I think this is one of your better-rounded chapters thus far. Things are progressing, and everything that has happened carries meaning; nice work. If you can keep this level of attention with the rest of the story, then you just might have a showcase-worthy piece here.
The one thing I think you can work on for improvement at this point (sorry if I've mentioned it before) is the little bits of redundancy within the prose that are here and there. For example:
Time passed unbearably slow as Link sat at the top of the valley. He had found himself a somewhat comfortable seat and for a while watching the flurry of activity below held his interest as Goron after Goron poured into the valley below. Many carried large stones and took great care in placing each stone inside the pattern of the valley floor. But eventually Link’s mind found its way back to his worries and the midday sun which seemed to refuse to draw closer to the horizon.
'Valley' and 'stones' are used twice, both in near sentences. This isn't a violation of English, by any means, but it's something we can do as writers to impress upon the mind of the reader. Try substituting with other words or reworking the sentences so key nouns and verbs get rotated around; keep it fresh and flowing as much as you can.
I'm glad to see that you are taking feedback (and asking for better feedback from some of the posters; that is awesome!) and applying it to what you do -- you're improving, and I'm sure all your readers have taken note!
I finally got around to start reading your fanfic today... Sorry it took me so long, but I only got through the first 3 chapters.
The beginning was a little slow, but by the time I got to the second chapter I noticed the pace was just about perfect. I know it's been a while since you posted those chapters, but there were a few things that I'd like to point out.
In this chapter (and in chapter 3) Link's brother says "Good morning sleeping beauty," or something to that effect. The point is, that is a phrase that exists in our universe, not necessarily in the Zeldaverse. It's (obviously) based on the tale of Sleeping Beauty, which is arguably nonexistent to them. Then again, the legends of sleeping Zelda could have existed based on AoL, but it's not clearly defined. It was enough for me that it immediately took me away from the story. It's not the end-all of your fanfic, but I thought it was worth mentioning, because I struggle to make sure that there are zero real life references.
Also in the first chapter, your description of their father is almost word for word as Link's brother's description. It could be argued that they look similar based on family resemblence, but that would be a better way to describe the two rather than giving almost word for word several paragraphs apart.
Several times you mention that someone "pulled up to a sitting position." This description takes the reader away, as if it's too blocky a movement, or unnatural. You could easily say, "Link sat up and rubbed the sleep from his eyes," or something like that.
After a paragraph descibing Link's nightmares you have a stand alone question: "What was wrong with him?" This sentence could have been his thoughts, not a sentence that takes the reader out of the story as though it's being narrated.
Next, I noticed another sentence where you say that Link realized how quiet and still the forest was tonight. Tonight brings the sentence into the present tense, but you're telling the story from the past tense.
You were telling about the previous night's events in chapter 3, and you referred to it as "last night." Again, that brings it into the present, but your story is past tense. You did it again when you said that Epona's war cry "has haunted him ever since."
When we first meet the girl's father, you said that he didn't "hesitant to joke," where it ought to be "hesitate." Minor, but noticable.
One last minor thing in chapter 3, you say "miss understood." That ought to be "misunderstood."
I really do like where this story is going, and I'm only 3 chapters into it. I'm looking forward to finishing what you have posted! Link and his brother seem to rag on each other a lot, but you do a pretty good job of showing the joke part of it without making it come across as they don't get along.
Once the shaman was introduced I really started to like it. It felt more like a Zelda story once he was in the story. It will definitely be interesting to see his true intentions, as at the point where I'm at it could be really good or very bad for Link and Hyrule.
I'll post more when I have time to read it, and I hope that my pointing out those relatively minor issues doesn't make you mad, but rather helps you out! Keep up the good work, this is definitely one of the best fanfics I've read on this site!
I'm not really sure use of the term "Sleeping Beauty" is completely unlikely in Hyrule. We could just as easily transplant our fairy tales into their world, or they might just think to say it without any intentional references to the story.
I'm not really sure use of the term "Sleeping Beauty" is completely unlikely in Hyrule. We could just as easily transplant our fairy tales into their world, or they might just think to say it without any intentional references to the story.
True, but it would warrant the curious reader an explanation. It isn't impossible, but improbable. Unless, as I mentioned above, it is a reference that is used to the sleeping Zelda from AoL.
I would mention it if someone was writing a LoZ fanfic and said something like:
"Ganondorf ran away like a mad hatter!"
or more subtle:
"Link, you're my Prince Charming."
A direct reference like that to a fairy tale in our universe completely takes away from the story. So much so that here we are talking about it. It's not the end-all of this particular story, I quite like it a lot so far, but reading something like that takes *some* readers out of the Zeldaverse where they belong.
It doesn’t make me at all mad to hear how I can improve. I know my writing isn’t perfect.
I do see your point about the ‘sleeping beauty’ comment and how it could be incongruent with Zelda. But honestly it still doesn’t bother me that much. I see it as just a phrase used by the brothers to playfully mess with each other, which derives it meaning more from insulting the other’s masculinity than referencing another story.
As far as my descriptions I would agree there is plenty of room to improve. I consider my descriptions to be the weakest point of my writing. But I’ve been doing my best to work on it and hopefully you’ll notice a difference as you get further into the story.
Also thank you for pointing out the tense confusion in my writing, that’s something I hadn’t picked up on. Since the story is currently being told through Link’s eyes it should mostly be present tense. I’ll have to look into it.
I’m very glad you’re enjoying my story so far and look forward to hearing your thoughts on the remaining chapters.
Hi everyone! I'm very happy to have finally broken through my writer's block!!!
This chapter was interesting (for me at least) because I got to introduce the Zoras and something else.
Hope you enjoy.
