Link snagged at the rail of the circular stairway and looked up the tower to see the door at the top of the stairs close. A bolt on the other side of the door rumbled into position. "Bolted from the outside?" Link asked himself.
Fheredin stepped out of the hallway just as Link started to clamber up the stairs. It'd take a while- it was five flights.
Link came to the door with Fheredin panting behind. Link pushed at the door. It didn't budge.
"It's bolted from the outside," Fheredin heaved.
"I can see that," Link hissed.
"Why would...someone...make a door that could... be bolted from the outside?! It goes against all sense of securing a castle." Fheredin was starting to regain his breath.
"Doesn't matter." Link said. "Now we know they're up to something."
"I know. But we can't get through." Fheredin indicated the door. "We'll have to go down and find another way. There's probably another flight up in the next tower."
"No time." Link looked around furiously. "If this door can be bolted from the outside, so can the rest. I'm sure they can bolt all of the rest of them a lot faster than we can go down this set of stairs, find another way up, then get onto the roof." Link's eyes stopped at Fheredin's hip. "Your dagger," he said, extending his hand.
Fheredin pulled it out and handed it to Link, who drew his own sword. He slid their blades into the narrow gaps on either side of the door just under the shadow of the bolt and lifted, then pushed the handles up to angle the blades downward.
The bolt clattered to the ground.
"Nice," Fheredin said.
"I've done this before." Link handed Fheredin the dagger and opened the door. To his amazement, the door swung open to the left. "A left-handed door?" There was no time to contemplate.
Down the slope of the roof in the three foot gutter, two figures -both in black cloaks- were crouched. One was crouched around a crossbow. The other wheeled around. He wore a black mask with no features. A blank sheet of plaster.
He slapped his partner's shoulder and grabbed a spear cached in the gutter and stuck the point between Link and Fheredin and himself.
Link patted Fheredin on the shoulder and pointed to the other side of the gutter. "We'll sandwich them."
Fheredin nodded and started off towards the other side of the gutter.
Link slid down the tile shingles into the gutter. The spear thrust between his legs and Link rolled away, casting away his shield.
The spearman lunged and Link snagged the shaft. The spearman dragged it back, trying to recover and free the point for another attack. Link leaned forward and stabbed.
The spearman collapsed.
"Link!" Fheredin called out. "Help!"
Link looked around to see Fheredin clawing at the edge of the gutter, clinging on with his fingertips. "I'm comin'!" Link snagged Fheredin's wrist and started pulling, heaving, and finally yanked Fheredin back onto the roof.
"What happened? Did you stop the crossbowman?" Link grunted.
"I pushed him just as he shot. I think I threw his aim a bit." Fheredin gasped as they rolled apart. "He jumped off as soon as I pushed him. Tried to drag me with 'im."
Link looked over the court. The royal booth was exactly opposite them. There was a great commotion over there. "It'd be suspicious for us to leave." He flopped back onto the roof. "We should wait for the guards."
Fheredin flopped down onto the roof a pace or so from Link and laughed to himself between his gasps for air.
"What's so funny?"
"I bet it's not every day you stop an assassination. Even for you."
Link smiled. "Yeah. I guess not."
"Whoa!" The guard grabbed Link by the collar of his tunic. "What's a couple of warts like you two doin' here?"
Link sighed and dug into his tunic for Zelda's letter. "Here," he said, handing it to the guard. "This is Fheredin. He's helping me for the moment."
"This is Link," The guard read. "He is under my orders to conduct an independent investigation on the attack on my person. Signed, Zelda." The guard bust out laughing. "All right, All right. You can go. It's just I don't have a clue what the princess is thinkin', sendin' a couple of warts to do what oughta be left to the professionals." He giggled to himself.
"I'm no wart," Link growled, indicating to the guard he had still not stood aside. "I'm two years over the age of accountability."
The guard shifted to the side. "So you're twelve. Big Deal. You're still a wart to me."
Link started for the stairs, then turned back to the guard. "Oh, one more thing. How many doors up to the roof up there are there besides this one?"
"Well, there are lots of doors to the roofs, wart," The guard said, "but for this little stretch of roof in particular? Just one. All the way down the hall. There's a guard down there, too."
Link smiled and resumed climbing the stairs.
"Refresh my memory," Fheredin began, "why can't we just go to the coroner so I can get back my dagger and get out of your hair?"
