Maarei's heart dropped. "He has it," she said flatly.
"And Link killing him must have just added to his power. Tripled."
"We will need all the help we can get," Link said. "What about the, uh, Cyreenians?"
"They need to protect their own castle now. Melanthians might be best. The Houses could still be standing," Zelda pointed out.
They were silent for a moment. Then Maarei spoke up.
"The only way we can reach them would be a diplomat from Hyrule..." Zelda and Maarei looked at Link.
"Me? But I don't know anything about Melanthos. Why me?" he exclaimed.
"Because, they know us. They'd recognize us immediately and I'm sure word would spread that we were in the country. Even if we left, the people who are still alive now would be killed," Maarei explained.
"But why would they even open their doors up to anyone? Of course they're cynical."
"Well, you look Hylian. Bring Navi for proof, and talk your way in. They might recognize you, but not immediately."
"How do I know they won't just shoot arrows through me?"
"They'll likely listen if you tell them you can help. Zelda can warp you there."
"To Willow's Peak. The Willows are the second most powerful House in Melanthos, because my mother was a Willow. Ask them for bannerman and soldiers."
Link gave up. "Fine. When I want to come back, I'll play my ocarina."
"Tell them I sent you. Maarei Beryllos." Maarei turned to Zelda. "Could you do it now? Warp him to Willow's Peak?"
"Yes, I will. I know we don't have much time." Zelda said. "Right now, Link?" she asked.
"Now's as good as ever," he replied. Navi was one of his pockets, sleeping, and in his other pocket was the ocarina. He had his sword and his shield, his quiver and his arrows. He was ready.
Zelda chanted something, and with a slight tingling, he was swept up into the wind. Then he was on solid ground. He took a moment to steady himself before looking around.
A castle was on a high hill. It was raining. And of course, it was still night.
Back in Hyrule castle, the girls were still talking.
"A country in ignorance of it's surroundings can't help the others around it," Zelda said to Maarei. "It is time all three kingdoms knew where they were. I'll tell Hyrule tomorrow. You can stay here for as long as you want to."
"Great. Sleepovers. Just like when we were kids." Maarei said.
"You'll stay in my quarters tonight. On the morrow we'll tell father."
Link climbed up the hill to the castle. He knew it was a lord's castle; it was smaller than most, and didn't have a moat. A sign had been cut apart, and it's remains lay on the ground. He tried to read it.
"House of the Willows," he read aloud. From the top of the hill, he could see the towns below him. The were in ruins, just like Kokiri Forest had been, only worse. He wondered if there was anyone still alive inside the castle. Well, he was here to find out.
More closely examining the castle, he saw a light coming through one of the windows. Hope filled him. He grabbed the iron knocker and banged it on the huge door.
There was no answer. He knocked again. And waited. Finally he heard the scuffling of feet. Link was prepared to back away or attack if he had to. The door swung open.
There was no one there. Then he heard a voice from below him.
"Hi!" a little girl said cheerfully. She was tiny and her skin lightly tan, with light brown hair that hung loose down her back. She had...large gold eyes, shinning like coins up at him. "Who 're you?"
Then came a voice behind her. "Come away!" it said. "Away from there, sister!" A boy came out from a hallway and reached for her, to pull her back...but stopped, looking at Link more closely.
"Oh, praise Din, you aren't on His side," The boy said with a sigh of relief.
"No, I'm not," Link agreed. The boy, even though he looked to be at least Link's age, was still smaller than him. "
"He doesn't have any Hylians on His side. You are Hylian, aren't you?" He put his hands on his sister's shoulders protectively.
"Yes. I've come to help."
"Any...proof, other than your ears?" Navi darted out of his pocket and flew towards them.
"Proof enough?" she declared haughtily.
"Eh, is that a faerie?" the boy said, speaking in the same accent as Maarei. "Never seen one of those before."
"Yes, it's a faerie, her name is Navi," Link said.
"Well..." the boy looked around apprehensively. "I guess it's okay."
Link walked inside the castle.
Zelda and Maarei sat awake in Zelda's bedroom.
"So Ganon was in human form when you saw him?" Zelda asked Maarei, bouncing onto the bed.
