Part One: Calm Before the Storm
Chapter One: Captured By Evil
Sora stared at Link with large, pleading eyes. He stared back at her, holding his sword up, but immobile. In this position, slung over the big Fay's shoulder, the blood was rushing to her head and already black spots danced in front of her eyes. She couldn't talk because she had a gag in her mouth and she couldn't kick, because her legs were firmly tied.
"Let her go!" Link growled, taking a step forward.
Sora blinked, trying to see his face. The blackness was starting to take over and she could hardly think straight. She heard voices talking but couldn't make out what they were saying. She knew one was female, and two other were male. Those had to be Link and Flynn and…then there was another male voice. Frat? Sora tried to say something, tried to make some kind of gesture. Instead she fainted.
"They got away!" Link shouted, as rain suddenly began to pour down.
"This is not good." Flynn said, shaking his head.
Link turned to him. "What would they want with her Flynn?"
"To kill her, of course." Flynn said matter-of-factly. "But don't worry. They'll torture her first, so we have time to rescue her."
"Let me tell you how reassuring that is not." Link muttered.
He kicked a few small stones out of the way and sat down. Aidan, who had finally gotten free of most of his bonds, waddled over and climbed into Link's lap. Link took the gag out of the little Dragon's mouth, and then set him back on the ground. Meanwhile Rogue was trashing furiously about. Link hadn't noticed that they had tied the Dragon up so well. He took out a dagger and started sawing at the thick ropes.
"We must find her!" Rogue gasped.
"You and me." Link said through gritted teeth as he worked at the ropes. "We'll teach those rotten Fay a lesson, huh?"
"You can't go alone!" Flynn protested.
"I'll do whatever I damn please." Link said. "Lily, pack me up some spare clothes and something to eat for a few days. Flynn…where do you think they've taken her."
"The temple, of course."
"The temple huh? Is that far from here?" Link asked.
"Not far, a little farther off to the west." Flynn told him. "You might have some trouble with the wyverns in that area though."
"Thanks for the info."
Link sawed at the ropes holding down Rogue's tail. Rogue wasn't keeping still, which was making this task difficult. But Flynn and Frat picked up their own daggers and helped, while Lily did as Link had asked. Working together they had the Dragon freed in nearly an hour. They fell back, dropping to the ground to catch their breath. Rogue, on the other hand, stood up and shook out, spreading his wings to the sky.
The rain splattered on Link's face as he got dressed quickly. He kept one eye on the dark clouds in the sky. He didn't like the idea of flying through a storm, but he would if that was what it would take to rescue Sora. He knew Rogue would carry him in this weather, no matter what happened. And if they came upon wyverns, they came upon wyverns. Danger was nothing new to Link and he doubted it was anything new to Rogue.
Rogue was already saddled and he had packs strapped to his back, with food and clothes. Link knew the Dragons needed him to ally with the Centaurs, but he couldn't…no, wouldn't do it without Sora. He took his sword and put it across his back, then took an assortment of daggers with him. Frat was explaining the stuff in the bag that the Dragon's that given Sora and telling him their uses. Link grabbed the bag out of Frat's hand and quickly mounted Rogue.
"Good luck." Frat said. "I would come with you, but my instinct tells me you can handle it."
"Nice to know someone believes in me." Link muttered, taking up Rogue's reins.
The Dragon gave an impatient trumpet, before spreading his wings and taking off into the sky. He zoomed straight up through the storm clouds, and then he was flying above them. Link ignored that fact that they were up so high and concentrated on thinking up a plan for freeing Sora. The Fay were powerful and there were many of them. Oh, how had he gotten himself into this again?
Bree Hinney swished her long red tail and sighed. Nothing exciting ever happened in Lowago, land of the Centaurs. The Dragons had great battles and an illustrious kingdom. The fairies were beautiful, intelligent, and they could fly. The Alima were even more beautiful than the fairies and they knew many songs and had beautiful voices. But Bree and the other Centaurs would be normals if it weren't for that fact that they were half horse.
Bree stood and shook herself out. Her long read hair hung down to the beginning of her horse half. She was a beautiful chestnut color beneath, and her bare torso was cream colored, with breasts that were just starting to develop. At age 11, she was short for a centaur, and often teased by her peers. But Bree didn't mind; she liked to spend all her time by this peaceful little brook.
She started home at a slow trot, enjoying the cool evening air on her bare skin. She could see the distant lights of the Centaur Village where she lived. Bree gave a happy whinny of joy at the smell of dinner cooking, and started to gallop. She wasn't very tall but her legs were long and she was one of the fastest centaurs in the land.
When Bree approached her home she could here the village Elder, Malance, talking to her father, who was named Cyril. She leaned against the doorway, trying to hear what they were saying. It was to no avail. Bree pushed open the door and walked inside. Her hooves scuffed aside stray pieces of straw as she walked. Malance and her father looked up from their conversation.
"Dinner will be ready in about an hour, Bree." Her father told her. "Better go get washed up."
Bree nodded. "Yes father."
Bree headed down the aisle to her stall, then paused. Her father and Malance had started up their conversation again. She stopped and turned; placing her feet on lumps of straw so there would be no sound. Carefully Bree leaned toward the curtain the walled the kitchen from the rest of the house. From inside she could clearly here the conversation.
"You are certain the Fay land is destroyed?" Cyril asked.
"Not beyond repair." Malance said. "But many of the Fay have been wiped out. Those left have flocked to their temple in the Far West."
"Interesting." Cyril scratched thoughtfully at his beard. "To whom do we owe this…happy massacre."
"I believe…" Malance smiled, although Bree could not see it. "The young boy King of Hyrule, one young Alima girl and two Dragons."
"Dragons?" Cyril was startled. "What business do Dragons have in this part of the Isle?"
"I know not." Malance said. "Only that they are here, and apparently they are allied with the two children."
"Bree…" Cyril murmured.
"She would be expendable." Malance said. "We could send her out to find if this is dangerous. With her mother dead, no one will notice."
Bree backed away from the curtain in horror. How could her father let this happen? Did he no longer love her? Did he not honor the memory of her mother? Bree felt tears sting her eyes and slide down her cheeks. They could make her go away, but never could they make her go into danger. She wouldn't let them win so easily.
Sora awoke, blinking her eyes to adjust to the darkness around her. She remembered briefly being caught by Flynn's siblings and then she was out cold. Sora glanced around the room, taking it all in. the ceiling was high and domed, with many pictures painted on it. The walls were also a painted mural, of bloody battles and dead, rotting bodies. They way it was done, Sora was certain the original mural had been painted over. She was tied down to an altar, without and clothes on. Sora frowned and tried to wiggle out of her bonds, without much success.
"Stop moving!" a sharp female voice from the corner said.
"Who are you?" Sora demanded.
"You don't need to know." The voice was right next to her now.
Sora felt a needle go through her skin and she yelped in surprise. Soon needles were being stuck all over her body. She remembered this from when Flynn had tortured her. Blood ran in streams, staining the pristine white of the floor beneath the Altar. Sora screamed loudly and tried to get away, clawing at the marble. To no avail, the continued to stab her with the needles.
"So, you've had this type of torture before." A figure appeared before her eyes. "Blind fold her. Take a knife. You know what to do."
Sora was untied and a blind fold was put in front of her eyes. She was whirled around and tied up against the wall. A knife pressed against her skin, then pushed in, leaving a deep gash. Sora sobbed loudly as pain seared down her back. There were three knives, all cutting into her skin. Sora screamed again.
"No, no, no!" Sora screamed. "Please."
"Shut up!" It was the female voice again. "Do you like feeling our pain? Our home is destroyed, because of you!"
"I was only rescuing someone in trouble." Sora protested.
"No!" The female voice snapped. "You rescued a traitor."
Sora was untied from the wall and spun around again. They took off her blind fold and she came face to face with a tall, female Fay. She just barely recognized her from when they had kidnapped her. The Fay girl pressed a knife against Sora's throat. Sora swallowed thickly and stared back at her. No, she wasn't going to get free from here.
"You wanted us all dead." The female Fay accused. "You are Alima, you are our enemy."
"I'm sorry!" Sora cried. "I can't make up for the mistakes of my ancestors! Not tied up here, not like this!"
"No, you're right, you can't." The Fay girl tilted her head to one side. "But you can pay for them."
Chapter Two: Wyverns
Bree awoke when the sun shone in through the skimpy curtains on her window. She stood and reached for the soft bristled brush she always kept nearby. Straw had tangled in her hair and her tail. As she was brushing her hair she could hear hooves scuffing around in the straw outside. She had a strange feeling her dad was packing things for her to take with her to her death.
"Bree?" Her father called. He swept aside the curtain that blocked her door.
"Yes father?" Bree stood, shaking out her tail.
"Come with me. Malance wishes to see us."
Bree nodded. She took the bag her father handed her without bothering to ask anything. She knew very well what was coming and she would face it as bravely as she could. She still could not understand why her father would ever let this happen to her, but after a full night's sleep, she was a little more level headed and willing to accept this. She followed her father out into the open and into the Square, where Malance and the Elders were gathered.
"I have brought her, as you requested Malance." Cyril said.
Bree was ushered forward into the middle of the ring of Elders. Each one of them was eyeing her spectively, smiling in a way that Bree had never seen them do before. She sensed something in the air, something she had never felt before. Malance banged his staff to the ground: a call for order.
"You have always been a very smart girl, for your age." Malance said.
Bree shifted nervously on her hooves at his sharp gaze. "Yes, sir."
"How would you like to undertake a journey, an important mission?" Malance asked.
"I would be honored, sir." Bree said, lying through her teeth.
"Cyril, she has your permission."
"Yes," Cyril said. "I bade her go swiftly and safely."
"So be it." Malance nodded to the others. "You leave in an hour. Say farewell to all your friends and tell them you will be leaving for a while."
Yes, Bree thought. Maybe someone will believe me, maybe someone will stand in my defense. She turned away from the Elders and from her father and trotted off in the direction of her best friend's house. It was at the far end of the village, and going there would take up all her time, but his parents were the most likely to help her out.
Bree knocked twice on the door and it opened up. A tall Centaur male stood there. He was fair of feature, with a chestnut pelt and flaxen tail. Around him peered Benjamin, or Ben for short. He was like his father, with gorgeous blonde hair the fell to his shoulders. Bree had to admit that she'd miss him the most.
"Hi Bree!" Ben exclaimed. "What are you doing here?"
"May I talk to you outside Benny?" Bree asked.
Ben blushed. He liked it when she called him Benny. "Sure. I'm going to talk to Bree, okay dad?"
"Go ahead." His father said.
Ben followed Bree to a nearby brook. The apple blossoms were sweet smelling and a beautiful sight. Petals fell into the calm waters of the brook. Bree curled up on the ground and Ben did the same, brushing her lightly with his tail. Bree giggled and brushed him back, causing a small puff of dust to rise into the air.
"You didn't bathe." Bree tittered.
"Neither did you!" Ben retorted.
"They're making me go away Benny." Bree said, suddenly calm. "They're sending me on a death quest."
"Who?" Ben demanded.
"The Elders." Bree said. "I'm telling you, they have gone insane!"
"Bree, I'm sure the Elders wouldn't send you to get killed." Ben said.
"Please Ben!" Bree begged. "I heard them talking, they said I was expendable. Can't you do something?"
Ben hugged her. "I'm sorry Bree. I'm only a kid. I may be older than you, but only by two years. It's not enough."
Bree began to sob loudly. She hadn't realized how much she would miss Ben. He had been her best friend for a long time, and now she felt something more for him, a feeling she had never before felt. She liked the way his arms felt around her, and she liked the warmth of his body pressed against hers.
"Don't cry, my Bree." Ben said softly.
Bree looked up and smiled slightly. "Will you look for me, when you're old enough? I may not die, but I'll never come back here, not to stay."
"Of course." Ben said. "Look for me too."
Ben kissed her lips softly. Bree felt a slight thrill run through her body, and then he let go of her. They both stood and walked together, hand in hand, back to Ben's house. Bree was growing worried, but there were still his parents. They could save her, she was certain they could. Ben's grandfather was one of the Elders. But would they be willing to risk their own lives to help her? Bree truly doubted it.
"So Bree, I here you're going on an adventure." Ben's mother said. "How wonderful! You're so lucky. This will bring great honor to your father."
"Well, actually-" Bree began, but Ben's father cut her off.
"You'd better get a move on." He shoved her out the door. "Good luck."
"Benny!" Bree shouted.
"I'm sorry Bree!" Ben said as the door was shut.
Bree whirled and started off through the village at a fast gallop. Tears ran down her cheeks; she felt betrayed. No one would help her and she was out of time. She had to return to the Elders so they could send her to her death. She dropped to a slow trot and made her way sluggishly back to the village.
Link felt a sharp thump on his side and sat up abruptly. Rogue was glaring at him. Link blinked sleepily and pushed away the blankets, gathering himself together. He ate quickly, because Rogue was thumping his tail impatiently, waiting for him to get on. Link dressed fast, still shoving pieces of food in his mouth, and then stumbled away into the wood to find a stream where he could fill his canteen.
The forest area here was thick, but it was not far from the site of the other nights' events either. Some of the underbrush had been charred away by Rogue's blast of fire. Link stumbled along and his foot caught on something. He held his balance for a moment, arms windmilling, then fell forward onto his face.
Link sat up and looked to see what it was he has tripped over. His eyes widened in horror when he saw that it was a half-rotted corpse. It wasn't just any corpse though…what was left of the face resembled Isannah. Link stood up, choking on the bile that rose in his throat. He turned and dashed through the woods, back to Rogue's side, and collapsed.
"What's wrong?" Rogue asked, when Link's sobs had eased.
"I-Isannah…" Link gasped.
Rogue sighed. "She was bonded to Kyrissam and Faylah. It was the reason Flynn was punished; he tried to stop them. She died when they died."
"I killed her." Link choked out as another sob rose in his throat. "It was me! I killed her!"
"Don't be silly." Rogue said. "You didn't know. You had no control over it. But what of Sora? Without you she'll die!"
Link stared at the ground, tears still running down his cheeks. He had had a dream about killing Sora. What if it came true? So what should he do, go rescue her, or hope she was okay? Link looked up at Rogue and the Dragon nodded slowly. Link got to his feet slowly and began packing up camp. When he was finished he mounted the Dragon and they took to the sky.
The day was a clear one, with very few clouds in the sky. The air was not entirely fresh though. Link could sense an aura of evil about this wood. It was because of the Fay, of all their years of evil rule. As they got closer the Fay temple, the evil in the air thickened, until it filled Link's nose and throat. He gasped for breath and now Rogue was having trouble flying.
"Down…Rogue!" Link panted. "We…must…rest!"
Rogue did not need any further instruction. He plunged down into the forest as fast as he could. Link gripped tightly to his mane and held on for dear life. Rogue came to a screeching halt and landed on the ground, tumbling to his side. Link fell off and lay on the ground a moment, panting. The air here was not so bad, but the land itself was badly polluted with evil. Link rolled over and spit up blood the came flowing from his lungs.
"We can't stay here long." Rogue said. "The evil…will kill us."
"Where I come from, evil does not…feel like this." Link stammered. "You can't feel it like this, it doesn't make you throw up blood."
"But this is land of the Fay." Rogue said gravely. "All here is evil."
Link and Rogue were back up in the sky sometime later. The evil was still thick, but soon they were adjusting to having to breathe through it. Link was growing wary, because they were approaching the wyvern nests fast. Rogue seemed on the watch as well, his big eyes occasionally flicking from here to there.
"See anything?" Link called.
"Naught but trees, Your Majesty." Rogue replied.
All the same, Link reached for his sword and drew it from the scabbard. He held it with one hand while the other remained clutching the reins. Riding dragon-back was no longer so hazardous and Link was beginning to think of it as quite fun. He was really calm and laid back when he heard the flap of leathery wings.
Link spun in the saddle and glanced around warily. He saw three specks flying towards them in the distance. Rogue must have noticed them too, because he started to fly a bit faster. Link, though, kept his eyes on the approaching dots. He had a feeling that these were wyverns and if Rogue was speeding up to get away from them, it was probably pretty bad.
As they got closer Link was able to make out what they looked like. They had two, snake like heads each, and with beady yellow eyes and sharp teeth encrusted with blood. Their bodies were fairly small, but long and serpent-like. Razor sharp talon slashed the air from all six long, bird-like legs. They only had one tail though, and it was that of a scorpion. Link swallowed thickly.
"So, those are wyverns huh?"
"Aye." Rogue agreed. "They can be very dangerous. We best try to get away from them."
Link nodded, although he knew Rogue could not see it, and they took off at a faster pace. Three more dots were approaching from in front of them now. The closer they got, the more Link could make out. This time he saw that each wyvern had a Fay upon its back. Well, it makes sense, Link thought. A dangerous creature for an evil one.
"Hold on!" Rogue said gruffly.
Rogue dove forward at top speed, going on the three wyverns in front. He rolled in fast circles, to keep away from lashing swords and stingers. Link gripped his mane with every ounce of strength he had. Then Rogue came to a sudden halt and two of the wyverns slammed into his behind. Link looked back and chucked lightly at the looks on the faced of the Fay who were riding. He didn't have long to gloat, though, because Rogue had taken off again.
Link lifted his sword and it clashed with that of a Fay on wyvern-back. Link could tell by the strength that these must've been the actual warriors he'd heard so much about. They were good, but they stood little chance against Rogue's lashing tail and fiery breath. He had already taken out two of the three riderless wyverns by running into them.
One of the Fay riders screamed in fury as Link sliced off two of the legs of the wyvern it was riding. The wyvern faltered, now a little less balanced, but kept to the sky. Link slashed again, opening a long gash in the wyvern's side, right beneath its wing. It screamed and tumbled to the earth, the whole time trying to get to its wound.
Link then turned to the next rider, who waited with a large, chunky club. Link ducked out of the way to avoid getting hit, then slashed. The Fay yelped in surprise as Link's sword stuck his arm, leaving a bloody wound in its wake. He yanked on the wyvern's reins, pulling it back, but Link struck again. This time he slashed off part of the wyvern's wing and it went spiraling to the earth below.
Rogue had taken neat care of the third riderless wyvern while Link's attention had been on the Fay, and now there was one rider left. He turned his wyvern and high tailed it away from there fast. Link laughed and waved his sword in that direction.
"We're coming with ya! You'll have another chance at me!" Link called.
But the wyvern and its rider had already ducked into the woods as fast as they could. Link was laughing and even Rogue was having a good chuckle. They continued on to the Fay temple, feeling their spirits lift with each wing flap.
The wyvern came to a skidding halt in the stone strong hold. Its rider dismounted and tossed the reins to a smaller Fay boy, who had big eyes and looked eager to please. He watched the rider in awe as he stomped away into the changing room. When the door slammed shut, all eyes turned to him, and a few small smiles spread across faces.
"Didn't even get close, did ya Raylan?" One man called out.
The rider tugged off her helmet. Long red hair, damp with sweat, fell to her shoulders. Her purple eyes blazed with fury as she quickly stripped out of her armor and dropped it on the ground. In only her shift she charged at the man who had spoken, her fists raised. Two other male Fay caught her from behind.
"Cool it Ray." One said. "It won't do you any good to get all worked up about it."
"Let her!" the first male snarled. "She couldn't beat me."
"Raylan, go get dressed."
Raylan turned away from the hands holding her and stomped over to her small corner. She had been with the guard for three years now, and all the guys delighted in teasing her. She was the best rider of them all, great at tracking, but her skill ended there. She was a poor warrior even on foot, although she was pretty good with a bow on wyvern-back.
She quickly put a tunic and breeches on over her shift, and belted the tunic around her waist. She pulled on leather boots and a hooded cloak, bringing the cowl down to cover her face. Raylan quickly skulked out the back passage, making sure no one noticed her leaving. She headed down the back tunnels to the wyvern stables.
The boy who had taken her wyvern was waiting for her. He handed her the reins and Raylan snatched them from his grasp. The boy jumped back and kneeled to her. Raylan nodded and quickly mounted. If she were caught she'd be in deep trouble. When she was found gone, the boy would probably be executed, but that was no concern of hers.
Raylan spurred her mount out into the light of day. Wyverns were very fast creatures and he was far enough from the Fay kingdom within a few minutes, for Raylan to relax and take a deep breath. She could see the boy and his Dragon in the distance and smiled. She gave him a quick wave before he could even look twice at her, then spurred the Wyvern to dive into the trees.
Chapter Three: Bringing Down the House
Bree awoke with a start. She got to her feet as fast as her horsy bulk would allow and reached for the bow strapped to her back. The bush in front of her was moving, making sounds very similar to hiccups. Bree nocked an arrow, loosed, and let it fly towards the bush. It struck something and bounced off with a sound like metal on metal.
A huge, scaly snout came out of the bushes. Bree backed up, nocking another arrow as she went. Out from the bush stepped a huge creature, with the head and tail of a dragon, but the body and wings of a griffin. Bree lowered her bow and stared at it.
"What are you staring at?" The creature snapped.
"Uh…s-sir." Bree stammered. "Might I ask…what are you?"
"No you may not ask." The creature growled. "But if you have to know, I'm a dracogriff."
"Oh." Bree said softly. "Um, well, sirrah, you uh…scared me."
"I'm not surprised." The dracogriff muttered. "What are you?"
"I'm a Centaur." Bree said. "My name is…Bree Hinney."
"Stupid name." The dracogriff huffed. "I'm Raz'madG."
Bree rolled the name around on her tongue, but she couldn't get it right. Raz'madG tried to teach her to say it, but it didn't work. After a few minutes Bree sighed and curled up on the ground. Raz'madG stared at her, his wings cupped behind him, before walking over to her. They stared at each other for a moment.
"Can I just call you Raz?" Bree asked finally.
"If that is all you can manage." Raz grumbled.
"Would you like to travel with me?"
Raz'madG turned to look at her. His nostrils quivered as he studied her carefully. Finally he gave his snout one quick bob, which Bree took to mean yes. They eyed each other for long moments before Bree stood up and slung her bow and her pack back over her shoulder. She started off at a slow trot, with Raz following behind.
Bree was young and only able to travel at a fast pace for short distances. Raz seemed a little impatient with her, but he listened to her talk and that alone made him good company. They both had tales to tell, but neither seemed too eager to say anything. So Bree kept up light conversation as they walked.
"Where do you come from?" Bree asked as they were picking their way through an apple orchard.
"Somewhere north." Raz grumbled.
"Beyond my village I'd imagine." Bree said.
She fell into deep thought and so they walked along in silence for quite awhile. The day was dwindling down faster and faster with each step they took. Bree could only walk now, and even doing that she was very tired. Soon they settled down to camp in the shade of some very large trees. The campsite was surrounded by some rather large boulders, which were very good as cover. There were twigs scattered on the ground that they could make use of for a fire.
Bree collected a few, although she didn't need much of a fire for only her and Raz. They settled down on opposite sides of the fire. Raz was asleep in moments and snoring fairly loudly. Bree stayed up only to eat quickly and then douse the small fire. She curled up against one of the big boulders and was asleep as soon as she closed her eyes.
It was Frat's turn for guard duty. Everyone in camp was anxious, because it had been three days and there had been no sign of Link. Frat could hear stirring in camp and knew that no one was really asleep. The night was a cold one and the forest was full of strange sounds at night, sounds that stirred the terror deep in one's soul. Frat's own panic was rising as he thought of the many things that could have happened to his friend and Sora.
When a hand came down on his shoulder Frat jumped straight up in the air, then whirled around, grabbing for his dagger. The figure behind him was already holding a dagger, but had stopped his attack to stare wide-eyed. Frat realized it was only Flynn, looking just as scared as he was. Frat sighed and put his dagger back into place.
"Don't sneak up on me." Frat muttered. "Are you Fay always so silent?"
"No. Just me." Flynn said. "I never had a reason to be loud."
Frat looked at him, thinking he was joking, but he could tell by the look on the Fay boy's face that he wasn't. Flynn seemed more at home in this forest than anyone else, but even then he was scared. Frat shivered at the thought. Here was someone who was of the people that owned this forest, and yet he was frightened of them.
"They're very powerful." Flynn said, as if he'd been reading Frat's mind. "This forest has forever been in their evil…their dark magicks have soaked into the ground, poisoned the very earth."
The Fay boy spat and turned away, kicking at the ground. He was disgusted with his own ancestry. Frat couldn't blame him though; if his family had done something so evil as to effect the very balance of nature, he would be ashamed of them too. Maybe not all Fay were so bad then. Frat opened his mouth to voice the thought when a rustling came from the bushes. Both boys already held dagger in their hands as a form came staggering from the underbrush.
Oliana was tending to one of the younger Dragons, Jace. He had gotten caught in a trap meant for a much larger animal, and he was in pretty bad shape. All of the Dragons were nervous and snappy, and talk of war spread like wildfire through the whole herd. Oliana and her friends did everything they could to help out, but how much help could you really offer a creature thirty times your size, anyway?
Frat had been gone for three days now, and no word had come back with the Dragon scouts that had been sent out. Two of the Dragons had gotten chased away by a huge pack of Wyverns and the other one had yet to return. Oliana held a small hope in her heart that the third Dragon would at least have news of her friends.
Roxanna was working on bandaging the wounds of one of the Dragons that had gotten chased by the Wyverns. She was dressed in breeches, tunic, shirt and soft leather boots, like Oli, but she seemed very upset about it. Roxanna was unused to doing work and dressing in clothes meant for commoners. Both girls were dirty and Oliana's hands were coated in blood.
"Got more yards of bandage." Poonta said, walking through the door. "Just finish up Firefly here and then we're done."