"All in good time," Link said. "In the mean time, you were up on the roof with me, I need you with me for this, too. Now..." Link came to the door and opened it. The bolt still lay on the ground exactly where it had fallen.
"Funny," Fheredin sighed. "I would've expected somebody to be up here." He waved at the roof.
Link shrugged. "The Castle Guard's investigation came and went yesterday."
"...Are you looking for anything in particular?" Fheredin asked.
Link eyed over the doorpost. "Not really. Just anything out of the ordinary. Why? You in a hurry to do something?"
"Yes. I'd like my dagger and I'd like to get out of town."
"Why? Someone have it out for you?"
"Here," Fheredin sighed. "Take this door. Doors open inward so you can bolt them from the inside so that you're nice and safe on the inside...and no one can get in. This door, as you can, opens outward. It's been fixed. It was an inside job. And if it hadn't been for your royal buddies, I'd wager we'd be takin' the fall for them right now. I don't know about you, but I don't care to take the fall for any traitor. The sooner I'm out of town, the better."
"Maybe, maybe not." Link looked at the door. "First off, the door might just've been put in wrong and the assassins took advantage of it. Why don't you go to the other side," Link indicated the door on the other side "and find out if it's the same way?"
Fheredin shrugged and started walking off to the far side of the roof segment.
Link knelt down just inside the door and ran his hand down the door-post. There were three little holes on the top and three little holes on the bottom. "Just where I thought you would be," he whispered to himself.
"Yep." Fheredin called from the other side, starting back towards Link. Link hastily stood up and brushed off his hand. "That door's the same way. Opens outward, not inward. Has a bolt, too."
"Well, that just about does it for me. Let's be off to see the coroner." Link started down the stairs.
Fheredin blinked in surprise before following.
"Mr. Guard," Link said when he got to the bottom. "We're all done."
"That was fast."
Link nodded. "One last thing. Can you direct me to the Coroner?"
"The Coroner, eh? He's down in Castle Town. West block, office ten nintey seven."
"Thank you." Link hastened off. It took a moment for Fheredin to catch up. "What did you make of what we found up there?" Link suddenly asked.
"It confirmed my suspicion there was inside help, if that's what you mean. Two doors aren't put in backwards by accident. I was a little suprised by how quickly you finished up there, but I'm not complaining, either. Sooner I can leave, the better."
"Right conclusion, wrong reason." Link said. "When we first went up, I noticed that the door opened up from the left. Almost all doors in Hyrule open from the right."
Fheredin looked at Link with a curious expression.
"I'm left-handed. I notice this kind of thing." Link explained. "In any case, when we were up there again, I saw two sets of three holes on the side of the door we went in."
"...I don't get it." Fheredin sighed.
"Someone flipped the door around. The hinges were originally on the inside. Now they're on the outside on the other side. The doors were fixed, to be sure, so they did have inside help, but it was such an elementary way and in such an insecured spot...anybody who could get into the castle could've done it."
"For being twelve, you sure seem to know a lot about what you're doing," Fheredin said.
"I've done this kind of thing before."
"So you keep saying. When? Where? Is that how Zelda knows you? Is that why she's trusting you this time?"
"...It's a long story."
"...It's a long story. What about you? Do you really think it's best to just disappear?"
"I'm just a peasant drifter," Fheredin sighed pessimistically. "I had dreams of being a swordsman who could wander the land helping people...once. Got a teacher who did that, too, even....for a while. Then he died. Too inexperienced to know what I was doing. Too old for anyone to be interested in teaching me a new trade from scratch. I know how to survive. That's about it."
Link nodded. "Surviving is about all you'll ever do if you keep running."
Fheredin glared at Link.
"Think about it. That insider scape-goating you that you're so afraid of happening? He could just be some bribed cook's assistant. Could be a threat. Could be 't's all in your head. Run now, and you'll always think there's a target on your back. Help me find the culprits, though, and you'll know for for sure what you're up against, at least. Possibly even get rid of that target forever."
"Who are you?! I mean seriously, what kind of twelve year old are you?!"
"It's a long story. Oh, look. We're here." Link pointed to the door. "Office ten nintey seven."
Oni Link wrote:
Twenty years ago, Claire Wolfe said: "It's too late the work within the system, but too early to shoot the bastards."
That's about to change me thinks.
"Plato is my friend, Aristotle is my friend, but my greatest friend is truth." -Sir Isaac Newton