RISE of the HERO or “All Four One”
“Vi! Get the bow!”
It was three days ago that Link, the Hero of Time, had taken the ancient Four Sword from the sanctuary in pursuit of his own Shadow.
“Why me? Why is it always me…?”
A young man of eleven years sped across the dimly lit one-room dungeon at the base of the Tower of Winds. His purple tunic was soiled with dirt and grime in many places and his face was covered with perspiration and fatigue.
“Link, you have to hurry!”
The boy faltered only a moment, and then regained his focus: the bow was just ahead, beside the hoof of the thirty-foot bipedal boar that loomed above him. But a massive hairy blue fist stopped the boy short, impacting the ground just to his right, throwing him to the cold stone floor.
“Insects! Stay still so I can put us all out of our misery!”
Ganon, the beastly King of Darkness, swung his huge trident overhead. The wicked-looking weapon struck the ground with a crackle of green electricity, nearly skewering the boy’s right foot.
Vi rolled away from Ganon’s attack, but when he stood his right leg gave way, numb from the electric shock. “A little help here, guys!” he called, massaging the feeling back into his limb.
“Blue, with me! Red, give us some fire!”
“On it,” said yet another young man. He was identical to the first except that he was garbed in red. He carried a rod of metal tipped with a large ruby. The red-clad boy pointed the rod at Ganon’s feet and out of the ruby leapt a line of fire, throwing the shadows of six figures dancing on the walls.
Ganon did nothing. A gritty black aura materialized around him and the fire billowed harmlessly to either side. “How quaint,” said Ganon, chuckling. “You think a little fire will hurt me? It’s amusing how simple you all are.”
Red turned the rod around, staring into the ruby. “It should have worked. It’ll work…” he said, pointing it at Ganon’s feet again.
“Not helping!” called a blue-clad boy, and the report of an explosion reverberated off the walls. The Dark King staggered away from a growing cloud of smoke, caught off guard. Vi quickly rushed in and grabbed the bow, retreating to join Red and Blue. Blue was holding a bulbous plant above his head with a dried stem sticking out. It was a bomb flower, the ‘special crop’ of the Goron race. “Try it again, Porky!” Blue taunted. “C’mon, swing your fancy fork again and see what happens!”
“Ugh! Duped by insects! I’ll teach you to regard the King of Darkness with proper deference…” The floor rumbled as Ganon’s cloven feet fell one after the other like miniature earthquakes, closing the distance to the three young men. Ganon brandished his trident. Blue lowered his bomb toward Red’s fire rod. “Wait!” said Ganon. Blue stopped. “Where’s the other one? There were four of you…” Then a pained bellow erupted from Ganon’s throat and he fell to one knee. The fourth young man—clothed in green—emerged from behind the beast, brandishing his sword threateningly.
“Call me insect again and you’ll kneel with both legs next time!” taunted Link, the very Hero of Time. Ganon’s tusked mouth bent in a pained sneer as he leaned on his trident. “Zelda, are you ready?” the boy-hero called, never taking his eyes off the beast.
“Just now!” called Zelda. The young princess was hunched in the corner. Her dress was soiled from the many flights of stairs they had travelled and torn from narrowly escaping the numerous monsters that plagued the enchanted edifice. On her back was slung the Dark Mirror she had recently recovered from the Realm of the Heavens. Presently her eyes were intent and focused as she concentrated magical light into a dense ball between her outstretched arms. Bands of energy weaved in and out of the orb. She raised her hands and the ball hovered over her head. Never taking her eyes away from her task she said, “It’s ready, Link—make this count!”
“Vi, get an arrow ready!” said Link.
“I know, I know,” said Vi, hastily knocking an arrow to the bowstring.
But before any of them could react, Ganon raised his trident, crackling with sickly green energy. “I am not so easily defeated, curs! You have been thorns in my side long enough!” The green energy collected in a globe it the tip of Ganon’s trident. “Now die!” The King of Darkness struck the butt of the Trident on the cold stone floor and five balls of green light sped directly at each of Ganon’s enemies.
