Wages of Sin
"For the wages of sin is death…"
Vaati made his way down the dark hallway, dreading every step that brought him closer to him. The walls were draped with paintings of old kings and queens that once lived in the palace, a palace almost destroyed by the uprising many years ago. People think they know what they want; that a Republic would open a new world and a new way of life for the citizens of Hyrule. Everyone always wanted change, no matter how good they had it. They could be the richest, most powerful fools in the land and they would still cry out for Change! Political riots for change weren't the result of poor living conditions or maltreatment – they were the direct result of boredom.
But since when did people give a damn who reigns as long as they're comfortable?
Once the famine hit, people blamed the king and queen for their plight, that the shortage of food was a direct result of their decisions as monarchs. Things went downhill from there… but not for Vaati until recently.
They probably even think the revolt was their idea.
Vaati turned the corner and finally arrived at his destination. A long wooden door hand-carved with intricate designs stood before him. He suddenly wished he had taken his time in getting here. He reached out to take the handle but then cursed when pain shot up his right hand. He held it up, while spitting out every fowl word he could think of. His trigger finger was completely gone, replaced by a bloody stump that still hurt like hell. The bandage was firmly wrapped around it, having just begun to heal. Still muttering, he reached out with his other hand and yanked the door open.
The room was dim with the only light coming from the small candle on the far side of the room. A lone figure sat in a chair, facing away from the doorway and Vaati almost turned on his heel and ran out. But cowardice wouldn't save him.
He stepped into the room taking slow, cautious steps. He placed his left hand on the revolver at his hip, giving him a small sense of comfort. His mind ran through the many excuses he'd planned to use for this moment but all seemed ridiculous now that he was here.
Then, the figure in the chair spoke in a half whisper from across the room.
Vaati shifted nervously on his feet. "I can explain. The bitch had help, and I…"
The figure held up a hand and Vaati immediately cut off, not daring to speak.
"The contract… is broken…"
Vaati spoke up, gaining confidence. "It doesn't matter, we know who the last–"
"SILENCE," the voice hissed.
Vaati shut his mouth, having second thoughts about how much mercy he will be shown. He took a step back making up his mind to make a break for it. Then the figure in the chair stood. He felt almost paralyzed to the spot and tried to get his legs to start moving. He was going to die! He didn't want to die!
He started to slowly pull out his revolver, but his hand was shaking so much he could hardly get the flap off. But, to his surprise, the figure spoke.
"This will be the last time I clean up your mess…"
The snake-like voice made his skin crawl, but the words brought a great pang of relief. He took his hand off the gun and let out a shaky breath. He was being spared.
"Yes sir. I'll finish the job." He turned on his heel and began making his way towards the exit, counting every step. But before he could reach the door, he heard a faint movement behind him and realized, all too late, that the lord was not referring to the mess in Kakiri. Whirling around, the last thing Vaati, the notorious gang member, saw was the end of a barrel.
. . .
Zelda clutched the letter tightly, not believing what she was reading. This was simply not happening. Her hands shook in anger and she was half tempted to start screaming at the nearest bystander. She crumpled up the piece of paper and threw it in the hearth, though she knew that wouldn't solve a damn thing.
She couldn't believe it. They had no right!
She paced the county jailhouse where she worked and had been appointed Sheriff of Kokiri for the past several years. Zelda had lived in this district all her life and earned her right to become Sheriff. There was no way the government was taking that from her and appointing some fancy official to run the town. Kokiri was just about the only district in all Hyrule that wasn't controlled by the higher-ups. They had stayed away from the politics and the mob and, so far, that was suiting them just fine. The town was self-sustaining with its small businesses and farms to support itself, allowing it to and stay away from the world slowly being taken over by corrupted officials.
"DAMN IT TO HELL!"
The letter was clear. She had two weeks to get her affairs in order and resign as Sheriff of Kokiri before she was replaced. Apparently she lacked training and experience as a sheriff and, therefore, was unsuitable for the position. The hell she did!
Grabbing her jacket and her badge, she stomped out into the cold weather and made her way towards the mayor's office. Surely he could do something, maybe write a letter to the Senator or whoever was in charge of the decision to replace her.
