Chapter 62 - Flight of the Children
It had been several moons since Ganondorf left with his wretched whore of a Gerudo elder. Several moons since her father left with Merin and Impa. The five of them rode out on Appa and Tellah. With one freshly minted horse Ingo struggled to summon for them, he assured that the conjuration would last at least until they reached Yolland where they could secure another horse to continue the journey northward into Hyrule.
Malon was sweating profusely wiping down the floors of the pub, it had been a good night’s work and they made a decent amount of money in tips. Many of the Nevachrean citizens were quite friendly and having a pretty waitress serving them brought the crowds in. Ashley was enlisted to help bring out the plates of food alongside Malon. It was all Ingo could do to keep up with the demand. He was bustling between the kitchen and the bar trying to accommodate all the orders. Malon assisted at the bar sometimes which he graciously accepted.
Giana was hired as a sort of public entertainer for the crowd. All the customers were delighted in watching her antics. The little girl twirled and danced across bare sections of the tables, in tune with the clapping of the crowd at the song she was singing. Already in the spotlight at a young age, the little Gerudo loved every minute of it. Malon would sometimes get lost just staring at her sister having fun, jostled back to reality by either Ingo or Ashley.
She dipped the rag into the water bucket before slapping it back onto the boards and cleaned off the remaining smudges by the entrance. It wasn’t a bad life, she thought to herself. As much as she was upset that she couldn’t go with Link and the others, she didn’t mind working with Ingo. What a strange thought! For all her young life, she had this impression of Ingo that was negative in retrospect. She never imagined she’d be working alongside him and not hating him for it.
Having a family mellowed his temperament considerably. However, he was still gruff around Ashley due to his involvement in the death of his wife and child. Malon wondered if he would ever forgive the mute boy for his transgressions. However Ingo was always nice to her and Giana, she wondered if he ever wanted girls during his time with Orauna. The man had taken an especially joyful liking to Giana. That little girl could brighten his face no matter if she was doing something horribly naughty.
She groaned inwardly as she felt the rising surge of nausea perpetrate up her torso. Hastily grabbing the bucket of soapy water, she vacated the contents of her stomach into it. “Ugh. Why is this not going away?!” She fumed to herself aloud.
“Looks like you’ll have to clean that bucket out and refill it with more water before you finish your job.” Ingo said grumpily behind her, his arms crossed as he glared down at her.
Quickly wiping her mouth, she rebutted, “It’s not my fault! I don’t know what is going on with me! I think I’m sick.”
“You are sick alright!” Ingo agreed roughly. Shooing her out of the pub to dump the pail, he continued his rant, “Carrying on with Link like you did, not even properly married. It is a disgrace. If you were my kid, I would have that boy barred from ever seeing you again!”
“I’m certainly glad I’m not then.” She smiled at his displeasure at her relationship with Link. Turning to the side of the building, she dumped the bucket contents in the designated refuse pile.
Ingo huffed at her cheek, “Well, in that case, I hope you are afflicted with this for months to come. Not even willing to listen to common sense!”
Ignoring his bluster, she spoke softly to herself, “Now that I think about it, he might as well have barred me from Link by sending him away early.” Malon suspected her father had some play in the fact Link left without even saying goodbye.
“Good riddance then! Best fix the indecent problem late than never! That man was always lazy in everything he did. Procrastinator to the extreme! Now I have to deal with another mouth to feed soon.” Ingo blurted angrily.
Malon had meant to defend her father when she cued in on Ingo’s last statement, “Another mouth? What do you mean?” She faced him fully; bucket held beneath her arm.
Ingo glowered at her as he flicked his eyes in her direction, “Are you really that daft? You are pregnant Malon and Link is the father!”
The bucket clattered to the dirt as the enormity of the news sank in, it all made perfect sense. She wasn’t sick at all! She was pregnant! She was such a fool for being with Link that way without some sort of protection. Malon mentally kicked herself for not asking Merin to assist her in crafting the special herbal tea all Gerudo drink to prevent conception. She placed a hand to her belly, realizing it was now too late to stem the inevitable.
