Posted on June 19 2020 by Bryan King
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Link took several cautious steps backward, his eyes trained on the statuesque figure before him. He found its visage unnerving, as though its eyes followed his every movement, the way a portrait tends to follow one down a long corridor when passed. When he reached a distance he felt comfortable with, he turned his gaze instead toward the city, glimpses of the smoldering rubble within obstructed by the portcullis of the front gate. He turned quickly to look at Epona, who was several yards away, kicking and pawing at the grass in an anxious manner. He ran over to her quickly, his movements increasing her level of panic.
“Shh… shh…” he said as he took care to calm her as best as he could, patting her neck and combing the length of her mane with his hands. When at last she settled, he spoke to her again, quietly. “Now, I’m going in for a few minutes to see if anyone needs help. Will you stay out here for me?” She gave a tempestuous snort and pressed her nose against his chest. “I’ll be alright, you’ll see,” Link said giving her one last loving pat before turning to set off for the town proper.
The town square had become a twisted representation of what it had been within his memories. The housing and market stalls that he had encountered months ago were depredated, charred beyond recognition, embers within still flickering orange as if they were taunting him. Ash covered the cobblestone street, and he felt its presence as his boots dragged along in misery, his jaw slack and his eyes doing their best to remain open in spite of the smoke that was billowing through the air.
It didn’t take Link long to discover what had happened to the townspeople, as they too had fallen victim to some manner of curse, their own bodies now solidified and gray, granite where there was once flesh. He took a moment analyzing each one and recognized several of them. The flower girl, whom Link had always considered to be rather pretty, had her hands crossed in front of her face, her basket hanging motionless on her right forearm. Link had learned that the poor girl had become the primary source of income within her household, as her mother had died when she was quite young and her father was afflicted with a disease that ravaged the lungs, rendering him ineffective at physical labor. And with little education to his name, his skillset was too limited to pursue more involved endeavors. The glassblower known for his bottles that Link had personally found an overabundance of uses for was frozen on the ground, his legs crossed with his hands upon his knees. His face stoic with his eyes very clearly closed as though he were deep in one of his meditative states. He had always fascinated Link with stories of his travels across Hyrule, peddling his wares to the various races that inhabited the land. And finally, the kind old baker. He would give Link a loaf or two of wheat bread on occasion, claiming that they were too old to sell, even though Link could tell differently after a single bite. The man was on his knees, one hand to the sky as if pleading with the assailant to cease their antics.
He wasn’t sure if it was an accumulation of the smoke, or the feeling of genuine mourning he was trying to hold at bay finally breaking through, but hot tears had begun to stream down Link’s face. He loved these people and knew without a shadow of a doubt that they had done nothing to deserve this. What if they were doomed to stay this way? He composed himself a bit, silently said his goodbyes to the statues around him that he had once called friends, and continued to wander about the town in the hopes that there might be someone remaining that would have some answers. Making his way up a winding path toward the pavilion that was regularly used for wedding ceremonies and the like, he found himself weaving in and out of statues, taking care not to disturb them. Looking backward, he felt his skin crawl as he gazed upon the stone congregation, and felt a heightened sense of determination swell within him. One way or another, he would find a way to help these people.
Upon reaching the pavilion, the largest gathering of statues he had encountered yet greeted him. Huddles of statues had been frozen in place, some pushing others away in an effort to escape. In the midst of his examination of them, he realized that he had completely forgotten about–
“Zelda!” Link exclaimed, immediately regretting his impulsiveness. Who was to say that the culprit responsible for this state of affairs wasn’t still within the city? He had taken care up to this point to be as inconspicuous as possible, searching high and low throughout the remains of buildings and in the streets for signs of life. He raised his head and turned his gaze in the direction of Hyrule Castle, which loomed above, clear signs of destruction along its parapets and walls.
