Chapter 36 - Flight From the Dark
That one word incited Link to action. He reached up above his head placing his hands level on the ground. With one arcing motion he flipped over, knocking the breath out of Ruto as he slammed down on top of her. She coughed profusely at the sudden reversal. Link staggered slightly as he lifted himself up onto a nearby pew, keenly aware of his nakedness as Lorva looked at him with interest. Do these Gerudo think about sexual things even in the middle of battle?
Swiftly jamming his arms through the sleeves, he scampered over to Malon, quickly hefting the sword at her feet into his hand. Her eyes were staring at him but it was clear she wasn’t seeing him. So lost in her own world, she couldn’t focus on anything but the pain. The Cyn’Taak were still perched at the entrance to the temple, still undecided on what to do with the bounty that was placed before them. They had never encountered such a feast that so conveniently presented itself.
Ruto recovered first from the shock of beholding the creatures, she snapped at her entourage, “Quickly, aim for their eyes and mouths!” She knew just by a glance that most attempts on their leathery skin would be fruitless with their weapons.
Every assassin swiveled around releasing their arrows at the beasts. Several rebounded off the tough hides while two hit their marks, two Cyn’Taak got an arrow into the eye each. The behemoths bellowed in rage at the unexpected lethality of their prey. Within moments they were charging into the confined hall, their tails whipping around in vain attempts to strike their nimble victims.
Pandemonium broke out amongst the combatants as the Gerudo leaped up off of the Cyn’Taak and crashed swords with the garbed assassins. Each had quickly dispersed their bows in favor of swords. Link hastily signaled Zelda to assist him in dragging Malon back into the side chamber before it became impossible to do so. Zelda turned sharply before rolling behind an iron pew, the injured Cyn’Taak had missed her foot by an inch as its deadly barb scratched uselessly against the floor.
They each took one arm and began running through the hall towards the side arch. Malon’s cries of pain incurred the wrath of the nearest monstrosity. Link quickly asked for help, “Aveil! The Cyn’Taak!”
Aveil swept low tripping her current opponent, causing him to fall backwards onto his rear. She quickly observed the creature surging in for the kill and nodded in confirmation. She leaped off the prone attacker as he recoiled at her weight, she continued running towards the group attempting to thwart the creature’s efforts at scoring an easy meal.
Aveil’s beaten adversary swiftly flipped up onto his feet, but it was too late for him. A stinging spur slammed him back to the ground, flooding him with its potent venom. The man’s body began to swell profusely with bloody splotches and boils. He continued to expand until he was nothing but a globe of blood-filled abscesses. Smelling the intoxicating scent, the two nearest Cyn’Taak broke off the attack as they collided onto the hapless victim, their gnashing teeth snapping the boils as they began to guzzle him dry. His screams reverberated throughout the hall.
The Gerudo promptly ignored the dying man’s mangled death throes and continued towards the beast that was advancing towards Link. Aveil deftly leaped onto the back of the creature before ducking low onto its vertebrae, holding on for dear life to the knotted mane trailing up its back. It swerved around trying to grasp at her legs as its tail irrationally struck out in random directions. Its rage was evident when it began striking itself trying to pierce Aveil. At the final puncture just inches from her face, she sliced her sword upwards through the soft tissue of the tail. The beast roared in agony as its tail flopped around uselessly, greenish blood spurting through the air.
Taking a cue from their first casualty, she quickly ripped the amputated barb from the scaly back of the Cyn’Taak. Aveil hopped off and hurled the deadly appendage at the nearest Nevachrean assassin. The man’s eyes dilated in surprise as the spike pierced him directly in the heart. He crumpled over to the ground as his body began puffing into disgusting cysts. Aveil sneered in delight at her effective kill. That should keep the other two Cyn’Taak busy with their bloodlust, she thought.
Finishing the job she had started, she ducked low over the flailing tail as it whipped through the air. She brought her sword upward through the creature’s right arm as it spun around trying to locate her. The arm fell to the ground with a squishing thud as its bellows grew more primal, the beast was almost uncontrollable in its actions. Its sole purpose now was to destroy the threat to its existence. It rampaged towards Aveil at blinding speed.