Oliana took the bandage from Poonta and they set to work wrapping the leg of a small red female Dragon. She had been the more agile of the two and had been able to get away without much more than a few scratches and one long gash on her leg. The other Dragon, a blue male named Whirrscale, had suffered from a broken tail and many large gashes along his sides.
When they had finished all three girls crowed behind a curtain and washed off in small water filled basins. It was too close to dinner to take a bath, but later they would be able to soak in the nearby hotsprings. And the straw pallets they used for beds weren't that bad anymore, although Oliana still woke up itchy.
"Everyone set?" Oliana asked.
"I'm feeling fine!" Jace said briskly. He jumped down from the small table he had been sitting on and raced out of the tent.
"I think I'm going to rest some more…" Whirrscale groaned, rolling over onto his stomach.
Oliana smiled. "You do that. Come on Roxanna, Poonta, lets go."
They both followed her now, as though she was the leader. Together they walked out of the tent they were working in and walked into one much smaller. It was there that they ate and slept, accompanied by only a few of the small baby Dragons. Oliana curled up on a straw pallet and pulled a blanket made of hemp over herself. She had enough time before dinner for a nap.
"Oliana!" Roxanna whined. "I want to wash my hair!"
"Just wait a bit!" Oliana snapped.
"How much farther, Rogue?" Link asked.
"Take a nap if you need it."
That hadn't really been the answer Link was looking for, but it was enough to tell him that they had a ways to go yet. Link leaned back against one of Rogue's fins and watched the scenery pass beneath them. He was once again recalling the day when he and Sora met, and wondering just how he had gotten himself into this mess.
Link hadn't expected to run into more trouble after Sora and Frat had gone home, two years ago. Instead, here he was, on the back of a Dragon, going to save Sora from evil, vicious Fay. So many years ago he had never expected to be anything more than a very unhappy king. Now here he was, on Dragon back, going to rescue the beautiful princess like the heroes in the stories Cara used to read to him.
"What's so funny?" Rogue asked.
"I was just thinking of us as heroes." Link chuckled. "And Sora, the beautiful princess."
Rogue huffed. "I would think that by human standards Sora is beautiful. She is by my standards."
"You like other species?"
"Not usually." Rogue said. "But Sora has something inside her that's attractive to Dragons."
"Her virginity?" Link asked, snickering.
Rogue ignored that. "She cares no matter what. Most Alima are pretty nature loving, but Sora has a love for the Sacred Balance of Life that I have never seen before in a humanoid creature."
Link leaned against the fin, deep in thought. Sora had written him many tales about Dragons in the letters she sent. He had read them before bed and fallen asleep with a smile on his face every night. Her tales had been beautiful and written with so much wonder and love. For a moment Link's heart ached; he missed his friend so much. Then the feeling passed and he slumped against Rogue's fin, asleep.
Link opened his eyes and recognized the cave he was in immediately. Saba sat on one stone slab, watching over a limp, pale form. Link ran over to her and landed on his knees in icy water. He was startled at first, but ignored it. The girl near Saba was Sora. She was unhurt, but her skin was so pale and cold that he feared she was dead.
"She'll be okay." Saba said softly.
Link took one of Sora's cold, clammy hands. "What did they do to her?"
"I don't know." Saba said. "Only she does."
Link sat on the stone slab and gathered Sora to himself. She stirred slightly, but didn't wake. Saba stood and walked over to the large cauldron that was always in the middle of the chamber. As she did, there was a loud racket in the shadows. Link looked up and saw a figure, literally clad in the shadows himself, step towards them.
"Leave them be!" Saba hissed.
"You cannot change destiny, Saba." The Shadow Clad one said. "What do you hope to gain from this foolishness?"
"Quiet!" Link interrupted. "Let her sleep."
Saba slammed a lid into place over the cauldron and stomped out of the chamber. The Shadow Clad one stood over Link and Sora for a moment. Then, with a sigh, he turned. The shadow cloak swished around him and he was gone.
Flynn moved first, before Frat could even let his jaw drop. He grabbed the figure from behind and shoved the person up against the tree. For a moment they grappled for control, and then the figure gave in. Flynn pulled out a dagger and rested it against the exposed throat. By that time Frat had recovered his bearings and walked over to see what was going on.
"Spill it, Raylan!" Flynn growled. "What are you doing here?"
"How'd you know it was me?" Raylan asked.
Flynn loosened his grip. "I always know."
"What is she doing here?" Frat demanded. "If you've harmed Sora-"
"Calm down." Raylan cut him off. "Your sister is…well, I'm not sure, I'm only a scout."
"So what are you doing here?" Flynn asked, crossing his arms over his chest.
"I'm here to help you." Raylan said.
Flynn shook his head. "The only person you've ever helped is yourself, Raylan. What is it you want?"
"Look, I know I captured the brat and I've never been exactly nice…"
Raylan hesitated at the baleful look Frat gave her, then continued.
"But I'm just as close to the bottom of the barrel as you are, Flynn, and I want out. I'm not on either side really, but if you can help me get away from our siblings then I'll help you this once."
Flynn and Frat gave her long, hard looks. Raylan crossed her arms and glared right back at them. Frat was frowning and looked dubious, but Flynn was recalling everything he could about his sister Raylan. He had a lot of sisters, after all, and brothers too. It was very hard to remember everything about every single one, but there was a key factor to Raylan that would make her a good ally.
"How do we know she's not lying?" Frat demanded.
"She can't lie." Flynn said. "Dad put a curse on her about, oh…15 years ago. She dropped the Wyvern eggs."
"It was an accident." Raylan muttered.
"Anyway," Flynn continued. "She lied about it, and when dad found out, he made sure she never lied again. Mom and dad weren't entirely evil…they were very good monarchs in many ways, just a little too harsh at times."
"They killed your sister and you're standing up for them?"
Flynn shrugged. "They also kept me from being hurt by my other siblings."
Frat shook his head, but he did turn and head back to camp. Flynn held his dagger out and he and Raylan followed Frat back to camp, where Lily, Muffy (the little girl that Link had rescued from the Fay city) Amiri and Aidan were waiting. Muffy was asleep, but Lily and the two Dragons looked up as Frat and his companions approached camp.
"Who is this?" Amiri demanded.
"My sister Raylan." Flynn said. "Raylan, this is Lily, one of the Lente. And the Dragons Aidan and Amiri."
"Nice to meet ya." Raylan mumbled.
"So, that's that." Flynn said, rubbing his hands together. "Amiri, keep guard. Tomorrow we set out for the Dragon Land."
Sora awoke to noise outside of the cell where she lay on the cold stone floor. She was fully healed, although her skin was so tender that it would bruise at the slightest touch. She knew this kind of torture; the victim was magically healed every few days. The skin became softer and softer, and the pain worsened. Eventually it became too much to bear and the victim either found a way to kill themselves or died from the stress.
Sora had been wrapped in thick robes, so that the floor wouldn't bruise her too much and take away all the fun. She sat up slowly as the door swung open and a large Fay male appeared, with two females behind him. The male picked Sora up by the waist and slung her over his shoulder. Then they were heading down the hall and Sora really began to worry.
She was taken to a large hall, with a u-shaped ceiling that was so high up it looked impossible to build. This room had another altar, different than the first, and Sora realized that it was one to be sacrificed on. She was chained to the altar, which was a large chunk of white marble resembling a jagged rock.
"Our little pet," One of the female Fay cooed, stepping forward. "Just loves sweet little maidens for lunch."
"Unfortunately you were all we could find." Another one tittered.
"So you'll have to do." The first one finished.
Sora glared at them, her anger boiling over like the lava in Death Mountain. She could do nothing but glare though, because she didn't even have the strength to shout a come back. All of the Fay crowded against the walls, away from the middle of the room. For some of them, chairs formed magically from the sleek white marble. Sora guessed they were of high rank or importance. Then there was a terrible grinding sound.
The floor slid apart slowly, revealing water as black as midnight. A snout poked out from the water, and then a head. It was snake like, and Sora recognized it as the beast from the cave that connected Hyrule and Caseree. Except now it was bigger, its teeth were sharper and venom dripped from them like rain. Its head lashed out and it snatched one of the nearby Fay, who hadn't gotten close enough to the wall. There was a shriek, cut off abruptly, followed by cheering.
Sora swallowed thickly as the serpentine eyes narrowed on her. A long black tongue flickered out, coming only inches away, and Sora knew it could almost taste her flesh. She began to tremble and she tried furiously to swallow the panic that rose in her throat, but to no avail. The serpent came at her with open jaws…and jerked back its head with a shriek as it was hit with a piece of the ceiling.
Suddenly a huge hole opened in the ceiling, letting sunlight pour in. The monster shrieked and ducked under the water. The Fay shouted in outrage, but they couldn't move or they would fall into the water and become lunch. A silver Dragon, on the smallish side, slid in through the hole and dived for the altar and Sora.
It passed right by her and Sora nearly fell as a sword sliced cleanly through her bonds. She was scooped up by the Dragon's tail and they took to the sky. The Fay waved swords and shot spells at them, but the Dragon was agile and its rider was clever. They navigated around flying arrows and popped out of the hole in the ceiling.
Chapter Four: Allies
Raylan finished loading a pack onto her Wyvern's back. She had agreed to go look for Sora and Link, which Flynn assured her would help them greatly. The others had already left, heading back for the Dragon land. Raylan was glad to be alone at last. She didn't mind the company of her Wyvern, but being around people made her nervous.
She was going to head slightly to the North West, in hopes of avoiding the Fay Temple. It was possible that Link and Sora had escaped and were camped somewhere near the Centaur lands. Raylan finished tucking away her weapons and contemplating her route. She threw dirt over the spot where she had made a small campfire to cook on, and then mounted her Wyvern.
The Wyvern dashed into the sky without a word of command. Raylan hung on as it whipped into open sky and headed basically northwest. She hoped they wouldn't run into trouble on the way, though it was very unlikely that they were going to get off scott free. Raylan smiled slightly to herself.
Sora flailed about for a moment, although she was safely clutched in the Dragon's tail. They rose higher and higher into the air, while at the same time they got farther and farther away from the temple. Sora was glad to be away from there, yet at the same time she was very unhappy with her current situation. She wanted whoever it was on this Dragon to let her down!
She didn't get a chance to voice her demands though, because the Dragon's tail lashed out and up. It uncurled from around her and sent her flying. Sora shrieked and made a wild grab for the Dragon's saddle. A gloved hand reached out and grabbed hers. She was pulled over the Dragon's back and plopped down on her stomach, where all she could see was silver Dragon scales. Outraged, Sora began to kick and squirm wildly.
"Cool it, Princess." Someone chuckled.
Sora recognized the voice immediately. "Who are you and what have you done with the real Link?"
"Oh it's me." Link assured her. "And Rogue, in case you didn't recognize him."
"Yeah and uh, just what were you two doing, crashing in through the ceiling of the Fay temple?" Sora asked.
"Rescuing you, of course." Link said.
"Some rescue." Sora muttered. "Can I at least sit up?"
"I don't know, I think I'll let you stay that way."
Sora glowered down at Rogue's scales. She heard Link laughing and wanted to punch him. Not only was this very uncomfortable, with one of Rogue's small fins jabbing into her stomach, but it was beneath her dignity. Which was, of course, something she hadn't worried about very much before. Maybe it was the fact that this was Link, the boy king, who had saved her, where as she usually was the one doing the saving.
"I guess we're two for two, then." Link said, startling her.
"I won't count this one if you don't let me sit up."
Link chuckled, but he didn't let her up. Instead he rested a hand lightly on her back as Rogue started to dip downward. He held her down as Rogue dived at top speed down to land. There was a slight bounce, which caused a lot of pain, as Rogue touched down, then Sora was dropped off the Dragon's side.
Sora glared at Link. "Are you trying to kill me or something?"
"No, but Rogue isn't really big enough for more than one person." Link said. "Mean you have to stay here."
"Me?" Sora said incredulously. "I'm the one in trouble! I could get hurt out here!"
Link tossed her down a pack, the sword and a dagger. "You can take care of yourself just fine. I have to go find the others and bring back another Dragon to carry you. Just stay put and I'll be back before you know it."
Rogue began to flap his wings once more and Sora made a dive for him. She missed and landed on her stomach in the dirt. Sora looked up as Rogue and Link flew up high, becoming only a small silver dot. She sighed and dragged herself to her feet. She dusted off her robes, wishing more than anything that she had some normal clothes to wear.
Sora took the bags Link had given her and shuffled through them. It was his bag, and all the clothes inside were his. At least it was something. Sora changed into clothes that were way to big with her and then found some food in another one of the packs. She took a chunk of cheese and another of bread and began to gobble them down. She had eaten no more than scraps and crumbs lately. This food was a relief. As Sora was reaching for some more, she heard the sound of hooves and two sets of four paws behind her.
Bree leaned her forefeet on the trunk of the tree and reached up high into the branches for the brightest, reddest, biggest apple she had ever seen in her life. Raz was still asleep and when Bree had tried to wake him to get his help, he had grumbled and rolled over. So Bree was left to her own defenses, and she could not, for the life of her, reach that apple. If Ben was here he'd get it for me, Bree thought.
Suddenly a hand reached up and snatched the apple. Bree started, for a moment her heart was as light as a feather and leaped high into her throat. Then she turned and saw a young woman, with hair as red as blood and beautiful face. She sat upon the most hideous beast Bree had seen in her life. Even Raz, who was ugly enough to make a lion run with just one glare, was no match for this creature.
"W-who are you?" Bree stammered.
"The name is Raylan. I was flying by when I saw you…I could not help but wonder what a dracogriff and a Centaur were doing traveling together."
Bree swallowed thickly. "C-c-company, really."
"Here." Raylan tossed her the apple.
Bree caught it. "Uh, thanks."
"Listen, I need some information." Raylan said. "And maybe you have it."
"I'm looking for some too…" Bree said shyly. "Maybe we're looking for the same thing…"
"I doubt it." Raylan said. "See, I'm looking for two kids and a Dragon-"
"Me too!" Bree exclaimed. "The kids who destroyed the…Fay…"
Bree took a step back, clutching the apple tight to her chest. Raylan crossed her arms and studied her, face like cold white marble. She stood, not quite glaring at Bree. Bree trembled slightly, afraid of what Raylan would to do her. The Fay girl raised her hand and Bree flinched, waiting for a sharp blow. It never came. Instead Raylan slapped her on the back and burst into laughter.
"What's so funny?" Bree asked.
"I'm looking for those kids so I can bring them back to their friends." Raylan explained. "And what about you?"
"My village wants to know more about them." Bree said. "But this is a suicide mission I'm on and they knew it when they send me out here!"
Raylan nodded. "You'll be needing some company then, to protect you."
"That's why I have Raz." Bree said. "Although…nothing short of an earthquake can wake him up."
"How 'bout I travel with ya? We're both looking for the same thing anyway."
Bree nodded. "All right. But no funny business, Raz is still bigger than then your creature!"
Oliana felt someone shaking her. She rolled over and opened her eyes slowly. She had never intended on sleeping so long, but apparently she had been a lot more worn out then she had thought. Oliana noticed that both Roxanna and Poonta stood over her. Roxanna was excited and Poonta looked slightly annoyed and impatient.
"What's all the fuss about?" Oliana asked, sitting up.
"Frat is back!" Roxanna exclaimed. "The Dragon scouts saw them heading this way!"
Oliana jumped up, forgetting her current messy state, and raced out of the tent, with Roxanna and Poonta in her wake. The Dragon prince Amiri was approaching, carrying three figures on its back. Oliana's heart leapt with joy at the thought of seeing her friends again and she gathered up her rumpled skirts and raced towards them. She stopped dead in her tracks when she realized that Sora and Link were not there, but two entirely different people.
"Oliana!" Frat cried.
He jumped down off of Amiri's back before the Dragon could even come to a complete stop and swooped Oliana up in a joyous hug. Roxanna and Poonta reached them and pushed their way into the hug. They were all so caught up in the moment that they jumped at the sound of harsh laughter behind them. Oliana turned to study the new arrivals.
"Oliana, this is Flynn and Lily." Frat said softly.
"But he's that one-" Oliana began to protest, but Frat shook his head.
"Come on Oli." Frat took her by the arm. "I'll explain."
Oliana allowed herself to be led back into the tent and sat down next to Frat on her sleeping cot. He took her hands and held them in his own, but Oliana could see that his face was marred with grief. She felt her heart plummet to the pit of her stomach and looked down, not wanting to hear the news.
"Ah…listen. Link isn't with us, as you can see." Frat said, his voice low. "Neither is Sora…but they're not dead…"
Oliana looked up, hope shining in her eyes. "They're not?"
"No. Link went after Sora, she got…captured." Frat explained. "They haven't gotten back yet…"
"But there's still hope." Oliana said, trying to sound cheerful. "And knowing those two, they'll come through it with flying colors."
"Frat, Oliana!" Roxanna came into the tent panting. "There's a Dragon coming this way! It looks like Rogue!"
Frat and Oliana stared at her for a moment, and when she bounced back out of the tent, they stared at each other. When the news had finally sunk in, they both jumped up and followed Roxanna out of the tent to greet their friends.
Sora sat very still, taking deep, silent breaths. She could feel eyes on her from behind and her hands began to shake. She wasn't really sure that she had the strength to fight at all, and from the sound of it, those behind her would make it a rough fight. Slowly, Sora stood, reaching for the sword strapped to her back. Before she could fully close her fingers around the hilt, something pounced on her, knocking her to the ground.
"I wouldn't do that if I were you." A familiar voice hissed.
"Let me go!" Sora cried. "Why do you want to capture me?"
"Don't play stupid."
Sora was let up and she turn around, her hand moving reflectively to the hilt of her dagger. Her heart almost stopped beating in her chest when she saw whom…and what…was behind her. A Fay girl, a wyvern, a dracogriff and a centaur…wait! A centaur? Sora was certain the centaurs were supposed to be peaceful people.
"She's the one." The Fay girl said.
"Is she dangerous?" The centaur asked.
The Fay girl shook her head. "Not right now at least, but if she wasn't worn out she could be a match for us. There are rumors that she's a wizard."
"Geez…" Sora sighed. "Recite a few child's rhymes and everyone thinks you're a wizard."
The Fay girl and the centaur stared at her. The dracogriff lay down in the dust, grumbling to itself, and was quickly asleep. The wyvern looked at it for a moment, then went to stand behind the Fay. The girl swatted the creature away and approached Sora, looking very impatient and very dangerous as well.
"You got a name?" The Fay growled.
"Princess Sorella." The girl smiled. "Well, Bree, we're in the presence of royalty."
"She's the princess?" The centaur asked. "Wow…"
"Who are you?" Sora demanded, taking a step back.
"I'm Raylan." The Fay girl said. "Flynn's sister. This is Bree Hinny, my wyvern and the sleepy dracogriff is Raz'madG."
"Uh…nice to meet you…I guess…"
"This is great!" Bree exclaimed. "You can help us!"
"Me? How?" Sora asked.
"Bree, I know you want to go to your village, but I need to get Sora back to her friends."
"Oh…" Bree said softly.
"What's wrong? Tell me, maybe I can help."
They settled down around a small fire, while Raylan pulled out stuff from her pack to eat. She gave Sora some of her own clothes, which was only slightly better than Link's, and then they got down to story telling. Sora kept most of the details of her story to herself, since Bree looked young and it might scare her. But she was very interested in Bree's own problem and wanted to help her for some reason.
"I'll help you." Sora said.
"You mean it?" Bree asked, her eyes shining with hope.
"Sora, your friends…"
"Raylan, this sounds bad. Someone has to help, might as well be me."
Raylan sighed, but consented (if grudgingly). The journey to the centaur village would be a tiring one, and Raylan told them to get some sleep, since they would need it more than her. Raylan rarely needed any sleep and someone had to keep watch. Her wyvern had already curled up next to Raz and Raylan decided to wake early, so that they'd have time to wake up their traveling buddies.
Chapter Five: Oliana told us so…
Link suddenly felt a bit of panic rise as Rogue approached the Dragon lands. He knew Frat was going to be furious with him for leaving Sora out there all by herself. But some strange, gut feeling had told him he should. He could feel it rising in the air; this place was being corrupted. A war was on the rise and Link was sure his friends all had different jobs to do.
He could see Frat, Oliana, Roxanna, Poonta and half of the herd of Dragons approaching. They would be more than just disappointed to see that Sora wasn't with him. Frat might even try to kill him, but Link refused to lie to them either. He would tell them where Sora was and if he got a chance before they ran him through, he would explain.
"They might hurt you." Rogue said.
Link grinned. "Reading my thoughts again, ay?"
"I will fight at your side if they do." Rogue said.
He didn't say anymore and Link was too stunned to speak. He sat with his mouth opened until he almost swallowed a bug, and then he shut it. Link gripped the reins just as Rogue went into a dive. He dropped to the ground so fast Link nearly left his stomach behind. The landing was so rough that Link scrambled out of the saddle to avoid getting thrown from it.
"You're back! Link!" Roxanna came running up to them with her arms open wide.
"Sorry pal, even I can't fight that."
Link forced laughter back down his throat. "Yeah, I guess not."
"Link!" Oliana cried, running up to him with Frat on her heels. "Oh we were so worried! We though…where's Sora?"
"Uh…" Link hesitated.
"What happened? Did she…"
"I left her…" Link said. "Back at-"
"You what?!" Frat lunged forward, making a grab for Link. Poonta shoved him back.
"Let the boy explain!" Poonta growled. "He always has a good reason for what he does."
So they walked back to the tent, with Oliana, Roxanna and Poonta keeping Frat away from Link. The older boy was furious. Link was certain he would tear him apart if he ever got the chance. They arrived at the tent and everyone sat, looking at Link expectantly. He launched into the tale of what he had seen at the Fay kingdom, where he had left Sora and why he had done it.
"We have to go after her." Frat said.
"No." Flynn said from the doorway.
All eyes turned towards him.
"I was listening to what you said, Link." Flynn went on. "I have a feeling you're right. To defeat what is coming, we must find something…"
"A stone of some sort." Link interrupted. "I dreamed something…"
Flynn nodded. "Yes. Me, you and Poonta should go find it. Sora has her own business to attend to…"
"What about me?" Frat demanded.
"Ah yes…" Flynn nodded slowly. "You two wish to marry, but Oliana is not noble…no, do not ask me how I know. I think you should take back her castle. She will become its lady and you will be able to marry."
Frat began to protest, but Oliana turned to him with bright eyes. "Do you think we could, Frat? Get my home back, I mean. Do you think we could?"
"We can try."
"It's settled then."
They all nodded in agreement and reached out their hands. As they did, the ground began to shake. Outside the Dragons were making loud, angry trumpets and chortles. The ground split, separating the friends from each other. The darkness in the hole began to swirl, making a sort of vortex. Laughter filled the air, evil laughter that reminded Link of Kyrissam. Then he and his friends fell into the swirling vortex before they could even make a move to defend themselves.
Sora awoke to the feeling of rain falling on her face. She opened her eyes and saw that the sky was gray and very dark. Raylan and Bree were already about the business of cleaning up camp and making breakfast. Raz and Raylan's wyvern weren't there; Sora figured they were off hunting or something. Sora sat up and the chill air hit her. She was glad that the warmth of sleep still hugged her like an old friend.
"We figured we'd let you sleep." Raylan explained, handing her something to eat. "You're going to need to rest more than us."
Sora nodded and took the food. She was determined to last as long as her new friends could. She didn't want to slow them down or frustrate them in any way. They had been really nice to her, taking her in, feeding her, and now letting her get her sleep. She ate her breakfast as quickly as she could, since they were already done with their own and impatient to get back on the road and continue the journey.
Raz and the wyvern were back by the time Sora was finished eating. She got dressed quickly and picked up her camp stuff. Since they wanted to be near by nightfall, they would travel as fast as they could. Raylan helped Sora get onto Raz's back, and then climbed onto her wyvern. They headed off with Bree trotting in between them.
The journey was indeed long and by mid-afternoon everyone was getting terribly bored. Occasionally Raylan would take to the sky to see if there was anything dangerous or any obstacles up ahead. Bree seemed to delight in the journey, jumping and prancing and tossing her hair about like she was a new born colt. But Sora was just plain bored and it had put her in a very bad mood.
"I can't believe Link just left me here…" Sora muttered to herself. "Who does he think he is anyway?"
"Halt!" Raylan commanded.
Raz stopped so suddenly that Sora fell forward onto his shoulder and slid of his side. She landed with a loud plop in the mud. Infuriated, Sora stood up and turned to Raylan to see what was going on, but the older girl was concentrating on something. Annoyed, Sora kicked her hard in the shin.
"Hey!" Raylan yelped. "What's the big idea?"
"I should ask you the same thing!" Sora snapped. "Why did we stop?"
"Feel that? In the air?"
Sora was about to give Raylan another kick, but she stopped as something slid past her. It reminded her of a snake, slow and cool, with an intimidating air about it. She shivered as she realized it was power that coursed over her, raw, unhindered power. And it was controlled by something strong and ancient.
"W-what is that?" Sora stammered.
"I'm not sure." Raylan said. "But it's passing over us fast, without stopping. It shouldn't effect us at the speed its going…but we should stop anyway."
Sora nodded. "Raz, you get Bree, she's up ahead a bit. Raylan, lets find a suitable place, we may end up fighting something."
Link was floating in an infinite, numbing cold. Even his mind fought to function, fought to keep him awake. The darkness that surrounded him weighted down heavy upon his soul and he felt that he was slowly sinking into eternity. Each breath was difficult to draw, and even harder to exhale. All he wanted was to sleep; his body ached for it, but he refused to let go.
