Alaia Skyhawk: Here's the next chapter :)
Disclaimer: I don't own the Zelda series or anything associated with it. I do however own this story and any OCs, so please don't steal them.
Chapter 48: Seneros of the Shadowed Isles
She could not tear her eyes from the downed young man, a mixture of shame for shooting a fellow person mixed with a sense of suspicion of him.
The young woman stood there, hesitant and undecided. Why had this stranger come? From where? What was he doing trespassing on the islands of the Seneros? She crept closer, violet eyes now noting that the man, who she had disturbed while he was apparently washing his hair, was covered with bruises and scars, and other wounds that looked fairly new. Spotting the pile of weapons and shield by the bag nearby, it was clear he was a warrior, and that made her suspect him more.
Had he come to hurt her people? If so, then she had to kill him now before he woke. There would be no telling if she could defeat him, even injured by her arrow, while he was awake.
She grabbed him by one ankle, dragging him out of the stream by it so his death would not further taint the water, drawing her dagger in readiness. One quick thrust to the heart and it would be over, but she hesitated now that she could better see his face.
There was a mark on his brow beneath his dark blond hair, a bruise forming from where he'd hit his head when he'd slipped, but beneath it was a face that looked troubled even in unconsciousness. He looked like a man with a burden, something he needed to do. She jolted herself from those thoughts, distracting herself by pulling her arrow from his shoulder. She then rolled him over, determined to look this stranger in the face and force herself to not let appearances make her hesitate. This was for her people's safety.
Thoughts of killing him died the moment he was on his back, her dagger falling from limp fingers that then reached forward to trace a wound that held a kind of terrible familiarity. It was just a shallow scrape on his chest, scabbed over and healing, but the flesh around it was tinged with a shadowed taint she was all too familiar with. This man had been wounded while in the presence of the beast, and yet from what she'd seen he hadn't acted like he was corrupted by it... And here he was at the islands barely two days after the beast's return.
She bit her lip, hesitating, before making her decision. She rolled him back over, retrieving his discarded shirt from nearby and tearing a strip from the bottom of it to bind his shoulder wound. She then dragged him to a tree and propped him against it, then running off to retrieve her rope and the rest of her gear from where she'd left it. She tied him to the tree, as securely as she could, and then she waited. She would let him speak, tell her of his reason for being here, and then she would decide if or not to spare him.
It was nearly an hour before his groan forewarned of his return to consciousness, a frown creasing his brow as he winced in pain and opened his eyes. He regarded her after a momentary glance at the ropes, calm and composed despite his situation, and then, before she could speak, he spoke first.
"My name is Arkai, and I assume you want to know what I'm doing here."
Violet eyes widened in surprise, the young woman startled. He didn't seem to find her suspicion unexpected, like he'd known he would be viewed as a potential threat. He accepted it, and yet clearly he would hope to ease that suspicion if he could. His hazel eyes were solemn in that regard, unwavering.
She frowned, wary. No, she would not let him deceive her with apparent good will. His life still hinged on his answers to her questions. So she picked up her dagger from where she'd dropped it, and held it to his throat.
"Why are you here? And don't dare lie to me." She pressed the cold metal closer to his skin. "Or you will regret it."
His only response to her threat was a small resigned sigh, before he set those unwavering eyes on hers and answered.
"I've come following a creature, with three heads that breathe dark mist. It's been attacking my homeland, causing some of the people who are touched by the mist to change. They become violent, filled with malice, and that is what we've named the creature. Malice." He looked to his weapons, to a blue-hilted sword among them. "I am my people's champion, the chosen Hero, and I bear with me the Blade of Evil's bane. I have no quarrel with your people, I am here only to do what I have been sent to do... Kill that monster before it can hurt anyone else."
There was no lie in his gaze, no hesitation, he spoke the truth. She rose to her feet and took a step back from him, filled with shock even as she was filled with hope.
"You've come here to kill the beast?"
That got his attention.
"You know of it?"
She started to scowl, pain from earlier rising again.
"How could I not? The beast has plagued my people for nearly a century, my own brother is now bound in the confinement caves, corrupted by the mist when it returned two days ago! In five more, he and eleven others like him will be drowned."