She stood calm and firm until it was almost upon her. She let herself drop to her back as she thrust the sword upward into the air, letting the creature’s momentum disembowel itself on her sword as it ran over her. The creature slowed to a halt before shuddering, its innards squirted out of its abdomen onto the floor with a splatter. She confidently stood up as she looked back on the despicable Cyn’Taak crashing to the ground, legs twitching in its final moments of life.
Link and Zelda had finally managed to prop Malon up onto a nearby pillar next to their packs; Malon had ceased moaning and was simply hanging her head listlessly. Link cursed at their situation, they had not the medical supplies to help her here! He quickly examined the two wounds and realized that the arm was an easy fix. The one lodged in her ribs would be the harder of the two to rectify. Grunting with the effort, he snapped the end off and pulled the remainder of the shaft through Malon’s arm. She cried out in pain but did not fight him. Link quickly snapped off the majority of the shaft piercing her ribcage but dared not pull out the remainder.
Link stood up and gripped Zelda’s shoulders tightly, “We have to get out of here and quick, take only what we need!” He directed her firmly.
“I’m afraid I cannot allow that.” Ruto’s vexed voice echoed from the archway.
She stalked over to them, her fins rigid and flexed for the attack. Link recognized the lethality of those attachments. Normally when a Zora was calm, their fin projections would be soft and flexible. When they were agitated or in battle, they grew firm and one swift cut could slice through bone. Ruto drew up her arms, splaying out her fins in full display as she prepared for the assault.
Zelda pleaded with Ruto, “We don’t have to do this. Please just let us go.”
Ruto scoffed, her eyes shifting briefly to the main chamber as another blood curdling cry rang out through the night, she was down to three men now. The Gerudo were apparently holding their own quite well. “It is too late for me. I cannot turn back now!” She yelled as she rushed towards Zelda.
Zelda flicked up the metal rod, pressing a button on its base, severl spikes shot out from around the tip. With the grace taught to her by Impa, she ducked the first swing of Ruto’s arms as her fins carved through the air above her head. Zelda leaned forward utilizing her opponent’s momentum to upend Ruto as she jammed the rod up into her inner thigh. Ruto cried out as Zelda flipped her in the air. She crashed to the ground in a heap, blood spooling from the lesions on her leg.
Recovering from the upheaval, Ruto swirled her legs in an arc catching Zelda off guard, the leg fin sliced through Zelda’s calf as she went to a knee in pain. Link slashed forward with his sword intent to put an end to Ruto’s life. Gyrating on the ground, Ruto flipped up heads over heels, disorienting Link as she sailed past his blade whistling through the air towards the floor. She gripped his chin with both hands before utilizing her motion to flip him vertically around full circle. He crashed face first onto the ground, the throbbing in his head returning with a vengeance.
Not giving her an inch of regaining the advantage, Zelda dashed in leading with her rod. Ruto saw through the feint and sidestepped opposite of where she was expected to react. Zelda’s eyes grew wide as Ruto’s arm connected with her neck, staggering her backwards several paces. Ruto leaped onto her and bit deep into the shoulder. Zelda cried out in distress as the Zora’s teeth sunk into the flesh.
Zelda twirled around and crushed the Zoran princess into the wall, her teeth releasing from her skin enough for Zelda to pull away. She hastily raked the tipped rod across Ruto’s face knocking her to the ground. The Zora grew still, lying unconscious, her cheeks slowly being covered with her own blood. With one final cry of anger at their attacker, Zelda roved over to Link and assisted him back onto his feet. He tripped a few times, still woozy from the blows to his head.
Link lurched over to his pack and slumped over it. He flipped over onto his back and placed his arms though the straps. “Zelda.” He breathlessly said, “I might need some help here.” He extended his arm towards her.
