Olsen, being the more experienced flier, had taken it upon himself to fly the plane to Labrynna, using the map that Nayru had brought with her. LeBeau could only stare when they arrived—monsters were heavily concentrated here, and the air seemed to make the shadows almost tangible.
"This… this is supposed to be Labrynna?" the Frenchman whispered. "People actually lived here once?" He trailed off, looking around at the horrible scene. "It is just barren dirt and monsters!"
To illustrate his comment, several pig-snouted monsters scuttled by, spitting rocks out of their snouts.
"Everywhere else has suffered like this since Veran took over," Olsen reminded him. "What on earth made you think that Labrynna would be any better? You should have expected it to be worse, especially since this is where she has her base."
A bolt of red lightning illuminated Ambi's Tower.
"I suggest we go forward—see how many of her minions are guarding the outside and inside," the sergeant went on. He grabbed two dark, hooded cloaks that they had made, which were identical to the cloaks that Veran's minions wore, and handed one to LeBeau as he threw the other one over his uniform.
"There are going to be goons everywhere," said LeBeau, placing his cloak around himself. "We must be careful that they do not see us unless absolutely necessary." He pulled Olsen towards some shriveled shrubbery, aiming to use it as cover to help them get closer towards the tower. "These disguises may look perfect, but if the monsters can smell us, are done for." He gave a shudder as they snuck by some hungry bipedal boars, tearing ravenously into some undercooked meat.
Olsen looked at the monstrous boars in disgust as they snuck past the skeletal Stalfos guards patrolling back and forth along the outside of the tower. The Stalfos gave them no indication of having sensed them as, one after the other, they darted between them, just like they had done to enemy guards numerous times during the war.
Despite being able to sneak past the monsters outside, the duo's presence was not unnoticed.
Veran's increase in power had allowed her to sense the approach of the two intruders.
"Someone has come…" she murmured to Onox. She crossed to the window, frowning as the Stalfos did not react. "They have somehow snuck past the Stalfos, so they must be in here."
"It can't be the resistance," Onox said. "They do not have magic; they don't even know our location!"
"You seem to have forgotten that they met with Nayru last night," Veran said, scowling. "She will have told them everything—including my weakness to explosives when I transform. But that does not mean my defeat just yet."
She turned to the Masked Shadow.
"Milady?" the Masked Shadow asked, walking over to her.
"Do you know of a way for those resistance members to get their hands on any explosives?" she asked placing two fingers on the young man's forehead. She would grant him partial access to the memories she had previously locked away. Now, he would remember things and facts, but not the emotions associated with those people or events.
The Masked Shadow's hazel eyes glazed over as she began to tap into his mind and revealed things that had apparently been hidden in his subconscious. He did not know from where he was getting this information; he only knew that he knew it. And he had to tell Veran all about it.
"Yes," he said. "The clumsy one—the one I fought with last night—is an expert at building, dismantling, and modifying explosives."
Veran cursed in her own tongue. She had to find their stronghold as soon as possible and destroy that threat to her existence.
The witch closed her eyes and concentrated, trying to sense who the two intruders were. Was the demolitions expert one of them?
"Tell me," she said, placing two fingers on the Masked Shadow's head again, so that he could sense the two auras approaching through her magic. "Is that clumsy oaf among the ones here now?"
"No, Milady. The auras are different. One is just another one of their outside men, and the other…" The Masked Shadow's eyes flickered as he sensed the other aura and felt a tug on his heartstrings.
In the back of his mind, he could hear his own voice, somehow connecting to that second aura.
"It's not a gourmet dish—it's ruddy fish stew!"
Veran, still connected to him, scowled as she heard it, too. That was not a good sign…
She muttered under her breath, making sure the spell she had used to lock the rest of those telltale memories was strengthened.
"He is the resistance's chef?" she asked, quietly.
"Yes, Milady," the Masked Shadow said, now unable to recall what he had just remembered.
Veran's lips turned into a smirk. She knew exactly who was behind this now—Nayru had indeed revealed all of her secrets, and now these two were here to scout the area and the tower. And that short one—he was the one who had been in the young man's memories the most before she had sealed them out of his consciousness. As the Masked Shadow's reaction had just proven, this mere chef was another threat—one as big as the clumsy demolitions expert. The chef clearly had the power to make the Masked Shadow remember what Veran had so painstakingly locked away. It was now clear that the only reason she had gotten away with the current level of the spell for the past five years was because the Masked Shadow had not crossed paths with the chef since.
But now, the sorceress had this potentially troublesome chef right in her clutches. And how sweet would the irony be if the Masked Shadow was to be the one to end up eliminating that threat?
"Listen closely," she said. "The presence of those two here is a threat—we cannot let them leave here."
"What must I do, Milady?" said the Masked Shadow. "They are in the Tower, are they not? I can meet them halfway. And, what next?"
"I know exactly what we must do next," Veran purred. "For one thing, we need to find out where their stronghold is so that we can eliminate the demolitions expert before he creates anything that might be used against me."
