First things first! I gotta give a big shout out to the Darkbringer for designing the amazing swickedly awesometacular (I officially declare that a word by the way) cover he created for this story! Thanks a lot dude! I love it! Makes my fic seem really official and all that jazz.

So yeah my newest chapter is totally dedicated to him. There. I said it. Dedication. Forever ingrained in the text of this chapter!

...

Don't laugh! At least let me think that's some form of an honour…

Ok enough of that. I just want to say that these next couple of chapters are going to be pretty awesome in my humble opinion so I hope I write them well and that you like them. That being said this chapter has been divided into two because I feel I've kept you waiting for too long and I'm still not done. Had to happen at some point right? Things are heating up so there's more to write and it's harder to keep things together and flowing nicely. Truthfully some parts of this chapter feel a bit forced and don't necessarily flow well in my opinion but maybe that's just me being hard on myself. Or maybe I'm not being hard enough. Dunno. But I really hope you like what I have going and if you find some problems with it that you'll forgive me!

On a side note: officially hit +200 000 words! Whoot!

Now then, before we get into the nitty gritty, time for READER RESPONSE:

To:

Obiki Doragon: Thanks! I always try to establish at least some sense of realism. They may be in a fantasy world but things still need to have some form of logic to them and a lot of the game story line has some holes that I feel need to be addressed which is what I try to do. I'm glad you appreciate my efforts!

Link01742: Yup! Hope you liked it!

Jimbobob5536: Haha yeah Guy might be in for a bit of a shock. Have to see how that develops. Unfortunately I don't get the reference you're trying to make although I feel like I should…

Shadow0888: Hey! Someone who agrees with me! I've always wondered that and now I don't have to anymore! Thank goodness for almighty powers of authorship! Thanks for the review!

Calming-seas88: Yeah Hector is a rock, doesn't take much for him to accept things and move on. As for the side chapters with Hector I plan on incorporating a few of them but I don't think all of them. I'll have to see how the story plays out. Hope you like my future updates!

Dessel Ordo: Heh I really hope you like what I've got planned for this chapter! He pairing thing is still a dilemma for me that I need to figure out really soon. I'm going to need to start writing interactions.

Starwars05: Yup! Speed beat down!

Anarion Star-Dragon: Yeah I agree, last chapter was bland. Hopefully this one is a little better for you!

Lazruth: I know right? And Guy does know Link or at least knows of him. He just doesn't know that the guy in green he's traveling with is the rumored wanderer he's heard about. Of course he'll find out pretty soon but for now he doesn't know. At this point in time though Guy would have beat Matthew in a straight up fight. Matthew is not a frontline fighter and readily admits it whereas Guy is. They're both fast and pretty skilled respectively but Guy also has a much longer weapon. So Guy wins in a duel but Matthew is much better at sneaking around and could get the drop on Guy if it's on his own terms.

Madlink007: Alas filler chapters are still necessary even if they are boring…

Ayden: Weapon durability is a bit more realistic in this fic than in the game. I am going to have weapons wear out and break from time to time but it's not going to be to the same extent as the game. For instance some weapons like the Mani Katti are not going to break because that's just stupid. It wouldn't be much of a spirit sword if it didn't last more than a few fights. Same thing with the legendary weapons like Durandal. Other weapons like lances might break from clashing with an axe or smashing against a rock or stuff like that. It's all based on circumstance.

WildfireDreams: Thanks for the info on the patch! Now I just have to find some time to play it. Don't worry, I never use Lowen either, hahaha!

Masterplansimple: Sorry, I try but sometimes it takes me a while to even work up the ambition to write in my free time when I have it. I'm trying to be better.

Wraith54: Thanks! Yeah until we develop personal energy shields we're always going to be vulnerable in certain places, might as well take advantage of them. Let me know when you start your fic so I can take a look at it! I'm really looking forward to the Caelin chapter as well! Hope you like what I have planned!

AreiaCananaid: Thanks! Hopefully they don't learn anytime soon cause that would be a lot of lost entertainment hahaha! And I'm not sure. I plan on doing the entire game so however long it takes me to do that!

Arcane Valor: Haha thanks!

Nesser24: Wow that's a lot of re-reading…as always it's great to hear from you again! Thank you so much for your encouraging words and I'm glad you are still finding enjoyment out of this story. I'll admit that last chapter was boring but I promise the next couple are going to be (at least in my opinion) much more exciting. I really like the relationship between Link and Rebeccas as well even if I'm not sure if it's going to be romantic yet. It's still fun. I never used Lowen much either but I feel it's necessary to give everyone at least a bit of shine time. Again thanks for your words but unfortunately the immediate reunion between Erk and Link isn't all that special in this chapter BUT they will have a much more flushed out interaction a little later. I hope I don't disappoint you!

Whisty: Awww that's sad….oh well…Glad I made your day though! Hahaha I've never had a problem with recruiting Guy but I definitely understand that it can be difficult. Rebecca is one of my favs. She turns into an absolute beast if you're patient with her. Try it!

WhiteHero: That's Link! One bold badass!

The Azure Heart: Thanks! I try!

Chm01: Oh Rebecca is going to have more than just skills when I'm through with her!

A Certain Unfortunate Guy: It might have been rushed, it's not the most exciting thing ever. Haha yup, Link is awesome! I totally agree with you, Rebecca is adorable! Honestly I'm still unsure about the romantic pairings in this fic but I can guarantee there's going to be a few deep friendships and some unrequited love. Link is going to have interactions with just about everyone so we'll just have to see how it goes. I hope you like what I've got going on so far though!

Sven Vollfield: Sorry! I'm trying!

Insane READER: wow….you ok? Lol

NoraStar: I'm glad you really like my fic and unfortunately I'm still undecided on the pairing…if you have any other questions though don't hesitate to ask!

Blacklink20: Thanks! I'm glad you liked it! I tried to write bring a little bit of tension to the fight between Eliwood and Guy and I like going into details about how things work in this world. It just makes things feel more authentic when there's a plausible reason behind super human feats. Sorry for the errors, it's hard for me to catch them all but I try. I have something planned for Guy that I think you might like... As for the Fierce Deity mask I am currently tossing around several different ideas so I'm undecided in that regard. Isadora is definitely an interesting match I hadn't considered. It might be worth some thought. I have to admit though, Ninian is slowly worming her way into my heart as a personal choice. Just have to see how it plays out I guess, a lot of the time I have an idea for something but my own story takes itself in different directions as I write it. It's kinda weird like that… Thanks for your great review and I hope you continue to enjoy my fic!

Minaly22: Wow…one night? That's impressive! Isn't it fun when you're browsing the site and all of a sudden you come across a gem that you wonder how you ever missed? Happens to me a lot! Really glad you think my fic is one of those for you! I hope you continue to like it!

OmegaInfinita: Yeah. I want one. Though it might rip my arm off…

Runty Grunty: Haha glad you like it! I'm sorry to say that I don't think Sheik/Zelda will be involved in this story. At least I don't have any plans on it at the moment. That could change though depending how things go. Don't worry, I plan on delving pretty far into the relationship between Link and Rebecca, I'm just not sure if it'll be romantic yet. I have someone else in mind for a resemblance to Saria. As for Anna, I can honestly say that I haven't given her a thought cause I forgot she was in this game. But now that you mention it I suddenly have a few ideas. Thanks!

KarelDLC: Thanks! I'm glad you appreciate my work! Sleep is overrated anyway right? Hahah I'm totally guilty of doing what you did too so don't worry! It's a huge honor to hear your praises and those are what warm MY heart hahahaha! While I don't feel that this is the #1 story around I'm humbled that you think so! Thanks for the vote! Unfortunately you're going to have to wait a bit on Karel cause he doesn't come in for a bit but I think you'll like what I have in store. I'm afraid I can't take that bet but you can at least take comfort in the fact they won't be having a tea party…Or will they? Hahahaha!

Epic Snow: Yeah interactions are fun!

DragonBlade00: Thanks! I hope you like it!

Lothar: Thanks a lot! Don't worry I don't plan on it. At least not for awhile.

Lady Dalila: Hey thanks! I love being favorite! Link is pretty awesome so don't feel guilty! Thanks for the vote!

Minal22: Oh! Hello again! Sorry for the delay! Hope it's worth the wait!

