Business in the Twilight

My name is Hael. For the entire 18 years that I have lived, I've been a merchant. Business is my life, pricing my specialty, and making deals my calling. But when the Twilight falls, everything changes. There is no business anymore. Everyone's locked up inside their houses, quaking in fear. Monsters roam freely. The Royal Castle is overrun by creatures, and I'm locked up in it's dungeon. But somehow, someway, no one knows. Everyone goes about their business in Castle Town, and those in Kakariko are forced to fend for themselves. Not one person gives a damn about the Zoras or the Gorons. Not one person gives a damn about me. I'm on my own.

Everyone is on their own.

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2. Chapter Two

          I was slipping in and out of consciousness, but I remember passing through the dark wall. It was excruciating, like being smacked and having the air ripped out of your lungs. But that wasn't the worst part. The sudden lack of light made my head pound even more. The sick feeling in my stomach, the throbbing pain, the mental shock, it was too much to handle. The next time I woke, the girl next to me was gone. All that was left was a floating blue flame. Once I finally came to for the last time, I regretted ever waking up.

          What first hit me was the stench. It reeked of rot, decay, dust, garbage, and waste mixed together in one putrid blend. My stomach lurched violently, and as much as I tried to stop it, I retched on the floor next to me. Once there was nothing left to in my stomach, I finally soaked in my scenery. Three stone walls covered in moss enclosed the space, and rusty bars lined one side of the room. Murky water puddled where the stone floor dipped, and rotting straw and hay piled in the corner. A few crates against the wall seemed to be the only decent things in the cell, in better shape than even me.

          I was scratched and bruised all over and covered in grime. My brown pants were torn and dirty, as was my blue and gray tunic. My heart skipped a beat as I frantically searched for my Triforce necklace. I breathed a sigh of relief as my fingers closed around the three triangles, and I kissed the sacred heirloom. My cloak, thankfully, was oddly in better condition. I inspected it quickly, and although there were many small cuts, it was still wearable. I tightened the plain bronze clasp and wrapped the brown cloth around me. It was freezing. I stood up to look past the bars when a strange clinking sound echoed throughout the room. I looked down at my feet when it sounded again. A metal clasp was latched onto my ankle, a chain linking it to a stud in the floor. I sighed. Of course, I thought angrily. I walked over the bars, stopping short just a foot away. I tugged on my chain, trying weakly to loosen it, but I already knew there was no point in trying. The chain and clasp were brand new, I didn't even need bars in my cell. Leaning forward as far as I could, I could see that it wasn't only one cell. It was an entire dungeon. Cells lined the walls of the hall, dark and ominous. Dark water, deep enough to where you wouldn't be able to stand, cut down the center of the walkway separating the two sides.

          The more I looked, the more uneasy I became. There was something...off. I squinted and looked around again, but it was like peering through a black veil of mist. That's it. I realized that everything was somehow...darker. Shadows were deep set and light was vague. It was extremely unsettling.

          "Hello?" I called out, "Is anyone there?" My echo was the only response. I tried again, louder this time, "Hello! Hello!" This time I heard a soft hiss, and I breathed a sigh of relief. Friends can come in strange forms. But, so can enemies, my mind retorted. "Where am I? What's going on?" I heard the hiss again, louder this time. I waited for a response as I noticed ripples in the water. A shadow moved below the surface, coming closer to the cell. I started to regret my decision. A small, revolting creature sprang out of the water. It was all black with red markings and had a strange shape to it. It had no legs or face, just a blob with long tendrils that drags across the floor. I quickly backed away as it slipped through the bars. It hissed again and jumped towards me. I screeched as I kicked it against the cell wall. It made a terrible splat sound and clung slightly to the wall as it slid down. I stomped on it repeatedly, driving my boot as hard as I could into it until I was certain it was dead. Breathing heavily, I sat down on the opposite side of the room, eyeing it out of the corner of my vision. What in Farore's name IS that thing? I stared for minutes on end, trying to think of some explanation as to what that thing was. Curiosity getting the best of me, I took some stiff straw to get a better look. Who knows, I thought, it might just help me get out of here. I prodded and poked at the ugly mass. Out of habit, I wondered what its value was. What products it could be used for. I shook the thought away. At a time like this, I'm really trying to sell this thing?

          I poked some more and, after much debate, peered closer, almost touching my face to the creature, to look at the markings. They were incredibly similar to those on the dark wall that I passed through earlier. Lost in thought, I pondered how they were connected. I became so involved in my "research" that I used my hand to flip it on its side. It's just a…blob, I thought. I reached towards it again when it twitched.

          I stopped myself from screaming again with a stifling hand, afraid another one might be attracted. Viciously, I stomped on it over and over, never stopping. I already thought the thing was dead once, I wasn't going to risk that again. After feeling the soft squish of it under my boot so many times, I was shocked when my foot suddenly hit solid ground. I had split the vermin in two. It let out one last hiss as the red markings on it faded. A moment later it exploded into dust. I breathed heavily as I backed up against the opposite wall. I slowly sank down on the ground. Never again, I thought.

