Celebrating approximately 7,000 views for this series!!!...Greetings, all. Yes, this is it. My last fan fic (I know I've said that a few times before, but I'm hoping this time it'll be true). The end of the Legend of Link series.
Maybe I just like Roman Numerals, but the idea of another title in my sig was just too tempting. Legend of Link III... I would so like to see a IV, cause I like how that looks, but meh, I still have Wizards of Xeria for that.
To some people's disappointment, this story is not gonna be a linear story. There are no chapters. Nope, this Legend is none other than a collection of short stories. And, as I demonstrate with the title "All The Pieces", each story will be given the name of an Oingo Boingo song (cuz they're just that good), as well as end with some lyrics (something I had thought of doing with AOC).
And so, as usual, be constructive, don't spam, point out my typos, etc. If you read this story, reply! I think I'll write just six stories, so that the story can retain (somewhat) its epic quality.
Since short stories take so long to write, I will post them once a month. It took me a bit more than that for this first one, but I'm hoping the rest won't be this long.
This first story is an etiology: of The Crystal, the Impenetrable Wizard Laws, and Love's Resurrection. I apologize for the length, but at least I offer little breaks, eh? The rest of the stories should be shorter, most likely.
Aglaia flew high above the world of Hyto, the sun warming her body while she spun slowly as if on an invisible spit. Dry again, she surveyed the cloudscape, finding its puffy hills and bluffs, its depressions and gaping holes, even the far-off mountains that penetrated its soft body.
She swooped down low to the white plain, dipping her claws and tail in the moist fluff. It had first surprised her to find that clouds were so wet, but she'd come to enjoy it more than expectations had permitted. Now she needn't find a spring somewhere on the ground to bathe in.
Keeping an eye on the upcoming cloud-hill, she immersed her entire body, a chill of bliss running across her spine. Her body began to sag, and she boosted herself up and out, repeating the process. Finding a large patch of gray, she daringly curved in an arc above the cloud-hill, down through a wide opening, and, upside-down, continued on towards the east.
Aglaia's eyes adjusted to the darkness, but she couldn't have been prepared for the unnatural strength of the rain now pounding her flight path into the earth. Her sense of smell was immediately shot, and she noted with amusement how much she had taken it for granted. She quickly became too weak to use magic, helpless to halt her plummet, and instead focused on the land beneath. Before getting too close to discern its shape, she noted that she was approaching Continent Nal.
There, on the "real" plains, a battle was taking place. Flashes of red and yellow shot in every direction, with the occasional explosion here and there. With her heightened senses, she could see that most of the men wore blood-stained armor, the minority in cloaks of myriad colors. Some were riding horses. Others, tamed Dodongos, and some, the rare boar. Shape-shifters, as tall, pitch black Iron Knuckles, were standing guard over both sides' archers. A murder of Guay milled about above the scene, waiting to safely consume the inevitably resulting carrion.
Soon, it became impossible not to spot Aglaia, and the cloaked fighters took advantage of the distraction. As she reached maximum velocity, the Guay began pecking at her, making her curse the rain ever more. She closed her eyes as a Guay attempted to pick them out, and fell now in a confusion of screams, caws, and her own strangled yelp.
And then the horrendous crash. She landed on her side, and felt a sickening crunch as many of her ribs cracked. Coupled with the many armor-clad, spear-wielding soldiers she had crushed, the two Dodongos that were dying (and thus blowing up) next to her, and the persistent Guay, her body flared with unbearable agony. She opened her mouth, and, ignoring her own involuntary gasps, sunk her teeth into the ground, no longer with the vain hope of escape. She futilely tried a Healing Spell, but—blasted rain! How could those humans stand fighting in such a downpour?
Sudden tremors piqued her curiosity, and she chanced a peek. Shape-shifters, slowly transforming to take Aglaia's appearance, flying towards her, unknowingly hitting their human comrades dead with their trailing tails. They dropped, none to gently, onto her fragile form, breaking more, if not all, of her ribs.
The fight was ending as the cloaked men surrounded her, those with their hoods down gaping at the sight. As she blacked out, thankfully, she gave a proud snarl. They were shocked. Mystified. After all, no one had ever seen a dragon before.
Deimos was shocked. Mystified. Sure, there had been legends of dragons, but no one had ever seen one before. And here they had captured one, by hardly any effort on their part. The reports said it fell from the sky (a likely story!, he scoffed). He had been too fully occupied with slaughtering foolish primitives to have seen it for himself, and only found out when he had destroyed all that stood in his way.
Their first major victory, and, instead of just a bunch of necessary losses in their ranks, they had an actual dragon to show for it! Clearly, Gramarye smiled upon them, and they had been bestowed the mandate of heaven.
Deimos studied the sign of their victory: a humongous snake, thousands of emerald scales reflecting the light of the torches, though with two long arms ending in four sharp claws, a set of feline ears, and a bulky snout, steam steadily issuing from the nostrils, two silvery teeth on both sides protruding a fourth of its height. And then its eyes opened.
Aglaia awoke in a large courtyard teeming with beautiful plants, fountains depicting the goddesses, and scores of wildlife, from deers to doves, horses to peacocks, turtles to foxes, lions and tigers and bears (oh my!). An owl hooted loudly from a nearby tree, signaling to her that it was night. Directly in front of her stood a man in a gold-and-silver cloak, embroidered with a pattern of two circling dragons, exactly thirty-seven different gems embedded in it.
She was fully healed! It had taken a while for the events of the morning to return to her, and now she felt the full confusion of the subject. She first desired to smite this human for commanding shape-shifters to torture her so, but then she realized that he had also Healed her of the injuries he hadn't caused. And who was to say such beasts listened to man? Wisdom ruling out, she refrained from totally mutilating the guy.
Instead, she snapped up a large fox that had curiously walked up to her inch by inch until it deemed her safe. They had, no doubt, been brought here as food for her, otherwise they would be smarter. She had hoped to intimidate the man, yet he merely stared at her with awe, as if she had accomplished something great by the remarkably simple act. He knelt.
Aglaia grew impatient. "Human, thine self host, thine home our meet, thence fear not a word to pass. Anticipation tires mine self."
The man jumped. Perhaps he hadn't expected a dragon to be an intelligent being, to know his language and speak it so perfectly. Or to enjoy chasing down her prey, it seemed. Humans were so stupid. "O Great Dragon, I must apologize for my rudeness. You have been brought here because it is the safest haven you will find in all of Nal. We offer you our greatest thanks for your assistance in our last battle, and this part of the castle as your home—"
Aglaia snorted. "'Home'? Human, you ask mine honor to drop dead. I shan't be held by your kind, whether in my realm or yours I reside."
The man bowed low. "Peace. We only offer it. If you do not want it, fine. We don't want to hold you here against your will. Our facilities are at your disposal."
She relented, not wanting to seem belligerent. "Thine war—has it purpose?"
He sighed. "We wizards hold much power—and it is rightfully ours by our ancestor, and my namesake, Deimos—but those primitives believe we should put restrictions on it. We have done our best to abide by their laws, have had just as many criminals come from our number as they, and yet they see justice in hunting us down. And they've been recruiting traitors long before the war, so that, with those men's power and the primitives' sheer numbers, we are hard-pressed to find an opening in their defenses... To be entirely honest, that was our first victory."
Then a deep sympathy for Deimos overtook Aglaia, along with an understanding of why he hadn't wanted her to think he had put restrictions on her. In her unique heart of hearts, she felt his sorrow. They both yearned for freedom and peace, but were slighted by higher powers; he by an army, she by the weather.
Aglaia bowed to Deimos. "Verily, further shall I assist thee, be it Gramarye's will."
Deimos silently rejoiced, praising Gramarye. It was always through Him that blessings flowed! (Not to say that he ignored the goddesses or anything...) "I am pleased to hear that."
She laughed in that strange dragon way. "However, this to know: if ever you require again combat in rain, I must decline..."
Nal's weekly rainfall soon trumped its average annual. Aglaia stayed in the courtyard, feeling increasingly useless. Unfortunately, the men under Deimos—though he was kind—felt the same way about her choice of inactivity. They proclaimed that she was a miracle, Gramarye's gift, but spoke ill of the whole thing behind her back (unsuccessfully, since they didn't realize she could hear so well).
At her request, a "magical umbrella" was cast above her, the rain Disintegrating once it hit. She had hoped to keep it up just long enough to keep her safe until it ended, but there was no let-up from those clouds. Since she was so large, she could not fit anywhere else in the castle. Deimos had offered magical enhancements to compensate, but she refused, reasoning that it couldn't hold up that long. Yet it did. And teleporting out would be useless; their battles were all under the dark clouds. She had no way to help them.
Ironically, it was her enemy who gave her the breakthrough: she could make a cloud. Not a fluffy white, moist, hanging-in-the-air cloud, but a metaphoric one. Just as clouds stored and poured out water, she could create an object to store and give out magic.
Giddy, she yanked five boulders out of the ground nearby, coiling her body around them to keep the structure in place. Imbuing it with magic, she breathed fire down upon the rock. Soon, she saw that the power needed for the task would be too great for such a quick stint. And, as she rested that first day, Deimos visited. When asked, she didn't reveal her intentions quite yet.
Every day after, the man would watch while she sculpted, magic changing the rock not to a black statue, but to a gray, translucent stone. At the start of the second week, he christened it "The Crystal", prompting a long explanation to Aglaia of just what one of those was.
A fortnight past, she learned that, though she had correctly taken height into account, the constant contact with fire had heated The Crystal far beyond any but a dragon's capacity. As she'd learned earlier, the animals in her new home were summoned, and thus hadn't the real animals' instincts. A red-tailed hawk, with no other perch for seven yards, landed atop The Crystal while stalking an ignorant rabbit. Faster than it could screech, the hawk was burnt to a crisp. Deimos saw the dead bird's carcass in the circle of scorched earth, drew the conclusion, notified others not to enter her courtyard, and had a little talk with her.
It would, of course, destroy the whole point if humans couldn't even touch The Crystal. So, in a hope to cancel out temperature problems altogether, she placed, in the very center, magic ice. It shone bright green, and, as the day went on, shifted to a neutral blue. She made a few finishing touches—some enchantments only she was capable of, to keep certain spells from affecting it as a whole, to attach certain spells that would be available only when a piece of it was cut off (and one to make sure that it regenerated any broken pieces), to make sure it couldn't be destroyed, etc.—then TMed Deimos to inform him of its completion.
That night there was a feast held in Aglaia's honor, during which Deimos created the first Juyk. He named it so after a recently deceased soldier, and, the way he went on and on about it in his speech, Aglaia couldn't help but believe Gramarye had fated for his name to be used in this way. Most of the men of the army changed their minds about Aglaia then, and gave up their best cattle for her meal. The others would only give her homage when she fully deserved it.
When she went to sleep, exhausted, her stomach bursting, she coiled up near The Crystal, and noticed a rectangle with the name of Juyk on it erected not ten inches away. Silly humans! Had they not their own formal graveyard, or was her place of rest to become one out of their odd traditions?
Next morning, the rain stopped.
For the first time, Aglaia saw what all those fancy spells actually did. She flew into the battle ten minutes after it began, and roared in wonderment. They were winning! She swooped down and unleashed a hellish inferno on the humans' shape-shifters, forcing the archers to move out of their comfort zone, and aim at her. The arrows tickled, but glanced off her scales, falling on other primitives' steeds (and those that fell towards wizards were blocked by the Juyks).
And then, when Aglaia felt most triumphant, fulfilled, and, overall, glorious, everything changed. The primitives panicked behind traitorous wizards, and she dropped to the nearest one at Deimos's request, chopping him in half with her claws. Then her fire stole the lives of those cowards. The wizards rode in with imitated dragon war cries, and brought down the rest of their enemies in her wake.
When Aglaia reviewed the results, she was doubtful it was the truth. Every primitive on the field was dead, but the wizards had sustained precisely zero casualties. Zero. Because of her, this hadn't been a fair fight, but a massacre. True, the primitives had brought it on themselves, but there was no denying the facts. They had been slaughtered.
Aglaia put off her judgment for later, but couldn't help brooding on her disgust. All the warriors cheered her as she landed, toasting their beer to her skills, and she politely asked them to take their revelry elsewhere. Deimos remained.
"Is my home to become hall of the drunk, or dirt for the dead? Canst thou not decide?"
"I'm sorry." Deimos bowed, speaking in such a sincere voice that it shamed her. He hadn't meant to slaughter so inhumanely. He was probably trying to contact the other humans to devise a treaty. She wasn't angry at him. "I only wanted to strengthen their resolve by burying Juyk there. But you can't blame them for partying. You were wonderful today. A few more fights like that, and the primitives'll surrender. And if they don't...well, so much worse for them."
Aglaia did not betray her emotions to him, but had to wonder why he didn't hear her giant heart beating faster with rage (it was bound to be louder than a human's). Since it was inside her, she heard it over his words.
Deimos leaned and sat down next to The Crystal, taking off his hood. He had neatly cut brown hair, and deep, truly-seeing green eyes. He was extremely young, but unnaturally tall. He gave Aglaia a smile, a very warm, inviting gesture. He looked...huh. She didn't have a word for it. Nice? Not like those ever-scowling primitives (then again, she'd only seen them in battle). Humans could look nice! She laughed at herself.
"I guess I'm the first to show myself, huh?" Deimos misinterpreted. "I'm sure the rest weren't far from doing the same. To show your true face to everyone in the room is to show your respect for them all. If so much as one man you cannot trust enters, you're meant to keep it hidden. But perhaps you'd rather I do so anyway?" He chuckled with humility.
"Nay, quite the opposite. It is reassuring to see the good side of you humans." She took a chance. "I feel that your trust has not been earned as of yet. Therefore I must tell thee: what blood stains mine claws stains also mine very soul."
Deimos didn't understand. He was a human, after all. "Don't dwell on such things. If they had your power, your Crystal, they would surely do the same to us."
"But we were short not one casualty from leaving that round unscathed!"
"What, and you think we should've let them kill some to make us look less omnipotent? You'd rather people from both sides die?"
"I think we should've allowed them surrender!"
Deimos was patient in his disagreement. "They would never give up; their pride is their ultimate downfall. It is what inspired them to fight us in the first place."
Aglaia wouldn't let him persuade her. "I will not fight next time."
Seeing the truth in her eyes, he nodded. "Neither shall I." Grinning at her disbelief, he winked. "I'll tell the primitives why we just won the south, how hopeless it is for them, and see what they have to say about your proposal."
"You'll do this?"
"If it is in your heart, it must be Gramarye's will."
"Even if you disagree with it?"
"We humans have a phrase for what I'm doing: 'agreeing to disagree'."
As Aglaia slid into unconsciousness that night, her thoughts were all ajumble. She felt dishonorable from the killing she'd done, strangely alone with nothing but The Crystal for company, and weird thoughts of Deimos permeated it all. She couldn't think on one thing at a time, but also couldn't force herself asleep.
Which was good, because, otherwise, she wouldn't have seen what happened. A shadow flitted across the grass, pressing itself soundlessly against The Crystal. A thief! No greater jest devises itself so conveniently!, she thought. She had half a mind to allow him to take a piece, just so the primitives might gain fair ground, but it soon became apparent that wasn't the man's intention.
He slapped one hand on The Crystal, and immediately a green flash shoved him to the ground. The man swore, losing his composure completely. He scrambled to his feet, but was too late. Aglaia flinched as the torches blazed into life, and five wizards appeared out of nowhere, Deimos behind them.
The intruder was bound and disabled on sight, and five different elemental swords stopped on his neck. Deimos sidled to Aglaia's side as he came forward, using her powerful image to bolster his effect. "Traitor! You, who fought alongside my men, ate at our table, even sired two of our best warriors—what motive can justify the actions you now take? Give me the truth!"
The intruder, whom Aglaia, of course, had never seen before, looked just like a primitive. Sleek blond hair, cold blue eyes, and a flat grimace. How had they missed him? How hard could it be to make the connection between him and the enemy?
The man remained silent, and Deimos turned instead to Aglaia. "What did this traitor do to The Crystal?"
Aglaia took a second to ponder at the reverence, the obsessive ownership with which he referred to her gift before she replied. "He tried a Magic Drain spell. However, mine protections thwarted his attempts."
"Surely now you realize the omnipotence of magic. We shan't fall to our own devices! The primitives fight a futile battle. We will be victorious!"
The man spit at Deimos, and received five cuts for his trouble. "'We'? You aren't fooling anyone, Deimos! Your army hides under that dragon's shadow! None of the wizards' success is their own; all your power is a lie. Without that dragon and his goddamn rock, you are as weak as the rest!"
Aglaia's laugh was misconstrued as a growl, but she figured it was all for the better. She had never told them she was a woman! She'd not given the concept much thought, seeing as she was the only one of her kind, but of course humans placed more importance on differentiating between sexes. With what she knew of human females, she began to fear what would happen if they ever asked the question of her. Luckily, for the moment, she could rely on their worship to keep them ignorant.
Deimos sentenced the man to an execution for the next day, and stationed the other five wizards, along with an Emotion Wizard, around The Crystal for temporary guard duty, until its safety could be fully assured and widely known.
If Aglaia had had trouble sleeping earlier, it was nothing compared to her following insomnia. Two conflicting ideas came at each other head-on for supremacy in her mind: Deimos didn't want to settle this peacefully, he wanted the primitives dead—but Deimos was a good man, in his heart at least. The latter was losing miserably: what proof had she of that? So he had a way with words, so he was the first human she could look upon without finding him repulsive, alien, or downright ugly. Any evil man could achieve the same status as he.
Then, seeing the many mages' colors distorted by The Crystal's facets, a much more urgent topic arose: she had to do something about The Crystal. The wizards were using it to slaughter, had begun to see it as their own (not making the connection to its creator), and now it was sowing dissension, welcoming treason. She would have to...destroy it.
Well, as much destroying as was possible. In her optimism, she had made it invulnerable to any but the most severe of assaults, which only she would be able to inflict upon it. Perhaps heat it to melting point. Or drop it onto a boulder from above the fluffy clouds that had started this whole mess.
But not right now. That was for certain. Deimos's subjects had to know what had brought her to this decision; they had to feel the rage at a trusted ally failing to betray them, see how The Crystal corrupted man's mentality. Had to see Deimos fulfill his promise.
Deimos plopped down into his chair, putting his feet up on the desk. He summoned a goblet of wine, draining it in one gulp. Sighing, he dropped the goblet and put his hands to his face, in a state of disbelieving uncertainty.
The primitives weren't giving up. Their traitorous allies, including the increasingly powerful Dawlen clan, couldn't be won over by his most reasonable arguments. What was worse, they had escalated to the point of threatening to attack at any moment. If anything, Aglaia's proposal had doomed thousands more.
Unless Deimos's presence was necessary. Unless the wizards' morale depended on their leader. He was bound by the gods to refrain from attending the fight, but the others didn't see it that way. Some said he was equally dishonorable to the man whose body had been hung and thrown out as carrion for the vultures. Some said he had been brainwashed when he'd met with the primitives. Some said he was ill, had other matters to deal with in secrecy, or was so obsessed with The Crystal that he could no longer leave its side. None of them would ever understand, ever accept that he needed to appease the morality of the wondrous creature sent by Gramarye, lest they lose His favor.
However, it seemed, his hopes were in vain. Before he could comprehend the complexity his reverie was about to take on, an earthquake wrenched him out. He jumped, fell off his chair, and his leg bent awkwardly as he toppled to the floor. He applied a Healing Spell and teleported from the room immediately.
His first instinct was, quite hypocritically, The Crystal. And The Crystal it was. He stood in the courtyard in front of his people, and the first thing that popped into his head was that it must've been really heavy, the way Aglaia was moving so slowly with its edges held in her claws, dropping in altitude every few seconds.
"Stop her!" shouted many a wizard, launching spell after spell towards her, only to be stopped by their own Shield. Dispelling it, they continued their barrage, which merely glanced off Aglaia's scales.
"Halt!" Deimos commanded harshly. A few disobeyed, and he sent Aglaia's guards to imprison them. Getting his people's attention, he pointed to the retreating dragon. "We shall go about this diplomatically, or risk losing an ally. I will attempt communing with him myself."
Now the reproach was tangible. How dare he, as mortal as they, put himself on such terms with a dragon? Deimos wasted no time refuting their arguments, and got straight to work. What are you doing?!
Aglaia's response came slowly; she was just as shocked as the rest. Something I should've done a long time ago.
Again she hesitated. I'm going to destroy this thing.
Why? It has brought us victory! We should be building an altar to Gramarye by it, not demolishing it!
The Crystal has brought nothing but suffering!
For the primitives! For those who deserve it!
And what of your traitor? His family grieves because of this stone! Not one thing has it done but take lives. For every man whom it protects, another hundred fall in battle.
It does the job we would have done by our own hands, had we the power and wisdom it provides.
Power and wisdom? And just where do you think those originated? All you have done is paltry thanks to one of Gramarye's servants. You even tacked on your own race's mantle, Juyk, in selfish want of possession.
We didn't mean to take from your honor what was due. Perhaps you are right, perhaps we looked to your works rather than your self. But you can't blame them; it is your Crystal that took over for you where you did not reach, that protected the men who couldn't keep up to fight your enemies.
And so they, and you alike, worship not me, not Gramarye, but an overgrown rock. I have my own saying to impart upon you: The creator is always greater than that which he creates.
Just—just don't break The Crystal, okay? If you do that, you will surely bring us to our doom.
Aglaia altered her course so that she flew above a lake. One slip of the claws and it would be irretrievable forever (wizards could not even move it, and her super-dragon strength came from her magic). But Deimos's words made her stop to think. If she got rid of The Crystal, what hope had the wizards? If she did, the primitives would wipe them out, granted that some new development didn't arise. Deimos would be killed.
She swerved sharply to her left, willing strongly against that eventuality. Her mind set, she sighed. You've changed your attitude, I see.
No, you have.
I'm not decided quite yet, she lied.
I'll consider it.
Aglaia broke off the TM, and soared for a while longer. Her actions would decide the outcome of this war. Gramarye had chosen her for this task, but, by the goddesses, why hadn't He shown her the correct path? Why had He left such influential power to one who hadn't the wisdom to know the right choice when she heard it?
She teleported to the first place that came to her mind: her birthplace. A hollow in the heart of the largest mountain in Nal, carved out by Gramarye Himself on the day that she now had gathered was the start of the war. A clear sign that this was her destiny.
It was a tight fit. Coiled, she could just sit herself and The Crystal down, with at least ten square feet above it that she left vacant for Deimos. While she waited, she debated again. If she was sent to fix this problem, surely her doubts were signs from her creator? Surely her instincts had been instilled so that they were always right?
Or was Deimos the sign? Had he been placed in charge so that she would meet him, so that his ideas would be heard by the one who mattered? His speeches were believable enough, he could use logic. His cause was one of unjust oppression, and it was a given that there would be no peace unless the wizards gave in or every single primitive died.
Aglaia cringed. Suddenly weary, she cast a Sleeping Spell upon herself.
"Hello," said an enticingly smooth voice. Aglaia opened one eye, and saw Deimos sitting cross-legged atop The Crystal. His face was a combination of friendliness and frank disappointment. "Slept on it, have you?"
"Hmm? Slept on...?" she looked downward, and could not see or feel anything beneath her but rock.
Deimos laughed. "Sorry, another human saying. 'To sleep on it'. I mean to ask, have you gotten any closer to deciding?"
Aglaia wished now that she hadn't asked him to come, or that she had denied him entry. The magical sleep had lasted, for her, no more than a second, and she was still confused in her mind. "That depends. What was the outcome?"
Deimos sighed. "We lost. Our shape-shifters turned against us, a few soldiers turned traitor, and Dawlen wiped out one quarter of our army by himself. By far, the worst loss we've had." He looked up into her eyes, challenging and pleading in the same instance. "If you do not fight, we will lose."
Aglaia fought off a flicker of caution. "Then the traitor was right about you; my power is the wizards' only useful weapon."
Deimos flinched. "No, I—you have to understand that..." He stopped, composed his thoughts, then carefully explained, "To be honest, yes, we need your power. But if the primitives know this, what will they think of us? That none of our victories count, that we are not their true enemy, that they can win by defeating you."
"Human, the bush's surroundings have been well beaten. Come out with it: the traitor spoke truth, the wizards are nothing without me."
"Well...yes. But to showcase our frailty would be foolish. Therefore, a lie is necessary to—"
"Your casual speak of lying concerns me. If you can lie so readily, why should I believe a word you have ever spoken? How can I know what is the truth, and what is a mask? How can I be sure you won't lie to me as well? Or that any of your words or actions have ever been true?"
Deimos grew stern now as he stared at her. "I would never lie to you. As loyal as I am to Gramarye Himself, so I am to His servant. However, I may conduct myself as I see fit among the goddesses' creations."
"As flattering as that may sound, your words are as inconclusive to the truth as if you had said nothing at all. Do not think you can fool me with such base trickery."
It took a while for Deimos to realize his mistake. He chuckled. "Right you are. I apologize. I guess there's no right way to word it other than, 'I'll never lie to Gramarye, or you, but I will to humans if it serves a purpose.'"
Aglaia took some consolation from this. Apparently, he had thought her first "truth" to be a spell, and not taken her second as seriously once the placebo allowed a self-contradiction to slip by. This confirmed it—he was a good person. Now, though, the question still remained of what she would decide. "That will do."
"So, as for The Crystal..."
"You cannot win without it, but it causes your people pain. And the notion of slaughtering repulses me." She scratched at one of The Crystal's facets as she mulled it over. "My inmost dispute is that I know taking it away will kill you, but giving it back would only conceive the same cycle of infallible victory and espionage. As you say, the primitives even now find me their enemy. So there can be only one solution."
"No." Deimos had been thinking along the same lines, but he was also struggling to find an alternative.
"I must. The key shall be bestowed upon you, only of its kind."
"You are our symbol. It doesn't matter how well-protected The Crystal is, we shan't have an easy time without you on the battlefield."
"Time easily shan't, for any, flow. I desire it alone, and alone I shall spend it, until Gramarye gives me rest."
Deimos awkwardly posed a wary query. "That's something that has troubled me—are you to be a eunuch?"
Aglaia knew he had kept this in out of that no longer reliable veneration, and sincerely wished it would end here. "Bold of you. I should say I shall, what with being the only one of my kind. It makes such organs superfluous, but I begrudge not this vessel. As I have discovered, mine want rates lower than thine race's, and for that I am grateful."
"Can't hurt to look, can it?"
She shook her head. "Humans... And what of you? I can't say I've been introduced to your mate."
"Neither have I." Deimos looked a bit nervous about revealing this to her, perhaps because he believed her to be male, and thus to criticize his lack of assertiveness in this area of life. "My men don't trust me as is, but they won't want my attention divided in such times as these. And, though I could choose any of them I wanted, none of the women's fathers want me in their families. Sadly, many an unhappy union have been rushed into to avoid my favor. And taking one outside of my people would be to risk betrayal. I'm rather hesitant to try anything at the moment. Perhaps after we've won."
Sure, the guilt card, thought Aglaia. "I am sorry, but bloodlust shall remain our separate quality."
Deimos almost argued. But, expecting a let-down now, he held his tongue. "Okay. Whatever Gramarye has called you to do, I will support you in."
"He hears you as music upon His ears."
Deimos laughed again, but would not explain what she had said that evoked the response. Instead, he engaged her in more pleasant conversation, ranging from Deimos's rise to "power" and Aglaia's birth to Deimos's parents and closest friends (all dead by now) and Aglaia's hatred of the rain.
"Surprise was present most at seeing humans, each other cursing under assault of the blue temptress," she said, using the female personification smoothly, half-forgetting her true identity in this fake one.
"'Blue temptress'? The rain? What's so bad about it?"
Aglaia snorted. "Does it not for humans impede magic as it does for I? Yet to live you mustn't without it be."
"You mean...water makes you unable to use magic?"
"Thine attitude speaks in answer, then." She told him that, specifically, any contact with water weakened her magic. After a time, it was nulled completely. Then, upon drying, all power returned instantly. And it was her magic that kept her afloat and helped her in lifting The Crystal. When she had first appeared to them, it was because she hadn't expected the rain to be so hard on her. Though it had meant being able to meet him, Water, she asserted, was her immortal enemy.
Aglaia awoke with the strangest feeling. Her eyes shot open, and she prayed that it was all a dream. Her vision was limited as if she were in water, and the cave had expanded to an unimaginable size. The Crystal, with a large bare foot hanging off the top, stood at near-equal proportions to her. The rock underneath was unbearably rough, and she scrambled to her feet. Once comfortable enough, she screamed.
Looking down, she saw not scales but flesh, not eight claws but ten fingers, not a long, serpentine body but two sagging lumps, a flat surface punctured by an oddly natural hole, two thin legs, and some queer orifice between them. And, horror of horrors, her movements confirmed her ownership.
She screamed again. I am human! She silently called out to Gramarye for deliverance from such a nightmare, but as always He did not respond to her. She panicked, whimpering pathetically as she jumped backwards, as if to run away from the image of her new form. She hit the wall hard, and gave another exclamation, this one milder.
How could she be human? She hadn't the power for such enchantment, nor the knowledge, nor the desire to use them if she had. Overnight, she had made a drastic species swap without any known cause. The Crystal? Gramarye? Deimos?
She saw Deimos stir now, groaning more quietly than she had heard a human do so before. She couldn't let him see her like this! No one but they two had access to this place at the moment, she was naked, and, most evidently, no longer the enthralling beast he had known to be taking up most of the cave's empty space. Oh what questions he would ask!
Not entirely sure of what her next move should be, Aglaia willed herself to be teleported away, to the nearest forest. Nothing happened. Surely I have not been made a primitive! O Gramarye, why dost thou punish thine most loyal servant? Has not death more generous a gift than life as this? But then she remembered—and, snapping her fingers, disappeared.
Aglaia appeared in a lonely clearing, hugging herself now as the temperature dropped a few degrees from its already-low stance. Snapping her fingers, she summoned women's clothes and, through a long and befuddling trial and error, got everything in the right place with the right position, covering it all in a light green cloak. She then took a minute to find the appropriate spell to keep a human warm, and relaxed on a rotting log.
She gave up another prayer to Gramarye, and stared at her new hands. So soft, so weak and fragile. She clenched a fist, and winced as four human-claws bit into her palm. She Healed it, and guessed that, in this new body, she would have to use less force than she could safely use before. This "skin" was so thin! One awkward, human laugh later, she pondered, somewhat seriously, if that had been a factor in the material's naming. How could humans withstand such blows she had seen, if blood could come squirting out at any time? Why did they not take greater precautions, or avoid battles altogether?
