The Legend of Zelda: Dimensions
Part Three – Deception and Sacrifice
“Aaron! Catch!” Link yelled over the clanging of swords and the thunderous seas. He cocked back and threw the pouch of Rupees in Aaron’s direction.
He gasped quickly as he saw Aaron fumble the pouch, his hands slippery from the pouring rain. Miraculously, the pouch remained closed, and none of the Rupees spilled onto the ship’s deck. One of the pirates saw the pouch hit the wooden floor and he bolted right for it. As he lunged for the treasure, Aaron kicked him square in the face and he hit the deck five feet away with a hard splash. Quickly, Aaron picked up the truant pouch and turned back to Link.
Link let out a sigh of relief when Aaron gave him the thumbs up, but he couldn’t be relieved for long. His legs were taken out from under him and he fell hard on his back. Above him, he could see a blade ready to deliver an overhead blow to the Hero of Time that would surely decapitate him. Reacting with almost uncanny speed, Link rolled to the right, out of the reach of the downward stroke of the pirate’s blade. He got to his feet quickly and readied himself for the oncoming attack.
The pirate lunged at him, and Link successfully defended himself. Calmly, he turned away attack after attack, all the while moving steadily backward. His foe was becoming furious at the apparent ease that Link repelled his attacks. Becoming desperate, the pirate ran at Link at full speed, his sword held out in front of him. At the last possible second, Link stepped aside and stuck out his right foot, tripping up his overmatched opponent. The poor soul was sent over the side of the ship into the raging waters below.
Link watched the man plummet to the sea below. As he turned away, he saw William fending off one of the pirates. The two exchanged thrusts before William was successful in disarming the man.
“Get the hell out of here and I’ll spare your life!” William ordered his fallen foe.
The man eagerly accepted the offer, nodding his head quickly and numerous times. He got up and turned to run.
“Well done, William!” Link yelled over the rain.
William turned to Link and bowed to him. “It was no problem, Link.” They both laughed slightly, but Link’s laughter faded fast as he saw the pirate turn around, pulled a dagger from his boot, and ran toward William.
Link pointed passed William while yelling, “William! Look out!”
William turned quickly and pushed the dagger aside before the pirate could score a blow. With no mercy this time around, William screamed and cut off the man’s head.
“I think you got him,” Link stated as the head rolled around on the ship deck. “I think that was a little uncalled for.”
“Hey! You were the one who picked out this boat to make it to the Forbidden Island!” William yelled back. “So I’m just doing anything, and everything, I can to make it through this alive!”
“I’m sorry!” Link shouted back. “How the hell was I supposed to know that this was a pirate ship!”
“Doesn’t matter!” William yelled. “Let’s just find the others!”
Link nodded and the two of them ran to the bow of the ship where they found Nick, Robert, and Zelda fighting. Nick and Robert were faring well, but Zelda was less skilled at hand-to-hand combat and was struggling some. Running to her aid, Link cut through another pirate. Zelda stepped back as her husband battled with the remaining pirates.
Nick finished off two more pirates with swift moves, while Robert finished off the last of his opponents with relative ease. As Link finished off his enemies, he turned to them.
“Where are John and Michael?”
“They’re at the stern!” Robert replied.
“Then go there! All of you!”
“And what about you?” Nick yelled back.
“I’m going to find the captain!”
Nick nodded and he, Robert, and William turned and ran to the stern of the ship. Zelda remained.
“Link, let me come with you!”
“No Zelda! You go with them. You’ll be better protected with all of them at your side!”
“Go!” Link repeated as he descended below deck.
Zelda flinched toward the stairs, but decided to listen to Link. Quickly, she ran to join the others.
Link walked down the wooden stairs slowly, each board creaking with age as he stepped upon them. He held the Master Sword out in front of him as he walked in the dimly lit hall. Passing by what had been their quarters, he made his way to the captain’s room. There was only the sound of the rain beating on the deck above, and the thunderous roar of the lightning as it streaked across the sky. Placing his full concentration on the area in front of him, Link left himself vulnerable.
Smiling in the darkness, the captain prepared himself for an ambush. He watched on as Link walked directly passed him, yet failed to notice him. He slowly reached for his sword, and as quietly as he could, he unsheathed it.
The new sound rang in Link’s ear as if it had been his own sword that had been drawn. Stopping abruptly, he relaxed his concentration and turned his head to the right. Without turning his body, Link looked behind him out of the corner of his eye. For a brief instant, the lightning flashed, and Link could make out a shadow approaching him from behind. But just as he realized that it was the captain, the shadow was already swinging.
Link dropped to the ground quickly, and the captain swung right over his head. The force of his swing made his sword smash through the nearby wall. Shards of wood fell to the ground, and as the captain swung again, Link raised his sword to defend himself.
The clang of the blades rang loudly, although the sounds of the storm drowned them out to all those outside. The two battled up and down the hall, Link surprised that the captain had such good swordsmanship. The captain lunged forward, but Link stepped aside and pushed him passed him, further down the hall. He stumbled, but was able to remain on his feet. As the captain turned back around, Link could see rage in the man’s eyes. Breathing heavily, the captain charged at Link again, swinging wildly in a desperate attempt to score a hit.
Link was forced to pull back a step at a time. With each of the captain’s attacks, Link steadily moved backward, out of his enemy’s range. Several times he needed to duck to avoid a blow. Losing track of where he was, Link stumbled and fell backward over the stairs that led above deck. The captain stopped swinging momentarily and stood over the Hero of Time.
“Clumsy, Link. Now you shall never reach the castle or see your son again!” he shouted as he raised his sword up for the final blow.
“How do you know my name?” Link yelled back as he quickly moved the Master Sword to deflect the deathblow from the captain. Reaching deep inside himself, Link mustered up the strength to throw the captain back and onto the floor, his sword flying out of his hand. Standing up, Link asked, “And how the hell do you know where I’m going? And about my son?”
The captain didn’t answer. Ignoring Link, he crawled on the floor, hoping to find his weapon. Knowing what he was doing, Link calmly walked up beside the fallen man and stood on his outstretched wrist. The captain cried out in pain.
“I’ll ask you again,” Link said through clenched teeth. “How do you know all this?”
“I’ll never tell!” the captain answered between his pathetic cries of pain.
Link placed his blade across the man’s neck, and the captain’s cries ceased immediately. “I think you will. That is, if you value your life. Now, why are you after me? Is it just riches you’re after?”
“It was a job.”
“Yes, a job. I was to bring you to the castle on the Forbidden Island, dead or alive. In return, He would guarantee the safety of my family. Plus, I was to keep any riches that you had with you.”
“A mercenary? Is that all you are?”
The man’s voice became pitiful again. “Please, don’t kill me. I had no choice! He told me he would kill my family if I didn’t comply!”
“More like a forced mercenary,” Link said under his breath. Sighing, he removed the Master Sword from the captain’s neck. “Get up,” he demanded.
The captain complied without hesitation. Standing up, he rubbed the front of his neck, as if he was shocked that it hadn’t been slit.
“Call the rest of your men off.”
The man nodded and headed up the stairs, Link directly behind him. The storm continued to make the seas wild, but for the most part, it had calmed some. They made their way to the stern of the ship, where the other Knights were still engaged in battle with the remaining pirates.
The captain raised his hands. “Lay down your weapons!” he shouted to his men. “This battle is over.”
They did as they were told. Exhausted from the fighting, the Knights lowered their weapons and took a breather.
Link turned to the captain. “I expect that you will still take us to the Forbidden Island.”
“If you wish. I will take you to the southern coastline. From there, I dare not venture any further. It is a very dangerous place. You must be careful.”
“We have a knack for getting out of trouble,” Link said with a smile. “Just get us there. We’ll do the rest.”
The captain nodded.
* * * *
Shortly after, the raging storm died down and the seas returned to their usual calm. However, the storm had knocked them slightly off course, and the captain was busy trying to relocate the island with his subordinates.
Nick returned to his quarters below deck. His room was no longer well kept, as the severe rocking of the ship tossed his little belongings everywhere. He picked up his clothes that had fallen on the floor. Still holding them, he gazed out the porthole to the west (that is, if the ship was still headed north). He stared out the porthole for several minutes, without a single movement from the rest of his body. He became lost in his thoughts, so lost in fact, that he never heard William enter the room.
Nick jumped slightly and he turned around quickly to see who had startled him. When he saw that is was William, he relaxed.
“You scared the hell out of me, William,” he explained.
“Sorry,” William apologized. An awkward silence fell between them as they both stared, not at each other, but through each other, as if both were lost in the own worlds, and the other wasn’t part of it.
Nick broke first. “Was there something you wanted?”
“Huh?” William responded, breaking out of his little trance.
“Why did you come in here?”
“Oh,” William said, as if stalling for time. “No real reason. I was just walking by and noticed you staring out the window.”
Nick sighed. “Yeah, I guess I was.”
William could tell from the tone of his voice that something was bothering Nick, and although he never really knew what to say to someone who was slightly depressed, he felt that he needed to.
Nick turned and looked out the porthole again. “I was just thinking,” he finally said after a long pause.
“Thinking?” William repeated. “About what?”
“Lots of things,” he replied. “But,” he paused again, “mostly Celes, and Charles.”
The awkward silence fell between them again, and William cursed himself for not being better at these situations. Robert always knows what to say, he thought to himself. Indeed, Robert always seemed to have the right response no matter the situation, and for that, most everybody went to him when they were feeling down.
“It’s just not fair,” Nick abruptly said, a hint of anger in his voice.
“What’s not fair?” William asked.
“Link has Zelda with him. Why were the rest of us forced to leave our loved ones behind?”
“You know we couldn’t. It’s too dangerous.”
“So?” Nick pouted. “It’s still not fair! Our loved ones are in another world, and who knows if we’ll ever see them again!”
William had no clue how to react to the sudden outrage from one of his oldest friends. Consoling people was not something he found easy, and when they got angry, William never knew what to do. And this time was no different. Instead of trying to console Nick, he made himself feel worse.
“At least you had someone to leave behind,” he said softly. “I had no one…”
William’s self pity shocked Nick back to reality. He realized that William was right. At least I have them, he though. William had no one when they left. In fact, everyone he cared about was here in this world with them, but they were all thinking of others.
“I’m sorry,” he apologized.
“Don’t be. It’s not your fault,” William said. “The only person that’s made me feel good about myself was Alexandra, and she was already dead. What does that tell you about me?” he whimpered as he sat on Nick’s bed and buried has face in his hands.
Nick knew that William was at an emotional low at that moment, and he needed to say the right thing. Otherwise, William might never recover.
“Don’t you see?” he said. He waited for William to look up.
“See what?” he asked as he raised his head up, tears in his eyes.
“Your love for her saved her soul, as well as all the other poor souls that were wandering around that ghost town.”
William failed to see the point. “So?”
“Trust in the Goddesses, my friend. They wouldn’t tease you with love that you couldn’t share if there hadn’t been a greater purpose to it.” Nick was making it up as he went, but there was truth in his words. “I’m sure you’ll find someone.”
“I don’t want someone else, I want Alexandra.”
Nick knew how he felt. It was the same way he felt about Celes. There could never be another in his heart. “She’ll be waiting for you in the Heavens.”
William calmed down a little as he began to realize the truth.
“Besides, after all this, maybe the Goddesses will grant her life in our world. Then you would never be alone.” Nick knew very well that it was unlikely, but he would say anything to make William feel better.
William too knew that what Nick said wouldn’t happen, but he took comfort in it. For at least there was some hope, misguided as it may be.
“As someone once said to me,” Nick continued, “Live your life the best you can, and you will be rewarded.”
William sighed and wiped his eyes clear of tears. “You’re right, Nick. No use sulking about things that I have no control over.”
“That’s the William I know! Now, what do you say we get some food?”
William smiled a little. “Sure. I could use some food.” He still felt a little down. But he didn’t want Nick to know.
“And when this adventure is over, we’ll find you a woman!”
William couldn’t help but laugh. Shaking his head, he stood up and the two of them walked out of the room.
* * * *
“Bull’s eye!” Aaron yelled as his dart imbedded itself into the red center of the dartboard. “Beat that!”
“Nice shot,” John conceded. “Now get that dart out of my spot!”
Aaron walked up to the dartboard and removed his dart. Standing to the side, he watched on as John threw. The dart hit in the exact center, a perfect bull’s eye if there ever was one. Robert and Michael cheered as John matched Aaron’s throw. John simply held out his arms as if it were no trouble at all.
“Thank you, thank you,” he said while bowing. “Piece o’ cake.”
“Sure,” Aaron said, disappointed. He turned to Robert and Michael. “Which one of you two is next?”
Robert and William looked at each other. “I’ll go,” Michael said. “But I’ll warn you, I’m not very good.”
“Just throw the dart,” John said as he gave the dart to Michael.
Michael stepped up to the crudely drawn line and took aim at the dartboard. From habit, he stuck his tongue out slightly as he concentrated on the red dot. With a quick movement of his arm, the dart flew and hit the target.
Everyone cheered again. That is, everyone except Robert. Now that all three of them had hit the bull’s eye with what seemed to be relative ease, he was growing anxious. He wasn’t about to be shown up by three younger, less experienced Knights, friends they may be. Not wanting his concern to be visible to them, he strode confidently toward the line and demanded a dart.
“Now I’ll show you how it’s done!” he exclaimed as he readied himself.
As he was about to throw, Aaron sneezed.
“That was fake!” Robert yelled. “You’re trying to cheat me out of a good throw!”
“I am not!” Aaron shouted back, although shortly afterward he laughed under his breath. Across from him, Michael and John were smiling, holding back their laughter.
Robert took aim at the dartboard again.
“Hey Link!” Michael yelled just as Robert was about to throw.
He stopped short and was able to hold onto the dart. He turned around and searched the entertainment area for any signs of Link, but there was none.
“Come on!” he yelled. “You’re messing me up!”
All three of them laughed now, and Robert tried to shut it out so he could concentrate on the bull’s eye. He got ready to throw.
“Don’t miss!” John yelled, receiving a glare from Robert. The three of them laughed again, and Robert was becoming furious.
“Shut up and let me shoot!”
They all shut up, at least the best they could. A snicker or two left their throats every now and then, but for the most part, they were silent. Robert breathed in deeply, trying to fend off the tension that he felt throughout his body. Relaxed, he threw the dart.
It stuck into the wood above the dartboard.
There was a short silence before laughter filled the room as Robert stared at his terrible shot. Aaron fell on the floor, holding his sides as if he was going to burst from laughter. John was bent over, slapping his knees with he palms of his hands. Michael remained standing, but was clapping sarcastically in Robert’s direction.
“Good shot!” John cried between laughs.
“You almost had the bull’s eye!” Aaron yelled from the floor.
The laughter continued for several minutes longer. When it started to die down, Michael went up to Robert, who was now sitting at the nearest table.
“It’s okay, Robert,” he said. “I’ve seen lots of people miss the board.” He paused. “Of course, most of them were little children!”
The laughter started back up again, and none of them could stop. Aaron was now rolling on the floor and John had to sit down, but he continued laughing. Robert didn’t say a thing, knowing full well that anything he said would just be turned around on him. Besides, it wasn’t something that he needed to worry about. After all, it’s just a game of darts, he said to himself. So he endured the laughter for several minutes more.
“Okay, that’s enough,” he said, hoping that they would all stop.
Slowly, they did. But the event was something that Robert would never be able to live down. Just then, William and Nick walked in.
“What’s so funny?” William asked, always glad when he wasn’t the butt of jokes.
“Nothing!” Robert yelled.
“I’m sure it was something,” Nick added, curious himself.
Aaron burst into laughter again. “Robert missed the dartboard entirely!” he cried out.
William and Nick chuckled, but didn’t think it was that funny. When they failed to laugh, John spoke up.
“I guess you just had to be there.”
“Yeah, sure,” Nick replied.
John, Aaron, and Michael laughed some more.
“Anyway,” William interrupted, “we’re going to get some food. Care to join us?”
Robert stood up. “Anything to get out of here.”
The other three didn’t reply as they were caught in a fit of laughter again. Shrugging his shoulders, Nick turned around and headed back out of the room, William and Robert right behind him. Still laughing, the other three made their way out.
* * * *
The six of them entered the dining hall (if you could call it that; it was merely a room that was slightly larger than their quarters) to find Link and Zelda already eating. Upon seeing them, Nick’s heart sunk as his thoughts returned again to Celes. Reluctantly, he pushed his feelings aside for now and sat down across from Link. The rest of them went to get food.
“Hey Nick, what’s on your mind?”
He didn’t want to tell Link what was really on his mind, so he made something up.
“I’ve been meaning to ask you,” he started. “Are you sure that we can trust the captain and his men?”
Link finished his drink with one big gulp. He put down the mug and answered, “We can trust them now that we’ve shown them we’re stronger. Besides, I told him I’d give him a little more money if he treated us better.”
“Using his greed against him, are you?”
“Just exploiting a weakness.”
Nick smiled. “That’s fine by me. Seems to have worked, and I’m enjoying the calm around here.”
“Sure beats the stuff we’ve been through,” Zelda interjected.
“Indeed,” Nick agreed. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to get some food.” He got up and excused himself from the table.
Walking to the kitchen, the thoughts of Celes and Charles came flooding back. He hated himself for it. Not that he hated the feelings; far from it. He just didn’t need to have these feelings now. In the middle of a long, often dangerous journey, these feelings would just get in the way and cloud one’s judgment. Trying desperately to push the thoughts aside, he entered the kitchen.
“…and that lobster on the right,” he heard William say. William was smacking his lips at the large, juicy lobster and his eyes widened as the cook placed it on his plate.
William walked by him without so much as a glance. He was completely fixated on his food and, in his mind, couldn’t get back to the dining hall fast enough. Nick chuckled and got in line behind Aaron.
“William and his food,” Nick simply said.
Aaron laughed a little. “He can’t get enough. But he took the best lobster! I wanted it!”
Nick laughed. “None of us are any different from him when we’re hungry, it seems.”
“You’ve got that right,” Aaron agreed. There was a slight pause. “Nick?”
“I was wondering… about the Forbidden Island. What do you think we’ll find there?”
“The usual, I suppose. And since it’s the location of our Hyrule, we might find,” he sighed, “the ruins of all the towns and landscape.”
Aaron nodded. “Yeah, that’s what I thought. Not to mention,” he started, but the cook was waiting on him. “Two potatoes and that lobster in the middle. Not to mention,” he continued, “creatures and other things that Ganondorf probably introduced to the wild.”
The cook placed Aaron’s food on his plate and looked at Nick. Pointing his finger at Aaron’s plate and nodding, Nick informed the cook that he wanted the same. Nick turned back to Aaron.
“I’m sure it’s nothing we can’t handle. We’ve been through a lot before.”
They walked out of the kitchen and back to the dining hall.
“You’re probably right,” Aaron said as they walked down the hall. “It’s just that… I’ve got this weird feeling…”
“So do I,” Nick said, “but I’m sure it’s nothing. We’ll pull through.”
Aaron nodded as they re-entered the dining hall and sat at the table with John and Michael. Robert and William had sat at Link’s table.
“How much longer until we get there?” Aaron heard Robert ask.
“According to the captain, we should get there early tomorrow,” Link answered. “So eat up.”
“Why do you say that?” John asked from the other table.
“Because we most likely won’t have this luxury once we get to the Island. From all accounts, it’s a barren wasteland.”
With that, William ate his food faster, jumped up, and headed back to the kitchen. They all laughed.
“We laugh,” Robert said. “But in about two minutes, the rest of us are going to do the same thing.”
“I did it three times,” Link said, leaning back in his chair and patting his stomach.
They all laughed again, and went back to eating.
“Totally out of the question!” the captain yelled as the group of eight travelers debated their course of action. They had already left the ship and were standing on the beaches of the Forbidden Island.
“Why?” Link asked. “Going north would be the most direct route.”
“Aye, it is the most direct route… to your deaths!”
John and William chuckled a little to themselves when he said this.
“’Tis no laughing matter!” the captain yelled, apparently hearing them. “Many evil creatures roam this country. They guard the path to His castle well, and there is very little chance you could get by them. Aye, death is what awaits those who travel that path.”
“Then what do you propose?” Robert asked.
“Head for Old Lake which lies northwest of here. From there, you can follow its river north. You’ll need to travel through desert, but believe me, it’s much better than going through the woods to the north.”
“Woods to the north?” Nick repeated. “There aren’t any woods to the north. He’s lying to us! He’s leading us away from the castle in order to turn us in as part of his ‘job’!”
“I speak the truth!” the captain shouted. “I no longer have a reason to capture you. If He wants you, then He can come and get you! But you must listen to me! Don’t go north!”
“Thank you,” Link interjected. “We shall go to Old Lake.” Upon saying that, Link caught a stare of disbelief from Nick. “Don’t worry, Nick. We can trust him.”
Nick went to speak out again, but Link silenced him.
“Aaron,” Link continued, “give the captain what I promised him.”
Aaron nodded and reached into the bag on his side. He pulled out three red Rupees, four blue, and five green. It was a substantial increase from the original bargain back in Pomina, but Link felt the man could use it. Besides, there wasn’t much use for them here.
“Aye, I thank you,” the captain said as Aaron placed the Rupees in his hands. He made his way back to the rowboat and stood in it. He turned back to the eight travelers. “May your journey be successful, and may we be rid of such dark times.”
He sat down and began rowing himself back to the ship.
“Well,” Aaron sighed, “I’m glad that’s over.”
“You can say that again,” Robert said sarcastically.
“Oh, shut up!” Robert interrupted him, and they all had a good laugh.
Several minutes later, they all calmed down.
“Getting back to the task at hand,” Link said.
“Should we go the way the captain told us?” Zelda asked, finally breaking her silence, which had been brought on by deep thoughts of her children.
Link shrugged his shoulders. “He seemed pretty adamant about us avoiding the woods to the north.”
“But can we trust him?” Nick asked. “After all, he and his crew tried to kill us at one point.”
“We came to an understanding,” Link said, defending the captain.
“You may have come to an understanding, but I know I still don’t trust him,” Nick voiced his opinion. “What makes you think that a simple man like that could easily disobey the terror that lies on this island? His life is in danger since he didn’t kill us. Perhaps he’s just planning our deaths a different way?”
Link seemed taken aback by the allegations that Nick put on the captain. “You make a good point, but I think that we can trust him.”
“Well I don’t,” Nick reestablished.
“Neither do I,” William agreed, moving beside Nick.
Link sighed. “Shall we put it up for a vote then? Let the majority rule?”
“Seems fair,” Michael agreed.
“Alright,” Link conceded, “We’ll do this by a show of hands. Who thinks we should follow the captain’s advice and go to Old Lake?”
Link raised his hand, as did Zelda and Michael. Link paused and looked at each of the other five, hoping that more would come around. They didn’t.
Just as a formality, Link continued. “And who thinks we should go into the wood to the north?”
Five hands were held up toward the sky.
Link sighed deeply. His body was telling him that they should trust the captain, but that wasn’t enough to convince the others. So he gave in.
“Very well. We’ll head north.”
Without saying another word, the eight of them picked up their supplies and headed north off the beach.
Aboard his ship, the captain watched on as they headed in the direction he told them to avoid.
“Damn fools,” he muttered. “May whatever force that resides on high have mercy on your souls.”
* * * *
The sun beat down on them severely. The heat of the afternoon was more than they had seen since leaving the island of Shakar so long ago. The landscape matched that of Shakar’s as well, with the exception of the large wood that they were heading toward. They had left the beach nearly eight hours ago, and the wood hung in the distance. Off to the west, they could see cliffs, most likely that of the river that opened up into Old Lake, or what most of them had already deduced, Lake Hylia. In the east rose a massive mountain chain, one that seemed to have expanded from the time that they had once known. The peak of Death Mountain was higher than any of them had remembered.
Michael stopped momentarily to take a swig of water from his water skin. It was then that he felt that they were being watched. By whom or from where, he didn’t know. But he had that feeling, and he couldn’t deny it.
