For what seemed a long time, Link gazed in the direction the hawk had flown. His father’s words rested inside him, verifying his duty. He now had his charge; to go back in time and restore balance to Hyrule.
“You know what must happen now, do you not?” said Orda.
Link realized he was still staring at the sky. He nodded. “Yes,” he thought, preparing himself for the inevitable. “I have to go back.”
“And you are at peace with this?”
Link knew the Goddess was not really asking, so much as drawing his attention. He looked at her golden body with its golden mantle and considered how much she had taught him in so little time; how much she had given him. Before knowing her, he did not truly know himself as the Chosen of Courage, did not comprehend the eternity and enormity of the struggle to maintain the Balance of the Gods. He had not known his father or his mother for who they truly were. Great was the burden placed on him, but greater still were these things in his mind, and he was glad to shoulder his responsibility knowing them; they made the sheer fact of living more valuable.
“Yes. I’ll do it,” he said.
“That is well,” said the Goddess, and she turned.
When Link followed he was met immediately by a pair of animals; the panther-hawks he saw when he first arrived in the Golden Land. Strange as it had been to see them the first time, now he saw them much as he did the other inhabitants of that eternal place. He looked on their outward features with discernment, understanding that each of their physical characteristics was actually an aspect of their personality, the whole representing the shape of their hearts.
Their wings were sleek and powerful; in life they must have traveled far and wide, gaining experience as they went. Their beaks were curved and sharp; they must be fearsome in battle, and their discipline would be well-honed. Their keen raptor eyes sparkled knowingly; they would have witnessed much, and were able to see through falsehood. Their powerful cat bodies rose and fell with great breaths; they were stealthy, yet strong, and were capable of maneuvering in difficult situations.
“I wish you to meet someone, Link,” said the Goddess, drawing him away from his analysis of the pair. “In life they were man and wife. Here they are my servants, and they have watched over you since the early days of your mortal life.”
The larger, plumed one bowed its head. “We are honored, Chosen of Courage.” His thoughts rang out with a deep bass, but there were overtones of an alto voice, firm and feminine. “May the Goddesses ever shine upon you.”
“Likewise…er, honored beasts,” Link replied diplomatically. “Forgive me, but what should I call you?”
The smaller one (which was still much larger than Link) bowed this time. “You need not call us by name, Chosen of Courage. We are known only by our service to the Goddess. In this we share her glory and that is name enough.”
Link dipped his wolf head in acceptance of this explanation. He noticed that as the beasts spoke, their thoughts intermingled, as if they were one being. For this reason he knew it did not matter which of them spoke, it was as if they were both speaking.
“Mistress Orda would not wish us to reveal the full account of our mortal lives to you, Chosen One,” said the beasts, “for it is full of sadness and hardship, and none should be known in the Golden Land only for their choices in mortality. But we feel you would understand our devotion to you more if you knew somewhat about us.”
Orda gestured with one hand. “These, my beloved servants, have made great sacrifices in order to ensure your success as the Hero of Time, Link. Their story in Hyrule began many years before your birth.”
“We were once…”
“Sheiks,” Link finished. “I know. I could see it when I first saw you, but I didn’t know why until now. Did you know Mudora, then?”
The beasts looked at each other. “The Chosen One is astute, indeed. Yes, we knew Mudora. During our lives he was the Master of Kakariko Village. It was he who first made the prophecy that shaped our fates among the honored Sheiks. He gave us an assignment…our final assignment in life. And we willingly took it, Chosen One, knowing we would part ways with all those we knew, never to see them again. We made this sacrifice for you, knowing what the prophecy said you would do for Hyrule.
“When we arrived here in the Golden Land our forms changed, and were met by Orda just as you were. For the eternity since then, we have served the Goddess of Time, emerging into Hyrule at specific moments to shape the course of crucial events. One such event was the moment of your mother’s death. If Mudora’s prophecy was to be fulfilled, you must live. But if we had done nothing, you and your mother would have been ambushed by Moblins and perished. We could not change her fate, and so we, along with a comrade of ours, were obliged to inflict the wounds of death in her body, but only enough that she could get you to safety. The Moblins would not have been so gracious.
“We were also those who saved you from certain death in the Time-That-Is-No-More. At the last moment, when the Fierce Deity’s blade was about to fall, we were called from the Land of Gold by Impa to bring your spirit here. We have saved you twice now, and we would do it again, if it means ensuring that your calling is fulfilled. We say we would, but truthfully, we cannot. There is already an agent of the Goddess in Hyrule who is shaping the circumstances of your final battle with the Gods of Shadow. If you fail in this, there shall be no more Hyrule to save.”
“My servants speak the truth, Chosen One. Only so much water flows through the rivers of time; there are only so many opportunities to do what must be done. This is the final act, your last chance to save Hyrule and set things right.”
Despite the daunting task before him, Link was at ease with all of this. Something told him, as it often did, that things would work out. And for the first time he had an inkling of what that something was; the Goddess within him. With this new understanding he rose to every inch of his wolf-height. “I’m ready.”
“Then let there be no more delay,” said Orda with finality. “My servants will escort you to Hyrule and back into the stream of time.”
And immediately the scenery changed again.
* * * 10 Years Ago
“Where are we?” Link whispered. They had appeared on the side of a mountain, on an outcropping that overlooked a cleared area filled with one large building and little more than a number of hovels and campfires. People were just getting up for the day, some women cooking near a well at the center of the camp, and a group of men outfitting themselves for guard duty near the perimeter.
“Kakariko Village,” Stranger responded. “The large building you see is the community center, where dwell the descendants of the Hylian dissenters from the War of the Golden Land. The mayor’s house is just through those trees. And I’m sure you would recognize the well.”
“Yeah, I remember that,” said Link. On his journey through time he plumbed deep into the well’s haunted depths to retrieve a magical seeing lens. He saw many horrors at the bottom of that well which he had mercifully forgotten until now. “Looks like they’re just starting the windmill,” he said, changing the subject.
“They began building the windmill soon after the attacks started on the Hylia a few months ago; the well’s usual capacity was insufficient and the refugees needed a constant source of water. As you can see it is little more than girders and stacks of wood and canvas for the moment; this is likely why you did not recognize the village.”
“Yeah,” said Link. “Looks like the workmen were just as lazy ten years ago.”
“Well, yes, I suppose you could say that. But then, the Sheikah were never fond of permanent structures. Before your time the village was just an encampment of the Sheikah tribe in the Death Mountain Range. In fact, if truth be told, there was never only one Kakariko Village. There was a first, of course, but as the Sheikah migrated, they always called the place they were ‘Kakariko’. It was not until Mudora made our truce with the Hylia that our people decided to settle in one place. As you can see, they are only now beginning to create crude shacks, and these are for the Hylian refugees.”
“But where do the Sheikah live? Other than the shacks, that one building can’t hold an entire tribe of people and the Hylians who live here.” Link scanned the people below. None of them had the characteristic whitish-blond hair unique to the Sheikah tribe. “I don’t even see any Sheikah.”
“It is an irony; a Sheikah village with no Sheikah to be found. But then, our tribe was always ever content to hide in the shadows. It is more peaceful to be away from commotion, and we find it prevents many conflicts of personality. We sequester ourselves in the trees and caves, living off the land, teaching our children to be self-sufficient at a young age, and then they fend for themselves. Closer to the green that the Goddess Faroe has given us, we feel more connected to one another, though we may not congregate as other peoples do. We leave messages to one another in the branches of the trees, or deliver warnings through the music we play.
“We are a people of honor, and duty, and take it upon ourselves to contribute to the well-being of all. What resources one Sheikah finds they make more available for the others who pass that way, whether this means harvesting fruit when the time is right, or planting more seeds to grow up and bear fruit later. What one will plant, another will water, and yet another will harvest, and so we help each other.
“We are constantly exploring. The Sheikah tribe extends far in many directions. When we meet another of our tribe we share stories of where we have been and tell about what resources are good to make use of nearby. We may spend as much as a fortnight this way and then move on, always expanding the borders of our village, knowing that truly there is only one village—what we call ‘Kakariko,’ a Sheikah word meaning ‘the world.’ ”
Link was sincerely impressed with all of this. “I guess I never realized how much I didn’t know about your tribe.”
“That is likely because we wished to remain hidden. As I said, we avoid conflict, where possible, and this means keeping interaction with outsiders to a minimum. They might not agree with our ways.”
“Who wouldn’t agree with living off the land and exploring all the time? That sounds great to me!”
Stranger’s smile could be heard in his voice. “You were also raised by Koroki. Most other races do not share our love for pristine nature. The Hylia, for example, are interested in discovery of another kind. Pursuing science and wizardry, they are always making new discoveries which make everyday life more convenient and livable. But their everyday life requires large areas of cleared land which is then replaced with stone and dead wood for their homes. While daily life takes more effort on our part, we Sheikah try to improve the world as we subsist on it. But we feel this improves us as well, and so there is benefit all around.”
“I guess that makes sense,” Link conceded. Now he was not sure whether he wanted more to be a Hylian, a Koroki, or a Sheikah. He was born the first, and raised as the second, but now he thought how wonderful it would be to just live out in the woods, hunting, gathering, riding Epona any time he wanted, maybe taking care of a small flock of animals like Malon and Talon… “So shouldn’t we be doing something? I mean you sounded like you were in a hurry before.”
“Yes, of course. I apologize; it has been a long time since I remembered what it was like to be a Sheikah. After the Shadow Gods ruled I was never able to go back. Of course, there was nothing left to go back to…” Link thought he could hear Stranger sniff under his invisible hood. He cleared his throat. “Right, then. Let us proceed. I’ve brought you here to meet someone, Link.”
“Who?” Link asked, politely ignoring Stranger’s moment of emotion.
“You’ll see soon enough. But so that you aren’t confused, I must inform you that I have taken us back a couple of days.”
“You little cheat!” Link punched in the air, his fist meeting an invisible cloaked arm. Stranger recoiled. “We weren’t in a hurry! We could have taken as much time as we wanted!”
The Sheikah man inhaled through his teeth. “I beg your pardon, Master Stump, but indeed we were in a hurry. If we had stayed in the Inner Sanctum any longer we would have met with the Sages of Hyrule as they convened their morning devotional. And why must you hit an old man so hard?”
Link smiled. “Come on, it’ll stop stinging in a second.”
They descended the outcropping under Stranger’s direction and made their way off into the forested mountains, removing their disguises when they were out of sight of the main village. Soon they came upon a stone wall, and halted.
“What’s this?” asked Link.
“Just wait,” said Stranger, removing a lion-headed key from his girdle. He fit the key into a hole in one of the stone blocks and turned it once clockwise. There was a click, then the grinding of mortar, and the wall slid away to reveal a staircase that led deep into the mountain.
Link was speechless with awe.
Link and Stranger ventured into the dark underground, guided only by the light let in by the open door in the stone wall. When they reached another stone wall, Stranger fitted the Lion Key into a second hole and turned. The walls in front and behind moved simultaneously; one closing, the other opening. The light changed from the thin, gritty blue of morning to an ethereal white. Link was staring at a room he recognized.
The circular room had one dominating feature: a great stone pool filled with a few feet of water. The pool was bordered by a colonnade of exquisite white marble. And inside this space were many tiny balls of light, each held aloft by a flitting pair of dragonfly wings.
Link stared. “Hey, this is the Fairy Fountain under the graveyard! I didn’t know you could get in this way!”
Stranger turned to him, perplexed. “How did you get in before?”
“I, uh… I kinda did some gravedigging and found it on accident,” Link admitted sheepishly.
“Just as well, I suppose,” said Stranger. “Here he comes; look.”
Through the colonnade Link saw a hunched figure in a green robe. Immediately, Link had the impulse to put the Stone Mask back on his face.
“No, no. It’s alright,” Stranger said, walking around the colonnade to where the robed figure stood. “He knew we were coming.”
“How?” asked Link sincerely, following.
“Because it is done, and therefore it has always been, Young Hero,” said the hunched figure in a trilling baritone. “Forgive me for not introducing myself. I am Mudora, Master of the Sheikah, and Sage of Shadow. I am pleased to make your acquaintance, at last.”
* * *
Hieroglyphs danced past like moving pictures, Link’s lantern lighting each one for only a brief moment as he wove his way through the abandoned halls of the Palace of Darkness. Like map and compass, his shadow memory fed his mind the path he would take. He would find the Mirror of Twilight on his own. He would show Ezlo and the others that he wasn’t afraid of the dark. He had the Force Shard, after all…
“It’s just around the corner,” Link murmured to himself. “Just around the next corner and…” But he stopped dead before flinging open the next door. On the fringes of his mind was…something. Through this door was something with great power. Was it the Mirror? Or was it something else? He couldn’t see it clearly in his shadow memory; it was as if the future had suddenly defied being told what to do.
Link reached for the door, unconsciously wanting to open it, but willing himself not to. Something inside him grinned, wanted what was beyond. But could he trust himself?
“Link?” came the call from the way he had come. The others had finally caught up to him. And when they did they would…
…tell you what a foolish boy you were for tromping off on your own, said a voice in his head. Link looked around. It was just him. The others were not here yet. Of course they’re not here, yet, dull-wit! They don’t have me to tell them where to go!
Link shook his head. “Are…are you my shadow?” Link said aloud.
So you’re not as stupid as we look. Listen; when the others get here they’ll punish you, make you admit you were wrong. But you’re not. You can find the Mirror on your own. And then you’ll have what you came for. You don’t need them; all you need is me. Now open the door! If you don’t they’ll catch you!
Link shook his head again. “No. They’re my friends, I can trust them.”
Friends? Hah! You only just met them yesterday! They don’t even know you. I’ve been with you your entire life. You can only trust me. And I’m telling you to open this door and take what’s yours!
“Link?” came the call again, ever nearer.
Do it now!
Link hesitated only one more moment, and then he pushed his way into the room, flashing his lantern out before him to see what lay beyond.
Nothing. Only the darkness. A darkness so thick, in fact, that the lantern light retreated back into itself and snuffed out entirely.
Then, a voice.
“Close the door, boy.”
Link gasped; he knew that voice. Say it, said the voice in Link’s head. Say his name and make it real. Link’s eyes widened with fear.
“Link, there you are!” said Ezlo’s voice. But the door flew shut, and a wicked red laugh rang out through the darkness.
* * *
The king paused at the top of the staircase. Below was Talon, standing with three white ghostly men, all sharing the visage of the deceased Mudora. “Impa!” said the king. “Drat, which one are you? I can never tell when you all are wearing those disguises.”
“It is I, your majesty,” said one of the Sages. “I am sorry I could not have come sooner. I was…detained. How do you fare? Are the people well?”
“Yes,” said the king, embracing the Sage of Shadow. He looked toward Talon. “They are in capable hands.” The rancher blushed. “Now tell me; Tobias here says you have a plan.”
The priest nodded. “We do. But first, Impa has brought news of the event on Death Mountain.”
“The star did not fall as Ezlo predicted,” said Impa. “Yet he could not have predicted that the thief Asera would use her magic to call the star down from the heavens. If any are to be blamed for the atrocity that has occurred, it is she.”
“But what of the Shadow Gods?” said the king. “I saw one of the monsters making short work of the guards before the Temple of Time. And Master Tobias confirms what I saw through the Gossip Stones. Are you suggesting that they had nothing to do with this?”
“I am,” said Impa. “I have heard the priest’s account as well. Tobias has reason to believe that the God of Decay fled to Lake Hylia in pursuit of the Fused Shadow we Sages hid there.”
“Then we need to contact the Domain,” said the king, grasping a gray stone pendant around his neck. “The Zoras may be able to help us contain the situation.”
“That matter is already in hand, Daphnes,” said Lutai. “The Domain sent out soldiers yesterday. This morning they sent word that the infiltrator has already made it inside, but they have locked down the Temple of Water from the outside and stand guard over the entrance even now.”
“Further,” Impa continued, “Afton sent the Goddess of Cunning away from Death Mountain before the star fell. She is now likely buried in snow somewhere in the northern mountains.”
“I can confirm this as well,” said Rauru. “I was there investigating what I thought was a deposit of the Gorons’ nutrient-rich mineral, but it was only a trinket in a Roc’s nest. Within this nest, however, I also found the Goddess’ mask. And so I believe we have nothing to fear from her for a long while, if ever.”
“But I have other news as well…” said Impa, hesitantly. “In the fight to subdue the Goddess… That is…” Lutai bowed her head. Tobias and Talon followed suit.
“By the Goddess, Impa,” the king began. “To see you so forlorn… What happened?”
Rauru laid a hand on Impa’s shoulder. “I will tell them,” the Sage offered. “Your majesty, Gor Darmon was murdered.”
The king’s brows came together. “By whom?”
“Abrum of the Sheikah,” said Impa. “My brother.” There was a silence, then, for it felt like two funerals; one for their dear companion, the Sage of Fire, and another for Impa’s brother, who all knew must now be judged for his crime and punished accordingly.
Daphnes reached out. “Oh, dear, dear Impa…”
But Impa spoke again, making no motion that she wished to be held. “Asera pulled the star from the heavens, raking destruction across our fair land, and Abrum murdered one of Hyrule’s most distinguished sages. I am afraid any grief I may feel is irrelevant for the moment. Our pressing concern at this point is to apprehend the perpetrators of these crimes. Once they are brought to justice, Hyrule can be rebuilt. Only then will I mourn.”
“But Impa, if you need a moment…”
The Shadow Sage looked on the king with a hard stare. “Daphnes, I ask you to abide by my wishes on this matter. You know very well what it means to me…”
The king faltered. “Yes, of course… Very well. In that case, what is your plan?”
* * *
The excavation had taken all night and morning. Teams of Gerudo had alternated hauling stone blocks out of the way, standing watch, and sleeping. Nabooru was right there among them, rarely sleeping, only drinking when the water-bearers forced her, and putting her one Silver Gauntlet to its maximum use. And as her body worked, her mind did as well.
She thought of the Fortress she grew up in; the life she had been born into. She thought of Raean, and wondered where she was now, wondered whether she would ever see her again. She knew that if she ever came across her she would be bound by the oath she had sworn to the other Gerudo—either Raean would join them, or Nabooru would have to kill her as a traitor to the Gerudo people. She wondered whether she was capable of such a thing.
For the moment, she knew that what she was doing was right. Her people had been wronged; left for dead. The king of Hyrule would answer for his crime, though in her heart she knew that killing him would only prolong the days of bloodshed between the Gerudo and the Hylia. She gritted her teeth, heaving another boulder out of the ruins of Hyrule Castle. Her arm was strong, but was her confidence in this course of action. She tossed the idea from her mind—right now all that mattered was saving her sisters. With this last stone removed, there was a passage just large enough for the Gerudo to enter the prison one at a time; the way was finally open.
“All posts! Report to the dig site!” Nabooru called out, still catching her breath. Women came from all directions, answering their Matron’s summons. “I’ll go first. Jooru, you follow. Freya, coordinate the rest. Bring your lock-picks, hair-pins or anything else you can find in this dump of a kingdom; our sisters will not spend another night in the Hylia’s cages.
Nabooru’s orders were followed, and within the minute they had found their way into the prison. Nabooru’s first impression of the place was that it was deathly quiet, except for the agitated squeaking of rats. Then, as her eyes adjusted to the darkness, she became aware of many prone forms, lying haphazardly within the cells. The stink of death wafted into her nostrils and she fought the urge to wretch. Instead, she called out:
“Are any alive? Women of the Gerudo, do you live?”
Immediately there was a communal gasp, and several of the forms animated, raising themselves up on hands and knees, leaning weakly against the bars of their cages.
“Get them out!” Nabooru commanded, and Jooru and the others set to work on the locks. Nabooru lowered her torch to the face of one Gerudo, pressing herself against the bars as if she wished to pass between them, and thus escape. It took a moment, but she finally recognized the woman. “Trianna?”
The Gerudo’s swarthy skin was caked in grime and her scarlet hair frayed out behind her in a large swinging ponytail. Her once coral-colored gauze pants were flat and brown and her upturned shoes were nibbled through in several places. Above the waist she wore little more than a leather halter and a pair of tarnished gold bracelets.
“Nabooru,” Trianna gasped. “You’ve come for us…”
The Matron reached out to hold the woman’s hand. “Trianna, I swear to you that the Hylians who left you here to suffer will pay the price of their crimes. Each of you will have your vengeance.”
“Nabooru, it was horrible! The earth shook, and the walls fell; many of us perished under the stones of our prisons. Then the rats came. Goddess be cursed for such messengers, for they ate us through and gave sickness to many. But Goddess be thanked as well, for those of us who were left made meals of the rats.”
There was a loud click! and the door to the cell opened. Nabooru helped the Gerudo stand. “Be at ease, Trianna, we have water and provisions. And tonight you will feast on roasted game under the stars.” Soon the other locks were opened, and the Gerudo began ushering their sisters out of the prison and into the light of day.
Once all the living were gone, Nabooru ordered the dead removed as well. “For,” said she, “these will not have a prison as their final place of rest. Bury them in the north courtyard, where the children of the Hylian court once played; they shall play there no more.”
* * *
Blue chased after the God of Decay, nearing his quarry with every pump of his newly-gained sea wings. Huge fins curved forward from either side of his head, a great crackling arc of electricity snapping between them. Periodically, he reached around with his long, barbed tail, firing a bolt of lightning at the retreating death-god. Large chunks of rock were blasted from the Temple wall, sinking mournfully into the watery depths. The Fused Shadow had answered his call for transformation and made him into a monstrous electric manta ray.
“Perish, demon-fish!” called Tempus, slashing out at his pursuer with his Death Sword. “Give me of your essence, and make me stronger!” He reached out, clenching his skeletal hand, willing Blue’s life essence to flow into him.
But it had not worked the first time, or the second, and it did not work this time either. It seemed the Fused Shadow made his magic useless. Tempus cursed aloud, narrowly dodging another bolt of lightning from Blue’s barbed tail. Against his will, he was forced to retreat. Reaching out before him, Tempus aged the door of the Temple a thousand years in one second, making it brittle and weak. He would have to find Sophia and seek her advice. One way or another, they would not give up their new kingdom so easily.
Smashing through the door of the Temple of Water, Tempus was met with a most distressing sight; a battalion of Zora warriors at least a hundred strong, all wearing the skulls of fearsome sea eels for helmets and armed with sharp fishbone spears stood ready to oppose anything that emerged from the Temple. Among them was Krelian, the Zora captain.
Krelian called out, and on his order the entire battalion rushed forward with military precision, intent on impaling Tempus on the ends of their spears. Tempus’ first reaction was dread, but then he swept his arm across the foremost wave of Zoras and immediately their bodies shriveled with age. Tempus inhaled pleasantly; he could not have the Fused Shadow, but the life essence of these Zoras was a welcome consolation.