Chapter 12: The Guards 
Hammerhead was still sitting on her rocky perch when Link and Epona came around the corner. The bird stood to her full height and after receiving the rune from Link took flight. But the almost perfect eastward direction the shaman’s bird flew struck Link as a little odd considering the Faron Woods were more to the south.
Link shook his head, Who am I to tell a bird how to fly? Clearing his mind of the matter Link signaled Epona and the two of them began making their way along the mountain road.
The slightest hint of grey was just beginning to appear along the eastern horizon as Link neared what he guessed to be the outskirts of the Zora Domain.
Spurred on by the shaman’s message he had pushed Epona to ride through the night as fast as they both dare go along the twisting trail. He hoped to reach the Zoras by morning and it looked as though they just might make it.
Up ahead the path entered a large arched tunnel that burrowed its way into a sheer rock wall. Because of the brilliant light pouring out of the opening Link had been able to see it coming for quite some time. However the constant even glow had become a bit of a mystery, for if a fire created the light it should be flickering.
Eager to satisfy his curiosity Link guided Epona around the corner and out of the night. At first Link had to shield his eyes from the brightness that seemed as intense as the sun, but gradually his vision adjusted and the mystery only deepened. Yellow orbs, about the size of Link’s hand, glowed from their place in the rock walls. They were arranged in a pattern which repeated itself down the entire length of the passageway and each orb was exactly the same brightness as the next. But the tunnel felt strange somehow. Link looked around trying to find a reason but it wasn’t til he looked at the ground that he figured it out. Whether intentional or not the arrangement of the orbs eliminated nearly every shadow.
“Halt.” The command came from up ahead.
A guard stood, spear in hand, like a statue near the end of the tunnel. Link’s eye was first drawn to the tip of the long weapon. Colorful coral had been carefully carved into the most elaborate spear head Link had ever seen, though he wondered how effective such a beautiful weapon was in a fight. Letting his gaze fall on the guard Link was surprised by the appearance of the figure in front of him. He had never seen a Zora before but from the descriptions he had heard Link expected them to look more like a fish. But with two arms and legs connected to a torso and a head sitting atop the shoulders he looked similar to a Hylian. There were, however, very distinct differences. The hairless, pale blue skin which covered the Zora’s entire body was among the most obvious. Also two large fins, one on each side, were attached at the guard’s waist and hung down to his knees. But what caught Link’s attention most was the back of the Zora’s head which extended away from the face in the shape of a long cone before forming a fish tale. The only clothing the Zora guard wore was an intricately decorated breastplate that protected his chest and a rather small brown loin cloth.
“HALT!” the Zora repeated, lowering his spear.
Pulling on the reigns, Link brought Epona to a stop just a few feet away from the coral spearhead.
A flicker of movement behind the guard caught Link’s attention. He focused on it just in time to see a dark figure soar a few feet into the air before landing on the darkened path outside. Another pale blue figure stepped into the light, water pouring from its body. The new Zora only wore a blue loin cloth and didn’t appear to be carrying any weapons, but aside from being a little shorter than the one with the spear Link couldn’t see any physical differences between the two. The unarmed Zora came to a stop a couple of steps ahead of the guard with the spear and as he crossed his arms in front of his chest Link noticed a line of blue metal running from the wrist to the elbow on each arm.
The Zora with the spear spoke, “Dismount and identify yourself.”
Link did as he was told, “My name is Link.”
“What is your business in the Zora Domain, Link?”
That was a good question. Link hadn’t given any thought to how he would explain his travels to the Zoras. After Gordon’s warning he certainly wasn’t going to say anything about the runes. Wait, Gordon!
“I bring word from the Gorons,” Link said.
Both Zoras relaxed their posture.
“And how are the old boulders?” the unarmed Zora asked.
Link was confused, “I’m sorry, boulders?”
“It’s an old nickname,” the armed Zora directed the statement more towards his companion than Link, “The Gorons used to call us fish so we called them boulders.”
“Oh,” Link could feel a little tension building between the two guards, “Well the Gerudo keep causing trouble in the mines and the Gorons could use help.”
“Seriously,” the unarmed Zora laughed, “the big boulders can’t handle a bunch of old hags from the desert.”
“AKIO!” the Zora with the spear shot a glare at his companion that made even Link freeze.
Akio’s attitude quickly became serious, “Sorry sir.”
“Perhaps you should go relay Link’s message.”
“But I just got back from checking in,” the look from his commanding officer changed his mind, “Yes sir.”
The remaining Zora watched Akio disappear into the darkness then turned back to Link, “I hope you’ll excuse Akio’s behavior. He is a brilliant fighter and will make a fine soldier, if he ever learns to control his tongue.”
“It’s ok,” Link replied, “I didn’t catch your name.”
“I apologize for my lapse in manners. My name is Masaka.”
“It’s good to meet you Masaka,” Link took Epona’s reigns and began to lead her around the Zora guard.
Masaka moved to block their path, “Where do you think you’re going?”
“My horse and I have been traveling all night. I was hoping to find a place to rest.”
“I’m sorry Link, but can’t let you leave this tunnel until the sun rises.”
“I’m not here to cause trouble.”
Masaka laughed, “I’m sure you’re not. It’s. . .,” the Zora’s voice trailed off, he seemed to be struggling to find the right words, “It’s. . .for your own safety.”
Link’s mind struggled to make sense of the strange answer, “But I thought Zoras and Hylians got along. Why would any of them want to hurt me?”
“It’s not the Zoras you should fear.”
Masaka drew in a deep breath and as he exhaled Link caught a small glimpse at just how much this topic was upsetting him.
“I’d prefer not to talk about this anymore,” the Zora guard answered, “When the sun rises I’ll show you a place to rest.”
Link really wanted to know more, but there seemed to be very little chance of that at the moment, “Is there anything you would like to talk about?”