“Aaron,” he said, since Aaron was the closest to him. “I feel as though we’re being watched.”
“Are you sure?”
Michael looked all around them. “I’m quite sure.”
Aaron looked around as well, but just like Michael, he didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. Everything seems fine, he thought; Well, besides the fact that this place is decimated. He scanned the landscape a second time, just to be sure. Nothing.
“Maybe your imagination is starting to run wild, Michael. Perhaps you should drink some more water, and try to keep a level head,” Aaron suggested as he jogged to catch up to the others.
Michael looked around again, but still couldn’t confirm what his gut was telling him. “Maybe he’s right,” he said to himself. “Maybe you’re just losing your mind, Michael.” He chuckled. “Great, now I’m talking to myself.”
He ran to catch up to the others.
“This place feels strange,” Robert said. He was directly behind Link and next to Nick.
“Definitely,” was all Nick could say.
Link heard Robert as well. “There doesn’t seem to be any signs of life, other than plant life. I haven’t seen a single animal on the ground.”
“Or in the sky,” Zelda added, looking up at the cloudless, bird-less sky.
“I’ll bet that we’ll find plenty of creatures in the wood,” John called from the back.
William smiled. “Let’s just hope they’re friendly.”
They each smiled and were thankful that at least one person still had their sense of humor. Once that is gone, despair runs through all.
They continued toward the wood, the sun unrelenting in its heat. Walking two by two, they each wished for the coolness of the shade, but dreaded what they might find in the wood. But that made no difference. They needed to pass it in order to reach the castle.
The will of Link and Zelda pushed them all.
* * * *
“These trees look strange,” Aaron commented as they strode up to the outer edge of the wood. “Almost like…” he started, but couldn’t find the words to express it.
“Like they were tortured,” Robert finished.
Aaron squinted his eyes and slowly nodded. He raised his arm and extended it, his hand poised to feel the twisted, rotten bark of the tree. As his hand came into contact with it, a sudden surge of feelings leapt into him. His body reacted to it by convulsing quickly for a few seconds before he was able to release his grip. He fell backward onto the ground and stared up at the sky.
“Aaron!” William yelled as he ran up and knelt down beside him. “Are you alright?”
Aaron moaned in agony as the other six made their way over to him.
“Are you in pain?” Zelda asked, frantic.
Aaron placed his hand on his forehand. “Physically, no. But what a rush!”
Nick was confused. “What do you mean?”
“Feelings. Intense feelings. I felt them, but they weren’t mine.”
“Oh great,” John whispered to Michael. “He’s gone insane.” They shared a small laugh.
“I have not,” Aaron said, surprising both John and Michael. No one else knew what they were talking about.
Link reached down, grabbed Aaron’s hand, and pulled him up. “So, would you care to enlighten us?”
“I felt… pain, agony, suffering… anger…”
“You said these weren’t your feelings,” Robert said. “Then whose are they?”
Aaron shook his head. “I have no idea.”
“This is looking more and more like a bad idea,” commented William. “Maybe we shouldn’t go into the wood.”
Link sighed. “We’ve come this far. Going the other way is not an option anymore. Besides, the sun is about to set.”
“He’s right,” Nick agreed. “We need to set up camp. And I’d rather not do that in there,” he said as he pointed to the dark, mysterious wood.
They set up there camp and relaxed for the remainder of the day. Although, none of them could really get comfortable while they were sitting in the shadows of the daunting forest that lay in front of them. They made a small fire to cook some of their provisions with, but as soon as it wasn’t needed, they put it out. Even though that hadn’t seen anybody (or anything for that matter) all day, there was no need to risk being found out. Michael, on the other hand, figured that it was already too late for that. Upon his request, they set up a rotation to keep watch over the campsite and the surrounding area. Michael himself volunteered for the longest shift, and even when his shift was over, he didn’t sleep. He sat up in the dark, constantly surveyed the surroundings, looking for any sign of spies or scouts. He hated this place with his entire body - no, his entire existence hated it.
The second fire slowly burned out, and Michael was thankful. Despite the strong disapproval of himself and Aaron, another fire had been constructed. He kept on telling them that there was something out there, watching them. But no one (besides Aaron) believed him.
And why should they? He thought. We haven’t seen anything since we left the ship. He sighed. But there’s definitely something out there.
It was William’s watch when the second fire burned out. He got up from his post (merely a spot in the dirt just beyond their camp) and went to start a third one. As he was about to strike it, he was interrupted.
“Don’t,” Michael said.
Michael looked out into the darkness. “I just have a bad feeling. We shouldn’t be drawing anymore attention to ourselves.”
William shook his head. “Well, it’s my shift and I want the fire lit.”
“Then I’ll relieve you of your shift.”
“Get some rest. I’ll stand watch.”
“Are you crazy, Michael? You haven’t gotten five minutes of sleep. I think you need it more than me.”
Michael shook his head. “I’m not going to sleep anyway. So you might as well get some rest.”
William stared at Michael the best he could in the dark. He tried to see the man’s face. He tried to figure out what was making him so worried that he would lose sleep over. Michael stared back, and William could see in his eyes that there was no convincing him otherwise. The cold, dead stare sent shivers down his spine.
“Very well,” he conceded. “I’ll leave the watch to you. But if you hear anything, or see anything, you wake me first.” He laid down his conditions while pointed directly at Michael’s face. “Agreed?”
William threw done the wood that he held in his hands and made his way over to his dirt bed. Michael moved to the outside of the campsite to continue William’s shift. There was only an hour until he would need to wake up John. But that hour never came.
He sat in the darkness for half an hour, and although he tried his best to fight it, sleep was beginning to win him over. He remained on the edge of sleep for ten minutes, his mind playing out scenes inside his head that he wished would never happen. He knew he was dreaming, and that he had fallen asleep.
He tried to wake himself, but it did no good. It was like some magic had taken him over and there was no way to break the spell. He fought hard, but in the end, it was the sudden sound of a twig being snapped that awoke him.
He jumped up off the ground and looked in the direction he thought the sound had come from. Curious, he slowly advanced, leaving the camp behind. He made his way through the darkness, searching desperately for the source of the sound.
He heard the sound again, and narrowed the location down. Quickly, he ran in its direction. But he never found it. On his way over, he stumbled on a raised root, fell, and hit his head on a rock. All went black.
Aaron bolted upright. He didn’t know what it was, but something told him that not everything was right. His sleep seemed strange, as if he was forced to sleep. He looked around, but saw no one standing guard. Getting up, he looked around. Deciding against waking the others, he went off into the wilderness.
He had made it almost two hundred yards from the camp when he heard movement from behind him. Dropping to the ground quickly, he saw numerous creatures emerge from the wood and run into the camp. Reaching for his sword, he contemplated whether or not he should attack. He couldn’t just let them be taken, but their numbers were far too great for him to do much good. Instead, he was forced to watch on as the creatures took the remaining six away.
I’ll have to wait until morning, he thought. Then I’ll need to find whoever was left behind.
Sighing deeply, he slept under the moonless night.
* * * *
The morning sun rose, and Aaron opened his eyes in response. He lay there with his face looking into the sky, in the exact spot he had been in when the creatures from the wood took his friends. He sighed deeply and forced himself up. There was much to do. He stretched his arms and his back. It was quite stiff from the uncomfortable sleeping position he had been forced into. Despite his best efforts, there was still a dull pain in his lower back, but he pushed the pain to the back of his mind. There were more important things to worry about.
He walked back to the camp. The creatures had taken his friends, but had left everything else. Each of their swords, and Zelda’s and John’s bow, lay on the ground next to where each had slept. Aaron bent over and grabbed one of the bags that they had brought with them and emptied it of its contents. This particular bag had only some spare clothes in it, and leaving them behind in exchange for the weapons was an easy decision. Aaron grabbed each sword and sheath and placed in gently in the bag, along with the two bows. Once he had all of them, he pulled the string on the bag tightly and slung it over his shoulder.
Not too far from the campfire site, he saw several water skins. Figuring that he was going to need every resource available to him, he grabbed as many as he could and slung them around his other shoulder. His stomach helped him make another decision as it growled loudly, trying to get his attention. He placed his hand on it and squeezed.
He found their rations just where he expected them to be. Each of them had carried their own rations in their pouches, and just as the creatures had ignored the weapons, they left the food. Aaron picked up one of the ration pouches and filled it as much as he possibly could with food from the other pouches. When he filled the first one to its limit, he grabbed a second pouch and filled it. Don’t want to starve to death, he thought.
“Alright,” he said aloud. “I wonder who wandered away from camp last night.”
He gazed around him and looked at the ground. Throughout the camp there were many footprints, mostly that of whatever kind of creatures had come from the wood. But what caught his eye was a solitary set of prints that led in the opposite direction. From what he could tell, whoever left them wasn’t in a hurry. He followed them.
It didn’t take him long to find where the tracks led. Only a hundred yards or so from the camp, he found Michael lying face down in the dirt. Dried blood coated a part of a nearby rock, and Aaron feared the worst. Dropping to his knees, he slapped Michael on the face.
“Michael! Wake up!” he yelled at the limp body, demanding that he obey him. “Please, Michael! Wake up!”
He slapped Michael’s face a few more times before he decided to roll him over. He did just that, gently, as to not inflict any more damage to him. Once he had Michael on his back, he saw the gash in his head. More dried blood covered the left side of his face.
“You better not be dead,” Aaron warned him. “Because if you are…”
He stopped talking and started slapping Michael in the face again. Sliding his hand down to the man’s neck, he felt for a pulse and was extremely relieved when he felt one. To his surprise, the pulse wasn’t weak like he had expected it to be. In fact, it almost seemed normal.
“Michael?” Aaron asked, confused.
Michael finally responded with a groan.
“Michael!” Aaron exclaimed, his voice full of excitement, but most of all, relief.
“Aaron?” Michael struggled to say, his throat dry and scratchy. Aaron helped him sit up.
Aaron smiled. “Thank the Goddesses you’re alive. Here,” he said as he grabbed one of the water skins. “Drink some water.”
Greedily, he took the water skin from Aaron’s hand and easily finished what remained in it. He let out a refreshing gasp. “Where am I?”
“Just outside of camp. You’re lucky I found you,” he said. “Actually, we’re both lucky I found you.” Aaron sighed.
“Has everyone been worried?”
Aaron sighed again. “It is us who should be worried about them.”
“Why?” Michael asked, his facing becoming full with concern. “What happened?”
“They were taken.”
“Taken? By whom?”
Aaron stood up and looked toward the wood. “I don’t know, but they came from there,” he said as he pointed in its direction.
Michael turned his neck and gazed into the wood. Looking away, he hung his head. “It was my fault that they were taken. I walked away because I though I heard something, and… well, here I am.”
“It’s not your fault,” Aaron contradicted. “There would’ve been nothing you could’ve done. You, and I, would’ve been taken along with them if we had tried to stop them.”
“So what do we do now?”
Aaron turned his head and looked down at Michael, and smiled. “The only thing we can do.” He reached down and pulled Michael to his feet and looked him directly in the eyes. “We get them back.”
Michael smiled back and the two slapped each other on the shoulder.
“So where do we start?” Michael inquired.
Aaron didn’t respond. He was now staring off into the distance, toward the east.
Aaron remained silent for a moment longer. “We start there,” he said, pointing behind Michael.
Michael turned and his heart sunk. Not too far in the distance, standing where it had not been the day before (or even the minute before) was the old man’s hut. Without another word, Michael turned back and grabbed some of the equipment that Aaron was carrying. With one last, deep sigh, the two of them headed off to see the old man once again.
* * * *
Link awoke with a massive headache. He placed his hand on his head and slowly sat upright. His sleep had been plagued by nightmares from which he couldn’t escape, and the dank odor of his surroundings wasn’t helping at all.
“You’re finally awake,” Robert said, startling the Hero of Time.
Link squinted in the weak light, trying to make out Robert’s figure. He was sitting across from him, against a wall.
“Robert?” he looked around. He had no idea where they were or how they had gotten there, and he figured Robert didn’t have a clue either. But he asked anyway. “Where are we?”
“A prison cell.”
“I can see that,” Link answered sarcastically. In fact, his eyes hadn’t grown accustomed to the light level. It was as if some drug was making it difficult to see. “But where?”
Robert shrugged his shoulders. “Who knows. The only thing I can tell you is that we seem to be stuck here.”
“Where is everyone?”
Robert motioned with his head to the left, Link’s right. “John, Nick, and William are still asleep over there. As for Zelda, Aaron, and Michael, I have no idea.”
Link’s heart sank at the mention of Zelda not being there. “Who brought us here?”
“Quit asking me questions you know that I can’t answer,” Robert said sternly.
Link was taken aback. “Sorry.”
Robert sighed. “Don’t be. I’m just frustrated at this whole situation. If only we had listened to the captain…”
“It’s a little too late for ‘If only’, Robert. Besides, it does us no good to wallow on our mistakes. We need to figure a way out of here, and not second guess ourselves.”
Silence filled the room. The two conscious prisoners racked their brains and their surroundings for a way out. It remained quiet for some time.
* * * *
“Hello again,” the old man said, almost too cheerily.
Aaron breathed out heavily. “I’m sick of seeing your face and being given the runaround by you, old man. So let’s cut to the chase.”
“My, my, it seems as though your journey is getting to you. That’s a shame.”
“Shut up!” Aaron yelled. “You know what’s going on, and you know where our friends are. So start talking!”
“I refuse to be ordered around by someone such as yourself.”
Aaron was furious. He reached out and grabbed the old man by his old, beaten, brown cloak, lifting him off his feet. “And I refuse to take this kind of treatment from you! Tell me where they are!”
Michael stepped in and placed his arms over the outstretched arms of Aaron. “Put him down, Aaron. This isn’t helping us.” Aaron didn’t respond. “Please, just put him down.” Michael applied pressure to the tops of Aaron’s arms.
Slowly, and reluctantly, Aaron placed the old man back on the ground and released his grip on him. The old man fixed his robe and muttered to himself.
“What was that?” Aaron said with a raised voice.
The old man stopped and turned around. “It is none of your concern.”
Aaron made a move for the old man, but Michael stepped in his way. “Calm down, Aaron. He’ll tell us what we need to know, but you just need to calm down.”
Silence filled the room as Aaron slowly began to calm down. In reality, he was just putting up with the old man because Michael was encouraging him to do so. If Michael wasn’t there, Aaron would make sure that there was nothing left of the old man or his shack.
“Please sit down,” the old man finally said when Aaron appeared to be on the level again. “Would anyone care for some tea?”
“No thanks,” Michael replied. “All we want to know is where are friends are and how we can get them back.”
“Very well,” the old man said, taking his seat across the table from them. He waited until they sat down as well. When they were finally seated, he continued. “Your friends were taken into the wood.”
“I already knew that,” Aaron said condescendingly. Michael motioned with his hand for Aaron to calm down.
The old man went on. “They’re being held in the prison cells of the creatures known as Malfos.”
“What the hell is a Malfos?” Aaron asked.
“Simply put, they’re a mix between what you know as a Moblin and a Stalfos. They are as big as a Stalfos, but they have flesh. These creatures are also extremely aggressive, and in the history of their existence, no one has encountered one and lived to tell about it.”
“How did they come into existence?” Michael pondered aloud. The old man answered him.
“Years ago, Ganondorf began experimenting with cross-breeding, and this was his first, and only attempt.”
Aaron leaned in. “Do they have a weakness?”
“Of course. All things do.”
“So what is it?” Aaron continued, his voice rising in volume a little.
The old man sighed. “They have poor vision during the day, and in order to kill a Malfos, you must strike them in the back.”
Aaron chuckled. “Is that it? Just get behind them? That’s easy.”
“My dear Aaron,” the old man said, insulting Aaron at the same time. “Planning and execution of the plan are two entirely different things.”
“In other words, it’s easier said than done,” Michael concluded.
The old man nodded.
“So how do we find our friends?” Aaron went on.
“You must enter the wood and find their stronghold. There you will find your friends.”
“And how do we find the stronghold?” Michael asked.
“Just follow the path.”
Michael and Aaron looked at each other. They stared for several seconds before Aaron turned back to the old man.
“That’s it? Just follow the path? Won’t they be expecting that?”
He shook his head. “No. They detect enemies by way of the trees. That’s why they knew you were nearby. When you touched the tree, Aaron, you alerted them of your presence.”
“Don’t touch the trees. Got it,” Aaron replied. “Anything else?”
Without so much as a warning, the old man and the hut simply disappeared. The only thing left was a voice in the wind.
They were back outside, standing where the hut had been. The sun had already traversed the sky and was nearly setting.
“Damn, time sure does fly when you’re talking to that old man,” Michael quipped.
Aaron ignored him. “I guess we should settle down for the night. We’ll head into the wood tomorrow morning.”
“Sure,” Michael sighed.
“I hope they’re all alright,” he said while gazing at the setting sun.
Aaron didn’t reply, but he had the same feelings as Michael. He only hoped that they weren’t too late.
The large metal door swung open into the cell, causing Link and Robert to take a defensive stance. In walked two large creatures, the likes of which they had never seen before. Instead of moving in on the prisoners, the creatures separated and covered the left side and the right side of the door. Behind them, a smaller, yet still large, creature emerged. He carried something that resembled a tray and placed it on the floor near the other two creatures. Making no sound, nor making eye contact with the prisoners, the three of them walked out, the last closing the big door behind him.
Link and Robert looked at each other, and finally relaxed their bodies. Robert walked up to the tray and figured that they were being fed. For what reason, he didn’t know. His stomach growled at him, and he decided that their reasons didn’t matter, just as long as he was fed. Leaning down, he picked up what appeared to be a piece of bread, although the color wasn’t right and the feel of it in his hand seemed off. He took in a deep breath and took a bite.
He quickly spit it out.
“That’s the worst thing I’ve ever tasted!” he said to Link. “Horrible!”
The sudden shout woke up John and William, who had been sleeping until then. Nick remained asleep.
“Is that food?” William asked excitedly, his stomach churning with hunger. He jumped to his feet and ran across the cell, not even taking in the surroundings before he had gotten his hands on the food that was left for them.
“William…” Robert started to say, giving the man a warning. But it was too late.
William grabbed a handful of some sort of meat and nearly engulfed it. There was a slight pause as the taste hit his taste buds.
He spit out a chunk, the piece hitting the door.
“What the hell is this?” William asked, eyeing up the rest of the meat in his hands.
John laughed a little. “You know it’s bad if even William won’t eat it.”
William shot him a look, but John kept on laughing.
“Well I’m not eating it!” William shouted, throwing the food back on the tray.
“Then you can just starve to death,” Link said matter-of-factly. “Choice is yours,” he said as he grabbed a piece of meat. Throwing it into his mouth, Link grimaced slightly at the horrible taste, but continued to chew on it regardless.
William grimaced as well at the thought of the horrible tasting meat. He stuck out his tongue slightly and shook his head. “Yuck,” he simply said.
John grabbed a piece of the “bread” and ate it. Robert finished his piece and went for a chunk of meat.
“You people disgust me,” William commented as the three of them chowed down. He looked away from them, not wanting to think of the food. It was then that he saw Nick lying unconscious in the corner. He looked around for the other three, but there was no sign of them. “Hey,” he said, grabbing their attention. “Where are Zelda, Aaron, and Michael?”
Link stopped eating briefly. “We hope that they’re on the outside, trying to figure out a way to get us out of here.”
“And if they’re not?”
Robert stopped chewing. “Then we’re going to be stuck in here for awhile.”
“Great,” William said under his breath. “Just great.”
He went back to the tray and, for the first time in his life, actually forced himself to eat.
* * * *
Michael slowed to a stop and reached for his water skin. They were deep in the woods, but enough sunlight was able to penetrate the treetops to give them good light and more than enough heat. Before taking his drink, Michael wiped his brow.
Aaron stopped alongside him. “How much further could this ‘stronghold’ possibly be? We’ve been walking for hours!”
“Who knows,” Michael responded. “But there’s no stopping now. We need to find it and get the others out of there.”
Aaron nodded. “I’m completely aware of the situation, and I’ll drop dead before I give up on them. But this is getting ridiculous.”
“In that case, I’m in complete agreement.”
“Right,” Aaron said. They stood there in silence, looking down the path on which they were traveling. “Well,” he continued, breaking the silence, “Let’s go.”
Michael responded, but not verbally. Instead, he proceeded to continue down the path, determined to find his friends. And find them alive.
Aaron picked up his pace slightly in order to catch up to the determined Michael. The two walked in complete silence. The only sounds were that of their breathing, the leaves rustling beneath their feet, and the soft chirps of a nearby bird.
They continued on for another hour, maintaining a pace that was slightly faster than walking. Neither of them had said a word for some time now, and it was beginning to drive Aaron crazy.
“Are we there yet?” he abruptly, and childishly, said. He could have kicked himself for saying that, but it was too late.
Michael just gave him a weird look, but never changed his pace.
“Sorry,” Aaron apologized. “The silence was just starting to annoy me. I know we’re on a mission to save the others from the… the Moflos… Maflos… the Malfos,” he said, stumbling for the right term. “But is that any reason to be completely silent? I mean, the old man said that they detect our presence through the trees. So we should be alright to talk, shouldn’t we?”
Michael was growing annoyed at Aaron’s incessant whining, and for a brief moment wondered how such a person had become a Knight of Hyrule.
“I’m sorry,” Aaron apologized again, realizing that he had been rambling. “I don’t usually do this.” He left it at that, as if it were all that was necessary for him to say. Regaining his composure, Aaron quieted down.
“It’s alright,” Michael finally said, catching Aaron off guard. “I was just thinking, and then you started talking. It was a little distracting.”
“You always need to concentrate on the task at hand. I’ve often done the same thing as you just did,” Aaron assured him. He let out a small laugh. “I’m usually the sane one, at least I like to think I am.”
Michael smiled. “And it’s quite annoying.” They both let out a laugh, without slowing their pace. When they calmed down, Michael continued. “It’s just that this is the first time I’ve been away from home for so long, I find myself… homesick. Heh… and I thought I had what it takes to be a Knight.”
“You do,” Aaron encouraged him. “You’ve proven yourself over and over again.”
“I guess. But… I don’t know… I miss Catherine. I wish I could see her right now. I wish…”
“Shut up,” Aaron said sharply, cutting Michael right off.
Aaron shushed him again and looked around. Michael took the hint and began surveying their surroundings as well. He didn’t hear anything abnormal and turned to look at Aaron.
“There’s nothing out there.”
“Shh!” Aaron commanded. Michael was taken aback by it, and as a result, shut his mouth once again.
Aaron squinted his eyes and looked further on down the path. In the distance, he could see figures. Big figures.
“Get off the path!” he yelled to Michael. “But don’t touch the trees!”
Aaron quickly jumped into the wood, but Michael was slightly reluctant.
“Sure, jump into the trees, but don’t touch them,” he quipped to himself.
He carefully worked his way into the trees, paying close attention to where every one of his footsteps fell. As soon as he was out of sight of the path, he stopped and turned around. Remaining quiet, he could hear the sounds of marching, along with sounds that he had never heard before. As he waited for what was coming to pass, Michael quickly looked for any sign of Aaron, but the other Knight was nowhere near him. Sighing, he returned his attention to the path.
After waiting for what seemed like an eternity, Michael laid his eyes on what were apparently the Malfos. They were just like the old man had described them. He forgot to tell us one thing, Michael thought, he never mentioned how ugly they were. As he looked upon them, he could see their bulging muscles, as well as many battle scars, either from enemies or friends. The old man had called them “very aggressive,” and Michael could only assume that that meant they were ill tempered and quick to anger.
The Malfos were now passing directly in front of him, and he held his breath in order to become as soundless as possible. Even so, the stench of the creatures was overwhelming, and Michael found it increasingly difficult to hold his breath. The line of Malfos was long, and he knew that he was not going to be able to hold his breath much longer. His face was turning blue and soon would be purple. The world around him began to swirl around, his head felt funny.
