The Legend of Zelda: Dimensions
Part Two – A Journey Torn
“Are you sure?”
Absolutely. And he’s brought his friends.
“How soon will they get here?”
Without incident, they would be here in just shy of a week.
They would arrive here too early.
“So what do we do?”
Anything. You must slow them down.
“Why not just kill them outright? Wouldn’t that be easier?”
Easier? Perhaps. But I get no pleasure out of that. Nothing short of torture for him.
“I understand. I prepared for this several years ago. Their journey will be most dangerous.”
The two laughed maniacally, the sound of one bouncing off the walls of the large throne room. The two elite guards stood by, not flinching, as they had grown accustomed to the ranting and apparent psychotic nature of their master.
“Now, dear father, you will bear witness to the demise of everything that you’ve ever loved.”
The laughter continued.
* * * *
The waves crested just offshore, spilling water onto the shallow beach. Water lapped at the legs of the body that lay there, on its stomach, its head barely out of reach of the water. The rhythm of the waves was slow, as though the hot sun made the water lazy. A flock of gulls flew across the sky along the shoreline, beginning their search for fresh fish. One of the gulls swooped down and landed gently on the back of the unconscious person. It perched itself there, pecking at the body, trying to figure out if it was food. The gull was raised up slightly, and then lowered back to its original position. The cycle continued and the gull didn’t fly away.
The first sounds out of the body frightened the gull away, and it quickly joined up with the rest of the flock, squawking at the same time. Placing his hand on his face, the newly awakened traveler opened his eyes. All he could see was an endless beach going north, which he figured he was facing. He turned his head, resting his chin on the cool, fine sand of the beach, looking east toward the rising sun.
“Damn. That was a hell of a boat ride,” Robert said sarcastically to himself.
He turned his head again so that he could face south, which was off to his right. Only about ten yards away lay another body, this one of John. From where he was, Robert could tell that he was still unconscious. He closed his eyes again, still groggy. Unable (or unwilling) to move, he fell asleep.
* * * *
He awoke later in the day; the sun now directly behind him, but still high enough to indicate that there was still several hours of daylight left. When he opened his eyes, he was still looking at the unconscious John. He closed his eyes again, but fought off the urge to doze off. In a desperate attempt to get himself up, he rolled over, trying to get any part of his body to respond. After successfully rolling onto his back, Robert mustered up all his energy and sat upright, facing the sea.
He looked south again, now to his left, and could barely make out the outline of two more bodies. Although his gut was telling him that it was Zelda and Nick, he wanted to see them with his own eyes. He forced himself to stand up and nearly collapsed from dizziness. He barely maintained his balance enough to remain standing, and he was grateful for that.
Walking the short distance to John’s body, Robert stopped and decided that it would be best to get his body out of the reach of the tides. He had a few reservations, though. There was no way of knowing if John’s spine or neck had been injured at all, and if they were, moving him could turn out to be fatal. He also was unsure of his own strength. His body felt utterly weakened by the ordeal that they had gone through and it was a struggle just to remain on two feet and walking, let alone carrying someone.
“I hope you understand, John,” he told him. “But there are too many risks right now.”
The only response he got was John’s slow, rhythmic breathing and the lapping of the waves against his body. Robert turned his attention away from John and to the two bodies that lay further down the beach.
“I’m coming, Princess.”
He tried to walk down the beach to the bodies, but it turned out to be more of a drunken stagger. Walking in a straight line was totally out of the question, and he could barely raise his feet high enough to clear the sand. Several times on his short journey, he tripped over his own feet and was rewarded with a face full of the grainy material. Spitting multiple times, he cleared his mouth of as much of it as he possibly could.
The bodies were indeed that of Zelda and Nick, and it appeared as though they were alive as well. As Robert finally reached them, he staggered and fell one more time, his body pointing south, his face turned to the left. He didn’t attempt to get up again; instead he closed his eyes, this time not fighting the urge to sleep.
“Robert…” he heard just as he was about to lose consciousness again.
He lifted his head and turned it the right, where he let it plop down on the sand again. Looking right at him was Nick.
“Hey, Nick,” he said, weakly.
“Are we alive?”
Robert tried to laugh, but it came out as a weak cough. “Yes, my friend,” he coughed again, his attempt at laughter punishing him. “We’re alive.”
“Good.” After a long pause, Nick continued, “I think I’ll go back to sleep now.”
“Uh huh,” was all that Robert could muster before he passed out.
* * * *
The sun broke over the horizon, beginning a new day. Robert awoke with the crack of down and he was relieved that he felt some of the strength return to his body. He slowly stood up, fully aware that he was nowhere near fully recovered. He looked at Zelda and was reassured that she was alive. Her eyes were open and her breathing was normal, although he could tell that her mind was still foggy. It was then that he first noticed that Nick was no longer lying beside either of them and his heart nearly leaped from his mouth as the worst-case scenario popped into his head.
What if he drifted out to sea? his mind screamed at him. Although unlikely, there was still the chance. Frantically, he looked around, hoping to see his friend. To his delight, he spotted Nick dragging John’s body up the beach.
“Nick!” he yelled. Instantly, Nick stopped moving John and peered down the beach. As he walked toward him, Robert continued, “Are you sure that’s wise? He could have serious injuries!”
“He’s fine! Said so himself!”
Nick went on dragging the helpless John up the beach, away from the incoming tide. Once at a distance he felt was good, he stopped. By that time, Robert had joined him beside John.
“We should get the Princess up here, too,” Nick said, his breathing already heavy. He began to walk back down the beach when Robert grabbed his arm.
“Oh, no you’re not,” he scolded. “Look at you. You’re already exhausted!”
“I’m fine,” Nick said between breaths. Robert simply stared at his friend. “Robert, I’m fine,” Nick repeated as he pulled his arm away from Robert’s grasp.
Robert watched on as Nick began to walk back to Zelda. He made it only a few steps before he started to swoon. Reacting quickly, Robert ran behind and caught Nick before he could fall to the ground.
“You’re fine, huh?”
“Maybe I need a little rest,” Nick admitted, his eyes fluttering.
Robert brought him back next to John and placed him on his back. “Stay here,” he commanded. “I’ll get the Princess.”
Leaving the other two where they were, Robert made his way to Zelda. She was slightly more conscious now, able to communicate and move a little. As he reached her, she looked at him.
“Where… where’s Link?”
Robert sighed, “I don’t know. I can’t find Aaron, William, or Michael either. That’s enough talking. You need to save your energy. Now, I’m going to carry you back to where John and Nick are, okay?”
She nodded. Robert knelt down and placed his left arm behind her back and his right under her knees. Taking in a mouthful of air, he lifted the Princess up and turned around to face his goal. Zelda was light, and he was very thankful for that. Under the circumstances, he wasn’t sure if he would have been able to carry her if she weighed any more. Slowly, he made his way back to the others.
After placing her down gently, he was surprised that he still seemed to have energy. Looking down on the other three, it was clear to him that there was no way any of them was getting up any time soon. His mind drew a blank on what to do next, but his stomach reminded him of what’s important to a speedy recovery. Food. I better get some food before we all die.
“If any of you can hear me, I’m going to search for some food and clean water. I won’t be gone long, but in the meantime, I want you all to stay here. Is that clear?”
He got no response.
“Okay, if there are no objections…” he trailed off as he left them there to search for food.
* * * *
“I thought you said that there was a town around here!” William yelled at Michael.
“I could be mistaken…”
“Mistaken?” William repeated, loudly. “We’ve been walking for a little over a day now because you remembered a town on the map! So where the hell is it?”
“Calm down, William,” Link said, not raising his voice.
“I am calm!”
“Yelling about it isn’t going to get us anywhere!” Aaron bellowed, getting right in William’s face. Taking the hint, William shut up for the time being.
Taking advantage, Link tried to get the conversation back on a productive level. “Michael, are you sure you saw a town on the map?”
“I think so…”
“No. I don’t want to hear ‘I think so.’ Do you remember a town on the map or not?”
Michael thought back to the ship and tried to recollect the map. His mind was telling him that there was a town nearby, at the mouth of a river. He even remembered the name.
“What’s that?” Aaron asked.
“That’s the name of the town. Halbat,” Michael told them. “It lies at the mouth of a river.”
“Good,” Link said, satisfied with Michael’s answer. “Then we should continue to follow the shoreline until we reach the mouth of a river. Hopefully, that should be Halbat.”
Aaron turned to William. “I think you owe Michael an apology.”
William shot Aaron a look, but Aaron didn’t flinch. Swallowing his pride, William walked up in front of Michael. “I… I’m sorry. I was wrong to act the way I did.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Michael told him and smiled. William smiled back and the two hugged and gave the stereotypical male hand-pat on the back.
“If you’re done, ladies,” Link said mockingly. “We still have a long way to go.”
They separated and all four of them continued down the shoreline. They walked beside the beach, not wanting to walk in the sand because that would make the trip even more taxing. Nevertheless, they were still within fifty yards of the ocean, its unpolluted water gleaming in the midday’s sun. A solitary gull swooped down and skimmed the water, catching a fish in its mouth. On the beach, three other gulls were busy pecking away at their meals. The sight of the birds eating only made the trek harder on the four travelers, as each of them were beginning to experience hunger pains from lack of food. They had tried to hunt for some meat earlier, but the surrounding land wasn’t home to anything significant.
Link tried to bury the hunger with thoughts of Zelda, but they only led to more pain. He had no idea where she was or if she was safe. He felt guilty for not jumping through the fire on the ship and running to her, but his mind knew that he would’ve only gotten himself killed that way. His mind then drifted to his children. He worried about Michelle, his three-year-old daughter that they had left in Hyrule with the maids and servants. But most of all, he worried about Evan. There was no telling what could have happened to him when he entered this world. A boy of only eleven couldn’t defend himself in a savage world like this, even if he was gifted with magic. All his thoughts depressing him, Link decided he would rather feel the hunger pains. He pushed the thoughts away.
“This doesn’t look good,” Aaron said, looking toward the sky.
Link looked toward his friend and followed his gaze skyward. Above them, but still toward the south, storm clouds were beginning to form.
“Damn,” William said, also noticing the weather. “That looks like a big storm.”
“Hopefully we’ll reach our destination before it hits,” Link said.
Michael frowned and took his eyes off the approaching storm. “I don’t think we will.”
“It all depends on how far the town is,” Aaron stated, although that was obvious.
“Maybe we should quicken the pace a little,” William suggested.
“Good idea,” Link agreed, picking up the pace to a fast walk. Without further instruction, the other three matched his speed.
“This town better be there,” William said under his breath.
* * * *
They sat around the fire, awaiting their food to be cooked. Each of them sat upright, some of their strength returning to them. Robert slowly cooked the deer over the fire, making sure not to overcook it. The delicious scent of the meat enticed them all and they could hardly wait any longer.
Robert had been very successful in finding food for them. There was an open field with several groves of trees not far from their current location. It was there that Robert had shot the deer, the arrow piercing the animal’s heart. He had been carrying the carcass back over his shoulders when he spotted a building to the north. It stood alone on top of a hill, and he was surprised that he hadn’t noticed it earlier. He stopped briefly and looked it over from a distance, but couldn’t make out what kind of building it was. Deciding that he would wait for the others before investigating it, he had continued the walk back.
The deer fully cooked, Robert removed it from over the fire and placed it on a piece of cloth that he had in his pack. As soon as he placed the venison on the cloth, the other three reached out greedily and grabbed what they could. Robert was caught completely off guard, especially by Zelda, who engulfed the food in the same manner as a starving homeless man. As the others wolfed down their meat, Robert sighed, shook his head, and chuckled.
“What’s so funny?” John asked between mouthfuls of meat.
“You three. You’re all pigs.”
Each of them stopped chewing and shot Robert a look. There was an awkward silence for a few seconds before they returned to their meal. Shrugging his shoulders, Robert reached for his portion and began to eat.
Halfway through his meal, Robert decided to bring up the building.
“I saw a single building to the north of here.”
Zelda wiped her face with a handkerchief. “What kind of building?”
Robert swallowed another mouthful before answering, “I’m not sure. It was too far away for me to determine. And I thought I’d wait for you three before I went up there.”
“Did it look inhabited?” Nick asked.
“Don’t know. I couldn’t see anyone outside.”
“I suppose we should check it out. See if there’s anyone there that can help us,” Nick continued.
John swallowed. “Yeah, and maybe give us some information. Like where we are.”
“What if they’re not friendly?” Zelda asked, always worried about the underlying feelings of people.
“Don’t worry, Princess,” Robert assured her, “Whoever is up there wouldn’t stand a chance against the three of us. Right guys?”
All he got in returned was a couple of muffled “Um hmm” from John and Nick as they each continued to devour their food.
“Anyway,” Robert continued, “we’ll head up there after we eat and rest up some more. That way, more of our strength should have returned.”
They all went back to eating.
* * * *
Alexandra sat next to her second-floor window, staring out into the rain. It was pouring out, and there was nothing else for her to do on this dreary day. Business at the family bed and breakfast had been slow for quite some time now. As she thought about it, she realized that it had been several years since she had produced a profit. The town no longer attracted as many tourists as it once did, and without tourism, the town became poorer and poorer.
She gazed out over the river mouth, looking out to sea. There didn’t seem to be any sign that the storm would cease anytime soon, and she really didn’t care. Although the town was still heavily populated for its size, she never felt more alone in her life. Her parents had long since moved on from this world, along with her younger sister, all victims of a terrible massacre. There wasn’t a day that went by where she didn’t wonder why they had been taken and not her. She felt a sense of guilt, as if she had betrayed her family by remaining alive. Of course, she knew that was ridiculous, but that didn’t stop the pain.
She stood up and walked directly beside the window. She continued to look over the town, not surprised that no one was out in this torrential downpour. She sighed and was just about to leave the window when she spotted four figures running frantically toward the town from the southwest.
“Who would be out in this storm?” she asked herself.
She watched the figures run closer to the town, desperate to get out of the rain. Making up her mind, she ran from the window and headed down the stairs. She grabbed her raincoat as she ran by the coat stand and headed out into the storm.
* * * *
“We’re almost there!” Aaron yelled, as he pointed directly in front of them, the town now no more than a half-mile away.
They ran as fast as they could, the rain soaking them through. The ground underneath them had begun to flood from the awesome amount of rain, not fully able to soak it all up. Their clothes were now much heavier, and the slippery ground made the task of running that much more challenging.
“Watch out for this puddle!” Link yelled from in front of them, as he ran to the side of the puddle.
William wasn’t too worried about a puddle, so he continued running straight ahead. He soon realized that he made the wrong choice when his right foot stepped into the puddle. Instead of stepping through a shallow puddle, he found himself knee-high in a large hole. He cursed himself for being so stupid and as Michael and Aaron ran by him, he pulled himself up.
Seeing William fall into the deceptively large puddle, Aaron stepped aside and around the puddle, not even bothering to offer William any help. Michael ran passed him too, figuring that William could easily get out of the deep puddle. In front of them, Link had put some distance between them. Aaron pumped his arms harder, causing his legs to move faster, trying desperately to catch up. In his attempt, he briefly closed his eyes and he failed to see the raised root directly in front of him.
His left foot caught it, sending Aaron into the air. He didn’t even have a chance to yell before his body hit the ground hard and slid through the mud. Michael had been running directly behind him and had no time to dodge the falling Aaron. He attempted to leap over him, but Aaron’s outstretched legs caught Michael’s right leg, knocking him to the ground as well.
“No problem,” Aaron replied, picking himself up off the ground just as William passed them by.
The three of them now ran one by one, but they each ran off to the side of each other to avoid any other collisions. Up ahead, Link had stopped on the outskirt of the town, waiting for them.
“Come on! Let’s go!” he was yelling at them.
When they finally reached him, they all stopped to catch their breaths. Aaron bent over, placing his hands on the top of his knees.
“Damn!” he cried aloud. “I’m filthy!”
“We need to get out of the rain!” Michael shouted over the rolling thunder.
Link looked around the vicinity and noticed an awning over the building across the street from them. “We go there!” he yelled as he ran for cover.
They all followed, and once there, they all took a much-needed breather, the building to their backs, the rain in front of them. After several minutes of nothing but heavy breathing, Aaron finally broke the silence.
“Is this Halbat?”
Michael nodded, “I believe so.”
William looked around the town and didn’t like what he saw. “Seems pretty dead around here. There’s nobody around.”
“Probably all staying out of the rain,” Link suggested. “Which is what we should be doing.”
“So where do we go then?” William asked, still panting.
Link shook his head. “I don’t have a clue. Any ideas?” he asked everyone in general.
“You could stay here.”
The voice came from directly behind them. Unexpected, it had startled them all. Aaron and William jumped so far that they were back out in the storm, five feet away from the protection of the awning. Link and Michael had jumped to the side, but were still protected from the rain.
“Where the hell did you come from?” William asked, pointing his finger at the woman that stood in the doorway.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you like that,” she replied in her sweet, soothing voice.
Link walked up closer to her and stopped when he was within five feet to her right. “Where did you come from?”
“I live in this building. I saw you running toward the town and figured I’d come out and help you.”
Link smiled. “We would gladly accept any help. You see, we were on a… journey, I guess you could call it… when the storm hit us a few miles out.”
“You poor things!” she exclaimed. “You must be freezing from being out in that downpour! Please, come inside!” She motioned for them to follow her into the building, and they did just that, appreciatively.
“You live here?” William exclaimed as soon as they were inside. The place was quite large, with a bar down the left side and a large chandelier hanging from the ceiling over the center of the room.
“Yes. This is my family’s bed and breakfast. But there hasn’t been much business lately.”
“I’m sorry,” Link said sympathetically.
“It’s not your fault.”
“What’s your name?”
“Pleased to meet you, Alexandra. My name is Link, and this is Michael, Aaron, and William,” Link said, pointing to each of his friends as he called out their names.
“Pleased to meet you all,” she politely said, with a curtsy. “Now, let’s get you into some drier clothes. I believe I have enough upstairs in the closet. This way.”
Still dripping wet, they all followed her up the stairs, leaving small puddles wherever they went.
* * * *
They now stood within two hundred yards of the solitary building on the hill, and from this distance they could tell that it was a dwelling. For whom, they had no idea, but they were determined to find out.
“We need to find out where we are at least,” Nick was saying. “Hopefully, whoever’s inside will be willing to help.”
“It’d be nice if we could get more supplies like food and water, too,” John added.
Zelda looked at the old rundown house. “What kind of person lives there, do you suppose?”
“Probably an old hermit. Or at least someone who doesn’t want anything to do with civilization anymore,” Robert answered.
“We’re just wasting time standing around talking like this,” Nick contested. “The only way we’ll know for sure is to go up there and knock on the front door.”
“You’re right,” Robert agreed. “No use just standing here and speculating. Let’s go.”
They began the uphill walk. The hill wasn’t steep at all and walking up it proved to be simple enough. As they neared the rear of the house, they could hear a squeaking from around front. Gesturing with his head, Nick indicated to the rest that they should go around the house. They walked around the left side of the house and as they rounded the front corner, an old man, rocking in a chair and completely shrouded in a brown robe, greeted them.
“Greetings,” he said in his raspy old voice. “I’ve been expecting you.”
“You’ve been expecting us?” John asked. “Why?”
“Let’s just say that your arrival here was predestined.”
“What the hell are you talking about, old man?” Robert said, rather sharply.
“Now, there’s no need to raise your voice at me. I mean you no harm.”
Nick spoke up, “Then why are you here?”
“My task is to give you some guidance.”
“Guidance?” Zelda asked, repeating the old man.
“What guidance could you offer us? You don’t know anything about us!” Robert exclaimed.
“On the contrary, I know a great deal,” he paused, “Robert.”
“How did you know his name?” John demanded to know.
“I know all about you, and your journey.”
“Tell us what we need to know,” Nick demanded.
“Very well, I will relay my information to you. Let’s go inside, shall we?”
Without waiting for a response, the old man rose to his feet and walked into the house. The four travelers remained outside, unsure whether to follow him or not.
“I don’t want to go in there,” Zelda finally said.
“I don’t think we have a choice, Princess,” Nick admitted. “If he knows so much about us, then maybe, just maybe, he’ll be of use to us.”
“Well never know if we stand out here, though,” John said, repeating what Nick had said earlier.
They all nodded to each other, indicating that they were ready to enter. With one last breath, Robert led the way inside.
The light from the fire danced along the walls of the common room of the inn, the storm still raging outside. They each drank a cup of hot coffee that Alexandra had made for them after they had changed into drier clothes. The common room wasn’t exceptionally big, but it suited the small band of friends just fine. Facing the fire, all side by side, were several chairs and a large sofa. The sofa was placed in the middle and could hold three people, while two comfortable chairs were positioned on each side. Alexandra sat in the middle of the couch with William on her left and Michael on her right. Link sat on the chair directly to the left of the couch and Aaron sat on the right.
“So how come we can understand each other?” William asked.
