Gods of Shadow

By Wm. Jay Carter III (Hero of Geeks)

Chapter VIII
UNINVITED GUESTS or “Stains and Shadows”

“No, Link; like this:” Malon whistled a happy tune as she bobbed her head from one side to the other, her ginger loops swaying with the beat.

Link watched diligently until she was done. “Okay,” he said, “I think I’ve got it.” He pursed his lips together and blew, but only a faint high tone came out.

“Good job—just keep practicing!”

Link smiled.

“I think we’re almost there,” said Afton, turning. He winked at Link surreptitiously.

“Afton, could I speak with you a moment?” called Tobias from up ahead. Link and Malon had been lagging behind and now Tobias and Afton were turning the corner. Malon glanced at Link, smiling as she had been for the last fifteen minutes. Link felt his face warm to think that Malon was enjoying herself. Tobias had led them up stairways, down corridors and through one secret passage after another and Link thought it would not have been quite so much fun as it was with Malon around to share it all with.

They finally turned the corner into a very long hallway. Ostensibly there was no exit but a single peaked door that bore no handle. The door was carved with intricate swooping patterns and had been painted with delicate filigree. Above the arch of the doorway was the symbol of the Triforce.

“That there door must be fer somethin’ real special,” Malon observed. “It looks like it ain’t never been used.”

“Well, that’s where we’re going,” said Link proudly.

The Mask Keeper had followed the light diligently. Luckily the passages were large enough for his pack of masks to fit through. From time to time the Mask Keeper had heard someone whistling and the boy and girl had spoken to each other, but it was never anything of consequence. No matter how close he got to the light it neither showed him its bearer nor its source; it was as if the light was coming from some other place into the halls that ostensibly only the Mask Keeper occupied. Finally, however, the torch-light came to a final halt at the end of a long hallway. There was a door with no handle that, like the rest of the temple, looked to the Mask Keeper as if it had rarely been used. Then one of the voices spoke again:

“This is the entrance to the Stained Hall,” said Tobias, glancing past the children. Link turned, but there was no one there. “Afton, if you could…” Tobias handed the torch to Afton. Then, pulling a small wooden whistle out of his robes, Tobias played a melody that Link knew well. It was the melody chanted by the monks in the Temple; the Song of Time. Presently, there was a loud click and the door swung inward, admitting them into an enormous, long rectangular room.

“Enter quickly, if you please,” said Tobias. Link helped Malon through the door. The last to enter was Afton, who placed the torch in one of the sconces flanking the door. Immediately after he stepped into the room the door shut itself fast.

The Mask Keeper stood before the closed door. They had entered too quickly; he was stuck outside of the Stained Hall, whatever that was. The door had opened just after one of them played a little tune; if only he could remember it… He tried to whistle, but all that came out was air. He cursed himself for leaving Brutus behind; Brutus was excellent at whistling. Then the Mask Keeper realized how foolish he was; he still had Brutus’ mask in his bag…

The Stained Hall was as tall as the nave of the temple, half as wide, and impossibly long. Golden light filtered into the room from all sides, illuminating the colored glass of countless windows of every conceivable shape. The walls and vaulted ceiling were literally filled to visible capacity, making the place feel very much like a sunroom rather than a hall.

Malon stared in wonder. “Golly,” she said, her mouth gaping open. “It’s so pretty…” She seemed to lose herself in the enormity of it all. Link just watched Malon. Then, on the edge of his consciousness, Link realized that Afton and Tobias were talked in muted voices.

“…right behind us. Just get your sword ready,” said Tobias.

“Does Link know?” asked Afton.

Tobias shrugged. “I haven’t told… Wait a moment; he’s whistling the song. Get ready.”

“But Link doesn’t know how to whistle…or he just learned, I mean…”

“What? Well what else would it be, Afton? I’m telling you that thing shouldn’t even be in the temple!”

Acquiescing, Afton set his jaw, pulled his rapier and placed his foot against the door firmly. In another moment there was a click. Malon turned to see what had made the noise and she saw the knight bracing himself.

“What’s goin’ on?” said Malon curiously. “Don’t y’all wanna see the pretty windows?”

Afton said nothing, but hunched down a little. The next moment a heavy weight struck the door and Afton was thrown back. He quickly repositioned himself.

“Help Tobias,” Afton grunted.

“What’s goin’ on?” said Malon more tersely. “What’re you doin’ with that sword, Mister Afton?”

“Just stay back,” said Tobias. He leaned into the door as well.

Link gently placed his hand on Malon’s arm. “I think we should get away from the door, Malon,” he said. Malon stepped back reluctantly. Link stood in front of her, pulling his shield to his right arm.

For a moment it seemed nothing would happen. Then there was a cry of agony, as of someone in intense pain; the sound of shredding cloth and then, suddenly, the screaming stopped and in its place was a ferocious howling. Then the door was thrown open, hurling Afton and Tobias away. Link threw up his shield just in time to deflect Afton’s rapier—it ricocheted haphazardly into the air and landed further down the hall with a clash and a clatter. Afton landed on the floor just past Link while Tobias pulled himself away from the wall languidly amid shattered glass; the blow had cracked two windows and broken a third. Golden light poured in from beyond the broken window.

