Chapter 87 - The Fog of War
“So what is this one for?” Apolloni asked, lifting the mask up to have it catch the soft dwindling rays of the late evening sun peeking below the clouds. Zelda looked over at the mask she was holding. She quickly made a grab for it but was denied as Apolloni shifted it out of her reach. She glared at Zelda, “I asked, what is it for? I remember the other mask we received from Glaun’rung, but not this one.”
Zelda exclaimed affronted, “You can’t just go through my pack like that! Those are mine!”
Apolloni smirked, “Last I checked, Link was carrying these around. Why did he suddenly give them to you? Surely he had some reason for leaving them in your care and separating you from him during our meeting in Kakariko?” Her gaze was intense.
Zelda sighed. She looked over at Ganondorf who sat nearby staring into the fire. His silence to the whole conversation indicated his consent of Apolloni’s question. She was going to get no help from him. Zelda began reluctantly, “He called it Majora. He used to tell me fantastical stories of traveling to an alternate dimension called Termina where that mask was the cause of a near apocalypse of that world.”
Apolloni looked at mask in awe, she could hear the whispers lulling her to slip the mask on and claim her rightful place as a god. “So why shouldn’t we use it and blaze our way straight to the Temple of Time? Why did he bother keeping this around so long without even attempting to use it? If it has the power to destroy worlds, wouldn’t that be in our favor if we have control?” A gleam in her eyes danced across her pupils, the mask was getting uncomfortably close to her face.
“According to Link, you wouldn’t have control. It controls you for its own ends. The last person who had that mask on nearly lost their soul.” Zelda warned ominously. As much as she found it hard to believe Link’s story, she had to admit that the mask gave her an unsettling feeling.
At the mention of its vile powers, Apolloni quickly regained her senses and set the mask back down onto Zelda’s pack quickly. “So…did he tell you what he wanted done with it?” She probed.
“No. He just told me to keep it safe.” Zelda lied.
Ganondorf looked over at her. A searching look brought her eyes down. She wondered if he suspected there was more to her story than she had revealed. He raised his head in preparation to say something when a huge explosion redirected his attention. They all looked off at the Nevachrean camp and saw a brilliant display of colors flashing vividly throughout the sky, even in the failing light of day, it was still impressive.
“What is that?” Merin asked wearily, she had not slept well that night.
Zelda nodded silently to herself before speaking to the others. “It’s time to go. That was the signal we agreed upon if Link was able to secure the sapphire.”
Ganondorf rose up promptly, “Then we shouldn’t waste time. We must meet him at the drawbridge leading across the moat. We will press forward into the town together from there.”
Zelda cocked her head, “Why can’t we just go straight to the temple and dispel the aura there and wait?” Seeing that Apolloni’s attention was diverted, she quickly snatched the mask back before stuffing it into the pack and drawing the string tight. The Gerudo scowled at her but made no comment.
He shook his head sternly, “I told you. There is a danger lurking within the city walls that I would rather have more men on our side to combat. With more targets for them to attack, it might give us a better chance at survival.” Zelda trembled at the Gerudo king’s callous disregard for Huma life. Did he only want more bodies just to be used as bait for the threat residing beyond those walls?
“What kind of danger?” She asked, before being assisted back up onto Appa. She was to sit in front of him, which made her feel horribly uncomfortable with his arms reaching around her to grab the stallion’s reins.
Ganondorf observed Apolloni and Merin mounting the other horse, which they had stolen when they passed through the Nevachrean camp, before answering, “I do not know, but I can feel it there. It is unnatural and of unknown origin.”
Zelda fell silent as the king kicked the horse’s flanks, prompted it into a wild gallop.
Cayla inwardly cursed herself for waiting as long as she did. They had set themselves up prior to the game in and around the arena. They utilized their stealth hazes to blend in with the crowd and remain unobtrusive. Many Gorons rolled in the previous night under the cover of darkness to key positions to best strike out at unsuspecting soldiers once the signal was given. Their only mistake was that they waited too long.
