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Finally, Link enters the Palace of Winds to confront Vaati for one last showdown. Link is triumphant in defeating Vaati and escapes the now collapsing Palace of Winds with Zelda. However, infuriated by the failure of his plans, Ganon appears and enters battle with Link and Zelda. In the titanic struggle that followed, Ganon was brought down thanks to the teamwork between Link, his clones, and Zelda. Ganon is then sealed in the Four Sword by help of the maidens, and to prevent anyone from further tampering with the blade, a magical barrier is cast over it for protection.

Link then turns back to normal as he returns the blade, and Hyrule celebrates the return to peace. The Picori Blade is given to the Hero of Men. The blade was encrusted with green crystals, one each on the middle and end of the hilt, while the hilt itself was purple and very similar in design to that of the Master Sword.

However, unlike the Master Sword, the Picori Blade was gifted to the Hero of Men by the Minish in their time of need; according to legend, leagues of evil threatened the existence of Hyrule during the War of the Bound Chest. When all hope seemed lost, the Minish race, called Picori by Hylians , descended from the sky, bringing with them the Picori Blade, which they gifted to the Hero; the Picori had also brought the "golden light" known as the Light Force.

Using the combination of the two, the Hero sealed the legions of monsters inside the Bound Chest , kept locked by the Picori Blade itself. In remembrance of the event, a large fair and sword-fighting tournament is held each year by the Hylians to honor the Picori. Link's grandfather, Smith , blacksmith to the Royal Family of Hyrule , asks of Link to deliver a sword he forged to the Royal Family after finishing their time at the festival. After a short visit to the Picori Festival, the duo arrives at Hyrule Castle, just in time to witness to the winner of the tournament, Vaati, receive the honor of touching the Picori Blade.

However, Vaati attacks the guards flanking the Bound Chest and forces his way to the chest, shattering the sacred blade, breaking it in two. As he does so, the Bound Chest opens, releasing the monsters into Hyrule once again; when Princess Zelda defends her father, King Daltus , from the monsters, Vaati turns Zelda to stone with a curse, believing her to possibly cause more trouble in the future, and Link is knocked out in the process. Hoping to find the sacred Light Force inside, Vaati peers into the open chest and finds nothing.

Disappointed, Vaati then flees the area after reinstating to himself that the power he seeks is out there somewhere, and he will eventually find the source for it. After waking, King Daltus asks Link to repair the now-broken Picori Sword, and use its power to break the curse placed upon Zelda. Link travels to the Minish Woods as requested by the King to search for the Picori; however, he instead meets Ezlo , a Minish sage cursed by Vaati. After explaining that the Picori refer to themselves as the Minish, and that he is searching for Vaati as well, Ezlo reveals that he can shrink Link down to their size to allow him to talk to the Picori, in order to help bring the Picori Blade to its' former glory.

Ezlo then leads Link to the Minish Village , where they meet Festari , who marks the location of the four sacred Elements on Link's map. However, in order to break the curse on the Princess, the sword must be fully forged with all four elements. With the Earth and Fire Elements, Link can make one copy of himself; however, with all four, he can make three copies, totaling four Links. They then set off to the Fortress of Winds to find the Wind Element.

Deciding to attempt to find the Wind Element later, Link and Ezlo then go to the Temple of Droplets , where they receive the Water Element, and fuse it into the blade. After this point, the two venture to the Palace of Winds and finally recover the Wind Element. After fusing it into the White Sword and creating the Four Sword, however, they gain access to a secret chamber in the Elemental Sanctuary, revealing the true location of the Light Force-- inside of Princess Zelda.

Vaati, disguised as King Daltus, confronts Link and Ezlo, congratulating them on leading him so far as to reveal the true location of the Light Force. Revealing himself to be Vaati, he promptly knocks Link unconscious before taking over Hyrule Castle, and transforming it into an evil, twisted counterpart of it's former state. Link traverses the Castle and reaches Vaati, who is in the middle of already seeping out the Light Force from Zelda.

Vaati, already in possession of a small bit of the Light Force, challenges Link to a battle, believing he can destroy Link and continue with his struggle for eternal power. After using the power of the Four Sword in the elongated battle with Vaati, the sorcerer is then absorbed into the Four Sword, putting an end to Vaati's terrorism. Spoiler warning : Spoilers end here. Non-canon warning : This article or section contains non-canonical information that is not considered to be an official part of the Legend of Zelda series and should not be considered part of the overall storyline.

The Four Sword does not only split its wielder into four, but divides the wielder's personality aspects into the four beings with one of them possessing a persona similar to that of their original state. The Green Link referred to as Green is the "original" Link and is very stubborn when it comes to working with others, but throughout the story learns to work well with his new comrades. Green seems to take charge of the leadership role when the four first meet, and finds it difficult when the other three won't listen.

