Whumptober 2021- The Darkness I Know
No. 24 - One Down Two To Go
self-induced injuries to escape | flashback | revenge
Fic Summary: After the world as she knew it was destroyed by the corruption of Malice, Zelda allies herself with her saviors from captivity: a disgruntled former governor, an alert paramedic, a cocky pilot, an excessively overt optimist, and a blind strategist. While the corrupted, malice-filled Yiga Clan looks for revenge on them, Zelda has to learn how important it is to find family in others... and how much more dangerous the stakes become if she fails to protect them.
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“Let him go,” Dorian had said to her, his voice low and threatening in the echo of the Yiga hideout. “Let him go or we’ll take him too.”
Zelda shivered in her sleep, his voice all too clear in her mind.
“What’s happening?” Link asked when she loosened her grip on his arms, following Dorian’s orders with a sick feeling in her stomach. He pulled her away firmly, and all the panic she’d kept down burst out in a shriek as Link’s grip had been torn from her. There was no safe presence, no calming voice. He was gone, and she was at the mercy of a group of sadistic cultists.
“Zelda!” he’d cried, trying to get to his feet. But when Zelda watched one of the Yiga grunts pull at his ankle chain, sending him face first onto the ground, she felt a strange sense of determination break through her.
“Link! Leave him alone!”
She’d managed to get an arm free, trying to break away to get to Link, but one of the grunts pulled her by the hair, and smacked her across the cheek. It did nothing but light a fire under Zelda as she struggled against everyone and everything with newfound determination and anger.
When Astor appeared in front of her with Malice in his hands like it were nothing, she finally froze.
“Hold her still, Dorian. And don’t let her take it off.”
“Wha—” she whispered as Dorian locked his hold on her so she could no longer move her arms.. “Let go!” she shrieked, managing to kick out at a small table with a closed box that clattered to the floor.
He nudged the back of her leg, sending her to her knees, and he kept her there.
Astor reached down and grabbed a pin-point sharp knife and held it up for her before coating it in a layer of Malice.
And Zelda realized then that she was dead.
“Dorian! Please! Don’t let him do this! Please! This is going to kill me!”
“It didn’t kill me.”
She could hear Link screaming out for her still, though she couldn’t see him, and all the sounds in her ears suddenly sounded terribly far away.
“I could do this to him instead,” Astor had whispered to her, sliding the knife along her cheek.
Zelda hadn’t been able to help the whimpers that escaped her throat in a purely instinctual panic. They were the sounds of her keeping sobs at bay, of holding her breath so she didn’t scream, as she’d been taught to do her whole life if she were ever threatened like this.
“No. No, please. Not Link.”
“Smart girl. You don’t want him to get all the glory.”
She tossed and turned, balling up into a protective ball, clutching her arm instinctively from her dream.
She’d called Link’s name, though why, she didn’t know. He was as helpless as she was. But when the knife hovered over her skin, she couldn’t contain her panic. It was all sounds and ‘no’ and heavy breathing to the point she thought—and hoped—she’d simply pass out through it all.
She felt every slice of the knife, every dig into her skin. She felt pieces of her torn away and eaten up by the Malice as it coursed over her skin and into her wound like a slithering snake.
She’d begged. No matter how badly she didn’t want to give them the satisfaction, she had done it in the end. She’d tried to appeal to Dorian. But he was not the man she knew.
Somewhere beyond her own screams she could hear her name from Link. He was hoarse, screaming and struggling to no avail.
It was only when a Yiga tied a bandage over the Malice to keep it in that she realized it was over. It stretched on forever as they ensured it did its job thoroughly, and so did Astor’s knife. But nothing had cut deeper than Dorian’s betrayal.
Her eyes shot open, and she rubbed at her arm. It was burning, but nothing new.
Malo Mart was pitch black except for the moonlight that streamed in through glass roof panels.
She was still beside the moblin, and a puddle of their mixed blood had met between them both. Her leg was cut. Her head throbbed. Her arm was acting up. And she was bone tired.
And hungry, but that was another matter entirely.
Blinking heavily, and got a long time, she finally managed to sit up, though it only made the room spin. Putting her head between her legs—an old trick she remembered hearing, but was unsure if it actually worked—she tried to let the dizzy spell pass.
Water. She needed water, and then food. Maybe there was something left somewhere in the store.
But that was when she heard it. The distant sound of whispering, the echo of footsteps.
It wasn’t a moblin, the whispering took most Malice-possessed creatures out of the mix. It couldn’t be a Yiga; she’d have sensed them. No, it was her next biggest fear in this world: strangers.