“What do you mean?” Alexandra asked, puzzled.
“Before we arrived here, no one else spoke our language. But you do.”
She shrugged her shoulders. “This is the language I grew up with. I’ve heard of other languages but they’re mostly in very remote areas. So what kind of journey are you on that would leave you out in the rain like that?”
The four friends all looked at each other, trying to decide if telling her the truth was in their best interest. None of them could come up with a reason not to tell her, so they all nodded their silent agreement.
“Well,” Aaron said first, “we started out on this journey to look for Link’s son.” Aaron pointed to Link as he said this.
“I’m sorry,” she interrupted, “but where are you from, anyway?”
“Far away,” William simply answered.
Link decided to tell her. “We’re from another world.”
“Actually,” Michael interjected, “we’re from the same world, but along a different timeline.”
Alexandra didn’t respond. She sat there, totally confused, trying to make sense of it all. Wanting to know more, she continued despite her confusion.
“So where is your son?” she asked Link.
“I don’t know, but it seems as though we were destined to come here. My son disappearing was a direct result of our new journey.”
“On the island of Shakar,” Aaron jumped in, “we came across an old man, a prophet. He told us that Link here was The Destined Hero of this world, and that while we searched for his son, we would battle great evil.”
“The Wizard,” Alexandra gasped.
They all looked at each other.
“Yes,” William said, “The Wizard. But the prophet also told us that he was overthrown, and that a new evil was in control.”
“Do you know anything about this?” Michael asked.
Alexandra shook her head. “No. We don’t get much news around here anymore. Ever since…” she broke off, tears beginning to well up in her eyes.
William, feeling compelled to comfort her since he was sitting next to her, put his arm around her shoulders. She leaned into him, burying her head into his chest, tears streaming down her face.
“It’s okay, it’s alright,” William kept repeating, not sure what to say. No one said anything for several more minutes, all the while William rocking back and forth, trying to comfort Alexandra. Finally, her weeping ceased and she picked her head up off his chest.
Wiping her eyes, she said, “I’m sorry.”
Finally, Aaron asked the question that had been on his mind ever since they had gotten into town. It was something that he had sensed, but wasn’t quite sure of.
“Alexandra,” he paused, “What happened here?”
She continued to wipe her eyes. “On a beautiful day two years ago,” she sobbed, “I was out in the surrounding fields, picking the newly ripened fruit for our annual feast that was to be held a couple of days after.” They all leaned forward, highly interested in her story. She wiped her eyes again.
“It’s okay,” William said again, his arm still around her shoulder.
“I was just going along, picking a lot of fruit when I heard screams from the town. I looked back, but couldn’t see anything. So myself and the others that were out in the fields – there were about forty of us – walked back toward town,” she sniffled. “What we saw was horrible…” She began to cry again.
William rocked her back and forth again until she calmed down, the rest of them waiting patiently, fully aware of how damaging this event must have been to her. After a couple more minutes, she was able to calm down again.
“You don’t have to go on if you don’t want to,” Link told her, not wanting to cause her anymore pain.
“No, I have to. I’ve never talked about it, even with the others that were there that day. I need to get this off my chest.” She took a deep breath and sighed. “All throughout the town, we could see… these creatures. I don’t know what they were; I’d never seen them before… or since. They were carrying spears and swords, and they were going after anyone. Men, women, children. It didn’t matter, no one was spared.”
“What did you do?” Michael asked, becoming lost in the story as though it were a good book.
“I… I froze. I didn’t know what to do. Some of the others ran into town, screaming at the top of their lungs. But I… I stayed back and hid.”
“Were you the only one that hid?” Aaron asked.
She shook her head. “Most of the others stayed back. We were all too scared.”
“What happened to the others?” he asked.
“They were killed, along with the rest of the town. Shortly after, it fell completely silent, but none of us dared to go back for the rest of the day. We spent the night out in the fields, all of us softly crying. The next morning, we headed back, and the town was full of death,” she choked back more tears. “Bodies… were strewn across the ground everywhere. I ran here and feared the worst. My parents… my sister… all of them were killed.” She sobbed. “We lost a total of 783 people. It took us weeks to bury them all properly. The cemetery is on the north side of town.”
Upon the completion of her story, none of them said a word. A solemn silence filled the room, only broken by her soft crying and the crackling of the fire.
“Sometimes I feel as though I’ve betrayed my family.”
“Why do you feel that way?” Michael asked.
“Because I should’ve died with them!” she yelled through her crying. “But instead I hid like a coward! I didn’t even try to save them!”
“There was no way you would’ve been able to save them,” Link said to her. “If you had re-entered the town, you would’ve been killed with the rest of them.”
“And your parents wouldn’t want you to sacrifice your life for no apparent reason,” Aaron chimed in. “There was nothing that you could do to help them. Dying at that point would’ve only been foolish.”
“I suppose you’re right,” she conceded.
“Well,” Link said, “I’m beat. I think I’ll head upstairs and turn in for the night.” He stood up. “Goodnight, everyone,” he said as he headed up the stairs.
“That sounds like a good idea,” Aaron agreed. “Goodnight.”
“Goodnight,” Michael said as he and Aaron both excused themselves.
William and Alexandra remained where they were, neither of them wanting to move. They sat there, staring into the fire, his arm still around her shoulder. She moved closer to him and put her head back into his chest. He slowly stroked her hair until she fell asleep. Soon after, he fell asleep as well.
* * * *
“Start talking, old man,” Robert ordered.
The old man sat down on his chair that was placed at a small round table in the center of the large room. It was strange to them all that despite all the space the old man had in the room, he kept everything very tightly packed in the center. In the direct center of the room was the small round table, which was surrounded by shelves of books.
“Patience, Robert,” the old man said. “Good things come to those who wait.”
“We don’t have time for games!” Robert yelled.
“Time? It’s true that you don’t have a lot of time, but you still have plenty of it. You are in no real hurry. Now sit.”
Robert raised his hand up, his finger pointing at the old man. He opened his mouth to say something, but was cut off.
“Sit down, Robert,” Nick instructed, staring Robert directly in the face.
Robert slowly dropped his hand to his side and pulled up one of the four chairs. Once he sat down, Nick and the others followed suit.
“Now,” the old man started, “I will help you. Ask me anything.”
“Where are we?” Zelda asked first.
“We are in the country of Midia, on its southwestern tip.”
“Where is the nearest town?” John asked.
“That would be the town of Selbot, which is due north of here.”
“How long will it take us to get there?”
“You could be there in less than a day.”
John nodded. He was glad that the next town wasn’t too far away; he had gotten sick of the desolate landscape of the wastelands of Shakar and was glad that they would only have to walk for a day.
“Our friends…” Nick started. “Do you know anything about them?”
“Your friends are fine. They are currently east of here, in the country of Jercia.”
“When will we meet up with them again?” Zelda asked, eager to see Link again.
The old man closed his eyes and concentrated hard. The four of them waited patiently (although Robert’s patience was running out) until the old man opened his eyes again.
“I know not.”
“You don’t know?” Robert exploded at the old man, jumping out of his seat.
“Robert!” Nick yelled, upset that his friend had jumped down the old man’s throat.
“There is much danger ahead,” the old man explained. “Whether you find your friends or not lies with you. Your destination is the same: Pomina. Go there.”
The rest of them stood up, ready to leave the old man’s dwelling. Robert was already halfway to the door when the old man spoke again.
“Always keep your guard up, my friends. Keep an open mind. Reality and illusion will mesh along your journey. You must learn to distinguish the two. Or else be lost.”
As the old man uttered the last few words, he and the surrounding dwelling began turning transparent. As they stood there, the entire place vanished, leaving not a single trace that it was ever there. They found themselves standing on the top of the hill, the day having already changed to night.
“It didn’t seem like we were in there that long,” John said, looking up at the stars.
“It certainly did not,” Nick added, his gaze fixed on the night sky as well.
Beside him, Zelda stared not at the sky, but due east. He’s out there, she thought. Somewhere, east of here, he’s out there. Link, come back to me.
A short distance from all of them, Robert stood, staring intently on the northern horizon. Their next destination was somewhere in that direction, but at this time of night, he couldn’t see anything.
“Well,” he said as he turned around to face the others, “I say we camp right here for the remainder of the night.”
“Good idea,” Nick agreed. “We’ll set out early in the morning for Selbot.”
One by one they all set up camp, except for Zelda who still hadn’t removed her gaze from the east.
“Princess, it’s time to get some rest,” John finally said, breaking her trance.
She gasped lightly, surprised that John was right next to her, yet she never heard him coming. She nodded her head slightly and said, “Alright. Perhaps some rest will do me good.”
They lay down and went to sleep.
* * * *
William woke up with the rising sun the next morning in a bed. He didn’t remember getting there, but he wasn’t too concerned about it. He stood up and stretched out, reaching his arms to the sky. Rubbing his eyes clear, he walked out of his room.
He made his way down the hall, finding Link, Aaron, and Michael in separate rooms, all adjacent. Opening each of their doors quietly, he peeked in and saw them all still sleeping. Not one to disturb people, he left them alone and headed downstairs.
The bottom floor of the inn was just as it had been the night before, with the exception of the smoldering ashes from the fire. He walked around looking for Alexandra, but when he couldn’t find any signs of her, he decided to take a walk through the town.
As he exited the inn, he could feel the warm rays of the sun. All that was left of the storm that ravaged the town the night before was the rain-soaked ground. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the birds were chirping merrily in the morning light. He looked south, the direction that they had come from the night before. Since there was nothing else there, he turned his attention north, into the middle of town.
William began walking down the street, passing by several people on the south end. He offered them a pleasant greeting, but they all snubbed him, making sure they didn’t make eye contact with him. Finding this strange, he continued on down the street. He passed by a saloon, a food mart, a barber’s, and the town bank before he reached the town center.
The Town Square was completely run down, as if no one had cared for it in a long time. From the looks of it, William could tell that it was at one time a beautiful place. There stood a lone statue in the direct center of the Square, but it was covered in dirt and bird droppings, its base concealed behind overgrown weeds and ivy. William walked up to it, trying to make out what it was supposed to represent. He guessed that the man immortalized here had either been a great hero to these people or just simply a great man. Maybe he founded the town, William thought.
Several other people walked through the Square, none of them daring to look William in the face. Continuously being snubbed was something he never liked, and he was struggling to hold back the anger that had started to well up inside him. He closed his eyes and took deep breaths, trying to calm himself down. After several breaths, he opened his eyes and there in front of him, was a little girl.
She stood there, unwavering, not seeming to know that she was supposed to ignore William. She looked directly at him, her big blue eyes forcing William to smile. He slowly walked up to the girl and knelt beside her.
“Hi,” she responded, rather meekly.
“What’s your name?”
“Well, hello Erin. My name is William.”
She stared at him.
“Erin, I was wondering if you could help me.”
Nothing but a blank stare.
“Do you know where the cemetery is?”
Erin nodded her head slowly.
“Good. Could you show me?”
Immediately, Erin took off running further on down the street that William had been traveling on. Stopping, she turned around and waited for him to catch up. When he saw this, William smiled again and rose to his feet. Casually, he walked over to where she had stopped, roughly fifty yards away. As soon as he was close, she took off running again, stopping another fifty yards in front of him, a big smile across her face. They continued the game all the way down the street, and then she turned left down a side street, where the game went on.
After ten minutes, she stopped in front of the cemetery and waited politely for William. He caught up and looked up at the archway that formed the entrance to the cemetery: Halbat Memorial Cemetery. The words were that of the Hylian language, which he was happy about. He was tired of not knowing what people were saying or what anything said in Shakar. He turned back to Erin and rubbed her head affectionately.
“Thank you, Erin.”
The little girl smiled and giggled.
William looked over his shoulder at the cemetery again, and Erin stopped giggling. He turned to face her again, but she was no longer there.
“Erin?” he called out. “Where’d she go? She just… disappeared.”
Confused more than ever, William shook the thought from his mind and turned his attention back to the cemetery. He reached out and placed his hand on the gate latch. He opened the gate and stepped foot into the cemetery.
Of all the places in town, the cemetery was kept in the best condition. William assumed this was because the townsfolk had the highest respect for those that were killed. The cemetery was very large and each of the grave markers was clearly inscribed with the deceased person’s name, date of birth, date of death, and a short epitaph. It reminded William a lot of the Royal Cemetery that his Hylian counterparts had to honor their dead.
He walked up to a group of graves and discovered that it was an entire family. Everyone, from grandparents to infants, had been brutally murdered on that day two years ago. William knelt down, closed his eyes, and prayed for the souls of those departed. Upon finishing his prayer, he stood up, gazed down at the grave of the youngest victim, and shed a tear. Wiping it from his face, he walked further into the cemetery.
As he walked further into the cemetery, William thought he could hear someone crying softly. Intrigued, and wanting to make sure he wasn’t hearing things, he tried to track down the source. Winding in and out of grave markers, William eventually found a woman on her knees, crying beside a grave. As William walked up to her, he realized who it was.
She gasped and sniffled at the same time. Not moving her body, she turned her head slightly around so she could see William in the corner of her eye.
She continued to cry as he knelt down beside her, putting his arm around her. He understood fully what she must feel. Three graves stood in front of them, two directly next to each other, then a strange gap that William didn’t understand, and then the final grave. He assumed that they were the graves of her family, her two parents next to each other, with her little sister off to the side.
“I miss them so much…” she sobbed.
“I know,” he said, although he felt that it came out awkward. “But they’re in a better place now. With the Goddesses.”
She continued to cry, and they sat there wrapped in each other’s arms. The moment moved William, and he knew that he was beginning to fall for her. This realization depressed him, though; he knew that he couldn’t take her with him. Their journey would be too dangerous for her.
He was brought out of his thoughts by yelling in the distance. Their moment of silence shattered as several voices yelled out in unison.
“William!” he could hear them saying.
Quickly, he jumped up and ran toward the entrance of the cemetery, leaving Alexandra where she was. He hurdled over several gravestones and ducked under trees as he made his way through. Once at the cemetery gates, he called out.
The yelling stopped momentarily, followed by “Where?”
Just as he yelled those words, Link, Aaron, and Michael ran around the corner from the main street, swords drawn. They ran as fast as they could up to him, coming to an abrupt stop.
“What’s going on?”
“The town is under attack!” Aaron informed him.
“Attack? From who?”
“Looks like Moblins and Stalfos,” Link said. At this moment, he felt he could take out the whole army of them, even though they numbered close to a hundred.
“What should we do?” William asked, his mind not working as he panicked.
“We need to get as many people out as we can,” Michael answered.
“What about fighting them?” Link asked, an evil smile across his face, desperate to kill some of the creatures.
“We don’t stand a chance against that many, Link!” Aaron yelled. “This isn’t the time or place to die!”
William sighed. “Let me get Alexandra first. She’s in the ceme… Alexandra!”
He was cut off as Alexandra ran directly through them, pushing them aside. She headed down the street and turned at the corner, back in the direction of her house.
“William!” Michael yelled. “She’ll be killed!”
That was all that he needed to hear. Instantly, he was off and running, desperately trying to catch up to Alexandra. His friends followed him, their swords still drawn.
As they rounded the corner, they all slid to a halt as the entire army of Moblins and Stalfos had reached the Town Square. Alexandra wasn’t far in front of them. They could hear her screaming.
“You monsters! Leave us alone!”
William was frozen to the spot. He wanted to move, but for some reason, he couldn’t. Glancing around the area, he saw the little girl again. Erin was watching the entire sequence from where she was standing. The sudden reappearance of Erin wasn’t the only thing that confused him. She was standing on top of the statue in the middle of the Town Square.
“Do you see that?”
“See what?” Michael asked, as Link and Aaron ran into battle.
“The little girl on top of the statue.”
Michael looked at the statue but couldn’t see anything. “I don’t see anyone.”
She was gone again. William didn’t understand what was going on, but Alexandra’s screams brought him back to reality.
“Never mind! Let’s save her!”
Michael and William ran into battle. The Moblins and Stalfos were overwhelming, but they had no other choice.
Link dodged an attack from a Stalfos and struck at it with the Master Sword. To his surprise, his sword passed right through it, not damaging it at all. The lack of resistance from the Stalfos’ body caused Link to overextend his reach, leaving himself vulnerable to attack. The Stalfos swung its arm, throwing Link back up the street twenty yards. He landed hard on his back and got up slowly.
“What the hell is going on?” he asked himself.
Aaron was having the same trouble. His sword simply passed through a Moblin, not inflicting any damage. Soon, he was thrown back as well, landing not too far from Link.
“Link, what’s going on?”
Link shook his head. “I don’t know. But for some reason, we can’t hurt them.”
“Should we go back in?”
Link smiled. “Of course.”
This time, they headed over to William, Michael, and Alexandra. William was trying to pull her away from the creatures, but she was intent on staying and killing each and every one of them. Michael swung at a Stalfos, his sword useless as well. While he was vulnerable, the Stalfos brought back his sword and aimed for Michael’s head. Reacting quickly, Michael dropped to the ground, avoiding the decapitation attempt. He wasn’t in the clear, though. The Stalfos brought its leg back and kicked him firmly in the rib cage, sending the young fighter flying, landing behind Link and Aaron.
“William! We can’t hurt them! There’s something not right here!” Link yelled.
“Of course we can hurt them!” he contested. A Moblin was now directly in front of him, trying to get to Alexandra. Throwing his body in front of hers, William engaged the creature. He dodged several thrusts from it, but when he went to strike the vile creature down, he discovered that what Link said was true. As the Moblin swung at him, William caught a glance of the little girl again. This time, she was standing directly behind the Moblin, seemingly unaware of the danger around her.
As he landed several feet away after being thrown by the Moblin, William looked up in horror as it advanced on Alexandra. She fearlessly (or perhaps fearfully, William couldn’t tell) lunged at the creature. The Moblin readied its spear, and with one push, impaled Alexandra.
“No!” William screamed, as he saw blood pouring from her open wound. The Moblin left her there, struggling to breath on the ground. William ran up to her and picked her head up off the ground. At the same time, Link and Aaron arrived next to her.
“William, we have to go,” Aaron said.
“No,” he stated as he held her in his arms. Her eyes were starting to glaze over and blood starting to come from her mouth. She began coughing.
“William, there’s no time!” Link yelled as the army of invincible creatures turned its attention on the four fighters. Michael had now rejoined them, his face full of concern.
“If we don’t get out of here now, we’re going to end up just like her,” he told William.
“I’m not leaving her.”
“William… go… get out of here…”
“Please… for me… go…” she uttered as her life left her body.
William began crying and Link grabbed him and shook him. “William! Focus! We need to go!” He pulled William up off the ground, and the four of them ran north, leaving Alexandra’s body behind.
“This way!” Aaron yelled as he turned down the street heading to the cemetery. They ran as fast as they could, the invincible army in hot pursuit.
They entered the cemetery and headed deep into it. William recognized where they were as it had been the way in he had taken before. As they kept running, he spotted the little girl again, this time standing on a grave.
“Over there!” he yelled and pointed.
They changed their direction and headed for the grave that William had pointed out. When they got there, the little girl was gone again and William didn’t know what to do. He fell to the ground and began crying when he noticed the spot in which he was standing.
In front of him were the graves of Alexandra’s family. Her two parent’s graves side by side, and her little sister’s grave two spaces away. For the first time, William looked at the graves and upon seeing it, he felt sick to his stomach.
On the single grave was the name ERIN. As William sat there in shock, and the rest of them standing around waiting for the invincible army, another grave began to materialize in front of him, in-between Erin’s grave and her parents’
. When it was fully visible, William took a deep breath and prepared himself for the worst.
On the new grave, with the same date of death as the rest of the people in the cemetery, was the name ALEXANDRA.
“Here they come!” Michael yelled as the invincible army stormed through the cemetery.
“William! Get up!” Aaron yelled, sword drawn.
“We have to get out of here!” Link exclaimed.
“There is no way out!” Michael pointed out, as the entire army surrounded them.
As the Moblins and Stalfos slowly advanced on their prey, William was trying to piece together everything that happened in the last day. It came to him so quickly that he knew he was right, and he jumped up off the ground.
“This isn’t really happening!” he yelled.
“Sure as hell looks like it to me!” Aaron yelled back.
“Listen to me! This isn’t happening!”
“What do you mean?” Link asked, the creatures now less than ten feet away, advancing slowly.
“It’s an illusion!”
“An illusion?” Michael questioned.
“Yes! They can’t really hurt us! We just have to believe that it’s not happening! They aren’t there!”
“I guess it’s worth a shot!” Link shouted.
As they invincible army leapt at them, the four friends closed their eyes and forced themselves to believe that this wasn’t really happening. The sounds of the creatures began louder, and all of them yelled out, ready to be struck down.
Then, suddenly, it was only them screaming. Their screams faded and they slowly opened their eyes. All around them was nothing. The cemetery was no longer there, and neither was the invincible army. The town of Halbat was still there, but it was dilapidated beyond belief. They all looked around confused, except for William.
