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.
Juliet A. Singleton (Scullys@bigfoot.com) & Kirsty Singleton (Indigo_Spacen@mail.com)
They started off early the next day, mainly at Zelda's insistance. The sun had barely risen, but off the group went, riding quickly among the low, rolling hills.
"It's best we waste as little time as possible resting, and spend more of it riding. That way, we'll reach Opela quicker," Zelda said.
"But Zelda... Link needs his rest," Aaron said to her quietly.
"I'm fine," Link protested, hearing their conversation.
"Yes, I'm sure Seline will have him seen to when we arrive," Zelda added. Aaron didn't say anything, but you could tell by his face that he didn't agree with them. Zelda's bossiness and Link's insistance that he was perfectly fine weren't a good combination, in his book. They continued riding quietly for a while, until Link spoke again.
"Hey Fayzie, remember when it was your 8th birthday, and we played hide and seek and you got lost?" he grinned, over at his old friend.
"Oh, don't remind me! That was so embarrassing!! I thought I'd go real deep in the woods were no-one would think of looking, and then I didn't realise where I was!" Fayzie laughed, also recalling the incident.
"We were all waiting, with your cake and everything!" Link added, also laughing.
"Well imagine how I felt! All scared, alone!" Fayzie retorted good-naturedly.
"Yeah... it was Alain who found you, wasn't it?" Link remembered.
"Uhuh, in my muddy dress, where I'd slipped into that stream!" Fayzie said. They both smiled at each other fondly.
"I hate those damn Tanolians," Link finally muttered, his expression darkening a little.
"Don't we all?" Aaron ventured.
"And it seems like we'll never be rid of them. Luckily, they seemed to refrain from attacking Gardarika... they mull around Opela, and out in the countryside more these days," Fayzie said.
"Yes, we even had the scum living in our own mountains for a while," Link added.
"And we didn't know... until we came across them, of course," Zelda said, speaking for the first time in a while.
"We cleared them out, though," Aaron said, looking quite proud.
"Good. The whole lot of them should be exterminated, in my view," Fayzie said.
"Like vermin," Zelda agreed. They all went silent again.
"Let's get off them, though," Link finally remarked.
"Uhuh," Fayzie agreed. "Hey, do you remember when we told everyone that we'd found..." she started, smiling widely.
"Oh Fayzie! Don't even bring that one up!" Link said, sounding jokingly horrified.
"It was sort of funny, though," Fayzie pointed out.
"But I don't think they believed us really," Link replied.
"Hayden did," Fayzie said.
"Hayden thought you were great, though. He never imagined you'd lie," Link laughed.
"Well, I couldn't help it that all the guys..." Fayzie started.
"Yeah, but I knew what you were really like!" Link interrupted, grinning.
"That was only because we were quite good friends," Fayzie replied, still smiling too.
"Excuse me? Only 'quite'?" Link asked, mock offended.
"Alright, alright. One of my greatest friends," she corrected.
"That's more like it," Link smiled.
"How nice," Zelda remarked, her tone a little cutting.
"Sorry Zel, didn't mean to leave you out," Link said, patting her on the shoulder affectionately.
"It's hardly a time to be joking around, when my country is in trouble!" the Princess snapped.
"What?" Aaron asked, looking surprised.
"She had a feeling," Link explained.
"Oh," Aaron replied.
"Sorry," Fayzie apologised.
"Oh, don't you apologise. She's just jealous," Sprite said cheekily.
"Jealous? I'm jealous? Of what?!" Zelda demanded incredulously.
"Of Link and Fayzie's conversation. You hate not being the centre of attention!" the faerie said shrilly.
"Oh, and so do you!" Zelda retorted, seething.
"Er Zel..." Link began.
"Don't 'Zel' me!" Zelda said angrily. Link dropped his hand from her shoulder.
"There's no need..." he started.
"Oh, leave me alone!" Zelda interrupted, still fuming. No-one dared to speak, although Sprite could barely keep her mouth shut. But Link shot her a warning glance, and she darted onto his shoulder, also sulking. They rode on in silence.
