Chapter 15: The Sage's Familiar
Link grunted as he placed a hand into another indentation.
The sun was rising over a ridge, its weak morning rays lighting the rocky wall. He spat dust from his mouth, the familiar taste of earth corroding his taste buds.
He'd lost count of the days that they had been climbing. It could have been a day and he would have felt as though it was fifty years. The only thing that kept his sanity in check was the promise that Artemis' blood would soon be on his hands. Suddenly breaking the vow didn't seem so important anymore, in fact, it was the furthest thing from his mind.
Strange dreams and nightmares filled his sleep… Dreams of a man with flaming red hair and sickly green skin sitting atop an armor clad horse glaring at him amid a sea of flames… A little boy clad in green sobbing into his hand as he huddled amongst many trees as children jeered at him… A young woman who looked eerily like Zelda gazing lovingly into his eyes, speaking words of love into his ear… The most vivid was a pair of gray eyes looking down upon him with hatred and anger as his world spun into a dark abyss…
Some of the dreams were so real he wasn't sure if this life of rock climbing was a dream or if the world where a fairy flittered around his head was reality. Why were these things coming back to him so suddenly? Was it because of Artemis' influence the previous night?
Zelda, meanwhile, wasn't faring very well.
She wasn't used to exerting herself as much as she was everyday. In fact, Link had been pushing her far too hard. The two of them often climbed past night, and slept few hours when they were able to rest.
She tried to act as bravely as she could, smiling at him, and denying she needed rest. It was for that that Link truly admired the Princess. She had stepped out of her life of luxury and servants only to suffer and toil amongst the heat of the day in peasant's clothing.
Then again, she really didn't have a choice. The breaking of the vow was what her whole being depended on. If Artemis couldn't break the vow, her beloved kingdom was doomed. Strange how the fate of gentle Zelda depended on someone so violent and cold… someone who had stolen a precious friend from her… someone the opposite of hers in so many ways it was incredible.
Link, despite his anger and coldness, found himself admiring her far more than before…
Her steel determination, her calmness and kindness had only been proven far beyond their boundaries these past days. These qualities, along with her beauty and incredible wisdom only added to her natural allure.
He would admire her beautiful face whenever she had her eyes trained in a different direction, admire her gorgeous form whenever another thought wasn't on her mind, and watch in wonder as she dragged herself onward with such great strength and determination. Never had he seen such qualities in a woman before, even after all his years away from Hyrule. Zelda was one of a kind.
Still, he loathed himself for his weakness of heart. He couldn't love Zelda, it was forbidden, all because of their difference in rank. Had they both been born peasants, then surely the union between the two would have worked out well, but it was not so. How could fate forsake him in two lifetimes for falling in love with Royalty twice?
Link was torn from his thoughts as he felt something oddly soft and wet against his hand… grass.
Looking up, he saw to his great joy that he had reached the summit of Silver Mountain. After days of climbing and soreness he was finally here…
He reached up with his left hand, and using the remaining amount of his strength, pulled himself up and over the ledge, falling into the soft and wet grass, almost sobbing with relief.
Zelda by now had pulled herself up, but unlike Link, who lay on the ground, face buried in the earth, she stood on her feet, staring about, wide eyed in wonder.
She bent down next to her childhood friend, taking his arm and shaking it gently. Link noted how callused and rough it had become in the short amount of time that they had traveled together… It was a mark that would not fade, even years after their adventure ended.
"Link… you must look, it is simply stunning…" Zelda murmured. That had possibly been the longest sentence she had spoken to him since after Leto had died…
Link slowly rose on trembling legs, eyes still trained to the ground to steady himself. His body was still shouting for rest, and his neck screaming for him to leave it lax, but still he forced himself to look up, and immediately he was astonished by what he saw.
The area around him was filled with trees of different height and age, shading the area. The grass was a very deep green, as deep green as the tunic he had worn in his dream when confronted by Artemis. Blossoms of various types sprouted from the ground, their faces pointed toward the early morning sun. Still, this was not what took his breath away.
A glassy lake took up a vast portion of the summit, its waters so clear that one could count every stone upon the bottom, each of them smooth and different shapes and colors. Located it the middle was the object of their trip.
The Temple of Cosmos loomed above the tiny lake, its tall towers piercing the very skies. Its blue stone was carved ornately with runes and designs that Link assumed must have been Ancient Hylian. Small, skillfully crafted recesses were cut into its walls, where pure water flowed freely from within and into the surrounding lake.