A tear ran down Aglaia's cheek, and she wiped at it, frightened. What was this, now? She knew the blue devil resided inside humans as well, and that their eyes held some of it in some way or another, but she had never seen it secreted. Was something wrong with her eyes? Could, perhaps, a human body not sustain a dragon's soul in this case of involuntary habitation? Was she—Gramarye forbid—going to die?
Where are you?!, came a frantic Deimos.
That was right, she had left him there without any explanation. She almost replied, but stopped as a thought came to her: should she tell Deimos? What would he think of this information? What could he think, but a similar bafflement, the same hope that it was a dream?
A second tear slid down, and Aglaia let it be. Feeling a perverse satisfaction, she let them come. Ignoring Deimos, blocking his Nearby Teleportation from reaching her, utterly alone in this obscure wood, she shamelessly put her head in her hands and sobbed. Then, as if to mock her, the distant clouds began to drop more of that horrible but necessary substance. She wished it would stop, would let her weep in peace.
Aglaia stood, staring up into the sky. She was human! The one thing she had overlooked: Water had no more power over her! It was a small comfort, but she could use all the solace she could get. For in all, she mused, Gramarye does not abandon His servants. It might not be (and hopefully wasn't) a permanent thing, but at least she had something to rejoice about. She pointed arrogantly to the sky, and said, in the gentlest timbre she had ever heard from any, "Thou art no ruler of I!"
Deimos didn't know how to activate the Juyks. Once it was known that the dragon had left, and that they had no Crystal with which to protect themselves, the wizards were in worse shape than they'd ever been before Aglaia's intervention. Four battles they lost, in a row, over the next week. Always, their forces were depleted by at least half, so that by the end of these four, all they had left was the usual ten thousand that made up an army. It was unfathomable how many had died for this cause so far. Things were looking rather bleak.
And so, it was with great trepidation that Deimos agreed to meet with Dawlen (to hopefully keep their invasion from occurring that very day) in The Crystal's former courtyard. He assigned his second-in-command, Ligah, as his bodyguard. He wasn't taking any chances.
Dawlen, tailed by two of his clan (each man wore a red cloak) and one primitive, approached at a brisk pace. Confidence. Show that Ligah's enough to protect you against this many people; show that you're not afraid of them. Deimos, impatient, walked forward, and met him halfway. They shook hands, but Dawlen wasn't about to go through all the niceties of greeting.
"Deimos, I need your help." He nodded towards one of his kin, and the man pointed at their primitive ally. With a detestable ease, the primitive split in half, and they made no effort to clean up the mess.
Ligah gasped, but Deimos held in his surprise. "Help? Are we not fighting a war here?"
Dawlen pulled down his hood, and now Deimos was with Ligah in shock. His skin was a ghastly gray, his scalp bald, his red eyes set in deep shadow. "What? I cannot reverse the Bonding, if that is your request. The Crystal may be powerful, but—"
"I am fine Bonded!" Dawlen snarled. "Make out of that what you will."
A truce?! But they were winning, why would they want...? "You mean to tell me the primitives have gained some sense?"
Dawlen laughed cruelly. "I mean to tell you that I wish my clan to join your ranks."
"And why should I give you that honor?"
Dawlen scowled. "Do not think me your enemy, to speak as if you are the winning side. I do not come to you out of admiration, but of need. The primitives are killing all the wizards under their care. They are preparing for the end of this conflict, and, now that they have control of shape-shifters, and have torn down your armies so easily, they find us as a removable obstacle. I come to you, if not to help, then to gain asylum for my clan."
"Surely the primitives aren't so foolish?" Deimos stalled, while TMing Ligah for his advice. "You traitors are the only reason they have achieved all of that. Without you, they are helpless."
"Shape-shifters may not be able to turn into humans, but you shan't forget that we're not the only species able to use magic. And now that they've seen that dragon of yours twice, I'm pretty sure they'll use that against you."
Deimos boldly removed his own hood. "If it is as you say, we are worse off than I thought. There may be no hope of winning. Do you still wish to join us?"
Dawlen grinned. "So long as I live, I will never give in to primitives."
"Like you've been doing for the past six months?"
"Things are different. I joined them because I believe we needed restrictions—laws—on magic use. But now—"
"Why do we need them?" Deimos challenged. "If you are a wizard, why would you possibly find it beneficial to limit your power?"
Dawlen pointed to the wall on his left, and a ray of blue light shot out of his finger, blowing up the stone. Blue Fire clung to the remainder of the wall, burning it into nothingness. It didn't spread long before he dispelled it, then clapped a Fire Ring around several deer, blowing them to smithereens. He pointed to an apple tree and cut it neatly in half.
"Do you see my point yet?" Dawlen asked, ready to shoot lava into a small goldfish pond. "It's only a matter of time before someone gets completely out of hand, and destroys all of Hyto. So we need laws. But, as I was saying before being idiotically interrupted, the primitives are becoming a destructive force in order to stop one. I will fight for my right to survive, and the honor of being a wizard, because no one will be swayed by my words. So it's up to you to create peace."
"Easier said than done," Deimos sighed, watching Dawlen's arm, TMing Ligah to detain him, should he try anything else.
"I beg to differ. Show yourself weaker than them. In other words, tell the truth. Then, whether they accept you or not, go about creating these laws so that our world may be safe from the rogues which the primitives have so kindly created and send us out to capture."
"And if that puerile strategy doesn't work?"
"If you go through with it, no matter what happens, you will be honored in the gods' eyes, and hopefully by men, for all time. No one has ever gone so far as to surrender when so much is at stake, but there must be a first time for everything, just as each has a time."
"Foolishness," Deimos rejected, though he was beginning to see some truth behind his words. "Not to mention that we have absolutely no clue as to how creating these laws would work. How would they be enforced?"
"By magic, naturally. Gather as much magic as possible and form it into an unbreakable curse. Or blessing, rather."
"No, 'curse' was dead-on."
"What other choice do we have?" Dawlen said miserably.
And then Deimos saw it, too. Well, it had always been there, but now it was unavoidable. If they didn't surrender, the wizards would die out. But if they did, they still were the primitives' targets. The wizards might die out anyway, but at least the gods would not find them at fault. But no, if they followed this route, they were only making their fall harder! Closing the fence and waiting for the poacher to make up his mind. It all came down to that: was it better to go out defiantly, in a blaze of glory, or be passive and righteous, and be slaughtered. Easy choice.
"To fight! To defend our right to exist in this land! You coward, thinking the gods will look favorably upon ones like you. They gave us this power, and it is our duty to make use of it."
"Even when the use of it annihilates all the other things they gave us?"
"The gods know the potential they gave our ancestors, and they wouldn't have given it if they didn't want it to be as it is. Why do you think Gramarye sent His dragon?"
"Where is he now?" Dawlen mockingly moved his head this way and that in vain search. "It seems he's ditched you, eh? Left you worse off than you started."
Too true. They had grown dependent on him, and now what had they? A massively depleted army. "Perhaps to defeat the primitives, he had gone off to gain their trust and betray them. Or Gramarye is testing us."
"Or the dragon's work is done. He came, helped you win a few, and left you in such a shambles so that you'd realize something: with great power comes great responsibility. You misused him, and now the primitives have the shape-shifters, and here I am, your last hope of redemption."
"So you came all this way to...negotiate? You said you wanted to fight."
"I came here to find a way to settle this without bloodshed. But if it isn't possible, I want to make sure that, when the time comes, we wizards fight nobly, knowing we've done all we could to attain peace. Knowing that we were willing to make a compromise, that we are blameless for the primitives' deaths we cause, that we alone deserve the title of 'Human'."
Deimos smirked. "What's gotten into you today, Dawlen?"
"I daresay Nayru's wisdom."
Sir, I believe he is serious about this, Ligah thought to him.
That's what scares me. He nearly won me over!
What should we do?
Aren't you supposed to be advising me? What are your thoughts?
Now Ligah was cautious. He had to be on Deimos's side or risk punishment for it, no doubt. He weighed it out in his head, then thought, Tell him you will do this, but proceed at your own discretion. Perhaps attempt a treaty, and if it fails, drop all pretense of creating these laws. Or chuck him in the hold, whichever sounds best.
Deimos took that into consideration. Which didn't really matter. At that moment, the other two Dawlens teleported next to him, one Cutting Ligah, the other putting Deimos in a loose headlock. The first then took up guarding them. Dawlen acted late, and was pushed down by a wind spell.
"What are you doing?!" Dawlen exclaimed.
"I would ask the same thing," Deimos said difficultly. "You almost had me there."
"I swear, I am not responsible for this! Torih! Flaih!" Dawlen appealed to his relatives, but they didn't respond, didn't even seem to have heard him.
Torih, now putting a knife to Deimos's throat, spoke up first. "Deimos, your castle is surrounded. Our shape-shifters will tear it apart and hunt down each and every wizard that resides here, unless you agree to King Alner's terms."
Glaring daggers at Dawlen, whom Flaih soon found it necessary to restrain, Deimos reluctantly spoke the words that would, for millenia to come, be used by those in the opposite position (that is to say, a superior people invading a weaker nation), grossly misconstrued. "Take me to your leader."
Dawlen was executed the next day. The family's name was transferred to Flaih, the new head. Deimos found that system of naming rather outlandish, but voiced his opinions to no one. Thankfully, he never came in contact with the new Dawlen, or his brother Torih, ever again. They were sent to check on a disturbance in the mountains, and, even if they returned, they weren't regularly stationed anywhere near Deimos's prison.
Which was all as Deimos wanted it to be. The previous Dawlen's words haunted him through the process of writing the Wizard Laws, and, coupled with his people's renewed resentment (which he felt he deserved, for surrendering so readily as he had), he was driven near insanity. No matter how much he prayed to Gramarye and His mistresses, the answer wouldn't come to him.
Five days into his new job, seven Laws written and approved, Deimos was escorted back to his cell by Froah and Sprih, his own personal guards. They were also present in Deimos's writing, commenting, amending, pointing out mistakes and loopholes, as King Alner wasn't a wizard, and therefore had no idea as to how he could pick out these things. Never before were there such loyal magic-wielders, as Alner referred to them.
"'Night, Deimos," Sprih yawned, locking the door.
Deimos gave a likewise reply, listening as Froah discussed his thoughts on the upcoming eighth Law with Sprih. He knew, then, that spells would be greatly limited when these Laws came into affect. One Line Destroyer a month? Nonsense!
He sat his at desk, unrolled the next scroll from the pile, and dipped his pen in the inkwell. He made a large 8 at the top, and began writing:
Time limits for spells—Every use of magic shall henceforth be limited to once in a set period. Exceptions will include Shielding, Healing, telepathy, teleportation, Nearby Teleportation, Flotation, summoning, light spells, and weak to moderate combat spells.
Time limits: One minute
Line Destroyer, Matter Manipulation, Fire Ring, Cutting, Small Cut One hour
Deimos thought hard about this. There were hundreds of spells out there, and he had the job of thinking of them all and classifying them? Doing a quick estimate of just how much time that would take, he added another line at the bottom:
Limits subject to change at authority's discretion.
Well, that would satisfy Alner. He started filling in the other categories. With Froah and Sprih's help, he could at least give some sort of guideline to this disastrous Law. One month for Blue Fire, one week for Electrical Storm, one month for Weather Shift.
He jumped as he heard his disorganized heap of belongings crashing to the floor. On his feet, he turned to see, leaping over the detritus, a young woman with long green hair and red eyes, wearing an emerald cloak. She looked, somehow, out of place (besides the fact that she wasn't supposed to be there). And the way she held herself suggested clumsiness.
"Deimos!" she squealed, crossing the room and embracing him, so strongly that he felt his spine straighten out, the pain in his back alleviating. Nevertheless, he had to push her off of him.
"Who are you?" He saw now that she was crying, but her expression wouldn't give away the emotion behind it.
"Deimos, it's me!"
"Yes, and you are...?"
"Aglaia!" At his perplexed silence, she realized something: she never told him her name! Was it such a dead giveaway to her gender that she had unconsciously avoided it, or had she merely forgotten? "The dragon, Deimos."
"Dragon. Right. I think the guy you're looking for is the psychiatrist. Cuz I can't help you with that."
"No, Deimos, I'm a human now!" Knowing she had a lot of disbelief to overturn, she went on with her sufficiently-rehearsed speech. "I don't know what happened, but after we spoke last, I transformed into a human. Maybe it was The Crystal. I wanted to say something to you, but I was afraid of what my change might do to the wizards' chances of winning. Now that there's a treaty, though, I decided to come and find you."
"Uh-huh... For a dragon, you seem to be taking this pretty well."
"Wouldst thou lean from thine distrust!" Aglaia whined, hugging him again, gentler. "By my troth, I have missed thee!"
"Why are you shouting?" Deimos said, her raised volume starting to annoy him.
"Why dost thou whisper?" She lowered her voice to a normal level. "There, then, be it on you if my voice trails into nothingness. Now, what stands in truth's path?"
"You're a woman."
The frankness made Aglaia giggle. She wiped away her tears. "And so have I been. Fearing judgment, I did not let it be known. You might also recall it was never asked of me. Nor my name."
"You expect me to believe that?"
"Based on your attitude so far, no."
"Good, now could you please leave me—"
"Deimos, I am not lying to you! I..." She went through her memories, and extracted anything that might convince him. "You. Your parents died when you were seven and a score years old, your brother was first to die for the cause, you and your friends avidly protested the primitives' actions, you became leader because—"
"Yeah, yeah. Anyone could tell me that."
"Me, then. My home is in the mountains north of here, a hollow in the rock sculpted by Gramarye Himself, I created The Crystal, I got mad at you for burying Juyk in my courtyard. The Water is my immortal enemy, it stops me from using magic. But now I am free!"
Deimos stared at her. "No way...it really is you... You're...you're a woman?"
Aglaia sat on his bed. "Oh, Deimos, when that traitor came for The Crystal, I first came to see that it would be essential to hide that fact. It was silly not to give you my name, though. It is Aglaia."
Deimos got a little skeptical again. "And who gave you that name?"
She raised an eyebrow, one of the few actions she had found she liked in humans. "I did, of course. Who else would the job fall to?"
"Aglaia..." Deimos tried out, not willing to answering that. "You've done a great job of humanizing."
"Yes, but...I think I may be dying." Deimos gave her his full attention now. "Soul of dragon and flesh must not be mixed. You see, even now, Water flows from my eyes, though I make no effort to draw it out."
"Tears? Of what dost thou speak?"
"Those are tears. You shed them when you're sad. Completely natural."
"Oh... Then I have but one affliction. I know not what wrong sustenance I consumed, but, in the course of excretion, I experienced a great pain, and found I had been losing blood rather than the normal yellow fluid. I don't remember what it was I ate that day—"
Deimos laughed now, blushing. "Okay, now I know it's you. No woman would think to feign ignorance of that." He sat beside her, shaking his head as he recovered from his fit. "Unfortunately for you, that's natural."
Now that Aglaia had Deimos's trust back, they talked freely about everything that had happened in the past twelve days. Deimos speculated on how she had transformed, and how she could change back, but they didn't reach any conclusions either of them fully agreed on. Aglaia was pleased that the war was finally over, and helped him work on the eighth Law. As the hours went on to midnight, Deimos gave his bed up for her to sleep on, while he sat in his chair, staying awake, not wanting her to disappear on him again.
Aglaia didn't even try to hide from the rest living in Alner's castle. She put together a fake identity, and set herself up as Deimos's assistant. In this way, she helped in writing the Laws, adding a female perspective, and cleverly avoiding male supremacy (among wizards, anyway). Her cell (for she wasn't exactly trusted), was the one next to Deimos's, and they frequently shared space, both using work as an excuse, for both the guards and their own minds.
Aglaia made the best of being human. Deimos gave her a bit of a tutorial, after which she prayed even harder for her old body back. Sometimes she would even go so far as to run away and put herself in dangerous situations to evoke a response from whatever magic had changed her—or, at least, dangerous situations for humans, but altogether trifles for a dragon.
A month into the Law project, the discussions were getting heated. Aglaia had put forward the 53rd Law, stating that no one could use magic on an unborn child, to eliminate a problem that had made the majority of humankind move from Sonura, their origin, in the first place. Alner argued that some women might want to "abort" the child, as he phrased it (he was obviously worried about losing the ability to wipe out the wizards forever). When Aglaia added the permission clause, he couldn't find a good enough argument to cover his ulterior motives and grudgingly agreed to it.
"Nice one," Deimos congratulated, once they were alone in his cell. "You've either saved us indefinitely, or invited the conflict to return much sooner. Still, I'm glad you did it, and I'll be praying against the latter."
"Crossing him was not my concern," Aglaia said miserably, naturally avoiding her old speech, having to dumb it down for these primitives, who had a harder time understanding her. "I only wanted to save all those who died before they could know Gramarye's grace. And even now I haven't won them that. There are spells that can force someone to give permission! We shall work on that one next, I say."
Deimos finished his neat 54, and stared at her dubiously. "What, and they shouldn't be allowed to choose to have a child or not? Now that it's been in front of me a day, I'm thinking perhaps some good can come from keeping a child out of a life's plan."
"And if everyone does?"
"We aren't that stupid. We'll make some system of it."
"You say that because you have given up on ever finding a mate. Would you have one, dare you dishonor women by such a law?"
Deimos laughed. "What honor do they have now?"
Aglaia reddened. "I guess you can't understand, since you're a man. What would you know?"
"What would you know? You're a dragon."
"Yet, still, womanhood approaches me." Which was true: Aglaia's human body was about the age of sixteen, thus she was technically an adult. Whether she herself had been that old, Deimos didn't dare ask. Aglaia was crying again.
"Yes, but you don't have to deal with it," Deimos tried to give his words a reverent tone, but her grief wouldn't falter.
"Oh, but could I say that was true!" Aglaia sobbed. "Already I am fancied, and it is you men and your insistent dominance that traps me!"
"What do you mean? Someone..."
"The prince has asked for my hand. I denied him, and now he goes to Alner to force it upon me."
Deimos couldn't keep the laughter out of his voice. "Well, he's certainly got another thing coming."
Aglaia scoffed. "Not only am I a woman, but a wizard. If he asks this of Alner, he will not be turned down. I shall be his wife."
His smile faded. He hadn't thought of that. Wizards were looked down upon here, he knew that. But to go so far as to effectively enslave a woman who meant them no harm...it was...inhumane. Dawlen's words came back to him: "...that we alone deserve the title of 'Human'." Did the primitives' primitivity know no bounds?
Deimos gave her what consolation he could, but she would not be swayed. She had no way out of this. The entire castle had a barrier that prevented wizards from leaving, unless they were given permission. On top of that, they couldn't use any spells considered weapons, or that might be used for vain escape. She really was trapped. Unless...
The next morning, Deimos was awoken twenty minutes early. Froah roughly yanked him to his feet, summoned him his cloak, then dragged his groggily rigid body from the cell. In the halls, other guards rushed inmates equally ill-rested, if not more so, towards the prince's courtyard.
He knew what it must be immediately, and hurried along so that Froah was now being led by him. They came out into the open, joining the crowd staring up at the prince's balcony, far up on the wall. There stood Alner, his son the prince, and Aglaia, one limp hand in the prince's grasp, her sad eyes falling upon Deimos as he came into view. He saw her free hand go to the rail, and pushed through the other men for a spot closer to the wall. Even from here, he would have to run if she did it.
Don't, Deimos thought to her. He could swear he saw a single tear glistening on her cheek.
I must. Would you have me marry this man?
Froah followed him, annoyed. "You can hardly see up here. What's wrong with you?"
Rather you marry him than die!
Then we have a conflict of interests.
Deimos became bitter, resentful of her inconsiderate actions. You've changed your attitude, I see.
So have you.
The prince presented Aglaia to the people, and, as he went on about the engagement, praising her, her grip on the rail tightened, until Deimos saw some chips of stone fall in the grass. He knew that no spell could save her, because of the restrictions, but the sun and clear sky above gave him the illusion of freedom, of the same courtyard that Aglaia had left almost two months ago, and he tried teleportation and wind spells before he remembered he couldn't.
Applause erupted all around him, and Alner began to retreat. Aglaia must've squeezed the prince's hand, for he gasped and let go. She leapt up and kicked him in the chest, using it to push off. Everyone shouted in horror as she plummeted, and Deimos raced to be the first to catch her.
Once it happened, Aglaia just had to laugh. Gramarye be praised! With a flash of red light, the change came upon her. Her legs melted away into her elongated body, her nails turned to claws, her body was covered in scales once more. Alner's precautions limited to humans, she let out a might roar as she soared up towards the lazily hanging clouds.
On the ground, there was pandemonium. Deimos was jostled along by the men and women running for cover or just out of their minds so thoroughly that it was all they could think to do. He went with the flow, but had a hard time stifling his own laughter. He caught a glimpse of Alner, stricken as his son, disbelief stealing his composure. He was shocked. Mystified. After all, he'd never seen the dragon before.
Deimos knew the most about Aglaia, and thus was the first to be recruited for the prince's futile hunt. Where would she go? Just how powerful is she in battle? What are her weaknesses? All this he had to answer, as the prince prepared to kill the beast who had made such a fool of him. At first he had suspected a shape-shifter, but he didn't tell Deimos that until he had unknowingly disproved it. Besides, they had already been proven innocent by their inability to change into humans.
And so Deimos found himself two days later, along with the prince, Froah, and Sprih, teleporting from one place to another, using Weather Shift to make rain cover every region of Nal they reached (Aglaia could stop them from teleporting directly to her, but if she was caught by the water, then she would have no way of stopping them). They stayed in hotels every night, and the prince asserted his authority by forcing them to sleep on the floors of his suites.
Something had to be done. Deimos tried as often as he could to contact Aglaia, to warn her, to make her leave Nal if she hadn't already. But she was blocking him out again. Only one other option remained. At the start of the fifth day, they all teleported to the west, thinking they should've come there first, for weather was prone to eastward movement, and it may have solved the problem much sooner.
They stood on the side of a hill, surveying the land with sharp eyes. It was Deimos's turn to Shift, and he lifted his hand to the sky as if to do so. Then, too swift for them to react in time, he teleported behind Sprih. A sapphire blade passed smoothly through his heart, staining his cloak with its own color.
The prince lunged, and barely missed handing himself over to Death by a miscalculated attack. They clashed, and Froah attempted to copy Deimos, but he summoned a second blade, knocking Froah's away. Floating his first weapon to fight without him, he concentrated on Froah. All his assaults were dodged, until Froah backed up into a tree. The momentary lapse of focus this provided was all Deimos needed to slip in and stab him too.
Leaving the sword to pin Froah's dying body to the tree, Deimos turned to see the prince wrestling with his Floating blade. Feeling it a more poetic end, Deimos clapped twice, and the prince was blown into oblivion. He checked on Sprih and Froah, then repelled their carcasses to the nearest graveyard.
Deimos looked up to the sky, taking deep breaths. It had to be done. Whatever the consequences, these actions were necessary. He fell back in the grass, letting his mind wonder to Aglaia. Now that they weren't after her anymore...but wouldn't they send another team? And if he killed them, yet another? No matter. He was free!
Finally!, Aglaia mentally exclaimed. Deimos sprang up, reveling in her presence.
Aglaia? Where are you?
He complied, and saw nothing but blue, with one wispy cloud idly drifting southeast. Then, tearing a hole through it, a green dot grew larger and larger as it sped down directly towards him. Despite his inner uncertainties, despite knowing that everything was still not okay, he let out a cheer as she circled above, resting by a small lake. He teleported over to her, dropping his hood automatically.
"I was beginning to think you'd never do it," Aglaia said, curling her body so that Deimos was completely encircled.
"You mean...you were waiting for me to—?"
She gave a smug smile (which was made to look much more so by her features). "Of course. Just cruising along in the clouds, watching the prince's weather patterns searching in vain. Deimos, you must stop hesitating. There is only so much anticipation I can stand before I lose interest."
Deimos shook his head. "I was so worried about you, and this is how you treat me?"
Aglaia rolled her eyes, which made him laugh and forget his troubles. "You were not so distressed when you heard of my engagement."
"That's different! These last few days I was scared for your life. I guess we have drastically disparate priorities here."
"I wanted you to be mad."
"Insults usually work."
"No, I mean...I wanted you to be mad at the prince. For thinking he could have me. I wanted you to be jealous, to be angry, to rage against him."
"Well, I killed him..." And it hit him now that, even if he felt great at seeing her again, this was it. He had murdered three of Alner's court—death was sure to follow. No more treaty, no more Wizard Laws. Execution was his destiny.
"I mean..." Aglaia paused, nervous. Then she ducked her head down towards Deimos. "Oh, and I think I've figured it out."
"Hold your hand out."
Deimos did, and Aglaia gently brushed against it. Her scales were much smoother than they looked. And, with a startling red flash, his hand was on, not green scales, but fair skin. She stood before him, naked, blushing at his touch on her cheek. He recoiled, and looked her in the eyes, though his gaze was wont to drop.
Aglaia put her hand over his. "I'm right, then. I turn into a human when I willingly touch a human, meaning them no harm, and...only when I am thinking that I like humans."
She giggled, then summoned on her cloak. "And I change back when I feel like dying rather than remaining a human. Or so I assume."
"So...that could happen at any time? You can't control it beyond that?"
The truth was, she could. Both processes apparently required her willpower. But what reason had she to want to become human that would not lead him to see what she felt? "Well...I have to want to change."
Deimos was baffled. "You wanted to be human?"
"I was sleepy, and I must've touched you without knowing it, and...I don't know, maybe annoyed at how you distanced yourself from me because I was a dragon. And...we're friends. I didn't want to have that barrier, I guess."
Deimos wanted to retract his hand, but Aglaia held it still to her face, and he could feel her words as they came out. Her eyes bore into him, betraying something he hadn't expected to ever find there: she needed him. What a joke. She needed him! His anxieties returned. "What do we do now?"
Aglaia let his hand fall to his side now. "I...don't know. Escape?"
"They'd catch us. I'm sure that Froah or Sprih TMed Alner before they died, or that they were sending messages back every day to show everything was okay... We've either got no time at all, or as long as one day."
"We can push them away."
"Yes, but if they do to both of us what I might've done to you?"
"Yeah...I don't know about that. In the air, for the rest of our lives?"
Aglaia thought for a while. "There's one place we can go."
Deimos didn't like returning to the Crystal Chamber (as he called it), because it brought back memories of Aglaia's first disappearance. Of how he had awoken from some eerie shriek, to find himself alone. To be there again, with the empty space, no dragon to curl up around him, instilled him with irrational fear, a hopeless loneliness.
But Aglaia wouldn't let that last. She talked to him of her flight, of the differences between controlling her body as human and dragon, of how she had never known he was a water mage, anything to keep his mind off of their dilemma.
"I guess I'm your enemy, then," Deimos joked.
"Technically, you're a double agent. And even so, I could never be mad at you."
Deimos seemed unable to be in the same good cheer. He put a hand on The Crystal pensively. "You were right, all along. This Crystal brought nothing but pain. In the end, I couldn't even get it to work."
Aglaia was skeptical. "Why, don't you merely wear them into battle? What problem could there be?"
"Only that people were dying. And then it turned out that they'd all been broken. Every single last one of 'em."
"Strange..." Had she made sure they couldn't be destroyed by normal means? She thought she did, but just in case, she added on the protection now, resting her head on The Crystal's surface to activate the spell.
"Of course, it was raining."
Aglaia smiled. Why was she even bothering to put such an enchantment on The Crystal? No one could use it at the moment, and they'd just be living here... And then her subconscious plan revealed itself to her. "Deimos, you know what we have to do."
He obviously didn't. "What do you mean?"
"The Wizard Laws. They can't remain unwritten. You'll have to finish them, before Alner does it himself."
"But he'll kill me!"
"If he writes the Laws, you'll be worse than dead. Who knows what awful things he might put in there? And as precaution, I'll give you another Juyk. I've just made them indestructible, so you'll have nothing to worry about."
"Unless it stops working."
"There is no logical reason it should. I shall pray to Gramarye that it shan't, and put the matter in His hands."
There it was again: Deimos forgot that this was Gramarye's servant he was doubting. The one specially placed to change history. If there was anyone he could trust, it was Aglaia. And so he consented, donned the new Juyk she crafted for him, and teleported back to Alner's castle.
Once he was gone, Aglaia suddenly panicked. Had she done the right thing? Was there a right thing to do now? Praying again and again to the distant Gramarye did not placate her, and she despaired. Deimos may be an agent of Water, but he was its soothing quality, its refreshing touch, its...reason for being. And she needed him for that. Those things in his character that had repulsed her like Water's temptations were gone. If she had achieved nothing else, she had at least tamed that two-faced element.
"I wish to continue my work," Deimos replied in utter confidence. "The Wizard Laws need to be written if peace may ever be found."
"You dare speak of peace?!" Alner scoffed. "Your death shall bring all the peace I need."
His left wrist tingled at the looseness of the Juyk. She could've made it a bit smaller... "Then go ahead. Kill me. After all, I'm only the man whom the dragon favors. The one whom she is in debt to. What could you possibly lose by killing me?"
"This dragon of yours can be tamed, Deimos. My son did not leave me ignorant to his plans."
Thinking he was safe enough, he went ahead. "She can fly above the clouds, Alner. And then she can sweep away your rain; you cannot overcome her, while she may hide as long as she pleases. She will only silence her wrath at my request, and no other force can substitute. So, unless you want your demise to be less honorable than your son's, I advise you to take my offer."
"Justice will be served, should I fall or not! My son did not deserve his fate, and I will defy you and your dragon as long as I shall live!"
"So be it. Let all your men die by her hands. It is Gramarye's will, I see. All primitives will die, because you were so stubborn, not pursuing peace because it went against your honor. Oh, I bet your people will love their leader, bringing them down with him due to his personal hubris. We wizards will be sure to pass down the story of your most noble deeds."
Alner bit his lip. "You speak too highly for your position, Deimos... Okay. I will give you time to write the Laws. And then you shall be executed."
And so it came to pass. He worked on the Laws again, amending some written in his absence, sneaking in more rights for wizards by use of misleading grammar, adding clauses when Alner wasn't looking. He made a few about dragons, on request, prohibiting them from attacking humans (or so the king had overseen, and Deimos did his best to circumvent).
