With a great crash, the mother of pearl doors slammed shut. The noise echoed through the chamber, bouncing off of the oak walls and returning once more to its source where it rang in Kurt’s ears. He looked up at the balcony level of the room where the eight thrones were arranged in a semicircle overlooking the ground. “Hello?” he called uncertainly, narrowing his eyes. There was little light when Flame was absent, making it difficult to see. As far as he could tell, the thrones all stood vacant.
“Kurt,” a voice calmly replied. Instantly, his gaze shifted down, to the small portal in the wall under the thrones. Catsy stood there, a hand resting on the brass doorknob.
A bellicose chuckle escaped from Kurt. “What are you wearing?” he asked incredulously.
She looked down at her clothing, a bright lime green bustle gown with a plunging neckline trimmed in pink lace. “A dress,” she replied.
“You look like a watermelon.”
“Better a watermelon than a scarlet gecko.”
“What are you doing here?” she asked irritably, closing the portal door.
“Looking for Angelika. Have you seen her?”
“No. I imagine she’s off seducing a sailor or something.”
“Angelika and her foolish sailors,” Kurt laughed.
Catsy seemed less than amused. She walked across the lower chamber, accompanied by the soft clicking of her high laced boots, also neon pink, on the tiles of the floor. “Indeed,” she muttered.
“Don’t be sore over the watermelon comment,” Kurt said, trotting along beside her.
“I’m not,” she replied. With an absent gesture of her fingers, a hidden doorway opened in the wall. A sweltering heat gushed out from the gaping entrance, hitting the Nightmares with such force that any mortal would have turned back. The two of them passed through into a lavish hallway with walls of maroon marble. Behind them, the hidden portal shut silently.
“Then what’s the matter? Angelika’s antics used to be one of your favorite topics of conversation.”
“After several millennia, it gets tiresome,” she sighed absently. “It’s the same old story. Lustful sailors drowning themselves for love of her.”
“But it’s so funny,” Kurt answered.
“I doubt it’s funny for the sailors.”
“Or their real loves back home who will never hear of them again.”
“Since when did you become so empathetic towards mortals?”
“It’s not empathy,” she responded quickly. “Just boredom.”
“I don’t think I shall ever tire of it,” Kurt mumbled, more to himself than to Catsy.
“You have a natural tendency toward seduction, being the newly appointed god of it and all.”
Kurt flashed her his most charming grin. “It does suit me, doesn’t it?”
Catsy sighed. “Very well.”
They walked on for a few more minutes. Finally, Kurt stopped short, taking Catsy’s arm. “When are you going to tell me what’s the matter?”
She regarded him for a moment. “It’s not real love,” she said slowly, clearly having a difficult time choosing her words.
“What the sailors are filled with before plunging into the abyss of the ocean. It’s not real love.”
“No,” he replied with a half shrug. “I suppose it isn’t.”
“The direct result of seduction.”
“What is real love?”
Kurt blinked, quite unintentionally taking a step back. “That’s certainly a big question,” he replied.
“Does it exist?”
“No,” he murmured. “I don’t think it does.”
“Because it’s an unachievable ideal?”
“But how do you define the ideal then?”
Kurt’s brow wrinkled in thought. “Mortals say that parents have unconditional love for their children,” he told her.
“They’d do anything for their children, even sacrifice their own meaningless lives.”
“So love is sacrifice?”
“I wouldn’t go that far.”
Kurt laughed. “No, not really.”
“Then what is it?”
“A weapon,” he answered.
Catsy seemed taken aback with this. “A weapon?”
“Love, or at least the silly notion of love, is the most dangerous thing in the universe.”
“It’ll make people do crazy things.”
Catsy shook her head, the gold and brown curls framing her face quivering. “Such a force cannot possibly be.”
“Of course not,” Kurt shrugged easily. “And even if it did exist, it’s merely a disease for mortals. The likes of us are above such nonsense.”
She smiled. “You’re right. I’m sorry for this foolishness. I’ve been uneasy lately.”
“Because of the prophecy I’ll bet.”
“Yes, that’s what it is. The prophecy.”
“Don’t worry,” Kurt assured her. “When the time comes, we’ll vanquish those Hylians. No complications.”
“It will be many years before that happens,” Catsy sighed.
“I must be off. I have things to attend to.”
“Of course.” Kurt bowed to her then continued down the hall.
Catsy watched him go, listening to the echo of his footsteps after he vanished around a corner. With a wave of her hand, fire consumed her and her physical form disappeared. She intended to materialize back in her cozy little dungeon, but as the particles that made of her body broke apart, she felt something, a cosmic wind of some sort, blow her up, carrying her at breakneck speed away from Koholint.
“Love does exist,” a booming voice proclaimed.
“What?” Catsy’s voice asked in confusion. She was nothing more than a voice now, but she found she could speak as freely as if she were completely assembled.
“Love does exist,” the voice repeated.
“Who are you?”
“I am the spring, the source of love.”
“And what is that?”
“What do you want from me?”
“I can show you that love exists.”
“Join me,” the voice commanded.
“In the good fight. Fight on my side against the Nightmares and I will show you the very definition of love.”
“Fight against the Nightmares?”
“Only then can you understand the meaning of love.”
“Only through an act of betrayal.”
“It is no betrayal,” Courage responded. “It is loyalty to your true lineage.”
“My lineage is that of the Windfish.”
“And the Windfish is my creation. Join me and I will show you a world you never knew existed.”
Catsy thought for a moment, floating in the netherworld to which she had been whisked away. “Tell me more.”
Koholint had grown hot in the last couple of weeks. The air was feverish and dry, penetrating the
skin of the poor inhabitants. Indeed, it
was a torment to stay indoors because of the sweltering stillness and an agony
to stay outdoors because of the heat.
Even the shade was painful to sit in.
Nevertheless, it was the lesser of all evils, so it was the shade that
as occupied by the young women of the
They lay sprawled out across the grassy area beneath the tall trees. Marnie fanned herself with a palm leaf. Her dark hair was wet and sticky, clinging to her forehead and the back of her neck. On occasion, when the semblance of a breeze happened to blow by, she would get enough energy to lift her hair away from the nape of her neck, but as soon as the wind died down, her strength failed her and her arms dropped to her sides, limp as the drying bed sheets hanging on the line nearby.
“It’s hot,” Elinor groaned needlessly. She lay on her stomach, her skirts rolled up to mid-thigh.
“No kidding,” Marnie shot back, lazily waving the palm leaf against her cheek.
“Too hot to
“Too hot to think,” Elinor declared.
“So what was your excuse in the winter?” Marnie asked innocently.
Too hot to move, Elinor groaned softly and haphazardly flailed her hand in Marnie’s direction. “Too hot to fight back,” she muttered.
“Even swim,” Elinor concluded.
“Link and Marin have certainly been spending a lot of time on the beach these past few weeks.”
“I doubt they’re swimming,” Marnie scoffed.
“What do you think they’re doing?” Elinor asked.
Marnie gave her an appropriate look of irritation. “Nothing either of them would tell Tarin, I’ll bet.”
think it’s like that,”
“Well, perhaps not.”
“I don’t think I’ve seen Marin so serious about a boy,” Elinor mused. “Not even Kurt.”
time, Tarin actually likes the guy,”
“What’s not to like?” Marnie asked. “He’s handsome, intelligent, considerate, polite, and handsome.”
“It’s too hot to come up with new adjectives.” Marnie closed her eyes, exhaling loudly. “Do you think he’s serious?”
“Well, he did jump into a pit to save her life,” Elinor reminded them.
were here right now, she’d be very upset at us gossiping again,”
Marnie laughed dryly. “Valerie’s not here.”
“Just thought I’d point it out.”
“I think he is serious about her,” Elinor continued absently.
“I wonder what she’ll get him,” Marnie countered.
“Didn’t you know? Link and Marin were born on the same day.”
“Huh. No, I didn’t know that.” She pulled the strap of her dress up onto her shoulder again. “You learn something new every day. See? I had a reason for getting out of bed this morning.”
“Avoidance of melting?”
“What are you giving Marin?” Elinor asked.
“I have no
“I have a special little surprise for her.”
“I’m not telling.”
“Oh come on,” Elinor whined. “You have to tell us!”
“My lips are sealed,” Marnie insisted.
first time for everything,”
“Too hot to laugh,” Marnie deadpanned.
Elinor rolled onto her back lazily. “How long until sunset?”
“I still have work to do,” Marnie said with a sigh.
“So go do it.”
“I don’t want to.” Even as she said it, Marnie slowly began to sit up, drawing her knees into her chest. The fabric of her yellow, cotton dress breathed well, but it was so hot that it was sticking to her legs. With a little grunt, she clambered to her feet, vainly attempting to smooth down the front of her frock.
“Don’t melt,” Elinor called to her.
“I’ll try not to.” Fanning herself with the palm leaf, Marnie walked to the road and followed it, heading homeward.
landscape of the
Yawning, Marnie made her way back to her own little hut, a healthy sized dwelling, she was pleased to say. Of course, it had to be, what with the quintuplets and Papahl. She ducked through the doorway, left open on account of the heat. Much to her dismay, the interior was no cooler than the outside. In fact, if anything, it felt even more stifling indoors. At least it was empty.
She made her way over to her bed and knelt, pulling a large wooden box out from underneath. Inside was the gift she was preparing for Marin’s birthday. Her hands moved to the clasp and she was just about to open the box when she heard the door slam shut and a sudden wave of heat, more powerful than anything she had ever experienced rushed upon her. With the feeling that any second she would choke, Marnie dropped onto her hands and knees, balling her hands up into fists.
“Hello, Marnie,” a voice from behind her cooed.
Marnie’s head snapped around, looking over her shoulder. Standing in front of the door which was now closed, she saw what could only be described as a living flame. The great fire moved around what looked like a Human body, swirling controllably, not spreading to the wood that composed the floor of her hut. For a moment, all she could do was stammer. Finally, with great effort, she worked her mouth to produce the only words she could think to say. “Who are you?” Of course, she realized how silly the question sounded. It would have made much more sense to ask what it was, but the flame gave such a convincing air of life that she had to treat it like a person.
“A friend,” Flame replied casually.
“What are you?”
Flame chuckled. “Once more, a friend.”
Sweat was beginning to trickle down Marnie’s back, saturating her dress to an absurd point. But then again, this entire conversation seemed absurd. “Am I hallucinating?” she asked.
“Not at the moment,” Flame said.
“Well…” Marnie fished desperately for the next thing to say. “What are you doing here?”
“I’ve come to bring you a gift.”
“A gift? What sort of gift?”
“Turn around,” Flame instructed her.
Slowly, Marnie managed to climb to her feet. She turned to face the bed behind her. The heat was almost unbearable now, so her vision wavered. For an instant, she could have sworn there was nothing to see, but when she blinked, there, resting on the bed, was something flickering with the light of the man of flame behind her.
She reached forward, staggering slightly, to pick it up. It was a silver rod, only about a foot and a half in length and rather thick. On one end of the rod was a glistening red bulb, made of some foreign metal that Marnie had never seen before. At the other end of the rod was a ring of the same metal, going all the way around.
“What is this?” Marnie asked quizzically.
“A work of divine craftsmanship,” Flame responded.
“You’ll figure it out.”
“In good time.”
Marnie looked down at the strange gift again. Despite the fact that it was clearly made of metal and probably solid through and through, it felt feather light, almost as if she was holding nothing at all. Yet she could feel the heat running through it. Gently, she turned her wrist, waving the rod through the air. “Does it do something?” she wondered aloud.
“You’ll find that out.”
“But what if –” There was a sudden pop. Instantly, the light in the room was cut by half. The reflection of fire disappeared from the metal shaft and a brisk breeze flowed through as the door swung itself open with an obnoxious creak. Marnie looked around, but she saw no sign of her fiery friend. Indeed, no sign that he had ever entered or left. The hut looked exactly the same as it had been when she arrived: Exactly the same, except for the metal rod in her hand.
“Watch your head,” Link cautioned Zelda. With a nod, she ducked her head, creeping underneath the low doorway and into the hovel.
That’s what it truly was, a hovel. And that was being kind. Link’s hut, after months of setbacks and disasters, had finally been completed. It was a stout square shape, no more than twelve feet on each side, although one looked suspiciously shorter than the others. The walls were little more than four carpets of palm reeds, woven together sloppily, allowing sunlight to stream in. There were no windows and the door itself was little more than a large, rectangular hole hacked out of one of the walls with a blanket hanging over it for privacy.
