Section Summaries

  • Sneak Attack
    • Darrel and Jadens forces assault the Twili Desert Encampment in a surprise attack.
  • Betrayal
    • Jeskai is a dick.
  • Out of Time
    • Ella escapes prison. The desert staging area fight continues.
  • Never Truly Free
    • Jeskai is captured. Darrels group will soon be free of the desert battle. Horus is trapped in his own mind. Nothing is free.

Sneak Attack

CONTINUES FROM Gathering Forces P#103

Darrel Mytura, Desert Fairy Fountain, Night One

"I accept. What's going to be the signal to move in?"

Darrel pursed his lips, thinking about that for a moment. It was a good question, and one he hadn't thought on. Jaden was already making his approach, so they needed to move quickly.

The answer presented itself to him suddenly as he cast his eyes around the fountain's interior. Normally a place of mystical light and energy, it more resembled a store room or warehouse in its present state, stacked with the stolen salvage from their raids on the Twili supply caravans. And sitting there atop a crate, wholly unremarkable, was a Twili signal horn.

Darrel took it up, turned it over a few times in his hands, and then nodded to himself. It would do nicely.

He turned back to meet Henreth's eyes. "This horn will be our signal. It is of Twili origin, used to pass signals over distance, so not only will it allow us to do the same, but it will create even greater confusion amongst their ranks when they hear it. I will blow it in three short bursts. When you hear that, bring your squad in on your side and hit the camp hard. I'll come in from the opposite end and we'll smash them between us."

Desert Staging Area, Night One

Darrel crouched behind a rock formation jutting from the slop of a sand dune overlooking the Twili camp. Off in the distance to the east he could see flashes of light and he could feel the spirits of men. They burned with fervor and desperation.

And they were rapidly shrinking in number. It had begun. The Twili had begun to make their move into Hyrule proper, and he was way too late. All that they could do, before rushing to join the battle, was finish this business before them and keep the odds from turning more steeply in favor of the enemy.

Somewhere below, Jaden and his Sheikah were moving like a black wind amongst the enemy, engaging in the worst sort of butchery. Killing officers in their beds, or as they hunched over the latrine. Removing the head of the serpent.

At his back, members of the Knight's Sword gathered. They'd been waiting for this, anticipating the strike. They hated the Twili for their barbarism, and for making such barbarism necessary in turn.

Darrel, not in the mood for some sort of motivational speech, and feeling that such things were not needed this night, raised the horn to his lips with his left hand as he hefted Morning's Edge in his right, and blew three high, clear blasts into the night. Then he dropped the horn into the sand, and as one his team began to sprint down the slope toward the Twili picket lines, intent on destruction.

Jaden, Twili Desert Encampment, Night 1

Wetwork. It was Unit Zero's trademark, and one of his most favorite operations to run. There was no greater insult than not being able to respond to an instant killing strike. Sure, open field battles and other tactical situatons excited him too. But he had a special, sadistic way of opening up a synchronized elimination.

As the group moved silently across the desert sands from the fountain, they could feel the chill of night air. The sky was clear, but the moon was full. Stars were slightly hidden by such incandescence. However, the group had to rely on sticking to the right dune patterns.

The encampment came into view, and it was not as well guarded as it could have been. Of three entrances, two had posts. One had a solitary guard in the rear, and he had dozed off.

It was then that Unit Zero spread amongst the tents and dimming fires as a shroud of death. They canvassed for targets of importance and high value. Inventory was estimated. And they paid close attention to patrol patterns. The Twili truly did not anticipate the Hylians even coming out here, yet armaments and provisions were kept!

Jaden found two officers talking by a campfire. They both had drinks, coffee by the scent of it. He overheard a little of their conversation, and they mentioned the same Baron, Ryssdal. And how he was going to take Lake Hylia, and if that were successful, the last bastion standing would also be ripe to eradicate.

As they were chatting, Jaden slipped a fast-acting laxative into one of the men's drinks. He had advised his squad that the signal was when one went off to the loo.

They had to stay awake. They had to drink. After getting close enough to get the Smooth Move Powder in, he also picked the officer's pocket, finding a small corked vial.

Retreating behind a decently sized rock, he waited, and it didn't take too long before he heard the elder man of the two complain of intestinal discomfort. Jaden grinned, and started to shudder with anticipation. How would he dispatch this one?

Open air latrines. Really? That eliminated many options for him. He needed an instant kill, so he opted to use his misericorde. It was modified so that he could ram it right into the temple, the base of the skull, or the back of the mouth. No screams. Somewhat disappointing.

As the officer dropped his trousers and squatted, Jaden crouched and slowly crept up on his prey. Humiliation before death was one of his preferred ways to assassinate others. This was no exception. Winding up, he buried the thin blade to the hilt right at skull's base.

As soon as Unit Zero heard the first kill, they slit throats, slashed hearts, severed heads, cleaved skulls clean in two, and otherwise ensured leadership elimination.

It was at that time Jaden heard the horn in the distance. He had a feeling it was Darrel's marines. Henreth wouldn't be far behind either.

But then there were bright flashes of light in the cloud free sky...they were violet, strobe, and many. It had to be Kae. But he couldn't dwell on that. As Twili troops emerged from their slumber in a panic, some turned on each other. Jaden was happy to use that to his advantage and insert his own mayhem into their misfortune.

Henreth, Twili Desert Encampment, Night One

He brought the five men into position, the western side of the encampment. From what he was able to see, it only had 3 proper entrances, all of which seemed to be inadequately guarded. He turned towards the others.

"Even if the place seems small, try to memorize pathways and locations."

The less time he and the others had to spend finding their way in the middle of a fight, the higher their chances of survival. the group of small tents bundled toghether can be assumed to be the equivalent of a barracks, where all the Twili soldiers would be sleeping. The larger tents might be for storage, not an immediate concern.

After a few short minutes of close listening, he heard the unpleasant sound of blades meeting flesh and bone. It was short-lived, and he had little, if any, time to think before his ears met with the faint sound of a horn. He saw the Twili starting to wake up, and instantly distracting themselves with each other. This was the best opportunity to start the attack.

"Let's go." He quickly ordered the men as he moved forward.

Going around to the nearest entrance would take to long, and climbing the fence also seemed impractical, if only because it might leave them vulnerable to attacks. Thinking quick, Henreth raised his sword, charged it, and sent a vertical beam strike towards the nearest fence post. It shattered like a fragile vase, leaving a hole just large enough for them to fit through one at a time. If the others were surprised or shocked, they didn't show it, and/or he didn't see it. Henreth was the first through, making sure it was safe. As the last person made it in, it was just in time, as a few Twili began rushing them.

On any other day, they probably would've been evenly matched, but the Twili's panicked state made them sloppy. Everyone picked an enemy and fought. It didn't last long, any mistake the Twili eventually made were punished with fatal damage to the head or heart. They fought their way through the camp, killing every enemy they came across. Between the lack of orders from the dead captains, and the resulting chaos from a sneak attack, this wasn't much if a fight, it was practically a slaughter.

Horus, Great Fairy Fountain Twili Desert Encampment, Night 1

The air was filled with the calming scent of crystal clear and clean spring water, with the hint of holy magic complimenting the atmosphere. Horus, kneeling to the Fountain, took the time to take in the breathtaking beauty of the architecture and magical glow inside the cave; As if it was crafted and chiseled by the Goddess’s hands themselves. Considering the nature of most Fairy Fountains, this was a very real possibility as far the Rito was concerned. Horus bowed down to the ground as the corporeal form of the Fairy appeared before him, humbling him in her vastness and grace. It was only when she opened her eyes to look down upon him did he dare to break the silence.

“Dear Fairy of the endless deserted sands…Though I bear the mark of the Light Warrior as my friends do, I fear I am no longer spiritually worthy of this blessing.’

The Fairy’s perfect face creased ever so slightly as she furrowed her brow.