She plowed through the snow that covered the ground, not caring that the icy wind bit into her skin like pinpricks. The winters in Hyrule were harsh and more often than not, a blizzard presented itself unannounced and people were forced to stay indoors.
Zelda finally arrived at the small house near the edge of the town. Not bothering to knock, she strolled in and found the mayor sitting patiently at his desk, writing letters and running the town's business. He looked up, not surprised to see her and she knew that he was already aware of the situation.
"They can't do this," she ground out.
"They can and they will," the mayor said while turning back to his letter. Zelda walked up and place both palms flat on the desk.
"So do something. Tell them to keep their damn noses out of our business." The mayor sighed before giving Zelda back his full attention.
"You know I don't have authority to do that. The one giving the order holds more power than just a mayor in the next town over. He has control and influence. Probably politically related."
Zelda narrowed her eyes. "Then it is the Senator."
The mayor sat back while rubbing his chin in thought. "I wouldn't be surprised if he had his hand in it. He's been trying to gain a better grasp on Hyrule since his election. Not to mention he owns half the major corporations and businesses in the country. I have no doubt law enforcement falls under that category."
Zelda slammed a fist down in a fit of anger. She could feel her knuckles turning white as she clutched her fingers together in a tight grip. She really needed do something about her temper. After, of course, she got her job back.
Taking a deep breath, she tried to squelch her emotions. "Okay."
Standing up straight she took off her hat before running a hand through her tangled hair.
"I'll just have to speak to the Senator myself," she said while taking out her pistol.
At this the mayor started. He opened his mouth to speak after recovering from the shock of her suggestion, "That is out of the question! It's impossible to gain an audience with the Senator, unless you have direct business with him, so you will have to approach him another way. Do you have any idea how dangerous it would to threaten the Senator – which I have no doubt you will – and demand that he give in to your demands? You might as well put a bullet through your temple and save yourself the trouble of being tortured to death."
Zelda spun the cylinder of her gun as she replied, "Come on, Mayor. Would the Senator really attack a defenseless woman, like me?"
The mayor scoffed at her calm, but fake reply. "I would rather take a on a five-hundred pound Darknut than go against you. But the Senator has friends. Powerful friends, who no doubt use Darknuts as their foot stools."
Zelda replaced the gun in its holster.
"That's a risk I'm willing to take."
The mayor glared, "But I'm not. What would I do if– "
Zelda held up a hand to silence him.
"I'm sorry mayor, but soon I wont be taking orders from you anyways." She took a breath before continuing. "This job is my life. It's all I have left of my dad. You know I wouldn't give it up in a million years."
The mayor looked into her pleading eyes and saw a glimpse of the woman who hid so well behind her tough nature. Though he loved her like a daughter and tried desperately to get through to her, he knew that those walls filled with pride and distance might someday be her undoing.
He sighed in defeat, "A fools errand to try and change your mind. But I had to try, sweetheart."
Zelda nodded, "Thank you."
She placed her hat back on her head and turned to leave. "Don't worry mayor," she consoled while reaching for the door handle.
"The Senator wont know what's coming to him." Zelda then pulled the door open and stepped out to leave.
"I think you should wait for him."
This made Zelda stop cold in her tracks, half-way out the door. Six months have passed since the incident with the Five-brothers and there hasn't been trouble from them since. Nor has she heard anything from the man who saved her from her worst nightmare.
"He's not coming back."
"He said he would."
She still had her back to him, but the mayor could picture the deep frown decorating her face.
"I'm not waiting for him. I never was." And with that she walked out, slamming the door as she left.
. . .
The icy wind bit into his skin, it's unforgiving nature relentless as he lifted one foot after another through the dense snow covering the ground. He had been traveling for days on foot trying to make his way towards the huge fortress in the Northern lands. He had to leave Epona behind, knowing that she would not survive a trip through the snowy mountains during winter. The blizzards were fierce during the season especially in the Northern parts of Hyrule. If Link hadn't trekked this path a hundred times and knew all the warmest resting places along the way, he would have froze to death about a week ago.
Now, after days of traveling he could finally make out the high walls and the gray stones of the castle built on the side of the great mountain. A coldness settled over him that had little to do with the weather and everything to do with what lay ahead.
