((A/N: So um... let's not talk about how long it took me to actually get this chapter done. For one, I didn't have a rough draft for this chapter, because apparently I thought "oh, this'll be easy to do". I pick it up I dunno how long after and realize "uh, what was I doing here...?" So uh... forgive how long this took, or how odd he formatting may be.))
Chapter 8: Moving On
The sun shining overhead seemed too bright, too cheerful, for the dark days the kingdom had faced. Standing here before her uncle's grave, she played over and over in her mind that fateful battle that had changed everything. If Greil had survived, how different would things be…? Would all this madness have been averted with Aremas having an old friend as a voice of reason? Could Greil have prevented the decline into near-civil war in Hyrule?
She wiped at her face as she felt the tears trickling down, taking a shuddering a breath. While Greil was her uncle, she had lived most of her life with him as her father… and now with the world descending in madness around her she just wanted to see his stern but loving gaze, feel his arms wrap around her in a comforting embrace. But those were things she'd never have again. Greil now slept within the earth, and they would never know how differently events could have turned out.
Danielle didn't hear who approached until Blaine cleared his throat to speak up, startling her slightly. "Sorry," Blaine murmured in quiet apology, standing beside her as he stared down at his father's grave. "You… wonder too, don't you? About how it'd be if father still lived, if maybe the world just wouldn't have turned out so insane…"
"He and Aremas were close friends, weren't they? Then maybe he could have talked some sense into him or… something, I don't know." Danielle heaved out a sigh. "But we'll never know, will we? Because of what I did."
"Don't blame yourself, Danielle." He looked over to her, sympathy and understanding in his gaze. "What happened… it wasn't your fault. Father was controlled by the power in his weapon, and you did what you had to in order to save lives. If you didn't stop him, he would have killed so many. Sometimes… to save lives, we have to take one. The first person you kill, they stay stuck in your mind… their last moments alive seared in your memories forever." Blaine reached his hand over, wrapping it around her shoulders. "I know what it's like, kiddo. I do. And the fact that it was father… that makes this one all the worse."
Danielle shook her head, closing her eyes and resting her head on her cousin's shoulder. "Why do you not hold it against me, Blaine…?"
"Because you aren't to blame." He glanced sideways at her, tears shimmering slightly in his eyes. "Zant and Ganondorf… they were the ones responsible for father's death. Their magic corrupted him, controlled him. When I think of the ones responsible, they are the ones I hate in my heart. Not you, Danielle…" He exhaled softly, staring at the name engraved on the tombstone. "Never once did I blame you. None of us do." For a second, Danielle didn't respond, though suddenly she had wrapped her arms tightly around his shoulders. Blaine swallowed, then returned the embrace as he closed his eyes. The grief and guilt had long gnawed at Danielle's heart, and the fear that they blamed her had been so powerful all this time. "This… has been bothering you for a long time, huh?"
Danielle nodded, staring up slightly to meet her cousin's gaze. "I always thought that maybe… maybe you guys blamed me for what happened to him. If I had made a different move, maybe he would have survived to still be here."
"We both know that's just idealistic thinking, kiddo." Blaine placed both hands on her shoulders, staring her in the eye as he spoke. "From what we were told of the fight… you landed a lucky hit. If you hadn't, he would have killed you. There was nothing else you could do that would have resulted in the sole casualty suffered."
"Is that how you see everything, Blaine? In calculations and strategy?"
Blaine fell quiet, lowering his hands to his side as he chewed at his lip. "Danielle, stop. If you're wanting one of us to blame you, we won't, okay You did nothing wrong, so just… stop trying to make us blame you."
"Promise me." Blaine stared at her rather sternly now, not quite letting her off until he heard the answer he wanted.
