Chapter 72 - The Siege is Broken
The shouting rang dull in her ears. She wanted nothing more than their absence this night. The shade from her canvas had been stripped away and all that was left was the white. All she wanted was to sink into the shadows that echoed inside of her, without a light to illuminate the darkness. She felt like a different person, from the roots of her soul came a sinister coercion. She ran her hand over the strange inversion, a vacancy that just did not belong. The child was gone.
“Malon? Are you okay?” Veraca asked loudly, fearing that in the course of the night’s events she had lost her hearing.
Ashley was worried about her. He nervously glanced upwards at her indifferent face, fearing that he might cause her undue pain. He had procured a small dagger and was fastidiously cutting through the melded bonds of her skin against the wood of the table. Malon winced harshly at the stinging pain of separating from the boards but did not utter a single sound. Her eyes lingered on the drying blood pooled around her legs and the pile of ashes that was near it. How could this have happened?
A flicker of movement caught her eye as she looked up towards Ruto who had stepped out from behind Ashley into the light. With a cry of utter rage and despair, she broke free of Veraca’s grip and propelled herself on top of Ruto biting and scratching while screaming incoherently. The two males pounced on her and began tearing the crazed Malon off of Ruto. Shocked at the animalistic fury of the attack, Ruto laid on the cool brick stunned. Ruto’s focus never left Malon as they manhandled her onto a nearby stool.
“Calm yourself Malon! Queen Ruto did not do this to you.” Veraca tried to placate her softly.
“Like Din’s forge she did!” Malon spat venomously, pushing her shoulders heavily into the arms of Veraca and Ashley who were doing all they could to keep her back. “If it weren’t for this bitch attacking us in the night and drawing the ire of all the Cyn’Taak around us, we wouldn’t have run. We wouldn’t have encountered those awful men and gotten captured. My sister would be here right now. My child would be alive right now! She deserves to die!” Malon heaved laboriously.
“Now that’s uncalled for-” Veraca started, slightly offended at Malon’s accusations. He quickly unhanded her as she began to wretch the contents of her stomach onto the floor.
“No.” Ruto spoke calmly, pulling herself up to her regal height. She raised a hand to have Veraca stand down from his offense. “She is right. It was my fault and my actions that caused all of this.”
“Damn right it…wait, what?” Malon sputtered wiping bile from her lips, unsure if Ruto was playing some cruel game with her.
Ruto continued serenely, her eyes never leaving Malon’s, “I grieve for you and for the death of Link’s child. I’ve always wanted Link for my own, but deep down, I knew that I could never have children with him. It is impossible. I was angry for the fact that you laid with him and are now carrying his child.”
“Children.” Malon corrected flatly. “I have one left.”
Ruto blinked before proceeding, “You have another?”
Malon nodded dimly, “Yes. I found out the moment the witches pulled my son from my womb.” Tears began welling up at the corners of her eyes.
Ruto went silent at the news and was unable to say anything further. She had thought Malon was completely devoid of offspring from Link when she saw what the witches had done to her. Veraca looked on with empathetic interest at the conversation but seemed unwilling to interrupt. Ashley realizing the gravity of their situation urged Malon back onto her feet, confident that she wouldn’t fly into another rage.
Veraca shook his head, “Ashley’s right. We need to get out of here.”
“Not without my sister.” Malon stood firmly against the three of them, fists at her sides in defiance.
“We don’t know where your sister is. The Gerudo might have taken her, or the Nevachreans might still have her. We have not seen her.” Veraca admitted lamely.
“I am still going to try and look for her. I have to. The Gerudo are planning to break the siege tonight. We must act quickly if we are to find her.” Malon informed as she began pacing towards the door.
“What about your clothes?” Ruto pointed out. Malon looked down at her crimson stained leggings, “We may not be able to blend in with the rest of the riff-raff, but you can, but not if you look like something out of a medical ward.”
Malon nodded her head determinedly. She gave one last haunting look at the pile of ashes by the table before stalking out the door with Ashley close behind. The two Zoras shared a look before following the two out. They jogged down the corridors attempting to keep up with the sprightly Malon. She was running down the myriad of passages with a single goal in mind, to find a Gerudo.
