Disclaimer: I dont want to get in whatever trouble people can get into when using other peoples characters so - The Legend of Zelda, Link, Zelda, Ganon, Hyrule and other related characters and settings belong to to that wonderous console company, Nintendo. No infringement intended.
Paths of Deception
Juliet A. Singleton (Scullys@bigfoot.com) & Kirsty Singleton (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Tiffany awoke to find herself in darkness. For a second, she failed to remember where she was...or what she was doing in this dark place.
"Felicity?" It was the first word that came to her mind, and she pulled one hand over her face, realising that she was the prisoner of the evil witch Mara, along with her friend. The last thing she could remember was being caught, and that was it. "Flis?" she called out the name again, sincerely hoping she wasn't alone. The darkness that surrounded her was almost suffocating, it seemed oppressive, unyielding.
"Tiffany...Tiffany? Is that you?" Tiffany's heart almost leapt at the sound of Felicity's voice, and she fluttered forward in the dark, her outstretched hands meeting with cool metal bars. She turned, still searching.
"Yes! It's me! Where are you?" Tiffany replied, waiting for her friend to reply.
"I...I don't know." Tiffany flew forward again, but she was once more confronted by cool metal bars. She paused, thinking a moment, then silently intoned a 'light' spell. A white flame ignited in her cupped palms, casting a small degree of light about her, but nothing else.
"Flis? Can you see me?" Tiffany continued to move about her prison, but discovered Felicity was certainly not with her. She must be somewhere else in the room.
"Yes...oh Tiffany, I feel...I feel terrible." The sentence was followed by a burst of uncontrolled coughing, succeeded by a weak gasp.
"Felicity? Are you okay?" questioned Tiffany worriedly, willing her eyes to see further into the darkness.
"Yes...I mean I think so. I feel weak," replied Felicity. She sounded close by, but Tiffany could still not determine where she was. Suddenly, the room was bathed in a flickering light, and Tiffany looked up in horror to see Mara standing over her cage with a lit torch in her hand.
"Awake at last I see," said the witch gleefully. Tiffany backed away, shielding her eyes from the sudden bright light. Her spell was broken when she unlocked her palms, but it made little difference.
"Let us go! We aren't any use to the likes of you!" cried Tiffany angrily. Mara gave a short chuckle, and turned away from Tiffany, walking over to another part of the room, to the cage were Felicity was being held. Tiffany rushed forward and watched Mara anxiously as she leaned over the cage. "Leave her alone!" demanded the pretty faerie, rattling her fist against the bars of her cage angrily.
"Leave her alone? And give me a reason why I should?" questioned Mara boldly, opening the cage and reaching in, taking Felicity in her hand.
"Because! You can't do this!" retorted Tiffany desperately, tears stinging her eyes. Mara turned, her hand outstretched to Tiffany. Felicity lay in the palm of Mara's outstretched palm looking limp and weak. "What have you done to her?!" demanded Tiffany almost tearfully. Mara smiled.
"Me? I've done nothing to her. It must be the ether that's affecting her," remarked the witch smugly.
"Well why isn't it affecting me? Or you? Or anyone else?" demanded Tiffany. Mara shrugged, closing her hand.
"Oh, it only affects certain people...creatures. It depends I suppose," replied Mara. Tiffany wiped her reddening eyes defiantly, and shook her head.
"What do you want from us? We aren't worth anything!" she insisted. Mara smiled once more.
"No? Well, contrary to what you say, I've heard faeries such as yourself can fetch a fine price in any country if you can find the right buyer." Tiffany shook her head.
"You aren't interested in that," she argued.
"I suppose you are correct," conceded Mara with a smirk. "I'm far more interested in your magical capabilities."
"We're only faeries. We can't cast many spells these days...the only thing we're worth for is for a bit of menial healing and lighting a match or two," told Tiffany desperately.
"Maybe some of you are only worth that. But not this one. What did you call her again? Flis? Felicity?"
"She's in no state to do anything. Look at her!" argued Tiffany, her hands tightening around the bars of her cage.
"You may not know, but I am a healer by trade. I can easily restore her health...but I will expect her to...repay my services," retorted Mara calmly. Tiffany shook her head.
"Felicity only uses her magic for good causes," she said.
