The large room of the castle dining hall was poorly lit, the early morning cold seeping in through the partially open windows. Dawn was yet new in the sky but already the gossamer clouds, remnants from the gale the night before, were growing ever thicker. The promise of another storm was in the air.
A fire crackled in the lone fireplace the room had to offer, but it was slowly becoming weaker, its warmth and light fading with it. Despite the early hour, the princess had risen from her bed, having been unable to sleep the night before. Steaming tea sat before her, the curling vapor warming her tenuous fingers as she lifted her spoon to stir it. The murmur of the few servants that were awake reached her from the hallway. Link had not yet come to join her, but the mere thought of him made her pulse quicken, her heart miss a beat. Raising the cup to her lips, Zelda blew the steam away from the fiery liquid and drank a bit. The gentle breeze stirred outside, chilling her and making the fire’s light flicker.
The oak doors at the head of the room creaked open, drawing her attention. As she glanced up, Link walked slowly into the room, a cup of tea in his own hand. “Good morning, princess,” he said softly, pulling out the chair across from her and having a seat at the table.
“Hello, Link,” she said in return, feeling the hot blood of self-awareness come into her face. She was still in her nightgown, the long, lacy sleeves touching the table as she drew her shoulders forward.
Their eyes met briefly, and each read the other’s feelings. Zelda realized Link knew what had happened the night before, and it made her uneasiness increase tenfold. Link, too, was a bit uncomfortable with such knowledge. Both struggled to think of conversation, but both were unsure as to what they should say. The tension in the air began to grow, making them shift in their seats.
Link picked his cup up from the table, sipping the hot tea in it and trying to think. What could he say that wouldn’t center around last night? His rumination brought up nothing, and he sighed. The princess dropped her gaze to the patterns in the tablecloth in front of her, equally at a loss. The last few days had been high in emotion, draining them, and she felt suddenly overwhelmed. Link, too, allowed the weariness he had tried to keep at bay to consume him. Placing his cup upon the table again, he rose, pushing back his chair.
Zelda found her voice. “Breakfast should be here soon,” she began, but he waved a hand in her direction, dismissing the matter. “It’s all right,” he responded, beginning to walk off in the direction of the door, “I can eat later if I have to.” The door squeaked open under his hand, then clicked shut as he started down the hallway, the sound echoing in the large room.
Now alone, the princess sighed softly, listening to the faint cries of the wind and the popping of the weakening blaze in the hearth. She felt a cold void open in her as she watched him go, a wistfulness that she couldn’t brush aside. She murmured, “If I could only tell you...”
The bell burst into Istas’s deep slumber, jolting him awake. His temples throbbed with pain, and every beat of his heart made his chest blaze with renewed agony. He opened his eyes to the world rather reluctantly, for he wished to sleep still. He had slept most of the day previous and through the night, trying to escape the hurt that plagued him. It was constantly with him in his waking hours, what few of them there were, causing his body to tremble, his eyes to become bright with suffering. He lay without movement, shutting his eyes and trying to will himself from what ailed him.
Mira came quietly to his doorway, a bowl of food in hand. Although the bell signaled the beginning of Hagen’s training session, she had been pardoned long enough to bring nourishment to her injured companion. “Istas?” she queried mildly, coming to kneel alongside his prostrate body. Her fingers were light and cold against his skin, warm with fever. Meekly, he opened his eyes, his breathing irregular and harsh. He managed, with great difficulty, to raise a hand in greeting. Her eyes were filled with unease, even as she smiled lightly at him, setting the bowl down beside him. “You’re fortunate, Istas, to get out of Hagen’s torture chamber. But,” she added with a chuckle, “you’ll still have to suffer through the slop like the rest of us.” Despite his condition, Istas, too, smiled a bit. Bringing the bowl closer to him, she put a hand behind his back to help him sit up, then watched as he picked the spoon with shaking fingers and brought the food to his mouth, pulling a face at the taste. Joy shone to replace the worry in Mira’s eyes as she joked, “That bad, huh? You can’t be too sick, then.”
It was at her insistence that he finished the entire bowl, the hot food filling his empty stomach with heat and energy. She assisted him, lowering his body back down on his bedding. He closed his eyes again, the sweat beading on his forehead. His skin was flushed, and once again she lay gentle fingers to his forehead. His head was as warm as the porridge she had brought to him, and angst panged deep in her heart.