One hundred Laws written, Deimos was in need of a break. Stress upon stress upon stress. His men were still uncooperative, primitives would display their hate as visibly as possible if he came near, he got death threats daily (though he knew he couldn't die; it was more of an emotional stress), and he could see the groups of rebels, from both sides, forming, plotting, and being exposed in an eternal cycle. His invulnerability was his only consolation.
Little did he know that, two thousand miles away, a jocund festival was taking place to celebrate a small village's supposed visit from Gramarye Himself. Or that a drunken man would be tapped on the shoulder by the tip of a long emerald tail, turning to see no one behind him. Or that a mysterious girl in all green would join the festivities, equally ignorant.
Little did Aglaia know that, two thousand miles away, her actions had such horrible repercussions. Deimos felt a surge of heat on his wrist, then a million shards of crystal poured from his sleeve onto the floor. Fear struck his hardest blow.
Aglaia!, Deimos cried with all his mental power. By mere will alone, he broke through. It broke!
In the village of Guran, the mysterious girl stood still, giving no explanation to the men who had begun their attempts at courting her. Broke? But... I will come at once!
No, it's too dangerous.
I didn't tell you so you could risk your life again! There's no way you can even get in here anymore.
It was sealed off last time as well. Do not worry, I can get in undetected just fine. Who knows this has occurred?
None so far. I haven't even needed to tell them I had it in the first place.
Good. I will come shortly, and save you.
Then what of the Laws?
Then damn the Laws! I will not let you die, Deimos! Your life is far too important! Once I ensure your safety, I will destroy that castle and the traitors along with it.
We shall lose all routes to peace! Who can trust a twice-backstabbing wizard? I have given my word, and I will follow through on it.
Peace!, she snarled with double meaning. I will not go against you, for Nayru has granted you wisdom. Which also had a double meaning, though Deimos would never realize it. His mind instead brought back Dawlen's claim of having the same divine trait. And he supposed he did have that wisdom, now. He had heeded Dawlen, and was doing the right thing, finally. But did the correct path always lead to such tragedy?
And so Aglaia fell silent. Deimos went through the next week as he had every other, betraying no sign of his weakness. He was no less audacious, no less argumentative, no more cautious than he had been, and no one suspected his internal panic. On a roll, he finished at Law 120 before it happened.
Deimos sat at his desk, unrolled one of the new scrolls that had been delivered just that morning, drew a lazy 121, and leaned back in his chair.
"Deimos!" gasped Aglaia, coming out of the hiding place she had used before.
He jumped as he had last time, enraged more than stupefied. "Aglaia! What are you doing?!"
Aglaia came to him as she had before, hugged him as she had before, but with so much intensity he thought she would murder him for sure if she didn't contain herself. Sobbing, she managed to make the words. "I couldn't just leave you!"
Deimos pushed her off. "Aglaia, you shouldn't be here. They're already looking for you, they know you transform. For your own sake, get as far from here as you can!"
"No! Deimos, it is my fault this is happening! I sent you here to your doom; I cannot submit you to it without trying my best to prevent it!"
"Calm down. I know I will die, but that is as it should be. If it brings peace for my people, I shall have no regrets. It is Gramarye's will, after all."
"I don't care!" She held him as close to herself as she dared. "I will disobey Him if it means you shall live!"
"Don't say that," Deimos snapped. "Serve your creator, not such an undeserving mortal as myself. What have I done to earn this loyalty that He hasn't surpassed a thousandfold?"
Aglaia struggled with saying it. "I love you." He began to retreat, but she held on, pulling him closer. "I love you, Deimos, and you are dying for me, and I cannot stand it!"
Deimos was hesitant, though he had to admit his feelings were very close to that of requiting her. "Aglaia, I could never...you're a dragon. Gramraye's—"
"Deimos, I don't care anymore! If that was my job, I quit!"
He gulped. "Aglaia, I love you too, but I know my duty. I must continue on this path, whether you like it or not."
Aglaia wanted to punch him, knock him out so that she could rescue him by force. But instead, her hands went to his shoulders. "Mine Deimos...if you shalt die, teach one last thing to your mistress."
"Anything," Deimos said, relieved. If it meant her happiness, he would've taught her to tango backwards on a high fence.
"Teach me how humans express their love."
And, though he was no expert on the subject, Deimos taught her all he knew.
Aglaia didn't know how long it took for humans, but she couldn't help but feel that her children were born very early. She didn't even know how most species bore offspring, and so she tried not to be surprised when five large eggs painfully pushed themselves out through an orifice on her dragon body she had never known of before. She lined them up by The Crystal, impulsively breathing magic fire upon them.
Unlike humans, it seemed, she had been able to teleport while carrying them inside her, and change forms without harming them in the least. Still, she had been frightened to change again until they'd been born.
Red, blue, green, yellow, and white. It didn't take long for her to guess that each would have a different elemental affinity. Probably a product of having a mage for their father. In fact, she could remember the blue coming first. So maybe human limitations only half worked on dragons?
Aglaia could never muster up the courage to leave the eggs for once and check on Deimos. She longed to know when he was sentenced to die, so that she could swoop in and save him, and damn the consequences. But she didn't know when the eggs would hatch, just as she had been unaware of the time that elapsed between her creation and emergence. It could happen at any time! All she knew for sure, for whatever reason she did, was that she would need to warm her children with fire, perhaps until magic supplied them with their own.
She called out to Deimos daily, and achieved nothing but affirming that he was there. He wasn't talking to her, and she knew why. He had to do his duty. Had to sacrifice himself for the good of the wizards. He had been glad—blissful that next morning—that she had given herself to him, that they were husband and wife, that their relationship had been consummated.
But she was a dragon. Gramarye's servant, His messenger. He felt guilty for bringing her down to that human level, bringing her, if not to an equal position, then even lower, to be under him now, as a woman. And what better way to hide that guilt than to do what he was meant to do, not letting the experience change his routine? Work harder, even, to make his fate come about faster, to fulfill his destiny A.S.A.P., so Gramarye would have no reservations for granting him clemency.
And so she was alone. Two months from the day she'd last seen Deimos, Aglaia called out to him lazily. Deimos, tell me when... Her expectations, rather than her love, had waned every day he was silent, and were straining to go even lower than the bottom rung as her lover's reticence continued today...
Aglaia gasped. Deimos! Tomorrow? But...do you mean to say the Laws are written?
Yeah. Finished the last one yesterday. Today's a "mercy period", as they call it. The Impenetrable Wizard Laws have started working as of this morning, and now I have twenty-four hours to "enjoy" myself.
Where will it be?
Inside, of course. They don't trust me when I say you won't save me.
As well they shouldn't! Give me the exact location, and I'll give them something to fear!
A pause. Aglaia, no. They've made me write laws saying dragons can't hurt them. I've tried my best to change 'em around, but it won't do any good. Please, stay away, for your sake.
Deimos, I will save you. No human can hold me back!
They're called "Impenetrable" for a reason.
I will not concede defeat! I shall be shamed if I do not come to your aid in such a time—
Aglaia broke off, startled. In front of her, the blue and red eggs shook slightly, their hard shells bumping into each other but remaining intact. The red then bumped into the yellow, and the chain reaction went down the line. A second later they were still, as if nothing had happened. She stared until she was convinced that the tremor wasn't coming back.
What?, asked Deimos, genuinely concerned.
Deimos...I think they're going to hatch soon!
Our—our children, Deimos. She let him speak next, knowing he hadn't given the prospect any consideration. He'd been focused on the act itself more so than the inevitable results.
They're dragons?, he was able to say.
I sure hope so, cuz they're burnt to a crisp if they're not.
How's that possible? Then a more important question came to mind. Wait, "they"? You mean I have twins?
Aglaia giggled at this mental discomposure. I don't know what to do now, Deimos. What if they hatch while I'm away? I don't want to miss that, but I equally don't want you to die. And I can't bring them with me!
You stay there, Aglaia. I'm done for.
Speak like that and I may be tempted to rescue you anyway.
Deimos knew she would show up. She always did, didn't she? Whenever he thought she wouldn't, whenever the anticipation of her arrival, or lack thereof, had reached such an extent, she just had to end the suspense. And he hated that she left every time for that reason: he hated to make the journey to that dark state of mind over and over again.
But as he stood, disabled, atop the tall barrel, the noose being fit around his neck, the crowd of primitives and wizards alike pointing and jeering, Alner reading off his crimes, he was disappointed. She wasn't there. Why wasn't she there?
She couldn't come, that was why. To come by air was futile, for the castle couldn't be harmed, nor its inhabitants. And to sneak in equally ineffective, because they all knew how she looked, and if she were to disguise herself, she still would be incapable of doing anything useful.
Which was good. He didn't want her to see this. He didn't want her to miss the...hatching of their five children. After all, each one of them was now solely her responsibility. Deimos would've taken it on if he were alive to do it, and it compounded his shame to such a degree that he felt half dead already. Gramarye had sent His servant, and he had pushed all his troubles, and more, onto her ill-experienced shoulders. She didn't deserve to be on the run for the rest of her life. The least comfort he had was that she wouldn't be here. Would she?
Aglaia couldn't teleport inside the castle, and so she was forced to edge around the animated primitives at the side of the the crowd to reach the front of the humongous courtyard. She furtively adjusted her shawl as she saw someone glance in her direction. She looked up to Deimos, trying to read his expression. Apathy. So he had meant it. Next to him, Alner was droning on and on about his murders and plots as if anyone wanted to hear it. No one else.
The wizards stood at the front, perhaps the loudest of them all. Aglaia got at the end of the row, shouting unintelligible exclamations to blend in with the others. She thought something felt wrong, as if someone had discovered her already. Using mostly peripheral vision, she saw, three men down, Dawlen and Torih. The anger she felt burst forth, and she threw caution to the winds, along with her disguise.
Alner saw her first. He paled, then, remembering his safety, grinned and dropped the scroll. "The dragon!" he shouted, pointing to her. Evidently, they had been told that she might appear. The wizards converged on her, shooting their best water spells. She ducked, rolled to the side, and sprinted towards the front. Her bare feet almost slipped as the ground became increasingly moist from their spells.
Alner would likely kill Deimos if she didn't act fast, so she shoved him aside with a wind spell. Not really harming him, since he landed quite comfortably on the ground, and was more than able to stand again. He scrambled to his feet, rushing towards Deimos just as she was.
Deimos gulped, wishing to close his eyes and disappear. Aglaia got one foot on the platform when a jolt to her shoulder knocked her down. She reached back and pulled out the arrow. Her Shield was gone... She lunged forward as Alner did the same.
Alner kicked the barrel from under Deimos, and Aglaia summoned a green sword to slash at the rope. Deimos gagged once, then fell to the floor, pulling himself free. Alner unsheathed his own blade and Aglaia blocked his attacks, unable to make any of her own. Deimos lashed out at him from the floor in her stead, and Alner hopped off the platform, ordering his wizards to continue their assault now.
Aglaia attempted another Shield, gathered up Deimos, and jumped off as well. Deimos righted himself, and defended Alner's blows with all he had: the rope. The blade caught in the noose, and he awkwardly wrested it from him, luckily ducking a bolt of lightning as he tried to pry it out for his own use. He threw the rope at Alner, who merely swatted it away, and stabbed him in the side. The king pushed out the red metal and dashed off.
"Get him!" Aglaia blurted, busy blocking and Shielding with decreasing success. A Floating rock cut her cheek, and she dodged a larger one, following Deimos in his hunt. She stopped once to let some Blue Fire hit the wall, and ran even faster to catch up.
An ice spell hit the ground, and she struggled not to lose her footing as momentum kept her going. Deimos was just at the end of the ice, so his inconvenience was small, but he forgot to look back for Aglaia, and so she fell flat on her back, helpless as she felt this new extreme of pain. Wizards began running around the platform, and she used wind to push them gently back, using another spell to push herself up. She jumped off of the ice, and did her best to gain the lost space between her and Deimos.
A good sign: Alner was on the ground. Deimos thrust his sword into the king, and Aglaia gave an involuntary yelp. She pushed wizards aside in a wave as she approached, watching Deimos just standing there. She thought she heard someone whisper something (Alner, perhaps), and then Deimos made sure of the deed, slashing the king's head off.
Deimos was stiff as she came to him, his shoulders squared, his arms parallel at his sides. "Deimos! C'mon!" Aglaia urged him. The wizards were closing in, in spite of her efforts.
"Escape," he ordered her, summoning his own sword as magic came back to him.
"Not without you!"
Deimos chose his last words carefully. "Aglaia, wouldst thou lean from thine distrust?" He laced his blade with sharp, ragged ice, and flung himself into the crowd with an intimidating war cry. Aglaia watched in horror as he took out his attackers. She was forgotten in the rush to kill Deimos. Wizards and primitives alike converged on that one spot, and, somehow, there didn't seem to be any end to them.
Half the mass of aggressors fled; women and children, generals, laymen, priests, and fire mages. Aglaia stepped out of their way, straining to see past the throng into the fray. Dead bodies were being pushed out of the circle, and kicked back by the feet of the fearless soldiers. Blood spurt out from some of the less dead ones, quickly creating a pool around them all. A few men realized their doom and chickened out, but Deimos was far from done.
Suddenly, some large shining object became airborne, spinning dangerously and sticking into the dirt some ten feet from Aglaia. Ice. Afraid but determined, she Floated this out, difficultly, and chucked it into the throng with all her strength. A ripple went through the men, and she got a glimpse of Deimos, dripping both his blood and that of the deceased, before the hole closed up again.
She ran forward now, using her protesting magic to make a path for her like the previous one. Before she got to the center, though, a deafening cheer came up from the crowd, and she covered her ears in frustration. She roughly (thought pleasantly) pushed her way to the middle.
And there was Deimos, kneeling now, a longsword stuck through his heart, a huge bruise on his forehead, and blood leaking from his upper right leg. The man who had stabbed him twisted the blade around, then removed it, readying for another blow.
Aglaia screamed, and the men became silent. She pushed her magic to its limit, forcing the men back about twenty feet. Deimos fell on his face, and she rushed to turn him over, tears blurring her vision. She gave him Healing Spells, Sealed the skin, and every other medical procedure which Impenetrable Wizard Law Number 79 didn't now prohibit. Which wasn't much.
He was dying. He coughed blood a few times, touched her arm, and became limp, Aglaia shouting "Deimos!" through it all. He was dead. She had failed to save him. This whole mission was now pointless; not only had she been unable to do her task, but she may have just missed the emergence of her children into the world. Deimos had been right to refute her.
Many of the men scampered off now, frightened because they didn't know that she was being limited to just shoving them aside. But nearly seventy men remained, inching closer with caution. Aglaia saw them and cried harder.
"Stop!" she yelled, bordering on a snarl. She looked up at them, trying her best to show her contempt, but all that came across was sorrow. They heeded her, and she went back to her work. Except, there was nothing left to be done. Heal as she might, her power wasn't enough to deny Death its next victim.
It was over. All of it: Deimos's life, her freedom, world peace, the frail bond between wizards and primitives. What did the Laws matter if the wizards would be exterminated anyway? She had failed, not only Deimos and the human species, but, most of all, Gramarye.
Forgive me, O Father, she prayed, staring into the deep red mess that was Deimos's heart. Fire-water, she named it. A symbol, in such a perverse way now, of their love: the fire giving of itself to become one with water.
But no longer. Water had been forced away from her, and she insisted on reaching him, like the flames beneath a cauldron. And just the same, her attempts only ended in his turning to steam and drifting away, never to be seen again...
Until the rain.
Aglaia bit her lip. Cupping her hands upside-down above his chest, she let the water roll down her face, channeling the dregs of her magic into her fingers. It wasn't enough, not even for five more Healing Spells. She was too weak. Magic floated to Deimos's wound like technicolor feathers.
Yet, somehow, she never ran out of power. She pushed all the tangible magic through, said a few more prayers, and pushed even farther. Her love was all that she cared for now, and she desperately willed that, her life itself, to go into Deimos as well. Anything to save him. She was taken aback, though, when her strength began to fade.
She knew what was coming immediately, and it didn't stop her—it only made her emotions stronger, feeding the transaction. She was not afraid. Indeed, she was excited to do this last deed for Deimos.
Aglaia was light-headed, so perhaps she had imagined it, but she could swear she saw the light coming back into his eyes before she felt her own leaving. She keeled over, breathed heavily for a few agonizing moments, and died.
Deimos shot upright, coughing hoarsely. Wild exclamations jammed in his ears, disorienting him further. Soldiers and wizards were departing the courtyard any way they could, while some simply fainted or stood in place, transfixed by this unholy sight. But Deimos couldn't, for the life of him, remember what had occurred here.
Then he saw Aglaia. And felt his impossibly Healed chest. And he remembered; he was supposed to be dead, but now Aglaia was, in his place. When his shock allowed it, he mourned for his dead wife. How she had been able to save him, he would only find out later by asking those who witnessed it. For now, he cared only for the very fact: he had quenched the fire.
Now everybody sing to the heavens above
And everybody dance to the sounds of love
Won't you clack your teeth, won't you smack your hands
Won't you dig your little heads right out of the sand
Won't you jiggle your butt, won't you wave your arms
Won't you look like you just came off of the farm
Won't you stop your fighting for a second or two
Won't you help your neighbors, won't you do the do
Won't you taste the sugar, won't you eat the cake
Won't you get your ugly mug right out of my face
Won't you tell your brothers and your sisters tonight,
That you tasted the water and the water was right
Won't you taste the sugar, won't you dance the dance
Won't you wake up please, come on out of your trance
Everybody make believe that you disappear
For a second or two, gonna feel so queer
And you left behind all your rage and fear
And it made you feel like...water
Again, sorry for the length. The next story will be about Midna.
Re: Legend of Link III: All The Pieces (Adv/Rom)(T)
Well, here's my second story: what happens to Midna after being left in the Crystal Chamber.
I'm only halfway through the third story right now (which is about Caleb), and now I only have one month to finish said story. Worse yet, I am now "taking my schoolwork seriously", and thus have less time to write. I have confidence, though, that I will be able to finish these six stories without missing my deadlines.
And I can only hope someone will reply to these and give me their thoughts. SB has called "Water" awesome, so I figure my old fans haven't even read it, or just didn't have the time to post anything. This second story, in my opinion, came together a bit too quickly for its own good. But, hey, it's a short story.
Oh, and please note: this story begins in the middle of AOC's ch. 36 (from Midna's perspective), just in case you're wondering what's going on.
So, without further ado...
"...My group: Hannah, Zelda...Zelda, Midna, and Zant. Right here."
Midna and her husband took their places next to each other, Hannah to her left and Prs. Zelda to his right. Zant laughed. "Y'know, these groups are a bit funny. You and Caleb have all girls in your groups except one guy, and Sahara the opposite."
"What do you mean?" Midna teased. "Dark Link only has women in his group."
"Charming..." Zant sighed. It was refreshing to make light of that minor dispute, and Midna hoped he heard the forgiveness in her tone.
"If everyone's ready..." Dark Link invited the others to speak.
"Yeah, let's go!" Laura exclaimed childishly.
Dark Link paused. "Form a circle around your designated Wise Wizard, and stand as still as you can. That makes it easier." They followed his instructions. Zelda smiled, her spot being directly in front of Dark Link. He smiled back. Midna saw the rekindled love between them, feeling vindicated as she saw their happiness become so evident. "Sahara, I trust you've taught Caleb the procedure?"
"Great. Now, once we start the spell, the three of us will become unconscious. So, all of you will have to keep a look out for Evol. If he comes, do your best to stand your ground. If he takes your place in the circle, you can't get back in, so be careful."
Dark Link nodded to the others. He closed his eyes, and all was silent. Midna looked around at the others. Caleb's eyes were shut with such concentration that he looked constipated. She nudged Zant and pointed to this, sharing the laugh.
A column of light came from nowhere and engulfed Dark Link's body. Caleb and Sahara soon experienced the same thing. Circular seals, with Triforces and Quardaforces in their many layers, shone under their feet, and began spinning at high speeds.
"Now!" a sinister voice shouted. A green-cloaked woman jumped from her hiding place right next to Sahara's circle. She kicked Sally in the nose (at least, that's where she aimed, but it was technically her lip; you never could tell with Dekus), and pushed Mikau down. She stood in his spot, and the seal that had been beneath Sally vanished.
Midna had only time to glance anxiously at her husband before it happened. An evilly pitch black cloak appeared, covering a gaunt skeleton holding a scythe in one hand. The malice he radiated identified him as none other than Evol. Before she could think to warn him, Zant had been taken by surprise, and Evol pushed him to the ground, face-first. But he didn't stop there. As he pushed her lover to the floor, he flipped his scythe upside-down, and caught his neck on the blade. The large silver mask spun in the air for a second before joining the rest of Zant's body. Evol smoothly stepped onto the seal, cleaning the blood off of his scythe almost smugly.
"Zant!" Midna screamed, before a firm hand roughly shoved her out of the way. She landed on Zant, and began sobbing loudly. Someone stood on her seal almost soundlessly. She heard some scuffle taking place by the Crystal, but she didn't care for the others anymore. It was too late to influence anything that happened with him, and there were more important things to focus on. "Zant! Zant!" Midna continued to holler.
He couldn't be dead! So sudden, so soon in their lives, so...needlessly. Things just didn't happen that way! And yet, there was the blood, there was the mask-helmet that could house nothing but the head, parted from the body irreversibly. Zant was gone.
But she was a wizard! Zant no longer was, having left their kingdom, but she was an Emotion Wizard. Dark Link had listed off all the spells she could use that were exclusive to her kind, and one jumped out at her from her memories: Love's Resurrection. That spell was a hopeless one, Dark Link had told her. In all the history of Emotion Wizards, no one had been able to get it to work, other than the creator of the spell, the ancient Green Dragon of Hyto. Perhaps only dragons could do it correctly. But it was Zant's only hope.
She sat up and placed her open palms against Zant's back. Still crying, probably crying harder, she forced magic out of her hands and into her dead husband, lacing it with all her love. She prayed to the goddesses that it would work. True, she and Zant weren't the perfect couple. They were the kind of lovers who played hard to get, even though they loved each other with all their hearts. But surely the goddesses felt that if anyone deserved to be able to do the impossible at this moment, it was Midna.
A flash of blue light momentarily broke her concentration, and she frantically scrambled to gather it again. The others had left; she was alone now. Oh, wait. Mikau and Sally. Behind her, there was a grunt, and Mikau said, "Are you okay?" By the groan that followed, she guessed that Paul had been forced out too. Well, she was practically alone.
The spell was slow work, and despair settled in as the wait dragged on for another minute. Gradually, some of the blood on the rock floor began seeping back into Zant's neck, and his helmet tipped over, so that it was in place to be reattached. Midna pushed harder, determined now to be the first in thousands of years to actually succeed.
"Midna?" Sally inquired tentatively. She put one wooden hand on her arm (for it would not reach her shoulder).
Midna turned on her, surprised by her own rage. "Shut up!" Sally backed off, shyly joining Mikau in administering help to Paul, who promptly gasped and fell unconscious.
And then, as this interruption had annoyed her so, she closed her eyes to ward off the sting of her new tears. She tuned out the others' babbling about Paul's broken limbs, and brought all her emotions to the surface, pushing them down with her magic. Slowly at first, and then in one steady, accelerating speed, her strength ebbed. It was working!
She remembered the first day they'd met, when he looked almost like any other Twili, and nevertheless she had found herself attracted to him. After studying her for a while, Zant had garnered enough knowledge to predict her every move. By Farore, that had been infuriating! Yet, he had never used it to take advantage of her. No, his manipulations had been strictly altruistic (or in good humor).
He had been jealous when she left with Dark Link, and utterly flabbergasted when she returned bearing an alien personality, new terrain in the old location, newly-fallen snow hiding the once-well trodden path. And he still hadn't shoveled far enough to make heads or tails of it. It was that sense of ultimate, vindictive control (or mild sadism, as Zant so bluntly put it) that drew her, then, to marry him, and reveal that smidgen of herself.
She had always loved him, she realized. And now she piled all the memories in her mind, extracting the pure Love felt in those moments, squeezing it all roughly through her inexperienced enchantment. It wouldn't all fit, bits of it squelching off to the side and sitting there until she made room.
Midna was light-headed, and her eyes opened of their own accord. Zant's head was on, the blood out of sight, thus in his body, and she could swear she saw the twitch of life jerk his left arm up. She had done it! He was alive!
And she was dead.
"Midna?" Mikau chanced. "Do you think you can help us with Paul?"
Midna didn't reply. She flipped Zant's nearly-repaired body over to the front, and became busy with something they couldn't see. Sally made her second sojourn to Midna's side, and winced. In her left hand was a vial, in her right some sort of magic syringe, and in their direct line of evident use, something Sally would undoubtedly have nightmares about. "What are you doing?!"
She didn't look up from the shameless act, her cracked voice speaking of madness. "If there—any way—his child—I'll do it!"
"Midna, if we don't do something quick, Paul could be disabled for life," Mikau said, oblivious to the situation (not to mention Impenetrable Wizard Law Number 79).
"What life?" Midna wanted to say, but nothing came out when she opened her mouth this time. She filled the vial three-fourths of the way, corked it, then Sealed it with a spell that ensured she would have enough time, if it was going to work at all. She pocketed it, and sat there in indecision regarding her future. What was there to live for anymore?
The Twili. They were nobly fighting the Gerudos, those vermin who had disrupted the peace of the Twilight Realm, with their kleptomania, racism, sexism, immorality, deadly scimitars, and an incessant demand for horses (whatever those were). She owed it to the Twili to drive them out, to end that stupid war... She owed it to Zant.
Midna rose to her feet, and spun around to look at Paul, finally. His right arm was bent at an odd angle, but since the others were a Deku and a Zora, they wouldn't know. His head was against the floor, with blood matting the whitish hair by his left ear and his mouth open a centimeter.
She realized that Paul was dying, and there was nothing she could for him. That if she left now, Sally and Mikau would be stuck here until the next decent wizard visited (and they would most likely die by then, for the loss of the Juyks' power source in The Crystal had also resulted in a loss of so many visitors). To leave now, in effect, would be to doom these three to death.
The portal to the Twilight Realm had become something of a milestone to Midna (which worked, since it was set into a stone), and every time she used it, her life seemed to change completely. The first time, she had been changed by Dark Link, and grown to be an Emotion Wizard. Second, she had come to terms with who she really was, and ended up marrying Zant. Third, she had entered into this horrible ordeal.
Midna stepped onto the platform of light, activating the Mirror. For the fourth time, her body broke apart into tiny pieces and flung themselves to her home dimension. She welcomed the insanity of the journey, her soul dispersed amongst so many atoms, five percent of which were nonliving. Her feelings were mostly of her loss, but she could sense a more powerful impulse emerging.
0.05 percent of the living matter transmitted was that of the vial's contents. And, it being their sole purpose, the call was ever more irresistible. It chewed up her will and spat it out, devoured all other thought, asserted its authority over her very self. She could want for nothing but to satisfy this insatiable hunger.
As she was reconnected at the other side and her will was handed back to her, good as new save for the overtone of that intense desire, she vaguely wondered why she had never felt such a thing when traveling with Dark Link. Of course, now that she thought of it, perhaps she had. Certainly it hadn't been this strong, but she had felt her affection grow after that point, right? Or perhaps the current barrage had come up simply because she wanted the exact same thing?
She stopped worrying about it once she fully materialized in the Twilight Realm. Before her, the Twilight Palace lay in ruin. The blue-gray stone was in an unrecognizable lump, shadow creatures' bodies freckling its face. The Sol Guardians' fingers flashed in ten different locations among the mess, and their palms flopped hopelessly under the weight of five shadow birds. Beyond this floating graveyard, there was nothing but artificial desert, and a large black mass surging on the horizon.
They had gone. Too. Damn. Far.
But she had to be smart about this. Rushing in and killing as many Gerudos as possible, while tempting, wouldn't solve the problem. Hell, she didn't even know if the Gerudos had won anything, if this destruction was just as Zant had left it, or both. In any case, the best course of action would be to either find the Twili and gain back their trust (if possible), or take down the Gerudo's leader and use magic to take on her appearance, breaking down their force from the inside. Then again, she did have magic, so that gave her an immediate advantage over—
Leave now, if you value your life, a voice came in her head.
Telepathy? Here? A wild idea sprouted, of Zant having sent a clone to accompany her, staying behind to sort things out, knowing he would never see his wife again. But the voice was too feminine. And that just wasn't like him; no sane man would do that. The only ones who could use magic in this realm were incoming wizards and the leader of the entire kingdom, and as Midna was the only one to fill both roles, she was so baffled she almost let the connection slip away unquestioned. Who is this?
Midna, think, who else could I be? The Twilight Queen.
Midna swallowed. A new leader, so soon? Worse yet, one who had such a grasp of magic so early in obtaining it. The very concept was overwhelming. But I am the Twilight Queen.
I repeat, leave now. If you try to interfere, as I know you will, I am not responsible for the consequences. I tell you this as a courtesy to my predecessor, and strongly suggest you heed my words.
Midna almost lost it. This is my land! How dare you assume I will leave it in such a shambles?!
A pause. So be it. I will meet with you. Don't take it the wrong way this time, but I need you to stay where you are for another...five minutes or so. Do not move. Got it?
Impatient as she was, Midna vainly cursed this woman's arrogance until she was whisked away, sans argument.
The room Midna reappeared in was empty. The throne sat at the top of a short staircase, but no one sat in it. The carpet beneath her bare feet was a thick, deep purple, though it was torn in some places to show the gray stone under it. The stained-glass windows were all broken except one depicting a male Gerudo wielding dual scimitars above his head in a curved X, with a ruby-encrusted crown on his head. Through the rest, a gentle desert breeze blew, bringing the scent of death with it. Each showed nothing but clear sky (or, what Midna perceived as clear, and humans would see as demented twilight).
Apparently, they had captured the Gerudo Fortress. This gave Midna some hope. That is, until the one who had brought her here showed up.
The Twilight Queen teleported into the room. She wore the traditional black cloak—the same that Midna wore now—with the hood up to hide her face. She took her seat, and suspicion began creeping through Midna. Her hands and feet were visible, as her limbs were longer than her garment. They were of a light brown, sort of caramel hue, the likes of which had never been present on the pale bodies of the Twili.
As the woman reached up and took down her hood, her fear was confirmed. It was a Gerudo.
"Greetings, Midna. I am sorry for making you wait (truly, I am), but we were in the middle of a battle, and I—"
Midna summoned a sword, and pointed it at the Gerudo. "Impostor!"