Tempus reached out again, and the second wave might have fallen like the first. But Krelian’s senses were keen, and on his mark the Zoras scattered in all directions, swooping out to one side and the other, above and below the God of Decay, still approaching with their deadly weapons poised. Grinding his pointed teeth in frustration, Tempus flashed out with his hand, draining the nearest warrior of his years. The next felt the harsh edge of his Death Sword, a third missed his mark and swam just over Tempus shoulder. The fray continued, some falling to the God’s magic, others being cut through by his blade.
But then the entire lake reverberated with a deep BOOM! The water rippled, the island shook, and the silt of the lake floor was cast up in an unceremonious cloud, obscuring the battle. Tempus turned; all the Zoras fell still. BOOM! came the sound again, and now Tempus snarled, displaying all of his pointed teeth. Sucking the final dregs of essence from one of the Zora warriors, he sped off through the unseeing battalion and was gone.
Only after the silt had fallen back to the lakebed did Krelian begin to organize his forces. But it would have done no good; the next moment a crackling line of electricity ripped through the top of the island, blasting stone and mud in all directions. Then the lightning coursed down through the side of the island, and into the lake, catching several hapless Zoras by surprise, ending their lives.
And then the island buckled inward. To the awe and terror of every Zora present, their Temple was crumbling, sinking in on itself with gurgling melancholy. For many long minutes the broken island groaned and settled, finally being reduced to nothing but a deep hole in the bed of the lake.
Not one soul moved, reverently mourning the destruction of so sacred a place, all the while yearning for justice to be brought on the one who had performed the heinous act. But they would never exact that justice. Before any could prevent it, a monstrous manta ray exploded from the ruins of the sunken Water Temple, leaping high into the air, flying away on new wings.
Krelian watched with acute vengeance.
“Captain,” said one Zora, “shall we pursue?”
“How, Jaris?” Krelian responded. “How would you pursue such an abomination?” Only another moment did he linger, scrutinizing the monster as it fled. “We are returning to the Domain.”
“Sir.” The Zora turned to carry out his captain’s orders.
“And Jaris.” The Zora paused. “Bring the prisoner. Perhaps she can tell us what really happened here.”
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
Oh so short of a chapter! Or maybe it felt short because it was soo good?
Couple questions though,
when did Tempus get a Dark Sword?
and what happened to Impa falling from the clouds because of Asera?
Did i miss something somewhere or do i need to be patient as always?
Either way, as always, looking forward to the next chapter!
Yeah, this really was a shorter chapter, but not too short I hope. As for your comments:
From Chapter XVNIGHT FALLS:
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.
It's a Death Sword, actually. I based the visuals for Tempus on the Death Sword enemy from Twilight Princess, and therefore the "wide-bladed sword traced with wicked-looking red runes" answers the description of the sword this enemy held. You make a good point, though; I probably should have mentioned the weapon by name previously if I wanted to use it here.
[Edit] How's this?
From Chapter XVNIGHT FALLS
“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!”
As for what happened to Impa...
So have fun with the next chapter, which I'm almost done with.
Author's note: special thanks to HeroofTime2005—you will notice a little something extra near the end of the "short chapter" above.
Chapter XIX REUNIONS
The next moment Link, the Goddess, and the Golden Beasts were not in the clearing with the lone tree of varied fruits, but in the Dekku Tree’s Glade. Link was taken aback. Was the Goddess going to allow him to see his mother one last time? He chose not to be presumptuous. “Why are we here?” he thought.
Orda looked to her plumed servant, who came forward a pace. His wings unfolded halfway in what reminded Link of an orator’s stance. “The Golden Land exists in eternity, as Orda has explained to you, Link. For this reason it may be entered from any place in the streams of time, and likewise one may enter any stream of time from it. But with very few exceptions, its spatial boundaries are those of the land of Hyrule. Therefore one must leave it in the same place that one wishes to enter Hyrule. For this reason we have come here.”
“You mean I’m going back to the Koroki Forest?” asked Link.
The female beast stepped forward. “Not precisely, Chosen One. Like ports along a coast, the Golden Land has only a few places that are available to receive travelers; one may only land where there is a dock. The Dekku Tree’s Glade is one of those places, as are Zora’s Domain and the Fruitful Clearing, where you met your father.”
“So these are the portals to the Golden Land!” Link marveled.
“How do you know of the portals, Chosen One?” asked the beasts.
“A wizard named Ezlo told me I had to keep them secret. Once…a long time ago.” At least it felt like a long time ago, now. Link might have been here for years and not known it. “But he never told me why.”
“No, Ezlo wouldn’t have,” said the Goddess, speaking finally. “He, more than anyone, knows how imperative it is that those secrets are kept secure. No, since you arrived here, you and I have done little travelling of our own, but have landed at these ports—or portals, if you wish—within the Golden Land. But now we must travel to a place which has been kept secret from all but one; one of those portals which permits travel from the Golden Land to Hyrule. If any should discover what I am about to show you, the safety of Hyrule—and the Golden Land—could be jeopardized for many generations, as they once were. Do you understand, Link?”
Link knew that if he said ‘yes’ they would be leaving the Dekku Tree’s Glade immediately, and he still wished to speak to his mother, if he could. “Will I ever come back?” he said instead.
Orda turned. “Not as you are now, Chosen One.”
It was now or never: “Then can I speak to my mother…before I go?” he ventured.
Orda’s servants looked to their mistress. Finally, the Goddess resigned herself to the wolf-boy’s unabashed sincerity. “As well as you may, Chosen One.” And she drew her mantle over her head and body again, and the sun hid itself as day once again turned to night. Even the glory of the panther-hawks dimmed in reverence.
High above them in the sky shone Navi’s familiar fairy-star, showing with its thin column of light the tree that stood beside the Great Dekku. Link approached with especial excitement, the tree still pulsing with that welcoming warmth that he remembered from his first visit. He sniffed at the tree’s roots instinctively, smelling sweet rich soil and the sappy musk of moist, living wood.
He thought out to the tree, and though he later could not remember the words which he said, he never forgot the love that emanated from it. In his mortal days to come it would often return to him in dreams, and he would awake remembering just a little more of his time in that Land of Gold, where he knew he would return one day, and be embraced by the loving warmth of his mother’s tree once again…
But those times were not yet. Link knew he could not stay there forever, and he reluctantly backed away from his mother’s tree at last.
“Are you ready to fill your charge, Chosen of Courage?” said Orda when Link rejoined her.
“Yes. Let’s go.” And he turned away and did not look back.
* * * 10 Years Ago
“I have a very important request of you, Young Hero. Can you oblige an old man?” Mudora smiled, and to Link it was like looking into the face of Kaepora Gaebora.
“Sure,” he said simply, disbelieving the uncanny resemblance. He had seen the Sages in their masked disguises, of course, but it was something entirely different to see the man in his own living skin. “What can I do for you?”
Mudora chuckled, and Stranger smirked. “Not one for talk, is he?” said Mudora, and Link could not help but smile a little. “What I wish of you, Master Link, is to speak with a very close friend of mine.”
“Just talk with him?”
“Talk with her, yes,” Mudora clarified. “I have given her an assignment, and I feel it would help her understand the importance of her mission if you were to tell her more about yourself. Could you do that for me?”
“Geez, yeah, anything for you, Mister Mudora!” said Link. “I mean, Master Sage of Shadow, sir…”
“Very well. Then if you wouldn’t mind it, I will ask you to disguise yourselves for the moment. She will be arriving soon, but there is another certain someone I need to speak to first. It would be…inopportune…if you were to be seen by any but the one I intend you to meet.”
Link nodded, pulling the Stone Mask on almost without realizing he was doing it. “That’s Mudora!” Link whispered to Stranger.
“I know,” Stranger said musingly, pulling his hood over his head. “Isn’t it exciting?”
There was a tunnel leading out of the Fairy Fountain, and it was from this direction that the sound came announcing the arrival of their first guest. Link could hear light footsteps, and whomever they belonged to must have been a dancer or an acrobat. True to this notion, Link saw a young woman round the corner into view. She had red eyes and long white-blond hair, pulled up into balls to either side of her head. Link could also see that she was perspiring, though her heavy breathing was expertly silenced.
“Impa, thank you for coming so quickly,” said Mudora. “Please, have a seat, child.” The Sage motioned toward the edge of the Fairy Fountain and Link and Stranger moved to one side to let them through unimpeded. Link watched with acute interest. “I see you’ve been training again.”
Impa bowed curtly. “Yes, Master.”
“I have always been impressed by your initiative, child. You are not among those chosen to be trained as a Sheik and yet you willingly undergo the training.”
“Yes, Master. I know I am not allowed in the Shadow Temple, so Guin is teaching me what he learns.”
Mudora smiled. “And how is Guin, these days?”
Impa blinked, but masked this with another bow. “His trainers say he will become a skilled Sheik, Master.”
“I wasn’t referring to his skill, child,” said Mudora kindly. “I know you and he have interest for each other.”
Impa wavered. “I… He is handsome…Master. He is well…and I am well…” She gave a short smile.
“I see,” Mudora responded tentatively. “Impa, do you know why I have asked you here?”
Impa quickly became sober again. “My assignment to serve the Royal Family of Hyrule.”
“Yes, child. I will give you your assignment and then you will leave immediately.” Impa froze. “As of this moment, Impa, you will need to be very brave. I shall give you an envelope containing your assignment and then you shall pack provisions for your journey to Hyrule Castle. But when you depart I must ask you to leave something behind, in Kakariko.”
“At your command, Master.” She bowed obediently, though Link could see sorrow on her lowered face. “I shall leave anything you ask.”
Mudora cupped the young woman’s chin in his hand. She looked up at the wizened sage. “You must leave your heart, Impa.”
Impa’s eyes widened, but she lowered her face again. “My heart will always be in Kakariko, Master, for all places are Kakariko to the Sheikah.”
“Yes, child,” said the sage kindly. “But not all places will have him, will they?”
Impa did not speak. But she wept.
The sage lowered his hand to her head. “I am sorry, child. But you knew this day would come, and now it is more imperative than ever that you not return after I send you away. Not for anything. Not even for him. You must do this for an old man.”
Impa’s body shivered. “Yes, Master. I shall do as you say.”
Now it was Mudora’s turn to weep, and he gazed at the floating orbs of light in the fountain, contemplating them in the utter silence of that place. Link could see that as difficult as it was for Impa to receive the assignment, it was just as difficult for Mudora to give it. Finally, he composed himself. “Then stand, child, and receive your charge.” He reached into his robe and removed an envelope sealed with green wax.
Impa stood, and for how stone-faced she was, Link might never have known that the young woman ever had feelings for a young man named Guin. This was when Impa began to be Zelda’s nursemaid and bodyguard, Link decided, and she had been just as disciplined ever since. Impa took the envelope from her master, and with no more ceremony, she turned and made to leave.
But standing in the tunnel was a mature Sheikah woman—Link guessed she was in her forties. But he could also see that she was still very young for her age, and very fit. She wore the garb of a Sheik, and Link wondered who she was. Then…
Impa bowed. “Mother.” And the woman bowed in response, letting the young woman through.
Link’s eyes widened; this was Impa’s mother? Link had never thought about who Impa’s parents were; it made sense that they would be as disciplined as she.
Mudora stood. “Tsidii,” said the sage. “Please, come in.”
The woman obeyed. She signed something using the Sheikah hand signs, which Link did not entirely catch. His understanding of the language was only as complete as Afton could teach him in a few days. What he did understand was something like: ‘I come…orders… What…give my daughter…’
Mudora folded his hands behind his back. “I gave her an assignment to serve in Hyrule Castle. She will leave immediately.”
‘Good,’ Tsidii signed. ‘I want…safe.’
“As do I,” Mudora responded. “Tell me, have you thought about the assignment I gave you?”
‘Yes,’ Tsidii signed. ‘But I wait…husband…’
“It is understandable for him to hesitate,” said Mudora. “Nash does not wish you to come to harm. So many of the others have been attacked, and have perished. But Tsidii, I must be frank with you. Your sacrifice is necessary. Your husband’s sacrifice is necessary. You shall be the last to perish; your sacrifice shall be different than all the others. With your deaths, the attacks will cease.”
Tsidii bowed her head. ‘How…you know…?’ she signed.
“Because I have seen it. It shall come to pass thus; a green woman shall leave a blue city seeking refuge in the mountains. Then red demons shall come and spit fire, attacking the woman’s guard. She shall be wounded, and in her arms her child shall perish. This child, Tsidii, is the one chosen by the Goddesses to be the hero of the prophecy; the one meant to wield the Master Sword and defeat the King of Darkness. If he perishes, all hope is lost with him.
“But this is only what will happen if nothing is done to prevent it. Your assignment to patrol the eastern borders of Hyrule Field will change this. When the creatures find you, you will announce yourself and your child; a bundle of rags that I shall enchant to resemble an infant. They will think you have the child they seek to destroy; the one who will overthrow their king. Then they will do battle with you, and you must let them. When they return to their king they will tell him that they have slain the mother and her child. This will put their king at ease, and he will stop the attacks on the Hylia. Only then will the true child survive to fulfill his destiny.”
Tsidii was white-faced, and her hands shivered with adrenaline. Link felt the same; he knew he was the child this woman was being asked to sacrifice herself for. It was apparent the decision was not an easy one to make, but finally, the woman raised her hands and signed the words ‘I accept.’
Mudora bowed his head. “Thank you, Tsidii. Your bravery shall not go unrewarded in the Realm of Gold. And now that you have accepted that which I could not expect of you, and for the right reasons, I wish to give you your true charge. And to explain precisely what is needed, I wish you to meet someone very important.” Mudora gestured in Link’s direction. Taking this cue, Link removed the Stone Mask and appeared before the woman. “Tsidii, I would like you to meet Link, the Hero of Time.”
* * *
Link drew the Four Sword from his waist. “Who’s there?” The darkness did not respond. “Answer me! I heard you before, I know you’re there!”
“Do you really?” said a completely new voice, distinct in every respect from anything he had ever heard before. It was not Ganon; it was not the voice in his head. It was not Ezlo, or Mayor Arinco, and it certainly was not himself. The voice was foreign, perhaps a little mousy, like Ezlo’s, but this was masked over with layer upon layer of ire, irony, and egotism. Link peered into the void of the Palace of Darkness, willing whatever was there to show itself, one hand subconsciously gripping the Force Shard.
“My friends are coming—they’re right outside that door… W-we can defeat you…” Link challenged uncertainly.
“Tsk, tsk. You’re certainly not the hero I once knew. The hero that defeated me twice would never need to rely on his friends for assistance. And what of your precious princess and her delicious Light Force?”
“What do you want that for?” Link asked, gripping the Force Shard yet tighter.
“What, have our battles scarred you so that you cannot even remember what I sought for so long? What I had in my grasp for one brief moment and then lost to an impudent boy!?”
Link was sincerely dumbfounded. “What are you talking ab—”
And all at once the air in the room began to churn violently. “I am talking—” Link was nearly thrown from his feet “—about the Light Force of the royal daughters of Hyrule!” Link could not conceive of how so much wind could be generated so quickly. The door was shut, and this deep into the Palace there were no windows. Where was it all coming from? “You stole it from me, boy! And then, when you foolishly freed me from that cursed prison I thought I could regain my former power. But the Light has faded, and now only sparks remain. What once was my heart’s desire is now nothing but broken pieces! I’ve felt them like little flickering flames, begging me to claim them, to use them; make them grow. You’ve brought one of them to me, boy, and now you play with me! Is this some ruse? Some practical joke you dare to play on Vaati, the All-powerful Wind Mage!?”
Link was now swirling with the wind, being blown about the room in circles as if he were caught in the whirling current of a typhoon. He swept out with the Four Sword, but struck nothing.
“Give it to me, boy! Give me the Light Force!” And with these words, Link felt the pendant fly off from around his neck. He grasped for it, but in the darkness it was nowhere to be found. Immediately, he felt a heavy weight press against his body, as if he was buried many miles under water. It was the darkness, he knew; the shadow within him was regaining control. Already he felt his mind being shoved back into his head while a different personality took command. He fought it for dominance, but at last he could not withstand its power; it was too strong in this place.
Immediately, the darkness congealed, coalesced, and found its own form. As Link watched helplessly, a prisoner in his own body, the cloud of darkness took the shape of a young man, perhaps nineteen or twenty, with pale lavender skin. He wore a deep purple cloak and cone-shaped cap, both of which were trimmed in gold and heavily jeweled. His greedy eyes flashed red in the dark, and floating above his outstretched hand was the Force Shard.
“At last,” the mage whispered, “I have the one thing which has allowed me to return to my physical form. Remember or not, weakling, but you reduced me to this half-life. Now I must have the power of the Light Force or I will dissolve into the darkness that filled me since the days of my youth, when I first became enchanted by the evil in the hearts of men. But now you have done me a great service, and for that I will leave you alive. Forgive me if I do not help you, but I must be off.”
“Oh, I don’t think so,” Link heard himself say. He stood, dragging the Four Sword across the stones of the floor with a malicious ringing. His eyes burned with the golden glow of the Force Shard, but he endured the pain. “I don’t want the Force Shard back, but I can’t have anyone standing in my way, either. You’re no threat now, but you’ll become a nuisance the longer I leave you alive.”
“Betray my mercy, will you?” Vaati sneered. “Not if I destroy you first, cur!”
They clashed, Link slashing out with the Four Sword, and Vaati deflecting the blow with the Force Shard, glowing a bright gold in his hand. Sword and shard sang as they met, but the tone turned quickly to a sickly note as the Force Shard cracked audibly, a hard line tracing its surface. Vaati shouted as if the wound were his own, and he recoiled, throwing a hand out at Link. A gust of wind came from nowhere and rebuffed the Shadow Link, putting some distance between the foes. Vaati was breathing heavily, his form flickering, dispersing back into the cloud of darkness he had been before. But he willed himself to endure, and he was whole again.
“So,” said Link’s Shadow, “destroying that accursed thing will benefit me in more ways than one. I remember you now, by the way. You stand before me a pitiful sight compared to your former power. Our previous battles have taken a heavy toll on you. So sad; the hapless Vaati pursued his own desires like the greediest of men. And now he will share the fate of all men who are too weak to claim what they wish. Now it should be no challenge to vanquish you forever!” And he raised up the Four Sword high, ready to smash the Force Shard with all of his strength.
But suddenly the door flew open, and the light of many lanterns speared into the room. Link hissed and threw his arms up over his eyes. Vaati raced for the door, hoping to slip past whoever had opened it. But he balked; there stood Ezlo holding a white ceramic jar covered with swirling blue designs.
“Hello, apprentice,” said Ezlo cheerfully. “Remember this trick?” And he tugged out the large cork stopping the jar. Instantly, a gust of wind swept up Vaati’s form, dissolving him again into a cloud of darkness. He called out, but the cry was lost to the voice of the whirling air, and the next moment he was sucked entirely into the jar, followed presently by the cork. Ensuring the fit was tight, Ezlo exhaled in relief, hefting the jar in one hand. “So much for Vaati the Wind-Mage.”
Only then did the wizard look down; the Force Shard had fallen, dashed to millions of tiny pieces. He gasped, knowing what this meant. “Zelda! Get to Link, now!”
Link lay on the floor, convulsing. One moment he had been pierced by the lantern-light and the next moment the battle resumed for control of himself. The light brought strength to Link’s true self, but the darkness of the Palace was deep, and the Shadow was still strong. More than once Link prevailed only to be shoved back into the prison of his mind. He knew that he could not win, not forever, but maybe he could stumble his way out of the Palace and into the day. Or perhaps, if that did not work… The thought alarmed him; would he have the strength to stop himself from hurting his friends?
But he need not have wondered at that time, for now a light far brighter than the sun was being spread over him, through him, and he felt the shadow presence retreat with gnashing thoughts. Slowly, surely, his own mind regained control and he opened his eyes, seeing for the first time who had saved him.
It was Zelda.
Her hands were locked to his, and a kind of flowing luminescence poured over her shoulders, down her arms, and into Link’s body. He could feel her touch like a warming fire against the cold, or a calm silence amid the torrent. His eyes met hers, and he was home.
“Stay with him, and do not let go, child,” said Ezlo. “Now your Light is the only thing keeping the shadow at bay within him.” Link saw the others nearby, holding their lanterns up to survey the room.
“He’s here,” Link gasped.
“Who is?” asked Ruto fearfully.
“Ganon,” said the boy. “I heard him.”
The others searched the room, but there was nothing of note; only a deep, round impression in the wall where something must have been mounted once.
“Vaati is a very clever mage, my boy,” said Ezlo finally. “He must have made you think you heard Ganon. There is much to be said for a whispering wind, and Vaati was the Mage of Winds—”
“I know what I heard!” Link rebutted. “I know it was Ganon! He’s hiding; he saw you catch Vaati and now he’s waiting for his moment.”
“But Link,” Zelda began, “there’s no one here. How do you know…?”
“I just know!” Link snapped.
The room was quiet. Zelda did not argue, but Link could see he had hurt her feelings. All the same, he felt he had done nothing wrong; he was just trying to warn them. It was everybody else who wouldn’t believe him.
“Ezlo, whatever Master Link heard, there is nothing here now,” Arinco growled pointedly, directing their attention to the gaping hole in the wall, “including the Mirror of Twilight.”
“No,” said Ezlo, shining his lantern at the round impression. “This was where the Dark Mirror was kept. But it is no matter that it has gone missing; it was a fake in any case.”
“A fake!?” exclaimed Ruto. “If there’s no mirror, then what are we here for? I don’t get it.”
“You don’t understand, Your Highness,” said the wizard testily, “because you don’t know what you’re talking about.” Ruto gasped, simpering into her bucket. Ezlo blinked tentatively, as if alarmed by himself, but he continued. “The real Dark Mirror was never kept here. Long ago the Green King—the ruler of the Picori—hid the real one in the hollow of a tree to prevent it from being discovered. In the meantime, he had a duplicate made and hid it here; what was then the Palace of Light.”
“But then Ganon came to steal it,” said Zelda.
“Yes,” said Ezlo. “But he was not looking for the Dark Mirror. What Ganon wanted was the Mirror of Twilight, which the Green King also hid here. Legend said that if any man held the Mirror of Twilight and the Trident of Power he could banish all who looked into the mirror to the Twilight Realm. But not only did Ganon not find what he wanted, but he found a fabrication; an ordinary shield polished to mirror finish. It was not long before he discovered the truth and cast the useless item aside. But as fate would have it, our Captain Link had brought the Dark Mirror back from its hiding place and unwittingly allowed it to fall into the hands of a common thief.”
“And then Ganon stole it from the thief,” Zelda added.
“Precisely. I already expected to find the replica of the Dark Mirror missing from this Palace. Like Ganon, we are not after the Dark Mirror at all, but the Mirror of Twilight. So you see, Princess Ruto, we still have a mirror to find.”
“Yeah, all right,” Ruto chided. “You don’t have to be snobby about it.”
