And so it ends. I decided to end it early. I'll talk more in the end.
Back in his own room, Link had effectively kicked Poe out by telling him "Rayeh might need the company". While it probably was true, he had to admit that he wanted to be alone when he spoke to Zelda. He really didn't need a third party to hear everything he was about to say… But he hadn't been able to summon the courage of which was supposedly bounding from him. He just stared at the pillow under which the gossip stone lie. This was much harder than he thought…
Finally, he took a deep breath and reached under the pillow. To his surprise, the gossip stone was glowing warmly.
"Zelda…" He said, just barely in a whisper.
"I'm here." Her sounded thick, as if she was struggling to speak.
"I'm sorry!" Link said quickly. "I didn't really mean any of what I said! I mean, I thought about it just now and I can see where you're coming from!"
"Wait… you thought about it just now?" Zelda seemed slightly offended from the tone of voice.
He flinched and then proceeded to tell her of all the things that happened while she was out of his head.
"Oh… Oh my, a lot has certainly happened…" She commented. "What do you think?"
"I have no idea. I was out for good chunk of the trial but from what I've heard we have a good chance… If some of the gods and spirits are willing to forget some past transgressions."
"Well, Link, you did prove something." Zelda said.
He gave the gossip stone a puzzled look. Not sure if she could see it, he asked, "What do you mean?"
"You have proven that you can take care of things by yourself… I'm sorry I ever doubted that." She said. He felt a flush come over his face. Coming from Zelda… that really meant something. "Now Link, you need to get some sleep. The verdict is tomorrow, and you went through a lot today."
He smiled at the stone, hoping that Zelda could somehow sense it. She was right. he was exhausted. So much so he wasn't exactly sure how he had forgotten it. He and Zelda exchanged a farewell for the time being and then Link just plopped his back down on the mattress.
Within seconds he was asleep.
"Wake up, Link!"
Link groaned at the sound of Poe's warbly, high-pitched voice.
"Come on! It's nearly time for the verdict to be announced!" The ghost said urgently.
Still grumbling, because it seemed like he had just gone to sleep seconds ago, he pulled on his hat and then his boots. Yawning widely while ignoring the ghost's rushes, he stretched and finally stood, taking the gossip stone and then slipping it under his hat. He somewhat dragged his feet as he walked out of the room but found himself a little surprised to see that Rayeh was waiting outside.
"Today is the day." She said, tone of voice not giving anything away. She even looked expressionless.
"Yeah." He mumbled.
"Well, we need to hurry then! Come on!" Poe said angrily.
Rayeh merely nodded and walked on ahead, the ghost following right behind her. Link slapped his own cheeks in an attempt to wake himself up a little more before following them.
"Now's not a day to be late." He heard Zelda say from the gossip stone.
With a great sigh he picked up his pace so he wasn't too far behind them. As they entered the main chamber, gods and spirits were already filing into the trial room. This time, Rayeh and Poe followed him to his place in the trial room. It wasn't long before Vaati came and joined them, the shining once-lackeys of Din "escorting" him, of course.
Neither Vaati nor Rayeh even acknowledged each other.
The room was quiet, save for a few whispers from the lesser gods and spirits. Nayru was visible from her stand that overlooked all and Farore stood by the entry to the back room the trial chamber. When everything became deathly quiet was when the blue goddess spoke.
"As of yesterday, the trial of the Wind Mage, Vaati, was concluded. Now, the gods and spirits will vote on the verdict." Nayru's voice was official, as always, but for some reason… it seemed more final. "All who find the mage not guilty, raise your hand."
Link actually found himself closing his eyes tightly. Poe jabbed him and he opened up his eyes again with a start. He was actually surprised what he saw. Around half of the gods and spirits were raising their hands, including Zephos and Venus.
Nayru looked down to her sister and Farore nodded. Link guessed that the green goddess was the one counting the votes. The blue goddess then said, "You may lower your hands. Now, all who vote guilty raise your hands."
This time Link grimaced. It was the other half of the gods and spirits with their hands raised now. He didn't count, because it was impossible for him to count that fast… but he really hoped that not guilty outweighed guilty.
The blue goddess once again looked down at her sister, who nodded again. Farore then disappeared for a moment and the reappeared next to Nayru whispering something to the Goddess of Wisdom. When Nayru nodded, Farore retreated back down to her previous spot.
"Farore has counted the votes. There was a two vote difference - the closest in the history of the trials of Mount Astraea." She began. She then cleared her throat and said, "The verdict for the Wind Mage is guilty."
