- Alliance of Convenience
- Isaac toys with Grem's patience.
- Alliance of Power
- Taden seeks to recover all the fragments of his being, becoming whole again.
Alliance of Convenience
Taden Horwendil, Lake Hylia, Predawn 3
As he stood up from the cold earth, he realized he had changed form again.
The pale line of dawn over the distant trees meant he had time still to gather his bearings. He was at the Lake; it was not for the first time. Above him, a circle of carrion fowl awaited the feast of bones that lay across the shore. He was on a small mud island with a tall, dead tree that stretched into the overcast sky. Ice was all around him. A moribund breeze wafted over the dunelike frozen waves, swirling tufts of white powdery frost from their crests. His vision was blurred from the transportation, but all about him he felt the lingering stench of recent bloodshed.
He fell to his knees. His hands pressed firmly into the grey mud, his pale blue fingers cracking the frost that stiffened the trodden blades of grass. Black wrappings coated his hands up to the knuckles, and stretched back from there into a continuous garment that folded over his mouth and nose. He had come a long way only to find himself back here, and yet this time…
“The final relic…is at hand.”
As the words fell from his lips, he knelt upright and examined himself. The Hated Cloak fell about his shoulders and waist in the militaristic fashion of a black, double-breasted riding coat, its thin epaulets glinting silver in the early light. Its thick leather lapels stretched up past his long ears, lupine hair lapping along their edges in thick locks. Sheathed beneath it, the curved longsword Aurgelmir hung at his hip, the Hated Knife clipped to his belt opposite that. The demoneyed Yeti Mask sat strapped to his right shoulder, the Medallion of Storms engraved within, glaring east at the crowning dawn with primordial fury. Taden’s eyes, though, were softened.
He looked down at the palm of one hand and felt, for the first time in living memory, whole--or close to it. The madness that had ripped him across the hither and yon of Hyrule would soon to come to end—he could taste it, and with its passing, a future in which his will were not sundered across the shoals of time. Now just one fragment of his former self lay between him and the journey home: to the sanctity of his adopted Yeti tribe, and to the solitude of Snowpeak after that. He felt the hand of Jotun clapped on his shoulder in the wooden weight of the mask, and for a moment felt he were back on the peaks of Snowhead, the wise old shaman wrapping a wooly arm around the thin frame of the boy he once was, when he was first exiled there. But no more.
He brought his outstretched hand to his face, and wiped the tears from his eyes that the sudden warp had jostled loose. He got to his feet. No longer would he shrink under the guise of boyhood; with the Hated Cloak restored, his stature was returned to that of a young man. With the Coin, the Knife, and the Cloak, his sorcery, strength, and stealth had been renewed. Now only the last memories of his former self remained without, hidden somewhere in the vastness of Hyrule, incased in the simple Monkey Mask he had brought from Termina so long before. And with the Hated Cloak, some whisper of its most recent bearer’s memories came within. Out of the corner of her eye she caught sight of an unassuming item. Everything else here was well cared for and kept polished and stitched. This simple thick coat hung tattered over a dull mannequin. She stepped toward, wondering what powers such a boring thing could hold. When she touched it, she felt cold, and breathed out a small cloud of steamed breath. Intriguing!
When she took it from the mannequin and slung it over her back, the chill increased, and her toes and fingers were numb with chill.
When she slid her arms through the sleeves, her body locked, unable to move, as if frozen, and she saw a tall mountain sheathed in ice. She looked at it, and the light was warped, as though looking through a thick sheet of glass. Like looking through ice.
She tore the coat from her back and threw it to the ground, gasping breath through her lungs as she freed herself from the crushing grasp of that glacier. But she knew already. It was ecstatic, that chill. It was exciting. It was... sexy.
It was meant for her. Taden could sense the final piece of his long awaited puzzle in the imminent future, as if it were within reach at the present moment. A chill ran down his spine at the thought. And with Lynn's memories in mind, he knew just how to lure it out.
Taden Horwendil, Lake Hylia, Dawn 3
”They say that there is a secret road that leads to Lake Hylia.”
Taden turned his eyes from the bleak horizon to look over his shoulder, where a squat stone sat buried beneath a pile of vines. He could just barely make out the glimmer of a Weeping Eye engraved onto the rock long ago, and he felt the echo of its whispering language in his mind as if it had been planted there as far back. In the time his Hated Cloak had been imbued in Lynn’s mind, it had picked it up no small amount of her memories.
He knelt down by the Gossip Stone and spread his palm over its ocular surface. It seemed to cackle at him despite its large, swollen tears. Again, he heard the whisper of its embedded secrets, as only the trained Sheikah knew how.
“…a secret road…”
Planting his feet into the ground, he squared off toward the ramshackle bridge that connected his perch on a small island to the main shore. The chain of earthen isles separating him from the mainland had been overrun by undead. When they reached the final bridge that would bring them to him, he slouched back on one knee and readied his hands over the hilt of Aurgelmir.
“Thou undeath, whose undoing will be at the hands of a ghost,” he muttered under his breath.
The first zombi lunged toward him in a rage, followed by a second, and their heads went flying when he unsheathed his blade. Their scalps fell to the churning ice below, and three more charged headlong over their remains. Taden jumped into the air, and swept past each like a bolt of lightning through the night air, slashing his curved sword through neck, and chest, and skull. The two halves of the last ghoul split to either side, giving way to a criss crossing trail of Blue Fire in Horwendil’s wake. At the next landing along the decrepit rope bridges, he paused and took a knee. A wave of mist billowed over him, drawn up by his swift, sudden burst.
The next batch of undead had pilfered weapons from the corpses of Hylian and Twili alike on the shores of the Lake. A tattered, one-eyed old man, the lower half of his face chewed off up to the beard, snarled at him and bucked a bloody pitchfork. Taden dashed forward and somersaulted over him, and landed before another wielding a long pike. He dropped low and swept his leg under the ghoul’s foot, then propped his sword upside down with the hilt at his ear, twisting it to fling the beast’s pike spiraling into the air—until impaling the last of their number. With his sword held out to his left side at a low angle, he raised his shoulders and spread his arms wide, then sunk low and spun past the remaining column of foes. Their chests gushed open in unison, and sprays of black bile sprang into the air, until gore hung like a heavy, hellish fog in the early morning chill.
A veil of cloud gathered over the shore as Taden took the beachhead, and a light snow began to fall. It gathered along the crevices of a shattered ruin on the Lake’s north coast, where granite columns jutted from the sands. His footsteps clattered along a wide marble platform, until he came to the water’s edge. He pressed his hands together at his chest, breathed in slowly, and then fanned his arms wide, sending a rush of wind down onto the jagged waves of ice. They ripped apart at his command, and the floating shards of the frozen surface orbited into a large revolving ring. Despite the dropping temperature, he fastened his robes tight and pulled the wraps masking his mouth taut, then dove head first into the icy waters revealed beneath the ice.
The boulders of ice gradually lost their symmetry and collided again, once nothing could be seen of Taden beneath the water’s surface except his wavering shadow.
Taden Horwendil, Lost Woods, Morning 3
”They say that when non-fairy folk enter the Lost Woods, they become monsters.”
Taden pressed his hand against the carved eye of the Gossip Stone, over the pupil, pushing himself up from one knee to his feet. He straightened his belt and blades, looked up at the canopy. The sky was rainy and overcast; the low clouds that gathered over his head on the lake had followed him to Faron Province, blocking out the sun. Behind him, a quiet stream trickled out from the cavern he had emerged from, trickling out over the grey morning into a wide, shallow pond. He felt a strange, sacred presence lingering under the rippling pool, like the Spirit of Lanayru that Taden felt embedded in Lynn—but different, more secluded and wary. Whoever watched over these woods, they did not make interlopers like himself feel welcome.