The day passed without incident, but all of them still remained on their guard. Zelda ordered that they would ride well into the night, despite the other's protests, after all, they had to get to Opela soon. The moon was coming up, as they rode their mounts along a twisting path through some trees. Little Aden had fallen asleep, and everyone was feeling a little hungry. But Zelda had not yet decided to call it a day. Fayzie ventured to speak to Link again, after the blow up earlier, she hadn't felt comfortable addressing any questions directly to him alone.
"So... I suppose it must be real nice to live in a castle, and all," she said.
"It has its advantages, yeah," Link agreed. He was feeling a bit drowsy, but couldn't fall asleep while still on a horse.
"Well, it is a castle. What else could you possibly expect?" Zelda said, a little sarkily. She was still in a bit of a bad mood. Link sighed.
"Zel..." he started.
"It's okay. You two continue your lovely little conversation, I'll concentrate on riding," Zelda said flippantly. Fayzie shot Link a questioning look, and he shrugged.
"North Castle is beautiful, the most beautiful castle in Demiari. I hope you might see it one day too, Fayzie," he said.
"Oh... yes, maybe. But what does it look like?" she asked.
"A great, tall, white fortress, that dominates the skyline," Aaron offered.
"With blue turrets. And the moat sparkles so prettily on a sunny day," Sprite added.
"And all the lush green around it, the grasslands, the Ruto Forest," Link continued.
"The home of my people, Silva-Veredis Le' Fey, City of the Faeries," Sprite said proudly.
"It all sounds so beautiful," Fayzie breathed, looking awed.
"It is," Zelda agreed.
"You should... maybe you could come back with us, for a while," Link offered shyly. Zelda said nothing. Fayzie looked nervous.
"Oh, no.... no, I..." she began.
"You'd be safe from those jerks," Aaron pointed out.
"Yeah, you could live in Rauru or Ruto, they're both close to the castle," Link said. "I lived in Ruto myself once... well, when I first arrived. With my uncle Govan... and my Aunt Janey," he added.
"Yeah, and that was when you met me!" Sprite cried, smiling.
"Uhuh, sure was," Link said, grinning back at his faerie companion.
"It does sound nice..." Fayzie mused.
"You should come, you really should!" Sprite insisted, more to annoy Zelda, than anything.
"Yep, and you could hang out at the castle any time!" Link added, turning to smile at his old friend.
"Let's stop," Zelda suddenly said, her tone not sounding too happy at all. They were near some trees, which would provide adequate shelter, and a river, which they'd been following for some time, ran by. However, Link couldn't help feeling she'd said it to stop them talking. Without a word, the Princess dismounted, and headed off towards the river.
"I'll make a start on supper," Fayzie offered. Aaron had managed to catch some wild cuccos when they'd stopped for dinner, a few hours earlier, and strung to his saddle.
"Roast cucco, almost as if we're back home. We just need some wine, crusty bread, roast potatoes, and fresh vegetables, and some of that delicious sauce that only Milona can..." Link started.
"Shut up, you're making my mouth water!" Aaron laughed.
"Well, at least we found those wild carrots, and those apples. I can parboil them quite nicely, I think," Fayzie said.
"Sounds wonderful already," Link smiled.
The meal was indeed a thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated one. The long ride had left all five of them extremely hungry and worn out, and the delicious cucco, along with the vegetables warmed them all to the soul. The mood was happier, more jovial than it had been since the five had set out from Gadarika, including the mood of Zelda.
"This is the nicest meal I've eaten in ages!" commented Link, hungrily digging in to his cooked cucco.
"Yeah, me too! Who'd have thought that such a dumb animal could be some use after all!" exclaimed Sprite, who was a little happier than the previous meal, mainly because this time she'd been remembered.
"I'm not that used to cooking in the wilderness, it's a little more difficult using and open fire, compared to a stove," said Fayzie, who was sitting with her son close by. It struck Zelda how quiet Aden was, but she supposed it didn't surprise her. He had been taken from his home, his father, with very little warning, and he would be doubtlessly confused about the whole situation.
"Hey Aden, how'd you like to live in a castle?" asked Zelda, smiling kindly at the young boy. He looked up from his own meal, reciprocating the smile, if not a little shyly.
"A castle?" he questioned. "I've never even seen a castle before! Only heard about them in stories!" exclaimed the young boy. Fayzie glanced across to Link, who smiled warmly back. He then put one arm around his wife.
