Chapter 43 - The Crossroads
Night was descending on the open plains surrounding Yolland; the group stayed under the cover of the trailing shadows on the eastern side of the village. Link noticed several things that worried him, there were various plows, baskets, crops and other farming utensils set aside against various rocks and boulders as if their owners would be coming back to them any moment. Some of the harvest was even fruitful and was producing corn, cabbage and other appetizing yields. This all looked too fresh and time consuming to be the work of bandits.
They tethered their horses to a firm sapling boldly growing in the shade of a large stone. Kafei knelt down, peering around the rock to view the town from this vantage point. They were no further away than five minutes on foot. At the sound of the horn, Zelda pointed out the group of boys riding in from the south, their goal was to direct the town’s attention to the west. Giving them a few more seconds to attract the guards, Kafei signaled them to follow as he surged ahead through the tall grass crouching low.
Quickly butting up against the hay bales Kafei confirmed would be there, he flipped himself up to the top of the wooden pikes. Peeking over the edge he spied only one sentry still manning this corner, but his gaze was directed towards the primary gate entrance. Kafei looked down and made a gesture indicating what he saw before slipping over the wall and landing softly on the elevated catwalk lining the interior of the fortification. Link, Zelda and Merin quickly followed suit.
Kafei unsheathed his dual swords and slinked up behind the unsuspecting sentry. Feeling something was amiss behind him, the guard spun around spear at the ready. Kafei flowed upwards with one sword impaling the man’s chin with the hook. With a quick turn, he heaved the guard over his shoulder, slamming him to the wooden catwalk with a thud. In one smooth motion, Kafei set aside the second sword before reaching for a dagger at his belt and driving it hard into the man’s heart.
It had all happened within a span of a few seconds, but Link caught the smooth lethality of Kafei’s movements. They swiftly descended the plank stairs down to the dirt below, staying to the edge of the wall and in the shadows as best they could. Several cries from the town guards indicated that some of the arrows had hit their intended targets. Zelda grimaced as she could only imagine those poor men swelling up with blood cysts.
They rounded the corner of a building only to find two men surging out from the nearby doorway, each group stopped in their tracks momentarily before they galvanized into action. Link ducked under the swipe of one man’s sword as he rammed his own deep into the ribs of the guard, he quickly slumped over the weapon before Link drew it back out. Zelda had quickly incapacitated her opponent, his body inert on the ground with multiple lacerations to the face and neck, the spiked rod firm in her hand.
Kafei nodded to them in appreciation of their skills before moving back along the outer wall. A low whistle from above caused them all to roll out of the way, looking aloft for the new threat. Apolloni and Aveil leaped down from the rooftops with feline grace as they surprised Kafei with their guile.
“Why aren’t you burning them to ashes?” Apolloni hissed.
“Are these friends of yours?” Kafei asked the group, eyeing the new arrivals warily.
Merin nodded, “Yes, they are my sisters. They too, are Gerudo.”
Seemingly relieved at that, he motioned for them to follow. “We will have time to burn their corpses later. We must first get to the gate to let in the cavalry. Only with their assistance can we overtake this town and drive the Nevachreans out!” Kafei explained with firm resolve.
Aveil reasoned that was a good plan as any. She looked out across the courtyard from between the buildings to see the vertical capstan that was adjoined to the primary gates. “Seems easy enough. Leave it to me.”
Without another word, she bounded through the shadows and down the spiked barricade until she was within meters of the winch. The rest waited with baited breath as they watched her inch her way towards the device. Most of the guards were entrenched below the cover of the upper parts of the barrier, frantically dodging the poisoned arrows being rained on them by the five boys.
Two unique screams pierced the relative calm. One came from clear across the courtyard. A lanky man was screaming at his men to redirect their attention to Aveil, pointing at her location as he charged forward with several of his sentries. The other came from behind them from the very doorway the two guards they had just killed emerged from. Without thinking, Link spun around and dove his sword deep into the woman’s chest. The trident clattered to the grass as their eyes locked for one torturous moment.
It was a woman. That one thought stood out in his mind. There are families here. Gravity took over as she slumped to the ground, slipping off his sword with a sickening gasp. Barely alive, she crawled over to one of the men they had slaughtered and placed a tender hand over his face before fading herself. What did he just do?
“Link.” Zelda caught his attention, pointing at the other cadavers. “They aren’t getting up. Why aren’t they reviving?”
Link had no words to answer Zelda’s question. He looked to Kafei for direction but all he got was a brief dismissal of the situation as he turned his head to look back towards Aveil. She had already begun turning the capstan instigating the reinforced gates to swing wide. By this time the entire town guard was aware of an interloper in their midst. They were running down the stairs with swords and spears drawn ready to strike her down.
Aveil’s instincts to fight back were kept in check, she promised she would get the gate open for Apolloni and the others to kill the Nevachreans, she kept turning. Seeing the situation spiraling south fast, Apolloni cried out for Aveil. Her calls went unheeded as the first sword thrust its way into Aveil’s breast. Grunting in agony, she continued turning the wheel. At long last, the gate was completely open. Apolloni screamed as Aveil crumpled to the ground, skewered and stabbed by multitudes of weapons.