I’d rather make a noise while still conscious then pass out and be defenseless! his mind cried out to him. His body was in full agreement, and without warning, he exhaled loudly.
Aaron heard him from further down the path. Most of the Malfos had already passed by him, but Michael still had some to go. He jerked his head to the sound of breathing and saw Michael trying to hold his mouth and minimize the noise emanating from him. Aaron heard nothing but the muffled sounds of Michael’s breaths. And that’s when he realized it.
The Malfos had stopped marching.
Aaron frantically looked from Michael to the now idle Malfos. They heard him! Aaron’s own breathing now increased, but the Malfos didn’t seem to pay any attention to him. The entire company, including the ones that had not yet passed Aaron, was now closing in on Michael’s position. But something about their search confused Aaron slightly. They didn’t seem to be looking for him. Rather, they were smelling for him.
An image flashed through Aaron’s mind. Michael and himself were standing beside the old man. “They have poor vision during the day, and in order to kill a Malfos, you must strike them in the back.”
So there’s still a chance! Aaron exclaimed in his mind. Relying on that fact, he emerged from the forest and stood in the middle of the path.
He waved his arms around, and when the Malfos failed to move, he knew that he was out of their sight. But the one problem still remained: they would find Michael eventually. Thinking fast, Aaron remembered what the old man had said about the trees. He glanced at the ground and noticed a rock the size of a fist. Picking it up, he looked down the path, beyond the gathering Malfos. With one big heave, he threw the rock passed them and into the forest.
The rock nailed the side of a tree, and the Malfos reacted instinctively.
Their leader (he was identifiable by the many ornaments that adorned his helmet and tattered vest) led them on a charge toward the spot where the rock had hit the tree. Without hesitation, Aaron called out to Michael, as loud as he dared anyway.
“Michael! Come on!”
Michael emerged from the forest and looked at the company of Malfos that were scurrying down the path, away from them. He didn’t know why they had suddenly left him, nor did he care. He ran and joined Aaron.
“What’s going on? I thought I was a goner!”
Aaron chuckled. “Just a little diversion. Now, let’s get going before they realize that no one’s there.”
They began to jog, all the while trying to remain light on their feet so as to not draw any attention to themselves. They remained well away from the trees, for risk of brushing along one of its smaller branches. They knew they weren’t too far from their goal.
The smell was getting stronger.
* * * *
“I can’t take this foul stench any longer!” John screamed, shattering the long period of silence that had engulfed them all. He jumped up onto his feet and stormed over to the cell door while the rest of them watched him. He had startled all of them, more than any of them would ever admit. “Let us out of here, you filthy, disgusting pieces of rotten meat!” he yelled out through the small opening in the door. He kicked it twice, scoring direct hits on the center of the door, but it barely even moved.
Robert was the first to his feet and he calmly moved behind John, who was still wailing away on the door. Grabbing a hold of John, Robert tried to calm him from his rage.
“John!” he yelled while John tried to wriggle free of Robert’s strong grasp. “This won’t accomplish anything! You’ll only end up hurting yourself!” John replied by straining even harder, and he was beginning to break away.
Seeing this, Link moved in and helped Robert restrain John. Sensing defeat as four arms now held him in place, John gave up.
“Now, breath deeply,” Link was instructing him. Obediently, he began slowing his breathing, while breathing deeper. After several breaths, Link and Robert let go of him.
John stood there, his eyes closed, breathing deeply. An awkward silence befell the room, and the eerie sound (or rather, lack of) infuriated John once more. He ran toward the door once again, fully intending to knock it down or die trying.
However, Link reacted quickly, and before John could even get near the door, Link was already restraining him.
“John! Calm down!” Link was pleading as John tried to overpower him.
It was apparent that there no way they could talk John down from his current state, and Nick was becoming tired of it already. He stood up, walked directly in front of John, and looked him in the face.
“Forgive me again,” Nick said as he swung his fist, connecting squarely on John’s head. For the second time on the journey, Nick had knocked John unconscious.
“Thanks, Nick,” Link said as he caught the dead weight that was John.
“Don’t,” Nick said, rejecting the gratitude. “I hate to have to do that to a friend, but sometimes its necessary.”
Link dragged his friend’s body over to one of the walls and gently propped him up on it. They fell silent once again.
“Where the hell are Aaron and Michael?” Nick asked. He had meant to just think it, but it came out anyway.
“Who knows,” Link sighed. “Hopefully, they’re somewhere out there, making up a plan to get us out of here. Either that or…” he drifted off.
“Or what?” William asked.
Link didn’t respond.
“Hey! Or what?!” William demanded.
Robert sighed. “Either that or… or they’re already dead.”
A solemn feeling overcame the room as they all contemplated the possibility of Aaron and Michael meeting their demise, somewhere. Again, silence claimed them for a short while, until Nick broke it.
“Look, we should at least try to figure out a way out of here, just in case…” he cut himself short. He didn’t want to say it, nor did he have to. It was well understood.
“I agree,” Link added. “It can’t hurt to come up with some sort of plan. Besides, I don’t want to wait and find out what they’re going to do to us. We need to get out of here… with Zelda.”
“Considering that we have no clue as to where she is,” Robert said, “it’ll be tough to come up with a good plan.”
“It doesn’t need to be good,” Link countered. “It just needs to work.”
William chuckled. “So we’re going on luck, I take it?”
“Sounds like fun,” William continued, sarcastically.
“Have some faith, William,” Nick replied, patting his friend on the back. “We’ve made it this far with a lot of luck. Let’s just hope it continues.”
“Everyone, come over here,” Link called to the three of them. He was already near the back of the cell, crouching down in the dirt, a stick in his hand. “We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us.”
Robert and Nick nodded and made their way over to Link. William looked toward the sky, although he could see nothing but crumbling rock.
“Aaron. Michael. I pray to the Goddesses for your safety. And ours.” He looked away and joined the others.
* * * *
The stench had become a lot stronger. Its fumes seemed to pierce the very soul, and it was unbearable. Sharp pains made their way through Michael’s head, and he placed his right hand over his temple.
“In all the world, I’ve never smelled anything quite like this,” his voice lowered as if the normal volume echoed too much for him to take.
“I’ve smelled some pretty nasty stuff before, but this definitely takes the cake,” Aaron agreed. “But there’s nothing we can do about it.”
“I suppose you’re right. We’ve come this far.”
They stood within sight of the Malfos stronghold, just beyond the tree line, careful not to touch any of the trees. The stronghold was merely a crude labyrinth of shallow caves that intertwined at various sections. In fact, it seemed that most of the Malfos rested and lived outside of the stronghold. Aaron and Michael had been watching their movements for nearly an hour, and every time a company of Malfos came back, only the leader entered the labyrinth.
“That’s our way in,” Aaron said.
“What?” Michael asked in disbelief. “You want us to go through the front door?”
Aaron smiled. “That’s right. They’d never suspect it.”
“Well, sure. But what about guards and patrol? Surely they’ll see us?”
“Look around. Do you see any?”
Michael did just that. He eyed up the entire area directly in front of the main entrance. He chuckled to himself when he realized that Aaron was right. Not a single guard lay in wait.
“So let’s go now!” Michael exclaimed and he started to get up.
Aaron reached out and grabbed his arm. “No! Not yet! We must wait until after the next wave of soldiers comes back. Otherwise, we’ll be spotted.”
Michael sat back down. “And how are we supposed to know when that’s going to happen?”
“One should go by in about five minutes.”
Michael squinted his eyes in doubt. “How can you be so sure?”
Aaron smiled slyly. “Just watch.”
Five minutes seemed like an eternity, and Michael was growing more anxious by the second. All he wanted to do was storm in there, rescue his friends, and get the hell out of this forsaken place so he could leave it far behind. But he waited.
Time passed, and Michael began to doubt Aaron’s estimate. He turned and went to say something, but was cut off by the sounds of marching feet and armor.
A company of Malfos marched down along the path in front of them. Just as Aaron had expected, only the leader entered the stronghold. The rest of the company broke apart into general disarray and vacated the area. It was time.
“Let’s go,” Aaron said, and the two of them stepped out from the wood.
* * * *
The pattern in the dirt was complex, and if anybody other than the five of them had come across it, they wouldn’t know what to make of it. It didn’t help any that none of them knew what the place looked like outside of their cell, but they thought nothing of it.
“Is this really going to work?” Michael wondered aloud.
Their eyes fluttered around the room, each making eye contact with all the others and then quickly darting away. The question wasn’t answered and William’s heart sunk deeper into his stomach. He gulped.
“Why don’t we go over it one more time?” Nick suggested. The tension and overwhelming reality of their situation was almost unbearable, and Nick wanted to take his mind off of it.
Link placed the tip of the stick into the dirt pattern once more. “When the guards come back for a check-up, you two,” he pointed to William and John, “start arguing with each other. If you need to, use force on each other. With any luck, the guards will come into the cell in order to stop it…”
“And why would they do that?” John asked. He wasn’t looking forward to purposely starting a fight with William.
“Hopefully, they want to be the ones to beat us,” Link responded.
“Hopefully?” John wasn’t convinced.
“Anyway,” Link continued, “when they unlock the door, I will be positioned here.” He drew an X in the dirt, indicating that he would be on the right side of the door. He then placed another X on the left side of the door, and another at the back wall. “Nick and Robert, you’ll be here, and here. They’re big, so we’ll need to knock them off their feet, otherwise we’ll have no chance.”
Grunts echoed from the dimly lit hallway that led up to their cell. All heads jerked around to look at the door. Link turned back.
“Now!” he yelled at John and William. “Do something!”
The two of them looked at each other for a moment, neither knowing what to actually do.
“Now!” Robert yelled as he took his position at the rear of the cell.
William acted quickly now, and he was soon right up in John’s face. “This is all your fault! We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you!”
“I don’t think so, you arrogant pig! We’re here because of you!” John screamed back. He felt stupid.
The feeling was mutual, as William tried to think of what to say.
“It… I… you… You’re a disgrace to the Knights of Hyrule!”
“Am not!” John yelled.
Link looked across at Nick, making eye contact. They slowly shook their heads and sighed. In the back of the room, Robert placed his right hand over his face. The childish bantering went on.
The guards had been at the door the entire time, yet they never even showed any concern as to what was transpiring inside the cell. Link looked across at Nick again.
“This isn’t working.”
“And it’s embarrassing,” Nick replied as he glanced back at the two Knights acting as children. “So what do we do now?”
“I don’t know.”
As John and William continued their argument, Link, Nick, and Robert contemplated what to do next. Their plan proved to be futile, and none of them had the slightest clue as to what to do next.
And then a grunt.
John and William stopped immediately, and all five of them turned their heads toward the door. The grunt was followed by another, which was followed by the sound of two giant bodies slamming into the ground. The five of them looked from person to person, each of them completely dumbfounded. Outside, they could hear the rattling of keys.
“Get ready!” Link yelled, figuring that their plan had worked after all.
The first key was tried, and it didn’t fit the lock. A second try failed as well. Link grew confused over the obvious incompetence of the armed guards that sat watch on them. He reached for his sword and then remembered that he wasn’t armed.
On the fifth try, the key finally fit into the lock, and all five tensed up, ready for a brawl. The key turned in the lock slowly, as if the person holding the key was trying to be as quiet as possible. Ever so slightly, the door opened. Nick jumped into action immediately and forced the door completely open before the guards on the other side knew what happened. Link jumped out and Robert rushed forward as Nick did so.
Aaron ducked immediately, but Michael catches Link’s fist square in the face and falls over.
“Wait! Wait! Link, it’s us!” Aaron yelled, all the while holding himself in a defensive position.
As Link brought his fist around for another attack, Robert reached out and grabbed his arm.
“Link! Stop! It’s Aaron and Michael!”
As Link realized what he had done, Michael pulled himself up off the ground, rubbing the side of his face. He grunted slightly.
“Am I glad to see you guys,” Nick said, slapping Aaron on the back.
Aaron smiled. “The feeling’s mutual.”
“So do you guys have a plan?” Robert asked of the two new additions.
“Yeah,” Michael answered, still rubbing his cheek. “We’re getting out of here.”
“So what’s the plan?” Robert asked again.
Michael and Aaron looked at each other. The message was all too clear to the rest of them.
“You don’t have a plan, do you?” William asked, sighing.
“We… uh… hadn’t thought that far ahead,” Aaron admitted. “We just figured we’d sneak in here, get you out, then bust out of here.”
“Great plan,” William quipped.
“At least we got you out of your cell!” Michael yelled.
“Let’s not start fighting now,” Link said calmly. “Let’s just figure a way out of here. But first…” He turned and looked Aaron straight in the eyes. “…do you know where Zelda is?”
“Is she safe?”
Aaron sighed. Link didn’t like that answer.
“Alright, lead the way. We… I need to get here out of here.”
Aaron nodded. “Follow me. All of your weapons are just down the hall.”
He ran out of the room and made a right. The rest of them followed one by one, Link directly in front of Michael. As they ran down the hall, he turned around.
“Sorry about that. I thought you were one of them.”
“It’s alright,” Michael said, rubbing his cheek once more. “Nice shot, though.”
Link smiled. “Thanks.”
At the end of the hall, they found their weapons neatly stacked and separated. Each picked up their own equipment.
“So where to now?” John asked.
Aaron pointed down the corridor on their left. “We go down there and we’ll get to what we believe is the main chamber. I have to tell you, there’s a lot of Malfos down there.”
“Can’t back down now,” Link said as he rushed by all of them and headed down the corridor.
“Link, wait!” Aaron tried to call after him, but it was too late. “Damn it!” he yelled. Turning back to the others, he said, “Let’s go. He’s going to need our help.”
The corridor was narrow and winding, and Link ran as fast as he possibly could through it all. Up ahead, he could hear the beating of drums and the horrible chanting of the Malfos. The sounds became louder and louder, and he could feel the drumbeat throughout his body. He continued through the corridor, and then stepped into the main chamber.
The drumbeat stopped, as did Link.
The room was massive, with many passages leading in and out of out. Looking around, Link saw dozens of Malfos, all staring angrily at him. They stood completely still, as if they were waiting for some command before they dared to move. Link used the opportunity to glance around the room some more, and then he saw it: the head Malfos. It sat triumphantly on a throne made of dirt, wood, and stone. Link could feel its gaze upon him, and wondered if he was being placed under some spell.
The familiar voice called out to him, and Link looked for the source. Looking to the right of the Malfos King, he saw Zelda, suspended from the ceiling in a cage.
He stepped in her direction with the intent of getting her out, but as soon as he moved forward, the Malfos King growled an order. All the Malfos now sprung into action, charging Link. He unsheathed the Master Sword.
As they barreled down on Link, the other six Knights emerged from the tunnel and sprang into action. The Malfos were caught completely off guard by the new wave of Knights, and they began to fall back. Several Malfos collapsed on the ground after being run through in the back as they fled from their enemy.
“You alright, Link?” Nick asked as he picked up the Hero of Time off the ground.
“Could be better,” he replied, as he bled from several cuts to the face and arms. The other Knights continued their advancement on the retreating Malfos. “Nick, cover me. I’m going to get Zelda out of there.”
“Of course,” Nick obliged. “John! Help me clear a path!”
John quickly moved alongside Nick, and the two of them, along with Link, made their way to the throne of the Malfos King. Link changed direction and jumped for the low cage that imprisoned Zelda. He grabbed onto the thick wooden bars that held her back (more like tree trunks, Link thought) and climbed up the cage. The Malfos King rose from its throne, not happy with the prospect of losing its prize. Nick and John looked up in amazement at the huge creature. It was easily three times the size of all the other Malfos. It swung its mighty club at Link. Link was able to dodge the attack, but the club connected with the cage, rattling Zelda around like a rag doll. The cage swung from its support, and Link was using all his concentration on just holding on to the rope that held the cage up.
“We’ve got to do something or else he’ll be killed!” Nick stated obviously.
John jumped into action and attacked the Malfos King. He tried to get behind the Malfos, but it was too quick. With one swing of its arm, John flew back and landed hard. The Malfos then swung at Nick, but he jumped out of the way just in time. The force of the club hitting the ground shook the place violently, and several pieces of rock began to fall. The Malfos King continued its assault on Nick.
Aaron and Robert stood back to back as a band of Malfos encircled them.
“Five on two,” Aaron counted. “Hardly seems fair.”
“Never is,” Robert commented.
The cave shook again as Nick rolled out of the way of another attack. Three massive rocks fell from the ceiling and landing squarely on three of the Malfos surrounding Aaron and Robert.
“Two on two,” Robert corrected. “Happy now?”
They went into battle once again.
The cage finally slowed in its rocking enough so Link could safely maneuver. He jumped onto his stomach and peered over the edge of the cage and looked inside. There, Zelda lay motionless, and Link felt his heart sink. Wasting no more time, he got to his feet and grabbed a hold of the rope. Cutting it just below where he held, the cage fell to the ground. Link shifted his bodyweight, forcing the rope to swing back and forth. When he felt he could land safely, he let go.
He landed several feet from the cage. Noticing that three of the bars had splintered from the fall, Link took one big swing with the Master Sword and cut through them. He went inside the cage and dropped to his knees next to Zelda. Placing his hand on her neck, he felt a pulse, and was greatly relieved. Knowing that staying here wouldn’t help them any; he picked her up in his arms and exited the cage.
Nick was growing tired. He needed to finish this soon, or else he wouldn’t be finishing it at all. The Malfos King raised his club for another attack, and this time, instead of rolling to the left or right, Nick dove between the creature’s legs. Before the Malfos could react, Nick stood up and jumped onto the throne. With a yell heard throughout the entire room, he leaped at the Malfos King’s back, sword extended. As he pierced its strong exterior, the beast roared in anger, and the entire chamber fell silent. The Knights, as well as the remaining Malfos, stared as the King fell with a heavy thud.
The silence was broken by the loud cries of the Malfos, enraged at the slaying of their king. Link ran over to Nick.
“Now you’re mad them angry.”
“Seems like it.”
“I suggest we get out of here,” Link said. Then with more emphasis, “Now!”
Nick nodded. “Knights! Fall back!”
Aaron ran up to Link and gestured with his hand to follow. Link obeyed, as did the rest of the Knights, Nick bringing up the rear. The Malfos followed them down the corridor, and they were gaining.
“Keep going!” Nick yelled up. “I’ll slow them down!”
They all stopped.
“I said keep going!”
Reluctantly, they agreed. Nick waited for the Malfos to come down the corridor, knowing that only one could attack at a time given their size and the size of the corridor.
They came with a mighty roar.
Aaron led the rest of them down the twisting path that he and Michael had come in from. Up ahead, they could now see daylight. Link stopped.
“What is it Link?” Robert asked. “We’re almost out of here.”
“Nick needs help.”
“He’ll be fine,” Robert assured him.
“Someone needs to go back there and help him,” Link reiterated.
“I’ll go, then,” John volunteered.
“No!” Link yelled. He turned back to Robert. “Here, take her. Make sure she’s safe.” Link gently handed the unconscious Zelda to him.
“Of course, but…”
“But nothing. Get her out of here, and the rest of them too.” He ran back down the corridor. “Don’t worry,” he yelled back. “I’ll come back safely! With Nick!”
Link soon found Nick still battling the advancing Malfos. He seemed to be faring well.
“Nick!” he yelled as he joined alongside his friend. “I’m here to help!”
“No! Go back! I can handle them!”
They retreated several steps, and that’s when Link saw it.
“The wound never healed completely.”
They took several more steps backward, Nick hobbling.
“Come on. We’re getting out of here,” Link said.
“You go. I’ll only slow you down.”
The sound of more Malfos joining the fray could be heard.
“Link, go. I’m not done yet. I’ll make it out of here!”
Link hesitated. “Nick…”
The sudden force in his voice was enough to make Link turn around and run toward the exit. As he ran, he could hear the sounds of metal and wood coming together. He only prayed that Nick would make it.
He emerged from the cave and found the rest of them standing and waiting.
“Where’s Nick?” William asked.
“Still fighting,” Link said. “He wouldn’t let me stay.”
The echoing sounds of battle ceased from the cave, and they all quickly turned around in anticipation, or dread. They waited for any sign of life, friend of foe, to emerge into the light. Finally, after several tense minutes, a solitary figure came into view. It hobbled on one leg and dragged its sword across the ground.
“Nick!” Link yelled and ran to greet his weary friend.
Nick turned his head and looked back one last time. He nodded, then faced his friends again. “No more are coming. See, Link? I told you I’d make it out of there.”
He smiled, but before Link even got up to him, the smile vanished. Nick fell over onto his stomach, and they all stopped in their tracks.
A spear lay embedded in his back.
“Nick!” Link yelled again, this time in concern rather than joy.
He ran up to Nick and dropped to the ground, while the rest of them remained frozen in place, Zelda still in Robert’s arms.
“Nick, no…” Link said. He reached for the spear and gently pulled it out of his friend’s back. Blood gushed from the wound. Nick coughed. “Nick?”
Link turned Nick over onto his back, and supported his head in his arms. “Nick…”
“Looks like my time has run out…”
“Don’t say things like that. You’ll be fine…”
Nick tried to laugh, but it came out as a choked cough. “Link… I’m glad I had the honor of fighting alongside you… and being your friend for all these years…”
“Don’t get all sentimental on me,” Link tried to joke, but it wasn’t working.
“I have two requests…”
“What? Anything. I’ll do anything, Nick.”
He coughed again, some blood spraying from his mouth. “Tell Celes… that I love her…”
“Of course. What’s the other?”
“Find… Evan…,” he coughed again. “Goodbye… Link…”
His head fell limply to the side, and all life left his body. Link pressed his head against Nick’s and cried.
The others cried as well.
Zelda finally came to, but no one noticed. The sun shone right in her eyes, forcing her to close them again. Gently, she raised her right hand to her forehead and rested it there. She opened her eyes once more, her right hand shielding them from the sun. Slowly, she sat up, and looked about her. Twenty yards to her left, she saw Link placing a stone on top of other stones, neatly arranged and stacked. Around him, she saw five of the Knights. She attempted to get up and find out what was going on, but failed. Trying to stand up too quickly, her head became hazy and she lost consciousness again.
* * * *
She moaned in pain as she regained consciousness. She was lying on her back, her head tilted to her right. As she slowly opened her eyes, she saw Link sitting directly beside her, his back toward her.
Link turned his head to the left quickly, as if he was startled. Seeing his wife awake, he sighed, and turned his head straight again. He sniffled.
“Link? What’s wrong?” she asked.
Link let his head drop. Raising his right arm, he wiped his eyes, trying to hide the fact that he had been crying. He sniffled again.
Zelda began to worry. It wasn’t often that Link cried so openly, and she knew that something terrible had happened. The last time he had cried, Evan had disappeared. But for some reason, she felt that this was much worse. She sat upright and pulled herself behind him.
He turned to look her in the face. His eyes were bloodshot and the skin around them was bright red. She could still see where tears had streamed down his face, and his expression was that of deep pain and loss. He sniffled once more.
“Nick…” he was able to get out, although it sounded choked and barely audible. He didn’t say another word. He turned his head to face the pile of stones that he had constructed earlier.
Zelda followed his gaze. She didn’t need to, she already knew. But she did so anyway, as if seeing it would make it real. She wished that it was a dream, a hallucination brought on by her head trauma. The wish was then shattered as the reality of the situation sunk in. Nick was dead. No, she thought to herself, Nick… can’t be dead. He just can’t be. Oh Celes…
Her thoughts drifted away as she too began to cry. Link turned his body completely around so that he and Zelda were face to face. Moving closer, he embraced her. And they cried together.
* * * *
William and Robert each sat underneath a tree, their backs to each other.
“Poor Celes,” Robert stated.
William sighed. “Yeah, she’ll be devastated.”
“The loss of a loved one is never easy.”
“I know,” William said solemnly.
Silence fell back among them.
William sighed again, “Alexandra…” Tears began to stream down his face again.
Robert rolled his eyes. On several occasions, William broke down and lamented about Alexandra, and it got on Robert’s nerves.
“She was already dead,” he said curtly.