“Glad you just got that figured out.” Ingo sneered. He didn’t mean to be nasty to her, but simply gazing upon her visage reminded him of Talon and all the injustices he had done to him. Although they made peace with each other, there was always a lingering resentment there. “Are you quite done with your reverie so that we can finally finish up cleaning?” He inclined his head to the fallen pail.
She numbly acknowledged his order and picked up the bucket. They refilled it with water from the cistern, swirled it around with the soap sheets before returning to the inn to finish the night’s chores. Malon yelped as she rammed into a Zora who was making her way out of the pub.
“Oh, I’m sorry miss! I didn’t mean to startle you!” The Zora female was quite kind and had been their cook for the past moon. Her specific tastes in food made their way into the dishes she created. It caused quite a sensation with the local populace and multitudes of customers roved in nightly to taste her culinary masterpieces.
Malon scrunched her nose at the obtrusive woman, “It’s okay. I didn’t see you there.”
With a quick apology and a bow, the Zora left them as she walked down the street to join her brethren who were all leaving for the night to soak their bodies in water in preparation for the next day on land.
Link had mentioned that Zoras were coming to help rebuild the capital of Glaun’rung, but she never quite made the connection between what they were and the name. Memories of the only Zora she had met back in the Negev haunted her dreams. It seemed like ages ago that nightmare occurred. She didn’t really like to stereotype the cook into the same batch of Zoras she envisioned in her head, ones that would assault and hurt Link. However she couldn’t help but feel some sense of animosity towards their race.
“Why are they here again?” Malon questioned carelessly, her gaze still on the retreating Zora.
Sensing the hostility in her tone, Ingo merely answered blithely, “They are here to help us rebuild. I think it is a great and honorable thing for them to do. It will help secure ties with Nevachrea once Hyrule is reclaimed again.”
“I wonder if that will ever happen.” Malon said incredulously.
Ingo swore an oath as they entered the pub and smacked into Ashley who was attempting to put away the brooms. “What in blazes are you getting in my way for?” Ingo roared as he cuffed Ashley across the back of the head.
The boy scowled at Ingo before bending over to pick up the fallen cleaning supplies. Without a sound, he swept past the two of them and placed the brooms in the closet just off the side of the bar. “You really shouldn’t be so mean to him Ingo. He is only trying to help.” Malon tried to defend Ashley; although she had to admit his disposition had grown sour since Merin left.
“Yeah,” Ingo spat, “helping murderers to kill my family.” Without uttering another word, he stomped up the stairs grumbling about some things he had to attend to before heading home for the night. She wondered what set him off this night, he was unusually bitter. Not to say he wasn’t disagreeable most of the time, but tonight it seemed he was more so.
Malon walked over to the sulking boy and ruffled his brown hair lightly, “It’s okay buddy, I’m on your side.” Ashley gave her a weak smile as they looked on the pub. It was remarkably clean after their last batch of clientele. “We did a good job, didn’t we? I don’t think anyone will notice that I didn’t finish my chore tonight.”
They looked at each other and grinned at her defiance of Ingo’s demands, they weren’t overly happy about the man being placed in charge of their welfare as the rest left to accomplish great things. He was a bit demanding and expected perfection in a lot of things, something neither one of them was all that eager to fulfill.
Placing an arm around his shoulder, she was surprised when Ashley leaned his head into her. Unsure of what else to do, she stood there holding him as he silently enjoyed her presence and warmth. At length, they separated. Giving her one last smile, he turned and walked back up to his room. Ingo had given them free room and board in the inn as long as they worked each day to upkeep the place and serve patrons.
One final look around to ensure that everything was in order, Malon headed up the steps to her shared room with Giana. When Nabooru and Talon left, it was understood that Giana should not be sleeping by herself in her room. Her sister wouldn’t have had it any other way, practically begging Malon to sleep next to her. After enduring much earache from her incessant pleading, she made a big show of giving in to the demanding tyke.
Quietly opening the door to their room, she chuckled softly at her little sister. Giana had wrapped the covers around herself due to her thrashing during sleep. She was currently spread eagle on the bed with the blanket curled around her petite form. Shaking her head at the rambunctious nature of Giana’s sleeping patterns Malon began changing into her ivory nightgown. The girl instinctively curled up next to Malon as she slipped in beside her. By an unspoken pact, the two of them cuddled together under the blankets.