Guilty seemed to be played in slow motion in Link's head. Guilty? After everything that happened, he was still found guilty? But how? They had even proved that Din was using foul play to try and win this… How was it that she still won even though she wasn't even present?! And now…
"The killing blow, however, will not be done any of us… but you." Farore's words echoed through his mind…
Nayru then said, "The sentence is death, to be carried out immed-"
"Excuse me." The one who had interrupted was Rayeh.
The blue goddess had just stared at her as if she was something that had appeared out of nowhere. "Yes."
"If one is willing to take his place… to receive his punishment, would you allow it?" Asked the former maid plainly.
As soon as Link heard that, he just stared at the woman… And from her expression, she was really serious about that question. And that horrified Link even more. Vaati was guilty… not as guilty as the trial made him out to be, but guilty. He would still feel horrible if he had to do the killing blow. But Rayeh… She was completely innocent. The only thing she could be guilty of was horrible taste in men… So if she did take his sentence… he bit his lip, knowing if that were to happen he might be just as bad as Din…
He glanced over at Vaati to see that mage remained just as expressionless as before… but something about him seemed like he was surprised.
"No one had ever offered to do such a thing." Nayru answered.
"I am willing to take his place, if you would let me." Rayeh said it so professionally, no one would ever had guessed that she was once just a maid.
A low murmur came across the room.
Poe eased towards her slightly, hissing into her ear, "What are you doing?!"
"I am only doing what I must." She said. But this time, expression did come upon her. A soft expression, serene…
Link averted his gaze to Nayru. Farore was up next to her again and they were speaking of something. Farore seemed somewhat distraught, while Nayru looked as serious as ever. The green goddess then looked as if she just gave up then and retreated back to her place.
"My sister and I have decided that the girl can take his place, if this is what she truly desires." Said the blue goddess. She looked down at the woman and asked, "Is this what you really want? You are doing this of your own free will?"
Rayeh looked up at the goddess, any fear she had of the divine being gone. She just smiled and said, "Yes."
Everything else after that seemed a blur to Link. He was going to have to…
He had no idea when they had left the trial room. Somehow they ended up right outside of the room and the gods and spirits were all filing away into their own little hall. The only thing that snapped Link out of his daze was Vaati.
"I don't understand…"
Link glanced at him and he saw that the mage looked confused. And not just any kind of confused. It was the kind of confused that said he really and truly did not understand… and it really distressed him.
"Why is she willing to do this?" He asked again.
"Because she loves you, Master Vaati…" Said Poe grimly. At the word "love" Vaati shuddered.
The teen then took the time to examine the ghost. The ghost looked even more pathetic than that time he had asked Link to hold him…
Link finally stood, Poe being the only one who seemed to notice. He was about to walk off and the ghost asked, "Where are you going?"
"I need to talk to Nayru and Farore." And then he walked right back in the trial room to the back room. Sure enough, the two goddess were there.
"Link…" Farore began, looking at him sadly.
"Rayeh can't take his place." He told them firmly.
"It was her decision." The green goddess said softly.
"She's completely innocent!" He said, keeping his voice level. "I can't…"
"Farore and I were just speaking of that." Nayru said.
His brow furrowed as he looked at the blue goddess.
"You landing the killing blow was Din's idea… Since she is currently…" Nayru paused, as if searching for the right word, "Indisposed… We need not take her suggestion. Especially since, as you have mentioned, the girl is innocent. However, she is taking the place of the sorcerer… We need to give her a punishment that will suit his guilty verdict."
"I have already made a suggestion," Farore said, "We will probably use that one."
Link glanced at her. "What is it?"
The green goddess's expression was sorrowful. "What is the most precious thing to her?"
He didn't need to answer that.
"Her memory will be completely wiped. She will forget she ever even met him… We have also been thinking of including exile in the sentence." The Goddess of Courage explained.
He supposed it was better than death… but it still wasn't right. "Where would she be exiled to?"
"Holodrum, most likely. It is far from Hyrule." Nayru said. After a moment, she added, "And the mage."
The teen kept his mouth shut. Their decision seemed to be final. Nothing he said could or would change it.
Farore put a hand upon his shoulder. "Come Link… gather the other two. You can all see her, if you wish."
Rayeh sat in the cell, feeling more at peace than she ever had in her whole life. She had no idea the fate that lay before her, since the goddess said they could not in good conscience kill her, but she wasn't bothered by it. No matter what had happened, she didn't regret a single thing.
The door to her cell opened. Link and Poe came in, both looking depressed. She smiled at them. "Hello." She said simply.