"Well, you're going to see one soon, in a few days, and then maybe you'll even see another castle, in a different country entirely!" said Link with a grin. Aden smiled, looking brighter than he had since Link had ever seen him.
"Will there be a moat? With great big underwater dragon's in them?!" asked the young boy eagerly. Link grinned.
"Who knows," he said with a wink.
"And big brave knights, with all shiny armour?" asked Aden again.
"Probably," said Aaron, joining in on the conversation. Aden looked a little cheered by the sudden attention. He turned and looked at Sprite curiously.
"And you're...you're a real faerie?" he asked, a question he had been dying to ask for days. Every laughed at the question, and Sprite flew over to the boy, sprinkling a little faerie dust on him.
"Have you ever seen a fake faerie?" she asked. Aden nodded.
"At the Gadarika festival last year, a man was selling faeries, but they weren't real ones, they were fire flies!" exclaimed Aden.
"Yes, and you wanted to buy one didn't you?" asked Fayzie, hugging her son a little. Aden grinned shyly.
"Well I'd never seen a real faerie before!" he exclaimed in his defence.
"Well, you have now," said Sprite with a smile before fluttering off to Link again.
Later on, when they had finished their meals and set up camp for the night, everyone was huddled around the fire for warmth, all of them asleep except Link and Zelda. Fayzie and Aden lay huddled together, close to the fire, with Aaron nearby. Link and Zelda also lay close together, lying on their backs, staring up at the stars.
"Look, can you see it? Your mother's star?" questioned Link quietly, his hand closing around Zelda's.
"Yes, the brightest of them all," murmured Zelda. She turned on her side, regarding the handsome face of her husband. After a while, he too turned on his side, facing her. "I'm sorry about the way I behaved earlier," she apologised, giving Link's hand a soft squeeze. He smiled at her.
"It's okay, I'm a little worried about Hyrule too. The quicker we reach Opela the better," said Link softly.
"Fayzie seems nice, she'd be welcome back at North Castle," commented Zelda. She loved Link so much, she couldn't believe how she treated him at times.
"Yes, without Fayzie, I don't know if I could have survived as long as I did," murmured Link, looking a little cloudy eyed as he recalled his recent experiences at the hands of other members of his tribe.
"Her son...he reminds me a little of Ewan," smiled Zelda, thinking of her son. How she missed both of her children. She knew they were in safe hands back at North Castle, with Impa and Kaibre.
"Yes. He's more like his mother than his father. In looks as well as nature," said Link quietly, not wanting Aden to hear, just in case the child happened to be still awake.
"He must be so confused," sympathised Zelda.
"I think he knows more than he lets on. I think he knew how badly his mother was treated," said Link in a low voice.
"Oh Link, I hope this will all be over soon," confided Zelda, moving closer to Link. He brought his arms around her, wishing he could've prevented all the heart ache he had caused.
"It will be, when we reach Opela, everything will be okay," promised Link, before moving forward and kissing his wife softly. She pulled away slightly, and smiled.
"I missed you so much," she said, tears staining her cheeks.
"Not half as much as have missed you," grinned Link, before pulling Zelda close to his chest, his arms around her, and closing his eyes to try and gain some much needed sleep.
Ewan woke up feeling confused and dazed, and in unfamiliar surroundings. He sat up straight away, taking a deep breath. Where was he? He carefully got up, but felt a little unsteady on his feet.
"Ewan!" he suddenly heard someone call, someone nearby. He turned, his eyes adjusting to the dark.
"Mara?" he asked, recognising the voice of the recently appointed healer. He wondered if he was having a dream, like the ones he had encountered a few months before. He had been in these dreams, but not like this. The striking of a match was heard, and the place Ewan was, was suddenly bathed in soft, lantern light. He still didn't recognise where he was, but felt a little more at ease in the company of a recognised face.
"Yes it's me, don't be alarmed young Ewan," said Mara softly.
"Where am I?" asked Ewan.
"In a safe place," murmured Mara, pouring a glass of water for the young boy. She handed it to him. "Here, drink this," she told him, and Ewan obeyed, taking a sip from the cool liquid.
