Chapter 6: Artemis
Hyrule's once cheerful morning conditions went awry. The blue sky turning dark and gray, clouds turned large and heavy with rain, and lightening flashed across the sky, followed by the loud sounds of his brother, thunder.
Link studied the weather conditions from his window, by now cleaned up and awake.
He bit the inside of his mouth hard enough so that blood spurted from the zone and flooded his mouth with a disgusting metallic taste. The weather was almost like a foreshadowing of the fate of Hyrule… dark, uncertain, and potentially dangerous.
Link turned his scarred hands upon the cloak that sat on his crude wooden chair, wrapping it around his shoulders. Pulling the hood down over his face, he looked like a specter come to slaughter.
Upon leaving the library, he once again made the lengthy trek back to his room so he might make himself presentable before the Sage of Light. As he had dressed up, thoughts of the conversation with Zelda had spewed through his mind.
It was ironic how the fate of the kingdom depended solely upon a Sage that might not even exist. And even if he and Zelda did find the Sage, there was no guarantee that she would be willing to break the vow. The descriptions that Zelda had so kindly read out to him made Sage Artemis appear as a cold, unfeeling person.
Still, in all his encounters with people, old, young, and middle-aged, he had never met a person that sounded as powerful as the Sage was meant to be. Link's father even seemed to be dwarfed in terms of strength and mercilessness in battle.
Link opened the rickety door, stepping over the threshold as it creaked eerily outward. Turning, he shut it and made his way down the corridor as fast as he dared.
Servants stopped dead in the corridor as Link passed them, pushing them out of the way in his hurry. What could possibly be important to him, they wondered as they were shoved violently out of the way.
Link ignored the bows and the shouts of 'good morning' as he went through the main hall of the castle. Nobles and soldiers scurried about on their morning business, all as busy as ants.
Link pushed through the stone doors to the drawbridge, clearing his throat impatiently as he waited for the guard to awake from his lazy sleep. He waited for ten minutes before finally growing impatient and shoving the poor man, yelling.
"Up, man! Be alert!" Link shouted down at the lazy soldier.
"S-Sir Link!" the guard shouted, scrambling to his feet and saluting his superior. "W-what might I do for you, My Lord?"
"Lower the gates," Link said gruffly, drawing his cloak about him.
"Right away, sir!" the guard cried, running into the stone guard tower and shouting at his associates. "SIR LINK IS HERE, YOU LAZY OAFS! LOWER THE GATE!"
Fierce shouts of grunting were heard as the men within turned the turbine steadily to lower the gate.
The inhumanly large gate slowly creaked on rusted chains, the sound echoing through the dreary morning, but covered by the sounds of thunder.
Without a word of thanks to the guards, Link made his way across the drawbridge and toward the Temple of Time.
The usually crowded streets of Hyrule Castle Town were barren of the morning rush.
Buildings of all sizes, colors, and shapes flooded the streets, leading on the cobblestone pathway to the looming towers of Hyrule Castle. Smoke issued thickly from chimneys and the comforting light of fires could be seen through the rough curtain windows as the ones inside waited for the beautiful weather to return. Mothers cradled small children in their arms to comfort them from their fear of thunder's voice, others spoke stories of Hyrule's past triumphs, or some gossiped about the latest in the castles.
Link drew his cloak hood tighter about his face as he walked through the dead streets, boots splashing the water with each step he took forward. One step at a time, he was getting closer and closer to the Temple of Time, and closer and closer to finding the Sage of Cosmos.
Why was it that the Goddesses found it so amusing to take part in this? They said that they had blessed him profusely, but instead did they curse him profusely? Everything had taken a plunge from the moment he had first set eyes on Zelda again, and now his entire life as he knew it was ruined. Ruined so that he would never be able to marry another woman and have children, ruined because he had destroyed Hyrule's hope, ruined because he had sealed Hyrule's doom the moment he had spoken the vow at his foolish young age.
Yes, the Goddesses seem to take amusement in his suffering and torture, and they seemed to want to cause him even more of it.
He was partially conscious when he reached the stone steps leading up to the Temple of Time. The other half of his mind was still lost in thoughts of hope. Hope that he hoped was not false hope.
Link hurried into the Temple as the rain began to pelt down violently, soaking his cloak even further than it already was and chilling him to the bone.
The Temple was dim with light, candles flickering on the floor, and the smoke of incense fresh in the air. Fog drifted through the ceiling, almost like a heaven floated above Link's head.
Rauru stood at the Altar of Time, resting his hands on the smooth surface of the stone and muttering in the strange language that he had. The candles resting on the Altar bathed the Sage's face in eerie light, making him appear intimidating and somewhat inhuman. Each crease of age in Rauru's face was shadowed, and it was then when Link saw how truly old the Sage was. Though he appeared about the age of eighty, he was far older, alive since the beginning of time.
"Ah, Link, I had a feeling that I would see you again," the sage murmured without turning to look at the young man standing directly behind him.
"How did you-," Link began.
"I could feel your aura, dear boy," Rauru mumbled, stepping slightly away from the altar and then bowing before turning to the younger man. "It is very similar to a man I once knew… long ago, in the Golden Age…"
Link bit his lip and then he spoke. "This has nothing to do with what I came to ask, Master Rauru, but may I ask, why did you know my name?"