But, he eventually realizes that instead of bossing the others around, they need to work side by side. The Red Link referred to as Red is extremely childish and optimistic, but is prone to cry when plans don't succeed or his feelings are hurt, most of the time by Blue. Red also attaches to the other Links very quickly, as if he were the younger of the four of them and shows his fear of being separated from them when the become isolated from each other.

The Blue Link referred to as Blue is extremely foul-tempered, hot-headed, and very arrogant and usually only focuses on taking out any competition with physical force. He butts heads with Green from time to time, the first being about who is the "real" Link. Blue tends to hurt Red's feelings on multiple occasions, but shows some remorse for it later on.

The Purple Link referred to as Vio, as in "violet" is calm, collected, and most of the time tends to be the voice of reason in the group. You must feel it take hold, let it flow through, but not consume you. You are a conduit. Between sky and earth. Electricity and matter. Life and death. You are a weapon. With their finely tuned reflexes, Hunters are naturally gifted with knives.

The make and shape of the perfect knife is a matter of endless debate. Curiosity gets a Warlock into trouble, and force of will gets a Warlock out. Even novices can shear reality with a single deadly gesture. An explosive grenade that disorients the enemies it damages, leaving them vulnerable to gunfire and close combat.

A grenade that periodically damages enemies inside its explosion radius. An effective tool for area denial. A grenade that attaches to enemies and explodes twice. Designed to crack the armor of hard targets. An explosive grenade that sticks to surfaces and detonates when enemies pass through its laser trigger.

Bend momentum to jump again in mid-air. Leap to even greater heights, or make a quick adjustment while airborne to disorient your foes. Break the bonds of gravity and convert your jump into a long, smooth glide. Cross dangerous terrain and float from perch to perch to keep the high ground. Rip a hole in space and leap from point to point. Master the Blink, and you will be a fearsome killer - a spectral force, hard to evade and impossible to pin down. Leap into a powered jump. The long, slow arc makes you a target, but used carefully, it's a superb way to break contact, gain control of the high ground, or set up devastating ambushes.

Leap forward and smash the ground, obliterating everything nearby. You will be a thunderbolt - but use your fury carefully. If there are survivors, you will surely draw their wrath. Open a pocket in the universe, an impregnable fortress for you and your allies. The mighty Ward allows Guardians to hold key points and gather their strength in the face of overwhelming opposition. Forge your Light into a raging inferno of Solar energy, and pull forth a blazing hammer from the fire. Cloaked in flames, launch your hammer at enemies from afar, releasing a devastating eruption of Solar fire on impact.

You burn with the intensity of stars, and no shadow is safe from your Light. Draw a hand cannon burning with Solar Light and loaded with three rounds of sunfire. Aim steady and keep your wits about you. You are a Gunslinger, and this is what you live for. Set aside your weapons and lose yourself in the blade trance.

Arc Light galvanizes your armor and hastens your movements, and when your knife finds a target it discharges a snap of annihilating current. For as long as the trance lasts, you are the very shadow of death. Summon the power of the Void to draw back and launch a precision long-range projectile that reaches out and snares enemies with slowing, draining tethers of Void Light.

Shadowshot lets a Hunter's dead-eye precision carve a path to new battles. Channel the Traveler's Light into a bolt of energy with the power of a collapsing star. The devastating Nova Bomb scours the battlefield with ethereal fire - but be careful in its use. It takes precious moments to summon, and it must be aimed precisely to avoid obstacles.

Open yourself to the Light. Glimpse, for a few rapturous moments, the truth beyond the powers you wield. A Warlock in a state of Radiance threatens to slip beyond the bonds of the material, shrugging off physical harm, channeling a torrent of abilities. Some may learn to elevate nearby Guardians, gifting them with power. Others, entranced by the Ghosts' power to reach beyond death, may learn to pluck themselves out of nothingness like the phoenix of ancient myth.

Focus your Light to call forth a powerful Arc storm, and siphon it, channeling lightning through your fingertips to send it surging between your targets. A Warlock in Stormtrance is exercising such unbreakable focus that the Arc energy they summon draws them off the ground, the air humming and crackling around them. Like lightning you bend your path forward through the air, striking down anything too slow escape the storm.

All-purpose weapons of war, the standard Auto Rifle is ideal for a number of combat scenarios. Stability is key to controlling fully automatic weapons. Suros engineers designed the Regime using recovered Golden Age schematics. Forced out of production by a crippling shortage of smartmatter, the few remaining models are cherished by those Guardians fortunate enough to wield them.

As the City's understanding of Golden Age methods expands, foundries continue to push the cutting edge of tactical armament. The Hard Light prototype is a showcase, built with the rarest recovered materials and the most computationally demanding design methods. The design team included several specialist Exos and at least one Warlock thanatonaut.