"Safe from what?" he questioned.
"From anyone who may mean to harm you," replied Mara, as if it were that simple. Ewan took another drink, still confused, and a little frightened.
"Like who?" he asked.
"Mr. Lainge for one," said Mara quietly. Ewan looked around his surroundings. He was in a small room, resting on a hard bunk. There was a small cabinet nearby, on which a jug and a lantern where both resting.
"Mr. Lainge? But he was good, he was my mother's guard," protested the young boy.
"People are not what they always seem," said the healer somewhat cryptically. Ewan frowned.
"But my mother trusted him!" argued Ewan.
"People aren't always right about other people Ewan," said Mara softly, touching the boy on the forehead.
"But..." began Ewan, meaning to argue both Kaibre's and his mother's case.
"You should rest Ewan, you have a long ahead of you," advised Mara. Ewan suddenly felt extremely drowsy, and began to lie slowly back down. "Yes Ewan, rest, you shall be needing all the strength you can muster," he heard Mara whisper, before drifting into a long and undisturbed sleep.
Early the next morning, Fayette intercepted the breakfast order that was due to make its way to the King and Queen of Dalsona. The young member of kitchen staf was quite reserved about handing the tray of food over, but in the end, Fayette's persistance won him over. Fayette was now making her way to the couple's room, but on the way she paused a while, uncapping the coveted vial of precious liquid and emptying the contents into one of the glasses, not really considering the fact that Selina may drink it instead of Nick. She then pocketed the empty vial and continued on her way to the room of Nick and Selina, tapping quietly at the oor, before opening it and walking in.
The couple were still asleep, which was hardly surprising considering the early hour. Fayette herself could not recall a time in her life when she had risen at such an early hour. She walked in, placing down the tray on a small table, taking the glass of water which she had placed the potion in and setting it down onto the bed table that was at Nick's side. She did the same with the other glass, placing it pointedly at Selina's bed table. She grimaced when she saw the two, lying close, Selina, her head on Nick's broad, dark chest. She wondered idly if one day, she and Nick could share that closeness. She sighed a little, and then realise how suspicious, and unusual it would look if one of the two were to awake to see Fayette standing over them. She quietly slipped out of the room, closing the door almost silently behind her, then continuing back up the corridor, towards her room.
On her way there, Fayette passed the nursery, noticing a small, shining object lying just next to the wall. She leaned down and retrieved it, examining it carefully in her hands. It looked like an unusual crystal pendant, and Fayette shrugged, glancing to the nursery door, seeing that it was slightly open. She frowned, recalling the night before, when she had settled her own children. She had closed the door as she left, the handsome Kaibre had greeted her, as he was standing guard there. Then she realised, he was no longer present. Frowning, she wondered where he had got to, she had known he was posted there to keep an eye on Ewan, at the request of his mother. She carefully pushed the door open, and looked inside the darkened room curiously. Everything seemed fine, nothing amiss except the disappearance of Kaibre. She supposed he could've gone to get some sleep, but it seemed unlikely, and slightly unproffessional for a man with such a post. She walked into the room, and walked over to the beds of her own children, to see if they were sleeping soundly. They all were, and feeling a little more at ease, Fayette turned to leave the room, when something made her pause, and check again. Across the room, she saw a darkened mass in the corner, that could have been anything, a toy perhaps or a blanket, but Fayette didn't think so. The room had been impeccably tidy when she had left it, tidied by herself. Unless the children had played after she left, she knew it couldn't be any toy. She walked over and kneeled down, almost gasping as she realised it was someone. She could hear a distinct, haggered breathing emitting from the figure, and she quickly ran to the window, drawing open the curtains to let a little light in. She turned, and then saw it was Kaibre, he looked pale, and very ill. She also then noticed the tossed aside blankets of Ewan's bed, and the emptiness of the bed. The children began to stir, and Fayette quickly scanned the room one more time before leaving, and hurrying to Impa's quarters to fetch help.
