Disclaimer and Notes: Nintendo owns The Legend of Zelda and its settings. I was inspired to this via my latest play through / screwing around in Twilight Princess. When I was in wolf-form trying to save Midna in the rain, a little frog in the street talked to me about how the underground passage was originally built as a way for Hyrule's soldiers to escape the castle. Although I have named the protagonist / narrator here after a Skyward Sword character, he's more or less original - a descendant. Hyrule's military ranks here are entirely made-up. It's been about twelve years since I didn't quite make the U.S. Air Force - I forget my ranks and I didn't want to research the ranks of medieval armies.
I hope these pages find you well, whoever you are, even they do not find me well. If you have pulled this off my slain body, let this be a story of the last of Hyrule's days and a warning to help you survive. If you found this in a drawer or chest somewhere stowed away, then apparently, I survived, am possibly quite well, forgot about this and you should get out of my stuff.
I am one of the lesser-ranking Hyrule Knights, Guardsman Pipit of the Second Division. I am one of the few left among the royal soldiers. The only superior officer left among my division that I presently know of is Commander Viceren. He led our escape through the underground passage. I hold some hope that some of the other knights of high rank scattered and are recouping somewhere, but considering what our kingdom has become, it is but a small hope. I have no idea where any of the army's Generals are. We barely escaped with our lives and our Guardsman Ryll was injured. The survivors of my division met up with soldiers of common rank and a few of higher rank from the other divisions, but without the leadership, Hyrule's army is in shambles.
I wanted to go back for Princess Zelda. The Commander grabbed me and pushed me along, telling me something about how honor before reason wasn't always honorable and how the princess needed as many of her soldiers alive as possible. I suppose I really needed to be told that. While many of our men… and the lady-knight I knew in the First Division… came from merchant families and even a few farm families, I am one of the guardsmen for whom knighthood is a family tradition. Someone from my line has been a knight in every generation, spanning all the way back to the time of legends. I was raised steeped in a sense of duty. In fact, I was named for a legendary ancestor who was a part of the fabled "Heavenly Knights" of Hyrule. I don't believe they came from the sky like the old fairy tale says, though. They probably just did their jobs really well and served the priests of old as well as the first kings and queens.
My father told me the old tales when I was a child. He was a Hyrule Knight up until two years ago, when he retired due to a crippling leg-injury just before I completed my own training. Even in the peaceful times, there was trouble - thieves on the road and such to protect people from. I am glad that he wasn't in the castle to see what I saw… I hope that he is home and safe, with Mom and Kara.
The underground passage was built in a time forgotten. These days, it undergoes only the most basic maintenance and its deeper sections (the parts of it that are actually underground, rather than in name only) serve as flood-control for the castle-grounds and Castletown. It has doubled as a dungeon in the past and has measures to restrain prisoners. Without the underground, the heaviest rains would flood the streets to the point of making pedestrian traffic impossible. The city is not like the field, where the earth absorbs most of the moisture. There is a price for nice-looking and easy to navigate stone streets. It is a sewer, too, but much of the waste is washed away quickly by the relatively less-dirty street-water, so it is actually is surprisingly clean.
The passage is more spacious than it has any need to be if it were merely a sewer. Not everyone knows about it. It can be accessed from certain areas inside Hyrule Castle as well as the stables and an old house in the city. If you ever need the passage, the place in the city to access it is a place where cats gather, presumably because rats, frogs and other things they like to eat come and go from the passage, making for easy pickings. I never thought I'd ever make use of its true main purpose – as an emergency retreat. Neither did my comrades.
I plead with you to believe me when I describe the dark king that has invaded our fair kingdom! There was no letter of declaration of war or any such formality… we were making preparations for Zelda's coronation, for as we all know, she was to take her official place as Queen. Commander Viceren had been running us ragged with drills to prepare us for pressing crowds and possible assassins. We didn't expect trouble, as Hyrule had been undergoing peaceful and prosperous times and few, if any of the citizenry disliked Zelda at all. I was on guard-duty when she was practicing a speech with one of the royal council members. He was scolding her gently on enunciation when it seemed as if suddenly, the sun had dropped behind the mountains. It was mid-day, but there was a sudden quality of dusk in the daylight. It had been a perfectly clear and sunny day. I wondered if a sudden storm had come up from the south.
The sky was a mixture of gray and orange outside the high castle windows. It is difficult to describe and I know it makes me sound superstitious, but the air felt like it had been charged with evil. An ominous feeling settled over my heart.
