The time stamping worked pretty well, I think. In this case there really isn't a big time difference (and the Golden Land doesn't really have time). Would it be too foreign to call the one Link "Green" (since he was one of the four?)
The other option is just to overhaul the way I've been presenting the story; what I mean is, at the beginning of every chapter I have a portion written in italics to remind the reader it's happening in the Golden Land, but I could just as well put all of that content in a couple of chapters at the beginning of the Episode. This would remove at least one of the concurrent Links...
On the other hand, I think there are some nice parallels between what's happening in Hyrule and what Link experiences in the GL. I wonder if the depth is worth the confusion...
Should I finish it the way it is and then go back and reconsider this question then? I can always edit the posts accordingly...
I think finishing it would be a smart idea instead of taking months to rewrite other chapters. Since most people probably understand what time you're talking about when you return to Link and Stranger, I think that you should call green Link "Green" as you suggested, because that is really the only time that seems confusing to me.
Chapter XIII WHAT HAPPENED BEFORE the WORLD WAS ABOUT TO END
“Come on, girls! Put your backs into it!”
A pack of swarthy women marched doggedly across patches of tallgrass and under the inconsistent shade of scattered trees. Amongst them were four who carried the carcass of a dead boar, strung up by its feet to a pair of rough-hewn poles. At their head was a haughty woman on a framework of branches, lashed together in the form of a chair with handles instead of feet. Four more women, panting and sweating profusely under the bright sun, bore their leader’s throne, such as it was, though their expressions showed little pride in the act. Presently they neared a particularly large tree with a hopeful pool of shade beneath it.
“Onward! We’re nearly there!” cried their leader from atop her throne.
One by one, the throne-bearers looked at each other and nodded silently. On their unheard cue, they threw the chair forward, dashing it to the ground where their erstwhile leader flailed in a most unladylike fashion.
“Curse you, pitiful, clumsy…” The woman stood, dusting off her clothes. “What’s the meaning of this? Look at my throne! Who will answer for this crime?” The women stared at her collectively, in silent defiance. “I will punish each of you until you do as I say, do you hear me? I am Aveil, Matron of the Gerudo, and I will not be disrespected…!”
“Shut up!” said one of the former throne bearers, mopping her brow with a silk handkerchief she pulled from somewhere under her scant clothing. “Your chair isn’t even broken. We just got tired of your ridiculous shouting. And we’re hungry. Now be quiet; you’ll give our position away.”
Aveil looked at the sun overhead. “Well, I suppose it is lunch-time,” she amended disdainfully. “Yes, I suppose this place is as good as any to rest. Freya, Jooru, go and set up a tent for me in that nice shade over there…”
But the others were ignoring her completely. Gradually, a few of the women organized responsibilities and then began to work with the others; gathering stones for a fire-pit, skinning and hacking apart the boar carcass into manageable chunks, setting up a defensible perimeter and gathering wood for a fire. At first Aveil hovered around the others shouting orders (to do more or less what they were doing anyway) and then one of the others caught her by the wrist, sitting her down beside the opened boar carcass.
“Here,” said the woman, planting a carving knife in her hand. “You’re overdoing it just a bit. Make yourself useful.”
Aveil scowled. Then it seemed she changed her mind. “Yes, I think I should be given the best cut of meat, shouldn’t I? I’ll just choose it myself, shall I?”
The Gerudo had been traveling for over a day, wending always toward the south and Lake Hylia. Hyrule Field had been good to them, supplying them with game once their scant rations had been exhausted. Today there had been a daring hunt, and the boar they now roasted over the fire was their spoils.
The first stop on their nomadic tour of the kingdom of Hyrule would be to visit the great body of water and fill up their skins to the brim. From there, who among them knew how they would continue their plunderous lifestyle? But whenever the women spoke to each other, as they did now over their rewarding meal, their fantasies always involved large quantities of that coveted drink which had been so hard to come by under the rule of their king; water. Not all were content, however, for once Aveil had eaten her fill she stood and raised her arms, calling attention to herself.
“My people,” she called, waiting for the last remnants of conversation to abate. “I know what you’ve been contemplating these past many days—”
“But we only just left yesterday!” called one of the women. A chorus of laughter rebounded throughout the camp.
“Just let me finish!” shouted Aveil indignantly. The women were silent again, though some of them still smirked. “And I have decided as your Matron that we will migrate to the far off lands that lay beyond the great waters!” Aveil paused, waiting for this news to invoke the reaction she expected.
But instead the women just laughed. “That’s where we’re going, you dull-wit,” called one woman. “Lake Hylia’s just around the corner!” “Sit down, let us eat in peace!” called another, and promptly little conversations continued as if they had never left off. But Aveil would have none of this.
“Shut up! All of you!” The camp was silent once more. Aveil’s body shook with anger, her blood pumping quickly to every extremity of her body. “I am not referring to the waters of Lake Hylia. We arrive there soon, but then where? To the coast of the salted sea, far to the southeast! There we will steal a great ship and become pirates to be dreaded and feared on the waters! Where the Gerudo were once cursed to abide oceans of merciless sands, now they will sail out and make oceans of water their new home! We will plunder, and command the winds to steer us to only the most prized treasures, away, always away from this foul place that has haunted our people for generations. Out to the untamed wilds of the free islands we travel, free from worry and care. And we will always have drink from the natural springs and falls, not this polluted water in which the Zoras bathe. No! We’ll have stronger stuff to wet the lips of the Gerudo; wine and ale and any other drink that we can take for ourselves, along with men aplenty and any other pleasure that our free heart's desire.”
It was an impressive speech, and many Gerudo raised their brows in passive acceptance. Yet one among them was decidedly unimpressed.
“You know, Aveil,” said the woman, wiping her mouth on her handkerchief, “I think you’re taking this part a little too seriously. You know you don’t lead us. No one, not woman or man, leads the Gerudo now.”
Aveil suddenly might have lost her confidence for how frantically she looked among the other women in the camp. “But…but you said you would follow me…”
“Follow you, yes,” said another woman resting against the trunk of the tree they camped under. “Once we were out of that Goddess-forsaken desert, though, a lot of us got to talking and we don’t think we really need you. We work just fine on our own. You, on the other hand, seem to not remember what it is to put on an act.” Aveil’s eyes bulged; she could hardly believe what she was hearing. “We’ve let you be our leader to deter anybody who might come across us from thinking we’re just rabble. With a leader we have a purpose, something to fight for, to defend, and so we’re sure to prove tougher opponents. Without one we’re just refugees, grass to be mowed down and taken advantage of. But trust me, if you can’t handle playing the part, we can get someone else.”
“Then… Then you’re saying you can do without me… That I’m just a player in your ruse, is that it? A player being played?” Aveil glanced around her; none of the women confirmed it, but their silence did. “Well, I, at least, remember the ways we used to have. There was order and safety when we had a leader; a real one…”
Several women guffawed. “Are you kidding?” scoffed a Gerudo with a spear. “You know as well as we do that Ganon was a wretched king. And Nabooru, that old crack-pot, was as sun-baked as he was. No, leaders have never done us any favors. But if you don’t think you can live with that, Jooru’s right, you can hoof it on your own.”
Aveil stared, now. Diplomacy hadn’t worked, so she tried intimidation. “And I suppose you’re the next to sit on the throne, do you, Freya? Don’t think I believe your little act; playing the part indeed. You just want to depose me. All of you! Well, it won’t work! I’ll have order in my sisterhood, and whoever wants to challenge me can make it known!” She lifted the carving-knife where she had left it and pointed it out at the crowd of women. “So, who’ll be the first?”
It appeared that none would take her up on the offer. To accept the challenge would be to confirm that Aveil was their leader, and not to would be to suffer Aveil in her delusions of grandeur. Just as it appeared that Aveil would be allowed to keep her position by default, however, the sound of hooves pounding the open field interrupted her reverie.
It was one horse and rider, and an accomplished pair at that. But before the identity of the rider could be pondered, the archers gave each other a wordless cue and they fired off a volley of arrows at the intruder. The rider proved worthy of the challenge, and evaded every last shaft. In answer, there was the twang of a bowstring and an arrow sparkling with frigid magic struck the trunk of the shade-tree. Magical ice instantly encased the tree from roots to branches and every woman was on her feet, her weapon drawn.
“Goddess,” said Freya aloud. “It’s Nabooru. What should we do girls?”
“Stand down,” said Jooru, “let’s see what she wants.”
“Stand down!?” Aveil cawed. “Never! Archers, another volley! Spears, forward. The rest of you around me; protect your Matron. Attack!”
But as the rider neared, the Gerudo women ignored Aveil entirely.
It was indeed Nabooru, but a sterner, harder woman for the wear of recent events. Her silver gauntlet flashed proudly in the sun, and the gem gracing her swarthy brow glittered royally. Now a pair of scimitars were strapped to her back and a full quiver hung from her saddle, all of these assuredly stolen from the Hylian stores, as the mount was from the stables. Nabooru held her bow in one hand where the Ice Ring of the King of the Enchanted Thieves shone dully on her first finger, its gem frosted over with magical cold.
“I come in the name of the proud Gerudo who are even now imprisoned in the dungeons of the Hyrule Castle. I, Nabooru, seek out any who are willing to liberate their sisters from bondage. As for this I give you both a warning and a promise. If you come with me I promise you glory and honor among the races of Hyrule. If you do not, I swear that I will expend my life extinguishing you as traitors to that pride which distinguishes the Gerudo race. Once I am finished there will be none who call themselves Gerudo but those who are faithful to their kin. Who leads among you?” Nabooru demanded. “I do not see Aveil, the Usurper—who leads you, I say?”
Indeed, Aveil was nowhere to be seen; she had taken advantage of the opportunity to escape around the other side of the newly-frozen tree. Now she leapt out, brandishing her carving-knife point-down with the ferocity of a hunting cat.
Aveil had her by surprise, but Nabooru was quick; she flashed out with her foot, disarming the thief before she could inflict any harm. Then one of Nabooru’s scimitars was out of its sheath, the point poised under Aveil’s chin dangerously. For a moment, not a soul dared to move.
“I respect your fearlessness,” Nabooru said finally, her fierce gaze never faltering. “I respond with my own.”
And Nabooru threw the scimitar high in the air, away from her. Before it landed among the tallgrass, Nabooru was off her horse, brandishing the other blade in her hand. But Aveil was already flipping away with both grace and dexterity. Just as Nabooru was upon her, Aveil had drawn the true Matron’s discarded weapon, the clashing swords ringing with the sound of hasty battle.
* * *
Rauru pulled his fur overcoat higher up his neck. He had rarely been outside the boundaries of Hyrule before—having been elected the Hylian Sage when he was just a young man—but on those rare occasions when the kingdom was well cared for and the mood called to him, he enjoyed climbing in the mountain ranges to the north-west, where the frigid temperatures drew snow from the sky almost year-round. Early in his adult life he invested in climbing gear and a thick fur coat for the perilous adventure, and these tools now came in quite handy for his investigation of the northern mountains. This time he ventured forth again. Not for sport, but to find the precious minerals the Gorons needed to survive.
The wind had blown almost constantly since he arrived, and the peaks were as perilous as he remembered them. Checking the magical compass every ten minutes or so, it was only a matter of time before he saw the needle point faintly northward. Now Rauru stuck his walking pole into the snow and drew his white sleeve over his goggles, reading the compass again. Yes, the reading was present, if vague; he was going the right direction.
Unless he was mistaken, Rauru seemed to recall a tall peak nearby, perhaps behind the ridge of mountains that rose before him. He climbed resolutely, never forgetting what it would mean if he failed. Ever onward he trudged, until he crested the mountains and referred to the compass once again. This time it was sure; the needle pointed in the direction of a great spire of rock standing tall against the sky. Rauru remembered the spire, now. Its peak was rumored to be the home of an enormous bird—rarer than any other creature in Hyrule—the legendary Roc.
“Well,” he said aloud to himself. “There’s no sense in dallying. At least I shall discover if the rumors are true.”
* * *
Sea Zoras were a different breed entirely from their fresh-water cousins living in Zora’s Domain. Compared to Sea Zoras, River Zoras might consider themselves more civilized, less brutish (and the vainer among them would certainly say they were more beautiful). The Sea Zoras, by comparison, would say that the River Zoras were flighty, fragile and ‘undecorated’, which here means far less flamboyant in both color and ornamentation. When it came to frills, combs, stalks, barbs and trails, the Sea Zoras were at the ‘profuse’ end of the spectrum. Instead of sleek bodies and finely set scales, they had great thick skins of scaly armor that could hardly be penetrated even by the sharpest of harpoons. Their faces were distorted and far more fishy, with lower jaws that opened and closed like traps, huge bulging eyes and rows of sharp teeth like those of a shark.
More feared than a Sea Zora’s appearance, however, was its saliva. Defying the comprehension of biologists and mages alike, the saliva of a Sea Zora was known to spontaneously combust when exposed to open air. The Sea Zoras would often make effective use of this fact whenever air-dwellers came too far into the open sea; one well-aimed ball of spittle could set combustibles aflame in seconds. They were certainly a fearsome race compared to the River Zora—miles apart in both temperament and actual fact.
For this reason, Lutai balked and hid behind a large stand of coral when she spotted a pair of the gruesome Sea Zoras not far ahead. The ocean waters did not agree with her gills; typically accustomed to filtering fresh water. The saltiness of this water caused her significant discomfort, but it was not insurmountable. If she did not know better, she would have understood why the Sea Zoras were always so ill-tempered.
Despite her misgivings, however, she knew that the faint reading she had seen on her magical compass had led her here, out into the depths of the great sea. Somewhere nearby, there was a deposit of the mineral the Gorons so desperately sought. She suspected it was beyond the daunting pair, through the trench they patiently guarded.
And so Lutai waited. But the Sea Zoras did not move. In fact it appeared that they, too, were waiting for something. There was no way to swim over them without being seen, and the trench had but one opening. She had no idea how far she would have to travel in either direction to find another way, and so the Sea Zoras’ purpose, whatever it was, became her own.
It was not long, however, before a great dark shadow crept over the sea floor and the gruesome Zoras flicked their fins, grinning with their greedy fish-mouths. Lutai looked up to see what they found so pleasing and saw the bottom of a large wooden boat with a great keel out the back; likely some merchant vessel. The Sea Zoras chuckled at each other and darted up over the trench, trailing the vessel just inside the shadow’s cover, following it out to deeper waters. Freed of this obstacle, Lutai pressed on.
The channel was narrow, and the colorful plant-life swirled at her passing. All the while she kept a watchful glance on the compass to tell her where the deposit was to be found. Soon, the trench ended and opening out before her was a great plain under the ocean; what appeared to be miles of submarine variety. And like a dark shadow on the far edge of this plain, there gaped an enormous hole. Taking a quick triangulation of measurements, Lutai confirmed her suspicions; whatever the source of her compass’ reading was near or within that hole.
With Lutai’s strong Zora physique, the miles of submarine plain passed below her in a matter of minutes. The hole was at least as big as the footprint of Hyrule Castle and as Lutai neared she realized it was incredibly deep—hundreds of fathoms down, at least. Finally, as she crested the lip of the opening, Lutai saw that it was not just an underwater shaft, but a hub of sorts off of which many smaller caverns or, perhaps, tunnels led out under the sea floor. The openings were irregularly spaced, and of no uniform size. This told her that at the very least the caves were not purposefully carved, even if they were later taken advantage of by sentient beings. There might be Sea Zoras, she told herself, and gathered her resolve.
Anything could be in those tunnels, she knew, but she had a mission to complete: discover if there were any viable mineral resources south of Hyrule. For the sake of completing her mission, she pressed on. Staying close to one edge of the shaft wall, Lutai wove her way between openings, keeping herself calm and alert for any disturbances in the water. Further and further into the hole she plumbed, the compass confirming her path. Whatever it was leading her to, it was below.
* * *
It took quite some time with snowshoes fixed to his feet, but when Rauru reached his destination he felt the youthfulness of the adventure infuse his body, returning life and spirit to his aging bones. After a short respite he began the treacherous climb that would bring him to his goal. Trading his snow-shoes for toothed boots, he cinched a harness about him, removed his rope from his pack and readied his climbing gear. In no time he was well on his way, feeling every moment like a younger man.
As he climbed, he inhaled the brisk chill air and exhaled his worries. Surely things would be alright. Zelda was safe, Link was on his way to becoming a promising captain, the Gorons would find another food-source and the Goddesses would be with them to fight off the Shadow Gods. Tobias, Rauru’s protégé, had come into his own as the High Priest of the Temple of Time. Rauru could not think of a young man more suited to the position; the monks and parishioners of the Temple were surely in good hands.
The wind whipped, snow scattered like so many tiny, frozen leaves. Up on the sheer face of the Roc’s Peak, with no one to guide, no one to counsel, none to ask his advice or worry him with ill-conceived choices, Rauru found himself enjoying the climb more every minute. But his joy was not meant to last, however, for the closer he came to the height of the spire, the more a feeling of foreboding crept over him. It was not until he had come to a ledge just short of the very peak and he paused to catch his breath that he realized why the feeling had nestled in his heart and would not be shaken.
Curving over the edge of the peak was a huge tapered mass of colorful feathers ending in a jagged yellow stone with a point on its tip that reached directly upward. Under this stone was a pair of blood-red gems that glittered wetly, each of them the size of Rauru’s fist. Finally, two yellow feathers protruded from directly under the gems, making the whole assembly incredibly confusing, to say the least.
But then Rauru reconsidered this incongruous sculpture. The jagged yellow stone was not a stone at all, but a beak. And the glittering gems were not gems, but eyes. The enormous bird that had made the peak its home had watched him all this way and was now staring directly at him, its head curled around so that it was up-side-down, hanging over the edge.
The Roc squawked, and a more terrible sound Rauru had never heard in all his life. Suddenly he did not feel quite so young.
* * *
Without incident, the Sage of Water descended halfway down the shaft before confirming sight of the floor. But to her eyes, accustomed to seeing even in the murky dark, she could still see nothing of interest. Unless the deposit was far larger than she imagined, it was nowhere to be seen.
Only when she reached the silted, swirling depths of the hole did Lutai finally concede that she could not see what she was looking for. Was it buried? Could the reading be incorrect? She ran the gamut of possibilities, cross-checking the compass for confirmation, circling the floor of the hole until she was able to pinpoint the object’s location. To her dismay, the source was significantly smaller than she had anticipated, hardly enough to feed even one Goron for much longer than a few days. But only after she had scooped in the mud for some time did she discover what the compass had led her down here to find.
It was a chest.
Even with the possibility of what the chest might contain, it was not what she had hoped for, and her finned shoulders drooped despondently. There was no mineral deposit after all, only the metal fittings of the chest, surely made from that ore that was found so often as an alloy with the minerals the Gorons consumed. The two substances must register as magnetically identical. Lutai regretted that she would have nothing to report when she returned but an old sunken chest.
Still, since she had already found it…
There was a lock on the chest, but its maker had clearly not intended it to withstand prolonged exposure to the eroding effects of salt-water; its brittle composition allowed it to be easily broken off with a few knocks of a stone Lutai found nearby. But the chest itself was remarkably well preserved. The wood must have been treated and the fittings were, of course, of the rare metal that was tempered by the Gorons to withstand many extremes. For this reason, as Lutai opened it, she was not surprised to find that air escaped from the compartment within. She was surprised, however, that other than the trapped air, the chest was empty. Lutai watched disappointedly as the bubbles of air drifted up, up through the shaft, seeking out the surface of the water. It was only then that she saw the many Sea Zoras gathering in the shaft, far above her.
Lutai caught herself, stifling the instinct to panic; after a few moments she realized that, thus far, none of the gruesome Zora had noticed her. Instead, they hovered where they were, expectant, waiting for something, always directing their gazes upward. Soon, Lutai saw what they were waiting for; a dark shadow pushed itself into view over the rim of the shaft opening and as it teetered on the edge Lutai could see the thin lines of a mast, the shredded remnants of a pair of sails. The Sea Zoras were casting a ship down into the hole!
* * *
Rauru planted himself against the edge of the peak, careful not to make any sudden movements. The Roc tilted its head to one side, trying to get a view of the intruder in its sky-top realm. But dexterity is not the strong point of a Roc’s physique, and after trying unsuccessfully to look at the bundled man upright, the bird left off, no longer interested. Rocs, terrible as they are, are also not very bright.
After he was certain that the Roc would not reappear, Rauru poked his head up, venturing a glimpse of the Roc’s nest. There was a mass of sticks, to be sure, if they could even be called sticks. A copious nest, it was, woven of small trees and a strong matting of feathers and caked mud. It was the size of half the nave and as tall as the grand staircase of the Temple of Time itself. Only just peeking over the edge of this nest were several whitish mounds. Rauru thought ‘whitish’ for he couldn’t be certain whether they were covered in snow. Whatever the case, he decided, they were certainly Roc eggs, and there were at least five of them at that. Now the Roc was nuzzling her unborn young compassionately and Rauru felt only a little afraid. Mostly he was awed indeed at having beheld such a rare and precious creature, fearsome though it was.
Presently, there was a monstrous crack! and Rauru started, nearly stumbling from his perilous perch. Before he could think there was yet another crack! and then another, until Rauru realized he was witnessing the births of many baby Rocs. Their sharp beaks punctured their shells, their slimy heads protruding into the frigid air. This did not seem to faze them, however, and great wafts of steam rose from them, sending the smell of newborn animal into the wind. The mother Roc inspected each of her young carefully, focused entirely on their wellbeing for the moment.
Rauru reconsidered the magical compass and was both reassured and daunted. He had reached his goal; the needle pointed straight and true—directly at the nest of the enormous bird. Whatever he sought was certainly either in or under the Roc’s nest, and he knew he could not leave until he had discovered what it was. His only task now would be to find a way into the nest without being torn to bits as food for the Roc’s newly born children.
But as fate would have it, Rauru need not have worried. For, presently, the Roc lifted its head and an enchanting sound escaped its throat; a lullaby to its young. The song was moving, if a little loud, and the new chicks cheeped sleepily, finally falling silent one by one. The Roc mother eyed her young one last time before leaping into the air with a powerful downdraft of her wings, no doubt to find something to feed to her children when they awoke.
* * *
Collecting her nerves, Lutai cast about for an avenue of escape; if they did not know she was there, they would have no trouble crushing her under the ship. Answering her description of a way out, she found a relatively narrow crevice in the side of the shaft, just near the floor, in which she could hide. From this vantage point, Lutai watched as the cruel Zoras guided the vessel down, down to the floor of the shaft where they immediately began tearing the boat apart.
The mast came off first, followed by the rudder and the prow. Each plank of the hull was violently ripped from its place and sent up and away into one of the various caverns that led off the shaft-hub. The whole operation was done with such coordination and precision, Lutai was certain that these monsters had performed this very act on countless other ships, though as to why they would dismantle a wrecked ship she could not tell.
Not, at least, until she saw the scorch marks on the planks that the creatures carried away. One haughty Sea Zora, carrying such a plank in his twisted scaly arms, turned to another and gloated loudly:
“I started this one on fire, I did! This plank’s goin’ with six others in the Grotto!”
The other one chuckled. “That’ll teach those merchants whose territory this is…”
Lutai gasped; the Sea Zoras were not simply harvesting ships that had already sunk, but actively destroying vessels that had invaded their waters!