Soul Titan: No worries! Rebecca will soon be awesome! Muahahaha!

The Darkbringer: And here's the man of the chapter! Thanks again for the cover! Love it! I'm glad you still like what I'm writing and I really hope you like these next couple of chapters!

Ralph: Hahaha Thanks! Glad you like it!

Alciel: Better late than never though right? Hahah glad you like it! That Death Battle match was sweet by the way! Some of them I don't agree with but that one was awesome! I'm really glad you approve of my explanations and little details I throw in about stuff. It's sometimes challenging to keep everything straight but it's worth it! Actually I haven't seen that manga…Do you know a link (haha) where I could read it at? I love my cover too! It was made by The Darkbringer and it's awesome! The world is definitely not prepared for the Hero of Time! Oh and thanks for the fanfic suggestion.

Minaly22: Haha hi again! Thanks for the vote and the reasoning behind it! It gives me something to think about.

Cj10f4: Yeah some things in the game just don't make sense and I seek to correct that! Bad guy grunts never learn. It's a basic rule. Too bad for them. Gotta love tactics! The triangle attack could make an appearance but it'll be awhile before all three Pegasus Knights are together…

Leah: Thanks! Glad you really like it! Thanks for the vote as well!

xxx

Well that should be everyone. Thanks for every single one of your reviews! I love them and they truly make writing worthwhile! Now then, without further ado I give you:

Whom She Found

Chapter 21:

A Laus Cause

Although not considered such initially, the addition of Merlinus to the group was a much welcome boon to everyone. Eyebrows had been raised in silent questioning after Link had arrived back at the castle with the merchant and several beat up men carrying crates in tow. Things took a quick nosedive from there when Merlinus discovered, with no small amount of glee, that he would be serving Lycian nobility. That led to a rather awkward first impression that the Hero of Time couldn't resist palming his face at.

Nevertheless, the merchant had quickly come into his own and readily taken control of organizing the supplies. It was soon determined that, first impressions aside, Merlinus was a much needed addition to the group. The speed and efficiency with which he sorted through, compiled, and added to their much needed stocks left many of the company quietly stunned. Items that he requested of the steward and discarded from a rapidly changing list that he was constantly scribbling on had some of them questioning his sensibility in choices at first. At least they questioned him until someone pointedly confronted the merchant who in turn replied with explanations of multipurpose materials, preservation of food, necessity over luxury, and other such factors that actually made sense once you took a step back and looked at the big picture rather than a piece of the puzzle. And that is what it was to the merchant, a puzzle with pieces only he could fully see due to his experience. The fact that he explained all this in a casual tone one would find appropriate in a patient parent while never once glancing up from the paper in his hand immediately ended all doubts and they left the man to his element.

In a way it was fascinating watching him work and once he was finished the company had a neatly packed wagon stocked full of supplies for every possible traveling need. No one could help but be impressed. With the wagon and horses enough for everyone procured, they were ready to march to Laus. Link had even managed to convince Merlinus's earlier muggers to generously lend their services to the merchant as his servants. Yes, things were definitely looking up.

The wagon and supplies forced a slower and more constant pace than they would have taken without it but the horses allowed them to travel much farther in a day than before so it all worked out quite well. The ease and comfort of travel allowed for casual conversation to flow between the members of the group.

"So you've been traveling the land in order to find a way home?" Marcus asked as he rode beside Link.

"Yeah," The Hylian nodded in response. "Haven't had much luck so far. In all honesty I'm not really sure what to look for. Etruria didn't have much on travel between worlds."

"That is unfortunate." Oswin responded from Link's other side. While initially wary of the strange green clad warrior and his incredible skill, the older knights had found a surprising rapport with the young man. There was an aura about him and a look in his eyes that carried the weight of something only people like them could fully appreciate: experience. Their respect for him increased substantially when they realized this and they quickly struck up an unspoken alliance of veteranship between them. "Etruria is the center of arcane knowledge in Elibe. If you were unable to find your answers there then you may not find them at all."

"Maybe, but it's not all bad," Link shrugged. "I get to meet new friends, help people that need it, and I'm learning plenty of things I didn't know before. It's actually not much different than the life I had previously; it's just the first time I've had no definite way of returning."

"I suppose that's a rather positive view of your circumstance," Marcus mused.

"Well it's not the first time something crazy like this has happened to me. I've learned to take it in stride," Link chuckled. "If I'm here there must be a reason for it. Destiny is a funny thing. I believe that there are events in our lives that happen for a reason regardless of whether we want them too or not. How we deal with those events is our choice."

"Wise words indeed," Oswin nodded. "At any rate, we are grateful for your assistance."

"No problem," Link replied cheerfully. "Just doing my part to make sure we succeed. Speaking of which…" He pointed his finger ahead of them and fired off a small spark of magic that hit Rebecca in the back of the head. The green haired archer yelped in surprise at the sudden sting and stumbled forward. After regaining her footing she turned to glare at her snickering taskmaster.

"Gotcha again!" He laughed at the girl who grunted in response as she rubbed the back of her head and turned back to the road. Link had been doing that at random intervals all day in order to train her ability to perceive danger. She was supposed to try sensing the stinging sparks and avoid them but so far she had yet to do so, although a couple of times she had been able to blink in surprise right before she was hit so that was something at least. To further add to her torment Rebecca was also lugging a pack filled with sand and marching alongside the caravan instead of riding. 'Endurance training' Link had called it; she called it torture.

"I must admit," Marcus spoke up. "You're methods of training are…unconventional."

"Perhaps," Link shrugged. "But she doesn't have the luxury of time for anything else. By joining us she's literally stepped into a fire and she needs to grow fast if she wants to survive."

"I can understand your reasoning, but do you think she can take it?"

Link nodded. "Yeah. Rebecca is…something else."

"She's definitely a determined one," Oswin agreed.

"Hmmm," Marcus simply stared at the young girl as she struggled to keep pace with the horses.

"Besides," Link added, catching the knights' attention. "I'm more concerned with our other addition."

"Yes," Marcus agreed and fixed his attention several horses ahead to where Guy was riding alongside Matthew and having an argument of some sort that the thief seemed to merely laugh away.

"What do you make of him?"

"He has potential," Marcus replied. "And a fire that motivates him."

"I sense a 'but' in there," Link mused aloud.

"Indeed," the older knight nodded. "He is inexperienced and not ready for the sword he bears."

"The Killing Edge?"

"Yes. Those swords are not acquired lightly and in Sacae are usually only wielded by swordsmen who have completed their training and earned the right to call themselves masters; something which he is definitely not. For a proud person of the plains to carry a Killing Edge before they are ready calls his character into question."

"A shortcut then?" Link frowned.

"Perhaps," Marcus replied evenly.

"You have a plan?"

"Not yet, no," Marcus shook his head. This was part of what the three of them had unspokenly agreed to do with their alliance. As veterans it was their job to make sure that the younger and less experienced were prepared to face the challenges ahead and to make sure the company as a whole was in the best of shape. That meant acting as advisors, consultants, trainers, and managers. Dealing with the integration of new members fell under that jurisdiction.

"Nothing we say will carry the proper weight," Oswin stated. "None of us are Sacaean nor are we trained in their style. He needs to face another Sacaean swordsman."

"I see," Link nodded. "So until that happens we keep an eye on him?"

"That would be best," Marcus agreed. "Unless you already had something else in mind?"

Link tapped his chin thoughtfully. "Gimme a couple days. I'll sleep on it."

xxx

When the group broke for camp, Link and Rebecca separated from the others to continue with the young woman's training. She idly wondered what they were going to work on today until her thoughts were answered when Link withdrew his training stick. Dodging again. She really wasn't surprised; it was his bread and butter exercise. But she was surprised when he pulled out another item that he hadn't used before and her surprise quickly turned to dismay.

"You know, I'm really starting to question your training methods…" Rebecca whined as she shifted uncomfortably, her hands bound behind her back with a strip of cloth.

Link merely shrugged but kept his attention on the circle he was drawing in the dirt around them. "Best way to improve on an aspect is to isolate it. A bow ties up your hands so you'll need to be able to dodge blows without relying on them for balance or support. Now you'll have no choice but do just that."

"Still…" the young squirmed a bit against the bonds.