"Oh. And, preserving her own life is not a good cause I suppose?" Tiffany frowned at this suggestion, and let out an anguished sigh.
"Look, people...Link and Zelda know we are here. If we don't return soon, they'll send people searching," threatened Tiffany. Mara walked closer to the cage, and lowered her head, looking directly at Tiffany.
"Death Mountain," she began, "has already been searched once by Zelda's men. They didn't find me then, so what makes you think they would find me a second time round?" Tiffany almost shuddered at Mara's words, which were delivered more like a threat rather than just a statement.
"Why are you doing this?" she asked. Mara stepped back, licking her lips.
"Why not?" she inquired with a smile. Before Tiffany could even reply, Mara blew out the torch, and Tiffany just about detected her footfalls as she padded away. Not able to wait a second longer, the faerie sank to her knees and let out an anguished sob, at a loss for what she could do next.
Zelda was lost off in thought, and didn't notice Link walking up to her. It was almost time for supper, but the bell hadn't yet rung. The hero stepped into the room quietly, admiring his wife from a distance. He smiled to himself, thinking how lucky he was. Things were getting back to normal, after all. He was starting to get over the events of Catalia, and feeling more at ease with himself. Of course, nothing could erase the dreadful memories, but then again, his past was full of them anyway. You couldn't quite exorcise all your demons, no matter how hard you tried. But then, he had Zelda. She had always made things seem less painful, somehow. For a while, he'd worried about their relationship, but he knew that every couple had their ups and downs from time to time. Alright, so he and Zelda seemed to have more of their fair share of those, compared to some couples, but they always got through them in the end. How beautiful she looked right now, her long golden hair curling at the ends, framing her delicate profile. He walked closer towards where she was seated, upon the bed. She was reading a small book, it looked like her diary.
"Hey Zel," he greeted. She glanced up, looking slightly surprised, but smiled.
"Hello my hero," she replied, in a warm tone. He sat down next to her, catching hold of her hand.
"All ready for supper, then?" he questioned. She smiled again.
"I suppose. How nice it would be without Fayette there!"
"Yeah... she has been going on a bit," Link agreed.
"All that I ever hear at the moment is Kendar this, Kendar that! She's infatuated!" Zelda giggled. Link smiled at her.
"Well, it's easy to be infatuated," he pointed out. "Especially when the object of your affection is so..." he paused, running a hand across her cheek.
"Mmm?" Zelda asked.
"Beautiful," Link finished. "Stunningly, in fact..." he added, leaning close to give her a gentle kiss. Zelda pulled him closer, into an embrace.
"How true..." she giggled.
"Well, someone's getting a high opinion of themselves!" Link scolded lightly, laughing too.
"I meant about the infatuation part," Zelda protested.
"Oh, well, so long as it's only me you're infatuated with," Link joked. He noticed Zelda frown slightly at that, but the moment quickly passed. She smiled again, ruffling his hair with affection.
"Of course," she murmured, though she didn't look at him when she said it.
"Zel?" he questioned, a little confused by her reaction. He had only been teasing, after all.
"Mmm?" she asked.
"Nothing," he said quickly, dismissing it. Zelda leaned forward to kiss him again. Link smiled to himself and enjoyed it. Just as he gently pushed her down onto the pillows though, the bell for supper rang. Zelda let out a small sigh as they pulled apart from each other.
"Oh well, here goes," she said. Link grinned mischievously.
"We could always... skip... supper," he suggested playfully. Zelda smirked, but sat up, and shook her head.
"Would be nice, but I'm starved," she remarked, standing up and brushing down her dress.
"Me too," Link agreed, rising up off the bed too. He took her hand. "Shall we?" he asked gallantly. Zelda smiled again.
"Let's go," she replied.
They headed down the passageway to the main staircase, heading towards the hold's banquet hall. Still hold of his wife's hand, Link asked, "hey Zel, did you get sorted out with Selina?" A guilty look flashed over her features, and Zelda bit her lip.
"Um... well, kind of," she lied. Link eyed her evenly.
"It's just, I'm really worried about her... and Nick. And all this stress isn't good... well for a woman of her... um... condition," he said, looking slightly embarrassed. "Why did you two fall out anyway?" he added. Zelda looked down.
