The Hylians have no conception of hell. I don’t know if that’s really common knowledge to outsiders. There’s the Sacred Realm of course, but that’s neither good nor bad. I think the reason that our mystics never cooked up a notion of punishment for the wicked was because they viewed life as just that. Punishment. If you learned from what life had to offer, then you would be rewarded. But if you didn’t…well, the missionaries never got that far.
My last year was a year of torment. I knew the end was coming, I could feel it in my bones. A part of me wishes I could have accepted the fact, given in to the inevitable, and lived it up. But that just wasn’t an option. Like Zelda, I had to fight. And not just because it was the patriotic thing to do. I love Hyrule, but I wouldn’t just die for it at the drop of a hat. No, I fought because I knew it was right. I fought because simple decency compelled me to.
You might think that what I went through caused me to lose faith, but it didn’t. Instead, I think it strengthened my belief in the Triforce, in the Sages, and in the power of virtue. There may not be a reward waiting for me in the next life, but at least, if some part of my mind is kept going, I’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that I did what was right.
The Lost Testimony of
A blood curdling scream echoed across the alleyway, swelling in volume. From the roof of the café, a body dropped, a young boy. His head was dashed against the pavement below and cracked open, gore staining the concrete. Over the makeshift wall that had been erected across the northern opening of the alley, soldiers spilled in, like ants, racing across the street and brandishing a wide variety of sharp weapons. They stabbed in discriminately, striking down anyone who was not dressed in uniform; men, women, children. Screams of horror filled the air, joined by the thick scent of smoke as the buildings on either side burst into hot flames.
The call for retreat was sounded. At once, the civilian militia began to flee, heading south as fast as their feet could take them. A solitary figure fought against the tide, racing north to the wall and the soldiers. She couldn’t have been much more than twenty five, this lone girl with flashing green eyes. Without thought of death or disaster, she plunged headlong into the fray, her intention set, like her eyes, forward at all times. As she swept ahead, brandishing two fine daggers of platinum, she made a point of cutting down the soldiers who were chasing after the militia. She wouldn’t go so far as to kill any of them, but she sure as hell wasn’t going to let them kill. Swiping at arms and kneecaps, she cut them down, sending them out of the way with powerful kicks and punches.
“Retreat!” the herald was shouting. “Retreat!”
She moved forward, ramming her elbow into the head of one of the soldiers. He fell over and she trampled him. Another made a grab for her. She ducked and he caught hold of her red hair. The soldier tried to drag her to one side, but she merely swiped her dagger through the air, cutting off her hair. He fell from the sudden release, knocking into one of his comrades and toppling him.
By this point, she was near the front lines. The barricade was burning, coal black smoke lifting up into the moonlit night, blocking out the stars. From here, she could see the leader of the enemy army through a whole in the wall, a well respected and rather famous woman, barking out various orders from the other side of the remains, far from the line of fire. Tranns scowled, sparing a moment to look at her. Disgust and indignation filled her chest. What sort of commander sent her troops ahead of her instead of leading the charge?
There was no time to think about it, not now. Delving forward again, Tranns knelt in front of the burning barricade, heaving bodies up and tossing them to the side. She would have liked to have handled the work in a more delicate manner, but there was precious little time left. Though it burned her, knowing the names of each individual and now seeing their faces mauled and bloodied, she had no choice.
Finally, after roughly pushing aside the corpse of a Human girl she knew well, Tranns uncovered what she had been looking for. There, lying prone in the rubble was a Risan boy, handsome although unnaturally pale for a Risan, with neat blond hair, currently falling over the celestial Risan symbol on his forehead. Tranns leaned forward, pressing her ear to his chest. A moment of panic seized her, but then she heard it, a strong, steady heartbeat.
Silently thanking the goddesses, Tranns struck his face. The boy moaned softly, but did not stir. Tranns slapped him again. He turned his face to one side. “Come on,” she whispered fiercely, “come on.” With that, she hit him once more. Immediately, his eyes snapped open, his bright green eyes, perfectly matching those of Tranns. “You’re awake.”
“What was that for?”
“We have to get out of here.”
“Are we winning?”
sat up. As he looked about at the destruction, his eyes grew wide, fear penetrating his noble heart. “By the gods…” Aden
“We have to run.”
“What?” he cried incredulously.
, there’s no choice; we have to get out of here.” Aden
“And abandon the cause?”
“The cause is lost,
. And if you die, everything you stood for will die with you.” Aden
“If the cause is lost, so am I.”
“Don’t be a bloody martyr.”
“Leave me. Save yourself.” Tranns slapped
. “I’m already awake!” he shouted. Aden
“That was to knock some sense into you.”
A flaming chunk of plaster fell from the nearest building. Tranns threw herself over
’s body as it smashed into the barricade, sending debris flying in all directions. Painful wooden splints bounced off of Tranns’ back. “We’re running out of time,” she winced, pulling away from him. Aden
“Am I going to have to carry you?”
“You can’t force feed salvation!”
“Watch me.” With that, Tranns pulled her fist back, punching
in the face, directly on the bridge of his nose. His eyes rolled up into the sockets and he slumped over, unconscious against the barricade. Grunting, Tranns hefted Aden up, holding into his wrists. She slung him over her shoulder, pain renewed as his head hit against her wounded and bleeding back. Slowly, she got to her feet, turning around and starting the long trudge back to the southern end of the alley. Aden
She looked up. The towering buildings above were almost entirely obscured with smoke. All around her, she could smell the stench of battle. A losing battle.
would fall by morning, she was certain of it. The fact broke her heart a little bit. They had fought so hard. So hard… Maze Island
“In the name of the Red Dragon,” the commander of the army declared, “you are all hereby considered citizens of his empire and traitors.”
“To the depths with the Red Dragon!” one of the remaining militiamen cried in a shrill voice.
“Long live Hyrule!” another shouted.
“Long live Hyrule!” the remaining survivors all began to chant. “Long live Hyrule!”
“Death to each and every traitor!” the commander shouted. As if there hadn’t been a massacre already.
Tranns continued her trek, silently chanting the same refrain under her breath. She heard a soldier running to assault her and swiftly turned around.
’s legs flew out slapping the attacker in the face and throwing him back enough for Tranns to land a solid kick in his stomach. Aden
A second officer made a grab for her. She turned around in time to see him, but not fast enough to recover her balance. Left with no other choice, she ducked, letting him go flying over her head. He landed on the bloody pavement with a loud crack and didn’t get up again. Tranns looked down at him in regret, but didn’t waste much time resuming her trek.
The bricks of the building to the east began to cascade, sliding loose from the pressure and spewing out into the middle of the alley. They impacted against the ground, shattering like glass. Small bits and pieces flew into Tranns’ face, cutting up her delicate Hylian skin. As blood dripped down into her eyes, she squeezed them tightly shut, bringing a hand to her face. She wiped her eyes clean, blood smearing over the gold Triforce tattoo on the palm of her left hand. The sight of the tattoo was enough to renew her sense of purpose.
All around her, the surviving rebels had begun to sing, their voices low and mournful amidst the destruction. “In a realm beyond sight, the sky shines gold, not blue. There the Triforce’s might makes mortal dreams come true.”
That was it. That was the death knell. Now Tranns knew for a certain that not only were the people of
doomed, but now the people of Hyrule awaited a terrible fate. Those poor, pathetic citizens of Hyrule, who, until just now had been dreadfully ignorant of what was happening in the world around them. If nothing else, Maze Island would serve to show them reality. Now there was no possible way the Hylians could ignore the advances of the Red Dragon. Maze Island
Though hindered under
’s weight, Tranns was almost at the southern end of the alley. The sight she saw there was enough to make her blood run cold. She froze, watching, to her horror, as two of the Red Dragon’s men held a hostage in between them. The hostage was a regal Sheikah woman. Impa. Aden
“Take this one alive,” the higher ranking of the two said.
Impa spat in his face. “Long live Hyrule.”
The second soldier pulled back his arm and slapped her. “Silence.”
“Let her go!” Tranns screamed, breaking into a run,
’s limp arms slapping against her back. Aden
“Tranns, stop!” Impa shouted. It was too late for warnings however. Some nearby soldiers heard Tranns’ cries and began to descend upon her. With a primal grunt, Impa reared back, twisting her leg up over her shoulder to kick the first of the two soldiers holding her down. He reeled back, holding his nose as blood spurted out from in between his fingers. Impa turned on the second, delivering a powerful head butt that knocked him clean off his feet.
“Impa!” Tranns cried.
“There’s no time now, Tranns,” Impa said. With that, she began whispering to herself, winding her hands around each other in the air. A glimmering ball of green energy formed in between her fingers. She thrust her hands forward, shooting the energy directly at Tranns. It consumed both her hand
, bursting into a peak of energy before completely vanishing, whisking the two of them off to some unknown location. The Farore’s Wind accomplished, the soldiers making a dive for Tranns found themselves hurtling through the air, falling on their faces. With her mission accomplished, Impa merely held up her arms when several more soldiers came to replace her captors. Aden
Zelda had dismissed all of her valets. Tonight, she didn’t much care to be fawned over and elected to dress herself for bed. It was far later than she normally retired, but for some reason, her mind was troubled so she had remained awake, restlessly wandering the halls of North Castle before several of her wards all banded together, insisting that she went to sleep. She felt guilty that her attendants had actually stayed awake to serve her and so sent them to bed.
Alone in her room, Zelda let her hair down, putting away the elaborate tiara she wore. Without much ceremony, she slipped into her nightgown, discarding the heavy, formal dress she had donned for court. Now, she stood in front of the mirror, examining her reflection. Never, in all her life, had she imagined she would feel this aged. Still, as she poked and prodded her face, she had to admit she didn’t look all that bad. Certainly, the skin beneath her eyes was a bit more delicate than in days past, but that was only natural. No, she didn’t look that bad at all.
Slowly, she ran her hands down, smoothing out her nightgown. Her fingers curled around the swollen mound of her belly, which had grown in size quite a lot in the last few days. She was beginning to show, something that bothered her perhaps more than it should have. No one in court knew, aside from a few of her most trusted companions. Soon, though, everyone would find out.
There was a knock on the door. “Just a minute,” Zelda called. She crossed the room to her closet and pulled out a heavy robe. “Be right there,” she said, slipping it on and tying the sash loosely around her waist to thoroughly hide her figure. Pulling her hair out from the neckline, Zelda made her way to the door, pulling it open. “Oh, it’s you.”
“Disappointed?” Looking into the room was a young girl, barely nineteen years old. Unlike her queen, she was not in her nightdress and her long brown hair was bound up into a tight braid that hung over her left shoulder.
“Of course not, Ariadne, come in.”
Ariadne stepped lightly into the room. “Did I wake you?”
“No.” Zelda watched her young ward in a silent moment. The girl’s gray eyes became downcast as she examined her fingernails absently. “What is it?”
“Bad news,” Ariadne replied.
Zelda paced across the room to the glass doorways leading out to her balcony. For a moment, she stared into the darkness of the night, her arms folded across her chest. “
?” Maze Island
“Destroyed,” Ariadne said.
“I knew it.”
Ariadne herself couldn’t bear to look up. “Initial reports indicate that there were no survivors.”
“Probably just the Dragon’s propaganda,” Zelda muttered. “He wants us to believe that no one can resist him and live.”
“Probably,” Ariadne agreed.
“This means he’s coming for us next.”
“There are no other kingdoms left to conquer.”
“And once he has destroyed us, no doubt, his empire will turn on itself. A snake devouring its tail.”
“Are there no avenues of escape left?”
“Hyrule’s fall seems inevitable, Ariadne. Our forces are no match for the size of the Red Dragon’s army.”
“Are we just going to surrender?”
“That’s not an option.”
“So why fight the impossible?”
“There’s still one option available, but I’m not sure if I want to take it yet.”
Ariadne frowned. “That’s a drastic step.”
“Not only,” Zelda replied turning around, “is it drastic, but it’s a one shot opportunity. I’m not ready to waste the one shot just yet.”
Zelda smiled gently. “It’s late. You should be in bed.”
“So should you,” Ariadne countered.
Laughing softly, Zelda crossed back to the younger woman, putting her hands on her shoulders and kissing the top of her head. “I’m still the elder. Let me play the parent just a little bit longer with you.”
Finally, Ariadne’s lips broke into a small smile. “Of course.”
“Off to bed. We’ll worry about such things in the morning.”
“Goodnight, Zelda,” Ariadne said.
And she was gone. Alone, Zelda slowly made her way back to the mirror staring into her own blue eyes for a long while. Pulling her robe tighter around her body, she opened the doors to her balcony and walked out to the railing. There, she rested her arms on the banister. Arrayed before her, all of Hyrule was asleep. Spring was just beginning and the apple blossoms perfumed the air. Zelda breathed in deeply, the rich scent sliding down her throat.
A breeze brushed against her face, like a kiss, both gentle and at the same time significant. It was funny that Zelda should think of something so simply complex at this time. She was now thirty seven years old, and according to the people, well past the prime age for marriage. In all honesty, Zelda no longer spared much thought to finding a husband. She knew now, with a fatalistic pleasure, that she would never know the joys of bridal chambers, nor would she likely to kiss a man once more and have it mean something.
“It’s amazing how you do that,” she said quietly, never taking her eyes off of the sleeping village below.
“Do what?” a male voice answered from the shadows.
“Manage to sidle up to me without causing Hylian shivers.”
“It’s rare, nowadays, that you can find someone who still believes that Hylians shiver in the presence of the foe.”
“What’s even rarer is finding someone who still believes in the foe.” Zelda turned around. Behind her, standing on top of the railing, leaning against the outside wall of the castle, she could see a dark figure, arms folded across his chest, enormous metal horns rising out of the heavy helmet covering his face. “Fortunately, I fall into both those categories.”
“You always have been an extraordinary example of the Hylian traditionalist,” he told her.
