Zelda Dungeon Marathon 2019:

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Chapter Two

“Ok, so, where is the best place to start here?” The question really had no other purpose aside from breaking the silence; I was alone, in the middle of the late king’s lavish quarters, and the sheer size of them did little to build my resolve. I had never in my life seen a bedroom so large — to be honest, my entire childhood house back in the Kokiri Forest could have fit in here, and taken up just as much room as the bed.

To my left, several chests and a particularly gaudy armoire presumably held at least half of the man’s wardrobe. Pants, I imagined, and maybe a sock drawer. I didn’t know, nor did I want to, but something told me I was about to be intimately familiar. Goody.

To my right, the entire wall was lined with bookshelves, floor to ceiling, holding texts and scripts as old as the kingdom itself. More books, I think, than Castle Town’s library, and a collection only second to that of the princess. Nestled in the middle, and framed by intricately detailed violet curtains, double doors lead to a massive ivory balcony that looked out over the entire kingdom. At the moment, the sounds on the wind outside were rather quiet, leading me to talk to myself.

“Well, then. I guess I start with…” I chewed my thumb in thought, “the bedside table.” It was as good a place as any.

Next to the bed — four-poster, canopied, and fit for seven peasants, or one king — an oddly small bedside table stood, so short, it didn’t even come level with the mattress. On top sat a golden goblet, this one more akin to what the king would normally drink from, a book and a pen, and a half-melted candle, drips of wax building up from the table’s surface. I flipped through the book, and realized after a couple pages that it was the king’s personal journal.

I froze. Something about reading any further felt intrusive, even… I didn’t know. Lèse-majesté? Then again, the king was dead, and investigating was exactly what I was there for, so… who was going to stop me from delving into his innermost thoughts?

“I don’t imagine you’ll find anything good in there.”

“Holy Hylia!” I jumped in shock, spinning on my heel and dropping the journal on the floor. And my exclamation wasn’t exactly wrong. It may not have been the white goddess standing in the doorway to the bedroom, leaning against the frame with a tired smile on her lips, but the girl certainly had the presence of such grace. “Make more noise next time you sneak up on me!”

Princess Zelda chuckled, stifling a yawn behind one gloved hand. “Blame Impa,” she said, pushing off the doorframe to come and stand next to me. She picked up the book and glanced at its worn leather cover with a sad sigh. “My father wasn’t one to keep private thoughts. Anything you find in here, he probably would have told you to your face.”

“I can appreciate such honesty,” I nodded, then stopped when I realized she wasn’t reciprocating the feeling. “Why don’t you rest?” I was honestly surprised she was still awake. In the past day, I don’t think she had managed to get a single moment’s peace, and it showed in her eyes. The poor girl hadn’t even gotten a chance to mourn the passing of her father.

Somehow, though, I felt that might have been in part by choice. She was, after all, Heir Apparent, and there was not a soul on this green earth that would dare tell her she had to do something. She could slow down and take a moment, if she so desired.

I pitied her. She met it with a smile.

“Stop,” she said in mock exasperation. “I’ve gotten that look enough from my servants, I don’t need it from my friends.”

“As you wish,” I obliged with a small bow. She nudged my arm in weak play, then offered the journal. “So, you think you could give me a hand in here? I’m not partial to handling His Royal Majesty’s delicates if I don’t have to.”

She scoffed and shook her head. “So courageous, my hero.”

“Well, excuse me, Princess.”

Her smile lit up the room like dawn. “Fine. You’re doing me a favor. It’s the least I can do. What are you looking for?”

I plopped on the cushy bed, pausing for a moment to marvel at just how luxurious it felt against my backside. I really hadn’t gotten much rest in the past day, either, and I suddenly realized just how much of a mistake I had made sitting down. “Anything, really, that seems out of place, especially if it references our suspects. Did your father have any altercations, known adversaries-”

“Other than the obvious?”

“I’m trying to stay objective, here.”

She snorted and meandered over to the armoire. “Fair enough, but I can’t imagine why.

“Just… anything that might point the way.” I flipped open the king’s journal to the first page, dated almost eighteen years before. The date stood out immediately, and I read it, grinning to myself. The king had been so proud of his little girl, from the very first moment he held her. He boasted often of that day, much to her chagrin, and she would respond with a very pointed comment about refocusing back to whatever topic had previously been on hand.

