Chapter 82 - The Way Ahead
Link spiraled back as he brought a hand to his cheek, feeling the glistening beads of blood dribbling down his face from the gash. Thanan had not lost his edge with the sword and was as deadly as ever, a grin was perpetually displayed on his face the entire battle. Cayla surged in as Link recovered. Thanan countered her downward strike with a flick of his rapier before swinging forward with his fist to crunch the bone of her elbow. She lurched to the side of the thrust before letting herself fall to the floor, deftly rolling out of the way of the descending thrust of Thanan’s steel.
Link rushed forward with a feint to his side before swinging his sword in an upward arcing motion to decapitate Thanan’s head. The man jerked his head back before batting the weapon sideways and crouching low to deliver a sweeping kick to Link’s legs, knocking him off balance and onto his rump. Thanan leaped onto his prone form and attempted to dive the rapier into Link’s chest before his hands went numb around the hilt. The man looked down to see Cayla’s hand encased in a steel-encrusted glove bursting through his abdomen.
Jerked the man off of Link with a firm grip on his spine, Cayla tossed Thanan to the floor with a squishing pop as her hand emerged from his entrails. Guts and intestines slowly oozed out of the open wound as his rapier clattered to the stone floor. He looked up in disbelief, “Still having a bitch distract me long enough for you to strike the finishing blow. You haven’t changed one bit Link.” Thanan mocked heartily.
Not wasting time, Link bounded himself off the floor before ramming his sword deep into Thanan’s chest where the Defiler would be. He could hear squealing chitters from within the man’s torso as his weapon dove further into the soft flesh. Thanan could only gurgle on the blood frothing at his mouth.
“As long as you are defeated, then I don’t care how it happens!” Link shouted, mere inches from Thanan’s face.
With a heave, Link swiped the sword out of Thanan’s body before wiping it clean on the man’s clothes. He looked over at Cayla with a smile before turning to Zelda. She had just begun to stir. There was some faint red flecks in her hair, it appeared Thanan had caught her by surprise while she was in the room with her father. With a start, he stood up and walked over to the entrance of the chamber and looked in, he grimaced at the sight of gore and splatter permeating the room. Harkinian had died a rather horrible death, indeed, there was barely anything whole of him left.
A sickening moan emerged from the corpse of Thanan. Link tilted his head back in exasperation, “You’ve got to be joking me.” He pivoted to stare down at the reanimating carcass of Thanan as it clumsily pushed its innards back into the body cavity.
A croaking laugh heralded the rasping voice, “You forget, this body has the ability to regenerate itself! You cannot kill me, no matter how many times you try!”
Cayla swiftly brought her baton down on the man’s head with a crack, the body crumpled to the ground from the force of the impact. Thanan merely chortled at the vain attempt to dispose of him. “Dear Goddesses,” Cayla whispered, “this is why the Defilers want the bodies of the Nevachreans who can revive: they’d never die!”
“Oh ho…you are only half right my dear Sheikah!” Thanan sniggered, quickly closing the hole wrought in his stomach. “Our goal was far grander and ambitious in scope but with Hylia within my grasp, things have gotten quite simple.”
His beady eyes locked onto Zelda’s before staggering forward to make a grab for her. She twirled away before swinging around with her own spiked baton in her hand, raking it across the cheek drawing red lines down his face. He roared with pain as he bent low to pick up the rapier once more. Without looking behind him, he swung it backwards to ward off the oncoming blow from Link who had moved forward to pierce the man’s heart. Link jumped back startled as a demon burst through Thanan’s back, reaching out with its hooked forearms to scratch its assailants.
“Demons.” Link scoffed, “Guess after this, there will be one less to worry about.”
With eyes both in the front and in the back, Thanan nimbly avoided their lunges, ripostes, counters and offenses. He spun in a deadly spiral in their midst, seemingly enjoying the one sided battle against the three of them. Cayla dashed forward with her baton to be shortly followed up by her lethal glove, she was knocked back with a swift kick to the groin. Thanan spun back to Link as he slammed his weapon up to counter his plunging strike, his other hand grabbing Zelda’s throat and throwing her across the ground.
“I do love horse meat, did you know that?” Thanan smirked, his rapier pressing forward against Link’s. “Didn’t you have a horse that day when I first saw you in the Lost Woods? Where is it now? It must be fully grown and scrumptious right about now. I would so love to eat it from the inside out and have you watch!” He sardonically laughed.
