Chapter 59 – The Long Road

The group continued riding once Zelda and Mirian returned to them, and Risek was surprised to see that it was with a friend - Mirian's wyvern. She'd explained to Link and Risek exactly what was going on. The white wyverns could spot them at any moment honestly, and they were small, so spotting them would be difficult without being seen themselves. She felt that hers would help to keep an eye out for them because it could probably hear even better than she could—not to mention it could fly overhead as well and see more of the area—and what it saw, Mirian knew.

When the wyvern took to the air, Mirian could close her eyes and see through his, and she found the sensations to be a little strange somehow, but at the same time, invigorating. She also realized as they rode that the creature somehow helped her to focus and even relax. For those moments, she felt powerful and connected to nature, and those feelings humbled her.

Alternately, she also had the thought that it was this kind of power that Arrik was abusing, and she started to hate him even more, saying that was possible. The wyvern she'd summoned was just as alive as any other creature of the forest, or at least, that was how she felt about it, and it didn't deserve to be treated as some kind of slave or tool as Mirian could only guess Arrik treated his own creations. Maybe he didn't, but it seemed to her that he at least viewed them as less than alive if he was so willing to sacrifice them so easily.

Something deep in her soul told her that the gifts she had to summon these kinds of magical animals wasn't just because she was supposed to be powerful or use them to her advantage, and she swore she would never do it for that reason. In fact, she was working on a name for her wyvern that very moment. She'd give it as much life of its own as possible, no matter how many she summoned in the future.

It was sometime during the middle of the night that they came to the western edge of Lake Endigan, most of their travels through White Glade having been fairly uneventful, just the way they'd wanted it as it kept them on good time. When they came to the edge of the lake, they could see under the light of the moon the high cliffs rising up to the sky, the same cliffs Renard had pointed out on the map he'd given them.

Coming to a stop, Risek told Link that very thing.

Link gave a nod in response to the information, asking, "Which way do we go to get around the lake? Left or right?"

Risek waved toward the left with his hand and said, "It shouldn't take us long. We'll need lanterns and the map ready."

"I've got them," Link replied, turning his steed to the left so he could get started. They were still under the cover of the white leaved trees at that moment, the soft glow they gave off making it easier to see, so for now, the lanterns definitely weren't needed.

Mirian was focusing on her wyvern at the time, who'd come flying back to her and landed on her shoulder, and that was when she opened her eyes. Looking up and back at Risek, she said, "I don't see anything around, so I think we should be fine on the way there."

As Risek had goaded his steed off into a trot, he gave her a nod in response. As they moved on, Link looked over at Mirian and mentioned with a smirk on his face, "We could've used you in Hyrule a few months ago."

Zelda smiled over the notion as she'd just thought the same thing. But they'd managed to survive the dealings in Hyrule, and that was what mattered.

As they made their way around the lake, which took another half an hour, they found the base of the cliffs coming in closer and closer. It was nearly impossible to see the rock walls at all once the beauty of the trees began to clear away because of the dark night overhead, but the shadows of those cliffs blocking out half of the moon from their view allowed them to see precisely just how far up they rose—and it was extremely high.

Finally the size of the mountain range they were traveling into was coming into perspective the closer they all drew near it. It was in those moments that the four of them realized just how long finding their way up and through the caverns was probably going to take as well, but it was better to get started now rather than later. Link checked the map during a brief stop, and he told Risek to follow him, going through a few twists and bends of the ravines at the base of the cliffs until he found his way to where the map was pointing out that the entrance was supposed to be.

They'd already lit their lanterns, Zelda using her magic while Mirian's wyvern had shot a small line of fire from its mouth and into the one she was holding. The lights they carried illuminated the surrounding, rocky chasms which they had to traverse through just enough to see. Everything was quiet, nothing moving at all, and the further into the chasm they moved, the closer they got to their point of entry according to their map, until the entrance to the cavern door that they were looking for showed up.

Renard's map had proven accurate, but the entry way had long since been covered by a rock slide.

Risek sighed in agitation when he saw that their path was blocked. In response to the sight, he ended up muttering out, "Well, this seems like a perfectly wasted trip now."

But he'd noticed Link dismounting while Zelda held onto the lantern for him and stayed atop their mount. As Link walked over to the rockslide, he told Risek, "Maybe not. Just wait and we'll see."

Risek lifted a brow, but Zelda didn't seem to be at all confused about what Link might've been planning to do. So he did as Link had suggested and didn't make any comments while waiting for the verdict of whether or not their trip was a wasted effort.

Link cleared some of the rocks out of the way to get to the biggest boulder blocking the entrance, and he looked down at the gauntlets he always wore—the same he'd attained in the Temple of Fire. They'd be a big help now. With the thought in mind, he knelt and began to run his fingers along the bottom of the boulder while his companions watched and waited, two of them looking confused where Zelda only looked curious of the outcome. It took him several minutes, but he finally found a good spot to grip the bottom of the boulder by, and then went to lift it.

It was extremely heavy—even for the gauntlets he wore. Link knew that if there was a limit to what the tools could lift, then he was lifting it now. He grunted and tugged, pulling up as hard as he could, and Risek was about to ask to know what in the name of Din he was doing until suddenly the rocks began to crumble away and the boulder started lifting into the air. The sound made Risek close his mouth and watch with a good bit of surprised intrigue on his face.

When Link finally got the boulder up, he turned a little slowly, putting a good bit of effort into his movements as he threw it to the side with a loud yell of force, watching it land about fifteen feet away from them in the chasm, smashing against the ground with a heavy thud. As soon as its weight was gone, Link stumbled and leaned forward with his hands against his thighs just above his knees, panting in his breath. To say it hadn't been easy to do would've been stating the obvious.