After that, I heard screaming. The shouts of the soldiers stationed outside the castle walls sounded and more disturbing than that – were suddenly silenced. Before I could even guess at what had happened to my friends, the beasts charged in. They were hulking black colossi with flat helms covering their heads – if they even had heads! All I saw were tendrils of flesh like the tentacles on creatures belonging to the sea.
The soldiers at the front of the throne-room did not hesitate to charge. I made to charge with them, but Zelda held her hand out to me. She gave me a glance and I'll never forget that look in her eyes. It was like she was silently pleading to me not to commit suicide. The black king appeared in the center, walking up the middle of the room as if he owned the place. None of us could see his face – it was masked by a helm in the shape of something I can only describe as being like a cross between the faces of a fish and a fly. I do not know how my senses detected this, but he stank of malice.
Meanwhile, I could hear the snap of living bones above the screeching of the monsters. Sir Julian! Guardsman Mako! Sir Brutus! Commander Hildegarde! Captain Krin! The best of Hyrule's fighting men were tossed about the room, torn as the wolf tears the rabbit and snapped like twigs upon the brickwork and the marble of the palace interior. Do you happen to know those names, Mystery Reader? They were heroes, all. If you do, I regret to inform you that they met with a terrible fate. Some of the bravest of us who held back to surround the princess were screaming like young children. I smelled fluids – not just the blood of the dead and the wounded, but things from the living best left without description. Then again, considering the nature of bodies, I probably smelled those same kinds of indescribable things coming from the dead, too.
Don't think for a moment that I was the lone, courageous stoic soldier in all of this. I was shaking so hard that I could not get my sword out of its sheath. My fingers refused to curl around the hilt. That is when I saw the princess turn again to me and mouth something I could not hear. I could read her lips, though. She said "Go."
That was when I felt Viceren's hand clamp down on my shoulder. I was pushed and pressed with other men. We heard screaming within the walls – servants and soldiers alike succumbing to the black beasts. We had no idea how many there were. I swear I could see them everywhere, up in the high windows and along the upper shelves.
Call me crazy, but I heard the sound of Zelda's ceremonial sword dropping upon the stones in all this chaos. I did not realize what that had meant until after I had squeezed down into one of the secret passageways into the underground. Commander Viceren counted us. A pair from the Third Division hauled our boy, Ryll, who'd been clawed and tossed, but was able to get up and walk. He complained that he couldn't move his sword-arm and he had a bloom of bright red along his side, seeping through his mail and cloak. We made haste to seal the passageway off and to head down the labyrinth. There were fifteen of us in all, a mixture of First, Second and Third Division soldiers.
I didn't think about too much as we headed down the dark passageways. We had only torchlight to guide us. We put enchantments upon our torches to make them burn bright and to keep them from being doused by the damp in the air. Most Hyrule Knights know a little magic, generally of the parlor-trick and practical varieties rather than the deep stuff. "Human" soldiers with the round ears have much trouble with it, if they can learn it at all. I'm a point-eared pureblood Hylian, so I should know more than I do. All I can mange is a bit of Din's Fire, myself, but it is useful.
The passage might be relatively clean for having most of its waste-traffic as rainwater, but it still doesn't smell too nice. I tore some cloth from my own cloak to make a sling for Ryll. I bound his arm up with a crude splint made from stick I'd almost tripped over in the gloom. It looked like it had once been a torch used by some other traveler. It was a well-known rumor that some civilians managed to find ways down into the passage and liked to explore – a poor man's tourism. Ryll leaned on me as we walked. He was in bad shape.
Somehow, he survived the events that followed. The grace of Farore or Nayru's love, I guess.
We met other soldiers along the way, having managed to escape down the other hatches. There were many wounded. Soon, our survivor's band grew from fifteen to thirty-three. I worried about abandoning our post. Viceren assured me that we were not derelict in our duty, but were doing just what we were supposed to do.
The drop of the sword I'd heard: It was our dear Zelda surrendering. She was trying to stop the killing. She was trying to keep us from getting slaughtered for her sake.
"Discretion is the better part of valor," my Commander told me. "Lady Zelda wants us to survive. That is why the passage exists. A kingdom cannot exist without a standing army. She wanted us to escape so that we can live to fight when the situation is more advantageous for us. Our lady will be rescued."