Zelda stood, struck with awe at its tall towers and majesty. The Temple looked far more regal than Hyrule Castle, yet somehow more sacred and majestic than the tall towers of the Temple of Time. Still, it seemed it suited the person who lived within, so great was their power and majesty.
Link was transfixed for a moment, staring at the Temple of Cosmos with admiration and hatred in his blue eyes. His shaggy, dust covered hair blew in the breeze as he stood like a statue far from the Temple. Here he was… finally he would be able to avenge Leto and break the vow once and for all…
He stepped forward, walking in a steady pace toward the water's edge. As images once again filled his mind of Leto's mangled body, his pace quickened until he was at a full out run toward the Temple.
He dove into the clear waters, ignoring the piercing coldness and Zelda's shouts of alert. As soon as he surfaced, he began swimming toward the Temple… Closer and closer he came to its large, blue stone doors… closer and closer he came to Artemis.
He heard Zelda dive in after him and her calls of his name in her melodious voice, but still he swam on, using as much power as he could so he could get there sooner.
A few moments later he was standing upon firm ground, staring at the large silver doors of the Temple, glaring at it menacingly.
He turned his head, surprised to see that a sopping wet Zelda was behind him, her eyes burning with the same hatred as his.
The young Princess gave a silent nod at the door, indicating her eagerness to be over and done with this place.
Link placed his shoulder against the large door, pushing with all his might against its great size. A few moments passed, and still the doors did not move, but still Link went on, his strength never waning, fueled by his determination and pure hatred.
As if rewarding him, the great door gave a loud creak, moving slowly but surely out. Link continued putting his weight against the door until there was a large enough gape for the two of them to slip through.
For a moment, the two of them looked at each other, blue and violet waiting in eagerness. They spoke with their eyes for a moment, the connection building with each moment. It was only when Zelda gave a small smile that the two of them broke the connection.
Link stepped forward, hand on the hilt of his blade. His boots clacked against the blue stone as he was swallowed by the dark, unknown passages ahead of him.
Darkness surrounded him, an eerie coldness creeping past his skin and into his bones. The Temple of Cosmos lacked the sacred and secure feeling that the Temple of Time had in great amount. Instead, the feeling was replaced by that of extreme fear and tenseness, like walking unarmed into a cage of wild animals.
A rough yet delicate hand was on his shoulder, making Link jump for a moment before he realized the tenderness of the touch… It was Zelda's warm hand that was upon him.
Instantly the feelings of doubt and fear left his mind and he returned to his normal self. Still, how were they to operate this Temple while they lacked light?
The answer soon came as Link heard Zelda's gentle, melodious voice in his ear. A gentle, soft chant left her delicate lips, the words flowing elegantly into the air.
As if summoned, the hand upon Link's shoulder lit with inhuman light, almost like a torch.
Zelda's gentle face appeared from the darkness, and a vast majority of the room they were in was revealed.
The ceiling was far above their heads, going on for miles and miles, the same blue stone glinting in Zelda's magical light. The room was rounded out, shaped like a dome, vast space surrounding the two friends. Nowhere was there a single door, just the smooth, blue stone walls of the Temple surrounded them.
Bile rose into Link's throat as he observed the floor…
It was littered with bones... Hylian bones. There was no single skeleton intact, they were scattered about the area in vast piles. If one looked closely enough, some were crushed, split apart by great and powerful force. However, Link observed something else upon the floor…
Bloodstains had turned the blue stone floor dark black. No single place seemed free of the dark liquid stains, but even more notable was the shape that they were in… Giant paw prints had been drenched in blood, making tracks on the floor, whatever had made them had obviously killed all these people.
Suddenly Link was aware of something… the distinct and obvious feeling of being watched, and the overpowering feeling of fear. Someone, or rather, something was watching them…
He put his hand to the hilt of his blade, the sword ringing as it was pulled from its sheath, its sharp edge gleaming in the dim light.
As if answering his sword's challenge, something stepped out from the darkness and into the light… The lamplike eyes that he had seen in his dreams came into view… a massive, silver paw pounded against the ground… A silver pelt glittered in light, and fangs bared at them…
Standing before them, as menacing and majestic as in Link's nightmare, stood Ragnarok, the silver wolf.
Ragnarok gave a low and menacing growl, baring his fangs and glaring at Link with bloodlust in his eyes. His silver pelt glimmered in Zelda's magical light, making him appear as he had in Link's nightmare… majestic, yet terrible.
