Thursday, June 05, 2008

New Short Part 2 (now old...)

Toran nodded. It made sense. The Noble Houses had only been united for a relatively short period of time, dating back to Zelda’s great, great grandfather. It might seem a long time to a young mind, but it reality it was only about two hundred years… grudges could run deep, and the time before the Hylian Empire had seen the Houses constantly pitted against one another over any number of petty quarrels. Shiek was looking very introspective about it though, as if she was betting there was more to it than the face value of jealousy and pride.
“I wonder…” she began, then gave her head a shake, “no, best to not even think it.”
“Think what?” Toran pressed, studying the worry lines forming on Shiek’s brow. He knew this was something that needed addressing. Shiek tended to obsess over a notion if it took hold of her, and he didn’t want her brooding, particularly while on an adventure.
“Well,” Shiek began hesitantly, casting a sidelong glance at Lucinda, “it’s nothing… maybe we should discuss it latter.”

(Boop boop boo badaboop boop boo)
*In this section Lucinda will refer to the “Trian Blood” given that not everyone reading this has seen the History in its entirety (Before there was Light, Seven Years, Follow Me Through Time, The Off Shoots, and The Last Shiekah) nor do all of them speak Hylian (if you thought LATIN was grammatically a chore, just wait…) I thought it might be best to inform everyone that a simple definition of the concept behind Trian Blood would be to say it sums up the values, culture, history, one could almost say the Hylian-ness of Hyrule. Think of the way the English will refer to their “constitution” and everyone knows what they mean, despite the way it isn’t written. For those who are interested, it is an allusion to the three goddesses (try is Hylian for three) and just another example of Hylian, er, egotism. The Hylians believed themselves the chosen race of all three goddesses, and so referred to anything quintessential of their race as Trian, setting it apart from the other races that “lacked such divine favor.” Some one might call a slender girl with black hair and sapphire eyes “a model Hylian,” but something like the way the Noble Houses are loathed to rise against the often weaker Royal House would be “Trian.”*

The trip to Lake Hylian and the alchemy school on its shore would only require staying one night on the plains. Shiek had discussed pushing slightly harder, hoping to reach the gated entrance to the Comvarda lands before nightfall, but the likelihood of that actually happening were low. The cliffs that surrounded Lake Hylia and the grounds around it only had one viable entrance point, which the Comvarda House had long ago constructed a gate over. It remained the practice of the House to keep this gate locked and guarded from sun down to sunrise, and no one was ever allowed to pass during those hours. As such, evening found Shiek helping Toran to set up a camp about two hours away from the gate.

As she fed the horse a lump of sugar, Shiek listened to the sounds of Lucinda and Toran’s voices floating over to her from the fire they had started about five yards away. Toran had hit it off very well with Lucinda, and the two had been shamelessly flirting for the past two hours. Shiek didn’t really mind (who could feel jealous of a woman at least twice your age and just as large?), but she wondered if Toran extra boisterous mood was in reaction to her growing preoccupation. She knew her and Toran had made a pact not to think about imperial business while on these missions, but part of this situation was bothering her.

While it was true that Barron Marca might be reluctant to call on the aid of a rival house, there seemed to be more. It didn’t help that Lucinda had gone out of her way to mention a second house Marca was harboring dislike for, the Akinda House. There was a major connecting factor that the houses of Comvarda and Akinda held, and it was too big an issue to just ignore. Taking a breath, Shiek glanced over to where her husband, Lord Toran Orphanis Akinda was chatting with the unsuspecting Lucinda over a steaming pot of cooking soup. Catching her glance, Toran said something to Lucinda and stood. Shiek saw that he was making to walk to where she was tending the horse and glanced away. She didn’t want Toran to know her mind wasn’t really here with him mentally, but she had a feeling he had already picked up on the fact. Deciding she would wait for him to bring up the subject, Shiek started to rub down the horse. It gave a snort of approval, and lowered its head to graze while her strong hands pressed into it.

Toran walked up to her, and she felt his finger curl round the top of her shoulders. As his long, clever fingers began to expertly work at the knots in her shoulder muscles, Shiek gave a sigh.
“Well Zel,” he whispered, breath tickling her ear as he leaned close, “you gonna tell me what’s up?”
“Oh, it’s nothing,” she replied absently, still rubbing at the horse, “probably just paranoia on my part, speaking of which,” she added, dropping her voice to near inaudible, “I remind you my name is Shiek, not Zel.”
“Right, sorry Shiek,” Toran replied, a smirk in his tone.
“Forget about it, Fiate,” she chuckled. The use of the name sobered her a bit though, reminding her of the possibilities that were now pressing in.

A bit of a pause dragged as Toran kept up his massaging, and Shiek her rubbing. After a bit, Shiek gave a heavier sigh, giving the horse a thump before turning to look into Toran’s concerned eyes.

“Lucinda said Barron Marca is so strident about not showing a need for Comvarda’s resources and power. Maybe it’s nothing, but she then mentioned another house by name… Akinda.”
Shiek sighed, but gave a half smile. Toran wasn’t exactly politically minded, but the way he was completely lost when it came to intrigue was just one of the reasons she loved him. It added to his totally innocence factor that was so cute. However, it did mean she was going to have to spell this out every step.
“I assuming you know about the Akinda house because a very prominent noble is from this house, the current Lord Toran.”
“I hear he’s pretty good looking,” Toran commented, a smirk pulling at his mouth.
“No doubt,” Shiek said with a smile, “but that’s only half the equation. How much would you say you know about the history of her majesty Queen Zelda?”
“I hear she’s good looking too… kind of a bi-”
“Ahem, yes, but her FAMILY history… Zelda is a member of the Royal House, a direct descendant of the old kings. But her father, the late Lord Fiate, care to guess his house?”
“Um, please say not Akinda,” Toran said, a hint of nervousness in his voice.
“What? Oh, no, not at all… Fiate Victorius Comvarda… the queen’s father was from the other house that Marca apparently bumps heads with.”

Shiek waited for a moment to give these lineage facts time to sink in. When, after a few moments of contemplation, it became obvious that it wasn’t sinking, Shiek sighed and offered more.
“The queen is married to a member of Akinda, and half Comvarda. Her step mother is now the head of the Comvarda House, and also very active in the Hylian government.”
“And… the two closest allies of the Royal House right now are the Comvarda and Akinda Houses, and what is more, both, particularly Comvarda, wield quite a bit of power.”
Shiek sighed again, looking away. This was one of the things she had been hoping she wouldn’t have to say.
“So Fiate… I don’t know if you realized this, but it was very surprising to everyone, and not a good surprise for most, that the queen married a member of the Akinda family. That house has always been loyal, and there was little need to strengthen the bond. Moreover, several of the other houses viewed it as Lord Fiate playing favorites; giving extra power to his friends to snub the nobles that had been less cooperative during his reign. Princess Zelda was allowed to marry the man she loved, but by all political sense, she SHOULD have married a member of the Pritolate House.”
“You mean Barron Marca’s family?”
“Yes, he has an exceedingly ugly and self-absorbed nephew that’s only six years older than she is.”

“You speak as though you know the Queen’s mind very well.”

The words caused Shiek to nearly jump out of her skin, and Toran actually drew his katana as he whirled. However, it was just Lucinda, standing much closer than she had been, pudgy arms crossed and a large wooden spoon in her right hand, still dripping some sort of sauce. Toran lowered his katana, but Shiek’s years of fighting experience noticed he was still in a hidden stance, poised to attack if the situation took a turn for the worst. Shiek had prepared an answer for this question long ago though. While she wished to avoid bringing attention to herself and the Royal House, her Shiekah training had taught her to be ready for anything. She knew that even trying her best to hide it, sooner or later she would let a fact that only someone who lived at the palace would know slip out of her mouth.

“It’s true, I do know a lot about Queen Zelda… Ever since she was a child, the queen has been accustomed to having a Shiekah attendant, the first being her guardian Mistress Impa, a hero amongst our people who lived at the palace. From that time on, her highness has always a Shiekah of the Palace Clan as an attendant, generally female of about her own age.”
“And you’re the current guard?”
“Well, more than just a guard,” Shiek said, smiling as she thought back over the fond memories of Impa, Aniee, and Komori, “it’s always someone her highness has a very special relationship with… a sister, or mother for her. We don’t just guard her either, we act as her personal agents if she needs us. In fact, Fiate and I showing up to help you wasn’t just a coincidence… Queen Zelda sent me in response to your letter, Lucinda.”
Lucinda’s sharp eyes moved from Shiek to Toran, and back to Shiek. After a moment’s contemplation, she turned back to the fire, jerking her head.
“Well, come’on then… diner’s ready, and I can’t say the Queen’s personal attendant went hungry while traveling with me. What would that do to my Castle Town clientele?”

The heat had lessened by a great deal, but the three travelers still stayed back from the fire as they laid into the soup Lucinda had prepared. Toran had laid a large blanket over the sharp grass, which made for a slightly more comfortable diner as the two adventurers sat to eat. Lucinda had brought a folding camp chair, which moaned its disapproval as the woman’s bulk eased onto it. Sighing, the woman took a spoonful of the soup sipped it down and glanced from Toran to Shiek. It was obvious that she was debating how much information to give the two adventurers, torn between trusting those who had just shared a near disastrous raid and a naturally skeptical nature. Finally, and after several more spoons of soup, Lucinda gave a resigned sigh.

