Chapter 14: Link's Dream
Rock crumbled beneath his hands as easy as sand. Link cursed wildly as he fought to stay mounted upon the side of Silver Mountains, Zelda following close behind.
Upon burying Leto and paying their final respects, Link had promptly left Epona and the other horses behind at a nearby stable and began climbing his way up Silver Mountain, despite Zelda's protests that he had to rest after the two of them had had such a rough night. Now here he was, barely a quarter of the way up and already losing strength rapidly.
It was pure genius that the Temple of Cosmos was so far situated from the hands of races. If one tried to use magic to climb the mountain, their energy would deplete rapidly, if they tried to climb it by hand, then it was a difficult trek upward, even if they were as physically fit as Link was.
The weather that day was luckily lovely, with the sun high in the sky and a cooling breeze sweeping past their sweaty backs. However, if the weather was to turn foul, then their fate would most likely be to perish from the elements.
However, Link was determined not to fail. He was fueled by hatred, anger, and sorrow toward the hundred year old Sage of Cosmos.
How he longed to take his sword and slit Artemis' throat, then burn her alive using the rare bit of fire magic he had learned. He would take his time and savor every moment of her torture, reveling in her tears and screams…
Yes… his vengeance would be slow and sweet… and he would enjoy every moment.
The pleasant morning heat turned to a scalding inferno during the afternoon. The rocks heated up, burning the climbers' hands as they scaled up. Sweat poured out from their bodies, making their clothing stick uncomfortably to their thin forms.
They had been climbing for almost six hours now, taking a break at every ledge so catch their breath and take deep drinks of water to quench their thirst.
Link's arms were numb with soreness, but still he felt none of it. He kept his eyes trained on the climb ahead, ignoring every sound… he was in his own silent world as he climbed ahead, the equipment on his back weighing nothing, the only thing on his mind was Leto's still form, blood pooled in a dark puddle about it, her eyes closed and the crimson liquid dribbling down from her mouth and hairline in small streams. The image was as vivid to him as though it had just happened a few moments ago, keeping the hatred oozing into his veins.
They were almost up the mountain… he could feel it… He would climb all night if it meant reaching the top, and with it the object of his hatred.
With each moment upward, they were getting closer to Artemis, and with it, closer to Leto.
Link stood on grassy grounds, his feet bare and wearing a tunic of bottle green fabric. Mist surrounded him, as hazy as his own thoughts... Still, he looked straight ahead, as though waiting for something important… something hidden behind this ocean of mist.
Suddenly it came upon him like a wave. Memories flashed through his mind… Zelda smiling at him as they played in the garden… Rauru's voice prevailing over the winds in the Temple… the moment of the vow… Leto smiling at him… a young woman with stark blue eyes staring directly at him, her hair askew with perspiration as she bent over him, smiling… The glowing eyes of Ragnarok…
Link gave a loud cry, falling to his knees and clutching at his head, pulling his blonde locks in frustration. Everything was coming at him too quickly… What were all these memories, some he knew, others were foreign yet familiar?
Maniacal laughter surfaced, echoing throughout the desolate area and ringing teasingly in his ears. The laughter was full of mirth and mocking… was someone or something savoring in his pain?
The young soldier managed to gather his wits about himself… Where was the laughter coming from, and more importantly, who was laughing?
Using his trembling hand, Link managed to stabilize himself, lifting his head, his eyes widening in surprise and horror.
A cloaked figure stood before him, face hidden by the numerous bandages wrapped around its face. One gray eye peered out from beneath the wrappings, emotionless and condescending.
Link did his best to try and move, but instead, he found himself rooted to his spot. Even though his mind screamed for him to move, his body did not obey, and he simply stared up into the single gray eye that looked back at him.
"Failure…" the person whispered, their voice a low hiss. "You failed to protect Zelda… Now someone is dead because of you. And you actually believe that you can defeat me? What a cruel, pitiful joke…"
They crouched down and looked into Link's eyes, glaring with hatred upon him.