The roof was perhaps the worst part of it. Naturally, the sagging, limp walls couldn’t support any sort of thatching, so Link had placed a sturdy pole at each corner of the hovel. Resting flat across the tops of the four poles was a flimsy sheet of cardboard, kept down with a penny nail at each pole.
Underneath this absurd looking structure was a dirt floor. Link had managed to clear away most of the grass and tanglewood, but he had not taken the time to construct an actual floor. The mud was hard and well packed, but a good amount of water, which would most certainly flood in the next time it rained, would probably reduce the shed to a mud bath.
“Well, lad,” Tarin said, squeezing in his gut to pass through the narrow doorway behind Zelda, “let’s see what you’ve…done.”
“Link, it’s…interesting,” Zelda coughed, looking around.
“I know, I know it’s not much now,” Link told them sheepishly.
“Whoever said such a thing?” Tarin asked as politely as he was able.
“It’ll get better in time,” Link promised, shoving his thumbs through his belt loops apologetically.
“You know there’s no rush for you to be moving out, if you’re not ready,” Tarin continued.
“I’ve been a burden on you for too long,” Link insisted. “I don’t want to wear out your hospitality.”
“You know that’ll never happen, lad.”
fanned her face with her hand, looking about.
Link had almost no furniture.
Aside from a small cot he had purchased from
“That’s all right,” Link said quickly.
“Consider it a house warming present,” Tarin replied.
“A poor choice of words,” Zelda muttered with a small smile. “I don’t think it could get much warmer.” Her face was gleaming with sweat. The stifling heat was taking a horrible toll on her, far worse than it seemed to be on Link. Hylians had little tolerance for such extreme temperatures.
“Aye, Marin,” Tarin agreed, puffing out his ruddy cheeks. “But when it can’t get hotter, it can only get cooler.”
“Let’s hope,” Link sighed.
“Do you have a bucket, lad?”
“For well-water, lad. You can’t expect to carry it all the way back here in your hands.”
“I hadn’t thought about that,” Link admitted.
Tarin sighed good-naturedly. “Linens and a bucket, then. That’ll be your gift from me and Marin.”
“You’ve been so kind to me, Tarin. Is there any way that I can ever repay your kindness?”
“I’m sure you’ll think of something, lad,” Tarin replied with a bright twinkle in his eye.
“Shall I get the linen then?”
“That’s entirely up to you.”
“Where is it, Marin?”
“The bottom drawer of the dresser,” Zelda told him.
“I’ll be back in a moment, you two.” Huffing and puffing, Tarin turned around and squeezed his way out the door, the blanket flapping back into place.
Zelda let out an audible groan, sinking down to sit on the edge of the cot. Immediately, Link walked over to her and sat beside her. He gently reached over and gathered her hair in his hands, lifting it away from the back of her neck. Pursing his lips, Link blew a rush of air across her gleaming skin. “I hate the heat,” Zelda mumbled, closing her eyes.
“I can imagine,” Link replied.
“I feel like I’m going to melt any second.”
“Is it always this bad?”
“No. I can’t remember the last time it was this bad.”
“Oh.” Link rubbed his thumb against her orange hair. A few strands came loose, falling around the sides of her pointed ears.
“He’ll be back soon.”
Gently, Zelda straightened out, taking her hair back from Link. She reluctantly let it drop, covering her ears again. “Mind over matter,” she said firmly, as if trying to convince herself.
“You just need to get your mind off of the temperature.”
“Any suggestions for how I can do that?”
Link paused a moment, glancing at the blanket over the door. “I was talking to Matilda this morning,” he said in a low voice.
“We were talking about possibly going out on an extracurricular tonight. Around sunset.”
“It’s the last dungeon we have to deal with.”
“Did Ezri tell us where to go?”
“No, but he did give me a very fun riddle.”
“What was it this time?”
Closing his eyes, Link attempted to recall the words. “‘The next Sirens’ Instrument is in the west. Play your melodies so the unliving stones might hear! Show your courage! The Windfish waits for you!’ Of course, I have no idea what that’s supposed to mean.”
“Typical. What’s Carry say?”
Link shrugged. “You know Carry. Anytime, anywhere.”
“Does he have a map?”
“No, I don’t think so.”
“This should be fun.”
Link grinned. “So you’re in?”
Zelda looked down, smoothing out her brown skirt. After a moment, she glanced up, her blue eyes dancing about the interior of the hovel, taking in the gritty details. “I’m going to miss having you around, you know.”
Leaning back on his hands, Link took a moment to survey his surroundings.
“I’m right nearby. Next door practically.”
“That’s not the same.”
He thought about it for a moment. “Yeah. You’re right. It’s not the same.”
She leaned forward, planting a light kiss on his cheek. Before she could pull back, however, Link turned his face, brushing his lips against hers. Tenderly, he touched his fingertips to her cheek. Zelda lowered her eyes. “I got used to having you around, that’s all.”
Link smiled, touching his nose to hers. “We spent nine years with an ocean between us,” he reasoned. “Fifty yards is nothing in comparison to that.” He stood up abruptly, pacing the length of the hovel, then walking back to kneel down in front of her. “Besides,” he said, placing his hands on her knees. “This is only temporary.”
“Yeah. Soon, we’ll be back in Hyrule.”
“Where there happens to be a set of empty apartments right next to mine.”
“You have your own apartments?”
“Well, they’re not apartments so much as…a room.”
“A room.” Zelda suppressed a smile.
“A big room!” Link responded defensively.
“We’ll see it soon.”
“Well, the only way that’s going to happen is if we hit the dungeon sometime soon.”
“Tonight,” Link agreed.
“I’ll go tell Carry,” Zelda offered.
“We should go separately, it’ll draw less attention.”
meet up by the base of
“Sounds like a plan.” Link grinned suddenly. “Hey! We actually have a plan.”
“We’ve had plans before,” Zelda reminded him. “They never work out.”
“Yeah, well, this time will be different.”
What bothered him most about the heat, aside from the fact that it made his clothing cling to him in a most undignified fashion, was the fact that it seemed to cause people to behave in the most bizarre manner. Indeed, there was nothing like a good heat wave to bring out the lunacy in normally civilized folk. To say nothing of the villagers.
Richard’s hair was wilting. With the insane warmth, he found that all attempts to maintain a dignified façade failed. Somehow, for once, it didn’t particularly bother him. In fact, he found that for several weeks, he had surrendered all the interest he once had in looking his part: Ever since he lost his navy cape in that dungeon.
A bloodcurdling scream sliced through the intense silence of the afternoon. “So much for a quiet trip,” he mumbled to himself. Even so, he soon found that he had broken into a sprint, racing through the foliage in the direction of the sound. It was clearly coming from the eastern part of the village.
It wasn’t long before Richard knew exactly what the cause for commotion was. As he approached the entrance of the village, he saw an enormous plume of fire shoot up into the sky. All around him, the villagers came out of their tiny huts, racing in the direction of the flames.
“What’s going on?” Elinor shrieked, racing past him.
“There’s a fire,” Richard muttered dryly to himself, following her.
There was no question about which house was on fire. Everyone was flocking in the direction of Marnie and Papahl’s home. As Richard neared the place, he saw the entire roof ablaze, a single plume in the center rising up into the yellow sky. Smoke was beginning to spew out of the windows, curling and churning as it rose up to the heavens in big black puffs.
Carry was in the process of pulling Marnie out of the house. She was screaming wildly, raving. As Richard got closer, he could hear her delirious rants. “It’s the rod!” she screamed, flailing about in Carry’s grasp. She waved a shiny metal tube, wailing into the air.
“Someone get Valerie,”
Just then, Papahl arrived at the scene. He rushed to Marnie’s side, relieving Carry of the hysterical woman. “Marnie! Marnie! What’s happened!”
“The rod!” Marnie howled.
“She’s talking nonsense,” Tarin said matter of factly. “Must have inhaled a lot of that smoke.”
“Is everyone accounted for?” Papahl asked, looking around. “Where are the children?”
“Over there,” Elinor answered, pointing in the direction of the huddled, identical brunette children.
Papahl counted them off. “One, two, three, four…Four! Who are we missing?”
“Dawn!” Marnie screamed shrilly, reaching out as if to grasp the entire burning building.
“Dawn!” Papahl shouted, cutting his hands around his mouth.
Elinor joined the chorus. “Dawn!”
“Dawn!” all the villagers called.
Richard shook his head. “Bloody lot of good you’re all doing,” he mumbled. Without another word, he darted forward, ducking under the flaming doorframe and into the fiery hut.
Immediately, a wall of thick, black smoke overpowered Richard, sending him down to his knees. The cloud was less dense below, so after a moment of coughing, he began to crawl forward on his forearms. A thick support beam across the ceiling burned off, crashing down to the ground, just barely missing Richard. As it impacted, he heard a childish scream from somewhere behind one of the beds.
He followed the sound, crawling around the bed. There, curled up into a tiny ball on the floor, he found Dawn. She was crying hysterically, big fat tears rolling down her rosy cheeks as she clutched her blond pigtails. “Come on,” he called, going to her with his arms open. Dawn willingly raced into his arms. He pressed her head against his shoulder and started to head back to the door. The smell of the smoke was overpowering, to say nothing of the heat. Scraping his knees, Richard crawled back around the bed, going under the fallen beam.
As he approached the door, Richard stood up, carrying Dawn on his hip, and ducked under, bringing her outside. More people had assembled to watch the fire, including Valerie who was kneeling over Marnie, trying to calm her down. She looked up, catching a glimpse of Richard holding the child.
“Is she going to be all right?” Papahl asked Valerie insistently.
“She’ll be fine,” Valerie said, blinking rapidly a few times. “She should lie down though.”
“They can all stay at the villa,” Richard said simply.
“Dawn!” Marnie screamed.
Papahl stood up. He carefully walked over to Richard, holding his arms out for the child. With surprising tenderness, Richard handed Dawn over. “Thank you,” Papahl said. Richard merely nodded.
“Okay, you and you,” Valerie said crisply, pointing to two people in the crowd, “pick her up. Carry her down to the villa, she needs to rest.”
The mob began to dissociate. After a small delay, the heat had finally gotten to Richard. He walked away from the house, bending over with his hands on his knees. Sweat dribbled down his chin, flying off as he gasped for air. Suddenly, he felt a tender hand on his shoulder. “That was a brave thing you did,” Valerie whispered from behind him.
“Nonsense,” Richard wheezed, coughing a bit of smoke out of his lungs, “someone had to take action.”
“You were the one who did.”
“So I was.”
“I was very impressed.” The feel of Valerie’s hand vanished. Richard straightened out and turned around, only to find that Valerie had disappeared into the crowd.
Flame laughed heartily, watching the hologram of the fire in the village. “This is just the beginning,” he leered to himself. With a wave of his hand, the image vanished into the ether. He crossed the lower chamber, about to duck through the portal leading upstairs when the hidden passage behind him rolled open.
Blaino waddled to the entrance, poking his head out enough to see Flame. “Master,” he called.
“Yes? What is it?”
“You told me to tell you when the preparations were complete.”
“And the preparations are complete.”
“Excellent,” Flame said. At once, he reversed course and headed to the door where his Guardian stood. Together, the two of them hurried down the maroon hallway, ducking into a side chamber where all of Flame’s servants were assembled.
The room was dark, the walls glistening with the light of Flame’s body. All the demons of the dungeon lined the side walls. In the center of the room, on the orange tile floor, a large diamond with three circles in the middle of it was painted in a bright, neon purple substance.
“Do you have the incantation ready, Blaino?” Flame demanded.
“Right here, Master.” Blaino extended his stubby arms to hand Flame a scroll. “Just your basic, demonic shopping list.”
“Thank you, Blaino,” Flame grunted in irritation. With a wave of his hand, the scroll floated up into the air, unrolling before him.
“No problem, boss.”
Flame turned to address the assembled crowd. “Tonight, this Hylian nonsense ends,” he declared loudly. Turning to the scroll, he began to recite the words, scribbled in fabulous script. “Spider’s web and rose’s throne.”
Blaino slithered up beside Flame and read the next line. “Blood of sow and unicorn.”
“Mandrake root and falcon claw.”
“Whiskers from a hornet’s jaw.”
“Maggots of the native soil.”
“Kiwi nectar and peanut oil.”