“Well, you’ll have ta forgive me now,” she began, slipping the spoon back into the brothy soup, “but there was just something that didn’t seem to stack up with you two. I reckon it was the way you hid that bit about the queen sending ya, but I just need to be sure before I gave you the whole story. Tell me again, where you’re from, and what your names are…”
Shiek took in a breath, mentally willing her sage power into sounding convincing. She extended the aura to Toran too, and prayed feverently offering to never pretend to be too sick for First Bells Morning Prayer again if her husband would forget his habit of saying stupid things just this once.
“Shiek of the Palace Clan, personal attendant to Queen Zelda.”
“Fiate Waywander, adventurer originally from Kakoria Village.”
Shiek offered a prayer of thanks that Toran had been able instantly to pick a viable sir-name and a locale that was known enough to not be surprising, yet distant enough that it was unlikely Lucinda actually knew all that many people from the area. There was a pause as Lucinda regarded both of them with a critical air. However, she seemed to find the answers acceptable, and gave a nod.
“Very well then… I guess you two have earned yourselves a tale…”

(Boop Boop boo bada boopboop bo)

“In the time before light, my grandmother ran a traveling cooking wagon. She would travel from place to place, cooking with the integrants she bought from the locals. Well, it’s certainly no secret that they were dark times, we call them the time before light for a reason after all… As she traveled around, my grandmother kept her eyes open, looking everywhere for something that could bring some light to our land. Well, if’n you look hard enough for something, you’ll find it all right, and my grandmother certainly found a few things worth finding. She uncovered a man here, a woman there, a lad in one place, and a lass in another… they all were working to preserve Trian Blood, keeping Hyrule alive. My grandmother organized them, helped them to coordinate their efforts. They formed a league dedicated to protecting and upholding the light. They called themselves Phoenix’s Talon, and their descendants are still working to this day.

My father was the second head of the Phoenix’s Talon, our numbers were fifty at the time. Sages, clerics, warriors, wanderers, hunters, even bards… anyone with a skill that wished to aid and proved his worth could join. Now mind you, we only gathered in whole once, on the eve of the Feast of St. Culdona, we surprised a contingent of the Ziltha Elite as they camped not two miles from the tent of King Devan himself. The worthless scouts of the Hylian Royal Army had missed them, and those crack Zora champions were set to hack into King Devan’s rear once battle had been joined the next day. Moving from tent to tent, the Phoenix Talon cut them down in ambush, ensuring victory for the Royal Army the following morn. I’ve heard that tales that the member’s of Lord Devan’s war-council were surprised that the Zora seemed so lost and disorganized that day, and every time I hear that story I just chuckle, knowing we caused the Zora ambush to backfire, saving the empire from full-scale war.

It should come as no surprise when I say things became steadily better after Lord Fiate came to reign in regent for the young Princess Zelda. Unlike King Devan, Lord Fiate was as willing to fight with quill and tongue as sword and spear. Still, Lord Fiate had many wars, some to keep Hyrule safe, others to strengthen it against our enemies. The Phoenix Talon helped as we could, keeping peace and Trian Blood alive in Hyrule Proper as the Royal Guard, armies, militias, and even Shiekah were pulled away to various wars in Zora Fount, Death Mountain, and Greudo Valley. There seemed to be a never ending steam of ruffians, yakuza, and skultoids to deal with. What was more disturbing were the conspiring Noble Houses that would occasionally threaten to move against the Royal House’s scattered forces, an act that would have plunged Hyrule into civil war and the Time Before Light would return. We used all our skills to keep the peace, and for the most part the Phoenix Talon has done its part to light the darkness.

Our number have grown smaller as the peace and prosperity of Queen Zelda’s reign has progressed, but it has always been the duty of the Phoenix Talon to remain vigilant and strong even at the times of peace. Perhaps it is because I feel that way that our numbers have lessened… in the times of peace I want only the strongest and most dedicated Hylains in the group. After all, during these times of peace the work we Phoenix Talon members must do is slightly different. We still have dedicated warriors and adventurers, but due to the presence of the Guard and Shiekah we seldom need to battle raiders, bandits, or Moblins… No, recently I’ve been stocking up on devout clerics, wandering bards, and wizened scholars, who even have a couple with a legitimate chance of sage-hood in their number… The sort of crowd I built up has been working fine for keeping the Trian Blood warm, but unused to the sort of trial that now darkens the land… the time is quickly coming when steel and might will once again come to play if answers cannot be found. I pray the goddesses it never comes to it, but if you want peace, prepare for war!

(Boop boop boo bada boop boop boo)

“You fear a war?” Toran gasped, pausing only a moment from the way he had been shoveling the soup down to gaze levelly at the cook that had been relating the tale. Lucinda put a finger to her lips and blew, the way any older Hylain might to thwart a bad omen.
“Yea do well not ta say such things,” she cautioned, helping herself to another spoonful of the soup, “it brings a bad chill…”
“It does make certain things make sense,” Shiek mused, giving a slightly disgusted look as Toran reached to the pot for fourths, “that’s why Baron Marca didn’t want you getting supplies from Comvarda… if the Pritolate House is going to lead an uprising, they need to be perceived as strong and independent.”
“Aye, I feel that’s the sum of it,” Lucinda mused, “and there has been many a messenger scurrying out to other houses on official business. Under blessed Lord Fiate ol’ Baron Marca was content to build his power and wait for Princess to marry that spineless son of his, but when wed Lord Toran the baron’s patience began to fail.”
“Why now… I mean, the Royal Guard has grown larger since Lord Fiate reined regent,” Toran mumbled through a mouth of soup. Shiek sighed… it was good soup, but her husband was beginning to go overboard. There was actually a flicker of jealousy that she was trying to ruthlessly to squash, but Lucinda’s advice about how to win a man kept flitting in and out of her mind.

“Lord Fiate was a strong leader, filled with charisma and a noble bearing. No Hylian would have been able to stand against him,” Lucinda answered, before throwing an almost apologetic glance at Shiek, “now, and please forgive me, I mean nothing against your friend and my monarch, but Queen Zelda isn’t quite as dominant a force as her father was. You both look old enough to have seen him, surely you won’t begrudge me that statement.”
“Hmmm… you know, I don’t really ever remember meeting Lord Fiate as a child,” Toran answered, which wasn’t far from the truth. Shiek knew that in reality, Toran had only ever met her father a handful of times, and only seriously talked with him twice. Toran had been good enough to earn an Impa Stamp of Approval, and that had been more than enough for her father to agree to the marriage. For her part, Shiek had lived the first twelve years of her life not seeing her father except on rare occasions, and the next seven mourning his death. When time had reset, she had gone out of her way to be with him as much as possible, but the end had still come all too soon. Giving a sigh, she flashed a sad smile at Lucinda.

“I wish I had seen him more…” she offered, knowing a lie would be impossible. Lucinda shot her a questioning glance, but seemed to accept the answer.
“Well, you seem to have had dealing with him then, you see my point. Queen Zelda is fair and just, but lack the general respect her father held. And her husband… well, I try not to hold Akinda blood against him, but Lord Fiate for Lord Toran was hardly an equal trade…”
Shiek glanced at Toran and repressed a smirk. She was definitely coming out on top of Lucinda’s little evaluation, and desperate times or not, Shiek LOVED winning… Am I too much of a bitch? Yeah, probably… but it’s loads of fun!

“You know, I’m originally from Akinda too,” Toran murmured through a mouthful of soup. He had shot Shiek an icy glance, but his actual visage held little in the way of concern over his apparent shortcomings as regent. Statecraft and Empire Building were never things he had even pretended to be good at, and apparently wasn’t surprised that other people held the same view unsolicited.
“I should have known, yea being from the Village and all, and yea do the House name well, lad… you can apparently tuck at the soup too.”
“It’s wonderful,” Toran half spoke half gargled, “garlic… and bit of Deku Root if I’m not mistaken…”
“You’re not mistaken at all lad, and a fine judge of herbs at that! Do yea cook at all?”
“No,” Toran laughed, “just a big fan of eating! I’ve learned a thing or two listening to cooks talk, they like to brag on themselves, and I get samples out of it too.”
“Har, yea have broken the system lad, I can’t never let you in my kitchen now!” Lucinda laughed, obviously warming to Toran as he enjoyed her cooking.

Shiek watched as the two went back and forth, swapping things they had learned over the years. For her part, Shiek just sat there with a hand propping up her chin, the elbow on her knee. She knew absolutely nothing about cooking… and was feeling sort of left out. Of course she hadn’t cooked as a child? Who had? It wasn’t exactly something you picked up during Shiekah training either. Scela had done all the cooking while they were in the cave, so necessity had never been there, and now a veritable army of servants waited to cook for her. What was the big deal anyway, it’s not like she couldn’t cook if she’d wanted to… but Toran was swooning all over this soup like it was the very essence of the goddesses. Ruthlessly forcing down her scowl in an attempt to look unconcerned, Shiek looked back to Toran, who was now discussing the bread Lucinda had brought as he used a crust to soak up some broth.
“And this bread, you made it to?”
“That I did boy, a loose feel and a high rise keep it sweet to the taste.”

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

new short part 1

(sorry for the delay everyone, here part one,
i hope to have part 2 soon, I tend to add faster if I have something up, so here's hoping!)

The way to a man’s heart…

Toran glanced about, trying to take fully in the surroundings, but the heat was making concentration difficult. He was on foot, in the middle of a patchy dirt road about a mile east of Lon Lon Villa. The midday sun burned down, and Toran was sweltering. Wiping sweat from his forehead, the young noble fervently wished for some shade, but this particular portion of Hyrule Plain was as devoid of trees as the sands of Greudo desert. It was the height of summer, and the grass was taking a sickly, burned, brown hue. He had already run a hand along the dry grass once to test it and found it feeling as sharp as glass shards. The fighter was certainly not looking forward to rolling on it, and had spent a good half hour praying that would not become necessary.