At her touch his eyes opened, and he was able to see the anxious light in her eyes. Grimacing, he managed to pull himself up, the world tilting as his head and body roared in protest. Mira’s eyes widened in surprise, and she placed her hands on his shoulders, trying to get him to lay back down. “Istas, no, you’re not getting up,” she snapped. He proved stronger than she even in his weakened condition, however, and forced himself up on tremulous legs. Mira rose with them, words of objection lodged in her throat.
“Let’s go,” Istas said, his voice scratchy with illness and trembling from being silent for so long. “Go where?” Mira questioned, stepping in front of him to block his path. “You’re not going anywhere, you’re still sick. Me, I have training to get to, before Hagen gets to looking for me.” Istas shook his head, laying a hand on her shoulder and gently thrusting her aside. “I’m going too,” he replied. Before she could offer any argument, he began past her.
Sighing, Mira saw he was determined to be up and about. She rushed to his side, leaning her body against his in support, guiding him to where Hagen’s chambers lay. Already, she could hear Hagen’s deep voice, rigid with command, berating and shouting as he ordered the trainees to perform his will.
As they continued onward, she cast a troubled glance to Istas, who appeared to be worse than he was just moments ago. To support him further, she took his arm and lay it across her shoulders, at the same time trying her best to bear his weight. This slowed her down considerably, and it took twice as long to reach Hagen’s chambers.
As she arrived, Istas removed his arm and began to walk without her assistance, keeping pace beside her as they went past Hagen, who was in his usual area at the front of the chamber, eyed them with dark eyes. Silently, Mira assumed her place in one of the uniform lines, and Istas went to her side. His shortness of breath and paleness were of great concern to Mira, who kept peering at him with furtive glances.
“I thought you were sick, Istas! What cute trick are you two pulling now?” Hagen snarled in greeting, glaring at Mira. She, in return, held her head high, drawing herself up to her full height. “There is no joke, Hagen. Istas isn’t well.” Hagen chuckled scornfully at this, disbelieving. “If he’s here, he will train as the rest of you will,” he ordered, then raised his voice so all could hear. “All right, move! We’ve wasted enough time!”
The trainees all moved as one, each pairing off and beginning to train. Mira faced Istas, hoping he was up to sparring. “Istas, really, you shouldn’t be here,” she whispered, laying a hand on his shoulder. His body trembled with the contact, but he drew a deep breath and made an effort to appear well. “No, I’ll be fine,” he answered, standing firm. Mira shook her head in dissent, replying, “You’re not up to this, I can see it.”
Fire burned in his chest and head, spreading to his extremities. His muscles shivered, and he felt ice begin to form in the center of his being. Feeling dizzy from lack of oxygen, he nonetheless managed to formulate a response. “I can handle it, Mira, quit worrying.”
Hagen broke into the conversation before Mira had time to disagree. “You two! Get started and stop slacking off!” Mira sighed heavily, seeing she was defeated.
“If you insist, Istas,” she muttered under her breath. Taking up the spear that lay near her feet, she lowered the wooden shaft so the sharp point was in his direction. “Get ready,” she warned, preparing to charge him.
Istas nodded, the motion causing his temples to ache and his chest to flare with renewed flame. An involuntary groan escaped his throat, and Mira halted, bringing the spear upright at her side. “Istas, are you all right?” she questioned, brow furrowed in concern.
His voice was gone suddenly, and even breathing in itself became a challenge. The scene in front of him suddenly tilted, swayed and sparked. Mira was asking him something, her eyes disturbed, but he was unable to comprehend what was being said. Her words seemed to blend together, each syllable indistinct from another, forming a language all its own that he couldn’t understand.
His weakened legs gave out suddenly, and he sank to his knees, lowering his head between his hands, unable to hold in check the cry of pain that rose from his depths and filled the room around him. Hagen and the other trainees all paused in their activity, turning their attention to where Istas knelt. Mira brought herself down to his side, questioning. He stared at her, his eyes wide, but dim and unseeing. He was locked in his own prison of darkness and pain, incapable of escape. The other trainees gathered close, their lesson forgotten, all muttering or offering suggestions. Mira bristled, rising, waving them all back, her voice hoarse as she growled,
“Stay away!” So fierce was her demeanor that they didn’t dare contradict or disobey her. Slowly, they all stepped back, allowing her to stay close to Istas. Even Hagen remained at a respectable distance, wordless.