“Crank! Get over here, now!” commanded a well-decorated Zora; out of his head and arms grew great frills of red and orange. In response, a particularly brutish-looking Zora emerged from the wreckage bearing a chest from the ship’s lower decks.
“Take all of the treasure to my cabin!” the frilled Zora commanded. “And tell that fool of a slave, Mica, that I expect it all to be sorted by meal-time or he’ll get none of this morning’s catch!” Crank growled in response and obeyed his master’s orders.
Mica! Lutai’s heart fluttered. She could almost not believe the gift the Goddesses had just bestowed on her; Mica was alive! But surely it could not be her Mica…or could it? She had no time to waste on uncertainty. If there was even a chance that her life could be spent saving the Zora she thought she had lost so long ago, she could never live with herself afterwards if she did not try.
Memorizing the tunnel Crank had entered, Lutai waited patiently until the floor of the hole had been cleared of every last scrap of the ruined ship. Only then, when the Sea Zoras had finished their destructive ritual, did Lutai venture out, slipping silently, secretly out of the Sea Zora’s Domain and into the open ocean once again. She would only have once chance at rescuing Mica, and she would need help.
But suddenly, through the wide expanse of water, Lutai heard a sound that made her stop. A school of fish whipped by, frenzied by some sensed danger. But looking around, Lutai knew that it was not the Sea Zoras, or any other thing in the ocean which perturbed the submarine animals. No, the danger was not below, but above.
Breaking the surface of the water to see it more clearly, Lutai gazed at the sky to the north-east and understood what had induced the animals to panic.
* * *
With the mother gone, it was an easy thing for Rauru to creep up on the nest. Still, he would have to be careful when he climbed inside. The young Rocs, though merely babies, were still as big as horses and surely hungry as any newborn child; he would have to avoid waking them or he was as good as so much fresh meat.
As he peered over the rim of the Roc’s nest, he saw that there were precisely seven chicks. They were all huddled to one side, no doubt to take advantage of their mutual heat, and their shells were all cracked open and strewn about their woven bed of trees and feathers. Consulting the compass again, Rauru saw that the object he was searching for lay to the right, precisely where the chicks were huddled. He cursed his luck, but pressed on, climbing into the wooden bowl with nary a peep from his hosts.
Walking on eggshells is one thing when the shells are smaller than your feet. As it was, Rauru found it relatively easy to avoid the larger hunks of Roc shell and quickly closed the distance between himself and his goal. Now the only trouble was to extricate whatever the compass pointed to without disturbing the enormous birds. Rauru knelt on the nest floor, peering between bird bodies and straining to see anything of significance. Twice, three times he knelt and still nothing. It was not until he had made his way to the far side of the nest that he saw what he first took to be a huge shield with two great holes in it. Upon further inspection he realized that it was not a shield, but an enormous mask, perfectly sized and shaped to accommodate the head of a Roc. Rauru immediately consulted the compass; the mask was what he had come so far to find.
It was battered and cracked in many places, but the portions of the mask that were still in good condition made it evident that it was made by skilled, deliberate hands. And for such a rare creature as a Roc, someone must have made this mask as a gift of appeasement, as to a god. Or, perhaps, strange as it was to think, as a part of a harness and bridle. While taming a Roc was a concept Rauru was not acquainted with, he wondered that it might even be attempted. In any case, the mask was particularly worn, suggesting that it had seen some use. And by the nature of the damage, Rauru suspected some bludgeoning, some explosive force as the primary causes. But not knowing what else to do with the Roc’s mask, he left it where it was.
And none too soon, as well, for there was a loud screech on the frosty air announcing the return of the Roc mother. Rauru had no time to escape, and so he lifted up the largest plate of eggshell he could find and tilted it against the nest wall, using it as impromptu cover. He felt the nest shudder as the enormous bird landed, and shortly the mother’s calls were answered by the hungry peeps of the chicks, just now awakening.
Rauru heard the slurping sounds of the parent feeding her children, and he knew it would be some time before the Roc would leave. Having discovered what the compass had led him to and having nothing to show for it, he wondered whether there was some other thing he might take with him as proof of his adventure. His mind immediately fell on the feathers padding the nest below him; surely none could doubt his tale if he recovered even one Roc’s feather.
Tucking his chosen prize inside his coat, Rauru was about to concede his mission as finished when to one side there was the clatter of wood on wood. He peered out from under his eggshell and first spotted something shiny and green; a crystal prism with a faint glow pulsing weakly within. Nearby, he also saw a bundle of broken sticks bound up by shredded cloth; some prize the Roc had brought back to the roost. Rauru made nothing of this, but then he realized that something else was bound to the bundle:
A fine mask made of exquisite porcelain depicting a woman’s knowing face.
* * *
Deep at the base of the Lone Island, on the bed of Lake Hylia, a lone Zora scout swooped through the water, hovering around a curious motionless woman. She wore an expression of anger and malice, and her feet were weighed down by heavy steel boots. In one hand the scout held his fishbone spear.
“What are you doing here?”
The Zora scout turned, pointing his spear at the one who had spoken. But as soon as he did he relaxed. “Oh, Mica, it’s just…” Then the scout’s fishy eyes bulged in his head. “Mica…!? I thought you were…”
“Dead?” said Blue, for it was that Shadow behind the mask of the deceased Zora warrior. “No, I was just…captured,” he invented.
“Captured!?” the scout exclaimed. “But you’ve been gone forever! Who captured you?”
“Pirates,” the false Zora explained frankly. The Zora looked at Blue sidelong for a moment, but seemed to accept this explanation. “Who’s this, anyway?”
“Don’t know,” said the scout, turning to the motionless woman. “Looks like whoever she is, she’s not here by choice, though. I’ve already notified the Domain; they’re on their way. See those boots? That’s what’s keeping her down here. But her face is angry, contorted. There must have been a conflict. She didn’t jump in, she was bewitched. Whoever did this to her probably pushed her in…”
While the scout explained his theories, Blue was busy monitoring his surroundings. All was quiet; there were no other scouts nearby. “All very interesting,” said Blue finally. “Say, I saw something just now over by the sluice. Could you check it out with me? I’m afraid I haven’t anything to protect myself with and being abducted by pirates makes one a little wary…”
“Oh, of course! I mean, anything for you, Mica,” the Zora smiled cordially. “I’m just glad you’re back! We’ve sure missed your stories around the Domain.”
As they swam away from the Lone Island, Blue lagged just behind. When they were close enough to the sluice he would ram the unsuspecting Zora against the stone bank and hide his body in the mud. No loose ends.
“You know who’ll be really happy to see you, Mica?” the scout asked conversationally.
“Who’s that?” asked Blue, obliged to catch up so as not to appear suspicious.
The Zora chuckled. “Come on, Mica, who do you think?”
“Lu Lu?” Blue said tentatively. This was getting too risky; any more questions and he would be found out for sure.
“Oh, so you two had pet-names, huh? So what’d Lutora call you, then?”
Blue was becoming increasingly nervous. His shadow memory didn’t include anything about the life of the Zora he was impersonating. “Um…Mickey…” he invented. “Lutora called me Mickey.” They were coming very close to the sluice, now. Blue wouldn’t be able to fall back again without arousing suspicion. He would have to think of another plan or be ready to fight.
“I was always jealous of you two, you know,” said the scout. “But I really wanted to punch you in the mouth for the way you treated her, sometimes.”
“Oh, yeah?” said Blue noncommittally. He clenched his arm muscles, bending his fins forward so the sharp under-edge was exposed. The scout slowed, approaching the rushing waters of the sluice.
“But you know what’s really rubbing my gills the wrong way about you right now?” The scout turned, holding his spear upright.
Blue quickly released his muscles, allowing the fins to relax; he had almost been caught. “No, what’s that?” Blue replied with deliberate nonchalance.
“Mica never told stories; he composed poetry. His woman’s name wasn’t Lutora; it was Lutai. I never wanted to punch Mica in the mouth for how he treated her, either; he was always the consummate gentleman.” The scout was straight-faced. “And Mica never had a tattoo.”
And as if a starting bell had rung, Blue flipped over in the water and swam rapidly in the opposite direction. Without a fraction of a moment lost, the scout was directly behind him. Blue recognized the powerful swimming strength in the body he possessed, but the scout was infinitely more accustomed to maneuvering underwater, and it took all of Blue’s presence of mind not to be impaled on the spear more than once.
“Who are you? Speak, imposter!” the scout shouted.
Blue did not respond, but circled around the base of the Lone Island, dragging one fin across the saturated mud at its base. A thick cloud of silt bloomed into the water, but the scout pressed on through the cloud, undaunted in his pursuit.
“I’m no one to be trifled with, peon!” Blue shouted back. “If you do not let me leave in peace you will regret having matched with me!” Now the Shadow darted around a fragile coral, dashing it to pieces with one swipe of his arm-fin.
The scout evaded the razor-sharp shards of coral with expert precision. “As I can see by the fact that you’re trying to escape me, imposter! Turn yourself in and the dukes will be merciful. Flee and I am duty-bound to pursue you! May Nayru grant you the wisdom to concede.”
“Hah!” Blue taunted, and he dodged the scout’s spear again. Then, he just caught sight of something to one side, half-buried in fresh sediment. His quick Zora eyes told him immediately what it was:
Darting with erratic movements, Blue lured the scout closer, and yet closer. He could leave him no time to evade. Finally, he swooped down on the net, blending the movement into a quick spiral as he doubled back around a tall stone column, clenching the center of the net in his webbed hands. Then he doubled back yet again, charging straight for the stone column, the scout following close on his flippers. Faster, still faster, spiraling again, now Blue darted up, leaping out of the water like a dolphin. The scout followed closely behind, breaking the surface with terrible velocity. Instantly, Blue let go the net and it flew out wide from the centrifugal force, catching the scout full on. The ropes wrapped around the Zora’s body immediately, pinning his arms and legs. Blue splayed every fin on his body, planing through the frigid air with just enough force to miss the stone column by a narrow margin.
The Zora scout was not as lucky.
After Blue had reentered the lake’s welcoming warmth, he recovered the spear from the scout’s unobjecting hands and returned to the base of the Lone Island. He gave the motionless woman only passing consideration and ducked into the entrance-cavity leading to the underwater temple. Within, he found that the door was already open.
Blue swore: the Shadow God was already inside.
Experience the legend as never before! http://heroofgeeks.blogspot.com Every legend contains its residuum of truth, and the root function of language is to control the universe by describing it. ~ James Baldwin
As of today, Gods of Shadow has 4002 views! Thank you to all of you out there who follow the ramblings of the present author; this fan is honored not only to find that his work is read, but also that it is one of the highest veiwed on the site. To be in such good company is truly an honor.
A word on statistics: as Gods of Shadow is the companion piece to Shadows of the Past, my other work on ZU, the two could justifiably be considered to be one whole. What does this mean? If both of their views are taken together, it is enough to make the whole story worthy of third-most-viewed fan-fiction on the site. And it is still not yet finished! Thank you again, most dutiful readers. I hope not to disappoint you as I conclude my most invested work!
Well, not quite finished... But this is the last episode.
Experience the legend as never before! http://heroofgeeks.blogspot.com Every legend contains its residuum of truth, and the root function of language is to control the universe by describing it. ~ James Baldwin
Finally I was able to read two latest chapters!!! It keeps getting better and better. Congrats on the 4002 views. I personally do not feel you need to differentiate the 4th link as green. I also feel that the Golden land scenes at the beginning of the chapter blend well together, like a good wine and steak. Im torn on the "time stamp" idea. It could be a good help in keeping the story straight but at the same time the fun is in trying to piece the story together. There were only some parts that were confusing however Im sure if I read it consistently that wouldn't happen. Either way looking forward to the chapters ahead.
“Before there was even the thought of time, and many eternities before that, there was Maya, the One-Which-Was-Many…” A large golden triangle appeared in the night sky and revolved slowly, permitting Link to study it. It reminded him of a vision that Zelda had once given him when she was parading as a Sheik—a vision of the Triforce. This was different, however, for there was only one golden triangle, and not three.
“Maya was perfect; incorruptible. But then a terrible Calamity shook all of existence and Maya, the Whole One, cracked.” The single triangle suddenly split in three places and the resulting shapes were four smaller triangles: one at each point with an inverted one in the center. “At Maya’s center was Onu, the spirit of balance—” the center triangle glowed brighter than the others, “and at her extremities were the spirits of her being.” As Orda named them each triangle glowed brighter. “ Dragma the Conquerer, who was the embodiment of action and dominance, Zelda the Refiner, who was the embodiment of temperance and ingenuity, and Worlu the Protector, who was the embodiment of perseverance and preservation…”
Link started at the mention of the God’s name. “Did you say Worlu!?”
Orda’s head turned to face Link from under her coverlet. “Yes, child, but what vexes you?”
Link considered what to tell her first; there was so much he could say. “I thought Worlu was the name of the Fierce Deity… Isn’t it?”
Her face was covered, but Link could hear the hesitation in her voice. “Then you know somewhat of the Shadow Gods. We shall speak more of that, presently,” she said, and continued with her narrative.
“After a long time it came to pass that Onu, the spirit of balance, receded from Maya, the One-Made-Many.” The center triangle disappeared from between the other three and slowly those that remained turned until they pointed toward the center. “And in this precarious state Maya existed for many eons—never dividing, but not truly one as she had once been. Then, just as she had become accustomed to her fragile existence, Worlu the Protector vanished, never to return.” The triangle on the right drifted away from the other two and disappeared as Onu had. The two triangles that remained touched only by their tips; one pointing up, the other down. “It was this imbalance that brought the Cataclysm.”
Link watched as the lower triangle fled from the one above it. It was caught, however, by some invisible force and, twitching, was bound to remain still.
“Dragma sought to enslave Zelda and, as a cruel echo of the Calamity, broke her just as Maya had been broken.” The upper triangle struck the lower one and broke it into four pieces, just as the one large triangle had been. Dragma disappeared and Link saw only the four shattered pieces of Zelda the Refiner.
“This, then, was the beginning of the Goddesses you know.” Again, the triangles glowed brighter as they were named. “Din the Powerful, Nayru the Wise, Faroe the Courageous—the three Golden Goddesses of Hyrule. But this last one,” the center triangle now glowed, “the Goddess which has sought since that time to bring her sisters back into unity with each other—this was the goddess named The Beginning and the End.” Link gasped in wolf fashion. “Yes, Link,” she said. “I am the fourth Golden Goddess. It was I who left my sisters to dissention and eventual dissolution.” The center triangle disappeared and what remained was the symbol of the Triforce itself: three triangles forming one larger triangle, each of them revolving in place.
“You?” Link stared at the shrouded figure with a new awe and dread. “But why would you do that?”
“Because it is done; and therefore it has always been. It is a part of the pattern which repeats through all eternity. A broken thing cannot simply be rejoined the moment it is shattered; the pieces must be reconciled to each other before it can become properly whole once more. Such are the tales that are told here in the Golden Land.” Her voice was final, as if this was the only explanation needed.
Link tried to fathom a Goddess being destroyed by some unknown conqueror called Dragma. He imagined Ganon attempting to smash the Triforce itself. It still seemed impossible. “But how could Dragma break Zelda if she was as powerful as four goddesses?”
“It can only be done by one of equal power. You might say that this was why Sophia and Tempus could not be defeated by any mortal being, but that one of them could defeat the other.” In another moment Link’s eyes widened. “Yes, young hero,” said Orda. “Dragma was Zelda’s brother-god.”
Link’s shock was apparent. “But wasn’t there anyone else? Wasn’t there someone to protect her? Anyone?”
“It is not so simple, Link. As I said, the pattern is followed in the heavens as it is in Hyrule. There was one who should have been there, but he was not. Worlu the Protector had long since left his sister-goddess.”
“What was he doing!? Why wasn’t he there to save Zelda!?” Link’s anger brimmed again and the ridge of golden fur along his spine bristled. He growled. “I would have been there…”
Orda stared at Link through her veil. Although he could not see her face, he felt her indifference; she was allowing his anger as if it were simply a childish tantrum. “Were you there, Link, when Castle Town was sieged and Ganon entered the Golden Land? Were you there when he slaughtered the Knights of Hyrule and invaded with the Power of Gold? Were you there when he murdered the townspeople and animated their flesh to use as mindless minions?” All of this the Goddess said evenly and without emotion, as if it were something that had been taken care of—a chore forgotten as soon as it was completed. “What did you do to stop these things from occurring, Young Hero?”
“That’s not my fault! I was out getting the spiritual stones so I could get into the Golden Land before Ganondorf. And then I was asleep for seven years… Look, none of those things happened! I came back and changed them so they wouldn’t happen!” Link backed away defensively, baring his teeth. “I changed time,” snarled Link, “so that Ganon wouldn’t get the Triforce, and he didn’t.”
“But he shall. You cannot erase a thing from the rivers of time, Link. A river may be driven from its course; cliffs avoided, dams built to pool the waters. But sooner or later another stream will form to travel the course; sooner or later every river must reach the shore. If events do not occur in one manner, they will occur in another. That is the nature of balance.”
“What balance?” Link growled testily. “Are you saying I can’t stop things from happening? If Ganon is going to get the Triforce no matter what, then why did Zelda send me back in time after we sealed him in the Golden Land?”
“To change the circumstances of his obtaining the Triforce, Link. Given a Hyrule that was not prepared to combat his evil, Ganon overcame Wisdom and Courage and threw the story out of balance. That balance needed to be corrected, and so Zelda sent you back so you could delay the moment that Ganon obtained the Triforce; delay him until he was already in the custody of Courage, already under Wisdom’s judgment. Only then could the Chosen of Power be prevented from utterly wasting Hyrule at his whim.
“The methods may change,” the goddess continued sagely, “the event may be delayed, or accelerated, but all things which must happen will happen. Zelda’s parents would have perished whether by the hand of the Chosen of Power, or a God of Shadow, or because Faroe caught them in her embrace once more. The Chosen of Power will one day obtain the Triforce, no matter if his hands have sought it out, or those of the Chosen of Courage, or the Chosen of Wisdom.
Link couldn’t accept it; he wouldn’t! Now his mind was racing, trying to come up with a counter-argument; to disprove what the goddess was telling him. Finally: “Then what about Hyrule Castle? In the future I came from, Hyrule Castle didn’t exist anymore. If Ganon doesn’t get the Triforce until later, does that mean Hyrule Castle won’t get destroyed? Or is it doomed no matter what I do?”
The goddess stepped forward, meeting Link’s demeanor with her own challenge. “Can you speak so flippantly of the place of your heritance? In the future you left behind, Link, Ganon pulled a great star from the sky to destroy what was then Hyrule Castle. Above the molten crater that formed he built an enchanted tower from which he dominated and enslaved any Hylians foolish enough to remain.
“The meteor Ganon called down in one stream of time was that very one that Sophia called down in another. I should think you would be grateful to Biggoro, oldest of the tribe of stone and fire. Though you knew it not, he delivered Hyrule Castle from destruction. If he had not sacrificed himself to break the star, it would have plummeted to the earth beyond the mountains, destroying Hyrule Castle entirely. As I have said; if those things which must occur do not happen in one way, they will happen in another.”
Link might have responded, but then Orda paused, turning to one side as if listening intently for something. When she seemed to have discovered what it was, she spoke again. “Even now, events have been changed. And yet…they are the same.”
* * *
Afton gazed on incredulously as the Stone Giant bent low to the earth and staggered his feet like a runner on his mark. At the right moment the giant pushed off Death Mountain and ran recklessly toward the falling star, each footfall an earthquake. Finally, when the giant had reached the critical moment, he jumped directly into its path, meteor and man colliding with such an impact that the whole world seemed to shudder from its very foundations. The Stone Giant was thrown backward, grasping the star tightly in his arms, and then his enormous body was hammered against the eastern slope of Death Mountain, instantly spraying a great wave of lava out of the caldera.
Biggoro raised up an arm and turned to one side, shielding Afton and Abrum from the brunt of the fiery shower. When Afton looked again, he saw the giant struggling with the super-heated stone in his hands. The magic in the mountain still pulled on the star, and it was all the Stone Giant could do to shift it to one side before it rolled up the sheer eastern slope and settled on the rim of the Death Mountain volcano, where, at last, it rocked back and forth, settling into place, losing momentum every moment. The newly fallen star had found its sister-stone at last.
But all was not done. Now the ground began rumbling, and great bubbling splashes issued out of the volcano, calling up the molten ore to join its brother-star. And somewhere under the depths of the mountain, the magma was freed to run its course. The lava rose incredibly fast; to Afton it was like the filling of a cup of water. And then Death Mountain was overflowing, overpouring, draining down the mountain trailing a wake of fire and desolation; Death Mountain had become a literal mountain of death.
In moments the lava flow scoured Kakariko Village and utterly wasted all but the graveyard, which happened to be high enough to avoid the flow. Into the great river of Hyrule it poured, casting up wave upon wave of steam as the water was boiled away instantaneously, to be replaced by a new bank of cooling black stone. But the water kept coming, coursing around this new bank until it resumed its course along the western rim of the mountain range. Still the lava flowed, seeking out the coursing water where it was cooled again and a new bank was formed. Soon the elements reached an equilibrium; the water and the fiery stone liquid fighting a battle that would never end until the spring at the height of Zora’s Domain ran dry or the lava cooled.
There was yet another groan in the earth, and the rumbling became a shuddering. Now the land itself was moving! No, Afton realized, it was breaking apart! It began at the eastern edge of the mountains and from there it ripped along the eastern edge of everything; a great chasm opening like a mouth, gaping wider and wider, dividing, coming together, and dividing once more. The knight could hardly believe his eyes; the terrain of Hyrule was being irrevocably altered, great portions of land standing out alone, surrounded by nothing but open air, while the eastern lands drifted away.
The Stone Giant finally discovered that he must move or be swallowed by the chasm. Groaning with a voice as deep as the gorge itself, he rose to his knees, then his feet, and dusted himself off with his gargantuan hands. Finally, he looked around, as if to survey an accident he had caused, and then straddled the mountain range, returning to the western side. At last he raised a hand to his face and promptly shrank at the same speed with which he grew, diminishing in size as he walked, just vanishing from view almost as he reached Lon Lon Ranch.
Then, Afton heard a groan from beside him. Abrum was stirring! Afton turned to the thief, now neither Sheikah nor Gerudo, but more foreign in appearance than anything Afton had ever seen. The knight held him fast in his arms, ensuring that when he awoke fully he would not dash himself from the ancient Goron’s hand unintentionally.
“Uhnn…” Abrum cradled his head in his hands. “What happened, love?” he asked with a new voice; it was strange, and reverberated with a metallic tone. Now his hand went to his throat. “What has happened to my voice…? Love? Are you…”
Afton maintained his grip on the thief. “Do not allow yourself to be alarmed, Master Thief,” he said calmly. “You are on the hand of Biggoro, high in the air above a mountainslide of roiling lava. Asera is alive, but far from here. She is safe, as I promised.”
The thief gazed up into the huge glossy eyes of Biggoro and realized that what the knight had said was true. “I will not flee,” said Abrum, matching the knight’s composure. “Let me go.” Afton did so. Now Abrum sat up, stretching his newly elongated neck. His novel form was most foreign to him. He moved with more fluidity now, more grace. Experimentally, he tried twisting his spine to see how far it would go. But before he reached his limit he stopped; it was too odd to move his body in these ways, even if he could.