I didn’t have much time to waste reminiscing, and a part of me felt sad for it. Nevertheless, I plunged on, flipping through pages in silence, reading the king’s personal thoughts and reflections as he watched over Hyrule.

Nothing really caught my eye. Sporadic entries over the course of seventeen years definitely left room for omissions, and sometimes, the king had gone entire years before writing. Plenty of time for something to happen. It didn’t even seem like he wrote after particularly notable events, even. One entry covered the finer points of a grand midnight snack he had snuck into the kitchen to prepare. Another detailed his thoughts on his graying hair, and how he could pinpoint which of his highlights were from servants, which were from subjects, which were from the court, and the one single streak he attributed to his daughter.

It wasn’t until I got toward the back of the journal that I found something that caught my eye. I almost didn’t even process it right away, misreading letters in my exhaustion to read Orgons.

Oh, that says Gorons.

Gorons…?

I read on.

“Hyrule’s relationship with the Gorons has proven rather strained lately. As Chief Darunia further insists on raising the asking price for ore mined in Death Mountain, I feel l have no other choice but to withhold Castle Town’s medicines and potions. Such a shame to put a years-long agreement into peril. This is a reminder to bring this decision before the council.”

“Well, that’s interesting,” The voice spoke right into my ear.

I jerked and spun around nearly smacking her in the face with my cap. “Zelda, seriously!”

This time, she full-on laughed, pulling herself across the bed to sit next to me. “Sorry. I will let the minstrels announce me whenever I am around you. But I thought you might want to see this.”

I took two leaflets of paper from her hand and glanced down. Well, then… I read the first one. I read it again. This is…something. “Where did you find these?”

“Over there,” she gestured, pointing over her shoulder to the armoire. The top drawer had been pulled out, and I could see the telltale signs of ruffled clothing within. “I think he wanted to keep them hidden, though, I couldn’t imagine why.”

“Shame? Embarrassment?”

“Did you ever meet my father?” she said, rolling her eyes.

The king hadn’t been one for such feelings; Zelda was absolutely correct. “But, the severance of the contracts between Mutoh and His Majesty is a matter of public record. Everyone knows the king cut the carpenter off-”

“Mutoh messed up,” Zelda corrected rather forcefully. “He couldn’t meet his end of the deal, so he lost the contracts.”

“Right,” I immediately shut my trap. Sometimes, remembering that my friend was also, first and foremost, a member of the royal family, didn’t come easily. Still, I had to hand it to her: I asked for help finding clues, and she delivered.

In my hands, two letters, dated a season prior. The first was from Mutoh the Carpenter.

“Your majesty,

I received this letter by courier some hours ago, and I first have this to say: I would have hoped that you and your council would have had the spine to deliver this news to me face to face. But it seems that, based on your so-called “thorough review,” you found me and my work to be unworthy of any respect. I expected more from you as a man, but I can’t say I expected more from your position.

It’s not hard to understand. It’s not hard to understand that you would treat ME like an ant. But my work speaks for itself. If you were not satisfied with the quality of my work or the swiftness in which I completed it, that is your mistake. I can think of countless kingdoms that would appreciate the chance to work with someone as talented as me and my team. And when you see the towers and the fortresses and the grand castles that bear my cornerstone, you’ll realize your poor judgement.

You will regret this decision. I promise you that.

Mutoh, of Mutoh Carpentry and Partners.”

One could see by the harshness of his handwriting just how strongly Mutoh felt about his situation. And the dark and heavy lines of ink were made even more noticeable as I fumbled to the second letter, one more calm and clinical. It was an ordinance bearing the royal seal of Hyrule.

“By royal decree of King Hyrule:

After conducting a thorough review the services rendered, the throne and royal council thus hold Mutoh Carpentry in violation of the contract agreement established two seasons ago. From this time onward, the throne and royal council have thus decided to end all business relationships with Mutoh Carpentry. All projects currently in progress will henceforth be discontinued, and any projects currently under negotiation will henceforth be dismissed. Payment for labor already conducted has been determined taxable in full and will be thus added to the Hyrule royal treasury.

May the light of Hylia shine on Hyrule and its throne.”

Interesting indeed, I thought. For all that grandstanding just a season ago, Mutoh’s luck never quite recovered after the king suspended the contracts. He spent most of his time moping about in Kakariko Village these days, his crew scattered to the wind.

A knock came at the door, drawing both Zelda and my attention toward the sound. Impa, arms crossed and surly as ever, ducked into the room. She glanced at the princess, who sighed and hung her head.