Just then, he heard Zelda asking, "Are you alright?"

"Yeah," he breathed out on a completely improper note. "Just need to...catch my breath. That boulder...was the gauntlet's limit...I'm pretty sure."

"The gauntlets?," Risek asked, and Mirian was also looking over the scene curiously.

"His gauntlets give him magical strength when it comes to lifting heavy objects. It was Hyrule's Temple of Fire that thanked him with them for setting the Sage Essence free when we both visited there," Zelda explained.

Risek looked from her and at Link as he'd finally stood back up from catching his breath, and went to the entrance of the cave he'd just unblocked for them all. Looking inside, able to see nothing through the pitch black veil beyond the position where he stood, he called back to them, "It's dark inside, I can't see anything. I should probably take a lantern and go in first to make sure there's no danger."

"No, wait," Mirian said, and looked at her wyvern.

The tiny dragon lifted its head and looked up, then stood on her shoulders. Letting a little screech before it spread its wings, the small dragon took off, flying on ahead of them and inside of the caverns to check everything out and make sure the path was clear.

As he went, Mirian said, "Let him take a look around. He can see."

Link stood to the side while the wyvern took off and passed him in midair, continually forgetting they had such a handy little friend now. As the wyvern went, Mirian began to see what the tiny dragon was showing her after a moment, the inside of the cavern which was nothing but rock walls, corridors decorated with rocky stalactites, and rising walkways that definitely held the promise of leading up to the top of the cliff sides above them all. The entryway cavern was huge, with a single path leading through the back, and Mirian couldn't see anything threatening as she focused on the images.

After a moment, she opened her eyes and let out a soft whistle to call the wyvern back to her.

Risek was still surprised that Mirian had figured out how to summon the creature. As she'd explained it, she'd spent a while just focusing on the ride to White Glade as Zelda had instructed her, using the time to try to clear her thoughts while hoping maybe something would come to her. Though it hadn't on the ride there, she'd realized something not long afterward when she saw the white wyvern sent by Arrik to try to find them. She just felt it, knew how to do it, and couldn't explain it beyond that.

As Zelda had explained it, the ability was probably preternatural to her in some manner, an ability she could perform as anyone could blink their eyes. A person didn't really know how to do it, they just did it and didn't stop to think about it when they did. Granted, the insight of knowing such a thing could be done had to be in place, but now that she'd done it, she felt as if it were completely normal.

As the wyvern came back, and Link returned to his horse in hearing that all was clear, Mirian said, "It's strange, I can even sense smell through the wyvern."

"Smell?," Link asked.

Mirian was nodding her head as the red wyvern perched on her shoulder again, and she patted it's head, then informed them as their horses were goaded to traveling into the cavern, "Yes, and I'm trying to think of a name for him. Does anyone have any suggestions?"

Risek considered that before saying to her, "I'm not sure," while goading his horse along into the cavern behind Link's, looking the wyvern over in thought. "Maybe you should name it after your brother."

"Name it Marcelle?," she asked, and then smiled. "I don't know, it seems a little strange to call it that somehow."

Risek had to admit that she had a good point with that. It might be odd to call the wyvern Marcelle when he'd only passed so recently. Link was trying to think of names too as they got inside of the cavern, the lanterns illuminating the same things Mirian had seen in her head a few moments beforehand, the smell she'd mentioned being a bit dank in a manner of speaking. The horse's hooves clopped along the stone floors of the rather large entrance, a single corridor leading to a path that went up, and it was a fairly wide path.

The horses didn't seem to be too wary of the area either, so that was a good sign that all was well. Zelda had tugged the map out to look it over and try to keep track of where they were so they wouldn't get lost because, according to Renard's map, there were a few dead ends to be had and various winding caverns where they could get lost, so it was important to make sure they got through them safely and didn't spend a lot of time just trying to get to the surface again.

As they went, Link asked, "What was your father's name?"

"Duvall," Mirian answered, then she lifted a brow over an eye and pursed her lips thoughtfully. "Hmm, Duvall seems fitting." She glanced to the wyvern and asked, "Do you like Duvall?"

The wyvern turned its head as if indifferent to the name and began to lift its leg to scratch it's neck much like a cat would do. Seeing this, Zelda smiled and commented, "I don't think he cares, he seems content with you one way or the other."

Mirian grinned, then looked ahead and up through the slanted corridor they were traveling through, seeing a more level terrain ahead of them which their horses climbed up onto. Every now and again, they could hear dripping water, the only sounds to be had besides the horse's clopping hooves and their voices, which began to echo in the new chamber they'd just entered.

"There should be another corridor leading up that way," Zelda said, letting Link look at the map to see what she'd meant as she pointed to the left.

Link gave a nod and he held the lantern up to try to see in that direction, but it wasn't bright enough, so he just started to goad the horse in that direction. After all, Renard's maps had been accurate thus far, so it stood to reason they'd continue to be.

Duvall hopped off of Mirian's shoulder and began to head out in front of them after only a shorts way in, and Mirian said as she watched it going, "I'm starting to become even more angry at Arrik than I already was as time passes."

The words caught everyone's attention, but specifically Risek's, who asked, "Why is that?"

"Because I get the feeling he just believes the Drakes and Wyverns to be tools to use at his disposal, that he doesn't see them as anything more than a means to an end, instead of treating them as actual living things like they really are. He's taken his power of summoning and creating such things for granted, and it shouldn't be that way."