‘…I am tainted, though I fight for the sake of my fellow man my mind and soul is a hurricane of madness. I see and hear things that are not of my surroundings, my dreams are filled with imagery of murder and pain…’

Horus hesitated as he watched the Fairy fold her arms in disappointment, knowing what he was to say next.

‘…And I wake up feeling…Happy, as if the act of murder alone is what I crave; A fact I know to be wrong. I hate killing; it sickens me that my hands are so stained…Yet these visions of suffering and loss…They…”

He gestured with his hands the motions necessary to break a neck before tightly closing them.

“…They are…Evil. The desire to kill the innocent is not my own, even though it fills my thoughts every night.”

He bowed his head so low, his forehead was chilled by the tile floor.

“Please, Great Fairy of The Sands…I beg of you…Salvation from myself…I know your gifts and aid to be exclusive to those worthy of it. I’ve read the stories of the legendary hero and how you help him and him alone in time of need…But please…Just this once…Help a lesser man purge the demon that haunts him in the night.”

The Fairy though silent, visibly sighed before giving a solemn shake of her head.

I cannot directly give you the aid you desire, young one…But I will enable your cause, so you may manage the deed yourself…

Her movements graceful and slow, the Fairy rose to her feet and clapped her hands together after performing a pirouette. Pulling her hands away from each other, a flash of light erupted from her palms before forming into the shape of an arrow. Its design resembled the arrows Horus’ race would craft back home, only it was imbued with magic far stronger than his own arrows and glowed a radiant and beautiful gold tint.

She gently let it fall as it slowly fluttered down to Horus’ waiting hands as he continued his bow. He gripped it tightly, feeling its power surged through him, sending a tingling feeling from through his fingers down to his toes. His eyes snapped open as the arrow’s magic reached him spiritually, momentarily thrusting him into his own mindscape. The sprawling web of consciousness’ that made his mind began to glimmer before suddenly fading, leaving a single strand glowing. As if coming from the strand itself, he could hear what seemed to be the sound of a child having a conversation whilst surrounded by a cacophony of rattling bones. It was now obvious to him that this was the source of his trouble. Though it troubled him deeply that this arrow was meant for a child, he silently accepted the necessity of the boy’s end.

All that was left now was to find him…Horus wordlessly thanked the Fairy as it faded away once more as he rose to his feet. Taking one more look at the brilliant and beautiful arrow, he sighed heavily realizing how much time had passed. He was dreadfully late to joining his friends, whom had an errand of much importance; He was their sniper. Hesitating no longer, the Rito turned to leave the cave, his mind clearer than it had been in months. Knowing where his mission was meant to lead him, he took a glance at the war that raged down at the lake as he took flight before dashing off into the freezing night.

His feet gently touched down onto a boulder near the Twili encampment as he squinted his eagle-like eyes to see in the night. It seemed that Jaden and his men were already having their fun, as the initial kills of the operation had caused fear and confusion among the remaining soldiers. There were many of them as they spilled from their tents, easily outnumbering Jaden and his men, but in the mixture of panicked disorganization and the dark of the night it mattered little. He was able to easily identify friends from foes as he grabbed his bow and began to fire his light arrows into the madness, picking off stragglers and Twili that Jaden’s squad had yet to notice or were too busy to attack immediately. It was times like this that he felt pity for the enemy; despite their winning stance in the war, few had a chance in hell when Light Warriors were involved.


Jeskai, Twili Encampment

Jeskai’s latent abilities gave him protection from the desert environment, but it was one that would not last forever. While Horus temporarily departed to the great fairy, Jeskai tried to stay out of sight and focus on his link to the man. He would have to strategically drop and raise the link in order to survive the fighting, find Efran, and keep Horus sane.

And as he finished reassuring himself that his plan would work, Jeskai was struck with a hideous pain in his head. His mind’s eye wrenched his focus to the inner meeting spot of his clan, where chaos was seemingly taking hold. His brothers and sisters were panicking, injured and fearful of a man that was throwing lightning at everything around him.

And in an instant, the man was upon Jeskai, hands around the Zora’s neck. Jeskai felt his mind buckling from the assault. Davus had assumed control, hijacking the telepathic abilities put there by Sirius when the Zora clan was first created. Jeskai was able to only send one final telepathic cry before his mind went silent.

“<Horus...I’m sorry, you’re own your own now.>”

Jeskai, Puppet of Davus, Twili Encampment

Concern for one’s self ceased to be. Jeskai had only his orders now. The voice of Davus surged through him.

“Twili, you are shamed by these warriors of light! Rise up, focus yourselves, do not be so easily victimized by chaos!” Jeskai raised his voice further, as it became echoey and reminiscent of the mad mage that now controlled him from afar.

“You do not know me, but I fight for your cause!” Jeskai fought for no such cause, and neither did Davus. But he knew how to manipulate and that war was to his advantage, and the Twili losing so easily would not do.

He approached the area of the encampment where Jaden and Darrel were doing their work. Without so much as a sound of warning, he unleashed his main weapon, a barrage of water, enough to knock a man to the ground. It came forth from his entire body, a partially biological, partially magical function, granted by Sirius.

“Rise up Twili! Fight back!”

Darrel Mytura, Twili Staging Area, Night One

“Rise up Twili! Fight back!”

The call went up from across the encampment, and it brought Darrel up short even as he had his boot planted into the chest of a sagging Twili sentinel in order to wrench his blade free of helm and skull. The voice was not familiar in the classic sense of the word, but it was known to him. It was the voice of one he'd met and placed his trust in.

As his blade came free, blood and brain simmering off the radiant spirit-forged steel, the Sunrise General cast his gaze up to the sky, searching for the avian figure of his friend. Would he plummet from the sky? Had this Jeskai offered psychic healing only to withdraw it at a moment of heightened peril, leaving Horus and the rest to suffer in the offing?

"Close in around the General!" he heard one of his marines, Tang, shouting over the clamor of battle. Darrel could sense the five members of the Sword encircling him with broad shields raised, forming a wall of steel that bristled with spears and swords. They'd fought well past the picket lines. The element of surprise on their side had resulted in an avalanche of blood and viscera on the sun-baked sand. Now, though, the Twili had been alerted by this treacherous newcomer, and they pressed in with superior numbers, suddenly emboldened by a voice of strength calling from within their midst. They rushed from all sides, battering at the upheld shields, trying to sneak through the guards of his soldiers. They were disorganized, but they were bold.

"No." Darrel murmured. The word may as well have been inaudible over the ring and clangor of metal on metal, but he spoke it again and this time it sounded true. "NO"

"Shell formation!"

The Sunrise General crouched low, finding what purchase he could in the softly sifting desert sands, all the while letting the chains around each wrist slowly unwind from his forearms. Then, as the marines sank to their knees and brought their shields up to form a protective dome, he leaped straight up into the air with as much strength as his spirit-fueled legs could give, pivoting as he thrust upward. He soared up, dozens of feet, and let the chains fly out to either side and whirl out in every direction radiating raw spirit energy.

On the loft that the whirling chains gave him, he landed not atop the centermost shield of his marines, but twenty feet away in the thick of the Twili defenders. Baffled, they were helpless as the chains swept into them. They struck low as Darrel landed in a still pivoting crouch in the soft sands, sweep legs out and upending Twili soldiers by the dozens. And as Darrel's rotation at last came to a halt, still holding Morning's edge, he sprang forward across the ranks of the temporarily fallen to those soldiers who were still standing, his chains whipping back up around his arms as though of their own volition even as he leapt. Behind him, responding to a well practiced maneuver, the five of the Knight's Sword with him lowered their shields and came to their feet. While three held back the Twili pushing in from the sides, two went amongst the upended Twili with their swords and spears, judiciously ending those who would otherwise rise to fight again.

"JESKAI! You traitorous son of a BITCH!" Darrel roared, even as his blade sheared head from neck and sent it spiraling away into the night. He cared nothing for the hot mist on his face, or the gentle tug on his blazing sword as he brought it up through the armpit of a Twili spearman, severing arm and spear from the rest of the dun-skinned man.