"Hate me now, thank me later," Link smirked as he finished the circle and strode towards her with his trusty "avoidance motivator" in hand.

"Ready?" He asked rhetorically before taking a swing at her. Rebecca yelped in surprise and instantly ducked low to avoid the attack. Fortunately Link had been drilling her in such an exercise almost every day since her training began so she recovered quickly from her surprise and hopped back to create some distance between them. She grunted slightly in annoyance as her bound arms made the simple motion uncomfortable and awkward. No sense complaining about it though; she would just have to adapt.

The green haired archer took a deep breath, shifted her stance, and focused her attention on the Hylian before her, readying herself for anything. Link nodded approvingly at her before lunging forward. He had to admit, the girl was something else. It hadn't even been a fortnight since she had started her training and she had already grown by leaps and bounds. Everything Link threw at her she adapted to with remarkable speed. Sure she had a few hiccups whenever they started something new but her determination and resolve carried her through every challenge. She was fast, agile, flexible, surprisingly tough, and took everything that Link taught her to heart.

When he told her to never take her eyes off an opponent she took it to the extreme and only ever looked away when a particular movement or harsh blow forced her to. Close encounters, minor injuries, and even some rather spectacular acrobatics did nothing to sway her line of sight. It was rather impressive. Another example was her willingness to take blows when necessary. Although he drove home the point of avoidance as the best defense, he knew that getting hit was always a possibility for her, although in their training it was more of an inevitability, so when he told her that it was better to sacrifice a less important part of her body to protect a vital one she did so without hesitation even after feeling the pain from doing so before. She was quite the pupil.

Link admitted rather guiltily to himself that he pushed her in ways that he hadn't initially planned on doing before he had witnessed her potential ability and willingness to do whatever crazy training exercise he came up with. He was rather grateful that she never had any form of formal training especially with a group of people since she didn't have any predisposed opinions on what her training should consist of or what she should reasonably be able to accomplish. If anyone were to ever witness some of the things he had her do they would call it crazy. But what they would call crazy, Link called effective and it certainly showed in the results.

The Hero of Time grinned to himself as Rebecca struggled to avoid his attacks and stay within the allotted circle. A quick haphazard side flip carried her over a horizontal slash and away from the line drawn in the dirt. Link's grin only widened at the action. He could tell from her body language that she hadn't thought about the action at all, it was reflexive. Good. He was sure that Rebecca did not fully realize the significance of her actions since she performed similar feats at sporadic times throughout their drills. She was growing comfortable with her own body and what it could do which allowed her to do things quickly and without hesitation. Her side flip was an appropriate action for her predicament at the time since it not only allowed her to avoid the blow but it also put her in a position for further action. Only her panting and wildly disheveled appearance indicated that she was reacting to his moves rather than planning her own.

He took a moment to take in her appearance. Anyone could see that on her own Rebecca was a very good looking girl. While she was a year or so younger than Lyn and therefore couldn't yet claim her level of striking beauty it would not be long before she could. Currently, however, her appearance would not fall under the category of conventional beauty. She was sweating and panting heavily with dirt smudged on various parts of her skin and clothing and bruises had already formed on places where she had not been able to dodge. Several scrapes also adorned her arms and shoulders where the handicap of having her arms bound had hampered her. In all honesty she should look like a complete wreck. But she didn't. In spite of her current appearance or perhaps it would be better to say because of it – the fire in her narrowed eyes and determined expression made her look stunning. Like a battle worn angel staring down the impossible with unwavering conviction. Link could only imagine what she would look like in a year or two.

Another thought crossed his mind during the short pause. Perhaps it was time to goad her into the offensive…Nodding to himself he charged forward again at an even faster pace than before and with more methodical strikes. Rebecca's eyes widened in alarm at the new tactic but had no time to voice any complaint before she was forced into motion again. She ducked, weaved, side stepped, and jumped desperately to avoid the blows but she was soon peppered by hits she was unable to fully dodge. Perhaps with her hands free she might have been able to maintain her balance better and utilize different maneuvers but unfortunately they weren't and that handicap cost her.

She winced in pain from another hit and barely avoided the following swing. She was quickly running out of options and her mind raced to keep up with her body. Finally she was driven to a point where she was unable to recover enough to dodge. In an act of pure reflexive desperation she lashed out with her foot and planted her boot firmly into Link's chest, stopping his advance. Link grunted lightly and stumbled back a step. He stood up straight and patted his chest before smiling broadly at her.

"Now that's more like it!" He exclaimed proudly.

"What?" Rebecca blinked at him in surprise as she panted heavily trying to catch her breath. "You're not mad?"

"Why would I be?" Link raised an eyebrow. "I've been trying to get you do that actually."

"I…didn't know I could do that…" Rebecca admitted.

"Of course you can," Link stated. "You should use everything at your disposal to survive."

"I thought you just wanted me to avoid and evade."

"I never said you couldn't try to hit me back," Link shrugged. "Sometimes the only way to protect yourself is to hit your opponent before they hit you and you should never underestimate the effectiveness of a good kick. Lyn's gotten me a few times in our spars with a couple good ones." He couldn't suppress the chuckle at Rebecca's deadpan expression.

"You could have said something," Rebecca huffed.

"Where's the fun in that?" Link smirked. "It's more effective if you come to the conclusion yourself and you got way better at dodging than you would have otherwise." He smirked as Rebecca glared at him and grit her teeth angrily. Oh he knew he deserved it but sometimes it was just too fun to resist; although perhaps he should give her an opportunity for some payback…

"Tell you what," he laughed. "You land one more good kick on me and we'll be done this for the night."

Again he couldn't suppress the chuckle at the change in Rebecca's expression. She set herself into a ready stance with an all too eager expression of retribution. He lunged forward and wasn't surprised when Rebecca responded with a kick aimed at his face. Now that wouldn't do at all. He punished her action accordingly by rapping her shin sharply with his weapon causing the girl to yelp in pain and pull back. She hopped on one foot for a bit before crouching low to the ground trying to will the sting away, wishing she could rub it with her hands.

"Tsk, tsk, tsk," Link clicked his tongue and waved a chastising finger at her. "Come now Rebecca, you know better than that. You should never do what your opponent is expecting; they'll be ready for it. You'll have to find a much better opening to hit me."

Rebecca's glare returned and she stood up once again with new fire, determined to find a proper opening for a counter attack. Link couldn't suppress the smirk at her challenging gaze and lunged forward again.

xxx

Rebecca gave a weary groan and collapsed on her bedroll in the tent she shared with Serra. The pink haired cleric giggled in amusement and sat up straight.

"Rough night?"

"That. Man. Is. Evil," Rebecca replied with another groan.

"Well I wouldn't quite say that but…" Serra giggled again and reached for her staff. "Here." She knelt next to the exhausted archer and began focusing her magic power. The soft glow of healing light soon covered the young girl who sighed in relief as she felt the worst of the pain from her aching muscles ebb away.

"Ah, thanks."

"My pleasure," Serra smiled. "Such a thing is trivial for one such as I. Just think how much worse off you'd be without me!"

Rebecca snorted in mild bemusement. She honestly didn't know what to think about the pink haired cleric. On one hand she was quite beautiful, cheerful, and exuberant; but on the flip-side she was egotistical, loud, and rather high maintenance. The down to earth Pheraean girl could easily see why the cleric was considered annoying by most of the group but she couldn't form an opinion of her herself. Even if she expected gushing praise for her efforts Serra was always willing to help in any way she could and she certainly wasn't unfriendly despite her overpowering personality. At any rate, Rebecca was grateful for her healing magic. She couldn't heal everything since her body needed to recover naturally from exercise but she could help it along and certainly mend excessive strains, bruises, cuts, and scrapes.

"You know sometimes I wonder about the things that Link makes me do but I always tell myself that there's a reason for it and press on," She sat up and stretched the stiffness out of her arms after Serra had finished. "Then I find out later why he does it and I have to admit it makes sense every time."

"Yeah," Serra giggled again. "You're right; he never does anything without a reason."

"Oh?" Rebecca tilted her head slightly.

"I'm not sure if you are aware but I was a rather important part of Lady Lyndis's group last year so I have traveled with him before."

"I think I heard a bit about that but I'm not aware of any details. Anything you can tell me?"

"About what exactly?" Serra replied with genuine curiosity.

