A/N: Yes, I am alive. Yes, it's been 7 months since I updated. Yes, you hate me. But I'm writing again! And just it time for Christmas! (Or any other holiday you may well celebrate). Perhaps it's a miracle, who knows? All you do need to know is that I have a new chapter up - and it's one that I feel opens the door for me in terms of less writers block in the future. So that means more updates.
And on a side note: Happy Holidays to everyone! Enjoy!
Chapter 11: New Beginnings
A wooden drawbridge was all that was holding Link and Arvas back from entering the city that they could only hope would provide some answers for their quest. The city that had founded itself past the throne's boundaries in obscurity, the city that had more problems then the pope during the reformation, a city filled with evil, had soundly become the only way either of them could possibly get the necessary information on the book's whereabouts.
Umbra was situated in a very strange and remote location, located in a valley gorge between two mountains known as the "Ghost and Spirit" mountains based of another legend of the twili. According to the laurel, a vagabond group of twili mages had tried to find their way back to the light realm through magical means. The legend stated that Din had come down and punished the two for trying to escape their imprisonment by challenging them to a duel. As with everyone who challenged a goddess, they died, and their spirits were said to haunt inside the caves of the mountain. It was also an appropriate name because of the faint silhouette the two mountains put over the city.
The city was built much like castle town of Hyrule, with an outer wall and drawbridge surrounding the place. Red sandstone rocks were the only thing that distinguished Umbra's outer wall from that of castle town, a faint burgundy color visible from the everlasting shadow Umbra was cast in. On top of the curtain wall, two sloppily dressed guards looked upon the pair with quizzical eyes, their spears pointed lazily in the air signaling a few too many drops of rum had been shared between the pair. Link was appalled at the way the city guard maintained themselves, with horrible clothing and a smell that he could whiff from all the way down at his current position. Perhaps it had just been the side effect of being a wolf though, seeing that Arvas showed no ill effects to the stench.
"Halt! Who goes ther'?" One guard said, clearly slurring his speech, interrupting Link's thoughts. Link opened his mouth to speak, but Arvas was quick to cut him off.
"We are but two travelers who want passage into your city," he said dignified and respectfully.
"Whaddya want that fur?" he snorted, "You lot look like about as tough as the spider underneath my boot! And he's dead!"
"This is going nowhere," Link thought to himself. "C'mon Arvas, these guys won't budge without force."
"No," Arvas said, looking at Link out of the corner of his eye. "I know how to deal with their type. I make trips here regularly."
"Grand," Link said, rolling his eyes. "Well hurry it up then. I need a good rest after all this nomadic wandering you led me on." Arvas nodded as he continued to talk to the guard.
"Please sir," Arvas began, "me and my companion have been wandering here for days on end. He's dreadfully ill, and he needs rest and attention. Just look at how pale he is!" he finished, knowing the guards would be too plastered to notice Link wasn't a twili, or the King for that matter. The two guards squinted there eyes as if they were trying to get a good look at him.
"Well I'll be damned. If that ain't the whitest skin I've ever seen." The guard shouted back. "Still, what's in it fur me?" he questioned, rubbing his hand on his grizzly shirt indicating greed and a nonchalant attitude.
If it were up to Link, he would have already drawn his bow and let his arrows fly into the guard's pot bellies. Aside from Erich, the town guard and their inability to do anything other then play drinking games pissed Link off the most.
"We'll give you each twenty rupees for free passage into the city," Arvas said as he dug through his robes, reacting faster than Link could interject. He flashed them the money as soon as he found it. "Deal?"
"Deal!" the guardsmen shouted. With a heave of their arms and a guttural grunt, they indicated the guards below them to lower the drawbridge.
The drawbridge teetered slowly, its massive wooden frame lowering with an ominous sense of foreboding. The wood creaked and moaned with the clanging sounds of metal as the dense bridge touched down to the ground, the rope drawing taught and tight, opening the gateway from one banishment to another.
The doorway to Umbra was open, and with it, a whole new expanse available for exploration.
As a shape-shifter, Nenya was taught the art of stealth from a young age. Having grown up in a city like Umbra, her talents were looked upon with greed and envy. The power to shape-shift, a power that randomly showed up in certain twili, was a powerful tool in a city that openly hired assassins. Men who lived in Umbra were scum, and certain men with enough coin could use their wealth to extract revenge on someone who had cheated them in a game of cards or slept with their wife. This behavior, while not foreign to some women, was mostly male oriented, as females who grew up in Umbra were stuck in a suffragist movement. A movement that was tied to cement blocks, that is.
