(A/N- I need to stop doing this to my stories, I really do. Thanks be to Vime for the much-needed intervention which brought this chapter to be. But first, some frivolity to jump-start my Millerna-writing ability: character specs, sort-of à la Hana Kimi (which is highly recommended, by the way).
Zodiac: Aries, year of the Dragon
Height: 5 feet 6 inches
Weight: 154 lbs
Relevant Skill Levels
Good: close-range weapons; martial arts; balancing on narrow surfaces
Fairly Good: potion-making; hand-thrown projectiles
Mediocre: horsemanship; cooking; archery; sword fighting
Abysmal: planning ahead; dancing; being quiet
Also, I hear conflicting opinions as to how long after Ocarina of Time (in which period this story is obviously set) Twilight Princess takes place – from "a decade" to "a few hundred years", but it seems to me all in-game indicators point to, at the very least, a couple of centuries having passed between the two games, which is the assumption I would like you to accept for the sake of this story. I'm just throwing that out there in case anyone who starts reading this after having read said conflicting opinions about the TP timeframe gets confused by me.
Also-also: Erin + algebra no, so if you don't agree with my idea of how long it would take to catch up to someone on a horse… just have a chuckle at my expense and let it go. Or, like, if it really bothers you: do the math yourself and tell me the answer so that I can put real, legit data in this chapter.)
Business for Zelda, my ass, my inner voice snarled as Epona's hoof beats faded into the distance.
Okay. So it was by no means the first time I'd been lied to, but it was sure as hell the first time I'd been lied to so badly, which I intended to bring to his attention once I caught up with him. And though I didn't know where he was headed, I had a pretty good idea of how to find out.
"Nabooru! I know you're in there!" Well, actually I wasn't positive, but I'd taken a wild guess and pounded on the most extravagantly decorated door I could find. In my experience, that seemed to be the surefire way to find whoever was important at any given place in Hyrule: just look for the fanciest door. It was a good theory; a solid theory; and a proven theory, because Nabooru was, indeed, the one to answer.
"Hey, girlie! What can I do you for?" she asked cheerfully, the big grin on her face almost certainly due to the half-empty bottle of rum in her grasp, which was disconcerting enough to make me temporarily lose my train of thought and just stare at her.
"You're drinking again? Already? I watched you take out the better part of a keg last night!"
"Yeah… I like to think of it as living life to the fullest," she said, with the air of one imparting divine wisdom to the unenlightened. She held the bottle out to me. "You want some? I have more."
"Aw, no rum? I could get the girls to ply you with mead again," she offered, which… made me blush about how I acted under the influence of mead, which made me think of Link, which reminded me that Nabooru's unhealthy drinking habits were not what I had come to talk about. Hah! Train of thought regained!
"Nabooru, where's he going?"
"Oh, Link? I don't know. Probably off to do some obligatory hero… thing," she said, taking a swig of her rum. I narrowed my eyes.
"He never mentioned anything to you? Nothing at all?"
"Not a thing."
"Really? Because according to him he discussed it with you this morning."
Nabooru opened her mouth; then closed it again. Then she smiled. "Well, guess you caught me. Very tricky, I'm impressed."
"Where is he going?"
"Why didn't you ask him?"
"I did," I answered, barely containing the urge to slam my fist into the wall (solely because… well, it would have broken my hand and done no harm to the wall, so how productive would it be?). "And he swore to me – while arming himself to the teeth and carefully avoiding looking me in the eye – that he was going off on unimportant, completely non-dangerous business for the princess, and would be back in a few days."
"First order of business: teach Hero of Time to lie," Nabooru groaned, looking as though her very soul were being crushed under the weight of such a disappointment.
"Where is he?" I repeated.
"Hmm… I'm forbidden to tell you," she responded airily, with the sort of self-satisfied, shit-eating grin that had me forgetting about composure, twisting her around, pinning her to the wall, and pressing a knife to her throat. And even then, she looked like she was enjoying the situation far too much.
"Dammit, Nabooru, this isn't funny," I growled. "Tell me where he is!"
"Why do you want to know?"
"So I can go and back him up, why do you think?"
"Ooh, see, that won't work. He specifically requested – twice – that I keep you right here and out of harm's way –"
"And you agreed?!" I raged, wholly pissed off at both of them.
"Actually, both times I more or less said that you could stay as long as you wanted, but dear, sweet Link has never been good at picking up on loopholes, so he took it as my solemn vow to hold you captive, yes," she explained with a shrug. I paused and considered that.
"…Wait. So, if I'm free to go, why the hell won't you –?"
"He's headed to Carlos's camp to try and spring your sisters, but frankly he doesn't seem to have a damned clue how to pull it off. He's got about a twenty-minute head start on you, so if you hurry, you should be able to catch up and pitch a few ideas before he actually has to execute whatever plan he's going on – two heads are better than one, and all that."