Cayla hoped that Link had found a way to acquire the Zora Sapphire before it got to this point. She was lingering on the decision to sound the alarm well into the match. It was not supposed to go down like this. Why had Ganondorf freely allowed Link to be taken into custody by the Nevachreans? It made absolutely no sense. Didn’t he want Link alive to pull out the Master Sword?
She didn’t mean for it to go this far, it seemed Link had everything under control. She didn’t feel the first twinge of dread until she realized the giant man wasn’t going down after five arrow strikes to the chest. Once Link was brought to his knees, the disgustingly buff man sitting on Link’s back forcefully trying to rip out his wings, Cayla decided that she had had enough. Cayla made the split decision to ignore the order to wait for his signal, she whistled loudly before hopped off the stands and sprinting towards him. She had stopped dead in her tracks upon seeing his bloody feathers held aloft over the man’s head. She couldn’t believe it had actually happened.
The explosion of colors and fire above the arena instituted feeling that permeated through her limbs. Galvanized back into action, she dashed ahead of her Sheikah brethren. The swarm of soldiers seated around the pit broke out in a tulmult of blood and severed limbs. Various Sheikah materialized from among them and were quickly dispatching droves of unsuspecting brutes. Gorons throughout the camp unfurled and began wrecking havoc among the tents. Plowing through fabric, pillars and fire, the Gorons carved a path of destruction that left few intact in their wake.
Cayla’s eyes flicked over to the viewing platform as she saw a robed figure tearing across the muddied field towards Link, in her hand was the shimmering blue of the sapphire, dangling from a chain. Unsure if the figure was an enemy, she did a quick sound and signaled several Sheikah to break off and intercept the unknown entity. She remained focused on the brawny man who had proceeded to bend and crunch the wings even further. He seemed quite unaware of their looming approach.
Flourishing her pointed knuckle guards on both fists, she plunged in on the unwary man; the one who dared kill her sister. He immediately dropped Link’s appendages as he twisted towards Cayla, making a grab for her braided ponytail. He grunted in surprise when the impact of her fists plowed through his ribcage. She gripped one of his bones and with her forward velocity yanked it hard out of his chest pulling most of his lower torso with it. He slumped down onto his knees as warm crimson flooded out of the gaping orifice, splashing disgustingly all over Link’s unconscious form.
Giving the man a swift knee to the face, knocking him fully to the ground, she hailed several of her kin to help pick Link up in a cradle hold and swiftly escort him off the field. He seemed in no condition to fight, the shock to his system from losing his wings was so great that he woke up delirious and began uttering incomprehensible phrases. She nervously scrutinized his wounds, his life force flowing freely from them. They had to staunch the tide fast or he wouldn’t live past the hour.
Malon watched the chaos ensue and observed the revolting mage bolt after the Zoran traitor. With a huff, she scrambled on all fours over to her sister, brushing back her hair gingerly. “Are you all right sis?” She asked anxiously.
Giana nodded. Her eyes were wide with fright as she watched the gory battle unfold before her. “Yeah…” She seemed lost in her own world. The sight of so much death numbed her to lethargy.
A flap of wings and an intake of breath informed Malon of imminent death above them. “Giana! Get down!” She screamed.
Malon grabbed her before rolling off the platform into the mud with a repugnant splash. Within seconds, a huge shape swept by above them.A rush of wind assailed their prone bodies as they huddled together terrified. The entire stands went up in flames as dragons descended upon the battlefield. Nevachreans were running screaming as their comrades were disintegrated into nothing but ash. Flecks of soot, snow and blood funneled throughout the camp on the prevailing winds, it was pandemonium.
Malon looked up at the retreating shape of the dragon before rising up to one knee. Where did they come from? She looked over to the center of the field and saw a pitched battle between the Sheikah and hordes of soldiers. Gorons had just begun to enter the arena and were slamming bodies up against the rotting boards and squishing others with gigantic hammers. One Goron bowled over the despicable mage chasing Ruto before unfurling and crushing his brains with a hammer.
