The boy lay on his back at the foot of the tree. "We'll take him back with us after we get Saria." Ganondorf's men installed the pulley back on to the tree, then raised him up in it.
"You three stay here and make sure that kid doesn't wake up and get away," Ganondorf told three of his men. "The rest come with me." They were raised up on the pulley also.
They walked in the Forest Temple and were met with complete silence.
"She's hiding," Ganondorf said. "Two of you block the exit."
After an hour of searching, Ganondorf's men were ready to give up.
"We've checked every room," one said. "And the gardens, the hallways, and basement!"
"Stop moaning!" Ganondorf shouted. "What about secret passages? Push on the walls and the floor. Look for any weird symbols or mismatching tiles. Knock on the walls to see if they're hollow. We aren't leaving until we have her!"
Two frustrating hours later, there was no change, and they had covered every inch of the temple. A few had found secret passages, but there was nothing to be found in them. Saria simply wasn't in the temple.
Ganondorf's rage was a powerful and terrible thing. He unleashed it now.
"How can she escape from me? HOW? A fire on the whole forest! We'll see how Link and Saria like that!" With just a gesture, a pedestal of flame was rising outside the Forest Temple.
"Your Grace! We'll be burned alive!" shouted one of his men. "And what about the boy?"
"We won't burn, stupid. The Forest Temple is made of stone. And that boy who dared to defy me will die with everyone else. Link's home will be burnt to the ground." Ganondorf smiled. "He'll have a lovely little surprise when he returns."
Hot, was the first word to enter her head when Maarei woke up. She had little idea where she was, and what she was doing there, but she faintly remembered a fall. Yes, I fell from the pulley and...Maarei was suddenly scared to open her eyes, knowing she would probably be in another one of Ganondorf's horrific dungeons. But it was so uncomfortably hot, and a dungeon was usually underground, and much cooler.
Maarei opened her eyes. Flames danced and crackled before her. She jumped backed in shock. The fire was quickly spreading through the Sacred Forest Meadow. She should be surrounded by it, yet she wasn't. She was behind it. There was no fire underneath the Forest Temple.
Which ment that Ganondorf was in it, shielding himself. If he saw her there when he came back down, he'd take her captive. But what could she do? Her head throbbed where it had hit the ground, making it hard to think. Well, she thought. The meadow isn't totally engulfed in flames yet. If I run through it, I could reach the pond where my hilt is, and stay there until the fire has burned out. It's out of sight from the Forest Temple.
It was a big chance, but Maarei had to take it. She couldn't just stand there. She took a deep breath, and ran through gaps in the flames until she reached the pond. She dove in.
The shock of the cold from the pond made it hard to stay under for long, but she retrieved her hilt. Her teeth chattered as she tread water. The fire had probably made it's way to Kokiri Forest by now. Maarei hoped that the remaining Kokiri had acted like her and dove for the safety of the ponds.
She noticed that she had lost her mask. She looked around and found it floating beside her, and she left it there. It was at least two hours before dawn. Link was coming soon. Stay away from here Link! Ganondorf's just waiting for you to come back. There is nothing I can do, Maarei thought sadly. But wait along with him.
Ganondorf was certainly pleased with his work. His magic fire burned quickly and thoroughly. After the fire had destroyed the forest, he cast a spell to put it out. Now the forest was just smoke and ruins. Perfect, he thought. Now Link would think it was all his fault that the forest burned.
But it wouldn't take only that to make Link suffer for a long time. Perhaps a little lie was in order. Since that stupid Saria had run away, if Ganondorf told Link she was dead, Link wouldn't look for her. Then, Ganondorf thought, I can leave him in the forest for a while to let the guilt settle in, and then come back and kill him.
Three days and three nights is enough time.
Link was glad to be coming home early. He rode back to the forest on Epona, humming and daydreaming about nothing in particular. A chilly wind from the north reminded him winter was coming. It also reminded him of something else, but he couldn't quite put his finger on it...
Oh well. He dismissed the feeling with a shrug and a reassurance that his overactive imagination was working up again. But he could not help but to feel as if that was a warning...
For what? he thought. He suddenly had a dreadful feeling he would find out all too soon.
As Link neared the forest, he smelled something burning. He looked up, and his heart gave a lurch when he saw what it was.
Black, horrible smoke was curling ominously over the forest, almost grinning at Link. The trees were charred and collapsing. Even from this far away, you could see that there might not be a living soul in the forest anymore.
No, no, wake up Link, just wake up and be free of this nightmare. But Link didn't wake up. He just sat frozen to the saddle, disbelieving.
Who? he thought emptily. Then he told himself he had to go see exactly what had happened, and help them. He rode faster, and soon reached the bridge at the Lost Woods. The forest beneath him was in ruins; but the bridge was still intact and unharmed. Link felt a chill creep up his spine. He felt like this had all been planned, and he was walking straight into someone's hands. He gave an apprehensive glance around, then drew his sword and cautiously walked on.
The forest looked even worse from the inside. His house, the shop, all of it, had been burnt to the ground. If anyone had died, their bodies were now just ashes blowing in the wind. He lifted his gaze from the destruction in time to see a figure in black riding toward him.
He saw who it was, and could not believe his eyes.
"I just killed Saria," Ganondorf said.
The look on Link's face when Ganondorf lied about Saria was almost too much. It was all he could do to keep from laughing.
"It was marvelous," Ganondorf continued. "I hung her right on from the tree over the Forest Temple. She was screaming and calling for you and making an awful fuss the whole time, until we got the noose around her neck. Then she shut up. We pushed her off the ledge, and when her neck went crack, I never thought I'd hear a sound so sweet."
All of the color had drained from Link's face by then. This time Ganondorf didn't restrain his laughter.
"You do realize, forest boy, that all of this is your fault," Ganondorf couldn't help adding. "I sacked you Kokiri Forest and killed most of your folk, and those I didn't kill burned. If you'd been here, none of this would have happened. So, welcome home."
Link never had looked more stupid, standing there with his puny little sword in his hand, staring up at him.
"You-" he began. Ganondorf cut him off.
"I really should kill you now, but I think I'll leave you in your misery. You can think about all the people you just killed. I'll be back."
Ganondorf motioned for his men to follow him, and they left the forest. Once outside, Ganondorf cast a spell and they were warped back to his new castle.
Now that my power is so strong, he thought. I will soon be ready to take Hyrule Castle...
To be continued...
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