A quick rush of wind suddenly shot from the trees to his side, and before he could blink a tiny dart with a red tuft at its tip pierced his neck. He swatted the dart from his neck and turned on his heel to face where it came from—a line of trees with shadows moving rapidly in the dawn halflight. A carpet of crickets and other creatures hummed and chirped in the clearing, but when Taden knelt down and touched two fingers to the soil, a chill went out radially from his stance and coated the forest floor with frost. The crickets fell silent. The pond disappeared under a thick sheet of ice. And in the near distance, with the grass frozen over, he heard faint footsteps crackling as they fled. Before he could rise and give chase, though, a heavier set of footsteps lumbered at his back, and he turned around to find two heavily armored Stalfos Knights mounted on great, dead boars looming over him.
“It did not take long from this hallowed realm to fall to the undead hoard,” he mused, ever displeased with his Hyrulean confines. As a team, the two Stalfos charged across the clearing, lowering their long, ribboned pikes and kicking their boars into bellowing warcries. Still kneeling from when he cast his spell on the ground, he pressed his hands into the frosted earth and lunged upward, expecting to fly into the air, only to find himself grounded. He cursed under his breath as he realized the poison dart had somehow disabled his magic. One knight closed in and swung his pike, and Taden barely rolled out of the way before his head was taken off. He had just enough time to whip out his dagger and slash at the flank of the second pig just he rode past, making him stumble and throw his rider into the ice of the shimmering pool.
“Hrroooar!” The fallen pig roared as it crashed into the ground, then vanished into a plume of smoke that lingered around his rider. The knight jumped up and spun the long handle of his pike overhead, charging in again on foot while his partner about-faced from his joust. Taden unsheathed Aurgelmir and met his foe head on, slashing up with his sword just as the warrior slammed down his pike. They met in the water, and with their blades locked tight, Taden looked deep into the dead, empty eyes of the Stalfos until he found the red, beady pupils of life that burned inside his skull. If the Sheikah secrets were right, this was a Hylian once, and judging by its armor, a highborn lord.
“Chyaa!” Taden jerked his sword out from underneath the Stalfos’ pike and let the beast’s forward momentum smash him into the pond, then spun on one foot to bring his blade down on the neck of his exposed spine. The demon’s helmeted head snapped from his shoulders and clanged across the rocks, until rolled up against the heavy cloven hooves of his compatriot’s boar. Unthinking, the mount sniffed the head for a moment before taking a large bite, devouring it helmet and all like so much cud, as the second ghoul stared Taden down. He fanned his blade low out before him and returned the mongrel’s gaze. If the thing could feel fear, Taden wondered if it realized it was in over its head.
”Brrhuuu!” The Stalfos kicked his beast’s sides and charged a second time, lowering his pike and staring daggers at his opponent. Taden readied his blades, the Maskmaker’s Knife in his right and Aurgelmir in his left. He ran forward to meet his attacker, and just as the two drew near, he leapt into the air and flung his dagger right between the boar’s eyes. It stumbled with an earthy moan and his rider’s pike swayed, allowing Taden to bounce one foot off its lowered handle, gaining a second lunge to spin around and slice his sword through the Stalfos’ neck as he turned. When he landed, the two had fallen into a heap, and the first boar already began slouching over to sniff the corpse and marrow, even as the ichor leaked from his own flank.
Taden wiped gore from under his eye and dragged his blade across the wet grass to clean it. He walked over the dead pig to retrieve his knife from its skull, and the one still alive slinked away slowly as he approached. He yanked it out and wiped it on his coattails. As he left the clearing, he saw a ring of flowers scattered across the narrow path to the south, and recognized their reddish, heart-shaped petals. He scooped up three of the plants and crushed them in his palm, then clapped them down his throat. Within minutes, he felt the poison’s effects subsiding, and resolved to keep a sharper eye on the shadows in these treacherous woods.
Taden Horwendil, Occupied Ordon Village, Morning 3
Taden unrolled the scrap of parchment in his sleeve, pilfered from the pockets of one of the fallen Stalfos.
Your mission is to intercept a troop of advance scouts in the Twili army before they return to occupied territory. We believe the party you seek to have knowledge of our redoubt’s secret location. They must therefore be eliminated to a man. Sheikah intelligence has identified the patrol routes surrounding the base in the map enclosed. You would do well to memorize its marking, and destroy the parchment before crossing enemy lines.
He studied the crudely drawn map for a moment, tracing his pale blue fingers over the red ink that trailed from a thin wooden bridge deep into the southern swamps. A patchwork of interwoven lines covered each path, showing where Twili guards and barracks were posted. At the bottom of the map was a rectangle marked with one word: Grem.
Taden pulled the collar of his great coat up around his ears, slunk down into the trees on the near side of Faron Bridge. Instantly, he felt a thick wave of pressure, like gravity or vertigo, pull him down. A heavy force emanated from deep within the territory, and the very air around him pulsed with its dark tension. He squinted his eyes in the dim and steeled himself to the feeling that no amount of sleuthing would keep him from being detected here for long.
On the bridge ahead, he saw his first three Twili guards standing shoulder to shoulder. They made their way across the wide bridge in a rotation, always one at either end while the third made the trek across. From his perch in the trees above them, he let his fingers drift on the breeze, and on the far side of the bridge a swarm of Ice Keese appeared to pester one of the guards. The other two rushed to his aid, swatting at the vermin with their swords, as Taden slipped through the branches and leapt down under the bridge, catching himself on the ropes underneath.
By the time the guards returned to their posts, he was brachiating hand over hand across the underside of the bridge. When it was time to climb up on the other side, he hung by one hand and used the other to direct the Ice Keese towards the bridge, sending all three guards running to the opposite end. He swung up and dashed into the woods on the southern side, then crouched low into the enveloping trees.
Using the map from the Stalfos, he made his way south around the Twili guards’ barracks, waiting out guards and sticking to the early morning shadows. His everpresent ice storm had merged with the umbral atmosphere to resemble cold dust slowly sinking to the ground, coating the rough hewn gates and leather canvas of the Twili outpost in what looked like ash. A truly dark sorcery permeated this land, its ambient effects contaminating whatever energies came into its fold. As he passed by Twili soldiers at their tents, leaning on barrels or squatting on stools, he overheard their idle chatter.
“That demigod Kae nearly took my head off, but her damned magicks only grazed my shoulder,” a grunt grunted. “Those Bryseis twins are a piece of work. Best lay low when they bring their flashy mages out; it’s a sure sign they’re about to retreat.”
“Eh, maybe you’d have dodged her altogether if you hadn’t turned tail and ran! Eyes front, soldier!” a superior chided, slapping the grunt on the shoulder and making him wheeze.
Finally, he reached the high timber walls of the Interloper’s fortress, just before the first full rays of the sun pierced the horizon. The gravity of the forces within was growing stronger, radiating now as he inched closer. He could feel its shape and mood just as he sensed the Light Spirit in the sacred fount before, only this presence was more cruel, and craven He knew the Hylian army and its mercenaries pursued this evil, but he knew little of its designs.
He knew only that his Final Relic lay under the Hylians' self-righteous control, and in order to bait them to the surface, he would need the lure of his enemy’s enemy.
He worked his way through the epicenter of the Twili encampment, sidling past its high walls along the wheels of a wagon that rolled slowly in. He timed his steps with the patterns of the Twili guard outlined on his map, until he came to a large hut raised behind an inner gate of the base. The bleak, sable banners of Lord Grem’s army hung from either side, and Taden realized he’d reached his destination. Inside, he heard the low, gruff voices of battle-weary commanders arguing over their next moves.
“Once their souls become our own, our people will walk in the Light once more.”
“But, sire, there is yet one contingency. If they were to reach Death Mountain with the proper artifacts…”
A heavier baritone suddenly silenced the group with an announcement.
