Chapter Forty Four
The Hilltop

"Hey! I've found a body, sergeant! Over here!"

"All the way out here? Is he Kairin?"

"I wouldn't think so, sir! Actually can't tell, his armour looks different, very grand! But gods, his face! Looks like his eyes were put out by flaming arrows or something! He's definitely dead, sir."

"Let me see, pass me your torch. Bloody storms, you're not wrong. He's – oh – by the gods! Can't you see who this is!?"

"No, I don't... oh! Mother of death..."

"This is bad, lad... Hey, I need a stretcher here, now!! Hey, Mem, have you found something over there?

"There's another body! Young man, no armour!"

"Do you recognise him!?"

"Recognise him, sir?"

"Yes! Answer me, man!"

"Ah... wait. Yes sir. Oh, light. Sir, it's the Prince Rael!"

"Well is he dead or alive!? ... Mem! ... Mem!"

"... He's breathing!"

"Get him back to the camp, now!"

......

"Rael... Rael, can you hear me? Rael, it's Anya, wake up. I don't know if you can hear me so I'm going to talk anyway. You look badly hurt, but the physicians say you should recover. Bloody miracle though judging by that firestorm you cooked up... Everyone's so afraid, Rael. Even Wulric doesn't know what to do. Wake up and talk to us, man. What happened out there?"

......

"Lord Destan, all scouts are reporting in, and there's no sign of the Queen anywhere."

"Blood and storms, which Queen, man?"

"Well. Both."

"Ash and rain. Find them!"

"We are doing all we can, but the snow, my Lord..."

"I don't care, just get our men out there!"

"Yes sir. My Lord, how is he?"

"What, him? He'll be fine once he bloody wakes up. And then he can tell me what happened out there."

"My Lord, is it true what they say? Is the Hero dead?"

"Yes. He is. His body is in the next tent... Come, I'll take you."

......

"Rael, it's Vash. I mean, Joal. You have to wake up... everyone is so afraid. They found Link's body, but they can't find the Queen anywhere. It's like she vanished. But the Kairin are in retreat. The cavalry are scouring the plains trying to chase them down, but it's hard work in the dark. But we won, Rael. We won. The war's over."

......

"Well?"

"Still no word, my Lord."

"I thought as much. Things will be very hard if the Queen doesn't come back, Colonel."

"Doesn't come back? Do you even think she's alive?"

"That's what I mean. If she's gone, then, well. I cannot think of it. Colonel, tell Chief Link and King Relano that I want to speak to them right away in my tent. Bring Brold and Vellaro as well."

"Yes, Lord Marshal."

......

"Rael. It's me. I know... I don't sound like I used to, but you can trust me. You have to wake up. You have work to do."

......

Rael opened his eyes slowly, and looked around at the interior of a small, empty tent. He was laying on a bedroll, covered in thin blankets. The air around him was heady with herbs and medicine, and steamers were keeping the room warm but humid. He found a wet towel on his forehead, and dropped it down by his side, before picking himself up into a sitting position.

"Hello?" he said, drily. No-one came.

He found a jug of water next to his bed. It was too heavy to lift, so he scooped some water out with his hands and poured down his throat. When he spoke again, his voice was clearer and louder.

"Hello!"

Anya was the first to rush into the tent. "Rael!" she said, throwing herself to the floor by his side and grabbing him tightly. "Oh, thank Din." She pulled away and smiled, though her face was still creased with worry.

"You look terrible," said Rael.

"Thanks," she said, punching him sharply in the arm. Rael groaned, and Anya bit her lip. "Sorry."

Wulric was next through the tent flap, followed closely by Morin and Hannary. "Bout bloody time," grumbled Wulric. "Had yer beauty sleep, have yer now?" he said, folding his hands behind his head.

"Don't speak to our captain that way, Wulric," said Morin, clasping his hands behind his back. "My Lord it is a true joy to see you awake again. We have been most worried, though I knew you would pull through." Wulric muttered something under his breath, but Morin paid him no attention.

"What happened?" said Rael. "The Kairin."

"We won, Your Highness," said Hannary. "Thousands dead on both sides, tens of thousands even... A lot of the Blades too... But it's over, now, and the remaining Kairin are fleeing across the plains. They won't last long."

"Where's Elane?" asked Rael.

Every pair of eyes looked away from him. "My Lord," said Morin, after a short silence. "She's gone."

"What!" shouted Rael, throwing aside his covers. He got to his feet in a matter of seconds, ignoring his aching body. "Where!"

"We don't know, sir," said Morin. "No-one understands."

"Where is Destan!" Rael demanded. He grabbed a pair of trousers from beside his bed and pulled them on over the smallclothes he had been lying in. "Or whoever is in charge." Then he found his boots at the side of the tent and pulled them on roughly, without caring to put on any socks.

Morin tried to answer, "Sir the he's out in the-"

"Just get out of my way!" Rael shouted, grabbing a short red coat from a pile of clothes and making for the exit. He pushed between Morin and Wulric, threw open the tent flap, and the brightness of day struck him in the eyes from all directions. He had to shield his eyes for a second. Immediately around him was a little ring of plan canvas tents, but beyond that a thick layer of pure white snow was covering everything. The plains were pure white.

"Who's in charge, here?" Rael shouted, as he put the coat on and quickly tightened a few of the fastenings.

A few spear-wielding Hylian guards looked at him in stunned silence, casting uncertain glances at each other. Then after a moment the flap of one of the tents was raised, and a black-cloaked figure emerged.

"General Destan," said Rael, addressing him, "I demand to know what is happening. Where are our armies? Where is Elane?"

The older man tightened his thick black cloak around himself. "Are you quite warm, Your Highness?"

