"We will be seeing strange things from now on," Zelda says.
"Like red eyed-doppelgangers?" Maltzar asks. "Or was that Link's evil twin?"
"Both." Zelda turns to us. "Do you know what this is?" She points to the barrier to the desert. It is a black wall with many golden designs glowing across it. It hums deeply. Before we approached it, I thought it was a sunset. But it changed when we came closer. The stories from Bruta are true. The mirage walls of dusk do exist.
"It's Twilight," I say.
"Very good, Link." Zelda nods. "At least you stay awake sometimes."
I feel heat around my ears.
"Each and every one of us has a dark side," Zelda says. "This realm of shadows can make them manifest in flesh. So yes, the guardian of the desert is Link's evil twin. It will not be an easy fight. Link is skilled and he will share his abilities."
I look back at my dark twin. His steed is standing in the center of the rope bridge, eyeing us closely but not advancing. He's waiting for something.
"So how do we get in?" Maltzar snaps. We walk into the wall's shadow. Zelda turns to us again, holding us back.
"I understand what the Guardian means. If we are to survive this, we are to return the light to the Desert Spirit. Otherwise we will be trapped as ghosts in the shadows. Are you two ready for this?"
"Ready as you'll ever be," Maltzar gloats.
"I'm going with you," I say. Zelda smiles.
"This trial will not be for the faint of heart."
She pivots and reaches to the wall.
"Do you see a door?" Maltzar scoffs to me. Just as he finishes two great black arms shoot out and grab the three of us. We are pulled into the cold air of dusk. The wet sand hits us and we lie at the feet of a giant beast. It is shaped like a gorilla with all the likeness of a spider. Its arms are longer than its legs and its fingers are spindly. A flat mask is its face with no eyes. A mane of writhing tentacles lines it from all sides.
I pull out my dagger and I leap to strike but my knees give out. My body is shaking; I'm having a seizure! Hot pain shoots through me. My scream turns into a howl and all goes black.
I'm on my back breathing hard. Now that hurt...a lot. I sit up. The world seems bigger than last I looked. Dude, there are more beasties! I get to my feet and...I'm short. Really short. I look down to find little black hands. I'm naked and covered in teal markings. I reach up and feel bat-like ears.
"I'M A FUCKING IMP!" I yell. My voice is smaller, reedier. I'm easily plucked up by one of the beasts. It seems to be looking at me...with no eyes. "Hold me a little closer and I'll really give you something to look at!" I flail my little fists, but really with a voice like this I might as well be on helium. The other beasts are examining the creatures on the ground. There is a wolf and a giant red bird. Where did Link and Zelda go? I freeze with realization. It's them and they are both unconscious. The beasties begin to drag them away. I struggle madly as I'm carried along.
We come to a great palace: a ziggurat made of obsidian stone. Blood red markings maze all over it. They glow too. Cool.
"Listen you blind, octo-faced bastard! I'm warning you. Any harm to them and you're dead meat!" I squirm.
The great bird which I think is Zelda is put in a cage and slung up before the gates of the castle like a crude ornament. Link is put in an enclosed pen. But they hold on to me.
A man steps out of the palace, gliding gracefully like a snake. His neck is a little too long for my liking. In sandals of gold and serpent-scaled armor, he is fit to be the king. Well, he just might be. I glare as he approaches. He cocks his head and gazes at me with glowing orange eyes.
"You have done well," he purrs to my captors. "You have surrendered to me Hylia and her
My jaw drops.
"No, really? Them? The dog doesn't know enough tricks and the bird is, well, bird-brained! No, we're just passing by. What makes you think that?" I laugh.
"And who is this little child?" he asks.
"I'm not a child and I am of no concern to you," I snap. My captor easily raises me to the king-guy's eye level.
"Then you are indeed an intruder. But how is it that you bear our shape?" he hisses.
"Don't ask me. You're the boss, aren't you?" I turn elsewhere. His breath isn't exactly all roses.
His long finger comes under my chin.
"You must be the Sword Hunter."
