Chapter 46 - Turning the Wheels
Naar crumpled the parchment in his fist, he was livid at the news. They had needed the fresh supplies of clothes and food. Not that the men actually needed the food to survive but it was one of the few pleasures he could give them to stall an outright mutiny. There were insufficient females remaining to go around the camp, many having died off due to abuse or disease. Limited things were left to keep the restless men occupied and their head kept in the war.
To distract their mundane lives when it wasn’t spent raping, killing and pillaging, Naar instituted an age-old tradition back in Nevachrea. A sport they used to play before the war, before Hyrule reneged on their agreement and left their nation to rot. It was a simple game comprised of two goals and a ball. The object was to kick, head butt, or throw it through the hoop at the opposing end. The rules were also simple: you could not travel with the ball and anything went with regards to how the other team was treated, this lead to the game ultimately becoming a blood sport, much to the excitement of the men.
The game occupied their artless minds and their inner, bloodthirsty natures. It helped stave off the inevitable sedition. Naar needed those sacred stones soon. Thanan had sent word earlier that he was closing in on the ruby’s location but the local dragon population seemed to have waylaid his search significantly. The Gorons also were not making things easy on Thanan. They had lost many good men to their formidable might.
Things had not gone according to plan at all this week. The letter was the last in the line of irritable circumstances that enraged Naar. True to their word, the witches dispelled the barrier blocking the Gerudo kingdom. They were ready to strike with a full regiment of five-thousand men. Over half of those lost their lives permanently in the assault. Although the siege was successful, those irksome Gerudo merely fell back to a far more defensive position. Sealed away in their desert colossus, that realm of influence was at a standstill. Now this! Naar threw the letter across the tent.
“Is there anything else you require?” The messenger offered apprehensively.
Naar merely waved him off with a gesture, so deep in thought he had abandoned all notion of torturing the poor bastard. Talamir and Timner had written the report. His initial assumption of bandits had been correct. What was disconcerting was that there appeared to be two factions of bandits. One set was merely stealing the supplies while the other merely torched them completely along with the men. Could there be uprisings already in the homeland? If that was the case, he might have to travel home and take care of this situation himself.
He shivered at the thought of being back in Glaun’rung, of being near Barrachas. He owed that man a great debt for revitalizing their nation and giving them the capability to sustain this war over the cycles. However that man was a very disturbing individual, even more so than Thanan, who was an enigma himself. Barrachas served as Nevachrea’s high priest, something the country never had prior to his appearance. Naar made it a point to avoid the man at every opportunity, only deigning to meet with him if the situation demanded it.
His mind drifted back to thoughts of the Triforce, mulling on the plethora of ways they had conceived of to acquire it. The ancients who built the Temple of Time were very methodical in setting up its defenses. There seemed to be no clear way of gaining access to the Sacred Realm without following the one and only path described in the translated texts at the castle: through the sacred stones and further therein, the Master Sword.
Naar had read the manuscripts multiple times to grasp their meaning. Even if they successfully accessed the Master Sword, it would reveal itself to no one but the Hero it had chosen. Maybe those two crones were onto something, all signs pointed to that young boy he met seven cycles ago. To think he had him under his power and had no idea how vital he was to the overall campaign. It made him furious just thinking about it! He had to agree that assisting Link seemed to be the only viable alternative in getting what he desired.
Naar reached into his tunic and brought out a smudged, bronze locket that hanged around his neck. Staring at the small object in his palm, he hesitated even opening it. At length, he unsnapped the clasp and flipped it open to reveal the smiling face within. Angrily brushing the tears that were welling up in his eyes, he looked on the woman’s gentle features. He placed a calloused finger on her picture.
“I will make things right again, beloved. You will be avenged.” Naar shut the locket roughly, locking out the memory of the past. “It is time I recall my imbecilic nephews. They have been gone long enough.”
With renewed conviction, he stuffed the accessory back within his clothes before walking over to the tent flap. Naar hailed the nearest sentry who was casually sitting with his crew by a crackling fire. The man jogged up before stopping just paces from Naar, giving a quick salute.
“Find me a messenger and send him to my tent immediately.” Naar boomed.
“Yes, sir!” The fidgety guard affirmed.
“Oh, one more thing.” Naar placed a firm hand on the man’s shoulder. It was obvious he wasn’t to refuse the next command either. “How many females do we have left?”
The man grinned in relief, “Only a few more Hylians and one Kokiri.”
Naar swore an oath, “Is that all? It seems they have become quite the commodity these days.” The sentry nodded, joining in the mirth of Naar’s quip. “Bring me the Kokiri. It has been a while since I’ve had their kind.”
