Darkness… everywhere he looked, he was surrounded by darkness… and in that darkness… fathomless evil…
"Curse them all…" Gannondorf clenched his fist tightly, illuminating the mark of the triforce on it. "Curse them all for trapping me in here! When I find a way out of here, they… will… SUFFER!!"
A sinister chuckle caught Gannon's attention, and he whirled around to face whoever dared to mock him. The darkness lightened to a toxic violet, revealing a short creature with a deceitful smile plastered across its face.
"Who the hell are you!?" Gannon growled.
"Maybe a friend, maybe a foe…" came the stranger's calm, playful tone. "Perhaps even both! But you'll never know, now, will you?"
"You dare to insult the Great Gannondorf, you insolent pest!?" roared the King of Evil.
The violet light surrounding them seemed to brighten a bit more around them, and Gannon could make out the creature's features much more clearly. It was a fox, who hovered easily before him. The animal had a paw to its chin as though deep in thought. It's three excessively long, brushy tails waved lazily in the still air of the Void.
"Hm…" the fox uttered with a smirk. "Yes, I guess I do dare to insult the 'Great Gannondorf!'"
"You…!" Gannon reared back his fist and swiped at the fox, but his hand connected only with air. The creature's laughter was heard a moment later behind him.
"Temper, temper!" it smirked while shaking it's finger disapprovingly. "It's no wonder you were cast in here so easily. Your anger makes you stupid!"
"You are no better off than I am!" Gannon retorted.
"True, true…" the fox frowned. "but I am not just here… I am everywhere…"
Getting a second look at the intruder, Gannondorf was suddenly struck with a feeling of recognition. Those eyes, that face… where had he seen them before?
"Tell me your name." Gannon inquired, his tone much calmer than it had been earlier.
"Oh! Woe is me!" the fox cried, raising its arms dramatically. "Has it been so long that no one remembers the Great Keaton anymore?"
Keaton! That rotten Hero of Time had had a mask of this creature at one time or another. If the childhood legends were true, he was standing in the presence of the Spirit of Trickery and Deceit.
"I do remember you…" Gannon said with a smirk. "I used to pray to you and the Spirits of Chaos to help me take over Hyrule many years ago."
Keaton shifted into a sitting position in mid-air, sporting an intrigued expression on his face.
"And we answered those prayers, did we not, Gannondorf?" a fang glistened in the dull light.
"Yes, and I ruled over Hyrule with an iron fist for seven years…"
"Yes… all because of that brat, the Hero of Time and the Seven Sages!"
"They are quite troublesome…" Keaton remarked, tapping a bored finger against his furry face. "Were it not for them, I and the other Spirits would be free to roam Hyrule as we pleased. We are fortunate enough to be able to still have influence on the land even from this infernal Void."
"Ah, so you want revenge on the Sages as well?"
"Yes, we do... and we have the opportunity to get that revenge if only we could find the hole in this world…"
"Hole?" Gannon raised a curious and hopeful eyebrow.
"Yes," replied Keaton, pointing around them. "Do you see this light?"
"This light is coming from a crack between this world and Hyrule. It's possible to escape, but…"
"We need to find the hole before we can pass through it."
"How does one go about finding it?"
"It's impossible, unless one carries one of the three triforces with them…"
Gannondorf's smug grin reflected the tickled fancy within. Finally! A chance to escape! To have his revenge! They would pay most dearly for sealing him away!
"What a coincidence, my 'friend'…" he said conceitedly. "I think I might be in a position to help,… for a price, of course…" He held the back of his hand up to Keaton's face to show him the mark of the triforce. The fox could not help but grin, a mischievous glinting in his eye.
"So you are!" Keaton laughed. "And what is it that the 'Great Gannondorf' has to ask of the Spirits of Chaos?"
"A partnership…" Gannon replied politely. "With you and the other Chaos Spirits by my side, not even the Hero of Time and the Sages combined could strike us down!"
"A very delicious offer!" Keaton licked his chops and scratched his chin. "It almost seems as though you're paying us rather than us paying you…where's the catch?"
"Then what are we waiting for, hm?" Keaton extended a paw to Gannondorf, who took it and shook it firmly. "I for one certainly want nothing more to do with this empty place!"
