So yeah, I don't like how this part starts, just a bit too fast for my liking... But still, as I promised, more!
Chapter 16: Revelation- Part Two
"I…think I might know who destroyed the cave," Link murmured, gauging Ike's reaction carefully. He had thought out this conversation carefully through the night before, but he still only vague ideas on how Ike would react.
"What?" Ike eyed the hylian carefully, "Who?"
"A good friend of mine," he said slowly, "I can't think of why he would do it, but I don't know of anyone else who could…"
"How do you know for sure?"
"I don't." Link glanced at Ike through the corner of his eye, "But I can smell the bombs," he tapped his nose knowingly, "I'd know that smell anywhere."
Link was confused for a moment before he remembered that Ike had no way of knowing what bombs were. "A weapon, really. You light the fuse that's connected to the ball of powder and throw it. That's what I usually had to do, at least. But after a little bit, they explode and they can destroy… almost… anything."
"So these things are what you think were used to—" Ike stopped when he noticed Link had tensed up suddenly, "What is it?"
"You hear that?" the Hylian asked, turning towards the risen sun.
But Link was gone, his lithe wolf self bolting up the mountain, his four legs easily climbing the two-thousand feet or so to the top, hoping with each bound that the sounds wafting over the mountains wasn't what he thought they were. He could hear Ike calling from behind for a moment before following him begrudgingly.
It only took a few moments for Link to reach the peak of the rather short mountain, and he was caught completely off guard by his first glimpse of the scene below. Stalfos, a horde of them, surrounded a small group of tents, each one of them bearing the royal family insignia, the Triforce in red. The Hylian army was here, in the Gerudo Desert. Link already knew why they were here and what they had done. It had been his country, his men, who had destroyed the cave, who had killed so many people who didn't deserve it.
How dare these Stalfos attack his men? Even if the Hylians could be considered murderers, they were the ones he had fought so fiercely for not long ago and theses beasts had the audacity to step foot out of their domain and into his? After Link had destroyed the Stalfos' giant king, Stallord, they had rarely even left their haunted home, let alone show any sort of aggression towards the few travelers who dared cross the endless western wasteland.
Link growled, already remembering what it had felt like to tear those bony terrors apart the sound they made as the collapsed, and the sound the dust of their bones settling made once they were destroyed. He was one of the few who knew how to truly kill Stalfos, he was the only one who could keep his countrymen from being slaughtered by the always regenerating skeletons.
With a sharp bark, Link twisted around and ran back towards Ike, who was hardly even a quarter of the way up the mountain. He melted from his wolf form next to Ike quickly, glancing back towards the east and running the last bit down the slope, wishing that he could hear half as well as a man as he could as a wolf.
"Why'd you need to do that?" Ike murmured, following Link and wondering what it would be like to climb mountains like that… "What's wrong?"
"I was right." Link said quickly, "The Hylian army is here, well, there," he motioned back towards the camp he had seen a few moments prior, "But they're being attacked."
"By what? What could there be in a place like this?"
"Stalfos, skeletons that live only to fight and kill." Link shook his head, "I need to help them, the army has no idea how to kill them."
"So you're going to go alone?" Ike asked, stopping.
"I… can't ask you to sacrifice any more for me." Link said, pausing to look back at Ike, "I've cost you so much already."
"Your point being?"
"My point?" Link took a step towards Ike slowly, "Too many people have died because I brought you all here, and I don't want anyone else to pay for my mistakes."
"So, you're going to risk your life more than you need to simply because you don't want anyone else to die?" Ike spread his arms, "What happens if you die? Zelgius is up to something, we both know that, and he may even be behind this… Stalfos attack. If you're gone, there's not going to be anyone left to stop him. We don't know anything about this place, we don't know where anything is, how the laws work—we wouldn't be able to do anything."
Ike took another step before continuing, "So let us help you. We may be small in number, but more's been done with less."
Link smiled, "I suppose if you really want to, there's not much I can do to stop you, right?"
Ike smirked, "Of course not. Now, what do you need me to do?"
Link looked back up the mountain, the sound of the battle little more than a sharp hum in his ears, "Help me get everyone ready. I-we need to get down there as soon as possible, before the entire unit's wiped out." he looked at the empty spot over his right shoulder, "I know that I lost my sword before, and I'm probably not the only one. Do we have any that made it?"
Ike nodded, "Just a few, but it should be enough."
"Good, let's go, then."
It didn't take long to get everyone awake; there weren't many to wake, really. Link was helping Ike with getting everyone's weapons ready when he noticed Mia standing near the foot of the mountain, talking to Micaiah. The silver-haired girl said something, her lips moving silently before she brought her hands to a rest on Mia's broken arm—her sword arm. Micaiah closed her eyes as the area beneath her palms began to glow warmly.