Link shook his head vehemently, “You will not distract me!” He used the force of Thanan’s strength and allowed his sword to be brought downwards before utilizing the momentum to kick him off balance and slice upwards. Thanan shrieked as his weapon flung aloft into the air as his hand was lobbed off at the wrist, blood gushing from the temporary wound.
Thanan skipped backwards from the subsequent strike, promptly kicking Cayla in the face to ensure she stayed down on the ground. “How about we even the odds, shall we?” His eyes flicked down to the prone Sheikah. The clicking demon sprouting from his back detached itself from his spine and slithered down his legs before scampering over to her. Cayla shrieked as the revolting insect plopped itself onto her chest and jabbed two hook arms into her mouth before spreading them wider.
“No!” Zelda screamed. A burst of pure, white energy pulsed out of her hands, crashing into Thanan with the force of a piston. The beam flung him clear across the cavern before bursting the cave wall beyond, causing a huge explosion of rock and debris. A new, gaping hole had appeared where the man smashed through, revealing the first few rays of sunlight from the coming dawn.
Link stared amazed at Zelda, his sword slack at his side, “How did you do that?”
Zelda glanced down at her hands, “I have no idea.”
A muffled cry riveted their attention to the frantic Sheikah, her limbs flailing in a futile attempt to remove the disgusting Defiler from her mouth. It has already wriggled its head in and was almost to the point of snapping her neck. With a casual thrust, Link impaled the demon on his sword. It screeched in protest before ripping small chunks off Cayla’s face with its hooks as it was dragged away from its prize.
“Zelda? Will you do the honors?” Link grinned as he placed the roving demon on the ground, still pierced by his weapon.
“With pleasure.” She said with conviction. She bashed the head of the Defiler with her baton, ensuring that each spike got its due. She had become so engrossed with the attack that she didn’t realize she was being told to stop by Cayla. The creature had long since stopped twitching and her dress was a bespattered mess. Shaken by what she had just done, she dropped the baton and looked up into Link’s eyes.
“Don’t shy from it Zelda. You did good. It had to be killed.” He smiled.
Cayla smacked her lips as if trying to get a bad taste from her mouth. “Well, that was altogether horrifying.”
Link huffed, trying to suppress a laugh at the morbid topic, “I know exactly how you feel.”
“He’s not dead yet.” Ignoring his sentiments, Cayla gestured to the opening, wiping away the blood from her lips with the other hand.
“You’re right.” Link agreed. Placing a boot on the bloated body, he pulled his sword out of its shell before turning to the opening that Thanan had made with his passing.
The three of them hurried outside to see the profane man reassembling his appendages, several having been blasted clear off his body from Zelda’s magick. He looked up at them, “You can’t win Link. I will always keep coming back. I was there when I first ripped your heart out in front of your Goddess. I will be there at your final end.”
Zelda gasped, “You were there…” Memories of her horrible recollections flashed before her eyes. Gazing down from the mountain top, she could see her champion gasping as his still beating heart was ripped from his chest by an unsightly demon. Ballos apparated nearby and drove the vile beast into the ground before rushing up to stall the inevitable.
Thanan cocked an amused eyebrow, “So you remember, do you Hylia? The history between your champion and I goes back far. I’ve been waiting so long to claim him as my own. If it weren’t for your accursed fairies and what they can do, I’d have him all to myself!”
“Enough talk! Let’s kill him now!” Cayla roared. She flicked the spikes out on her baton once more before advancing on the abominable man.
A piercing cry echoed across the mountainside, “Stand back! Leave him to me!”
A rush of wind flowed past them while they looked on in awe. Saria was confidently riding a serpentine dragon. It swooped down low and exhaled a stream of molten fire across the path, nearly scorching Thanan who had just barely dodged the oncoming death. A look of true fear splayed across his features as he glared at the deadly intrusion.
“Again!” Saria cried merrily. The dragon obliged, sending another stream of liquid fire down the mountain, this time it did envelope Thanan entirely. His blood curdling scream could be heard as the flames licked his form and obliterated his skin. Within moments, he was nothing but a pile of burning embers and ashes.