“Istas, please...” Mira began, her voice beginning to rise, pitched in hysteria. She placed a hand under his chin and brought his face up to meet hers. His eyes were beginning to close, and his body shook, his skin drained of all color save that lent by fever’s hot hands. Her fear of his possible death took hold, making her own body shake. She took him by the shoulders, trying with desperation to get him to acknowledge her. She shook him gently, her heart pounding in urgency.
His labored breathing slowed suddenly, and his body ceased to tremble. Exhaling, he sank into the blessed darkness that surrounded him, relieving him of pain. His body slumped forward into Mira’s arms, and she lay him down gently on the floor, her eyes luminous with fear. The other trainees and Hagen remained where they stood, eyes wide with horrified shock, all mumbling among themselves. They could have not been there for all Mira paid mind to them as she lay her palm on Istas’s chest, feeling for a heartbeat. Relief flooded her as she found what she sought; however, his heart’s pulse was erratic and rapid. Removing her hand, she stood, then knelt. With great effort, she began to lift Istas, grunting as she threw his arms over her shoulders, the rest of his body resting fully on hers.
It was quite a struggle to walk, but she was determined. Carrying Istas’s full weight, she strained to move her feet, and slowly she began to advance. Walking past the astonished trainees and Hagen, she went with difficulty into the usual scramble of the village inhabitants. Many a head turned, many eyes were filled with curiosity, but questions were not asked of her as she trudged to Istas’s dwelling.
With great caution and attentiveness, she lay him on his bedding, watchful of his chest as it rose and fell with the activity of respiration. He’d lost much more blood the previous day than she’d originally anticipated. She went quickly to where she had left her medicinal herbs and wooden bowl. A flask of water sat with the other items. Her hands were rapid as she opened a drawstring leather bag, dumping a bit of what it contained into her tiny wooden bowl. Her fingers trembled with nerves as she tried to unscrew the cap of the flask, and with a snarl of annoyance, she clamped down on the cap and turned. It came loose, and she threw it aside, pouring the clear liquid in with the dried green herbs. Sloshing the contents of the bowl to combine them, she went to Istas’s side.
Raising his head by placing her hand behind it, she put the edge of the bowl to his mouth, tipping it back and allowing the liquid to flow in. After he had swallowed it, she placed the bowl down and poked about in one of the corners. She was sure that she had put it there somewhere...
Feeling her searching fingers make contact with the desired object, she drew it out, putting it in her palm and closing her fingers about it. Once again near Istas, she drew one of his arms from beside him, opening his fingers and laying the glittering item in his hand, easing his fingers closed to envelop it.
In his hand she had placed the ring that had once been his mother’s. She had taken it from his hand before she had begun to tend to him after he made the attempt at his life, and had lain it in the corner in her haste. Now vigilant as she remained near to him, she prayed that he would revive, that he still had hope in life.
The hours passed with great reluctance. The waning hours of the shining sun gave birth to the blackness of night, and still she remained, unwilling to depart. His eyes had yet to open, and his heart was irregular. Every so often, she would dose him with more herbs, all the while wishing he would awaken.
The night waxed in age, growing ever blacker. His fever remained, but waned in intensity, and his breathing was a bit less hindered. Gradually, he grew pale as the heat of illness grew weak. His muscles, which had been taut and strained, relaxed as he fell into a normal sleep. Mira continued to keep her watch over him, even as she herself felt weariness invade her aching bones.
As dreams began to flow in the deep, dark river of his sleep, he grew calmer. Mira sighed with fatigue and alleviation, standing to stretch her legs. A tired smile graced her face as she looked upon him. With a final stretch, she left for her own dwelling, looking forward to receiving some sleep herself.
The stark night, alit with tiny stars, was a beautiful sight to gaze at. The somber, cloudy day had given way to a clear evening, the first in what seemed years. The flame that provided the sconces with light were burning low, and Princess Zelda, leaning against the window sill, felt a sudden chill sweep over her in spite of the parlor’s warmth.
Her skin prickled as she left the window to go to the blaze that burned with amber heat. It occurred to her that all the windows in the room, dark with night’s influence, were closed tightly; it couldn’t have been a breeze that made her tremble so. Something in the deepest reaches of her mind made her feel odd, expectant. Such a feeling had been within her from the moment she’d awakened that morning, but was stronger now with the coming of nightfall. She wondered over it as she moved to the bookcase in the corner of the room, running her finger over the many leather-bound volumes, her eyes keen for one that caught her interest.
