Forever Can End in Seconds - Part Two

By Kasuto of Kataan

Chapter 1

The first thing he noticed was the silence. It was very quiet here. No-it wasn't silent. There were a few noises here. He heard a steady dripping noise coming from somewhere behind him. The sound of the dripping made a barely audible echo. He judged that he must be somewhere large, like a cave. He tried listening more closely to determine if there was anyone or anything else here. He couldn't hear anyone else; the only noises that hinted at anything living was the sound of his own breathing. A blindfold covered his eyes, and he could see nothing. After trying to move, he realized that his arms were tied tightly to his back, and his ankles were bound to the legs of the chair.

The realization that he was alone immediately sent him into an analytical mode, studying every bit of information he could gather from his situation. Link tried to think of where he was and how he got here. He racked his brain trying to come up with some memory, any memory. It slowly came back to him; he remembered walking through the lawn of the castle. He was going to see Zelda to give her a bouquet of flowers. He'd taken the more scenic route through the castle grounds, admiring the rare and beautiful flowers that grew there. He remembered his plan to have a picnic on the castle grounds, near the cluster of flowers that Zelda liked the most. But something had happened before he reached the castle-something that wasn't quite right. He remembered the flowers-it was a beautiful bouquet of blossoms he had found in the Kokiri Forest, from rare plants that only grew in a single meadow. There was something in those flowers that was bad, he remembered a bee. Yes-there was a honeybee inside one of the blooms. He recalled the stinging sensation. The bee had stung him. He had been stung numerous times, and it was only a minor nuisance to him. But there was something different about this bee sting; at the moment it pierced his skin he felt the most peculiar sensation. It had been like nothing he'd ever felt before. The pain was quite intense, flowing from the sting site up his arm and into the rest of his body. The sting incapacitated him, leaving him writhing helplessly on the ground. He remembered someone approaching him. It must've been a woman, because he recalled her saying something, and it was a woman's voice, but what she said eluded him.

The sudden sound of a footstep from behind him caught his attention. There was a slight echo with each footstep, which only agitated Link further. He could tell that this person was being deliberately mysterious. "Who's there?" he asked finally. The footsteps came closer. "I can hear you; you might as well answer me." He was growing ever more impatient as the footsteps finally reached him and the person stood in front of him. He could hear the breathing of whoever stood before him. "Well?" he insisted.

"Well what?" relied a snide female voice. "Do you expect me to come right out and answer your questions? It doesn't look like you are in the position to be making demands."

"I just want to know why I'm here," he replied frankly. He'd been in enough bizarre situations in his life, so it didn't surprise him to be held hostage. The only thing he wanted to know was why he was here and why he was the one being tormented.

"You are here because you are my master plan," the woman replied.

Oh great, Link thought. Another insane person who thinks that I'm part of their master plan.

"Oh please, I'm not insane," she said. "I would think that a person as intelligent as you would be able to figure out that you're more than just an ordinary person. Everyone you've ever met has told you that."

It was true. Many people had told him how he was such an extraordinary person; he heard it all the time. Sometimes he actually grew sick of compliments and people trying to emulate him. All he wanted was to live a normal life, a life free of heroism and responsibility. "What is it that you want?" he asked. "Money? Power? Are you planning on holding me for ransom? I'll tell you right now that I don't have any money and neither do my friends."

"You're not a very good liar," she said. "Everyone knows that you're in cahoots with the Princess of Hyrule. If I were to hold you for ransom, I could make a fortune. That girl would pay anything for you."

"Then you should also know that Zelda would also use any amount of force to get me back. She probably already has a whole army looking for me. And if I don't escape on my own first, you'll be in for some serious punishment. I've been in worse situations than this."

"I am well aware of your past adventures," she whispered, leaning so close to his face that he could feel the heat of her breath. She reached her hands behind Link's head and untied the blindfold. As his eyes focused and adjusted to the dim lighting in the room, the image of a middle-aged woman appeared before him. She was of average height and build, although her frame was a bit more muscular than most women. She was wearing a simply grey tunic that was unadorned. Her hair was a deep brunette color, with a few streaks of gray. But her face was what struck Link the most. The expression she wore showed obvious malice and ill-intent, but it also looked smug, as if she were seriously enjoying seeing Link like this. Her eyes were even worse; the green eyes she possessed would have been beautiful on any person other than her. But this woman's eyes were predatory, and...evil.

"What do you want with me?" he asked, attempting to give the coldest stare he could.

"Revealing my intentions too soon would take all the fun out of this. Don't you agree?" Link didn't respond, he only continued his icy stare. "You are quite an enigma. In many ways you are helpful, caring, and always trying to please. You make it your job to go out of your way to make others happy. Yet in another sense, you are fierce and determined, and you never let anyone get the better of you. You're a walking contradiction."

"Oh? And how did you come to that conclusion?" he asked, surprised that she could accurately describe personality, but angered that she would put him in this situation. All he knew was that he wasn't going to give this woman what she wanted.

She purposely delayed her response, to make it appear as if she were seriously considering it. Then she starting pacing circles around his chair, staring at him intently. After a few revolutions around the chair she stopped in front of him and stared directly into his eyes, sending a chill down his spine. "Where shall I begin?" she asked rhetorically. "Your name is Link, and you have lived the vast majority of your life in the enchanted Kokiri Forest. But you were always troubled with your life there. You were always different than everyone else because you didn't have a magical fairy following you wherever you went. Of course, among the Kokiri people, this simply doesn't happen. So they ridiculed you, mocked you, and used every opportunity they could to make you feel alienated. Your only solace was your friend Saria, who was considered a normal Kokiri girl, but also had a deep understanding of your problems. For most of your life, you two were inseparable. She was always there to listen to your problems, and to comfort you when you were upset.

"You lived your life like this everyday for most of your childhood. Then you started to become plagued by prophetic nightmares. This led to quite an amazing series of adventures. I won't bore you with the details, but suffice it to say that you were the mythical Hero of Time who was prophesied to free the world from the grip of an evil tyrant. And you did quite a good job. I'm sure it must've been upsetting when you found out that you were to be sent back to the time you came from, as if nothing you did ever mattered. No one would remember the difference you made, none of it even happened. The only people who knew of your adventures were those you told your tales to, and those who were gifted with perception far beyond those of normal people.

"So you wanted to go back and have a normal life, but Fate wasn't going to allow that. As soon as you get back from your journey, you decide to take another journey to find the fairy partner that had mysteriously left you. You found her annoying and pestering, yet you still felt an emptiness inside you because she left. So you wound up finding yourself on another world, and ended up saving that one from an evil force much like the one you banished in Hyrule. Once again when you returned, no one knew of your journey, and your tales were the only evidence to back them up.

"So once again, you wanted to live a normal life. You befriended the Princess of Hyrule, who thankfully had a recollection of you from before you created the alternate timeline. In the process of developing your relationship, you once again had to save the universe from another evil force bent on destroying all life, only this time your little girlfriend helped in the process. And that evil force, or what remained of it, was bent on destroying you from the inside out. And as usual, you managed to defeat it, but only with the love of your girlfriend, the princess.

"Then your love and devotion to her was put to the test when there was an attempt on her life." The woman walked closer to Link and leaned forward. "It must've really angered you to see that man torturing Zelda, didn't it?" she said in a tone intended to purposely upset him. "That was the first time you had ever felt pure hatred for another human being. You wanted to torture him, kill him, cause him pain that was infinitely worse than what he did to Zelda. In the end, you came to your senses and rescued her, but not after inflicting serious injuries on him. And you were rewarded by receiving the Star of Nayru and being knighted by the king. That is quite an accomplishment for any man, but the fact that you were a child made it all the more extraordinary.

"Then your life actually improved somewhat. By a series of strange happenings, you managed to discover that you had a twin sister, who had been separated from you shortly after birth, in order to ensure the survival of at least one of you. By a very sad twist of fate, you ended up in the peaceful Kokiri Forest, while your sister was taken to an orphanage, which burned down. As long as she could remember, your sister had been living on the streets, with no home or shelter, and subsisting on whatever food she could steal or dig out of the garbage. A few twists of fate, along with a little supernatural help, enabled you two to find each other. It was a happy time for you both, your sister had a place to live and a family, and you were able to flee your own flesh and blood from a hellish existence. You of course never admitted it to anyone, but you felt as if it were your fault that she had been given such a terrible life. You would lie on your bed late at night, wishing you could take away your sister's pain and anguish and bear it all yourself. You always do seem to have rather masochistic tendencies, always wanting to take other's people's burdens as your own.

"You sister later on fell in love with a mutual friend, who also happened to be female. But being the loving, supportive person you are, you accepted her choice and encouraged her. I won't judge either you for that, since I really have no room to speak on matters such as those.

"And a while after that, you were cursed with yet another adventure; more responsibility on your part. It was up to you and your gifted friends to prevent a crazed woman from achieving her wish of death by killing millions of people along with her. Once again, you succeeded. And you and your friends discovered more about yourselves, hearing that you might very well be the long-prophesied Supreme Oracles, who were destined to rebalance the forces in the Universe.

"And that leaves us where we are today. I have to admit that your life accomplishments to date are far greater than those of entire generations of heroes. And you're not even fifteen years old. I am impressed." She then stared at him, truly reveling in his look of shock and confusion.

"How..." he mumbled. "How did you know all that?" He was totally flabbergasted that she was somehow able to know all these intimate details of his life. Only his closest friends knew any of this stuff, and he had never seen this woman before in his life. He had a terrible feeling in his gut, telling him that this was not a situation that he could easily worm his way out of. There was something about her that made him suspect that she had more things planned than just screwing with his mind.

"You're not the only gifted person here," she mocked. "There are other people in this world who have abilities far superior to your own." Link gave an icy stare, angry that she was answering his question with more riddles. "I suppose I should introduce myself, it's only fair considering I already know you quite well. My name is Yasha. It's a real, pleasure, to meet you." The predatory look in her eyes when she said pleasure made Link cringe. There was something about the way she said it that made him terribly uneasy.

"What is it that you want from me? You told me my entire life story, but that doesn't explain why I'm here." Link only hoped that getting this woman to talk would give him some insight as to how her mind worked, so maybe he could figure out a way to defeat her. When she had been talking, Link was quietly trying to loosen the roped tied around his wrist, but had given up when they proved to be too strong and too tight. The chair was made of heavy ebony and appeared to be somehow bolted to the floor, so even tipping the chair over was impossible.

Yasha chuckled at the determined look on Link's face. He's definitely going to be a challenge. "My, my, you are persistent. Telling you what I want would ruin the fun of forcing it out of you. Although... I will eventually need your willing consent, but we'll worry about that later." Link wasn't quite sure what she meant about consent, but he knew that he certainly wouldn't give her consent to do anything. He would fight till his dying breath if that's what it came to. "Oh trust me, you will be broken," she added, as if reading his thoughts.

Link scoffed at her remark. She obviously didn't understand how strong he truly was. He wasn't going to let some woman who was totally off her rocker get the best of him. There was no doubt in his mind that he would triumph. "So are you going to tell me what this is about? Or are you going to beat around the bush all day? How do you seriously expect me to give in to you if I have no idea what you want?"

"Explanations will come all in good time. The first thing we need to do is to get you into your proper attire." Link gave a confused look for a moment, but then resumed his defiant stare. Yasha just grinned and walked behind the chair. He could feel her quickly loosen and untie the ropes binding his hands. Before he could even attempt to move his arms, she clutched them with a powerful, vise-like grip that surprised Link. "Please, I'm not as weak as you think. All men are alike, you think that women are weaker than you. Trust me, I'm perfectly capable of holding you still, fighting will only make things more difficult for you." Not paying attention to her words, Link continued to struggle. After untying his arms, she quickly locked a pair of iron shackles onto his wrists. The shackles had no give whatsoever, both cuffs were welded together, giving no freedom of movement. Next, she cut the ropes surrounding Link's ankles, and fitted them with similar shackles, only these ones were connected with short chains, giving his legs more freedom, albeit not much.

After securing him in shackles, Yasha forcefully pulled the struggling Link out of the chair and dragged him to a corner of the cavern. He tried to squirm and fight as much as he could, but the efforts were futile. Link knew that he couldn't escape at this very moment, but he wasn't about to submit and go along with her wishes. So he did everything he could think of to make her know that he wasn't going to give in, he squirmed and bucked like an angry bull, he yelled and screamed, and he hurled every insult he could think of at the woman. Yasha dragged him into some kind of barred cell and threw him to the ground, slamming his head against the rock wall. This incapacitated Link long enough for her to lock his leg shackles to a chain on the wall.

She stepped back out of the range of his chain and watched Link gradually attempt to sit up, wincing at the bleeding scalp wound on his head. He unconsciously moved his hands to run the wound, but failed after he remembered that his arms were bound. "This is going to be your new home," Yasha said, sounding like she was showing him some fancy mansion. The floor was hard, rocky, and dank. There were scant areas of moisture on the floor and walls of the cell, probably from condensation, and there was a distinct musty smell coming from the mildew growing in the cracks in the rock. The cell itself was completely bare, with nothing in it but the chain embedded in the wall that was locked to his handcuffs. The makeshift jail cell was a small, round alcove in the rock with iron bars embedded into the front end of the little cave. Yasha was standing in the open doorway of the cell, staring at Link. "So how do you like it?" she asked. Link spat at her, but the spit only managed to barely touch her ankles.

She smirked at him and left the cell for a second to fetch something from a table in the far corner. Yasha quickly returned brandishing a very formidable looking dagger. She walked up to Link and put one foot on his shoulder to hold him down, while holding the knife a few inches from his face. "That outfit you're wearing isn't very appealing. I'm going to have to remove it for you." She leaned over and pulled up the bottom of his tunic, then effortlessly cut it from the waist all the way to the neck line. After cutting the sleeves, she ripped the clothes from his body, exposing his bare chest. Then she removed his belt and cut the bottom of his tunic off, leaving him clad only in a pair of ivory-colored undershorts. Yasha took the remains of his clothing and threw them into pile in the middle of the main cavern, not really caring where they landed.

Link began to shiver slightly after realizing that it was a little chilly in the cave. He wanted to wrap his arms around himself, but was only barely able to sit up, and having his hands bound behind his back only made things more uncomfortable. Yasha walked back to the cell and stared Link from head to toe, with an almost predatory look. "For such a young man, you really are quite impressive. I'm sure you owe your wonderful physique to the frequent exercise you do. It's a wonder that you're not bombarded with women whenever you walk through the town." Link wasn't sure what the purpose of her comments was, but he certainly wasn't feeling flattered by them, in fact, it sickened him. She kneeled down beside him and ran her fingers down his chest, sending terrible chills down his spine and bile up his throat. He quickly wormed away from her and nudged himself into the corner.

Yasha chuckled at his reaction. "You're absolutely fearless when it comes to fighting life and death battles, but when a woman touches you, you cower in the corner. But that doesn't matter now, I'll get what I want from you later."

"Don't you ever touch me again," he commanded forcefully, trying to look as dead-serious as possible.

"Typical male behavior," she chuckled. "Even when you men are in a helpless situation, you still try to take control, or at least pretend that you have some control. You need to learn to be submissive, and let other people tell you what to do."

Link seriously thought this woman was insane. The thought that she wanted him only for some kind of sexual pleasure crossed his mind, but he vowed not to let her do anything of the sort. "So that's what this is about?" he asked. "Do you have some kind of obsession with seducing teenage boys? Or are you just upset that you couldn't land a husband?" At the moment, a war of words was the only battle he could fight.

"Oh, this has nothing to do with seducing teenage boys... although, sometimes that does come as an added perk." Link's face clearly registered his disgust. She sighed. "Yes, I'm well aware of your rather old-fashioned views concerning matters such as those. I know you're madly in love with the princess, and eagerly await the day when you finally marry her and be whisked away into a magical world of marital bliss. But I am sorry to say that you won't be marrying her...ever."

The finality of her statement only angered him further. "You can't tell me what to do. I will get out of here whether you like it or not."

Yasha only smiled and shook her head. "Your optimism surprises me, most people would be begging for their lives or groveling at my feet now. Good for you, but it'll only make things worse." She walked within reaching distance of him and stared down at his stern face and defensive posture. Before he could even react, she kicked him hard in the gut, making him double over in terrible pain. He coughed and choked as Yasha laughed and walked away. "I'll leave you alone to think about things for a while. I'll be back later." Link could barely watch because the pain made him wince and contort into a fetal position; all he saw was her walking off out of sight.

Yasha sat in a room separated from the main chamber in the cavern. Long ago she had made a home out of one of the many large caverns in a vast system of caves in the mountain range next to the infamous Death Mountain. There were no towns nearby, and no one else who called the caves home. Even the Gorons had no settlements here. But Yasha liked this place, it was isolated and quiet, perfect for the things she needed to do here.

The room she was in now acted as her bedroom and primary living area. It had all the comforts of a normal home, only in a more dark setting. She chuckled to herself upon remembering the look of determination on Link's face and how it suddenly disappeared when he'd gotten a small kick in the stomach. It was funny how a person's demeanor could change when a little physical pain was introduced. Of course Yasha knew that Link had been through worse pain than she was currently giving him, so more drastic measures would have to be used on him. She knew very well that he was a strong person, not only physically, but emotionally as well. But every man has his weaknesses. She was fortunate to know most of his weaknesses. Yes, he put on a strong façade, but inside, he was much more delicate. He had a fear of failure, a fear of not being good enough. And he had other weaknesses as well; he would willingly die for his friends and family, and was fiercely loyal and dedicated to them. Using his love for his friends, and his inner fears of failure and weakness could definitely be used to her advantage. She just had to find the right order in which to break him down. Yasha wasn't sure which weakness to exploit first. Zelda was his obvious weak point, but she wanted to save that revelation for his final breakdown.

If she didn't have such devious plans for him, his naïveté would be charming, almost cute. She was well-aware that the young man put on a warrior face when he needed to, but she knew deep down how he truly was. He had been through very trying experiences; traveling through time and vanquishing evil demons could take a toll on the person. But hardships did not define one's maturity. Even when he had fought in his own future, he was still a child in the body of an adult. Link had no idea what he was doing, he did as he was told, like a good little boy should. He had been through more in his few short years than most people did in a lifetime, but that didn't make him more than an impressive child. And Link lived his life among the Kokiri, once believing he was one of them. How is he able to become a man living among children his whole life? Yasha smiled; he may be growing into a beautiful young man, but his mind was as innocent and immature as anyone his age, perhaps even more so.

