((A/N: Okay, um… I didn't actually look to see how long it's been since I posted the last chapter, but I imagine it's over a year, so uh… sorry. University tends to be a bit stressful and swamping and stuff.
Lily: Yeah, wasn't soon. Sorry.
Eclipse: Dras is a character my friend made up, and it turns out the guy is a heck of hard to write for… XD; And get his personality like what my friend has it. X-x It took me so long to do this chapter because of that… XD; ))
Chapter 7: Unlikely Allies
Relieved didn't even begin to describe how Danielle felt to finally be back in her room, having spent a few hours in the infirmary with Cale as their wounds were treated and the events explained to Rurik and Blaine. Fortunately, the injuries were minor, but the two siblings had to have them treated and then swathed in cloth bandages. Clad now in just her cotton undershirt and loose brown pants, her bare feet padded across the rug laid out on the floor. Scratching absentmindedly at the itchy bandages about her neck, she nearly collapsed face-down onto her bed and savored the feeling of the plush comforter. The sun was gradually setting in the distance, and as she stared out the window, the words Link had passed on from Rusl echoed in her mind.
Twilight… is when our world and the other one are closest together. It's been three years since Midna shattered the mirror. I wonder… how their world is faring? I imagine better than ours, without these conspiracies and stubborn men plotting against the queen.
Dinner was within an hour or two, she knew that. Yet the only thing she wanted to do right now was sleep right on through and into the next day. It was a vast change from the morning when she was eager to get up and get moving. Her body hadn't recovered like she thought from the ravaging effects of the poison. How long would it take before she could fight without feeling like she'd pass out after? Days? Weeks? There wasn't much time to be laid up in bed trying to gain strength. She had been face-to-face with one of those monsters, and now she felt an intense desire to do what she could from wreaking havoc on the land. Maybe it was because she had heard the heroic tales of the massive monsters Link had taken down in his journey to save the land during the Invasion of Twilight that gave her this desire and determination. She didn't know.
Now her mind was just plain wandering. She bunched up the pillow beneath her face, bone-weary as she closed her eyes. Eventually she would tell the queen of her strange meeting with Veras, but for now she was too worn out to even walk about the castle in search of her sister.
The door to her room cracked open, startling her out of her overly thoughtful state. As if summoned by her thoughts Zelda stepped through the doorway, once more in her purple-and-white dress that was most closely associated with her status as princess. It was almost as if she wore it to show her powerless status as a figurehead queen, the power of her position stripped away from her by advisors. "Did I awaken you? You didn't answer when I knocked."
"Hm? I didn't even hear it," she admitted, pushing herself over onto her side and shifting over so Zelda had space to sit on the edge of the bed. "Did Cale tell you what happened?"
A curt nod was her response. "The news of a shapeshifting creature that can take the guise of a human is concerning indeed. There's no telling how many beasts such as this are now in Hyrule, waiting amongst the populace. It is a worrying thought, that everyone could be suspect."
"Any soldier, any person… could be one of those things?" Danielle question with unease. It was a disturbing thought, but one that led to a possible explanation for the assassination attempt. The turncoat guard could have been one of them.
"Possibly. But there is likely some way to distinguish between a true person and the creatures. We'll just have to keep on our guard and try to investigate just what they are. This is a threat that Hyrule does not see looming on her doorstep." The queen took Danielle's right hand in her own, the cloth of her glove cool as she squeezed it slightly. "However, our brother also informed me that he ordered you to stay at Telma's. How did you find him?"
Giving her older sister's hand a gentle squeeze in return, she began to recount her tale of meeting the wandering and mysterious minstrel. "….and after she asked me what kind of future I'd carve out with 'bloodstained hands', I could hear Cale shouting from elsewhere. She.. taunted me almost, saying I had better go before another life was on my hands."
Furrowing her brow, Zelda stroked at her chin with her free hand. "A red-eyed woman named Veras… and she seemed to know quite a bit about you. That's perhaps even more worrisome than these new creatures."
"Hm? Why's that?" Danielle was rather confused, not quite understanding why some cryptic random stranger would worry Zelda more than shapeshifters that could infiltrate the castle with ease.
"You're familiar with the Sheikah to a degree, correct?" Once she nodded, Zelda continued. "There are survivors of that secretive race, but not all of them continue their duty of serving the Royal Family. Some have sworn to destroy us and work in the shadows to plot our downfall. I do not know the reasons for their actions, but word has reached my ears of a few rebellious survivors moving ever since Aremas declared war. But… I believe they may have been behind the attack on me. The poison contained a Sheikah king-killer venom that is effective on its own but not nearly as potent when mixed."
The Sheikah were involved in the assassination attempt? Shad had taught her a bit about the enigmatic race when she expressed interest in some of Hyrule's history. "Wait, you think Veras might be a Sheikah?"
As Zelda nodded, she released a soft sigh and a troubled look came upon her face. "Not only that, but I fear she may be aware of the identity of you and your family. It may be my own fault for that. I kept you close under the guise of caring for the knight-commander's young daughter, and your family had places of honor for his remembrance. My actions instead drew unwanted attention." Her expression shifted from troubled to regretful and apologetic. "My dear sister… I knew what was to come. Dreams foretold that horrible event in the vague way that they do. I tried to change it, even though my attempts to do so hurt and confused you."