In perfect concert, Link, Blue, Red and Vi responded only just in time to deflect the balls of energy with the flats of their blades, sending them careening off into the walls of the dungeon where they flashed into nothing. Stark bursts of green light shot through the room like a show of fireworks, briefly illuminating six faces from all sides. Zelda threw her arms forward, the sphere of white light colliding directly with the last sickly green ball in a flash and a crackling. The orbs of white and green were wasted.
The princess exhaled wearily as the last tendrils of white light vanished. She pulled her long white gloves from her arms. “Hold him off! I’ll have to make another one!”
But this was not so easily done, for in the time that Ganon had bought himself he was preparing another spell. Now he was making great leaps around the room, here fading out like the wink of a firefly and there appearing where there had been nothing before. The Four-That-Were-One wasted no time, but positioned themselves so as to intercept the Evil King wherever he was in the dim chamber. Ganon struck out with his trident, but he was not prepared for the efficiency of the four young men who acted in concert to foil him at every side. Again and again the Trident of Power struck out and every time the blow was parried, dodged or deflected. But neither could the Hero-Made-Four cut the hairy blue hide of the beastly king; the foes were at a draw. And then Ganon saw that Zelda’s second orb was nearing completion.
The King of Evil withdrew a pace. “Enough! I will end this charade. You have bested and driven off that foolish wretch of a wind mage, but you will not best me! You four ruined my plans when you defeated my first Shadow, but I have stolen the power of the mirror for my own; I can create as many as I please! Behold, I summon forth your Shadows to fight for me!” And when Ganon raised his Trident a shining green globe appeared at the tip, casting short shadows behind each of the four heroes.
Link, Blue, Red and Vi turned to watch as their shadows wavered, bent and lifted themselves off the floor, becoming more and more solid by the moment. A pair of hollows appeared in each of the shadows’ heads and sinister red lights stared back at the heroes as they witnessed the shady forms disconnect from their own bodies. The Shadows paused only a moment before they drew dark blades from dark sheaths and set upon their real counterparts. Ganon gurgled his evil red laugh.
“Oh, not again,” Vi whined, ducking as his shadow’s whistling weapon whipped over his head.
“Don’t worry, Vi,” replied Red, deflecting a dark blade, “we’ll think of something.”
“Shut up and fight you morons!”called Blue, checking his red-eyed foe with a thrust of his shield.
Rolling around his opponent, Link raised himself from the ground in one fluid motion, slashing up his shadow’s back. The sword parted the shadow clean in two, but the next instant it reformed. “Zelda!” cried Link, “we need that light!”
“It’s almost ready,” called the princess over the clashing of swords. “Hold on!”
But in the next moment Ganon saw what Zelda’s work would do to his dark creations. “No! You thwart me for the last time, Princess; bow to the power of your Dark King!” Sickly green energy glowed brighter at the end of the Trident and then the butt of the weapon struck the stone floor.
Zelda threw her arms forward, the sphere of white light gliding away around the room. And where it passed overhead the Shadows withered, shrinking back to the floor where they rejoined the heroes who cast them—gone as quickly as they had come. The princess threw her arms up; Ganon’s crackling green missile would surely strike her. But suddenly Blue was there and the ball struck him full in the chest, knocking both him and the princess back into the dungeon wall. The stone of the wall cracked audibly and the two fell to the floor.
“Zelda’s light is coming back around,” shouted Link. “Now or never Vi!”
Vi pulled out his bow again, taking aim with a single arrow. When the sphere of white light circled back, the purple-clad boy loosed the shaft and the arrow’s head connected with the white orb. A flash erupted as the light was instantly imbued into the arrow. The arrow sunk into Ganon’s chest and he bellowed angrily, wailing and writhing, entwined by swarming, searing tentacles of light.
Zelda groaned, recovering from the shock; the Dark Mirror had saved her from the brunt of the impact. She saw the beastly Ganon writhing before her and then Blue, sprawled in her lap, senseless. “Oh, Link! Link, I’m so sorry! Thank you,” she said, and kissed his cheek. She gently eased his body to the ground and stood, cradling her ribs. In her other hand she clutched a small grey stone amulet. Maidens, she thought out, bind him, quickly!