Her finger halted suddenly, touching the spine of a thick book that had most certainly seen better days. She reached up, bringing it down from the shelf carefully. It was ancient text, the cover scratched and worn, the title faded and hardly discernable. Bringing it closer to the firelight, the leafing that had not chipped off blazed like a silver flame in the outlines of the letters that once existed. Studying it with scrutiny, she realized it was an old book on sorcery.
Close to the fire was a velvet backed chair, and she settled herself in it, laying the text across her lap and slowly opening the cover. The yellowed pages were testimony of the book’s age. The ink itself had faded with the years, ghostly shadows of what they had been. A ribbon, once a bright scarlet but now a dull salmon, rested between the book’s pages, marking the page where a reader had long ago stopped reading.
The book was intriguing to her; she didn’t recall having read it before, and at once began to read the pages with interest. Different methods and techniques for spells and chants were described in great, meticulous detail, ingredients for powders and potions used for some such spells written just below them.
As she continued to read, she closed her eyes in horror, the blood draining from her face. The necessary items for spells grew more and more gruesome as the effects of the incantations became more powerful. Opening her eyes once again, she held the book close, scarcely believing what she was looking at. Many of the spells dealing with necromancy required blood from various sources, and the spell her eyes had just passed over needed the blood of another creature such as herself...
The door to the parlor opened suddenly, and she started, nearly dropping the book to the floor. Link walked into the room, meeting her eyes in silent greeting. She nodded, acknowledging his presence, then turned her attention back to her reading. This was obviously text for the sorcerer willing to go to any lengths to attain a goal; most spells did not require cold-hearted murder. Despite the morbidity of the words, she was drawn by the dark nature of the volume, absorbed in its spells, its potions. Each spell was a written atrocity.
Link stood silently by for a time, observing. Baffled as to what she could be reading that could have her concentration so fully, he eased himself in the chair beside hers.
She glanced up at him for a second, and seeing the question in his eyes, spoke, her voice quiet. The fire crackled as she began to explain the contents of the book in front of her, shivering as she told him the section she was reading. His eyes widened in surprise.
“This is text for the desperate, Link,” she concluded, peering down at the book for a long moment. He nodded in concurrence, motioning for her to hand the book to him. She passed the book over to him, and his eyes began to skim the paragraphs. After a time, he shut the book suddenly, spooked.
“You’re right,” he said at length. “Some of the spells need the performer to kill somebody, and others even put the murderer themselves at risk.” Another long silence elapsed, then Zelda spoke again.
“It’s a very old book, Link. I didn’t even know we kept such things in the castle.” The inner cold was beginning to make her flesh crawl, and she quivered involuntarily. Goose flesh broke out on her arms and legs despite the flame that flickered just a few feet from her chair.
“Link,” she began, and he turned in his chair to face her, concerned. The tone in her voice heralded something he knew was important, and he listened with rapt attention as she continued. “I...I know this will sound very odd, Link, but...I’ve had a strange feeling all day. Something is going to happen tonight, Link, I just know it.” She folded her hands in her lap, interlocking her fingers, staring down at them.
“A premonition?” he murmured questioningly, and she shrugged in reply. “I’m not sure, Link. It’s not as though it’s something bad, I can sense that much. It’s a very odd feeling...” She let her voice fade, staring deep into the fire’s mesmerizing glow. He prodded her no further. Something was happening inside of him as well. He could sense it now, the sensation the princess had told him of. Just beyond his conscious thought, something lay in wait, biding its time.
The quietness between them stretched long, turning minutes to hours. Both pondered the strange feeling that had taken hold, an emotion akin to dread but not dread itself, equally as cold, equally as unnerving.
After a time, weariness, soft as a feather, brushed the princess. She yawned, and it augmented, starting to consume her. The nameless feeling blazed in her mind, dulling with this sudden fatigue. Her eyes burned with the need to close, and her body relaxed, her head falling forward to meet her chest. Her breathing became rythmic as her eyes closed. Link glanced over at her, laying a hand on her shoulder. She didn’t respond; she was in a deep sleep.
He moved to once again open the book that had remained in his lap, drawn by what he had read. Hardly had he lain a hand to it when he was touched by sleep’s numbing digits. The need for slumber descended on him all too suddenly; he hadn’t been tired in the least moments before. He had no time to puzzle over the strangeness of it, however. Within seconds, he, too, had succumbed to the weariness, allowing it to take him. His eyes shut, and both he and Zelda became lost in the darkness.
