Chapter Five: The Cheater's Race
Sora was startled into a strange realization. Robin was much faster than the horse in front of her, so it could only mean one thing. There was magic involved and that was cheating. <I>So they don't want to play fair, eh?</I> Sora thought. <I>Well I'll show them. They haven't met up with a team like me and Robin yet.</I> Sora bit her lip and urged Robin on faster.
She knew the course pretty well by now. She knew it snaked into Lake Hylia, through the edge of the clear blue waters there. Robin didn't have a problem with water, but getting him to gallop through it could be difficult. Sora knew that the next part of the course laced into the entrance to Gerudo Valley, where the turf was sand and difficult to run through, then out again and back onto Hyrule Field. Sora and Robin would have to go three laps, and either overcome the obstacles or make a fast closing finish at the very end of the race.
<I>Heads up!</I> Sora thought. <I>There are the gates right there.</I> Sora gave Robin a light tap with her heals and over the fences he went, clearing them with a foot to spare. But they were still behind as they struggled over the gently sloping ground of Lake Hylia and then started down toward the water. Sora tightened her grip on Robin's mane and held on as he splashed into the water, nearly unseating her. Sora leaned over Robin's withers, spitting out the water that splashed into her face.
They were still behind when they headed into Gerudo Valley, sand clinging to Robin's wet legs. Sora could feel him slow as the going was harder here. They made it out quickly and headed after Kyrissam and his magicked horse, the dirt easier to handle than the sand. They hit the high slope of the hill in the Field, charging in what felt like slow motion to the crest, then down the other side.
<I>There's everyone else,</I> Sora thought. She focused her eyes ahead and ignored her friends, concentrating on the race. Her companions waved to her but Sora didn't dare raise her hand off of Robin's mane. She couldn't afford to lose this race.
Link watched Sora and Robin gallop past in a cloud of dust, frowning. It wasn't really possible, but they looked as if they were moving along in slow motion. <I>Something is up here,</I> Link thought. <I>I shoulder have known better than to trust Kyrissam and Faylah. This is my fault.</I> Oliana rested a hand on his shoulder and he glanced back at her and smiled. Frat stood next to them, his face pale, his purple eyes bright in the cool morning.
"Are you okay, Frat?" Link asked. "Frat? Hello? Frat…? FRAT!"
Frat jumped, startled, and looked over at Link. "Sorry. I was thinking. What did you say?"
"I asked you if you were okay." Link repeated. "Apparently you're not."
"I'm sorry." Frat said. "I'm just worried. This race is fixed. I'm sure of it."
"So I'm not going insane." Link grinned lopsidedly. "Well…maybe I am."
Frat smiled weakly and then turned his eyes back to the Field. Sora and Kyrissam were no where in sight, although the cloud of dust they'd left behind was just beginning to settle. Poonta stood very far off, avoiding the dust, although Yzane kept a spear pointed at her at all times. Mylintha stood near Link and his friends with two curved blades, as though she didn't trust them. <I>She probably doesn't,</I> Link thought. <I>I wouldn't trust me either, especially with what I have planned.</I> Link smiled to himself an turned back to the Field, unable to keep from grinning.
"What are you so happy about?" Faylah demanded, walking over to him.
"Nothing." Link answered, grinning.
"Hmmph! You won't be grinning like that when your little friend has broken her neck!"
Faylah stomped away, standing isolated from the group near the dirt path of Hyrule Field. <I>Thanks Faylah, dear,</I> Link thought, smiling. <I>You just gave me all the proof I need to say that you're cheating.</I> Link elbowed Frat in the ribs to get his attention and when he had it gave him the victory sign. Even if Sora didn't when they had a backup.
Sora held on to Robin's mane tightly, her teeth clenched, her and her horse covered with a thick layer of sand. It was the last lap and she had just caught up. She and Robin ran along side Kyrissam and the night horse as they splashed through the waters of the lake. Every now and then they would get to close and the horses' flanks would bump.
Suddenly Robin shied, dropping speed rapidly and moving away from the night horse. Sora tumbled off of his back and landed in the shallow part of the water on her back. She heard Kyrissam laugh as he and his horse galloped up the hill to the entrance of the lake. <I>No!</I> Sora thought, furious with herself. <I>I should have known! I was so stupid!</I>
Robin nudged her with his sand covered nose, his stiff, encrusted whiskers scraping her cheek. Sora climbed to her feet and looked around dazedly. A feeling of hopelessness settled in, leaving her frozen on the spot. She coughed up water and spit it out, shaking off her doubts. Sora lifted herself back up onto Robin's slippery wet back with some difficulty and was off at high speed again. <I>He hit Robin with something,</I> Sora thought. <I>I'm certain of it. I'll be sure to tell Link that there's been foul play here.</I>
Robin stretched his neck out, putting on more speed and surprising Sora. Whatever Kyrissam had done to her horse must of lifted, because now her ran like he had wings on his feet. Sora leaned over, her stomach touching his withers and urged him forward. <I>We can catch up! I know we can!</I> Sora thought, listening to the staccato that Robin's hooves beat on the ground.