“What has happened to me?” asked Abrum.
“The magic of the Fused Shadow transformed you, Master Thief. You are now one of two people in all of Hyrule who appear as you do. Not monster, not man, but something in-between, like the twilight.”
Abrum considered this. “Asera…” He checked his hand; there, on his third finger, was the twisted ring he had found in the village bazaar. That, at least, had not been altered by the shadow magic. “And what of the Fused Shadow? Is it gone?”
“The magic was dispersed into the mountain. It has run its course through Asera and yourself. It is gone. Though not without leaving its scar on the land…” Afton gestured out over Hyrule.
Abrum rose gradually to his feet, steadying himself against Biggoro’s thumb. He gasped. “No, not Kakariko! The birthplace of my ancestors, the heritage of my people; it is all gone!”
Afton did not interrupt the man, but bowed his head in silent observance of Abrum’s grief. Abrum wept, knelt on the high perch of Biggoro’s hand, releasing all of his emotion in great sobs.
After awhile Afton approached the man. “I am sorry for the loss of your home; what home it was to you. But if I may, you have regained your sister, Abrum. There is at least that.”
Now it was Abrum who bowed his head. “No, Master Knight. She is not regained. Not by me. Long have I scorned her; long ago I abandoned her. She had received a high honor; the assignment as a nursemaid for the Hylia royalty. While I… I had murdered Mudora for the death of my parents. All I did was deliver a message to the castle telling her of our parents’ fate. I should have been there, not some servant delivering a bit of parchment. But I was a man in the shame of his own deed. I did what I thought was right at the time, but since then… I have only sought vain desires.”
“Hah! You call what you have with Asera vain, Master Thief? Would that I had the courage of a man who would grasp death in his hands just to rid the woman he loved of pain. No, Abrum, your love for Asera is not vain.”
“But you walked into the mouth of the volcano with naught but a pair of swords! You even traded away your vial of Cold Flame for the assistance of a murderous thief! There is your courage, man—you wish for what you already have! And death? No. I cannot say that I would have died…not unless my love had perished. Then life would have been worse than death.”
“But that is precisely what I mean to say. That love which you feel for your woman is stronger than any other bond. But Impa will always be your sister, Abrum; did she not forgive you in the face of her own death? Who can doubt you have regained your sister?”
Abrum became silent now, pondering the Afton’s words. “It is well said that the Hylia are wise, Master Knight. You are right. I pour out my tears for my home, but shed nary a drop for those who once shared it with me. I have been too far from it for too long. I have forgotten that Kakariko was never my home; it was always Impa, my parents. And when I lost them… I was too embittered by jealousy and hatred that I lost sight of my own kin. I should have been there, Afton, I wished to be. Only now, when I am too unfamiliar to her…”
“You must not know your own sister to speak so, Abrum. I have known Impa since she began training as the princess’ bodyguard. Even when you were changed by the shadow magic, Impa’s heart was torn for you. To fulfill her charge would be to deliver her own brother into the hands of the court, while not to do so would mean a stain on the memory of your parents. She is tortured by duty, clinging to it as if her life were a never-ending atonement for the dishonor she has done to her family…”
“Dishonor!? The Goddesses forbid! It is I who have dishonor to atone of, if I should ever find myself stronger than my pride. Impa is blameless of wrong. She is the only one left who brings honor to our family…”
Abrum was silent, smiling sincerely. “Perhaps I am not the one to whom you should say these things, Master Thief. Give her permission to weep, Abrum; release her from her torture. What she craves can come from none but her own family, and now you are all she has. Return to Impa what she has lacked these many long years.”
Abrum considered the knight intently. “Say it, Master Knight. Say it aloud and make it real.”
“Forgiveness, Abrum. You must forgive her, as she has forgiven you.”
* * *
Two white streaks swept over Hyrule, climbing higher, ever higher. Up into the cloudless sky, up above the limited horizon, far beyond the weights and cares and troubles of the earth below.
Yet, where clouds should not have been, there were masses of white. And strange clouds they were, for when two white figures resolved out of the white streaks, the white masses under their feet bore them up. The wind blew, but the clouds would not be moved. Impa and Asera had reached the Realm of the Heavens.
A white-robed Impa lowered another figure to the cloud-bank, putting a hand to its face and pulling away the Mask of the White Sage. Underneath was a woman; half-white, half-black, with copper-colored hair cascading around her shoulders. Only after ensuring that Asera was breathing steadily did Impa remove her mask as well.
Then, from far below came the report of enormous footfalls. Impa stood, approaching the edge of her perch far over Hyrule, readying herself to witness the catastrophe that she knew was imminent.
But it was not yet, and she saw a giant stone man leap into the air, reaching out to the falling star as if it were a child’s ball. Then the star struck, sending a wave of force through the clear air centered around the impact. And as Impa watched, the landscape of Hyrule was altered. Red streams poured out of Death Mountain and great yawning cracks opened in the landscape. Impa’s heart sank, and when the desolation was over she watched as the Stone Giant disappeared, shrinking to nothingness as it strode out over Hyrule Field.
Impa regarded the flowing red rivers as they coursed down the mountain. “Kakariko,” she said aloud, as if it were the name of someone she had loved more than her own life. The village was gone, buried under layers of molten rock.
“Don’t sound so sorrowful,” said a bitter voice from behind. Asera was just pushing herself to her hands. “You sound as though you wanted to be there, when truly you were more happy to be the nursemaid of some Hylian brat.”
Impa did not turn, but bowed her head reverently. “It was my duty. It honored my village to go.”
“Duty,” Asera spat, as if it were a drop of poison on her tongue. “Duty is nothing but dry, withered obedience compared to the living, burning flame of true devotion. You never loved your village if you did not long for it, crave to be there, among your own kind.”
Impa’s discipline proved sufficient to keep her from lashing out at the woman. “I disagree.”
“Disagree all you want; it doesn’t make you less of a liar. You say the name of your village like that when you have not even set foot there until you were appointed as mayor? What, did you have to be ordered to return just to feel that you could? You don’t realize what you had! If I had had anything like Kakariko to call home I could never be forced to leave it, duty or no.”
“Then that is where we differ,” said Impa, tight-lipped.
Now Asera got to her feet and struck out at the Sheikah woman. Impa did not resist, but allowed herself to be maneuvered to the edge of the cloud bank where Asera held her precariously, just teetering over a thousand-foot drop.
“Can you say that you ever loved Abrum!? To never come looking for him, to never even know where he was, but to simply accept that he was gone and might never come back, all the while pampering some thankless princess who could care less about your brother—your dead parents, your brother’s murdered master—and all in the name of duty!?” Asera’s breathing had quickened, and she shook from the strain of recent events. It was clear that one false step might cause her to lose her grip on Impa.
“I was content to honor my village—and my family—by performing the duty asked of me. The Sheikah live to serve the Royal Family of Hyrule.”
“Damn the Royal Family!!” Asera shrieked. She only just maintained her grip. “They play you all like slaves, forcing you to atone for the sins of your ancestors; as if trying to take advantage of the power the Goddesses gave to Hyrule could ever be called a sin! They have done the same to the Gerudo for centuries! And what do they give you in return? ‘Honorable duties’ that deprive you of any sense of self, of love for your home, your family! Abrum deserves better than that! He deserves a sister who longs to do what is right for him, not the cold, aloof, duty-bound wretch I see before me! He deserves to be accepted, to be emancipated of his guilt, not thrown to the Hylian Court to be trodden down and vilified!” And she slapped Impa full on the mouth. “Say something you worthless crone!”
But Impa did not speak. Her face was blank, emptied of all emotion.
Asera’s expression twisted and contorted, snarling with pent up rage. “You are no sister to my love! You may once have been, but now you are only an empty husk, incapable of true devotion!” And slipping her hand into Impa’s satchel, Asera dashed the White Sage Masks to the cloud bank behind her. “Die, imposter!” And she released her grip, allowing Impa to drop from the edge of the unnatural clouds, watching as the Sheikah woman did nothing to oppose her fatal descent.
* * * 10 Years Ago
Link looked to the Great Dekku Tree; his enormous face stretched, his huge eyes opening wide, his mouth parting to form words, and in his deep-throated hum, he spoke:
“Mother, I greet thee with sorrow for thine afflictions. I have naught to give thee that thou mayst be whole, nor do my children know the arts of healing, as they can never come to harm within this forest, but while here my magic can prolong your life, even if it be so short, and thou shalt not feel thy pain. Yet, know that I have aught to speak to thee, and then thy body must lie down to the earth.”
Link’s mother gripped the reins of her steed in one hand and pressed the bundle of clothes closer to her chest. Her eyes were full of astonishment, but she responded with coherence. “Then I thank you, Master,” she said, respectfully. “With whom do I speak, that I may know my benefactor?”
The tree hummed again. “I am the Father Dekku, and the Koroki are my children. But know, Mother, that thy time is short, and soon thou shalt know me well. I must speak to thee of thy son, that which thou bearest next to thy breast. Knowest thou of his fate?”
Link gasped; they were talking about him! Would they say anything about his adventures? What was so important that Stranger had brought him back to witness?
“He is my son, sir,” Link’s mother said, “and I pray that Din be in him, for might; and Faroe, for valiance; and Nayru, for justice. But I do not know of his fate.”
“A blessing well spoken, Mother,” said the tree.
“Please, sir, I see that thou must be an oracle. What may I know of him from thee? Is he to be great among his fellows?”
“He is, Mother.” Link’s heart leapt! “His name shall be had in the legends of thy people for countless generations. And I ask that my children may keep him until Faroe be in him, for valiance, and he is prepared for his destiny.”
Link’s mother cradled her son in her arms, and he stirred, but did not wake. “Why does he yet sleep, sir?” she asked. “And do we dream these things?”
“From the moment thy child was within my wood, I kept him, and he slept. For he shall see evils which are not yet created, and do them battle, and why should he be plagued with more? And though thou dreamest not, yet others have dreamed, and shall tell of thee.”
‘Others have dreamed…’ Link thought. Who dreamed of my mother?
The young mother swooned again, and it looked as if she might fall from her mount at any moment. “Yes, Master Dekku, Father of the Koroki, it is as you have said. I go. And take my child. Will you raise him in the ways of the Goddesses?”
“Yes, Mother. All shall be as would please Them. Come, now, and sleep next to me. It is time for the earth to catch you.”
Link’s mother lowered her son into Saria’s arms, who cradled him, smiling at the baby sweetly. “Goodbye, my son,” said the young mother, “Nayru keep you until I see you again. Goodbye.” And her horse carried her over to one side of the Dekku Tree, nearer, yet nearer to where Link and stranger stood, unseen.
Goodbye, thought Link, but he did not wish her to leave. He had only just met her for the first time in his life; he was not ready for her to die. His mother alighted from her horse, stumbling when her feet touched the ground; her wound had taken too much blood from her. She had only enough strength now to settle herself on the ground, laying her hands over her belly, closing her eyes serenely.
Link thought he might have leapt out of his skin. Here he was, so very close to his mother now and yet still ten years apart. He half expected Stranger to restrain him, but somehow Link found the will to refrain. He wanted so badly to shake her, to wake her and tell her all about what he had become; to make her proud.
Then, just as the last of her life was almost gone, she whispered: “I am proud of you, son. I love…you…”
The horse nickered, the leaves nearby rustled with a short breeze, and all was silent again. Link bowed his head and cried.
Then, after what seemed forever, Link felt a hand on his shoulder. Stranger did not speak, but Link saw what the Sheikah man had intended him to: a gathering of Koroki children had assembled around them, all watching the woman carefully. Link recognized many of them from his childhood; Mido, Fado, Boon and Bon, Kiri, Kili, Drona and Sali. Before them all was Saria, of course, still holding the infant Link, bobbing him up and down in her child arms and clucking playfully. Beside her was a particularly roguish-looking Koroki with eyes that sparkled like emeralds.
Aako, thought Link. And, of course, he was right.
Aako raised one hand, summoning the attention of the children. All of them turned to the Koroki boy with rapt interest. Then Aako brought forth a fiddle in the shape of a leaf and tucked one end under his chin, drawing the bow across the viny strings, coaxing out a lulling tone of bittersweet. The sad sound did not last for long, however, and as Aako continued to play the other children began to grin widely. Then the tempo picked up, gathering speed like a reel, and the children began to dance.
And what dancing it was! Little colored lights flew out from behind the children’s heads and bobbed about, joining the children in a jig that encircled the woman, still and quiet, but somehow enlivened by the music and the lights. Saria grinned widely and took the infant’s small hand, waving it at the woman. Link followed suit, waving goodbye to his mother.
And then the earth moved away, opening up beneath the woman. Gradually, gently, she was sinking into the ground.
No! Link thought out, though he knew he could do nothing. He wished her to linger, to let him look on her just a little more. But she was disappearing into the ground, and there was nothing he could do to stop it, even if he chose to act out. Even so, he cast about for something, anything. Bereavement drove him to pick up the first thing he could find and toss it into the closing hole; a single acorn.
Just then Aako’s eyes sparkled mischievously and Link was certain the Koroki boy had seen him. There was no fooling a Koroki with appearances; they always knew. Still, Aako did nothing, and allowed the acorn to sink into the hole after Link’s mother, closing finally with the scent of freshly turned soil.
Aako finished his song and lowered the fiddle from his chin. The other children bowed to each other and clapped joyfully, eventually finding other games to divert themselves elsewhere.
Finally, Aako turned to Saria and smiled, seemingly forgetting that he had noticed anything amiss about an acorn jumping into the ground of its own accord. Aako helped Saria up, letting her stand on his hands, his shoulders, and then his head to reach the saddle of the horse that grazed nearby. Instantly, she was not a girl, but a fully grown princess with beautiful long locks of green hair. And the horse was not a horse, but a glorious white creature with an ivory spiral jutting from its forehead like a lance. And away the princess and her white charger galloped, carrying away the baby that was to be raised as one of the Koroki.
When all others were gone, Aako turned again to the random stump hiding in plain sight, folding his arms indignantly.
“Cheater,” he said, glancing at the hole where he knew the acorn was buried. Then he looked above Link’s head, where Stranger would have been. “Dangerous.” And then Aako suddenly saw something off in the distance and began stalking it like a lion.
* * * Present
Aako held his finger to his lips. Boon was quiet. Bon was quiet. Mido was supposed to be watching for intruders. Fado and her gang couldn’t be far. The four Koroki children slinked along the forest floor like snakes; silent, poised. There could be anything around the next tree.
Suddenly, Bon cried out! Wide gaping jaws full of teeth snapped from above! Bon rolled, flipped away, and drew his weapon: a sturdy sword made of two sticks tied together with vines. Bon hacked and hacked the thing that had jumped out at him, until finally a gourd-like head lay on the ground where Bon continued to beat away at it. Its barbed seed-teeth fell out with every whack, and only then did Bon realize that the Baba plant’s head was already dry; long since dead.
Mido popped out of the bushes nearby rolling with glee. In one hand he held a vine—the stalk of the dead Baba plant—which he had cleverly swung up over a tree branch. The Baba had been his puppet!
Aako and Boon were deep in mirth by this time, and then Bon joined in, impressed at Mido’s ingenuity. Boon lifted up the Baba head and moved the jaws, chattering his teeth menacingly. Mido and Bon got full laughs at this, and then it was Bon’s turn. Only after Bon did his best impersonation of a monkey did the three boys realize that Aako was no longer watching. Instead, the emerald-eyed boy gazed up at the sky, concern shadowing his face.
“Balloon,” said Aako, and sure enough, the other boys could spot a large translucent sphere in the sky, and dangling from it was a leafy brown thing, squirming and squiggling. The ‘balloon’ deflated helplessly, drooping in the sky, and then the leafy thing contracted all at once and the balloon regained its fullness, lifting again into the air. After another moment Aako realized what the thing really was.
“Boon,” said Aako, pointing to the sky. The Koroki boy knew precisely what Aako wanted, and pulled out his slingshot.
“Mido,” Boon called, and immediately a handful of Baba seeds was tossed Boon’s way. Equipped with these bullets, Boon pulled back the slingshot and fired once.
The boys booed; the seed had missed. There was a very annoyed squeak from the leafy thing hanging from the balloon, however. Crestfallen, Boon handed the slingshot over to Bon, who aimed carefully, and loosed another bullet. This time the seed struck the balloon, and it vanished with a pop! The boys cheered for their fellow, but the leafy thing contracted its body again, and a second balloon replaced the first, growing from a wooden tube protruding from its side. It was still aloft.
The boys booed at this unexpected development, and Aako now took the slingshot in his hand. He prepared another seed in the sling, and waited. The balloon drifted aimlessly, almost out of sight.
“Go,” Mido whispered.
“Early,” Aako replied. He waited.
“Go, said Boon. Aako said nothing.
Suddenly, a gust of wind blew, throwing the balloon high into the air, forcing the leafy thing to flail madly in a vain attempt to remain connected to its aerial transport. Just then Aako raised the slingshot, loosed the seed, and smack! flash! the leafy thing went rigid, stunned by Aako’s true aim. The balloon popped, and the leafy thing fell to the ground.
It was a mad chase to where the thing had fallen, but the boys stopped short; Fado stood over the leafy thing triumphantly, one foot on its wooden head. Under Fado’s foot was a disgruntled-looking Dekku Scrub, squeaking madly.
“Ours,” said Fado, and her posse of Koroki girls—Kiri, Kili, Drona and Sali—nodded their heads in emphatic agreement.
Aako wore a look of downright grumpiness. “Ours,” he insisted, thrusting a thumb into his chest. “No fair!”
“Fair, fair,” replied Fado sassily. “Smart.” And her pigtails bobbed as she looked away haughtily. Aako just gritted his teeth.
“What d’you think you’re doing!?” squeaked Violet, for it was he behind the guise of the Dekku Scrub. “You shot me out of the sky! Take me to your leader at once!”
Aako peered at the Scrub judiciously. His keen emerald eyes flashed. Something was strange about this Scrub, he decided…
But he did not have much of a chance to think about the matter, for just at that moment the world shook, the earth groaned, and a blast of strange wind burst through the trees, knocking all of the children down like skittles. For the moment, the Dekku Scrub was free.
“Ha! Suckers!” called Vi, rolling to his stubby wooden feet and hopping away. “I’ll just get there myself! Dekku Tree here I come!”
Immediately, Aako had the attention of the other children. “Go!” he commanded, and the children were away, dashing through the wood after the mysterious Scrub. “Careful!” he shouted after them.
When they were gone, Aako removed a compass from his tunic and looked at it intently. It pointed firmly and decisively due north.
Experience the legend as never before! http://heroofgeeks.blogspot.com Every legend contains its residuum of truth, and the root function of language is to control the universe by describing it. ~ James Baldwin
Asera is a cold hearted women isnt she! Nevermind that Impa just saved your life, its cool she was ready to die for her brother beforehand anyway....That was a great section. Really felt the emotion between Afton and Abrum, and Impas regret was palpable. I always enjoy the sections that have the Koroki, and Aako and the acorn......foreshadowing?
“Link,” said the goddess, kneeling to stroke Link’s back again, “you are the retelling of Worlu the Protector—the one who should have rescued Zelda the Refiner, but did not. His is a destiny of redemption, not salvation. It is the lot of the Protector to snatch away Zelda from Dragma’s clutches, not to prevent her from ever coming to harm.” Orda looked far out into the night of starry liquid gold, her eyes searching for something from behind her veil. “He is out there, somewhere… One day he will return and save us…the Golden Goddesses…”
For a long time the goddess and the wolf sat pondering the sky of that golden land. Link felt as if his heart might burst; he longed to see Zelda again. And Malon, and his uncle and all the others. What once seemed like a strange and wonderful place now felt more like a prison; Link’s muscles itched under his skin and he felt as if he might want to cry out any moment. As if by doing so he could transport himself back to Hyrule… Though he did not know what he could possibly go back to—as the goddess said, the time he came from had been destroyed in the Cataclysm. Link’s lupine brow furrowed; something else the goddess had said returned to his mind.
“Mistress Orda?” Link asked meekly. “Is the Fierce Deity really Worlu, the Protector?”
The goddess inclined her head thoughtfully. “No, Link…” Then she turned as if she would say something, but decided against it. Finally: “Link, do you know of the Twilight Realm?” she said instead.
“Sure, the Mask Salesman said it’s where the Gods came from.” Link didn’t see what this had to do with anything.
“And do you know what force drew your Shadow from you and brought it to life?”
“The Dark Mirror, I guess, but what does that have to do with…”
“Please, just listen. Link, the Shadow Gods are reflections of the Goddesses; they are the powers that rule the dark half of Hyrule.”
“So they’re like my Shadow…”
“Precisely. But instead of being created by the Dark Mirror, they were made by the Mirror of Twilight.”
“What’s that?” Link asked honestly. He had never heard of it.
“We Goddesses made the Mirror. We meant it as a gift; a way to banish the Dark Tribe that threatened the land in those days. But we did not foresee that the mirror would divide Hyrule in two. You see, Link, a great champion of old protected his people with the Mirror of Twilight. But with the banishing of the Dark Tribe, Hyrule gained a Dark Side—a Twilight World—and we Goddesses were divided asunder. One half light, like Hyrule; the other half dark, like the Twilight Realm where the Dark Tribe was banished. Our Shadows were as powerful as we were, and had all our goals and aims, but none of our benevolence or mercy. We proved our own enemies; our doubts, our fears, all our wickedness and malice was born as a God of Shadow. I’m sure you have discovered this same truth about yourself when you faced your Shadow incarnate.”
“Yeah,” was all Link could think to say. Suddenly it was as if a curtain had been pulled back in his mind and he considered what he never had before. His Shadow self had said it once, but only now did he understand; his greatest enemy was himself. And this was true for the Goddesses as well!
“Thus were created the Gods of Shadow.” Orda continued. “And they gave themselves names. Majora you know; he was the shadow of Din and God of Wrath. Then there was Sophia, Goddess of Cunning; she was the Shadow of Nayru. Tempus was the God of Decay, my own shadow; for in those days we four Goddesses ruled Hyrule, and therefore there were four reflections.
“The last was the God of Vengeance, shadow of Faroe, who called himself Worlu. Worlu’s name means ‘savior’—in his arrogance and pride the Fierce Deity saw himself as the savior of the other Shadow Gods. In a way his name is terribly appropriate, for the Shadow Gods can only be defeated by Worlu, the Fierce Deity, and the half-life of a living shadow can only be seen as a curse from which to be saved. That is why Majora wished to draw one worthy of the Fierce Deity’s Mask to do battle with him, I think. Majora could no longer bear to live as the shadow of a thing. This you know, for you were the instrument of his exorcism. What remains now is to exorcise the other two, but as to how it is to be done I cannot say.
“And just as Majora could not bear to live as but a mere Shadow, so, too, can we Goddesses not bear to live divided into four as we are. We long to be repaired, to be reformed, rejoined. I do not know how it is to be done, but what I know is this; the true Worlu—the brother-god of Zelda the Refiner—has never come to save us, the shards of Zelda. And if the story of Hyrule be told in eternity it may be that we shall never be saved.”
Link stood, defiant! To suggest that Worlu would not come was like a personal affront. “He’ll come! I know he will!”
“And yet you were not there to save Hyrule when Ganon came with the Power of Gold.”
