Posted on September 28 2018 by Adam Barham
Chapter 25: Dusk
Zelda stared at the twisting wood grains of the massive table, but she processed nothing as the meaningless, emotionless words of the council elder’s recount bombarded her. Next to her, Impa stood still as stone, pale with dread as he droned on about the village the advisor had once called home.
An entire thriving homestead, safe place of an ancient race who had protected them all for millennia, now a disaster area with fires that still burned. All gone.
Hundreds of Sheikah, faithful servants and families of the crown, their children, their homes, reduced to embers and piles of ash.
People reduced to ash.
“People,” Zelda tasted the word, foul against her tongue. She looked up and glared holes through the elder’s skull, feeling her rage simmering in the pit of her stomach. She clenched her fist around the arm of her ornate chair until the skin on her knuckles turned white.
Impa’s hand found her shoulder, neither pushing her forward nor holding her back. Three times, Zelda had listened to the story of the village’s demise, each time reliving the fall of Ordon in her mind, feeling the fires that destroyed the town once more burn her, seeing the faces of the creatures and beasts that took lives without concern for the souls within. Three times, the elder and the council and the King, her Father, had discussed what to do about the survivors of Kakariko, as though they cared, when they had hardly shown concern for the caravan of Ordon.
Her kingdom was asunder, and here they all sat, in a plush castle, full bellies, discussing the fates of her people as though they were assets that could be replaced.
“Your Highness?” the elder asked, blatantly abashed that she would interrupt him.
“They are people. Just as the survivors of Ordon. And we are their leaders. They look to us for guidance, and we sit here discussing the same details over and over again, trying to piece together a sequence of events. Should we not, instead, discuss the fact that Hyrule is under attack? Should we not speak of the Goddess’s warnings?”
“You mean your claims of an ancient evil?”
“Claims from Hylia herself.”
The elder nodded, clearly appeasing a child and her toy headband. Zelda could hear his annoyance drip from every word as he spoke down to her. “Yes, of course, in your dreams, after you fell and hit your head on the ground.”
“While you were out galavanting around the land looking for a place for your pet project.”
“I beg your pardon!”
“Elder Lyre,” the King spoke up, effectively cutting them both off, “you overstep your boundaries. Zelda is my daughter, my heir. Her crown is my crown, her name my own. You speak to her with that tone, and you speak to me with it. Do you understand?”
The elder snapped off a crisp nod and a smooth apology – to the King, not to her, something she took very careful note of. Zelda growled; how she hated that man. He would be the first dismissed when her Father’s throne became hers, and she would relish the release.
Impa squeezed her shoulder again. They had known each other long enough that Zelda needed no interpretation for the action: after listening to the man speak of her home village with so little concern, Impa shared her Lady’s silent rage. Emerald met crimson, and they exchanged their private thoughts as the elder continued, oblivious.
When the council convened, the two found themselves alone in Zelda’s private study.
“We have to do something, Impa.”
The Sheikah nodded, absentmindedly polishing her knife. “I hardly know what we can do, Zelda.”
“Can we reallocate troops to-”
“The crown does not have the troops to reallocate. We are already stretched too thin.”
Zelda paced, one wall to the next, heart and mind racing in a contest to see which would give up first. She felt hopeless in her ivory tower, knowing she had the warnings from the White Goddess Hylia and the words of a Crazy Princess. No one took her seriously, so it had to be up to her to come up with literally any solution to save her land.
And nothing, nothing was coming to her.
She spun on her heel and continued back to the first wall.
Impa finally sheathed her knife at her thigh and summoned the princess over. Zelda hesitated, then obliged, burying her face against the Sheikah’s breast.
“Even if we could reallocate troops, Little Princess, you and I could not make that call. It would need to come from His Royal Majesty and the Generals.”
“But you were a General,” Zelda heard herself sob, suddenly very aware of the tears that had started to pour down her cheeks as she rested in her friend’s arms. “Can’t you talk to them?”
“I have. And they see that something is coming, too. But they are loyal, daft bastards who dare not defy their King.”
Zelda sniffed. “You cursed.”
“You get mad at me for cursing.”
“I think our current situation warrants a bit of leeway on the rules.”