The two of them began walking in concentric circles around the symbol on the floor. As they spoke, the liquid began to gleam. Flame continued, “Eye of wolf and heart of man.”
“Petticoat of courtesan,” Blaino added.
“Brew content and stir delight.”
“To bring about an awesome plight.”
Steam filled the room, rising from the liquid as though it were boiling. “The symbol bubbles, pops, and swirls,” Flame chanted with a laugh.
“Unlocking the hearts of island girls.”
“Fill up their heads with sweet illusion.”
“And fill the land with great confusion.”
“Fire, witness the wicked rite.”
“Flames will devour the land tonight!”
At once, all the monsters in the room let loose a great howl of laughter. “Flames will devour the land tonight!” they chorused.
Instantly, there was a bright flash. A perfect copy of the symbol rose up into the air in the form of steam, hissing loudly. The clone slowly converged, folding up into a tight ball of fire which then exploded out in all directions, strangely enough without harming a single inhabitant of the chamber. A cry rose from every demon, triumphant cheering as the smoke vanished.
Underneath the roar of the crowd, Flame chuckled softly. “Showtime.”
“Knock, knock, knock,” a voice sang from the other side of the blanket over the door.
“Who’s there?” Link asked, looking in the direction of the entrance. He had been sitting on the edge of his cot, newly dressed with Tarin’s spare linens, cleaning the hilt of the Master Sword.
“Housewarming gift,” was the reply.
Link chuckled. “I’d invite you in, but I’d much prefer a house cooling gift.”
“I like it hot.”
“All right, all right. Come in.” The blanket in front of the door was pushed aside and Matilda ducked into the hut. Link was at once surprised to see that instead of wearing her normal tunic and slacks, Matilda had changed into the one dress she owned, a green mini-dress with long brown boots reaching up to mid-thigh. In her arms, she was carrying a glass jar, filled with an amber liquid. A bright purple bow was wrapped around the top.
“Great place you’ve got here,” she said, strolling around at a leisurely pace.
“Well, I think you’re the only one who believes that,” Link laughed, returning the Master Sword to the sheath on his back.
“You did this all by yourself?”
“No help at all?”
“Well, I think it’s very impressive. Of course, you are an impressive individual, Link.”
“Uh…thanks.” Lowering his voice, Link glanced at the door once before saying, “We’re on for tonight.”
Matilda glanced at him. “What? I can’t hear you.”
“We’re on for tonight.”
“Come closer, I can’t hear you.”
Link stood up and walked over to her. Matilda made her way closer, until they were standing no more than a few inches apart. “We’re on for tonight.”
“Just what I was hoping you’d say,” Matilda replied, smiling blithely.
“Uh…yeah. So we’re figuring that we’ll all meet up at
the base of
“Yeah. We shouldn’t all go together. It’ll draw too much attention.”
“Great plan,” Matilda said, nodding in approval. “I’ll go with you.”
“If you want…”
“Great. I’ll be here right after dinner.”
“We’re not leaving until after sunset.”
“I know, I know. But maybe we can do something beforehand.”
Link blinked in confusion. “What did you have in mind, exactly?”
She reached up and put a hand on his shoulder, running her thumb and index finger along the crease of his collar. “Something fun maybe. Need to keep busy in this kind of heat.”
Clearing his throat, Link took a step back. “What, what’s that?” he asked, pointing at the jar in her hand.
“Oh this? Just a little present for you.”
“What is it?”
“The best kind in the world.”
Matilda laughed softly, twisting the cap off. “Have you tried everything in the world?”
She dipped her index finger into the honey, pulling out a healthy dab of the thick, sweet nectar. “Then how do you know it’s the best?”
Suddenly, she reached out, attempting to trail the honey across his lips. Link took a quick step back and most of the honey splattered on the ground. “You’re so jumpy,” Matilda said smoothly, dipping her finger again.
“Are you feeling all right?”
“Of course. Why wouldn’t I be?” Matilda made another attempt at his face. This time, Link caught her hand, gently turning it to one side.
“You’re making me a little uncomfortable right now, Matty.”
“I don’t mean to,” she said innocently. “On the contrary, I want you to feel as comfortable as possible.”
“Okay, you realize who you’re talking to, right?”
“Of course I do.” She took a step forward, her arm falling behind her as Link continued to clutch it. “You’re Link.”
“Right, I’m just Link.”
“You’re not just Link. Don’t diminish yourself like that. You’re Link. The brave knight from a distant land who’s come to liberate us from our solitude.”
“No, really, I’m just Link.”
“Well, you’re not just Link to me. It’s really amazing how all of a sudden you see something that was right in front of you in a different light.” She leaned forward, so close that Link could feel her breath on his ear as she whispered, “Or someone.”
Link dropped Matilda’s arm, running backward. He tripped over the cot and flipped onto the floor, hitting his tailbone hard against the dirt. “Ow…”
Matilda smiled, walking around the cot. “Do you want me to kiss it and make it better?”
“Link, are you in there?” came another call from beyond the door.
“Yes!” Link shouted, crawling backward on his hands. “Yes, I am in here! Come in!”
The blanket was moved aside and
“Do you mind?” Matilda snapped. “We were in the middle of something.”
“Well, you’re done now.
“Link, I need to talk to you. Alone.”
Matilda turned on
“Link invited me in,”
“Yeah. So you can just mosey away now. Bye, bye.”
“Who died and made you the Windfish? You’re certainly ugly enough, fish face.”
“What did you just call me?”
“Oh no. You did not just shove me.”
She pushed Matilda again. “Maybe I did.”
“You’d better stop it.”
Matilda dropped the honey. At once, her hand shot forward, latching onto
As the two women grappled in front of the door, Link watched in horror. They caught each other around the shoulders, each trying to wrestle the other to the ground. Writhing, they crashed about, knocking over Link’s desperate little chair and smashing into the weak walls. The walls buckled and waved, but remained intact, for the time being.
Desperately looking for a route of escape, Link grabbed his sword, drawing it from the sheath and clutching it in his hands. “Link!” Matilda shouted, “Link stop her! Make her go away. Tell her you don’t want her!”
Reluctantly, Link plunged his sword into the wall nearest him. He pulled it down, slicing through the reeds with a loud cracking noise, just barely heard over the screaming of the two women on the opposite side of the hut. Again, Link shot his sword through the wall, carving a second line horizontally. Pushing with his shoulder, he created an opening just big enough for him to wriggle out of. Free of the confines of his hovel, Link somersaulted backward across the tanglewood field, landing on his back.
Panting for breath, he looked up at the sky, turning pastel purple as the sun began to set. Much to his dismay, he found that the sweltering heat of the day had not vanished with the sunlight. On the contrary, it was worse than ever before.
Zelda sat on the windowsill, folding up her patchwork quilt. There would certainly be no need for it tonight. Outside, the sunlight was fading, slowly but surely. For some reason, this was always her favorite time of day. She supposed it was because this was always the time when she and Link could be alone, but Link wasn’t even here right now and she still felt the same sense of calm she always felt.
Across the room, Tarin sat in his rocking chair, the creaking of the wooden planks beneath the rockers filling the companionable silence between the two. He had a book open in his lap and seem quite wrapped up in it, glancing up only from time to time to track the sun’s course through the window.
She pressed her hand against the glass. It was warm. In the last few months, she had discovered that humidity was a brand new experience in pain, causing the wound in her side to ache immensely, but this was a strange dry heat, like the feeling one felt standing beside a fire. Zelda desperately wanted to pull her hair back
Tarin let out a soft chuckle. “What?” Zelda asked, turning to look over at him. “What’s so funny?”
“Oh, nothing, nothing,” Tarin laughed.
Zelda smiled slightly. “Tell me.”
“That smile. I could never resist that smile of yours,” Tarin muttered. He gestured to the book in his lap. “I was just reading about your twelfth birthday.”
“Yes, this book is the one I kept about your childhood. Must have started it when you were eight years old. I wanted to remember everything you did, everything you said, every adorable little smile.”
“I never knew that.”
“Well of course you didn’t. I was very secretive about it.”
“There are really ten years of our history recorded in that book?”
“Almost ten years,” Tarin corrected her. “You’re not eighteen yet, Marin.”
“But it’s all there?”
“Aye. Every instant. So I would never forget any of it.”
Zelda rose from the windowsill, walking over to him. “Read me some.”
“What part? I dare say you were present for most of the story.”
“Any part,” she said, sitting down at his feet, her hands on either armrest of the rocker.
“All right,” Tarin consented, flipping the pages in the book until he found an appropriate place to stop. “Let me see…” He ran his finger down the page, filled with his sloppy handwriting. “Here’s the first entry. ‘I found Marin asleep on the beach this morning. She must have stayed out all night. I found her so precocious that I knew I had to write it down. I suppose I’ll keep writing many more entries, but how could I not? With a daughter like Marin, every instant is worth remembering.’”
Zelda’s smile faded a little, pangs of guilt stabbing at her as she listened to the very beginnings of her deception of Tarin. “Read something later,” she requested him quietly.
“All right,” Tarin said, flipping through the pages until he stopped on an arbitrary one. “Let’s see what’s here. ‘Marin and I quarreled today. She blames me for that Kurt boy leaving the village…’”
A heavy silence filled the air. She looked up at him. “I really let you down back then, didn’t I?”
Tarin looked at her. “Nonsense. You could never let me down, Marin.”
“That whole mess with Kurt, it was entirely my fault.”
“I would hardly say that. It takes two people to quarrel.”
“I’m so sorry it had to happen.”
“Aye, me too, me too.”
“If I knew then…” Zelda laughed, “what I knew now.”
“Then there would be no need to live then.”
“You were right about him though. About Kurt I mean.”
“No. You were. I see that now.”
“You two were in love. You didn’t know any better.”
“Love?” Zelda’s eyes grew distant. “Maybe.”
“Are you sorry about it?”
“It came between us, Tarin.”
“I regret all those fights; I hope you know that, Marin.”
She nodded. “I do. And if it’s possible, I think I understand where you were coming from.”
Tarin patted her hair lovingly, a small chuckle coming from his lips. “And if it’s possible,” he countered, “I think you love Link more.”
“It’s very possible,” she said. “More than possible.”
“It’s a fact.”
“I know it. Your old father still knows a thing or two about his little girl,” Tarin told her wisely.
“Tarin,” Zelda said with a laugh.
“And I’ll tell you something else too. The boy deserves you a thousand times more than that Kurt. He’s got nobility in him. Devotion. He’ll love you until the end of time. And you know something else?”
“So will I.”
Link was speed walking through the village. As he wound his way through, he could feel eyes on the back of his neck. Specifically, he could feel female eyes on the back of his neck. For some reason, as he passed by small gaggles of women, chatting or working on their chores, all of them would fall silent, watching him as he passed.
“Hi Link!” Elinor called out to him in a sing song voice, waving her pudgy hand demurely.
“Hi…Elinor,” he mumbled, waving back and he quickly moved away from her as fast as he could politely walk.
“Yoo hoo!” Grandma Ulrira called, standing directly on the path in front of him.
“Hi. Bye.” Link walked a few steps backward then turned around, walking in the opposite direction, but veering slightly off the path to avoid both Elinor and Grandma Ulrira.
“Link! Link! Hi Link!”
Link had no idea who was calling out to him. He broke into a faster stride, going to the well. “Bye!”
It was nearing sunset. In a few minutes, he was supposed to head up
“It’s got to be the heat,” Link muttered to himself as he approached the well. Completely parched, he leaned over, lowering the bucket into the black depths.
Suddenly, a face popped up from
inside the well. “Hiya
Link!” It was Summer
“Gah!” Link stumbled back a few paces. He smashed into a tree, sending a shower of leaves down on top of him.
With a groan, Link looked around. Coming around the tree was Valerie. “Listen, Val…”
“Something’s horribly wrong,” Valerie interrupted him.
A great sigh of relief escaped from Link. “Oh good, you’ve noticed it too?”
“Come on, we have to find some place private to talk.” Valerie grabbed Link’s arm, pulling him in the direction of the library.
“Wait, Link!” Summer shouted, reaching her hand out to the point where she lost her balance and toppled over, falling out of the well.
Link and Valerie ducked into the library, the door slamming shut behind them. It was dark and musty inside, but luckily, it was also empty. “Val!” Link gasped, “What is going on? Has everyone on Koholint gone insane?”
“Sit down,” Valerie ordered him, pulling him over to one of the tables. “Catch your breath.”
