Link felt Zelda slowing, but when he opened his eyes, he still couldn't see anything.
What is it? he asked her.
We're nearly at the monastery.
Link suddenly wished he had thought to borrow Zelda's sword. He wanted to have something in his hand, just in case, but the last thing he wanted at the moment was a glowing sword. It was possible that the Master Sword would understand that and not glow, but he didn't want to take the chance.
Zelda came to a stop and Link got off her back. He didn't see her return to her human form so much as feel it.
Gods, I can't see anything now! she complained.
Tell me about it.
Why don't you use the Master Sword? she asked after Link felt around for the gate door for a couple of minutes.
I don't want to be seen.
The fairy said no one was here.
She said that this morning. We left her several hours ago; there's no telling what may have happened in the interim and she would have no way of warning us.
His hand at last found a metal ring on the door, and he slowly pulled it open. Attempting to be quiet was a bit useless, though, since the sound of the rain drowned out all other sounds.
Did you ever notice where the monks had their well? Link asked Zelda as they slipped inside the door.
Yes, it's at the end of the dormitory.
The one closer to the abbot's house.
Link walked slowly in what he thought was a northerly direction—and even he had to admit he wasn't sure his internal compass would work in a total blackout like they were experiencing now. Fortunately, it turned out he was walking in the right direction. Unfortunately for him, though, it was his nose that found the building he was looking for.
"Ow!" he said, as he ran head-first into the dormitory.
He rubbed the end of his throbbing nose. I just found a building… with my face.
Well, at least it's useful for something other than just being pretty, she ribbed.
You think my face is pretty? he shot back.
She didn't reply.
Grinning—and feeling a bit better—Link put his hand against the building and followed it to its corner. Then he turned and went down its length.
He stopped when he ran out of building. Now where to? he asked Zelda.
I will never be able to find it without a light.
He looked all around, but there was no light of any kind and no sound of anything other than the rain. Hopefully the monastery was completely deserted. And if not, hopefully the weather was so bad, no one inside would be able to see them outside.
When he pulled the Master Sword out, it was dark. Slowly, though, the light began to grow brighter until it was as bright as Link dared to have it. And it stayed at that level.
Zelda look the sword from him and began searching for the well. Even with the light, though, they nearly ran into the stone surround before they saw it.
"Here it is," Zelda whispered.
Link quickly inspected the well. It had a winch over it and a bucket attached by a rope. When he looked inside, though, he couldn't see the bottom.
Link cranked the handle on the winch. There was a faint sound of creaking wood as the bucket was lowered into the well.
"What are you doing?" Zelda whispered.
"I'm going to climb down the rope," he explained as he continued to crank. "But I want you to stay by the handle and be ready to pull me up if I get down there and find out it's too deep."
After a minute, the rope became slack, indicating that the bucket had landed on something. Zelda traded places with Link, taking over the crank while he took up the Master Sword. There was no good way to carry it while he was going down the rope, though, so he got into position on the side of the well, took the rope in his hand, then put the sword back in its scabbard, plunging them back into total darkness.
With both hands firmly grasping the rope, he slid off the edge of the well and dangled from the rope. He looped a section of the rope around his left foot—to act as a brake on his descent, if needed—then he began to lower himself down the rope one hand at a time.
He didn't know how long it took—it was hard to gauge time in the dark, muffled interior of the well—but his feet eventually touched water. Moving even more slowly, he eased himself down into the cold water. But his feet found bottom when it was just over his knees.
It's not very deep, he told Zelda. Come on down.
A moment later, she teleported to his side.
"Ugh!" she said as she splashed into the cold water.
Link pulled out the Master Sword, illuminating the tunnel. "Be glad it's not deeper," he said, taking a look around. "Although, as the night goes on, it may get deeper."
"All the more reason to move quickly," she said.
He pulled out the map the fairy had given him. "Open that up and let's take a look at it," he said, handing it to her.
She unfolded it and Link leaned close, holding up the sword so they could see it.
Zelda frowned, then turned the map halfway around. "Which way is up?"
"Is there no north marking on it?"
