Disclaimer: I don’t want to get in whatever trouble people can get into when using other people’s characters so - The Legend of Zelda, Link, Zelda, Ganon, Hyrule and other related characters and settings belong to to that wonderous console company, Nintendo. No infringement intended.

The Order of Fate

Juliet A. Singleton (Scullys@bigfoot.com) & Kirsty Singleton (arcadionseye@btopenworld.com)

Chapter 3


Two days later, the inhabitants of North Castle were to get a surprise. In the middle of the Great Ruto Forest, Silva-Veredis Le' Fey, (one of the numerous faerie settlements scattered about the country) to be exact, a red coloured portal appeared. Leigh winced as she was thrown from the portal, facedown onto the dew soaked grass. She pushed her hands out in front of her, levering herself from the ground. The effort, however, was futile as she collapsed back down onto the grass. She screwed up her forehead in frustration, feeling as though a tonne weight had been planted on her back. She reached up to her back, and her fingers touched the cool metal of her sword. That was the weight. Using her last ounce of strength, Leigh pulled it from it's sheath, then she shakily got to her feet, the blade lying in the grass. She leaned down and attempted to lift it, but it was useless, she just didn't possess the strength. Shaking her head, she looked around, spotting a small pool nearby. Leigh walked over to it, and fell to her knees, splashing the cool, refreshing water over her face. It made her feel slightly better. Looking down at her reflection, her face looked completely different from what it did a few months ago. Her hair, once full, glossy and golden, was now limp and dull, a more brassy colour than anything. Her face, back then a healthy, peachy complexion was now pallid and ashen. She was a whole lot thinner than she had been, almost painfully so. It was hardly a surprise that she couldn't lift a sword, which was probably at least half her weight.

Leigh really had been to hell and back recently. First to Serpent Isle, where her long time companion and close friend Sir Dupre had died, then, after saving the entire universe from destruction, she had been snatched away by her long-term nemesis the Guardian, and been thrown into the distant world of Pagan. Alone, she had had to undertake another physically demanding quest in a land where no-one trusted anyone else, especially not strangers. Then, she'd been thrown through this portal to goodness knows where, with every ounce of strength beaten out of her. She looked around, concluding that she was not in Sosaria. A bolt of white hot pain shot through her spine as she stood up, causing her to nearly fall backwards onto the ground.

"Hey, you!" squeaked a small voice from nearby. Leigh turned and saw a small faerie fluttering in the air, looking highly annoyed. Leigh realised that she was in Hyrule. It was the only place in Demiari to have such creatures. Sosaria had a few faeries, but they were a lot larger, and far more hostile.

"Sprite?" she asked, recognising the tiny creature, her voice barely above a whisper.

"That's Queen of the Fey to you, human! That pool contains extremely rare water and I cannot allow it to be polluted by the likes of you!" said Sprite, apparently not realising who she was talking to.

"Sprite, it's me, Leigh!" exclaimed the Avatar, her voice wavering a little. Sprite frowned, pausing.

"What?" she asked. Leigh licked her dry lips, swallowing.

"Leigh Temple. Sosaria's Avatar," she said, a little more loudly. Sprite shook her head, flying closer.

"But you haven't aged!" the faerie protested.

"I've only been away a few months. Besides, neither have you," Leigh replied, studying the faerie intently. Sprite tossed her auburn curls.

"Faeries don't age though. Well, they do, but it's very different to human ageing," she stated. "What do you mean then?" Leigh questioned, looking confused. Sprite's expression turned serious. "Leigh, it's been fifteen years since we last saw you," she said gravely.

Leigh stumbled across the drawbridge of North Castle, Sprite hovering anxiously nearby. The door guard appeared behind a barred window.

"Yes?" he questioned gruffly.

"I'm here to see... to see..." Leigh trailed off there. She couldn't say Zelda, else she might get thrown out, considering their past history.

"Link," she said quickly. He would hopefully be sympathetic to her plight.

"And why do you wish to see the King?" the guard questioned. King? Leigh thought in surprise. Sprite was obviously right. She had been away a long time.

"I'm a... an old friend, Leigh Temple," Leigh stammered. Sprite flew up to the window.

"Look, just go get Link, will you? This woman is gravely sick!" she shouted shrilly. The guard blinked, then recognised the tiny faerie.