They could easily see this, and Link was the one to respond to it by suggesting, "Anyone who regards a person's life the way he does, in that it's expendable if they don't meet some kind of standard, typically doesn't have any respect for life in any form. Maybe his predecessors who were originally chosen to be Dragonmasters were worthy, but I get the feeling that if they were here, or could see how corrupt their line has become, they might weep."

"I completely agree," Mirian nodded. She briefly wondered how they would be able to stop the group of knights altogether as well, but pushed the musings out of her head. After all, that was a fight for another day, and right now, they had to get through the caverns first.

In the meantime, she wasn't getting anything from Duvall that was requiring her to warn anyone about any danger, and they all continued on through the caverns without much of any hitches, only periodically stopped to check the maps. Eventually came to a large cavern where the walls twinkled like stars with what miners would probably want to find when unearthing precious gems, but the four moving through the chamber didn't stop to try to see what could be taken, uninterested in such materialistic things even though they did appreciate the beauty it had to offer.

Still, with as dark as the caverns were, even with their lanterns, it was a tedious endeavor to make it through the smaller passages, some of which seemed unstable, and after a while of dealing with such things they'd all comes to have their own fears of what could happen. Link was hoping the floor wasn't going to crumble and cause them to get separated, Zelda and Mirian didn't like how dark it was with bats overhead which they were trying not to spook into a swarm that would scare the horses—Mirian in specific feeling a little stifled being in such closed in spaces here and there—and Risek was just having a bad feeling because everything seemed too quiet somehow, as if that meant something was going to jump out at them for certain.

But finally, they wound up rounding a bend in a tunnel where a light began to shine on them, and according to their map, the cavern was growing more dimly lit than before because of the rising sun outside coming in through the exit they'd finally found—a literal light at the end of their tunnel. It lead to a ledge that went right up to the top of the cliff side they'd seen from the ground below when they'd first began to enter the caves, and for once, Link considered to himself, travel hadn't been riddled with headaches and hardships aside from simply stepping lightly—imagine that.

Link's expression grew bland the moment he'd had the thought. It wasn't that he was pining for a fight of some type, but it almost seemed like an incredibly bad omen. How much longer would things remain this quiet?

Either way, the four of them were glad to see light again, the night having drug on for what seemed like far too long due to the grueling trek through the caverns. But their prize was completely worth it in riding up the ledge to the top of the cliff side.

The scenery only grew more and more beautiful the higher they rose, the rocky path taking them around the edge until they were standing below the morning sun at the very top of that particular peak overlooking Endigan Lake and the rest of Althor in the distance southerly. To the northeast, there was nothing but mountains stretching as far as the eye could see, graced with the morning light washing it in golden hues.

It was gorgeous, and neither Mirian nor Risek themselves had ever seen it, not from that vantage point anyway, awe struck by it all. The cliff was monstrous in size, and their horses stopped near the edges while their riders simply rested there for a few moments just to take it all in. In addition to being a beautiful scene, it put into perspective exactly what they were fighting for, and they could even see the Palace in the very far distance due to the glowing light of the magical barrier surrounding it that Arrik had previously erected.

Link remembered getting a similar view of Hyrule from the ledges of Death Mountain when he and Zelda had gone to the Temple of Fire, and thinking the same thing then that he was thinking now. Whether their quiet time while traveling a bad omen or not, he wasn't going to stop until everything was settled. He swore it.

"It's breathtaking," Zelda said, breaking the silence between them all finally and interrupting Link's thoughts.

"It makes me wonder if we can really find anything in the mountains that might be enough to save it all," Mirian added softly in response.

Link looked away from the horizon and to the mountains behind them that they were about to be heading toward, the peaks white with snow in places, and he told them all, "We will. We didn't come all this way for nothing."

Risek looked over at Link and then at the mountains with him, taking the sight in for himself. Finally, he spoke in agreement, "And we should getting started in finding it. The Ruins are still a ways off. The pass over the mountains and through the valleys will probably be treacherous, so we'll need time on our side, especially if Arrik and his Drakes happen to figure out where we are and come to attack. Not to mention that there won't be any passes for travelers to take near the Ruins of the Old Kingdom whatsoever, or at least, none that will be in good condition, so that will make it even more difficult."

Link had just put the map of the caverns away and then gave Risek a nod. "Let's get moving then."

Tugging on his reigns, he turned the steed from the edge of the cliff, and Risek followed suit, traveling with him in turn. The mountain passes Risek had spoken of were all trails that were both hilly and led through valleys and to bridges, which were set up for what few small communities were settled on the mountainsides—mostly mining communities if anything, groups of people who came up seasonally for ore and other materials, whether commissioned by the crown or by individual businesses in Althor.

They rode over them at a moderate gallop to try to catch up on any time they'd lost in the caverns, and it wasn't long before they came across signs of life. Their horses had taken to a gravel road that led down into a valley where, in the distance along the tree lined path stood a pond of clear of water, and next to the pond was a cottage with a watermill attached to it. Drawing in closer, they spotted a woman settled outside in her yard, washing some clothing in a wooden bucket before hanging it up on a line to dry.

Link and Risek both slowed to a trot when they saw this, but mostly because the woman had looked up and started heading to the gravel roadway when she'd spotted them, drying her hands on a blue apron she wore tied over a plain white dress. She had a head of black hair tied into a bun at the back of her head, and was middle aged. In addition, some livestock which included goats, a cow, and a few chickens were running loose here and there about the home, making for a quaint mountainside home image that didn't' seem at all out of place.