The bright afternoon sun shone magnificently down over Hyrule and all it's occupants. Peace had reigned over the land for a little over a year now, and things were slowly returning to normal. The Castle of Hyrule was nearly complete, and the town below was rebuilt and cleared of undead creatures. After Gannondorf's banishment, the entire world seemed to lift up its head and bustle with activity.
The echo of galloping hooves across the grassy plains told the world that a horse was carrying its rider off towards the Kokiri Forest. Well, actually, there were two riders; one wore a rugged, green Kokiri tunic and cap, and the other wore a lovely royal dress with the triforce insignia embroidered into it.
"Enjoying the ride, Princess Zelda?" Link peeked over his shoulder at her, a warm smile playing on his face.
"I certainly am!" Zelda responded, tightening her grip around his waist. "I couldn't have planned a better day for a picnic if I tried!"
This elicited a sweet laugh from the hero as he coaxed Epona to pick up the pace. The horse whinnied and complied. Soon, the wooden gates of the Kokiri Forest came into view, as well as two of the other guests that had been invited to the outing. Link already knew that the third and last one would be waiting just within the woods.
They pulled up beside the gateway and dismounted. The Zora Princess and the young ranch girl hurried to greet them.
"Alright! You're finally here!" Malon beamed.
"It's about time you both got here!" Ruto smirked, her fins flapping gently in the breeze. "We were worried you weren't going to show up!"
"Oh, come on, Princess Ruto." Malon rested her hand on the Zora girl's shoulder. "Not all of us happen to have a shortcut in the Lost Woods!"
"And what Lost Woods they are!" Ruto laughed. "I was afraid I was going to dry out before I found my way out of there!"
All four of them laughed as they headed in through the gates. As Link had anticipated, the fifth guest invited to the picnic was just inside waiting for them - Saria. Her bored expression quickly brightened at the sight of her friends.
"Great! You're all here!" Saria smiled. "Come on! I'll take you to the spot I picked in the Lost Woods."
"Y-You mean were going back in there?!" Ruto's voice nearly caught in her throat. "What if we never get out?!"
"Don't worry, Princess Ruto." Link reassured her. "I've been through there so many times that I hardly ever get lost any more. I guess it just comes with living in the area."
"I know the feeling!" Saria nodded.
After several twists and turns through the seemingly endless maze, the Kokiri girl led them to a small plain with a pond nearby. Saria had specifically chosen this spot so that Ruto wouldn't have to worry about drying up. Soon, they had set up their things and were enjoying their picnic together.
There was always something fun to do. Malon sang for a bit with Link following the melody on the ocarina. After that, Ruto initiated a game of charades, which had everyone laughing. Saria led them all on a walk around the Lost Woods to play some games, and Zelda shared several of the bedtime stories she had heard from Impa. After hours of fun, they all laid back on the grass and gazed up at the sky.
"What a great day this has been!" Zelda remarked.
"You said it!" Ruto chipped in.
"We should do this sort of thing more often!" Malon smiled. "Wouldn't you agree, Link?"
At first, the girls took Link's silence to mean that he had fallen asleep, but when they sat up to check, they noticed him staring very intently at something in the sky.
"Link?" said Zelda softly.
"Are you ok?" asked Ruto. "What are you staring at?"
His expression turned to one of deep concern, but his eyes never left the heavens. The smile he had carried all day had disappeared, replaced by a concentrated frown.
"Something doesn't seem right." He finally spoke, pointing upwards. "Look."
The girls looked to where he was pointing and understood his change of mood. Though the sunsets of Hyrule were typically brilliant and colorful, one could not help but notice a particularly dark violet streak waving somewhat menacingly across the sky. They all glanced at one another, not knowing what to make of it.
"I think we should head back to the Kokiri Forest." Link sat up quickly and began to pack up their picnic things. "Saria, can you lead the way?"
"Sure…" the Kokiri girl replied.
With Saria's help, they made it back to the Kokiri Forest easily. Throughout the entire trip, though, Link had rarely taken his eyes off the purple wisp above them.
"I think it would be safer if I took you girls home." Link said. "Somehow, I get the feeling this isn't anything good."
"We understand." Zelda nodded.
"What do you think it could be?" asked Ruto.
"I don't know." Link replied. "but I already don't like it."
Link and the others bid farewell to Saria and headed outside to where Epona was. After petting the animal, which also seemed a bit unnerved, he assisted Malon onto its back.