Michael turned to him. “Would you mind telling us what the hell just happened?”
“It was an illusion.”
“Yeah, you told us that already,” Link said. “But how did you know?”
“When I saw the little girl’s grave, I was able to see through the illusion. Then I saw Alexandra’s grave and that only affirmed my assumption.”
“What little girl?” Aaron asked.
“Alexandra’s little sister. She kept appearing to me. She was trying to help us.”
“Okay,” Link said, still a little confused. “But what about Alexandra? You said you saw her grave?”
“And it had the same date of death as all the others. Her story wasn’t completely accurate. I’m guessing that after the Moblins and Stalfos killed everyone that was in town, they searched the fields for others.”
“Then why didn’t she know about her death?” Michael asked, trying to piece everything together in his mind.
“Perhaps she was killed in her sleep,” Aaron said. “And her spirit wouldn’t accept the fact that she was dead, so she roamed the town for the past two years.”
“And others as well. It would explain why the townsfolk were all so cold to me. They were dead,” William concluded.
Link placed his hand on his head. “Now my head hurts.”
Michael laughed. “Yeah, mine too.”
Aaron and William laughed as well. “Shall we rest for a little, then?” Aaron inquired.
“I think that’s a good idea,” William said.
“Damn,” Link said. “This is getting too weird.”
As the sun began its journey through the blue sky, the four travelers awoke on the hilltop where the old man’s dwelling had been the day before. They all packed up their equipment without so much as a word to each other. When they were all finally ready to go, Robert led the way down the north side of the hill.
For the next couple of hours, they remained in complete silence, each of them lost in their own thoughts. Zelda was once again thinking about Link and Evan. She didn’t know where either of them was, but she could sense that they were both still alive. Her thoughts drifted to include her 3-year-old daughter Michelle, whom she and Link had left in the hands of the Sages in their world. She felt deeply saddened when she realized that her entire family was separated. She only hoped that their recent struggles would bring them all back together, forever.
Nick’s thoughts were very similar to Zelda’s. He, too, thought of his family, although he had been forced to leave both Celes and Charles behind. He always believed that he would make it back to them, no matter where he went. But ever since they had arrived in this world, he felt a sense of doom. He was still limping slightly from the arrow wound, but that only made his feeling of dread become larger. For some strange reason, he didn’t think he was getting home alive.
John’s thoughts brought him to Chris. Over the past three years, the two of them have grown closer. The events that came after their town had been destroyed bound them together. One couldn’t, and wouldn’t, live without the other, and unlike Nick, John felt very confident that they would succeed without any real damage.
As he continued to lead the way, Robert only thought of the big picture. Not having someone of his own, he often filled the gap with thoughts of saving the world. He was worrisome, always concerned what kind of trouble Link was getting them into, and how they were going to work their way through it. He chuckled slightly as he remembered his conversation on the ship with Link. All his companions looked up to him for strength and confidence, but the truth was, he struggled just like everyone else did. He was just better at hiding his uncertainties.
He stopped and took a drink from his water skin. Behind him, they all copied his actions, taking a quick breather from the walk.
“Do you think we’ll be able to get there by nightfall?” Zelda asked.
“That’s what the old man said,” Nick responded. “Besides, it’s been a nice relaxing walk so far.”
“And that’s why I’m worried,” Robert stated.
“Worried?” John asked, confused. “Worried about what?”
“I don’t know,” he sighed. “Anything. Something just doesn’t seem right. It’s like… it’s like…”
“Like this place is damned?” Nick finished.
“Damned?” Zelda asked, becoming worried herself. “What do you mean ‘damned’?”
“I’m not sure,” Nick answered.
“Well, since you’re not sure what you mean, and since there’s nothing to conclude anything about, why don’t we just carry on to Selbot?” John asked, although it was more of a statement.
“Please,” Zelda said.
Robert sighed. “Alright, let’s go.”
They continued north.
* * * *
They reached Selbot long before nightfall, with no incident, just like the old man had said. Standing on the outskirts of town, they looked in to see the town alive with activity. It reminded them very much of the town of Kabar back on the island of Shakar. Both towns were port towns, and Selbot’s docks were extremely busy. Children played, merchants bargained, and a band played.
“Looks like a nice place,” Zelda said.
John nodded. “Sure does.”
“Shall we?” Nick inquired, offering his arm to Zelda.
She took it and the four of them headed into the town. They didn’t want to draw any attention to themselves, so they tried to act natural. They entered the town on the south end of its main street, which was practically deserted compared to the rest of the street. As they made their way north, a little boy playing alone suddenly stopped and stared at them. Figuring the boy was just shy, they smiled and walked on by.
“Momma!” the little boy yelled as he took off running into his house.
Robert turned his head and wondered what had come over the boy. He watched the house closely, but there were no other signs of activity from it. Putting it behind him, Robert turned back around.
As they neared the Town Center, the music became louder. The band was set up on a raised stage and there were many people dancing in the street in front of them. They stopped about twenty yards away.
“It seems like we’ve come during a festival,” Nick said.
“Seems that way,” Robert said, and then he laughed.
“What’s so funny?”
“I just thought that William would’ve loved this. He’s always going on about food.”
They all shared a laugh and began walking into the Center, ready to partake in the festivities. But as soon as they walked into the crowd of townsfolk, the band stopped playing abruptly. All heads turned to the four strangers that had just arrived, and they stared in silence.
“Um…,” Nick stammered, “Hi.”
They could hear low whispers throughout the crowd of people, although the ones immediately in front of them didn’t say a word. They waited patiently for someone to say something.
“It’s them! They have come to save us!” a villager yelled from the back of the crowd.
“They speak our language,” John observed and told the others. Before they could say another word, the crowd was silent no more.
As if that declaration was all the confirmation the rest of the townsfolk needed, they erupted into cheers and celebration. The band struck up once again, the music imitating the excitement that the townsfolk showed. Several women danced their way over to Nick, Robert, and John, and they were each led away onto the dance floor (really just the middle of the Center). A single man walked up to Zelda and bowed, not because she was a Princess, but because she was a woman. He offered his hand as an invitation to the dance floor, and she willingly accepted, not wanting to miss out on the fun.
They danced all around the Center, switching partners numerous times and getting dizzy from all the circles they seemed to be going in. The band played louder, and the crowd danced harder. Eventually, the four strangers found themselves in the middle of a giant circle, each of them with a dance partner. Throwing all concerns away, they took full advantage of the opportunity and enjoyed themselves for the first time in a long time.
The circle of people clapped along and wouldn’t let the new arrivals take a breather from dancing. For almost twenty minutes they danced around, switching partners any time they came close to the edge of the circle. Laughter and joy spilled out from them, shedding away the exhaustion and soreness that the journey had thus far given them. Sensing the end of the song coming up, they all prepared for a finale. With the last beat of the drum, they stopped, posing for all to see, breathing heavily.
The crowd clapped and cheered for the strangers. After they were done dancing, the townsfolk rushed up to them, everyone shouting at once, trying to get their attention. The four friends were overwhelmed and didn’t know what to do.
“Attention!” came a loud voice. “Please, citizens of Selbot, please calm down.”
The voice was coming from a man standing on the stage. From what he could tell, Robert figured that he was the town’s mayor.
“Welcome, strangers, to our humble town of Selbot. Please, come up here and introduce yourselves,” he said as he swung his arm in an inviting fashion.
The sea of people parted before the strangers, giving them a clear path up to the stage. Hesitantly at first, they headed forward and climbed up onto the raised platform. Once there, they stood side-by-side, unsure of what to do next. The mayor signaled for them to talk.
“Um…,” Robert began, “Uh… my name is Robert.”
The crowd cheered.
The crowd cheered again.
“Nick.” More applause.
John liked what he saw and decided to take the chance. “Yeah!” he shouted, “I’m John!” He raised his arms in a V and basked in the applause. Robert shook his head and laughed.
“Welcome, gentlemen and lady,” the mayor continued. “We are honored to have you here.”
“Why is that?” Nick asked.
The mayor looked at him, shocked. “You’re here to save us,” he said. “Aren’t you?”
Nick shut his mouth as Robert elbowed him in the ribs. “Of course we are, Mayor…”
“Just call me Edward.”
“Very well, Edward,” Robert said.
“Shall we go to my office and discuss the deal further?”
“Good,” Edward said. “Follow me, then.”
The mayor walked back through the crowd, this time, the sea of people parted so that they could make their way from the stage to the mayor’s office, located on the east end of the Center. As Edward led the way, the four of them fell back slightly.
“Robert, why did you tell him that we’re here to save them?” John asked, not wanting to get involved with whatever troubles the town was having.
“Did you see those people? They were so happy to see us because they believe that we here to save them. If we told them that we were just passing through, they would’ve become extremely disappointed.”
“So we’re their hope,” Zelda concluded.
“Exactly. And that’s why I agreed to follow the mayor.”
“We need to tell him, though,” Nick said.
“I know,” Robert continued. “But maybe we can still help them in some way. Besides, he might have some information that we can use.”
“You’re right. Might as well find out everything we can about this place,” Nick said.
By this time, they were passing through the open door of the mayor’s office. Once inside, they followed the mayor into his back office, which was quite large. It easily could seat all five of them, and then some. Edward sat down behind his desk and gestured for the others to take a seat.
“Now,” he started, “the job pays 1500 dollars…”
“Um… about that, Edward,” Nick said, deciding to be the one to tell him.
“Did my messenger tell you a different price?” the mayor asked. “Damn that boy. Always changing the deal around without permission.”
“It’s not that…”
“Well, then, what did he tell you?”
“The thing with that is…” Nick couldn’t find the words.
“We never talked to any messenger,” John finished.
“That’s right, Edward,” Robert chimed in. “We were just passing through when we heard the celebration, so we decided to join in.”
“You’re… then you’re not here to save us?”
“I’m sorry,” Zelda apologized. “We didn’t realize that you were expecting… saviors,” she said for lack of a better term.
“You needn’t apologize. It was I who assumed you were here to save us, but I was mistaken.”
“That’s not your fault,” Nick said. “You didn’t know.”
“No, I should’ve known.”
“What do you mean?” John inquired.
Edward sighed. “We’ve been waiting for someone for the past year, but no one has come. We’ve had to live in fear, but I thought we would soon be free. An old wise man passed through town and stopped into my office. He told me that in four days time, which is today, those who would save the town would arrive. So I prepared a celebration for the arrival of the four Knights, or so he called them.”
They all sat upright in their chairs, the hearts jumping into their throats. They looked at each other quizzically, all with the same thought on their mind.
“This old man…” Robert said, “Was he wearing an old brown cloak that was too large for him?”
“Yes,” Edward said, his eyes thinning. “How did you know that?”
“Well, mayor,” John continued for Robert, “it seems that we are the ones you were expecting.”
“It seems that way,” Nick said, his hand placed over his eyes, showing his disappointment.
“Will you save us then?”
John sighed. “We’ll try. What’s the job?”
The mayor became excited. “Well, there’s some sort of creature that lurks around the town at night. It’s forced us to abandon all night activities.”
“Is that all?” Robert asked, bored with the job already.
“Unfortunately, no. Although it usually only attacks those outside after dark, the creature has invaded numerous houses and taken its victims from their beds. We’ve been living in fear of the night for too long.”
“I’m guessing that our job is to kill this creature,” Nick assumed.
“We’ll do it,” Zelda answered for the rest of them. “You can tell your people that they will fear the night no longer.”
Edward jumped up from his seat, nearly falling over. “Wonderful! I’ll go tell them now!” He ran out of the office, leaving them there. A few seconds later, he reappeared and yelled, “You can get all the supplies you need, at no charge of course, at the shop next door!” He ran out again.
“Damn old man, telling these people that we would get here,” John said.
“Don’t you see, John?” Robert asked. “This was all predestined. The old man came to this town four days ago. We were still in Shakar at that time.”
“I see your point.”
“Good,” Nick said. “Now, let’s get some supplies.”
They stood up from their chairs and filed out of the office to prepare for battle.
* * * *
They seemed to have left civilization behind many hours before. They walked north along the riverbanks, the ghost town of Halbat no longer visible, a once-distant forest now closer than ever. The landscape, although not very interesting, was a welcome relief to the landscape of Shakar, the desolate wasteland that they had left behind a few days before. The grass was lush and green, the water clear, the few trees tall and full of life. For the first time in a long time, they could hear the bird’s singing. The sweet sounds were like music to their ears, which, until recently, had taken the songs for granted. Above them, the sun continued its descent as the afternoon progressed into dusk.
“Any ideas where the next town is, Michael?” Aaron asked as they stopped to rest for a little.
“If my memory serves me,” he answered, “then there should be a town not too far beyond that forest.” He pointed to the forest ahead of them.
“That’s not too bad,” Link commented. “We’ll most likely reach the town early tomorrow.”
“So another night of camping out, huh?” William asked, already missing the short encounter with Alexandra.
“Unless there’s a farm or some other kind of house out here,” Michael replied.
“Where the hell did that come from?” Aaron asked, raising his voice.
“Where did what come from?” Michael asked.
Aaron pointed north along the banks of the river. “That. Where did that come from?”
They all followed the direction of his finger, and sure enough, there was a small house ahead of them.
Link’s face contorted to confusion. “What the…? Was that there before?”
William shook his head. “It wasn’t. And that’s the problem.”
The house sat on top of a small hill, perhaps a couple of miles north of them. The chimney was billowing out smoke, indicating that someone was inside. It sat against the background of the forest, the lush trees towering over it, even from so far away. Link wiped his eyes and looked again, expecting that it was all an illusion, but the house remained where it was. Either that’s real, he thought, or that’s one hell of an illusion.
“So what should we do?” Michael finally asked, disrupting the silence.
William sighed, “I don’t like the looks of it. It almost seems… like it’s not there, yet there it is.”
“Another illusion perhaps?” Link threw out. “We did just come from one of them.”
“I don’t think so,” Aaron contested. “At least, it’s not like the illusion in Halbat. This one seems… more real. I don’t know how else to explain it.”
Another period of silence fell between them as they each tried to figure out if the house was real, or just another illusion. None of them could come out with an outright answer, and Michael grew tired of thinking about it.
“I say we go there.”
The others gasped simultaneously, turning their heads to face him. His resolve didn’t waiver, and the look on his face told them that he was determined, and ready.
Link sighed. “I suppose you’re right. We need to go that way as it is. We’ll find out up close what this thing is.”
William and Aaron didn’t answer. They both sighed silently and waited for someone else to continue the march forward. Link wasn’t too excited about going there, either, although he had been through more strange things than anyone else he knew. The three of them stood there, waiting.
Michael grew impatient. “Well, let’s go!” he yelled at them as he started the walk north, heading straight for the mysterious dwelling.
He had gotten thirty yards ahead before any of them moved. Reluctantly, but determined to go along with their friend and their mission, they followed.
* * * *
The journey to the mysterious house took them no more than an hour. In that time, they had each racked their brains for the possibilities that lay in front of them. Who inhabited the hut? Where had it come from? They tried to work out all the possible situations in the head, but it was impossible. They would have to wait for the answer to reveal itself to them.
The house (more like a shack) was quite small, but could easily support one person. The chimney nearly took up the entire left side of the house. It continued to billow smoke from its opening, giving them the impression that someone, or something, was home.
They walked around to the front of the shack, which faced the river. There was a small porch, most of its space used up by a swinging chair, its chains attached to the porch roof. A breeze picked up as they stepped onto the porch, and the chair swung, smacking William in the side of his right leg.
“Damn it!” he cried out as he grasped his leg in pain. “Stupid swing!” He proceeded to kick the swing, breaking off the front slat. He didn’t care.
The others looked at him in shock, completely surprised that he blew up like that at an inanimate object. He was furious with it, and they decided that it was best to leave it alone. Link turned away and faced the front door.
“Should I open it?”
“Maybe you should knock first?” Aaron asked, unsure of the question himself.
Link shrugged. He turned back to the door and raised his fist into the air, inches from the door. Rather lightly, he tapped on the door three times.
“You call that a knock?” Michael joked. “That was pathetic.”
“You want me to knock harder? Fine!” Link said.
He raised his fist again and rapped on the door loudly. On his third knock, the rotted, old door simply fell inward. Link stood there, his fist still in the air, as the door came crashing down on the floor.
“Good job, Link,” William said.
Link didn’t pay any attention to William’s comment. He stared into the shack, but couldn’t see anything. Inside, the light was very dim, and his eyes had not yet adjusted to the dark.
“Hello?” he called out.
“Is anybody home?”
Nothing but silence. He turned and looked at Aaron, who had been standing right behind him. Shrugging, with an unsure look upon his face, he silently asked Aaron’s advice. Aaron answered similarly, and that didn’t help Link at all.
Sighing, he turned around to face the inside of the shack again, and began to step inside.
“How dare you break in my door like that!”
The voice was so sudden and loud that Link jumped back outside, knocking into Aaron. He was forced to catch Link; otherwise they would both fall onto the wooden porch. He pushed Link back up on his feet.
“Who’s there?” Link asked.
“Have you forgotten about me already, Link?”
The old man stepped out into the light, revealing himself to the party of four.
“The old man from back on Shakar?” Aaron gasped, not believing what he saw.
“So you do remember me. That’s good. That’s very good.”
“How did you get here?” William asked from the back.
The old man chuckled. “I’m quite adept at moving around from place to place. Now, come inside.”
They all filed in and followed the old man to the exact middle of the one-room shack. It was sparsely decorated, with nothing but the same round table and the shelves of books. The old man sat down.
“You have done well to come this far. I wasn’t sure if you would make it passed Halbat.”
William moved close to him. “You mean you knew what was going to happen?” he shouted.
The old man remained calm. “Not when I had spoken to you last. That was only revealed to me afterwards.”
“Revealed to you?” Aaron repeated. “Who’s behind all this?”
“A bold question,” the old man replied.
“Very well. My master is behind this. He is the one who has overthrown the one you know as Ganondorf. He is the one who is testing you.”
“What’s his name?” Aaron yelled.
“That I cannot reveal as of now. He will reveal himself to you in due time.”
Aaron was about to force the old man to answer, but Link held him back.
“Then why are you helping us out? Shouldn’t you be leading us into more danger?” Michael questioned.
“My master likes to keep things fair. He enjoys a challenge.”
“He wants a challenge, huh?” Link said. “Okay, then. Where do we head next?”
“Just beyond this wood lies the town of Nulson. Head there and rest, for you will need it.”
“That’s it?” William asked, annoyed.
“Yes. But beware of the wood. It is enchanted and one could find themselves trapped in it forever.”
“How do we avoid that?” Link asked.
“Don’t despair. Don’t panic. Remain calm and believe that you will make it out. It’s the only way.”
“Thank you,” Michael said.
“We’ll be on our way,” Link added.
“Good luck, young travelers,” the old man called to them as they began to head out the door. “I will see you again.”
The shack and the old man disappeared around them, leaving them in the open air. The forest lay to their left, only a measly one hundred yards away.
“Enchanted forest,” William scoffed.
“Don’t mock it,” Link scolded, “we’ve been through a lot of weird things already. We have to be prepared for anything.”
“Shall we enter the wood, then?” Aaron asked.
“Let’s go,” Link replied.
The four of them walked to the edge of the wood and stopped short. They all peered in through the trees, as if that would make the forest more manageable. After standing there for several minutes, they all took one last deep breath and entered the wood.
There was a bright, white flash, and then all was dark.
* * * *
“So we just wait?” John asked.
“That’s right,” Robert replied.
All the townsfolk had long since gone indoors, none of them daring to stay out as usual. Robert, Nick, Zelda, and John waited on the eastern border of the town. From what they were told, the creature always came from that direction, so their obvious course of action was to cut it off before it ever reached the town. They really didn’t know what to expect since the details given to them by the townspeople seemed unreasonable. One account said that the beast was twenty feet tall, had long sharp claws and teeth to match, and was incredibly aggressive. Of course, if that were true, the town would’ve probably been gone long ago.
“There’s nothing else we can do,” Nick added in.
They continued to wait. The sun had gone down approximately two hours before, and there was still no sign of this horrible creature. In the distance, they could hear howling. Used to the noises by now, they paid no attention to it.
That was their mistake.
Suddenly, there was an incredibly loud howl, and before them stood the largest Wolfos any of them had ever laid eyes on. The enormous beast was indeed twenty feet tall, its body more massive than any of them could believe. The three Knights unsheathed their swords and readied for a battle as Zelda readied her magic just in case they needed assistance.
“Go!” Nick yelled.
They rushed the giant creature and tried to pierce its flesh. Instinctively, the Wolfos covered its body with its strong arms, deflecting their swords astray. With one quick motion, the Wolfos swiped them away, sending them flying through the air. Landing hard, they picked themselves up quickly and charged the massive beast again.
And once again, their attempt failed and they landed behind the creature. Its enemies out of its way, the Wolfos marched into town. Zelda fled from its path, unable to make a stand by herself. Terrified, she watched as the Wolfos banged its paws against some of the buildings, apparently furious that it had been attacked.