“This war is at an end, Lieutenant. The fate of Hylia is decided, whatever their false hopes may be. You are dismissed.”
Not without some consternation at the sudden grouse, the commanders made their way outside one by one, until Grem was left alone.
In one last quick movement, Taden darted through the canvas door at the departing officers’ backs, and righted himself before the towering warlord. He stood nearly twice the height of the ice mage, but the General took a seat on a black wicker throne, and they were at eye level. With one hand on his hilt, Taden addressed Lord Grem in a hushed tone.
“Let my arrival here vouch for my stealth, and my resolve. Call me a treasure hunter. Ye makes to destroy the last of the King of Hyrule’s forces? I make to join thee, and plunder the King's arms.”
With a slight smirk under his silver locks, Taden knelt to the ground at the General's feet. He unlatched his knife and let it fall to his side, then lifted up his longsword in its ebony sheath to display it to the warmonger in both hands, head bowed. He could feel the General’s eyes slithering over his proffered blade, could hear the hiss of his mind probing into his own. Grem had known he was coming, Taden sensed it, but he had dismissed his high command rather than reveal him to them. After a moment, he looked up from the ground, and countered the General’s hellish glare with his own cold gaze.
"Only point me in the direction of thy army, and I shall hasten this war's end."
Lord General Grem, Twili-Occupied Ordon, Morning 3
Grem let his gaze slide, oily, over the kneeling trespasser and his sword. With slow movements he leaned forward, reached and took the proffered weapon. He freed the blade some scant inches from its sheath and inspected the blade, making show of contemplation over the man's offer.
Then he slammed the blade back home and laid it back to rest on out-stretched palms.
"Treasure hunter? Perhaps there is some truth to that. Perhaps." Grem drummed fingertips on the arm of his seat. "But in this, you will be killer only, Oh Mercenary. I think, perhaps, such charge would please your constitution all the better."
He gestured, somewhat flippantly, with a flick of his hand to the door, and the north. "Go, then. The army moves, in the fields to the north, to the Hylian's final bastion, under command of my second-in-command, Count Ryssdal. Join them. Simeon will make use of you in the assault. Keep what paltry loot pleases you from the conquest of these vulgar creatures."
He plucked a small, but recognizable, token from the arm-table beside his throne, and tossed it to the floor. "Show this to Count Ryssdal to prove your sincerity in this charge. He will recognize it."
The knuckles of is left hand stroked the haft of his grand war-axe, leaning on a post to his side. "Now go, and pray to whatever deities hold sway on you that I never see you again, Treasure Hunter."
Taden Horwendil, Ordon Spring, Day 3
On his trek north from Grem's fortress, Taden arrived at a clearing in the Ordon Forest around a wide, shallow spring fed by three thin waterfalls. He had passed this ethereal place before, on his journey into the wood, but in the midday sun its rippling springhead shone like a mirror.
He set one foot down in the glasslike spring, and saw his gaunt reflection staring back at him, the shadow of his sword and skirt of his longcoat hanging around the sides. A sheet of ice spread across the pool and etched upward toward the contributing falls. He felt the spreading ice permeate the pond and underlying earth, dripping down slowly toward the spring's source. He felt the ice slow as it neared some great, dormant power below.
"The god of this Spring grows restless," he whispered, turning his gaze up from his iceladen boot to the pale blue sky above.
In his open palm, the small medallion given him by Lord Grem presented a halfmoon face smiling serenely upward. He knew not what the full extent of this coin's powers were, but he felt them growing in proximity to the Light Spring. The Twili inscription along its edges seemed to resonate here, pushing back against the aura of Light.
Taden began to wonder how far its adumbral aura would reach.
He tossed the talismen into the cold air and watched it tumble ever higher. Instead of falling down, the coin continued to circle in midair, rising slowly toward the clouds. As it rose, the clouds began to roll and spiral inward, forming a canopy that blocked out the sun even as it crested the treeline. The first bolt of lightning tore down to the earth around him, and a curtain of rain behind.
He spread both arms wide in the gathering storm, and then looked down at the frozen fountain with a fierce grin.
"Let us test our meddle on this sprite, before we rendezvous with Commander Ryssdal..."
Taden Horwendil, Day 3, Ordon Spring
With his hand raised to the sky torn asunder with black clouds, Taden smirked as the cursed Twili coin fell back in his palm. A vicious ice storm had enveloped the sky in its wake, coating the daylight of the placid Ordon Spring with a an acrid air of Dusk. Taden floated in the air above it all, looking down at the frozen over lake. Still, the beast within would not be roused; he only heard its faint, defiant whisper in his head.
You have...been transformed...by the power...of shadow...
"If you won't show your face, I'll have to leave something for those to whom you would," he droned over the hail slapping the pond. The spectral beast buried under the font would have a barrier of Storm and Dusk to overcome to exert its influence on this world, aside from a solid sheet of black ice.
He looked closely at the black engravings on his newfound coin. The token itself shimmered in the overcast light, a deep obsidian with a mirrorlike shine. The only source of light was Taden's own Blue Fire, yet in the amulet's center, he could see a large Twili symbol inscribed, a single letter or number he could not decipher. Just what had Grem given to him?
"The skies you rip with blades of ice, but what of the earth below?" Taden mused. He flipped the coin from his thumb and watched it tumble to the frozen pool below.
Just before it made contact with the icy surface, it halted in midair. The coin fell level, began to spin, and suddenly a spiraling, indigo vortex opened up at Taden's feet. Its purple light flashed against his face from below, as the thunder and ice clapped above; his long, black robes twisted in the wind, and his locks of silver hair whipped against his flashing eyes.
A portal had opened over the center of the Ordon Spring. "Whither wilt thou lead me now?" he thought to himself, wondering if Grem had planned any of this. There was only one way to find out. Taden gripped his hand over the hilt of his blade, spread his free hand out to his side. With a sharp intake of breath, he doubled over and shot down towards the warp, diving into it headfirst.
Though he left the scene, his primordial ice storm lingered over the spring, and his Dusk-infused sheet of ice choked its surface.
Isaac Kinslayer, Twili-Occupied Ordon, Day Three
Isaac descended into the Twili's midst to a sudden alarm. A training yard, situated in the center of a cluster of hastily constructed timber barracks,served as his landing. It lay deep within the interior of their southern encampment, surrounded by swamp and undead forest. Here the relentless metallic ring of combat had coalesced into a beautiful, discordant song in his ears, drawing him down from the cold winter skies.
Word, it turned out, spread quickly through the legions of the interlopers, and so too had the news of his apparent defection. As he set down upon the grass amidst a blistering wind, he found a ring of steel forming up all around him, points held warily in his direction.
With a smirk, he raised both hands above his head.
"Now now, ladies and gents, you can put away your steel." He reached down to his belt, brushing aside the long folds of his coat to find the dagger strapped in its sheath against the back of his right hip. Casually, he drew the dagger out, studiously ignoring as the ring of spears and swords tightened in around him. Fiery eyes swept the semi-circle, glaring into the slits in closed Twili helms. He flipped the weapon in the air, snagging it by its point between thumb and middle finger, holding it aloft to make a great show of directing that middle finger into the faces of the Twili soldiers. "It won't do you much good, for one. And for two... I'm only here to have a word with your boss."
He tossed the dagger again, snagging it by the hilt, then deftly twirled it and slammed it back home into its sheath.
"St-stay right where you are," one of the soldiers stammered. She raised her spear higher, steadying it, pressing in with the point. "You're a traitor to the Twili cause."