She practically spat out those words, Arkai stunned by what she'd said.
"You drown those that have been changed?" He stared at her, aghast. "There are hundreds of them in my homeland, but we have chosen to keep them imprisoned until Malice can be slain. We know the people they once were are still inside them, waiting to be set free. My best friend..."
Her startlement at his outburst was tempered by the look of anguish now on his face. The dagger she had started to raise, lowered back to her side.
"Your best friend has been corrupted by the beast's mist?"
"Yes, and I've spoken to him since. For a few moments during that, I managed to get the old Jaran to come to the surface. He told me he believed I could do this, that I was too stubborn to fail. I promised myself then that I would never give up. I will destroy Malice, and free those that its power has enslaved, or I will die trying." He looked down at the ropes. "Now please, let me free. I swear I mean no harm to your people... and if I can, I will try to slay the beast before it's too late for your brother."
She took a step towards him, hope dawning.
"You would do that for us?"
"I do it for my own people, so why not for yours? It's a Hero's duty to help all those in need of his strength, not just those closest to him."
After one last pause, she strode towards him and around the tree, undoing the ropes and releasing him. He winced when moved his left shoulder, but felt it numb when the Triforce symbol on his hand glowed. The power of the piece he carried would heal his wound, he trusted to that, but it would still be a day or so before he could use his sword again.
Noting the strange symbol, the woman stared.
"And what magic is that?"
He began to pick up his things, pulling on his shirt and tunic, and fastening his belt and weapons on over it.
"I told you, I am my people's champion. I have faced the trials of the Nine Sages that watch over the lands, passed them, and in doing so earned the right to use and be entrusted with two very important things... The Master Sword, and Triforce of Courage. The symbol on my hand is the latter of those, it's starting to heal my shoulder, that's all. Its power will protect me from Malice's taint when I fight him. Otherwise, the strength of his evil might crush me before I even get a chance to hit him." The last of his gear now on his person, he began to weave wings of light to fly off. "I'm sorry again for trespassing. I'll leave you now."
"No!" He stopped at her shout, and she shook her head. "If your intention is to fight the beast, then you are welcome at my hearth. I am shamed enough already by my brother's fall. The shame of welcoming a stranger into my home is no worse than that, not when it gives me hope. If you can save my brother, then shame is a price I am willing to pay to get him back."
Arkai started to smile a little.
"Then can I ask you your name? You haven't told me it yet."
She stared at him, starting to blush in embarrassment.
"I... Sorry. My name is Kuria." She picked her rope up from by the tree, and then set off into the undergrowth. "Follow me, and stay close... Unless you want to get shot again."
He did as he was bidden, following the ebon-haired woman through the jungle undergrowth. It took three hours to get to a point where her village became visible, perched on the edge of a swathe of ancient hardened lava that cut its way from peak to shore, probably from the last eruption before the volcano of this island became dormant and the next one in the chain took its place. Or maybe it was just the jagged tumble of rocks, that clearly still slid and fell from time-to-time, that prevented the forest from encroaching on it, but either way it emphasised how hard a place this would be to live in.
He remembered the jagged rocks in the Realm of Fire all too well.
When the two of them emerged onto the main track into the village, once again he found himself with weapons aimed at him. But Kuria simply gestured for him to keep following her, and cold eyes watched them as they passed. Everyone he saw had black hair, and either amber, purple, or eerily pale blue eyes. The Seneros were clearly Hylians, but ones so isolated from the rest of the world they had taken on a distinctive appearance of their own. He stood out like a daisy against a tarred fence.
They reached a small hut near the village edge, Kuria sending him inside before glaring at the villagers who watched from nearby in disapproval.
"If anyone harms him while I speak to the Elder, then I will consider it a violation of rights of courtesy. He is my guest, and those who disturb him will be shamed."
She strode away as he stood at the door, Arkai watching her until the feeling of eyes staring at him had him retreat inside the hut... That and the way a few of his observers were picking at the edges of knifes or the strings of bows. There was little in here, just two beds of fern, one at either end, a few boxes for possessions, and a fire-pit in the middle under a hole in the thatch. The only colour came from a woven hanging on the wall opposite the door, the abstract patterns giving warmth to the room. He understood now why Kuria was so set on the hope he gave her of saving her brother, because now he could see she had nothing else. This hut said it all, that her brother was the only family she had left.