Link's eyes met the wolf's golden orbs. He kept his sword firmly in his hand as he contemplated within his mind how to best deal with the beast before him.
This wolf was Artemis' familiar, no doubt he had some sort of magical quality about him. His long, muscular legs would allow him to go faster than Link, and his claws could pierce through the thickest of armor, no doubt tear through Link's shield and break his fine sword. Not only that, Ragnarok had the darkness to hide his presence, and with his animal instinct, he could navigate through the darkness and easily launch surprise attacks… The only logical thing to do was to get in close and attack ferociously, never allowing the familiar to hit Link with his massive claws. Link had to make sure that the silver wolf never escaped into the darkness, otherwise the fight was as good as done, and Zelda would most likely be slaughtered by the familiar unintentionally.
Before Link could think anymore, Ragnarok lunged forth, his maw open, ready to crush the warrior in his jaws. He was a silver streak, a good deal faster than Link had thought he was.
Link's eyes widened in surprise, but still he was able to pull a backflip, dodging away from the wolf's massive jaws just in time. The young man pulled back his sword arm and brought the blade down in an arc, aimed toward Ragnarok's muzzle.
The sword hit air as Ragnarok jumped to the side, skillfully dodging Link's quick strike with trained easiness. Artemis had obviously worked with her familiar…
The man and beast continued with their fight, a blur to Zelda's untrained violet eyes. The two of them move with grace, each movement powerful and skillful. There were quite a few times when the silver beast had found openings, and it seemed that Link would never be able to avoid being killed, but somehow the young Hylian was able to dodge with surprising speed and footwork.
Link panted with sudden exhaustion… Ragnarok was toying with him, and he knew it… Was the beast playing with his meal before he chomped down on Link's fragile body?
Suddenly he was knocked to the ground, one of Ragnarok's massive paws crushing his body with inhuman force. Link cursed himself for his weakness, he should have been more alert.
The wolf glared down at him, lips drawn back into a hideous snarl, golden eyes flashing with hatred. The smell of rotting flesh and blood floated to Link's nostrils, giving the young soldier the strong urge to purge himself. However, now was not the time for such…
Link looked to his sword, still clenched firmly in his hand, and, on instinct, took and stabbed the sword deep into Ragnarok's large silver paw, blood spurting from the wound and covering Link's figure. Even a tiny thing like that had to stun or at least hurt the beast in some way.
Link's prediction was proved correct as Artemis' familiar roared in pain, lifting his large paw, and along with it, Link, who held firmly onto his sword.
The silver wolf shook his paw wildly, tossing Link to and fro in an attempt to rid his body of the accursed item causing him so much pain. He went running, about, his blood spewing upon the already stained floor, the only difference that it wasn't his enemy's blood, but his own.
After a final wild shake, the sword came free, sending Link sprawling into darkness, falling upon the floor in a heap.
Link quickly came to his senses, getting to his feet and rushing toward Zelda's light as fast as his legs might carry him. Every moment away from light was a moment of his life at risk.
A loud snarl from behind him alerted him of Ragnarok's presence, and so Link spun around, slashing out with his sword, bringing it cleaving through the air with hate.
Instead of his sword meeting flesh, it met the air, as Ragnarok had apparently dodged. But soon Link gave a cry of pain as he felt the wolf's jaws close down upon his right arm.
The sickening crunch of bone echoed throughout the room, blood dripping from Ragnarok's maw.
Pain clouded Link's senses as Ragnarok crushed his arm, bone and all. He felt the wolf's teeth penetrate through his skin…
His sword arm was still free, so he brought the sword straight down into Ragnarok's muzzle, hoping that the wolf would again let go of him. Pulling his sword free, he heard the wolf cry out in pain and release Link's injured arm.
The young Hero ran back near Zelda, his right arm hanging limply at his side. It was grossly deformed, looking like a bloody piece of meat hanging from Link's body. Blood pooled at Link's side from the useless hunk of flesh, pain clouding his mind still.
Link gritted his teeth and waited in silence for the wolf to attack once again.
Several moments passed with nothing happening, but still Link kept his guard up. He knew better than to underestimate the familiar of someone as powerful as Artemis. He couldn't relax, not even for a moment….
As planned, Ragnarok came from the dark, the image of horror with his blood dripping maw, and wounded snout. His golden eyes had turned blood red with rage and hatred. The silver wolf wasn't playing with his food any longer.
