In The Grip of Evil

By Kirsty Singleton

Chapter 1

'Can there be so much anger in the hearts of heavenly gods?' - The Aenied


"Is she going to be okay?"

She lay before the two of them, her eyes closed as if asleep. He had never lain his eyes on one so beautiful, and it would forever haunt him that it was his fault she had had to undergo such suffering.

"She will be fine. She just needs rest."

Rest. He had not rested since this whole thing began. When this had all started he had been just a boy. Now he was a young man with knowledge beyond his years. He turned and gave Zelda's carer a tight smile, she returned the expression.

"Then it has begun."

"It has."

Ganondorf had been wrong. He had thought that the hero was dead. He had thought that the Sages were dead. But they were all alive. The hero and the Sages. Zelda was the seventh sage, and now she, too, was safe. She was not well, however, and neither were the other sages. Only Impa and Rarau were in good health. But for now, that was enough. Link had not failed in sinking the Master Sword into Ganondorf's twisted black heart. He had succeeded, but as the fates would have it, the combined power of the Sages had been tainted and Ganondorf had not only survived; he had been made even stronger by the power that the Sages had set upon his then frail form. It was not yet known how the power of the Sages had been tainted. Link had been present when it happened, and Ganondorf had arose with the Master Sword still protruding from his chest. He had been defenceless, and Ganondorf had effortlessly swept him aside, and into the abyss that now surrounded Hyrule Castle. They say before you die that your very life flashes before your eyes. Link had not had that experience when he had been falling, but perhaps he had not been close enough to death. With the last of her power, Saria - the Sage of the Forest Temple - had saved him, but in her effort she, too, had almost expired. She still could. Contemplating all of this was the hero. Link. He sat by the bedside of the princess, her eyes closed and perspiration on her brow, thinking over how and why everything had seemed to go so awry. He turned his eyes to Impa, who sat across from him, and was surprised to find her watching him, rather than the princess.

"Why did this happen?" Impa sighed at his question and shook his head.

"It may seem without reason now, but there will be a reason. We are yet to find it however."

"She…will be alright, won't she?" Impa smiled. It was not a smile of happiness but rather of sympathy.

"We can only hope." Link rose to his feet.

"I'll kill him before he harms another." Impa shook her head sadly at the young man's resolve.

"You know that isn't true Link. None of us can harm him. Not now. We must regroup and find out why we did not trap him when we had the chance."

"But what could it be that would taint the power of the Sages?" It was a question that had long gone unanswered. Too long for Link. He knew they, Impa and Rarau that was, feared the worst. That one of the Sages was not true to the cause. But that was only one of the possible causes. There was another, and it was perhaps even more terrible than the latter - was Ganondorf now too strong to be restrained by the Sages? Impa shook her head again.

"Who can tell. But now we must concentrate on either discovering the cause of the problem or finding another way to defeat him."

"Was it me?" The question struck Impa suddenly, and she was surprised. She stared at Link, who had fixed his earnest eyes upon her. She broke out into a weak smile.

"Link, it was not you. Just as I know it was not me. It may have been none of us. Mayhap we struck too soon…or too late. Either way Link, you are the only one among us who risked your life from the beginning to take on this quest."

"Perhaps that wasn't enough. Perhaps I'm not even the chosen hero." Impa stood and placed her hands firmly on Link's shoulders.

"If you weren't him Link, we would know. You wouldn't be here now if you weren't the one." Link hung his head, his chin touching his chest. He didn't want Impa to see the tears in his eyes, or the self-doubt in his expression. He closed his eyes for a second, taking a breath.

"I never asked for any of this." A tear ran from his eye, tracing a path down his rough cheek. Impa looked down at him, her amber eyes burning.

"None of us did, Link." Her voice was kind, kinder than her usual tone. She held a great sympathy for Link - he was so young, as was Zelda. Both of them had gone through sheer torture and for what? Zelda had seen her father murdered before her, and Link was now carrying around the torment of that knowledge as well as the deaths of countless others. Link sat back down at the side of Zelda, and looked at the young princess.

"I, I just can't understand." Impa let out a deep sigh.

"Link, it may seem hard to believe now. Even I myself find my thoughts riddled with doubt, but there is no denying that in the end, good shall prevail." Link looked up at Impa. She was a wise woman, he knew, and a warrior. She was learned in the ways of ancient Hyrule, and was of the Shiekah race - an ancient race of Hyrule whose duty was to protect the Royal Family of Hyrule. She was a woman of unique beauty, taller than most, and she had a lithe, athletic frame. Her face was framed by short, pure white hair, and her eyes commanded authority over all.

