Chapter 63 - Changing the Pieces
General Naar sat brooding on his makeshift throne, covered in the furs and skins of his victories, listening intently to the reports offered by his respective legion commanders. He had to suffice by appointing other, less skilled and able men to lead his armies northwards. Taking the cue from the council advisors that Barrachas sent with them about the increasing hostility and rumblings of mutiny within the ranks during the past orbit, he had to concede that the best course of action was to continue northwards beyond Hyrule and conquer the northern realms to satisfy the blood thirst of his men.
He didn’t want to give up his hold on Hyrule when he was so close to his decisive goal, he knew that striking a deal with those Gerudo witches was a risky move but one that might ultimately pay off in the end. He had received reports that the witches had traveled southward towards the Nevachrean capital to assist the young Link in achieving his objective.
What infuriated him was the mysterious reason why Link was going to Glaun’rung at all, that was not where the Goron Ruby lay. The lack of reports for nearly an orbit also troubled him. He had heard no word from Talamir or Timner for nearly a cycle. He had considered going home to satisfy his hunger for knowledge as to what was transpiring in his former kingdom, but he knew that his work here was still too important to just abandon. He had a promise to keep to their mother and he intended on fulfilling it.
His thoughts drifted from the flowing reports being relayed, he had heard them all before. The Gerudo were still holed up in their colossal sanctuary and were providing a formidable defensive, it appeared to be a stalemate against that foe. He was not about to drop the invasion of the Gerudo nation merely because of a deal with its two prime elders that had yet to be satisfied.
Thanan’s last report was a dismal one: they had lost ground against the Gorons when the dragons attacked their fortified position. What was more maddening was that the ruby appeared to be no longer in the king’s possession. With little guidance where to go from here, that front was also at a stalemate. Naar was incensed that despite conquering Hyrule many cycles ago, he still hadn’t achieved what he had originally set out to do!
He angrily waved off the commanders. Ignoring their passing, he brought out the locket that draped around his neck. Pausing momentarily before opening it to view the face within, smiling at him with beautiful brown eyes. Her long, flowing hair of tanned silver was as radiant in the picture as it was the day she died. Placing a calloused finger on the image, he blinked back the tears that began forming around his eyes.
“Please forgive me for a bit longer yet, my love. I have yet to avenge your death.” Naar murmured before shutting the locket and snapping the clasp.
Shaking off his emotional weakness, he stood up and appraised his tent with scrutiny. He had been abnormally delighted to discover that there was more than one Kokiri left in the camp. He sent out an order through the troops to gather the remaining children and deliver them to his tent. He walked over to look down upon the last five remaining Kokiri, each of them staring at him with abject fear in their eyes. Their bodies shivering in the cool breeze blowing through the tent, the chill wind embracing their naked forms.
All the Kokiri were shackled by the neck and limbs to separate posts, each one splayed out in violating positions to be easily abused at Naar’s whim. Their individual fairies were also brought into his tent, their cages lining one side of the canvas hanging from a support structure. The girl he had frequented most was in the center of the pitiful lot. Her ginger hair disheveled and drooping in caked, bloody tatters around her face.
“Good afternoon Josclyn.” Naar leered as he stepped past the quivering girls. He had long since forced the name out of her during their first few nights together. She was a strong, defiant girl who took several moons to finally break, now she barely resisted when he had his way with her.
“Now which one of these is yours? Would you please be so kind as to tell me?” Naar grinned maliciously as he walked over to the fairy cages and turned to look at Josclyn. After several moments of silence, he shrugged. “No matter, I’m pretty good at these guessing games. Now let’s see…” He trailed off purposefully.
Raising a palm to every cage to pacify each fairy in turn, he savagely thrust in his hand and squeezed each fairy roughly until Josclyn squeaked with pain at their shared connection. “I think we have a winner.” Naar smirked, keeping a firm grip on the sprite.
Walking over to the table, grunting as he sat down on the bench, he slammed the fairy down onto the hard wood surface forcing a gasp of anguish from Josclyn followed immediately by choking as the tightly chained collar dug into her throat. Flicking out a small dagger from his belt pocket, he looked down at the tiny sprite who was staring at him in horror. “I’m afraid I can’t afford to have you flying around when I’m working.” Naar smiled as he began slicing off the wings of the thrashing sprite.