"Nothing much, just something silly," she replied.
"So why haven't you talked to her yet? You did say you would," Link pointed out, looking a little annoyed. Zelda avoided his gaze, frowning a little.
"I did try... um... she did say she's going to just talk things through with Nick. I'm sure they'll be fine," she said.
"Yeah... I guess you're right. And after all, all couples have problems from time to time. Not even Nick and Selina are perfect!" Link said, trying to lighten the morose mood that had suddenly descended.
"And if they are, it isn't really our business. We should leave them to themselves, give them some time alone," Zelda added.
"I suppose," Link agreed, although he didn't sound convinced.
"It works for us," Zelda remarked.
"That's us," Link said. They both went quiet. Zelda stopped, and placed a hand on Link's arm, looking up at him earnestly.
"Link, listen. You are not responsible for anyone's happiness, but your own. All right, so Selina is a little upset right now, and Nick, and they're turning to their friends for support. Well, we can give them that, of course we will, but in time, I'm sure they'll be fine. Selina's just a little more upset than usual because she's nearing her time. All women get worried, especially when it's their first time. And I'm sure Nick is worried for her too, but he's trying not to show it..." she explained. Link listened quietly, and finally nodded.
"Alright, yeah, maybe that is it," he said slowly.
"We'll help them every step of the way, but remember, you put your own happiness first," Zelda said, smiling at him. He managed a smile back.
"I can try," he said.
"You'll do more than try," Zelda ordered playfully. They both smiled at each other. "Come on, we'd best hurry, else we might miss the meal!" Zelda exclaimed.
They were late, of course, not that anyone noticed. Aside from Fayette of course, who was always quick to point out occurrences of bad etiquette, especially when they happened to involve her own stepsister. Link and Zelda sat down quickly, but Fayette was right on form.
"Really, you'd think Hyrule's future rulers would make the effort to be more prompt! If this were a diplomatic meal in another country, for example, you really would be being awfully..."
"Goodness Lady Faye, speaking in such a manner about the future monarchy might be considered awfully rude at any dinner table in Hyrule," Drake muttered darkly. He never could stand Fayette and her whining at the best of times. Fayette looked extremely offended by the knight's comment.
"Well, Sir Drake, I think..." she started.
"No-one cares what you think Faye, so please do shut up," Zelda interjected coolly, in her most dangerous tone. Fayette did as she was told. She knew when to give up. The Sosarian let out a dramatic sigh, and started eating a forkful of her meal delicately, pointedly ignoring her stepsister. Several people looked relieved, including Link. He hated it when Zelda and Fayette argued. They were worse than a fighting cat and dog.
The spread looked absolutely delicious. A large tureen of roasted potatoes stood in the centre of the long table, accompanied by a selection of the finest cold cuts of meat. Crusty, buttered bread was in abundance, sliced cheese and small pots of chutney and other sauces. As Link filled his plate hungrily, Drake cleared his throat, and spoke.
"Apparently, Sir Kendar will be joining us soon. I'm sure he'll be a welcome addition to the hold," he remarked. Zelda threw him a dirty look. Drake simply grinned.
"Oh, Sir Kendar is already such a marvellous warrior, I'm sure he barely needs any training at all!" Fayette piped up.
"But we all need practise from time to time. Gotta keep in shape," Link pointed out.
"And some of us happen to do that very well," Zelda smirked, throwing a glance over at Fayette. Fayette looked annoyed at Zelda's sly dig about her physical state.
"Well, of course, that's all very well, but since you spend all your time training, you barely have any time for your children!" she sneered unkindly. Zelda hadn't seen that one coming. She flashed her an angry look.
"That isn't true, and you know it!" she exclaimed.
"Ladies, ladies, please!" Drake said, holding up a hand.
"Yes, can't we all have a decent meal without you two sniping at each other constantly? It's getting really tiresome," Selina said. Zelda sighed, and Fayette raised her eyebrows.
"And before one of you says 'she started it', let's change the subject," Drake put in hurriedly.
"When is Kendar arriving?" Aaron quickly questioned, returning to the topic of Ewan's mysterious saviour.
"Oh, soon, I hope..." Fayette said dreamily. Zelda glanced at Link. They both smirked.