In its current iteration, the Hard Light design fires a superheated polymer round with exotic capabilities. Originally designed as a showpiece, the Monte Carlo's sleek demeanor and intricate firing system make it more than a fashion statement. In the right hands, this beauty puts all the risk at the wrong end of its bayonet. The Weapons of Sorrow were believed to be nothing more than a myth. But even the darkest myths are born of some truths, and whispers of the Necrochasm have long filled the Light with dread.

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Any Guardian who comes across the weapon must ask some very simple questions with endlessly complicated answers: Is your Light bright enough to stand, even briefly, in full gaze of the Hive's abyss? Can it handle what has died and been reborn in those shadows? When you're out beyond the Wall, sometimes you have to take what you can find, and make it work. Though its original makers and their no-doubt-desperate straits are lost to history, the Zhalo Supercell remains a striking example of what a Guardian can do with some outdated tech, a deep command of fundamental Light, and a spark of inspiration.

Actually, I had a bit of difficulty today. Or even when the events described by the writer take place. Encoded Mid-Golden Age, allegedly written by someone named Plutarch, a historian who in turn is writing about someone named Fabius Maximus. But who were they? When did they live? In what kind of warfare was this 'Fabian Strategy' applied? It apparently involves attrition tactics and avoiding direct conflict until an enemy makes a mistake. I think Where are you going? The preferred weapon of seasoned marksmen, the Scout Rifle is a single-shot precision firearm.

Favoring accuracy above all else, the Scout Rifle packs increased stopping power to counter its low rate of fire. Few weapons are balanced this precisely. Once you get a feel for the Multi-Tool it will sit weightlessly in your hand. Firing it will feel less like an action and more like an extension of your will. The weapon gathers data on the target from the impact and spall of solid body shots, setting up a devastating final hit. Here am I, with the power to craft from my enemy's darkest secrets a weapon that could wound them at their core!

So what stays my hand? When I behold the interiority of these cold, cold fragments, I see blind, squirming creatures. Every wound they give, they feel also upon themselves. Every bite they tear from the Light only deepens, never fills, the raging emptiness behind their terrible mouths. The voices are as loud as ever. My nightmares just as bitter. My coal-black hatred burns as hot. But I feel something else now. Could it be I refuse it. I will build this weapon. Like many weapons of the Dark Age, the Jade Rabbit was created from hastily reassembled—and often poorly understood—Golden Age technology: in this case, kinetic low-atmosphere propulsion systems in use on Luna settlements.

Even the weapon's casing is cut from the plasteel bulwarks of the First Light installation. City foundries produce a wide variety of weapons in an attempt to anticipate Guardians' ever-changing needs on the battlefield. But no Guardian can carry all guns at all times. Enter the Boolean Gemini.

Designed by a think tank of Guardians and foundry representatives, the Gemini was designed to be two guns in one, with a flexible design that allows Guardians to toggle between distinct combat styles for maximum efficiency. What brings you here? For a Warlock. And how are you finding the work? It goes and comes. Memory ain't what it was. Well, then, I suspect you'll find some of my recent research quite interesting. The Pulse Rifle is designed for precision fire and tight shot grouping. Three-round bursts provide added punch with reduced recoil compared to fully automatic weapons.

Skilled shooters often walk the burst from the target's center of mass onto the head. There must be a structured, mechanical explanation for this weapon's hunger for combat. There must be. But none has been found. Only rumors tell of the mad Guardian who fashioned this butcher's tool. But its power is undeniable, and fear is a formidable weapon. Novarro's timeline analysis indicates the weapon is the fabled Exo Stranger's Rifle, enhanced at a future point in this continuity and then sent back to this present.

Deliah's timeline analysis indicates the weapon was built by Praedyth, who based it on his own version of the Exo Stranger's Rifle, and then set it adrift in a time ripple. Hari's timeline analysis indicates the weapon was built by beings of unidentifiable origin, and arrived here by pure accident. Inachis's timeline analysis indicates the weapon originates from Earth, late Golden Age, and will eventually be lost to time ripples once again, where its systems will degrade and be replaced until our recent past acquires it as the Exo Stranger's Rifle.

As for me I think it's safe to say the weapon is proving far more fun than we could have hoped. Sturdy and reliable, Hand Cannons have long been a preferred tool for self-defense. Their low rate of fire and modest accuracy is more than made up for by their ease of handling and superior stopping power.

The Hawkmoon is a true gunslinger's weapon - a smooth sidearm that makes every bullet count The Last Word is a romantic weapon, a throwback to simpler times when steady aim and large rounds were enough to dispense justice in the wilds of a lawless frontier. Of course, some might say that time has come again. I'm writing this from memory - some mine, but not all. The facts won't sync with the reality, but they'll be close, and there's no one to say otherwise, so for all intents and purposes, this will be the history of a settlement we called Palamon and the horrors that followed an all too brief peace.

