Chapter 16 - Through the Heart of Hell
The dull, aching pain was what woke him. Link’s eyes slowly fluttered to life as the harsh glare of candle light stung his pupils. His wrists hurt dreadfully. He tried his hardest to look up but couldn’t manage to lift his head before the throbbing at the back of his brain pounded in full force. He had to stop before he passed out again. He was hanging by his wrists with a hard leathery thong attached to a central pole running the length of the tent keeping its structure stable.
Link gingerly moved his head to examine the space around him and deduced that he was in the heart of the massive army and that it was already night time. He concluded this as the tent flap straight ahead of him gently wavered in the evening breeze; given him brief glimpses of the horrors beyond. He looked around and saw several cages hanging around the rim of the tent. Each one had a fairy in it.
Link was going to ponder this when his hearing finally returned in a crashing onslaught of sound; the noise filled his ears with a deafening roar. A din of talking, screaming, shouting, and clanging all rushed at him from every angle. Link shut his eyes hard trying to block out the immense cacophony of sound, but it was simply too much. The screaming was what disturbed him the most. It was a collage of children, women, animals and men. Resigning to the horrible music of war, he lay listless from the pole.
It was then that Link noticed he was completely naked, his precious Kokiri clothes were casually tossed in the far corner of the tent shredded and ripped. Link groaned inwardly as he lamented his precious tunic, the last remnants of home.
A gust of cold air blasted his naked form sending shivers down his spine as the tent flap opened up of its own accord and four figures entered the tent. The biggest brute stopped directly in front of him, cape sweeping behind as the three commanders lined up abreast just paces beyond. Link recognized those men. The slender one of the three came up to big man’s side and spoke in a soft whisper.
“This is the boy they call Link, Dodongo Buster. It is unclear how he was able to do it, but he has once wielded the Master Sword. He is a legend in his own right, but no one seems to remember it.” Thanan coolly informed him.
The caped man sarcastically clapped his hands, “It is amazing where you get your information Thanan, but I’m not complaining!” Link quickly made a mental note of the third man’s name.
With a mock visage of surprise, the caped man placed a hand to his lips, “Oh my, I have completely forgotten my manners!” A small laugh, “Here are my legion commanders, Thanan, Talamir and Timner. I believe you’ve met them before. Yes?”
He indicated to the three men Link was already acquainted with. He gestured to the slender brown haired man, then the slightly muscular black haired man and finally the blond haired man who shared a similar build with the previous. Link narrowed his eyes in hatred as he memorized their faces and names.
The man continued, “You may not know who I am, but let me state it for you boy: I am General Naar. Surely you remember what you did to me in the Lost Woods, no?”
Link simply shook his head. The events of that day were a complete blur to him, he didn’t remember much of that awful day. A sudden flurry of movement and Link screamed in pain as he swung by his wrists from the tent pole. Naar had punched Link hard in the gut at what the general took for arrogance.
Naar scoffed as he walked up to examine Link’s small pale body in the candle light, his boots crunching on the gravel beneath his feet with every slow calculating step. Link tried to contain his raging emotions swirling within him as the swinging finally ceased. He tried his best to ignore the raging chorus of screams still thundering outside the tent. Naar inspected Link from all angles before stopping once more in front of him. He let out a startling laugh which caused Link to jerk involuntarily.
“Look at this boy men, he hasn’t even grown his own hair! He’s not even a real man!” The four of them cackled with insane laughter as Link remained silent in fury. A rash action on his part might land him in more trouble than he already was. He’d let them have their fun. Let them make fun of him. He would get out of this somehow. He didn’t quite have a plan just yet, but he already suspected it would be a very slim chance of escape, if at all.
With a rush Naar grasped the shoulder that Thanan has sliced and began to squeeze it until Link gasped in agony, “Well, let me remind you of what you did to me. Do you remember shooting me in the shoulder with an arrow?” Link’s eyes shot open and looked at Naar in the eyes, “Yes…you remember now don’t you? And you took my pretty little prize away as well.”
Link screamed more as Naar began to open up the wound and dig a finger in, worming his way deeper, “You escaped with her, insulting two of my commanders in the process and blew up another! You are proving to be a very troublesome pest!”