"I'll let you in, then, seeing as it's you," he said, pulling up the iron portcullis.

"It's about time too!" Sprite remarked. The guard helped Leigh through into the courtyard, and after closing the gate behind them, he escorted her into the castle.

"Your Highness!" he called out loud.

"A visitor!" Link, who was sat over by the fire in the Great Hall, talking to Aaron and Drake, stood up in surprise. He stared in shock when he saw Leigh stood there in the doorway. She smiled weakly, and took a furtive step towards him. "Oh my god. Leigh! What in Hyrule..." he began, rushing over towards her.

"Link, she needs medical attention!" Sprite cried out.

"I can see that," Link said, taking hold of Leigh by the arm. Aaron and Drake came over to see, too. Leigh stared at them all in utter shock. The three had all certainly changed. They were older, but she hadn't changed a bit.

"Leigh, we thought..." Aaron began. Drake tapped Link on the shoulder.

"I'll go fetch the healer," he said, before quickly walking away.

"I know. I..." Leigh began.

"Shhh... tell us the whole story later. You need to rest, I think," Link said. Leigh pulled her arm away gently. She didn't like to be too close to Link, not when she still found him attractive.

"It's probably a good idea to take you up to a guest room," Aaron suggested.

"I don't know if I could manage the stairs at this moment," Leigh confessed.

"I know, come and lie down on one of the couches for a bit," Link suggested, gesturing over to the seating around the fire. Leigh smiled gratefully.

"Thanks," she said softly, as the pair helped her over there. She settled down on one of the velvet sofas, savouring the warmth of the fire. Link looked at her thoughtfully, noticing her tattered clothes.

"Perhaps I can ask Zel if she'll lend you some clothes. You're both about the same size, right?" he said. Leigh swallowed nervously at the mention of Zelda.

"Uh no, it's okay," she said quickly.

"No, you can't stay in that. And you'll need to have a bath, too. You can use our plunge pool, I'll ask the maids to heat up the water for it," Link said, suddenly walking off out into the passage. She was left alone with Aaron.

"Don't worry, you'll be okay," he said, in a comforting tone. Leigh nodded, suddenly feeling glad that the portal had opened in Hyrule.

"What?!" Zelda cried. "Link, tell me that you're kidding me, please!"

"She's down there right now," Link said, shoving his hands in his pockets, and regarding her somewhat disappointedly.

"Don't look at me like that!" Zelda snapped. "I can't believe you actually expect me to be pleased about it!" she added.

"I didn't... but you could at least show a little hospitality," Link replied. Zelda pouted, and paced over to the window, then back to where she had originally been standing.

"Fine, she can stay," she said.

"I'm glad you're okay about it, Zel," Link said, looking somewhat relieved. Zelda frowned. "Well, we can't dwell on the past, can we?" she stated shortly.

"No... no, we can't. And I'm sure Leigh doesn't want to either," Link replied.

"What happened to her?" Zelda questioned, a little bit curious.

"I don't know yet, but she sure looks like she's had a harrowing experience," Link said. Zelda's features softened somewhat.

"Yes... take her one of my day dresses down then, like you asked," she stated.

"Would you pick one?" Link asked. Zelda nodded, and headed over to her closet. She sorted through the racks, and chose a soft blue velvet one. Then she found a night dress and matching robe.

"Here, give her these. Tell her she is welcome to stay," she said. Zelda didn't want any tension between her and Link because of Leigh's arrival. They had almost broken up because of it last time, and on afterthought, Zelda realised that most of it had been her stepsister making things up. Of course, she didn't blame Leigh for being attracted to Link, many other women in Hyrule probably were. She just had just felt threatened by Leigh though, because she was almost like the perfect woman. Link would never stray, especially not now. Not after all the time we've been together, she thought to herself. Twenty-one whole years of marriage, almost twenty-two. Link smiled at her, then walked over. He placed his hands on her shoulders, and kissed her gently on the mouth.

"Thanks Zel," he murmured softly. She pushed him away gently, and placed the clothes in his hands.

"Go on. Go and make sure that she's okay," she said.

"The healer is seeing to her now," Link replied.

"If only Selina were here..." Zelda began. Then she smiled.