I remember home, and stories of a paradise we'd all get to see some day - of a City, "shining even in the night. We'd settled in the heart of a range that stretched the horizon. Wooded mountains that shot with purpose toward the sky. Winters were harsh, but the trees and peaks hid us from the world. We talked about moving on, sometimes, striking out for the City. But it was just a longing. Drifters came and went.

On occasion they would stay, but rarely. We had no real government, but there was rule of law.

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Basic tenets agreed upon by all and eventually overseen by Magistrate Loken. And there you have it I was young, so I barely understood. I remember Loken as a hardworking man who just became broken. Mostly I think he was sad. Sad and frightened. As his fingers tightened on Palamon, people left. Those who stayed saw our days became grey. Loken's protection - from the Fallen, from ourselves - became dictatorial. Looking back, I think maybe Loken had just lost too much - of himself, his family.

But everyone lost something. And some of us had nothing to begin with. My only memory of my parents is a haze, like a daydream, and a small light, like the spark of their souls. It's not anything I dwell on. They left me early, taken by Dregs. Palamon raised me from there. The family I call my own - called my own - cared for me as if I was their natural born son. And life was good. Being the only life I knew, my judgment is skewed, and it wasn't easy - pocked by loss as it was - but I would call it good. Until, of course, it wasn't. Until two men entered my world.

One a light. The other the darkest shadow I would ever know. The man I would come to know as Jaren Ward, my third father and quite possibly my closest friend, came to Palamon from the south. I was just a boy, but I'll never forget his silhouette on the empty trail as he made his slow walk into town. I'd never seen anything like him. Maybe none of us had. He'd said he was only passing through, and I believed him - still do, but life can get in the way of intent, and often does.

I can picture that day with near perfect clarity. Of all the details though - every nuance, every moment - the memory that sticks in my mind is the iron on Jaren's hip. A cannon that looked both pristine and lived in.

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Like a relic of every battle he'd ever fought, hung low at his waist - a trophy and a warning. This man was dangerous, but there was a light about him - a pureness to his weight - that seemed to hint that his ire was something earned, not carelessly given. I'd been the first to see him as he approached, but soon most of Palamon had turned out to greet him.

My father held me back as everyone stood in silence. Jaren didn't make a sound behind his sleek racer's helmet. He looked just like the heroes in the stories, and to this day I'm not sure one way or the other if the silence between the town's people and the adventurer was born of fear or respect.

I like to think the latter, but any truth I try to place on the moment would be of my own making. As we waited for Magistrate Loken to arrive and make an official greeting, my patience got the best of me. I shook free of my father's heavy hand and made the short sprint across the court, stopping a few paces from where this new curiosity stood - a man unlike any other. I stared up at him and he lowered his attention to me, his eyes hidden behind the thick tinted visor of his headgear. My sight quickly fell to his sidearm. I was transfixed by it. I imagined all the places that weapon had been.

All of the wonders it had seen. The horrors it had endured. My imagination darted from one heroic act to the next. I barely registered when he began to kneel, holding out the iron as if an offering. But my eyes locked onto the piece, mesmerized. I recall turning back to my father and seeing the looks on the faces of everyone I knew. There was worry there - my father slowly shaking his head as if pleading with me to ignore the gift. I turned back to the man I would come to know as Jaren Ward, the finest Hunter this system may ever know and one of the greatest Guardians to ever defend the Traveler's Light And I took the weapon in my hand.

Not to use. But to observe. To imagine. To feel its weight and know its truth. That was the first time I held "Last Word," but, unfortunately, not the last. It was the fourth night of the seventh moon. Nine rises since any sign. Trail wasn't cold, but lukewarm would've been an exaggeration. Jaren had us hold by a ravine. The heavy wood along the cliffs' edge caught the wind, holding back the cold and the rush of water muffled our conversation.

We'd seen dual Skiffs hanging low as they cut through the valley. Wasn't known Fallen territory, but anymore that's a dangerous assumption. There were six of us then. Three less than two moons prior, but still, one more than when we'd first turned our backs to Palamon's ash.

We took a rotation for watch during the night. Movement was kept to a minimum and communication was down to hand signals and simple gestures. We could hold our own in a fight, but only the dead went looking for one—a hard truth that cut in direct opposition to our reasons for being so far from anything resembling civilization, much less our safety. The Skiffs had spooked Kressler and Nada, and, in truth, me as well. But, looking back, I think we were all just grasping for any good reason to turn back. Not because we would—turn back—but because it seemed to be our only real hope, and I think we all knew it.