After a moment, Micaiah opened her eyes, smiled and said something else. Mia slowly removed her sling, stretching her formerly lame arm carefully. The corners of the young swordmaster's mouth turned up slightly, and she gave Micaiah a short hug before heading towards Ike—and Link.
The Hylian still wasn't ready, not yet; he stiffened and looked towards Ike briefly. Link handed Titania her axe quickly and mumbled something about having to take care of something else before walking quickly away from the small pile of weapons.
Mia watched with a frown, where was he going? She didn't care honestly, she was busy trying to convince herself that she was ready for this, that she could still fight by herself, without the sense of protection she had had not so long ago. Mia knew that she should probably wait—just a few days even—before she just went back to fighting, but… she wanted to be ready.
Anyone could tell that the cave hadn't just collapsed on its own; someone had done it deliberately. She wanted to be ready for the day she would find that person and make them pay for what they had done.
Stefan had told her many times that revenge wasn't good for a person's soul, that it just deepened the hatred you felt and made you that much closer to the object of your enmity. He had told her how he himself had spent many years of his life existing only to kill one person, and how, once he had finally been given the chance to have his justice, Stefan had let the murderer walk free.
But Stefan was dead now, Zihark too, and many, many others who didn't deserve what had happened to them. She was not just doing this for herself, but for everyone who had lost their lives at the hands of that one person. So she would fight every battle, if only in the hopes to find her target and have her revenge.
Mia walked towards Ike slowly to get a new sword to replace the one that she lost during the collapse. Ike watched her approach carefully, already holding a steel blade in one hand.
"Mia." he said quietly when the swordmaster came to a stop in front of him.
Ike glanced down at the swordmaster's arm, noting that she had been healed, "Micaiah fix your arm for you, did she?" Mia glanced down at her healed sword arm with a short nod. "You going to fight today?"
"Yeah," she said softly. Ike scrutinized her face for a moment before he held the sword in his hand out to her. But, as the woman went to take the blade from her commander, she found Ike to still be holding onto the scabbard tightly. Mia met eyes with him as he put his free hand on her shoulder.
"Are you sure you're okay?" he asked, his blue hair partially covering his eyes.
Mia tilted her head to the side, confused, "My arm's fine, Boss. I already—"
"That's not what I mean."
Mia paused and looked down, her shoulders slumping slightly. Was she really ready? Was she ready to go to back to cheating death after what she had lost, after who she had lost? But… if not now, then when? Nothing would change between this battle and the next; it was very common knowledge that the dead could not rise, no matter how much she wished that they could, that they could just come back and everything would be fine and she wouldn't be alone and—
"Mia, are you sure you want to do this?"
She sighed quietly and looked back up at Ike's waiting eyes, "Yeah, I'm sure."
"Hm," Ike let go of the sword, but not of Mia's shoulder, "Just be careful, alright? Too many people have died here, and I don't want your name added to the list."
"I'll be fine," the mercenary said, the slightest hint of a smile appearing on her face, "It's not like this is my first time in a fight."
"I know, but…" Ike hesitated, remembering a time nearly four years earlier where he had felt the same way as the woman in front of him, "after you lose someone, it's easy for you to get distracted, even in the middle of a battle. And you and I both know that distractions can get you killed out there."
"Which is why I'm going to be even more careful than usual."
Ike looked at Mia deliberately and let go of her shoulder, "Well, if you find your mind wandering even a little bit, I want you to get out of there, understood?"
"Of course, Boss."
Sudden keening whistles pierced the air, each signifying another Stalfos collapsing into a pile of dusty bones. The screeches of the living skeletons mixed with the pained cries of the men they dispatched before they themselves were silenced. Sealth swung his spear to the side, knocking another Stalfos' skull to the ground and landing on the ribcage with a dry rap. With a final wail, the only beast left standing collapsed under the blow, reduced to a pile of armor and bones.
They had been fighting for at least an hour, long enough for the sun to already begin baking the landscape below. Finally, though, the last Stalfos had fallen, the ground littered with men's bodies and lifeless bones. Melting in the heat, Sealth looked over the crumbled remains of the undead army, breathing heavily. There were not many Hylians standing—several dozen at most—and they all stared in the same confused manner, unsure of whether to cheer or to weep.
"Is… is it over?" The voice beside Sealth was nearly enough to make him jump. He glanced down to see Guru standing beside him, clutching his bleeding left arm tightly.
"I'm not sure," Sealth murmured, wishing that he could peel these heavy metal plates off of his body and stop baking in the heat.
But, could it really have been that easy? Sealth had heard that no Stalfos could be slain with an ordinary blade alone, although Link had never elaborated on this crucial piece of information. Yet, despite all he had been told, the Stalfos lay as dead as skeletons could get, no trick to defeating them, no hidden secret.
