Chapter 6: Keeping Sanity
Link huddled inside his sleeping bag, shivering. It was a cold, gray morning, just slightly before sunrise, and no one else was awake yet. It was lonely out here, awake, with only his thoughts to keep him company. Already he missed his home, missed the comforts of his soft bed, of a hot bath, of good food. The only warmth came from Lady Roxanna, who had snuggled in between him and Oliana when it was time to sleep. All five of them lay close together, with Poonta on the far side, Frat next to her, but closer to Oliana, and then Roxanna and himself.
It was good to have his friends near, but it felt incomplete. If Sora were here, she would most likely be laying to his side, so close that he could smell the faint spices that she used to wash her hair. Link wished all his friends could be here, even Isannah, and that this could just be some fun little adventure they were all going on. Instead it was a dire mission to rescue Sora from the clutches of evil.
Link laughed softly at how ridiculously dramatic that sounded to his mind. Who knew what had happened to Sora? She could be living it up right now, with everything a girl could ever want. But Link knew better than that. He'd remembered his dream last night, for what had to be the first time. Sora was evil now…but there was still some of her left inside. Saba must have wanted him to try and help her. But how could he help?
Finally Link realized it was very unlikely that he would get any more sleep. He scrambled out of his sleeping bag and stood, stretching out his tired limbs. Link pulled on his shirt, tunic and boots, then walked away from the camp. There was a small stream nearby and he kneeled beside it to sip from the cool water.
There was the cry of an eagle just above him and Link's head shot up. The bird made a graceful dive, plucked a fish from the stream, and carried it off to a nearby tree. Link stood watching it as it ate its catch. Certainly a bloody job, even for a bird of prey. A hand came down on Link's shoulder and he spun around, reaching for his dagger, even though it wasn't there.
He was relieved to see that it was only Frat, still dressed in only his breeches, his hair ruffled from sleep. Frat handed him his dagger and then turned, heading back to the camp. Link knew then that he was going to get a long lecture about being so far from his friends without a weapon in hand. Frat had been treating him like a kid lately.
Finally Link grew tired of the peaceful stream and headed back into the camp. Oliana was carefully cooking hunks of bacon while Frat and Poonta packed up the camp. Roxanna sat a few feet away, high up on a big rock, dirty and looking very miserable. She didn't even look up when Link walked back into camp and sat down beside Oliana.
"Food's almost ready." Oliana said stiffly. "Cut the bread for me Frat."
"I can do it." Link offered.
"No, it's okay." Frat said, taking the knife and bread from Oliana. "You might cut yourself."
"I won't cut myself! I'm not a kid anymore." Link said.
Frat was too busy cutting the bread to even listen. Link sighed and tore at the grass, his feelings deeply hurt. His friends no longer regarded him with the respect they used to. But then, that was his fault. He was not doing a very good job ruling the kingdom. It was his fault that Sora was gone, and that they were out here now, instead of right away. No wonder Frat was so angry with him. Because of Link, Frat's sister was gone.
They ate a meager breakfast consisting of bacon and hunks of cheese, on plates made of bread. Link ate his breakfast ravenously, despite the disproving looks her got. He was still growing and his food constantly grumbled for food. When he was finished with that, Link ate the bread, and then some fruit from a basket Isannah had picked for them. He was finished before everyone else and still relatively hungry.
"Ready to go?" Frat asked, dropping the rest of his bread on the ground for the birds to eat.
"Ready as I'll ever be." Link mumbled through another piece of fruit.
They saddled and mounted their horses and set off for the distant horizon. Link knew exactly where they were headed: Back to Caseree Isle. That was where the Fay dwelled and it was there that they would find Sora, Frat was sure of it. Link himself was not so sure that once they reached Caseree Isle they would be able to save her.
"Wake, ho!" Link called as he spied the swirling mist.
"Dismount." Frat commanded. He turned to his black mare. "Bring the other back to the castle, understood?" The mare bobbed her head.
"Won't you need her Frat?" Link asked.
"No." Frat said. "Come on, we don't have forever you know."
Link sighed and pulled the saddlebags off of Legacy's saddle. He tossed them over his shoulder and pulled off Legacy's tack so it wouldn't get caught on anything and hamper him. He bid his beloved horse farewell, then turned to face the Wake. It was an awful site, swirling dizzily in a mass of colors. Before he could even raise any protest, Frat shoved him into it.
Link rolled over, groaning as ever bone in his body ached and creaked in protest of his movement. He lay on a soft patch of moss, but his landing had been a hard one. He scrambled to sit up and noticed that his friends were still asleep, splayed out on all corners of the moss patch. Link shook his head, sending leaves and twigs flying through the air. Muttering in disgust, Link climbed to his feet and breathed in the scent of cinnamon flowing from the tree bark all around.