The gates at the front of the fortress were rusted through and Link was easily able kick them open, allowing him passage. The stone path leading up to the doors brought back not-so-fond memories, stirring his anger even more. Not caring about the laws of propriety, Link took hold of the front doors and heaved them open before stepping inside.
Everything stood just as he remembered. The great hall remained vast and dark, giving off a haunted look. Dust coated the floor and the furnishings while the chandelier swayed to and fro, its presence disturbed by the front doors slamming shut. Legend has it, the fortress used to be the home of a great snow monster that once roamed the northern lands. Link wasn't sure if he believed the story and quite frankly could care less. Right now, he wanted answers so that he could leave the damn place as soon as possible.
Cruel memories flashed through his mind, as Link made his way through great halls.
With each step his hatred grew and he knew if he didn't calm his mind now, he wouldn't be able to stop himself from taking revenge. . Although violence raged inside him, he moved with surprising calm while passing the many portraits decorating the long passageways, their eyes following him as he descended deeper into the mansion. His hands itched for his pistol as he turned a corner and headed towards the master bedroom. He was just about there when a voice stopped him in his tracks.
Link turned towards the voice and recognized the kind, old man before him holding a tray of food. He was small man whose hair was nearly gone except for the grey mustache decorating his upper lip. Link's anger briefly dissipated as he recognized the man who taught him right from wrong and brought him out of a terrible life.
"Gordon. It's good to see you." The old man smiled.
"Oh, master Link. What a surprise! I did not think you would ever return." He looked as if he would run up and hug Link if not for the tray in his hands.
"Yes," Link sighed. "It's been a long time."
Gordon, the butler of the great mansion, knew something was wrong from the bitterness hidden in Links voice.
"I take it, you're not here to stay."
Link looked towards the doors of the master bedroom, frowning in disgust.
"I just need a few words with the old man. Then I'll be out of your way." Link couldn't meet Gordon's eyes as he spoke.
"This is your home too, master Link."
This time, Link did meet his eyes and Gordon saw that his words were a mistake. Anger, old anger, burned in the young masters eyes as he reached for the door to the bedroom. Gordon wasn't afraid of Link. He knew him well enough to know he wasn't a rash man who acted out of anger. But he did fear what would become of the boy he grew to love if he continued with his current path of bloodshed.
"This was never my home," Link sneered before pulling open the door and entering the room that held the misery of his past.
Link stepped into the dark room whose only source of light was a small candle beside the bed. He waited for his eyes to adjust to the darkness before slowly making his way towards the light.
"Please… please… don't kill him…"
He could feel a vengeful wrath threatening to burst forth as he moved closer, all the while staring at the prone figure in the bed. He stopped just at the bedside, near the lit candle, waiting. It wasn't long before movement caught his eye and a pale, trembling hand lifted up and pointed at Link. The motion was followed by a shrill, damaged voice filled with death and decay.
"So… you've finally come to kill me."
Link stepped closer, his expression turned to stone.
"I don't need to kill you. You'll be dead before long."
The figure began to wheeze and cackle in amusement. However, the effort seemed to take some of the strength from him as he coughed up the mucus lodged in his throat.
"Ah… ah ha ha. That's true," the figure rasped. "But surely you want revenge for your stolen childhood."
Link's eyes hardened.
"I don't want anything from you. Not even revenge."
The figure narrowed his eyes, unbelieving.
"What's this about. Have you grown weak? I, Agahnim, did not raise a coward."
"No. You raised a killer."
The figure in the bed wheezed again.
"Ah, and what a fine one you've turned out to be. If only you had finished the job, you would have achieved greatness. Became what you were born to become."
Link grounded his teeth, while fighting back emotions of rage and hate. He couldn't lose it now. He was just beginning to realize what he'd been a part of all these years. The pieces of the puzzle were finally coming together and he needed just a few more.
Link took one more step, so that he was now glowering over the figure on the bed.
"And… what would I have become if I completed the ritual."
Agahnim smiled wickedly, revealing his sharp, yellow teeth before answering.
. . .
Zelda walked into Castle town with no more than the clothes on her back, her horse and a small bag of food strapped to the saddle. Exhaustion stemmed from traveling the long journey from Kokiri that lasted nearly three and a half days. Each night she slept under the stars, with her gun close by in case of trouble.