"How can you… be sure?" I remember choking out. "Those…those things! They were like nothing any of us have ever seen before!"
The Commander talked to me in a calm, stern voice. "Princess Zelda has unusual ways. She is extremely adept at magic and in touch with things that most people never get to see. She may even find a way to work out her own salvation. Knowing her, even in this darkest hour, she already has a plan. It is said that she has the blood of a goddess, after all."
"Yeah, right," Ryll griped from my side as I helped him limp along. "The Gods have abandoned us. Those creatures were beasts from the underworld itself, come to drag us all down!"
"Don't say that!" I shot back. "We can't let Hyrule fall! We won't!"
"We already have!" my friend moaned. I had to admit that he was right. I told him that as long as we could live another day, there was hope. Ryll complained that he was dying. I examined his wound in his side when we stopped to rest. It was quite deep. Guardsman Skylar fetched a medic, the only one to make it down here, Sir Galen of the First Division whom we met along the way. He had his hands full. Between the nature of the wound and the unsanitary conditions, he was quite frank, even to poor Ryll, that he did not expect him to survive. The man told Ryll what to expect as far as infection and to make his peace with the Goddesses. He rummaged through the bag he'd managed to keep on him for some paper and a writing implement and told my friend to write down his thoughts and any will that he had.
That suggestion was the inspiration for me to do the same, hence why you are reading this, though by the time I managed to get this far, I was able to get some proper paper and a good quill and sit down at a sturdy table at the restaurant in the Castletown plaza rather than having to rely on a charcoal stub and rough sewer-passage stone. Even what Ryll got was better than what some of us got.
The passage was supposed to be safe – a military strategy envisioned by kings and queens of old who knew that wars were sometimes won by weasels rather than by lions. There was supposed to be naught down here but rats, cats, maybe some bats, perhaps a foolish civilian sewer-tourist, but that was it unless things followed us down there.
Things had followed us down there.
The onslaught began when we got up to move again. Those of us who'd volunteered to carry the wounded hefted them up. Ryll told me just to leave him so he could die in peace, but I wasn't about to do that. I wanted to see him home to his mother if it was possible. Ryll can be a pain in the butt sometimes, but he's a good guy who doesn't deserve the pain of dying alone. As I was easing him onto my shoulder so he could lean and walk comfortably, I saw Guardsman Errol take an arrow out of nowhere through the throat. Before he even fell we were on alert. The ring of swords unsheathed sounded in concert.
Flaming arrows sailed toward us out of the dark. Those of us who'd been lucky enough to grab shields before entering the passage used them. I was not among such forward-thinking souls. Instead, I tried to position myself in front of Ryll so that he would not get hit. I know – in hindsight, maybe it was not entirely logical to risk my own life to protect that of an already dying man for whom an arrow would have been a quick alternative to what he was suffering, but I really didn't think about that at the time. I am Guardsman Pipit, a Hyrule Knight, sworn to uphold the weak and to protect those in need. Sometimes, I just act on that instinct.
Torchlight caught our assailants. I already felt like a flickering spirit beset by a nameless fear, but what I saw was… They were wearing masks that resembled skulls – they were like elongated skulls with a single eye. These creatures were smaller than the others – they looked like common goblins dipped in ink and shot through with subtly glowing tattoos on their bodies. If you know what a countryside bulbin looks like, they were kind of like them – bulbins are bad enough monsters to have around, utter savages, but these were like an alien counterpart.
I cannot say exactly why I was more terrified of them than I would be of creatures of a common thieving-race, but I was. There was something about them… the utter otherworldliness, perhaps, or maybe just the fact that they were attacking in the dark in a confined series of tunnels.
I found an old broken pillar to set my friend by as a shield and fought with my fellow knights until we had killed the beasts or chased them off. After that, we made our way through the labyrinth some more, hoping to reach one of the ends that would lead into the city outskirts or into Hyrule Field. I'd always heard that one of these passages led all the way to Kakariko or even into the Death Mountain area, but that was just a rumor.
That was about when we had to pass by an open slues gate and a run of water. With some creativity, we managed to get our hurt people across. The number of the wounded had been added to after the attack. I was crossing with the healthy when I heard Sir Groslyn yelp.
"Black things!" he cried.
The water writhed with mysterious slick black creatures that resembled squids and moved like rats.
"My legs!" Guardsman Fletcher cried out. "It's on me! It's eating my legs!"