Link drew his sword and held his shield in front of him. He peered through the open doorway—the torch had been knocked to the ground, snuffed out. Two glowing green eyes blinked at him from the darkness. “Malon, get back,” said Link sternly.

“But Link, what…?”

“I said get back!” And then a huge canvas pack flew into the Stained Hall, landing a yard away from Link’s feet. It was torn on either side with sweeping strokes of what must have been enormous claws. This held Link’s attention for only a moment, for issuing from the hall was a deep-throated canine growl. Then, emerging from the darkness like hardened shadow, as big as the hallway itself, was the form of a green-eyed black wolf. It bared its teeth and approached.

* * *

Abrum groaned, cradling his knee. “Is it gone?” he said, straining the words through his teeth.

“Yeah,” said Raean, peering out into the fields from between the trees. “It’s gone.” She exhaled a deep breath.

“Where’s Asera?” said Nabooru aloud.

“I’m here,” came Asera’s voice from the air. Asera appeared beside Abrum. She helped him turn over, holding his leg gingerly. Abrum gritted his teeth and inhaled shortly.

“Is it bad?” asked Raean.

“It’s broken,” said Asera. “Just a moment, love, I will do what I can.” Asera made sure he was lying as straight as he could and then placed one hand gently on his knee and the other on his ankle. “This will hurt.” She threw his ankle to one side, straightening his leg and setting the knee back in place. Abrum’s face contorted and his mouth opened, baring all of his teeth, but he made no sound. Instead he inhaled several times; deep long breaths that he held as long as he could. In half a minute his breathing returned to normal.

“Goddess, how’d that kid do that to you?” said Raean.

Abrum was surprisingly lucid for being in such obvious pain. “It had perfect technique, of that much I am certain,” he said. “I just don’t understand how it could have known that move.”

“What move?” asked Nabooru.

“It is one of the techniques passed down by the Sheiks; a mild strike at a certain tendon behind the knee will cause the other tendons to relax—this allows the knee to bend more freely in the wrong direction…” Abrum winced as Asera assessed his knee. “…making it much easier to break. It used my own weight against me.”

“But how could it have known that?” said Raean. “It’s just a kid made of sticks…”

“It knew my name…” said Nabooru stiffly.

I know your name, sis,” said Raean.

“It knows much more than that,” said Asera. “It knows everything you know. At least while it focuses on you. It knows your name, who your parents were, your greatest fears…it knows things about you that even you don’t know, if it can dig deep enough into your mind. Hold still love,” she said. Asera pulled a vial of rosy liquid from inside her black robes. Then she supported Abrum’s head with her hand and uncorked the vial, holding it to Abrum’s lips. “Drink,” she said. He did so. She laid his head back down and in another few moments he was taking deep, serene breaths.

Nabooru and Raean stared in astonishment. “Is there anything you can’t do?” said Raean.

“Unfortunately, yes,” replied Asera. “The fairy-water cannot heal him completely; it has only accelerated the process. In the meantime he will be able to walk, but not quickly, and fighting is out of the question for the moment. That kid, whatever it was, has dealt us a serious blow.”

“But how did you know it was reading our minds?” asked Nabooru incredulously. “And where did you go?”

“The masked child was using a strong kind of magic I have never encountered before today,” explained Asera. “The moment it began reading our minds I felt its presence and ‘hid’ myself with a cloak of tangled magical signals. I was not strong enough to avoid being sensed, but at least it could not tap into my mind or focus on my exact location. While I was hidden I studied its magic as long as I could, though I could not stop it.”

“Was it using the same magic that killed the horse and froze these people?” asked Abrum.

Asera regarded the frozen man with the black mustache and the two children. “No. The mind reader’s magic is one thing, but this was yet another magic; equivalent in strength but equally distinct. The two are related, I can say that at least.”

“Then we’re talking about two different attackers, in league, and both powerful sorcerers,” said Nabooru.

“Yes,” said Abrum, sitting up. “It seems the masked child was telling the truth. It may very well have been the child’s fault these people were frozen even if it did not curse them; it must have convinced its accomplice to do so.”

“But why couldn’t it just freeze them itself; it was obviously a powerful witch…” contested Raean.

Asera shook her head. “It doesn’t work that way, Raean. Magic is only as capable as the person using it and even then certain magicians are only able to use certain kinds of magic. You can’t just do anything you want.”

Raean folded her arms, her silver bracers flashing. “You don’t seem to have very much trouble doing anything you want.”

“Yes, but I have been forced to improvise every time. I would be hard pressed to duplicate anything I have done so far, and there’s always the chance that one of my spells just won’t work. The magic these sorcerers are using is very powerful and very focused—they must be limited to work their magic in specific ways, which would explain why the witch-child’s accomplice had to freeze these people rather than do it itself.”