“Saria!” Link yelled happily. “You convinced them to help us?” He stepped back, raising a hand to protect Zelda as the dragon promptly landed with a thunderous shudder just mere feet from them, its eyes regardingly them intently.
“Yep!” She intoned jovially, sliding down the scales, hovering briefly above the dirt before touching ground. “Qargus is a very interesting dragon. I learned a lot from him.”
“Qargus?” Zelda inquired.
“Oh!” She raised a hand to her mouth, “That’s the male dragon we met. His real name is actually much harder to pronounce. But I finally convinced them to join our cause! So let’s use them to burn up that army now!”
Link raised a cautionary hand, “Whoa Saria, dragon fire can melt just about anything, including sacred stones. If the Zora Sapphire is indeed in Naar’s grasp, we don’t want to ruin our only chance at accessing the Master Sword by destroying it.”
Saria placed both hands on her hips pouting, “What does it matter? We have dragons! We can kill Naar and his army so they are no longer a threat! We won’t need the Master Sword.”
“Since when did you become so bloodthirsty?” Cayla mused, a faint smile on her face.
“Maybe Qargus rubbed off on her?” Zelda offered, a smirk on her face.
“Ugh!” Saria grumbled, waving a hand to dismiss their speculations, “The point is, we now have the ability to match their might. It doesn’t matter if they can regenerate, we can just melt them all to ashes!”
Link placed a comforting hand on her shoulder before sheathing his sword. “That may be true, but we have more enemies than just Naar and his invading army. We have demons which are on the hunt for Zelda now. There are probably more out there than we know about. We can’t possibly face them all, even with dragons.”
Zelda stepped forward nodding, “Indeed, I remember from my memories of that terrible war that the dragons fell in battle to Demise’s hordes. The dragons alone aren’t enough. This battle is bigger than just Hyrule and Nevachrea. This is for the Triforce itself. We need the Goddesses’ power if we are to win this war.”
The dragon growled its assent to her words. Saria looked at it with despondency as her shoulders slumped, wings wilting. “I was just trying to help you Link. I thought by getting them to aid us, we’d be able to win.”
Link lifted her up and gave her a warming hug. She embraced it fully and laid her head onto his chest listening contently to his heart beat. “And we will win with their help.” Link started tenderly. “I’m glad you stayed behind, I never had any doubt you’d convince them. They are but one piece of the puzzle. We still need the final sacred stone.”
“So you are still going to let yourself be captured so you can get to Naar?” She looked up into his eyes imploringly, begging him to reconsider.
“It was what we agreed to. If I’ve pegged Naar right, he will jump at the chance to see me face to face again. We best not disappoint him.” Link explained calmly.
She placed her head back onto his chest rather forcefully with anger, “It’s a stupid plan! Why can’t we just go in there with the dragons, Gorons and everyone else to get the sapphire?”
Zelda shook her head, “I’m not altogether comfortable with the idea either, but there would be too many casualties. Link needs to secure the sapphire first before signaling the rest of us to attack the side flank of the army, enough to break a hole through to the town and ultimately to the Temple of Time.”
Cayla interjected, “This is the plan you all decided upon back in Glaun’rung? Who came up with this farce?” She derided.
“Ganondorf.” Saria stated flatly, her eyes staring off into the distance.
Cayla stared at them all dumbfounded. “And you all thought this was the best idea? The Gerudo are not to be trusted, especially not their king. I’m still stunned that Impa thought it was a great idea to hide out among them for seven cycles! I almost have a hard time believing even that!”
“It’s good to know that we are so hated and reviled for who we are.” Came a voice from behind them. Cayla jolted; unnerved that she was surprised so easily. She was so absorbed in her own shock they she neither heard nor sensed that Nabooru was creeping up on them.
“That’s not exactly what I was getting at.” Cayla backpedaled.
“No.” Nabooru said calmly, but with great menace, “You meant every word you said. You are right to mistrust us. We have not been the most agreeable nation to deal with throughout most of Hylian history. However, we did come to your aid during the previous war with Nevachrea. If it weren’t for us, your country would have been overrun long before it finally happened.” She looked on with scorn at the flippant Sheikah.
Cayla scowled at the Gerudo elder, Zelda intervened quickly before the conversation turned sour, “Let’s just be thankful everyone is safe and the demon is dead.”
