((LEGAL STUFF: Link, Zelda, Impa, and the other game-based characters are property and copyrights of Nintendo. No infringement intended. No profit made--these stories are purely for reader enjoyment. The new characters introduced here are mine, purely fictional--do not use them without my permission! Any similarities to events and persons in reality or other peoples' stories are purely coincidental. Thank you for your patience.))

The Legend of Zelda: Journey to the Past
by Becky Tailweaver

Chapter 11: Impossible Escape

Jared was right. Link wasn't going to do anything stupid.

He heard the moment the guard took up a post outside his door; the man's heavy step and low breathing alerted him. But he hadn't planned on the door, anyway. It was far too obvious and was likely to get him caught. He sat on his bed for several hours in the dark of his room before moving, waiting for the house to go quiet in sleep. Then he went to work preparing.

Link carefully finished dressing in his old Sheikah ensemble behind his locked bedroom door. Determined to rescue Idek somehow, he was fully prepared to deal with the consequences. He had his bow on, as well as his belt pouches full of various useful items. Once he was ready, he double-checked his equipment, made sure the guard was still unheeding outside his door, and headed for the window.

The storm howled outside--it was going to be cold, wet, and very unpleasant. Link steeled himself and slowly opened the window.

The wind blew, ruffling the curtains out. Luckily, his room was on the lee side of the hall, so not so much freezing rain poured in. Link already had his turban, muffler, and cloak pulled tight around him, so he stepped up on the windowframe and pulled the pane shut behind him. Squinting through the pounding rain, getting soaked already, he asessed his situation. He didn't think it was stupid at all.

Nope, not stupid, the half-Sheikah thought wryly. Just suicidal.

Gripping the rough stone, Link began to work his way along the wide window niche towards the tiny ledge that ran level with the bottom of the windows. His fingers were already numb when he tried to grip the stone wall; maneuvering his toes along the three-inch ledge while keeping his weight against the wall was torture on his calves.

Easy, easy, he cautioned himself. This isn't any worse than facing Ganondorf.

It occurred to him that he had faced Ganondorf to save the world; he was creeping along this ledge just to save his uncle, a Sheikah stranger he didn't even know.

He passed by two windows on his torturous trek. The third he finally peeked into and ensured that the room was empty. He'd discovered that days ago, but only needed to reassure himself. He pulled himself into the window niche and used his dagger on the lock. It didn't take long before he was in.

Once inside, Link closed the window and hustled to the fireplace. He hung his cloak on the stone mantel to prevent having to carry it through the house, leaving a wet trail wherever he went. His tunic and the rest of his clothes were only a little damp around the edges.

Slowly, ever so slowly, Link pushed open the chamber door and peeked down the hall. He was in the last room on the corner, just before the turn that led to Jared's hall. The stairway was just around the corner...but the guard was just down the hall.

Too bad I don't have any invisibility magic, Link grumped silently as he eyeballed the distance between himself and the guard. He waited, unmoving, with the patience of a hunting cat. Finally, the guard shifted his weight and turned his head away from Link's position. Silent, Link slid out the door and around the corner. The guard never heard a thing.

On cat's feet, Link padded down the darkened stairway, heading for the back of the castle and the great doors that led to the dungeon. Twice a passing butler nearly spotted him, but he hid in the shadows. Guardsmen usually missed him on their prescribed routes, as he ducked into corners.

It all very nearly came to an end when he almost ran into Rishto and four guards that were pacing the hallways. Rishto was issuing snappy orders in regards to new watches to defend against Sheikah as he went, the men saluting and "Yes, sir-ing" the whole way. Link ducked into a shadowy alcove behind a suit of armor and didn't breathe until all of them were gone and out of earshot.

It took him roughly fifteen minutes to sneak past the kitchen hall to the thick, heavy doors that led to the dungeon. Luckily, the giant doors didn't creak when he pulled one open and slid through. Now the atmosphere changed from a pleasant, sleeping castle to cold, stony darkness. Only a couple torches flickered in the dim hallway and down the steep stone staircase. At the bottom, he paused before rounding the corner, alerted by men's voices in the guardroom beyond.

He peered beyond the stone for a bare second. There were two of them, laughing and talking softly over bread, wine, and cheese. Only two guardsmen--he breathed a sigh of relief. He had just such a weapon for that.

Link reached to his belt and drew up a small, light leather pouch. Cautious, he sprinkled some of the dusty, faintly green powder into his hand. It was snoozeblossom pollen, straight from the Lost Woods of the North--very difficult to come by, but extremely useful. He'd had it in his arsenal since coming South, but had had no reason to use it.