"Selina is arriving tomorrow. She might be able to help Leigh, she is the best healer we ever had," she remarked. Link nodded.

"Although, she couldn't really have arrived at a worse time. With this party coming up, and all the people..." he started.

"We'll just inform our closest friends. And Sparks, of course," Zelda said.

"Yeah. He'll be at the party, right?" Link asked.

"Well, he's quite good friends with Ewan and Tim, and I sent out an invite, so I assume so," Zelda replied. Link turned to leave, but then paused. He glanced back at Zelda uneasily. "There's one weird thing though Zel," he stated.

"What?" Zelda questioned.

"Zel, Leigh, she... she... she hasn't changed a bit. I mean, she looks terrible right now, but..." Link began.

"But what?" Zelda pressed.

"She still looks the same age as she did when we... when we last saw her. She should be forty-two, the same age as us, but she looks so much younger," Link said, looking terribly confused. Zelda breathed out uneasily.

"Fayette... she was right. She told me that Leigh was around before she was even born, that she's never aged," she said.

"It's surely not possible... to defy ageing like that," Link stated.

"Faeries can do it," Zelda said, thinking of Sprite. She permanently looked like she was about sixteen.

"Faeries... they're a total different race," Link replied.

"Let's not dwell on it for now. We can question her on it later," Zelda said, pushing Link towards the door.

"You're right," he said.

"See you in a while, love," Zelda smiled, before closing the door behind him, and starting to get ready for bed.

"I hope the water will be okay," Link said, gesturing over to the plunge pool. Leigh gazed at it longingly. To finally be clean again! She turned to Link and smiled warmly.

"Thank you," she said. No-one had ever been so kind to her, except in Sosaria. Link chuckled. "Just showing you some hospitality. We do owe you, after all," he said.

"You owe me nothing," Leigh said, gazing down into the frothy water.

"But Leigh, you..." Link began.

"I did what had to be done. I expect no reward; your friendship is good enough for me," Leigh interrupted. Link smiled at her.

"Oh Link, it's been so long..." Leigh started. She moved towards him, but then stopped herself. "I've missed Demiari so much," she said quickly. Link nodded.

"I'm sorry," he said. Then he grinned. "Hey, that water will be getting cold! I'd better leave you to it. Your old guestroom is still available, I'll have someone make up a fire and put fresh sheets on the bed there," he said. Leigh nodded.

"Thanks again," she said. He smiled, and then ducked out of the room, pulling the door shut. Leigh glanced around the room for a moment. It certainly was luxurious compared to where she'd been recently. The walls were painted a deep blue colour, and a fresco of mermaids, serpents and other sea creatures were painted upon it. A large, tiled plunge pool took up most of the room, and it was filled almost to the top with steaming hot water. Leigh pulled off her ragged clothes, and tossed them over in one corner in distaste. Then she stepped down into the pool, gasping as the hot water almost scorched her skin. A few seconds later her body adjusted to the temperature, and she sat down on the ledge comfortably. She noticed a marble console at the side of the pool, which was covered with bottles of exotic scents and oils from the north, sponges and soap. First of all, she ducked down under the water, thoroughly wetting her hair. She rubbed some soap into it, then washed it out. Then, she picked up a bar of soap and a sponge, and began to scrub her bruised and battered body vigorously. The ingrained dirt was washed away, her skin smarted as she cleansed herself. She drew blood from old wounds which hadn't healed properly, rubbed the dirt and germs out. Once she was satisfied that she was thoroughly clean, she lay in the pool for a while, simply resting. Then, she reluctantly climbed out, and dried herself off with a fluffy towel. Then she wrung out her long, thick hair, pulling out the tangles with her fingers. It had grown longer, longer than she'd previously realised. She anointed her body with one of the sweet oils, the pulled the silken night-dress and robe. Leigh turned to glance into the large, ornate mirror that hung on one wall. She actually looked better, despite the fact that her hair hung limply down the sides of her face in wet strands. I'm clean, she thought, feeling happier. Smiling properly for what would have to be the first time in months, she headed out into the passage, along to her old bedroom.

"Nick, Selina!" Zelda exclaimed, getting up from her throne and rushing over to her two old friends in the most undignified manner, almost tripping over her heavy skirts.