"Epona," Link spoke to the horse. "Take Malon home for me and stay there until I call you, ok?"
Epona nodded with a soft bray and hurried to take the farm girl back to the Lon Lon Ranch.
"Zelda, Ruto, stand next to me." Link pulled out the ocarina and played the Serenade of Water. They soon found themselves in the middle of Lake Hylia.
"This is my stop." said Ruto, looking around. "Catch you guys later!" And with that, the Zora Princess dived into the water and swam home.
Link then played the Prelude of Light and appeared with Zelda at the Temple of Time. Putting away the ocarina and taking her hand, he began leading her home.
"Even with the Triforce of Courage…" he thought silently, nodding to Zelda. "…so am I…"
"At last…" Keaton breathed as he, Gannondorf, and the other 4 spirits came within view of the Void's fissure. The light that had been spreading throughout the bleak land was brightest here, and they could not help but drool with anticipation at the possibilities this defect held for them.
"Shall we?" Keaton grinned.
"After you." Gannon gestured politely. "If it hadn't been for you, I wouldn't have known about this."
"And without you, none of us would have found it!" the fox replied, cracking his knuckles. "Well now, let's be rid of this place!"
One by one, the five spirits slipped through the crack between the worlds with ease. As soon as the last one squeezed out, it was Gannondorf's turn to pass through, but being the giant that he was, he found the crevice too small to make his escape. He growled impatiently, but reached out for assistance from the other side. His blood boiled at the sound of laughter.
"GET ME OUT OF HERE!" he thundered.
"But Gannondorf," Keaton peeked at him through the passage. "If you come out now, then what will happen if the Hero of Time comes after you? Do you want to be banished here again?"
"AT LEAST I WOULD NOT GO DOWN WITHOUT A FIGHT!"
"Tch, tch, tch…" the foxy spirit shook his head, but the smile never left his face. "So impatient, Gannondorf!… I'll tell you what, though… we'll take care of that pesky hero first and then come back for you. How does that sound?"
"I DEMAND THAT YOU GET ME OUT OF HERE THIS INSTANT!!"
There came no reply, and when the King of Evil peered through the crevice, the spirits were gone. Furious, he slammed his mighty fist against the corner of the hole, shaking even the very air around him. When he looked up, he saw to his amazement that, even if only by an inch, the crack had widened. Gannondorf grinned. One way or the other, he was most definitely going to get out of this accursed place!
The violet color that had only tinted the sky earlier was beginning to overtake the other shades of the Hylian skies. Link urged Epona to gallop faster, hoping to warn the Zora and Gerudo communities in time before whatever ominous energy invading the kingdom could possibly prevent him from doing so. He had left Princess Zelda under the tight security of the castle guards and was hurrying to investigate this new threat.
The skies continued to darken, and Link could feel Epona pick up the pace. A low, but timid whinny from the animal told all to its rider; Link pet her sweating neck to calm her.
"You're not the only one who's jumpy…" his voice was soft and comforting, but the nervous gaze never left the horse's eyes.
The colored atmosphere darkened, likening to night time, but still retaining its unnerving hue. Clouds rolled in rapidly, threatening to open floodgates of rain upon the land. It became so dark that neither Link nor Epona were able to see very far in front of them.
A bolt of lightening split the sky, striking the ground right in front of Epona. Terrified, the horse reared back and whinnied loudly, throwing Link to the ground hard. Recovering from initial shock, the Hero of Time silently thanked the goddesses that none of his limbs had been broken by the fall.
The shrill, sharp sound of laughter echoed above him. Link rolled to his feet and drew his sword, glancing about for the source of the sound. Something orange caught his eye, and he looked up to see a fox grinning smugly at him. Behind the fox were four other shadowy creatures that Link was unable to see clearly except for their mocking grins.
"You must be Link…" Keaton's grin widened to show his sharp fangs. "Or do you prefer the title 'Hero of Time' to your real name?"
"I am," Link glared. "and who are you that you've come looking for me?"
Keaton raised the back of his paw to his forehead in mock anguish while the fellows behind him snickered.
"Woe is me!" Keaton feigned. "Even you, who wore my mask, have forgotten me!"
Keaton's words triggered recognition in the hero's mind, and Link felt his hand go to his pack to withdraw an all-too-familiar mask when he suddenly paused it, realizing that he no longer carried it on his person.