Speaking of that half hour, where in the Dark Void was Zelda- no wait, Shiek- well, whichever name she was using it was still hot in the unforgiving sun, and he couldn’t move on until the heroine of Hyrule showed up. Sighing, Toran scuffed at the dirt at his feet, watching it rise in a cloud of brown that screamed about the lack of moisture. It was a good thing he loved Zel, or he’d really be forced to hate her…

(bo do do badaboop boop bo)

Shiek smiled at the massive woman next to her in the driver’s seat of the small covered wagon. The proprietor of a tavern in Lon Lon Villa, Lucinda was probably the largest Hylian woman Shiek had ever seen. Normally a lanky people, It was unusual to see such a swarthy pureblood, but Lucinda was a full child of Hyrule, and anything but lanky. Of course, age and excess occasionally led to heavier nobles, and even some of the landed gentry were known to have an extra chin or two, but the hard working rarely put so much on their figures. Shiek had guessed Lucinda’s heavy mass was due to her profession. A reasonably successful cook and bartender, she had hired several local girls to help with the actual running and cleaning. Even still, Lucinda seemed accustom to her weight, able to move with surprisingly spryness given the fact that she likely weighed twice as much as Shiek. While tubby, she in no way gave an impression of sloth, and Shiek was willing to bet it was more her duties as a cook than a tendency to laziness that gave Lucinda her extra pounds.

However, whatever the reason for Lucinda’s weight, Shiek was thankful that she was so thin as she sat in the sweltering heat. Bulk seemed like it would probably be a major endurance sap right about now. The sweat running freely down Lucinda’s forehead silently confirmed the theory, as did the way the woman kept fanning herself with a paper fan. The fan was a pretty ordeal, orange and purple, with designs in black across it. In Shiek’s estimation it probably had come from the island provinces and, thought not overly cheep was probably not overly expensive either. The older woman obvious had noticed Shiek appraising eye, and held out the fan to display it proudly.

“A traveler gave this to me several years ago,” she beamed, “it’s from the Gunthria, a island in the far south… but you probably already know about it, don’t you dear?”
Shiek smiled and gave a slight nod. She didn’t mention that far from just knowing about it, she had spent three hours last week discussing trade regulations with the province’s governors.
“It was raining hard and cold as the Dark Void, and he was short on rupees, so I let him have some hot rice wine on the house. He thanked me and told me several stories about his journeys. He was quite the charmer, so I gave him a full meal. He wanted to marry me after that, but I sent him on. He wouldn’t go without leaving this though, said it was prized by the nobles in Gunthria.”

Deciding not to comment on how the traveler in question had obviously stretched the value of the fan some, Shiek tried to think of question to relay a sense of interest.
“He wanted to marry you, eh?” Shiek regretted the question after it had left her mouth, the implications would have been easy enough for even Toran to figure out. However, Lucinda just laughed, returning to fanning herself with the paper.
“You think it odd a traveler would want me, eh?” she said, after composing herself a bit, “I guess a girl like you might find it odd that someone who had seen that many women might want me, but trust me in a few years you’ll see that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Over the years I’ve had to beat away the men with a stick I tell you…”
“Really?” Shiek inquired. To her knowledge, Lucinda was not married and, despite her protestations, it was hard to believe she had ever been swimming in suitors.
“Oh yes, but I was only ever gave myself to one of ‘em. My dear man Manipa,” Lucinda paused to wipe away a tear with a pudgy finger. Sniffing deeply, she took on a faraway look.

“That was so many years ago, but he worked for the Villa’s guard you know. He got himself hit in the head while chasing some drunks out of the town and never really recovered. The poor soul passed that winter.”
“A Villa guard?” Shiek asked, more out of politeness than actual interest.
“The last good one we’ve had in years,” Lucinda nearly yelled, increasing the whirring pace of her fan, “it took three of those drunks to step to him, and he still shooed them off! All the guard nowadays are lazy, cowardly, and soft as bread dough. Some of ‘em are even fatter than me I tell yea… Din knows we be in trouble if’n the Moblins came down off the hill with an eye to sack the town. I don’t trust the guard anymore than I’d trust a man in Greudo Fortress, let me tell you.”
“I know the local noble house, if you wish I could speak with them about the issue when we return,” Shiek offered. Lucinda just snorted in response, snapping the reigns to give the horse an extra spring.
“Oh, I’ve told ol’ Barron Marca about it more times than I got fingers, but he doesn’t want ta be spending his money on the villa guard… no. He’s got more important things going on…”
“Oh?” Shiek was beginning to take some real interest at this. There were only so many things a Noble Family could spend rupees on that didn’t at least boarder on shady, and the Pritolate House had more than enough to beef up the towns in its lands. It was possible something bigger was afoot than just shoddy bookkeeping.
“That’s why when I had to move cargo this important tried to write the Royal Family,” Lucinda continued, lowering her voice despite the fact they were alone on the empty road, “of course, I didn’t expect them to answer… I’ve heard that Queen Zelda and Lord Toran do a great deal to help our people, but it no doubt keeps them busy. I’m sure my letter was just a drop in a bucket full of drops, and there was no way for them to know the full importance of this trip. But then you showed up, so I hoping we’ll be fine!”

Shiek smiled, not mentioning that the reason she had “just happened to show up” was that she had read the letter from Lucinda a few days before as the Queen in question. The woman had requested guards from the Royal House to shepherd her to and from the alchemic labs on the shores of Lake Hylia. Apparently, a strange sickness had been starting to break out in the lower sections of Lon Lon Villa, one that the alchemists in the Comvarda House’s lands could cure. She had requested aid from the local house, but Barron Marca Pritolate had been reluctant to show a dependence on a rival family’s assets. He was more of a mind to block off the Villa’s lower quarter and wait for the sickness to run its course. Lucinda’s tavern was outside the quarantine, but the thought of the helpless victims had been too much for her. Shiek had gathered some more facts upon arriving in Lon Lon, and found Lucinda’s take on the situation to be fairly accurate. She had dispatched Toran to secure the first leg of the path and helped Lucinda gather a cart, supplies, and ride with her to Toran’s position.

The journey out of the town was uneventful, which did not really surprise Shiek much. She was fairly certain the worst of things they would encounter would be a few skultoids out on the fields after nightfall, hardly anything to be worried about. Travelers had not been reporting any extra Moblin activity recently, and while bandits were always about they rarely ventured too close to the lands of Comvarda. That noble house had claimed the former Lord Fiate among its members, and when Mistress Impa had become his wife the Far Rock and Shadow Clans had moved to live on the Comvarda lands. An abundance of Shiekah tended to discourage outlaws from acting too openly, and so the section of Hyrule Plains around Lake Hylia was mercifully free of Hylian, Greudo, and Moblin raiders.

Lucinda had obviously decided that their original line of conversation was more enjoyable, and had moved back to talking about her guests, meals, and various marriage proposals. Shiek listened as the cart creaked along, interested in the first topic, feigning acknowledgment at the seconded, and still trying to hide her skepticism at the third. If Lucinda wasn’t stretching the truth, then nearly ever male from Lon Lon Villa had asked for her hand, and at least half had done so twice. In an effort to keep the way she doubted Lucinda’s marital exploits out of sight, Shiek steered the conversation back the travelers who stopped at the woman’s tavern. Despite the fact that she ruled the land as Queen Zelda, Shiek was not as wide traveled as one might think. When she had originally taken her Sheik alias, Gannondorf’s harsh reign of terror had kept her hiding in remote corners of Hyrule proper. It wasn’t until she was nineteen that Shiek had first seen the southlands of Turmina and the far island provinces. That had been on the good-will peace tour her father had arranged that would have ended in disaster had it not been for Link and Malon. The first part of the trip had been merely visiting smaller variations of Hyrule Palace, Noble estates in Hyrule proper and Turmina. Most of the second leg had been spent pretending to be Malon’s servant, just trying to stay alive as pirates dragged them from one hideout to another. While it HAD been intense, and even exciting to a degree, Shiek still felt she lacked a true pulse of the lands outside of Hyrule proper. For this reason she adored hearing about travelers and their stories. With a bit of a smirk Shiek recalled that the only way she and her friend Link could go for longer than five minuets without fighting was if he were relating the details of a distant land.

It was just another reason the young queen had been loathed to let the legend of Shiek grow old and fade. Sure, it had worked wonders for her morale, as well as helped her and Toran keep a tight hold on their relationship, but it also let her get down in the dirt with her people. The Hylian people were an old race, and dedicated to their empire, faith, and land. Shiek didn’t doubt them, she knew she didn’t need to find a way to win a love that was already there, but she wanted to truly know how to serve them. She wanted to know the very soul of the land that she both owned and was owned by. In actuality, it was this rational that caused Impa to allow Shiek to keep going on these adventures. It was something that had made sense to the Shiekah Elder in a way that Shiek knew she would probably never fully understand.