A strange wind seemed to stir Link's hair and brush over his spine in a bruising, painful caress. He gasped at the feeling of raw, untamed power. What in the name of Din is this? Link thought. The pain kept on pushing him down, farther and farther until he thought he would scream. But when he opened his mouth, no sound came out. Link flailed about in mid-air for a moment until he noticed a bright light.
It came closer and ever closer to him, creeping along like a long-legged spider. The hairs on the Link's arms and the back of his neck stood straight up and he raised his hackles like a dog. Never in his life had he felt so wary of light before. Too late, Link realized that the light was moving a lot quicker than it had seemed to before. It slammed into him, knocking him into solid unconsciousness.
When Link finally re-awoke, there was an aching, throbbing pain in his head. He groaned and rolled over. Just barely it registered in his mind that he was once again on solid ground. He scanned the room about him, to see his friends strewn about the floor like lifeless dolls. That dull aching, begging for sleep nagged at him but he forced himself to stand.
Link whirled, startled and reached for his sword. His hand close around air and he nearly fell over. Laughter echoed in the chamber and Link looked in that direction. The scene shocked him, and yet somehow he had known this would happen. Oliana was held in the clutches of Link's own advisor, Nicodemus. The old man no longer looked so old, but he did look powerful.
Dressed in his best robes, Nicodemus was a splendor to behold. Rings of all shapes and sizes sparkled on his pudgy fingers and a thick gold color, embedded with many jewels, hung about his neck. Runes and other patterns were etched into his deep crimson robes with silver thread. He held no weapons; Link took that to mean that he didn't need any. He took a step back and began to search desperately for his dagger.
"You won't find it, boy." Nicodemus hissed. "Foolish boy, you'll never learn. If you'd only listened to pretty little Oliana here, you wouldn't be in this mess right now would you?"
"I trusted you because you were my father's advisor." Link said, his tone icy. "But you were not my Grandfather's and I realize now that was my mistake."
"You speak with a new eloquence, my king, but that will get you no where."
"What are you going to do anyway?" Link demanded. "You can't kill me, everyone will know it is you because you're the only one missing. And I have a feeling you will not go back to Hyrule now."
Nicodemus nodded. "You have gained some smarts I see…well, I will not have to kill you directly. You will find that with the approaching war it will be very difficult to stay alive."
With that Nicodemus flung Oliana at him. Link caught her but the impact sent him staggering backwards. He tried to regain his feet but by the time he was balanced again, Nicodemus was gone. His friends were beginning to stir but they didn't have time to rise, because the ground once again began to shake. Oliana shrieked and clutched to Link's jerkin as the ground fell away and they were thrown into a black void.
"Link!" Flynn's voice called. "Find the Sunset Orb and bring it to me! Only with its power can we win this war!"
Sora was huddled deep into Link's cloak, pleased at the warmth it provided in the icy rain. She could hear the sound of howling on the horizon; HellHounds, Raylan told her. Their howls alone made her shiver uncontrollably, she did not want to meet these creatures face to face. Raylan told her that is was most likely that they were coming after their little group, so Sora kept Link's sword at hand, as always in situations such as this one.
Bree was carefully hidden in between two large rocks, with the wyvern and Raz hiding her from view. The HellHounds would attack her first, for the meat she would provide them, and Bree didn't really know how to fight, although she was pretty good with a bow and arrow. Sora hoped she would be able to get a few shots off from a distance and remain safely away from the main fight. She herself wouldn't mind staying away from the fight.
The howls became louder and louder as the hounds approached. Sora bit down hard on her lips to keep herself from fleeing in fright. She had a strong resolution to stay put and fight fearlessly, but her flight instincts were starting to kick in. She had fought humans and Fay, and those weren't so bad, since they moved and worked like she did. But these Hounds were something else altogether and it was said that they were clever.
"They come." Raylan said softly.
Now Sora could hear the pounding of their pads on the soft turf like it was the beating of a war drum. She could hear them breathing; good, they were a bit winded from the long run. At least they would have more chance now. Sora guessed that there was twenty of them, maybe more. It would take a clever, last minute maneuver to get them out alive and Sora didn't feel she had the strength to pull that off.
Instinct made her jump up just as the first of the HellHounds burst from the underbrush. She turned, tugging her sword from the scabbard the lay across her back. Already Raylan was up; a sword in one hand and a dagger ready at her side. The wyvern took a step forward, all of its heads snapping and hissing furiously. Demon versus demon, Sora thought humorously. She took a step to the side to give the wyvern its space.
Sora had no time to think before the HellHounds began their assault. Two lunged at her at once and she backpedaled as fast as she could. Their teeth and claws slashed at her and Sora bit down hard on her resolution. She slashed at the first one, missing completely and leaving herself totally open for another attack.
The second HellHound leapt for her and she turned just in time to avoid getting her throat ripped out. The HellHound did catch a large chunk of her hair between its teeth and as it crashed back to the ground Sora was pulled with it. The pain that came with the vicious tug infuriated Sora unlike anything she could ever imagine. She had never been vain about her hair, but that had really hurt! Sora was on her feet again before they could attack her again.
She slashed at the one who had gotten her by the hair and managed to hit it. The HellHound yelp and turn to bite at its partner, thinking that it had caused the pain and not Sora. While they were distracted with each other, Sora turned to another HellHound who had approached. This one gave its pack mates a look of disgust, then lunge immediately for Sora's throat. It hit her dead on and she fell.
Sora scrambled to get out from under the Hound and keep it from her throat at the same time. It was nosing its way under her chin, growling as it did so. Sora began to panic when she felt its hot breath on her jugular. She cried out in terror, unable to keep her fear in check and more. She could feel the tip of its teeth start to close around her tender flesh…
Zing! An arrow whizzed through the air and struck the Hound square in the chest. It yelped and jumped off of Sora, turning to try and find its attacker. Behind it was one of its pack mates, coming up to take on Sora and the Hound growled. Sora took a step back as the two went at it. These HellHound sure weren't as smart as everyone said they were.
Suddenly Sora felt some of that raw power approaching behind her and she turned. Standing there was one lone HellHound, its fangs dripping with blood and its eyes glowing demonic red in the dark. There was an air of intelligence around this one that hadn't been there with the others. Sora took a step back; her fingers uncurled from around the hilt of her sword and it went crashing to the ground…
Part Two: Journeys of the Heart
Chapter Six: Getting Some Information
Link was huddled deep into the shadows of the tavern corner, listening to the conversations flying about the room. His mug of ale lay untouched before him and the plate of food was not even half eaten. This place made Link wary and nervous as all Hell. There were too many large, strong men in here for him to take on with only his sword and wits alone. Although Din knows I'm smarter than all of them combined, Link thought, smiling.
His mind kept wandering back to the events of a week past. He had awoken on a dusty plain, to find that his traveling companions had been switched. Roxanna and Oliana were waiting for him now, outside the tavern, waiting for him to return with some information. If only Flynn was there with him, then he would have all the information he would need about the Sunset Orb. He doubted he could dig up much here, in this barren place.
Where they were, Link wasn't entirely certain, although he was sure they were still on Caseree Isle. This part of the land seemed to hold the Normals. They were nice enough folk, to be sure, although none of them treated him with the respect he deserved. He really couldn't expect them to, since they probably had no idea whom he was, but it would be nice to have some people enough in awe of him that they would pay him attention.
Like they were ever in awe of you before, a sardonic voice at the back of Link's mind nagged him. Your own advisor betrayed you. Link sighed and hung his head resignedly. He had been so blind, not to see it before. It was obvious what Nicodemus was up to, but Link was so busy with everything else that he hadn't seen it. Now he felt a fool; he hadn't listened to one of his best friends and now his people could pay for his mistakes.
One man kept Link's attention. This man seemed to have the shadows wrapped about him like his own special cloak. Something about him seemed vaguely familiar, but Link couldn't figure out what. Cautiously Link stood and began to approach the man's table. He flipped a coin to one of the barmaids and motioned to where the man was sitting, the continued on by himself. When Link approached, the man looked up.
"Can I help you lad?"
"You look like a traveler, sir." Link said softly. "I was wondering if you might have some information I'm looking for."
The man nodded. "Sit down, son. Tell me boy, what's your name?"
"It's Link, sir. And yours?"
"Zephyr. Nice to meet you." The man held out his hand.
Link took it and gave it a shake. "Pleased to meet you."
"Naught with the formalities boy." Zephyr said. "Tell me, what is the information you're looking for?"
"I need to know about the Sunset Orb." Link told him. "It is very important to the welfare of many that I find it."
"Ah yes." The old traveler nodded. "In the mountains, somewhere." Zephyr waved his hand vaguely. "Something about the Orb being powerful…something about it being connected with the Sunrise Sword. That's all I know."
"Have you any idea of its origin?"
"I believe it belongs to the Fairies, something about the time when they were at war with the Dragons…"
Link was listening no longer. He now noticed that many of the patrons of the tavern were eyeing him suspiciously. Of course they were, he was the new person in town. Plus everyone there had darker hair, where as Link's was golden. It stood out like a scarlet jay in a flock of ravens. Quickly Link stood, just as the barmaid was approaching with a tray of ale and food.
Link ducked away from her and scrambled out of the tavern. Oliana and Roxanna stood as he came out the door and ran to him. They looked very relieved to see him and Link could guess that people had been eyeing them with more than just suspicion. He lifted his hands to calm them down and then led them around to the back of the tavern.
"Did you find the information we need Link?" Oliana asked.
"Only a little." Link told them. "We'll need to climb those mountains there to find the Orb, but I get the feeling it won't be easy to get our hands on it."
"You mean more monsters?" Roxanna asked with a shudder.
"I mean, Hell has come to meet us, and it wants to fight."
Raylan glanced anxiously at the very still body lying on the travois she had fixed. Sora had only awoken once since the fight and that had been for less than a moment. Raylan shouldn't have let her take on the lead HellHound all by herself, but she had been so busy fighting off the other Hounds. If only Sora hadn't tried to use magic…but it was her silly little verse that had saved them all. Now it could cost her her life.
Bree walked silently along, tugging the travois herself. Raylan had told her that Raz or the wyvern could do it, but the girl insisted. If Sora was too much weight for her, Bree didn't complain. Raylan gained a new respect for the centaur filly as she pulled the travois through even the thickest mud. They were very near to the Centaur lands now, but from what Bree had said they probably wouldn't get much help.
Sora stirred on occasion, mumbling things in her sleep, but she never seemed to wake up. Raylan began to worry more and more as time slipped by. Just what had the girl done to take so much energy out of her so fast? Raylan knew she was headstrong and sometimes leapt into things without thinking, but risking her life in such a way?
Sora began to mumble again and she tossed around in the travois. Raylan walked close to the edge, to make sure she didn't fall out and hurt herself worse. Bree slowed her pace to make the ride steadier; one small bump could jolt Sora out of the travois. Raylan had determined that Sora was, despite her protests, very powerful and if that truly were so, they would need her more than weapons for this fight.
Link didn't want to open his eyes. He knew he was dreaming and he knew that if he opened his eyes he would see Sora. Oh, how he longed for her company again. She was smart and very good to talk to when he had problems. If he had to put up with Oliana and Roxanna one more day Link feared he would go insane. But he sensed deep in his soul that something was wrong with his friend and he was so very afraid to open his eyes.
"Come on, boy, I know you're awake." Saba's voice rang out. "You have to face facts sooner or later."
"Is it bad Saba?"
"No. It's worse."
Link opened his eyes slowly. The room was dim, but still the little bit of light was painful. He could see Sora from where he lay; asleep on a stone slab, so still that she might as well have been dead. But Link could feel that she was still alive. She's holding on by a thread, Link thought. Oh Sora, what have you done now? Link pushed away thoughts of her dying and stood. As he did, Shadow Clad stepped forward.
"You have to let him do something Saba." Shadow Clad said. "She is the only hope we have now."
"They cannot remember this." Saba replied softly. "No matter what you say, their love will be Hyrule's doom."
With that, Saba turned on her heels and left. Shadow Clad sighed and rubbed the back of his neck, like Link often did when he was frustrated with his people. Shadow Clad turned to him and motioned to Sora, laying deathly still on her slab. Then he disappeared, leaving Link with that strange déjà vu feeling all over again.
"Now what?" Link asked the air in front of him.
Sora stirred slightly on the slab, mumbling something inaudible. Link approached her slowly, uncertain if he should wake her or let her sleep. His mind gave him the sensible answer: she's tired, let her sleep. But his soul spoke differently: the poison, the darkness, she can't fight it while she is dormant. Those thoughts made Link shiver uncontrollably; just what was going on in Sora's mind right now?
Link sat down next to Sora on the cold stone and gently gathered her limp form in his arms. The thought of his long time friend being in any kind of danger bothered him. Maybe it was because it was she who had led him into his first adventure and taught him what it meant to be a friend. She hadn't questioned him about anything at all; she had simply let him tag along with her even though he had barely been out of the castle at all in his first 15 years of life.
"How do I heal you, Sora?" Link asked her motionless form. "You have to tell me, you always have before."
Sora's lips moved as she spoke something, but Link couldn't understand. Vaguely it had sounded like "story" although that was very unlikely. Maybe it was something in Link's mind that made him think so. He was recalling an old fairy tale that Cara had once told him, about the Princess who wouldn't wake up. She'd been put under a curse and only a kiss from her true love would wake her.
If I kissed her she'd probably wake up just to hit me and then go back to sleep, Link thought wryly. But then again, it was the only idea he had and worth a try, he supposed. After all, a hopeless action was better than no action, right? Sora had always done something when something needed to be done, even if it had been pointless.
Slowly and carefully, Link gathered Sora's mouth to his own. Her lips were cold and chapped; from that Link figured she had been out for a week, maybe more. Gently, ever so gently, he pressed his lips to hers, then released his hold on her. She still did not wake. Link sighed and put her back on the stone slab. Maybe doing nothing would have been the better idea after all.
Suddenly Sora began to cough violently. She rolled over onto her side and Link looked away as she began hacking something up onto the floor. It slid from her throat as slow as molasses and pooled thickly on the ground. The substance was blood red and quickly turned to black, as the puddle became wider. The stench that came with it made Link's eyes water and his heard pound in terror.
"Ugh!" Sora gasped. "I finally got it out! Thank the Goddesses!"
"What is that stuff?" Link asked.
"HellHound blood. That's how I defeated the leader: by taking away its power." Sora explained. "But it went into me and I almost became a Hound myself. I've been fighting it for what seems like an eternity!"
"But you're okay now!" Link hugged her tightly. "Din, you scared me!"
Sora laughed. "Think of how my new traveling companions feel. They were there when I went out."
"New traveling companions? I guess we have some catching up to do."
They settled together on the stone slab, completely forgetting about the acrid smelling puddle at their feet. Link explained his dilemma about the Sunset Orb and the girls. Sora laughed merrily at Link's exasperation and his story of how Frat wanted to tear him apart when he had left her. Sora then told her story, about meeting up with Raylan and Bree and their strange pets.
"So Raylan did find you! Are you on your way back to the Dragon lands?"
Sora shook her head. "I have to help Bree first. Something is very wrong with the Centaurs."
"I'm sorry, I can't help you." Link sighed. "Oops! I think we should go now! I'm starting to…
"…Wake up." Link murmured.
"I am awake!" Oliana snapped. "You're the one still in bed!"
Link sat up and looked around wildly, for a moment uncertain of where he was. Then he noticed Oliana and Roxanna staring at him in confusion. He sighed and fell back into the warmth of his bed; he was still able to smell the traces of Sora's spicy scent. The Inn they were at was a good one, with heat, plentiful food and soft beds. Link had spent quite a bit of money for the room, but he figured it as a treat, before they had to climb the mountains. The girls had been relatively calm about the idea and he had decided they deserved a night in a decent place.
Link climbed out of bed and pulled his shirt on over his head. He laced the cuffs and the front of it, then pulled a jerkin on over that. Oliana and Roxanna were packed and ready to go. They headed downstairs, all three of them feeling refreshed, and settled down at a table in front of the fire. Their breakfast would have to be sparse, since Link needed most of his remaining money to buy supplies for their climb. He was glad he'd taken so much with him.
"I don't care how little this meal is, it tastes like heaven!" Oliana exclaimed.
"Don't get used to it." Link said. "From here on out it's nothing but trail rations."
"Ugh! I hate salty, dried fish." Roxanna said. "Link, when we get home you're going to order a banquet, right?"
Link grinned. "Try to stop me! My stomach is really angry with me for not eating enough."
"You do mean for not eating as much as you can shove down your throat." Oliana said dryly.
Link chuckled softly and shook his head. His mind kept wandering back to Sora; he was certain he'd had a dream about her, but he could remember nothing. It was a paradox: he was allowed to see his friend yet he could never remember the dream afterward. All he had left now was a faint sense of danger and also a warmth that refused to leave.
Link jumped as Oliana snapped her fingers in his face. "Hey! What's the big idea?"
"We're ready to go." Oliana said, her hands resting on her slender hips. "Unless you want to spend the whole day daydreaming?"
Link could feel his cheeks flushing as he stood up. Some impression I'm making, he thought. I'm supposed to be the leader of this little expedition and I'm siting here daydreaming. Link tossed his pack over his shoulder and put a few coins on the bar top. He then walked out of the Inn with Roxanna and Oliana close on his heels. He knew they were very nervous about this whole thing.
"Well, there it is." Link said.
All three of them stared across the plain to the mountains beyond. The peaks were so tall that they reached into the clouds like crooked, accusing fingers. A slight breeze stirred the air, lifting Link's hair off the back of his neck and he swallowed thickly. This was going to be some adventure. He only hoped he was ready for it.
Flynn eyed the servant girl warily. He still had his doubts about how easily he and Frat had been accepted into Farreach Keep. The place was old and had gotten run down after so many years of little or no tending. The rose garden was mostly dead, the small pond there was murky and unclean and the once high, whitewashed fence had mostly fallen down. The castle itself was badly in need of repair. One whole corridor was off limits because it was crumbling and three of the six tall spires that gave the Keep its name were blackened from the flames of a long ago fire.
It was sad to see what had become of the once beautiful place. The servants here now were mostly the older ones, the ones who would be unable to get jobs elsewhere. No one walked with their head held high or had any shine or willpower left in their eyes. The new Lord was said to be cruel and loved to torture those who didn't obey. Flynn only hoped that he and Frat weren't in for some torture themselves.
"Even the sunset has lost its shine." Flynn murmured sadly as he stared out one of the large windows of their room.
Frat stirred on one of the nearby beds, but did not wake. Everything that had happened lately had taken quite a bit out of the older boy and it left him exhausted. Flynn was pretty tired himself, but he forced himself to stay awake. One of them had to be on guard at all times and he was in better shape than Frat was. Though, Flynn thought with an inkling of amusement, the absence of the lady Sora is fair disturbing to me as well. He shoved the notion aside and focused on the sunset.
"Beautiful, isn't it?"
Flynn whirled to see who spoke to him. It was one of the younger maids, who had to be about his age. She had dirty blonde hair that was pulled back in a tight braid and one cheek was smudged with dirt. Her once clean white apron was stained with some sort of berry juice and a number of other things. Flynn figured that she was from the kitchen. Under all that dirt she's probably quite pretty, Flynn mused.
"The sunset I mean." She went on. "'Twas always prettier though, when Lady Oliana was 'ere to share it with me."
"You knew Oliana?" Flynn asked, suddenly interested.
"She was a close friend of mine." The girl sighed. "Last I 'eard she 'twas betrothed to the king of Hyrule 'imself."
Flynn nodded. "That's true."
"Ya lookin' for information, aren't ya?" The girl asked.
"I 'ave all the information you could ever need." She smiled. "But you 'ave to do somethin' for me first."
"Maybe." Flynn repeated. "A name?"
"Sayolin. And yours, milord?"
"Flynn. Well Sayolin, I suggest we leave the room for this. I wouldn't want to wake my friend here. He's been under a lot of stress lately."
Sora came awake with a jolt, sitting up abruptly and reaching for her weapon. It wasn't there; instead she saw Raylan staring at her in amazement. The moving thing she had been on turned out to be a travois, pulled by Bree. Sora blinked sleepily and took a better look around. They were in a clearing, much like the one they had been in when the HellHounds attacked, but not nearly as protected.
"How long?" Sora rasped.
"A week." Raylan told her. "Are you feeling okay? Nothing broken?"
Sora went through a quick wiggle check of all her body parts. "Nope. My head aches a bit, and my throat is sore. Mostly though it's just my stomach that's the problem."
Raylan smiled and helped Sora to her feet. With Bree's help camp was quickly set up and a fire was started. Raylan's wyvern had brought in a few rabbits, which Raylan skinned, spitted and then put over the fire to roast. The smell was terribly enticing but Sora knew she would have to be very careful, since the only thing that probably went in her stomach all week was water, or juice from some sort of fruit.
When the dinner was finally done cooking, Bree passed out bread and chunks of cheese while Raylan cut the meat into strips. They ate in silence the whole time, with Sora attacking her food like a vicious predator. Raz and the wyvern must have already eaten, since they had settled down to sleep. Sora looked at her traveling companions and finally asked the question that had been on her mind for so long.
"How long 'til we reach the centaur lands?"
"We're already here."
"I can't believe you!" Frat muttered as he and Flynn walked down the hall together.
Flynn shrugged. "Hey, did what I had to to get some information. Didn't see you doing anything."
Frat sighed and hunched over, bundling his robs tightly around him. Flynn was really starting to get on his nerves these days. He was cynical and critical, always complaining about how 'pure' and 'gentle' Frat was. It wasn't Frat's fault that he had had such an upbringing and Flynn hadn't. They were two entirely different people…and they were driving each other crazy. It was only the memory of the hope in Oliana's eyes that made Frat continue on with this hopeless, insane quest.
"What did you find out?" Frat asked, albeit grudgingly.
"The servants adored Oliana." Flynn said. "They loved her to pieces. Even the younger ones, many of the male youths would fight for her, if they had a chance."
"Isn't that what we're doing?"
"Yes, I know, but maybe if we have some help…" Flynn let his voice trail off, then continued. "Look, it can't hurt can it?"
Frat sighed. "I guess not. Tomorrow we find those boys."
Frat was rather disturbed by the thought of getting other boys to help take back the Keep. What if there was one boy Oliana liked more than Frat? The thought bothered him greatly. After all, he had come here to fight in her name. It would be really rotten luck of she chose someone else over him, not to mention rather embarrassing. And painful too; Frat wouldn't be able to take the heartbreak of losing her.
Chapter Seven: Problems
Sora pulled the cowl of her hood down over her face as she watched the activity in the Centaur Village. There was a crowd of older centaurs in the Village Square, and in the middle of them, standing on a pedestal of sorts, was a centaur that matched the description of Malance that Bree had given her. It took a lot of willpower not to pulled out and arrow and pick Malance off now, while she had a good shot at him. Sora was absolutely furious that anyone would try to tear a part a family, and send a little girl out all by herself on a death mission. What ever happened to centaurs being peaceful?
Behind her Raylan was crouched into the deep underbrush, holding a knife in one hand and her sword in the other. Sora would not allow her to make an attack, but Raylan insisted that they have some weapons ready. Bree and Raz had gone off to see one of Bree's friends, to gather the children of the village and ask for their help, and Raylan had sent her wyvern off to do something, although she refused to tell Sora what. Sora was worried and even the Fay girl was a bit nervous; centaurs weren't known for violent tendencies but they were known for their great fighting skill. If it came down to a fight, it was unlikely that the centaurs would lose.
Sora's head snapped up as a nearby twig snapped. As her hood slipped back from her eyes she noticed Bree standing stock still, one hand held out as if to motion them forward. Carefully Sora moved along the ground on all fours, stepping over twigs and dried leaves with the ease of a wolf. Raylan did the same and when they reached Bree they both stood and brushed themselves off. Bree began to carefully back away and Sora and Raylan followed.
The walk was a long one but finally they reached their destination. A group of centaur children, ranging from age 5 to even close to 20 were crowded under a blossoming Flare tree. In the middle of them, one handsome young centaur of maybe 13 or 14 years was standing on a smooth rock, making gestures, waving a stick and making loud, obnoxious comments. The other centaur kids laughed and shouted out insults. Bree trotted over to the group and grabbed the stick from the centaur's hand, nearly pulling him off the rock.
"This is serious!" Bree snapped. "The future of our village depends on us!"
"What can we do?" One of the older centaurs asked. "We're just kids. We don't have any rights or anything."
"But you're wrong!" Sora argued, stepping into the crowd. "Just because you're young, doesn't mean you aren't important too. As the future of Caseree Isle, you need to stand up and fight for what you believe in!"
"We'll help you." Raylan added.
"Why should we believe you?" The same centaur asked. "You're a Fay!"
"I am an Alima." Sora retorted. "And you know very well that I would not be traveling with this girl unless she was trustworthy."
"Listen, boy," Raylan snarled. "What's your name?"
"Well, Jackal, you do know that I could snap your neck if I wanted to, correct?" Raylan sneered. "I think the fact that I haven't yet, you impertinent little brat, is enough proof that you can trust me, don't you?"
Jackal quivered under her gaze. "Yes…m-ma'am."
"Raylan, I hope you don't plan on having kids in the future." Sora sighed. "Now, listen up everyone…"
"Link!" Roxanna whined. "I can't climb anymore."
Link rolled his eyes and ignored her. They hadn't been climbing for more than an hour and they were still in the foothills as it was. If they stopped now they'd never reach the Sunset Orb in time to help their friends. The mountain they were climbing was the largest of many craggy peaks. The top could not be seen because a thick veil of clouds shrouded it and the foothills were so tall they seemed like mountains themselves.