Sealth wondered vaguely where Zelgius was. Had he already fallen to the Stalfos' deadly blades? Sealth doubted it; the man didn't seem like to be one who would be killed so easily. He was probably only where Sealth couldn't see him, fighting just like everyone else against those bony monsters.
The desert was silent save the panting of the men, nothing in the sand's expansive girth to restrict it from resonating outward. Then came a sound so soft, it hardly seemed real—the thin, steely rasp of metal being dragged over sand. As the source of the noise reached the crest of the dune, a chill wind blew past the Hylians.
Everyone's attention snapped up to the strange abomination coming into view above them, the odd scratching sound growing slowly louder with its approach. Sealth heard Guru mutter a quiet prayer next to him and silently did the same.
The creature was taller than anything the former commander had seen; taller than any of the bulky Gorons or the lanky Zoras. It easily towered over any and every thing in the desert. The sparse flesh that could be seen through the peeling bandages wrapped around it was a dull gray, the same shade as a tombstone. Its head was small, with hollow, eye-less sockets sitting over a gaping mouth that was nothing more than a destinationless orifice on what one could possibly consider the thing's face.
The defending army staggered back from the creature as it shuffled slowly down from the dune, dragging a double-edged blade nearly as long as it was and just as thick. The cold wind moaned lowly, a sound that didn't belong in the desert, Sealth realized, much less a chilling breeze.
About halfway down the sandy slope, the beast threw its head back suddenly and screeched. The eerie call rose and fell with the moans of dying men and mourning women, breaking bone, and tearing flesh. It slowly settled into a subtle death rattle before ending with a quiet sigh.
Sealth —and every living thing there, for that matter—was frozen in place as soon as the wail began, the horrifying sound bringing the same paralyzing images into their minds. Their families and friends dying in front of them, they themselves following unwillingly… The scream held too much death, too much pain… just too much for any mortal to withstand. It reminded them how fragile life really was, how easily it could be destroyed.
The ReDead Knight's screech, Sealth remembered as the beast slowly closed the last of the distance between it and the front line of petrified Hylians, can still even the bravest of warriors who are unfortunate enough to hear it.
With a low moan, the ReDead swung its blade in front of it, the lethal edge clearing the area in front of the creature of all life. As the unlucky soldiers dyed the earth beneath them a deep red, the remaining Hylians were freed from the foul spell the ReDead had them under.
The wind howled as it flared up suddenly and the living corpse prepared for yet another death shriek. Then the air was abruptly stagnant once more, its whisper replaced by the clicking of bones and the retreat of soldiers as the Stalfos that were thought defeated leapt back to life once more.
Sealth cursed under his breath as the undead being he had just slew once more swung its wickedly curved blade towards him. He brought his lance up quickly to block the strike, the Stalfos whistling and already halfway into its next attack before Sealth even knew what was happening.
The beast showed no sign of fatigue, and it swung its lethal edge easily, as if it wasn't fighting in the same intense heat, the same sluggish sand as Sealth. The commander could see other Stalfos coming towards him, their former opponents left as nothing but a still form lying on red sand. Guru was only a short distance from him, his arm still bleeding, fighting three of the skeletons at once, dodging one blade one second, blocking another the next.
Sealth wanted to help the man, but the many Stalfos surrounding him were relentless. He would have been dead long ago if not for the armor that was cooking him alive in the unrelenting sun just beginning its daily journey across the endless blue desert sky. With a grunt, Sealth spun his lance around him to give him some room, any room to move. All but one Stalfos whistled and leapt back to dodge the strike. The lone beast keened sharply and collapsed back into a pile of lifeless bones.
The remaining five let out a collective hiss and came forward, their skull shields held out in front of them carefully. One slid the metal disc to the side and raised its arm to attack. Sealth quickly stabbed forward with his lance, the metal tip driving under the beast's jaw and into its head, and with a wrench, flung the skull behind him. Another Stalfos took the fallen one's place before its predecessor's head had even hit the sandy ground.
The strange green orbs in the beast's eyes flashed as it swung its blade from the side. Sealth blocked it quickly, only to feel pain lance through his side as another Stalfos took the opportunity to strike his weak side. The sword sliding easily between two plates of metal and into the Hylian who let out a cry, stabbing his lance through the offending monster's chest and swinging it into another roughly. The impaled Stalfos promptly fell apart with a sharp whistle, sliding off Sealth's weapon with a thin slither while the other stumbled to the side only to have a lance thrust in through the side of its head. The beast began to reach up to feel the point of the weapon, but was stopped quickly as its skull popped from its neck and was flung away.
Sealth panted and counted the number of Stalfos left in front of him with a bit of difficulty; only two remained, standing over the pile of scattered bones of their comrades, already rushing forward, blades raised....