“But I couldn’t help that!” Link growled.
“And perhaps neither can Worlu. We Goddesses will just have to wait a while longer for our freedom.” Orda stood and looked away, as if ashamed of something. “This is the great secret I deliver to you; it is possible that you cannot succeed. Not that you do not wish it, but that success is not possible. And now that you know the truth you must abide it, Link, and reveal it to none.”
Link snarled. Not at the veiled goddess; she had said nothing to insult him. But all the same he could not help feeling affronted by her treatment of the Protector’s character, as if he were some kind of child or simpleton who could not live up to his responsibilities. Link was convinced that the Protector was neither of these.
“Young One,” said Orda, cradling Link’s lupine head in her hands. Link surveyed the contours of the Goddess’ face, still hidden under her coverlet. “I sense you are troubled by these things. I do not wish you to be. Take my blessing, as you once did before your journey into Termina.” And she leaned forward and kissed Link’s head.
Orda stood and turned away from the vision of the spinning Triforce, drawing Link away from his thoughts. “It was no idle saying that escaped the lips of the princess Zelda as you left to find your fairy companion, you know. It was a benediction of prophetic insight and power; she was wise to have blessed you by my name. That blessing has protected you many times, though you knew it not.”
She moved, and the scenery changed again, though Link made no movement. When it stopped Link was in a clearing, surrounded on all sides by high trees. In the middle of the clearing he saw a golden hawk perched on the branch of a lone tree, full of fruits of every kind. The hawk watched Link with keen eyes, never flinching beneath the light of the moon. When Link turned, he saw that Orda was holding her hands out to either side again. This time, however, she was not radiating with weighty brilliance, but shimmering with a beautiful golden glow. “I intend to give you your charge,” she said, “but before I do you must remember yourself. We will start at the beginning.” And all at once the world shrank away.
* * *
The tower shook, trembling with each successive seismic wave. Ezlo squeaked and promptly fell to the floor. All the world was topsy-turvy as instruments flew from their perches on the wizard’s many tables. Jars of chu-jelly were dashed to the floor, oozing out from their broken bottles.
“Eep!” called the mousy wizard, narrowly avoiding being struck by his telescope as it crashed to the floor. The wizard climbed to his feet again, using the magic flying carpet for stability. The carpet’s position was as sure as it had been the moment Ezlo had flung it into the air.
The others were not so lucky. Ruto and Link were tangled up in each other’s limbs and, thanks to Arinco’s quick hand, Zelda had narrowly missed the chilling blue fire still raging in the fireplace. The tower shook again, and the wizard became down-right testy.
“I told you to hurry! Now the place is coming down on our heads!”
Arinco did not argue, but lifted the Hylian princess to the safety of the magic carpet. In another moment Ezlo was seating himself in the front, gaining his bearings, while the mayor scooped up a frazzled Ruto from the floor.
“Where are you going, Master Link?” Arinco shouted over the rumbling of collapsing buildings outside. “You must get to the carpet!”
“I don’t have to do anything!” Link shot back, climbing the ladder to the tower roof. “I’m getting my sword back. Go on; I’ll catch up!”
Biting back his better judgment, Arinco lifted himself to the levitating rug, securing the princesses with his great arms. “Go, Ezlo! To the roof!”
“And I suppose you’ll want me to fly it in circles next? Just hang on!” And at Ezlo’s command the carpet shot out of the tower’s peaked window like an arrow. The world suddenly opened up around them; from the snug quarters of the tower’s interior to the wide open air where neither walls nor floor left them anything to reassure them—only the carpet below and Ezlo’s presence of mind.
In sheer terror, Ruto involuntarily grasped the closest thing to her—Zelda.
“Oof! Ruto…ease up!”
Arinco spotted Link atop the roof of Ezlo’s tower, now swaying like a reed about to snap in the wind. “Master Wizard, the hero is on the roof! Quickly, you must save him!”
“Master Mayor, if you will kindly let the old man do the flying, I’ll have this sorted in short order!” The rug began to turn about.
But no sooner had the words been said than a great flaming chunk of rock came hurtling out of the east and slammed into the tower. Only just then had Link scooped up the Four Sword and sheathed it at his side. Now he was teetering, falling, sliding as the tower buckled in half, folding out from under him. With nothing left to stand on, Link fell out into open air, the stone of half a tower following after him.
“Ezlo, go!” shouted Arinco.
The wizard did not reply, but growled as he gripped the tassle-trim of the carpet, leaning forward, willing them to move faster. The carpet shot out again, this time swerving down, down after the falling boy. The huge rocks of the tower came showering down around them, strange instruments passing them by, still whirring and whistling out their warnings of danger. The ground faced them like an impenetrable wall, and Zelda was certain they would strike the center of the castle’s southern courtyard. As it was however, the carpet pulled up just in time, skimming Hyrule Castle’s outer ramparts before pulling away, careering off to the west. The carpet leveled off and Ruto had a chance to look behind her.
The tower had completely collapsed. There was no sign of any living thing on the ground.
“Oh, my gosh…” whispered Ruto. “Did Link…? Is he…?”
But there was a muffled sound from the front of the carpet and Ruto discovered that not only was Link alive, he was clutching Ezlo’s torso with such tenacity that it looked as if the wizard had suddenly grown four short limbs and planted Link’s head on his shoulder facing backwards. The boy’s eyes were like dinner plates for alarm, and only after several moments could Ezlo extricate himself from the lad’s grip. Link finally settled on the carpet, breathing heavily.
Zelda put one hand on Link’s arm gently. “Link, are you alright?”
“That…was…awesome! Ezlo, let’s go back and do it again!”
But once they had ensured that the boy was alright, their minds were drawn in by the utter desolation which spread out below them.
Hyrule Castle lay in ruins. Not only had the towers collapsed, but the outer walls of the castle itself had fallen. In a mockery of its original splendor, some inner rooms were laid bare while others had piled into the floors below. As if this were not enough, half of Castle Town had been destroyed. Houses had caved in, inns had buckled and fallen. The town’s central courtyard was devastated.
Then there was a massive groaning like the moon itself were rolling across the land, and a colossal glowing red meteor nestled itself atop Death Mountain. The volcano shook, its belly gurgled, and then a great shower of ash and molten rock was thrown up into the air. The spout gushed high over Hyrule, raining down its fiery globes on the kingdom like powder kegs.
“Hang on, my boy!”shouted Ezlo, navigating the flying carpet, only just avoiding a glowing-hot glob of lava. Ruto seized up in horror and promptly passed out. Zelda ensured that Link did not rush to the side of the carpet and fall to his death, and Arinco maintained his grip on the princesses.
Westward they flew, away from the fiery projectiles, away from the Zelda’s decimated kingdom, away from Link’s nemeses, away from Ruto’s home, away from danger.
“Um, where are we going Mister Ezlo?” asked Ruto curiously.
Ezlo stared out at the horizon, not fully seeing it, but rather something in his mind; something he knew he must find.
“The north-western wood,” the wizard replied. “We’ll need the Mirror of Twilight.”
* * *
“What in tarnation!?”
An earthquake shuddered through the ground and Talon was thrown from his feet, ending up face first in the horse trough. The horses nickered, hooves stamping nervously. Talon extricated himself, no harm done, but wetter for wear. His feet were wobbly. No; the ground was wobbly. Luckily, he’d seen the inside of a tavern more than once and we was able to make his way to the porch just as the king and Tobias were picking themselves up from the ground just outside the horse pen. Talon beckoned to them and soon the three were catching their breath under the eaves of the ranch-house.
“I’ll say it again; what in the ram-shackle, flim-flammin’ tarnation was that?”
“I have no idea,” said Daphnes dryly. He eyed the priest.
“I must admit the same, your Majesty,” Tobias skirted defensively. “I only knew enough to get the townspeople to safety! Beyond that it is in the Goddess’ hands.”
“Well, she’d better have a good explanation for that!” said the king, brought to hysterics. “The mountain bleeds, do you see? How is it your prophetic knowledge conveniently omits the reasons for things, Master Priest?”
Tobias stammered without response. Thankfully, however, Talon interjected. “Sometimes a man’s got ter do what he knows, Mister Yer Majesty, sir, even if he don’t know rightly why. Reckon that’s what brung Mister ‘Bias ter git these here people ter safety. And now they’s safe. Ain’t that the short of it?”
The king exhaled tolerantly. “Yes, Master Rancher, I suppose it is.” He seemed to have a better grip of himself, now. “I have always ever wanted to protect my people, and the priest has allowed me to do so. For that I thank you, Master Tobias.” He looked as if he wanted to say more, but restrained himself; it was likely the less-gracious sort of thing. “In the meantime we have questions that need answering. May I infringe on your hospitality once again, Master Rancher? I intend to summon the Sages; we will have need of a meeting hall…”
“Oh, you know y’all’re welcome t’this place like it was yer own house, Majesty, sir. Jes’ lemme fix up the livin’ room, right quick…” And the rancher gave Tobias a reassuring wink as he opened the door for the king.
“Thank you, Master Rancher,” said Tobias quietly. “I am indebted to you.”
“Oh, t’weren’t nothin’,” Talon replied modestly. “I got that ol’ king wrapped ‘round my little pinky, I do.” Tobias smiled at this. “Jes’ don’t git ‘tween him an’ what he wants. Ever’body makes mistakes, even ol’ king grumpy-pants.” Now the rancher looked around him surreptitiously. “Jes’ ‘tween you an’ me, though..." The priest leaned in closer. “How did y’all know what ter do with the folks from the Town?”
Tobias considered the rancher. It was not as if Talon was simple-minded; his sudden wisdom—ineloquent though it was—was disproof of that. But there was something else… Tobias decided that there was little that could keep Talon from having faith in others, and it was this that let Tobias feel that he could tell the man the truth.
“I was visited by a voice, Talon. A most magnificent voice which emboldened me enough to action that I could drive out the God of Death by the light of the Goddesses. It was this voice which told me what to do to keep the people safe.” Hearing himself say the words aloud had a curious strengthening effect on the priest, and he was reminded now of what he had done. Could he do it again, if the need arose?
Talon’s dense brows came together, mimicking his mustache in amazement. “Really? I cain’t imagine what that’d be like; voicely visitors tellin’ me things. I s’pose I’m more a learnin’ by doin’ kinda guy.”
“And that is just as well, for you are precisely what the townspeople needed in their dire hour; a generous host.” He smiled. “I sense you are a man who is quick to believe, Talon of the Ranch. I respect you for that.”
Then the king’s voice came from inside the house. “Talon?”
The rancher gave a short hop. “Criminitely! Comin’ Mister Majesty, sir!”
* * * 10 Years Ago
“Let us move on,” said Stranger.
Link hardly noticed the breathy soprano notes as he was whisked elsewhere, broken into a trail of little colored lights only to be reformed within a cold, dry hall, lit only with the pale shaft touching the floor before him. He continued to stare at the floor as if he could see his mother’s motionless form, laying somewhere beneath the stones, under the moonlit figure cast by the fitted-glass window; a sleeping woman with her head turned to one side, her hair splayed out behind her like the branches of a tree. Finally, Link lifted his gaze.
“Where are we?”
Stranger became visible again, folding the hood of his red cloak back on itself until it became a comely collar around his neck. The wan light shone on his bald head, depriving the man and his surroundings of any color but a cold, timeless, gray monotone. All except his eyes, that is, which shone their natural red in the darkness.
Link looked at him, his gaze falling over the Sheikah symbol embroidered on his chest, the satchel which he knew would contain the soprano ocarina which had brought them here. He wondered where the man had gotten the ocarina, how he knew the songs of teleportation that only the Sages could have known.
“Who are you?” By now Link was in no mood to be led about anymore. He wanted answers.
“We are down to it, then. I am to tell you precisely who I am and why I have brought you here. Why have I led you back in time to see your mother perish before you? Why have I permitted your Shadow selves to run rampant across Hyrule while we have been on this temporal detour? I will tell you—”
Link started. “My Shadow selves? What are you talking about?”
“You really have a habit of interrupting me when it will be simpler to just let me speak. I have had many decades to become accustomed to it, however, so it is no matter.”
“Decades?” said Link. “But I’m only eleven. And I don’t even know you—”
“Ah, but you do, Link. More appropriately, you know my younger self. And, ironically, your other self has already met me as well. It was I who ensured that the Master Sword did not allow him back into the Sacred Realm. It was I who led him to the Four Sword Sanctuary and gave him the Lion Key to unlock it.It was I who stole the Dark Mirror from the royal stores and exposed your other self to its power—”
Link was fighting to follow the man’s bewildering explanations. “You stole the Dark Mirror and forced my other self to look into it on purpose!?” Link threw his hands out to either side. “What are you going to do next, release Ganon?”
Stranger paused, blinking. “I did not think you could have known about that…”
“You DID!?” Link was aghast; utterly thunderstruck.
“You must trust me, Link, it was the only way to avoid an even more disastrous outcome. What you do not remember is that you have been through these circumstances before. I have attempted to reorder time so as to avoid the Cataclysm.”
“No. No trusting, no more secrets. You’re messing with my mind; that’s what you Sheikah are supposed to be good at, right? Releasing Ganon is the worst thing you could have done; I’ve been to the future, pal, I’ve seen what happens when Ganondorf gets the Triforce and rampages across Hyrule. He—”
“—comes back and slaughters everybody, puts up a tower where Hyrule Castle was and goes after Zelda, who parades as one of the Sheiks to avoid being noticed until you, Master Link, are old enough to bear the Blade of Evil’s Bane and awaken the six sages of Hyrule, thus forcing the Chosen of Power into imprisonment in the Golden Land. Is that right?”
Link was speechless. The old man had just recounted verbatim his experiences in the future. “Yeah, well, you just—”
“I did not read your mind, Link. For once in your life set aside your incredulity and listen!” Link’s attention was sufficiently seized. Stranger now began to pace the circular room. “Time has changed. The timeline of what was has been altered. I have caught it, broken it, reigned it like a horse and guided it to do my bidding. But in so doing I have risked all of Hyrule. You must understand that what I have done I have not done lightly. Ganondorf is far lesser an evil than the Shadow Gods. They do not even belong in Hyrule. It was amiss of me to even chance your exposure to Termina. And now all of Hyrule has paid the consequences for it, though the Goddess be thanked that the princess Zelda pronounced her blessing on you when she did.
“And before you ask your next question, yes, it was I who induced you to go looking for your Guardian Fairy. I saw that it would put you in the way of the Mask of Majora, which found its way into the hands of one Skulki, a former forest-child among the Koroki. You would not know it, but Navi was Skulki’s guardian fairy to begin with, but she was taken from him as punishment. Skulki’s early crimes made him a prime actor through whom Majora could manifest himself. Thank the Goddesses he was unleashed on Termina and not Hyrule.
Stranger raised a hand. “Yes, I see your concern, Link; ‘How could you speak thus of so many good and innocent people?’ your eyes ask. You are indeed the Chosen of Courage as much as the Chosen of Justice. I speak so because Termina was only ever created to be destroyed. Appropriate to its name, it was a world intended to end, to demonstrate by practice what would bring the Cataclysm so as to warn the Goddesses before Hyrule fell by the same means. In short, it was the miner’s canary; doomed to die so that others could live. Unforeseen by any mortal, however, you saved Termina from its predetermined fate. Oh, it shall be destroyed eventually, mind you, when its inhabitants are ripe for destruction, but you have bought it another century or two in the meantime.
“But I digress. You succeeded in exorcising the Shadow God Mudora from his mask, but to do so you donned the mask of another Shadow God; Worlu, the God of Vengeance, whom you know as the Fierce Deity. Unwittingly, when you returned to Hyrule with this mask, you changed the course of Hyrule’s timeline forever.
“You see, the Shadow Gods can sense the presence of the God of Vengeance, and their masks resonate with one another accordingly. Soon after the Fierce Deity Mask entered the boundaries of Hyrule, the other two masks—those of Sophia and Tempus—awoke and sought out hosts through whom they could manifest themselves in the World of Light. These unlucky souls were none other than Solfe and Felso, also former Koroki, robbed of their fairies because of transgression. Now, instead of Ganondorf being the only enemy to threaten the balance of Hyrule, two of the four Shadow Gods also seek dominion over its inhabitants. This should never have happened.”
“I know that…” Link lowered his face, pondering Stranger’s words. He balled up his eleven-year-old fists and clenched his teeth. “So what do we do now?” he asked.
“Now I can see you are ready to hear what I have to say. First, I will tell you that you have already attempted to destroy the Shadow Gods and failed. Since that occasion I have reordered events six times, and every time previous to this something has gone wrong, and you have failed. With the knowledge of these six failed attempts, I come to you now. All of my preparation, all of my planning has brought us to this moment. Let us hope we shall not fail again. Do you understand, Link?” Link nodded, a look of resolve on his young face. “Good. Then we shall pray the Goddess be with us, and I will tell you of my plight:
“Eighty-three years after the day when you first took the Master Sword from its pedestal in the Temple of Time, the Shadow Gods reigned supreme. At their beck and call was one Ganondorf Dragmire, content to serve the Shadow Gods if only to better exploit them to his own ends. There was no hope; none could overthrow the usurper-Gods, and none could drive back the Twilight that descended over the land.
“There was only one who ever attempted it; a Great Hero who rose up to depose the Shadow Gods. His might was as stone, they said, and he commanded armies of tireless warriors with a single gesture. But he was never destined to face the evil of the Gods, and he perished before he could again bring light to the kingdom.
“Many years passed from that time. After being pushed further and further out of their lands, the Hylia were reduced to rabbling bands held strong only by their allegiance to the rightful ruler of Hyrule, the princess Zephyra. Finally, when she could abide the dissolution of her people no longer, Zephyra led a battalion of Hylian men from Ordon village in a last offense that would either depose the Shadow Gods from their reign or bring final destruction to the Hylia forever. Lamentably, it proved to be the latter.
“Thanks to the betrayal of one of Hylia’s own, the Shadow Gods were warned of the assault. The Hylia were hewn down in seconds. Ganondorf appeared at the crucial moment, captured Zephyra, and destroyed her. In one heinous act, all of Hyrule’s hopes were lost.
“For this reason I ventured eighty-three years into the past; to set right what I knew had gone wrong. I manipulated time—orchestrated events—to come down to one finality; the destruction of the Gods of Shadow before they can bring Hyrule to ruin. But Hyrule must have an enemy; it would disrupt the balance of the Eternal Story for there to be no opposition, no struggle. But if I have anything to say in the matter, I intend to ensure that the only enemy Hyrule has to face will be one that can be defeated. For this reason, I released Ganon from his prison. But even in this, we are not without hope.
“Once the Gods of Shadow are vanquished, the Chosen of Power can be opposed by the Chosen of Courage and the Chosen of Wisdom. It is a battle that will require bravery and insight to win, but this is the nature of Hyrule’s story. It always has been and always will be, until Hyrule has become all that it can become, and the Legend of Zelda, the Eternal Story, is immortalized in the Heavens.
“You are that Chosen of Courage, Link. And I am the Chosen of Time. And this is my charge; to prepare you, the Hero of Time, for the final battle with the Shadow Gods. For in order to save Hyrule’s future, you must save its past.”
* * *
The mountain trembled, and the tunnels of the Temple of Fire had been either flooded or caved in by the impact of the fallen star. This proved little obstacle for Red, however, whose strong Goron body was accustomed to traversing the scorching, stony environs.
A miniature avalanche coursed through tunnel after tunnel, filling caverns, dashing over the edge of underground chasms where the stones tumbled helplessly out into the open air, falling, falling to the rivers of magma below. All but one, that is, for Red was among them, weaving his way along the rim of the yawning precipice with such precision that any human fool would surely have fallen where Red rolled dauntlessly on. Dodging, swerving in and out of harm’s way, Red finally took to the ramp of an old Goron racing course and slammed through a cracked wall, emerging in a circular cavern filled to overflowing with living liquid stone. The heat did not disturb Red, however, and he raced along the sides of the cavern wall, spiraling up, ever upward until finding purchase on an outcropping above the churning fiery lake. He paused, breathing heavily of the sulfurous fumes.
“Ah, the smell of brimstone in the morning… Now, the old geezer said it should be around here somewhere…” Red tossed a metal object in the air; a key made of three conjoined shafts. “What did he say? ‘Room round like a circle,’ check. ‘Island in the center…?’ ” And there, out in the center of the flowing lake of fire, was a quickly diminishing stone island. And in the middle of the island—Red could only just see it—a keyhole the size of the key he held in his hand.
Reaching the island with the keyhole was no difficulty, but the lava would soon submerge the island entirely. Wasting no time, Red thrust in the key, turned it clockwise, counterclockwise, and back again. There was a hissing as the island split into three perfectly-joined sections, allowing the lava to creep inside. Red watched with anticipation as the contents of the island were revealed to him.
“Fused Shadow, come to daddy…” He rubbed his hands greedily.
And inside the island, on a suspended platform surrounded by nothing but open air and cascades of magma, was a chest made of stained blue wood, embossed all over with golden fittings and filigree; the chest he had been searching for.
“Jackpot. Where’s that little jingle music when you need it?”
But his celebration was premature, for a great reptilian cry rang out from far below. Red peered into the darkness, down, down where even the glowing magma became imperceptible. And staring back at him were two red pinpricks. Larger and larger they were every moment, and another reptilian cry rang out from within the deep subterranean shaft. Something was coming. And from the sound of it, it was angry.
Red acted quickly, leaping inside the shaft and tackling the chest from the suspended platform. Reaching the edge of the shaft, he immediately spun around to gain momentum, great spikes of rock protruding from his back. The spikes dug into the shaft wall, giving him purchase, and in another moment he was defying the pull of gravity, working his way back out of what would have been a deathly drop.
None too soon, it turned out, for before Red could do anything to prevent it, the great animal from the deep leapt out of the shaft after him, slithering high into the air on its own updraft. And the moment its skin hit the open air, it ignited, trailing a mane of fire down its serpentine body and in its wake. Suddenly the air became unnaturally warm, and the shimmer of heat swept in waves across the cavern. The creature reared its black head, four great horns curled from either side of its skull, and two powerful arms swept out with menacing claws.
“Gods,” whispered Red, still clutching the blue-and-gold chest in his arms. “It’s Volvagia… But something’s changed it…” Indeed, something had changed the great subterranean lava dragon. For as the magic of the Fused Shadow had sunk deep into the mountain, the stone drinking up its power, the fiery serpent drank as well, and was transformed by its corruption. Now it was the embodiment of the shadow magic once owned by Asera of the desert.
Volvagia shrieked when it saw Red standing so boldly in its domain. Indignantly it reared, belching fire and magma from its volcanic innards. And when Red was struck he felt heat for the first time since taking on his Goron disguise. The dragon’s Shadow form could even burn a Goron!
But Red was not without recourse. Spinning on the spot to cast off the dragon’s burning vomit, Red rolled to one side and the other, avoiding the great serpent’s further attacks. But this was no way to win. And so, left with no further recourse for the moment, Red drew out his key again and shoved it into the lock of the chest, turning it clockwise, counterclockwise, and back. Throwing the chest open, he dug inside for his prize, raising it over his head.
“Here, now, you see? You aren’t the only master of the Shadow magic! Cower before me, snake, for I am your superior! Cringe, and behold the destruction I will bring on you with my burning fury!”