One by one six colored lights appeared in the dungeon and became six young women, surrounding Ganon’s writhing form. Then six colored orbs appeared above their heads and these condensed until they became pinpricks of brilliant force. Ganon’s movement slowed until he was motionless, bound in a cocoon of bright white threads.
“The Four Sword, Link!” Zelda called. “Use it now!”
Link raised his sword, rushing forward and thrusting it at Ganon. It did not even strike the Dark King before it stopped, unmovable in midair. Link’s instinct was to pull back, but his hand would not move; it was somehow bound to the handle of the sword. Then all at once it seemed that Ganon’s cocooned form stretched, warped, and came away in a swerving beam of red light.
The Four Sword shook violently, drawing the red light into its blade. More and more of the demon-beast was pulled in, vanishing as it fused with the ancient weapon. Finally, when all of the red light had been drawn into the blade the Maidens and their lights vanished. The princess of Hyrule and four young men were left in complete darkness…
Complete, that is, except for the angry red glow that now saturated the Four Sword. The blade vibrated with renewed intensity—Link’s grip failed him.
“Help! Guys, help!” Link called, becoming desperate. In moments Vi and Red were there, steadying Link’s hands with their own. Still the weapon shook—it was not enough. “Where’s Blue?” called Link. “Blue!” The blue-garbed hero was still on the ground, motionless. The three young men looked at each other and thought precisely the same thing; without Blue they would not be able to maintain their hold on the Four Sword…
Zelda bent over Blue and pressed her palms to the young man’s chest. Her hands were aglow with a white light and something seemed to be drawn out of her; her face fell, veiled in darkness for a moment. After another few labored seconds, Blue stirred. He sat up, becoming aware of his surroundings just as Zelda fell to the floor, unconscious.
“Zelda, no!” he cried.
“Blue!” said Vi, the three young men still struggling to keep the Four Sword steady. The Tower began to rumble ominously, casting sheets of dust from the ancient walls. “Blue come on!”
Blue quickly kissed Zelda’s hand. “Thank you,” he whispered, and he dashed to aid the others. He gripped the sword’s hilt with one hand and the pommel with the other. The walls groaned, throwing gouts of dust from cracks in the cut stone and what seemed like an eternity passed, the sword threatening to free itself of their grip, their fingers and hands straining against the effort. The sword’s red glow dimmed, the sword calmed, and with a last labored convulsion, finally fell still. Four young men exhaled wearily, still holding the weapon that had imprisoned the spirit of the Dark King. For a moment all was quiet.
Then something stirred in the corner of the dungeon.
“Zelda!” called Blue, remembering her. And the next moment he was at her side.
* * *
The Four Sword Sanctuary was suffused with a sense of anticipation. Three days ago the Four Sword had been taken from the altar and now the Hero-Made-Four had returned to replace it forever. Zelda was standing before the pedestal of the Four Sword, the Maidens surrounding her. Red, Blue and Vi stood with Link.
Zelda lowered the Dark Mirror from her back and rested it against the pedestal of the Four Sword. “Are you ready Link?” she asked.
Link was called out of reminiscence. “Yeah…” He looked at the other young men. “Actually, hang on a second; for once you get to wait on us…” The princess rolled her eyes. “Hey guys: box formation.” The four boys turned to face each other like well-practiced soldiers. Link spoke in a low voice so only the other young men could hear.
“So, I guess we’ve had our differences…and I suppose we still will. But I just wanted to say—”
Blue gave Link a flat look. “You’re not going sappy on us, now are you?”
“What? I just want to remember us, you know? I mean how often does a kid get to meet three of himself?”
“Jeez,” said Blue. “We just got done beating up everything Ganon threw at us and then sucked him into a magic sword and you go nostalgic? You gotta be like; ‘Hey guys, we were awesome! Ganon never stood a chance!’ ”
“…and it’s not like we’re going to die or anything,” added Red. “I mean you make it sound like we’re all gonna die, sometimes…”
Link chuckled to himself. “Yeah, I guess that’s true.” Then he noticed Vi was quiet, shuffling his feet. “Anything you want to add, Vi?”
