Author's Note: I don't own Zelda nor claim to. All rights to their respective owners.
"It's dangerous to go alone. Take this," the old man urged Link while holding something out to to him in the dim light of the cavern's flaming censers. A sword. The dagger in Link's belt pouch suddenly felt very small.
Link held it up, his eyes glittering with awe. The censers made shadows out of the runes cut into the length of the blade. He had never held a true sword before. His sixteen-year-old body became the quivering ghost of a manly warrior on the free-form cavern wall.
"It's so lightweight," Link marveled. "What's it made of?"
"Well, not just any kind of wood, really..."
Link ran to the mouth of the cave where daylight stabbed in. The blade was indeed wooden. A rich looking wood of a warm red coloring with rings and ribbons of varying shades. But...
"You've given me a wooden sword?"
"Scoff not, child, lest you accidentally skewer yourself or somebody else. Give me that."
Link obeyed without much resistance. He felt may as well have been without a sword anyway. The elder walked over to the crude stone oven in the tapering back of the cavern. Crumbs of bread lined an ancient table missing a leg and animal bones lay despondently on the ground. A fire was yet alive in the maw of the oven. He held the sword up, examined it, and threw it into the fire.
That did something to Link. However useless the weapon may have been.
"Come and watch," the old man ordered.
Link expected most of the sword to be gone by the time he reached the oven. Yet the blade hadn't even darkened with injury. The leather wrapped around the hilt was aflame, but the blade, hilt and pommel resisted burning altogether.
"Take it out, boy."
"You want me to put my hands in the fire?"
The old man nodded with closed eyes.
Link would have told the old man that he couldn't be serious. But he was.
"No," Link said.
The elder's beard bristled and the light of the flames twinkled in his narrowing eyes.
"Take. The sword. Out. Of. The. Fire. Boy."
Before the old man could reply, there was a gale-force wailing from the oven. Like a banshee waking up to a rapist. It pierced Link's elven ears and caused him to jump back, crying out. The fire was out. The sword was faintly glowing pale, the runes the brightest. It was the coldest light Link ever saw. Upon closer inspection, the coals of the fireplace were caked in frost that ran like tree roots over the oven lip to the cavern floor.
The old man scratched his ear. "Take the sword."
Link took it by the hilt cautiously. It wasn't cool to the touch. It was cold to the touch. It stopped glowing.
"Be careful, young one. That sword is all the assistance I can afford you."
"Where-Where did you find this?"
"I made it myself, actually. Not bad for an old one who has never been a metalsmith, aye?"
"What sort of wood?"
"Stop asking questions!" he growled, "You can thank me by killing those devilrous tektites that have been clambering all over my property! Put that energy into fighting, not jabbering!"
Link squinted as he stepped out into daylight, revealing his usual Hylian getup. He wore his trusty green tunic fastened with a sturdy black belt from which hung sacks and implements. His equally green trousers disappeared into doeskin boots made for those who may walk the rest of their lives. A wind caught him from the side, wrapping his blonde locks around his pointed ears from beneath his - yes, green - tapered stocking cap. True to the old man's word, there were tektites patrolling among the many stone monoliths that sprouted out of the ground. They must have detected Link's movement upon his arrival and moved in to investigate.
They were unsavory beasts. Like giant spiders with four skinny black legs supporting a warty, corpse-blue body. And the eye. One single unblinking eye from which ran a thread of mucus to the ground, glowing like a spider web in the sun. Two sturdy pincers guarded a comparatively small mouth.
One of them spotted Link with it's iris of copper. It let out a thin, delighted shriek. Dinner.
Link unslung his shield from his back and took his stance. How to do this... charge the animal? Wait for it to come to him and do this matador-style? As if reading his mind, the old man's voice whispered to him from behind.
"Point the sword at it and call out 'Willow!'"
There was the sound of a metal sword unsheathing. Then there was the banshee scream from before. Right before Link's eyes, the ghostly shape of a sword tore out of the blade in his hand like the bolt of a crossbow, writhing with an internal lightning. The afterimage struck the tektite directly in the pupil. The eye exploded. The tektite gurgled and collapsed.
The tektite's new position revealed that the projectile had burst out the back before dissipating. The stone monolith behind was spattered with tektite matter and burn marks. Link's jaw dropped. He held the sword up. Looked the runes over. Felt the wooden dullness of the blade.
His fingers were bleeding. What sort of sword was this? He turned around to ask the old man, but he, and the cavern entrance, were both gone. The entrance was plugged. The shadows of tektites were cast on the ground as they came to feed on their fallen kin. Their eyes turned to Link as they scented his living blood. A smirk twisted the corner of Link's mouth as he stepped forward to them.