Waving the man off, he retreated back into his tent. With Ruto gone, and failures being met at every turn, he was in serious need of some physical comfort. With some careful handling on his part, this Kokiri might actually last longer than Kiera did. He sniggered at the thought. Had it really been that long? He ruminated. No matter, this will bring back fond memories for him; he walked over to the chest at the foot of his bed and pulled several stakes and shackles from it. Yes, he would have to be quite gentle with this little one.
Where are you Ruto? May you come back with good tidings when all else has gone sour.
“So they’ve found refuge in the colossus?” Veraca asked inquisitively.
“Yes, it appears they are preparing a small party to advance to the east.” The scout reported dutifully.
Veraca stepped a few paces away, placing a hand to his chin in thought, the water lapping at his thighs was soothing to him. “Why just the one group? Do they not want to evacuate their entire nation?”
The Zora merely shrugged, “I cannot say. They are sending their leader along with this band however.”
Veraca furrowed his skin, or what would count as eyebrows for a Zora. “That is strange Leelan.” He turned his head to look at the attentive subordinate. It had taken many cycles of dedication and ambition for Veraca to attain his position as general of the Zoran army. Veraca continued, “That a leader would abandon his subjects so easily.” He tapped a finger on his chin thinking, “There must be more at play here than we are seeing. He must be confident in what they have there or he would not leave them in the lurch like that.”
“After seven cycles being behind that barrier, it is hard to say if anything that he does makes any sense.” Leelan offered with modesty.
Veraca laughed at Leelan’s witticism. “You always could make me laugh, even in the worst of times. You are a good friend.” He said with welling emotion.
“You are too kind, Veraca.” Leelan said, bowing low. “If I may take my leave?”
“Of course, I have other matters that I must attend to.” With a final wave goodbye, he watched his childhood friend submerge beneath the water and swim off down the river.
Sighing, Veraca turned around towards the waterfall pummeling the surface of the water just behind him. With a leap, he dove through its curtain and into the flooded tunnel beyond. Gracefully undulating his body with the current, he sliced through the water into darker passages. Flipping through several more turns, he emerged from the cool liquid into a network of caves. Several torches had been placed in coral sconces to provide light to the otherwise pitch black gloom.
Stepping out onto the moist surface, letting the water drip from his scales, he moved over to the door at the far end. He returned the salute of the two sentries on either side of the door. He was not looking forward to this meeting. Amiably taking the keys offered by the guard, he began unchaining the locks around the door bolt. He felt it silly to have so many for just one person but considering where she had been these past seven cycles, precaution was a virtue. Presently he stood outside the door, slightly unwilling to go in, but knowing he must. Exhaling, he pressed on the door and walked through.
The onslaught was almost immediate, as it usually was. “You cannot do this to me! Let me go this instant! Is this how you treat your Princess?!” Ruto wailed at her captor, frantically scrambling back against the far rock wall.
“Must I keep reminding you? You are our queen now.” Veraca had grown exhausted with this conversation. It seemed she continually ignored everything he told her each time.
“If I am your queen, then release me and face the punishment of your treason!” She spat with scorn in her voice.
“That I cannot do your highness. You are not yourself. Until such time I can verify you are of sound mind, will you be able to lead our people once more.” Despite all her attempts to get him wrathful, he refused to play into her games. He knew that the process would be long and arduous for him, but as the sole survivor of the royal line, he had to make the attempt to rescue her fractured mind.
She laughed hysterically. “When you decide I am of sound mind? Ha! That will never happen! You are keeping me here to torture me!”
It broke Veraca’s heart to see his queen in such distress. Just what did those bastards do to mark her this way? It would be one thing to have physical signs, those were easily rectified. It was quite another to have that mark on a person’s soul, those could not be fixed so straightforwardly.
“Ruto, let us begin again.” She stuck her tongue out at him in defiance as she rolled her eyes, this was another thing she did to infuriate him. It was not working. “Do you remember what your duty is? The oath you made to your father?” He pressed onward as if she had done nothing.
She placed both hands across her head, as if warding off some impending blow. “No! I don’t want to hear it anymore! It never meant anything!” She screamed.
Breathing deeply, Veraca remained calm in the face of her impotent fury. “You are to uphold the tenants of our culture and respect our allegiance to the Hylian Royal Family. You are to ensure the protection of our most sacred possession for the coming hero, as the prophecy states.” He had memorized and recited the line for her daily that he almost lost track of what it meant himself.
In a single moment of clarity, she ceased her flailing and opened her eyes wide. Veraca wondered if he had finally got through to her this time. “My most sacred possession…Link has it! Yes! He has it!” She repeated excitedly.