“And where is this Mirror of Twilight, Master Ezlo?” said Arinco. “Do you know?”
“Yes,” said the wizard simply, nodding to the empty recess in the wall. He reached into his robes and removed a lion-headed key. “It’s right where I hid it the first time.”
* * *
In actuality, the Koroki Forest was not so different from the surrounding wood, other than the fact that the trees had been woken up by the Dekku Tree’s magic and made into Koroki. But what made it recognizable was that the air was thick with little dancing strings of light, and the fluffy tufts of floating seeds. There was a calm, and tranquility there, and above all a sensation of excitement; as if at any moment the earth would laugh, and the trees might uproot and dance.
When Malon arrived, she unslung her bow and rested it against the trunk of one tree, not wondering how she had found her way from the north-western corner of Hyrule to the south-eastern. This was likely because she did not know where the Koroki Forest was, and truthfully it did not matter. For any portion of the Lost Woods, including the Koroki Forest, was as good as anywhere else; they were all connected by the Dekku Tree’s powerful magic. This was how she had arrived there, whether she knew it or not.
Presently, Aako emerged from the tunnel leading into the Dekku Tree’s Glade.
“Aako!” shouted Saria, jumping up and down excitedly. The boy and girl embraced, giggling and laughing. Fado joined in, followed by the rest of the Koroki, who suddenly emerged from trees of every variety. Soon there was less of a group hug, and more a pile hug.
Malon looked around. “Where’s Link?” she said aloud.
Aako pulled himself from the pile. “Gone,” he explained.
“Gone? You mean he left?”
Aako nodded. “Quit.”
“Y’all were playin’ a game, then?”
Aako nodded with glee, then shook his head soberly.
“Y’all confuse me with yer head noddin’, you know,” said Malon. But Aako beckoned, and he led the ranch-girl and all the other Koroki back into the tunnel and into the Dekku Tree’s Glade.
“Well, I’ll be a tanned turnip,” said Malon, taking in the sight of the Dekku Tree. “This here’s the right biggest tree I ever did see. An’ look, Saria, he’s even got a face.”
“Father,” said Saria, but when Malon looked like she didn’t understand, the girl sighed. She looked to Aako, who saw something in the girl’s face, and nodded. Saria turned back to Malon, gripped her hand, and said: “Watch.”
All of a sudden, Saria’s face and hair became very bright, shining light blue, and then the light flew away from her, circling around her head. Malon started, but Saria squeezed her hand, and Malon came to realize what the little ball of light was.
“A fairy!” squealed Malon with girlish delight. “Saria, you’ve had a fairy this whole time and you never told me!?”
“Every Koroki has a fairy,” said the glowing ball of light with its tiny female voice. “But we can only come out when we’re near our Father Dekku. He makes us bright.” And within moments every other Koroki child was accompanied by glowing orbs of every color, and many hues between.
Malon stared in wonder, rotating around slowly to see the rainbow of colors represented. “You’re beautiful… Then this tree was your papa?” Malon asked sadly. “Is he okay?”
“He will be,” said Aako’s fairy, which shined a deeper blue. “His sprout is still alive, though it will take time to mature. But we Koroki live forever, so long as we do not leave our forest, and so we have plenty of time to wait for another Dekku Tree to call ‘Father.’ ”
“Geez, y’all, I thought you was just kids, but the way you talk, you’ve bin ‘round a lot longer’n that…” Suddenly the ranch-girl did not look so at ease. “Jus’ how old are y’all?”
“Saria first came from her mother tree nearly thirty-five years ago,” Aako’s fairy explained, “while I have been around much longer, closer to eighty-five years. There are some of us who are nearly as old as Father Dekku, but they do not come out to play much anymore. They keep to their trees and watch us to make certain none come to harm.”
“So none of y’all have ever died?” Malon asked. “Not one?”
“Koroki can’t really die,” said Saria’s fairy. “But if we leave our forest for too long we’ll start to turn brown and twiggy, and then it gets hard to move around. A long time ago some Koroki went far away, taking some of Father Dekku’s seeds with them. But they never came back, so we don’t really know what happened to them…” Then Saria giggled. “But it sure was a great joke when we put that sign up near the edge of the forest when Link was younger; it said any Koroki who left would die! Boy, did he get nervous when I pushed him past the sign. He never tried leaving again…” The girl’s face fell. “Until…”
“It’s alright, Saria,” said Malon soothingly, placing her hands on her knees, “we’ll find Link soon.”
Aako reached over and put an arm around Saria. “Malon,” said the boy’s fairy, “you should know that you won’t find Link. He’s not here.”
Malon’s face hardened, putting her fists on her hips. “Whadd’ya mean I won’t find him? I thought Link was lost. Isn’t that why you was leadin’ me here, Saria?”
“Yes…” said Saria’s fairy. The girl looked to Aako. “And no. Many things are happening right now, Malon. When I told you Link was lost, I didn’t mean lost in Hyrule. But he’ll come back soon.”
“But how do you know?” said Malon, sincerely curious. “You just got here, same as me.”
“We Koroki know things,” said Aako’s fairy. “We know what’s happening, and what’s about to happen. Not in a literal sense, but something more like how you know a storm is coming when the cows lie down in the pasture, and just as surely as west is where the sun sets. Saria knew that Link would be coming because she felt what all of us are feeling. The cows are lying down; he’s coming.”
“But where’s he bin? What’s he doin’?”
“He’s on a journey,” said Aako’s fairy vaguely. “He will arrive in a Sacred Place. And he will need to be greeted by friends.”
“Well, click my spurs!” Malon exclaimed, picking up the hem of her skirt. “Who’s ready t’ride off int’ the sunset?”
Saria’s eyes sparkled. “I have an idea,” said her fairy. “Malon, do you want to play a game?”
Malon saw the sparkle and became instantly intrigued. “What kinda game?”
Aako and Saria exchanged a look. “Dress up.”
* * *
Finally, after a battle that had taken them down into the deep, black bowels of the Mountain, where the only light came from their flaming bodies, Red and the Shadow-corrupted Volvagia paused. Red’s eyes still glowed with menace, but his huge arms swept lazily as he made to strike the volcanic dragon. Volvagia swerved away languidly, his flame still stoked within him, but his tail no longer thrashed and whipped with rage; he was far too exhausted for that.
“Wanna…call it quits…?” Red gasped, exhaling brimstone and blue fire. The dragon whimpered its objection, but it made no movement to finish the battle. “Then what’s say…” Red reached forward, raising one blackened hand to the dragon’s horn, “…you and I make nicey-nice…”
And the moment Red’s hand touched the Volcanic Shadow-Dragon, something resonated within him, reviving the flame in his chest. Volvagia’s great green eyes widened, surging with new strength. Not waiting for an invitation, both combatants returned to the fray; Red mounting the dragon and gripping its horns with all his might, and Volvagia thrashing violently to throw him off.
The Fused Shadow was reuniting…
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
Their path led away from the Dekku Tree’s Glade, through the thickest parts of the forest until their environment was thoroughly different than any part of the Lost Woods Link had ever seen. There were deep pools with streamlets of water falling into them from the heights of mossy cliffs, great untapped quarries of stone, and very rarely a small area would open up between the trees. All the while Orda and her servants were silent, leaving Link largely to watch the scenery pass and anticipating his embarkation back into Hyrule.
As they neared their destination, however, Orda began to speak of what Link’s mission would be. More and more, his mind became flooded with questions; questions that he felt needed answering before he returned to Hyrule. Who was that Wolf he saw when he first arrived? Was there anyone else he knew in the Golden Land? What about his parents; would they ever have new lives in Hyrule as new creatures? He did his best to restrain these questions, but Orda finally ordered a halt among a circle of standing stones. Link noticed that they were similar to the ones that stood on the hillock where the ranch should have been, but on a much smaller scale. He could not have known, but this was the very place where the Mask Salesman had once found his way into the Temple’s Echo.
“Link, I have answered all your questions,” Orda began. “But before we go any further I must tell you one more thing. I know you wish to learn of this place and the people in it, but it will do no good for me to tell you of those things. For one, you already know them, or knew them once, before you came here. And even if I told you of them again it would do you little good. For when you return to Hyrule, you shall not remember anything that has happened here. All of this will be as a flickering memory and disappear as if it were smoke. You shall try to hold on to it, but still it will escape your grasp. Only when you return here for the final time shall you remember the things which you have learned.”
Link started. This was unfair! Why teach him? Why answer his questions at all if he would remember none of it!? He growled with resentment.
“I will offer this, however,” added the Goddess, holding one hand up in placation. Link restrained himself. “In this place, where the heart cannot be hid, I have seen your dedication and love for one who you knew in your mortal life. For this reason I will permit her to accompany you on your quest to the past.” Link’s heart leapt; was his father to go with him? His mother? He dared not let the thought escape into the air, lest by doing so it would somehow be proven untrue. “But as she has given her life for you, know that there will come a time, and before you look for it, when you must be willing to give up your own life for the sake of Hyrule.”
This gave Link pause, and a somber mood stifled his joy. Then it was his mother. But what would he gain if he was allowed to meet his mother in life, just to die before he could truly come to know her?
“I know your thoughts,” said Orda, “and I shall not confirm them, but if you do not do this, you shall interrupt the delicate flow of Hyrule’s history and bring the Cataclysm upon the land once more.”
This troubled Link even more, and he hesitated. Did he really even want to go?
But suddenly, in direct response to this thought, he felt his body shivering, shaking. His vision diverged, presenting him with a startling view of the Golden Land. His wolf body was being pulled apart, dividing him asunder. He realized in moments that he now had two noses, and the rest of his head was separating rapidly.
“What’s happening to me!?” he barked. “What are you doing!?”
“I am doing nothing,” said Orda. The Golden Beasts looked on solemnly. “It is you who are changing. Your heart is shaping your body. You are torn between places; the Golden Land and Hyrule.”
Link realized that this was true; all the same he did not know how to prevent it from happening. He now had two heads, and his shoulders were widening, making room for another pair of front legs. “Make it stop!”
“I cannot. I do not have the power to change you, or force you to decide. You must do that on your own, Link. The only way you can prevent yourself from dividing in two is to fix your heart on what you most desire and do not waver from it. If you can do that, you will be whole again.”
Link searched in his mind, in his heart. He dug as deeply as he could, reaching for the one thing he could never live without. Was it his mother? He had never known her, and yet she was more important to him than anything; except perhaps his father. But they were both his parents, and he loved them both with all of his heart, impossible though it seemed. But he also loved his friends; Malon, Zelda, Saria, Ruto—yes, even Ruto—Afton, Talon, Impa… He had to help them! But he loved his parents, too. If he didn’t go back now his friends would never be saved, and Hyrule would be destroyed again. But could he pass up the chance to know his parents the way he never could? Link’s two bodies were now joined only at his back legs. He had to decide quickly, or he may never be one again. He forced himself to concentrate; what was his greatest desire?
And then, mercifully, he thought of the words that his father had given him with his true name: ‘Each of us has two wolves growing inside us, young one…’ he had said. ‘One is good, and the other is evil.’ Link’s two heads growled at each other. ‘Sometimes it was hard to live with them, for both wished to dominate my spirit.’ He knew he could not give in to both desires; he had to choose one. ‘Arinco my son…’ Now his body was reforming, reuniting—which wolf would he be when he was whole? ‘May you choose to feed the wolf which will bring peace to Hyrule…’ His father would want him to go, to do his duty. ‘…And peace to yourself.’ His mother would not approve of him choosing to stay behind when his sacrifice would mean that others could live. ‘May you go and never falter, my child…’ The words echoed in his mind, fading quickly, though what they meant had been indelibly pressed into the deepest part of him. Even when he passed into Hyrule once more, he knew he would never forget.
He would never forget his parents.
Link opened his eyes. “I will give myself for Hyrule.”
* * * 10 Years Ago
Link looked at Impa’s mother, dumbfounded. “Um, hi…” he began uncertainly.
‘You…Hero of Time?’ Tsidii signed.
Link couldn’t bring himself to speak. He nodded.
“I am honored…’ Tsidii looked to Mudora and back. She bowed. ‘…your pardon.’ she signed, and turned to one side, whistling a triplet of notes. Immediately, there was a poof! and a male Sheik was standing beside her, materializing out of a small cloud of gray smoke. He was strong, and his white hair had been dyed jet black, making him stand apart in stark contrast to the other Sheikah. He bowed.
“This is Nash,” said Mudora. “He is Tsidii’s husband. Nash, I would like to present Link, the Hero of Time. As Master of the Sheikah, I ask you to heed his words.” The pair looked on Link intently.
It was strange; if Link had never seen what Stranger had shown him—if he did not know the true meaning of his mother’s sacrifice, and his father’s love for her—he could never have thought himself capable of what he did next. Boldly, calmly, he told Impa’s parents what must happen. He told them about how his mother would be travelling to Kakariko, how the Moblins would wait to ambush her. He told them how they would emerge from the Golden Land as fearsome creatures and deliver her a mortal wound. She would flee toward the forest, and he, Link, would be safe. When he was done he did not feel guilty, or fearful, or even sad. Rather, he suddenly felt a profound respect for his mother, and for these two Sheiks, the ones who would bring about the will of the Goddesses.
‘How…enter…Golden Land?’ signed Nash. ‘…king guards…Temple of Time.”
Mudora nodded. “The Hylian king does indeed restrict access to the Golden Land through the portal within the confines of their Castle Town,” he said. “However, there is another location in the Lost Woods which can also permit you access. Aako, the Sage of Forest, has agreed to take you there. But if you are to accept this mission, I must warn you; once you pass through the portal there shall be no coming back.” Mudora exhaled. “I wish to make it very clear that I shall not force you to do this. You will leave behind your loved ones; your daughter, your son. You will never see them again. To them, you shall be as dead. Do you understand what I am asking of you? Both of you?”
The couple regarded one another with soft eyes. They each nodded. ‘For the Hero,’ Tsidii signed. Then Nash added some signs that Link did not quite catch.
“What did that mean?” asked Link.
Mudora opened his mouth, but before the sage could answer, a deep bass voice said “May the way of the Hero lead to the Triforce.” Link might not have known where the voice had come from, but then Nash bowed. “Forgive me, Master Mudora,” said the Sheik in his deep voice, “but I would rather the Hero hear the words from my own lips.”
“I will certainly forgive you, Nash,” said Mudora proudly. “And thank you for your courageousness.”
Link stared. “Thanks, but… I thought Sheiks weren’t allowed to talk…”
Mudora’s eyes twinkled smartly. “Strictly speaking, they do take a vow of silence to improve their telepathic abilities, Link. A Sheik under such an oath may choose to speak, but he shall never again be given a mission by the Master of the Sheikah. By speaking his blessing upon you, Nash has demonstrated in a most-fitting manner his dedication to fulfill this, his last mission, at the forfeit of his life. He shall never receive another assignment from me.
“Nor shall I,” said an alto voice, firm and feminine. Link realized Tsidii had spoken.
Link felt the warmth of their sentiments wash over him. He gathered up his courage and attempted to use the signs Afton had taught him: “Thank you… Goddess help you…mission… Goddess protect your son…daughter…”
Nash bowed in gratitude. “The Hero of Time is astute, indeed,” said he with sincerity.
“Now we shall have no fear for our children,” Tsidii added, “knowing that they have been blessed by the Hero.”
“Impa has her assignment, does she not, Master?” asked Nash.
“Yes, I have already sent her away,” said the sage. “She is yet young, and has much to concern her for now. She shall not learn of your fate from me. But I shall tell your son, Abrum, that I sent you on patrol as I explained to Tsidii.” Mudora looked away, gazing at the glowing orbs of the Fairy Fountain again. “You will understand that I cannot reveal your true mission to him, for the location of the portal can be disclosed to none, and already I sense his spirit growing more dissonant with the Sheikah.”
“You have seen his fate…” Tsidii whispered, without any trace of uncertainty.
Mudora turned to look at the pair of Sheiks meaningfully. “Abrum will soon defect.” He confirmed, nodding lightly. “But be assured that I will care for him as I always have, and for as long as he will allow. I know that Daphnes and Zethra will regard your daughter as if she were their own. Your children are in good care.”
The couple nodded. “Then we are ready,” said Nash. “Our regards to you, Hero; may we all meet again in the Land of Gold.” And with a final bow to their master, and the hero they were sent to save, they disappeared in two puffs, and were never seen by mortal eyes again.
* * *
Ezlo fit the Lion Key into a hole in the center of the wall and turned. There was a click! a grinding of mortar, and the stone blocks slid away, revealing a tunnel beyond, pristine as the day it was built. There was no sign that the hall had been used in centuries; indeed it had not been opened since the Mirror of Twilight was placed inside. The wizard shone his lantern-light within.
“I go in alone. Arinco, I’m counting on you to protect the princesses and young Master Link. We cannot leave him alone until we find some other way to suppress his shadow.”
“Do you suspect there are other creatures lurking in these walls?” asked Arinco.
“No.” Ezlo shook his head. “I am not afraid of enemies without; I’m worried about the creature within…” he replied cryptically. None of the others seemed to understand what he meant. “Never mind, Arinco. Just don’t let any harm come to them. Even if I tell you differently…”
Arinco’s brow furrowed. “Why would you tell me differently?”
“Because I wouldn’t be myself.” Ezlo peered down the half-lit tunnel wearily. “Stay here.” And he disappeared into the dark.
In the time he was gone, Zelda and Link had worked out that if she held his right hand, then Link’s left hand would be free to defend them with the Four Sword if anything were to happen. He couldn’t fight—not really—but at least it was better than standing around waiting for something to attack them.
The moments turned into minutes, and more than once Arinco stopped dead, peering into the darkness of the tunnel where Ezlo had gone, thinking he had heard something.
“You know, this thing’s pretty handy,” said Ruto, taking another drink from her bucket. “I wonder if that crabby old man would let me keEAGH!” The bucket fell to the floor, drenching the stone with a never-ending flow of black liquid. Ruto danced around the puddle, her flippers flapping loudly as she scurried over to the mayor.
“What happened!?” Arinco called out, pointing his lantern at the enlarging pool. Zelda and Link backed away warily.
“I don’t know!” Ruto exclaimed. “I was just drinking out of it and then it was all black and slimy! And it smells terrible.”
Arinco stepped forward, placing one foot into the black water experimentally. When nothing unusual happened, he reached forward and set the bucket upright. It stopped gushing out water. “What do you suppose—?”
But just at that moment there was a monstrous crack! and each of them stood stock still. Link held the Four Sword at the ready. Zelda stood behind him. Ruto likewise cowered behind the mayor, who pointed his lantern at the tunnel entrance. They waited…
A moan met their ears, and Ruto screamed in horror. Shambling toward them was the vague shape of something misshapen, and eerie. The thing moaned again and Ruto backed away, pulling the mayor with her. Link and Zelda likewise retreated, keeping their hands firmly pressed together. As the thing came closer they could see that it was wearing Ezlo’s clothes.
“Master Wizard! Master Wizard what has happened to you?” Arinco shouted. “Can you hear me!? Ezlo—!”
“Stop shouting, blast you!” said Ezlo’s voice from within the tunnel. The thing stopped, gave a little shudder, and there was the sound of clanking metal. “Lend me a hand, you ungrateful sots! A feeble old man can only carry so much!”
“It’s a trick,” said Link warily. “It’s Ganon’s work; he’s just making us think it’s Ezlo…”
“What, just like he made you think you heard his voice?” Ruto scoffed. “Give me a break! I just wanna get out of here. Arinco, let’s go.”
“I cannot, Princess. Not unless Link and Zelda consent to go with me. I am charged with protecting all of you—” The shambling thing stalked ever closer, its heavy footsteps clanking maliciously.
Zelda looked to Link, but the boy paid no heed. “No, we have to defeat him now or he might escape. Who knows what he’ll do then!”
Ruto whimpered helplessly. “Zelda, you think we should go, don’t you?” She clenched Arinco’s tunic ever-tighter.
Zelda looked between Ruto and Link, deliberating. “I can’t leave Link,” she said finally. “It’s going to be alright, Ruto, just be brave!”
“Help me, confound it! I can’t carry this all on my own!” The thing clanked and moaned again. It had almost reached the lantern-light.
Arinco looked to Link, meeting one stern gaze with another. “We stand,” he said decisively. “Master Link, you and Zelda stay back. Only aid me if you cannot escape. Ruto, you stay with them. If I fall, you must run. Do you understand?” He handed his lantern to the Zora girl and drew the sword at his waist.
Finally, the thing came into view, but Ruto screamed, and she shook so violently that the light was thrown all across the room, only giving them small glimpses of a horrible thing, huffing and panting, clanking and shambling, sweating profusely and quite irritable.
CRASH! As if someone had drawn open the curtains, the room brightened immediately, revealing a disgruntled Picori wizard and a pile of broken black metal fragments, each the size of a serving dish and as thick as a boot-heel. Over his head hovered a little orb of light, shining a bright yellow, held aloft by a pair of dragonfly wings. “Is it really too much to ask for a little help?” said Ezlo. He was covered in perspiration, and bedraggled from carrying the heavy load, but for all other purposes he was perfectly normal.
“You’re alright!” said Zelda in relief. “See, Ruto, it was just Ezlo the whole time… Ruto?”
But the Zora girl had fainted.
* * *
It had taken some time and coordination for Abrum and Afton to escape the heights of Death Mountain. All of the usual paths were destroyed with the eruption of the volcano, and the accompanying earthquake had caved in the inner passages, preventing them from using the Gorons’ tunnels. Once they had a plan, they instructed Biggoro to let them down as far south of the volcano as he could reach, at which point they made their way through the mountains. Finally reaching the places that were still forested, Abrum led them to a well-stocked Sheikah cache, where they ate provisions and camped for the night.
The next day was less difficult once they discovered one of the Zora-maintained waterways that led down into the Hylian River. They drank, bathed, and descended the mountainous lakes of Zora’s Domain until they had made their way to the eastern edge of Hyrule Field. After a short respite and some foraging for what berries and nuts they could find to keep them going, they continued on, always wending their way northwest, toward Hyrule Castle.
Afton peered through the fog drifting up off the Hylian River. As they crossed the wooden bridge spanning the river’s flow he could see the ruins of Hyrule Castle Town off in the distance. They were still an hour or so from the Town, with about an hour of sunlight still to guide them.
“By the Goddess,” said Afton, finally catching sight of the extent of the Town’s destruction. “Castle Town…”
“Do you suppose your people still live, Master Knight?” asked Abrum.
“The sun is still shining, Master Thief. I cannot imagine the day that sees the Hylia utterly destroyed to be as beautiful as this. No, something tells me that they have survived, somehow.”
“And your woman, this…”
“Anju,” said Afton, naming the village woman. He smiled. “She is perhaps safer than any I can imagine. Kaepora Gaebora has taken her to safety.”
“She meant much to you, your Anju?”