West where the trees grow dead
and bushes grow brown
Where dark things sprout from
fallow, unhallowed ground
Where empty air may not
mean you are alone
Where restless graves aren't far
including your own
Where the trees grow dead...
Link stood outside the dismal Western Forest of gnarled, ancient trees. Their withered leaves looked clawed. All behind him throughout the Hyrulian countryside were lush trees of foliage so green they were almost black, flashing in the setting sun. But here...
The forest path was green at the mouth of the wood and turned deathly pale gold as it slithered in. Link eyed the shadowy heart of the forest, thinking about how much daylight was left. Daytime brought the threat of drooling moblins, those barbaric, canine yet reptilian thugs of Lord Ganondorf. Nighttime brought the threat of moblins and the unpredictable faeries. Faeries could be coaxed to be helpful while found sleeping in their springs during daylight. At night, when sleep left their wild eyes, and their bounds crossed into the mortal realm... well, a moblin skirmish could be desirable by comparison.
Bah. Play it safe. This time.
Link pitched tent a fair distance from the dark maw of the Western Forest. In the months since acquiring the wooden sword, he had retrieved three pieces of the Triforce of Wisdom. He placed the glowing golden fragments at the entrance of his tent and offered a Hylian prayer to the faceless goddesses that were rumored to have created the three triforces. Those things of such great good. And trouble.
Watch over this tent. May the presence of this much of the triforce deter the moblins and the other things with a taste for valiant flesh. A supper of fish from the nearby lake with wild berries lulled Link to sleep. The wooden sword stood propped up against the center pole of the tent. All felt safe enough.
Crying. Sniffling. Moaning. It was delicately female. Almost musical with elegance. It slowly pulled Link from his sleep until his eyes shot open. It was in the tent with him. Someone was in his tent in the darkness crying a river. He was on his knees in a single movement.
"Who's there?" he demanded.
The convergence of the tent flaps was a needlepoint of scant light on the ground. Link felt for the sword and stalked to the entrance. He took a breath and flew out.
Nobody. Nothing. It was indeed dark out. Clouds had swallowed the stars and the moonlight.
He thought he saw the last rays of an extinguished light in the Western Forest, but by the time his attention was caught, the darkness was all there was. Back under his blanket, he cast an eye in the direction of the wooden sword. No light. Nor sound.
He went back to sleep, but was troubled by shallow, rather displeasing dreams. Dreams of someone crying in the blackness of the trees. Moblins and other things at his heels. Arrows hissing past his ears. But he was blindly driven forward because the crying was the most heart-wrenching thing he had ever heard. He wanted to reach her-or-whoever before the monsters would. What if they got there first? What if they found her and the crying ended in a muffled whimper for mercy... No. It can't end like that. The poor thing. The poor, dear thing.
He forgot the dreams as soon as he awoke, and he wondered why there were tears on his cheeks.
Gort and Wormnik patrolled along a narrow path of The Western Forest in their usual waddling moblin fashion. They wore bright leather war tunics and talismans that faeries didn't cope with very well. The ten other moblins keeping pace behind wore old and crumbling tunics that were itchy like sackcloth. So besides waddling, there were shrugs and squirms at itches that couldn't be reached. They were without talismans. Which meant staying close to their commanders.
The two were brothers. Twins, actually. Conjured at the same time which is rare in Ganon's wizardry. They were both capable soldiers and neither could best the other (though they firmly believed this was possible) and thus Ganon conferred equal authority on both of them.
Squabbles between the two were common. But how else could children of Ganon express sibling affection?
Today, the brothers were more quiet than usual. Their pink iris-less eyes shifted about. Their long jowls drew back as they snarled at everything, like something was hiding around every corner they turned. Their yellowed teeth were bared. Neither of them knew why.
They spoke to each other in their native gurgling, guggling, glubbing moblin language.
"I don't think the maggots slept well," Gort glugged.
"Pfaugh! I certainly didn't."
"I slept, but I dreamed uneasily. I woke up several times throughout."
"Tell me your dream, brother."
"I saw the stars become glyphs. Signs that I had never seen, even in Master's books. They swung in the sky like pendulums, faster and faster until they fell to the ground. The sound of their falling, was like... was like..."
"Crying?" Wormnik interrupted.
"I'm not finished yet! But... yes, very much like crying. Human tears. How did you guess?"
Wormnik was silent.
"How did you guess?"
Still no answer. Gort snorted impatiently.
"I asked you..."
"Same dream. I guessed because I had the same dream, my brother. The same dream."
"The very same dream?"