He could hear soft, haunting music coming from some place nearby and knew it must be Frat's parents, Iola and Darrius C'dessa. Although Dragon Rock Castle was at least a mile from here, their magical music carried far into the forest. The life of the forest worked as an emulator, allowing sounds to carry. Frat must've heard the music through his sleep, because he sat up straight and looked around. Roxanna, Oliana and Poonta also woke, although Roxanna was shaking like a leaf.
"Home." Frat said softly.
"Well, come on." Link stood, throwing his bags over his shoulder. "No point in wasting time. We haven't before, why start now?"
Link was already heading off in the direction of the castle before anyone could even stand up. He knew most of the dangers of Caseree Isle, knew what to avoid, and he knew where the castle was. If he got there a little before the others he could simply wait, but at the moment he felt no particular urge to be around them. He wanted to be alone to think, to feel sorry for himself. Why were his friends treating him this way?
"Link, wait up!" Frat called, struggling to get his pack over his shoulder.
Link didn't slow his step or make any gesture to show that he had heard the older boy calling after him. He simply kept walking through the forest, carefully avoiding roots or stray branches. When Frat and the other caught up with him they were all out of breath, and much closer to the castle. Link stepped through a thick curtain of foliage and stopped as bright light filtered into his eyes, blinding him.
"Wow!" Roxanna and Oliana breathed in unison. They had never before seen the C'dessa family castle
The castle was indeed grand, not to mention huge, much bigger in size than Link's own. Tall spires struck up into the fluffy white clouds. A cool, crystal clear moat surrounded it, protecting it from outsiders. The walls had ivy creeping up the sides, reaching for the tall towers. On top of one tower was a banner that waved in the calm breeze. It was a Black Dragon, sitting on a purple field, the symbol of the C'dessa family. Two large stone dragons greeted the travelers as they made their way to the drawbridge.
"This place is huge!" Oliana exclaimed, her eyes wide.
"Third biggest on Caseree." Frat told her.
"Third?" Link asked.
"The Fairy Forest Castle is much bigger." Fratello explained. "And one…the Crystal Rainbow Palace…is said to be huge. But most people believe it to be just a myth."
"It sounds really pretty." Roxanna commented.
Frat shook his head. "It is a place of evil. It remains now, empty, haunted by its bloody past. Once though, it was home to the Royalty of the Fay."
"I guess not everything here is beautiful." Roxanna sighed.
A lovely woman, with flowing blonde hair and a wide smile on her face greeted them at the castle gates. A man followed in her wake, also blonde of hair and quite tall and handsome. The woman swept both Frat and Link up in a big hug, and then exclaimed over the messy state of the girls' clothes. Finally she stopped and glanced around, frowning.
"But where is Sora?" She asked.
"Mother, Sora is…gone." Frat choked out.
"What?" Iola's pretty face became marred with grief. "But how? Why? Where is she?"
"She was captured by the Fay." Frat told her.
"The Fay! Oh no!" Iola burst into tears and ran into the castle.
"Mother!" Frat called after her.
"Don't, son." Darrius said. "Your mother need time alone now."
"We're just staying here tonight." Link said. "Tomorrow we're going to get Sora back."
"I don't think that is such a good idea." Darrius turned to lead them into the castle. "The Fay are very powerful. You could be killed."
"Exactly!" Link pushed in front of Darrius. "Think of what they may do to Sora…may have already done! They could have…turned her into somebody else, or something."
"What are you talking about?" Frat asked.
Link realized he'd said too much. "Nothing."
"You know something." Frat said.
"I don't know anything!"
Quickly Link turned and ran down the hall, not follow Iola but heading for his own private chambers that had been kept for him here. Once inside he through the door shut and flopped face down into the bed. All he needed was to tell everyone that he had dreams about Sora being evil and he'd never hear the end of it. They'd called him a coward for the rest of his life.
<I>Link blinked his eyes and glanced around the room. He was no longer in his rooms at Dragon Rock, but in Saba's strange lair. Sora…no, Natori, was curled up asleep on one of the big slabs of stone. If it weren't for all the black she was wearing Link would never know the difference between her evil side and her good side. Saba was beside her on the rock, watching her sleep. She looked up as Link approached.
"I feared this would happen." Saba said.
"What's wrong? Is she all right?"
"She needs you Link." Saba said. "I've tried to prevent you two from getting too close, but now I have no choice. Talk to her."
With that, Saba stood and walked into a separate chamber, leaving Link to stare after her in frustration. He sat down on the stone slab across from the one where Natori slept. She didn't stir one bit, but remained in passive sleep. Link reached put and gently rest a hand on her shoulder. Her eyes flicked open and she sat up, reaching for her dagger.
"You!" Fire blazed in Natori's eyes as she unsheathed her dagger.