Link, Oliana and Roxanna were carefully anchored and tied together with ropes. Link was on the bottom, in hopes that he could catch one of them if they fell. Besides, ladies first, Link thought, humorlessly. Unfortunately they weren't making as much progress as he'd wanted to, because Roxanna was hell bent on 'taking it easy'. She had complained each time a nail broke and Link was happy she had no more to break. She whined that she was dirty, hungry, that her hair was messed up and her clothes were uncomfortable. Oliana seemed like she wanted to throw Roxanna off the mountain.
The mountain air was really cool and got cooler and fresher the further up they went. Link was enjoying it up here; with the exception of Roxanna's whining it was really quite relaxing. He'd never been much of a fan of heights before, but he thought he could get used to it, especially since these heights weren't moving or dipping or twisting or flipping. He liked the feel of the rock and dirt beneath his hands when they came to the steeper places and had to climb on all fours. Truly, this was what he had always dreamed adventure was about.
Link was now very grateful to be able to add such an experience under his belt, along with all his others. Magic and fighting and rescuing princesses was all well and good, but he had a feeling he'd never find anything better than this. Always he had liked to sit out in the Courtyard, for hours on end, reading, playing or annoying his grandfather, because it was an open space and although small, it was no where's near as choking as the confines of his room. He'd only wished that he could truly be outside, and not just in a courtyard in the castle.
It was more of Roxanna's whining that awakened Link from his reverie. For a moment he was furious with her, until he realized that they'd come along a solid wall of rock, going straight up. The climb would be tough, since there seemed to be so few handholds, but there was no way around it. Oliana didn't seemed too disturbed by the wall, but Roxanna flat out refused to go. She sat down on the ground and wouldn't budge.
Link shrugged. "Fine, we'll leave you here."
"You can't be serious!" Roxanna shrieked. "You can't just leave me here!"
"You can either go up with us," Link said, running out of patience, "Or you can stay here."
Roxanna whined, huffed, puffed, and whined some more, but started up the wall all the same. This climb was the most treacherous one they had come upon yet but Link reveled in it. He was also extremely happy that Roxanna was keeping her mouth shut; she was probably too busy concentrating on climbing to whine. She was, Link noticed, a rather good climber, although not as good as Oliana, who had spent much of her life climbing trees. Link never got to climb trees before. He hadn't been allowed to.
Link forced himself to focus on climbing and to think later. Each hand and foot hold was just a slight dent in the wall, and the rock was slippery. More than once the whole line of them nearly fell. The wall had to be twenty or so feet up, large but not impossible if they kept at a steady pace. Link concentrated on where he was and what he was doing and before too long they were at the top, over the edge, and sitting on the ground, trying to catch their breath.
"I hope," Roxanna panted. "That we don't…come along a…lot of walls…like that one."
"Me too." Oliana agreed. "A good climb is one thing, but a straight up scramble for your life…"
"Can I faint now?" Roxanna asked, looking at Link.
Link laughed. "No…oh a cave…"
"Where?" Oliana struggled with herself a minute before turning around. She looked back at her friends with a sheepish smile.
"We should probably check it out." Roxanna said.
"You want to go in there?" Link asked, incredulous. "There could be monsters in there."
"Exactly." Roxanna said. "Better we find it than it find us. Or it find us and throw us off the mountain side."
As much as he hated to admit it, Roxanna had a really good point. A monster could really be a problem up on the steeper ledges of the mountain; in a cave, with slightly more level ground and the possibility of surprising it, there was at least a chance they'd beat it. And even if it were a small monster it would cause trouble on the peaks. Better to take care of it now, while they had a chance, instead of waiting for it to come to them.
They untied themselves and exchanged the ropes for lanterns. Link took out some flint and lit them; they would burn a while, since they used a special magical substance that helped them burn. Carefully, with Link in front, they stepped into the shadowed entrance of the cave. How come I get the front this time? Link thought, smiling wryly to himself.
Flynn rested against the brick wall of the University as he waited for Frat to finish speaking. Many of the younger servants had been sent here to learn, after the Keep had been sold. Some of the older ones had gone of their own accord, to become scholars or warriors, and those were the ones Frat was talking too, although the younger kids seemed eager to help too. Flynn was amazed at how much patience Frat had for them; he never could have handled those little brats swarming around his feet like kittens.
Flynn looked up, snapping out of his reverie. Before him stood a girl of maybe 14 years. She was dressed more like a warrior, in discarded pieces of armor that were sewn back together. Pieces covers her knees and elbows, she wore old leather gauntlets, with metal wrists guards over them and travel worn boots. Her face was painted with an intricate design over the left eye and down to the right cheek, and her hair was twisted back into a tight, plaited braid that hung down to the middle of her back. She was one of the Azon Warriors, Flynn guessed. They were an all woman tribe of warrior wanderers.
"May I…" Flynn paused, choosing his words carefully. "Be of service to you?"
She smiled. "The name is Emiri."
"Emiri." Flynn rolled it around in his mouth, liking the sound of it. "Well, Emiri, I ask again, can I be of service to you?"
"You're looking for people to fight, correct? For Lady Oliana?"
When Flynn nodded slowly, she continued,
"Me an' mine, some of us were friends with her." Emiri explained. "We want to help you."
"Now, no offense," Flynn said slowly. "But I've never heard of Azons helping anyone."
Emiri looked down. "She saved the lot of us from slavery. We got to help her!"
Flynn nodded and said nothing more. Emiri seemed to take that as a sign to wait, and leaned up against the wall next to him. The crowd of boys around Frat's feet was quickly diminishing and Flynn could guess that most of them wouldn't help. It was a very good thing that Emiri had found them, because they were going to need the help. Flynn knew from experience that women could be tough warriors. After all, he did have 67 sisters, half of whom were great fighters and the other half, magic workers and magi. And if everything he had read about Azons was true, then they were just what was needed.
Frat finished with the last boy, who was only 9 years old. Flynn knew that he would probably be a runner of some sort, bringing water or whatnot back and forth. Flynn waited patiently as Frat gave a sigh of relief and frustration and headed over. He stopped when he noticed Emiri and raised one eyebrow questioningly. Flynn just nodded slowly; giving off the impression of someone very laid back, as he always did.
"This is Emiri."
"An Azon." Frat said. "What are you doing in the city?"
"Oliana is a friend of ours." Emiri said. "We've come to offer our help."
The eyebrow went up. "Oliana is a friend of yours? Tell me, what did she do to earn such high status amongst your people?"
"She saved us." Emiri said. "We owe her our very existence. If this man will not hand over her Keep, then we will fight to take it back."
A slow smile spread across Frat's lips. "Wonderful! I hear you are some of the best warriors on Caseree Isle. I am so pleased you wish to help us."
"Skip the courtesies." Emiri said. "Come with me. There is someone who'd like to meet you."
Sora finished peeling the bark off the twig in her hands and began to smooth it down with a rough piece of paper. All around her centaur children were helping to make arrows and sharpen swords. They didn't have any plans to kill, but they did have a clever trap and once set in motion, they would be able to get all the elders in a situation where they would have to listen. The arrows were important, because they would need to have a good distance between themselves and their target. The swords would come later on, and they were also an important part of the plan.
Sora glanced at the pile of arrows she made, and then at Bree's pile. The centaur children were much better at this than she was, that was certain. Sora had made maybe two dozen arrows in the last 6 hours, while Bree had made a hundred or more. Jashga, the master smith's apprentice was in the forge, making more swords. They were simple weapons, a blade and a handle, which was all they would need for this. Sora felt a smile come to her lips; she was happy that some people at least could do things without being violent.
"Sora." Bree's voice interrupted her thoughts. "Its almost dark."
"I know." Sora said. "Are you ready Bree? Do you think you can do it?"
"I hope so." Bree sighed. "But you have the tough part. Malance is good with his arrows…make sure you're careful."
Sora nodded. "Don't worry for me, Bree. I can handle myself."
Sora finished smoothing down the twig and tied an arrowhead to the top with a leather thong. She dropped it in her pile and stood, suddenly feeling a bit of apprehension at what she'd been chosen to do. She walked over to where Jackal and a group of other children were waiting for her. Jackal handed her a dark cloak, one that would blend in with the night. Sora took it and threw it over her shoulders with a flourish, trying to look confident although she was very nervous.
"Are you ready?" Jackal asked.
"Ready as I'll ever be." Sora answered.
She pulled her cloak tightly about herself and hunched over. She knew where she was supposed to go and what she was supposed to do; they had been through it a million times. Why the centaurs had nominated her for this part, she wasn't sure. All Sora knew was that the whole mission depended on her. Never had such a responsibility as this one been placed upon her shoulders, and she was worried that she wasn't yet ready for it. Don't think like that, Sora! She thought. You've cleared higher hurdles than this one, one more won't kill you!
Sora nodded, once and short, then took off into the dark, leaving her companions to go their separate ways. The darkness was so still, almost chilling, and Sora was beginning to feel slightly more confident. Something about the darkness, about the feeling of total fear, was what gave her her most confidence. Maybe it was because she'd always won against those odds. A breeze blew, fluttering her cloak. Sora licked her lips; the air had a tangy taste to it. Something was wrong, not here in the village but elsewhere.
Sora pushed the premonition to the back of her mind and hunched further into her cloak as she approached Malance's home. He was still awake, apparently, because the lights inside the house were blazing brightly. She stepped over to the door, her bare feet making not a sound on the soft turf of the ground. Slowly she lifted her hand and rapped her knuckles against the smooth, oak wood of the door. In the night the sound echoed through the streets, bouncing against each and every surface. Sora winced as it struck her ears.
She heard hoof beats approaching the door and backed up, preparing to make a run for it. The door opened slowly, with a creaked that also echoed painfully. The light blasted her and she covered her eyes for a moment. Malance shouted when he saw her and scrambled back into the house, most likely to get his bow. Sora took this as her cue to leave as fast as she could. She turned and started off down the street, heading in the direction of the village green.
Sora heard hooves pounding behind her and felt a thrill of victory; he had taken the bait. She moved in a swerving, jerky motion, to make it harder for his arrows to hit her. Some whizzed past her ears, one brushed her hair and another sliced across her arm. It had hurt, but none of them hit her straight on and she knew she couldn't give up for one little cut. Plus, she was so close to the village green. She pounded through just as the other centaur children were approaching.
"Now!" Raylan cried, jumping from the bushes.
Arrows whizzed through the air, striking ropes that were strung up high in the trees surrounding the green. Large cages, made out of some material that looked like wood and was a strong as metal, came crashing to the ground, capturing the elders. The other centaurs moved quickly, tying the cages to the trees and the ground, so that even if they were lifted it wouldn't be enough to get free of them. Sora sighed with relief and almost fell.
"Good work." Jackal praised her.
Sora nodded weakly. "Let's finish this."
Link lifted his lantern higher, studying the pictures on the walls. They were so strange, and yet rather primal. The only other place he'd ever seen anything like this was the one time he'd been taken into the caverns below Death Mountain. Cara had told him that the pictures were ancient writings, known as Glyphs. She had said that they told a story, when read in the correct order. But none of these Glyphs looked like any of the ones he had seen.
"Well, I'll be damned!" Oliana exclaimed.
"What is it?" Link asked.
"These Glyphs…they're of the Ancient Dragon Tongue."
"So they are writing! Can you translate them?"
"Frat taught me only a little." Oliana answered. "But I can try."
Oliana lifted her lantern to study the walls around them. Most of the pictures looked very intricate and difficult to figure out, but some others were simple words like 'horse' or in one case 'centaur'. Oliana gazed thoughtfully at the pattern for awhile, her eyes moving slowly over the wall. Roxanna was sitting on the ground, sipping from a canteen and looking at the patterns on another wall. Link, on the other hand, was on his feet and very impatient to be moving again. They had been walking for an indeterminable amount of time and from the way the trail climbed steadily upward, Link got the feeling that they were moving up through the mountain. Suddenly Oliana gasped.
"What does it say?" Roxanna asked, jumping up.
"Well…if I've translated it right…" Oliana took a deep breath. "'O' ye who should walk this path know, thine fate lies ahead in these very caverns. For those who seek out the Sunset Orb must be of true blood, or surely the monster Morgue shall rise from its eternal slumber, and ye shall perish.'"
Link coughed. "Someone actually wrote that?"
"I guess so." Oliana said.
"I'm thinking, whoever it was couldn't have been a professional writer." Link commented.
"Either way, its saying that there is something in this mountain, correct?" Roxanna asked. "Something with teeth and claws and all that stuff?"
"I'm thinking more along the lines of a demon." Oliana said. "Something sufficient to protect the Sunset Orb from those who aren't 'of true blood'"
"Whatever that means." Link muttered. "Come on, let's get going."
They left the small passageway with the writings and came upon a small chamber. It was ordinary, with a relatively flat floor. Link guess it was man-made, so that there would be a place to camp on the way up. Unfortunately none of them knew what time it was outside and so they would just have to continue on up. After the chamber came another long passageway, with writing on the walls. This one was slanting up too, even steeper than the last, and Link began to wonder if this tunnel had ever been finished. Maybe it was too difficult to climb further up. It would be terribly disappointing to find out that they had come so far for nothing.
"'Watch ye're step'" Oliana read, holding up her lantern.
"It really says that?" Link asked.
Oliana was cut off as she stumbled and fell, tumbling down a hole they in the floor that they hadn't noticed. That must be what the writing meant, Link realized. He shoved Roxanna down the hole after Oliana, then jumped in himself.
Flynn was good at navigating the woods near his home, but here the foliage was so thick, it would be terribly easy to get very lost. Emiri moved fast, even for an Azon, who could be faster on foot than most men were on horseback. Only sheer skill and determination kept him and Frat following her through the forest, and even that was rapidly dwindling down. He was relieved when Emiri pulled to an abrupt halt in front of a rather large oak tree.
She jumped up and grabbed the branches, scrambling for footing. Flynn began to follow, and then Frat, although not without complaining first. The climb was long and arduous and when Flynn reached the top, Emiri was nowhere to be seen. He frowned and looked around, wondering if she had jumped across to another tree, but there was no sign of her. Suddenly part of the tree opened up, spreading like the petals of a blooming flower. Emiri reached out and grabbed a hold of Frat and Flynn, pulling them into the tree.
They slid for a long time, plunging at top speed down the dark insides of the tree. Finally they landed at the bottom, crashing into each other and the hard floor. Music that had been playing in the room stopped abruptly and many faces turned to gazed curiously at them. Emiri stood, looking slightly flustered, and brushed dirt off of her leather tunic. She turned to the group of onlookers and glared at them.
"I have brought guests." Emiri said. "We must meet with Sarice at once!"
An older Azon stepped forward. "What is the meaning of this, Emiri? These are men! They do not belong here! We should kill them and you, for bringing them here!"
"They are friends of the Lady Oliana!" Emiri snapped.
Everyone in the room gasped in unison, then fell silent. Twenty pairs of eyes turned on Flynn and his companions. Apparently Emiri had not been lying when she said that the Azons held Oliana in high regard. Heads bowed deeply in respect, though Flynn knew that an Azon would never kneel to a man. The older Azon who had threatened to kill them rested her spear on the floor and he knew she would not give them anymore trouble.
"My apologies for my rudeness." She said. "I am Kalok, Heir to the Tibertektic Tribe. You wish to see Sarice?"
"Isn't that what I said?" Emiri snapped. "You may be Heir where you come from, Kalok, but you're not here! You dare make such a judgment on me again and <I>I</I> will have <I>you</I> executed!"
Emiri pushed Kalok out of the way and motioned for Flynn and Frat to follow her. Kalok gave the younger girl a dirty look when her back was turned and Flynn guessed that they had been rivals for a very long time. Apparently since Kalok was only a guest here, she couldn't make any protests about the way Emiri had spoken to her. Oh well, Flynn thought. That Emiri's quite a spark anyway. I'd hate to see her lose her temper.
Emiri led them through many vast chambers, each filled with jewels, gold, or other precious items, such as Keeln furs and ivory. The Azons never stole; what they had the sought out. They fought Keeln for their furs and the ivory was usually bought. They were very rich in material items, culture and history. Also, being smart, clever hunters, tough warriors and well-educated women they had managed to survive where lesser races had died off.
Finally they came upon a room that was heavily decorated with furs and tapestries. Incense burned, giving off a vanilla scent. In the middle of it all was an older woman, dressed in a gown made for cases where survival was urgent. Her dark hair was pinned up and held in place by a jeweled and feathered headdress and although she wore boots and leather gauntlets she had the air of someone held in high respect about her. Flynn figured that this must be Sarice, the leader of this particular tribe of Azons.
"You bring men, Emiri?" Sarice asked, although her voice was calm and patient, unlike Kalok's had been.
"They are friends of the Lady Oliana." Emiri answered.
Sarice opened her eyes. "My Lady…you come as her messengers?"
"No." Frat said. "We come mainly because Emiri brought us here."
"Don't be smart with me, young man." Sarice said, although a small smile tugged at her lips.
"What he means, ma'am," Flynn said. "Is that we were looking for help to take back the Lady's keep when Emiri approached us and brought us here."
Now Sarice grinned outright and leapt to her feet. "At last! Boys brave enough to stand up for My Lady!"
"Not to sound rude," Frat interrupted. "But why didn't you help her yourselves? Apparently you don't need men to help you out."
"Yes I know." Sarice sighed. "I suppose I should have…but I have spent too much time already neglecting my tribe…well enough of this. Sit, I will tell you my story."
Emiri dragged out mats of Keeln fur and placed them in a half circle around Sarice's own mat. Sarice offered them pieces of dried meat and shalock; Flynn noticed with slight amusement that Frat didn't even glance at the shalock.. He himself took a chunk and chewed it thoughtfully. Indeed it was considered a drug here on Caseree, because it heightened certain magical senses, but Flynn just like the flavor.
"When I was young," Sarice began, "I was brought in for stealing apples from a stand and thrown in the dungeon. The food was never good and poor nutrition would soon cause me to perish. Then one day Oliana wandered into my cell. I was at the time unsure of how she'd gotten in…"
"She must've been really young." Frat said.
Sarice nodded. "Oh aye, she was just a wee bit of a thing, back then. But she had brought me some good food from the kitchens. She did many nights. And she brought me blankets and clean water. Then one day she showed me an escape from the dungeons and I fled and became an Azon. I and many of us have long been in Oliana's debt."
"So you'll help us?" Frat asked eagerly.
"We will fight to the death."
Chapter Eight: Challenges
Sora sipped eagerly at her mug of tomato broth. She was cold and tired, and the meager meal tasted like heaven to her. It was accompanied by a fresh baked loaf of bread, tangy cheese and some dried fish. She'd seen Link finish off more than that, while she barely nibbled, but now she was certain she could eat all this. She'd barely been able to eat much since her encounter with the HellHounds, but now she was starved. And, Sora grinned to herself, she had grown a full inch since arriving at Link's castle…was it really more than a month ago? Time goes by fast, Sora thought. Faster than the Dragon flies.
Many of the adults of the village were outraged by what the children had done, but Raylan had magicked their homes so they were unable to get out. On occasion arrows would fly about, but none of them were ever aimed at a target. The centaurs only wished to stop their children, not to kill them. Sora, on the other hand, was a prime target and so she was kept away from any windows, which wasn't easy.
Once again Bree had come up on her unnoticed. "Yes?"
"Thank you so much…for everything…"
Bree…" Sora stood and turned to face the centaur girl. "You don't have to thank me. I would have done this for anyone."
"You're so nice." Bree said. "You'd help anyone, even the Fay. Caseree Isle doesn't deserve a person like you."
Bree turned and trotted away, leaving Sora to stare after her, jaw agape. No one had ever made such a comment about her, and she didn't really think it was true. Sora just felt a strange need to help people, no matter who they were. It wasn't that it was the 'right' thing to do, but what she wanted to do. For so long the Alima had been considered snobs among society, although they were respected. Sora didn't want to be respected because of her status; she wanted everyone on the Isle to know that she was a friend to all.
And Sora certainly wouldn't have considered herself as nice. I guess Bree never paid attention to what a grump I am in the morning, Sora thought, grinning. It was true, Sora couldn't stand mornings and often she was an awful brat when just woken up. Although she had been better lately, ever since the attack of the HellHounds. Maybe Bree was just being nice…
Link groaned and reached up to rub his head. He was sore all over from his headlong plunge down the rocky tunnel. The lanterns had shattered, but it was not quite dark in the chamber. A kind of moss the glowed grew on the walls of the cave. Link had seen such before, although not quite like this. Most GlowMoss looked like a rainbow of lights on the walls; this moss was actually black and the light it was giving off was rather dim. Link stood and worked kinks out of his sore muscles.
At his feet Oliana stirred. She was a little rumpled and dirty, but otherwise none the worse for wear. Roxanna looked like she was okay too, although once she got her hands on a mirror and saw how unladylike she looked, she'd most likely have a screaming fit. And even worse, Link had absolutely no idea as to where they had fallen to. He had slid for maybe 5 minutes before striking his head and falling unconscious. He could have fallen for any amount of time after that and they could easily be trapped down here too.
"Right here, Oli." Link responded.
"Those who do not heed the warning signs…" Oliana sighed.
Link chuckled. "We've been in worse situations than this one."
"Let's see…we've been inside a crumbling building, captured by people who wanted to spill your blood…but I don't see trapped inside a mountain anywhere on that list."
Link shrugged. He had just now noticed a small exit in the chamber. The tunnel looked narrow and it would be very difficult to navigate in the dark, but he had to try at least. Unfortunately they had to wait for Roxanna to wake up, because as much as he would love to get going, he didn't want to have to carry her. Besides, it would be much easier if all three of them went on their own feet.
Flynn lounged in the hammock that had been offered to him, while he watched Frat and Emiri spar. Frat had said he wouldn't hit a girl, not ever, but Flynn knew that wasn't the reason why he was losing. Emiri was skilled, especially for her young age, and she had height too, which helped quite a bit. She was also faster, more clever and she moved with the easy grace of a cat. He already knew, from the markings on her face, that she had reached Wildcat status in the tribe. She was the youngest to ever do that.
It had been a relatively long day, and Flynn was glad for a chance to relax some. The underground lair was cool and serene, and somehow he preferred it. Maybe because he'd grown up underground and felt more at home there. Or maybe it was the way magic forces seemed to stir underground. He could feel life all around him, an unspeakable energy that made his blood boil. Truly, this was what life was all about.
"Yield." Emiri said, pointing her dagger at Frat's throat.
"Okay, okay!" Frat sighed. "You win."
"You bet I do." Emiri grinned. "How 'bout it Flynn? Think you can beat me?"
"I know I can beat you."
"All talk and no show." Frat muttered.
Flynn stood and took Frat's proffered dagger. He studied it carefully for a few moments. Alima design, Flynn thought. Nice. I wonder how they managed to get their hands on these. The hilt was leather bound, made to give him a good grip, and the blade was very long, hovering just between sword and dagger. Other than that it was simple, no intricate carvings or symbols. Just a normal, Alima sparring dagger.
Emiri took position, crouched down, with her body spread out. Flynn thought it looked silly and so he stood there until she made her first lunge. Carefully he stepped out of the way and she ran right past him, nearly hitting the wall. Emiri turned and lunged for him again, her dagger coming up, heading for his face. Flynn took a step back and brought up his own dagger. The two clashed with a sharp, ringing sound of metal on metal and Emiri stumbled back.
"You're good!" She gasped.
"Not really." Flynn said. "I simply have patience."
Applauding came from the fur-curtained doorway and everyone turned to see whom it was. Sarice was leaning against the doorjamb, a small smile on her lips. Her dark curls had been freed of the headdress and hung about her face like the mane of a wild horse. She had changed to breeches and a leather tunic with no sleeves, and she looked much more comfortable. Sarice reached down and pulled a dagger from the inside of one of her boots.
"Quite impressive, boy." Sarice said. "But that's all book fighting. Come, let's see what you can do against a real warrior."
Flynn shook his head. "Ma'am, I didn't spend so much of my life reading books and studying scrolls to do something quite so stupid."
"You're a Fay, aren't you? Their fighting skills are infamous."
"And quite exaggerated as well, ma'am." Flynn said, grinning.
"No more of this 'ma'am' stuff!" Sarice said, shaking a finger at him. "I am Sarice."
"Sarice is the first Azon in many years to come close to Dragon status." Emiri piped up. "The last one was Yumyi. She was Hylian, but that was almost a hundred years ago. Kalok has a bit of her blood, that's why she's such a snob."
"Emiri, you shouldn't say things like that." Sarice admonished. "It's below your status."
"Well, so is she." Emiri muttered.
Flynn chuckled at Emiri's spunk and settled back down in his hammock, while Frat and Emiri went back to sparring. Sarice spread out a keeln mat on the floor near the hammock and sat cross-legged. She selected a piece of fruit from a basket and bit into it, savoring the tangy flavor. Flynn was hungry himself, but he'd never truly been big on fruit unless he was reading something. Emiri had assured him that there would be meat for dinner, so he was satisfied to wait. After all, he was patient.
"So, young Flynn, tell me something about yourself." Sarice said, interrupting his thoughts.
Flynn frowned and ran a hand through his red waves, contemplating. It is only fair, Flynn thought. She told us all about herself…but, what can I tell her? Flynn had never talked to anyone about his past before. He'd had a rather dull existence up until now, what with growing up under ground and all. But still…it was only fair…
"There isn't much to tell." Flynn began hesitantly. "As you know, the Fay don't go topside much."
"Neither do we." Sarice said. "How do you come about this lad then, hmm?"
"That's a rather long story." Flynn answered. "I actually met his sister first; she rescued me. I was going to help Link find the Sunset Orb but…we got split up."