Link didn't even know the extent of his own powers, the raw, untapped energy within him. But Yasha knew all about those powers, he was one-of-a-kind, her mother lode of spiritual energy. It would be so easy for him to lose what he didn't even know he had. He would definitely suffice for what she needed. But spiritual energy wasn't all that he had to offer. He was also a beautiful and robust young man, perfect for having a little fun. Why throw away the container just yet? She might as well use him to his fine advantage. Once again, Link's innocence would be his downfall. He obviously had no idea how attractive he was, apparently he never seemed to notice the other girls gawking at him. But she would show him how the world saw him, she would have to take the last bit of innocence away from him before he finally fell.

Link sat against the cold, hard rock of the cell wall and stared at the little droplets of water condensing on the ceiling. He had no idea how long he'd been sitting there, but it must have been several hours. Dozens of escape plans and ways to beat that woman raced through his head, but none of them seemed remotely possible. He was in shackles, inside a sealed cell, what could he do? He had no weapons, or keys, or anything at all. The damn woman even stripped him to his underwear. He shivered a little bit and tried not to think about it. It was cool inside the cave, not terribly cold, but chilly enough to make him uncomfortable.

But what made him even more uncomfortable was Yasha. He had no idea what she wanted and what she planned to do to him, but she knew it wasn't good. It made him shudder to imagine that predatory look on her face. Why was she obsessed with him? He'd never seen the woman before in his life, but she seemed to know every little detail about him. And he couldn't suppress that eerie vibe he got every time he looked at her. It was as if she was invading his soul. But he wasn't exactly sure what she was trying to do, so he couldn't adequately defend himself. The only thing he could do was somehow try to find out her plan, and act accordingly.

In the meantime, he'd thought about how he managed to get himself in another mess like this. Why was it that every psychotic maniac in Hyrule always had it out for him? When he'd been sent back to relive his childhood, he didn't expect to end up in more trouble than his adventures as the Hero of Time. He wanted to wake up in the morning, do things that normal people do, and go to bed at night. So why did he end up with more and more responsibilities every single day? He was sick of being responsible for the fate of the universe. He wanted to live a life without worries and responsibilities, but apparently Fate had other things planned.

Now he only hoped that Zelda was sending out search parties or something. He couldn't stand being so helpless, but he knew that this time he would have to be the one to be rescued.

Chapter 2

It was late in the afternoon in the outskirts of the village of Kataan. People's work for the day had been done, and things we starting to wind down. Kira was in her cottage, thankful that she could relax today. She sat in her favorite chair with her feet propped on the table in front of her. She had absolutely nothing to do, and couldn't be happier. She was just about to doze off when she heard someone barge into her house, making as much noise as possible. Kira opened her eyes to see a very frustrated Zoya pacing back and forth before her. Every few seconds, Zoya would pause for a moment like she was thinking of something really important, and then would continue pacing again. Kira sat up and stared at her. "Can I help you with something? I was trying to take a nap."

Zoya suddenly looked at Kira, as if she didn't even know she was there. "I swear, I'm gonna burn that chair someday," Zoya replied. "Once you're in it, it's like pulling teeth to get you out."

"Ha, ha, very funny. Is that why you came here and started pacing in my house? To tell me that you don't like my chair?"

Zoya sighed and sat down on the chair next to Kira's. "Actually no, I came here to ask you about something. Have you been having any strange feelings lately?"

"Hmm...I suppose. I felt a little weird this morning, but I think that was because of whatever mystery ingredient you put in the soup last night." Kira smirked at her joke, and Zoya glared at her.

"For once, I'm trying to be serious. Earlier today, I started getting this weird feeling of foreboding. You know the feeling I'm talking about, when something terrible has happened, or about to happen?"

Kira nodded. "Yeah, I know what you mean. But I haven't felt anything lately. In fact, everything seems to be just fine." Kira wasn't sure what to think of Zoya's concerns, but she didn't take them lightly. Zoya had always been the most psychically sensitive one in the group. She sensed things long before the others did, and sometimes things that none of them felt at all.

"Well, I can tell you right now that things are not fine. Something very bad is going to happen, and I can't figure out what. And I've never had a feeling like this before. It's not just a sense of foreboding, it's almost as if something is trying to keep me from feeling this. Something is going to happen to someone, or somebody is going to do something terrible to someone. But who or whatever is responsible seems to be actively blocking the premonitions. It almost feels as if someone is in terrible danger and asking for help, but the voice is muffled and far away, like someone is purposely trying to block me from hearing it."

Kira's curiosity was piqued, and she began to wonder about Zoya's premonitions. "That doesn't sound good. Do you have any idea what it could all mean?"

Zoya shrugged. "Not really. The feeling is there and it's unmistakable, but whatever is trying to get through to me is being blocked. I don't know if it's even being directed towards me, but somewhere along the line the communication is being hampered. But I know that something very bad has happened, or will happen soon. And that's not, I can feel that something else will happen alongside it. Like we're being led to believe one thing, when something else entirely will go on right under our noses."

"I guess we should keep our eyes peeled," Zoya said. "I'm sure we'll get to the bottom of it."

Zoya sighed. "That's what worries me. What if we find out and it's too late? Something is going to happen, and I think we might not find out until there's nothing we can do."

"We've been through things like this before. I'm sure we'll figure it out in time."

"Yeah, I hope you're right," Zoya sighed, not truly believing that Kira's prediction would come true.

Link sat in his cell, wondering what was going to happen to him next. Being locked up and held prisoner wasn't his biggest concern, he was concerned about what this woman wanted to do to him. Not knowing was one of the things that Link hated and feared most, he didn't know what was going to happen, and he didn't like that. Now he was cold and tired, he wanted to sleep but was fearful of what would happen if he let his guard down. He was also hungry and terribly thirsty. Whatever that woman had used to make him fall unconscious was definitely making him thirsty.

He became instantly attentive when he heard footsteps coming from the other end of the room. He saw Yasha come back into the main chamber of the cave, and he immediately went back into his tough-warrior mindset. He wasn't going to let her get the best of him this time.

"So, how's my little prisoner doing?" Yasha asked in her normal, condescending tone. Link snorted and glared at her. "I guess I shouldn't have expected you to say anything. But you'll have to learn to respond when I speak to you." She walked up to the cell and peered through the bars, twirling the key on her finger as if to intimidate him. All Link did was watch her intently, waiting for her to do something. "I did a little thinking about you. It's truly a shame that you never allow yourself to take advantage of the things that you are entitled to. There is so much that you could have done and experienced that you'll never be able to do now. What a pity."

She unlocked the door and walked into the cell. Link quickly wormed himself to the farthest corner of the cell, knowing that it would really do no good. "Look at you, you do nothing but give, give, give, and take nothing in return. Why is that? Why don't you take what you deserve, instead of letting people use you for their own gain?" Link didn't respond. "I've always wondered why people like you never take what they deserve. There is so much you can take just because of who you are. I guess I just don't understand how you can give so much and gain so little. Take Zelda for instance."

At the mention of Zelda's name, Link's expression hardened and he was obviously envisioning Yasha's painful and bloody death for the mere mention of Zelda's name. "Why do you give so much to her? She has everything already, yet you still let her use you. She's taking what little you have and using it to increase her own wealth." Link gritted his teeth and suppressed the urge to scream every curse word he knew at her, and she only smirked. "Why be involved with a snotty little princess and not take advantage of what she has?"

Link couldn't take it anymore. "Don't you dare talk about Zelda like that you bitch! She has more kindness and good in a single strand of hair on her head than you do in your whole body!"

"Oh my, I must've struck a chord with you. But you know I'm right. Why do you insist on protecting her? Why don't you take from her what you so desperately want?"

"I would never take advantage of her," he snarled.

"But she is so infatuated with you. You could ask for anything and she would give it to you. You could have money and power beyond your wildest dreams. And imagine what you're missing in the pleasures of the flesh. She is ready and willing to give you all you desire, but you refuse and pretend to be an honorable soldier. But you want it, I can tell. You should have given in to your desires. You could have not only Zelda, but any woman you want. You are gifted with being a beautiful young man, women would line up for miles just to touch you. And it's a shame that you're going to let such a wonderful talent go to waste."

She slowly approached him, and Link tried to curl up as best he could. But he knew that there was no way to escape her. He silently prayed that she wouldn't do what he thought she was planning. Yasha kneeled before him and ran her fingers down his chest and his legs, making him shudder in disgust. He felt the bile rising in his throat, and he tried to repress it. "You are such a magnificent creature, so beautiful, so attractive." She ran her fingers through his hair and he squirmed to get away from her.

"Don't you touch me!" he protested. "Don't you dare!"

Yasha chuckled and continued to touch him. "There's nothing you can do my sweet, you're mine now. I am going to have to teach you about being a man." She sat on his lap and grasped his head tightly, forcing him to face her. Link spat in her face and she didn't even blink. "Oh yes, you will be quite a challenge." Holding his head securely in both hands, Yasha leaned forward and kissed his lips. Link shut his eyes tightly and closed his mouth, squirming as much as he could to prevent her from proceeding any further. "Just give in, you have no idea what pleasures await you." She pressed her lips to his again, forcing his mouth open and shoving her tongue inside. Absolutely horrified, Link did the only thing he could think of, he bit down as hard as he could until he tasted blood in his mouth. Yasha continued to probe his mouth with her tongue for a few moments, then pulled back and smiled at him. Link could still taste her blood in his mouth, and he spit it in her face. Yasha put her fingers to her lower lip and saw the blood oozing from it. Link had managed to sink his teeth into her bottom lip, and it was now bleeding quite profusely, and she didn't even flinch. "I guess you also need to learn to enjoy pain. That was quite good if you ask me." She licked the blood from her lips and smeared some of it on his cheek. "You are going to be very good when you're ready."

Link coughed and hacked, trying to spit the disgusting taste of blood out of his mouth. The feeling of having her cold, harsh tongue in his mouth made him sick, and his bodily was desperately signaling him to lean over and puke his guts out. But he couldn't do that in front of her, it would only show weakness. He desperately tried to hold back the bile in his throat, and after a few agonizing moments, the urge passed. He looked up at the woman's cold, smug face and glared at her. "Don't you ever touch me again you filthy slut!" he spat. "Nobody touches me like that! I'll kill you!" He consciously buried his feelings of disgust and shame and replaced them with mindless rage. He fought violently against his shackles, knowing that it would do no good.

As she always did, Yasha chuckled at his pitiful display. "Please, don't bother struggling. You'll only tire yourself out." Link didn't want to listen to her, but he stopped struggling, only to save his energy. "Ah, that's much better my pet. You just relax, and try to calm down. It's getting a little late, and I want you up bright and early tomorrow so we can get things started." She smirked at him, and walked out of the cell, locking the door behind her. Link was about to turn his head away when she spoke to him, "Oh, and before I leave you alone, I should probably tell you a few things." She gave a hard, commanding look, and continued, "No one is now, or ever will be coming to help you. You are totally alone here. Screaming for help will do you no good, no one will hear you. No one knows that you're missing, and they never will. Your developing mental powers are of no use here, I can suppress them so easily that I can do it when I'm asleep. No one will hear your cries for help. No one will sense your anguish or pain, and no one will ever see you again. No one knows you are missing, because you are dead."

Before Link could respond, she sauntered off to her own chamber and closed the door. He leaned against the cold hard wall, pondering what she'd said. He wasn't stupid, he knew that screaming for help would do no good, and he wouldn't waste his time with that. But what about the other things? All of his friends would certainly discover by now that he was missing. They should be out searching for him now. But the scariest thing she said was about him not being able to use any extra-sensory means to contact his friends. He had a close emotional bond with Zelda; he was so used to it that it felt like things were always this way. But now he noticed that he no longer had that sense of her inside his mind and heart. She was always there beside him, and she never purposely blocked him out. No matter what happened, she was always there. But now she wasn't, the absence was a gaping hole in his soul that was all to apparent. If he couldn't feel Zelda, then she probably couldn't feel him either. But he wasn't going to let that woman's taunts stop him from trying. He would do his best to project whatever thoughts and calls for help that he could. There was no way this woman was going to stop him from contacting someone. Then he finally pondered the last thing she said, that he was dead. He certainly wasn't dead right now. And once everyone noticed he was missing, they surely wouldn't assume that he was dead, Zelda would make sure of that. He knew that Zelda would never accept the fact that he was "dead" unless she saw his body. She would keep searching for the rest of her life. She was too tenacious and stubborn to give up.

Since the woman had finally left him alone, he tried to relax somewhat, without going off-guard. He had excellent hearing, so he would be sure to know when she returned. But staying up all night would only make him weak, so he decided to try to sleep. Lying on his back was exceedingly uncomfortable considering that his hands were shackled behind his back, so he rolled onto his stomach and rested his head on the hard rock floor. The floor was hard, cold, and damp. This was worse than his stint as the Hero of Time, at least then he'd had a blanket and slept on the soft grass. And when he was all alone like that, he could at least talk to Navi. As much as it made him shudder to say so, he would give anything just to be able to talk to anyone right now, even Navi. But he didn't want to think about depressing things like that, he had to keep his will to survive and escape. Link closed his eyes and tried his best to fall asleep.

Chapter 3

He slowly opened his eyes, praying that the last day had merely been a dream. But when he was met with the cold rock of the cavern floor, his hopes faded quickly. He rolled over onto his back and quickly looked through the bars in his cell to see if the woman had woken up yet. He felt the slightest bit of relief when he saw that she wasn't there staring at him. He managed to get a little bit of sleep during the night, but not much. He'd spent most of the night staring and thinking about his current predicament. With all the hardships he'd been through, he found it almost laughable that he was now being foiled by a simple pair of shackles on his arms and legs. The fiercest demons, the most ferocious beasts and monsters, and the most evil wizards were no match for him, but it seemed that a simple piece of forged iron was all it took to disable him totally. He didn't want to feel weak, but the situation he was in warranted it. Somehow this woman had managed to get the better of him, and now he was totally helpless. But what bothered him the most was that he didn't know what this villain wanted from him. She was so cryptic and mysterious; every other evil person he dealt with at least let him know what they wanted. He didn't know if Yasha wanted to kill him, make him her slave, rape him, or use him to somehow take over the kingdom. And not knowing truly scared him.

He immediately tensed up as he heard a door creak open and footsteps approach him. He quietly looked in the direction of the woman's room, and sure enough, she was awake and walking towards his cell. She stopped at the bars and tapped one of them with the key. "Morning sunshine," she said, the condescendence and sarcasm all too obvious in her voice. "So...have you reconsidered my offer?"

"Yes I did actually." Yasha cocked an eyebrow at him, curious that he would cave in so soon. "But before I do anything, how 'bout a glass of water? I'm so thirsty."

She chuckled, not exactly understanding his plans. "You think I'm going to give you a glass of water?" She couldn't help but laugh. "And what makes you think I'm going to give you some water? This isn't a damn picnic!"

"Please please please please please!" he begged, using the most annoying voice he could muster. Yasha scowled at him, obviously not amused. "Pleeeeease!" he squealed, being overly dramatic. "I'm so thirsty and some water would really help me think better."

"You want some water, huh?" She sneered and fetched a bucket of water from the corner. Then she unlocked the cell and stood over Link, holding the bucket. "Here you go." Yasha tipped the bucket and dumped on his head.

Link coughed for a moment and looked up at her with a big grin. "Thanks, that really helps. But I have to go pee now, how about you unlock me and let me go to the bathroom?"

"Sorry, boy; there's no latrine or outhouse here, just a chamber pot. And you can't use it. You'll just have to piss yourself."

"Oh pleeeease!" he begged, enjoying the extremely annoyed look on her face.

"We don't have time for this." She quickly kicked him in the gut, silencing any more annoying comments. "I don't know what you have planned in that puny little mind of yours, but it's not gonna work. Childish whining isn't going to do you any good. I've heard it all before. Sorry to put holes in your little plan, but you have to be a little more creative than that."

Link sighed. He figured that she would see through whatever he was trying. Apparently she wasn't easy to annoy. But he certainly wasn't going to submit to her, that was for sure. The kick she'd given him hurt quite a bit, but he wasn't about to admit it. Giving just the slightest hint of weakness wasn't an option; he had to appear strong even if he wasn't.

He began to wonder what the woman was up to when she started pacing back and forth, an annoying habit that she seemed to have. Then she stopped and looked at Link, with a quizzical expression more fit for a scholar solving a logic problem than someone planning a person's torture. "I spent last night thinking about you, about how exactly I should proceed. In the past, constant physical torture, beatings and such, sufficed. Most people would give up after only a few minutes." She smiled evilly. "But you're different, as you by no doubt know by now. I don't think simply beating you would solve the problem. I know how you think; you can send yourself off to some far away place in your mind, shielding yourself from physical pain." She stopped pacing and stared directly at him. "So I'll have to take a different route. Normally, once you sufficiently ravage a person's body, his spirit soon follows. The mind cannot survive without the body. But since you're so strong in body, I'm going to have to attack your spirit directly."

Link scoffed; she certainly must've been underestimating him. "Oh you think you're strong enough, hmm? I wouldn't be so confident if I were you. You still haven't seen the power that I have. You might be surprised at what I can do." Link didn't pay any attention to her pointless comments. He knew she was just blowing hot air and trying to scare him. "Your indifference doesn't surprise me. I'm sure you're thinking that I'm just bluffing, trying to scare you and make you submit more easily. But I know you're scared inside, you don't know what's going to happen, and you don't want to know. You're clinging to the futile hope that your friends will come to your rescue...that is, if you don't escape on your own. I can feel everything you feel. In fact..." she leaned close enough to his face so that he could feel her breath, "...I can feel exactly what you feel."

Suddenly, almost instantaneously, her hand was touching the side of his face. Link involuntarily gulped at her vile touch. She tried to stare into his eyes, but he looked away. After a few seconds, Link began to get the weirdest sensation. At first it felt like some kind of chill or shiver traveling through his body, but after a minute it felt more like a cold wind was blowing over his bare skin. He tried to struggle, but her grip was strong. A pins-and-needles sensation then replaced the coldness he felt, which soon ended in paralysis. He tried to move, but not a single muscle in his body would respond; it was as if some kind of force was pressing on him from all angles, keeping him pinned against the wall.