Nick, Robert, and John jumped up and brushed themselves off.
“We have to attack it from behind!” Nick yelled. “Its weak point is its back!”
Nodding their agreement, they ran after the Wolfos. As they entered the town, Nick went straight up the middle while Robert went left and John went right.
Sensing its enemies, the Wolfos turned around and snarled at Nick. Determined to stop the beast, Nick stood his ground and waited for the creature to advance on him. The two foes stared each other down for what seemed like an eternity. Nick waited patiently. Finally, his chance came.
As the Wolfos swung its mighty paw at him, Nick jumped backwards, avoiding it. The beast was spun around by its own momentum, leaving its back vulnerable. Nick smiled and aimed for the creature’s back.
But it was too high. The beast was so tall that its back was out of Nick’s reach. Unsure of what to do know, he stood there, leaving himself open to attack. The Wolfos swung around again, this time connecting with the Knight, sending him into a nearby wall. Nick slid down the face of the wall and didn’t move. Zelda rushed over to him and tended him.
Trying to surprise the Wolfos, John came around from its left side. He quickly discovered the same problem that Nick found out. Hesitating, John stopped short of the beast and was promptly rewarded with a paw. He too was sent flying through the air, but he landed in a pile of hay. Although he had no serious injury, there was no way he would be able to mount another attack.
The Wolfos was pleased with its victory and continued its way through town. It made its way toward the Town Center, smashing the sides of buildings every chance it got.
Meanwhile, Robert had climbed on top of the rooftops. He followed the Wolfos throughout the town, waiting for his moment. When the creature reached the Town Center, it stood directly in the middle of it and howled at the moon. Robert eyed up the rooftops and saw one high enough and close enough to the Wolfos. He sprinted down the roof he was on and jumped the ten-foot gap to the next roof. After landing, he lined himself up with the still howling Wolfos and charged.
He ran down the center of the roof, and at the last minute angled himself to the right slightly in order to land on the beast. He threw his body into the air.
He landed directly on the beast’s back, catching the Wolfos by surprise. It bucked wildly, like a bull at a rodeo. Flailing its arms wildly, it tried to rip the intruder off its back. Unable to do so, the Wolfos began ramming itself into buildings in a desperate attempt to knock the unwanted passenger off. Robert held on with all his might and unsheathed his sword again. Holding on with one hand, he raised the sword into the air and brought it down, directly in the middle of the beast’s back.
The intense bucking that followed was too much for Robert to handle and he was thrown from the Wolfos’ back. Landing safely, and luckily, in the town’s large fountain, Robert watched on as the Wolfos struggled for its life. It was a losing battle and the beast soon slowed down. Gradually, it stopped altogether and collapsed on the ground, dead.
Robert wiped the water from his face just as his friends arrived to pull him out.
“Not bad, Robert,” Nick said, still groggy from being knocked unconscious. “Not bad at all.”
“Are you alright, Nick?” he asked. “You look terrible.”
“I’ll be fine. Just need some rest.”
“After that,” John jumped in, “we all do.”
The four of them headed to the inn.
“Aaron? William? Michael?”
The bright flash had temporarily blinded his eyes, and then the following darkness only made seeing tougher. Unable to see around him, he was forced to use his ears more than ever.
He felt around with his hands, but Link couldn’t find anything around him. He fumbled his way through the darkness, reminded of the time he found himself in Purgatory. Looking down, he half expected to see a single point of light moving up toward him, but there was none.
“Ow!” he cried out as he walked into something. He felt around and could feel the bark of the tree. “At least I know I’m still in the forest.”
His eyes began to adjust to the dark now, and he could make out the outlines of nearby trees. From what he could tell, he seemed to be on some sort of path. With no other options, he decided to follow it. Slowly, he began to walk down the path, keeping the trees close to his right, so as to not veer off course. His eyes were fully adjusted by now, but unfortunately, they didn’t help that much. The darkness was so intense that little light penetrated it.
Alone in the darkness, he continued along the path, unsure where it would lead. For all he knew, he could be walking in circles, damned to be lost in the wood for eternity, just as the old man had said. Refusing to believe it, Link continued on and his confidence never faltered.
The walk seemed long to him, but strangely, he wasn’t tired at all. He figured that in an Enchanted Forest like this one, time and space became distorted. He laughed. Only a few years ago, he would’ve thought that a distortion such as this was just nonsense. It was so farfetched that only someone who had gone through it themselves would fully understand and believe it. Even now, after going through all this, Link still didn’t understand what was going on. Despite going through all his adventures, he was still as clueless as when he began.
In a short while, he was beginning to become slightly discouraged. The darkness showed no signs of ending, and he wasn’t sure if he was actually getting anywhere. He decided to sit down against a tree, not because he was physically tired, but because he was mentally tired.
As he sat down, he wished that he was no longer there. Despair began to overcome him, and he tried to keep it from overpowering him. In a desperate attempt, he recalled something else the old man had said and yelled out.
“This isn’t happening!”
He hung his head, supporting it with his hands. Suddenly, a shimmer of light appeared from nowhere in front of him. He lifted his head and jumped back up immediately. The strange light floated in the air, illuminating the forest around it. Link walked around it, wondering if it was like the dimensional disturbance that had brought them to this alternate timeline. What he discovered was that the point of light was three-dimensional. Unlike the portal, it was visible from all angles. Curious, he moved toward it.
He stopped mere inches from it, staring intently at white light, which seemed so alien in this environment. His mind was at a loss for what it was, and he wondered what its purpose could be. He continued to stare at it. Without warning, the point of light expanded. Link was unable to move, like he was frozen to the spot. The light soon engulfed him, and the surrounding forest disappeared.
He was now in complete whiteness. At first, he thought that he was in a room painted completely white, but he couldn’t find any walls, doors, or even the ceiling.
“Hello?” he called out.
Strangely, there was no echo, confirming to Link that he wasn’t in any room. He waited. He didn’t know why he was, but he felt that he should wait, either for someone or something.
Link swung around at the sound of the voice. Standing directly behind him, seemingly out of nowhere, was Evan.
“Yes, Father. It is I.”
“But… how… how can this be? You’ve grown up.”
“Well, it’s been a long time since I left.”
Link was confused. “No it hasn’t. It’s only been about a week. You look like you’ve aged…”
“Six years,” Evan finished. “It’s been six years since I entered this world. I’ve been waiting for you for a long time, Father.”
“Six years? How?”
“You were successful in opening the portal to the right dimension, but you entered six years after I did. And in that time, Father, I’ve done something you could never have done.”
“What did you do?” Link asked, a little hesitant. He expected it to be something horrible.
Evan smiled. “I defeated Ganondorf, while he held all three pieces of the Triforce.”
“Is it? Or are you just jealous?”
“Evan, listen to me. Something is wrong in this world, and I’m pretty sure that Ganondorf is behind it.”
“You’re right, Father. Something is wrong in this world, but Ganondorf isn’t behind it, I am!” Evan began to laugh manically, and Link’s face expressed realization. He knew that laugh.
“Don’t you understand, Evan?” Link yelled. “Ganondorf is using you! He’s manipulating you to do what he desires! You never defeated him!”
“Trying to undermine my power, Father? That’s so like you. You never respected my magical abilities! With you, it was always about swordsmanship!”
“I was just trying to teach you some discipline! It was for your own good!”
“Discipline? I’ve learned more discipline by being on my own than I ever learned from you!”
Link was taken aback by the disrespect that his son was giving him. His lowered his voice as he began to plead with him. “Please, Evan. Come back to us. Your mother and I have been worried sick. Let’s just go back to the way things used to be.”
Evan laughed. “There is no going back, Father.”
“Then let’s just start anew.”
“No, I don’t think I’ll be doing that. This is my place. I am all-powerful.”
“Damn it Evan! This isn’t you! Ganondorf has messed with your mind and distorted your perception of reality!”
“Enough of this!” Evan hollered. “Perhaps I’ll strike you down now and get all this over with!” Evan pulled out his sword and readied himself. Link stood fast, not even flinching, believing that Evan would not go through with it.
“You couldn’t. Ganondorf won’t let you. Besides, in your heart you know you couldn’t kill your own father.”
Evan pulled back and swung. Just as his sword would’ve sliced Link in half, he disappeared, leaving Link without a mark.
“If what you say is true, Father, then I shall see you at the Castle. There, things will be decided once and for all.”
Link felt his son’s presence leave from this plane of reality. Patiently, and with a heavy heart, Link awaited his return to the Enchanted Forest. He sighed deeply, saddened by the fact that his son had become so corrupt and evil. But he was sure that it was all because of Ganondorf. His resolve hardened and he was ready to take on the King of Evil once more and free his son.
A point of darkness appeared in front of him. It grew until it engulfed him, taking him back to the Enchanted Forest.
* * * *
Michael walked in the darkness for what seemed like hours, although he had a feeling that it wasn’t nearly that long. Every attempt at finding his friends failed miserably, leaving him alone. Not too long ago, he had experienced something that he never wanted to feel again.
Walking blindly, he had unknowingly come upon a large crevasse. He walked casually through the darkness, searching for any way out when his foot told him that there was no ground where he was stepping. Unable to react quickly enough, he fell into the darkness. He flailed his arms and legs wildly as he screamed all the way down. Wind rushed passed his face as his body sliced its way through the air. The fall was extremely long, and he was forced to take a deep breath. He continued screaming once he had replenished his body with oxygen. Below him, in the darkness (or so he thought from the direction of the air moving passed him), a single point of light awaited him. His screams fell silent as he contemplated what the light would bring. In reality, he didn’t really care, as long as he wasn’t falling anymore. The point of light expanded and engulfed him.
To his dismay, the light didn’t bring an end to the falling. Instead, he continued down, the only difference was that he could now see. He no longer screamed, but looked around mystified. The sudden emergence of the light confused him and he wondered what the meaning of it was. As he continued to fall, he noticed a hole in the light below him. The small, black hole became bigger, just as the light had done only a few seconds ago. It grew into it too engulfed him.
The path he was currently walking on was where he had appeared. He didn’t know how, but he was absolutely sure that this path was different from the one he had first been walking on. And so he continued on his way, hopeful that the exit was near.
He stopped dead in his tracks when he noticed another singularity forming in front of him. The point of light grew, but Michael could sense that it wasn’t there for him. It soon became a circular opening which dumped a body onto the path in front of him.
“Damn,” the new arrival mumbled. “That sucked.”
“Huh? Who’s there?” Link tried to pick himself up off the ground, but was unable to. He looked around blindly for the voice’s source.
“It’s Michael,” he answered, who had already walked up next to him and proceeded to help the Hero of Time up. “Where the hell did you come from?”
“A strange white light… engulfed me. Then dumped me here,” Link responded, confused by his own words.
“I went through the same thing. Perhaps this is a sign that we’re going to get out of here.”
“I hope so. Have you seen Aaron or William?”
Michael shook his head, although he wasn’t sure if Link had gotten accustomed to the dark yet. “Not a one. You’re the first.”
“I see. Well,” he paused, “what do you say we get out of here?”
“Please. This place gives me the creeps.”
They continued into the darkness.
* * * *
“Alexandra?” William asked the mysterious form that was approaching him. He was now surrounded by light, and his eyes were still trying to focus.
“Yes, William. It’s me.”
“Alexandra… I’m… I’m sorry.”
“You needn’t apologize, William. There was really nothing that you could do. In fact, in a way, you did save me. You saved me from an eternity of walking this earth, not alive, yet not quite dead.”
“But it seemed so real. The town… your sister… you…”
“Don’t worry about that, William. The important thing is you realized the truth, and because of that, you and your friends made it out alive.”
“What does that matter?” he cried out. “I want to be with you! And if it meant dying, then so be it!”
“Don’t be foolish!” she scolded him. “Life has a greater purpose for you. Perhaps it was destiny that destroyed my town. Maybe destiny brought you there, to free me from my own hell. And if that’s the case, there must be more for you in this world. You must struggle on and fulfill your destiny.”
William just stared at her, saddened that he was being forced to leave her behind again.
“William? Are you going to do what’s right and continue on?”
“That makes me happy,” she smiled. “Now go. Be on your way. And don’t forget me.”
She leaned in to kiss him, and just as their lips were about to touch, the light gave away to darkness.
* * * *
“There!” Michael shouted.
In front of them, another singularity formed, this one dumping off William onto the cold, hard ground.
“Let’s help him up,” Link said. The two of them picked up the sulking William off the ground of the Enchanted Forest and held him up.
“Are you going to be okay, William?” Michael asked.
“He’ll be fine,” Link answered, although he didn’t have a clue. “Let’s just let him rest for a little before we continue on.”
They walked over to the nearest tree and sat him down.
* * * *
Aaron’s experience was completely different, and a lot more horrifying. When the light engulfed him, he was shown images in succession, separated by a blinding flash of light. At first, he wasn’t sure what was going on, as he was as confused as the others had been. But what he saw deeply disturbed him.
He was given a bird’s eye view of some kind of battlefield. On the ground below him, he could see numerous bodies strewn across it, although there wasn’t nearly enough bodies to have been a full-blown battle between armies.
His view of the ground zoomed in, but he was still far above it. From this point, he could actually count the number of bodies. Making sure as to not count anyone twice, he counted them in a circle. Eight. Strangely, the eight seemed very familiar…
The realization hit him suddenly and his heart sank into his stomach. He was now directly above one of the bodies and the sight was sad and gruesome. Lying in a pool of his own blood, his head decapitated, lay William.
He was now above the body of Robert, whose face was locked in an expression of fear and surprise. Blood poured from his chest.
The bodies of Michael and John, both face down in the dirt. Their bodies were ripped apart, grossing Aaron out.
His own body lay there, mangled and burnt, as if it was burned alive, or perhaps some form of magic.
The three final bodies lay next to each other, in the shape of a triangle. Link’s body lay at the bottom right corner, Zelda’s at the bottom left, while young Evan’s body was at the top of the triangle. Aaron began to feel sick, the sight of this much death and carnage of the ones he loved too much for him.
He saw Ganondorf laughing evilly, delighted in his outright victory over those who dared stand against him.
He saw all of Hyrule ablaze, the citizens being slaughtered by Ganondorf’s minions.
He was back in the infinite whiteness, his mind racing with all the images that he had just seen.
“Link… Zelda…” he gasped. “How could this happen? Will this happen? And where was Nick?”
As he felt himself going mad with hysteria, the infinite whiteness gave way to the infinite darkness. His body slammed hard on the cold ground of the Enchanted Forest.
“It’s too late…” he mumbled to himself.
“Get him up!” he faintly heard from behind him.
Soon, two sets of hands were lifting him up off the ground, forcing him to stand up. Aaron looked around and saw the faces of his three friends, and joy seeped into his heart.
“You’re alive! You guys are all alive!” he shouted as he hugged each one.
William was caught completely off guard and wasn’t sure what to do. So he hugged his friend back, patting him on the back three times.
“Of course we’re alive,” Link said as Aaron ran over to Michael. “Why wouldn’t we be?”
Aaron ran over to Link and hugged him. “I had a vision… that we were all dead… it was so real…”
“Well, we’re not dead,” Link pointed out. “Nor will we be killed.”
“Can we move along now?” Michael interrupted. “I’d rather not stay here any longer than I already have.”
Link nodded and released his grip on Aaron. They waited patiently for Aaron to calm down from his experience and then headed on their way.
* * * *
Several hours later, they found themselves still in the darkness of the Enchanted Forest. They were beginning to lose hope and the general mood between the four of them wasn’t good. For just over an hour now, they had been bickering back and forth about the most minute of things, unable to control their emotions under these dire circumstances.
Link had backed out of the bickering nearly half an hour ago, forcing himself to keep quiet. Instead, he stared intently into the darkness in front of them, hoping that the end was near. He tried blocking out the noise from the other three, but it was impossible.
“You would say something like that!” William yelled at Aaron.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Aaron shouted back.
“You’re so full of yourself! You never think of others!”
“Shut up!” Michael jumped in. “The two of you just shut up! I’m sick of hearing it!”
There was a brief pause.
“Who the hell do you think you are?” Aaron shouted.
“Yeah!” William backed him up. “You’re not even a Knight! You’re just a want-to-be!”
“Shut up!” was all Michael could think of.
“Hey!” Link yelled.
“At least I don’t stuff my face every waking minute of the day!” Michael finally retaliated.
“I said, Hey!”
They all finally stopped and turned to face Link.
“What?” Aaron screamed at him.
“Look,” he said while pointing in front of them.
There, just like the others had been, floating a singularity. As they watched it in anticipation, it expanded and became a flat plane that stood perpendicular to the ground, about twenty yards in front of them.
“We’re getting out of here!” William shouted joyfully.
They all shouted out in relief and joy as they ran toward the doorway. They ran through at full speed.
As the brightness faded back to darkness, they found themselves on the other side of the Enchanted Forest. Looking behind them, they were all relieved to finally escape the dreaded wood. Northeast of where they stood, along the western bank of the river, stood Nulson, their next destination. Getting a second wind, they headed toward the town under the night sky.
* * * *
“Thank you for saving our town!” Edward said gratefully, shaking each of their hands excitedly. “Our lives can now return to normal!”
“You’re very welcome,” Zelda replied as Edward knelt and kissed her hand. “It was really no trouble at all.”
“Yeah, no trouble. For her,” Nick whispered to John. The two snickered behind her back.
“What’s so funny?” she said, twirling around suddenly.
“Uh…” Nick fumbled. “Nothing, Princess. Don’t worry about it.”
She stared at him angrily, trying to get him to admit what he, or John, had said. When she saw that he wasn’t going to tell her anything, she turned back to face the mayor.
“Thank you for your hospitality, Mayor.”
Edward laughed. “Oh, don’t mention it. You’ve done more than enough to be treated so.”
Robert grew tired of the conversation. He just wanted to get out of there and be on their way. “Excuse me, Princess, but we need to be leaving. We’ve got a long way ahead of us.”
“Of course,” she replied. Turning back to Edward, she said, “We must be going, Mayor.”
“I understand,” he paused. “But won’t you stay for the feast that we’re throwing today?”
Robert cleared his throat, voicing his opposition to the idea.
“I’m sorry, Edward,” she answered instead. “But we really need to be going. Thanks for the invitation, though.”
Edward nodded several times. “Of course. In that case, you’ll want to head northeast toward the town of Deliah. It’s in the middle of the desert, but it’s the only town for many miles.”
“Thank you,” Nick jumped in. “We’ll head for Deliah.”
John and Robert walked out of the mayor’s office and into the Town Center, the morning sun shining brightly. Right behind them, Nick and Zelda walked out, saying goodbye to the mayor one last time. After the four of them gathered in the Town Square, surrounded by many townsfolk singing their praise, they headed north. As they left town, Edward ran within shouting distance.
“Have a safe journey! Come back anytime!” he yelled as he waved to them.
John waved back, mostly out of politeness. He hated being treated like he was a king. It just didn’t suit him. Sure, back in Hyrule he had garnered much respect, but it was different there. There was still some independence.
“Finally, we can get on with our task,” he said to the others.
“I’ll say,” Robert added. “I couldn’t take any more of that mayor kissing up to us.”
“Really?” Zelda asked, surprised at the truth. “I kind of liked him. He was very nice.”
“You would think that,” Nick shot at her.
Zelda stopped in her tracks. “And what’s that supposed to mean?”
“I mean…” Nick racked his brain as they all came to a stop. “You’re used to this kind of treatment. You know, being a Princess and all. This much attention is just… not me… not us.” He said the last part while pointed to Robert and John.
“Oh,” she said, realizing that she had been mistaken. She started walking again, mostly north, but also slightly east.
The three Knights stood back for a moment longer.
“Good cover, my friend,” Robert said with a smile.
“Very impressive,” John added, patting Nick on the back.
The three of them laughed, causing Zelda to stop and turn around again. Feeling her gaze upon them, they immediately forced themselves to stop laughing. Silently, they began walking again, passing by Zelda without so much as a glance. Once they were in front of her, Zelda turned back around and followed them.
* * * *
They had arrived in Nulson late in the night and had been extremely exhausted. Fortunately, an innkeeper was still awake, which, under normal circumstances, would’ve seemed odd to them. But at that point, they desperately wanted to get into a comfortable bed and fall asleep.
And that they did. Shortly after the old innkeeper had escorted them to their two adjacent rooms, they plopped themselves onto the beds, barely giving themselves enough time to take their equipment and supplies off and throw them in the corner.
But it wasn’t a good night’s sleep like they had anticipated. Their minds kept on playing back the events that had transpired in the Enchanted Forest, and the four of them tossed and turned all night. When the sun broke over the horizon and shined its light through their windows, Link felt that he hadn’t gotten a wink of sleep. Reluctantly, and still exhausted, he got up out of bed and stretched.
