It seems I forgot to upload the last two chapters and have already written the next one ... well, may as well do that now. Chapter 11: Paradise Lost Mailan found Tennor and Iris walking alongside the border wall. With them, as seemed to be the constant case during their short time here, was Dente. The gravedigger was the first to notice her, and he gave her a wide grin, but it faded a little when he noticed the serious look on her face. “What seems to be on your mind?” the long-haired man asked, alerting the other party members to her presence. “The Queen and I are leaving the city,” Mailan told him flatly, “We have matters we need to attend to. Iris, Tennor, I’ve been authorized to offer you both the chance to join us as members of her royal escort.” All three of them gave surprised reactions. Dente in particular looked worried. “But… but she can’t!” he replied, “This village is one of the last safe havens in all of Hyrule! If anyone else were leaving I would have no qualms, but Queen Zelda is arguably the most principal personage among us! What if she’s killed? No offense to your skills or anything, but this is the safest place for her.’ This surprised Mailan. She had those same thoughts echoing in the back of her mind, but she hadn’t realized just how much Dente seemed to care for her lover’s wellbeing. “While I agree that this place seems safer than anywhere I’ve been in quite a long time,” Tennor admitted, “If she has her mind set on leaving, then it would be my honor to make sure she stays safe on her trip.” Both Mailan and Tennor looked expectantly at Iris, who nodded. Dente sighed, composing himself, “Well, if I can’t keep you folks out of danger, would you at least be interested in some provisions for your journey?” Mailan gave him a thankful smile, “That would be very helpful, thank you.” “I can have them come morning. Just take another day or so to rest up and get prepared. I don’t know what business her majesty has to attend to, but surely it can wait slightly longer?” “I’m sure she’d be happy to wait for something like that.” “I suppose I should begin my work quickly then. I have plenty on my plate today, and I want to make sure you get your rations in a timely fashion. And so I must bid you all adieu .” He jogged away, then after a short distance slowed to a walk, obviously regretting his decision to run. The gravedigger looked back and noticed everyone staring at him, and gave a sheepish grin before disappearing into the village proper. The rest of the day was spent in preparation for their journey. True to his word, Dente delivered their rations just before dinnertime, to much gratitude from the group. He really did seem torn up that they were leaving; Mailan could only guess that he had enjoyed having the company. She hadn’t noticed anyone spending time with him during meals or visiting him in the graveyard. It seemed like he was on the edges of society here. It almost made her sad, but she understood the point of keeping the group small. Finally, at the end of the long day, they went to bed, utterly exhausted. Mailan sank deep into her bed, content with knowing that everything was going according to plan. She was ready to wake up the next morning to the light of the sun and begin an adventure with her beloved. But when she woke up, it wasn’t to the sun, but instead a scream. At first she thought she’d dreamed it, but as she shifted between various states of awareness, she began to hear more and more screams. Quickly grabbing her sword, Mailan raced out of the building and into a warzone. The wall had given way. The mutants were coming. This gave her pause. She’d tried to fight these things before, but they’d hardly given it a scratch when teaming up three on one. As she surveyed the city, she figured that the city currently had similar odds, and even more were pouring in as she thought that. Looking around, she took stock of her surroundings. Tennor had heard the screams about the same time as she had, surprisingly calm for someone who’d been woken up from a deep sleep to the sight of an oncoming zombie horde. The people around them, however, were less level-headed on the matter, pushing past each other and racing for the edge of town. The two guards made eye contact and moved towards each other, standing back to back, their weapons poised in attack formation. A defensive stance that was common when surrounded by enemy troops. It was usually a last-ditch effort, but the guards were seemingly out of options. “Everyone!” Tennor yelled, his voice carrying over the crowds of people, “Stop running! We need to work together!” His words, however, fell on deaf ears, as the people around them continued scrambling for safety. “It’s no use. Their pack mentalityhas taken hold.” called a voice from above. Iris sat on the roof of the building, watching them, obviously unsure about coming down, “They wouldn’t listen to anyone, least of all a couple of random people in the middle of a crowd.” “What would you suggest then?” Mailan asked, annoyed at her friend’s bluntness. “They obviously won’t work together, so I say we do as they do and flee, though in a more mindful fashion. Avoid the mountains, see if we can make our way to the field.” There was something else going on with Iris she began to realize. Unlike her usual demeanor, Iris’s words were tinged with emotion, if not… was that fear? “Are you alright Iris?” “I... “ Iris’s voice cracked a little, “I don’t want to become infected.” her eyes flashed a look of terror as the hordes grew ever closer. “Don’t worry. You’ll be fine. I promise.” Just as she said that, a figure that appeared not too dissimilar from a Zora came towards them. Its skin had turned a sickly green, and its body had bloated, despite the arms