"Would I be wrong to say that you are Keaton, the Fox Spirit of Chaos?" Link locked eyes with the creature.
Keaton clapped his paws boredly. The fox's body language indicated a lack of amusement, but the unfading grin told otherwise.
"No, you would be right on that matter." Keaton perked his ears up momentarily.
"That's not possible!" Link forced a shocked gasp to remain unheard. "You and the other Spirits of Chaos were sealed in the Void of the Sacred Realm-"
"True," Keaton's tone turned somewhat poetic. "We were sealed in the Void all those centuries ago simply for being that which we are, a rather undeserving fate I'd say. But you see, for every door into the Void, there is a hole leading out of it and into the land of Hyrule."
"No…" Link's mind raced with the dreaded possibilities Keaton's words could hold. If they had managed to escape from the Void, then it was more than possible for Gannondorf to do the same!
"Ah, yes,…" Keaton continued. "There was another fellow in there that wanted out as well… knew you rather well… I think his name was Gannondorf."
The thought of Gannon escaping along with these troublemakers made Link's stomach churn anxiously. The Gerudo king had been difficult enough to subdue, nevermind combined with the Spirits of Chaos! Link could already feel the stinging wounds and aching bruises that would eventually result from his efforts. A trickle of sweat dripped from his face and hit the ground with hardly a splash.
Keaton could see the shifting expressions crossing the hero's face and mused upon it.
"Oh, don't worry about him, boy." the fox waved at the air as though the mention of Gannondorf was as meaningless as a passing insect. "He's still in there, as far as we know, but he'll get out as soon as he makes the hole bigger. Nothing to worry about, really."
"And what do YOU intend to do in the meantime?" Link demanded.
"Us?" Keaton brought his hand to his chest, obviously feigning innocence. "Why, do what we have always done, what comes naturally to us!"
"Send the world into chaos!" Link seethed.
"Isn't it wonderful?" Keaton snickered. "From chaos the world came, and to chaos it shall return. Who knows? It might even be an improvement… in fact I'm pretty sure it is an improvement."
"Somehow, I doubt that!" the Hylian poised himself defensively.
"I don't care if you doubt it or not," Keaton's smile turned sarcastically sinister. "In chaos, nothing and everything matters, as you are about to find out!"
Keaton snapped his fingers, and in a flash, the other Spirits cackled and sped off in all directions, leaving only the sly fox behind. In the distance, Link could the ominous sound of thunder rolling in, but knew all too well that there would be no rain from this storm.
"I don't see how a Gerudo king could possibly lose to a child like you," Keaton spoke boredly, admiring his claws. "but I intend to prove that NO ONE can stand up to the powers of Chaos!"
"NO!" Link managed to utter before Keaton, too, disappeared in the distance. Looking around, the hero could feel the very essence of evil in the air about him.
Epona had long since deserted him, too terrified by the thunder to remain by his side. Perhaps it would be better for him to travel on foot, as one person would seem far less suspicious than one on horseback. Sheathing his blade, he headed for Hyrule Castle.
As he neared the gates, two men came running past him. One was chasing the other, yelling and screaming.
"YOU FILTHY BASTARD! I KNOW IT WAS YOU THAT STOLE IT!" the chaser hollered.
"LIAR! YOU STOLE IT FROM ME!!!" the other bellowed.
The two men ran off, continuing to curse and occasionally exchange blows with one another. Link could only stare at them, curious as to how things had progressed to such a level. Normally, the people of Hyrule had good tempers and skill enough to resolve their conflicts peacefully, so why were these two any different?
More yelling and crying could be heard within the castle, and Link hurried to investigate it. He had to dodge an incoming chair that was hurdling in his direction. When he finally got a good glance at the market square, his heart skipped a beat and his stomach lurched uneasily.
Everywhere Link looked, there were people venting their anger on one another. Most of what was being screeched were accusations of theft, the fingers of blame being pointed at every chest except their own. One lady accused another of stealing her Cuckoo, only to have that other woman retort that her favorite ribbon was missing on her account. Several children were pulling on a sack full of candy, each claiming that it was theirs, then tumbling to the ground as the bag burst and scattered its contents.