Another scream swung Link’s head towards the building that the gangly man had appeared from. A pregnant woman with a blue dress was chasing after a young boy, probably no older than Giana’s age. Zelda saw the dilemma too, her eyes flicked back towards the gate as the five Bomber boys were thundering in. The boy was running straight for him!
“Daddy! Daddy!” The boy cried happily, “They are back! The horses are back!”
The man turned in dismay to see his son dashing past him. He yelled, “No Lloyd! Get back here!”
Kafei lied to them! These people weren’t part of the problem! They did not revive like the soldiers of Naar did! Making a split second decision, Link was hurtling across the open grass plaza towards the young child, intent on scooping him up and jumping out of harm’s way. Time seemed to slow as Jim led the charge into the small hamlet, shooting a nearby man with a lethal dose of Cyn’Taak venom.
Several sentries were confused and attempted to waylay Link, he deftly leaped through their swings and kept running. Taking it as a cue to attack, Kafei and the two Gerudo surged onto the battlefield and began cutting down the men left and right. It was a massacre beyond anything Zelda had imagined. She lingered back in the shadow of the structure, unwilling to go out into this macabre spectacle.
It was too late. Lloyd has reached the front horse as Jim brought its front hoofs down on the young boy’s head. The remainder of the boys trampled the lifeless body as they flowed into the main town square. Both Ingo and Orauna shrieked as they witnessed the unthinkable. They rushed to their fallen child, weeping bitterly at their loss. Link skidded to a halt as he turned to assess the situation. The battle had already been won.
Within moments, the rest of the women, children and the smattering of men remaining were rounded up and thrown to their knees in front of the central town hall. The five Bomber boys were slowly circling the crowd, their bows leisurely set aside on their laps, available to be drawn at a moment’s notice. Apolloni had already reached Aveil’s side. She moaned in misery at what she found there. Aveil was dead.
Link spoke just loud enough for Kafei to hear him; his tone was deadly. “What did you just make me do Kafei?”
Turning to him, an unknown frenzy still present in his eyes, Kafei explained haughtily, “What do you think? We just struck a great blow to the Nevachrean Empire today!”
Merin looked at the two of them with uncertainty, she was not sure if what they had done was right either. “Is this truly what this was all about?”
Zelda stepped up beside Link with anger in her eyes, “These people are not your enemies. You are focusing your anger on the wrong opponent!” She pleaded with him.
Link tagged on to her sentiment, “I have met General Naar and his army. I know what these men are capable of. These innocent villagers are not who we should be fighting.”
Kafei turned to Link, stabbing a sword in the direction of Ingo who was at the front of the group of scared women and children, seething hatred was burning in the man’s eyes for Kafei. “Are you saying that I should just let these murderers and rapists go? The very ones that killed my family and my fiancée? The ones that killed Anju?!” Kafei shouted, spittle coming out at his words.
“You cannot blame these villagers for something they didn’t do!” Link yelled back.
“Why not?” Apolloni sneered as she swept past Link and Zelda. Standing beside Kafei, she drew her scimitar in readiness to strike. “These infidels killed Aveil! Why shouldn’t they be punished?”
Zelda tried to reason with her, “It is not right to blame the entire townspeople for the death of one person. Aveil chose her fate and these children should not have to pay for it.”
“Did we not come here to stop Nevachrea? Does that not include killing every last one of them?” Apolloni rebutted.
Kafei chimed in behind her, “Is that not what we are fighting for? For freedom from tyranny? Are we not brothers in arms Link? Do we not achieve victory by killing them before they kill us? Is that not winning?” His eyes were unreadable. He was completely lost in the moment.
“No.” Link said firmly. “It’s how we win that matters. Doing this deed, slaughtering innocent women and children who had no part in the overall war, makes us no better than they are.”
“So you’re going to side with them?” Kafei tilted his head incredulously. “You are going to let these butchers go for what they did to the Kokiri? To your mother?” His bubbling rage had completely surfaced.
Zelda began to weep for Kafei’s soul, “You are directing your hatred towards the wrong people. Come with us Kafei. Join us and we will show who you should really be fighting!”
Link turned his gaze upon Apolloni, “It is clear to me that you were never with our group to assist me in finding the sacred stones. It is also obvious that you need me for something important once we reach the heart of Nevachrea. I can assure you Apolloni that if you do not stop this madness with Kafei, I will refuse to go with you to accomplish your task. I would rather die than go any further with this farce.” He finished his statement by turning to the side and deliberately spitting on the ground.
Ingo was listening intently to see if there would be any way out for his wife and unborn child, “If you are heading for Glaun’rung, I have contacts there that will enable you to get in undetected! Just please leave my wife and-”
Kafei slammed the butt of his sword into Ingo’s face. Orauna screeched as she saw her husband collapse to the ground, blood streaming from his nose. “Shut up!” Kafei yelled.