In the blackness of sleep, there came a gentle song, sung by at first a single voice, then by many, all in perfect harmony. The song itself did not have many words, but was a fluid tune. The darkness suddenly gave way to a gentle, cold mist. Zelda’s eyes opened at the first touch of the cold droplets upon her face. The mist swirled around her as she looked around. The fog blocked her vision, beading her with wetness. The surrealism of it all had to make it a dream, yet she felt as though it was reality.
The fog thinned a bit alongside her, and she realized Link was beside her, having just awoken himself. “Where are we?” he asked, turning to her, and she shrugged in reply. They were both kneeling, listening to the mysterious beauty of the song that continued to be sung, gentle as the mist. It was Link that stood first, trying to see his way through the thick curtain in front of him. Zelda hurried to his side, not wishing to be left completely alone in the unfamiliar surroundings.
Both began forward, still blinded. The fog thinned again, in patches, and they were able to see the darkness beyond. It felt as though they were walking on insubstatial air, not earth, and the sensation was frightening. There were so many questions to ask, so many answers not being revealed.
Before them in the fog, a haggard face appeared. Zelda cried out, her shrill scream echoing in the nothingness. The facial features were obscured by the haze, and the eyes gleamed with light from a source unseen. Link paused, drawing the princess behind him, instinct making him reach for a sword he did not have.
“Link?” The inquiry threw him off guard, and he let his defenses down. He recognized the voice. “Istas?” he asked, and the young man stepped forward, nodding. Noticing the princess at his side, he addressed her. “Your Majesty.” Zelda shook her head, smiling in spite of her nervousness. “No, you can call me Zelda.” Istas smiled a bit in return, then peered at the blackness and cloudiness around them. “Where in the name of Din are we?” He realized suddenly he no longer felt ill, and even his chest didn’t hurt in the least.
“That’s what we’re trying to find out,” Link replied grimly, walking away. Istas and the princess were quick to follow, for the fog swallowed anything in moments. As the trio continued on, the vapor around them grew weak, then began to fade, wisps of it still clinging in some areas. The haunting melody continued in its course, never pausing, never wavering. Link followed the sound, and with each step he took, the song grew more unusual, but all the more beautiful.
Light flared suddenly in the dark, lit by an invisible hand. Several lights all winked on at once, like large fireflies. He saw a rather large building towering up into the nonexistence, all of its windows lit as though in greeting. The building itself reminded him faintly of the Sanctuary, made of dark stone. The towers were tall, impressive structures, each with the symbol of the Triforce etched into their stone.
Several small steps led to a wide set of doors. The doors themselves were open, showing the light that shone beyond. Turning, he could see the dim forms of Istas and the princess struggling through the fogbank, trying to reach him. He reached and beckoned to them, his signal and the lights that had appeared suddenly guiding them to him.
They drew close, then stopped, gazing up in awe at the large building that lay before them. “What is that place?” Zelda asked quietly, her voice filled with amazement. “Only one way to find out,” Link muttered, then began to walk toward the steps that would lead him inside. Zelda came to his side, and Istas remained behind them.
Warmth brushed their bodies as they began inside, and a gentle smell reached their noses, much like lavender, but sweeter in scent. Istas remembered the smell from the fortune teller’s cottage; it was that of incense.
The melody of many voices grew softer, the minor tones of the notes sorrowful and mild. The producers of the song did not show themselves to them, leaving them to wonder what, or who, could possibly be making such music.
A long hallway was before them, many windows lining the sides of the walls. Red carpeting, trimmed in gold, led up to a pair of stairs, covered in the same material, followed by another door. On either side of the carpet were a score of silver candelabras, the thin fingers of metal holding several burning candles in place. The ceiling was too high to be seen clearly; it disappeared into darkness where the candlelight was unable to reach.
Link led them all to the door, pushing it open into the room beyond. The chamber was very large, filled with light as the room previous had been. Several staircases led from the ground floor to upper stories, each stairway longer and more twisted than the last. In spite of the warmth in the room, they all sensed a cold presence; they were not alone. At that moment, the singing fell silent.