           I sat in silence, letting my racing heart slow. But it wasn't the peaceful silence that everyone comes to appreciate. It was an eerie, daunting silence so empty you think you've gone deaf. Once I finally calmed down, I stood up stiffly and paced the room, checking every nook and cranny for…anything. Nothing of interest could be found, besides a small dust bunny that resembled a bird. After I had counted all the cracks I could, I finally settled on thinking. I gathered all the good straw I managed to scavenge and made myself as comfortable as I could. I began with why I was in a dungeon, or a jail, or wherever I was. Not one logical answer came up. 

          There must be something about me, or what I did, or who I know, or something. No one else is in this Din forsaken place, I thought. So what is it? A combination of those? I'm just a merchant. I know a hundred others just like me. I don't sell anything special. I don't know anyone that no one else does. I don't do anything out of the ordinary.

          Or was I just in the wrong place at the wrong time? I began to build upon the idea, What, exactly, happened today?

          Or was it even today? How long have I been here...? I stopped for a moment, but decided that it was a question for later. What was important was why. Where. Who. Or what. What was out of the ordinary.... Elise was antsy all day, but we made it to Coro's. We talked, Trill popped up, we fought, did business, and I left. On Ordon Bridge, Elise ran by. No, not "ran by." That's like saying a hurricane just stopped to say "Hello." I hope she's alright. If she kept running, she would have run straight into Ordon. They'll take care of her…Then those monsters showed up and captured me. My head throbbed at the memory. They took me and busted into Ordon Spring, and those kids...oh, those poor kids. Are they okay? Where are they? Oh, may the goddesses protect them...

           "May the goddesses protect me..." I thought out loud, kissing my necklace. The praying gesture soothed my nerves. I started to think out loud. It was comforting to fill the silence with something, even if it was just a soft whisper in the dark. I began to play with my necklace, "We passed through the wall," I shuddered at the thought, "and I blacked out again. Next time I woke up, there was a blue flame. What was that? And the next thing I know is... dungeon." I took a deep breath and let it out slowly as my head began to pound. I groaned, "...why...?" After many hours, I eventually drifted off into sleep with an empty belly and a heavy mind. But before my gripping slumber finally took me, one last thought plagued my conscious. Perhaps…they know what I am.

          I woke up to loud thuds echoing in the hall. The clink of armor rung in my ears. I rose to my feet, leaning as far out as I could to catch a glimpse at my visitor. A figure dressed in long sleeves that went past his hands strode down the hall. Shoulder armor gave way to cloth covered in blue markings, just like that of the vermin and dark wall. What was most intriguing was his helmet. Large, bulbous eyes protruded from the triangular shape and a tongue covered his mouth. Damn, I thought as my stomach growled, no food. Pulling the hood to my cloak up, I sat huddled against the wall again. I pulled my knees to my chest and rested my forehead on my arms, trying to go back to sleep.

         I listened as the footsteps came closer to my cell, waiting for them to pass when they suddenly stopped. From the looks of him, he was obviously high-ranking, and he probably wouldn't say anything. It was best to figure it out on my own. On the other hand, if he's so powerful, why is he stuck with patrol duty? Or escort duty? Did he come for me? My stomach rumbled and I thought bitterly, If he does need me, he'll start talking. I finally looked up when I heard the creaking of metal as the door swung open. Standing up, I looked at him warily as he put his hands, still covered by his clothes, together. A dark orb started to form and I backed away hastily, my heart racing. The air seemed to change as it gained power and grew larger. I flinched as the orb shattered, a burst of power surging from it. I waited for the pain with my eyes squeezed shut, but it never came. In its place I heard the sound of metal hitting the floor as the clasp on my ankle fell.

          I made a break for it.

          Before I could even make it halfway across the room, I felt something slam me against the wall, knocking the breath out of me. I was pinned by an invisible force, being crushed slowly. I couldn't move, couldn't breathe. The agony of it made me cry out, but it came out a strangled grunt. Tears sprung to my eyes as I felt something reach inside my chest and squeeze my heart. A new force smashed into me, doubling the pain. I felt my blood turn cold as I heard a dark laugh. An awful ringing filled my ears as my vision began to darken. No, I thought, This can't be it. I can't be snuffed out by a magic-using coward! I fought to stay alert, but it was an uphill battle. Unexpectedly, the force disappeared, and I fell to my hands and knees on the floor. The air rushed back into my lungs too fast, and I was gasping for breath. A terrible cough racked my body as I sputtered and spit blood. The pain was excruciating; my entire body was on fire. The blood seemed to keep coming until I felt there was more on the floor than in me. Finally, after what would be the longest moments of my life, I lost consciousness.