Afton blushed. “Yes. Once I asked her to marry me…” His smile turned to a somber look. “But she refused. I suppose I have never wished for another woman since. To me there was no other woman; only Anju, daughter of Mutoh.” Afton cleared his throat, peering out at the sunset. He raised a flattened hand to his brow. “Not long before we reach the Town,” said the knight, changing the subject. “When we arrive, I will check in with the gate-guard at the drawbridge into town.”
“Would there still be a guard at his post after this kind of catastrophe?”
“The Hylian forces always leave at least one man at a post, hidden if necessary, even if the situation is dire. This is to ensure that any happenings are still observed, and reconnaissance continues. If any were left alive, there will still be a gate-guard, and if there is a gate-guard he will have knowledge of what happened; whether the Hylia fled or whether they, too, were hapless victims of the starfall.” Afton was silent for a moment. Then: “If there is any effort to save wounded or helpless, I would beg your aid before I turn you in to the king’s judgment.”
Abrum narrowed his orange eyes. “You would trust a criminal? I might try to harm your people… And you would trust me not to flee, Master Knight, when I am likely to receive the harshest punishment that exists for a man once I reach the Council of Judgment?”
“Yes,” said Afton sincerely. “I have already seen the quality of your character; your laws are your own, but you follow them nonetheless. Your honor would not permit you to leave. I may regret my dealings with you—they have cost me a friend in Gor Darmon—but you did what you deemed correct in your own estimation. I know that if our positions were exchanged you would want to be certain your people are well.”
Abrum raised an eyebrow. “But I have no people.”
“There is one other…” said the knight, and the conversation fell into silence.
As it happened, Afton had been right about many things. It was a matter of honor for Abrum to keep his promise to the knight. He had agreed to turn himself in in exchange for Asera’s freedom. It was a welcome price to pay, knowing that she was safe, but this did not prevent him from longing for her; the only other of his kind. He wondered where she would go; the Gerudo would not take either of them back, he knew, and the Sheikah were likely scattered for the moment—what survivors were left would have fled to avoid the volcano’s eruption. Asera was now the only other member of ‘his people.’
But wherever she was, Asera would not simply flee without him. Abrum thought of the last time he forced her to part with him. It was little more than a day ago that he found his way to Kakariko by means of the hidden tunnel that began near the entrance of Castle Town. The entrance was hidden by a large boulder near the wall that jutted away from the Town’s outer ramparts. He and Asera had agreed to meet back at that boulder by sunset the following day, not expecting to see each other in the meantime. Tonight was that sunset; would Asera meet him by the boulder as they had said?
“Yes, Master Knight, I will help you save your people, if there be any who need saving. But on one condition.”
“And what is that?”
“I wish to wait for Asera outside Castle Town. I have reason to believe she may wish to meet me there this evening, and if she does, I would rather ease her heart concerning me.”
Afton thought on this. “You realize, of course, that if I am offered another opportunity to bring her in, I must take it…”
“Oh, I am not so worried about her, Master Knight. Even without her magic Asera is a cunning one. She may yet have some secrets to reveal.”
* * *
“He will be waiting for her here,” said the white-faced sage, pointing in the direction of a lone boulder. The king looked past the boulder, at the remains of Hyrule Castle Town.
“The damage is so great, Impa,” said the king, awed by the scene. “It was a miracle that Tobias arrived with warning when he did; so many townspeople would have perished if it was not for him.”
“Yet many more may perish if we do not capture the thief and the witch, Daphnes,” Rauru whispered.
Lutai arrived presently, drifting along the ground like a ghost. “The horses are hidden, Your Majesty,” she said, lowering herself behind the collapsed wall that extended from the town’s outer ramparts with the others. “Master Talon awaits our signal to ride out with the cell in tow. Once we have the prisoners it will be simple enough to take them back to the ranch until we can decide how to proceed.”
“And you’re certain the thief and the witch will come here?” Daphnes whispered.
“Yes,” said Impa. “With the fall of the star, their respective cultures have been dissolved. They have no other place to run. Abrum was in Afton’s custody, but he will attempt to escape so he can join his witch. They planned to reconvene at this spot at sunset this evening. We have only to wait, and then we can bring them to justice.”
The company was silent. The sun sank lower in the sky, lighting up the near sides of the clouds and the cooling slopes of Death Mountain, now dulling from the searing yellow of the active lava flow to the dingy red of ashy pumice. The plumes of steam that once issued out of the Hylian River were now reduced to gentle drafts of rising vapor.
Occasionally the king would glance over at the Sage of Shadow, pondering whether she was truly at rights with herself. ‘Their respective cultures have been dissolved’ she had said, as if the Sheikah were nothing more than a herd of lost cattle. But then, Impa had always been detached from personal matters when it came to her duty, he knew. He might have asked her about it, but she was so intent, watching the surrounding area for any sign of the criminals, that he could not bring himself to do so. He would not harrow her mind with any more unpleasant thoughts than he must; he would respect her wishes.
Then, just as the sun’s last rays could be seen to vanish behind the western mountains, Tobias let out a harsh whisper. The others looked, and saw what he saw; two figures emerged from the gentle steam wafting from the Hylian River, walking side by side. One was clothed in the vestments of a knight of Hyrule and the other had a distinctly foreign appearance, having a long body, and covered all over with great swoops of white and black.
“The strange one is Abrum,” said Impa, “transformed by the surges of Shadow Magic that he and the witch used to call down the star. The other will be Afton. Take care; Abrum may have used his magic to bewitch him.”
They waited as long as they could, poised to catch their quarry at just the right moment. The pair approached the boulder and then stopped, looking around them.
“Now?” whispered Tobias.
“No,” said Impa, “we have not seen the witch, yet. We must catch them both, if we may. Wait awhile longer...” And they waited.
Abrum and Afton stood beside the boulder, ostensibly talking with one another and nothing more. They were not overtly friendly, but neither were they hostile.
The king began to have doubts. “Are you certain the witch is coming?” he whispered.
“Yes,” said Impa, “she would not have given up so easily. She may be nearby, waiting for us to leave before she emerges. Perhaps I should investigate and see if she is lurking about.”
“Return quickly,” said the king. “And send us a signal if you are in danger…”
Impa nodded, and then vanished from sight. It was not long before something happened, but it was not what the king expected.
* * *
Blue pumped his great sea-wings again, feeling the exhilaration of the wind flowing around him like water. Far below the expanse of Hyrule unfolded before him like a scale model. He noticed details far and wide; the ruined towers and halls of the Temple of Time, the magnitude of the destruction that swept over Hyrule Castle and its Town, the minutiae of the little refugee camps within the ranch at the center of Hyrule Field… He may be a mal-formed monstrous ray, but he still had aesthetic sensibilities, he reassured himself. Presently, he returned to his objective; to reunite with his shadow brothers. Now that they had the Fused Shadows, they would unite them and become a force to be reckoned with in Hyrule.
He saw the place from afar off, high up in the air. He knew it would be in the Lost Woods, for his shadow memory had guided him to the place he would find the others. Now it came into view, and he realized what it was…or had been before the starfall.
It was the Temple of Time.
Not the actual Temple of Time, of course; that was in the other direction. But it matched the ruins of the other temple perfectly. Evidently, the earthquake that affected one, affected the other. The two were linked; connected by magic of some kind. He banked, pumping his wings again, and made to land in the ruins, among the trees.
And there, down in the ruins of this other Temple, swaying in the wind like a tree himself, was Vi. His many monstrous Baba mouths hung open, each of his eyestalks lolling out like tongues. He had stretched as high as he could and then swayed in place, content to feel the wind blow across him pleasantly. But then he became aware of a disturbance in the air. A great shadow passed over the sun, and his many eyes perked up to see what it was. None too soon, he scrambled out of the way, slithering around like a many-tentacled ball, until he was safely under the protection of the treetops, peeking out at the enormous thing descending on the ruins of the Temple of Time.
“Is that you Vi?” said Blue, descending. A great gust of air swept out from under him as he settled, throwing leaves, branches, moss and several hunks of stone wall away from the landing zone. Vi blinked his many eyes. “I hardly noticed you under all that debris.”
“Show-off,” said Vi, picking branches out from between his teeth. He wiggled one eye until the moss that was stuck to it had fallen off. “What are you supposed to be, some kind of…blue…thing that looks stupid when it lands?”
“I’m an electric ray, idiot. What’re you? A moron who can’t even get out a good insult?” Blue’s ray form blackened, dissolving into many smaller cube-like forms which swept up into the air and reorganized themselves in the center of what would have been the Temple’s nave. In moments, Blue’s original form returned. By all appearances he was a boy of eleven wearing a tunic and cap, but with one major difference; now his whole body was dark and semi-transparent. All but his eyes, which glowed a sharp red.
“Whoa! How’d you do that?” Vi shambled out from between the trees, practically tripping over himself to get to his brother.
“Easy, stupid, you just take out your Fused Shadow.” Blue held his out before him, where it hovered in menacing silence.
Vi’s Baba heads twisted, straining with effort. More than once he tangled himself up in his own necks, writhing to extricate the Fused Shadow from within him.
“Need a little help?” Blue offered flatly.
“I got it; don’t break my concentration.”
Finally, Vi’s form began to blacken, disintegrating into little cube-like forms as Blue’s had. The cubes swirled uncertainly for a moment, but settled on Vi’s human form at last. His red eyes glowed within his shadowy face.
“Took you long enough,” Blue quipped.
“Alright, now these should fit together somehow…” They tried to find the sides of the broken shadow magic that would match, but as much as they tried, it simply wouldn’t work. Blue swore. “We’ve got incongruous pieces.”
Vi narrowed his red eyes. “What does that mean?”
Blue smacked his brother on the back of the head. “It means they don’t fit, moron. We’ll need Red before we can…” Blue trailed off, looking up into the sky.
“What?” said Vi, still rubbing his head. Then he saw what Blue did. “Shut. Up.”
In the south, banking high in the air, was a monstrous bull-headed man made of living magma, exhaling blue fire with every breath. He was mounted just behind the head of Volvagia, the subterranean lava dragon, a cloud of fuming brimstone furling in their wake.
Vi reached over and lifted Blue’s chin, closing his mouth. “It’s not nice to stare,” he said. Blue just socked his brother in the arm. Vi winced, recoiling.
Red descended on the Temple ruins like a vision from a nightmare, the dragon roaring its defiance, but submitting nonetheless to its master’s will. The sound carried for many miles, silencing the forest creatures in mortified dread.
“You always had a flair for the dramatic, Red,” said Blue stoically. He folded his arms. “What, no song and dance?”
“Whatever,” said Vi, “you’re just jealous because his entrance was better than yours.” Blue threatened him with a fist, and Vi was quiet again.
“Quit screwing around and give us your piece,” said Blue irritably.
“Pieces,” Red corrected, dismounting from the neck of the dragon. In moments the transformation happened for the third time, but this time the dragon’s body also blackened, dissolving and reverting to its uncorrupted state. The semi-transparent Red held out his hand where two pieces of the Fused Shadow hovered in threatening silence. “Looks like someone gave theirs up. Get on!” he added, swatting the dragon’s flank. Glad to be away, Volvagia leaped into the sky and was gone in moments, somewhere to the south.
“So how’d you manage your impressive surprise entrance?” asked Blue.
“Helps to know the terrain,” said Red with undisguised machismo. “The starfall created a chasm to the east of Death Mountain. We burrowed out of the mountain and followed it all the way here. That, of course, was after I tamed a Shadow-corrupted lava dragon, with my bare hands.” He flexed impressively.
“Not bad,” said Blue. “But I guess you had a little help with that falling star thing. I destroyed the entire Water Temple and fought off the God of Decay. He was running scared when I blasted out of the Lone Island, slaying hundreds of Zora warriors with a single sweep of my electric tail!”
Vi rolled his eyes.
“And what about you, little man?” said Red. “Little Purpy handle the big mean Koroki?”
“Yeah,” Vi challenged. “They were sorry when I gnashed my fearsome teeth at them!”
Red paused, waiting to hear the rest. “Yeah, so then what happened?”
“Well,” Vi began, “I sorta had to go…throw up…” Blue and Red exchanged a glance, and then promptly burst out in hysterics. “Hey! Transforming’s kinda hard on the stomach, and…aw, forget it. Jerks.” He folded his arms and sat on the ground. “Let me know when you want to get on with world domination, boys.”
But before the others had calmed themselves, there was a sound of movement from the nearby bushes.
“Shut up,” Vi whispered hoarsely, holding up a hand. He peered out into the brush. “Something’s out there.”
“I hope it isn’t a Koroki,” said Red quietly. “I might lose my lunch!” He guffawed anew. But then an arrow zipped through the trees, missing Red’s head by mere inches. Three pairs of eyes turned suddenly, marking the place in the undergrowth where the arrow had come from. “Alright boys,” Red said, shocked to his senses, “looks like it’s time to start the show.” The others agreed, and each produced their respective Fused Shadows.
As the broken pieces of magic neared one another, the air was suffused with tension. Each of the Shadow-Links could feel their pieces vibrating over their hands, resonating with the power of the other pieces. They were only moments away from their goal…
* * *
Aako led the troop. He was no longer his child-like self, but looked like a tall, stately man wearing armor and carrying an impressive, leaf-bladed spear. His breastplate folded and curled about him like the leaf of an oak tree, and his greaves and bracers flowed around his arms and legs like woven vines. On his arm was the hand of an elegant ranch-girl, wearing a dress and train of vibrant emerald to offset her ginger hair. Malon positively beamed, so proud was she to be accompanied by so noble an escort, and the brightness of her countenance was rivaled only by a majestic ruby hanging from a golden chain around her neck.
Saria rode behind, patting the white neck of Brutus, their recently rescued Terminan friend, who agreed to be changed into a horse again out of want for feeling useful. ‘For,’ he had said, ‘I feel I know more what it is like to be a pony than a man, and even as a man I would be honored to serve so gracious a creature.’ Brutus nickered and shook his mane appreciatively. Saria herself now looked to be a young woman of nineteen or twenty and wore a pale green dress, crowned with a tiara encrusted with emeralds, her head of thick green curls cascading down her back. She nodded and smiled at imaginary crowds to either side, graciously thanking the trees for being there to see her on her journey.
The rest of the Koroki formed a battalion of fierce warriors, all decorated and armed as would befit a woodland army, with Mido at their head as commander. Fado stood nearby as drill sergeant, waving her baton in the air and shouting in time. Mido waited impatiently for her pauses so he could give needless orders, only to be drowned out by Fado again.
They had already had dinner, consisting of a fragrant spring water that made Malon feel satisfied with just a few sips. But for good measure they gave her some berries and nuts as well, being a person of meat and bones, unlike the Koroki. It was a pleasant after-supper walk; the birds chirped, the squirrels chewed on their nuts, and life could not be any more serene.
“Won’t Link be right surprised to see us!” said Malon, lifting the hem of her dress so she could walk better. “Armed escort and all…”
Aako nodded gallantly. “I have ordered the armed escort for your protection as much as the hero’s, princess.”
“Shucks, I kin ‘fend myself if it came down to it,” said Malon, adjusting the quiver of arrows on her shoulder. “Ain’t nothin’ that fairy boy kin handle I couldn’t take on.” Aako smiled politely.
They walked further into the forest, always wending their way toward the ‘Sacred Place’ Aako had mentioned. “It’s not much farther,” he said. “Just around that bend is a circle of stones. There has been some damage to the structure, but it is still there. From there we will—”
But something roared out in defiance, its cry resounding through the forest. The birds ceased chirping, the squirrels put down their nuts and retreated back into their holes. Immediately, Aako took command, whispering orders to Mido, who organized the troops. Saria raced ahead, scooping down to help Malon into the saddle behind her, where the ranch girl readied her bow. Knowing that Saria would not charge recklessly in, but only scout ahead, Aako did not impede the horse.
They had only ridden half-a-minute when they saw what had made the noise. Through the trees Malon caught the sight of the Temple ruins, and beyond the broken walls was a smoking, fiery beast accompanied by three shadowy figures. One of the Shadow-boys slapped the beast and it took off into the air, not to come down again. The boys did nothing suspicious, but their woeful appearance did not put Malon at ease. “Who are they?” she asked.
“Link,” Saria explained. Malon gasped. “But not as you know him. He’s been using strong magic, and many layers of it, to become what he is now.” She narrowed her green eyes, peering at the boys. “But then, he is also incomplete. There should be a fourth…”
“I don’t like it,” said Malon, “somethin’ ain’t right. That ain’t Link.” She drew back her bowstring.
“Malon, don’t…!” Saria whispered. But before she could stop the girl from firing her arrow, the shaft was already in the air, zipping past one of the boys’ heads.
“Shoot, I missed.” Malon thumped her thigh with her free hand. “We gotta go warn the others—”
“No, wait,” said Saria. She waited, seeing what the boys would do. Facing each other ceremoniously, each of the boys extended their hands. Neither Malon nor Saria could quite see what they had, but in moments there was a flash of orange energy, and tentacles of magic reached out, embracing each of the boys in their grip. They shouted aloud, and then promptly shrank into one center point and vanished entirely. Where the boys once stood was now nothing but empty, open air.
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
Latest two chapters....epic....I feel that it will only become more so with whats to come. Once again your detail in in everything brings the story to life. Loved the "grown up" koroki, and their armor, Saria and Malon being fair maidens, the shadow Volvagia, Impas parents, i could go on.
Now concerning the Gods of Terminia. Is that it? are they really done for? I felt they were such a huge part only to be, what seemed quickly, taken care of. I loved the idea of a foe that could best the great hero, however i was really looking forward toward Link finding a way to defeat them.
I ALMOST feel that the Cataclysm, Link being taken to the golden land etc, is the easy way out, though i will hold those thoughts till the end to see how this story finishes.
Read this from the Prologue to the latest chapter and I have two words. Simply Amazing.
I love how you have tied in most major games and hint at TP. I am loving all the parts so much. The SR part, the part with Elzo, the part with stranger. All the parts are just brilliantly written.
AH! Impa! Nooz! I've been reading all the chapters so far but have been getting a little lazy at reviewing (my apologizes greatly!) but, wow. That's seriously all I can say! You're writing is amazing, the story just keeps getting more and more intense, its makes me thirsty for more...or wait, is that because I just ate a bag of skittles?
“We are nearly there.” The male panther-hawk turned to Link. “Here, there is no time to speak of, but there are windows of opportunity. We must escort you to Hyrule soon, or the opportunity will pass.”
Link was undaunted. Now nothing could stop him from doing his duty for Hyrule. “Where’s the portal?”
“Just ahead.” And the pair of beasts led Link up a slight incline into a clearing in the trees. Only when he was beyond the tree line did he notice the Goddess of Time was not with them.
“Where’s Orda?” he thought out, looking around for the veiled goddess.
“She has come with you as far as she can, Chosen One,” said the beasts. “Now it is left to us. Come; your destiny does not wait.” And so, without saying goodbye to the Goddess who had given him so much, Link turned away from his life in the Golden Land and followed his escorts deeper into the forest clearing.
It was only when he neared the far side, flanked by the two Golden Beasts, that Link realized there were chatters and chirps of excitement coming from the edges of the trees. He turned to look and caught sight of animals of every variety in seemingly endless number, clustered in groups far back into the forest. Link wondered what they were there for, but he could not think on this for long, for his escorts hedged him in and ushered him on.
“Come. We are nearly there.”
Link looked ahead, but he saw nothing unusual. “Where’s the portal? Shouldn’t there be a big glowing window or something?”
“Walk, and the way will show itself to you.”
Link did so. It was not until he neared the utter edge of the clearing, however, before a great staircase of shining golden light appeared, leading upward into nothing, somewhere among the trees. Link would have shrunk back in alarm, but his escorts were there, reassuring him. There was nothing to do but climb.
The stairs of light proved to be as solid as any stone, and Link’s confidence grew with every step, but at the same time something else was happening. Though he could not have realized it, he was losing more and more of his memory with every higher step. Each moment, more and more of his experiences in the Golden Land were being called away, to wait for his return. When he reached the height of the stairs, he turned and looked behind him. There at the base of the golden staircase were two strange creatures in the shape of golden panthers—but with the heads and wings of hawks—while behind them were gathered droves of golden animals of every size and variety.
Who were these creatures, he wondered. And where was he? Link stared at them with only passing curiosity before he turned and stepped through a curtain of light. Then…
Nothing. Only the light.
* * * 10 Years Ago
Link was so lost in his thoughts that it took a long time for him to realize that Stranger was speaking to him again.
“Link? Link, it’s time; I have to teach you the Hymn of Echoes, now. Link, are you listening?”
Link looked around him, confounded. “Where are we?” he asked. Before him was a room he knew he had been to before, but he felt it should have been filled with…something more.
“This is the Sanctuary of the Master Sword, Link. We are in the Temple of Time, again.” Stranger stepped away from the boy, gesturing to the open room, the yellow mid-morning light now filtering down through the stained-glass windows. “I apologize for the abrupt change of scenery, but Mudora’s servant Abrum was about to enter and I had to get us away quickly or you would have been seen. No matter, our errand there was complete. You did very well, I might add; I could not have asked for a more apt student. You have learned precisely those lessons I had hoped to teach. I am very proud of you.” The Sheikah man considered the boy with increasing curiosity. “Are you feeling yourself? You look a little pale.”
Link stared off into the space before him. “Weren’t there…animals here before…?”
Stranger’s brow furrowed. “There was nothing here before. Only the sword, of course.” And sure enough, there was the Master Sword, standing in its pedestal as it ever had since the day it was forged. “Link, what seems to be the matter?”
Link focused on the sword, his eyes straining in the wan light as he tried to piece together why he felt there was something amiss. “It feels like I just…came from somewhere. Not the graveyard, I mean…someplace…else. I was in a forest, and there was…a clearing here—” he waved his hand vaguely “—and a couple of…animals with wings. And some other animals were behind them… I just came from there, just now, before you were talking, and…I had to do something…”
Stranger straightened, taking on the air of a proud father who had just realized that his son had become a man. “Then you are ready.”
“Ready for what?” said Link, focusing on the Sheikah man for the first time.
“Your training is over. Now is the time for you to face yourself in the ultimate test before you destroy the Shadow Gods forever. Link, take out the Mask.” Link obeyed, removing the Stone Mask from his pouch… “No, Link,” said Stranger significantly, “the other Mask.”
And comprehending, Link hesitated. “But I thought you said it was a mistake… Won’t it posses me like the other Gods’ Masks do?”
“I thought you had worn it before…” Stranger taunted. “Wasn’t that how you defeated Majora?”
Link balked. Stranger had used his own logic against him. “Well, yeah, but… Then you’re saying it won’t corrupt me?”
“Of course it will. Or it will try. The Fierce Deity is just as real as the other Gods of Shadow. But it did not posses you on the moon over Termina. Why? Because its control over its host was kept in check by the God who gave it to you…”
“Majora…!” Link gasped. “You mean he… Majora kept the Fierce Deity from possessing me? What would he do that for?”