“What does that matter?”
“It matters,” was all Robert could muster.
“I don’t see how. I loved her.”
Robert sighed angrily. “How can you love a dead person?”
“I don’t know! I just do!” William shouted back. “Haven’t you ever loved anyone?!”
Robert paused. In a low voice, he answered. “Yes.”
“What? Did she not love you back?” William asked. “Is that why you’re angry with me? Because my love was returned? Well?”
In an equally low voice, “She was killed.”
William felt terrible. “I’m… I’m sorry, Robert. I… I didn’t know.”
Robert closed his eyes and gently shook his head. “Nor could you have. It’s something that I’ve been dealing with by myself.”
William became curious. “If you don’t mind me asking, what happened?”
Robert sighed. Taking a deep breath, he started. “I was a boy of seventeen. Larosia was at peace, and I didn’t have a care in the world. Except one – Lindsay. We were both romantics. We would take long walks together, spend hours just talking, and dance as if we were the only two people in existence. At the time, I was merely the son of an aristocrat. I was spoiled and never had to lift a finger to do anything.”
“So what happened?”
“Lindsay and I were going for one of our usual walks. We took a different route this time, which led us through one of the woods near our town. Unfortunately, it happened to be the meeting area of a band of outlaws, and they were currently in session. Before I even knew what we had walked into, I had been hit over the head with the hilt of a sword, and I fell helplessly onto the ground. Two of the outlaws jumped on my back and twisted my arms and legs. I wasn’t used to physical force, so I had no chance of getting up from under them. That’s when… that’s when…” Robert struggled as he recalled the events of that day. He began crying, harder than he’s cried in a long time.
William could see the hurt in his face. “That’s okay, Robert. You don’t have to continue.”
“No,” Robert insisted, trying to make himself stop crying. “I need to continue. I’ve held this up inside for too long.”
“Very well,” William said, now sitting beside Robert.
Robert sniffled. “The other three outlaws went after Lindsay. She had run from the danger in an effort to get help. But she wasn’t fast enough. They caught her and dragged her back kicking and screaming to the small clearing where I was still pinned down. Then they…” he cried more as he progressed. But he forced himself to continue. “They… raped her… one by one… Her cries of pain ripped through the woods, and to this day… I can still feel it… piercing my very soul…” He was crying even harder. “When they were… done with her… they left us… they left her to die and me with no way of helping her. That’s when… that’s when I decided to become a Knight in the Larosia Guard. I vowed to myself that an event like that would never happen again. That I would stand for justice...”
William hugged Robert sympathetically as he continued to cry. “So you’ve been doing all this for revenge?”
William sighed deeply. “I’m sorry, Robert. No one should have to witness such a terrible act.”
Robert cried for some time.
* * * *
The other three went off on their own for the time being. John thought deeply about Chris, Michael about Catherine, and Aaron about Sarah. They had left someone important to them behind, and with the death of Nick, they began to wonder if they would ever see any of them again.
* * * *
William walked back over to the grave. Robert had since calmed down, and he felt that he’d be fine. He stopped at the foot of the grave and kneeled down. Folding his hands in his lap and lowering his head, he prayed for the departed soul of his friend.
As he finished, he caught a glimpse of something glowing. Puzzled, he looked up and around him. To the right of the grave lay Nick’s sword and shield. They were to be brought back with them to Hyrule, so that Nick could be honored in the Royal Cemetery. But now, the sword let out a soft glow, a glow that William had only seen in the Master Sword. Rising to his feet, William walked over to the sword, but by the time he got there, the glow had faded, and the sword looked just like any other ordinary sword.
“What the…” William mumbled.
He decided to keep it a secret. He couldn’t be sure if he had actually seen the sword glow, or if it was some side effect from the recent sadness that overwhelmed everyone. Leaning over, he picked up Nick’s equipment. He turned and saw the others congregating over by Link, and he joined them.
“…but we need to move on,” William heard Link say.
“But…” John attempted, but he was cut off when Link raised his hands.
“But nothing. We still have a long journey ahead of us, and Nick wouldn’t want us to stand around grieving over him just yet.”
“He’s right,” Robert said. He seemed much more composed now. “So where do we go?”
“I saw what appeared to be a town off to the west,” Aaron said.
“Where did you see that?” Zelda asked, wondering just how far Aaron had gone.
He pointed over to where he had been. “The elevation there is higher than most of the lands around here. I could see it in the distance.”
“Was it a town? Or the ruins of a town?” William wondered aloud.
“Couldn’t tell,” Aaron answered.
“Very well,” Link said. “We’ll head west toward this mystery town. Hopefully, there are still people there.”
They all agreed and proceeded to pick up their equipment, William still carrying Nick’s. Link walked up to him.
“Please, allow me.”
William handed the equipment over to Link, and they headed west toward the unknown.
* * * *
They stared at the old, decrepit sign. The wood was splintered and still rotting, but the writing was still visible, although barely. It read:
TOWN OF BARU
However, the population number had been crossed out. Underneath it, the new population number read 252, but that too was crossed out. As was the next number: 104. The final number that remained without a line through it was 27.
“Baru… home…” John whimpered as he fell to his knees.
“There’s nothing left,” Zelda commented.
The rest of the town looked just like the sign: old, decaying, dead a long time. They remained on the outskirts of the town, John still on his knees, memories of his old home flooding back to him. Thoughts of Chris entered his mind, as well as thoughts of his departed best friend Jacob. Despite all his efforts to keep his composure, John started to cry.
Zelda felt sorry for him. She walked over to him, knelt beside him, and hugged him protectively.
“Now what do we do?” William asked, irritated.
“I suggest that we take a long around,” Aaron said. “There may not be much left, but it’s worth a shot.”
They began to walk through the ghost town. John’s walk was more solemn than the rest. He had spent almost his entire life in Baru. It was hard enough after Ganondorf’s first attack on the town three years ago. Once the Evil King was defeated, the remaining townsfolk, John included, began the restoration and rebuilding of Baru. Now, in front of him, stood the old ruins of his once happy home.
Robert sensed John’s sadness, and his look confirmed it. Slowing his pace, Robert fell back right beside John and put his right hand on John’s left shoulder.
“I’m sorry that you have to see all this.”
John smirked a little, then turned his head to face Robert. “That’s okay.”
“If it helps any, just remember that this isn’t our world.”
“No, it’s not,” John agreed, but added, “This is what our world could’ve been like.”
Robert nodded. “I suppose you’re right. But try to see around that.”
John sighed. “I’ll try.”
The group continued walking down what was left of the town’s main street. The streets were littered with merchants’ carts, and wagons were overturned in several places. The saloons, inns, and general stores along the sides were disheveled and barely standing. At the end of the stretch of street stood a large building. They stopped in front of it.
John began to shake.
“What’s wrong?” Robert asked, fully aware of John’s involuntary reaction.
“This is the Town Center. It’s where myself, Chris, Liz… and Jacob… used to go…”
Robert sighed. He didn’t know what to say anymore. The recent death of Nick was enough, but now John was reliving the deaths of his family and friends, especially Jacob. From out of nowhere, at least in Robert’s point of view, Zelda appeared and hugged John. He hugged back, tears rolling down his cheeks.
“It’s okay, John,” Zelda tried to comfort him.
“Jacob died honorably. You don’t need to worry yourself with him. He’s in a better place now.”
Robert stood aside, hating the old clichés that Zelda was using. Despite that, it seemed to be working. John was beginning to calm down.
“But the town…” he started.
“That’s why we’re here,” Zelda continued, everyone else now looking on. “We’re going to make sure that Baru and the rest of Hyrule don’t suffer the same fate as this place has.”
John realized that Zelda was speaking the truth, and he felt some of his pain lift off. Not all, but some. It was just enough for him to regain his composure. He nodded his thanks to Zelda, and she returned it with a smile.
There was an awkward silence for a few moments as none of the others wanted to get back to the task at hand and appear rude to John. Finally, Aaron broke the silence.
“I don’t think we’re going to find anything of use here.”
“You’re right about that,” William said as he walked back over to the group from one of the buildings. No one had even noticed he had left.
“Where were you?” Michael wondered aloud.
“Over there,” William pointed.
They all looked at the faded sign over the door. JOSEPH’S FOOD MART.
Link rolled his eyes. “Of course.”
“So there was nothing?” Robert asked, getting back to the point.
“No,” William answered. “Not in there anyway.”
“And probably not anywhere else,” Aaron added. “I think it’s time we move on.”
“But to where?” Michael asked in general.
“To the north,” Link replied.
“Why north?” Robert asked.
Link turned his head to the west. “Because over there is Lake Hylia. We can follow the river north, which will bring us to Gerudo Valley.”
Aaron shrugged his shoulders. “Might as well. We don’t really have any other ideas.”
They all mumbled their agreement.
“Then let’s go north,” Link stated as he began to walk.
The rest of them followed, with the exception of John. He remained behind them, staring up at the large building where he had so many fond memories. Some of the stone on top crumbled and fell to the ground. John watched it fall, stared at it on the ground for a few seconds, then walked over to it. He stared at it for a little longer before picking it up and putting it in his bag.
With one last look up at the crumbling structure, John turned and headed toward the others.
* * * *
William looked west toward the sun as it made its way toward the horizon. The day seemed to drag on forever, and he couldn’t believe that it was only this morning that they had been held prisoner in the Malfos dungeons. It was only this morning that we lost Nick, he corrected himself, clearly understanding which one was more important.
As his thoughts turned to the morning’s events, William suddenly remembered Nick’s sword. The slow intensification of the glow had been almost unnoticeable. It was almost as if the phenomenon didn’t want to be seen by anyone. Well it failed, William thought. I saw it. But he couldn’t figure out what it meant. The glow never got to the point where it was unmistakable. In fact, it was a very soft glow, which made William initially think that he had imagined it. However, his instincts were telling him differently.
Involuntarily, he found himself looking at Nick’s sword. Link had been carrying it all done, slung over his back. William found that he was staring intently at the sword, and no amount of will power could pry his eyes off of it. His eyes didn’t want to take their eyes off it in case the event should ever happen again, but he doubted it would.
And then it lit up.
William’s eyes widened. The phenomenon occurred in the same fashion as the first time he saw it. The soft, eerie glow of the blade was barely noticeable, but William was sure that he wasn’t imagining it. In an attempt to prove his sanity to himself, he grabbed Michael’s arm and shook it violently.
“What’s wrong with you?” Michael asked rhetorically, annoyed at the sudden jolt of his body. He had become exhausted.
“Do you see that?” William asked excitedly.
“Nick’s sword! Look!”
Michael looked up at Nick’s sword.
“What about it?”
William sighed in disappointment and his heart sank. The glow was gone.
“What about it, William?”
He shook his head. “Never mind. It was nothing.”
Confused, and slightly annoyed still, Michael faced forward again.
William tried to figure out if what he had seen had just been another trick his eyes were playing on his mind. He tried to dismiss it as so, but there was something inside him telling him that he was seeing this for a reason, and that it would prove vital later. He only wished he knew for what.
“A house!” Aaron shouted.
“Where?” Link asked him.
“On top of that hill to the east.”
They all looked, and sure enough, there stood a solitary house in the middle of nothingness. Smoke billowed out of the fireplace, and from this distance, the house looked inhabited and fairly well kept. Without so much as another word, all of them turned and headed toward the house.
* * * *
“Welcome, I’ve been expecting you,” the old man said in his same old voice.
“I should’ve known it was you,” Link said curtly. “No one in their right mind would live in a place like this.”
“Now, now. I mean you no harm.”
“What about Nick?” Aaron asked angrily.
“Nick? As yes, the Fallen One,” the old man recalled aloud.
“The Fallen One?” Aaron yelled back. He made an attempt to rush the old man, but Robert and William held him back.
“Do you mean to tell me that you knew he would be killed?” Link asked in a serious, calm tone.
Michael didn’t like that response. “Not entirely? What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
The old man’s tone of voice remained calm and cool. “I knew one of you would fall, but I did not know whom exactly.”
“Why didn’t you tell us when we last talked?” Aaron jumped in, yelling at the top of his lungs, Robert and William still restraining him.
“Wait,” Link stopped them all. He turned to Aaron. “You talked to him recently?”
“Michael and I found him after you were all taken. He told us how to get you out,” Aaron answered Link, without moving his eyes off of the old man. “Now,” he said, “why didn’t you tell us?”
“If I had informed you of the inevitable, would you have not tried to stop it?”
“Of course,” Aaron replied.
“Therein lies the problem.”
“How so?” Link asked, curious.
“If your two friends here had known that one of you was to die, they wouldn’t have gone through the same actions to save you.”
“So?” Aaron replied, annoyed.
“If you had done any action differently, you would all be dead.”
“So what you’re saying is that what Michael and Aaron did was the only way for them to do it?” Robert tried to figure out.
“Precisely. Otherwise, you would not be here today.”
“I don’t like it,” William commented.
“You don’t have to,” the old man stated.
Link changed the subject. “So what do we do now?”
“Northwest of here lies the ruins of Gerudo Valley. You must pass through there into the Haunted Wastelands. From there, you must turn northeast and reach another town’s ruins. Then, turn south to reach the castle.”
“Why do all that when we can just go northeast from here and reach the castle?” John asked.
“It is impossible. South of the castle lies a lake that is consumed with evil. There is no way to cross it. And to the east of that lies the Dark Wall. Its magic repels anything that dares approach it.”
“Good reasons,” William joked, but none of them were laughing.
“Is that all?” Link asked.
“There is one more thing,” the old man started. He paused. “Another one of you will fall.”
“Why you rotten old man!” Aaron shouted as he leapt at the old man. Robert and William were too slow to react, and Aaron jumped at him.
The old man laughed and disappeared. Aaron fell on his face on the hard soil. The house was gone and it had become night. This didn’t shock any of them anymore.
“Well,” John said. “It looks like we’re camping here for the night.”
“Agreed,” Link said. “We’ve got a long day ahead of us tomorrow,” he paused. “But we’re almost there. I can feel it.”
They emptied their bags and set up their sleeping arrangements, always keeping one person on duty.
The group’s spirits had risen since the night before. If what the old man told them was true, then they were almost done their journey. Sure, they still had some distance to go, but the finish line was drawing near. On the mainland, they had no idea as to how long it would take them to trek across it. But here, on the somewhat familiar grounds of a dead Hyrule, the end was in sight.
Their walks had a little more bounce to them, and their faces showed signs of expectation and relief combined (the old man’s recent prophecy forgotten). For a change, they were not greeted with silence on their long walk. Instead, conversations turned to joyous and humorous times gone by, and those sure to come. William was already planning on attending many feasts upon their return.
“It will be a great feast!”
They all laughed.
“What if they don’t have one?” Aaron remarked.
“Then I’ll throw one!” William exclaimed. He paused as they laughed a little more. “Hell, I’ll throw one regardless!”
“Oh William,” Zelda teased. “What are we going to do with you?”
“Well that’s easy!” Robert yelled out. “Feed him!”
John felt relieved at the sights and sounds of the rejuvenated group. Seeing them so happy eased his pain. He hadn’t forgotten what the ruins of Baru looked like, and he didn’t think he ever would. But, for the time being, he was able to put it all behind him and was looking forward to returning home, to the real Baru.
Link led the Knights into song. They had several war songs that they sang, although not well. Zelda and Michael didn’t know any of the words, but the others did. Michael listened intently. He wanted to be a Knight, and knowing their fight songs was something he had always wanted. The songs were mostly tales of old, legends that had been passed on from generation to generation. They told of a bold warrior named Harkinian that strived to unite the land under one ruler. They told of monsters and demons, heroes and maidens. They even spoke of Link. When they got to those parts, Link shut his mouth, while the others yelled louder.
When the singing (if it could be called that) was done, Zelda applauded as if she had just seen an amazing play. The five of them bowed in her direction and laughed.
“Well, that was fun,” Link said, a little out of breath.
“Sure was. It was a nice break from…” Robert gestured all around them, “…all of this.”
Link took a deep breath, and let it out. “I guess we should be moving on then.”
“Do we have to?” William pouted like a child.
Aaron put his arm over his shoulders. “Don’t worry, William. We can play when we get home,” he joked.
Aaron held up his right hand. “Promise.”
“Shall we get going, then?” Michael said, trying to nudge them along.
“Let’s go,” John added, anxious to get back home, back to Baru, and back to Chris.
Indeed, they all felt a bit of homesickness, but it wasn’t anything they hadn’t dealt with long before. This journey itself was a constant reminder of home. A home tarnished and destroyed, but home nonetheless.
They continued their march along the Hylian River. It had started to become narrower as they moved north, away from its mouth. The source of the river was located way up in Death Mountain Range, on the other side of the island. But they weren’t headed that far. Not yet at least. Their first destination was the ruins of Gerudo Valley.
They were all still in good spirits, but each had turned to their own inner thoughts. Thoughts of loved ones, home, good food, and the beautiful landscape of Hyrule flashed through their heads. They were so engrossed in their day dreaming that none of them noticed the slight glow emanating from Nick’s blade, still strapped to Link’s back.
No one, except William. He stared at the blade; his eyes squinted, trying to figure out if the illusion was just that. He looked around from person to person and realized that none of them were paying attention. A Stalfos could sneak up on them and they’d be none the wiser, he thought at that moment. He shook his head and turned his concentration back on the glowing sword, only it wasn’t glowing anymore. William sighed angrily and frowned, but again, no one noticed. He was really starting to hate that sword. But that gut feeling took hold of him again. He knew it would be important, but how still remained a mystery.
He felt himself starting to get a headache, and he shook the thoughts of the blade out of his head for the moment. He glanced around each of the others again and shrugged his shoulders. Why not? he said to himself, and began to daydream.
* * * *
The blistering sun was high in the sky by the time they reached the entrance to the desert. Miraculously, the beginnings of the desert looked almost exactly the same as Link had remembered it from home. The dry, cracked earth seemed to have been frozen in time, yet when the wind blew, dirt swirled around.
They made their way through the small ravine that led to the Gerudo’s Fortress back in their Hyrule. As they neared the cliff that hung over the raging river below, Link was convinced that his eyes were playing tricks on him. Stretching across the canyon, exactly as it had been, was the Gerudo Bridge. It swung softly in the wind and there were no visible signs of weakness from decay or weather. It was in perfect condition.
And Link didn’t like it at all.
“Finally,” William exhaled with relief. “Something has gone our way.”
“That’s for sure,” John agreed. “This is nothing like that bridge in Shakar.”
Michael didn’t care. His body became stiff at the sight of the long drop, and his breathing became erratic and quick. He didn’t care that this bridge looked to be in great shape. In fact, that’s not even what he saw. All he could see was the rickety old bridge that they had to cross to reach the other side of the Chasm of the Damned, and that frightened him to death.
Robert noticed Michael’s behavior. In fact, he had been expecting it. He walked over to where Michael had retreated and looked him in the eyes.
Michael’s eyes darted around, looking at anything and everything in view. Anything but Robert.
“Michael, we’re going to need to cross this bridge.”
“Yes. Link needs us. We have to help him. And in order to do that, we have to put all of our fears behind us and face the reality of the situation.”
“Which is?” Michael seemed to gain some composure back.
“That if we don’t cross this bridge, then there may be no hope for this world… or ours.”
That note struck a chord in Michael’s brain. Suddenly, a vision of Catherine flashed before his eyes. He loved her and needed to see her and touch her again. Slowly, more composure crept into him.
Robert went for broke. He knew the one thing that Michael wanted most out of this entire journey, so he used it as blackmail.
“If you don’t cross this bridge and conquer your fears,” he began, pointing at the bridge with his head, “then you will never become a Knight of Hyrule. And you can count on that.”
Michael felt it snap inside. Not become a Knight? he thought. Ever? He wasn’t sure if Robert was just bluffing in order to get him to cross the bridge, but he wasn’t about to take that chance. Summoning up all his will and determination, Michael looked Robert square in the eyes.
“Let’s cross this bridge.”
Robert smiled. The kid had guts, he had to give him that. He was still inexperienced, but Robert could see the potential in Michael. It was there, although at times it was overshadowed by his unresolved fears. The two of them headed over to the bridge just as Link and Zelda made it safely to the other side.
“So how is it?” Robert asked the remaining three.
“Seems safe enough,” Aaron said hesitantly.
“Safe enough?” William asked sarcastically. “There’s nothing to worry about! This bridge is in perfect shape!”
Aaron sighed. “That’s exactly what I’m worried about.”
“So what are you going to do? Stand here while the rest of us leave you behind?” William continued. Aaron didn’t answer. “Well, suit yourself, but I’m going across.” He turned toward Michael. “You coming willingly this time?”
“You bet,” Michael answered enthusiastically, pleasing William.
“And he’s afraid of heights!” William threw at Aaron. “He’s willing. Why aren’t you?”
Aaron still didn’t answer. He knew better than to argue with William. It never went anywhere.
“Let’s go, Michael.”
Michael and William stepped foot on the bridge and started there way across. Halfway over, William stopped moving forward and jumped up and down repeatedly on the bridge.
“See?” he yelled back. “It’s fine!”
The demonstration of the bridge’s integrity was enough to convince John to head over. Without saying anything to either Robert of Aaron, he walked across and safely reached the other side.
“It’s safe,” Robert stated to Aaron.
“Seems that way, but I have a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach.”
They stood in silence for a moment.
“So, shall I go first, or do you want the honors?” Robert asked.
Aaron sighed. “I’ll go. This way you can make sure I don’t turn around and run like hell.”
Robert laughed, and Aaron joined in. Still laughing, Aaron headed onto the bridge with Robert right behind him.
On the far side, the other five were waiting patiently for the two Knights to make their way across. While the other four of them were in high spirits, there was something amiss that Link couldn’t put his finger on. He hadn’t known that Aaron had a bad feeling about it as well, so he kept it to himself, blaming it on nerves. It’s been a long journey, he told himself. You’re just a little on edge. But he felt like it was more than that. The atmosphere didn’t seem right.
Robert and Aaron were now halfway across the bridge, and Aaron’s doubts finally began to subside. As it turned out, it was a little too soon.
A gust of wind appeared out of nowhere, sending the bridge into a tantrum of rocking and twisting. The two Knights were initially caught off guard and barely managed to grab a hold of the ropes in time. Struggling to maintain their balance, they held on for dear life.
“Go!” Robert yelled up to Aaron, but even from the short distance between them his voice was overpowered by the winds. Aaron looked back and thought he saw an image of Ganondorf in the clouds, creating the winds with his mouth. Shaking it from his mind, he looked at Robert.
His voice was still being drowned out by the winds, but Aaron could make out what Robert was saying. With a simple gesture of pointing coupled with a facial expression that resembled panicking, Robert indicated what he wanted. And Aaron obliged.
The two made their way toward the other side where they could see the other five scrambling to reach them. Link was already on the bridge and was ordering the rest of the men to stand back. Aaron locked his eyes on Link, giving it his all just to reach the Hero of Time. Link was shouting as well, but Aaron couldn’t hear a thing.
As the two made it closer to the end of the bridge, Link reached out with his hand as far as he possibly could. Aaron’s attention shifted from Link to his hand. He reached out for it and firmly grasped it. With the help of Link, Aaron was successfully able to reach the other side. Relieved, Aaron smiled and even let out a small laugh. He had been so scared for his life just then that he found it amusing. He turned back around and suddenly realized that no one else found it funny.
The bridge had collapsed.
Aaron counted bodies around him, and only counted 6, including himself. He then realized that Link was lying on the ground, his upper body dangling over the edge of the cliff. He ran to him.
Sliding beside Link, Aaron finally saw Robert. He was dangling over the river, his entire body being supported by the last remaining rope that he had been able to grab a hold of. Link was desperately trying to reach his troubled friend, but the distance was just too great.
“Link!” Aaron yelled. “Hold on to my legs!”
Link nodded and Aaron moved into position. Grabbing a firm hold of Aaron’s feet, Link shouted that he was ready. Slowly, he lowered Aaron down over the cliff.