Link studied it for a moment, then turned it a quarter of a turn in Zelda's hands. "It goes like this. Here is the castle," he said, pointing to a faint outline. "And here we are," he said, tapping the farthest tunnel to the east.
"I wonder if that's why the city never moved any farther east?" Zelda asked. "This is the last tunnel."
Link traced an outline around the edge of the map. "The entire city has expanded out as far as it can go. I'm betting when people dug down, looking for wells, they didn't find any, so they didn't build."
"And all we have to do is expand these tunnels."
"Provided there's enough water to support the expansion," he noted. "The fairy said the water levels drop in the summer. Expand the city too much and the water may dry up completely during certain parts of the year."
Zelda studied the map for a moment. "It looks like… we need move forward, then take the next tunnel to the left and then the second tunnel to the right after that. That should put us under the castle."
They slogged down the tunnel, then turned left at the first opportunity.
"Well, even if these tunnels have been neglected for years, they seem to be holding up well," Zelda said, looking around. The blue light of the Master Sword reflected on the glistening walls of the tunnel. All of the rocks had been carefully cut to the same size and shape, so they staked neatly, like bricks. They were almost completely covered with a green algae, but that didn't appear to harm them—at least not yet.
"They were built to last," Link said, admiring the symmetry of the tunnel and the perfectly-placed stones.
"Maybe that's why the knowledge of them was lost: they never needed maintaining, so people quit coming down to check."
"It's not like you want to check them too often; after all, you have to dam up the stream—flooding part of the forest and possibly the town of Mynar in the process—while severely reducing the amount of water available to the city. So it's not something you would want to do if it wasn't needed."
"So they kept pushing off doing it until they forgot about it all together," Zelda concluded.
They came to the second turn and Link took a right. But as soon as he stepped into the new tunnel, he fell forward into much deeper water.
He struggled to find his footing for a moment, but when he recovered, he found he was now chest-deep in water.
"Wow, it's a lot deeper right here," he said, turning to look back and Zelda.
"It could be that not all of the tunnels were built at the same time; a later addition might not have matched up to the earlier work."
He offered his hand up to Zelda to help her step down. She sucked air in between her teeth as she sank into the water.
"Gods, that's cold!" she said through clenched teeth.
"Tell me about it."
It was much harder for them to move in the deeper water; they ended up half-walking, half-swimming. It didn't help that there was a current pushing against them, too. There had probably been a current in the other tunnels as well, but the water was so shallow, they hadn't noticed it.
"You know, this tunnel might be deeper because the castle needs more water," Link said. His teeth were threatening to chatter when he talked.
Zelda's already were. "M-more w-water than the c-city?" she stuttered.
"It's deeper, so it holds more water. That means it retains more water in the summer when the levels are lower."
"It-it's not t-that w-we need m-more w-water; it's so we have w-water even if the r-rest of the c-city doesn't."
She frowned, but didn't say anything.
Ahead, Link noticed water sprinkling into the stream from overhead. "I think we're coming up on a well," he whispered to Zelda. They got under the opening and looked up. It appeared to still be raining—as hard as ever—but other than some distant lights, there was nothing else to see.
This may be a well in the courtyard, Link said, afraid to speak aloud in case their voices echoed up the well. But I can't be sure that we're under the castle.
Let's see what else we can find, Zelda replied.
They soon found that there were numerous tunnels branching off from the one they were in. It seemed that not only did the castle get deeper tunnels, but a lot more of them.
"Should we try going down any of these other tunnels?" Zelda asked, resuming their hushed whispers.
"What's the map say?"
She consulted it. "All of these run under the castle, so they're all equally likely, I guess."
"Where would you say the dungeon is in relation to the rest of the castle? That will at least give us a place to start."
"I don't know; I've never been down there."
"A place you haven't explored?" he asked with surprise. Then he tsked. "And here I thought you had explored all of the castle."
"Besides the fact that I could never sneak past those guards, do you really think they would allow me to wander among the prisoners? And, really, why would I want to? I went exploring to be alone—not to find other people."
"Reasonable enough." He closed his eyes, trying to picture where the subterranean dungeon would be in relation to the first floor of the castle. He had been down there only a handful of times to deliver meals or messages when he was a page. The dungeon guard were their own little clique and were very proud of what they did; they didn't share their duties with anyone who wasn't hand-picked by them. So that was one of the few duties Link had never done at the castle.