She sniffed again. “The Generals are assholes,” she mumbled, testing the waters.
Impa barked a laugh and embraced her tighter. “Indeed, they are. So let’s forget them and focus on what we have and what we know.”
“Yeah,” Zelda agreed, wiping her eyes. She stepped back, took a couple of deep breaths, and nodded. “Let’s start there.”
Deya sat down heavily on a nearby barrel as Avela covered her beak with her wings in shock.
Kakariko Village – fallen? No – no, no no no –
The stranger looked at him sadly. “I’m sorry that you had to hear it from me.” He quickly glanced at them uncomfortably before turning and walking away.
Avela bent over and wrapped her wings around Deya in a hug. “Oh, I’m so sorry, Deya!”
He looked up at her with empty eyes. “Do you think…they made it through?”
Avela hesitated. “I hope so. But I…I don’t know. I wish I did.” She looked down at her feet, then back up at him. “What do you want to do now?” Deya drooped and shook his head. She hesitated again, then added, “We don’t know that they’re dead.”
Deya glanced up at her, feeling the pain etch its way across his face. “An eighty-two percent mortality rate, Avela,” he whispered. “Eighty-two percent of Kakariko’s population is dead. Fifteen percent has been wounded. Only three percent of the residents are without harm.” He shook his head. “I want to believe that they’re okay, but -” he shrugged. “The odds are against them. I don’t know. I just don’t know.”
Avela pat his back sympathetically. “I understand.” She knelt before him, continuing. “But, we can’t just sit here doing nothing. We need to keep moving. What would you like to do?”
Deya took a deep breath. “There’s not much we can do. I suppose we can head to where I had been staying in Castle Town before I went to Rito Village. From there, maybe we can pick up where we left off with my project.” Although I’m beginning to get concerned about running out of Rupees to cover materials for it. But I needn’t say anything about that to Avela – at least, not yet. Standing, he asked, “What about you, Avela? What do you plan to do now?”
“Well, for now, I’m going to try to help you as much as I can. I’m definitely not going anywhere anytime soon. Aside from that, I’m not really sure, but I’ll figure something out.”
Deya stood, sighed, and beckoned her to follow. They began to work their way through the streets towards the castle, and he tried to turn his thoughts to anything other than Kakariko and his parents. Avela, fascinated by the many different sights, stopped every few yards to look at something new, and Deya thanked her silently. She was helping. She always helped.
As they slowly progressed, Deya noticed that a nearby guard seemed to recognize him – though he could not place the man himself – and began heading towards the castle at a run ahead of them.
They walked through the stone arch entrance to the castle’s front courtyard, and Avela positively shrieked with glee. She floated over to a patch of flowers in excitement. He watched, forcing his mind blank as much as he could.
Just when he thought he would succumb to his own mind, they were approached by the same guard whom Deya had seen earlier.
“You are Deya and Avela, are you not?”
Cautiously, but honestly, Deya replied, “Yes, I am Deya. Why do you-?”
Cutting him off, the guard spun around and declared, “Come with me, please.”
Glancing at each other in confusion, the two in question followed the guard along the side of the courtyard and around a corner to an area sparse in people, yet still lush in greenery. As the guard led them, Deya noticed he was taking them to a certain royal form, donned in blue and gold.
She turned. “Thank you, Tyson,” Princess Zelda nodded to the guard as he stopped before her. “That will be all.” With a nod, the guard stalked off.
Deya was taken aback, and Avela visibly stiffened.
“Your Highness! Greetings!” exclaimed Deya with a bow. “You summoned us?”
The princess clasped her hands in front of her. “For a few reasons, yes. Firstly…” she hesitated, “I believe that an apology is in order.”
She sighed. “Deya, while I am the Princess of Hyrule, I should not treat my subjects as I treated you when first meeting Ganondorf. You attempted to defend him, and, though you spoke out of line, your heart was in the right place. You have been continuously loyal, and my response was less than kind. And for that, I apologize.”
He noticed Avela glance at him in surprise. He opened his mouth slightly, trying to find the right words. “Oh – I -” He collected himself. “Your Highness, think nothing of it. I apologize for speaking when I should not have.”