"This is simply too terrible," murmured Impa gravely as she surveyed the scene. She turned to Fayette. "Please, go and fetch Mara, Mr. Lainge needs attending to immediately," she added. Fayette nodded and quickly left the room. Impa turned to a nearby guard. "Please, go and inform the king of this," she instructed. He nodded and hastily left. Impa sighed, shaking her head as she knelt over Kaibre. She couldn't believe that this had happened, they had grown too comfortable to the recent peace, and someone had taken advantage of that familiarity. It was east to assume. Ewan could have been taken by anyone, perhaps a disgruntled guard or employee who wanted to demand a ransome for the boy. But this seemed different, upon closer examination, she noticed an ugly wound across Kaibre's arm, like a burn of some sort. His breathing was slow, barely there infact, but he was still alive. Whoever had got past this man's guard had been good, incredibly skillful perhaps, a good fighter. She supposed she shouldn't think too much into it now, she would leave that to the likes of Drake and his men.
"Oh my goodness! This is awful!" exclaimed the King as he entered the nursery. He turned to a guard. "Inform Sir Drake that I wish to see him immediately!" he instructed. The guard bowed and quickly left. The King glanced across at Impa, then towards the empty bed of his grandson. His face turned from an exclaimation of shock to that of worry. "So it is true then," he murmured, still not wanting to believe it. Impa nodded.
"I am afraid so, your majesty," the old nurse maid affirmed. The King looked to the ground, placing one hand on his forehead. He shook his head, trying to collect his thoughts.
"I can't believe anyone would do this," he said quietly. Impa looked back to Kaibre, wondering why Fayette was taking so long.
"Kaibre is still alive, perhaps he will be able to help us," she said comfortingly. The King looked up, his eyes meeting Impa's across the room.
"And what if he does not live?" he questioned, his voice tight. Impa dare not answer the question, and as she stood there silently, searching for the right words, Fayette appeared. The children were stirring now, and Fayette looked over to Impa.
"She wasn't in her quarters...and...well, I've never been in her room before, but it seemed empty, the bed hadn't been slept in either," she said breathlessly. Impa frowned, as did the King.
"Mara shouldn't be out of her quarters at this early hour," she murmured. Drake appeared behind Fayette, concern written all over his face.
"Yes milord?" asked the knight, a little confused.
"Drake...it appears we have had an intruder in the castle," began the King, turning to his head knight. Fayette walked over to her children, trying to reassure them. All the time though, she couldn't help thinking about the night previously, when she had taken the healer to the Triforce tower. What if...? She didn't even want to think about it.
"I shall go and fetch Selina, she is the only other trained healer in the castle," excused Impa, leaving the room. Drake turned to the King.
"An intruder?" he asked.
"Yes. Your friend I believe," began the King, motioning to Kaibre. Drake turned and saw his friend. "He has been injured by whoever this intruder was...but that isn't the worst of it," continued the King. Drake glanced around the rest of the room. He counted five heads in the beds, a child was missing. He glanced at the King, a sinking feeling enveloping him. Since Fayette wasn't shrieking about, he figured that none of her children were missing. That only left Ewan and Timothy, and Drake felt he knew who would be more tempting to the average kidnapper.
"Ewan..." muttered Drake. The King nodded. Drake turned, about to leave.
"We need to discuss this!" protested the King.
"I know what you'll say. Search parties, missives to every town, the scouring of the castle grounds; consider them done," promised Drake. The Kind nodded.
"Yes, of course, I can trust you Drake," said the King. Drake bowed and left, leaving the King with Fayette and the rest of the children.
"Faye, you will be okay?" he questioned. Fayette turned and nodded. The King smiled faintly and left the nursery. There was something else that needed to be done, and that was to inform his daughter and son-in-law of this terrible, terrible occurance.
Impa knocked gently on the door, before letting herself in. Nick was already stirring a little as she entered, and he smiled as he saw Impa.
"To what do we owe this pleasure?" he questioned, getting up. Impa curtsied slightly, but she did not return the smile of the handsome King.
"Someone has been injured, badly. The current castle healer is no-where to be found, and Selina was the first person I thought of, good sir," said Impa. Nick leaned over to his wife, shaking her gently.
"A serious injury?" he questioned, sounding concerned.
"Perhaps," murmured Impa. Selina thrashed about a little in her sleep, her hand catching off the side table by the bed. Impa watched as a glass set there crashed to the ground. Selina sat up, looking a little surprised, then she turned and saw Impa, then Nick.