"About Link," Rebecca replied. "Even though he's training me, outside of him being a warrior from another land that's trying to find his way home, I hardly know anything about him."

"That's…" Serra hesitated and her normal expression of superiority faltered. "A difficult topic…" She paused for a moment to gather her thoughts. "Honestly none of us really know much about him, not even Lyn and she knew him the longest."

"I see," Rebecca sighed dejectedly. She had really been hoping to find out more about her teacher.

"I'll tell you what I do know though," Serra scratched her nose thoughtfully. "Link is a person who genuinely cares about everyone and will do anything he can to help. He always seemed to know exactly what to do no matter what situation we got into and could always sense when something was wrong with anybody. He has this…way of putting everyone at ease and giving them the confidence to take on any challenge. The Legion would not have succeeded without him."

"He sounds like a good leader," Rebecca smiled.

"A leader?" Serra blinked then shook her head. "No…not so much a leader…Lady Lyndis and Lord Eliwood are leaders. Link voiced his opinion and though we almost always ended up doing what he suggested, he never actually led us. No, he wasn't a leader…he was something else…" She paused for a moment again to gather her thoughts and Rebecca couldn't help but be a bit taken aback by Serra's change in demeanor when she was talking about the Hylian. It was certainly different than her usual disposition and it brought to light the fact that while Serra had a much over inflated opinion of herself she could be surprisingly perceptive.

"How can I say this…" Serra wondered aloud. "Link was…well Lyndis was definitely the head of the group and the knight Kent, he was a nice man by the way, could be considered the second-in-command; but, I think Link could best be described as the heart."

"The heart?"

"Yeah," Serra nodded. "I think that works nicely. He was the foundation that everyone else stood on and the one that held us all together."

Rebecca laughed good-naturedly. "I'm surprised to hear you admit that."

"Well of course they couldn't have succeeded without me either," Serra replied smugly. "But Link did things even I couldn't accomplish. Every trial and obstacle we faced was overcome either directly or indirectly thanks to him and that didn't include just combat. Emotional stresses, tragedies, and personal burdens were all supported by him as well."

"Wow," Rebecca took a slow breathe. "That's…something else." Serra nodded in agreement.

"Now that's not to say he did everything for us, oh no," Serra continued. "We all had to carry our weight, but he certainly allowed us to do things we didn't think we could before. He even taught me a few things; speaking of which I should have a little talk with him."

"So I'm not the only one he's trained?"

"Oh no!" Serra laughed. "He trained with everyone to some extent. Some definitely more than others and you're the first I've seen him train so extensively but everyone learned something from him at least. Trust me, you're in good hands!"

"Yeah," Rebecca smiled. "I've already learned so much, it just surprises me how good he is. I mean he fought Lord Hector like he wasn't even trying."

"He wasn't," Serra replied quietly.

"What?" Rebecca blinked.

"He wasn't trying," Serra repeated. "That's the other thing I should say about Link. He really is an amazing guy and we all loved him but he also scared us."

"Scared you?"

The pink haired cleric nodded and continued in a solemn voice. "He definitely has a dark side. Whenever he fought, seriously fought, he became almost unrecognizable to us. He was cold, ruthless, deadly efficient, and massacred everyone in his way no matter the odds. His entire countenance just changed. It's... hard to explain but it's almost like death is staring at you and I can say that without ever having looked directly in his eyes. He's that frightening. Not once have I seen him injured and he took out a large part of Caelin's defending army by himself. The only time I ever saw him vulnerable was when he performed an incredibly powerful magical spell that left him exhausted. Even then he recovered far more quickly than I expected. That's why I say that he didn't fight Lord Hector; when Link fights someone dies."

"I…see," Rebecca swallowed. "I think…I've seen a bit of that when he fought the bandits that attacked my village. It was all such a blur that it's hard to remember all that happened but one minute the bandit leader was picking a fight with Link over his choice of drink and the next minute all of his goons were thrown through walls and Link was smashing his face into the floor repeatedly."

"Sounds about right," Serra sighed and leaned back on her hands. "I still don't know what to make of him..." She paused and stared wistfully at the top of the tent. "But," She smiled. "He's on our side."

Rebecca laughed. "Thank goodness for that!"

xxx

The dark of the night holds many secrets. Things that can only transpire away from the eyes of the day find comfort in the quiet of the night. At the castle of Laus, one such meeting was taking place.

Three figures stood within the royal chambers of the castle. The most imposing of the three was Lord Darin the marquess; a brood shouldered man with a staunch face and dark purple hair. At his side stood his son, Erik, a thinner sandy haired man who had a look that clearly portrayed a high opinion of himself. Finally there was the shadowy presence of the ever cloaked Ephidel.

"Are you certain?" Darin demanded. "Pherae's heir is here?"

"Yes, Father." Erik replied with a nod. "We've just received word from our lookouts. He's still beyond that far hill, but he'll be here before long."

"Lord Ephidel!" Darin rounded on the cloaked figure. "What is the meaning of this?"

"Perhaps when they reached Santaruz Castle, Lord Helman was still clinging to life," He replied in his chilling unemotional tone.

"You can't be serious!"

Ephidel made no physical indication of response, merely continuing on. "He couldn't have lasted too long, but…maybe he told them something."

"That's terrible!" Darin roared. "Our plan! It's all for naught, isn't it?"

"No need to be so alarmed, my lord." Ephidel replied. "Even if he told young Eliwood something of our schemes, Pherae no longer has any power. All Eliwood could do is perhaps inform Marquess Ostia."

Darin balked. "Ostia?! That would be ruinous! Lord Uther may be young and new to the throne, but he's dangerous." He growled. "That addlepated Helman! He was a coward to the end! To betray us now, when we're so close…We only need a little more time to complete our plans for rebellion!"

"Then before Marquess Ostia becomes aware of any of this, you would do well to stop them here."

"Yes, you're right, of course. We do have a chance! They have to pass through Laus to get to Ostia. We can still silence them!"

"They must not pass. No matter the cost."

"Right," Darin nodded. "Let us make haste. Call up our finest troops!"

"Father!" Erik stepped forward. "Please, let me take the command."

"Erik? Tell me, son, can you succeed?"

"That clod Eliwood and I studied together in Ostia. He's a trusting fool." Erik smirked. "If he sees me, he'll lower his guard and when he does, we strike!"

"I see."

For the first time a small frown formed on Ephidel's face. "I beg your pardon… Is this not too much for him? If, by strange chance, he fell, things could turn for the worse."

"No," Darin replied after a pause. "I know I'm the lad's father, but Erik's quite clever, I tell you. Snuffing Pherae's whelp will be no trouble at all." He nodded as if to reassure himself as well. "It's settled! It's up to you now, Erik. Bring me the head of Pherae's darling son!"

"Yes, Father!" Erik's face lit up with glee. "I will not fail you!"

xxx

The travel through Laus was not a pleasant one. Everywhere the company looked they saw evidence of war preparations. Large numbers of guards in places they had no need to be, blacksmiths working at all hours to fill tall orders, haggard citizens who have been heavily taxed, and even a few war machines by lumber mills. It was not a good sign and as they drew closer and closer to the castle, moral began to fall.

"Look around…" Hector growled. "They truly are preparing for battle. Marquess Laus! What is he scheming?"

Eliwood remained silent at his friend's declaration. His solemn expression bore his thoughts for the world to see.

"You don't much look like you want to go to the castle." Hector mused.

"If we go and learn the truth, we may have to go to war," Eliwood sighed in despair.

"Hmmph, that's fine with me!" Hector announced with bravado.

"I… I've no love for war," Eliwood stated. "If I concentrate on the foe before me, I'm fine. But if I picture families, innocents caught up in our foolish politics? If I imagine them… All I can do is pray for a way to solve things peacefully."

"Eliwood…" Hector grunted sympathetically. "Always looking at the bigger picture…That's why you'll always be a better leader than me."

Eliwood couldn't help but chuckle.

"I'm a bit surprised Hector," the red head smirked. "I would think you'd be a bit less eager to fight after you're spar with Link."

"You call that a spar?" Hector gawked at his friend. "Try the biggest damn ass kicking of my life!"

"You and me both," Eliwood laughed good-naturedly.