Masaka thought for a moment, “Tell me about what’s happening in the rest of Hyrule. It’s been a long time since we’ve received word from anyone.”
Link did his best to fulfill the Zora’s request, even though most of his information came solely from rumors he’d heard from the hunters and trappers that came through his town. He was very careful, though, to avoid anything that might bring the topic of the runes.
However, one question continued to burn in the back of his mind. What was Masaka so afraid of?
I can see that you took extra care with this chapter, not only with construction but with thorough editing as well. I saw hardly any mistakes, so I won't bother you with the little things that you already know and are improving on, but I will comment that I like the upped sense of urgency and the speed in which the tale is moving, as well as this new cultural addition's own burgeoning issues creating a mist of suspense. Just be careful that you don't make it too speedy, for then you begin to do less description and we lose that picture of the world you are creating.
And a bit of advice: I have found that the more I write, the less likely writer's nausea comes around, for you are constantly barraged by creativity and don't have to re-grease your wheels. Make it habitual to write something -- anything, related or not to your current project -- regularly, and it makes it easier.
Thank you for your comments so far. It's difficult for me to see the forest through the trees at times and your perspective is a big help.
While I don't believe my writing will dwell as much on the Zoras as it did the Gorons, there is important information I have to communicate and the story will take the first of many turns toward the darkness I warned about in my first post all before Link leaves the Zora Domain. So hopefully that will help me balance speed and detail.
And thanks for the advise on how to deal with writer's block.
I’ve never been a very superstitious person but the troubles I’ve been having with chapter 13 is making me rethink that. It has given me a chance to think about stuff, though, and I’ve decided to restructure the thread a bit. The story will be divided into parts. Everything up to this point is part 1. I’ll make it clear when the second part starts.
Thank you all for your patience. I’m hoping the next chapter will be ready soon.
Yay for finally finishing this chapter!! I apologize for taking so long I was just not happy with what was coming out. But I was finally able to work and rework it into something presentable.
Chapter 13: Tem-kar 
Looking through the arched opening Link could see the dark clouds from the night before had conquered the sky making the sun’s rays little more than a dreary glow. But as the morning light grew, more of the outside world became visible. The road he was on exited the tunnel and intersected another stone path that ran perpendicular to his. Flowing parallel to that path a wide river rushed by with the broken silhouettes of the distant mountains dancing across the rippling surface. But there were fewer of the jagged peaks than Link had seen around the Goron’s home. The Zoras must live near the edge of the mountains, he thought.
Inside the passageway the predominate sound was the low roar of the gurgling river. Akio had returned part way through Link’s report on the happenings in Hyrule and asked to be filled in. But even after backtracking through all Link had already told Masaka the conversation died off a couple hours ago.
Finally, when the light outside matched the intensity of the orbs, two new Zoras emerged from the water. After everyone had been introduced Masaka and Akio relinquished their post to the newcomers and turned left following the river upstream. Link thought it strange the two new guards didn’t carry any weapons, but didn’t get the chance to ask as he and Epona struggled to keep up with the Zoras’ swift pace.
Link eventually caught up when they stopped at a large opening in the rock wall to the left.
Masaka spoke, “Your horse can rest here. We’ll wait for you to get her settled.”
Yellow orbs illuminated the wide passageway with alcoves hewn into the sides. The Goron stables are more impressive, Link thought as he picked out a stall near the entrance. It didn’t take long to make Epona as comfortable as possible and rejoin his waiting companions.
As they started walking again Link spoke, “Why do you allow unarmed Zoras to stand guard?”
Masaka appeared genuinely puzzled by the question, “What do you mean?”
“Well, Akio and the two Zoras that took your place at the tunnel aren’t carrying any weapons.”
“Oh,” Masaka smiled, “that’s because they are Tem-kar.”
Akio spoke very slowly, “Tem-kar.”
“I heard that,” Link said, “What is a Tem-kar?”
“An elite Zora fighter,” Masaka answered, “they are highly trained in a variety of combat styles that focus upon speed and stealth.”
“That doesn’t sound like Akio,” Link said.
“I am the youngest Zora to ever become Tem-kar,” Akio stated trying to salvage some bit of his wounded pride.
“If you complete the training,” Masaka added.
Akio didn’t reply.
“But why don’t they carry any weapons?” Link asked.
“Actually we do,” Akio raised his arms revealing a line of blue metal running from just below the wrist all the way to the elbow on each forearm. Link’s eyes grew wide when the metal began to move. The ends nearest to Akio’s hands stayed connected as the rest hinged away with a large fin unfolding behind.
Link instinctively reached out to touch the metal.
Akio collapsed his arm fins and pulled away, “They’re really sharp.”
“Is that what you fight with?” Link asked.
“Those blades are their primary weapon,” Masaka said.
Link turned to Akio, “But what about armor? Most of your body is unprotected.”
“For what we do anything more than our fin blades would just slow us down.”
“Guard duty doesn’t seem like a very fast paced assignment,” Link commented.
Akio became very quiet and focused his gaze on the distant mountains. He seemed to be working very hard to suppress something.
“What’s the matter?” Link felt a hand on his shoulder.
“Let him be,” Masaka warned, “the Tem-kar are loyal to our Queen, but many resent being used as simple guards.”
Link turned to Masaka, “Then why doesn’t the Queen use others in their place?”
“Because of recent events the people feel safer seeing their elite warriors watching over them.”
“What about you?”
“I don’t mind the life of a guard,” Masaka smiled, “although I’d prefer my usual post in palace over that tunnel.”
“Actually, I meant what do you think about the Queen’s use of the Tem-kar?”
“Oh, well it is comforting to see them guarding us but,” Masaka paused, “for them to be seen defeats the purpose of their existence.”