"There we go," she said, breathing a sigh of relief. "That wasn't so bad now, was it?" All Link could do was stare at her. "Now that you're properly restrained, I can show you a few things. You can always give up now, but I know you won't do that." She placed both hands on his face, and closed her eyes in concentration. Link felt a buzzing inside his head, almost like a sound that wasn't audible. Then in a sudden rush he felt a dark and menacing presence somehow enter inside his very mind. He inhaled sharply at the sudden intrusion into his thoughts. Up until this moment, his private, innermost thoughts were his alone, but now it was as if the barrier of his mind had been lifted and his soul was open for all to see; he felt naked and totally exposed. Never before had he felt an intrusion quite like this. He could feel this woman's mind invading his own; probing him and sifting through his private thoughts, feelings, and memories. He tried to push her back out, but it was painful to resist and she was too strong. He wondered if running away to some dark recess of his mind could help him resist, but he forgot that she could hear what he thought, and his plan was thwarted before it happened.

Now all he could feel was a black cloud surrounding every part of his consciousness; there wasn't a single place left untouched, a single memory left unseen, or a single thought left unheard. He had never felt this violated and disgusted, or this helpless. She had just raped his soul and he could do nothing to push her out. The scariest part of the situation was that he was entirely open to her, but nothing in her mind was open to him.

"Excellent," she said. "Now we can begin." Before Link could have another thought, he felt the black cloud intrude on his consciousness and push him into a dark sleep. Yasha knew that the first and most difficult step in her plan had been completed. She had finally tapped into his mind and could see everything. She originally thought that probing him like this would be an immensely difficult task, someone with such a strong will couldn't be easily invaded. But she hadn't anticipated his inherent weaknesses. Link had an unusually strong and intimate spiritual bond with his friends and family. His love, compassion, and openness to his loved ones left a gaping hole in his mind, one that made her job a lot easier. His love and compassion were his biggest weakness; he was so unwilling to close himself off to them that he ended up leaving his most vulnerable feelings wide open. And the best part was that she could also have access to everyone he loved. She could easily use his connection with his friends to silently invade their minds and use them as a weapon against Link. But before she could do that, she needed to distract Link and break down his resistance. She searched through his memories, until she found something good enough to wear him down.

This place seemed oddly familiar too him, yet very different. He remembered the woman somehow probing into his mind, and he'd been unable to push her out, or to escape. He remembered trying to hide inside his own mind, to find some place to run where she couldn't find him. But there was no place to run, she had gained control and the world in front of him had disappeared.

That still didn't explain where he was now and what he was doing there. Well, there probably wasn't a "here", Link knew that well enough. Once again he found himself in some kind otherworldly mental state. Oftentimes when he would try meditating, he would find himself in a place like this, where only thoughts existed. But this particular place, or mindset, or whatever, was different then the other places. While these different worlds were entirely mental, remnants of the real world still filtered through. Sometimes he could hear the laughter of children playing somewhere in the distance, or the chirping of birds in the trees. Sometimes he could feel the warmth of the sun shining on his body, or the cool breeze coming from the lake. Sometimes he could smell the sweet flowers of spring, or the delicious scent of cookies in an oven, baked by a woman who lived hundreds of years before. But none of those sensations we here now, none of those memories or experiences floated around him. The strangest thing about this place was the lack of other people. Normally the thoughts, feelings, and emotions of people would be coming from all directions. It was like being in a noisy room, hearing dozens of conversations at once, but not being able to distinctly understand any of them. But there was no one else here-no one else but her. Yes, he knew that this empty, barren place was her doing. It was a peculiar sensation to be trapped inside his own mind, no longer having that secret place inside him in which he could think. He couldn't think now, because she heard everything. It was as if the voice inside his mind, his own voice, had been gagged.

It took a lot of work for me to do this, I hope it's not in vain, said a voice. Link wasn't sure if it was actually a voice, or a thought, or both. But he did know that it was her.

"What are you doing? Why are you doing this to me?" Link said. It seemed like he was using his voice, but it was probably the voice in his mind, not his real one. He'd lost count of how many times he'd asked those particular questions, but he asked them again anyways.

How do you feel?

"Get out of my head!"

You want me to get out, huh? I don't think so, it took me enough work to get in here.

"So now what? Would you like to make me go crazy? You obviously know everything about me now. So what're you gonna do? I suppose you know all my fears too. Are you going to show me eerie visions of centipedes? Yes, I admit it, I'm afraid of centipedes; they give me the creeps. But I guarantee that any stupid thing you show me isn't going to make me give in to you, so save your energy."

I'm sorry to burst your bubble, but I don't plan on showing you your worst fears; that would be counterproductive. When people are exposed to their fears, they usually overcome them rather quickly. No, I'm not going to do something worthless like that. This is all about weakness, finding that weakness and exploiting it. I think you realized long ago that you had a perception far beyond that of normal people. You have always been able to sense other people's feelings and emotions. For a while you thought that everyone was that way, but eventually you realized that this wasn't so. You're like a magnet for people's emotions.

"Yes, I know that, all right? What's your point?"

Of course you know that, and I think that's the source of your weakness. Because you are sensitive to others' emotions, that made you into an extremely perceptive person. Many people with your ability often have a particular emotion that they are most receptive to. In your case, it happens to be pain. I'm sure you've noticed that when you are in pain-not pain of the physical type, but mental pain-it is always much more severe when compared to other emotions, like happiness. In fact, any kind of pain or anguish you feel is ten time worse than anything, it's almost crippling. But you've lived with your own emotional pain for so long that it's become a kind of background noise in your mind. However, it's much different for other people, isn't it? Everyone you're close to is always sending you their own emotions, whether intentionally or not. And the worst part is when you feel the pain of one of your loved ones. It's absolutely overwhelming, isn't it? The onslaught of every negative emotion flooding into your head, swirling and churning until they all combine into a single giant hurricane of pain. This happens often, doesn't it? Of course, you hide it from everyone, pretending to have a cold or a headache or something like that, when you're really fighting an internal struggle not to let the darkness totally engulf you.

"That's not true, I'm stronger than that." He knew she was simply looking at his life experiences and twisting them to give them meaning that they didn't have. She couldn't possibly understand what she was talking about, and her only goal was to warp Link's perception of things. He wasn't going to let her get the better of him.

Oh, but it is true. I'm sure you're quite confident that you can resist whatever I'm going to do to you, and that's fine. You've heard it all before, haven't you? The same tired story about good versus evil, the same tired battle that you have to face. I suppose the only difference between now and then is that you won then, you will not win now. I know you far too well, in some ways better than you know yourself. I have been waiting a long time for you to come along, and it's finally happened. But that's not important at the moment, at least not to you. What is important is that I know your secret. I know the secret of your pain. You sacrifice your own comfort and well-being to satisfy others. For your whole life, you have given your all just to make others happy. And that in turn prevents you from having to feel their pain and suffering. It's become so normal for you, that you don't even know you're doing it. Your ability has even become your biggest fear: you're afraid of failing or disappointing your friends, and that sense of utter failure would make the pain feel even worse. So this leads to your biggest weakness, your compassion.

"Compassion is a strength, not a weakness."

For normal people, yes, it is a strength. But not for you. True compassion comes from the heart, it is giving of yourself without expecting anything in return. You however, don't show compassion. Instead, you hide selfishness in the guise of compassion.

Link couldn't believe he was hearing this. He understood what she was talking about, but her reasoning was flawed. It was true that he went out of his way to serve his friends and family, but he did it because he liked making them happy. "I don't care what you think you know about me, but you're wrong. Just because you can read my thoughts doesn't mean you can understand them like I do."

On the contrary, I understand perfectly. But perhaps I need to give you a little demonstration. Sensing one of your loved one's negative emotions is a terrible thing for you, it leaves you depressed and anxious. However, you have only experienced them in the third-person, never firsthand. I'm sure a firsthand perspective will help you to see things my way.

"What do you mean? How can you do that?"

Just wait and find out.

Before he could try to defend or prepare himself, his consciousness faded.

Pleasant dreams.

Link awoke in a cold sweat, his heart racing. He felt disoriented for a few moments, until he looked around and realized that he was in his own bed. The dream had been so real, he could've sword he'd actually been in that dark cave, being tortured by some insane woman with an unusual fixation on him. The sick feeling in the pit of his stomach started to subside after he got out of bed and drank a glass of water. It was daylight outside, and he was surprised to see that it was almost one o'clock in the afternoon. He couldn't believe that he'd slept this late, missing breakfast and lunch. But he decided not to let another nightmare ruin his day. He knew that many of his more realistic dreams tended to be prophetic in some way, but he hoped that this one wasn't. He would definitely have to keep an eye out for any crazy women.

Link quickly put some clothes on and made himself presentable before he left the house. As was his routine with bad dreams, he'd go over to Saria's house to talk to her about it. He always depended on her for support, and he knew that today would be no different. He knocked on the entrance to her house and walked inside. She was sitting at the table folding her laundry, but didn't look up at him.

"I see you finally decided to get up," she said, still not paying much attention to him.

"Yeah, I overslept quite a bit," he said, sitting down across from her. "I had one of those dreams again."

"A nightmare?"

"Yeah. But this one was more real than any dream I've ever had. I could've sworn that it was more like an actual memory than a dream."

"I'm sorry to hear that, I hope you feel better now," she said nonchalantly.

Link looked at her curiously, wondering why she was being so distant. "Saria, is something wrong? I'm sorry I missed breakfast."

Saria sighed and finally looked at him, but her expression was one of disappointment. "Link, you know very well this has nothing to do with missing breakfast. I thought by now you would've realized that sitting around and pretending nothing's wrong won't work."

He was definitely confused. He'd never heard Saria talk in a tone like this, so he knew whatever she was thinking about had to be a serious problem. But he had no idea what it was. "What are you talking about?" She sighed and acted as if he was totally missing the point. Link couldn't take it anymore and touched her face to force her to look at him. "What's wrong? Why are you being so distant? You won't even look at me."

Saria grumbled, but resisted the urge to get angry. "Look Link, all I can do is listen to you and try to give you advice, but I can't solve your problems for you. And just denying that you have any problem at all isn't going to solve it. You know that I love you, but it's going to be a while until I can really trust you again. You have to figure it out for yourself."

Link was growing frustrated now. He couldn't even believe that Saria was questioning her trust in him. He had no idea why she was being this way; he'd never done anything to make her lose trust in him. For a moment he wondered if this was all some kind of joke, but then realized that Saria would never be that cruel to him. "Saria, I really don't know what you mean. Just explain it to me, please."

She gave him a look of disbelief. "Fine, if you don't believe me, then go see Zelda yourself."

Zelda. That had to be the problem. Link tried to think of anything that would make him have a fight with Zelda, but he honestly couldn't come up with a single thing. For a moment he wondered if he did something that Zelda took the wrong way, and she just didn't tell him about it. Whatever it was, he was sure he could sort it out. "Okay Saria, I guess I'll go see her and find out what the problem is." She gave him an incredulous look but he ignored it and went on his way.

As he always did when he went to see Zelda, he decided to pick flowers for her. He knew it was somewhat a cliché to give a girl flowers, but she really seemed to enjoy them. On his way to the castle, he found a small cluster of daisies, and he remembered that Zelda had a particular fondness for daisies. He only hoped that perhaps the flowers could help smooth things over.

He originally planned to take Epona to the castle to make the trip a little shorter; he'd recently begun keeping her in the Kokiri Forest for longer periods of time, to help her get used to the new environment. But today he decided to walk, mainly to give him time to think about his situation. He knew he had to have done something to upset Zelda, and since Saria was shunning him, he knew that it had to be something terrible. But for the life of him, he couldn't remember what it was. They rarely had arguments or disagreements, and when they did, the problem was solved quickly. He hoped that would be the case today.

He reached the castle village and weaved his way through the crowd of people to the path that lead to the castle. When he approached the gate, he expected the guard to let him in as he always did. But this time, the guard gave him a rather curious look. "Um...can I help you sir?" asked the guard, who stared curiously at the bunch of flowers Link was holding.

"Yeah, I'm here to see the Princess. I know she's not expecting me, but that's never been a problem before."

"As you wish, sir." The guard stepped aside and let him pass. Link became increasingly curious as he made it towards the castle. If the guard was giving him funny looks, then he knew something wasn't right.

Link finally made it inside the castle and the usual guard looked him over. "I suppose you're here to see the Princess," he said in a sympathetic tone. Link nodded. "I'll go get her for you, but I doubt that she'll be happy to see you." As the guard went to fetch the princess, his mind raced with dozens of possible reasons why she wouldn't be happy to see him, but he hadn't done a single one. His heart began to beat faster with every minute that he waited for Zelda to come down.

After what seemed like an eternity, Zelda came down the hall. But she wasn't approaching him how she normally did. Every other time she would jog down the hall with a huge smile on her face, then embrace him tightly and smother him with kisses. This time she walked slowly with her arms folded and a scowl on her face. Link had never seen an expression like that on her face before; it was one of contempt and even hatred. He suddenly found it hard to breathe. "I had a feeling you'd come here again," she said in an extremely annoyed voice. Link couldn't think of an adequate response, so he simply handed her the bunch of flowers. She sighed and threw them on the floor. "You think a bunch of stupid flowers will make things all better? You really are thick, aren't you?"

"I...I don't know what's wrong," Link stammered. "I only want to make things better."

"You and I both know it's too late for that. You're the one that brought our relationship to and end. You violated my trust and showed me that you're nothing but a conniving bastard who used me to try to get power. I thought I knew you Link, but I was wrong."

Link felt like his heart had been ripped to shreds, but he made sure not to show any weakness. "Zelda, please," he begged. "I can make everything better. Whatever I did, I can change. Please just give me a chance." He had no idea what he did to make her so angry, but he had to do something to right whatever wrong he did. He gave her a pleading look, but she didn't budge.

"Are you deaf or just stupid? It's over Link. It's been over. I don't want to see you anymore. I'm already seeing someone else now, and he's not a manipulative scoundrel like you. He likes me for who I am, and not to gather power for his own gain."

"What? You're seeing someone else?" Link couldn't believe his ears. When did Zelda stop loving him and begin seeing someone else? Had he somehow lost his memory and woken up completely oblivious to what was happening? He wondered for a second if this was some kind of terrible dream, but it was all to real to be a dream. "Who...who are you seeing?"

"His name is Dukan. He's the son of Duke Chulak And unlike you, he's an honorable man who's not pretending to love me just so he can get money and power. He's from an affluent family that's very loyal to Hyrule, and he has no interest in usurping my power. And he'll treat me like a princess like I deserve."

Link felt like crying, but he didn't want to show any sign of weakness in front of her. He gave her a pleading look. "Please Zelda, I promise. I'll do whatever you want. I can change, I'll be whoever you want me to be. Please? I'll be your slave, I'll do anything."

Zelda saw the pitiful look in his eyes, but she didn't care one bit. "It's too late Link, you had your chance and you blew it. And since you're here, I should probably give you this." She handed Link a small box, which he immediately recognized. It was the jewelry box he'd made for her tenth birthday, and present the he thought she loved dearly. He opened the box and inside were the bracelet, earrings, and necklace he'd made for her. "I don't want these anymore. I don't want any reminders of our relationship."

"So what does this mean?"

"It means that it's over!" she shouted, extremely annoyed. "I hate you, I don't love you. Our relationship is finished; I never want to see you again as long as I live. Go find some hussy to satisfy your lust. And I would recommend that you never try to come here again, because I'll have the guards arrest you on sight. Now get out of here."

To make her point, she slapped him across the face and turned to walk away.  Before she got too far away, Link called out to her and she looked at him. "Zelda...I'll still love you, no matter what." Zelda glared at him and made a dismissive motion, then walked away.

Link stood there in the foyer for a few minutes, completely flabbergasted at the meeting he'd just had. A few servants walked by and they all gave him strange looks, but he paid them no mind. He simply couldn't understand what had led to this. He tried and tried to think of anything that could make Zelda hate him like this, but nothing came to mind. He wanted so badly to convince her that he loved her and would never hurt her, but it was obvious that she wouldn't listen. Sighing in defeat, he finally left the castle.

As he walked home, he ignored every single person that passed him. He felt like crying again, but he was so upset now that no tears would come. He didn't care about anything anymore, as far as he was concerned, his life was over. Zelda meant everything to him, and he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. But apparently, that wasn't going to happen. His every hope and dream for happiness had just been crushed, and he had no idea what he was going to do with his life now.

He didn't know how long he'd been wandering through Hyrule Field, but he finally made it home. He climbed into his house, and almost didn't notice who was there. Solo and Malon were sitting down talking to each other, but all conversation stopped when he entered the house. They stared at him for a moment, then Solo finally spoke, "Link, are you okay?"

"I'm fine," Link replied. He ignored Malon and Solo and laid down on his bed and stared at the ceiling, clutching the jewelry box to his chest. "Nothing's wrong."

"Well obviously something's wrong Link. What is it?" she pried.

"I...Zelda...she..." Link couldn't get a coherent word out and finally started sobbing. He rolled over onto his side and faced away from the other two, so they wouldn't see his face. "She hates me. She said it was over. She's seeing some other man and never wants to see me again."

Solo and Malon were quiet for a minute, but then Solo spoke up again, "I don't want to make you feel worse Link, but you should've seen that coming."

He went silent and sat up, shocked that she would make such a comment. He glared at her, but she remained firm. "What do you mean? This is the first I've ever heard of it."

"Where have you been lately? Your relationship has been going downhill for months. But I guess you've been living in your little dream world and you didn't notice. She's been wary of you for quite a while, and when she found out about what you wrote in your diary, that kind of clinched it. I was even shocked by it. You know I love you, but after seeing what you wrote and how you really felt about her, I'm not surprised she dumped you. Any woman would do that if she found out she was just being used."

Link was not only more confused now, he was angry. "What? What are you talking about? Why are you against me now? I've never done anything to hurt her ever. I love her more than life itself, and I'd do anything to make her happy. I don't understand why she hates me so much."

"Link," Malon spoke up, "denying everything won't make it better. I don't hate you now, but even I was disappointed when I found out how you were using Zelda. You're lucky that she didn't go crazy and throw you in the dungeon or something."

"Yeah, she's right," Solo added. "I personally think you're better off without Zelda. She's a stuck up princess, and you two just aren't meant to be together."

"How could you say that? I love her, and I don't understand why she did this. I don't know what she could've found in my diary. I've written nothing but wonderful things about her. And I don't know how she even found my diary."