“Ah, you’re referring to your Risan stooge. He’s dead now, along with the rest of
.” Maze Island
“You’re not going to get a rise out of me.”
“Of course not. You’ve no more compassion in you than a stone. A very pebble stone.”
“We both know that’s not true.”
“So be it.”
“Why have you come here?”
He hopped down, off of the railing and onto the balcony. As he did, moonlight fell on his helmet, the very trademark from which his name had been coined. The Red Dragon glanced into Zelda’s bedchamber. “Which one was that? Mia? Adriana?”
“Ariadne,” Zelda supplied.
“She’s cute. I think I’ll want to keep her alive.”
“What makes you think you can take her?”
“A little thing like that shouldn’t be much trouble.”
“You’d have to get into the castle first.”
“I intend to,” he responded. Gesturing to
with his head, he continued. “My fleet is out there right now, just beyond the rocks. When I give the signal, they’ll be coming into the harbor.” Zora Harbor
“You would really march against Hyrule?”
“I have no sentimental loyalties, Zelda.”
“I believe you’ve convinced yourself of that.”
“The problem with loyalty is the inevitable defeat of being betrayed.”
“I know about that all very well,” Zelda replied. “I live with a daily reminder of what you did to me.” She brushed her hair back behind her ears. “Why do you delay in signaling your fleet?”
“War is a messy business,” the Red Dragon said. “I’d rather not have to deal with a slaughter. I’ve come to negotiate a settlement.”
“We can settle this without bloodshed. I’ll spare your life and all of your little wards.”
“And what are the terms of this agreement?”
“The unconditional submission of Hyrule, of course.”
“And you must hand the Triforce over to me.”
“And the surrender of your body to me. Just those three terms.”
Zelda laughed. “Oh? Is that all?”
“Don’t take this so lightly, Zelda. I don’t usually compromise with monarchs. I’m making an exception for you.”
“You call that a compromise? Compromise entails an agreement which satisfies both parties. What’s in this deal for me?”
“Your people get to live.”
“What kind of life is that?”
“Most of them won’t even notice the difference.”
“If it were in my power, I might consider your offer,” Zelda told him. “But the surrender of Hyrule and the handing over of the Triforce are just out of the question right now. And they’ll be out of the question forever.”
“And what about the third term?”
Zelda stared at him for a long moment. “If it were enough to protect my people, I would surrender.”
The Red Dragon seemed a little taken aback. “You are worth all the treasures of Risa,” he told her after a moment, “but that is still not enough.”
“Then there’s no deal.” She glanced out at the harbor. “You send for your men and I’ll send for mine.”
“History will record that as your decision. Not mine.”
“So be it.”
The moonlight was reflected in the water, shining up into the eyes of the Sage of Water. Ruto sat on the edge of the little islet, gently splashing water up onto her arms and legs to keep from drying out. She looked down at her own reflection, watching the ways the moonlight bounced off the smooth, silvery surface of her bald scalp. The long fins on her arms waved in the kissing breeze like veils. Back in her youth, these fins had been stubby and awkward, but now, mature and grown, they were magnificent, in her opinion, billowy and fine.
Something was in the air tonight, but for all of her experience, Ruto couldn’t pinpoint exactly what it was. There was a certain sense of…oh, but what it was, she couldn’t say. For some odd reason, for the last few weeks, she had been bombarded with the overwhelming urge to go ashore and visit Zelda. But why? Certainly, there was no good diplomatic reason. The situation between her people and Zelda’s was relatively peaceful, bordering on completely isolated, though the Zora nation was still, and always would be, part of Hyrule.
No, there was some deeper reasoning for her desire to visit Zelda. Something personal. Oh, but what personal business could they possibly still have? It had been years, well over ten, since they last saw each other. True, they would still correspond on occasion via carriers, but that was the extent of it. Their letters were nothing but business, no talk of anything remotely personal, to talk about…
Well, Ruto didn’t even dare to think it, much less to say it. How long had it been now? Almost twenty years. Funny, it felt like less time than that. As if it were only yesterday, she could remember visiting the village, spending time laughing and gamboling with Link, Zelda,
, and the others. The simplicity of it seemed remote, but the memory was still lingering on the surface. Tulsa
A noise shook her from the reverie. She craned her neck, looking around behind her shoulder. All she could see was a long stretch of horizon, going for miles and miles, interrupted only by the breakers. Aside from that, there was nothing: Only the islet with its single tree, stretching up into the sky. Ruto returned her gaze to the waters, staring past the mirror of a surface, deep into the depths. There was no one below, none of her servants, sent to fetch her on some urgent business.
The burden of rule had made her jumpy, she decided firmly, once more returning to her own reflection. That must have been why she had such an intense desire to visit Zelda. It hadn’t been more than three months since her father died, mysteriously, in seemingly perfect health. The not quite healed wound ached in her stomach when she thought about it. There was just no explanation for what had happened!
prepared and scared to death, she had been forced to assume the throne. Ill
Something moved in the murky reflection. Ruto’s brow furrowed. She leaned in closer, pretending to examine her own face, but her focus shifted to the tree behind her. Even in the moving image, she could certainly make out a figure up there, looking down at her. Slowly, being as careful as she could not to seem afraid, she rose to her feet, now pretending to admire her figure, which was certainly something worth admiring. A branch creaked. Instinctively, Ruto whirled around. Too late! She saw the figure and now the figure saw her looking back.
In the blink of an eye, a sticky net fell from the trees, landing on top of Ruto and pulling her to the ground. She thrashed about wildly, fighting to untangle herself, but the more she moved, the more the viscous substance coating the fibers clung to her skin. From the tree, a shadowy figure dropped to the ground, landing in a crouch beside her. The figure, whoever he or she was, dressed in solid black, head to toe. It was a wonder Ruto could have seen him at all. He brandished a sharp knife, a kris blade which glinted in the moonlight.
Ruto let out a scream. She knew it was in vain. So did her attacker. There was no one around for miles. The islet was isolated. That’s the reason why Ruto had chosen it. He was coming upon her fast, the knife poised to strike. Becoming more tangled than before, Ruto began to drag herself along the ground, inching her way to the water. She would be safe there, she just knew it!
He was on top of her now. Violently, he rammed the knife down, intent on stabbing her in between the eyes. At the last moment, Ruto rolled out of the way and the knife embedded itself in the ground, just an inch away from her ear. Cursing, the attacker pulled the weapon out again. Ruto was prepared for him. He struck again and she dodged, kicking his feet out from under him. With a cry, he fell over, knife flying up into the air.
This was the chance she needed. As the stranger went to retrieve his weapon, Ruto dug her fingernails into the ground, throwing herself forward. She could feel the water lap up against her scalp. This was her salvation! She crawled into the surf, quickly dropping down into the depths. She expected the net to fall away, but to her dismay, the adhesive seemed as strong underwater as above. Maybe even stronger.
Pumping her powerful legs, Ruto began to propel herself forward, swimming directly for Zora territory. The weight of the net slowed her down considerably but she managed to make good headway. She was beyond surprised when she felt the waters surge forward from behind her. Looking back over her shoulder, she caught sight of her attacker. He had taken the plunge into the water right after her, still brandishing the terrible blade in one hand.
He couldn’t possibly keep up with her…could he? Ruto certainly didn’t want to find out. Gritting her teeth, she pumped her legs harder, speeding up as much as she could. The weight of the net was wearing her out faster than she would have liked. It had been a long time since she attempted to move this quickly. There had been no need for it and as it was, the onset of gout was already upon her, due in part to inactivity and in part to a rich diet.
The water grew colder as Ruto swam deeper. Her limbs were aching now, screaming to her brain to slow down. She tried to tug the net off of her, but it clung to her skin as if it were a part of her body. What was coated on the fibers? Grunting silently in the water, she looked over her shoulder again, resting her tired legs momentarily. Not only was the attacker still underwater, he was gaining on her! Was he a Zora?
Ruto started pumping her tired legs again, but found that they wouldn’t budge. The net had gotten tighter in the water, pressing her legs together so fiercely that she couldn’t move them. She tried to claw at the water with her arms, but they were held firm against her body. Bending at the torso, struggling to free herself, she began dropping, falling deeper and deeper into the water with no control over herself whatsoever.
The man was on top of her now. Catching Ruto in the crook of his elbow, he dragged her deeper, landing with his feet on the seabed. She struggled to break free of his grip, but it was iron. Fiercely, he threw her down onto the sand, planting a foot on her stomach and pinning her. Ruto let out shrieks, carried through the water, though silent to those above the surface. The stranger kicked her in the face. At once, cold blood trickled from her nose, drifting up in iridescent purple hues.
Planting a hand firmly on her collarbone, the man knelt beside her, raising the knife. Savagely, he plunged it down, lodging the blade firmly in her belly, directly beneath her ribcage. Ruto’s eyes went wide and she cried out in pain. Her attacker didn’t slow down. He ripped the knife out of her, fresh flows of blood billowing to the surface. Again he struck, this time stabbing her in the side, yanking the blade forward to completely severe the delicate fin on her thigh.
Was the water beginning to grow murky? Ruto’s body was numb with the pain, her thoughts getting dull. She stared up, looking at the sinister moon shining down. The light seemed to be purple, but how was that possible? The water was blue. Wasn’t it? Ruto’s eyes began to glaze over. No! She scolded herself, feeling the knife cut through her skin a third time. There was no choice in the matter; she couldn’t surrender, not to the stranger, not to the far stranger death. Who are you? Ruto’s mind screamed to the stranger, but her lips remained shut. She spoke volumes with her eyes, staring condemningly up at him as he yanked the knife’s blade free and plunged it in again and again.
Dark shadows began to drift over the scene. The attacker stopped, looking up as he spied a fleet of vessels slowly going by, heading inland with swift purpose. When he looked down at Ruto, he knew his work had been accomplished. She was completely still now, only her severed fin moving in the water. Satisfied, he tucked the kris blade into his black belt and rose to his feet. He pushed off of the sand and began propelling himself up, heading for the dark cloud of a black ship above him. Never, not once did he look back. If he had, perhaps even he would have been moved by the pitiful sight of the Sage of Water, motionless on the seabed.
“You’re only making it harder on yourself.” This was the constant refrain that had been ringing across the stark chamber for hours. The walls were made of concrete, allowing the words to echo, bouncing back and forth as if they had a life of their own. There was nothing soft, nothing fabric about the warehouse. Everything was hard: Hard walls, hard floors, and hard crates, leftover from the days of commerce that
had once known. Maze Island
War had been at it for hours, pacing to and fro in front of the makeshift torture rack that had been assembled for his private use. He condescended to walk this night, his footsteps stabbing the silence. Well, the near silence. There was forever the constant sound of pained, sharp breathing as Impa, stretched out on the rack, struggled to stay alive.
Amorette sat in a dark corner of the room, watching the scene progress. She tried to look as aloof and detached as she could, but her heart leapt up into her throat every time Impa’s head turned. Of course, Impa couldn’t see her there. War had gouged out the poor woman’s eyes before Amorette arrived. Still, she trembled, her resolve buckling under the stress. To ease the situation, she busied herself, staring at a stain on the wall. She fancied it was shaped a bit like a rabbit.
“You’re only making it harder on yourself.” Amorette cringed. War said it again. She glanced over in his general direction. Her master had come to a halt, standing right beside Impa’s head. Tenderly, he caressed his fingers across her cheek before pulling back and slapping her. Impa’s face turned sharply to one side, her pale skin turning slightly pink with the mark of War’s iron glove.
“How much longer?” Impa asked in a hoarse voice.
“I’m sorry?” War replied.
“How much longer do you intend to carry on?”
“Until it stops being fun.”
“You’ve been waiting for this a long time, haven’t you? You want to savor every moment.”
“Don’t cheapen the moment with cliché.”
“If you were worried about cliché, you should never have resorted to the rack,” she answered.
War chuckled. “How are you holding up, Impa?”
“Never been better,” she lied.
He turned in Amorette’s direction. “Canteen,” he barked. Amorette obediently picked up the canteen at her side, tossing it over to him. War caught it with one hand and turned around to face Impa again. “I have to say,” he mumbled, unscrewing the cap, “I admire you.” He held the nozzle over Impa’s face and poured the water down. Like a ravenous dog, she lapped up the trickle. “A lesser woman would have cracked by now. Literally and mentally. But you…you are a true Sheikah.”
“One of us had to be.”
“Sticks and stones.” War turned the canteen upright again, watching for a few moments as Impa flicked her tongue, desperate for one more drink. “You’ve been a trooper. You’ve held up well and proved your honor. Now, it’s time for you to rest, Impa.”
“Tell me where the girl is.”
A long moment of silence followed before Impa slowly responded with, “What girl?”
War threw his hands up in disgust. With a growl, he turned the wheel on the wrack, tightening it another notch. “You know very well what girl!” he shouted over Impa’s renewed cries of pain. “The redhead. The last member of the League of the Triforce. Where is she?”
*Master,* Amorette called telepathically to War.
*What is it, Amor?* he asked, turning to regard her from behind the slats of his helmet.
*If you kill her, you won’t get any information.*
*I’m well aware of the situation, Amor.* With that, he released his hold on the wheel, letting it go slack a notch. Impa gasped, her breath sharp as she tried to recover from the pain. “You’re only making it harder on yourself.”
“You…you want to know about Tranns,” Impa whispered, slowly catching her breath.
“The redhead. Yes, I see your memory has been jarred.”
“You want to find Tranns?”
“Tell me where she is, Impa.”
“She’s located directly up your –”
War turned the wheel again. A fresh bout of screaming erupted from Impa’s lips. “I just don’t feel you’re being sincere, Impa,” he said.
“Can’t imagine…where you got that impression.”
Folding his hands behind his back, War lifted up an inch off of the ground. He drifted casually around the rack, occasionally plucking at one of the springs as if it were a musical instrument. “You know, being difficult won’t do you any good. And it’ll hardly save Hyrule. Ask me why.”