Red drew on the power of the Fused Shadow, and all at once the chunk of black magic dissolved in his hands, seeping into his body, transforming him, mutating him with its twilit corruption. His shape twisted and grew, lending him gruesome features, distorted limbs, and a hellish visage the likes of which had never been seen in Hyrule before. He inhaled confidently, and when he exhaled a cloud of brimstone preceded a gout of blue flames.
Red chuckled wickedly; he was ready to fight fire with fire.
Experience the legend as never before! http://heroofgeeks.blogspot.com Every legend contains its residuum of truth, and the root function of language is to control the universe by describing it. ~ James Baldwin
Another FANTASTIC chapter!! I love the main story, and finally the pieces of the puzzle begin to fall into place. Though imho, the story in the golden land got a little confusing....with the three or so larger triforces splitting up two or three times I think? I believe i understand the reasoning behind it, there being a deeper reason to the world that cant be answered or understood by a simple boy and people in general. Other than that, your detail as always paints the perfect picture in my mind. Keep it up.
“I intend to give you your charge,” said Orda, “but before I do you must remember yourself. We will start at the beginning.” And all at once the world shrank away.
In moments the fruit of the tree diminished and drew itself back into the flowers they came from. At the same time the hawk grew smaller and smaller and then disappeared altogether. Then the leaves of the trees rolled up and slipped back into their branches. Each branch retracted while the trunk thinned and diminished in size. Around him the entire forest was following suit. The grass under Link’s paws shot back into the earth and very soon he was able to see above the diminishing treetops. He could see all around him, now, and Hyrule had never looked so strange.
The mountains to the north were much taller than he remembered. Of particular interest was what should have been Death Mountain; instead of a smoldering crater it was a tall peak of impressive height and beauty. And every second it was becoming taller and fiercer for sharpness. Then Link watched as the great waters of Hyrule flowed backward in their courses and convened in the high mountain spring atop Zora’s Domain where Orda had taught him about the flow of time. The water whirled back into the spring, its girth thickening and sputtering more forcefully as it went. Then Link realized what was actually happening; the golden world was being undone before his eyes.
Very soon the waters of Hyrule had dried up and the bare landscape was left a deep rich golden color. Then the mountains appeared to be plunged downward back into the land from whence they were formed and all the earth leveled out until it was one featureless, smooth plane for as far as Link could see. It was unnerving to consider a horizon so flat, so uninterrupted and distinct—Link’s wolf eyes played tricks on him; was he standing under the sky, or over it? He felt as if he might fall off the edge of the world and be cast away into the vastness of the perfect heavens any moment. Then the even smoothness of the world cracked all the way through with great veins of brilliant golden lava and everything around them flew apart. The stars began to wink out in large clusters (Link tried to find Navi’s star before it disappeared) and finally the only things Link was still aware of were himself and the Goddess of Time—he could not see her through the darkness, but he could sense that she was there.
Above and around them Link could see nothing but blackness. Every one of his senses were dulled until he could hear the silence screaming in his ears, feel the darkness stabbing his gaping eyes, widening to catch any particle of light. He barked in alarm but his voice was caught up in the void and he realized he could not even feel the grating of the bark in his throat. Had he even barked at all?
Orda’s voice entered his mind. “This,” came the thought, “is the void before the world of Hyrule; the Beginning. Before Hyrule was, there was nothing but the Goddesses. Broken, shattered, but present all the same.”
“But where are they?” thought Link. “I can’t see them.”
“Can’t you, Child of Courage? That is unfortunate. You might see them if you knew where to look.”
“What are you talking about?” thought Link. “There’s nothing here! Everything’s dark; I can’t even hear myself think… Well, sort of…” he amended.
“Precisely, young one,” said the goddess’ voice in a kind of gentle reprimand. “Reach out with your mind and touch the void.”
Link gave pause at the concept. “You mean…talk…to the void?”
“Why do you suppose the Goddesses gave the Hylians ears that pointed to the heavens? To forever remind them that that we goddesses are always as near or far as mortal thoughts will allow. Open your mind to hear what your ears cannot. I have shed for you the noise of sensation so that you can truly ‘see’ what you could not when there was light. Now; touch the void with your mind and tell me what you encounter.”
Link assimilated this. The lack of sensation forced his consciousness to retreat inward on itself and he felt more like a ball than a creature. Not even that; a speck; a tiny grain in the sea of nothing. He hadn’t the slightest notion of how to reach out from this kind of existence. “Okay…” he thought finally. He would try, at least.
Link might have sighed tentatively (he could not hear or feel it if he had.) He tried to follow the Goddess’ instruction. He let his mind go, trying to think of nothing, only realizing that he was actually thinking about what it should be like to not think. It might have been forever (but in this world it meant very little, he reminded himself) before he finally felt his thoughts settle like sediment and his mind began to clear. Soon he felt he could perceive his own consciousness as if through the transparence of a still, freshwater pool. And down at the bottom of this pool was…something.
It was like looking into a mirror in the dark; he knew something was there and if he could see it he would recognize it, but he could only imagine its shape.
“What do you find in the emptiness, child?” said Orda’s voice. Her thoughts were somehow closer now, as if wads of cloth had been pulled away from his mind’s ears.
“That is right, child. And what are you?”
“I’m me, but…” He knew he could articulate further. “I’m…something else, actually.” The thought pressed him, but it sounded so silly to think it aloud. “I’m…bravery? And I’m honor…” It sounded more real now, and the thought resolved further in his mind. “When a wrong is committed I’m what corrects the…imbalance… I’m…” and he marveled that he now understood the word, as if he never had before: “…I’m Courage, I guess.”
“Yes. And the courage that you are is the Goddess Faroe.”
Link knew that he was not a goddess, but he also felt the weighty truth of Orda’s statement. He bent his mind to form the words that would express this statement in his own thoughts. “Faroe is…she’s what makes me myself. I’m Faroe because I’m a part of her…is that right?”
“Yes, child. You are a part of Faroe, but she is all of herself.” Orda let this sink into Link’s mind. “Reach into the void now, and call to Faroe. I will help you form her image so that you may speak with her as you are accustomed. Reach…reach…”
Link reached into the reflecting void with his mind and scooped at that portion of himself which he associated with the goddess Faroe. As the image materialized, he could feel Orda’s thoughts like a supporting hand reinforcing his own mind.
At first the only thing Link could see was a shimmer of golden light so faint that he thought he had imagined it. Then it shimmered again and this time it felt more real, coming to life before his eyes. The golden light coalesced, gathering like the image of leaves rustling in the breeze on a cloudless midday. Orda pushed Link’s mind further and the form took on a distinctly feminine appearance, resolving in the shape of a shining woman with golden skin and hair that tossed like branches in the wind. The woman looked on Link with deep green eyes that he could only think to describe as ‘alive.’
“Hello, Link. I’m Faroe.” And she giggled in childish delight, as if there was nothing sillier than talking with yourself. “What do you wish of me?”
* * *
“Bunny,” said Saria, pointing.
“Oh, yeah, good one,” said Malon. “How ‘bout that one over there? It’s like a great big-toothed monster. See the fangs?”
Saria giggled. “Grr…” she growled, making fangs with her fingers. She clicked her tongue and whipped the reins lightly for what seemed like the hundredth time that day.
Saria and Malon had been riding for the majority of the afternoon. The Great Earthquake had happened several hours previous. The starfall would have taken them by surprise if Saria had not called out the coming of the burning rock. Just in time, they had lashed Hossel to a tree and crouched low to the ground to absorb as much of the shock as they could. Malon had watched as the mountain bled forth its fiery innards, while Saria jumped around and made exploding noises. Despite this oddity in their travels, the pair continued riding on with little thought for what the explosion meant, though Malon marveled that she had actually seen a star fall from the sky.
Watching the clouds that formed after the starfall had helped them pass the time, but now they were far to the north and west of what remained of Hyrule Castle, nearing the edge of a great forest. Presently, they paused at the wood’s edge. Hossel nickered.
“I think so, too, boy,” Malon agreed. “Are you sure this was where Link went, Saria?” The green-clad girl nodded emphatically. “But what would he want this far out, I wonder? Reckon he got one o’ his secret messages from the king, or somesuch. Must be why he left right quick, like he did.”
“Lost,” said Saria.
“Oh, that’s right. You said Link was lost, didn’t you? Well, then, I reckon ain’t no better place t’git lost than in the woods. C’mon, Hossel, we’re goin’ in, boy.” Saria clicked her tongue again, but the horse would not move. Malon leaned around the girl. “What’s wrong, boy?” She asked, patting his neck. The horse’s great head bent back to look at her; his eyes were wide with fright.
Suddenly, from nowhere, a small something came flying out of the forest and struck Malon directly between the eyes. There was a flash and Malon yelped, falling backward, out of the saddle and onto the ground. Saria dismounted quickly, checking to be sure Malon was alright.
But just as Malon came to, Hossel whinnied and there was a brash “Giddap!” Then there was the frantic holler of a grown man, followed by the clatter of Malon’s quiver and bow as they fell to the ground. But before Malon’s vision could clear fully, the mysterious rider was far away, riding off with Hossel the direction they had come.
“What in tarnation was that? You come back here, you mangy horse-thief!” Malon stood and attempted to run, but she only succeeded in falling again. Finally, she was still, holding her head in her hands. “Must’ve been an ambush, wouldn’t you reckon Saria? Saria?”
But the girl was staring at something else in the woods. She reached into Malon’s boot and drew out her short knife, brandishing it at whatever was still behind the trees. Malon stayed as still as she could, trying to see what it was.
Then, with a triumphant cry, Saria flicked the knife into the dirt and rushed forward. At the same time another green-clad girl came from behind the trees and met Saria in the middle. The two embraced and jumped together joyfully. When Malon could finally make sense of what was happening, she laughed.
“Saria, it looks like you’ve found a friend.”
Saria nodded. “Fado,” she said, presenting the pig-tailed girl.
“Pleased t’meet you, little missy,” said Malon, doing a little curtsey. “I’m Malon. But what’re y’all doin’ this far afield? I thought the woods you come from was the other direction… And who was that that took Hossel?”
“Ingo,” said Fado.
“Ingo!? Why that dirty little back-stabbin’… Ooh, Poppa shouldn’a ever gave him that job. Shoulda given him a right lickin’ and sent him on his way. Good thing he left me my bow and some arrows…” She scooped up the weapon and slung the quiver on her back.
“Link?” Saria asked, addressing the other Koroki girl.
“Yeah, we’re lookin’ fer Link,” Malon agreed. “Have you seen ‘im, Fado?”
Fado nodded in response. Then she thought about it and decided to shake her head instead.
“Er… I guess I don’t understand, Saria,” said Malon. “What’sat mean?”
“Not-Link,” said Saria.
“You saw someone who wasn’t Link, Fado?” The Koroki girl nodded. “But that could be anybody!”
Fado shook her head, her pigtails bobbing agitatedly. “Link-Not-Link.” She pantomimed firing a slingshot at something in the sky and then made a pop with her mouth and traced an imaginary object falling to the ground. Then she curled her hand around her mouth like a tube and crouched low to the ground, squeaking in high-pitched tones.
Saria watched with attention and when Fado started squeaking, she shouted “Scrub!” Fado crowed triumphantly! Then Saria turned to Malon excitedly. “Scrub!”
Malon blinked. She didn’t understand most of what Fado had tried to convey, but she knew what a Dekku Scrub was. “Link’s a Scrub?” she confirmed.
“Not-Link-Scrub!” Saria clarified.
“Where?” Malon asked, still somewhat bewildered.
“Here!” Fado immediately grabbed Malon’s hand and the three were off, running further into the forest.
“I sure hope it’s nearby,” Malon said to herself as they dodged between trees and brush. “Why it’ll be near as sunset in no time…”
* * *
“I want every single one of these blocks cleared away by sunset or there’ll be hell to pay, do you understand me!? We’ve been disgraced! Shamed! To have half our number locked away like pigs and left to the slaughter! It’s nothing less than an inhuman atrocity! And come the end of the world I’ll be damned if we’re not responsible for every Hylian soldier taking twice the punishment they dealt to our people.”
Nabooru paused in her speech to heave a great stone to one side assisted by several other swarthy women. Only after hours of marching had the Gerudo reached Hyrule Castle Town. It was now well into the afternoon and the sun was falling fast in the west. The town had been all but decimated. It was all they could do to scale the fallen buildings and avoid being crushed as others caved in. Finally they had arrived at their destination: the remains of Hyrule Castle. Now they were clearing away as many stones as possible, fighting against time and fate to extricate the Gerudo prisoners from the underground jail, certain that if they did not act quickly there may not be any left alive to save.
“We may be beaten, bruised…” said Nabooru, tears filling her eyes as she considered the state of her kin, buried alive. “But we are the proud Gerudo. We will survive the hardships imposed on us by the dogs that call themselves the Hylia… And the Gerudo shall be a mighty race once more!” She blinked the wetness from her eyelids as she bent again to heave away another stone.
After some time, the sun threatened to take away their light, bowing low, almost to the western mountaintops. They were substantially closer to their goal, yet they had no idea how much further they would have to go before they uncovered the jail. Finally, during a short respite, one Gerudo approached, swiping a thick cloth across her forehead, her long scarlet braid wrapped around her arm to keep it out of the way while she worked.
“Mistress?” said the braided Gerudo boldly. “Mistress, a word?”
The other women had all slumped to the ground to rest. Nabooru finally conceded that she could not lift the heavy stone on her own and turned to the Gerudo who addressed her so confidently.
“Keshi.” She breathed heavily. “Why do you stop? It is not yet sundown…” Nabooru turned again, choosing a smaller stone to heave up. It moved only a little, and then Nabooru paused, too weary to move any further.
“All the women have stopped, Mistress. We’re weary from the day’s march, and now we’re weary from labor. We wish what you do, but we aren’t any use to our sisters if we don’t rest. You’re a fool to continue.”
Under any other circumstances Nabooru might have lashed out with indignation. Her heart certainly burned with self-righteousness, but her arm would not so much as twitch in response. She inhaled heavily, gasping to give her lungs enough air to prevent her from passing out. Nevertheless, she could not swallow her pride.
“Never. Not until…our sisters are free…”
“Then you are as thick-headed as Aveil. We’re led by one fool, then another.”
Now Nabooru’s fury threatened to tear her apart; if her arms would not move, then her heart would leap out of her body. “That traitor!” Nabooru screeched. “Her time will come, I swear it! She was a coward to have escaped instead of perishing as she deserved. Dekku nuts!? A coward’s trick! By the sands of the Waste, I will not rest until I bring her to her knees again! And I will not—” She sputtered, her chest heaving. “I will not rest until our sisters…until they…” And she was forced to lower herself to the ground, the other women staring at her in curious horror; as if watching a person burn alive.
Keshi paused, waiting for the matron to cease hacking on her own breaths. “You really ought to rein it in, Nabooru,” she said quietly, glancing at the other women from the corner of one eye. “We follow you because you have your priorities straight. But that kind of anger’s only going to get you dead.” She reached out a hand and offered Nabooru her waterskin. “And leader or no, if we lost you we’d be all the weaker for it.”
Nabooru seemed to pass between several emotions at once, from ridicule to disdain to resentment, but finally she settled on gratitude. “Thank you,” she said finally, taking the water-skin in trembling hands. “Maybe I’ve been… It’s just, I have little left to…” The drink hovered near her dry lips, wetness leaking out of her red eyes. She glanced up at Keshi before drinking, great quenching gulps. “Thank you…” she said meekly when she was done, and gave the waterskin back to the braided woman, and laid herself down where she was. Before long her eyes were closed, and her chest rose and fell in gentle, easy rhythms.
* * *
A small campfire crackled in the wooded dark, lighting five faces, hovering in the air like masks, taking in the warmth in pensive silence. The woods had been quieter since Ezlo and the mayor had pitched camp, but gradually little insects could be heard chittering their evening songs. Ezlo provided Ruto with a bucket he had enchanted to magically draw water from the nearest stream or underground well, and so it had been relatively quiet for some time. Finally, Arinco spoke.
The boy faced the mayor without really averting his gaze from the fire. “Hmm?”
“Would you care to accompany me? We will have need of more firewood if we are to stay warm in the night.”
Link’s brows pressed together. “Why me? It’s not like I’ve got a sign on that says ‘I’m Bored; Give me Something to Do…’ Make Zelda do it.”
Zelda shot the green-clad boy an ashamed look and sighed. “I’ll go with you Master Arinco. I don’t think you’ll get any work out of this lazy bum.”
“But Your Highness, I wouldn’t think to—”
“What do you mean, ‘lazy bum?’ ” Link rebutted. “I helped put up the tent!”
“You hammered in one peg,” said Ruto, taking another swig of water from her enchanted bucket. “And cried like a baby when you hit your thumb with the hammer.”
“Hey, I hit the thing hard,” said Link, poking his thumb into the air. “I couldn’t risk doing it again; I have to keep myself in tip-top shape if I’m going to be fighting my own Shadows, eventually.”
“Whatever, you dork, it was the other thumb!” cawed Ruto, spilling copious amounts of water from her bucket. “And you don’t even want to fight! You’re just being a sissy!”
But with a weary look from Arinco, Ezlo stood and clapped his hands together as if a decision had been reached. “That settles it, then. Your Highness, Master Arinco shall be obliged for your help, if you wouldn’t mind.”
“But Ezlo, I didn’t—”
“Not at all, Master Mayor,” Zelda pronounced regally, and she took up the hem of her dress in each hand, dropping it only to take Arinco’s arm as he conceded to lead her away into the darkness. She stopped only once to stick her tongue out at Link, who smiled and chuckled softly to himself. His expression became more wary, however, when he saw Ruto staring him down.
“I think I’m going to bed,” pronounced Ezlo. “Do wake me if you hear any monstrous noises, my boy.” Link stared, wide-eyed at this warning. Ezlo made no explanation—which was perhaps worse than any explanation at all—but before he drew back the tent-flap, the wizard paused. “And Mistress Ruto, though the water will not soon run dry, you might be considerate enough not to flood the campsite.” Ruto started, for she had stopped paying attention to the enchanted bucket and this was precisely what she was doing. “Thank you,” Ezlo finished simply. “Good night.” And he retired within the tent.
The mayor and the princess strode carefully into the night. Away from the camp, the stars twinkled like little rivers in the sky, flowing around masses of leaves like shifting islands in the cool breeze. Arinco stooped to pick up what branches he could see and Zelda followed suit, soon gathering up an armful of twigs. They hunted without saying anything for some time, listening to the cicadas chirrup contentedly. At last, they had what they could carry and Arinco turned back toward the light of camp.
“Master Mayor?” said Zelda, pausing where she was. Arinco stopped. “I’ve been thinking.”
Mayor Arinco faced the princess directly. “Yes, Your Highness?”
Zelda shifted the bundle in her arms. “You don’t seem to fit in, here…”
Arinco looked away for a moment. “I apologize, Your Highness. I’m not certain I understand you… If you would like me to leave I would not expect to impose—”
“No, Arinco, you’re quite welcome to stay,” she corrected diplomatically, “it’s only… You don’t seem like you belong to Hyrule. I mean, I know you said you were from Ordon Village, but... Well, I mean I’ve learned all the surrounding geography in my studies and I’ve never even heard of it before.”
Arinco relaxed. He pondered a moment and then said: “Does Her Highness know the name of the Goddess of Time?”
“Well, yes, but I don’t see…” But then Zelda looked around as if she had seen a thought pass directly in front of her, taunting her to see a connection. “The village was named after Orda…”
“For the Light Spirit which serves her, yes,” he said, lowering his bundle of wood to the ground. He sat on a nearby log, offering Zelda a place to sit beside him.
“But,” Zelda continued, setting her wood on the forest turf, “there are only three Light Spirits; Lanayru, Faron and Eldin. Only the creator Goddesses left behind their Spirits to keep watch on the kingdom of Hyrule. Orda may be one of the Goddesses, but she was lost before the creation…” When the princess looked up, she noticed that the mayor was staring. “Master Mayor, what is it?”
Arinco blinked, clearly abashed. “I apologize, Your Highness, it’s only… In the moonlight you remind me someone I knew... A long time ago when I was a little boy.”
Zelda looked at him intently. “Someone you loved…” she said carefully, as if reading the words from his expression. Arinco nodded. “What was her name?” she asked.
“Oh, ah… I’m sorry, Your Highness, that is… Really, it’s nothing important, I regret ever mentioning it.” He stooped to recover his wood, but Zelda stopped him with one hand on his arm.
“She was your wife, wasn’t she?” Zelda said quietly. “And I remind you of her when she was young.”
Arinco relented, sitting up again. “It is well said that the women of the Hylian Royalty are wise,” he said bashfully. “You speak the truth.” Arinco looked at the princess again, this time without shame. “I fell in love with her when we were young, but I knew that she and I could never be. Her father was an important man, and I was nothing but a blacksmith’s boy. She had the most marvelous blue eyes, and she could pin me to the ground with how they looked when she was upset with me. But they were kind eyes, too, if you knew how to see.” As Arinco wove his tale, Zelda listened with interest. This encouraged the mayor to speak more and soon he was recalling the account with greater emotion.
“We wished to marry, though her father wouldn’t have it. Her mother had passed away giving birth to her, you see, and she was all he had left. Secretly, I wished the Goddesses would grant us a boon and allow us to wed, and for many months I waited for the answer to that wish. So it was that when her father perished in battle I vowed never to plead the Goddesses for another selfish thing…”
“Oh, but Master Arinco, it wasn’t your fault!” said Zelda, now thoroughly caught up in the romance of it all. “You couldn’t have known!”
“Aye, but I asked for it, didn’t I?” he growled, clearly impatient with himself. “Only a fool asks for what he wants the moment he wants it. Makes the thing more precious to strive for it. I should have known not to look for my own wants anyhow; with the passing of her late father, Zephyra was forced to take up his responsibilities. I knew that would always be a bigger part of her life than me.”
“Her name was Zephyra…?” Zelda cooed. “Oh, I’d love to name my daughter Zephyra; it’s such a pretty name…” She beamed, gazing at the rivers of stars overhead.
Arinco’s face straightened, suddenly caught by some thought that seized him. “I, er… Forgive me, Highness, but I’ve said too much. Take your time, if you please, I’ll carry your bundle back with me. Camp is just over there, we’ll keep the fire nice and bright so you won’t stray. I’ll be turning in as soon as the fire’s stoked, so…” And he was gone before Zelda could say anything more.
* * *
“Well, say something!” the king bellowed.
Rauru blinked. “Daphnes, please, calm down. We have many tales to tell, not the least of which is what has happened to our fair kingdom. Now, begging your patience, Lutai and I need a moment to ponder the significance of these events before we can truly offer any coherent advice. Not to mention a night’s sleep would do us all some good.” The sage looked at the king sidelong. “Are you certain you don’t want to postpone the meeting until after you’ve had a bit of rest?”
The king ran his fingers through his peppery hair. He had long since removed his crown and was now pacing the main room of the ranch-house. Tobias and Talon sat to one side, witnessing the exchange of the sages with the king as if they were trying to calm a hungered, angry lion. Tobias spoke:
“Maybe a good night’s sleep could—”
“I’ve had enough from you, boy. You don’t even deserve to be in charge of lighting the candles, let alone an entire temple. This catastrophe has come about because of your incompetence, and if you’re so eager to get some sleep, then go! I hear the spare room is open, right, Master Rancher?” Talon could only nod in startled fright.
