine in a quiet voice.
The others looked at the young prince in confusion, but the healer's eyes held fear as he dreaded what would come next.
"What do you mean?" asked Zelda.
"I mean," said Trine, walking close before Mendregere, "I believe Queen Mira was murdered."
"No! It is not true!" shouted the healer, falling to his knees before Julia. "I loyally served the Royal House of Hyrule! I have never taken a life and would never have taken your sister's! I swear it!"
"What makes you think murder, Trine?" asked Zelda.
The queen does not have any wounds whatsoever and yet she is dead." said the boy, indicating the body. "The only one who had constant access to the queen was the royal family and this murderer. I know that you, mother, would not harm your sister, and you, Zelda, were away with Link. That only leaves Mendregere at fault."
"But he was not even in the land when the gatehouse collapsed. Surely he couldn't have destroyed that from outside the kingdom." pointed out Link.
Trine nodded. "That's right, I hadn't thought about that."
The others fell silent as they watched the healer cower on the floor before their critical eyes.
They all looked at Roland, who continued.
"Unless he had an accomplice...?"
The healer whimpered on the floor as the thoughts of conspiracy filled the royals' heads.
"Who was there when the gatehouse collapsed?" asked Link.
Julia and Trine looked at each other. "There was me, you," said Trine, counting on his fingers, "some guards and... Sir Rampt."
Julia inhaled sharply. "After the accident, Sir Rampt came to me talking of conspiracies. I put him in charge of an inquiry into the matter."
"Why would he tell you of a conspiracy if he were in on it?" asked Zelda.
"To be in charge of it and possibly falsify evidence." said Link. "That's what I would do."
Trine nodded. "Yes, sometimes the best place to hide is right out front."
"But could he have done it?" asked Julia.
"He visited the queen many times. He always seemed to look... distraught over something." comprehension lit up Roland's eyes. "Guilt?"
Trine grabbed the healer and hauled the man to his feet. "Sir Rampt is your accomplice, isn't he?" he barked. "Admit it!"
"I am innocent! Please believe me, highness!" pleaded Mendregere.
Julia turned on her heel so as not to look at the wretched man. "I shall make sure that you die for your treachery, healer. As well as all those who helped you." The queen walked toward the crypt exit. "Take him to the dungeons until he admits his accomplice."
As Link and Vincent pulled the poor man to a cell, with Trine, Kubo, and Roland following close behind, Zelda had her doubts about the guilt of the healer. There was no evidence and he had just been doomed to death. What of Sir Gain Rampt? Would he be executed also on such superficial grounds?
The young princess had no idea.
Sir Gain Rampt was standing atop the west battlements overseeing the crews working to uncover the truth behind the collapse of the gatehouse. Was he really to blame? Only time would tell but so far nothing had turned up to indicate otherwise.
The small man turned as the noise of armoured feet reached his ears.
"Sir Gain Rampt?" asked the young lieutenant of the squad of Praetorian Guards.
"Yes?" asked the lord.
The guards surrounded Rampt as the lieutenant said, "Sir Rampt you are under arrest on charges of high treason and plotting against the Crown."
"What?" shouted Rampt in surprise as his arms were bound behind him. "Treason?"
"Yes sir. Please come quietly."
Sir Gain could only nod dumbly as he was taken down from the ramparts. The soldiers below noticed the lord and the Guards and could only guess as to what was going on.
The small trial was held in the throne room.
Under the grand columns encircling the hall stood the nobility of Hyrule all eagerly awaiting the outcome of the trial.
Upon the throne sat the regal Queen Julia with Princess Zelda at her side. Prince Trine stood slightly behind the pair along with the captain of the Praetorian Guard, Link.
In the centre of the grand room stood the accused, hands bound behind their backs, flanked by two Praetorian Guards each. Before the two men stood the castle chamberlain, Roland.
Julia raised her hand and the trial began.
Roland read from a parchment. "Sir Gain Rampt and Healer Mendregere. You are both charged with treason against the crown of Hyrule. How do you plead?"
Rampt and Mendregere looked at each other before replying, "Not guilty."
With a gesture form Julia, Roland began his inquisition.
He turned to Sir Rampt. "Sir Gain Rampt, you were put in charge of an investigation into the collapse of the gatehouse. Is this true?"
"And what have you found in this investigation?"
"Nothing." the lord said glumly.
"Nothing. What reason, then, can you give for this centuries-old building falling down at the exact moment the royal family was standing on it?"
"Maybe it was just old and nature took its course."
"If so, then why did you voice concerns about a conspiracy to Queen Julia?"
"I thought exactly as you. This was too much of a coincidence. I have so far been proven wrong."
Roland paced a bit before asking another question. "What were you doing near the gatehouse when it collapsed?"
The lord seemed confused and did not answer.
"Were you not one of the first people who arrived to aid the royal family? You must have been near the gatehouse. What were you doing?"
Rampt opened his mouth as if to speak but then closed it.
The chamberlain continued. "Did you not just finish rebuilding the castle walls? What did you do with the gates? Just leave them?"
Rampt just fell to his knees, his head bowed in shame.
Roland sighed and turned to Julia. The queen rose and delivered her verdict of the lord.
"Sir Rampt, because of your negligence of the gatehouse, you are responsible for the deaths of King Torvus and Queen Mira. I therefore sentence you to be executed tomorrow night at sunset. Take him away." Wordlessly, Rampt was taken away by his guards.
"Carry on, chamberlain." said Julia as she sat down again. Roland bowed and resumed the trial.
