It was outside the gates of Castle Town that Midna found herself formed up, much to the Princess's surprise. Staring at the thick outer walls of the castle as the last of her magic faded from existance, Midna blinked in confusion. "What am I doing here?" The woman wondered aloud, tilting her head to one side in curiosity. "I was trying to go to Faron Woods..."
And get a little closer to a certain mutt, I'm assuming? Nabooru's voice slid through Midna's head, and once again, the Twili-turned-Gerudo let loose a small growl, something that was quickly growing into a bad habit with the thief she'd been fused to.
Walking onto the bridge that led inside the walls of the great city, Midna paused, raising her head to the sky as though questioning the goddesses themselves. "What did you do to me this time?" The red-eyed woman hissed, ignoring the various merchants parading past her on the bridge, ignorant of the stares she'd earn as she spoke aloud and deaf to the mutterings of the passer-bys.
What could only be a snort echoed in Midna's skull. Me? Nabooru scoffed. I have done nothing. This is all your doing, my dear...Something in the tone with which Nabooru spoke to her caused the hair on the back of Midna's neck to stand on edge. "You're saying you had nothing to do with this?" Midna asked, her hands reaching to grasp the railing along the bridge that prevented the foolish and ill-balanced from falling into the river below. "But...I've never had difficulty with my magic before. Not like-"
Not like a theif who has never had to rely on magic as much as a princess.
The thought was a whisper, so quiet and indiscriminate that Midna was unsure if it belonged to Nabooru or herself.
"The fusion..." Midna's voice was low and quiet, yet filled with such power that several people walking past the woman went out of their way to give the red-head a wide berth, some staring wearily at her as though she might attack them at any moment. "Nabooru, is this a result of the fusion?" The dark-skinned woman's voice rose with each word, until the last bit came out as a shout, causing more innocent bystanders to pause and stare.
The thief she'd allied herself with gave no response.
And so, with a frustrated growl, Midna released her grip on the railing, once more ignoring the various stares directed her way as she marched into the capital of Hyrule. "Maybe I'll get lucky and see if a certain light-dweller can't help me out with my situation."
She was ignorant of the dark scorch marks that had appeared upon the wood which she'd so tightly gripped moments before-or the flash of blue ruins along her wrists that had been the cause of the burns.
The market square was alive and bustling with activity. All along the center street, merchants shouted out the value of their goods, demanding that their customers stop and take a look at what they had to offer. Gypsies danced to the never ending tunes of bards, laughing merrily as the more generous people tossed a green rupee or two into open hats. And yet, the environment still felt somewhat withdrawn-strained, almost, made all the more obvious by the sectioned off area that once led to Hyrule castle, where, even now, if one were to listen closely, they might here the sound of shouts and bangs-carpenters working days and nights repairing the damage that had been done to their beloved castle.
With a disgruntled sigh, red eyes stared distraught at the closed road. "Shoot...I'd forgotten about that little bit..." She muttered, unwanted memories of a Shadow-beast challenging the once-great Gerudo King. "Wonder what they have Zelda doing now." An unbidden image of a masked figure with red eyes and blonde hair appeared in Midna's mind, and the long haired woman blinked in confusion. "What in Majora's name does a Sheikah have to do with Zelda's personal life?" Midna demanded.
Nothing but an inner snickering was her response.
Feeling as though she'd been left out of some age-old inside joke, Midna snarled in disgust before turning away and storming down one of the various streets, this time all-too aware of the glances directed towards her-especially from the armed guards who's helmeted gaze seemed to follow her every move.
They made her skin crawl.
Feeling the sudden need to disappear from prying eyes, Midna quickly found herself slipping into a large crowd that had steadily been growing since she'd rounded a local street corner. Recognizing the area to be near to the 'Creepy Bug-Child', Midna paused, letting her senses adjust to the rambunctiousness of the crowd. Murmurs and shouts assulted her ears, and various limbs forced the Gerudo-Princess to its center, where one voice in particular rose above the crowd itself.
A horse was screaming.
A stallion, to be exact. His coat as dark as a moonless midnight, the great beast reared onto it's hind legs, pawing the air angrily as it fought to throw the Hylian man off his back. Falling back onto all fours, the steed quickly kicked it's back legs out, sending the young man forward. The Hylian's head collided with the creature's muscular neck, and the lad crumbled, his grip on the saddle loosening and sending the would-be cowboy to the ground.
Shouts and jeers ran throughout the audience, and if not for the ample skill of what could be nothing more then a seasoned rancher, the demonic-looking creature surely would have trampled the fallen lad. As several concerned citizens dragged the unconscious one out of the living ring that the denizens of Castle Town had created, the old man that had regained control of the beast stepped forward once more.