Not Nenya though. She had been taught at a young age to wave the middle finger to men who treated her like property. Though she personally found roundhouse kicks to the face to be a much more effective tool. Her single greatest achievement in her mind was never having been bested in battle by a single man.
As she sat in the shadows, she watched the drawbridge lower down and welcome the two strangers to her home. She had been following them since their arrival in Crescent Village, as her orders had stated. She had stayed hidden in her animal form, not drawing attention to herself, as ordered. She had even passed up a chance at killing her quarry, following her orders to their exact words.
She hated it. It was mission's like these that infuriated Nenya. She wasn't a spy; she was an assassin, and a damned good one at that. Orders that were so specific that the simply killing of a man turned into an elaborate scheme of some kind pissed her off. She rather preferred the client's earlier missions: the assassinations of psychics. Nenya was surprised and amused that despite a psychic's ability to see the future they rarely looked into their own. It was a coincidence that cost them their lives.
Those missions were good in her mind. Short, sweet, and to the point. This new mission her client had sent her on seemed more like a delusion of grandeur rather than something that could become a reality. Still, orders were orders, and as her boss had said, "When someone is paying the kind of money our client is, he can order us to kill the King, and the consequences can go right to hell. Asking us to follow a set of orders in addition to killing someone shouldn't be asking for much."
Still, Nenya wished that she could do one or the other, and not both. She had to admit upon learning that one of her targets was the King of Twilight she got a little nervous. She knew that even in the right circumstances, a warrior as great as the King could still be taken down. Regardless, she worried the moment to strike had passed when in Crescent Village, and she may never get the opportunity again.
As she saw her quarry enter the shadowy city, she followed them, slowly slithering along, and her tongue flickering in and out of her mouth lazily as could be.
The walk to the library was absolutely silent. Neither Zelda, Colin, Ashei, nor Ilia said a word as they walked down the marble hallways to the Royal archives. Especially Ilia. As if it wasn't an obvious reaction, she was depressed after hearing what Zelda has to say. It was easily noticeable and she conveyed it to everyone else around her through her body language. They had tried to make small talk, and tried to comfort her, but their efforts were all for naught. She just wanted to be alone.
She had been given hope that Link could return, that she might be able to start a new life – a family with kids – with him. Instead, she had traveled on a perilous journey, getting attacked by Bulbins, sleeping under the stars with gravel and rock as her mattress, only to find out that Link was alive, but with another. Her sorrow was so great that she would gladly welcome a Bulbin arrow to plunge itself into heart and end her life. It could not bleed anymore than it was now after all.
Instead, she was painfully drudging on, trying to find a way back to Link, trying to ascertain a way to enter the twilight realm. Upon Zelda's words of wisdom, the group decided that the best course of action would be to rest a few days while Zelda cleared her schedule of things to do, and then scour the Library for anything at all that could help them find a way back to Link. The days seemed like months to Ilia, who more than anything wanted to go home and sleep all this away as if it were a bad dream. She didn't even want to find a way back to Link. It was pointless to her; even if she saw his face again, she couldn't dare say what she wanted. Knowing what it could lead to, she would rather them not find the entrance to twilight. However, the light spirit's words echoed in her head like a bell that wouldn't stop ringing.
"But…" the spirit said, "This world may need him and the sacred blade he wields again. We need a way to find him. Only one person can do so."
"Who?" she asked, speaking for the first time.
"You," the spirit said, trying to smile the best it could. "You are the one who knows him best in this world, and you can find him again."
"Why couldn't it have been someone else?" she murmured silently to herself.
"What's that?" Colin asked, somewhat relieved to hear Ilia speak for the first time in days. Her head perked up, eyes slightly snapping to attention.
"Huh?" she said, surprised Colin had heard her at all.
"Ilia, please… just talk to me," he whispered softly enough that Zelda and Ashei couldn't hear. "I know it's tough to talk about, but just try. I want to help."
Ilia sighed at the boy's sweetness. In a lot of ways, Colin reminded Ilia of Link. Not in terms of being a true warrior and legend, but rather by the way he carried himself.
"I'm… OK," she fibbed back to him, "Really Colin, I'll be just fine."
Colin looked skeptical and was about to reply when Zelda turned around and spoke.
"We're here," she said calmly.