Pulling him up off the ground with her good arm, she fastened up his dangling belt and quickly sheathed his sword back into its scabbard at his hip. Link blushed at her bold actions but understood that it was out of necessity she was assisting him. They both turned to Malon with despair. They did not have a clue how they were going to carry her out of here, let alone keep her with the group in this condition.
“Are you just about done yet?” Apolloni jerked her head in glaring at them all. The roars of the Cyn’Taak had subsided, the Gerudo having decapitated them while they were feasting on the entrails of their masked assailants. Lorva and Merin were finishing off the remainder of the assassins, each driving their scimitars deep into the chest of the final man.
Stark silence permeated the temple as everyone calmed down from the disastrous encounter. Zelda was nurturing a bitten shoulder and sliced calf. Link was still shaky on his feet from the concussions inflicted upon his skull as well as soreness along his right side. Apolloni and Aveil were fine. Lorva and Merin suffered minor scratches and bruises but seemed otherwise fit to fight. Quickly packing up their belongings, they all gathered around Malon’s incapacitated body, each breath coming out as a shallow whine.
“I saw we leave her here.” Apolloni suggested with malice.
Link stepped up to her and confrontationally rebutted, “You may, but Zander and I will not!”
Apolloni huffed, “Call her what you will,” casually dismissing Zelda, “you are responsible for Malon’s fate. If she falters or fails to keep up, I will personally knock you out and take you with us.”
Link blinked several times astonished, “Just me? Why?”
“Because my orders were to only-” Apolloni’s eyes squinted cleverly as she saw through his probing question. “Never you mind. Let’s go!”
With nimble movements, they navigated through the maelstrom of bodies, viscera, organs, flesh and blood pools. The reeking stench of the freshly minted cadavers was overpowering as they sifted through the corpses. Link struggled to keep Malon cradled in his arms as he sprinted after the group. Within minutes he was faltering, he shifted her weight so that she lay across his shoulders with arms and legs dangling alongside his neck. Satisfied with this new position, he strove to maintain his place behind the group.
A stream of viscid fluid streamed past his shoulder, boiling the ground on which it fell with its acidic properties as it landed mere feet from Lorva. She shrieked as a drop of it splashed onto her ankle, quickly eating away at her skin. Link knew exactly what happened and swerved to the left to avoid the second incoming torrent of acidic juice.
“Ruto! No!” Link yelled as he spun around to face her.
She was wiping her mouth clean of the vile substance, leaning heavily on the fluted pillar supporting the entrance. She glowered at him with what looked like hatred. It was then Link noticed that none of her lacerations had healed, she was still badly limping from the injuries they had inflicted upon her. It dawned on him that she was not yet like Naar and the others! She could still be saved!
“Link? What are you doing?!” Zelda susurrated; unnerved as to why he was stopping to talk to the detestable Zora.
Ignoring her plea, he appealed to Ruto one last time, “Please Ruto. Come with us, we can help you recover from your wounds.”
Seething at the wench nestled atop his shoulders, she spit a wad of blood out of her mouth. She laughed bitterly at his pathetic bargain. “What could you possibly offer me? There is no escape from him. You can’t protect me...no one can!”
Link’s heart yearned to reach out and comfort Ruto, it was clear she felt she was beyond saving. His eyes widened as Ruto puffed her chest up, the gills on her neck flaring. She was going to attempt another attack! Link shouted, “My beloved, no! Ruto, don’t do this to your husband!”
The deception worked brilliantly. Ruto doubled over hacking as the bile lodged in her throat, slushing out of her mouth as it splashed upon the ground, killing any greenery it hit. Her body quaking between coughs, she managed to sputter, “You are…a cruel man, my…husband.”
Ruto screamed in misery as a trident wedged her right forearm against the stone wall. Link’s attention wheeled to the source of the arcing throw. In the water were three Zoras, helmets made from crab carapaces adorned their heads. Their leader was weaponless but motioned to the other two to retrieve the princess. They swiftly slithered out of the murky water and apprehended Ruto.