Vi looked at Link, then the others, then his feet. “Oh, nothing,” he said, flattening out his tunic.
Link put his hand on Vi’s shoulder. “Vi, whatever it is you have to say I’ll know it here in about a minute anyway, but I want to hear it from you… Now, what is it?”
Vi looked at Link. Link had always been stunned at how honest his eyes were. “I think you push yourself too hard,” he said timidly. “You never stop helping people, and it’s good that you do, it’s just…” He trailed off.
“He’s right,” said Blue, folding his arms.
“Yeah,” said Red. “It’s good to take some time for yourself now and then.”
Link looked at the three of them, taking all of this in. He nodded thoughtfully. “Okay. I will. Thanks, guys.” He put a hand on Red’s shoulder. “What do you say we pack this up?” Link drew the Four Sword from the sheath on his back. The other three drew identical swords from their sheaths. “Wide formation!” shouted Link and in a moment they were arranged in a line before the altar. “We’re ready, Princess.”
“Then place the Four Sword in the pedestal,” said Zelda patiently.
Each of the four young men set the tip of his sword on the altar. The moment the blades touched one another, the swords brightened, becoming a brilliant white. The weapons fused together, and with them their wielders, their forms blurring, glowing with the same bright light. One moment there stood four young men holding four swords, and within seconds there was only one young man, his face and clothing as white as the blade of the sword that he slid into the pedestal. When he released the handle of the Four Sword, the white glow vanished and he remained a normal young man clothed in a tunic and cap of green.
Zelda and the Maidens acted in concert, pressing their palms together and bowing their heads. In moments seven colored lights sprang into being and entwined the Four Sword and the Dark Mirror, fluxing, hardening and finally forming a shining red pyramid over the sword and shield. When Zelda was sure the seal was secure, she let her hands down and let out one long, weary sigh. “It is done,” she said. Then she turned to the six young women. “Thank you. All of you.” Each of the six maidens bowed and one by one they vanished in little colored globes of diminishing light.
Link pondered the enshrined Four Sword: some days ago he had drawn it out of desperation to combat a shadowy version of himself, and now here he was longing for it still. He had once wondered what it would have been like to meet himself and within the last week he had met so many different versions he was certain he would never see himself the same way again. The experience had been jarring but Link felt he was the wiser for it.
Then Link became aware that Zelda was beside him. She slid one satin-gloved hand into his. He gripped it firmly. “Are you okay?” she asked quietly. She put her other hand on his arm.
“Yeah,” he said, turning to look at her. Half his mouth smiled. “Yeah, I think I am.” And the other half of his mouth completed the arc across his worn face.
A grin forced its way into Zelda’s cheeks and she blushed. She looked down at Link’s boots. “I wanted to thank you,” she finally said. She looked up at him again, her eyes darting over his face, pausing on his straw-like hair—matted and unkempt, his green cap—soiled and ratty, his small pointed ears. And his green eyes—so kind and… “Thank you for saving me…” she said quickly. Tears formed in her young blue eyes. “I…” she faltered, looking quickly away.
Then Link leaned over and kissed Zelda’s cheek. “I care about you,” he said. Zelda’s face shot back to look at him. Then Link’s face went an unexpected shade of pink and he laughed. It was a short, nervous laugh but before Link could feel ashamed for it, Zelda threw her arms around him. He caught her and held her fast to avoid falling over.
“Oh, Link,” she said between joyful sobs. “I think you’re the finest, bravest person I’ve ever met. And I think I… I…”
“It’s okay,” said Link, patting her back. “It’s okay. Just…let me hold on to you for a second.” He closed his small arms around her more firmly.
And in the dim quiet of the Four Sword Sanctuary, surrounded by the Royal Jewels of the four elements, they held each other; the Hero and the Princess of Hyrule.
* * *
After leaving the Four Sword Sanctuary, the Maidens took it upon themselves to deliver the news that Ganon had been defeated and imprisoned. All of Hyrule rejoiced that their land, once clouded over with darkness, was bright once again. The townspeople praised the Goddesses that they were safe and hailed the name of Link, the Hero of Hyrule. Toasts were made to him; people shouted and ran in the streets joyfully. The land had been delivered; ‘Prepare to welcome the Hero!’ they called.