"Besides," Hector shrugged. "He may have humbled me a bit but that still doesn't mean I don't enjoy a good fight. It just means I have to train harder."

"And that's why I envy you," Eliwood smiled. "Always able to move forward without regrets."

"We all have our strengths I suppose," the blue haired axe fighter shrugged again. "That's what friends are for."

While the two young lords' conversation was going on they were suddenly interrupted when Marcus rode up with an announcement.

xxx

"I don't like the looks of things around here," Matthew stated. Beside him Link silently nodded his agreement. "What I don't understand is how this could have gone unnoticed for so long. Ostia has spies everywhere! Marquess Laus has never been known for his cunning, he should not have been able to do this on his own."

"Perhaps he wasn't on his own," The Hero of Time replied.

"My thoughts exactly," the spy agreed. "Marquess Santaruz knew something but obviously kept it to himself. His death only moments before he could divulge those secrets just proves that this is a much deeper conspiracy."

"So what do you think? Could there be another traitor in the Lycian League?"

"I'm not sure," Matthew admitted. "But I don't think so. It's obvious these preparations have been going on for some time and I saw nothing that would indicate similar actions in any of the other territories I've been to recently. My connections have likewise reported no such actions that I'm aware of. Laus is obviously the military might behind the conspiracy but if the other territories were involved, something should have shown up by now. I think there's something else going on."

Matthew may not be a front line fighter but he was a bloody good spy, information was his forte. If he suspected something deeper than what was seen on the surface then there was a pretty good chance he was right.

"We'll have to look into it later," Link replied.

"Yeah, unfortunately for now we have some other problems to deal with."

"You noticed?"

"Of course!" Matthew scoffed. "Who do you take me for?"

Link merely chuckled. "You going to take Guy? You're the reason he's here after all."

"Nah," the thief shook his head. "He could claim it as a payment for part of his debt. I need to draw him in a bit more so that he actually joins us willingly. That way I can cash in those favors at my leisure."

Link snorted. "You are really are a conniving little weasel aren't you?"

"Thanks!" Matthew grinned cheerfully. "I'll get Bartre and Dorcas to help. With a little bit of stealth we shouldn't need more than that, we only need to deal with about half or so."

"Bartre? Isn't he a bit loud?"

"Yeah but he's always up for a challenge. If I just phrase it in a way that plays on his capability as a warrior he'll stay quiet."

"If you say so," Link chuckled again and dismounted from Epona. "I'll take Rebecca. Good luck."

After a quick salute from the cheery thief the two departed to their self appointed tasks.

xxx

"Lord Eliwood!" Marcus announced. "An envoy has ridden forth from the castle."

"A messenger?" Eliwood blinked in surprise.

"Yes, my lord," Marcus nodded. "Our scouts say it's Marquess Laus's son, Erik. He is asking to see you."

"Erik?" Eliwood couldn't contain his surprise. He hadn't seen the marquess's son in over a year. While he couldn't say he was overly fond of the young man, he didn't really have anything against him either. Hector on the other hand was another matter.

"Gah," The blue haired lordling palmed his face. "Why did it have to be that buffoon?"

"I will see him," Eliwood replied to Marcus after a moment's pause. "Bring him here."

"Very well, milord," the older knight bowed. Hector quickly made to leave as well.

"I'm leaving." He stated. "I never could abide him. You're much better suited for this conversation. I'll go for a ride and survey our surroundings or something."

Eliwood merely nodded and watched his friend depart. It wasn't long before Erik rode up with a pair of guards.

"Hello!" Erik greeted with false cheer. "It's been a long time, Eliwood!"

"Erik..." Eliwood nodded to him, easily picking up on the hidden tone in his voice. "What is your business?"

"My business?" Erik sounded shocked. "What do you mean? I heard my old friend was here in Laus. I merely thought I'd ride out to greet you!"

Eliwood stared blankly at his fellow lordling. Erik's behavior was a bit surprising since, although they had been cordial to each other in the past, they had never been on overly friendly terms and he and Hector disliked each other from day one. His demeanor and the war preparations he had seen left Eliwood more than a little suspicious.

"So tell me, friend," Erik continued. "What brings you to Laus? Are you...on your way to Ostia?"

"Hm?" Elwiood blinked. "Why would you think that?"

"Well, you were always such good friends with Hector." Erik replied in an oily voice. "He and I never... got along very well. For a noble, his behavior was crude, and his manner of speech... You would have thought him a peasant at first glance. You're still friends with Hector, aren't you? When did you see him last? How do you communicate?"

"Erik..." Eliwood narrowed his eyes at the obvious fish for information. "You're after something. What is it?"

"Pardon?" Erik seemed a bit taken aback.

"Everywhere I look, Laus prepares for battle," Eliwood declared. "Lord Helman, on his deathbed, told me to come to Laus! What are you and your father planning? I will know the truth!"

Erik sighed. "I'd hoped to wait until you'd told me of Ostia. Of whether you've spoken with the marquess or not."

"What are you talking about?"

"Hm heh heh… Eliwood," Erik's false cheer broke into a twisted sneer. "I have always despised you. How I've longed to smash you and your pathetic morality into pieces! I've dreamed of this day, and here it is at last!"

"Too bad you'll not live to see the end of it," the surly voice of a certain blue haired lord interrupted.

"Hector!" Eliwood smiled at his friend's arrival. Erik, on the other hand, was less than pleased.

"Y-You!" Darin's son gasped. "Hector! You couldn't… Have you spoken with Ostia already?"

Hector merely shrugged. "Maybe we have, maybe we haven't." He turned his attention to his friend. "Eliwood, this mongrel has troops lying in ambush all around us. Laus regulars, every one. We're in for a rough time."

At his words Erik began to laugh, his bravado returning. "Heh heh… There's little point in fighting. You're trapped! My forces will overwhelm you, an unending torrent of soldiers! Laus's elite knights are at the ready as well. Heh heh… How long do you think you can survive?"

"Craven cur!" Eliwood spat. Erik merely laughed at the insult and was just about to raise his hand to signal the attack when a pair of arrows struck down the two guards at his sides.

"Wha-?" Erik gasped in surprise as the knights fell from their horses. Everyone's attention turned to the direction the arrows had come from to see Link and Rebecca walking forward with their bows out.

"Nice shot," Link nodded approvingly at Rebecca who beamed at the praise before calling out to the three lords. "Hey…Uh…insecure noble guy! Your soldiers wanted to tell you that the ambush has been cancelled due to unforeseen problems!"

Behind him Matthew grinned cheerfully while Dorcas and Bartre each carried their axes over their shoulders. Between the thief and the Hylian it hadn't taken very long to discover the flanking soldiers and enlist a couple others to deal with them. It had taken some convincing to get Bartre to fight quietly but in the end it worked out. Now they were free of soldiers from behind them and Erik was down to half his troops while also losing the element of surprise. With his two guards down, he felt very exposed to the arrows of the two archers.

"Argh!" Erik cried out in rage and spurred his horse into a fast retreat. "Curse you! Fall back to the castle!"

He turned and fled followed closely by the previously encroaching soldiers. His departure signaled a problem for the group however; with Erik's failed ambush they would have no choice now but to face Laus on the battlefield and the numbers were definitely not in their favor.

"That blasted coward!" Hector growled angrily. "I should have run him through years ago!"

"Calm down, Hector," Eliwood ordered. "We need to figure out our next move."

"Indeed," Marcus nodded. "A fight is inevitable now. We cannot hope to match the full might of Laus on our own but luckily their forces have been spread thin in an attempt to hide their preparations from the League. If we charge the castle now we may have a chance."

"That's still going to be a rough battle," Eliwood sighed. "They outnumber us by quite a bit."

"Laus may be a strong territory but their military has always used quantity over quality," Marcus replied. "We shall match their numbers with skill!"

"Well said!" Hector agreed wholeheartedly. "Let's show these dogs of Laus what it means to betray their country!"

At his declaration Link palmed his face in exasperation. Not a month into their trip and their little search and rescue venture had already led to challenging a castle…What was with these people? He was starting to wonder if this was a regular thing in this country or if he was just cursed. He sighed heavily. At least he could take comfort in the fact that the entire force of Laus's military wasn't concentrated at the capitol. War preparations, especially "secret" ones, took time, space, and resources, so supporting your entire army in one location for an extended period of time was not only difficult but counterproductive and it was a sure-fire way to alert your neighbors you were up to something unsavory. That's not to say that Laus didn't have a sizable force on hand but the bulk of the army was spread out across the land. Good thing too because the group's current strength was a fair bit smaller than the Legion had been when they challenged Lundgren. Even so the odds were definitely not in their favor.