He dropped down into a chair, resting his elbows on the table. “The heat is driving all mortals mad, that’s the only explanation I can think of.”
Valerie put her hands on his shoulders, standing behind him. “You’re so tense,” she muttered, squeezing the muscles on his back. “You just need to relax.”
Link dropped his head forward onto the table. “Whatever…”
“Don’t worry,” Valerie continued. “I know exactly what to do.” She leaned forward, kissing the back of his neck.
“Okay!” Link shouted, springing up to his feet.
“This is officially not funny!”
“I agree. And no one is laughing.”
“I want you to stay where you are,” Link said, backing up to the door again.
Valerie followed him. “Just close your eyes and relax,” she told him.
“No thank you!” Link yelped, fumbling behind him for the doorknob.
“Let me get rid of that stress.”
“I like my stress!” Link pulled the door open, backing out of it as quickly as he could.
“Where are you going?”
“Away. From you!” At that, Link turned around, breaking into a full sprint as he darted away from the library.
“Link!” Valerie screamed after him. “Wait! Don’t go I need you, Link! I need you!”
Carry sat on a tuff of grass, his hands resting on his knees. He watched the sky grow purple as the sun faded in the west. The crickets had begun to creep, singing their customary song, as though heralding in the moonlight. One particularly bold cricket hopped forward out of the shadows, examining Carry with a twitching antenna. Gingerly, Carry extended his hand, placing it on the grass. The cricket scuffled forward a few inches then stopped, its flickering eyes regarding the gentle giant. Again, it hopped forward, slowly climbing up into Carry’s palm. With great care, Carry lifted the cricket, placing it gently into one of his large pockets.
The winds had picked up since the afternoon, but they didn’t cool the steaming island. If anything, they only made the heat more unbearable. Carry wasn’t affected by the weather the same as everyone else. He had grown accustomed to intolerable climates from his years of dungeon crawling. Turtle Rock would be the worst. It was plagued with fire and molten rock. Although he admired his adventurous friends greatly, a part of him secretly questioned the wisdom of venturing into the final dungeon on a night like tonight.
His acute hearing picked up the
sound of footsteps heading toward him. He
leaned over to one side, grasping his staff in one hand, just in case. The forest had been surprisingly still when
he had passed through it on his way to the base of
Carry looked around. Peeking out from the brush of the forest, he saw Zelda, her bowstring taut. “Over here,” he said needlessly. She obviously saw him.
Zelda made her way through the brush and approached Carry. “Where’s Link?” she asked.
Rising to his feet, Carry smoothed out his robes, picking up his staff. “Matilda said she and Link would be late,” he explained.
“Did she say why?”
“No. She said we should start without them.”
Zelda frowned deeply. “Without them…”
“They’ll catch up.”
“Well, I guess we should do what they say.”
He nodded his enormous head, smiling gently. “This way,” he told her, pointing north. Together, the two of them began walking, each looking from side to side in justified paranoia.
This part of the island was
virtually alien to Zelda. Through all
her wanderings, she had never dared to come this far northwest. The natives of the
“Carry,” Zelda said abruptly. Carry suddenly clamped a hand down over her mouth. The echo of that one word bounced off of the stones and Zelda could feel a trembling beneath her feet. A shower of rock started to pour down from the higher parts of the mountains. Carry pulled Zelda out of the danger, ducking underneath a protruding overhang.
“Careful,” he whispered as the dust from the rock slide began to settle. “Too much noise will cause more of that.”
“I’m sorry,” Zelda hissed, removing his hand from her mouth, “I didn’t know.”
“That’s all right.”
With Carry leading the way, they continued on the rocky path in virtual silence. Zelda was afraid to so much as breathe too loudly. She loosened her grip on her bowstring, worried it might snap. The nerves she was experiencing were incredible. She sorely wished Link were with her; she had never ventured to a dungeon without him before.
Carry gestured in the direction of a great opening in the rock face. With a nod, Zelda turned, ducking into the mouth of the cave, Carry right behind her. A wall of heat hit them both. With no one around, Zelda hung her bow on the hook of her quiver. She gathered her hair in her hands and tied it back, fully exposing her Hylian ears. Carry blinked in surprise from behind her. He had seen her ears before, it was true, but they never stopped surprising him. It was hard to get used to.
There was an enormous hole in the cavern floor, taking up a good portion of the chamber they were in. Zelda started to slide around it, pressing her back against the wall, but Carry pulled her back. Just as he did, a jet of fire shot up from the depths, illuminating the cave in orange light.
“This place is fraught with danger,” Zelda noted, catching her breath.
“Why do you think the leader of the Nightmares decided to put his dungeon here?” Carry asked.
“The leader of the Nightmares?”
“Flame,” Carry explained, the glow bathing his face. “He’s the fire god.”
“Hence his little booby trap,” Zelda muttered, gesturing to the pit as the plume of fire faded away.
“Right,” Carry said with a nod. He pointed to the pit. For the second time, Zelda slid across the cavern wall, inching her way around the smoking drop. Carry followed after her, somewhat less gracefully.
On the other side of the pit was an exit to the cave. They ducked under it, Carry stooping particularly low, and found themselves on a vast plateau. “Where now?” Zelda mumbled, glancing at Carry.
“That way,” Carry replied, looking ahead.
They trudged on, toward what appeared to be a solid rock face. As they came closer though, Zelda noticed an odd shape carved into the stone. Two noisy vultures cawed mournfully, swooping down in the direction of the travelers. Zelda swatted them away, but they persisted in circling. Without a word, Carry took his staff in two hands and swung it, knocking one bird into another. As they collided, they both turned into dust.
“More Nightmare traps?” Zelda wondered.
“Those birds were demons. We’re close now.”
The stone wall was looming much closer now. As Zelda looked at it, she realized that there were three protruding formations. The one in the middle looked just like the head of a turtle and the ones on the sides were stubby turtle arms. “Turtle Rock, I presume?”
“How do we get in?”
“I’m not sure.”
Zelda spun around to look at Carry. “What do you mean? I thought you said you had gone in here once before.”
“Yes,” Carry said, “but not through the normal way. Catsy let me in, last time.”
“Oh.” Zelda frowned, looking at the stones in front of her. “Well…Ezri told Link something about melodies moving the unliving stone.”
“Maybe you should sing.”
“Won’t that cause another rock slide?”
“You’re right, it’s too loud.” Carry scrunched up his face in concentration. “Well…maybe there’s a quiet melody?”
“Oh! I have an idea.” Carry reached into his pocket and removed his little cricket companion.
“Carry, that’s brilliant,” Zelda praised him.
Carry set down the cricket in front of the rocks. It hopped a few inches then rubbed its hind legs together, producing the customary cricket melody. The turtle head began to quiver. Several large cracks began to form in the stone, crawling up like veins. Zelda reached behind her, drawing forth her bow and stringing an arrow through it. She took aim at the rock and fired. Her arrow struck in between the turtle’s eyes and the formation crumbled, deteriorating into dust. What remained was a narrow portal leading into the rock face. A red glow emerged from the mouth.
“This is it,” Carry said, leaning over to scoop up the cricket and return it to his pocket.
Wordlessly, Zelda went forward, climbing into the doorway. Inside, she found herself in a long hallway of orange tiles. With Carry behind her, she followed the hallway until she came to a set of enormous double doors, made of mother of pearl. She reached out her hand and barely even touched one of the doors. With a low groan, it swung open, revealing a large, double storied chamber of oak paneling. The upper chamber had eight thrones arranged in a semicircle.
“What is this place?” Zelda asked.
“The assembly of the Nightmares,” Carry supplied.
“It feels familiar somehow.” Zelda shrugged away the feeling. “All right, Carry,” she said, turning to look at him. “Where do we go from here?”
Night descended upon the island. Generally, it was a quite time, the hours devoted to the crickets and old superstitions. Tonight was different; tonight there would be no rest for anyone. The stunned crickets fell silent, at a loss for what they silently witnessed.
Every light in the
Small clusters of men had formed in corners of the island. They stood together, speaking in low voices, occasionally casting nervous glances down the narrow streets. Although they couldn’t describe it, they knew something was wrong. In the wickedness of the heat, a great confusion had settled on their village, leaving them to bear witness to some cruelty yet to occur. In the ominous twilight, they held their collective breath, waiting passively. Link, of course, was not a part of these intimate huddles. He was in a tree.
It was quite clear to him, by this
point that something supernatural was going on in the
Link had seen something like this before, during his travels through Calatia. An alchemist had accidentally cast a love spell over a good third of the population he was staying in. Thankfully immune, Link observed as all the men under the spell battled each other for the baffled alchemist’s affections. What he had witnessed wasn’t love. It was brutal desire, just lust. And the people under the spell functioned without any reason or rationale.
Back then, of course, the alchemist knew what she had done to cause the spell and had managed to undo the damage before anyone could be hurt. Poor Link wasn’t so lucky. He was certain he hadn’t done anything to provoke the women of the island. In fact, he knew for sure that he hadn’t cast a single spell all week. So why was everyone so anxious to cuddle up to him?
Beneath him, he heard the sound of
frantic footsteps. When he looked down,
“Come out, Link!” Elinor shouted. “Come out.”
The two women disappeared, taking the southern road to the beach. From the opposite direction, Link saw Summer racing to the library. She was being chased by Chef Wills. “Please, Summer,” he pleaded with her in his deep baritone voice. “Be reasonable!”
“Get away from me, you oaf,” Summer snapped.
“Summer!” Wills shouted. He reached out and grabbed her bushy tail with both hands.
“Let go of me!”
“Not until you listen to reason!”
“Get off!” Summer knocked her fist into Wills’ head. He released her tail and toppled over onto his ample bottom as Summer started walking off again at a steady march.
“I have to find Link. Go away.”
“Summer!” Wills shouted. He got up and ran after her.
Link cringed from above. Without a doubt, he knew that Summer would never be strong enough to knock Wills off
balance under normal circumstances. He
doubted very much that even he could do it so easily. And he had the Power Bracelet! The duo from the
There was a low whistling sound and a rock flew directly past Link’s head, inches from his right ear. He looked down and saw Marnie standing beneath the tree, holding a handful of pebbles. The fact of the matter was that he nearly did a complete double take. He almost didn’t recognize Marnie! She had completely transformed. Gone was the homely homespun yellow dress she customarily wore. Instead, she was dressed in a slinky apricot dress, accenting every curve of her voluptuous body.
“Come down here,” she whispered.
Link weighed his options carefully. He could stay up in the tree and risk more rocks and Marnie possibly drawing further attention to his hiding place, or he could climb down. At the very least, he was certain he could outrun Marnie, if need be. With a heavy, reluctant sigh, Link shimmied down the trunk of the tree.
“That’s better,” Marnie said approvingly, dropping the pebbles. She wiped her hands against each other and took a few seductive steps in Link’s direction.
“Shhhh!” Marnie placed her index finger over Link’s lips. “Don’t talk.”
He grabbed her wrist, gently turning her hand away from his face. “Marnie, what you’re feeling, it isn’t love.”
“I know my own feelings,” Marnie insisted.
“It’s not love. It’s just…a spell. Some sort of very bad, very unfunny,” he accented the word ‘unfunny,’ “spell.”
Marnie narrowed her eyes at him. “What are you saying?” she asked venomously.
“It’s not real.”
“So what? You decided to toy with my emotions?”
“This wasn’t my idea!”
“You decided to make me love you and then toss me aside like some sort of dishtowel?”
“Again, this isn’t my doing.”
“Do you think this is a game?”
Link grabbed her shoulders and shook her. “Don’t make me hurt you,” he implored her.
Marnie smiled coyly, electrified by his very touch. “Hurting is okay,” she whispered.
“Gah!” Link released her in frustration, throwing his hands up. “What do I have to do to get through to you?”
“I just want to be with you, Link,” she said, running a finger down his chest. “I love you.”
“You don’t!” Link insisted.
“But I do.”
“You don’t. You…you…you’re married to Papahl!”
Marnie blinked. She leaned her head to one side, smiling coyly. “Oh, is this what it’s about?”
“Here we go.”
“You don’t have to worry about him,” Marnie promised. “He’s sweet on occasion, but he’s not you.”
“Yes. Yes he is. He’s me. So you should love him.”
“There he is!” a shrill voice
screamed out of the darkness.
“Oh no…” Link grumbled as his ears picked up the sound of heavy footsteps charging toward him.