His smirk broadened and his fiery eyes seemed to flare up in deep-set sockets. Isaac took a step toward the young Twili fighter. That was all it took to press his upper chest into the point of her weapon. Then he took another step, pushing her back before she steadied herself. Suddenly braced, the steel point broke his pebbly, grey-scaled flesh, but what trickled forth was not blood. Liquid fire oozed from the wound and rolled down the Kinslayer's exposed torso as the serpent brand writhed fitfully. He took another step and the spearhead dug deeper, until only the wooden haft protruded from his chest.
"If I intended to kill any more of you right now, you'd be hard-pressed to stop me." He took one long step back and pulled the spear from her hands. Reaching up with one of his own, he seized the wood and ripped the weapon from his chest, holding it up to make an elaborate show of the crimson, melted nub that had been the spearhead. The wound burned hot and bright, but the scaled flesh gradually knitted itself together, leaving behind only a faintly smoking scar.
He tossed the spear aside, and adjusted the drape of his coat.
"Direct me to Lord Grem," he said as he took a step forward and watched the circle part to allow him through, revealing a path past the barracks and toward a large timber hut. "Please and thank you."
Lord-General Grem ,Twili-Occupied Ordon, Day Three
"The... Fire Mage is back, Lord-General. He waits outside."
Grem quirked his eyebrow. "Fire Mage?"
The nervous man gave an excessive nod. "Y-Yes, my lord.One of the mercenaries..?"
Grem grunted. "Ah, a member of that useless failed experiment? Fire Mage... Was he not- Yes, send the fool in."
The aid beat a quick exit, and soon Isaac Telmar entered in his stead. Grem sneered at him.
"You fought for the Hylians at the lake." His hand rested on his immense waraxe. "I'll give you two minutes to give me a reason to listen for longer."
Isaac Kinslayer, Twili Occupied Ordon, Day Three
The mammoth creature who called himself Lord Grem sneered as Isaac entered the room.
"You fought for the Hylians at the lake." One enormous mailed fist rested on the pommel of his waraxe. "I'll give you two minutes to give me a reason to listen for longer."
Isaac stared at the titan for a long, pregnant pause. What he wouldn't have given to throw himself up against that thing and let the chips fall where they may!
"You're a big fucker, aren't you?" he said, not really meaning it as a question. "I mean you'd have to be, right? Lord Grem, the unkillable leader of the Interlopers and all that."
He turned his back on the General and looked around the room. It was decorated sparingly. He could appreciate that. No frills, no nonsense.
"I did fight for the Hylians," he replied back over his shoulder as he took to pacing a few steps, arms clasped behind his back. "Killed a lot of your field officers, in fact. I've always been pretty good at that."
He turned back toward Lord Grem at last, meeting that dark gaze with eyes like pits of dark fire, noting the impatient tapping of one steel-clad finger on the haft of his weapon.
"Best way to sew chaos through the ranks of the enemy, right? Demoralize them a bit in the offing?" He unclasped his hands and reached up to rake gray, pebble-scaled fingers through his spiked hair. "You have an army like nothing I've ever seen, but do you have the folks who can do the quiet, dirty jobs? I sure as hell haven't seen them.
"I fought for the Hylians at the lake because I was trying to see how close the so-called Light Warriors were to breaking. And they are--believe me when I say this--so very close to losing themselves entirely." He clenched one hand into a fist as he spoke, still not maintaining constant eye contact with the General. When he opened his fingers, a compact ball of violet-orange flame burned in his fist. He began to toss it back and forth from one hand to the other like a child's ball. "One more nudge might just shatter them entirely. One more blow to their resolve.
"Fact is, Lord Grem, and it is a fact... You have a host of soldiers at your command, but none who can do this job."
"And what job is that?"
Isaac broke into a wide smirk, eyes flashing brighter.
"I have a lot of nicknames... but there's this one I earned a long time ago that I'm particularly fond of..."
Lord General Grem, Twilipied Ordon, 3 Day
Grem smirked, still fingering the blade of his axe.
"And you, for reasons unknown, seem to think you require my permission or blessing to reclaim this title you hold so dearly? Are you incapable of acting of your own accord, perhaps? You swap from side to side in this conflict, seeking someone, anyone, to give your orders and justify your actions?"
His wand waved, dismissively. "Go. If you must rationalize your actions, then, by all means, tell yourself that I sent you. I'll not begrudge you any chaos sewn among the Hylians in this final battle, though all it will do is hasten their inevitable fall."
His eyes narrowed to a glare. "But should you turn arms against my men once more, I will take it as a personal offense."
Isaac Kinslayer, Twili Occupied Ordon, Day Three
"Go. If you must rationalize your actions, then, by all means, tell yourself that I sent you. I'll not begrudge you any chaos sewn among the Hylians in this final battle, though all it will do is hasten their inevitable fall." The warlord's eyes narrowed to a glare. "But should you turn arms against my men once more, I will take it as a personal offense."
The rebuke elicited from Isaac a bemused chuckle.
"Not so fast, you overgrown Iron Knuckle," he shot back. "Acting on my own accord is what brought me here. I'm looking to do you a favor, so how about a little gratitude?
"I'm here now because the target we're speaking of will not be easy to reach, and before we even broach that issue there's the matter of where to find him. I had hoped to ascertain his whereabouts while I was among the Hylian forces, but it proved a more tightly guarded secret than I'd suspected. Now I have some ideas--leads on where to begin--but I'm going to need to get my hands on your intelligence officers in order to make it work."
Isaac turned away from the armored titan, moving off to the side of the tent to a small standing table atop which a single flickering candle burned despite the time of day. He passed his hand over the wavering spark, letting it lick against his palm.
"And just a bit of unsolicited advice? I would caution you not to underestimate the Hylians, and the Light Warriors in particular." He took his hand away from the candle and the flame came with it. As he turned back to face Grem, he closed his fist to smother it. "They may be a chaotic mess, pieces from separate puzzles thrown together by necessity and little else, prone to flying apart at an inopportune moment, but they have a tendency to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. You face two Scions and a host of warriors, many of whom have done this sort of thing before. There's no doubting that you're more powerful than they are, but there's always a way. I'd just hate to see your hubris prove your undoing in this war. It would be... tragic."
Alliance of Power
Taden Horwendil, Ryssdal Encampment (Hyrule Field), Day 3
Under a bleak, grey sky streaked with the purple glow that seemed to follow the Twili wherever they go, Taden emerged from the desolate ground in a vortex of Dusk the same hue.
As he walked away from the glowing portal, he realized it wasn’t closing up behind him. He looked at the Twili talisman in his palm—still full of surprises, this little token. He would have to find another way to cover his tracks.
He clenched the coin in one black gauntleted fist, and thrust his arm wide, throwing the skirt of his Cloak open. A long wave of his Ice magick swooped over the grass like a sickle, and in its wake a hive of white spiders crept from the earth.
In the midst of a hundred or more frozen spiders swarming towards the Warp, four lumbering arctic arachnids loomed at its edge, as if looking at one another before leaping in. The icy, jagged fur along the skulltula’s legs combed the frost on the ground; their beady eyes glimpsed in all directions while their hirsute fangs sucked against the cold air. One of the accursed brethren reared up on its hind legs, let loose a tremulous bark, and dove in with the other three fast in tow.
When the last of the four Frost Giant Skulltula had gone, Taden turned about to continue towards the tent his Warp had led him to. To his delight, the crimson letter “R” emblazoned on the tapestries lining the tent matched exactly that engraved on the surface of his coin. All at once, Grem’s gift began to make more sense. The Twili coin now in his pocket was designed to bring him hence.
Inside the tent, he was met with two crossed Twili sabers, and a pair of imposing sentinels staring him down from their raised hilts.
“I have been sent by the Lord General Grem to aid thee in the war effort,” he began. “I give you this proof to vouchsafe my words.”
He tossed the marked coin past the guards to let it land at the feet of the small court of officers gathered around a table at the tent’s opposite end. One of the Twili superiors was seated on a makeshift wooden chair, and it was to this commanding officer that Taden directed his whispered words.