In between such musings and Lucinda’s constant stream of verbiage, it wasn’t long before the cart creaked into view of Toran. Shiek first noticed him as the cart crested the gentle rise not far out from the city. He was sitting on his heals looking out over the plain, arms hanging limply at his sides. Lucinda must have noticed Toran a second later, for she fell silent, and her right hand moved to grasp the heavy crossbow she had lain on the baseboard between them. Shiek laid a hand over Lucinda’s pudgy fingers and flashed a quick smile.
“Hold on, that’s just my partner Fiate.”
“Named after ol’ Lord Fiate, the queen’s father?” Lucinda queried, hand relaxing a bit.
“The same,” Shiek replied brightly, removing her hand and stretching to wave to Toran.
“Well, if he’s half the man of Lord Fiate, rest his soul, then we’ll have little to no trouble,” Lucinda clucked, moving to take the reigns in both hands again. Shiek smiled at this. If she had learned one thing while tramping over the countryside in disguise, it was that the common Hylian had loved her farther. Even the pirates that had stormed her boat and mistakenly kidnapped Malon had respected the regent as a just, honorable, and formidable, man. It was stratifying to know a member of her family had held such sway over the loyalty of the people. Especially given that dark tales of her grandfather’s reign were still used to scare children at bedtime.

Toran had spotted them, and turned to walk toward the approaching cart. He was wearing common Hylian travel gear (dark brown pants of a sturdy cloth, plain cotton shirt under a brown leather vest, with boots and bracers on his wrists and feet) and a brown headband kept his hair at bye. Shiek had used the appearance modifying spells she had perfected during her exile to turn Toran’s dirty blond hair a marvelous shade of black, and had also moved his eyes to a browner tint than his normal hazel. It was a fairly common Hylian eye hair combination, though sapphire would have been a more logical eye choice. However, Shiek had been reluctant to give Toran a feature that she had always found so attractive on Link. Her flame for the Hero of Time might have died out years ago, but she preferred that Toran not be reminded of the old love.

While Shiek had left Toran’s race obviously Hylain, she had retained her Shiekah eyes and clothing. However, she no longer felt the need to disguise her gender and, given that Shiek was a unisex name, the young woman had elected to adventure in a more feminine form. It reduced the amount of power she had to put into her alteration spells, and made for less questioning looks when she and her male companion rented single bed rooms or snuck off together. Besides, these adventures were meant to be a bit romantic anyway, and that was hard to do if you were lying about your sex all the time.

Lucinda noticed the mixed gender of the two adventures right away. Before Toran was close enough to even distinguish his features, the tavern keeper was whispering out the corner of her mouth to Shiek.
“A handsome one… about yer age, no?”
“I was born in the spring, he the following winter,” Shiek allowed, smirking slightly, “and I think he’d look better as a blond.”
“Nay, Black hair betokens strength lass,” Lucinda argued, “and if he looks as good close up as he dose a quarter mile off then I might need a bigger fan!”
“You will probably be a bit disappointed then,” Shiek chuckled.
“Young ones these days are so particular,” Lucinda cried, Shiek assumed to the horse, “he has a strong name, and if the lad possesses a decent heart to go with it, appearances be damned! Ask me again by the end of this trip, and I’ll tell yea whether or not you be a fool, girl.”

Smiling to herself, Shiek watched her husband jog towards them.

(Boo do do badda boop boo boo)

It was way too hot to be running, but Toran was hoping Shiek and the woman from Lon Lon might have something to drink in their cart. He had finished off his water a good thirty minuets ago, and the wait in the burning sun had become torturous. The grass was making an odd crunching sound under his feet, and the dirt of the path greeted his steps with massive puffs as dust. Shiek was waving at him, and Toran raised a hand to reciprocate when he noticed the riders coming over the rise behind the cart.

Four horsemen, and even at the distance, Toran could tell they were a rough lot. He didn’t want to judge just from looks, but the riders didn’t just looked ragged or disheveled, it was some sort of intangible factor that seemed to scream ill-intent. Toran watched as the cart creaked a bit closer while the four men seemed to be scanning the field. After the briefest of seconds that seemed to last forever, the lead horseman pointed at the cart and seemed to be conferring with his companions. It took only a moment before the three pounded down the rise towards the cart. Cursing, Toran broke into a full run, trying to gain some ground.

Toran was about a hundred yards from the cart, and the horsemen were that far again, but they had horses and, while none of them seemed to actually be phenomenal equestrians, they would arrive at the cart well before he could. The way they swooped down on their target was slightly shaky, and far from organized, but it gave clear indication to their intent: four bandits hoping for a quick grab. Toran gave a sharp cry of warning, but wasn’t sure if Shiek had heard him. However, Shiek WAS Zelda, and Zelda WAS the Sage of Wisdom. Part of that was a surprisingly sharp, almost precognitive, intuition and danger sense. Sure enough, his wife was twisting in her seat to look back at the approaching raiders well before they were within any real range. Toran saw her snatch up a rugged looking crossbow from somewhere at her feet and level it back at the approaching men. At the same time the large woman driving gave the reigns a snap, urging the horse pulling the cart to a faster pace. Still, one horse pulling a cart would never outmatch its pursuers, and Toran tired feverously to come up with a plan of attack as he ran towards the ensuing melee.

Shiek let a bolt fly from the crossbow. It missed the galloping lead rider by a bit, but it had whizzed close the head of his horse. The mount was obviously unaccustomed to fights and panicked, rearing up and kicking with its front legs. The rider was thrown to the ground, where he lay, obviously winded. The other raiders road past him, obviously not overly concerned with the falling of their companion. The new lead rider spurred his mount to extra speed, obviously realizing he needed to close in on the wagon before Shiek had time to reload the bow. Toran could see Shiek position better than the attackers though, and knew she had realized there was not enough time for a second bolt from the crossbow. She had dropped it back to the floor and had brought out a few of her shuriken. Toran had always been impressed over Shiek’s ability with the throwing-spike, and had often marveled that she found the time to keep the skill polished during her busy life as a queen. With what he knew of her throwing range, Toran guessed the first shuriken would fly in ten seconds…

Obviously, Shiek had been spending some extra time practicing.

A good five yards further than Toran thought possible for anyone, Shiek’s arm whipped around. The lead rider let a screech that was audible even over the pounding hooves of the horses and fell backward off his mount, clutching at the shuriken in his shoulder. The last two riders closed in on the side opposite Shiek, obviously trying to keep the canvas portion of the cart between themselves and the Shiekah that was cutting them down at range. By this time the wagon and the attackers were converging on Toran’s position. While busy being impressed, and feeling slight pride, over his wife’s attacks, Toran had neglected to come up with a plan for engaging two mounted foes from foot. The skewedness of his priorities became quite clear to the swordsman as the wagon and horses barreled down towards him. Without thinking about it, Toran rolled to the Shiek side of the cart, narrowly missing becoming trampled by the horse’s hooves. His eyes flashed up just as Shiek’s face passed, her hand reaching down towards him.

Instinct kicked in before thought, and Toran grabbed the hand, not stopping to think about what would happen to Shiek if he pulled her out, or what might happen to him if he didn’t. There was a jarring tug at his arm, and Toran felt his feet yanked off the ground. Shiek had managed to pull him half way up to the cart seat, but was slipping. The front wheel was very close, and if he fell out of Shiek’s grasp it would be right into the path of the iron nubbed wheel. Grabbing wildly with his free hand, Toran felt his fingers grasp the edge of the wagon seat, and he gripped tightly. Pulling hard, and with help from Shiek, Toran clambered into the wagon, slipping up and sprawling onto the floor behind the seat. Toran gasped in air, realizing he had held his breath for the whole ordeal. In reality, his mount had only taken seconds, but Toran was fairly certain he had seen his life flash before his eyes at least twice. Shiek gave him a quick smirk before turning back to her large companion.
“Lucinda, Fiate… Fiate, Lucenda.”
“Charmed,” Toran gasped, sitting up.
“Well, he WOULD make a better blond,” Lucinda admitted, as she pointed to the riders alongside the wagon’s covered section, “but we still have unwelcome guests.”

The cart was still racing along, and the horsemen now pounding next to it were having difficulty as they tried to perform some sort of task at high speed. Toran couldn’t get a good look at the details from his position in the rear of the cart. He could see the shadows of the riders’ silhouettes on the canvas, but it was too distorted to make much out. Lucinda was obviously able to get a look from her vantage point though, and she called out the warning.
“Torches! The thugs are tryin’ ta light torches!”

Toran reached up to the seat and snatched the fallen crossbow, glad he could finally aid his friends. Lucinda saw his actions and called out an answer to the question Toran was about to ask.
“Bolts in the bag behind my seat boy, and be quick!”
Toran obliged, grabbing the bag indicated and quickly shaking it contents out. Bolts, some quarrels, and a few arrows rattled to the ground, and Toran quickly snatched up a missile. Quickly fitting the shaft into its slot, Toran pulled hard at the loading leaver, pulling the string back into its hold position. He handed the weapon up to Lucinda’s outstretched hand and watched as her broad, rounded shoulders moved as she leaned around the side of the cart and let fly. One of the rider’s gave a startled cry, and Toran saw a horse pull back. Out of the back opening to the wagon, Toran glimpsed the man sitting on his now still horse, clutching at the quarrel that protruded from his thigh. The final rider must have realized he was now alone, and pulled off from the chase, stopping to watch as the cart raced away into the burning afternoon.

Giving a relived sigh, Toran turned back to the front seat. Lucinda continued to drive the cart at a breakneck speed for a bit, but Toran thought it unlikely the thugs would be chasing them. Still, it made sense to put some distance between themselves and raiders, so he didn’t say anything on the subject, just offered Shiek a lopsided grin.