She only rolled her eyes. "I assure you, I am not. I am Soume, the Twilight Queen. No one else has magic, remember?"
"A Gerudo could never take such a sacred position," Midna insisted, belligerence coming in to take its place. "You are not of the Royal Family, and none of those who are would approve of your holding this title."
Soume rested her cheek on her fist, looking at Midna with an apathetic disdain. "Yeah, well, funnily enough...Zant put me in charge right before he left, so..."
Midna was outraged. "Don't you dare slander Zant's name! A Gerudo leading Twili? He would never...!"
But...would he? He had always been on those women's side, always saying there was nothing wrong with them. And when they'd been married, it was the official combining of Twili and Gerudo, which he obviously felt was a good idea. He was as far from prejudice as you could get. Perhaps, to try for some equality, he had actually gone to the extreme of giving this Soume so much power.
Soume took no notice of her hesitation. "To tell the truth, I don't think he really cared. It was a 'Whoever wants it can go ahead' sorta thing."
"Then give it up," Midna said obdurately. She knew she couldn't take the title back herself since she had magic of her own now, but to let a Gerudo have it, of all people...
Soume raised an arm in a sardonic mock-protest. "Never..."
Midna had had enough. She lunged forward, ready to stab her in the eye. Soume ducked, and the tip stuck in the wood of the throne. Midna was pushed back, landing softly on the carpet. Soume looked at the sword that had been destined for her head and repelled it in favor of, predictably, a scimitar. She held it in the defensive position, which, to Gerudos, was a symbolic action that meant something along the lines of, "Get a grip, psycho."
"Look, if Zant wants his chair back or whatever, he can have it. But I'm not gonna just leave it open or anything. We have to have a leader, or everybody gets all fidgety. So, as much as I'd love to be a dispensable pawn again, Zant's the only one I would feel comfortable giving this job to. Where is he, by the way?"
Midna sat up, losing no time in shaking off the humiliation. "He's dead."
Soume showed the first signs of emotion now. "Oh...I'm sorry. I must've sounded pretty heartless, eh?"
Midna's feelings caught up with her, and she continued difficultly. "That's...that's why I...came here. To finish...his work."
Soume lowered her sword into a newly-summoned scabbard, stood up, and offered to pull Midna to her feet. "Okay then, I'll help you."
Midna stared at her in disbelief, then got up by herself. There was no way she would be taken in by a Gerudo. "Just tell me what's going on, and I'll take it from there."
Soume scoffed. "Have it your way. There's a war going on as we speak. Some people think we should live in peace, some think the two races should be separate as we were before, and the rest just wanna fight. There are no definite sides, anyone can be a traitor, I've had about fifteen attempts on my life just today, armies will turn on themselves at any time, you can never trust any information you're given, nighttime ambushes force me to magically keep my vitality, food is starting to run low... Oh, and don't forget that, since no one here likes you, you'll be public enemy number one. Think you can handle that?"
Midna's heart sank. If all of this were true, the Twilight Realm was beyond salvation. She couldn't do this alone. But neither could she bring herself to work alongside a Gerudo. She stalled. "How can I trust you?"
Soume smiled. "Because, we are the same. I also lost my husband."
Midna became skeptical. "Oh? I thought Gerudos didn't believe in Love? Why should you share my pain?"
"No, I did love him. We are, in fact, capable of it. But, more than that..." She gave Midna a you-know-what-I-mean look, and patted her stomach. "He is no longer around for her (if he ever planned on being around anyway). He just went out and got himself killed."
Despite herself, Midna sympathized with Soume, and, her memories fresh in her mind after the failed Love's Resurrection, she cried quiet tears. "You're lucky. Zant didn't even want me to have his child."
"Lucky?" she chuckled. "Pregnancy's no walk in the park. Especially for us Gerudos. Any day now, I'll be waist-deep in puke. If I live that long, that is."
Midna felt like getting the words out, now that a normal context presented itself. "It's just...Zant and I finally got married. We'd been pretending we didn't like each other for so long, and avoiding him had been my favorite pastime. But then he won, and I expected him to...take the spoils, as it were...and he just...didn't. I tried everything to coerce him, but he just wouldn't do it. And now he's..."
"Gone," Soume finished.
"I tried to save him. I have—I'm an Emotion Wizard, and there's this spell we can do to bring people back to life if we love them enough. And I tried it, and I almost did it, too, but...well, you bring them back in exchange for your own life, and when I thought about that—dying—I just got scared, and I messed up, and now he's..."
"Gone," Soume repeated.
"I have...I know this is going to sound weird, but I got...Zant's seed. I brought it with me, cuz I figured I might have a chance of...using it, since he wasn't entirely dead when I...took it. I know my magic can't do it, but do you think yours can?"
Soume raised her eyebrows, and laughed awkwardly. "Well, uh...I'm not so sure it'd work. I mean...magic kills them once they join, so to join them by magic would be sorta pointless. And you did take them through the portal, so it's probably been distorted somehow..."
"But...there's gotta be a way! I hope all the doctors haven't been killed?"
Soume was getting uncomfortable. "Y'know, we're getting awfully off-topic here. Shouldn't we be working on some sort of strat—?"
"Tell me how, Soume!" She grabbed her arms, surprising even herself. She had connected too much with that 0.05%, it seemed. She let go. "I'm...sorry. I just need some time...to sort things out."
"Of course," Soume said, her sarcasm invisible. "I don't see you getting any, unless you take my advice and leave. If you want to stay, be my guest. Just now, we won a small battle against the main dissenters, but the war ain't over. My 'advisor' got killed. Maybe you'd like to take her place?"
Midna's pride returned in full force. "I will never serve under a Gerudo."
"Suit yourself," Soume sighed, plopping down in her chair again. "It'll be hard to hide otherwise, but I'm sure if you transformed into a Gerudo, no one would care that you fraternize with me."
Sure, the idea of becoming a Gerudo had occurred before, but as an espionage mission, not a layabout lifestyle. "No. I will not degrade myself like that; I have more honor than you."
Soume looked amused. "Yeah, I'm so silly, being myself. What was I thinking?"
Midna did not share her levity; that was the kind of thing Zant would've said. No wonder Soume was in charge... "Zant died. A—"
"I know that."
"...And I came here because I know he loved these people, and I don't want to see them killed by Gerudos. Am I to sit idly by, only living because I've donned the enemy's skin? I need to take action! Now!"
"Let's clear up something right here," Soume grumbled. "Am I your enemy?"
"So far, so good," Midna shrugged.
"Okay. Then, since I am a Gerudo, don't call my kin your enemy." Soume stared sincerely into her eyes, her message clear.
Midna nodded. And, hating herself for it, she agreed.
As she had predicted, it was the worst few days of Midna's life. Soume had insisted that she at least take the advisor's quarters, so she could have some privacy. Their forces were so large, being a mix of Gerudo and Twili, that there wasn't enough room for each man and woman to have his or her own place, nor for them to share, so it really was an honor. And yet, as she whiled away the hours doing practically nothing, she felt imprisoned.
Thrice per day, a servant brought in her meal, a meager ration of some Gerudo cuisine. It had an excruciatingly rich flavor, but she kept from complaining by convincing herself, cynically, that any Gerudo food probably contained substances that increased fertility.
Soume promised she would find a doctor they could trust to help her, but she wasn't getting her hopes up. Most of her time was spent discussing politics, which turned out to be futile, since alliances were being formed and betrayed every second.
Throughout their interactions, Soume grew on Midna. The hypocrisy of her envy was most entertaining, but she soon found that, more than wishing she also had a child, she liked Soume because she resembled Zant in many ways. Aloofness, logic, good reflexes (literally and metaphorically), and the ability to walk backwards without bumping into anything. They opened up to one another, regaling each other with stories of their husbands.
Anwar sounded like a great Twili, from Soume's description. The two of them had shared as much Love as they did personality. Anwar had been sworn to another, as she also had been, but when they'd met, that obstacle shrank in the presence of Love. Granted, she only called him husband in the Gerudo sense, but Midna was touched nonetheless.
Zant, however, was always on Midna's tongue. She would tell of Zant's oddities, the differences between him and Anwar, when he had done similar things, and how much more romantic they were when done by him. And that one topic that never failed to return.
"After all that work he did to get me, why wouldn't he want me to bear his son?" Midna asked during their thirty-seventh conversation.
"Perhaps..." Soume began inanely, "he figured that you'd be going to the Time mage's realm, and...well, who knows what the portal would do to a child? Not to mention that you'd be stuck in Hyrule, and if they used the same thing they used for that other woman, there would be one less spot. Complicates things."
"Like I told him, we didn't have to go," said Midna obstinately. "Neither did a few of the others. And I was right, wasn't I? We shouldn't've gone at all. I kept teasing him about it, but he's too...he just can't get mad at me. Too busy studying, I guess. I tried beating him up a bit (in a loving way, of course) to see if it was even possible."
Soume shook her head. "You're such a sadist."
"And? That's nothing to be ashamed of." Midna held herself with pride. "Zant's never shared my disposition, sadly. He thought I was desperate."
"Ever think maybe that's the reason? You said you dated that other guy, but you left once he was...castrated."
"He dumped me. And it just wasn't working out. It wasn't anything to do with...that."
"Sure. But he might not have seen that."
"Except that I made it clear I despise Gerudo customs."
It was comments like these that made their friendship so difficult to keep. Midna was cooperative enough to take the form of a Gerudo, but that didn't mean she was going to shut up about it. Soume itched to burst out and tell her, in none too kind terms, that she knew exactly why Zant hadn't wanted to, but she didn't want the only other wizard in the realm as her enemy. And there were only worse times on the horizon.
On the fifth night, there was an ambush. Midna was awoken by a jittery Soume, feeling as though the queen had somehow acquired her lost energy. An explosion rocked the fortress, pushing her to the floor while Soume absorbed the shock and caught her. Midna hastily transformed into her Gerudo body, and they teleported.
Outside, there was pandemonium. Men fell from the windows, arrows found new quivers in defenseless Gerudo flesh, and the east wing of the fortress collapsed upon itself with a deafening crunch, adding hundreds of cries to the din.
"Stay by me," Soume ordered. She cupped her palms, facing each other, and a red and black sphere formed between them. As she cut the spell, a prominent Twili among the fighters fell face forward, his neck snapped. Midna almost protested before remembering that there were more than two sides to this war.
The two of them leapt into battle, Midna now pleasantly adroit at using the scimitars she was pretending to be familiar with. Soume TMed her with the targets, and she killed each one, having to put Gerudo faces on the Twili victims to neglect her instinct.
The fight went on till morning. It was bloody. It was confusing. And in the end, it was impossible for Midna to tell that they'd won, since the only evident result was a depletion of the same ambiguous forces. She followed Soume back inside, and they rested their muscles in a seldom-used sitting room.
Soume told her about Anwar as he fought his penultimate battle; how heroic he'd been, how close he had come to losing, how concerned she was when he returned to her injured, how he left shortly after and died, his enemy not even being courteous enough to let her see the body.
And it was now, for the first time, that Midna realized Zant was right. Gerudos, or Soume at least, were no different from Twili (besides the obvious contrasts). As much as she wanted, now, to publicly apologize for their poor treatment, she was still in need of hiding. Soume assured her that all was forgiven as long as she said it to even one of them (herself).
Midna would've been content to live the rest of her life here, doing the work Zant left behind. But, as it was bound to happen, there came quite a snag.
As time passed, it became harder for Midna to imagine anyone trying to kill Soume. They all seemed to look up to her, and even her enemies admired something about her. What it was, she couldn't tell, and didn't feel safe asking.
Midna was surprised, then, when the Gerudo bringing her dinner that night didn't leave the room immediately, staying to talk. "I have little time to tell you this," she said, hands still on the tray. Midna motioned for her to lay it down, and she did so absentmindedly. "I am the previous advisor."
"Soume said you were dead."
"I made her believe it was true."
The Gerudo gave her a furtive smile. "Personally, I don't think Soume should be trusted with the 'crown'. She is lent to trickery, as we all know. She got away with it because we were so amused, but the truth is, if she is willing to trick Midna, to flagrantly disrespect another woman's possessions like that, then how we can trust her to lead us honestly?"
Midna tried to hide her bewilderment, but it must've shown, for the Gerudo seemed to become suspicious. "Are you saying I should join you instead? By your own logic, shouldn't I be wary of your leadership, too?"
"Oh, I wouldn't be leading you, of course. My clan has no leader. We believe in a democracy, where everyone gets a say in our actions. So you wouldn't be joining me, per se, but rather the community. Working for the good of the people. And right now, that means getting rid of Soume."
"I'll think about it."
She laughed, taking a knife from some hidden location. "Think fast."
And Midna did. The knife flew at her, and she cast a simple Flotation Spell, turning it around and catching the Gerudo off guard. She used Matter Manipulation to spread the metal through the Gerudo's system, guaranteeing her death.
Not bothering to clean it up, Midna teleported to the throne room. Soume jumped from her seat, looking up in trepidation. "Oh! Hi... What's up?"
"What did you do?" Midna demanded, summoning her sword again, holding it at Soume's neck.
"What're you talking about?" Soume said, playing it safe.
"You know exactly what I'm talking about!" She hoped Soume wasn't going to ask for specifics, since she didn't know what she was talking about.
She sighed. "I should've known this would come up..."
"Then tell me!"
Soume pushed at Midna's sword, but she wouldn't rescind the threat. "I might as well..." She was still hesitant, but after a short pause she spoke freely. "I lied to you. My husband was Zant."
In her stunned silence, a bitter thought came to Midna: that's what she meant by "possessions". "Zant? But—that's not—"
"Back then I was just another servant, and I happened to be attending on him when you left. He knew you liked Dark Link, he got all emotional, and stuff just...happened. Then you came back, and he left, and now he's dead. There, happy?"
And of course she wasn't. "Zant would never do that!"
"Truth me, then." Midna did so, and was crushed to see that Soume was not lying, for once. "I'm sorry, Midna."
"No you're not." She couldn't be. She'd been really smug about having a child, boasted of Anwar's (Zant's) love for her, manipulated Midna so that she would sympathize, and had the nerve to say she was sorry?
How could Zant do this? After all they'd been through, he gave up because of Dark Link? He evidently hadn't known her as well as he'd bragged. Her love... She had wasted so much of her life on him, and yet this was how she was repaid.
Maybe that was why the Love's Resurrection hadn't worked: perhaps both people had to be completely in Love, and not just the living one. It would explain why she had lost her grip on the spell after only one moment of doubt. But she could never know. And, if Zant didn't love her...
Midna stabbed Soume in the heart. The Twilight Queen gasped, and pulled at the sword in vain (she couldn't repel it, and it was stuck into the throne as well). She took out her own scimitar, and gave Midna a shallow cut on the wrist before she jumped away. The Healing Spell took down Midna's disguise, but she wasn't paying attention.
Midna summoned Zant's vial, having left it in her room. She threw it in Soume's face, shattering it and her last hopes of getting Zant back. Crying, she clapped once, and a ring of fire encircled the throne.
Soume spit out a shard of glass, weakly grasping at air. "Idiot..." True, killing Soume would be to kill Zant's daughter, but a daughter conceived of lust, a child that shouldn't have existed. "Don't..."
Midna clapped again. The force of the explosion broke the last window, and knocked out a chunk of the east wall. Midna breathed deep, feeling her heart beat slow to a comfortable pace. It was over. Zant was dead.
And she was alive.
The sound attracted the attention of the servants outside the room. The door burst open, Twili and Gerudos flooding in. Midna turned to them, remembering now that her disguise was gone. There came screaming, yells of protest, and a large portion of the servants rushed forward, ready to kill. There was no way she could take them all, with her scarce knowledge of Emotion magic.
The generous sun shone on her pale skin, providing her final solace. The light from the Mirror was invisible beyond the shadow of the Arbiter's Grounds' wall, but still blinded her if she looked directly into it.
The only ones who could use the Twilight Realm portal were the Twilight Royal Family, the sages, Wise Wizards, and wizards given permission by any of the above. And it could only be used if the portal was open on the Light world's side. With Soume dead, anyone might become the new Twilight King or Queen. Then the Twilis and Gerudos would be able to escape.
She had failed Zant. But that was okay; he'd failed her even worse. She didn't know whether to feel angry at Zant for his sins or at herself for giving up on such an important task. But by no means were they even. Zant had wronged her. So he had thought she had wronged him. So he hadn't meant for it to happen at first. So he had probably wished he hadn't done it. No matter what facts were laid in his favor, he was beyond forgiveness.
Midna was crying still, and, knowing it was the right thing to do, Floated one of her tears towards the Mirror. It drifted jerkily forward, and seeped into the surface deftly. One crack spread from the middle to the right edge, breaking off into thirds, fifths, tens, and then being reciprocated on the other side, until it was impossible to retain its shape. The Mirror shattered into a million pieces, like the grains of sand around it.
But it still wasn't entirely safe. In this state, one more person could use the portal before the bridge crumbled to nothingness. And so it became her final choice: stay in the Light world, a dimension destined for destruction now that all the action was happening in the Time mage's realm, or return to the Twilight, where she would be hunted down and murdered for no other crime than resuming to live.
Knowing she would soon meet her husband again, Midna returned through the portal to her imminent death, and the abhorrent prospect of war...again.
There they go now,
There go all my friends.
There they go now,
Marching off to war again...
With their bright flags
Waving in the wind.
There they go now,
Marching off to war again...
As I said, the third story will be about Caleb (after the events of AOC). It's more of a Christmas story, but that's only because I sculpted the idea around that time.
Re: Legend of Link III: All The Pieces (Adv/Rom)(T)
Sorry for the delay, but I've been in a rut lately...trying to find the answers to life's questions and all that (the usual). And then I wasn't able to use the computer, and then when I was, the Internet wasn't working...
This one starts out good, but you'll notice where my talent ebbed away. I'm hoping it's not as bad as it seems. But, hey, it's a short story.
Sahara laid Euan gently in his crib, raising the covers to his shoulders and planting one tender kiss on his forehead. She was reluctant to leave his room now, knowing what she would find outside. She busied herself with adjusting the curtains so that only three thin slices of moonlight fell on him. He wasn't crying, so she used up another excuse checking to make sure he was okay.
But she would have to face it sometime tonight. Putting it off wouldn't change anything. Nothing could possibly make it better, and it would be so much worse for her if she kept trying not to think about it. So she slowly made her way out the door, leaving it open a crack to satisfy her superstitions.
Immediately, her calm was interrupted. "Mommy!" cried Nahara from the living room floor. "Mirinda took my glasses!"
Sahara marched to her station, overlooking the rest of her children: Link in Caleb's armchair, playing who-knew-what on his PSP; Nahara on the floor; Mirinda Floating Nahara's glasses teasingly above her sister; Hannah sitting next to Mirinda on the couch and reading some book for school; and, of course, the child who was taking no part in any such activities (either Lily or Matthew—they wouldn't find out for a few weeks yet).
But no Eleah. No longer would her firstborn grace the threshold of this straining-to-be-humble home. And there was nothing Sahara could do about that—Eleah would not return so long as Caleb resided there, and she still loved and needed her husband too much to meet her son's lofty demands. Blockheads, the both of them, but they were her life now.
Sahara had given up her dream of becoming a singer, like Caleb. She had realized very quickly all the ways artists were being exploited, marketed, cast aside as just another product, and would hate to become part of that system. Music was about soul, not rupees (except Caleb's song, "Little Green Rupee", which was one of her personal favorites). Caleb was good at that stuff, riding the labels' waves and retreating before they crashed down upon the others, making the right friends and acquaintances, and, overall, keeping the old quartet together. If anything ever happened to him, she would either have to rely on her children or join the game. For now, she was content with being a housewife.
"Mirinda, be nice to your sister," Sahara chastened, taking the glasses out of the air and breaking the feeble spell. Nahara put them back on and stuck her tongue out at Mirinda, now that she could see her again.
It was so strange, being in this household full of wizards when she had given up her own magic so irrevocably. She had done so because being Black Wizard had instilled such a deep resentment in her that to carry on when there was a possible escape was unbearable, and she did feel a strange freedom from that release, but she couldn't help wishing that she at least had some physical power over her family. Being without magic made her nearly helpless, though not so much as Laura had been when pregnant. After all, Caleb's abilities were still near Wise Wizard level.
Each of their children now had magic, but only the oldest four could use it yet—Eleah, Hannah, Mirinda, and Link. So far, the first two were growing up just as their true selves had. Every child had black hair, except Hannah, who was the only Matter Wizard, and thus inevitably separate from the others. But one difference lightened the load: each and every one of them had their father's eyes.
Sahara sat next to Hannah, knowing all too well that her presence was meaningless to her daughter. Hannah was always so exclusive, no matter what parenting methods they tried. Caleb had known Dark Link, and thus the original Hannah through him, and was frightened of what she might become, seeing as she didn't have the son of a god to look forward to. Sahara had assured him that she couldn't possibly end up like her, since she wasn't going to be trapped in the Dreamer's Dimension (which didn't exist now, since Rulm wasn't there to create it), or have the misfortune of being dragged away from dating her equally-ignorant brother.
But now she wished she had heeded his advice, and taken that extra step. As it was, Hannah kept to herself, engrossed in the books her school assigned for monthly reading, her poetry, and any music that her father had not produced. They were lucky to get much out of her on a weekly basis, though she seemed to be quite voluble when with her friends (from school, of course). She was, basically, a mystery.
Hannah's face was cold as she turned the thirty-sixth/thirty-seventh page, and betrayed no surprise as her phone rang. She brought it to her ear with a quick, fluid movement. "Hello?" And then she smiled. But it was a lonely smile, a this-is-all-you-get-to-see smile. Her next words were Silenced, as she always had it. In a way, it was a mercy, since she wasn't leaving the room, but it was almost worse, since Sahara knew that she may as well have been in another room, with how much attention she was giving them.
But worst of all was the absence of childish "Ooh, who're you talking to?" teases. No one wondered whether a potential boyfriend was on the other end, or if she had plans with so-and-so. Hell, they didn't even know her friends' names. She was practically invisible in the family. It was so infuriating when Hannah laughed in utter silence that Sahara wanted to slap her so she'd include them in her life.
Thankfully, Mirinda chose that moment to Float Hannah's book out of her hands, forcing her to acknowledge their existence. Hannah merely gave her a look, and manipulated the book's matter so that Mirinda had control now over just one of its atoms.
Mirinda was, Sahara kept telling herself, just like the little girl she'd taken care of so long ago, if she'd had more time to grow. Playful, cute, but a little annoying at times. She had just reached her teenage years, but her childish ways were all but past. She was still attention-seeking, as could be expected from any child among five (once six, and soon to be six again), whereas the rest seemed somewhat content.
Link, at ten ("And a half!" he frequently corrected), was moderately active, playing video games as much as his father used to, and with Caleb's dreams as well (though they knew it was a phase, with there being so many "Guitar Hero"s and "Rock Band"s out there right now). He was Caleb's second favorite, given that he still liked Eleah. And Nahara was just a big complainer. Her inability to use magic was her most recent grievance, but they were willing to deal with it in apprehension of whatever might follow.
The doorbell rang. Heart leaping, Sahara sprang up, hopped over Nahara's leg, and sprinted to the door. With eager, clumsy hands, she undid the lock and yanked it open.
He stepped smoothly inside, closing the door with a quick spell, extinguishing the cold that had begun to creep in (or, to stop the warmth from creeping out). They embraced, Caleb lifting her and spinning around once. "Sah."
"Daddy!" exclaimed Nahara, leading the others (minus Hannah) to the front.
"Hey..." Caleb bent down to welcome her new complaints, ruffled Link's hair, and kissed Mirinda (she was on the border of not allowing this anymore). Then he looked up, and his smile wavered on Hannah. "Han, I'm home!"
She nodded at him. Caleb sighed, and returned to his more enthusiastic children. Sahara put one arm around him, giving him a peck on the cheek as he gave her that I-told-you-so look. "We missed you."
"Don't leave anymore, Daddy," Nahara demanded, with charming sincerity.
Caleb laughed, though Sahara could hear the pain it had cost him. "Don't worry Nay-hay, I'll be around long enough for you to get tired of me again."
Caleb brought up Facebook, getting ready to post the latest pictures from his cell. Seeing a 1 by his Inbox, he put his phone down and checked it out. It was from John (I.Dig.A.Pygmy Lennon.II), titled, "You Can't Do That":
omg! I jus saw Lar & Clair 2gether! wtf is he thnkn? he noes i'm hiting on er, wuts his prob?! we no mor'n lef da tour! Cal, do somut's 'bout dis, pronto.
—With all due sincerity, dignity, respect, and utmost expectations of immediate action in my favor,
Supreme Overlord, King John "I Dig A Pygmy" Lennon the II (You're never too old to IMAGINE)
To which Caleb replied:
Sry, its yr prob. Looks lik yr gonna lose that girl.
Larry and Claire, eh? Interesting. John had kept her on the side for years, having gotten married and divorced twice already. She did deserve someone better than John, unable to make up his mind. And if Larry was finally finding a woman he could open up to, then Caleb wasn't going to stand in the way of such a blessing.
"Caleb, come to bed," Sahara called sleepily.
"Just a sec." He waited for John to reply. The band had just returned from their second world tour, and the tension between John and Larry had been well hidden through it all. To see it rise back to the surface once they were all back home, with none of the strenuous scheduling to bring it about, was very strange for Caleb.
Dude, she's so rigt fr me doh! C'mon, HELP! (Not just anybody...)
—With all due sincerity, less dignity, even less respect, and rock bottom expectations,
His Excellency, the Esteemed Emperor John "The Walrus Was Paul" Lennon the II and three quarters (You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout, I'm tellin' you why: INSTANT KARMA's gonna getcha!)
Caleb could breath easy. Obviously, John was just being John. Which was always fun, as long as you knew what the hell he was talking about.
The prob wit maryng Ms. Right is she taks yr last name.
That was always such a hard joke to pull off. John knew how to tell it, and so he'd get it right away. Something like that was more of a thought-joke. Still, because this was John, it would nicely end this little episode on a pleasant note.
Lol, that's not funy (y'd I lol den, lol?) LOLs all 'round!
—With all due, and more, joviality, silliness, frivolity, and general rotflmao-ing,
My Highness, Captain John "Always, No, Sometimes Think It's Me" Lennon the II to the first power (That's what SHE SAID SHE SAID)
Leaving the pictures for tomorrow, he logged off, deliberately walking over to their bed (instead of teleporting, as he sometimes did). He slipped in under the covers, sidling up to Sahara. She put down the book she'd been reading (one of those political books; there was a presidential election coming up next year).
"John says Larry's going with Claire."
"That's nice." She wasn't turning the light off, so he shifted to more of a sitting position to accommodate the conversation she wanted. "I'm guessing John's mad?"
"Nah, he's fine. Just shocked."
Caleb turned over to her, putting one loving hand over her bloated stomach. "You okay?"
She smiled at his touch. "Yeah, I... It's just that...you aren't gonna be around here that long, are you?" The accusation in her voice stung more than she intended.
"Of course I am. We just finished a tour, for Din's sake. We're about done with the next album, even. I can take a break." Seeing this wasn't exactly going to cut it, he added, "That's my excuse to the fans, anyway. It's Christmas! And I wouldn't miss my fourth daughter's birth for anything."
Sahara could see his quiet indignation, and relented. "For the last time, it's gonna be a boy, and we're gonna name him Matthew."
"Yeah, but now we're out of good people to name them after, so it may as well be a girl. There's still Lucia, Sara, Zelda, Midna..."
She blushed. "Just how many are we planning on having?"
"As many as we can love."
"Give or take."
Sahara joined hands on her belly, and they kissed. "My, we are getting ahead of ourselves, aren't we? How are we gonna find the time? We already have six kids, and you in your band too. When are we gonna find time to be alone?"
"We're alone right now, aren't we?"
Sahara laughed, and kissed him again. "And before you try disillusioning me...you've gotta do something about Eleah."
"I will," Caleb assured her. "You can count on that."
"What was the point, anyway? Why were you so hard on him?"
"Cuz I'm stupid. It wasn't his fault, really. He's just...Eleah. Just like your father. Well, he is your father, in a manner of speaking. The same with Hannah. I just...I couldn't get along with him back then, and I should've learned to put up with it, but I didn't."
"Not that again..."
Caleb put his forehead against Sahara's. "Stop worrying. I'll fix things. You just have to give me some time and some faith. Can you do that?"
Her next kiss was all the answer he needed, but it was still good to hear her say it. "Anything for you, Caleb."
The next morning, Sahara came downstairs to find Caleb playing Rock Band with Link. In the kitchen, Mirinda was Floating food towards a hysterical Euan, who stuffed it in his mouth when he caught it, while Nahara playfully competed with him (though his flailing hands constantly knocked off her glasses).
Hannah was at the door. "Where are you going?"
She turned without any evident annoyance. "Out."
Sahara rolled her eyes. "When'll you be back?"
"Okay..." Sahara stared, disbelieving, as Hannah left (using the door because of a spell Caleb placed that forbade them from teleporting while inside). She looked at Caleb questioningly, and he didn't stop playing as he explained.
"Don't be so surprised. She's just going to the library with some friends. School project."
"Thank Farore they needed her," Sahara sighed, coming in to watch. "Did you know she Silences herself when she's on the phone?"
"Ever since she learned how."
Sahara went to the kitchen to feed Euan properly. She joined her younger daughters in playing with him for about an hour before Caleb took them all out to eat. For Sahara's health, they had to take the car, and they got back around two.
A second through the door, Caleb received a call. He talked for a few minutes as Sahara settled Euan and Nahara back into a relatively calm mood (though Nahara insisted on complaining about their lunch's quality).
"Party at Steve's," Caleb announced, taking his place next to Link.
"Cool." Sahara fought past the lump in her throat. "'Course, that means Hannah'll have to sit for us."
"She'll be fine." Caleb took it upon himself to TM Hannah now. Excuse me.
Your mother and I are going to a party on Tuesday. Which means you'll have to babysit. Don't have any plans, do you?
Maybe it wasn't okay to assume such things yet. Still, she could've made her thoughts sound a bit more...frustrated. Didn't she care that they were invading her private life? Or didn't she have one? In which case, why couldn't she at least pretend she did?
The doorbell rang. Confused, Sahara jumped to get it. She gasped, and Caleb turned to look, dropping the plastic guitar as he rushed forward.
"Tim!" Caleb and Sahara said as one.