Somewhere at the very heart of the camp, Darrel knew Jaden was engaged in his own brand of brutality. It was a barbarism borne out of stealth, deceit, and an utter lack of pity regardless of station or situation. Darrel could not do as Jaden did. He was not a man of the shadows, but of the sunrise. His deeds were meant to be illuminated for all the world to see, there in the thickest and most vicious pockets of the battlefield. It was there that he came alive, not because of blood lust per se, but because of the desire to protect those who otherwise could not protect themselves. In the broadest sense it was Hyrule, perpetually assailed by dark powers beyond his ken. But in that moment it was the thought that his trusted friend, one of the two men with the fortitude or loyalty to stand with him against the titanic, immutable Lord Grem in the subterranean depths, might fall because of him. Horus, whose life and well-being Darrel had been entrusted to the will of another, might plummet out of the sky any moment and into the midst of ranks upon ranks of Twili soldiers who would give no thought to slaughtering some helpless bird-man. How many had died on his watch over the years? Now Horus?

You place too much pressure on yourself, my love. Too great a burden, Helen's voice whispered in his mind even as he ducked a thrust and brought his blade up through the groin of a Twili soldier, slicing him in two. You always have. You cannot blame yourself for his death.

Or mine."

He ignored her, forging on into the press. "Horus!"

Jaden Bryseis, Twili Staging Area, Night 1

This operation was going well. Too well. Between the lack of officers able to respond, which were none at this point, and the rousted soldiers attacking one another, Unit Zero had done their part to sunder any hope of Twili coordination. They remained undetected, culling stragglers and low-hanging fruit first. But while Jaden was slipping into the shadows after a disembowelment, a wall of water knocked him off of his feet. In the middle of the desert. This wasn't normal. Something was going wrong. And it was going wrong in a hurry.

Stumbling to his feet, he was made while rolling behind a large crate. Amidst the shouting Twili troops who were trying to overrun the discovered spies, he could hear a familiar voice shouting.

“Rise up Twili! Fight back!”

It didn't take long to hear General Mytura respond in kind.

"JESKAI! You traitorous son of a BITCH!"

Darrel leapt headlong into the thickest of the fighting, drawing some of the fire away from Jaden and Unit Zero. Tactics like this were the perfect illustration of why he and Darrel made such a good team. Darrel was the raging lightning that came after Jaden's morale-shattering thunder. Someone had to be the heartless bastard, and Jaden did not mind it at all. He relished in the underhanded advantages that the Sheikah acquired every time they struck.

It took every bit of his muster to keep from shouting in kind after Darrel, however. He was incensed. They needed a better vetting process. Even with things as dire as they were for personnel, this was not the time to declare that anyone who stood with him immediately qualified as a battle brother. Jeskai got in good, maybe even faked that telepathic horse shit. Maybe the desire to save the Kondoru was to save a band of Twili sympathizing Zora just ready to rip the bollocks off of the Hylian war effort.

That git would pay dearly. At his hand or Darrel's. From the sounds of it, Darrel issued the challenge. And one rally cry from an unknown individual wasn't going to be enough in his mind to stand against the next phase of his psychological warfare. Since he was made, he issued a command of his own in his native tongue, heavily accented. He'd have to ask Darrel for forgiveness on this one.

"Scorched Earth Order! Sticks and Stones!"

This audible led to an excessive sound of deku nut explosions throughout the camp's area. With all the officers dead and night vision completely ruined for the Twili within their purview, Jaden took to those who discovered him, cleaving three through in one mighty swing of Starcaller.

His cover was regained for now, and he moved to skewer a pair of Twili who were fighting before throwing both of them off of his blade and crushing one of their skulls under boot.

"Now where is that traitorous fetcher? We need to wrap this up and double time to Lake Hylia. Sis can't hold out forever down there, and Nayru only knows if she has any support. Smoke is rising, and a lot of it. And where in the hell is Horus?"

Henreth's team was making progress in their culling. He was pleased to see them doing well, even with the Twili having boosted spirits of sorts. What he heard next made him grin greatly.

A series of coordinated explosions rocked the camp, sending shrapnel everywhere. Arms, armor, and other assorted provisions were fragmented after the choice morsels were picked clean by Jaden's clandestine strike force. He nicked a few bottles labeled with "XXX" for himself...

Reaching into his pouch, Jaden contributed to the psychological mayhem with more deku nut distress, with an eye out for Jeskai.

Horus, Twili Staging Area, Night 1

Horus had taken to the skies to find better vantage points as he carefully fired at every Twili he could see in the dark while soaring through the frigid desert night air. Despite his hatred of the war, he was feeling better than he had in months. The killing he was committing failed to bother him tonight as he enjoyed his mental freedom with almost childlike bliss. Among the yelling and screaming within the chaos of it the site below, he suddenly heard a rallying cry echo above all of it.

“Rise up Twili! Fight back!”

Horus furrowed his brow at not the words, but the sound of the voice that announced it.

It couldn’t be…Could it? No…

To his horror, the answer was in fact yes. No amount of denial let him think otherwise, for as if ripped directly from his brain with a naked hand, the telepathic block that so helped him return to sanity disappeared completely. Like a burst dam, the voices came flooding back. Literal thousands of mental images and thoughts that were not his own came crashing down on him from all sides and corners of his psyche. The hivemind he had been stuck inside lit ablaze with activity, shining brighter than his mind’s eye could bear and took full control, just as it had a mere morning ago. As far as the Horus everyone knew and cared for was concerned, everything went black from that moment onward.

Whoever was left in the Rito’s stead clutched his head tightly, digging his clawed fingers in so hard that he drew blood from his own scalp. He screamed in terror and agony as his crimson wings dismissed themselves and he plummeted to the sand below, landing with a loud thud. He was barely able to register anything that was presently taking place before him, but the reality of things was that he had landed behind the wave of men Darrel was moving in to slaughter next, unfortunately within enemy lines. Those who weren’t injured by his landing stumbled back apprehensively, simultaneously fearful for their lives and actually glad that they had found a Light Warrior who was vulnerable to attack and kill. One less thing to worry about as far as the soldiers who still had their wits were concerned.

Approach was soon proven an ill-advised course of action, as Horus’ body rose up with blistering speed, like a rising vampire in fast forward. His brow dripped with blood as he screamed incoherently, disemboweling the Twili who had drawn the nearest with savage, inhumanly quick stabs and swings of his daggers. The rest backed off, their wits and certainty of the situation dying with their friend, who fell in a heap onto his own gore. Confusion only mounted as the bewildered Twili realized that they were between a rock and a hard place; Darrel approached quickly behind them, slaughtering their comrades with shocking ease as this…Thing stood before them, all but foaming at the mouth. One of them muttered about wishing he could go home, knowing it was a futile notion.

From his point of view, Horus’ skin was melting; his eyes were trying to crawl from their sockets. The skies were burning and the sand was littered with the bodies of those he swore to protect. He was surrounded by nothing but Twili murderers, and he was all that was left. These soulless monsters mocked him as their numbers grew at a rapid rate, surrounding him at all sides. He couldn’t tell friend from foe anymore as everyone but himself looked like they dripped with tar-colored blood, no doubt one of them were covered by Darrel’s. The Earth quaked under his feet as the stone slowly turned to quicksand, pulling him in with millions of tiny Twili hands, threatening to drown him. He wasn’t going to let that happen; He would sooner kill everyone here than die from some Twili magic trick! He swore wordlessly to tear everything apart, then find his beloved Isabelle before leaving this wretched place!! But first, he must find an Ocarina of blue tint to undo the sins of the evil Twili, then he will tear down everything that remains of Hyrule Castle Town!!! Bloody mutton will drip from his lips as he tears his master’s heart from his chest!!!! KILL! EAT!! LIVE!!! THE HUNGER!!!!…Why is his face wet?...WHERE'D MY STAFF G-...