Zelda looked back at Link when she saw the fowl running loose to see if he looked the way she thought he might. When she noticed his expression, she looked ahead again before she smirked largely where he couldn't see it because he definitely looked sour over the sight of the chickens.

Mirian opened a satchel on Nairim's saddle as they approached the area in the meantime, and Duvall climbed into it. She didn't want the lady to see the wyvern and possibly be startled by it. Duvall didn't seem to be one bit put out because of it either, crawling inside without any fuss and curling up until he was comfortable.

The woman seemed surprised that there were two horses carrying four riders passing through the area altogether, but as they drew closer, she addressed them in a friendly fashion.

"Good day, are you travelers lost perhaps?"

Risek shook his head in response to the question, saying, "No, we're not lost actually, thank you."

"I see," the lady nodded. "Mountaineers maybe? You don't really look it though. It's not very common I see riders such as you passing through, but I guess it's not my place to ask your business," she mused aloud, apparently not recognizing Risek at all, but if this was where she lived, then it stood to reason that she wouldn't.

Before anything more could be said however, she informed them, "In any case, I couldn't let you go that way without giving you all a warning."

"What's that?," Zelda asked her curiously.

"Well, there's been some strange things going on up that way as of late. I'm not sure what it is, but sometimes I swear I hear what sounds like a roar echoing down the hills." She gave them all a peculiar look as if she couldn't figure it out, then shrugged her shoulders. "Maybe it's just been some rock slides, but either way, you should be careful if that's the way you're going. I thought to let you know beforehand."

Link and Risek exchanged a look that told them they were both wondering if perhaps the Drakes had been about lately. So Link looked back at the lady and asked her, "When was the last time you heard that kind of sound?"

"Oh, a day ago now was the last time, but it's been on and off for quite a few days before that," she replied. Then she waved a hand toward her cottage and asked, "Can I get you any water before you go up? You might need some if you're taking the mountain pass. It's a long way before you'll find more again that's accessible, and your horses might need it as well."

Link looked at Risek and gave a nod of his head, "Sounds like a good idea if there's not much more up ahead."

Risek agreed, and then looked down at the woman, "Thank you, we're appreciative."

He went to dismount his horse, and following this, he helped Mirian down. Link had done the same, thinking it would be nice to stretch his legs anyway, and they led their mounts over to drink from the pond as the lady had so kindly offered to allow them. In the meantime, Mirian had grabbed their canteens without a second thought and went to go refill them via a pump settled closer to the cottage where the lady pointed her to when she asked.

Zelda went to give her a helping hand when she realized what Mirian was up to, and she took the refilled canteens after Mirian finished with them so that she could retie them to their horse's saddles again. When Mirian took the last canteen to begin filling it, the lady that lived in the cottage made a comment she couldn't ignore. It came out of nowhere seemingly, but the result nearly got Mirian to drop her canteen completely.

"You know, the last time I had a visitor come through here, a royal knight, he had the same red colored hair as yours. Even those same eyes. That's kind of funny."

Mirian had to try to grab the canteen before it all spilled, and when the dark haired woman noticed how she'd reacted to the line, she narrowed her brows and asked, "Are you alright, milady?"

Finally, with the canteen in hand again, Mirian stood up straight and pushed a strand of hair out of her face quickly, trying to orientate herself when Zelda had come walking back over from the horses. The Hylian Princess noticed how stunned Mirian looked, and she waited for the chambermaid to give some kind of response to the woman to see what would be said.

"Yes, I'm fine, but," Mirian shook her head as she thought about what it was she wanted to say. "That man, did he give you a name?"

"I don't rightly remember, it's been roundabout a month or so now," she replied. "I'll have to try to think of it. Why, think you might know him?"

"It's possible. Why did he come here?"

The woman hung more clothing up and casually replied, "Same as most travelers do. He was on foot, and I didn't ask his business. He didn't stay here long either. That's probably why I can't remember the name off the top of my head."

Mirian couldn't believe she was hearing this now. She had a blank expression on her face while the woman, too busy with her chores to see it, only went on to ask, "Who do you think he is?"

But Mirian didn't respond. She'd already turned and hurried back over to the horses—where Link was standing and staring dubiously at a chicken who'd been pecking at the ground, getting closer and closer to his boots. Risek was on the opposing side of Nairim from him, and Mirian hurried around the large, black steed without paying any attention to Link because she wanted Risek to hear this.

Without pause, she announced to the prince as she approached him, "I think Marcelle passed through here."

The comment got Risek's attention completely, and he looked over as Mirian came to a stop and explained what the woman had just told her. When she was done, Risek looked over at the woman tending her laundry with a good deal of curiosity on his face, glad that Mirian had said something. The story was the first Risek had heard of the man since he'd gone to the mountains to look for signs of trespassing, and he couldn't pass up the opportunity to know more.

He had to ask her for himself, and he turned and requested of Link to hold Nairim's reigns so that he could speak with her, then walked around his mount to go do just that. Mirian followed along with him, needing to hear what might be said for herself.

Link looked up from the chicken, taking the reigns of the horses without any qualm as Risek moved on, having heard everything Mirian had just said despite his distraction with the fowl. He didn't try to follow and listen in though. After all, Risek would tell him whatever was said when they were done, and in the meantime, he looked back down at the chicken who was staring up at him now.

Link quirked a brow, then told it, "Don't even think about it. I know that look."

The chicken bobbed its head.

Pursing his lips, Link asked it, "Don't you have some family to get back to?"

Still, the bird didn't move, and snickering sounded. Link looked over to see Zelda standing not too far away, covering her mouth and trying to hide her amusement. When she looked up and saw the look on Link's face, she lowered her hand and said, "I think it likes you."