Gleefully, War leaned over, bringing his lips to hover right above her ear. “Because Hyrule is already a lost cause.”
Impa actually forced a laugh at that. “That’s what you think.”
“Wrong,” War shot back. “That’s what I know.”
“You know nothing.”
“I know that even as we speak, the first strike team of the Red Dragon’s fleet is on its way to send Hyrule…and Princess Zelda…a message.”
“That’s Queen Zelda.”
“Do you really think you’ll take Hyrule like that?”
“Tonight? No. The fleet is just a warning. The full cavalry will take a few months to actually arrive.”
“You’re both traitors. You and your master.”
“Old crimes die hard.”
“Hyrule has always repelled traitors. You’re no different.”
“That’s where you’re wrong. Not only am I very different, but Hyrule will pose no threat to me or the Red Dragon. I know the numbers. The Red Dragon has ten thousand men.”
“And how many of them were brought into his command under forced conscription?”
“You make that sound so ugly. I like to think of it as security for their families and loved ones.”
“You’re a disgrace to the Sheikah people.”
War slapped her again. “You’re only making it harder on yourself.”
“Kill me,” Impa demanded.
“Why should I?”
“Because I won’t tell you where Tranns is.”
“Then tell me about the information she knew.”
“I won’t do that.”
“I have ways of convincing you.”
“You know they won’t work. You said it yourself, I’m a true Sheikah. I’ll die before I betray Zelda.”
“She’s been betrayed already. You can’t possibly make it much worse now, can you?” Impa spat in his face. “I’ll kill you for that!”
“Your speeches disgust me. And, as in the natural order of things, everything I say displeases you too.”
“I’m warning you Impa…”
“Enough. Give me honor.”
After a moment, War sighed heavily. “If that is your wish.”
“So be it.” He rested his hand on the wheel, lifting his head slightly, a gesture Amorette knew to be thoughtful. “You know,” he said softly, his voice almost sounding like that of a stranger, “there is one thing I’ve always wanted to tell you.”
“I think, in all that time I was afraid of you, I was also a little bit in love with you. Isn’t that funny?”
Not another word was exchanged between the two. Perhaps, before Impa could respond, War wrapped his fist tightly around the spoke of the wheel. He pulled it forward ferociously. As screams filled the air, Amorette was forced to look away. What horrified her more than the cruel sounds of bones cracking was the absence of one another sound, Impa’s voice. She knew, in that moment, the Sage of Shadows was no more.
“Come, Amor,” War said after an eternity, “we have work to do.”
War had approached her by this point. He touched her chin gently, lifting her eyes up to look at him. “Why hide your eyes?”
“I’m sorry, Master. I…”
“You feel the loss? I’m not surprised.”
“She is…she was…a true Sheikah. She was not like us.”
“No,” Amorette hissed dourly, “not like us.”
The bells in the middle of the village were ringing, but they were not sounding off the hour. No, instead, they were in a perpetual state of alarm, crying out into the darkness. From the highest tower of the castle, a horn was blasted repeatedly, screaming to the people who were not already alerted by the sound of the bells.
was on fire. Not the shops or the quaint little inns surrounding the docks. The actual harbor was on fire. A thin layer of oil, floating on top of the water had been laid down by the invisible fleet of ships that snuck in during the darkness. Now, it sent hungry flames into the air, along with a sickening smell: Boiling Zoras. Zora Harbor
Indeed, the Zora population, which had been out searching fruitlessly for their leader halfway into the night quickly learned about their impending doom as the temperature of the water rose. Panic seized the population and they at once abandoned the water, beaching themselves on the islets and beaches within reach. But that wouldn’t save them. The flames from the fire grew so high that they reached into the high branches of the trees leaning lazily over the water, igniting them until their islets were also ablaze. There was nowhere to run, not to land. And those who dove down for the cool depths of the water knew they too wouldn’t last long, without being able to go up for air eventually.
Their screams soon alerted the fishermen. The fishermen, filled with panic, woke the curriers who rode into the village to wake everyone else, frantically ringing the bells until all of Hyrule, or at least all of
’s city, was wide awake and filled with pure fear. Now, they gathered in the high places, watching with wide eyes while those closest to the blaze raced to collect what little they had and rush inland. The poor Zoras were left to fend for themselves. North Castle
Perhaps the worst of it was the fact that no one was quite certain how to put out the fire. The water was burning. It was so absurd and improbable that most of the onlookers were at a complete loss for what to make of it. They screamed and groaned and cried, but that was the extent of any action they could take.
Zelda stood on her balcony, clutching the neck of her robe tightly around her throat. She had dispatched all of her knights on active duty to try and put out the fire with sand, but she knew very well it might be hours before they managed to even arrive near
. The flames danced in her blue eyes. She knew exactly what this display was supposed to be. A warning. The Red Dragon wasn’t quite ready to take the dreadful step and act against Hyrule outright, but he had no trouble destroying the Zora nation. Perhaps he was still hoping that Zelda would concede to his demands and prevent the war from happening. No matter. Surrendering Hyrule and the Triforce were two acts Zelda was not willing to take. Zora Harbor
She rested her hands on the balcony, almost feeling the heat from the flames, though she knew it was too far away. For a moment, she wondered if this is what creation was like. Fire and water merged into one, finally separated by the hands of the goddesses. Oh the goddesses! She would not allow herself to believe, not for a moment, that they had betrayed their chosen people. But where were they now?
There was a knock on the door behind her. “Come in,” Zelda called, glancing over her shoulder. The door opened. In the light that spilled in from the hallway, Philip entered, growing dim as the door shut behind him. “Philip,” Zelda said gently, turning her eyes back to the scene below.
Philip shoved his hands deep into his pockets, taking the liberty of walking out to the balcony. “The knights just left,” he told her.
Zelda nodded slightly, never taking her eyes away from the fire. “Thank you,” she murmured.
He came to rest at her side. “The people are panicking.”
“I suspected they would.”
“They think it’s a great portent of evil.”
“No,” Zelda sighed. “Just a great portent of a man.”
“The Red Dragon.”
“Yes.” Zelda frowned a little. “He’s coming for us, Phil. This was merely the beginning.”
“I think it’s time Hyrule took steps in preparation of a real defense.”
“I agree. Tomorrow, I’ll address the people regarding the situation.” She turned to look at him. “And then I’m going to assemble the Guardians.”
Philip’s eyebrows leapt up. “So soon?”
“I want you all to be prepared for what’s to come.” She turned away from him, back to the scene below. “In addition, I’m going to add some new members to your ranks.”
“You need a lookout, someone to watch your back when I no longer can. And a little bit more muscle.”
“I trust your judgment.”
Zelda smiled slightly, with a grim look clouding over her eyes. “I assumed you’d say that.”
“Who are they?”
In response, Zelda lifted her chin. A little bit confused, Philip turned his clean shaven face to look down. Below them, in the castle yard just before the moat, he spotted two figures approaching at full gallop, mounted on thoroughbred stallions. In the lead of the pair was a handsome looking woman with short, chin length red hair, just peeking out from underneath the hood of a purple cloak. She rose astride, clad in a suit of leather armor, heavy boots on her feet. From the tops of the boots, he saw two silver hilts of daggers, reflecting the moonlight.
Behind her rode a boy, perhaps a bit older than Philip himself. He had wispy blond hair that was blown back by the wind, revealing a blue bandana that encircled his head. He also wore a blue cape, trailing behind him in the darkness. A sword rested against his thigh, beating out a steady rhythm as his horse surged forward. Philip noticed that the duo had the exact same eyes, electric green.
“The muscle?” Philip asked.
Zelda nodded. “Brains and brawn, really.”
Philip squinted, looking closer at the man. “I know him,” he said finally, drawing back. “That’s the Risan boy from the marketplace.”
“Aden Barr,” Zelda supplied.
“I remember listening to him preach about…”
“The Red Dragon. He knew. No one believed him, but he knew all about the Red Dragon.” Philip felt a slight wash of shame rush upon him, realizing that he too had once jeered the warnings which now proved all too true.
’s been an activist for years.” Aden
“Who is she?” he asked, turning his attention to the woman.
“Tranns Harkin,” Zelda replied. “
’s half sister.” Aden
“Harkin?” Philip looked at Zelda.
She nodded grimly. “My niece. Daughter of my sister.”
“I didn’t know you had a sister.”
“She left Hyrule before you were born to marry a Risan gentleman. She was his second wife, after
’s mother. When Tranns was born, she was sent to Hyrule to be raised as a Hylian. And then her father was killed by the Red Dragon, so she remained in Hyrule.” Aden
“Where are they coming from?”
,” Zelda said. Maze Island
“It was just taken, wasn’t it?”
“What were they doing there?”
“Tranns volunteered to go there on assignment.”
“She, I fear, is the only surviving member of the League of the Triforce, my elite spies. I sent her to
to collect information on the Red Dragon’s next maneuver.” Maze Island
“What about him?”
Zelda shook her head. “I have no idea what he was doing on
. I intend to find out.” Maze Island
“At least they got out alive.”
“Yes,” Zelda muttered, “there is that.”
The riders were disappearing out of sight now, having crossed over the moat, against the flow of traffic, winding around the castle toward the stables hidden away in the back. To Philip, Zelda seemed uneasy. “What is it?”
“I have a feeling the Red Dragon let them get away.”
“Tranns has some valuable information, that might well led them to a far better reward than the mere killing off of the last of the Triforce spies.”
“It’ll be your first assignment as leader of the Guardians. You’ll work with Tranns.”
“To do what?”
“We’ll worry about it in the morning, when I assemble the Guardians.”
“They’re the muscle. Who’s the look out?”
“In the morning,” Zelda repeated calmly. “It’s late. We should both try to get some rest. There’s nothing more we can do.”
“Zelda? Is there something else? Something you’re not telling me?”
“Nothing,” Zelda assured him, forcing a smile. “Just some old ghosts coming back to haunt me in my dotage.”
“You’re not old.”
“What is that saying? ‘You’re only as old as you feel,’ right?”
“I think so.”
“Well, Phil, I feel ancient.”
“You look good.”
“If you tell me I’m glowing, so help me…”
Philip chuckled. “You look like a woman ready to face a demon.”
“I wish it were that simple, Philip.”
“The Red Dragon isn’t just a demon. If only things were so simple.”
“Then what is he?”
“The past is another land, Zelda. You taught me that.”
“That sounds like something I would say.”
“You’re wise that way.”
Zelda smiled again, this time, a real genuine smile. “Go to bed, Philip. You’ll need your strength in the morning.”
“Why? Tough assignment.”
“As many of my people have told me in the past, it’s going to be very hard toil working with Tranns Harkin.”
There was something weighing heavily on his mind that kept the Sage of Fire awake all night. He paced back and forth across his chamber, hands clasped behind his back. It was a difficult task. Darunia had grown so great in the last few years that he feared he would soon be larger than the chamber door and completely incapable of leaving. He was unmolested by this thought however, as he pondered a more difficult question. What was going on?
He had heard rumblings all night, strange musical sounds coming from the distance. Finally both curious and frustrated, he dispatched his sleepy son to go investigate. The boy, though now a man (he would always be a boy to his father), had not yet returned with news of any kind. The other Gorons were all safely asleep, dreaming peacefully. In a way, Darunia envied them. They were so juvenile now, most of them didn’t remember the old days, they didn’t remember the troubles he had faced as the young chieftain of his people.
For some reason, Darunia was remembering the old days tonight. He had been dreaming about them, his memories blurring together to make no sense whatsoever. Try as he might, he could not sort it out. If it kept up, he was resolved to travel to
and ask Zelda what she made of them. Of all the Hylians Darunia had ever met, there was none whose judgment he valued so highly as Zelda’s unmistakably wise judgment. North Castle
Leaning against the stone wall of his chamber, Darunia ran a hand through his thinning white hair. A few months ago, he had been visited by Impa. She warned him that great danger was coming to the land of the Hylians and asked him if he would be willing to come to their aid. Darunia had been baffled by such a request. Were not Gorons Hylians? He was shocked that she had thought to ask and, had she been anyone other than Impa, he might well have been insulted. Now, has he pondered over what could possibly be keeping him awake, he wondered if, perhaps, the doom she had foretold of was coming to fruition.
There was the sound of pebbles scraping against the ground outside of his chamber. Hopeful his son had returned Darunia stood upright, making his way to the entrance. He peered out, leading with his head to see into the hallway, but found to his surprise that no one was there. The corridor was deserted, glowing with the iridescent gleam of a nearby lava flow. Just as he was about to back in once more, he heard the scraping again. Was it coming from above him? Darunia craned his neck around to look over the entry to his chamber. But there was nothing there.
Sighing heavily, he backed up, returning to his chamber. He started to turn around when he felt an abrupt, painful blow to his temple. Whirling around, he saw a strange figure drop to the ground in a crouch, one leg out, the leg this creature had just used to kick Darunia. For the life of him, Darunia could not distinguish anything about this stranger, not gender or race or age, as he was clad completely in black. The one odd thing he did take note of, however, was that he seemed completely unarmed, except for a silvery stake in his left hand.
Now was not the time for idle curiosity. Feeble though the attack had been, it was an attack nevertheless and Darunia felt obliged to teach this stranger just how strong a Goron elder could be. He leaned over, planting his meaty hand directly on top of the attacker’s head and squeezed his fingers, beginning to lift him clean off the floor. The visitor responded by jabbing the back of his hand with the stake. It was cold to the touch, but barely broke his skin.
Grunting, mostly with indignation and not really of effort, Darunia swung the stranger by the head, into the nearest wall. Like rubber, the black figure seemed to bounce, springing back to his feet and ostensibly suffering no damage. A smile twisted Darunia’s face. Perhaps this would be more interesting than he had anticipated. He started to curl his fingers into a fist when he heard a loud crack. Looking down at his hand, he was met by a frightening sight. Stemming out from where the stake had penetrated his flesh, small blue lines were running just beneath his skin, spreading out slowly across his hand. He realized with a new sense of alarm that his fingers felt freezing cold, growing more so as the lines veined through his flesh.