"The very same."
This was something for their small moblin brains to grind. Silence reigned for minutes.
"What does this portend, my brother?"
"I don't know."
"The old woman we pulled out of the cavern by the waterfall. She looked like the kind that could interpret dreams. We should have saved her for a while."
Wormnik patted his stout stomach.
Link got out a bag of red marbles. He looked at them and sighed. Childhood in a sack. He next noticed his hands, and the fact that they weren't childish anymore. He shook his head and took a handful of marbles.
Circles. Squares. Triangles. Happy faces.
He made patterns in the ground as he walked the root-wormed ground of The Western Forest. He would make a pattern and walk forward, expecting the pattern to come ahead of him. He was looking for the part of the forest believed to repeat endlessly, The Forest of Maze. So far, every marble layout was behind him where he left it.
The dappled sunlight almost made the wood a cheerful place. The trees appeared resentful of the penetrating light. Homely acorns fell with quiet thuds. Normal-looking squirrels raced each other.
The crying. It bothered Link. It just sat in the back of his mind with no associations or deductions. He was positive that it was inside the tent with him. The tent flaps didn't move. How did she - or it - flee?
A familiar odor hit him. Moblins. He straightened his cap. He unslung his shield and readied the sword. The sword had, to date, felled only a few moblins. Small and scrubby ones that had no business romping around looking for combat. Link wanted to give the sword a taste of a real moblin fight.
Movement on the trail up ahead. They were upwind, so they wouldn't be able to smell him. Dog's noses, those fiends had.
Link ducked down into the ugly, thorny brush and waited. His bright green outfit wouldn't contrast so much in the sight of dim moblin eyes.
There were about twelve of them. Shuffling and waddling on fat moblin feet. The two in front looked important. They were wearing faerie talismans. Something Link didn't have. The company passed and Link gathered his legs for a spring.
Gort and Wormnik smelled it at the same time. Flesh. Warm and blooded. Behind them. They started salivating.
Every blue hair on their scaled body stood on end as a soul-shattering wail cast up and up, howling in every tree cavity, combing every dead blade of grass, bending every brown leaf, assaulting their sensitive ears.
Swords of light sailed like lightning and moblin flesh and bone filled the air in wet pops and pfuds. . The destruction was coming from the end of the company and tearing toward the two commanders. They dropped to ground and nocked trembling arrows, cursing in their guttural language as the last standing ogre's head burst like a watermelon.
"Who goes there?" they called in the common Hylian tongue.
There stood Link. The wood of the sword caught the sunlight at an angle, shadowing the runes. As he strutted toward them, the eyes of the two survivors grew wider and wider.
"Brother... the sword... the glyphs.."
"Yes, yes I know."
"Where can I find your master?" Link demanded.
"Can't say we've met, my pointy-eared friend," Gort snarled. "What sort of person would have business with our master?"
"Willow!" Link called, pointing the sword.
The same wailing shriek. Another bolt of light struck the ground in front of Gort and Wormnik, spraying them with clumps of earth. They dropped their arrows and bows.
"My business is my own. Now tell me where your master is, if you want to live to tell anything to anyone ever again."
"You make a tough call, Pink One. We are servants of the tusked sorcerer Ganondorf. If we answer you in truth, he will learn of it and we will die. Not too quickly, either. If we remain at odds with you, we die dishonorably by your hand."
"How about an alliance between the three of us?" Link asked.
Both the brothers laughed dryly. "Then we never die. Then we are tortured as long as Ganon lives, and it is common knowledge that he is immortal."
"We'll see how immortal he is when I find him. Anyway, just remember that I was the most merciful master you ever had." He pointed the wooden sword at them and drew closer.
The moblin commanders shut their eyes hard.
"The talismans. Give them to me and I'll let you go."
They looked at him and snorted doubtfully. Then they snapped the talismans off their necks and threw them at his feet.
"Leave your weapons and run."
Their fat shapes slowly rose and obeyed. They cast stabbing glances behind them as they fled. The talismans' clasps hadn't broken. Link put them both on and followed the direction of the two runners once they had a head start. He started whistling to himself as he strolled along, stepping over the remains of seven... eight... nine... hadn't there been twelve moblins total?
An arrow hissed out of the trees and sunk deep into the right of Link's chest, piercing a lung. It hurt. A lot. He leaned on the sword like a staff. One lone moblin came from the trees with another arrow nocked.
"Willow.." Link whispered with pointed sword shaking. There was then a gaping hole toothed with broken ribs in the beastly marksman. The wooden sword fell from Link's hand and he collapsed hard, his long blonde hair spilling like autumn leaves.
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