Danielle gave a small nod, not taking her gaze away. "I promise, Blaine. I'm sorry that I just…"
"I know. I understand it, too. But just remember that we're your family. We'll stick together, no matter what, and none of us blame you." He kissed her forehead, now wrapping an arm around her shoulders. "Instead of worrying a lot about this, you should go ahead and get some more rest, okay? Considering you aren't fully recovered yet, you deserve it."
"That's the reason everyone uses in telling me to go rest." Danielle stared up at him, trying to force at least a small smile. "You're going to be telling me that for a year."
"Maybe so," he answered with a joking smile, one that was familiar to Danielle and put her at ease at least a little. "But regardless, you should be taking the advice of your elder… and your sometimes-too-brilliant cousin. Now, go, okay? I mean it." He kissed her forehead, giving one last embrace.
"Alright, alright… but it's because you won't stop nagging me 'til I actually went." Her gaze went back to the tombstone, and she reached a hand out to trace her fingers along the letters of the cool stone. "I miss you, uncle," she whispered, closing her eyes briefly before letting her hand fall. She turned away, walking slowly back to the castle, feeling at least like a burden had been lifted. Blaine didn't blame her, though trying not to blame herself was indeed a difficult task. When the image was seared into her mind of the blade through his neck, not blaming herself proved incredibly difficult.
Blaine watched her walk away before heaving out a heavy sigh, running a hand through his hair. He had never really talked to her much about what happened to his father during the reconstruction period following the war. It had been raw and painful for so long, and she never really came to him to talk about it. Now he just kicked himself mentally for not actually bringing it up sooner. All these years were spent wrestling internally for the guilt of what she had done, an action forgotten in the relief and joy following Ganondorf's final defeat.
"You're good at thinking up strategies, ole boy, but the simple common sense things tend to slip right under your nose." He shook his head, continuing to stare at his father's tombstone. "I'm not even preoccupied with as many duties as before. Things are going to change from now on."
"Is there a reason you're standing out here talking to yourself, brother?" The deep voice of Rurik came from his right, causing Blaine to immediately wheel about and hold his hands to ward off a massive bear hug. "Relax! I know not to do that anymore, Blaine."
"It took you a few times to actually remember that. I still remember all the times you left me barely able to move with tears in my eyes."
"When you started smacking me rather hard as a result? I learned my lesson quickly." Rurik stretched, letting out a massive yawn before placing his hands behind his head. "I figured it would be Cale out here visiting father's grave as usual, not you."
Blaine shook his head, returning his gaze towards the earth before him. "Cale was lied to all his life by father, never told the truth when he should have been told. I understand why he'd keep coming here, asking those questions over and over in his mind. As for myself, well… Danielle was out here."
"Huh?" Rurik stared in baffled surprise, though quickly it clicked in his head just why she would be out here as well. "Oh. Ah, that's right. She'd also have reason to visit our old man a lot." He scratched slightly at his slight beard that was growing. "She doesn't blame herself, does she?" At Blaine's silent nod, he grimaced. "All of us understand why she did it, that there was no other option. Even father would understand that. Magic messed with his head, just like it messed with all of ours. The difference was, we were able to be snapped out of it. Father… he wasn't as fortunate."
"You realize I completely understand that, right? That's my own position on the whole ordeal?"
Rurik grinned broadly, gently clasping a hand on his shoulder. "Of course! But maybe I need to try and help convincing the littlest one."
"No, no, I think it'll sink in with time. I'd rather not have her get frustrated with our constantly bringing up the subject." Blaine turned away now, starting back towards the castle's interior. "With everything going on, it's hard to simply wrap your mind around it all. Even I've been sidetracked lately."
"You, sidetracked?" Rurik gave a sarcastic gasp of surprise. "It can't be so! Is the great tactician losing his focus?"
Blaine punched his brother lightly in the arm, the faintest traces of a smirk on his face. "You're not getting further bragging over me, brother. I mean the current issue at hand with the town's water supply distracting me from the matter of Aremas' utter madness."