Darrel was met with an alarming decrease in the numbers who attempted to bear down on him. A glance beyond the fight he was focusing upon revealed Horus’ location, which was piled high with bodies that were barely recognizable as such. Daggers were buried inside one of the Rito’s victims and he had moved on to using his hands to literally wring his opponents apart with the power of wind. Horus was hyperventilating and drooling, his body pushing itself far harder than it was meant to for the sake of each kill he added to his body count. The bodies literally piled high, as he was meticulously but quickly dropping each fallen Twili soldier onto the same spot, as if organizing their remains for later. The man who was performing these actions was no longer the Horus they were worrying about.

He was…Something else. Someone else.

Henreth, Twili Desert Encampment, Night One

“Rise up Twili! Fight back!”

Henreth had just finished off another Twili when he heard the shout. He turned in the direction of the yell to see who could possibly be encouraging the enemy. It was the Zora, he was attacking Hylian soldiers instead of Twili. 'Damn it, Zora are becoming nothing more than a recurring problem.' he thought to himself. Before he can spare too much of a passing thought on dealing with the backstabber, he heard another person scream.

"JESKAI! You traitorous son of a BITCH!" That came from Darrel, and he seemed murderous in how angry he sounded, which could be a good thing for a battlefield. He watched Darrel charge forward. Though he was attacking Twili soldiers, he had obvious intent of dealing with the Zora, so Henreth left him to that.

He returned to fighting nearby enemies with his squad. They seemed to have become more focused, less sloppy. The Zora's cheer must've been a morale booster for them, but that still wasn't much to help them. The squad's kill count seemed to have slowed, but it was still going very steady. A few minutes of continued fighting was greeted with flashes and explosions. From what he can gather in between his kills, the other squads were being mercilessly thorough.

Out of Time

Ella Huntley ,Twili Staging Area, Night 1

Ella awoke to the feeling of crushing pain and ringing in her ears. Blackness consuming her vision Ella screamed out in terror thinking she might have died in her sleep. Too much relief Ella found herself merely buried under a thin lair of broken rubble as the dust cleared. Slowly rising back up she found herself cut and bruised, but otherwise uninjured. Outside she could hear the sound of fighting and explosions.

Brushing herself off Ella discovered the cell she was in had one of its walls blown out by a blast of some kind. Throughout the dungeon there were no guards watching to block her escape.

"Sweet Nayru, my prayer have been answered!"

Not wasting any time Ella squeezed through the man sized hole in the bricks and out into the dungeon interior. On a table near the exit she found her confiscated weapons still siting on a small wooden table. Kicking open the front door open Ella emerged to find the desertscape awash in blood as Twili faced off against Hylian. Seeing no way out but to fight the daughter of Marlow Huntley joined the fray. Swinging her staff and launching her throwing stars, Ella made a path of destruction as she fought her way through.

Hoping to join forces with whatever was fighting her former captors she headed over to where the battle was taking place. It was then she saw him. The Sheikah that just days before had saved her life. At first Ella wondered if it really was Jaden. He seemed to younger than the last time she saw him.

Then again the last she saw him her vision was almost nonexistent, so perhaps she just imagined him to be older than he really was. Watching his technique and hearing his voice shout out orders removed any doubt in her head. Running over to his side Ella provided the seasoned warrior with cover as the Twili closed in around them.

"Jaden! It's about time you showed up. Severa and Annie are both missing and Stella's gone turncoat. If we make it out of this alive we'll need a new strategy to track down that bloody niece of yours."

Darrel Mytura, Twili Staging Area, Night One

Darrel allowed the limp corpse of a skewered Twili spearman sag and slide off the end of his sword, the blood and viscera hissing as it boiled off the blazing blade. He watched it slump into the sand with a dull clunking of metal armor. He was breathing heavily, though not out of exertion. His heart hammered with the force of purest fury, but his skin prickled cold with gooseflesh when he saw what lay beyond the point of Morning's Edge.

Horus, or something that might once have been Horus, moved on a fell wind through the swarming Twili, dispatching them with a brutal skill and relentless viciousness that he'd never seen before in the once humble Rito he'd so recently called friend. Even brother. Knives forgotten, Horus swept through them now with talons bared, calling the winds to aid as he tore them apart, leaving mounds of the mutilated in his wake. Those who had not yet died writhed in pain, blood gurgling in their throats where they had not yet been torn out.

Darrel killed the Twili without remorse, but he cared nothing for this.

"Jaden! Henreth! Deal with the Zora traitor!" he called out into the tumult, knowing full well that his voice would rise above the rest. The Twili were fighting hard and well, but the outcome had been decided long before they'd received their rallying cry. Darrel remained still, sword held low, staring at Horus, seeing him as he never had. Blood coated his feathers from head to toe, and that was not the worst of it by far. A rabid foam flecked the corners of his beak and his avian eyes were wild. Inhuman in a way even the Rito could not be.

"Horus," he muttered, drawing those wild eyes to him at last, "I know you're in there somewhere, brother. Don't let whatever this is take control of you. I know you're strong enough to resist. I've seen that strength first hand."

His fist tightened reflexively upon the leather-bound hilt, and the gleam in the steel of Morning's Edge flared just a bit brighter.

"I do not want to make of these bloodied sands a sepulcher for a friend."

Horus, Twili Staging Area, Night 1

Horus' gaze snapped to Darrel's direct as he heard his comrades familiar voice. His wild eyes catching the gleam of Morning's Edge forced his thrashing to cease as he frozen suddenly in place. The few moments he blankly stared at his friend felt like years, but they were mere seconds. The Rito's eyes narrowed as he glared hard at the sword before looking up to Darrel's eyes. His talon-like toes dug deep into the sand, gripping the granulated earth and rooting himself firmly in place.

"...You took his sword, Twili...' he raspily whispered to himself, but quite plainly mouthing his words, '...You best hope you can use it well before I snap you in two!"

Wiping his mouth of the saliva that had freely dripped from his lips, Horus rose his left leg high, folding it in close to his abdomen as he balanced himself with one foot. He held the pose long enough to take a deep breath before making his next move. An explosion of loud, whistling wind shot forth from every direction behind Horus, firing him forward towards Darrel at almost incomprehensible speed. The sand underneath him displaced in waves as if he was surfing through water, which was dispersed in every direction, filling the air surrounding them with sand as his leg snapped straight, aiming straight for his opponent's rib cage. It mattered little if Darrel was able to dodge, as a thunderclap echoed from the quick movement regardless of impact or lack thereof.

Darrel Mytura, Twili Staging Area, Night One

Darrel suppressed a curse as Horus roared across the intervening sands, propelled on a howling wind. He was so fast. It was easy to forget sometimes, so small was Horus in comparison to the soldiers with whom he served, that the Rito possessed real power in his own right.

And he was delusional.

It was all he could do to bring Morning's Edge in flat and diagonal across his torso as the kick landed. The Rito's foot struck him not in the chest, but hit squarely against the flat of his blade. It was this alone that spared his ribs. In a deafening thunderclap, Darrel was hurled backward, the winds giving the kick unnatural power. He somersaulted wildly, but just before he struck the sands, where he would skid to a halt against a mound of Twili corpses rent apart by his own sword, the chains on his left wrist lashed out and wound tight around Horus' still outstretched leg. The spirit emblems on each link gleamed fiery orange, and even before the ringing in his ears abated, even before the sand cloud kicked up by his impact settled, Darrel heaved on that chain with all of the strength his energy infused muscles could afford him. Horus was light, and he lurched into motion.

As the Rito hurtled toward him, Darrel still sat propped against the charnel heap at his back. He did not want to hurt Horus, but he had to get the wind mage under control. He had a fine line he needed to walk.

He threw his right hand out, still loosely gripping the sword hilt, and loosed a burst of crackling spirit energy. It would not be enough to do real physical damage, but the impact would hurt like hell. He hoped it would be enough.