She fumbled around for a piece of glass again, skimming her hands around until she bumped it. Her fingers closed over the piece, and she felt it cut her slightly where her nerves had her squeezing too hard.
But what if…
What if it were Urbosa, Daruk, Mipha, and Link?
She set the glass down in front of her and waited, hand hovering at the ready.
The footsteps grew louder, and Zelda tucked the glass against her, laying down and pretending to be unconscious again.
“Damn. Look at this blood,” someone whispered. “Something—”
“Shit,” another voice cooed. “That’s a hell of a moblin.”
“And there’s a girl. Think she’s dead.”
“Looks it. Took her down in the end, though.”
“Hrmm. See what she’s got on her and we’ll keep looking around.”
She stiffened at the unfamiliar voices, and her hand was ready to move.
Her eyes flew open, and saw the two unfamiliar men look up, suddenly tense.
“Zelda! Are you in here?”
Their voices rang out with carelessness, and she heard their hoard of footsteps step inside.
“Maybe she’s in the back. Who wouldn’t come in here?” Daruk said.
The men beside her ducked down. “Her?” one whispered to the other.
“Take her shit and let’s go.”
At first, Zelda was tempted to stay as still as she could and to just let them rummage through her pockets. What did she have that would interest them, really?
But the second one touched her, all she could see were the Yiga who’d held her down and carved into her arm for no reason other than to get her to finish some ritual. She saw the devils who burned her village, who killed Revali, who threatened everyone and everything she knew.
Neither were Yiga, dressed instead in warm jackets and hats. One even had some fingerless gloves. But when they touched her, they were no longer human to her. They were Yiga. Yiga who would destroy, and needed to be destroyed.
She heard her name again, this time, from Link’s voice.
And she snapped.
“Link!” she screamed, sitting up and pushing the man off of her. “Urbosa!”
One of the men had the wherewithal to step away, but the other threw himself onto Zelda and covered her mouth. The first saw Zelda flail , reaching for her knife, and dove beside them, pushing it away and holding her hands still.
“Shh! Shhhh!” the man whispered, pressing harder into her mouth. “Shut up!”
Despite the hand muffling her voice, Zelda kept making noise and flailing.
One let go, and she turned over, her eyes rolling back behind her head in pain as something dug into her arm.
“Stop moving! They’ll find us!”
“Just get her up! Let’s go!”
“No! We need whatever she’s got!”
“She was dead a minute ago!”
Her head spun, but she shoved one off of her and managed to get to her knees. But that was as far as she made it.
“Hold her! We need an out, you idiot! Don’t let her fight you.”
“Hold her still, Dorian,” Astor had said. “And don’t let her take it off.”
“Grab a knife! They’re coming!”
“I said hold her! I need my knife!”
Zelda screamed, trying to bite at their hands, to claw with her nails. But everything had piled onto itself. She hadn’t slept or eaten. She was injured again. Her senses had gone from overdrive to barely attentive. She was losing.
Link ran past her, his staff sliding in front of him as fast as he could move.
“Link!” she muffled, but it was enough.
He turned to the sound of her voice, and one of the men got up with their knife. She made a panicked noise, still trying to get the other’s hand off of her, but Link seemed to understand, and he stepped away, his staff protectively in front of him just in time to avoid a haphazard slice.
Then, the hand was off her.
Zelda turned around to see Urbosa ripping the man away from her, throwing him backwards and drawing her sword. He started to stutter in panic.
Zelda wiped her mouth and looked back at Link. “Go left!” she yelled, pushing herself to her feet.
He didn’t hesitate, moving left immediately. The man, however, swung his knife out in the same direction, right towards Link.
Zelda threw herself onto him, sending them both to the ground. He dropped the knife and Zelda pushed it out of reach.
Link followed the sound of the struggle and held his arm out. Zelda grabbed it, and he pulled her to her feet quickly.
There was no time for anything else, because Daruk grabbed the man by the collar and threw him across the floor. “Get out!”
“You’re lucky we’ll let you leave with your life!” Urbosa echoed. “Don’t return!”
Zelda watched them run, and sagged into Link, exhausted. “How did you find me here?”
Urbosa hummed contentedly as she ran a hand through Zelda’s hair. The second time she did it, she examined the blood. “We followed the incredibly obvious trail left by this moblin here. It followed you for a while, didn’t it? You flew far, Little Bird.”