Just the way he liked it.

"Now, how do we do this?" Link rubbed his chin in thought. While he pondered their predicament, Eliwood was quick to address a relevant concern of his.

"We should warn the nearby villages of the impending fight," He stated. "Most of the villagers we've seen want no part of this war and dragging them into this isn't right."

"A noble idea, milord," Marcus replied. "But are you sure it's wise to spread out our forces?"

"Perhaps not," Eliwood admitted. "But we need to advance our position anyway and I won't be able to concentrate on this fight if we ignore them."

"Very well then," the older knight bowed to his lord. "It shall be done."

xxx

In a small village outside the capital, a certain young purple haired mage sighed in frustration as he talked to the tavern owner.

"Please...isn't there anything you can do?"

"I'm sorry," the man shook his head. "But it's just not possible. If we disobey Marquess Laus, who knows what might happen to us?"

"I understand." Erk nodded courteously. "We'll seek our aid elsewhere."

"You'll find the same answer everywhere you go. Eventually, you'll have to do as the marquess orders. You would do well to tell your employer the same thing."

"Hm," Erk turned to leave. "Good day to you."

The mage bit back a curse as he stepped out into the open. Things just never seemed to work out for him whenever he went out on a journey. When his master had asked him to escort a young woman of noble birth on a search for answers to her family's tragic fall, he had been more than willing to do so. Not for a moment did he believe this job would turn out like his last one but alas, the woman he was escorting had caught the attention of the local marquess. He had invited her to the castle where he put forth a petition of marriage which was stoutly refused by the young woman. Though they were able to escape the castle, in his rage the marquess ordered guards to surround the village she had fled to. While he could not force her to the castle due to her standing as a noble of an Etrurian House, he could keep her contained within the village and put pressure on its inhabitants in an attempt to make break her spirit.

While Erk had grown stronger due to his experience with the Legion he was nowhere near foolish enough to believe he was capable of standing up to all of Laus's soldiers on in his own. But luckily the guards were more concerned with keeping the girl in check than they were with him and as such he had managed to slip out of the village in search of assistance. Unfortunately the search was not going well. Grunting in frustration and beginning to feel a bit desperate, the young mage began to consider his options when he heard a voice he had prayed to St. Elimine that he would never hear again.

"Erk? Is that you?"

xxx

In another village closer to the capital, a young woman with scarlet hair hummed a soft tune as she brushed her horse. She was a very beautiful maiden with green eyes that contrasted with her short cropped hair. She wore an elegant traveling dress that consisted of a green bodice with intricate golden trim and a white skirt. Instead of sleeves the dress had a silky gossamer veil that covered her upper arms and back like a shawl. A green bow situated in her lower back with a long tails completed the lovely dress. The woman also wore a pair of white full length gloves on her arms, light tan knee high boots, and a curious accessory behind each ear that looked like a pair of wings. With her outfit, coupled with her stunning looks and innocent demeanor, it was no small wonder that she caught the attention of the lecherous Marquess Darin.

"Priscilla," A gentle voice interrupted her activities. "Has your escort returned yet?"

"No," The now identified Priscilla shook her head sadly. "He left yesterday in search of a way out of here… I just hope the soldiers of Laus haven't captured him."

"His search for help must have been fruitless," The older man sighed. "Marquess Laus has ordered that no aid be given to you. There's really nothing that any of us can do. I apologize, but…"

"No, no," Priscilla shook her head and smiled kindly. "You could turn me over to the marquess, and yet you continue to grant me asylum despite the hardships my presence brings. I'm grateful for that." She sighed heavily. "Of course, if I simply went to the castle, this would all be over."

"Now now, don't fret over that," The villager chided. "None of us are overly fond of the marquess. He's always threatening us. He treats us like slaves. All of these war preparations?" He scoffed. "We want nothing to do with them! We may be divided into territories, but we're Lycians one and all! We may be invaded by another country one day, but why does he want to start a war here at home? None of us understand what he is doing."

"He is a petty, greedy man with delusions of grandeur," Priscilla replied. "No doubt he seeks to gain something from all this."

"You are probably right," the man agreed. "But what can we do?"

"I wish I knew," the young woman responded sadly and she truly did. She wanted so much to help these people and yet her presence alone was causing them trouble. She could only hope that Erk would find a way to get her out of this village and away from Laus. If she could make it back to Etruria before the war broke out she may be able to use her treatment to rally some political opposition from the Head of House Caerleon. But that hope all depended on her getting out of Laus safely. Little did she know that her salvation would soon appear and not in quite the manner she was expecting.

xxx

"Ohmigosh! It's Erk!" Serra squealed and dashed up to the very surprised mage. "It's been SO long! What are you doing here?"

"Oh…" Erk managed to suppress his exasperated wince but couldn't keep the dismay from his voice. "Serra. You're the last person I wanted to see…"

"Oh, that's so sweet!" Serra grinned cheerfully. "You wanted to see me again!"

Erk blinked in surprise and tried to process what she had just said. For the life of him he couldn't decide if she had selective hearing or if she honestly interpreted his words as being positive.

"Hey, I know!" Serra clapped her hands in delight. "This is perfect! Come with us and lend a hand, Erk. We could use you against the soldiers."

"I beg your pardon?" Erk gaped.

"Come on!" Serra grabbed his arm and began pulling him. "I'll even introduce you to Lords Hector and Eliwood! I know you. You're probably just wandering about without work."

"No, Serra," Erk pulled away. "I'm afraid I am gainfully employed." He paused for a moment. "However… If you're fighting Laus… This might work out after all."

"What are you babbling about?" Serra tapped her foot impatiently. "Make up your mind, will you?"

"My employer is hiding in a village south of here." The mage explained. "If you'll help me protect her, I'll join up with you."

"South?" Serra tapped her chin. "That shouldn't be an issue. Link headed that way."

"Link?" Erk blinked in surprise for the third time. "He's here, too?"

"I know, right?" Serra giggled. "I was surprised to see him as well but yes, he's here!"

"And he went to the south village?" Erk asked, hope rising in his chest. If that's where Link had gone, there would be no way he would miss out on what was happening there and if he noticed something wrong it was a pretty safe bet that he'd try and fix it. When Serra replied in the affirmative the young mage allowed a short chuckle to escape his lips. If that was the case then Priscilla was as good as rescued already.

xxx

"Who are you? State your business!" One of the guards stationed around the village demanded when Link approached the entrance.

"Just passing through," the Hylian raised his hands in supplication. He didn't want to make any trouble with the soldiers yet, at least not until he had given the villagers proper warning of the impending fight. That was kind of the whole purpose behind what he was doing. "I was chasing a bounty through this area but my quarry got tangled up with some of your fellow soldiers so now I'm out of a job. Just came to pick up some supplies real quick before moving on."

"Alright then," the guard nodded. "Make it quick and don't cause any trouble. This village is under surveillance by decree of Lord Darin."

"Oh?" Link quirked an eyebrow. "Any particular reason?"

"None that concern you," The guard quipped. "Now move along before I change my mind."

Link simply shrugged and carried on into the village. As soon as he was out of earshot of the soldiers he looked around trying to discern where the village head would be. It didn't take long for his sharp eyes to spot an older man talking with a young woman who looked rather out of place amongst the villages with her fine raiment and equally fine horse. Rather curious with her presence Link began moving towards them and it didn't take long for them to notice his approach.

"Again?" Priscilla scoffed when she noticed the green clad man. "Are you another messenger from the marquess? Please, do not waste your time. I will not change my decision."

"Eh?" Link responded intelligently, a bit taken aback by her abrasive tone. "Excuse me miss but I'm afraid you have me mistaken for someone else."

"Pardon?" Priscilla blinked. "Marquess Laus did not send you?" When Link shook his head she quickly brought a hand to her mouth in surprised shame. "I… I beg your forgiveness. It was my mistake."

"Don't mention it," Link chuckled. "But from that I take it you're the reason why the guards are here?"