"I think… it might be towards the western side of the castle," he said, after a minute of intense concentration. "That's where the stairs down are, at least. How far in other directions it extends, though, I'm not entirely sure; I've only seen a small portion of it."
"This is like looking for a needle in a haystack."
"More like looking for a needle in tunnel full of water," he retorted.
Zelda consulted the map again and decided they needed to stay on their present heading and pass three more tunnels; the fourth one to the left appeared to run under the westernmost part of the castle.
"Maybe we need to apply my rule of caves to this," Link said, as they pressed on.
"What is that?"
"Put your left hand to the wall and walk around the perimeter until you find your way back out again."
"I don't know if we need to go that far, but all of these tunnels we're passing connect to a tunnel on the other side, so we can just wend our way up and down them until we find what we're looking for."
"Sounds like a good plan."
Unfortunately, the plan sounded better than it felt. Their feet—and then most of their legs—slowly went numb in the cold water. Zelda had to keep the map held up, out of the water, and Link did the same thing with the Master Sword, so they could have light to see. This made their arms tired and achy. But to switch hands and rest meant plunging the weary arm into cold water, which was hardly any better. Moving against the current—neither quite swimming nor walking—also exhausted them.
"I wish there was a place we could stop and rest," Zelda said, after it felt like they had been in the tunnels for an hour or more.
"I don't think we're going to get any chance to rest anytime tonight," Link said grimly.
Link almost walked under an overhead opening without noticing it. Only a faint ray of firelight dancing on the side of the tunnel caught his attention.
He looked up and saw a metal grate over a square opening. Beyond that, he saw what appeared to be a stone room lit by torchlight.
Wait… this might be something, he told Zelda.
She followed his gaze upwards. It's not a room I recognize, she said.
Could be somewhere in a cellar, he said, not wanting to get his hopes up. But he had a good feeling about it nonetheless.
How will you get up there? Zelda asked.
He sheathed the Master Sword. There was only a very faint light visible directly under the opening.
I'll need you to give me a boost.
What do I need to do?
Put the map away and I'll show you.
There wasn't a place she could put it on her body that it wouldn't get wet. So she folded it up small and managed to tuck it into the braid on top of her head.
That'll have to do for the time being, she said.
Alright, I'm going to have to climb onto your shoulders, he said.
I can't support your weight.
You're really not any smaller than I am, and I could support you.
So let me go up.
He looked at her as if she had lost her mind. I am not going to let you stick your head through an unknown opening first.
She frowned in a rather obstinate way.
The water will give you some added strength and stability, he explained. But if it doesn't work, it doesn't work, and we'll try it your way.
If it doesn't work, you may fall into the water, make a big splash, and get someone's attention.
Then we'll swim away very quickly.
She sighed. I don't even know why I bother arguing with you.
I don't either; you know I'm going to win.
He shot her a disarming grin. She merely shook her head.
Now I remember why I didn't like you at first; you're an insufferable know-it-all.
Yes, well, I can't help it if I'm right all the time. It's a curse.
He positioned her under the opening and had her spread her feet apart and squat down a little, until her chin was at the waterline. Then, holding onto her shoulder, he stepped up onto her thigh. She grunted a little, but the water helped reduce his weight.
The tricky part was getting onto her shoulders without anything to help brace him. He put his other foot on her shoulder and quickly stepped up, just hoping for the best. Luckily, though, he was more than high enough now to reach the grate, so he was able to grab onto it and steady himself.
He heard Zelda sputtering down below.
Are you drowning? he asked.
Nearly! You pushed me down when you stepped up.
He pulled himself up a little using the grate, taking some of his weight off her. There. Can you get your balance again?
He felt her straighten up underneath him, and he had to duck his head to keep from being pushed out of the top of the tunnel.
That's better, she said.
He slowly settled his weight back down on her shoulders. Alright, I'm going to have a look around.
Link pushed on the bottom of the grate. It didn't want to give at first, but with a rusty squeak that made Link cringe, it finally began to yield.