Horus, Twili Staging Area, Night 1

Horus cursed quite audibly at his own weight as he found himself immediately being yanked by his leg towards Darrel. He simply couldn't think quickly enough to plan a counter action, so he let his instinct take the wheel. Bring his arms up in attempt to block the spirit energy burst, his wings started to come into form and tried to move into the way of the blast. But alas, his defensive measure simply wasn't fast enough and all it managed to do was make the impact of the blast hitting him square in the face very pretty as crimson feathers and crackling spirit lightning scattered everywhere to symbolize the cancellation of said summoning and the success of Darrel's attack. Horus hit the ground hard, sliding a little through the sand on his back before coming to a dead halt next to Darrel. He lied there motionless, as if considering at length what had just occurred as he stared blankly up into the dark skies.

"...Ow." He croaked as he painfully moved to sit up.

"Well...One things for certain...' Horus started, looking at Darrel with a glare, '...There's few who know...that move..."

He was within strangling range to Darrel, his arm twitching to move and grab for his throat. But he hesitated as he looked again at Darrel's face; He wasn't sure if it was either the fact that this Twili next to him looked way too similar to his friend, or that his arm was close to sloughing off. He opted to smile instead after considering his choices.

"Well...I'm sure I can't beat you...But that's fine...I will eternally rest easy knowing that all your little friends at the lake will die from the hordes that approach them."

His arm finally shot up, too inhumanly quick to stop as he harmlessly wrapped his hand around the nape of Darrel's neck.

"How about we go watch before you join them?" He breathlessly chuckled, moving to return to his feet as he attempted to drag his friend with him.

He didn't account for his enemy actually having a plan; Twili scum usually don't. All Horus wanted was the look on this Darrel-lookalike's face as he watched his Twili friends die from a distance.

Jaden Bryseis, Twili Desert Encampment, Night 1-Early Morning 2

Jaden roared as he searched for Jeskai. Cursing, raging, and irate, he kept cutting down Twili in his warpath. But in his anger, he also busted a lock open with the explosives, causing a Hylian woman to be released from her captivity. What she said confused him, knowing his name more so than anything else.

"Jaden! It's about time you showed up. Severa and Annie are both missing and Stella's gone turncoat. If we make it out of this alive we'll need a new strategy to track down that bloody niece of yours."

None of these names made any sense to him. Nothing was adding up. He could hear glass breaking in his mind, and felt dizzy for a bit. However, he had to get out of here, and he knew he wasn't hearing things. The Twili were pretty much dead and Unit Zero was seeing to any stragglers trying to fly the coop.

"Woman, I know nothing of which you speak. How do you know my name? You fight well, and you use the techniques of my people, yet you are not Sheikah. My sister has no kids. Stick with me, and we'll talk more when we're clear. My sister's at the lake holding off a whole bunch of those Twili bastards!"

Continuing to cleave through the last of the Twili resistance, Jaden continued to be impressed by the Hylian woman's skill. She did indeed use some of his brutal just didn't make sense.

"If that traitorous Zora got away, he better pray I never find him! Come out, come out, Jeskai! Face your consequences with honor!"

He could see Darrel continuing to mop up, and was motioning for Jaden to come hither. Jaden gave the woman direction to follow his lead further as the operation was coming to a close.

Darrel Mytura, Twili Staging Area, Early Morning Two

"Well...I'm sure I can't beat you...But that's fine...I will eternally rest easy knowing that all your little friends at the lake will die from the hordes that approach them."

In a blink, Horus hand snapped around and grasped him by the neck. He could have resisted, but didn't. The raving madness was gone now. In its place was a strange coherence, inimical in its unfamiliarity, but possessed of a certain newfound stability.

"How about we go watch before you join them?" Horus breathlessly chuckled, moving to return to his feet as he attempted to drag Darrel forward by the neck.

Darrel allowed himself to be towed to his feet and led forward several steps. To the east, beyond the bounds of the encampment, forbidding hills formed a curtain between the desert and the lake beyond. Immediately before them, cutting through the hills at the desert's southeastern corner, was a pass. That pass was why the Twili had chosen this place to situate their camp. It was an easy route into the east, into Hyrule proper. Horus was hauling him in that direction, shuffle-stepping with the length of chain bound tight around his ankle seemingly forgotten.

Darrel slid Morning's Edge back into its scabbard. Instead, his hand went to his belt. Tucked safely into the back, occupying the empty sheath of a dagger he'd lost more than a week earlier, was the arrow his friend had given him. He didn't know what it would do, per se, and was unsure how much he could trust even Horus' seeming lucidity earlier, given Jeskai's apparent betrayal. Still, he would do what he could. He would keep his people safe, if such was possible at all.

Still, there was something off about Horus now. During these episodes, it was as though he was partially somewhere else. Someone else. Darrel had begun to entertain a dark suspicion about their root cause, and that suspicion was made all the stronger by Horus' words.

"Horus..." he said softly even as he allowed himself to be led forward. His right hand was behind his back now, hovering over the poisoned arrow. The fighting in the camp to their backs was winding down; the Twili had fought with vigor, but their end was coming swiftly now. He tugged on the chain to pull Horus to a halt, then used the arm reaching up to grasp his neck in order to pull the Rito around to meet his eyes. "Is that you, Grem? Is this the retribution you take for what transpired in the pit? You turn my own people against me?"

Ella Huntley, Twili Desert Encampment, Early Morning 2

"Umm, HELLO! Swords for brains, it's me remember? You know, the girl you saved just days ago."

Ella watched as Jaden tried to refresh his memory, only to come up with blank stares.

"You drunken asshole! How could you forget about me already" scolded Ella with her hands to her hips.

"Well whatever. Deny your niece if you want, I don't really care. Right now it seems you've got a traitorous Zora problem and so do I. I'll help fight yours if you'll help track down mine. That bitch I'm after should be at the lake near your sister. Sounds like a win win for both of us right?"

Jeskai Kondoru, Broken Zora, Fringes of the Twili Camps

Jeskai followed Davus' command to stir up the camps, but no further commands followed for a time. He hid himself on the edges of the fighting, avoiding his hunters. He waited for a command, no other thoughts crossed his mind. But nothing came, and he felt his own mind creeping back to the surface.

He felt sick, he felt miserable. He collapsed upon the ground, screaming in agony. That man, Davus, Sirius had warned him years ago. But it didn’t matter, Davus had taken control of Sirius, and worse, broken Jeskai’s link to his clan. He was alone, more than he ever had been. His screams would surely attract the attention of his once brief allies. He was grateful for whatever punishment they would give him, be it imprisonment, torture, or death.

Henreth, Twili Desert Encampment, Early Morning Two

Henreth had hardly returned to his own fighting when he heard Darrel shout out yet again.

"Jaden! Henreth! Deal with the Zora traitor!"

Henreth turned to the men that he was working with and said to them "Hold your own, I'm going to deal with the Zora."

He went forward, dodging and evading attackers as he searched for his target. In spite of the heat of a battle, he tried to be as thorough as possible. Thrice over did he search the camp, or at least that's how it felt. but he was unable to find the Zora. That is, until he heard screaming.

The unmistakeable screaming of the Zora. The cries and screams continued as Henreth raced forward towards the source. He approached, the Zora was too busy screaming as though he was dying to pay attention to his surroundings. Henreth quickly, but as quietly as he could, moved at him, he pressed his boot against his body, pinning the Zora to the ground. He pointed his sword towards his throat.

"It'd be smarter to stay still." Henreth warned the Zora, who finally ceased his yelling. After a moment of making sure he understood, Henreth raised his head and yelled for the others.

"Over here! I found the Zora!'

Jeskai, In Screaming Agony, Twili Camps, Under Henreth’s Sword

Someone had found Jeskai, and put their sword to him, threatening him. How little they understood. There was nothing left to threaten. Without his clan, he may as well have been dead. He fell silent only for a moment, hearing the man warn him to stay still, though in reality he had barely been moving amidst his cries of pain.

“The thunder god has seen to my death already!” Jeskai yelled. “You are pointing your weapon at a corpse. My life is already forfeit.”

Jeskai felt something snap, a command from the thunder god.