The path ahead made a sharp turn to the left following a bend in the river. As they came up to the corner Akio drew his leg back and kicked a large stone so hard it almost reached the opposite bank. Link expected the barefoot Zora to show some sign of pain, but he kept walking without even the slightest limp.
In his mind Link replayed Masaka’s answers. They had again raised more questions than they resolved and he was about to start asking, but what he saw as they rounded the corner wiped them from his mind. At first Link wasn’t sure why his feet refused to move. The path ahead of him curved out to the left as it circled a large lake before disappearing behind a massive waterfall which poured over the edge of a high cliff into water so clear were it not for the ripples from the cascade Link would’ve thought the large chasm in front of him was empty. The buildings to the left of the path had been carved out of the rock wall; their design and carefully detailed painting resembled dozens of varieties of coral.
Link began gasping for air as the scene stirred something deep in his mind. Though he couldn’t fathom why, he desperately fought the resurrection of this old memory. But his efforts were in vain. The images flooded his mind with such violent force his eyes believed they were real. The crystal clear water turned red as the lifeless bodies of the Zoras appeared on the surface. Other mutilated Zora corpses littered the path and hung from the windows and balconies of the buildings, their blood marring the beauty of the coral cliff. The two dark figures from Link’s nightmare appeared before him as blood soaked weapons materialized in his own hands.
Link cried out as he fell to his knees in the growing pool of blood around him. He tried covering his eyes but the images were firmly planted in his conscious mind. Fighting desperately to free himself of the grotesque scene Link rocked back and forth on the ground until the world was consumed by darkness.
Yesh, I got your message. Finally rounded up some free time so I could read.
Interesting -- Link the seer? I always pegged that role to Zelda, so it's good to see it mixed up a little. I also liked Akio's vainglory; youth combined with talent forges such personalities.
I can see that you indeed did struggle with this part for a time. It isn't as flowing as the previous entry, but my Zora incursions usually aren't either -- I prefer the other races in my writing and will usually barely mention the water folk (a small contributor to why Evil's Bane II was abandoned).
One bit of critique on the grammar is the missing comma issue:
But as the morning light grew more of the outside world became visible
Technically, this is telling me that the light is growing more of the outside world?!? It needs that little comma right after 'grew' so we know that the adjoined description is it's own and not a continuation. You have already conquered many little quirks so far, so I would label this one as your next point of interest.
At this point, I would recommend perhaps making a graphical concept map. It's a good tool that can help you plan with a bird's eye perspective, and has helped me a few times when I felt uncertain about something. It can take some trial and error if you haven't done one before, and for some people it doesn't work at all, but just take it as a suggestion to try if you are feeling desperate
I do appreciate your feedback, but it's good to have a life outside the ZU.
EDIT: Sorry, accidentally pushed the wrong button.
I'm not sure if it's the Zoras that caused me problems with the last chapter or info overload. I want to give the Zoras as rich a culture as I gave the Gorons and there are several plot elements that need to be introduced all before Link leaves the Zora Domain while not letting the story slow down.
Thanks for the tip on my grammar. I think my biggest problem is reading my writing the way I intended it and not the way it actually reads. I'll definitely give the concept map a try.
I've read the whole story so far, and it has been great! There are a couple things that could be better throughout the story, but nobody is perfect. I have loved it so far and think that you should keep writing.
I've read the whole story so far, and it has been great! There are a couple things that could be better throughout the story, but nobody is perfect. I have loved it so far and think that you should keep writing.
I'm glad you enjoyed it!
Between not having as much time to write as I'd like and being distracted by another story idea, I haven't done much with this one in a while. But I do intend to continue it. There is a lot more to tell.
What have you enjoyed about the story so far and where do you think I can improve?
I'm back!!! I do apologize for being away for such a loooooong time. I promise to do my best to not let that happen again.
Anyway, here is the next chapter. . . . . . .
Chapter 14: An Old Wive’s tale
The muddled sound of hushed voices broke across the dark void, echoing through the labyrinth in which Link had been lost for what felt an eternity. But he hadn’t been alone. Since the blood filled visions passed, a sinister presence shadowed his every move as he stumbled through the twisted corridors of this lightless world. And even though the entity kept its distance, Link was always aware of It by the tingling in his spine and the burning sensation on the back of his left hand.
Pushing through the loneliness and fear of being trapped here forever, Link tried to focus on his first and only glimmer of hope. He smiled to himself when his ears picked out Akio’s impatient tone.
“There doesn’t appear to be anything wrong with him,” a calm elderly voice answered.
“You checked everything, right?”
“Akio!?” Masaka scolded.
“I may not know much about Hylians, but I’m pretty sure it’s not normal for them to drop to the ground and be out for over a day.”
“Your question was still rude.”
“It’s ok Masaka,” the old voice said, “the lad is just worried about his new friend. And yes, I did check everything I could. There is no physical reason to explain the young Hylian’s collapse.”
The young Zora made no attempt to hide his concern, “So what does that mean?”
The question hung in the air as an uneasy silence settled over the group. Even though his eyes were still closed Link could feel the troubled gazes focused on him.
Finally Masaka spoke, “Well, thank you for help.”
“Anything for an old friend,” the elderly voice said, “the two of you should get some rest. You both look exhausted.”
“We’re fine,” Akio muttered.
“If you say so. But if you change your minds I'm in the green room and have got a number of potions that’ll help you rest.”
Masaka chuckled, “You old tease. Still trying to sell people on your crazy concoctions?”
“They do work. There’s even one. . .”
As the Zoras’ voices faded Link managed to crack open his eyelids, but quickly shut them again when the brilliant light from the room burned his eyes. Groaning he covered his face with his hands.
“So you are alive,” relief radiated from Akio’s words.
“I think so,” Link mumbled, “can you do anything about the light?”