Figures appeared with clarity before them, all robed in white, their faces pale and eyes glowing. They stood on the staircases, looking down, their emotions unreadable. Men and women, all shapes and sizes, their heads bowed. The women carried gossamer trails of material from their shoulders. Zelda gasped with shock, for it was she who noticed them first. Link and Istas followed her stare upward, sighting the figures. “Who...?” Link began, but could not think clearly; this entire trip into the unknown was mind-boggling to him.
The figures slowly began to smile, one after the other, as though a private joke was being passed between them. A young woman closest to them, her long hair raven colored, motioned to a staircase not far from them, nodding. Her intense eyes watched as Link, Zelda, and Istas started over to it, then began to ascend. A doorway rested at the top of the stairs, an invitation to another room.
Zelda shuddered as she began up the stairs behind Link, who tried to appear unfazed. Istas was white with the spookiness of the whole experience, his eyes large with shock. “Wh-What were they?” the princess managed to ask Link, her voice wavering. Link did not answer at first, then finally said, with thought, “They remind me of spirits...” Zelda had nothing to say to this answer; nor did Istas. They were coming to the room at the top of the stairs now.
This room, unlike the rooms they had passed through before, was dark. Another difference set this room apart from the rest; it was much larger in size. White light shone softly through the windows, and a full moon peered in at them through a window in the front of the room, startlingly close.
The insubstantial light allowed them to see some shapes in the darkness; the forms of unlit candelabras, shining with white luminescence under the moon, and the dark sea of the carpeting. The light streaming in from the window in the front of the chamber revealed the dim silhouette of steps that led to a wide platform.
A gentle rustle brought their attention to the center of the platform. In the moonlight, they could see a hint of white clothing. A hand, nearly as white, rested lightly at the figure’s side. “Another one of those spirits...” the princess whispered softly, as though to herself. They could also discern that the figure’s head was bowed, as those they had seen before.
Suddenly, the figure raised its wan hand. The candles flared, but dimly, barely breaking through the dark. The lone figure was revealed as a female. Lowering her arm, she extended her hand, summoning them to come closer to her.
Zelda glanced nervously at Link, who nodded. “Let’s go,” he whispered, and they all began across the carpeting, wine colored. Patterns of gold were swirled into it, intricate and beautiful.
With each step they took, the candles seemed to glow a bit more brightly, showing them more and more. The spirit herself was the only thing that remained a mystery to them; she would not look up or speak to them.
Finally reaching the stairs at the base of the platform, they stood, side by side, waiting. The figure still held her silence, still refused to breathe a word. Her white garb, trimmed at the cuffs and hem with deep blue, shimmered in the dim light, as though dewdrops had been sprinkled on the fabric. As the other women had, she had gossamer material upon her clothing, starting at the neck of the outfit, then flowing out over her shoulders and down her back, reaching the floor. This was the color of the sky on a warm summer’s day.
“Who are you?” Istas asked. It was the first time he had had spoken since they had entered the strange sanctuary. The young woman before him did not reply directly. Instead, she reached into the neck of her robe, where she had hidden something. She drew it out from under her clothing, allowing it to rest on her chest where they could see it.
The pendant was the color of the trim on her clothing, and the Triforce glimmered from within. The figure smiled sadly as she at last revealed herself to them. “Anna...” Istas murmured, feeling a mixture of sadness and elation fill him at seeing her again.
“Yes,” she said, and her voice was wispy, and soft. Raising her head, she allowed them to see her face. Her emerald eyes glowed with the amber light of the candles, weary and wistful. The yellow cast of the light gave her pale skin some color. Her eyes were full of a strange wisdom that was foreign to them, Link could see it clearly. It was a breed of wisdom that even the eldest of sages did not possess.
“Where are we?” Zelda inquired at last, finding her voice. Anna sighed heavily, casting her eyes down from their gazes.
“In the Sanctuary of Souls, the place between Life and the Afterlife,” she said in answer. Seeing further questions in their eyes, she continued, “All people who died before their time are here. After awhile, they will go on to either the good, or sometimes the bad, part of the Afterlife.”
“Did...you bring us here somehow?” Link asked. It was his first question to her, and she nodded. “Yes, I did. You’re all here with me, spiritually. Your bodies are still in Life.” Zelda shook her head; she was still very confused. “You mean...We’re dead, too?” she asked. Anna laughed a bit, the first real smile lighting her face. “Of course not. You all appear to be asleep.”
Istas pondered his next question to her. There were so many things to ask. “Why did you bring us here, then?” he questioned at last, and here her smile faded. “I have something I need to tell you. Something of great importance. I didn’t die a natural death, and I need to explain that night to you. Then, you might understand.