“What are you doing? Unhand me at once!” She shrieked. They bound her hands behind her back with a set of coral hand cuffs, every movement jabbing its sharp spikes deep into her wrists, releasing poison that slowly drained her energy. Her head hit the ground as her body twitched in agony at the toxin coursing through her veins.
Apolloni fervently yelled, “What are you doing? Leave that witch to die by their hands!” She grasped Link’s arm roughly and began pulling him away. He jerked out of her grip violently as he paced up to the tall Zora in the water. His build was lankier than most Zoras Link had encountered, but his muscles indicated years of intense training. He certainly looked the capable warrior. The man was calmly waiting for Link to draw closer; regarding him with a critical eye.
“Are you going to kill her?” Link inquired of his intentions.
The Zora smiled at his genuine concern for their princess, “Be assured Hylian. No harm will come to her while under our care.”
Link nodded in relief, “Where will you take her? What do you intend to do?”
Spastic rustling of trees in the distance heralded the entrance of more Cyn’Taak. The Zora glanced nervously off in the direction it was coming from before turning back to Link. “I am afraid this is no time for pleasantries. I pray that the Goddesses protect you this night.”
The Zora turned from Link to help his two companions usher the limp Ruto into the muddy water. They all turned to submerge as Link called their apparent leader back, “Please, before you go! What is your name?” Link probed.
“Veraca.” The Zora said warmly.
“Link.” Link returned. They briefly shook hands.
The Zora turned back to the water before speaking softly over his shoulder, “I suggest you leave quickly Hylian. The Cyn’Taak will be upon you soon. Do not fear for Ruto’s safety, we will take her away from here. Farewell, my friend.” Link blinked as the Zoras dipped under the surface of the water and were gone, ripples gliding across the surface being the only indication they had been there at all.
The crashing of the trees shook Link out of his trance. The swaying of branches across the water indicated the direction they were approaching from. He could just barely see their dark shapes swinging through the tree limbs. It sounded like a lot more than just three of them! He spun around, gripping onto Malon tightly as he ran past the group. Out of the corner of his eyes, he noticed several of the revived assassins crawling out of the temple, grousing at their escaping quarry. Link grinned; they would at least slow down some of the Cyn’Taak.
“Finally!” Apolloni jeered exasperatedly.
Zelda fell in step alongside Link, sharing a brief smile between the two of them. She glanced at Malon in worry. The poor girl was passed out cold, unaware of the madness around her. Lorva hitched one of her arms around Merin’s shoulders as they brushed through the undergrowth of the thicket, the acid still burning a hole in her ankle. Apolloni and Aveil surged to the front as they directed a course for them through the thickest part of the foliage.
A belching roar signaled that they had been spotted; they increased their pace through the vegetation. Branches whipped at their faces and arms drawing thin lines of blood as they rushed past, adrenaline the only thing preventing them from simply collapsing in exhaustion. A sudden incline forced a cry from the group as they tumbled and rolled aggressively down the hill, landing on rocks and sharp sticks jutting from malicious shrubs the entire way down.
Everyone crunched hard onto the moss-ridden ground. Malon flew out from Link’s hands flipping hard onto her back. Her eyes sprung open at the sudden pain, her cry splitting the night. The rest of the group groaned, struggling to recover from the violent tumble down the hill. Zelda shook the dizziness from her head. She looked around the copse they had landed in, the most notable feature being a gigantic weeping willow with a hollow at its base.
Several growls above them presaged the Cyn’Taak appearance. Terrified, Zelda crawled forward frantically on her hands and knees towards the hollow, its entrance wreathed in a myriad of roots. She stopped just short of the entrance as she heard some sharp snorts and snapping from inside. With emerging horror she realized just exactly what they had found.
Link cursed as his ribs hurt, he managed to stand and noticed Zelda frozen to the spot. “Zelda?” He began with apprehension, “What is it?”
Zelda slowly twisted her head to look at him, eyes wide as she saw the Cyn’Taak sliding down the slope behind Link, “We’ve stumbled upon their nest.”