They were into Gerudo Valley before long, more sand flying up, stinging Sora's cheeks. She closed her eyes to ward of the sand the flew up from Robin's rapidly churning hooves. Sora leaned over and as far as she could, which made Robin go faster, and got close to his ear as possible.
"Come on boy!" Sora murmured encouragement as Robin leapt over a low fence. "I can see them up ahead! Catch 'em boy! Come on!"
Robin bobbed his head once, briefly, and stretched his neck out, changing gears and going faster. Sora clenched her teeth and gripped his mane, her knuckles turning white. Kyrissam glanced under his shoulder at the sound of approaching hooves and shock registered on his handsome face. Sora smiled and tapped Robin's side with her bare heels as he began to over take the night horse.
Sora turned and made a face at Kyrissam as she and Robin flew past him. Robin's long strides carried him to the finish in seconds and Sora could hear her friends cheering as she pulled him up. She jumped off before he had even completely stopped and was instantly caught up in a four way hug with her friends.
"Ick! Sora, you're all wet!" Link exclaimed.
"I fell off." Sora explained, glaring at Kyrissam. "It's funny, as soon as I gained on him Robin shied and I nearly got killed."
"You lost!" Faylah screamed, pummeling Kyrissam's shoulder with tightly clenched fists. "How could you lose!? She fell off!!! The race was as good as won! You useless, good for nothing!"
"SILENCE!" Kyrissam roared
The force of his yell sent Link and his friend spiraling backwards, not to mention Yzane, Mylintha and Faylah. Sora and Frat exchanged worried looks as they scrambled to their feet. Frat hugged Sora, and ruffled her. Sora sighed and straightened her hair out, thinking, <I>I'm getting sick and tired of that.</I>
"That's one for us, and none for you!" Frat laughed, ruffling Sora's hair again.
"Hey!" Sora snapped. "If you keep doing that I'm gonna cut your hand off!"
"You may have won this on!" Kyrissam hissed. "But you won't win the next one! I can guarantee you that!"
"Yeah…that's all well and good. But when's lunch?" Sora asked.
Her friends laughed, slapping her on the back and playfully punching her in the arm. Kyrissam sighed and signaled for Mylintha and Yzane to step forward. Yzane grabbed Sora's arm and dragged her along. Mylintha grabbed Link and the rest of her friends followed them towards the castle under the bright noon sun.
"You did wonderful." Link told Sora for the 100th time.
Sora smiled. "I don't feel wonderful. I feel bruised…very bruised."
"Are you going to be okay?" Frat asked. "We have a long day ahead of us tomorrow."
"I should be okay." Sora assured him. "I need a good night's sleep and that will help clear my head. Besides, I'm not the one you should worry about. Link is going to be the one to worry about tomorrow."
"Yeah." Frat agreed. "I hope you can handle hand to hand combat."
"With Faylah? Come on!" Link glared at him. "Does no one here believe in me?"
"Link, you don't know a whole lot about the Fay." Sora said gently.
"Neither do you!" Link pointed out.
Sora sighed. "I know that. But I know more than you do. Faylah is really strong. A lot stronger than you think."
"Yeah whatever. I'm sure you have a ton of confidence in Frat for tomorrow's horse back archery." Link muttered bitterly.
Fratello laughed nervously and paced to the back of the cell, rubbing the back of his head. All of his companions stared after him, arms crossed, looking very serious. Frat turned to them and smiled sheepishly, then sat down on the bench.
"Well? What have you got to tell us?" Link demanded. "I thought you said you were the best archer on Caseree Isle?"
"I am." Frat answered. "But…not on horse back."
"Damn!" Sora hissed.
"Well what about you, Sora?" Oliana asked. "Can you do it?"
"I can't even shoot an arrow." Sora sighed. "Forget on horseback. Plus, Robin is really tired. The race took it's toll on him…and me."
"Don't give up on me yet, guys." Frat said. "I can try. I'll do my best."
Link smiled wanly. "That's all I ask of you."
"Man, I'm bushed." Sora said. "Let's get to sleep, hmm?"
All her friends nodded agreement. It wasn't a particularly cold night, so the companions piled up their blankets in the shadiest corner of the cell for Sora to lay on. Sora curled up on the blankets and closed her eyes, listening to the creak of her aching bones, mingled with the chirping of crickets outside the bared window.
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