“KILL ME.” Jeskai grabbed the blade pointed upon him, and attempted to drive it into his own chest. He felt resistance from the soldier, who very likely had not expected such a situation. Men like that often wanted the satisfaction of the kill themselves, wanted justice to be achieved the long way ‘round.

Henreth, Twili Desert Encampment, Early Morning Two

“The thunder god has seen to my death already! You are pointing your weapon at a corpse. My life is already forfeit.”

'Thunder gods and death? Has he truly gone mad?' Henreth thought to himself as he felt a slowly growing sense of anxiety within himself. You could never really predict the actions of a lunatic. That's what made them so dangerous.

“KILL ME.” The Zora suddenly shouted, breaking Henreth out of his thoughts as he felt his sword being wrestled out of his grip. He was barely able to hold on as he fought to keep his weapon to himself. He intended to capture the Zora, not kill. The demand for death will not be fulfilled, if anything can be done about it.

"Let go." He said through gritted teeth as he continued his attempts at gaining control of his blade. Spontaneously, he kicked the Zora as hard as he could. that seemed to do the trick. Feeling the other's grip loosen slightly, he regained his sword for himself. He then took a few steps backwards, watching him with wary eyes.The true unpredictability is about to start.

Horus, Twili Staging Area, Morning 2

He glared into Darrel's eyes as he asked such a nonsensical question. Why the hell would a Twili be questioning a dead General, unless they were more delusional than he?

"Never heard of him..." Prince's voice briefly growled from Horus' mouth, headbutting Darrel away from his face.

"Your questioning of someone long dead as if he's here implies madness of your own, whelp! Die like the mad dog you are!"

Horus moved to kick Darrel to the ground, his intent being to pound him into mush on the desert sands.

Jaden/Twili Staging Area/Night 2

Deny his niece? Kae had no children. Shudders reverberated throughout his mind, and he lost focus for a moment. Coming to his sense, Jaden thrust Starcaller behind him instinctively, he impaled a Twili who though he had the drop. Instead, he dropped.

"It sure is a win if we can track her down. If we can get all of our group together, I can expedite that long march and hopefully get us there before it's too late. Now where the hell is that traitorous Zora?"

He saw three members of Unit Zero dart through the bedlam to where Henreth was. He was struggling against something, but when they pulled irons from their satchels, he had a feeling they had seen to Jeskai's capture. While he'd prefer to have executed him, they had to glean what intel they could. And to remove him, preventing him from causing more problems during their operation.

"They would do that. Damnit. Our General, Darrel, has to be somewhere around here. Let's keep mopping up while we find the rest of our group."

Barking out orders, Jaden carved into more stragging Twili who attempted to scurry into the darkness of the desert.

"Hylian allies all! We must gather and march on to greater glory! Form up on the General!"

Never Truly Free

Darrel Mytura, Twili Staging Area, Morning Two

Darrel briefly reeled from the impact of the young Rito's forehead striking the lower ridge of his brow and the bridge of his nose. He reached up and staunched the flow of blood from his nostrils with the back of his left gauntlet, smearing red across the formed leather and rusted steel.

Not Grem then, he thought as he looked once more into the crazed expression of his once friend and confidant. So what is this?

Not that he had time to find out.

"Your questioning of someone long dead as if he's here implies madness of your own, whelp! Die like the mad dog you are!"

Horus moved to kick Darrel to the ground, as though to pound him into mush on the desert sands. This time Darrel was ready for this friend who was no longer such, and somehow despite everything, one of the lengths of chain now perpetually affixed to each of Darrel's gauntlets still bound one of Horus' legs from ankle to calf, connecting them.

He had a flash of insight. Whatever it was driving Horus, whatever mind or consciousness wielding his flesh like a weapon, it had no sense of self-preservation or no need for one. It was not Grem, but it was something distant, something spiritual that had no fear of mortal death, or else some of both.

The kick lashed in, launching Horus from his feet, and Darrel thrust himself into motion. Fast as the Rito was, wielding the winds, Darrel at least was no longer surprised by his attacks. He dove left over his shoulder and came to one knee. The chain that connected them wrist to ankle whipped and twirled between them; the slack length looped again up and around to this time bind Horus' waist and lower torso as well. The links constricted as the Sunrise Knight pulled hard and tore the Rito from his feet, dragging him across the sands and into the out-thrust tip of the arrow that Horus had given him.

"Sorry about this, friend," Darrel muttered, though his eyes were already flickering again to the pass. "But they need us at the lake.

"We're wasting time here."

Jeskai Kondoru, Prisoner, Twili Staging Area

Jeskai’s mind had begun to calm even before the chains were upon him. He had expected death, and when his mind surrendered, it seemed to have an effect on the connection to Sirius, or whoever it was on the other end. It was severed, and he was once again alone, but it felt different now.

The feeling of solitude was like never before, like the link to his clan was…

He couldn’t accept it. The link to his clan was…

Fake. Could it be? Flashes of his clan ripped across his minds eye, but they were distorted, lacking the clarity they once did. Sirius felt as real as ever - had Jeskai been mislead? What lies could Sirius be telling? Or did some other creature control Sirius? Thoughts of a thunder god filled his mind. A name. Davus Fulmen.

Jeskai’s memories of his past were hazy, and yet his mind was rich with information about Sirius. Davus Fulmen, in birth a brother to Sirius, before Sirius was ripped away by the witch Rhunerys, turned into some dark mimicry of a Hylian, a monster, a science experiment befitting of...well, Sirius himself.

Jeskai felt his body go limp from the shock. The realization of what was true, or at the very least, what seemed false, weighed upon him more heavily than his chains. The landscape around him became as blurry as his memories, and anger began to well up inside. Anger towards himself, anger towards this Davus, and anger towards Sirius for using him. Using him like he used others before him. And angry at Sirius for having the gall to openly use him, program him to find it acceptable.

But still, he remained calm, his anger silently boiling within. He would have to wait until he was inevitably interrogated before attempting escape. He could not possibly make a case for himself now. Rescuing Efran would still be his goal, if Efran even existed. Curiously, though he questioned his clan existing, he felt very strongly that Efran was still real. Perhaps leftover programming not severed by Davus, or perhaps Efran was another experiment like himself.

Prince, HCT, Morning 2

“You’re thinking about killing me again.”

“Sorry, sir, force of habit.”

The boy shook his head at his undead assistant, leaning over the castle wall as he watched the burning undead disappear into the distance with nary a care in the world. It wasn’t until several minutes of silence did he jump down to face Eustice. The zombie cracked a grin, glad his master was finally going to start doing something.

“You know Eustice…’ Prince started, resting his hands on his head, ‘I gave it some thought…”

Silence stretched for a minute.

“…About the Ocarina?”

“…Nah…About everything, really.’ The Twili child finally responded, kicking a rock absentmindedly ‘I realize I don’t really care about anything. This war, the search for ultimate power n’ all that stupid shit. It doesn’t matter in the long run anyway.”

Eustice grimaced with seething hate for this useless boy.

“Before you say anything, no. It’s not because I’m lazy.’ He continued, pacing in front of the disgruntled zombie, ‘But…I just realized the futility of it all, y’know? Even if we did win, that stupid Link kid is gonna come back at some point and put an end to it all anyway.”

Eustice struggled greatly to keep his hands down at his sides, every fiber of his undead being screaming to strangle the reason he was even alive. He wasn’t going to be brought back to life just to sit around and do nothing…AGAIN. But he couldn’t do it…He knew that though this boy was a layabout and an idiot, he did have the power to render Eustice into a puddle of soup with a thought. He chose to just stand there, waiting for his master to open their mouth again.

“…That and I’m dying.” Prince finally finished, his arms falling down from his head as he sighed.

“What?” Eustice exclaimed, nearly choking on his own spit.

“Yeah…I haven’t really paid much attention to how I use my magic…Y’know, the little orb in my chest that keeps me ticking…Well, I have used it for tons of stuff I didn’t need to use it for, and now…well…I’m running out.”