"It's so wonderful to see you both again!" Selina said, giving Zelda a hug. Zelda smiled, and quickly straightened up her tiara, which had fallen a little askew. Link got up, and walked over in a leisurely manner, as Nick kissed Zelda's hand chivalrously.

"And the same to you," Link replied, kissing Selina on the cheek, and then turning to shake Nick's hand. They all stood back, and took a long look at each other. Nick was the oldest of all of them; at fifty-three, his black hair was starting to turn a little silvery at the ends. But he was still as handsome and dignified looking as ever, his hair cut close to his head in traditional Dalsonian custom, his moustache and beard neatly trimmed, his loose fitting royal robes impeccable. Selina stood shivering slightly in her cool muslin trousers and short top.

"I think I shall have to get changed into something warmer," she laughed. It was very hot in Dalsona, and the Hyrulian autumn always seemed much colder to her now, even though she had actually been born there. With her curly red hair, and her once pale skin now lightly tanned, she looked more like a Gerudo than a Hyrulian or a Dalsonian. Zelda smiled.

"It has suddenly got a bit colder, just over these past few days," she said.

"It's not that cold!" Link interjected, laughing.

"For us, it is," Nick replied, smiling.

"Well, your usual guestroom is ready, so don't hesitate to go and get freshened up. You're the first guests to arrive!" Zelda said.

"Speaking of guests," came a voice. They all turned to see Charles stood waiting at the doors to the throne room, his wife Rachella next to him.

"Goodness Charles, you arrived soon!" Zelda exclaimed. He walked over to the four, and they all exchanged hugs, kisses and handshakes.

"I decided not to take any chances sailing from Lemmink, so we rode through Catalia and hired a boat from there to sail to Saria. We stayed there last night, that's why we're here so soon," he exclaimed.

"British's ships still plaguing your coastline?" Zelda questioned. Charles nodded. "Unfortunately so. Like I said, I didn't want to take a chances," he said. Charles was forty-two now, his hair a little more curly, his body a little broader. He wore Lemmian royal robes in his country's colours, a cloak and a long tunic, that was not dissimilar to Hyrulian royal clothing. "Thank goodness we live too far away from the fiend," Nick said.

"Lucky you," Charles replied. Rachella smiled warmly around the group.

"Let us change the subject, I hate to speak of 'Beast' British," she said. Rachella was Charles' Catalian wife of fourteen years, and she looked as beautiful as ever. She was certainly as eye-catching as Selina, with her long raven black hair, alabaster skin and violet eyes.

"Same here," Selina said, agreeing.

"Wait... before we do go off the subject, there's something..." Zelda began.

"Zel, leave it for now. Let them get settled in, before you start arranging things," Link murmured quietly to her.

"Okay," she replied. She turned back to her friends.

"You can go up to your usual rooms, and unpack, freshen up, and whatever, before lunch," she stated, smiling. Everyone smiled back, and then the four arrivals walked out of the throne room, heading towards the stairs. Link placed a hand on Zelda's shoulder.

"Sorry, but I didn't think it was a good idea to spring it on them right now," he said. Zelda nodded.

"No, it's okay, you're right. We should just let them enjoy the party and everything, otherwise we'll all be worrying about the situation," she replied. Link took her hand.

"Come on, we'd better go down to the kitchens and tell them to make extra food for lunch," he said. They smiled at each other, and then headed towards the kitchens.

"I'm going to slide down the banister!" Brianna declared gleefully.

"Don't you dare!" Ewan warned. He, Brianna, Alyssand, Timothy, Zak and Raymundo were looking down from the gallery into the Great Hall below, where Renee, Xander, Beth and Jack were stood talking together.

"Watch me!" Brianna retorted, hitching up her skirts, and climbing up onto the wooden rail. "Bri, you're far too heavy to do that, you'll fall off!" Ewan warned. Brianna inched down a little, and Ewan pulled her off quickly. She scowled at him.

"Oh, you're such a spoilsport!" she exclaimed loudly. Renee and the rest suddenly looked up and saw them, and waved madly.

"Come on, let's go down!" Zak said, bounding down the stairs. He and Jack were good friends, because they were a similar age, both twelve. Brianna and the rest followed him, soon arriving at the bottom.