A boy, no older than Link himself, peeked wearily out of a door before making a mad dash through the open area towards the gates with something in his hands. The hero had had enough of this madness and quickly tackled the boy from behind. They tumbled into a heap, the contents of the boy's arms slipping from his grasp and onto the ground in front of them.
"What do you think you're doing!?" the boy exclaimed.
"I was about to ask you the same thing!" Link replied.
"Hey, I'm just trying to keep my sanity, ok? That way I won't wind up like everyone else in this crazy town!" Link collected the amulet while still holding the young man tightly. The thief struggled momentarily, but soon gave up; Link's years of battling powerful monsters had given him a few muscles to put to good use.
"If you're trying to keep you're sanity, then how come no one else is?" the hero glared the captive down firmly. "Just what the hell is going on around here?"
"I don't know!" the captive started to panic. "One minute, everyone was watching the sky changing colors, and the next, they've all gone nuts!"
"Then how come you're not affected?"
"I don't know!"
"You have to know something!"
"I don't! I swear it!"
Link let go of the boy and held up the amulet for a quick, closer look.
"What's this for then?"
"It's a peace amulet." the boy explained. "It's basically got a spell in it for preventing magic-induced chaos. Whoever wears it won't wind up like the rest of the idiots around here!"
"So how have you lasted this long?"
"I've got a strong mind, that's why! But even the strong minds have their limits, so I'm not taking any… CHANCES!"
The young man lunged at Link, grasping for the amulet, but the hero simply sidestepped him and let him fall ungracefully to the ground. The boy simply gritted his teeth and fumed.
"So you did know something!"
"I know what the amulet does and that there's some kind of chaos spell cast all over the place. As for who cast it, I don't have a clue."
Link stared at his reflection on the amulet's surface as though studying it. After a moment of thoughtful silence, he turned back to the thief.
"Do you know where I can get one of these… the honest way!"
"Well, uh, I heard that a weird medicine lady in Kakariko might have some, but they're really expensive!"
"Here," Link tossed the gem to the boy. "Keep it for now, but return it when all of this is over."
And with that, Link hurried out of the castle gates towards Kakariko. Behind him, he vaguely made out the boy asking how he knew that this madness would end. The hero shook his head and continued on.
Link hurried towards Kakariko as fast as his legs could carry him. As he neared the steps, his pointed ears twitched, picking up an unfamiliar sound. Was singing? No, it was chanting!
There was smoke coming from the ledge outside of Kakariko, and as Link approached, the sound of chanting grew steadily louder. When he came to the top of the ledge, there was an old man sitting and singing beside a small campfire. His clothes were old and garnished with feathers and tufts of fur alike. There were so many wrinkles in his face that Link could not even see his eyes clearly.
"Um… excuse me?" Link interrupted awkwardly.
The old man seemed to look up at him and smile, creating more wrinkles where the hero had not thought any more were possible.
"Ah! The Hero of Time!" the elder spoke as though Link were an old friend and folded his hands graciously. "How good of you to come! Please! Please! Sit down by the fire, boy."
"I…uh… I really can't right now, sir…" Link scratched the back of his head, unsure of what to say. "You see, I have to-"
"-fetch a peace amulet from the woman in Kakariko so that the chaos will not overtake you…" the elder fidgeted for something within a pouch before withdrawing and holding it up. "Is this what you are looking for?"
Link gasped as the old man dangled a peace amulet right in front of his nose. How had he known?
"Uh… yes! That's exactly what I was looking for" the hero found his voice. "But how did you know?"
"The spirits told me, child." was the answer.
"The Spirits of Chaos…" Link gritted his teeth.
"Not just them, boy, but all the spirits." The man gestured to everything around them. "It is said that Hylians hear the whispers of the gods with their pointed ears, but alas, they pay no heed to the words of the spirits."
"What kinds of spirits are you talking about, sir?" Link's gaze wandered to the cliffs, mountains and fields surrounding them.
"Why, the spirits of the water, of the earth, of the wind, the trees, the rocks, and the mountains." the elder prodded the fire gently with a stick. "They are all around us, but no one seems to pay them much heed nowadays."
"Why is that?"
"Because the people believe that the gods and goddesses are the strongest entities of all, which is why they are given attention and respect. But the spirits, the little ones all around us that help and hinder us as they please, are forgotten as if they never existed."