“How long?”

Prince turned away from Eustice, looking up at the sky.

“…’Bout a year.”

“And you’re going to spend it lazing.”

Prince smiled at Eustice.

“Nah, I'm being smart. I’m gonna enjoy what’s left of my life. Boney butt up there gets everything in the end anyway, up until ole’ Green pops up again and shoves it where it don’t shine.’ Prince chuckled, gesturing the floating castle. ‘So what’s the point, y’know?”

Eustice’s eye twitched.

“Anyway, you zombies can go have your fun. I’m gonna go kick it! Some other idiot can go kill those ‘Light Warrior’ guys.”

Prince gave a half-hearted wave at Eustice before turning to leaving…But found he couldn’t move. Threads made invisible with the lack of sunlight bound him from head to toe, rendering him immobile.

“Gkch! Wha-!”

Prince could barely breathe from what seemed to be invisible hands choked him and he was trying everything he could to teleport, but…something was stopping him from doing so. He was starting to feel woozy as some of the threads broke his skin in their tight grip. Poison?

“Yes…You’ll ‘kick it’.” A woman’s voice was heard behind Prince.

Eustice looked up from the sight of his struggling master before jumping back with a look of shock on his face.

“B-but he consumed you…” the zombie stuttered.

The nude woman walked into Prince’s view to confront Eustice. Her body was decayed horribly and she was deathly skinny, as if her death was of malnourishment, if it wasn’t for her bowels missing entirely. She moved close, like she was going to kiss Eustice before whispering in reply with a voice like a snake’s hiss.

“And like everything else…He cared little about finishing.”

“Mum?” Prince choked out, his eyes welling up.

“Don’t.’ the ghastly woman snapped at the boy ‘I have no son. My son picked up where I left off; He wished nothing but to expand the family by any means necessary, right down to his last breath.”

She moved in close to Prince with almost lightning-like movement as her spider-like fingers grabbed his face to pull him closer.

“…And you sealed him underneath the very throne I assigned him until you were fit for it.”

She let go of his face before turning back to Eustice.

“How long has he been ruling my children?” She asked the tall zombie with a chilling contrast in tone.

“…Almost a year.”

“How many have joined us since?” She continued, barely letting Eustice finish.

“…About a hundred…But we’ve lost more from his misuse.”

She turned back to Prince, her hand pushing his head to the ground and holding him there as he struggled uselessly.

“Is this true, dearest?”

“N-n-no!” Prince spluttered, blinded by tears from fear and the burning from the poison that seeped into his bloodstream.

“IS. THIS. TRUE.” She repeated herself with volume akin to that of a screeching redead.

“Yes!” Prince cried in panic, breaking from fear as his ears rang painfully.

Silence blanketed the scene as his mother moved closer to him with a whispering voice.

“…Wrong answer.”

Prince’s screams echoed loud enough that even Vykos heard it from inside the expanse of his throne room.

Horus, Twili Staging Area, Morning 2

Horus gritted his teeth, gripping the arrow that had been plunged into him. He found, much to his surprise, the poison had worked faster than even he had hoped as he stiffly hit the sands beneath him. His entire body locked up painfully as he folded into himself into a fetus position, groaning through grit teeth. His mind raced until it came to a sudden halt as realization hit him lick a brick wall.

“No one else…Could have that arrow…Unless.”

Before he could say anything else, the winding web of the hive mind suddenly shattered, vanishing forever after one final burst of activity. For the first time in months, Horus was all alone in his head. The silence in his mind left it feeling empty and hollow. Like the cacophony of noise before…The silence was just as maddening, but in a different way. Though what drove him mad was gone, he was far from okay, and he knew this.

“Darrel…” he groaned like he was waking up from a hangover, as he was dragged along by the chain the bound him.

“Oh Darrel…’ he repeated as he was more ‘awake’.

“Oh Gods…’ he whispered, tears forming in his eyes. ‘…I’m not well, Darrel…I’m sick…Tainted by voices of thousands…They haunted my sleep and drove me mad…Taunting…Laughing…They never stopped!”

He was inconsolably blubbering at this point.

“I’m no longer the owner of myself anymore…I’m a slave to some wicked creature…I spoke naught of it when I was first in its grasp but I thought I could fight it…I thought I was strong…The voices, they’ve left, but I don’t know if they’re absence is temporary…I don’t know if I’ll lose myself again…”

Despite his paralysis, Horus had managed to start clutching his head, shaking uncontrollably as tears streamed down his face.

“I’m so sorry, Darrel…I’m sorry…Oh Goddesses…I’m broken and sick…and I’m sorry…”

Sha'tive, HCT, Morning 2

Sha’tive gripped the magical orb that once rested inside her now-disemboweled son as she approached Eustice with her ever bouncy stride, covered in gore from what she had just finished.

“Where is Horus?” She cleared her throat as she brushed her hair out of her sunken eyes. Eustice almost blanked before answering.

“H-he was in the Desert last we could feel him.” He stammered, straighten his back at attention to his new master.

“Were any others with him?!” She snapped.

“Not sure, m’am…But we d-did feel residue of magic in Horus’ general area last time we bothered to check! Unmistakably allies, o-of course.” He spat out, instinctively swallowing despite his dry mouth.

A catty smile stretched onto her face as she finally relaxed and the demeanor she was known for returned.

“Good…’ she responded happily with a giggle, ‘…Good to see not everyone was useless in my absence. We have much to do, darling.”

Sha’tive smashed the orb of magic under her foot, which spread everywhere like pixie dust. The residue that left its interior gravitated upwards, sticking to her decayed skin. She let out a moan almost akin to that of sexual pleasure as the foul magic began to restore her to her former physical self. Dried skin began to swell and soften as sounds of creaking bones and horrible squishing sounds of gore coming to be inside of her filled the air as she fell to her knees, hugging herself.

“Oh my Goddesses…It feels so... Oh!~...Good…~” She shivered, biting her lip hard as she reclaimed the power.

Eustice was quickly becoming uncomfortable.

“Uh…Anything I should be doing while you…um…Enjoy yourself, madam?”

“Yes-ah!...You can…mff…free our dear friend under…ohhhh…The throne…’ she responded, trying and failing to contain herself, ‘…We have much to do…Also, you get to enjoy…A family reun-Ah!...reunion…”

A family reunion? Hm…sounds like I finally get to know something about who I was in life…

Eustice bowed loyally before walking past Sha’tive’s quivering body, off to Castle Styx. He was stopped briefly when a hand grabbed his foot; Prince’s.

“Please…’ the pathetic boy begged, blood leaking from every orifice. ‘…Help…”

Eustice turned to his former master and bent down to take a closer look at the boy’s bloodied mess of a body with a thoughtful rub of his chin.

“Hm…No.” he chuckled as he stood back up to continue.

“But…I’ll die if you leave me…Please…She’ll eat me…” Prince choked weakly, reaching for Eustice again with his remaining arm as his slashed face glistened in the morning light.

“…Good riddance.” Eustice replied before leaving Prince’s side for the last time.

The walk to the Castle Styx felt like nothing at all as weight seemed to be lifted off of Eustice’s shoulders. Excited moans filled the air as he walked the streets, making a beeline to his destination. Happy exclamations about the return of the original ruler rang out over the terrified screams of the still living within the city’s ruins.

“Can’t believe that boy actually did something right…His random magic-use accidentally brought her back…Heh…A careless moron to the end.”

Eustice let out another croaky chuckle to himself as he reached the disgusting castle made of crystallized corpses. He sometimes wondered why Sha’tive made the place out of bodies, until he remembered that each of them were there by their own accord and could free themselves at any time. True loyalty, that was; would bring a tear to Eustice’s eye if he cared at all about human life anymore. Being a zombie makes that kind of difficult to do. Eventually, he reached the throne room within the Castle Styx’s black, featureless expanse. With a harsh ripping motion, he tore the throne from where it was bolted down, revealing a staircase into a dark room; An accomplishment considering how dark the rest of the castle was. At his pace, Eustice reached the bottom of the flight in but a minute. He muttered about the overkill in distance as he came face to face with the single prisoner inside, who was stretching their undead limbs, enjoying newfound freedom, as the magical seal that bound him was gone.