Link continued on, having no luck in his search until at last he was standing before the castle gates. Prone soldiers who had clearly been turned after death littered the entrance hall, monuments to their own sacrifice. An eerie silence carried itself within the halls and corridors of Hyrule Castle, doing its best to unnerve Link in his efforts. It had not entirely failed in its goal, as it had in fact caused Link to unsheathe the sword that he held upon his back at the behest of a mouse, scurrying about and knocking a bit of stone onto the tiled floor, sending a resounding echo throughout the chamber. Swearing under his breath before allowing himself a quiet chuckle, Link continued on in the direction of the throne room. The walls along the way were adorned with all manner of tapestry, some depicting special moments within the royal family, including the coronation of Rubeus’s father Gralheim and of course, the ceremony to introduce the Princess Zelda shortly after her birth. Other tapestries were created to relay the story of Hyrule, of the Goddesses Din, Farore, and Nayru, and their great love for this realm. Of the coming of darkness and the Goddess Hylia’s plight to send her people skyward to avoid the calamity below. And of course, the creation of the golden Triforce, the greatest gift that had been given to the Hylian people. Sealed away in the sacred realm, it was said that whoever holds the Triforce will be granted any wish. Link wished that he had the Triforce now, as he would give anything to return Hyrule Castle to its former glory.
Heavy, ornately crafted oak doors served as the final barrier between the throne room and the outside world. Link, still cautious, looked about, and when he was convinced that he was still in no immediate danger, he grasped at the latch on the left door and began to slowly pull. Unfortunately, the door was not as concerned with subtlety as he was, and opened with a loud creak, causing Link’s heart to race. He opened it only as much as was necessary to fit through the opening and proceeded quickly to pass over the threshold. What awaited him was the most wrenching discovery thus far.
Servants were splayed about in all manner of pose, one of which had been impaled on a rather gruesome-looking lance. Its blade, wide and sharp, had a jagged barb along the back that Link knew was nothing but a cruel means of adding insult to injury. Link’s heart nearly jumped out of his chest, as he recognized that sitting on the throne was a person of flesh and blood.
“Rubeus!” Link shouted as he sheathed the sword and ran to the side of his old friend. The old King sat motionless, his arms resting on the throne’s plush armrests. Bent at his waist, his head hung low, blood trickling from his open mouth. Link carefully tilted the man forward into his arms, doing his best to bring him back to the world of the living.
“Rubeus, you have to wake up! Please!” Link pleaded with the King, shaking him gently as he repeated the phrase. Finally, Rubeus stirred, a throaty cough expelling a small fistful of blood on the ground next to him. He looked up at Link with bloodshot eyes, glazed and manic. A look of confusion slowly gave way to joy as he recognized who was above him.
“…Link,” Rubeus uttered, a dark crimson taint covering his teeth as he spoke. He made an effort to lift his hand as though to rest it on Link’s shoulder, but his strength failed him.
“What happened here?” Link asked, taking care to enunciate slowly so as to not confuse the man any more than he already was. Rubeus looked around a bit out of the corners of his eyes, large tears welling in each of them. He made several movements with his mouth as though to speak, but no words came. As the tears fell he turned back to Link.
“Zelda’s gone… Link. She’s gone. I don’t know… where,” he said, a guttural cough gestating within his chest. “Find her boy. This…” he said as he mustered the strength to turn his head in the direction of the fallen servants.
“Who did this?” Link asked, moving himself to be within Rubeus’s peripheral view. He too had fallen victim to tears once more, as he had been in this situation once before. He couldn’t help but feel himself being transported back to Audwin’s deathbed, taking in the old man’s final words. Being there in his final moments. After a moment, Rubeus coughed, and his body seized, his life leaving him. But not before he uttered one last word that would haunt Link for many days to come.
Bryan King is an editor for Zelda Dungeon. He loves writing about everyone’s favorite green-clad elfin boy, and thinks Zelda II doesn’t get the love it so rightly deserves.