Link grumbled and then turned around to walk the horses back toward the gravel road when they were done getting refreshed at the pond, only saying, "That's a lie, they don't like anyone."

Zelda couldn't help but grin brightly.

Meanwhile, Risek had stopped not too far from where the lady was washing her clothing, and he said, "Pardon me, my lady?"

The woman came to a stop and stood up straight, drying her hands on her apron again as she gave him her attention. That was when he asked, "What can you tell me of this knight you said came through here?"

"Well," the woman thought back, "he wanted to know if I had any maps he could use. My husband and sons have been gone for two months now to the mines though, and they have all of the maps, so I couldn't help him. Come to think of it, he also mentioned that he was the captain of the knights."

"Marcelle," Risek said when she told him what the man's rank was, and as soon as he mentioned it, the woman snapped her fingers.

"That's it!," she smiled. "Marcelle. Do you know him?"

"Yes, we do," Risek replied, looking over to see that Mirian was completely focused on the conversation, and though she seemed composed, he could still see the shock in her eyes. It was a look he could relate to, and being eager to find out more, he told the lady, "Anything you can tell us about what happened when he passed through would be helpful."

"Oh? Did something happen to him?"

"Yes, but we're unsure what," Risek replied. "This is the first I've heard of him since he came to the mountains."

"Oh dear," the woman sighed out as if she hated the thought that the man who'd come to her for help might've been hurt somehow. "Now I wish I could've given him a map. But when he came through, he was in a hurry, acted spooked, like he'd seen something he didn't like."

That didn't settle well, but Risek asked anyway, "Did he say what is was, or anything at all?"

"He only mentioned that he needed to keep moving," she replied. "So I gave him some food to take with him. The only other thing he told me was to be wary of anyone traveling the passes that wore suits of silvery white armor because they were dangerous, so they needed to be avoided. I thought he might've been delusional from having no food or water maybe because I've never seen such a thing and I've lived on the mountains all of my life."

Risek almost wished Marcelle had been delusional, but he knew why his friend hadn't stayed here if the knights were seeking him out. Apparently, more had gone on than just Marcelle being killed in a cut and dry sense, and it sounded like he'd evaded them for a time before he'd succumbed to them.

His thoughts were interrupted when then lady suggested, "He traveled off in the same direction you're going though. Maybe you'll find out more if you head that way."

"I see," Risek replied, looking toward the direction they were going to be traveling past the cottage in down the gravel pathway while considering that she might be right. Was this what Ovana meant by answers?

For the moment, Risek didn't consider it and only glanced back at the lady to say in earnest, "Thank you, my lady. I didn't catch your name, by the way."

"Veletta," she replied politely, "and you are?"

Risek decided to lie to keep the woman safe. After all, if anyone came through asking about him, it could endanger her. So he told her a name he'd used both in his youth and during his days traveling on The Siren to protect his true identity from those who might wish to try to harm him or his father.

"Mase, and I'm also grateful for the information." In warning, he added, "Also, it might be wise to be wary. I'm not entirely certain, but there could be unwelcome visitors passing through here sometime soon. For that, I think it's best if we also leave as soon as possible."

Veletta looked a little unsettled, and she waved a hand idly as she asked, "Was there some truth to that story about the travelers in the armor then?"

"Yes, to be honest, there is. I'd rather not bring harm to someone as helpful as you've been, so I suggest keeping your guard up until your family returns. In fact, if you know of anywhere to go that you could be with others that might offer protection, I'd suggest you do so."

Veletta let out a sigh of breath, then admitted, "I don't know why they would bother me, but I could probably travel to Ordaine. It's not too far from here and I have plenty of friends staying there."

Ordaine, Risek and Mirian both knew, was a very small community in the mountains that wasn't located too far from a riverside port where shipments came and went. "Do that, and thank you," Risek replied, glad she'd heeded his warning. Then he gave her a polite bow of his head, telling her, "Be safe, my lady."

He would have to keep her in mind in the future. After all, he may have just put her in danger and she'd been very helpful, so he would have to look her up when everything was over and offer something that would show his gratitude. She bid him a goodbye however, and Risek turned with Mirian to walk back over to the horses who'd been properly watered, now standing on the road, and took the reigns from Link who'd already mounted his own with Zelda.

When Risek had the reigns of his own mount back and was saddling up, he explained everything that had been said. When he was done with the story, he added, "She said Marcelle went in the same direction we are about to go."

Link took it all in, looking over as he said casually, "So, it sounds like Ovana was right about getting answers by coming here. I just wonder what we might come across further down the road."

"Only one way to find out," Risek replied.

Without further comment, they began to travel once again, taking the path up an incline toward the top of the valley through several trees, the terrain a bit rocky in places, though not difficult for the horses to make their way through with the path laid out for them.

Risek thought over what Veletta had said about Marcelle while he kept the reigns in hand, and also the possibility of Marcelle actually being alive and only missing instead of dead. Though it was highly unlikely, there was a very small chance of that. Perhaps he'd been disabled somehow and found some place in the mountains to hide away. Still, Risek couldn't think of any way that such a thing would or could be true. Where in the world could the man hide that would keep him so sequestered that even the knights couldn't find him and had to go after Mirian instead?

It was much more likely that Marcelle was in fact dead, but Risek hoped, saying he'd escaped the white knights for a while as Veletta's story had suggested, that perhaps he'd managed to take one or two down before he'd died.