Where we were headed—into the unknown. And following the footsteps we were. It all just started to feel like a never-ending dead end after a while. Jaren never wavered though. Not once. At least not to any noticeable degree. It was his drive, his conviction, that kept us going. And—it's hard to think on—but if I'm honest, it was his death that rekindled my own fire. A fire that was all but exhausted on that cold night. He seemed confident we were close. But more than confident—sure.

He seemed sure. No one else felt it—our own confidence, and any enthusiasm we'd had was set to wither soon as Brevin, Trenn and Mel were gunned down. The Ghost—Jaren's Ghost—never said a word to any of us. Just hung there. Always alert. Always judging. Not us, per se, but the moment. Any moment. I never got the sense it thought of us as lesser.

More that it was guarded, wary. We knew it could speak. We'd overheard them a few times. Just brief words, and no one ever pressed the subject. From time to time I caught its gaze lingering on me, but always assumed the attention was a result of the bond Jaren and I had. He was a father to me. At the time I didn't know why he'd singled me out as someone to care for. Someone to protect. After all the loss, I welcomed it, but looking back—taking in the arm's length at which he kept the others—I guess I should've known, or at least suspected there was more to it.

We all woke that night, closer to morning than the previous day. A crack of gunfire split through the wood. Then more. Far off, but near enough to pump the blood. A familiar ring. His best friend. Then another. A single shot, an unmistakable echo calling through the night. Hushed, cutting. One shot, dark and infernal. Followed by silence. We crouched low and quiet. Jaren was gone. Off on his own. Maybe we were closer than we'd allowed ourselves to believe. Too close. He'd gone to face death alone. I couldn't admit it—not at the time—but he thought he was protecting us.

After such a long road—years on its heels, a trail littered with suffering and fire—maybe he just couldn't take the thought of anymore dead "kids," as he called us. The echoes faded and we all held still. No way to track the direction. No sense in rushing blind. What was done was done. The cadence of the shots fired told a story none of us cared to hear.

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And somewhere in the world, close enough for us to bear absent witness but far enough to be a dream, Jaren Ward lay dead or dying. And there was nothing to be done. Hours passed. An eternity. We held our spot, but as the sun rose the others began to fade back into the world. Without Jaren there was nothing holding us together. No driving force. Vengeance had grown stale as a motivator.

Fear and a longing to see more suns rise drove a wedge between duty and desire. By midday I was alone. I couldn't leave. Either I would find Jaren and set him at ease, or the other would find me and that would be a fitting end. Death marching on. But then, a motion. Quick and darting. My muscles tensed and my hand shot to the grip of my leadslinger.

Then a confirmation of the horrible truth I had already accepted, as Jaren's Ghost came to a halt a few paces in front of me. I exhaled and slumped forward. Still standing, but broken. The tiny Light looked me over with a curious tilt to its axis, then shot a beam of light over my body. Scanning me as it had done the very first time we met. I looked up. Staring into its singular glowing eye. And it spoke Palamon was ash. I was only a boy — my face caked in soot, snot and sorrow. But I was a fool. Jaren, and the others, only a handful, but still our best hunters, our hardest hearts, had left three suns prior.

Tracking Fallen, after the bandits had caused a stir. The stranger — the other — arrived the following day. He rarely spoke. Took a room. Took our hospitality. But the stranger was cold. Damaged, I thought. Only a child, I knew the monsters of our world to walk like men, but they were not. They were something alien. Four-armed and savage.

The stranger was polite, but solemn. I took him for a sad, broken man, and he was. As with Jaren, father made an effort to keep me away from the stranger. As the silhouette approached, fear held tight. The dark figure towered over me. Looking into me — through me. He smiled. My knees weak. All lost. Then, he turned and walked away. Leaving ruin and a heartbroken, terrified boy in his wake without a second glance.

We stood silent, the sun high. Seconds passed, feeling more like hours. He looked different. He seemed, now, to be weightless — effortless in an existence that would crush a man burdened by conscience. My gaze remained locked as I felt a heat rising inside of me. The other spoke That was a gift. Centered in my chest. I felt like a coward the day Jaren Ward died and for many cycles after. But here, I felt only the fire of my Light. The other probed For this day. Given up The fire burned in me. The other continued This is truly an end Reflex and purpose merged with anger, clarity and an overwhelming need for just that Two shots.

Two bullets engulfed in an angry glow. The other fell. I walked to his corpse. He never raised his cursed Thorn — the jagged gun with the festering sickness. To my surprise, it lands on Farley, forsaking me for the moment. His escorts, Lakelanders by their uniforms, look like pale, grim versions of my brother Bree. Hewn of muscle, tall as trees, and obedient. The Colonel himself stands in between, boxing in Kilorn and me.