“Robert!” Aaron yelled down. “I’m coming! Don’t let go!”
Robert looked up at Aaron, down at the river below, then up at Aaron again. “Thanks for the tip!” he yelled sarcastically.
Aaron reached out with his hand, and Robert used all his strength to reach for it with his free hand. Even with Link’s help, Aaron was still not close enough.
“I can’t get any closer!” Aaron yelled. “You’ll have to climb!”
Robert nodded, with discomfort. The pain in his left hand and arm was already beginning to overpower him. Desperately, he reached up with his right hand and grabbed the rope above where his left hand already was. With great effort, he pulled himself up a little more, but still not close enough to Aaron’s outstretched hand.
“I can’t make it!” Robert exclaimed.
“Yes you can!” Aaron answered. “Come on!”
Robert let go with his left hand and struggled to move it above his right. His face grimaced in pain and frustration as his muscles seemed to give up on him. He was now holding on by his right arm alone, and the burden that his left arm felt just moments earlier was beginning to take its toll. He knew it was over.
His eyes watering, he looked up at Aaron. “Go on without me!”
“What? Are you crazy? There’s no way we’re leaving without you!”
Robert’s gaze remained fixed and his tone became calm. “The old man said that another one of us would fall. It seems as though he was being literal.”
“No! Don’t give up! Grab onto my hand!”
“Tell the others that I wish them the best of luck,” Robert continued, his speech still eerily calm. Aaron looked at him in disbelief. “Goodbye, my friend,” Robert said.
He let go.
“No!” Aaron screamed at the top of his lungs as the others peered over the cliff in disbelief and sadness.
Robert fell and plunged deep into the river below. None of them moved. Even Aaron remained where he was, dangling by his feet. They all watched the river until they saw his body. Moments passed in silence and anxiety as they each prayed for him to be alright. Finally, his body emerged from the waters.
It was limp and was carried away by the current.
* * * *
No one said a word about it.
They remained near the edge of the cliff for the night, none of them uttering a word to anyone. Most of them weren’t even thinking; they just zoned out and stared at nothing. The wind that had claimed their friend had died down as abruptly as it had started, but none of them seemed to notice.
Link broke his trance and looked around from person to person. Each had a blank expression on their faces, including Zelda, even though tears streamed down her cheek. He opened his mouth to say something, but nothing came to mind. All that came out was an indistinguishable noise. Again, no one noticed.
When morning came, Link finally got around to telling the others that they needed to move on. He told them that Robert wouldn’t have wanted them to stand around grieving for him in the middle of a mission. That they should wait until they were back home in Hyrule to grieve. And although none of them felt that waiting was appropriate, they gave in and continued on their journey.
They entered what remained of the Gerudo Fortress. Unlike the bridge, the fortress hadn’t fared well against the elements. Time and weather had taken their toll, and there wasn’t much left. Link hadn’t been expecting anything, so it wasn’t a disappointment in his eyes.
“This place is a mess,” William commented as they walked passed the first buildings.
No one responded to it, nor did he want any reaction. He just said it to break the long silence that had fallen upon them.
After another few minutes of silence, Michael spoke up.
“Do you know where we’re headed, Link?”
He nodded. “Just beyond the fortress lies the Haunted Wasteland.”
“Oh.” After a short pause, Michael continued. “What’s in the Haunted Wasteland?”
“Nothing really. Just a lot of wind and sand,” Link answered. Then he added, “Oh yeah, there’s a ghost too.”
John stopped dead in his tracks. “A ghost?” he asked, trying to figure out if Link was kidding or not.
Link heard the frightened tone in John’s voice. “Relax, John. It’s nothing more than a poe. It helped me cross the wastelands successfully on my first visit here.”
John felt a little relieved.
“But that was in our Hyrule,” Aaron commented. “Who knows what’s out there in this world.”
John stopped dead again. Michael walked back toward him. “Come on, John. I crossed a bridge… no, two bridges, and I’m afraid of heights. You’re crossing this desert, ghosts or not.”
John nodded and they headed toward the Haunted Wasteland.
* * * *
She was taking a stroll alongside the lake when she saw it. It had been so long since she had seen another person that at first she thought she was just imagining it. But as she moved closer to the form protruding from the bank of the lake, she become more and more sure of herself.
She gasped as she realized that the body wasn’t moving. Not by choice anyway, she thought to herself. She rushed up to it and knelt down beside him. Right away, she noticed that he was strong and good-looking. Oh please don’t let him be dead. She placed her hand over his mouth and prayed.
She felt him breathe. It was slow, but it was definitely there. Double-checking herself, she placed two fingers on his neck and waited for a pulse. It too was there, although faint.
“I need to get you inside,” she told the unconscious man. “Somehow,” she said aloud, to herself.
She struggled to move his body. His body was deadweight and it wasn’t helping matters. Finally, she stood near his head and put him into a sitting position. Getting behind him, she wrapped her arms around his chest and dragged him away from the lake.
* * * *
Robert moaned and slowly opened his eyes. He found himself in a bed, staring at the ceiling of someone’s house. His eyesight was poor and he found it hard to focus on any specific object in the room. He raised his hand to his forehead.
“I’m… alive?” he asked himself.
The response caught him completely by surprise, and his hand reacted by reaching for his sword, but it wasn’t there. He looked at the figure that had entered the room and thought that he recognized it.
“Lindsay?” he asked, confused. His eyes were still cloudy, but just as he finished saying her name, they seemed to clear up automatically.
The woman standing there morphed from the image of his lost loved one to the face of another woman whom he had never seen.
“You’re not Lindsay,” he said, as if she had been trying to play off that she was.
“No, I’m not,” the woman responded, matter-of-factly.
“Who are you?” Robert asked. Then, without hesitation, “Where am I? How did I get here? What day is it?”
“Easy there,” she said, holding her hands out as if to say ‘slow down.’ “Let’s take this one question at a time.”
“Who are you?”
“My name is Lisa,” she introduced herself. “As for where you are, you’re in my house on the shores of Forbidden Lake.”
Robert was puzzled. “Forbidden Lake? I’ve never heard of it.”
“Well,” she said, “that’s just the name I’ve given it. It had a real name once, long ago, but it has since been forgotten. Like much of this land.”
Robert tried to get up, but found it hard to move.
“Please, try to remain calm…” she fumbled for his name, knowing full well he hadn’t given it yet.
“I apologize for my rudeness. My name is Robert.”
“Try to relax, Robert.”
He listened and laid back down in the bed. “How long have I been here?”
“About a day,” she answered. “I’m surprised you awoke so soon.” She paused. “May I ask what you were doing out there all alone?”
Robert sighed. “I wasn’t alone. I was with a group of my friends. We were on a long journey, and I got separated from them just yesterday.”
“The bridge over the river collapsed and I fell from the top of the cliff.”
“Bridge?” she questioned. “What bridge? There hasn’t been a crossable bridge in this parts for as long as I can remember.”
“Well, we certainly found one. Although now I think that it was just a trap for us.”
“Oh,” she said.
Silence fell between them, and Robert began to grow uncomfortable. He decided to start talking about her.
“So who else lives here?”
“No one,” she answered. “I live by myself. In fact, you’re the first person I’ve seen in many years.”
“You’re here all by yourself?” Robert asked, surprised.
“Well, I do have a couple of horses to keep me company, but that’s about it. The lands around here aren’t very inhabitable.”
“But you’ve managed to survive.”
“I suppose.” She then changed the subject. “You should rest a while longer. I’ll fix us something to eat in a few hours.”
“Sounds good,” Robert replied. He rested his head on his pillow and she began to leave the room. “Lisa,” he called out. She turned around to face him. “Thank you. For everything.”
She smiled. “It’s my pleasure.”
She left the room and Robert fell asleep.
* * * *
It was impossible to see in the wastelands.
But they continued their march through it, all of them relying on Link’s memory of the region. The old flagpoles that used to show the way were worn down, some of them even completely knocked down. Talking was also impossible in the harsh winds of the wasteland. Instead, they needed to rely on hand signals and gestures to communicate with each other.
Link stopped again, as he had done many times since they entered the Haunted Wasteland. Covering his face with his arms as best he could, he surveyed the surroundings for the umpteenth time. He was growing worried that he was leading them in circles and that they would be stuck in the wastelands forever.
Not forever, he thought to himself. The wasteland would kill us off in a day or so.
He forced the thought out of his head. There was no use dwelling on what may be, as well as what might have been. It was a lesson he had learned long ago. Focusing back on the task at hand, he noticed the splintered ends of one of the flagpoles in the distance (which turned out to be only twenty yards or so). He turned around to inform the others.
And two of them were missing.
His eyes widened as far as they would go in the sandstorm. He dropped his arms from his face, fully exposing it to the harsh environment. Gesturing with both his arms, he signaled for them all to huddle in together. Once they were in a circle, Link looked at every one.
He saw Zelda, William, and John.
“Where are Aaron and Michael?” Link called to the other three.
They could faintly hear him, but they were fully aware that their numbers had dwindled. Each of them shrugged their shoulders and shook their head. Link turned around and looked all around them.
“Michael? Aaron?” he yelled, and was meet with a mouthful of sand. He began coughing and quickly realized that yelling for them wouldn’t serve him any good. Reluctantly, but decidedly, he motioned for them to continue on their way.
The other three knew that there was nothing that could be done, but that didn’t matter. It was disheartening having to leave Michael and Aaron behind, wherever they were. It would be up to the two of them to find their way out of the wasteland.
* * * *
Aaron and Michael stopped again. They had lost sight of Link and the others what seemed like hours ago. Since then, they had blindly traveled through the Haunted Wasteland, hoping to inadvertently find the way out. So far, they weren’t having any luck.
“We’re getting nowhere,” Michael said, his voice struggling against the wind and sand.
“Gotta keep moving!” Aaron shouted back. “I’m not giving up!”
Michael nodded his agreement, and the two of them covered their faces once more and headed in a direction they hoped would get them out of the wasteland.
* * * *
The four of them continued through the wasteland. Link still led the way, and the other three followed him without a second thought. But the long march was beginning to take its toll on them.
William was tired. He had been tired for quite a while now, but his sheer determination was keeping him going. He didn’t want to lose sight of the other three as Aaron and Michael apparently had done. He had fallen behind them, and he could barely see John’s back although he couldn’t have been more than ten yards away.
He made an attempt to yell up to John, but as soon as he had uncovered his face and opened his mouth, he was greeted with pain. Sand bombarded his face and mouth, and he began to cough violently as his body tried to expel the foreign matter. He fell to his knees, still coughing. As he finally was able to bring himself under control, he looked up. No one was in sight.
He went to yell again, but decided against it, not wanting to go through the coughing attack that he had just calmed. Standing up, he looked all around him, but still couldn’t find any signs of John, Link, or Zelda.
Just great, he thought to himself. This is not what I needed.
He picked a direction and began walking.
* * * *
John felt like there was something wrong, but he couldn’t place his finger on it. Initially, he just played the feeling off from the fact that they had lost Aaron and Michael somewhere. But now the feeling was closer, as if something or someone close by was in trouble. Ahead of him, Link and Zelda continued on, searching for the way out of the Haunted Wasteland. Behind him, William was…
He saw no sign of William. Immediately he stopped and looked all over, but he couldn’t find William anywhere.
“William!” he yelled, making sure not to let any sand enter his mouth by shielding it with his hands. Unfortunately, that made his voice come out muffled, and he doubted that William would’ve even heard him if he was there.
And now, John was torn between walking back a little to look for William, or to stay within sight of Link and Zelda. He glanced back around to see the two of them still walking on, paying no attention to the lack of people behind them. John sighed.
Those two will be fine as long as they stick together. And William is by himself, he reasoned in his mind. Nodding to himself, he turned his back on Link and Zelda and began looking for William.
* * * *
Link and Zelda continued on, oblivious to the fact they were all alone. It took a random look back by Zelda to realize this.
“Link, where is everyone?” she asked him through the wind.
He turned around and finally noticed that none of the others were behind them anymore. He cursed himself for not making sure of their presence earlier and often, but there was nothing he could do about that now. He sighed.
“Shouldn’t we go look for them?” Zelda asked.
“No. There’s no use.”
“What do you mean?” she asked, offended, although it was hard to tell through the sandstorm.
“They could be anywhere. The best thing for us to do is to get out of here and hope that they make it on their own. They’re not going to go down without a fight,” he reasoned. “Come on, we’ve got to keep moving.”
He began to walk away, and she took one last look back into the sandstorm. She prayed for each of them before turning back around and joining Link.
They ate dinner in the small dining room in Lisa’s home. Throughout the meal, they made small talk, mostly observations and stories from their pasts, but nothing very telling. Robert enjoyed the meal. It was perfectly cooked and every bite was even better than the last. Lisa enjoyed the company. It had been so long since she had seen, let alone spoken, to another person.
After eating, Robert helped Lisa clean the dishes. During that time, they made more small talk, but there were greater questions on each of their minds. When they retreated to the living room area, they both decided to follow up on their curiosities.
“Why are you…” they both started to ask at the same time, resulting in a smile.
“After you,” Robert said politely, gesturing with his hand for her to ask her question.
“No,” she replied. “I insist that you ask first. After all, you are a guest.”
Robert smiled. “Very well.” He shifted his legs around in front of him. “Why are you here? There’s no one else around. And for that matter, how have you survived? You seemed rather distant when I mentioned it earlier.”
She took a deep breath. “I know. It’s just that… it’s a long story.”
“I’ve got some time.”
She nodded. “I’ve been here by myself for just about six years now.” She stopped and thought about what to say next. Robert helped her along.
“Why did you come here?”
“Because of a child.”
“A child?” Robert was confused. “Were you pregnant?”
Lisa shook her head. “No no no… I was urged to come here.”
“Urged? By whom? A child?”
“Yes.” She saw the rather confused look in his face. “Perhaps I should go back to where it all started.”
“About seven years ago, I was taking a morning walk on the outskirts of my hometown, Gatero. In the distance, I could see a traveler, and from his slumping walk and weak posture, I could tell that he had been on a long journey and needed aid. So I rushed over to the man, only when I got there, it wasn’t a man at all. I was shocked by the presence of a boy, and from the looks of it, not even a teenager.”
Robert’s eyebrows rose as something began to connect in his mind. He didn’t quite know what the connection was, but he felt that there was something there. He continued to listen.
“He was in very bad shape, so I took him to my parents’ home in town. We gave him plenty of food and water and gave him a bed to rest in. He didn’t say much the first day or so because of his extreme exhaustion, but we knew he was thankful for our hospitality.” She took a drink of water, then continued. “On the second or third day, he was already strong enough to help around the house. He kept on telling us how grateful he was and that we had saved his life. He said that he didn’t have a way to repay us except for his help in our everyday chores. Life around the house changed dramatically that day. I didn’t have any siblings, and I began to think of him as my little brother.”
“Where did he come from?”
She took another sip of water. “He never told us exactly. I kept on asking him why he had been traveling alone. For the longest time, he wouldn’t give so much of a hint of the truth, so I feared that he had been part of a traveling bandwagon that had been attacked by thieves and he was all that remained. But after a while, several months actually, he told us some of his past. Apparently, he had an argument with his father and had run away. He wouldn’t go into it any further, but it was apparent that he had no intention of going back.”
Something should’ve clicked in Robert’s mind, but it didn’t. He was intent on listening to her entire story that he pushed off the coincidences without a second thought.
“So was it because of him that you ended up here?”
She sighed and looked up at the ceiling momentarily, as if the story had been written on it. “Almost a year after we had found him, he started saying that he had to leave. That he had somewhere to get to. I kept on asking him where, but he wouldn’t tell me. I bugged him to no end about it, and he finally gave in. He told me that he was headed to Forbidden Island, and I couldn’t believe my ears. We tried to convince him not to go to such a terrible place, that it was extremely dangerous. But he didn’t care. Early one morning, he snuck out of the house with some rations and some clothes. I had been up for fear that he would do something drastic like that, so I followed him.” She sighed again as she recollected the events. While telling this part of the story, she didn’t even look at Robert. Instead, she stared blankly at the candle burning in the windowsill. “He walked out of town, down the road that led toward Pomina, a port town. I figured he would try to get on a ship to the Forbidden Island, but I doubted that anyone would take him there. I followed him from a safe distance throughout the dark hours of the morning. When the sun began to rise, I fell further back, hoping that he wouldn’t see me.”
“Yes, but it didn’t seem to bother him. He waited for me on the outskirts of Pomina, and he said that I shouldn’t have come. I told him that if I couldn’t convince him not to go, that I would follow him and make sure that he was safe. He had smiled, and I think that was the last time I saw him smile. Somehow, he found a captain that would take him to Forbidden Island, but it wasn’t leaving for several days. I took this time to send a letter back home because my parents were probably worried sick about me. But the letter never got to them. A messenger showed up in Pomina, returned my letter, and informed me that my parents had been killed in a fire.” Tears began to well up in her eyes as she remembered hearing the news for the first time. Robert walked over to her, sat beside her, and put his arms around her.
“You don’t have to go on if you don’t want to.”
“No, it’s okay,” she said, fighting back tears. “I was so distraught, but Evan didn’t seem to care…”
Robert jumped in surprise. “What was his name?!” he asked.
“Evan. Didn’t I mention that before?” she asked, looking up at him.
“Oh,” she said. “Does it matter?”
He looked at her. “It does indeed. But finish your story first.”
She nodded. “He never really showed any emotion after that, good or sad. When we got to the Island, we marched for several days before we got here. It was then that he left me behind.”
“Left you behind?”
“Yes. He said that the rest of the way was too dangerous and that I would be safe here. Of course, I tried to stop him from leaving, but he wasn’t listening. One morning, I woke up and found him gone. And I’ve been here ever since, hoping that he would return.”
She stopped and there was a silence between them. It lasted for several minutes before she asked, “So why are you here?”
Her question broke his trancelike thoughts. He looked at her, still holding her in his arms. “My friends are I are searching for Evan.”
“What? For Evan? Has he done something wrong?” She was now sitting upright.
“He did,” Robert answered. “But that doesn’t matter anymore. Now it’s just a father hoping to find his son.”
“Are you his father?”
Robert shook his head. “No. He’s the son of Link, the leader of us Knights, and King of Hyrule.”
“A king? In a place like this?” she asked, dumbfounded.
“He’s not the typical king, if that’s what you’re getting at. He hates the word, as a matter of fact. He insists that if we call him anything, to call him Sir Link. Nothing more.”
“Humble royalty? You don’t see that everyday.”
“No, you don’t. He used to be a boy living in the forest before he became the greatest hero the land had seen. He’s a legend back home.”
“So what’s happened?” she asked, now wanting to here his story.
“It’s a long story,” he said, smiling.
“I’ve got some time,” she answered, smiling right back.
* * * *
William continued to walk aimlessly through the wasteland. He had been lost for what seemed like hours now, and he still had seen no signs of the others. He felt like he was walking in circles, but there was no way to tell if he was even doing that. He stopped and reached for his water skin. Trying his best to shield his face, he drank all that was left in it. He sighed.
“You’re going to die out here, you know that, William?” he asked himself aloud. He looked all around him, but the perpetual sandstorm was impossible to see through. “Which way do I go?” he yelled at the top of his lungs, hoping that someone might hear him.
The wind drowned out his voice, and he doubted that anyone could hear him, even if they were nearby. They could be no more than fifty yards away, yet they still wouldn’t be able to see or hear me, he thought. Reluctantly, he picked a direction and walked again.
He walked for another fifteen minutes or so, and a sinking felling began to set in. He had no idea where he was, where he was going, or where he had just been. But he needed to fight on, no matter the odds. And although his mind was still fighting, his body was giving up. He fell hard, face first, into the sand.
He wasn’t sure if he had passed out or not. Not that it really mattered. He was still in the same predicament, only maybe now he was a little rested. He remained where he was.
Why bother? There’s no way I’m ever going to get out of here.
“Don’t give up, William.”
His head bolted upright. The voice was near, but it seemed distant at the same time. It was familiar, yet completely strange. He glanced around and noticed what he thought was a floating figure of a person in the sandstorm.
“What the hell?” he said aloud.
He pulled himself up and faced the ghostly appearance, but he didn’t move any closer to it.
The voice seemed so familiar to him, and despite what he previously decided, he began walking toward the apparition.
“Who are you?” he asked.
“You know who I am,” the apparition said, its voice becoming clearer and more recognizable.
Suddenly, it hit William. “Nick?”
As if on cue, the apparition formed itself into the shape of Nick, and the voice become his. “Hey, William.”
“How…? But you’re… dead…”
“Yes I am.”
“Am I going insane?” William asked.
The apparition laughed. “Of course not, William. You’re perfectly fine. In fact, you’ll make it out of this wasteland in perfect health.”
“I’m beginning to doubt that.”
“Don’t worry,” Nick’s ghost comforted. “The Goddesses are watching over you.”
William squinted his eyes. “Okay, fine, let’s say that I’m not insane and that you really are here. Why?”
“You no doubt have seen my sword on Link’s back.”
William’s eyes lit up. “You mean the glowing isn’t in my head?” he asked, eager to find out if was totally sane.
“That’s right. Although you are the only one who can see it.”
“Why? Why me?”
Nick’s ghost smirked. “I don’t know, William. The Goddesses have plans, but they don’t divulge too many details.”
“Naturally,” William said, disappointed, although he figured as much. “So I guess you’re sword is important then.”
“You might say that.”
“So why does it glow?”
“Now that I can answer. The sword is carrying my spirit within it and will continue to do so until you and the others return to our world.”
“Well isn’t that nice?” William joked. Becoming serious again, “So how will I know when to use it?”
“You’ll know. But until that time, you mustn’t let the others know.”
“Why not? Will it lose its power or something?”
Nick’s ghost smiled and shook its head. “Of course not. They’ll just think you’re insane.”
“Ah, definitely don’t need that,” William commented.
A blue glowing ball appeared next to Nick’s ghost. “This light will lead you out of the wasteland safely. Make sure you don’t lose sight of it.”
“Thank you, Nick,” William said. “For everything that you’ve done for me since I’ve met you.”
“Think nothing of it, my friend.”
William smiled. “I’m just glad I was able to tell you that. Goodbye, Nick.”
“Goodbye, William. And good luck.”
Nick’s ghost disappeared from in front of him. After a moment, the ball of light began to move and William followed it, a single tear running down his cheek.
* * * *
Link and Zelda stopped abruptly. In front of them stood a vision of Evan.
“Evan?” Zelda asked, tears in her eyes at the mere sight of her son. Although the figure was older than the last time she had seen him, she was certain it was Evan.
“Hello Mother. Hello Father,” Evan’s vision said. “I’m glad you’ve made it this far.”
“Evan!” Link yelled. “Stop this nonsense now! We’ve already lost two of my dearest friends!”
Zelda’s blood curdled. “How can you be so insensitive? Nick and Robert were like family!”
“Death is a part of life, Mother. There is no use crying over that which comes to all.”
Zelda began to cry at the lack of humanity that was present in Evan. She moved over to Link and buried herself in his arms.
“Evan,” Link said, more under control. “I said this to you before. You’re being used by Ganondorf.”
“And I believe I told you to come to the castle and see for yourself,” Evan replied.
“That’s what I’m doing, but you’re made it difficult for us.”
Evan’s vision smiled. “Just testing your skills, Father. And I see you’ve kept them sharp over the years.”
“It’s only been two weeks,” Link pointed out.
“To you perhaps. But here in this world, I’ve spent the last seven years mastering my skill. I believe you’ll find me to be a tough foe, Father.”
“But I’m not your enemy! None of us are!”
Evan ignored him. The vision’s attention drifted to that of the crying Zelda. Shaking his head, he made a ball of light appear next to him.
“She is weak.”
“Your actions and words have done this to her!” Link yelled.
Evan again ignored him. “If you wish to get out of this place, follow the light.” The vision faded away. “I await you at the castle,” the lingering voice said.
“Zel, it’s okay now. Evan’s gone.”