Marnie’s smile began to twist down into a dark scowl. “This is about her, isn’t it?”
She shoved his shoulder violently. “This is about her!”
“That little nymph you’ve been so attached to!”
“This is about her!” Marnie shouted. She backed Link into the tree.
“It’s Link!” Tracy and Elinor
had appeared from the beach. “Get her
away from him!”
At once, several dozen women appeared from the shadows and began to grab at Marnie, viciously pulling at her dress and hair to drag her away from Link. Several of them broke away from the fray and went to Link, showering him with caresses and attempted kisses.
“Excuse me,” Link mumbled, peeling the women off of him one at a time. An all out brawl had begun and now it was uncertain of who was on which side, if there were any sides at all.
“You can’t have him!” Elinor cried at no one in particular.
“He’s mine!” another woman declared firmly.
Link started to make his escape from the mangled mass of quarreling women. It was easier than he thought, given that they were all distracted with pounding each other. As he began to flee into the darkness, he heard Marnie’s voice above the brawl. “He’s only got eyes for Marin!”
“What?” an incredulous snap replied.
“That’s right; he’s only in love with her.”
“She doesn’t deserve him!”
“Kill Marin!” a third voice screamed.
“Kill Marin!” they all echoed.
Zelda nocked an arrow, taking aim at the mysterious object in front of her. It was an odd square shaped sack, beige in color, with a glass bulb on top of it that flashed red as the entire entity pulsed up and down. She released the bowstring, letting the arrow fly. It struck the oddity and fell harmlessly to the floor. “Well,” Zelda muttered, “it’s not alive.”
“So what is it?” Carry asked.
“I don’t know,” Zelda replied. “It’s as mysterious as you, my friend.”
Carry smiled, flushing a bit. “Maybe it won’t hurt us?” he supposed.
“I’m not sure what it’ll do.”
They had been facing the object for a few minutes now. It stood, the lone sentry guarding a long and quite deep chasm dug into the floor. As Zelda peered down, she couldn’t seem to find a bottom to this pit. She imagined that there was another wellspring of molten rock down there; the dungeon was filled with lava streams.
“Wait…” Carry muttered, his granite eyes going out of focus as he stared into nothingness.
“I think I remember something.”
“Tell me what you remember.”
“A riddle,” he explained.
“Something Catsy told me about this place.”
“Try and remember.”
Carry closed his eyes. “‘Fill the holes with the rocks that roll.’”
“That’s the riddle.”
“That’s not terribly helpful.
Carry walked over to the pulsating sack and gave it a gentle push. It slid forward, actually going into the chasm. For a moment, Zelda was certain it wound plunge into the depths, never to be seen again, but much to her surprise, and Carry’s as well, it remained at ground level. Carry gave it a further shove and it glided forward, leaving behind a tile surface, identical to the flooring of the rest of the dungeon.
“I guess that’s what it means,” Carry said.
“Amazing,” Zelda marveled.
“We can push it all the way across, make a path.”
“Sounds like a good plan,” Zelda said. “And just in case, it’s not stable, we can cross the path holding the Roc’s Feather.
Carry continued to shove the rock forward until he could no longer reach it without stepping onto the makeshift path. At that point, he used to staff to prod it forward. Soon, it was moving of its own momentum, paving a bridge across the divide. When it reached the other end of the pit, touching the actual dungeon floor, there was a soft pop and the sack crumbled into dust.
Zelda fished the Roc’s Feather out of her quiver. She clutched it in one hand, reaching back to grab Carry’s hand. Slowly, the two of them began to inch their way onto the bridge. They found it remarkably stable for something that had merely appeared out of nothingness moments ago. Quickly, they reached the other end, stepping around the dusty remains of their rock that rolled.
Despite the great heat pouring out of every corner of the dungeon, Zelda had begun to shiver. She could sense the presence of the Nightmare. Carry had warned her that this final Nightmare, Flame, was the most terrible of them all. She had no desire to face him without Link. “Maybe we should wait here,” Zelda said, “until Link and Matilda catch up.”
Shaking his head, Carry frowned. “It’s a bad idea to stop near a big drop,” he told her. “Someone could catch us off guard and push us in.”
“You’re right,” Zelda admitted.
“Let’s try the next room,” he suggested.
There was a low opening on the far wall. Zelda easily walked through, but Carry had to duck down quite low. They found themselves in a large chamber that seem remarkably empty. Just as in every other room, it had maroon walls and orange tiles. There were no platforms, no decorations, no pools of lava. The only remarkable thing about the room was what appeared to be a large penguin with blue spots on his flippers, lounging in one of the corners.
“What is that?” Zelda asked Carry, gritting her teeth.
“It’s not a what, lady,” the penguin replied, “it’s a who. More specifically, he’s a who.”
“As you can see, I’m a man. Well, not in the conventional sense, but decidedly male.”
“Who are you?”
The creature stood up. Although he had the body of a bird, he clearly had the face of a Human. And that face was currently smirking. “Blaino.”
“He’s the Guardian,” Carry whispered.
“You don’t have to whisper about it,” Blaino said, “I already know what I am.” He waddled forward. “So, you’re Carry. I thought you’d be taller.”
Blaino had moved on now, ogling Zelda with his beady black eyes. “And you must be the Princess of Destiny.”
“You could say that,” she answered, nocking an arrow.
“All in all, I’d have to say I’m pretty impressed. Your parents certainly did right by you.”
“Those pouty lips, that bottle cap nose, that heaving –” With a sharp twang, Zelda fired her arrow. It flew at Blaino, just barely missing his head and hitting the wall behind him. Blaino glanced over his shoulder before looking at Zelda again. “Missed.”
“That was just a warning shot,” she replied.
“The next one will count.”
“Has anyone ever told you you’re angry when you’re beautiful?”
“You really don’t want to make her mad,” Carry told the Guardian.
“You really don’t,” Zelda echoed.
“Oh dread, an angry Hylian. I’m shaking in my boots!” Blaino looked down at his squat, bare feet. “Metaphorically,” he amended.
Zelda drew another arrow, stringing it in her bow. “You have five seconds to start running.”
“I’m sorry to disappoint you, sweetheart, but I have no intentions of fighting you or your pet oaf.”
Carry grunted. “What’s the matter with you?”
“Are you a coward or something?” Zelda asked.
“Well,” he folded his flippers behind his back, shuffling a foot against the floor and looking down. “I thought maybe we could talk for awhile, you know; work out some of your issues.” He looked up at the dungeon crawlers again. “Okay,” he said, “We can fight.”
He surged forward suddenly, with surprising speed, given his bulk. Swinging a flipper, he sliced through the air at Carry. Carry jumped out of the way, but as he did so, a tuft of his bright red hair floated to the floor. “The flippers are sharp,” he called to Zelda.
“You bet they are!” Blaino yelled, turning around to throw his arms at Zelda’s head, as if they were a giant pair of scissors.
Zelda fired her arrow. It flew across the chamber, striking Blaino’s left shoulder. He yowled in surprise, tripping back a pace. From behind him, Carry swung his staff, striking the Guardian in between his shoulder blades. Again, Blaino screamed. He dropped to the floor and began rolling away from the pair.
By this point, Zelda had loaded another arrow. She took aim and fired, the arrow striking the ground in front of the rolling ball of penguin flesh. Unable to stop, Blaino rolled directly into the protruding arrow. It halted his progress, causing him to flop over on his back, his white belly exposed.
“I won’t need Link to take you down,” Zelda hissed.
“You’d better get used to doing things without him,” Blaino wheezed.
Zelda faltered in her attack. “What?”
Blaino clambered to his feet. “I said you’d better get used to doing things without him.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means that after tonight, there isn’t going to be a Link anymore. My Master has seen to that.”
Carry lifted his staff, pointing the end of it at the Guardian. “How?” he growled, baring his ivory fangs.
“He has his ways.”
Zelda aimed another arrow, directly at Blaino’s head. “What did your Master to do Link?”
“I’m not going to tell.”
“And what?” Blaino asked incredulously, “you’ll spare my poor, miserable life?”
“I don’t think so, Princess.” Carry grunted, swinging his staff at Blaino’s head. “A spell!” Blaino shouted, covering his eyes with his flippers. Carry stopped just before he could hit the squat penguin on the head.
“How do we undo it?” Zelda asked.
“Let me think,” Blaino said, lowering his flippers. Suddenly, he made a snapping noise, vanishing from sight in a burst of blue smoke.
“Where did that little weasel go?” Zelda snapped, turning around in a circle.
“He’s gone,” Carry replied simply.
“We have to find him.”
“Come on.” Carry grabbed Zelda’s shoulder and they began running, back out the way they came from and into the depths of the dungeon. As they ran, panic clutched at Zelda’s heart. Her mind drifted back to Link. With all her heart, she hoped he would be all right.
Link wondered to himself where he could possibly hide in order to be safe from the growing mob of insane women. After asking himself where the last place they would look was, he decided to head straight back to his own hut. He had a great deal of skill with sneaking around, especially after his experiences back in Hyrule with Agahnim turning all the palace guards against him. Stealthily, he ducked into shadows, jumping out of the sight lines of his crazed followers.
It was dark inside, no moonlight streaming in through the gigantic gaps in the thatching. Link stilled the blanket over the entrance, turning to face the room. He had barely taken a single step when he felt a great blow to his face. His head snapped to one side, a hand going to his stinging cheek and he fell down to his knees. When he looked up again, he saw Richard standing over him, one hand balled up into a tight fist.
“What was that for?” Link hissed.
“I’ve had the urge to do that all night,” Richard replied. The two of them stared intently at each other for a moment. Finally, Richard extended a hand in Link’s direction. Link accepted it and Richard hauled him back up to his feet. “What did you do?” Richard asked sharply.
“I didn’t do anything,” Link told him, “I swear.”
“Then every woman of the island has lost her mind?”
“Is it so hard to believe that some women would find me attractive?” Richard gave Link a long, hard look. “Okay, now is not the time to employ humor as a coping mechanism.”
“I don’t know what happened,” Link sighed. “It’s not my fault.”
“Somehow, I don’t think that’s going to help.”
“But decking me will?” Link snapped.
“Well, it made me feel better.”
“What’s this got to do with you?”
“I had to listen to Valerie complain for a full hour about how you won’t love her,” Richard answered testily.
“She attacked me in the library,” Link said defensively.
“Well, whatever this spell is, it’s pretty powerful if it can get her too.”
“It’s got every woman on the island!” Link exclaimed in a hushed tone. “I even saw Molly try to make me into her cuddle monkey.”
Link frowned. “No…I don’t think so.”
“Who haven’t you seen?”
“Marin.” Link looked up at Richard, his eyes going wide. “They’re going to kill her.”
“Marin. They’re going to kill her. I heard some of the girls making threats against her life.”
“Well, you had better find her before that mob does,” Richard told him.
“How am I going to do that? At the moment, I seem to have Koholint’s most recognizable face!”
“Keep your voice down,” Richard barked. “Do you want to draw even more attention to this rat trap?”
“Valerie said she was going to search the forest. Now why would she be under the impression that you would hide out in the forest at night?”
“Because I hide out in the forest at night…” Link mumbled miserably.
Richard shook his head, folding his arms across his chest. “You should have seen her,” he muttered.
“She was half crazy. I’ve never seen her so uncontrolled.”
“I don’t see why you’re taking this Valerie issue so personally,” Link grunted.
“Well, not all of us can resort to witchcraft to get people to love us.”
“I told you! I didn’t do…” Link trailed off. “Wait a second…”
“Wait a second!”
“I said stop!”
“You love Valerie?”
“Can we stay focused on the crisis at hand?” Richard implored.
“This is far more entertaining.”
“You know I really detest you sometimes.”
“You love Valerie.”
“Must you make a big issue of this?”
“Of course I must make a big issue of this.”
“Link!” a voice called from outside. Flashes of lantern light struck the hut, causing both Link and Richard to crouch down on the ground. The light passed over their heads, the holder of the lantern, whoever that happened to be, continuing down the road, away from the hovel.
“Do you have a plan of some kind?” Richard hissed, craning his neck to watch the light disappear.
“No,” Link answered back, glancing over his shoulder uneasily.
“You can’t stay here,” Richard said. “It won’t be long before someone thinks to stop by.”
“What am I supposed to do?”
“Go someplace remote. The Tabahl Wasteland.”
“Richard, they could follow me. If I go someplace like the Tabahl Wasteland and they follow, someone could get seriously hurt.”