The stranger rushed at him again, stomping down hard on his foot. Darunia looked down and as he did so, the stranger jerked his knee up, catching the Goron in the nose. Darunia stumbled back, hands grasping his face. The cold touch of his infected hand hurt, causing him to howl, blood rushing to his cheeks. Like a bull, he charged forward, catching his attacker around the middle. Securing him under his arm, Darunia ran to the wall, slamming the stranger’s head into it.
There was a loud snap. Darunia dropped the stranger, satisfied to see him fall limp on the floor, limbs akimbo. Snorting, Darunia kicked him in the back then turned around, walking to the chamber door. He stopped halfway there to look down at his hand again. His smooth, goldenrod skin had taken a chilly blue color. As he opened and closed his fist, he could hear it cracking like ice when it was thrown into water for the first time. He kept working his fingers, pain increasing with each new pop. What’s more, he felt horridly cold, despite his constant proximity to the lava flows of the Goron homestead.
A rustling sound alerted Darunia’s ears. He turned around, stunning as he saw the attacker rising to his feet, alive and well. It wasn’t possible. Despite his indignation, Darunia knew better than to take on such an invincible foe by himself. He would call the others, he decided, turning around to leave the chamber. No one was indomitable enough to stand up to an entire drove of Gorons.
Behind him, a whizzing noise came. Instinctively, Darunia ducked, just in time as the silver stake went flying over his head. It embedded itself in the rocks above the entry way and they began to shake, loudly dropping down and sealing off the chamber from the rest of the homestead. So that’s how it would be, Darunia thought wearily. Man to man. Goron to…whatever it was that was attacking him.
He leaned over and carefully picked up the silver stake, dropping it on the floor and crushing it with his foot. An icy blast filled the room as the metal, whatever it was, was ground to a fine dust on the ground. Darunia kicked the powder in his attacker’s direction, satisfied to see the stranger hold his hands up, shielding himself against the cold blast. If the metal had the same effect on the stranger it had had on him though, Darunia could not tell for sure.
Pounding his fist into his open palm, Darunia advanced on the small man, drawing back his arm to strike. The stranger caught the punch in both hands, managing to block his face. Darunia’s arm was so strong and direct that the stranger used it as a stable beam, swinging up into the air and knocking his heel into Darunia’s collarbone. Stumbling back, Darunia swung his arm, throwing the attacker off of him and hurtling into a wall.
In this action, there was another crack, louder than any before. Darunia saw to his horror that his entire arm had turned blue. He couldn’t bend his elbow or his fingers. They were frozen completely. What was worse, he saw that the blue was still inching its way under his skin, spreading up through his chest. What was that silvery stake he had smashed? Magic, he realized grimly. This was something Darunia simply could not abide. An unfair fight.
Once again, the stranger was back, moving in wide circles around Darunia. The Goron turned, trying to keep his eyes on this unpredictable and unprecedented man, but the strain was becoming too great on his heart. How quickly the blue lines were spreading now! Already, his legs were turning numb, making it more difficult to move. He let loose a few sloppy, unrestrained punches, missing the nimble attacker completely. His chest ached from the strain. The stranger, by contrast, seemed tireless, orbiting around his prey like a lion.
Darunia’s movements began to slow. With a fatalistic sense, he knew that soon, his long days of hard work and service to the Goron people were over. The strange thing was, as he felt his body ice over and give way to the powerful potion, he didn’t feel at all afraid. No, instead he felt what could almost be described as relief. Darunia was tired. Now, it was finally time for him to rest. Strangely enough, his final thoughts, as the spell reached up into his brain and closed darkness over his eyes, wasn’t about the last twenty years at all. No, instead, he remembered the day when a young Hylian boy had come to visit him, seeking help against the encroaching evil of a dark lord called Ganondorf Dragmire. How odd it was that Darunia should remember that now.
The Goron turned to ice, completely motionless, lifeless before his assailant. Slowly, almost uncertainly, the stranger moved about a bit more, testing to make sure his job was done. There was no response left in the hulking mass that had once been flesh. Satisfied, the stranger reached over and landed a solid punch into his chest. The ice cracked, shattering on impact. That which was not destroyed by the blow fell over, crashing to the ground and breaking into pieces, like a display of fireworks, which burst in a fabulous explosion, then fell from the heavens. Such was what happened to the remains of the Sage of Fire.
Philip liked to sit in dark corners these days. Unfortunately, the room Zelda had asked him to bring the others lacked dark corners. It was a bright room, the walls coated in white stucco. One window overlooked the courtyard, ailing though it was. Bright sunlight spilled in this morning, bathing the room in warmth. Directly in the middle of the room was a round table, a dozen polished oak chairs circling it. The rest of the room was relatively stark, but dazzling lights hung from the ceiling, banishing shadows almost completely.
Adriana, Philip’s older sister, stood in one of the corners, making small talk with the Risan boy,
, Philip had seen from the balcony last night. He was somewhat sullen, but clearly intelligent, politely listening to Ana, though Philip was certain that Aden didn’t care one way or another that the color red was in fashion these days. Across the room, in the opposite corner, Mia stood next to her brother Jesse. Neither of them had slept much, during the chaos of the previous night. They didn’t exchange anything, not even weary glances. They just stood together, like zombies, staring off into space with tired eyes. Mia’s other brother, Sito, sat on top of the table, tossing a small rubber ball against the wall with his left hand and catching it in his right. Aden
“Of course,” Ana was saying, “red never works for people with my complexion. I’ve been thinking of dying my hair.”
“Oh, who cares?” Sito muttered.
Ana threw him a murderous look. “Says the biggest fashion victim of the century,” she snapped.
A third corner was occupied by Tranns. From his place by the window, Philip had been watching her for a long time. She seemed distracted, but not in the same way as Mia and Jesse. Tranns was completely withdrawn into herself, armed folded across her chest, her emerald eyes downcast and staring at her shoulder. A large bruise had formed on her forehead, clearly, she had seen some action.
“There’s nothing wrong with my clothing,” Sito declared, running his hands lovingly across the folds of his black leather jacket.
“Leather is so out,” Adriana replied. She glanced over at Tranns, who was, in fact, still wearing a suit of leather armor. “Sorry.”
Tranns shrugged. “It’s okay,” she muttered.
“What’s wrong with leather?” Sito shouted.
“Who wants to wear an animal?”
“What about you?” Sito asked, gesturing to the fur trimmed collar of her fancy gown.
Ana banged her fists together twice. “Enough you two,”
said softly. “We’re all on edge after last night. Let’s just calm down.” Aden
“I will if you will,” Sito said to Ana.
The latch on the door released. Philip looked over to see Zelda walk in followed closely behind by a beautiful girl he had never seen before. She had delicate, nymph-like features and two sharp gray eyes, looking like glass. “I see you’re all assembled,” Zelda said, turning around to be certain the door was closed behind her.
“We heard your speech, Zelda,” Mia said, moving to the center of the room. “It was wonderful.”
agreed, “you certainly rallied the people.” Aden
Zelda pursed her lips. “
. It’s been some time.” Aden
bowed. “A year at least.” Aden
“I suppose I should make some introductions,” Zelda said, addressing the whole room. “Philip Summer,” she began, gesturing in his direction. “You’ll all be taking orders from him in due time.” Philip let out a bit of a grunt that seemed to pass for a greeting. “And his sister Adriana,” Zelda continued.
“Ana, if you please,” she said smugly.
“My wards, of course,” Zelda went on, gesturing in their direction. “Mia, Jesse, and Sito.” Ana snorted loudly at the mention of Sito. “
Barr.” Aden stood up, politely nodding to the others in the room. “My niece, Tranns.” Aden
“Another fashion victim,” Adriana mumbled to herself.
“Ana,” Philip said under his breath, a clear warning.
Zelda glanced in Philip’s direction. Since she had entered, she noticed to her bemusement, he had not taken his eyes off of the girl standing behind her. “To my right,” Zelda said aloud, “is Miss Ariadne. A firm loyalist. I’ve decided to add her to your team, Philip. She’ll be the best look out you could ask for.”
By this point, Sito had slid off of the table and sidled up to Ariadne, offering her a hand. “Hello,” he said.
“Hello,” Ariadne replied, staring at his hand uncertainly.
“If you will all take a seat,” Zelda cut in, “we’ll begin our conference.” With grumblings and pleasantries, the assembly took their seats. Sito made certain that he was sitting next to Ariadne, who he ogled shamelessly. “This is an historic occasion,” Zelda said, standing behind her own seat. This is the first time that all of the Guardians have come together. You are a special group of people, chosen for one simple purpose, the final line against the dark night.”
“Skip the inspirational speeches,” Tranns said dourly, looking up, perhaps, for the first time. “You gave that to the masses already this morning. Let’s just get down to business.”
Zelda glanced at her niece, rather nonplussed by the breech in etiquette. “So be it,” she said. “As you all know, the Red Dragon has set his sights on Hyrule, as we expected.”
can attest to that,” Zora Harbor said. Aden
“Shhh!” Mia hissed at him. “Don’t interrupt.”
“On the contrary,” Zelda said with a small smile, “I hope that you will always feel as if you have enough freedom to interrupt. It establishes trust, and we must all trust each other in this.”
“Sorry,” Mia yelped quickly.
“Now, the Red Dragon.” Zelda paused, taking a moment to examine the face of each of the young people seated around the table. “His intention, naturally, is to conquer and destroy anything that gets in his way. It’s what he does. But what Hyrule has to offer him is more than just territory.”
“It’s the final piece of the puzzle,”
muttered with a shrug. Aden
“Don’t interrupt just for the sake of interrupting,” Sito grumbled.
Ana sighed loudly, clearly annoyed. “What does Hyrule have to offer him, Zelda?” She took a great deal of joy in calling the queen by her first name and everyone could see it in her eyes.
“That should be obvious,” Mia said. “The Triforce.”
“Yes,” Zelda said with a nod.
Philip ran his fingers through his hair. “The Triforce.”
“He intends to take it. It would increase his power immeasurably.” Zelda looked at them. “I don’t intend to let him.” There was a dangerous tint to her final words, causing a chill to pass through all of the Guardians as they stared intently at her, unblinking.
It was Mia, finally, who voiced their collective question. “What are you going to do?”
“I’ll destroy the Triforce before I’ll see it fall into his hands,” Zelda answered.
“Destroy it?” Ana repeated incredulously.
“Is that even possible?” Sito asked.
“It’s more than possible,” Tranns spoke up. “It’s fairly simple.”
“How do you know?” Ana sneered.
“I sent Tranns to
to find out. A man living there knew the ritual,” Zelda supplied quickly, diffusing the situation. Maze Island
“Okay,” Ana said, backing down. “So how do you destroy the Triforce?”
“There’s a dormant volcano in the
range,” Tranns addressed the whole room. “It’s not as dormant as it looks. At the bottom of the crater are some powerful lava beds churning ether. Fall down there and you’ll be dead a long time. It’ll destroy the Triforce. Or, if you want to be more euphemistic about it, it’ll send the Triforce back to the Sacred Realm.” Death Mountain
“That sounds way too easy,” Mia retorted.
“It’s not so easy. There are tons of craters up there. Finding the right one could be a problem.”
“Fortunately,” Zelda said, “I have a friend who knows where you need to go. I’ve already contacted her. She’s agreed to meet you up there.”
“Meet who?” Ana asked. “I’m not going up there.”
“No,” Zelda agreed, “you’re not. I’m sending Philip and Tranns to take care of this.”
Sito’s eyes went wide. “You’re giving them the Triforce?”
Zelda sighed. “That is not within my power. You two,” she turned to Philip and Tranns, “will have to go to the
. A man named Rauru will be waiting for you. He’ll be the one to give you the Triforce.” Templeof Time
Finally, Philip spoke up. “Who is this friend of yours we’re supposed to be meeting up there?”
She glanced at Philip, silent for a long moment with intent, blue eyes. “Her name is Nabooru,” she answered. Quickly, she went on. “The rest of you will stay here while they’re gone.”
“What are we supposed to do?” Mia asked.
“Get to know one another,” Zelda replied. “You are all going to be working very closely together. It’s important that you establish a trustful relationship from the start.” Her eyes fell on Ariadne for a moment. “When the worst happens, if it happens, you will be all that stands between the Red Dragon and complete domination of the realm. I hope you won’t take that lightly.”
“No,” Mia promised, “not at all.”
Zelda nodded with a slight smile. “That is why I chose you. Are there any matters we need to address here?” She was met by eight silent gazes. “Then you are all dismissed.”
Slowly, the Guardians started to drift out of the room, pairing off and whispering quietly. Philip walked over to Zelda, touching her arm and going to the darkest of the corners of the room. Her face set, Zelda followed him. “Nabooru,” he grunted darkly, glancing over his shoulder to make sure no one was eavesdropping.
“Nabooru,” Zelda told him with a nod.
“The leader of the Gerudo.”
“Are you sure that’s a good idea?”
“I trust Nabooru with my life.”
“I know. But will she trust me?”
“Is there any reason she shouldn’t?”
The Sacred Forest Meadow was the prettiest part of the
. It was at the peak of beauty right around when the sun was directly overhead and filtered through the leaves, casting green beams of light down on the forest floor. Few people knew about the sheer radiance of this secluded spot, but the Sage of the Kokiri Village Forestcounted herself among the blessed few. This was her special spot, where she came to reflect and to remember. Saria had many things to remember, hundreds of memories, both happy and sad, but today, she seemed more focused on the sad ones.