The Masked Shadow blinked behind his mask.
"I understand," he said. "I shall bring them both to you."
"No," said Veran, her eyes narrowing as she smirked. "Don't concern yourself with both of them. There is only one of them with whom you must contend—the short one. He is a chef, pretending to be a warrior."
She chuckled, but was annoyed and concerned when the Masked Shadow did not laugh, as well.
Perhaps this was a risky move… What if the spell was to break—what would happen then…? No; she had to do this… She had to have him do this. If the Masked Shadow killed the chef with his own hands, then she knew that the spell she had on him would be permanent. "You will engage him in combat—he should not take long to defeat. And then…" Her eyes narrowed even further. "You will slay him."
"But I thought you would wish to question him, Milady," said the Masked Shadow, ignoring the tug on his heartstrings again. "Why slay that chef if, as you say, he can't even fight?"
"Because I want him destroyed!" Veran snapped back. "It is not like you to question my orders!"
"I… Forgive me, Milady," the Masked Shadow said, dropping to one knee. "I will do as you bid and slay him. Do you wish for me to do the same to the other intruder?"
"No," said the sorceress, satisfied that he would not waver again. "I want Onox to capture the other one; we will get the information we need from him. But, remember, your orders are very clear." She stared at the Masked Shadow, her eyes boring into him and his soul. "Destroy the short one."
The Masked Shadow bowed before her, even lower. "If that is what Milady wishes, then it shall be done."
Veran now smiled again.
"Very good," said Veran. "I trust you will be triumphant. Go, now—go with Onox." She glared at Onox. "And you had best remember what I told you earlier. You will not let any harm come to my heir."
Onox grumbled under his breath, but knew that he had no alternative.
"You'd better not get in my way," the Dark General snarled at the Masked Shadow. "The last thing I need is an inept sidekick."
"Onox, you are the inept one," the Masked Shadow calmly countered. "My success rate is significantly higher than yours. You have never even gone near those resistance members—I have engaged in combat with them."
"I'm afraid he has a point, Onox…"
Onox just growled furiously under his breath as he exited the room. The Masked Shadow smirked as well, following him. Veran sat back on her throne, now channeling even more energy into locking the Masked Shadow's memories away. She would not be taking any chances.
LeBeau froze as he and Olsen saw Onox and the Masked Shadow approaching. Was it just a coincidence that they had met them halfway? And… why did he feel so sick to his stomach upon seeing the Masked Shadow for the first time?
The Masked Shadow's eyes narrowed. He sensed the presence of someone not of the darkness ahead, in those robes. He sneered. Veran was right—these thorns would be best pulled out of their side.
"Now…" Veran's voice purred to him.
The Masked Shadow suddenly drew his knife and charged towards the two robed intruders.
The cry had barely left LeBeau's throat when the Masked Shadow tackled him. As he crashed to the stairwell, he knew that the game was up.
"Run, Olsen!" LeBeau yelled.
The sergeant hesitated, not wanting to leave the corporal behind, but he knew that both of them getting captured would be worse than just one. He ducked under Onox's extending arm, heading up the stairs.
"Go after him, Onox!" the Masked Shadow ordered. "I'll deal with this fool, as veran ordered!"
As Onox left and chased after Olsen, LeBeau could only freeze again. The Masked Shadow's voice… it was paralyzing him with some unspeakable feeling. He expected that it was fear, and yet… in his heart, he knew that the horror he was feeling wasn't because of fear.
An invisible arrow zinged into the Frenchman's heart, and he was blinking back tears. But why?
The Masked Shadow turned to the Frenchman, smirking.
"Look at you," he sneered. "You're no fighter—you couldn't even defend yourself. Queen Veran was right—you are no warrior."
A tear fell from one of the corporal's eyes. The Masked Shadow's sneer only deepened, and, disgusted, he struck the poor Frenchman across the face where the tear was trailing down his cheek.
"You pathetic resistance members think you're so brave," he spat. "But you're all cowards, just as Queen Veran said. Your leader is all talk and insults, but nothing more. And here you are, crying in fear before me."
"I am not crying in fear!" LeBeau spat back, holding his face where he had been hit. "I…" He trailed off. He wasn't sure why he was crying at all.
"I don't need to hear your excuses…" the Masked Shadow spat. He raised his knife. "Will you defend yourself, or will fall this readily?"
"I will retreat," LeBeau quipped. He shoved the Masked Shadow away, got to his feet, and he turned tail and headed down the stairwell.
The Masked Shadow snarled, and he gave chase as LeBeau struggled to stay ahead of him. The Frenchman was dodging puzzled monsters and guards; after all, they had not seen him going up. The monsters looked to the Masked Shadow, awaiting their orders from him.
"Follow me," he ordered them. "We will not let this little fool get away from Queen Veran!"
Another arrow zinged into LeBeau's heart.
"Stop it!" he yelled, turning in his tracks to face the Masked Shadow again. "Stop calling her that!"
