Warning: Violence, vomit, and slavery mentions
Sidon didn't know how long they walked. Over fields and hills they kept going, never once going near a large body of water. In another time, Sidon might have considered the land beautiful, the hills were full of greenery and wild flowers, many of which Sidon had never seen before. But he's been out of the water for nearly four days now and every inch of his body showed it.
His bright red skin had dulled, turning almost grey in some areas. The webbing between his toes and fingers were tearing. His gills ached terribly, and they too were tearing at the edges. His skin was so dry, his scales were falling off, scattering behind him like drifting snow. Worse yet was his feet; he'd been unable to stop to check the severity of the damage, but the sole of his left foot was bleeding. Every step he took left a bloody footprint in the grass.
Link was not getting better. He wasn't getting worse, Sidon admitted, but definitely not better. It was like he was stuck in limbo, his body unsure which way to turn. Sidon was not a healer, he didn't know how read the signs. How long could he last? How long could Sidon last? He'd been waiting for an opportunity to open up, and so far none came. He needed to do something soon or else...
The grey goblin gave out a yell. Sidon flinched, expecting another blow or some vicious command, but saw the noise was not being directed towards him. No, the goblin was gesturing to something else, someone down near the bottom of the hill.
It was a Hylian. He was at the bottom of the hill, waving up at them.
Sidon stiffened, afraid he was going to watch these goblins tear this poor human apart. He'd no strength to protect that Hylian, not when Link was still in his arms. He wanted to scream, then stopped, knowing if he tried to warn the human of the danger, Link was going to suffer for it.
Tears leaked out of Sidon's eyes. He always thought of himself as a kind prince, a fair prince, but as he rounded over the hill, he knew in that moment it was all bullshit. He was more than willing to watch someone die needlessly if that meant Link would live. Oh goddess, what if that was a Zora down there? Would Sidon be willing to watch one of his own citizens be torn apart?
Except, none of the goblins were showing aggression towards the Hylian. None of them were spurring their horses on or readying their weapons. They casually walked down the hill towards the Hylian who appeared to be waiting for them at the bottom. What the hell was going on?
"It's about time you got here," the human said once they got close enough. "I waited for hours."
The grey goblin made several grunts, then gestured behind it to Sidon.
"Alright..." said the human, stepping forward. "Let's see what we got here..."
This human looked like the standard Hylian trader, the kind that used to come to Zora's Domain before the rains forced many of them to stay away. He wore a large pack, had a hat on, and clipped to his belt was a rupee bag. The Hylian came up to Sidon, scrutinizing him.
Something was wrong. Something was very, very wrong.
"He looks like hell," the Hylian said to the goblins. "I'm not paying for a half-dead fish."
"What?" Sidon croaked out.
The grey goblin made several noises, pointing to the broken, dented crown on top of Sidon's head.
"Huh," said the Hylian, turning back with a bit more interest. "The prince, eh? Now that's something different."
Sidon was horrified by what he was hearing. "Pay? You're... you're buying my people? As slaves?"
"Calm down, sweetie, it's not like you noticed or care before."
Zora's Domain was not a dictatorship; its people were allowed to come and go as they pleased. For example, Kapson, the Zora who wed Sidon's parents, left to a place called Tarrytown. Of course if it was reported he went missing, Sidon would send out people to look for him. But Sidon was not involved with every missing person case. He wouldn't know immediately if a citizen had gone missing or found dead.
"You..." Sidon bared his teeth and stepped forward in anger.
One of the goblins from behind slammed the butt of their sword into the side of Sidon's head. Sidon cried out and fell to his knees. Link rolled out of his arms, stopping right at the feet of the Hylian trader.
The Hylian stepped back, frowning. "Who is this?"
The goblins made several more noises.
"I don't need this," said the Hylian, stepping over Link like was nothing. "Nah, not even to keep the Zora in line. Look at him, he's too weak to fight back now. I'll only take the Zora."
Sidon fought to keep from falling unconscious. The world was turning all around him, upside down and back and forth swiftly. Nausea rose within him. He couldn't hold it in anymore, and with a grunt, vomited onto the grass.
The Hylian made a disgusting noise. "Gross. It's a good thing he's a prince otherwise I say get rid of him. Alright, take him to the cage."
Several arms pulled him away from his mess. Sidon was not done heaving, and he gagged, desperate to catch his breath. He was vaguely aware he was being pulled back, away from Link. His friend was left there on the ground, in a heap.
"No..." said Sidon, trying to get back. "No, let me go..."
The Hylian did not come alone. Several men and women were suddenly around Sidon, helping the goblins pull him away. "What are you doing?" He cried out, confused. "You're Hylians! You're suppose to be protecting this land, not benefit from its pain!"
They ignored his cries and continued to haul him back, painfully dragging him by the chain around his wrists and grabbing his fins. They brought out a cage. Oh goddess, they were going to put him in a cage like an animal. "NO!"
The grey goblin pulled out the shock arrows from its quiver. The Hylian held up his hand. "No, he's hurt enough. My people can handle him from here. Thank you for your contribution. Here, there's seven thousand rupees in the pouch. If you bring me a Rito, you'll get ten thousand."
Sidon was taller and stronger than any individual Hylian, but there were eight of them working together to drag him into the cage. He dug his fingers into the earth. With every inch they gained, another nail Sidon lost.
"GET YOUR HANDS OFF ME! GET YOUR HANDS... NO, LINK! LINK! LET ME GO! NO- BASTARDS-! STOP! I WON'T LET YOU- LINK!"
In a fit of frustration, the Hylian leader huffed and spat to the goblins, "Is he fighting to get back to that man? Kill him, and maybe the damn fish will cooperate!"
Sidon surged forward. Several hands kept him back. "NO-!"
The grey goblin kicked Link in the shoulder, turning him onto his back. The goblin pulled out a dagger.
There was no mercy, no hesitation. In a single strike, the goblin shoved all six inches of steel deep into Link's chest.