She was thinking about Link,
, and Zelda today. About their wild adventures and fun conversations in the stillness of the summer nights they spent together. A part of her missed those times so much that it hurt. Tulsa and Link were gone now, remaining only in her memory. And recent events had certainly jarred her memory. Tulsa
Of course, she had heard about the attack on
. While the Kokiri were secluded, they weren’t isolated. It troubled her a great deal more than the rest of the Kokiri. Aside from Mido, everyone was merely grateful that the forest hadn’t been attacked. Saria and Mido alone remained in a state of trepidation, mulling over the significance of what had happened. Then again, the two of them knew a lot more about the outside than the others. Zora Harbor
Around midmorning, Saria decided to remove herself from the daily activity and slip away to her special place. She sat on a vine looped around an overhanging tree branch, forming a swing, one leg propped up on the cord, the other dangling over the grass. Her fairy fluttered around her head like a butterfly, riding the breeze, swooping down low then shooting straight up into the air to perform little somersaults and loop de loops. For the most part, Saria ignored her lifelong companion, swinging her dangling leg absently to rock the vine back and forth.
Gossip was normally beneath her, but a certain rumor regarding Zelda had been passed around the forest lately and Saria could not fail to take note. She desperately wished Zelda would pay them a visit to either prove or disprove what people were saying about her. It had been nearly a year since her last visit and Saria was growing antsy. Once again, she sighed softly, lamenting the Kokiri curse. For twenty years or so, Saria had longed to leave the forest behind, never looking back. Everything she saw now reminded her of a past she would just as soon have forgotten.
Dropping her other leg, Saria began pumping, swaying her body back and forth to start the swing. This disgruntled her fairy slightly, who zipped around her head once before flying over her shoulder and disappearing somewhere behind her head. Leaning back, she lay horizontal against the swing, watching as the forest canopy shifted back and forth before her eyes.
An old lullaby came to Saria’s mind abruptly. She hadn’t heard it in years, but she could remember every word: He will keep. Feigning sleep. Open his jaws and away he’ll creep. Skin like a rose. Where ere he goes. He’s gonna leave destruction and step on your toes.
To be certain, it was an eerie little melody. Why it had come to Saria’s mind now, of all times, was beyond her limited comprehension. She may have been the wisest of the Kokiri, but she feared that wasn’t saying much. What was that song called again anyway? Oh yes. Ballad of the Red Dragon.
The swing lurched backward violently and Saria fell off, tumbling face first into the grassy knoll beneath her. After the moment of initial shock wore off, she rolled over onto her back, blinking her eyes rapidly to clear the stars. When her vision finally came into focus, she noticed a stranger in her midst. It was a man, she supposed, dressed in all black so that his face couldn’t be seen. He stood next to the swing, holding the vine in one hand.
Well, that wasn’t very nice. Saria sat up, opening her mouth to reproach him, but she was stopped by a curious action. Paying absolutely no attention to the Kokiri girl, the stranger was following her fairy’s movements, his head jerking about as he struggled to keep his eyes locked on the tiny ball of light. Suddenly, at an impossibly fast speed, his hand shot out, latching around the fairy. He managed to catch her, speedy though she was. Green light gleamed out from in between the black gloves on his fingers. As Saria watched in horror, he began squeezing. She could hear soft popping from his fist and the shrill shrieks of her fairy.
She let out a scream, trying to stop him, but the aggressor continued. Saria jumped to her feet and he finally seemed to notice her. Casually, without much regard for the sacred haunts of the Kokiri, he tossed the broken fairy to the side. She hit a tree trunk and dropped to the ground, disappearing in the tall grass. Her heart pounded in her chest and Saria turned to race to her companion. The stranger was quicker, cutting off her path.
Saria rushed at him, stomping down hard on his foot and knocking him off to one side when his balance faltered. Without looking back, she raced to where she had last seen her fairy fall, parting through the grass in a panic. Suddenly, she felt two hands on her, grabbing either side of her body and hefting her clean up into the air. The attacker, it seemed, had regained his balance.
He started to carry her away. Saria kicked and struggled, finally managing to nail him in the jaw. Out of surprise more than pain, he dropped her. She tumbled to the ground, quickly throwing her weight to one side to roll across the grass. In a flash, she jumped to her feet, observing as the attacker recovered. There were only two directions she could take. One led back to the village, where the other Kokiri were playfully assembled and going about their business. If Saria ran that way, she might risk exposing the others to this clearly dangerous man. The other path headed to the village. With heavy foliage, there was a slim possibility that she could lose him. If that didn’t work however, she’d have no place left to run, because the forest ended in less than fifty paces away.
Determined to protect her friends, Saria took fight into the trees, weaving and cutting the most indirect path she could manage. Behind her, she could hear the heavy footfall of the stranger, chasing after her in determination. She glanced over her shoulder. Though she could see him, she wasn’t entirely convinced that he could see her. Taking the risk, she ran around a tree and doubled back, shimmying her way up into the highest branches.
Holding her breath, she looked down, watching as the enemy ran straight past her tree. Closing her eyes, Saria clung to the trunk, allowing herself a few shaky, silent breaths. Suddenly, the tree began to rock. Saria opened her eyes and looked down to see the stranger shaking the trunk. He was surprisingly strong and Saria found it a struggle to stay up in the branches. There was a low moan from beneath the bark. Her branch was giving under the stress.
Completely aware that her fall was inevitable, Saria began screaming at the top of her lungs, hoping to draw the attention of the others. The attacker seemed nonplussed about her cries. He continued shaking the trunk violently, clearly intent on the branch breaking under her weight. And it did.
Violently, Saria tumbled down, scraping her arms and legs on the lower branches and twigs as she fell. When she hit the ground, it was with a loud grunt. Stars clouded her vision again and she could feel warm blood trickling down her face from an open wound on her forehead. As she slapped her hand over the cut, she felt the foe’s hands fall on her again, lifting her into the air. She let out a scream. He clamped a hand over her mouth. She bit his fingers. He hurled her clean across the forest, out into a clearing.
Saria landed, dazed and confused. She could feel sunlight fall on her face and for a moment, she felt her heart burst with an unexplained joy. Then, she looked up. The trees were gone now. Overhead, all she could see was a clear blue sky. Oddly enough, the attacker stopped advancing, remaining where he stood, watching her with his blacked out face. Suddenly, Saria realized the cruel twist of fate that had befallen her. She was no longer in the Kokiri forest.
She looked down at her hands. Before her eyes, the smooth, firm flesh of her palms began to wither, aging like overripe peaches and growing wrinkled. The phenomenon spread to her arms, causing her skin to sag. Up into her chest and face, her cheeks sinking in, her eyes bugging out. Out of control, her hair grew, spiraling down her frail body in long white locks. She felt her back hunch, her bones growing too brittle to support the weight of her body. As her hide slowly turned to ash, she looked up one last time at the stranger, the forest, and the sky. A single tear managed to work its way down her cracked and dry cheek. Against all expectations, the Sage of the
Forestfelt nothing but joy as her body deteriorated.
For Philip, Tranns Harkin was a wide range of paradoxes. At times she was sullen and silent, but then she would suddenly burst into a string of curses. She was very pretty but made it very clear she did not want to be treated feminine. He wondered about the warning Zelda had given him, how working with her would be difficult, but so far, it had been mostly silent.
The two of them, after receiving some additional information from Zelda, made their way out of the castle, heading into the heart of Hyrule. After last night’s attack, things were unsettling. Although
had been the only place to witness the power of the Red Dragon, panic had risen in the rest of the kingdom, leading to excessive looting and violence. Today, the villagers returned home from Zelda’s speech to clean up the broken glass, showered across the landscape. Zora Harbor
Tranns and Philip passed through the mess, more or less unnoticed. Well, as unnoticed as such a pair could get. It was very difficult for Philip to be anonymous. Not only was he a foot taller than most of the citizens of Hyrule, but he was Gerudo through and through. Tranns, meanwhile, was not a ravishing beauty (like that girl Zelda had made the lookout, Philip couldn’t stop thinking about her) but she had a striking appearance to her. She dressed in leather, slacks and a crop top that tied up like a bustier. On her left hand she wore a glove, but on her right none. Philip wondered about this slightly. Completing her ensemble was a bright, shimmering purple cape. Though there was a hood, she elected not to wear it.
loomed in the distance. “Have you ever been?” Tranns asked, breaking the long silence. Templeof Time
Philip looked at her. “What?”
Tranns jerked her head in the direction of the three spires reaching up into the sky. “Have you ever been?”
“To the temple?”
“It’s beautiful. Real moving.”
“Yeah, like a piece of art or something.”
“I don’t know much about art.”
She shrugged. “Me neither. Except for those illuminated manuscripts in the Hylian missions.”
“I’ve never been very religious.”
“Isn’t your mother a goddess or something?”
Philip bit his lip for a moment. “Or something.”
“That’s probably why.”
“That’s probably why you’re not religious. My mother was a princess, so I’m not very royal. We always want to be the opposite of our parents.”
“You have no idea,” Philip grunted. “Is that why you volunteered for the mission to
?” Maze Island
“Zelda told me you were one of her spies. The League of the Triforce.”
“What’s it to you?”
“I’m just wondering why you went to
. Was it because you knew he was after the Triforce?” Maze Island
They walked on in silence. None of the villagers seemed to notice them. Fear was so tangible in the land, Philip could smell it. It came from everyone. Everyone except for Tranns Harkin. “Why did you go?”
“I knew he was there. And he’s way too stubborn to do something like save his own hide. So I went.”
“Why was he there?”
started the militia.” Aden
“He’s always been obsessed with the Red Dragon, hasn’t he?”
“The Red Dragon killed our father when
was four. Burned down the palace. So, Aden was smuggled out by one of his dad’s best friends and her fiancé. They get to the dock and Aden and a few other kids are thrown into the ship. One of the Red Dragon’s flunkies showed up and started attacking the friend and fiancé. Aden saw all of it from the window. The fiancé jumps in the way of an attack and gets killed, dying in her arms. You don’t forget something like that.” Aden
“No,” Philip mumbled. “I guess not.”
By this point, they had arrived outside of the
. It was, indeed, a remarkable display of architecture, safely nestled away from the rest of the village, in a grove surrounded by tall trees, with a view of Templeof Time looming in the distance. Three spires soared up into the air, crowned in stone triangles. The center spire hosted a stained glass window illustrating some myth Philip had long forgotten. Stone steps led up to the arched entrance, accented by a frieze of the Triforce and the three major goddesses of Hyrule. Death Mountain
Tranns and Philip exchanged a look. Philip nodded and together, they began climbing the steps. It could not fail to hit even Philip that they were walking in the footsteps of the Hero of Time. Though he was long gone, his memory still penetrated Hyrule. There was a set of wooden double doors underneath the frieze. Tranns pressed her left hand, the one with the glove, to the handle and pushed it inward for the two to step through.
The interior of the temple was surprisingly dark, the light very feeble through the windows. A long red carpet with gold lining led from the doors, across the checkerboard tiles, to a dais in the center of the sanctuary. The platform was shaped like a hexagon, the icon of the Triforce laid in with gold leaf. Beyond the platform, there was the door to another chamber, crowned in yet another Triforce. Before it was an altar where three gleaming jewels rested, shining in blue, green, and red.
“Hello?” Tranns called into the shadows. Her question echoed off of the walls, bouncing back to them.
“Doesn’t look like anyone’s here,” Philip muttered, turning his gaze up to the ribbed vaults of the ceiling.
Right on cue, the door to the far chamber opened. A powerful and large figure appeared, silhouetted against whatever light was coming from the chamber. It was a strong light, blacking out the man’s features entirely until he turned around and closed the door behind him. Rauru was a sturdy man, to be certain. He took up almost the entire doorway. Philip wasn’t entirely sure how much of the bulk was the man himself and how much was the heavy priestly robes he wore. The old man’s face was grizzled and hard, a white mustache farming his cheekbones and upper lip. He had incredible jowls, like a pug dog.
“Who’s there?” he barked.
“Zelda sent us,” Tranns answered.
Rauru stepped down, walking around the altar and taking the stairs down to the checkerboard floor. “What does she want?”
This was the hard part. Tranns closed her eyes, trying to remember exactly what Zelda had told her to say. “The power of gold.”
Immediately, Rauru’s eyebrows shot up. “From days of old?”
“Sharper than scythe.”
“Keener than eye.”
“Greater than…” Tranns faltered for a moment, trying to remember the word. “War.”
“Riches of the poor.” Rauru’s frightful face finally broke into a small smile. Instantly, his look transformed from a stern disciplinarian to a more grandfatherly figure. “Zelda did send you.”
“Yes,” Tranns replied. For emphasis, she removed the glove on her left hand and held it up. Tattooed on the heel of her palm was a small Triforce, glittering in the weak sunlight.
“I wish it were under better circumstances,” Philip said gruffly.
Rauru looked him over. “You must be Philip Summer.”
“I must be.”
“Zelda’s written me about you.” He eyed Tranns critically for a moment. “Mia or Ariadne?”
Tranns shook her head. “Neither.”
“Well, it’s a pleasure to meet you both finally. I’m sure you don’t have much time to waste with pleasantries however.”
“You could say that,” Philip mumbled.
“Then tell me why Zelda sent you.”
“The Red Dragon’s on the move,” Tranns told him.
“Yes, I know. I saw what happened last night.”
“He means to take over Hyrule but he won’t do it until he secures the Triforce. Zelda wants to keep it from falling into his hands.”
“And how will she do that?”
“By…sending it back to the Sacred Realm.”
Rauru pursed his lips together. “I see.”
“She’s sent us to collect it. We’re supposed to meet with Nabooru up in the mountains.”
“Very well,” Rauru said. He turned around, walking back up the steps beside the altar. Philip and Tranns exchanged a look then started after him, following all the way to the door. Rauru raised his hands, palms facing the doorway, fingers spread wide. The stone doorway shuddered and then opened. Again, the blinding light from the second chamber spilled over into the dark sanctuary, forcing both Tranns and Philip to shield their eyes. It was not until the rumbling stopped that either of them dared to look into the luminosity.