“That wasn’t my son,” she said meekly. “My son isn’t so insensitive and heartless.”
“I know,” Link agreed. “Don’t worry. We’ll get our real son back.”
The light flickered and began to move away. They followed it.
* * * *
Robert mounted himself on one of Lisa’s horses.
“Take me with you,” she pleaded.
“No, it’s too dangerous.”
“That’s what Evan said, and I’ve been stuck here for six years!” she cried out. “I will not stay here alone any longer!”
Robert looked into her face and saw in her eyes that there was no convincing her otherwise. He looked up at the sky. It was now early in the morning, and he and Lisa had spent hours the previous night talking about each of their lives. They had told each other everything, even their deepest secrets. Neither of them had known why they would tell such revealing things to someone they had just met, but it just seemed natural to them. There was a connection there that neither of them could put a finger on, although it was fairly obvious. It seemed like they could go on talking like that forever, but eventually it happened: the awkward silence. The death knell for a conversation between two such people usually resulted in a change in the relationship, for better or for worse. They had both sat there smiling during the silence, feeling the urge begin to overwhelm their bodies. As Robert moved in, Lisa regained her will and stood up, saying that she should get some rest. Of course, he had agreed, but he was slightly disappointed.
After she had gone to her bed, Robert thought about her. It was then that he remembered some of her stories. Heartache, pain, and lying littered a bunch of her stories, and Robert figured that she just wasn’t ready yet. He fully understood her feelings, as thoughts of Lindsay had popped into his mind at this point. For the longest time after the incident, he found it heard to thing of another woman in that way. But time heals all wounds, or so they say.
And now, as he stared up at the sky, Robert remembered something else about her stories. As much as there was pain and hardships, there had also been joy and love. He especially remembered the stories during the first year that Evan had showed up in Gatero. But the happy stories ended after Evan fled and Lisa followed him. Ever since, she has been depressed and on the verge of giving up. Robert admired her for her determination to stay alive, even when she had no desire to. Now, here was the first real opportunity for her to get out of this place and feel happiness again. Who was he to deny her such rights as a person? He gave in.
“Alright, you can tag along.” She smiled widely as he said it. “But if we run into trouble, I want you to get to a safe distance.”
Still smiling widely, she nodded her agreement. Before he could say anything else, she ran off to the stables, mounted her other horse, and was back by his side.
“Ready?” she asked him eagerly.
He smiled. “Ready.”
They rode north, along the western bank of the lake.
* * * *
William followed the blue light all through the night, and by early morning, he was where he believed he was supposed to be. The light stopped short of a ruined town, its buildings beaten from the sandstorms that blew through it. But at this moment, the sandstorm didn’t reach the town, and he greeted the welcome relief.
The light faded away, leaving William to himself. He walked passed an old sign. He tried to read it, but the letters had long since been worn off, not to mention that half the sign was missing. Pausing briefly, he scanned the town, looking for a place that he could rest for a little and perhaps find water, although he felt that was unlikely. From where he was, he saw nothing but desolation, so he began walking again.
He made his way down what appeared to be the main street of the town. By this time, he had a hunch of which town it was, but he wasn’t absolutely sure. It wasn’t until he reached the center of the town that he was certain. There, its edges worn away by years of sandstorms, stood a statue of Nabooru. She had been vital in building the town of Salenne and the early citizens had built the statue in her honor. The inscription that had been chiseled into the base had been completely worn away by time, and William couldn’t remember what it had said. He looked up at the statue and sighed. The sight of all the towns of Hyrule in such bad condition was disheartening.
“We have a statue of Darunia in our town,” a voice said behind him.
William turned around quickly to realize that Michael and Aaron were standing behind him, about ten feet away. He smiled.
“Am I glad to see you two,” William said. “I was worried I’d never see anyone again.”
“Yeah,” Aaron said. “It seems as though the will of someone or something made it possible for us to find each other.”
William nodded. “But what about the others? Have you guys seen them at all?”
Michael shook his head. “No. You’re the first one we’ve seen since yesterday. Frankly, we were hoping that you had seen them, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.”
“Well, I don’t know about you two,” Aaron began, “but I’m thirsty. My water supply ran out last night.”
Michael picked up his water skin. “I’m out, too. Let’s take a long around and see if we can’t find an old well or something like that.”
“Either of you know where one might be in this town?” Aaron asked.
William sighed. “I’ve only been to Salenne a couple of times, but I think I remember one being just down the street in that direction.” He pointed to the east.
Aaron looked down the street. “Only one way to find out, I guess.”
“Good enough for me,” Michael said, peering into his water skin.
They headed east down the street that ran perpendicular to the town’s main street. The only noise being made was the sound of the rocks and sand below their feet grinding together as they walked over them. No one said anything. They were all intent on finding the well.
That’s when they heard another sound. They all stopped immediately and listened closely, trying to identify the possible source of the high-pitched squeal. Then it hit Aaron.
“The well!” he shouted and ran off in the direction of the noise.
Michael and William hesitated for another moment, but were soon right on Aaron’s heels, running toward what they hoped would be their salvation. As they rounded a corner, they stopped short again. A figure stood by the well, turning the crank that raised and lowered the bucket. They all watched on.
“John?” Michael asked.
The figure stopped turning the crank and slowly turned around. Indeed it was John.
“Hi, guys,” John said calmly.
They made their way up to John, and more importantly, the well.
“How did you get here?” William asked.
“I followed a blue ball of light,” he responded.
“So did I.”
“As did we,” Aaron said as Michael continued where John had left off on the well.
“Seems like we all got some help from someone,” John said. “But who?”
Michael pulled the bucket out of the well. “We saw a friend of ours who’s been dead for several years now,” he said, referring to Aaron and himself.
“A ghost?” John asked, although he knew it was. Aaron nodded.
“I know it sounds crazy…”
John shook his head. “Not in the least. I saw a ghost myself.”
“Who was it?” William asked.
“My parents. They told me to be strong and make it through this. It was wonderful seeing them again,” he said. “I finally got to tell them goodbye.” John held back tears of joy and sadness as he remembered his parents.
“I saw Nick,” William told them.
They all stopped what they were doing and there was a brief silence.
“You what?” Aaron asked.
“I saw Nick.”
John was wide-eyed. “What did he tell you?”
“He said…” William started to say, but then he remembered that Nick told him not to tell anyone. “I… I can’t tell you.”
“You’re sharing a secret with a ghost?” Michael asked.
“No… well, yes. Trust me, you wouldn’t believe me anyway.”
“I don’t know,” Aaron said. “We all did just see ghosts.”
Michael filled all their water skins with water. They capped them and put them back on their belts, then took turns drinking from the bucket.
“Well, since we all followed blue lights here,” John said, “perhaps Link and Zelda did as well.”
“Right. We should start looking for them,” Aaron added.
“And some food,” William said.
They all stared at him.
“What? We need to eat!”
The other three shook their heads and walked passed him.
* * * *
In the end, William’s suggestion was the answer to both their problems. They found Link and Zelda in a tavern that had miraculously withstood the tests of time. And in that tavern, they found them eating.
“Where did you find this stuff?” Michael asked, even as William was already shoving food down his throat.
Link took a bite of dried meat. “In the storage cellar here. All the dried food had been packaged extremely well and was in very good shape, even after all these years.”
Aaron examined the meat. “I still don’t trust it.”
“Why not?” William said, his mouth full of food.
“Well, it’s supposedly been five hundred years or so since Ganondorf had taken control of the world, correct?”
“I think that’s about right,” John answered. There were no objections.
“No matter how well this food was packaged, I doubt it would be able to withstand such a long time.”
“What are you getting at?” Link asked.
Aaron kept eyeing up the dried meat. “I think someone put this here, and fairly recently.”
“How recent?” John asked, his face distorting as he caught the image of William stuffing his face in the corner of his eye.
Aaron shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know. A few days, maybe? A week? Who knows?”
“Do you think they could still be here?” Zelda asked, starting to feel paranoid as she looked around nervously.
“I doubt it,” Aaron replied.
“I wouldn’t be too worried,” Link said. “We’ve obviously been given help by someone. Whether it be that old man we keep bumping into, or the Goddesses themselves. It doesn’t matter to me.”
“Are you saying that we just take the food without a second thought?” Aaron asked, still eyeing up his piece of meat.
“That’s exactly what I’m saying,” Link answered as he bit down on his own piece.
“I think it’s Evan,” Zelda said abruptly. Link stopped chewing.
“What do you mean by that?”
“When we talked to him, he seemed cold and heartless. But I know that’s not the real Evan. Some monster is using him. But I think that somewhere in that body, the real Evan is trying to get out, and he’s been helping us.”
“Interesting,” Michael said. “Now, when did you talk to Evan?”
“In the Haunted Wasteland. He appeared before us,” Link answered.
They all began telling each of their visions to each other, down to the minutest detail. When they were done, they decided on a course of action. Relying on what the old man had told them outside of Baru, they agreed to head northeast to the ruins of another town. And from what they figured, that town was Dolsena. It was already late afternoon, so they decided to stay the night in Salenne.
They left town with the rising sun and headed northeast. Before setting off, they had made one more stop at the well to refill their water skins. There wasn’t much talking going on between anybody. There wasn’t really a need to, either. They had all gone on about their individual experiences in the Haunted Wasteland, and small talk topics had long run out on their long journey across this mysterious alternate world.
They headed due north of town first, as the Haunted Wasteland still ran alongside the eastern border of Salenne, and none of them wanted to go back into that region. The six of them walked in pairs: Link and Zelda up front, John and Michael behind them, and William and Aaron bringing up the rear. They marched on in silence.
Eventually, Aaron became bored with the silence and needed to talk to somebody, anybody. He didn’t care about what, just as long as someone interacted with him. He turned his attention toward William, who was still walking beside him, although he never would’ve known it if he hadn’t looked. Aaron could see the concentration in his eyes. Something was on his mind.
William didn’t seem to hear him, even though they were walking no more than five feet apart. Aaron glanced ahead of them, and apparently none of the others were paying attention either. He looked back at William.
“Hey, William,” he said, but still got no response. He tried again. “William!” he called out while snapping his fingers in front of William’s face.
“Huh?” William said aloud, blinking his eyes several times as if he had been in a deep trance. He looked over at Aaron. “What did you say?”
“Nothing yet. I was just trying to get your attention.”
“Oh,” William said. He faced forward again. “Well, you’ve got it. Something on your mind?”
Aaron raised his eyebrows. “I was just about to ask you the same thing.”
William looked at him again. “Just thinking.”
Aaron nodded his head. “Ah, from the Haunted Wasteland?”
“Yeah,” William answered, nodding his head as well.
“You never did tell us what he said to you,” Aaron prodded.
“Yes, I did,” William said, although he knew it was a lie. “He said that we were almost done with our journey and that he was watching over us.” William looked straight ahead as he said it, not wanting to look at Aaron’s eyes.
Aaron squinted as he looked over at William. “I don’t believe you,” he said.
“What?” William asked, stopping short. Aaron stopped with him. “Are you suggesting that I lied about seeing Nick?”
“No,” Aaron replied, keeping his eyes fixated on William, who had now turned to face him. “I believe you saw him. I just think you’re lying about what he said.”
They stared at each other for a few moments, until William looked away and began walking again. Aaron followed him.
“Am I right?”
William didn’t answer.
“Yes, you’re right,” William conceded.
“So what did he say, really?”
William kept on walking. “I can’t tell you.”
Aaron didn’t like that answer. “Can’t? Or won’t?”
Aaron sighed. “Why not?”
William stopped short again and looked Aaron in the face. “Because I’m still having trouble believing that it really happened, and that what he told me isn’t just some weird scenario that my subconscious cooked up!”
He said the last part so loud that the other four in front of them stopped and turned around, staring. William looked at each of them, and then returned his attention to Aaron.
“And that’s why I won’t tell you,” he said.
Aaron sighed again. “Okay, William. I won’t bother you about it anymore.”
“Good,” William said back and began to walk. He walked passed everyone before any of them even made a gesture to move. “Let’s go. Dolsena can’t be too far now.”
The remaining five glanced at each other for a moment longer before following him.
* * * *
They rode into town and dismounted their horses, tying them up at an old, rundown stall.
“What town is this?” Lisa asked, looking over the ghost town.
“It used to be called Salenne,” Robert answered. “But it was a lot nicer.”
“I bet,” she commented. “So are your friends here?”
Robert shrugged his shoulders. “Doesn’t look like it. But can’t be sure unless we take a look around town.” He began walking.
She had been gazing around and was caught off guard when he started walking away. Quickly, she jogged to catch up with him. When she was beside him, she slowed to his pace.
They walked down the main street of town, just as the others had done the day before. The large statue of Nabooru stood in the middle of the town, staring them down. They stopped next to it. Lisa knelt by its base and tried to read the worn inscription.
“Nab… Naboo… Naboori?” she tried to read.
“Nabooru,” Robert corrected her. “She’s one of the six Sages and she helped start this town.”
Lisa got up from her knees. “Sounds like a wonderful role model.”
Robert wasn’t sure whether she was being sarcastic or not, so he took her seriously. “Indeed she was, as are the other five Sages.”
“What about your friends?”
“My friends?” Robert asked. “Well,” he thought aloud, “I guess they could be considered good role models.”
She laughed. “No, no. I meant where are they? It doesn’t look like anyone has been here in decades.”
“I’m pretty sure they were here. Look, in the dirt.” He pointed at an area about six feet away from them. “Footprints. And they aren’t ours.”
She looked at the prints and agreed that someone had been there. “But how can you be sure that it was them?”
“Guess I can’t know for sure. Unless, of course, we find them.”
“So what do we do now?”
“Follow the tracks,” he said as he began to do so. She followed.
They followed the tracks down the side street and around the corner until they came up to the old well. On the side of the well, the bucket sat, still with some water in it.
“At least they found some water,” Robert commented. He picked up the bucket and took a mouthful of water. He offered it to Lisa.
“Um… no thanks. I’ll drink out of my water skin.”
Robert shrugged his shoulders again. He looked around them, taking another mouthful of water. “Well, I don’t think they’re here.”
“Why do you say that? We haven’t looked everywhere yet.”
“Yeah, but by now, either one of them should’ve seen us, or we should’ve inadvertently bumped into one of them. If they were here, they probably left in the early morning, when it’s the coolest.”
“Oh,” she simply said.
Silence fell for a moment, but Robert was anxious to find his friends, so it didn’t last long. “Let’s go,” he said.
“Where are we going?”
“To Dolsena. That’s where they’ll be heading next. If we’re lucky, we’ll catch up to them before they get there.”
They walked back to their horses.
* * * *
“Is that it?” Michael asked as the remains of buildings rose in the distance.
“I think so,” Aaron said. “Although we can’t be totally sure until we reach it.”
They had been walking for many hours now. After leaving Salenne in the early morning, they had marched straight through until lunch. Even then, they only took a short break. Just enough to eat some rations and rest their legs. Everyone could see the anxiousness present in Link. His pace had quickened, he spoke less, and he never strayed his eyes off the path they had taken. He was being very deliberate with everything, but at the same time, a sense of urgency emanated from him. Zelda felt the same, although not as much. Her thoughts were more on Evan than on the journey to get to him. She knew he would be there, and she only hoped that she could release him from whatever monster had control over him. She just knew there was something toying with her son.
The other four were slightly anxious, but mostly because they wanted to be home with the people they cared about. They had left their world somewhere around two weeks ago, and homesickness was beginning to set in. Even though that had been on missions that involved an extensive absence from home before, this eerie place with its connections to their own world was the deciding factor. All in all, this wasn’t an entirely different land, just the same land which had come from an altered set of events. They couldn’t wait until they were home.
Michael looked around. He didn’t know how closely this area resembled their own world. He had never been to Dolsena before. In fact, up until this whole thing started, he had barely ventured outside of Oceana. The horizon around them offered up nothing, besides the dead town ahead of them. Michael didn’t like it.
“I hate this place,” he commented to no one in particular.
William chuckled. “You’re not the only one,” he said from behind Michael.
There was a short silence.
“I’ve never been in this area before, even back home,” Michael said, now slowing down so he could walk beside William and Aaron. “I thought we would’ve been able to see the castle from here.”
“Not if it’s in the same place as Hyrule Castle is,” Aaron said. “The lands between are hilly, and one can’t see the castle from this area.”
“Besides,” William said, “I don’t even want to see it. I’d rather it remained out of sight. Because if it’s anything like that tower that stood where Lon Lon Ranch was supposed to be…” William stopped and felt a chill run down his spine. He physically shivered.
“I only saw the tower from afar,” Michael said. “I wasn’t allowed to fight. My father kept on telling me that I was too young.”
“Believe me,” William went on, “you’re lucky you didn’t have to. That tower… it still gives me the chills. And I suspect this castle will do the same.”
Michael sighed, a little frightened now. Aaron saw it in his face.
“Don’t worry, Michael. It’s still only a structure, no matter how intimidating it may seem.”
Michael didn’t seem too relieved.
“He’s right, you know,” William added. “Even with the creepy feeling, I still went into it, and we were able to remove that… thing from Hyrule. Always have confidence in your endeavors.”
Michael nodded. “I guess you’re right. But now,” he said, “I’m not looking forward to seeing it at all.” He tried to smile.
William smiled. “You and me both. You and me both,” he repeated.
They continued walking toward Dolsena.
* * * *
Robert brought his horse to a halt on top of a hill, and Lisa did the same beside him.
“What is it?” she asked.
He looked toward the horizon from his vantage point and saw buildings in the distance. He looked down at the area between his position and the town, and was able to make out several figures.
“There they are!” he shouted.
“What? Where?” She held her hand over her eyes to block out the sun.
“There!” he exclaimed as he pointed directly at them.
She looked in the direction he pointed, and sure enough, she saw the figures making their way toward Dolsena.
“But how can you be sure they’re your friends?”
He smiled. “Trust me. I just know.” She looked into his eyes, and smiled. “We should be able to catch up to them before they reach the town.”
She looked back at them. For no real reason, she looked all around the area in which they were walking and noticed more figures. She turned to Robert.
“How many did you say there were?”
“Six. Why? Aren’t all of them there?” He looked back at the group of travelers.
“Well, yes. All six are there,” she said hesitantly, her voice showing signs of fear.
“Then what’s wrong?”
She sighed. “Then they’ve got company.” She pointed northwest of the group, which was their right.
Robert looked and saw what she meant. Coming from the northwest was a band of creatures. What they were, he couldn’t tell. But that didn’t matter. All that mattered was that his friends were outnumbered.
“Damn it to hell!” he shouted as he brought his horse into a full sprint.
They raced toward the Knights.
* * * *
“Link?” John asked meekly, not sure if Link wanted to talk.
Link turned around. “Yes, John?”
“I’m not bothering you, am I?”
Link smiled. “Of course not, John. What’s on your mind?”
“I was just thinking,” he began, “that it’s been a relatively easy journey today…”
“And you’re worried that something might be up?”
John nodded. “Exactly.”
“I’ve been thinking about that, too,” Link said. “It seems that trouble always seems to find us.”
“So what do we do?”
Link sighed. “There’s not much we really can do, except for what for it. We’ll just have to deal with it as we go along, just like we’ve been doing.”
“I suppose you’re right,” John said, a little more confident. “We’ve been through so much already.”
Link nodded, and John dropped back behind him again. Link sighed.
“What is it?” Zelda asked.
“Link,” she said, looking him directly in the eyes. “I can tell it’s not nothing. Out with it.”
He sighed again. “I just hope that I’m not leading these guys to their deaths.”
“That’s ridiculous!” she exclaimed. “Of course you’re not. They came of their own free will. They trust that you will do everything in your power to ensure their survival.”
“But Nick and Robert…”
“I hope you’re not blaming yourself for their deaths.”
“And why shouldn’t I?” He was both angry and saddened at the same time.
“Link,” she said softly in an effort to comfort him. “You’re not all-powerful. You can’t always save their lives.” He didn’t respond, but she could tell that she was getting through to him. “Your job now is to make sure that they didn’t die in vain. If you start blaming yourself, then you are letting them down as a leader. But more importantly, you’d be letting them down as a friend. Believe in yourself. That’s what they would’ve wanted.”
He sighed again, and smiled.
“I love you, Link. Not because you’re always there to save the day, but because you’re always ready to sacrifice your own life for the safety of others. You never give up.” She grabbed his face in her right hand. “Now don’t give up now.” She kissed him.
“You’re right, Zel,” he finally said. “I have to keep going. For their sake. And Evan’s.”
“Good,” she said and smiled.
Link turned around and saw Aaron running up toward him.
“What is it, Aaron?”
“We’ve got company,” he said, pointing to their right.
Link looked over, and there he saw a band of men running toward them. From the looks of it, they seemed like an ordinary band of thieves. But Link doubted they were anything but ordinary. He unsheathed his sword, and the other Knights did the same.
“Zelda stand back,” Link said to her, without turning his attention away from the oncoming thieves.
“But I want to help!”
“You’ll be more helpful back here!” He turned his attention to his fellow Knights. “Attack!”
The five of them charged their enemy, seemingly outnumbered by at least three to one. The first wave of thieves fell easily at the hands of the more experienced Knights, as did most of the second wave. The leader stood in the back.
“We’ve got them now!” Michael shouted.
The Knights continued ripping through the thieves as they came rushing toward them. One after the other, thieves littered the ground, their blood soaking the dead grass around them. Soon, only the leader was left. Link advanced on him first, with Aaron and William behind him.
“I don’t know who you are,” Link said, his blade pointing directly at the thief’s neck. “But you’re through.”
The thief laughed menacingly.
Link looked at William and Aaron, then back at the thief. “What the hell’s so funny? Do you mock your own death?”
The thief continued laughing.
“Enough of this!” Aaron shouted. “Just kill him, Link!”
He nodded, and prepared to run the thief through, but just as he was about to, movement caught his eye. Link’s heart sank, as did that of the others. Zelda screamed.
The bodies of the killed thieves rose.
“What kind of devilry is this?” William exclaimed.
“I don’t know,” John said. “But we’re in trouble.”
Michael was the first to encounter one of the newly risen thieves. He swung his sword at it, killing it, again. To all of their horror, the creature rose again.
“This is not good,” Aaron stated. “Not good at all.”
The Knights continued to do battle with the seemingly indestructible thieves. Every time they cut one down, it would rise up again, unaffected. Zelda fired a couple of arrows into the fray in order to aid them, but the arrows were just as ineffective as their swords. The Knights scrambled around in utter chaos, uncertain as to how they would emerge from this victorious, and alive.
Link struck down three more, then watched them stand up again. All the while, he noticed that the leader of the thieves stood far away from the battle, never participating. He found it strange, but there wasn’t any time to dwell on it, as the thieves continued their onslaught.
Zelda could only watch on in horror as Link and the others fought desperately. She had wanted to run in there and help them, but she was frozen in terror. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw two riders coming toward them. Although they were within her sight, she didn’t think anything of them. Her gaze was directed toward the mêlée in front of her, and she never noticed that one headed for the battle, while the other headed toward her.
Five of the thieves were now coming at Link, and he didn’t know how he was going to get away from them. They closed in on him, and he swung wildly at all five at the same time. By some stroke of luck, he managed to cut down two, momentarily. They were soon back on their feet and coming toward him.
Suddenly, a single horse with a rider bulldozed its way into the fray, and Link found himself saved for the moment. He looked up as the horse stopped beside him.
Robert smiled. “Looks like you could use my help, Link.”
“But… you fell… the bridge…”
“No time to talk now. We have to get out of this.”
Link nodded. “Right.” The thieves began to rise again. “The head thief. There’s something strange about him…”
“I’m on it,” Robert replied, and before Link count stop him, Robert was off and running toward the leader. Link went back into battle.
Robert rode hard and fast to the lone man standing idly by as the two sides battled. As the head thief realized that Robert was coming for him, he turned around and tried to flee. Robert kicked his horse harder, and gained on the fleeing coward. As he got within striking distance, Robert raised his sword and decapitated the thief.