"Don't worry about my health," said Rael.

"Very well," he said. "Please follow me, Your Highness. I will tell you what I can."

"How long was I asleep?" Rael asked.

"From dusk until noon," said Destan. "Twenty hours, without as much as a murmur."

"Burn your hide, you should have woken me, General" said Rael.

"Yes sir," said Destan. "Here sir, up this slope."

"We have major problems, General," said Rael.

"I know sir," he said, as the two men crested a short slope. "I should say, Highness, it is Marshal Destan now. It was Lord Link's final command to me. I am trusting that you know he did not survive..."

"Your trust is well placed," said Rael, stonily.

Immediately in front of him was another small camp that could only have accommodated a few hundred soldiers. Beyond that he saw the fields of destruction. The snow blanketed an area a mile across where there lay the shape of bodies, with shields and spears sticking out of the white frost. At least the sea in the sky had dissipated now, he thought grimly.

"Most of the survivors have marched back up to the Encampment," said Destan, "if they aren't pursuing the Kairin." Rael turned to look northward, and saw the Encampment in the distance as a series of black specks.

"How many are dead?" he asked.

"Far too many," said Destan.

"Numbers," said Rael.

"At least fifteen thousand dead," Your Highness, "Maybe as many as twenty."

A crowd of soldiers was gathering around Rael and Destan on the snowy hilltop. His Sun Blades were among them, and Vash too. The Goron Chief and the Zora King had emerged from the other camp, and were walking up the hill towards him.

"Destan, where is Elane?" he asked.

"She was taken, Your Highness," said Destan. "One of her bodyguards survived. She said they were attacked by a demon, but I don't-"

"Where is Jaendral," said Rael, clenching his fists and looking around the gathering assembly.

"We can't find him either. And Jevilla Falsha is dead too."

Rael shook his head. He did not want to believe what he was hearing. He stood completely still.

"Here sir," said Destan, "the soldiers who found you last night found this lying nearby."

The Marshal reached into his black robes and produced the Amethyst Snake, the shining purple jewel that Rael had promised to give back to her after the battle. Rael took it from him tentatively, and held it up to the light, letting the dawn sun sparkle in its purple hue. "She gave it to me before the battle," Rael said, distantly.

He did not understand what was happening. Everything seemed to be wrong.

He had watched Ralis die. Hadn't he?

Yet he was supposed to be the one that destroyed him, not Zelda. Was that not his destiny? Yet, here he stood on a new dawn, with Ralis' dark clouds gone and Hyrule victorious in battle. But – it did not make sense! Something was terribly, terribly wrong. The battle for Hyrule had been won, but he had the dreadful feeling that somehow... his war was not over.

Ralis... are you still out there?

"Your Highness," said Destan, interrupting his thoughts. "Please, tell me, where is the Queen?"

Rael looked into Destan's eyes, and the other man knew immediately. "She is dead," he said.

Destan lowered his eyes. It was the answer he had feared. "I am sorry, Your Majesty," he said. The crowd of soldiers gathering around them could see that grave words were passing between the two men, and it was plain to them that Rael was deeply troubled.

What is happening?

This is all wrong!

"Your Majesty," said Destan, drawing his attention.

"Why are you calling me that?" asked Rael. Destan just looked at him, and the look in his eyes was all the answer Rael needed.

Gods save me...

There was no avoiding it. Zelda was gone, and the Throne of Hyrule could not stay empty. Destan swept his cloak behind himself and made loud his proclamation, so that the crowd of soldiers could all hear his voice. Dropping into a deep bow he called out, "The Queen is dead! Long live the King!"

There was but a brief moment of stunned pause. Then the cry was taken up by everyone there assembled. The proclamation rang across the plains. "Long live the King! Long live the King! Long live the King!"

The King of Hyrule turned his eyes from Destan and looked at the faces around him. People he loved, people he had fought to save. Zelda's people. Now his people. But all he could do now was gaze upon the Amethyst Snake in his hand, lost in memory, thinking of all those who he had lost. His Da, Mara, Tabett, Daran... Link and Zelda. So many others he had known and lost, and thousands more dead in the field of battle. And now Elane was gone, and he did not know where to find her.

Everything seemed so very wrong. If the Lord of Dusk was dead, then where was the golden age of peace and prosperity? What of the Halisarin Cycle? Was it over? It could not be so.

Daran! What has happened?

Rael was alone. There was nobody left to turn to for leadership. Zelda was gone forever, turned to smoke and ash in an instant of self sacrifice, and her wisdom was all but lost. Link was dead, his spirit lost to the ages, and it was hard to feel his great courage now. And yet the darkness had not relinquished its hold upon the world. There was an unwavering feeling of dread enduring in his heart. The darkness was out there... it lingered in the icy wastes...

What had Daran said to him on the ship before he was captured? The horn of blood... it isn't over...

"Your Majesty," said the Marshal of Hyrule. "What is wrong?"

King Rael Nohansen Hyrule fixed his eyes upon the northern horizon.

"The dawn is rising," he said, "and we have work to do."

............

The chosen beget a father of light.

The sea rages and lightning breaks the waves.

The father blade herald's twilight's fall.

......

A dark road diverges to the ocean.

A guide awakens and the horn rings true.

A river of blood marks the father's path.

......

The tides of night swallow the sand.

The amethyst queen reclaims what was lost.

The desert bends knee to the morning star.

......

A crown of dusk is remade.

A path of death is carved through the ocean.

A price is paid for glory.

......

The grave opens and the horn rings true.

The last ancient evil hides.

The first ancient light is revealed.

......

A war begun on the blood of others

Is ended on the blood of brothers.

............

~The End of Book Four of the War of Twilight~