“Thank for the hand, Shiek.”
“Not a problem, Fiate, but next time you’re supposed to scout a place, make sure you scout ALL of it,” she threw in wryly.
“I didn’t expect marauders from the Villa itself,” confessed Toran, “but maybe they just circled round. I’m not as mobile on foot.”
“Possible,” Shiek mused, “but I must admit I was surprised by an attacked that close to the Villa at all. There may be some poverty there, but it hardly looked bad enough to drive people to crime.”
“They were probably sent… take us out quickly before we had a chance to dust our tracks,” Lucinda offered, slowing the careening cart to a more languid speed.
“You gotta have a sender for them to be ‘sent’,” Toran comment, shacking his head, “and I don’t know who would do that.”
“Still,” Shiek said, glancing back around the cart as if the fallen tormentors might be coming for a second go, “they were lighting torches to burn the cart. Thieves wouldn’t do that, they’d be afraid of burning what they came to steal.”
“They weren’t no thieves,” Lucinda said, a grim tone to her voice, “I’ll bet rupees to stones Barron Marca sent them to burn the cart. Try and ‘dissuade’ us from continuing.”
“Marca Pritolate?” Toran felt more than a little skeptical. He had met the Barron twice before, and while the man had seemed pompous and slightly petty, he hardly came across as the type to try something like this.
“He warned me hard against going to Comvarda’s labs for aid. Barron Marca doesn’t much care for the half-bloods, silly of him I think,” she added pointedly, glancing from Toran to Shiek. Toran repressed a smile. Lucinda obviously thought he and Shiek weren’t officially together, and had apparently bought Shiek’s racial disguise. Wrong on both counts… even in the current circumstance, it was kind of funny.
“He’s never trusted the Comvarda Noble House…” the woman went on, returning to her musings on the attackers, “the ol’ Barron likes to act like his land is the most valuable in Hyrule, and he’s generally right in that opinion. We have some of the best farm land, the Villa is at the very crossroads of all Hyrule Plain, and no one would dare say we ain’t got the best ranches of livestock living here in Lon Lon Province. Still, there’s two things we don’t have, the lakes of Comvarda and the mines of Akinda. Barron Marca’s hated those two houses since time out o’ mind, and that’s been the root of it for just as long.”

Toran nodded. It made sense. The Noble Houses had only been united for a relatively short period of time, dating back to Zelda’s great, great grandfather. It might seem a long time to a young mind, but it reality it was only about two hundred years… grudges could run deep, and the time before the Hylian Empire had seen the Houses constantly pitted against one another over any number of petty quarrels. Shiek was looking very introspective about it though, as if she was betting there was more to it than the face value of jealousy and pride.
“I wonder…” she began, then gave her head a shake, “no, best to not even think it.”
“Think what?” Toran pressed, studying the worry lines forming on Shiek’s brow. He knew this was something that needed addressing. Shiek tended to obsess over a notion if it took hold of her, and he didn’t want her brooding, particularly while on an adventure.
“Well,” Shiek began hesitantly, casting a sidelong glance at Lucinda, “it’s nothing… maybe we should discuss it latter.”

Monday, November 12, 2007

Not Dead

No I have not died. It may appear to be the case since I have not posted a story in some time. The fact of the matter is that I am writing quite a few stories but just need to upload them to blogger. Hopefully you can wait patiently...

Monday, June 11, 2007

Last Shiekah

So, they said (most wonderfully) in Pirates three this summer that "the problem with being the last of something is that soon there none of it..." Well, I had already started this little story about the Last Shiekah, so We'll see wht you guys think

The Last Shiekah

A Song of Loss and Sorrow

Given that the Zora Rebellion saw the end of the Shiekah race, I have seen fit to write out a brief account of how the last distinguished members of this ancient and noble race met their ends. I, the last of my race, hope that this account will aid future generation learn something not only of who and what the Shiekah people were, but of responsibility, of courage, of hope, of pain, of loss, and of death.

Master Jeedtha, Spearman of the Plain Shiekah

Shiekah are taller normally than Hylains, but by no means giants. Jeedtha was tall though, even for a Shiekah. Ugly too… in fact, the plain Shiekah often laughed at him… said he was obviously part Moblin. Jeetha would laugh back, taking it all in his long stride, but it was obvious he felt a deep need to prove himself. And maybe that is why he rose to the rank of Master so quickly.

Jeedtha was as skinny as he was tall, much like his weapon, the spear. He was large enough to carry three into battle, one in his hands, with two more strapped to his back. A thorough warrior and a peerless teacher in the art of the pole arm. I had the privilege of learning the Hylian Pike from him and, during that time, the honor of serving at the battle of Beldia Glade during the Civil War of Ducha House Rebellion. That was during Queen Nira’s reign, three summers before the Zora Revolt, and ensuing campaign. At Beldia Glade, Jeedtha fought like a whirlwind in flesh. We all knew there were rebel Shiekah in the Ducha House Ranks, but Jeedtha was adamant. They had chosen to violate their vow to serve Hyrule and its Royal House, and they would share the fate of their new masters. If he ever flinched on this, he hid it too well for us to see.

At Beldia Glade we served under ignorant, arrogant, incompetent Hylian commanders. There are Shiekah children with more knowledge in the way of stratagem than the whole of the Hylian War Council. Our salvation lay in the fact that the Ducha House seemed to be even less inclined to listen to their Shiekah warriors than Queen Nira was. Jeedtha was deployed to lead the Hylain and Shiekah center foot units. A hoard of bristling spears arrayed not against the enemy’s cavalry, but armored infantry and light skirmagers. Of course, Jeedtha knew the disastrous effects the foot units could have on unbacked spears, so he defied orders and, rather than holding to the center, floated his troops towards the right flank. The Ducha cavalry saw the pressing soldiers and swung away from running down the Royal Guard swordsmen to meet them. Hylian Paladins are brave, but rather foolish. They saw the enemy, and they charged it… counter-tactics are something of an after thought.

Jeedtha’s presence of mind most likely save the battle that day, and kept the Ducha Rebellion from becoming a major war like the old Blood Line Civil War of Queen Zelda and Lord Toran’s reign. This distinguished him, and the Elders considered bestowing upon Jeedtha the honor of eldership. However, “General” Morious, the commander at Beldia Glade, reported the victory as his, and Jeedtha as costing many lives with his disobedience. Nira was furious, and demanded that the Elders strip Jeedtha of all rank and title. The Shiekah serve Hyrule, and the Elders felt they had no choice. Jeedtha saved the battle, but lost his chance at eldership, his position as a Master and teacher, and, in HIS mind, his honor. He never lost his zest, but something died in Jeedtha that day… his pride was gone.

After that day, I would not see Jeedtha again, not even at the last fateful battle of the Zora Revolt. However, I know he was there, among the forward skirmagers. From the pieces I was able to put together from the lay of the bodies and the tales of the Hylian infantry that fought alongside him, I think Jeedtha died in the initial charge. I found his body along with the fallen the footmen were the first engagement would have made contact. He had been felled by a sword to the lower chest, probably a Hylian who couldn’t reach the taller Shiekah’s head. It was a common enough death for a warrior, Shiekah or otherwise. After death, Jeedtha was reinstated as a Master, for his skill in the arts, primarily the Vendi Style and the Hylian Pike.

So died Master Jeedtha of the Plains Shiekah, last of his clan. He died with nobility and courage. Disgruntled in life, he received honor in death and rests in the Void remembered by his successors.

Master Reef, Lore Crafter of the Far Rock Clan

It is unusual for a Shiekah to study our lore, or magic as you might call it, to the exclusion of all other arts. Some Elders have come to devote their lives to Spell Weaving, or Lore Craft as we called it, but that is only after years of mastering other arts. Reef, however, was not like other Shiekah. At a mere twelve winters, Reef fell during what should have been a normal jumping exercise. Normally, a Shiekah would have been able to land the fall, but that day the rocks were wet from a rare rainstorm over Greudo Valley and Reef’s foot slipped. He shattered his shin, and twisted his knee horribly. The healers of the Far Rock Clan set the leg and, had fate been on his side, Reef might have healed completely. Fate however, chose bring the local noble house of Sethida into conflict with a Greudo Thieve Din. Duke Sarpha demanded every Shiekah ten winters and older search out and destroy the din, and the Far Rock Clan was the only to fall in his land. Reef helped search on a leg barely fit to hold weight for nearly three days and nights.

Far Rock healers were able to save Reef from complete lameness, but he would require a special made brace to stand and walk; a thin pole that ran from his heal up to be strapped just above his knee. He eventually became accustom to it enough that he could hide his injury from most. He could walk, even had some limited fighting ability, but it was clear he would never be a master of any normal art.

It was five winters to the day after the fall when I met Reef. Even at such a young age, he was already gaining a reputation as a noted Lore Crafter. At our first meeting Reef was wearing a lose fit ninja suit; unusual for day-to-day activities, though I suspect he wore it to hide his leg brace under the shin wraps. Violet eyes were not as common among the Far Rock Clan, but Reef had them, along with straight hair as black as pitch. He wore his hair long, pulled into tail that fell to his mid-back, but with forelocks that neatly framed his face. Reef, as I found, had always been a bit of a lady-killer. In fact, there were two pretty girls hovering over him the whole time I was with him. He was as smooth and dark as he looked, and I would soon come to number him among my friends.

I was visiting the Far Rock with the Elders, who were there to review Reef for the mastership of the Shadow Art Sokinda. As the youngest master present, I had been chosen to stand against him in the evaluation ring. He was still in the ninja tunic, pants and wraps… it was obvious I was testing a Lore Crafter. I remember he moved so fast. I barely blinked and Reef’s arms curled up, palms towards me. Something that looked like a mixture between shadows and wires shot out at me. It was something I had seen before, but never from someone that young. I was able to overcome Reef after a battle that I am not likely to forget, but it was enough for myself and the Elders. Reef would become a master, and at a mere fifteen winters. Only myself, and my ancestor the great Mistress Impa, had received the honor at a younger age.