Veraca cursed under his breath, his meetings usually stopped here when his name was mentioned. It was clear to him that if they were to make any progress at all, they were going to have to make her forget Link ever existed. He was hindering her ability to recover, he was an object she had latched onto all these years. It was her safe haven, a circle of solitude in a world gone mad. It had to be eliminated.
“Veraca, is it?” Her soothing voice jolted him out of his ponderings. She had approached uncomfortably close, an ardent look in her eye.
“Yes, do you remember me?” Veraca asked, hoping that some recollection would surface and at least make this meeting a triumph.
She smiled, “I remember you now. You were that lanky boy who always got shy whenever you were around me.” She crooned softly as she slinked closer, puffing her breasts out in an enticing manner.
“Yes, that was me.” Although relieved that some headway had been made, she was getting alarmingly close. They should probably restrain her for these visits from now on.
In a sudden motion, she pressed him into the wall, her breath coming in ragged gasps as she began grinding her body up against his. The feeling of his scales against her body was uniquely thrilling to her. She had only been with Naar, a Nevachrean man, but never one of her own kind. This would definitely be a new twist.
“So how do Zora do it these days?” She cooed lustily in his ear, “I wouldn’t know, will you teach me?”
“You are not yourself Ruto!” Veraca shouted, roughly pushing her down to the ground. She looked up at him stunned. He had never lashed out at her like that. She smirked. She had finally found a way to ruffle his gills. She hastily got up as she saw him swiftly exiting the room. She slammed up against the door as it shut in her face, leaving her alone once more, a single torch the only light in the barren room.
Ignoring the frantic shouting and pounding, he turned to one of the guards, “Make sure the next time I come tomorrow that she is restrained.” After a brief pause, he added. “And make sure none of the men go near her.”
The guard cocked his head curiously, “Why is that sir?”
Veraca looked briefly at the shaking door, “For one, she is our queen. And second, she is too seductive. It wouldn’t be good for her or for the men if I find out about it!” The guard took his firm command to heart as he straightened up in salute.
Nodding that all would be handled the next day, Veraca dove back into the cool waters. Swimming along the dark tunnels, thoughts swirled in his mind. Their current method of helping Ruto was failing. It was not getting them anywhere. Now with a firm idea on how best to tackle this problem, he swam on with renewed vigor.
It had been several days since they left the desert colossus, but Saria recalled it as if it was yesterday. They had ridden hard that day to make it before nightfall. The looming monolith was an impressive sight for her. Being out of the forest and only seeing nothing but the Gerudo fortress for cycles on end, she was quite exhilarated now that she was finally traveling the world. Their first stop took her breath away. The sheer magnitude of the sculpted rock mesmerized her senses; she quickly flew up to the engraved figure and examined the intricate detail that had gone into it.
They didn’t stay long. Ganondorf navigated the confusing corridors of the temple and brought them to a storage room where they could supply themselves with weapons and any armor they thought they would need. Within hours, groups of women arrived at the colossus in batches. Soon the entire temple was teeming with Gerudo and one unfortunate Terrance. Saria tried to help console and talk to the bewildered old man, but he merely babbled to himself in crazy nonsense, his sanity had slipped considerably.
As the group was making the final preparations and securing the newly stocked saddlebags onto the horses, Saria felt a small tremor in her body. Sora also felt it too. Feeling the waves of pulsating energy, she wandered through the maze of rooms and passages to an open arena. Her mouth dropped open as she walked out into the moonlight.
The entire amphitheater was open to the sky with six pillars of elaborate design. Each one had a different symbol on it. In the middle was a gigantic stone of purest midnight, it seemed to suck the light out of the very air. Shuddering, she directed her attention to the dais in the center of the enclosure, there was a strange stand with a black mirror placed on it facing the stone.
Curious she stepped up to the platform only to find a small figure sprawled out on the brick. Sora leaped in her heart as she saw the unconscious being. She rushed over to hapless individual and picked her up gently. Its eyes fluttered weakly as it gazed at her face unseeing. Its skin was so cold and complexion so pale. She immediately held it tight against her chest to warm the poor thing.
Saria never did tell anyone what she found on the back side of the monolith. She mounted up with Ganondorf as they rode off in the direction of the Negev Marshlands. In time, they made camp just beyond its borders before attempting the trek through the swamp the next day. She huddled deep into her bedroll and peered into her shirt at it.
“Are you going to be okay?” Saria inquired.
“Yes.” The weak voice murmured, “Just keep me warm for now, okay?”
Saria nodded before getting comfortable in her sleeping bag.
You know he is going to want to know. Sora said accusingly.
“I know…but just let me have my moment, okay?” Saria said, slowly drifting off to sleep. Sora grumbled in her head.