"Surprise." There he was, exactly as they remembered him: pure white cloak and hair, with that all-consuming grin and ever-joyous countenance. He had left his staff at home, having crossed his arms for warmth against this mid-December weather. He stepped inside, shivering slightly.
"What're you doing here?" asked Sahara. "Where's Hannah?"
Tim walked past them into the house, as the kids came to inspect their strange visitor. "Merry Christmas, all. I need to speak privately with Mommy and Daddy, so excuse any inconvenience this may cause."
"Did something happen?" Caleb suddenly became scared for Hannah—that is, his daughter, and not Tim's wife. But Tim would not answer them until the children had situated themselves in the living room, and they had sat down at the kitchen table, with the doors closed and the room Silenced.
"To answer your question, Caleb, yes, something happened. But there's always something happening, and I doubt you'd be very interested in most goings-on in the continuum."
"What'd you come for, then?"
Tim paused for effect. "I've come because Gramarye is offering Caleb a gift."
Caleb and Sahara looked at each other. "He didn't want to give it to me in person?"
"This is not just any gift, Caleb. Nothing material, anyway. And it is entirely up to you if you want to accept it or not."
Sahara was beginning to worry already. "Why, is it a fruitcake?"
Tim lost his smile, becoming infectiously serious. "It is something which He feels Caleb will want, more than anything. Though, I must tell you, it will cost both of you something equally precious."
"Just tell us," Caleb laughed.
"Gramarye has asked me to give you the privilege of traveling between worlds once—there and back—to visit Termina. To spend three days with Link."
Caleb was speechless. Tim had just given him the one offer he could not refuse. To see his father! To be with his father again after so many years, after watching him die at Evol's hands. To fulfill his previously-hopeless dream of finally making amends with Link, whom he once lived to disappoint. But then Sahara brought him back to icy reality.
"You said it'd cost us."
Tim proceeded with his gravest demeanor yet. "Yes, it will. Since time is so different between worlds, three days in Termina would translate to a week or two here, give or take a few days, depending on when, exactly, you arrive and depart."
"Will I be back for Christmas?" Caleb was conscious of Sahara's discomfort at his word choice.
Now they were both confused. "Then what's the big sacrifice?"
Tim hesitated as long as he could stand it. "If you should decide to go, you will miss the birth of your seventh child."
"Nonsense. She's not due for a month still."
But Sahara knew the facts before he uttered them. "Technically, by her doctor's estimate, she's due in three weeks and one day. But he's wrong (which shouldn't be that hard to believe, I would think). It will be a premature birth, and you will miss it if you leave. Remember, I can't lie."
"Can't you just send me back to the time I left? You are the Time mage, after all."
"I would, but—"
"Let me guess," Caleb sighed. "Gramarye won't let you."
Caleb looked to Sahara, expression unfathomable so as to receive some direction. But, of course, not to decide is to decide, and he could see already that this would be something she'd want to have a long talk about. He turned his eyes despondently on Tim. "I'm starting to see why Eleah didn't like you."
Hannah arrived ten minutes late, and by that time Tim had left, saying he would return tomorrow to hear their decision. Caleb and Sahara talked about it the whole day, and by nightfall it became the worst argument they had ever had.
"What happened to 'I wouldn't miss my fourth daughter's birth for anything'?"
"Sah, I did mean it, but—c'mon, my dad! How could I pass this up?" Caleb personally couldn't see why it was so important for him to witness this birth, as he had each one before, but he wouldn't raise that point since he knew how much it must've meant to her.
"Because you promised to be here for me. And when you make a promise, I expect you to follow through."
"Sah, you got to see your father again. Why don't I get a turn?"
"Oh, and you were just playing games with a total stranger, were you?"
"Our Link's not the same! Eleah's the exact same person, and you got to have him for eighteen years—"
"Which makes up for the time I spent without him as a child. I promise you, I've had less time with my father than you have."
"Yeah, but my dad died. Yours just stopped existing till you bore him a second time. Whereas you can see him anytime you want, this is my one chance to have just three days—"
Sahara scoffed. "'Anytime I want'? Right! Why don't you call him, see if he'll drop by for supper?"
"At least he still talks to you!"
"All he ever says is 'Get a divorce!' I love you, Caleb, and it breaks my heart to hear him say it. I don't wanna have to use that as a threat."
"I'm doing something about him!"
"Yeah, you keep saying that."
"Well, if you didn't ask me so often..."
"Caleb, our Eleah is not my father. Just as our Link is not yours. But...neither is the Link of Termina. He is what your father would've been if he never met your mother, if he stayed away from Hyto, if he was forced to live among the Terminians for the rest of his life. He doesn't know you."
"I understand that. But I just have to see him."
"It would be best for us all if you didn't."
"What can I say that would please you?"
"Say you don't want to go."
"And what if I do? Then what?"
"Sah, what's the big deal?"
She gaped at him. "'The big'...? Caleb, our baby is the big deal! You've been there every time I squeezed one out, and now you don't care anymore, that's the big deal!"
"Of course I care—"
"I didn't mean you had to lie about everything."
"How could you think I don't care?"
"Cuz you're leaving, duh!"
"Sah, I've been there for each one because I wanted to. And I want to be there again. But this is the chance of a lifetime. If I don't do this now, I'll never see him. Ever. I'll have the rest of my life to know our next daughter, but—"
"And how do I know you won't do this again?"
"I mean leaving. You might get the idea that it's okay to deliberately miss my labors. Maybe next time it's an extension of the tour or something."
"But I end those things for you."
"Will you? If extending it means getting the money we need at a critical point, will you?"
"Yes," Caleb said eagerly. "Yes, I will."
"Or if Tim comes again. What if it's your sisters, or Cole, or your old band, or the Princess, or...hell, what if it's Gray?"
He was confused until he remembered Dark Link's nickname. "Just this once, Sah. Hold me to that. If I ever do it again, leave me."
"What's to say I won't leave you now?"
Caleb touched her cheek. "This."
And she could see it; that intense sincerity in his eyes and the warmth spoke for them both. He was sorry. She could forgive him. All would be well, so long as neither of them worried. Sahara would—could—never leave him. And Caleb was still keeping his promise—this wasn't just anything, it was a golden opportunity.
"How 'bout a card next time?"
Tim summoned his staff. "Gramarye's too personal for that. Cloak on."
Caleb stared at him like he was crazy. "Cloak?"
"Yes, cloak. A wizard's garment whose color usually displays the wearer's affinity, and is worn as a cover-all, though it is a good idea to wear it over something else, since it gives no protection from temperature or objects that may come in through any of the holes, and is too loose for the preference of most."
"Why should I bother?"
Tim laughed. "As comfortable as you may be, denim is not very common in Termina, and not many have picked up on the concept of logos. I think it would be best if you establish yourself as a mere visitor—a sightseer, I think—who happens to be my friend. I've touched base there, see, so the idea won't be too...alien to them. Best to stay inconspicuous, still."
Caleb summoned his white cloak, moving around awhile to readjust. He hadn't the dexterity of a White Wizard anymore, so it would take a while to get used to it again; a skill Sahara probably still owned, having lived as a Black Wizard for almost half of her life.
Tim performed the usual ritual, tracing an eight around them with his staff. Then, before Caleb was all that ready, blue light flashed around them, and they were gone. Traveling from one world to another, instead of from time to a timeless dimension, so that the feeling was new to him. In fact, all that seemed to have transpired was a shift of perspective. They reappeared in Termina Field, where it was, luckily, fall again.
"Do we seriously have to walk the whole way there?" Caleb asked indignantly.
"It's a skill you'll have to master at some point."
"Why not take us to the Square, at least?"
"Cuz then we'd be even farther away." Tim began to lead him away from Clocktown, making a bee line for Milk Road. Deku Babas sprang up from the grass around them, bowing to Tim as he passed, and lunging at an unaware Caleb. He Cut each of their roots, and picked up the pace to catch up with the Time mage.
"What the hell?"
"I'm Gramarye's son. He will surely avenge any harm that may befall me, so all beings have the instinct to abstain from provoking Him. But you haven't such a protection."
After a minor skirmish with Takkuri, Caleb summoned his sword in preparation. The Ordon—or, to be more accurate, the Light—Sword, which once belonged to his father. He had never been in Termina, so he was irritated to find that no more enemies presented themselves on the way. Caleb heard boisterous laughter from their left, and quickly identified it as that of the Gorman Brothers. The fact warped the sound into something sinister—what good could there be in something that they found pleasing? But his common sense assuaged him: these Brothers were different, having changed since their heinous crimes of Laura's bedtime stories.
Caleb couldn't help glancing at the clumps of grass where Link had called forth the Keaton by wearing his mask, and was quizzed in his knowledge of the world he had unwillingly been forced to embrace, to the extent where he would know each and every answer. And they passed through, on the road, the area where Link had used a Powder Keg to destroy the boulder placed there by Majora. He was walking over the same ground where his father had ran, Bunny Hood quickening his pace, to see just what treasures lay in First-Day Romani Ranch. Where the parallel Epona had transported him to face the very Gorman Brothers he had just overheard.
When he let Tim know what he was thinking (though he shortened it so as to keep from showing the depth of this craze), he warned, "Don't get sentimental just yet. Remember, this Link doesn't know you, so you can't leave bare any ties you had with him. We don't want to burden his simple life with the tales of a world that no longer is."
Caleb nodded, and walked alongside him in silence as they followed the road towards the ranch. Past the fence, past one grazing cow that once knew the constant, warm presence of Cremia, and finally on to equal footing with the buildings themselves. There was that crate, the floating alien balloon, and that crazy little dog—no, actually, this dog was different, a black terrier, but hey, a dog nonetheless. And there, sadly, in the first of the newly-made stalls, a wan Epona, sickeningly weathered by the years, one leg sustaining some horrible, bandaged wound. The other horses, with her same hue, galloped around the ranch's perimeter aimlessly.
The history here was overwhelming.
Suddenly, there came a loud pop!, and the balloon, now only feet to their right, disappeared, the crate being draped in orange and black rubber, which the dog promptly carried off in its mouth. Caleb jumped at the noise, Tim chuckling, having been completely undaunted, as always.
Caleb looked up and saw, sitting atop the roof of the house, a young boy with red hair, holding something that looked suspiciously like the Hero's Bow. He had the same build as Caleb had had at his age (perhaps a bit more muscular, but that was to be expected in a world without the technology to mesmerize such a child into self-indulgent complacency). Caleb checked his name with his remaining White Wizard senses, and was slightly touched at what he found.
Tim waved. "Good day to you, Mido!"
Mido waved back, then adroitly slid down, launching from the roof into a soft landing. He opened the door and yelled to the inhabitants, "They're here!"
Caleb braced himself. But the suspense was only prolonged; the one who came out to greet them was Romani (who looked much like Cremia at this age). "Welcome back, Tim," she said, shaking his and Caleb's hands kindly.
"I'll just be in for a second," Tim informed, rustling Mido's hair as they followed Link's wife inside. Then the hurricane.
It caught him off guard. There they all were, in the flesh. The men Caleb had seen dead:
Firah, with his hair in an awkward, but somehow natural, ponytail. He looked much fiercer than Caleb remembered (though, he'd only seen him in the perfection that was the Sacred Realm). He ignited a quiet flame in Romani's stove, and handed her the ladle as she began to stir in some seasoning.
Luke "Fierce Deity", with his shockingly blue eyes (he had seen him only once, in the same place as Firah, so this was not quite as difficult to believe as it may have been). He wasn't wearing that strange Terminian armor right now, but Caleb was sure he still owned it. He sat at the table, laughing wildly at some recent joke.
Link. His traditional tunic on, just as it had been when he died. His face a mix of shared laughter and faint surprise at Tim and Caleb's arrival. His short blond hair, calm blue eyes, compassionate smile, and slightly awkward posture. His gaze penetrated into Caleb's mind and fished out all of the fond memories of his father. In that instant, he saw Link trying to teach him swordplay, encouraging his musical prowess, beating him at Halo, killing Sutar...and then the bad: Link being stabbed by Rulm, his long internment in the Dreamer's Dimension, his frank disregard for Caleb's deeds once he was free, and being killed by Evol. He felt like this was the Sacred Realm again, and these three had just been waiting for him all this time.
And then there was Navi, of course.
"Hey! Look!" the fairy shouted, bouncing in a figure-8 near Link's head.
"Hey Tim," Link greeted, motioning for them to take a seat.
Tim nodded. "Link, this is my friend, Caleb." They came forward, and Caleb shook their hands, trembling a little as he did so (it was a little cool outside—but it was definitely autumn in Termina—so they didn't find it strange). Link motioned again. "I'm sorry to say that I shan't be staying. But Caleb here wishes to spend a couple of days in your care."
It had been agreed upon beforehand, so there were no qualms over his intrusion. "Came at a good time," said Luke darkly.
Caleb looked at Tim. "Don't tell me..."
Link took it up. "The Carnival of Time's a few days away. Which means it's about time for those aliens to show up again."
"And that's why they're here?"
"Somebody's gotta do it," said Firah, confusing him. Premonitions crept into his mind as he inquired his meaning.
"Well..." replied Link, putting down his utensils. Firah went to him and pulled back at his chair. Link slid back smoothly, as his seat was actually...a wheelchair. And his left leg...gone (with some bandages on his side, where the Link he'd known had been hit so many times). "At the very least, I'm gonna need some help this year."
Caleb tried not to let his fear show. "When did that happen?"
"Five months ago," Link sighed, acting as if this grotesque sight were nothing special. "We were going after Sunah and I got caught by some Blue Fire." Caleb winced at the thought, and wrestled with silencing the accompanying question: had he amputated it himself, or were Firah and Luke given the task?
"Which you could've avoided," Romani said, pouring stew into seven bowls, "by staying here, like you were supposed to."
Firah finally took a seat as Caleb and Tim did so as well. "In any case, here we are."
"You wanna help?" Luke asked.
Would I!, Caleb mentally laughed. "Sure thing."
Tim left after eating his fill, leaving Caleb to reacquaint himself with the Wizards of Termina. Link had changed so much. Instead of his usual suggestive banter, he treated Romani with a charming deference, the same attitude Caleb showed towards Sahara around the kids. It felt almost as if she weren't really his wife, but someone else's. As if Laura just wasn't there, and he was waiting for her return. It was the first sign that things weren't right here.
As it got darker outside, Mido popped inside once more to announce the last arrival of the day: Kafei, Cole, and Skull Kid. Cole was exactly the same, and he joined Mido outside, practicing with the balloons. Romani went out to watch over them.
Then Link brought out the Chateau Romani, and it became a real party. He saw now, as he had never had the privilege of seeing before, his father unwinding. Speaking with him as an equal. They each went around sharing depreciative anecdotes of their wives (except Skull Kid, of course, who sulked during this period of the conversation), and by the end, as Firah gave them a long-winded explanation of his wife's most recent misunderstanding, they were too wasted to care.
They sang a famous Terminian drinking song, Caleb picking up on the second verse, recognizing it as only a few words off of a Hytoian one he knew well (they didn't notice his deviance from their version because it didn't matter—he was drunk, after all). They got in a few pointless arguments, but kept enough sense to end them at the right time. Complete nonsense was said, and was shot down by equally complete nonsense. Navi, Tatl, and Tael were conscience-stricken, trying keep them in line.
Now, this was worth it!, thought Caleb as he and Link arm-wrestled in midair. He was home.
Caleb awoke in the barn without any idea of how he got there. All that mattered as he saw the others, minus Link, lying on either hay or a sleeping mat, was that wizards were unable to dull the pain of a hangover (it wouldn't be fair if they could drink all they wanted with impunity). Each of them dealt with it in their own way, dousing themselves with water or banging their heads against the walls and floor. Mido burst in on them, aggravating them further by banging pots together to declare breakfast was on.
Their food was cold when they got there, but they reheated it by magic, and were all feeling as good as they expected they ever would. Kafei and Cole left at noon, and soon Caleb was forced to leave for a while as well, if only to give merit to his disguise as sightseer.
He had the entire world of Termina before him to explore, and a million stories to see confirmed by any remaining evidence (for Laura's tales dealt mainly with things before Link found Navi). The first order of business was to see Clocktown.
Caleb could've done this at any point when they lived in the old reality, but he had no regrets there. Everything was exactly the same—not that he would know—so he wasn't really missing anything. He saw all the people Link had met (except the old lady from the Bomb Shop and Anju's grandmother, who had died by now), went into all the same stores, and took it all in pedantically.
He saw the sights: the compass-divided terrain of Termina Field, Southern Swamp, the Deku Palace (where monkeys were now welcome), Woodfall, the Goron Village, Snowhead, Great Bay, the Gerudo Pirates' fortress, Zora Cape, the Great Bay Temple, Ikana Graveyard, Ikana Canyon, Stone Tower, and, before he forgot, Allara's Temple.
At first he was shocked to find that it still existed. After all, it had been created for Allara's use in tracking down Brakek (and taking a break from said task). Unless Gramarye had allowed it to remain just for this visit? (Caleb didn't know that Sutar had destroyed it last time.)
This spot was especially meaningful for Caleb because it was here that his father "died" by Sutar's hands, activating the blessing Allara had placed on the temple and offering his male descendants magic. It was here—though he hadn't even been a zygote at the time—that he had been given the power of a White Wizard, and the fate of defeating Evol.
He relaxed by stripping down and jumping into the central pool of water, floating away in both body and mind, letting the bits and pieces of yesterday spread themselves out in his head. He hadn't been away long enough to miss Sahara, but he still regretted how he had left her. Tim needed some tact. The way he had put this forth was all wrong, and Caleb was torn, feeling that he was right to take the deal, but also guilty for his wife's loneliness.
And yet, he felt great. He'd seen Link again, not to mention all his friends. And the child who had taken Caleb's place. Mido. How fitting. This really was a wonderful place, Termina... He had had reservations, thinking it wouldn't be as picture-perfect as Laura portrayed it, but it certainly was. He couldn't ask for anything more.
His mood lifted, and he took to swimming highly-contented laps, languishing in the happy thoughts that this pool brought forth. He fully submerged himself, putting a spell on his lungs so he would be able to breath. Once under, he couldn't help but keep pushing himself lower—he couldn't imagine ever going back to the surface. And, though something in the back of his mind was nagging him, telling him something was wrong, he couldn't see why it should be so, and he was a White Wizard, wasn't he? What could possibly harm him?
And so it seemed that he had nothing to fear as he traveled on downwards, the exercise becoming increasingly pleasing. He hadn't swam in quite a while, had he? He really should take more time off for such activities...
Caleb saw an opening in the stone to his right, and sensed the corridor that led off in that direction. It was, without a doubt, the way his father, Gray, and Luke had gone when they came for the fourth round of the Trivulian Tournament, where they'd found the wooden pillar depicting Allara that had given them away to Sutar. But he knew that passage already. What else was there to discover here?
He came to a point where the water was pitch black all around him, and he used a light spell to find that he still wasn't at the bottom. Somehow this was comforting, the idea of being fully surrounded, engulfed by this water. He never expected the truth of this feeling until he reached the end. As the floor came into view, as his light covered all of its dimensions, hiding nothing, and he was feeling downright blissful, he saw another person there, waiting for him.
It was Sahara.
Immediately, he shook off the Deep Pleasure enchantment he'd been under, and his mood gradually dropped back to a realistic level. This Sahara before him (naked, for she was a mermaid) reminded him of where his joy had come from, where he had left it. She was beautiful, but he knew this wasn't his wife; merely a representation, and exaggeration, of her most attractive physical qualities. The effect was lost on Caleb, who only felt shame when he stared into her red eyes (those he had seen when they first dated, and that he had made her change, but he still found seductive).
"Greetings, my love," the mermaid said in Sahara's voice, gracefully approaching and placing a hand on his cheek. There was warmth in her touch, but it was a false one. Caleb grabbed her arm, momentarily distracted by how smooth her skin was, and defended himself from her fake-love spells.
With magic making their actions fluid, he asked the first question to come to his mind. "How'd you get here?"
She giggled, in that cute (but private) way that she kept for his ears only, and Caleb grew in silent anger at her methods. How could she possibly know about that? Was no secret safe from such creatures? "Do not worry yourself with such things, dear."
"Tell me," Caleb insisted. "This temple's in the air, and mermaids can't teleport or be teleported, so..."
In the most submissive way she could, to give Caleb the illusion of power, she replied, "Euan put me here to tempt Brakek, yet I serve none but you."
Evol had done it? Ah, so that was what Sahara had meant! Sutar had only known that he liked Hannah because of this mermaid, which led to his rash decisions, his disregard for Mirinda, and his eventual downfall. Evol had planned that, too, it seemed...he had really expected to beat Caleb, hadn't he? And now, in this new reality, they had done this again, to tempt Brakek instead, perhaps so he would realize he didn't actually want Allara, but should spread to other worlds and repopulate the dragon race. "Clever..."
The mermaid, impatient, swam up into Caleb's face, looking into his eyes with the same (if not more) intensity Sahara had shown the last time they'd made love. "Come now, Caleb, do not keep me waiting..."
Something in Caleb wanted to give. Something bubbled inside of him, a feeling he hadn't felt in many years, and the desire to oblige was growing. He put one hand on her back, caressing that familiar territory with more care than he meant.
As their bodies touched, Caleb couldn't go on. Acting as if he had been meaning to do it all along, he summoned his sword, and thrust the blade diagonally through the mermaid's heart. She died instantly, her figure becoming limp in his hands as the water around her was steadily stained red.
And then Caleb became the only mortal man to ever see a mermaid's true form. It was nothing like the stories foretold. It was grotesque, more like an octopus than anything else. Nine tentacles were attached, in no particular pattern, to a disfigured, bent up shark, with many barnacles stuck to its hide.
Well, you know what they say, Caleb thought as he struggled with getting his sword out, "Beauty is only skin deep..."
Caleb was embarrassed at the hesitation with which he had disposed of the mermaid, and couldn't bring himself to even mention the encounter to Link when he returned to the ranch in the evening. He had done a bit more exploring, finding the nooks and crannies of the world where his father had searched out of curiosity: holes in the ground, inside a waterfall, Sakon's hideout, etc. He had even gone out to the clearing where the Trivulian Tournament was once held (Firah hadn't taken up the mantle, and thus it had faded away).
All the preparations were complete when he got there. Mido stood on the roof again, with five full quivers on his back. Luke donned his Fierce Deity armor, and equipped the double helix sword (though he agreed it would be overkill). Skull Kid had undergone a total transformation—his head was covered by an assortment of feathers which he could pluck and use as swords, his purple gloves had a spell on them that brought forth a translucent shield when tapped, and the triangles on his belt were like magic grenades. Firah...was Firah.
The barn now had a Barrier around it, and soon Caleb came to see that this defense they were going about was more of a leisure activity than the life-and-death scenario that Link had had to deal with so long ago. The others were here, not so much because he needed them there, but because they enjoyed being in his company and, more or less, the task that had brought them there was in their area of expertise.
At two, they were ready to go. The horses were in their stalls, the cows in the safe barn, Link and Romani nearby, and under the same protection. The wizards and Skull Kid stood in formation in the middle of the field, using the lights from the house and barn to see each other as they joked around in anticipation.
Caleb felt at home with these guys, but soon the very scene of it thrust upon him the same surreal mood he'd had as White Wizard. The black sky, the moon invisible behind the trees, that good ol' ranch smell, the laughter shaking his body and pleasing to his ears. All of it seemed to hang in the air, suspended by some sense of greater purpose.
Suddenly, a red light flashed above their heads. They looked up at the shimmering orb that was the aliens' vessel with mild alarm and faint curiosity as to the physics involved. The light moved fluidly through the air, bounding across the field in every direction. It made no sound as it moved, but the eerie, purple, flashlight-eyed, clawed aliens that it produced made a strange clicking sound as they materialized.
There were more of them than Caleb had been told. Laura spoke of a small force, eleven at the most. But here, in no apparent pattern or organization whatsoever, were exactly fifty aliens. And there were more to be had, since they would respawn...
Skull Kid tapped on his shield, and flung a triangle at the nearest clump of extra-terrestrials. All five conceded defeat, vanished, and were replaced almost instantaneously. Mido called for help, and Firah took it on; the aliens behind the barn were much more numerous than usual, and he couldn't possibly hold them off alone. This left the three of them with the daunting job of defeating the rest a million times.
But that was why they were here. Caleb unsheathed the Light Sword and began hacking away. The aliens fell before him hopelessly, not even halting his blade as it cut them down effortlessly. Luke used Double Wrath, one sword trailing through a line of enemies and the other going through again once they came back. Skull Kid took out a feather-sword and lunged forward, going crazy.
Beyond annihilation, there was no objective. They didn't have to worry about the barn, though Mido decided to, and the aliens were so weak that you really had to pity them. Caleb slashed left and right, reveling in the superiority. Just as with the Deep Pleasure spell, his problems faded out of mind. No regret about Sahara, no remorse for Eleah, no worry about Hannah...
And he fell into a daze, his mission consuming all his will. Nothing in the world mattered, save the fun he was having now. This feeling of dreamlike omnipotence overtook him, more intoxicating than the spirits of the night before, so that he hardly even noticed as the sun began to rise.
The vanishing of the aliens came as a shock to Caleb, whose being emptied in the blink of an eye. Like turning out a light (or turning on, in this case), all that energy disappeared. The world was void of substance, save for three men, a woman, her son, an irreversibly transformed imp, and three fairies, all converging in the middle of the field.
Nothing was left. After such a long time, Caleb had lost himself. The dream was over, but he hadn't awoken. For the second time, he got the feeling that maybe he shouldn't have come.
Link sat in bed, stretching his good leg, just cuz he could. Caleb, in Link's wheelchair, stared at the stump in disdain. The others were gone. It was just the two of them, Romani and Mido outside doing chores. "You're crazy," Link said.
"What?" Caleb looked up, wondering if he'd missed something.
"This morning. Total obliteration." Link let his hands drop to his bandage, and Caleb was distracted again as he traced its lines idly.
"I don't get out much."
Link smiled. "What's it like in Hyto?"
"Exhausting," Caleb said, truthfully enough. "We may be more advanced, but believe me: simplicity's underrated."
"That's why you came here?"
Caleb sincerely gave that some thought. "Somewhat. Life gets pretty hectic when you have so much opportunity to take."
Link raised an eyebrow. "You're just taking it for granted."
Caleb sighed. "You couldn't possibly know how frequently people say that."
"I'm curious, though..." Link's tone was strange, as if he suspected the truth about Caleb's intentions. "Tim says it's not common for people to move across worlds. I thought I was the only one till I met him. So...for you to come here, just to see what the world's like...is it a normal thing for Hytoians?"
Caleb didn't want to lie to his father again, but knew that Tim would stop him if he tried to reveal anything, and so made a compromise. "Link, I'm gonna be honest with you. I came here because...you're just like my father."
"Ah. Guilt trip?"
"My father died defending me. And I never got to reconcile with him. So Tim told me about you, a sort of...'parallel' of him. Most worlds have them, it seems. I needed a break from my work, too, so I decided to kill two birds with one stone."
"So that's why." He meant his leg (what else?). "I figured you took to it strangely. Sorry to disappoint any physical expectations."
"Don't worry, he never was quite that lucky anyway." He wanted to tell him how these "parallels" seemed to also share the same area prone to attack, but felt that it would be pushing it. What if he wanted to know more, thinking their fates were tied as one? He didn't want to cause him any grief. "I know this is gonna sound weird, but...could you do me a favor?"
"Sounds sane so far."
"Could you...say you're proud of me?" Now it hit him just how little he had gotten out of this experience, that he was asking this of him hours before his departure.
"I'm proud of you."
"Like you mean it. Like it's...Mido."
"Oh, well, when you put it that way..." He cleared his throat, prepped for a few seconds, and went ahead in the most serious tone you could imagine. "Caleb, I'm proud of you."
It was the way he said "Caleb". That threw it all off. As he looked into the eyes of this psuedo-father, it just wasn't there. No matter how, consciously, he was able to fool himself...it wasn't right. This hadn't been worth it. "Thanks," he said gratefully, not letting his inner conflict show.
Caleb looked past him, staring off into space. He wanted to be with Sahara. "Tell me...what is 'home' to you?"
Link didn't seem fazed anymore by his odd requests. "Home? That's a new one. Well... Hmm, good question." He put a real Thinker pose into it, mulling it over. "Home is...wherever there are people you care about."
The real Link would've said it was this house, this measly collection of things. Perhaps comment on how society romanticized such a concept to ethereal proportions for nothing. But this wasn't Link. The real Link would've scolded him for leaving his wife alone at such a time as this, and for something so trivial. This Link didn't understand the equality of men and women, for his life, and Eleah, hadn't shown him that. And so Caleb felt no regret in leaving him here with his damned sage wisdom.
Sahara threw open the door, and Caleb swooped in as he had done weeks before, taking her in his warm embrace. He felt the same, but slightly foreign, slightly...Terminian. And younger, definitely...younger than he should've been, anyway. "Welcome home," she greeted, fighting past the anger she'd been harboring for a fortnight.
As they hugged, Caleb was reminded of the mermaid, and the difference was unbelievable. How had he ever been enticed so long, knowing he would be coming home to this? "It's good to be back." The absence of that distinct roundness was a shock, even though he knew it wouldn't be there.
"Daddy!" came the chorus from the living room. Caleb was bombarded by his grateful kids (minus Hannah, who was still on the couch, reading), and he shared a knowing look with his wife upon sensing the presence of his fourth son, Matthew, tucked away in his crib.
It was Christmas Eve. Tim had cut it pretty fine, and Caleb had a short TM to confirm that his surprise was still available. "Kids, Sah... I have an early present for you."
"Ooh, I want it now!" Nahara demanded.
Link and Mirinda satisfied themselves with a simple "What is it?"
Caleb sensed outside to check, winked at Sahara, and opened the door a second time.
"In-laws!" squealed Laura, pouncing on Sahara, who almost fell over from her weight. She hugged her as a sister, then abruptly jumped off, dropping down to the kids' level. "Hello, kiddies!" They were too stunned to react in time, and she took them all in one bear hug.
And, walking slowly after her, clothed in his traditional yellow cloak, was Eleah. He shut the door, brushing the snow from his shoulders. Caleb pulled his son to his side, grinning at Sahara. She gaped. "Eleah...?"
"That's my name," Eleah said, not realizing the memories he was unearthing in his parents from those mere three words. The other kids swarmed around him now, and Laura huffed. She put on Nahara's glasses, using her height to secure her theft.
"Hey!" Nahara tackled her, and they fell about giggling, tickling, play-fighting. She wrested them back, but Laura was laughing all the same.