“Sorry, those things can’t be turned off. Just give it a minute your eyes will get used to them.”
“Where I am?”
“The Zora palace.”
Akio spoke very slowly, “The Zora palace.”
Link sighed, “Why, am I in the palace?”
“It’s the safest place for you.”
The answer struck Link as a little odd, but his groggy mind wasn’t ready to pursue it. Moving to a sitting position he asked, “How long have I been out?”
“Day and a half.”
“What?!” The bright light stung Link’s eyes as he forced them to open while jumping to his feet. But as his weight settled onto his legs, his knees buckled sending him plummeting towards the stone floor. A pair of strong pale blue arms caught Link before he hit and helped him back to the cot.
“You ok?” Akio asked.
“I have to go,” Link said to himself, his mind not fully acknowledging what just happened.
“Where you gonna go?”
“Can’t lose any more time.”
“But you can’t even stand!”
Link made another attempt to get up and even though he stumbled again, Akio was ready to catch him.
“You’re up?” Masaka sounded surprised as he re-entered the room.
“Not exactly,” Akio commented.
“I’m fine,” Link could feel his legs growing stronger with each passing moment, “I really need to go.”
“Where?” Masaka studied Link carefully while he waited for an answer.
“I. . .um. . .”
“You know I asked the sa. . .” Akio started to interrupt until his commanding officer briefly directed his gaze at him.
Taking advantage of the distraction Link’s mind raced to come up with an answer that didn’t involve the runes, “I have friends expecting me back soon,” he suddenly blurted out, “If I hurry hopefully I can get back before they get too concerned.”
Masaka returned his attention to Link, his eyes still searching for something, “Unfortunately it’s too close to sunset, your journey will have to be delayed one more night.”
“But my friends. . .”
“will have to wait until the morning,” Masaka finished Link’s statement, “I’m sure they would rather you arrive a little late than not at all.”
Shrugging off Akio’s support Link stood on his own to face Masaka. He opened his mouth to protest the order, but stopped when the same fear he had seen in the tunnel, flashed across the guard’s eyes. Glancing at Akio, Link saw the same thing in the young Zora.
For a fleeting moment he considered ignoring it, after all the people in his village were irrationally afraid of a forest. However the Zoras’ fear didn’t seem to be a vague terror of the unknown. It was very real to them. Like they had seen something in the dark. The thought sent a tingling sensation all the way down Link’s spine causing his whole body to briefly shudder. Akio noticed.
“Are you ok?”
Pushing the troubling ideas to the back of his mind Link forced a smile across his face, “I’m fine,” he looked at Masaka, “I guess you’re right. One more night won’t make that much difference.” He hadn’t actually made up his mind if he would stay or not, but for now it would be easier if the Zoras believed he intended to.
Masaka returned Link’s smile, “Good.” Then he glanced at Akio.
“Yes sir,” came the reply to the wordless command.
“I have to be going now, my shift starts soon. May the goddesses protect you on your journey Link,” Masaka bowed his head slightly as he spoke.
The statement caught Link off guard, “Thank you?”
Raising his head Masaka turned and left.
“What was that about?” Link asked.
“He was wishing you a safe journey,” Akio seemed offended by the question, “don’t you ask the goddesses for protection?”
“Well you should,” Akio lowered his voice to a whisper, “especially while you’re here.”
“Why is that?” Link whispered.
The young Zora suddenly spoke at a normal volume, “I’m hungry.”
“You know the feeling you get when your stomach is empty.”
“I know what hunger is, but what does that have to do with what we were just talking about?”
Akio paused for a moment, “Nothing. I’m just hungry. You want something?”
Link's stomach answered the question before his mouth could speak.
“I’ll take that as a yes. Follow me,” the young Zora turned and sprinted away.
More than a little confused, but not willing to miss another meal Link did his best to keep up with the enthusiastic Zora.
Just like in the room where he had woken up, the walls of the corridors they passed through had been painstakingly carved to depict a large variety of aquatic plants and animals living in an underwater reef. The sculptor had even been careful to shape the doors and windows they past to seamlessly fit into this world. Such great detail had been put into carving and painting the walls that Link felt the creatures depicted might spring to life at any moment. But his enjoyment of the scenery was marred by the presence of the yellow orbs. Just like in the tunnel the orbs were positioned in a repeating pattern that eliminated all shadows, but instead of blending into the coral reef these orbs stood in stark contrast, almost as though they were a horrible afterthought.
Link was still pondering the purpose of these strange orbs when he realized, I’ve lost Akio.
Having not paid too much attention to where he had come from or where he was going Link quickly realized he was hopelessly lost as he darted through the twisting corridors of this coral maze.
“Akio,” he called out softly.
Link chanced a bit more volume, “Akio!”
Still nothing. Having always pictured a royal palace as being a place constantly bustling with servants and dignitaries, Link found the stillness of this place to be unsettling.
Convinced he was the only one around Link took a deep breath and, in the loudest voice he could muster, shouted, “AKIO!”
“Will you keep it down out there,” a grumpy old voice replied, “some of us have important work to do!”
Startled, Link froze in the corridor as an elderly Zora stuck his head into the hallway. However, the anger in the Zora’s face quickly disappeared when his eyes focused on Link.
“OH! It is so good to see you up and about, young Hylian,” the eagerness in the Zora’s voice was matched by the fast hobble which the elderly Zora used to close the short distance between him and Link, “Tell me, do you feel any dizziness, headaches, maybe an upset stomach?”
“I. . .um,” was the best Link could muster before the elderly Zora took Link by the hand and began dragging him back to room he had come from.
“Now you must tell me everything you experienced so I can be better prepared in the future. Has this affliction become common among Hylians?” the Zora’s voice trailed off as he entered a room filled with books and glass beakers that contained a variety of different colored liquids and powders. The old Zora released Link's hand and began rummaging through a stack of papers on a half buried table.