“I suppose that’s my queue. I’ve been rather dreading this you know: the silence that comes with trying to fall asleep.”

“But you need it,” I encouraged.

She smiled weakly. “We will see how much good it does when all I can think about is…” her voice trailed off, and she shook her head. Her shoulders drooped, her composure slipping completely. I stood and prepared to receive an inevitable flow of tears as reality finally sunk in, but nothing came. She shook herself out, straightened her shoulders, and donned her golden crown. “I appreciate your willingness to find my father’s killer. I know it hasn’t been easy. Please, keep me informed of any information you find, won’t you?”

“Of course, Your Highness.”

Zelda turned and left, switching places with her tall and daunting Sheikah advisor.

“Anything?”

I nodded. “Nothing really solid, but certainly a couple clues. Better than what I had before. You?”

“Medics confirm poison in the silver chalice. I have ordered a thorough search of all servants’ quarters. Nothing yet.”

Well, at least it was one thing I had gotten right to that point. I reread the notes, then tucked them both into the king’s journal, at the page with the Goron entry. I could ponder it all anew tomorrow. I needed to go home and catch some sleep. Er, try, at least. I could still see that dead face, those blue lips and glass eyes every time I let my mind wander — gthe Goddesses knew I’d fight seeing it all again when I lay down.

But, necessity called, and I was no use to anyone asleep on my feet.

I took my leave of the castle for the night.

“The man’s an idiot.”

“You don’t believe him?”

“No, I do not! There is no way that man had anything to do with the King’s death!”

Now, normally, on my walks home, when I passed the tavern, I just kept going. I wasn’t at an age that I enjoyed drinking, nor was I much of a people watcher. And I certainly did not try to eavesdrop on conversations of patron wallflowers outside its walls enjoying some fresh air and peace from the debauchery inside.

But that last sentence, said by an elderly woman to her male companion sitting near one of the windows, caught my attention. I paused my stride and hung back to listen further.

“You know you can’t believe half of what he says,” the woman elaborated. “He spins five tales and can never remember who he’s told, and what he’s said. If you go in there right now and asked him to tell it again, I guarantee he’ll tell it differently.”

“He could have done it, though,” the man pondered, shrugging and sloshing his ale tankard over the ground. She looked at him in mild disgust, but he carried on. “He has an infatuation with that Gerudo king.”

“So you think that he killed the king of Hyrule, that he was uncharacteristically brilliant long enough to pull off an assassination, all for a man who wouldn’t even give him the time of day?”

The man shrugged again, and this time, the woman took his tankard from him and set it down next to her. “Then I challenge you to go in there, right now, and ask him to tell you how he did it. You know he’ll tell you again. He’s probably told so many people, he’s already forgotten who knows.”

Well, then, I thought, resuming my pace, there’s a convenient turn of events. Maybe someone has been telling his drunken compatriots a bit too much. Instead of carrying on past the tavern, I turned and walked right in.

The place was rather full tonight, raucous, with a bardic group playing and almost every table and bar stool full. Part of me wondered about the appropriateness of it all, in light of recent events, but everyone mourned in their own way, and, let’s be real here, not everyone was going to care. The king hadn’t been disliked, per se, but… no one really knew him in here. So, to expect life to do anything but go on was foolish.

A couple people near the door turned to look at me when I came in, and I realized how odd I must have appeared: a young, late teens kid, sword on my back, bags under my eyes, and dressed in my trademark green. Even in a crowd, I stood out. I pulled off my very conspicuous cap and tucked it into my tunic, then made my way around the wall to an open seat toward the back, near the kitchen, to get a better look.

I studied the room to find my target. It took me a minute to find him, but eventually, my eyes landed straight on Ingo, in the middle of a small crowd on the other side of the bar, arms flailing as he wove his rather passionate tale. Even from my vantage point, I could see that, even though his gathering was small, drunk, and probably barely paying attention, he was speaking to be heard. I scooted closer until I, too, could listen.

“And as he stood and raised his glass,” Ingo proclaimed, miming the actions, “I knew this was it. My moment. Everything was coming together, and I would take his wretched life for Lord Ganondorf. It was my praises that would be sung!

“The king toasted us all, took a sip, and my heart raced. Everyone around me did the same, but I didn’t, oh no! I wouldn’t. He drank from that disgusting, gilded cup, and the dead was done!”