"But not soon enough for you, huh, Faye?" Zelda asked. Fayette gave her an offended look.
"I'll have you know, Sir Kendar is a wonderful young man. You ought to be grateful to him, he did save your son's life, after all," she said.
"I am," Zelda replied.
"He's a hero," Fayette continued.
"No doubt," Link agreed, playing along with Zelda. "Me and Zel are very, very, very grateful to him. He IS wonderful," he added. Fayette gave him an easy smile.
"You don't have to tell me that!" she said.
"All this talk of heroes, and I'm not included?" boomed Drake.
"In my opinion, every man sitting at this very table is a hero," Selina said softly.
"Yes," Zelda agreed, smiling shyly over at her friend. Selina smiled back faintly.
"Why thank you," Aaron grinned.
"I, of course, rank the highest," Drake joked.
"Hey!" Link interrupted, mock angrily.
"Well, it's true. I've been around a long time, unlike most of you young-uns," the knight stated solemnly.
"Too long for some of us," Zelda put in cheekily.
"Do you ever respect your elders?" Drake questioned, grinning over at the princess. She didn't reply, instead smiling over at Link. "Jeez, kids today..." the knight grumbled. Link put down his wineglass, and looked the knight squarely in the eye.
"Drake, I'm gonna be thirty soon, I'm no kid," he pointed out. The knight chuckled.
"Oh, I do hope Sir Kendar arrives here soon," Fayette interrupted. Everyone rolled their eyes.
"Indeed," Drake agreed. Link looked over at Zelda, smiling slowly at her.
"I can think of something that we need to do soon," he whispered.
"It doesn't involve gagging her over there, does it?" Zelda whispered back in a mischievous tone.
"Actually, that's a good idea, but not even a herd of wild horses could shut her up," Link replied.
"Do you two mind? Whispering at the dinner table is awfully rude, you know!" piped up a familiar voice. The pair collapsed into laughter.
An hour or so later, when the meal was finally finished, Zelda arose from her seat, taking Link by the hand. Drake was sharp to spot this and let out an almighty bellow.
"And where do you think you might be going Master Link?" he inquired with a raised eyebrow. Link grinned to his friend.
"Somewhere you'll never go," he replied with a quick grin. Drake let out a tut of disgust and shook his head.
"You call yourself a hero yet you'll ne'er remain at the table to sup an extra pint or two with your fellow men," exclaimed Drake in dismay. Link looked to Zelda, a smile on his face.
"Do I listen to this buffoon or what?" he asked loudly enough for Drake to overhear. Zelda smiled, tempted to tell Link not to stay longer, but she suddenly noticed Selina slipping away. She paused, a slight frown forming, wondering if she should try once more to convince Selina of her relative innocence.
"Hah! And he calls himself a man of this land! Must he discuss every decision with his beautiful wife?!" grinned Drake. Link turned back to Drake, his face an image of ease.
"Ah but Sir Drake, any man you could see you are jealous I have a wife who deems me worthy to be talked to!" he shot back. Drake shook his head once more.
"You can stay here if you want Link, there's something I have to do anyway," interrupted Zelda, her voice lowered. Her eyes were on Nick although she was in fact speaking to Link, but she couldn't help but notice the miserable expression that was on his face. Link nodded at Zelda, apparently not noticing Nick's quiet manner. He gave her a quick peck on the cheek,
"See you later," he whispered to her with a wink. Zelda tried to smile back, but her worry had suddenly shifted from the threat that Selina posed, to that of the threat Nick did. Did he know? And if so, would he tell Link? She hoped not.
"Goodnight all," she bade in a light tone, before quickly leaving.
"Oh, see she granted her prisoner a few moments of freedom!" winked Drake with a cheeky grin. Link smiled but shook his head.
"I'll give you one thing...your persistence," he conceded. Drake was once again all smiles. As the two men enjoyed their banter, they failed to notice Nick leave his seat, his head bowed, his eyes to the ground. He murmured not a word, and left the room, before Fayette gleefully leapt from her seat and followed him.
"Who's for cards then?" asked Drake, his eyes scanning the table.
"Count me in," said Damon, before Aaron nodded himself in. Link nodded also, and Drake wrought his hands together with a loud clap, rubbing them together gleefully.