After he was finished stretching, Link walked over to the window and peered out. This was the first real town that he had seen in a long time, besides Kabar. Several early risers were jogging down the street in front of him, moving from his left to his right. As he watched them run by, a strange sensation came over him. Home. This reminded him of home, of Hyrule Castle Town. He soon became homesick, as his thoughts drifted to the land that they had left behind in his selfish pursuit of his son.
“Is this town normal?” Aaron asked, sitting up on his bed.
Link laughed. “As normal as this world can get, I guess.”
Link walked away from the window, but held his gaze for a moment longer.
“I just got this weird sensation,” he said. Aaron looked at him, indicating that he explain. “This place… it feels like… home…”
“Yes, home. I don’t know why, but…”
“Well,” Aaron said as he stood up and stretched as well, “don’t get too comfortable. We still have a ways to go. Then we can go home.”
Link nodded several times, fully understanding. “We’ve already made it this far. We have to keep going.”
“That’s the spirit,” Aaron said as he smacked his friend on the back. “Now what do you say to some food?”
Link patted his stomach. “I could go for some food,” he smiled.
Aaron smiled back and the two of them headed for the door. But before they got there, Michael walked in.
“Hi, guys. Did you sleep well?”
“Not a wink,” Link answered.
“Same here,” responded Aaron.
“I didn’t either. But William’s fast asleep,” Michael said as he pointed in the direction of their room. “You going to get food?”
“Indeed we are,” Link said. “Care to follow?”
“Of course. I’m famished.”
“Then let’s get going,” Aaron remarked as he pushed passed Michael.
“Hey,” Michael said abruptly. “Should we wake up William?”
Link and Aaron stopped where they were and looked at each other. They then turned their attention back to Michael.
“Nah!” they said in unison, promptly turning and heading out of the room.
Michael stood there for a second and shrugged his shoulders. “Okay,” he said to himself and followed them.
John stopped and pulled out his handkerchief. Wiping his brow, he surveyed the surrounding land, disappointed in what he saw. All around them, the land was becoming drier and drier. The grass had long since faded into brownness until none remained. Now, only four hours out from Selbot, they walked on sand, but unlike the sand that had been along the shoreline. No. This was desert sand.
“Are you sure we’re going the right way?” he called up to the other three.
Robert turned his head, but kept walking. “Yes, we’re sure. The mayor told us that it’s the only town for many miles and that it was located in the middle of a desert. So keep walking.”
John sighed and began to trudge along behind them. Who the hell would put a town in the middle of the desert? he thought. The Gerudo did the same thing, and I still thing it’s a dumb idea. He gazed up into the sky, covering his eyes from the sun. Above him, there was nothing. No birds, no clouds, not a single thing. In front of him, the sand stretched on for miles on end. There didn’t seem to be an actual end to the desert, and that thought only discouraged him more.
“I hate the desert,” he muttered under his breath. He reached for his water skin and took a swig.
Nick turned to Robert. “Tell me. Are you sure?”
“Am I sure about what?”
“That this is the right way.”
“Of course I’m sure!” Robert said confidently, his voice indicated that he was annoyed with the question.
“Okay, okay,” Nick said, placing his hands up in a manner that said ‘easy now.’ “Just making sure. I don’t want to be walking around this desert forever.”
“Nick, don’t worry. I’m sure of it.”
Nick dropped back to walk beside Zelda and Robert waited for him to be just far enough away. “At least, I think this is the right way,” he whispered to himself.
“How are you feeling, Princess?” Nick asked as he moved beside her.
She glared at him. “We’re on a long journey in a world that isn’t ours, with little supplies, in the middle of the desert in blistering heat! I’m feeling great!” she shouted.
“Sarcasm noted, Princess,” Nick said. “I guess that was a rather pointless question.”
“I’m sorry, Nick,” she apologized. “This heat is really getting to me.”
“You needn’t worry about it much longer, Princess!” Robert called from in front of them. “Look!” He pointed directly in front of them.
In the distance, just visible on the horizon, was the town of Deliah.
“Oh, you’re good,” Zelda said back, delighted that their next destination was getting closer. “How much longer until we get there, do you suppose?”
Robert gave out an audible thinking noise, “Hmmm. I’d say… only a couple of hours. Three at most.”
“Three hours?” John complained from the back.
“Oh shut up!” Nick yelled at him. “Are you that weak? Even the Princess is fairing better than you!”
“Excuse me?” Zelda interrupted, agitated.
“Sorry, Princess,” Nick quickly apologized. “I didn’t mean any disrespect.”
She smiled. “I’m only playing with you. My goodness, you’re so intense! Lighten up a little!”
He simply nodded.
* * * *
Two more hours passed, and the sun passed its halfway mark on its voyage across the sky. The ground around them became drier (if that was even possible) and they walked along, now in single file, everyone wanting to keep to themselves. Robert still led the way, Zelda behind him, followed by Nick, and finally John bringing up the rear.
John took the last swig of his water skin, and in the process, stopped walking in order to get every last drop. The sudden movement of his head backward and then forward again caused him to become lightheaded and dizzy. He closed his eyes and placed his right hand on his head, as if he could stop the spinning just like that. The feeling did die down and he opened his eyes again to see his friends fifty yards in front of him.
“Damn it!” he said to himself. “Better catch up.”
He didn’t run because he knew that would be asking for trouble. Instead, he walked quickly, looking to make up the ground at a slower pace than running. He continued along at the same pace until something caught his attention.
He stopped upon hearing it. A few steps back, the sound that his feet made against the ground wasn’t what he had expected. In a delayed reaction, he had stopped and turned around, confused. Instead of making the same sound of sand against boot, he thought he heard a hollow clunk, almost like it was wood.
He walked back to examine the spot. Bending down where he thought he had heard the abnormal sound, he brushed the sand, looking for the source. Upon clearing one spot, he found a corner of a piece of thin wood. Certain that this was what had made the noise, he uncovered more of it. He wiped the sand away from the rest of the flat board and stood back.
It was square in shape. He estimated that each side measured nine feet. But what puzzled him the most was: Why was it here? What was its purpose? Clueless, he turned and yelled up to the others.
“Hey! Back here!”
They stopped and turned, although they were now almost a hundred yards away. He signaled for them to come back.
“I found something! You have to see…”
He was cut off as his feet were taken out from under him. Caught completely by surprise, he was never able to brace himself for the impact. His head bounced hard off the dry soil, knocking him unconscious instantaneously. Blood began to run down his face.
In the distance, Robert and Nick had unsheathed their swords and Robert was already on his way to where John was. Nick remained behind, protecting the Princess.
As he rushed over to John’s aid, Robert saw a figure pulling his body into some kind of trap door. Before Robert could get anywhere near, the figure disappeared, with John, and the wooden hatch closed over them. He stopped where he was, not sure of what to do next.
“Robert!” Zelda screamed out.
As he turned, Robert saw another trap door in front of him. By then, it was too late. The assailant quickly knocked him unconscious with a blow to the head, and Robert’s body feel limply onto the ground. The assailant then brought his body underground as well.
“Nick…” Zelda whimpered.
“Don’t worry, Princess. I won’t let them near you. Come on,” he gestured, “let’s get to the town. Maybe they’ll know what’s going on and how we can rescue John and Robert.”
Zelda began walking quickly toward the town while Nick walked slowly backward. Soon, there was a good distance between them.
“Zelda, stay close,” Nick said, although she was already too far away for his comfort.
Zelda didn’t hear him. Instead, she continued at her pace, her eyes locked on the town of Deliah, which lay in front of her. The only thing that broke her out of her trance was the sound of Nick crying out.
It was a short cry of pain and surprise, and Zelda feared the worst. She slowly turned around, not wanting to see what her mind was telling her had happened. When she was turned completely around, her heart sank.
There was no sign of Nick anywhere. Tears formed in her eyes, as she feared for the lives of her friends, and her own life. Surely, whoever was doing this would get here too. She fell to her knees and covered her face with her hands.
She remained there for several minutes, although she didn’t know it. Her crying slowed, but tears still flowed from her eyes. She was now aware of the sound of hooves and she looked up, half expecting that the oncoming rider was there to kill her.
The man on the horse drew nearer.
“Ma’am! Grab on!”
Zelda was reluctant and didn’t even stand up as the horse and rider came to a halt beside her.
“Ma’am, please! If you don’t come with me, you’ll be killed!”
She didn’t know why, but for some reason, she believed that this man was not tricking her. Slowly, she stood up and held out her hand.
Forcefully, he grabbed her and pulled her up onto the horse. Before she was even settled in, he kicked the horse into a full sprint.
They headed straight for Deliah.
* * * *
William joined them for breakfast not too long after they had headed downstairs. He sat next to them, mumbling obscenities.
“What’s wrong William?” Aaron asked.
“You jerks didn’t wake me for breakfast!” he replied, slightly angry.
The other three started laughing. This only infuriated William more, but he controlled himself.
“Is that it?” Link questioned, still laughing. “All you ever think about is food.”
William held in his anger. They did this to him all the time, and he had long grown sick of the teasing. He never understood why they should care that he loved eating. It was a personal thing.
Michael slowly stopped laughing, but Link and Aaron were still going at it. He looked over at William and could see the anger swelling up inside him. William’s red face was a dead give-away.
“Alright, that’s enough guys,” Michael said, trying to calm Link and Aaron down. “Let’s just eat.”
They listened to him, but it took them some time to stop laughing. In that time, the waitress approached the table and looked at William.
“Can I get you anything, sir?”
“How about the entire menu!” Aaron blurted out, sending himself and Link into a laughing frenzy once again.
William’s face became an even deeper red than before and he clenched his fists tightly under the table. Michael could sense the tension from his body and worried that he would erupt and do something stupid.
“William, please calm down,” he pleaded with him, hoping to calm the situation before it exploded into a humiliating one.
William continued to clench his fists, his hands becoming white from the pressure he applied on them. Link and Aaron continued to laugh. He tightened all of his muscles, the rage swelling up in him. All he could hear was the laughter from his two friends. Not even the pleading of Michael was getting through.
“Don’t do anything rash,” Michael was saying. “We don’t want to make a scene here.”
The waitress hadn’t moved the entire time. She wasn’t sure what was going on, but figured that it was something that only the group of friends would understand. So, instead of helping William calm down, she stood patiently, waiting for the entire thing to be over.
“William, please…” Michael was still pleading over the laughter of the other two.
He couldn’t hold the anger in any longer. In a sudden, violent rage, William stood up from his chair, knocking it over backward. He placed both hands under the table and with a loud roar, flipped it over. The plates and glasses went flying through the air, causing several of the other patrons to cover their heads. Link and Aaron jumped out of their seats, which had been opposite that of William, but food and water still splattered all over them. Their laughing, of course, had ceased immediately upon William flipping the table. Now, an expression of surprise was present on their faces as water dripped and food fell off them.
Michael jumped out of his chair as well and he tried to restrain the flailing William. He was still yelling at the top of his lungs, but the words were all incoherent.
“William, calm down!”
Michael grabbed William’s arms in each of his hands, but William’s rage was too much for him, and he was shoved to the floor. The waitress backed away from the angry man, fearing that he might take out his anger on her next. She backed up all the way to the nearby wall, stopping abruptly as she hit it.
Link and Aaron both ran at William, trying to subdue him before he hurt any of the innocent bystanders. With one arm, William fended off Aaron, throwing him into the next table, snapping it in half. He then grabbed Link with both arms and sent him flying in the air, finally hitting the floor and sliding.
Conflict arose inside William’s head. The rage that had just taken hold of him was powerful, and there was a part of him that enjoyed the feeling of strength. He felt he could do anything and no one, not even Link, the Hero of Time, could stop him. But forcing its way through the cloud of rage was his sanity. The true William became louder and louder and the two forces battled for his mind.
This internal struggle was visible to all in the inn. As William fought to get control of himself again, his head thrashed back and forth, both his hands atop it in an attempt to make the pain stop. He fell to his knees, all the while screaming. He kept his hands on top of his head, and the wild thrashing slowed a little. Michael had since gotten up and was now directly behind William, watching as one of his new friends struggled to keep his identity. Slowly, Michael moved up to him and placed his right hand on William’s left shoulder.
William shot back up, as if this action of compassion triggered something inside his mind, causing the turmoil to increase again. Michael pulled back, half expecting a fist to the jaw, or perhaps to the stomach. But none came.
Instead, William looked around at all his friends and the patrons of the inn. His true self gained slight control and he realized that he had been making a fool of himself and had not only embarrassed himself, but his friends as well. Before his rage picked up again, William darted out of the inn.
“William!” Link yelled. He had just gotten back up from the fall and was already running toward the door. In the process, he needed to pass by Michael.
Michael stopped him. He put his arm out across Link’s chest, signaling for him to stop where he was.
“He needs time to think,” Michael said. “Just leave him be.”
In front of them, Aaron picked himself up off the floor and placed his hand on the back of his neck. He moved his head in circles and his joints popped.
“Just let him be,” Michael repeated.
* * * *
The horse was brought to a stop outside of the constable’s office. Zelda looked around the desert town and was reminded of Salenne back in Hyrule. Although situated in the desert, the town was decorated lavishly with plant-life. Shrubs and flowerbeds flourished all throughout the town and Zelda figured that they must have an irrigation system that fed them all, but from where she didn’t know.
She looked down and realized that the man who had whisked her away (she giggled as she thought of that; it sounded so romantic) was standing there, offering assistance in her dismount. Politely, she placed her hand in his and dismounted.
The constable rushed outside.
“Roland, what’s going on?” he demanded to know.
The man who had brought Zelda here answered. “This here lady was out in the desert, constable. Alone.”
“What? Is this true young lady?”
“No! My friends were with me, but they were captured!” she cried out.
“Those damn wenches again!” the constable complained.
“Sounds like it,” Roland remarked. He turned to Zelda. “Ms….”
“Zelda. My name is Zelda.”
“Ms. Zelda,” he continued, “How many friends were you traveling with?”
“And were they all males?”
“Yes,” she answered, not sure as to why he asked a question like that.
“It is those wenches!” the constable cried out again.
“No doubt about it,” Roland agreed.
“Wenches?” Zelda repeated. “What’s going on here?”
“Come inside,” the constable said, waving his arm. “It’s too hot out here.”
The three of them walked inside. The room was sparsely furnished, with only a desk in the middle and some bookshelves that were stacked with paper. The constable sat down behind the desk, while Roland and Zelda took the two remaining chairs for themselves.
“Where shall we start?” the constable asked.
“Who captured my friends?”
“A group of women that are known as The Desert Starlettes,” Roland answered.
“The Desert Starlettes?”
The constable continued. “They’re a band of women that abduct men from the surrounding desert. They appeared only a few years ago, but their presence has already affected us.”
“There is no longer a safe route out or into this town,” Roland added. “Their tunnels are everywhere, and we just don’t have the resources to patrol the entire desert.”
“Why do they abduct men and not women?”
“They do abduct women, but that figure is insignificant compared to how many men that they take,” Roland answered.
“What do they do to them?”
The constable fielded that question. “From what we’ve been able to gather, they bring them to a hidden headquarters and make them their slaves.”
“But not ordinary slaves,” Roland said. “They become love slaves.”
Zelda laughed. “You’re kidding, right?”
“I’m afraid not, ma’am,” the constable said.
“What man wouldn’t want that?” she continued to laugh. “I’d say that my friends are right where they want to be!”
“One would think that,” Roland said, “but it’s not all its cracked up to be.”
“Tell me,” the constable said, leaning forward in his chair. “Have you ever heard of a Succubus?”
Zelda squinted her eyes as she thought. “No,” she said, shaking her head. “Never heard of it.”
“A Succubus is a demon that feeds on the souls of men,” the constable informed her. “The vile creature disguises itself as a female and entices men. Slowly, the Succubus takes control of the man’s soul.”
“And no one can enter the heavens without a soul,” Roland said in a saddened tone.
“Then we must get my friends back before its too late!” Zelda screamed.
The constable and Roland both shook their heads.
“I’m afraid that’s impossible,” the constable said. “Nobody, save one, has ever escaped from The Desert Starlettes.”
“Then it’s not impossible!” she exclaimed. “If someone escaped once, what’s from stopping more?”
“It’s too dangerous,” Roland protested. “And besides, who would try to rescue them?”
“I would. I would do anything necessary to get them back… with their souls.”
The constable leaned back. “I don’t know…”
“I don’t care what you think! You don’t even have to help! Just tell me where I can find this man that escaped from them.”
Roland sighed. “That man is I.”
“So you know the location of their headquarters and the best way in there?”
“Well, I did before, but they’ve no doubt tightened security since I escaped six months ago. We’d have to find another way in.”
“So, basically,” she said, “we need a plan.”
“And a very good one at that,” Roland said.
“I cannot give you any men for this rescue attempt,” the constable said. “But if you somehow, in someway, succeed, the whole town of Deliah will be ready to strike these wenches.”
“Understood,” Roland said as he stood up. Zelda followed suit. “Come, we must formulate a strategy if we are to get your friends back.”
Roland simply smiled back as the two of them walked out of the constable’s office.
* * * *
Nick woke up and his nose was immediately attacked by a heavy, dank stench. Dried blood was present on his face, remnants of the small laceration in his head. Somewhere, perhaps in the distance, he could hear the rhythmic dropping of water on rock. He found himself lying on the floor, his head propped up on the wall, straining his neck. Looking around, he noticed that he was in some sort of cell, enclosed on three sides by rock. He sat up and rubbed the back of his neck with his left hand, grunting at the same time.
“Hello?” he called out.
There was no answer. He forced himself to stand up, his head spinning and crying out in pain. The bars in front of him were only a mere ten feet away, and he decided to go to them. He struggled all the way, his feet too heavy for his body to lift. He was forced to walk in short bursts of baby steps, barely able to keep his balance. Finally, after great effort, he was able to lean up against the prison bars.
He tried to poke his head through the bars, but they were too closely spaced. Desperate to get a look outside, he turned his head sideways and peered out of his right eye into the hallway before him. To his left, he could see more prison cells, but he couldn’t see anybody in them. He turned his head again, this time gazing out with his left eye. There were no cells there; only another tunnel that led away from the prisons. Sighing, he turned his head the other way again.
“Is anybody down here?”
The voice grunted, seemingly rising to its feet.
“Who’s there?” Nick asked.
“Nick?” the voice replied. “Nick, it’s Robert.”
“Robert! Thank the Goddesses! I thought I was all alone at first.”
Robert chuckled. “Well, you’re not alone, but you might as well be. Looks like these bars are pretty strong.”
Nick grabbed two adjacent bars and tried to pull them apart. Straining with all his might, he accomplished nothing except a burning sensation in his muscles.
“That’s for sure.”
“What about John?” Robert asked.
Nick shrugged, although he knew Robert couldn’t see him from the next cell over. “I don’t know. I’m hoping that he’s down here, still unconscious.”
“So where do you suppose we are?”
“You mean, other than in an underground cavern, imprisoned by some mysterious enemy?” Nick asked sarcastically.
“Well,” Robert paused. “Yeah, besides that.”
“Not a clue.”
“Lot of help you are.”
“John?” Nick called out to the new voice.
“John!” Robert shouted. “So, we’re all together. Aside from these bars.”
“Seems that way,” Nick replied. “John, where are you?”
“Down here,” he responded, his voice hoarse.
“Down where?” Nick asked.
“Sounds like he’s to my left, Nick. They’ve put all three of us adjacent to each other.”
“Looks it. But who are they?” Nick thought aloud.
Robert shook his head. “You got me.”
The three of them fell silent, each trying to figure out where they were exactly. None of them knew how long they had been out. They all tried to recollect what had happened just before they each lost consciousness, but even that didn’t tell them anything. Suddenly, the last memory popped into Nick’s head.
“What?” John asked. “Zelda?”
“Where’s Zelda?” Nick shouted again.
“She’s not here?” John continued, confused.
“Zelda! Can you hear me?” Nick kept on yelling.
“There’s no use yelling,” a new voice interjected. “She’s not here.”
All three of them peered out of their cells to try to see who had entered the room. The striking woman walked seductively in front of them, wearing very little.
“Who are you?” Robert asked.
She laughed and walked up to his cell. She placed her right index finger under his chin and slowly pulled it back. “That’s the least of your worries.”
“You vile temptress!” Robert shouted.
“Now that’s not necessary. You’re stay here can be so much more… rewarding… if you know how to act.”
“You’re nothing but a filthy wench!”
“Now, Robert,” John said, “she’s not a filthy wench. Look at her. She’s beautiful.”
She gazed over at John’s cell and smiled, causing him to smile in return.
“John! Do not fall for those woman’s lies! Going along with her will do us no good!”
“I think John has the right idea,” she said, turning back to face Robert. “Why don’t you be a good boy and play nice? Hmm, Robert?”
Robert was disgusted. There was no doubt in his mind that the seductress who stood before him had evil intentions, and using her body as a weapon made him sick. Unable to do anything else from his position, he spit in her face.
“I will do no such thing.”