Though Zelda was bone-tired, she still had the energy to pull away from both of their comfort. “Why are you here? I was trying to protect you! The Yiga can track me! They’ll be here soon, I know it!” Get out!”
“Who do you think we are that you can order us away?” Urbosa asked. “We’re not ruffians, or thieves. We’re your family now, Zelda, and you’re ours.”
“Well, letting me in was not safe. Just leave me alone.”
“Will you just stop?” Urbosa snapped. “We found you while we were rescuing Revali. We brought you with us, and Revali blew up their hideout. We made you a target, because we became their target. Sure, that man is after you, but the entire Yiga Clan wants us dead. We killed their leaders, their followers, destroyed their home, ruined their plans. So, maybe you can see past your self-centered martyrdom. If you want to leave because we’re putting you in more danger, that’s a different story. But the Yiga are after us regardless, so don’t think you’re causing us any extra grief. Revali’s death was tragic, and I’d give the world for him back, but he brought this on himself when he set the dominos up and knocked them down. He hoped he’d get out of the way, but he didn’t. We’re all just waiting now to see if we’ll be hit by the repercussions.”
Daruk and Mipha watched with sympathetic expressions, but they were both hardened in solidarity. They agreed with Urbosa, as much as they felt for Zelda.
“They can find us because of me, though.”
Mipha stepped forward this time. “They’ve always found us, Zelda. You were probably never exposed to it because Dorian was in your village, but they find whoever they want. They took Sidon from me before we met. I had to get him back when we all gathered at the rendezvous. I got him out with someone else once Kakariko fell because I’m the one who isn’t safe, not him. Because I’m part of the team who takes the Yiga down. I gave up my little brother, my only blood family left, to keep him safe from me. You are not leading them to us, regardless of if they can sense you or not, because they’ve always been there.”
Zelda turned to Link to see if he had anything to say. But he just stood there silently, leaning against his staff with his head turned away.
Daruk looked between them and stepped forward, gently guiding Zelda away from Link by the shoulder. “You don’t look great. Let’s see if there’s anything here we can all eat, and maybe a… well… you need new clothes.”
She followed Daruk, but looked over her shoulder to see Mipha with Link, and Urbosa examining some of the things on the ground from their struggles.
“He’s been nervous,” Daruk said when they were far enough away. “And angry with himself.”
“Why angry?” Zelda asked, limping behind. Daruk slowed down for her.
“He didn’t even know you were gone. He’s feeling useless, which isn’t something he’s used to. He knows his limitations, but he also knows where he can be a great asset, so this feeling isn’t something that he’s dealing with well.”
Zelda was going to say something, to let an apology slip from her lips, but she couldn’t. She’d done it for his sake, and she wasn’t sorry that she’d tried to protect him… all of them, really.
“I’m not asking you to feel bad,” Daruk muttered when Zelda didn’t say anything more. “Just want ya’ to know where he’s coming from.”
“I do feel bad. I don’t want him hurt, but better hurt than dead.”
Daruk sighed again, heavier and more defeated. “Here are some clothes that look like they’ll fit you.”
He left her alone, heading back to the others, and Zelda sifted through the clothes. Thankfully, whenever the store was last seriously looted seemed to be warmer weather, because there were no shorts, but there were sweaters. She grabbed a blue sweater, a pair of black jeans, a few shirts for layers, a bubble vest, socks, boots, gloves, and a hat all from around the store.
She’d gone into the back rooms, and thankfully, one of the sinks still worked, so she stripped all her bloodied clothes off and began to wash up, scrubbing as best she could and changing into her new clothes. Inside Malo Mart was a bit warmer thanks to the sunroof and walls, so she carried her vest and hat as she wandered the store.
Urbosa was grabbing clothes for everyone while wheeling a shopping cart around. She smirked in Zelda’s direction, though it didn’t meet her eyes. “Some normalcy at last. Daruk is checking the food.”
Zelda nodded and pressed her hands to her eyes. “I could use some.”
“We can hunt if there’s nothing.”
She was off to another rack, and Zelda was left alone again in the giant store.
Malo Mart used to be one of her favorite stores before the Malice. She’d go between classes when she had an hour gap and there was one near her campus, but that had done a number on her credit card.
How long had the bills been delivered to her house before they’d finally stopped?
Aimlessly wandering into the hardware section, she started grabbing random items that looked interesting. A box of nails, some tools, a basket to carry things in, random things. She shuddered when she realized that she felt just a bit weaker on this end of the store, as opposed to the side with the moblin, but at least she knew she wasn’t going to pass out anymore. Not from that, anyway. Her head wound, maybe, but not because of the Malice.