Malon blinked again, she couldn’t believe her eyes as she heard a familiar roar. From the primary entrance to the pit, she saw Xavier bounding through and stinging multiple men with her venomous barb. Men shrieked as their bodies bubbled up in boils before being snapped in half with her powerful jaws.
She did a doubletake when she realized they had suited Xavier up in full body armor. The iron wrought mail covered her entire back with elaborate spines to intensify the menacing look of her hulking silhouette. Linked metal plates secured the back portion to a front plate trailing down her ribbed belly, providing ample cover for her soft abdomen. Curving down the exterior of her arms and legs were more pronged plates that could do far more damage with their lethal additions. To complete her frightening appearance, her helmet spiked forward down her snout before rounding downwards and out, resembling a second maw of vicious teeth.
“Xavier!” Malon shouted into the wind.
The Cyn’Taak turned in their direction and stood a moment before recognizing her. She bounded in their direction knocking men left and right with her passing. She skidded to a halt in front of them, her tail leisurely waving back and forth above her head, anticipating the next strike. It growled at them in affectionate greeting.
“‘Alon! Good to see ‘ou again!” She burbled happily.
She nodded quickly at the beast before looking over at the four Sheikah carting Link off in their arms. She hastily pointed in their direction. “Please protect us and get me over to Link!”
“Of ‘ourse!” She grunted before kneeling, allowing Malon and Giana to climb onto her back. It was not the most comfortable of positions to be in, the metal was cold and unyielding and they had to be careful to avoid the spikes of her armor. They also had to duck low to ensure her stinger didn’t casually graze their heads as they sat on her back. With her charges secure, she scampered over towards the retreating Sheikah.
Ruto had almost reached them when several women stopped her, their batons and other cruel looking instruments bared and ready. She raised her hands up high to assure she was no threat to them. “Please, let me pass. I have the sapphire that I wish to give to Link.”
Two women looked at each other briefly before retraining their eyes on her, “Give it to us and we’ll deliver it to him.”
Ruto shook her head, “No, it is something I must do myself.” She made a move to walk past them but they pushed her back with their weapons. “Please, I mean no harm. Just let me go.”
The lead Sheikah confirmed the response in the negative with a shake of the head. She began to speak but was suddenly caught off guard by an arrow to the throat. Bringing a hand up to feel the warm liquid, she gagged before crumpling to the ground. All eyes wheeled towards the attacker to see Naar, his head firmly reattached and holding a massive bow with another arrow nocked. The Sheikah instantaneously bomb bursted to avoid the next projectile as it cruised through the air.
“You filthy bitch!” Naar cursed fiercely, his eyes seething with hatred for Ruto. “You would betray your general for this filth?” His words were rage filled but he calmly nocked another arrow to the string, taking careful aim at her heart.
Ruto began to scream as she turned to run away. His aim was marred only by the sudden appearance of another dragon. Its voracious flames engulfing the men meters behind him. Unnerved by the abrupt distraction, his aim tilted just slightly for the arrow to sail through the air past the left side of her face, scraping it just enough to draw a line of red on her cheek. Disregarding the sting she ran after the Sheikah, ignoring the vile oaths Naar was yelling behind her.
She stumbled out of the arena, trying to make sense of the bedlam around her. She saw flashes of violet and purple twirling through the Nevachrean ranks. Men exploded into nothing but dust floating on the frigid winds, anyone it touched met the same lethal end. Ruto stood rooted to the spot as she disbelievingly witnessed the oncoming Gerudo horde. They shouldn’t have been able to get this far north! Did they blaze through the entire night and on into morning without rest?
“Ruto!” A shout from behind startled Ruto out of her trance.
She spun around to see Veraca lying on his side in one of the prisoner cages. It was clear his left leg was broken due to the swollen, bruised nature of it. He hacked up some phlegm as she came up beside him, “Are you so sure you are on the winning side now?” He mocked.