"What...?" she began.
"Someone in the castle has been hurt," began Nick, kneeling down to pick up the broken glass. Selina nodded then quickly got up, walking over to the dressing screen.
"Who is it?" asked Selina as she dressed.
"A guard here, Kaibre Lainge," informed Impa.
"Wasn't that the man who was guarding Zelda...before she left I mean," questioned Nick.
"Yes," replied Impa. Selina emerged from behind the screen.
"Take me to him," she said, before following Impa from the room. Nick watched as they left, then placed the large fragments of glass he had retrieved on the table. He glanced at the wet patch by the bed, which glittered with tiny fragments of glass. He suddenly realised that breakfast was already in the room, which seemed slightly odd to him. He had certainly never requested an early breakfast, nor had Selina to his knowledge. Shrugging to himself, he also quickly dressed, and decided to go and see if there was any way in which he could help.
"How far now?" questioned Sprite in a bored tone as they rode over the gradually flattening plains of Catalia. Fayzie, without turning, spoke aloud.
"The amount of ground we covered yesterday ensures that we should either reach Opela by nightfall, or if we choose to rest, early morning," informed the Kokiri woman. Link was still taking it all in, every last detail of the Catalian landscape. It was a cold day, so cold that when Link took breaths of air, it made his lungs and ribs wince at the iciness. He wasn't sure if anyone else had noticed. The landscape itself was now sparse, only the occasional copse of trees passed them by, and little all else. The sky was grey, and the moon was still out, despite it being well past the end of night. He turned to watch the sea, which was far away now, they had ridden a great deal inland to avoid the road, but it was still there, a line of dark blue cutting across the lower half of the clouded sky.
"I think we should ride on, without distraction. The sooner we reach the sanctuary of Opela the sooner we can rest at ease," suggested Zelda. Link was surprised to hear it was not a command.
"Yes, I agree," he confirmed.
"As do I. The longer we stay out here, the higher the risk that we should get caught," added Aaron. Everyone fell silent again, and all that could be heard was the distant crashing of the ocean waves, and the constant patter of the three horses feet touching and leaving the grassy ground that lay underfoot.
"Is Opela as beautiful as I remember it?" inquired Link, again directing his line of conversation to his childhood friend. Fayzie nodded.
"Perhaps. Although I myself have not visited for a good few years. The Tanolians have tried to ruin it, tainting the walls of the city with their constant presence, but we have a good army, more than capable of holding them off."
"Remember, we shall be reaching the castle first. Does the castle still stand as proud as it always did?" questioned Zelda.
"As far as I know. But as I said, it has already been many a year since I last heard of it. The Queen has an heir now, the General of the army, who he is I am not sure...but surely we will be in safe hands with such a brave man in charge," replied Fayzie.
"Seline has adopted an heir?" asked Zelda, puzzled. Her father had certainly never mentioned such a thing.
"I am afraid I cannot say any more. Gardarika is such an isolated town, we seldom heard anything of the capital where we were. We only heard news when soldiers came into the village
every couple of months. And that was only if they chose to tell us," explained Fayzie. Link remained silent, contemplating how his life would have been had he never left Catalia.
"It must be awful to live in such an isolated state," commented Zelda sympathetically. Fayzie shrugged.
"I never really noticed. When you've grown up with nothing else, it's hard to imagine there is anything else. I'm used to isolation, I always have been," said Fayzie, her voice getting quieter as she spoke. Aaron suddenly halted up front, raising a hand.
"Those trees," he motioned, waving to a patch of elms over to their left. They were a fair way away from them, but Aaron's sharp eyes had spotted something. "I think we have some company," he said in a lower voice. Link turned and looked, noticing the shadows that seemed to cling to each tree. There were more shadows than there should have been. Link placed one hand on his sword, wondering how to approach the situation.
"Do you think they know?" whispered Zelda. Link shrugged.
"I couldn't say for sure," he replied in an equally low voice. "Keep moving," ordered Link to Aaron, who stared at his friend warily.