"Yes," the young woman nodded sadly. "The marquess means to take me as his wife but I refused. Because I am not a citizen of Laus he cannot force me to the castle and for that I am being held in this village."

"Well now," Link scratched his cheek in amusement. "That's quite the dilemma. And here I just came to warn this village about the upcoming fight."

"Warn us?" the villager beside Priscilla inquired.

"Yeah, my company consists of representatives from Ostia and Pherae who are heading towards the castle in order to talk with the marquess but from the looks of things we're probably going to end up in a bit of a scuffle. We thought it would be a good idea to warn the nearby villagers in case things get out of hand."

"Hmmm, thank you for the warning," the villager bowed in appreciation. "I will spread the news to the others."

"Please do," Link nodded.

"Ummm…good sir?" Priscilla spoke up somewhat hesitantly.

"Yes milady?"

"You are a warrior? Traveling with House Pherae and Ostia?" At Link's nod she clasped her hands together in a pleading gesture and bowed her head. "If it's not too much trouble, might I leave with you?"

"You want to come with us?" Link asked.

Priscilla nodded. "I'm on a journey and Marquess Laus is barring my way…I'm trapped. Please help me…I… cannot offer much in return but I am trained in the use of staves. I could be of some…" She was stopped when Link held up a hand.

"It's fine, you don't need to worry about that," He smiled reassuringly. "I was going to help you leave here anyway but if you want to travel with us that's fine with me as well, we could always use another healer and besides that I'd never turn away someone in need," He grinned at her. "Especially someone as pretty as you."

Priscilla gave him a stunned look. His willingness to help coupled by his compliment both silenced her and brought a blush to her cheeks. Link chuckled at her reaction and dismounted from Epona.

"My name is Link, pleased to meet you."

"I am Priscilla," She bowed to him. "Daughter of Count Caerleon of Etruria."

"Heh," Link chuckled softly. "Another princess…"

"Pardon?" Priscilla blinked, not quite catching what he said.

"Ah nothing, don't mind me," Link waved it away. "So then, Priscilla, now that my warning has been passed on let's get you out of here."

"Ah wait," the young noble suddenly announced. "I am traveling with somebody else, an escort. He left the other day to find aid and hasn't returned yet."

"Hmmm, he went to the other villages?" Link asked. When Priscilla nodded he snapped his fingers. "That shouldn't be a problem. Some of my other companions are doing the same thing I am and warning people of the incoming fight. Chances are he'll run into them and may have the same thoughts you did. If not then the villagers here can point him in the right direction and it shouldn't take much for him to catch up."

"Ah," Priscilla nodded. "Very well then."

"Alright then, let's go," Link smiled at her.

"But how?" She asked in concern. "The soldiers won't simply let us leave."

"Sure they will!" Link smiled reassuringly and took hold of her horse's reins. "I'm sure they can be reasoned with. Come with me."

Not quite convinced, the young Etrurian noble nonetheless followed after him towards the village entrance.

"Halt!" The same soldier who had confronted Link earlier called out. "Where are you going with that woman?"

"Ah pardon me sir," Link smiled and passed the reins he was holding back to Priscilla. "But this lovely young lady says she's a bit tired of life in this village and so I thought I would take out for a little change in scenery."

"Well unless that change of scenery happens to be the inside of the castle then I'm afraid you're going to have cancel your plans."

"Aw come on," Link pleaded. "What's the harm in a little outing?"

"Look here!" The soldier growled threateningly brandished his sword. "If you know what's good for you you'll-"

WHAM!

He was interrupted in his tirade when a casual backhand by Link sent him sprawling to the ground.

"Oh!" Link cried out in mock surprise. "I'm sorry! That was rude of me. What were you saying again? I think I heard 'ah that's very thoughtful of you sir, have a good day' but I could be wrong. Could you please repeat that?"

"You cur!" Another guard roared and charged forward. A sharp uppercut to the chin knocked the man unconscious before he hit the ground.

"Oh my?" Link stared at the prone form of the fallen soldier. "Sleeping on the job? Shameful." He turned to the rest of the stunned guards. "You let him get away with that? You should take more pride in your work."

At that the remaining soldiers attacked in a fit of rage. Priscilla remained speechless throughout the entire exchange. At first she had been struck speechless by Link's casual approach and attempt to reason with the guard. That had quickly turned into surprise at the sudden strike against the soldier and the audacity of his comments. From there it moved to shock as she watched the green clad warrior hand out a rather brutal beat down to the rest of the guards.

After dusting his hands casually as if he had just finished doing some house cleaning Link turned back to the gaping young woman with a cheeky grin. "See? I told you they could be reasoned with. It's all in how you approach people. A winning smile, that's what it takes!"

Despite her astonishment, Priscilla couldn't help but laugh. "I see…well thank you for the lesson in diplomacy."

"My pleasure!" Link grinned. "Now then, shall we carry on?"

"Yes please," Priscilla smiled again. "And thank you."

xxx

Erk was beside himself when he saw Priscilla riding up with Link to join the rest of the company.

"Lady Priscilla!" The purple haired mage dashed up to her. "Are you well?"

"I should be asking you that, Erk," Priscilla replied with some concern. "Are you alright?"

"I'm fine," Erk waved his hand dismissively. "Listen, my lady. I've found some friends who will help us."

"Yes," the red haired girl smiled. "I've met them as well."

Erk turned his attention to the Elvin warrior beside her and bowed. "Thank you for getting Lady Priscilla out of that village Link."

"It's been awhile Erk," Link chuckled. "How have you been?"

"I am well and doing even better now that I know you're here," He turned back to Priscilla. "My Lady traveling with them for now would be the safest way for us to continue searching for-"

"Erk!" Priscilla cut him off sharply causing the mage to bow his head in shame.

"Oh, my apologies. This isn't the place to discuss such things."

"I'm sorry, but..."

"Lady Priscilla," Erk shook his head. "My teacher entrusted you to my care. Until you have reached your goal, I will not leave your side."

"Thank you, Erk," Priscilla smiled graciously.

"We are grateful for your assistance," Eliwood bowed lightly to the mage. "Your magic is a much welcome addition to our strength."

"We shall do our best to assist you milord," Priscilla clasped her hands in front of her and bowed graciously.

"Thank you," The young lord then turned his attention to Marcus. "Have all the villages been warned?"

"Yes milord," the commanding knight replied. "And none too soon. Laus is gathering their forces on hand at the castle and will begin marching towards us at any time."

"Any ideas on what we should do?" Eliwood asked. At his words, Link suddenly raised his hand.

"Actually I have something in mind that could work. I found a few things outside of one of the villages that gave me an idea."

xxx

"You sure you want to do this?" Eliwood asked nervously.

"Yup, should work out just fine." Link nodded.

"You're insane. You know that right?"

"I prefer the term 'unconventional,'" He replied nonchalantly.

"Yeah well I'd still call it insane," Hector snorted.

"Hey come on now! It's not that big of a deal," Link shook his head exasperatedly. "I've done crazier things."

"If that's the case then I don't want to see them! Ever!" Eliwood yelled.

"Oh relax..." Link sighed as he adjusted his position. "It's not like I'm making any of you guys do it, too."

"And that makes it better, how?"

"Cause you guys don't have to worry about the outcome."

"That doesn't change the fact that you're going to DIE!" Eliwood roared. "And why the heck aren't you four saying anything!"

Matthew, Dorcas, Erk, and Serra merely shrugged.

"It's Link," Serra replied. "This isn't the first time he's pulled off something like this. You get used to it after awhile."

"You can't tell me you've seen him do this before! Look at him!"

He thrust his finger at the scene before him like they were oblivious to its existence. The rest of the group were sharing similar thoughts as they too were questioning the mental stability of their green clad compatriot. You couldn't really blame them though. After all none of them had really been in any situation that warranted a crazy act of the type that Link was prone to facilitate in a pinch and seeing somebody casually sitting in the basket of a catapult aimed at the middle of the defending army was definitely not something any of them ever expected to see.

Priscilla and Rebecca had both noticeably freaked out at his suggestion while the others merely gaped at the Hylian like he had grown two extra heads, especially Guy who hadn't had any real chance to get to know anyone in the group outside of Matthew. Everyone except those that had traveled with Link before that is; well them and Bartre. He just laughed and declared the idea a fine showing of one's warrior spirit or something like that.