The ghost seemed to let out a snuffling noise and he neared her, embracing her with ghostly arms. "Lady Rayeh…"
She hugged him back and said, "I will be fine, Poe. I want to take his place."
The ghost let go and just looked at her, ghostly lower lip trembling. "Lady Rayeh, I have something I need to tell you…"
She kept her serene expression. "Go ahead and say it."
"I… I'm willing to be Master Vaati's second most loyal servant so you can be his first most loyal servant." The ghost choked.
She chuckled at that, caressing his cheek as she said, "Thank you, Poe."
The ghost then made a bawling noise and rushed out of the cell.
"I'm sorry…" Link muttered.
The former maid looked up at him with a puzzled look. "Whatever for?"
Link's face was trembling. "If I had worked just a bit harder…"
Rayeh stood and took his hands. "Now don't say such things, Link. We all knew this venture was impossible from the very beginning… And I had a feeling it would end this way." She said somewhat sadly… but then her expression brightened. "But I'm glad!"
"How can you be glad…?" This voice was feminine. Link pulled the gossip stone from his hat and held it out in front of her. "How can you be glad…?" Zelda's voice asked again.
Rayeh looked at the stone, remembering five years ago when she worked in the castle… the little princess who had shown her so much kindness. "Because, I'm doing something to make sure the man I love lives. I have no regrets for doing something I think is right… Do you have any regrets about being with Link?"
"No…" Zelda's voice and the gossip stone trembled.
"It is like that… because I have no regrets about loving Lord Vaati." She said. "And now I am protecting him… Just as you and Link protect each other."
After a few moments, Link left, along with Zelda's gossip stone.
Another moment later and Vaati entered the cell, though, he remained close to the doorway.
She smiled at him with the most calm look on her face. "Milord…"
"Why are you doing this?" He asked harshly.
Rayeh kept her expression. "I love you."
That answer didn't seem to satisfy him. "Why?"
She still kept her smile but said nothing.
Finally, the mage scowled and turned on his heel, only muttering, "Idiot…" before he left.
An idiot who will always love you. She thought. And even though she still felt as calm as before, a tear streaked down her cheek.
Epona whinnied in glee at the sight of Link. The teen smiled and happily snuggled the mare's nuzzle. He was glad to see that she had been treated kindly, but she was no doubt feeling very restless. As far as he knew, the mare hadn't been taken out in the time he had spent there.
It was strange. He had come with two others and he was leaving alone…
He looked back at the entrance to mountain cave, watching the gods and spirits exiting a few at a time.
It was over…
Yet… it being over didn't feel as nice as he thought it would be at first.
It had been two days since the verdict had been declared and Rayeh took Vaati's place. He had not seen Vaati or Poe, but at Zelda's request he did see Rayeh again. The princess was really distraught that the maid that she had once been friends with was to have her memory wiped and to be exiled.
Epona whinnied again, and to his surprise, the horse kicked her back legs. Even more to his surprise, he heard the mare's hooves impact on something… something that crunched.
Link quickly ran over to the other side of the horse and flinched. The poor sap who had suffered Epona's kick was Evan, now sprawled on the floor. He could only guess that the teeth on the floor were his.
"I told him not to walk past the horse." Dietrich said with a sigh.
He kept his gaze on the ex-wizard's look alike. "Is… is he dead?"
"Nah… Nah, I fine… be having… the concussions now…" Mumbled Evan, twitching slightly.
"He has been through worse," Dietrich assured Link. He looked down at his apprentice, "Try to find all of your teeth. We will ask Selene about putting them back in when we get back."
Not even helping him with that… Link thought, flinching slightly as the swollen-faced young man nodded and began to gather his teeth.
"It builds character." Said the ex-wizard, doing that creepy "knowing how minds work" thing that he had done five years ago.
Ignoring that, Link looked back towards the older man and said, "I take it you guys are going back to… wherever?"
"Indeed. We have been here more than long enough." The older man said, "Your goddesses were kind enough to offer us safe passage back to where we belong if we escorted a young lady to a land called Holodrum."
He visibly flinched.
"I take it you know her… Vaati's woman, then?"
Link nodded, "She was… If she's leaving today, then I doubt she even remembers him…"
"It's impolite to speak of others behind their back, you know."
Flinching again, Link glanced back to see that the mage and Poe were behind him. "Free at last?" He asked them.
The wind mage said nothing.
Poe on the other hand, seemed in a much better mood than he was in the last Link saw him. "I don't think I've ever appreciated incorporealness any more than now." He said while disappearing from sight and reappearing with a wide ghostly grin. After a moment, though, he stopped and his shoulders slumped. Link saw why.