“Well, regardless of the limitations on these magicians they still pose a serious threat,” Nabooru cut in. “I think we’ve spent enough time on the magic lesson. One of them is headed to Kakariko and the other could be anywhere by now, most likely following the driver that escaped on the second horse. We need more information about our enemy—what does the other one look like? Where did they come from? Why did they attack? Asera do you think you could remove the magic on these people? Their story could prove useful.”

Asera shook her head. “I know I couldn’t. It was difficult enough trying to resist the child’s mind-invasion, let alone reverse it. This magic is just as strong.”

“Convenient,” snorted Raean. Asera ignored her.

“We’ll have to find some other way, then,” said Nabooru. “In the meantime we need to get to the castle. The sooner we pool our resources the better; this may be the war Din warned about. Now Abrum, can you travel?”

Abrum stood, holding onto Asera for support. He flexed his knee. “Asera’s assessment is true; I can walk, but not with haste.”

Nabooru turned to her sister. “Rae, do you think you could pull the wagon?”

“Pull the wagon!?” shouted Raean, shoving her fists into her hips. “I didn’t come back after twenty years just to be a pack animal!”

“I know, Raean, I know, but you’re the only one here strong enough to do it. One of us is wounded and we should take the man and children with us. If we can revive them they might be able to tell us more about our enemies; the wagon is our only recourse.”

Raean threw her arms in the air. “Why don’t you have your witch conjure another whirly-gig and zap us there if she’s so convinced she can do anything!?” She grabbed her axe and hauled it over her shoulder, storming off through the trees toward the road. A moment later there was the sound of splintering wood and a tree fell somewhere just out of sight.

Nabooru fumed, staring after her sister. Finally she slung her bow over her shoulder and reached for the black-mustached man. “Asera, help me,” she said. Asera bent down and she and Nabooru lifted the man off the ground. Abrum said nothing but followed behind, attentive for any strange sounds.

The smell of the dead horse had worsened, but neither of them chose to say anything. When Nabooru and Asera had returned with the blonde-haired girl and the Zora child they placed them gently in the wagon next to the mustached man. Abrum followed them back.

“What can we do now, Nabooru?” asked Asera.

Nabooru paced beside the wagon, rubbing her neck. “Asera, you don’t think you could conjure another…”

“Nabooru,” interrupted Abrum, “you know Asera and I will do anything we can to help, but don’t ask her to transport six people and a wagon all the way to Hyrule Castle. She passed out after transporting just the four of us.”

“I know; you’re right.” Nabooru removed the white-feathered headdress and rubbed her forehead with her fingers. “I just hate to pressure Raean. She’s very touchy, and I should know.” She inhaled heavily and sighed. “Maybe we could push it, Asera and I. You could ride in the wagon until your leg heals up and then we could take turns…”

Asera reached out and placed a hand on Nabooru’s shoulder. “Nabooru, just talk to her. You’re her sister, she’ll understand.”

“Not Raean, no.” Nabooru shook her head. “It’s been awhile since I’ve seen her, it’s true, but if she’s anything like before… When she gets like this she just closes off. You can’t force her.” Nabooru set her jaw and for a moment the only sound was the buzzing of flies around the corpse of the dead horse. Finally Nabooru relented. “This stinks,” she said, and placed the feathered headdress on her head again, charging into the fields toward the road.

Halfway there Nabooru saw her sister’s head just above the tallgrass and she could hear stone grating on metal; Raean was sharpening her axe. Nabooru placed her hands on her hips. “Are you coming or not?” she called.

“You’re terrible at apologizing, you know,” called Raean. “Usually people start with ‘I’m sorry.’ ”

Nabooru looked like Raean had just slapped her. “Excuse me?” she said, approaching. “What am I supposed to be apologizing for? I asked didn’t I?”

“No. You assumed,” said Raean, grating her whetstone against the blade of her axe harshly. “There’s a difference.”

“Well, what do you want me to say? Should I call you ‘your Majesty?’ ”

Raean turned away from her axe. “What in the Goddess’s name is wrong with you?”

“Would you please stop saying that?” said Nabooru, looking away.

“What are you talking about!? Nabooru, you’re making less and less sense by the second!”

Nabooru looked like she was trying to swallow a particularly active worm. “I just…don’t like it when you mention the Goddess like that…”

“Oh, great. Now you’re religious are you? If one of us has a right to pull that kind of line it’s me. You know I always wanted to serve at the Shrine…”

“And you did…!”

Raean stood, pointing a finger into her chest. “…and I was brainwashed! You think I enjoyed that? Every day I remember more about what they made me do for so many years! Today was no joyride with that mind-reading stick-witch dredging things up. I’ve killed scores, maybe hundreds of people, Nabooru. And I had no choice. There were good women who started to catch on to what Ganon was doing and they tried to stop him. You think you were the first one? And guess who kept them from ever going back to tell anyone about what really happened at the Shrine. I went there to serve the Goddess and ended up a puppet. Don’t talk to me about respecting the Goddess, Nabooru, because it doesn’t seem like she’s had very much respect for me. I went into her service and she abandoned me.”