"Brianna! I just adore your hair!" Renee announced.

"Ally did it," Brianna grinned, smiling over at her best friend.

"Ally, great job!" Renee grinned, flashing her pearly white teeth.

"Yes, it totally suits you," Beth agreed. Alyssand had done Brianna's curly golden hair up in a complicated style, which consisted of lots of plaits all looped together at the back in a large bun, with lots of loose tendrils falling down. They all looked around at each other eagerly, seeing if they'd changed since they'd last seen each other. Fourteen year-old Renee, daughter of Nick and Selina, was tall for her age, even taller than Brianna and Alyssand, who were the oldest out of all of them. She had soft brown skin, much lighter than her father's, brown eyes and hair as black as ebony. There was lots of it too, it was extremely curly, just like Selina's. She hardly ever smiled, just grinned. Renee was highly mischievous, amusing and very jaunty. She would take on the boys at anything. Beth, Charles' daughter, was the youngest at thirteen. She was very serene and calm, although she would often join in with the scams Brianna and Renee made up. She was willowy, with soft brown hair that curled slightly, and blue-green eyes the colour of the ocean. Alyssand was fifteen, and had wavy red hair and blue eyes. She was very artistic, and had a slight rebellious streak. In all, the four girls all got on well together, and loved the times that they got to spend together.

"Ally's got a male friend, you know," Brianna said, starting to laugh. Alyssand looked indignant.

"It's not funny, Bri!" she protested, blushing.

"Ooh, tell us more!" Renee said, grinning.

"It's not Timothy, is it?" Beth asked hopefully. She had a massive crush on the Triforce Protector.

"No, no don't worry!" Alyssand laughed.

"He's called Russell," Brianna interjected, smiling slyly.

"We're not really going out. We're just friends," Alyssand protested.

"Oh yeah, sure. Just friends, eh? You can't really be just friends with a guy," Renee stated. "Well, actually, you can. Me and Tim are really good friends, after all," Brianna said.

"Bri fancies him!" Alyssand accused, pointing and laughing.

"Ahem. Me and Mr Westley are very much just friends. Goodness, he's like Ewan's best friend! I couldn't like even kiss him! Anyway, he's far too old for me," Brianna replied.

"He's not that old," Beth pointed out. She sighed. "If only I were a few years older, he might notice me."

"Beth, we'll make you look really old, then you might get to dance with him at the party!" Renee suggested.

"As if it would happen!" Beth exclaimed. Renee shrugged.

"You never know. Anyway, you can bet that I'll be having at least one dance with Ewan," she said.

"Oh, how can you? He's like the most ugliest guy in the world!" Brianna stated, giggling. Renee laughed.

"I feel like that about my own brother. Hmm, maybe I'll ask Ray for a dance or two. He's turning out pretty cute," she said, looking over at the group of boys.

Ewan of course, was by far the oldest, along with Tim. The rest were much younger. Raymundo was fifteen. He was a nice looking boy, with lightly tanned skin, dark hair and dark eyes. He was very different to the rest of his family, and bore a strong resemblance to his late father. Unlike his older brother Roderick, he was nice to everyone, and so was well-liked. He was quite good friends with Xander, Renee's twin. Xander was almost as extrovert as her, with the same big grin and mischievous streak. He did, however, have a more sensitive side to him, and liked to think and ponder a lot about things. He was also very tall, with brown skin, brown eyes and curly dark hair cut close to his head. He was presently trying to grow a moustache, without much success. Jack was twelve, Beth's brother. He had blonde hair with a slight curl to it, and brown eyes. He was determined to be as great a warrior as his father was someday. Zak, Drake's son, was also twelve. He of course, wanted to be a knight. He had sandy blonde hair like his father's, and twinkling blue eyes. He also had a fondness for playing jokes on people, especially on the girls. He always looked so sweet though, that they were never angry with him for long. Although Timothy and Ewan often abstained from the group, thinking they were too old, in all, they were all great friends and enjoyed visiting each other. Ewan's cousins, and Raymundo's siblings were still yet to arrive though. Rosalind and Rosamund were sometimes quite friendly to the other girls, even though they were both eighteen, and a lot older. Rosella and Roderick considered themselves above socialising with the 'young ones' and talked only to Ewan and Timothy. It was certainly a good job that North Castle had been extended over the years, or they would never have been able to accommodate everybody.