and legs retaining a vaguely similar size, coming together to make an equally hilarious and disturbing image. It grabbed a nearby runner, slamming him into the wall of a nearby building. Tennor turned toward it, brandishing his spear, with Mailan taking up the rear guard. With a loud clang of metal and a pained grunt, the creature dropped the limp corpse of its victim, obviously dazed. Then, a bright yellow light showed from behind it, followed by the creature getting knocked to the ground. Emerging from the other side of the creature, to everyone’s shock, was Dente, wielding a hefty shovel and a wicked grin. Behind him, Zelda was hitting any creatures that came near them with a ball of magic. Dente seemed surprised to see them for a second, but his smile shown even brighter after the initial shock. He waved them over, and as suggested, the group came, Iris leaping roof to roof as Tennor and Mailan simply ran for the pair. “What happened to your guards?” Mailan asked as they got closer. “I couldn’t find them when I got up. They must’ve perished before I could leave the building… the poor souls.” “It was only by chance the Queen and I came across each other,” Dente admitted, “I probably wouldn’t have made it this far without her.” “We can save conversation for later,” Tennor reminded them, “We need to get out.” “Right,” Mailan replied, “I’ll take up the lead. Tennor and Dente, you get behind me,” she craned her neck upwards, “Iris, how’re you holding up?” “About as well as I can,” the ninja admitted. “Do you think you can… do whatever you did the other day to get out of here? And could your bring Zelda with you?” “I can try,” Iris promised, “But I haven’t done it with another person in quite a while,” she gave a wary glance down at the ground before nimbly dropping off the building. “Meet us out in the field. Where we left that mutant the other day.” Awkwardly grabbing Zelda’s arm, Iris nodded to her before disappearing in a flash of light. “All right,” Mailan told the group, “I’ll start towards the main exit. Don’t focus on killing mutants… just on getting out alive. We’re no good to anybody if we die.” The three fought their way through. Luckily for them, it seemed that the mutants were more interested in less aggressive meals. Outside of a minor scuffle with the shriveled remnants of a Hylian, which seemed to be going after them more because they were slow and it was hopelessly decomposed, the group was somehow able to reach the main plaza near the front gate. The group neared safety, but their hopes fell when they saw the gate. Guarding the gate was a huge, lumbering mutant. Its skin was a sickly yellow-brown, and unlike the others, its hulking form seemed to fit with its body type. A goron. The things were scary enough on their own, without the additional strength and endurance from being infected. People around them would approach the center, see it, and turn around to look for another exit. There was no way anyone would be able to scratch its rock-hard skin. “Any suggestions?” Mailan asked, watching the creature. Seeming to hear her voice, the Goron-mutate turned towards them and began to lumber in their direction. “We run!” Dente yelled, breaking rank and running towards the wall while the thing focused its gaze on Mailan and Tennor. Mailan knew she and Tennor wouldn’t be able to do anything to the thing, but they couldn’t just give up. They needed to get out. “Go!” Tennor told her, “I’ll keep it distracted!” “But you won’t be able to beat it!” “I know. But you’re more important right now. Zelda needs you.” Mailan stared at him for a second before whispering, “I’ll get you out of this,” and following Dente’s path. While the Goron began to turn towards the fleeing Mailan, Tennor took a large rock and threw it at the creature’s head. It didn’t cause any damage, but that snapped its attention back to the appetizing bit of seafood on its plate. Reaching the gateway, Mailan stared back at Tennor and the Goron. She had a plan, but she didn’t know for sure if it would work. Doing as Tennor had done, she threw a large rock at the Goron. She was a little less accurate, hitting its neck, but still getting its attention. However, this new prey was much farther away than the old one, and the single-minded beast knew just how to catch up. Rolling into a grotesque, ball-like form, it began to follow her. Mailan ran down the stairs, not sure how it would work, as she heard the thing roll down behind her. With sickening crunches, it bounced down the stone steps, wildly out of control. Which was exactly what she wanted. Ahead of them, seemingly an infinite distance away, was her goal: the river. If Goron mutates were anything like their living counterparts, then that would be the only chance they had to get rid of it for good. As the goron struggled to keep control as it roughly landed in the field, Mailan was able to regain some of the distance she’d lost going down the stairs, but in seconds it was on her again. Its stomach gurgled loudly, turning Mailan’s stomach. It was coming closer… closer… Now! She jumped aside, away from the river. Unfortunately, the much faster and heavier Goron was unable to do the same, its momentum still going forward. Mailan heard a loud splash, and felt cold water cover her. It should’ve been refreshing, but somehow the smell from the Goron had permeated the liquid, making her gag on impact. But she was alive. Somehow. Chapter 12: Better Than Nothing Mailan swam to the shore and rolled up onto it, completely exhausted. That had taken a lot out of her. Once she was safe, she warily looked back into the river. It was dark and the water was deep, so she wasn’t able to see the creature itself, but she could only imagine what it looked like down