It only took a small handful of the stuff, but it nearly used up his supply. In concentrated, water-bourne doses, the powder could be lethal. If a large amount were snuffed, it produced a very long-lasting narcotic coma. Inhaling a tiny amount of the air-bourne particles, however, induced harmless sleep. All the Kokiri knew to avoid those areas of the forest where snoozeblossoms grew during the spring.

Link held up his small handful, careful not to inhale save through his mask. Drawing down his mask quickly, he puffed it into the air towards the guardsmen before ducking back around the corner. Carefully securing his facecloth over his mouth and nose, he settled in to wait out the pollen's effects.

It took less than five minutes. The men snored face-down on the table as though passed-out drunk. Link waited for another few minutes to allow the pollen to settle out of the air, then kept his mask on as he hurried in to search the sleeping men for their dungeon keys. One of them had a keyring with only two keys on it; Link snatched it up and hurried to the prison door. The first key didn't work, but the second snapped the lock open and let him in.

Luckily, the dungeon was empty save its single prisoner. Link stepped down the few stairs and across the straw-strewn floor, stepping over carelessly left chains and manacles. He soundlessly approached the hunched form of the Sheikah in the far corner, feeling inexplicably nervous.

The Sheikah jumped around when he touched the man on the shoulder. "Who--?" His eyes widened at the sight of the youth crouched beside him.

Link frantically shushed him. "You'll bring this whole place down on us!" he warned in a whisper. "Don't worry--I'm a friend."

Idek blinked at him. "You...you're Sheikah...?" His voice was thick with the Sheikah accent.

Link nodded, taking up the man's wrists and seeing if any of the keys would work on his chains. "I am the one you seek," he explained quickly. "I'm Link. My mother is Impa."

"How did you--?"

"I know Impa wouldn't abandon me," Link half-lied with a frown; neither of the keys worked. "Do the guards have keys for these manacles?"

"Only Rishto has the keys for these chains," Idek explained, standing up. "You would have to fight him to free me."

"Not necessarily." Link's brow creased in concentration as he stood and gripped the two chains that bound Idek just above the manacles. This was going to take some effort, and he'd never really tried it, but...

Idek managed a gasp of surprise as the iron chains began to heat, then glow. Unearthly flame licked about Link's fingers as the youth strove to contain the Fire he'd called up, struggling to keep it from expanding outward and killing his uncle, to keep it confined to his hands and forced into the iron. The iron turned white-hot, and Idek grunted at the heat that seeped painfully through his manacles.

Panting, Link finally relinquished his grip, hissing as his hands released the semi-molten metal. "Pull!" he rasped. Idek shook himself out of his surprise and leaned his full weight against the heated metal. The iron stretched slightly and broke.

"That...was incredible..." Idek began.

"Din's Fire," Link explained tersely, cradling his hands. Despite gripping metal that could have come from a smith's forge, his fingers sported only minor burns, just enough to blister the skin.

They doused Idek's hot chains in a dirty bucket of water in one corner, and Link cooled his injured hands. Idek was worried about the hiss of steam alerting the guards, but Link assured him that all of them in the prison anteroom were asleep over their meals.

"You'll have to get some help for those manacles," Link said tiredly as he finished cooling his hands. "I can't do more."

"You've done enough," Idek said thankfully. "Do you know a way out?"

Link nodded and led the way back up through the dungeon hall. As the two crept along the main corridor towards the great doors that led to the courtyard, Idek watched Link out of the corner of his eye. "Are you coming with me? You must want to escape as much as I."

"I'm not a prisoner here," Link corrected. "But I can't leave yet."

"I see." Idek looked skeptical. "In that case, is there a message you'd like me to convey to your mother?"

"Tell her I'm alright," Link replied softly. "Tell her I've found him. Tell her I'm sorry and I understand now what she meant. Tell her I...I...I'll come soon."

Idek glanced at the boy again. "I will."

"And...if she still has it, would you ask her to find some way of getting her eye-stone to me? She'll know what I mean."

"It shall be done."

"Thank you." Link pulled up short of the main doors. "Right out the front. Can you get out from here?"

Idek grinned at him. "Once I was free of those chains, I could have escaped easily. Thank you, Nephew."

Link grinned back, unable to help it. "I'll see you---"

It took him by surprise when Idek suddenly shoved him backwards. He fell through the doors of one of the anterooms and lay surprised, staring up at his uncle. Loud voices down the hall startled him--Idek had heard the guards' approach and sought to preserve Link's anonymity in this escape. The guards shouted; Idek winked at him and plunged through the main doors, out into the night. Link heard Rishto's enraged voice in the hall. Shouts issued from the guards, and outside there was more yelling. One of the guards in the hall stuck his head in the anteroom--but Link had already hidden himself behind a tapestry. Rishto and the guards ran out the door into the storm after Idek.