Malon stared out the window for a time, watching the rising moon travel up the sky. She was on the edge of slumber when a peculiar detail disconcerted her senses and dragged Malon from her lethargy. The breath from her mouth was visible, it was then she realized how chill the air had become. Quickly rising from the bed alert, she gazed around the room but saw nothing amiss. She knew it was going to be winter soon but didn’t remember the nights being this cold yet.
A loud crack downstairs jolted Giana from her sleep, “Huh? Wazzat?” The girl asked sleepily.
Deep, grinding cracks were echoing throughout the structure. With an alarmed realization, Malon leaped out of the bed and threw on some loose fitting day clothes. “Giana, wake up!” She cried frantically, “Get your breeches and shirt on! We need to leave now!”
Giana squeaked as she was half naked from changing when their door busted in. Ashley looked in on the two of them. “You heard it too?” Malon asked. The boy nodded curtly. He already seemed ready to go, his bow slung over his shoulder with a quiver of poisoned arrows at his back.
They all jumped as another loud clap rumbled through the inn. Malon rapidly helped Giana get the remainder of her clothes and boots on before sprinting out into the hall. The chill in the air was almost intolerable. She could see parts of the wood along the edges turning blue. She placed her hands on the discolored boards and drew back in shock. The structure was turning into solid ice! Glancing down the hall, she could see that the entire corridor was freezing at an abnormal rate.
“Did you see Ingo anywhere?” Malon asked urgently. Ashley shook his head. The last he had seen of him was walking back out of the inn to retire in Francis’ old home.
“Malon? Why is it so cold?” Giana spoke, her teeth chattering.
Pricking her ears up trying to listen carefully to the wind blowing in from the outside, she could just barely make out a small hint of chanting. “Not good.” Malon spoke quickly.
Seizing Giana firmly by the hand, she dashed down the stairs with Ashley shadowing closely behind. Her foot slipped on the bottom step. Swinging up in the air, she landed with a thud. She cried out as her hip ached something fierce from the fall. Gripping the icy bannister she attempted to bring herself back onto her feet, with Ashley’s help they managed. The entire floor was quickly becoming solid ice, making it near impossible to keep a stable footing.
The three of them stumbled outside, relishing the warm air that flooded their lungs. Hearing a cackling from above, Malon jerked her head to view Kotake and Koume hovering just above the building. Kotake was busying murmuring in an unknown tongue, slowly freezing the entire structure.
“Ho ho ho. We were being merciful, allowing you to fall asleep to an eternal slumber in ice. Now things get complicated.” She smacked her sister which joggled her out of the incantation.
“What?” Kotake crowed annoyed. Looking down at the trio, her sister vehemently pointing at them, her scowl turned into a leer. “He he he. Well this got interesting Koume. It appears the chase is on then?”
“Run!” Malon screamed.
Picking up her screaming sister in her arms, Malon dashed across the street into the nearest alley. A raging fireball smashed into the adjacent building setting it ablaze. Ashley ducked into a nearby doorway before firing off an arrow. The witches chortled at his impotence, deflecting his arrow easily. Frowning at this snag to his original plan, he decided it best to trail after the two girls and protect them.
“You can’t run forever my sweetie!” Kotake sniggered as she blasted the entire backstreet with freezing shards of ice.
Koume surged up and over the rooftops as she tracked the running Malon, cueing in on the panicked screaming of the little girl. “Watch your head! Things are just about to heat up!” Koume tittered before raining down a hail of fireballs at them, demolishing carts, stands and exploding a nearby shack.
The two witches decided to split the difference. Kotake pursued the young boy while Koume stalked the two girls down the myriad of alleyways. It became quite clear to the populace that something was amiss. Any unfortunate souls who poked their heads out of their windows or stepped outside were treated to the witches’ magick, killing them on the spot.
Malon ran screaming down the confusing maze of streets, “Please! Anyone! Someone help us!” The hysteria in her voice was evident as she ducked into the nearest walkway, narrowly avoiding an immolating blast from the vile crone.
Ashley had leaped to the upper levels of the city buildings and vaulted himself onto the rooftops. Within seconds he was taking aim at Kotake who was gleefully cackling at what she assumed would be easy prey. The hag raised her hand high in triumph, swirls of frosty magick formulating around her palm. His arrow rang true and ripped through her hand effortlessly.