“So you could defeat him. He wanted to be destroyed, to be exorcized; released from the half-life of being bound to a mask; freed from having to rely on whatever hapless host was foolish enough to put on his Mask. In order to be released from that torment he had to ensure that you would be positively determined to destroy his mask at all costs. The Fierce Deity, as a God of Vengeance—or you might say, Justice—would have left Majora all but severed from the mask that held him bound, effectively punishing him with an act of mercy. Majora knew that if you were in control, you could defeat his mask-form utterly, and thus show him mercy with an act of punishment.”
“Geez, do you have to put it that way?” Link gripped at the folds of his tunic. “Now I feel so…”
“Dark…? Evil…? I do not think you should, Link. As I said before, not all choices in the world are simply good or evil. People are not made of only light or darkness. Each person must weigh the circumstances. If you were to go back, which would you choose? Refuse to destroy Majora’s Mask, giving him what he deserved—an eternity of imprisonment—knowing that he would still rampage across Termina and bring about the Cataclysm on that land, which, as I have said, was always ever meant to happen? Or would you grant Majora what he wanted—freedom from his bondage—knowing that you would have to destroy him and alter the destiny of Termina in the process; undermining the meaning of its creation?” Link did not respond, so shaken by these two outcomes, each painted as unfavorable…and yet, somehow also right in their own way. Stranger rested a hand on the boy’s shoulder. “Like your father, I believe that you wish to do what is right, but you must also know which consequences are good and which are better.”
Link inhaled slowly. “I did the right thing,” he said aloud, telling himself it was true. “The best thing for Termina.”
“Was it the best thing for Hyrule?” It was a simple question, unweighted and unbiased. Even so, Link could not answer. “If you had allowed Termina to be destroyed as it should have been, the Mask Keeper would have been destroyed along with it, and the masks of Sophia and Tempus along with him. The Shadow Gods would never have found hosts in Hyrule, and they never would have dominated the land with their darkness—a darkness that was never meant for this world. I ask again, was this the outcome you would have chosen if you had the option to go back and do it a second time?”
“How am I supposed to know!?” Link threw Stranger’s hand away from his shoulder.
He was exasperated; now Link doubted everything he had ever done. Ever since the Great Dekku Tree had sent him on his quest he had done nothing but fight and kill whatever stood in his way. He believed the end was good; Hyrule was safe from the evil that threatened it. But would he have to kill his entire life just to ensure that Hyrule had peace? Or should he be like the Fierce Deity, bringing punishment on the wicked, but turning a blind eye to the consequences of his own actions, even if it meant that others would suffer—even if it meant the extinction of an entire world? Could it really be that Termina was meant to die anyway? Was that what was necessary to bring about the ‘better’ circumstances Stranger spoke of? Link realized he was breathing heavily, now. This was all getting too complicated. He fought to calm himself.
“I know you said I have to decide for myself,” Link said, finally managing his emotions, “but I can’t always know what’s going to happen. How does a person decide what’s ‘good’ and what’s ‘better’ in the moment, before he sees the consequences?”
“You must listen to the Goddess within you.”
Link looked around him in disbelief. “What are you talking about? I don’t know any Goddess within me… I don’t—”
“Yes, you do, Link,” Stranger interrupted firmly. And he sounded sure enough that Link did not argue. “And for this reason I have wished to teach you the song I mentioned before.” Stranger approached the boy slowly, removing the soprano ocarina from his satchel. “The Hymn of Echoes allows the one who plays it to remember everything he knew before he came to Hyrule; before he entered the confines of time. It will allow you, Link, to recall your experiences in the Golden Land.”
“Now wait a second; I remember being sucked into the Sacred Realm, but that was different. I’ve never been to the Golden Land.”
“Yes you have, Link,” Stranger assured him. “As have I.” He allowed this thought to sink in before he continued. Stranger began pacing again, as Link had come to expect when he was about to tell a long narrative. Link listened carefully.
“Once I was a humble priest,” the old Sheikah began. “I knew nothing of who I truly was. Then…someone…entered the Golden Land and claimed the Triforce for their own. It divided into its respective pieces, and I became the Chosen of Time. At first, I did not know that I was chosen, but little by little it became clear to me that I was favored of the Goddess. At length I felt drawn to discover why I merited that favor, and I learned as much as I could about the portals into the Land of Gold. I must see the dwelling place of the Goddess for myself, I decided; I must know what had happened to me...
“And I succeeded.”
Stranger now became more animated; walking faster, taking longer strides. “I found the means to open the portal in this very room. That sword over there, Link, is the key to many things, not the least of which is sealing away an evil which threatens to overwhelm Hyrule with the Power of Gold. I wished to draw the Blade of Evil’s Bane—not to wield it, but to open the way to the Golden Land. I wished to enter the Golden Land—but not to claim the Triforce, for it had already been claimed, and I bore a part of it. With a heart unclouded by ambition, and wanting nothing more than to forge my path to the Goddess who was calling out to me, I drew the Master Sword and entered the Land of Gold.”
Link’s mouth hung open in astonishment.
“You. Drew. The Master Sword.”
An amused smile crept across the man’s face. “I told you we were very alike.” He shrugged modestly. “To your credit, I knew I never could have wielded the Master Sword as a weapon—” he gestured at Link “—only the one who was meant to wield it could do that. But once the portal was open, I no longer needed it, so I replaced it and never drew it again. The point of it was to enter the Golden Land, which I did. Which you did, though your methods and mine were very different in this particular.”
“And…and how did I get in?” asked Link, considering the accomplishment in wonder.
“Allow me to help you remember,” said Stranger, placing his soprano ocarina into Link’s hand.
“With the Hymn of Echoes…” said the boy, understanding.
Stranger nodded. “You may recall the legends of what happens to those who enter the Golden Land; they never return, they say.” He paused. “Or do they?” Now he had recaptured Link’s attention. “Those who enter the Golden Land are certainly never heard from again, but with good reason; it is because they do not remember who they are when they pass from that world into Hyrule again. In addition, their forms will have changed to reflect the shape of their hearts, and many of those in the early days of Hyrule who sought out the Triforce for vain ambition had very cruel and twisted hearts indeed. And so it was that, when they returned, none of their acquaintances in Hyrule could possibly have known who they were…including themselves.
“This was the origin of monsters in Hyrule. Before, there were no such things as Moblins, or boars the size of horses roaming the expanse of Hyrule field. There were no such things as Lizalfos, or lizards that could breath fire…”
“Dodongos...!” Link’s eyes practically bulged from his head. “You mean all those came from the Golden Land? Then why aren’t you and I…?”
“Why are we not monsters as well? A fair question. But again, I will permit you to recall the answer for yourself.” He lowered his hand, letting his fingers just touch the smooth surface of the soprano ocarina.
“When I emerged from the Golden Land I was like you, Link; remembering things that were, but could not have been. I knew that there was some knowledge I should have had, but it was just out of my mind’s grasp. And so I made a song that would call that memory back; the Hymn of Echoes. After I teach it to you, you will be able to access your memories of the Land of Gold, and every one of your previous lives before you entered the Golden Land. You will remember your Goddess within, and know how to judge between what is good, and what is better. And you will be ready to exercise the righteous vengeance that can only be expressed through the guise of the Fierce Deity—without succumbing to its possession.”
“You mean…” Link began, wetting his lips, “that after I remember what I learned in the Golden Land I can wear the Fierce Deity Mask and not be possessed!?”
Stranger nodded solemnly. “Any person who remembers who he truly is can never be overtaken by another’s will. Only those who forget themselves are in danger of being manipulated like marionettes in the hand of the Puppeteer.”
Link regarded the soprano ocarina with new respect; it was smaller than the Ocarina of Time, and it was mustard yellow instead of blue, but the fingering was precisely the same. He knew he could play it. “Teach me,” he said, with a righteous fury in his eye. “I’m ready.”
* * *
Just as night fell over the ruins of Hyrule Castle Town…
“By the pride of the Gerudo! Charge!”
Afton suddenly turned on the spot and drew each of his rapiers, greeting an onslaught of swarthy warriors with reflexive readiness. They came pouring out of Castle Town’s main gate with blades raised high like claws and white teeth flashing with the fearsome roar of mountain cats. The foremost of them attacked, and Afton met them with blades flashing, sweeping, catching the hilt of a scimitar, swatting the flat of his blade against his attacker’s knuckles. He had disarmed six or seven of them in this way before he gave in to the undeniable truth; there were simply too many, and he was only one man.
“Abrum! Help me!” called the knight. “Your valor now may yet save you at your day of judgment!” Afton looked around him, but there was no answer. Abrum was nowhere to be seen. Afton gritted his teeth. “Halt, sisters, in the name of the throne of Hyrule! I bear you no ill!”
But in answer a sparkling frigid-blue shaft swept past his ear and caught purchase on the road sign out at the crossroads. The sign fizzed and popped as magical ice suddenly encased it completely. Afton immediately rolled to one side, swiveling his body as shaft after shaft missed him by inches, freezing the ground where he stood only half-a-moment before. He gained the cover of the boulder, but it was struck by a magical ice-arrow and was instantly encased in ice, preventing Afton from leaning against it to improve his concealment. The other Gerudo had apparently abandoned the assault.
“No ill, girls!” said a snide voice. “The knights of Hyrule bear us no ill! And what do we bear in return?” The Gerudo snarled and stamped, clashing their swords together with the sound of ringing steel.
Afton’s lips hardened; he had heard that voice only once before, at the height of the Great Hall. “Nabooru, Great Matron of the Gerudo, I would treat with you!” Hisses and shouts of disapproval erupted from the body of women, but they were quickly silenced.
“No, give the man license, ladies,” said Nabooru’s voice. “Let him come out unarmed and face his accusers. Let us see what the fool has to say for himself; what he has to say about the character of his king!” There was a cheer of approval from the Gerudo, and Afton knew he now had no choice but to accept the Gerudo Matron’s terms; he must dissuade their prejudices.
“I am coming out, then!” said Afton, swinging his rapiers around in his hands. “I surrender my weapons.” And he threw them far out into the tallgrass where they swung back and forth like metronomes. Passively, the knight noticed that the magic torches without the Town walls had lit themselves as they always did this time of night. But there was not the sound of the cranking chain that always closed the drawbridge. Rounding the frozen boulder, Afton came into view of the masses of Gerudo choking the Town gate. And out before all of them was Nabooru, her one Silver Gauntlet flashing in the magical torchlight.
“I bid you all come out of the gate,” said Afton calmly, “that the guard of Hyrule may perform his duty and close the bridge against the evil of the night.”
Nabooru looked around her, sneered, and finally laughed aloud. The other women followed suit. “An entertaining request,” the Matron replied, “considering the guard is detained at the moment.”
“Release him to me,” Afton demanded.
Nabooru leaned forward. “Why should I?”
“Because he has done no wrong to you. Release him and I shall take his place.”
“So you can serve as a spy for Hyrule among us and then escape to tell your king of our plans? I think not. Better you name your, likely, immaterial terms and be done with this charade.”
Afton leveled his gaze at the matron. “I offer no terms,” he said, “but hold you to your oath. You have sworn fealty to the king of Hyrule, and no amount of disputing will allow you to deny it. As ally to the throne of Hyrule I ask you to keep your honor and release the gate guard.”
The shrieks of discord began before the knight had even finished speaking, and Nabooru was forced to raise her arms in order to get a word in.
“Silence!” she called. The Gerudo fell quiet. “Ally, you say?” Nabooru spat on the ground. “Honor, you say…?” She breathed the words as if they were a noxious fume. “What honor has the throne of Hyrule when it is occupied by that ignorant, intolerant, belligerent half-wit who calls himself a king!? Hater of women and fickle to the marrow, he pretended to consider the release of our people when he planned from the very start to condemn them to die with no chance to save themselves! Murderer! I honor no vow of fealty that is misused by such a man! It was not so with Ganondorf Dragmire, and it shall not be with any other man to the end of the world. The Gerudo are free, and free to take whomever they please as prisoner in recompense for the wrongs done to us by the Hylian bastard who sits on the throne of Hyrule!”
The Gerudo erupted in acceptance of this speech, the ring of their blades shredding the night to ribbons.
Afton stood tall. “The Great Gerudo Matron has called out the character of the king of Hyrule,” he proclaimed. “Can she also speak as to the innocence of her people?”
Silence. Tension vibrated through the air, emanating from Nabooru herself and paralyzing every soul who heard the deafening quiet.
“Say those words…again, manling.”
“I said the Gerudo are far from innocent themselves.”
Nabooru drew an arrow back in her bowstring and faster than the flitting of a fairy’s wing, it zipped past the knight’s head, nearly catching his ear.
Afton stood firm, his face expressionless. “The Gerudo have plundered in the name of survival for centuries. They are criminals who ignore law and take advantage of others’ labor.”
Nabooru drew another arrow, and she was about to release it at the knight, but something prevented her. Her weaker arm shook with the strain of keeping the bow taut.
“They tempt men with pleasures that were never theirs to ask; men they rob—not of their money—but of their self-respect, and the respect of their wives and children.” Afton continued, dauntlessly laying bare the Gerudo’s actions. “They sow chaos and reap the hatred of many. And even now, they breed violence where there can be peace. I cannot speak to the actions of our king; I do not pretend to know his counsel. And I do not pretend to have some great virtue that qualifies me to say these things and call down judgment which is only given to the Goddess to measure out. But I have great faith in the capacity of these, my sister Hyruleans, to merit the praise of their Goddess, Din, and honor her by showing mercy to the defenseless even when they have received no mercy in kind. I do not blame your people for the sins of your king, Great Nabooru. And I recognize that my king is a person like all others; apt to err as all do. I respect the power that is in your hands to end my life, and I beg you, Great Matron of the Gerudo, to release the gate guard and myself to go our way.”
“We will be delayed no longer,” said Nabooru, her arm straining to keep the arrow drawn. Sweat beaded on her face. “I will not accept the words you speak, knight. If they had come from another, your fate might have been different. May Nayru keep you.” And her fingers released their grip on the shaft.
“Hold!” a booming voice cried. And Nabooru’s aim was thrown off course, sending the arrow high into the night where it disappeared somewhere among the brightening stars. Nabooru looked, and where the voice had come from stood a man in the red coat and high crown of the royal line of Hyrule.
“I will not allow another man to die in my stead,” said Daphnes Hyrule. Boldly, he stepped forward, emerging from his hiding place, spreading his hands wide to show he had no weapon. “My knight has spoken true, Nabooru, thou art great among the leaders of this land. I ask no quarter; if my death is in your heart, I beg you to kill me. But leave this man and the guard to live another day in the shadow of their kingdom’s ruin.” The king thrust out his chest, advancing on the Gerudo Matron. “Kill me, I say! Avenge the wrongs of your people if you have the stomach to do it!”
Thus provoked, Nabooru drew another arrow and its tip sparkled with cold magic as she held the string taut. She grimaced with pain, convincing herself it was the strain of her arm, already weakened from holding the other arrow at the ready. But secretly something told her the king’s death would not pacify her anger, nor restore the lives of her lost sisters. Reluctantly, the string loosened, and the arrow ceased to glow.
The king raised his chin a moment, then hung his head. “Yes. I am not even worthy to ask your forgiveness. I was rash, foolish, arrogant, and thoughtless of your plight. I was so blinded by my own sorrows that I chose not to see yours. I could not have seen what so little a thing as my own pride could have cost you. How many perished in the starfall?”
“Twenty-three,” said Nabooru, wetness draining from her eyes. “Seventeen more perished from starvation or disease brought on by the pests who now patrol your prison. What excuses have you for the deaths of these forty souls who might have survived if you had released them?”
Daphnes bobbed his head humbly. “I do not excuse myself, but submit my actions to your judgment. Proclaim what sentence I am to receive and I swear to you by Nayru with this knight as my witness, I shall see it carried out.”
Nabooru’s face contorted with rage. “You dare mock the dead with false contrition!? Kneel before me, son of Hyrule!” Inhaling, the king lowered himself to the ground. “Kiss the dust on my feet!” He did so. Nabooru’s tears flowed more freely, now. “Remain there, in your penitent state, and do not move until I give you leave.” She raised her chin. “Knight, come here!”
Numb from the sight of his king bowing at the woman’s command, Afton obeyed; it would dishonor his king more not to obey Nabooru, now.
“Remove the knife from your boot,” she said. Afton’s muscles clenched. No. He could not do what he knew she would ask. “Remove the knife…from your boot,” she enunciated, emphasizing each word.
“Afton,” said the king quietly, never raising himself from the ground. “You must do as she says. I have submitted myself to her judgment, and you must abide it. Do as she says.”
Reluctantly, and with tears of his own, Afton stooped and recovered the knife he kept tucked in his boot.
“Press the blade to his throat.”
Shivering, breathing heavily, Afton shut his eyes. Even when he opened them again, he saw nothing but the shame that would come from his deed. Though he loathed himself for it, he finally acquiesced, tucking the knife-blade under his king’s chin. “I am sorry…Daphnes…”
“It is alright, Afton,” the king replied calmly. “Nayru would have a tame lion for the king of Hyrule, rather than a ferocious one.”
Nabooru’s eyes widened, inhaling deeply. A look of grim satisfaction swept over her face. But then, she faltered; unsure of herself. She turned around, facing the whole of her people. “This man’s sentence is death!” The whole of them cheered, clashing their swords, gnashing their teeth. “He shall be killed by his own servant!” she said, and the Gerudo praised their Matron’s words. “Atrocity shall be returned for atrocity!” Fewer cheered. “Death shall come upon the Hylian throne because of my judgment!”
Quiet prevailed in the magical torchlight.
“Why do you not praise this judgment? This man’s offense was inexcusable; he imprisoned criminals for their crimes, brought order to his kingdom, and denied them release when their doom lingered in the far-away reaches of the heavens, unknown even to us!” The women were silent, now, hearing more than what their Matron said.
“Release him!” called one of the Gerudo.
“But we must punish wrong for wrong!” the Matron cried. “We must show the Hylia that we are strong and will not tolerate their mistreatment!”
“Shut up, Nabooru, and let the man go!”
“The one who wronged our people is in our power; you do not wish to see his blood spilt?” Nabooru called.
One of the Gerudo emerged from the crowd. It was Jooru. “You know as well as we do that you won’t kill him, Nabooru,” she said, thrusting a finger in the Matron’s face. “And you know that no matter how much you play to our barbaric sympathies we won’t allow this man’s life put on our heads. He may be a bastard, but he’s a lot better than that wretch, Ganondorf. Let him live with his deeds on his conscience. Vengeance was Ganon’s way, not ours. Let’s go, girls! It’s gonna take a while to make camp, and we’ve already lost our sunlight…”
For a while Nabooru, Afton and the king stayed precisely where they were. The Gerudo paid no attention to the fact that Afton still held his knife to his king’s throat, nor that Nabooru was not helping with the preparations for camp. As they went along, one of the Gerudo shoved a frightened man to the ground. The gate guard was scarcely out of the woman’s grip when he stumbled, looked one way, then another, and promptly ran away, off into the night.
“Just as well,” said the Gerudo, smirking, “he smelled of feet. Don’t you Hylians take baths?” She rubbed her hands together and thumbed her nose. “You know, I can’t decide who to think less of. Sure, our lady here let the lot of us tell her what to do… But your man was about to kill you.” She scoffed. “You people scare me.” And she walked off to help the others make camp.
When the others were far enough away, Nabooru stooped low to the king. “My people have spoken. You are free to go.”
“Sweet Nayru, I thought you’d never say so,” said the king, stretching his back. He stood, and Afton stepped back, uncertain whether to sheath his knife.
“That’s it? Just let him go?” asked the knight. “Simply curious, mind you, but weren’t you set on killing us? What happened to that?”
Nabooru sighed. “Some habits are hard to break. We’ve been slaves to Ganondorf’s madness for so long it felt natural to want revenge. Daphnes, when you treated my people with disdain I felt something inside me that wanted to abandon the path I was trying to forge. The Hylia were different, I thought. If there was a people who could teach us a new way, it was you. But when the king could not so much as listen to reason—when you, the last person I could depend on to have mercy for us, effectively condemned us to die...” She waved a hand in the air, vaguely. “I thought Ganondorf might have been right. The world was only cruelty, and if there was something you wanted, you must take it or learn to live without it.”
“I meant what I said,” said the king. “I would have accepted any punishment you chose for me. Even death, if that would have appeased you. I knew my life was nothing compared to saving my people from the enmity the Gerudo would have toward them. If I defied you twice, my kingdom was in danger… But more than that, I was wrong. I never should have treated your people with such flippant disregard, no matter how I was hurting. I have always ever had my wife by my side to help me see that things were not always how I thought they were. That broken habit was also difficult to bear, though it was broken without my willingness. And when I was put to the test—when I did not have my wife to guide me—I failed to check myself. I am truly sorry. I cannot blame you for your erstwhile king’s mistakes. It was not you who…” he raised his hand to his neck “…put the knife to her throat.”
Nabooru turned her face away. “I am sorry about that. It was an easy and cruel thing to force you to remember how she died.” She blinked away the wetness in her eye. “I think it will take time,” she said, nodding to the Gerudo camp that was quickly being established, “but the girls and I plan on working Ganondorf out of ourselves. He has led us for so long… Like sand in the hair, I fear we may never be completely rid of him.” A smile crossed her face and the Silver Gauntlet flashed keenly in the light of the rising moon. “But you know that was a bit of a line with the ‘tame lion’ business…”
“How do you mean?” asked the king sincerely.
“You mean you really don’t know?” asked Nabooru. “Nabooru means ‘Tamer of Cats.’ I thought I had something going when I started training Gerudo, but when you said it just now I thought you really meant it. I mean, I didn’t even expect you to kiss my feet, but here you’re offering me the kingdom, and—”
“You mean to say…” Afton paused. “You thought the king was offering you…the throne of Hyrule.”
“Or at least conceding it, yeah. What, are you saying he wasn’t?” Afton and Daphnes exchanged glances. Nabooru grimaced. “Oh.”
Finally, Afton sheathed his knife and retrieved his rapiers from the tallgrass. “So what now? Do the Gerudo plan to reestablish themselves?”
Nabooru shrugged. “I don’t think any of us are quite sure, yet. Some have thought about piracy, others traveling the world robbing caravans.”
“What about you?” asked Daphnes. “Where would you have the Gerudo go?”
“I could see us as very successful nomads. Living off the land, exploring. We certainly have the survival skills. Maybe sailing to a distant island to settle down. I suppose we will see what the Goddess brings.”