"Sora!" Link exclaimed. He was suddenly happy just to see her.
"That's not…that's not…" Natori struggled. "That's not my name."
"Yes it is! It is!" Link hugged her tightly.
The dagger clattered to the ground. Natori pushed him away and sat down on the stone slab, resting her head in her hands. Link sat down beside her and put an arm around her shoulders, but she moved away from him. When she looked up her cheeks were tears stained and the madness in her eyes had eased slightly.
"I am so tired." Natori said.
"Don't worry. We're going to get you out of there." Link assured her.
"Why should you?" Natori laughed bitterly. "I've harmed so many people…men, women, children. I am not worth risking your life for."
"Did you…kill them?" Link asked.
"Naw. Didn't have to." Natori sighed. "But I am not worth it."
"You're worth it to me. And to Frat to and Poonta and Oliana." Link hugged her again. This time she didn't pull away.
"I am losing it." Natori said. "I can barely keep a hold of what little sanity I have left."
"Don't worry." Link soothed her. "I have a feeling Saba wants me to go now. But I'll be back tomorrow okay? You hang in there for me, okay?
"I'll try." Natori said softly. "I will try."</I>
Link was going over the shattered bits of memory in his brains as he washed up for breakfast. He remembered only his brier discussion with Sora in the dream, and seeing Saba's face, but not what the old woman had said to him. He knew that he had to help Sora keep herself sane, so that she would be okay when they rescued her.
Link finished washing up and headed down stairs. Everything was already set for their journey and Link could smell food cooking down the hall. He knew Iola would make sure they were well fed, and for that he was grateful. He could smell biscuits and eggs and bacon from here, and who knew what else those other wonderful smells could be. Link heard his stomach growl and gave it a pat.
"Morning, Link." Frat said as he sat down at the table. "I hope you slept well. We have a long journey ahead of us."
"I slept fine." Link said, reaching for his fork.
He disregarded any looks he got about the way he ate and just enjoyed himself. This would be the last big meal he would have until the brought Sora back from the Fay land and he wanted to make sure her made the most of it. The bacon was cut into neat little slices, instead of hunks, and there was sausage, cheese, fresh baked bread and fruit, among other things. Roxanna ate sparingly, while Oliana and Poonta happily shoveled the food into their mouths, looking much like Link, in those respects. Frat watched it all with a look of impatience on his handsome face.
Link cleaned his plat four times before deciding he's had enough. Of course, he couldn't help taking one of the huge red apples sitting in the basket in front of him. He shined it on his shirt and took a big bite. Sweet juice flowed into his mouth and dribbled down his chin. Oliana laughed and avoided the apples, instead taking a banana.
"Time to go." Frat said, when all the dishes had been cleared.
"Yep." Link agreed. "Iola, myself and my stomach thank you."
Iola laughed, though somewhat sadly. "You're welcome, dear. It's the least I can do."
"Yeah well, Link's mind works wonder when his stomach is full." Frat muttered. "We'll have to keep him eating."
Link shot Frat a baleful glance but the older boy was not looking. Link pushed back his chair, stood and stretched out. He walked out into the hall and scooped up his packs, tucking the little bag of apples Iola had handed him into one of them. Then Link followed his companions out of the castle and into the delicious spring air. A group of horses waited for them. Frat turned when they reached them and regarded the rest of his friends with an authoritative stare.
"Listen to me good." Frat said. "The Fay country is very dangerous. At night, I will put a warding on our camp. No one is the go too far from the other with out having a weapon. Understood?" Frat looked pointedly at Link.
"Well, let see…" Link said. "Hmm…two short daggers, a sword, and one kitchen knife that Iola gave me for some reason…yep, I think I'm all set."
They rode all day, at as fast a pace as they could go through the forestlands. At midday they reached an open field that stretched as far as the eye could see. Frat ordered them all to gallop then, so they could cover as much land as possible by nightfall. The scenery whipped by, until it changed to more forestland. This forest was deep and dark, and it gave Link the chills.
"This is it." Frat told them. "I suggest we camp now. It's almost dark and you shouldn't go into the forest after nightfall."
"Scared, Frat?" Link asked.
"No." Frat said, but he hesitated. "It's not safe."
"So you are scared, aren't you?" Link challenged.
"Don't be foolish, Link." Roxanna said, dismounting. "Frat is right. Here is a safe place to sleep."
Frat shoved a shovel into Link's hands and while everyone else worked on setting up camp and cooking dinner, Link set about digging the latrine trench. When he came back he could smell fish and rabbit cooking. Roxanna was stirring a pot of rice while Poonta worked the spit. Frat was carefully going over a map in the last rays of daylight.
Link sat down and waited for the meal to be finished. He had no maps to look at and they didn't need his help cooking. Not that he could cook, but he was so bored he would attempt anything. He thought of going for a walk, but that would make his friends think of him as even more irresponsible than they already did. So he waited with as much patience as his young mind could muster until the meal was finished cooking.