“My name is Taden Horwendil. My sword, Aurgelmir, is pledged for the duration of this war to your liege, and he has dispatched me to you. All I ask is that at this war’s end, I may keep what treasure I can carry.”
Simeon Ryssdal, Hyrule Field (Twili Base), Dawn Day 3
"My apologies on being so late. As you can imagine it's been quite eventful lately. Hopefully I didn't keep anyone waiting."
"Not at all my lord. The meeting hasn't begun yet" replied a short statured guard manning the security checkpoint. "I believe your not even the last person to arive. Right this way please."
As Simeon went to enter the a war room Zephyra quickly grabbed him on the shoulder and whispered in his ear.
"Simeon, are you sure you want to go through with this?"
"Of course I do. Why? Are you worried about something?"
"What, no. No. Not at all."
Simeon staired with an eyebrow raised at her obvious insincerity.
"Alright you want me to say it? Fine. I don't know if Grem's promotion is a good idea."
"Because you think I'm not experienced enough" questioned Simeon.
"Because this is a serious undertaking. The most vital I can think of. Your not out there fighting for yourself anymore. People are going to live or die based on your decisions. Things will go wrong and even if you win you'll still be blamed for anyone that's killed. This is going to be a lot harder than you think. Are you sure you won't reconsider?"
Simeon scratched his beard in thought, before responding. "Everything you said is true. I really do appreciate you bringing that up. If it was for personal gain I never would have accepted. With that said this is about more than just me. Now that Lanayru has fallen the end of the war is in sight. The question remains who will control Hyrule in the aftermath?
Is it to be some self serving politician, a commander with no political skills, or dusk forbid an aristocrat born with silver spoon in the mouth?"
Zephyra rolled her eyes and scoffed at Simeon's disrespect of royalty.
"...That doesn't include us by the way. No Grem is smarter than that. He knows Twili leadership is throughly corrupt. That's why he's entrusting us with the future of this land."
"You actually think he wants you to do more than just kill people" said Zephyra.
"Contrary to your opinion of him Grem is a highly honorable man who wants nothing more than peace. He knows we're better at making allies with the enemy than fighting them. He probably sees that as a good thing. After the wars over we will be given a real stake at integrating Hyrule into Twili society.
With you by my side I can ensure a quick transition to democracy, one where their king and goddesses can't control Hyrule's people any longer. We can really make this world a better place for everyone. In the end isn't that what you always wanted?"
From behind the two chuckled out a laugh as deep as a a grizzled mountaineer. "Idealistic as ever I see. Some things never change with age. Good to see you kiddo, it's been awhile."
"Hard to believe isn't it. Never thought I'd live long enough to outrank you. Zephyra this is Commander Euskali , an old friend of mine. We go way back. I credit him with saving my life during the Kyjean Border War"
"Pleasure to meet you sir" said Zephyra with a bow. "If it weren't for you I suppose I would've never had the fortune of meeting Simeon. I owe you a great deal of debt.
"Appreciate it my lady, but the debts already been paid. Simeon... I mean Count Ryssdal has saved my life more times then I care to count. Well anywho I'd love to sit and talk, but its time to get down to tactics. If you'll excuse me I'll lead Count Ryssdal in. I'm sure we'll all love to hear what he has to say."
Simeon Ryssdal, Twili Base (Inside War Room), Day 3
"That's heresy" cried a white suited official as he slammed his fist down upon the war rooms table.
"Admiral please, if you let me explain..."
"With all due respect" said the sailor drawing out each word "I will not let you misinterpret the religion so many have given their lives to uphold! No one, no matter how powerful, can claim to be the dusk. The dusk is a primordial material, the origin of all life. Nothing else worthy of worship, not even the fake goddesses who claim divinity! The woman you speak of simply cannot exist."
"I respect your opinions thoroughly, but she is real. I know it sounds unbelievable, but I know what I saw on the bottom of that lake. Besides have our mages not said before that duskshard exhibits a certain degree of sentience? Who's to say it couldn't have formed a human avatar?
Or perhaps it is this avatar that's source of the dusks apparent sapience? After all our beliefs are a science, we should be open to reinterpretation. We can't have some unquestioning dogma like the Hylian's have now can we."
"Are you comparing me to them" questioned the admiral before being cut off by Commander Euskali.
"That's enough! Pointless accusations will get us nowhere. Look, Count Ryssdal, I don't doubt your sincerity. You probably did see someone down there. But this "Umbra" might not be what you think she is. She could be a Hylian impostor, or an illusion created by magic. She could even be a hallucination from lack of oxygen in your body."
"Then how do you explain this" said Simeon pointing to the mark Umbra left upon his forehead.
"After drowning I was on the verge of death. But somehow my powers doubled as soon as I used the mark she bestowed me with. I wasn't the only one to witness it, Grem and the others saw my abilities surge too. I'm not saying I know or even trust what that thing is, but I know that she's real and that she can help us.
If we are to defeat this Kae Bryseis it would be wise of us to track Umbra down and recruit her to our cause."
Just then Simeon could hear the sound of metal rolling across the floor to his feet. He looked up to see a wild Hylian man, hair as white as snow and eyes as chilled as frost.
"My name is Taden Horwendil. My sword, Aurgelmir, is pledged for the duration of this war to your liege, and he has dispatched me to you. All I ask is that at this war’s end, I may keep what treasure I can carry."
"Something else to deal with that I didn't need" murmured Count Ryssdal under his breath. "So, a mercenary are you? Though I commend your offer of loyalty I have no need of your service. I'm afraid I have trouble trusting foreigners after Captain Delphinus. Now if you will excuse me, I have much else to..."
Before Simeon could finish the tent he stood in exploded in a ball of tremendous heat. Shrapnel tore through the bodies of those present. The Twili's face burned as if it were going to melt off. Ears were left defended at the explosive force that impacted them. It was only the last second shielding of himself using his power over shadow that saved Simeon from being blown into bits.
Bloodied and burned, but still very much alive Simeon arose to the carnage. The group he had been speaking to were mostly dead. Admiral Kotora's corpse was disfigured beyond recognition. Commander Euskali screamed in agony, but was otherwise still among the living. Horwendil as the man called himself was somehow untouched, be it by skill or luck.
Coming to Simeon witnessed through the torn fibers of his tent multiple bomb arrows reigning down upon his base. That shouldn't have been possible as the nearest Hylian units were nowhere within range. Yet reality proved otherwise. Seeing no one else among them left to fight Simeon Ryssdal turned to Taden.
"You say you wish to fight by my side sir Horwendil? Then here's chance to prove it! Get us out of here alive and I will put the full might of the Twili army behind your endeavours. Follow me!"
Taden Horwendil, Hyrule Field (Twili Base), Day 3
"Get us out of here alive and I will put the full might of the Twili army behind your endeavours. Follow me!"
In the sudden smoke that covered the grounds, Taden could barely discern six long, glinting blades that flashed into life around him and his charge. "Get down, and keep moving," he shouted over his shoulder to Count Ryssdal.
He hunkered down on one leg and inched Aurgelmir out of its sheath by a hair. With a long exhale of breath, he loosened the straps that bound the sheath to his belt, and punched the hilt into the air no sooner than the first blade rained down on them.
Their attacker wore a heavy, blue-black hood and shawl wrapped over his shoulders, with tarnished steel armor underneath. Taden could barely discern the narrow eyes under the cloak before they dropped their weight and spun a steel boot into his shin. He pivoted, but lost the deadlock between their blades and leaned back over his heels as the swordsman swung wide, right where his neck had been.