Making her way back to the front of the store, she dropped her things off near Mipha. “I’m going outside for air. And no, I’m not running, if anyone asks.”
“Okay,” Mipha said kindly before staring off at Link where he stood beside Urbosa as she held shirts in front of him. “I’ll tell them.”
The air felt good on her face now that she wasn’t running though it for her life. The maze was easier to maneuver through, and she sat on the hood of a car that looked severely dead, one that wouldn’t set the alarm off, at least.
There was another car with the hood open, and Zelda slid off after sitting for a whole three seconds. She peeked into the gears, and smiled sadly to herself. She was no car mechanic, but it was something familiar to her. She was the one people had gone to back home when she and Dorian had been the two who fixed everything, keeping their village running.
She slid her hand over the cold, unused metal, and hissed. Goddess, it was all so frustrating, she wanted to explode.
Her skin had to be more fragile since the Malice, because her hand was bleeding again. At this point, she simply rolled her eyes and hoped that her shots from before the Malice were still good. But she dug her hand inside again, and pulled at various pieces of metal, scrap, in this case, that wouldn’t have much other use just sitting in the car.
She froze, her eyes scanning the car before running back into the store to grab some tools.
“Zelda, your hand is—”
She ran back outside with a newfound purpose, and started taking more bits apart, piling them up until she had everything she wanted. She was careful, and was out there longer than she realized. But then again, cold was something she was used to now.
Setting her things down, she sat where Mipha had been, though the area was now empty, and got to work.
Link felt warm in his new clothes. Warmer than he had been, and with the weather steadily getting colder, he welcomed the sweat on his brow that was fixed by removing his knit cap.
Zelda was loudly tinkering with something metallic, setting things down with an echo, twisting knobs with the clicks of a socket wrench, wandering the aisles to grab more things before returning to her spot.
He didn’t have the heart to sit with her though. Not yet. Just hearing her was enough for him, hearing that she was here, safe. But he couldn’t talk to her. Not now.
“Have another,” Mipha said, handing him a third granola bar. They’d found a box in the back, with several bars in perfect condition. Among other things, this was the easiest to prepare.
They’d packed what they could, and Zelda had gathered her own oddities that she wanted to bring with her in a significantly heavier backpack this time.
“Give her one,” Mipha whispered, slipping an extra granola bar into his hand.
“Just hold it out. But do it. She was shaken, you’re shaken. You both miss each other. Just give her the food as a peace offering.”
Link’s fingers wrapped around it, but his hand shook. “I don’t think I can.”
He hesitated and turned away. “I don’t know if I can get close to her again, knowing that she’s going to bolt every three seconds. I can’t just not know if she’s dead for days at a time, or if she’d taken off, or if she’s just gone somewhere to get a drink. I don’t want to be obsessed with her, but I’m going to be. She ripped off the band-aid when she snuck away in the night. Maybe we’re meant to keep it this way.”
“Oh please,” Mipha scoffed, giving him a little push. “Don’t be like Sidon. Go talk to her, either way. Figure it out rather than hiding from her.”
He rolled his eyes and sighed.
The tapping of his staff had Zelda turning in surprise even before he was close to her. He’d done everything to stay away form her, that his presence nearby was even a shock.
“Link,” she said, if only so he knew how far she was.
He stopped beside her, his staff hitting her knee before he could crash.
Clearing his throat, he held the granola bar out. “This is for you. In case you’re still hungry.”
She took it carefully, like touching his hand would set off an alarm. “Thank you.”
“Wait!” she called, before he could back away. “Do you want to sit?”
“I don’t know. Yes and no.”
She sighed and rubbed her eyes. “I’m sorry.” It came out far easier than she thought it would. With Daruk, the words were next to impossible. She wasn’t sorry. But seeing Link hesitant to even be near her had broken that down in an instant. She stood up and moved in front of him. “Can we talk?”
“Zelda, I’m tired,” he whispered. “I haven’t slept since you… since the other day.”
“I can tell,” she mused without humor, looking at the bags under his eyes. They told the story far more than he could have in that moment.
“Go ahead,” he sighed, waiting.
She didn’t want to waste any time beating around the bush this time. “I’m sorry. I took off, and I didn’t tell you. That, I am sorry for. But I knew if I did, you’d stop me. You’d get everyone to stop me. And I needed you to be safe from me. After what I did to Revali, I couldn’t let that happen to you.”