She bristles at the name and the insinuation. When he tsks aloud, she visibly cringes. Her hands quiver in the blankets, but with rage, not fear. What did you expect, Colonel? I expected you to protect your soldiers, not throw them to a den of Silver wolves. I expected much and more from you, Diana, much and more than what you gave. The name is his killing blow. Her real name. Her shivers of rage turn to shame, reducing Farley to a hollow shell. She stares at her feet, fixating on the floor below.

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I know her look well, the look of a shattered soul. Much, much worse. Gently, I push Kilorn to the side, moving forward. If not for me, your men and women would be alive. Their blood is on my hands, not hers. The world does not rise and fall at your command. It sounds foolish, even in my own head. Do you challenge this? But she drops her head and her gaze, retreating inward. She looks up once more. What mission? I believe Command will agree. From this close, I see the distinct swirls of blood in his eye, moving slowly, clouds on the wind. Of Reds like my brother and me, born with the mutation that enables our own.

Red like us but strong as Silvers, able to fight them in the open. Maybe even powerful enough to win the war. He even fidgets, playing with a fine chain necklace hidden in his collar. I glimpse links of gold between his fingers, revealing a fine prize no soldier should carry. I wonder who he stole it from. He helped the Scarlet Guard, he sided with us. For King Maven to leave such a traitor still breathing? He gave you the list to pass on to us, to send the Guard on a goose chase ending in another trap. But I refuse to believe that about Julian.

I understand enough of him to know where his true loyalties lie—with me, Sara, and anyone who would oppose the queen who killed his sister. Do we dodge the worst agents of the kingdom, hunters better and faster than us, to find them? Do we attempt a mass exodus of the ones we can save? Do we found the Barrow School for Freaks, and spend years training them to fight? Do we ignore everything else, all the suffering, the child soldiers, the executions, for them? Maven will send his best to hunt down and kill the list. I open my mouth to tell him just that, but he holds up a hand.

And before you make a snide comment about me trying to stop you, remember your oath. You swore to the Scarlet Guard, not your own selfish motives. Make no mistake, Miss Barrow, you have hurt people to serve your own ends, the prince most of all. All I see is red, a livid anger. Sparks rush to my fingertips, dancing just beneath my skin, but I clench my fists, holding them back. When my vision clears, the lights flicker overhead, the only indication of my fury. And the Colonel is gone, having left us to simmer alone.

But that would get me a cell at best, a bullet at worst. And I would have to die with the knowledge that the Colonel is correct. For what I thought was right, I tell myself. For the better. Instead of commiserating, Farley straightens her spine and sits back, watching me seethe. The shamed child she was disappears with shocking ease. Another mask. A spiky iron key. Barracks 1. She tosses it to me blithely, a lazy smile on her face. Kilorn grumbles all the way out of the infirmary and into the concrete yard. He even walks slowly, forcing me to slow down for him.

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He collides with my back. A little bit of the anger I felt toward the Colonel spills over and my cheeks flush with heat. Instead, he sucks in a breath and steps back, working furiously to calm himself. Show me the light. Kilorn follows my gaze, eyeing a troop of Guardsmen who jog within a few yards of us. A thing. A freak. But I keep walking, and he keeps following. The safety of Barracks 3 beckons, rising up ahead of me.

I try to twist out of his grasp, but Kilorn knows all my tricks. He pulls, dragging me away from the door, and into the shaded alley between Barracks 3 and 4. I hear a little bit of Mareena come back to life in the cold, royal tone of my voice. He sighs, exasperated, and runs a hand through his tawnyhair. It sticks up on end. We all know that. But it changed you.

Please, trust me. Instead you made me an accomplice, you made me watch when they marched him away at gunpoint, and now you tell me to trust you? How stupid do you think I am? This is the boy who cried beneath my house. The boy he was, resisting the call to fight and die. I tried to save him from that and, in turn, pushed him closer to danger, the Scarlet Guard, and doom. He takes a few quick steps back, until the alley yawns between us. Compared to Shade.

She would shriek when he skinned his knees or spoke out of turn. He squares his shoulders, fists balled at his sides. I have no idea what he wants from me. He stands above me, close enough to smell. Thankfully the scent of blood is gone, replaced by salt. He pastes on a grin, ending the conversation. Are you going to help? Along with the key, Farley gave me detailed directions to Barracks 1. Technically, underwater. The perfect prison for a burner like Cal. The main entrance is a tunnel leading from the beach hangars, but Farley assured me of another way.

You might get wet, she warned with a wry smile. While the prospect of diving into the ocean unsettles me, even so close to the beach, Kilorn is annoyingly calm. The protection of the ocean dulls the usually alert Guard, and even the Lakelanders soften as the day wears on.

Soldiers focus more on the cargo loads and storage hangars rather than patrolling. The few who keep their posts, pacing the length of the concrete yard with guns against their shoulders, walk slowly, easily, often stopping to talk to each other. I watch them for a long while, pretending to listen to Mom or Gisa as they chatter over their work. Both sort blankets and clothing into separate piles, unloading a collection of unmarked crates along with several other refugees.