"Good has always prevailed," agreed Link sombrely. "Until now." He lowered his head as he spoke, and Impa felt her heart shrink in sadness. Link's spirit was crushed, and so was hers. It had been her born duty to protect Zelda, and her father and also her mother. She had failed on all three counts, and there was little that could console her. She knew. She knew it had been beyond her to save the lives of the King and Zelda's mother. It should not have been though. She got to one knee before Link, and took his hand. She looked up, her amber shining eyes burning into his clear blue ones.

"It is not beyond us, Link, to succeed. Even in the darkest of times, the goodness of others has cut through the darkness like a shining light. We can sink no lower, Link. The only way is up, I promise you." Link held her gaze as she spoke.

"He told Zelda he wasn't finished. He doesn't want to just stop at Hyrule. He wants more than this." Impa's eyes darkened.

"We'll stop him before he gets to that."

"How can you be so sure?" Impa looked at Link, rising to her feet.

"There has to be a way. We just don't know it yet." Link cast a wistful look to Zelda, then stood.

"I should go and see Saria." Impa watched Link sadly as he rose to his feet. He was weary, she could tell. She knew how he felt.

"I hear she is well. But Link," Link turned and waited expectantly. "You must rest." Link regarded her for a moment and gave her a reluctant nod.

"I will." When this is all over, added the hero silently as he left. Impa watched the young hero leave, then turned her attentions to Zelda. She closed her eyes, and hoped Link could rest. She could not. She walked closer to Zelda's bed and sat down, taking the hand of the princess.

"I am sorry Zelda," she whispered, before breaking down into silent, wracking, sobs of despair.

As Link left the chamber he was met by another, his fairy companion, Navi.

"Link, I've been looking for you." Link noticed that the fairy sounded concerned, he simply gazed to the floor before walking on. "You saved her."

"I should never have had to. This should have been over long ago." The fairy fluttered before her friend – disheartened at his despondent attitude.

"But don't you see, Link? You outwitted him. You've done it once and you'll do it again. You've also bested him in battle – I know you can defeat him!" Link looked to his companion – his blue eyes filled with sadness and regret.

"I don't know if I can believe that, Navi. He is stronger before – and now he holds Hyrule in his grip. He has power, power I cannot match." Navi fluttered before Link's path – causing him to stop.

"You may not have his power, Link. But you have more courage than he could ever have." Link threw up his hands, a hoarse laugh emerging from his throat.

"What use is courage? It only lends me the stupidity to do things that others would not! Courage has done me no favours in this. It led me to believe I was something I am not. A hero." As he spoke, he strode forward, causing Navi to fly aside.

"No Link! You must not believe that! You are but one man – yet you succeeded where whole armies would fail! You gave us hope – and you still do. Without you – we have nothing." Link wheeled around at Navi's words – his eyes burning.

"You have the Sages. What am I but their pawn? They could surely find themselves a worthier volunteer. But perhaps no-one would be so idiotic to accept."

"Link..." cried Navi, exasperated.

"Navi, leave me be. I cannot think about this. Not now."

"Then when?"

"I could not tell you." And with that he left. Navi fluttered about for a moment, contemplating Link's words. She knew he could not mean them. At least that is what she sincerely hoped.

"Saria?" Link spoke softly as he entered the sage's chamber, his mind still burning with the words he had exchanged with Navi. He knew he had no other choice but to go on and battle Ganondorf – he would never let Hyrule down by deserting the good people that still remained

"Link, I'm awake," confirmed the Kokiri girl, and Link looked around the door and smiled to see his friend sitting up in her bed.

"You look well," commented Link as he walked to his side. Saria did not smile, however, upon his approach – her face was instead painted with concern.

"I wish I could say the same for you." Link shrugged and sat down on a stool, rubbing his eyes tiredly.

"You don't have to worry about me, Saria. As long as you're okay, I'm fine." Saria gave the hero a weak smile.

"Well I'm not fine if I'm worrying about you, am I? You look like you haven't rested for days. And you look like you've gone without food for even longer." Link reached forward and kissed the girl on her forehead.

"I'm fine. But I'll be even better when all of this is over." Sadness filled Saria's face as he spoke, and she replied to him, her voice soft with sympathy.

"It may be a while before any of this is over, Link." Link's eyes dropped from Saria's face to the floor, and he said nothing, instead clasping his hands together as if in prayer. Saria reached towards Link, and placed her hand over the top of his. He looked to her and she shook her head.

"Please, get some rest. Get some rest then come back and talk to me." Link rose to his feet, dropping Saria's hand as he did so.

"If that is your wish," he cracked a smile, "then I have little choice but to do it."