The spittle landed directly on her left cheek, but she didn’t even flinch. To his surprise, and utter disgust, she wiped it off her cheek with her fingers, and then placed them in her mouth, licking them clean.
“You’re revolting,” he simply said, turning his back to her.
She chuckled and smiled, keeping her gaze on the back of his head.
“Where’s Zelda?” Nick asked, feebly.
The temptress finally removed her gaze from Robert. “So she was the other with you… this Zelda?”
“Yes, damn it! Now where is she?” he screamed.
“She got away. Much to my displeasure.”
A sigh of relief exited Nick.
“I wouldn’t be too relieved if I were you,” she scolded. “There is no escape for her from this desert. She will become one of us, or die.”
Nick clenched his teeth. “If you as so much lay a finger on her, I’ll rip you to pieces!”
She laughed hard. “Strong words from someone enclosed behind bars,” she said as she ran her fingers across the bars in front of him. “Besides, by that time, you would already be ours.”
“Not on your life!”
She laughed a little more. “So brave.” She ran the back of her fingers across his cheek. “We’ll see how long that lasts.” She smiled.
John tried to see as much as possible, but the awkward angle didn’t offer much. Disappointed, he gave up trying. The temptress left Nick and walked toward John’s cell, and he could sense her coming. He clambered up to the cell bars again and waited.
“My little John,” she said seductively. “I believe you’ll be the first.”
John smiled wide. She placed her palm on his left cheek and smiled.
“In due time, my love. In due time.” She backed up and walked out of the room, all the while John unable to turn his attention away from her.
As soon as he figured she was out of earshot, Robert let John have it.
“What the hell are you thinking?”
“I’m not,” he answered. “It just feels right.”
“Listen to me, John. There’s something not right about all of this. Besides the fact that we’re prisoners here!”
“He’s right, John,” Nick backed Robert up. “I would steer clear from any sort of cooperation with that vile wench.”
“Why?” John asked. “There doesn’t seem to be any chance of us getting out of here, so we might as well enjoy the ride.”
“Oh, I’m getting out of here,” Robert said firmly. “There’s no doubt about that. One way or another, I’m getting out of here.”
“Good luck,” John said, annoyed with the attitude of his friends.
“Zelda’s still out there. She’ll find a way,” Nick said.
“I hope you’re right about that,” Robert added. “I hope you’re right.”
“Yeah,” Nick said, pausing briefly. “Me too.”
“He’s been gone for quite awhile now,” Link said, gazing out the window of their room at the inn. “Where do you suppose he is?”
“Who knows,” Aaron replied, half-heartedly.
Michael turned to him, annoyed. “It’s because of you two that he ran off like that!”
Both of them knew that he was right, and neither responded other than hanging their heads in shame. They had pushed their friend a little too far it seemed. And there was no telling if he was coming back. William had now been gone for several hours, most likely to think things through. Link wanted to search for him nearly an hour ago, but Michael suggested otherwise. He needs to come back on his own, he had said. He knows where we are.
“Can’t we go look for him?” Link asked again.
“No!” Michael yelled. “Let him come back at his own discretion.”
“But what if he never comes back?” Aaron asked, this time showing some emotion. “We need him!”
“Need him?” Michael repeated. “Do you mean as a friend? Or as another body on this adventure of yours?”
Link and Aaron felt like they had been shot.
“That was low, Michael,” Aaron answered.
“Of course he’s our friend, always has been,” Link said to Michael. “Life wouldn’t be the same without him around.”
“You don’t always treat him like a friend.”
“How so?” Aaron demanded to know.
Michael sighed. “You always make fun of him.”
“We’re just joking with him,” Link justified.
“Does he know that? Sometimes those words hurt a lot more than can be seen by others.”
Link and Aaron fell silent once again as they thought about the implications that their joking had brought on. They remained that why for quite some time, Michael watching out the window as they thought. The once sunny skies were now beginning to cloud over, a storm on the horizon. A lone figure walked up the street toward the inn and Michael smiled.
Their heads bolted up from their hanging position and they ran to the window. Sure enough, there was William walking up the stairs of the inn. Excitedly, Link and Aaron ran out of the room and down the stairs to meet him in the dining room.
“William!” Link yelled as he ran up and hugged his friend. William wasn’t quite sure what to do, and he reluctantly patted his friend on the back.
Aaron ran up to him as well and hugged both him and Link at the same time. William looked around the room and felt the eyes of every patron there upon them.
“Uh, guys?” he started. “It’s good to see you and all, but you can let go now. Everyone’s looking at us.”
“We’re sorry, William,” Aaron said. “We were just joking. We didn’t really mean those things.”
William was confused. When he had erupted at them, they had been absolutely shocked. But now, their attitudes had changed dramatically. He looked around the room again and saw Michael walking down the stairs.
“I’m glad that you’re back,” Michael said.
“Me too,” William agreed. “Michael? What did you do to them?” he asked as he pointed to his two apologetic friends.
Michael laughed. “We just had a little chat… for a few hours.”
“I see,” William said, laughing slightly. “So what do we do now?”
“Ask them,” Michael said.
William laughed again and faced Link. “So? Shall we be moving on?”
Link had regained his composure. “Yes. We should move on to the next town.”
“Where is it?”
“On the other side of Lake Rotenda.”
“Well, let’s get going,” William said as he headed out of the inn. Link followed right behind him, but Michael and Aaron fell behind.
“Come on, Aaron. We need to get going.”
“I’m so sorry,” Aaron was still repeating.
“I think he knows. You’ve only told him about thirty times,” Michael said, chuckling. “Let’s go.”
Michael put his arm around Aaron’s shoulder and gave him a quick headlock. Laughing, they both headed out the door.
* * * *
“Move!” a female voice yelled, waking Nick from his sleep.
He struggled to his feet and walked up to the prison bars. Three people had entered the prison, one of them in shackles. The two women forced him forward, pushing and kicking him until their prisoner did as they pleased. The man seemed badly beaten, as if he had put up a fight, but was subdued in the end. He struggled down the hallway, moving slightly faster whenever they kicked him, not because he was giving in, but because of the force behind their blows.
“Get in there!” one of them yelled as she grabbed him and threw him into the back of the prison cell across from Nick.
He tripped and fell over a rock, landing hard on the ground. He let out a small expression of pain, which only made his captors happier.
“You think you’re in pain?” the other woman asked, evilly. “Just you wait. We have no tolerance for those who fight back.”
She gave him a quick kick in the ribs, and he gasped for air. As she walked away with a grin on her face, the new prisoner swept her legs out from under her, taking her to the ground. She got up quickly, blood coming from a wound on her forehead.
“You’ll pay for that, you male slime,” she hissed, giving him another swift kick in the ribs. “When the time comes, I’ll make you pay.”
The two women exited the cell and slammed the gate closed and locked it. One of them immediately left the room, but the second stayed. She wiped the blood from her face and stared at their prisoner.
“Just you wait.”
She stared at him for a moment longer. Laughing, she swirled around and faced Nick.
“I suggest that you don’t try anything either, scum. Unless you want to end up like him.” She laughed again and left the prison.
Nick watched her go and wondered if they were all women. He hadn’t seen a single man, aside from the ones imprisoned here, and he wondered just what they had in store for them. He sighed as his mind raced with questions that he was unable to answer.
Nick turned and saw the new arrival leaning up against his prison bars.
“Are you okay?” Nick asked, although he could tell that the man was in pain.
“I’ll be fine,” he answered between clenched teeth. “Just some minor cuts and bruises.” He was now standing on his own.
“You should rest and save some energy.”
“There’s no time for that,” he replied.
Nick squinted his eyes in confusion. “What do you mean there’s no time? From what I’ve gathered, we’ll be here for awhile.”
“Not me,” the stranger replied, sitting down on the hard, stone slab that was his bed. “I’m getting out of here.”
“And how do you plan on doing that?”
“Oh,” he paused. “I’ve got my ways.”
“You better start talking, because I want out of here too. I’m supposed to be protecting someone, but instead, I’m stuck here, leaving her defenseless and alone.”
“Ah,” the stranger chuckled. “You must be Nick.”
Nick was taken aback. “How the hell did you know my name? Who are you?” he demanded.
“Zelda told me about you. She told me about all of you.”
“Zelda?” Nick asked and exclaimed at the same time. “Where is she?”
“Somewhere in this hideout.”
“What? She’s here? Have they captured her?”
“No. She’s going to get us out of here.”
“You mean to tell me that you left her to infiltrate this hideout by herself? What the hell is wrong with you?”
“Believe me, it’s the only way.”
Nick was becoming quite angry and he welled up his fists. “Why? Why didn’t you just save us yourself?”
“Because that would’ve been impossible,” he replied. “They can smell a male coming from miles away. But Zelda, she’ll be able to go undetected. For awhile at least.”
“So then why the hell did you come here?”
The stranger stood up again. “I created a diversion. While the evil demons pursued me, she was able to slip by them and get in. Now, it’s up to her.”
Nick thought about the plan for several minutes. It made sense to make a diversion, and if what the stranger told him was true, then perhaps Zelda was the only one who could rescue them. Still, he didn’t like to put her in harm’s way. If anything should happen to her, Nick didn’t think he could ever face Link again.
“Since you know my name,” Nick finally said, “Mind telling me yours?”
“Well, Roland, that’s Robert in the cell next to mine,” Nick gestured to Robert, who was still sleeping, “and two down is John.”
“Bad news, my new friend,” Roland said. “John’s not there.”
“What? Where is he? Robert, wake up!”
Nick yelled loud enough to wake Robert, who instantly jumped to his feet at the loud shout. “What? What’s wrong Nick?”
“They’ve taken John!”
“That seems to be the case,” Roland answered. “It’s too late for him.”
“What do you mean it’s too late for him?” Robert yelled to the stranger. “What are they doing to him?”
“Merely extracting his soul.”
“Extracting his soul?” Nick and Robert shouted in unison.
“Yes. You see, these women aren’t just ordinary women. Each of them is a succubus.”
“My Goddesses…” Robert whimpered. “It can’t be. Those things aren’t real.”
“I’m afraid they are. And it looks like your friend is their latest victim. I’m sorry.”
“You’re sorry?” Nick asked, shocked. “That’s all you can say? I don’t think so! We’re not leaving this place without him!”
“Are you insane? They’ll get you all! There’s no way to save him!”
“There’s always a way!” Nick yelled back.
“No use arguing about it now,” Robert said calmly. “We’re stuck here for the time being.”
“Until Zelda gets here,” Roland said.
“What?” Robert questioned. “Zelda?”
“Yes,” Nick said as he sat down on the hard bed. “She’s going to get us out of this.”
“I see. Well, she better get here soon. Or else we may never get John back.”
Roland sat back down. “For now, we should rest a little. She shouldn’t take too long. But if you want to get your friend back, you’re going to need all the strength you can muster.”
Silence fell between the three of them and they all lay down, waiting for Zelda to show up and release them. They prayed for her safety, and theirs.
* * * *
Zelda peered over the rock that she was hiding behind. She was looking over a large room (possibly the main room, she wasn’t sure). The floor of the room was like a maze. Paths twisted to platforms, all of which seemed to be suspended in some way over an abyss. Flames shot up from these gaps all over the room.
She was about to get up and continue on her way when she heard voices entering the room from the far side. Quickly, she got back behind the rock, out of sight, clutching the small dagger that Roland had given her. She watched on as several of the evil women lead a male to the center platform. It seemed strange to her, but it seemed as if the male wasn’t struggled against them. Almost like he wanted to be there. Confused, she continued to watch on.
The vile temptresses strapped the waiting male onto a table. They bounded his arms and legs, leaving his head free to move. Turning a crank, the table tilted until it stood upright. Zelda could feel her heart pounding as she waited for them to do something horrible to him. Sweat ran down her face from the intense heat in the room, and she was forced to wipe her brow. Looking back over the rock, she saw the three wenches dancing seductively about the restrained male. Zelda nearly gagged at the sight. This sort of thing was looked down on by many people, and was a crime in Hyrule. But, she continued to watch.
One of the women moved in on the male, kissing him in an uncivilized way. Zelda felt unclean by just watching this sexual frenzy. She looked away and decided to keep on moving.
“You like this, don’t you John?”
Zelda froze. It was the first thing that they had said the entire time in the room. She looked out over the rock again.
“Yes,” John answered as they continued to dance around him.
“John…” Zelda said under her breath. “No…”
She slid behind the rock again, her hand over her mouth, her eyes closed. Inadvertently, she kicked a small pebble and it fell from the ledge, and rolled down the cliff. Immediately, the three women stopped and glared up toward the top of the cavern, and hissed.
Realizing that she had been spotted, Zelda got up and ran in the direction of the prisons. She only hoped that the information Roland had given her would pan out. She made a right turn, then a left. She ran as fast as she could through the winding passages, hoping to find her friends alive.
As she turned the next corner, she slammed into a Succubus. It had apparently waited for her there. She hissed and swung at Zelda, barely missing as she dove out of the way. With speed Zelda never knew she had, she thrust forward with the small dagger and pierced the demonic skin of the Succubus. The creature wailed out in pain, and Zelda took the opportunity. She ran into it, knocking it to the floor as she ran on by.
She navigated the passageways some more before finding herself exactly where she wanted to be. She stood at the entrance to the prisons, breathing heavily. Taking a deep breath, she walked down the hallway.
Zelda turned her head quickly and saw Nick standing in his prison cell.
She ran over to him and smiled.
“Quick! Get us out of here!” he said.
She nodded and reached into her pocket, pulling out a piece of metal. Placing the piece of metal into the lock, she effortlessly picked it, freeing Nick.
“Good,” Nick said as he took the piece of metal from her. “I’ll get the other two.”
As he unlocked the cells for Robert and Roland, Zelda spoke up.
“Nick…,” she said meekly. “John’s been…”
“We know, Princess. But we’re going to get him back.”
Once they were all free of their prisons, they made their way out of prison hallway.
“Do you know where he is?” Robert asked.
“This way!” Zelda yelled, leading the way.
She repeated the twisting and turning through the passageways, only this time in reverse. Soon, they were above the same large room in which Zelda had seen John. To their dismay, the demons had once again begun the exorcising ritual that would remove John’s soul from his body. Without wasting any time, Robert jumped off the ledge, onto the sloping wall. Nick followed.
“No!” Roland shouted. “It’s too late!”
“It’s never too late,” Zelda simply stated as she too jumped onto the slope.
Roland looked on as the three of them slid down the rock wall, determined to save their friend. He felt a great sense of admiration for them, for in the face of absolute danger and imminent death, they still leapt forward, without a doubt, to save their friend. Sighing, he followed them down.
Robert hit the bottom platform first and yelled at the demons that stood in front of John. Hissing back, they transformed into their true forms. The ugly creatures were tall and lanky, a thick slime covering their bodies. Their claws were long and sharp, as were their teeth. Screeching in fury, they charged their new prey. Nick joined Robert at his side and the time of them ran directly at the charging Succubae.
The first Succubus lunged for Robert, but he stepped aside and then knocked the demon into the burning abyss, the vile thing screeching all the way down. In the process, he neglected the second demon. It swiped at him, and it grazed his arm as he attempted to dodge the attack. It readied itself for another swing, but Nick ran in, yelling at the top of his lungs, as he pierced the demon’s black heart with his sword.
“It was nothing. Can’t afford to have you die at a time like this anyway.”
“Oh no…,” Robert gasped. “Zelda!”
She was under attack from the remaining Succubus. Her clothes were torn where several small wounds that the demon had inflicted. Desperate, Zelda cast Nayru’s Love, placing a magical barrier around herself. The creature was surprised at the maneuver, and when it attempted to break the shield, it was thrown back. It a battle cry that would make many men quiver in fear, Zelda ran at the stunned demon and decapitated it, its flimsy neck giving way to her dagger.
“Nice job, Princess!” Robert yelled.
Nick smiled. “Looks like I don’t have to worry about you as much.”
Zelda smiled back, satisfied. She began to walk over to them.
“Don’t let your guard down!” Roland yelled from behind them. “They’re demons! They can’t be so easily killed!”
Almost as if on cue, the fallen demons rose up again and snarled at the nuisance that stood in front of them. Roland ran past the creatures and joined the others.
“Great!” Robert yelled. “What the hell do we do now?”
“The only thing we can do,” Roland answered.
“And that is?”
The two Succubae charged them a second time, and the four of them ran in the opposite direction, toward the bounded John.
“Get him out of those chains!” Roland yelled.
Nick and Robert ran over to the table, Robert turning the crank to lower it. As soon as it was horizontal again, Nick began undoing the restraints.
“What are you doing? I don’t want to go.”
“Of course you do, John.”
“No! Let go! Let go! Let go!”
John began to flail around, making it extremely difficult for Nick and Robert to free him from the bindings. Nick struggled to remove them, but he was getting frustrated.
“Damn it, John! Stop it!”
“He’s been placed under their spell!” Roland yelled, holding the two Succubae at bay. “He won’t go willingly anymore!”
Nick sighed. “He won’t go willingly, huh?” he repeated. He sighed again and turned to face John, still wriggling around in his restraints. Nick clenched his right fist and placed it inside his left palm. “Forgive me, John.”
“What are you doing?” Robert inquired, not sure what was going on.
Without answering him, Nick pulled back and swung, punching John in the head. Instantly, the entrapped Knight was knocked unconscious, and his sporadic movements ceased. Nick turned to face John.
“We’re going to have to carry him out.”
“I was afraid of that,” Robert answered as the two of them removed the rest of the restraints.
Robert grabbed John’s legs and Nick grabbed his arms. Once they were both ready, they hoisted him up off the table.
“Where do we go?” Robert yelled.
“That way!” Zelda responded, having been through this way before.
Without hesitating, Robert and Nick ran in the direction Zelda indicated, a tunnel opening in front of them. John’s body bobbed up and down with the beat of their footsteps. Zelda was directly behind them, running for her life. Roland, however, was still battling the Succubae.
“Roland!” Zelda screamed, stopping her retreat. “Hurry up! We’ve got to get out of here!”
Faintly hearing her scream, Roland attacked one last time at the two Succubae, performing a spin attack that resembled that of Link’s. The two demons stepped back to avoid it, and that was what Roland was waiting for. Quickly, he turned and ran toward the others, toward safety. As he ran, he could hear the sound of the demons wailing.
In front of him, Zelda was horrified, and her face showed it. Coming from the opposite end of the room and from above them, were tens of Succubae. They seemingly came out of nowhere, and their numbers were far too great for the Knights to fend them off.
Zelda turned to look behind her and saw that Robert and Nick had successfully exited the large room. Confident that they would be fine, she turned back to Roland.
“Hurry up! They’re all around us!”
“Run, you fool! Don’t waste your time telling me what to do!”
Zelda nodded and immediately ran for the exit. She had made it to the tunnel entrance when she heard an ear-piercing demon scream, followed by a human grunt. Her heart sinking in her chest, she looked back into the large room and saw Roland lying on the ground, a Succubus hovering over him. Fearless, she ran back into the fray and surprised the demon, sending it into the nearby flaming pit. She dropped to his side.
He lay there, struggling to breathe, a gash across his chest. His right leg had been cut off and a pool of blood was already forming.
“Zelda… get out of here.”
“Not without you.”
“There’s no chance for me anymore. I won’t make it no matter what you do. Just go… let me finish this…” he said as he pulled something out of his pocket.
“What is that?”
“A highly explosive bomb. I brought it just in case something like this happened. Now go.”
“Damn it! I said go!” he yelled at her with such ferocity that she ran immediately, leaving him in the middle of the room.
She didn’t bother to look back, didn’t want to. She made her way into the tunnel and ran for her life away from the demonic underground dwelling.
“Alright you vile, revolting demons! You’ve killed too many of my friends! It all ends here!”
He lit the short fuse and laughed.
The explosion ripped through the caverns like an earthquake, and Zelda ran even faster, fearing that it would all cave in around her. She turned the final corner and could see daylight only twenty yards ahead, Robert and Nick standing at the entrance, yelling for her to move it.
The walls of the tunnel around her began to crack and she lunged forward through the opening, Robert bracing her impact with the ground. She didn’t bother to look back at the crumbling caverns. She wouldn’t have been able to see it anyway. Her eyes filled with tears and she cried openly into Robert’s arms.
As the destruction continued, the three of them stared at the once indestructible demon dwelling, John still unconscious, lying on the desert sand. They watched it crumble for a long time, each one silently grieving for the sacrifice that Roland made.
Zelda cried some more.
“So what was all of that about?” Link asked William as they continued their walk from Nulson to Rotenda.
William didn’t respond right away, as if his mind was somewhere else and the question had to journey to him.
“What? What was what about?”
“When you ran off furious,” Link specified, the tone of his voice indicating that he felt the situation was obvious.
William looked straight ahead of them. “I just needed to blow off some steam.”
Link laughed slightly, “I’ll say.”
William sighed. “I had a lot on my mind. This whole journey has been extremely exhausting and I guess it finally got to me. I’m sorry for blowing up on you guys like that. It was a stupid thing to do.”