"They're so cute!" Laura exclaimed. "Elly, I want one!"
"In due time..." Eleah sighed.
Sahara, near tears, kissed her husband. "Thank you, Caleb."
"Don't thank him," Eleah scoffed. "I'm the one who wanted to end this war. For my siblings, of course. Would be hard on them if you two split, so I decided to show up and save him what face he has left."
"Oh shut up, you're broke," Caleb denounced.
Sahara shook her head, then took the two most important men in her life and pressed their heads together to her bosom. "My idiots..."
Then Laura discovered Hannah. "What's this?" She poked her arm, but Hannah didn't acknowledge her. She probed every spot on her body with no success. But then Hannah's phone rang. Before she could save herself, Laura procured the cell as if it were her own and giggled maniacally. "Ooh, who's Mike?"
Sahara laughed with Caleb as they recalled his mother's similar antics. They joined in with the effort to extract some sort of emotion from their daughter, then discussed sleeping arrangements with Eleah. And they spent the night talking and reminiscing together. As Caleb sat with Sahara in their armchair by the fire, he finally felt that closure he had been searching for. He was home again...
Caleb looked down at his youngest son with a bittersweet pride. Matthew. The man who had been Sahara's surrogate father for what was now a bit less than half of her life. He had the same brown hair as Hannah, definitely another Matter Wizard, but had the usual Caleb-green eyes that were his stamp of fatherhood. It confused him, though. Tylk had been Matthew's father in the previous reality; why did they have him now?
Not that it mattered. As Sahara fervently argued, these were not the originals. Those men and women were gone forever, besides Tim, Hannah, Euan and Allara (he didn't know about Dark Link's deal).
Caleb put a hand to Matt's cheek, the only sadness being that he hadn't witnessed this miracle's birth. He put his other arm around Eleah's shoulders, making him look down as well. "You have absolutely no idea what you're getting yourself into."
"Who ever does?" Eleah sighed.
"And who ever will?"
Eleah stared at his new brother unfathomably. Was he thinking of the glories of life? The responsibilities that he would be taking on when, in some years' time (or, with it being Laura, nine months at the least), he would be staring at such a child in his own home, far from here. Was he contemplating the magnitude of fatherhood? Or was he just daydreaming?
"I'm sure you don't want to hear any of my advice on the subject—"
"But it's important that you do." Caleb trusted his son, and even heeded his judgment at times, knowing he was indeed as close to the old Eleah as there could ever be. But still, the old one had made many mistakes that he tore himself up over. If Caleb could help, perhaps...
Eleah rolled his eyes. "What? Don't cheat, don't lie, don't break promises, be spontaneous, use discretion, let her have some time to herself (if she ever wanted it), only argue if you know you're right, stay true to yourself...don't be stupid, basically. I think I know all that's necessary."
Caleb shook his head. "You forgot the most important one: Love her."
Eleah gave him a blank look. "If I were marrying her for her money, I wouldn't be broke right now, would I?"
"Son..." Caleb tried to muster up some sort of fatherly stature, but he did so in vain; Eleah had turned back to Matthew. "You don't know how weird it is for me to be able to call you that. Someday, maybe, you'll understand what it's like. Fatherhood...is one of the most quintessential occupations a man can have. To watch something that comes from yourself become a fellow—sometimes better—human being... To see that growth process is...overwhelming.
"Personally, I think I'm not doing a good enough job at it. I saw just a while ago how susceptible I was to temptation, and it's forced me to take a serious look at the way things are going in my life. That's why I realized that being angry with you was a stupid decision. You're my son, and...I'm proud of you."
Eleah exhaled deliberately, a step from laughing. "Congratulations, you have officially given Hallmark a reason to exist."
Caleb groaned. "Sooner or later, you'll see just how sincere I am."
"And one more thing: Whatever you do, don't name your son after me."
Where are you going?
To see a crazy old man
What will he tell you?
He'll tell me where I'm going
What will you do then?
I might just quit my job.
What will you do then?
I'm gonna find my way home again...
Okay, the fourth one is most likely gonna be the one about what ends up happening to Malon in the old reality (on Judgment Day, that is). I really wanted to do the Eleah one, but it's gonna take an awful long time, and I can see that one month ain't gonna cut it. The Malon one should be pretty short, so that'll buy me time.
Re: Legend of Link III: All The Pieces (Adv/Rom)(T)
Well, as I thought, this story took no time at all. I'm working on writing the one about Eleah, though, and that...will take a while. It's gonna be longer than "Water", even, and it requires an awful lot of research, extrapolation, and logical chronological figuring. Strenuous work.
Not to mention the pressures of school.
Also, I've come to a conclusion: I will not write The Wizards of Xeria. I have to face the fact that it's getting nowhere. So, since that had been my inhibition before, I will now write...LOL 4. Seriously.
And so that's been pulling at my attention as well. So wish me good luck as I try and finish all these projects on time.
Firah was waiting for her.
Dying was not at all as Malon had expected. She didn't float out of her body, to watch the ensuing conversation between her liberator and her liberator's father. She didn't see any grand sights, as Caleb had described upon his return from the Sacred Realm. She didn't even feel the subtlest transition.
One moment she was swallowing the vilest concoction she could imagine, and the next...
Firah was no longer waiting for her.
No sight, no sound, no taste, no scent, no feeling. No gender. No body.
And Firah was there. And their son was there. (And so was everyone else.)
"Malon!" both Firahs crooned as she came into their midst. Her soul wrapped around theirs in Loving requital. The Sacred Realm felt as a soul-quilt, and she could sense her full being weaving in and out of theirs, which were further connected to Firah's parents', Malon's parents', and the Wizards of Termina's. Love flowed smoothly throughout all these bonds. BLISS.
But more. More, better, fuller BLISS.
"You shouldn't've come," her former husband said, though there was no reproach in his tone. It was impossible to be angry here. It wasn't an accusation, but pure fact.
"You're right," she replied, feeling not guilt but...pity for her old self. That old human had made the mistake of coming early. But it was too late to change that now.
"I Love you," the Firahs sighed, their sentiments taking the form of Love; not mere words, but the emotion itself. Malon reciprocated, and their conversation ended. All that was needed to be said was said. All that was needed to be known was known. All that they meant for the others to feel was felt. And they resumed their existence with that understanding permeating their spirits. It was ever as pertinent as it was that first moment they spoke it. For eternity, or so it seemed, that bond would remain at this beautiful standstill.
Malon became fully aware of the souls around her. Everyone was combined here, everyone was One, but not the same. She felt the change as new souls entered the realm, adding to the pool, but not...compounding it. Just...completing it, again and again. She recognized Zant's soul as he assimilated, and felt his family and clans accept him as Firah had with her. He became One as well, joining in with their BLISS.
More Twili, more Gerudos...they were at war, it seemed. The One incorporated them in their own unique yet conforming fashion. They were Malon's brothers and sisters, cousins in creation, and she Loved them all just as she Loved Firah. And they Loved her, they knew her, they experienced her. They furthered her BLISS, and she theirs.
A most interesting character, Soume, came next. A Gerudo, and yet a temporary Twilight Queen! Giddiness rippled through the One as her story was shared. And it was with Loving anticipation that they welcomed her daughter as well (she had no name, but that didn't matter). Shortly after came another surge of Twili and Gerudos, followed by Midna. She, Zant, and Soume came together in the One to tell their tale in full, and once each knew the Truth behind their actions, they were in Loving reconciliation.
Mikau, Sally, Paul, Larry, John, Mary, Steve, Claire, Seth, Volvia, Solia, Celia, Jessica, Juyk, Chastity, Benjamin, Stephanie, George, Navi. And then, strangely, as if they'd been there the whole time, came Sutar, Queen Zelda, Kilia, a baby dragon without name, Link, and Laura. Briefly (or as much as "briefly" was worth here), a soul by the name of Euan brushed against the One before flickering out into some other dimension. The souls of Dark Link, Sahara, Caleb, Eleah, Cole, Lucia, Sara, Princess Zelda, and a separate Tylk did the same. And, in a confusion of joy, fear, loss, and Love, Allara was torn from the One, following them outside.
But there was still BLISS.
And, much earlier than any of the One had expected, the End came. There was an influx of Hylians, and then, with overwhelming Love, every soul came at once. Malon didn't bother to use the opportunity she had to see what had destroyed the world. She just let the BLISS consume her, consummating now that the One was utterly whole.
Judgment Day was upon them.
Individuality returned, but BLISS. The goddesses descended upon the realm, and Malon felt herself being herded with a third of the souls towards Farore. They would be judged by their guardians, and join again as One on the other side...
There were no lines. No waiting. Farore came directly to Malon, at the same moment she went to the others. BLISS.
Her presence was double the ecstasy. Her embrace was the epitome of Love, yet Malon could feel her own being tainting it. She was filthy, vile, wretched, poison. Malon recoiled, knowing that she wasn't worthy. She couldn't possibly allow Farore to endure such pain!
It was only right that Malon should stay away. She was a disgrace. She didn't deserve this BLISS.
Farore, however, was wont to keep her. "Malon, mine daughter..." She was sad. It was clear that She wanted to smother Malon in Loving-Kindness for all eternity, to take her in Her arms and press her to Her bosom, to give all She was to this vastly undeserving woman. "Thou art mine Love, mine joy! Thine devotion perfectly to my nephews given...yet, wherefore wer't thine Courage thwarted? Why dost thou not rejoice, mine daughter?"
Malon was ashamed (had she still been mortal, this conversation would've confused the hell out of her). "Mother Courage, I..." her thoughts trailed off into nothingness. Emotion filled her, dragging a sole rag across her unclean spirit. "I was a fool, Mother. I turned from You."
Farore cried, "O daughter..." and repeated it again and again, softly, sweetly. "O daughter... O my Love... Why must this be? O my beautiful daughter..."
They both knew how it must be. Despair racked Malon's being, for there was no point in feeling anything else. Like oil and water, BLISS and Despair broke apart, though each was still touching, endearingly caressing as fervently as Love could allow.
For naught! The Sacred Realm was a fool's paradise! All for naught! She had deserved the Void since entering that place; why had Farore given her false hope? Naught, naught...all was...
Malon was evil. Why had Farore wept for such a sinner? Her soul was as far from Love as you could get. That was why Farore had been forced to push her away; Love and Evil could not exist together. They were opposites.
Malon fell into the Void.
Despair! O, for Farore to return, if only to shun her again! O, for Din or Nayru to bring futile pity! O, for Firah to mourn her loss as Farore had! O, for something, anything!
She had lost Firah again.
There was nothing left. No Love, no hate, no joy, no pain, no wisdom, no stupidity, no feeling, no awareness, no ability, no life, no self, no other, no One, no traces of the rest of existence.
Nothing left. She was completely alone.
Now that we've found this precious place...
How can we keep from going crazy now?
My life was leading to this day...
Watching the whole thing slip away...
It's just a fool's paradise...
It's just a fool's paradise...
It's just a fool's paradise...anyhow...
Yes, I connected this to "War Again". Also, I hope you picked up on Allara and Euan, leaving to the new time. So, what do you think of my take on a Legend-of-Zelda Judgment Day? I actually used a bunch of ideas that I have for the actual Judgment Day, and just incorporated LOZ/LOL characters.
Well, next time is Eleah's story. Should take a very long time, so don't expect it to be a month from now, but more likely a month and a half or so (time, school, and LOL 4 ideas permitting).
Re: Legend of Link III: All The Pieces (Adv/Rom)(T)
Sorry it took so long. To tell the truth, I had to shorten this story in order to get it done today. It would've been some forty to fifty pages, but I was able to keep it down to about twenty-something by cutting out stuff that, I guess, isn't entirely necessary.
Also, I am sorry to say that this shall be the end of LOL 3. I don't trust myself to try another short story. I'll end here, and work on LOL 4, which I will finish before beginning to post. Maybe I'll put something up in the Writer's Council. If you want to know how I'm coming along, just PM me.
So, here we go:
Edit: Apologies, but I'll have to do this in two parts (unless I can figure out another way again):
Not My Slave (Pt.1)
Eleah's breath slowed to a calm pace, but his heart still hammered in protest. He wiped the sweat from his forehead, mixing it with the blood on his hands. The fog in his mind was clearing ever so slightly, and rage gave way to guilt. These men had done him no harm. And yet, here he was, using their abundant carcasses as his recliner. Here their village had been laid waste, their lives irrevocably uprooted from life's garden. Here their buildings were a heap of unrecognizable debris, their women and children's bodies mixed in. Their livestock slaughtered, their fields ruined.
And for nothing but a moment's relief. He hadn't accomplished anything. Hannah was still dead. No amount of deaths could reverse another. Two wrongs don't make a right, and neither do five thousand. Why was he doing this?
The bleak horizon offered no solace. Nothing but smoldering wreckage for miles. The creak of wood as the last of the houses folded in, the few crackling fires that still found something to burn, the carrion birds arriving for their breakfast.
Hannah had been spirited away to Nal by her unreasonably strict father, and tragedy chose that moment to strike that particular nation. The Black Wizard himself. And among those he'd obliterated, Eleah had found her name. Being a young, inexperienced, unsupervised Emotion Mage, prone to such behavior, this inevitably led to a rampage.
Eleah had only one goal now, and that was to satisfy the urges his emotions instilled in him. He had, more or less, no control. The only ambition he could make out as somewhat rational was revenge on the Black Wizard. But, as talented as he may be, such a task was out of his reach. And so he would wander the land, annihilating everything on a whim.
Evol saw all of this as he approached the youth from the shadows. The time was right. Just as he had planned all these years, he soundlessly sneaked up on Eleah, noting the mounting despair in his countenance. It was eerie how this boy acted exactly as he'd predicted, to the letter.
"Who are you?" Eleah demanded.
Evol tried to take it in stride, but he couldn't deny that he'd been taken aback. The boy hadn't betrayed any suspicion. He was better than he'd thought. Evol came forward until he was at Eleah's side. "I am Death."
Eleah looked up. And Death was what he saw: a skeleton wearing a black cloak, with a bloodstained scythe in one of his bone hands. His skull was set, eye sockets empty, so Eleah couldn't glean any information of this apparition's true nature. But what a fool this man must be, thinking he could safely accost the one who'd caused so much merciless destruction, just by magically altering his body to take on the appearance of the Grim Reaper.
"Like hell you are." Eleah's speech came out much more scalding than he felt like being. He was angrier at himself than anything. Let the man have his minute to live, before I feel like killing again.
"I am a Death Mage, to be precise." Evol pulled up a body and sat across from him.
Eleah scoffed. "The Death Mages are dead."
If Eleah didn't know any better, he would've sworn those bones had formed a smirk. "Ah. Think about that one for a moment."
Eleah didn't feel like being patronized. "Whether or not the Eradication was absolute, it still doesn't prove anything. And if you can't prove yourself right, I'll prove you wrong." He pointed skyward, and dark clouds began accumulating directly above them.
Evol didn't seem to care for his threat. "I've no reason to prove it. You will accept these facts as they are because you have no other choice; I am the only man who can help you."
"And who says I need it?"
Evol gestured with his free hand at the city. "The silence speaks for itself. If you go on like this, you will be captured. And then what? Hannah will still be dead."
Eleah froze. Evol gave him time for it to sink in. "How do you know about Hannah?"
"I can help you, Eleah," Evol dodged, adding to his confusion. "I am a Death Mage. As easily as I can take life, so can I return it."
This hefty claim brought Eleah back on the offense. "Show me, then."
Evol got to his feet, and pointed at the man he'd been sitting on. Instantly, that mass of ripped and torn tissue jerked awake, its wounds healed. The man pushed himself to his feet, groaning as if he'd merely been awoken from a deep sleep. Then he got a glimpse of his surroundings, and let free a sharp gasp. "Nayru..." Tears welled in his eyes, bursting forth in silent grief.
This was what Eleah had created via destruction. Mourning. Hopelessness. Despair... In short, he had given other men the same thing the Black Wizard had so fully given to him.
The man sobbed, still not taking notice of his resurrectionist. He had lost everything, and for no reason other than that his village had been situated near Nal. Senseless...
"Help me, then," Eleah said preemptively, watching unnerved as the man hardly moved at the sound of his voice. Was his reverie so deep?
Evol had pulled it off. He continued his Matter Manipulation, knowing that the emotion his puppet was pretending to have would undoubtedly force his new prodigy to undergo some very agonizing self-development. "First, you must help me."
Of course. "Why not?" Eleah sighed. Evol left the man to grieve, and for Eleah to reflect. As Eleah watched the Grim Reaper walking among those he could've easily brought back to animation, and realized that, of the two of them, the Death Mage had more experience with corpses, he was sickened by what he had done, what he had decided to do, and what his life would soon become. He joined the revived man in lone sorrow. What was the point of taking a life if you didn't get to keep it?
Insufferable. Evol peered over his newspaper, too distracted to get much out of the same paragraph for five minutes too many. Eleah was lying on the rock floor of Evol's lair, back turned, curled up in his self-loathing.
"I'm horrible," the pre-teen repeated. "Sick. Wretched. All I do is kill... Why did Din have to lend so much of herself to me?"
"For my benefit," Evol answered him, though he knew already that nothing he said would affect him. "Now stop begrudging your gift."
"I should die," Eleah continued. "I should. But then I'd be with Hannah, and I don't deserve her."
"Well, seeing as you're bound for the grave at some point, does 'deserving' it really matter?"
"When are you going to bring Hannah back?"
Evol didn't bother asking why he could have her alive, now, but not dead, later, as he "deserved". He wouldn't even think to argue against such things for many years to come. "When I feel you have earned it. So far, you haven't."
Eleah had gone through a few missions already. Not that they were any different from what he would've been doing anyway. He'd wasted four towns near the one where they'd met, and assassinated a semi-important government official. Nothing too difficult (which was what annoyed Eleah most; the ease with which he perpetrated these crimes).
"Where did I go wrong?" Eleah trailed off again. "I wasn't meant to be like this. And so young, too..."
Evol got to his feet slowly, summoning Eleah's map and circling a random city in Sonura. "Here, do something productive." He teleported it in front of Eleah, who took one look at it before disappearing. Troublesome kid...
Eleah stood atop the highest building in the town, watching the meaningless goings-on of the people. From this elevation, all their activities seemed as the scurrying of ants. It was all pointless. People did their jobs so they could receive rupees, with which they bought the services and goods given by everybody else's jobs. The only reason anybody had a job was so they could feed, clothe, and shelter themselves and their families. If they were truly just, they would work for the good of others, and share resources so that money would be obsolete. But humans were greedy. Depraved.
Hannah... Eleah knew Hannah would, could, comfort his cynicism. Without her, nothing had meaning. Without his beautiful Hannah, these people were evil. They didn't matter. "Matter." They were matter, a bunch of atoms configured in such a way that they had the capacity to make greedy decisions.
Dehumanizing it was the only way he could make himself do this anymore... Eleah didn't know that Evol had put the Servant Curse on him, for it had been placed in such a way that he thought it was his own will. And so he found the desire within himself and acted upon it.
Eleah spread his arms out to the sky, pulling the clouds from their designated patterns and clumping them above the great, sophisticated anthill. Thunder roared ominously, the strength of it in his hands as his magic commanded its being. Soft rain fell in gentle anticipation. He could feel those electrons getting ready to follow their natural course to the positively-charged earth.
Before he could proceed, the town's Barrier came up against him. Of course, every lawful establishment had such a protection, but still Eleah was surprised. He never actually had to deal with this before. But, thankfully, there was no hold-up. The moment he defied the Barrier, it gave way under his hand. In an exhilarating rush, the first lightning bolt zapped the most opportune clock tower. The earth quaked as its body was torn from the foundation, as it toppled eastward onto the Square.
There were screams, yelps, crying already, but it was all white noise to Eleah. Four earth spells whizzed past his head, but his Shield was in good shape. Allowing himself to enjoy the power in his control, he sent three bolts next, tearing down the city's three churches (one for each goddess). There were a few explosions. Fires broke out.
With unbidden malice, Eleah unleashed a barrage of lightning, the thunder deafening in his ears. Just as loudly came the estranged cries of the ants. Their courthouses, malls, car dealerships, skyscrapers, residential areas—all blasted into smithereens. He made sure to zap the three bridges in half, to bring down all their boats, ferries, ships. Nothing escaped Eleah.
Somehow, a few wizards had found the stability to rise to his level. Silvery-blue cloaks flew at him, firing a combination of earth spells and bullets. Only in desperation would such measures be taken by these law enforcers; guns were going through the decade-long process of becoming illegal. Not like it made a difference. Shields blocked them, making them useless on wizards.
Eleah didn't bother dodging, as all their assaults glanced off his Shield harmlessly. Instead, he focused his might on frying each of them with two shots of electricity each. They plummeted back down to the earth, a few getting impaled on still-standing pyres. Eleah blasted everything that surrounded their corpses, and his work was practically done. In five minutes, he had stomped down the entire anthill, spare the building he stood on.
And then, all too suddenly, he lost his footing. He tipped over the edge, flailed about a second, then caught himself, dangling off the side. His Shield wavered, and he strengthened it instinctively. The drain on his energy was unprecedented. His heart pounded, trying to push him to his death from the inside. In that moment, he felt both like flinging himself back up to that huge roof where it was safe, and letting his fingers go, letting himself drop some seventy stories just like those police.
But he chose neither. Before he could fathom choosing, he discovered that this hadn't been an accident. Before him, Floating in strange patterns so as to keep from giving Eleah a good target, was a Matter Wizard (detectable by his brown cloak and hair). He'd made him slip, by some low-energy Matter Manipulation. Crafty.
The wizard gave Eleah only a moment to register all this before flying directly at him, sword in hand. Eleah made swift calculations, unsheathed his own sword from the scabbard of nothingness, then lifted himself off the metal cliff, positioning his blade so it would hit its mark.
A mass of brown struck the window, magic sustaining the glass as the tip of the man's sword went in and out. Eleah thrust down now at his neck, but the moment he came in contact, the metal morphed into oxygen, and his arms stopped their futile exercise. Gravity pulled him down over his enemy's back, and he yanked on the man's cloak, using his solidity to anchor himself back onto the building.
Flowing with the momentum, Eleah pulled the cloak farther, dragging the man through the air and flinging him into the next lower window. He lost his own footing again as he did so, and for naught, since the man used the same matter spell to cushion his impact. Eleah fell to the side, and felt two strong feet kicking him further downward.
He used a weak Floating Spell to turn as he fell, and directed a lightning bolt at his enemy. It almost struck the building, but was redirected somehow towards Eleah himself. His Shield was no match for it, and he could do nothing but brace himself as he got a taste of his own medicine. Surprisingly, it hurt a lot less than he'd remembered.
His body ringing, he applied Healing Spells and Floating Spells simultaneously (since the former took first priority, this was rather ineffective). All too soon, he found he had maneuvered himself onto the roof of another, more hazardous building. His body gave off a sick squelch, but he was still a bit numb. Rapid Healing Spells took care of most of the damage, but he knew that such a fall was never to be repeated if he valued his life (and he wasn't quick to say that he did).
Daring to open his eyes, he saw fire all around. Beneath him, the building gave a deep groan, and jolted as something far below gave way. Eleah pushed himself up with a wind spell, almost toppling back down from the pains in his leg and gut. He produced a new sword, and lurched forward.
Sure enough, the Matter Wizard followed. In a second he was upon him, unblemished arm bringing his blade to clash with Eleah's. With their battlefield shaking, Eleah was on equal ground (figuratively). He fought just as valiantly, the desire for revenge pushing him to lash out violently, his sickly state of being leveling it out to normal skill.
He was sure he got in a few strikes, a few shallow cuts in the arm and chest, before the roof gave way and all went black.
"Wake up," Evol barked.
Eleah automatically sprung up, eyes barely open. He felt almost reborn, his aches and pains mere shadows of what they had been. His throat was dry, and swallowing hurt so much that he began to apply new Healing Spells. He was in Evol's cave again, and the Death mage hadn't even graced him with any sort of mat; his back was a little sore from lying on the bare rock for hours. Nevertheless, he was alive.
In front of him, Evol was seated in his armchair, and, opposite him, the man who had defeated Eleah stood, his body radiating defiance. Eleah got up to oppose him, jerkily supporting himself with his hands as light-headedness overtook him. He nearly threw up, then strengthened his resolve and faced the wizard. "You..."
"Me..." he said, glaring with such intensity that Eleah felt they were about to fight again. He looked to be only seventeen, his height deceiving from a distance. His face was set similar to Eleah's own, but darker, more experienced, having known both great honor and honest shame.
Evol sensed the instant enmity, and broke in. "Now kids, play nice. Eleah, this is Matthew; Matthew, Eleah. Matt here was just telling me how he works for King Paul of Sonura."
Eleah recoiled. Sonura. King Paul. Queen Vanessa. Princess Laura. Laura, that bloody, scummy, fetid little creature. His arranged wife...
"His most honored of knights," Evol continued, knowing full well what effect his statement had had. "And the man who has caused my previous apprentices the most trouble, as you've witnessed firsthand."
Matt didn't hide his rage. "Then kill me, like you did the others!" he snarled, with the same suicidal fire that blazed inside Eleah's own heart. He knew what was coming now.
"In due time, I assure you..." Evol laughed. "But for now, I'd rather not let your talents go to waste. And so I deem you Eleah's new partner."
Matt spat at Evol's feet. "Go to hell."
"Gladly. While we wait, though—"
"I'll die before I work for you," Matt persisted, disgust rising.
"For your sake, you'd better hope not." Evol stood now, crossing between them. “Of course, if you don’t do it willingly, there’s always the Servant Curse. Let’s just hope it doesn’t come to that, eh?”
It was then Eleah realized that same curse had been placed upon himself. His anger disappeared, replaced by pity. This innocent man, full of potential, just trying to protect his home…and he had inadvertently dragged him down into the dark abyss of Sheol. Their eyes met again briefly, this time conveying mutual pity.
“Curses can be broken,” Matt said, set on argument. “As Nayru lives, free will always wins out.”
Eleah could feel Evol chuckling, though the Death mage would never allow his magic to project such a sound. “We’ll see about that…” He summoned two chairs, a small table, and a feast fit for a king, which he crammed on top. “But enough for now. Eat up. Fraternize. I’ll be back later.” And with that, he was gone.
Eleah gave no hesitation; he took his seat, tore a leg off the roast turkey, dipping it into the gravy, and bit off a chunk that proved to be a bit more than he could chew. He hadn’t known just how hungry he’d been. The food revitalized him more than any Healing Spell, but also made him conscious of an unbelievable emptiness his body demanded he take care of.
Matt remained standing, now fighting a moral battle: No doubt it would be wrong for him to take the food. To eat, and surrender his honor, or refuse, and starve in righteousness?
Matt joined him at the table, grabbing the nearest soup in both hands, bringing it to his face, and pouring the contents down his throat. He bore the searing heat almost masochistically, but immediately betrayed this stoicism by draining a full goblet of wine with wanton thirst.
Eleah was relieved when Matt ended the silence. “Anyone else here?”
“Not that I know of.” His voice was coarser than he’d imagined. He took a swig of his own wine, though he knew it wouldn’t help much.
Matt nodded, still having qualms over the morality he would lose by eating the biscuit in his hand. “So, was that you? In Nal?”
The news must’ve been big, then, to traverse continents. “Yeah, more or less.” He didn’t want to take credit for the Black Wizard’s tyranny.
“Huh.” Feeling morally protected, he wolfed down three biscuits, dipping the last two in gravy. He then began Floating portions from various dishes, probably to subconsciously gloat over the fact that it cost him a lot less energy, being a Matter Wizard. “You came here of your own will, then?”
“Yeah.” That would do. Matt didn’t need to know about his misfortunes, about Hannah… Even though he asked a hundred different ways for the reason, Eleah wouldn’t budge. “That should be enough for you,” he replied tersely.
Matt shrugged. “Suit yourself.” Eleah could hear in his words the adult superiority he was growing into. Teenager he might be, but hadn’t he proved himself capable of as much, if not more than Matt? “Where’re you from?”
This was bound to come up soon anyway… “Comonia. The Royal Family adopted me.”
Matt froze as comprehension crept into his unnaturally complacent mind. “Does the name ‘Laura’ mean anything to you?”
Din, could he have any less tact? “Unfortunately.”
“Then that was you, the one who—“
Matt was astonished. “So it’s true, you weren’t their son. Who’s your father?”
“Your guess is as good as mine.” Why did people place so much importance on fatherhood? Inheritance was bull. No matter what your parents did, you didn’t have any part in it. Why was it such a source of pride, when those taking it had no claim?
“If only I were as free as you,” Matt sighed. Eleah wanted to hit him for saying that; was this freedom? “My father’s the Black Wizard.”
Eleah tensed up. Hannah… He felt a hypocrite, but his respect for this surviving Matter Wizard waned when he thought of this. The son of the man he wanted to kill. Part of him felt, stupidly, that murdering him would somehow avenge her death, but reason won out; keep him alive, and perhaps his chances of finding the Black Wizard would increase.
“If I were to escape,” Matt proposed, “would you be interested? Or would you just stop me?”
“Neither. He’s put up a Barrier, duh.”
“Simple. You dig under, teleport from there—“
This guy had a lot to learn… “Evol’s not stupid. His Barriers go all ‘round.”
Matt cursed the distant Death mage. “That git…”
Matt made an excellent addition to the team, despite his ranting about what a dishonor it was. He complained of a nagging conscience as they tore across the Sonuran countryside, fought valiantly against the Servant Curse while assisting Eleah in a massacre, and spoke of the lack of honor in their actions when they murdered a Comonian knight in his sleep.
“It’s dishonorable!” he hissed as they crossed the threshold, movements Silenced. He stopped at the door, struggling with his leg as it tried to follow Eleah. He assuaged it by forcing his mind to believe he was keeping guard.
Eleah approached the slumbering knight, lightning sword raised, and aimed for his neck. “Honor has nothing to do with it.”
“Honor is the difference between murder and victory. To fight to protect one’s country, one’s home, is honorable. To kill someone when they’re not even awake to defend themselves…that’s cowardly.”
Eleah paused, giving his words consideration. With honor, men killed only those who fought without honor, or came to them in equal contest. To defend only. To make their victories clean and seemly to viewers. Men died with honor by keeping true to morals and beliefs. How pretty that sounds.
Eleah brought the blade down on the knight’s neck, repelling it the moment the deed was done. He walked back to the door. “Death is Death. No matter what sentiments you pin on it.”