Her mouth dropped open, “You heard that?” She followed his finger as he pointed towards the empty cage where Link was held, meters away from his. “Oh.” She mumbled.
“Do you now see what has become of you Ruto? What I was trying to help you avoid?” Veraca intoned somberly.
“I’m so sorry Veraca.” Ruto began to cry. An explosion rumbled through the earth as she cringed against a massive blast rising into the sky behind her. The Gerudo were advancing quickly and would be upon them within minutes. It seemed they were showing no mercy to anyone.
“Please assist me out of here.” Veraca pleaded, his clammy hand pressed against the lock of his enclosure.
Ruto shook her head furiously, wiping away the tears that wouldn’t stop coming, “I can’t. My bile isn’t enough to melt through the iron, it is too thick.”
She stopped sobbing the moment he put a comforting hand over hers. She looked down at his outstretched arm, so soothing and gentle. “We can succeed if we do it together.” She looked up in his eyes and saw the love he still had for her. His next words nearly broke her heart, “I love you Ruto and I forgive you for what you did. A terrible injustice has been done and you had to pay the price. I swear to you that-”
An arrow thunked next to Ruto’s thigh forcing a horrible squeal from her. She craned her neck to see Naar advancing upon them with wrath. Shadowing him was Argonim, the wound in his stomach still not fully healed. “I will make you regret the day you were born Ruto! I will rape your body until it bleeds and I will take pleasure in slicing off each and every one of your limbs and feed it to the dogs in front of you!” Naar materialized another arrow and began to string it to the bow.
“Now!” Veraca shouted. With little hestitation, they both leaned over the iron padlock, breathing in heavily before expelling vile acid over the metal. It corroded the thick iron bars around it, causing the lock to fall to the ground in a squishy heap. Without waiting for Naar to fire his second round, she grabbed Veraca’s arm and pulled him up beside her. Swiftly swinging one of his arms around her neck, she began assisting him away from Naar and the Gerudo.
“There is no escape Ruto!” Naar bellowed.
He released the string, letting the arrow hit its mark. Ruto cried out and stumbled, nearly losing Veraca in the process. The shaft had arced low and impaled itself into her right calf. If he wanted her dead, the arrow would have been aimed higher. It was clear he was intent on torturing her. Breathing heavily from the pain, she continued onward. Veraca was struggling to maintain the pace she was setting. She had lost track of where the Sheikah had taken Link but she knew their ultimate destination, she had no choice but to head to the Temple of Time herself and pray she made it.
Another dragon swooped low and loosed a stream of molten fire across Naar’s path, separating him from Ruto. He snarled in loathing at the untimely beast. He waved a hand directing Argonim to follow him around the camp to head them off at the city gates. There was no point in chasing her now, she’d come to them. Ruto glanced back one last time to see Naar retreating beyond the pyre. She breathed a sigh of relief. With renewed resolve, she ignored the throbbing in her calf and set her sights on the glowing, malevolent aura just beyond the city walls. Her only thought was that she needed to get the sapphire to Link.
Link was dimly conscious. He had no awareness of what was happening around him, he was completely lost in the fog of oblivion that permeated his mind. The cost of his wings was a colossal blow to his body. It felt like a piece of his soul had been torn asunder. Cayla was holding Link’s right arm, with three other Sheikah holding the other three limbs. She was shouting orders to them in terse commands. He looked up at her with lidded eyes, but couldn’t decipher what she was saying.
“Is there another way around?” She demanded of the nearest Sheikah.
They had reached an impasse in the wall of men. The Nevachreans were finally regrouping after the initial awestruck dread of seeing dragons decimating their fellow soldiers. They weren’t fully aware of the Gerudo threat slowly pushing north through their ranks, but they were now more organized and prepared for the oncoming foe. There seemed to be no gap to breach their defenses, and Cayla was desperately looking to find a way through.