While he was thinking this, they reached the top of the incline to a more level terrain that had a trail leading through an open field of high grass that was mostly devoid of trees. Link took a look around with Zelda, and then over at his companions when Duvall had flown off and away from the horses again, doing a routine scouting. They began trotting along down the pathway while considering everything they'd learned so far, and Link suddenly had a thought over something about Veletta's story in particular, just as Risek was considering it.

He knew the knights wanted Mirian because of the dragon scale, and that apparently, if Mirian was a dragon master, Marcelle had been too since it ran in families. That was probably why they'd chased him down in the mountains here, but something was amiss.

Without pause, he mentioned it to Risek, saying, "You know, Risek, if the knights wanted Mirian and Marcelle for the red dragon scale, then why did they kill him?"

Seeing that Link's mind had been going over the same thing Risek's had, the prince shook his head and admitted, "I don't know, unless he forced their hand. But how only one royal knight could do that I have no idea. Marcelle is skilled, but I would think he'd been surrounded as we were on the fields of Hyrule."

"Exactly," Link pointed out. "It makes no sense for them to kill him without getting what they wanted first at least."

Something about that line made Link suddenly consider the thought of 'what if Marcelle had become a white knight'. Would that have even been possible, considering he was the dragonmaster of a red dragon? Then again, had he done that, he likely would have given them the red dragon scale much sooner than they'd managed to get their hands on it.

But his thoughts over it were interrupted when Mirian gasped out her breath. The sound got everyone's attention away from what they'd been discussing and onto her completely as her eyes came open quickly.

Urgently, she directed, "Risek, go that way," and pointed ahead and to the right slightly.

"What's wrong?," he asked, though he began to goad his horse off in that direction.

Link followed suit, and as they went, Mirian simply told them that she'd seen something in particular through Duvall's eyes. After several moments, they saw the wyvern flying back to them, and he was carrying something in his talons which he dropped into Mirian's hands once he'd reached them before he landed on her shoulders.

Looking into her palms, Mirian felt her eyes getting somewhat misty as she whispered out the words, "I don't believe it."

"What is it?" Zelda asked as their mount trotted up beside of Risek's.

With a soft sigh of breath exhaled, Risek told Link and Zelda, "It's Mirian's compass. Marcelle must have dropped it, perhaps when running from the knights." He let his eyes wander to the side of Mirian's face with a bit of concern on his own, asking her, "Are you alright?"

"Yes," she nodded, wiping her eyes before any tears could fall. "Actually, I'm more eager now than ever to move on and find out more about what happened to him."

Risek could definitely understand why, and so could Link and Zelda. He looked up from the item and ahead in the direction the wyvern had come from, and just as he'd been considering their path, Link told him, "I think we should go that way."

"I agree," Zelda added, looking over at their companions. "It's almost as if we're being led somehow."

Mirian put the compass into her pocket and looked over at them, giving her own agreement in the form of a quiet nod of her head. As she'd mentioned, she wanted to see what else they might find, and continuing on the path would be the only way to see. Whether they found Marcelle himself, or just another token of his, she felt as if they were finally starting to get somewhere.

Also, Mirian was starting to believe more and more that once they found out what had happened to Marcelle, they would find out something very important that they needed to know that could solve this entire mess.

Without pause, they'd all continued onward, traveling for a good ways in the same direction to see what they could find. Eventually, they did come across something, but not along the lines of any specific items like Mirian's compass which told them more of Marcelle's path through the mountains. Instead, it was a drop off that led a long ways down into a gorge where a river was flowing through the rocky walls, and there was a wooden bridge tied with a rope to connect the two sides.

It was fairly long, and somewhat narrow, though wide enough to allow passage for them and their horses. As Risek looked the structure over, he spoke, "This is the Endigan River. We'll have to cross the ravine to reach the ruins, so we need to continue in this direction anyway."

"Hmm," Link drew out in response, then mused aloud, "I wonder if that bridge is strong enough to support the horses. There's no telling how old it is."

"I looks sturdy enough," Zelda spoke up. "But perhaps, to be safe, one group should cross at a time."

"Good idea, it's hard to say which bridge might have had the most recent maintenance done to it, and we might not find another for a few miles," Risek said, then turned to dismount his horse, leaving Mirian saddled on Nairim's back for the time being as he went to go check it out.

Link also dismounted in the meantime, watching as Risek looked over the foundations of the bridge, and after a moment, the prince looked back at them and gave a nod of his head.

"It's well secured, but one at a time would be best to be on the safe side. I'll go across first."

Link gave Risek a look that said he wasn't sure he liked the sound of that as Risek headed back to his horse and reached up to help Mirian down. Once she was settled in the grass, and while she was letting Duvall fly on ahead of them again, Risek said in response to the look that Link was giving him, "It's my turn to go first, so don't argue."

Pursing his lips, Link looked back and up at Zelda with a side of breath. She simply smiled down at him from the back of their steed and asked, "Tired of royal privilege?"

"This isn't royal privilege, Zelda, it's just Risek being stubborn," Link replied. He then looked over to see Risek shaking his head as he moved onward without question, calling out to him teasingly, "Just don't look down!"

Risek couldn't help but smirk over the way Link had said that, then glanced over at Mirian to ask, "You're not afraid of heights, are you?"

"No," she shook her head. "Not at all. Why, are you?"

After she'd asked that question, she looked up at him curiously as he said, "No, not one bit." He then heard a loud creak in the wood and felt the foundation swaying a bit in the breeze whipping up around them from beneath, adding, "The swaying is a different story however."