Nabooru looked into her sister’s eyes. They were crazed, bloodshot. “Raean, there are things I wish I could tell you; such wonderful things that have happened since you went to the Shrine…” She looked down for a moment. “My child…”

“What, you mean your ‘vision’ back at the Fortress? Nabooru, this is the wrong time to pull that out again.”

“No, Raean, just listen. I have more to say; we could have such a different life. We could leave all of the past behind us, but you have to… You have to trust me…”

“Trust in the figments of your imagination? And I thought I was messed up… So now that I’m back things will just fall into line the way you planned, right? Well, if you think I’m going to do anything you say just because you’re wearing some stupid headdress…”

“Fine,” barked Nabooru, cutting her sister off. She threw her arms up, at a loss for what to say. Nabooru swore she could see the torture that Raean had dealt with all those years. The witches must have done terrible things to her… “Fine. I guess you’ve been through enough. Go home.” Nabooru turned away, walking back toward the wagon. “If you can call it a home anymore…”

Raean face tightened and she threw her axe at the clump of trees. The axe-blade passed through two trunks before lodging into a third tree. “Curse you, Nabooru! Curse you by the Goddess you serve!”

Nabooru spun on her sister, vehement. “You want me to say ‘I’m sorry,’ Raean? Fine. I’m sorry! I’m sorry you were absent for the most important time of my life! I wish I could tell you about it but you just won’t listen to me. I’m sorry I had to live with the knowledge that I could have stopped Ganon from ever rising to power. All I had to do was leave him locked up in the Training Grounds and he never would have screwed up our lives! He never would have had his witches brainwash you and curse you with your sad existence; and none of this would have ever happened. And I’m sorry I had to pick up the slack when Ganon destroyed us!” Nabooru threw down her headdress, tears pouring from her eyes. She thrust a finger in Raean’s face.

“I’m sorry that I had to pull dying mothers from the wreckage that Ganon made of the only home we have ever known and then comfort the crying children they left behind! But curse me all you wish, Raean, I am not sorry that the Goddess came to me and gave me a chance at making things right! I may not be the best thing the Gerudo have but I seem to be one of the only ones left who doesn’t just look out for themselves. Asera and Abrum have done horrid things too, but you don’t see them being stuck-up selfish prats who give up when the work is below them. So if you want to curse the Goddess, then fine. Chop down every tree in the world and burn down all of Hyrule with your selfish rage. I’m done with you!” Nabooru turned, charging back toward the wagon, the tallgrass grasping at her legs as if it were begging her not to leave.

Raean stared after her sister, watching her storm away. Then she threw her fists into the air and pounded the earth, a grating shriek issuing from her throat. The ground shook, throwing Nabooru off balance. She nearly fell but recovered and continued walking, never looking back.

When Nabooru arrived at the wagon Abrum was laying on the ground. Asera was about to administer another vial of fairy-water to him. “Don’t waste it, we’re not going anywhere,” said Nabooru. She kept walking, charging around to the other side of the wagon.

Asera looked after her. She stoppered the vial again and placed it in her robes. With a gentle touch on Abrum’s arm she stood and followed Nabooru. “What happened?” she said tentatively. “We heard you yelling…” She chose not to mention the minor earthquake.

“I told you, we’re not going anywhere.” Nabooru paced beside the wagon.

Asera was pensive for a moment. “Abrum and I worked it out and we think we could push the wagon. I was saving another vial of the spring water for later—I didn’t know what we might be up against—but we thought that if Abrum took it now and I worked a little magic into it we could push the wagon first and then you could change places with one of us like you said.”

Nabooru stared at the ground, rubbing her neck. She sighed heavily. “I don’t know. I just don’t know anymore…” Asera opened her mouth as if she would say something but she was interrupted by the sound of Abrum calling out in alarm followed by the sound of something heavy being placed into the wagon.

Asera went to see what had happened and stopped short when she saw that Abrum was lying in the wagon-bed. “Abrum, what…?”

Abrum appeared disoriented. “I don’t know, someone just…” But he was cut off by the crash of a large metal object falling into the wagon just behind the driver’s seat.

Nabooru looked to see what had happened and saw Raean rounding the front of the wagon, never looking at her sister. “Get in,” she said, squatting in front of the wheel-less axle. When Nabooru did not speak or move she stood again, looking over her shoulder expectantly. Nabooru just stared at her sister, perplexed. Raean threw her hands out to either side. “Well, are you coming or not?” she said, squatting again. She gripped the iron bar in her hands and lifted. The bar groaned against the weight of the wagon and Raean breathed deep, quick breaths.