"Are you sure?" he asked, not sure the decision was the right one. He dug his heels into the sides of his horse, and Jet began to move again, at a slightly faster pace. Fayzie followed, as did Zelda and they began to move further and further away from the gathering of suspect trees when a cry sounded out, and the twang of bows could be heard from behind them. Link grabbed Zelda by the shoulder and pulled her off the horse, both of them hitting the ground as an arrow sailed past them. Fayzie nimbly shifted atop her horse and cried to Aaron to move out of the way, which he did by promptly dismounting his steed and landing on the ground with both feet. Link helped a disgruntled Zelda up with one hand, and turned to see their enemies creeping from the trees, weapons drawn, calling and jeering foreign threats. Link nodded to Aaron who drew his sword, and Link helped Zelda back onto Moonmist.
"Run!" he hissed, slapping the horse on the flank, causing it to set off at a canter, streaking past the stationary Carefree and Jet. Link nodded to Fayzie. "Follow her!" he instructed, and she did nothing to resist his command, setting off at a canter, after Zelda. Sprite remained behind, hovering about.
"I can help!" she insisted. Link nodded.
"I know you can. Go with Zelda and Fayzie, make sure they are safe," said Link. Sprite looked as though she were about to protest, but Link gave her a stare of iron and she meekly obeyed, flying off after Zelda and Fayzie. Aaron jogged up to Link, and looked at him.
"There's at least 7 of them," he muttered, watching the advancing group, memories of the previous year coming back to him. Link shrugged, tossing his sword from one hand to the other with a casual air about him.
"That's three and a half each. We'll take them easy," he reassured.
"7 to 2, the odds aren't going our way Link," warned Aaron.
"They'll chase us til we're dead anyway, we're saving them the effort," retorted Link.
"We could reach the castle before that," insisted Aaron, shocked at the streak of ruthlessness he was now portraying. The group advanced. There were 9 of them. Link walked towards them, and the boldest member pitched a spear at the hero, which he neatly caught.
"Out of practice?" he jeered, when the rest all three their spears towards him, causing him to duck and roll just as 8 spears landed where he should have been. Link threw the spear he had caught to one side. "How about we do this one at a time?" he asked boldly, "You know, the fair way?" His suggestion was met by a series of amused grunts and sniggers, and all 9 of them broke into a run, and rushed towards Link and Aaron, their weapons raised, their only intention to kill. Link put up his sword, and it crashed against his first victim's weapon with such a force that it disarmed him. He then swung his sword towards the Tanolian's belly, a spurt of blood erupting from the new wound. He fell to his knees with a pitiful cough, and Link finished him off with a clean swing towards his neck, beheading him. Aaron disposed of another, a clash of sword on sword, followed by a swift jab to the belly and a clumsy swipe at the side of the Tanols head. The odds were back down to the original statement made by Aaron, but whilst they had dealt with the first two, the other seven had closed in, surrounding them, laughing loudly as though they had not noticed the deaths of their other comrades.
"Put up your weapons and we shall kill ye, but we shall not pursuit yer wives. Don't, and we'll kill ye and rape yer wives before we slit their throats," offered the leader of the group.
"And what is to say you will keep your word?" asked Link, standing back to back with his friend. They could take them on, easy. The leader looked around at his comrades and let out another bellow of laughter.
"Are we Tanolians not renowned for our honesty?" he asked sarcastically, pointing his sword towards Link. Link shrugged.
"I would not know, but I do know that your one time leader was slain by a woman," mocked Link. It was true, Leigh had been the one to do it. The men looked infuriated by the comment, and drew in closer.
"Nice going Link," hissed Aaron before the two stepped away from each other, both sweeping their swords through the air with such strength that anything in the vicinity, including two of the Tanolian men lost their guts, literally. Three sped towards Link, and he deftly blocked two of their attacks, with only a second between his next defence he managed to execute another with a swipe across the chest. Aaron swung his sword at the two who homed on in him, the strength in his blow catching one across the hand, causing him to fatally drop his weapon. Aaron quickly drove his blade into the neck of the still armed Tanolian before turning his attentions to the one he had disarmed, who was scrabbling about in the mud for his weapon. He towered over him, and as the Tanolian saw Aaron's shadow over him, he pulled a knife from his boot and leapt up only to meet Aaron's sword between his eyes. More blood and brain matter exploded from the skull of the soldier, and Aaron grimaced as it hit him in the face, wiping it away with one hand. He turned to see Link in combat with the leader who was apparently the only one in the group who knew how to use a fight. Aaron approached and took a throwing knife from his belt, aimed carefully and threw the knife over Link's soldier, straight into the forehead of the leader. Link cursed in surprise and disgust as he was covered in a spew of blood and brain, and turned to Aaron just as the last enemy standing fell backwards, hitting the ground with a thud.