Gilded cup? Well, that wasn’t right. I decided to pry without drawing attention. Summoning the bartender, I leaned over the bar and flashed a red rupee.

“The only reason I am considering serving you, kid, is because I know who you are, and I would rather not have the Royal Guards on my-”

“I don’t want a drink,” I lowered my voice, “I need a favor.” The bartender, a lovely, sturdy woman who looked like she could command armies with a single glance, tilted her head at me with a curious smirk. I took the expression as her way of saying, go on. “That guy over there, talking about the king-”

“You mean Ingo?” she said, leaning in, suddenly very interested.

“Yes, him. How long has he been in here?”

“I’d say pretty much since you all released him from the castle. He hasn’t shut up about the king’s death, first about how he saw it, then about how he did it, as though he was pushed into admitting it by a patron. But, let me tell you, no one is taking him seriously. Every time he tells the story, it becomes more and more embellished, stabbing, then a choking, now poison.”

“What’s his most recent tale?”

The bartender glanced over my shoulder at the man in question, chewing her lip. “When he came to present his master’s gift from Lon Lon Ranch, he slipped a vial of poison into the king’s cup, escaping even the watchful eyes of that Sheikah advisor always lurking around.”

I snorted at this, but she didn’t seem to notice.

“He says he did it to see the King of the Gerudo reign supreme, and now, he’s going to be ranking official. Please. I’m surprised he is even trusted to shovel horse dung.”

Me too, I thought, but didn’t say. “Has he said what the king’s cup looked like?”

She huffed. “Gold, of course. What else would he drink from? ‘Gold, jewel-encrusted, and expensive enough to buy us all out of our homes.’”

And, there it is. I grinned darkly and slid the money across the bar top, thanking her. Standing, I pulled out my cap, slapped it on my head, and walked straight into the middle of Ingo’s story time.

It took him a second to notice me, but when he did, his eyes went wide.

“Ingo,” I greeted with a smile, “it seems I have my culprit, don’t I?”

The man opened and closed his mouth several times before responding. “Yes,” he finally said, standing to face me. “It was me.”

“How did you do it?”

“Poison, of course. Mandrake.”

I nodded, feigning being impressed. Honestly, though, the sound of his voice made my skin crawl, and I just wanted him to hang himself on his words and be done with it. “His meal, then?”

“His drink.” Ingo puffed up, standing to stare at me square on in challenge.

“I see.”

“I slipped it in his golden chalice when he wasn’t looking.”

“Oh, right. He does love that cup.”

“I shall enjoy drinking from it when Lord Ganondorf comes to power!”

I made a soft Hmm, in my throat. “Well, I doubt that, Ingo.” Ingo glared at me, yet kept silent. “You are correct that the king’s downfall was poison, and it was in his cup, but… he wasn’t drinking from his gold cup.”

“What?”

I shook my head. “Castle medics found poison in the silver cup he had been drinking from. Not gold.”

Ingo stuttered, “Right! Silver, that’s what I meant.”

This is too fun. “No, you didn’t. You’re just trying to bolster yourself, to gain favor with the man you think killed the king, when, in fact, you don’t have a clue who did it, do you?”

Suddenly, the entire room was silent, attention rapt upon us. It seemed I was not the only one waiting for Ingo to screw up, and his entire audience awaited his defeat.

And he knew it.

He stared at me, growling like a cornered animal, but I felt no worry. There was nothing he could do to me, and I could wait him out as long as necessary.

“No,” he finally spat. I heard several snickers from nearby patrons, and he shot them a look of rage. “I don’t have a clue who killed the king. But if I did, I would shake his hand.”

“Go home, Ingo,” I said, pointing to the door. “I think, when all of this is done, I will be having a chat with Talon about you. Until then, I think you need to just leave town and not come back. You wouldn’t want Impa to find even more reasons to lock you up.”

Oh, that felt good. I had never seen his face so red before, and smoke practically rolled from his ears, but there was so little he could do. Ingo stood there, silently, and I could tell he was considering the sword on my back.

“Go home, Ingo!” came the voice of the bartender. The command was echoed by someone else, and then another, and then another, until he threw up his hands and stormed out the tavern’s front door.

The bar resumed it’s everyday life, and I breathed a sigh.

One down, five to go.

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Murder in Castle Town is a collaboration between Rod Lloyd and Kat Vadam. Follow them on Twitter!

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