In front of the group lay a pair of double doors made of thick oak, with metal handles. They easily reached up to 7 feet tall and loomed over the party with a strange presence. Behind these doors lay all recorded information in the history of Hyrule. Hours had been toiled away in obscurity as scribes poured their ink on parchment of all shapes and sizes, their hands stained from their quills. If their answer for returning to twilight existed at all, there was no better place to find it then in this library.
It was time to find out what laid ahead of them. Zelda pulled on the handles to the door as they opened with all the grace the door's appearance exuded, as the party went about trying to find a way back to twilight.
Back within the twilight, Midna was active with her duties trying to recover the mess brought about by Sethran's murder. Apparently, the killer had used a forbidden twili spell to kill the wise old councilor, which caused the already panicking council's feathers to be ruffled up even more. Over the past few days, the council had gone about proposing ridiculous bills to pass into law, all of which Midna decisively cut down, as well as arranging and holding the funeral service in honor of the twili's longest lasting council member.
The ceremony, though short and brief due to the chaotic nature of politics, was one that was held respectably and was done in a most proud manner. Even Midna was impressed with how the councilors, normally so quick to worry about themselves and forgo others, handled themselves during the ceremony. Even Aicantar behaved himself well at the funeral, which both encouraged and frightened Midna. It encouraged her because it seemed to prove that her original thought that Aicantar was a mere pain in the ass and not a monster was true. It frightened her because if it wasn't Aicantar that did it, than who did?
Upon the ceremony's conclusion, Midna was out walking with Tirana in the royal garden. The two did not share words with each other, but instead merely enjoyed each others company. The smell of the twilit flowers as well as the scenic view of the garden provided that pair with a sense of relief and closure over the events that had taken the castle by storm. Erandur and Link weren't far behind the pair, as they tried to race each other in a walking race by seeing who could take the longest steps. Midna occasionally looked behind her in amusement as she saw her two sons trying to keep stride with each other, occasionally wobbling side to side from taking too big a step.
"I'm just glad that nothing happened to these two," Midna said, breaking the silence. "I don't know what I would have done without them."
Tirana half-heartedly smiled. "Well, for starters, I would immediately fear for the murderer's safety. Poor bastard wouldn't know what was coming to him."
Midna chuckled. "True," she said, "But I doubt we wouldn't have disagreed he would have deserved it."
"Who do you think it was?" Tirana asked. She knew she suspected Aicantar, but she was curious if she still held that belief.
"Well… I originally thought it to be Aicantar," Midna said looking down at the ground, "He's become an increasing pain the ass for us lately, and this might have been the next step. But…"
"But?" Tirana asked in momentary suspense.
"The way he acted… it wasn't like him. He seemed generally upset at the funeral today. Like something was wrong with him."
"I noticed it too," Tirana said, "But so did everyone else. You'd be hard pressed to find suspects at the funeral service we just saw today."
Midna couldn't refute that. Everyone seemed shaken up about it. If the murderer was indeed at the funeral today, then he or she was a hell of an actor. It almost made her wish that someone was laughing at the funeral today, just to give her a clue as to who it might have been. But as of right now, all the councilors were suspects. As were anyone who lived inside the castle.
"Do you think it could have been an outside job?" Tirana asked. "I know it's hard to fathom… but is it possible?"
Midna shook her head as she spoke. "Doubtful," she said with a sigh. "According to the guards, Sethran must have been killed in his sleep by a forbidden spell that no one outside the castle would know about. Otherwise, we would have heard him shout in pain. Apparently it was a cross between a soul cleaving spell and a body damaging one - enough to hurt the body and kill the soul."
"A banishing age spell?" Tirana asked, noticeably more worried.
Midna shook her head gravely, understanding the worry in her eyes. In the twili's system of magic, banishing spells were the absolute worst. They were a tool of interlopers in the age of twili laurel when the soul of a twili was tampered with as opposed to less damaging physical spells. With all the focus on the afterlife back then, the twili felt by containing the soul of the deceased on the plain of the living, they could somehow grant eternal life to those who had past. Instead, all they had managed to do was create a system of spells that could destroy a person utterly – mind, body, and soul. Since then, combat spells banned the usage of soul tampering.
Midna and Tirana turned around to see a servant running to them, full speed. He held a piece of paper that had been hastily scribbled on.
"What is it?" Midna asked curiously. Surely more bad news couldn't be on its way, could it?
"The council has called an emergency session, and demands you come!" he said, panting a little as he spoke. He handed her the note for validation. Midna frowned.
"On what grounds are they calling an emergency session to order?" she asked.
The young twili servant gulped, clearing his throat as he spoke. "Well ma'am, I believe it's cause they think they know who the murderer is."