"Link? You mean King Link of Hyrule then, aye?"
Flynn nodded. "The very same. Why do you ask?"
"Well, it would seem we owe the young man a debt as well."
Flynn raised an eyebrow.
"Don't ya know? When he was only a little thing, knee high to a grasshopper, his grandfather brought him here. A man by the name of…well, he never did mention his name, was out for our blood." Sarice took a deep breath, then continued. "One morning he was found dead in camp. And little Link, well, we found him asleep in the forest with a bloody knife in his hands."
Sora was happy that she'd finally gotten a break from watching the elders. Their trial was tomorrow, and until then, Bree had told her to rest. She had told her about a place not far from the village, with large trees for shade and a beautiful pond. Sora had to go by foot, which had taken quite a while, but it was well worth it. The pond was indeed beautiful and the shade and rest was really nice. She'd always enjoyed relaxing.
The pond let off into a stream, which Sora knew led to the home of the keeln, otter like creatures that had very soft fur, but were extremely dangerous. They seemed to like playing in the pond as well, because the babies were splashing about while the parents lounged nearby. They were wary of Sora, but because she was so strongly connected to nature they didn't attack her. After playing her harp for a bit they had settled down and even let her pet them.
Sora jumped at the sound of hooves approaching behind her. She spun, expecting it to be the kids from the centaur village. Instead it was riders; all of them dressed in Dragon scale armor of every color, green, blue, red, silver and even gold. The horses were black and wore armor and heavy leather padding. The riders held swords and shields and Sora could tell they knew how to use them. She stood slowly, carefully, one hand resting on the hilt of her dagger for comfort. The riders rode up to her and stopped. The one in golden armor looked down at her.
"Are you the one they call Sora?" He asked.
"That depends on who you are." Sora answered, trying hard not to sound impolite.
"That's got to be her." The red armored one spoke up. "I've heard many tales of her smart mouth…"
The one in blue chuckled. "I don't know boys. She's a pretty little thing, even though she's scrawny. Maybe we should have our way with her first."
"We must follow masters orders, Ewan!" The gold one snapped. "Kill her!"
Reflexively Sora's hand reached back for her sword. She doubted she could defeat all of them, maybe not even one of them, but she had to try to defend herself. The red one came at her first, mace swinging wildly. The keeln backed off at his approach, hissing and spitting like cats. Sora raised her sword, wishing she'd bothered to carry a shield with her. It would make fighting this guy off quite a bit easier.
The mace came swinging at her, heading straight for her face. Sora jumped back in time to avoid getting her face ripped off. She felt the air swish as the mace passed in front of her. Frantically Sora looked around, her eyes scanning for something she could use to shield herself with. She noticed the one they called Ewan lounging about on his horse, not really paying attention to what was going on. Sora grabbed his shield and jumped away before he could attack.
"Give me that back, ya bitch!" Ewan yelled.
Sora ignored him. She lifted the shield as the mace came at her again. The force with which it hit her sent her reeling, tumbling end over end. Laughter came from the small group of warriors; they thought it was hilarious. Sora stood, grabbing the shield up again, and turned to glare at them. That just made them laugh all the harder, slapping thighs and each others back like…like monkeys! Sora thought angrily.
"You were right, Ewan." The leader chuckled. "She's got fire in her. She'd be a great ally, if we could break that will of hers."
"Never!" Sora cried.
She jumped forward, grabbed her sword, and swung it all in one swift motion. Sora put all her weight into the swing and the blade sliced though the red armor like it was butter. The warrior yelled, mace falling out of his hand, and slumped over in the saddle. The mace landed by the horse's feet, scaring it, and it took off, dropping its load on the ground.
The leader stopped laughing. "Well…not bad. Ewan…"
"Want me to smack the bitch, Briant?" Ewan asked eagerly.
"I'd like to see you try!" Sora growled.
Suddenly arrows rained down on Briant and his men. They struck the ground near the horses' feet, startling them. Ewan, who was apparently not well adjusted to being on horseback, slid off as his horse reared up and raced away. There were angry yells from the other men, mostly from Briant. He was struggling to get his horse under control, but to no avail. Sora ignored them and jumped over to Ewan, pointing the tip of her sword to his throat.
"Are you okay, Sora?" Jackal asked, stepping out of the bushes. He was followed by a number of other centaurs.
:I'll be fine." Sora said.
"Listen, ma'am, I ain't meaning no harm!" Ewan protested, holding up his hands.
"You were going to kill me." Sora reminded him.
"I have a direct order." Ewan explained. "From the Princess Sorella herself."
Link was glad that the tunnel leaving out of the chamber kept slanting up. They had been trudging along for hours on end, and everyone was tired. Roxanna had spent a lot of time whining until Oliana had hit her, leaving her subdued and unnaturally quiet. Link had tried to keep the girls from fighting too much, since they needed to concentrate on how they stepped. Fortunately after Oliana had slapped her, Roxanna had pretty much refused to talk altogether.
Just as the tunnel was getting almost too steep to continue it flattened out. An arched doorway was in front of them. The walls were covered in patterns, but these ones were different, more elegant. Oliana lifted her lantern to study them, and Link could hear her murmuring softly. He glanced over to her, to see her brow furrowed in concentration. Roxanna sat down, relieved for the rest, however short it might turn out to be.
"This stuff…it's the same writing, but more advanced." Oliana said at last. "If I'm right, then it means that we should find the Sunset Orb beyond this doorway."
"So, what are we waiting for?" Roxanna asked, looking up.
"We should be cautious." Oliana said. "I doubt that the Orb was left unguarded."
"Yeah." Link agreed. "Whatever is in there, it can't be good. Is everyone equipped with a weapon of some sort?"
"Frat's taught me some magic." Oliana said. "And I have a dagger."
Roxanna pulled a hairbrush out of her bag and held it up.
"What are you gonna do? Brush it to death?" Oliana rolled her eyes.
Link sighed. "Here, Roxanna, take my dagger."
Roxanna took the dagger from Link. For a moment she just held it, looking forlorn, until Link took it back from her and hooked it to her belt. He unsheathed his sword and held it out in front of him with one hand; in the other he held a candle they had brought with him. Oliana handed the remaining lantern to Roxanna, who clutched it gratefully. Together they stepped into the darkness beyond the arched doorway.
Inside the lantern was not necessary. The room was alight with a strange glow, the seemed to come from the very air itself. The walls were plain, craggy rock, but it was the middle of the room that made the whole scene so dazzling. There was an altar that must've been made completely of gold. On the altar was a stone dragon, carved so perfectly that it looked real. The dragon's wings were cupped, and braced between them was a sword, stuck deep in the stone. What could be seen of the blade was jagged and double edge. The hilt was carved to look like a Dragon and long enough to be held with two hands.
"The Sunrise Sword!" Link breathed.
"But…where's the Orb?" Oliana asked, looking around.
As she spoke, the ground began to shake beneath their feet. Roxanna shrieked and gripped Link's arm. All three of them went down in heap of tangled limbs. The lantern slipped from Roxanna's fingers and shattered on the stone floor. Suddenly there was silence; no more shaking, no more noise, just silence. Link and his companions exchanged worried glances. The room was too still.
Suddenly the wall in the back of the chamber ripped open. A giant creature resembling a mole spilled out. It was large, with long, sharp teeth and claws. Its back was covered in spikes, its front end covered in armor. Its tale was long and the end was fashioned with a sharp looking blade. The face was twisted into a grotesque grimace; the lips pulled back over its teeth, the nose crinkled up. Roxanna let out a terrified scream and grabbed Link's shirt.
"Intruders!" The beast snarled. "Your hearts lie heavy here! You shall never forget what you have done!"
Link gasped and doubled over, clutching his chest. So many memories, of the death of his parents, his grandfather and his sister, flooded into his mind, pouring down on his brain. He felt like his heart had shattered. Oliana was sobbing bitterly and Roxanna had crumpled into a ball on the floor. So, this was what the writing had meant. Their hearts were too heavy with guilt, anger, sadness and pain. They were unable to move, let alone fight.
"Intruders!" The beast repeated. "Your hearts lie heavy, your bodies lie in pain. You will remember ever cut, every bruise, every pulled tooth!"
Suddenly Link felt as if he'd been crushed, stung, bitten, cut and sliced all at once. Pain seared through his limbs. He tried to cry out but his throat hurt too much, his jaw was unable too move. He felt as though his hair was being pulled in every different direction, as though he was slowly but surely being pulled apart. And yet, beneath all of the pain, was a small, indignant whine. What was he doing on the floor? He had to get up and fight!
"Intruders! Your minds lie dormant, your hearts begin to slow!"
No! Link's mind fought against the power that burned in his brain. He refused to let it win; if he were going to die, he would die fighting! Slowly, carefully, oh-so-painfully he climbed to his feet. His head spun and his balanced wavered slightly, but he wouldn't let himself fall again. The monster grinned hideously; it liked challenges. Well, Link thought. I'll give you a challenge you'll never forget!
Carefully Link began to walk to the altar, which seemed like it was a mile away. His bone creaked a protest; it would be so easy to give in, to lie down and accept his fate, but he just couldn't do that. So much depending on retrieving that orb. He just couldn't let the magic and beauty of Caseree Isle die. Link pushed his shoulders back, lifted his chin, and stepped purposely in the direction of the altar.
"Time is slow, Intruder." The monster hissed. "You are weak, you wish to rest. Let your body and mind go, Intruder."
Parts of Link's body began to tingle. He didn't want to keep moving, but he had to. He was so close, closer and then…Link was standing in front of the altar. The monster watched him, grinning as if it knew something he did not. Link reached out and grabbed the sword's hilt with both hands. There was a flash of bright light, and then screaming. It took a moment before Link realized that he was the one who was screaming! Holding the sword caused him pain beyond belief, beyond anything he'd ever felt before.
It's a tiger! Link thought wildly. It'll eat me alive! The pain seared through his body like a hot fire, eating away at his insides. Only Roxanna, who was still alive but very much in pain, saw him start to glow. The cave lit up in green and the monster took a step back, wary. Meanwhile Link struggled with the sword, trying to get it to accept him. The more he tried, the more pain it inflicted on him.
Am I a coward…or am I a warrior? Link thought as he fought with the sword. Annoyed with its defiance, he forced his will upon it. It would obey him, it had to obey him; his friends depended on it. I am a warrior! Link took complete control of the sword. He rode the tiger, the waves of power that came crashing into him in a vicious onslaught. Fighting with all his strength, Link pulled the sword from the altar.
"You!" The monster cried again. "Intruder! Only one can hold that sword, you cheated! Now you must die."
"They should have picked a better guardian." Link muttered.
"I heard that!"
The monster's sharp edged tail came flying at him. Reflexively Link jumped back. The sword glow in his hands and he could feel the power it held once again. Link jumped at the monster, bringing the sword down in an arc. He cut through the neck and the monster fell in a giant heap. Link pulled away, startled by how easy it had been. The sword had stopped emitting its power and it looked more like a normal weapon now.
He turned to see Roxanna and Oliana slowly climbing to their feet. It didn't matter that the lantern was shattered, light poured from the place where the monster had broken the wall. Link grasped the hilt of the sword and drew his old one out of its sheath. He put the Sunrise Sword there, where it belonged now, then handed his old sword over to Oliana. All three of them turned to the light that poured from the hole in the wall…
"This can't be possible!" Sora raged. "I am Princess Sorella! I would never command anyone to kill myself!"
"You can't be the Princess." Ewan argued. "She's beautiful, intelligent, graceful…"
"You are cruisin' for a bruisin'!" Sora growled.
"Look, if you were really the Princess you would remember that time." Ewan said. "But you don't, so you can't be her!"
"Saba, you have to." Zephyr prodded.
"I cannot!" Saba argued.
"It's only one! She needs the help of this young man!"
Saba sighed deeply and hung her head. She had no choice in this matter. Saba reached up and took a string of pearls from her around her neck. It was so long that it was wrapped fifty times over and mostly hidden by the folds of her robes. She snipped the string and took off one pearl; the string magically redid itself. With one last sad look, Saba dropped the pearl, letting it fall to the floor. It shattered and spilled a puddle over the rocks.
Sora paused and leaned against the support pole of the tent. She felt as though her mind was opening up and letting something pour out. Ewan's protests were quickly drowned out, along with the shouts of concern from her friends. Sora saw herself, when she was little, lost in the woods, and an older boy. He'd rescued her from a male keeln who'd had rabies and brought her home, while keeping her safe from the rain.
"Ewan…" Sora said softly. "The keeln…and the storm…you…you rescued me…"
"I must've forgot, when I fell in the river…" Sora continued.
"You always did ignore me." Ewan muttered.
"Oh you!" Sora hugged him.
"There, there lass." Ewan said, patting her back softly. "Now, what's this all about?"
"Sora forgot a lot of her life when she was attack by the Fay and fell in the river." Bree explained. "I guess seeing you brought back the memory."
Sora nodded. "It's strange, I know, but I remember things at the oddest times."
"Well then, you do remember what you did that day?" Ewan asked.
"Um…well, no, not really."
Ewan shook his head. "I know this sounds weird, but somehow, you made the storm come.
Chapter Nine: Striking Out
Flynn eyed a crossbow on the wall in the weapons chamber. He and Frat had been commanded to equip themselves before they made their way to the Dragon lands. The Azon's hadn't spent much time interacting with the Dragons, but they'd never been enemies either. That would at least make it easier for them to become allies, Flynn knew, and they would certainly need both Dragons and Azon's for this fight.
Frat had already chosen a two handed sword, which was almost as tall as he was. Emiri also had a two handed sword, except it was bigger than she was. Sarice chose any weapon that could be thrown and a short sword. Kalok had her own sword, which was specially designed for her and quite fancy, encrusted in jewels and gold. Frat thought it was beautiful but Flynn wasn't particularity impressed.
"Do you have any magic items?" He asked.
"'Pends. You better with a weapon or your hands?" Sarice questioned.
"Hands." Flynn answered.
"Take the poison claws then." Sarice told him, motioning to a set of claws on the wall. "They're magic. Take a dagger and a crossbow too. Don't matter if you can't use it, always helps to have extra weapons."
Flynn lifted the claws off the wall and inspected them. He read of them before, in one of his books on magic weapons. They were lesser items, certainly, but they would be enough for him. Plus, they would poison anyone who got cut by them, so even if an attacker got away, he wouldn't live to see the sun rise the next morning. There was no cure for the poison in the claws, and even if there was, it caused the victim to become too delirious to see straight and too dizzy to walk. Indeed, these were just perfect for him.
"All right then," Sarice said. "From what I've heard, this lord has no back bone. Frat, are your boys ready?"
"They're waiting for us just beyond the village." Frat replied.
"Good. Let's move out!"
Link pushed away a few stray bits of stone around the hole made in the wall. Oliana and Roxanna were still a bit dazed from the attack and Link thought it was amazing that they weren't both dead. He could feel the sword on his back; although it no longer pulsated with power, it was emitting heat. The heat seemed to be healing him, restoring him back to full health and deep down he knew that sword had accepted him fully. In a way, he had found a new friend.
"How's it coming Link?" Oliana asked.
"Just a couple more." Link replied.
"You sure you don't want help?" Roxanna seemed concerned. "I mean…you must be tired, we are, you couldn't possibly…"
Link smiled. "Trust me, I'm much better of than you are. Ah…here we go."
The last rock slipped from its place and it was finally clear to walk through. Link helped Oliana and Roxanna up off the floor and let them hold onto him. Carefully they stepped through the hole and out into the sunlight. The altitude outside told Link that they were very high up. His ears popped and his mind fuzzed a bit, but his eyes were focused straight in front of him. Resting in the dying light of day on a golden dais, was the Sunset Orb.
"Its beautiful!" Oliana gasped.
Link pulled a special cloth from his backpack and walked over to the Orb. He could feel its power as he approached and wondered if Flynn would be able to harness it. Carefully he used the clothes to wrap it up and put it in his backpack. When he looked up he saw a silver Dragon flying their way. He recognized Rogue immediately and wondered what he was doing up here.
"You found it!" Rogue called. "Excellent, I'll bring you back to the Dragon lands now."
"You knew about this?" Link asked.
"I am the Elder's son." Rogue said. "I know the spell to break the barrier that surrounds the Orb up here. But it can only be used when someone gets the Sunrise Sword and defeats the monster."
"Yay!" Roxanna cheered. "A ride home!"
Sora wasn't listening to the trial like she should have been. She was too busy contemplating what Ewan had told her. Controlling the weather? Her? It didn't seem possible but maybe when she got back to the Dragon lands Flynn could explain it to her. Certainly he would know more about this than she did. She couldn't remember controlling the weather at all, but everything else was there. It was so strange…
"Sora!" Bree hissed. "Pay attention!"
The trial was extremely boring, that was for sure. Malance was the one on trial and he stood in the middle, still in his cage. The other elders had snapped out of his power during the night, since he'd been unable to keep up a contact with him, and were standing off to one side, muttering and giving him angry glares. Jackal was in the judge's seat, while Raylan questioned Malance and some of the elders. Bree and Sora were on the jury and from what they'd heard so far, Malance was guilty as charged.
"Cyril…" Raylan began, pacing back and forth. "You love your daughter very much, I suspect."
"Yes." Cyril answered.
"Tell me, what ever possessed you to send her on a suicide mission?" Raylan asked.
"I'm not sure." Cyril said. "Some sort of power had control of me…it started when Malance came to me a few months ago."
"Do you hear that jury?" Raylan turned to them. "Did you hear what he said?"
"We're not deaf ya know." Sora said. "I mean, come on, the guy is guilty as sin!"
"Yeah!" The rest of the group agreed.
"You can't do this!" Malance growled. "My master will have his revenge on you brats!"
Suddenly a bolt of purple magic slithered down from the sky like lightning and struck the cage. It shattered into many pieces that flew across the green and struck hard into trees and other centaurs. There were some cries of pain and few went down in heaps, most likely dead. Sora drew her sword and rushed forward into the chaos. She was almost run over by a young centaur filly fleeing a piece of the cage.
The smoke about the cage cleared and Malance was no where to be seen. Sora looked around, nervous but wary. He could have left for good or he could be here still, hiding or cloaked with some invisibility magic. She lowered her sword and opened her awareness to her surroundings. She detected no fresh magic, only the wispy trail of that which had freed Malance in the first place.
"Sora!" Bree cried, running up to her. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah…" Sora sighed. "Bree this can't wait. Gather Jackal and Raylan and everyone else. We have to reach the Dragon lands as quick as possible."
"Are you sure you're ready for this Bree?" Cyril asked.
"I have to be, dad." Bree answered. "My friends need me."
Sora and Raylan sat at the table, attacking dinner like rabid wild cats. They had to leave by morning and everyone was slightly apprehensive about the journey. Sora knew that she would get very little sleep tonight; she needed to stay on guard, just in case Malance came back in the middle of the night. The centaurs were an important part of this war and if she didn't have them to fight, they could lose all chance of winning.
Suddenly Sora realized she had no idea who-or what, for that matter-they would be fighting. She had thought it would be the Fay, but there was too few of them to need so many allies. Something would be supporting them, she knew, and whatever it was, it had to be very powerful. Sora began to wonder if they had what it took to fight this thing. What would happen to Caseree Isle if they couldn't win?
"Sora, snap out of it!" Bree said, clapping her hands in Sora's face.
"Huh? Oh, sorry Bree." Sora shook her head. "I'm just…I'm going to step outside. I need time to…clear my mind."
Sora left her dinner half finished on the table and walked out into the cool night air. She missed her friends a lot, especially her brother. When this was all over she hoped there would be plenty of time to spend with them. They hadn't really gotten a chance when they had arrived at Link's castle and Flynn had come during the banquet. Of course, she had to forgive Flynn for doing that. He wasn't evil really, just badly misguided. And who wouldn't be, with parents like Faylah and Kyrissam?
The wind stirred, blowing the leaves over the ground, and Sora sighed. Was it really so close to autumn already? It just couldn't be, not yet. But then…they had been away for so long, at least a month, maybe more. And the leaves were starting to change colors slightly, although it was possible that the Herbst were getting to work early this year, because of the war. They were the shyest fairy race and preferred to keep away from such things as war.
"How fair the autumn fairies be…" Sora sang, quoting an old poem she'd once read. "How light the spring, how dashing the winter, how very calm in the summer, they be."
"How sweet the scent of the falling leaves…"
Sora jumped and spun around. It was only Ewan.
"Ah, Princess." Ewan laughed. "Still jumpy as a jackrabbit I see. So, ya remember that old poem I taught ya, hmm?"
"You taught it to me?" Sora shook her head. "I thought I'd read it."
"You really did forget, didn't you?" Ewan asked.
Sora nodded. "I only remember certain things, and I can't understand why. Some things from my time on the streets, with the Sheikahs…I don't remember some of those either."
"Well, Princess, some things are better off forgotten."
That said, Ewan turned and walked back into the house. Sora stared after him, contemplating what he'd said for a moment, then shook her head. This is something I should remember, She thought. But I remember so little. Why? What is doing this to me? Sora sighed. Her memory problem had never bothered her so much as it did now. If I ever find out who did this to me, I'll give them a piece of my mind.
Flynn was crouched in the bushes, the poison claws on over his hands. Frat and his boys would draw the guards out of the castle, then he, Sarice and Emiri would go find the lord. If he refused to just leave, then they would take the Keep by force. Truly, this was going to be a lot easier than they had thought it would be, but Flynn didn't mind. He really wanted to get back to the Dragon lands, to see if Link had gotten the Sunset Orb. And to see Sora, a voice at the back of his head nagged. Flynn swatted at it mentally.
That's ridiculous! Flynn thought. Why should I care about seeing her? Because you're in debt to her, and you like having a friend, the voice seemed to say. Aw hell, it's true, isn't it? Flynn groaned inwardly. Well, I can't think of it now, too many things to do. Flynn had always been the kind of person who could push away his emotions, and that came in handy now. He couldn't be thinking of Sora when his mind needed to be on what he was doing.
Suddenly Frat and his boys charged forward, rushing over the drawbridge and into the first hall of the Keep. They quickly came running back out again, followed by many of the castle guards. Frat was still in there and Flynn figured he and some of the others went to get out the rest of the people. Flynn was startled when Emiri grabbed his arm and dragged him out from behind the bush. They ran together across the drawbridge and into the fray.
Flynn fought his way through the battles that had ended up taking place inside. The claws were absolutely perfect for this kind of combat, although he thought he might have hit one of their own at one point. Up ahead he saw Emiri fighting with her usual spirit and had to admit, she was a wonderful warrior. She and Sarice cleared the way for him and he was only left with a little bit of work of his own.
"Where is the Lord?" Sarice asked.
"This way, come on!"
Flynn took off down a corridor to his left, knowing that the way to the Lord's chambers could be quite tricky. He'd probably had it that way so it would be hard for enemies (or rebels, in this case) to find their way in. But Flynn had a good memory and after living his life in underground tunnels, could find his way back to the lord's chambers blindfolded. Of course, he was glad he hadn't mentioned that, because knowing Emiri, she just might blindfold him.
"In here." Flynn said, pointing to large, intricately designed double doors.
"It's locked!" Emiri whined, tugging at the handle.
"Stand back." Flynn said. He pointed a finger at the door. "Xar Es'throth!"
Light orange magic bolts slid from his fingertips and struck the door. They exploded on contact, blowing the door to bits. What was left swung shakily on the burnt and blackened hinges. Emiri have him an impressed look before stomping into the room. Sarice followed and after a mental shrug, Flynn followed them. He was slightly surprised at how strong his magic was getting, ever since he'd left Faylinn.
"Who are you?" Demanded Lord Cecil, standing up.
"I'm Sarice, Azon Queen." Sarice said. "This is Emiri, my heir, and Flynn…as you can see, he's a Fay and quite powerful too."
"What do you want?" Lord Cecil asked, taking a step back.
"Just sign the Keep back over to Oliana," Flynn growled. "And maybe we'll let you live."
"I earned this Keep!" Cecil protested. "You can't have it!"
"You didn't earn it!" Sarice argued. "You stole it!"
"That's a lie." Cecil whined in a high pitched, nasal voice.
"Oh shut up." Flynn growled. "Fre Es'throth!"
Suddenly Lord Cecil exploded into flames. Sarice and Emiri jumped back, startled but Flynn just stood there, watching the blaze. His temper had gotten the better of him, as it tended to when people whined at him. Flynn walked past the dying flames and took the deed to the keep out from the place he'd seen Lord Cecil put it. He handed it to Frat as the boy came running through the broken doors, ready to fight.
"You didn't!" Frat gasped.
Flynn smiled sheepishly. "I let my temper get the better of me."
"That was amazing!" Emiri chattered. "Can you teach me to do that?"
"I can try." Flynn answered.
"Oh, yes!" Emiri cheered as she flounced out the doors.
"I wish we'd had you with us sooner, Flynn." Sarice said. "I am pretty sure Lord Cecil knew magic. If you hadn't gotten him while you did…"
"He could know magic." Flynn said thoughtfully. "This is the only place where Hyrule and Caseree are on the same plain of existence…probably all of the people around here have a little magic in them."
"Well, come on, we've got to get you back to those Dragon's ay?"
Chapter Ten: Reunion
Sora stared down at the Valley of the Dragon's and felt a growing sense of happiness in her bones. Finally she would get to see her friends and family again! Beneath her Raz seemed to be growing quite impatient, waiting for the others. Sora had ordered him to fly ahead, but when she reached the Valley she felt it only right to wait for her friends. Now, though, as she looked down at the figures scuttling about the camp, she couldn't wait any longer.
"Come on, Raz! Let's go!" Sora cried, lifting her face to the sky.