After the ceremony that officially recognized Reef’s mastery of Lore Craft, I was able to spend more time with him. He was only three winters younger than myself, and we soon bound as comrades. That was the summer Master Jeedtha had been removed from teaching, and as both he and I felt I sufficiently learned the Hylian Pike, I decided to stay on at the Far Rock and learn what I could of the Sokinda Art from Master Reef. I would study under Master Reef for a full two summers, and came to know him very well.

Reef rose to prominence quickly, but would burn out just as fast. Perhaps it was the way the Hylian Empire had cost him a leg, perhaps it was a keen insight into the nature of Queen Nira, perhaps it was the time of study he spent in the forsaken south lands of Turmina… I do not know the reasons, but Reef was one of the first Shiekah to join in openly supporting the Zora Revolt. I wish I could have had the chance to ask him, to see what had motivated him to follow the handful of Shiekah clans that tried to change the course of Hyrule’s bloody descent, but he, like all the others, died that sad, bloody day.

In actuality, it was another Shiekah, Master Tife of the Palace Shiekah, which killed him. Reef had been on a rise overlooking the battle, but out of action along with the other members of the Zora king’s war council. I believe he had exhausted much of his strength shrouding an entire division of troops as they moved into place, normally the work of several Elders, and was resting to regain his focus. Master Tife, a ninja by training, and his small band had been dispatched to take out the Zora war council. Master Tife was the best at what he did, and while what he did was not pretty, it was efficient. The Zora would be lost without their Shiekah, so Master Tife’s first target was Master Reef and his fellows. There was a brief struggle, but Master Reef and his students were Lore Crafters, completely unable to match the ninja in combat.

And so it was that Master Reef of the Far Rock Clan died, along with ten students of the Sokinda Shadow Art. Together they composed the last of the Far Rock Clan. They died estranged from the eldership as Rebel Shiekah. Master Reef was a good friend, and dedicated to his principles. I lament the fate that places us against each other for the last Shiekah battles.

Mistress Githa, Takada Master of the River Clan

Takada is a hard art to master, but Githa was a hard woman. In many ways she was like the legendary Mistress Impa; strong, powerful, dark, yet with a gentleness that could shine through in rare moments. Mistress Githa’s clan, like many of the River Shiekah, was constantly moving, migrating slowly from the source of Zora River, all the way to Lake Hylia, and then back over the course of the year. For this reason, Takada is an art few out of the River Clans study. More a miscellany of countless other fighting styles than a true art itself, Takada is specifically geared to help the boat-riding fighter… to the best of my knowledge there is even a branch that specializes in combat while swimming.

I have a vague memory of seeing Mistress Githa as a young boy, while at Lake Hylia. She would have seen nearly twenty-five winters by that point, and was a noted student of her discipline. I think I has been wandering off alone to avoid being drug into a meaningless conversation with some of my more superficial Hylian relatives, when I stumbled over her practicing in the seclusion of our clan’s field. She was running through a practice routine… kicking, jabbing, and moving with graceful fluid motions. Kicks barrowed from the Zora, hooks stolen from the Gordons, poise and balance of a Shiekah… at the time I would have had no idea of the true beauty I was witnessing. However, my sister found me shortly after running across Githa in the field, and drew me back to the house where I was drug into the very conversation I had been trying to avoid.

I would next see Mistress Githa when we both were completing the formal trails for the degree rank of master nearly ten winters later. After the trials, I spent some time with Mistress Githa, and despite the difference in our ages, we connected quite well. When we parted ways, I counted her as my friend, and felt sure she called me one as well.

Mistress Githa would never become an Elder and, though I heard about her while traveling with the Elders, we would never cross path again. Even at the final battle of our people, on the bloody entrance to the Zora Domain, she and I were never near each other.

Short two

Sorry everybody... this has been done for a bit but I got busy...

Toran’s companion was obviously enjoying the downpour that was now soaking the two riders. They were still moving at a quick pace, but the enigmatic Shiekah would still hold out his hands to catch drops whenever possible. At one point he actually gave an odd chuckle and smirked over at the close by Toran. It was a strangely reminiscent of someone… but Toran could put a finger on whom. Thinking back, he really hadn’t known all that many Shiekah, so maybe it was someone else… not Link… maybe Draq? Toran hadn’t thought of that name in almost eight years, but suddenly memories came back. Draq… his brother had been Scela, the current palace surgeon… and there had been Plarth, Marcum, Juthia, and so many others… Din, he could even dig up a few happy memories of Keef now that his mind was to it (well, at least not intolerable ones…).

The two riders had gone on for another two hours when Toran began to recognize some of the scenery. They were quickly approaching the sweeping cliff walls that rose up into the mountain range that framed the eastern and northern boarders of Hyrule. And not just any section of the cliffs either… they were traveling towards a very specific location. Even in the rain, Toran was recognizing old landmarks he hadn’t seen in years. Rocks, hillocks, dips… no doubt about it, they were headed right for the gang’s old cave hideout. Of course, Toran had to remind himself, there would not actually be a hideout there now. Their little rebel team had never really existed at all, nor had base… Gannondorf’s reign had been totally obliterated from the fabric of this world, destroyed by Link, Zelda, himself, and those few brave others. The thought of it sent a bolt of pride through him like nothing since he had entered his new role as “Lord Toran.” There had once been a time when he had been Toran of the Village Well, swordsman and servant of the last Hylian Royal. Rather than deciding where to send troops scurrying, he had actually followed the trouble, katana in hand. Well, Zelda had always claimed that, to the contrary, the TROUBLE followed HIM… at least fate had blessed him with more than a little martial skill to keep himself and those he loved alive.

Those he loved! His sister!

Toran glanced back to the Shiekah, only to find the man shaking slightly, right hand over his mouth as his red eyes studied the reminiscing king. Toran started to ask what was wrong, then realized the man was laughing… no, not even laughing; he was GIGGLING! Glowering, Toran pointed ahead of them, hazel eyes narrowing to highlight his anger.
“If you don’t mind, my sister-”
“Is perfectly fine,” the Shiekah finished, giving a dismissive wave, “her message was for the benefit of a mutual friend, who also is in no danger,” he quickly finished, obviously seeing a second protest forming on Toran face. For his part, Toran was beginning to grow slightly uneasy about the Shiekah riding with him. Something was definitely not right about his whole demeanor… he had only ever known one Shiekah this un-Shiekah like, and she ended up being Hylian after all.

Then he remember the time Zelda had been asking Impa how the empire should best deal with a certain house, no, clan, or faction, however it was the Shiekah divided themselves… he could not remember all the details, at the time it had apparently been purely a diplomatic affair and ergo Zelda’s domain… something called the Rebel Shiekah… It had to do with disputes about Royal House succession, but that was all he knew…

By now they were at the cave entrance and Toran divorced the thoughts from his mind long enough to take in the old, yet familiar, view of hideout entrance. It seemed as though some had gone through the trouble of recreating the fake bush and rock door that had hidden the entrance for his old team. In fact, it was close enough to be nearly identical. Holding a hand to his forehead in a vain attempt to keep the pouring rain out of his eyes, Toran surveyed the entrance. It was uncanny… a perfect likeness.

His companion had dismounted and was walking towards the cave, so Toran followed suit. He would be wary of his new “friend,” but concern was beginning to outweigh that. If this person did mean him harm, then he had to have gotten Jistine’s necklace by an equally nefarious ploy. He needed more information. Drawing his katana, Toran stepped in the door.

The small, round room looked the same as ever. Table in the center, lone flickering candle on it illuminating the room, domed rock ceiling… as though he had just stepped into his mind, burying himself into his memories. Stepping into the room, Toran laid his hand on the wooden table and closed his eyes, feeling a surge of past dreams flood over him.

“I told you it was a warp point…”

Toran whirled at the sound, katana whipping out. The blade stopped just shy of slicing the Shiekah’s throat, actually resting against his Adam’s Apple… or rather where his Adam’s Apple SHOULD have been. Wait a second…

Toran started, looking up and down his companion. “He” was leaning back against the door, smirking, arms crossed over chest, one hip tossed slightly to the side. Now that Toran had a closer look in better light, he noticed the short Shiekah’s legs had been slightly proportionally longer than he had at first thought. The figure was slightly shapelier as well… either he spent a massively disproportionate amount of time working on lower body and pectorals, or he was, in fact…

Toran’s eyes quickly raised to the face. It had changed ever so slightly, to a degree that Toran couldn’t even name what exactly was the difference. Parts were sharper, shades were thinner, the nose had altered slightly… nothing had changed drastically, but the entire thing was completely different. One of the thin yellow eyebrows arched, as the other narrowed, red eyes perfectly matching the smirk pulling at the thin lips.

How had he not seen it before?