Nabooru did not wait for her sister to ask again—she jumped into the driver’s seat beside Raean’s axe. Asera joined Abrum in the back. “Everybody in?” said Raean, breathing through her teeth. “Here goes…” Raean pushed against the ground and leaned forward. Slowly, three wheels groaned into action and the wagon moved. Raean tilted the axle, turning the wagon toward the road and soon she had the wagon moving, faster and faster, out of the tallgrass.

When they were on the road again and the task seemed to come much easier, Nabooru ventured to speak. “What made you come back, Rae?” She asked quietly.

“I’ve lived most of my life doing what others wanted, Nabooru,” she said between even breaths. Sweat was beginning to bead on her forehead. “I never had a choice. And the second I had a choice you took over and it seemed like I was never going to have the life I wanted; do what I chose.” She took another deep breath. “I may have my opinion about the Goddess,” said Raean, “but I can see you’re trying to do what needs to be done. You don’t deserve to suffer just because I did.” The wagon was quickly gaining speed. “Besides, the smell was really starting to get to me.”

Nabooru said nothing but mopped her sister’s brow with the sleeve of her blue robe. Finally she spoke again. “You left my headdress back there, didn’t you?”

“I did you a favor, Boo,” said Raean. “It made you look really stupid.”

* * *

Link focused on the enormous green-eyed wolf. It drew in a rattling breath and bared its razor sharp teeth again. Saliva dripped from its mouth. Link slowly reached backward with his sword-arm, holding it ready for a spin-attack. Then he remembered Malon was still directly behind him. “I’m gonna need more room, Mal…” said Link. Malon moved; but not back. “Malon what are you doing?”

Malon was next to Link’s shield arm. “It’s harmless, Link…” she said.

Link was incredulous. “‘Harmless?’ It threw the door open and broke the windows, what do you mean it’s…”

“Link, I know animals,” she said. “He ain’t dangerous; he’s hurt. You see how his tail is between his legs? And he’s salivatin’…”

“Yeah, he’s salivating; he’s hungry for Hylia stew!” Link maintained his stance.

“No, Link, that’s what happens when animals have a wound in their mouths,” explained Malon. “They salivate to work out any infections.”

“Yeah, he probably got wounded by whoever was behind the door with him; the guy he just ate!” said Link. Malon ignored him and edged out from behind Link’s shield calmly. “Malon, don’t…”

Malon turned to Link directly. “Link, I know what I’m talking about.” Her eyes were so stern he had to fight within himself not to relinquish.

“Okay,” Link said, “but if anything goes wrong get behind me quick.”

Malon turned around and faced the wolf. Its breath rattled, its teeth clacking together, the edges of its mouth quivering. “Okay, now, just be nice; I wanna help you,” Malon cooed. She extended her hand toward the wolf’s nose. It recoiled, growling. “I’m not gonna hurt you…” (Link rolled his eyes.) “Just let me help you,” Malon said. The wolf’s breath was putrid, but Malon stood her ground. After another moment the wolf lowered its jaws and opened them slowly, deliberately. Link cringed; the wolf’s mouth was so huge that it could have swallowed Malon whole. Malon reached up into its mouth, her hand pressing directly between the sharp teeth. “Stand still,” she said, “I’ve got it. Now, once I’ve got this out you promise not to bite me…? Okay, here we go.” And Malon yanked downward, pulling a long, wet, red something out of the wolf’s jaw. The wolf recoiled, snapping its jaws fiercely. Malon stepped back and fell over the hem of her dress, landing on the floor with a jolt. Link was immediately in front of her, brandishing his sword at the enormous wolf.

The wolf’s jaws clacked together loudly. Its head thrashed from one side to the other and it brought its paws up to scratch at its nose. Then it put its head down on the floor and placed both paws deliberately on top of its head, jerking backward forcefully. Link could not understand what it was doing, but watched with unsettled interest. Finally its whole face came away and the wolf was not a wolf but a tall, gaunt man with brown skin, reeling face down on the floor. When the man looked up from the wolf mask Link could see that the man had a trickle of blue coming from inside his mouth that Link took to be blood. Four pairs of eyes stared at the man in astonishment as he crawled toward the ripped canvas pack, tore off a large strip of cloth and wadded it into his mouth. Then, with eyes rolling back in his head for pain, he bit down on the cloth and promptly fell to the marble floor, unconscious.

Malon was shivering with nerves and covered in perspiration. She looked at her hand, still clutching what she had pulled out of the wolf’s mouth; it was a long shard of wood covered in red wetness that now also covered her hand and stained her dress. She looked toward the doorway—sure enough there was a shard-shaped hunk missing from the edge of the wooden door. “He must have…” she said through chattering teeth. “When he came through the door… He…” She looked at the red shard again. “I’ve never seen so much…”

Link sheathed his sword and slung his shield on his back again. Then he knelt beside Malon and put his arms around her. “Don’t think about it, Mal. Just don’t think about it.” He lowered one hand to hers and took the shard from her, tossing it behind them quickly. “You were right,” he said, holding her again. “I was wrong about the wolf; I’m sorry…”

“Link?” said Malon as she stared at nothing. She was still shivering terribly.