He peeked over the edge—keeping the grate against his head as a shield, in case there was anyone nearby—but all he saw was a short hallway with six cell doors—three to either side—and another door—presumably the exit—directly ahead. The cell doors had windows in them, but a flap covered them up. The exit door, however, had a small barred window that was open. Whoever was on the other side of that door would be able to see in.
Link couldn't tell if there was anyone on the other side of the far door, but he decided to risk it. He pushed the grate back as quietly as he could, until it rested against the wall behind the opening. Then he put his palms against the flagstone floor and pushed himself up. It took him a minute to get his body out of the hole and onto the floor, but he eventually managed to get to his feet. No one came rushing through the door, either, so all in all, it was successful.
He drew his sword and quietly moved up one side of the hallway—trying to stay out of direct sight of the window in the door.
What do you see? Zelda asked anxiously.
I'm in a room in the dungeon, but I don't know which one. And there are probably guards outside; I'm getting a look now.
He slipped up to the door and carefully peered out the window to one side, then he ducked under it, crossed to the other side, then looked out again. He saw a fire and guards sitting around it, but they were far enough away that they wouldn't be able to see into the window directly. And they seemed to be busy talking and warming their hands, so they weren't an immediate threat for a few minutes, at least.
Come up, he told Zelda.
A moment later, she materialized at his side. Now where to? she asked.
Let's see who they have locked up in these cells. I daresay Nagadii has many people locked up, and anyone Nagadii considers an enemy is a friend of ours.
Link opened the window of one of the cell doors and peered into the darkness. Something white caught his eye.
"Lord Long Fang?" he whispered.
There was movement, then a familiar face appeared in the window. "Link!"
"Shh!" Link hissed, putting a finger to his lips. Zelda drew her sword and hurried to the main door, but apparently no one heard anything, because no one came to investigate.
"Have you not taken the castle?" Long Fang asked in a whisper.
"No, we just got here." Then he smiled. "And, actually, we were hoping to run into you. Think you could help us retake this place?"
Long Fang growled a little deep in his throat. "We will be all too happy to kill your enemies, for they are our enemies as well, and I, for one, will not be happy until I have lapped up their blood."
Link grimaced a little. "Glad you're on our side."
He examined the door, but found it locked only by key. "Do you know where they keep the keys?" he whispered.
"One of the guards wears them," Long Fang replied.
"Great," Link mumbled.
"Will you be unable to free us?"
"No, we'll get you out," Link promised. "It's just going to take a little time. Hold tight."
Long Fang nodded, then disappeared behind the door.
I'm betting this door is locked, too, Zelda said.
Even if we can get these doors open without a key, how are we going to get everyone out? I mean, we can go back the way we came with these people, but what if there are others in the rest of the dungeon?
Link slid up beside her, then dared a quick peek out the window. It looked as if there were very few guards.
I think we need to take out the guard and then get their keys.
Yes, but how?
Link considered the problem for a minute. I have an idea. Stay back there, out of sight, and be ready to kill anyone who comes through this door.
Zelda put her back against the wall—where she couldn't be seen if anyone looked in the window—and waited.
Link went back to Long Fang's cell. "We're going to ambush the guard when they come in here," he explained in a whisper. "Can you do something to get their attention?"
Long Fang stood up, looking out the window again. "Certainly."
Link positioned himself next to the main door. "Do it," he whispered.
Long Fang began to yowl. The noise reverberated off the stone walls and was almost painful to the ears.
"Godsdamnit!" someone outside shouted. "Is that those damn tigers again?"
"I'm going to cut both their throats," someone else shouted—his voice sounding nearer. "I'm tired of listening to them."
"Be careful they don't get yours first," someone said with a laugh.
"Not likely," the man shouted back. "That one is old and weak. He's probably making all this racket because he's dying anyways. My sister's cat did that."
There was a jingle of keys close by and Link nodded to Zelda to be ready.
A moment later, the door opened and the guard stepped in without really looking—which gave Link the opportunity he needed to grab him. He held the man tight against him with his sword across the man's throat. "Ask the others to come in here and help you," Link hissed in the guard's ear.
The man swallowed hard, then called out. "Hey, can you give me a hand?" his voice trembled a little, but probably not enough to be noticed by his companions.