The room was built of stone. There were no decorations, no windows, no doors. In the center of the room was a beacon of blue light. Where it was coming from, no one was entirely sure. Suspended in midair, within the confines of the beacon, floated three gold triangles. A warmth radiated out from these shining shapes, penetrating their skin and flying around their heads until all three felt dizzy. There it was: The object of so much conflict, so much strife in Hylian history. The Triforce.
“I thought…” Philip trailed off, his voice thick.
“Yes?” Rauru prompted, never tearing his eyes off of the sacred relic.
“I thought it would be bigger.”
“And so after that, I came to
,” Sito concluded proudly, a smug smile on his face. North Castle
“Wow,” Ana said. “That story certainly was…long.”
Ariadne giggled, putting a hand over her mouth. Sito looked over at her, his ears turning slightly pink. “Hey!” he cried indignantly to Ana. “That was mean.”
Ana shrugged. “I’m Adriana. I think it, I say it. It’s my way.”
“Well, you’re the one who asked me where I came from.”
“I was hoping for the short version.”
“Well excuse me.” Sito glanced over at Ariadne as she walked on between them, smiling slightly. He rubbed the back of his neck. “What about you?”
“Where do you come from?”
The three of them had been going in circles around the palace grounds for nearly an hour now. It began when Sito tried to follow Ariadne. Distraught by her brother’s absence, Adriana tagged along, quickly falling into a verbal spar with Sito that ended up with a sarcastic retort about not knowing where he was from.
Now, they were out in the courtyard for the third time. Castle life was relatively quite today. Zelda had given almost all of the servants permission to take the day off and attend to their own families. As for the knights, they were out in the village, helping to repair the damage of last night. And certainly, no courtiers dared to stray from their estates today. So, aside from a few cooks and maids who decided to stick around, the wards of Zelda were very much on their own. All of them were occupied with the heavy duty on Tranns and Philip’s shoulders.
“I live in the castle,” Ariadne replied.
“I’ve never seen you before,” Sito told her. “And I’ve been living here for about ten years.”
Ariadne shrugged. “I keep to myself.”
Ana gave her a funny look. “You don’t say much, do you?”
“Well, that’s all right,” Sito said quickly. “Adriana can talk enough for both of you.”
“Hey!” Ana cried resentfully.
“What’s the deal with your brother anyway?” Sito continued, oblivious to her indignation. “He’s kind of…”
“Broody?” Ana supplied.
“I was going to say taciturn, but your word works too.”
Ana put her hand to her chest in mock surprise. “That’s an awfully big word for you, Sito. Where did you hear it?”
“Shove it! I know lots of words.”
“And yet the best insult you could come up with was ‘shove it?’ You’ve got quite the vocabulary, Sito.”
“I’m not trying to impress anyone,” he said nonchalantly. His blue eyes drifted over in Ariadne’s direction. She didn’t seem to be paying much attention to the roasting he was receiving at Ana’s hands.
“As for Phil,” Ana sighed, pressing on, “he’s a very complicated person. No one understands him.”
“Zelda must know something about him,” Sito said, shoving his hands into his pockets. “Otherwise, she wouldn’t have picked him for the leader.”
“Zelda works in mysterious ways,” Ana joked. “Then again,” she added, glancing in Ariadne’s direction, “she’s not the biggest mystery we have.”
As Sito followed Ana’s gaze, Ariadne looked up, squirming a little from the attention. “What? Why are you looking at me?”
“You’ve got to tell us something about you,” Sito said. “Where are you from, Airy?”
She looked a bit confused. “Airy?”
“What? Never had a nick name before?”
“Airy,” Ana repeated, letting the word roll off of her tongue. “I like it. It has a certainly waif-ish charm to it.”
“That settles it,” Sito declared. “The nick name is sticking.”
Ariadne shrugged. “If you like.”
“So where are you from, Airy?”
“Terabithia.” Ariadne set her jaw, looking straight ahead. “You probably haven’t heard of it.”
“Can’t say that I have.”
Ana smirk. “Terabithia? Now that is a pretty n –”
Ariadne suddenly stopped short. The others both took a step or two forward before realizing that she had stopped. She stood motionless, lifting her chin slightly, her gray eyes falling out of focus for a moment. “What?” Sito asked, taking a step back. “What is it, Airy?”
“Do you smell that?”
Sito sniffed the air. “Smell what? I don’t smell anything except for Ana’s cheap perfume.”
“Hey!” Ana shouted, slapping his arm. “I’ll have you know that my perfume is not cheap.”
“Sorry. I don’t smell anything except for Ana’s ridiculously and insanely expensive perfume.”
“That’s better,” Ana said with satisfaction.
“No,” Ariadne mumbled, more to herself than to them.
“What is it?” Sito asked.
Immediately, Ariadne turned around, heading back in the direction they had come from with intense determination in her steps. Ana and Sito scampered after her, both looking equally confused. She veered off the path suddenly, crossing the grass to a rose bush.
“Is now really the time to stop and smell the roses?” Ana muttered. “It’s just so morbid.”
Sito glared at her. “Shut up, Ana.”
Ariadne slowed down, stopping in front of the bushes. “Oh gods,” she whispered to herself.
“What? What is it?”
Cautiously, Ariadne leaned over, pulling aside the bush. As Sito and Ana caught up, they noticed something glistening. The grass was wet, but it wasn’t dew. There was something red over it. As Ariadne yanked more on the bush, they realized why. With a muted shriek, Ana turned away, pulling a perfumed handkerchief out of her pocket and pressing it over her mouth and nose. Sito’s eyes grew wide, his jaw falling open. Ariadne’s hand, holding back the leaves, visibly started trembling and she was finally forced to let go. The gruesome image was only half covered though. Even if it had disappeared completely, it would have remained burned into their memories.
“By the gods…” Sito hissed softly.
“I’m going to be sick,” Ana moaned into her handkerchief.
“That’s disgusting,” Sito continued, though not in response to what Adriana had said.
“How long has that been there?” Ana wondered, gulping hard.
“Not long,” Ariadne muttered, regaining her own composure.
“Who could do such a thing?”
“The Red Dragon.”
“I hate him,” Sito said quietly.
“Yeah…” Ana agreed. “Me too.”
Ariadne knelt down again. She didn’t want to look, but she forced herself. The grass was stained with blood. Scattered throughout the rose bush were what could only be described as pieces. Limbs, fingers, toes, and a head with eyes gouged out. Impa’s remains. She deserved so much better. At least, Ariadne supposed with a grim demeanor, at least she had been brought home.
“I can’t say I like this idea much,” Liandra said, throwing the cloak over her mistress’s shoulders.
“That’s the way you were brought up,” Nabooru answered, closing the clasp around her neck. “You’re supposed to question my decisions. That’s why you’re second in command.”
“Well, I don’t like it.”
Nabooru laughed throatily, sparing her companion a glance. Liandra was young and impetuous, which was without a question the reason Nabooru liked her so much. In a way, she reminded her of a certain other ambitious young Gerudo warrior from days gone by. “Zelda can be trusted,” Nabooru told her firmly, holding both her arms out to allow Liandra to tie her gauntlets.
“I have no doubt,” Liandra replied, dutifully sliding the pink gloves onto Nabooru’s arms.
“Then what is your objection?”
“It’s not safe for you to be venturing out unattended.”
“This is a personal meeting,” Nabooru explained. “I’m not going on a raid without the others. It should only take an hour anyway.”
“Why do they need you though? Why can’t you send someone else to guide them?”
“Because that would require me to tell someone else in the pride where they’re going and what they’re going to do there.”
“You shouldn’t hide things from the other sisters.”
“This is not Gerudo business,” Nabooru insisted.
“Then what is it?”
Nabooru lowered her arms, taking Liandra’s face in her hands. “It’s a matter of a favor, a personal favor.”
Liandra sighed. “To the queen.”
“Yes. To Zelda.”
“I just don’t want you getting hurt.”
“We’re going to take a walk up the mountain,” Nabooru assured her. “That’s it. Nothing else.”
“How long is it going to take you?”
Nabooru dropped her hands. “That all depends on how long you delay me,” she answered with a twinkle in her eye.
“Won’t you at least take a bodyguard with you? Take Briseis with you. She’s strong.”
“I thought I won this argument.”
“You know I’ll never let you win.”
“How silly of me,” Nabooru laughed. This caused Liandra to smile a bit. “While I’m gone, I want you to rally the others.”
“I want to make sure everyone is accounted for. I’ve been hearing whispers about going into the town to raid and pillage in the wake of the attack. I want it to be known that I expressly forbid it. We are not vultures.”
“Now, hand me my swords.”
Liandra turned around, crossing Nabooru’s chambers. With great ceremony, she leaned over to pick up the weapons, but she was interrupted by a flash of green light beside her. Nabooru herself was forced to shield her eyes for a moment. A cold shiver ran down her spine and she looked up to see a man in a suit of purple armor standing beside Liandra, his foot on top of the swords.
“War…” Nabooru growled.
“Hello, Nabooru,” War said brightly. “Glad to see you still remember me after all these years.”
“It would be difficult to forget.”
“Mistress?” Liandra asked.
“Get out of here, Liandra,” Nabooru barked.
Liandra turned to run, but War caught her by the arm, pulling her back against his chest. “Please,” he purred dangerously. “Stay.”
“War, leave it between us.”
“Who is he, Mistress?” Liandra asked, struggling and War took her chin and attempted to turn her face in his direction.
“A very bad man,” Nabooru hissed.
“Oh, Nabooru,” War sighed. “Is that really all you have to say for me? I’d think you of all people could get more creative.”
“We’re not as young as we used to be.”
“I suppose that’s true.”
“Run, Mistress!” Liandra shouted. “Save yourself.”
“Yes, Nabooru,” War taunted her. “Save yourself.”
“You both know that I won’t do that.”
“That’s what I love about you, Nabooru. You’re so deliciously predictable in your nobility.”
“I consider that a compliment,” Nabooru said icily.
“No reason you should. Your petty scruples are a disgrace to the name of the Gerudo. And that’s why you lost control to Dragmire for seven years. Isn’t it? You refused to play dirty.”
“Fortunately,” he continued, “I have no objection to playing dirty.”
“Swine!” Liandra howled angrily, trying to break free of War’s unyielding grip on her.
“Let her go, War,” Nabooru said calmly.
“As you wish,” War replied, bowing his head. He planted a hand firmly on top of Liandra’s skull, clasping her jaw. With a swift, jerking motion, he turned her head, a sickening snap cracking the air. Liandra crumpled to the ground, a bone protruding from the skin of her neck at a disgusting angle. War delivered a sharp kick to her middle, sending her skittering halfway across the chamber to Nabooru’s feet.
“You shouldn’t have done that,” Nabooru said thickly.
“I was only doing what you asked.”
“You killed her, you monster.”
“I know,” he replied. “And I feel just awful about it.”
“What do you want?”
“Come and get me.”
Nabooru abruptly made a break for the door. As predicted, War moved to block her path. That was the opportunity she needed. Whirling around, she fell to her knees, skidding across the room and grabbing one of her swords. War recovered from the fake by that point and came bearing down on her. Nabooru leapt to her feet, swinging the sword violently. It impacted with his armor, ringing loudly.
“Fighting is only going to make it harder,” War said, slamming Nabooru’s blade back with his gauntlet.
“On the contrary,” Nabooru insisted, coming to a ready stance. “Fighting is what comes easiest to me.”
“To you perhaps. But how long do you think your Gerudo sisters will be able to hold out?”
This threw Nabooru more than she would permit herself to reveal. “What do you mean?”
“One word from me and three battalions of the Red Dragon’s finest troops descends on the
.” Gerudo Valley
“Would you care to test that theory?”
“My people will fight.”
“Like her, you mean?” War asked coyly, jerking his head in the direction of the lifeless Liandra.
“Don’t speak of her.”
“Be smart, Nabooru. You know what will happen. Your Gerudos are no match for my men.” He paused before adding. “And I’ll make you watch. I’ll deny you an honorable death.”
“It seems to me that’s what you already had in store.”
“If everything goes according to plan, you’ll live free. But if you make it difficult, well, there are things worse than death.”
“What about my people?”
“The Red Dragon has no real interest in the
. After he conquers Hyrule, he intends to let business as normal continue.” War took a step forward in Nabooru’s direction. “Don’t be stupid, Nabooru. Put down the sword.” Gerudo Valley
Nabooru held the sword up, aiming the tip directly at War’s chest. “No,” she declared.
He sighed in agitation. “Very well.”
With that, War clapped his hands twice. Two more bursts of green light appeared from above and two burly masked, warriors dropped down from the ceiling. Nabooru whirled around, aiming to take off the head of the nearer one. She caught Nabooru’s blade in between her palms. The second warrior then kicked the Gerudo queen’s knees, forcing her to fall to the ground. Meanwhile, the sword was wrenched free of Nabooru’s fingers. War’s flunky handed it to him. He pointed the tip down at Nabooru’s throat.
“Kill me,” she ordered him.
“No,” War replied sternly. “You don’t get off that easily.” He made a gesture with one hand. “Take her away.”
The two lackeys hefted Nabooru up, off of the floor, each holding one of her powerful arms. She struggled valiantly, her cape falling from her shoulders to the floor, but it was to no avail. The two younger assailants were just too strong. With a signal from War, they both muttered softly, summoning Farore’s Wind and vanishing from sight, Nabooru along with them. War took a quick walk about the chamber, making certain that no one had heard the fray. Once he was satisfied, he knelt down and picked up Nabooru’s cape. Tenderly, he laid it across the body of Liandra, before rising himself and vanishing from sight.