"Well, you left on her desk one day and she read it," Solo said. "And she even showed it to us later, and showed us the part that really put an end to your relationship. I was really disappointed when I read it, I really couldn't believe what you really wanted from her. I think you should just forget about her and try to start over. I'm sure there's plenty of other women out there for you."

"There's no one else, she was the one for me, and I'll never stop loving her."

"Well, think what you want to think. I guess we'll just leave you alone for a while." Solo and Malon got up and left Link to wallow in his depression. He wondered what Solo meant when she was talking about his diary. He always kept it hidden, and he didn't even know that anyone else knew he kept a diary. Even if Zelda had read it, she wouldn't learn anything that he hadn't told her before. He kept his most intimate thoughts in his diary, and most of those thoughts were about Zelda. If anything, his diary was a tribute to Zelda and how much he loved her. So he couldn't think of anything that could possibly make her hate him. Link finally decided to tempt fate, so he went to his desk and picked up his diary. He didn't know why it was in plain sight on his desk, but he didn't care about something as insignificant as that. He sat down and examined the little book, making sure that it really was his diary. The book was exactly as he remembered, with the same leather cover and scrawling handwriting within. He flipped through it and scanned the pages, trying to find anything that could make Zelda hate him. After a few minutes of flipping, he stopped at an entry that was dated a few months ago. A feeling of dread overcame him as he read the entry, and he knew immediately that it wasn't something that he would ever write.

I think I've finally gotten Zelda to truly trust me. I know I've been with her for a long time, but I knew I had to wait till she was more mature to make sure that my plan would work. Now I know that everything will be just fine. She really is infatuated with me, and I'm sure she'll do anything I ever ask of her. I almost fee sorry for her knowing that she's so in love with me, when I really couldn't care less what she feels. But it's always good to keep up appearances, so I pretend to be even more in love with her than she is with me. It's almost laughable to see the adoring look in her eyes. Now I know I've got her wrapped around my finger. Unfortunately I haven't gotten to fuck her yet, but I'm sure that'll happen soon. I have to pretend to be honorable and not ask her to do those things to me, and she really thinks that I'm a perfect gentleman. Once the time is right, I'll finally take her and then she'll be mine. From then on, it'll all be smooth sailing. Maybe in a couple years I'll ask her to marry me, and she'll be so happy that she won't even suspect that I have other plans. She isn't even aware of how much power she has. And since she'll be mine, I can get all the power I ever want. I can use her as a means to any end I want. I know I can't technically become king, but I won't have to. As long as I play the faithful husband part, she'll do anything I ask. I'll be the most powerful man in Hyrule, and there will be nothing to stop me. And once I'm done using her, she'll have an unfortunate "accident" and I'll be left with all the power.

Link was totally taken aback by what he'd just read. No wonder why everyone was against him, if they'd read that, then they would certainly think he was a bad man. But he had no idea how that entry had gotten into his diary. He would never write anything like that about Zelda. He loved her so much, and would never think of using her for anything. He just couldn't understand how something like that could get into his diary. The handwriting looked exactly like his, but he knew that he never wrote it. Conspiracy theories ran through his head, and he tried to think of anyone who would want to ruin his reputation like this. The only person he could think of was Dukan, the new boyfriend Zelda supposedly had. Link suspected that it was Dukan who wanted to use Zelda for his own power-hungry fantasies. Link simply couldn't understand why Zelda would turn on him and suddenly trust some other man. He'd done nothing but prove his loyalty to her over and over again, but apparently it had all be for naught. All the years he'd dedicated himself to her obviously meant nothing to her. But he wasn't going to give up. There had to be some reason why Zelda turned against him. Perhaps she was being brainwashed or was under the influence of some evil spell. But no matter what it was, he was going to prove his dedication to her. And he had one idea, so he cleaned himself up and left his house for the castle market.

"Can I help you sir?" asked the man behind the counter. Link was inside the Hyrule Savings Bank, where he kept all of the money he had made from doing various jobs for people. He had been saving his money for years, not long after he'd returned to his normal time period. After he'd begun his new life, he'd decided to save money for the future, but back then he had no idea what he would spend it on. Today, he knew what his money would be used for.

"Yes, I'd like to withdraw all my money from my account," Link replied. He handed the man a certificate showing that he was the holder of the account.

The man looked over the paper and seemed satisfied. "Okay sir, so you'd like to close your account and get all the money out? Is that correct?"


"All right. You'll have to wait a few minutes, because this is a large account, it'll take a while for us to count out your money." Link nodded and the man went into a back room to fetch the money.

After a few minutes of waiting, the man returned along with someone else. The other man went to Link and shook his hand. "Hello Mr. Link, I'm the owner of the bank." Link nodded. "Every time someone with and account as large as yours decides to leave the bank, I always like to give him a nice send off."

"Well, thank you," Link mumbled.

"We're sorry to lose your business, sir, you've been one of our best customers. And because you deposited so much money over time, you've gained quite an amount of interest. I'm sure you'll be happy with the money you've made." The man put a small sack on the counter and poured out a pile of rupees, most of which were the high-denomination gold rupees. "The total amount of money you've deposited is 9,756 rupees. Plus, you've been paid an interest of 675 rupees, bringing your grand total to 10,431 rupees." He put the money back into the bag and handed it to Link. "We hope you are satisfied with our service, and maybe some time in the future you'll bank with us again."

"Thank you very much," Link said as he took the money and left. He was surprised that he'd managed to save up so much money, he never really kept track of how much money he had. Whenever he had extra money, he'd just put it in the bank and forget about it. Now that he had so much money, he knew the gift he would get for Zelda would be better than perfect.

His next stop was the local jeweler. He was going to get her the best gift that money could buy. He walked into the jewelry store and a little bell on the door alerted the clerk in the back that he had a customer. A short, mousy looking man with a scraggly beard and wild hair greeted him at the counter. "How can I help you, son?"

Link looked with awe at the huge display of fine jewelry and wondered what would be best. "I'm looking for a ring," he said finally.

"Oh, we have many rings here, the best in all of Hyrule. What kind of ring do you want?"

"I want a wedding ring, the best you have."

"Okay sir, what kind of price range are we looking at?"

"I have ten thousand rupees, I want the best ring you have for that price."

The man looked ecstatic at his revelation, and suddenly became Link's best friend. "Oh, I'm sure I have a ring that will meet your standards. We have several in stock for that price, or are you looking for something custom made?"

"I need it today. I'll give you an extra five hundred rupees if you have a good ring for me today."

The man smiled. "I think I can help you. Here, come in the back, and I'll show you what I have." The man led Link to the back of the store. He opened a large safe and removed a tray that held several impeccable gold rings, all adorned with huge precious stones. "Do any of these interest you?"

"I want something that's fit for a queen."

"Oh, then I believe you might like one particular ring we have. I've had it for quite a while, but no one has bought it. I make jewelry for the royal family, and this particular one is the best I've ever made." He went back to the safe and removed a small box. He opened the box to reveal a perfect gold ring with a sparkling teardrop-shaped blue sapphire in the center. The sapphire was the most perfect blue color he'd ever seen, exactly the same color as Zelda's eyes. The sapphire was also surrounded by a dozen white diamonds, each of which sparkled with a brilliant fire. "This is by far the best ring I've ever made. I think this might be what you're looking for. That sapphire is the best I've ever had, it has the purest blue color of any gem you'll ever find. And those diamonds are special too. They are absolutely perfect, flawless diamonds. They are pure and clear, and have no impurities whatsoever. Those kinds of diamonds are once-in-a-lifetime finds, each one took months to cut and polish."

Link was mesmerized by the ring, it was better than anything he'd ever imagined. It was perfect. "Yes, that's it. I want this one."

"Would you like an engraving?"

Link thought about it, and decided that it was a good idea. "Yes, I do. I want you to write 'I'll love you for all eternity.' Can you do that?"

"Of course. But it will take me a couple of hours to do it. Since you want it today, I can put all my other orders on hold. Will you wait?"

"Yes, I'll wait. I'll be just outside, and I'll come back to check on it."

"Excellent sir. Come back in two hours and I'll have it ready for you."

"Thank you." Link left the shop and waited outside as the jeweler went to work. As he sat on a bench in the town center, his mind raced with thoughts of Zelda. He remembered all the wonderful times they'd spent together, and he was still confused as to why she would leave him. Not only did he love her with all his heart, he had saved her life numerous times, and that had to mean something. He couldn't believe that she would just up and leave him like that. The only solution he could think of was to prove his love and loyalty to her. And the only way he could do that was to propose to her. He had to show her that he was dedicated and committed. Hopefully she would come to her senses and realize that he was the man for her.

The two hour wait was agonizing, but the time finally passed and he went back into the shop. The man heard him enter and walked up to the counter smiling. "I've finished your ring, and I think you'll be extremely satisfied." The man handed the ring to Link and he examined it. The engraving on it was written in perfect calligraphic handwriting, and was better than he could've imagined. The ring was exquisite.

"Yes, this is perfect," Link said dreamily. He took the sack of rupees out and dumped them all on the counter, garnering a hungry look from the jeweler. "There is more than enough money here for the ring. You can keep whatever is left over." Link then took the ring and left the store. It was getting late in the day and the sun was setting, but he had to wait a little longer before he could enter the castle. Since he was no longer allowed inside the castle, he would have to sneak in under cover of darkness. It was just his luck that there was a new moon tonight, and the night would be much darker than normal. Besides, he was an expert at sneaking into the castle, and he knew he would never be detected.

He waited until it was dark and the guards were occupied with their shift change. It was child's play for him to sneak past the guards. Sometimes he wondered if he was exceptionally good at sneaking around, or if the guards were simply inept. When he got to the gate of the main castle, he noticed that the guards were chatting with each other and totally ignoring their duties. He took the opportunity to sneak past them around to the back of the castle. Directly above him on the second floor of the castle was the balcony that led into Zelda's bedroom. He could see light coming from inside, so he knew she wasn't asleep yet. There was a large trellis along the wall that led all the way up to the very top of the castle, and it conveniently passed right beside her balcony. The trellis itself was made of thin wooden slats and was completely covered in thick vines of ivy. He grabbed hold of it and made sure that it was strong enough to support his weight. When he was satisfied of its stability, he began to slowly climb up the trellis. He flinched every time there was a creak in the wood, worried that the sound would alert the guards to his presence. But when no one came, he continued his climb. When he reached the level of Zelda's balcony, he hopped off the trellis and grabbed hold of the rails on the side, pulling himself up onto the balcony.

He moved the curtains away from the doorway and peered inside to see Zelda sitting in front of a mirror brushing her hair. He quietly walked into her room and stopped a few feet behind her. "Zelda," he whispered.

She suddenly stopped and turned around to stare at Link with a shocked and angry expression. "What the hell are you doing in my room?" she seethed.

"Please, just calm down for one minute. I had to come here to see you. Please, I have to tell you something."

She gave him an angry look and almost called for the guards, but decided against it. "I told you I never wanted to see you again. There's nothing to discuss between us, it's over and that's that. And I recommend that you leave quickly before I have you thrown in the dungeon for the rest of your life."

Link slowly approached her and tried to take her hand in a calming gesture, but she pulled her hand away, not wanting to touch him. "I understand what you mean now, why you think I don't love you. But I swear to you, it's not true. That thing you read in my diary, it wasn't mine. I never wrote that. It must've been some kind of trick. You know I would never use you like that. I love you with all my heart, and I love you for who you are, not what you are. I don't care if you're the princess, I don't care about money and power. All I care about is you, because I love you. I would never hurt you in any way, I only want to be with you and take care of you. And I have something I want to give to you, something that will prove my loyalty and commitment to you." He pulled the small box out of his pocket and showed the ring to Zelda. She looked surprised, but not impressed. "I want you to marry me. I want to be with you for the rest of my life, and this is how I'm going to prove it. I will always be there for you, I'll do anything you ask, I'll be your slave if you want me to. Just let me show you how much I love you."

Zelda only stood there silently, staring at the ring then back at Link. Then all of a sudden, she laughed. She laughed at Link and laughed at everything he'd just said. "Do you honestly think that you can just sneak into my room at night, give me some sob story about how much you love me, then propose to me? Are you crazy, or just plain stupid?"

"But I love..."

"Shut up!" Zelda interrupted. "You do not have permission to speak. When I told you it was over, I meant it. I wasn't inviting you to try to win my love back, I was telling you that we're finished. I hate you Link, and I'm beginning to realize I never loved you in the first place. I don't even know what I saw in a worthless peasant like you, I guess it was the thrill of dating someone lower than me. But I've realized the truth now, and I've found someone worthy of me. So get out."

Link was speechless and tried to think of something to say, some way to beg her into reconsidering, but no ideas came. As Zelda became more frustrated, her door suddenly opened and a very well-groomed young man walked into her room. "Is something wrong, sweetheart?" asked the man as he put his arm around Zelda and gave Link a condescending look.

"Yes, there is," she replied. "This is Link, the boy I told you about. He decided to break into my room in some last-ditch attempt to win back my affection." She spoke of Link with a mocking tone that made him feel even more inferior than he already did. "Can you believe that he bought some cheap ring and tried to propose to me?"

Dukan chuckled and looked at Link like he was a rat from the gutter. "Well, I wouldn't worry about honey, he'll learn that he's not good enough for you. Why don't you leave us alone for a minute, I'll talk some sense to him." He kissed Zelda and then she left the room. Dukan's demeanor quickly changed from loving and supportive to confrontational. He stepped closer to Link until he was right in his face. "I didn't think you'd have the balls to pull a stunt like this. But I have to admit, buying a ring and proposing to her was a nice desperate attempt, it's too bad you've failed." Link only scowled at him. Dukan then snatched the ring from Link's hand and examined it. "What kind of cheap piece of crap is this thing? Did you win this at a carnival or something?"

"That ring cost me ten thousand rupees, and it was worth it to get something so nice for her."

"You really are pathetic, aren't you? These clothes are worth ten thousand rupees, and your stupid ring isn't worth shit." Dukan chuckled and tossed the ring out the window. Link ran to the window just in time to see it plunge into the moat. He was extremely angry now.

"How dare you! That was Zelda's ring, not yours! You had no right to do that."

"Of course I have a right to do that," Dukan mocked. "I'm sorry little boy, but your proposal came a little too late. You see, Zelda and I are already engaged to be married. Once she realized that a man like me was far superior than a piddling little ragamuffin like you, she was more than willing to accept my proposal."

"I know you did something to her," Link accused, pointing his finger. "And I will find out what you did, and you'll pay dearly for it. She'll realize that she doesn't love you, and she'll be happy with me again."

"Wow, she was right when she said you were dense. I'll put your mind at ease though, I didn't do anything to her. I merely gave her what she wanted. Though, it did take a little work for me to do that. A woman like Zelda needs a special kind of man. She thought that she really loved you, but in reality it was just a childish infatuation, a mere crush. Deep down inside, she knew you were waiting to betray her and prove that you weren't the honorable man she thought you were. A man like you doesn't just fall in love with a woman as powerful as she is. It's obvious even to a rather dimwitted individual that a peasant would only be interested in royalty to gain power and riches. That always happens when people from different classes intermix."

"But this is different," Link protested. "I really do love her, and I don't care at all about money or power. I only want her love, that's all."

Dukan sighed. "I figured that she might think that and perhaps stay attached to her. But it only takes one little betrayal for her to drop you like a bad habit. I've had my eye on her for quite sometime, and when I saw my chance, I took it. I still can't believe that she fell for the little diary stunt."

"I knew someone was behind that! You'll be thrown in the dungeon for that!"

"The only person who's going to be thrown into the dungeon is you. Remember, she hates you now and she loves me. Who's she going to believe? You, the one who betrayed her, or me, the one who came to her rescue?" Link remained silent. "I thought so. It was so easy to do. Your handwriting may be quite unique and unmistakable, but it's not anything that a little practice won't solve." Dukan gave a wicked grin.

"I knew somebody forged that entry. But you just wait till Zelda gets back, I'm going to tell her what you did, and you'll be sorry you ever set eyes on her."

Dukan laughed at Link's attempt to intimidate him. "You're more stubborn than Zelda let on. But you have to face the facts now; I won, you lost. The game is over. So I suggest you leave right now before you have an unfortunate accident."

"I'm not going anywhere until Zelda knows the truth."

"The truth doesn't matter. She's mine and there's nothing you can do about it. She has my ring now, and she will be my wife. And you know what else? She's a great fuck too." Link's face turned red with rage and he clenched his fists so hard that his knuckles were white and his fingernails cut into his palms. "Yeah, you heard me right. She's the best woman I've ever had, so innocent and immature, it was great making her into a woman."

"I will kill you for violating her," Link seethed. It took every shred of willpower not to kill the man right now.

"Violating her? Oh no, there was no violation. She wanted it, and believe me, she loved it. It's kind of ironic that you've known her for years and you've never gotten under her dress, and I've only known her for a couple months, and I got to take her virginity." Link looked like a bomb ready to explode, and his mind raced with dozens of possible ways to give Dukan a slow, painful death. "And you know what else? She screamed me name."