"Come on, let's go and practise outside in the archery range before lunch," Ewan suggested, and the group all headed towards the armoury to get some bows and arrows.

Leigh glanced out of the window, watching with interest as a group of young men headed across the courtyard. One in particular caught her eye, the tallest of the group, with short reddish-brown hair. Aside from the dark-haired man next to him, the rest all looked a lot younger. She wondered who they were, perhaps some were Link and Zelda's children? Last time she'd been in Hyrule, she knew that they'd had a young son, but obviously, they could have had more children over the years. She turned away from the window, sighing. Everything had changed so much, her old friends here were... well, older. Much older than she'd originally anticipated. She hadn't believed it at first, especially when she'd seen Sprite looking the same as ever. But then she'd arrived at North Castle. Even from a distance, it looked a lot bigger than it used to be. And then of course, she'd seen Link, and Aaron and Drake. The Avatar turned to gaze into the mirror on the nearby wall. She'd slept all night, and for most of the morning, even though she tended to be an early riser. But the bed had been so warm and comfortable, and she'd been so tired... The reflection that stared back looked a little better than it had the night before. She no longer looked quite so haggard, and her hair fell in soft, silky waves down her back. But now that all the dirt had been washed away, the cuts and bruises seemed all the more prominent. The dress that Zelda had lent her was also slightly too big, not that it really mattered. She pulled the sash around her waist, as tightly as it would go, but the garment still felt a little loose. She had a spare change of clothes in her pack, but she really didn't want to wear her tunic dress and armour at the moment. Zelda's figure had been fairly diminutive from what she could remember, and it appeared it still was, judging from the dress, but it just proved exactly how thin she'd gotten herself. She felt like a ghost of her former self; these last few months, or was it years, had certainly taken their toll on her. And goodness knows what was happening in Sosaria. Had the Guardian overrun it, while she'd been stuck in Pagan? Still staring in the mirror, Leigh longed for some make-up to cover her blemishes. She didn't want to face the rest of the court. Who was still there, she wondered. Her friend Selina? Damon and Dion, the master archers? That annoying Fayette, Zelda's step-sister, and fellow Sosarian to Leigh? As she pondered over this, there was a knock at the door.

"Come in," she called softly.

Link walked in, carrying a tray with some covered plates on it.

"Brought you up some lunch, we didn't want to wake you before," he stated, setting the tray down on a nearby table. Leigh suddenly realised that she was ravenous.

"Thanks Link, yeah, I just woke up a short while ago. It's the first proper bed I've used in a long while," she said, picking up one of the silver lids. A tasty looking cucco breast, garnished with roast vegetables and covered in gravy lay underneath. She took a bite, chewing hungrily, then looked up at Link, who was lingering near the doorway. "It's delicious," she said in approval.

"Good. But... well, I was wondering, could we talk for a moment?" he questioned.

"Sure," Leigh said. Link took a chair, and pulled it up to near where she was sat.

"Leigh, it's amazing to see you again. We all thought... we thought you might be dead, well after what happened. And Lord British, well, he's not even talking to us because of it, well, it's worse than that," Link began.

"What?" Leigh said, looking surprised.

"We're almost ready to go to war against him. I'm sorry Leigh," Link replied. Leigh looked down at the floor.

"I can't believe Richard would be so unreasonable. I must head to Sosaria at once!" she stated. "Leigh, it's too dangerous. Sosaria has isolated itself from the rest of the world. There's no getting in, even if you're native to that country. Your friend Sparks has been stranded here for years," Link replied.

"Oh... this is worse than I imagined! Richard would never act like that... not unless... not unless..." Leigh trailed off there, barely able to say the words.

"Unless what?" Link questioned.

"N-nothing," Leigh said quickly.

"Tell me what has been going on here for the last fifteen years," she added.