"Thanks," he said dryly, wiping the gore from his cheek. Aaron shrugged.
"Are you on a death wish?" he asked sternly. Link looked at him innocently.
"Moi?" he grinned. Link's expression changed as he saw a shadow loom up behind Aaron, and he pushed his friend away, putting out his sword and sticking it through the ribcage of the ninth man, who he had neglected to spot as he had battled with the leader. The Tanolian let out a dry groan as blood crawled from his mouth, and Link gave him a callous push, so that he fell backwards, hitting the ground with a crunch. Link then turned to Aaron and offered him a hand up, he had pushed his friend to the ground.
"Well, I was going to ask what you thought you were doing. But I guess I'd best thank you," admitted Aaron, his heart only just slowing. Link let out a satisfied sigh.
"There's nothing like blood and gore to get your heart going in the morning air," he exclaimed, walking up to Jet, who had remained totally unfazed throughout the entire process. Aaron joined him, sniffing a little.
"Whatever you say," he murmured, personally, the last thing he had wanted was any kind of confrontation with anyone. He mounted Jet and helped Link up.
"Let's just hope those girls haven't ridden too far," commented Link in a light tone. Aaron nodded in agreement, also secretly praying they themselves hadn't bumped into any more enemies as they escaped.
Once both Fayzie and Zelda had ridden out of sight of their travelling companions, Zelda had decided it best to shelter in a small gathering of trees and prepare for the worst. She had her bow ready, watching the horizon for anyone approaching, praying it would be Link and Aaron. Fayzie was seated just behind her with Aden, and both Carefree and Moonmist had been hidden deeper in the trees and foliage.
"Please let them be alright," whispered Zelda, tears staining her cheeks with worry. Fayzie patted Zelda on the shoulder.
"Although the Tanolians are many in numbers, their actually fighting skill is quite low. I'm sure two men as able as Link and Aaron will be able to fend them off, your Majesty," reassured the Kokiri. Zelda nodded, although she still wasn't convinced.
"What if there were more than we saw?" she asked.
"Tanolians aren't tactically inclined. If there had been more, they would have all gone out at once. None of them would have wanted to miss a potential kill," answered Fayzie.
"I should have stayed behind, but oh no, Link made me come and watch you!" accused Sprite in an annoyed tone.
"That wasn't my fault," replied Zelda. Suddenly, the three fell silent as Zelda saw a horse top the horizon. There were two riders upon it, and it was jet black. "It's them!" cried Zelda happily, about to leave the shelter of the trees but Fayzie stopped her.
"Wait. You can't see that. They could have easily taken Aaron's horse," she warned. Zelda reluctantly nodded and waited.
Soon however it became evident that the rider's were who Zelda wanted them to be, and both Fayzie and Zelda left the trees to greet them. Link dismounted as he saw his wife and hugged her, before briefly parting from Zelda to hug Fayzie also.
"I was so worried!" exclaimed Sprite, suddenly appearing.
"Nah, those Tanolian's were nothing," insisted Link confidently. Aaron joined them.
"Yep, we took them on two on nine," announced the soldier proudly.
"Nine?!" exclaimed Zelda.
"Those guys won't be troubling us again!" grinned Link, and Zelda sighed.
"What would we do without you two," she smiled. Aaron shrugged.
"I'm sure you could handle yourselves okay. Those guys were utter incompetents," smiled Aaron. Zelda smiled back.
"Well, we had best keep going. If we want to reach the castle before nightfall, we have to have no more distractions," said Zelda in a business-like tone.
"I'm hungry!" protested Sprite. Zelda glared at her.
"Once we reach the castle, I'm sure we will be fed, that will be enough," said the princess. The other two horses were retrieved, and once again the six set out heading for the castle of Queen Seline, hoping that no more trouble would befall them on their way.
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