“Well, I would like you to know that I have rethought my former impertinence. I don’t know about the whole kingdom, what is left of it, but if the Gerudo wish to stay in Hyrule, I am willing to divide a portion of land apart for them as a reservation—if only to get yourselves established. I also realize that you now have no males to continue your line.” Daphnes fumbled with his words. “I do not… That is, I cannot speak for the Townsmen, but…”
“You’re declaring open season on Hylian men, aren’t you?”
“Not in so many words, but yes.” The king demurred. “I will expect, of course, that the Gerudo select unmarried partners.”
“Of course,” said Nabooru wryly. “I’ll let them know you’re available.” And before either the king or the knight could say anything more, Nabooru had joined the rest of the women. Her voice faded as she walked away: “Alright, girls; who wants to be queen…?” There was an answer of general approval.
“Quite a woman, isn’t she?” said Daphnes, rubbing the back of his head. “Strong-minded and fickle to the last…”
“Funny,” said Afton. “That’s what she said about you.”
“I know, I heard.” This caught Afton’s attention; the king was suddenly straight-faced. “Listen, Afton, there isn’t much time. Just before the Gerudo came, Impa was able to recapture Abrum. She had preserved Gor Darmon’s Mask and used it to spirit her brother away. There’s no cause to be alarmed,” he said, holding up a pair of appeasing hands, “we all intend to honor your oath to him. He shall receive a fair trial. I sent Rauru and Lutai along to accommodate him. Tobias and Talon are waiting to take us back to the ranch. But we’re still on watch for the woman, Asera. Have you seen her?”
“No,” said Afton. “Impa took her away when the star fell. She must have escaped, somehow. We were waiting for her until the Gerudo attacked.”
“We suspected as much,” said the king, stroking his beard. “One thing is for certain; the way Impa spoke about them, it seems Asera will not give up until she rejoins Abrum. For this reason, I want to give you a special assignment.”
“And what is that, Your Majesty?” said Afton.
“Once we have Abrum properly detained, I want you to be his personal guard. Protect him and prevent anyone from attempting to help him escape. If she has not tried before his trial, Asera will certainly take advantage of the opportunity then.”
“Understood, Your Majesty.”
“Good man.” Daphnes was about to turn, but at the last moment, he hesitated. “Afton?”
“Yes, my Liege?” said the knight with a hand to his breast.
“Would you really have done it? If I had ordered it, I mean?”
Afton paused. “As a knight of Hyrule, I am bound by the orders of my king…” he began “…but I am more than just a knight of Hyrule, Daphnes. You know that.”
The king gave half a smile and nodded, reassured. “Thank you, Afton.” He glanced at the now-blazing campfire of the Gerudo camp. Many of them were grinning at him saucily. “Now all I need is a guard to keep away all my would-be brides.”
* * *
The following morning, the sun crept over the eastern mountains and filtered through the canopy of the woods. Each member of the camp was tired, but Ezlo had said they would need an early start. Arinco helped to put away the cooking things while Ruto sat on her log, staring at her enchanted bucket. Its waters were clear again, but the sight and smell of what had come from it the night before made her long for the clear, sweet waters of Zora’s Domain.
“It really is just fine, now, lass,” Arinco growled, sitting down beside the Zora princess. “Master Ezlo said it was just a mudslide somewhere nearby that made it turn bad.” He looked to the wizard for confirmation. “The water should be good as new, now.”
But Ruto would not be swayed. She said nothing, but grumped at the perfectly good water. “I want to go home,” she said quietly. “I could be there in a matter of hours if you’d just let me swim.”
“You know we can’t do that,” said Arinco, “We’ve got to make sure you’re safe. Your dad wouldn’t take kindly to us if anything happened to you. We’ve got to make a little delivery on the way, but we’ll be back in the Domain before you know it.”
Ruto folded her arms.
Arinco glanced around him as if what he said next would be inaudible to any but himself and the princess. “Truth be told, Your Highness, I miss my home quite a bit, too.”
Ruto looked the mayor over. “Yeah?” she asked dubiously.
“Put my hand on the very Book of Mudora himself,” he whispered significantly. “Thing is, I know what it means to Mister Ezlo that I keep him company, see? If I wasn’t here, why he’d go crazy!”
Ruto fought a smile. “He’s crazy already,” she whispered back.
“See how much he needs me?” said the mayor, spreading his hands wide. “But you know, we lonely folks gotta stick together, otherwise we’ll be even lonelier. Wouldn’t you say?”
Ruto wiggled on the log. “Yeah, okay.” She stared at the bucket again. “Hey, Mister Arinco?”
“Do you think you could check the water for me? Just to be sure?”
Arinco winked and reached out for the bucket. Flinching back cautiously, he peered inside and lifted the bucket to his lips. “Ahh, that’s some mighty good water if I do say so. I’ll let you know if it’s poisonous here in a minute.” And he cocked an eyebrow, considering whether he was experiencing any ill effects. “Nope. Just my luck; no poison. Here you go; all safe.”
Ruto laughed a little in spite of herself. “Thanks, Mister Arinco,” she said, taking the bucket from him.
But Ezlo suddenly tromped by, snatching the bucket from the princess. He upturned it, soaking the campfire, and returned it to the princess’ depraved arms. Ruto promptly took the bucket back and doused the wizard.
“Eep!” Ezlo cried. “What…!?”
But Arinco and Ruto glanced at each other and were off like a pair of bandits, busying themselves about taking down the tent, laughing as they went.
“Confound it, Arinco, you’re as bad as the princesses!” hollered the wizard, shaking the water from his sleeves. “Now I wish there was a fire…” he mumbled disconcertedly. Then, he noticed Link sitting on a log some distance away.
Ezlo made no sudden movements, but crept up alongside the boy. Link was staring at one of the broken pieces of the Mirror of Twilight, mesmerized by something he saw in his reflection. “Better to put that away, my boy…” Ezlo said quietly. He almost could not restrain a quaver in his voice. “Wouldn’t you say?”
Link blinked, shaking his head. “Hmm?”
The wizard reached out to take the Mirror from Link, who relinquished it reluctantly. “In its whole form, the Mirror of Twilight is a perilous item,” said Ezlo. “It can hinder as quickly as help, and once it has you, it is extremely difficult to get it to surrender its grasp.” He folded one wet sleeve over the mirror’s surface and immediately Link became a little more aware of himself. “Believe me, I know.”
Link lifted his gaze.
The wizard looked into the Mirror’s surface only briefly, and then looked away, shaking his head. “That’s why I broke it, yesterday. It can’t truly be destroyed, of course, except by the rightful ruler of the Twilight Realm, so it will reform when its pieces are brought together again. But at least it will not prove to be as dangerous this way.” Ezlo’s white brows knitted together. “And speaking of danger, why are you not with Zelda? You know that the Shadow could return at any moment.”
“I’m fine, Ezlo; it’s broad daylight,” Link said dismissively. Ezlo scoffed. “Alright, early morning, then. It’s light out, don’t be so cranky. Zelda’s in the tent. I didn’t want to wake her.”
But just then there was the flop of squashy wet canvas and the yelp of a young girl. From where they were, Ezlo and Link saw the tent collapse—and a very unhappy Zelda crawl out through the opening; wet, shivering and confused.
“I guess she’s not asleep anymore,” said Link.
Ezlo cleared his throat. “Master Mayor, if you please, that will be enough pranks for today! Honestly, I’m beginning to think that Master Link is more responsible than you…!”
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
“Raise the ocarina to your lips,” Stranger instructed. Link obeyed. “Now listen to the tune that will call your memories back from the Land of Gold.” And once, twice, Stranger hummed the melody. Link heard it, and knew he could play it without error. And then, he fit his fingers to the holes and played. The notes of the Hymn of Echoes rebounded from one wall of the Sanctuary to the other, carrying their magic into effect…
Knowledge flowed into him! The world opened, and the walls flashed gold! Link’s mind rushed with images his mortal eyes had never seen, sounds his pointed ears had never heard—he remembered the tingling brush of golden leaves over his fur, the guttural rumble of a lupine growl in his throat. He recalled the woman with the golden coverlet, and he remembered her name. “Orda!” he shouted aloud, and in his mind the name reverberated as it literally echoed off the walls of the Sanctuary.
But his journey was not done, and his mind was hurled even further through the thick and churning ocean of memories that now came to him with increasing familiarity. Back through receiving his charge from his father, his experiences in the vast and empty void before Hyrule’s creation, back before his vision of the Triforce, before he met the golden beasts and the mysterious one-eyed wolf. He saw the shadow of the Fierce Deity looming over him as his own death undid itself, watched as Hyrule was restored from desolation to life…
Faster and faster his memory recoiled itself, showing him the result of the starfall in the time he had come from before he entered the Golden Land. He saw Malon, and Zelda, and Saria. There were Afton, Ruto, Talon, Impa, the Sages and the King of Hyrule. Faster, faster flashed his quest to seal Ganon in the Four Sword, his trials in Termina, and his journey through time to awaken the six sages and save the future. Then he was in the Koroki Forest with Saria, and Mido and the others and he was just another boy without a fairy…
Yet further still! Before he could ever remember; there was Saria, scooping him up in her arms when he was a very small baby—and before that, his mother, and her loving green eyes. With the swiftness of thought they were riding backward through the forest, there was a flash of golden light, and then his father was kissing his mother, and wishing them safe journey…
“Mother! Father!” he said aloud, as their true golden forms were restored to his thoughts, and everything else came cascading with it; his father’s story of the Sheikah and the two wolves, basking in the warmth of his mother’s love, and the light of Navi, his guiding star! He heard Orda’s words again, telling him that one who had sacrificed herself for him would be allowed to guide him… He could see his fairy now, shining gold against the cold gray of the Sanctuary walls. He saw her move in the heavens, descending from her place among the other heavenly bodies, growing, becoming more real…
And then he realized that what he saw was not a memory, but the actual fairy herself. The orb of light penetrated the stained-glass window seamlessly, and suddenly her light turned a vibrant, living blue! She was the one Orda had sent as his guide; the one he had sought for so long was now his guardian once again!
“Navi! You’re back!” he called, and he ran to her.
“Link!” the fairy called out. She nestled herself into the folds of his tunic. “Link, I saw you in the Golden Land and I wanted to talk to you so badly, but I knew I couldn’t and now you’re here and I’m here and we’re together again!”
“I was looking for you for so long, Navi, I can hardly believe it’s you!” It felt good to remember what it felt like to have her near him again. Her presence enlivened him, and it felt like a piece of him had suddenly woken up from a deep sleep. He spun around, suddenly feeling very Korokish. His feet began moving almost on their own, and they were running, he and his fairy, finally reunited after what felt like an eternity.
“There’s so much we have to talk about, Link,” Navi called, swooping around his head.
But Link was too excited to listen. “You’ve been gone for so long; I’ll have to tell you everything! I went to Termina looking for you and I everything was so strange; everyone was there, but they were all different… And Ganon came back and he made my shadow come to life and Zelda and I had to fight him off and we captured Ganon and sealed him in the Four Sword, and…” He stopped; Navi was drooping in the air, forlorn. “Hey, what’s wrong?”
“Link,” she said sadly. “Link, I’m so sorry…”
“Navi, it’s okay. Whatever it is, I’m sure it’s fine…” Link couldn’t think what could possibly be troubling her so. In all his new memories he could not think of one thing she should regret. All the same, his heart went out to her and he wanted nothing more than to make her feel better, whatever it was. “It’s just great to have you back!”
“No, Link, it’s not,” she said, drifting away from him. “I did something terrible, okay…? I helped your Shadow get the Four Sword—I didn’t mean to, he didn’t give me any choice…! I mean, if I didn’t help him you would have…died…” She sniffed, and flew off.
“Navi, please, don’t go! Navi, it’s okay…” Link realized now far more acutely that everything Stranger had told him about his other self was true. This was why he could not remember; the fairy had not sacrificed herself for him, but for his other self. The fairy must have been through something horrible if she was so upset by it. “Navi, it’s alright. You see this man, here?” said Link kindly, hoping to get the fairy’s attention. Stranger stood by in polite silence. “This is a friend of mine, his name is Tobias…well, sort of, it’s really Tova, but…”
“Call me Stranger,” he said, bowing to the fairy. “I’ve heard so much about you, Navi; it really is a pleasure to meet you.”
“Right, Stranger here says all of that was supposed to happen,” Link explained. “My other self…the Shadow that tricked you released Ganon, too.” Navi gasped, sobbing into her tiny hands. “No, I didn’t mean… Navi, I’m not saying it’s your fault—it all happened so there would be balance in Hyrule.” Link paused, realizing that this statement was part what he had learned from Stranger and part what he had learned from the Goddess of Time. “In order to maintain balance,” he continued, half-amazed at what he was saying, “we have to defeat the Gods of Shadow. Only then can Ganon come back and the eternal story can continue… Ganon is as much a part of Hyrule as you and I…are…”
Navi sniffed, now more awed than distressed. “Really, Link…? You’re not mad at me?” Link half-smiled, shaking his head. “You know, you’re different now… You’re more…” and Link could hear the smile in her voice “…heroic.”
Link grinned wide. “You know, I’ve got to go save Hyrule, again,” he said wryly. “You wanna come?”
“Yeah.” The fairy demurred. “When do we leave?”
Link whooped with joy. His arms flew open, and Navi barreled into him, overflowing with gratitude for the boy’s graciousness. Link sank to the ground and lifted a single finger, letting the fairy perch there lightly, giggling together as child-like nostalgia overcame them.
“Do you know, Navi, I remember everything I ever said to you in the Golden Land like it was two seconds ago.”
“Me, too,” the fairy demurred. “You were so sweet, Link. I just felt horrible for what happened in the Four Sword Sanctuary… But now we can fix all that. What do we do?”
“Well,” Link said, standing again, “I have to put on the Fierce Deity Mask, and face my Shadows. Then we have to track down the Shadow Gods and defeat them. After that; same old story. As soon as you’re ready, we’ll have Stranger here take us back to the future.”
Navi did an excited swoop over his head. “Let’s do it!”
Stranger grimaced. “Ah…yes, I suppose I had been putting off telling you about that.”
“About what?” Link asked innocently. But soon the mirth was gone. Stranger’s straight face told him this was not a laughing matter.
Stranger inhaled. “Unfortunately, Master Stump, I cannot take you back to your time.”
* * *
“How long will it be before we land?” Arinco shouted over the gales of wind that blew past them. “Ruto will need water soon, and the bucket has gone dry.” They were all assembled on the flying carpet again, Arinco at the back, then Ruto, Zelda, Link, and finally Ezlo.
“We’re too high for the bucket to pull on anything,” the wizard shouted back. “We’re nearly to the ranch; she can wait until then. I’m sure Master Talon will have something for her.”
“Talon’s water tastes like horses!” called Ruto into the wind.
“Maybe that’s because he runs a ranch,” Link answered. “I know the first thing I’m doing is getting something to eat out of the ranch-house. Do you think Talon will have any soup? I’ve got this weird craving.”
“Good,” said Arinco, “you can take Ruto with you.”
“Aw, c’mon!” the boy protested.
“No, I hate to say so, but it’s in both of your best interests,” the mayor reaffirmed. “Just stick together and meet us back at the entrance when you’ve finished.”
“Oh, alright,” the children agreed.
Zelda said nothing, but shivered as the air swept over her. She had not quite been able to dry off before they left. She pulled the blanket Ezlo had given her tighter around herself.
As they neared the ranch from above, they all noticed several things at once. The ranch was packed to the gate with tents and clusters of people moving about; the Townspeople who continued to remain sequestered in the ranch’s confines. But there was another group that was now pouring out of the gate of the ranch, making preparations to leave. A few people, soldiers by the look of them, were standing by attempting to prevent the group.
“Daddy’s down there,” Zelda chattered through shivering teeth. “I wonder where they’re going?”
“We’ll find out soon enough,” said Ezlo, and made to land the flying carpet near the entrance of the ranch.
The king raised a hand to his brow, watching the flying carpet settle just off the tallgrass. “Zelda? My little girl, is that you?” Zelda ran to embrace her father. “My dear, you’re all damp! Run along inside and let Talon set you up by the fire.”
“Thank you, Daddy, but I’m fine. Where are all these people going?”
The king sighed. “I’ve tried to make them listen to reason, but they insist that they won’t stay a moment longer. They say they won’t wait for the Town to be rebuilt; they’d rather live elsewhere entirely. The leader among them—”
“Excuse me, Your Majesties…” A man presented himself humbly, bowing before the king and the princess. “I saw you land—well everybody did, frankly—and I just couldn’t bring myself to leave without meeting the princess of Hyrule herself. May be the last chance I have, see.”
“Ah, yes, this was the man I was telling you about, Zelda. Mo, here, leads the group that is moving south of Hyrule.”
“Pleased to meet you, Mo.” Zelda curtseyed graciously. “I understand you do not wish to stay and help rebuild our Town?”
“Thing is,” said Mo, “my first son is on the way. We need to find a steady place to live. Not just for my wife, but for little Jo, too. I know how to build, and Caggle has a good many pumpkin seeds. Burt’s willing to leave his sheep here—it’d be too hard to drive a flock through the woods and not lose some, and he knows you all could use the meat to feed the folks who’re stayin’. But we hear there’s mountain goats down south and he’s a good wrangler; he could get a herd rustled up in no time. We figure if we get at least as far as the gorge we can still plant soon enough to have a crop by the wintertime and…well, it’s better than never knowing if the Town’ll be finished before my son is born.”
“You see?” The king sighed; he knew that he could not convince the man otherwise.
“I see that you have great troubles before you,” said Zelda to the man. “But I fear we cannot offer our blessing for you to go. The enemies of Hyrule are abroad, and we do not know yet what their agendas are. If you leave, Hyrule cannot ensure that you will be safe. If you stay, at least until we can learn more about our enemies, I promise you that we will formally set apart a land in the south for your families. For the time being, you will be safe here.”
The man bowed. “Her Majesty is indeed wise. I’ll tell the others; we’ll stay in the ranch until we’re given the go-ahead. Thank you, Princess.” He bowed again.
“My dear one,” said the king when the man had left, “I do not know what you have been through, but I do believe you have returned to me a good deal older.” He glanced at the flying carpet which Ezlo was now rolling up. “Where have you been these past days?”
“With Ezlo. He can tell you about it. But we need to call a council, Daddy, the sooner the better. The people deserve to know when we will be returning to the Town, and what our plans are to rebuild it. They’ll need assurance that there will be a place for their families to stay during the construction. Maybe Mo has the right idea; with Kakariko gone we could establish a village south of Hyrule where the women and children could live while the able citizens are working on the construction efforts. Mutoh would be a good candidate to lead the work; his work on Kakariko was thorough, if a little slow. And if we’re going to rebuild the Town we’ll want to make it even grander than before. I have some ideas how we can strengthen the buildings and make them more resistant to earthquakes. We could even flesh out the market a little; make it more visible to incoming visitors…”
“Very well,” said the king, sincerely impressed. “I will let the Sages know; we’ll meet at once.” He paused a moment, taking in the sight of her. “You do so remind me of your mother,” he said, embracing her again, “and I am so glad you’re safe.”
“Me, too, Daddy,” she said, squeezing her father, taking in his familiar presence. “Me, too.”
“Forgive me, Your Majesties,” said a mousy voice. “We have somewhat of a pressing matter.”
“Ah, yes, Master Ezlo. It seems the star did not travel precisely as you predicted.”
“Er…no, Your Majesty. There must have been…complications. I’m afraid I cannot speak as to the reason—”
“No matter,” said the king. “It was the effect of magic. One of the culprits is in custody, and we watch for the other even now. It was no fault of your own.”
“Thank you, sir,” said the wizard, exhaling in relief. “I’m afraid there is yet one other matter which must concern us, however. You will understand…I have retrieved the Mirror of Twilight from the Palace of Darkness.”
The king’s eyes widened meaningfully. “The Mirror of…! Ezlo, where is it?” The wizard turned to one side, looking in the direction of the mayor, who stood beside a stack of canvas bags, each concealing something wide and flat. “Then the Trident… Is it still…?”
“Alas, no. Master Link was involved in somewhat of an unfortunate situation. The security of Ganondorf’s spirit has been…compromised. I suspect he may have the Trident with him, wherever he is. Hence the…” he looked to the stack of canvas bags again “…precaution.”
The king’s face became very sober indeed. “Zelda, my dear, it seems we may have more than one thing to discuss at our council. Thank you, Ezlo. I’ll leave the custody of the Mirror to you. For now, we should avoid mentioning it by name. Shall we call it the…Shield of Dusk?
“A wise suggestion, Majesty.” Ezlo dipped his head. There was a canine growl from behind, but then Ezlo turned and realized that it was only Arinco clearing his throat.
“Begging your pardon, Majesties,” said the mayor, “but the townsfolk are starting to stare.”
“And who is this, Master Ezlo?” asked the king.
“Yes, forgive me, Majesty, this is the esteemed Mayor Arinco. He comes to us from a faraway place. A village called Ordon.”
“I assume, then, that his garb has been lent to him?” The king scanned the mayor’s tunic and chain shirt.
“Er, yes, Your Majesty. When he arrived his clothing was…er…unsightly from his travels. I offered him one of the outfits you asked me to enhance with magic. I hadn’t quite gotten to it, yet.”
“No matter, no matter,” said the king, extending a hand. “Welcome, Arinco, Mayor of Ordon. It does not appear to be much, but this is Hyrule, our kingdom.” He laid one hand on his daughter’s shoulder.
Arinco bowed. “I am most pleased to make your acquaintance, Your Highness, but as I was saying, the people are becoming inquisitive. I think we ought to find a safer location for the Mir—”
“Er, the Shield, you mean, Arinco?” Ezlo corrected.
The mayor furrowed his brow. “Shield?”
“Yes, the Shield of Dusk we retrieved from the royal stores of Hyrule Castle—it was damaged in the starfall,” Zelda clarified, playing along. “We will have to get the pieces reforged if it is ever to serve as a proper shield again.” She winked at the mayor.
“Yes, of course,” said Arinco, falling into stride with the others. “Where shall I store the Shield until it can be reforged, then?”
“I think one of the silos will do,” said the king. “I will have Talon help you find a place that is…out of the way.”
“Yes, of course, Your Majesty.” Arinco bowed, a hand pressed to his chest. He resumed his position beside the stack of canvas bags.
“Does anything seem amiss to you about that man?” the king asked after sending a soldier to fetch the rancher.
“How do you mean?” said Zelda. “He seems a very nice man, and very loyal to the kingdom in the time I have been with him. What seems out of place?”
“It’s only…” the king hesitated “…the way he bows, and placed his fist to his chest—it was so natural. Yet, you say he came from faraway, Master Wizard?”
“Er, yes, Your Majesty…” replied Ezlo, a little nervously. “Other kingdoms use the same gesture, I’m sure…”
“I suppose so,” the king admitted. “He just reminds me of…”
“…Colin, our late Captain of the Royal Guard.”