“Perhaps you should speak your mind more. Not enough Hylians do. Not in front of me, anyway.”
Deya nodded in response. Turning to Avela, the princess continued, “And you. I do not believe we have properly met yet. I assume that you are the friend that Deya mentioned before going to Rito Village, and again in his letter. You are Avela, yes?”
Avela curtsied in the Rito style, her feathers rising as her posture dropped. “Yes, Your Highness.”
The Princess smiled softly, and Deya could not help but notice the radiance within it. “Avela, you shall be welcome here for as long as you wish to stay.”
“Thank you, Your Highness,” his friend responded, still in a curtsy.
The Princess chuckled and motioned for her to rise. Turning back to Deya, she said, “Now, for the other reason that I summoned you here: I wanted to inquire about your work with elemental weaponry.”
“Oh?” He did not remember having mentioned the concept to her, but…she was the Princess. She probably had eyes and ears everywhere.
She crossed her arms and tilted her head. “How did you devise such a concept?”
“My father was a blacksmith, and my mother a mage. They each taught me their skills in hopes that I would choose their trade over the other’s. In the process, I discovered ways that the two concepts might be fused to strengthen each other.”
“I see. I should like to meet these mentors of yours someday.”
Deya started to reply, but stopped, feeling his stomach drop to the ground beneath his feet.
“Is something the matter?” she asked.
Deya bowed his head. “They were in Kakariko.”
Princess Zelda’s face flushed, and she softened her tone. “I see. I am so terribly sorry. I will do everything in my power to see these wrongs made right.”
“Thank you, Your Highness.”
She reached out and awkwardly patted his shoulder. “I can try and find them for you.”
“I would like that.”
“Consider it done,” she smiled sadly. “Now, about these weapons: do you have plans for them yet?”
Deya thought for a moment. “Not much yet, Your Highness. I more have been hoping to find ways of fusing magic and defense, but this is just a pet project at this point.”
Princess Zelda brightened, and he got the impression he had said exactly what she wanted to hear. “Oh, really? What have you completed so far?”
“I have a few charges of lighting that I have managed to integrate with a couple arrows. I had a dagger that I was experimenting with, too, but I could not make it keep its charge for longer than a couple hits. It broke a while back, but it should be easy to recreate. My halberd…” he counted off in his head everything he had worked with in the past, voicing it as he did so, and with every weapon he said, the Princess grew brighter and brighter, until her face was split from ear to ear in an almost savage grin. He had never counted her as a weapons connoisseur, but she could not have looked more excited right then. He took a guess that she’d want to know about his newest theory. “In the ruins where you met Ganondorf, I discovered and salvaged the remnants of other technological devices. I’m currently working on several new projects involving them.”
“Of what sort?”
“Different forms of defense, really. Perhaps a turret, or even something more mobile. Either way, I want to try and recreate the ancient tech that utilized beams of energy in their attacks.
“Much of what I found had decayed too much to be truly useful, Your Highness, but there was one lens that was still in functional condition. I might be able to use it…given enough time and resources.”
“Resources, I can do easily. Time, however…” she pursed her lips, considering him, then, as though a decision in her mind had been reached, she nodded. “Deya, I hereby commission your project for use by the Crown. I will write a note to the shopkeepers of Hyrule – a guard will deliver it to you later today. Show it to any of them, and they will give you what you need, to be paid for by the Royal Bank. Continue developing what you have already started and begin working on reconstructing the robotic sentry; and, once they have been completed, report back to me. If they meet my standards, then I will assign you a team to begin producing them on a larger scale. Your goal should be the protection of Hyrule and her citizens.”
And suddenly, Deya’s grief, thoughts of Kakariko, feeling like his world would crash, it all faded. This was his moment, his opportunity. He would honor his parents, he would uphold his people’s oath to the Royal Family, and he would finally get his chance to redeem himself for Ordon and for his fallen master. His stomach returned to him as his heart soared. “Thank you, Your Highness!”
The princess smiled, then fell solemn. “Please understand, though. Time is not on our side. Something is coming, and it’s coming quickly. I need you to be ready.”
Featured image by MaskedGolem.