The revelation clicked in as the last piece of that confusing puzzle in her head, something she had worried over the entire time Zelda avoided her before the coronation. "It was to protect me," she murmured quietly. "I had no idea." Giving a dry, humorless chuckle she closed her eyes and pulled her hand away, pulling the covers a bit tighter around her while adjusting the pillow. "I ended up taking the arrow anyways… because I couldn't stand there when I thought you were in danger. Yet the entire time, you were trying to keep me from that danger."
The soft fabric of the glove brushed against her forehead. "Thank you… for protecting me, Danielle. I am deeply sorry for drawing you into this."
She looked up at the queen's face, managing a weary smile of her own. "Anything for family. That's the saying, right?"
A soft chuckle reached her ears. "And that's what makes you such a strong-willed young woman, though you—" The door to the room opened unexpectedly, Zelda's hand suddenly freezing in place and her fingers pressing slightly against Danielle's forehead.
"You know, the guards seem to have a slight problem with ineffective guarding. That could pose quite the problem were an assassin to come in," a familiar voice spoke up, sounding rather relaxed. "Of course… that may very well be their intentions."
Startled, Danielle looked past her sister to the door, spotting Dras standing there in the doorway, quietly shutting the door behind him. If he was at all intimidated by Queen Zelda's icy stare he didn't show it, slowly walking across the room with his hands clasped behind his back. How had he snuck into the castle? Better yet, why? Sitting up now, Danielle watched Zelda fold both of her hands in her lap, never shifting her gaze away. "Who are you, and what are you doing here?"
"Straight to the point, hm? I like that." He bowed slightly, but he returned the favor of never once taking his eyes off of Zelda's. "I am Dras, but a simple traveler who has heard of the troubles you face."
"Dras. That is an unusual name. I assume you're not from Hyrule?"
"Yes, milady. News has spread far of the problems assailing your kingdom. Any with their ear to the ground knows of Hyrule's plight." Now the faintest trace of a smirk appeared on his face, barely noticeable. "I have come to… investigate and possibly lend my assistance."
A quick glance at Zelda showed that she remained on edge. Dras seemed friendly enough, although Danielle had to admit it was rather suspicious a Hylian expatriate snuck into the castle merely to offer aid. Queen Zelda undoubtedly was thinking along the same line. Rising now to her feet, the ruler gazed coolly at Dras. "I'm sure you are sharp-witted enough to realize I won't immediately believe your tale, but I cannot refuse your offer of assistance."
"Smart move, milady. This is a choice you won't soon regret." Flashing a quick smile, his blue eyes flickered between the two sisters. "There are a few contacts I can go through to learn about the monster I fought. Information can be more useful than the sharpest dagger, after all. But now I think it time to take my leave. I came only to declare my allegiance to the queen and my presence as a benefactor."
With Zelda's back to her, Danielle was unable to tell her expression as she spoke to Dras. "Are you going to sneak into our personal chambers again to deliver that information?"
"As much fun as it is…" Dras gave a slight chuckle, turned now to face the door. "I'll just find some way to pass on my discoveries, but you'll need patience before I get back to you. This information isn't well-known for a reason." He opened the door quietly, checking the corridor beyond to make sure the area was clear. "It was a pleasure to meet you, milady. I would watch my back if I were you, though… particularly if your guards are so lax on their security." With this warning, Dras slipped from the room as quietly as he arrived, leaving the two sisters alone.
"That guy is really strange," Danielle commented with a slender eyebrow raised. "He snuck in just to tell us that…? The whole situation is strange. It makes me wonder just what he's really up to."
"I'd be cautious about trusting him too much. He has his own motives, as amiable as he seems."
"He can't really be all that bad, can he? After all, he did save Cale and me from that thing in the alleyways."
"Perhaps… but still, do not be quick to trust him. The most dangerous of men can come across as the friendliest of allies," she reminded." Zelda let out a soft sigh, and when Danielle saw her face, she noticed the deep-rooted exhaustion there. These days had been sapping her strength despite how strong the queen tried to come across to her family and subjects. "I shall leave you be. Rest. You deserve it." Danielle wore a worried frown as the queen came over to kiss her forehead gently. "When I hear more, I'll have Blaine inform you. You two are the only ones somewhat free of the regulations and scrutiny of Aremas. I'd rather not involve you even further, but… there is little choice."
"I understand. Don't worry, we'll be careful." She forced an encouraging smile to hide her own unease. "We'll help you however we can in this ordeal, Zelda. Maybe it's still a secret, but… we're a family, bound by blood. I can speak for the others when I say that we'll let nothing happen to each other."
"Thank you, Danielle." She began to depart, giving her sister a sincere smile. "Goodnight, and sleep well, sister."
Nestling under the warm covers, the Hylian tried to focus on resting while her mind wanted to wander off and mull over the entire day. She knew that her fighting abilities were sorely lacking, but inside she burned with fire to protect her family. After losing her uncle to her forced and, she was determined now more than ever to keep those closest to her safe.
No matter the cost, she would do her best to protect her family and make up for her inability to rescue her uncle. She wouldn't lose anyone else.