Chapter 4: Despair in All Forms
Sora stretched out on the grass of the riverbank, next to Rogue, who was asleep. Aidan was off with Link and Frat, begging them to tell tales of their adventures. Gossamer had handed Oliana, Poonta and Roxanna off to two young female Dragon to be tended to. And Sora, after clearing away from the rush of things, had sought out the young Dragon who was to be her companion. When she had come upon him, he had been fast asleep, and remained that way even now.
"The songs of life, we all do sing." Sora sang. "The bells of life-"
"Must you interrupt my nap?" Rogue asked, rolling over.
"Ah, you're awake." Sora stood and walked over to him. "So, you gonna tell me what makes your people scorn you so, or not?"
"Or not." Rogue muttered.
"Come on now." Sora sat down near him. "I'm going to be your partner, of sorts. You might as well tell me."
"It's personal." Rogue said.
"I heard your mother refer to you as Silverstreak." Sora continued, ignoring the Dragon's annoyed tone. "So, why are you called Rogue?"
"Must you really know?" Rogue roared, lumbering to his feet. "Fine, I'll tell you!"
"Oh no, not if it upsets you-"
"It started a few years ago." Rogue said, ignoring her. "Amiri's older brother and I were once great friends. And then the Evil Force came. It drove many of other races mad, and we Dragon's thought we were immune to the insanity."
Rogue shook his head. "How wrong we were. One day, I went insane. We were having a mock battle…and I suddenly filled with a rage I have never known. I have slain my friend in cold blood, and now I seek to destroy this Evil what has changed me so."
Sora remained silent for a moment, absorbing it all and thinking it over. She sat on the bank, dangling her fingers in the water. Rogue stretched out beside her, keeping one huge eye on her constantly. Finally, after long moments of thought, a conclusion came to her and she turned back to her present company.
"So, you will fights this Evil Force." Sora said. "Die trying, if you must, to reclaim your honor. Why weren't you sentenced to death?"
"We do not slay are own, no matter what." Rogue looked down. "That is why mine is so great a horror."
"What about Exile?" Sora asked.
"My mother is an Elder." Rogue explained. "The Eldest of Elders. Only she can make that decision and she cannot banish her own son, no matter how evil he is."
Without another word Rogue stood and walked away from her, with more grace than his size should have allowed. Rogue was Sora's friend now, and she hated to see her friends so troubled. Which reminded her, Link had been very upset about this whole thing. Sora stood and dusted clinging grass blades off the seat of her breeches.
"You're not Evil, Rogue."
Flynn awoke, although he was in great pain. Every single spot on his body ached and throbbed. His head felt like someone had smacked him with a hammer. His mouth felt like he had cotton in it and his throat was so sore that swallowing made him wince. Flynn tried to move his hands and feet, only to realize that he had been chained down to the ground. He forced his scum crusted eyelids open and peered around him.
He was in a cell, as he had first thought. It was fairly dark, with only scant light coming in from between the bars on the door of the cell. Flynn peered about, looking over the walls. In one corner a naked girl, who once might have been pretty, was chained spread-eagled on the floor. She was breathing, but barely. Not far from her, a young man was chained to the wall. He was dead and the smell of his rotting flesh made Flynn's nostrils flare.
Flynn looked to the other side, only to be met with a more grotesque sight. Here was two skeletons chained to the wall and one, a half rotted out body, chained to the floor. Flynn turned his face away from the sight. He wanted to cry, to scream, to damn his parents to the depths of Hell. But that would only bring his death, slower than it could ever be in this foul cell and much more painful.
Suddenly there was a scratching sound outside and the door of the cell swung open. Like magic, Flynn's bonds fell away, but he could hardly move. A tray with food and a canteen of water slide across the floor, and then the door slammed shut again. Flynn could hear more scratching as it was locked once more. He struggled to sit up and looked at the food in disgust.
"They want me to eat this?" Flynn wondered aloud, just to hear his own voice.
A groan from the corner reminded Flynn of the young woman in the corner. He lifted a little bit of bread and cheese, and the water, and crawled over to her side. She flicked open her eyes when he came close, but they were blurred and Flynn knew she could not see him. Gently he lifted her head and pressed the mouth of the canteen to her lips. She opened her mouth and took a few grateful swallows.