One of the others laughed. "Bitten off more than you can chew? I told you the fight wasn't out of that cat yet."
Link nodded to Zelda to indicate that she would need to get the next one.
Should I capture him? she asked.
A man pushed the door open more, stepping inside. His eyes went wide for a second as he saw his companion being held hostage by Link, but the next moment he cried out as Zelda's sword ran him through from behind.
"What the hell is going on in there?" someone called out.
"It's a trap!" the first guard shouted.
Link growled, then quickly drew his sword across the man's throat, silencing him. Quick! before they call for reinforcements! he told Zelda, as he shoved the dying guard's body out of his way.
They ran out the door and into the main common area. There were only three guards left and they caught them startled and half out of their seats. The men cried out and tried to reach for weapons, but Link and Zelda hacked them down before they could offer any resistance.
As soon as they were down, Link ran to the stairwell that led down into the dungeon and he tried to listen over the sound of his own heavy breathing and rapid heartbeat, but after a minute, he was reasonably sure that no one above had heard.
He hurried back to Zelda. "Let's hurry before anyone finds us."They ran back to the cell block they had come from and Zelda took the keys from the dead guard and hastily began to search for the one that would open Long Fang's cell.
"It worked?" Long Fang asked, looking out the window.
"Yes," Link replied. "We'll have you out in a minute."
"Ah, yes, I can smell the blood now," he purred.
Zelda glanced at Link and they both shared a grimace. But Link couldn't judge; he had certainly killed his share of people, and if he had been locked up for months, he might come out with a bit of a blood lust, too.
A moment later there was a metallic click and the cell door squeaked open. Long Fang and Growder came slinking out, looking like white water flowing along the stones. They were thin—Link could see their ribs standing out against their unkempt fur—but still powerful.
"There are others locked up in here," Long Fang said. "I think the royal family of Erenrue is in here."
"Yes, we know," Link said. Zelda was already at the next door, trying to get it open.
A moment later, she pulled the door open and all of them peered in. Two boys, huddled together on a pile of damp, dirty straw, turned to look at them. They had been in the dark so long, they had to shield their eyes against the torchlight coming through the doorway, even though it was not very bright.
"Who is it?" one of them croaked.
Zelda stepped inside. "I'm your cousin, Zelda. Do you remember when Link and I visited you in Pallis?"
"Cousin Zelda? And Sir Link?"
"Yes, it's us. We've come… to take you home," Zelda said, her voice breaking. But anyone who looked on the two pitiful boys would feel the same; it was heart-wrenching.
They pushed themselves to their feet and ran, on unsteady legs, to Zelda, throwing their arms around her and hugging her tightly—even though she was soaking wet.
"Let me have the keys," Link whispered when it looked like the boys weren't going to release her anytime soon.
She handed him the keys, then went back to stroking the boys' matted, filthy hair while they cried against her. "It's alright," she said soothingly. "We've come to free you and Rayliss and Sir Elgon. And we're going to get you back home. Your mother is waiting for you."
The older boy looked up at her. "Mother is well?"
"Yes. We saw her just a week or so ago. She is waiting for you to come home to her."
"What about father?" the younger boy asked. "How is he?"
Link ducked out of the room before he heard Zelda's response. Part of it was that they were in a hurry, but part of it was a rare show of cowardice on his part. He didn't want to have to be the one to tell the young princes that their father had died while trying to save his life.
The next cell he opened held a welcome sight for him. "Mother!"
A moment later, he was enfolded his his mother's arms. They seemed as strong as ever, but when he put his arms around her, he noticed that she was considerably thinner than she had once been.
And then he was surrounded as Meghan and Ceily embraced him as well. They seemed to be laughing and crying at the same time.
Reluctantly, Link pulled away after a few moments; they didn't have time for a long reunion. "Are you all alright?"
"Well enough," Tatiana said. Then she put her hand to his face. "You look so much older. But… what are these scars?" she said in horror.
He took her hand in his and lowered. "I have no time to explain. We need to get everyone out of here before more guards come."
"They took your Uncle Alfon and Alons away a few weeks ago," she said worriedly. "But I think they're still in here somewhere."