Link finally managed to find his voice, “I. . .um. . .I’m sorry, but who are you?”
The Zora stopped, then slowly turned around with a horrified expression on his face, “Forgive me, it has been so many years since I’ve had the opportunity to use my knowledge of Hylian medicine that I have forgotten my manners. My name is Bedic. Masaka sent for me shortly after he brought you to the palace. I’ve been looking after you ever since. In fact I was inspired while looking through some of my books and was working on a new potion of my own creation that I was hoping would revive you,” Bedic motioned to the table, “I don’t suppose I’ll get to test it now. Unless you’re still feeling ill?”
Link couldn’t help but chuckle at the hope in the old Zora’s question, “No, I feel fine,” a low growl emanated from his stomach, “I am very hungry, though.”
“Hasn’t Akio brought you any food?”
“We were actually on our way to get something to eat when I lost Akio.”
The old Zora shook his head, “That young one still has so much to learn. Follow me,” Bedic led Link back into the corridor, “As you may have noticed most of the creatures depicted on the walls are pointed upstream while the plants bend downstream. . .”
“Downstream?” Link interrupted.
Bedic pointed straight up and for the first time Link noticed the glass ceiling that gave a perfect view of the rushing current above, which the red rays of the low hanging sun had set on fire. For a moment Link stood memorized.
“This is my favorite time of day too,” Bedic commented, “it’s unfortunate those yellow orbs are ruining the way the sun’s light would normally refract through the water and onto the walls. And the full moon would’ve been especially beautiful tonight.”
“So why use the orbs at all?”
“They didn’t tell you?” Bedic studied Link’s face for a long moment, “I suppose they had their reasons, but since you will be spending another night with us you deserve to know. According to our ancient texts these yellow orbs protect us from Living Shadows.”
A deep rolling laughter welled up inside Link and took command of his body before he realized what was happening. It lasted so long and hard he ended up doubled over with his hands on his knees for support as he gasped for air. With tears streaming down his face he finally managed to subdue the laughter and look back at the Zora. Bedic didn’t seem offended by Link’s reaction, instead he appeared to be patiently waiting for Link to regain his composure.
“I had much the same reaction when I first heard the reports,” Bedic smiled, “although my old bones couldn’t recover quite as quick as yours.”
Managing to take in a deep breath Link asked, “You expect me to believe that you are being haunted by a character from an old wives’ tale that parents use to scare their children into not wandering off alone in the dark?”
“Characters, actually,” Bedic corrected, “and while else would a royal palace be all but deserted?”
Link allowed a bit of sarcasm in his question, “I thought the orbs were supposed to protect you?”
Despite Link’s jab the old Zora’s tone remained calm, “They actually do a very good job, but even with the orbs my people only truly feel safe when they’re underwater.”
Another low growl radiated from Link’s stomach. It was the loudest so far and was accompanied by a fleeting spell of weakness that left Link leaning on a nearby wall for support.
“I would be glad to speak more about this but you need to eat soon, young Hylian,” Bedic chuckled, “as I was saying before, almost all the creatures on the walls face upstream; however when you reach a place where multiple corridors meet look for a school of multi-colored fish that face in different directions. Each fish in this school is color coded for a different room in the palace. If you follow the direction the blue fish point you will find the kitchen and probably Akio, the red fish will lead you back to your room, and the green fish will lead you back to me.”
“Thanks,” Link smiled, but as he turned to leave Bedic touched his arm.
“Whether or not you believe the Living Shadows are real, please do not leave the safety of the yellow orbs until sunrise.”
The seriousness of the old Zora’s tone told Link he shouldn't take the warning lightly and that thought sent a slight tingling sensation down his spine.
WARNING: This chapter marks the first step towards the darkness I warned about back at the beginning of the story. There are a couple descriptions toward the end that are a bit graphic so please use your best judgement in continuing to read.
Chapter 15: Night Falls
Take shelter in what light you can
Lest you fall by their dark hand
Starless, moonless, soulless fright
Living Shadows come out this night
An involuntary shudder ran through Link’s body as the final verse of ‘Shadow Lore’ played in his mind. His pace quickened over the cool stone floor as he followed the path the red fish pointed. It had been a few hours since his conversation with Bedic, but he still couldn’t get the old Zora’s warning out of his mind. It’s just a silly superstition, no different from the ones in Faron, Link shook his head, at least my stomach isn’t bothering me anymore.
Following the old Zora’s instructions Link had had no trouble finding the kitchen and Akio. The young Zora had been busy digging through the long abandoned cupboards for whatever scraps of food still remained and was just about to sit and eat, when Link walked in. Akio eagerly motioned for Link to pull up a chair and the two of them feasted on an odd assortment of leftovers and bottled food. Early in the meal Akio came up with the idea for a game. The rules were simple; combine whatever foods you want, if the other person likes it you get to ask a question if not then you have to answer a question. At first, the young Zora took a commanding lead forcing Link to answer a barrage of questions about Hylian culture and day-to-day life. Link did manage to eventually catch up and what he discovered about the Zora's underwater customs he found to be both strange and intriguing. However, one thing Akio mentioned stood out in Link’s mind more than anything else, the palace’s treasure room. Following up on it as casually as possible he found the young Zora to be surprisingly forthcoming. According to Akio the treasure room was in the upstream portion of the palace and was used to house the gifts given to the Zoras by the other races of Hyrule. A small cloud settled over Link’s mood when Akio mentioned that most of the contents of the room had been relocated to the underwater vaults when the trouble started. What little remained wasn’t considered valuable enough to bother moving or was too fragile to survive the journey.