I stared at her, confused. "Why didn't you just tell me that in the first place?"
"Well, think about it," she said, smirking once again. "Here I am with lots of able-bodied warriors at my beckon-call – possibly armed myself, for all you know – and yet you had the nerve to pull a knife on me because you thought your man might need your help."
And then it all clicked. I released her.
"The hell, Nabooru, were you fucking testing me?" I spat. Not altogether unexpectedly, she did not look to be feeling the slightest bit of guilt.
"Yes. And you passed. Congratulations, you're worthy; now go make sure he doesn't get his stupidly brave ass killed."
"You are a profoundly stupid man," was the first thing out of my mouth when I caught up with Link two hours and one very tired horse later – which was just in time, as he was nearly to the mountain trail that led to the camp. Funny thing: he actually looked surprised to see me.
"What are you doing here?"
"Oh, come on! You honestly thought I fell for that 'official business' story? You are the worst liar in the history of bad liars; how the hell do you survive as a public figure?"
"Never you mind! The last time I checked, we were both in agreement that you would stay in Gerudo Valley."
"I wasn't thinking clearly when I agreed to that, and I certainly had no idea you were about to go and do something this dumb! New rule: I'm staying with you no matter what happens, whether you like it or not. That… didn't come out how I expected it to, but either way, if you take off again, I'll find out where you're going and follow you again."
He looked at me for a few moments, like he was trying to figure out exactly how he felt about that, but ultimately he must have resigned himself to the fact that he was stuck with me, because he proceeded to fill me in on The Plan. The Plan basically consisted of waiting for Navi to find out the positions of the guards; sneaking in; and sneaking out without any of us dying, but it was a plan nonetheless. I suggested blowing something of Carlos's up (as a diversion, I swear), but Link declared that counter-productive ("I understand the concept of unadulterated loathing, Millerna, but we're going for stealth, here."), so it was left out of The Plan.
In the interest of being as quiet as physically possible, we left the horses at the start of the trail. Navi soon showed up and, after shooting me the customary hateful glare, reported two Moblins guarding the entrance gate and a few men asleep around the fire pit by the shore, but otherwise no security for about fifty yards. We only needed to go thirty yards, so as long as we didn't actively draw attention to ourselves, it seemed that getting in, getting out, and not getting killed was actually a more than reasonable plan.
The Moblins had their backs to us and were easy to take out with a longshot and a throwing knife, respectively, and the guys asleep by the fire… well, judging by the empty bottles, they'd just imbibed enough alcohol to impress the Gorons and Gerudos combined, so I doubted they'd be a viable threat any time soon. By the time we made it to my sisters' tent, I was honestly feeling very optimistic about the whole situation – and kind of stupid for having worried so much. Granted, Carlos had never been this lax with security, so I'd had reason to worry, but… hell, who was I to question his change of heart?
We slipped into the tent to find Dana and Lilliana asleep in their beds. Serenity was nowhere in sight. Her absence struck me as a little odd because she'd never been 'required' this late into the night before, but I didn't have time to worry about it; I had to figure out how to quietly wake the two loudest young girls I'd ever met. On the one hand, I could do it the old-fashioned, completely non-scary way and just pray that they made no sound. Or…
I caught Link's attention and pointed to Lilliana. "You cover her mouth, I'll get this one," I whispered. He gave me a look.
"Won't that be the slightest bit unsettling?"
"Yes, and they're much less noisy after they've had a good scare," I explained, simultaneously clamping a hand over Dana's mouth. Her eyes flew open, and she started squirming. "Dana, it's me, you idiot!" I hissed. Either her eyes had adjusted to the dark, she'd recognized my voice, or she'd remembered that there was only one person who frequently called her an idiot, because she stopped trying to escape, and instead glared at me and attempted to pry my hand away from her mouth. I pressed it down more firmly. "If you promise to be quiet, I will let go."
She glared harder, but I caught a muffled "I promise," so I took my hand away from her mouth before she decided to bite it.
"Why are you here?"
"We're rescuing you," I said. Dana looked puzzled by my use of the plural, before catching sight of Link (who appeared to have ignored my instructions and woken Lilliana in a kinder, gentler fashion). She looked back at me, eyes wide.
"I knew it!"
"Where's Serenity?" I demanded, ignoring her outburst.
"She never comes back before almost daybreak, anymore," Lilliana replied.
"Carlos shares her with the scary red-haired man now," Dana chimed in.
I was about to suggest that we set fire to Carlos's tent on principle, but the look of recognition on Link's face caused a particularly large knot to begin forming in the pit of my stomach. If that look meant what I knew it must, then trying to free Serenity would more likely than not end in all of us getting killed. Carlos was one thing; the King of Evil was quite another.