That was the last straw. The last lingering bits of his rationality disappeared and he snapped, going into a blind rage. He didn't care about the consequences of anything he did, all he wanted was to kill this man. So without warning, Link lunged at Dukan and tackled him to the ground. Link managed to get in a few good punches to Dukan's face before he pushed Link off him. They both got up and stared at each other before Link charged him again, delivering a kick to Dukan's stomach and causing him to double over in pain. Link took advantage of his vulnerability and smashed Dukan's face into his knee, breaking his nose and sending blood all over. But as Link prepared for another assault, Dukan delivered a low kick to Link's ankles, sending him tumbling to the ground. Before Link could react, Dukan jumped on top of him, pinning him to the floor. He then punched Link repeatedly in the face and stomach, trying to inflict as much damage as possible. As Dukan was about to deliver another blow to Link's face, he moved his head to the side, causing Dukan's fist to miss his face and collide with the hard stone floor, nearly shattering the bones in his hand. As Dukan writhed in pain, Link jumped on top of him and wrapped his hands around his neck. Link squeezed as hard as he could, not wanting to stop until he crushed his windpipe and choked him to death. But Link was so concentrated on choking Dukan, that he didn't notice when he pulled a dagger from his belt. Dukan then kneed Link in the groin, which gave him enough time to flip Link over and straddle him. Dukan plunged the dagger towards his throat, but Link was too fast and he grasped Dukan's arm as it came down. Dukan pushed with all his might, but Link pushed back with matching force. They struggled for what seemed like eternity, the knife inching towards Link's face, and then inching back. Then Link turned the tables by kneeing Dukan in the groin, and he used the opportunity to get up off the ground and take a defensive posture. But Dukan wasn't fazed, he held out the dagger and ran towards Link, fully intending to drive it into his chest. But Link was ready for his attack, and as he lunged toward him, Link grabbed his wrist and brought it to his knee, snapping his wrist and causing him to writhe in pain. As Dukan was screaming in pain, Link took the opportunity and picked up the knife he'd dropped. Link stood over Dukan, who looked up at him and showed fear in his eyes. Link smiled in satisfaction. "Now it's time for you to die." And before Dukan could react, Link drove the dagger into Dukan's stomach, pushing the blade in as far as it would go Dukan coughed up blood and began to choke on it, but Link wasn't satisfied. He pulled the knife out and drove it in again, then stabbed him again and again until his abdomen was red and black from blood and intestinal fluids. Link finally stopped stabbing Dukan when he gurgled one last time and stopped breathing. He left the blade in Dukan's chest and stood up, looking down at the bloody body with a sense of extreme self-satisfaction.

Suddenly, his reverie was interrupted by Zelda walking into the room. He looked up at her with a wide smile on his face, and Zelda was horrified seeing the blood all over his face and hands. "What...what have you done?" Zelda choked out.

Link walked up to her and held her tightly, smearing the blood all over her dress. "I saved you from that man. He was evil, and he only wanted to use you. You'll be much happier with me, I promise." Link's tone was more that of a crazed madman than of a man who cared. Zelda only stepped back with horror at what Link had done and how casual he was about it.

"You! You'll hang for this!"

"No, no I won't. He deserved it, he didn't love you."

"You killed the man I loved, and you will die for this!" She gave him the sternest look she could muster and spoke in a deep, hateful voice, "You'll pay for this. You will be executed for your crime. And I'll tell you this: I will relish the moment the hangman ties the noose around your neck."

"No!" Link shouted, grabbing Zelda by the arm so forcefully that he sprained her wrist. "No, it won't happen that way. You know that I love you, and that's what you'll tell everyone, do you understand? You'll tell them that Dukan tried to hurt you, and I was only defending you. Then everything will be fine, just fine."

"Guards!" Zelda screamed as loud as she could. "Help me!"

Link wasn't going to be swayed by her attempt at escape so he trapped her in a powerful bear hug and squeezed her so tight that she could barely breathe. "You're going to tell them you love me, do you hear me? You love me!" he screamed, still in an uncontrollable rage.

"No! No, I don't love you! I hate you! And you won't get away from this. I loved Dukan and I won't rest until you suffer the ultimate punishment."

Link wrapped his arm around Zelda's neck and began to squeeze. "You'll take that back, you don't love Dukan, you love me. You love me! We're meant to be together!"

Zelda choked and gasped, but Link didn't let go. "I'll never love you," Zelda managed to say, even though her air was being cut off. Link only squeezed tighter.

"Yes you will, you will love me."


"Then if I can't have you, no one will." Link squeezed with all his might while Zelda writhed and struggled, trying to breathe any air that she could, but her throat was squeezed so tight that only the slightest hiss could be heard. Then, as Link squeezed tighter, her felt a snap and Zelda's body went limp. He immediately let go and her body fell to the ground, completely motionless.

As suddenly as his rage had started, it ended, and he was once again in a rational state of mind. He looked at both bodies before him and suddenly realized what he'd done. He was in such a state of shock, that he wasn't sure if he even felt anything at all. With a choked sob, he knelt before Zelda's body and clutched her to his chest. "No...I didn't mean to," he sobbed. "It was an accident. I didn't mean to..." The woman he loved more than his own life was before him, dead by his hand. He knew what the consequences of this would be, but he didn't know how to face him. One single loss of control had essentially ended his life. He sat there, crying and praying that this was all a dream, but every passing second made it all seem more real. As he silently awaited the guards to discover his crime and kill him, he heard a groan come from behind him. He gently set Zelda's body down and stood up to see Dukan moving slightly. He was still bleeding and Link thought he was dead, but he apparently had a little life left. Dukan moved his head and opened his eyes, smiling evilly at Link. "Look what you've done now," he said in a raspy voice. I told you to you've killed her. Now you know this is only one way out of this." Dukan took a shallow breath and pulled the knife from his chest, holding it out to Link with a shaky hand. "You know what to do." Link took the knife and stared at it with a clam resolve. "Quickly, the guards are coming, kill yourself now before you suffer the dishonor of being executed in front of the whole kingdom." Link nodded and fell to his knees, pointing the blade at his stomach. He knew this was the only way out, it was the only way to atone for his terrible sin. He deserved to die a thousand deaths, to be torn limb from limb and tortured for what he'd done. But it didn't matter anymore, his life was over and he had to end it now. But he hesitated for a moment, and Dukan spoke to him again, "Do it now! Quickly, they're coming. Kill yourself now, you know it's the right thing to do. Give up before it's too late, give up now and everything will be fine."

Link suddenly stopped when he heard those words. Something in the back of his mind screamed at him that all of this was somehow not right. This wasn't supposed to happen. He remembered someone telling him to give up, but he didn't know who. He dropped the knife and tried to think of something, anything that would explain the doubt he had. He didn't want to give up, giving up is exactly what he knew he shouldn't do. He was confused now, wondering why his feelings had changed so suddenly. Then he realized that none of this was right, none of this was supposed to happen this way.

A sudden calm washed over him, soothing his tortured mind. It felt as if someone was there beside him, comforting him. But he had no idea where the feeling was coming from, and who was causing it. Then in the back of his mind, he thought he heard a voice, a calm, pleasant voice, calling out to him. Please, I want to help you.

"Who are you?"

Don't let it happen this way. I promise I will help you; don't give up, I will come for you. I promise.

Link nodded and sat there, waiting for something to happen. He suddenly felt at ease, in a hazy euphoria that made him feel like everything was going to be fine. When the guards broke down the door and charged at him, he didn't even care. He watched as they looked in horror at Zelda's body, then at his bloody hands. As one of the guards approached him with his sword drawn, Link welcomed whatever was going to happen, because he felt safe now. "I won't give up, I promise." As he felt a blade plunging into his chest, he calmly let the darkness take him away to whatever fate awaited him.

All of a sudden, Yasha's connection with Link broke. Her plan was working perfectly when the connection was invaded by a third person. She had no idea who that person was or what their intentions were, but that interruption had broken the link and collapsed the hallucination. Someone was trying to communicate with him, but she couldn't figure out who it was. She had gone to great lengths to block out all empathic and telepathic connections with Link's family and friends. The only reason she could think of for the intrusion was that some of Link's emotions had escaped the block and someone out there sensed them and wanted to help. But it didn't matter, she was so close to breaking him that it would be all over soon.

This one little drawback wasn't going to foil her master plan. The plan was so perfect and majestic, that there was no way it could fail. It had taken her years to perfect her skills, and once that was done, all she had to do was wait for the right person. Then she discovered Link; he would be the one to finally give her all the power and energy she needed to last a thousand lifetimes. The plan was so simple and elegant. The first thing she had to do was cut off Link's mind and body from his loved ones. She had thought of many options, but only one fit the bill perfectly: death. Only his apparent death could break the strong bonds with his friends. So she had to make it look like he had died from some freak accident. When he'd been stung by that bee, she used all of her training in black magic to create a doppelganger of him. While she would take his real body, she would also leave behind a perfect replica, a dead replica. While she was slowly breaking Link down, his friends would mourn his death, and wonder why something so horrible had happened. The fake body was indistinguishable from his real one, so they would have no reason to suspect something else was at work. And a freak accident, an allergy to bees, would only make it more believable. Once his loved ones were convinced that he was truly dead, they would no longer attempt to seek out their unconscious bond with him. Zelda especially was key to her plan. Of all the people he knew, his bond with her was the strongest, and the one that was most likely to foil her plan. So she used all her power to block all emotions from the real Link, to prevent her from suspecting that anything else was happening. Breaking the bond had been easier that she thought. Zelda was so enamored, so hopelessly dependent on Link, that when he died, she became lost. The horrible pain and grief so overwhelmed her that she was doing Yasha's job for her.

The next step was the more difficult one. Link's enormous powers, everything that made him special and unique, all lay deep inside the very essence of his being: his soul. That was what she was after, once his soul belonged to her, she would be unstoppable. But stealing Link's soul wouldn't be nearly as easy as everyone else. With normal people, she could simply take what she wanted and leave the body behind. But it wouldn't work for Link, he was far too powerful. He needed to give in to her, to submit and be taken without force. However, getting someone as stubborn as him to give up wasn't an easy task. So she had to find other ways to break down his resolve. Physical torture would only go so far, and she had already used that. Because Link was more dependent on his extra sensory abilities than he himself knew, she would take advantage of that weakness. He had never experienced a full-blown mental invasion, so he had few, if any, defenses against that sort of attack. And once she latched onto his mind, nothing could push her back out, he would be a prisoner inside his own head. She would use the bond with him to manipulate his consciousness, to use his mind's dream mechanisms to create a hallucinatory fantasy so real that he wouldn't be able to distinguish the dream world from the real world. Then all she needed to do was to come up with a fantasy that would be horrible enough to break him. Zelda, of course, was the pawn. His whole life revolved around her, and his bond with her was so deep that anything affecting Zelda would affect him. So she created a fantasy that would hurt him more than anything. The last piece was to force Link to harm Zelda in his dream. However, that would not be an easy task. Link was so completely devoted to her, that is was almost as if he was born with a predisposition to protect her from harm at all costs. Link himself probably didn't even realize that. But because she had control of his dream, she could implant suggestions that would make him do things that he would never do in real life, killing Zelda in cold blood. Nothing that could ever happen in his dream of his real life could ever begin to compare to Link killing Zelda by his own hand. And that would be his breaking point.

Or at least, it should have been. But Link didn't break as she had anticipated. Someone had broken into the dream and made him question the false reality before him. As soon as he questioned it, the entire fantasy collapsed. Although it would definitely weaken Link significantly, it wouldn't be enough to completely break him. But Yasha wasn't one to depend on one "perfect" plan; problems could arise, which necessitated the use of a backup plan. This plan would be just as effective, and she would certainly enjoy it, especially seeing the look on Link's face as he is finally broken.

Yasha looked over at Link, who was still unconscious, but sweating and shaking. She was tired of waiting, and it was just about time for her secondary plan to take effect. She kneeled in front of Link and slapped him hard across his cheek, with a loud smack echoing on the stone walls. Link's eyes shot open and he stared in a confused terror before he realized where he was. "It...It wasn't real..." he stammered, his mind still foggy from the ordeal. He secretly breathed a sigh of relief, and thanked every single god in the heavens that it was all a dream. Even though it wasn't real, he still felt sick.

"No, it wasn't real, unfortunately," Yasha replied. "But I have to give you credit for realizing that it was a fantasy. Most people wouldn't have the mind power to do that."

"It was so real..." he mumbled.

"Of course it was real," she shot back. "That was my intent. Unfortunately for you, I'm going to have to take more drastic measures to insure your cooperation. And although the last thing you experienced was an elaborate dream, I assure you that what you are about to see is no dream, it is real, and you are the only one who can determine its outcome. I hope you make the right choice."

She approached Link and he shied away into the corner. "Don't you touch me!" he screamed.

"You are in chains, cowering on the floor. You don't have a choice here. However, if you don't wish to go through with this, you can give up now."

"Fuck you," he growled.

"Very well." She approached him and put her hand on the side of his face. "This might hurt a little." She concentrated and Link screamed out in pain as the world before him vanished. Link opened his eyes when the pain stopped and he was startled to see him standing next to Yasha in the castle hallway next to Zelda's bedroom. He looked around dumbfounded, wondering if this was just another hallucination. "Most people would call this an out-of-body experience, but I call it remote viewing. I have the ability to project my mental self outside of my body and into a place far away, in this case, Hyrule Castle."

"This isn't real," Link protested. "It's just another fantasy, and I will have no part of it."

"The word 'real' has no meaning here. You may not be able to touch, smell, or taste anything here, but believe me, it is very real. Remote viewing is a difficult skill to master, but it has its merits. Unfortunately, some of your senses will not work here, touch, taste, and smell as I mentioned. But you can see, hear, and feel emotion here."

"I don't believe you."

"Believe it or not;  I don't care. But I suggest you start believing soon, because the consequences if you don't will be quite dire. Follow me." Yasha turned and walked through the wall that led to Zelda's room. He stood there dumbfounded, but finally followed her and passed through the wall as if it didn't exist, all the while thinking to himself, This isn't real, this isn't real... When he entered the room, he saw Yasha standing there with a smug look on her face. "Take a look over there." He looked in the direction she was pointing and was heartbroken to see Zelda sitting at her desk sobbing, and attempting to write something on a piece of paper. "Do you see that?"

"Zelda..." he whispered.

"Yes, the love of your life. The girl that you have pledged your soul to. Do you see how upset she is? How sad she is?"

"She's upset that you kidnapped me."

"No, that's not true," Yasha replied. "Allow me to make things a little more clear for you." Link suddenly felt an onslaught of terrible emotions from Zelda; the wave of feelings was so strong that he felt like he was in a hurricane. He now realized what had been so strange about the last few days: he couldn't feel Zelda's presence at all. He had taken for granted the emotional bond they shared, and when it disappeared, everything felt off. Now that the connection was back, he felt more normal, but the feelings he was receiving were anything but normal. They were horrible, dejected feelings, a lingering sadness that he'd never felt from her before. It was so overwhelming that he almost couldn't take it. He tried to sort out the feelings, and finally came to the conclusion that she was feeling terrible grief, grief over him. "I have restored your mental link with Zelda. As you can no doubt feel, she is in the middle of a particularly strong grieving process."

"What have you done to her?" he demanded.

Yasha smiled. "She is grieving your death."

"But I'm not dead, Zelda would know if I was dead. I knew this was all another lie."

"Quite the contrary, you are dead, at least in her mind you are. What is death anyways? As far as she's concerned, death is the absence of you. She believes that you are in fact dead, and she has no reason not to."

"But I'm not dead, you have me held hostage in some cave, and she would know if I was really dead."

"No she wouldn't. It was quite easy to block your connection with her, so she can feel nothing from you. Every time her mind searches for you, all she hears is silence. Of course, that's not enough for her to truly believe that you're dead. So I had to be a little creative. I'm quite proud of the body I created."

"What body? What have you done to her!"

"Everyone who knows and loves you believes that you are dead. In fact, you died two days ago, as the result of an allergic reaction to a bee sting."

"That's absurd." She sounded convincing, but Link didn't believe her for a second.

"Absurd to you maybe, but not to them, not to her. As far as Zelda is concerned, it was a tragic accident, an accident that has utterly devastated her. She is not emotionally mature enough to handle such a loss, so she is more likely to make a rash decision in her grief."

"What are you getting at? If you hurt her, I'll kill you."

She chuckled, "No, I won't technically be the one hurting her. But I will admit that I had a hand in things. You know very well that she is very susceptible to external emotional influences. As devastated as she is, it's still not enough to fulfill my plans. So I had to influence her. I fed her a constant stream of negative emotions, and amplified the ones she already had. My influence was just enough to drive her over the edge."

"Whatever you're planning, it won't work on her," he insisted. "She's too strong for that."

"Under normal circumstances, perhaps, but not now. You're forgetting that you're dead, she has no reason to think otherwise. She doesn't care about anything anymore, all she wants is to relieve the pain. If you had simply given me what I wanted, this wouldn't have to happen. But now it's all set into motion, and there's nothing you can do. Go on, see what she's doing."

Link was hesitant, but he went over to Zelda anyways. With each step closer he came to her, the pain he felt grew exponentially. When he finally reached her, it was almost unbearable. She was sobbing and wiping her eyes as she wrote on the paper. Link looked over her shoulder and was horrified at what he read. He looked back at Yasha with an expression of pure hatred. "No, you won't do this. I won't let you. Zelda would never do something like this, she's not like that. You did this to her, and I'll kill you horribly if any harm comes to her."

"It's already been done. Do you see the look in her eyes, that empty look? She has nothing left now. She is desperate for some kind of release, and she has decided on the only possible solution. She has nothing left to lose, so logic doesn't play much of a part in her decision."

Link was about to curse and scream, but he refrained when Zelda stood up from her desk, apparently done with her letter. She sniffled and went to a plaque on her wall and removed a dagger from it. "You see, she has already made her choice," Yasha said. "It's surprising that she would choose a knife, isn't it? You would think a princess would choose something a little less painful, like an overdose of opium, or some other narcotic poison. I have to say that this particular choice will make for an interesting scene, cutting always is quite messy." Zelda fingered the knife for a moment, then left the room.

"Stop this!" Link screamed desperately. "Stop this now!"

She only smiled at him. "No. Now you must watch." Zelda's room suddenly disappeared and Link found himself in her bathroom. A few moments later, the door opened and Zelda entered, locking the door behind her.

Link moved towards Zelda and tried to grab her, but he couldn't touch her, his hands merely passed through her body. Zelda gave no hint that she could sense anyone there. "She can't see you, hear you, or feel you. Only you can see her, it doesn't work the other way around."

Link paid no attention to Yasha. He continued to try to get Zelda's attention, by yelling, crying, and trying to regain any of the connection they had, but Zelda only continued her mission. Link finally gave up and kneeled before Yasha. "Please, please don't let her do this. I'll do anything, I swear. I'll give up, I'll give you whatever you want, just don't hurt her. You win, please..."

She chuckled. "It's too late. You had your chance. Now you have to stand by and watch. And while you're watching, remember that it's your fault; if you had cooperated from the beginning, this wouldn't be happening. As you watch, realize the truth of what you've caused: she's going to die and there's nothing you can do about it."