"And so another falls to the almighty Demon's Steed! He shouted, his voice rising over the crowd as he ignored the exchange of currency moving from one hand to another. "Come! Is there no one who can tame the wild beast?" The elder demanded, the balding remains of his hair drifting in a light breeze. "Ten rupees, ten seconds!" He crowed. "Stay on and prove to all Hyrule your abilities!" The old man waved his free hand to the dark stallion and an small, open sack of rupees lying off to one side. "Do not tell me there is no man brave enough to tame such a beast-no person who does not desire a steed of his own-or, at the very least, the money to purchase a well-respecting beast!"
It was a sham, one Midna-or was it Nabooru?-recognized at a moment's glance. The stallion was obviously too rambunctious for any regular person-Hylian or not-to tame. Only someone with a great deal of experience with equines,such as the old man currently holding the reigns to the beast, held a chance of outlasting the creature. It was something elder was counting on.
He wasn't expecting someone with a borrowed knowledge to challenge his abilities.
Flickers of memories not her own raced through Midna's head-a vast desert, a fire-haired man racing though on a powerful dark, young steed, various veiled females following closely behind on mares and geldings of their own, a raid on a merchant cart-and suddenly Midna found herself stepping forward, yellow rupee in hand as she approached the gambler.
A strife of panic wafted through her as she realized what was happening once again, felt the slow, gambler's smirk appear on her face as she challenged the man for his prize, watched as she sauntered over to the angry creature, who's gaze screamed of a bloodrage only a predator should ever exhibit.
"Orobas" Midna heard Nabooru whisper, almost affectionately as she ran Midna's hands through his dark mane. Slipping into the saddle on his back, Midna felt herself begin to slide back into control, Nabooru's parting words to the stallion being, "let me take you home..."
His ears following Midna's voice, as though listening and, dare she say, understanding Nabooru's parting words,the beast-was it really this Orobas that Nabooru claimed him to be? Snorted angrily as the elder came forward, ducking under and avoiding a bite from the stallion that would have done more then tear clothe, given half the chance, with the ease of experience.
He reached up and patted Midna on the leg. "Ye ready Lass?" He asked, handing Midna the reign, which she accepted numbly. Nabooru made her nod, and inside Midna screamed in rage at the invasion. "Remember-ten rupees means ten seconds-if the beast doesn't throw you before that time, him and all the money he's earned belong to you. If not-" the elder shrugged, looking over to where the young man prior to Midna had been dragged off from. "-then you'll only be ten rupees shorter then before, yes?"
A devil's twinkle in his eyes, the man turned his back to Midna and her beast, and underneath her, the princess could feel the muscles of the stallion tense and grow taunt, eager for action. A loud bang echoed above the crowd's heads, and Orobas, the demon's steed of the great Gerudo King Gannondorf, leaped into action.
Two voices rose into one as the stallion and it's rider fought eachother for dominence. Together, maiden and beast created an eerie duet that would have been right at home in a child's fairy tale. Arms crossed over his broad chest, Auru watched the foreigner and steed in silence as around him, the various denizens of Castle Town shouted bets, each raising the stakes on how long the fire-haired woman would last before being trampled like so many previous fools.
The frown on his face deepened. He'd noticed the stranger as soon as she'd passed the armed guards at the gates, a woman who openly displayed her weapons and muttered to herself like a person gone mad. A man not unfamiliar with witnessing such madness in others during his career as a soldier, Auru went out of his way to keep a close eye on the foreigner, more the ready to end any signs of insanity before they began.
He had not been expecting this, however.
Slowly gaining a sense of the avalance she rode, the red-eyed woman's shrieks of panic lifted into high pitched, near-hysterical laughter. Perhaps realizing that this one might actually have a chance of succeeding where others had failed, someone in the crowd had started a countdown, others in the mass quickly adding their voice to the chant and watching with white knuckled grips as, second by second, the stranger got closer to her goal.
True it was only ten seconds, but the bestial steed had been known for throwing even the best of contestants off his back in less then five. The woman though, had already reached seven seconds, and as one, the crowd of Hylians, Zora, and Goron counted down the remaining seconds.
Screams and hollers swept into the air as the mass of beings celebrated the foreigner's victory, people slapping each other on the back merrily or openly hugging as though the woman's victory had somehow led to a success on their behalf. And yet still the woman continued to ride the stubborn equine, almost as though-
as though she cannot safely depart from the creature. Auru thought, a small lump of concern rising in his throat. With a seasoned eye, he examined the exotic woman. A white knuckled grip on both reigns and saddle, legs squeezing painfully against the animal's sides, no doubt causing the beast further anxiety, the bright, half-crazed look of one who simply knew they were in a bad situation, and oh so many more small, subtle signs.