"About damn time." Raz grumbled, spreading his wings out.
Raz leapt of the edge of the cliff and flapped his wings furiously to get some altitude. Sora gripped tightly to his mane as he slowly bounced upwards, then loosened her grip as he began to fly smooth once again. They circled over the Valley, looking for a smooth landing spot. As they did, Sora could see her new friends had reached the cliff and were beginning to descend. She waved to them, then held on as Raz made a speedy plunge down to earth. He landed so hard Sora was practically jarred right out of the saddle.
"Sora!" Someone cried.
She looked up to see Frat waving at her frantically. Grinning, Sora jumped off of Raz's back and ran to him. Poonta came running up to her too and she got sandwiched in between them, in a great big hug. Sora struggled away from them, avoiding a brotherly kiss on the cheek from Frat, and straightened herself out. She noticed Flynn watching them from a distance and walked over to him.
"How have you been?" Sora asked.
"I'm alive, thanks to you." Flynn said, a slight smile flickering across his lips. "I think I'll be okay."
"Where's Link and everyone else?" Sora turned, looking around the camp.
"I haven't seen them…since we got split up." Frat said.
"Come inside the tent, we'll explain."
"Look!" Roxanna cried, pointing. "We're almost there! Can you believe it?"
Link ignored Roxanna's excited chattering and focused on the lands below. He could see two smaller winged creatures sitting by the main tent and he also so Centaurs running about. Sora must be here! Link thought happily. He wondered if Flynn and Frat and Poonta had all made out okay. Maybe they had even found some new allies, Link mused. From what Nicodemus had said, they would need every ally they could find, and then some.
"Coming in for a landing." Rogue said, pinching his nose shut with his claws. "Please put your fins in the upright position and make sure your seat belts are fastened."
"Oh very funny." Link sighed, gripping the nearest fin.
"Only doing my job, Your Majesty." Rogue said.
He arched his neck up, folding his wings back, and then made a dive. Link gripped tightly to the fin as Rogue plunged downward. He could hear Oliana and Roxanna screaming; they weren't as used to Rogue's daredevil landings as he was. He also heard shouts from below and knew that news of their arrival would travel fast. Already he saw a lot of activity around the main tent and a couple of the smaller ones.
Rogue finished his death-defying plunge and settled gracefully to the ground, tucking his wings back and lifting his fins, arching his neck as though preening. Link helped Roxanna and Oliana off first, then jumped down himself. He saw his friends come rushing towards him and ran over to him. Link caught Sora-who was ahead of all of the rest-and lifted her into the air, laughing happily. Sora pushed him away, laughing a little breathlessly, as Frat, Flynn and Poonta approached.
"Sora! Oliana!" Frat cried, hugging them both at the same time.
"The gang's all here." Poonta joked, nudging her way into the hug.
They exchanged teasing punches and back slaps, joking about each other's raggled appearances. Only Flynn stayed away, figuring they probably wouldn't want him to join. He really wanted to talk to Lily, to see how she was doing, but he'd heard from Aidan that she had left a while ago, to go home. Sarice was with her troops, setting up tents and working on weapons, and of course, Emiri was no doubt with her. That left only one other person he'd feel comfortable talking to, and at the moment Frat was busy with his friends.
"Here, Oli." Frat said, handed her the Keep deed.
"You…you did it!" Oliana exclaimed. "Oh Frat!"
"Get a room you two!" Link joked as the couple kissed passionately.
Sora scowled. "Rub it in our faces why don't you!"
"Jealous, Sora?" Link teased.
"Hah! Fat chance, that."
Link slung a casual arm about her shoulders. "Come on, I have some things to show you. You too Flynn, I think you'll be pleased by this."
Flynn stood stock still a moment, watching the way Sora clung to him. He frowned, rolling an idea over in his head. They act so much like friends, Flynn thought. But they could so easily be lovers…what is going on here? He followed, snapping out of his reverie, as Frat slapped him on the back.
"Let's go, Flynn, before the war starts, ay?"
Link took his backpack off and opened the flap. Carefully he pulled out the Orb and handed it over to Flynn. The Fay boy regarded him in astonishment for a moment, then turned his eyes to the Orb. He didn't need the cloth to hold it. Link heard gasps from the other members of their group as the sunlight bounced off the Orb, turning it a sunfire gold color. He pulled the sword from the sheath on its back and held the blade pointed at the Orb.
"The Sunrise Sword!" Flynn breathed. He looked up at Link. "How on Earth did you…I mean I didn't think you'd even try…how…"
"It's beautiful Link." Sora said, eyeing the sword wistfully.
"Don't you even think about trying to use it." Link said sharply. "Apparently it doesn't like anyone but me. Oliana tried to lift it the other day, it's lucky she didn't get killed."
"That's okay." Sora said. "I still have your sword, that's special to me."
Link smiled down at her and reached out to ruffle her hair. He paused in mid-reach, remembering that she was almost 17 now and probably wouldn't appreciate it. He put the sword back in its sheath, just as two women came into the tent. They were dressed like freelance warriors, which startled him a bit. He'd seen woman warriors before, but they were very rare in Hyrule. Most women in Hyrule were like Roxanna.
"Oh, this is Sarice." Frat said. "She and her tribe are going to help us. And this here…is Sora number two."
Emiri stuck her tongue out at him. "Spare me, Frat! I could kick your butt ya know!"
"Sounds like me all right." Sora grinned.
"Well, I got work to do." Sarice said. "Come on, Emiri. I want to keep an eye on you."
"She's afraid I'll beat up Kalok." Emiri said, before flouncing out of the tent with Sarice in her wake.
Link raised an eyebrow. "I hope they're not all like Sora."
Sora stood alone outside as night began to fall. She could feel something stirring on the wind, and it worried her. She knew there was the war and all that, but there was another power coming their way too. It felt something like Sarice and Emiri's power, and yet there was another mixed into it. The power was old as time itself, and so very familiar to her, yet she couldn't place it. It was lost along with all the memories of her past.
Aidan, who was sleeping in a pile at her feet, stirred slightly, but didn't wake. He was sensitive to the magic and power, like she was. But she knew that he would be unable to know what the power was, because he'd felt so few in his life. No, that's not right, Sora thought, frowning. He just hasn't felt this one. But she had, she'd felt a lot of it, but the memory wasn't there. She felt so angry and sad, like a part of her was missing. Suddenly, before she could stop herself, Sora broke down, sobbing.
"Sora?" She heard a voice call.
Sora felt strong arms wrap around her and she was pulled against a warm body. She looked up to see who it was and met a pair of concerned blue eyes. Link smiled at her, just a small smile, and then let her go. Sora tried to smile back but she couldn't get the muscles around her mouth to work. For a panicked second she thought she had forgotten that too, until she realized how ridiculous that was.
"Why don't you come inside." Link suggested. "Everyone is pitching in to make a nice big meal."
Sora grinned. "So that's what that rumbling sound is."
"Oh be quiet." Link muttered, holding his stomach. "It's not my fault, the thing has a mind of its own."
Sora laughed. "Yeah sure it does…all right, just give me a minute."
Link nodded and walked back into the tent. Sora watched him a moment, summoning every memory of him she had to come to mind. It was a glistening, gossamer web, those memories, but there were holes in it. She knew there were things missing, details, feelings, all little things she couldn't recall for some reason or another. Maybe it's Nicodemus, Sora thought, shivering. She turned on her heal and stalked back into the tent.
Yrook smiled wickedly to herself as she crouched in the bushes outside of Sarice's tent. Her small, beady red eyes glowed with dark ambition and her fingers clutched the ground, digging into the soil like claws. Her thin lips were pulled back over half-rotted teeth and her nose crinkled. Yrook had never been very pretty, like Sarice was, but she would prove to that fake that she was the better fighter. Then, Yrook knew, she could take what was rightfully hers.
Kalok kneeled in the bushes beside Yrook, her smile also wicked. Once Sarice was dead, no one could stop her from teaching that brat, Emiri, a lesson. She might have thought that she was the better fighter, but Kalok would prove her wrong. She glanced over at her leader and knew that one day she would have to fight Yrook as well. No one deserved such high status like Kalok did. No one.
The tent was completely still and without light. The two Azon's had to honor their laws, even though Yrook clutched a dagger in one hand. If she killed Sarice, she would have to do it in fair combat…or as fair as she was willing to play. She worked for a very powerful master and he would not allow her to make a fool out of herself acting like a sweet little goody-goody. Besides, she didn't care how she killed Sarice; she only cared that she did it.
Part Three: The War for Caseree Isle
Chapter Eleven: Dragon Claws
"Sora, time to wake up!"
Sora rolled over and pulled her blankets over her head, trying to block out the cheerful, chirping voice. She felt a soft object come down heavily on her side and jumped, flinging her covers away and flailing from side to side. She saw Link crouching by the side of her sleeping bag, holding a pillow and grinning. She grabbed her own pillow and smacked him hard in the face. Link grabbed both her wrists and pulled her with him as he tumbled over.
"Jerk!" Sora exclaimed.
"You hit like a girl, Sora." Link teased.
"That's because I am a girl!" Sora growled.
Link shoved her back into the blankets and made a run for it. Sora flailed about for a moment, trying to untangle herself from the blankets. She managed to get to her feet and dashed out of the tent after Link. He was standing a few feet away from the tent, leaning against a tree and grinning at her. Sora stomped over to him and punched him hard in the stomach. Link doubled over in surprise, clutching his stomach. His breath came out in a raspy wheeze; he didn't remember Sora being quite so strong.
Link glanced up at the exclamation. It was Roxanna and she was staring at Sora in disgust.
"Have you no decency?" Roxanna demanded, poking a finger at Sora.
Sora shrugged. "What's the big deal? Never seen a shift before?"
"You're disgusting!" Roxanna cried, turning on her heel and stomping away.
"Good riddance." Link muttered.
Sora laughed. "Glad to know I'm useful for something."
"Oh, go get dressed!"
Sora laughed and headed back into her tent, now fully awake. She pulled off her shift and tossed it across the tent into the pile of dirty clothes gathered on the ground in the corner. Quickly Sora chose a loose, half-sleeved tunic in a light purple and well-worn breeks. She pulled on her boots, slid her dagger into place and sprinted out of the tent just in time to see everyone sitting around the burned out campfire for breakfast.
"Welcome to the land of the living." Frat teased as she sat down next to him.
Sora grinned. "Oh, ha ha. I had a long journey and I happen to be tired."
"We all had long journeys." Link said. "But we're still up before noon."
"Now, now." Oliana interrupted. "Let's be civil about this…or at least, try, hmm?"
"We can do that." Sora laughed. "Hey, where's Flynn?"
"Still in the tent." Link mumbled through a mouthful of food. "Doing something with that Orb, I think."
Sora rolled her eyes. "It figures."
She took her plate and an extra one for Flynn and put them on a tray with two mugs of warm cider. Ignoring her friends' curious looks, Sora hefted the tray and walked into the tent. Flynn was in the middle of the room, dressed only in a pair of breeches with the Orb resting in his lap. His hair was still tousled from sleep (or lack there of, Sora thought as she noted the circles under his eyes) and his eyes were closed. Carefully Sora placed the tray on the ground, trying not to disturb him. Flynn's eyes snapped open; he was very alert.
"Hey." Sora said softly. "Just thought you might like something to eat."
"There's something else on your mind." Flynn said matter-of-factly, taking his plate and a mug of cider off the tray.
Sora looked down at the toes of her boots. "Well…yeah, I suppose, but if you're busy…"
"Sit." Flynn took a sip of his cider.
Sora plopped down on one of the thick keeln mats that were spread on the floor. She played idly with the laces of her tunic while Flynn shoveled food into his mouth. He paused from his meal and glanced up at her. Sora was looking down still, fidgeting, as if something made her uncomfortable. He placed his plate back on the tray and shoved it aside.
"Something is bothering you, Sora. Tell me what it is."
"I…" Sora sighed. "You'll think I'm crazy."
Sora looked up and was startled by the look of concern in Flynn's eyes. Slowly she began to explain her situation. For a moment she nearly stopped as she realized Flynn's expression had turned quite skeptical, but she forced herself to continue on. She blurted out the rest and then grabbed the cider and downed it in one gulp. It had gotten cold and tasted sour, but she drank it anyway. When she put the mug down, Flynn was staring at her.
"I'm not even going to ask." Flynn said.
"I knew you would think I was crazy."
Flynn shook his head. "It's not that really…I suppose, though, that this is the strangest thing I've ever heard of. You really can't recall certain things?"
"I can't." Sora said. "I don't know why…and I always seem to remember small details at the strangest times…like that thing with Ewan."
"Well, it's not evil, whatever it is, because the Orb would be glowing now." Flynn said.
"It can tell?"
"It's like I've been bonded to it." Flynn sighed. "Whatever is stealing your memories is completely benevolent."
Emiri frowned. Her nose itched constantly and she was beginning to worry. Her nose always itched when something bad was going to come. This time it was something Emiri recognized. She could smell Kalok's scent; it wasn't a scent, really, just a strange awareness that she had of each person she knew. Of all people scent's, Flynn stood out the most in the crowd. It was most likely because of the Orb, Emiri figured, but she couldn't be completely sure.
She shivered as his presence came closer to her. Azon's very rarely fell in love and she was young yet…but she could see herself falling for the Fay boy. He was handsome, intelligent, powerful and a pretty good fighter…even though he was only about as tall as she was. Emiri smiled and pushed the thought from her mind. It was rude to think such things about people but sometimes she really couldn't help herself.
She turned. "Hey Flynn." He's grown, she thought as she studied him. Strange…
"Your tribe knows a lot about old, strange magic, right?" Flynn asked.
Emiri nodded. "Of course! Anything you need to know?"
"I'll have to ask Sarice about that." Emiri sighed. "Wait right here!"
Emiri sprinted off to Sarice's tent. She knew a lot of things about the old magic but Sarice knew a lot more, and if it were possible to steal someone's memories she would know. Emiri stopped dead in her tracks in front of Sarice's tent when she arrived there. Sarice was surrounded by her top Azon warriors and standing across from her was Yrook, the leader of Kalok's tribe. Kalok was with Yrook, along with many other warriors.
"Sarice!" Emiri exclaimed.
"Emiri, stay back." Sarice warned. "You'll get hurt."
"But I want to help!" Emiri protested.
Emiri shrunk back from the scene and bumped into Flynn. Link, Sora and all their friends must've heard the noise because they had gathered in a small group outside of Sarice's tent. Why won't Sarice let me fight with her? Emiri thought frantically. She needs me…I have to fight! Emiri lunged forward and felt a strong hand grip her elbow. She whirled and saw the Flynn was giving her a stern but sympathetic look. It was quite obvious that he wouldn't let her go, no matter what she did.
Sarice and Yrook jumped at each other, both holding long sparring knives. Emiri let out a small cry as Yrook's blades connected with Sarice's. Sarice stumbled, caught off guard by Yrook's strength, and fell back. Yrook slashed down quickly with her knife; it sliced into Sarice's arm leaving a deep cut. Emiri jumped forward and felt Flynn tighten his grip on her.
"Sarice!" Emiri cried. "Let me go! Flynn, let me go!"
Sarice ignored her panicking student to focus on the fight, but Yrook already had a great advantage. She lunged forward, brandishing the knife like it was a full sized sword. Sarice stumbled backwards and clumsily caught the blade on her own. Emiri felt something sing through the air and realized that Yrook's blades were magicked. Sarice wouldn't stand a chance against such weapons. Emiri had to do something!
"Flynn!" Emiri hissed. "Yrook is cheating."
Flynn frowned. "How do you know?"
"I can feel the magic in her blade!" Emiri explained. "We have to say something."
"But they can't go on your word alone." Flynn pointed out. "Not all of us here can feel magic like you do."
"What about the Orb?"
As soon as the words came out of her mouth Emiri heard a cry behind her. She whirled to see Yrook drive her blade into Sarice's stomach. Flynn caught Emiri around the waist before she could do anything foolish.
"Cheater!" Emiri screamed. "You cheated! Cheater!"
"Emiri, calm down." Flynn soothed.
"She cheated!" Emiri cried again, struggling to get away. "Let me go! Sarice!"
Emiri broke down into sobs, despite the fact that Azon's weren't supposed to cry. Flynn did his awkward best to comfort her. Meanwhile Sora stepped forward, pushing her way past the gathered crowd of Azon's. Pretty much everyone was staring at Emiri and Flynn. Even Yrook didn't notice her until Sora punched her in the face. There were a few outraged cries but mostly gasps and yelps of surprise.
"Bitch!" Yrook growled.
"You can't use magic in a battle like this, it's cheating!" Sora said. "You have to forfeit!"
"Never!" Yrook hissed. "I'll kill you, you little retched bitch!"
Yrook lunged without warning, slashing one of the blades in Sora's direction. With a small cry Sora dodged out of the way, narrowly missing being disemboweled by the sharp, glistening blade. Sora's friends stepped forward, but Yrook's tribe shoved them back violently, poking at them with spears. Emiri tossed one of the sparring blades to Sora, who nearly dropped it. Her scrambling gave Yrook another opening and she lunged.
This time Sora was unable to escape the biting edge of the blade. It sliced through cloth and flesh, leaving a deep wound across her collarbone. Sora stumbled and landed on her knees, one hand flying to her collarbone, the other clutching numbly at the sparring dagger. As Yrook jumped in for the killing blow, Sora dropped and rolled away. Her hurt arm was pinned beneath her and she cried out in startled pain. She let go of her sparring knife as the world about her began to go black.
"Sora!" Link cried, trying to push his way past the guards.
"Sora! Sorella!" That was Frat, just as frantic as Link was.
Sora blinked, struggling to keep consciousness. She could hear the sounds of Yrook's soft boot soles on the ground as she approached. She rolled over and got to her feet, staggering. Yrook frowned at her, then shook her head.
"If you won't die this way, I'll just have to find another way." Yrook sneered. "Hymis Li'yen!"
"No!" Flynn shouted.
Too late. Lightning crackled at the tips of Yrook's fingers. It condensed into a giant ball of energy and Yrook threw it. The lightning ball struck Sora with such a powerful force that she was knocked back six feet, landing hard on her knees once more. She heard a cry from somewhere and watched as a fireball struck Yrook. A barrier went up quickly, too quickly. Fire magic was slow and Yrook had sensed it coming.
Sora stood stock still on a strip of charred earth, her chest heaving with each ragged breath. She had no way to fight Yrook's magic and her skill with a short blade wasn't very good, not to mention she was injured and that she had dropped the dagger in the first place. She didn't have her sword, so there was no help there. Sora watched as more trickles of lightning condensed on Yrook's fingers. This blast would kill her if it hit her and she had no defense against it.
Saba watched the action in the giant black pot. Her fingers tore nervously at the hem of her raggedy tunic as she watched the lightning ball grow larger. There was not much time. Everything was moving slowly, because Zephyr had slowed Yrook, to give Sora time, but it wouldn't be enough. Not even someone such as Zephyr had power to stop what the gods gave. If only Sora would move. But the girl seemed strangely resigned to her fate.
"Saba, you must." Zephyr said quietly.
Endoch nodded. "Even I must agree with him. It's earlier than we'd planned to…but she needs it. Without it, she has no hope of ever winning this fight."
Saba nodded. She too was resigned to fate. Carefully Saba took off the long string of pearls. One whole loop was cut from it, although the string was always growing. She let the pearls drop to the ground and watched them shatter. Puddles of water formed in the small nooks and crannies of the floor. There was no turning back now. They had unleashed this monster and it was up to Sora to control it.
Sora watched in amazement as the ball of lightning continued to grow. The back of her mind was nagging at her, urging her to use her Sheikah magic. What magic? Sora thought, feeling confused. And then the lightning ball was coming at her.
"Earth Barrier, Level Two!" Sora cried, as the ball came crashing down on her.
It shattered as it struck a shimmering purple barrier and split three ways. Sora watched in amazement as the lightning went above her and around her, but didn't strike her. Both magicks faded fast. Everyone was staring at Sora in amazement, but she was too busy running over a new burst of information in her mind. Quickly she lifted her hands.
"Lightning Serpent, level 5!" Sora shouted.
A ball of crackling lightning formed in her hands. It stretched and twisted around her, the head shaping to form that of a serpent. It hissed and spat, its tongue a bolt of lightning and its long, sinuous body wrapped around Sora. She lifted a hand to guide it up above her head, then brought a fist down to the ground. The serpent rushed forward, hissing, and struck Yrook at full power. Yrook's magic was not strong enough; the blast killed her instantly.
As the smoke cleared, Sora was startled to see a rattling, smoking skeleton standing where Yrook had been. Bits of charred flesh hung from the bone. The skeleton hung in mid-air for a moment, then fell to the ground, shattering into a pile of bones. The Azon's of her tribe shied away from Sora, letting her friends get through to her. Sora walked over to Yrook's bones and spit on them.
"Weak bitch!" Sora hissed. And with that, she fainted.
Flynn was sitting for third watch of Sora while she healed. Sarice was considerably better, although she was weak and Emiri was forcing her to rest as much as possible. The Azons of Yrook's tribe had left, with their new leader Kalok. The Azon's of Sarice's tribe nervously awaited Sora's awakening. They owed her so much, for saving their leader, including a special honor that she had earned by defeating Yrook.
But none of this really mattered to Flynn. After seeing Sora use her magic, he realized why the Dragons regarded her as a sorceress. She had power in at least three different elements, while he himself only had the power of fire. That had been what had made her so powerful. Aside from that, her magic was the ancient magic of the Sheikah. It was even stronger than Fay magic, when used by the right person.
Link walked in. He was dressed in only a shirt and pair of worn breeks. The King of Hyrule looked years older than he really was. After the stress of learning about Sora's magic and now the fact that she had not wakened for a week, Link had been terribly worn down. Aside from that, he had worked on arranging the alliances between all the races gathering here and making sure everyone was well prepared for the coming war. None of them knew exactly what was coming and they had to be ready for anything.
"Your Majesty?" Flynn asked.
"She's still not…" Link sighed and his shoulders sagged. "I was hoping she'd be awake by now."
Flynn shook his head. "She had quite an ordeal. She will wake when the time is good for her."
As if he had spoken magic words, Sora groaned softly and stirred. Link was at her side in an instant; taking one of her small, clammy hands in his own. She opened her eyes slowly and peered about like a person with amnesia. Suddenly her eyes went wide and she sat up. Almost immediately she was attacked by a wave of dizziness and had to lay back again.
"Sora?" Link asked. "Are you okay?"
"I…" Sora blinked, then looked at Flynn. "I used magic?"
Flynn nodded. "You remembered your Sheikah magic."
"Do you feel strong enough to stand?" Link inquired. "If not, its just fine, but the Azon's wish to speak with you."
"I should be able to. Turn around, let me dress."
Both boys did as they were told. Sora slowly dressed; her aches and bruises made even the smallest movement difficult. A silk underskirt and blouse waited for her, along with a special tunic that was long and had no sleeves. It was in style now, among the Alima and even the Normals. Sora belted her dagger's sheath about her waist but did not bother with the weapon. It was useless in her weakened state.
"Come on." Link said, putting an arm around her waist to support her.
Sora breathed a deep sigh of relief when she finally got outside. The air was as fresh as ever and she was glad to finally be awake. The Azon's had already gathered; they were fast, Sora knew, but this was ridiculous. Sarice stood in the middle of them all, dressed in ceremonial garb and headdress. Beside her was Emiri, garbed in a long rope and a headdress as well. Before her was a pillow and on it rested something silver and shimmering.
"Princess Sorella." Sarice said, smiling at her warmly. "You have awakened and the time has come for you to take your place as one of our Tribe, the Dragon."
"Me?" Sora squeaked. "But I didn't-"
Sarice held up a hand, cutting her off. "When Yrook defeated me, she became the Dragon. When you defeated her, the title became yours. You now belong to us, and these belong to you."
Emiri kneeled before Sarice, holding the cushion up high. From it Sarice lifted a set of silver claws, made for hand fighting. She also kneeled to Sora, as did every other Azon. Sora's friends stared for a moment, then kneeled too. Under everyone's watchful gaze, Sora reached out and gingerly took the claws from the cushion.
"Long ago," Sarice began, not rising from her kneeling position. "A young Azon named Sukino found two eggs, one silver, and one gold. She took the them to the Elder of her Tribe, but the Elder told her to get rid of the eggs."
"But Sukino was unwilling to part with her find." Emiri picked up. "She incubated them in secret and finally they hatched into two Dragons, one silver, the other gold. She named them Jaka and Jala, for their colors, and they became her loyal pets."
"But the Elder soon found out what Sukino had done." Sarice continued. "She banned Sukino from the Tribe, along with her Dragon friends. Sukino wandered in the desert in the south for a long time, amazed at how fast her companions were growing."
Emiri stood now and gazed solemnly at Sora. "One day when Sukino was in the village she found out that her Tribe was in danger. Another Tribe, held by the power of the Fay, was attacking with evil magic. Despite the fact that they had exiled her, Sukino mounted Jala and rode to the rescue of her Tribe."
Now Sarice stood too. "Upon reaching the battle field, she saw that her people were losing. Taking a spear to hand, Sukino and her Dragons dove into battle. They drove back the forces of the other Tribe, but their fight had been costly."
"Jaka and Jala were fatally injured." Emiri said. "Their blood stained the field where the battle had been. Sukino cried with them through the night and in the morning they were dead. She stood and readied to leave, now devoid of tribe and friends."
Now Sarice finished the tale. "The Azon's did not let her go. They welcomed her back into the Tribe, naming her the first ever Azon Dragon. Then they cut off Jala and Jaka's claws to make them into special weapons, as a memory of their great bravery. These are Jaka's claws, the silver ones. Jala's claws were long since lost to us."