* * *
Afton pulled open the door of the ranch-house and strode into the living room. “Talon,” said the knight, nodding to the rancher. “There’s a soldier outside who sends word from the king. You’re needed at the entrance of the ranch.”
Talon lifted his head and sniffed. “Yeah, yeah, o’ course,” he said, drawing his hand under his nose. In his hands he turned over a small wooden object. Afton knew it to be one of the girl’s kerchief-clasps. “I was jes’… Well, I ain’t busy.” He stood.
“Talon, is something the matter?” asked the knight. He put a hand on the rancher’s shoulder. “If you’d like to talk, you know I’m always ready to listen…”
“Oh, shucks, I know, Mister Afton. But you must be right busy, just now…” The rancher looked at his hands.
“Not at all, Talon, I can always make time for a friend. And you can drop the ‘Mister,’ remember?”
Talon gave a nervous chuckle, wiping his nose again. “Yeah, I know… But what ‘bout the soldier outside? I cain’t keep the king waitin’.”
“Don’t worry. He just needs someone to find a good spot to store some equipment. From the sound of it, it could go anywhere. I’ll just let them know you said the silos are free, shall I?”
Talon beamed. “You’d do that?”
“Sure,” said Afton, smiling. The knight stuck his head outside the door, said something to the attending soldier, pointed off in the direction of the silos and saluted. He closed the door. “There, all taken care of. Now why don’t we take a moment to ourselves, shall we?”
The pair sat in two chairs facing the room’s two large windows. They stared out at the Hylian encampment, people passing in hazy languidness as they considered their scant rations distastefully. Yet, when one woman lowered herself to the fire before her tent, she smiled, kissing her young daughter on the head. Turning, Afton thought he could see the rancher’s eyes become misty.
“She’ll be fine, Talon,” said the knight. “Malon’s a strong girl.”
“What’sat? Oh, I know…” Talon patted Afton’s knee. “Don’t you worry none, she’ll be fine… She’ll be fine…”
“It’s okay to miss her, Talon.” Afton turned to look out the window. “She is your daughter. If I had a daughter, and she were missing, why…”
“…you’d do ever’thing y’could t’git to her.” Afton was silent, nodding. “But someone's got to run this here ranch," said the rancher, "what with so many guests...” He turned the kerchief-clasp over in his hands. “She ain’t been gone this long before. I ain’t seen her since that day at the castle… After you and I was done talkin’ I came home right away, see? What with the wagon busted I needed ta git to work on buildin’ another one an’ I rushed out as soon I knew Mally was gonna stay with their Highnesses an’ such. Now the wagon don’t seem so important…” He sniffed. Afton put a hand on one of Talon’s thick arms. “I jes’ cain’t help but wonder whether any more o’ them big pigs is runnin’ ‘round and, well, what might happen if she meets up with one…”
“Talon, I can’t think of any other ten-year-old girl who can teach a feral to half-pass in less than three weeks. Malon’s done some amazing things in ten years, and I’m sure she’ll outdo herself in the next ten. If she ever meets a monstrous boar, I’m sure she would have it cantering in no time.”
Talon chuckled out loud, breaking through the spirit of gloom. “Yeah, she sure would, wouldn’t she?” He sat back in his chair. “Shucks, who’m I kiddin’? That girl’s bin takin’ care o’ me ever since her mother passed. I never wanted it that way; I jus’ didn’t know what ter do without Daphne, and Mally was so strong, see? As soon as she was old enough she was training them horses up right nice and winning shows in the Town. That’s what got us a right good deal with the king…” Talon threw his arms out to either side, enunciating his words ceremoniously: “Now Lon Lon Ranch is the lone proprietarian of all the Hylian royal family’s equinious needs…” He lowered his arms. “Mally’s handled the horses since then. I jus’ stuck with what I knew; milkin’ the cows. Kep’ my hands busy, you know?”
Afton nodded. He glanced at the kerchief-clasp again. It was fashioned of wood—hand-carved, Afton supposed—and resembled a monstrous face somewhat like the cross between a turtle and a dragon. “What is that supposed to be, anyway? That is, I’ve seen Malon wear it but I could never tell what it was.”
“What, this? Oh, back when Mally was little we heard tell of funny things happenin’ in strange parts. Word came in from outta-towners about some feller and his brother gussied up in red and green coveralls chasin’ down this monster that kidnapped the feller’s ladyfriend. Mally never acted like a lady, see, but she loved ta go ‘round pretendin’ ta be the monster. So I made this up fer her birthday. She’s held on to it ever since.” Talon sniffled.
Afton mused on this, smiling as his gaze drifted out the window again. “She’ll be back. Don’t you worry,” Afton said finally. “I’m going to go check on our prisoner. You’ll be okay, Talon?”
“Yeah, I’ll be fine. Thanks for the sit, hey pardner?”
“Anytime,” said Afton, and he turned and climbed the stairs to the upper floor. A white-masked Lutai nodded to the knight as he passed, standing guard. The knight knocked on the door to the spare room, where he knew Abrum was being held.
“Abrum?” said the knight. “Abrum, may I speak with you?” He waited, but there was no answer. “He is still here, is he not?”
“Yes,” Lutai responded in her ghostly baritone. “I have stood here since his imprisonment. “Rauru waits outside the only window. He will not have escaped without one of us seeing him.”
“He must be sleeping, then,” Afton surmised. “Do you mind if I go in? I need to speak with him.”
“Be my guest,” she said, unlocking the door. “I will need to lock you in, unfortunately.”
“Understood. I’ll let you know I’m ready to leave with this rhythm.” The knight patted the top of his hand with a certain beat. Lutai nodded, letting the knight inside the room. The door closed and clicked behind him. On the bed was a form covered in blankets.
“Abrum?” Afton began quietly. “I need to speak with you.” The knight stepped closer to the form, seeing if it would move. When it did not, he continued. “I want you to know I did not know of the king’s plans to capture you at the boulder yesterday evening. I hope you realize that I did not wish for you to be recaptured so abruptly. If I had the chance, I would rather you have met with Asera, so as to ease her heart concerning you.” The knight wavered. “I cannot speak to the severity of your sentence, or if we will be able to find Asera, but I promise you that if there is any message you wish me to convey, I will deliver it to her. I understand this is somewhat unorthodox to offer a condemned man, but I am not without sympathies for one who knows his love is in peril.” Still there was no response. “Abrum, are you awake?” Afton drew back the corner of the blanket.
And rushed to the window.
Outside was the ghostly Rauru, floating in the air. Afton threw open the window and the sage turned on the spot immediately. “Halt! You shall not pa— Oh, dear me! Afton, why are you opening the window, the prisoner may escape!”
“He has already escaped,” barked the knight frantically, “did you not see him?”
“No, I have seen none come into or out of this room since Impa insisted upon an audience.”
“Impa!? Lutai said there had been none to enter the room since they placed Abrum inside. How did she get in?”
“I took the post over from Impa this morning. Instead of leaving she asked if she could have a minute with her brother. She entered through the window.”
“Did she ever leave?” Afton pleaded. “Rauru, did Impa leave?”
“Well, no, I assumed she was in there with you.”
The knight gripped his hair with one hand, grinding his teeth. “She would not do this. I will not believe that Impa helped him.”
Rauru floated closer. “Afton, you are not yourself. Are you alright? What are you stammering about?”
“Impa, Rauru!” the knight exclaimed, white knuckled. “Impa has helped her brother escape!”
* * *
“Reporting, my Liege,” said Krelian, tapping the butt of his fishbone spear on the floor of the waterfall cavern. With him was half of the battalion that had accompanied him to Lake Hylia. This fact did not go unnoticed by King Zora, who leaned forward squishily in his seat.
“I will be looking forward to hearing why you return empty-handed with half the forces I sent you out with.”
“Sir…” Krelian began, somewhat awkwardly. “The Temple of Water was infiltrated by the demon suspected by many to be the God of Decay. We closed off the entrance in an effort to contain the intruder, but we were unsuccessful in detaining him. His whereabouts are currently unknown.”
“Forgive me, but there is more, sir,” Krelian interrupted.
King Zora frowned with his great fishy lips. “Continue.”
“The Temple itself has been destroyed, sir.” There was a hush as the attendants in the cavern took in the news of this atrocity.
“This ‘God of Decay’ did this?” asked the king.
“No, sir. Another creature. We have little information regarding this second intruder. None seem to know where it came from or how it got inside. In all frankness, my Liege, we cannot understand how it could have fit through the entrance; it was far too…big.”
“Then how did it escape?” asked King Zora.
“My Liege, it…blasted its way out.”
“Blasted?” King Zora repeated, his fish eyes bulging.
“Yes, my Liege. It had insurmountable power. We only just caught a glimpse of the thing before it had flown away.”
“Flew away, you say…” said King Zora.
“Yes, sir.” Krelian was utterly straight-faced.
The Zora king inhaled heavily. “Is there anything else?” he asked warily.
“We are not certain if anything can be done, sir, but there is only one witness who might be able to offer any perspective on what happened…”
“What do you mean ‘if anything can be done’?” demanded the Zora King.
With a snap of his fingers, Krelian had his troops haul in what appeared to be a statue covered in algae. Upon closer inspection, however, King Zora noticed that the figure was remarkably life-like; a woman poised as if grasping something. And on one arm she wore a single Silver Gauntlet.
Upon seeing the woman, the king’s fishy eyes bulged in his head again. “So I wasn’t crazy after all…”
Krelian stepped closer. “I’m sorry, my Liege… Did you say something?”
“I said I’m not crazy, Krelian,” repeated the king.
Krelian looked nervously to either side. “I, uh… I see, sir.”
“Do you know what this means?” asked King Zora, somewhat perturbed.
“No, sir,” Krelian admitted.
“This means, Krelian, that I wasn’t just hearing voices coming from thin air, before.” Krelian paused, uncertain how to respond. The king sat up in his seat more confidently. “Go outside and tell me if there is a bird flying overhead.”
Hesitantly at first, Krelian left the cavern and returned. “Yes, sir. There are many birds flying overhead. The usual gulls, a heron or two…”
“Was there a hawk…with red eyes?”
“Er… Yes, sir. Sitting on a branch just outside of the falls. How did you know?”
“Nevermind that, Krelian. Bring me the hawk. He will release the curse on this woman and then we shall have the answers that you and your men were unable to provide. Perhaps the Mask Keeper and your witness can fill in the gaps of this mystery.”
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 eyes narrowed. “What do you mean you can’t take us back to the future?”
Stranger gave a hasty bow. “Please understand, it’s not that I do not wish to, but it is not within my power to travel…into the future…”
Link’s stare became hard. “Then how…” he folded his arms “…did you expect us to get back?”
“I had hoped you would understand; if I told you any earlier, you might not have agreed to come with me and hear what I had to teach you…” Stranger sighed. “As Chosen of Time it is within my power to travel back into the past, changing smaller events in an effort to alter what shall happen in the distant future. Alas, my power is limited to travelling backward in time, and not forward.”
“And you took us ten years into the past!” Link had been so excited to be reunited with Navi, and now he did not know how things could be worse. “How are we supposed to do anything if I can’t even get back to my own time?”
“Yeah, mister!” Navi added, shoving her tiny face at the Sheikah man. “What exactly were you planning this whole time?”
Stranger put out a hand, attempting to ease the tension. “I did not say you could not return, Link. I only said that I could not take you…” When he saw that Link was listening, he looked to the center of the room.
Link’s eyes widened; without even turning around, he knew what Stranger was suggesting. “The Master Sword…”
“Precisely. You were the only person meant to wield the Master Sword, Link, but you must be old enough to do so. As you are now, the Master Sword would seal you in the Sacred Realm the way it did just before Ganon claimed the Triforce.”
“But won’t that only take us seven years into the future?” Navi challenged.
“Six, actually,” said Stranger, much chagrined. “Link is eleven, now, I understand.”
“Oh. Really?” said Navi, surprised by this. “Well…happy birthday, Link.”
“Um…” The boy blinked. “Thanks.”
“But don’t think this gets you off the hook, Switch-o Strange-o,” raged the fairy, going straight back into her tirade. “Even if we do take the Master Sword route, we’ll still have another four years to wait before we can do anything about those stupid Shadow Gods!”
“Not if Link is wearing the Fierce Deity Mask,” said Stranger simply.
Link threw out his hands. “Navi, hold it.” Now he was sincerely intrigued. “What did you say?”
“Gods are immortal,” the Sheikah explained, pacing again, “and those who wear the Masks of the Gods do not age. Thus the God’s immortality is bestowed on their host. Link, if you draw the Master Sword while you wear the Mask of the Fierce Deity, the Sword will draw you into the Sacred Realm, where you will never age, and therefore never awaken.”
“But that’s even worse!” Link exclaimed. “If I stay in the Sacred Realm forever, there won’t be anybody to face the Shadow Gods!”
A knowing smile crossed Stranger’s face. “Unless someone can manage to wake you up at the right moment.” He paused for effect. “I may not be able to come with you into the Sacred Realm, but I may still be useful.”
“Alright, spill it, wise guy,” Navi goaded. “We’re not getting any younger.”
Stranger nodded. “Link, do you remember the song you used out in Termina to raise the Woodfall Temple?”
Link gasped. “The Sonata of Awakening!”
Navi looked between them, utterly confused. “What? What’s Woodfall? What are you two talking about?”
Link chuckled. “Long story, Nav. Once this is all over, I’ll have to tell you about it. In the meantime, we’re as ready as we’ll ever be. Let’s get this boulder rolling!” And he reached into his satchel and removed the Fierce Deity Mask.
“Patience,” said Stranger. Link paused. “There’s no rush this time. You and I have much to discuss, and it’s better if you have a plan. I’ve been down this time stream more than once, and I can assure you, the way is less than calm. Now, if you’ll just wait here a moment, I can be away and back in no time; you haven’t had anything to eat in some time and I’m sure you could do with some sleep.”
With these words, Link realized just how tired and hungry he really was. “Yeah,” he said, stretching. “That’d be great. Say, could you grab some of that superb soup from the café in town? It was really great…”
“I’m not so certain I can manage anything quite so extravagant,” said Stranger, spreading his arms wide. “As you can see, living a life of constant time-travel has left me a rather unsuccessful thief when it came to the luxuries. All the same, I am certain the Temple pantry will have a stock of bread and cheese, if that will do.”
“No problem,” Link assured him. “We’ll just wait here until you get back.”
But then there were the faint notes of a soprano ocarina, and little lights came sweeping in through the stained-glass windows. Link stared at the ocarina in his hand, wondering how it had made the sound when no one had played it.
“Ah, it looks as if I am already back. I suppose I shall have to leave presently, then. See you in a moment.” Stranger opened his hand for the ocarina, and the very second Link had given it to him, the man did not even pause to place his hood over his head, but vanished on the spot. Meanwhile, the sweeping lights materialized before Link and Navi, and became the old Sheikah man again. In his hand were provisions, a blanket, and a cushy bedroll.
“I don’t think the monks will miss this for a while,” said Stranger cheerfully, unrolling the sleeping pad on the stone floor. “And here is our supper, as promised.”
Link took the loaf of bread and block of cheese with utter bewilderment. Navi looked back and forth between the Sheikah and the window through which he entered, likewise speechless. Stranger seemed not to notice, but smoothed the bedroll flat and sat on it, inviting Link to do the same.
“Well, don’t keep it all to yourself, Master Stump, an old man does need to eat as well, now and then.” Link sat and parted the bread down the middle, giving half of it to Stranger. The man bowed his head a moment, holding the bread out before him, and then began tearing pieces off with his fingers.
“You traveled through time, just now, didn’t you?” Link asked, still holding his loaf.
“I knew you’d figure it out,” said Stranger between bites. “Aren’t you going to eat that after I went to all the trouble to get it for you?”
“Oh, yeah, yeah,” said Link, biting off a large chunk. He was rather hungry, after all. He gave a smaller piece of the bread to Navi to nibble on, and then fell into a pensive silence. “Stranger?”
“Yes, Master Stump?” said the man, biting into a hunk of cheese.
“You said you couldn’t travel forward through time…which means that you just spent however long it took you to get this stuff and to us only three seconds went by.”
“Well, yes,” said Stranger, breaking off a section of cheese. “But it wasn’t all that long. Perhaps twenty minutes or so. Why do you mention it?”
“I don’t know I just…” Link set his bread down on the bedroll. “I’m really grateful for all your help, is all, and I don’t know how to thank you…”
“Oh, Link, honestly, it’s an honor to even consider the opportunity to meet you, let alone realize what a better place Hyrule will be after you’ve defeated the Shadow Gods! I’d have travelled millennia if it meant ensuring I did what I could to help you succeed; twenty minutes for a little bread and cheese is nothing. In truth, I should be thanking you.” Stranger gave a kind little half-bow. “If not for your help, my future, the future of all Hyrule, would certainly be doomed.”
Link fumbled with his cheese, taking little bites. “But…when I go into the future…what will happen to you? You’ll just be here, waiting? For that long?”
Stranger’s brow furrowed. “Well, yes, Link, that is what it will require… It may be a lonely ten years, but I give it willingly, as I have done before. That is how much your success means to me.”
“But all that time you’ve spent planning—you said you’ve done this six times… How many of those times did you come back into the past and have to live through those ten years again just for me to fail you?”
Now Stranger lowered his gaze. His expression became wearier, and Link thought he could see a pain there that he had not considered before. “Every time.”
Link knew precisely what this meant: Stranger had spent at least sixty years pursuing a goal he had not yet seen realized. “And how many times did you go back to change something else? How long have you spent making sure the circumstances were just right?” he asked. It was simple, and direct, but Link knew the answer would be like telling how many years one had been in prison, locked away, alone. “How many years have you spent working for me to succeed?”
Stranger’s face now seemed devoid of life. “What does it matter?” he asked. “I have done what I knew I must to accomplish the Goddess’ will. I cannot complain.” And he reached for another piece of bread.
Link placed a hand on Stranger’s arm. “Tova,” he said quietly. The man stopped at the sound of his true name. “I’ve been through time. I know what it can do to you. I traveled seven years into the future and back, at least twice. I repeated the same three days—I can’t remember how many times—trying to keep the train of events straight in my head. Shoot, I wouldn’t have had a chance if not for a notebook this kid gave me. And through all of it I made mistakes, felt helpless when I didn’t see all of my work make any difference. You get confused; wonder if any of it will matter, or if, after everything you do, the world will just end the way it always does, and you’re back to day one. You start repeating conversations in your head, trying to remember if you’ve had them yet that day. You remember the sounds of the world going on around you and it all feels like it’s made up; like somebody’s playing with you, trying to see how long they can make you play the game. But it’s not a game. Not to me. Not to you.”
The Sheikah man just stared at the folded blanket to one side. From the distant look in his red eyes it was clear he could identify with everything Link had mentioned, and yet more. Link looked to Navi, who fluttered over to sit on Stranger’s shoulder sympathetically.
“But one thing I remembered the whole time was how much people needed me,” Link continued. “I knew, way better than they did, what it would mean for them if I didn’t save them. And I had to keep going. Well, I don’t know what kept me from succeeding the other six times, Tova, but I won’t let it happen again. I promise you that no matter what, I’m going to defeat the Shadow Gods this time. I’m going to feed the Good Wolf inside me, and save Hryule.”
By now they had all left off eating. Stranger nodded silently. “Thank you for saying so, Link. That does breathe a little more life into these old bones.”
Link did not know whether to laugh, or cry. “Tova?” he said finally.
“Have I said all of this to you before?”
Stranger stared at his uneaten bread. “You should get some rest.” And he stood.
Link helped Stranger set the rest of the food aside; they would eat some more when they awoke. The boy laid out the blanket, and offered it to the old man.
“Better you take it,” said Stranger. “I haven’t slept a wink in quite a long time.”
And as the shafts of mid-morning light poured into the Sanctuary of the Temple, caressing the keen edges of the Blade of Evil’s Bane, Navi snuggled under the brim of Link’s hat, and the boy fell asleep to the sound of breathy soprano notes, singing a sad lullaby from the shadows.
* * *
“When was he seen last?” the king demanded.
Zelda, Ezlo and the king had gathered for their council in the living room when Afton barreled down the stairs, frantic and visibly shaken.
“I can’t say, Sire,” said the knight, breathing heavily, “from the sound of things Impa must have had Gor Darmon’s mask with her when she was on watch. Then, when Rauru took over for her this morning, she gave it to her brother and they escaped.”
“Impossible!” challenged the king. “I know Impa better than to say she would aid a criminal, even if it was her brother!”
“I didn’t want to believe it either, Sire, but Abrum is gone and Impa is nowhere to be found.” The knight threw his hand at the windows vaguely. “Rauru and Lutai are already looking for them.”
“We won’t find them so long as they wish to remain hidden,” said Zelda. “We should call Rauru and Lutai back, and we should look to Aako for counsel. He is the wisest among the Sages.”
“Agreed,” said the king, and lifted the gray stone pendant that hung around his neck.
“No, Daddy, not the pendants,” said the princess. “If Impa still has hers, she will hear what we are planning, and know that we are on to them. That will only drive them further into hiding.”
“Then what do you suggest, my dear?” asked the king.
“Didn’t you already call for Aako, Your Majesty?” asked the wizard. “You wanted to have a council, remember?”
The king nodded. “Yes, of course. Then Aako should already be on his way, if he is available. That will have to suffice. We will just have to go out and flag down Rauru and Lutai. Ezlo, can you manage it?”
“There is little a wizard can’t manage,” said Ezlo with a flourish, and the next moment there was a poof! accompanied by a small cloud of smoke, and his wooden bird-headed staff appeared in his hand. “Leave it to Quill and I, Your Majesty. A few fireworks should attract their attention, I think…” And with a flash of green light, he was gone.
Talon stood up from his chair beside the window, having watched all of this passively until now. “What’s all the commotion about, Yer Majesty, sir?”
“Many unfortunate things have happened at once, Master Rancher,” the king replied. “It seems the attendance of our council will be a bit protracted.”
“It might take awhile for the sages to get here,” Zelda clarified. The rancher nodded, understanding.
“If y’all don’t mind my sayin’, sir, did anybody think t’check the bedroom fer Mistress Impa and her brother?”
“Yes, Talon, Afton was just there. There was no one in the room, hence his alarm. Did you not see him come down the staircase, just now?”
“Well, yessir, Yer Majesty, sir,” Talon replied, bowing a little. “But what if they was invisible-like?” Talon waited while the others considered his suggestion. “I hear tell they kin do that sort o’ thing…”
“Talon, I think you have something there,” said Afton proudly. Talon beamed. “I will investigate at once.” And he was off, back up the stairs.
Just as he left, however, someone else joined them in the living room of the ranch-house, materializing from a streak of white light. It took a few moments for those present to realize it was the Sage of Forest in his masked disguise. He looked around him, taking in who was present and who was not. Then, sensing that something had happened, he spoke.
“Who has run away?”
“Impa,” the king responded. “We captured her brother, but now she has helped him escape.”