Their luck held as they rounded the bend of a tight hallway, they skidded to a halt and backed up against the corner. They peeked out beyond to see a mass of torches and magickal orbs of light floating in the air. They had reached the central atrium of the temple. In its center, carved out from the wall, was a huge effigy of a Goddess. Wrapped around her breast and neck was a snake whose face formed the attire adorning the head of the statue, its arms raised outward with palms up welcoming her people.
Ashley began to take aim at the closest Gerudo that stood apart from the rest, dozing slightly on a spear she was holding to keep her steady. Malon slammed her hand onto his bow, bringing it down. “Do not kill any of them!” She hissed. Ashley looked at her confused. “Each one you kill, two more will rise from the body. A wicked spell was cast on all the Gerudo by those witches. Assume all of them have been infected by that vile magick.”
Ashley bowed his head in understanding as he turned to Veraca and Ruto who had managed to catch up in time to hear the explanation. Veraca peered out to the woman in question before presenting his idea to the others, “Ruto will knock the guard unconscious and then you can steal her weapon and clothes. Agreed?”
Malon creased her lips in resolve and stepped back for Ruto. The Zora stepped out from the archway and carefully slinked her way to the nearest dark corner towards the lone Gerudo. All the other women were congregating around the base of the effigy, seemingly entranced with something happening in the center of their huddle. Rays of light were shooting out from the center of that mass followed by gurgled screams.
Ruto ignored the commotion and dislodged one of her fin spines that ran down her leg. She raised it high before judging the angle. With a heave, she flung it through the air. The spine whipped around the target before coming back and nailing the woman square in the temple, she crumpled like a ragdoll. Wasting no time, Ruto raced over and placed the spine back into her fleshy fin. She dragged the cataleptic Gerudo back into the passage where the others were anxiously waiting.
“You are graceful as you are deadly, my beloved.” Veraca complimented, love evident in his eyes as he gazed upon her supple form.
Ruto looked at him uncomfortably before dumping the body in front of Malon, “Here are your new clothes and weapon. So every single one of them is ensorcelled?”
“We have to assume.” Malon said dryly. She stripped the comatose woman with little concern for her modesty before looking at the others with a blush in her cheeks. “Would you mind turning around so I can change?”
Ashley rolled his eyes. He had seen far worse in his short life, but he obliged her all the same. Veraca stood rigid at the request but knew that the dignity of a lady was precious. With a flourish, he turned around to face the vast chamber, observing the Gerudo and their seemingly abhorrent gathering. Ruto remained where she was and folded her arms before leaning up against the adjacent wall. So this is the woman Link fell for? She didn’t look all that impressive.
Malon glowered at her judging gaze but swiftly disregarded it and began undressing. Within minutes she had suited up in the full ivory garb of a Gerudo warrior. Their attention was distracted by a sudden shudder that surged through the ground and rocked the foundations of the temple. The entire crowd of women rose up in a clamor. Much shouting and yelling was heard before they scattered out of the chamber through various passages.
Left behind in the middle of the atrium at the base of the crossed feet of the statue were Kotake and Koume. Sensing a presence behind her, Kotake spun around and spied them lurking in the archway. Her eyes locked onto Ashley’s, who already had his bow drawn and ready. With a squeak, she brandished her broom before racing up out of the nearest skylight in the roof of the chamber. Her sister Koume had been left for dead, the group walked up to the wretched hag.
Another tremor blasted through the structure, causing several bricks to fall from the ceiling and crash into the floor, sprays of rock and rubble went flying over their heads as they ducked to avoid being hit by flailing debris. Malon stepped up to Koume who was lying on the ground, the two arrows still lodged in her throat and in her head. Pus was already starting to congeal around the edge of the open wound in her eye. She looked up at them and croaked miserably, reaching out a hand to ward them off. No magick was forthcoming.
Malon grimaced, “Tch, to think that after years of conniving, backstabbing, scheming and pulling puppet strings of an entire nation, you’d have learned to trust no one. And here, when you needed her the most, your sister strips you barren and leaves you to rot. I have no sympathy for you.”
“Please…” Koume groused, “Take pity…on a defenseless old woman…” She gurgled loudly before hacking more blood onto the soaked brick beneath her.