"Well, nothing much," Link replied. "Me and Zel became rulers of Hyrule about ten years ago, uh... we had another child, a daughter, she's called Brianna, Nick and Selina got married, they had kids, Charles got married, he's got two children, even Drake got married! He's got a son. Damon remarried, Dion married, well, everyone married and had kids really. Except for that friend of yours, Sparks. He was Triforce Protector for a couple of years, but he left to set up his own blacksmith business in Mido. Oh, and Fayette had another kid, but she never remarried. And Sprite, she nearly got exiled from the Fey, but that was all sorted out and she's Queen of the Fey now. And, well, that's it, really. Been pretty boring I guess, although, a very nice sort of easy life. We got North Castle extended too, two extra wings, mostly more guest rooms, a bigger banquet hall, a ballroom, some more barracks. All the usual stuff. You know, you've arrived at a great time, really. In two days time, it's Ewan's twenty-first birthday! Everyone will be here, I'm sure they'll be all pleased to see you," Link said, suddenly smiling.

"Ewan is twenty-one?" Leigh said in surprise. Why, that meant the boy wasn't much younger than her! And last time she'd seen him, he'd been a little boy...

"Yeah... I guess he's pretty much grown up now. That makes me feel real old!" Link laughed. Leigh bit her lip uneasily.

"I guess you're wondering why I still look the same," she remarked. Link nodded.

"I guess so. I don't like to pry, though," he said, his tone turning serious. Leigh ran a hand through her hair, trying to think of how to explain it.

"Well... as you'll probably know, me and Richard, Lord British to you, well, we've been around a long time. We were around before you were born, before your parents were born. And yet you look at me and see a young woman in her mid twenties," she said. Link nodded.

"Is it like the faerie ageing process?" he asked. Leigh shook her head.

"I don't think so, don't they use magic to stay young?" she questioned. Link shrugged.

"I don't really know, Sprite says that they have a special pool or something that they use," he replied.

"The pool of youth maybe," Leigh said. She swallowed. "Let's go on. Well, Richard and I are from another world. I know that's a hard thing to imagine, but it's true. Fact is, in this world, in Demiari, Richard and I seem to age very, very slowly. If I go back to earth for a few months, even days, if I come back, years have gone by in Demiari. And obviously, a lot of time passed here, while I was on the world of Pagan. I didn't realise, and... and, it was a bit of a shock when Sprite told me fifteen whole years had gone by," she finished. Link leaned over, and gave her a comforting hug.

"Yeah, I guess it must be pretty weird for you," he said, drawing back again.

"It is... I... I don't know if I'm quite ready to face everyone yet, though," Leigh said nervously.

"That's okay, and don't worry, I've tried to keep your arrival secret for now. Only me, Zel, Aaron and Drake know," Link said.

"Thanks, Link, but it's okay. It's probably best if you tell everyone," Leigh said. He stood up.

"No problem. Hope to see you at dinner tonight, if not, I'll have someone send something up," he said, before turning and walking towards the door. Leigh finished her meal, and knew what she would do that afternoon. She would visit Sparks.


Sparks looked up from his work when he heard the doors of his shop clatter open. He stopped what he was doing, and wiped his grimy hands on his leather apron. He wiped his brow, then walked into the front of his shop. As he walked through the connecting doorway that led from the forge into the shop, he attempted to wipe the dust and sweat from his eyes. He blinked a few times, then spotted a young, blonde-haired women, who had his back to him, admiring the metal armour on display.

"May I help you, milady?" he asked pleasantly. The figure in front of him froze for a moment, then turned around. Sparks blinked again in disbelief. The woman before him, was his one time friend and companion, Leigh. "Leigh?" he asked. She nodded, tucking a lock of golden hair behind her ear. Sparks leapt over the counter, clattering several small pieces of metal work to the floor and enveloped her in a huge hug. As he held her close, he felt her trembling, and he quickly stepped away, taking both of her hands. "Leigh, I thought you were..." he started, barely able to bring himself to saying the word. Leigh simply shook her head, not finding the tongue to speak. Sparks hugged her again, at a loss for words. She hadn't aged, she was still as youthful and beautiful as ever. As she always had been. He'd never imagined he would be older than her, but perhaps it had been coming. After all, she'd never aged since his mother, or even grandmother had been a small child. After he'd held her for a few more minutes, she finally stepped back, scrutinising him carefully. He was no longer the wiry, young faced boy she had known, but was now broad and strong, with defined and handsome features. His hair was as blonde and in a disarray as ever, his eyes still retaining their sparkling brightness.