More bets flew through the air as more and more people predicted how long the woman would last now that she'd earned the prize, all but ignoring the actual rider and the elder who had come across the cursed beast itself. It seemed that only Auru was aware of the tight-lipped, glaring elder who had come to the realization that the hefty profit he'd made off the horse was now gone.
A shriek-scream, and Auru turned back to the duo that had become the center of the small, man-made world, just in time to see the great steed rear back in a move that had become all-to-familiar to the crowd, and throw the stranger from the saddle. The woman hit the ground with an almost audible smack, sheer luck alone preventing the armed stranger from skewering herself on her own blades.
An almost eerie silence followed the fall, as though the crowd could not comprehend what had just happened. And then as though spell-bound, the crowd erupted into a roar of cheers.
It was Auru who noticed the elder disappearing into the crowd as those at the forefront of the mass moved forward to calm the beast and rescue their victor from death by trample.
And it was Auru who slipped unnoticed through the mass after the con artist, a sense of justice that had been installed in him years ago rising to the surface. He found his target just as the old man left the crowd, and with a speed the belied his own age, grabbed the man by the arm. "Now now." He scorned, Auru's eyes drifting to the sack he knew to be filled with a hefty sum of rupees in the con artist's hands. "I do believe that belongs to the young lady and her new steed."
His voice was soft, yet filled with an authoritative strength that left no room for argument. Surprised, the elder opened his mouth to protest, only to shut it quickly when Auru sent the man a look that demanded obediance. "Fine, fine." The con artist grumbled, thrusting the pouch out to Auru when he took notice of the curious guards watching them on the corner. "It isn't worth the trouble of making a scene in front of so many people." He said, glaring at Auru as the temporary vigilante took the offered pouch before releasing the other's arm.
Auru cracked a small half-smile as the defeated con artist quickly departed, heading down an alley void of any overly curious guards and disappearing around a corner, no doubt already plotting on another strategy to earn a quick rupee. Turning back to the large gathering that, even as he watched, was quickly beginning to diminish, Auru allowed himself the brief pleasure of a full blown smile. The last time he'd spoken to anyone in that tone had been back as a drill instructor for new guards, before he'd retired as a mentor to a certain young princess a lifetime ago.
Amazing how time will change a man. Auru thought to himself, making his way through the remaining bystanders and to the heart of the mass. A white eyebrow raised in amusement. Several grown Hylians and one adult Goron were currently keeping the wild dark steed under control, while off to one side a Zora and Hylian woman were caring for the fallen stranger. Seeing that the creature was in no condition to bolt, Auru ignored it in favor of the tan woman.
Kneeling down beside her, Auru suppressed a grown as his old knees popped in protest. He'd be feeling that later. "Is the lass alright?" He asked, focusing his gaze on the stranger with a studious eye, a part of him wondering why, despite her foreign appearance, the woman seemed slightly familiar. One red eye popped open, trying and failing to focus on Auru, and the woman broke out into a witches laugh that caused both Hylian and Zora to wince.
"We think she's been knocked silly, Grandfather." The Hylian woman said, looking worriedly over to the senior. "I think she may need to see a doctor." The young Zora that was her companion snorted in disdain. "Too bad the doctor's office is all filled up with everyone else that damned creature has thrown." Her black gaze glared over at the stallion and, as though sensing the Zora's gaze, the stallion paused in it's tireless struggle, returning the glare full force and pulling back it's lips in a mockery of a predator's snarl. The Zora quickly looked away.
"Dumb beast." She hissed. "If this one" the Zora nodded down to the exotic woman. "has any sense, she'll use those two boar-sticker's of hers and end that creature's life. Nothing good can come from an animal like that."
Auru grunted, neither agreeing or disagreeing with the Zora as he placed the retrieved prize down beside the red-head. Reaching inside a pocket, the elder pulled out a small pouch, untying the string that kept in closed. A pungent smell wafted from the little bag, and the Zora, who's sense of smell was vastly superior to that of the Hylians around her, quickly moved to cover her face.
Her Hylian companion gagged. "Smelling salts?" She queried. "I didn't know such materials still existed in this world." Then she too, moved to cover her assaulted nose as Auru brought the little pouch forward, moving to hold it under the stranger's nose.