“What in the name of Din?” Kotake looked disbelievingly at her arm which was beginning to swell with boils. She clutched her hand firmly, concentrating intensively on stemming the tide of the poison. “Koume! Help your sister!” She cried into the wind.
Sensing the insistence in Kotake’s voice, Koume broke off the attack and sailed back to her sister. “What did that little demon do to you?” She exclaimed, bewildered at the carbuncled arm.
Angrily throwing a blast of flame down at the audacious boy, she turned to assist Kotake. Ashley deftly rolled out of the way of the destructive flames and landed gracefully on the dirt street. Looking up at his handiwork, he smirked before running after the last location he remembered hearing Malon scream.
“What is happening to me?” Kotake sniveled, her magick failing at preventing the inevitable.
Drawing out the energies from her, Koume confirmed her worst suspicions, “The boy has poisoned you with that arrow!” Snapping the shaft in two, she pulled the remaining end out of Kotake’s palm. Watching despairingly at the encroaching boils that ran up the arm, Koume wailed, “We have to combine sister. There seems to be no other way to remove this toxin!”
Nodding her head in agreement, Kotake gritted her teeth, “Let’s do it.”
Ignoring the glowing fusion of light above them, Malon ran across the plaza. She had just about given up hope when she heard the snort of a horse, turning around she saw a black stallion earnestly pawing its hoof on the ground. She looked around for her benefactor and noticed Ingo slumped on the side of the ruined fountain, he had run back to investigate the commotion and had come across them.
“Go…take Ashley with you and leave without me.” His breathing was ragged and sallow. Apparating a second horse took its toll on his inner spirit. Seeing the concern on her face, he waved his hand violently, “Just go!”
Ashley caught up with them, his eyes locked onto Ingo’s before he bowed in acknowledgement of what he had done for them. Ingo merely grunted in derisive mirth. Not wanting thanks from one of the murderers of his family, he looked away towards the newly formed witches. Without a word, Ashley sprang up onto the horse behind Malon and Giana. Not waiting for permission, he yanked the reins from Malon’s hands and kicked the horse into a swift sprint. Giana looked back at Ingo with tears in her eyes.
“Just where do you think you are going?” A singular voice crooned behind them. Ashley gazed back briefly to see a beautifully formed woman enveloped in a black, armored corset, legs covered in billowing ivory fabric, complete with maroon tipped thigh-high boots. Clasped in each bare arm was a broom, its wicker either solid ice or roving conflagrations. The most unnerving sight of this figure was the multi-colored jewel emblazoned on her head; hair extending outward in two distinct ponytails, one of fire and one of ice.
Giana shrieked as she viewed the raging death blustering out from the end of each magicked broom. Malon encircled her sister tightly, tightening her grip on the horse with her legs as Ashley jerked the black steed in a hairpin turn down the nearest street. The sorceress glided easily over them before blocking their path. Veering the horse up onto its hind legs, Ashley attempted to turn the horse around. His eyes lit up in misery when he realized he wouldn’t escape the street in time.
“Now our fun, little game of hide and seek ends here!” The woman sneered, raising her carbuncled arm to point her broom of frost at them. “I feel like taking a trophy home with us! You would look a lot better as a statue!”
Ashley winced fearing the worst as a screech reverberated up the walls of the buildings around them. Gingerly opening his eyes, he saw a trident jutting out from the stomach of the sorceress, droplets of red slowly curling around its shaft. Enraged at her attacker, the woman swiveled on the spot and vaporized the hapless Zora holding the weapon.
Malon gasped in confused relief as a multitude of Zoras emerged from the shadows, each armed to the teeth and closing in on the despicable witch. The nearest Zora waved his arm absently as he kept his eyes on the dangerous woman, “Go! We will handle this!”
Silently thanking the assistance of the Zoras, they brought the horse around and made way for the front entrance of Glaun’rung. Malon wept bitterly as she could hear the agonizing screams of the Zoras as they were incinerated or worse. Bursting out onto the open plains, they blazed a swift trail across the grass towards the nearest tree line. Her heart plummeted as realization sank in. What were they to do now? Where would they go?