"Healer Mendregere, you personally tended to Her Majesty's wounds after the incident at the gatehouse, did you not?" inquired the chamberlain.
"Yes I did." answered the healer.
"What wounds were upon her body?"
"Many wounds to the head and some to the body, lord."
"And how deep were these wounds?"
"Some were very deep, lord."
"Deep enough to completely heal in a day?"
"No sir! They would not have healed once she died. And they would have taken weeks if she had lived."
Roland looked to the royals on the thrones. "Would magic have healed them so quickly?"
The healer nodded. "Yes. But only very strong magic."
"Magic you posses?"
"No. My magic was not enough."
"Really? And how much magic would have been needed to heal such wounds?"
Mendregere shook his head. "I do not know, lord. Much more than I have. Perhaps more than anyone in the kingdom has. With the exception of Their Majesties, of course." he quickly added.
There was an audible noise as those in the gallery sharply drew their breath in surprise at the obvious allegation.
Roland took a step back and barked, "You say that the Queen killed her own sister? How dare you imply such a thing!" The healer cowered in fear.
"I did not mean the queen! I just meant that the royal family has more magic than anyone in the land and might have been able to heal such wounds as Mira had."
"If not the queen, then perhaps Princess Zelda? Or maybe Prince Trine? Who?"
"Well," said the healer, "the princess Zelda did visit Her Majesty shortly before her death. When dinner was being served. She was the last person to see Queen Mira alive."
Again the crowd muttered.
Roland was aghast. "Are you saying that Princess Zelda killed her own sister? You lie, sir!"
The Healer seemed to regain his lost courage. "I do not lie!" he shouted, "All I know is that Mira was ill when I left the princess in the room and when I returned the queen was dead."
"Why, then would the princess kill Mira?"
"I don't know! To get to the throne quicker?"
"Her father died unusually too, didn't he? Perhaps she had a role in that too?"
The room lost all sound as every soul in the room chilled in horror. Roland was at a loss for words. All eyes turned to Zelda, whose skin had lost all colour.
"Princess?" the chamberlain asked quietly. "Can you answer these allegations?"
"I- I cannot." stuttered Zelda.
"What happened in the last few minutes of Mira's life, princess?"
The princess drew a deep breath. "The healer left the room and I was beside Mira. Then she was dead. That's all."
"You have to magic to heal her scars, don't you?"
Eyes turned to Trine, who was now standing beside Roland.
"Y- Yes, I do." The assembled nobility gasped.
"Then you could have done it?" asked Roland.
"Whose to say she didn't?" asked Trine.
Julia rose in surprise. "Trine! What are you doing?"
Her son ignored her and continued. "Are you actively trying to become queen of Hyrule? You were fourth in line when Gerrik was living. You would never have seen the throne, so you decided to kill you r own family for power!"
By this time, Trine was shouting. "You kill Gerrik, then you have Sir Rampt sabotage the gatehouse, killing Torvus, and then you kill Mira. Whose next? My mother? Are you going to kill her as well? Then me? Will the killing stop only when you are seated on the throne? I say we don't give you the chance to kill any more!"
The room was in an uproar. In distress, Julia fled the chamber. Link and Roland had approached the prince and were arguing angrily with him.
Zelda felt as if her world were falling away form her. One minute she was overseeing a trial, the next she was being accused of murdering her family.
She looked down to Link and saw him finish the argument with her cousin.
"Guards!" shouted Trine. "Take the princess to her quarters and keep her there until further notice! Court adjourned!" Saying that, Trine strode from the room. Link and two of his Praetorian Guards approached Zelda.
"I'm sorry Zelda." he said.
Zelda was speechless as she was escorted by the Guards to her chambers.
She was now on trial.
Julia was a wreak for days after the trial. Her life had been torn too many times. First her father died violently, then her brother-in-law is killed, and then her sister is killed. Now her younger sibling is being blamed for the murders. It was too much for the woman to handle.
Therefore, until she could regain control of her emotions, Prince Trine had assumed control of the land.
The healer, Mendregere, was convicted of treason and executed; Sir Rampt would have been executed for his crimes had he not been found in his cell hanging by his belt.
The Princess Zelda was, under the piercing eyes of her cousin, convicted of murdering Mira. Luckily, because she was royalty, she was not executed but had to suffer the disgrace of exile.
The sky was stormy as the gates of Hyrule City were opened one last time for Zelda.
Zelda stood beside what few belongings she had been allowed to take with her. Before her stood Link, several guards.
"I can't let them do this to you, Zelda." Link said. "You're innocent. I know it and you know it. All we have to do is convince the court of that." Zelda shook her head sadly.
"They won't believe us. Besides, Trine wouldn't allow it."
The two looked over at the castle where the prince was surely standing, looking to them.
"I don't trust him." Link said.
"I know, but he's ruler of Hyrule until Julia recovers. There's nothing we can do."
"I will never stop believing your innocence, Zelda." the boy said, embracing his friend in a tight hug.
Zelda, tears streaming down her cheeks, said nothing but held the hug. The thought of never seeing her beloved Hyrule or her beloved protector again was sickening. Where would she go? She didn't know. All she did know was that she was given a horse and a week's worth of food and banished from the land, never to return.
A guard came over to the pair and grunted slightly.
Zelda pulled away from the hug and said the Link, "Good bye, my hero."
"Good bye, my lady."
With that, two guards helped the former princess onto her horse and joined the other two mounted guards in formation around the girl.
Zelda and her escort slowly faded from view as they set out for the border of Hyrule, leaving Link standing staring after them in the cold rain and the sharp wind.
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