Tobias said no more, but glanced to Rauru, sharing some look which both of them understood, and retreating to the staircase where he disappeared into the upper hallway.
“Good, at least that’s one less problem to worry about,” said the king. “Now, if you please, I should like a little sagely advice from the Sages of Hyrule.”
Rauru placed a pair of hands on the king’s shoulders. “Daphnes, you’re reacting. No matter the quality of our recommendations, you will need a clear mind to treat the survival of your people. Please, I know it doesn’t mean what it used to, but as your late wife’s uncle, Nayru keep her, it pains me to see you so flustered. Barring a monumental catastrophe which no one could avoid, the people will survive the night.”
“Thank you, Rauru, that makes me feel immensely reassured…” the king returned facetiously. “Then I am to understand that nothing can be done? Death Mountain has exploded in torrents of fire which still glow into the night, the earth itself has opened its mouth and will not be closed, a pair of Dark Gods continues to rampage across my kingdom and nothing can be done?”
Lutai stepped forward, speaking in calming tones. “I think what Rauru means, Daphnes, is that none of us can predict what will come. All of these things are beyond our abilities to avert at the moment. Impa and Gor Darmon have yet to report, and Aako sends word that there is a matter he must attend to before he arrives. Hyrule has seen unprecedented changes this past day, and who knows what else will come. But let us be more ready for it rather than less.” Lutai looked to the window, gazing out on a vast field of lantern-lights dotting the interior of the ranch. “As we speak, the people are managing themselves. They are looking after their wives and husbands, their children are being fed the rations you have portioned out to them. Master Talon, here, is quite capable of maintaining his ranch. We find ourselves in accomplished hands. If you wish our advice, Daphnes, I would say to trust the people to provide for their own needs and look after your own, for the moment. Be still. Rest.”
The king sat in his wooden seat, his red coat worn and greatly creased, his brow likewise; every moment, it seemed, he looked more a more the picture of helpless, frazzled frustration. He was a man on the fringes of his fraying wits. But Lutai’s words settled on him like a blanket and he found his body reaching its limit; finally he conceded to weariness and reclined as regally as he still could.
“Yes, perhaps you are right, Lutai. I know not what more I can do, and I cannot force the hand of wisdom and demand to know what life’s answer is.” He stared at the floor a moment, and then his eyes searched the interior of the ranch-house as if he were seeing a room much larger, much grander. “Yes, the Goddesses are watching. I know it. But it takes the stillness to remember. The Goddesses speak to the Hylia in their hour of need, but we of the ears-pointed-to-the-heavens must choose to listen. Yes, thank you, Lutai. You have done me a great service. Where is a man’s help if it is not in his friends and companions?”
“If I may offer my advice,” said Rauru as he sat beside the king, placing a caring hand around his shoulder. “Do not blame yourself for your impatience; your heart is aright, but your mind does not know where to turn. Truly, companions are an aid, but a man’s first comfort is his wife, Daphnes. Zethra was a gifted woman indeed, whose ears were always turned toward the Goddesses. She was wise beyond her years. And for many years, now, you have become accustomed to knowing the best action to preserve and protect Hyrule as it came from her lips. Can you not say that she was your assurance in times of desperation? And now that she is gone you are lacking something. She was your mainstay, your balance.
“In times of plenty we may not realize how blessed we are. And then, when the time of need arises and we have not what we always did, we cry out to the heavens, why? Why? And we berate ourselves, wondering why we did not preserve a little of that plenty while we had the chance.” Rauru took Daphnes’ crown from where it sat, holding it up, regarding the high golden planes that made its peaks. “You are ‘king,’ Daphnes. But you are also ‘husband.’ And in the time you should have had to mourn, you were recovering from the ill will of that man who once plagued this land. But he is gone, and you still have yet to mourn. Take your rest from arranging the affairs of your kingdom. Tonight, do not be a king, but a husband. Tonight, take your leave from care and worry, and remember your wife for what she was to you. You may find that you have a little plenty left stored up where you did not notice.”
“Yes, Rauru,” said the king, looking wearier still, “but what of Zelda? And has the Captain reported? What of my daughter?”
“They are not the only ones missing, Daphnes,” said Lutai. “There is also Ruto, my niece, and Master Talon’s daughter to consider.” Talon bent his head, his tears confirming that he, too, was preoccupied by more than just the needs of the Hylia. “Yet, I have confidence that they are all well cared-for,” she said, as much to Talon as to the king. “I do not suppose that they are much different from their parents for being determined to endure… Even Ruto, who would seem too childish for others to consider, has wisdom enough when the need arises. ”
“But how can you be so at ease not knowing where she is?” the king pleaded. Talon’s lip trembled as well, echoing the king’s pressing question.
“Because I do not consider children to be any less capable of those attributes that we adults so greedily claim as ours and ours alone. Has not Master Link proven himself time and again in Hyrule’s service? And Zelda; does she not already show the makings of a fine queen? Master Rancher, perhaps you have noticed over the many years what fine work your daughter has accomplished under her own guidance. Bravery and pluck, judgment and insight, responsibility and vision; these children have it in spades. Why must we hoard it so and deny them the right to live up to their potential? One night under the stars? There are far worse things that they could take on, and still they would overcome.”
Talon’s face scrunched up and all at once the floodgates of his tears could no longer restrain the flow. He stood, wrapped his arms full around Lutai’s finned shoulders and sobbed. Lutai started in surprise, but gradually she raised her arms to return the embrace.
“Tha’s the nicest thing anyone ever did say ‘bout Mally,” Talon sniffled. “Shucks, y’all, let’s git ter bed. The kids’ll be up bright an’early; we ought ter be, too.”
* * *
Instinctively, Blue navigated the depths of the Water Temple. He had never been there before, but as Shadows remember in reverse, it was as if he had already been there. He made short work of the underwater creatures living within its underwater caverns, and soon there was a trail of broken Tektite bodies and limp masses of what used to be Biri to mark his path behind him. Down, down into the watery depths he swam, trusting his powerful Zora gills to draw oxygen from the water and his keen Zora eyes to help him avoid obstacles. Only when he approached an enormous opening in the floor of one cavern did he pause. Down in the depths there was a monstrous, rumbling shriek; something very large was suffering a great deal of pain. And after the shriek, a voice: like ice itself, and sharp as fear.
“Perish, you pathetic fish! Serve me and die!”
Peering in after the sounds of battle, Blue saw what he knew he would:
A living skeleton swung in and out of attacking distance, its blue-black robes sweeping and flowing in the water. Wide horns curved from its head and a wide-bladed sword traced with wicked-looking red runes glinted cruelly in its hand. It was Tempus, the God of Decay.
The god’s opponent was a monstrous sea eel, corrupted by the power of the Fused Shadow hidden within its chamber. Its body would have stretched to the height of the waterfall in Zora’s Domain twice over, and great transparent tentacles swept all around its gaping maw, lined with row after row of viciously curved teeth. Writhing in pain, it bellowed again, and charged its attacker.
Tempus sneered, revealing two rows of his own pointed teeth, framed by long, carnivorous fangs. “Then you have chosen your fate.” And the Shadow God raised his wide, black sword over his head, a thick, deep demonic cackle clattering inside of his sunken rib-cage. And when he swung down, the stroke of his blade cleaved the water with invisible force and severed the eel’s head and neck clean in two. Writhing and wailing from the attack, the eel’s tail came around and flayed dangerously close to the Shadow God. Twice, three times the god would have been struck by the dying creature, but Tempus could navigate the water too quickly. Then Blue had an idea.
“Hey, goat-brains! Up here!” Blue hollered.
Tempus wheeled on the spot, catching sight of the Shadow in Zora disguise. “You! I thought I’d taken care of all the guards on the way in! No matter. But I’ve already taken one of you as my new host and discarded that wretch of a straw doll. I have no need of—”
And just at that moment the God of Decay was struck by the eel’s final convulsions, slamming him into the silt and sediment of the lakebed, burying him completely. In another moment the creature’s body began to dissolve, the Shadow Magic which corrupted it finally consuming it entirely. And where its heart had once been, the broken piece of Fused Shadow reformed itself. Inert and menacing, it settled to the lakebed and was still.
Quickly, before Tempus could extricate him from his murky prison, Blue raced down with Zora speed and plucked up the Fused Shadow, retreating to the entrance of the cavern before observing his prize.
“That’s mine, cur!” snarled the sharp, caprine voice of the Shadow God. Blue froze immediately, bound by Tempus’ power. “And I’ll have it from you, whether I pry it from your withered hands, or by the edge of the Death Sword I wield!”
“No,” said Blue, resisting the power which held him bound. “You won’t.” And in response to his will, the Fused Shadow dissolved.
Experience the legend as never before! http://heroofgeeks.blogspot.com Every legend contains its residuum of truth, and the root function of language is to control the universe by describing it. ~ James Baldwin
You updated! And it's... wow... I can't say anything Your writing never ceases to amaze me. Wow, the plot is just as vibrant as before! So...is 'Gods of Shadow' continuing, then? I might have misunderstood when you said it was finished.
It took Link by surprise that Faroe would be so informal, so simple, so childlike in her demeanor. He always imagined courage as the kind of thing that was bold; the kind of thing that would charge into battle and cleave every foe before they had a chance to retaliate.
“But you aren’t that kind of person, Link. At least, you don’t want to be,” said Faroe, answering his thoughts. Link marveled that she knew what he was thinking even when he had not thought it aloud. But there was nothing dividing the two of them, he realized. Faroe was him. It was no use distinguishing them as separate things. “You’ve charged into battle before, but only when you had to,” Faroe continued. “But at heart you’re simpler than this. You want peace and a safe home. You wish to have a family you can do well by and keep from harm; the sort of family you never had, but always thought was noble and good.”
“But aren’t I supposed to be courageous in battle?” thought Link. “Aren’t you that kind of courage?”
“There are lots of ways to be courageous, Link. I am what I am, but you see me as that kind of courage that makes you who you are.” He supposed this was only fitting if he was speaking to that part of himself which reflected the goddess. Faroe continued: “You were born a Hylian—a son of my sister-goddess Nayru—but I’m the one who picked you, like I did your dad and everybody before him.”
“Aren’t the Sheikah your children, though?” Each of the mortal races was aligned with a deity, he knew; the Hylia were the children of Nayru, the Gerudo the children of Din, and the Sheikah were the children of Faroe. It made more sense to Link that a Shiekah should be the Chosen One of Courage. “Why didn’t you choose one of them?”
Faroe’s golden figure approached and appeared to sit before Link in the nothingness of the void. She laid her hands on her crossed feet. “Everybody in Hyrule is like their mother-goddess, but they also have their own strengths. Even though you have some wisdom from Nayru, your own courage and sense of justice was greater than all the courage my children inherited from me. I picked you, Link—like your father, like your mother—because I can trust you when Hyrule is in danger. I chose you because of the courage that comes from your heart, and not mine.”
Link took all of this in soberly. He was sure that if he could have felt his face it would be warm and flush with embarrassment. Still, the mention of his parents reminded him of what Orda had said. “My mother…! You chose her?”
“Yes. I needed someone with her courage if you were to be saved. You don’t have to be sad for her, Link. Mothers would do anything for their children. You know what scary times can do to people. When she was alive, your mother saw lots of things that would make anyone want to turn back. But she never did. She would have died well no matter what the Goddess of Time did. But Orda made sure that your mother’s death meant the most that it could. She saved you, and because of you Hyrule was saved from Ganon’s evil. Your mother gave Hyrule her son; the boy that would save everyone from the things that make them want to turn back. You gave them hope when you went into the future to save everyone from Ganon. And you still have hope to give. Everybody in Hyrule will depend on you very soon. Would you have wanted your mother to die for anything less important?”
Link was humbled. He could not manage to offer any alternative. “No…” He thought of how his father had died, never knowing that Link was his son, just as Link had never known who his father was until it was too late. “And my dad…” he thought tentatively, “Does he know now? Who I am…I mean?”
“Maybe you should ask him yourself…” And with this quixotic reply reverberating in Link’s mind, Faroe stood, and her form dissolved into many golden wisps of light as if into the depths of a shadowy wood.
After another moment Link became aware of Orda’s presence again.
“Link?” came the voice of her mind. “Is anything amiss?”
“Faroe…mentioned my father… She said I could talk to him myself, but…”
“Do you not wish to see your father?”
“No,” he said with resolution. “I don’t need to. I understand.” And as he spoke he knew that the things he was speaking were true, in the deepest and most profound sense, though he had never understood them before. “In this place people are what their hearts have made them. That hawk on the tree branch; he was my father, wasn’t he? My father always watched the queen…kept her from harm. He was more faithful than any of the knights, stayed by her. And the tree—the one beside Father Dekku—that was my mother. She died to shelter me from harm. The Gossip Stone in Hyrule marked her grave. I know my parents for what they are, now…what they truly are. I couldn’t tell just by looking at them…I had to understand why their hearts took on that shape. And now that they’ve seen me as a wolf, they know me for what I am… And I know what I am.”
Orda said nothing, but Link could feel her confirming influence, like a fortifying power, flowing into him as he continued.
“I know I get angry when I don’t understand things, but more than anything I want to protect the people close to me. Being the hero means being alone most of the time, like a wolf, but I’ll never give up on the ones that need me. I’m not afraid of what could hurt me, but more afraid that others could get hurt if I don’t protect them. I remember, now: I am the Chosen of Courage.” For a long time—or perhaps none at all—the void gaped; wide open and empty. Nothing existed except Link, Orda, and this truth, enveloping on him as if it were the end of the dark, and the beginning of eternity.
The light was returning gradually now, along with the world. Link felt the weight of existence again and at first it was like being smothered by a thick, heavy blanket. He felt the heaviness of his lupine body, tasted the air in his lungs, smelled the rich scents of reality with his heightened wolf senses. He felt his paws touch smooth, dry rock and saw the stars pierce the dark golden sky one by one. He watched intently as he saw Navi’s star return, smiling at him as it did so. And the creation of Hyrule unfolded before him:
Great gashes appeared in the smooth stony world and then exploded with shattering, deafening force. Huge columns of rock were thrust up from somewhere beneath everything and soon Link could distinguish Death Mountain again as a sharp, golden, tall-peaked spire in the sky. The high summit of Zora’s Domain erupted with a spout of golden water that shot into the air, like the column of some colossal edifice. When the golden rain came down again Link felt it fall hot on his fur, drenching him in actuality; confirming his presence and justifying it at the same time—he was a part of Hyrule; as surely as the rain and the rocks, he was meant to be there.
Gradually, the rivers and streams of Hyrule settled into their low places, glistening serenely under a golden moon. Link had little time to focus on this, however, as the plant life of Hyrule suddenly sprang into being. Grass carpeted the expanse of fertile soil and trees lanced into the air all around him, their branches shooting forth and splaying out with layer upon layer of thick, leathery golden leaves. Hyrule was restored.
Again Link stood in the clearing, the lone tree before him with its varied fruits, and there, perched on the lowest branch, was the hawk Link had seen before. Orda unveiled her face once more and the sun shone out in the golden sky, drowning out the light of the distant stars.
As Link considered what he had just witnessed—the order and vitality, the majesty and power of it all—he knew what a small part of it he truly was. Yet within the enormity that was Hyrule, he understood perfectly his place as the Chosen of Courage. And the hawk before him—his father—was one more hero in the long line of heroes who had given themselves for the sake of Hyrule. They had made their sacrifices so that he could be ready for his task. And now it was Link’s time to give himself for Hyrule.
“So you have remembered yourself,” said the Goddess beside him, pondering the hawk on the branch. “Then I shall grant you one request before you are given your charge, knowing that you will not ask amiss.”
Link’s eyes did not deviate from the tree as he thought aloud. “I want my father to give me my charge.”
Orda nodded and smiled a little, having known all along what Link would ask. “So let it be.” And she reached out her arm.
All at once, as if suddenly unbound from invisible restraints, the hawk spread forth its wings and let out a cry that pierced to the endless corners of the Golden Land. Link did not understand it, but it made him feel as if he had been welcomed into a home he had never known, and he wept openly; great wolf tears. The hawk leaped from the branch and alighted on the Goddess’ right arm, catching up with its keen eyes every detail of the child he was never permitted to know in his mortal life.
“Link, my son” thought the hawk, and to Link it was like a royal title, “allow me to speak to you as I might have in life…”
* * * 10 Years Ago
“Your father was just like you,” said Stranger, “impetuous, commanding, valiant. But you would know that much from the Captain’s reputation. What you would not guess was that your father was constantly torn between his duties and his loves. His position as Captain of the Royal Guard taxed him much. It was difficult for him to leave the barracks at times—he was never satisfied the soldiers were doing their best; felt working for pay had corrupted their sense of dedication. And he felt guilty for not spending more time with his family—his wife he had so recently married, his son he never truly came to know…”
While Link was entranced by this concept, slowly, gently, Stranger took the Stone Mask and placed it over Link’s face. Then he rolled the collar of his cloak back over his bald head. “Come,” said Stranger’s voice from the air, and the breathy notes of a military march tugged at Link’s body, begging him to release his current surroundings and be drawn away.
All the world changed, and they were in the eastern courtyard of Hyrule Castle, just outside the entrance of the barracks. The moon shone above them. It was still night, though dawn seemed to creep along the edge of the eastern mountains like a silent enemy, and there was the tension of haste in the air, like that before a long, arduous journey. Many men were gathered around, whispering and speaking in low tones. Two men separated themselves from the group, mounted horses, and were gone. A strong voice called the attention of the others.
“Now listen; Geron and his company will wait in Kakariko until they arrive. Vern, you will take your company south; that was the direction she was last seen travelling. She was wounded; she will have left some trail for your hounds to follow. Take this. It is one of her night-shirts. Go, now. If we hurry we can establish a perimeter before daybreak.”
Link circled the group to catch the face of the speaker. It was a young man, in his early twenties. Despite his youth, however, even the old grizzled veterans gave him heed. The men obeyed his every order, and Link marveled at the efficiency with which the commander distributed responsibility.
“But Captain, what of the Darknaughts?” said a younger voice. “Is it true they were set upon by demons?”
“Don’t trifle me with fantasies, page. Don’t you have a missive to deliver to the king?”
“Sir, yessir,” said the young page dejectedly. “But what if I wake him? Will he holler at me like he did Bernard?”
“Take heed not to be distracted by rumor, boy. You have a duty to perform; can you do it without fear?”
“Good lad, now get on with you.”
Link looked at the young captain with growing affection. This was his father, he knew. He wondered at how the men were tied to him with their eyes, ready for the words that would begin their own portion of the quest. Link felt both settled and uneased by this; it was so different from the way he was used to doing things. Usually when something needed to get done he did it all himself. Every enemy was his enemy, it seemed, and he was always the only one who could defeat them. Distributing the weight of the responsibility would be a welcome respite. Yet his father had been speaking for several minutes now, and he still had not taken up any portion of the quest for himself. Was he a coward? Surely, not, he decided. Not Link’s father…
Link had not thought long on this when two horses came clomping to a stop just within the archway, their riders battered, their tunics torn. They were not the two that had just left, Link realized…
“Sapphael, Meryl,” called the captain with a mixture of relief and concern. “What news?”
The riders dismounted. “Never have I seen anything like it, Colin,” said Meryl. “Great golden beasts emerged from a scar in the air. They were fierce monsters, armed to the claws. How are Rubeus and Ameth?”
“Resting. And the driver?”
“In the healer’s care,” said Sapphael. “We wished to come with word sooner, of course. But…”
“Yes, I understand; the driver was critically wounded. I got that much from Ameth before he went unconscious, and Rubeus has been delirious since he arrived. Keeps mumbling about beasts, half-bird, half-cat.” And Colin’s jaw clenched. “I know he speaks nonsense, but I am sure the enemy was fierce; you could have done no more…”
Meryl stepped forward. “Colin, I am sorry… About Kar—”
“There is nothing to be sorry about!” Colin barked. The night’s sounds cut off as if snapped shut in a box. The twin knights stared. “You have done your duty; go! Go and admit yourselves to the doctor’s services. You have fought well! Begone with you!”
Dawn threatened like an unwanted courier. Finally, Meryl made to mount his horse again, but Sapphael stopped him with one hand. He turned to the captain.
“Colin, I must speak to you frankly. You are too involved in this—”
“I’m not involved, Sapphael Nohansen, I have my duties and you have your—”
“—fruitless rescue mission. While you are sending away our men, you are depleting the resources we have here in the castle. If you continue, you’ll—”
“—responsibility to protect the king. I was charged to ensure that the townspeople were ushered to the safety of Kakariko, and so I shall—”
“—make our position here all the weaker, and with two of the Darknaughts already incapacitated from—”
“—If you are so valiant, then why did you fail in your own charge and not—”
“—battle we cannot hope to protect—”
“—protect MY WIFE!”
Sapphael’s face hardened. “The enemy is still at large. Protect the king, Colin. Call off your hunt. I am sorry for your loss, you know I am. But she is gone.”
Against his will, Colin’s face wrenched in horror at the thought. “NO!” he commanded. “She is NOT dead! I refuse to accept that as an option! You four were insufficient to the task. Daphnes wanted me to send my best men, but I see I can no longer place my confidence in the Walls of Hyrule. They can protect the king, but none so lowly as a peasant woman, is that your explanation!?”
“Captain, you go too far! I tell you the enemy was too much for any man. Would you have wished your own men dead so that your wife could live!? How many of them would you be willing to lose? Ten? Twenty? What of the soldiers, they are only in it for the money, isn’t that right? They have been paid their wages; paid to die, haven’t they? You would give up anything to be assured that your wife would live, would you not?”
“There are no such things as golden monsters or scars that tear the air, Sapphael, son of Hansen, Darknaught of the Royal Order of Hyrule. You have invented them or imagined them, but whatever the case you tell your child’s tale to avoid taking responsibility for your own failure! It was the Gerudo behind this plot, and I will not have any excuses!”
“You know nothing about it! I will not stand by while the Captain of the Royal Guard disregards tactical judgment and the word of the king’s protectors. I am sorry for you, Colin, and I will mourn Karin with you, but we cannot afford to have dissention among us—”
“I will not mourn Karin, because she is not dead! Men, you have your orders!”
“You are relieved from duty, captain!”
The words hung in the air like a verdict. Colin did not blink, but stared with red eyes at his accuser. Sapphael stood firm, his long, blood-encrusted hair falling about his shoulders like a mantle of authority.
Meryl only bowed his head. “I am sorry, Colin. Sapphael’s right. You should get some rest.”
Colin placed one foot closer to the Darknaughts. Then another. As if he was wearing iron boots, he walked, every step bringing him one step closer to the man who challenged his right as husband… Husband, and father.
“I will rest,” said Colin, his face as hard as his step, “when she is found. My child will not be motherless.”
“Your child is gone, Colin. He could not possibly have survived.” The captain raised a fist to strike Sapphael, but the Darknaught did not move. “If you do that I will have you detained, Colin, and if you are in prison you cannot search for your wife. I have relieved you from duty, and so no matters of military now bind you. If you care for your wife, and your son, you will not force me to lock up the only man remaining who is at liberty to search for them…”
Colin gritted his teeth, but lowered his fist, and immediately stormed past the pair of knights. There was a shout, the whinny of a horse, and the sound of quickly-fading hoof-beats. Immediately following this were the notes that pulled Link and Stranger back to the Temple’s colorless vacancy.