"In the morning we'll head to the Fay lands." Frat said.
"I don't see why we couldn't have gone now." Link mumbled through a mouthful of rice.
"Stop acting like such a child Link." Frat scolded.
"A child?" Link dropped his bowl and jumped to his feet. "<I>I'm</I> the one who's acting like a child? I'm just worried about Sora! She's <I>your</I> sister, you should understand!"
Link turned and pulled his sleeping bag as far away from the others as he could without getting another lecture. His hunger forgotten, Link snuggled into his sleeping bag and stared out at the dark pines of the forest. Something was coming from there, he was sure. He had a feeling that entering the forest would be unnecessary. Something was coming from there, growing stronger with each step it took.
Link turned, to tell his friends what he had felt, but none of them were paying attention to him. Frat was finishing up his dinner while Oliana and Roxanna began to clean up. Poonta sat a few feet away, sharpening a knife and humming a ragged but pleasant tune. Yes, it was evident now, as he watched them all. His friends, despite all his denial of it, had grown up. Grown up and left him behind, waiting for them to come back even though he knew deep inside that they never would come back to him.
When Frat had finished his dinner he stood and walking in a circle around the camp, chanting and sprinkling water on the ground. When he finished that circuit her started on another, this time sprinkling some kind of dust on the ground. Then he stood back, said a short, musical chant, and the circle around their camp went up in flames. The flames died down so quickly the no one had a chance to react.
"Our camp is warded." Frat said softly. "No one can see us. If you have to leave during the middle of the night, make sure you have a weapon with you."
With that, everyone settled down to sleep. Link rolled over so he was once again facing that dark forest. Yes, something was coming. If Sora were here, she would feel it too. But Sora wasn't there and she couldn't feel this power. She had no idea that they were here…did she?
"Sora?" Link stared at her, struggling to get through to him as though there was glass between them. "Saba, what's wrong with her?"
"It is the ward her brother put on the camp." Saba explained. "It will not let her through. It does not let evil through."
"But Sora isn't evil!" Link protested.
"She is in the minds of her brother and those else in camp." Saba said. "They do not know what she is going through now. So her presence is felt as evil."
"Well I don't think she's evil!" Link said fiercely. "She is my friend Sora and the others know that she is not evil!"
The invisible wall flickered, and died away. Sora fell so fast Link barely had time to catch her. She looked up, her eyes wide in surprise, and then they both turned to look at Saba. The old woman shrugged and turned away, walking out of this part of the chamber. Link helped Sora onto one of the large slabs of stone and sat down beside her, holding her shoulders so she wouldn't fall over.
"So, you're better now, right?" Link asked, his eyes shining with hope.
But Sora shook her head. "I can't see anymore. The images…the pictures of Frat and mom and dad in my head…they're almost gone."
"Oh come on! Certainly you can remember." Link encouraged. "Frat can turn girls to puddles with just one smile…and your mom, she's getting on in her years but she's still beautiful. And her figure…she's had what, seven kids? Everyone in Hyrule will soon be beating down her door, wanting to know what her secret is."
But Sora shook her head and leaned against him, crying. Saba then came back from the room she had been in, saw them and shook her head. She walked over to them and handed Link of a mug of something, gesturing for him to give it to Sora. Link sniffed it first, taking in the scents of pine and other things he could not distinguish. Satisfied, he lifted Sora's head and forced her to take a sip. She clutched the mug with both hands and drew it close to herself.
"What is it?" Sora asked.
"Just something to help you relax." Saba told her. "It will clear your mind."
"Link, I'm scared." Sora said softly. "He's gonna do it again."
"Who? What?" Link asked, grabbing her shoulders once again.
"Him. He's going to drown me again! He's…oh no! He's waking me!" Sora began to tremble and she clung tightly to Link.
"You have to go." Saba said.
"No!" Link drew Sora close. "She can't! I won't let you send her back to that!"
"The time will come when you will be able to rescue her boy. Now, let go!"
Link rolled over, blinking sleepily at the figure above him. When the sleep finally cleared out of his eyes he recognized Frat's handsome face. Instinct took over and Link stood, reaching for his dagger. Frat put a hand over his mouth and pointed to something. Link turned and saw that it was Roxanna's sleeping bag…but she was not in it!
"Where'd she go?" Link asked.
"I don't know. We'd better go look." Frat said.
"I'm coming too." Poonta said softly, rising from her sleeping bag.
Poonta reached out and pulled her long, curved blades from underneath her sleeping bag. She stood and walked over to Link and Frat. They gave one last glance at the sleeping girl left by the fire and Frat decided it was best to leave her there. The three turned and headed off…in the direction of the forest.
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