They all stood together, most of them trying as hard as possible not to look at the grisly sight. “How do you suppose it got here?” Mia asked. None of them could bear to use the word ‘she’ or ‘her’ to describe the remains. All of them, except for perhaps
, knew Impa exceptionally well, too well to relate the pile of body parts in the rose bush to the person they loved. Aden
“The Red Dragon,”
replied. Everyone looked at him. He shrugged. “Probably to send Zelda a message.” Aden
“Postcards are way too overrated apparently,” Ana deadpanned. Everyone stared at her in horror. “What?” she said with a shrug. “No time better than the present for a little humor.”
“She’s right,” Sito said.
“It had to happen eventually.”
“Can we focus?”
questioned them loudly, giving the two of them a very stern look. Aden
Mia looked at him. “What’s left to focus on?”
“Someone has to tell Zelda.”
This statement struck them all into a very long silence. They knew, of course, that the responsibility fell to them, but how could they possibly do it? Each and every one of them knew exactly what Impa meant to Zelda. She had been more than a friend or companion. Impa had been Zelda’s surrogate mother, father, sister, and mentor. Wanting a husband, Impa had been all that kept Zelda company many a night. This death wouldn’t fall hard on her, it might well shatter her.
“What do we do?”
scowled. “I wish I knew.” Aden
“It has to be one of us,” Mia asserted. “We can’t let her find out some other way. We can’t let her…”
“Find the body,” Sito supplied.
“Someone has to go tell her,”
said again. Aden
“Who’s it going to be?” Ana asked quietly.
“Maybe we should all go together?” Mia supposed.
Both Jesse and
shook their heads. “If she breaks down, we don’t all want to be around watching her,” Aden said. “We have to maintain her dignity.” Aden
“This isn’t about dignity!” Ana cried. “This is about the fact that Impa is dead. And Zelda needs our support. We shouldn’t just tip toe around it. I say we should be there if she breaks down.”
Everyone looked at her. “So…” Ariadne said slowly, “do we all agree?”
nodded. “We all tell her.” Aden
“Yeah,” Sito agreed.
Mia sighed. “All right.”
clapped his hands together, “when do we tell her?” Aden
really didn’t deserve its name. For all the terrifying stories told about it, the scenery was actually quite lovely. It looked more like a castle than a mountain really. High cliffs soared up into the sky like turrets, crowned in white caps. Admittedly, the road was a little rough to traverse, but it certainly wasn’t unbearable. Philip remembered tall tales from his youth about living rocks that would fall down to crush unwise travelers through the valleys. The fact of the matter was, had they not been on such a dire mission, he would have enjoyed the walk. Death Mountain
Tranns walked a pace ahead of him, carrying a box under her arm. Rauru had given it to them. He said it was the only container in the Known Worlds that could contain the power of the Triforce. And even then, it would only hold a few hours before the sheer power of the triangles burst through, reducing the box to splinters. Tranns cradled it carefully, with a surprisingly delicate touch.
“Where, exactly, are we supposed to be making the rendezvous?” Philip asked, carefully picking his way over a pile of pebbles.
“Near the Goron pass,” Tranns replied.
“And then we go up into the heights?”
“I guess so.”
“How does she know where this volcano is anyway?”
Tranns shrugged. “I don’t know. But she does and no one else can say the same.”
“You’re not a big fan of the Gerudos, are you?”
“Not in the least,” Philip answered.
“Well, at least you’re honest. Can I ask why?”
“My father was one.”
Blinking in surprise, Tranns turned to look over her shoulder. Whatever she was going to say on the matter, however, became lost quickly. “Bloody hell. Phil! Behind you!” Philip spun around, just in time to receive a solid left hook in the face. Three masked warriors had appeared, seemingly out of nowhere. Two of them immediately took on Philip while the third scrambled over the rocks to Tranns.
They both ran at Philip at the exact same moment. Using this to his advantage, Philip dropped to the ground, rolling out of the way. The warriors smashed into one another, stumbling back. Philip would have found it comical, had the situation not been so desperate. They were, after all, carrying precious cargo.
The third warrior advanced on Tranns, his arms spread wide, fingers apart. Letting out a primal grunt, she jerked her knee up, catching him in the stomach. As he doubled over, she flipped the box up, nailing his jaw and sending him flying back against a boulder. “Careful!” Philip shouted to her, climbing to his feet.
“No problem!” she screamed back, sweeping her leg at the warrior’s ankles. She managed to hook her foot around one and yank, pulling him headfirst to the ground. Once he was down, she slammed her foot on the small of his back and then knelt down, pressing a corner of the box against his spine.
Philip turned to face his own attackers who had just recovered from their collision. Much to his dismay, he found a knife, pointed at his chest, and a second one at his throat. “Tell her to back off,” the first one ordered.
“You can’t kill me,” Philip replied, watching the dagger wearily.
“We can knock you unconscious long enough to take out your little friend,” the warrior replied. “Three against one and she has the box.”
“Tranns,” Philip called wearily. She looked over to see the weapons trained on him. With a small sigh, she stood up, still cradling the box. The warrior she had been busy pummeling rose unsteadily to his feet.
“Come with us,” the leader of the warriors barked.
“Where are we going?” Philip asked.
“We’re taking you to War.”
Zelda sat alone in her room, filled with silence. She had drawn the curtains shut, so only a trace of light managed to enter. Her eyes were red and swollen, feeling very hot whenever she blinked. When she glanced into the mirror of her vanity, she saw two pink streaks going down her cheeks, where her tears had fallen. The fact of the matter was that she looked like a wreck, but quite frankly, she didn’t care. There was no call to impress.
She rose, crossing the room to her bed. Her fingers ran along the white stitches, so often repaired from her rambunctious childhood habit of jumping on the bed. A lump formed in her throat, threatening to spill out of her mouth in low, mournful cries. She was no longer a child anymore; she scolded herself, swallowing hard to banish the tears and the moans. A hand fluttered to her stomach, grounding her back in the reality of her adulthood.
What would Impa say to her now? She’d doubtlessly tell her to stop wallowing and focus on what was happening. Live in the present. Time was a funny thing, it was best not to try and manipulate it by moving forward or back. As Zelda turned to look at her oily reflection in the mirror, a new thought occurred to her. Time.
Briskly, she crossed the room, going to her oak desk against the far wall near the balcony. She yanked the middle drawer open, pushing aside papers and pens, searching amidst the chaos. Finally, just as she was about to give up, her fingers brushed against something smooth. She drew it out. The Ocarina of Time. It had been decades since she last spared a thought to the family heirloom. Now, as she stood there holding it, a flood of new possibilities rushed into her mind.
There was a knock on the door. Jarred abruptly from her thoughts, Zelda turned to look over her shoulder. “Who is it?”
“It’s us Zelda.” She recognized Mia’s voice.
“What is it?”
“Can we come in? There’s something we have to tell you.”
Philip and Tranns were led along a rocky path. Tranns tightly clutched the Triforce box, not allowing their captors to pry it out of her arms. Finally, sick of trying and impatient to get to their master, they decided to let her carry it. What did it matter if she carried it? She was just doing work for them. Philip, meanwhile, kept his hands up on top of his head. The warriors trusted him less than her, in part, because they remembered him from his daring rescue of Zelda from the Red Dragon’s palace in Calatia.
They finally came to a flat plain, quite high up on the peaks. There was a small congregation of masked warriors, milling around the plateau. Beside a crater, Philip caught sight of another prisoner, a majestic Gerudo matron, sitting on her knees, her hands tied behind her back. One warrior guarded her absently, not really bothering to pay her much heed. She looked up at the sound of approaching footsteps, making eye contact with Philip momentarily.
“Where’s the master?” one of the guards bringing Tranns and Philip asked, prodding them toward the crater.
“He’s checking in on the Red Dragon’s project,” another guard replied. “These them?”
“These are the ones.”
“Put them over here, by her majesty,” the leading warrior barked. He said the word ‘majesty’ mockingly.
Obediently, Tranns and Philip’s captors steered them to the crater, pushing them both down onto their knees. “Watch it!” Tranns growled.
“Watch yourself,” the warrior muttered, resting a hand on the hilt of the dagger in his belt.
As the guard walked away, Philip gritted his teeth. “Are you all right?” he asked Tranns softly.
“Fine,” she replied.
Trying to be as casual as possible, Philip looked around, examining their surroundings. “No place to head for cover.”
“The better for them to watch us.”
“Even if we could make a break for it, we’d have nowhere to go.”
“You can do that?”
“Yeah.” Tranns turned her face away from him as she continued. “Not very well, I mean, we might end up in the middle of the ocean, but at least we’d be away from here.”
“You there.” Both Tranns and Philip turned to look across the crater, where Nabooru knelt, staring at them intently. “You’re Gerudo.”
Philip set his jaw for a moment before answering. “Half Gerudo.”
“Would know that jaw anywhere.”
“I’m very sorry,” he spat bitterly.
“Now I understand why Zelda asked me to help.”
“I think it’s just because you know the location of where we needed to be,” Philip said dourly.
“No,” Nabooru shook her head. “There are others who know. All the Sages. But she chose me because of you.”
“I think you’re flattering yourself, your majesty.”
“I know what you’ve been through, better than you give me credit for, young master.”
“I highly doubt that,” Philip answered.
“Shame. Guilt. Longing to change your heritage. I know what the children of Ganondorf Dragmire have suffered.”
“Let’s leave my unfortunate parentage out of this.”
“My daughter went through the same thing.”
“Attention!” the commanding warrior barked. Philip’s head snapped to one side where he saw the imposing figure of War, hovering over the landscape, the final wisps of Farore’s Wind fading around him.
“Here comes trouble,” Tranns muttered, tightening her grip on the box in her arms.
War stood still a moment, taking in the scene. Finally, content he knew everything that was going on, he drifted across the plateau to the space behind Nabooru. “Master Dragmire, pleasure to see you again.”
“It’s Summer,” Philip bristled. Slowly, he rose to his feet, gesturing for Tranns to do likewise.
“You like to think that, don’t you?”
“Can we get this over with?”
“Right to the point. That’s something I like about you. Very well, we’ll play it to the point. I know why the princess –”
“Queen sent you. And I know what’s in that box, Miss Harkin.”
“What’s it to you?” Tranns spat.
“There’s no need for tempers.”
“You can kiss my –”
“Let’s not be rude,” War cut her off. “I might be less inclined to be generous to you.”
“Generous,” Philip repeated.
“I have a proposal to make.”
“I really don’t see our parents approving.”
“Very funny, Dragmire.”
“Whatever.” War clasped his hands behind his back. “No, I propose an exchange.”
“A trade of what?”
“You have something my master wants; I have something your princess…queen wants.”
War drifted up behind Nabooru. Violently, he seized hold of her hair, pulling her head back and dragging her halfway to her feet. “Give me the Triforce,” he barked. “And I’ll spare her life.” To emphasize his point, War beckoned two warriors who quickly drew daggers, pointing them at Nabooru.
“Don’t trust him, Phil,” Tranns muttered.
“You’d do well to trust me,” War said evenly. “I will kill her.”
“If you hand over the Triforce he’ll just kill her anyway.”
“You have my word of honor, I won’t touch her.”
“You have no honor,” Nabooru said fiercely.
Philip gestured in Nabooru’s direction. “She’s got a point.”
“I swear by the
,” War said. “A vow impossible for a Sheikah to break.” Palamas River
“What do you swear?” Philip asked, narrowing his eyes. “Word for word, what do you swear?”
“I swear by the
,” War replied, “I will not harm Nabooru in any way.” Palamas River
Philip turned around to look at Tranns. “Put the box down.”
“Do it!” Grumbling in objection, Tranns stooped down, putting the box on the ground. “Now step away from it.” Both Philip and Tranns moved away from the container.
“Good boy,” War said approvingly. “Guards!”
“Wait!” Philip shouted, holding his hands up to stop the guards approaching the box. “Let Nabooru bring it to you.”
“You’re smarter than you look,” War told him. Roughly, he released Nabooru’s hair, pushing her forward.
Nabooru made her way to the box, holding her head up high as she passed the warriors who had been restraining her. The weight of a high honor overtook her as she leaned down to pick up the precious package. She could feel the power of the Triforce surging beneath the wood in her hands. Carefully, she made her way back to War, but stopped halfway, turning to look over her shoulder at Philip and Tranns. “You did well, Philip Summer.” With that, she broke out into a run, leaping up into the air and throwing herself, box in her arms, into the crater.
“Stop her!” War shouted.
The frantic soldiers began racing to the crater, some of them chanting softly to summon Farore’s Wind. “That’s it!” Tranns hissed to Philip.
“I think it must be!”
War ran to the edge of the crater, looking down. The fall was long, but already he had completely lost sight of Nabooru. Suddenly, from deep within the depths of the drop, he saw an explosion of orange fire. In that instant, he knew he was too late. The Sage of Spirit was gone for good.
Accompanied by a roaring noise, too deafeningly soft to be real, a wave of yellow ether flew out of the crater, spreading across the plateau like ripples in a pond, going out in all directions and covering everything in the path. War instinctively shielded himself from the blow, but he felt nothing, just a brush of wind against his armor as the ether passed.
“No, no,” he called to his flunkies. “It’s too late. She’s gone. As for you two,” he looked up. Tranns and Philip were nowhere to be seen, but his Hylian sixth sense could just barely make out the final green outlines of a Farore’s Wind spell, whisking them away.
“They’re gone, sir,” one of the guards said.
“Yes,” War muttered slowly. “I can see that.” Angrily, he cast his hand forward, telekinetically dragging the hapless soldier across the plateau and casting him into the depths of the crater.
Everyone stood silent, listening to his screams and he disappeared down the drop. Finally, an especially bold officer stepped forward. “Your orders, sir?” she asked very carefully.
“We won’t follow them. Withdraw; we’re going back to Calatia.” He scowled beneath his helmet. “The Red Dragon won’t be pleased about this.”
“What’s the status of the other project?”
“That is going surprisingly well. At least something is going to go right for us today.”