And so it was that when Link and Zelda emerged from Hyrule Castle they heard the cheers and shouts of the people outside the castle gates and wondered at the music that was played. And when the guards opened the enormous wooden doors to the town the children were greeted by throngs of people all shouting and calling out Link’s name. Zelda pressed her hands to her mouth and Link stood wide-eyed, both of them awed by the enormity of the celebration that had been assembled with more and more people gathering by the moment.
Zelda smiled. “Well, go on!” she shouted over the noise of the crowds. “They’re waiting for you.” She reached for his hand, squeezed it once and then let go, stepping back a pace.
Link wasn’t sure what to do. He had never been received like this before. He scanned the crowd for a familiar face but he realized very quickly that he didn’t really know these people: there was that woman that he had overheard haggling every time he passed—that pair of brothers who juggled and always thought their jokes were funnier than they really were—and there was that short-haired shop-girl Link had seen once or twice—but why they would want to gather like this was beyond him. Then a wry thought crept into his mind; I know how to play along…
The first idea that occurred to him was to draw his sword and wave it high, but the Four Sword was sealed in the sanctuary and the shattered remains of his gilded sword had long been left behind. So the only thing that was left was to pull his father’s shield from his back and hold it above him. The hollering masses raised a triumphant cheer of acceptance. A grin crossed Link’s face that he could neither prevent nor wish away. He was a hero in more than name, now. He was a living legend.
Then the words Afton had said about a knight’s shield rang in his mind and he felt the slightest twinge of guilt. It was his duty to protect Hyrule: he was a knight, and Captain of the Royal Guard. Or at least he would have been if he had ever had the chance to fight at the Tournament and be officially accepted. He lowered his shield and slung it over his back again. He wanted the people to know that he was just doing his duty, like his father.
“I’d like to say something!” he shouted over the cheering crowds. It seemed they didn’t notice. He raised his hand. “I’d like to say something!!” he called louder. But this only made the crowds cheer more heartily. He raised both hands. “Please…!” he shouted, but the people took it as a cue and someone rushed forward, grabbing him by the knees and lifted him up on their shoulder. Everyone crowded around, reaching out to touch him. Then man who had grabbed him started walking away from the north gate, off through the town. Link turned around quickly. “Zelda!” he called. But she was not there. Where would she have gone? he wondered. Why would she leave? When he had finally accepted that she would not appear again, he turned and looked where the people were taking him, parading him around the town like the hero he was.
* * *
High in the ramparts of Hyrule Castle, Zelda looked down at the people of Hyrule, flooding the streets like water to greet their hero. “Enjoy it, Link,” she said to herself. “You deserve it.” In another moment the crowds had disappeared deeper into the town and were lost from sight. Zelda sighed and stepped away from the window.
* * *
A wagon shambled over the underbrush of the forest path. It was small and had a door on the side where the words “Happy Mask Salesman” were painted in bright happy colors. Sure enough the wagon was covered all over with a variety of masks—wooden masks with tribal markings hanging from the railing around the top of the wagon, polished doll-like porcelain masks and scary metallic masks nailed to the wagon’s outer planks, even a mask that had one large red eye with a tear below it hanging from the doorknob. The wagon’s appearance did nothing to describe its driver, however, who was decidedly grumpy despite his invariable, unsettling smile.
“Yah, Brutus! If I have to get out again I’ll make you wear the Bunny Hood…In fact, I’m a little tempted to do it anyway…” The pony pulling the small wagon neighed and drove harder against the drag of the bracken. “That’s better,” said the Mask Salesman. “Stupid Castle Town Market. Every time I set up shop something goes wrong. First it was that stick-kid who came in wearing my Skull Mask. Made like he wanted to trade, but while I was suggesting a Goron Mask he up and takes one of the forbidden ones.” Brutus threw back his mane and neighed. “Hey, it wasn’t my fault; I didn’t have a chance to put it away. What’s your problem? Then that fairy kid came back asking for another mask to borrow… ‘I want to look like a Gerudo, now…’ ” said the salesman in a mock female voice. “What an idiot. Serves him right for getting turned into a Dekku Scrub.”