"At your service, my liege!" I sneer and spit in his face. He wipes it away calmly.
I'm thrown to the ground.
"Let Lord Ghirahim know that we have found his runaways," the king-guy says as he leaves me to my doom.
I wake to the sounds of yells and snarls. My head hurts. I get to my hands and feet and...realize they are paws. I turn in a circle and find I'm a creature- a wolf. I'm inside a pen. What on earth is going on? I look again toward the screams. Through the bars I see a scuffle amongst a number of beasts, same as the one I saw before. They are trying to get their hands on a little child. But on closer look, I see it looks more like a fiend, with big yellow eyes and blood red irises and jet black skin. Teal designs glow on him in grids and swirls. He gnashes his needle sharp teeth, his bat-like ears angled back like horns. He is losing the battle. The beasts are toying with him.
I'm confused for a moment until I realize I recognize something about him. The spiky mess of red hair and the green headband that trails down the length of his shortened body.
"Maltzar?" I woof. He is picked up by the throat and thrown down. The little Maltzar imp coughs and scrambles back. He is hit again and sent rolling. They are kicking him and clawing at him, growing more and more violent. I see the terror in Maltzar's eyes. I've seen enough. I sniff around the edge of my pen until I find a soft patch. I dig underneath and wriggle out. I charge. Two have Maltzar's arms, the others his legs. They are pulling, fighting over him like he is their last meal. Not if I can help it!
I jump on the nearest and tear out its throat. I go wild, snarling and jumping from one to the next, ripping off whatever limbs present themselves. Wounded and groaning, the beasts run. I howl after them, my hackles raised, just to make sure they really don't think of coming back.
"Keep it down, will you!" says the little Maltzar. His voice is so cute! "You don't want to give away our position!" He's on the ground. I use my snout to help him up. He looks at me like he wants to hit me. "Thanks," he mutters out of the corner of his mouth. I huff softly in reply. As much as I dislike Maltzar, he's too adorable to hate. "So. Seeing as I can talk, I'm in charge," he declares. The hate is returning. I growl. "Oh, shut up. We gotta save your blushing bride-to-be." Maltzar sneers, hopping onto my back. I try bucking him off. He yanks my fur until I subside. "Good boy." He flicks my head. Why does this seem so familiar?
But as much as I hate him, he's right. With such small legs he'd never keep up. We set off into the castle. It is a treacherous maze full of enemies and traps. Why there are a bunch of crunchy, choppy things in the middle of a castle, beats me.
"Left, right- no that one! Stay! Good boy!"
"Shut up!" I try to say but only a growl comes out. Maltzar giggles fiendishly. We finally find our way to the terrace. There is Zelda, her sharp beak pecking and gnawing at the wooden bars. She screeches at us defensively. What a set of lungs she has, I'm nearly deafened.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa, baby girl!" Maltzar holds up his hands. "It's us- your old pals!"
She cocks her head confused.
"And this is where your journey ends," comes a soft voice. We turn. This long-necked man with orange eyes steps toward us.
"You wish," Maltzar says, standing on my back. "I won't give you that satisfaction."
The man chuckles thinly.
"You fools. You do not have the means of defeating me."
Maltzar is lifted off my back by an invisible force.
"I have received a warrant for your arrest, Sword Hunter. Lying to Lord Ghirahim will indeed be a great punishment." A thin smile shapes his lips.
"Link," I hear Zelda's voice in my head. "Break that rope."
I look over my shoulder to see the tether to her cage.
"But you'll fall," I think back.
"Do it," she orders, her stormy blue eyes glaring at me. Without hesitation I tear into it with my teeth. Before the man can react, Zelda falls out of sight.
I am lifted off my feet. I am turned toward the man and he his furious. I feel something pierce my side. A whining sound escapes me as I fight to pull away. It is pushed in deeper and deeper. I can't breathe. One of my lungs has collapses.
Zelda soars up, fury in her eyes. She swoops in and grabs both me and Maltzar with her talons and flies away.
"Know that I am Zant, the King of Shadows. I will find you Hylia!" he calls after us.
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