The sun would set early today. Despite the fact that Hyrule was in the height of spring, Rauru knew the sun would set soon. As he stood by the window, he clasped his hands behind his back, wondering at the peculiar nature of metaphor. Long ago, back in his impetuous youth, he had spared no thought to word play or riddles, but late in life, he chided himself for being so foolish. Words had a great deal of power, both for the wielder and the listener.
He sighed bitterly. The temple felt empty, wanting for the warmth of the Triforce. There was no question it had been destroyed. Rauru could feel it. A wave of ether had washed over the land, a final death knell for the greatest power the realm had ever seen. Although he knew it was a necessary evil, Rauru still felt the loss of the Triforce like an open wound in his side.
Reluctantly, he tore his eyes away from the window, looking in at the temple. In his memory, he went back in time, to years ago. As a silent observer, he watched his younger self greeting a small boy in Kokiri green who somehow had managed to wander into the sanctuary. How naïve they both seemed! And Rauru prided himself on being jaded. He replayed every syllable of their conversations, every detail of the events that had taken place. What had gone wrong? Had he somehow missed a step, a vital one that would have saved the Hero of Time from his destruction?
Of course, Rauru was just being silly. He knew all too well that he could not have prevented that death. There was certainly no use dwelling on the past. Still, like a child, he lavished the opportunity to play a game of ‘what if’ as he waited for the sun to set on Hyrule. It was one of the few luxuries left to him, the tired old Sage of Light, who had been through so much.
He heard the door to the temple open. Ah yes, he had been expecting this. Slowly, the old man wound his way through the sanctuary, old and dusty now. It had been a long time since anyone had come to offer libations. The faith of the people was gone now, something that should hardly surprise him. What was there left to believe in when there were no longer Heroes?
The doors were closed by the time Rauru reached the main part of the sanctuary. There was no one to be seen. He sighed softly, turning around and walking to the altar with the shining Spiritual Stones. It was a painful ordeal for him to kneel now, but he suffered the agony, dropping down before the stones and lacing his fingers together. Silently, he started to pray to the powers of the spirits within the stones, powers he alone knew the names of. They would soon be forgotten.
What did he wish to pray for? This gave Rauru pause. Of course, any fool might have asked to push back the sunset, but Rauru knew better than to ask the impossible. What was fated was fated. His thoughts drifted to the young people who had taken the Triforce away, never to return. Zelda had quite the collection of youths ready to do the impossible if called upon. He would pray for them, to give them the courage, wisdom, and power they needed to drive back the night.
As he prayed silently, a black clad figure dropped down from the vault of the ceiling. He stood before the Sage of Light, watching him, waiting for him to look up. Much to his vexation, the old man would not falter. Angrily, the stranger walked to the altar and picked up the Zora Sapphire. He spit on it sacrilegiously then hurled it to the ground. When the stone did not break, he brought his foot upon it, sending a thousand shards flying into the air.
Still, Rauru did not stir. The stranger picked up the Goron Ruby. With a grunt, he chucked it against the wall. Bright red slivers of glass, looking like drops of blood poured down to the floor. The Kokiri Emerald went next, lobbed directly up to the rose window above the door. Both the stone and the window exploded into showers of deadly glass.
Rauru finished his prayer. He looked up to watch as the stranger continued his desecration of the temple. Finished with the Spiritual Stones, he kicked the altar, overturning it. Beneath the slab were several sacred artifacts, a gold candlestick with the waxy remains of a blue candle, a copper spice box, a crystal decanter, a jade goblet, and two platinum daggers. These ceremonial implements had not been touched by living hands since their placement centuries ago. The stranger defiled them, picking each piece up severally and shattering it against the stone floor.
Wearily, Rauru rose to his feet, watching as the remains of the holy artifacts rolled carelessly to his feet. It was time for sunset. He made his way up to the altar as the stranger finished destroying the decanter. Next, he found the platinum daggers in his hands. It was then the stranger took note of Rauru, standing right in front of him. Though imposing, he was in no way humbled by the sight of the Sage. Gripping one of the daggers, the assailant jumped down from where he stood, taking two long strides over to the old man. Each of them held a look, Rauru’s blue eyes seeming to penetrate the black mask on the stranger.
Facing the stranger, Rauru spread his arms open wide, completely exposing his torso. With savage ferocity, the foe thrust his arm forward, sending the dagger deep into Rauru’s belly. If he felt any pain, Rauru showed no sign of it. Like a ripple, the stain of red blood spread across Rauru’s ceremonial robes. The stranger yanked back, pulling the knife out of him. What irritated him to no end was the fact that Rauru was completely silent. All the other had at least shown some sign of protestation. The old man stood there silently, watching with even eyes, his arms wide.
A strange thing happened then. The temple seemed to start humming. Both men clearly heard a noise, but neither could figure out exactly what it was or where it was coming from. The sound began to swell. All around them, where the shattered remains of the Spiritual Stones and sacred implements rested, light began to fill the room. The shards rose from the ground, glowing in their respective colors. Like a whirlwind, they began flying through the air, orbiting around Rauru.
The stranger backed up, holding his hands up to shield himself from the display. Gradually, the circles grew tighter around Rauru, half obscuring him from sight. Carefully, the stranger peered forward, straining his eyes to see. If he hadn’t been able to see it, he might never have believed it. Right there, amidst the flying glass and metal, the wounded Sage of Light started to vanish. It was not a parlor trick nor Farore’s Wind that carried him away. He simply dematerialized, leaving behind his old robes which fell to the floor.
In a bright blast of light, bright enough to force the stranger to shield his eyes, the rubbish and debris all vanished from the room. When he felt it was safe enough to look, the attacker found that in the place where Rauru’s robes had rested, an enormous brown owl perched, staring with an unblinking gaze at the assassin. Involuntarily, the stranger took a step back.
With a low, mournful hoot, the great owl spread his wings to their fullest, flapping them once for show before lifting off, into the air. He circled around the wide, open air of the temple, his temple, before making a sharp turn and flying in the direction of the shattered rose window. He swooped low one more time then shot up into the air, flying through the window. As he passed, the glass magically began to reassemble itself. No sunlight would stream in. The sun had set. But somehow, the darkness wasn’t sinister. For Rauru knew, in his prayers, that when the sun set, it had only to rise again in the morning.
Philip sat in the bright conference room, looking across the table. Zelda, dressed in her black mourning was busy absorbing everything he had told her. He felt a little silly, sitting there, dripping all over the counter. It turned out that Tranns hadn’t been joking about ending up in the middle of the ocean after Farore’s Wind whisked them away. Nevertheless, she had managed, on her second try, to return them to palace grounds and Philip had gone directly to Zelda to report everything that had occurred up on
. Death Mountain
Now, the room yielded silence. Zelda seemed completely absorbed in her own thoughts. Philip looked up, inadvertently making eye contact with Ariadne, who had accompanied Zelda to the conference and now stood silently with her back to the wall. She shrugged silently, apparently also in great anticipation of hearing what Zelda would say to all of it.
“Nabooru died honorably,” Zelda finally pronounced softly, almost to herself rather than the two young Guardians.
“I guess,” Philip agreed.
“It’s what she wanted, I suppose.”
“Gerudos are funny that way.”
She sighed. “We’ll have to inform them of what happened. If nothing else, they may find the resolve to help us fight against the Red Dragon.”
Zelda stood up. Aimlessly, she wandered to the far end of the room, pausing by the window. Philip and Ariadne watched her intently. “I’m sorry that it had to happen,” she muttered.
“It was tragic,” Philip agreed, “but it was her decision.”
Turning around, Zelda glanced back, not really looking at him. “I trust you’ve been told what happened here in your absence?”
Philip cleared his throat, feeling rather uncomfortable with what he knew was bound to come up sooner or later. “Impa…”
“Yes,” Zelda said with a nod. “Impa and Nabooru are dead.” She frowned, turning back to the window. “And not two hours ago, I received a report that the Goron chief, Darunia, was killed.”
“The leader of the Gerudos and the leader of the Gorons…”
“I should also think that after the attack, the Zora leader would have come to
by now. North Castle
“There’s a pattern here.”
“It seems,” Zelda sighed, “that the invasion of Hyrule has already begun.
was a distraction.” Zora Harbor
“With the leadership falling apart, it’s going to be difficult for the rest of the citizens to put up much of a defense.”
“Too true.” Zelda clasped her hands in front of her chest. “Which is why we’re going to need a crazy solution to the problem of a mad man.”
Philip raised an eyebrow. “What do you mean?”
“Are you familiar with the legend of the Ocarina of Time?”
He scowled. “Vaguely. Not much more than a children’s bedtime story. It’s a myth, isn’t it?”
“I think you had best start brushing up on your mythology.”
“As you wish,” he replied, bowing his head.
“What I have in mind for the Guardians may be desperate, but it may just be the way to save Hyrule.”
“Understood,” Philip said uncertainly.
“I have something for you.”
Zelda crossed back to the table, pulling a small box out of her black robes. She placed it down on top of the table and then lifted the lid off, sliding the rest forward to Philip. Resting inside of the box, on top of a layer of cotton, was an elaborate silver pin with eight tiny blue gems circling halfway around an enormous blue stone. “This will help you sometime in the future. Or the past.”
Philip blinked in surprise. “It’s extraordinary,” he told her, “but…”
About to protest further, Philip caught a stern look from Zelda and withdrew. “Thank you.” He accepted the pin, attaching it to his shoulder, against the fabric of his blue cape.
“It’s self indulgent,” Zelda said, “but I would like to hold a memorial for Impa. The least we can do for her is provide proper burial. Perhaps it wouldn’t be out of line to honor Nabooru as well.”
“Not self indulgent at all,” Philip assured her.
“Impa wouldn’t want it.”
“A person’s death is rarely about them in the end. It’s about the survivors, isn’t it?”
A small smile managed to fall upon Zelda’s lips. “That,” she said firmly, “Is a wise sentiment, if I’ve ever heard one.”
“Now, I’ve a few other loose ends to tie up tonight before we can indulge in a bit of mourning,” Zelda said. “Why don’t you rest? You’ve had a busy day and I think you’ve earned it.”
“I will,” Philip said with a nod.
Zelda glided past him, patting his shoulder lightly before leaving the room. The soft trailing of her gown’s train could be heard sliding down the hall long after she had disappeared from sight. When it fell silent at long last, Philip was suddenly struck with the fact that he was alone in a room with the mysterious girl Zelda had so abruptly added to his team.
That was a startling thought. His team. The enormity of those two simple words was vaster than he expected. He was responsible for the lives of other people when not five months ago, he could barely take care of himself. Now everything had changed, yet something was still in complete. There was an element to his coming of age that was still missing.
“Do you think she’ll be all right?”
Abruptly, Philip snapped out of his reverie, realizing that the girl was talking to him. “I hope so,” he mumbled.
“Impa meant so much to her.”
“To all of us,” Philip muttered.
“I think she’s proud of the work you did today, though.”
He glanced at her curiously. “Thank you, Ariadne.”
She smiled slightly. “Call me Airy.”
A blood curdling scream from down the hall caused both to turn their heads sharply. “Zelda,” Philip muttered, jumping to his feet.
Both of them began running, tearing out of the room and winding down the hall in the direction of the armory. Philip got there first, Ariadne close at his heels. Zelda was on her knees in the middle of the room, clutching her stomach and doubled over. Above her towered a stranger clad only in black, holding a bloody kris blade in his hand. He was markedly surprised to see the two of them and even staggered back a step.
“Zelda!” Ariadne cried.
“I’m fine,” she said, gritting her teeth. “Stop him.”
Philip raced forward, pulling back his fist to punch the attacker. He caught Philip’s hand in both of his, hurling him off to one side with surprising strength. While Philip stumbled to regain his balance, Ariadne crept up behind the assailant. She whipped her head to one side, causing her long braid to wrap around his neck. Catching the other end, she lassoed him, pulling him closer and smashing her knee up into his face. By this point, Philip had steadied himself. He grabbed the stranger’s shoulders, pulling him into a tight choke hold.
The other Guardians, hearing the sounds of battle, started arriving on the scene, led first by Mia and her brothers. “Zelda!” Mia shouted, racing to her side and kneeling next to her.
Throwing his arms wide, the stranger broke out of Philip’s grip. He threw his head back, slamming the base of his skull into Philip’s nose. Ariadne took a step back with her right leg. “Duck!” she shouted. Obediently, Philip cowed down. Rapidly, Ariadne swung her leg up into a high roundhouse kick, nailing the foe in the side of the head. The force of the kick caused him to fall out of Philip’s grasp, smashing into the ground.
Meanwhile, Mia had begun examining Zelda’s wounds as Tranns and Ana arrived at the scene. “Oh Zelda…” Tranns whispered, a hand over her mouth. “Why didn’t you tell us?”
With a loud clatter, the stranger’s knife fell to the floor. Planting a knee on his stomach, Ariadne reached over and picked up the weapon, pointing it to his chest. “Who are you?” she demanded as
came huffing and puffing to the door. Aden
In response, the attacker latched onto Ariadne’s wrist. With a grunt, he forced the dagger down, directly into his own chest. Ana shrieked, looking away. Philip exchanged a glance with Tranns then stalked over to the display in two long strides. Fiercely, he seized hold of the attacker’s stocking cap and pulled it off of his head. Ariadne let out a gasp, jumping up to her feet.
Lying prone on the ground was a very small, very delicate Andorian woman. Her face was light green, half covered in stringy locks of canary yellow hair, streaked with cyan blue. She stared up as the Guardians crowded around with wide gray eyes, struggling to breathe her very last few breaths. “I’m proud of you,” she wheezed in a light, airy voice, “you should be…”
“What?” Sito stuttered uncomprehendingly.
“Long live the Sage of the Triforce. The last of the…”
“Of the what?” Philip demanded.
“Sages,” Zelda supplied. They all looked to her then looked back to find the assassin dead. Zelda forced herself up on her elbows. “Hyrule is in more trouble than we thought.”
The adventure continues in “The Guardians of Tomorrow.”