Link protested, screamed, curse, and tried to attack Yasha, but nothing worked. Then he concentrated on Zelda, trying with all his might to get her to notice him. He became more and more desperate as the look on Zelda's face grew darker and darker. Then, time practically stood still when Zelda made the first cut with the knife. Link looked on in horror as se cut herself again. He saw the blood drain from her body and he swore that he could feel every drop drain from him as well. When Zelda finally collapsed to the floor, Link leaned over her weakening form and begged her, "Please, call for help. Zelda, don't do this. I'm right here, can't you see me? I'm right here! I love you, just listen, you know I'm here with you." Link finally broke down and cried, feeling utterly defeated. "No, don't let this happen." He felt her essence slowly fade away as the blood continued to flow and her breathing became more shallow.

"Please, Link, forgive me..." she whispered.

"Yes, I forgive you, don't die, please! I forgive you Zelda, I forgive you..."

Zelda and the room disappeared and Link was back in his prison, sprawled on the floor bawling. Now he truly felt empty, he had nothing left to fight for and had no will to continue.

Yasha watched him with a smug look of satisfaction. "That was quite a wonderful show, wasn't it? I couldn't have made a fantasy as good as that. That went by rather quickly, didn't it? It's amazing how little time it takes for a person to bleed to death." Link continued sobbing and paid no attention to her. "I'm going to let you sit there for a while and think about what you just saw, let it play over and over again in your mind. Think about it, and you will realize that what you saw was in fact real, and not a charade. I expect that in the morning you will make the right choice. But before you think about it, I have one more thing to tell you. Remember that Zelda is dead, and it's your fault. You have nothing left to lose now, except more of your loved ones. Don't forget that you're dead, so no one will ever suspect what is happening. But if you attempt to grow balls and defy me once again, the consequences will be far worse. If you defy me, you will suffer. You watched Zelda die without actually being there. If you choose to be a hero this time, I will bring your beloved sister and her girlfriend right here. Then I think I'll slit Malon's throat, and force Solo to watch her die. Then I'll take Solo's beautiful hair, which she cherishes so much, and choke her to death with it. If you still defy me, then I will kidnap Saria, your best childhood friend. I'll eviscerate her and pull her guts out in front of your eyes. If you defy me after that, then I will kidnap each of the little Kokiri children one-by-one and kill them in front of your very eyes. There are no limits to what I'm willing to do. So think about that, and I will await your choice in the morning."

Yasha left the chamber to let Link ponder, but he didn't even have to think about it. He knew what he had to do. He was already responsible for Zelda's death, and he would not let himself be the cause of any more bloodshed.

Chapter 4

It was a little after ten at night when Impa finally decided to go to bed. Everyone else had retired for the night shortly after Zelda had gone to bed, but Impa chose to stay awake and brood for a little while longer. She was walking towards her room when she decided to check on Zelda one last time. Zelda probably wasn't sleeping, and Impa wanted to comfort her before she went to bed. Impa quietly opened the door to Zelda's room and stepped inside. She wasn't surprised to see Zelda not in her bed, so she looked around the room to try to find her. A quick scan revealed that Zelda was nowhere to be found. Impa was about to leave and search one of Zelda's other hiding places when she noticed a strange piece of paper lying in plain sight on her desk. It was unusual for Zelda to have paper just lying around, she was normally very organized. Impa looked at the paper and didn't read more than a few words to know what the entire letter said. Impa thought of a dozen different places Zelda could've gone to do the deed, and none of them seemed more likely than the others. If Zelda was determined to take her own life, she might only have a few minutes to find her, and that ruled out scouring the castle. Impa frantically tried to put herself in Zelda's shoes, and then noticed that the plaque on her wall had been tampered with, the decorative dagger removed. As if having a sudden revelation, Impa rushed to the bathroom and pounded on the door. "Zelda! Are you in there? Come out, we can talk about this." There was no response, and no noise coming from inside. She pushed on the door and discovered that it was locked. She charged the door and rammed herself into it, trying to knock it open. The door was made of heavy ebony, and didn't even budge. After almost dislocating her shoulder, Impa tried to think of another way. At the end of the hall stood an old suit of armor from years ago that only acted as a decoration. The suit itself didn't interest her, it was the large battle axe next to it that she wanted. Impa ran and fetched the axe, then chopped into the door as hard as she could. She swung the axe at the part of the door closest to the lock, trying to knock off enough wood to open the door. After only a few seconds of chopping, several guards came running her way, alarmed by the loud noise. They watched her frantically chop at the door and awaited some instructions from her. When a small hole began to open up, she looked at the three soldiers and pointed to the door. "Knock it down, now," she ordered. The guards obeyed and all three smashed into the door at the same time, finally snapping the lock and causing the door to fly open.

Everyone looked on in horror at the sight of Zelda's body lying in a pool of her own blood. While the guards stood in shock, Impa rushed to Zelda's side and checked if she was still alive. She was barely breathing, and blood was still oozing from the wounds, but she was not dead. She quickly grabbed two towels from a rack and kneeled in front of Zelda. She looked at the guards and began to bark orders. "You two, go wake all the doctors now! Tell them you need medicines to stop bleeding and needles and silk to stitch up large gash wounds. Go now!" Two guards ran off as fast as the could, and the remaining guard went to Impa's side. "You, wrap this towel around her wrist and push down as hard as you can, and don't stop pushing until I tell you to." He obeyed and pushed down on one of Zelda's furiously bleeding gashes. Impa pushed on her other arm, trying with all her might to slow or stop the bleeding until the doctor came. With each second that passed, Zelda's breathing became more shallow and more labored, and Impa feared that she had arrived too late.

Less than a minute after she had ordered the guards, two of the doctors came rushing into the room carrying baskets of medical supplies. They sat on the ground next to Zelda and removed several large bottles of milky-colored liquid. "She has two large gash wounds, one in each wrist, that are bleeding profusely. She tried to kill herself." The doctors nodded and went to work. Impa and the guard stood back as each doctor concentrated on one of Zelda's arms. They got fresh towels and wiped as much blood away as they could. Then they opened the bottles and poured the liquid onto the wounds, and soaked the fresh towels in the liquid and wrapped those around her wrists. As they applied pressure to stop the bleeding, the male doctor explained what he was doing. "This liquid is a coagulant, it should help to stop the bleeding as quickly as possible."

Suddenly, Zelda's father came barging into the room in his pajamas, wondering what the commotion was all about. When he saw Zelda lying on the floor, he shrieked and totally lost control. "My baby! What's happened to her?" he shouted in a desperate voice, running to her side to try to help her. He attempted to push the doctors out of his way, but Impa grabbed him and pulled him away from the scene. He fought and struggled to go back to Zelda's side, but Impa's calm, no-nonsense demeanor was no match for his frantic behavior.

"Calm down, making a scene won't help her," Impa soothed. He took her advice and stopped struggling, but stayed near Zelda, ready to jump to her side if anything happened. Impa motioned for the guards to leave them, leaving them in privacy. Zelda's father tried to keep control of his emotions, but it wasn't working. Seeing his daughter bleeding to death on the floor wasn't something that he could be rational about.

"What happened?" he asked in a voice barely above a whisper, afraid that talking too loud could somehow jeopardize Zelda's chances of survival.

"She tried to kill herself."

He couldn't make any coherent response to that statement. All he could do was silently nod, and wonder why this had happened to the only person in his life who really mattered to him. He silently prayed to every single deity he could think of while awaiting any news from the doctors. Finally, the female doctor looked at him with a grim but slightly hopeful expression. "The bleeding has stopped," she informed him. She's lucky we got here when we did, even a few more seconds and she would've lost too much blood to survive. I still don't know what the outcome will be, it's hard to judge if she'll live or not." The doctors then removed the towels and began to gently clean her arms with potions from different jars. Then each doctor took a sharp needle and a spindle of silk thread from their bags, and began to stitch the wounds shut. Zelda's father watched with horror at the true extent of his daughter's self-inflicted wounds. The cuts were long and deep, so much so that he was amazed that she was still breathing. But he couldn't think negative thoughts like that, he had to pray and hope that she would be all right.

Finally, about fifteen minutes later, the doctors finished the stitching, applied a salve to the wound and wrapped bandages around her arms. The female doctor went to Zelda's father, who was distraught with worry, and put a hand on his shoulder to comfort him. "The bleeding's stopped, and we stitched up the wounds. The knife she chose was actually quite sharp, so the cut was clean and it'll heal well. I can tell just by looking at the floor that she's lost quite a lot of blood, but the fact that she's alive right now is a good sign. I think she'll be okay."

The king breathed a sigh of relief, but then began to worry about her prognosis. "Are you sure she'll make it? Is there anything I can do to help, to make sure she makes it through?"

"The main concern is to keep her comfortable and stable. Don't try to move her around too much. I think after she gets cleaned up a little, she should be put to bed and should stay there for at least a few days. When she wakes up, she'll be very thirsty, and it's important that she drinks water slowly so as not to get sick. You shouldn't feed her too much solid food for the first few days, soup should be fine. She'll be extremely weak for several days, and might not be able to move at all. After that, she has to remain inactive, like if she gets up too fast, she might pass out. She needs foods that will help her to replenish her blood supply, red meat and organ meats like liver are good, and so are dark green vegetables like spinach and broccoli."

The king nodded and vowed to follow the doctor's instructions to the letter. "I'll see her to change her bandages twice a day, and make sure to keep the wounds clean to prevent infection, which in her state will kill her. But the most important thing is to talk to her. When she wakes up, you have to be supportive and make sure she knows you're there for her. There's no doubt in my mind that she wanted to die; the way she cut herself would have killed her quickly if she hadn't been found so soon."

"Will there be scars?" Impa asked in a worried tone.

The doctor shrugged. "Maybe, maybe not. But with a wound like this, I'm fairly certain that there will be some scarring. We'll have to wait and see. But I assure you, I'll do everything in my power to first make sure she recovers, then to worry about the cosmetic things."

"Thank you," the king said as the doctors packed up their things and left. Only he and Impa remained in the room, looking at Zelda who appeared to be sleeping peacefully.

Impa felt someone tap her on the shoulder and she turned to see the guard staring at her. He motioned his head in the other direction, and she saw Saria, Solo, and Malon standing in the hallway with extremely worried looks on their faces. "I'll handle it," she said, dismissing the guards. She went to the king and put her hand on his shoulder. "I'll talk to them, you can take care of Zelda." He nodded and went to tend to her, while Impa led the other three into a small dining room down the hall. They were worried but also curious to know what was going on, and waited apprehensively for an explanation. When everyone had sit down, Impa took a deep breath and tried to think of the best way to explain things.

"What's happened?" Solo asked, breaking the uncomfortable silence.

"Something happened to Zelda. She...well, I'm not sure how to explain this." She thought for a moment, but gave up trying to think of ways to make the situation sound less severe. "You know what? I'm not going to try to sugar-coat this, I'll just tell you what happened. Zelda tried to kill herself." Everyone looked completely shocked, and Saria started to sob, but brought herself under control.

"But...why would she do that?" asked Malon.

"Probably because she didn't think there was any reason to live. It's hard to know why she really did it, people who want to kill themselves just don't see any other solution. She must've felt that there was nothing left to live for."

"She did it because of Link," Solo said.

"Yes, I'm pretty sure that's why. She must've been so upset that she didn't want to live with the pain anymore."

"No, it was more than that," Solo added. "Link was her soul, without him at her side, she couldn't live. It was more than pain that drove her to it. Link was more than just the man she loved. They had a special bond that was more than love. Nobody but she can understand it." Impa thought about Solo's explanation, and she agreed. "How did she do it? How did she try to kill herself?"

"She used a knife, and cut her wrists." The image of Zelda's bleeding body flashed through her mind and she fought off a bout of nausea. "There was a lot of blood, and I almost found her too late. But the doctors think she'll be okay. Her father is taking care of her now, but I don't want any of you to go into that bathroom, the scene is too horrible."

"It wasn't supposed to happen like this," Solo said in a voice that was more angry than sad. She sounded like she knew something that no one else did. "Am I the only person that thinks there's something wrong with everything that's happened? Link wasn't supposed to die, and Zelda wasn't supposed to try to kill herself. That's not something she would do. She's a very strong person, and she would never try to end her life on a whim like that. She wouldn't do it because she knows it's not the right choice. Link has sacrificed so much for her, and she'd never throw all that away. She would never do anything to make Link think less of her."

"What exactly are you getting at?" Impa asked.

"I don't know! I don't know what I'm getting at! All I know is that no of this is right! It's not supposed to happen this way. I can explain how I know this, but I know it. Something else is causing this problem, and I don't know what."

"I think everyone should just try to go back to sleep. We need time to sort this all out. You can't just expect to cope with something this severe in just a couple days. So just go back to your rooms, and we'll sort it out in the morning."

Everyone in the room reluctantly left, knowing full well that none of them would get any sleep. When she made sure everyone had gone to their rooms, she went into Zelda's room to see Zelda lying in the bed with her father sitting next to the bed, holding her hand. His eyes were glistening with tears and she noticed that he was holding the letter that Zelda had written. "I should've seen this coming," he said. "If only I had paid more attention to her, I could have prevented this. I should've been watching her, I should've spent every hour at her side."

Impa went to his side and hugged him. "You know we couldn't have seen this coming. She would've hidden it until she had the chance. The same thing happened with me, you didn't see that coming, did you?"

"No, I guess not," he sighed. "But I still think I could've helped her."

"You can help her now. She's going to need you, she's going to need both of us. You just have to be there for her."

"I'm going to stay right here with her." He tightened his grip on Zelda's hand, but made sure not to squeeze too hard. "I want to be right here when she wakes up. I don't care if she doesn't wake up for a month, I'll stay awake until the moment she awakens."

Impa nodded and didn't say anything more. She went to sit on the couch on the other side of the room, and heard Zelda's father whispering quietly, "It's okay sweetie, everything will be all right. Just don't leave me. I promise I'll be here for you. I love you."

Yasha walked out to the cell that she kept Link in and peered inside. He was sleeping, but not very peacefully. He shivered and whimpered in his sleep, and at that moment, she knew that she had broken him. She opened the cell and walked over to his quaking form. She kicked him hard in the ribs, hoping she snapped one, and he awoke with a sharp gasp. When he saw Yasha, his expression faded from shock to complete apathy and submission. He hung his head and awaited his fate. "Good," Yasha said. "Very good. I'm glad to see that you finally see things my way."

"Do you promise that if I do what you want, that you won't hurt anyone else?" he asked meekly.

"You have my word." Link didn't trust her word for anything, but it was his only option. "But of course, I know my word means nothing to you. But you have to think of things logically. If you don't comply, I will certainly kill all of your friends. But if you comply, there is a chance that they will be safe. So there is no other choice. Will you comply, or will you not?"

"Yes," Link answered without hesitation.

"Excellent. Then we will begin the process shortly. But I will warn you ahead of time. You must give yourself willingly, otherwise it will kill you. And if you die during the process, I will kill everyone you know and love."

"Fine. I'll cooperate."

"It will be extremely painful for you, most likely agonizing. But I'm sure preventing the deaths of everyone you love will give you the power to endure it. And if you do what I ask of you, then I will get what I want and you will save the lives of your friends. Now, you will sit there and await your final fate." Yasha left the cell and sat on the floor only a few feet away. She crossed her legs and closed her eyes, beginning a complex meditation process. She needed to prepare herself for the extraction. Under normal circumstances, her mind was in a state of total awareness, but in order for her to absorb Link's essence, she had to remove all of her barriers. This would leave her in her most vulnerable state, but it was necessary for her future well-being. As long as Link remained submissive, her task would be easy.

Dawn had come and passed, and the king was still at Zelda's side. It was early afternoon, and she was still sleeping. Every now and then, he would whisper encouraging words to her, telling her that he loved her and would always be there for her. He watched her breathe in and out, becoming mesmerized by the rhythm, but also thanking the goddesses that she was still alive. His reverie was interrupted when he felt her hand squeeze his very slightly. For a moment he wondered if it was just a reflex, but his doubts were shattered when he saw her move. Her eyes fluttered and slowly opened. He tried to contain his excitement and remained calmly at her side. She moved her head around and her eyes wandered until they locked onto him. Her vision was blurry for a moment but she finally recognized her father looking down at her. She attempted to speak, but her mouth was so dry that only random sounds would come out. She looked around desperately and saw a pitcher of water on the table next to her bed. She stared at the  pitcher and tried to point to it, but her arms felt like lead weights and she couldn't lift them. All she could do was make a quiet moan and stare at the jar. Her father got the message and poured a glass of water, then held it to her lips. She opened her mouth and let the water flow inside, slowly drinking enough so her mouth was moist enough to attempt to speak.

"What...what is...?"

"It's okay sweetie," he soothed, holding her hand and stroking her hair. "I'm here for you. I'll always be here."

"What happened?" she whispered hoarsely.

"Do you remember?"

She thought for a moment and her face looked extremely pensive, trying to remember what happened. Then her expression changed to understanding. "I bathroom. And I..." She looked at the bandages on her wrists and sobbed.

Her father pulled her toward him and hugged her tightly, determined not to ever let her go. "I'm so sorry Daddy."

"Shh, it's okay honey. Everything's all right now."

"I didn't want to live anymore," she explained. "I thought this was the best solution. I'm sorry, I was selfish. I wasn't thinking of you or anyone else. I didn't mean to, I swear. I couldn't control it. I felt like I had to do it to stop the pain. I'm so ashamed, Daddy. Please don't hate me."

"Zelda I would never hate you. Nothing you could ever do would make me hate you. I forgive you. Just don't think about what happened, concentrate on getting better. I'm so happy you're awake, I'm so happy you're still alive. I'm sorry I wasn't there to help you when you needed it."

"It was all my fault Daddy. I didn't think of you. I didn't care. I'm sorry."

"It's all right sweetheart." He kissed her on the forehead and gently laid her back down on the bed, still holding her hand.

"Daddy? Is it okay if I have something to eat?"

"Oh yes, that would be wonderful. I'll go get you something to eat."

"I'm surprised that she's even awake right now, and more surprised that she feels like eating something," Impa commented. "I thought she would be out for at least a week."

"You see? I told you she's a strong girl. She can make it through this." He looked at his daughter and smiled. "I'll go get you some food. I'll be right back." He left the room in a hurried pace to go fetch her something. After he left, Impa decided to take a seat on the chair that her father had placed next to the bed. She gently ran her fingers along Zelda's face and looked down at her with an expression that a mother would use for her sick child.

"I'm glad you're okay," Impa said. "When I found you in the bathroom, I was terrified that I was too late."