Matt, conscience-stricken, cleaned up the mess which Eleah had carelessly left unchecked. He stopped him at the doorway, as if the knight’s servants wouldn’t be making their rounds soon. “What you’ve just done has no honor in it. That man didn’t even know you posed a threat when he went to sleep. Doesn’t that make you feel anything?”
“Relieved that I didn’t have to fight him, I guess.”
Matt scoffed. “Human life is sacred. The righteous deserve to die with dignity.”
“How do you know he was righteous?” Eleah challenged, having fun with the holes in Matt’s logic. He was giving him the usual kid treatment—only tell them the gist of your point, and force them to believe you for no reason. Shoot down every contradiction without giving it proper attention.
“I don’t. But it’s better to give him more than he was due than to anger the goddesses through indecency.”
“Ignorance is bliss, after all.”
Matt seethed. “Don’t mock me.”
“Sorry, you just have an astounding level of morality for a Matter Wizard…” Matt knew what he meant. As one of the last Matter Wizards, it was strange to see he didn’t share the common view they normally had about the world. One which Hannah herself had struggled with, discussing her theological dilemma with Eleah until he had taken it in as his own. “I mean, aren’t we just a bunch of atoms?”
“That’s the excuse the impious would have you believe. But we have souls that control those atoms, and that is what the goddesses judge. We have free will—“
Eleah laughed, holding out his hands. “You really believe that?” They stood still for a moment, mutual disagreement presently speechless. And they left.
These debates were frequent, and neither would defer to the other’s view in anything. Evol sent them on a long winding course through Sonura, then to a quick sojourn in Comonia, a slightly shorter stay in Nakeem, and then back, to finally perform the one task Matt could not do.
It was Eleah’s fourteenth birthday, and Evol had granted them two hours, after much useless cajoling (he asserted that he only did it to shut them up). The two of them (Evol made sure to be absent) let off some steam, talking with the help of wine about their lives. Matt was actually about three years older than him, his birthday having been a month and half ago, a few days before they’d met. He had a brother, Thomas, who was also a Sonuran knight, though of lower standing. He had never met his father, but rather his mother had been stuck with twins and no money. She had died when he was seven, at which time he was able to use magic and provide for the two of them until Thomas could do the same.
Eleah wasn’t quite so garrulous, and merely recited the tale of his adoption and murder of his foster parents. He spoke of Warih and the oddities of Termina (Ikana in particular), and ended by vaguely referencing his few months at the Magical Institute of Hyto. Matt didn’t pursue the subject any further, but he could tell that his lack of trust was a little discouraging.
Evol returned before they could start any sort of real celebration. Matt wasn’t as openly hateful anymore, softened by the last two hours into mere jesting. “Dude, ease up! It’s his birthday, for Din’s sake.”
“Yes, the world went around the sun one more time. Yippee,” Evol said dismissively. “If living another year is so damn momentous, why not half a year? A month, a week, a day? Why not have daily celebrations of everyone?”
“Scrooge,” Matt muttered. But Eleah took this to heart. There was sense in that—years were governed by the planet’s movement (hence the fact that there were leap years). If time could be so structured by man, obviously the measurements used were meaningless. Time was linear, not cyclical (in an annual sense). Of course, if people wanted to have parties for him for no good reason, Eleah wasn’t going to make a fuss about it.
Evol plopped down into his chair, repelling the half-eaten cake. “Anyway…your mission.”
“Give us a break.”
“I just did. Now, your mission: kill Princess Laura.”
"And doing it today would be nice."
Matt's aloofness was deracinated, face twisting in inexpressible rage. "Never."
"I don't recall giving you a choice."
Eleah found himself trembling as he spoke. "Why?"
"She's not dying fast enough for my liking. I never tell you my motives; what makes you think this'll be an exception?"
"She's a child!" Matt exclaimed hotly.
"Is that supposed to make a difference? She's a human, I have a plan, and that should be enough for you. Kill Princess Laura. Now." And he dismissed them.
Eleah secretly agreed, but knew that they didn't have much say in the matter; the Servant Curse would make them do it anyway. "We don't have a choice."
They were in Matt's room, Eleah having been snuck in via invisibility. The room was pretty plain, just a bed, a chest at its foot, and thirty-seven swords hung along the walls. No tables, no chairs, no clothes, no decoration. Of course, he was a Matter Wizard, and was bound to have less of an appreciation of such things.
Matt sat on his bed, groaning. "She's the Princess. I'm her knight. How does he expect me to be an accomplice in her murder?"
"Cuz if you don't, he'll kill you."
"He'll kill me anyway." Matt put his head in his hands, nearing despair.
"No he won't," Eleah said mechanically. But now he really thought about what would happen after he had done enough for Evol, after he had Hannah back. Surely Evol would force him to stay in his employ, lest he tell others of the last Aftal mage's existence. Worse, he might make Hannah join him as well, perhaps even taking Matt's place.
"You don't have a problem with killing a four-year-old?"
"People kill children before they're even born, and I don't see you getting mad at them."
"Cuz they're fetuses. Just a bunch of atoms." He must've known he'd walked right into a trap, but if he did he didn't seem to care.
"So are we."
"We have souls. Or at least I do."
"So if we went back in time and made the Queen have an abortion—then it would be okay? I'm sure Evol has a spell like that somewhere. Would you prefer we do that?"
Eleah had won. Whether Matt would acknowledge it or not, he had proven his logic to be superior. But Matt was through arguing; he would only accept his view, and there would be no changing him. He dismissed Eleah's points, acting as if it were all foolishness. "Look, we're not killing Laura."
"We're not, but I am." Eleah walked to the door, but it was locked. Using magic on it, he met resistance, and knew that Matt was stopping him. He grinned in amused annoyance. "I can just teleport, y'know."
"Not in a castle you can't," Matt corrected. "You have to have permission from someone who already has it, and I'm the only one who even knows you're here. We're not killing Laura."
"The Curse'll make us do it anyway."
"Then I'll fight it."
"Good luck with that."
Matt glared at him with more intensity than when they'd first locked glances. He seriously wasn't giving up. As if it needed repeating, he firmly asserted his case again. "We're not killing Laura."
Eleah shrugged in a way that said, "Have it your way," and let it drop. To entertain himself, he admired Matt's sword collection. Mostly long swords, a few falchions and sabers, and one at the end that he didn't know the name of. It was curved in a way he'd never seen done to a blade, and very rusty; an antique, obviously. "What's this?"
Matt turned his head to follow his gaze. "Scimitar. It was my father's, I think. I found it in my mother's house, so I took it along with me. Fought off a shape-shifter with it once. But…it just wasn't my type."
He would've asked why Matt had allowed it to become rusty, especially since he was a Matter Wizard, but guessed that it was sentimentality (it always was, and he didn't want to get him started on that stuff again). Something in Eleah was enticed by this scimitar, but also slightly put-off by its lackluster appearance. "Interesting…"
"Falchions are my favorite," Matt went on, clinging gratefully to this distraction. "But they're not entirely efficient. And sabers…well, I really wish I could tell you, but I'm rather conflicted there. Some days I love 'em, others I'd like to chuck 'em to hell."
"Why don't you just make your own sword?" Eleah questioned rather reasonably. He had heard of Matter Wizards who did such things—indeed, the sword he usually chose to summon was the Light Matter model, created by a Bonded Matter Wizard in a family of electricity mages some hundred years ago. "Wouldn't that be easier?"
Matt shook his head. "Only if my enemy is a Matter Wizard too. If he can't change his sword, it's not honorable to take such an unfair advantage."
Eleah laughed. "Wow."
"Don't tell me you find something wrong with that, too?"
"Well, of course I do. It's just…you're gonna try and kill them anyway, why bother making it harder for yourself?"
"But that's the point, don't you see? If I can overcome that obstacle, who was the greater fighter?"
Eleah sat on the chest, raring for another go. "Whoever wins is the greater fighter. To fight is to attempt at harming, killing if necessary. I would think that to win is to obliterate your enemy, not to see how much you can handle while still scraping by."
"I don't 'obliterate' my enemies, I defeat them."
"No, 'obliterate' is to wipe them off the face of the earth, to utterly destroy. To defeat is to incapacitate them so they no longer pose a threat."
"Now you're just being difficult."
Eleah smiled. "That's how you like it, isn't it?"
"We're not killing Laura."
Eleah raised an eyebrow. "I didn't say anything about her. Unless you were making some faulty correlation?"
"Evol's not a Death mage. It's impossible."
"Ah. Faulty indeed."
"If he thinks I'm gonna let him control me like this, he's got another thing coming. Asking me to defy my rightful lords…. This is the last straw."
"He is a Death mage. He brought a man back to life. I saw it."
"Oh." Matt was taken aback, realizing just how badly he'd been shot down. And yet, this proof had done more than Eleah had wished. "That's why you joined him, isn't it?"
Eleah was still, having lost more in winning than if he had never played at all. Hannah… He was angry. Matt had no right to find out about that! But he soon found himself giving in. "Yeah."
"Who was it?"
He feigned ignorance as long as he could, but it quickly came down to either denying him the knowledge or praying that Evol's Curse would kick in for once. "I don't wanna talk about it."
Matt didn't push the topic any further. "Okay. It's uncomfortable. I respect that."
Damn you, Eleah thought bitterly. While it was good that he would be leaving him alone, he just had to point out that he did it out of his own morals. And, by omission, he was criticizing Eleah's mindset, almost inviting him to reason against his beliefs. That twisted S.O.B. What was worse, he might not have known he was doing it…
"I'm still opposing him, though," Matt insisted. "Even if he can't be killed, even if I die in vain, even if I have to suffer for it. I'll never let anyone harm Princess Laura. And if Evol thinks he can force me to dishonor myself and my duty, he's gravely mistaken. I will never bend to his will."
Eleah knew these words weren't worth much—already the Servant Curse was slyly suggesting to him that Laura might deserve some sort of punishment. Matt wouldn't be able to defend against this instilled will for long. "Whatever you say, weirdo."
And, as if on Cue, Matt leapt to his feet. The nearest falchion Floated into his hand, and he kicked the door open. Knowing this willingness would only last as long as it took Matt to see what he was doing, Eleah jumped up beside him, going with the flow. As long as he acted as if he hadn't the capacity to stop the Servant Curse, Matt wouldn't blame him.
They slipped through the halls of the castle, meeting no one on the way—it was nighttime (Matt had been able to stall by saying it would be easiest when everyone else was asleep). Matt led him at a decreasing pace, until he was practically crawling along, holding them both up since Eleah didn't know the way.
Once there, Matt was starting to fight it. The room was dark. Eleah made a short spark on his fingertips, creating a floating electrical current on his palm, only capable of giving him the rough outline of his surroundings. He crept silently into the near-darkness, not daring to light the way any further, lest the Princess's maidservant take notice (not that it mattered; he could kill her too).
Matt lumbered in behind him, Silenced. His legs marched him inside, while his upper body was gesticulating wildly to catch himself on the doorpost. He screamed in utter silence, violently pulling back from his fate. He bit his hand, gaining momentary control over the rest of his body, which he used to grab Eleah's hood and yank him from the room.
Eleah fell to the floor, struggling halfheartedly against Matt's magical restraints. Then Matt, in desperation, thrust his head into the wall, throwing a Sleeping Spell onto Eleah the second he knocked himself out. All went black.
Later, they stood before Evol, the Servant Curse heaping guilt and remorse upon their souls for not doing a deed that no doubt would've put it there anyway. "She's not quite as dead as I expected," Evol said, an edge in his voice that Eleah had never heard before. "What seems to be the problem?"
"We're not killing her," Matt replied.
"I disagree." He walked up to their faces and, curiously, slapped them. Being only bones, he may as well have cut them with five dirty knives. They both recoiled, Healing the long cuts on their cheeks before too much blood could get out. "Never disobey me!"
Eleah was hurt more than Matt, mostly because his skin was softer, but also because he had never suffered physical violence by Evol's hands and it was taking an unexpected toll on his emotions. Was he so messed up that he saw him as a father figure? And so soon?
Matt was obstinate. "I am loyal only to those who deserve my respect."
"Spare me," Evol said, genuinely pissed. "Of all the Matter Wizards I could've had, why'd I have to pick the only one with morals?"
Then it all clicked. Eleah was incredulous. "You didn't want us to kill Laura!"
The others looked at him for the first time. "Uh…no," Evol said, anger rising. "I think I was quite clear on that. I prefer her dead." But he was acting more cautious now to make sure Matt believed him.
Eleah tried to extrapolate from this. He had done this to make them think they could defy him. That if they tried hard enough, they could escape slavery. And if he wanted them to think that, then there was bound to come a time when defying him was what he wanted them to do. So the question was…would it be more treasonous to do what he said, or defy him? Obviously not the latter, or he wouldn't even bother. It was directed at Matt, he could tell. Which was smart—Matt was the only one who didn't get it.
The point of this exercise hadn't been to kill Laura, but to give Matt hope. Hope that it wasn't pointless after all, that he might get free. He wanted to give him hope so he'd end up doing something stupid. And then Eleah would know that, even though the alternative was death/torture, he was definitely not Evol's slave.
After that failure, Evol kept them to the normal stints. For two years this continued, with very few breaks. Eleah and Matt became much closer friends, but lately it seemed the Matter Wizard was more withdrawn. Eleah felt like he was the energetic one of the bunch, but deep down he was depressed too. He was starting to doubt that Evol would ever bring Hannah back.
Then, all of a sudden, he sent them out to Hyrule. He gave them something simple this time: to extend pleasantries to the Gerudo Thieves. Evol apparently had need of an alliance with them sometime in the future, and wanted to start early. It was the first time either of them had been to a desert. They were unprepared for the heat, and took a full ten minutes playing around with cooling spells before they found a comfortable temperature (Matt whined that if he were Bonded, he could've done this in a second).
Ganondorf met them in his dining hall, accompanied by his future wife Nabooru, his mothers Koume and Kotake, and his advisor Subooru (Nabooru's mother). He was only fourteen now, but he was already acknowledged as King of the Gerudos. Nabooru was thirteen, and Eleah had to try hard to hide his disgust at the fact that they were arranged so early. It reminded him of Laura again, so he tried not to think about it. The food was a good distraction, though it was so rich that they made sure only to eat so much as was polite.
Ganondorf didn't seem too interested in the meeting, playing with his food while Nabooru stared at him in young lust (which would change to experienced hatred in only four years). They would be married when she turned sixteen, and she was, in Gerudo cliché, madly in love and impatience.
"So let me get this straight," Subooru said, cutting through their explanation as Ganondorf wasn't listening. "You just came here to say hi?"
"No, we came as representatives of our master, Evol," Matt reiterated.
"And who is this man, that we should welcome his representatives so graciously?"
"The last Death mage," Eleah answered, realizing then that this wasn't so intimidating. Even if they believed him, Hyrule was so secluded that its people didn't even know what Aftal mages were. "His power is so great that he can kill the sages with impunity, and raise the dead—"
Ganondorf gasped, dropping his fork. "Could he bring my father back?" Nabooru looked to him now with admiration for his compassion. She was really annoying Eleah with how much of a bleeding heart she was.
"I suppose so," Eleah said.
Koume wasn't so fascinated. "This 'Evol' wants to make an alliance for what purpose?"
Eleah was speechless, turning to Matt. He only made it worse. "So you can help him in the future, I guess. He wasn't terribly specific."
Kotake connected all the wrong ends. "Is this a threat?"
"No, no!" Matt scrambled to undo the damage. "I just meant—he sent us here without telling us exactly what he wanted, beyond an alliance."
Now she was on guard. "And what gift does he bring us, for such a lofty request? One of you, perhaps?"
Matt blushed, but Eleah didn't get it. Were they gonna sacrifice one of them to their Goddess of the Sand? Would they be switched to the Gerudos' employ? Then again, Matt would jump at the chance to lie about that.
Matt gulped, shaking his head. Then he reached into his cloak and brought out…the scimitar. It was even rustier than before, the sight repulsing to Eleah. "He would like me to give you this."
The Gerudos all stopped, staring in disbelief at the ruined weapon in Matt's hands. "Is that…?" Matt held it at the hand guard, showing them the decorative pommel. Eleah hadn't noticed it before, but there was an odd gem there, appearing to be a ruby from one angle, but an amethyst from another, and a diamond from yet another. When the eye wasn't focused on it, it looked like an emerald. Was this that same scimitar? Or had he just put some kind of spell on it?
Matt set it carefully on the table, Floating their dishes out of the way and summoning a pillow for it to rest upon. "The Sadhu's Blade," Matt confirmed. "Test it for yourself. It's yours if you join the alliance."
"It was ours in the first place!" Koume spat.
Matt grinned, in apparent disapproval of himself. "Yes, but you should be accustomed to theft by now, I should think. Honor amongst thieves, right? My parents stole it from you, and now I offer it back. Unless you'd rather have me keep it?"
Ganondorf pounded on the table. "What is this? Why do we want some rusty old sword?"
Koume, Kotake, Subooru, and Matt cursed under their breaths something in another language, but Eleah, Ganondorf, and Nabooru were all waiting for an answer. Subooru explained. "The Sadhu's Blade was given to us by the Goddess of the Sand when she first descended upon the Desert Colossus in all her glory.
"As she beheld the Gerudo people, she saw the beauty and grace of the women and blessed them. But the men were lecherous fools, and, seeing they were only holding us back, she possessed the leader of our tribe and, through her, summoned a great snake, which devoured them. Since the men were such idiots, none of them were able to escape its fangs. But one man, a wise sadhu of the mountains, came from behind the snake, and when it attacked, he jumped out of the way and it bit its own tail. While the snake writhed in agony, he brought out his scimitar and chopped the snake's head off.
"The Goddess saw that this was a most righteous man, and blessed him among the Gerudos by making him King, marrying him through her puppet body. Then she placed an enchantment on her people, preventing the birth of males, except for one male every hundred years, who would gain the wisdom of his ancestor the Sadhu."
Eleah was slightly confused. Evol had said that Gerudos had been cursed by an evil witch, forcing their genes to be selective. But they had made a whole legend out of it, acting as if it were the greatest thing that had ever happened to them. It was interesting to see how they interpreted their lot in life in a positive way.
"As for the sword, it had been drenched in the holy snake's blood, and was imbued with the Goddess's magic. It has been passed down through the Royal Family for centuries, only to be used by the King. Before the birth of His Excellency, it was stolen from us by none other than the Black Wizard."
And, Eleah guessed, Ganondorf had disrespected its sanctity by profaning it, and they had to purify their minds by swearing in the Gerudo language. Well, that was an extremely superfluous load of crap. But why had Matt done so as well? He could understand manners, but how did he even know the words? If Evol had told him, why not inform Eleah too?
"We will need to prove its authenticity before we can accept," Kotake said. "We will need a week to do the tests, and a month to perform the rituals of purification. Only then can we join forces."
"Understood," Matt said, bowing his head. "I will keep the Blade under my protection, as my master requires. None but your leaders and I will be able to access it, and if my master thinks it necessary, I will be forced to take it back. Just so you are forewarned. I don't expect treachery of you, but my master is very cynical."
They found no fault in this, and each Gerudo came to Matt's side, touched the Blade, and with their other hand made the sign of the Triforce (tapping their forehead, left shoulder, right shoulder, then back up to show the importance of Din as the Goddess of the Sand—in every other tradition, this last would be omitted). Matt followed suit, and Eleah reluctantly did the same when Matt TMed him to.
By Evol's order, they stayed the night with the Gerudos. They feasted, watching the four special guards dancing while juggling their scimitars in spectacular choreography. Eleah then felt as he had never felt in his life, save for a moment when he first saw the Sadhu's Blade. He realized that it wasn't specifically the scimitar that enticed him, but rather this society, which it seemed to suggest by its form. These people weren't perfect, they had too many pointless rituals, but they were on to something. What that was, he didn't know yet.
They shared a room, not yet fully trusting their hosts. A young Gerudo, Nahara, escorted them. She was Nabooru's identical eleven-year-old cousin, and next in line to the throne. She was rather sulky, bringing Eleah's mood down somewhat. Matt didn't mind, but it made Eleah feel alone again, the only one trying to keep up his morale. Hannah…
"If you need anything, I'll be outside," Nahara said, closing the door behind her.
Eleah, tipsy from the one pint of highly concentrated alcohol he had consumed, collapsed in his bed. But Matt stayed sitting, and, without warning, burst into tears. Eleah saw this with consternation. What was wrong with this idiot now? "Hey, Matt?"
He wasn't sobbing, but the sight of him crying disturbed Eleah. "I'm fine," Matt snapped, thereby asserting the opposite.
Eleah started to get up, but inebriation kept him down. "Dude, what the hell's wrong?"
Matt didn't hesitate. "My mother was a Gerudo."
That statement sucked all the fun out of being drunk. Eleah struggled now to sit up so that he would be able to comfort him when the time came. "That's impossible. You heard them; one male a century, and they've got Ganondorf… And you're white, for Din's sake."
Matt shook his head. "I'm Ganondorf's twin, then. And Thomas was adopted. Ganondorf doesn't know his father, and my father's genes are bound to mess with a Gerudo's, so my skin color's just coincidence, or he put a spell on it."
"What proof do you have? So he stole the sword. So he let your mom have it. So what? It has nothing to do with who she was. And Ganondorf's mother…or, mothers (how do they figure that one?) are still here, alive, and I think you'd recognize 'er…or them…or one of them or whatever."
"But I can use the Sadhu's Blade. Only the King can use it, and I've used it a thousand times."
"I'm sure they didn't mean only the King could pick it up and swing it at people; they just meant only he was supposed to have it. It's just a sword."
"No, it…you wouldn't understand Gerudo legends. Maybe I do because I am one, but I know that they meant only Kings had the ability. It's got enchantments on it—"
"Which your dad probably broke."
"They can't be broken. They were placed on it by Din Herself. I'm telling you, I'm a Gerudo."
"C'mon, it's not like you were there when she did that."
"It explains everything," Matt mused, tears drying. "I like falchions cuz they're a little curved, and all my sabers are too. I only have long swords cuz I have to. And the Blade only felt wrong cuz I wasn't the true King."
"Or maybe cuz it's a piece of junk."
Matt swore in Gerudo at him as he had earlier, then acted as if he hadn't said anything. "I cared more for my mother than my father, cuz I value women more than men."
"Well, there's no point in pretending to love a guy you've never seen."
"Hell, my whole belief in honor was from my own sissy desire to not have to fight people if I could avoid it. Like a girl."
"…That one might be true."
Matt laughed, shoving him away. "I'm serious. What if everything I've ever done has just been because I'm a Gerudo, whereas I thought it had some deeper meaning?"
Eleah was sober enough to argue. "Look, everybody's got biology working in 'em, no matter who they are. Being a Gerudo shouldn't change that. Now you just know where those things came from—big whoop. Still ain't a thing you can do about it."
"But we have free will! Biology only suggests what you should do, but you have the final say. That's not the problem. The problem is, if my knowing about this stuff only came about from being a Gerudo without knowing it…now that I do know, will it change that?"
"By your logic, it shouldn't." Something about his reasoning intrigued Eleah, however. Biology suggested. He had felt bodily urges in the past and not acted upon them, hadn't he? Heck, people could resist the urge to eat, couldn't they? They made a religious sacrament out of it. Obviously biology didn't control everything. Then it was a combination of biology and your environment. Biology suggested, environment said, "Do this or else," and you make a compromise.
But, in the end, people were always slaves to something.
Re: Legend of Link III: All The Pieces (Adv/Rom)(T)
Not My Slave (Pt. 2)
Matt was depressed for a while, but eventually broke out of his reverie when Evol gave them a much-needed break. Eleah had dragged him off to Nakeem, where they found a good bar and tried to forget their problems. It seemed like Matt was hopelessly closed off, and he was about to give up when their waitress accosted them.
Eleah looked up at her, but Matt only gave her a glance. She was a blonde. Wearing denim shorts, a low-cut top, and her hair slightly curled at the ends, at first he had to wonder whether she was really an employee here. "Hey."
She stared at Matt, as if to ask why he wasn't gawking at her beauty. "Hey, Mister Sunshine, hey to you too."
Matt grudgingly raised his head, dreading such informal confrontations. "Yeah, hey."
She looked back and forth between them for a long second, grinning. "Y'know, I think you two are mercenaries."
Eleah tensed up, and Matt forgot his anger now that fear came to take its throne. How could she possibly know? Unless she was joking? "What makes you say that?"
She took a seat now, leaning interestedly on her elbows. "This is a small town. I know everyone here, and I've never seen you before. We only have guests when there's some business to be had, and all those uptight business folks who visit here are a lot livelier than you. You guys—you're so detached, so…" she waved her hand in the air to catch the word. "So dark. So strong and silent type. Strong and silent types don't hang with other strong and silent types unless they've got strong and silent type business to take care of."
"It's that obvious?" Eleah said, amused.
"Your mouths say 'Get me a drink.' Your eyes say, 'Let me drive this dagger through your heart.'"
Matt was back in his element now. "Not scared?"
She laughed. "God, no. Watch." Confused, they did so. She leaned in closer, and, with impeccable grace and suggestive eyes, lowered her bra until they saw a lot more than they'd expected she would be inclined to show. Then, as they were transfixed, she abruptly straightened up and grabbed their throats. They choked, and she let go. "See? Mercenaries are one thing, but women are invincible. With men being such buffoons, what's to be scared of?"
Instantly, Eleah was smitten. He figured himself out in that moment: he was attracted to feminism. Curious… "Care to demonstrate your power some more?"
She gave them that mischievous smile they would never forget. "We'll see. What brings you two here? Not gonna kill anyone I know, are you?"
"Vacation," Matt shrugged, overtly trying to lighten the mood. It was then that Eleah realized that his depression was waning. And, overall, he was equally fascinated with this woman. And so the rivalry begins…
She bought a few drinks and sat with them, doing in ten seconds what Eleah had failed at for three days. She introduced herself as Helen. Matt was open with her, telling her anything she asked, beyond what he'd told Eleah, even. He learned that Matt was a good golfer, Thomas had collected stamps, and Queen Vanessa of Sonura was a mute. Eleah tried to upstage him, impressing Helen with the sheer improbability of his life story. But, as he skipped over his experiences at MIH, guilt caught him in his tracks. Hannah… He still had to bring her back.
"Y'know…" Helen said after a while. "A couple of handsome guys like yourselves…you could make two twin sisters with similar names and the same job very happy." With no confusion as to her subjects, she called her sister Helga to the table. She had her blond hair tied back in a ponytail, and her eyes were a darker blue than Helen's, but they were utterly identical besides.
And, somehow, they nabbed themselves a double date. Mainly due to first impressions, Eleah got Helen, and they all stayed at the sisters' apartment that night. It wasn't until he and Helen were alone in her room that he let anything slip out about Hannah.
"That's sweet," Helen said, though it seemed she didn't really believe him; after all, he was betraying Hannah by going out with her, wasn't he? "In its own disturbing way."
Seeing the truth in the words she wouldn't say, he became downcast. "I'm sorry, I really shouldn't be—"
Helen put a hand to his chin, lifting his eyes to hers. "Don't apologize, for Din's sake. I'm having fun. Tonight you're mine; I'll let you worry about fidelity to a dead girl tomorrow." And she kissed him. Something he hadn't expected, surely. But more than that, he hadn't expected to enjoy it so much. Hannah had never kissed him like this. Lust overriding shame, Eleah kissed her back. "Now that's more like it…"
"I'll get her back."
"Man up," she said, poking him in the chest and then grabbing the collar of his cloak. "Even if you do, what she doesn't know can't hurt her." She tore his cloak off, pushing him onto her bed.
She was awfully forward, wasn't she? Eleah was confused, uncertain, frightened of the choices before him. Helen knew there was some chemistry between them, and didn't even want to examine it more closely before acting upon it. Eleah saw it too, was intrigued by her view of female superiority, but was still so hopeful in getting Hannah back. He really liked Helen, but she was an unknown quantity, whereas Hannah was sure to love him forever. He wanted stability. Strange. Wasn't that more of a woman's desideratum?
"This is about the point where I stab the girl and run away," Eleah said, trying to make light of his anxiety. It backfired.
A fire lit in Helen's eyes, and she pounced on him, tearing off her clothes in a flurry of passionate movement. Demonstrating her power over him once again, she pressed against him, kissing him into submission. "Ha. I'd like to see you try."
Evol curled the bones of his toes and kicked Eleah in the side. Matt he treated with less respect, Floating him up four inches and slamming him back to the floor. He waited until they were fully conscious to speak. "The beast with two backs rears its ugly head."
Eleah, hoping to keep Matt from realizing what he meant, scowled in unconcern. "None of your business."
"On the contrary," Evol said, relishing the fact that Eleah would hate him for enlightening the now-attentive Matt. "If you start falling in love with random women, I can't really use Hannah as your reward anymore, can I? What assurance do I have that you won't run off with one of them and forget your 'one true love' and stop doing what I say?" He spoke of Love with such scorn that they both immediately knew he had some grievance with the emotion.
"Someone betrayed you, didn't they?" Eleah maneuvered, pulling away from his own problems seamlessly.
Evol saw that Eleah would say anything to avert Matt's knowledge of Hannah, and humored him. "No, I was the betrayal. Lily, a Light mage. We were married, had a daughter. Then the Eradication comes around, and she says she's the White Dragon, married to Brakek. Go figure."
"Aww, did she make wittle Evol cwy?" Eleah couldn't help but taunt him.
Evol couldn't believe he would destroy their unspoken, freely given truce. Apparently he hadn't known it was there. Well, screw it then. Eleah had taken it too far. "Not as much as the Black Wizard made you cry when he killed your girlfriend."
Eleah realized his mistake then, and that it was too late. Comprehension sprang into Matt's eyes, reminding him eerily of Helen's stare the night before. Nothing good could come of this. Matt would hate him for being so fickle, would make it that much harder to proceed with Helen. If that was what Eleah wanted to do.
For last night had been wonderful. None of that awkwardness that sometimes came from losing one's virginity. He would be fine meeting her again. But, in some area of his mind, he really didn't feel like it at the moment. Not to mention that Evol had summoned them here so unceremoniously as to leave Helen and Helga no clue as their whereabouts.
Matt was stunned. "You mean…my father killed your…?"
"I don't want to talk about it," Eleah snapped.
Matt wasn't gonna miss his chance to belittle him. "You joined this monster to bring back your girlfriend, and then you have the audacity to go out with someone else before you've even accomplished anything?"