“But all is not lost.” He continued. Naar released Link’s shoulder as he gasped for air, mind reeling with the shock of his reopened injury. Naar took out a gleaming jewel that glittered in the light of the candles. Link visibly sagged at seeing it. “This is quite the pretty little gem and I have a good idea of its importance in the grand scheme of things. I must thank you from the bottom of my heart for delivering it safe and sound for me.”
He chuckled at that as he slid it back into a belt pouch and drew out a piece of parchment, “I must also thank you for this letter,” Link stared dumbfounded at what Naar held, “with this map, I do believe we know the location of the Gorons and ultimately this…Goron Ruby. And of this…” Naar glanced at the letter momentarily, “Darunia character. I will personally see to it that my men bring him here before you and have his head cut off before your eyes!”
“No!” Link shouted.
Naar quickly grabbed Link’s cheeks between his fingers and brought his face closer to his as he spoke in a deadly hush, “I will make sure everyone you hold dear is dead and I will make you watch all of it. When that is done and I feel you’ve had enough pain and torture, you have my permission to die.”
With a shake, Naar pushed Link away from him enjoying the look of misery on the boy’s face as Link tried hard not to scream at the leather thong digging into his wrists with each swing. Without resting, Naar proceeded over to one of the cages on the far side of the tent, unlocked it and brought back a single fairy. He held it loosely but firmly in his hands, the fairy seemed to be listless with no willpower to even move.
“I found out something interesting about your friends the other day.” Naar began teaching; Link had an idea that he didn’t want to find out what Naar was about to show him. “Did you know that they are connected through some magical bond? One protects the other.” At a look from Link he clarified, “Oh no, no, no! Not like that. Neither can protect the other physically; it’s more of like a life force thing.”
Naar was waving his empty hand around as if to conjure up the words he was trying to say, “You see, these Kokiri are kept alive by the mere fact of these fairies. We have to bring them in this tent every night just to keep them alive. Their mere presence alongside each other revitalizes both.” A terrible, dawning realization began to seep over Link as Naar began to finish his instruction.
“Having said that…” Naar began to slowly crush the fairy in his hand, with one final squeak and a splatter of blood the fairy was gone. “You kill one and the other dies.” He opened his hand and let the mangled mess drop to the ground as he shook his hand of the excess blood. Grabbing a towel he wiped it clean as he came closer to Link.
“You try anything funny or try to resist in any way, I will kill another fairy. It is up to you how long you wish your friends to last.” Naar threatened.
He stood up to his full height and breathed a heavy whiff of the smoke within the tent, “Well, this was a great chat. We should do this again tomorrow.” He turned to Thanan, “Gather up four of the sickest minds in our camp and bring them here, our guest needs entertainment. Tell them to do anything they wish to this boy, except kill him. Make sure they have no qualms about doing things to little children.”
Thanan began to whine, “I want to do it my lord. Let me split him apart!”
Naar grabbed a fistful of Thanan’s shirt and brought him within inches of his face, “You will do no such thing. You are needed elsewhere. Your time will come.” Naar shoved Thanan back and raised his voice so Link could hear the last part, “You should thank me for being so forgiving with your punishment! You could have had Thanan accompany you tonight, now that would have been scary!”
Naar laughed the entire way out of the tent as Thanan scowled at Link. With a huff he slammed his shoulder into Timner on his way to gather the four men. The two brothers smirked at each other and left the tent also. Link shivered in the cold night air, thoughts rampaging around in his head. He was dreading what was to come.
His wrists were sore, he tried to look up at them but the throbbing in his head grew worse and he had to quickly look back down. The blood trickling down his arms were enough to tell him his situation was bad. The throbbing had begun to recede slightly when the tent flap opened and four ugly brutes entered and stood staring at him. Two of them walked around the edges of the tent and got on each side of Link.
“Well, here’s a fresh one straight out of the womb!” Laughter ensued.
“He might provide a better fight than those girls last night!” More laughter.
“Yeah, after breaking some bones, they were no fun at all!”
“I love it when they squirm!” Mocking laughter.
The center male with a huge scar across his nose walked up to Link, he quivered in disgust as the man felt his legs and thighs before saying the obvious, “So smooth!”
