Chapter 16: Unbelievable
Within the Temple of Cosmos' blue stone walls, Link stood, his arms hanging limply at his sides, blood drying on the useless, deformed pieces of flesh, a souvenir of his battle with the fabled silver wolf Ragnarok. Still, his pain had left his mind, and the blood that was supposed to be falling in streams down his arms had long since stopped, a result of the spell that Ragnarok's apparent Master had cast upon the room.
Still, his arms were the furthest thing from his mind at the moment, instead his mind was clouded with confusion, and a bit of hope.
Standing before them in beautiful blue robes that dwarfed even the Royal family's best fabrics, stood someone who Link had believed dead for days.
Leto stood beside Ragnarok, her blue eyes glaring directly into Link's. Her face was the same, beautiful and wise as before her death. However… there was something different… something that Link hadn't seen in the young mercenary's expression before. It was the untold wisdom and sadness permanently engrained into her eyes and chiseled into every crease of her expression, somehow giving the young woman a more aged appearance.
"Well done, Link, you've managed to reach this place and even wound my familiar, I'm surprised," Leto said, her voice as clear and cutting as the day she died. The old Leto would have smiled kindly at him, but this person kept a straight face, once hand idly petting Ragnarok's large snout. "No one has ever to be proven such a match for him before… Well done, although you did not escape uninjured.
Upon hearing this voice, the voice that he had heard so many times in his dream, Link instantly knew who he was dealing with.
His teeth bared in a snarl rivaling Ragnarok's, his blue eyes flashing with anger. In a voice extremely low and menacing, he addressed Leto with ugliness in his voice.
"Artemis…" Link whispered, glaring at Leto with untold hatred brimming over in his sapphire eyes. "I'll still mangle you for what you have done to Leto. Now you parade around in her form... Are you mocking me, Sage of Cosmos?"
Zelda's eyes widened in fear, and almost instantly she was at Link's side, casting a spell of healing in an attempt to heal Link's arms. Her figure was blood smattered and dirt covered, but still, even after all she'd done this day, she was able to keep a brave face and act when he needed her most.
Leto frowned, taking an unscarred hand and pushing back her locks of brown hair from her point of vision. Was this an illusion meant to fool with their mind? An illusion so convincing that it was almost an identical version of their Leto?
"How astute of you to notice, Link," Leto said flatly, "But still you are wrong. I do not take this form to mock you, rather, to reveal something that has been before your very eyes your entire time."
Zelda's violet eyes faded in fear and anger, instantly halting her healing spells as she turned to face the Sage of Cosmos, no trace of visible fear in her expression as she waited for the Sage to continue.
"I disguised myself as Leto so that I might… what's the expression…? Watch your progress, and it did work for quite a while. You fools were more than willing to let me travel among you… perhaps a bit too willing," Leto said, her voice in a tone totally unlike itself. "For a while, things went as planned: You continued on ahead, believing I was Leto, and I kept my eye on you… But someone rather wise was able to catch onto my little disguise."
Leto smiled, a smile full of admiration, and it was directly solely at Zelda, who simply stared impassively at the young Sage of Cosmos. Link's eyes widened in realization, along with betrayal.
"Zelda, if you knew it was her, why did you not tell me?" he whispered quickly to the young Princess.
"I couldn't be sure, Link," Zelda said, her gaze never leaving Leto's eyes. "The texts I read about the Sage of Cosmos described her as a different individual than the façade that Artemis put up. Still, I guessed from Leto's admirable skill in magic: no one could master a spell like the one that Leto performed on you in the tavern without talent, but even then it would take years to master. Only I can do such a thing, or someone with the power… That only left Artemis as the practitioner."
"Very clever, Highness. But still, I knew that you suspected me and so I did the only thing I could do in such a situation…" Leto murmured, smiling faintly. "When we reached Iseed, I created a magical image of myself, as real as any flesh creature, in the shape of Leto, and I appeared before Zelda as Artemis, and staged the death of Leto, which would kill your suspicion… at least, until you came here. And it appears I was right, judging from the expression on your face, I would say that I had you thoroughly fooled."
Link's eyes lit up with something indescribable, the fire of hatred and vengeance that had been lit the day of Leto's death was extinguished, lit with something else.