Karma is going to destroy my ass for this…
"Let's get out of here," I said. "Right now. Dana, Lil… we don't have time to take your things, just get your shoes on and let's go."
"But Serenity –" Lilliana began to protest.
"It's not worth the risk."
"Millerna, she's our sister!"
"And she'll be fine for now, Dana. For once in your life, just do as I say."
And by some strange miracle, they both stopped questioning me and started pulling their shoes on. I happened to glance over at Link, and I instantly regretted it. He had on this 'I know how much it hurts, but you're doing the right thing' look, which made me feel even sicker and angrier than I already did. I exited the tent before I could give in to the overwhelming desire to punch the man I love in the face, and went about two steps before smacking into something solid.
You ever have one of those days where, apart from a few glitches, everything seems to be working out perfectly, to the point where you get a little too confident and The Powers That Be decide to punish your lack of suffering by reaching into the jaws of Contentment and ripping out the Worst Case Scenario with a side of Doom?
Well, the solid object in question was a six-and-a-half-foot oaf named Tobin, and this was clearly one of those days.
"Intruders!" he bellowed, nixing my feeble hopes that maybe he was just dumb enough to believe I'd returned with no ill intentions.
"Fuck," I stated, distracted enough by the truly unpleasant sight of hundreds of armed men rushing out of their tents that I didn't notice Tobin's sword swinging in a downward arc towards the top of my head until after the blow had been countered by Link of The Amazing .001-Second Reaction Time.
"Pay attention, Millerna!" he admonished, hacking away at Tobin and two other hulking humanoids – the first out a long trail to reach us. I pulled out my knives and started hurling them at the closest of the approaching enemies, sending a silent prayer of thanks to Ayden that the majority hit and felled their marks; Link was already fairly well surrounded (taking them out quickly, but they replaced themselves almost as fast), so the fewer new guys to reach him, the better.
"What's going on?" Dana demanded, at the exact moment I ran out of knives and swore accordingly.
"What does it look like, Dana?!" I snarled, getting my whip chain uncoiled in time to shoot it out at two guys standing side by side, get it caught it around both their necks, and yank it, knocking their heads together with a loud crack.
"You two get out of here," Link instructed, slamming the flat of his sword against a guy's face hard enough to crush it into a bloody mess. "Millerna and I will hold them off for as long as we can."
"There's no way out," Lilliana cried. "They've set a fire around the gates!"
Link echoed my earlier sentiments of, "Fuck!" and started tearing more viciously into the pack of guys around him.
"I have an idea!" Dana squealed, dragging Lilliana by the hand past the falling body of a guy I'd just caught in the throat. As far as I could tell in the split second I was able to devote to watching them, they weren't followed, which lifted my spirits ever-so-slightly. Maybe they would be able to find a way out on their own, and would make it to somewhere safe.
As for me, I was coming to the grim realization that the chances of Link and me getting out alive were dwindling from slim to none with each new wave of blade-wielding bastards. We'd started out hugely outnumbered; now we were hugely outnumbered and getting tired, and the stream of fresh, fully-energized enemies looked like it could go on for hours.
Not that we would survive that long, unless –
"Guys! Over here, quick!"
I had never appreciated it before, but there really was something to be said for a ten-year-old girl with a voice capable of piercing the sound of a battle. Running as fast as we could manage, we followed Dana's voice to the end of the dock, where she and Lilliana had rigged the sails of the smallest boat. Torch in hand, Dana motioned for us to climb aboard. I noticed an unusual smell coming off the dock, but I chose to ignore it as we freed the boat.
…And drifted all of three inches with the current.
"There's no wind!" I yelled. Which, you know, made me feel horribly stupid when the breeze immediately picked up and started propelling us into open water. When we'd gotten ten feet away, Dana tossed her torch onto the dock. Flames shot outward from the torch, and in a matter of seconds the dock, along with every remaining boat, was completely engulfed. Link and I stared at my youngest sister. She smiled.
"Lamp oil. There were barrels of it on the dock."
I was just considering actually hugging my siblings when Carlos chose to step outside and behold the destruction we had caused. The look of absolute rage on his face would have been enough for me, but he sweetened the deal by glaring straight at me and shaking his fist.
"I will kill you if it's the last thing I do, wench!" he screamed in a wholly undignified manner, looking millimeters away from a full-on tantrum.
"Good! I like you better as someone who wants to kill me than someone trying desperately to fuck me!" I answered, as the little boat picked up even more speed from that sudden wind, and carried us out to sea.
"…What?" Farore asked, putting on her most innocent expression. Nayru glowered.
"Way to interfere."
"That wasn't interference, it was intervention. There is a difference."
"Oh, I see: if I do it, I'm interfering, but if you do it, you're intervening."
"Why, Nayru! You are smarter than you let on!"