The head rolled of the shoulders, landing on the ground nearby. But to Robert’s surprise, the rest of the body remained standing where it was. He stared at it, wondering what was going on. Then, the body began to disappear. And there, where the thief had just been, stood the old man.
“What the hell?” Robert cried out. “You!” He pointed his blade at the old man’s throat.
The old man said nothing. Link and Aaron ran up beside Robert.
“What the hell happened?” Aaron asked. “They just disappeared!”
“Just another test,” the old man said.
“Just another test?” Link repeated. “We almost died!”
“But you did not.”
William, John, and Michael ran up to join them. William stopped at the sight of Robert.
“He is not,” the old man answered for him.
William looked at Robert again. “I can’t believe it. You’re alive!”
“Let’s not worry about that right now,” Robert said to William. He turned his attention back to the old man. “You have something to say to us, old man?”
“I was only here to test you.”
“And we appreciate it,” Aaron said sarcastically. “Now if you’ll excuse us, we’re headed to Dolsena.”
Aaron began to walk passed the old man, but he put his hand up. “There’s no use going there. It’s completely destroyed.”
“We might be able to find supplies there,” John said.
The old man shook his head. “There are none. You must continue your journey to the castle. There, all of this will come to an end.”
“Very well, old man,” Link said. “We’ll take your word on it. We’ll head toward the castle, and you better hope that we don’t see you again.”
“There is no more need for me. My work is done,” the old man said. “But you must make it to the castle. There, all will be revealed.”
“What will be revealed?” Michael asked.
The old man disappeared. His voice lingered in the winds. “Go to the castle.”
Lisa and Zelda now joined them, and the eight of them stood there for a moment. Robert dismounted.
“So you’re really alive?” Link asked him.
“That’s right,” he answered, smiling. “Lisa, here, saved my life.” She had dismounted as well. “Lisa, this is Link. Link, Lisa.”
She curtseyed in front of him. “Pleased to meet you. I’ve heard so much about you. About all of you,” she said as she looked around at them.
“The pleasure is all mine,” Link said. “You saved Robert’s life, and for that I can never repay you.”
She shook her head in embarrassment. “You don’t need to. I was merely doing what I thought was right.”
She curtseyed again and went on introducing herself to the other Knights. As she did so, Robert took Link aside.
“Link, there’s something you should know about her.”
Link grew concerned. “What? Is something wrong with her?”
Robert shook his head. “No.”
“Then what is it?”
Robert sighed. “She has a connection with Evan.”
Link’s eyes widened. “With my Evan?”
“Yes. He spent a year with her family, but when he started acting strangely, she grew worried. He left them, but she followed him until he let her go with him. When they got here, he left her to live on her own. And she’s been alone ever since.”
“How long ago did he leave her?”
He sighed again. “Six years.”
Link looked over at her. “Poor girl has been alone for that long?”
“Why did you bring her along?”
“I felt sorry for her. She hasn’t had contact with anyone since Evan left,” he paused. “But, not only that…” He stopped.
“I don’t know. I just feel that we’ll need her.”
Link nodded. He knew what Robert meant. I just feel that I’ll need her. He could see it in his eyes, but he decided not to say anything now.
“Alright,” he said. He turned to the rest of them, who were now engaged in small talk. “It’s time to move on.”
They all stopped talking.
“We head south to the castle to finish this once and for all,” he said to them. He looked back at Robert. “Take good care of her. She’s your responsibility.”
“I understand,” Robert said.
Link smiled at him and patted him on the shoulder. Robert smiled back. Link turned to face the others again. “Let’s go get my son back.”
They turned south and headed toward the castle.
They walked until night fell before taking a much-needed break. The silence that had so often fell upon them on their long marches was not present this time. Now that they had someone new to talk to, conversations started up everywhere. Several of the Knights had questions about the world they were in, and in turn, Lisa had questions about their world.
The fire crackled as they began to drift off to sleep. In the morning, they would had off to the castle, their final destination. With their goal so close, half of them found it hard to sleep. Link and Zelda lay awake long into the night, hoping that this would be the last night that they would be apart from Evan. William lay awake, wondering when the glowing sword would be needed. He had a pretty good idea, but the sword hadn’t shown any signs of the eerie glow that he had seen in it before. And finally, Michael couldn’t sleep. The next day would be the toughest day he had ever faced in his life, so he kept telling himself. He had conquered so many of his fears to get this far, and he wondered what tomorrow would bring.
The fire died down until there was nothing left of it but ashes. Eventually, all were asleep.
* * * *
They stood in front of the castle, its looming towers looking menacingly down upon them. Several bolts of lightning flashed, followed almost instantly by the roar of thunder. None of them moved.
William looked up. “I knew it,” he said. “Feels just like the tower did.”
Aaron glanced over at him, but said nothing. He looked up at the castle as well, and he felt the same evil emanating from it that William had described about the tower. The structure almost seemed alive itself.
Link unsheathed the Master Sword. “I’m going in.”
He began to walk into the entrance of the castle. The others obediently followed him, even Lisa. She wanted to know what happened to Evan just as much as everyone else. Link stopped and turned around.
“I meant I was going in, alone.”
“Like hell you are,” Robert retorted. “We’ve come this far. And I, for one, am not ready to call it quits this close to the end.”
Aaron stepped up beside him. “He’s right, Link. We all need to see this through to the end. Call it curiosity.”
“Yeah, but curiosity killed the cat,” William interjected from behind. There wasn’t a hint of sarcasm in his voice. He was completely straight-faced.
Robert turned and looked at him. “Well, then. We’ll just have to use every one of our nine lives.” He smiled. William didn’t find Robert’s response amusing at all, and glared at him. Robert sighed and looked away. The rest of them ignored their comments.
“And there’s no way you’re going in there without me,” Zelda said. “I want my son back, and no one is going to stop me.”
Link looked around. “Are all of you in agreement?” They nodded; Link sighed. “Very well. We’ll all go in and finish this.” They all began walking, except Link. “But remember,” he said abruptly, causing all of them to stop short. “Ganondorf is mine.”
None of them knew how to take the comment. Of course, he and Zelda were affected the most by Evan’s disappearance. But to fight the King of Evil alone once again seemed like suicide to a few of them. But they let it go for now. There was no use arguing at a time like this.
Link walked by them all and headed into the dark halls of the castle. He still had the Master Sword unsheathed, and now the other Knights unsheathed their swords, ready for an attack from anywhere. They headed down a large, poorly lit corridor. Its ceiling wasn’t visible from the ground. All they could see above them was complete darkness. The air around them was stale and had a faint odor of death hanging in it. The putrid smell bothered them slightly, but many of them had been through this sort of thing before. Up ahead, the small torches that faintly lit the corridor converged onto a wall. Similar torches outlined two openings in front of them. They stopped.
Link looked from one opening to the other. He repeated the process several times, his free hand moving to his chin and scratching.
“Any ideas, Link?” Aaron asked.
“Not a clue.”
“Then I guess there’s only one thing we can do,” Robert stated.
William turned around. “And what might that be?”
“We split up.”
“Split up?” Michael repeated. “Are you sure that’s wise? What if Evan…” he got an evil stare from Zelda. He stopped and corrected himself by using a nondescriptive pronoun. “What if he is trying to divide us to make us vulnerable?”
John answered, “That’s exactly what he’s trying to do. There’s no mistaking that.”
“Then why fall into his trap?” Michael went on.
“Because if we don’t split up, we’ll never find the right way through the castle,” Aaron said.
Lisa was confused. “What do you mean? Aren’t there only two paths? If one is wrong, can’t we just turn around and go down the other one?”
“Not likely,” Link said, now turning to face her. “This won’t be the only choice of paths we’ll have to make. I just know that the passageways will branch off even more as we go deeper.”
“So like I said,” Robert jumped in. “We split up.”
There was a brief silence.
“So what are the two groups?” John asked.
Link looked around. “I’ll take Zel, Aaron, and John with me. Robert, you take William, Michael, and Lisa.” Robert nodded. “Now, which side do you want?”
Robert glanced from opening to opening, much like Link had done earlier. He shrugged his shoulders and shook his head. “I guess we’ll go right.”
“Then we’ll take the left,” Link pointed out, although it was completely obvious. “Let’s go.”
The two groups walked toward their opening. Just before they walked through the door, William turned to the other group.
“Good luck, kids,” he joked, trying to lighten the mood a little. “Don’t let the dark scare you.”
The remark went ignored.
* * * *
Link led the way down the left passageway, and it was as poorly lit (if not more so) than the large corridor they had been in before. The passageway was a lot smaller than the corridor had been, although the ceiling was just as high. However, there was still plenty of room for two of them to walk side-by-side. And that they did; Link and Aaron walked in front, with Zelda and John closely behind.
“Can you see anything up there?” John called up, unable to see passed the two Knights in front of him.
“Can’t see a damn thing,” Aaron commented, almost angrily. “If we see something, we’ll let you know.”
They continued walking, and Zelda began humming a tone. Link stopped.
“Are you humming?” he asked her, completely dumbfounded.
“I sing to myself when I’m scared,” she explained. “It worked for me as a little girl, and it’s working for me now.”
Link tilted his head to the right a little and gave a half-smile. “Alright. Suit yourself.” He started walking again.
Strangely enough, both Aaron and John found the tune soothing, and they felt their fear melting away as Zelda hummed. They didn’t know why the humming was so soothing, nor did they care. All they knew was that they weren’t as paranoid and afraid anymore.
But that feeling soon gave way as Zelda stopped humming in order to scream. They all jumped and swirled around, looking for the signs of an enemy. When they couldn’t find one, Link sheathed his sword.
“What the hell was that about?”
Zelda was clutching her arms. “Something brushed up against my foot.”
Link looked down and around. About five feet behind them, a small rat stood. Link sighed.
“It’s just a rat. Nothing to get excited about.”
Zelda’s face contorted into disgust. “A rat? I hate those things! They’re disgusting and creepy and disease-ridden and…” she rambled on as she got a cold chill from thinking about them.
“Let’s go,” Link said, and turned around.
As they started moving again, John crept up to Zelda. “They creep me out, too,” he whispered into her ear. She smiled.
“Don’t encourage her,” Link called from the front, obviously hearing him. “It’s just a rat.”
John fell back, but Aaron moved closer to Link.
“If I’m not mistaken, you can’t stand the sight of a rat, either,” he whispered to him.
Link looked at Aaron, looked back at Zelda and John, and turned back to face Aaron again. “Shut up,” he said as he felt a chill run down his spine. Aaron couldn’t help but laugh.
“What’s so funny?” John asked.
“Nothing,” Link said quickly. “Let’s just keep moving.”
* * * *
Robert, Lisa, William, and Michael had been walking down an identical passageway, although they didn’t know that. Now, they stood at another split.
“So,” William said. “We split up again, I suppose.”
Robert shrugged. “We don’t really have much of a choice.”
“Well, who goes where, then?” Michael asked.
Lisa grabbed Robert’s arm. “I’m not going anywhere without Robert.”
William and Michael glanced at each other, gave a small smile, then turned back to the other two. William laughed. “Well, I guess that solves how were splitting up. Now we just have to choose where we’re going.”
“I’m going to stick with going right. You two go down this left corridor,” Robert suggested.
“Agreed,” Michael said.
The two pairs split up and walked to their respective passageways. Before entering, they both stopped. Robert looked to his left.
“Same to you,” Michael said back.
“You two kids have fun, alone in the dark,” William added. The comment successfully made Lisa blush, and Robert a little, but the absence of light made it impossible to see it.
“Good ol’ William,” Robert said. “I can always count on you to quip about anything in any situation.”
“Just doing what comes naturally,” William replied. “Now get going before I change my mind about which passage to take, or which partner.”
Robert smiled and nodded, and then he and Lisa disappeared down the next passageway. William and Michael remained standing where they were, peering into the darkness ahead of them.
“You’re not afraid of the dark, are you?” William finally asked after a brief silence.
Michael shook his head. “No, just heights. Why? Are you?”
“Of course not,” William replied. He paused for a moment. “But I do get a little claustrophobic.”
“We’ll just have to find our way through this passageway quickly then, won’t we?”
William smiled. “As fast as possible. I just wish it wasn’t so dark, so I could see just how far we need to go.”
Michael looked around and down into the passageway. “Well, we couldn’t reach the other torches, but perhaps there are ones down there that we can reach.”
“I hope you’re right,” William said as he walked into the passageway.
Michael hesitated for a moment. “So do I.” He followed.
* * * *
The other four ran into the same juncture in their path, and Link and Zelda had gone down the right path, whereas Aaron and John went down the left. The small passages in which they were all now walking were nearly identical to each other. The ceiling had lowered drastically, and the torches that Michael had hoped would be in reach, were so. The walls themselves were no so close that they were forced to walk single file with the person holding the torch leading the way.
Link was doing just that, Zelda clinging desperately to his hand. He led her slowly down the passage, which now merely resembled a tunnel. The tunnel curved left and right, and Link wondered if all the paths crisscrossed each other at some point, or if they passed over and under each other. At the moment, however, he didn’t put too much thought into it.
“How much further?”
Link chuckled a little. “What makes you think that I know that?”
“I don’t know,” she said, meekly. “I was just hoping you knew.”
“Sorry. I don’t.”
It was then that Link began to see something in the distance. There seemed to be several torches placed around it, indicating to Link that it was the exit out of this tunnel. Indeed, from what he could tell from this distance, the object looked like a small door. Hopefully a door out of here, he thought to himself. He turned to Zelda.
“I think I see a door up ahead.”
“How far?” she asked.
“Not very.” He grabbed her hand a little tighter. “Let’s go. We’re almost there. I can feel it.”
They picked up their pace.
* * * *
William and Michael saw a door as well. They were significantly closer to it now since when they had first spotted it, and their hopes had risen. William was beginning to feel the effects of his slight claustrophobia, but the anticipation of getting out of the tunnels helped him overcome those feelings.
“Do you think it’s really a way out?” Michael asked.
“Who cares? I just don’t want to be in this tunnel any longer!”
Michael nodded. “Shall I do the honors?”
William gestured with his hand. “Be my guest.”
Reaching out, Michael grabbed the large handle of the door. Gently, he tried to push it down. It didn’t move.
“What’s wrong?” William asked as he saw Michael straining a little.
“Stuck?” William shouted. “What do you mean ‘stuck’?”
“What do you think I mean?” Michael yelled back. “The handle would move!”
“There is no way in hell that I’m going to be stuck down here because this door has a faulty handle! Get out of the way!” he yelled as he shoved Michael from the door.
William grabbed the handle and tried with all his might to move it. It didn’t budge. He strained several more times, sweat now dripping down his face. Finally, he gave in.
Michael’s face said Of course, you idiot. He said, “Isn’t that what I said?”
“Yeah,” William answered, almost apologetically. “So what do we do now?”
“Maybe if we both try to move it at once…”
William was confused. “How so?”
“Well,” Michael walked up to the handle. “If you try to push down on it like this,” he demonstrated by placing his hands on top of the handle, “and I pull on it like this…” He placed his hands around the bottom of the handle. “…it might work.”
William wasn’t so sure, but he didn’t have any better ideas. “It’s worth a shot.”
So William and Michael took their respective positions on the handle.
“On three,” Michael said, and William nodded his understanding. “One… two… three!”
They pulled (or pushed) with all their might, and there was a slight sound of grinding metal. Slowly, the handle began to move until it suddenly gave out completely, and the door was open. William and Michael wound up on the ground.
William got himself up, then helped Michael to his feet. “That’s better!” Michael said. “Now let’s see what’s on the other side.” He pushed the door open, and in front of them, glowing bright red, was a portal. “What the…?” Michael started to say, but was cut off when a glowing hand emerged from the portal and pulled him through.
It then came at William.
“Oh, that’s not good.”
* * * *
Robert and Lisa stared at the door.
“Where do you suppose it leads?” Lisa asked, not having that much experience in this sort of adventure.
“Who knows?” Robert answered back with a question. “Could be the way out of here, or it could be a trap.”
“A trap?” Lisa said, bringing her hands up to her face. “How will we know?”
He looked at her. “Only one way to find out.” He turned the knob, pushed the door open, and behind it stood a blue portal, shining brightly.
Lisa stared at it. “I don’t know if that’s good or bad,” she said in a low voice.
“Neither do I,” Robert agreed. “But I’m going through. You coming along?” He held out his hand.
She placed hers in his and smiled. Without another word, they leapt into the portal.
* * * *
“Should I push it?” John asked Aaron. He was referring to the large button that appeared on the door in front of them. Neither of them had seen a button quite like this one before.
“We don’t really have any other choice. I’m not walking all the way back. Besides, we’d never be able to find anybody now.”
“I suppose you’re right,” John said, then paused. He looked at Aaron. “So should I push it?”
“Do it,” Aaron commanded.
John pushed the button, and nothing seemed to happen.
“Well that was very anti-climatic,” Aaron quipped.
But suddenly, a red glow came from beneath them. They looked down and the ground they were standing on became translucent. Beneath them, a large portal opened wide. Aaron could guess what would happen next.
“Sonuvabitch!” he was able to shout as the floor beneath disappeared.
They plunged into the portal.
* * * *
Link and Zelda were the last ones to reach a door. There’s looked identical to the others, except for the one detail that was unique about each. That was, of course, the way in which one opened it. William and Michael used a handle, Robert and Lisa had a simple doorknob, and Aaron and John had a button. There was no way Link or Zelda could’ve known that, nor did they care. All that mattered to them was that there didn’t seem to be a way to open the one in front of them.
Link felt around. “I can’t find a switch or a button anywhere.”
“Neither can I,” Zelda said. She had been feeling around the right half of the door, while Link had taken the left half.
“There doesn’t seem to be any way of opening this damn door!” Link yelled in frustration, punching the door with his fist.
Zelda stared quizzically at the door. “This seems familiar…” she muttered. She thought for a little longer. “It reminds me of the door…” she tried to recollect. “…in Ganondorf’s Tower… that’s it!” she finally shouted.
“The door in Ganondorf’s Tower three years ago!”
“What about it?” Link asked, forgetting.
“Don’t you remember?” His face told her he obviously did not. “Magic! We opened it with magic!”
Now he remembered. “That’s right! I can’t believe I’d forgotten about that!”
“That’s alright,” Zelda said. “I remembered and that’s all that matters.” He couldn’t tell for sure, but she seemed to be gloating. She was smiling widely.
“Okay, would you mind opening the door now?”
“With pleasure,” she replied.
Zelda concentrated her powers on the door. A blue aura surrounded her, just as it had three years ago. The same blue glow appeared on the door. Slowly, it swung open and Zelda released her mind. Behind the door, a blue portal stood.
“Nicely done,” Link applauded.
Zelda blushed. “It was nothing.” After a brief silence, “So where do you think it leads?”
“My guess?” Link asked, rhetorically. “It leads to Evan.”
“Well, then what are we waiting for?” Zelda exclaimed and ran into the portal ahead of him.
Link waited. He looked up at the ceiling. “We’re coming, Evan!” he shouted. “We’re coming to bring you home!”
He ran into the portal.
“Where the hell are we?” Aaron said as he rubbed the back of his head.
“Beats me,” John replied. “But I think I hit the wrong button.”
Aaron pulled himself up and looked around. He saw nothing but darkness. He couldn’t see anything beyond John who was a mere foot away from him. There was no way of telling where they were, or how they would ever get out of the darkness. Aaron opened his mouth to say something when he was cut off by a hideous laugh. No, he thought, that sounds like two people laughing. As the laughing continued, the torches in the room lit themselves. It was then they noticed that they were in a cell.
John looked around. “Yup,” he said. “Definitely the wrong button.”
The laughing went on, and they choose to ignore it. Instead, they glanced around the large room in which they were now situated. Across from them, on the other wall, were William and Michael. They, too, were imprisoned in a cage.
“William! Michael!” Aaron shouted across to them. The two figures turned to their friend.
“Aaron!” William shouted back.
“Looks like we got ourselves into a little bit of trouble,” Aaron said.
William nodded. “Obviously.” He paused briefly. “But where’s Link? And the others?”
Aaron shrugged his shoulders. “I have no clue.”
Just then, a blue portal opened up to Aaron’s right, which was William’s left. Out of it stepped Robert and Lisa, bewildered.
“At least it’s brighter in here,” Robert commented.
“Robert!” William shouted, grabbing his attention.
Robert looked in his direction. “William?” He looked across to the other cell. “Aaron? Are you guys alright?”
“For the time being,” John answered.
“But who knows how long,” Aaron added.
“Don’t worry,” a familiar voice said. “I won’t keep you waiting too long.”
All six of them turned to look toward the back of the room. It was decorated with several tapestries and one large, devilish throne. Sitting in it was Evan.
“Evan!” Robert yelled. “What have you been doing?”
“Patience, Robert. I will answer all your questions just as soon as the guests of honor arrive.”
“Guests of honor?” Lisa mumbled under her breath.
Robert heard her and answered, “Link and Zelda.”
“That is correct,” Evan replied. “My parents are the guests we wait for. How rude of them to keep us waiting.”
“I don’t know what you have planned, Evan,” William called from his cell, “but you won’t get away with it.”
Evan laughed. “I could always count on you for a laugh, William.”
“He’s not joking!” Michael yelled out, furious. “It’s because of you that we’re all here, and we will stop you no matter what!”
“Ah,” Evan said as he stood up, “so this is Michael, hmm? The wannabe Knight who just can’t quite get over his fear of heights.” He laughed. “Let’s have some fun, shall we?”
Evan raised his hands up over his head, and then William and Michael’s cage began to rise from the ground. Up it went, toward the high ceiling. When it finally came to a stop, William and Michael were nearly fifty feet off the ground.
Michael felt his heart pumping erratically again, and his breathing became impaired. Sweat began to drip down his face as he stared at the ground far below. William pulled him back.
“Stay in the center and don’t look down if you can’t handle it,” he said to him. “Relax.”
“Easy for you to say,” Michael got out between breaths.
Evan laughed again, far below them.
“Now,” he said, “Where were we?”
A second blue portal opened up behind Robert and Lisa, and they turned around. Out of it stepped Link and Zelda, and Link seemed to have a full grasp on the situation.
“Evan!” he said before looking up. When he did, he saw the floating cage high above them and he could see William peering over the edge of it. “Let them down from there at once!” he shouted while pointing up at them.
“Interesting that you think you can tell me what to do, Father. You no longer have any control over me.”
“Evan, please,” Zelda pleaded with him. “Stop this madness and come home with us.”
“And for what reason? When I was with you, I was treated as a child.”
“You are a child!” Link shouted.
“Was a child,” Evan pointed out. “I am one no longer. And in this place, I have supreme power. There are none that rival my power! So why should I go back with you?”
William turned to Michael in their cage. “He’s got a good point.” Michael just stared at him.
“But, Evan,” Zelda pleaded on, “We love you.”
“Love has nothing to do with it, Mother! I have come here to fulfill my role as a great ruler!”
“A great ruler?” Robert repeated. “Don’t be so full of yourself.”
“What?” Evan was shocked at the way he was being talked to.
“All you bring is despair, pain, and fear. A great ruler would bring peace, happiness, and hope. You? A great ruler? I think not.” Robert turned to Link and Zelda. “The only great rulers in this room are your parents.”
“A great ruler also has many allies,” Aaron added. “Do you have any allies, Evan?”
“I have no need for allies,” Evan sneered. “I have ultimate power.”
John joined in. “Seems kind of lonely to me. You have ‘ultimate’ power,” he spoke sarcastically, “and many ‘subjects’, yet you have no one to call friend.”
“I never had a ‘friend’, even when I was with them,” Evan said. His voice almost seemed sad now.
“You had us,” Link said.
“All of us!” William shouted down.
“You people?” Evan laughed. “Please. You’re my parents’ friends, not mine.”
They all fell silent as that remark hurt them deeply. None of them knew how to respond to such a harsh statement. Except one person.
“But aren’t I your friend, Evan?”
Lisa spoke to Evan for the first time since he had left her near Forbidden Lake. And even though he knew she was with them, he couldn’t predict how seeing her would make him feel.