“You would think the heat would wear them down.”
“It’s fueling their insanity.”
“Well, you can’t very well stay here.” In the distance, the sound of frantic female voices grew louder.
“It’s like they can smell me,” Link moaned.
“On the other side of the forest, there’s a small, uninhabited booth. Not many people know about it. Mr. Write lives up there. He could give you shelter.”
“That’s a fine idea, Richard, but getting there is going to be a bit of a problem.”
“There’s a relatively safe route from the prairie. Pass up by the graveyard and head by way of the foothills.”
“How do I get out of the village?”
“Leapfrog from safe house to safe house. I imagine few people will be home, you can get in through the windows easily enough.”
“I’ll start at Tarin’s house. I have to warn him that they’re out for Marin’s blood, don’t I?”
“That would be the honorable thing to do.” The voices were growing louder and louder.
“What about you?”
“Yes, what are you going to do?”
“I’m going to try and find Valerie. If I can snap her out of it, she can use those powers of hers to try and fix the problem.”
“You really do love her.”
“He’s here!” a voice screamed. Link knew immediately that it was Matilda’s because suddenly, her hookshot’s hook sliced through the blanket over the door. She yanked back on the chain and ripped the makeshift doorway down. A flood of women began pouring into the tiny house.
“Go!” Richard shouted to Link. He stood up, holding out his arms and clotheslining a good portion of the frontline women.
Link jumped to his feet. The women reached over Richard’s buckling arms, grabbing at Link’s tunic, ripping off healthy chunks of it. Link backpedaled, crashing into the far wall of his hut where he had earlier cut a whole with his sword. He fell backward, tumbling out. As he landed on his elbows, he saw Matilda sock Richard in the face. He grabbed her shoulders and pulled her down to the floor. While they grappled, the other women began rushing over them, stepping on their flying limbs and contorted faces in a mad dash to catch up with Link.
Frantically, he jumped up to his feet, sprinting as fast as he could. He knew for certain he couldn’t take a direct route to Tarin’s house. Instead, he would have to weave in and out of the shadows, maybe climbing a tree or two in order to elude his stalkers. At any rate, the last thing he wanted to do was lead them directly to Tarin’s house.
Zelda had long given up on walking. She was now sprinting. Panic plagued her heart as her overactive imagination conjured up all sorts of horrid punishments the Nightmare had in store for Link while she was too far away to protect him. Carry trudged after her, looking about for many of the dangers that Zelda, in her fear, was missing.
“Where could that stupid, little bird have vanished to?” she asked breathlessly.
“I don’t know,” Carry said simply enough.
“This dungeon’s only so big.”
“And probably filled with lots of secret rooms.”
“If he’s even still in the dungeon at all,” she continued obliviously.
“Watch out!” Carry shouted.
“What?” Zelda turned around in confusion. As she did so, an enormous Vire flew over her head, just missing her due to her sudden movement. Carry took a few steps forward, whacking the demon with his staff. It flew into a wall and dissolved into a shower of dust. “Oh.”
“You need to be more careful,” Carry scolded her.
“I’m sorry,” Zelda said.
“Don’t be sorry, just be careful.”
“I will be.”
“Come on.” Taking the lead, Carry walked to a small crawlspace, wriggling through with Zelda following after him. On the other side, they found a room with a semi-circle of molten rock surrounding a large doorway.
Zelda shivered. “There’s great evil on the other side of that door,” she whispered crisply.
“Do we want to go there?” Carry asked.
“We really don’t.” Even as she said the words, Zelda made her way to the lava stream. She stepped over it, her teeth chattering. The door was enormous, going from floor to ceiling. It was made out of mother of pearl, as all the other doorways in the dungeon, but in the center was a large onyx disk. Zelda reached out a hand to touch the disk. With a yelp, she quickly pulled her fingers back. “It’s hot.”
Carry had crossed over the river of fire at this point and had come to a rest at her side. “This door isn’t like the others,” he mumbled.
“I think this disk is the lock. How do we open it?”
“‘If the statue looks funny, fire an arrow at it.’”
Zelda looked over her shoulder at Carry. “Another one of Catsy’s famous riddles?”
“Yes,” he said, nodding his head.
“All right,” Zelda said with a sigh. She took a step back, away from the door, loading an arrow into her bow. “Here goes nothing.” She fired, the arrow perfectly striking the middle of the disk.
With a click, the door swung open, the creaky old hinges whining in protest. The room beyond emitted a brilliant orange glow and a wall of intense heat rushed out, turning to steam. “It’s going to get very hot,” Carry murmured.
Slowly, they crept forward, inching their way into the room. The heat and light were more intense than in any other room they had encountered. Instead of a simple stream of lava, there was a whole pool of it directly in the middle of the room, bubbling noisily. Across the chamber, they could see a door. It was open and a soft gold glow came out from the den beyond.
Zelda blinked in surprise. “That’s…”
“The instrument shrine,” a voice finished for her. From the very center of the boiling pool, a column of fire rose, swirling about itself until it formed a sort of humanoid body. “The Thunder Drum is in there,” Flame said. “You can go and take it if you like.” He paused in consideration. “I highly doubt you’ll be able to.”
“You must be number eight,” Zelda said.
“Number one, actually,” Flame replied. “The greatest of all the Nightmares, the eldest.”
“Flame,” Carry growled.
“Carry. Glad you remember me,” Flame laughed. “Glad you could bring me the Princess of Destiny.”
A sharp twang sounded as Zelda fired an arrow at the Nightmare. The shaft flew directly through Flame’s fiery body, striking the wall behind him, ablaze. “Sorry, Princess,” Flame said. “That’s not going to work on me.”
“I’m going to kill you,” Zelda promised him. “The same way all your brothers and sisters fell.”
“It must be hard being all alone,” Carry needled. Flame burst out into laughter. “What’s so funny?”
“You two are. You think you can really destroy me? Ha!” The fire that composed his body flared up bright yellow for a moment. “You’re finished! I will never let you play the Instruments of the Sirens!!” He thrust his palm forward and a jet of yellow fire blasted out at Zelda and Carry.
They each jumped to one side, the blaze passing in between them to knock against the mother of pearl door. “Fire,” Zelda choked, coughing from the horrible smell. “How original.”
“I have plenty of original ways to kill you, Princess,” Flame boasted. “Here’s a demonstration.” With a flick of his wrist, Zelda was lifted clean off of the ground. Flame fiercely pointed at the wall and Zelda flew forward, crashing face-first into the maroon marble and sliding down to the ground.
Carry turned to face the wall. He shot his fist forward, smashing the stone. Aided with his own Power Bracelet, he managed to shatter a small area and he picked up a stone slab, hurling it forward at Flame. The slab passed through his body and he looked down, watching its course with vague interest. “I guess not…” Carry muttered.
“You guess not?” Flame said mockingly. “Honestly, Carry, you never learn. Your nobility stinks of your mother.”
This was a comment that caught Carry completely off guard. He blinked his granite eyes. “What?”
“I said your nobility stinks of your mother.”
Flame cackled wickedly. “She never told you, did she?”
“Catsy. She never told you that she was your mother.”
Carry seemed completely at a loss for words. He took a step back, hitting against the wall. “My mother…”
Flame was certainly enjoying himself. “That’s right, Carry. Catsy is your mother. You’re part Nightmare, which makes you a creature of darkness, doesn’t it? Just like me.”
“Hey, Flame,” Zelda called crisply.
“What?” he barked, turning to look at her.
Zelda had turned away from the wall and her pupils were glowing bright red, giving her entire face an orange hue. “You know the saying?”
“A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush?” Flame asked dryly.
“You can’t fight fire with fire. Well. Watch me.”
The flames that composed the Nightmare’s body suddenly flared up. He looked at his arms and legs and they actually appeared to be fire on fire. “What are you doing?” he shouted.
Slowly, Zelda stepped forward, never breaking eye contact. The blood red glow of her pupils grew brighter. “Playing with fire.”
“No!” Flame screamed, taking a step back. “No! You can’t do this! I am a Nightmare! I am forever!”
“Forever isn’t as long as it used to be,” Zelda replied.
Flame’s body began to flicker, going back and forth between orange and black. “Stop this! Stop it at once! I order you.”
“She doesn’t take orders from you,” Carry growled.
A blackness began to crust over Flame’s body, glowing threads of yellow and orange fire just peeking out from the darkened surface. He dropped down to one knee in the middle of his lava pool, making sounds as though he were panting for breath. “Why did you come here? If it weren’t for you, nothing would have to change! You cannot wake the Windfish! Remember, you…too…are in…the dream…”
“All I see is a Nightmare,” Zelda said evenly.
Flame laughed, a sort of cracked, pained laugh. “I can promise you the nightmare will go on after I’m gone. My spell will see to that.”
“Not if you’re dead.”
“It doesn’t work that way, Princess. Even if I’m dead, the spell will stay in place.” He paused to gasp, the orange threads beginning to close up. “And I promise you…I promise that…tonight…the man who loves you…will…die…”
There was a crash of thunder. It shook the room, literally throwing Zelda off her feet. Carry caught her in his arms. Her eyes had returned to normal, the bout of Din’s Fire gone. As they stared across the room, they saw a black mass collapse into the fire pit, quickly dissolving.
“You killed him,” Carry whispered.
“What you saw was Din’s Fire, it’s a spell that –”
“I know,” Carry said. “I saw you do it before. Not you, but the future you.”
“What do we do about the spell?” he asked.
“There must be some way to reverse it.”
“He knew about the spell. I’ll bet he knows how it was cast.”
“And how to reverse it.”
“Wait,” Carry stopped her.
“The Thunder Drum.”
“Right.” Together, they slid around the boiling pond of molten rock, creeping into the instrument shrine. Zelda noticed Carry fall silent, more silent than she had ever seen him before. She didn’t dare disrupt that silence.
“Leave me alone, Richard.”
Valerie had, indeed, gone to the forest in search of Link. Richard, carrying the unconscious Matilda over his shoulder like a sack of flour, found her easily enough. It seemed that in her altered state of mind, Valerie had absolutely no problems with using her angelic powers openly. Finding her had merely been a matter of following the bright flashes of light.
Now he was in hot pursuit, chasing her through the forest, though she made it more than evident that she did not want to be followed. “You’re not in love with Link,” he insisted, batting aside tree branches, “you’re just delusional.”
“You’re just jealous because there’s finally a real man on Koholint.”
“You’re hardly one to talk about what is and is not real, angel,” he called after her. Matilda’s hair became tangled in a tree, halting Richard. Impatiently, he yanked her free, pulling out several locks of hair in the process. “Even if it is true, you know Link doesn’t love you.”
Valerie turned around sharply. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Exactly what it sounds like.”
“You know nothing about it!”
“Link needs me. We look into each other’s eyes and we see the truth. He loves me.”
“Link loves Marin,” Richard told her. “Everyone knows it.”
“She’s nothing in comparison to me.”
“Well, I certainly can’t argue about that!” Richard declared irritably.
Valerie narrowed her eyes at him. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Exactly what it sounds like.”
“Go away, Richard. I’m busy.” She turned her face to the darkness, calling out, “Link!”
“Stop!” Richard demanded. He set Matilda down on the ground, her back leaning against a tree. Limply, her head fell against her chest, lolling to one side slightly. Richard walked over to Valerie. “Stop, stop, stop.”
“I don’t have time for this, I have to find Link.”
Richard grabbed her shoulders, turning her around to face him. He shook her. “This is all a big mistake.”
“There’s no mistake, except the one you’re making by putting your hands on me right now.”
“Fine!” Richard lifted his hands up into the air then dropped them down at his sides.
“Thank you.” Valerie started to turn away again.
“Wait,” Richard implored.
“Valerie, I can’t let you do this.”
“Richard, you’re jealous?”
Richard scoffed indignantly. “Of Link, the bat-eared freak? I think not!”
“Clearly, you are.” Valerie seemed all too calm and rational about this. “It’s understandable, what is a man compared to a god?”
“He’s not a god, Valerie.”
“No. Gods have flaws. Link is beyond that.”
“I can’t believe I’m hearing this.”
“Well, you’d best get used to it. Link and I are going to be very happy.”
“Link is going to be very dead if this keeps up,” Richard muttered under his breath.
“I have to go now.” For a third time, Valerie turned to leave.
“Valerie, I can’t let you do this!” Richard called. This time, Valerie continued walking, complete ignoring his pleas. “Valerie! Stop! You can’t go after Link!”