“Yeah, Mal,” he said, never loosening his arms from around her.

“I think I’d like to look at the pretty windows, now…”

“Okay, Mal,” Link said. And he lowered her down slowly, being sure to rest her head gently on the marble floor. He sat between her and the unconscious brown-skinned man, watching Malon attentively.

Afton removed his tunic, balling it up and positioning it under Malon’s feet. There was the sound of clinking glass and Link looked up to see Tobias collecting the broken shards of stained window-pane. When he had the pile gathered the young man sat in the corner staring blankly at the floor.

“That wasn’t what you expected, was it Tobias?” said Afton.

Tobias was brought out of his trance, but he continued to stare into the open air as if he saw some scene play out before his eyes. “No, it wasn’t. I’m relieved to say that I share Master Link’s sentiment; I was most certainly wrong."

"Wrong about what?" said Link.

"Keep your eye on him all the same, will you?” added Tobias.

Afton checked the unconscious brown-skinned man. He was still. “Two eyes, better…” said the lieutenant, keeping one hand on the hilt of his spare rapier.

Link looked between his uncle and the priest. “Wrong about what?” he repeated firmly. Tobias looked to Afton.

“It’s just…” Afton began. “Tobias needs to be sure you don’t get the wrong…”

“No, it’s okay, Afton. It’s time he found out.” Tobias stood stiffly and then sat at Malon’s feet. “Link do you know what happened to your other self when he pulled the Master Sword from the pedestal?” Tobias spoke very clearly, as if he knew exactly what Link would say and where the conversation would go from there.

“I guess he was locked away in the Sacred Realm,” said Link. “That’s what happened to me when I drew the Master Sword the first time.”

“Precisely,” said Tobias. “And why were you locked away?”

“Because I wasn’t old enough to use the Master Sword…”

“Exactly. And when did you awake?”

“When I was old enough; after seven years…”

“Perfect,” said Tobias.


“In a moment,” Tobias insisted. “So when your other self drew the Master Sword his spirit was locked away in the Sacred Realm where we believe he should stay for…”

“But what does this has to do with the wolf…” Link interrupted.

“Please, Link, there’s a lot to explain and it will be much easier if Tobias just leads you through it,” Afton said. Malon’s breathing was just now evening out; she had fallen asleep. Link decided there wasn’t much else he could do at the moment.

“Okay,” said Link, making himself as comfortable as possible on the marble floor.

Tobias continued. “Thank you. Now, when do you suppose your other self should have woken up, Link?”

“When he was old enough to use the Master Sword, I guess. But he won’t end up traveling through time or fight Ganon like I did now that Ganon’s trapped in the Four Sword.”

“True enough,” said Tobias. “And yet if all of this is true, then it seems your other self has awoken ahead of schedule.”

Link’s eyes widened. “You mean I woke up?” he said with awed astonishment.

“Your other self woke up, yes,” corrected Tobias. “You see, your other self was sealed away in the Sacred Realm, just as you explained. Then Rauru took the Ocarina from him and returned with the monks of the Temple to aid the other Sages with the intruders.”

“Oh, yeah. That was the night Ganon attacked…” said Link wearily. He rubbed his eyes, suddenly feeling the tragedy and pain of all of the events since then weigh down on him.

“Yes,” said Tobias. “Your other self has remained in the Sacred Realm since then; unconscious, fully alive and perfectly still… Up until yesterday, that is—from what Afton and I can gather, around the time that you defeated Ganon. While I was attending to my duties I heard laughing coming from inside the Sanctuary of the Temple. I went to the Sacred Realm to be certain that nothing had gone wrong—but I found it empty. I called Afton to help me search the Temple, but we could find no trace of your other self. We still don’t know what happened, but it appears that your other self was only kept in the Sacred Realm until Ganon was defeated.”

“He’s in the Inner Sanctum now…we hope,” said Afton.

Link’s brows tightened. “What…?” As the idea settled on him Link became animated with excitement; he could finally meet himself…all of himself. He wondered anew what it might be like. “But I thought you said you couldn’t find him…”

“We couldn’t,” said Afton. “At least not at first. After you went to bed last night we found him in the Sanctuary of the Temple trying to remove the Master Sword from its pedestal. He seemed to be lost, so we took him back to the Inner Sanctum.”

“I hope he’s okay…” said Link. Then he seemed to become very puzzled. “But I thought the Sanctuary was closed after the Sages stopped Ganon… The Door of Time was closed; how could my other self get in?”

“That was one thing we wanted to explain to you, Link,” said Tobias. “Do you remember what I told you some time ago about there being two Temples?”