He heard Mirian letting out a soft chuckle of sound over the statement, but said nothing further for the moment. They both knew they bridge was likely safe to cross, but the wooden planks could have been rotted in some places, so if one of them broke beneath the horse's weight, which they did hear a slight bit of screeching as if the planks were warping a bit, it would be easier to have only one horse on the structure rather than two. After all, Nairim was agreeable to crossing, but Link's mount might've become harder to handle and that would become problematic.

While they neared the center of the bridge, Link had helped Zelda down off of the horse and then gave her a mischievous look.

"What?," she asked when she spied the expression on his face.

With a soft snicker, he said, "You could teleport us across, you know? They wouldn't expect to see us already over there when they arrive."

In response, Zelda smiled, looking over at Mirian and Risek with his horse following behind him as she shook her head in response. "Honestly, Link, stop being so silly. Playing pranks will only waste magic right now. I need to conserve my strength for emergencies, you know."

"You made everyone think Mirian lifted the master sword in the encampment," he reminded her.

"Well, that was a boost of morale for the villagers, Link," Zelda returned, glancing back at him before adding, "this will only amuse you."

She saw the grin on his face that said he was already amused, and for a moment, Zelda thought he might try to playfully steal a kiss from her. But before any of that could happen, a sound came from the same area where their friends were located on the bridge, and they both looked over to see what was going on.

Once Miran and Risek had reached the center of the bridge and just past it, Duvall started to let out a loud, offensive screech, flying up toward them from below. Mirian gasped suddenly and came to a stop when, turning and grasping the rope to look down as she exclaimed the words, "Oh no!"

Risek looked over and took the rope next to her, glancing downward at the river far blow them, and he saw what she'd been speaking of just as she told him, "It's a drake heading this way."

Narrowing his brows at the sight of the creature flying low through the ravine in the distance, Risek took Mirian's hand so that they could try to get out of there when another, louder roar sounded from the distance, and Duvall had swooped upwards and onto Mirian's shoulder, screeching and hissing toward their opposing side as they looked back to see the large, white drake flying upwards past the bridge so swiftly that the structure began to sway in the turbulence caused by the gusts of wind it generated.

Seeing this from the cliff overlooking the ravine, Link moved toward the edge with Zelda as the drake flew toward the sky again. Sneering up at it, Link wasted no time in reacting. It would come back and probably try to take out the bridge, and he couldn't just stand there and do nothing. Because it was too distant for his hookshot, he pulled his bow off of his chest and notched an arrow, hoping that in the meantime, Risek and Mirian could run to the other side.

Risek grabbed the rope with one hand and pulled Mirian in with the other, crouching down until the bridge began to settle again after the drake's first pass. The event had been performed so swiftly that Nairim had been startled and began to run across the bridge without them, passing by closely without trampling either of the two in the process because they'd been standing to the side to try to steady themselves—which was a thankful turn of fate. Risek felt the reigns coming free of his hand, but he didn't try to stop the horse at all. After all, he needed it to get to the other side as without his horse, their travel would be sorely slowed down.

Once the bridge had settled enough to allow the two of them to sprint, Risek didn't waste his time looking back, but took Mirian and began to move across it with her in order to try to get out of the way when they heard another loud roar coming from above them. Though they didn't know the reason for it, Link had just pierced two arrows into the side of the beast's neck from where he stood on the edge of the cliff.

He notched another, taking aim once again before sending it the arrow sailing toward their enemy, where it stabbed into the beast's hind flanks. Sadly though, none of them did the magical creature enough damage to stop it from making a second pass.

Risek looked up and back when he heard the sound just in time to see it coming. The drake had flown over the bridge and in passing it, slammed its tail down into the structure, hitting it right in the middle without mercy. The foundation of the bridge ruptured completely, wood flying everywhere, plummeting down into the river below them.

So Risek did the only thing he could do—drop down and grab hold of the wooden planks with Mirian as he felt gravity beginning to pull them both in.

"Hold onto the bridge, Mirian!," he yelled as they began to fall toward the rock wall while holding onto the bridge as tightly as possible, seeing her doing just that, their speed picking up the farther they fell toward the rock wall.

Risek worked the end of his boot between two more of the planks as they went, feeling his body weight pressing down on his foot while heading through the air at an angle, bracing himself for impact. Creaking and shifting was heard, the snapping of ropes popping around them, and at an unforgiving pace, they careened toward the wall before hitting it with a good amount of force that jarred Risek and Mirian harshly.

Risek managed to hold on with one of his hands however, the fact that he had a foot wedge between the planks helped to steady him. But the force of the blow caused Mirian to lose the grip she had altogether, and she let a yell as she was knocked backwards. She reached to try to grab hold of whatever she could purchase, and just before she could fall too far, she felt herself stopping as her wrist was grabbed.

With a startled yelp, she looked up to see Risek holding onto her with one arm.

"Grab the bridge, Mirian!"

Risek knew he wouldn't be able to hold onto her for long with the grasp he had on her currently, and he watched her trying to reach over to grab the planks for herself. As the tips of her fingers reached one, and she tightened her grip on it, letting out a grunt to try to lift herself, the beam suddenly snapped, and she fell back again just as Risek had tried to get her other hand to the planks and loosened his grip.

This time, the sudden action got her grasp in Risek's hand to slip free completely.

"Mirian!"

From where they stood on the other side of the ravine, Link and Zelda watched the two hanging on, and they both saw Mirian falling, helpless to do anything in time to reach her.