Rauru smiled serenely, bowing his mighty head and placing his hands within his robe sleeves. "Your aura is identical to a man I once knew of the same name, namely the Hero of Time. He shared your name, as Princess Zelda has kindly informed you of."
Link blinked in surprise. The old man knew what he was thinking of before he was going to say it. In was strange how he knew exactly everything Link was going to say. It also scared him.
"Princess Zelda told me of your talk," Rauru explained, walking toward the young soldier. "She sent a messenger early this morning saying that you would come on her behalf. Tell me child, what is your question?"
Link took a sharp breath before speaking. "I have come to inquire about the whereabouts of the Sage of Cosmos."
Soon as the words left Link's mouth, the old sage's face seemed to grow pale. His intelligent, knowing eyes widened and his mouth gaped, opening and closing like a fish.
"You seek Artemis?" Rauru whispered, his voice barely audible. The Sage bit down on his lip, throwing his gaze to the large stain glass window near the entrance of the Temple. Of the eight windows, only this one bore no image except the symbol Yin-Yang, the gentle balance between Good and Evil.
"Please, Master Rauru…" Link said, his voice on the border of pleading, "Artemis is the only Sage that might be powerful enough to break the vow. The fate of Hyrule may depend upon her." For a moment, Link saw the hesitation on the stunned Sage's face and the conflict within his eyes.
Rauru's soft voice once again sounded through the Temple, echoing heavily. "Listen well, Link, for what I am about to tell you is crucial."
Rauru straightened up and stared at the empty window again, his eyes full of an inexplicable emotion. "One hundred years ago the Hero of Time defeated Ganondorf, King of Evil. You know that the Sages bound Ganon to his own cursed realm and sealed him away for the whole of eternity, and then that we departed for the Sacred Realm… That is, all except for Artemis, Sage of Cosmos, and I, Rauru, Sage of Light."
"I protected my Temple, and I still do to this day, the Temple of Time, as is my duty as Sage of Light," Rauru continued, "Artemis' duty is to guard over the whole of Hyrule through the Temple of Cosmos, the hulking Temple at the edge of Hyrule, lying deep within a mountain range, a place unreachable to any Hylian, Goron, or Zora. Many have died in pursuit of Artemis, wanting to kill her and take their powers for their own selfish gain, but they either died of starvation or were eaten by monsters."
"So then she is unreachable?" Link asked, his hope beginning to dim quite a bit.
"No, there is a safe pass that can be taken, however, after reaching the Temple, hardships are not over," Rauru warned, "The Temple of Cosmos is a place of magic and trickery, a labyrinth of torture for any intruder. However, it can be mastered by the brave of heart and the clever of mind. However, you will not be alone in your attempts. Artemis will feel your presence the moment you set foot in the Temple and she will use her own cunning magical ways and send creatures of incredible power after you, including her familiar, Ragnarok the silver wolf. And when you reach the end, Artemis will unleash a beast of unknown terror upon you in a last attempt to keep you from her, a bloodthirsty beast that will kill you without feeling a single bit of remorse."
Link gulped audibly. He didn't like the sound of this Temple, but if he wanted to speak to the Sage of Cosmos, then it was necessary.
"Be warned that Artemis will not take kindly to intruders. She is not afraid to spill rivers of blood and torture a person past screaming," Rauru said, unflinching despite his gruesome words. "She will not help anyone, mostly because she keeps to herself. You might say that she is… cautious."
For a moment the two men stayed silent before Link spoke again.
"Will she be able to break the vow, though?" Link asked.
"She should be able to help," Rauru replied, crossing his arms, "It might help if you bring Princess Zelda with you. Artemis is familiar with her aura and will most likely reveal herself, since it is her sworn duty to protect the Crown. Yet, if Zelda is unable to go, know that she will not hesitate to test your courage, especially since you hold the Hero's aura."
"How far away is the Temple?" Link asked, his courage dwindling.
"About a week's journey if you were to start tomorrow," Rauru replied. The old sage stood silent for a moment before taking a hand from his robe and pulling out a worn piece of parchment and holding it out to Link. "Take this, this is a map that will lead you to her. I had it prepared in the event of such…"
Link took the map and looked down at its tattered surface. The map was fairly old, yellow in color, and the ink was fading. It was extremely detailed despite its old age.
"That map belonged to the Hero," Rauru explained. "Now be on your way, tell Zelda all that I have told you."
Link mumbled his thanks, bowing and then beginning to walk away when he suddenly felt the Sage's hand upon his shoulder.
"Link," Rauru suddenly said, his grip tightening on the young man's shoulder. "Be careful, Artemis is the strongest, wisest, and most loyal of the Sages. If you do not tread lightly, she will not hesitate to slit your throat. Be wary, you will not be able to foresee her actions."
Link stood for a moment, soaking in what he had heard. If Rauru said that Artemis would be cold blooded, he had no doubt it would be so. Already he could feel his confidence cracking…
As Link stepped out of the Temple and into the cold streets, the only thing on his mind were the challenges ahead.
How was it that so much could change within a few weeks?
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