Sora stood, holding the claws to her chest. Tears slid unbound down her cheeks; the tale had touched her deeply. It reminded her of her friendship with the Dragon Rogue, and of all the other strange friends she had. Carefully Sora slipped the claws into place over her hands, vowing to never betray her friends and to do her best never to let them down.
Chapter Twelve: The Magic Within
Link had balked at the idea of learning the Sheikah magic himself, although all his other friends had jumped. Both Poonta and Flynn had fire magic, which freaked him out just slightly, watching them fry everything in sight. Emiri had lighting magic, which scared him even more. Oliana had water based magic, while Roxanna's was more ice than water. Frat had also refused the offer. He didn't want to interfere with the spells he already knew.
Sora grinned. "Are you afraid, Link?"
"Damn right, I'm afraid!" Link exclaimed. "Who knows what I'd end up with!?"
"Probably air based." Flynn mumbled around a mouthful of food. "Like your Grandfather had."
Suddenly there was complete and total silence. Everyone had dropped what they were doing and stared at him. Flynn glanced up at them, ready to make a cutting remark, when he realized what he'd said. Carefully he placed his plate down on the ground in front of him, trying to look nonchalant and failing miserably.
"How…?" Link began, but he didn't have enough air in his lungs to finish.
Flynn sighed. "Sarice told me some stuff about your Grandfather. She used to know him."
"How come you never told us Link?" Sora asked.
"I…didn't know." Link said softly. "Why didn't you tell me?"
Flynn shrugged. "You never asked."
"You knew about this the whole time and you didn't tell me!?" Link exploded, jumping to his feet. "If it weren't for me you wouldn't even be here right now! How dare-"
"Who do you think you are?" Flynn snapped, also getting to his feet. "Just because you saved the Azons by stabbing some guy when you were only five doesn't make you king of the world…" Flynn paused. "Oops…"
"W-what?" Link stammered. "I d-did what?"
"I uh…" Flynn's cheeks flushed. "Look, Link, there was no proof that it was even you, just a bloody knife and…okay, that's it, from now on one of you guys is doing the news breaking."
"Flynn," Sora said, gritting her teeth, "This is a really bad time for the witticism."
Flynn hung his head, feeling ashamed. He'd been trusted with this secret and because of his stupid temper he'd let it spill. He shrank back into the shadows of the tent with a strong resolution to keep his mouth shut. Meanwhile everyone stood in silence, letting the news sink in. Finally, just as Sora opened her mouth to say something, Link turned and bolted out of the tent.
"Link!" Sora called after him. "Link, don't!"
But it was too late. Sora sighed and picked at the food on her plate, her appetite suddenly gone. No one even noticed when Flynn slipped out of the tent. He felt a sudden need to be alone, away from them all. He had known, when he'd first heard the story that Link would need to be told someday. Now, though, Flynn wished it had been some other time, so they could talk this over in private.
The wind whipped Link's hair back and small pieces of sleet stung his cheeks. It was too cold for summer, and the wind was blowing so very strong. Below him he could feel Legacy's muscles bunching and gathering for each leaping stride. The ground was muddy and cold, but the young stallion understood what his master was feeling. As a matter of fact, Legacy was thrilling in this new challenge. He loved to run, and now Link gave him his head, letting him go any which way he pleased.
Link was not unaware of the sound of hoofbeats behind him. He knew Sora must not have set out for almost an hour after he'd left, so she must have maneuvered through the forest to catch up so quickly. It had almost turned into a race, although he knew Robin wouldn't put in the effort to catch up with him unless Sora told him to, and she hadn't yet. Link got the feeling she was waiting for something…
Just as he was passing under it, a huge old tree got struck by lightning. Legacy whinnied and picked up a faster pace until he was clear. Link stopped the nervous stallion and turned to see Sora and Robin barely make it away alive. The ground shuddered as the tree landed hard. It was splint completely in two and charred badly. Sora rode up to him, panting, and pulled up Robin. Even in the dim light Link could see that her face was very pale.
"Are you okay?" Link asked.
Sora let out a heavy breath. "A little shaken, but I'll be okay."
"You shouldn't have followed me." Link said, his tone suddenly icy.
"Me? Oh hey, I was looking for a good romp in the mud and sleet and rain and icy wind anyway." Sora said, the sarcasm in her voice thick as heated molasses.
"No one asked you to follow me." Link growled. "I know I didn't."
Sora shrugged. "Well, you need to talk to somebody."
"No I don't." Link said. "Now, please leave me alone."
Sora sighed and looked down. Her eyes scanned the blocked off route from beneath her eyelashes, searching for a good place to jump the log. Normally she would have refused to go when Link told her to, but now it was different. She could understand if he wanted to be alone right now. Sora tapped her heels against Robin's sides and clucked to him. Obediently the stallion started forward.
"Where are you going?" Link demanded.
"You told me to leave." Sora said.
Link frowned. "Since when do you listen to me?"
"You want to be alone. I can understand that."
Sora turned away from him and nudged Robin into a canter. They started to circle, building the momentum and speed that they would need to take the jump. She had decided to aim for the far end, where most of the branches had been burned off. The jump would be a hard one, because the trunk was about four feet wide and the few branches left extended almost two feet above that. If she wasn't careful she'd get both her and Robin killed.
"Sora wait!" Link called.
"Wha-" Sora stopped. "Link, behind you!"
Link turned his horse just in time to miss being skewered by a sword. He looked around for the source of the attack and he found it quickly. Guwaffing evilly, a half a dozen Shadows stepped out of the tree branches. Bits of bloody flesh clung to their skeletal bodies and even to their sharp swords. Link pulled the Sunrise Sword out of the sheath on his back, glad he had thought to bring it with him. The blade was glowing hungrily, ready for the fight. Link only hoped he would be able to control it.
"Thunder Arrow, Level Three!" Sora shrieked.
There was a bright flash of light as the magic bounced uselessly off of the Shadows. Sora cursed loudly; her magic wasn't strong enough for this! If she had fire magic, she could use that to destroy them, but she had been born with Earth, Water and Lightning. If Flynn were here, he would be able to defeat them. But he wasn't here and Sora hadn't thought to take along any weapons. She wasn't expecting an attack quite yet.
Link was using the sword to fight, but without the Orb nearby it wasn't nearly as powerful as it could be. Once he learned full control over it, it would be very powerful, but until then he was stuck. Sora's magic wasn't working and she hadn't brought a weapon, making her dangerous to herself as well as to him. If something happened to her and he got distracted, it would be his death.
The Shadows were smart and they realized quickly that Sora didn't have any weapons with her. Four of them surrounded Robin, reaching out to take hold of Sora's arms and legs and drag her from the saddle. She fought, but they were uncommonly strong, even for Shadows, which meant they were probably magicked. But they wouldn't get her without a fight; Sora kicked and screamed, making it harder for them to get a good hold on her. Unfortunately it was raining harder now and it was cold. Not even she could keep fighting forever.
"Link!" Sora screamed, as they dragged her halfway out of the saddle.
Link whirled Legacy, to see Sora being pulled from her mount. Robin was trying to fight, but his hooves kept sinking into the thick mud, making it difficult. The rain and wind made it hard for Link to see, but he knew on instinct that his friend was in trouble. The thought of losing her now, when he needed her the most, sent a sudden pang through his heart.
"Mass Destruction, Level Zero!" Link cried, startling himself.
The world around them shook violently. Small craters opened in the ground and purple bolts of energy shot down from the skies. The attack was weak, being the first time he'd ever even used magic, but it sufficed. The Shadows fell to the ground in piles of ash. Sora scrambled back up into Robin's saddle. Link noticed that she was trembling.
"L-Link…" Sora stammered. Her purple eyes were wide with fright. "You…used y-your magic…"
Link sighed. "I didn't want to have to…"
"To s-save me…" Sora finished.
Sora edged Robin closer to Legacy. The rain still poured down, although it wasn't as heavy as before, and the wind was sharp as an icy blade. Link could feel Sora's warm breath as she leaned closer to him. His heart pounded in his ears; he was still on edge from the surprise attack. As their lips brushed in a gentle kiss, there came more Shadows, crashing from the underbrush.
"Run!" Link yelled.
Sora needed no further encouragement. She spurred Robin into a gallop and aimed him at the fart end of the tree trunk. Behind her she heard Legacy's hooves pounding in the mud as he tried to keep up. Sora leaned far over Robin's withers just as he took off for the jump. She could hear the branches snap as they brushed Robin's belly. Then they were over and back on the ground. Sora nearly bounced out of the saddle when Robin's back legs made impact.
Behind her she heard Link cursing loudly: Legacy's trip over the tree had been slightly more troubled. But she didn't dare glance over her shoulder to see what was going on. Sora could hear Legacy's hoofbeats, so she knew at least that they were all right. She loosened her hold on the reins and let Robin have his head all the way back to camp.
Link leapt from the saddle before Legacy had even come to a complete stop. Frat and Flynn and everyone else were outside. A few of the Dragons had gathered around; obviously they had felt the coming evil. Link pulled the sword from its sheath and everyone gasped at how brightly it was glowing. The Orb began to glow, reacting to the sword.
"They've got the element of surprise!" Link shouted above the din of the falling rain. "They attacked me and Sora in the forest. But we have no choice, we must fight back!"
"We should go to the Fortress." Gossamer said. She raised her elegant head and trumpeted.
"Right," Link agreed. "I need someone to carry Flynn ahead to the Fortress, so he has time to set up."
Silence. No one wanted to do it. All the Dragons around him shifted uncomfortably, even Gossamer. Link could not believe it. All of them were in danger of their lives and yet their prejudices still won them over. And then Rogue stepped out of the crowd. In the flashing lightning and pouring rain he looked more wild and beautiful than ever.
"I will carry him." Rogue said. "I know a kindred soul when I have met one…and I can forgive him for past mistakes."
Flynn nodded, a slight smiling playing at his lips. The camp went into a flurry of motion as everyone gathered around Link. He realized too late that now he was in charge and he had to give all the orders. They were depending on him to tell them what to do. Link knew that the inhabitants of Caseree Isle didn't go to war much. They were probably nervous.
"All right, Amiri, take Frat and Oliana to Farreach to get the fighters we have there." Link commanded. "Whirrscale, take Roxanna and go with them. Keep them as far away from the coming army as possible."
"I don't want to go!" Roxanna whined.
Link whirled on her. "I need you to be safe. I can't be worrying about you too! Now go!"
Roxanna could only nod meekly and follow Frat and Oliana.
"Poonta, Raylan, gather the Azons and the centaurs." Link continued. "Get them armed and get them moving! Sora, you'll come with me, I need your magic."
Sora nodded. "Right."
"Emiri, come with me." Flynn said softly.
"But I want to stay here and fight!" Emiri protested.
"As my apprentice you must come with me!" Flynn snapped. "Now, let's go!"
The whole camp quickly went into action. Rogue, Amiri and Whirrscale took off into the air, both heading in different directions. Raylan and Poonta sprinted off for the weapons tent. Moments later a few young Azons came back, leading fresh horses and holding weapons. Link only bothered with a dagger, but Sora took her sword, a set of sparring daggers, a cross bow and quiver of arrows, and an array of other daggers. If her magic didn't work, all she would have is physical defense, and Link was better than she was at that.
The Azons and centaurs were ready quicker than he thought they could have been. All the centaurs were armed with either bows or sword, and the Azons had an array of weapons. Link mounted his new horse, a tall, dappled gray stallion. Besides him Sora had mounted a small, flea bitten gray mare. She gave him a nervous smile, then gathered her reins and waited for his instructions. Link glanced back at everyone who was waiting for them.
"Let's move!" Link called, loud enough for them all to hear. "Swiftly but carefully. Stay with the group. If we lose you we can't take the time to look for you."
Link turned his stallion and heeled him forward. Fortunately the trip was a short one, but it would take awhile to get there because of the rain and the mud. Behind him he could hear the wagon wheels creak; the centaurs were pulling them, because they didn't have the horses to spare. Lightning streaked across the sky and thunder rumbled beyond the hills like a hungry beast. Indeed, it was going to be a long, tiring journey.
Chapter Thirteen: Lightning Striking.
Emiri clung tightly to one of Rogue's shimmering fins. Even through her thick fleece poncho she could feel the stinging wind and ice cold rain. Every time the lightning flashed she felt as though it would strike them, but it never did. Behind her Flynn was silent, never saying a word and even moving. Emiri couldn't help but fidget a little and she felt like such a little child. Not only that, but she was unbearably tired.
"Another half hour." Flynn murmured in her ear, making her jump. She hadn't realized that he was so close to her.
"Okay." Emiri said softly.
Flynn put his arms around her and she was thankful for the warmth of his body against her back. Emiri tilted her head to the side and tucked it under his chin. She felt herself drifting off and fought against it. She had to stay awake so she could help Flynn when they got to the Fortress. But oh how nice it would be to sleep!
"Sleep." Flynn murmured in her ear.
"I'm not…tired." Emiri protested, barely smothering a yawn.
"Sleep." Flynn said again.
It's a spell, Emiri's mind registered weakly as she began to fall asleep. He put a sleep spell on me. Why? And then she was fast asleep. Flynn looked down at her sleep form. Wisps of her copper brown hair blew in the wind, brushing against his cheek. He was going to need her help, her energy, to work the Orb; that was why he had put her to sleep. With her boundless energy and spark, she was the perfect person to draw from.
They arrived at the Fortress soon after. Rogue cupped his wings and dove into the courtyard. He landed as softly as possible, as so not to jolt his precious human cargo from the saddle. A bunch of servants, human and some small Dragons, swelled into the Courtyard. He let them take the bundled Orb, knowing none of them would be stupid enough to drop it or handle it badly. But he refused to let any of them touch Emiri.
Flynn bundled the young girl up in his cloak and carried her into the hall himself. A young page showed him to a room in the High Tower where he would be staying. It was plush, with a large, comfortable looking bed in one chamber, a large claw foot tub in the far chamber, a small library chamber and the main room, which was bare. All of this was at his request. There was also a pile of fine keeln furs in one corner.
He carried Emiri into the bedchamber, took off her wet clothes, and tucked her in. She wouldn't wake for a few hours at least, giving him plenty of time to set up. Flynn himself quickly changed into dry clothes. He immediately felt better. Flynn ate sparingly from the food on the tray on the table, leaving the rest for Emiri, who was bound to be hungry when she woke up. Then he got to work.
Flynn dragged a few thick, warm keeln mats to the middle of the room and spread them on the floor. Then he took the Orb from its soft cloth and placed it carefully on its stand. He opened the books he would need and spread them about him. At last he was finished. Flynn settled down on the keeln mats and concentrated on the Orb.
"They're catching up!" Sora yelled.
Link glanced over his shoulder at her. They were in the back of the group, waiting for the oncoming armies of lizard-like monsters to catch up with them. Sora had used her magic to pick off a few of them, but somebody had quickly put up magic shields. If they caught the group from behind, none of them stood a chance. Not to mention the fact that the Azons and most of the centaurs were far ahead, while only the wagons remained still in the forest.
"We've got to do something!" Link shouted.
But what? Sora thought frantically. She looked around for something, anything that would help them fight off the oncoming force. They were near the edge of the forest, with the troop of lizards maybe a mile behind them. Through the rain it was hard to see how fast they were moving, and only the fact that the land was flat and the forest not too thick allowed her to see them from here. If only this forest were thicker!
That gave Sora an idea. While Link and the wagons went ahead, she stayed behind, focusing on the trees. She had Earth magic and had always been closely tied to nature. Now it gave her the perfect scheme, that might just slow down the troops, for a little while at least. All they needed was time to get to the Fortress.
"What are you doing?" Link demanded, riding over to her.
"I've got an idea." Sora explained. "I think I can stop them…go ahead."
Sora held up a hand, cutting him off. "Go, Link. I need to concentrate. Get everyone to the Fortress!"
Link could have commanded her to come, and maybe she would have listened, but probably not. Reluctantly he turned his horse and left her to herself. Slowly, Sora began to back the mare, all the while concentrating on the forest around her. At first, there was nothing. And then the branches began to shuffle. They extended, growing together, forming a thick wall. Sora kept backing the mare as the monsters came closer and closer.
"Sora, come on!" Link yelled.
It wasn't thick enough yet! But the army was too close now, she'd never make it out alive. She could see sword blade flashing and knew her death would come on those blades. She could only hope that her efforts were not in vain. Sora had always felt that she would give her life for the welfare of her home and her people. Now she had no choice; those wagons had to get to the fortress!
As the army closed in around her, Sora just finished closing off the forest. She was so tired from her effort that she knew she would be unable to lift her blade and fight. Vaguely she heard a shout behind her, but she couldn't imagine what it was. The lizards pulled her down off the mare. She could hear the horse scream as it met its death. They would eat it alive, without even bothering to kill it first. Like they would do to her.
Sharp talons tore at her clothes and left deep gashes in her flesh. Then she was dropped carelessly. Maybe something better had caught their attention; Sora was too tired to really care. Then she felt an arm close around her waist and she was dragged into the saddle of Link's dappled gray stallion. She glanced up at Link, and then blacked out.
"What happened?" Flynn demanded.
The young king of Hyrule had just burst into his room, holding Sora's beaten body. His hands and clothes were covered with her blood. Emiri stood in a corner, a look of shock on her face. She had just woken up and it was quite obvious; her hair was rumbled and she was wearing only one of Flynn's tunics, which was huge on her.
"Is she going to be okay?" Emiri asked.
"I don't know." Link said softly. "Flynn, send for Sarice. Please."
Link walked into the bedchamber and shut the door behind him. Flynn was a little startled, but he turned to Emiri and sent her to get Sarice. More than anything Flynn wished to see if Sora was all right, but Link had shut the door and he figured the King did not wished to be disturbed. What had happened, on the way over here that had cause Sora to be in such beaten shape? All that blood…
Then Sarice came in. "Where?"
Flynn pointed to the closed door of the bedchamber. Sarice stomped past him and into the room, slamming it behind her. Flynn jumped at the sound of the door banging it into place. Now he desperately wished to see what was wrong, but he knew better than to disturb Sarice.
"How'd it happen?" Sarice demanded.
Link glanced up at her momentarily, before continuing his cleaning of Sora's wounds. Only a few of them were very deep; it was one across her stomach that had caused all the blood. Most of the monsters had been interested in Sora's horse. Link knew Sora would feel sorrow for the mare, but if it hadn't been there, they would have torn her limb from limb. Link shuddered and shoved that thought out of his head.
Sarice pulled out a series of packets and jars from the bag at her hip. As leader of the Azon tribe she was required to have some healing skills, which she did. She set to work crushing herbs in a small dish, boiling water and mixing jars of liquids and salves. Both would help her heal, some only faster than most. Emiri had brought in a bundle of bandages for them to use as well, along with plenty of clean water.
"Spread this on the deep wounds." Sarice said, handing him a bowl of reddish salve. "And this on the smaller cuts." She indicated a jar of off white salve.
Link took both and set to work. He carefully spread both salves on the right wounds, and then work to bandage them. With that done, Link tucked Sora under the covers and sat down in the chair beside her wearily. Sarice handed him a steaming mug, which he took and sipped from gratefully.
"What happened?" Sarice asked again.
"In the woods…we got caught and Sora tried to save us." Link explained. "She managed to cut off most of the army approaching from the direction, but a few managed to get to her. They killed the mare she was on."
Sarice nodded. "Brutal creatures, although you cannot blame them for it. Most of the monsters we'll fight will have magical origin. They were born only to evil and know no better."
"I know." Link said. "I'd hate to kill something that has no control over its actions…but we must not let Caseree Isle fall."
Sarice nodded in agreement. For a long time they talked, about the incident in the forest, the coming war and even Link journey to find the Sunset Orb. Link told her about what he'd discovered, of Nicodemus' betrayal and his plans for the war. Sarice listened silently, nodding on occasion, or making a soft sound resembling a sigh.
"I should have known." Link said. "My Grandfather never trusted him, neither should I have!"
"But your Grandfather did not get rid of him?" Sarice asked.
"He couldn't. He'd already stepped down." Link explained. "Grandfather did what was best for his people, but he couldn't stand politics. And he was getting old…"
Link let the thought trail off and Sarice didn't push him to speak any further. He cared for his family deeply, but they had never been family-like to him. Not in the way Sora's family was to her. Only Rhiannon had ever been his friend. Now that they had been gone so long, the pain had numbed to a dull ache in his heart. He always felt like a part of him was missing, but never a big part. Only his Grandfather had really meant that much to him.
"You'd best turn in for the night." Sarice said, interrupting his thoughts. "You need all the sleep you can get. I'll keep an eye on Sora."
Reluctantly Link stood. He knew Sarice was right, but he didn't want to leave his friend while she was hurt. Link pulled on his jerkin and walked out of the room, shutting the door softly behind him. Both Flynn and Emiri looked up when he came out, but he said nothing to them. They were not his friends, not like Frat and Oliana and Sora. He walked out of the room and headed down the spiraling stairs of the High Tower.
Link had been assigned to the right battle tower for sleeping. It was cold and windy out, still raining, and the walk across the battlements was a tough one. He pulled the jerkin tightly about his shoulders and hunched over. In the distance lightning was flashing and thunder rumbled loudly. The moon could not be seen through the thick, dark clouds.
"Hey Link." Poonta greeted him at the tower door.
"I'm turning in." Link told her. "Wake me if there's any sign of battle."
"Yes, Your Majesty."
Link pushed open the heavy tower door and stepped inside. The strong winds blew the door shut with a loud bang, making him jump. The tower was drafty and not much warmer than it was outside, but in his room he could start a fire to warm himself up. Sleeping sounded like a good idea right now; he was exhausted from his journey and as far as he knew it was sometime after midnight. Link shuddered. Midnight…
Dreaming. Link was dreaming again. Not one of his pleasant dreams, with him and Sora in Saba's cavern. It was dark out, except for the lightning that flashed constantly. Below him he saw armies of monsters marching; Shadows, Lizalfos, Dinoflos, Stalfos and so many other unrecognizable creatures. Above him the sky was dark. Only one single star glimmered and it's light was dying quickly.
The shadows stalk in your direction, child of the wind…
Suddenly Link was on the ground, walking a thin path that wound its way through piles of bloody bodies. They were the Azons and the Centaurs. They had never stood a chance against the evil. In a vain struggle for their lives they had given one last effort…and failed. But no! This was wrong, something was wrong. This place was different. Turn around, turn, turn!
Link turned, as the voice in his dreams commanded. Behind him the Fortress of the Dragons was no more. In its place was a glorious palace. The palace was made completely of crystal. The large arch above the grand gate was sky blue. The walls were golden, like crystallized stars. Three tall towers: one was red crystal. It rose into the sky to strike at the white fluff clouds. Another was green crystal. This one didn't even reach the clouds. The third one was tallest, largest and creepiest. It was made of black shimmering crystal. Oddly enough, vines had crept up the walls, giving it an even more repulsive appearance. Above it, and only above that one spire, were dark, stormy clouds.
The dark minions want your blood, child of the wind…
Suddenly the path beneath his feet crumbled and he was falling. The fall was much like that which brought him into Caseree Isle through the Wake. Bright lights flashed all around him, twinkling like stars in the sky, except they were red. Crimson red, like blood. Link shivered as he fell, as the cold air swirled and whirled around him.
The dark minions want to chew on your flesh, child of the wind…
Link struggled to turn his head, to see what lie below him. It was the top of the black tower. At the top it was sharp and pointed, like a needle. And as he saw what was beneath him, the fall slowed drastically. The tip of the tower was only a few feet away from him but the fall was taking forever. Link opened his mouth to scream and then the fall ended sharply, abruptly and painfully.
He was now impaled on the top of the spire. Because of the way he had landed he was forced to look at the wound, despite not wanting to. It was a large hole in his stomach, but all the pain was in his heart. As blackness began to take over, his mind was clouded with a picture of Sora. Everything she'd done for him and said to him in the past came back to him. This fight was for her, for her only, she who cared about everything and everyone with no real good reason. Except it was over and the dark minions had won.
The dark minions will nibble on your bones, child of the wind…
Link awoke with a start. He looked wildly around the dark tower room and then down at his stomach. There was no sharp object protruding from it. With a sigh of relief Link pushed the sweat soaked sheets to the floor. He re-lit the candle by his bed. It had gone out during the middle of the night, probably because of a draft. Link reached out and pulled on his tunic, but he couldn't stop the violent shivers that racked his body.
He jumped as the sound of boots running up the stairs reached his ears. Link grabbed his dagger from its place under his pillow and jumped off the bed. He slid behind the door just as it opened. Link listened to the person; they had stopped in the middle of the room, maybe confused. He longed out from behind the door and grabbed the person from behind, holding a dagger to her throat. Her?
"Link!" Poonta yelled. She whirled around and kicked him hard in the shin.
"Ow!" Link grabbed his shin and jumped back. The dagger clattered to the floor.
Poonta's eyes widened. "Your Majesty! I'm so sorry! I didn't know it was you."
"It's okay." Link grunted. "I'm a little jumpy myself."
Link noticed that Poonta was dressed in battle armor. Her twin swords hung in their criss-cross pattern over her back. A short bow and quiver were tied at her waist. In one hand she held a scroll and in the other she held Link's discarded dagger.
"It's started?" Link asked.
Poonta nodded. "There are armies of monsters marching from North, West and East. Wyverns have taken to the skies and made it impossible for the Dragons to take flight. Flynn is working with the Orb, but he needs you out there with the Sword."
"Okay. Leave." Link said gruffly. "I'll be down in a moment."