"Both times," Maarei said. "I think he does that for trust. He could morph into Ganon if he wanted, but people will more likely side with another of their kind than a monster."
"He would be more powerful as Ganon. Being human, I think, slightly limits your powers. If he were to morph into Ganon..." Zelda shuddered to make her point clear.
"I know when he plans to take this castle, but I don't know how." Maarei frowned in the dark. "Maybe by magic, maybe by force."
"Maybe both. Which means we'll have to defend it both ways." Zelda looked at Maarei, as if to see her for the first time. "What are you wearing, Maar?"
"What? Oh yeah. That was a disguise. Link told you I was a sellsword. That reminds me," Maarei pulled out the broken sword. "Can you fix it my sword for me?"
"Sure. What'll you wear? None of my clothes will fit you."
"You Hylians always were too tall," Maarei said, jokingly.
"No, you Melanthians always were too small, and you know it."
"Well, it isn't fun being looked down on every time you leave your own country. But it's normal in Melanthos, to be small."
"Guess you'll have to go tripping around in my clothes for a while."
"I guess so." Maarei said. They lapsed into silence. Neither could sleep.
"So you're Link," the boy said. "The Hero of Time. Never thought I'd meet you. I'm Tym Willow, and that was my little sister Kairee. My twin sister Rae is living here too, and my mother. My father is hiding around here with some other people. We tried to defend the castle and the town, but there were just too many of them. They weren't all Gerudos. A good number of them were Cyreenians. My father somehow got back to the castle, and they attacked it too. Thank goodness the castle stood."
"Why didn't they just lay siege to you?" Link asked.
"There were only a few of us left, that's why. Not enough for them to care. They might be coming back here though. I don't think they were looking to destroy the castle. Anyway, we're leaving soon."
"Maarei sent me to rally the Houses together."
"Maarei? Maarei Beryllos?"
"She's alive? Everyone thought she was dead. Where is she?"
"At North Castle, for now. She says that Ganondorf will be attacking it soon. So we need your help."
"I'll try to round up what's left of us all. In the north, I mean. The Jonquils fell; and something's going on with the Opals, I don't know what, but we haven't heard from them. Maybe they fell too. But I'll do what I can. If Ganondorf were to get two kingdoms, it would mean the end of us for sure. The north will be there."
(Two days earlier...)
Adian Opal was in the middle of chaos. Everyone was trying to get out of town. He was here, surrounding the castle. Now they were all trapped inside their own castle town. He had cut off their supplies and weaponry. There must be a way out. Over the walls, or...or... But there wasn't. Ganondorf had now climbed over the wall. No one could go anywhere.
"I've been looking for new recruits," he said. "You'll do." He held his hand out, and a black ray spread out over the crowd.
"Duck!" someone shouted. Adian ducked, hoping not to get trampled over. Silence. After a few seconds, he stood up. A few people were still ducking. He looked behind him. There was one of his brothers, Jon, was standing there. He was staring straight ahead calmly. There was nothing readable behind his silver eyes.
One of his sisters stood up beside him. She shook out her violet hair.
"Now what?" she asked no one in particular. Ganondorf turned around and walked out. "He's leaving? Why is he leaving?"
Half the town, and half the Opals, followed him out in a stupor. Hypnotized!
"Link's back!" Zelda exclaimed. The girls raced out to the courtyard and up to him.
"What did they say? What's going on?" Maarei asked anxiously.
"They said they'd be there. The whole north. And also, there might be something wrong with the Opals."
"Let's hope not," Maarei frowned. "They're the biggest House of us all. Now you should go south."
"Which House?" Zelda asked.
"Hmmm...Amethyst would do, I think."
"That's at the Red Pass, right?"
"Yes, northwest of Ayl. Are you sure you know exactly where?" Maarei didn't want Zelda warping him wrong.
"I went there once. I know where," Zelda insisted.
"Fine. Ready, Link?"
"Oh, wait, something you should know. The Amethysts have outlandish looks. Don't be afraid, they are descended from the Melanthian pixies."
"Okay." Again, he felt himself swept up into the wind. When he materialized again, he could, indeed see the pass, and the castle. There was no rain here, in the south. He noticed Melanthos was warmer than Hyrule. I could get used to this, he thought, walking toward the castle.
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