After the meal the two of them were on their way back to Link’s room when a pair of Zora’s approached them. Link’s eye caught the glimmer of their finblades as they pulled Akio to the side. The three spoke in hushed tones and after a brief, intense conversation, Akio turned to Link.
“I’m sorry. Something has come up and I have to go. Follow the red fish back to your room and I’ll meet you there as soon as I can,” Akio leaned in to Link and whispered, “Your weapons are under the cot, keep them close.” Then he turned and sprinted down the hall with the other two Zoras.
Walking the rest of the way back on his own, Link had glanced up through the rippling liquid ceiling and saw the full moon just beginning to rise behind a thin haze of clouds that covered the darkened sky. It was this sight which had pulled the final verse from 'Shadow Lore' out of his memory and returned Bedic’s warning to the front of his mind. His paced quickened again as the verse replayed and finally got some relief when he began strapping his sword and shield over his clothing.
With the last strap secured, Link decided to take advantage of the fact that he was finally alone. Creeping up to the doorway he peered out into the hallways. They were just as he had left them, empty. He took a quick glance up, and then turned down the corridor headed upstream. As he traveled through the twisting coral maze Link reached behind and held his sword and shield apart so they wouldn’t clink together. Also he slowed his pace and carefully checked around each corner he approached. This made for slow painstaking progress which he realized was probably unnecessary, but he had been surprised once and didn’t feel like getting surprised a second time, especially now.
Winding his way through what seemed unending miles of corridors and stumbling across more than a few dead ends, the moon was high in the sky when Link slowed for yet another corner. He peered around it. Two Zora guards stood at the end of a short hallway with coral spears in hand and one of them looked familiar. Link quickly pulled back around the corner and held his breath while straining his ears to listen for any indication that the guards had seen him.
Nothing. Link allowed a quiet sigh of relief to escape his lips.
A glimmer of hope rose in him. Unless the Zoras stationed guards in abandoned palaces for fun, this had to be the treasure room. He knew, at best, this was a long shot, but it was his only lead to finding the rune. Chancing another quick look around the corner, he saw the two guards stood on either side of an open doorway, so if he could just get past them. . .
His thoughts trailed off for a moment as he stopped to think about what he was planning. After the Zoras have been so kind, am I really going to steal from them?! Somewhere deep inside his mind his father’s voice rang out and began scolding him in the same disappointed tone Link had only heard one other time in his life. His stomach turned and for a moment he believed he was going to see his dinner again. Then Aria crossed his mind. A few of his happiest memories with her played before his mind’s eye followed by the thought of what would happen if he failed. Taking in a deep breath he promised himself that after Aria and Gordon’s baby were healed he would bring the rune back and face the consequences of what he had done. Link forced his doubts and reservations to the side. I have to do this, Link smiled as he gazed at the leather bracelet the shaman had given him, and I can do it without hurting anyone.
Unhooking the flap that concealed the ruby, Link took a deep breath, rubbed the ruby, and watched his hands and arms disappear. Confidently and quietly he strutted around the corner and headed straight for the guards.
“HALT!” both guards commanded as they lowered their spears and aimed them directly at Link.
Link froze. Confused, he began quickly inspecting his body. The ruby’s magic had appeared to work, his arms, legs, torso. . . His thoughts evaporated when he noticed the straps which held his weapons in place were still visible. Craning his neck Link saw his sword and shield were also visible.
Mentally he called down on himself every curse he could think of as the shaman’s words came back to him, That jewel will make you and anything your skin touches completely invisible.
With the cost of using the ruby already beginning to take its toll Link didn’t have time to waste. He noticed the guard on his left starting to visibly shake. Link pulled the shield off his back and holding it with both hands he moved it around in a slow eerie fashion while approaching the guard. A smile spread across his face as the small shaking in the guard’s body turned into a violent tremble. When Link was close enough he rammed his shield into the side of the guard’s spear. The Zora screamed in a manner Link had thought only little girls were capable of, dropped his spear, sprinted past Link, and disappeared down the hallway.
Stifling his laughter Link turned his attention to the other guard. This one stood calm and focused. Link’s little trick had had no effect. To make matters worse Link couldn’t shake the feeling that he recognized this Zora but with his vision starting to blur he couldn’t be sure.
“Listen to me,” Link instantly recognized Masaka’s voice, “I know what’s happening. You don’t have to do this. Fight it!”
Link paused for a moment, confused by Masaka’s words, Fight what?
However with his shield growing heavier by the second, he didn’t have time to dwell on it. In one swift motion he drew his sword and cut off the decorative head of the spear. Masaka pulled the shaft of the spear back and held it across his chest with both hands.
“Please fight it!” Masaka begged.
Calling on what little of his rapidly fading strength he had left, Link swung his sword again. Even with his blurring vision he managed to cleanly slice through the part of the shaft between Masaka’s hands, then before the Zora could recover Link raised his shield and lunged at him. With a dull thud the shield made contact and sent Masaka stumbling backwards into the wall before collapsing on the ground.
Unable to hold his weapons any longer, Link allowed them to fall to the stone floor with a loud clang that echoed down the empty corridor. He quickly rubbed the ruby. His vision and strength partially returned as he became visible, but he still had to lean on the wall for a few minutes before he could stand on his own. When his eyesight was finally clear again he looked at Masaka. There was a small trail of blood trickling down from the Zora’s nose, but otherwise he appeared fine.
Link knelt down beside the unconscious Zora guard and carefully positioned him so he was sitting in a somewhat comfortable position with his back against the wall. Then using his right hand he steadied Masaka’s head, while his left hand produced a small scrap of cloth from his pocket which he used to clean the blood from Masaka’s face.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered.
Just as he was about to finish Link felt a brief chill pass through his body. With the hairs on the back of his neck tingling, Link put the cloth in Masaka’s hand, collected his weapons, and headed into the treasure room.