Taden rolled backward and righted himself, then unsheathed his sword fully, unleashing a curved torrent of ice that pelted against his foe's chest, knocking him back. They lunged at each other and clashed midstrike, but Taden pressed forward and slashed again, beating his way out of the blackened circle of the command tent, a rush of wind breaking with each slash of his sword. Finally, the assailant swung his blade low with one hand, and Taden sliced downward at his collar; Aurgelmir cut into his jaw, and he spun around once to remove the blade and stab back in the same direction, impaling him just over the neckline of his breastplate.
The first foe fell, and he heard two more of them step forward back where Ryssdal stooped over his fallen men. "I said keep moving!" Taden barked. He whipped his hand forward and black knives of ice ripped through the air, stabbing one of the assassins and causing the other to fall back. He kicked the ground and hurled himself back to Simeon with a blast of wind at his back, and they squared off against their opponents back to back.
When his target darted forward with two long knives brandished in his hands, Taden thrust a ball of ice at his eyes while they were still at range, and he stumbled for a moment, unable to see. Taden stepped to the side as the spy charged past him, slashed through the side of his knee, then slammed his blade backward to slice through the man's back as he fell on his face. Before he could turn around, a tent exploded nearby; he ducked, and suddenly the cacophony of battle sounded in his ears all at once.
The voices of all the hundreds of Twili soldiers in the camp shouted over each other as they scrambled away from the incoming attack; some rallied at the gate to their unfinished fortress, and formed a line against the first wave of foot soldiers that approached from the field. More explosions erupted on either side of them as aerial bombardments came from the west.
He turned around only to see Ryssdal poised over the dead body of his attacker. With his foot, the Count kicked off the hood covering the man's face, and Taden was surprised to see the pale, illumined skin of the Twili facing him, the distinctive almond eyes only now losing their eery light as the one who looked out of them died. The Count was silent.
"Friend of yours?" Taden asked.
Count Ryssdal looked up at him with withering displeasure. "It concerns you not," he said.
"I daresay the man's fellows would disagree," he snarled, taking a step forward with his hand still on his hilt. "If your ranks have been infiltrated--"
"There's no time!" The Count shouted, just as a pair of bombs tied together with twine flew out of the smoke that still surrounded them. They dove in opposite directions, and Taden lost sight of him.
He turned into the smoke and launched himself in the direction the grenade had come. He held his sword lengthwise over his shoulder, and brought it down in a long sickle of Blue Fire that stabbed through the grunt's armor like a harpoon through blubber. A spiral of wind swept out from his strike, clearing the smoke from their area and revealing Simeon and a fifth swordsman several paces away.
"Enough of this!" Taden lifted his hand steadily and a column of Blue Fire began to gather at his palm; it matched the dark, cold flame that began to glisten in his eyes. He fired a freezing beam through the air and it smashed into the assailant, leaving a jagged spire of ice piercing through the man's torso and into the ground beside him. His lifeless body slumped down the length of the ice to the dirt and fell limp.
Likewise, when the sixth and final adversary lurched from the flames of another tent to attack Taden, Ryssdal dispatched a shadowy tendril of Dusk from his arm, and hurled the enemy headlong into the Dusk Warp that had remained open nearby. They heard his cries echo as if from some great depth as he plummeted down the portal.
"I believe you lost something," Simeon called, and tossed Taden the small black medal he had introduced himself with. He caught it in his hand still covered in Blue Fire, and suddenly the Dusk Warp where their last attacker had fallen burst forth with the same icy flames. His distant, echoing cries of anguish fell silent all at once.
Taden paused for a moment to catch his breath, and stared across the smoldering wreckage at Ryssdal, who seemed not at all shocked by their sudden invasion. "I pray now you'll tell me what's going on?" he asked.
"Why not ask the skies that seem to answer you so well, mercernary?" Ryssdal replied cryptically.
Though reluctant to take his eyes off the Twili commander for long, Taden girded his sword at his side again and did the Count's bidding; he rose into the air, Blue Fire still flashing at the corners of his eyes, until the clouds above began to slowly spiral onto his concentrated energy, crackling with thunder and whipping up wind.
In the distance, he saw a line of mounted calvary taking formation at the ridgeline. Not far below him, at the gate of their impromptu fort, he saw the advance guard that Simeon's hoarde would overcome in no time were they not reinforced. Whatever casualties their enemies had expected from their cadre of assassins inside had been cut short by Taden's hand. Still more horsemen arose on the horizon, and he could not tell how many lay beyond the ridge. In the center, he saw two bannermen riding alongside a captain; all wore a tall, horned helmet under the same black cloak as the Twili assassins.
"Their commander is on the ridgeline! Mount your horses and attack to the west!" he called down to the Count. Before returning to the ground, he swung his arms above his head and twisted himself around, then spun his hands in a wide circle towards the ridge, shuttling his conjured storm westward on fierce winds of ice. The two long banners hanging right and left of the captain whipped and wrapped in the wind's force, and their horses bucked at the biting cold as they braced for counterattack.
Simeon Ryssdal, Hyrule Field Twili base, Day 3
Simeon caught his breath as he ducked for cover. Taking a moment to ascertain the situation he watched as the carnage unfolded around him. He and his forces had been caught with their pants down. Worse still Simeon knew the identity of his assistants. He reconized the assassin Taden killed as a Twili soilder of Lieutenant Kenata's battalion. Somehow his entire force had appeared to defect to the enemy.
As his men fought against former friends Simeon's memory turned back to a time when the Twili Kingdom was not so united. It turned back to the war filled years of his early childhood, a time he spent most of his adult life trying to redeem for. Simeon secretly prayed that these people were merely seduced into defecting to the Hylian cause. For if it was them...
"No, they won't live to tell about it" Simeon mumbled under his breath. "These people are traitors" he suddenly shouted out to any allies who could hear him. "They deserve no mercy. Kill them all!"
"Their commander is on the ridgeline! Mount your horses and attack to the west!"
As Taden conjoined up his ice storm Count Ryssdal barked out orders and called out formations. Yet as men mounted on their horses Simeon declined to join in the cavalry. Instead he ran off to the west armed with nothing but his Rod of Light. "Wait for my command then attack from the sides. I'll deal with the center."
Charging alone onto the plains the former Baron starred down an enemy formation of horsemen a hundred strong, all galloping full speed towards him. Simeon came to a stop and held still. Then he watched as Taden's ice storm rained down upon them. Chunks of razor sharp icicles fell down like arrows, smashing the horsemen and causing panic. Yet their charge did not relent as the survivors carried on and readied their lances. In response Simon fired out a white hot laser from his staff.
Resembling that of a beamos, but far more powerful, Simeon slowly swept the mile long beam from left to right. One by one the horsemen hit by the searing energy were sawed apart. A mass of limbs both human and horse plopped to the ground, strangely bloodless thanks to the heat cauterizing their wounds. With half their forces finished of Simeon signaled for his troops to counterattack. Whatever hopes the enemy had of victory was now gone.
Now it was time to go after the commander. His staff radiating with glowing heat, cutting down the few remaining in his path like stalks of bamboo. It was then he saw the traitor Lieutenant Kenata. Charging up his remaining solar energy Simeon fired a swordbeam blast expecting a clean kill. To his surprise Kenata blocked the shot with a mirror shield, deflecting the beam back at him. Ducking backwards Simeon narrowly avoided being decapitated by his own laser.
Kenata then tried to ram him on horseback, only for the count to cut down his steed. While the lieutenant attempted to get up Simeon formed a small spearhead of shadow on the end of his rod, ramming it into his heart. Yet while Kenata winced with pain his magically infused armor absorbed most of the energy. Simeon's shield splintered into pieces as Kenata counterattacked with his own sword.
Cleary he had this fight planned out ahead of time. Simeon Ryssdal attempted to gather up whatever light he could, to which the Twili turncoat threw an exploding deku nut. The area surrounding the two filled up with black smoke, turning their duel as black as midnight. With no power left Simeon's rod of light lost is characteristic glow. Defenseless the count could only try and protect himself with nothing more than a useless stick.