I hit the water futilely with my sword. The things moved so quickly. Groslyn screamed as what looked to me to be a pair of the things grabbed him. He was ripped under the water and away from us. I dove off the shallow ledge we were on and swam after him. It was no use, I couldn't see him.
That's when one of the black things grabbed my face and forced me under. I remember kicking and struggling. I tore at the thing with my hands. I felt my throat close up. I cannot recall if the thing had its vile tentacles around my throat or down my throat. Either way, I felt myself drowning. Just as my thoughts began slowing down and I could feel the flames of spirit-light edging upon my vision, I broke the surface of the water and gulped down precious, musty air.
I don't know how many men we left down there in the passage. We all sort of made a mad-scramble when we found a way out. I know that we left some men down there not as corpses, but just as shivering wrecks un-willing to move any further. I do not blame them. I almost became one of them. I'd like to thank Commander Viceren for keeping me together. Maybe it was the need I felt to be a good friend to Ryll and see him through was what held me. We managed to get him to his home. So far, he is alive. I do not know for how long, because I do not know how long any of us have. As I wrote in the beginning, you probably pulled this off my body if you are reading it, and if not, get out of my stuff.
The air seems lighter now. The daylight has changed. I feel my heart unburdened just a little, but that's not saying much.
I do not go to the bar and try to drink away the memories like most of the men who survived the passage. Instead, I take part in drills in the street, pointlessly patrolling with my helm firmly in place. All of the surviving soldiers of Hyrule try to be useful, but we really don't know what's going on. I think our attempts to keep the citizens calm serves us more than it does them. If we can keep them calm, it makes us feel a little calmer. They didn't see what we saw. They know that the fields are full of monsters and that trouble has increased in the land fifty-fold and they know that they are in danger, but they have no idea of its extent.
I keep my helm firmly affixed in front of my eyes during all of my waking hours. I do not want people to see my eyes, for they will see the fear they hold. The shame will also make itself evident if I let anyone see them, and even though I am a young knight, only newly inducted into the basic "Guardsman" rank, I am not sure they will forgive me.
Lady Zelda is a prisoner in her own palace, but according to Commander Viceren, none of the civilians are to know this. Although we have delivered the wounded survivors to their families, we told them little of what transpired and we are not to notify even the families of the dead of all the deaths. The last thing we need is a city-wide… or kingdom-wide civilian panic. We keep a semblance of order without really doing anything.
Of course, if you are reading this having taken it from my corpse, you can panic now if you want to. This letter is a confession – the only way I can tell the truth.
There is a young man I haven't seen in Castletown before that I have been seeing in the streets a lot lately, sometimes at odd hours. He must be a traveler or maybe someone seeking to find a place to live here at the worst possible time. He dresses in archaic clothing, a green tunic with an odd hat. There's a strange feeling that the air gets whenever I see him. It is like the opposite of the feeling I got when I saw the black-robed alien king. I feel like I'm getting superstitious again.
The kid is a little younger than I am, by the looks of it, but not by much. He's apologized for running into me once or twice and has asked the guy who's taken it upon himself to work on a missing persons case some questions. He's a swordsman who looks like he'd make a great knight if he could shed some of his apparent country-mannerisms. There are a lot of rumors going around about that one. The members of my division who hang out at the bar all the time and who liked to pretend they had an idea about the water crisis told me a story about how "that crazy bastard" did a suicide-run with crazy old Telma to get a couple of sick kids across the field to Kakariko to see some healer. They'd survived it, which surprised everyone. Some say the kid had a limp in his gait after it, though.
I watch him pick up cats sometimes and cuddle them. I have immediate flashbacks to watching Captain Krin being batted around by a black hulk like a toy batted around by pet cat, leaving bloody streaks upon the floor as he tumbled across it. I can barely look at a cat anymore…
The kid plays fetch with the street-dogs all the time. He talks to them and throws them old soup bones found in the street. One of the evil creatures had snapped Commander Hildegarde's back throwing him against the wall. Another of the creatures had "fetched" him. This had gone on until the screaming stopped.
I wish I could go back to doing "crazy bastard" things to help people. As it is, we Hyrule soldiers used to be brave. Believe us, we used to be. We jump at our own shadows now. What we have become is shameful, and if you are reading this while waiting for the end, all I can say is that I am sorry.
We could not protect you. We could not even protect ourselves.
Do what you can to save yourself. Do not worry about giving me proper rites. If Hyrule has truly fallen, I do not deserve them.
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