Bree and Tramy are gone, back with Shade in the infirmary, while Dad sits by. He catches my eye once or twice, noting my twitching fingers and darting glances.

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  • He even rolls his chair back, allowing me a better view of the yard. I nod at him, quietly thankful. The guards remind me of the Silvers back in the Stilts, before the Measures, before Queenstrial. They were lazy, content in my quiet village, where insurrection was rare. How wrong they were. Those men and women were blind to my thieving, to the black market, to Will Whistle and the slow creep of the Scarlet Guard. And these Guardsmen are blind too, this time to my advantage. My family eats gratefully, Gisa most of all.

    He wrinkles his nose and pretends to grimace at the gray glops of fish meat. Old Cully would never sell this. Except to the rats, maybe. For once, Gisa is less ladylike than I am and she giggles openly, happily. I used to envy her practiced, perfect ways. Before I can scold him—or, worse, Mom can—he runs a hand over a blanket, feeling the fabric. Fresh cotton. Even in the Silver court, Piedmont cotton was considered very fine, a common alternative to silk, reserved for high-ranking Security, Sentinel, and military uniforms.

    I remember Lucas wore it, up until the moment he died. I realize now I never saw him out of uniform. And his face is already fading. Dad continues his investigation and runs a hand down the side of a crate. Sturdy, wide planks of wood, freshly painted white. The only distinguishing mark is a dark green triangle, smaller than my hand, stamped in the corner. If there are Lakelanders with us here, on this very island, then the Scarlet Guard could easily have friends elsewhere, in different nations and kingdoms.

    The Scarlet Guard has deeper roots than I knew, than any Silver could imagine. And the Colonel is only one of a hundred heads, just like Farley. An opposition definitely, but one I can overcome. Like Dad, I pour my stew into a crack in the concrete. He knows his cues. My family knows better, even Mom. She blows me a kiss as I walk away, and I tuck it close to my heart.

    When I pull up my collar, I become just another refugee, and Kilorn is no one at all. The soldiers pay us no mind. In the light of midday, I see the concrete extends toward gentle, sloping hills, looking very much like a wide road to nowhere. The painted line continues ahead, but a thinner, more worn line branches off at a right angle.

    It connects the central line to another structure, located at the end of the barracks, towering over everything else on the island. It looks like a larger version of the hangars on the beach, tall and wide enough to fit six transports stacked on top of each other. I wonder what it holds, knowing the Guard does their own share of thieving. But the doors are shut fast, and a few Lakelander men idle in the shade. They chat among themselves, keeping their guns close.

    So my curiosity will have to wait, perhaps forever. Kilorn and I turn right, toward the gap between Barracks 8 and 9. The high windows of both are dark, abandoned—the buildings are empty. Waiting for more soldiers, more refugees, or worse, more orphans. I shiver as we pass through their shadows. After all, this is an island. And while the main base is well developed, the rest of Tuck is empty, covered only in dunes, hills swathed in tall grass, and a few pockets of ancient trees.

    We disappear nicely, winding through the swaying plants until we reach the beach. The dock stands a few hundred yards away, a wide knife jutting out into the waves. From this distance, the patrolling Lakelanders are only smudges of dark blue pacing back and forth. Most focus on the cargo ship approaching from the far side of the dock. My jaw drops at the sight of such a large vessel obviously controlled by Reds.

    Kilorn is more focused. I follow suit, kicking off my laceless boots and worn socks. He folds his shirt over his shoes, fiddling a bit. Tell him about Julian. At this time of day, the bunks will be empty, the passage from the docks sealed, and very few guards will remain behind. Kilorn and I faced worse as children, when we stole a case of batteries for my dad from a Security outpost. Goose bumps rise on his skin, reacting to the cold autumn ocean, but he barely feels it. I certainly do, and by the time the water reaches my waist my teeth are chattering. With one last glance toward the dock, I dive below a wave, letting it chill me to the bone.

    Kilorn cuts through the water effortlessly, swimming like a frog, making almost no noise at all. I try to mimic his movements, following close to his side as we swim farther out. Something about the water heightens my electrical sense, making it easier to feel the piping running out from the shore. I could trace it with a hand if I wanted, noting the path of electricity from the docks, through the water, and into Barracks 1. Eventually Kilorn turns toward it, angling us on a diagonal to the shore, and then parallel. His advance is masterful, with the stolen boats at anchor to hide our approach.

    Once or twice he touches my arm beneath the waves, communicating with a slight pressure. Stop, go, slow, fast, all of it while he stays fixed on the dock ahead. Luckily, the freighter ship is unloading, drawing the attention of any soldiers who might spot our heads bobbing through the water.