The response was instantaneous, the woman's dazed red eyes suddenly focusing on Auru and, more importantly, the bag he was cradling under her nose. The woman gasped, inhaling nothing put the acrid scent, and began gagging, coughing, and cursing in a mixture of Hylian and whatever the stranger's native language was. Auru blinked as the woman, filled with an energy born of desperation, scrambled away from him in an effort to clear her sinuses.
For a moment, he was almost certain she'd used the Ancient's tongue.
More shouting and cursing, this time with the addition of crud jesters his way, and calmly he retied his little bag and returned it to it's hiding place. Gradually Auru began to better understand what curses where being thrown at him as either the woman calmed herself or she finally picked a language to burn his ears with.
"...and your father is a flying f-"
"And that's enough from you, Lass."
Again, using a tone that all but ordered obedience, Auru silenced the stranger before she could get too carried away. Somewhere in-between the time of her cursing and his stowing of the salts, the foreigner's two caretakers had vanished. The old man stood, this time not bothering to suppress the moan that came with it, and stared down at the young woman, frowning slightly when he caught what might have been a flicker of recognition in her strange eyes.
However, it was gone before he could fully decide what it was, and with a grunt, the woman moved to stand as well. She wobbled on unsteady feet, and Auru quickly moved to grab her before the woman could make a repeat of her fall from the beast-horse. The stranger grabbed his arm as well, her grip like a vice as the woman fought to hold herself steady. "Are you going to be alright Lass?" He asked. He hadn't missed the large bruise that had been on her side, even before her fall from the creature. Falling from something as mean as that stallion couldn't have helped her condition much either, if the scrapes and scratches that now adorned her exposed arms were any indications. More bruises would probably follow soon afterward. Auru was actually surprised the poor woman hadn't broken any bones, all things considered.
"I'll be fine." The woman muttered, turning to glare instead at the horse that had thrown her. "Stupid beast." She grumbled, and then, in a lower voice Auru was certain was not met for his ears, "stupid thief..."
Thinking perhaps the woman meant the old con artist Auru had stopped, the elder nodded down to the pouch of rupees still laying on the ground. "You won't have to worry about that one." He stated. "You won fair and square, and I'm certain with the amount of pocket money in there, you'll be able to find a good doctor for the injuries you sustained."
He didn't like the blank stare the woman granted him.
"...Perhaps you are in worst condition then I initially observed..."Auru murmured, memories of an amnesia-stricken Ilia wandering lost through his mind. "It may be a good idea to get you to looked at sooner rather then later." Perhaps it was instinct, perhaps simply experience, but somehow, Auru was near certain that the woman he was helping to support at the moment was the type who would ignore an injury as long as possible, given half the chance, and the last thing he felt he needed was the woman to fall to the wolves of Hyrule after seeing her state of being and not doing anything about it.
With a grunt, the man leaned down and grabbed the bag of rupees, dropping into the red-haired woman's free hand. "Store that someplace safe." He advised. "Recent activites have led to an increase in pickpockets around town, and I doubt you want to loose anything to sticky fingers so soon after gaining it."
Again, a silent, blank stare from the stranger. Auru sighed. "Now come with me. I want to have that side looked at, as well as any other injuries that might not be visible on the surface." The man turned to the side, examining the various men and lone Goron who'd finally managed to get the beast of a horse under control. "Would you lads mind doing an old man a favor and taking that beast to the stables? I'll pay for a round of drink for you all if you do. You all look like you need it-even you, Mr. Goron.
The men grinned at the prospect of a free drink, and with a few nods of agreement, they departed, struggling with the strength of a second wind to drag the stubborn mule-no, horse-to it's next residency.
The young woman and old man watched the duo depart, and soon found themselves alone in the middle of the street. The crowd that had once encased them having fully departed, only catching the eyes of the curious passer-by or the lone guardsmen heading to his next post. And even then, so much as anyone else was concerned, all they saw was a father-daughter duet, one supporting the other who, for all the swords spoke, had just returned from a rather painful training session.
The town had certainly seen stranger.
"Those drinks you mentioned to the guys with my horse." Auru looked over to his new companion. "Does that include me?"
This time it was Auru's turn to be silent.
Telma's going to kill me...
A/N: And I bet you all thought this story was dead, didn't you? The original chapter for this story was lost, and I literally took two days to work on this one little piece. I have no idea just how dramatically Tech school has affected my writing, so please, feel free to tell me what you think. I don't know why, but recently I've gone on a Zelda spree, so of all my stories, this was the first to be updated since returning home on leave.
It's so nice to not have to worry about washbacks, washouts, or tests/PCs now that I've graduated. My heart is at ease...