"A name, Lady?" Flynn asked, pulling the bread and cheese into pieces small enough for her to manage.
"I am…Lily." She choked out. "I am…one of the…Lente…"
"A fairy!" Flynn exclaimed. "But, where are your wings?"
"She pulled them off." Lily said softly. "She thought they were what made me beautiful and yanked them off…slowly and painfully."
Lily's eyes widened. "Who are you?"
"I am her youngest son, Flynn. I will not harm you."
Lily seemed to relax a little. She managed to get some bread and cheese down and hold it. While she ate, Flynn inspected her bonds. They were magicked, of that he was certain. He knew he would be able to dispel his mother's holdings, but as to his father's…he was not sure. But Lily needed to be free from these shackles to be able to live. So, Flynn pointed at them and spoke the dispelling words his mother used.
There was a sharp crack and the manacles fell away. Lily struggled to sit up, reaching out for Flynn. She grabbed his tunic and hauled herself up. Finally she was sitting, panting and sweating, but sitting and free from her bonds. Flynn lifted his tunic off and helped her put it on. Although she was tall, she was slender and the tunic hung down well past her knees.
"Thank you, Flynn." Lily said softly. "I am in great debt to you, whether you are Fay or not."
"I need redeem my soul." Flynn said. "Now, I am certain you have a story to tell?"
"Not much of one." Lily admitted. "Someone told your mother that I was more beautiful than she. She brought me here, just after the ones from the family C'dessa left. There was a long night of torture, and then I was thrown in here."
"We are enemies with the C'dessa." Flynn said. "Yet, how have you survived, Lady, after so long? It's been years since then."
"I do not know." Lily said. "Those years were quite a blur."
Flynn nodded and said no more. He helped Lily over the spot on floor where he had been originally lain. It was the clearest spot, although the floor was flecked with Flynn's blood. Lily leaned against the wall and was soon asleep, leaving Flynn alone to think. He chewed sparingly on the bread and cheese before closing his eyes and falling into an uneasy sleep.
Link chopped at the trunk of an old, gnarled tree with his sword. He wasn't trying very hard, just putting enough into it to work the kinks out of his muscles. He'd been forced to sleep in a cramped little tent with Sora and her brother, as the guests of honor. He had been restless and had never liked small places. Apparently Sora had trouble sleeping too, because she began to hum and after that, Link remembered no more.
Now, though, he was trying to figure out just how he had gotten himself into this predicament that he was in. He didn't remembered volunteering to save Caseree Isle. Sure, he said he would help. But the fate of the Isle resting on his and Sora's shoulders…it was just too big of a risk for anyone to take. What made Gossamer so certain they would succeed? It had been luck that had gotten them through before.
Or had it been? They had had anger, grievance, friendship and family all behind them. Together they were a working unit, all different, all skilled in different areas. Link was the diplomat, able to handle strange peoples. Frat had the charm, Poonta had the fighting skill, and Sora was the brains of the operation. As much as he hated to admit it, he would most likely be dead right now if it weren't for her.
So why was that bothering him so much? He was a King, and a fairly good one. He knew he would never be much of a hero. What was the use to try, when all he would do his whole life is sit the throne, attend court banquets and make heirs. But maybe, if he were a hero, if he did something great, maybe it would make his hold on his kingdom more secure.
Link sighed and kicked at a nearby rock. As Poonta often said, he was 17 going on 70. Link could never seem to keep such thoughts out of his head. He was a natural born king, with his mind always on the health and happiness of his people. But he wanted to make sure nothing ever happened to him when he reigned.
"A rupee for your thoughts." A soft voice behind him interrupted.
Link spun around, sword at the ready. He sighed with relief to see it was only Sora. She looked more calm and laid back than he'd ever seen her before. Sora wore just plain, brown robes and her usual sandals, with Aidan attached to her hip. Her hair was a mess and her smile was serene. Link looked her up and down, then decided.
"Aidan, can you please excuse the Lady and I?" Link asked.
"Oh, I don't know." Aidan said, laughter in his big dragon eyes. "I think we're permanently joined at the hip now."
"Please, its very important." Link said.
"You'd better go, Aidan." Sora told him.