“Abrum?” said the sage. “What has he done to merit capture?”
“Caused the starfall,” said the king. “He and Asera, his witch.”
“The Gerudo sorceress,” said Aako, nodding. “Whom you have not captured…”
“Not yet, no,” said the king, “but we intend to.”
Aako paused a moment. “Who was on watch when Abrum escaped?”
“Rauru and Lutai,” said Zelda. “Impa traded places with Rauru for watch this morning saying she wanted to see her brother, but when Afton went in just now neither of them were there.”
Pause. “Tell me about the arrest; where was Impa when her brother was captured?”
The king exchanged glances with the rancher. “She went out to look for the witch. Then the chance arose to capture him and Impa spirited him away with Gor Darmon’s sage mask.”
“But this was not the original plan, was it?” asked the Koroki sage.
“No,” said the king. “We intended to lock him in a cell and haul him back to the ranch.” Talon nodded, confirming this. “Tell us, Master Sage, you believe there is more to this, do you not?”
Aako nodded. “Consider the evidence; Impa, who is duty-bound to obey orders and never to deviate, takes matters into her own hands and unnecessarily changes the method of capture. She then helps her brother escape the next morning when she might have done so at any time during the night previous, and only after trading places with another watchman. It is almost as if she wanted to be implicated, suspected. Can you think of any reason why Impa would wish to call attention to herself and free her brother in the process?”
“I wouldn’t have believed it possible of her,” said the king. “She is not so inconstant as to renege on a decision lightly.”
“Then something must have happened to her,” Zelda suggested. “Something must have made her lose hope in herself, or in us…”
And as they pondered this thought, Aako’s eyes widened. “She has fallen…” he said quietly.
“Fallen?” asked the king incredulously. “What, do you mean gone rogue? I will sooner see a rooster lay golden eggs than believe it. Impa would never willingly betray Hyrule.”
Aako offered no clarifying response. “I cannot tell you what I know,” he said, “for the Goddess has given me to know a thing which I am not permitted to reveal. But I can say that things are not as they seem in this matter. Bear Impa no harsh judgment until she appears before the Court of Hyrule. Only then will she reveal herself.”
“Appears before the court…?” Zelda gasped. “When Impa appears with the other Sages in judgment, you mean? Not to be…condemned, of course…”
“I have said what I have said,” Aako replied cryptically.
“Very well,” said the king at last. “We will abide your counsel. In the meantime, how do we find—?” But he paused, for Afton had returned. The knight bowed to the Sage in acknowledgement. “Report,” said the king.
“I searched the entire upper floor. Even invisible, they could not have avoided me. They are certainly gone.”
“Master Sage,” said the king, resolute, “how should we find the escapees?”
“That is not your pressing concern, Daphnes,” Aako counseled gently. “You have yet to reassure the Hylia regarding their fate.” Pause. Aako turned to one side as if becoming aware something far away. “And there is another matter which your guest, Mayor Arinco, will need to speak of. Hear this first, tend to your people, and allow the Goddesses to guide you. I must say no more.”
And before any of those present could reply to this mystifying advice, Ezlo promptly returned in a flash of green light. Following after him in swoops of white were Rauru and Lutai, who acknowledged the presence of their fellow Sage with a bow.
“Your Majesty, we still have not found Impa or the thief,” said Rauru.
“No matter,” said the king, glancing at Aako. “Presently there are other matters to discuss. Ezlo, I must ask you to serve as a messenger once more.”
The wizard sighed. “Who am I to retrieve this time?”
“Mayor Arinco,” said the king. “It seems there is something he needs to tell us.” Ezlo fidgeted with his bird-headed staff. “Is there a problem, Master Wizard?”
“Er…yes, of course—I mean, of course not, Your Majesty. R-right away, Majesty.” And he was gone in a flash of green light.
“Well, now,” said the rancher, “I s’pose I should git a round o’ chairs. Comp’ny don’t look so ‘tracted now, does it?” And he shuffled off to the dining room.
* * *
“Lay her down there,” said Worlu, the Mask Keeper. He ran a thin hand through his greasy red hair and grinned broadly. He was about to win another mask. “How long has she been frozen?”
“At least two days,” said Krelian, lowering the woman to the ground. “Will it take long?”
“Not long at all,” the Mask Keeper smiled. He waved around him, signaling for more space, and the Zora attendants and sentries all stepped back. He began chanting, waving his arms in broad movements, weaving the spell that would break the curse on the woman. After one minute, two, the chanting mounted and finally the Mask Keeper clapped his hands over his head. There was a flash, and the woman-statue immediately fell limp, her limbs lolling to her sides. Then, something wooden fell from her face (which the Mask Keeper promptly scooped up and hid in his bag) and she clawed at the air, gasping, hacking, water coming up with her desperate breaths. She flopped over to her other side, gaining her bearings, realizing that she was no longer underwater.
“Where am I?” Raean asked the open air. She turned, and behind a coral pillar she saw a Zora, cringing with uncertainty. “You! Answer me! Are you with the scarecrow? Where is the old man?”
“They are nothing to worry about,” said the greasy-haired man. “You’re safe.”
Raean’s eyes narrowed. “You!”
The Zora king raised a finned brow. “You know each other.”
The Mask Keeper shrugged. “Acquaintances, nothing more,” he grinned.
“What are you doing here, you slimy sleaze?” Raean hissed. “No doubt you have more doom to foretell?”
The smiling man put on a pained face. “Oh, such harsh words from one so ignorant; I suppose I’ll forgive you.” Raean snarled, but she only succeeded in coughing up more water. “She won’t be a problem, Your Fishiness; she’s weak for now. Just watch that silver fist of hers…” He eyed the Gauntlet warily. “It’s rearranged at least one living room so far.”
“Will you be staying, then, Keeper?” asked the Zora king. “Once we discover what happened at Lake Hylia, I would be very interested in why my kingdom’s troubles merited the advice of a disembodied voice… And how you became involved.”
“I’ve been asking myself the same question,” said the Keeper, lowering the pack of masks from his back. He leaned against the cavern wall. “I’ll stick around; I’m the kind of person who likes a good story. Go on, give us the nitty gritty, darling.”
“Shove it,” said the Gerudo, finally recovering.
“Hey, back to your old grumpy self, I see.”
“Enough,” said the Zora king. “Young woman, we Zora are not without hospitality for a guest, despite the…unorthodox reception this one has given you. Is there any request we might fulfill before we ask you to relate your story?”
“Yeah. Explain what you did to me and then let me go.”
The Zora king readjusted himself squishily. “Ah. Well, we are not the ones who cursed you, as you no doubt already suspect. In fact, we have done no more than recover you from the beds of Lake Hylia. The Mask Keeper, here, was the one who freed you from your curse.” Worlu twiddled his fingers in a belittling salute. Raean scowled. “You are, of course, free to leave as you wish.”
“So long, then,” said Raean, raising herself to her feet. “And thanks to all you fish—”
“Zoras,” Worlu corrected.
“Whatever.” And she turned to leave. She was not gone a few moments, however, when she came back. “Alright, what happened to all the dry land?”
King Zora smirked. “Yes, I apologize; we do not have a terribly convenient path for land-folk. You will need one of our couriers to take you down the waterfall.”
“Great. Get me a courier, then.” She folded her arms, the Silver Gauntlet shimmering with dull malice.
“Unfortunately, the couriers are all occupied at the moment,” Krelian offered, following his king’s lead.
Raean gritted her teeth. “And when are they supposed to come back?”
“Unfortunately—” King Zora began.
“Let me guess; not due back for several months, right? Fine, I’ll tell you what I know: I met a really nice old man down by the lake and some super-powered scarecrow turned him into a human raisin. When I tried to return the favor, he cursed me and I blacked out. Anything else you want to know, or would you rather keep playing games with me?” She cracked her knuckles, drawing attention to her silver-gloved hand. “Cause I’ll tell you right now; if you want to play, I’m game.”
King Zora’s fishy face straightened. “We do not wish to play with you, as you say,” he began soberly. “And you need not use threats to convince us of the severity of the situation. I apologize; we should not have treated you the way we have, but you must understand that after this ‘scarecrow’ cursed you, we suspect he went on to turn half my battalion to ‘raisins,’ as you put it. If you can tell us anything that might be of use, we would appreciate your help.”
Raean paused. “Exactly how much would you appreciate it?”
The Zora king considered. “You seem to have quite a heavy pair of boots there,” he said. “That would make any air-breathing human a little edgy around water, wouldn’t it?”
Raean eyed the spring of water warily, backing away from the edge. “You know, for someone who doesn’t like threats, you sure are quick to use them.”
“No threats,” the Zora king clarified. “We could offer you a shirt made of the finest Zora scales.”
Raean was straight-faced. “Listen, I’m not one for fashion, have you got a deal for me, or not?” Worlu fought back a snort. “What’s so funny, smiley-face?” she said, raising her gauntleted fist.
“Oh, nothing,” said the Keeper, flinching, “just amused by your obtuse ignorance.” Raean’s fist rose higher. “The Zora Tunic would let you breathe underwater!” he blurted quickly.
Raean considered this, now peering at the Zora king. “Done. I’m tired of this fish-house already. First chance I get I’m going back to the desert. If this shirt gets me there, I’m good. Where is it?”
“Krelian, if you would, please,” said the king, and the Zora was gone down the waterfall and back in very little time at all. When he arrived again, he held out a tunic that shone and glinted in the watery light, catching reflections on each of its miniscule scales. “This was a prototype,” said the king. “I had planned to make an entire suit, meant as a gift worthy of royalty, but it was to be much grander. For now, this will serve your purposes. If you should like to try it out, first…”
“No, it’s fine…” she said, admiring the shirt. Her eyes passed over the craftsmanship of the garment with greedy zeal. It was thin, and moved like the flexible membrane of one of the biologist’s Biri back at the Lakeside Observatory. She knew it would conform to every contour of the body, making its wearer look much like a Zora themselves. As much as this idea repulsed her, Raean convinced herself it would be more impressive and intimidating when she wore it. “This will do just fine.”
Worlu scoffed. “Women. They say they don’t want anything, and then when they’ve got it in front of them…”
“Shut it, smiley,” said the Gerudo, tossing the shirt across one shoulder. “Alright, King Fishy, this bought you a little more than information. Not only will I tell you every detail I know about our little twiggy friend, but I’ll help you track him down. If everything works out right, I’d love a shot at a little payback.”
“It seems we have made an arrangement.” King Zora smiled with his great fishy lips. “Then allow me to tell you what we know on the matter. This ‘twiggy friend’ of your is no longer so fragile, and he is far more powerful. He is known as the God of Decay…”
“Of course.” Raean rolled her eyes. “Listen, King, I’ve seen this thing’s magic before. It shriveled a horse to jerky. This is nothing you want to mess with unless you’re ready to have your life shortened by a couple hundred years. Given how long Gerudo live it’s a lucky thing I’m on your side. If you want to stop this thing, you’re going to need an army with a little more longevity.”
“And you have one in mind?” said Krelian.
Raean slid her fingers along the edge of her gauntlet thoughtfully. “Yeah,” she said quietly. “I’ve got someone in mind.”
Worlu silently lifted his pack to his back again. “Well, this should be interesting,” he said to himself.
* * *
Link and Ruto wandered through the ranch.
“Where’s your bucket?” Link asked when he did not see the girl holding it.
“I left it by the entrance,” Ruto shrugged. “I’m getting my water from the ranch-house. There’s no way I’m taking my chances on drawing from some horse trough, and I’ll be back in the Domain by sundown.” She gave a little shiver of excitement, humming contentedly. “Hm…I’ll get to play in the lakes again, see Daddy, maybe get back to feeding Jabu Jabu.” She stared out over the fence of the ranch thoughtfully. “I hope nothing bad happened during the starfall. Looks like the waters are flowing all the same. You know, I wonder if Lord Jabun is ever going to see open ocean like all the other fish—”
Link stopped. “Look, I was just curious about the bucket, I wasn’t looking for an autobiography.”
Ruto scowled. “You know, I wonder what I ever saw in you. Now I feel like such a dummy for giving you the Zora’s Sapphire. You’re definitely not the man I want to marry…”
“Yeah, well you’re slimy…and you smell fishy,” the boy retorted. “Why are we even talking about it?”
Ruto gave the boy a hard stare. “You know, I’ve spent the last several days trying to figure out what’s so great about being a Hylian, and you want to know what I’ve learned?”
Ruto ignored this. “Hylians are stuck-up, conceited, selfish, prideful—”
“You know all of those mean the same thing, right?”
Ruto grunted with frustration. “You see, this is exactly what I mean; you think you know everything and that you’re always right. You’re all just stupid if you ask me.” Then she got a dreamy look in her eye. “Except Arinco. I think he’s handsome, and noble and—”
Little explosions of colored lights punctuated the air over the ranch. Ruto paused for a moment to watch. Unseen by her, Link squinted his eyes and twitched with every explosion of light. Even in the daytime, the magical fireworks were bright enough to dazzle the senses. Finally, Link could stand it no longer.
“Ooh, those are pretty,” said the Zora girl. “I wonder what they’re for… Come on, Link, let’s see what Talon has to…”
But the boy was gone.
Ruto spotted him running away, toward the back of the ranch. “Link, come back here! The ranch-house is the other way! I need a drink!”
“So go get one!” shouted Link behind him. He peered along the back fence of the ranch; all of the tents were facing north, toward the entrance. Townspeople walked on the other side of the tents, tending to their own matters. Finally, Ruto caught up with the boy. “I never said you had to come with me anyway. I’m just…trying to find some shade.”
“Yeah,” Ruto challenged, “but Arinco said we should stick together.”
“Yeah, well, Arinco’s not here.”
“No, he said he had to put our supplies in the silo. But if you run off without me again I’ll tell him how much of a jerk you’ve been. Now quit being a baby and carry me. I can’t run on land like you.” She sat on the ground expectantly.
Link took one look at the princess and scoffed. “Screw that.” And he slinked away toward the silo, darting from the shadow of one tent to the next, staying out of sight.
“Hey!” Ruto whispered theatrically, following the boy. “You’ve got some nerve, you know that? You carried me around Jabu Jabu’s belly for all that time and now you suddenly lose your chivalry? What’s wrong with you?”
“It’s not what’s wrong,” said Link, turning to the Zora girl, smiling with all of his teeth. “It’s what’s right.” And as she looked, Ruto saw Link’s eyes flash red. As soon as it happened, however, they were their usual blue again.
Ruto shook her head, backing away. “Link, I think we should go b-back,” she stammered. “W-we should get Zelda and Ezlo. They’ll know what to d-do…”
“Those fools,” said Link in a voice that was not his own, “have no clue what to do with me.” And taking a breath, he crept into the light, rounding the silo. Link threw his hands up at the sun and hissed, grasping for the handle of the door with blinded eyes. Then he was inside and the door slammed.
“Link?” Ruto called, following the boy. She entered the silo, leaving the door ajar. “Link?”
The boy was nowhere to be seen. Bales of hay were stacked high over the whole floor, with a path left open through the middle. Arinco was bent over near the far wall, stacking something behind a large crate.
“Arinco!” called the girl, “Mister Arinco, help! It’s Link!”
Arinco looked up immediately. “Why hello, lass,” the mayor growled pleasantly. “I’m sorry, but I’m busy at the moment; I don’t have time to play.”
“I don’t want to play. You have to come quick,” Ruto pleaded. “It’s Link; he’s not himself.”
“Link? Aye, where is he, anyway? Didn’t I tell you two to stay together?”
“He’s in the silo, but I don’t know where… Please!”
The mayor’s mouth curled up in a wry smile. “Oh, alright, I’m more or less done here, anyway. We’ll look for Link together.” He put a hand on her fishy shoulder.
But they need not have looked; at the end of the path, past the bales of hay stood the boy, red-eyed and sneering. Over his green clothes he wore a coat, cap and pants made of boar’s skin which effectively concealed nearly every inch of him. Over his shoulder was slung the rolled up flying carpet, light as a feather.
“What are you doing with the carpet, Link?” Arinco asked, smiling. “Are you and Ruto playing dress-up?”
“Sure,” said the boy, grinning widely. “We’re playing dress-up.” And he dropped the carpet by the door. “Come look at my coat; it’s real boar’s leather. Made by Talon himself. He gave it to me for my birthday.”
Ruto just stared in horror, unable to move. “Arinco, don’t! That’s not Link, it’s—”
“—a boar,” the boy finished innocently. “Look at me, I’m a boar!” he said, and approximated a fierce snort. He pawed the dirty stone floor with one hand.
“Heh, that’s pretty good, lad,” said the mayor, squatting down to see the coat better. “Hmph—smells a little, but you do pull off a convincing boar.”
The boy grinned. “That’s not all I can pull off.”
Link’s hand went to his waist, there was a glint of steel, and Arinco cried out! Ruto screamed, there was a flash of green light and suddenly Ezlo was there. The wizard looked down at the distressed Zora girl. Ruto pointed in shock, positively unable to speak.
“Why, Ruto, dear, whatever is the ma— Master Mayor! Arinco, what’s happened!?” The wizard knelt beside the mayor, who was now pressing his hand to his face, covering one of his eyes. Ruto could see redness trickling down his arm. “Why Arinco,” said the wizard, quietly. “Who did this?”
“He got away,” said the mayor, standing with Ezlo’s help. “Goddess, Ezlo, the Shadow’s taken him over and he’s got away on the carpet.”
* * *
She waited at the center of the circle of stones. Time did not pass, for it did not exist in that place, but amidst the train of her meandering thoughts, the queen saw a golden woman approach. “Mistress Orda,” she thought out in greeting.
The Goddess drew closer, pulling her veil over her face. The sky of the Golden Land turned a dark liquid gold and the shimmering moon eclipsed the sun’s light. “Word comes from Nayru. How do you fare with your charge, Zethra?”
“The Force Shard was destroyed,” Zethra thought. “I cannot pass into Hyrule again.”
The Goddess seemed to expect this. “Not using that portion of the Light Force, no,” she said. “But there is another.”
The queen raised her wide, clear eyes to the Goddess’ face. “Is it permissible?”
Orda turned to look upon Queen Zethra’s golden form; a giant snake with the head of a crocodile. The effect might have been startling to look upon, except that the queen’s features were smoother, her scales finer. Somehow she was more elegant than frightening—terrible, certainly—but elegant.
“Under usual circumstances, no, it would not be permissible,” the Goddess replied. “But three of the Hero’s four Shadows have rejoined the broken pieces of the Twilight Magic and passed into the Dark World, where we can no longer watch their movements. Nayru has convinced the others to let her send you, and I can think of no better reason to make an exception. We need you to be in Hyrule, ready for the Shadows when they expose themselves.”
“And what of the other Spirits?” asked Zethra. “Will Din and Faroe send them as well?”
Orda nodded. “When the Shadows show themselves, we will send the other two; we cannot afford to allow these interlopers to have the upper hand. My sisters know that if I had a Messenger Spirit I would send her as well.” Orda bent her head, and Zethra perceived that she must feel some shame, but the queen did not press this issue. “In the meantime, we will need you to be vigilant.”
“As the Goddesses wish.” The queen dipped her reptilian head. “Her Magnificence will understand… That is, I could not bear it if any harm came to...my host…”
“I have already seen into the depths of time concerning this,” Orda replied. “Nayru shall protect you both. So long as your soul is bound with hers, Zelda will come to no harm.”
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
Simply wow. The best chapter in a long while. Definitly had one hundred percent of my attention. I see now how you are connecting this to tp. In my mind, there is only one main thing not explained... And MAYBE a couple irrelevent details, but those don't count.
I LOVE this series so much, I don't want it to ever end!
Pile on the irrelevant details, Sage! My next favorite thing to writing this story is talking about it! (Of course, I may not be able to give away the delicious plot twists, but irrelevant details sounds pretty safe...)
Ok, and I don't know why I called them irrelevant, I wish I had called them minor derails.
First of all, I might as well list what main things I think you described or are describing that connect it with TP.
Mirror of Twilight
New castle town
Master sword in Lost woods area
Maybe others I forgot.
THe only main thing I dont see is the golden wolf, although I thought I saw him in the Sacred realm...
Now to the minor details! Things that You haven't connected.
The old Karikaro vs new one in TP.
The disappearing of Gerudo. Oh, wait I think you did.
Zora's domain changing from being inside the cliff to having the domain directly connected to the outside. (this although could just be attributed to erosion I guess, but Then again...)
The building of Lake Hylia's cannon.
All the bridges! (or are you attributing their need to be built to the falling of the star?)
there are more, but I can't think of any more.
The Ooccoo's sudden appearence when never mentioned before( this dosn't really count, because they could have been just forgoten, but I mention because It would be cool to see them make an appearance. wink wink; But this is just a fan's dreams.)
Once again you deliver ANOTHER excellent chapter! my favorite part was the nod to Jabu Jabu and wind waker, I believe that you wernt planning on including ww into the story which is fine, i just thought that was an awesome touch that made me go YA!
And now I think i can piece together Impa falling..... what a TweessT
Cant wait to see what happens with zethra and zelda.
First of all, to Sage:
All of those things in your first column are indeed a part of the current story (and pointing to TP for reference), including that golden wolf you thought you saw (read: 'did see'). Minor details
—I'm not sure that I will say anything about it explicitly in-story (I may change my mind) but with old Kakariko buried under so much volcanic rock, it is pretty-well implied that a new Kakariko will have to be built in order for one to exist in TP.
—The 'disappearance' of the Gerudo will come to literal fruition in-story. Look forward to many diverging paths and the return of one character with a bad-a** army behind her.
—I'll just come out and say that I may have missed the boat as far as explaining the relocation of Zora's Domain. I think I wanted it to be one of the consequences of the starfall, but I never thought of mentioning it until after showing King Zora and his posse apparently hunky-dory with the cataclysmic event. 'Should I go back and change it,' I ask myself, 'or just come up with a reason for the Domain to relocate post-starfall? Which would the readers prefer...?'
—In favor of not cramming too much into the story, I'm not sure that I will include Lake Hylia's cannon. If I can fit it in, I might. 'Hmm,' I thinks to meself, 'there was that cannon buried under the re-built Kakariko Village... How did it get there?'
—And the need for bridges are, yes, a direct result of the starfall. Well-spotted!
—As for the Ooccoo...
And on to Hero:
—You're right; Jabu Jabu needed to find a way out of Zora's Domain, and I was just nodding to the fact that I intend to take this into account, even if WW won't occur in this timeline. And thanks for the compliment. I love hearing which moments made my readers go 'YA!'
—I am so glad that you see now what happened to Impa! I didn't want it to be quite so transparent. With that, let me know if you still think the way you do now when it's all over... *chuckles maniacally*
—I hope my inclusion of Zethra in this way is enough for those who voted her into the last episode. I sincerely intend to do her justice.
Thank you everybody, once again, for your readership!