“And why not?” she asked, continuing to disappear into the nighttime shadows of the forest.
“Because I love you!”
Valerie stopped in her tracks. She turned her head, looking back at him over her shoulder. “What?”
“I love you. I love you, Valerie.”
Valerie smiled a little. “Thank you.” With that, she continued on, completely disappearing from sight.
“Valerie, stop!” Richard cried after her. “Stop! You can’t go! I love you! I love you!”
The door slammed loudly. Tarin sat up with a snort, blinking his eyes in the darkness. “What’s going on?” he mumbled sleepily.
“Tarin, it’s me,” Link hissed.
“What are you doing here at this hour of the night?” Tarin asked with a yawn. He looked over at the twin bed across the room. “And where’s Marin?”
“Tarin, something’s happening,” he whispered.
“I should think so.” Tarin kicked off his sheets and drowsily got out of bed, crossing to a small night table where he lit a lantern. “Where’s Marin?”
“She’s…” Link’s mind raced. “She’s someplace safe.”
“Safe? Why in the name of all things sacred would she be in danger staying here?”
“Something’s gone horribly wrong,” Link explained.
“I heard you say that. Tell me what the trouble is, lad.”
“I know you’re going to find this difficult to believe, but you must, Tarin, you must believe me.”
“Out with it, boy, what’s the matter?”
“There’s been a spell.”
“Yes, a magical spell.”
“What sort of magical spell?”
“A love spell, I think. Maybe a lust spell.”
“A lust spell?” Tarin asked, raising a bushy eyebrow. “Who would cast a lust spell?”
“I don’t know,” Link said. He quickly added, “Not me.”
“All right, so there’s a lust spell in the air. What’s the matter? And where is my daughter?”
“The spell is on me.”
“Yes. Every woman on the island is suddenly madly in love with me!”
“I knew you wouldn’t believe me,” Link moaned.
“Oh, I believe you, I believe you,” Tarin said. “But you still have yet to tell me why my daughter is in a safe place.”
“Because some of the women were threatening her.”
“Because I love her.”
“I don’t understand,” Tarin shrugged.
“People under the influence of a love spell don’t behave reasonably,” Link said. “They think that by killing Marin, they’ll have a chance with me.”
Link’s eyes had drifted up, to the window over Tarin’s shoulder. “Do you want to see madness?” he asked softly.
Tarin spun around. Outside, an orange glow struck against the glass of the window. He drifted closer, pressing a pudgy hand to the windowpane. “The village is on fire,” he whispered.
Slowly, Link walked to Tarin’s side, staring out.
“What kind of madness is this?”
“The worse possible kind: Madness of the heart.”
A gaggle of women, led by Marnie, ran past the window. Marnie was wielding the Fire Rod she had discovered in her hut, the very same one that had been responsible for the fire of her home. She now charged down the street with it, touching it to every tree she passed, setting them all aflame. As her group ran by Tarin’s house, she happened to turn her head. She came to a screeching halt, spying Link in the window.
“There he is!” she shouted, pointing the rod in the direction of the window. Instantly, a stream of fire rushed out from the tip, flying at the window. Link grabbed Tarin and pulled him down to the floor. The glass shattered, raining down on the two of them as it reflected the glittering flames. Marin’s quilt caught fire, crackling and popping as the flames reached the thread.
“We have to get out of here,” Link said, pulling Tarin up to his feet. The two of them raced to the door and Tarin pulled it open. A mass of limbs, female limbs, was waiting, reaching in to grab at Link. “Close the door!” Link shouted. Together, he and Tarin slammed the door shut. A few arms were caught in the closing, but they quickly pulled away.
Tarin locked the door. “Now what?”
“We could…” Link turned to the window. A dozen more women were standing at it, clawing through the broken glass. Link grabbed Marin’s quilt, still blazing, and whipped it at them, causing them to step back.
“We want Link!” Marnie shouted from outside.
“You can’t have him,” Tarin called back to her. “Go home, Marnie. Go back to your family.”
“He’s with her, isn’t he? Marin’s in there!” With that, she pointed the Fire Rod at the ceiling and let out a blast of fire. The thatching caught on fire at once. Helplessly, Link dropped the quilt, running about the room to look out the windows.
“They’re surrounding the cottage,” he cried.
“Do they mean to let us die?”
“I told you they wanted to kill Marin,” Link mumbled.
“We want Link!” the girls outside screamed. It slowly became a chant of “We want Link,” growing louder and louder.
Smoke was filling the room. “We can’t stay in here, lad,” Tarin said, coughing a bit.
“If we go out there, they’ll rip us both limb from limb.”
“And if we stay in here we’ll die of suffocation.”
“How do we get out?”
Tarin turned about in a full circle. At each of the windows, he could see the crazed women gathering, all of them climbing over one another to be the closest. A second window was smashed, the glass shattering from the impact of one too many fists knocking against it. Arms reached in through the panes, struggling desperately to reach out and touch Link.
The fire had spread over the entire roof now. Hot drops of flame fell from the ceiling, igniting the linens below. The whole house creaked and whined, the unstable walls shaking from the stress. A low moan came from up above. “The structure’s becoming unstable,” Link said uneasily, looking at the ceiling.
“What?” Tarin craned his neck to look up. As he did, the flame burned through one of the support beams. With a loud snap, it broke free from the ceiling and came crashing down, falling right on top of Tarin.
“Tarin!” Link shouted, racing over to him. He had fallen on his face, the still-flaming beam lying across him. Link grabbed the beam with both hands and tugged, pulling it off and throwing it to one side. Grasping Tarin’s arm, he flipped him over, onto his back, clasping his wrist to find a pulse. Tarin’s face was completely covered in blood. It looked as if his nose had been smashed. One of his eyes seemed eerily out of focus, the pupil heavily dilated. “Tarin…” Link whispered.
“I…” as Tarin opened his mouth a trickle of blood ran down his cheek from the corner of his lips.
Link leaned forward, grasping Tarin’s hand with both of his. “Don’t try to talk,” he warned him.
Tarin shook his head slightly. Again, he made a failed attempt at, “I…”
Fighting against tears, Link bit his lips together for a moment. “Tarin, there’s something I have to ask you…about Marin.”
The older man worked his mouth, desperately trying to get the words out. “Whatever it is, boy,” he said in a cracked voice, “the answer is yes.”
Suddenly, the flames spreading across the hut came into contact with the dresser. With great air pockets in each of the drawers, the fire caused a great explosion. Link threw himself over Tarin, splinters of wood flying everywhere. He cringed in pain, feeling the sharp debris stab his back. The explosion caused the fire to spread even further, lighting the beds.
Link sat up. When he looked down at his tunic, he realized it was covered in blood, some of it his, but most of it Tarin’s. His gaze fell on Tarin. There was a look of remarkable calm on the old man’s face. His eyes stared off into the distance, with that glazed, far off expression that Link knew too well. As the screams continued outside, they were drowned by the screaming in Link’s head. Gently, he touched Tarin’s eyelids, closing them as heavy, hot tears slowly fell from his own eyes.
With the Thunder Drum in hand, Zelda and Carry reversed course, crawling back through the dungeon, filled with confused, frightened monsters, all unsure of what to do with themselves now that their master was dead. There had been no announcement of any kind, no proclamation. Somehow, they all just knew he was gone. None of them dared to cross either of the strangers, lest they meet with the same fate.
“Blaino!” Zelda shouted angrily as she stormed down the maroon hallway. “Show yourself, Blaino!”
They passed into a side chamber. It was completely empty and rather dark. Instantly a smell hit their noses, causing both of them to gag and cough, Zelda literally doubling over. “What is that?” Carry asked, pinching his nose.
“I have no idea,” Zelda choked. She took a few steps forward then stopped dead in her tracks. Painted across the floor, in bright neon purple, was a symbol, a large diamond with three circles in the middle of it. Zelda looked at Carry. “What does that mean? Do you know?”
“No,” he replied, shaking his head.
“Whatever it is, it stinks.”
Carry knelt down beside the symbol. He dipped the tips of his black claws into the strange liquid, still wet, it seemed. “I think this is part of the spell.”
“Blaino!” Zelda shouted impatiently.
“I don’t think that’s going to work,” Carry said.
“How are we going to find that stupid penguin?”
“He doesn’t want to be found.”
“Carry, we have to undo the spell. I don’t want Link to die.”
“I know,” he told her sincerely, “I know.”
“We need to find him.”
“Are you sure you can’t undo it yourself?”
Zelda shook her head. “I’m not that powerful.”
“You are powerful,” Carry said. “I’ve seen you do great things. Your future self, anyway.”
“I’m not there yet.”
“What if we just destroy the symbol?”
Zelda frowned. “That might work,” she said. “Or it might make the spell permanent. There’s no way of knowing.”
“Maybe there’s a spell book we
“Or some kind of a counter spell?”
“Or even a…”
Carry sighed heavily. “We need Blaino. Blaino!”
There was an explosion of blue smoke in the middle of the room, right on top of the symbol. When the fog cleared, Blaino was standing there, fanning it away with one flipper, an irritated look on his face. “What?” he asked sharply. He looked down at the mess he was standing in and made a face of disgust, daintily lifting one foot. “Oh that’s just great.”
“We defeated your master,” Zelda said.
“Something we’re all well aware of. Thank you very much. What am I supposed to do now? There’s only one thing I can do!”
“Well, I’m terribly sorry,” Zelda deadpanned.
“If you’d like to cuddle up to me to consol me after my tragic loss, I wouldn’t object to it.” Blaino waggled his eyebrows for emphasis.
Carry stood up at this point. “We want to reverse the spell.”
“Don’t play dumb with us,” Zelda snapped.
“He’s not playing…” Carry muttered.
Blaino clasped a flipper to his chest. “Oh, that hurts!”
Zelda sighed. “The spell you told us about. The one your master put on Link. We want to reverse it.”
“And I want red kangaroo boxing gloves, but that’s not really in the cards now, is it?”
“I’m going to hurt you so badly,” Zelda mumbled, taking a step forward. Carry reached out his hand and caught her forearm, holding her back.
“How do we undo the spell?” Carry asked.
“That’s for me to know and for you to not find out.”
“Stop being childish!” Zelda growled.
“Sorry, gorgeous, I stay loyal to the Nightmares.”
“But your master is dead!”
“Do you think that makes a difference?”
“It ought to!” Blaino merely blew her a kiss. “Why you little –”
“Sticks and stones, Princess.”
“I’m going to hurt you!”
“Is that a promise?”
“Blaino!” Carry shouted, before the situation could get even further out of hand. “Jump up and down!”
There was a moment of stunned silence among the three. Suddenly, most illogically, Blaino started jumping up and down. He looked about him, as if he had no control over his own facilities. “What the…?”
Zelda’s eyes widened to the size of saucers. “How did…?”
“Stand on your head,” Carry barked.
Without any control, Blaino stopped jumping and immediately dropped his flippers to the floor, rolling up to stand on his head. “I strongly object to this,” he said bitterly.
“Carry, how are you doing this?” Zelda asked.
“He said it himself,” Carry told her quietly, watching as the pudgy penguin grumbled and wobbled.
“He said he would stay loyal to the Nightmares.”
Her jaw dropped. “And you’re –”
“Part Nightmare,” Carry finished for her.
“Well, I don’t!” Blaino screamed indignantly.
“Fall over on your rump,” Carry ordered him. Immediately, Blaino dropped like a rock to the floor.
“This could decidedly work to our advantage,” Zelda said.
“I only wish we’d known about the fringe benefits sooner.”
Carry turned to Blaino. “Undo the spell.”
“I can’t!” Blaino wailed.
“I order you to undo the spell.”
“I told you, I can’t.”
“I can’t do it by myself. It requires two, a Guardian and a Nightmare.”
“Well, we have both,” Carry said. “Show us how to undo the spell.”
Grumbling angrily, Blaino stalked out of the room, muttering, “Follow me,” as he passed Zelda and Carry.
The two of them exchanged a long, meaningful look. “I know your world has just been shaken,” Zelda said gently, “but right now, I need your help. We have to save Link.”
Carry nodded. “I know.”
“We’d better follow him, before he runs away again.”
“He won’t get far,” Carry promised. “And if he does, he’ll regret it.”
“Why, thinking about ordering him to the splits?”
“Or maybe eat a Keese.”