"Not so powerful without your magic now are you" gloated Lieutenant Kenata. "Tell me where Grem is and we might let you surrender".
"Grem sends his greatings, but he's a tad busy to deal with traitorous worms like you! Tell me, why did you side with the Hylian's?"
"Simeon, the Hyrulean's are the gods chosen master race! Your friends are burning in hell for daring to defy them" shouted Kenata with much bombast. "The Twili species has proven itself unredeemable in the eyes of the goddesses. Our only hope of salvation is to ensure the complete destruction of our civilization, so a more holy race can replace us!"
"Ha, your a bigot to your own kind" scoffed Simeon. "So the Twili resistance army must have brainwashed you with their pathetic propaganda eh?"
"Your one to talk you spineless pretender. Do you think the people of Kheyja forgive you after what you did? You've spent all this time trying to burry your sins that you've forgotten what you were born as. Well I haven't! After I finish you, I'm going to take a huge steaming dump all over that legacy you've built for yourself. Your wife and friends are all going to find out how little loyalty you actually had for the causes they think you embody."
With these final words Lieutenant Kenata readied his blade and swung forward with a jump attack. Predicting his moves Count Ryssdal blocked with his rod, pushing the attack back.
"You know too much" said Simeon in cold anger. "I'm going to order my men to kill all the prisoners. No one will live to tell them anything. I'll enjoy that bloodshed much more then the last time I destroyed the resistance army."
"You think thay actually give a shit about you" replied Kenata as he narrowly missed Simeon's chin. "Lord Grem himself ordered this armor constructed as a backup if he ever decided his was done with his pawn. I stole his plans to kill you. Chew on that while your in hell!"
Simeon weaved to the side but grunted as Kenata's sword caught the edge of his chainmail. "Grem is smart. He always has a contingency plan. Here's mine". From out behind him came Taden, Ax drawn ready for battle. "Horwendil, kill him!"
Taden Horwendil, Hyrule Field, Day 3
When Taden saw Ryssdal’s solar staff lay waste to the Twili on the battlefield, he recognized a threat; when he saw Lieutenant Kenata’s armor absorb the staff’s blows, he saw an opportunity.
While the battle raged on below, Taden tore across the ridgeline towards Simeon and Kenata on horseback, his speed pressed by the frigid wind at his back. He had seized a horse during the fray, and rode headlong towards the rebel lieutenant from his southern flank when he noticed Ryssdal confronting him alone. They traded blows in bright flashes of Dusk and Light, until he could barely discern where either stood, as if all their motions through time were visible in a continuous blur. From within this miasma, Taden heard Ryssdal call out, though he couldn’t be sure where he stood, or when.
“Horwendil, kill him!”
Kenata braced himself with his shoulder shoved into a heavy shield, but Taden twisted wide of the collision and swiped his unsheathed Aurgelmir blade through the air: a wave of Blue Fire ripped across the ground and knocked Kenata back on his heels, locking his legs and one arm to the earth in columns of ice.
Two bodyguards leapt onto their horses and gave chase, but Taden circled back and sent two streams of Blue Fire flying towards them in a cross, knocking one from his horse and sending the other bucking towards the cliffs. He rode between them, and whipped one more wave of the dark magick into the fleeing horse’s rear, sending him and his rider over the cliff’s edge.
He rounded on the other, and before he could scramble for his horse, Taden sped his mount towards them and sliced the blade of his longsword into the horse’s flank, nearly crushing the guard in the process.
As the wounded horse bolted off, he dismounted his steed and approached the guard with knife drawn. Aurgelmir was sheathed back at his side; for this cretin, he would use the Maskmaker’s Knife. The last of the rebel commander’s guards lunged at him with a sinister, jagged sword, and Taden leaned back quickly, luring the brute off his balance. Without fanfare, he flicked the curved knife across the side of the Twili’s neck, along the narrow slit of his right ear, then brought the blade in and up to stab his stomach.
As he slumped to the ground, Taden turned to find Ryssdal kneeling a few yards from where Kenata still stood, frozen in place, now cornered and unguarded. Taden approached the commander with knife drawn. He came face to face with Lieutenant Kenata, leering into his yellowish, almond eyes. With his free hand, Taden formed a tightly clenched fist, and the layers of ice entombing the Twili began crawling up his torso and limbs.
“I am a plunderer, Captain,” Taden replied to Simeon. “If I kill him, I keep his bounty.”
Simeon looked down at the paralyzed traitor with disdain. Kenata struggled to turn his head and meet his former comrade’s eye. Ryssdal paused for a moment, as if to consider sparing his life.
“His body is yours, treasure hunter.” Simeon turned away from Taden and looked out over the waste below. He raised his arms to the stormdark sky and reveled in the clang of steel and mail. “The day is mine.”
His men were routing the enemy and converging on their fortress’s main gate. The rebels had been slaughtered to a man. While the Captain looked on, Taden slid the fine edge of his knife across Kenata’s pale blue neck. He unhinged the dark breastplate from his chest and shoulders before the black Twili blood reached it, and swiftly strapped the armor over his upper body.
Taden Horwendil, Hyrule Field, Evening 3
As the sun hung low in the evening sky, Taden’s icestorm dissipated into a cold rain, spreading out slowly over the twilit horizon.
They rode back to their bombed out tents at a walking pace, Captain Ryssdal on a white horse with the ribbons bearing his fallen Lieutenant Kenata’s insignia crumpled in his upturned palm, a few raindrops staining the dark purple fabric. Taden sat on a black, narrow-chested steed with his frock coat draped to either side, the Dusk Mail seized from the same fallen traitor Kenata’s breast now fastened firmly underneath.
All around them, Twili set about rebuilding the fort, as if to make camp for another night. Their enemy had been routed for now, and the men were weary from slaying their own countrymen.
“Did none of your officers foresee this attack from within?” Taden asked. They dismounted from their horses and handed their reins to a stable boy.
“We had heard rumors; the homefront has been restless these last six moons,” Simeon reflected. He looked out over the darkened hills of Hyrule Field in the dull halflight, the hovering smoke of the battlefield merging with the rains to make a shimmering yellow haze that seemed to augur only further death and decay. “Though none dare say it, taboos from the past have witnessed a resurgence thanks to this war.”
Taden looked sideways at Simeon as they worked their way through the fortress. All around them, he noticed the eyes of the distraught men following them, their morale strained by their brethren's onslaught.
"Perhaps further explanation is in order. Although Twili almost exclusively worship the Dusk now, such was not always so. I grew up in a time where a significant minority were still loyal to the Hyrulean gods. That all changed thirty odd years ago when those Goddess-worshippers launched an uprising against our Kingdom. Calling themselves the Twili Liberation Army, they considered our religion to be heresy and killed anyone who refused to convert."
"Hundreds of thousands were killed as a result of them, my own mother and sister included,” said Simeon, with a tinge of bitterness evident in his voice. "Fortunately those fanatics were soundly defeated in battle. The last of their kind were taken captive. No rebellion of the sort has happened since, but this war may have brought out the remaining few who held sympathy for their cause. Interactions with the Hyruleans have no doubt caused some to turn against us. If this continues, I fear we may end up winning Hyrule, only to lose our country in the end.”
“Some in your forces can still be trusted, surely,” Taden said. They had reached the command tent, quickly erected by Simeon’s soldiers and manned with a trio of heavily armored guards. Taden searched each of them in turn, and found their Twili eyes searching him right back.
“Only time will tell,” Simeon replied. “General Grem has many loyalists, in and outside his army, whatever uprisings may come.”