“You are not worth my pity.” Malon intoned apathetically. She held up her recently acquired scimitar and raised it high. Koume looked up with what was finally fear in her eyes. After hundreds of cycles, she dared not believe it had come to this, to meet her own end so ignobly.
Veraca moved to stay Malon’s hand, concern in his voice, “Malon, this is not something you should stoop to. She is no harm to anyone anymore, let her die in-”
Veraca’s voice cut off as Malon brought the steel down, lopping the witch’s head clean off. Blood spurting from the neck as the body slumped into a bundle of cloth and rags, Koume’s head rolling across the floor from the force of the blow. Her reign of terror and control had come to an end. A look of utter disbelief constricted on Veraca’s face. Ruto looked on interestedly. This was certainly a new side to the feisty young woman whom was her rival at love.
Malon slowly turned her head to Veraca, “What? Revenge? I don’t care for your Zoran ideals and morals in war. I don’t care about respect for the enemy. If you are uncomfortable in following me to find my sister and kill Kotake, the other murderer of my child, then leave. I am going to find my sister.” Without another word, she spun on her heel and walked in the direction of the passage where the majority of the Gerudo had departed into.
Ashley looked at the two Zoras with a shrug. He turned to Malon into the passage. Veraca exhaled loudly, “Din’s forge has no fury like that woman. I am glad I am not her enemy.” His eyes remaining on the darkness of the corridor the two had disappeared into.
“Indeed.” Ruto mused. At length, she began following in their footsteps. “I’m going with them Veraca. Maybe there is a chance I might see Link after all.” She stated dangerously.
His eyes popped as he comprehended her statement, “You will do no such thing Ruto. We’ve done what we said we’d do. We freed her. Ashley can take care of them both. We should retreat back to our people.” He jogged up beside her, placing a loving, but firm hand on her arm.
Her head whipped in his direction, her eyes shooting daggers, “Yes, we’ve freed her. But there are two armies out there about to wage war on the desert plains. You tell me that they’re going to survive escaping that?”
Veraca glanced at the gloom of the corridor where they had last seen Malon and Ashley before answering hesitantly, “She is on a mission to a place I’d rather not go. Following her down into that place would not be wise.”
A shockwave rammed through the floor as more bricks collapsed from above, they dove for the safety of the passage but coughed fiercely as they inhaled the dust from the aftermath. Ruto stood back up and paced down the hallway, “I’ve been to that place. I know the darkness of the cage she is traveling towards. My soul was stamped out in that hole that sucks all life out of you. Do not presume to tell me that I am unwise for following her. For I understand her now, I see what she fights for.” Her voice escalated with each successive word until she was practically shouting at Veraca.
“My primary goal is to see you home safe Ruto. If that entails us following Malon for a time, then so be it.” He said decisively.
“And we might still meet up with Link.” She added hastily with a grin, dashing down the corridor before Veraca could respond. He stuttered at her inject before pursuing her.
They caught up with Malon and Ashley at the primary entry into the colossus. The sturdy iron wrought doors were locked tight with a rod of pure metal draped across the door holders which prevented many a battering ram strike. Multiple Gerudo were shouting to get the entrance open, the group could barely make out what they were saying but managed to understand the overall gist.
“Get that door open! That crazy loon is about to blow us all away!” One elder demanded futilely of her subjects. The excessively heavy bar sealing the doors shut required the strength of many women to lift.
“We should have killed him when we had the chance!” Another warrior offered.
Presently they heaved the rod off the doors and vaulted it across the room. The elder warned, “Be wary, the enemy is at our doorstep! Be prepared to go forth and purge them from our holy sanctuary. Spare no quarter! Destroy them utterly or they will keep coming back!” The women all roared in unison as the doors swung wide inward.
The vast sea of lights that spread out across the sandy dunes before the colossus was quite unprepared for the assault that streamed out of those gates. The Gerudo brandished their weapons and plunged themselves into the startled Nevachreans at their very doorstep. Many of the women had laced their spears and scimitars with deadly poison perfected over the cycles from Cyn’Taak venom. Unsuspecting soldiers were run through before expanding into a bloody explosion of viscera and guts. Several bombs were thrown into the horde which dispatched swathes of brutes like dust on the wind.
“Now is our chance!” Malon exclaimed, moving forward to join them.