"Right then," he started, "let us begin."
Nick walked at a brisk pace down the stone laden corridors of the hold. His boots echoed loudly off the bare walls of the passage, a cool breeze rushing past him as he walked by. All day he had been filled with an incredible sense of unease, his stomach was in knots and he could not think straight for the dull ache in his head. Normally he would have attended to a healer straight away, but something told him this feeling was more than mere illness. Selina had left the table before him, and he had been so caught up in his own thoughts he had failed to notice. He knew she was angry with him, he didn't blame her. The things he had said to her, they had been thoughtless and unjust, but it hadn't stopped him from saying them. He was as worried about Link and Zelda as Selina obviously was, but for an entirely different reason. As he walked, his temples throbbed, a gnawing pain eating at the point between his eyes. For a moment he staggered, one leg failing to support him as it should, and he reached to the wall with his arm for support. He paused to massage the point of pain, cursing aloud in Dalsonan - a language now as disused as ancient Hylian. He was angry at himself for submitting to whatever ailed him, but he could barely help it. He squeezed his eyes shut for a moment, and leant against the wall, taking a small breath.
"Nick?" His eyes flew open to see Lady Fayette standing before him, a look of concern pasted across her pretty face. He paused for a moment, unable to grasp for the necessary words to speak, before regaining his somewhat confused senses.
"Fayette," he murmured dumbly, unable to say anything else. She leaned closer to him, her brow furrowing, and rested her hand on his shoulder.
"Nick?" she questioned once more, "Are you alright?" Again he was unable to reach an answer.
"I..." The pain passed. He swallowed, and blinked. "I...I'm fine." Fayette smiled at him.
"You had me worried for a moment there," she murmured with a smile. Nick managed to muster a smile back. "I just couldn't help but notice how subdued you seemed at dinner, is everything okay?" pressed Fayette, standing a little closer to the Dalsonian King.
"I appreciate your concern, but," began Nick, the dull throbbing re-occupying his temples. Fayette saw him wince, and touched his face with her hand. Nick flinched at her touch, and tried to stand from the wall. "Faye..." he began to protest. Fayette hadn't realised it, but there was still something there, something deep in her heart that still wanted Nick more than anything...more than Kendar.
"Where is Selina now Nick? Where is she when you need her most?" she quizzed, her finger tracing his cheek.
"She doesn't know..." he protested weakly. Fayette just smiled.
"She ignored you throughout dinner, she couldn't even meet you in the eye," pointed out Fayette, pleased with her acute observations. Nick raised his eyes to meet Fayette's, the whites of his eyes a stark contrast with the dark colour of his skin.
"I need to see someone," stated Nick coldly, before breaking from Faye's touch, and walking down the corridor. Fayette turned and watched him, a somewhat bemused smile on her face.
Robert, mounted atop his favourite steed, paced before the masses of men that stood before him. He had in front of him about a quarter of his army assembled, these were the best of his men, a figure that would total about 35,000 in all, quite a large figure, considering Catalia's total population was little over 1,000,000. He took a deep breath and wiped his brow. He had addressed his men before, but they had always been under the cosh of some other force, such as the persistent Tanolians. This time, he was going to talk to them about attacking rather than defending. The entire field was silent, every man expectant, every man wondering why their general and future ruler had called upon them at such a time of seeming peace. Robert scratched his cheek, then began to speak. His voice was loud and clear, and carried to many of the men present. Not all heard, but they could read the situation due to the reactions of their fellow men.
"Gentleman, today is a day that shall go unmarked in the history books. Today, our world, our home, our lives seem to be at peace for the first time in many a year. We have managed to quash the attacks of the Tanolians, and with that, comes peace. Our land is by no means rich in monetary terms, but it is rich in the very knowledge that we no longer live our lives in fear." A cheer rose up from the crowd, rippling from the front to the back, although there was still confusion to Robert's intentions. Robert paused, his head bowed, waiting for the silence to return. He then resumed his speech.