“Shiek?” Toran lowered his sword, but kept it in front… what if were just another dream?
“Been too long since anyone’s call me that,” the giggle was like the tinkle of a fairy’s wings, “but I see we’re not fully convinced? Go ahead, ask me something only Shiek would know…”
“When did we first-”
“Night after Malon’s 18th birthday, we had spent the day riding all over the plains with her and Link… we snuck back into the palace, and I wouldn’t let you say goodbye.”
“How did you know I was going to ask-” Toran began, head cocking to one side.
“Toran, I’m your wife…” a smile pulled at her lips as the arms uncrossed and her hands moved to her hips, “plus, you only ever think about one thing anyway…”

Normally Toran might have argued the point, but at that moment he was more interested in the woman before him. He opened his mouth to ask how she had arranged this, but the words never came; he was too preoccupied with the fact that the woman in question had stepped in and grabbed the sides of his head, pulling him into a kiss. Toran was fairly certain he had just lost control of fine-motor skills, and the sound of his katana ringing as it fell to the floor confirmed the theory. Of course, he almost missed the metallic clatter under the pounding, rushing sound that was now dominating his ears. His hands slipped slowly around Zelda’s waist, pulling her tighter as she continued to push up to his mouth. Zelda had let her hands slip down around Toran’s neck. After a few seconds that seemed to last an eternity, Toran pulled back to take in a breath. Giving a sigh, the blond head slipped into the crook between his chin and shoulder, her arms slipping from around his neck to push under his arms and around his sides, until her fingers were massaging at the tunic on his shoulder blades. Her hair ticked slightly, but Toran really didn’t mind at all.

“Sorry to trick you like that, but I thought we should both get away for a bit,” the queen murmured, obviously enjoying the hug Toran had her in.
“What do you mean?” Toran asked, letting the fingers of his hand begin to play with the end of Zelda’s long, yellow braid.
“Well, look at you… you got all dressed up in adventuring gear and strapped on your katana and set out yourself, when you could have just as easily donned armor, your crown and two paladins to fight for you… you’re itching to do something as Toran the swordsman, not Lord Toran, don’t think I don’t know it!”

She had him there… He had enjoyed even just riding about that he had even forgotten to worry about his supposedly endangered sister. Which brought up the question about the necklace… Wife or no, Zelda wasn’t supposed to have it any more than some random Shiekah. However, she only laughed and laid her head back on his shoulder when he asked.
“Jistine gave it to be because we were both afraid we were losing you… she wanted us to have this time as much, maybe even more, than I did. She’s your sister, Toran, and has been my best friend since before I met you for the first or second time… she saw the situation as an emergency ‘ever so much greater than life itself’,” Zelda ended with a very fair rendition of Jistine’s Akinda accent. Toran chuckled, and gave his wife a little squeeze.
“Watch it, she’s my sister you know…”

Zelda forced Toran to take a seat at the table, then moved over to the food chest near the wall of the round room. She returned, setting a small plate of dried figs and a sliced apple in front of him, then sat down in the room’s other chair and proceeded to give him her plan for the upcoming “adventure.” Apparently, she had already informed Impa of the proceedings. The Shiekah Elder had, of course, expressed concern over the safety of her ward and step-daughter, but it was hard to argue that anything in Hyrule was more likely to be dangerous than what she had already survived. Ainee would be “severing” the royal couple, sick in bed, for the next two days, and Impa would, with official written permission from Zelda, be handling emergency affairs. She was not only wise, but widely respected and trusted, so everything should proceed smoothly.

“As for US,” Zelda concluded, taking a bite of apple slice, “tomorrow, we’ll be heading south. The palace gets about two hundred letters a day by way of suits of injustice I am supposed to look over. Normally the Legal Guild deals with them, but I selected one about a hostile ranch take over for you and I to go settle personally. We’ll just check it out, and if the rancher really has suffered an injustice, will have fun righting it. If not, then we can move on to the next one I picked out… We’ll be in disguise and do it all ‘wandering adventurer’ style.”
“Still trying to keep the Saga of Shiek going, eh?” Toran laughed, picking up the last fig before Zelda got a chance.
“You got it!” she replied, standing, “and I’ll be using magic to alter your looks as well, Toran… I figured black hair and sapphire eyes will do the trick…”
“Just so long as I don’t have to change genders as well…” he ribbed back. Zelda laughed hard at this, harder than Toran had heard in nearly a year. The sound was worth more than all the rupees in Hyrule to him. Leaning forward, he placed a gentle kiss on her forehead.

“It sounds WONDERFUL Zel, thank you so much for bringing me out here…”
“Well, I didn’t marry you for money you goof… I love you, and this kind of thing was what first got us together.”
“Well, that covers the next two days,” Toran said, smiling as he brushed back some lose strands of hair from Zelda face, “but we have a bit until dawn…” he left the question unstated, merely raising his eyebrows.
“When I said this place was a Warp Point, I was stretching the truth slightly,” Zelda said, raising and taking his hand, “I wanted it to Warp us through time… to those lost years… I can’t REALLY do it of course, but I had the place set up as close as I could make out. My old room is the same,” she explained, pointing towards a door at the far side of the room, “I’ll be honest, over those long seven years there was more than one night I dreamed of you joining me in there…”
“There were a hell of a lot more time I actually wanted to,” Toran replied, smirking. He knew in reality he hadn’t viewed Shiek in that way until near the end of their time together, but for tonight that was trivial…
“Well, I’m going into my bed… and THIS time I have a husband who can hopefully keep me from needing to dream… come on in whenever!”

With this, Zelda entered her room, letting the door close. Toran heard her humming the familiar tune of the lullaby Impa used to sing her, just like she had done every night since he had first met the skinny, tomboyish princess that would become his very heart and soul. Looking around the round room once, Toran remember all his friends one more time. Hyrule was a land built from courage, adventure, and nobility… what better way for its ruler to relax than this? No wonder Zel was the Sage of Wisdom…

Giving a contented sigh, Toran grabbed the handle of Shiek’s room…

Sunday, April 29, 2007

A happier short (part one)

For Leeann since she wanted a "happier" one... same set of circumstances, but a slightly different approach on how the people involved might react. Which do you guys think fits better with Seven Years/Before there was Light?

Happily Ever After, alternate take

Toran surveyed his bedroom with a satisfaction he knew was probably unwarranted. Every day a servant girl named Litham cleaned the room from top to bottom, and every day Toran did his best to ensure the girl was kept employed. Litham might find his messy life style aggravating, but Toran knew for a fact it was the only reason that she was still on staff... and her only relative was her nearly dead grandmother... why, it'd be a shame to live a clearer lifestyle... cause a young girl and her grandmother to starve, what kind of king could do that?

Besides, in all honesty, he really had no time to keep the richly furnished room clean. He was only just out of the exceedingly long war meeting, and dawn was scant hours away. As he surveyed the room, Toran glanced to the empty bed and sighed. Zelda up late again... he had pleaded with her to get to bed early tonight, and she had promised to make an effort, but domestic problems more often than not took precedent over sleep for the dedicated queen.

"Narue love you Zel..." Toran murmured, walking to the bed, "if there was some way to make your life easer I'd go for it..."
But he knew there wasn't. Many, many nights ago, Impa had warned him this would happen. Apparently her husband, Lord Fiate had been every bit as dedicated to making life better for his subjects. It was good for a nation, but hard on the ruler.

The door opened behind him, and Toran glanced over his shoulder to see a servant boy. His pretty, large, eyes looked as though sleep should have visited them hours ago. Most likely it was the page attending Zelda in the audience chamber, sent to inform him not to wait up for his wife. Sighing again, Toran turned and nodded.
"Sir, a message for you... a young man is waiting for you in the outer court."
"A man?" If this was Link, so help him...
"Plain Shiekah clothing... he said it was a matter of utmost urgency."
Toran nodded and dismissed the boy with a wave. A Plain Shiekah? That could not bode well... perhaps it was just word dissent among one of the Clans, though more like it would be something much darker for the respect driven people to call him forth at this hour. Slipping a reddish brown tunic over his white shirt and hose, Toran chose his brown riding boots and a sturdy belt. It was something comfortable and utilitarian, things he enjoyed at this hour of the morning, and things a Shiekah would value as much as pomp and grandeur.

The night was warm, but rain was obviously looming. It seemed as though a good old-fashion Hylian storm was brewing. Toran smiled slightly as he looked up to the dark cloudy sky... Zel would have killed to be out in this. He walked across the grass of the outer court, tying on a green cloth headband to keep his lank hair out of his face. He had used to feel unselfconscious about it when first arriving at the palace, but he had found out that Lord Fiate had nearly always wore one as well, and officially crushed his hesitancies.

It was dark, but Toran soon spotted the Shiekah near the hidden back entrance to the palace grounds. He was standing with his back to Toran, asumedly gazing intently up at the sky. A slender white horse was next to the Shiekah, obviously bread for speed rather than as a war charger. Toran approached, adjusting the shoulder belt that kept his katana strapped to his back. He wasn't really sure why he had grabbed it... it wasn't as though he'd be needing it. Not that he didn't miss saving people in a more direct fashion, but no one, not even one of the Shiekah, walked into Hyrule Palace and expected the king to rush off and help save distressed farm children.

The Shiekah must have heard him approach, for he glanced quickly over his shoulder. the normal high collar over the mouth and nose obscured most of the Shiekah's face, but the red eyes were viable, along with the yellow bangs that stuck out over the face. The rest of the hair fell into a single long braid that fell to about mid back. After giving Toran a quick look, the Shiekah returned to gazing up at the sky. The horse pawed at the ground softly, and Toran came closer.

"A restless night," his odd voice murmured, "there was a time when no king of Hyrule would dare sleep on such a vespers."