Taking in the sights around her, Zelda was surprised at the tall buildings surrounding the streets and the many people who bustled about with their busy lives. She'd been here before but each time she visited, the town seemed to grow in population and size. Though the city life was appealing in its own way, it never suited Zelda. There was hardly any space to breathe or roam about. Though there were fields on the outskirts of the town, if you could call it that, they weren't large enough for Zelda to ride Salem, her horse, for more than a mile or two.
Her sense of direction was, unfortunately lacking and she had to resort to asking for directions. Zelda was not surprised to find that almost every man knew exactly where the place was, and gave detailed instructions on the location. It took twenty minutes, but she was able to find the famous Saloon smack dab in the middle of Castle Town. The structure stood two stories high, already bigger than most of the buildings in Kokiri, and screamed of men. The smell of alcohol and smoke reached Zelda before she was even ten yards away. Tying up Salem on one of the posts, she checked her gun before making her way towards the entrance of the Saloon. She wasn't worried about her faithful steed, for if anyone tried to steal him they would only receive a sore backside from the fall and a few kicks to the head for their troubles.
As Zelda stepped through the swinging doors, she was not surprised to find things unchanged. The tables remained still spread out over the floors while the stage stood out on the right side. And, of course, men everywhere. There were a few women sitting with the men playing cards, but they weren't there by choice. The Saloon was a dangerous place for the fairer sex, and those who entered were either showgirls, gold diggers, or prostitutes.
Zelda made her way towards the bar at the back, shoving past the people who were in her way. As soon as she stepped up to the counter Telma, the bartender, immediately recognized her and held up a hand to signal that she would be with her in a moment. Nodding her head, Zelda leaned against the bar and patiently waited for her friend to finish serving the drinks. Glancing around, she took in the faces around her and didn't recognize any of them. Not that she would, of course, since Castle Town wasn't part of her jurisdiction. But one could never be too sure. The showgirls on stage were performing one of their routines, causing men to release a shower whistles and hoots. Zelda frowned, disgusted at the way they threw themselves at the stage, hoping to get a kiss or two. If any of them tried anything–
Hearing her name, she turned towards the kind voice, and smiled at her long-time friend who had known her father and watched her grow up.
"Telma. It's good to see you." The woman named Telma smiled, genuinely happy to see her.
"If I had know you were coming dear, I would have cleared my schedule."
Zelda answered while shaking her head.
"There's no need, since I wont be in town long. Besides, I knew if you took me out you'd just take me shopping and spend too much money buying me pretty things I don't need." Telma smiled mischievously, while shaking her head.
"Well, who could blame me? All you ever wear are brown leather pants and a leather jacket, complete with a brown leather hat. Such a tomboy! At least you wear your hair down." Telma's expression suddenly grew serious.
"Are you here on business?" Zelda met Telma's eyes. She knew the old woman hated her job and the dangers that came with it and she certainly wasn't going to be happy about her reason for coming. Zelda decided to cut to the chase.
"Business. But I need a place to stay." Telma waved her hand in dismissal.
"Of course you can stay here. You insult me by asking. Now, what kind of business?"
Zelda took a deep breath and plunged on, "I'm here because I'm in danger of losing my badge. I need you to find the Senator's whereabouts, and where he'll be the next couple of days. I know you can do it."
Telma scoffed. "Of course I can do it. I hear just about every piece of gossip that runs through this town. The question is whether or not I should." Zelda's expression became pleading as she stared at Telma. If Telma ever wanted to get Zelda out of this life of danger, now was the time. But Telma also knew that she loved her job, and would never give it up whether she was fired or not.
"Telma, please." The older woman's expression softened. Telma remained one of the only ones who knew of Zelda's past.
"Oh, Zelda. Why don't you use this opportunity to settle down, get married, have kids. Live a long, peaceful life. It's not a bad idea."
"I don't think that's in the cards for me." As wonderful as the simple life sounded, Zelda knew she would never be able to fully give herself to any man. The hurt of what was done to her went too deep. The only drug that numbed the pain was her job and helping prevent any other girl from having to go through the same ordeal. An ordeal that would destroy any hope of ever having a normal life.