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    More crates, all white, stamped with the green triangle. More clothes? No, I realize as a crate topples, cracking open. Guns spill across the dock. Rifles, pistols, ammunition, probably a dozen in one crate alone. They gleam in the sunlight, newly made. Another gift for the Scarlet Guard, another twist of even deeper roots I never knew existed. The knowledge makes me swim faster, pushing me past Kilorn even when my muscles ache. I duck under the dock, safe at last from any eyes above, and he follows, keeping pace just behind me.

    It feels good to be with him like this, sharing a secret goal again. He bobs back up again, arms wide to keep himself afloat. The plunge through suffocating, drowning darkness. Kilorn reads the fear on my face plainly. Well, it certainly looks like something, I think, peering at the black water below me.

    But Kilorn chuckles lowly, his grin bright against the water. Sunlight angles through the water, breaking up the shadow cast by the dock above. And Kilorn moves us quickly, pulling us down along the side of the barracks. The water-bent sunlight dapples his bare back, spotting him like a sea creature. I focus mainly on kicking when I can and not getting caught on anything.

    This is not twenty-five feet, my mind grumbles when the twinge of oxygen deprivation sets in. I exhale slowly, letting the bubbles rise past my face, up to the surface. When he finds the bottom edge, I feel his muscles tense, and his legs kick along, powering us both beneath the hidden bunker. What a joke that would be. Stuffy but blissful air hits my face and I gulp it down in deep, greedy gasps.

    Already sitting on the edge of the pool, his legs dangling in the water, Kilorn grins at me. The compartment is cold, lit by low lights, and offensively well organized. Old equipment is pushed neatly against the right wall, gathering dust, while a desk runs the length of the left. Stacks of files and papers crowd the surface in neat rows, dominating the space. Kilorn was always a slave to his curiosity, and now is no different. He drips his way over to the desk, ready to explore. I step to his side in an instant, fearing the worst. A photograph, warped by age and damp, but the faces are still visible.

    Four figures, all blond, posing with stern but open expressions. Both the woman and the girl wear dirt-stained clothes, farmers by the look of it, but the gold chains at their necks say differently. Silently, I remove the gold chain from my pocket, comparing the metal so fine it could be thread to the necklaces in the picture. But for the mismatched key dangling from the end, they are identical. Gently, Kilorn takes the key from my hand, puzzling over what it could mean.

    The third figure explains it all. A teenager with a long, golden braid, she stands shoulder to shoulder with the Colonel and wears a smirk of satisfaction. She looks so young, so different without her short hair and scars. But he called her Diana. He knew her real name. And they had the necklaces, one from a sister, one from a wife.

    Left down the stairs, right at the landing, left again. The door swings open on oiled hinges, revealing an empty passage quite like the ones on the mersive. Sparse and clean, with metal walls and piping above us. Electricity bleeds overhead, pumping through a wired network of veins. No one to stop us. Quiet as cats, we follow her instructions, mindful of every single step.

    It seems so far away, yet that was only days ago. A week. Just one week. At last we come to a shorter passage, a dead end with three doors on the left, three doors on the right, and just as many observation windows set in between. The glass of each is dark, but for the window on the end. It flickers slightly, casting harsh white light through the pane. But the window holds firm, echoing dully with every boom boom of his fists, showing nothing more than smears of silver blood. When I step in front of the window, he freezes mid-motion, one clenched and bleeding fist poised to strike.

    His flame-maker bracelet slides down his thick wrist, still spinning from his momentum. But then why is he still imprisoned at all? For a single, blazing moment, our eyes meet through the glass, and I think our combined stare might shatter it. Thick, silver blood drips from where he struck his hand, mixing with already-dried stains. Next to me, Kilorn holds up the key. Cal starts, as if noticing Kilorn for the first time.

    From somewhere down the hall, I hear shouting. They echo strangely in the bunker, but grow closer with every heartbeat. Coming for us. Kilorn forces the key again, twisting. The door swings inward as the first soldier rounds the corner, but my thoughts are only of Cal. It seems princes make me blind. The invisible curtain drops the moment Kilorn shoves me into the cell. Cal surges past me, a strangled yell erupting from his lips, his long arms outstretched. Not to me, or the window. To the door as it yanks shut. The click of the lock echoes inside my skull, again and again and again.

    The key hangs from one clenched fist, and his face curls into something between a scowl and a sob. More follow, flanking the Colonel. His satisfied smirk matches the one his daughter wore in the photograph, and I begin to understand what just happened.

    The Colonel even has the audacity to laugh. Cal hurls himself at the door in vain, driving his shoulder against solid iron. He swears through the pain, cursing Kilorn, me, this place, himself. Without thought, I call for the lightning. Bleak nothing. Like in the cells, like the arena. He points with one bloody fist to back corners of the floor and ceiling.