"I am willing to listen, sir, if you will teach me."
"Ah! But it is not something that can be taught, child. Hearing the voices of the spirits is gift that can only be learned through experience"
Link sighed upon hearing this. Somehow, he had a feeling that this old stranger's advice was going to become quite vital to him. But how, in the name of the goddesses, did one learn to listen to spirits?
"It seems already that you are attuned to those who would show you the way."
"The spirits are speaking to me, and they tell me that you are anxious to hear what they have to say…that you are ready to listen to them, and they are quite pleased about it!"
"T-Thank you… sir…" Link stuttered.
"Don't thank me, boy." the elder replied, handing Link the amulet. "Now take this and be on your way. You have much work ahead of you to complete and little time in which to accomplish it all."
"Are you sure I can have this, sir?" Link gazed at his reflection on the pendant's surface. "What about you? You have one for yourself, don't you?"
"What need have I for a peace amulet when I have the spirits all around protecting me?" came his reply. "Go now, child. Hyrule has great need of you."
Link would have said more, but the old man was right--he did need to get going. But he still had one more question on his mind.
"May I ask what your name is, sir?"
"Call me Pohoto." the elder prodded the fire again.
With the amulet from the old man, Link no longer needed to head to Kakariko, but his next destination was the big question.
"Where to start… where to start…" Link looked in all directions. "Let's see if the spirits will tell me like the old man said they would."
He closed his eyes and concentrated, lending his ears to the wind. The gentle breezes from earlier had been replaced rougher, ominous winds that howled like a Wolfos on the hunt. No, that wasn't the wind, it really was the call of a Wolfos, and it was coming from…
"Navi, can you tell which way that's coming from?" he asked.
"Which way what is coming from?" she replied.
"That Wolfos howling!" Link raised his voice, somewhat irritated. "Come on! You can't tell me that you can't hear it!"
"Link, all I can hear is the wind blowing, ok?" the fairy retorted in like manner. "You must be hearing things."
"Navi, I'm serious. There's a Wolfos out there somewhere, and if we don't find it first, it'll find us, and THAT definitely won't be pleasant."
"I'm being completely honest too, Link, and like I said, all I can hear is the wind."
The hero quieted himself with a sigh. He listened again and the call of the Wolfos rang in his ears once more.
"You're telling me that you didn't hear that?" he tested.
"I didn't hear a thing."
This got Link's mind in motion. Was he really just hearing things? Was the peace amulet around his neck just a lousy fake? Wait… what was it that old Pohoto had said? That he was already attuned to the spirits? Of course! Just because he was paying attention to them didn't mean that everyone else was! In fact, anyone else would be lucky if they heard anything above the chaotic crashing and yelling.
The Hylian closed his eyes and listened again, trying to pinpoint the direction from which the sound was echoing from. He turned around slowly,… slowly…until he barely made out something different.
"Hey, what?" Link asked.
"I didn't say anything." said Navi. "Why, what did you hear?"
"Didn't you just say 'hey' to me?"
Link stared directly head of him. The towering walls of Lon Lon Ranch stood before him. Now he was certain of just what had happened; even if he hadn't made out any clear and distinct words, the spirits had spoken to him, and in their own way, conveyed that visiting the ranch should take first priority.
"Let's go." He uttered, breaking into a run for the gates.
"Epona! Please!" Malon pleaded with her beloved animal as she tried to calm it down. "Stop! You'll hurt yourself!"
The great horse reared back and whinnied, making it impossible for the girl to grab the reigns. Wild stamping and slashing of hooves were putting both the horse and her caretaker in danger.
"Malon!" yelled a familiar male voice. The farm girl looked down the entrance path to see Link coming towards her. No sooner was she distracted than Epona shoulder slammed her aside and continued to struggle against unseen restraints.
"Are you alright?" the hero yanked the girl out of harm's way.
"Oh Link, it's terrible!" Malon sobbed into his tunic. "We got back here just as the wind started howling, and then, without warning…" She paused and pointed to the bucking bronco that was Epona. "S-She just… She just… threw me off like I was some kind of stranger! I tried singing to her, but she won't listen to me! What's wrong with her?"
Link knew all too well the feeling of getting thrown from a stallion's backside. It was serious, and the pain lasted for days on end, especially if the rear end took the brunt of the impact. As much as she was sobbing for her horse, Malon's injuries came first.