Link was huddled on the floor in the middle of the burning cottage. Debris rained from the roof, all of it flaming. Bigger and bigger pieces tumbled down, crashing into the smoke filled mess below. At this point, it was a struggle to so much as breathe. Link found himself choking and coughing without pause, the black smoke stinging his already teary eyes.
“Come out, Link,” Marnie called for what must have been the thousandth time so far.
“No,” Link shouted back thickly.
“Come out, Link,” a chorus of voices screamed.
He sniffled loudly. “Why? So you can make me your cuddle monkey?”
“No,” Marnie replied.
“It’s for your own good, Link.”
“I’d rather see you dead than with that twit Marin.”
“That’s reassuring,” Link mumbled under his breath, wiping his eyes with the back of his hand. He turned to look over his shoulder, out the remains of the window. From there, he could see several girls rushing to the scene, all of them carrying pitchforks, shovels, or other sharp implements. “They’re going to kill me,” he whispered to himself.
With a groan, another support beam fell from the ceiling, crashing down onto Zelda’s bed. Everything soft and fabric about the bed had, by this point, melted away into nothingness under the flames. Gone was her precious quilt, made with patches of the dress she had worn ten years ago when she had been stranded on Koholint. Her books of music and her small hand harp were reduced to ash. It seemed that everything Zelda loved on Koholint would soon perish in this fire.
“Come out, Link!”
On instinct, Link reached behind him, drawing out the Master Sword. Halfway, he shook his head, letting the blade fall back into its sheath. “No,” he mumbled to himself. This wouldn’t do. Despite the madness inflicting them, Link still knew that he couldn’t resort to the sword.
There was a great pounding on the door. Link was certain that soon they would be able to break it down. The latch would melt in the fire or the wood would burn clear of it, and the door would easily swing open. His mind raced, trying to figure out what trick he ought to try. He was, of course, wearing the Pegasus Boots from Key Cavern, but he couldn’t very well dash straight into a crowd of people, it would only injure someone, most probably himself. The Power Bracelet would do him no good, nor would any of the other little toys he carried around with him.
“Come out, Link!” a group of shrill voices screamed.
“No!” Link yelled back.
“It’s for your own good, Link,” Marnie repeated.
“I love you, so I have to let you go!”
“Yes! Let me go. Far, far away from here.”
They began beating at the door again. With a vicious crack, the doorframe broke. The entire cottage shook, the flames dancing wildly, catching anything further left to be caught on fire. Accompanied by a dull thud, the door fell in, hitting the ground a few feet away from Link. Instantly, a parade of crazed girls streamed in, stepping over the debris and poor Tarin to grab Link’s arms.
Despite his valiant struggle, there were just too many of them. Grabbing onto him with dozens of hands, they dragged him, literally, from the house, his feet trailing across the ground. Standing outside were even more women, holding their pitchforks and shovels. Marnie seemed to be the ring leader, still wielding the Fire Rod wildly about, catching the trees on fire.
“Why don’t you understand, Link?” she asked as he was dropped at her feet. “We’re doing this out of love for you.”
“Most people just send a card,” he deadpanned.
“Marin doesn’t deserve you, Link,” Marnie insisted.
“She’s not even here!” he shouted.
“Don’t worry, we’ll find her.”
“Listen to me. If you promise to leave her alone, I’ll do whatever you ask me to, all of you!”
“It’s too late for promises, Link,” Marnie said darkly. “If only you would have loved me.”
“Hold him down!”
Obediently, the girls crowded around Link, he couldn’t even tell which ones they were, fell upon him. They pinned him down to the ground, his face turned to one side so that his cheek was smashed into the grass. He could feel their hands across his back, pressing harder and harder until he thought his ribs would snap under the pressure. All around him, he could hear the girls screaming. Such commotion filled the air that it was nearly deafening.
“Soon, it’ll be all over,”
“Bring me his sword!” Marnie decreed.
“No!” Link cried, struggling as hard as he could against the weight of the hands hold him down. “You can’t do this! You can’t –”
Abruptly, the entire village fell silent. There was a breathless moment where Link lay there, listening to the frantic racing of his heart. As quickly as it came, the silence was broken, only this time it wasn’t by screams for Link’s blood. The hands holding him down suddenly vanished and Link rolled over onto his back. When he looked up, he saw all the women exchanging confused looks with each other; each asking what was going on.
An explosion of blue smoke puffed into existence about fifty paces from where Link lay. As the fog cleared, he saw Carry, Zelda, and what looked like an enormous penguin standing there, fanning the air. “Link!” Zelda cried, seeing him there. She broke into a run, dashing to his side. As she did, the confused women standing in her path backed away. “Oh, Link!” Breathlessly, she dropped to her knees, on the ground, wrapping her arms around his shoulders.
Link pulled her into a tight hug. “I’m all right,” he whispered. A low groan of thunder filled the air.
“Will someone tell me what’s going
“Well, I certainly have no idea,” Elinor declared.
“You never do,”
By this time, Link and Zelda had climbed to their feet. “I was so worried,” Zelda said. “When Carry and I heard about the spell, I thought you were dead.”
“I’m all right,” he promised.
She looked around, the fire catching her attention. “Our house…”
“Torched,” Link explained.
Link fell silent. He looked meaningfully into Zelda’s eyes then slowly turned his gaze out to the flaming cottage. Growing pale, Zelda started to run in the direction of the flames. Link reached out and caught her around the waist, pulling her back. “No,” he told her.
“Tarin!” she screamed. “Let me see him! Let me see him!”
Though she was flailing something awful, Link managed to gather her into his arms, pulling her against his chest. “No,” he told her, “you can’t.”
“I have to see him!” By this point, her hysterical cries had caught the attention of everyone else. Each one of them, in turn, realized what was going on and fell silent, bowing their heads respectfully.
“You can’t go in there,” Link whispered softly.
“Please, Link, please let me go.”
“No.” As if to prove his point, there was a snap and suddenly, the remains of the cottage collapsed in on themselves, sending the flames higher up into the night in a momentary explosion of light.
“Tarin!” Zelda screamed, trying to reach out her hands to the fire.
Link turned around, putting his back to the fire and holding Zelda tightly so she couldn’t see it. “That’s not how you want to remember him,” he said gently. “That’s not how you want to remember him.”
Tears began streaming down Zelda’s face. Her strength waned and she fell rather limp in Link’s arms, pressing her cheek against his chest. “Tarin…” she gasped, clinging to Link for dear life.
The thunder rolled again. Like the bursting of a dam, the rain began to
fall, fat droplets covering everything in the
The minutes passed into hours. The hours passed into days. Three days, to be exact. Most of the
Tarin’s funeral was held at sunrise and nearly the whole island attended. His grave was set apart from the graveyard, underneath a great willow tree. Since the natives of Koholint didn’t worship any gods or goddesses, there was no ceremony to speak of. The grave was dug then filled. Molly said a few words, having known Tarin longer than anyone on the island. Lexx played a solemn song on flute while his children sang. Everyone was especially kind to Zelda, offering her their condolences and sympathies. Playing the gracious hostess, she accepted their words, hollow though everyone knew they were.
As for the cause of the fire, it had been labeled an accident. No one involved seemed to remember exactly what had happened that night, apart from Link who kept his mouth shut. After the flames had been extinguished, Richard had trudged back into the village, carrying Matilda over his shoulder. Link quickly got to him keep quiet about the whole ordeal as well. Now, with three days separating them from the events, everyone involved had started to move on, blissfully ignorant.
Valerie stayed behind after the funeral. When the crowds departed, she knelt by the grave, putting a hibiscus on top of the mound. “Into the arms of Farore I commend you, Tarin,” she whispered to the dirt.
She touched the grave with her hand, feeling an usual warmth in the corner of her eyes. Was she crying? Valerie shook her head gently. In her years of service to Farore, she had seen many people die, most of them wicked, but some of them good. Why should this loss affect her more than any of the others? Her head remained baffled, but her heart clearly knew the answer. Tarin had been a bystander, a bystander to a test that wasn’t meant for him.
With a small sigh, she stood up, still looking down at the grave. “It shouldn’t have happened.” Valerie looked around and saw Richard approaching from behind, clutching a fistful of wildflowers. “Tarin deserved better.”
“You read my mind,” Valerie said quietly.
Richard knelt down beside the grave and placed his flowers next to the hibiscus. When he stood up again, he too didn’t move his eyes from the sight of the funeral mound. “I know you’ll never believe this, but there were a couple of times when I imagined what it might be like if Tarin had been my father. He was a good man.”
“You’re right,” Valerie said. “I don’t believe that.”
He chuckled a bit. “I thought as much.”
As he turned to walk away, Valerie looked at him again. “Richard?” she called before he could start walking.
“Yes?” he asked, turning around.
“Did you mean it?”
“Did you mean what you said, in the forest?”
“When you said you loved me.”
Richard sighed. “You remember that, huh?” She nodded. “Figures. I should have guessed the memory loss aspect of the spell wouldn’t apply to you.”
“I remember everything from that night.”
“A dreadful night. I wish I could forget it.”
“Did you mean it?”
He looked at her for a long while. “Every word.”
“You love me?”
“For ten years, now.”
“I am –”
“Flattered,” she finished.
“Richard, you know what I am.”
“And you know that means that it could never –”
“Be,” he supplied. “Yes, I know that too.”
“I’m sorry,” she whispered.
“You don’t have to be sorry,” he told her.
“I wish I could love you the way that you want me to.”
Richard shrugged. “You don’t have to.”
“Thank you for understanding.”
“What other could I be? I’m not as unreasonable as people seem to think I am. Not anymore.”
“I see that now.”
“Even though I know nothing can come from it,” he continued, “there’s still one thing.”
Richard took a step forward. Cupping her chin in his thumb and index finger, he tilted her head to the side slightly, bring her lips to his. He kissed her tenderly, slowly dropping away his hand. After a moment, Richard stepped back, gazing out at her from his not-so-icy blue eyes.
Valerie stared at him without blinking. “Thank you,” she said quietly.
Bowing grandly, Richard saluted her with his fingers. He rose up again, with a half smile, and turned around, walking south back to the prairie. Valerie watched him go, grazing her fingertips across her lips. They tingled in a way she had never felt before and she discovered that her hand was shaking, though all the world was still.
Listening to the hypnotic roll of the waves, Koholint’s two Hylians sat side by side on a large rock overlooking the sea. The beach was completely deserted, not even a crab stirring on the sand. “I can’t stop thinking about him,” Zelda said without looking at Link.
“I feel such…” she fished around for the word, “shame.”
“I never told him, Link. I never told him the truth.”
“That I wasn’t really his daughter.”
Link frowned a bit. He looked at Zelda, tenderly reaching out a hand to push her hair back behind her ear. “Because of this?”
“Because of the spell.”
“The spell made him think you were someone else,” Link replied. “But didn’t make you any less his daughter.”
“What do you mean?”
“Tarin loved you, Zelda. You were the joy of his life.”
“It was a lie.”
“No. The name Marin was a lie. Tarin’s love for you…that was the truth.”
She sighed. “I wonder…”
“There’s nothing to wonder,” Link insisted.
“How can you be so sure?”
“I just know,” he promised. “And I know that you loved him too, right?”
“Of course I did.”
“Well, that wasn’t a lie either.”
Zelda paused to consider this. “I still wish I had had the chance to tell him the truth,” she said.
“The dead can hear our thoughts,” Link said. “When we think about them, they know it.”
“Do you think he’s terribly cross?”
“No. He’s still Tarin.”
“With everything we’ve been through, sometimes I feel I didn’t love him enough.”
“You have to stop punishing yourself, Zelda.”
“It hurts so much.”
“I know it does,” he promised.
“Does it ever get better?”
“No, but it will get easier.” He hugged her against his side. The sun glinted off of her teardrop necklace, reflecting onto the rock. “He’s inside of everything,” Link continued, “the wind, the stars, the water. He’s a part of the world and always will be, in one form or another. And as long as you remember him, he’ll never die.”
“We’ve seen so much. Time portals, sea urchins…”
“I thought I could take anything,” Zelda said. “Anything.”
“You are strong, Zelda. In time, you’ll see what I’ve seen in you. What Tarin saw in you.”
“‘Til then, you have me to lean on.” He rested his chin on Zelda’s shoulder. “After all, no one person can defeat their demons.”
“We will defeat them,” she said
firmly. An understanding passed between
them and simultaneously, they both turned to face up the beach. In the morning mist, half hidden, the top of
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