He sat down to wait, those thoughts still in his mind. It was strange, he'd accepted her help immediately, but now he had to remind himself that this time his chance encounter with a local was real. In the Realms of the Temple of Courage, all of them had in fact been Link. He'd trusted those guides implicitly, but with Kuria he must remember to hold a certain caution. She had clear ulterior motives, and even if they revolved around her brother, that didn't mean she wouldn't get him killed to save him. And he doubted anyone else here would care if that happened.
The walk through the village had been hard, icy stares following her every step until this moment.
"How could you bring that outsider here?"
Kuria flinched under the glare of the elder's son, stood as she was outside of the village leader's hut. She had expected word to spread fast, but had hoped this man were still out with the rest of the hunters. She had gone into the forest alone, knowing that no group would accept her until her brother was gone to the waves, but it seemed even her early return had not got her back here in time.
She took a deep breath, holding her head high in dignity.
"My explanation is for the Elder to hear. Only from my voice will the true truth of my words reach his ears."
It was a challenge, challenging the man to break village tradition and deny her entrance to the hut. It worked, and he stepped aside, but it did not ease the scowl he directed at her.
"You may enter, and pray your words are sufficient reason for your actions."
She walked past him and through the door, forcing herself to remain calm. She was digging herself into an unenviable position, but it was for her brother. For him, anything was worth it.
Inside the hut she dropped to her knees, placing her forehead on the floor and waiting for the old man seated within to speak. She felt those eyes watching her carefully, before the wizened voice reached her ears.
"Speak, and speak clearly. Why have you brought that stranger into our village?"
Kuria bit her lip in nervousness, and slowly raised her head to answer.
"I came across him by chance, wounded him with one of my arrows by accident. I was about to slay him as a trespasser, when I noticed he bore wound shadowed by the beast. Realising he had perhaps fought it, I bound him to a tree and waited for him to wake, so that I might as him of why he came here."
The old man frowned, barely visible in the gloom within the hut.
"And what did he tell you?"
She lowered her head a little.
"He comes here in pursuit of what his people have named 'Malice', it is the beast he has come to slay. It has been attacking his homeland, and he is his people's champion. He has followed it here with the intention of ending its evil forever, and freeing those in his lands that have been corrupted. His people have seen signs that those who have been changed, are still there trapped inside their minds. He would save them, or die trying."
"So you would risk the anger of the beast? All on a fool's hope placed in that man?"
"I would, because when my brother goes to the waves I will have nothing else left to lose. I will not sit idly by when a chance to end our suffering is close at hand."
Tense silence fell between them, Kuria aware of how disrespectful she'd just been. But she could not falter, not in this, and the answer she got was as good as she could have expected.
"You may give him supplies from your own hearth, and guide him to the beast's lair. If he succeeds, and frees the shadowed ones in the caves before the seventh dawn of mourning has come, they and your brother will be welcomed back into the village. Now leave me, wraecca."
Once again she found herself flinching, biting her lip at the name he'd now given her. The price was worth it, any price was worth it to save her brother.
She bowed her head to the floor again, before rising to her feet.
"I thank you, Elder. I will do my best not to fail in this."
She left the hut, aware of how the elder's son stared at her when she passed. He would have heard the entire conversation, and would no doubt inform the rest of the village. She hurried back to her house, finding the man whom she was placing so much sudden and perhaps misguided faith in, sitting beside the hearth.
He got to his feet.
"What did your elder say?"
Kuria took a shuddering breath.
"I am to guide you to the beast's lair, and if you can slay it before the time comes for my brother to be drowned and it breaks the curse, then he and the rest of those like him will be welcomed back into the village." She started packing food from her stores into a sack, turning her back on him to hide the tears trying to escape from her eyes. "We have a long way to go, so get ready to leave. If we follow the rocks, we can be at the shore by nightfall."
Alaia Skyhawk: Yeah, the Seneros are as cold and suspicious as Tekai's stories say they were. The only reason Kuria is being so helpful is for her brother. Without that, she'd have skewered Arkai back by the stream hehe.