“Is he?” Link posed, he turned his neck to gaze back into the ruptured hole in the rockface. “We need to get back to the others and see if they are okay.”
Saria sprung off of Link and flew over to the rumbling dragon, it seemed to be quite satisfied licking up the ashen remains of Thanan. It lifted its head to regard the Kokiri as it moved closer. She placed a gentle hand on its bulky foreleg. “We’re going inside to talk with the others. Will you stay here and wait for us?” It growled in agreement at the notion before turning back to its dainty snack.
Nabooru edged up next to Link as they moved back in through the passages leading towards the feasting hall, “Who was that man you were fighting?” She was curious when she heard the ruckus from further down the mountain. She had scaled up the crags and spires just in time to see him get incinerated by dragon fire.
“Thanan, a man possessed by a demon of the ancient world. He is dangerous and is probably not dead. We will probably see another body of his soon enough.” Link stewed heatedly.
“Another body?” Nabooru asked quizzically, she was unsure of what he meant.
His reply was cut off by a small yelp from Zelda. She had remembered what had happened to her father. She was running across the cavern towards his chamber. Link swore an oath before turning to the others, “Cayla, please see to it that Darunia understands the current situation and inform him of our present plan with the Zora Sapphire. If there are alternatives, I would love to hear them. I promise I’ll bring Zelda with me soon.”
Cayla grumbled as she nodded in agreement, she paced onwards with Saria in tow. Nabooru gave one last, sidelong glance at Link running after the retreating form of Zelda before catching up with the Sheikah and Kokiri. Link chuckled briefly to himself. He had expected a more volatile response from Cayla. Maybe their recent trial-by-fire together finally sealed some sort of trust between them?
“Zelda?” Link probed breathlessly. He looked around the room, noting the complete disarray of furniture, steel, furs and torches. One had even lit some fabric and the flames were slowly spreading across one corner of the room. He grabbed a nearby bucket filled with dirty water, clearly the refuse receptacle for the king. He heaved it over the flames watching it douse the pyre, resulting in a plume of acrid smoke which made his nose cringe.
He turned to her sobbing form sitting next to her father’s throne, in her hands was cradled his crown. Blood stained and spattered with unknown viscera, she held it dearly in her palms. Tears running unbidden down her cheeks, she beheld the tattered remains of her father’s robes, its scarlet burgundy folds draped haphazardly over the broken remains of his chair. A goblet of undrunk wine lay tipped, its contents soaking into the furs of his shredded mantle.
Zelda inclined her head towards him as he knelt down beside her, “He was a great man. He and I may not have always seen eye to eye, but he was a good king. I respect him for raising you the way he did.” She beamed at this praise of her father.
She stifled a sob, “He was a stern man but he loved me. He adored my grandmother, although I barely knew her myself. She was like a mother to me when my own died shortly after my birth.”
Link smiled serenely at her reminiscence, “She was an amazing woman, to have been taken from her homeland of Nevachrea to be queen of Hyrule. She must have been very brave to adapt to her new political surroundings.”
Wiping a tear from her eye, she looked at him intently. “What did you say?”
Link promptly shut his mouth. He was quite unaware that Harkinian had disclosed to him in confidence the skeletons of the Hylian royal family. “I’m sorry. I think I made a mistake.”
Zelda reverently set down the crown by her knees and faced him fully, “No, you tell me exactly what you meant.” Her tone wavered but her command was clear. With her being the last of the royal bloodline of her family, she was, for all intents and purposes, the queen of Hyrule now. She was even beginning to act the part.
Link brought two fingers to the bridge of his nose as he closed his eyes tightly, “Oh, we have a lot to go over then Zelda.” He released the skin and looked around the revolting scene of Harknian’s murder, “However, I think we should move to a more accommodating setting before we talk of such matters.”
She nodded her head in agreement before picking up the golden crown, “Of course. I don’t think I can bear it here any longer.”
Link helped her back onto her feet with a chivalrous arm before speaking, “Also, there is another task I would like you to assist me in taking responsibility for.”
She cocked her head at him, curious as to his new line of thinking, “Are we going to change up the plan?”
“Not exactly.” He grinned. His smile was infectious. She couldn’t help but join in on his mirth. His next words however, killed her mood completely. “How much do you know about Majora?” He asked ominously.