         I awoke in a luxurious bathroom. A bath took up half the room while an enormous sink and luscious furniture took the other. Beautiful mosaic tiles coated the floors and walls. A gorgeously made stained glass window took up most of a wall, depicting the last incarnations of the Seven Sages. I turned around to the last wall, dominated by a mirror. I found a young girl freshly bathed and clothed in a traditional outfit of the Gerudo. I felt the heat rush to my face as hers turned a bright crimson. I balled my fist and took a breath, trying not to scream in frustration. In a fit of pure rage, my body took control as my fist quickly closed the space between myself and the mirror. A spider web of broken glass spread from my hand. I left my hand in the mirror, feeling the sting of the glass as it embedded itself in my skin. How? Why? The pain felt too real for this to all be a dream.

          I slowly brought out my fist, wincing slightly at the pain. Pieces of glass fell at my feet as I watched the glass push itself out of my hand. My skin knit itself together, leaving no trace of my injuries behind. But the ache was still there. Some enchantment, leaving the pain. Probably on purpose. Looking into the broken shards, I finally took note of my new wardrobe. My brown hair was pulled up into a tight ponytail, with a gold band (worth more than I could make in a lifetime) tying it together. I panicked a little when I realized my necklace was gone, and in its place clasped around my neck was an intricately designed gold band. A short, sleeveless white top exposed my stomach and the symbol of the Gerudo adorned my arm as a gold band. Thin, baggy pants rode low on my hips, and a touch of makeup, just barely noticeable, brightened my eyes. All my previous cuts and bruises were fully healed, not a hint of them to be found.  Why? What's the point in this? They don't know...they can't. I sighed in frustration. I was starving, and my head was pounding. I could still feel the ache all along my body from the skirmish in the cell. So much has happened. It's all going so fast. Time. I need time.

          My thoughts were interrupted as the door behind me swung open. The same man from before stood in the doorway. He paused, and although I couldn't see his face behind the helmet, I knew he was staring at the shattered mirror. "Follow me," he said shortly, "My master prefers you alive, but I'd be happy for the chance to kill you." I was taken aback by his bluntness and whispered underneath my breath, "Bastard." I followed him through the door into a corridor with a soft, velvety red rug and marble floor. Pillars soared above head, reaching towards the high roof. A mural showing the goddesses decorated the ceiling. Elegant torches lined the hall, lighting our way. Looking around, I could see that the same eerie shadows were still present, but they were getting stronger. It was hard to see, even standing right next to a smothered torch. The only light that was useful was the lightning striking outside, the loud rumble of thunder shaking the room. I looked at the tapestries that hung from the walls, squinting to see the crest that lay in its silk. Lightning struck, and for the first time in my life I felt absolute terror. The Triforce stood proudly, a bird wrapping its wings around the three triangles.

          No, it can't be, I thought. My pulse quickened and I felt my chest clench in worry. I looked out of the next window we passed, and my worst nightmares blossomed. Outside in the heavy rain were towers of immense heights with blue roof tiling. Lightning flashed and silhouettes of monstrous birds flew around weather-beaten flags. A thick veil of shadow smeared the land, darkening everything. Without realizing, I had stopped to stare with wide eyes. No, impossible! It can't be...can it? I was lost in thought when I heard the man in front of me chuckle darkly:

          "Welcome to Hyrule Castle."

          I looked at him, enraged. How could this happen? I was just in Castle Town! Everything was fine! There's no way to get an army to overthrow the castle without parading through town.... He turned back and strode down the hall, with an almost unnoticeable spring in his step. He was certainly enjoying this. I felt cornered, panicked. Everything was rushing by so quickly, it was hard to focus. What's wrong with me? I don't usually lose my head like this...I opened my mouth to say something, but quickly shut it. He won't talk. Even if he did, who tells servants everything? Especially one low enough to be put on escort duty. I felt a stinging throb in my chest, an ache reminding me of my "retrieval" from the cell. He may be a low servant, but he undoubtedly has power. We walked in silence down corridors, past doors, and past many knights in black armor. They stood stiffly, never moving, even after we passed. Unnaturally large, it was clear they were not human. Where are the Hylian Guard? The Hylian Knights? The servants? Anyone? I examined every inch of the halls, trying to build a map, but I was still too anxious to focus, and the darkness concealed any doors that we might have passed.

         We entered an outside balcony with a perfect view of Castle Town, the rain pouring down mercilessly. I expected people rushing through the streets to hide from rampaging invaders, soldiers fighting fearlessly to protect the civilians, the screams and cries of frightened children, the sound of clashing metal, fires raging throughout the town. But I saw nothing. The town that surrounded the only entrance to the castle was perfectly...normal. No terrified people. No fighting. No monsters. No fire. What in the name of Farore is going on? I looked one last time at the average day in Castle Town, turning to leave when I noticed a blue fog rolling in the streets. Through the rain and dark, I almost missed it. I tried to get a better look, but it was too difficult when the town was trapped under a shadowy stain. I made my way up the steps behind me and arrived at a massive door carved beautifully out of oak. The man waited patiently for me. With a wave of his hand, it opened ominously.

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