"Thank you Link. I'll see you soon." Link nodded then left the chamber, Saria letting out a slow sigh as he left.

The Kokiri Forest. This was now the home to the survivors of Hyrule. Those who had not fallen under Ganondorf's dark shadow. The Forest was protected by the power of the Deku Tree – but the Deku Tree was young and not yet as strong as its forefathers. If Ganondorf chose to strike with full force...many doubted whether the forest could protect them. But it was all they had. Formerly, the forest had been home to Saria's people – the Kokiri – a race of people whom never seemed to grow older beyond twelve years of age. This did not mean that they were not an intelligent race – but before now they had stayed within the confines of their forest and little was known of them by the primary race of Hyrule – the humans. Link had grown up in the forest under the impression that he, too, was a Kokiri. But 7 years before he had discovered that he was not a Kokiri at all and he had set out on a quest that brought him to now. To this. A camp had been set up in the centre of the small hamlet and this was were many of the survivors stayed. The Kokiri had opened their homes to all but space was scarce resulting in many preferring to stay at the camp rather than impose on their friendly hosts' homes. This place was now the only safe place in Hyrule. The two villages, Kakariko and Hyrule Castle town, were no more. Just empty, smouldering shells – a result of Ganondorf's rise to power. Lake Hylia, once a place of tranquil beauty was now reported to be a stinking swamp, and a graveyard for all those that had defied the country's new king.

As Link walked from Saria's quarters to his own, he could not help but feel as if a great weight was hanging over him – ready to fall and crush him at any moment. He knew he should not wallow in such self-pity but he had given the last seven years of his life to a cause that was diminishing by the minute. He had thought it would be over when he sank the blade of the Master Sword into Ganondorf Dragmire's black and vile heart but now it seemed like that had only been the beginning. When this had all started, Link had been just a boy. But if times had not been so harsh, now sixteen, Link would have still been a boy. Now all those that set eyes on him regarded him as a man – and not just any man. They all knew that he was the one in which the Sages had invested all of their hope and power, and that he was the one who had ultimately failed to rid them of Ganondorf.

Despite his tender age when all this had truly begun, Link had not had to spend all of these past years in Hyrule. Ganondorf had already had the land under his heel for a good six of the past seven years, whilst Link had, in effect, been asleep. But Ganondorf had been aware of the threat Link had posed, and in a sense he had been waiting for this so called final battle in which he had emerged victorious. Link had entered the Sacred Temple of Time a young boy, and he had emerged a man. The land had changed vastly in seven years, and Hyrule Town was already overrun by the flesh eating redead – all those that had lived in Hyrule Town had fled elsewhere – most of them to Kakariko Village, which, at the time, Ganondorf had left untouched. Ganondorf had even yet to kill Zelda's father. He had him imprisoned, but while the King's daughter remained unfound, her father's life was preserved. Ganondorf had wanted to kill the man before Zelda's own eyes – and that was the first thing he had done when he had risen and defeated Link. Then, while Link had been at rest – his body and soul waging war with one another – Ganondorf had attacked Kakariko. More than half who inhabited the mountain town had perished, either slain by Ganondorf's Gerudo army or burnt to death in the flames that the army had set upon the village. The survivors had, of course, fled to the forest. Like Link's own mother had, sixteen years earlier.

"Link!" Link paused as he heard a mellifluous voice call out his name. He turned, and his face sported a brief smile as he saw a familiar face, a former resident of the infamous Lon Lon Ranch, Malon. The young girl rushed over to him, carrying a basket full of fresh bread. She quickly took one of the still warm bread rolls from the basket and handed it to Link.

"Here. I wanted you to be the first to try my bread." Link raised an eyebrow at the girl, and looked down at the soft roll in his hand, before taking a bite. It was possibly the best bread he had ever tasted, maybe because he was so hungry, it was light and delicious, and in no more than a few moments, he had devoured the roll as politely as he knew how. Malon immediately offered him another roll, but he declined.

"No, you must make sure everyone gets their fair share," he said softly. Malon smiled.

"Look at you. You're as thin as a rake and still you can only think of others. There's plenty more where this came from, so please, take as much as you would like to." Link knew the girl was right. There was plenty of ingredients to be harvested in the forest – and bread was the main staple of a Kokiri's diet, so they had the right tools with which to make it. Link finally shrugged, and took two more rolls, pocketing one for later.

"Was this the first time?" he asked her. Malon looked puzzled for a second. "That you made bread?" Link quickly explained. The girl smiled and nodded.