“It began after Link had gone out hunting that night, leaving me by myself at home. He certainly took his time in coming home.” Here she paused to cast Link a scathing glance, then went on. “I was alone when the door opened, and that’s when I saw her.”
“Who?” Link asked, surprised. Anna held a hand up to quiet him. “I was about to tell you. She came into our cottage. Her dress was certainly strange, and she had a black prism around her neck. She called herself Tempest. She said I had something she needed. Naturally, I thought of my pendant, but that’s not what she desired.” She paused, sighing again. “She used the prism to put me in a sort of trance. I don’t remember fully what occurred, but I did touch her prism. It burned terribly in my hand, and I felt so weak, so tired...She took the prism and left me then, to die. She was a powerful sorceress, dealing in necromancy.”
“What did she take from you?” Zelda asked gently, hoping she would continue with her horrible tale. Anna nodded, as though she suddenly recalled.
“My soul energy,” she replied, her voice barely above a whisper and beginning to break.
“Soul energy?” Link echoed, and Anna nodded.
“Yes. The goddesses endowed our ancestors with it upon their creation. Let me tell you an old story. The goddesses first created the Triforce and the realm it was to reside in. They then created the land of Hyrule itself. Finding the land a bit barren, they decided it was only right to give the land people. Thus, the three goddesses created all the original races of Hyrule. Magic was infused in our flesh, our blood. We were given magical abilities because of this, allowing us to cast spells. Part of that magic is our soul energy. It’s what keeps our bodies young, our spirits and flesh together as one. As one grows older, the amount diminishes, then when it’s time, our souls are released, and we die.”
Link interrupted with another question.
“What did this sorceress need soul energy for?” Anna thought for a moment, then resumed her tale.
“The night she came to our cottage, she said she’d been living for years like that. I wasn’t her first victim, and I won’t be her last. I have a terrible feeling she’s after the Triforce. So much sacrifice made in the name of the Triforce over the years...So long as there’s a Triforce, there will be death...” Anna trailed away, and tears gleamed in her eyes. She had been one such sacrifice.
“Tempest left you, right? Where did she go?” Istas brought his own need to know to light.
“I remember the celebration we had after Ganon’s defeat. In one of the guest rooms, there’s an old volume called ‘Old Legends and Tales of Hyrule’. I read it once. It’s where I first heard of someone called Tempest...”
A long silence ensued as Link, the princess, and Istas absorbed what they had been told. Anna at last broke their quiet. Softly she said, “There’s still a slim hope for me. My soul energy isn’t completely hers yet, I can sense. After I touched her prism, her magic absorbed it slowly from my body until I was gone. But it will take a time for her to use it all. It keeps her body young, her soul and flesh melded. But her original energy was gone long ago. She would have died had it not been for her victims. If my soul energy were to be restored to my body, I would live again...” She lowered her head, letting her tears flow at last.
“The call of the goddesses to join them in the Afterlife grows louder with each passing moment, it won’t be long before I must go to them.” She began to sob, overwhelmed. “I’ll never see any of you again...So, if that’s to happen, I...” Another sob broke her words, and she was no longer able to speak.
“I won’t let it happen.” Istas’s voice was quiet, but firm with resolve. Link and Zelda nodded in consent. Link added, “You’ll live again, so help me.”
Anna smiled a bit, then descended the stairs. She stood before Istas, wiping her tears away. “Istas,” she murmured, coming closer and embracing him. Her touch was like ice, but he could feel her, touch her. Resting her head in the hollow of his throat, she reached a finger up to touch his stitches. He returned the embrace, glad to have her in his arms. Her fingers traced the pattern the stitches created, but he felt no pain. “That was because of me, wasn’t it?” she whispered. She didn’t need to ask him how he had received them; she seemed to know. “No,” he said softly. She smiled lightly as she pulled away. Backing away, she murmured, “It was...but if I can’t return, you need to go on--” He hushed her. “You will return, believe me.” Her smile bloomed again, but disappeared as her brow creased with a look of pain. “You have to go, I can’t keep you here any longer...”
Her voice began to fade, and the candles began to dim. The world began to grow dark, pitch black, and Link could feel himself begin to relax again. The room and the people before him faded, gone to him completely. He felt a jolt ripple through his being, then he lost awareness as sleep came to consume him again.
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