“I met your father for the first time on that occasion, you know,” said Stranger, a short smile creasing his face. “I was the page. When I saw the returning knights, my curiosity was piqued and I followed them to see what would happen. It was then that I saw your father…” Stranger paused awkwardly.
“Colin loved your mother; fiercely and without reservation. And he loved the Royal Family, even the brothers of the king; truly, they were as his own siblings. And strange as it may seem to you, Link, he also loved his enemies. Perhaps not even he realized it during his life, but through all the fury he had for the Gerudo, I saw in him a pity and mercy that defied words. He did not truly wish them harm; when he spoke out against them it was his duty, and his love speaking, not his hate.”
Link’s pale form shivered in the moonlit shafts beaming into the spacious Temple. Somehow he had become very cold, and without realizing it, his face had become wet.
“What are you telling me this for?” Link sniffed. Though, truthfully, Link was drinking in Stranger’s narrative. He had not realized until now how much he longed to hear more about his father. “I thought you were going to train me…”
“It is part of your training, Link.” Stranger stepped just into the light filtering down from one window. “There is more to being a hero than single-minded determination. There is also detachment from personal suffering… My reasons for showing you your mother were varied. One of them was so that you could see what kind of woman you father loved so dearly. I show you your father now so that you might realize that you are your father’s son. And knowing this, you may account for his example.”
“You’re saying I shouldn’t be like him,” Link stated. “You think he shouldn’t have gone looking for my mother. You didn’t want me to save her either.”
“Your mother had perished, Link,” said Stranger with seeming indifference. “He could have done nothing to save her.”
“But he didn’t know that!” Link blurted. “And I still could have saved her!”
“Ah, but what would you have done? Do you know the secrets of healing magic? And what would have happened to the child in her arms if you had interfered in the battle? There is no guarantee that you would have succeeded.”
“I would have tried,” Link hissed.
Stranger’s eyes narrowed. “Are you so like your father that you will not see an imprudent decision when it stares you in the face?”
“My father was not a bad man!”
Stranger raised a finger. “But was he a good man?”
Link folded his arms, tempering his answer. He knew this was more than a simple question. “Yes,” he concluded, “he was a good man…”
“Because he did what he thought was right.”
“For himself…” Stranger baited.
“For my mother! For me! He did what was right!” Link insisted.
Stranger paused. “What I wish for you to understand, Link, is that the world is not full of black and white. We mortals are not beings of only light or darkness. We do not even have streaks of each; no, if anything, we are mostly gray. There is great light in us, but most of us must work to let that light surface uncorrupted. Others will feed the darkness and revel as it grows stronger within them. There are those who do what is right for the wrong reasons, and what is wrong for the right ones…
“There will be many things which you see in your parents which are to be commended, emulated. You will wish to honor their light by making it your own. But you cannot characterize a man without his darkness; this would be to believe in a false person. You can love him for what he is, but you must decide for yourself whether it is light that you see, or darkness, and whether you wish to make it a part of you.”
Link pondered this seriously. “How do I know which is which?”
“Alas, you must decide that for yourself.”
Link sighed, taking this in. “I’ve been thinking about something, you know,” he said.
“And what is that?”
“You never actually told me who you were. Your name, I mean.”
Stranger smiled. “Very good. Let us continue.”
* * *
Zelda turned under her blanket. Ruto was calm. Arinco was still, and Ezlo snored, little mousy wheezes escaping his nose every so often. The tent was quiet.
But Link was not asleep.
He sat up under his covers, rubbing his eyes. He found that the more he tried, the less tired he was. It was almost as if the night was rejuvenating him, somehow. He wondered whether this might be a side-effect of his shadow corrupting him. He reached into his tunic and pulled out the Force Shard Ezlo had given him. So long as he wore it, the wizard had said, Link could not be overtaken by the Shadow. It must have been true; he still had his wits. But still, he was different, somehow.
He passed the time by trying to put what had happened to him into words and sentences. It was like...like putting on a shirt only to find that there were too many arm-holes...or perhaps that he did not have enough arms. He knew that another part of him was supposed to be there, but it was eerily absent. The Force Shard was like a filler, a substitute arm to fill in the hole so that the nothingness could not fill it in for him. And there was this looming sensation that if he ever took the Force Shard off his neck he would immediately be overtaken by the nothingness that was there, and none of his limbs would be under his control anymore.
Link shook his head. This idea did not sit well in his mind. But strangely, he found another part of him longing for the Force Shard to be gone, to release him from bondage so that he could truly be free. Free to roam the night; his native element. Link threw the covers from his body and stooped in the tent, strapping on the belt that held the Four Sword to his waist. When his boots were on, he fiddled with the strings that tied the flaps shut. He had to get out, to explore the night while it was here.
Zelda stirred under her blankets again. Link froze; she could not see him leaving. She would surely be inquisitive and ruin his adventure. But shortly, the princess was calm again and he was out of the tent, confident no one had noticed him leave.
The firelight flickered brightly inside its circle of stones. Link threw a hand up to cover his face. The brightness pierced him, shot through him like an arrow. He had to escape. Into the forest he ran, heedless of where he was going, only away from the fire, away from the burning brightness.
When he felt no more light but the cool stars, he slowed, walking, inhaling the darkness like breath. This was freedom. Not to be hounded about should’s or have-to’s. Link’s mind cleared and he saw the night as it was; bright as noonday and alive with activity. The insects skittered about on the ground, on the leaves, and within the starlit shadows was all manner of delicious darkness to consume. The wind blew, and he found he could discern every leaf, every swaying blade of shrubbery. And there, between the columns of trees, he saw it: a path that wound further into the wood.
Where did this path lead? Link did not know, but he knew it would offer deeper shadows and greater adventure. His dark heart beat faster, and in few steps he was running the length of the path, never stumbling, never stopping for breath, for every breath was the shadow, and it rejuvenated him.
The path was long, but he was tireless. Perhaps half-an-hour had passed when he first caught glimpse of the stone ruins hidden deep in the north-western woods. He approached with caution; strong magic radiated from the edifice and foreboding seeped out of it like a mist. Link’s shadow-memory recalled the place: it was the Palace of Darkness, where the Dark Mirror had been hidden…until Ganon had stolen it, that is.
Irritated squeaks greeted him at the entrance, and Link paused just in time to be met by a horde of Dekku Scrubs, all challenging him, halting his progress. He did not think, but raised his arms, curled his fingers around like great claws, and roared as fiercely as he could. The Scrubs squeaked again, this time in fright, and hopped away into the wood. Link cackled with amused glee. Or was it truly Link that had cackled? Suddenly he was not so certain.
But when he turned toward the entrance again, his progress was halted a second time. Not by Dekku Scrubs, but by a Hylian woman, lithe and beautiful, with a flowing gown and waving golden tresses. On her brow was a silver diadem with a single sapphire set in its center. For the smallest moment Link thought he was looking at Zelda, all grown up, but then his shadow-memory presented him with the true identity of the woman.
“Zethra,” Link’s voice uttered. He sneered. “I might have known you would stand in my way.”
“I will do so forever, until you release your hold on the Hero. You shall not enter this sacred place. It was once the Palace of Light before Ganon’s dark designs corrupted it.” The queen stood straight and tall, the picture of righteous defiance. Around her throat, Link now noticed, was bound a vibrant scarlet ribbon.
Link drew out the Force Shard from around his neck. It glowed a bright gold and he was obliged to replace it beneath his tunic to hide its cutting brilliance. “Your trinket vexes me, but you cannot hold me forever,” Link said certainly. “You’re dead.”
“Not dead,” said Zethra. “Ascended to the Realm of the Heavens; to the Golden Land, where shadows can never enter.”
Link spat on the ground. “I curse such a loathsome place. Full of piercing light even when the Goddess of Time hides her face and the moon comes out.” He considered the queen further; she was much like the moon herself, for brightness, and her pale light kept Link firmly at bay. “Stand aside, woman, or I will repeat the act that sent you to your precious Heavenly Realm…”
Zethra did not move, neither did she respond to this threat. Instead, she held out her hand. Within it, Link could see, was a shimmering blue cloth, folded neatly.
“What is that?”
“A warning,” Zethra replied. “Take it.”
“Because it is what you want.”
“I want the Fused Shadow, woman. And you do not have that to offer me.”
“Don’t I?” The queen raised one brow as if in amused disdain. “Then I will just take my gift back with me—”
“No!” Link threw a hand out. Zethra paused. “No, I’ll take it. If it truly is what I want.”
“It is what you want, dark one.” And she offered him the cloth again.
Hesitantly, Link took the cloth and unfolded it. Suddenly, he was not standing before the ruins of the Palace of Darkness, but in a mossy cavern, where a water-spring rippled and churned until a great white orb of light rose from it. Surrounding this light, Link realized, was a creature with the head of a crocodile and the body of a great serpent. The vision flashed white, and then black, and he was standing in a void of emptiness. From all sides streaks of colored light swirled around him; one red, one green, one blue.
The vision continued with great speed; a red hill was formed from nothing, then green life covered it like a blanket, and then little blue lights filled the air above. The streaks of color swooped and careened in the void and then collided in the center of the space, directly over the hill. Where they struck one another a golden triangle came into being, three parts making up the larger whole. It spun there, serenely, and Link could feel the power flowing from it, beckoning to him, begging him to claim it for himself.
But gradually, Link became aware of another presence. When he turned he realized that Malon was standing beside him, regarding the Triforce with the same greedy hunger. Something in him snapped, and the Four Sword was in his hand. Malon drew an arrow from her quiver and nocked it to the string of her bow, but too late. Link’s sword had done its work, and Malon fell to the ground, motionless, her unfired arrow still locked between her senseless fingers.
And then Link was running, running as he had been in the forest, with tireless determination. But he stopped short: there, on the hill, an evil thing was growing. It grew and grew and soon Link realized that it bore the single eye of the completed Fused Shadow. The whole of the magical helm engulfed the Triforce, and it was lost from his sight. Then, only then, did Link see who had claimed the power of the Triforce before him.
Standing before the Fused Shadow were three dark shapes, with eyes glowing red with malice. Their hands rose, and with fright striking his dark heart, Link’s body was suddenly pulverized, reduced to nothing in an instant. The next moment he realized his consciousness had not faded, rather he was looking out through the eyes of the dark ones themselves. He chuckled to his shadowy cohorts, for now that he was one of them, he had reign over the magic which had claimed the Triforce. His chuckle rose to a frenzied cackle; he had ultimate power in his grasp!
But how suddenly the light came! It struck straight through him, and little by little, as surely as the sun rises to banish the night, three great white orbs came and shone on Link and his two other selves. The Fused Shadow shrank away and was as nothing compared to the power of the Spirits of Light. Link screamed out in pain, every moment in the unbearable light a waking agony.
“Link! Link, wake up! We’ve been searching all night for you! Link!”
When Link opened his eyes he was greeted by the face of the queen again. No, not the queen; Zelda. And there was Ezlo, and the mayor, and Ruto bringing up the rear.
“What…? Wh-where am I?” The morning light filtered down through the leaves overhead. “The last thing I remember is leaving the tent last night. I couldn’t sleep.”
“You must have finally gotten to sleep and wandered off,” Arinco suggested.
“I didn’t know you walk in your sleep,” said Ruto, taking a swig from her never-ending bucket. “My cousin swims in his sleep. I think he’s gotten lost about a dozen times. The dukes always find him in one of the underwater tunnels, cozying up with a Hylian trout for a pillow.”
Link ignored this tangential explanation. “How did you find me?”
“I had a hunch we should keep moving on toward the Palace, my boy,” said Ezlo. “It was where we were headed anyway. You just got here first, it appears.”
“Where you were headed?” said Link groggily. He could hardly think, let alone remember what Ezlo’s goals were.
“Here, my boy. You’ve led us straight to the Palace of Light. And the Mirror of Twilight. Let’s go, up with you, then.”
Link gathered his wits and double-checked his equipment. The Force Shard was still inside his tunic, the Four Sword was at his waist. Then, just as he was about to follow the others into the Palace, he stopped. Laying on the ground where he had been was a curious shimmering blue cloth. Uncertain what it was, he dusted off the dirt and tucked it into his belt. Whoever had dropped it, they would surely want it back.
* * *
Violet’s wooden Scrub body bobbed in a pool of murky water, deep in the subterranean tunnels under the roots of the Great Dekku Tree. This was only too easy, he thought, and paddled harder to reach the edge of the pool. It was just inside the next room, he was convinced. The Fused Shadow would soon be his.
The tunnel rounded out as it passed into the hollow of one of the great tree’s roots. The tunnel then opened up into a spacious cavern, all with bioluminescent mosses carpeting the sides of stalagmites and stalactites. Great mushroom rings intersected each other on the floor, and in the center of all this sat an oversized, squat mushroom with a blue-and-gold chest on top of it. There it was for the taking! Vi rushed forward on his stubby Scrub legs.
But the chest was locked. How to open it? Where was the key?
“Oh, did you need to get into the chest?” said a voice behind him. It was Skulki, the stick-child. He had a look of pleasant helpfulness, and Vi knew he would be an easy one to deceive.
“Yes,” he squeaked. “I was sent all the way down here to polish the Fused Shadow for Mister Aako and I can’t get inside the chest to clean it. If only I had the key…”
Skulki looked at the Scrub sidelong. “You don’t need the key,” he said warily.
“I don’t?” Vi responded innocently.
“Nope! It’s not even in there! See!” And the stick-child produced the broken shadow-magic from behind his back. “And I’ve already cleaned it. So you’re off the hook! How lucky!”
“Yeah,” Vi replied, silently cursing his newfound luck. “Um…well, I can’t just lie to Mister Aako, and he’ll be real disappointed if I come back without doing what he sent me down here for... Geez, in that case I’d better be going. I’ll just get my punishment over with.”
Skulki beaky face frowned. Then suddenly his attitude brightened up. “Hey! Maybe I could just let you shine it a little bit so you can go back and tell Mister Aako that you did what he asked. That way you won’t get into trouble!”
“Wow, you’d do that for me?” said Vi.
“Sure, here you go.”
Now this was far too easy. All Violet had to do was reach out his hand and the Fused Shadow would be his. The Scrub hesitated.
“Is this a trick?” Vi asked finally. “Are you sure this is the Fused Shadow?”
Skulki rolled his eyes. “Well of course it’s not the Fused Shadow. It’s a fake. I’ve been making them to throw people off, see?” The stick-child beat the mock-Shadow against the floor and it resounded with the dull thunk of wood. “I just paint them up and polish them off and they look just like the real thing! It was Mister Aako’s idea.”
“Great,” said Vi dejectedly. “That’s really great.”
“Of course, I have to keep the real one nearby so I can make the other ones look like it. D’you wanna see?”
Violet could not believe his luck. “Absolutely,” he squeaked.
“Alright, here you go,” said Skulki, offering Vi the mock-Shadow he still held in his hand.
“Ha! Tricked you! I just stomped my foot when I hit it against the ground. Made you think it was fake, didn’t I?”
“You sure did,” said Violet. And he snatched away the Fused Shadow and spun around Skulki, making for the exit.
“You—you can’t take that! Mister Aako will be really mad!” called Skulki.
But Vi just ran away as fast as his stubby legs would carry him, ignoring the stick-child’s frenzied screams of panic.
Experience the legend as never before! http://heroofgeeks.blogspot.com Every legend contains its residuum of truth, and the root function of language is to control the universe by describing it. ~ James Baldwin
Just caught up on the last two chapters! Im very pleased with both of them. The golden land story had a great epiphany, and the "sleep walking" in the forest was very intense, perfect mood for the scene. And poor Skulki, cant catch a break eh?
Just one question, If all the races of Hyrule are from a goddess, who's children are the Zora?
I'm so glad you asked that, Hero. You see, aside from being my most favoritest thing to do, my story is a great engine for my theories about how the Legend of Zelda works as a whole; its theology, concept of time, of magic, and all the great hero cycles are wonderful fodder for the imagination.
Specifically, there is this question of races and how they relate to the Goddesses. In my conception of the Legend, there are three "human" races, and three "elemental" races, each aligned with one of the three Goddesses. Din's "human" race was the Gerudo, and her "elemental" race were the Gorons. Likewise with Farore (whose name I have obviously shortened to Faroe in the stories) and the Sheikah and Koroki, and Nayru with the Hylians and Zoras. As such, each set of races is more likely to exhibit the characteristics of their mother goddess. Therefore the Gerudo and Gorons are "powerful", the Sheikah and Koroki are "courageous", and the Hylia and Zoras are "wise".
Of course, that's just how I view it.
Thanks so much for the feedback!
Experience the legend as never before! http://heroofgeeks.blogspot.com Every legend contains its residuum of truth, and the root function of language is to control the universe by describing it. ~ James Baldwin
Link’s whole form trembled. If he had still been a child he would have wanted more than anything to throw his arms around his father and squeeze and squeeze, but hearing his father’s thoughts now felt like a union far stronger than any mere embrace of the limbs.
“I am very proud of you, son,” the hawk thought aloud. “While I hardly realized who you were that day in the Grand Hall, take heart in knowing that you were my driving force, my motivation, my reason for being. I might have lost hope, but I never forgot what you meant to me…to your mother and I. You are my hero, son. I have more love for you than the whole great land of Hyrule could possibly contain.”
Link did not realize he had such emotion in him! It was like an overflowing of forgiveness and joy all at the same time that made his heart rise to his throat and his stomach turn somersaults. He could not call it anything but pure love, the purest love he had ever felt.
“Now, Link, I give you your charge.”
“Yes, anything,” thought Link, for at that moment Link would have died thousands of times for his father, if he had asked it.
“As the Chosen of Courage, you serve to balance the wrongs of self-serving ambition,” continued the hawk. “You seek wrongs that they may be righted, and are drawn to the oppressed that they may be healed. In this way you maintain Power in check. In turn your actions are tempered by the refining influence of Wisdom, lest you act rash or foolish and perish under the weight of Power’s hand. Yet your courage and wisdom are nothing without the strength to act; even you must obtain Power if you are to fight the powerful. So is the cycle completed and the three are maintained in balance. You and every child of the goddesses are a part of that balance.
“This, then, is your charge as the Hero of Time: to maintain that balance through all of time. The Goddess of Time shall guide you from the eternal Land of Gold—as she guides the destinies of all—waiting, watching, sculpting the banks of time’s river as men work their way through the flow of its waters. And now, you must go back, as you have before, and enter time again, prepared to do as you are guided to. You shall take nothing with you but the knowledge you have gained here. Be ready when Orda’s guidance comes, for it shall be in the moment you need it and not sooner. It shall come in the way that she chooses, and no other. Do you understand, Link?”
Link could hardly see for the wetness in his eyes. “Yes. I understand. I will serve valiantly—” and he took a breath “—father.” The word felt like a confession, and he wept openly with the freedom that came from speaking it, knowing whom he was addressing.
“That is well,” thought the hawk. “And now before you depart, I shall give you a gift.”
Link was overjoyed! But his heart sank. “I thought you said I couldn’t take anything with me…”
“So I did. And so you shall not. But what I give you now, you had before you came to this place, and so you shall have it after you depart.” The hawk flapped his wings a little and clenched his claws on the goddess’ arm, readying himself to give the gift. “When the Father of the Koroki took you in, he gave you a name, after the heroes of old. From that day on, you were called ‘Link;’ a name befitting of your destiny. But this was not your birth name; the one your mother and I gave to you as a child before your destiny was known. The name you were given when you were blessed on the Altar of Time—the one I reveal to you now—was ‘Arinco.’ ”
His birth name! “Arinco,” Link thought out, testing his name. The word persisted in Link’s mind like a memory, as if by the hearing of it he suddenly knew he had always known it.
“Yes, Arinco. Your mother and I formed your name from both of ours—Karin, Colin. As our son you bear a part of your mother in you, and a part of myself. But you shall decide how much of us you keep, and what you will do with it. And with your name I will tell you a tale that I heard from my birth:
“Once there was a brave Sheik who lived in the mountains. This Sheik fought many battles and conquered many enemies in the defense of his people, the Sheikah. But after all his days he grew old, and was about to die when his grandchildren came to ask one last blessing of him. He brought them all around and allowed them each to ask one final gift of him. The eldest asked for his blade, which was called ‘Tooth-cutter’ in the ancient Sheikah tongue. The next eldest begged for the cloth that covered his grandfather’s face. The next asked for the cloak from his back, which could make the man who wore it invisible. So each grandchild asked for his gift, in turn.
“Then, when all of the others had gone away with their gifts, the youngest sat at his grandfather’s feet. ‘I am sorry, child,’ said the Sheik, ‘but I have nothing left to give.’ ‘I want none of your possessions, grandfather,’ said the child. ‘For, like you, I shall not take them with me when I perish. But tell me; with your blade you have cut the tusks from boars as big as the village, and with your cloak you could have gone anywhere you wished without being noticed. Why, after so many conflicts threatened us, did you not simply conquer all of our enemies and establish peace?’ The old Sheik bowed his head and pondered the question. Then he said:
‘Each of us has two wolves growing inside us, young one,’ he said. ‘One is good, and the other is evil. The good one seeks peace, avoids conflict, and only fights when he must, and for the right reasons. The evil one hungers for strife, thirsts for blood, and destroys those who challenge him, whether they are right or not. The two wolves inside me have fought for many years, always threatening to defeat the other. Sometimes it was hard to live with them, for both wished to dominate my spirit.’ With wondering eyes, the child looked on his grandfather. ‘Which of them won?’ the child asked. The Sheik responded: ‘The one that I fed.’
“And so, Arinco my son, to Orda’s blessing I add my own. May you choose to feed the wolf which will bring peace to Hyrule, and peace to yourself. May you go and never falter, my child, and the Goddesses be with you.” For the second time the hawk screeched its piercing cry, and it leaped from the Goddess’ arm, beating its wings in strong, even strokes until it could no longer be seen over the tops of the trees.
* * * 10 Years Ago
“In order to fulfill your destiny, Link, I must teach you one of the songs which I developed myself. It is called ‘the Hymn of Echoes’ and allows the one who plays it to—”
“I don’t want to learn your song,” Link interrupted calmly, “until you tell me your name.” He was quiet, yet firm, waiting for Stranger to respond.
The bald Sheikah man paused. “Link, we have no time. There is much I must still teach you, and—”
“It’ll keep,” Link responded simply. “We can always just go back to whatever time we want, can’t we? There really is no hurry to train me up before something catastrophic happens—that was another reason why you brought me back ten years ago, so we could take our time. So I could learn everything you wanted me to before the cataclysm came in the future. Isn’t that right?”
Stranger now looked very nervous. He said nothing, but blinked, breathing in and out more and more heavily, clearly attempting to avoid the topic. Finally, he conceded.
“Very well.” The man stood taller, facing Link directly. “I will tell you who I am, beginning with my name. After which I will entertain any further questions you might have, until we are due at our next rendezvous. Then I must insist we focus on the task at hand. Are we agreed?”
Link sat on the Temple floor. “I’ll try not to interrupt,” he said. And Stranger could not help but smile at this.