“Oh, you stabbed him? You made him bleed out internally? Is that… did I miss that part? The part where you did that to him?”
“He got me out of there, and he died because of me.”
“My parents died because of me, by that logic. I helped anger the Yiga, and they took it out on Kakariko. My parents, my friends, my village. It was all my fault. I should go away, then.”
“No, that’s not…”
“It sounds ridiculous when someone else says it about themselves, doesn’t it?” he breathed, trying to control himself. He grit his teeth to keep tears from spilling, because despite his anger and annoyance, he was beyond relieved that he was talking to her. So relieved that he didn’t know how else to express it.
“I did it because I love you. Is that the worst reason?”
“Maybe.” He grabbed her elbow before sliding down into her hand. “I love you. And, maybe television and books made me so naïve to the realities of it, but when I realized I’d do anything for you, I thought that was it. That’s the great love story. But I didn’t realize just how painful and hard it would be to understand that you feel the same way. It’s easy to throw yourself into danger for someone else. It’s harder to see that they’re willing to do it too. So I’m sorry. I’m not sure if I can stop myself from being angry that you did it—not right this second, anyway—but I understand.”
“I get that.”
Link brought her hand to his lips and held it there, not quite a kiss, but enough. When he lifted his head, he was determined. “Can I ask you to promise me one thing?”
“If… if you’re going to run. If you can’t be with us, if it overwhelms you, whatever it might be… if you need to leave because you think it has to happen, tell me first. I’ll help you leave. I’ll sneak you away and I won’t look back if that’s what you need, but I want to know. I thought you were just safe in the woods, but hours later, you were gone. I just want to know next time, if there is a next time. I won’t talk you out of it. I won’t ask questions. I’ll understand after a while because I understand you. Please, can you promise me that?”
Zelda stretched her face in an attempt to stop her tears. She could see them in Link’s eyes, and that never helped. “Yes. I can promise that.”
They kept at a comfortable distance the rest of the day. It wasn’t forced or strained, and the tension had faded significantly. Everyone had taken turns napping, and Zelda kept herself busy with her tasks.
After eating again, they all settled a bit further from Zelda’s area, at her request.
The sky outside had darkened with oncoming rain again, and they’d each bundled up for the cold night.
“This spot taken?” Zelda asked, kneeling beside Link.
He smirked and shook his head, patting the ground. They shared a heavy coat as a blanket. Link had rolled something under his head as a pillow and offered to share it, but Zelda opted to half throw herself onto him, using him as her pillow instead. She could tell he didn’t mind from the way he practically purred. His hand ran up and down her back, and it didn’t take much effort for Zelda to understand that he was calming himself more than soothing her, or even flirting. His hand found her skin when her shirt rode up, and still, she couldn’t find him seeking anything more than grateful awareness that she was still there.
She reached up and kissed him, slow and deliberate, and on any other day, in any other situation, it might have gone further. He eagerly returned her attentions, but there was a distinct tiredness in both their movements.
“Goodnight,” she whispered as she pulled away, returning to her spot on his chest. His hand tightened on her shirt, and she hesitated, kissing him once more before settling herself down. “Sleep. I promised you, I won’t disappear.”
His hand relaxed and returned to its pattern from earlier. He mumbled something, but she didn’t catch it, instead closing her eyes in peace.
Apparently, though, the universe thought peace was overrated.
Hours later, while the store was pitch dark without a hint of light, Zelda’s eyes flew open. The patter of rain on the glass roof was the only sensation she had until she felt around for Link, who’d rolled in the night and she’d been on his arm.
She grabbed his shoulder and tapped his chest repeatedly, causing him to sit up with a gasp.
“What is it?”
For a long moment, she couldn’t find words in her throat. They’d stuck in there in her panic. And when she found them, they were garbled. “They’re… and I can… if you want. But soon…”
“Stop, slow down.” He held her tightly again as a sense of understanding passed over him. “You’re going?”
“They’re going to be here soon. It’s strong. I can feel them coming. I should go. I need to go.”
Link rubbed the sleep from his eyes. “Do you know how soon?”
“No. But not long. I think I slept through most of it. It’s a heavy presence, like, like breathing on your neck.”
“Come on, then. If that’s what you want, let’s get you out.”
Zelda felt him move, grabbing his things. But she felt strength inside her, the likes she hadn’t felt before she’d been cursed by this Malice. She grabbed his arm to stop him, her heart beating in her throat.
He grabbed his staff and felt her hand tighten on him. “They’re already here, aren’t they?”