Brutus neighed again. “Yeah, well who asked you! Serves you right, too. At least he got me my mask back! And then when I finally get back from Termina to set up shop again some freak storm blows in and all my business goes into hiding. I swear, only now when I’m finally on my way out of the stupid place does the weather clear up. Yeah, well, who needs ‘em anyways?” the salesman shouted into the growing darkness. “They’ve got their fancy parties and all I’ve got is you…” Brutus nickered. “Shut up and just get us outta here. These woods have never been anything but trouble for me and I don’t intend to stay here any longer than I have to. Go on! Get going!” He shimmied in his seat impatiently. Nearby, a set of eyes watched him, glowing orange in the darkness.
The forest around them was unfamiliar. Each time the Mask Salesman had driven his wagon through these woods the paths looked different. Somehow, though, he always ended up somewhere else, which was precisely where he wanted to go. The sun shining through the deciduous trees left a dappled shadow on the forest floor. It was becoming darker and more difficult the further in they went and the salesman became wary. A light breeze rustled the leaves above.
“What was that, Brutus?” said the salesman. The pony stopped. “I didn’t give you permission to stop you mangy mule, I just asked what that sound was!” The pony began pulling again. “Probably some trickster out to get us. Faster, I say!” An eerie giggle reverberated through the clearing. “Do you hear that?” The pony did not stop. “Quit moving when I ask you a question, you ass!” He kicked his pony in the rear and it stopped. “It came from up ahead. Take that path there, to the right, Brutus. Well, go already!” The pony shambled to the right. For some time the Mask Salesman was quiet, listening. He glanced around the edge of the wagon but saw nothing other than his own masks, swinging from side to side. “There’s no one there, Brutus. Now you’re just making me paranoid…” But when the salesman turned around Brutus had stopped.
Perched on the pony’s back was a child, ostensibly made entirely of sticks. The child’s eyes glowed orange, and on its head was a peaked hat made of straw. For a moment everything was still while the salesman and the child considered each other; then the child threw its head back and laughed. It was a jarring, unsettling laugh that made the salesman’s skin crawl.
“Not you! Get off! I’ve had enough of you!” And the salesman reached down to the footboards of the wagon and retrieved a long purple wand. When he looked up, however, the stick-child was gone. “Hey, where…”
There was a rattling from behind. When the salesman turned he saw the door of his wagon swinging ajar and heard the mischievous giggle reverberate from inside. “No! Not in there! Stop! That’s dangerous…” The Mask Salesman jumped out of his seat still carrying his wand. “Quit! Get out of there!” He said, rapping the sides of the wagon with the wand. Finally, he threw the wand to the ground in consternation and jumped into the wagon.
Brutus nibbled at the small plants near his hooves while sounds of a struggle came from inside the wagon. Giggles and shouts followed one another until the salesman finally hollered “Go!” Brutus raised his head and started to plod away. “Not you, stupid mule, the… Stop it, you, put that down!” But Brutus ignored his driver and just kept walking. “Brutus, you imbecile! My wand is back there!” And the Mask Salesman rolled out of the wagon, running down the path to retrieve his wand. The moment he turned around, however, his wagon was speeding away. He heard an eerie “yah!” and an unsettling laugh.
“Grr! Come back here, Brutus, you equinius ridiculus!” The salesman jogged after his wagon, bending to one side with a stitch. The salesman had almost reached his cart when his leg cramped and he fell to the ground. It sped off even more quickly than before. “No!” yelled the salesman, and waved his wand over his head. The pin in the wagon tongue came loose and the wagon unhitched from the yoke, halting in its tracks.
The Mask Salesman got up and hobbled over to the wagon, inching his way around to the front, using the railing for support. There was Brutus, still walking away, a little ways ahead. And there, running deep into the underbrush, was the stick-child. Just as the stick-child was on the edge of sight, the salesman saw them; two of the salesman’s masks hanging around the kid’s neck. The salesman’s breath caught in his throat. The kid giggled, ducked behind a tree and was gone.
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