"'re the one who found me?" Zelda asked. Impa nodded and Zelda lowered her eyes in shame. Zelda felt like she had been permanently tainted in Impa's eyes, and could do nothing to ever earn her respect again. "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry. I know you're ashamed of me. But I couldn't help it, I just saw only one solution and..."

"You don't have to explain it to me," she interrupted. "I understand. This was more my fault than anyone else's. I should've taken action when I saw the signs. But I wasn't there in time."

"No, it's not your fault," Zelda insisted. "You couldn't have known."

Impa sighed and decided to reveal her secret to Zelda. She had planned on telling her someday, and the current situation seemed to be the most opportune time. "Zelda, I can understand exactly what you're going through, because I've been through the exact same thing." Zelda gave a questioning look. "You're not the only person who's tried to commit suicide. You know that I used to have a husband named Darien. We had been childhood sweethearts, a lot like you and Link. I swear, we must've spent every moment of our lives together. We were even soldiers together, going into battle side-by-side. When we finally got married, everything was perfect. It didn't take too long until we discovered that we couldn't have any children, or at least I couldn't. It was really devastating news, but at least we still had each other, and that's all we needed. I thought we would happily live out our lives together. Then one night, we went to bed together like normal. But the next morning, I woke up and he didn't. I'm not really sure why he died, he just did. I had never been more devastated in my life. I just couldn't take it. I couldn't understand why the goddesses took him away from me so suddenly. He was a good man, and never did anything to deserve that. Your father was devastated as well. He and Darien were very close, like brothers. But I took it a lot harder than he did. I had suddenly lost all direction in life. All I did huddle myself in the corner of my bed and drink. I drank until I passed out. Then when I woke up, I'd drink some more and pass out again. I kept repeating the cycle for a couple weeks. I just couldn't face the reality of what happened. I didn't eat or bathe or even move. I didn't even move to go to the bathroom, I just sat there and soiled myself. Your father finally snapped me out of my liquor-induced haze and got me to clean myself up. For a couple days, I thought I would make it. But then things got worse. Every single time I tried to sleep, I had dreams about him. Sometimes I could swear that he was really still alive, and we were happy again. But every time I woke up, the bed was empty and I was alone. Then one day, I just couldn't take it anymore. I couldn't stand the thought of living out the rest of my life without my husband. So I made the same choice you did, I chose to die rather than face my own misery. I waited till your father had gone home; I'd convinced him that I would be fine. I found a knife that Darien had given me long ago. It was a dagger for use in battle, but I never actually used it. I couldn't let a gift from him be used to shed another's blood. But I decided that it was time to use the knife for the purpose for which it was made. I sat on the floor and stared at the blade for hours. Then I finally decided to do it. I cut myself, I slit both of my arms because it was the easiest thing to do. I cut so deep that I could see bone. Then the blood came, it poured out and I could feel the life draining from me. I thought I'd made the right choice. When I finally passed out, I thought I would wake up in the afterlife, free of all my pain. But that's not what happened when I woke up. I saw your father hovering over me, wiping my head with a damp cloth. I was furious that he didn't let me die, I tried to attack him but I had no strength at all. For weeks, I hated him. I hated him for ruining my one chance at ending the pain. But one day, it all changed. I finally realized what I had done, and how selfish it had been. I was so ashamed. But your father was there for me, and he made me realize that I still had a reason to live. He told me that his wife was pregnant, and he wanted to make me part of his new family. After that, I couldn't refuse his offer."

"I never knew that, I'm sorry," Zelda said.

Impa held showed her arms to Zelda. "Do you see these gloves that I always wear? With the long cuffs? There's a reason why I wear these all the time. It's true that these are part of the traditional Sheikah battle dress, but that's not why I wear them. Take a look." She took the gloves off and showed her wrists to Zelda. Each wrist had a jagged scar running down the length of it. The skin there was slightly raised and a lighter bit lighter shade than her normal skin. "This is why I wear them, to hide my darkest day from everyone. Only your mother and father knew about this. You're the only other person I've ever told."

"Why do you keep it a secret?" Zelda asked.

Impa lowered her eyes. "Because I'm ashamed of what I did. I don't want anyone to know the selfish act I did all those years ago. People don't need to know what I did, it's far too personal. So I understand exactly what you're going through. But I want to make a difference with you. I don't want you to feel horribly ashamed about what you did. If you do, then you'll have a dark shadow following you for the rest of your life. You made a mistake, and thankfully you're still here to learn from it."

Zelda sniffled. "I'm so sorry for what I did. Please forgive me."

Impa held Zelda's hand and tried to soothe her. "Of course I forgive you. No one will hold this against you. And you don't have to worry about what anyone will think, no one will find out. The guards that were with me when I found you won't say anything to anyone. They adore you, and would never do anything to dishonor you. They were heartbroken when they saw you, and were terrified that you wouldn't survive."

Zelda never realized how many people cared about her. She thought that everyone other than her friends and family just saw her as another bratty princess. But perhaps she was wrong, perhaps they did like her after all, and weren't just following orders. Zelda's father finally reentered the room carrying a tray with a bowl on it. He set the tray on the table next to her bed and sat in the chair that Impa vacated. "I brought you the chicken soup that you like. I'm so happy that you feel like eating, I didn't think you would feel up to it." Zelda attempted to push herself to a sitting position, but her muscles wouldn't work. It was as if each limb suddenly weighed a thousand pounds. All she could do was whimper pathetically. Her father saw her trouble and gently lifted her to a sitting position. He grabbed the bowl and held it out to her, handing her the spoon. Zelda managed to lift her arm and attempted to take the spoon, but she couldn't even wrap her fingers around it. She sobbed in defeat and dropped her arm.

"I can't," she complained. "I can't even move."

"It's okay sweetie. Your strength is gone right now, but it'll come back. I'll help you." He took a spoonful of the soup and carefully placed it in her mouth. When she swallowed, he repeated the process, feeding her like a little baby. Tears ran down her face as she ate the food, feeling like a helpless fool. She wasn't a baby, and she didn't want to be spoon-fed. But she had no choice, she couldn't even hold the spoon, much less bring it to her mouth. Zelda wondered what a low opinion her father must have of her. When the bowl was empty, he placed it back on the table and let Zelda lie down again. "You don't have to feel bad, Zelda. I just want to help you get better, that's all."

"Thank you," she whispered.  Then they heard a knock on the door and Impa went to open it. Solo stood behind the door, with an apprehensive look on her face.

"Is Zelda awake?" Solo asked. Impa nodded. "I thought so. Is it okay if I see her? I need to talk to her, it's very important." While Solo looked worried and concerned, she also had a dead-serious demeanor.

"All right," Impa agreed, letting her into Zelda's room.

Solo immediately rushed to Zelda's side and held her hand. "I'm so happy that you're okay. I thought you might wake up today. Everyone else thought it would take a long time, but I knew you were stronger than that." Solo looked over at Impa and the king, who were hovering protectively. "I know you're worried about her, but I really need to talk to her alone. Please? It's important."

Impa stood ready to protest, but Zelda's father interrupted her. "She can talk to her alone," he said. "They need to sort things out." Impa nodded and left the room. "Just come back outside when you're done, and we'll return." He smiled and left the room, closing the door behind him.

Solo's expression changed and she looked very serious, more serious than Zelda could every remember her being. "Zelda, I understand it all now. I told you that none of this was supposed to happen this way, and I'm right. I can't explain it, but I know it. I know you didn't choose to do this to yourself. Do you feel it too? Didn't it feel wrong to you?"

"Yes it did," Zelda replied. "It did feel wrong. I don't know why I did it, I just felt so horrible that I couldn't take it. That voice inside me told me that it was my only hope for ending the pain. I didn't want to do it, I just did."

"And that's why this is all wrong. It wasn't your choice, I know you didn't do it on purpose. You're too strong for that, I know you would never truly want to kill yourself. None of this is right, and I'm the one that has to fix it. None of this is real, I can feel that everything was planned to be like this."

"What are you trying to say?" asked Zelda, completely confused.

"I don't know what I'm trying to say, but I can feel it in my bones. I'm going to fix everything, I promise. All I want is for you to stay strong. I promise, everything will be all right." Solo kissed Zelda on the cheek and left the room.

Impa and Zelda's father were waiting outside when she left. "I hope everything is okay," Impa said.

"Yes, everything will be fine," Solo replied. "You can go back inside, I said everything I needed to say. I know you'll take good care of her. Now I have to go do a few things, and I promise I'll be back soon and everything will be okay." Solo smiled and then ran off. Impa wondered about her cryptic comments, but shrugged it off and went back into Zelda's room.

Solo jogged down the hallway and went down the stairs to the ground level. For a moment, she contemplated going to see Malon one last time before she left, but realized that she didn't have the time. She had already told Malon that she was going somewhere and wasn't sure when she would be back. Malon had been upset, but finally let Solo do whatever she needed to do. Now Solo was roaming the castle, searching for her objective. She was allowed free access to the castle, and no one thought anything of it when she passed by random servants and guards. She walked through different wings of the castle, trying to find one particular room. Finally, after walking through the north wing, she found what she was looking for. There was a guard standing at full alert near a door, next which was a sign that read "Armory". The guard looked at her, but didn't make a move. He didn't see Solo as a threat, so didn't take any action.

"What do you have in there?" asked Solo in her sweetest voice, pretending to be totally clueless.

"It's the armory, Miss," the guard replied. "The weapons are kept here."

"Can I see the stuff in there? I think swords are really neat."

"I'm sorry, Miss. But I can't let you inside. You're not authorized. If you want a tour, you'll have to ask the king himself."

"But I just want a little peek," she whined.

"I'm sorry, I can't." The guard stood firm, but didn't give any indication that he considered Solo a threat. He figured that she was just a dumb kid who wanted to be somewhere she shouldn't.

"Then I'm sorry," she said.

"Sorry for what?"

"For this." Solo quickly kneed the guard in the groin, causing him to double over in pain. Then she punched him in the jaw as hard as she could, knocking him to the ground. He moaned in pain, but still appeared to be awake. He didn't appear able to move, so she opened the door to the armory and dragged him inside, peeking down the hallway to make sure no one saw her. She closed the door and quickly fetched a rope from one of the tables. She tied the guard's arms and legs, then tore a piece of cloth from his uniform and gagged him with it. He stared at her and tried to protest, but his eyes were glazed over and he didn't have the strength to move. "I'm sorry," she said again. Solo left the guard and browsed the tables and shelves of the armory. Every kind of weapon imaginable was there, from swords and knives, to crossbows and clubs. There were also dozens of suits of armor, and other protective garments. The first item she needed was some kind of armor. The full body suits were out of the question, they were far too bulky and required assistants to help her dress. She finally decided on chain mail, which provided enough protection and was light and flexible. She put on a chain mail vest and tied it securely. Her next objective was to find weapons. She put on a bandolier and a hefty belt to hold her weapons. She found a small crossbow and attached it to the bandolier. Then she put on a quiver and put about a dozen bolts in it. Then she browsed through the swords and tested them all until she found one that was easy enough for her to handle. She attached a scabbard to her belt and sheathed the sword. Next, she grabbed a couple large daggers, tying one around her ankle, and attaching the other to her belt.

Now that she had the weapons she needed, her next task was to leave the castle without being detected. She peeked out the door and made sure no one was there. Then she left the north wing, making sure to avoid anyone. Link had taken her through the castle many times, casually pointing out all the weaknesses in security. He knew all the secret ways in and out of the castle, and had taught them all to her. She made her way to the housekeeping section, where all the various cleaning supplies were kept. All the maids were having lunch in an adjacent dining room, and her target was clear. She wandered among the cleaning supplies until she reached one of the back doors. She left the castle and ran towards the stables in the back. No one was in the stables at the moment, and she said a silent pray of thanks for that. There were almost two dozen horses there, and she had to pick the best one. All her time with Malon had given her a sixth sense about horses. She finally selected the best horse and led it out of the stable. She fitted it with a saddle and reins, then climbed on. She led the horse out of the stables and to the main gate. When she reached the gate, the guard gave her a curious look. But he thought nothing of it and let her pass.

Once Solo had left the castle village and was in Hyrule Field, she tried to think of where to go next. She listened to her feelings and they directed her towards the mountains. She wasn't sure where she was going, but she knew she would find it. All she had to do was let her feelings guide her.

Chapter 5

The extraction had begun. Yasha was kneeling in front of Link, with her hands on both side of his head. Her face was contorted in extreme concentration, and Link's expression varied from complete apathy to total shock. Every few moments, he would scream out in pain. It felt as if his body was being sucked out from the inside. With each wave of pain, he felt himself growing weaker and weaker. He endured the pain because he knew it was his only choice to save the ones he loved. It was his only solace as he felt his soul being sucked out of him.

"Perfect," Yasha said as she continued her assault. She had no idea that Link would be so easy to break. If she'd known his true weakness for Zelda, she would've done that first. But she was getting what she wanted now, and that was all that mattered. She was getting close to the final extraction. The first stages involved breaking down every one of his mental defenses and opening him up to attack. Once he had be successfully broken, his essence was open for the taking. Although he was willing, it still took a lot of time and energy to break down his unconscious barriers. Once that was completed, Link would be at the point of no return, and he would be hers.

Yasha concentrated harder to make the process go more quickly. With each passing second, she could feel him growing weaker and herself growing stronger. It was more amazing than she had ever imagined. She would finally get the power she needed. She squeezed Link's head harder and he screamed louder.

"Stop!" shouted a female voice from behind her. Yasha was so shocked that she let go of Link and his body flopped to the ground lifelessly. With a raging fury, Yasha turned around to see who had interrupted her. She saw a young woman with long blonde hair standing with sword drawn. She had a furious look on her face; she was ready to kill. "I won't let you do this!"

"Who the hell are you?" shouted Yasha, never so angry in her life. But she thought for a moment and realized who this girl was. "Wait a minute, I know you. You're Link's pathetic sister," she laughed. "Let me guess, you're on a mission to save him, right?"

"Yes," she replied, preparing to charge the woman.

"I'm shocked that you're here, but it won't ruin what I've planned. It's unfortunate that Link will have to watch you die."

Solo looked towards the cell and saw Link lying lifeless on the ground. "The only one who's going to die today is you!" Solo charged Yasha with sword drawn, fully intending to kill her. But Yasha held out her hand and Solo's momentum suddenly stopped. It felt as if a strong wind was pushing her, and she flew back and slammed against one of the rock walls.

"Try as you might, you will fail," Yasha laughed. The interruption of the extraction had left her in an extremely vulnerable state, but she was not without some residual powers. She could easily take down this girl, who was so blinded by rage that she didn't know what she was doing. Yasha stood over Solo, who was holding her hand to her head, trying to stop the bleeding from a head wound she'd sustained from hitting the wall. Yasha leaned over and wrapped her hand around Solo's neck and squeezed. Solo gasped and choked as her air was cut off. As Yasha was distracted by trying to kill her, Solo reached down to her ankle and quietly grabbed the dagger. With as much force as she could muster, Solo drove the knife into Yasha's calf. She let go of Solo's neck and stumbled backwards, shocked by the sudden pain. She couldn't remember the last time she'd felt any pain at all; her extractions normally left her almost totally invulnerable. But interrupting Link's extraction had left her weak and tired, and open to attack.

Solo stood up and picked up the sword she'd dropped. Yasha charged Solo and grabbed the sword by the blade, ignoring it cutting into her flesh. She threw the sword back and landed a punch to Solo's face, sending her crashing to the ground. But Solo was so pumped full of adrenaline that she immediately got up and prepared to attack. In a lightning-fast motion, Solo took the other dagger from her belt and drove it into Yasha's shoulder. As Solo pushed further, Yasha leaned forward and took the crossbow from Solo's bandolier. It was already loaded, and all she had to do was cock it. Time seemed to slow as Solo saw Yasha aim the crossbow at her and depress the trigger. Solo could see the bolt fly from the bow and hurtle towards her. She leaned to the side to avoid the arrow, which was aimed directly at her face. Solo managed to lean far enough away from the path of the bolt to prevent a fatal impact, but she didn't lean far enough and it grazed the side of her head and cut a long gash. Time returned to normal and she fell to the ground. Yasha quickly ran to Solo and kicked her hard in the ribs, causing her to gasp in pain. Then she grabbed Solo's neck and pulled her to a standing position. "You will not succeed!" Yasha shouted. "This is Link's destiny, and you will not interfere." Solo tried to do anything she could to loosen the woman's grip, but nothing worked and she was helpless. Yasha pushed Solo against the wall and bashed her head against the rocks, knocking her unconscious.

Yasha quickly left Solo's body and ran back to Link. She didn't have time to worry about killing the girl. Her life force was fading fast and she needed to extract Link's essence before it was too late. She gripped Link's head and concentrated as hard as she could. He woke up and screamed in pain as the process accelerated to a blinding pace. Yasha breathed harder and harder as each barrier was broken down, growing ever closer to her goal. It was only a matter of minutes until she was successful, and she cried in an almost orgasmic bliss as she felt Link's soul being consumed. But as she grew closer to her goal, her perception of the world around her faded. After a minute, she had lost all contact with the real world and only existed in the connection between her and Link.

Solo gasped as she awoke from her unconscious state. She had no idea if she'd been out for a few seconds or a few days, but she was determined to get up. She heard Link scream and saw the woman tightly grasping his head, crying out in ecstasy. The sound of Link's helpless cries made her blood boil. No one would hurt her brother and get away with it. Ignoring the sharp pain in her head and body, Solo stood up and stared at the woman with a new resolve. She knew what she had to do. The only solution was to kill this woman. She picked up the sword and made her way to the cell that Link was being held in. The woman was so involved in what she was doing that she didn't hear Solo approach. Solo stood in a direct line with Yasha and held out the sword. With a loud cry she ran as fast as she could towards her ultimate goal. Yasha heard the scream and turned to see Solo charging towards her with sword drawn. But Solo was moving too fast for her to react. In a split second Solo reached Yasha and drove the sword into her abdomen with all her might. She pushed as hard as she could and had so much momentum that the sword pierced Yasha's abdomen and emerged out her back. Solo pushed harder until she pinned Yasha against the wall, the sword still inside her. Yasha gave a look of shock and tried to grab the blade. But Solo wouldn't falter. With a look of pure and complete hatred, she pulled the sword upwards, feeling the blade cut through Yasha's flesh, rupturing her internal organs and slicing through the tissues of her body. The blade suddenly stopped as it reached her sternum and lodged in the bone. When she could push no more, Solo let go and Yasha's twitching body fell to the ground. The wound went from her navel up to her breastbone, and was so gaping that parts of her intestines spilled onto the ground. Solo watched the blood, bile, and other bodily fluids flow from the wound. Yasha choked and coughed, vomiting blood and convulsing violently. After a few moments, the motion stopped and her eyes rolled back into her head. Solo watched in eerie fascination as the contents of her abdomen spilled on the ground. It was a strange combination of blood and intestinal contents, melding into a deep red color that was almost black. Solo smiled in satisfaction at killing the woman, but her excitement was short-lived. She grabbed her head and fell to the ground in total agony. It felt as if a thousand voices were screaming at her in absolute terror, ripping her mind to shreds. But suddenly, the screaming stopped. The fear and agony was replaced with peace and calm. The pain stopped and she lifted her head. She could feel the voices of a thousand people in her head, but they weren't scared or angry anymore. They were...grateful. The feeling was unlike anything she'd ever felt; it was amazing. It was then that she knew what was happening. All these people had been held prisoner for so long, subject to almost eternal torment. But she'd set them free, and they could finally rest in peace. She didn't know who the people were, but she did know that they were at peace now.