The little Dragon climbed down Sora's leg and waddled away as slowly as he could manage. When he was out of sight, Sora turned to Link, smiling. She frowned when she saw the look on his face and opened her mouth to say something, but Link silenced her. The walked quietly to the small river Sora and Rogue had been at earlier and sat down.
"So, what troubles you, Your Majesty?" Sora asked, a slight bit of teasing in her eyes.
"You have always been a good confidant before, Sora." Link said. "Now I need you. You know I was not allowed time to grieve after my parents died."
Sora nodded. "I remember. Is that what is bothering you?"
"Sort of. I'm just so worried I will let them down." Link sighed. "They raised me well, but I didn't have time to learn all I should know about politics."
"Well, that's why you have me and Frat!" Sora grinned.
"Be serious Sora." Link said. "We're not little kids anymore. You don't seem to be able to fully accept that I am a King and have people to watch out for."
"I guess it's kinda hard." Sora said softly. "You're too young."
Link turned away, his eyes on his reflection in the water. He bit back tears that he felt coming to his eyes. Then he felt Sora's hands on his shoulders and looked up at her. God, she was so pretty. Did she really deserve to have all his problems dropped in her lap? She had been at his side time and time again, but maybe now was the time for him to let her be.
"We will always be friends, then?" Sora asked suddenly. "Always, okay? If you ever need anyone to talk to, even if it's a pointless time, I am here."
Link just nodded. He didn't trust himself not to break down in sobs if he opened his mouth. Instead he pulled Sora closed and hugged her. Often they had nearly broken each other's ribs when hugging, since their need to let it out was so great and their need to hold it all in even greater.
Frat scratched around on the ground, trying to find a good, flat stone. He was by the river and he wanted to skip stones, since that always took his mind of his troubles. Now though, he didn't think anything could keep his mind from this problem. In fact, he didn't want to stop thinking about this problem.
The problem was Oliana, as it usually was with him. He loved her so much and wanted to marry her, but he was unsure that he could. She was no longer true nobility, though Link kept her in the castle and let her hold her title. Her father was dead and her family keep was lost, which meant she was no longer connected to any land.
Frat would win her keep back for her, if he could. He would defeat the Fay single-handedly for her. He felt his love for her could carry him through anything. And yet, he doubted he could slip her lack of nobility past his parents. They would want what was best for him, no matter what he wanted.
Frat turned to see who it was and scrambled to his feet. It was Oliana, dressed in a plain, light blue dress of the softest cotton. Her hair hung free down her back, nearly to her knees. A white flower of the likes Frat had never before seen was tucked behind her ear and she was smiling warmly. There had been tales of her being stuck up and bratty, but looking at her now, Frat could not bring himself to believe them.
"You look amazing." Frat said softly.
Oliana blushed. "I uh…well…how are you?"
"Great." Frat reached out and took her hands in his.
She looked up at him and smiled, but her dark blue eyes were filled to the brim with tears. She knew the situation as well as he did. There was no real solution to their problem, except to fight it as best they could. And, on top of her lose of nobility, there was still Link's future to consider. Being left with Roxanna might just be a fate worse than death.
As the end of the day neared, Sora was left alone to ponder each person's situation. She found a spot near a clear brook, instead of the river, and sat down there with her dinner, her harp, and a good book. She probably wouldn't be able to get to any of it, with all the thinking she wanted to do. Everyone she knew had problems, except for her, so she wanted to help them solve their problems. Unfortunately, that required long hours of thinking.
Link's problem, Sora was not quite certain she understood fully. He seemed to be trying to grieve, but acted as though he didn't know how. She remembered that one time, in the temple after his grandfather had died. He had been a wreck, since his grandfather had always been the one he had talked to before. Now all he had was Sora, and she was confused.
Well, that didn't mean she couldn't try to understand his problem. They would be setting out on a journey together, and that would give them lots of time to talk. She knew it was deeper than just grieving, but this would be a good place to start. Link was always willing to talk to her about how he felt, since she was most likely to understand.
Now there was Frat's problem, which she had found out by listening through keyholes. He was in love with Oliana, which she could tell by just looking at the two of them together. But Oliana was no longer nobility, even though Link denied that fact. Sora knew her parents loved her and her brother, but she doubted he would be allowed to marry Oliana.
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