there as the rough water slowly began to calm. Within a few minutes, once more, the river was still. Still as death. Standing up and ignoring her aching body, she began walking back towards the stairway to Kakariko. On the way there, she spotted the group. To her relief, nobody seemed to have been harmed in the attack. It seemed that a few more survivors had joined the group too. They all, like her, looked saddened, pained, and exhausted, though her appearance brought joy to a few faces - most of all, that of Zelda. The two of them shared a look that whispered, “I’m glad you’re okay”. With so many people around them, that was all they were really able to do. “How many survivors do we have?” she asked as she walked over. Dente piped up with the answer, “Outside you all, there are around thirty refugees from the village.” “Though sadly far fewer than we’d had before tonight,” Zelda finished morosely, “Thank you all for the work you did. Without your help in defending the unarmed and distracting the creatures, I’m sure the casualties would have been much larger.” Everyone sat in silence for a minute, mulling everything over. “What now?” Tennor asked. “We’ve had plans in place just in case,” Dente responded, “There are other places for us to found a new encampment. Once we make sure nobody else is coming down, I imagine someone will lead us off to the new location.” “As for us,” Iris pointed out, “We should probably get heading towards the woods pretty quickly. As much as you all enjoyed spending time with the townsfolk, we have a job to do.’ Mailan nodded, “Of course.” “I guess I’ll be the one to speak to whoever’s going to be leading this little brigade about your departure,” Dente told them, “It’s been a pleasure.” “Wait!” Mailan called, surprising the older man. He turned back to look over his shoulder, “Yes?” “Would you like to come with us?” Mailan asked. Dente laughed, “I’m flattered, but I’m simply a gravedigger. I doubt I would be more than a hindrance to your cause.” “I don’t think so,” Mailan told him, “You proved tonight that you have strength and wits about you. Even if you don’t have training in battle, I see potential in you, if you’re willing to try.” Dente considered her words for a few moments. When he met her gaze, there was a spark in his eyes, “If you believe in me so much, how could I say no?” “A pleasure to have you with us then, Mr. Frey,” Zelda told him, “Once you announce your intent to join us, then, I guess it’s best we get on our way.” Before long, their small group, now featuring Dente, was on the road. Mailan found it interesting looking at how their dynamic was starting to form as more people joined them. At the front was Iris, scouting ahead, every once in a while looking back to be sure the others were still coming. As much as Mailan tried, she was still so distant from everyone else. In the back marched Tennor and Dente. The two of them had gotten along quite well in Kakariko, and having the grizzled gravedigger joined them seemed to lighten Tennor’s spirits quite a bit. She could only imagine how lonely Tennor must’ve been at Lake Hylia, alone with only his thoughts and regrets. It seemed like he really needed a friend right now. And thankfully, Dente seemed to be providing exactly what he needed. The two chatted and laughed, making light of what, to everyone else, was a dark night. In between those two opposing groups walked Mailan and Zelda, side by side. They were, for the most part, quiet, but in the silence the guard felt a sense of calm rather than foreboding. The attack had occurred only an hour or so before sunrise, so it wasn’t long into their hike that the yellow rays of Din’s warmth began to creep over the hills in the distance, lighting up the vast field. A little after the sun was fully free of its nightly imprisonment, they decided to take a break. Their adrenaline had finally began to wear off from the fight, and one by one they were starting to realize that they were still exhausted. Not long after, they chose to take a rest. “So tell me,” Tennor said as he sat down, “Who exactly is it we’re going to track down? I know he’s supposed to be able to help us fix everything, but that’s really as far as my knowledge reaches.” “His name is Rasul Kazad,” Zelda replied, “He was a hero during the Civil War. His actions led to the end of the war.” “He was Hylian then?” “A dwarf actually,” Dente replied, surprising everyone, “He’s a foreigner who got caught up in the war by accident,” in reply to the questioning gazes of the others, he gave a sly smile, “I haven’t met the man personally, but he spent some time in Kakariko after the war, so a few of the older villagers mentioned him.” Zelda nodded, impressed, “Yes. He came to Hyrule from across the sea in the latter stages of the war. He’s a cunning warrior and, more importantly, a gifted mage. It’s my hope that he has the ability to make a cure for the disease.” “And why would he be in the woods?” Iris asked, “I didn’t think anyone but the Kokiri could live there.” “As rumor goes,” Mailan told her, “Rasul’s brothers came to Hyrule about the same time as him, but the three were separated upon reaching Hyrule. After a few years, he was able to track one of them down in the Kokiri Village, and chose to stay there with them. But that was years ago.” “You talked about multiple brothers? What of the others?” “Nobody has heard from the third brother since they arrived. My best guess is that he died.” “So you’re saying,” Iris leaned forward, “We’re tracking down a legend from decades ago who may or may not be where we’re going and might have the ability to do what you hope can save Hyrule.” The statement was followed b a few seconds of silence. “It’s better than nothing,” Tennor admitted.