"It was your fault that she died as well. One hundred years ago you failed her, and now you've done it again in this lifetime, breaking her heart with your cruel and selfish words," the figure extended a bandaged hand, putting it gently on Link's face, running an idle finger across it, "You've never done anything correctly… You're no chosen of the Goddesses, you're just a cowardly failure who's lost everything twice… once in this life and once in the previous."
Link fought to open his mouth to protest, but all he could do was glare back at the person, hatred filling his eyes. His muscles tensed as he fought for control, but it was all futile… This person had control over his dreams, and if she wished him stationary, he would remain so.
"I conquer you in your sleep, boy," the figure continued, withdrawing their hand. "You will not fair any better in person, I can tell you as much… If I wanted, I could kill you right now… Luckily, I'm more giving than you think… Leave my mountain, or else you shall perish."
"Ah," though the bandages concealed it, Link had a feeling the person was smiling coldly. He hated it. "You wish to say something to me? Perhaps you are ready to give your answer now? It had better be the right one…"
The moment the magic loosed his tongue, Link found himself spitting at the gray eyed figure and glaring menacingly as he spoke his words with such venom, that it made the person's eyes flash with something indescribable.
"Go to Hell, Sage of Cosmos," Link said with as much venom as he could muster.
Artemis laughed aloud as she got to her feet again. "Not the wisest words you could speak, boy. To think that you were once the Great Hero… He was twice the man that you are… Come to think of it, your friend spoke the same way before I sent her crashing to her death."
Link's eyes went feral as he knashed his teeth, his expression overflowing with bloodlust and hatred. "Damn you, Artemis! You have no right to speak of Leto! If you ever mock her name again, I'll tear you to pieces so small that the crows won't even be able to find them!"
In a flash the Sage of Cosmos was upon him, her delicate hand clasping his neck with surprising strength. Her single gray eye was alight with amusement.
"You are in no position to be threatening me, Boy," Artemis said in a dangerously low tone. "You should know your place… Everyone needs power to save another, and when someone has more power, the weak should bow at their feet. Learn that and curb your insolent tongue, then you are truly a man."
"I'll give you the respect due to you when you earn it in the proper manner," Link said, grimacing as the Sage increased her death grip on his neck.
The Sage gave a chuckle as she released Link from her hold, allowing the young soldier to drop to the ground in a heap, coughing as he regained control over his breathing. She shook her head in amusement before looking upon the paralyzed man.
"Your friend said such before she died as well… Hylians never cease to amuse me with their brash tongues and reckless personalities," Artemis said, "Truly, if the Goddesses and Sages weren't around to keep you in check, most of your race would probably have killed in warfare…"
"You were once of us," Link whispered, his voice hoarse. "I have seen it in my dreams… What you went through in your village… You speak as though you have never known the desire for revenge, Sage."
Artemis remained silent for a moment, contemplating her words carefully before speaking again. "I once did, long ago, but when I became a Sage, there was no need for revenge… Time is cruel to us all… One moment something is right, the next everything has gone wrong. Revenge will not sate a person's lust… it only makes us grow in guilt in later years, and makes pain all the worse."
"For a moment, you sounded human, Artemis," Link murmured, glaring into the Sage's eye. "A heartless one such as yourself would not understand."
"I have lived more than a century, Boy," Artemis spat, glaring at Link. "Do not speak to me about what I do and do not understand! Oh, how the proud soul of the Hero cries out that one so weak has its mantle!"
"I could care less of my previous life," Link whispered, "What I want now is my revenge for your killing Leto!"
Artemis merely looked at him a moment before finally speaking one last time.
"I'll say it again 'Do not pursue me, Ragnarok is upon you.' Heed this warning, Boy, or else my familiar will shred your body to ribbons in a slow and painful manner. It will make Leto's death look peaceful…" Artemis said. "This is your final warning. The next time I see you, your head will be brought to me in Ragnarok's jaws as a chew toy."
Link fought to keep his eyes open as he glared at the fading figure of the Sage of Cosmos. He was determined to be defiant to the very end… Despite the fact that this was a dream, he felt himself grow drowsy and his lids try to fall close. The strange world swirled about him as he fell to the grass, absorbed in a black abyss.
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