A massive boulder with jutting rocks rolled up beside her. Darunia unfurled with his massive hammer slapping into his hands, looking around for any potential targets to smash. He took one look at Link, covered fully in deep crimson, before exclaiming, “What in Din’s name happened to him!? I thought you had it all under control Cayla?” His eyes were fierce.
Cayla stuttered, but held firm, “I was not expecting it to turn out the way it did. I had thought I would have reached him in time to stop this.” She cringed as she heard the faint trickling of blood leaking from the exuding wounds on Link’s back. “We have to get him to relative safety before we can provide proper medical treatement to stop the flow or he’ll die.”
Darunia grumbled in agreement, “That’s twice now Cayla. It doesn’t even look like he’ll survive that long!” His eyes lingered on the sky as several serpentine shapes flitted across the clouds, some dive bombing the unsuspecting inhabitants below. “Saria is guiding and directing the dragons from above. If we can get her attention, I believe we can have her provide us some cover fire to press north into the city.”
Roaring in from the remnants of the burning arena, Xavier bounded into the fray, scattering several of the Sheikah to the sides before they were trampled to death. Malon slid off the Cyn’Taak’s scaly back with Giana tightly wrapped in her arms before running up to Cayla. “Impa! Impa! The Gerudo can’t be killed! They are just like-” She cried out before stopping short. She stared at the foreign woman who looked uncannily like the Sheikah she knew.
With a pained expression on her face, Cayla gave Link’s arm to another Sheikah to hold before stepping forward to receive the new arrivals, “I regret to inform you that I am not her.” She flicked her eyes down Malon’s tattered form taking special note of her iron collar, what deplorable treatment she must have received. The color of her hair sparked recollection, “You must be Malon.” Malon nodded her head emphatically. “He is right here.” Cayla motioned somberly towards the bloody mess that was Link.
A cry exploded from Malon’s throat as she rushed over to Link, her hands unwilling to damage him further by wrapping her arms around him and holding him tight. She cried out to him but he could do little but loll his head in her direction, his pupils staring past her. Cayla closed her eyes in sorrow. There had been much loss this day. So many innocents killed as a result of this war and for what? The Sheikah as a tribe? Hyrule as a kingdom? The Triforce? What reason did the Goddesses have to leave behind such a volatile object that would be the root cause of so many atrocious wars?
A pitiful cry diverted their attention back south towards the throng of Gerudo setting ablaze the plethora of tents and abodes. Two Zoras were limping their way over, in clear need of support. Darunia stomped over to them and interrogated their intent, “Who are you and are you with the Nevachreans?” His fingers were twitching on the hammer, awaiting a negative answer.
“My name is Ruto.” She gasped. She was both winded and wincing from the spreading misery originating in her calf.
Darunia blinked twice, “The princess of the Zoras? That Ruto? I’ve heard of you. I’m surprised you’ve stayed alive all these years. I thought you had died with the rest of your kin.” He lowered the hammer marginally.
“Please.” Ruto began, holding up the Zora Sapphire to him. “Can you see to it that Link gets this?”
The Goron king took one look at the stone and knew it was genuine. He nodded curtly before surprising both Zoras by heaving them onto his shoulders. He commanded a fellow Goron to pick up his hammer and carry it for him. He walked back over to Cayla with his two burdens, “It appears there are some things that turn out all right.” He inclined his head to indicate Ruto. Cayla walked around Darunia before holding out her hand for Ruto to drop the sapphire into it.
A vindictive shout from Malon alarmed everyone, “Kill her! She deceived us all!” She pushed forward to attack the Zora when a fellow Goron placed a firm hand over her chest.
“Villain or not,” Cayla said holding the sapphire, “she did deliver what we were seeking.”
“What will you do with us?” Ruto murmured, dangling over Darunia’s shoulder. Veraca had already fallen unconscious again from his injuries.