"There was also a time," Toran responded, stopping just out of striking range, "when no Shiekah would dare stand with his back turned to a Hylian monarch... has the vaunted respect of the Shiekah Clans been forgotten by those of the plains?"
"Time is too precious tonight to squander it on formality," the Shiekah replied, pointing to the horse, "I took the liberty of fetching you a horse from the stables, mine awaits just outside... please hurry."
"I do not even know why you are here," Toran ventured, hand ever so slightly moving to draw the katana. He was by now very greatful of its presence.
"There are Plain Shiekah near your family's estates... the Akinda House... because I am fastest in the clan I was sent to bring you there tonight. Now, we must hurry."
"Forgive me if I require some proof..." Toran growled, falling into his ready stance.
"Of course..." the Shiekah turned and held out a surprisingly slender hand. However, it was what lay in the open palm that caught Toran's eye. A fine gold chain, with a small pendant, dominated by a hazel emerald. Toran recognized it instantly. He had given it to his sister Jistine many, many years ago, and had promised her that if anyone ever showed it to him, he would instantly come to her. It was a signal, something that not even Zelda had known about.

Reaching out, Toran snatched the necklace almost violently away.
"Where is Jistine, what has happened?"
"Fear not for her safety, only ride with me quickly to your family hunting lodge... there is little time left!"
Toran no longer need a second bidding. He had to go, and fast. Even if Jistine's life was not in danger, she would not have send away the necklace idly. Still, his wife...
"I will have to send a message to Queen Zelda, she will be worried at my absence..."
"I had arranged for that ahead of time," the young Shiekah replied, and Toran almost thought he heard a smirk in the words, "the REAL power behind Hyrule's throne will of course be kept informed..."
"Irritating Shiekah," Troan muttered to himself, taking the horse's reins to led it outside.

The Shiekah's black horse was of a similar build to the Toran now mounted. He had noticed on closer inspection that the horse the man had "borrowed" for him was, in fact, Snowmane, his wife's favorite ride for over Hyrule's rolling plains. As the two began to gallop forward, Toran pulled next to the Shiekah messenger.
"So, what is this all about?"
"Do not worry about the details just yet," the figure was shrouded a bit in the cloudy night, "no one is hurt, but someone might be if your aid arrives too late!"
Toran bit back a frustrated reply. For a messenger, the Shiekah was annoyingly vague. Not to mention surprisingly discurtious... true the only Shiekah he knew on any real level were Impa and Aniee, but neither of them would ever act like this. Anee might be sweeter than the dark Mistress of the Taraja Art, but even she was always polite and unassuming.

"Could I at least cry your name?" Toran at last growled, fighting down his frustration.
"Would you recognize it?"
The reply took Toran aback, but it made some sense. Growling again, he turned his attention back to the horse.

The Akinda Family Hunting Lodge was a good three day's ride from the palace. Toran did not know if the Shiekah with him expected them to go it nonstop, but he was worried about his sister and more than up for that challenge. However, shortly before dawn, his Shiekah companion pulled his horse's reigns up, drawing to a halt. Toran followed suit, then walked his horse over the other rider. The figure looked out to the east, at a blood red dawn. Whistling in a concerned manner, the figure glanced back up to the cloudy sky.

"We should strike out straight east here..."
"That's not the way," Toran replied, taken aback.
"We are not headed to your hunting lodge," the Sheikah replied, "a large storm is coming that will slow us too much. We need to get to a hidden warp point near here..."
"Warp points?" Toran mumbled to himself, "haven't heard of any of those being around since my lost years..."
"Come, time is still short!" The shiekah called, kicking his horse to movement.
Sighing for the hundredth time that night, Toran followed, even as the rain began to trickle from the sky.

Friday, April 13, 2007

A Short Story

Because I'm not getting any inspiration for my real stories and can't get to sleep...

Closing his eyes, Hythe let his hands drift up, right one not far from his chin, the other level but extended out slightly. All his muscles were relaxed, yet ready to spring into action with the fluidity and grace of flowing water when called upon. His knees were bent ever so slightly, weight fading more on his back right leg, yet not so much to prevent quick movement to all angles. It was textbook Sharenda posture, the fighting style his clan had used for generations. Taking a deep breath, Hythe launched into the kata.

"You are of the House of Comvarda... the blood of Hyrule's greatest kings flows through your veins. Nobility, honor, poise, courage... these virtues are not optional for one of your station. Fate dictates what destiny awaits each man, but it is up to you to decide what you will do with that fate... I trust my son will not disappoint..."

Hythe's right hand ball into a fist as it fell waist level, left arm whipping up and around in a blocking motion. He then shifted his forward left leg back, right arm puylling up and around in a second blocking strike. Sliding into a more squared stance, Hythe's left arm shot out, chest high for the blow. He pulled back the arm immediately, crossing with a right straight at chin height. At this point he would have fulfilled the basics of the defensive kata, but he was well beyond basics. Flipping into a back hand spring, Hythe landed in a pitcher perfect image of his original starting stance. This time however, the right hand whipped out and around for the block, left leg sliding back as he did so. The left arm crossed in a blocking strike as soon as the right had finished passing in front of his body, even as his legs bent into the horse stance. Hythe paused only a moment, to find the center in this new position. Legs squared, weight equally distributed over them, arms a few inches from his sides, bent at the elbows so his fist were straight out before him... classic Horse Stance.

"You a brother of the Comvarda Clan. Mistress Aniee, Master Gijen, Master Kaji, Master Bratek, and even the great Mistress Impa are among your ancestors. There is no room for weaklings amongst the Shiekah, and even less in our clan. You will become a master, and you will become an elder... or you WILL bring shame on us all."

Hythe eyes opened for the first time. Defense be damned... it was time to show what he was made of. Giving a cry, Hythe's right fist shot out in a fluid strike of razor precision and measured strength. As the right pulled back, Hythe let his left fist strike forward, this time not pausing as long after the strike before pulling back to his stance. There was form... now came speed. With a few sharp cries to punctuate the movements, Hythe's hands flew into level punches so fast it was a blur even to his own eyes. As soon as his rythem had been established, the combinations began. Only slight variations, a hint of hook and twist to the blows that continued to pulmult the imaginary spot in the air before him, but it was enough to show some diversity. After a barrage of the lighting fast combo, Hythe decided the time had come to surprise the ones watching his every lithe movement. His hands continued their fast paced attack, even as he shifted from the open Horse Stance back into the angled Sharenda Stance. Whipping about suddenly, Hythe launched into a flurry of kicks, their form, speed, and precision all at a level beyond anyone watching could have possibly suspected. And Hythe knew all too well just what was expected...

"The Hero Line, you idiot... why, Link, Reese, Zinus, Cajus... you know, the ones the peasants tell bed time stories about? Their our ancestors, all of them. Well, brother, that means either you or I get to be the Hero this time around, and there is no way in Dark Void I'm gonna lose to an idiot like you... but just try to keep us from looking bad..."

It had all been perfection to this point, even beyond perfection, but that wasn't enough. He had to do more! Was he not Hythe Comvarda, descendant of kings? Was he not Hythe, best of the Comvarda Clan? Was he not Sir Hythe, inheritor of the Hero Legacy? He would not be constrained to anyone else's pathetic view of "perfection!"

Falling back again, Hythe adopted the Taraja Stance of his clan's long dead ancestors. There had been several "masters" of the art, but not since the death of Mistress Impa had there been a true master of the most deadly art in the Shiekah training. He actually heard the ripple of a murmur spread through the ones watching him. Of course they were suprised... who would dare risk jeprodizing their Eldership Evaluations over an Art long considered dead?

Only the greatest would have tried it... and Hythe Comvarda needed, had to be, no, WAS the greatest.

"The time has come to face reality as fate has presented it... your sister will be no true master of any Art..."
"Her injuries were too great, and though her Spirit Force might help her remain a Sage, she could never take on the burden of Hero..."
"You will be the one who will represent Comvarda Clan at the Master Trials next season, our soul student."
"Son, I urge you to earn your mother's love, and my respect..."

Fijin, Ran Hook, Jab, Jab, Straight Left Jab, Straight Right Jab, Left Hook, Right Hook, Ran Hook again, Snap Kick, Head Kick Follow, Rijin, Whirlwind Strike, Nerve Jab, Jab, Jab, Jab, Roundhouse, Back Hand Spring... the bare fact that he had made it this far with flawless execution was something that caused the watching Masters and Elders rise to their feet. But now the time had come to show them all something that the Shiekah would speak of only in whispers for years to come... he would complete the full Taraja kata. Shifting all his weight back onto his right foot, Hythe's right hand fell back to waist level, left out in front. Closing his eyes Hythe stilled his soul for a millisecond that seemed to last a lifetime. He just had to channel that power... out of his soul... down his arm... into the fist as it hooked forward... Just that, and his father might respect him... his mother might love him... his life might actually be worth something... And he did it. The small, tell-tail whiff of Spirit Force steam drifting off the hand let everyone who had reasonably quick eyes know...

Hythe had just become the first Shiekah to preform the Kensi Strike in over two hundred years.

They no longer waited in silence... this was not something to be ignored. The brothers, sisters, and even some of the master and mistresses, were either slamming their fists on the stone, yelling out in surprise and excitement, or pointing wildly off, as if to draw attention to the very thing everyone was watching.

Hythe whipped the right arm out and around, left swinging out in a blocking motion. A useless part of the kata... as if anyone could actually survive a direct Kensi Strike... and then it was over, back into the starting possession. The Shiekah watching him screamed in excitement. The few Hylians around were more reserved, obviously hesitant about the stir this act had caused in the gathered warriors (and obviously relieved that Hythe was in fact a member of one of their OWN Noble Houses).

And there it was... he was now Hero, Master, Elder, and Prince... everything that was require of him.

Yet somehow, standing before the hullabaloo he had just caused, Hythe still felt empty...