Link, instead of dodging, ran straight up to the wolf and drove his sword arm deep into the wolf's mouth and pierced the roof of the wolf's mouth. As fast as he dared, he gave a grunt as he pulled the sword out and leapt backwards, a splash of blood and another cry of rage from Ragnarok his reward.
Link's sword was covered in blood and flesh, yet still it cut true, ringing in its Master's hands as it waited for more action.
Ragnarok, instead of hiding in the dark, stayed in the light, blood leaking from his mouth, a result of his newest wound from Link. He glared at the warrior, as if promising revenge, his ears flat against his head and lips curled up in a hideous snarl.
Link's vision blurred slightly… he had lost too much blood… If he didn't end this soon, he would faint from blood loss and surely Ragnarok would mutilate him.
With a great cry, Link rushed forward, sword hand aloft and sapphire eyes glinting with feral rage. He would finish this… he had sworn revenge upon Artemis. He couldn't die yet.
Ragnarok wasn't going to let himself be wounded again. He leapt high into the air, avoiding the raging warrior, and came down with great speed, his paw once again trapping Link. This time, however, he wouldn't chance the warrior stabbing him.
Link screamed in agony as Ragnarok bit his sword arm without mercy. Blood spurted from the wolf's jaws, forming a puddle about Link's body.
When the wolf drew away, Link's arm was in worse shape than the right... He couldn't feel or move his arm in anyway… it was done.
Zelda stood petrified upon the spot. There wasn't a thing she could do to save Link. She didn't know a single attack spell, she merely knew how to heal and light the area. Link's sword as too close to Ragnarok for her to grab it and attack the wolf… it was all for naught.
Link felt his own blood seep through his clothing as he looked up at Ragnarok's furious eyes, not even flinching under the wolf's angry glare. The pain was gone from his mind as his thoughts overcame him, and soon he was lost in his own world, not aware of the cold ground, the pungent stench of his own blood mixed with Ragnarok's horrible breath, or Zelda's cries.
He had failed… Leto was unavenged, and the vow was not broken. He had come all this way, lost so much, and was still awarded with nothing in return. Zelda… he now more than ever wanted to tell her how he felt… about how he now didn't want to break the vow at all… Perhaps he would have another life, and in that one he could tell her everything.
Link smiled faintly, surprised at how calm and accepting he was now that he was facing death… Was this was it was like when Leto was dying? Was she so peaceful and happy?
'I'm sorry, Leto… I've failed you…' Ragnarok's jaws came down upon him, ready to end his life quickly and painlessly. It seemed as though everything Link had done was flashing before his very eyes… His life was coming to an end, and he felt nothing, he just waited for the final slash.
"Stop!" A loud, regal and commanding voice echoed throughout the room and filled Link's ears.
Almost immediately Ragnarok stopped, his jaws only inches away from Link's form. The wolf, not lifting his paw off of Link, slowly closed his terrible maw and turned his head in the direction the voice had come from, ears normal, eyes returning to their formal golden state.
The sound of boot against stone clacked throughout the room and came to a halt at the edge of Zelda's golden glow. A new presence filled the room, one so familiar, Link instantly calmed.
"Ragnarok, come," the voice said, gentle and tender.
The silver wolf, a moment ago violent and menacing, immediately obeyed, lifting his paw off of Link and bounding over to the person hidden in darkness, his golden eyes full of devotion and love.
"You're hurt…" the voice whispered, full of motherly concern. Immediately words flowed through the air, and a delicate hand was placed upon the large wolf's maw. Link's stab wounds knitted themselves together easily, the spot looking as though it had never been there. The words said again, and the wound in the familiar's paw was healed.
Ragnarok opened his mouth, panting and wagging his silver tail in a friendly gesture. Suddenly, the wolf was almost like a dog, and so unlike the murderous being it had been a few moments ago.
"Good, Ragnarok…" the voice whispered. Words flowed through the air once again and soon the air was lit with bright and blinding light, much larger than Zelda's small magic.
Link shakily got to his feet, his arms swinging uselessly from their sockets. Somehow, though, the bleeding had stopped and he felt energized… The spell had done something other than lighting the area, it had given Link his stamina back.
He heard Zelda gasp sharply, and looking over at the Princess, he saw her eyes filling with tears, her mouth wide with disbelief.
"My Goddesses…" Zelda murmured, "I can't believe it… It's really you…"
Link turned his head, astonished by what sight met his eyes.
Standing there, clad in beautiful blue robes was someone dear to them… Standing there, delicate hand placed upon Ragnarok's snout and staring at them with wise, cold eyes, was Leto.
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