"Hadn't you heard? Something's poisoning the water. People drinking it have been growing incredibly sick, some stricken with madness and growing violent. But a contact of the old Resistance group's mentioned that the Zoras aren't being affected. Of course, the townspeople speculate that maybe the Zora are taking out their vengeance for ancient wrongs and the stripping of the queen of her power, but we think something foul is at play."
Rurik folded his arms, furrowing his brow. "I'm under orders to not leave the castle. Cale as well. Aremas wants the two 'loyalists' on a short leash. I'd go right away to see what this is all about, but being accused of dereliction would be the last thing to help us."
"I'm a few steps ahead of you, Rurik. I'll head to Zora's Domain to meet with our contact, then seek out the source of the poison between there and Castle Town. Whatever it is, we'll put a stop to it."
"As much as I imagine this contact could probably take care of themselves… maybe you should bring Danielle along."
Blaine started slightly, staring back at his cousin. "What? It could be dangerous! If anything happened to her, Cale would have my head and I could never live with myself!"
"Remember who it was who freed us?" Rurik raised his eyebrow. "She's as caught up in this as the rest of us, and she's not a frail child in constant need of protection. That kid's faced down some mighty terrifying monsters and saved all of us from Zant's power. We can't keep underestimating her abilities, just because we're protective of her and don't want her to get hurt."
"How can you say that, Rurik? We almost lost her!"
"That was nothing we did. She noticed what was going on, and she stepped in to intervene. It's not like we pointed her out and gave the order to do that. She's got a strong sense of justice, just like any of us. She's spent a while recovering from the poison, but she's just about fully back on her feet." Rurik shook his head a little. "Blaine, if she wants to help out in stopping whatever's going on, she's going to. We can't stop her. The only thing we can do is make sure we're standing right alongside her to lend our weapons so that we all come out of this alive."
Blaine quietly stared forward as they walked, weighing this in his mind. Rurik was far from wrong, after all. He knew his cousin was determined, headstrong, and couldn't just stand by while the whole world fell apart. She had that same yearning in her heart to fight for her home as any of them. "Alright, alright," he relented. "I'll bring her along with us. Doesn't hurt to have an extra person in a fight, especially when I've fallen behind a bit in my own skill."
"What's this? Did I finally win an argument against the smart brother?" Rurik chuckled playfully. "All joking aside, good. Don't underestimate her skill with a blade. We were some fairly amazing teachers, after all."
"You do realize that if anything happens to her, I'm laying the blame on you when I'd have to tell Cale and Zelda, right?"
"Stop letting that big ole' brain of yours get in the way of this, Blaine." Rurik playfully messed with his younger brother's hair. "This is the right thing to do, and you'll all come out of this just fine. It's probably some angry Hylian who wants to stir up even more hate by causing this. You've got your racists out of any race to deal with. This one just needs some major sense beat into him by a particular lance-wielding strategist."
"Ack!" Blaine quickly tried to fix his hair, shooting an annoyed look at his brother. "Remember how I'm less of brute strength, more of outthinking my opponent, right? You're the brute force guy who pounds in the heads of his enemies with huge weapons."
"I'm well-aware of that fact, and trust me, I'd love to just take a massive hammer to whoever's doing this. Sadly, that time isn't now." Rurik turned to head off in his own direction now. "You just make sure you come back with some good stories to tell of a fight, you hear me?"
Blaine chuckled softly, shaking his head at Rurik. This guy never ceased to be amusing, that was for sure. The two were so much different from each other that it was rather amazing. But still, he couldn't help but feel a bit of anxiety winding its way through his gut. Something about this whole situation with the water poisoning left him uneasy, feeling as if there was more to it than just a disgruntled Hylian. And now he would be dragging his cousin into this as well when he personally didn't think she should be involved at all.
"One of these days I'll be able to outlast him in terms of sheer stubbornness," Blaine murmured under his breath, heading towards the queen's chambers. That day wasn't today. For now, he had a dire situation to get to the bottom of.