“Evan? Aren’t I your friend?”
“I have no friends,” he muttered.
She began walking forward. Robert reached out to pull her back, but Link stopped him. Robert looked at Link, and without saying anything, he understood to let her go.
“Don’t you remember the fun we used to have?”
“I have… no friends…” Evan threw his hands onto his head as he shook it. She kept on advancing.
“Remember when we brought you to the beach for your birthday? You were so thrilled…”
She was now standing just in front of him, looking him in the face. He tried not to look at her.
“And the Beginning of Seasons Festival? All the food and dancing and games that you could think of…”
“No… I don’t have any friends!” he screamed at the top of his lungs, and collapsed into Lisa’s arms. “I don’t have any…” he was now crying.
Link and Zelda rushed up to her, and Lisa handed Evan over to Zelda. She thrust her arms around him, embracing him for the first time in what felt like an eternity. Robert walked up beside Lisa, and the two of them hugged as well. Zelda started crying.
“Mom… I’m sorry…”
“It’s okay, Evan,” she consoled him. “I’m just happy to have you back.”
Link placed his arm on his son’s shoulder. “We’ve missed you, Evan.”
As the family reunion went on, laughter reverberated throughout the room, and the Triforce pieces in Link and Zelda began to resonate. Zelda and Evan continued their embrace, but Link quickly took his hand off Evan and reached for the Master Sword.
“How touching,” the evil voice said. “Father and mother reunited with their son.”
“Come out here, Ganondorf!” Link yelled. “Show yourself!”
Behind them, a purple puff of smoke appeared. As it cleared, they saw Ganondorf. Link brandished the Master Sword.
“This is all your fault!” he yelled.
Ganondorf laughed. “You’re intentions are honorable, Link. But you shouldn’t blame others for your mistakes.”
“What the hell are you talking about? My mistakes?” Link was dumbfounded and confused.
“How easily we forget the risks of the past,” Ganondorf sneered.
“What risks?” Robert asked.
Ganondorf laughed again. “Risks that involve using the powers of the Triforce, of course.”
William and Michael were still high up in the air, and could barely hear the conversation below. William yelled down to get their attention.
“What the hell are you people talking about?”
They all looked up, even Ganondorf. He sneered at them before he raised his hands, and slowly lowered them to the ground.
“I’ll give you the honor of hearing the truth before I kill you all,” he said to them.
William turned to Michael, who was now completely relieved that they were on solid ground again. Seeing that he was alright, he turned back.
“How very thoughtful of you,” he said to the Evil King.
Ganondorf sneered again.
“Tell me!” Link interrupted. “I must know! Why am I to blame?”
“Surely you remember dispelling the barrier I had placed around my tower in Hyrule Field.”
Link thought back. “We used the Amulets of the Goddesses to do that.”
“Therein lies your mistake.”
“What? Dispelling your barrier?”
Ganondorf laughed hard. “And you call yourself the Hero of Time? I thought you would’ve been smarter than this!”
Link thought aloud. “I used the Bracer of Courage… Zel used the Necklace of Wisdom… and Evan used…” Link’s face lit up in horror.
Ganondorf smiled. “The Ring of Power,” he finished for Link. “And I’m afraid poor little Evan wasn’t ready for such power to be flowing through him.”
“But what about the Triforce of Courage in me… and Wisdom in Zelda… why couldn’t Evan handle Power?”
Ganondorf shook his head. “Your little theory about Courage and Wisdom brings about Power is foolish!”
“But Courage and Wisdom can bring Power! And since Zelda and I have courage and wisdom, Evan should be able to control power!”
“You should know better than anyone that those qualities aren’t birthrights! They’re acquired! An eight-year-old boy could never have courage and wisdom, and therefore could never wield power!”
Evan looked up at the Evil King. “So you used me for revenge?”
Ganondorf laughed. “When I learned that there was a parallel world where you had defeated me in the Tower, I strove to correct this… imperfection. And everything was going smoothly, until now.”
“What went wrong? You couldn’t control Evan anymore?” Aaron jeered from his cage. “He became too strong for you?”
“No,” Gannondorf sneered, and looked at Lisa. “I hadn’t planned on her. But it makes no difference. I would’ve liked to have seen you die at the hands of your own son, although I will find great pleasure in killing you myself.”
Robert unsheathed his sword. “We’ll stop you right here, once and for all!”
“No!” Link yelled, holding up his hand at Robert. “This is my fight! I will end this myself!”
Ganondorf laughed again. “Good. I wouldn’t have it any other way.” He looked around at the other Knights and continued, “But to make sure none of you interfere…” he stopped talking as he teleported Link and himself out of the castle.
William threw his hand to his head as a sharp pain ran through it. Michael noticed it and ran beside him. “William! Are you alright?”
William was still grimacing in pain, his hand still on his head. “I’m fine, I’m fine,” he said as Michael helped him up. William looked up toward the ceiling. “It’s almost time.”
“Almost time for what?” Michael asked.
William shook his head. “You’ll see.”
“Hey, Robert!” Aaron called. “You mind getting us out of here? We need to help Link!”
“But we don’t know where they are!” Robert called back.
“I do,” Evan said. “They’re over by Death Mountain.”
“Evan, can you get us there?” William called out. “Link will die if I don’t get out there!”
Evan nodded. “I think I can.”
Robert broke the lock on Aaron and John’s cage, while Lisa broke the one on William and Michael’s.
“Then do it!” William shouted.
Evan began canting a spell.
* * * *
When they appeared outside in the field, Ganondorf and Link were already entrenched in battle. The two adversaries charged each other in a fit of rage, yelling at the top of their lungs. Link lunged forward, and Ganondorf moved out of the way, causing the Hero of Time to stumble forward. Quick to react, Link dropped to the ground, narrowly avoiding Ganondorf’s horizontal slice. He rolled over onto his back and defended himself from a brief onslaught by the King of Evil.
The battle looked spectacular from their point of view. Storm clouds cluttered in overhead, as if they were interested in the battle as well. Lightning bolts appeared throughout the sky and the thunder rolled so much that it was hard to distinguish when one ended and another began. Any time that a lightning bolt hit the ground nearby, it briefly lit up the surrounding area and made it look like the two fighters were merely posing for their picture rather than partaking in a battle to the death; a battle that could forever change the way the future was written.
William, however, paid no mind to the showy battle that raged on in front of them. What had caught his interest was what Link was carrying. Rather, what he wasn’t carrying anymore. William could see from their standpoint that Link had removed Nick’s sword and shield, but where he had put them was completely beyond him. He felt his heart sink.
“I’m going to help him!” Aaron exclaimed out of nowhere. He unsheathed his sword and began walking toward the fight.
Robert reached out and grabbed his shoulder. “No, Aaron. You heard what he said. This is his fight alone.”
“I don’t care what he said! We must defeat Ganondorf!”
“Have some confidence in Link, Aaron,” John said. “I’ve seen him do some amazing things. And I know you have, too.”
Aaron looked at John, then to the battle, and back to John again. He nodded. “You’re right.” He sighed.
The battled continued in front of them. Ganondorf swung with his sword, but Link blocked it to his left, and with his free hand, punched Ganondorf in the face. The blow caught the Evil King by surprise and he staggered back.
He placed his hand to his face. Taking it away, he smiled. “One for you.”
Link smiled as the King of Evil lunged at him. Ganondorf swung in the same manner again, and Link blocked it again. But this time, Ganondorf countered by punching Link in the face. The Hero of Time lifted up off the ground and was thrown back several feet where he landed on his back. He looked up at Ganondorf, the back of his hand on his left cheek.
“And one for me,” Ganondorf snickered. Link squinted his eyes in anger and picked himself up off the ground.
“So we’re even now?” he remarked. Ganondorf nodded. “Well, I guess we’ll just have to change that!” Link yelled as he thrust the Master Sword at the Gerudo thief. The two went back at it, matching each other blow for blow, seldom actually connecting with each other.
Lisa covered her eyes. She hadn’t been exposed much to fighting in her life, and the caliber of this fight was like nothing she had ever seen. They were strong, both in mind and body. And every time their swords crashed together, Lisa felt a ripple effect from them, as if the force behind their blows was astronomical. She didn’t really know the background of their battle, or the effects of the outcome. But she knew enough; she knew it was important.
William still couldn’t find Nick’s sword. He looked as far as he could, but it was just too dark. The short flashes of lightning were nowhere near enough for him to get a good look around, and he was getting anxious. Pain was shooting through his head in smaller intervals now, as if it were a timer. He wasn’t looking forward to the amount of pain he thought he would feel when it was time, but he would face it without flinching. The deed needed to be done. Finally, he couldn’t take it anymore. He had to find the blade.
Zelda partially hid her eyes. She didn’t want to see the battle just as much as Lisa, but she felt that she had to watch it. The fate of her husband and the world would be determined by this battle. Tears ran down her cheek as she held onto Evan tightly.
Evan watched the battle intently. Evan though Ganondorf had indicated that Link was to blame for all of this, Evan felt that he had an equal share in the blame. After all, he didn’t resist Ganondorf as much as he probably could have. But then again, how was he to know that the voice in his head had been the King of Evil himself. At the time, Evan was just a boy of eleven. Now, he was seventeen, and he longed for those years back. Now they were just wasted.
Zelda gasped as Ganondorf connected. His sword cut Link across his left arm, and Link grabbed at it in pain. That split second of distraction was enough for the Evil King to punch him in the face again. After falling onto his back again, Link got back on his feet.
“It seems I’ve gotten the upper hand,” Ganondorf taunted.
Link smiled devilishly. He didn’t say a word, just went back to fighting.
He attacked with such ferocity that Ganondorf was forced to step backward time and time again. Link was completely on the offensive and the Gerudo could do nothing about it except give way. With one upward swing, Link was able to knock him off balance, and the resulting swipe of his blade cut the Evil King across the chest. Ganondorf cried out in pain.
“You were saying something about having the upper hand?” Link taunted back.
Ganondorf clutched his chest, bowed his head, and stared at the Hero of Time through the top of his eyes. He smiled and stood up. “It will take a lot more than that to defeat me!”
“Good,” Link said. “Cause I’ve got a lot more where that came from!” he yelled as he charged once again. They returned to battle.
Aaron’s right hand was turning white due to his tight grip on his sword. He still hadn’t put it away and was keeping it ready, just in case. He hoped it never came to that, but one can never be too prepared. He clenched his teeth as well, causing his lips to turn as white as his hand. There was no way he wasn’t going to relax until Ganondorf was defeated.
Robert sighed and folded his arms. There was nothing he could do to help Link in any way, and he knew it. If Link couldn’t defeat Ganondorf, there was no way he would be able to. He wouldn’t just give up, though. He would fight to the death protecting Zelda and the fate of the world, but he knew it wouldn’t do any good. It would only delay the inevitable. So he concentrated more on his memories than the battle.
John watched the fight with as much awe now as he had felt the first time he had seen these two fight. Back then, his best friend Jacob had been killed by the wretched man that now fought against the Hero of Time, and for that, he wanted to see the man beg for mercy. And when he did, John wanted to be the one to deliver the final blow. Not Link. He wanted to avenge his friend and his family. The beast in front of him was the cause of all the pain in his life, and he wanted him to feel his pain. And he wanted to hear him scream.
The bursts of pain were coming quicker now, and William couldn’t take much more of it. But then, he noticed something off to the right. There, in the fields he saw a pulsating light. What’s more, the pulsing of the light was in perfect sync with the pains in his head. He knew what it was and went to it.
Michael was observing the battle closely, but every now and then he glanced around at the others, trying to gauge how they were handling the situation. He could easily tell Aaron was furious, and that Robert seemed completely at calm. He didn’t even have to look at Zelda and Evan to guess how they were feeling. In John’s eyes, he thought he saw anger, as well as pain. In Lisa’s eyes – well, he couldn’t see her eyes behind her hands. And when he looked at William this time, he saw the back of his head. William was walking away from them.
“William!” he called out amid the lighting and thunder. William didn’t even turn around. Curious, and realizing that no one else seemed to notice, Michael took it upon himself to follow.
William stayed as far away from the battle as possible. He didn’t want to be sidetracked from his current mission. Besides, he thought, there’s no way I’d last five seconds in that fight. So he worked his way around to the pulsing region of grass. He was drawing near.
Link swirled around after defending a blow from Ganondorf on one side in order to block the other. He felt stronger and quicker than normal, as if someone or something was aiding him in some way. He didn’t know what, nor did he care. With a swing of the Master Sword, he knocked Ganondorf’s sword off balance, and he scored another hit. The Gerudo thief grew angrier and attacked wildly. Link took advantage and gracefully moved aside. As Ganondorf stumbled in front of him, Link raised up the Master Sword and brought in down into the King of Evil’s back and through his chest.
Everything stopped. The lightning, the thunder, the winds that had been blowing. All of it came to a rest. Ganondorf looked up at the Hero of Time once more before he collapsed to the ground. Pulling his sword out, Link smiled. He was drenched in his own sweat and he was breathing heavily, but he felt great.
But William knew it wasn’t over. The pain in his head was becoming more frequent, and now they were so close together that it seemed like one sharp pain instead of many. The pulsing glow had now become a steady one. He was getting close, but William couldn’t make it. He collapsed.
Michael saw him fall over and ran up to him. “William!” he kneeled beside him. “Are you alright?” He didn’t know what else to say.
“Nick’s sword,” he mumbled. “Get Nick’s sword…” William pointed toward the glow. Michael stood up, stared at it for a minute and then looked back down at William. “Bring it here…” Michael nodded and ran toward the steady glow.
A soft glow caught Link’s eyes. It steadily increased until he could barely stand it. He looked down at the Master Sword and had to squint his eyes from it. Confused, he lifted it up to his face. Never had he seen it glow so brightly before. He cocked his head to the right. Then, there was a loud yell, and he felt himself being thrown backward.
They all gasped and Michael stopped in his tracks as Ganon emerged before them. The Incarnation of Evil towered over the fallen Link, and there was nothing but hate in his eyes. Link pulled himself up and backed up several steps.
“Michael… hurry…” William said.
Michael snapped out of it and picked up Nick’s sword. Hurrying back to William, he slid across the ground and stopped next to him.
“Here! I got it!”
William grabbed the sword in his right hand, and instantly the pain in his head went away. However, the glow remained, and William knew what needed to be done. It was time.
He and Michael got up, and he looked at the newest Knight. “Stay here, no matter what happens.” And he ran off.
The staring contest between Link and Ganon was over, and the lightning and thunder returned, along with some rain.. Link prepared himself, but Ganon’s swing was too much for him. He lost the grip on the Master Sword, and it flew into the fields where no one was standing. Link took several more steps back as the Incarnation of Evil advanced on him slowly.
Lisa had taken her hands off her eyes when the period of silence occurred. But now, she slapped her hands over her eyes so hard that handprints were made. Zelda clutched Evan harder as she thought she was going to witness the death of her husband.
But Robert, in his calm state of mind, saw something. A figure running toward Ganon, holding an bright object. Looking around, he finally noticed that Michael and William were no longer standing with them.
“Who is that?” he said aloud, getting everyone’s attention. They all looked and gasped.
“That’s William!” Aaron exclaimed. “I recognize that goofy style of running anywhere!”
“What the hell is he doing?” John asked, although he knew none of them knew. “And what is he holding?”
William ran as fast as he could toward Link. He was behind Ganon, and out of his view, which he was thankful for. As he got closer, he yelled.
Link heard it, faintly. He glanced around Ganon and saw William running toward him with a bright object. Unfortunately, his gaze caught the attention of Ganon. He turned to see the Knight charging him from behind, and quickly turned to face him.
William knew his fate already. Nonetheless, he ran at full speed directly toward the Incarnation of Evil. As he approached it, William prayed. “May the Goddesses let this blade fly true to its target.” He hurled Nick’s sword, end over end.
Ganon didn’t even flinch. The blade passed under his arm, missing him completely. William continued running at the Incarnation of Evil, yelling at the top of his lungs. With one swing, Ganon ran him through. William fell to his knees.
“No!” Aaron and Robert yelled out in unison. The rest of them fell silent.
William remained on his knees, and he looked at all those he had journeyed with. Across the field, he saw his friends, new and old, and this brought tears to his eyes. Memories of them flashed before his eyes. He then looked over at Link, and as he did, Nick’s sword implanted itself into the ground five feet from Link. Joy found its way into William’s heart again, as he knew that he had done what he needed to do. He had protected the ones he loved the most, and the world that he lived in. He looked further right, in the area where the Master Sword had fallen, and wasn’t surprised when he saw two figures standing there. Without even looking at them closely he knew who they were: the one on the right was Nick, and the other, looking as beautiful as ever, was Alexandra. He smiled as new tears ran down his face. He guessed that they had been watching the entire time, and he was ready to join them. The last image he saw was that of Link picking up Nick’s sword.
His body fell limp.
Link examined Nick’s sword and marveled at how bright it was glowing. He was in for another surprise as the sword became twice as intense. If William had told any of them about it, Link would’ve realized that it was William’s soul that increased the intensity of the blade. It didn’t matter. Link could feel the power in the blade, and he knew what to do. He looked at Ganon.
The Incarnation of Evil picked up William’s body with his sword still through him. With his other hand, Ganon removed the dead body from his blade, glanced at it, then through it into the fields near the Master Sword. He turned.
Link’s face was bright red. Not only had his nemesis killed his friend, but he also disrespected his body. It was time for it to end. They squared off.
Link raised the sword up and charged. “Die!” he yelled as he advanced.
Ganon stood his ground and waited for the Hero of Time to get close. When Link was where he wanted, Ganon swung with his blade, but Link was too furious and determined to be killed so easily. He dodged the attack with amazing speed, and with one quick thrust, he put Nick’s sword through Ganon’s heart.
The silence returned, but the rain kept falling. After the brief pause, Ganon wailed uncontrollably, and Link stepped back from him, making sure to hold on to Nick’s sword. A bright, white light emanated from where Link had run him through. Soon, Ganon was still again, but his body hung in the air by some magic force. His chest was pointed toward the sky, and the white light became a beam that stretched through the clouds. The light intensified and engulfed the Incarnation of Evil. It then slowly disintegrated his body, and sent it into strange portal above the clouds. As his body was sucked up, so were the ominous storm clouds. The rain slowed, then stopped.
Link stood there in silence for a minute longer before heading over to the others. He looked up at the sky and sighed. A single tear ran down his cheek as he made his way over to his friends.
* * * *
They found William’s body and the Master Sword in the middle of the fields. His body was lying directly next to the Master Sword, which was sticking out of the ground. They all looked down at him, bowed their heads, and prayed silently for him. Tears rolled down the cheeks of a few of them, while the others stared solemnly at their fallen friend. After what seemed like an eternity, Link knelt beside him.
His eyes were still open and fixed, as if he were looking at something intently as he died. Link reached out with his hand and shut his eyes gently. Finally, he got back up, pulled the Master Sword out of the ground, and sheathed it. He turned to the others.
“Where do we go from here?” Michael asked.
“Evan,” Link said, “do you think you can open another portal back home?”
“I suppose I can,” Evan replied. “But I don’t know how accurate I’ll be.”
“What do you mean by ‘accurate’?” John asked.
“I mean I don’t know where or when the portal will bring us.”
“That’s comforting,” John said sarcastically.
Robert sighed. “We don’t really have much of a choice.”
“But what if we go through and find Hyrule in ruins?” Zelda wondered.
There was a slight pause.
“Then I guess we start over,” Aaron suggested. “But hopefully it won’t come to that.”
They stood around in silence again, looking at each other with concerned faces.
“Evan,” Link said. His son turned to look at him, and Link just simply nodded. Evan understood and nodded back.
He began to concentrate on creating a dimensional portal, and almost immediately, one appeared directly in front of them. No one looked at it with much expression. No real sense of joy or relief. All except Evan. He was confused.
“Good job, Evan,” Link said as he patted him on the shoulder. He and Robert started walking toward it.
“But I didn’t do it.”
“What are you talking about?” Robert said as he turned around. “Are you saying that you didn’t open this?”
“It wasn’t me,” he repeated.
Link and Robert looked at each other.
“Do we go through?” Robert asked him.
“It could be a trap.”
“Set by whom?”
Link shook his head. “I don’t know.”
They all stared at it in silence again.
“I don’t think it’s a trap,” Robert said to Link.
“Neither do I.” Link continued to stare, even as Zelda walked up to him.
“I say we just go through,” she said.
He looked at her and could see the trust in her eyes, and it was enough to convince him. He nodded, and the two of them walked toward the portal, hesitated, and then stepped through.
Michael picked up William’s sword and shield, while Aaron picked up his body. They walked through the portal.
The crowd outside of the castle was still standing there, amazed and bewildered by the event that transpired there only hours before. They were all anxious, wondering if their beloved Knights and Princess would return soon. About an hour before, some of the citizens began to walk away, giving up on the situation. But they were no less amazed at the sight of the eight of them walking into some magic doorway and vanishing. All their screaming had abruptly stopped then. And it never picked back up.
More and more citizens turned their back on the situation and went back about their daily routines. Eventually, there was only a group of three standing near the castle, waiting intently.
“Father,” the girl said, “do you think they’ll be alright?”
“Of course, Malon,” Talon responded. “How many times has Link let us down?”
“None,” Malon replied. “But I have a bad feeling.”
Ingo said, “I wouldn’t worry. They’ll be fine.”
Malon wanted to believe that they would be fine, but something inside her told her that harm would come to them.
“Let’s go,” Talon said.
Malon looked up at him. “No! We can’t leave! I have to wait her for him to come back!” Evan now, after all these years of knowing him, she was still as concerned as ever.
“Malon, there’s no way of knowing when that will be,” Talon explained. “You could be here for days, weeks, or…”
He had made his point, and she knew he was right. There was no use just waiting for them to return. She nodded and the three of them turned around and began walking away.
Just then, a portal opened behind them. Malon looked back and stopped dead in her tracks.
“They’re back! They’re back!” she began screaming at the top of her lungs. Anyone that was in earshot of her cries came running back to the castle.
Out from the portal stepped eight travelers, a ninth in the hands of Aaron. And somehow, Evan had been returned to the age of eleven, as if none of the events that he lived through ever happened. But the memories were still there. The crowd gathered once again and demanded to know what had happened during those several hours. But instead of answering their demands, the Knights walked into the castle.
* * * *
Several days later, they held a royal funeral for Nick and William. William’s body had been sent back to Malaank for a proper burial in their own customs. But Link was able to persuade the King of Malaank to allow William’s sword and shield to be placed in a memorial monument to the two fallen friends. In the Royal Cemetery, next to the grave markers of Charles and Jacob, the monument was to be placed. Thousands of citizens attending the ceremony honoring them, and no one was more proud than Celes. She held her son Charles in her arms, sad that Nick was gone, but thankful to the Goddesses that she had married such a great man.
Unexpectedly, Ian showed up for the funeral. He told Link that it was the Goddesses who had opened the portal home for them and returned Evan back into an eleven-year-old. He explained that it wasn’t only a second chance for Evan as a person, but a second chance for Link as a father. And just as sudden as Ian had appeared, he departed once again for the Heavens.
After the funeral, the Knights took leave of their duties. Robert went back to Larosia with Lisa at his side, and during their time off, the two of them married. Aaron headed home to Dellenia with Sarah. John went home the town of Baru, where Chris was waiting for him. Michael was finally able to ask Catherine to marry him when he returned to Oceana. They all agreed that they would reconvene in three months time to return to their duties.
Link, Zelda, Evan, and Michelle became a closer family, and Hyrule returned to a time of peace and prosperity. And although there was nothing to fear anymore, Link was always on guard and ready for anything to happen. This most recent adventure had taught him that lesson.
He also learned that your enemies aren’t always evil. Their intentions can be just. They could be misled. And that’s what scared him the most. Not monsters or a King of Evil. Ordinary, honest people who believed in something – something that they would fight to the death for.
And he knew his adventures weren’t over yet.