“It’s not your fault,” Link said as he placed his arm around his friend’s shoulder. “We took it too far.”
They fell silent, Link pulling his arm back. The four of them had left Nulson over two hours ago, and they were now walking alongside Lake Rotenda, and at the same time, had left the country of Jercia behind. They were now in Gilrond, the large country that surrounded their destination on three sides. Of course, they didn’t know that they had entered Gilrond, because there still wasn’t much to see. The scenery remained the same.
Aaron looked up at the sky and could see the storm clouds that seemed to hover on the other side of Lake Rotenda. It appeared to him that the large, black clouds had been over that area for the entire time now, with only a few clouds making the journey across the water. One such cloud was now directly above them.
“This doesn’t look good,” he said to himself.
“What doesn’t look good?” Michael repeated, overhearing Aaron.
“Hmm?” Aaron mumbled before realizing that Michael heard him. He looked back up at the sky. “It’s going to storm.”
Michael turned his head skyward and nodded his head in agreement. “Sure will.” He lowered his head again and called up to Link, who was walking with William in front.
“Hey Link! How far do you suppose Rotenda is?”
Link stopped and turned around. “Still a few hours away, I believe. Why? Are you in some sort of hurry?”
“You could say that. Look up.”
Lifting his head up, Link saw what Michael meant. He shook his head and sighed.
“We’ll just have to walk in the rain. Hopefully, we’ll be closer to Rotenda before it starts.”
As soon as Link finished his statement, a single raindrop fell and hit him on the left cheek. Several more drops fell, smacking him in the forehead. Next to him, William stood with his arm stretched out in front of him, palm up. Several drops hit his hand to confirm that it was starting to rain.
“Good job, Link. You just had to open your mouth,” William said sarcastically.
Link sighed. “Stupid weather is mocking me.”
“Well, boys,” Aaron said as he walked up behind them, placing an arm on each of them, “there’s no use complaining now. We can’t stop the rain no matter how much you try to insult it, Link.”
“Then I suggest we start running and get as far as possible before it gets too bad,” Michael said.
Link didn’t respond. He was still staring at the darkening sky, wondering if they would be successful and get his son back. The gloomy weather seemed to fit his mood more precisely. Now, the dark clouds were not just in his head.
“Wha… what?” he replied, coming out of his daze.
“Don’t you think we should move quickly?” Michael asked, gesturing for him to get moving.
“Oh… yes, of course.”
And before any one else could say another word, Link took off running. With a slight hesitation, the rest of them followed.
* * * *
The festival began immediately, as word of the destruction of the Desert Starlettes spread throughout the town quickly. The mayor proclaimed Nick, John, Robert, and Zelda as heroes that would be remembered for all time. People littered the streets, dancing around in the center of town, laughing merrily. Although the mood around them was cheerful and carefree, the four of them felt completely different. Roland’s sacrifice was nothing that any of them wanted to celebrate, even if his death was necessary.
“I don’t want to be here,” Zelda whimpered.
Nick wrapped his arm around her, consoling her and agreeing at the same time. They stood there, up on center stage in front of all the townspeople, and were presented as heroes. The people right in front of them were hooting and hollering, and throwing flowers onto the stage. The mayor had long since left them alone and joined the celebration.
“Let’s get out of here,” John said, still shaking at what had nearly happened to him. “I don’t feel like celebrating.”
Zelda, John, and Nick headed off the back of the stage, while Robert walked up to the front, near all the flowers. Leaning down, and being grabbed by people, he picked up a single carnation before joining the rest of his friends at the back of the stage.
“Where are you going?” the constable asked them as they passed by.
They all stopped, but only Zelda turned to face him.
“We don’t want to be here any longer,” she simply said.
“What?” he answered, surprised. “Why not? We’re having this festival in your honor!”
“And we appreciate it,” she answered. “But it’s just too soon. Besides, we have to be moving on.”
“Well I can’t say that I agree with it, but I can see that it means a lot to you folks. May your journey be safe, and thank you once again for all that you’ve done.”
“Thank you, Constable,” Zelda said politely, swiftly turning around and rejoining the other three.
The constable looked on as the four of them headed out of town for several minutes. Sighing, he turned around and headed back for the celebration.
They made their way out of the east end of town, stopped every now and then by some citizens that weren’t currently at the town center. Once outside of town, they headed directly for the rubble from the underground caverns.
They stood in silence next to where the entrance had been. Robert walked up, knelt down, and placed the carnation on the ground, showing his respect for the departed Roland. They each silently said their own prayer for his soul.
After several minutes of silence, Robert stepped back from the entrance. “Thank you, Roland. You’ve done the world a great service, and you will be missed.”
John, Nick, and Zelda nodded their agreement, each making the sign of the Goddesses. They walked away from the rubble as silently as they had approached it.
“So where are we heading now?” John asked.
“To the town of Gatero,” Nick answered somberly. “It’s at the foot of the Gat Mountains up ahead.” He pointed in front of them to the horizon.
“I hope it’s a nice place,” John said. “I’m getting tired of these little surprises that we always get caught up in.”
“Amen to that,” Robert said, praying that Gatero would prove to be peaceful and present no further problems.
“Do you think Link and the others have reached Pomina yet, Nick?” Zelda asked, desperate to see him again.
Nick sighed. “I don’t know, Princess. If they’ve had the same setbacks that we have, probably not. But who knows? Maybe they got lucky.”
“I doubt it,” Robert said matter-of-factly.
“Why?” Zelda asked, her voice showing that she was a little frightened and upset by this answer.
Robert shook his head and sighed. “It just seems that something is out to get us.”
“Like what?” John asked, intrigued by Robert’s answer.
“I don’t know, but someone, or something, has set this all up. And in advance.”
The theory struck a chord with all of them. If they had been prophesized about, then surely someone could set up traps for them. But the fact that the traps were so well planned out and created havoc in the world disturbed them all.
The walked on through the desert.
* * * *
They reached Stone Bridge a little over an hour later. Since the first raindrops started falling, the storm had come crashing in on them, dumping sheets of rain on them, sometimes sideways. The wind whipped around at high speeds, creating enough force to rip small trees from the ground. Lightning struck occasionally, followed by the deafening roar of thunder. Communication between the four of them was reduced to hand motions and lip reading, as the sounds of the storm drowned out everything else.
They ran across the bridge as fast as they dared, the wind threatening to hurl them into the raging waters below. The once peaceful river of Rotenda was now a torrent ripping through the landscape, carrying bushes and trees that were rooted close to its banks. The bridge itself was sturdy, its stone foundations too secure for even the raging waters to topple them.
Link made it across Stone Bridge first and waited patiently on the other side. There was no sense rushing anymore, for they were as drenched as they were going to get. Lightning flashed and struck a tree nearly half a mile away from them. Link swung around rapidly, the distant strike still too near for his liking. The tree burst into flames, which he found strange. Its flames lapped wildly with the wind.
Aaron was the last to cross. As he stepped off of Stone Bridge, the four of them huddled up.
“How much further?” William mouthed to Link.
“About an hour south of here!” he yelled back.
“Let’s get moving!” Michael shouted over the wind, although it still drowned out his voice. Even though he was standing right beside him, Aaron could barely hear what he said.
Link started south, waving his hand in a gesture that instructed them to follow. The wind seemed to become stronger, as if it didn’t want them to go any further. Leaning heavily into the wind, the four of them moved south, eager to reach the town of Rotenda and get some shelter.
Lightning struck again, and the thunder roared.
* * * *
“Hurry Samuel!” she yelled over the raging storm. She was going hysterical, her husband desperately trying to save their child from a watery grave.
The boy had been pulled into the current of water that had begun to surge its way through town. He was now holding on for dear life on a lamppost, the water trying to pry his hands free.
“Daddy!” he cried, tears flowing.
“Hold on, Jacob! Daddy’s coming!”
Samuel was completely outstretched from the roof of the two-story house that was now completely submerged. The boy was no more than six feet away, but he was still just out of reach.
“Michelle!” he called for his wife. “Hold my feet!”
She did as she was told, although everything seemed to be a dream. She held onto his ankles as he reached out for the lamppost, trying desperately to grab his son’s hands. Unfortunately, he was still short of it.
“Jacob! Give me your hand!” Samuel yelled at his son, reaching out with his own hand.
The boy was reluctant, not wanting to let go of the only thing that was keeping him from being swept away. He shook his head several times, his eyes closed.
“You have to! Please, Jacob! Give me your hand!”
Jacob took a deep breath and slowly removed his right hand from the lamppost. The added force on his left hand caused him to almost lose his grip completely, and he quickly brought his right hand back. Realizing that he needed to get out of there soon, he readied himself for another try.
Slowly again, he removed his right hand, this time expecting the added strain on his left arm. He reached his hand for his father’s. Their fingertips touched, and with an extra burst of strength, Jacob reached his father’s hand. Samuel held on tightly, but the slickness of the water wasn’t helping. Despite all his strength and desire to hold onto the boy, their hands slipped away from each other.
Jacob had not been expecting that, and the sudden lack of support ripped his left hand from the lamppost.
“Daddy!” he screamed as the current pulled him away.
“No!” Michelle yelled, and in her concern over Jacob, she neglected to hold onto Samuel’s ankles.
Samuel yelled as he went crashing into the wild torrent of water and didn’t surface for several hundred feet. When he did surface, he flailed his arms wildly, trying to make his way to one of the rooftops.
Michelle fell to her knees, her hands covering her face. Her husband and child had been swept away, and she didn’t know what to do. So she wept.
* * * *
“Okay, I’ve got him!” Link yelled to Aaron as he grabbed the boy’s arm. “Pull me in!”
Aaron did as he was told and pulled in the Hero of Time by his feet, back onto the submerged two-story building. The boy cried loudly, but Link expected that. They had seen him being pulled into the raging waters and quickly got in position to get him out. They had also seen the boy’s father fall in, and William and Michael were currently trying to save him.
“You’re alright now,” Aaron tried to say to the little one. “Everything will be fine.”
The boy continued to cry as Aaron tried to calm him down. Link stood up and looked across the stream of water to where William and Michael were. The storm had let up some now, and from his vantage point, he could see William deep in the water, reaching for the boy’s father while Michael kept him from falling in.
“Hurry! Pull us in!” William yelled as he grabbed the man’s hand. With all his strength, Michael pulled the two of them in, collapsing on the roof once they were safe. Breathing heavily, Michael gave the all-clear symbol to Link.
Link nodded and turned to the boy.
“You’re father is safe now,” he said as he knelt down beside him. The boy reminded Link of Evan, and he hugged him, trying to protect him from the evils of the world.
Either this comforted the boy, or he was confused as to why this stranger was hugging him. Either way, he was glad to be safe, and over Link’s shoulder, he could see his father.
Link winced in pain as the boy shouted into his right ear.
Faintly, they could hear his father call back, “Jacob!”
Link released his embrace of the boy and stood back up, watching the boy’s father work his way across the rooftops until he made it to theirs. William and Michael were right behind him.
“Jacob!” the man yelled as he ran up to his son, kneeling in front of him.
“Daddy!” the boy yelled back.
The four friends stood back, pleased that they were able to bring the two back together, alive. For several minutes, they waited patiently, not wanting to ruin the moment between the two. Finally, the man stood up, his son still clinging to his leg.
“Thank you very much,” he said. “You saved me and my son, and I am in your debt.”
“No need to thank us,” Link replied. “It was the right thing to do.”
The man nodded and offered his hand. “My name is Samuel, and I live here in Rotenda. Well, what’s left of it anyway.”
“I’m Link,” he replied, shaking Samuel’s hand. “These are my friends Aaron, William, and Michael.”
They each shook Samuel’s hand.
“I’m honored,” Samuel said.
“Why is that?” Aaron asked.
“Well, you are obviously Knights. I can tell from the swords and shields that you carry,” Samuel explained. “But from where, I don’t know. None of your markings look familiar.”
They all glanced at each other.
“We’ve come a long way,” William answered vaguely.
Samuel could sense that it was something that was either too involved, or too strange for them to talk about to a man that they just met.
“No need to tell me the details,” he said. “I’m just glad you were here at the right moment.”
“How long has it been raining?” Michael inquired as the rain slowed even more.
Samuel thought. “Almost ten days now. Each day worse than the one before.”
“Is there anyone else in town?” Link asked, concerned that others were still in danger.
“A few of us are still here, trying to help others that were trapped. But most of the townsfolk made for higher ground, out of reach of the flooded lake.”
“I suggest you do the same,” Aaron said. “Go back and get your wife, then head for higher ground. We shall look for any others.”
Samuel looked at all of them. “Are you sure?”
“Yes,” Link answered. “We’ll do everything we can to save anyone that is left in town.”
“You wouldn’t happen to know how many are left, do you?” William asked.
“Twenty. Maybe more.”
Michael jumped in. “Let’s get moving. We need to take advantage of the lull in the storm.”
“You’re right,” Link agreed. “Samuel, please get your family to a safe place. We’ll take care of the rest.”
“Thank you, Link. I owe you my life.”
“Let’s go!” Aaron yelled, and he and the others made their way across rooftops toward the center of town.
Samuel stood there a minute longer, Jacob still clutching his leg. He was extremely grateful that these mysterious Knights had shown up at the time they did, and he wondered if they were guardian angels. Pushing the thought aside for the time being, he headed for his wife.
* * * *
The town of Gatero had been visible to them for some time now, and they would arrive there shortly. Their water supply had grown thin, and they were extremely exhausted. They had left the desert an hour ago, and the lush green landscape that lay in front of them was a much-welcomed relief from the dry, sandy landscape. Behind the town, they could see the Gat Mountains. Its high peaks were covered in snow, which seemed almost like a dream to them after being in the desert.
“Keep your guard up,” Nick instructed them all. “You never know what can happen.”
“Tell me about it,” John said under his breath.
They concentrated on the town in front of them, all of them on their toes. They looked straight ahead, not looking to see if anything was coming from behind. So it was no surprise that they all jumped at the sound of a horn from behind them.
Each of their hearts jumped into their throats, and Nick, John, and Robert drew their swords. But the horn that sounded was from nothing more than a trade carriage. The driver brought the horses to a halt in front of the four travelers.
“Now here’s something you don’t see every day,” he said through a crooked smile.
“Hello, sir,” Nick greeted politely. “We’re just on our way to Gatero.”
“As am I,” the driver replied, still grinning. “I don’t suppose you folks would want a ride?”
“Gladly!” John yelled out, promptly getting hit in the arm from Robert.
“We don’t know anything about this man,” he said to John. “He may have evil intentions.”
“I assure you that I mean you no harm,” the driver answered, much to the surprise of Robert, who thought he was talking low enough. “All I’m offering you gentlemen, and lady, is a ride the rest of the way to Gatero. Besides, there are some strange things going on in the world lately. As a matter of fact, you’re not the first group of strangers that have been journeying across the land.”
“What do you mean?” Nick asked.
“In the last town, there was another group of four travelers. They were dressed similarly to you.”
“Link?” Zelda shouted, desperate to know.
The old driver thought it over. “Yes, I believe that was one of their names. The leader if I wasn’t mistaken.”
“What town was that and how long ago?” Zelda asked excitedly.
“Now, now. Hop on the wagon and I shall tell you more, if you so desire.”
Without hesitating, Zelda jumped onto the wagon. She sat down and looked at the rest of them.
“Well, come on! He’s seen Link and the others!”
The three elves looked at each other and figured that it was safe enough. They hopped onto the back of the wagon, while Zelda took the front seat next to the driver.
“Ya!” he yelled at the horses, and they began moving immediately.
For several minutes, no one spoke. They all wanted to know about the plight of the others, but they didn’t want to seem to eager. Robert elbowed Nick in the ribs, indicating that he should say something, but Nick didn’t want to. Eventually, Zelda’s desire to know won her over.
“So you saw our friends?”
“So they are your friends,” he repeated, the same crooked smile on his face. “Yes, I saw them in the town of Nulson, southeast of here.”
“How long ago was that?”
“Oh, I’d say only about a day or so. They seemed to be in a hurry.”
Zelda continued her line of questioning. “Do you know where they were headed?”
The driver thought for a moment and replied, “I believe they were headed for Rotenda. It will be tricky though. That area has seen a tremendous amount of rain recently.”
“Are they in any danger?” Nick finally spoke up from the back.
“The town is flooded. And I’m sure that they will be doing everything they can to save anyone in danger.”
“You seem to know an awful lot about them,” Robert said, growing suspicious. “Are you sure you only saw them?”
“Are they in any danger?” Zelda repeated Nick’s question, completely ignoring Robert’s.
“I think they’ll make it out fine. They’re a strong group of friends, and they’ve made it this far without failing any of the tests.”
Their hearts sank.
“Tests?” John asked.
“Who are you?” Nick demanded.
The old driver just smiled his crooked smile. In a puff of smoke, the form that was once in front of them had changed. In its place, sat the old man in the cloak.
“It’s you!” Robert exclaimed.
“You four have done well yourselves. And you have not far to go.”
“Is this all because of you? Are you behind it all?” Nick yelled.
“No. I am merely a pawn in this game, as are all of you.”
“A game? You’re comparing this to a game?” Robert asked, angrily.
“Yes. My master enjoys this game, and your efforts have pleased him.”
John got right in the old man’s face. “And who is your master? Ganondorf?”
“I believe Link knows the answer to that one.”
The wagon was just outside of town now, and the old man was not venturing any further. Slowly, he brought the horses to a stop on the outskirts of town, out of sight of any of the townsfolk.
“This is as far as I go.”
“What do we do now?” Zelda inquired as she and the others leapt onto the ground.
“Continue on your way. Pomina is still your destination. There you will meet up with your friends.” The old man turned the wagon around, leaving them where they stood. As he moved into the distance, he and wagon, along with the horses, disappeared.
“I’m getting sick of that old man,” John said.
“As am I,” Robert stated.
Silence fell amongst them all once again. Without a word between them, they turned around and headed into the town of Gatero.
* * * *
“Anyone else?” Aaron yelled across the river that sliced its way between the houses.
Link looked around. “I think that’s it!” he shouted back. “Let’s head back!”
He jumped off the steeple that he had used as a lookout and jumped the gap between several houses before making it back to Aaron. From there, the two of them headed for the higher ground outside of town.
The rain had finally stopped altogether by the time they made it to the hills. The clouds above them broke away, allowing sunlight to shine onto the flooded town. As they reached the top of the hill, William and Michael greeted them.
“About time you came back,” William joked. “We’ve been waiting awhile for you.”
Before either of them could reply, a great cheer came up from the crowd of gathering townsfolk. A group of eight men rushed over to the four of them. The men paired off and hoisted each one on top of their shoulders, walking them through the crowd of people.
None of them were expecting this. They hadn’t really thought that the deeds they had done were that heroic. After all, it was all part of their job as Knights. Link even thought about stopping the small celebration, but when he saw the joy in the eyes of all those people, he decided against it. He had no right to take this joy away from them.
The men carried them through, all the way to the mayor’s camp. The mayor stood outside his tent, waiting for their arrival. Once there, the eight men gently put down the four heroes.
“As mayor of Rotenda,” he began, “I am honored to award you with our highest honor.” The mayor held up his hand, and a beautiful woman emerged from the tent with four gold medals. The mayor picked up the first one and walked up to Link.
“Thank you, but…” Link started, but was cut off by Aaron kicking him in the side of the leg.
“Just take it,” he whispered. “Don’t disrespect them.”
Link nodded and bowed his head as the mayor hung it from his neck. The mayor went on down the line, the crowd around them in complete silence as they were each rewarded. As soon as Michael, who was last in line, received his medal, the crowd erupted once again.
“We thank you for saving thirty of our citizens, and invite you to our feast that shall be held in two night’s time.”
“We’re extremely flattered by all of this, Mayor,” Link accepted. “But we must be moving on. We have many important things to take care of and cannot afford to be held up.”
The mayor looked at Link. “I understand,” he said while nodding. “We shall hold the feast in your honor, and pray that your journey is successful.”
“Thank you,” Aaron replied for Link.
William smiled and nodded at the mayor. In the distance, over the mayor’s shoulder, William caught sight of a solitary figure. He couldn’t tell if the person was small, or was just that far away, but it seemed familiar. He held off on it until they were clear of the townsfolk.
The mayor led them through the citizens one last time. The crowd cheered and hollered for the four friends as they made there way out of the makeshift town. As they exited the town, they all stopped.
“Where are you headed?” the mayor asked.
“Pomina,” Michael answered. “Should be northeast of here, right?”
“That’s correct. May your journey be safe.”
“Thank you again, Mayor.”
They turned and walked northeast, in the direction of Pomina. William glanced north, and the figure was still there. Almost as if was watching them. He had to say something.
They all stopped.
“What?” Michael asked.
“Somebody’s watching us.”
“What? Where?” Aaron fired off in succession, looking all around.
“North,” he answered while pointing.