Finally, they reached Simeon’s personal quarters. A low table had a large parchment map of the territory sketched out in thick, black strokes of ink, with carved blocks representing the Twili army in the central plains and the exiled Hylians in the northern canyons. They glinted in the dancing torchlight like gemstones under a stream. In a hushed tone, Simeon tossed the damp purple ribbon from Kenata’s uniform onto the table, and looked down at Taden from his full height at the opposite end of the map.
“Perhaps I was wrong to dismiss you as just a treasure hunter. I sense in you a greater purpose than merely the desire for monetary gain. You take up more than the First Lieutenant’s power when you don the Dusk Mail,” Simeon spoke in low tones. “Until this war’s end, you are bound to fulfill its mission.”
Taden looked skeptically at Captain Ryssdal, until the Twili commander walked around the table and unsheathed his sword to place it to Taden’s shoulder, touching the edge of the black mail and cuirass Taden had claimed from Kenata's corpse.
“By the oath you swore to our Lord General Grem, I enlist thee as First Lieutenant to the Twili Occupation of Hyrule. Do you swear to defend the Twilight Realm from all enemies, foreign and domestic, and will you risk death in service to the same?”
Taden straightened up his back and shoulders as Captain Ryssdal withdrew his sword and picked up Kenata’s insignia from the table, touching it to Taden's ill-gotten cuirass. It seemed to glow with an otherworldly purple light for a moment, and the small token Taden had received from Grem then appeared in the air bathed in the same hue. The two objects merged into an Icon with a dark medal hanging from its ribbon, etched and lined with softly glowing Twili lettering, fastened to Taden’s black breastplate and mail that bore the same lustre composed of finely etched runes.
“I swear it,” Taden replied. The two clapped their hands onto each other’s shoulders and exchanged grim looks, then stepped back.
“So be it,” Ryssdal said, nodding solemnly. “You have hereby taken up the mantle of the late Kenata. Lieutenant Horwendil, we ride at dawn.”
Taden turned his back to Simeon and paced around the quarters, hands folded behind his back. After a few paces, he looked up to his new commander with one eyebrow raised under his stark white locks.
“But consider, my liege—would that you rode through the night, and made war on the exiles at first light? You will have the element of surprise, and your men would delay not another hour in returning to their homeland. Would not those of faltering convention be swayed by the final triumph of the Dusk? Let them sate their anguish at the slaughter of their comrades with the long-sought balm of conquest!”
Simeon weighed Taden’s words carefully. His eyes flitted over the enchanted Icon he had bestowed on his new lieutenant, to the polished stone blocks spread out over his map. The fires of war that gleamed over the carved figures now flashed from his new Lieutenant's eyes even more brightly. “Very well,” he rejoined. “Time is of the essence. Rally the frontlines, Lieutenant, and take my Captain's Guard with you. They know my men better than anyone, and their stealth will serve you well under cover of night. I shall bring up the rear guard.”
Taden nodded, then turned to rush out the canvas door of the Captain’s tent. Outside, he unhooked his horse from its post and jumped into the saddle, then unsheathed his sword Aurgelmir and rode through the fort’s main path.
"Burn the wreckage and saddle the horses!" he cried out. "Soldiers of the Dusk, we ride for the canyons! To arms! To arms!"
Soldiers in every direction looked up from their work clearing wreckage and stacking logs, and caught sight of the shining Twili Icon at Taden’s breast that bore all the dark power of his rank.
“To arms once more! You shall not abide another night in these foreign hills, but in victory or death for your country!”
The gathered men roared roughly with their swords clanging in the air, beating their hands on loose helmets and shields to make a triumphant racket as the first flames began to lick the abandoned fortress.
"Rise again, Twili, against the exiles of Hylia, and let death be the harvest in your wake!" He rode out ahead of the fortress into the gathering evengloom, followed swifty and silently into the dusk by the Captain's Guard, a mounted vanguard of assassins.
Taden Horwendil, Night 3, Hyrule Field (Eldin Province)
”We have reached Upper Eldin, sir,” a Twili voice told him, in its strange, slow accent. “You will see the Bridge we spoke of on the horizon ahead.”
Taden studied the layers of cloud that hung over the distant, moonlit horizon. Silver sheets of mist clung to the far, dark ridges. He could not escape the suspicion that something wicked lay not far beyond, some enemy he knew not yet to fear.
“Be on your guard, Sergeant,” Taden barked, returning his thoughts to the field. “These northern canyons are weeded with Hylian spies.”
Sergeant Heihachi extended a spyglass and passed it to his commander. Taden took it up in both hands and gazed long across the grand stonework contours of the Bridge of Eldin silhouetted in the rising moon.
“Have you faced them before, sir?” the sergeant asked. “…The Shadow Folk?”
The last lingering light of the setting sun had faded, and now a pale moon shimmered low above the ridgeline, hazy in the gathering fog.
“I trained under one of their number for a time, not so long ago” Taden mused, “But no, I cannot say I have ever faced them in open battle, evasive as they are.”
Heihachi grinned under the gray wrap masking his face. “Well, tonight’s their lucky night.”
Their company crested a final ridge before the land fell into a wide bowl overlooking the gates of Eldin Bridge. At this distance, its otherworldly polish seemed to refract the very stars. Far below, the rumble of river rapids echoed against the cliffs like the earth itself were gasping for air.
“When we reach the far side, you will make camp at the cliffs just beyond the bridge’s northern gate. Await Captain Ryssdal’s arrival, and when the time comes, add your infantry to his own.”
The Sergeant puzzled his brow at the abrupt change in plan. “But my liege, you rallied the men to strike by nightfall, to delay not a moment more in this wretched realm, lest it be for death in glory—“
Taden raised one gauntleted hand. “I know what I said.” He tugged the reins of his steed and began to saunter forward. “If the Hylian army should attack before the Captain arrives, you are to fall back in a false retreat until you meet his front lines.”
“A false retreat, my lord?” Heihachi seemed strained to maintain his fealty to Taden’s command, but as Ryssdal had foretold, Kenata’s icon pinned to Taden’s chest held strange sway over the Twili men’s hearts. “Forgive your loyal sergeant, sir, but I am unfamiliar with this tactic.”
“You are not accustomed to battle in narrow canyonlands such as these,” Taden said. “Well did I learn the art of maneuver in the ridge and the valley, fighting alongside Gorons in the War of Four Giants. Tactical evasion will serve you well in these crevices.” Taden folded up the spyglass and returned it to Heihachi.
“Whether Shadow Folk or Mountain, I shudder to make an enemy of ye,” the ghoul chortled.
“That’s enough, Sergeant. You have your orders.”
Taden brought his horse to a halt. Suddenly, on either side of him, there emerged from the shadows a squadron of Twili warriors in dark masks that covered their faces completely, and light armors and fabrics that allowed for near silent movement. Knives and bundles of thin rope lined their belts and arms. Heihachi counted nine total of the shadowy figures, and knew he was in the presence of the Captain’s Guard.
“Lead the men across the bridge and make camp along the northern border.”
As they reached the bridge’s southern gate, they were surprised to find it all but abandoned. Taden dismounted his horse and handed the reins to Heihachi. He pulled the sheathed Aurgelmir from the horse’s saddle and strapped it across his back, then continued towards the cliffs on foot.
“Consider it done, Lieutenant,” he nodded. “But where will you be? The men would have your leadership in battle.”
“And they shall have it, soon enough.”
With that, Taden slinked off towards the cliffside, and behind him, Heihachi could barely discern the nine hunched figures of the assassins following closely behind. Before he could blink, the party had reached the edge of the towering cliffs, and seemed to disappear over its edge into the unforgiving waters below.
Sergeant Heihachi blinked once at the spot where they had disappeared, then proceeded on towards the brick tile leading onto the Bridge, his mind honing in on his mission for the night as the sound of hooves and bootheels began rattling across the stone.