“What about us? Are we assembling with them or escaping?” Veraca questioned harshly, raising his hand to indicate the nearby bluffs.
Malon turned to him with lethal intent in her eyes, “If I know anything from living with the Gerudo for the past seven cycles, they would never leave anyone behind. They would train and send even their youth into battle if it came down to it. My best chance at finding Giana is to act like one of them. If their intent is to break the siege and continue onward to Naar at Hyrule Castle, then maybe we can find my sister among them and meet up with Link!”
Ruto’s eyes widened with interest but said nothing. Veraca’s scaly brow furrowed, “Your plan is madness. We cannot follow directly, they’d kill us in a heartbeat. The Gerudo share no love for us Zoras,” he paused briefly as he looked over at Ashley, “or young boys.”
They walked out from the doors into the open air, breathing in the scent of the night. They stayed back a distance from the crowd of deadly women whom were making mincemeat of the Nevachrean troops, it seemed every man was horribly surprised when they made the killing blow to see two more rise up and continue the battle. Their unnatural magick was an equal match to the regenerating properties of the Nevachreans.
A whooping cry resounded from above directing their focus high. Standing on the edge of one of the outstretched palms of the colossus was Terrance. He had limped his way to the drop off and was clutching something massive. Several Gerudo had surrounded his escape back into the monolith, there was no way left but down.
He screeched with maniacal laughter, “You filthy whores! It is about time you got a taste of your own medicine! May the Nevachreans kill you all, I no longer care!”
Ashley’s eyes saw the danger before the others, he galvanized the others to run back into the structure as an intake of air sucked into the device Terrance was holding. Malon found it suddenly hard to breathe, as if the very air was being ripped from her lungs. A single moment of silence transpired before the explosion blew Terrance and the Gerudo near him apart. The shockwave was so violent it was clearly seen by the naked eye. It shattered the hard rock and cracked the top of the colossus into a myriad of deadly debris.
“Inside! Now!” Veraca screamed, his common sense finally catching up to Ashley’s intuition. They dove inside as the entire upper structure of the colossus exploded outward, raining chunks of rock the size of houses slammed down into the enemy camp squishing both Gerudo and Nevachrean soldiers alike. The concussion set off similar charges laid out by the Nevachreans all along the base of the structure, more tremors coursed through the brick and mortar.
“Back out!” Malon screamed as multiple pieces of the ceiling began collapsing above them. They stumbled back outside, trying to maintain their footing with each blast which continued to rock the foundations. “What in Din’s name is happening?” Malon cried.
The last of the showering rock had ceased but it was clear the entire colossus was going to topple over. Ashley frantically looked around for an opening and quickly pointed to the eastern edge of the Nevachrean camp. There was less activity there and it avoided the center, where it could be discerned that multiple magickal barriers had been erected by the magi living within the camp. Fiery balls of death rose up from multiple locations within the middle of that throng, sending up cries of terror.
“I see.” Veraca began as he perceived what Ashley was indicating, “The magi are within the center of the camp while the simple grunts are residing along the edges.” Ashley nodded at this observation.
“Very well.” Malon stated, furious that they couldn’t search for Giana, “We will make it to the far edge of the camp and wait out the winners. Whoever wins will still most likely travel back to Naar’s camp, where Link and the others are supposed to convene with the Goron Ruby. We will meet them there and try to warn them of Ganondorf’s betrayal.”
Murmuring agreement at the plan, the four of them lurched and staggered their way to the far eastern edge of the bowl flanked by high granite bluffs. Several more explosions boomed through the night as scorching pillars of flame rose up from the colossus. The entire upper half of the monolith had been blasted clean off, their holy temple defiled. Never again would it be rebuilt.
The group watched from a nearby cleft as the melee fulminated before them. Many Gerudo were slain that night as the magi caught on to their nefarious boon given to them by Kotake and Koume. Many more Nevachreans were decimated as the Gerudo’s weapons dispatched them to nothing but atoms. Stranger still, there were several insect like creatures skittering through the camp, forcing themselves down the throats of their hapless victims; none of them could make head or tails of it. Such was the chaos of the battle.
They simply waited and watched, not noticing a group of men break off from the mass and travel northwards with a precious package…