Unlike the rest of the palace, the walls in this room were smooth and the flawless finish acted like a mirror making the room feel endless. And it took Link moment to realize that this room didn’t have a glass ceiling. Instead the outer walls curved upwards forming a large dome. A series of alcoves and recesses lined the outer edge of the room.
Most of what had been left behind was very old and ornate wooden furniture. Link began his search by carefully looking through the desks, chairs, and couches scattered around the room. Finding nothing, he widened his search to the small piles of trinkets, being extremely careful with each item as he looked. Finally he began searching the empty alcoves and recesses and just when he was about to give up hope, he found it. Lying by itself the rusted piece of metal looked as though it had been accidently dropped and possibly kicked a few times before ending up in the corner at the back of the treasure room. Link smiled to himself as he picked it up. It looked identical to both the shaman’s rune and the one he had gotten from Gordon. All this for something that looks so worthless. He shook his head and put the rune in his pocket then turned to leave, but as he neared the door the sound of muffled crying reached his ears. Slowing his pace Link quietly approached the door and carefully peeked outside.
Masaka’s lifeless body lay in a growing pool of blood just outside the door and there was another Zora knelt over the guard with his face buried in Masaka’s neck. Link’s stomach lurched inside him as his left hand instinctively clamped over his mouth. Closing his eyes Link pulled back inside the treasure room before falling to his knees. He doubled over and put his right hand on the cool stone floor for support and for several long, agonizing moments Link battled to keep his dinner down.
Dread crept into every corner of Link’s body as he instantly recognized Akio’s voice. Though his stomach had calmed enough for him to straighten himself Link was still trying to convince his hand to move away from his mouth.
“What are you doing here?”
Finally his hand relented and Link started to answer as he stood to his feet and turned to face Akio.
But the young Zora cut him off, “And why is there blood on your shield?”
Link’s eyes met Akio’s just in time to see confusion turn to shock and then rage. Faster than Link could blink Akio closed the distance between them. He crossed his arms, grabbed Link by the shoulders and pinned him to the nearest wall.
“WHY IS THERE BLOOD ON YOUR SHIELD?!” Akio screamed. To accent this question Akio flexed his arm fins and as they extended they formed a wide V that cupped Link’s neck.
“I. . .I,” Link nervously fidgeted while his mind raced.
“I. . .um. . .,” with his mind unable to fabricate a lie Link’s mouth just started talking, “I came to the Zora Domain to find a cure for my friend. She’s being killed by a terrible curse and a shaman told me the only cure was a rune in the Zora Domain.”
“So you lied to me!”
“NO! Well, not technically,” Link quickly corrected.
“You came here claiming to have a message from the Gorons to gain our trust, then what? Pretended to be ill to get into the palace?”
“I did have a message from the Gorons and I wasn’t pretending. . .”
Akio interrupted by pulling Link a few inches away from the wall then slammed him back into the stone as he shouted, “LIAR!”
“I’M NOT LYING,” Link locked eyes with Akio and was more than a little scared by the depth of the pain and rage he saw.
“You’ve done nothing but lie since I first laid eyes on you. And now you’re a murderer too.”
“No, NO,” Link protested, “I did fight with Masaka and gave him a bloody nose with my shield, but I did not. . .”
Akio’s barely controlled voice boiled with anger, “Don’t you dare defile my father’s memory with more of your lies.”
Father!? Link had noticed a resemblance, but he thought it was just because they were both Zoras.
Link’s shield squealed against the stone as Akio drug him along the wall out into the corridor. While still keeping Link pinned to the wall Akio positioned him so he could get a good view of Masaka, “Just look at him and tell me you didn’t do that.”
Link’s stomach churned again at the sight of the blood pouring out of the gaping hole in the Zora’s chest. But Link couldn't figure out how the wound was made. It looked as though something had been shoved through the Zora’s chest from behind and came out the front. Masaka’s body, however, was still leaning against the wall exactly as Link had left it.
The sound of clanking armor broke the silence and grew steadily louder.
“I guess that squealing coward finally found more help,” Akio muttered under his breath. He focused his burning gaze directly into Link’s eyes and Link could feel the Zora’s body tremble as he spoke, “I shouldn’t let them take you. Prison is too good for you.”
As the finblades closed in around his neck, Link could feel his own body tremble with fear. As tears began to stream down his cheeks Link closed his eyes, I’m sorry Aria.
But when the blades made contact with Link’s skin they stopped. Akio’s gaze intensified and his body shook even more, but the finblades didn’t budge.
Bone chilling cries of fear, followed by the scrapping and crashing of sword against shield, and finally the desperate screams of dying men reached their ears. Then as quickly as it began, it stopped and all was silent.
Akio turned his head in the direction the sounds had come from. Unable to move because of the finblades at his throat Link could only watch the young Zora.
The rage that had filled the Zora’s eyes quickly melted away and both eyes grew wide as wagon wheels. His breathing became shallow and labored, and his body trembled even more violently as his pale blue skin turned pure white. “That’s not possible!” he muttered.
Quickly retracting his arm fins, Akio released his hold on Link and retreated back to Masaka’s body. Now free Link turned his head to follow Akio’s gaze.
The once brightly lit corridor grew darker by the second, as one by one the orbs were going out. With the darkness advancing towards them a chill ran through Link’s spine and the scene changed before his eyes. Link saw himself standing behind Akio and to him the approaching darkness was as bright as a sunlit day. Moving with a mind of its own his hand raised the dark blade it held and shoved it through the Zora's chest. He could feel muscle and bone give way as the razor sharp edge came out the front. Akio's mouth opened and released a sickly gurgling sound, before the young Zora slid off the sword and collapsed to the ground with a dull thud.