"For the last time," Link sighed. "I know what I'm doing."

"Really?" Eliwood asked skeptically. "You mean you've done this before?"

"Well no, not exactly," Link admitted. "But I still know what I'm doing."

"Fine..." Eliwood shook his head in defeat. "I suppose after everything I've heard and seen from you I shouldn't be all that surprised."

"Trust me," Link grinned. "I don't know much about full scale war tactics and stuff but I do know that our little group isn't going to win this without a bit of shock and awe." He adjusted his position slightly to shift the weapons on his back. "And this is the best thing I can think of at the moment."

"Feh," Hector scoffed. "And you going splat on the ground amongst all those soldiers is definitely going to be shocking. If this is the best thing you can think of I'd hate to see the worst."

Link paused and brought a hand to his chin in a thoughtful expression. "Yeah, you're probably right about that." He shifted once more and then braced himself for the inevitable. "Alright everyone remember what to do?"

"Yes," Eliwood nodded. "Although how you manage to store so much stuff in that bag of yours I'll never know..."

"Trade secret," Link grinned. "Gonna have to resupply afterwards though."

"And how do you plan on surviving this little idea of yours?"

"Don't worry, you'll see." He adjusted his position one last time before turning to the group with a wide grin. "Well, I think it's time to get this show on the road! Who wants to do the honors?"

"Ooh ooh! Me, me, me!" Mathew chimed cheerfully and immediately grasped the lever to fire the war machine. "I forever claim the bragging rights from launching you to your doom! Take that, Sain!"

Link laughed. "If he were here he'd probably fight you for it."

"Well he's not, so sucks to be him. NICE KNOWING YOU!"

With a loud cry Matthew pulled the lever and Link was sent flying through the air high into the sky. His shout of exhilaration ringing out across the ground below. The initial jolt from the launch momentarily disorientated him but he quickly regained his bearings and began focusing his magic. At the peak of his arcing flight he used Farore's Wind to teleport straight up, higher into the sky. The magical power needed to cease his forward momentum was a little more than he thought he would need but he had more than enough to spare. As soon as he reappeared he immediately cast the spell again to take him even higher although he was not able to make it quite as far as the first time. He repeated this pattern twice more before he reached the limit of the number of times he could cast that spell in succession. After his last teleportation he clicked his heels together and materialized his Hover Boots around his feet, allowing him to stand in midair.

These boots were slightly different than the tractionless ones with limited power he originally wore. Much of the equipment that he had used during his first quest to save Hyrule, while unique and legendary in their own rights, had been old and worn out. His original hookshot was first discovered by the grave keeper, Dampe, when his was poking around in the dirt for Goddess sake. As such over the years Link had much of his gear repaired, tuned up, and improved by people with the capabilities of doing so. His original Hover Boots had been drained of much of the magic that powered them by time. They were still functional but could not be used to take more than a few steps before they gave out. Now Link could take several steps on air before the boots dropped him and he could stand on air or water almost indefinitely as long as he was stationary. The traction in the boots had also been improved greatly although they were still quite slippery. These improved boots gave Link time to catch his breath and shake away the headache from casting Farore's Wind without an anchor point; a much more taxing feat than otherwise.

He barely registered the dull thrum resonating from the Hover Boots that kept him aloft as he surveyed the land below. Thanks to the catapult he had managed to get high enough to stand amongst the small clouds that moved lazily across the sky. He sighed to himself as he admired the view for a few seconds before reaching into his magic bag to retrieve another object he had acquired during his adventures, this one from Termina, and one he had not used in awhile.

A mask.

Outwardly there was nothing special about it at all. It was simple in design and very plain, but it held great power. Link traced the outline of the mask with his finger, smiling wistfully as he remembered the things it had allowed him to accomplish.

"Heh," Link chuckled lightly to himself. "This'll be fun."

With that he kicked off the air into a front flip, un-equipping his hover boots as he did, and placed the mask on his face.

On the ground far below, the forces of Laus had paused when they heard a loud cry fill the air and witnessed the man flying through the sky before disappearing in a flash of green. They had watched as several more green flashes, each higher than the last, dotted the sky before disappearing into a passing cloud. The soldiers waited for something else to happen but when nothing did a ripple of murmuring arose between them. Their questions and gossip did not last long, however, because another bright flash from within the cloud caught their attention. Their stunned expressions turned to fear when a large round object plummeted towards them, gathering speed as it spun rapidly through the air. The object began glowing with heat, brighter and brighter, as it fell until it looked like a meteor.

BOOOOOOOOOM!

The impact of the object sent out an explosive shockwave that blew everyone within a fifteen meter radius off their feet, some soldiers dying instantly from the sheer force, and created a deep crater in the earth.

For a moment all was still. Dust and a small pebbles lifted from the impact fell back to the ground and only the sound of heavy breathing could be heard from the men surrounding the hole. Then, a deep thump echoed from within the crater. Another soon followed. And another. The rhythmic noise sounded distinctly like footsteps to the Laus soldiers but that theory was disproven when a massive hand appeared at the lip of the crater and slapped down on ground with a resounding thud. Another hand soon followed and the soldiers could only stare in horror as what could only be described as a giant golem of stone crawled out from the earth and stood before them.

The towering figure was easily nine feet tall with huge arms bearing ridiculously powerful muscles that hung from massive shoulders passed the knees of its proportionately much smaller legs. A large black rosary wrapped around its short thick neck like a color and white hair poked out from underneath a larger version of the same green hat Link wore. Before them, in all of its hulking glory, stood a creature that no one in this world had ever seen: a Goron.

But not just any Goron. No the average Goron was smaller than this and much less muscular. Although by no means weak Gorons were a peaceful, brotherly race that readily avoided combat for anything other than recreational purposes such as wrestling. While tough enough to thrive within an active volcano and capable of crushing rocks as casually as a horse chews grass, few of them ever had any need or care to develop themselves into warriors and so such Gorons were rare. The mask that allowed Link to transform into one of these mighty rock-eating eating creatures carried the essence of one such Goron. A powerful Goron Hero named Darmani. But when Link had first used the mask in Termina his childish body was not capable of bearing the full power of the mighty Goron and so he could only transform into one slightly beefier than average and maintained the innocent round face that most of them wore.

Now with his fully developed body, slowly cultivated to be even stronger than his first time as an adult, he stood in the full form of a powerful Goron Warrior. If not for the lack of beard he could be a dead ringer for Darunia, the Big Boss of the Hylian Gorons and Sage of Fire, right down to the intimidating scowl. That was a sight that could frighten even the heartiest soldiers.

The stare down between the soldiers and the behemoth of stone lasted only a few seconds before Link cracked his knuckles in preparation. Each pop sounded like two rocks smashing together and shattered the silence the permeated the air.

One soldier was foolish enough to charge forward, his sword held high. With a loud cry the swordsman swung his blade with all the force he could muster. The unmistakable clang of metal hitting rock resounded across the ranks and the swordsman gaped in fear at seeing his sword held in the crushing grip of the stone giant.

Without a word Link flexed his muscles and broke the blade in two before backhanding the soldier with the same hand. The hapless man was sent flying through the air into a nearby tree where he crumpled from the impact. Link didn't even bother to look; instead, he kept his gaze towards the bulk of the army. He flexed the fingers in his open hand again before reaching to his side and bringing forth a weapon considered legendary by the Goron's of Hyrule. A powerful weapon mighty enough to cause small earthquakes and shatter the armored skull of an ancient dragon and crafted specifically for the might of a Goron: the Megaton Hammer.

With his weapon raised he finally spoke, his deep voice carrying easily across the army.

"Who's next?"

xxx

A/N: Well some of you asked for it and there it is: the debut of one of Link's masks. Honestly I've wanted to write that scene for sooooo long…it feels good to get it out. Actually the rest of this chapter was kind of hard to write in comparison. It took me a long time of planning reorganizing and writing to get it how I wanted. There were quite a few scenes I wrote and had to delete because they didn't fit. At any rate I hope this worked out. Things are finally starting to pick up pace. Rebecca's getting stronger, Matthew suspects a deeper conspiracy, and what could Link have planned for Guy? You'll just have to wait and see! Next chapter is going to have more fighting in it! Until then please R&R!