A/N: I just want to give a huge thank you to everyone who's ever reviewed- or, heck, even read this story. It's honestly the longest thing I've ever written on my own, I never thought it'd be this big xDD;;
This chapter was literally the worst thing ever to write- I hate exposition and all the boring stuff that comes before something good (that isn't to say that this chapter is super boring, please still read it ;u; ) but every time I tried I just got more and more bogged down.
I think that this is the third-to-last chapter, I can't believe I actually made it to a point where I can actually end it. Again, this is a complete first for me, and I'd like to thank you all again. I've gotten so many lovely reviews, they're all like little droplets of sunshine and love into the puddle that is my heart.
So I'll stop my rambling here and let you all get on to reading what you came back here for.
(Oh, and SamuraiSal, I formally give you permission to run off to Vegas with this fic and marry it if you still want :DD)
Chapter Nine- Evening
He kissed me.
Vio sat in the shaded area furthest back in the small cave, forehead pressed against the cool stone to attempt to ease the throbbing pain beneath his temples. Dragging himself there had been barely short of torture- his entire back hurt as well, and he was quite sure he'd have an amazing collection of bruises by the time the sun rose again, but the worst was his ankle. It seemed that Green's second assessment was right- it both looked and felt broken, and he had nothing to ease his pain with.
To say that he should grin and bear it seemed incredibly cliche, but that appeared it was what he had to do anyway.
So he sat, focused on taking regular breaths and watching the light slowly shift away from the cave entrance. Nightfall was coming...and if Green didn't come back for him, or send someone, he would die.
That was a horrible and depressing thought, though, so he tried to turn his sluggish mind away from it.
Of course, the only other thought there was Why did he kiss me?
The higher he climbed on this mountain the more questions came to Green's mind, and fewer answers. Signs of people were everywhere- there were obvious signs of stones being shifted, trees hewn away and used to create small storage sheds that dotted the long and winding path to the top. And long was the operative word- it was approaching evening by the time the path leveled out to a broad, flat fenced-in area full of monsters. Green hastily ducked behind the nearest boulder to get his bearings, watching the patrolling moblins with a frown. There were so many... but what were they all doing up here?
He crept a little closer- their guarding pattern was roughly circular, and the patrols switched direction every ten minutes. There was a shadowed area near the fence that, if he was careful, could be used to stealthily boost him over and towards the center complex about three hundred feet in.
Green took a deep breath then reached into his bag and grabbed his grappling hook- it would be near-silent if it hit something, unlike their hookshot. There were several tree branches sticking out over the top of the fence as well- between those and the sloped fence it should be simple, if not easy, to get over the fence.
So he went for it, and five minutes of moblin-dodging later he was situated on the roof of the building, over an easy-access trapdoor that he hesitantly entered.
The first thing he noticed was the stench. Green barely kept himself from gagging out loud, ripping his hat off to press over his mouth and nose. The incessant buzzing of flies reached his ears as well, and he gagged when he realized he must be in either the larder or the morgue, and that neither was very well-tended to.
The second thing he noticed was the light coming from under the door at the far wall.
Red was talking aimlessly to Shadow as he gathered wood for that night's fire when he realized the other had stopped acknowledging him, had stopped moving completely, as a matter of fact. He stood frozen, a long thin dark line stretched out on the ground, making Red frown. "Shadow? Something the matter?"
At the sound of Red's voice Shadow moved- flattened, almost, stretching himself even thinner and darker until the shadow being resembled nothing so much as a thin line, the tip darting back and forth between thin patches of shade. It was a bit disturbing, to say the least, and Red shifted very uncomfortably, feeling like he shouldn't move.
It took a bit but Shadow eventually re-formed into a more humanoid shape, and refused to answer any of Red's tentative queries about what had just happened. Red sighed and dropped the matter, heading back to their campsite and placing one last armful of wood into their pile. He then went to check on Blue, who hadn't been getting any worse, but hadn't been getting any better either. His fever still raged under his skin and he hadn't been able to stomach anything since the night before. He was asleep now, brow furrowed slightly in a look of annoyed tension (also known as his usual look) and Red let out a halfhearted chuckle, plopping down next to him as quietly as he could. There was just enough time before sunset and darkness that could be used to look over that book Shadow had brought for him...