Both Kokiri and fairy screamed in unison as blood began dripping from the Kokiri’s back in reaction to the onslaught of Naar’s precise cuts. At length the pain ceased and the fairy curled itself into a ball sobbing uncontrollably at the ruination of her striking wings. Naar barked an order to the guard standing outside the tent entrance, “Get me one of the council mages in here! I need him for the next phase of the experiment!”
Naar sat patiently as he looked on the weeping forms of the Kokiri and sprite. He was nothing if not thorough in his research and experimentations. He had failed to realize his objective with Kiera. She did not function as expected. Scouring over the few documents he was able to glean from pillaged city libraries, he realized where he had gone wrong with the procedure. Hearing reports of a flying Kokiri girl at the Gerudo fortress invasion only proved his suspicions that it could be done.
Presently a black robed mage entered the tent, causing an involuntary shudder from Naar, he never felt comfortable around any associates of Barrachas. He knew they were there to keep an eye on him and he didn’t like it one bit, however as long as their agreement stood firm and Barrachas continued giving his assistance to their cause, he had no need to break the deal yet. The mage’s yellow eyes glared at him from beneath its hood, the man surveyed the room with indifference paying little attention to the quaking Kokiri chained to the dirt floor.
“You called for me, my lord?” The mage said sardonically.
“I did.” Naar scrunched his nose, irritated. He hated that these foul mages of Barrachas weren’t afraid of him. He had longed to test his magical prowess against theirs but refrained due to being unable to discern the full extent of their powers, he did not like entering into a fight he had little foreknowledge of. Ignoring the impudence of the mage, he directed him over to Josclyn who seemed to squirm more in the presence of the black robed figure.
“The next part of this experiment, I need you to force the fairy to merge with the Kokiri after I’ve killed her. You need to keep them alive long enough for that to happen. Can you do this?” Naar’s eyes bore into the man’s irises, the mage simply nodded in understanding.
The abhorrent mage knelt down to the nude girl and unfurled his robes to reveal two wrinkled hands, the skin barely hanging on the bones. The pallid color of his palms was nauseating to look at, with the veins clearly visible under the epidermis. Each of the girls tried to shy away from the repulsive being but could not get far before gasping for air and whimpering as the collars and shackles dug welts into their skin.
Naar stalked back with the fairy before handing it to the mage who took the writhing creature and held it firmly in his fist. Without another word between them, Naar took the dagger and rammed it deep into Josclyn’s chest, she gasped heavily as she felt the cold steel penetrate her heart. Within seconds she hung limp, held up inches from the ground by the chains shackling her to the posts, the fairy screeched an accompanying tiny yelp before lying still.
“Place the fairy in her now!” Naar demanded, slightly worried they may not be fast enough.
The aura of magick penetrated the air as the mage chanted in unknown tongues. Placing the lifeless sprite onto the laceration, a small glow began to form around the two wilted bodies. The luminescence grew to greater proportions, causing the mage to release his hold on the fairy and retreat to the far corner of the tent.
Naar, unhindered by the blinding light, turned his eyes back on Josclyn as the glow faded to see a fully healed Kokiri. Quickly acting on his hunch, he took out a small wooden sliver from a belt pouch. Opening her mouth, he jammed the piece of wood deep into her tongue, watching it slowly dissolve into the flesh.
A malevolent grin spread across Naar’s face as he looked upon Josclyn’s childlike face, her eyes fluttered open to view him curiously. He began laughing as gossamer wings slowly unfolded from her back, languidly wavering behind her. He had finally done it, now to test his theory. Taking his dagger, he sliced open her abdomen, watching the girl snarl and spit at him, wanting to tear him apart. Within minutes, the wound had closed in on itself, but the Kokiri was as cannibalistic as ever.
Naar turned to the black robed mage, “Once she finishes her initial bout of hunger, I will need you to bend them to my will. I have great plans for these five.” The mage bowed low at the general’s request. Naar walked over to secure another fairy.
It had been a long few weeks traveling hard across the southern Nevachrean plains. The conjured horse gave out about a moon prior to reaching Yolland. If it weren’t for the trained movements of Merin and Impa at the time of vaporization, they would have face planted the moment it was gone. Ganondorf and Apolloni surged ahead on Appa, promising they would make way for their appearance when they finally reached the village.