“I was born Tova,” Stranger began, “son of Harlow, in the village of Kakariko, in 1370, Hyrulean Reckoning. I was raised knowing that one day I would serve the Royal Family, for all who are born in the village of Kakariko are destined one day to serve the king and queen of Hyrule. When I was five I was enlisted as a courier page for the king, taking messages to and from the Sages of Hyrule, the Captain of the Royal Guard, and others. In this way I became intimately familiar with Hyrule Castle, its environs, and its secrets. While I was a page I became enamored of the knights and soldiers who I saw frequenting the courtyards, and longed to be one of them, though I had not the stomach for battle. But I knew that even if I found my bravery I could not be one of them after all; I was a Sheikah, and destined only to serve the Royal Family.”
The Sheikah began pacing again, animated by his narrative. “After some time it was discovered that a Gerudo spy network had infiltrated Castle Town, and was following me around as I delivered my messages. The king’s intelligence was no longer private, and we had to find another way for the king to communicate. It was then that the king conceptualized the magic of the Sage Stones, which you know as Gossip Stones. These allowed his messages to be sent instantaneously, and without fear of discovery. Of course, they also made a courier page’s services a necessity of the past.
“It was around that time that Rauru, of the Temple, needed a new attendant monk. His previous one had progressed to the higher levels of the priesthood and took on the responsibilities that came with his new calling. When Rauru put out the notice that any who would like to join the Temple could appeal for the position of attendant monk, I pleaded with the king to allow me the opportunity; even a monk was closer to a soldier than a courier page with no duties. The king graciously granted me my request.
“I appealed for the position of attendant monk, and qualified. This was as much as I could do. It was up to the Goddess to choose between myself and the others who appealed for the position. As the Goddess would have it, I was chosen. And with the calling I received a new name; Tobias, servant of the House of Time. I served as Rauru’s attendant until the time that you and I became acquainted.”
Link had been silent all this time, taking in the man’s story. “One thing doesn’t fit, though,” he said. “You couldn’t be Tobias. Tobias doesn’t have red eyes.”
“Ah,” said Stranger. “Of course you would notice that little detail. You will also be aware that the Tobias you know does not have white hair, like the Sheikah do. The answer to this is simple. But I am afraid I did not agree to reveal all about myself, only to tell you who I am. You may believe me or not, as you will.”
Link looked at the man sidelong. “Alright, Tobias. In that case it’s a pleasure to see you again.” And he put out his hand. The man took it, solemnly.
“A pleasure, I’m sure. Now, as I was saying about the Hymn of Echoes—”
“Can I ask a different question?” said Link. “Unless I’m supposed to be seeing something else right now…”
Stranger paused, considering the air. “No, I believe you have cut me to the quick. We have no pressing events to constrain us at the moment, though we shall soon enough. Ask as you will.”
“How did you become the Chosen of Time?”
Stranger nodded. “I was afraid you would ask me that. You did before, you know, the other six times. You really are a curious one.” Link shrugged. “Let me first say that one cannot truly become a Chosen One until the Triforce has been claimed by one whose heart is not in balance. Then, and only then, will the Triforce split into its constituent pieces and seek out those who were elected by destiny to bear their magic. You became acquainted with this concept when you ventured into the future after Ganondorf became Ganon. You did not realize you were the Chosen of Courage because you were under a deep, enchanted sleep at the time, your spirit having been sealed away in the Sacred Realm.”
“Yeah, I remember…” said Link. “But why did you call me the Chosen of Courage if I stopped Ganondorf from getting the Triforce? Doesn’t that mean I’m not the Chosen of Courage?”
“Strictly speaking you should not be a Chosen One now; in your time you prevented Ganondorf from entering the Golden Land and therefore from claiming the Triforce. However, you have traveled back from the future where you were the Chosen of Courage. While you no longer bear the Triforce of Courage as you did then, you are still the one the Triforce chose, and a mark like that cannot be undone.”
Link narrowed his eyes, understanding. “So were you chosen when Ganon got the Triforce, too?”
Stranger paused. “No. As you will recall, I do not come from that time. Rather I am from one of the futures that followed the Reign of the Gods of Shadow. That, of course, was why I ventured back to help you change the past.”
“Oh, right.” After having been seven years in the future, and repeating the same three days out in Termina, Link was now so used to adjusting his concept of time that it did not faze him in the least to recall that Stranger was from a future that he was now trying to avoid. Link decided that time must flow in such a way that avoiding the circumstances that brought you back in time did not prevent you from remaining there, but might prevent you from getting back. Link certainly did not expect to ever get back to the future where Ganon had conquered Hyrule, but he had stopped that future from happening all the same.
“Then in your time someone else got the Triforce and made it break apart…” Link offered.
“Yes,” said Stranger.
Link thought on this. “But there’s something I don’t get. You said the pieces of the Triforce choose the ones who are supposed to bear their magic. But there is no Triforce of Time…is there?”
Stranger inhaled deeply. “Again, strictly speaking, no. The Triforce was formed by the creator goddesses, and in your time Orda was not involved in the creation of Hyrule. The time that I come from, however, sprang from…different circumstances.” Link looked as if his mind was suddenly bursting with questions. “And unfortunately,” Stranger preempted, “I do not have the liberty of explaining those circumstances; we are due elsewhere. As it is, I must postpone teaching you the Hymn of Echoes. Come, Master Stump. You will need your Stone Mask again.”
Link sighed and removed the Stone Mask from its satchel. He looked at it, hesitating. “Just one more question before we go?”
“Why didn’t you want me to know who you were, before?”
Stranger looked at Link curiously. “Whatever do you mean?”
“Well,” Link shrugged, “I asked you once before and I never really got a straight answer until now…”
“I am not in the habit of avoiding straight answers…where they are due,” Stranger conceded, smiling. “If you will recall, you were interrupting me at the time.”
* * *
“What’s in here?” asked Link, gazing at the walls of the Palace, drawn in by their pictographs and hieroglyphs. Ezlo had distributed collapsible lanterns to each of them when they entered, and now Link was shining his light on a carving depicting a mob of tall, dark people marauding through a village. Farther on there was another image, this time displaying the profiles of two men outfitted for battle—Link guessed they were kings by the crowns they wore. The taller one raised a trident over his head and the other carried a great round shield with markings all over it, but no weapon. “This place gives me the shivers.”
“Oh, it’s not that bad,” said Ezlo conversationally. The light of their lanterns fell on the silk webs of many small Gohmas, which skittered away into darker places as the group passed. “A thousand years of dust never did much for a lobby, but it’s nothing to be afraid of…”
“ ‘Nothing to be afraid of’!?” Ruto whimpered, clutching her bucket, the water rippling as she looked around her. Did you see the entrance? It looked like this big mouth with fangs. And there are skulls sitting on either side of that door over there, and I think I saw a pit with spikes in it! That’s not creepy to you?”
Ezlo stopped. “Oh, my! Well, that does change things, doesn’t it? Well, I suppose this place was—”
“—corrupted since you were last here,” Link finished automatically, nodding his head.
Zelda looked behind her. “You finished that rather quickly.”
Link demurred; he honestly didn’t know why he had said it. “Lucky guess?”
Arinco pressed on. “Where do we go, Ezlo? Do you remember the way?”
Ezlo stood at the edge of a balcony, overlooking the floor below. One doorway stood open to the left, another to the right. “I’m a little fuzzy on the layout,” the wizard admitted. “Just give me a moment…”
“Left,” said Link. “We should go left.” Suddenly, four pairs of eyes were trained on the boy. “What?” Link asked sincerely.
Zelda looked to Ezlo. “Link, you haven’t been here before. You woke up from being sealed in the Sacred Realm just yesterday. Isn’t that right, Ezlo?”
“Yes, he shouldn’t know where we’re going,” the wizard mused. “Yet, it’s very fascinating. Do you know, I think he’s right; we should go left. But how can he know it?”
“Master Ezlo,” said Arinco. “You said there was another Link abroad, is that right?”
Ezlo stroked his long, thin beard. “Well, yes, but… Ah, I see! While you have never been here, young Master Link, our Captain Link has been here. You think that the two may be connected, Arinco? Sharing memories somehow by virtue of being the same person…?”
“That’s stupid.” Now it was Ruto’s turn to have unexpected attention. “What? It just sounds really far-fetched, okay? It’s got to be something else, like seeing into the future, or something.”
Ezlo scoffed. “Now whose idea sounds far-fetched? Seeing into the future? Honestly… And my idea wasn’t stupid.”
Zelda put out one hand, reconsidering her friend. “No, Ezlo, I think she might be right, in a way.”
“I’m sorry?” said Ezlo, sincerely taken aback.
“Well,” Zelda began, “when Captain Link was helping me investigate the seal on Vaati’s prison, his shadow came to life and captured the maidens and I in crystal prisons. Then the other Shadow Links hid us throughout the kingdom. I was imprisoned in the highest room of the Tower of Winds, where no one has been for centuries. But from within my crystal I overheard Link’s shadow talking to himself; he seemed to know exactly where to go, what to do in order to get to the top of the Tower; like a kind of precognition.”
“So that’s what he meant…” Link was staring at the floor. When he realized the others were watching him, he explained. “When my shadow took me over in the room above the Four Sword Sanctuary, I could still see what was happening, but I wasn’t in control—like watching the horses guide a wagon without holding the reins. I heard myself—the Shadow—say that he could remember in reverse. He said he knew everything I would ever do… That must be why I know where we’re going now; the shadow inside me remembers what’s about to happen.”
Ruto stuck her fishy nose up in Ezlo’s direction. “See. I was right.” And she took a swig from her enchanted bucket.
Ezlo’s mousy face suddenly went white in the lantern-light. “This is terrible.”
“Oh, don’t be so crabby about it.” Ruto patted the wizard consolingly. “You’ve been right about a lot of things, you can give me this one.”
“No, Your Highness,” said Arinco. “It’s not that. If Master Link’s shadow can feed him memories, that means it’s getting stronger. Lad, do you still have the Force Shard?”
Link rummaged inside his tunic and pulled out the amulet. It was glowing brighter than all of the lanterns combined.
“This is very disconcerting,” said Ezlo. “The Shard’s light would only intensify if it was actively warding off the Shadow’s possession. The darkness of this place must be feeding it. Link, my boy, you’ll have to leave, now. Get back to daylight. Arinco, you go with him. Their Highnesses and I will retrieve the Mirror of Twilight and meet you back at—”
“No.” Link stood tall. “I’m fine. We can get to the Mirror more quickly if I help you. Without me it could take you forever to remember which way to go.”
“It’s too dangerous, my boy,” said the wizard.
“Aye, you’re a fool if you think I’ll let you endanger yourself,” Arinco growled.
“Well, too bad,” Link replied simply. “It’s my decision, and I’m going with you.”
Zelda set one hand on the boy’s shoulder. “But Link, if the Shadow gets stronger, it could possess you, and then where would we be?”
“That’s why I’ve got this, remember?” He held up the Force Shard. “I can’t be possessed as long as I’m wearing it—Ezlo said it himself.”
“I said if you took it off you’d never regain yourself,” replied the wizard testily, “not that you’d be immune to the power of your Shadow as long as you wore it! It won’t possess you, not fully, while you’re wearing the Shard, but your Shadow could convince you to take it off, and then you’d be gone. No, it was my mistake to bring you here; I should have known it was too dangerous. Master Arinco, if you please, escort young Master Link outside, and—”
But suddenly the boy was not there; defying explanation, he had slipped away unnoticed. And a faint lantern-light could just be seen through the left-hand doorway before its bearer turned another corner and the light disappeared.
* * *
“Come back,” said the king, drifting through the air as if he weighed nothing at all. “My dearest, come back to me…”
But the image of the queen did not stop. “You cannot slow, Daphnes. You must follow me. Hurry!”
The king had been wending his way through a labyrinth of underground walls and archways, his path being lit only by the glow of his wife’s image, floating around the next corner just as it came into view. More than once he thought he had lost her, when he caught the most fleeting glimpse of her light and he was away again. But no matter how quickly he willed himself forward, he could not catch her, only follow her. Zethra, his beloved wife.
Finally he came to the end of the tunnel: an archway stood open to the air, the starry night visible between the pillars that flanked the exit. The great disc of the moon shone silver against the deep blue, and there on the ledge over the open air, on a perch made of ivory, was perched a huge white owl. Zethra was nowhere to be seen.
The owl bowed to him; he bowed in response. There were no words exchanged between them, but the king knew what would happen next; he would climb on the owl’s back and it would take him to the Palace of the Moon, on the face of the shining orb out in the vastness of the night sky. How did he know these things? He had had this dream before.
The owl’s wings beat lazily beneath him. The night breeze whipped past his face, blowing youth into his bones. He felt stronger, braver, and as happens in dreams, he saw himself. And he was indeed younger; about the age when he first married his beloved, his young beard still brown-red on his chin. Those were the days of new-found concern. For Zethra, and her duties; for the kingdom, and how it could be protected from an unknown enemy; and for his new daughter who was soon to arrive. But these cares floated away with the breeze; not that they did not matter, but that he knew that Nayru the wise would provide. When they landed, the king bowed to the Great White Owl again. The owl bowed back, taking its leave of the king with silent wingbeats.
The Palace of the Moon was a magnificent edifice, with a ceiling of sky upheld by great white columns and walls made of flowing water. Daphnes ventured further into the Palace until he discovered the place he knew he must go: the throne room.
And there, sitting tall and beautiful on the throne of the Palace, was a woman. And to all appearances she was his wife, though Daphnes knew this could not be so. Surely, Zethra could not be…
“Dost thou know me, son of wisdom?”
“Yes, Lady. Thou art Nayru, the Wise. I come to receive the message you have for me.”
“Oh? And what message might that be?”
The young king knelt. “I am to receive the charge to protect your people, Lady. And I shall do so.” But when he rose, the world had changed. He was no longer in the Palace of the Moon, but all around him was water instead of air, though as happens in dreams, he could breathe as he ever did. But the most curious thing about the transformation was not his environment. Rather, Daphnes was now met with the brilliance of the Goddess in all her glory, for she shone gold from head to toe, and her hair drifted about her with the current of the water. The king was struck with awe, and despite himself, he could not find his words to speak. But Nayru spoke:
“I know thee well, Daphnes, son of Hansen and ruler of Hyrule. I do not doubt thy boldness in protecting the children of wisdom. For among them thou art like the lion for strength. But Nayru would have a tame lion for a servant, rather than a ferocious one. She would be pleased by that, I think.”
Suddenly, Daphnes was caught by the woman’s gaze. A deep soft-eyed love shone in her eyes, and she approached with arms outstretched. “Daphnes, these arms have longed for you, this heart has prayed for you. Do not delay their reunion with your own.”
“Zethra?” the king whispered, taking the woman into his arms, almost not daring to believe. And the woman nodded. “But how? You shine like the Goddess herself!”
“So it is with those who follow goodness as their guide, Daphnes. I have rejoined with the Goddess within me, and her glory shines through me. You need not fear me, nor be afraid for yourself. Nayru has granted us this moment together in honor of our devotion to her, and our love for each other. Be comforted love, for you are as much entitled to this as I. You were my goodness, Daphnes, and the strength of my life. I shine because of you…”
The king awoke with a start. The spare bedroom of the ranch-house glowed golden with the sun’s morning light, though it was dull compared to what he had just witnessed. He felt as if he had spent far longer in his wife’s golden embrace than the few moments of the night. Even so, it was far too short, and he longed to be there again, in the Palace of the Moon…
The knock came again, a little softer this time. The king rose, straightening his night-shirt, and opened the door a crack.
“Forgive me, Your Majesty,” said Tobias’ voice from the other side of the door. “I did not expect you to have slept so late. I shall let you rest…”
“No, Tobias, come back, I…” Daphnes opened the door wider. “Please. Come in a moment.”
Tobias hesitated, staring at the floor. “I would not want to impose on his Majesty’s…kindness. Forgive me for intruding.”
“Blast it, man, get in here!” Tobias jumped a little, but obeyed quickly, avoiding the king as well as he could. Once he was inside, the king closed the door gently. “There is something I’d like to say. Please, have a seat, Master Priest.”
“As His Majesty wishes,” said Tobias, sitting in one of the wicker chairs. Daphnes sat in the rocker by the window, staring out at the sunrise.
“Isn’t it beautiful, Tobias? The colors blend together so smoothly…”
The priest looked around him cautiously. “Certainly, Your Majesty. Very beautiful.”
“Tova,” the king said kindly. “I’m not angry with you anymore. You can relax.”
The priest looked up, caught entirely off-guard. “You…you haven’t called me that in some time, Majesty.”
“Please, Tova. I’ve known you for ten long years, you can call me Daphnes.”
“But, D-Daphnes, I-I don’t… Last night, I—”
“I was an ass, I know.” The king inhaled. “I haven’t been myself in some time. I’m sorry. Can you forgive me?”
A timid smile crept across Tobias’ face. “Yes, D-Daphnes, of course.”
The king chuckled. “Take some getting used to, won’t it?”
“Yes, Your Majesty.” And he chuckled with the king, a good hearty laugh that caused all the tension to evaporate instantly. “You know, for a moment I thought you were going to strangle me. Do you remember Bernard, your page before me?”
“Oh, you didn’t think I really strangled him, do you? That was a bit of childhood fear taken a little too far. I tried to give him a pat on the back for delivering a message for the queen, but I must have startled him. He thought I was being overprotective, I’m sure.”
“Oh, no one would think that, Your Majesty. Everyone knew Zethra loved you dearly. I saw that every day in the Great Hall.”
Daphnes was quiet. “Yes, she did.” And he suddenly missed her more than he had at any moment since he learned of her death. “Tova?” he said.
“I know we would never have met unless you were assigned as my page those many years ago. And now you have saved the people of Hyrule with your inspired words of advice. You truly are a good friend to me.”
Tobias smiled. “Likewise, Your Majesty. And will my friend let me deliver one more message for old time’s sake?”
“What is that?”
“Impa has reported. She is downstairs, waiting for you with Rauru and Lutai. They have a plan.”
* * *
“Stop,” said Aako. He stood defiantly, his fists on his six-year old hips. “Mine.” And he extended a hand toward the Scrub who had just escaped from the mouth of the quiet Dekku Tree.
Violet looked around innocently. “Wha—me? What are you talking about, I was just visiting,” he squeaked. “But I saw that little stick-kid, and he told me he wanted to talk to you inside.” Violet crept away, avoiding the gaze of the Koroki child.
Aako made no movement to follow, but tracked the Scrub with his eyes until Violet was almost to the tunnel that led out of the clearing. Only then did Violet turn and regard the boy. “Sucker,” he said under his breath, and turned to run out through the tunnel.
“Oof!” Vi fell to the ground, having smacked against another Koroki boy who had come from nowhere. “That hurt!” he whined, getting to his feet again. “Get out of my way!”
But the boy did not move. “Nope.”
“Mido,” said Aako, a twinkle in his emerald eyes. “Ball.”
A great grin stretched across Mido’s face, and the next moment Violet did not know what hit him. He was flying through the air back toward the Dekku Tree, spinning as he went. Something hit him again and his little Scrub body went wheeling off in another direction. Out of the corner of his eye he caught sight of another Koroki child—a girl with pigtails—who ran up and kicked him yet again with a squeal and a giggle of delight. Another giggle joined the crowd, accompanied by another kick to the head and soon he was in the middle of an all-out game; and he was the ball!
How embarrassing! Vi was glad Blue and Red weren’t there to see him. He would have turned beet-purple—even as a Scrub! Well, he couldn’t let these brats show him up, but in his current form he also couldn’t do anything about being kicked around like a ball. He reached within himself, and willed the Fused Shadow to do his bidding, visualizing himself as a fearsome creature that would surely send these little monsters running.
But nothing happened. The indignation continued, and he was now thoroughly disoriented, not to mention a little worse for wear. What was wrong? Why couldn’t he draw on the Fused Shadow magic? Then he realized; the Fused Shadow he held must have been a fake all along.
“Graagh!” he squeaked in his most fearsome voice, though it sounded more like an adorable coo. The children all paused, alarmed at the sudden outburst of cuteness. Vi took this chance to stand up among them. Surely they were a fearsome bunch, all seven pairs of arms and twelve eyes… Or was that just his blurred vision playing tricks on him? And he was certain they were all dancing around him, though how they could have done it without moving their seven pairs of feet made little sense to him. His orange half-moon eyes rolled back in his wooden head and he promptly collapsed to the ground.
Aako rushed forward and grasped at the Scrub, quickly discovering the piece of Fused Shadow he had hidden on him. Aako tugged it away and held it over his head triumphantly.
“CUCCOO!” he crowed, and all the other children crowed in response, clapping their hands joyfully. Then Aako turned to the Dekku Tree and called out: “Skulki!” In moments the stick-child appeared bearing a load of replica Fused Shadows on his back.
“I’m here, Mister Aako! I’m sorry, I tried to stop him, but he forgot to bring the other ones to you, too. But no harm done, here they are!” And Skulki tossed his bundle down, sending the Fused Shadows clattering away over the grass.
Aako stopped where he was, mortified in every sense of the word. “All?” he asked.
“Yes, I’ve brought all of them. Polished and everything just like you said—even the real one!”
Vi’s senses perked up and his eyes shot open. In one-tenth of a second his orange gaze was met by an emerald one and someone actually shouted: “GO!” Huffing with all his might, Vi picked himself up and charged the mound of fake Fused Shadows, diving in after the one that would give him nigh-limitless power…if Aako did not get it first.
It was a struggle to the last, and more than once Vi’s head was poked, kicked, whacked or beaten as he reached, scrabbled, grasped and clung to every last piece of Fused Shadow he could get. More than once he thought he’d found the real piece of magic and emerged from the pile looking rather silly as he waited for his monstrous form to become a reality. But finally, as he threw more and more of the fakes away, there were fewer and fewer to be confused by. Aako was becoming more desperate, and he started using some of the fakes as clubs, beating the Scrub away. But Vi was down to the final few, and he knew that if he could just take the beating he would have it. Three left… His head was swimming with the blows. Two left…
Power surged into Violet’s arms, answering his call for magical transformation. His head swelled, his limbs lengthened, and great snapping Baba heads grew from every extremity. His view of his surroundings multiplied, and soon he was staring out at the Dekku Tree’s clearing with a dozen eyes, each protruding from a slimy barb-toothed mouth. He towered over the Koroki children, who now seemed as ants. He would not have minded for Blue or Red to see him now; he was about to get his revenge!
Experience the legend as never before! http://heroofgeeks.blogspot.com Every legend contains its residuum of truth, and the root function of language is to control the universe by describing it. ~ James Baldwin
Great theory on the races of hyrule sounds perfect to me. And once again another great chapter! The tension keeps building! And to think that its almost over!! Any thought of how many chapters left before i have nothing else to read?
Well, I know there will at least be three more at the bare minimum. Knowing myself for the impetuous writer I am, my overacheiving self will probably settle on 5-7 more. Don't quote me or anything...
Thanks so much to everybody for their readership! Gods of Shadow keeps growing in views and has already climbed to fourth-most-viewed, all on its little lonesome. Along with Shadows of the Past (the first three episodes of the story) it's now slotted at second place, right under the legendary Ocarina of Time Parody. I bow to you all in thanks! May the way of the Hero lead to the Triforce!
Experience the legend as never before! http://heroofgeeks.blogspot.com Every legend contains its residuum of truth, and the root function of language is to control the universe by describing it. ~ James Baldwin