The king sighed, “I’ll deliver you to a safe place if I can, but I make no promises.” He shifted over to Cayla. “I will transport these Zoras to the eastern edges of the camp, towards Kakariko. From there, I think they can make the river and hide until this all blows over.” Malon passionately disagreed with this decision, she spat to the side before tromping off to look after Link.
Cayla bowed her head, “If that is what you feel you must do. We will continue to protect Link and fight beyond the line toward the temple. Please try to meet us there if you can.” They all ducked low as another blast of fire streamed over their heads, landing yards away from them, burning dozens of Nevachreans alive. No amount of regeneration was going to help them recover from being turned to ash.
“Cayla!” Another Sheikah shrieked, Xavier growled. Gasps and cries resounded around their group as a disgusting insect was crawling its way inside the woman’s mouth. With an audible snap, her head flung backwards limply as her body collapsed. The demon expeditiously wrigging the rest of its body through the lips and was seen digging its way down the throat into her chest.
“Defilers!” Cayla screamed. “You!” She pointed at a male Sheikah. “Make sure you stab the body in the chest, make sure the creature is dead.”
“But she was my…” The man tarried.
“I don’t care what she was to you before! She’s dead now! And she’ll be a demon’s puppet if you don’t kill it inside her now!” She grabbed a fistful of his tunic and literally tossed him in the direction of the fresh cadaver. She looked away as she witnessed him weeping before plunging a knife into the woman’s breast.
Cayla’s gaze locked onto several moving critters skittering across the ground. Her heart filled with horror upon seeing multiple Hungers swallowing and enveloping people left and right, gaining mass with each meal. “The demons are losing their hosts! They are attacking en masse! Retreat!” Cayla ordered.
The Sheikah were directed to lift Link up on Xavier’s back with Malon in tow to keep him steady. Another woman picked up Giana into her arms and was charged with keeping pace with the swift beast. Cayla ensured all was ready before sending them off towards the northeast, the multitude of hostile bodies seemed to appear less in that direction. Maybe they could break through the line there? After all, they did have a Cyn’Taak.
“Are you sure you don’t need my help?” Darunia offered; a look of worry and concern on his features.
Her eyes fixated on the approaching demons, she barely looked at him, “No, deliver the Zoras to safety. We should be fine as long as we stay away from them.” She quickly indicated the demonic mass.
“Very well.” He rumbled before jogging off eastwards, taking care not to jostle either Zora on his shoulders too much.
The fighting was intense and chaotic. Except for a lone few, the majority had no idea who they were supposed to fight anymore. Several men ended up stabbing their friends for fear that the world had gone mad and everyone was against them. The Gerudo barreled through unopposed, many being stopped by the rising numbers of demons infiltrating their numbers. Gorons were systematic rolling through the encampment and demolishing anyone that stood. The dragons took turns to fly passes over the disarray and mete out their own particular brand of justice.
Utilizing Darunia’s hammer to pulverize anyone stupid enough to challenge them, the aide efficiently navigated the insane skirmish for his king and they both reached the edge of the camp within that hour. It was a tortuous slog, Darunia and his aide were both panting with exhaustion when they reached the river flowing at the base of the mountain path leading up to Kakariko. Here he laid the two Zoras gently next to some shrubbery bordering the shallow bank of the water. They were both out cold and he wondered what their story was.
A rustle of hooves and the neighing of horses forewarned Darunia of another possible threat to the south. He was astonished to see a legion of black horses with a primary rider up front. A young boy astride a brilliant brown mare with a luxurious white mane was smiling down at him, a bow and quiver strapped to his back. Sitting atop his own spotted steed alongside him was a lanky man with a pudgy belly and crooked mustache. Beyond them were a mix of men, women and Zoras, each with their own summoned horse and looking thoroughly wet.
“Today is just full of surprises.” Darunia marveled.
“Looks like the calvary has finally arrived.” Ingo crowed gallingly, observing the anarchy before them. The boy merely grinned and nodded his head in agreement before stringing an arrow to his bow and giving a swift kick to Epona.