“’Bout time someone cut me loose.’ The zombie croaked, his voice hoarse and squawky like he smoked in life, walking out of the room’s darkest corner and into view, ‘…I swear to ev’ry God and Goddess that did, does and will exist…If one more bloody kid wrongs me one more fooking time…I will personally tear their ‘ead clean off and use their stump as a damned ash tray!!!”

Despite his decayed form, the ranting undead man was still quite plump from life. His bald head glistened just as brightly as his blood covered right arm, which ticked and whirred audibly, crafted with what was the latest in steam-powered technology in its time. The fact it still worked was very obviously a work of magic; No surprise considering the time of its creation.

“You and me both, friend.” Eustice agreed.

The angry balding zombie stopped his pacing at the sound of his voice.

“Dean?!’ He approached Eustice with a hopeful sound in his tone, ‘Issat you, boy?”

One look was all the bald zombie needed before Eustice found himself being hugged. He would have reacted violently if he wasn’t so surprised.

“Dean?” Eustice repeatedly dumbly.

“Oh it’s been ages, me boy! It’s good to see you ‘gain. You ‘ave no idea how much it warms my dead ole' heart to actually see another of the von Jarl family!”

Von Jarl…Eustice could’ve sworn he had heard such a self-absorbed, obvious rename of a bloodline somewhere. He found it best not to mention that the last of the line had probably been killed off just hours ago. But…he was a part of the von Jarl line? Since when?

“You know…’ Eustice started, still reeling, ‘…I never did catch your name even though you apparently know me.”

“Bah, I don’t blame you for not remembering me. It has been hundreds o’ years. Even my speech patterns startin’ to go and I’m slurring words like those uned’cated kids back in m’ day.”

The bald zombie rested a hand on Eustice’s shoulder, patting it in an oddly friendly gesture.

“M’name is Stewart.’ He smiled, his one good eye glimmering with happiness. ‘An’ you’re my ole’ nephew’s grandson.”

Stewart patted Eustice’s shoulder as he walked past to start his walk up the stairs.

“But enough ‘bout that…’mum’ is calling; We’ve got a lot of work to do to make up for that damned boy’s laziness.”

Eustace…No…Dean stood there for a moment, processing the implications behind what he had just been told, but dismissed it for later contemplation. Stewart was right, there was much work to do. What felt like little time passed before they were before Sha’tive once more, who looked good as new beyond her messy, long hair and was covered in more gore than before; mainly her mouth and hands. Prince was nowhere to be seen; Dean and Stewart put two and two together on that one and paid it little mind.

“Well, wha’ do we do now, m’lady?” Stewart spoke first, bowing deeply to her presence.

Sha’tive brushed her hair out of her surprisingly pretty face as she cleared her throat.

“Well my dear friends…You no longer need to bow to me. With my son dies the hive mind, so…We have to work together through actual teamwork now.”

“Even the rest?” Stewart asked, returning to his feet.

“Yes, regrettably…’ Sha’tive sighed softly, looking into the sunset, resting a hand on a hip.

‘…We’re on our own, all of us. But the goal remains.”

“Kill everything.” Dean sneered.

“Almost.' Sha’tive smiled, ‘…More accurately, we corrupt the strong and leave the rest to die. My psychic connection with all of my dear children may be gone, but those of us still around will remain as long as I live. My magic will do at least that; which will last a lot longer than a bloody year, if how I feel is any indication. Besides, I'm sure loyalty runs deeper than puppetry anyway.”

“I’m more ‘an ready to do that, ma’am.’ Stewart sneered nastily. ‘People ah handle tend t’go bad, so it’s second nature fer yours truly.”

“Good!’ Sha’tive responded cheerfully with a smile, ‘Let us not dally then. To Horus we go.”

“But he’s so far…’ Dean responded immediately, ‘There’s no way we can get to him in time before he relocates.”

Sha’tive was upon Dean instantly with inhuman speed.

“Hun…We’re dead. If we run the whole way, we’ll get to him by the time the sun reaches its height.”

She beckoned the two of them as she moved to the edge of the castle wall.

“We go!~” She chirped, diving off into the field below.

The two von Jarls laughed to themselves, filled with child-like excitement that, finally, they were going to do what they were brought back to do. Without hesitating, they followed their new leader without thinking twice despite their mental freedom.

Jeskai, Morning 2, Chained Up Somewhere

Jeskai had a curious thought as he remained chained and unaware of his impending fate. He knew with absolute certainty that Davus thought the link had been one way. Was this an accident, an oversight, a fail-safe by Sirius?

It felt like a deliberate move. Not one that would save the ancient scientist, though. Jeskai felt nothing but rage towards him now. Serene rage, at the present moment, but rage nonetheless. Sirius wanted Jeskai to know he was being manipulated, or had been, prior to being released again.

Darrel Mytura, Twili Staging Area, Day Two

Despite the paralysis that would have been coursing through his veins from the tip of the arrow, Horus still managed to clutch at his head, trembling wildly as tears splashed down his cheeks.

“I’m so sorry, Darrel…I’m sorry…Oh Goddesses…I’m broken and sick…and I’m sorry…”

"It's alright, friend," he said softly as he knelt down on one knee in the sands beside the broken Rito. He placed a hand on Horus' twitching shoulder as the poison in the arrow dragged his friend down toward the black depths of unconsciousness and, hopefully, silent rest. "I'll find another way to help you. A better way."

Eventually the shaking slowed to a shiver, and eventually even that stilled. Darrel checked his pulse; Horus was still alive, but it would be some time before he woke unless whatever force that had seized his mind could exercise influence even from afar. That was an eventuality that the Sunrise Knight couldn't spare a moment to concern himself with. There was work yet to be done, and they'd been delayed here on the desert's cusp for far too long. As gently as he could, he wrenched the arrow-point free from Horus' flesh and cast it aside, then reached one hand under each of the Rito's armpits and hauled him up from the ground, casting the limp figure over one shoulder as he let the chain unwind from leg and torso. A swirl of the wrist brought the chains spiraling back up into place around his wrist and forearm.

Finally, he turned back west toward the fighting, only to find that it was all but over. The Twili force had fought bitterly, emboldened by the Zora's call, but in the end they'd fallen. The Knight's Sword and Jaden's Unit Zero were too skilled--to say nothing of their pure viciousness in the heat of battle--to have been deterred by such a setback. After all, improvisation was the soul of warfare.

"Jaden, Henreth, Knight's Sword, to me!" he called out, his voice akin to a peal of thunder through the sudden silence that had fallen in the wake of the skirmish's conclusion. "We make for Lake Hylia!"

Henreth, Twili Desert Encampment, Morning Two

Henreth stood there waiting for a reaction, a response, anything. But the only thing that did come was the one thing he didn't expect: nothing. The Zora had gone completely catatonic at this point. For just a moment, he wanted to call out and get his opponent's attention, but considering the Zora's previous actions, he knew better.

It wasn't long before a small group of three Hylian soldiers came over and chained Jeskai in iron shackles. Even then, there seemed to be no response. Henreth was almost completely unnerved by this. The rhythmic rising and falling of the Zora's chest seemed to be the only indication that he was alive and not a posed corpse. The soldiers proceeded to carry him away. Whether he would be imprisoned and given a trial later, or face an immediate punishment is unknown.

Henreth looked over the encampment. The battle seemed to be over. All Twili were dead or dying. If there was any Hylian casualties, it wasn't apparent. Never before has he witnessed, let alone taken a part of, such a one-sided battle. The area was dead silent, outside of footsteps.

"Jaden, Henreth, Knight's Sword, to me!" Darrel's voice thundered out, shattering the silence. "We make for Lake Hylia!"

CONTINUES ON A Battle of Ice and Fire Part III P#214