Evol nudged Matt, amusement putting him in a good mood. "Wait, it gets better! Eleah, tell him what you two did on her bed."
"Shut u—my god, did you watch?"
Matt was beside himself. "On the first…?"
Eleah was getting red now, and wished they would stop adding to his astronomical guilt. "Oh, and you and Helga were perfectly polite, I suppose?"
"Yes," Matt laughed. "We had a great time with our clothes on. You do realize that Helen could be pregnant, don't you?"
Of course, he didn't. "Slim chance." He had been taught all he knew of magic under Warih, MIH, Hannah, and the little experience he picked up from his missions. He didn't know that wizards had practically a ninety-five percent chance of conception, that it was nearly inevitable. It had never come up. It had never been necessary. It had never been appropriate. It had never been a problem.
Evol chuckled. "Ah, the fun never ends…"
Helen was the last of the waitresses to leave, closing down the bar at one in the afternoon for observance of the Feast of The Crystal. A tradition her little town held only because they claimed the ancient Green Dragon of Hyto had taken to feasting there before her death (as it turned out, Deimos had implemented this celebration by feasting there after her death, to commemorate her life and the fall of King Alner).
Matt chose this moment to arrive, and she found that she wasn't surprised to see him there. "What do you want?"
Matt was trying to keep his concern in check, and failing miserably. He put a hand out to stop her from walking out the door, and stared into her eyes with such guised sincerity that she was a little scared, for once. "You're pregnant."
"Good to know." She passed under his arm and turned the doorknob. It stuck. She turned on him, patiently waiting to vent her sudden wrath. "You meant to speak in future tense, then?"
Matt was unfazed. "You knew Eleah's a wizard. I'm hoping you're not as ignorant as he was."
"He didn't know?"
"Helen, he's still a kid. Sixteen. Looking back at his life, I don't see how he ever could've known. No health classes at MIH, no onset of puberty while under Warih, and no one thinking he didn't know it later on. He was being stupid."
"Helga said you were boring, by the way."
Matt was stung, but didn't show it. "She wasn't so dazzling herself. And this wasn't my idea, you may recall. I was just being courteous. If I were to affect your lives in any way, I'd rather it not be as your destroyer. But I'll need your permission to undo Eleah's mistake."
Helen squinted, giving him that calculating, critical look he would come to love. "Oh, and what makes it a mistake, exactly?"
He was taken aback. "How old are you, seventeen? He's a year younger. As far as I can tell, having to raise a child in such precarious circumstances as that is a grave mistake. And neither of you wanted it, I'm sure! He was ignorant, and I assume you were going to have something done about it—"
Now he was losing it. "What do you mean? It'll ruin your life; why not get rid of it?"
She let her anger free, but soon it had mellowed out. She finally had a context for telling someone her beliefs, and it was liberating. "Because it would be murder. Us women are stronger, but we are more compassionate for it. Men think they can ignore someone just cuz they can't talk."
Matt winced. Not this again… "Don't start. I'm a Matter Wizard; I know that argument's full of crap. Fetuses may as well be plants for all the humanity they've got. No soul, no murder. Just a cease of operations that might not have been completed anyway."
"Your body was once a fetus," Helen continued, feeling strongly about this. "Does that mean that killing you as a fetus would've been more morally correct than killing you now?"
Matt rolled his eyes. No wonder Eleah liked her—she was basically him with a pump of estrogen. "For the love of Nayru, yes!"
"How typical of a Matter Wizard."
That comment hurting him a lot more than he consciously felt, he lay bare the whole situation. "Eleah only joined Evol cuz he wanted to bring back—"
"Hannah, I know." Matt stopped. Eleah had told her about this, and not him? Friends for more than two years, and he'd just skipped right over it. But give him this tramp, and he spills his freakin' guts. "So you have a problem with that. So did he."
"And you don't?"
"Frankly, no. Neither should you. What are you, his boyfriend?"
"I have morals, I live by honor, and thanks to Evol, Eleah's the best damned friend I've got. I'm not gonna stand by and watch as he falls, dragging everybody else down with him. Is it so wrong to want to stop you guys from being idiots?"
"You're the only one who seems to think we are."
"Which is the point of my intervention. Neither of you are ready for this. You might have wanted it, for whatever reason you have, but he didn't, doesn't, and never will. He wasn't ready for this."
She would have to be a fool not to see the truth in this. "…He did seem to be holding back on me a bit."
"Little kid probably didn't even know what to do."
Helen laughed. "Well, what a good friend you are." She leaned back on the door, crossing her arms beneath her bosom for effect, lifting her breasts a little.
"So, will you let me help you now?"
"Not the way you want to."
Matt scoffed. "Oh, so there is a way you want me to?"
"It's obvious, isn't it? Eleah won't care for his child cuz he ain't ready. And I can't do it myself. And I don't wanna kill it. And you came here cuz you couldn't stand the stain on your honor if you didn't try and do something about it. Only one option: you help me take care of it instead." She shrugged. "It's your duty, right?"
Helen bit her lip. "Then this is even more interesting: you like me."
Matt couldn't believe she would stoop so low as to flirt with him when he was blatantly stating how much he despised such whoredom. Was she serious? Or was she just trying to drive him away? For that matter, why didn't her words drive him away? "I see you don't want my help."
"C'mon, let me prove my sister wrong." She got closer to him, but he kept her at a distance.
"You are sick."
"I notice you're not leaving."
This silenced him. And, with his guard down, Helen struck. Before he could stop her, she threw her arms around him, kissing him until he returned it. Then Matt left, greatly conflicted.
Eleah was frightened when Matt told him the news. He was going to be a father. At first he took Matt's side, seeing Helen's decision as inconceivably foolish, but as he thought about it more, the secondhand logic won him over. Hannah's words came back to him: "Most Matter Wizards overlook the soul because they can't detect it within themselves. But the fact is, the soul's just not made of atoms."
He could see what his two lovers meant. The body and soul were separate. But once attached, they were as one. And to destroy the body would be to deny a soul its residence. So, in all reality, abortion was murder before life. And the fact that people only considered it murder after that life had begun just showed how selfish they could be.
But even for all the morality he was able to justify, he was still deeply troubled.
"Well then," Matt said after listening to Eleah reason it all out, "if you're fine with it, why don't you take responsibility for this?" He hadn't mentioned Helen's plan of action, or their embrace, and just hoped Helen would emulate his reticence without being told.
"No," he replied simply. "I can't."
"Why the hell not?"
Eleah didn't have an answer for him. Honestly, he didn't even know why. An hour ago, he would've been fine with meeting her, but this knowledge changed everything. He didn't fully understand why it did, but he also didn't fully care to find out.
As Eleah's silence dragged on, Matt became so indignant of his behavior that he boldly lifted his hood over his head, covering himself to show his distrust. Evol sighed. "Okay you two, enough lollygagging. Time for a mission."
Evol sent them out to ruin another city in Nal, and Matt could see Eleah was losing heart. The Emotion electricity mage was letting the former of these powers get the better of him. His spells were weaker, more reserved. Matt soon found himself being the aggressive one, and realized that their positions had swapped now.
When they returned to Xeria, Evol had a surprise that would certainly bring Eleah from his reverie. The moment they arrived, they were confused to see two black cloaks before them, with one white cloak off to the side. Evol could be discerned by his skull arms and legs and his scythe, but the second black-garbed man was completely covered, wearing black Iron Boots and Iron Gloves. His presence was somehow more threatening than Evol's. The third man seemed to be old from the wrinkled skin of his arms, and his feet weren't visible under his cloak. There was no mistaking it—this last one was Rulm, the White Wizard and headmaster of MIH.
They all turned to see Matt and Eleah staring at them, and Rulm recoiled. "Eleah?"
"Rulm?" Eleah said, trying to show as much disbelief, but actually not all that shocked.
Evol acted as though he had planned this. "Rulm, Tylk, meet my apprentices: Eleah and Matthew."
It seemed Matt and Tylk knew each other as well. But their recognition was silent, a glare from the Matter Wizard and an unfathomable stare from Tylk's invisible face. Tylk moved forward, approaching Matt slowly (whether due to surprise at seeing him or the weight of his boots, Eleah couldn't tell). Tylk abruptly reached down and hugged Matt. "My son!"
Eleah stared now in horror. Matt, overcome with emotion, hugged his father back. He cried, leaving Eleah utterly bewildered. Matt didn't love this man. He didn't even know him. Hell, he couldn't have known it was him. How foolish he would look if it turned out to be a clone! What got to him most, though, was that he was embracing the man who had murdered Hannah. How dare he?
"Father…" Matt croaked.
Eleah waited until they had stepped back from each other to attack. Forgetting that there was anyone else in the room, he let his rage get the best of him. He produced a lightning sword, and lunged at him with all his might.
Tylk put up one hand and caught the blade between his fingers. He didn't acknowledge that anything had happened when he spoke. "Matthew, I'm so sorry. I left your mother so I could defeat Evol, but I failed. He wouldn't let me return to you."
Matt nodded. "I understand. Me and Thomas are fine…" He seemed reluctant to admit his next point. "I…returned the Sadhu's Blade."
Tylk sighed, putting a firm hand on Matt's shoulder (his glove was made of iron, after all). "That's okay. It was stupid of me to take it anyway. I couldn't make use of its powers, and neither could anyone but Ganondorf. You were right to return it."
Eleah gave up all pretense of logical combat, and threw himself at Tylk, dragging him to the floor, not needing to pinion him as his boots and gloves did the job for him. His hood fell back, revealing a face very much like his own, but with blue eyes, blond hair. "Look at me, dammit!" Eleah punched him against the rock floor, bloodying his nose.
"Ouch, I guess," Tylk laughed.
Furious, Eleah pummeled the Black Wizard. The others looked on in silence as he beat the sense out of their friend. No one made a move to stop him, let alone Tylk himself. Hannah…
Suddenly, Eleah fell, and his knuckles met stone. Tylk appeared behind him, reached down, and pinched Eleah's shoulder with his glove. Eleah crumpled to the ground, gripping his shoulder with his wrecked hand. Tylk crouched down, letting his blood drip onto Eleah's. "Look, kid: Whatever I did to you, I didn't mean it. I know I can't convince you of that, so I won't bother trying. I've done quite a bit of nasty things in my past, but I'll be damned if you're gonna serve the retribution."
With a nervous look from Rulm, the two Wise Wizards left. Eleah Healed himself, and Matt helped as much as he could to undo the damage. The moment he felt well enough to do so, Eleah turned on Evol. "You killed Hannah!"
"No, I'm the one with the scythe, sorry. You're thinking of Tylk. Thanks for playing."
Eleah got to his feet, ready to snap again, but Matt restrained him. "You control Tylk! You made him kill Hannah!"
"No, he did that of his own free will." Evol didn't seem to mind that he'd just spoken against his philosophies by that statement.
"Liar! You made him do it so I'd follow you!"
Evol cut it short. "Eleah, I had nothing to do with it. He was off of my Servant Curse at the moment. I was afraid he might try something, so I had Rulm tail him. Rulm says he had some grievance against the place, but I really don't know why he did it. Now, either you can go after Tylk or you can continue to work for me and bring back Hannah."
Eleah seriously thought this over. As his anger subsided, he glared with utmost hatred at his master, pointing into his face with authority. "I will do what it takes to revive her. But heed me now: I am not your slave." When Evol left them, Eleah found the courage to talk about what had just happened. "Finally met your father, eh?"
Matt was reluctant to show the bittersweet joy he felt at the idea, hoping not to make a rift between them. "It wasn't what I expected."
"How come you didn't ask him? About your mother, I mean."
Matt closed up, all happiness drained in an instant. If the memory of Helen hadn't been instilled so permanently, he would've returned immutably to his previous depression. "I…don't wanna know."
He looked at Eleah accusingly. "I just don't, okay? Some things are better off not being known. I'd rather have doubts about this. Let that be the end of it."
And it was.
Helen kissed Eleah upon seeing him, giddy in her uncertainty. "You are so dumb."
"I know," he said, mildly trying not to show how he focused his attention on her belly. It had only been a month, but there was already a definite bulge. He had surely taken a long time in waiting to confront her; Matt had already seen her ten times before now. Hell, she had already turned eighteen. "I'm sorry for what I've done. If I had known this would happen—"
"You are so dumber," she laughed. "You might not have known what you were doing, kid, but I sure as hell did. I wanted it—end of story. Be thou absolved."
She shrugged. "My parents are dead, I live with my sister, no boyfriend. I was lonely. A baby'll be a nice change."
"You're not serious?"
Eleah didn't know what else to say. "So…are we…?"
"Gonna do it again? Sorry, that phase of my plan is over. Maybe someday. When I feel like it."
"That wasn't what I…" he sighed. She always had to have control, didn't she? "I mean, I feel real guilty for this, especially since Hannah's still…"
"A dead girl, yeah." Her tactlessness stung, and in that moment Eleah knew this was all wrong. He and Helen weren't meant for each other.
Saying nothing more, Eleah left.
Back at Evol's lair, he told Matt the details of their short exchange, and Evol, overhearing, grew impatient. "How long are you two gonna fight about this? Just one of you do something with her already, and shut the hell up."
Eleah didn't want to go to her. And now that he thought about it, he discovered why: the idea of a baby reminded him too much of baby Laura. And so, the next day, with Eleah's fervent permission, Matt went to visit Helen. He found her on her bed, crying. She looked up, and wailed loudly. "Go away!"
Matt stood firm. "No."
Helen stared into his eyes, finding an emotion she was afraid of facing in his icy stare. She leapt to her feet, sobbing and flailing her arms as if to attack him. But when her fist landed on his chest, it was soft, pacified. Her fingers unfurled and she wrapped her arms around him, crying unashamedly into his shoulder.
"I think…" Matt whispered to her in a soothing voice, "that I love you."
Helen put her chin to his chest, looking up into his eyes with joy. He leaned into her, and they kissed sweetly until they fell back on the bed that had started it all, and Matt got his turn.
Later that day, Matt returned to Evol's lair with an indestructible grin. Evol grunted. "I assume everything has been set right now?"
"Yeah," Matt said plainly, chuckling. He took a seat next to Eleah at the table, drinking his wine with a relish. Even this ghastly scenery was glorious on this day. "We're engaged now. That should solve that problem."
There was a pause. Evol threw his newspaper to the floor, readying his scythe. "'Engaged'? What the hell? I meant you could date her, take short breaks and whatnot. I'm not allowing you to give all your attention to that slut. Eleah still needs you! Damn it, Matthew, keeping up with King Paul is one thing, but being married?"
"What's it to you?" Matt challenged, Helen's attitude rubbing off on him now in his rebellion. "Eleah doesn't need me. He can murder and pillage without my damned help. He never needed me in the first place."
Eleah finally got it. This was the moment. Matthew had been chosen for this. Laura had been spared for this. Their meeting with Helen hadn't been random. Matt was meant to make this choice, and it was meant to be rebellious. He felt, right now, like he could get away with this because he had escaped killing Laura, because he had seen his father and the inner conflict Eleah had endured upon learning he was the Black Wizard, because Helen must've said she loved him. And, in that moment, Eleah knew what he had to do.
"He's right," Eleah agreed, staring at Evol in feigned defiance, while not being able to hide the fact that they both knew what they were really saying by this little act. "I don't need him. Helen does."
"You think I give a damn what Helen needs?" Evol swung his scythe, sticking it in the wood of the table so that it split nearly in half. "I'm short on servants, and you two are the best ones I've got. Better than Rulm and Tylk, as a matter of fact! Do you honestly believe I'm gonna give either of you up for the comfort of some blonde bimbo?"
Matt stood up, facing Evol with palpable execration. "You can say what you want about me. You can say anything you want about Eleah—"
"How kind of you."
"—But say anything about Helen, and I will personally drag you down to hell with me!"
"Shouldn't be too hard," Eleah remarked.
Evol slapped Matt across the face as he had done the last time they'd disobeyed him. It reminded them of that incident, of course, and sealed the deal. Matthew would never return. All that was needed was for Eleah to make his offer. "Remember: you are my apprentice, and you shall remain in that position until I say otherwise. No marriage."
Eleah stood, drawing their attention. "Evol, I will not allow my mistake to go uncorrected. Let Matt go."
"Oh, yes, how could I resist such a poetic order? Forget it."
"Leave them alone, Evol." Bracing himself, he made the most difficult choice he had ever made. "In exchange, I will work for you as long as I live."
Matt was aghast. "No, Eleah! This is my sacrifice, not yours!"
How cliché. Though he cringed inwardly, though he knew it would make Matt assume that he had only done it out of some newfound morals that he didn't actually believe in, he went along with the implied script Evol had given him. "You aren't making any sacrifices, Matt. I made the mistake, and I will be the one to atone for it. You deserve freedom."
"Notice that neither of you have even waited for my input…" Evol groaned. He waited as if to think about it, while he was really just waiting for Matt to accept this way of things. "Matthew, if you ever let word get out about my operations—" Matt's eyes widened as he realized that they had done it, that he had broken free. He turned to Eleah in wonderment, and they shared a smirk. "—I will hunt you down and torture you. As for Eleah, you also have responsibility over Matthew's fate. If you should ever disobey me once again, for any reason, I will first kill your child, then Helen, then Matthew. Since you've offered, I'll keep you on the shortest damned leash you can imagine."
"Glad you could see things my way," Matt gloated.
Evol, saving face, removed his scythe from the table and twirled it in the air so the blade stopped at Matt's neck. "Don't push it." Matt's smirk remained, and Evol deemed the situation well-dealt. "Now get out."
Eleah and Matt shook hands, and he disappeared. "What now, boss?"
Evol sighed, taking his seat again. "So you knew I planned this."
Eleah raised an eyebrow. "So you're willing to admit it. I knew ever since you let us get away with not killing Laura that you wanted Matt to do something stupid. Why didn't you just make me stay in the first place?"
Again, Eleah felt like Evol was making something like a smile with his incapable jaw. "I can't force you to do anything, remember? You're not my slave."
"Like hell I'm not."
"I'll still return Hannah to you."
"When you stop asking."
Eleah made no comment. Then, when Evol felt he had won, he started up again. "Okay, I stopped for an entire second. By logic, I've filled your requirements."
Evol shook his head. "You can only last a second? No wonder Helen left you."
Matthew and Helen were married on Eleah's seventeenth birthday. They honeymooned in Sonura, seeing as Matt had great privileges in their government, and got a good deal on a small place in Sonura Castle Town. Eleah helped them move in, having received another break from Evol.
Of course, Matt being a Matter Wizard, there was very little "moving in" to do. They spent the time partying, ending the week in a feast provided by the King himself. Eleah had to attend disguised, since King Paul surely wouldn't let it slide that his daughter's arranged husband, and murderer of two monarchs who had been his closest friends, was dining at his table with impunity.
After the feast, they retired at their new house, and Eleah met Thomas for the first time. The older brother showed no resentment towards Matt for having a higher honor, nor for the fact that he was the first of them to find a wife. He was as friendly as you could hope from a sibling. Though, once he left, Helen expressed her misgivings—after all, they had pretty much switched places, from being around Helen's sister to being around Matt's brother.
Soon, it came time for Helen to give birth. For the first time that week, Eleah wasn't invited to join them. He spent the time alone in their house, thinking.
So much had changed in so little time. It hadn't even been four years since he'd first met Matthew, and already they had helped each other so much. But he had many years ahead of him. Many new possibilities, new friends to meet, people to kill, cities to raze…to think, he had grown so attached to Matt that the idea of going on missions alone was incomprehensible.
But along the way, he had learned so very little. He still didn't understand the world as he wanted to. His working hypothesis was that every action of man was decided by the council of animal instinct and environmental factors. But something seemed to be missing. Something important.
He theorized on this until Matt returned. Much earlier than expected…
"What happened?" Eleah asked, seeing the pained expression on his friend's face. He was sweating as if he had just run a mile, out of breath, and was irascible. As if he were the one giving birth.
"What'd you do?" Matt accused, grabbing Eleah by the collar.
"What're you talking about?"
Matt let go, then punched the wall, using his magic to repair it to its normal state when he was done. "She…she miscarried."
Eleah was confused. He was elated to hear this news, and perplexed as to why Matt would be so angry. Had he just married Helen to make up for Eleah's stupidity? Was he that driven by his (supposed) Gerudo genes? He didn't know whether it would be safe to question his motives quite yet. "Miscarried?"
Matt took a seat, summoning a glass of whiskey and not bothering to offer Eleah any before gulping it down. "They said she can't…can't have children…"
Barren, eh? Eleah felt a burden lifted from his heart with these words. Why wasn't Matt happy about this? Wasn't this a man's dream come true? He could make love to his wife as many times as he wanted without having to deal with pesky children. What was better, he had avoided raising a child that wouldn't have been his. What complaint could he have? When Eleah voiced these opinions, Matt almost exploded.
"What the hell do you know about what I want?!" he shouted, punching him. Eleah fell to the floor, Healing his cracked jaw. Matt seemed to come to his senses the moment the damage was done. "Sorry, I just… Eleah, you don't understand. I love Helen, and she wants children. I want to do whatever makes her happy."
"I just meant," Eleah began with caution, "that since she can't have them, she'll probably allow abortions now, right? No reason letting them grow just so they'll die in the womb, see?"
Matt grimaced. "You don't get it still. I want to have children with her, I want to share as much as I can with her…but now I can't."
"In vitro?" Eleah suggested. "Surrogate mothers?"
Matt sighed. "Nah, she wouldn't want that. And neither would I, now that I think about it… It just wouldn't feel right. It's gonna take her a while to get over this anyway. A year, tops, before we can even think of another solution."
Eleah had to admit that Matt was right—he still didn't get it. If he knew he couldn't have children, that animal instinct was wasted. And the environment told him to ride the wave of infertility, with all its ups and downs (pun intended). What could possibly gall him about this?
Eleah stayed with Matt and Helen for three more days, knowing they would be offended if he left so early after this tragedy. But soon he had to start deserving their happiness, and Evol called on him to go back and check on the Gerudos.
A bad sign: they sent Nahara to meet him instead of convening as they had last time. Disrespect. It was wasted on Eleah, of course; he didn't care for such things. But it most likely meant they hadn't decided to initiate the alliance.
Nahara bowed. "We have found the Sadhu's Blade to be genuine." Here she made the Gerudo sign of Renewed Faith (the sign of the Triforce, followed by a strong fist over the heart and forehead) to show that she was foolish to doubt its sanctity. "Our King, however, desires a greater price."
He knew something like this would happen. After all, Tylk had stolen the Blade in the first place—why should they give their allegiance to the men who simply returned their property? "What did he have in mind?"
She couldn't keep the bitterness out of her answer. "He asks for the revival of his father."
"And you think that's stupid," Eleah interpreted. She gasped at his audacity, but he stopped her before she could start some tirade. "Speak freely, Nahara. I won't tell anyone."
She hesitated. "Yes, he is asking for a foolish price. I do not believe your master truly has the ability to resurrect. But even if he did, Ganondorf's father was a horrible man. Koume and Kotake chose him for his aggressiveness. He almost killed them, but they sent him to die in the war. Ganondorf never met him, and that's the only reason he wants him back."
"Have you met him?"
"That's beside the point. Bringing him back would destroy us, and the alliance would fall apart as well. It would be a pointless transaction."
"So, what do you propose?"
"That you be the price. That you be given to me as a husband." She did not blush (at least, Eleah couldn't possibly know if she did), but he could see other signs of the truth in her body language.
"Why you, exactly?" Eleah said, trying to play with her. It seemed that, beneath all that ritual, that strict professionalism, there was a little girl who had found her first crush and was trying to use the laws of the land to trap him into submission.
"It couldn't be anyone else," she said simply, betraying nothing of her affection. "I am the highest-ranked official who isn't betrothed or married."
"Owing to the fact that you're twelve."
"If an alliance shall come by this method, I am the only candidate. The only setback is that you'll have to wait four years before it can come into effect. I hope your master will not be disappointed?"
"I should hope not too. Matthew's life depends on my ability to appease him." Nahara asked no questions about this, so Eleah trudged on with what he really wanted to say. "I have the feeling that Ganondorf didn't approve this settlement. Heck, I find it hard to believe that you even told him about this."
Nahara hung her head. "Correct. Ganondorf is in a strange mood, and I doubt his inaction will continue for long. Someday he will begin a campaign against the Hylians. He has hinted at it already. He intends to avenge his father. I know he will try it, and I know he will fail. When that happens, and Nabooru falls with him, I will take the throne. At that time, an alliance will be extremely beneficial."
She was ashamed for revealing this to him; she hadn't told another Gerudo abut this prediction. Not to mention that it was an insult to Subooru for thinking she knew better than the King's advisor. "You don't have to act all sad about it. I'm not gonna punish you."
Nahara lifted her face to stare angrily into his eyes. "I do not fear a man's punishment."
"I can tell." He walked up to her, kneeled, and took her hand in his. "Nahara, I agree to your terms. When you are leader of the Gerudos, I shall return."
She seemed to be fine with his subservience, except for the fact that he had elevated himself to her level by touching her. This annoyed him. Suddenly the awe he had felt at this culture waned a little. They didn't just believe women weren't below men, they believed the exact opposite. Instead of equality, as Eleah believed, they had an antithesis. For some reason, it had taken this gesture to make it clear to him.
Eleah left then, returning to Evol's lair to make sure this arrangement was acceptable. Upon seeing him, Evol laughed. "Sure are taking your chances, aren't you?"
"You're not gonna kill Matthew over something so trivial as that, I hope."
Evol repelled his scythe and approached a chest which Eleah hadn't taken notice of before. "No, no, I'm fine with what you've done. In fact, things are going exactly as I planned."
"Then it's true? Ganondorf will attack Hyrule?"
"Yup. 'Cept Nahara was wrong about one thing: he'll succeed. That's why I wanted you to go there in the first place. You needed to remind him of his childhood dream of avenging his father. He will now go in search of the Triforce, and when he reaches it, he will gain such power that he will be able to take over Hyrule Castle. But then the Hero of Time, who will have inadvertently helped him achieve this, will vanquish the evil, and Nahara will become Queen of the Gerudos. It'll take longer than four years, I promise." Evol opened the chest. There was a picture of a woman with white hair and purple eyes, atop a folded white cloak, and a few odd bits of jewelry and torn stationery.
"How do you know all that?"
"Cuz I've been right so far. I knew what you'd do, I knew how you'd affect others, I knew how they'd try to affect you in reply. I also know when you shall meet Hannah again, in this life. It will happen, I've planned for it, and all you need to do is go along with what I say until then."
Eleah had almost forgotten about Hannah this time. All that partying had gone to his head… Why had he gone along with Nahara's plan? When she became Queen, would Evol bring back Hannah just to make his life miserable? Or would Nahara back down once she saw how wrong her prediction had been? In any case, Evol must've planned that he would forget. Just how smart was this guy?
Evol rummaged through the chest, and slowly brought out his prize: a small glass orb. "Here it is…" He rearranged the items in the chest and locked it shut again. He handed the orb to Eleah. It gave off an evil vibe, and seemed to suck the air in from around it. "This is my experiment, Eleah: immortality."
He couldn't help but roll his eyes. "How's an overgrown marble gonna do anything?"
Evol chuckled. "That there is the Soul Container. We Death mages have been working on perfecting it for millennia, and I have finally completed it. All you need to do, then, is trap one thousand souls inside the Container, and Bond with it, as you would with magic itself. That is the key to immortality."
"Right. And you're giving it to me because…"
"That is your mission from now on. Collect souls, become immortal and invincible. Once you are done, I will return Hannah to you. Granted you don't disobey me in the interim and take your revenge on Tylk, of course."
Eleah was skeptical. Why would he give this to Eleah, of all people? What good could it possibly do for either of them? Then a thought: he couldn't resurrect Hannah. This was a scam. He would probably force Eleah to disobey him so he could keep his promise, and use his immortality to keep him forever. "As long as I live," Eleah had stipulated. What a stupid thing to say!
That man back in Nal…Evol had used Matter Manipulation, hadn't he? After all, what was life but countless atoms working together in less-countless cells working together to make a being move around and continue the body's operations? Any superior Matter Wizard could fake that, given that the witness didn't look too close at his work.
Then again, perhaps Evol planned that he would think this, so he could make him do something else. How infuriating! By telling him now that he had ulterior motives, Evol had made it harder to guess them. And so all Eleah could do was take this mission at face value.
Matt and Helen were still troubled by the next time Eleah visited. Nothing had changed; Helen was still barren, Matt was still dissatisfied, but there was no hatred between them. Which confused Eleah to no end. He told them all that had happened with Evol.
"So, technically, you can never disobey him," Matt said with relief.
"Unless I kill Tylk."
"Which, fortunately, you can't do," he pointed out.
Eleah sighed, glad that Helen wasn't in the room to hear what he would say next. "Matt, I'm sure he'll find some way around that. I'm afraid he'll kill you guys anyway. I don't know what to do about this."
Matt smiled. "You understand." He pulled Eleah into a hug, slapping him on the back a couple times. "Don't worry about us. You do what you need to do."
"But you two just got married, how could I—?"
Matt waved off his protests. "It's okay. We're fine with whatever happens…" He grew pensive now. "Oh, and…Tylk came by yesterday. He gave me a message for you, and I find it rather appropriate. He said, 'Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in hell.'"
"And what of the one who can send you to the latter?"
Matt looked fatherly down at Eleah, shaking his head. "Eleah, remember this: you serve Evol for my sake. But under no circumstances are you his slave."
And now Eleah truly did understand. Tylk's words inspired an epiphany. Evol might have the power of persuasion, but Eleah still had the final say in his actions. Animal instincts and environmental factors may have power over the subconscious, but there was something deeper which drove people, which came from the depths of their soul: Love. The desire for Love, or human nature, was a major factor in decision-making. Instinct, environment, and human nature fought it out to give the most appealing suggestion, but even so, there was no such thing as a slave.
The fire in your eyes—may it never go out.
The sweetness of your tears make it feel like night.
I see no escape from the roles we always play.
What do we have to prove on this judgment day?
You're mine now but you're not my sister.
You're mine now but you're not my slave.
You're mine now but you're not my child.
You're mine now but you're not my slave.
You're missing the whole point—you're not my little pet.
Don't throw away your life—The games not over yet.
I do not own your soul—don't want you in a cage.
I only want your heart to find a special place…
And there ya go. Next, I shall write LOL 4. That should take me quite a while, so...as I said above, ask if you want updates or excerpts or anything. So far, it looks to be the greatest stuff I've ever written.
And so ends LOL 3, and this story's status as an epic.