Talon was chivalrous enough to offer Tellah to the two women once this occurred. Impa happily declined, preferring to walk the remaining distance. Merin seemed to be the only one to take advantage of his proposition. It was slow going with Talon and Impa keeping up with the trotting horse, but they finally made it to Yolland the next evening. As expected, Ganondorf had notified the villagers ahead of time and an available room was made ready for them when they reached Yolland.
They stayed a single night before heading out the next day. They procured an additional steed that Impa and Merin could ride on before setting forth towards the northern pass into the Lost Woods on the southern border of Hyrule. Ganondorf made a point to have the villagers relay a message back to Ingo and the others should they come this way that they were well and not to worry. Gratefully thanking them for their assistance, they turned northwards towards the Ordon province.
It was high noon when they spotted the first glimmers of the tree line signaling the end of the first segment of their journey. They merely had to travel up along the mountain path leading over the range on the border of Hyrule and into the forest beyond. Realizing they would reach the woods within the hour, they leisurely let their horses graze on the shimmering grass around them while they planned their next move.
“It has honestly been a pretty smooth journey, all things considered.” Impa admitted as she gazed eastward at the small dots on the horizon, signaling the final vestiges of the abominable army.
Merin nodded as she patted Tellah lovingly, all Gerudo adored horses and considered them faithful companions and partners in war. “I’m surprised we haven’t encountered any resistance thus far.”
Talon frowned as he looked northwards towards the pass, “That may be true, but we must look out fer the army traveling over the pass. It is how they have been getting into Hyrule!” He warned.
Impa followed his gaze, “We might have to find an alternative route around. I don’t think we’d be able to sneak by unnoticed by so massive a horde along that narrow pass.” Lingering on the mountain range, she turned towards Ganondorf and Apolloni who were whispering in hushed tones next to Appa. She jerked her chin in their direction, “They’ve been oddly compliant. What do you suppose they are talking about?” Impa inquired doubtingly.
Merin shrugged, “I don’t ask, I don’t question. My role in life is to obey the laws of my elders and my king. Who am I to judge or query what my king does or desires?”
Talon crossed his arms as he stared at the two of them whispering, “Sounds like a confined life ta me. I didn’t like it when I was living with ya all, and I don’t like it now. Obeying mindlessly is no life at all.” He asserted.
“Be that as it may,” Merin started indifferently, “I still am bound by the laws of my tribe. Did you know I was initially sent on this quest to ensure that Link stayed true to his course at discovering and destroying the source of the Nevachreans’ power? I was actually tasked to kill him if he strayed.” She disclosed freely.
“I’m glad you didn’t, I might have taken issue with that.” Impa pointed out casually.
Merin smiled at the veiled threat, even if it was given in jest. “I’m glad I met him actually. He is a lovely boy and now that I think about what I was assigned to do, I actually question if I could now go through with it. Knowing what I do now about him.” She stared off in the distance with a goofy grin on her face.
“Well,” Talon started, “ya do seem ta be different than Apolloni. What made ya decide ta take that young boy in?”
Ganondorf growled, signaling them all to mount their horses, it was time to be off. Leaping into the saddle, Merin turned to Talon, “You mean Ashley?” She looked back as Impa vaulted herself onto the horse before responding. “I’m not exactly sure honestly. Every cycle, a few women are chosen by the elders to have children. You know this. It was enforced heavily in the past seven cycles. I would dream and hope that my turn would finally come, but it never did.”
Spurring the horse onward, she looked dejectedly at the ground. “Please understand, not providing a child to the community made me feel like a useless person. My traits as a woman were never used to contribute to the overall tribe. It devastated me year after year when I wasn’t picked.” Tears formed at the base of her eyes as she thought about Ashley. “When I saw him and what he had been through…I don’t know. I just wanted to care for him as if he were my own. Barring any miracle that I’d be chosen as a mother, what other option did I have?”
Talon groaned lifting himself onto Tellah, who whinnied at his cumbersome weight. The last orbit in the capital of Nevachrea didn’t do any favors for his overall figure. He had let his regime of exercise and training fall to the wayside. “I can understand some of ya reasoning there. I can almost consider Link ta be my own son sometimes.” Talon huffed.