Moblin bodies lay strewn all across the floor, and Green was panting. He'd come across their main dining hall, which was fortunately almost empty when he had opened the door. It was ….. more difficult than he'd expected, fighting without the others, but Green had fought alone before and it was surprising how quickly the knowledge returned to him. More had come in through the side doors- he didn't want to know how many of the foul things he'd slain, but his sword was drenched in sludgy green-black blood, and the stench was atrocious. He wiped it off on the nearest moblin's shirt as best he could, crinkling his nose as he realized he wouldn't be able to re-sheathe it in its current condition. It was probably for the best- he had a lot of exploring to do and there was bound to be more of the creatures of darkness in there.
He stumbled across a sleeping area as he wandered through the halls- taking the opportunity to catch the monsters inside off guard and dispatch them peacefully- before the soft sound of sobbing caught his ear. He paused, swiveling his head and trying to catch which direction the sound was coming from- it almost sounded like it was coming from below….
Two minutes of scouting turned up a trap door, and Green cautiously descended into the darkness below.
The ladder gave out abruptly about six feet above the floor, and Green let out an undignified noise as he landed painfully on his back. Fortunately there was nobody down here with him- the long dark tunnel was completely barren. There was light up ahead, though, and Green held his sword at the ready as he paced towards it.
The hallway opened up into a larger cavern at the end- torches lined the walls, illuminating another five or six moblins standing guard around a large cage full of Hylians. Mostly women, but there were a few children there, and one hunched and battered old man that Green recognized instantly as the potion maker, Aelo.
The green-clad Link paused a moment, hesitating as he formed a plan of action in his mind, then pulled out his Hookshot and shot the nearest moblin in the head.
That went about as well as expected- the monster roared in pain and staggered to the side, drawing everyone's attention to it, and while they were distracted Green shot two arrows into the farthest moblin's neck. It gave a gurgled cry and toppled backwards, as did the next moblin. By this time the others had figured out where the attacks were coming from, and one gave a muffled grunting roar of a battle cry, charging at the lone figure at the mouth of the tunnel.
This was just what Green wanted. The other three moblins rushed as well, tangling up with each other in the cramped space and giving Green plenty of time to cut through them as necessary. It was simple to defeat them all, and he spent a moment catching his breath after they were all down before walking to the cage. The people there were looking at him in nothing short of awe- this one teenager singlehandedly defeated six moblins in hand-to-hand combat without even a scratch? Who and what was he?
There was a padlock on the only entrance into the prisoners' pen, so he went back and searched through the monsters- sure enough, a silver key was hanging onto one belt, so he brought it back and unlocked the door. "I'm here to get you out of here," he said simply, smiling at everyone. "My name's Green, and I'm not leaving anyone behind. Is anyone hurt?"
It took a moment, but one of the women rose to her feet and started chivvying everyone else to get up as well. "No, Sir Knight," she said, voice husky from disuse. "None are hurt. How did you get in here?"
Green gave a slight chuckle. "A lot of hard work. And it's going to be even more to get out of here. I'm going to need all of you to stay as silent as you can, and to move as fast as you can. Can anyone here handle a weapon?" He breathed a sigh of relief as four women broke apart from the group, moving a little closer. "Alright. Will you grab some of their-" he pointed behind him at the dead moblins- "weapons, and stay at the back and along the edges to guard everyone?"
They nodded, and he smiled again. "Great. Let's get moving then!"
By Farore's divine grace they made it without incident to the dining hall that Green had first come in by, but something wasn't sitting right with him. Odd tingles kept running up his spine, making him hyper alert, and right before the doorway he motioned back to the others. "Stop here- something's wrong." He took a breath. "Find someplace to hide, someplace that you can defend yourself."
As quietly as they could, the group moved back further down the hallway, and Green gritted his teeth before dropping to his stomach. He crawled close to the doorway, sticking his face close to the crack, and peered in.
What he saw made his jaw drop and his stomach clench in pure, visceral fear.
More moblins gathered inside, but Green's focus was drawn to the hulking metal monster pacing back and forth in the middle of the room. It looked like an Iron Knuckle, if an Iron Knuckle was fifteen feet tall and oozed darkness out of every crack in its segmented armor.
If an Iron Knuckle's armor was black as the deepest night, veined with throbbing red symbols pulsing in time to the movements of the streamers of ievil/i emanating from it.
If an Iron Knuckle's chestplate had the sigil of the Shadow King incised onto it.
Green tried to swallow, throat suddenly closed tight. This was something far beyond his league. This was a literal embodiment of all things wrong in the world. They had shut Vaati and his lord and master away months ago, but it appeared that their seal wasn't as strong as they thought.
Evil was still loose in the world, and it was standing between him and freedom.
Green took a deep breath, stood up, and opened the door.