Telma was quiet for a long time. After a while, she finally sighed in defeat. "Alright darlin. I'll see what I can find out."
Relief flowed through and she nodded her head gratefully.
Zelda glanced around the room, craning her neck to get a better view. It was hard to make out a few of the faces through cloud of smoke but she was pretty sure-
"If your looking for Malon, she'll be on stage in a couple of minutes," Telma answered her unspoken question while gesturing with her thumb. "Why don't you take a seat while I finish up here," she said before turning back to prospective customers.
Zelda preferred to stand, but since she was wary from her long journey, decided to pull up a stool. As she was making herself comfortable, or as comfortable as one could be in a bar full of drunks, the music started and the curtain opened to reveal several showgirls dressed in flashy costumes. Zelda immediately recognized her friend whose bright, red hair was emphasized by her blue costume. The crowd whistled and cheered as the showgirls began to dance to an upbeat melody played by an ensemble of fiddles and guitars. She had to admit, Malon Hartwright was quite the dancer. Her voice wasn't bad either, though she hadn't had the chance to prove it yet. Zelda smiled at her friend, having every confidence that she would make it big one day. As soon as the song ended, the dancers all took a bow and Zelda was just able to catch Malon's eye. Her friend gave her a huge smile and quickly made her way off the stage. She strode with confidence as she made her way towards Zelda, a spark of excitement in her eyes. But before she could reach her, a hand shot out and grabbed her arm.
"Hey baby, saw ya on stage. Why don't you come here' n sit with us…"
Malon smiled, trying to shrug out of his grip, but the man held fast. "I'm sorry sir," she consoled, her thick, country accent giving her an edge. "But I don't do any offstage performances. Although I'm sure some of the other girls–" Malon barely got the words out of her mouth when the man painfully yanked her arm towards their table. Her vibrato soon left her and fear seemed to take over.
"Please let go."
"Come on honey. You wan it bad. I can tell." The drunk then reached out his other hand ready to run his palm over that silky smooth chest of hers. His fingers barely brushed the fabric of her dress before he felt someone grab his hair and pull hard, yanking his neck back painfully. He felt his chair tip, ever so slightly, back and he had the sudden fear that he might fall over. But the fear was forgotten as the hand that gripped the hair on the top of his head tightened, and he found himself drunkenly staring at the upside-down face of a woman with a murderous expression. Before he even had time to drool, a cold voice filled his ears.
"Are. You. Deaf."
She bit out each word. The woman then twisted his hair, causing him to release a whine of protest.
"She said 'let go' you intoxicated snake."
Realization dawned on the poor sap and he immediately let go of Malon. She rubbed the spot where his hands had touched, a disgusted expression on her face. Satisfied, Zelda turned back to her opponent.
"I better not see you touch another girl in this bar. If you do, I'll twist your arm until I hear it snap. And then I'll shoot you for good measure. Do you understand?"
All the man could do was nod, saliva running down his face at the awkward angle. Zelda then let go of his hair, but not before she kicked the legs of the chair, causing it to fall backwards with the man still in it. There was a bit of commotion at the scene but no one dared to bother Zelda as she made her way back to her seat, Malon trailing behind her. Telma was shaking her head as they approached the counter, a frown plastered on her face.
"I swear Zelda. Do you have to cause a scene every time you plan a visit." Zelda held up her hands innocently.
"The man couldn't keep his hands to himself." Telma's only response was to raise an eyebrow. Malon sauntered up to the counter.
"Now Telma darlin, you know Zelda just loves the attention," Malon exclaimed as Telma handed her a glass of water. She gulped the whole thing down before setting the empty glass back on the bar. Zelda was about to retort to her comment about getting attention but was cut off as Malon grabbed her arm and began pulling her towards the back room.
"Zelda you know I only tease. Come! I'm about to have heat stroke in this dress and I know you have some gossip for me! Come tell me all as I change." Zelda closed her eyes, letting herself be pulled to the back room where the costumes were held. She dearly hoped that Malon wasn't referring to a certain incident six months back. Unfortunately, that certain incident was exactly what Malon was referring to. So Zelda retold the whole story, sparing no detail except for the part about the letter. Malon listened excitedly asking questions here and there. She always loved hearing of Zelda's dangerous escapades and the scrapes she would get into.