"What are you going to do to us now, kill us?" Link whispered, staring at Leto.
Leto let out a laugh, full of mirth, her eyes sparkling mischievously. "Link, I'm not as barbaric as the legends say I am… However there is one thing that I wanted to test through your little bout with my familiar… That is your courage. And you passed with flying colors. You fought very, very well, and the thought of running never even crossed your mind, did it?"
Link's stubborn look was replaced by one of dumb surprise. His eyes widened and his eyebrow rose in surprise. For once in his life, Link was dumbstruck.
"I must say though, this form is extremely uncomfortable to wear…" Leto said, fidgeting slightly, "Especially if you've been wearing if for nearly a week."
Leto's form flickered slightly, and the features were replaced by another's.
The person grew in height to be about as tall as, if not taller than Link. Short brown hair changed into night black, cascading down delicate shoulders to mid-back. Leto's already stunning features were emphasized, giving the Sage inhuman beauty. Lastly, sky blue eyes changed to deep gray, piercing and wise. Standing before them, proud, wise, and powerful, was the Sage of Cosmos.
Artemis strode over to Link and Zelda in a calm and easy gait. Instantly Link was blown away by how much command and power was exuded by the Sage's movements and demeanor. Leto was amazing, but Artemis simply took his breath away.
The beautiful Sage placed gentle hands on Link's arms, looking into his eyes and smiling softly as she spoke graceful and flowing words.
The magic took effect immediately, his bones fusing together and cuts fusing. However, unlike Zelda or Leto's healing, he felt nothing, he was simply lulled into sweet security by Artemis' amazing eyes, almost as though they were some anesthetic to the pain.
The Sage took her hands off of Link's arms, brushing the crusted blood off her hands and looking to Zelda with a straight face.
"Now tell me, you are here to break the Vow, are you not?"
"Yes, Master Artemis," Link responded quietly, still not able to draw his eyes from Artemis' beautiful features. The Sage looked liked a woman in her late teens or early twenties, not like the hundred year old woman she truly was. One of the quirks of being Sages, he supposed, was being able to live eternally.
"You will stay here for quite a while, I sense that your travels have made you quite weary," Artemis insisted, looking upon the two filth covered Hylians. And, almost as though reading their mind, she smiled lightly. "You do not need to worry about Vandellus, you might say I have… delayed their march for quite a while."
Zelda's eyes flashed with something between relief and fear as she stared at the Sage of Cosmos' expression. Putting a hand to her mouth, she shook her head in disbelief, violet eyes wide. "What have you done to them?"
Artemis simply looked at the Sage, her gray eyes flashing in the dim lighting. "…The only thing that I could do to delay them."
Artemis' voice sent a fierce trembling across Link's body… She couldn't have done what he thought she'd done… could she have slaughtered them all mercilessly?
"I try to prevent killing when I must," Artemis said softly, walking slowly over to Ragnarok and placing a hand on the wolf's large head, caressing his fur. "But scaring them would not have delayed their march. I did the only thing I could do and I slaughtered them… Termina will not make a move as well, so you do not have to worry… their leader was… scared by an unknown force."
Link realized just how lucky they were that Artemis was on their side. If the Sage had been on the side of Vandellus and Termina, then they would have been doomed the moment that war was announced. Still something irked him…
"If you're meant to protect Hyrule, then why haven't you destroyed Vandellus' army sooner, or set things right between Hyrule and Termina?" Link asked, glaring at the Sage. "It would certainly be very advantageous."
"Exactly," Artemis replied. "I am meant to keep the order of the Goddesses, and that includes getting involved in your problems. I'm only here to relieve pressure when matters fall out of hands… If I were to help every time something was wrong, then people would seek to use me for their own gain."
Link flinched inwardly for suddenly realizing the stupidity of his question, but Artemis merely smiled, laughing merrily.
"It is quite alright. To be proven wrong is to learn something," the young Sage took a hand off of Ragnarok's fur, looking back at Zelda and Link, raising a hand toward a random wall. "Now come, we have much to speak of, I can sense questions bearing down on your mind… questions that no doubt I will be able to answer."
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