"But how, I ask, did we achieve this peace of mind? Was it because of our so called Allies? Our Allies who have sworn to protect us? No! It was not. It was you," he pointed randomly into the crowd, "and you, and you. It was all of you here. It was all of your comrades. It was every single man in this country, every single woman, who refused to be crushed by the constant fear, the constant death, the constant MISERY! Everything that was thrown at us, we threw back, and we kept doing it until they no longer could. It was our persistence, it was our will to live, and our love of this country that kept Catalia standing. It was not the money of Dalsona, it was not the armies of Hyrule, it was not the support of Jueland or Lemmink. We are standing here today with our pride and our lives intact because of no one else but ourselves and our fallen comrades. We owe no-one, but they owe us." Robert's voice was no longer raised, but rather he was shouting the words, his fist raised, and every word dripped with pride. He paused to lick his dry lips, to swallow, and amid the silence, he continued, his eyes searching the crowd for any kind of a reaction. There was none.
"Where was Hyrule when our mothers were killed? Our brothers, our sisters, our wives, our children? Where was Dalsona when we had no bread, where was Lemmink when our armies were dead?! They were nowhere! They wanted no part of us, and we even begged them for aid, but all they could say was that they had their own problems. Well, this may well be, but when was the last time you can recall Hyrule suffering a drought because raiders burned all of her fields? When was the last time Lemmink had the threat of the Tanolians on their border? We protected them! We were the Tanolians corridor to Hyrule, Lemmink, but did they protect us?! No! They ignored us! But even then, you might say, that is no cause for war..." Robert paused once more, again nothing but silence reached him. Not even a murmur. He turned his horse and strode back down the line.
"And even I would agree with you! Until now that is. I was prepared to forgive, let things lie. But one of these countries has done a great injustice against your fellow men!" At this point, the crowd interrupted him with a roar of approval. They now knew what was coming. This was going to be a war of greed and conquest. This was going to be a war of justice. They had heard all about the Hyrulian's hero's deeds, and how he had kidnapped the wife of a man he had murdered in cold blood. Robert nodded, a small smile forming. They knew. They knew why he was doing this, and they supported him. Not that he had ever doubted. He raised a hand to cease their response. It took a few seconds, but he was no longer impatient.
"Why should we allow this man to get away with his crimes? Because he is husband to the queen-to-be? Because he is their supposed hero? He came from our very own shores!" This was met with a gasp of surprise. It was not common knowledge that Link was in fact of Catalian birth, Catalian lineage. It was true, the Kokiri had Hylian qualities. But Robert knew he was Catalian, and desired to acknowledge nothing else. "But despite this, he betrayed his own country and fled to another. I, in fact, grew up with this man, this..." he couldn't find the words, his fingernails dug into his palms with his frustration, his fury. "Yet Hyrule protects him! Well, no longer! He has killed more men than he ever should have, yet he goes unpunished for his sins. He hides in his adopted country behind his powerful wife, his wife who never saw fit to aid this country despite her own power!" Another roar punctuated his words, and he sat back, confident now that his army was behind him. This small portion was all that mattered, for they were the ones who controlled the rest.
"If you do not agree with me that this cause is a worthy one, then I encourage you to speak your mind. If we go into Hyrule, many may not survive. We may not even be victorious. If you wish to grow old with your wife and children, step down now, and in years to come you may tell your family of this moment, and your reasons for abandoning your fellow men. I have no quarrel with those of you, you who wish not to fight this cause, for I could never understand how a man with a family could feel. But if you truly love your family, you must love your country, and therefore any injustice done against Catalia is an injustice against your wife. Your children. You. I cannot promise you victory, but there is one thing I can promise, and it is that I will stay by your side and fight till my last breath as I trust you will stay by mine!" He stopped for a moment, his voice feeling a little hoarse but the crowd was enchanted by him. They stood motionless, waiting for more. Not one man had spoken a word to him, not one had stepped aside and thrown down their sword. He had expected at least a few to do so.
"If we let this lie, it will be done again, and again and it will be too late. The time is now! The present!" He drew his sword and raised it into the air. His sword flashed in the light, its charcoal stained blade standing out against the blue sky. His men drew their swords with him, and raised them in the air in a salute. Robert smiled, then replaced his sword. He leaned over towards one of his captain's and whispered in his ear. The time was drawing near, he knew, when he would finally get the justice Kylara deserved. He smiled again as he turned his eyes to his emphatically cheering men. He had had doubts, but now he could see, they were certainly unfounded ones.
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