Impa beamed over at Talon, “Well, not that you have much of a choice now.”
Talon guffawed at this, “Yeah, I’m afraid it is a bit far along between the two of them.” He rode on a distance before speaking further, almost musing to himself, “I’m actually excited ta be a grandfather. I can’t wait ta see what the child will look like.”
Impa moved to say more but something unnatural drew her attention elsewhere, an aura of magick hovered in the air. “Ganondorf?” She asked to no one in particular. She swiveled to look behind them at the pair sitting astride Appa. They were unusually further back than normal. Seeing Ganondorf’s arm raised, her eyes bulged in trepidation. She turned to Talon yelling, “Talon, move the horse now!”
“What are ya-?” Talon began confused, attempting to look back to where her attention was riveted to.
A black bolt of pure energy surged through the air, blasting a hole through Talon’s chest. Blood sprayed through the air as the burly man slumped forward onto the neck of his steed, his eyes glazed over with the solidity of death. Merin screamed at the sudden ambush. Impa reached around her, grasping the reins from Merin’s shocked grip and jerked the horse alongside Talon’s. She glanced back at Ganondorf perceiving that he was preparing another spell.
Merin regained her senses quickly, she looked around Impa to shout back at her king, “What are you doing?! I thought we were doing this mission together?”
Ganondorf snorted in reply, “You have far too many liabilities to be trustworthy anymore Merin. There are simply too many moving pieces I cannot control in this delicate game of good and evil, therefore I must eliminate them before they become a hindrance. I am sorry.” He looked genuinely remorseful for killing her as he unleashed his second blast.
Merin shrieked as Impa swerved the horse back to the right scarcely avoiding the magick lance piercing the air past them. Unwilling to leave the bleeding corpse of Talon on the terrified Tellah, Impa lurched the stallion back towards his steed before grasping the reins in her hands. Realizing her individual powers were no match for the Gerudo king, she goaded both horses onward towards the looming tree line in hopes that they would lose their killers.
Hanging onto Ganondorf, Apolloni crowed in glee as he incited his stallion into a gallop, chasing after them. Releasing bolt after bolt of impaling magick through the air, he cursed as each one narrowly missed its target by inches. Impa was adept at riding horses and knew just how to avoid each one of his attempted attacks.
Merin squawked when an errant blast shot through her shoulder, blistering it with burning lacerations. She flopped over onto the pommel of the horse, clutching her shoulder in agony. “Why...why?” She kept repeating over and over again. She couldn’t begin to understand why her king wanted her dead, she was nothing if not faithful to him.
Impa kicked their steed hard in the flanks, garnering any remaining speed left in the overworked horse. She clutched tightly the reins of Tellah, hoping beyond hopes that Talon wouldn’t slide off the saddle and hit the ground. She gasped surprised when a bolt flew past her head, nicking a few strands of hair burning them at the tips.
“You’re only making it harder on yourself!” Apolloni shrilled from behind Ganondorf, “Just give in and accept your fate!” She chortled spitefully.
The Gerudo king tried to flank them by inciting his horse out past them on their left side, making them a far larger target than when he was simply following them from behind. Impa saw through his plan and urged her horse to the right shrinking their profile in the process. She grinned determinedly as she heard him curse behind them.
She swore an oath at their stupidity. She should have known they would have betrayed them sooner or later. The question was when. It all made sense now, Ganondorf had waited until after they reached Yolland so that if Link or anyone else came for them, they wouldn’t think to look in Nevachrea for their corpses but head northward to Hyrule discerning they had made it there. The cruel bastard!
They broke the line of trees as a blast hit the hind leg of their horse, causing it to nicker in misery. The horse stumbled forward through the brush throwing both women off its back. It crunched into the ground with a sickening crack, blood flowing freely from its front legs. Its nostrils flaring in terror at the excruciating pain coursing through its body, it tried in vain to get back up onto its hooves but fell back down onto its injured limbs braying loudly.
Impa’s gaze flicked to the motionless body of Talon, his eyes unseeing, looking at something no one else could see. Her focus shifted to Merin who hit the ground rolling, she was delirious with incomprehension at what was happening. She was rocking back and forth clutching her wounded shoulder. Their situation had deteriorated rapidly. She needed a plan and fast. She could hear the rumbling hooves of Appa getting nearer by the second.