Link recalled the experience with some frustration. It was on his first visit to the Stained Hall. Link wanted to know how the Stained Hall could fit inside a single temple and Tobias had been particularly mysterious about the answer. “Yeah. You said it had something to do with the Lost Woods and then never explained what you meant…”

Tobias winced guiltily. “Yes, well, I had some reason to withhold that knowledge, as you will soon understand. As I told you before, there is—in a way—another Temple; an ‘echo’ of the original temple hidden in the Lost Woods. In terms of physical presence the two correspond perfectly; they are the same temple. But somehow the space they occupy has doubled; they are one physical edifice with two completely separate and distinct interiors. The one is only accessible from the other by means of specially enchanted magical doors such as the one that permits us entrance to the Stained Hall. Technically speaking the Stained Hall neither exists in the Hylian Kingdom nor the Lost Woods, but in a portion of the Golden Land we refer to as the Sacred Realm…”

“You mean we’re in the Golden Land!?” said Link, his astonishment apparent. He looked around him as if seeing the Stained Hall for the first time.

“In a portion of it, yes,” replied Tobias. “When your other self drew the Master Sword he passed into that portion of the Sacred Realm called the Temple of Light; which we are occupying at this very moment. You might wonder how we have been able to get in and out of the Sacred Realm so easily when anciently whoever entered the Golden Land was trapped inside…”

Link looked as if he were about to ask precisely that. “Yeah...”

“Well, Rauru would be able to tell you more about that,” said Tobias, “but from what I understand the Temple of Light was formed by the Sheikah as the Temple of Time was constructed. It was a portion of our world pushed into the Golden Land and protected by strong spells to prevent the two worlds from intermingling. This was done as a precaution so that the Golden Land could be monitored from within the safety of our world; we can see it without truly being within it. Under normal circumstances the Temple of Light is only accessible by the enchanted doors such as the one that our visitor has now broken…” Tobias shot the still-unconscious man a furtive glance. “But as we discovered when your other self drew the Master Sword, the Temple of Light is evidently also accessible from the Sanctuary of the Temple of Time.

“Your other self was certainly drawn into the Temple of Light when he drew the Master Sword and it seems whatever force drew him there returned him to the Sanctuary when Ganon was imprisoned. But instead of returning to the Sanctuary of this Temple—the one in Castle Town—your other self appeared in the Sanctuary of the Temple hidden in the Lost Woods. This was why it took some time for us to locate him.”

“Which is why I was late getting to your knighting ceremony last night,” added Afton.

Tobias continued. “We were forced to collect the Spiritual Stones from their various keepers and open the Door of Time in order to get him out. Once we found him we escorted him to the Inner Sanctum and did our best to make him comfortable, but for various reasons we felt it would be best to ensure that the room was secure so that he… That is, so that nothing would disturb him,” Tobias corrected himself.

“You locked him in!?” said Link, aghast.

“It was in his best interest, Link,” said Afton. “Can you imagine what might happen if he got out of the Temple and people saw him? They might think he was you and then we would have much bigger problems.”

“Despite our best efforts, however, he’s been finding some way to get out,” said Tobias. “Since yesterday I’ve found him in odd parts of the Temple mumbling to himself and laughing, but the second I start talking to him he’s fine. I thought that might be him on the other side of the door just now.”

Link rounded on Afton. “And you drew a sword on him!?”

“We didn’t know what to expect, Link,” Afton said, trying to calm Link down. “We just wanted to be on the safe side.”

Link looked like Afton had slapped him in the face. “What do you mean ‘the safe side?’ I wouldn’t hurt anybody I care about!”

“We know you wouldn’t Link, but…” began Afton.

“…but your other self has been manifesting multiple personalities, some of them very violent,” Tobias finished.

“So you weren’t trying to kill me, then,” said a voice behind Link. “That’s a relief.” The brown-skinned man had come to.

Link instinctively pulled his sword and was turned around in half a second. The man threw his hands to the side.

“Hmm. The kid does have a short fuse,” said the man coolly. “You were probably right to pull a sword on him.”

Link didn’t move. “How much did you hear?”

“Everything,” said the man calmly. “I’m a light sleeper.” He eyed Link’s sword. “Look, I’m unarmed; are you going to put that thing away or what?”

“You’re not so harmless,” said Link. “Your teeth are sharp enough.”

“Your girly-friend had it right, kid; I had a hunk of wood stuck in my jaw. I didn’t bite her, now did I? I was just trying to open the door.”

Link noticed that the man held the wad of canvas in one hand; it was now colored blue completely through. It took a moment for Link to remember that this was the color of his blood. At any rate the man’s mouth was no longer bleeding. “Okay,” said Link, sheathing his sword. He folded his arms. “Who are you, then?”

The brown-skinned man reached into his pack. Link’s hand went to the hilt of his sword again. The brown man stopped, and then slowly he pulled out a mask that had greasy red hair parted down the middle, squinty eyes and a wide smile. He held the mask close to his face and waited to see if Link would react. When he didn’t the brown man winked and placed the mask on. Then all at once he was not a brown-skinned man, but the Happy Mask Salesman complete with purple coat and permanent smile. “Maybe you’ll remember me now…” he said through his toothy grin.