Link grabbed his opportunity to sprint down the hall towards safety. He pulled a turn into the stairway and bolted up it, keeping his footsteps quiet. He nearly barreled around the corner to his room when he remembered the guard and pulled up short.

He peeked around the corner. The guard was alert, and looking towards the stairway corridor--in his direction. Uh-oh!

* * * * *

Rishto was furious at losing the shadowy Sheikah that darted into the darkness of the courtyard and vanished. He ordered his men to spread out and search the entire area, not leaving one haystack unprodded. The stables, the forge, the barracks--everything was to be turned upside-down. The storm would not stop them; the men would stay out until the Sheikah was found. Freezing rain be damned, Rishto wouldn't allow an assassin to ruin all his plans.

As he strode back towards the house, he looked up at the windows on the upper floors. They were dark, most of them. In the late hours of the night few folk were up and about. But what if there were more people around? What if the Sheikah had had help from the inside?

A nagging suspicion began to form in the back of his mind. The Sheikah couldn't have escaped on his own...could he? Rishto had locked those manacles himself. No mortal man could have escaped without the keys--or without help. Frowning, he put his lieutenant in charge and headed back for the front door. He needed to check up on a certain half-breed who was currently under suspicion.

His footsteps were loud on the stone floor at the base of the stairs.

* * * * *

Finally, the guard grew antsy and glanced down. Link flitted around the corner and through the door in a moment, closing it softly behind him. He swung on his still-damp cape and tied it tightly around himself as footsteps echoed in the hallway outside. Uh-oh...someone's come to check...I guess it's once more into the storm, he thought, opening the window and stepping out into the freezing rain once more.

* * * * *

The guard jumped to alert and saluted when a very cold, wet Rishto approached. The captain waved away the respect. "Any news?" he inquired briskly.

"No, sir," the guard reported dutifully. "He's been quiet as a mouse all evening. Not a peep. He hasn't even stirred out his door."

Rishto gazed at the closed door, feeling that nagging suspicion return again, growing stronger by the minute. He reached for the door handle--but it was locked. Frowning, Rishto reached for his key ring and tried to remember which key it was that opened the rooms in this hall.

* * * * *

Link scrambled back in his window and locked it behind him. He didn't dare light a candle with the people just outside his door talking. He was pretty sure that the jangling of keys meant someone was coming in.

He frantically struggled out of his wet cloak, throwing it to the floor. Stripping to the skin, he stacked his Sheikah clothes and his weapons with his cloak and shoved the whole pile under the bed, using the ruffles to hide the evidence of their presence. He prayed that he left no noticeable puddles anywhere and that his room would seem in order. He dug his nightclothes out from under his pillow and pulled them on, diving under the covers and closing his eyes as the doorknob turned and the door creaked open.

* * * * *

Rishto, holding a borrowed candlestick from a light in the hall, crept into the half-breed's bedroom and raised his light high. There he was...right there in the bed.

Scowling, the captain came close to the bedside, holding his candle so that the small golden flame lit the youth's face for observation. He was sound asleep, Rishto observed, his face as peaceful and innocent as a babe's. The boy reminded him of Lyon in his younger days, just as Jared did. Frowning, he leaned closer.

Yes...this boy definitely resembled Lyon closely, though there were slight differences in the length of his nose and the shape of his jaw. He didn't look like a Sheikah at all with his eyes closed. One could never tell if it weren't for those devilish red eyes.

Rishto drew back with an invisible shudder. The youth's face made him uneasy; he looked far too much like Lyon for it to be a coincidence. Just another intractable mystery to solve, this northern youth. He'd figure it out, and when he did the boy would die, just like every other obstacle.

But Rishto was also angry. He had an escaped Sheikah running about and his first suspect was completely innocent. It would have been nice to get rid of the half-breed so easily had he been involved, but he was still here in his bed sleeping the emergency away.

Angered, Rishto strode out of the room, closing the door behind him. Damn Sheikah must have picked the locks somehow. "Don't leave this post until you're relieved," he ordered the hapless guard.

"Aye, sir."

* * * * *

Link slipped one eye open, sighed deeply, and settled back down to sleep for real. This time, a faint smile graced his features.

* * * * *

The next morning, Rishto was even more furious than before. First he had to figure out how the Sheikah got out of a dungeon door locked from the outside. He had to puzzle out why two of his best, most responsible guards had passed out drunk in their wine. He most wanted to know how the Sheikah man could have melted his iron shackles like a foundry furnace and torn them asunder to escape!

To Be Continued...