Solo snapped out of her reverie and remembered the problem at hand. She had to save Link. She immediately went to his side and looked him over. He was breathing and his heart was beating, but he was unconscious. He whimpered in his sleep, but Solo took that as a good sign. He had been stripped completely naked, and was shivering from the cold. His body looked eerily thin and emaciated, as if he hadn't eaten in weeks. Solo quickly took action and tried to find something to clothe him with. She ran through the cavern until she found the room that contained Yasha's bed. She quickly fetched a blanket and went to wrap it around Link's body. The shivering slowed and he seemed to calm down. Solo wiped the blood off her hands and gently hugged Link to her chest. She kissed him and rubbed her hand along his back to soothe him. "It's okay, I'm here now. I came to save you. Everything will be all right now, I promise."

She picked him up and cradled him closely to her. He didn't wake up, but she could feel that he had finally calmed down. Her next task was figuring out how to get him home. It wasn't normally difficult for two people to ride one horse, but when the other person was unconscious, it complicated things. She took one last look at the cave, and the dead body of the woman she'd killed, and made her way outside. As stepped into the late-afternoon sun, she stopped dead in her tracks when she saw several soldiers arriving on their horses. There were five soldiers each on horseback, along with a small carriage attached to two horses. A sixth rider came up the path and stopped before Solo. She then recognized that it was Impa who was on the horse. Solo merely stood there, wondering why Impa was here and how they found her. Impa dismounted the horse and approached her slowly, wondering if what she saw was real. Solo was standing there with Link cradled in her arms. Impa stopped and leaned forward to see if the boy she was carrying was in fact Link.

"Don't touch him!" Solo growled.

Impa jumped back, startled at her outburst. "Is that really him?" Impa asked.

"Yes," Solo replied. "I told you everything that happened wasn't right. Now I know why: he wasn't dead."

"But I saw his body, it was real, we buried him."

"I can't explain who or what that was, but it wasn't Link. I don't know how I found this place, I just followed my feelings. But I found him. He was in a cage, and this woman was hurting him. She was doing something terrible to him, and I felt it. It felt like his soul was being sucked out. But I stopped her, he's all right now."

"Where is this woman? She needs to be taken into custody."

"That's not necessary," Solo said. "I killed her." Impa looked shocked, and Solo felt ashamed. "I had to, she was hurting him. I had no choice."

"Fine, we'll worry about that later. We need to get him back to the castle so the doctors can check him out. He looks terrible. Go into the carriage over there and we'll take you home."

Solo complied and climbed into the carriage. There was enough room to lay him down on the other seat, but she chose instead to hold onto him. As they made the bumpy ride home, Solo gently rocked Link back and forth and whispered encouraging words to him. Then she began to have a one-sided conversation, talking to him non-stop in the hopes that he would at least hear her voice.  Impa heard Solo talking and felt tears roll down her face. She understood now why Solo had taken his apparent death so hard. Impa was still amazed that Link was actually alive, and she had no idea how she would explain the truth to everyone.

When they finally arrived, Solo quickly got out of the carriage and carried Link into the castle. She shouted for a doctor to come help her, and a few of the servants stopped to stare. "Where is the doctor?" she yelled. Finally, after waiting impatiently, she saw the doctor come running towards her. She held out Link's body to the doctor. "Please help him."

"Bring him with me," said the doctor as he went back to his office. Solo followed and set him down on the exam table. Solo hesitantly stepped back and watched the doctor begin to exam him, resisting the urge to fight him off.

"Will he be okay?" she asked. "Was I too late?"

The doctor looked at her, but his expression remained professionally distant. "Well, he's definitely been bruised and beaten. He's got lots of cuts and bruises, but those will heal quickly. It feels like a couple of his ribs are damaged, but I think they're bruised, not broken. The most disconcerting thing is how he looks right now. He looks like he hasn't eaten anything for weeks. He's thin and pale. I don't know how he could've starved like this in only three days."

"It must've been whatever that woman was doing to him," Solo said. "She was evil, she was doing something to him. But that doesn't matter now. All that matters is that he'll be okay."

"I think he'll be fine, but he needs rest. We should clean him up and put him to bed."

"I'll do it," Solo insisted. "You can help." The doctor got some towels and a bowl of warm water, and they both began to clean him off as best they could. Then Impa entered the doctor's office, followed closely by Saria, Malon, and the king. Saria shouted with joy and ran to Link's side, almost knocking the doctor over. The others simply stood there with shocked expressions.

"Link! You're alive!" Saria exclaimed. She kissed him on the cheek, but stepped back and let Solo and the doctor finish.

"What is this?" asked the king.

"He's alive, I found him," Solo replied. "I told you everything was wrong, and it was because Link wasn't really dead. He was being held prisoner." No one said a thing; they just stood there trying to understand the situation. They had just been through the terrible process of mourning Link's death and burying him. Now he was right in front of them, very much alive.

Everyone remained silent, and Solo and the doctor finished cleaning him. Then the doctor dug through a drawer of clothing and took out a pair of white shorts and put them on Link, trying to at least give him some modesty. "I'll take him to bed," Solo said, picking up Link as she had before. Everyone moved out of her way as she walked out of the office, but the doctor called at her to stop.

"Wait a minute, Solo," said the doctor. "Are you sure that you're all right? You have a rather nasty cut on your scalp, and you're limping. I think your leg is injured."

It was only then when she realized that she had in fact injured her leg. She was so worried about Link that she ignored the sharp pain in her ankle. But she didn't care, she was bound and determined to make sure Link was comfortable before she worried about herself. "I'll help Link first." She continued to carry him through the castle and up the stairs to the bedroom he usually stayed in. She gently laid him on the bed and pulled the blanket over him. A few moments later, Impa, the king, Saria, and Malon came into the bedroom.

Malon went to Solo's side and took her hand. "I can't believe you did this for him. We all thought he was dead. How did you even know he was alive?"

"I felt it," Solo answered. "I don't know how or why, but I knew it."

"What happened to him?"

"There was a woman, and evil woman, trying to hurt him. I could feel it, she was sucking out his essence. She was draining his soul. But I know I got there in time, before she was done. And it wasn't just him, there were other people she killed too. They weren't there, they were inside her. I felt them all escape when I killed her."

"You...killed her?" Malon asked, shocked.

"Yes. I had to. She was hurting him." Solo began to sob, suddenly feeling ashamed of what she did. Malon hugged her, and tried to calm her down.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to upset you. But I think you need to take some time for yourself. You need to clean up and let the doctor treat you."

Solo then remembered how dirty she was. Her clothes were soiled and caked in dried blood, most of it not even hers. But Solo remained steadfast. "No, I'll wait until he wakes up."

Impa decided to break the silence and spoke to the group. "I ordered some workers to go to the graveyard to exhume what we thought was Link's body. I'm rather curious to find out what that really was."

"We all are," the king said. "Impa, I think we should let them be for a while. We have to go to Zelda and wait for her to wake up. She'll want to see him." He and Impa left Link's room and went back to Zelda's.

Saria and Malon both huddled near Link, but were careful not to get too close, fearing Solo's outbursts. Solo noticed their hesitation, and tried to act normally. "It's okay, I won't hurt you. I only wanted to help Link, that's all. Please don't hate me." They were about to reassure her when Link began to move. Solo was at his side in an instant. "Link? Are you there? Please, wake up for me. It's safe now, no one will hurt you."

His eyes fluttered, then opened. He looked around him and couldn't believe what he saw. He could've sworn that he saw his sister, Malon, and his dearest friend Saria staring down at him. The last thing he could remember was the terrible pain of Yasha extracting his soul. He wondered if this was what awaited him after his death. He gave in willingly and fulfilled his end of the bargain, and perhaps Yasha remained true to her word. He didn't know what was going on right now, whether or not this was real of just another illusion.

"Link? It's me, Solo. You remember me, right? You're safe now."

"Thirsty," he whispered. Solo immediately poured him a glass of water and brought it to his lips. He slowly drank it and thanked her. He sat up and looked at his friends, still wondering if this was all an illusion.

"Is this real?" he asked. "Or is it all another one of her illusions?"

"It's real, I promise you," Solo said. "I found that woman hurting you, and I saved you from her. She's gone now, she can't hurt you any more."

"Did it really happen?" he asked. "Did Zelda know, cut herself? I saw it, the evil woman, she showed it to me. Please tell me that wasn't real."

Solo lowered her eyes. "Actually, that did happen. I'm sorry."

Link's last shred of hope broke, and he started to sob. "No, it can't happen like that. She wouldn't do that. She did it all because of me. I can't live without her. I only gave in to that woman to save all of you. She said she would kill you all if I didn't give her what she wanted. She already killed Zelda, and I couldn't let her hurt anyone else. I can't live without her."

Solo suddenly realized what he was talking about. Apparently he had somehow seen what Zelda had done, but he thought that she had died from her wounds. "Link, Zelda did try to kill herself. But Impa found her. She lost a lot of blood, but she's still alive."

Link immediately shot up and jumped out of the bed, swaying and almost falling over.  He managed to balance himself though. "She's alive? I have to see her now." Before anyone could even tell him where she was, he ran out of the room and down the hall to Zelda's bedroom. He threw open the door, startling Impa and the king, then ran to her side and kneeled beside the bed. He slowly extended his arm to grasp her hand, moving like he was afraid that she would break if he touched her too hard. With his other arm, he pulled her close to him and kissed her. "Zelda, I thought you were dead. I'm so sorry I doubted you. I'm here, I'm alive, you don't have to be sad anymore."

In her half-conscious state, Zelda could've sworn that she heard Link's voice. But it had to be a dream, he was dead and gone, never coming back. But she decided to open her eyes anyway, if only to see Link in her dream. She saw his face and he smiled. He looked so real, that she felt like she could reach out and touch him. She managed to lift her arm and moved it towards Link. She was startled when her hand actually touched him, and she drew her hand back as if she'd touched a hot stove. But Link grabbed her hand and kissed it. "I'm here Zelda."

"Is it really you?" she asked, still in a daze.


"It's really him, Zelda," added her father. "I know it's a shock, but he's here."

Zelda touched Link's face and frowned. "You look so pale and thin," she said.

"Well, you don't look very well either." He looked at the bandages on her arms and felt a tear run down his face.

"I'm sorry Link. I thought you were dead and never coming back, I couldn't help it, the pain was so bad that..."

"It's all right," Link interrupted. "I forgive you. It wasn't your fault, she did this to you. If it wasn't for her influence, you wouldn't have done it. But I thought that you really did die. Nothing can explain how happy I am that you're still alive."

"She?" asked Zelda, curious about whom she was referring to.

Link looked around him and saw that all his friends in family were in the room, watching him. "I guess I can explain everything now, at least what I know." He told everyone how he woke up a prisoner in a cave, being held hostage by a mysterious woman. He told them how the woman seemed to know everything about him, even things that he had never told anyone. Then he told them about the torture he endured, the physical pain, and the pain of not knowing what was going to happen. But then he got to the most difficult part, he told them about the fantasy that Yasha had made him endure. When he finally told them about killing Zelda in his dream, he was so distraught that it took him several minutes to calm down and prevent himself from being ill. "Then she showed me Zelda in her bedroom. And I saw Zelda try to kill herself. It was some kind of out-of-body experience, I could see and hear everything, but I couldn't do anything to stop it. It was the most horrible thing I've ever seen. Zelda and I have this special connection with each other, and the woman blocked it when she kept me prisoner. That's why Zelda never felt my presence, even though I was alive. But she...she re-opened the connection so I could feel Zelda's emotions as she hurt herself. She made me believe Zelda was dead. And when that happened, it was over. She threatened to kill everyone else I loved if I didn't give her what she wanted. So I did the only thing I could, I gave up."

"What did she want?" Zelda asked.

"She wanted my soul. And I couldn't let her hurt anyone else. She said that if I gave in to her, that she wouldn't hurt anyone else. So I gave up. I let her do what she wanted to me. The next thing I remember is waking up here."

"You were calling for help," Solo said. "I felt it. I didn't know who it was at first, but then I realized that it could only be you. I knew that everything was wrong."

Link looked at her, startled at her revelation. "You felt that? You heard me?"

"That's how I knew to find you."

"How did you save me?" he asked.

"I found the woman hurting you, and I fought with her. She tried to kill me too. I took the only chance I could, and I killed her."

Link went to his sister and hugged her as she started to cry. "Thank you. I've always been the one who had to be the hero, and when I was helpless, I felt like I was worthless and couldn't do anything. But you saved me, you're the hero now."

"But you don't understand, Link. I killed that woman. I hated her for what she did to you."

"I understand Solo, you did what you had to do."

"But it was more than that. I wanted to kill her. And when I did, felt good. I was happy to see her die. I enjoyed it, and that makes me a murderer. I murdered her."

"It wasn't murder. You were defending yourself, and me. She would've killed you, she would've killed me, and she would've killed everyone else here. She was evil, you did what was right. And I don't care what you think, I think that you did the right thing."

"But I killed her so horribly. I cut her open with the sword, and..."

"I don't want you to ever think that what you did wasn't the right thing. It might have been gruesome, but it was necessary. And I swear to you, if our roles had been reversed, I wouldn't have simply killed her, I would've made her suffer. And I know you're not a murderer. You wouldn't kill some random person on the street. You only did it because I was going to die."

"Link, I did it for much more than that. I wanted you to live because you're so much better than me."

"No, you're not better..."

"Please, just listen," she insisted. "You are such a great person. I couldn't let someone like you die like that. You have so much to give to the world. You're everything I ever wanted to be. You're more than my brother and my friend, you're my idol. I worship you Link, and I couldn't bear to see you die like that. You can help so many people. I was planning to die for you, to save you. I would've died to protect you."

Link didn't know what to say. He'd always vowed to die to protect her, but he didn't ever think that it went the other way around. The only response he could make was to hug her.

"I think that everything will be okay now," Saria chimed in. "Everyone is safe, and we can make it through this."

"Yes, we can," Link agreed.

Everyone in the group huddled around Link and Solo, offering their words of encouragement and gratitude to Solo. Then a guard entered the room and whispered something to Impa. She listened intently and then gave a look of surprise and dismissed the guard. "The workers dug up the coffin and it's downstairs right now. I think all of you might want to see this." Everyone followed Impa downstairs, but Link stayed behind to help Zelda. When she couldn't even stand with his support, he attempted to pick her up and carry her. But her father interrupted them and he picked her up instead.

"You need to save your strength," he explained. Link nodded and followed them downstairs. Impa was waiting at the coffin with an amazed look on her face.

"I don't know what to make of it."

Link peered into the coffin and was surprised as well. The clothes that the other body had been buried in were still there, but the body wasn't. All that remained was a pile of sand, no hint that a person had ever been inside it. "It was some kind of conjuration," Link theorized. "The body wasn't real, it was a fake double. I guess when she died, the spell she cast stopped working."

Impa took something from the guard and showed it to Link. "This is your sword. We gave it to Zelda when you were buried. Traditionally, the sword is given to a knight's wife, but since you weren't married, we gave it to the one you loved. Zelda didn't take it home with her that night, she left it at the grave. Since you're alive now, I can give the sword back to you."

He accepted the blade and held it in his hands. But he thought for a moment, and decided not to keep it. He handed the blade to Solo, but she stood there, not sure of what he meant. "Here, take it. You deserve it more than me. You were the hero. I'm giving this to you now."

"Thank you," she said meekly. "I promise I'll make you proud."

Link embraced her and kissed her on the cheek, whispering quiet words that only she could hear. "I'll never be able to repay you for what you've done. I owe my life to you now. And I promise I won't waste my second chance."

Link was in his bed in the guest bedroom, staring at the ceiling. Everyone else had gone to sleep long ago, but he found it impossible to sleep. He kept mulling over everything that had happened, and the thousands of thoughts were plaguing him nonstop. But the one thing that plagued him the most was Zelda. He suddenly felt incredibly lonely, and he had to see her, if only for a minute. He didn't care if she was sleeping, he could just stand there and look at her. But he had a feeling that she wasn't sleeping either.

He got out of bed and went to Zelda's room, careful to open the door quietly in case she was actually asleep. He walked inside and saw her lying on her back in her bed. She turned her head and saw Link standing there. "I was feeling lonely," he explained.

"Me too."

"I just wanted to come see you. I didn't want to impose on you, but I couldn't stand being alone. I was wondering if it was okay if I...what I mean is that if it was okay with you if I..."

"It's all right Link," she said, patting an empty space on the bed.

Link approached, but stopped before he reached the bed. "I don't want to impose. I don't want you to get in trouble just because I felt..."

"Shh, it's okay."

Link finally decided to accept her offer and slid into bed next to her. Zelda wrapped her arm around him and snuggled closer. "I promise I won't do anything inappropriate. I just wanted to be with you."

"I understand, Link. I don't want to be alone either."

Link held her closer. "Zelda, I need to ask you something. If something ever really happens to me, will you please not try to...hurt yourself again? I couldn't bear to know that if I died, that you would die too. Please, promise me you'll live on if anything happens to me."

"I promise. Will you promise the same thing for me?"

"Yes, I promise."

"Link, I promise I'll love you no matter what, and I'll never do anything to dishonor you. I'll love you past the end of time, forever."

Link smiled and kissed her. "Forever."

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