"I'm sorry," she murmured quietly, tears glistening in her eyes. Sparks frowned and shook his head, hugging her again.

"Whatever for?" he asked.

"I don't know, everything," sighed Leigh, the tears flowing freely. Sparks stroked the back of her hair affectionately, then took her hand and guided her into the living quarters of the building. He sat her down, then left briefly, seemingly locking up the shop. He returned and sat down opposite her.

"D'you want a drink?" he asked. Leigh nodded her head, wordless. He quickly got up, taking two goblets from a cupboard and filling them with a cool, clear liquid. He handed her one goblet, keeping the other for himself. Leigh smiled at him in appreciation, gulping down the drink. He sat down, this time next to her, and took one hand, rubbing it reassuringly. "I can barely believe it, that you're still alive," he said.

"There have been times when I've wished I weren't," said Leigh dryly.

"Don't say that," said Sparks, surprised at Leigh's attitude. True, after she had been exiled, he had noticed she wasn't her usual self, but for her to begin talking like this, things must've been bad.

"It's been so bad Sparks, worse. And know I come back, to find even more time has passed, and Richard is cutting Sosaria off from the rest of the Demiari, God knows why. But then, I think I already know," said Leigh, swilling the last contents off her drink in the glass.

"You know?" asked Sparks, although he himself had had suspicions.

"Serpent Isle, that's were I've been. That lightning strike took me back to Sosaria and then Richard, along with Iolo, Shamino and Dupre were all carted off to Serpent Isle. After that, I ended up in a land called Pagan, the Guardian took me there. I'm afraid he's used the time I've been away, fifteen years, to take over Sosaria, and Richard," said Leigh with a sigh.

"What of Iolo, Shamino, Dupre?" asked Sparks. Leigh cast her gaze to the ground, at the mention of her friends.

"Of Iolo and Shamino, I know not, but Dupre, Dupre is no longer alive," said Leigh, a lump forming in her throat. Sparks looked at Leigh, shocked.

"He's dead?" he asked, dumb founded.

"That's what I said," snapped Leigh, tears staining her face. Sparks squeezed her hand.

"I'm sorry," he murmured.

"So am I," replied Leigh quietly. Sparks released Leigh's hand, looked down at both of his palms, not really knowing what to say. He was deeply saddened at the news of his friend, but after fifteen years, that was all he felt. He dared a glance at Leigh, before looking away again. He still found her attractive, more than that, even fifteen years on. He looked down at his hands again, before running them through his unruly hair.

"Do you need somewhere to stay? I've only one bed, but I could always take the floor," offered Sparks quickly.

"I'm staying at North Castle, although it would be nice to be somewhere else. But I don't want to put you out," said Leigh, her eyes still on the floor.

"You'll never do that, I'm happy for you to stay," said Sparks. Leigh shook her head.

"No really, I'm sure I can stick it out at the castle until I'm fit again, fit to return to Sosaria," said Leigh. Their eyes still didn't meet.

"Leigh, you can't go back," said Sparks, turning to face his friend. Leigh looked up, meeting his stare.

"And why not?" she asked.

"It's too dangerous!" exclaimed Sparks.

"It's my responsibility," said Leigh determinedly.

"But there's no way to get across, any ship that nears the shores of Sosaria, marked or unmarked, is shot down," said Sparks.

"I have to go, if that unearthly thing it wrecking havoc in Sosaria, then I have to stop it," said Leigh.

"There isn't a way, no one can get through," insisted Sparks.

"Then I'll have to find one," stated Leigh, finishing her drink. Sparks shrugged.

"You need to rest first," he said.

"And I will, but not forever," said Leigh, turning her gaze back to the floor. Sparks took the goblet from Leigh's hand, and stood up, putting the two empty glasses on the side.

"Look, let's go and get something to eat at the tavern, we can talk there. About everything," said Sparks. Leigh sniffed, then stood up.

"I've already eaten," she said slowly.

"Well I haven't, so you're coming anyway," said Sparks, grinning. Leigh looked up at Sparks, smiling for the first time.

"You're right, we do need to talk," she said. Sparks nodded, then took her through the back entrance onto a smaller, less crowded street.

"Come on this way," said Sparks as he strolled down the street, towards the nearby tavern, Leigh following amicably behind him, feeling better than she had that morning.

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