Link took a few paces before stopping. He noticed Jim holding his bow at the ready, an arrow nocked aimed at his chest. “What’s it going to be Apolloni?” Link had already given up on Kafei. It was clear there was no hope to quell his churning wrath. “Are you going to obey Ganondorf and utilize me for whatever he has planned, or give in to your anger and avenge Aveil?” He glared at her decisively.
Apolloni gritted her teeth in ire; she weighed her options between siding with Kafei whom she barely knew or Link, Merin and Zander with whom she already had a mission to complete. She locked onto Link’s eyes as he indicated with his gaze the nearest Bomber boy next to her. She turned slightly to see Ivan lazily watching the crowd, seemingly disinterested in the entire proceedings.
“Enough of this!” Kafei spat vituperatively. “Are you with me brother or not?” He glowered at Link, waiting for him to make the next move.
Link slowly shook his head, “We’re done Kafei. You are harming innocent people. If you continue, I will be forced to stop you.” To signify his resolve, he gripped his sword tightly and brought it up, pointing it directly at Kafei.
Kafei cried out in fury as he slammed his hooked sword into the forehead of Orauna. Her cry was cut brutally short as the blade penetrated through her skull into her brain. With one swift motion, he rammed his other sword into her swollen belly. Lifting her off of the ground with both swords, he flung her body across the plaza. Various children cried out in fright at this despicable act of ruthlessness.
“Then you shall die along with these murderers!” Kafei roared.
At a signal, all four boys drew their bows and loosed their arrows into the mob of screaming women and children. Numerous bodies ballooned into boils as Kafei began slashing indiscriminately at them, exploding each victim into a bloody mess. Blood squirted and sprayed everywhere drenching Kafei in its frothy film, he was manically laughing all the while. As one Link, Zelda, and Merin spurred into action as they joined the melee.
Apolloni ducked low to avoiding a twirling arrow and sliced the knees of the nearest horse. It pitched over as Jim was thrown forward into the ground; he had barely any time to recover before she sunk her scimitar deep into his belly. The youth gurgled on his own blood as he feebly called out for Kafei. The man swiveled around to see one of his boys being executed before his eyes and he cried out in indignation.
The entire crowd that had been held hostage bomb bursted, the horses were spooked at the swarm of people running in all directions. The boys sent volley after volley of arrows into their ranks; many missing their mark. Within seconds, Link was upon Kafei bringing his sword down on his head. With lightning quick reflexes Kafei crossed the two swords and caught the descending strike between them. Swiftly pulling them apart, he yanked Link’s sword out of his hand before tossing it aside.
Link dove to the ground to recover his weapon as Zelda swept in with an attack of her own. Kafei parried the initial strike as he kicked her in the stomach. She buckled to the ground. She immediately rolled before Kafei could land the finishing blow. Promptly pulling the hooked sword up from the dirt, Kafei whirled around to ram it into Link’s returning blow. Link had recovered his sword and was evenly matched in strength to Kafei. They each pressed against the other, none gaining ground.
Merin leaped onto Ivan’s horse as she tossed the hapless youth to the ground, he landed with a sickening crunch as his glazed eyes looked up at her. His neck had been twisted at an awkward angle by the fall. Cringing at having to kill a young boy, she focused her attention at the other remaining riders.
Clarence was merciless with his arrows, slinging one after another into the panicked mob. Toby had dismounted his horse as Apolloni brought the poor beast to its knees, effectively lopping off its head to end its misery. Ashley was slowly backing his steed up towards the front gates, unsure of what he should be doing.
Assessing Clarence to be the prominent threat, Merin incited the horse into a gallop towards him. The boy sensed the aggressive movement and shifted his aim towards her. He let fly the arrow directly at her heart. It would have certainly hit if she did not rear the horse up in time. The arrow shaft punctured straight into its belly as she back flipped off the poor creature. It whinnied in agonizing distress as it collapsed to the ground under the weight of its abscesses.
Kafei had linked the two hooked ends together and was swinging them around to keep Link and Zelda at bay. Each of them tried to get past his defenses but Kafei was too swift. He snarled as he advanced upon Zelda. With blinding speed he gripped the linked sword as it swung back around over his head and unlatched them, swinging vehemently in her direction. She hopped backwards narrowly avoiding his pinpoint swipes.
A scream emerged from the major structure of the town. Link jerked his head in response, it was Malon! Kafei heard the cry too, for he hastily kicked up dirt into Zelda’s eyes before running past her towards his objective. He spun around with hate in his eyes as he gripped a nearby lantern that was hanging off a peg by the doorframe.
“Is this where your bonny lass is being kept Link?” Kafei mocked.
Link dodged an errant arrow shot by Toby as he looked on in despair. “Kafei, don’t do this!”
“I think you and I both know we are past the point of no return. This is for Hyrule!” With a cry, he hurled the lantern into the window. The shattering of the glass heralded the dull glow of flames catching.
Whatever it had struck, it was flammable and it was spreading. Link knew Apolloni and Merin had their hands full with the three lingering Bomber boys, so all he had to rely on was Zelda. They had to get past Kafei, into that house and rescue Malon. A bead of sweat ran down his temple, the fires were now visible through the window. Malon’s screams were getting wild.