Link crossed to the opposite cell and opened it. Alfon and Alons weren't in it, but Sir Elgon and Rayliss were.
"I thought I heard familiar voices," Sir Elgon said. Then he smiled and hugged Link tightly.
Link could feel Elgon's body trembling, but he didn't know if it was with emotion or illness. He looked as thin and dirty as everyone else.
"Where's Zelda?" Rayliss asked as Elgon pulled away.
"I'm here," she said, coming out of the cell with Rayliss's brothers. As soon as they saw their sister, they ran over to her and nearly knocked her down as they embraced her.
The next cell held Horace and Vera—Zelda's old guard and her nursemaid. They were weaker than everyone else—it looked like they were having trouble staying on their feet—but they were all smiles when they saw Zelda.
"Oh, Your Highness! You're safe!" Vera said through her tears of happiness. "I have prayed for you every day since this all began."
Zelda hugged both of them in turn. "I'm glad to see you both."
Link unlocked the last door and found his brother and uncle.
"Link!" Alons said, before rushing to hug him around the waist. "I knew you would rescue us. Didn't I say so?" he asked Alfon.
"We all said so," Alfon said, emerging from the dark cell. He had lost more weight than anyone, and it was strange to see the large man so reduced in size. His eyes were sunken and dark, but there was a familiar sparkle in them when he looked at Link.
He patted his nephew on the shoulder rather gently. His big hands—which once could send Link sprawling unintentionally—lacked the strength they had once had.
"We all believed in you," Alfon said.
Link turned to embrace him. "Thank you."
"What are you thanking me for?" he asked with surprise.
"For helping us—and for suffering for it. We would have never made it without your help."
"We only did our duty."
"Few enough people have done it," Zelda spoke up.
"I don't know about that, Your Highness," he politely contradicted. "I don't think we're the only prisoners of conscience in here."
Link went to open the cells in the other cell blocks. Alfon was right; the dungeon was filled with people. Whether they had all defied Nagadii because they were loyal to their true monarch, or whether they were imprisoned just because they couldn't pay their taxes, it wasn't clear. But what did seem clear was that they all hated Nagadii with a burning passion and they were quite eager to join Link and Zelda's cause.
Link found the old abbot—so weak, he couldn't walk without help—and a number of his monks. Many of the prisoners seemed to be from the nobility, and their desire for revenge seemed to burn particularly bright.
"What do you need us to do?" one young man asked Zelda. He was thinner and paler than most, but there was a fire that burned in his blue eyes that nothing short of death would quench.
Zelda glanced at Link. "Plan?"
Everyone turned to look at him expectantly. "Her Majesty and I have to get upstairs to Nagadii," Link explained. "We're the only ones who can kill him and close up the rift that's allowing the demons to get into our world."
"How will you get up there?" the young man asked. "This castle is full to busting with mercenaries and thieves and the lowest of the low—all hanging around Nagadii, wanting a handout."
He turned his head aside and spat on the floor to show what he thought about such people.
"From what we've been told," Link said, "the guard towers and the walls are double- and triple-staffed. There are also a lot of small groups of men fanned out across the Plain—all the way up to the Erenrue border and a bit beyond—looking for us. That should mean that there aren't as many here in the castle."
"But there will still be some," the young man pressed. "And there are still those damn demons."
"You will need help," he hinted.
Link looked around at all the people clustering around him and Zelda. They looked back expectantly and it dawned on him that they were waiting for orders. They had not asked the way out; they had asked what they could do to help.
Link turned back to the young nobleman who seemed to speak for most—if not all—of the prisoners. "A diversion would be a great help…" he said hopefully.
"What kind of diversion do you want?"
"If a group could fight their way upstairs, that would help draw the attention of the soldiers posted in the castle. Her Majesty and I could then take the underground waterway to another part of the castle and search for Nagadii from there."
"Nagadii is probably in his room," a woman said. "That's where he is most of the time—doing his black magic and calling up demons. He hardly ever leaves."
Link nodded. "Thank you."
"Do you have any weapons to spare?" the nobleman asked.
"There are some weapons over here," someone said, pointing to the place where the guards had been gathered earlier.