“Damn,” Link said as he realized who it was. “The damn old man again.”
William nodded. “That’s what I thought. But I didn’t want to say anything.”
Aaron sighed and shook his head. “I guess this means we have to go talk to him.”
“Yup,” Link replied.
They turned north, heading directly for the old man. Link wasn’t sure if this was a good sign or a bad sign, but he figured they would find out soon enough. The old man stood there, looking up at the sky, as if he was in deep thought. Even when they were almost directly behind him, he didn’t flinch.
The four of them stood in silence, waiting for the old man to talk. The silence continued for nearly five minutes, and William was becoming frustrated. He stepped in front of the others, the old man’s back still to them, and opened his mouth.
“Patience, William,” the old man suddenly said.
William stopped, his mouth still opened wide. Slowly, he shut it as the old man turned around.
“You four have done well.”
“What do you want, old man?” Aaron said, degrading him.
“No need for such harsh language, Aaron. Remember, I’m here to help you.”
Aaron blew air out of his mouth in frustration.
“What do you want?” Link asked in a nicer tone.
“It’s not what I want,” the old man said. “I’ve got some information for you.”
“What kind of information?” Michael asked, suspicious of anything the old man says.
“About your friends.”
“Zelda?” Link asked, although it was more of a statement. “Has something happened to them?”
“Lots of things have happened, but they were up for the challenge. As were you.”
“Then what information do you have for us?” Link asked, impatiently.
“They will arrive in Pomina, but not as soon as you.”
Aaron was confused. “That’s it? That’s the information you had for us? Big deal! We knew they would make it!”
“He’s right,” Michael agreed. “There was never any doubt in our minds that they wouldn’t make it.”
“Very well,” the old man said. “I have another little bit of information for you. After you leave Pomina, you will be headed for the Forbidden Island. There are more challengers there for you before you can reach my master’s castle.”
“Stop wasting our time, old man!” shouted William, his patience wearing thin.
“This information is nothing new to us,” added Link. “If you’ve got nothing else to tell us, then be gone!”
The old man looked almost hurt, but the mood quickly faded. “So be it,” he said. “I shall depart for now, but I shall see you again.” He disappeared.
“What a weird old man,” said Michael. “What was the point of him showing up?”
“I don’t know, Michael,” Link responded. “Even though his information wasn’t what we were looking for, I’m sure it’s a sign of bad things to come.” They stood in silence for a brief moment. “Let’s go. The sooner we get to Pomina, the more rest we can get.”
They headed northeast.
“That will be 10 dollars,” the merchant told Robert.
Robert reached into his pocket and pulled two blue rupees, tossing them in the man’s direction. Clumsily, the merchant caught the mysterious gems, and at first was going to demand real money from Robert. Upon looking at them, however, the merchant’s eyes glazed over and a big grin appeared on his face. Robert walked away just as the man started jumping and shouting in celebration.
“What did you do?” Nick asked as Robert rejoined the rest of them on the corner.
“Nothing. I just paid for the fruit and bread,” Robert replied with a laugh.
“I see,” Nick said, remembering the apparent value of their money in this world.
“Let’s sit over there,” Zelda burst out, pointing toward an empty outdoor table. None of them had any objections, so they walked down the street a little and sat down at the small round table.
“This is a nice town,” John said as Robert handed him a piece of bread.
Chewing on a piece of bread, Nick nodded his agreement. “Much better than the last two,” he said upon swallowing.
“Yeah, no dangerous situations or deadly monsters roaming around,” Robert added.
Just then, a scream was heard from down the street. They all turned to look, as well as every other person in the vicinity. Coming toward them was an apparent thief who was getting away with a woman’s handbag. Robert sighed as not a single person along the street did anything to stop the man. Instead, they stood and stared.
As the thief ran by their table, John stuck his foot out, tripping him. He hit the ground hard, sliding a few more feet before coming to a complete stop. By that time, John had already gotten up and was standing above the criminal.
The thief smiled and stood up, brandishing a small dagger that he had kept hidden in the bottom of his pants. Laughing in a devilish sort of way, the thief circled John. As he came back around to John’s face, he lunged forward, thrusting the dagger toward John’s chest. John stepped aside and elbowed the man in the middle of his back, sending him to the ground once again.
A crowd of people had now gathered around the two. They hadn’t seen anyone stand up to a thief, or any criminal for that manner, in a long time. They watched on in anticipation, the victimized woman standing in front of them all.
The thief got back up, angrier than before. He swiped at John, but he coolly dodged the attack. In one quick motion, John caught the thief’s arm, and twisted it, forcing him to drop the dagger. He held onto the man’s hand for a moment longer before he pulled him back and then shoved him to the ground once more. The thief flipped over onto his stomach and eyed up the dagger that had fallen within arm’s reach. John could easily read the thief’s eyes, and just as he lunged for the dagger, John kicked it away.
The next thing that the thief felt was the cold, hard steel of a sword blade against his throat.
The constable, whom had been watching the entire event from the crowd, moved in and grabbed the thief, placing him under arrest. As he walked off with the prisoner, the crowd dispersed, leaving only the victimized woman behind.
John sheathed his sword and walked over to the fallen purse. He picked it up and handed it back to the woman.
“Here you are, ma’am,” he said politely.
She grabbed at it greedily, as if it were a lost child that had finally returned home. She then looked up to him. “Thank you, kind sir. Thank you so much. I wish there was some way to repay you.”
“No need, ma’am. Just doing my job.”
“Please, there must be something.”
John turned to Robert, Nick, and Zelda, all of whom had never even left their seat.
“Can you guys think of anything?”
Nick shrugged his shoulders. “How about the way to Pomina?”
“Pomina?” she repeated. “You’re headed for Pomina?”
“I take it you know how to get there?” John asked.
She nodded. “The road leading there is well marked, but I can get you there faster.”
“How do you intend to do that?” Robert inquired.
She faced him. “My husband is a trader. He has several carriages that travel back and forth from there. I’m sure he’ll allow you to hitch a ride. In fact, he won’t be able to say no after what you’ve done.”
“Alright,” Nick said as he took a bite of an apple. “We’ll take you up on that offer.”
Zelda stood up and walked over to the woman. “Thank you. You don’t know how important it is for us to get to Pomina.”
“It’s all I can do to repay you for stopping that thief. Come, I believe another carriage leaves within the hour.”
They took their food and followed the woman down the street.
* * * *
They entered Pomina several hours before nightfall and made their accommodations immediately. The smell of the ocean was a welcome change for the four weary travelers. They ate dinner at a restaurant that faced the ocean, the view beautiful and breath taking. Now, night had fallen, and they had gone back to the inn and pub in which they were staying.
Link ordered another ale as he sat at the bar. As the bartender served him, Aaron sat down next on the stool next to him.
“We finally made it,” Aaron said again. He had been repeating that statement every so often since they had entered town a few hours before.
Link stared at his drink. “That we did,” he replied, half-heartedly.
He finally took a drink of his ale. He let out an “Ah” as he placed the mug back on the bar. “I’m just hoping that the others get here as well.”
“You’re worried about them?” Aaron asked, as if it was a stupid thing to do. “They’ll be fine, and you know it. Don’t worry about them. We’ve come this far. We’re almost done.”
“Somehow, I doubt that.”
“I don’t know,” he sighed. “I just have this feeling like the finish line isn’t even in sight yet.”
Link sighed again, and the depressive mood was contagious. Aaron could almost feel himself being dragged down into gloom with his friend, and he had to put a stop to that.
“Barkeep!” he called out, raising his hand. “Give me a shot of the strongest liquor you have!”
The bartender poured Aaron a shot of liquor. He took it quickly, wincing in displeasure as the alcohol burned on its way down.
“Now that was strong!”
He slammed the glass down on the bar. Link continued to take mouthfuls of his ale, all the while staring into it, as if the answer to life’s question was hidden somewhere in the rising bubbles. As they sat there, a band of outlaws moved in on them. They both felt the presence behind them as the room fell completely silent, all eyes on them.
“You Knights?” a voice asked from behind them.
Neither of them turned around. Link didn’t respond, so Aaron spoke up.
“We don’t like your kind around here,” the voice snarled.
“Sorry to hear that,” Aaron quipped back.
The voice laughed. “You don’t understand. You look like the guys that killed a bunch of my friends back on Shakar.”
“I see,” Aaron continued. “So you’ve been tracking us since then?”
“No, we’ve been waiting here the whole time. Some weird kid told us you would be here.”
“So it’s a revenge thing.”
“If that’s how you want to look at it.” The leader placed his blade on the back of Aaron’s neck. “Now get up so we can finish this.”
Link and Aaron both swirled around in their stools and stood up. In front of them stood four outlaws, ready for battle.
“Only four of you?” Link asked, sure that it was no challenge.
“Four is enough to take you out,” the leader snarled. “Besides, there are only two of you this time.”
“What’s so funny?” the outlaw asked, annoyed at Link’s laughing.
“You really need to learn how to count.”
Suddenly, the two outlaws in the back dropped to the floor unconscious and William and Michael stood directly over their bodies.
“Seems the tables have turned,” said Link.
“Get out of here,” Aaron demanded. “You’ve no chance.”
The outlaw clenched his teeth and growled. He looked from Knight to Knight, and then to his two friends on the ground. Finally, he looked over to his partner who was still standing.
“Very well,” he conceded. “We will leave for now.” He moved right into Link’s face. “Tomorrow morning, 8 o’clock. Outskirts of town. We’ll settle this once and for all, Knight,” he said, emphasizing the last word in an attempt to degrade them.
He leaned down and picked up one of the unconscious outlaws, while his friend grabbed the other one. The outlaws left the inn.
“Good timing,” Aaron said to William and Michael.
“Naturally,” William simply answered.
Michael rolled his eyes. “It’s because of his appetite that we walked in when we did. He’s been complaining about being hungry since about an hour after dinner. So you should thank his stomach.”
They all laughed.
“Even when we try to relax we get mixed up in stuff,” Aaron said. “Oh well, those guys will be no trouble at all.”
“Well, after we dispose of them, we’ll need to start asking around about transportation to the Forbidden Island,” Link stated.
“Can’t imagine too many ships go there,” William said.
“Agreed,” Link replied. “That’s why we’ll need to ask around. Somebody’s got to be willing to go there… for the right price of course.”
“Of course,” Aaron repeated while patting the pouch full of rupees.
They all laughed again. They spent a little more time drinking before they retired to their rooms for the night. The next day was starting early.
* * * *
It was well after dark when the carriage finally left Gatero. The original plan had called for them to leave in the mid-afternoon, but a broken wheel and a sick horse sidetracked that for many hours. It was no longer late at night, for it was now early in the morning. The four extra passengers tried to catch some rest on the long ride to Pomina, but the beaten, often bumpy road made that nearly impossible.
“How long until we reach Pomina?” Zelda asked Robert.
“We should get there shortly after sunrise.”
The conversation ended there, all four of them getting lost in their own thoughts as they traveled across the country of Gilrond, which they had crossed into not long after they left Gatero. The nocturnal creatures chirped and howled all around them, creating a natural melody that fell softly on their ears. The driver sat up front, alone, as the rest of them crowded themselves into the back of the wagon. One by one, they eventually began falling asleep.
* * * *
The sun shined brightly into their room early in the morning. The days were still long, so sunrise occurred shortly after 6 o’clock. Link opened his eyes slightly and sat up. Stretching his arms above him, he yawned.
“Hey, Aaron,” he said.
No response from the bed next to him. Still not fully awake, Link reached onto his bed, grabbed his pillow, and threw it at Aaron’s head.
“Uhn… I’m up,” Aaron finally answered, removing the pillow from its position on his face. “What do you want?”
“We’ve got to eat.”
“Let me sleep in a little longer,” he replied as he turned over on his side.
Link grabbed his blanket and threw them at Aaron.
“Get up now. We have to deal with those outlaws in less than 2 hours, remember?”
Aaron sighed. “Fine, I’ll get up.”
The two of them finally got out of bed and changed into their day clothes. Upon finishing, they headed down to the first floor of the inn, hungry for breakfast. As they entered the dining room and bar, they saw William and Michael already eating. They sat down.
“Good morning, Sunshine,” William teased Aaron, his eyes barely open.
“You look like hell,” Michael agreed as he ate a piece of bread. “Did you sleep well?”
“I suppose,” was his answer.
A brief silence fell upon them.
Link broke the silence. “I’m going to order some eggs. You want some, Aaron?”
Link called over the waitress and ordered food for Aaron and himself. She soon returned with two cups of coffee and their food.
Aaron picked up his coffee cup and breathed in the fumes deeply. As if this was all that he needed, a smile spread across his face, and he finally looked awake.
“Nothing like that first cup of coffee in the morning,” William joked.
Aaron continued to smile. “You’ve got that right.”
“Well now that you’ve decided to join us,” Link said, “are you ready to fight these outlaws?”
“Of course I am. They’re not that tough. We beat them handily back in Shakar.”
“Except for the ones I had to run from,” Link informed him. “There was just too many of them.”
Michael set his coffee cup down. “But this time, we won’t be caught by surprise. We know they’re going to be here.”
“That’s right,” William said, as if he suddenly realized the situation. “Without the element of surprise, they don’t stand a chance!”
A half-smile appeared on Link’s face. “I guess you could be right.”
“Of course I’m right!” William exclaimed. “Now let’s just eat our breakfast and we’ll worry about those outlaws when the time comes.”
“Okay,” Link conceded.
They all ate the rest of their breakfast and prepared to fight.
* * * *
They waited patiently just outside of the west end of town. The outlaws weren’t there yet, but the four of them had been a little early. They were all anxious to get this small obstacle over with.
“Maybe they chickened out,” William said.
“Doubt it,” Michael countered. “They seemed to really have it in for us last night.”
“I agree with Michael,” Link said. “They’ll be here.”
They continued to wait in silence, each of them surveying the horizon, trying to find the outlaws. Aaron looked west, and closing in was a band of outlaws.
“Here they come.”
None of them moved. They stood there as the band closed in. When the outlaws got within twenty yards of them, they stopped.
“Glad you could make it,” the lead outlaw shouted.
“Same here,” Link replied.
The battle looked as though it would be even. The outlaws had greater numbers, but the skill of the Knights could counter that. Link estimated that they were outnumbered 3 to 1. We can handle this, he thought to himself.
No one moved. Both sides stared each other down, trying to instill fear into their enemy. Link and the others unsheathed their swords and readied themselves for an attack. Accepting the challenge, the lead outlaw sent eight of his men.
The outlaws let out a fierce battle cry and ran directly toward the four Knights. Each Knight took two outlaws and dispatched with them quickly and easily. The eight outlaws fell to the ground, lifeless. The four of them had barely moved.
“Well, Outlaw,” Link called out, “it looks like we’re even now.”
The lead outlaw looked to his right and left, and indeed there were only four of them standing there. He didn’t seem to be taken aback or worried by it though.
“On the contrary, dear Knight,” he called back. With a simple gesture of his hands, twenty more outlaws appeared all around them, leaving the Knights no chance of escape. “I believe I still have the upper hand! Attack!”
“Now we’re in trouble,” William said as the entire band rushed them.
“We’ve come too far to die now!” Link shouted.
They all readied their defenses. As the first outlaw made his way to the Knights, he suddenly dropped to the ground, an arrow through his head.
The Knights stared down at his body, unsure as to what happened. The outlaws were just as confused, and they all stopped in their tracks. Another arrow came flying in from the Knights’ right, and another outlaw dropped to the ground.
Link looked right, and there he saw four more figures: two running toward them, while the other two remained back, firing more arrows into the crowd of outlaws.
“Zelda!” Link yelled, knowing exactly who it was.
A third arrow hit its target, and the outlaws scrambled in every direction, knocking into each other at the same time. Link remained standing, looking in the direction of Zelda.
“Link!” Aaron yelled as he hit him in the arm. “Now’s our chance! Let’s take them out!”
Realizing that Aaron was right, Link focused on the task at hand and ran after the unorganized outlaws. The barrage of arrows stopped as the Knights mixed in with the outlaws, but it wasn’t necessary. In their state of confusion, the outlaws were caught off guard and didn’t put up much of a fight. Robert and Nick joined the battle, while John and Zelda watched from a distance. The six Knights were proving too much for the band of outlaws.
The lead outlaw saw the disaster and decided to flee. He ran west, away from the skirmish. Link caught sight of him and wasn’t going to let him get away. Leaving the battle in the hands of the other Knights, Link pursued the outlaw.
John and Zelda hadn’t moved since they stopped their barrage of arrows, but now John could see that the outlaw leader would be able to get away before Link could do anything about it. Acting quickly, he placed an arrow on his bow and fired.
Link struggled to keep up with the man. He had amazing speed. In his mind, Link knew that he wasn’t going to be able to catch him this way, but that wasn’t stopping him from trying. Breathing heavily, Link dug deep inside in order to keep up with the outlaw.
As he was about to give up, Link saw the outlaw topple over. He could tell that he was clutching his leg as he lay on the ground, so Link figured that he didn’t need to run any further. Sure enough, John’s arrow had found its way into the outlaw’s right leg, crippling him.
Knowing that Link would be upon him soon, the outlaw tried to get up and run again, but it was of no use. He immediately fell back down again, and in more pain than before. Desperately, he tried to crawl to safety.
The other Knights had finished up with the rest of the Outlaws and watched on from a distance as Link stopped beside the outlaw.
“Looks like I have the upper hand,” Link stated as he placed the tip of his sword under the man’s chin.
“Go ahead, kill me!”
Link stared at him.
“Do it! Don’t leave me lying here in a humiliating fashion!”
Link stared at him some more.
“Please,” the outlaw begged, tears coming from his eyes. “I’m sorry… I’m so sorry…”
For some strange reason, Link felt sorry for the man and removed the sword tip from his neck.
“Thank you,” the outlaw replied, finding a new will to live.
“Now leave us alone,” Link ordered him as he turned around and walked away.
“Of course,” the outlaw answered, sarcastically. Grabbing his sword, he lunged toward Link.
“Link!” Zelda yelled from her position on higher ground. She couldn’t watch and turned around.
Link was aware of what the outlaw was doing, and in one smooth motion, he swung around and decapitated the outlaw, his head landing nearly five feet away from the rest of his body. Nonchalantly, Link sheathed his sword and turned back around to join the others.
As he walked by Aaron, William, Michael, Robert, and Nick, he simply said, “Let’s go find ourselves a boat.” He didn’t stop walking.
The rest of the Knights shrugged their shoulders and followed.
* * * *
The ship captain smiled greedily, his eyes wide, as he slowly nodded. Link held in front of him ten gems, some of varying color. They were the most beautiful things the sea captain had ever seen, and he gladly accepted them as payment for the voyage to the Forbidden Island. The captain reached his hand out to grab them. Link pulled them back quickly.
“Half now,” he said, lying down a stipulation. “Half when we get there.”
“Aye,” the sea captain agreed, although reluctantly.
Link grabbed five of the gems – two green, two blue, and one red – and gave them to the still mesmerized sea captain. He gave the remaining five back to Aaron.
“Let’s go get the others,” Link said to him as he began to walk off the dock.
Aaron smiled as he glanced at the sea captain. He let out a small chuckle and left the old man on the docks, still staring at the gems in his hands. He quickened his pace to catch up with Link and the two of them walked back to the inn.
They entered the inn to see the rest of their friends sitting around the table directly in front. Joining them, they sat down.
“We’re all set,” Link informed them.
“That was quick,” Robert commented. “I’ve barely finished my drink.”
“Well, it’s not hard to hire mercenaries with enough money,” Aaron pointed out. “Or, in our case, gems.”
Zelda finished her drink and asked, “So how much did you give him?”
The waitress came by and placed a drink in front of Link, without him even ordering. He shrugged, picked up the mug, and took a sip.
“I gave him half of it now,” he replied.
“Which was how much?” Nick asked.
Aaron smiled. “Thirty-two Rupees.”
John, Michael, and William tried to conceal their laughter, but they were failing miserably.
“Thirty-two?” Nick repeated, looking at the three laughing friends. “That’s it?”
“That’s it,” Link verified.
“You ripped him off,” Nick said in disbelief.
“I certainly did not!” Link defended. “In this world, our money is worth a great deal more. How much, I have no idea. But he feels like he got a good deal. You should’ve seen the look on his face!”
This time, they all laughed.
After a few minutes, the laughter began to die down, and some of them were forced to wipe their eyes of tears of laughter. Finally, they all settled down.
Robert brought the subject back to the journey. “So when do we leave?”
“In an hour,” Link replied.
“Cause that gives me plenty of time to have another few drinks!” Robert exclaimed. “Bartender!” he yelled with his mug raised in the air.
The laughter between them started up again and for the next hour, they didn’t feel like they were on a journey. In fact, they felt right at home, as if they had never left Hyrule. And they enjoyed every minute of it.
An hour later, the ship set sail from the mainland and headed for the Forbidden Island.
To be concluded in
Part Three – Deception and Sacrifice