"How badly hurt are you?" he asked.
"I fell on my side and arm," she sniffled. "But thankfully, my arm's not broken."
"Go inside. I'll take care of your wounds soon enough." Link's gaze affixed itself on Epona.
"No!" she cried. "I have to make sure she's ok!"
"Malon, it's too dangerous!"
"I don't care!"
He relented, but nudged her off to the side. The sound of clumsy footsteps inside the barn forced Link to yank to saftey as the Ingo burst through the doors, followed by a vicious flurry of feathers. The entire flock of cuckoos had pecked an enormous hole in the seat of his overalls and was now flapping wildly after him, hoping for more.
"Malon, please go inside!" Link urged her again.
Scared and worried, the farm girl nodded once and headed for the door. Link pulled out the ocarina as he took a few cautious steps toward Epona. The horse had always had a wild, untamed nature about her, but this madness was just wrong. She reared back and whinnied, then glared at Link with a hatred only Gannondorf had once given.
"Epona…" Link's voice was calm but serious. "It's me, Link, your friend. Don't you remember me?"
Epona snorted sharply out of her nostrils, and her right hoof stamped the dirt repeatedly, like a bull challenging a matador.
"It must be the chaos spirits…" he reasoned. "This isn't her fault…"
"Link," Navi panicked. "I don't think she's too happy to see you! Link?"
The Hylian had his eyes closed and his lips on the ocarina. He began playing Epona's Song, hoping that the melody would jog her from the spell. At that moment, the horse reared back again and charged, her hooves clamoring like thunder against the dirt.
"Link! It's not working!" the fairy flit about him wildly, trying to get his attention, but he just ignored her. Epona was coming up fast, but Link did not seem to notice as all his concentration was focused on the ocarina. Plastered to the window, Malon could only watch as her beloved horse charged murderously towards her dearest friend. Navi covered her eyes, unable to watch.
"LINK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" Malon and Navi screamed and covered their eyes, afraid to look.
Just as Epona was about the trample Link, the horse reared back wildly, her hooves slashing the air just inches from the hero's face. Her frightened whinny seemed to silence all the cuckoos and chaos around her.
Link watched the animal, unflinching. Epona's cries died down, and the sweet notes of the Ocarina of Time could be heard loud and clear. The animal settled down, its front hooves striking the earth sharply.
As Link watched, a dark silhouette seemed to slither off of the horse's form and crawl upon the ground. It looked like a shapeless poe, a shadow with dark, crimson eyes. Reacting quickly, he drew his sword and impaled it into the ground. It disintegrated immediately.
Exhausted from his brush with death, Link slumped to his knees, leaning on his sword for support. Epona, too, had gone through quite the ordeal, and sank with him.
"Link!" screamed Malon's voice as she barreled out of the house towards them.
"You're alive!" Navi chimed in.
Link was too exhausted to say anything. The last things he felt before passing out were Navi's warm light and Malon's arms catching him.
Something cold and slimy dragging across his cheek returned Link to consciousness. When he finally opened his eyes, Epona and Malon were peering down at him.
"…Malon…?" he uttered weakly, regretting doing so when a slight twinge in his head turned instantly into a powerful migraine. He groaned, gritting his teeth to keep from swearing.
"You're gonna be ok…" the ranch girl smiled.
"Link, what the heck were you thinking!?" Navi's voice screeched. The hero winced as the high-pitched voice worsened his headache.
"Ow! Navi, could you keep it down? Please?" he pleaded.
"You could've been killed!" the fairy fumed, but she did lower her voice. "What in the name of the goddesses possessed you to just stand there with Epona charging at you!?"
"Epona…" he whispered. "It was Epona… she told me not run away… she told me…everything was going to be ok…"
"Epona?" Malon glanced at the horse beside her curiously. "But Link… Epona's a horse… horses can't talk to people…can they?"
It took all of his strength to do it, but Link managed to sit himself up in the bed. The wet cloth Malon had place on his forehead slipped off onto his lap, and he took a deep breath to see if his headache would ease up.
"No… you don't understand…it's…" he stuttered. "It's… a long story. The spirits… Epona's spirit… it said that if there was any doubt in my heart… I'd be trampled to death…"
"So you just STOOD THERE?!" Navi quickly forgot to keep her voice low. Link took a clumsy swipe at the fairy with his cap, but missed.