Zelda had known Malon since they were kids. Malon's dad was a farmer who lived just outside of Castletown. Zelda's own father would drop her off and she would stay with Malon and her family for a few days as her dad took care of business in Castletown.
"So let me get this straight. The devious, yet exciting outlaw just up and left? Without a word?"
Zelda stared at the glass of water in her hands, trying not to meet Malon's eyes. She had a gift for knowing when people were lying or perhaps not conveying the full story.
Malon narrowed her eyes suspiciously before returning to the task of undressing.
"That's too bad you let him get away," Malon wisped.
Zelda grounded her teeth.
"Trust me, if I hadn't been unconscious at the time, he wouldn't have gotten away."
Malon smiled mischievously. "That's not what I meant."
Zelda decided to ignore that last comment and get to her reasons for being here. She was surprised when Malon gasped at her mention of the Senator. Though Zelda was not sure what he looked like, she could guess what kind of man he was. Rich, powerful, and insatiable. She would bet her shooting arm that the Senator himself was the cause of half the corruption in Castle Town, not to mention Hyrule. She was just glad that the small town of Kokiri was far from the city and hardly bothered by the rising crime rate. At least, for now.
"So you want an audience with the Senator, huh." Malon had just finished putting on a simple working dress that she wore when she wasn't dancing. Being a showgirl was only a part time position while the rest of her time was spent waitressing and serving drinks. Zelda didn't envy her, but respected her for pursuing her dreams no matter the grueling customers or drunks she had to put up with to get it.
"Well, darlin. You're in luck."
Twenty minutes later, Zelda stood before a long mirror gazing at the reflection. She wore a long, expensive looking gown that almost touched the floor. The deep, purple colored dress accentuated her figure and seemed to make her skin appear porcelain. The short sleeves hung off her shoulders in an alluring way while the ruffles made the skirt expand outward below the waist. Her hair was pulled up almost messily, but the outfit seemed to demand it. Her deep, blue eyes seemed the perfect shade to complement the ensemble.
Zelda felt completely ridiculous and waited for Malon to give-way to mirth. The whole thing was laughable. The fact that she, Zelda, would ever have the chance to be a lady seemed like an unreachable dream. Ever since that fateful day when her father died, and the only true object of value that any woman could offer a man had been stolen from her, she felt less than human.
Since then, she'd never really thought of herself as a woman. Only the Sheriff.
Malon pulled on the lace straps that kept the dress nice and taunt. Zelda bit off a curse, as the strings in the back were pulled unbearably tight.
"Oh, quit your fussing. You're lucky I still had this." Stepping back, Malon looked up and down, admiring her work.
"I must say, you clean up quite nicely, Zelda."
Zelda couldn't help but admire the creature in the mirror for one moment, before looking away in disgust.
"Thank you, Malon. But how did you know?"
"That the Senator was having a formal gathering tonight at the Grandeur."
Malon shrugged before messing with Zelda's hair a bit more.
"I was called in to work as a waitress at the party. The pay is usually better and I've done it before but tonight I had previous engagements. Besides, I have better things to do than wait on a bunch of rich, snobs." Zelda nodded her head in understanding then frowned.
"It seems too easy."
Zelda laid a comforting hand near the side of her leg where her derringer lay neatly strapped underneath the mountains of silk fabric. Though not her weapon of choice, since it was designed to only hold one bullet, the gun could easily kill or maim at close range.
Malon hands suddenly stilled in her hair, and Zelda noticed the troubled expression decorating her face. Zelda waited till their eyes met before raising a questioning eyebrow.
Malon sighed, "Zelda, I know you have your mind set on doing this, but… this guy is dangerous. If you cross him, he doesn't just go after you, he goes after your family and anyone related. Even people who inadvertently get in his way go missing."
Zelda felt her insides harden, but not out of fear.
"Well, it's a good thing I have no family to speak of. And besides…" Malon waited as Zelda slowly turned around to face her and what she saw sent a jolt of fear down her spine. Zelda's eyes were cold.
"If he messes with anyone I love, it's me he should be afraid of."
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