"Yes of course. On the ranch I was always too busy with the horses..." She had started the sentence cheerfully, but as her mind turned to her old home and way of life, her voice became laced with sadness. Link placed his hand on her shoulder and rubbed it comfortingly.

"I'm sorry," he murmured. He knew what had happened at Malon's home. After Kakariko had been burnt to the ground, some people had taken refuge in the ranch on their way to the forest. Ganondorf had been less than happy, and he had sent more flame wielding Gerudo to attack Lon Lon Ranch. Malon had barely escaped with her life, dragged from the ranch by some of the folk who had taken shelter there. What had become of her father, Talon, and his assistant Ingo was unknown, although Link knew it was more than likely that they were dead or worse – they might now be slaves to Ganondorf's unforgiving regime. The attack had come days before Link was fully recovered, but that day he had been wandering on the outskirts of the forest and he had seen the smoke and the flames. All the live stock had perished, with the exception of one beast – Epona. This was Link's faithful steed, he had won it from the ranch some time before and kept her in the forest. Malon quickly smiled and stepped away from Link's touch.

"It's okay. I...I'd best go and deliver this to Rarau – he wants to try some himself." Link smiled and watched the girl go, but inside he felt as raw and disheartened as ever. Malon was such a sweet person, with not a bad bone in her body. Yet she, like so many others, had had her life destroyed because of his failure. Running one hand through his hair, he finished his second of the three rolls he had taken from Malon and then decided there and then that he had to leave the forest for a while. He needed to be alone.

By the time he had reached his own home, he already knew where he was going to go. As far as Link knew, there were two more places left in Hyrule untouched by Ganondorf. That was Death Mountain, home of the Gorons, and Zora's Domain. He could reach either of these places via the forest, but he did not want to take the safer routes. He wanted to see Kakriko and Lon Lon Ranch. He wanted to see if there were perhaps any survivors. So his mind was made. He would first journey to Malon's old home, and then carry on to Kakariko. From there, he would venture up to Death Mountain and seek refuge and perhaps even counsel with the peaceful Gorons. But before he did that, he intended to visit one more person in the forest – another Sage, Darunia – King of the Gorons. Although he would not let the Sage know of his plans, he would see if Darunia had any words to pass onto his own people, and see if he could perhaps take with him a message of hope.

While he thought over in his head of his plans, he packed himself a small backpack of things, including the small, wooden, fairy Ocarina given to him by Saria. The Ocarina of Time was lost, Link felt he was responsible, feeling he may have dropped it somehow when he had fallen over the edge at Hyrule Castle. Without the Ocarina, there was only one way to go back in time, and that was by placing the Master Sword back into its pedestal in the Temple of Time – but even that was not now possible – for Ganondorf had the Blade of Evil's Bane under his care. It was another thing Link had lost along with the Ocarina and his battle against Hyrule's new King. Satisfied that he was prepared to leave, Link left his small abode and made his way across the green to where Darunia rested.

"Link? Link, boy, come in!" Darunia greeted Link quite heartily as he spotted the green clad lad enter his chamber. Link smiled and nodded to the Goron King.

"Darunia, you look well," he commented. Darunia let out a deep, booming laugh and motioned for Link to sit down.

"I am fine. It is you that I worry for!"

"So it seems to be with a lot of people," murmured Link.

"You must not be so sad, boy. There is much to be glad for!" Link glanced at Darunia, unconvinced by the Goron Lord's words.

"Then I wish you could tell me what that is."

"You are still alive. As are many of your friends. And Ganondorf – he now knows that you live. He will know fear again."

"Fear? From me? But what threat am I to him? I've already failed once..." Darunia's deep blue eyes grew dark at Link's words, and his tone grew lower as he replied.

"You...did...not fail. You did everything asked of you and more. If it was anyone that failed, it was us Sages." Link paused. While he was prepared to take the blame himself, he did not wish it that Darunia would try and take responsibility.

"Perhaps...perhaps it was nothing to do with us. Maybe Ganondorf is just too powerful." Although it was an attempt by Link to comfort Darunia, it did not.

"Do not ever say that. He has weakness in him Link, just as we all do."

"But what weaknesses?"

"Stupidity, Link. He has already made many mistakes already. He did not kill Zelda when he had the chance, and he allowed himself the arrogance to think that you were dead. Not only that, but we have the sympathies of those he has enslaved, and we have Good on our side. You managed to snatch Zelda from him, and he would not have thought that possible. He has every reason to be afraid Link, and he knows it." Finished, Darunia gave Link a glare that defied him to say otherwise. The young hero finally relented and nodded.

"Perhaps, then, there is some hope." Darunia grinned.

"Perhaps indeed."

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