Poonta scrambled quickly from the room. Link waited until the sounds of her footsteps had faded before finishing getting dressed. He pulled on leather armor and a chain mail shirt over it. He slid he gauntlets into place and then sheathed the Sunrise Sword. Link threw on his jerkin and stomped out the tower door.
Chapter Fourteen: The Battle Begins
Sora awoke late in the afternoon. It was still dark and stormy outside, where the battle was raging furiously below. Emiri was slouched over in a chair asleep not far from the bed. Flynn was nowhere to be seen, nor was Link or any of her other friends. All Sora remembered was the forest and being pulled from her horse by those creatures. She could tell that they must've hurt her, because she was sore all over.
Carefully Sora threw the blankets aside and stepped out of bed. She pulled on the thin robes that were left at the side of her bed and wrapped them tightly about her. Sora slid her feet into her slippers and walked out of the sleeping chamber. Flynn was sitting in the middle of the floor on keeln furs, dressed in only a pair of breeches. He was concentrating hard on the Sunset Orb, which sent spurts of lightning zooming out the window every now and then. Sora realized with a start that the battle had already begun.
"Flynn?" Sora called softly.
Flynn jumped at the sound of her voice. He opened his eyes and glanced around wildly, one hand reaching out to grab his dagger. When her noticed her he let out a sigh of relief, stood up and walked to her side.
"Are you all right?" Flynn asked, his eyes filled with concern. "Maybe you shouldn't have gotten out of bed…"
"I'm okay." Sora said softly.
"I was so worried." Flynn said. "You shouldn't put yourself in danger like that!"
"But I had to!" Sora argued. "Everyone was in danger."
"Oh, Sorella…" Flynn breathed.
Flynn wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close. His eyes searched hers for a long moment and then he leaned down and kissed her softly. Sora prepared herself to bolt, but she found she could not. Flynn's hold was too tight and his lips too soft, too tempting. It was Flynn who broke the kiss in the end, after only moments, although it seemed like eternity. Sora frowned; she should have liked it. Too dangerous, Sora thought. A disguise…it feels soft, safe, but it's not.
"I'm sorry." Flynn said. "Go down to the kitchens…get something to eat."
He turned away from her abruptly and sat back down on the keeln mats before the Orb. Sora realized he must've been away from the battle for too long; he looked disappointed in himself. Gathering her robes as tightly about herself as she could, Sora walked out of the chamber and into the hall. It was cold out here, bitterly so, but Sora clenched her teeth and start down the spiraling tower steps.
"Ewan?" Sora said, surprised. "What are you doing?"
"Came to check on ya, I did," Ewan told her. "The young King requested it of me."
Sora sighed. "He's going to get himself killed."
"Come, Lady," Ewan said. "Let's get you something to eat."
Link gasped as the edge of the Shadow's blade sunk deep into the flesh of his arm. It wasn't the first wound he had suffered and he doubted that it would be the last. Fortunately it was nothing too serious; a couple of well aimed slices, that was all. And this Shadow was almost done for anyway. Link had smashed most of its ribs and left a few deep clefts in its skull. Now it chopped at him clumsily and a well-aimed slash took off one of its arms. It slumped to the ground just as another Shadow jumped at Link, sword bearing down in a wild arc.
Link jerked his sword up and there was the deafening ring of metal on metal. This Shadow was stronger, fresher and harder to fight, but he knew he wouldn't have to worry long. Link's sharp vision had picked up Poonta sneaking through the underbrush behind the Shadow, a fireball already glowing in her hand.
"Flame Chain, Level Three!" Poonta hissed.
The flames struck the Shadow, sending it up in wildly sizzling smoke. Poonta stepped from the underbrush, grinning merrily, and wiped her hands off on her breeks. Link scowled at her in mock annoyance.
"I had that under control you know," He growled.
Poonta laughed. "Aye, Your Majesty, just thought I'd give you a hand."
"I don't get the whole 'level' thing with this magic," Link said as he sheathed the Sunrise Sword.
"Sora explained it to me," Poonta told him. "Each magic has different levels. Until you reach your maximum level on each magic, you have to speak your current level or it won't work."
"Interesting…" Link murmured.
"Sora also told me that your magic has very low levels, because it's so powerful, but mine could get up to level ten or so."
Link pulled his sword from its sheath just as two wyverns bore down on them from the skies. They were having a lot of trouble clearing enough of the sky for the Dragons to come in, although many of the smaller ones, including Rogue, Amiri and Whirrscale (who had returned mere hours ago) were up and fighting. Unfortunately the forces of evil came in waves and waves, never ceasing, as if they were an eternal tempest.
"Flame Stri-" Poonta began.
"No!" Link shouted. "They're creatures of fire!"
"Waterfall, Level Nine!"
SPLASH! Both wyverns went down beneath a rush of water, causing steam to rise in the air. When the steam cleared there stood Oliana and Roxanna, with Frat behind them. Oliana was grinning like the cat who ate the canary, which wasn't such a far cry from the truth in this case. Laughing, Link sheathed his sword and walked over to them.
"I thought you were taking care of my sister," Frat admonished, shaking a finger at Link.
Link's smile faded. "Is she all right? Sarice said…"
"Don't worry," Frat laughed, slinging an arm around his shoulders. "She's up and fighting already, as usual."
"She's fighting? Yep, she's better all right…"
"Rogue, be careful!"
The silver Dragon twisted in the air momentarily and winked at her. Sora crossed her arms over her chest, scowling. Sarice had allowed her to fight, as long as she stayed on a high balcony and used her magic from there, with Rogue on guard to keep her from air assaults. She hadn't been very happy about the whole thing, but if it was the only way she would be allowed to fight then she had to take what she could get.
"Mist, Level Twelve!" Sora shrieked.
Suddenly a thick, wet mist surrounded the area around the balcony. It took only moment for the mist to clear and when it did several wyverns dropped to the ground. As they did, another of the small Dragons took flight, lashing out with claws and teeth and fiery breath at the armies above and below. Rogue lashed out with his tail, knocking another wyvern from the sky. Sora giggled at Rogue's gleeful chortles.
"Sora!" Aidan gasped as he burst out onto the balcony. "He is here! Malance! With a whole army of Lizalfos!"
"Lizalfos are easily taken care of," Sora said. "As for Malance…that might be another story."
Sora whirled and grabbed her cloak from where it hung on the railing of the balcony. She picked up her short sparring daggers and slid them into place. She pulled her claws on over her hands and in a moment she was over the balcony and on Rogue's back before either he or Aidan had a chance to protest. Sora gripped one of Rogue's silvery fins, being careful not to tear them with the claws.
"Take me to the ground, now!" Sora commanded. "I need to find Link!"
"Right away, Your Highness," Rogue said and dove to the ground.
One, two, three, four…on and on they came, in vicious waves. Lizalfos were simple enough foes, but they could be dangerous in packs. Down they went, by threes and fours, as Link's blade flashed in the rapidly dying light. He could hear the clash of battle all around him; the clang of swords and knives, the clang of arrowheads against metal armor. Suddenly more than anything Link missed his home.
"Coming in to your right!" Poonta hissed.
Link whirled to his right, swinging his blade in time with his body. It met two short Lizalfos swords and rang with the cry of war. Grinning bitterly, Link charged forward, ramming the sword through both Lizalfos at once. They let out hideous shrieks as the died and black blood flowed from their wounds. Link stepped back from the corpses and wiped his sleeve across his forehead with a deep sigh.
Link whirled at the shout. He was startled to see Sora running up to him, followed by Aidan who was struggling to keep up. She slid to halt when she reached him; her robes were covered in dark stains and she was breathless.
"What are you doing here?" Link demanded, grabbing her shoulders. "You should be resting!"
"I'm sorry!" Sora gasped. "But Malance is here! I had to warn you!"
Link sighed. "Wonderful. You get back to the Fortress, I don't want you getting hurt."
"No!" Sora protested. "I'm coming with you whether you like it or."
Link turned a glare on her, only to meet one more fierce than his own. She stood with her hands on her hips, looking like a beautiful princess and a stubborn warrior both at the same time. With a sigh, Link bowed his head in consent. He reached out and scooped her up, cradling her against him despite her loud protests.
"If you want to go, then you're going to do as I tell you," Link said. "You're still only partially recovered from your accident and I don't want you having a relapse."
"Oh, all right," Sora sighed. "But don't go making this a habit!"
Link chuckled. "Don't worry, Princess."
Emiri watched Flynn from where she sat perched on a chair in the far corner of the room. Her mind raced with uncontrollable emotions after what she'd seen earlier. Flynn was kissing Sora…? Did that mean he loved her? Having lived among only women her whole life, Emiri had no idea what men were like. Her head ached from the constant confusion; what did his actions mean? With a soft sigh Emiri slid off her chair and headed for the bedchamber.
Sitting on a table in the chamber was a tray with food on it. It had been a while since Flynn had eaten anything. Carefully Emiri lifted the tray and carried it back out to where Flynn sat on the keeln mats, concentrating on the Sunset Orb. Emiri approached as quietly as she could, but Flynn was alert despite his concentration and looked up at her as she sat next to him, placing the tray on the floor. He reached out and picked up a slice of bread without so much as a greeting.
"I um…" Emiri began, fiddling with the hem of her tunic. Actually, it was one of Flynn's tunics and hung all the way down to her knees. "I…thought you might be hungry."
Flynn nodded. "Thanks."
"Well uh…So, how's it going?" Emiri asked, and then wince. That was really lame, She thought.
"I'm tired," Flynn mumbled through a mouthful of food.
Annoyed, Emiri stood up and glared down at him, fists clenched. "Why are you being so cold?"
"I'm not in the mood for this, Emiri," Flynn sighed, setting down the half-eaten slice of bread.
"You were in the mood for Sora."
Flynn flung his head up and stood in one swift, graceful movement. For a moment Emiri rallied between fear and anger; she was a trained warrior but for that instant he had been an imposing figure. He raised one hand to her cheek and for a moment she thought he meant to hit her. And maybe he truly had. But instead he lightly cupped her face in both hands and brushed his lips against hers in the barest gentle touch. Emiri jerked her head back and scowled at him.
"Maybe Sora is easy to kiss," Emiri hissed. "But I'm not."
"I caught you both off guard," Flynn murmured distantly. "But you…I've never kissed anyone and had it feel so…right…"
Flynn blinked, then shook his head. "I'm sorry…it's nothing."
"Nothing? What do you mean, it's nothing?" Emiri demanded. "You just kissed me and without my permission! I would say that's something!"
"You're being childish," Flynn told her.
"And you're being arrogant!"
With that Emiri turned and stomped out of the room, slamming the heavy oak door behind her. Flynn flinched at the bang and he longed to go after her, but he couldn't. With a resigned sigh he settled back onto the keeln mats.
Chapter Fifteen: The Duel in the Air
Sora clung to Link's shoulders as he jogged speedily across the battle field. The fighting had died down and now only the Azons were left, going through dead bodies to see what they could find. At Malance's arrival the army had scatted and now everything was deathly still. Still, no one was tricked into thinking that it was over. A pack of wyverns had taken to the sky once more, hovering just by the tower.
"I wonder what's going on…" Sora murmured.
Link didn't answer. He charged head long past several wounded Azon warriors, who looked up as he flew by them. Sora peered over his shoulder and gave them a quick smile. Most of them turned their noses up; of course they would; Sora was letting herself be carried around by a man. That would normally be forbidden, unless the circumstances were special. In this case, Sora felt that they were special. After all, she couldn't become a burden to Link now, not when he needed more than anything for people to stay out of his way. Somehow Sora knew that this had to be his fight and no one else's.
They arrived back at the fort in no time and before Sora knew what was happening, Link had set her down, grabbed her hand and started up the tower stairs. They were much to narrow for him to carry her, and she was getting a little sick of it anyway. The air in the tower had gained a strange, undefinable chill to it and the only warmth was Link's hand in hers. When they finally reached the top, Flynn, Frat and everyone else was waiting for them.
"There you are!" Roxanna cried. "Oh, Link, you're all right. They didn't want me to come back but I just had to make sure-"
"Shut up!" Link hissed. "We've got trouble!"
"We know," Flynn said. "Real trouble. Come and take a look."
Flynn led him into the tower room, where the balcony doors were wide spread, allowing a vicious, tearing wind into the room. Outside, walking on what seemed to be thin air, was Malance, surrounded by a small army of Wyverns. He was holding a sword and grinning madly, waiting for Link and his friends.
"By Farore…" Link murmured. "How did he get up there?"
"Some kind of magic," Flynn answered. "I think he wants to fight you one on one."
"I'll look into that magic," Sora said. "Emiri, Oliana, Flynn, come with me."
"What about me?" Roxanna demanded.
"You go find Whirrscale and have him take you somewhere safe," Link said. "I can't be worrying about you, too."
"No," Roxanna said. "Look, I can use some healing spells. And they're short on staff downstairs. Let me stay and help."
Link sighed. "Roxanna…"
"I think she should stay," Sora piped up. "We do need all the help we can get, and she's good at those healing spells."
"Fine!" Link snapped. "Let's just get to work."
Sora and her small group scurried off with Roxanna in tow. They ran into Poonta as the young warrior woman walked into the room. She smiled at Link, but it was a forced smile. Her bright eyes were trained on the scene outside the balcony; she was obviously uneasy. But Malance made no move of attacking. If he wanted a one on one fight, then that was what he would get. Link only hoped that he could best him.
He waited impatiently for Sora to return. The air in the room was ice cold and Link shivered. Just was he was about to leave the room in search for her, Sora came charging back into, nearly running into him. She had a small, leather bound tome clutched to her chest and she looked like she'd been crying. Link grasped her shoulders and shook her gently. She looked up at him and more tears sprang to her eyes.
"We need Dragon power to do it," Sora explained. "Rogue…he offered to do it. It could…could kill him."
Link sighed. "Then we'll have to figure something else out."
"Rogue refuses," Sora said. "He won't take no for an answer. And I have a feeling that it's the only way."
"But…" Link started to protest, then shook his head. "Fine. Hopefully he can withstand it. If not…I promise I'll do everything in my power to honor him justly."
Sora nodded miserably. Link gave her a gentle hug, stroking her golden hair lightly. After everything that had happened, it was no wonder that she was so distraught. He was also upset about Rogue's decision; the Dragon had been a great friend to the both of them. Link bit his lip as tears stung his eyes. As leader of this rag tag band, he had to set an example and crying wasn't it.
"Come on," Sora said, pulling away. "Rogue is waiting downstairs."
The beautiful silver Dragon looked even more glorious than usual, with his delicate gossamer wings spread and his elegant head lifted proudly. His head crest and many fins were raised against the wind and his long tail was curled around his silver talons. On the way down to the courtyard Sora had explained to Link how this would work. She had told him that Dragons much older and larger than Rogue had died terrible deaths after giving such power to someone.
"The hour is nigh," Rogue murmured as they approached him. "I can feel it in my blood. We will win."
"Rogue," Sora said softly. "Silverstreak, thank you."
"Stop blubbering," Rogue muttered. "Come on boy, let's do this."
Link stepped over to Rogue, who lowered his head so the boy could touch his crest. Sora opened the book and began to chant, softly at first, and then with a rising passion. She was worried about both of her dear friends, but she had to help them. As she chanted the wind picked up around them, scattering silver mist about the courtyard. Sora's heartbeat roared in her ears; the power was almost too much for her to bear. And then it was over and Link was floating a few feet off the ground.
"Oh, my!" Sora exclaimed, dropping the book.
Link swallowed thickly. "I'm not so sure about this."
"Well, get sure," Rogue rasped painfully. "'Cause up you go!" And Link shot straight up into the clouds, screaming.
"Now that wasn't very nice," Sora chided gently, her eyes filled with tears.
"Stop that," Rogue muttered. "Now, come here Princess and scratch my neck."
Sniffling, Sora walked over to the Dragon and reached up to scratch behind one of his fins. Rogue stretched out his neck and purred, but the sound was strained. Sobbing now, Sora threw her arms around his neck and rested her cheek against his cool scales. Her heart with thumping painfully in her chest. Either way, she was going to lose one of her friends today.
Link managed to stop screaming before he reached Malance, but he was still terrified. He hated heights and he was furious with Rogue for sending him up so roughly. Then he remembered the Dragon's peril and his anger eased. Link had never lost any of his close circle of friends and he couldn't imagine what it would be like. Rogue had been there for him through so much; Isannah's death, rescuing Sora.
"So, you're the young King of Hyrule," A voice rasped.
Link looked up, startled. "That would be me, yeah. And you're this Malance guy I keep hearing about."
"Well then, are we going to chat over tea or should we just get down to it?" Malance asked, grinning.
"Your call," Link shrugged.
"Then, my boy," Malance sneered. "Prepare to die!"
Link rolled his eyes, but stepped quickly out of the way as Malance brought his sword down in an arc. He nearly stumbled, still unused to the footing up in the air. It was soft and cushy, like trying to fight on a bed. His movements were slowed drastically, even reaching back to pull the Sunrise Sword from its sheath across his back. But once it was in his hands its power seemed to help him. Soon he and Malance were in an all out fight.
Before long Link had adjusted to the height and footing of the air, with the help of the sword's power. He was able to jump, tumble and flip just as if he was on normal ground. His agility and speed helped him greatly, whereas Malance's horse half was a disadvantage. Still, Malance was using some magic and the wyverns were a problem. Fortunately Link had his friends on his side; they continuously zapped wyverns from the air.
Link swung the sword around to block a blow to his side. Right after that he had to duck as a wyvern swooped down from above, talons slashing the air. It was quickly snatched out of the air by Gossamer's large silver head. She bit down and Link heard bones cracking. Then Gossamer dropped the wyvern and its dead weight fell swiftly to the ground. This whole thing was gruesome and disgusting.
Link danced backwards as Malance lunged at him. So far all he'd managed was to defend himself. There was too much going on for him to concentrate on an attack. And then suddenly it was as if the ground had given way beneath him, except there was no ground. He fell and nearly sank through the clouds, but Rogue caught him with a boost of power, sending him back to his feet. Link stumbled and shot an annoyed glance in Malance's direction.
"This is all your fault," Link hissed. "Working for someone like Nicodemus."
"Lord Nicodemus treats me well," Malance answered, grinning. "What about you, Your Majesty? How do you treat your people?"
"Much better than I plan to treat you!" Link roared, jumping forward.
The blow caught Malance by surprise. He stumbled backwards, his legs tripping him up. It was only an instant, blindingly fast, but Link jumped forward and drove his sword through Malance's heart, all the way up to the hilt. It was the killing blow; Link could see the shock in Malance's eyes. Link pulled the sword out and Malance's body fell through the clouds.
But it was not the end. Maybe it was Malance's dying wish, Link wasn't sure, but suddenly twenty or so wyverns swooped down on him, screeching. He saw a flash of sharp silver talons, rust colored wings and rows of sharp, ivory teeth. Their cries filled his ears and sudden Link felt a deep sympathy for them. Their eyes were blank, devoid of personality. Something was controlling these beasts.
"Link, watch out!" He heard Sora scream. "Link!"
Suddenly Rogue burst up through the clouds, a silver streak among the rusty red of flying feathers. His head snapped back and forth, tearing wings, crushing neck bones and his tail knocked several wyverns from the air at a time. The next thing Link knew, he was sitting on Rogue's back as the Dragon spiraled downward.
Everyone was waiting for them in the courtyard, even Roxanna who's hair was mussed and her face was smudged. The storm had given way and silver moonlight filled the courtyard, bouncing off the ivy covered walls. The black velvet of the night sky was splattered with twinkling stars, like little gems. It was so beautiful, but there was not one person in the whole fortress that really cared. Everyone was crowding around Rogue, who lay in a barely breathing heap on the ground of the courtyard.
"Rogue!" Sora sobbed, resting her cheek gently against his. "Oh Rogue…you can't die! You can't!"
"Rogue…" Link murmured, also cradling the Dragons had in his hands. "She's right, friend. You need to stay with us. There's still Frat and Oliana's wedding…and what about the celebration? We've won."
The two bowed their heads together over the Dragon. In the dim light they no longer looked like the brave, royal personages that they played day to day. Instead they looked like the children that they were, sobbing over their friend.
Epilogue: The Wedding
Sora peered at herself in the mirror. She was dressed in an off the shoulder gown of a simple golden color. Golden sandals were strapped to her feet and one of those nets, also golden fell down over her shoulders to the ground, making the dress look grander than it really was. Her hair was like the fluffy down of chick, soft and yellow. Sora scowled at her reflection in the mirror, thinking, And I thought white was the color of weddings.
Aidan was waiting for her, holding a small silver circlet in his tiny paws. Sora kneeled so the Dragon could place it gently on her head, and then clamber onto her shoulder. She grinned at Link as he walked in the door, holding a golden rose in his hands. She had to admit he looked very handsome in a rich blue tunic, white silk shirt and breeches. He gently tucked the rose behind her ear and smiled at her.
"You actually look like a princess," Link teased lightly. "I'm shocked."
"Oh, be quiet," Sora muttered. "Um…you look…nice."
Link laughed. "Well, it's a start. Come on, Princess, let's not keep everyone waiting."
Link offered her his arm and she took it, giggling. Aidan snorted and rolled his eyes, but he stayed glued to Sora's shoulder. All three of them went together to the courtyard of Dragon Rock Castle where Frat and Oliana's wedding was being held. It would be a very small procession, with only family and very close friends. Poonta, Roxanna and Emiri were waiting for them when they arrived.
"Hey, where'd Mr. Anti-Social get off to?" Sora asked, grinning.
"I'm right here," Flynn growled, appearing from behind a tree.
"Well, looks like we're all here," Link said. "I'm going over to Frat now. He looks really nervous."
Sora glanced over to where her brother was standing at the 'altar'. His face was pale, even more so than usual, but he looked great. He was dressed in the livery of their House, a purple tunic with a black Dragon across the front. Sora smiled to herself as she watch him; she was very happy for her brother. Just the other day she and Link had gone to find a wedding present for the happy couple. They had picked a pair of matching wooden harps, simple but perfect. The man who was selling them had thought that she and Link were the ones getting married. It had been kind of fun to play along with it.
"Wow, look at all these flowers…" Sora murmured.
"Shh!" Roxanna hissed. "It's starting."
Sora scowled at her, but quieted down. Her parents were playing the wedding march on their harps and Sora would have accompanied them but they hadn't let her. She glanced across the aisle at them and smiled brightly. Then the crowd around her gasped softly and Sora jerked her head in the direction that everyone was looking.
Oliana appeared, being led by one of the boys from the village near her home. She was dressed in a simple, form fitting gown of white satin. The collar and skirt were embroidered with silver thread and the sleeves were just long swoops of lace that reached practically to the ground. Silver sandals adorned her feet and she wore a circlet made of ivy leaves on her head. Oliana's long, dark hair was pulled up into a bun, with only a few tendrils hanging in her face. Sora thought she looked very pretty.
The ceremony was rather long and boring and Sora only listened to the part where Oliana and Frat exchanged their own special vows they had written. She thought that it was very sweet, but a little sickening. Link flashed her a knowing smile from where he stood at Frat's side. Just as Frat and Oliana were sealing their bond with a kiss, Link approached her and gently took her elbow, dragging her out of the courtyard.
They sat and talked and hours passed by as if they were seconds. Before long it was dark and they wandered off only for a few moments to sneak some food from the large banquet tables, then skulked back off to their hiding place. Only Aidan managed to scout them out and after he found them he decided to stay. It was close to midnight when at last the special guest they'd been waiting for arrived.
Rogue swooped down gently from the sky, landing near Sora and Link. He wasn't full healed yet and shouldn't have even been flying, but he'd wanted to see his friends. Looking regal as ever, with his long elegant neck arched and his fine serpentine head turned in their direction. Sora was pretty sure that he was preening.
"It's almost time," Rogue told them.
"Time for what?" Link asked.
"Colored Midnight," Sora replied.
"It's a special ceremony!" Aidan chimed in. "All the Dragons who are old enough take part in it. Someday I'll do it too!"
"Aren't you disappointed to be missing out, Rogue?" Link inquired.
"Nah," Rogue's scales rippled in a gesture much like a shrug. "I'd much rather be here with my friend. Oh, look, it's starting!"
Everyone turned to watch the ceremony. Link could see dark shapes in the distance, like moving shadows, and for a moment his breath caught in his throat. And then the moonlight glinted off of something; Link realized that it was Gossamer, one of the Dragon Elders. And suddenly there were thousands of dragons in all different colors, blue, red, green, orange, gold, silver and bronze, illuminated by the light of the moon. They covered the sky like a great rainbow and suddenly Link understood.
"Wow," He murmured. "This is beautiful."
"Yeah," Sora agreed softly.
Link turned his head to look at her and their eyes met. She tilted her head to one side, eyelids drooping lazily as she smiled. Link smiled back and gently cupped Sora's face in his hands. There was a moment of awkward tension between the two, and then their lips met and the world faded away around them.
Rogue's head shot up as the two kissed. It didn't bother him, what the two children did; in fact he was very pleased that they had such a tight bond. But he felt a presence intruding on the two. It was a magic of special memory stealing properties, one that was benevolent and mostly just annoying. Rogue intervened with his own power, wrapping this special memory in silvery, glittery glow. The power seemed upset, but it disappeared quickly.
Reluctantly Link pulled away from Sora, away from her warm body and sweet scent. They remained in a half embrace, smiling at each other for a moment. Then they both turned to watch the end of the ceremony, which was a sort of dance in the sky. The rainbow of colors rippled brightly as the Dragons moved back and forth. Sora sighed and leaned against Link, a slight smile still touching her lips. At long last, they were at peace.
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