Mirian began to let out a yell of Risek's name as she lost her grip while Risek continued to reach for her, only to watch her plummeting downwards toward the river as his heart nearly exploded in his chest, everything going in slow motion somehow. But as he watched, the story changed when the large, white drake flew overhead of her, blocking her from his vision as it intercepted the falling woman and grasped her in a large talon securely, stopping her descent into the river below.

Seeing this, watching the drake with Mirian in it's claws, Link looked back at Zelda and said, "Teleport over there with the horse and help Risek get to the top."

Zelda knew she should do that, but she asked, "What about you?"

The drake was turning in the air as Link watched it, the creature still flying down low through the ravine as if it were going to try to take Mirian back to the palace, now heading toward where they were standing and giving him a chance to stop it. Without much time, Link only said the words, "I've got an idea," in explanation before he turned and went running down the edge of the cliff without question, pulling his hookshot out of the hammer bag attached his belt on the way—just in case.

The movement made Zelda gasp and call his name, but Link didn't stop, coming up and along side of the drake flying through the ravine swiftly before he jumped from the edge of the cliff completely and went falling downwards toward it.

Zelda let out a sigh of breath in frustration after he did so, holding onto the reigns of the horse as she muttered out, "I love you Link, but you're going to kill me doing these kinds of things."

Despite her worry, and without pause, she closed her eyes, her form starting to glow, using her magic to do as he'd suggested and teleport to the other side of the ravine so that she could try to help Risek get to the top. After only a brief moment, she disappeared with the horse in a shimmer of light.

Risek had watched all of this happening, completely focused as Link had timed a jump off of the cliff to coincide with the flight of the drake traveling beneath him. The Hylian fell downwards and managed to land right onto it's back, though he stumbled backward and wound up grabbing on closer to its hind quarters than the front side, hanging on as tightly as possible.

Risek knew he was going to try to stop it from taking Mirian back to the palace as they could only guess was the beast's intent, so for the moment, he had to focus on getting up the ladder and preparing himself for any possibility.

That was when he heard a voice above him saying, "Come on, Risek, climb up!"

Looking up to see Zelda above him now, knowing she must have teleported when the bridge was taken out, he did like she'd suggested and began to climb up the bridge, being very careful as to not break anymore of the beams as Mirian's weight had done to one of them. He had to look them over before he took them, but he managed to reach the top finally and took Zelda's hand to help himself up.

Once on the surface again with Zelda, they both looked over toward the sky when the drake let a loud roar and passed by overhead, moving through the air swiftly. The sound was almost ear piercing, and made both Risek and Zelda cringe. Apparently, it was completely unhappy to have someone on its back, but neither of them could tell what Link was doing exactly before the thing got out of range again and dived back down into the ravine.

Without pause, they pushed themselves up from the grass and followed it to the edge of the cliff, watching whatever might happen from there—and what they saw shocked them both.

It was hard to tell precisely what had happened due to the increasing distance as the beast went, but they could clearly see its wings folding before it wound up falling and crashing into the river below with Link and Mirian, being washed into the current. The sight of it made both Risek and Zelda's hearts seem to stop.

"Link!"

"Mirian!"

The names came from the two royals simultaneously, watching their companions being helplessly swept away from them. While Zelda had faith that Link could have survived—she'd seen him going through much worse certainly—she wasn't so sure about Mirian, though if Link was in good shape, he'd do whatever he could to save her if she were in trouble. Still, Zelda looked around to try to find something in particular that might help her to figure out the outcome of the landing in general.

When she spotted the object she was looking for, she said, "I think Mirian's alright at least."

Risek was confused by those words, looking over at Zelda as he asked, "How do you know?"

Zelda motioned to Duvall, who was settled on the grass nearby and looking up at them by cocking his head to the side rather cutely despite what had just happened. Glancing back up at Risek, Zelda explained, "If she were dead, Duvall wouldn't be here. They're one in the same. She can see what he sees, so she probably wants him to stay with us until she can find her way back, or he can lead us to her."

Taking in a deep breath, Risek realized Zelda was right, but he was still concerned for Link as well. Looking over at Zelda to see that she'd turned to gaze back down at the waters for the moment, he said, "We'll find them both, Zelda."

"I know," she nodded, "and I'm worried, but Link's been through worse than this. We'll just gave to get moving as soon as possible. After all, Arrik probably knows we're here now."

"Very true," Risek muttered out over the notion, then looked back at their horses who were both grazing the grass as if nothing were wrong. "We need to get started," he added, and then walked over to Duvall, trying to see if perhaps he could get the creature to lead them.

Duvall looked up at him when he approached and lowered his hand, letting a little chirp before he hopped up into Risek's palm as if completely unafraid. Lifting the wyvern as he stood, Risek mentioned, "Mirian told us she can even smell what the drake does. So she can probably hear us as well."

He looked at Zelda, who nodded in response, and then back at the small dragon now staring up at him with glowing golden eyes. Uncertainly, Risek asked, "Mirian, is there any way you can get Duvall to lead us to—," and he stopped when the wyvern spread its wings without warning and took off through the air at a distance before stopping about ten feet away and turning to face them, hovering in midair and flapping its wings while waiting.

When it let a little shriek out as if to get them moving, Risek found a small smile, deciding Mirian had to have heard him. "Let's go," he told Zelda.

Smiling over Duvall's reaction to Risek's question, she went to her steed and mounted it along with Risek, who reached his own and did the same thing. Regardless of searching for Link and Mirian, they had to move away from the area as soon as possible anyway otherwise the knights might show up and cause even more trouble. So without pause, they began to follow the tiny beast, who started flying through the air without hesitation when they did.

Hopefully, they'd find Link and Mirian both in good shape, and soon.