They found half a dozen spears in a rack, plus each guard had a short sword on his person. There were even a couple of eating knives to add to the count.
"A few of us could dress up like the guard," the young man said. "We might be able to get farther upstairs that way. And then, once we are forced to fight, anyone else who wanted to help could come up and join in."
"Directly above us is a weapons room," Horace said. "If we could take that, there would be arms enough for anyone who wanted to fight."
"Who wants to fight?" the nobleman asked.
All over the room, hands shot up in the air. It seemed that there were few people who didn't want to—or couldn't—fight.
One of the younger monks turned to the abbot. "Abbot, we would like to do what we can. May we remain behind? We might be able to help the wounded."
The abbot nodded. "If that is your desire, then you may stay."
"Anyone who doesn't want to fight can get out with us," Link said. "I can't guarantee we can get you to a completely safe place, but it will be safer than staying."
"Will you take Princess Rayliss with you?" Sir Elgon said. "I want to stay and help these people."
"I'm staying with you," Rayliss said firmly. Whereas most people had brightened up when they were liberated, Rayliss hadn't. Her eyes had a distant, almost dead look to them—as if she had seen things that still haunted her. She didn't seem herself at all.
Sir Elgon leaned in closer, whispering to her. "I would feel better if you left, Your Highness."
She yanked the spear he was holding out of his hand. "I'm going with you," she said, her eyes defiant and daring him to argue with her.
He sighed a little, then reluctantly nodded.
Link turned to the young man who had become the mission's de facto leader. "This is Sir Elgon," he said, introducing the other man. "He is a knight of Erenrue and was the Captain of the Guard for their royal family. He has a lot of military training and knows his way around a castle. I think he would be very helpful in executing any sort of attack."
"Sounds good to me." The young man offered his hand. "I'm Braddock."
Sir Elgon shook his hand. "Nice to meet you, sir."
"Likewise. I welcome your input; my military training has been thin, to say the least—just swordplay."
"Morale can help overcome a lot of deficiency in training," Elgon said.
"What about a thirst for revenge?"
Link pulled over Horace. "And this is Horace," he said, introducing the older man to both of them. "He has been a guard here for a very long time; he knows this castle better than anyone here. He'll be a good source of information for you."
Sir Elgon and Braddock nodded and welcomed Horace into their confidence.
Link patted Sir Elgon on the shoulder. "If you all have this in hand, we're going to get back into the tunnels."
"Should we wait for some sort of signal?"
"No. The quicker you can start, the better. Hopefully, by the time we come up elsewhere in the castle, the soldiers will have largely converged on your position."
"A good point; we'll need to make a stand in a place where we can try to hold back their numbers."
He turned back to Braddock and the three of them quickly began to ask questions and make plans.
"Everyone coming with us, over here," Link said, waving his hand in the air.
The old abbot—and the young man helping him walk—Vera, Philippe and Castor, and a couple of women were the only ones who came over.
Link's eyes scanned the crowd. "Mother? Meghan?"
The two women—plus Ceily—emerged from the crowd. "We're going to stay and fight, Link," Tatiana announced.
Link felt his heart constrict. "Please come with us," he said.
She shook her head. "We don't want to burden you or slow you down. Besides, we can help you best by staying and keeping the soldiers busy."
Link couldn't speak for the lump in his throat. He felt like his mother was staying behind to die. And he couldn't stand the idea of losing her so soon after getting her back.
She seemed to know what he was thinking. She stepped in, giving him a brief hug. "You have your own battle to fight," she whispered. "This is ours. Go."
He squeezed her tightly. "I love you."
"I know." She pulled back a little and smiled softly at him. "And I love you, too."
He kissed her cheek, then quickly turned and walked away. He had told Zelda that they had to press on, no matter what, but he had never realized how difficult that would be to do until he had to leave his mother and the rest of his family behind.
He felt a warm hand slip in his and he looked over to see Zelda walking beside him. She looked at him with eyes that said she understood.
"All or nothing," he whispered. They were risking themselves, their families and friends, and the last loyal supporters and nobility of Hyrule. They would break Nagadii's hold, or he would break them.
"All or nothing," Zelda agreed.