Chatting away with Zephos and Cyclos and coming their way was Rayeh. She seemed pretty happy, as if she hadn't had a care in the world. Completely different than the state that Link had seen her in a few nights before after she confronted Vaati. She said farewell to the wind gods and then came their way. As she came closer, it almost seemed as if her memory hadn't been wiped at all.
"Ah, hello there! Nayru told me two of you would be taking me somewhere?" She said. She looked down at Evan and smiled nervously as she watched him brush off one of his teeth. Link could tell she was hoping that he wasn't one of the two who was responsible for escorting her. She was going to be in for a surprise…
"That would be my apprentice and I." Dietrich said, bowing slightly and gesturing towards Evan.
The ex-maid's smile remained slightly nervous.
Poe shakily floated closer to his once upon a time friend. "Ah, La-… I mean, Miss Rayeh…?"
Rayeh glanced at him, jumping slightly because she just noticed his "condition" but then realizing something else. "Um, how do you know my name…?"
"Never mind him," Vaati snapped, "He's an idiot."
She blinked at him. Rayeh walked right through Poe as if she had completely forgotten about him, and just stared at Vaati, as if fascinated. She had stared so long at him, the mage finally hissed, "What?!"
"Um… Have we met before?" She asked.
That actually seemed to catch the mage off guard, but as quickly as it came he hid his surprise. "No…"
Rayeh still kept her eyes on him. "Are you sure? You seem so familiar…"
Not looking at her, he snapped, "Yes, I'm sure!"
She flinched and frowned a frown of insult. "Fine." She got nearer to Link and then asked, "Why is he so moody?"
"He's always like that." Link assured her.
"Well… Evan seems to be finished picking up his teeth." Dietrich said. "If you are ready, miss, the servants of your goddesses have brought the horses."
Sure enough, the two shining servants that always seemed to be around were leading three horses towards them.
Rayeh turned back just to take one final glance at Vaati before getting a horse and seeming to forget everyone else.
And so the three left.
When they were almost pout of sight from the others, Evan had noticed that Rayeh had been staring into her saddle the whole time. Puzzled, and hoping it wasn't too forward of him, he asked, "Miss, is something wrong?"
She jumped slightly, not expecting Evan to be speaking. She then shook her head before staring up into the cloudless sky. "I think I am fine… But for some reason… I feel as if I'm leaving something behind…"
Link and Poe had watched the three leave until they were out of sight. He wasn't sure if Poe had noticed, but he could've sworn Rayeh had turned in her saddle to look back at them. He felt a pang in his chest… a pang of guilt that stretched five years back. This never would've happened if he had just kept Rayeh out of the way five years before. But it was too late for that.
"I guess I was wrong." Link mused.
"Not surprising." Vaati commented. "What about this time?"
"She hasn't forgotten you."
The wind mage scowled. "I think you're wrong about being wrong."
Link didn't even have to look at the pale mage to know that he was still confused… that this whole situation still made no sense to him whatsoever. So frustrated was he, he summoned up a tornado and just left without even saying a word. Link wasn't sure whether to be offended or whether to pity him.
Poe then floated nearer to Link and said, "Link, just so you know… he may not have said it, but Master Vaati is grateful for your help… as am I."
Link shrugged and smiled a bit. "I did owe him."
"Yes… But I don't think he'll be the same…" Poe said almost distantly, then he seemed to remember that Vaati had left without him. "Ah, goodbye Link! Thank you again!" And then he vanished from sight.
Link sighed tiredly and then swung up onto Epona's saddle. It was time to go home… And as before, the feeling that things just weren't right stuck with him the whole way. But he couldn't help but smile.
Because back at home, Zelda was waiting for him.
Ah, I admit this isn't exactly how I wanted it to turn out - as in the writing. The ending was supposed be like this. Actually, originally Rayeh was going to die but that just seemed SO cliche. I mean, the ending is still cliche, but less so since she's still alive and Vaati is still confused as hell. I don't know how many times I need to say it (though, this might the first time I've actaully said it on here) but I don't support pairing OCs with the characters. I really don't. The whole thing was completely unintentional, but that was where it seemed to lead. But because I hated myself for it, I just had to make sure that it didn't end well. You guys are certainly welcome to interpret how Vaati felt about her. I, personally, settle for the "a while longer and it might've been love but it's not" thing. Simply because, once again, I do not support pairing OCs with the characters.
I regret nothing.
Ah... On the bright side, now I have one less thing to do in my life.