He reached up above Link and undid the ropes around his wrists. Link immediately began to struggle and break free of his violating grip, but they were too strong. The brute slammed him down on the nearby table knocking the wind out of him. Link was laid flat on his stomach as two of the other brutes grabbed his shoulders to firmly hold him there.
They roughly moved him down the table without regard for Link’s comfort, they slid him down until his upper body was on the table and his legs were dangling. The man who had untied him got into position behind Link.
“Ah!” he exclaimed, “Look at that beauty! Believe me guys it’ll never be this pure after we’re done. So let’s enjoy this now!”
They all laughed. Link was furious at what was happening but he couldn’t do anything about it; they were too strong. He felt tears beginning to form around his eyes.
“Awww…look at that.” The man holding his shoulders let loose a guttural laugh, “The poor little guy is crying! Well no worries. You’ll have more tears to cry when we’re through with you!”
The dam broke as he let them fall down his face unbidden. Link whimpered as he heard the man behind him unbuckling his belt and the slump of his pants fall to the ground. Two rough, grimy hands slapped Link making him wince at the sudden surprise of it. The man was getting ready; Link couldn’t bear it anymore.
The brute gestured to the two men holding Link’s shoulders, “Okay you get one leg and you get the other-”
The man didn’t even finish his sentence before he was choking on his blood. A squishy ripping sound was perceived as his intestines were violently ripped from his bowels. He slumped to the ground still alive gurgling on steaming bile. The man holding Link’s shoulders had his head cleanly sliced off as blood spurted over the other two men and drenching Link with a coat of warm, red paint.
Link moved his head to the side to see a shadow flitter from a corner and dash upon the man to his left, slicing him completely in half. He was still partially alive as his upper body fell to the floor, his lower body struggling to maintain itself on its feet. He screamed for help before his eyes were plucked out and something big smashed his face in.
The fourth and final brute wasted no time and ran in panic towards the tent flap however the shadow would not let him. A whistling sound raked the air as a big spike protruded from the man’s back as he collapsed to the ground. The shadow leapt onto him and with a clawed hand gouged its fingers deep into his back. It ripped his heart out before casting it away like trash.
Afraid to even move, Link stayed exactly where he was; he didn’t know if the shadow wanted to kill him too. Footsteps were coming closer as he trembled to his very bones. Suddenly he was roughly lifted off the table and was flipped in the air so that the shadow was carrying him like a baby. Link looked up into the face of his rescuer and realized with a sudden, gratifying relief that it was Impa. Link immediately let out a racking sob as he violently hugged her neck with a passion.
Impa allowed him to cry it out on her shoulder for a few moments. The poor boy, she could only imagine what he had endured. “No time for explanations Link. We must leave now.”
Link jerked his head up with tears still streaming from his eyes, trickling down his face in rivulets, “But what about Malon?!”
“She’s safe as well,” Impa assured him, “I got to her before they did. I just barely got to you. Now no more talk, we must leave quickly!”
Ignoring the repugnant smell of blood and entrails, Impa wrapped a cloth nearby around Link to cover him up. She fashioned it into a quick shoulder strap in which Link could be tied to her back where she could carry him without being hindered. She was about to leave the tent when a bolt of thought struck Link as he cried out for her to stop.
“Sora! Is she in here?!” Link gasped.
Impa looked around the cages lining the rim of the tent and began to despair. “Which one would she be? Is she even here?”
“I don’t know.” Link said weakly, exhaustion slowly overtaking his senses. “Look for the one that has more life in it than the others.” He remembered the lesson Naar had taught him.
A low moan emanated from the man with the smashed face, a few other similar cries directed Impa’s attention to the men she had temporarily killed. She flew by the cages rapidly looking in each one for a fairy that seemed different than the rest. She was about to give up hope until she heard a small voice in the corner. She directed her steps towards the cage in the shadows of the tent. Yes, she thought, this fairy does have a brighter glow than the others.
“Are you Sora?” Impa questioned the little fairy.
The fairy simply nodded its head. Impa quickly unhooked the cage from the tent post and attached the metal loop onto a buckle along her belt. She kicked the face of one of the men trying in vain to put the heart back into his chest. He cursed her and spat on the ground as she traipsed past his useless body. With a loving look at Link sleeping soundly against her back, she opened the tent flap and slipped out into the night.