"If I had moved, I would've been killed!" he groaned at his failure.
"And if you HADN'T moved, you STILL might've been killed!" the fairy darted about, agitated.
"That thing was controlling Epona…" Link half-rambled. "A dark thing that crawled along the ground… it was possessing her… I got it though."
"Along the ground?" Malon replaced the wet cloth into the bedside bowl.
Navi was none too pleased by this bit of information.
"Link," the fairy flapped her wings sharply. "That was a Chaos Pawn! Do you realize just how much danger you were in?"
"Probably not," the hero said with a half-hearted grin. "but you're probably going to tell me anyway, aren't you?"
"I wouldn't be you're guardian fairy if I didn't" she replied. "A Chaos Pawn is a lost soul that can't get to the Afterworld because of doubts, unfinished business, or regrets. What happens is that these souls become easy prey for evil spirits, and the Spirits of Chaos pick them right up, turning them into their personal slaves. Usually they're sent to do odd jobs, like causing small accidents and starting arguments, but the really strong ones do a lot more horrible deeds like possession, sometimes even murder!"
"So that was what drove Epona mad…" Link barely whispered, reaching up to stroke Epona's muzzle reassuringly. "Are strong ones common?"
"Not really," Navi explained. "They get their powers from the Chaos Spirits themselves, but now that the Chaos Spirits are here, there could be a whole army of pawns running amok!"
"That would certainly explain the situation in Hyrule Market." the hero sighed. "Now the question is, how do we deal with them?"
A moment of silence froze the room. Only a deep breath from the horse was to be heard.
Link moved to get out of bed, but Malon stopped him.
"Don't get up." the ranch girl insisted. "You're still in bad shape. You need to rest."
"I'll rest when everybody else can" Link replied. "Until then, I have things to do. I'm sorry."
"I understand." Malon sighed reluctantly. "Just please, whatever happens, come back alive."
"I'll see what I can do." He flashed her a friendly smile and ambled out of bed. His feet slipped easily into his worn, leather boots, and his sword and shield where strapped on effortlessly, as though it were a routinely procedure.
Malon and Epona saw Link to the gates of the ranch and waved goodbye. At Link's insistence, she remained at the farm and hopefully out of site from anymore Chaos Pawns. Oddly enough, when Epona had been dispossessed of the pawn, the flock of cuckoos chasing after Ingo had ceased their rampage as well. One bird alighted on the horse's head, seeming to bid the hero farewell too.
Out on Hyrule Plain, Link surveyed the ominous horizon, pondering which direction to take now.
"Maybe we should see if Zelda is all right." He suggested.
"No way!" Navi cried. "If what happened at the ranch is going on there, I don't want anything to do with that town right now!"
"Fine, then where do you suggest that we head next?"
"How about the Zora's Domain? Maybe Gerudo Valley?"
"I still think that we should head for Hyrule Castle…"
"You are not ready to face what lies in Hyrule Castle, young hero." Came a voice from behind them. Link spun around, his sword drawn in the blink of an eye. He sighed and resheathed it upon recognizing the newcomer.
"Pohoto…" he uttered, his startled blood still pounding through his veins. "What are you doing here? It's not safe being out in the open like this."
"As much as you want to see to the princess's safety," Pohoto shook his head. "Your own will be at risk if you head there unprepared."
"Unprepared?" Link blinked. "What do you mean?"
"To face the Spirits of Chaos and stand even the slightest chance against them, follow the little spirits to the lands reversed by Chaos and restore them to their proper states. Then, you will ready to face them."
"Lands reversed by Chaos…?" Link repeated to himself, staring at the ground pensively. "What in the world does that mean? Hey, Pohoto-"
But when Link looked up, the old man was gone, nowhere to be seen on the vast plains. Navi, too, was surprised by this and promptly sought the safety of Link's cap. She peeked out timidly from just under the rim.
"I don't trust him, Link!" she whined. "I'm starting to think he might be a spirit too!"
"Whoever he is, though, he sure seems to know a lot about what's going on. Let's just hope he's not leading us into a trap."
A Wolfos bayed in the distance, lending its song to the wind. Link closed his eyes, concentrating on where the sound was coming from. Moments later, he and Navi were heading off towards Death Mountain.
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