"You fool; Queen Veran has been reigning for five years; if she is not the Queen, then what is she?" the Masked Shadow said.
"I… I do not know. But she is not your Queen!" LeBeau said.
He blinked; where were these words coming from? It wasn't his brain thinking of the words coming out of his mouth; something else inside him was making him talk. And why… why did he feel physically ill upon seeing this man, when he had stared at the obviously stronger Onox without any such feeling?
The Masked Shadow's eyes narrowed.
"Queen Veran is my queen," he said softly. "She is like a mother to me. She is my life; I exist to serve her and to one day inherit her realm. She is in the process of making me her co-regent."
LeBeau's stomach actually did lurch at these words. This was wrong… this was all wrong! He wasn't sure why, but he knew it was.
"You cannot…" he whispered, as he continued backing away.
"Now I see what your pathetic strategy is," the Masked Shadow muttered, as he glared at LeBeau. "You can't fight, so you run at the mouth like an idiot, and you say things that don't make sense to try to confuse everyone."
"I do not know why I am saying these things," LeBeau countered. "But I know they are true."
What was he doing? He didn't have time to stand there and argue with the Masked Shadow when he didn't even know why seeing him was making him feel this way! He had to get away, and he had to find Olsen so that they could both escape this horrible place! And with no way to call for help, it would be up to him.
"I do not know who you are," LeBeau said to the Masked Shadow. "But I know that this is not your destiny. There are better things for you than working for Veran."
"You know nothing of my destiny," the Masked Shadow hissed. "But your destiny is very clear. You will fall, begging me and Queen Veran for mercy."
"Not if I can help it," said LeBeau, retreating down the stairs again. The Masked Shadow took off after him, and the Frenchman was trying his hardest not to listen to the voice in his mind ordering him not to run away. In spite of his best efforts to ignore it, the more he ran, the more he felt his heart twist.
Olsen, in the meantime, was trying to evade Onox, but that wasn't easy when he knew that in the back of his mind, there would be a very slim chance of escape from the top of the tower.
"Give it up, Fool!" Onox snarled.
Olsen only increased his speed, and that prompted Onox to hurl a large, thick chain at him. The chain snaked around one of the sergeant's ankles, and he hit the ground. Onox sneered, pulling the sergeant towards him.
"Ah, well done, Onox," said Veran, walking out of the throne room upon hearing the commotion of Olsen's fall, which had been followed by his angered oaths against Onox.
The sergeant had fallen silent upon Veran's arrival. The witch now regarded him with a smirk.
"I never thought that you resistance members were much of a threat," she said to him. "But with the resistance becoming more and more of an annoyance, I have come to realize that I should have given you magicless mortals more attention. And now I will. There is much I wish to know from you."
"I won't tell you anything," Olsen hissed. "All they got from me in the war was my name, rank, and serial number, and that's all you're going to get."
"This is not a war," Veran purred. "There is no war—the world is mine, and there is no one who can contest me. Tell me, now… Where are you from? How did you get to Labrynna? You are close by to the Altes Schloss, no doubt, but how close are you?"
"Sergeant Steve Olsen, 17081630."
Veran's smirk only grew, much to Olsen's alarm.
"Take him to the dungeon, Onox. We will be more likely to loosen his tongue there."
"The dungeon…?" Onox asked, incredulously. "That's in the underground level of the tower. I just chased this pest to the turret; you expect me to take him all the way down there? Why couldn't I question him here?"
Veran crossed her arms, glaring at him.
Onox growled in frustration, taking the struggling Olsen down the stairs. The sergeant cursed both himself and his captor.
He could only hope that, by some miracle, LeBeau was still free.
But the two sides in this struggle were both unaware that there was soon going to be a new player in this game—a player that no one had anticipated. A large ship had long since departed from the Gerudo Valley in Hyrule, and now reached the Labrynnan shores. Painted on the hull of the ship was the Gerudo symbol.
Numerous Stalfos and other monsters leaped out of the boat to pull it up further onto shore and secure it to the nearby rocks. A figure, cloaked in shadow, now crossed to the bow, gazing down at the minions pulling the boat ashore.
The figure watching from the bow eventually leaped from the boat, his feet slamming into the sandy ground. His eyes narrowed as he looked around at the desolate landscape. He normally wouldn't have come to this wretched land; he would have been content with staying and ruling in Hyrule—not a very difficult task with the royals missing. But Veran had to be taught a lesson, and he would be the one to teach it to her. No one crossed the Gerudo King and expected to get away with it, and Veran's bold claims that the world was now hers was not something that the Gerudo King would tolerate—not when the world was to be his, and his alone!
Heavily booted feet dug into the sand as the large, muscular, and armored man strode up the shore. He stared at Ambi's Tower, far off in the distance, rage filling his eyes as the chilling wind ruffled his short, red hair.
The man's large lungs filled with air, and then unleashed a Gerudo war cry.
The Evil King Ganondorf had come to Labrynna.