* * *

Far across the eastern edge of Hyrule the Sages travelled, flying through the air in sweeping arcs of white; over Kakariko Village and the mountainous ridge that separated it from the reservoirs of Zora’s Domain. The pair of Sages reappeared at the height of the waterfall cresting the domain; it was a large mountainous lake fed by a strong subterranean spring. Resting nearby was an enormous fish the length of thirty men; its bulk resting half in, half out of the water. Its great breaths could be heard every so often; always long and deep, sounding like the filling and emptying of a mighty bellows. Ostensibly this creature might never have done anything but breathe, but presently it took notice of its two white-robed guests.

“Heeelllooo, Sssaaagesss,” said the fish. “Whaaat briiinnngggsss yyyooouuu tooo mmmyyy dooommmaaaiiinnnsss?” It inhaled while its guests responded.

“Greetings, Jabun the Wise,” said Impa. “We are here to meet the Sage of Water that she may accompany us.”

Then Gor Darmon said: “We are on our way to…” but he was cut off when Jabun spoke again.

“Whaaattt iiisss yyyooouuurrr eeerrraaannnd?” asked the Great Fish. He inhaled again.

Gor Darmon waited for Jabun to finish before he continued. “We are on our way to confirm the security of the Fused Shadow in the Water Temple, O’ Great Jabun.” The Sages both waited for Jabun to respond.

“Iii wwwooouuullld cooommme wwwiiith yyyooouuu, buuut Iii aaammm lllaaammmeeennntaaabbblllyyy iiinnncaaapaaabbbllle of doooiiinnng sssooo...” Jabun inhaled again. “Thhhe wwwaaateeerrrsss aaarrreee sssooo lllooowww theeessse daaayyysss…”

“Yes, Jabun, we know,” said Gor Darmon. “It has been many centuries since Nayru’s floodwaters drained from this place and left you stranded here. We pray she may grant you a boon of freedom soon that you may enjoy the open water once again.” Mercifully, another white-robed Sage materialized. It was Lutai, the Zora duchess in disguise.

“Are you ready?” asked Lutai.

“Yes,” said Impa quietly. “Quickly, before he says goodbye…” And the three Sages vanished from the mountainous lake.

The Great Fish inhaled. “Goooooodbyyyeee…” said Jabun. And then he sighed disappointedly.

The three Sages flew over the Land of Hyrule, past lake after mountainous lake and then high above the vast Hyrule Fields. Soon they were in sight of the Burning Desert to the north-west, materializing on an island the middle of the secluded Lake Hylia. The mound that crested above the lake’s waters contained, far under the lake’s bed, a temple complex normally accessible only to the water-dwelling race of the Zora. In another time Link had plumbed the depths of the Water Temple equipped with a tunic made of Zora scales that allowed him to breathe underwater and a pair of iron boots that kept him from floating back to the surface. But in the present time that had never happened and the Water Temple was, as yet, undefiled by any who did not have permission to enter.

Lake Hylia stretched out before them like a field of rippling quicksilver, the wind picking up little waves, the sun glinting off each crest. Far across the lake was a large house built on a sheer drop off right next to the water. The house appeared to be part living quarters part aquatic-life observatory with various structural elements haphazardly joined together. The overall visual effect was a conglomeration of last-minute scatter-brained additions on the part of whoever had built the edifice compounded over many long years. In all actuality, this was the home of the lake-side biologist.

Impa scanned the lake-shore. The biologist was just entering his laboratory with a basket of freshly-picked vegetables. A single scarecrow stared inertly back at Impa from the biologist’s garden. Satisfied that they had not been noticed, Impa spoke: “This is a well-chosen place for the Shadow; very defensible from land.”

“What securities have you in place for a water invasion?” asked Gor Darmon.

“The temple complex reaches far below the lake; the Artifact is buried at the extreme depth of the temple.” explained Lutai. “Sheer distance from the surface is one of the Shadow’s main defenses. Beyond this we have also placed a strong and particularly large sea eel in the Shadow chamber.”

“How did you get the sea eel into the temple?” asked Impa.

“We didn’t…not exactly,” said Lutai. “The lake-side biologist has been working on cross-breeding experiments and we have permitted him access to the temple’s varied species to further his research. In exchange for access to the temple we arranged to requisition his latest creation. The creature has been growing quickly and it is already aggressive enough to handle any of its natural cousins. Even if an intruder were able to get past the locks set in place to prevent any from accessing the Shadow, the beast would devour them straightaway.”

“Good,” said Impa. “With one Shadow hidden in the belly of a volcano and another buried at the bottom of Lake Hylia the Fused Magic will be difficult for any evil-meaning person to obtain. I don’t think we need to see anything more; these precautions appear to be sufficient.”

“I agree,” said Gor Darmon. “Shall we reconvene tonight, then?”

“Certainly,” said Lutai. “I believe Rauru and Aako will already be waiting for us at the Arbiter’s Grounds.”

And the three Sages vanished into the humid lake air.

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